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Filling Those Blue Suede Shoes

Last week, it was reported that Baz Luhrmann is in talks with Warner Brothers to direct an Elvis Presley biopic. Since rumors also abound that he may be directing a 1970s-style Kung Fu flick, there’s no need yet to start cheering – or jeering, for that matter. (Luhrmann rarely provokes a neutral response.) But it’s likely the Presley movie will happen, especially since Warner Brothers has secured the rights to his full music catalog and Luhrmann has cornered the market on dizzyingly over-the-top musical extravaganzas – think Moulin Rouge! and last summer’s megahit Gatsby.

In the interest of full disclosure, I admit I’ve never been a fan of the Aussie helmer’s films, which seem like never-ending music videos directed by a Busby Berkeley with attention deficit disorder. (Luhrmann’s adaptation of Romeo and Juliet was so steroidally MTV-like that he had to call it William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet in order to clarify his antecedent material.) But even I can’t pretend he isn’t the obvious choice to tackle pop music’s original bad boy, who was no stranger to excesses himself. The only real wild card of this project might be the script, reportedly being written by Kelly Marcel (of the super-saccharine Saving Mr. Banks). That said, Luhrmann’s films are never about anything so pedestrian as words, anyway.

What his films are about is star power. Luhrmann always casts blindingly shiny stars (Nicole Kidman, Leonardo DiCaprio) to portray blindingly shiny stars, and certainly no one radiated star power like The King of Rock and Roll. So the true success of this Luhrmann-directed biopic lies squarely with whomever plays Elvis. It has to be a fellow with enough swagger to override our intellectual objections; enough of a wink to lighten the director’s bombast; enough talent to stand up to the inevitable comparisons to Presley himself; enough of a range to take him from breakout panty-dropper to bloated Las Vegas lounge lizard; and enough heavy-lidded beauty to mesmerize us into submission.  For Word and Film, I consider what actor could possibly fill those blue suede shoes.

The Moving Pictures of ‘Ida’

The following review is based on a talk I gave last week to the wonderful Westchester Cinema Club.

Ida, about a young Polish nun who discovers she is the daughter of Jews killed during World War II, is a hauntingly beautiful film. It is so beautiful that, while watching it, I kept thinking about how movies used to be called “moving pictures”; each of its frames comprises a gorgeous photograph unto itself. I kept forgetting it was only shot last year, and I don’t think that’s just because it is shot in black and white with an aspect ratio of 1.37:1, which frames the image in a square reminiscent of vintage films. I think it’s because it boasts the esthetic purity of more classic films. Continue Reading →

Casting Season 2 of ‘True Detective’

Ever since the season 1 finale of True Detective, HBO’s Louisiana occult mystery series, tongues have been wagging about what season 2 will entail—even though, to date, a second season has yet to be confirmed. (Show creator Nic Pizzolatto reports he is writing one now but that HBO has yet to pick it up.) And ever since it was announced that season 1 stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson would not be returning, even more tongues have been wagging about who should take their place.

So far, all Pizzolatto has revealed about a next season is that it would focus on “hard women, bad men, and the secret occult history of the United States transportation system.” Rumors abound that Brad Pitt will join the cast but the series creator has only said “who we cast and what their schedule is will likely determine at least some part of scheduling, and scheduling will determine at least some part of casting.” (Such labyrinthine answers makes us wonder if Pizzolatto used himself as the model for McConaughey’s philosopher-detective Rust Cohle.) If history is any predictor, chances are good that the new True Detectives will be men, but a quickly deleted tweet from the show runner suggests at least one lead might be a woman. One thing is for sure: Intriguing possibilities abound. For a breakdown of my dream team, go here.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy