The Passion of Oliver Barrett, Jr.

In a few days Quentin Tarantino‘s New Beverly Cinema will be screening a beware-of-Ryan O’Neal double bill — Love Story (’70) and Oliver’s Story (’78). A little more than 37 years ago I laughed at a defaced version of an Oliver’s Story one-sheet on a New York subway station wall. It won’t be very funny if I use the original graffiti so I’m going to use polite terminology. The dialogue balloons had O’Neal saying to costar Candice Bergen, “I’m sorry but may I have sex with you in a way that can’t get you pregnant?” Bergen answered, “I’d prefer another method.” I was poor and struggling and mostly miserable, but the graffiti made me laugh. I guess you had to be there.

Respect For Pre-Paycheck-Era George Kennedy

The late George Kennedy‘s peak moment (“the greatest of my life”) was winning the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as a big-mouthed convict in Cool Hand Luke (’67). He was fine in that Stuart Rosenberg film, but my favorite Kennedy performances are his police detective in The Boston Strangler (’68) and particularly his bullying, sociopathic goon who was brought down by a pack of Dobermans in Clint Eastwood and Michael Cimino‘s Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (’74). I understood Kennedy’s willingness to prostitute himself as Joe Petroni in those Godforsaken Airport sequels (Airport 1975, Airport ’77, The Concorde: Airport ’79), but doing these and other crap films diminished what he had going in the late ’60s.


Presumed…Okay, Possible Best Actress Nominee

Despite what the IMDB and Wikipedia say about Pablo Larrain‘s Jackie being a 2017 release, I’m going on the presumption that it’ll be pretty much done six or seven months hence (August/September) and acquired by Fox Searchlight for release during the 2016 award season, or certainly by November/December. It’s obviously an Oscar-baity thing, and it wouldn’t make much sense to hold it for a full year (i.e., until the fall of ’17). If Pablo doesn’t get the CG just right and make his footage blend perfectly with color newsreels of JFK’s funeral, Jackie won’t work. Here’s hoping.

Natalie Portman as Jackie kennedy — pic recently posted on Pablo Larrain’s Instagram page.


“…But I Imagine Certain People Feel That”

Now that Donald Trump has all but locked down the Republican presidential nomination, the “chuckling and shaking one’s head” phase is pretty much over, and the serious artillery phase is kicking in. In the past the initial response of educated people to demagogues has been to laugh or call them foolish figures, and then go “wait a minute…this guy could actually win.” Trump is nothing if not an improvisational opportunist and a lying sociopath who shoots from the hip but isn’t that hip when he shoots. John Oliver: “We have no way of knowing which of his inconsistent views he will hold in office.” I can definitely imagine Clinton-funded campaign ads like that LBJ-funded ad than ran in 64 [after the jump] — an ad featuring a sensible-sounding establishment Republican saying “look, this is just too much…this is way beyond the pale…I can’t vote for this guy and neither should you.”


Bombs Blows

I reviewed Joachim Trier‘s Louder Than Bombs nine-plus months ago at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. It costars Gabriel Byrne, Isabelle Huppert, Amy Ryan, Rachel Brosnahan, David Strathairn and Devin Druid. The Orchard will open it theatrically on 4.8 and will stream on iTunes/VOD beginning on 7.12. I’ve posted the Cannes review twice before so here goes a third time…sorry.

This is an ennui-laden, Euro-style Ordinary People stuffed with the usual suburban, middle-class downer intrigues and featuring one of the most reprehensible teenaged characters in the history of motion pictures. To me it felt contrived and gently infuriating. Too many aspects felt wrong and miscalculated or even hateful, and once the tally reached critical levels I began to sink into my usual exasperation (faint moaning, leaning forward, checking my watch).

“Uh-oh, this isn’t working,” I began saying to myself at around the ten-minute mark. Later on I was saying, “Wow, this really isn’t working.” Later on I was muttering worse things.

Bombs is basically about a father and two sons grappling with the death of their wife/mother, and the dysfunctional behavior that emerges in her absence.

Dad, a Long Island-based high-school teacher, is played by the aging, overly sensitive, watery-eyed Gabriel Byrne. Son #1, a mild-mannered college prof and mystifyingly irresponsible young dad, is played by Jesse Eisenberg, wearing a bizarre straight-hair wig instead of his usual curlies. Son #2, the above-mentioned demon from Hades, is played by Devin Druid. Isabelle Huppert plays the dead wife/mom — a renowned, N.Y. Times-endorsed war photographer who died some months ago in a local highway accident. (more…)

McKay’s Bernie Boost

Big Short director Adam McKay, co-winner of Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, ended his acceptance speech with the following: “Most of all, if you don’t want big money to control government, don’t vote for candidates that take money from big banks, oil or weirdo billionaires…stop!” This wasn’t a “subtle” jab at Hillary Clinton, who has reportedly accepted more than $20 million from Wall Street bigwigs in the form of speaking fees and campaign contributions — it was a very precise and clear one. As well as a Bernie Sanders endorsement. Which of course meant nothing to the low-information no-accounts.


