A guy stood through most of a nearly seven-hour Anchorage-to-Philadelphia flight last July because he couldn’t stand sitting next to a 400-pound sea lion whose massive girth took up half of the standing-guy’s seat. The solution is simple, obvious and considerate to all parties. People who are absurdly obese (and there’s a very simple way of determining who’s excessive in this regard) have to pay for two seats. If they don’t like it, tough.
I don’t know what happened but I thought I’d posted this last night. There are several Drive parodies out there but this might be the cleverest. But only if Albert Brooks thinks so. Albert? You look at the column every so often (or so you indicated when we last spoke) so what’s the verdict? Good, decent, disposable…? At least it has a theme.
I’m also a fan of this one.
I’ve always loathed end-of-the-year holidays because of that awful flatline feeling . Every city becomes a version of San Francisco as seen by Gregory Peck though his submarine periscope in On The Beach. Everyone stops creating and endeavoring and running around and settles into eating and drinking and zoning out in front of LCDs and LEDs. There’s no joy in lying around like lazy seals. I remember feeling this way when I was eight.
But there’s nothing to be done about it. Every time a four-day Thanksgiving is about to begin I say to myself, “Okay, here it comes…the world is going to slip into downshift and nod-off mode, but the holiday is not going to get me. I’m going to live through it and when it’s all over and I’ve capitulated and done the lazy sit-down thing, I’ll never stuff myself with heaping portions of heavy food again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill…as God is my witness, I’ll never eat anything but fruit again.”
Having sat down only a few days ago with actress Olivia Colman (Tyrannosaur), I was a bit surprised by her heavily altered prosthetic and be-wigged appearance as Carol Thatcher, daughter of former Priem Minister Margaret Thatcher, in Phyllida Lloyd‘s The Iron Lady. A columnist friend didn’t even recognize her, he told me this morning.
(l.) Olivia Colman as Carol Thatcher in The Iron Lady; (r.) Carol Thatcher herself.
Colman during our interview four days ago at L.A.’s Standard Hotel.
There’s nothing quite so depressing and deflating as falling in love with a film that you know is audacious and highly disciplined in the rockin’ high style and art-film achievement realm, and then you see it again with some Joe Schmoe Academy members and they go “ehh, I don’t know, it’s pretty good, not bad,” etc. Your spirit sinks into the swamp as you try to explain what they’ve all-but-completely missed.
(l. to r.) Miss Bala director Gerado Naranjo, Orson Welles, Michelangelo Antonioni.
Outwardly you’re smiling and maintaining your composure but inwardly you’re going “oh, my God” and reminding yourself that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink it.
I had a moment like this following last night’s special invitational screening of Gerardo Naranjo‘s Miss Bala (20th Century Fox Int’l, 1.20.12), which is not “pretty good” or “meh” or “not bad” but incontestably brilliant. It’s a combination art film-and-violent action thriller that stays within the P.O.V. and the sensibility of a terrified victim (Stephanie Sigman‘s “Laura Guerrero”), and always keeps the violence, ignited by a ruthless Mexican drug-dealing gang, at a certain remove. It tells the story without any flash-bang cutting or jacked-up whirlygig camerawork or any other trick that puts you into the danger.
Unlike 97% of the action films out there, Miss Bala never revels in action adrenaline highs. It never pulls a Tarantino by saying to the audience, “Yes, of course, these are deplorable characters indulging in sadistic violence …but isn’t it fun to follow them around? Wheeee!” That’s one thing that qualifies it as an art film, and why guys like NY Film Festival honcho Scott Foundas have said it’s quite similar to a Michelangelo Antonioni film, or more particularly to The Passenger.
I shared the Antonioni analogy with former producer and “Real Geezers” commentator Marcia Nasatir last night and she emphatically agreed.
Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson, who attended the same screening and after-event, said that Miss Bala is also similar to Matteo Gerrone‘s Gomorrah. But unlike that Italian maifiooso film, Miss Bala has a charismatic and sympathetic lead performer (i.e., Sigman) who’s front and center during the whole ride while Gomorrah is an ensemble piece, and much darker and grimmer and utterly nihilistic.
