There are three 20somethings bantering on my Fairfield-bound train. They won’t stop giggling at almost every remark, and after a while you can’t ignore them any more. You have to look up, give them a stink-eye and telepathically ask “what is fucking wrong with you?” Some people have the serenity and the character to just listen and respond to others according to the funny-tude or intrigue levels or wisdom being shared. If a laugh or a howl or a chortle is warranted, fine. But when everyotherdamnsentenceishyuck–hyuckhilarious, it’s an indication of a kind of social neurosis. I’m telling you it’s fuckingexhausting to listen to these giggly dogs (two dudes and a girl). I just zapped them with another stink-eye beam — ignored. I just want you to hurt like I do.
Not to get all icky but some of us self-identify as female foot fans, and I thought I’d put this out there. Every woman on the face of the planet walks around in sandals during the summer but a very tiny fraction have feet that you could honestly describe as seriously arousing, astonishing or wowser. Most, I would say without malice, seem unfortunately shaped in one way or another. This is not “a problem” but it is, to be candid, a fact. Rather than sound all pervy by describing great-looking feet, here’s a shot that a girl I was friendly with four or five years ago sent me once. Her own, taken by herself. I’m sorry but this — this — is what world-class feet look like. Lean, trim, athletic with a perfect pedicure. Big toe not too long, little toe not too small.
Keep in mind that the “whee” in former Congressman Anthony Weiner‘s last name is spelled “wei” while Todd Solondz‘s just-opened black comedy, in line with the original German spelling of wienerschnitzel, goes with “ie.” Has anyone seen the Solondz? Were there any older women going “awwww” when the dachsund was on-screen? If so, what was their reaction to the finale? From my Sundance reaction: strong>Todd Solondz‘s Weiner Dog is “a morose and depressive slog about a dachsund passing from owner to owner and bearing the sins of mankind. I’ve always hated Solondz and his dweeby, depressive attitude and particularly his attachment to depressive losers, so it’s no surprise that I began hating this film early on. It was agony sitting through to the end, which I was determined to do no matter what. It’s about futility, fuck it, banality, depression, ennui, emptiness, death, Down Syndrome and cancer.”
Every time someone I like grows a moustache, something inside me dies a little. Or succumbs to a bad mood. When you grow a moustache, it’s like you’ve switched sides. Sign here on the dotted line…congrats, you look like a putz. Decades ago people believed that a moustache gave you a rakishly sexy vibe. That idea began, I suppose, when Clark Gable grew a pencil-line ‘stache in the mid ’30s. It peaked with Robert Redford‘s bushy squirrel in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It began to wither, I’ve come to believe, with the appearance of William Hurt‘s upper-lip growth in Body Heat. Example: I found Kirk Douglas‘s The Bad and the Beautiful character charismatic until he grew a moustache in Act Three. I could mention other instances. Just don’t grow the damn things.
A day or two ago Variety‘s Kris Tapley and Jenelle Riley posted a piece called “22 Deserving Oscar Contenders from the First Half of 2016.” I haven’t seen some of the films discussed. No excuses — I just didn’t or haven’t yet. But I feel highly enthused about two of their suggestions — Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg’s Weiner for Best Feature Doc (I’m ignoring the Best Picture idea) and Ralph Fiennes‘ giddy, motor-mouth performance in A Bigger Splash.
Kris and Jenelle don’t appear to be seriously suggesting that the others might actually score a nomination in their categories. They seem to be mostly saying “hey, at least keep some of these in mind for a Spirit Award.” Fine, but where they got the idea that Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman merit acting nominations for their performances in 10 Cloverfield Lane…fuhgedaboutit.
