There’s nothing like lying on a bed and smelling…what is that? Something rank and musty. Sheets that might have been cleaned but were so cheap to begin with and have been slept on so often by so many dicey travellers (or by grandma and grandpa for decades) that they smell like a Goodwill store. The pillows smelled even worse. I finally used a pillow off the living room couch but that didn’t help much. And the bed was a fold-out so the mattress sagged and groaned and was maybe three inches thick. This is the first Airbnb I’ve ever been this unhappy with, bedding-wise. It’s not Airbnb’s fault — it’s the Belgrade thing. If you look beyond the rich culture and the storied architecture there are some economic and infrastructure issues. It’s been 17 years since the Kosovo War bombing but the city is still recovering in some respects. Am I unhappy here? No — I love it. But the bed is rank.
The Hollywood Reporter‘s Scott Feinberg “suspects” that Juho Kuosmanen‘s Compartment No.6, which screened on Saturday, may be “the first serious contender for the Palme d’Or.” Because of the alleged quality of it and the enthusiastic audience response.
Before you buy the hype, consider the trailer (top) and especially the bottom clip, in which the costars, Seidi Haarla (Finnish) and Yuriy Borisov (Russian), chat inside a small train compartment.
And ask yourself how many minutes you’d want to spend listening to the drunken Borisov boast and cackle as he blows his rancid smoke and drops ashes all over the place…I was feeling repulsed rather quickly. Imagine having to listen to this jerk for hours on end as he lights up cigarette after cigarette…dear God.
Boilerplate synopsis: “Compartment No. 6 is the story of a young Finnish woman who escapes an enigmatic love affair in Moscow by boarding a train to the Arctic port of Murmansk. Forced to share the long ride and a tiny sleeping car with a Russian miner, the unexpected encounter leads the occupants of compartment no. 6 to face the truth about their own yearning for human connection.”
Richard J. Lewis‘s Barney’s Version, which is based on a 1997 autobiographical novel by Mordechai Richler, is so steeped in the lives and culture of Montreal Jewry that I was having trouble breathing. I wanted to be let out in the world beyond, one that wasn’t so oppressively one-note, but the film steadfastly refused. “No,” it said. “You’re stuck with the Canadian Jews and especially Paul Giamatti‘s relentlessly vulgar, cigar-smoking, acutely dislikable Barney…deal with it.”
Barney’s Version isn’t just about boomer-aged Canadian Jews who grew up and lived in Montreal, but it will probably only play with boomer-aged Canadian Jews who grew up and lived in Montreal.
All I could think of were thoughts of escaping back to the U.S., if necessary by subterfuge in the back of a truck. Let me out of this fucking world, I don’t want to know this slovenly turd, etc. Stop with the lighting of cigars, the cigars, the Monte Cristo cigars…stop it! The movie is a feast of primitive appetites and lying and animal cunning and endless gloom and depression…yeesh!
My son Jett, 22, walked out less than an hour in.
I loved Giamatti the actor for many years, and I’ll give him props for creating a sly, brilliant and spirited Barney, but he’s also created a repulsive Uriah Heep, and is saddled with some not-terribly-clever Richler dialogue to boot. The affection and identification I felt for Giamatti’s Miles in Sideways has been totally reversed by this film. I now have a negative association with the man.
Yes, Barney’s love for Rosamund Pike‘s character is pure and unfettered, and he loves his children, especially his daughter. But that’s not enough to exonerate him in my eyes. I wanted only to not have to deal with this asshole. But deal I did. I stayed with Barney’s Version right to the end.
Barney’s Version won’t stop hitting you over the head with Richler’s cynical, openly vulgar, world-weary “this is who and what I am and pardon me while I light another expensive cigar” schtick over and over again. Welcome to the Canadian Club for Older Gray-Haired Guys with Pot Bellies, it says over and over and over. Every Canadian director of note plays a part (Denys Arcand as a waiter, etc.), and we’re also stuck with Leonard Cohen tunes. This movie is relentlessly Canadian, Canadian, Canadian and fucking Canadian from start to finish.
I think I dropped out of the film when whatsername in Rome said Barney wasn’t much of a lover because he orgasmed in less than 30 seconds and had a three-inch member. All I could think was, “I’m stuck with a guy who has a three-inch dick for the next 110 minutes?”
