Bus Stop Scolding

I was walking down Park Avenue this morning after the march. I briefly stopped at the bus station across from the Park City Library to consider the schedules. I was standing in a kind of detoured parking area that wasn’t in a car lane but not on the sidewalk — a small ridge of slushy snow was between me and the shelter. Two older women were standing there, and one offered a maternal warning. She: “You’re on the wrong side.” Me: “Whadddaya mean?” She: “You could get hit by a car.” Me: “Naah, I’m okay.” She: “Just be careful.” Me: “If a bus comes along I’ll just leap out of the way, like the proverbial brown fox jumping over the log…really.  I’m fast.  Lightning reflexes.”

Flatulent Foo Foo

The mock-tawdry headline of yesterday’s review of Margaret Betts‘ Novitiate read “Hot Lesbo Nun Action Toward The End.” That’s because the strongest, grabbiest scene in the whole film is a shadowy erotic thing between a couple of nuns-in-training. I asked around and everyone agreed that was the big stand-out moment — trust me.

But wait, hold on….there’s a Brooklyn perspective on this vein of hothouse cinema that demands consideration. Ebert.com and N.Y. Times contributor Glenn Kenny doesn’t like the term “lesbo” — he not only thinks it’s juvenile (which of course it is) but feels it’s important to strongly discourage its use even by those adopting a mock-ironic tone.

Kenny also feels that anyone who isn’t an elite foo-foo walking around with a feather quill sticking out of his or her anal cavity shouldn’t mention Robert Bresson, whom I referenced in my review because most of the costars in Novitiate are model-pretty in the vein of Bresson’s own casting tendencies. So he tried to give me a little bitch-slapping today, and I bitch-slapped his ass right back.

Park City’s Joyous Anti-Trump Women’s March

I’ve never had so much fun at a protest march in my life. Or maybe it’s been so long since I joined one of these events that I don’t fully recall how good it feels to be part of a throng of joyous howling humanists. But I got there late — 9:15 am — due to the bus from the Park City Marriott to downtown Park City taking almost 50 minutes, and so I only joined the march 15 or so minutes before it ended. Cold gusty winds, heavyish flurries, snowdrifts, slush, stalled traffic…love it!

There was a hilarious moment when everyone started waving and cheering when they noticed a video drone flying overhead, at which point Toronto Star critic Peter Howell, whom I was marching next to, remarked that the drone could have been Donald Trump‘s. Or Vladimir Putin‘s, I was thinking.

My favorite sighting was a young 30ish mom leaning over to explain to her toddler son what the march was all about, and the boy just gazing at all the bodies and taking in the energy and the spirit of it, his face full of wonder. (more…)

Snowbound Bill Maher Fix…Thanks

“We Americans have a new leader: Vladimir Putin,” Real Time‘s Bill Maher quipped last night. “But also this guy Trump who took some sort of oath today. The Trump supporters are saying this is a reckoning. As in, I reckon we’re all fucked. All the pundits were saying [his inaugural address], which was joyless and ugly and divisive, was going to be classy and uplifting and unifying. At what point are people going to realize there is no normal president inside the Trump fat suit? That’s it. That’s who it is.”


Breathing Room

No filing until sometime in the mid afternoon. It’s 7:20 am — off to Park Marriott for press tickets, which will cost about an hour, then  grab a downtown Park City bus for the anti-Trump march down Main Street, which begins around 9 am.  Three films later today, the first being a YA adaptation called Before I Fall — dread and foreboding.  Thinking of shining it.

Yesterday’s big knockout (and a likely indie-sized hit) was The Big Sick, a diverting, highly original romantic saga — you never really know where it’s going, and that’s just how I like it. (Okay — the finale is fairly conventional but that’s all.) Dry, droll, low-key humor for smarties & hipsters.

And it really does come together emotionally during the last 25% or 30%. I loved the  ISIS and 9/11 terrorist jokes. The only big problem is remembering how to spell and pronounce Kumail Nanjiani, the Pakistani comedian who co-stars and co-wrote.  Best performance ever by Zoe Kazan.