Best Picture: Kriegman and Steinberg’s Weiner. HE response: For a half-second I thought Tapley and Riley were cranked about Todd Solondz‘s Weiner Dog…whoaahhh! Kriegman and Steinberg’s doc about how “Carlos Danger” destroyed the career of former Rep. Anthony Weiner is a fascinating, appalling, sometimes amusing thing to sink into. On the other hand it’s about the suffocation of a guy’s life, an execution by media and twitter dogs, and who can laugh at this level of carnage? All the guy did was make an ass of himself online — no affair, no sexual harassment, no cruelty, just stupidity. But that’s all it takes.
Best Director: Jeremy Saulnier, Green Room. HE response: Uhhmm…haven’t seen it.
Best Actor: Ethan Hawke, Born to Be Blue. HE response: Missed it at last year’s Toronto Film Festival, haven’t had a chance since. Miles Ahead, another jazz biopic with a darkish tone, is already out on Bluray while Born To Be Blue, which is more or less a portrait of the late Chet Baker, is only on DVD plus it’s not streaming on Amazon or Vudu. Why?
Best Actress: Susan Sarandon, The Meddler. HE response: Missed this also. At least it’s streaming. Tapley-Riley are claiming Sarandon’s performance “is one of the most accurate portrayals of grief seen on film in recent years.” Bill Maher said it made him choke up. Sorry for the dereliction. (more…)
Unbeknownst to me at the time, Michael Herr, whose legendary 1977 novel “Dispatches” will always be the definitive grunt’s-eye, bong-hit chronicle of the Vietnam War — an Elements of Style-defying, darkly poetic, run-of-the-brain masterpiece — died Thursday at an upstate New York hospital, which may have been near his home in Delhi, where he lived for years. I was writing, packing and flying to New York that day (i.e., yesterday) so yeah, I was buried but I still feel a little badly that I didn’t catch the news until tonight. Michael Herr was the King of literary Vietnam, a guy who brought the shit home like no one had ever dared or imagined, who rock-and-rollicized the nightmare and the murdering and the war highs. To me Herr was also the guy who sculpted much of Martin Sheen‘s voiceover narration for Apocalypse Now, although who knows who wrote what on that film? He also did some pinch-hitting on Full Metal Jacket. Herr was 76.
“‘Quakin’ and shakin’, they called it, great balls of fire, contact. Then it was you and the ground: kiss it, eat it, fuck it, plow it through with your whole body, get as close to it as you can without being in it or of it, guess who’s flying around about an inch above your head? Pucker and submit, it’s the ground. Under Fire would take you out of your head and your body too. Amazing, unbelievable, guys who’d played a lot of hard sports said they’d never felt anything like it, the sudden drop and rocket rush of the hit, the reserves of adrenalin you could make available to yourself, pumping it up and putting it out until you were lost floating in it, not afraid, almost open to clear, orgasmic death-by-drowning in it, actually relaxed.
“Unless of course you’d shit your pants or were screaming or praying or giving anything at all to the hundred-channel panic that blew word salad all around you and sometimes clean through you. Maybe you couldn’t love the war and hate it at the same instant, but sometimes those feelings alternated so rapidly that they spun together in a strobic wheel rolling all the way up until you were literally High On War, like it said on all the helmet covers. Coming off a jag like that could really make a mess out of you.” — page 63 of a dog-eared 1978 paperback version of Michael Herr‘s “Dispatches.” — “Vietnam Vietnam Vietnam, We’ve All Been There,” posted 12.29.15. (more…)
A friend wrote this morning to remind me that Phillip Roth‘s “American Pastoral” (’97) is “a true masterpiece.” Which is neither here nor there as far as Ewan McGregor’s upcoming film version (Lionsgate, 10.21) is concerned. But the trailer is intriguing. It has me thinking that maybe, just maybe, the film might amount to something. It’s always prudent to adopt a “wait and see” attitude with a first-time director, but every so often a form of beginner’s luck can occur.
The plot is about parental anguish and ’60s terrorism; the theme has something to do with the fact that people (including your best friends and family members) can be obstinate, incomprehensible and disloyal.
