Supporting Actress Bing-Bang

When reps for FencesViola Davis announced that she’d be running as a Best Supporting Actress contender, there were two basic reactions: (1) If SAG and Academy members accept that she’s playing a supporting role, she’s got the Oscar in the bag but (2) will they accept this or call it category fraud, given that she’s playing the strongest female role with loads of screen time, and that she stands right up to Denzel Washington line for line, and that she won a Best Actress Tony award in 2010 for playing the exact same role? If there’s any mucky-muck about this, Manchester By The Sea‘s Michelle Williams (who totally kills within less than ten minutes of screen time) could be the surprise winner. Hidden Figures/Moonlight‘s Janelle Monae and Moonlight‘s Naomie Harris are evenly matched in third and fourth place. 20th Century Women‘s Greta Gerwig has earned a nom, for sure, but she was ten times more electric/magnetic in Frances Ha (’13) and/or Mistress America (’15).

All Of Them Redheads

MGM Class of 1943 — taken sometime in the spring or early summer of that year. Front Row: James Stewart, Margaret Sullavan, Lucille Ball, Hedy Lamarr, Katharine Hepburn, Louis B Mayer, Greer Garson, Irene Dunne, Susan Peters, Ginny Simms, Lionel Barrymore; Second Row: Harry James, Brian Donlevy, Red Skelton, Mickey Rooney, William Powell, Wallace Beery, Spencer Tracy, Walter Pidgeon, Robert Taylor, Pierre Aumont, Lewis Stone, Gene Kelly, Jackie Jenkins; Third Row: Tommy Dorsey, George Murphy, Jean Rogers, James Craig, Donna Reed, Van Johnson, Fay Bainter, Marsha Hunt, Ruth Hussey, Marjorie Main, Robert Benchley; Fourth Row: Dame May Whitty, Reginald Owen, Keenan Wynn, Diana Lewis, Marilyn Maxwell, Esther Williams, Ann Richards, Marta Linden, Lee Bowman, Richard Carlson, Mary Astor; Fifth Row: Blanche Ring, Sara Haden, Fay Holden, Bert Lahr, Frances Gifford, June Allyson, Richard Whorf, Frances Rafferty, Spring Byington, Connie Gilchrist, Gladys Cooper; Sixth Row: Ben Blue, Chill Wills, Keye Luke, Barry Nelson, Desi Arnaz, Henry O’Neill, Bob Crosby, Rags Ragland.

Even without being told the date of the photo, I’d know this was taken sometime in early 1943 because Spencer Tracy, 43 at the time, is wearing his leather-jacketed Air Force outfit from A Guy Named Joe, which opened on 12.23.43. Tracy’s costar Van Johnson, 27 at the time, is seated right behind him.

Kindly, Mild-Mannered John

John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth, has died at age 95. He was just over 40 when the Friendship 7 capsule orbited the globe three times on 2.20.62. Glenn was elected U.S Senator from Ohio in ’74; he served in that capacity until ’99. He was portrayed by Ed Harris in Phil Kaufman‘s The Right Stuff (’83), and self-described in one scene as “Harry Hairshirt.” On 10.29.98, at age 77, Glenn flew as a payload specialist on a space shuttle mission (Discovery mission STS-95), and in so doing became the oldest person to orbit the earth. A full life, a good run. He’s looking down at the earth now like Keir Dullea‘s starchild at the end of 2001.


36 Years Ago Today. Whaddaya Want From Me? Burned In The Brain.

“My most profound Police moment happened on the evening of December 8, 1980, in a small pub in the Stockwell section of London. Never a hardcore audiophile and even less so due to being poor, I was a little late in getting into their music. I had just bought a cassette tape of Zenyatta Mondatta maybe a month or so earlier but I hadn’t listened to it that much. I was edging my way in. Anyway there I was in London, about to do a GQ interview with Peter O’Toole, who was extra-hot at the moment off his career-reviving performance in The Stunt Man. I was crashing with a couple of ladies I knew through a journalist friend, and I was sitting at a table and drinking a pint and feeling great about being in England for the first time alone, and then somebody got up and played ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me’ on the jukebox. And all of a sudden I heard that song for the first time. The juke was putting out super-thrompy bass tones and it just sounded perfect, and from that moment on I was a Police fan. The next morning I awoke around 7 am to news on the radio that John Lennon had been shot and killed only a few hours earlier in New York City.” — posted on 2.27.15.