Inarritu: “I Won’t Back Down”

I was hugely impressed last night by the way Alejandro G. Inarritu ignored the orchestra trying to play him off and calmly stood his ground as he spoke about racial prejudice and opportunity and the meaning of his win. This is what backbone is…the fruit of will and a pair of balls.

At the Governor’s Ball he told Deadline‘s Pete Hammond that “I hadn’t even used all my time when they started to play me off.” Co-producer Reginald Hudlin told Hammond that “it was just one mistake in a three and a half hour show.” I think it was basic cluelessness, not a mistake. Everyone knows that you cut the major winners a little slack when it comes to acceptance speeches. Hudlin and co-producer David Hill could have told the orchestra conductor to stop and let Inarritu finish, but they chose not to. Insensitive, bad form.


What Happened To The Sly Vote?

Sylvester Stallone‘s surprising loss to Mark Rylance at the Oscars last night was the biggest shocker of the telecast. Expectation-wise it was like being hit on the side of the head with a waffle iron. Some had predicted Spotlight‘s surprise win, but almost nobody saw the Stallone thing coming.

Obviously some sentiment or conviction kicked in that very few picked up on. But what? You can’t just bellyache — something happened.

But before floating theories, you have to watch Michael Rapaport’s reaction, which was posted late last night or early this morning or whatever.

Sasha Stone has suggested that Sly lost because (1) it was a very competitive year resulting in a split-up vote, (2) “Did the Academy really want to go down in history rewarding ‘the only white guy’ in Creed?…that’s all the press talked about…if they gave him an award, doesn’t that just seal the deal?” and (3) “A lot of old timers really liked Bridge of Spies.”

HE theories: I agree with Sasha’s thinking but I also think Sly lost some votes when he forgot to thank Creed director Ryan Coogler during his thank-you speech at the Golden Globes — I think that pushed the wrong kind of button. (more…)

Oh, What A Night

I didn’t think Spotlight would take the Best Picture Oscar, but I was delighted that it did. It was a win that made a lot of people happy. Everyone I spoke to at the Spotlight after-party at Palihouse said the same thing. A few know-it-alls were predicting that Spotlight might triumph, but most were predicting The Revenant. Especially after Alejandro G. Inarritu‘s DGA win followed by The Revenant‘s BAFTA triumph — that’s when most Spotlight supporters (myself included) caved as far as our Gold Derby or Gurus of Gold predictions were concerned. No one I spoke to (or could think of) was predicting that Bridge of Spies costar Mark Rylance would win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar — everybody was assuming Sly Stallone had it bagged. Anyway, I’m done for the night. I got back an hour ago from the Palihouse party, and tomorrow’s another day. Funniest quote from a Revenant guy: “We’ve made so much money we might even break even.” Then he said as a kicker, “That was a joke.”

Spotlight director and co-writer Tom McCarthy arriving at Palihouse after-party.

Spotlight team on Kodak stage after the Best Picture win.


Hollywood Elsewhere’s Combination Leonardo DiCaprio/Leo Carillo State Beach Bip-Bop, Go With The Flow, Blow-By-Blow Oscar Commentary

9:00 pm: Spotlight wins the Best Picture Oscar! OMG! OMG! OMG! Amazing. The preferential ballot thing kicked in! Buy some Girl Scout cookies! Black lives matter!

8:53 pm: Julianne Moore presenting the long-assured Best Actor Oscar to Leonardo DiCaprio. Who gets a standing ovation. Leo thanks Hardy, Alejandro, Chivo, Arnon, Scorsese, Rick Yorn, my friends. And this: “Climate change is real, it’s happening right now, and we need to work together right now and stop procrastinating and support leaders who don’t [kowtow] to the big polluters and for our children’s children…let us not take this planet for granted…I do not take tonight for granted.”

8:51 pm: Chris Rock has done a really great job — he hit the right notes, said some wise things, handled it well and smoothly. A real pro.

8:44 pm: Eddie Redmayne presenting the Best Actress reel, and then the Oscar to Room‘s Brie Larson. “Oh, wow.” She thanks Telluride, Toronto, Lenny Abrahamson, her family, friends and the audience for seeing Room. Simple, elegant. And she looks terrific.