Oh, no — here comes Dustin Hoffman, who’s looking like he’s 85 or 86 years old. (Was he wearing age makeup? I just spoke with him in LA a couple of years ago and he looked significantly younger.) Please don’t let Hoffman grin and say “Mazel Tov!” at the wedding scene. Please, please don’t let him say it, no, no, I’m begging you….aaah! He said it!
Pike is quite good with the focus and the class, but the movie isn’t good enough (and is in fact way too repulsive on too many levels) to propel her into awards consideration. On top of which her love for Barney is Richler’s wet fantasy dream There’s no way in the universe a woman as classy as Pike would marry a low sloppy beast like Barney. She could’ve done much, much better, and certainly knew that going in (as do we) so it makes no sense at all. A wise, ethical, beautiful and super-classy woman like Pike’s character is going to be receptive to sex and marriage with a bearded, balding, smelly, small-minded, bulging-eyed gnome who drinks like a fish and cheats on his wife on their wedding night?
After staying in an Airbnb place you’re aways asked to review the apartment as well as the host, and the host in turn gets to review your performance as a renter. Did you leave the place in reasonably decent condition? Were you polite and considerate? Do you have a nice smile?
I never give hosts a bad review as a rule. If I don’t like a place I just won’t say anything. But a couple of renters have given me shitty reviews because I didn’t leave their places white-glove clean. In response to which I’ve always replied as follows: “Are you serious? I was raised by nice middle-class people with good hygiene and manners, and most of that rubbed off. I know I left your place in reasonably good condition. I’m not an animal, but if you want your apartment absolutely dead-bang spotless after a renter leaves, hire a housecleaner.”
I’ll never leave a place looking like a cyclone hit it. I always tidy up a bit — no sopping towels on the floor, no stogies in the ashtray, no broken cups or glasses. But it’s not my responsibility to leave the place looking like an IKEA showroom. It’s my responsibility to show respect by leaving things in reasonable order and by not trashing it, but no more than that.
I might leave a chewing-gum wrapper or an empty Coke bottle lying around but I’m not a private in the Marines, and when I leave a place I expect that the owner will bring in a professional to spruce it up, which is what I always do when I rent my place out. I think it’s definitely beyond the pale to read an Airbnb review that belittles me as some kind of uncouth person or, you know, makes me feel like Gomer Pyle being reamed out by Gunnery Sergeant Hartmann in Full Metal Jacket.
The Power of the Dog‘s Benedict Cumberbatch (aka “stinky Phil Burbank”) was the big hotshot guest last night at the Santa Barbara Film Festival.
Interviewer Pete Hammond quoted a Vulture contributor who had called Cumberbatch “the new king of celebrity impressionists.”
Cumberbatch shifted in his seat for four or five seconds, and then suddenly decided to attempt an impression of Hammond. It happens at the 00:24 mark: “Oh, God, what have I let myself in for?…hah-hah-hah-hah! Oh…it’s Peter Parker…I mean, Spider, the Spider strange…aaah-hah!”
Jubilant Hammond response while flopping back in his chair: “Huh-hah-hah-HAH! That’s great! I love that, I love that.”
“Showtime is billing Sacha Jenkins’ new docuseries Everything’s Gonna Be All White as three parts, plus a bonus episode.
“This is an odd choice of focus. The three episodes are a solid if formally inconsistent attempt to tackle the racial history of America in discipline-spanning socio-economic-cultural terms. It makes some smart connections and is full of worthy insights, but I’d never recommend it over HBO’s similar Exterminate All the Brutes or a dozen PBS docuseries covering the same terrain.” — from Daniel Fienberg‘s 2.10 Hollywood Reporter review.
HE riff on The Stinky Whiteness, for the 17th or 18th time: Democrats have to stand for sensible, compassionate, fair-minded liberalism, etc. JFK-styled or LBJ-flavored or Obama-stamped liberalism means fair but practical policies that are even-steven across the board, or at least ones that try to be that.
I don’t believe or accept the idea that all whites are inherently demonic, and I don’t believe or accept that all African Americans are inherently saintly. Nor do I believe in woke Stalinism and moderate college professors losing their jobs because they’re not 100% sold on the equity thing.
I am essentially a sensible non-fanatic as far as racial matters are concerned. Or, if you will, I’m a white John McWhorter who believes in basic fairness and sensible progressive programs. I also believe that activist trans activists and the “what’s your pronoun?” people are fine and no worries but at the same time my eyes are rolling upwards.
