“We’re All Africans, Really…”

Some p.c. goosesteppers have been giving Meryl Streep a hard time for saying a politically incorrect thing about diversity during a Berlin Film festival press conference. When asked about the lack of diversity on the Berlinale jury, of which she’s the president, Streep said, “We’re all Africans, really…there is a core of humanity that travels right through every culture, and after all, we’re all from Africa originally.” Which is true — homo sapiens did originate on the African continent. Streep was basically saying that we’re all the same species, all God’s children, all bonded under the skin. Which some of us recognize from time to time.

They’re Laughing But I Won’t Be — I Just Know It

All along I’ve been curiously uninterested in seeing Louis Leterrier‘s The Brothers Grimsby (Columbia, 3.11), partly because (a) I’ve been feeling a bit Sacha Baron Cohen-ed out and (b) I don’t trust any movie that opens in another country first (i.e., 2.24 in England) and under a shorter title (i.e, just plain Grimsby). But now, after seeing this 2.10 Jimmy Kimmel Live! clip, I want to see it. Two qualifiers: (1) the bit everyone is laughing at won’t be in the film, and (b) something tells me I personally won’t find it nearly as funny. I’d rather see a biopic about the famously sarcastic New York TV newsman Roger Grimsby — seriously.


Boilerplate synopsis for Ariel Vroman‘s Criminal: “In a last-ditch effort to stop a diabolical plot, a dead CIA operative’s memories, secrets and skills are implanted into an unpredictable and dangerous death-row inmate (Kevin Costner) in hopes that he might complete the operative’s mission.” And in the process Costner is romantically paired with Gal Gadot, who’s about 30 years younger. The Summit/Lionsgate release, costarring Gary Oldman, Ryan Reynolds, Tommy Lee Jones and Alice Eve, pops on 4.15.16.

Promising as Criminal seems to be, the trailer doesn’t match this clip from an earlier Costner film:

“Low Information” Voting Isn’t Exclusively Owned by Rural Whites

Over and over you hear that African Americans aren’t all that familiar with Sen. Bernie Sanders, and that they feel a natural kinship with Hillary Clinton because she’s associated with the liberal largesse of her husband’s administration. Nobody wants to say that “aren’t all that familiar with” is code for (a) lazy, incurious, low-information attitudes and (b) a brilliant presumption that a U.S. Senator from a moistly all-white state (i.e., Vermont) can’t be trusted to understand or respond to the concerns of black voters. Harry Belafonte‘s Bernie endorsement is fine, but the South Carolina black vote is hugely in Hillary’s favor, to go by the polls. Related: A 2.10 column by N.Y. Times columnist Charles Blow called “Stop Bernie-splaining to Black Voters.”

The Feinberg Challenge

Tonight’s Santa Barbara Int’l Film Festival event is a group interview with the five Oscar nominees for Best DirectorRoom‘s Lenny Abrahamson, The Revenant‘s Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Spotlight‘s Tom McCarthy, The Big Short‘s Adam McKay and Mad Max: Fury Road‘s George Miller. The moderator is Hollywood Reporter columnist Scott Feinberg, who will conclude with a presentation of five Outstanding Director of the Year awards.

The Big Question is whether or not Feinberg will subject the audience to a 2 & 1/2 hour ordeal like he did last year (described in a 2.5.15 HE piece called “Existential Ordeal, Man”), or whether he’ll keep it to a more reasonable 100 minutes. I realize that the temptation is to go longer. I realize that last weekend’s DGA theatre event (same deal, same directors minus Abrahamson with the addition of Ridley Scott) lasted for 2 hours and 40 minutes. But I’m begging Feinberg anyway. End it before people start coughing and taking bathroom breaks. Please. (more…)

Thank You, Caltrans

I had to go to Bakersfield yesterday — a 2 1/2 hour drive from Santa Barbara. This was followed by an agonizing four-hour drive down to Los Angeles, thanks to a Caltrans crew blocking two lanes in the vicinity of Gorman — your California state taxes at work. Hundreds upon hundreds of vehicles inching along for two full hours…crawling along at 2 or 3 mph. I was studying Google Maps for a way out of this torture, and there was — a small winding road that I could have taken that might have hastened things. But I didn’t have the boldness of spirit to risk it. So I sat there on Interstate 5 with all the other sheep…baahhh! I took care of some business in WeHo and then turned right around and drove back to Santa Barbara around 8 pm — a 100-minute journey. Eight hours on the road, dawn to 10 pm.