Some women are having problems with the fact that Sigman’s character is cowed and afraid from the very beginning to the very end. We’ve all been trained to expect a lead character to somehow take charge of the situation and “do something” by the time Act Three rolls around. I mentioned the same thing about Elizabeth Olsen‘s character when I reviewed Martha Marcy May Marlene, to wit: “Once act three began I wanted her to do something, dammit…anything. Woman up!” But Naranjo isn’t just telling Sigman’s character’s story. He’s doing social portraiture by showing what a hell-hole Mexico has become since the drug wars began in ’06. He’s refusing to paste an uplifting ending upon a situation that defies that.
Anyway, I have a solution to try and push Miss Bala into the consciousness of Academy voters. Tell them over and over and over that “it’s an Antonioni film manifested through the skill of a brilliant young Mexican director.”
Most industry professionals and hangers-on will probably “hear” that, I think. Even the dilletantes have some knowledge of Antonioni, who became an art-film legend roughly 51 and a half years ago, starting with the May 1960 Cannes Film Festival debut of L’Avventura. James Toback used to deal with a New York-based distributor, a man he regarded as a thick-fingered vulgarian type, who would refer to the Italian director as “Tonioni.” It obviously meant something, he felt, that even a ruffian like this knew that Antonioni was important. So in most cases, I suspect, the name “Antonioni”, even though he peaked some 40 to 45 years ago, will unlock the door and let some light in.
The reason I included Orson Welles in the above triptych is that he used a similar ruse to unlock the minds of a film crew when he was shooting a film in the ’50s. It was a surreal scene that didn’t make a lot of sense in a certain light, and his dp and lighting guy and production designer and others were saying “what the hell is this scene about?” And Welles (or so the story goes) said to them, “Listen, guys, you have to understand that it’s a dream sequence.” And once they heard those two words they all relaxed and said, “Oh, we get it now!…fine, no worries…why didn’t you just say ‘dream sequence’ before?”
N.Y. Times Carpetbagger Melena Ryzik has just tweeted that she ran into Fran Lebowitz at the premiere of Scorsese’s 3D, family-friendly Hugo. FL’s verdict, a rave: “This film is too good for children.” I’d call it half a rave. What Leibowitz seems to be saying is that Hugo will sail right over children’s heads, especially the last 20% to 25%. It’s not simple-minded enough to be a kid’s film. If Paramount thought it was a real family flick they’d be opening Hugo on more than just 1200 screens.
You can dribble the Viola Davis basketball all over the court and shoot swish shots to your heart’s content, but that won’t change the fact that Meryl Streep‘s freakishly dead-on performance as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady (Weinstein, 12.30) seems like a much more likely winner of the Best Actress Oscar right now. As far as I’m concerned it’s a Streep vs. Michelle Williams (i.e., as Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn) contest with Davis half-elbowed aside.
Okay, maybe it’s a three-way race but I’m thinking again about Davis, superb as she is in The Help, not really playing a lead role in that whiter-than-white movie about domestic racial relations in 1962 Mississippi. And you can’t argue this point by tap-dancing around it. At best she’s playing a very strong supporting role, but not a lead.
I have to leave for two screenings in 30 minutes for I’m just going to paste what I wrote to some journalist friends a little while ago about The Iron Lady, which I feel is an acceptably okay and sometimes better-than-okay biopic with a curious emphasis on the destination rather than the journey. Here it is:
“Am I wrong or is at least 45% of The Iron Lady about octagenerian Maggie (superbly played by Streep and assisted by a first-rate makeup job — much better than Leo’s old-age makeup in J. Edgar), 45% about Maggie in her political prime (Streep again, guns blazing) and 10% about very young Maggie (Alexandra Roach) and young Denis Thatcher (Harry Lloyd)?
“I didn’t clock it but I was almost amazed that so much of the film is about the ravages of age and coping with senility and delusion. I mean, the film keeps going back to dithery old Maggie as she probably is right now, over and over and over. I think this was thrown in as (a) a sympathy ploy to get the audience on Maggie’s side and (b) to hand Meryl a juicy acting opportunity in the playing of a proud stubborn woman suffering an inevitable decline along with middle-aged gunboat Maggie standing up to British male chauvinism, and in so doing cinching that Best Actress Oscar.