Blogaroos Scratching Heads Over N.Y. Times Anti-Populist Picks

In picking their favorite 2016 films, the three N.Y. Times critics — Manohla Dargis, A.O. Scott and Stephen Holden — have not strenuously argued with the notion that critics live in their own cloistered realms, processing movies in rarified terms, knowledgable and sophisticated but breathing special foo-foo oxygen.

I agree with some of their choices — Luca Guadagnino‘s A Bigger Splash, Paul Verhoeven‘s Elle, Ezra Edelman‘s O.J.: Made in America, Jim Jarmusch‘s Paterson, Andrea Arnold‘s American Honey. I am respectfully side-stepping discussions of Moonlight except to say that it’s a good film. No mentions of Robert EggersThe Witch or Gavin Hood‘s Eye in the Sky, and yet Holden included Todd Solondz‘s groan-inducing Wiener-Dog among his honorable mentions. Wiener-Dog — the scourge of the 2016 Sundance Film Festival!

The Times trio appears to have been influenced by one important consideration, which is to avoid saluting or even mentioning the top-ranked faves of the Gold Derby-ites and Gurus of Goldies. Holden included the masterful Manchester by the Sea on his top-ten roster but not Scott or Dargis. THR columnist Scott Feinberg called the trio’s refusal to include La La Land and Hell or High Water among their top-tens “unfathomable.” Dargis at least mentioned La La Land among her “other loves,” although she says that she did so “mainly for its finale.” The trio didn’t offer even limited love for Denzel Washington‘s Fences; ditto Martin Scorsese‘s Silence.

If Dwayne Johnson Is Starring, It’s Probably Empty, Glossy Dogshit

I didn’t write the above headline with any intention to offend — I was just explaining what I’ve come to realize is a fairly reliable scenario. Johnson is a comme ci comme ca Republican who’s out to make dough and keep things as vapid and formulaic as possible. An amiable baba with a ripped bod. During the Obama era Johnson became one of the biggest emblems of the constellation of multicultural superstardom; now there’s something about him that smells a little Trumpish. His shallow opportunist colors are showing all the more.


When Michael Keaton‘s Ray Kroc tells Nick Offerman‘s Rick McDonald that he’s no longer interested in maintaining a cordial partnership (“I’m through taking marching orders from you and your endless parade of no’s, constantly cowering in the face of progress”), a little man inside me went “yes!” The Founder is easily one of the most fascinating ethical dramas of this or any other season, and a brilliant character study of a guy who’s far from “good” but whose motives and actions are understandable and hard to wholly condemn. Here’s the mp3.

Click here to jump past the Oscar Balloon

Darkness Falls

The hastening of ecological ruination is no longer a threat — it’s now a plan, a coming policy, a nightmare waiting to happen. Donald Trump‘s decision to nominate Scott Pruitt, a climate-change-denying animal, to head the Environmental Protection Agency, all but ensures this.

The construction of this 12.7 N.Y. Times story about Pruitt’s selection, written by Coral Davenport and Eric Lipton, is immaculate and horrifying. It doesn’t contain a single wasted word, and is basically a kind of projection of a death sentence. And it’s not a dream.

Remember that third-act scene in David Cronenberg‘s The Dead Zone when Christopher Walken realizes what Martin Sheen will eventually do as President, and what…I shouldn’t complete this sentence.

Chapter and verse: “President-elect Donald J. Trump has selected Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general and a close ally of the fossil fuel industry, to run the Environmental Protection Agency, signaling Mr. Trump’s determination to dismantle President Obama’s efforts to counter climate change — and much of the E.P.A. itself.

“Mr. Pruitt, a Republican, has been a key architect of the legal battle against Mr. Obama’s climate change policies, actions that fit with the president-elect’s comments during the campaign. Mr. Trump has criticized the established science of human-caused global warming as a hoax, vowed to ‘cancel’ the Paris accord committing nearly every nation to taking action to fight climate change, and attacked Mr. Obama’s signature global warming policy, the Clean Power Plan, as a ‘war on coal.’ (more…)

I Want To Hide Away In Manarola For A Few Days

Whenever I discover a cute little coastal town like Manarola, I want to stay there for days if not weeks and just hide out. A lot of walking, gazing, sleeping, 4 or 5 hours at the local internet cafe, evening dinners, etc . The bright colors of the plaster buildings, the rosey sunset, the waves. Manarola is one of the five Cinque Terre villages, nestled in a mountainous coastal area to the northwest of Spezia, in northern Italy.

