F. Gary Gray‘s Straight Outta Compton (Universal, 8.14) screened tonight at Hollywood’s Arclight for junket press. Apart from it being a tight, satisfying, straight-ahead telling of the N.W.A. saga (roots, breakout, success, conflict and falling apart from ’86 to ’95, concluding with the death of Easy E.), it’s quite an indictment of police racism and brutality. And what a time for this to arrive in the wake of a string of video-captured police shootings and unwarranted arrests, the most recent being the shooting of Samuel Dubose. “Fuck Tha Police” and then some. Expect highly charged reactions.
For whatever reason nobody has commented much about F. Gary Gray‘s Straight Outta Compton, which I saw and liked in late July (“A tight, satisfying, straight-ahead telling of the N.W.A. saga…quite an indictment of police racism and brutality past and present”). It opened yesterday, of course. It may earn as much as $59 or $60 million by Sunday night, according to Boxoffice.com. (As of noon today a piece by Boxofficemojo’s Keith Simanton was predicting a $40 million weekend.) So what’s the verdict? Presumably a decent-sized portion of HE regulars caught it last night. I respect this film. It does a lot of things right. It’s not an award-calibre deal but so what? It’s well made and feels honest as far as that goes. It’s a hit for the right reasons.
Last night Nightly Show contributor Mike Yard delivered a riff about Donald Trump‘s ’90s gangsta vibe, but like all good jokes it had a ring of truth. Trump fans like his nerve, his brass, his impudence. “He’s ’90s hip-hop all day, Larry…jackin’ beats…the 50 Cent of the Republican Party…gave out a United States Senator’s private cell phone!” But Baby Tupac can’t beat Hillary’s Suge Knight. Which reminds me: Straight Outta Compton screenings are just around the corner although screenings for non-critics (i.e., “interview” press) are happening this week.
Jesus, dawg…Wu Tang Clan punched through a quarter-century ago. Time flies, s’over before you know it, life is a moving train, etc. The new Straight Outta Compton, except it’s a Hulu miniseries instead of a stand-alone theatrical. So I guess it isn’t the new Straight Outta Compton. Plus it’s “fictionalized“…what?
Focus Features has announced that Spike Lee‘s Black Klansman, which may or may not play the Cannes Film Festival, will open on 8.10.18. Which suggests that Focus is going for the money rather than thinking about an award-season run. They’re probably thinking about the early August openings The Help (8.10.11) and Straight Outta Compton (8.14.15) having reaped $216 and $201 million, respectively.
On the other hand Annapurna’s 7.28.17 release of Kathryn Bigelow‘s Detroit didn’t work out as well.
Three interpretations: (a) Black Klansman is a good movie-movie and not an award-season thing, and that’s cool — nothing wrong with being a solid people-level thing; (b) Black Klansman is an award-season thing but Focus is looking to ignore the traditional Venice-Telluride-Toronto scheme but score nominations regardless; or (c) Focus would rather go for the late-summer revenue potential than endure the award-season gauntlet, which is another way of saying that (a) is the basic reality.
Posted on 4.5: “Set in the late ’70s, pic isn’t literally about a black guy joining the Klan but an undercover investigation of the Klan by Stallworth when he was ‘the first black detective in the history of the Colorado Springs Police Department.’
“After initial correspondence with the Klan, Stallworth received a call in which he was asked if he wants to ‘join our cause.’ According to an Amazon summary, ‘Ron answers the caller’s question that night with a yes, launching what is surely one of the most audacious, and incredible undercover investigations in history. Ron recruits his partner Chuck to play the ‘white’ Ron Stallworth.’
I’ve been presuming all along that Jason Mitchell‘s quietly affecting performance in Dee Rees’ Mudbound (he and Mary J. Blige are the standouts) would result in a Best Supporting Actor nomination. That accomplishment (as well as his hair-trigger performance in Detroit plus his well-liked Eazy E turn in Straight Outta Compton) is undimmed this morning, but yesterday’s airplane-seat altercation has almost certainly hurt his community rep.
The mindblowing aspect is that the Delta flight that Mitchell was booked on was a quickie — Las Vegas to Salt Lake City, which lasts maybe an hour. Okay, he didn’t get the seat he wanted but Mitchell can’t suck it down for an hour? If he was about to leave for Australia or Tokyo I could understand being riled, but Vegas to SLC?
In a statement to TheWrap, a Delta spokesperson airline said, “the passenger was late checking in for his original flight and was placed on standby for a seat on the next flight. He was later confirmed in Delta Comfort+, the only available seat. On that flight, 2252, from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City, he got into a verbal altercation with the crew, before ultimately exiting the aircraft and being taken into custody by law enforcement.”
With almost everyone having seen Matt Reeves‘ War For The Planet of the Apes, early peeks at the other two high-prestige flicks of the ’17 summer — Kathryn Bigelow‘s Detroit (Annaurna, 8.4) and Chris Nolan‘s Dunkirk (Warner Bros., 7.21) — are happening this week.
Detroit screened yesterday in New York (and also here, I presume) for those attending a Los Angeles actors’ junket tomorrow. There’s another junket happening concurrently in Detroit with the filmmakers attending (Bigelow, presumably screenwriter Mark Boal, etc.)
Dunkirk is being screened tomorrow for junketeers with a press conference of some kind happening on Sunday. The blogaroos have been begging to be let into Saturday’s showing but Warner Bros. is saying not now, hang in there, etc.