Phillip Noyce (Rabbit Proof Fence, The Quiet American, Clear and Present Danger) began developing a script of American Pastoral with writer John Romano in ’03, and he tried to get it made for over a decade. Two years ago Noyce was hired by Lionsgate to direct a film adaptation with Ewan McGregor, Jennifer Connolly and Dakota Fanning in the lead roles. But for whatever reason Noyce decided to bail on the project later that year, and in February ’15 it was announced that McGregor would direct instead. David Strathairn, Peter Riegert, Corey Stoll and Rupert Evans were added to the cast.
I’m guessing that Pastoral will play Telluride and/or Toronto before debuting in late October.
2016 FILMS EXPECTED TO REGISTER AS NOTEWORTHY, REVIEW-DRIVEN, POSSIBLE AWARDS FODDER:
Highest Expectations (in order of confidence or expectation): 1. Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester-by-the-Sea [locked Best Actor nomination for Casey Affleck]; 2. Martin Scorsese‘s Silence; 3. Steven Gaghan's Gold (Matthew McConaughey, Bryce Dallas Howard, Edgar Ramírez); 4. Ang Lee's Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk; 5. Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals; 6. David Frankel's Collateral Beauty (Will Smith, Keira Knightley, Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren, Edward Norton); 7. Olivier Assayas' Personal Shopper (Kristen Stewart); 8. Clint Eastwood's Sully (Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney); 9. Denzel Washington's Fences (Washington, Viola Davis, Mykelti Williamson, Russell Hornsby). (9)
War-Related Brad Pitt Flicks -- WWII Romantic-Dramatic, 21st Century Satiric: Robert Zemeckis' Allied w/ Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard (began shooting in March '16) and David Michod's War Machine (Netflix) w/ Pitt as Gen. Stanley McChrystal + Ben Kingsley, Emory Cohen, Topher Grace, John Magaro, Scoot McNairy, Will Poulter. (2)
A Little Worried But Maybe: 1. Oliver Stone's Snowden; 2. James Gray's The Lost City of Z; 3. The Secret Scripture w/ Jessica Chastain, Vanessa Redgrave, Eric Bana; 4. Greg McLean's The Belko Experiment; 5. Werner Herzog's Salt And Fire (Michael Shannon, Gael García Bernal, Werner Herzog, Veronica Ferres); 6. Ewan MacGregor's American Pastoral (MacGregor, Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Connelly, David Strathairn); 7. Garth Davis's Lion (Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman -- released by Weinstein Co.); 8. Denis Villeneuve's Story of Your Life (Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg -- Paramount). (8)
Very Interesting, Slight Hedging of Bets (random order): 1. Charlie McDowell's The Discovery w/ Rooney Mara, Nicholas Hoult (a love story set one year after the existence of the afterlife is scientifically verified, or a more thoughtful version of The Leftovers); 2. Wim Wenders' Submergence (Alicia Vikander, James McAvoy); 3. James Ponsoldt's The Circle (Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, John Boyega), 4. Pablo Larrain's Jackie (Natalie Portman, Greta Gerwig, Peter Sarsgaard). (4)
Dumped Into Early August Release: John Hancock's The Founder (biopic of McDonald's kingpin Ray Kroc, opening on 8.5.16). (1)
Seen in Cannes, Approved or Praised to Some Degree: 1. Cristian Mungiu's Graduation; 2. Asghar Farhadi's The Salesman (Sahahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidoosti); 3. Paul Verhoeven's Elle. 4. Pablo Larrain's Neruda; 5. Woody Allen's Cafe Society (Steve Carell, Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Blake Lively); (5)
Feels Fringe-y: Barry Jenkins' Moonlight (based on Tarell McCraney's play "In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue" -- a Plan B/A24 project about black queer youth amid the temptations of the Miami drug trade). (1)
This Year's Animated Pixar Wonder-Package for the Whole Family: Andrew Stanton's Finding Dory. (1)
I found this footage (6 minutes, 11 seconds) of Blake Lively performing for the cameras during last year’s shooting of The Shallows more interesting than the film itself. Plus it has better (i.e., longer lasting) bikini footage. Just saying. Here’s my 6.23 review.