Small mounted posters for Jackie and Manchester By The Sea arrived today.

Judging by Paul Newman’s beard, this was snapped in either late ’71 or early ’72, or sometime around the filming of John Huston‘s The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean. Eastwood had directed Play Misty For Me the year before; he was about to start directing High Plains Drifter and then Breezy.

“New York Movie,” painted in 1939 by Edward Hopper.


Boy, Do We Need A Spirit-Lifter Now!

Earlier today Variety‘s 12.7 Tim Gray posted a piece called “After a Tough 2016, Is Oscar Ready for an Upbeat Winner?” The gist is that things are so dark and gloomy now that Academy and guild members will be more inclined to vote for smart mood elevators like Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion and Sully than more solemn, sad-hearted films like Fences and Manchester By The Sea. (Gray tries to spread the blame around but we all know that the primary reason for blue-state despair and depression is the imminent authoritarian robber-baron regime of Donald J. Trump.) When I hear people say that they want to see something happy because current events are so dark, I want to throw up. This is what the lightweights were saying in the early to mid ’70s in the wake of the Vietnam War, Watergate, the Nixon resignation — “Ohh, we feel so gloomy! The movies need to save us by making us laugh and cheer again!” One of the most deplorable ad slogans in this vein (and actually one of the most repellent slogans of all time) was the one for That’s Entertainment!, to wit: “Boy, do we need it now!”

Incidentally: La La Land is not an upbeat thing, per se — it’s a musical love story, yes, but it’s mostly about struggle, rejection, creative frustration, feelings of futility, etc. It has some gloriously happy moments and one of the greatest endings of any musical ever, but it’s mainly about things being damn hard for striving artists and about how love doesn’t necessarily work out, even between a guy and a girl who are seemingly made for each other. 

And Fences isn’t much of an upper either. It’s basically about a family living in a kind of prison, and about the terms of that sentence along with certain protests and negotiations.

Behind Mashable’s Rash, Cowardly Dismissal of Jeff Sneider

Dear Mashable editors & management (founder & CEO Pete Cashmore, chief content officer Gregory Gittrich, executive editor Jessica Coen),

I’m Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere, and I’m doing a story about last week’s Jeff Sneider #OscarsSoWhiteIsCancelled situation, which resulted in Sneider’s termination last Thursday morning.

My understanding, to cut to the chase, is that you disciplined the wrong guy.  The idea of OscarsSoWhite being “cancelled”, as represented by the headline and the rewritten lede, was the work of Sneider’s editor Josh Dickey. Dickey decided to emphasize the “cancelled” thing when he edited Sneider’s initial copy, which hadn’t raised the OscarsSoWhite angle until the third or fourth paragraph.

I also understand that Sneider was whacked last Thursday morning without so much as a discussion or a review of the situation.  New York-based management was pissed and scared and wanted the problem ended. Dickey wanted to discuss the decision to run an inflammatory headline (which he immediately recognized as a mistake), but he wasn’t allowed to get into it. Repeating — the inflammatory headline and lede were totally Dickey’s idea, and yet you threw Sneider under the bus, more or less because Jeff was relatively new to the team (he was hired last August) and because Josh has three kids at home.

I gather that the decision to fire Sneider was primarily over his tweets in response to the “OscarsSoWhite is cancelled” story, which went up last Wednesday afternoon.  But again, this was on Dickey. With the Twitter dogs fuming last Wednesday evening, Sneider asked Dickey to review his tweets with an offer to delete any which seemed too tart or adversarial, and he was told they hadn’t crossed the line and were not a problem as far as Dickey could see. (Dickey soon after copped to the mistake on Twitter and Facebook.)

Sneider had merely disputed the judgment of Twitter hounds who were after his head because of Dickey’s edit. He didn’t use hostile or perjorative terms in his tweets, and yet he was firm and non-apologetic.  It was apparently decided that Sneider should have been apologetic in a groveling sort of way. Mashable’s New York management wanted the issue to be immediately erased, and arguing would only prolong it.