A guy who attended last night’s Manhattan screening of Detroit had positive reactions. He says it’s basically aimed at black audiences (the early August opening is about The Help and Straight Outta Compton having opened on 8.10.11 and 8.14.15 and earned $216 and $201 million, respectively) as well as action connoisseurs, review-reading elites, X-factor types.
He called it a tense and sobering history lesson, teeming with obvious echoes of present-day police brutality and unwarranted violence toward black guys. A strong, complex, grim and riveting visit to urban America of 50 years ago. The cops are mostly one-note villains, he says, but how could they not be given the history of the ’67 Detroit riots? Not much room for anything but condemnation.
The stand-out among Detroit‘s mostly-black cast, he says, is Algee Smith. I’ve heard from another source that Will Poulter gives the best white-cop performance. As expected, Barry Ackroyd‘s cinematography and William Goldenberg‘s editing are ace-level. Certain elite critics have apparently been given a looksee, but the blogaroos have all been told they can see Detroit sometime “soon.”
Without saying anything about War Machine one way or the other, I can at least mention that a pop-through supporting performance is given by Keith Stanfield. I’ve been paying attention to this 25 year-old actor for three years — Jimmie Lee Jackson in Selma, “Bug” in Dope, Snoop Dog in Straight Outta Compton and especially that creeped-ut guy passing along those weird vibes to Daniel Kaluuya during that backyard party scene in Get Out. Stanfield plays another haunted type in War Machine, an Army Corporal serving in Afghanistan who’s having trouble understanding Brad Pitt‘s convoluted strategy, and who also carries a climactic battle moment in Act Three. I’m just saying that Stanfield is the guy you’re talking about when it’s over. His character brings a couple of reality-check moments that stick.
Tupac Shakur, who lived to the ripe old age of 25, has finally biopic-ed, and it seems as if fate and/or circumstance caused the filmmakers to wait until Tupac dead-ringer Demetrius Shipp Jr. came along. Directed by music video maestro Benny Boom, this could be the next Straight Outta Compton….maybe. Pic will be released on Friday, 6.16 — Tupac’s birthday.
The Hollywood Reporter‘s Scott Feinberg has posted about La La Land‘s likely home court advantage in terms of Oscar noms and awards. Feinberg wrote this article as a kind of thumbs-up, back-pat gesture to Team La La, but it actually implies that Damian Chazelle‘s well-admired musical is a bit of a banality. Which I don’t feel is true — I’m saying that Feinberg’s piece kinda suggests this.
Feinberg’s supposition is that residents of Los Angeles (i.e., where most Academy and guild members live) “get” La La Land as a familiar tale happening on home turf, and that as long as a movie in question presents a mostly positive, upbeat, alpha-vibey representation of Los Angeles and movie culture in particular (as La La Land does), the odds favor a win or two.
But the very finest Los Angeles-set films, of course, have never been alpha-vibey. They’ve all been about crime, smog, corruption, fallen angels, moral ambiguity and existential drift.
A few of the best in this realm are John Boorman‘s Point Blank, Robert Altman‘s The Long Goodbye, Robert Aldrich‘s Kiss Me Deadly and The Big Knife, Joel and Ethan Coen‘s The Big Lebowski, Frank Perry‘s Play It As It Lays, Martin Ritt‘s No Down Payment, Howard Hawks‘ The Big Sleep, Billy Wilder‘s Double Indemnity, Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Boogie Nights and Magnolia, Richard Fleischer‘s The New Centurions, Joel Schumacher‘s Falling Down, William Wellman and George Cukor‘s versions of A Star Is Born and John Schlesinger‘s The Day of the Locust. Others?
Feinberg mentions a few downbeat but highly regarded L.A-set films that received no Best Picture nominations — Easy Rider (drug dealing), The Player (glib concepts, shallow manipulations, an impulsive murder of a screenwriter), Mulholland Drive (dreamscape horrors, mental afllictions, hot lezzy sex scene), Training Day (LAPD corruption), Nightcrawler (cutthroat video paparazzi) and Straight Outta Compton (racial tensions).
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!
The basic goal of Scott Feinberg‘s “Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot” series is to infuriate seasoned movie hounds — to goad them into saying “this is a typical Academy member?…where does Feinberg find these idiots?” By this standard today’s voter (from the “member-at-large branch”) doesn’t quite cut it — dim but not epically dumb, sufficiently lazy (he couldn’t manage to see Trumbo and The Hateful Eight) and lazy-brained, and yet he never quite nails it with a truly appalling, forehead-slapping opinion.
Choice quote #1: “I was bored to tears by Brooklyn…this immigrant girl comes [from Ireland to Brooklyn] and everything wonderful happens to her and so what?” This guy wanted Saoirse Ronan to fall for a cute mafia guy, get fired from her job, thrown out of her rooming house, attacked by a mugger, hit by a bus. Plenty of stuff happened to her. No shortage of intrigues and decisions were required. They just didn’t happen to be the usual cliches.
Choice quote #2: “The Martian was entertaining enough and I loved Matt Damon, but it was basically Cast Away on Mars, and you knew where it was heading from the very start.” This is actually dead-on. There’s nothing wrong with The Martian being a smart, formulaic popcorn movie, but there was something very, very wrong with certain blogarooonies saying “it’s so well done, so satisfying, so lovable…nominate this Jerry Bruckheimer film for Best Picture!”