8:36 pm: J.J. Abrams announces winner of the Best Directing Oscar, which will presumably be The Revenant‘s Alejandro G. Inarritu. Yes, Mr. Revenant has won twice in a row, historically measuring up to Joseph L. Mankiewicz and John Ford. Heartfelt thanks to Leo, Chivo, Tom Hardy, Arnon Milchan. Inarritu stands up to the orchestra, refuses to be played off, and says something fine and true about the symbolism of the moment, future opportunity and past discrimination.

8:29 pm: Sascha Baron Cohen amusingly satirizes the whole “what about fairness for us?” diversity thing. Got me.

8:25 pm: Common and John Legend presenting the Best Song Oscar. I feel as if it should go to “Until It Happens To you.” But Sam Smith‘s Spectre song wins.

8:20 pm: Quincy Jones and blonde Pharrell presenting Best Original Score Oscar. It should be going to Ryuichi Sakamoto for his Revenant score. The Oscar goes to Ennio Morricone for his Revenant score, which was okay but honestly wasn’t my idea of great. This is basically another gold-watch Oscar for a legendary composer, and that’s fine. Morricone conveys thanks in his native tongue…cool.

8:09 pm: Standing ovation for Joe Biden! Biden (in response to applause): “I’m the least qualified man here tonight…thank you!” More: “We must and we can change the culture, so that no women or man will ever have to ask themselves ‘what did I do?’ They did nothing wrong.” Lady Gaga singing “‘Til It Happens To you.” A couple of dozen victims standing in formation, all wearing temporary tattoos that say “I’m a survivor: and “It happened to me.” Moving. Best moment of the show so far. Second best: Rock interviews Compton moviegoers. Third best: Rylance beats Stallone.

8:07 pm: Sofia Vergara and some guy presenting Best Foreign Language Feature Oscar. Vergara: “And the Oscar goes to Son of Saawuhhl…Hungary.” Hooray for the Saul guys!

8:05 pm: Jacob Tremblay and Abraham Attah presenting action for Best Live Action Short Film. What just won? Attah said “Stuttaahh!” Oh, right: Stutterer.

8:03 pm: The Oscar telecast has been rockin’ and rollin’ for two and a half hours now.

7:56 pm: Death Reel — who will be snubbed? Former Time critic Richard Corliss makes the cut! Holly Woodlawn! Frank Gilroy, David Bowie, Leonard Nimoy…blackbirds, fly. Tweet by Forrest Wickman: “Paul McCartney wrote “Blackbird” about the Civil Rights struggle. Now the Oscars use it to memorialize (mostly) white people.” With an oblique nod to the evening’s diversity theme.

7:55 pm: Cheryl Boone Isaacs quoting Martin Luther King: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stand in moments of challenge and controversy.

7:52 pm: Whoopi Goldberg could spend a little more time on the treadmill. Sorry but she could.

7:50 pm: $65K for Girl Scout cookies?

7:38 pm: Louis C.K. handing out Best Documentary Short Subject Oscar. They’ll never get rich, they’ll be going home in a Honda Civic, they’ll keep the Oscar in their crappy apartment. Winner is getting played off. Dev Patel and Daisy “who’s Cary Grant?” Ridley handing out Best Documentary Feature Oscar, which is supposed to go to Asif Kapadia‘s Amy. Yes! Amy! Congrats to Asif! We made this film to show who Amy really was, etc. A magnificent singer who killed herself, you mean?

7:32 pm: Bridge of Spies costar Mark Rylance wins Best Supporting Oscar. More to the point, Sly Stallone loses! The first shocker of the evening! The blogaroonies (myself included) were wrong. Imagine all those people down in Compton going, “Who the fuck is Mark Rylance? Who the fuck saw Bridge of Lies?” This is what’s called an upset. HE advice to Stallone: Don’t pull an Eddie Murphy and leave the Kodak. Stay to the end, be gracious, give Rylance a hug, go to all the parties.

7:27 pm: Chris Rock interviewing several low-information Compton residents about which “white person” Best Picture nominees they’ve seen. None, zip, doughnut. But they saw Straight Outta Compton. Why would they ever want to see Spotlight? Just some white-ass movie about white people up to some white-people shit…right? The same mentality, I’d guess, that led South Carolinians of color to not vote for Bernie Sanders…right, Chris? Talk to Spike Lee and Cornell West about that.

7:22 pm: Kate Winslet, Reese Witherspoon announcing Best Picture clips…zzzzz.