I’ve only begin to research yesterday’s allegedly calamitous decision by British voters to withdraw from the European Union. But many Brits who voted to leave the EU apparently did so (a) in a state of some ignorance about the consequences and (b) voted to “leave” more as a protest gesture than in wanting to force a literal withdrawal. To go by some reports, the “leave”-ers were not only surprised but sorry to discover this morning that the measure had passed. The “leave”-ers were mostly 50-plus rube xenophobes — the British equivalent of Trump voters. As with Trump voters, it’s suspected that their sentiments were fed by an element of racial-tribal resentment. I’m not entirely certain how this all fits together or to what extent the UK’s decision to leave the E.U. will impact the U.S. economy, but I read somewhere that Queen Elizabeth has the power to kibbosh the whole thing.
Any tough-minded director knows that a shot of a guy falling or swan-diving from a tall building or cliff always means that the film is at least somewhat mediocre. It was cool when Tim Burton‘s Batman started it almost 30 years ago, but it’s been a rancid cliche for a long while now. If, on the other hand, your drama or thriller avoids a fall shot, audience members will feel less guarded and may even open themselves up a bit. This is no crackpot theory. I’ve mentioned the falling curse several times. You’d think that Ron Howard would figure some other way for the bearded guy to kill himself. And what about the possibility of beardo hitting a random tourist down below?
There a moment in The Free State of Jones when a ruggedly-dressed, boot-wearing Matthew McConaughey is walking through a woodsy area, and he approaches a few mid-sized puddles. Instead of stepping around them, as any sane person would, he splashes right through, soaking his boots and almost certainly his socks and feet. “What did you do that for?” I muttered from my sixth-row seat. “Are you indifferent to your feet and socks getting soaked inside your boots? If you say yes you’re a liar.”
Nobody likes wearing soaked or soggy socks inside lace-up boots. I’ve been there. It’s really uncomfortable. If you’ve slipped into a puddle or a stream the only thing to do is to put fresh ones on and air your boots out in the sun for a couple of hours.
In real life nobody walks right into puddles or splashes through shallow streams with their boots on — nobody — unless they have no choice. Guys in wartime combat situations, etc. But guys in movies do this regardless of circumstances. Because, I’m guessing, (a) it makes them look rugged and manly to slosh through but (b) stepping around puddles or crossing streams by stepping on rocks makes them look like sissies. (more…)
As we speak Jaume Collet-Serra‘s The Shallows has a Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic ratings of 76% and 56%, respectively, while Gary Ross‘s The Free State of Jones has a 53% rating on Metacritic and a 33% on RT. Which seems slightly unfair. The Shallows is a total throwaway while Jones is at least trying to be serious and substantial. It’s not a bad film — it just isn’t radical or special enough.
I agree with the complaints about Jones that some critics have brought up. Too much of a white savior movie. Decently done (realistic milieu, nice battle scenes) but feels a bit rote. It places Matthew McConaughey on too high a pedestal with one too many noble speeches. A respectable TNT-level history drama.
I saw Jones last night. This morning I told a critic friend that “it didn’t offend me as much as I was expecting, given all the pans. My general view was ‘well, this isn’t great but it’s not exactly bad either.’ It felt to me like a mezzo-mezzo thing, a dutiful historical drama that doesn’t really tarnish cinema culture or create something odious that needs to be strongly argued against or suffocated.
“More often than not I was shrugging my shoulders. I was telling myself, ‘Well, at least it’s a lot better than Ross’s Hunger Games.'”