All Sneider essentially said in that story, even with Dickey’s clickbait re-edit, was the exact same thing that Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson wrote on 9.26 with a story that was headlined “RIP #OscarsSoWhite:  Why 2017 Will Be The Most Diverse Awards Season In Decades.”  The same observation published several weeks earlier with “RIP” used instead of “cancelled.”

On Friday, 12.2, or the day after Sneider was canned, Deadline‘s Pete Hammond wrote a story called “Is OscarsSoWhite Sooo Last Year?”  It quoted AAFCA president Gil Robertson saying that “the coming award nominations are going to definitely put a pause on #OscarsSoWhite this year, but we wonder for how long.” Again — same conclusion, slightly different terminology

What is the precise difference between the use of “RIP” (i.e., dead) and “cancelled”?  They seem to mean pretty much the same thing to me, but Thompson’s 9.26 piece didn’t elicit so much as a peep from the Twitter dogs while Sneider’s (or more accurately Dickey’s) headline and lede resulted in a tough, attuned and highly respected industry reporter (who has, yes, a rep of being hot-headed) getting whacked like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas.

Mashable’s social transgression, in short, was using the term “cancelled” instead of “on pause.”  Had Dickey decided on the latter instead of the former, Sneider would be working for Mashable right now and all would be hunky-dory.  But you guys couldn’t stand the heat and so you acted hysterically and deep-sixed a good reporter because of something his editor did.

You guys got scared. You were concerned about being painted with a bad brush. Twitter, you had decided, was on the verge of deciding that the word Mashable was synonymous with the embracing of smug, dismissive attitudes about institutional racism, and so you quickly killed the guy who was perceived to be at the root of this image problem.

You could’ve manned up, looked into the particulars, apologized but at the same time protected the reporter. But you went the scared-rabbit route and cut Sneider loose.

Publishers with a semblance of backbone know that while you have to be flexible and open to acknowledging mistakes and if necessary apologizing for them, you never kowtow to Twitter dogs.  Twitter is a hotbed of daily, shoot-from-the-hip outrage and hysteria.  It’s a demon pit.  Look at that idiotic, very recent Last Tango in Paris thing by angry, misinformed, hair-trigger actresses (i.e., Jessica Chastain) and various five-alarm types. 

By the same token Owen Gleiberman should have been whacked over that Rene Zellweger riff about how she and more particularly Bridget Jones looked different due to facial surgery, but Variety just dug in, stood by their man and rode it out.

And guess what?  OscarsSoWhite has been more or less cancelled, at least for the time being and certainly in a moving-train symbolic sense, as this year’s nominees are clearly more ethnic (i.e., blacker, browner, more Asian) and varied in terms of the finalists than the year before.

This plus the institutional changes brought about by the Academy last January in terms of diminishing the influence of at least a portion of the old-fart contingent translates into serious, noticeable change compared to the attitudes that triggered OscarsSoWhite in the first place.

Am I missing something?  If what I’ve described is more or less what happened then this is really and truly an act of editorial cowardice on your part, and beyond disgusting.  But maybe I’m missing something. If I am, please fill me in.

Jeffrey Wells, HE

Clinton Popular Vote Now 2% Above Trump’s

Hillary Clinton‘s popular vote tally is now at 65,525,364 vs. 62,850,329 for Donald Trump — a lead of 2,675,000 votes or two full percentage points. Hillary won 48.2% of the popular vote while Trump got 46.2%. If the situations were reversed and Trump had lost the 11.8 election despite being 2 percentage points or 2,675,000 votes ahead of Clinton, he’d be calling for a march on Washington, a rightwing revolution, a people’s revolt, NRA gunfire in the streets, etc. The Democrats are like “well, the people and more particularly the hinterland Bumblefucks have spoken so that’s the system.” But right now Hillary’s popular vote tally is only 390,431 votes behind President Obama’s winning tally of 65,915,795 in 2012, and that’s with her trust and dislikability issues. Trump “won”, yes, but he has a minus mandate.

Supporting Actor Bing-Bang

Having won three Best Supporting Actor awards (New York Film Critics Circle, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association) over the last week or so, Moonlight‘s Mahershala Ali clearly has the heat. Manchester By The Sea‘s Lucas Hedges and Hidden FiguresKevin Costner are vying for the runner-up slot, but the real comer is Silence‘s Issey Ogata — the twitchy interrogator who all but steals Martin Scorsese‘s film from Andrew Garfield. (I’ve got Ogata in fifth place because he’s only just become a contender within the last couple of days — his candidacy needs time to build steam.) Hell or High Water‘s Jeff Bridges and Nocturnal AnimalsMichael Shannon are also respectably contending.

