Of the 13 likely Best Picture contenders on HE’s Oscar Spitball chart, I’ve only seen four — Dunkirk, Call Me By Your Name, War For The Planet of the Apes and Get Out. But I’ve read scripts or heard enough about the other nine to know they’ll be in the mix, almost for sure. The ones closer to the the top look stronger, of course, but you knew that. Who knows how things’ll shake out four and five months hence, but it’s these 13, trust me. If I’m missing a title or two…naah, this is it.
Dunkirk (the only one of the exalted thirteen that isn’t a personal journey tale) is ranked first because everyone’s seen it and unanimously agrees it’s a Best Picture contender. Call Me By Your Name is an easy inclusion — has been since last January’s Sundance Film Festival debut. I’ve seen 10 or 12 minutes of Downsizing and read a draft of the script — it’s in there. Sally Hawkins‘ wordless performance in Guillermo del Toro‘s The Shape of Water is a Best Actress lock, but I’m also 85% persuaded that it’s GDT’s personal best since Pan’s Labrynth, and Lord knows he’s due. I’ve read Dan Gilroy‘s Roman Israel, Esq., and it’s fair to call it a moral-ethical thing along the lines of Sidney Lumet and David Mamet‘s The Verdict.
The Papers is a smart, high-toned, well-textured historical drama with the Spielberg stamp — no denying it. We know that films by Paul Thomas Anderson have rarely kowtowed to Oscar-season criteria, but it’s a likely keeper on the strength of containing Daniel Day Lewis‘s (possibly) final performance. Last March’s Cinemacon preview convinced me that The Greatest Showman will be a Best Picture contender; ditto Battle of the Sexes and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri — two personal journey sagas (both distributed by Fox Searchlight) that will most likely stick to the ribs. War For The Planet of the Apes is a flat-out masterpiece of its kind. Many have lamented the over-praising of Get Out, but there’s a critical contingent that won’t take the hint and back off. (Somewhere John Carpenter is shaking his head and grinning.)
This is it, time is nigh: Geremy Jasper‘s Patti Cakes opens three days hence, or the evening of Thursday, 8.17. There’s no way this film is a letdown or shortfaller, and yet so far 40% of the Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic responses have been thumbs down. Why? Because it’s a familiar underdog-tryin’-to-make-it tale, and injected with the same kind of formulaic uplift enzymes that went into Rocky, Hustle & Flow and 8 Mile. But it doesn’t matter because the spirit is there, and because the culture needs one of these films every so often so why bitch about it? And because Danielle McDonald (i.e. Jumbo) is the shit.
Yorgos Lanthimos‘s The Killing of a Sacred Deer (A24, 11.17) “was lightly booed when it finished screening in Cannes this morning, and with ample justification. It’s a cold, odious and deeply repellent film. It’s the kind of thing that only Lanthimos fans could like, and even then it wouldn’t be easy. I wouldn’t wish this slog of a film upon my worst enemy.
“Deer begins with a certain robotic intrigue that slowly simmers and darkens. It’s basically about the lives of heart surgeon Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) and wife Ana (Nicole Kidman) along with their two kids, Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and Bob (Sunny Suljic), being upended by Martin (Barry Keoghan), a teenager whose obsession with avenging his father’s death, which was caused by an operating-table error on Murphy’s part.
“The more Martin gets his hooks into Murphy the darker and weirder things get, but it’s something you have to force yourself to stay with in the final lap. I stuck it out, but I wouldn’t see The Killing of a Sacred Deer a second time with a knife at my back.
“To gauge the malevolence of this enterprise, look no further than the casting of the Irish-born Keoghan as Martin.
“Visually speaking Keoghan is an unpleasant guy to hang with. I’m sorry but it’s true. He exudes creepy by just walking into a room. He has evil wolf-like eyes and one of those ridiculous bee-stung noses, bulbous and swollen like something drawn by R. Crumb, the kind of Beagle Boy dog nose that used to scream “low rent” before common, coarse features became a kind of hip thing among 21st Century casting directors.
In a diseased, perverse way I almost respect President Donald Trump for half-renouncing yesterday’s conciliatory remarks, because at least he was being honest. This is who this astonishing asshole really is. In a Trump Tower press conference Trump again maintained there was “blame on both sides” for last weekend’s Charlottesville violence and criticized the “very, very violent” behavior of “alt-left” groups.