To some out there what I’ve just written proves that I’m some kind of salivating racist homophobe. But I’m not. Really. I’m a center-left moderate who’d increasingly appalled by the Crazy Left. Right now I’m beyond furious that these nutters have already shit the bed and are going to bring about a rightwing landslide next fall.
Democrats have become the “African-Americans need to be given preferential treatment in all walks of life in order to correct racist mindsets of the past four centuries” party, or basically the Nikole Hannah Jones 1619 party. Because BIPOCS have been murdered and shat upon for centuries.
Democrats have also become the “children need to be instructed that whites are in the grip of an evil genetic tendency party”, and the time has come for whites to take a back seat in order for progress to manifest. Or words to that effect.
Democrats have also become the “more men need the freedom to become pregnant homemakers” party.
Put another way, the urban elite progressive wing has become the Rosanna Arquette party, and is ruled by the idea that whites must accept across-the-board corrections — they need to bow their heads and accept punishment for their ancestors’ behavior in order to allow for racial re-dress and racially corrective ideas and programs to take hold.
Six or seven years ago I began to assemble a list of the greatest lead performances in feature films, and Monica Vitti in L’Avventura was one of them, you bet.
The names that that came to mind off the top of my head were James Gandolfini in The Sopranos, Geza Rohrig in Son of Saul, Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront and The Godfather, Amy Schumer in Trainwreck (I’m dead serious), George Clooney in Michael Clayton, Gary Cooper in High Noon, George C. Scott in Dr. Strangelove, Mia Farrow in Broadway Danny Rose, Lee Marvin in Point Blank, Alan Ladd in Shane, Brad Pitt in Moneyball, Marilyn Monroe in Some like It Hot, Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast and Betrayal, Jean Arthur in Only Angels Have Wings, Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton, Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Capote and, last but not least, Vitti in…aww, hell, her entire Michelangelo Antonioni travelogue.
After 90 years and 2 months on the planet earth, Vitti has left for realms beyond. I’m very sorry but then again she really lived a life, particularly during her ultimate star-power and mesmerizing collaboration years with the great Antonioni — a five-year exploration comprised of L’Avventura (’60), La Notte (’61), L’Eclisse (62) and Red Desert (’64).
Were it not for this five-year chapter, we wouldn’t this day be praising Vitti to the heavens. She “lives” today because of Antonioni, and a significant reason for his own exalted early-to-mid-’60s rep is due to — owned by — Vitti’s allure.
In her Antonioni films Vitti always seemed to be thinking “is this all there is?” Or “my God, there’s so little nutrition…I’m sinking into quicksand, withering away…so little in the way or sparkle and joy…nearly every waking minute I’m consumed by the glammy blues.”
Yes, she laughed and loved in L’Ecclisse, but only briefly and anxiously and in a sense ironically. The African tribal dance sequence was the exception — a spoof, of course, but lively and sexy.
Born in 1931, Vitti was 28 or 29 at the beginning of her Antonioni period and 33 when their collaboration ended — no spring chicken even at the start.
From Adam Bernstein’s Washington Post obit: “Her willowy physique, husky voice, full lips and mane of sun–kissed blond hair gave her a raw sensual appeal. But Antonioni cast her against type in a cycle of acclaimed films about emotional detachment and spiritual barrenness. He made her the personification of glamorous malaise.”
Take L’Avventura, for one example. It’s about wealthy Italians wandering about in a state of gloomy drifting, anxious and vaguely bothered and frowning a good deal of the time.
The movie is about the absence of whole-hearted feeling, and it never diverts from this. If there’s a moment in which Vitti conveys even a hint of serenity in her intimate scenes with Gabriele Ferzetti, it barely registers. I don’t remember a single shot in which Ferzetti smiles with even a hint of contentment.
From “Red Desert Return“: “I saw Red Desert for the first time in 2015. I know the Antonioni milieu, of course, and had read a good deal about it over the years, so I was hardly surprised to discover that it has almost no plot. It has a basic situation, and Antonioni is wonderfully at peace with the idea of just settling into that without regard to story.
“And for that it seemed at least ten times more engrossing than 80% or 90% of conventional narrative films I see these days, and 87 times better than the majority of bullshit superhero films.
“Vitti plays a twitchy and obviously unstable wife and mother who’s been nudged into a kind of madness by the industrial toxicity around her, and Richard Harris is an even-mannered German businessman visiting smelly, stinky Ravenna. The film is about industrial sprawl and poisoned landscapes and a lot of standing around and Vitti’s neurotic gibberish and a certain caught-in-the-mud mood that holds you like a drug, specifically like good opium.