Fair Question

Yes, I’m aware that Jennifer Aniston‘s notorious Emirates airlines ad is four months old, but I hadn’t seen it until it aired this morning on MSNBC. A few minutes later Bernie Sanders‘ latest ad was shown on Morning Joe. I’m not saying Hillary Clinton doesn’t support or believe in Sanders’ vision, but which ad do you believe more closely reflects Hillary’s core values?

Click here to jump past the Oscar Balloon

BEST PICTURE: The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room, Spotlight.

BEST DIRECTING: Adam McKay, The Big Short; George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road; Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant; Lenny Abrhamson, Room; Tom McCarthy, Spotlight.

BEST ACTOR: Bryan Cranston, Trumbo; Matt Damon, The Martian; Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant; Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs; Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl.

BEST ACTRESS: Cate Blanchett, Carol; Brie Larson, Room; Jennifer Lawrence, Joy; Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years; Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christian Bale, The Big Short; Tom Hardy, The Revenant; Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight; Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies; Sylvester Stallone, Creed.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight; Rooney Mara, Carol; Rachel McAdams, Spotlight; Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl; Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs.

BEST FILM EDITING: The Big Short; Mad Max: Fury Road; The Revenant; Spotlight; Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: Embrace of the Serpent; Mustang; Son of Saul; Theeb; A War.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Thomas Newman, Bridge of Spies; Carter Burwell, Carol; Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight; Jóhann Jóhannsson, Sicario; John Williams, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: Bridge of Spies; The Danish Girl; Mad Max: Fury Road; The Martian; The Revenant.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Ex Machina; Mad Max: Fury Road; The Martian; The Revenant; Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: The Big Short, Brooklyn, Carol, The Martian, Room.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Bridge of Spies, Ex Machina, Inside Out, Spotlight, Straight Outta Compton.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: Anomalisa, Boy and the World, Inside Out, Shaun the Sheep Movie, When Marnie Was There.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Carol, The Hateful Eight, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Sicario.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN: Carol, Cinderella, The Danish Girl, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: Amy, Cartel Land, The Look of Silence, What Happened, Miss Simone?, Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT: Body Team 12; Chau, Beyond the Lines; Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah; A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness; Last Day of Freedom.

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING: Mad Max: Fury Road; The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared; The Revenant.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG: "Earned It," Fifty Shades of Grey; "Manta Ray," Racing Extinction; "Simple Song No. 3," Youth; "'Til It Happens to You," The Haunting Ground; "Writings on the Wall," Spectre.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT: Bear Story; Prologue; Sanjay's Super Team; We Can't Live Without Cosmos; World of Tomorrow

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT: Ave Maria; Day One; Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut); Shok; Stutterer.

BEST SOUND EDITING: Mad Max: Fury Road; The Martian; The Revenant; Sicario; Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

BEST SOUND MIXING: Bridge of Spies; Mad Max: Fury Road; The Martian; The Revenant; Star Wars: The Force Awakens.


Belief vs. Skepticism

“I think the idea we should be voting for Hillary Clinton, as women, comes from the feminist value of supporting other women at all opportunities. I agree with that, and I’m a feminist, but I don’t think it’s feminist to vote for Hillary just because she’s a woman, if I don’t agree with her policies more than the other candidates. The right thing to do is elect the President who will do the most to make the United States better for its people, and I think that’s Bernie Sanders.” — GenY/Millenial Sara Johnson speaking to Uproxx contributor Pheonix Tso. Posted earlier today, the article is called “Some Insight Into Why Young Women Support Bernie Sanders.”