7:14 pm: Kevin Hart shares his diversity thoughts. A musical number. That I already hate. Nice haircut, Weekend! Return of the mullet in 2016.

7:10 pm: Woody and Buzz Lightyear’s patter is slightly better. The winner of the Best Animated Feature oscar will be, of course, Inside Out — fucking Pixar guys own this category. Good words: “Make stuff..make films, draw, write…it’ll make a world of difference.”

7:08 pm: The Repulsive Minions are boring my ass off. Who wrote their material? Just being on stage isn’t enough, guys. You’ve gotta open your heart, pour out your soul. Oh, right…above your pay grade.

7:05 pm: Steven Spielberg and a whole lot of others have their cash out, ready to buy those Girl Scout cookies.

7:00 pm: BB8, R2D2 and C3P) are boring my ass off. Who wrote their material? Just being on stage isn’t enough, guys. You gotta open your heart, pour out your soul. Oh, right…above your pay grade.

6:54 pm: Andy Serkis presenting Best Visual Effects Oscars. An anti-Donald Trump joke. One, two, three….give it to Ex Machina or The Revenant>/em>! They wouldn’t dare give it to Max again, would they? No — Ex Machina! Congrats! (more…)

Famous Last Words About (a) Revenant vs. Spotlight and (b) Chris Rock’s Monologue

As I understand it the alleged “Revenant can’t win because it’s too divisive” scenario means this: (a) Revenant support is impassioned but lacks the numbers to win a sufficient majority on the first ballot and therefore (b) when they do a second count all of those second-place votes for Spotlight will kick in and put it over the top. Or something like that. But as much as I love Spotlight and am in the tank for it as far as that goes, I just don’t think it has the horses. The passion vote (i.e., people who came out of it saying “whoa, never saw a film that intense and immersive and raw as the outdoors before”) belongs to The Revenant. But how many are out there?

Probably enough, I’m thinking, but there’s also enough of a head-scratching factor to make the end of tonight’s Oscar telecast a spellbinder. Side issue: Hollywood Elsewhere has been invited to the Spotlight after-party. Obviously the vibe will be one thing if it wins Best Picture and another if it doesn’t. If I’m the hearty fellow I think I am, I’ll attend either way.


2016 Oscar Balloon Posting Monday Morning — Needs Further Scrutiny

I’ll say it again for the fourth time — 2016 is looking like a relatively weak year in terms of potential review-driven, award-calibre features, particularly those destined to open over the last three months (10.1 to 12.31). I’ve previously posted a raggedy rundown of the films that appear to have the horses to compete, but now that this list is set to post tomorrow morning in the new 2016 Oscar Balloon I’d like another appraisal about what’s missing, what needs to be discounted, etc.

Highest Expectations (in order of confidence or expectation): Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester-by-the-Sea [Best Actor nomination LOCK for Casey Affleck]; David Gordon Green‘s Stronger; Martin Scorsese‘s Silence; Steven Gaghan‘s Gold (Matthew McConaughey, Bryce Dallas Howard, Edgar Ramírez); Ang Lee‘s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk; Tom Ford‘s Nocturnal Animals; David Frankel’s Collateral Beauty (Will Smith, Keira Knightley, Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren, Edward Norton); Clint Eastwood‘s Sully (Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney) (8)

Very Interesting, Slight Hedging of Bets (random order): John Hancock‘s The Founder (biopic of McDonald’s kingpin Ray Kroc); 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); Wim WendersSubmergence (Alicia Vikander, James McAvoy); Woody Allen‘s 1930s period dramedy (Steve Carell, Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Blake Lively); David Michod‘s War Machine; Jeff NicholsMidnight Special; James Ponsoldt‘s The Circle (Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, John Boyega), Pablo Larrain‘s Jackie (Natalie Portman, Greta Gerwig, Peter Sarsgaard). (9)

Highly Refined Horror: Juan Antonio Bayona‘s A Monster Calls. (1) (more…)

Nobody Cares, Nobody’s Talking About it, No Pulse. Naturally, HBO Has Ordered Second Vinyl Season.

An HBO Now promotion is offer “full, unedited episodes of HBO’s shows for free,” but with Vinyl bannered as the principal lure — the main show that non-subscribers might want to sample. (Please?) A 2.17 Vulture piece by Joe Adalian reported that ratings for Vinyl’s two-hour opening episode “were shockingly low — 764,000 viewers or one of the smallest audiences ever for the first installment of an HBO drama in recent years. Vinyl even finished below the audience of the show that followed it, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (1 million).”

Spirits Shower Spotlight With Five Trophies. Plus Two For Beasts of No Nation, A Biggie For Son of Saul, The Usual Larson Win, etc.