Referring to nationalist and Nazi hate groups that assembled to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from a park, Trump said that “not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch. [They] were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. And this week [it’s] Stonewall Jackson. Is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”
Trump on Charlottesville: “I think there’s blame on both sides, and I have no doubt about it, & you don’t have any doubt about it either.” pic.twitter.com/ivagWbsofC
— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 15, 2017
You can’t tell anything from a trailer, of course, but I’m feeling a wee bit concerned about Aaron Sorkin‘s Molly’s Game (STX, 11.22). Just a bit. The dialogue feels a little too hammerish and rat-a-tat-tat, and the narration feels a little too rushed and on-the-nose. Visuals and dialogue should tell the story, and the narration should provide…what, some kind of inner dialogue, ironic counterpoint, after-the-fact meditation? Jessica Chastain‘s eye makeup looks too heavy here and there. Michael Cera portrays “Player X” — i.e., Tobey Maguire. You can sense that Idris Elba might steal this thing, and that Kevin Costner (as Chastain’s dad) will steady things emotionally. Roughly a month from now Molly’s Game will face the music in Toronto.
From a guy who’s seen Molly’s Game: “Your feeling is wrong, unless you don’t like Sorkin.” My reply: “Sure, I like Sorkin. Usually. Glad to hear it.”
Hollywood Elsewhere has weighed in sufficiently, I think, about a certain aspect of Margaret Betts‘ Novitiate (Sony Pictures Classics, 10.27). No need to beat a dead horse. The new SPC one-sheet doesn’t allude, of course. Their film, their sell. But if I were running the marketing campaign…
The Toronto Film Festival has added a tonload of fresh titles to the 2017 playlist. Topping the list are (a) Aaron Sorkin‘s Molly’s Game (Jessica Chastain, Kevin Costner, Idris Elba and Chris O’Dowd), (b)
John Curran‘s Chappaquiddick (I favorably reviewed a draft of the script on 8.18.16), (c) Jon Avnet‘s Three Christs with Richard Gere, (d) Brie Larson‘s Unicorn Store (BEWARE of any film, miniseries, play, book, short story or poem using the word “unicorn” in the title).
Competing hotties include (e) Louis C.K.‘s I Love You, Daddy (shot in Manhattan on 35mm b & w film, costarring C.K., Chloe Grace Moretz, Charlie Day, John Malkovich, Rose Byrne, Edie Falco, Helen Hunt), (f) Peter Landesman‘s The Man Who Brought Down the White House with Liam Neeson and Diane Lane, (g) Sean Baker‘s The Florida Project and (h) Tali Shalom-Ezer‘s My Days of Mercy (death-row drama) with Ellen Page and Kate Mara
Not to mention Mike White‘s already praised Brad’s Status w/ Ben Stiller, Dominic Cooke‘s On Chesil Beach w/ Saoirse Ronan, Lynn Shelton‘s Outside In, Matthew Newton‘s Who We Are Now, Mark Raso‘s Kodachrome w/ Elizabeth Olsen, Ed Harris and Jason Sudeikis (presumably a period thing?).
Cheers to whomever assembled this new teaser for Noah Baumbach‘s The Meyerowitz Stories (Netflix, sometime this fall). It’s one of those rare instances in which a piece of inspired salesmanship prompts you to reassess and perhaps even upgrade your initial reaction to the film itself.
Posted from Cannes on 5.21.17: The best I can say about Noah Baumbach‘s The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), a dramedy about a Jewish family with the usual anxieties and uncertainties, is that it’s mildly engaging. It gets you here and there. It mildly diverts.
Especially when things get testy or cryptic or flat-out enraged (i.e., 40ish brothers Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler trying to beat each other up, paterfamilias Dustin Hoffman ranting at a fellow diner in a restaurant who’s been putting his stuff on Hoffman’s table). Plus Stiller has a striking emotional breakdown scene, the likes of which he’s never before done.
But this mostly Manhattan-based ensemble film (with detours to Rhinebeck and Pittsfield) just isn’t all that riveting. It just doesn’t feel tightly wound or hungry to get over. It’s “good” but unexceptional. I didn’t dislike it, but it feels Netflix-y.
A mother! cake arrived this afternoon. Thanks to Paramount Pictures and director Darren Aronofsky, and a tip of the hat to Charm City Cakes West (8302 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90048). I was initially queasy about tasting (it looks like something ripped out of the chest of a grizzly bear), but once I did…yummy!
Most of Edgar Wright‘s Baby Driver (TriStar, 6.28) is inspired — one of the most strikingly conceived, purely enjoyable fast-car...More »
Late yesterday afternoon I finally saw Patty Jenkins‘ Wonder Woman. I found it stirring from time to time, and, like...More »
This morning I read a 6.9 profile of MGM CEO Gary Barber by Deadline‘s Peter Bart (“A Resurgent MGM Builds...More »