“I honestly think that Viola Davis’s chances are lower now. I think Glenn Close‘s nomination (assuming it happens) is going to be the tribute she’s looking for, and that’s all. It’s Streep vs. Williams, as far as I can foresee. Am I wrong?
“Apart from Streep’s impersonation of Lady Thatcher being truly delicious (but then you knew that) and the film applying a kind of suppressive gloss on Thatcher’s generally cruel, heartless policies and her cynical ploy (I believe) to distract the nation from domestic issues and ensure her reelection by going to war against Argentina, I thought the film on its own terms was somewhere between half-decent and pretty good….if a bit curious. At the very least it’s far from the boilerplate biopic I expected, and I rather enjoyed the boldness of that.
“I didn’t think Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia!) had it in her to make an interesting film out of this character and this material. The Iron Lady isn’t what I would call great or excellent, but it’s a curious, unusual biopic about a rugged, not especially likable and yet admirable (in some ways) woman, and is intriguing for the ways in which it diverts from the usual-usual.
“I must say I was surprised and almost shocked by the emphasis on the old, withered, hallucinating Thatcher, coping with the ravages of old age, veering in and out of senility and lucidity, etc. It’s odd that so much screen time is given to this portion of her life as there’s really nowhere to go with it (except, I suppose, into the issue of Maggie trying to eradicate her hallucinations of her late husband Denis, played in gray-haired maturity by Jim Broadbent), but that was the choice.
“The Maggie-in-her-prime-as-Prime-Minister stuff is good enough. It’s my idea of assured, comprehensive, disciplined, well-shaped and nicely paced. But it also feels a teeny bit rote and rushed at times.
“All in all it’s a rather lamenting and bittersweet drama about life slipping away, drop by drop, at the end of the road, and also, I have to say, a somewhat stirring feminist piece and an effective delivery of conservative propaganda. Which I fell for slightly. If you have any backbone and toughness in you, if you’ve trusted and relied upon yourself to get out there and build your life into something, and if you feel anything for the plight of women being marginalized and patronized by old-school chauvinist pigs, then the movie is somewhat moving. It just is. Somewhat.
Margaret and Denis Thatcher as they were comically portrayed in For Your Eyes Only.
“I know there are a lot of lefties out there who will hate it and trash it because it doesn’t condemn Thatcher sharply enough. Or not at all, I’m sure some will say. But the bottom line is that Streep made me chuckle with pleasure from time to time. I was saying to mself, ‘Oh, God…this is so good, so amazing…I can’t help feeling delighted.’
“The octagenarian Maggie stuff, as noted, has been emphasized, I believe, to create a sense of sympathy for the character, as her mind and senses are clearly going bit by bit and without this tragic falling-apart-at-the-end she’d be a staunch, flinty harridan. If the movie was all about Maggie in her prime, the character would be admired for her brass balls but wouldn’t be very likable, and might be seen in some circles as the out-and-out monster that her detractors call her, and the movie wouldn’t, in all likelihood, do as well as the box-office (and with Academy members).
“Olivia Colman (Tyrannosaur) is sharp and believable as Thatcher’s daughter Carol (I barely recognized her due to a wig and prosthetics) and the young Margaret actress (Ms. Roach) is also quite impressive. I’m not entirely sure about Broadbent’s Denis. His goofy, spectacle-enlarged eyes made him look like the guy who spoofed him at the end of For Your Eyes Only (’82).”
Toward the end of this Hugo promotion video (i.e., Jim CameronMartin Scorsese), Scorsese mentions the idea of a 3D version of Citizen Kane …and then says, “I’m not saying do that.” Well, I am. If that 1941 classic could be 3D-converted with the same demanding exactitude that Cameron has reportedly applied to creating Titanic 3D, I’d be fine with it. Really. It would be exciting if someone could really do it right. Any classic film, for that matter. Monochrome 3D is mesmerizing.