Off to the march…

Bigelow’s Detroit Riots Film Not Getting Award-Season Release

A 1.20 Wrap story by Matt Pressberg about Megan Ellison‘s Annapurna Pictures launching a distribution arm contains a bit of a shocker, at least from my perspective. Kathryn Bigelow’s untitled drama about the 1967 Detroit riots, Pressberg reports, will be released by Annapurna on August 4th — the 50th anniversary of the riots. Which is well and good as far as acknowledging history goes, but an August release usually means no Oscar action, or none anticipated by the filmmakers and/or the distributor. I was naturally expecting Bigelow’s film, which was written and co-produced by Hurt Locker/Zero Dark Thirty collaborators  Mark Boal, to be in the Oscar conversation. Maybe it still will be, but an 8.4 release doesn’t encourage belief in that possibility.

Hot Lesbo Nun Action Toward The End

“Hot lesbo nun action” is a tawdry headline, but it’s definitely an accurate description of portions of Margaret BettsNovitiate, which screened at Park City’s Eccles theatre earlier today. I’m not saying Noivitiate is mostly or even partly an erotic thing (the real hot-nun Sundance flick is Jeff Baena‘s The Little Hours), but a certain scene during the final third…yowsah!

Novitiate is basically about various repressions (mostly spiritual) visited on a group of young women who’ve committed to be nuns-in-training, or novitiates. It’s mostly set in 1964, which is when various Vatican-led reforms, known as the Second Vatican Council or Vatican II, were being implemented.

But don’t trust the The Sundance program notes, to wit: “This coming-of-age story is about a young girl’s first love. In this case, her first love is God.” The key term in this previous sentence isn’t “God” but “first love.”

Right off the top you’re going “hmmm, possibly an austere Robert Bresson-like film about the denials, devotions and disciplines of the life of a young would-be nun.”

The young protagonist is Cathleen (Margaret Qualley, 22 year-old daughter of Andie McDowell), and over the course of this 123-minute film “her faith is challenged by the harsh, often inhumane realities of being a nun,” etc. But sure enough, the old repressed-libido thing eventually kicks in and when it does, the axiom about “the stronger the constraints, the hotter the eroticism” comes to mind. I was sitting there watching a film about a nunnery, but the concept of “wood”…sorry.

I mentioned Bresson because Novitiate contains slight echoes of his passions and obsessions. He was not just a cinematic minimalist but a religious man of a conservative bent. He knew from austerity, spirituality and holding it in (i.e., Diary of a Country Priest). Except Bresson always cast his films with extremely good-looking, model-pretty actors and actresses. Sex never happened in his films, but it was certainly intimated in the features of his youthful players.

Here’s the thing — almost all the young women playing nuns in Novitiate are serious hotties. Qualley, Diana Agron, Liana Liberato, Morgan Saylor (White Girl), Maddie Hasson, Eline Powell — they’re all knockouts, and when was the last time you ran into even a half-hot nun or seen a picture of one?

Answer: Almost never. Retired actress Dolores Hart, who was quite attractive when young, is the only nun I’ve heard or read about who stands out in this regard. The actress who played a novitiate in Pawel Pawlikowski‘s IdaAgata Trzebuchowska — was beautiful, of course, but that was a movie.

Novitiate is a reasonably well done thing, a little eccentric, a little Sundance-y but not half bad. The strongest supporting performances are from Melissa Leo as Reverend Mother (basically doing the same kind of thing that Meryl Streep did in Doubt, only with a heavier hand), Julianne Nicholson as Qualley’s skeptical, non-religious mom, and Denis O’Hare as an Archbishop pressuring Leo into adopting Vatican II’s more liberal “suggestions” about how to run things.

Long Knives Are Out Already?

Queerty‘s Dan Tracer reports that the White House page dedicated to LGBT rights has apparently been disappeared by the Trump administration. This happened…what, three or four hours after Trump was sworn in? “When the Obama administration created the page, it was used to showcase legislative and judicial achievements and policy updates affecting gay and transgender Americans,” Tracer recalls. “It also featured campaigns to combat suicide among young queer people, like ‘It Gets Better.’ Well, not anymore.”

You Don’t Have To Visit Seoul

A huge scary monster is a stand-in for Anne Hathaway‘s darker side…check. But why is the beast avatar wreaking havoc all the way over in Seoul, of all places? Why not Tuscon, Newark, Oakland or Portland? Why not a city in Spain, where the director, Nacho Vigalondo, hails from? I understand that Colossal half-blows, but even without the Toronto Film Festival reviews I kind of hate it instinctually. Costarring Dan Stevens, Jason Sudeikis, Austin Stowell, Tim Blake Nelson.