13 Months Ago, The Blogaroonies Were Annointing Boyhood

An HE state-of-the-race riff titled “Old Academy Farts, As Always, Are Calling The Shots,” posted on 1.4.15: “At this point, everyone wants to know which film is going to win Best Picture,” MCN’s David Poland has written. “Anyone who tells you they know the answer is pulling their own chain. [But] it is looking more and more like Boyhood vs. Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything with the latter two splitting, allowing Boyhood to win.

Birdman is divisive, especially amongst older voters,” Poland wrote. “There are a number of reasons why Selma is unlikely to win and two years in a row of ‘historical dramas focused on race’ is amongst them, whether we like it or not. Grand Budapest Hotel is a bit too light and magical and Whiplash is too thin, however entertaining. [And] Nightcrawler is just too brutal to win.”

Concurrent HE comment: “I’m still waiting for a definitive sign that Boyhood is something more than a critics’ film, or more precisely a Steve Pond film. I’m not saying it isn’t that. Richard Linklater‘s Best Director campaign may indeed result in a win, but somebody needs to point out the solid indicators that say Boyhood‘s popularity is as deep and wide as the Jordan river. As much as I like and truly respect that film, I’m honestly questioning — unsure of — its strength amongst the fartists.”

Son of Banshee Howl

Initially posted on 12.24.10: I was eleven or twelve when I jettisoned the idea that I’d have to pay for my sins in the afterlife. But every time I watch Bryan Desmond Hurst‘s A Christmas Carol, and particularly Michael Hordern‘s big Act One scene as Jacob Marley’s ghost, the concept of suffering in death for one’s lack of kindness, charity and compassion in life, childish as it seems, is revived. Hordern’s performance half-scares and half-transforms, if only for the moment.


Zoolander 2 Train Has Left The Station (And I’m Not On It)

Nearly every aggressively attuned, self-respecting film critic, it seems, is hating on Ben Stiller‘s Zoolander 2. And yet the Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic ratings are poor but not abysmal — at least they’re in the double digits (26 and 42% respectively). And here I am up in Santa Barbara, clueless (having missed last night’s Zoolander 2 all-media in Los Angeles) and a bit anxious and feeling left out. Semi-positive reviews have come from N.Y. Daily News critic Gersh Kuntzman, Us Weekly‘s Mara Reinstein and Time Out‘s Kate Lloyd. I might drive down to L.A. today to take care of some things; maybe that’ll help.

Will Black & Hispanic Voters Save Her?

In a post-New Hampshire primary forum on Politico, Bill Scher (senior writer at the Campaign for America’s Future, co-host of the Bloggingheads.tv show “The DMZ,” a contributing editor at Politico magazine) is saying “there’s no question that Hillary Clinton has lost the white left of the Democratic Party to Bernie Sanders.

The question that remains is: How far left has the entire party moved, outside of the lily-white states of Iowa and New Hampshire?

“The exit polls show that nearly 70 percent of the Iowa and New Hampshire Democratic electorates self-identified as ‘liberal,’ a jump of more than 10 points in each state since 2008. In the next caucus state, Nevada, liberals made up only 45 percent of the Democratic pool in 2008. That’s more fertile territory for Clinton, but will that number rise as well? And if so, does it inevitably buoy Bernie? Or can Hillary still make the case for her progressive bona fides to a more racially diverse electorate less familiar with Sanders? (more…)

What’s Wrong With “Bernie Sandwiches”?

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes didn’t Freudian slip, didn’t gaffe — he simply allowed the sand in Sanders to become a sandwich. Maybe he was hungry at that moment. It was nothing, but yesterday in some people’s mind it was a “thing.”

Feel The Rock: Stallone Charms, Seduces Like A Champ

Tonight Sylvester Stallone turned it on — the charm, the self-deprecating humor, the older-guy perspective, the recollections — and the Santa Barbara Film Festival audience ate it right up. And so did I, frankly. It was a high. You could feel it all over. Sly’s 90-minute discussion with moderator Pete Hammond was largely focused on Rocky (’76) and Creed (’15), and that’s what everyone wanted to hear about anyway. It was an Elmer Gantry revival meeting, a gathering of the flock.