“Each and every shot in Red Desert (the dp is Carlo di Palma, whom Vitti later fell in love with) is quietly breathtaking. It’s one of the most immaculate and mesmerizing ugly-beautiful films I’ve ever seen. The fog, the toxins, the afflictions, the compositions.”
I watched the final episode of The White Lotus last night, and when it ended I texted the following to a friend: “I can now say that I’ve seen a roundly-praised HBO limited series that contained (a) a brief glimpse of male on male analingus and (b) a MCU of a middle-aged guy squatting and dropping two loads into a hotel guest’s suitcase.
It’s safe to say I’ll never forget these two moments. Ever. For the rest of my time on this planet.
The muncher and the seething social resentment shitter are played by 50 year-old Australian actor Murray Bartlett, so he’s definitely earned a place in the annals of cinema history.
Directed, written and exec produced by Mike White (writer of Beatriz at Dinner), The White Lotus focuses on several wealthy guests at a Hawaiian resort along with various staffers tending to their needs and appetites and whatnot. It’s basically a series about social classism or, put plainly, the behavior of self-absorbed, liberal-minded, bubble-residing lefty assholes, as observed by their social lessers.
Put more bluntly, The White Lotus basically says “these people live on their own secular planets, and we’re going to point this out to you over and over and over. And every time we reiterate this observation you can say to yourself ‘Jesus, what a bunch of nice, polite, petty-minded, self-absorbed, etc.”
All my moviegoing life I’ve been more or less avoiding Frank Capra‘s Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (’39). A highly respected political dramedy about idealism vs. corruption, of course. One of Capra’s finest films, they all say. And one of the standouts of 1939, which has long been celebrated as old-time Hollywood’s greatest year.
But we all know that Capra lays it on too thick. And so my thinking was, “Okay, I’ll see it eventually but I’m in no hurry.” I began telling myself this back in the ’70s, and I somehow managed to sidestep Mr. Smith all through the Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations, and over the last three and a half years of Trump. But a 4K Bluray version was part of a Sony package I bought a while back, and last night I decided to pop it in.
HE verdict: Mr. Smith is a “good” film in that it says the right populist things about governmental corruption (i.e., established stinky politicians need to consider the views of a true-blue idealist every so often), and it does so with crackerjack dialogue (written by Sidney Buchman and Myles Connolly) and lots of snappy attitude and sweaty passion, and you can see how and why it made Jimmy Stewart (between 30 and 31 when it was shot) a major star.
But my God, it wears you down! I felt exhausted after 45 minutes, and I had another 80 minutes to go. By the time it ended I felt all but poisoned by the sugar and the Capracorn syrup. And it felt so fake and cranked up…a big bowl of patriotic whipped cream with sentimental sauce and a cherry on top.
Has anyone in the history of the planet earth every been as naive and idealistic as Stewart’s Jefferson Smith? How could the son of a man who was friendly with Claude Rains‘ Senator Joseph Paine for so many years possibly be this clueless about the ways of the grown-up world?
Why in heaven’s name would Jean Arthur, who’s obviously class-A material and who seems destined to end up as Smith’s girlfriend or wife…why would she even flirt with the idea of marrying Thomas Mitchell‘s cynical Capitol Hill reporter? She and Mitchell were drunk when the idea arose, yes, but it makes no sense — nobody ever marries Thomas Mitchell, and flirting with this degraded Arthur’s value.
And after Stewart collapses on the Senate floor, the guilt-wracked Rains/Paine runs out and tries to shoot himself? Where did the gun come from? And Harry Carey, the president of the Senate (which makes him FDR’s vp), is the only person in the Senate chamber who sympathizes with Stewart’s plight?
I’m glad I finally saw Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. I’m not calling it a bad film but it’s certainly an exhausting one. I will never, ever see it again. And I’m saying this as a fan of It’s A Wonderful Life, which I’ve seen at least six or seven times.
There’s a great Charles Bukowski line from one of his short story volumes, a line about how good it feels and how beautiful the world seems when you get out of jail. I can confirm that. Not only does it feel like the friendliest and gentlest place you could possibly experience, but it smells wonderful — food stands, car exhaust, sea air, asphalt, window cleaner, green lawns, garbage dumpsters. Compared to the well-scrubbed but vaguely stinky aroma of the L.A. County Jail, I mean.
[Click through to full story on HE-plus]
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