Three Dog Night’s “The Worst That Could Happen”

President Trump‘s inaugural address was just another pugnacious campaign stump speech — combative, simple-minded, egoistic, inelegant, no soaring oratory or vision to speak of — basically a declaration of an intention to right perceived wrongs, settle old scores, drain the swamp, lay waste the bureaucratic hordes, restore the lives of the hinterlanders who voted for him, etc. Thank you, God, for making it rain just as Trump took the oath.

Three For Starters

I’ve just returned from Sundance press headquarters with a pair of Eccles tickets for Sunday — a 3:15 pm screening of Craig Johnson‘s Wilson, which looks problematic, and a 6:15 pm of Luca Guadagnino‘s Call Me By Your Name. Right now I’m watching the Park Regency’s lobby flatscreens (two of them, both showing distorted taffy-pull images) with a mixture of numb resignation and paralyzing grief, but I’ve got three films on today’s slate — Margaret BettsNovitiate at 12 noon (Eccles), Michael Showalter‘s The Big Sick at 6:15 pm and Charlie McDowell‘s The Discovery at 9:30 pm. If I want to be hardcore I could also catch a press screening of William Oldroyd‘s Lady Macbeth aT 2:30 pm.

Snoring Bear Ejected

Note to snoring journo, sent at 5:43 am: “Your snoring woke me up at 4:30 am. Right through the closed door. I really, really don’t want you to share this place any longer. It’s awful to have to deal with this. I’m happy to return your money immediately.  Please vacate at your convenience. I’m sorry that I offered an invitation for you to stay here.”

An Inconvenient Reminder: (a) Climate Crisis Worsening, (b) Orange Orangutan Is An Enemy of Civilization, (c) Things Could Nonetheless Improve

I’ve just seen Al Gore, Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk‘s An Inconvenient Sequel, a sequel to the nearly eleven-year-old, Oscar-winning doc that he and director Davis Guggenheim created. And I’m afraid that the general opinion is “nice film but meh…we know the climate crisis is mostly worsening, the 2015 Paris climate accords aside, so what else is new?”

That’s what a critic friend was saying at least (“I’ve seen a lot of climate-change docs, and good as this was it’s basically more of the same”), and even though I liked Sequel I couldn’t argue all that strenuously. It’s a nicely done, intelligently assembled film but it is more or less a rehash of the original brief, which is that we’re all doomed unless climate criminals (primarily the leaders of India, China and other developing countries) wake up, man up and begin the process of switching to renewable energy sources.

The difference between An Inconvenient Truth and An Inconvenient Sequel is that the latter (a) takes a fresh look at what’s going on now (i.e., things are worse), (b) provides hope by focusing on the Paris Agreement, which Gore was very much a part of, and (c) acknowledges despair that a climate-change-denying beast is about to move into the White House. (more…)

That Bassy, Bitter-Sounding Voice

In the mind of Hollywood Elsewhere the career of the late Miguel Ferrer deserves high praise on the strength of two big-screen performances — the busted drug dealer Eduardo Ruiz in Steven Soderbergh‘s Traffic (’00) and avaricious yuppie Bob Morton in Paul Verhoeven‘s Robocop (’87). Everything else Ferrer did was fine but workmanlike. Ferrer has passed from cancer at age 61 — respect, condolences.

Sundance Alienation, Rage, Melanie Lynskey, Desaturated Color, etc.

My first Sundance 2017 film, presumably, is the 6 pm Doubletree press screening of Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk‘s An Inconvenient Sequel. If I run out of that screening and make the Eccles press line by, say, 8 pm, I could see Macon Blair‘s I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore. Maybe. If I get there in time. I really love strategizing about press lines!

Mutant Paychecks

James Mangold‘s Logan (20th Century Fox, 3.13) will presumably be the last Wolverine flick to star Hugh Jackman…right? Would this have been made if big paychecks were not a consideration? We all know the answer. Boilerplate: “In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X in a hideout on the Mexican border. But Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are up-ended when a young mutant arrives, being pursued by dark forces.” Costarring Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Richard E. Grant, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Eriq La Salle.