Founder Parachuting Early Into LA, NY Theatres

John Lee Hancock‘s The Founder (a.k.a. “It Takes A Bit Of A Hard-Driving Shit To Build An Empire”) has suddenly decided to open tomorrow (Wednesday, 12.7) for a week in order to qualify for awards. But only, I gather, in New York and Los Angeles. Definitely worth seeing. My first assessment (basically an ethical riff) popped on 11.14; my second (“Ballsy Founder Treads Ethical Line With Skill Of A Mountain Goat“) appeared on 12.2.

Excerpt #1: “The Founder is basically the story of how the legendary Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) persuaded the earnest, slightly doltish, small-time-thinking McDonald brothers (Dick and Mick, respectively played by Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch) to let him franchise their small fast-food business and turn it into a super-sized empire. But more generally it’s a nuts-and-bolts story about what a scramble it is to grow a business and then stay afloat with all the serpents snapping at your heels.” (more…)

Ehrlich Is a Very Decent Editor

As much as I consider Indiewire‘s David Ehrlich to be one of the most irritating, obnoxiously self-regarding and fundamentally untrustworthy critics around, I have to give him credit for this year-end summary of 2016 films + his own favorite 25. It feels more thoughtful and is much better constructed than any number of run-of-the-mill flash-cut year-end wankathons that surface every December on YouTube and Vimeo. This is the first time I’ve considered the idea that there might be a emotional, flesh-and-blood person behind Ehrlich’s fickle, ivory-tower spewings. Which reminds me: I’ll have to soon rethink and re-order my top 26 films of 2016 list, now that I’ve seen Silence but without having seen Passengers, Collateral Beauty and the almost certainly dismissable Rogue One, which I won’t see until Monday.

THE 25 BEST FILMS OF 2016: A VIDEO COUNTDOWN from David Ehrlich on Vimeo.

Best Actor Bing-Bang

I’ve been wondering if I should remove The Founder‘s Michael Keaton, whose performance I admire but who hasn’t been gaining any Gold Derby or Gurus of Gold traction, and replace him with Paterson‘s Adam Driver, whose bus-driver poet is noteworthy in a quiet, meditative way. All I needed was a little push, and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the critics org that loves to eat as much as vote, gave me one when they handed Driver their 2016 Best Actor trophy. Everybody has Manchester By The Sea‘s Casey Affleck and FencesDenzel Washington in the top two slots. Tom Hanks and Ryan Gosling are in there just to round things out.

Oscar Feature Doc Shortlist

Ezra Edelman‘s O.J.: Made in America, the ESPN doc that award-givers have celebrating as if it’s a regular theatrical feature, is almost certainly going to win the Oscar for Best Feature Documentary. I think that needs to be understood and accepted. The Academy’s doc shortlist of 15 was announced today:

Cameraperson, Big Mouth Productions
Command and Control, American Experience Films/PBS
The Eagle Huntress, Stacey Reiss Productions, Kissiki Films and 19340 Productions
Fire at Sea, Stemal Entertainment
Gleason, Dear Rivers Productions, Exhibit A and IMG Films
Hooligan Sparrow, Little Horse Crossing the River
I Am Not Your Negro, Velvet Film
The Ivory Game, Terra Mater Film Studios and Vulcan Productions
Life, Animated, Motto Pictures and A&E IndieFilms
O.J.: Made in America, Laylow Films and ESPN Films
13th, Forward Movement
Tower, Go-Valley
Weiner, Edgeline Films
The Witness, The Witnesses Film
Zero Days, Jigsaw Productions


While discussing Emma Stone‘s highly-touted performance in La La Land (Summit, 12.9), Gold Derby‘s Tom O’Neil calls it a partial “problem” given that Stone is playing a deliberately two-dimensional role…perky and happy and dancing around…you don’t get a lot of gravitas and soulful reflection.” Not true. Mostly she’s coping with soul-crushing rejection, despair, anxiety and frustration in Damian Chazelle‘s musical, and it shows on her face in every frame. Stone’s only 100% “perky and happy” moment is when she goes out with her girlfriends to a Hollywood party in Act One; there are also a pair of romantic dance numbers but that’s not “perky,” dude.