The problem, of course, is that most 3D conversions have been unexceptional. The people in charge are not of Cameron’s calibre and they take shortcuts, and the end product winds up looking underwhelming or even like hell.
Roughly three hours ago New York Film Critics Circle honcho John Anderson informed the membership that Warner Bros.will not be screening Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by this coming Sunday, 11.27, and will therefore not be meeting the org’s deadline to allow it to vote yea or nay on Steohen Daldry’s 9/11 drama by Tuesday, 11.29.
Anderson wrote that he’s been told that the film won’t be shown any time before December 2nd. “This despite my having received assurances before that they would [work within our deadline],” Anderson wrote. “Draw your own conclusions.”
National Board of Review members have also been told of this decision, which obviously means that Extremely Loud is out of the running as far as their voting is concerned, which will happen on Thursday, December 1st.
A Warner Bros. source declined to be quoted but explained the following on a background basis: (a) Extremely Loud was never promised for a screening within the NYFCC or NBR deadlines, (b) This early deadline was not made by us but by somebody else, (c) It won’t be completely done until after the deadline, (d) The film will begin to be screened in early December, (e) Filmmakers need to fulfill their process and finish their films to their satisfaction, and (f) We want to show it to everyone but filmmakers need to fulfill their process…that is the moral of this story.
A publicist from the same side of the fence who also didn’t want to be quoted said there was a theoretical contingency plan of showing the film on Sunday, 11.27, but that this date eventually fell out due to post-production requirements which couldn’t be met in time. “We love critics groups. but nobody wants to compromise a director’s vision,” she said. “We never promised that the 11.27 screening was a done deal…we said ‘maybe, could you see it on Sunday?’…and then we had to alter that. I don’t know why John Anderson has reamed us, but it’s a witch hunt…I wish we could have had it ready earlier.”
I’m told that N.Y. Post critic Lou Lumenick said in a message this morning to NYFCC members that WB’s decision “would invite speculation that WB doesn’t think [Extremely Loud] stands a chance.”
Sometimes old songs that you haven’t listened to in a long while suddenly come into your head while you’re driving or showering or writing, and they hang around for a day or two and sometimes longer. Every now and then they’ll stay with you for four or five days or a week even, and that’s too long. It can drive you nuts. The cure is not to sing it to yourself but to download it to iTunes and just listen to it over and over until you can’t stand it any more.
Last night I tried flushing out Bowie by listening to the other “Five Years” song, the one by Jonah and the Whale, but this made things worse because they’re one of those oodly-doodly bands, a group of oh-so-dry-and-clever musicians wrapped in a fey musical head-space attitude who create songs that are kind of precious and tweedly-deedly…songs that fiddle around with melody without really feeling it or lifting it off the ground.
You know what I mean. Bands that seem to be going “eewww, this is cool”…bands who always seem to perform with a kind of dorky, dispassionate irony…bands who seem to be saying “are we kinda kidding or do we mean it or should we turn it up or down or…? Ohh, whatever…let’s not choose.”
I’ve also described this kind of music as the product of “flutter” bands. In an 8.13.10 piece I described their music as “ethereal, dreamily feminine and generally unpunctuated…music that seems dead set against any kind of thump-crunchin’ sound or attitude [and] that seems to summon the candy-assed spirit and attitude of Michael Cera, and which the almost seems to exists in order to counteract and nullify the spirit of Lou Reed, Liz Phair, Patti Smith, Television, the Kills, the Beta Band, Nirvana…basically any band with any kind of brass musical balls.”
I would rather listen to a continual loop of “The Very Best of Herman’s Hermits” than a flutter band…seriously.
According to Jett and Dylan Wells (as well as HE reader George Prager), the leading flutter bands of 2010 are these:
(1) Passion Pit, (2) Phoenix, (3) matt + kim, (4) Downlink, (5) Datsik, (6) Excision, (7) Burial, (8) James Blake, (9) Diplo, (10) Akira kiteshi, (11) bar 9, (12) Dirty Projectors, (13) Grizzly Bear, (14) Panda Bear, (15) Animal Collective, (16) Beach House, (17) Girls, (18) Arcade Fire and (19) Fleet Foxes.