You’d never know from attending today’s near-euphoric Spirit Awards ceremony that Tom McCarthy‘s Spotlight, which won five major awards (Best Feature, Director, Screenplay, Editing and Ensemble Acting), isn’t quite favored to win the Best Picture Oscar tomorrow night. I was basking in Spotlight fever and having a great time along with everyone else, but I’m still sensing that The Revenant has it in the bag. I think. “The Revenant can’t win,” a colleague insisted as we sat in the press room around 3:30 pm. “It’s too divisive.” My answer: “I’m not going to slit my wrists if Spotlight doesn’t win or if The Revenant doesn’t win. I can not only live with but applaud either scenario. I’m just feeling the pollen and the pixie-dust vibes and the current in the air…that’s all. And it mostly feels like The Revenant.”

Spotlight gang in Spirit Awards press room — Saturday, 2.27, 3:55 pm.

Best Male Lead award winner Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation.

Son of Saul director Laszlo Nemes, star Géza Röhrig.

Room‘s Brie Larson, winner of the Spirit Award for Best Female Lead.

Tangerine‘s Mya Taylor, winner of Spirit Award for Best Supporting Female.


A Beautiful Mind Meets The Imitation Game Meets A Passage To India

I missed (i.e., couldn’t have cared less about) The Man Who Knew Infinity (IFC Films, April) when it played during last September’s Toronto Film Festival. That’s because my insect antennae told me in advance what the Variety review confirmed — “plodding.” “overly dutiful.” I can’t stand it when a trailer pushes old familiar buttons that marketers are figuring will make me feel comfortable or interested but in fact push me away.

Indie Freak Flag or Oscar Counter-Punch?

8:17 am on a sunny and warm Saturday morning, and four hours hence…the Spirit Awards! Yesterday a headline on a Gregg Goldstein Variety story proclaimed that the Spirits “offer a bold, inclusive alternative to the Oscars.” Nomination-wise, that’s true — more diverse, darker, tanner, gayer, cooler, irreverent.

And yet the major-category winners always seem to push back or comment upon the Oscar tip sheet. Plus the Spirit guys always seem to favor the big-marquee, name-value nominees who are also up for Oscars, or who have been snubbed by same. Bottom line: the Spirits are always looking to reach out to, include or at least not alienate those who are watching on the IFC Channel. And that means blanding it down or…you know, avoiding anything too curious or strange.

Example: Spotlight is favored to take the Best Feature award not just because the cast has already been chosen as the recipient of a Robert Altman Best Ensemble award (aping an identical award handed out by the Gothams) but also because of a general feeling that the Spirits need to counter-balance a notion that the Best Picture Oscar is The Revenant‘s to lose.

Another way to push back against the Oscars would be to give the Best Feature award to Cary Fukunaga‘s Beasts of No Nation, which the Academy membership brushed aside over the Netflix thing or, as Lawrence O’Donnell said the other day, probably due to racial bias, or to hand Fukunaga the Best Director award. Or give the Best Male Lead to award to Abraham Attah. But the Feature/Director scenarios aren’t as likely with the Spotlight competition. Marquee value. (more…)

Respected Washington Republican Declares For Hillary

“Let’s be clear: Trump is no fluke. Nor is he hijacking the Republican Party or the conservative movement, if there is such a thing. He is, rather, the party’s creation, its Frankenstein monster, brought to life by the party, fed by the party and now made strong enough to destroy its maker.

“Was it not the party’s wild obstructionism — the repeated threats to shut down the government over policy and legislative disagreements; the persistent call for nullification of Supreme Court decisions; the insistence that compromise was betrayal; the internal coups against party leaders who refused to join the general demolition — that taught Republican voters that government, institutions, political traditions, party leadership and even parties themselves were things to be overthrown, evaded, ignored, insulted, laughed at?

“Was it not Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), among many others, who set this tone and thereby cleared the way for someone even more irreverent, so that now, in a most unenjoyable irony, Cruz, along with the rest of the party, must fall to the purer version of himself, a less ideologically encumbered anarcho-revolutionary? This would not be the first revolution that devoured itself.

“We are supposed to believe that Trump’s legion of ‘angry’ people are angry about wage stagnation. No, they are angry about all the things Republicans have told them to be angry about these past 7 1/2 years, and it has been Trump’s good fortune to be the guy to sweep them up and become their standard-bearer. He is the Napoleon who has harvested the fruit of the Revolution.” — from a 2.25 Washington Post op-ed piece by Robert Kagan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a contributing columnist for the Post.