Critic friend: “I think that’s exactly right. It’s not offensive, or even egregiously bad. It’s just…kinda dull.” (more…)
There’s a familiar Hollywood two-step process that famous plus-sized or zaftig women have gone through. I’m thinking of Melissa McCarthy, Jennifer Hudson, Gabourey Sidibe and Kate Winslet of the mid to late ’90s (i.e, “Kate Weighs-a-lot”). Step #1 is about acceptance and self-love, step #2 is about “look at the new me!” Step #1 is “I am who I am…get used to it because I love myself and my womanhood, and all the body shamers out there can kiss my ass.” Step #2 is “okay, I did step #1 but I might be looking at a shorter life span if I don’t exercise more and watch my diet. Plus I want to be around when my kids grow up.”
Melissa McCarthy in 2011’s Bridesmaids.
Shot sometime earlier this year or in late ’15.
Today’s McCarthy looks seriously great compared to the woman she was in Bridesmaids. Hudson was step #1 when she was doing press for Dreamgirls eight years ago, but she’s blown that off and then some. Sidibe has also cut down on whatever she was doing that made her morbidly obese when she filmed Precious. Sooner or later Amy Schumer, who embraces the step #1 mindset when she talks to the press about her zaftig-ness, will follow in their path. Ditto Lena Dunham. You can be a step #1 practitioner from your 20s to mid 30s, but you have to cut that shit out as you approach your 40s.
Jaume Collet-Serra‘s The Shallows is relatively inoffensive for the first…what, 25 minutes? Lulling, I mean. A tropical Mexican (actually Australian) surfside setting. Brief glimpses of Blake Lively‘s tanned bikini bod. A tranquil, crescent-shaped cove under radiant blue skies. Hefty surfer swells rolling in.
And then the dumb shark tale begins, and it gradually gets harder and harder to accept. The big ending, trust me, is ludicrous. But it’s a fairly lightweight, see-it-and-forget-about-it thing. I didn’t hate it. I just sat there and smirked. Okay, a single shock cut made me jump but that’s it.
The film pretty much rests on Blake’s shoulders, and to be fair she delivers as well as can be expected. She works it, I mean. Gives her all in conveying the fear, panic and pain. It’s the damn shark I didn’t care for, or more precisely his behavior. This is one determined predator who wants to feed, yes, but his main purpose is to eat Blake Lively. She does what she can to elude and survive, but Sharky-poo won’t quit. “I’m really after you, bikini babe with the Oakland booty…I can’t wait to sink my teeth into your flank!” (more…)
In this American Masters clip from a 2006 segment called “Marilyn: Still Life,” Gloria Steinem talks about the doomed Marilyn Monroe and how she might have been saved by the women’s movement if she’d somehow lasted until the late ’60s or better yet the early ’70s. I can’t find the URL but I wrote something similar two or three years ago, about how Monroe might have felt less trapped or certainly more understood if she’d managed to stay afloat until the arrival of ’60s freak culture and everything that followed. Or maybe not. Monroe was so brutally abused by her mentally-unstable mother that she might never have found stability under any condition.
But living with feelings of vulnerability and putting yourself through contortions to live up to expectations of the opposite gender has never been a women-only thing. I went through a lot of this in my 20s and especially my 30s — job anxiety, creative failure, crash-and-burn love affairs, being found wanting for fickle or substantial reasons, heartbreak and anger over the constant ‘no, no, no, no, no’ of things — and a lot of it was truly hellish. The Steinem narrative is that women of her generation (reared in the ’40s and’50s, early adulthood in the ’60s and ’70s) had it much tougher than guys of that era. Maybe they did but life is never a picnic for anyone. It haunts from all sides, cradle to grave.
In yet another N.Y. Times piece about Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters (Sony/Columbia, 7.15) and the sight-unseen loathing by hardore, mostly-male fanboys, Dave Itzkoff asks the four leads — Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones — to analyze the adversity.