When Hammond suggested a brand-new Rambo film in which Stallone would wage war on ISIS, the crowd applauded heartily. And then Stallone gestured as if to say, “You like that idea? Okay, give it to me, yeah.”

Stallone was having a rough time with some of the film excerpts — “Stop it, you’re killing me,” he said as Hammond introduced another set — and I was personally disappointed that clips from First Blood, Judge Dredd and Demolition Man weren’t featured. But the vibe was like an extended family gathering. Everyone was happy; they even enjoyed his Rhinestone singing duet with Dolly Parton. Stallone is clearly no fan of that 1984 film — he even joined Hollywood Elsewhere in dismissing (the late) director Bob Clark.

Rocky costar Carl Weathers presented the Montecito Award, and Stallone’s thank-you speech…well, listen to it.

“The Expediter of Your Dreams, Pal”

I’m thinking of two films in which a bad guy (gangster, assassin) strikes up an odd kind of friendship with an unassertive law-abiding type, and by the end of the film the law-abider has manned up and found some kind of inner steel, largely because of the influence of the baddie. The films, both first-rate, are John McNaughton‘s Mad Dog and Glory (’93) and Michael Mann‘s Collateral (’04). There must be a few more. Would Delmer Davies3:10 to Yuma (’57) qualify?

Women In High Heels Who Insist on Uber Rides Echo The Corruption of Cardinal Richelieu

I’ve never forgotten a certain corruption metaphor that was visualized in Ken Russell‘s The Devils (’71). It was the sight of Christopher Logue‘s Cardinal Richelieu being wheeled around on a dolly so that he didn’t have to exert himself. That left an indelible impression, I’m afraid, and one result is that ever since I’ve regarded people who avoid walking for whatever reason as degenerate sloths. People who buzz around on Segways, for instance. (I literally seethe every time I see somebody on one of those things.) Or women in high heels who refuse to walk two or three blocks to a party or a premiere because it hurts their feet to walk any kind of distance. I understand why they insist on three-block Uber rides, but I hate it all the same. HE solution: women who are committed to wearing sexy pumps need to carry them in their handbag (or give them to me and I’ll carry them) and wear sensible shoes before and after. Go ahead and call me unreasonable but I can’t get past the Cardinal Richelieu thing.

Night of a Thousand Stallones

Tonight is Sylvester Stone‘s big-bop tribute at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. And virtually no handicappers are predicting that the Creed costar won’t take the Best Supporting Actor Oscar on 2.28. But what’s the Stallone love basically all about? Why is it such a slam-dunk thing? 

All I can figure is that people love the idea of a guy who’s come full circle and returned to home ground– a guy who started out as a Philadelphia soul man whom everyone was pulling for, and then went astray a bit, and went up and down and lost some of the old mojo, but got it all back by returning to Philly and the lug who launched his career.

40 years ago Sly was a struggling guy near the end of his rope who gloriously broke through with Rocky, and after that he made exactly…what, five or six quality movies during his whole career? Mostly he’s played studly action heroes who glare and seethe and flex their forearms. He tried like hell and did the best he could to stay in the game, but after Rocky the only films he can really and truly be proud of in a quality vein are First Blood (’82), Demolition Man (’93), Judge Dredd (’95), Cop Land (’97) and Creed (’15) (He also scored with some amusing voice work in 1998’s Antz.)

Mainly Sly stayed in his tried-and-true machismo realm and went for the box-office rather than reviews or awards. That’s not a crime, of course, but it’s not exactly the sort of thing that would normally bring an industry audience to their feet.

I got to know Sly a bit from the mid ’80s to early ’90s. I worked under him in ’85 and ’86 when I was employed as a writer/publicist for Bobby Zarem and Dick Delson, who had formed a p.r. partnership and had landed Stallone as their star client. I knew his vibe, hung in his orbit, watched him train and box, visited his home once or twice, did what I was told. But there wasn’t a lot of openness from the guy. He was guarded, sullen. When I was over at his place one evening I noticed an original Francis Bacon painting hanging in his foyer, and I said with some excitement, “Whoa, Francis Bacon!” Stallone’s total reply: “You got it.” (more…)