But before I quote from it, it’s important to reiterate that while I took an instant dislike to this film based on the trailers, I’ve never said to myself “the original over-worshipped 1984 film shouldn’t be remade as a girl thing.” My reaction from the get-go has been (1) “the trailers have suggested there isn’t anything the least bit funny in this film” and (2) “I’m getting a sense that it’s CG-driven if not CG-dominated, and there’s nothing less funny than being carpet-bombed by expensive CG.”
Itzkoff: Was there a point at which you noticed that because of the film’s premise and because the leads were female, some subset of your audience was not happy?
McCarthy: You mean the crazy people?
Jones: You mean the people that don’t know that it’s a movie?
Wells interjection: In other words the proper attitude in Jones’ view should be “it’s just a movie so sit back and chill.” There are some who look at moviegoing this way, as a check-your-brain diversion. And there are many, of course, who go to movies for a kind of theme-park experience…CG, CG and more CG. But there are others who would never say movies are “just” anything. They regard theatres as churches and movies as experiences that might, if the moviegoer is lucky, deliver intensity, enhancement and even joy, even if the film in question is apparently some dumb flick about fighting ghosts. They regard movies as experiences that can potentially cleanse your soul (at least temporarily), that can deliver the kind of emotional devastation that rarely seems to happen in real life, that might even take the viewer on some kind of transcendent voyage. It would appear that Jones is not one of these people, but the Ghostbusters haters, trust me, are made of almost nothing but moviegoers like this. (more…)
In response to the BBC ballot that people are responding to all over, here are my top…I can’t. I can’t choose ten. Here are my top 42 (but in no particular order): Manchester By The Sea, Leviathan, 12 Years A Slave, Inside Llewyn Davis, Zero Dark Thirty, A Separation, Moneyball, The Social Network, The Fighter, Zodiac, Memento, Traffic, Amores perros, Children of Men, Adaptation, City of God, The Pianist, The Lives of Others, Sexy Beast, There Will Be Blood, Michael Clayton, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Collateral, Dancer in the Dark, A Serious Man, Girlfight, The Departed, In the Bedroom, Talk to Her, Bloody Sunday, No Country For Old Men, The Quiet American, Whale Rider, Open Range, Touching the Void, Maria Full of Grace, Up In The Air, The Hurt Locker, Million Dollar Baby, Man on Wire, Che and Volver.
“Sometimes you have to do something out of the ordinary. Sometimes you have to make a way out of no way. We have been too quiet for too long. There comes a time when you have to make a little noise. You have to move your feet. This is the time. Now is the time to get in the way. We will be silent no more. The time for silence is over.” — Rep. John Lewis speaking this afternoon on the House floor, just prior to the gun legislation sit-in.
“While the speeches in the House chamber veered all around the gun-control issue, making it difficult at times to ascertain what specific legislative action protesters wanted, a spokesman for the House Democratic leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, said Democrats were seeking votes on measures similar to two proposals by Democratic senators that failed to advance in the Senate.
“One of those sought to restrict gun sales to people on the government’s terrorism watch list, while the second would expand and toughen background checks for gun buyers. Those two measures were defeated on Monday in the Senate, along with Republican alternatives. (more…)
I don’t how it happened, but sometime during the 20th Century an observation about African American women caught on and became legend. The legend is that certain ladies of this heritage (i.e., those with a little meat on their bones and who aren’t slender as bankside reeds) have hefty, haunchy, cow-sized asses. This cruel stereotype needs to removed from public consciousness. Blake Lively found this out last month when she posted an Instagram of her front and back with a caption that read “L.A. face with an Oakland booty.” Why Lively wasn’t immediately brought up on charges I’ll never know, but where did she get the idea she can just body-shame with impugnity? If it were my call she would be feeling the wrath of the p.c. court right now. There are no “Oakland” booties — there are only beautiful variations of the female form, and anyone who’s catty and cheap enough to suggest…I refuse to discuss it any further.