The Silver Linings Playbook “looks fast and sharp — a raggedy-jazz comedy about caustic humor, family, sex, anxiety, therapy, hurt, healing…all of it. Edgy, crackling, push-pushy, what-the-fucky. Directed and written by David O. Russell, adapted from the serio-comic novel by Matthew Quick. Agitated, lacking-in-people-skills Bradley Cooper falls in love with Jennifer Lawrence. Robert De Niro, Julia Stiles, Jacki Weaver and Chris Tucker costar.” — from a 5.21 Cannes Film Festival riff about my first look at a Silver Linings reel.
Three days ago Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone wrote about the trepidation she’s been feeling about the inevitable Beasts of the Southern Wild backlash. Two days later Deadspin.com’s Tim Grierson heard her call and posted this fairly well-written riff about the “five worst indie film cliches” in Beasts.
You can read as well as I can, but here are the five in bullet form: One, the film “fetishizes authenticity.” he says. Two, it tries way too hard to be gritty.” Three, “it treats poverty as something noble.” Four, “it confuses simple characters for memorable ones.” And five, “it touches on real-life events without saying anything about them.”
Katey Rich aside, a significant portion of elite female film critics have gone thumbs-down on Steven Soderbergh‘s Magic Mike (Warner Bros., opening today) and are more than partly responsible for its Rotten Tomatoes grade hugging the low ’80s instead of the low to mid ’90s, where it belongs. As far as I can tell the only extra-brainy, big-gun female critic to come down squarely in support of this Warner Bros. release is N.Y. Times critic Manohla Dargis.
I noted the same pattern a year ago with Bridesmaids. On 5.12.11 I wrote that (a) “certain female critics and bloggers (including Stephanie Zacharek) have either dissed or gone ‘meh’ on Bridesmaids, to which I can only respond ‘what?” But also (b) “thank God for balance and general perception’s sake that N.Y. Times critic Manohla Dargis has come down positive.”
Some kind of upscale feminist nerve was touched by Bridesmaids. Something to do with disputed gender identity or an unwelcome mirror-image issue of some kind. I suspect that Magic Mike is pushing a similar button and arousing a similar ire. Maybe because it echoes the depression of female stripping or because the female characters (aside from Cody Horn) aren’t strong enough or something. Yes, I know — women ticket-buyers are going to deliver at least 60% or 70% of Mike‘s expected weekend earnings (possibly $30 million or better), and yet many progressive-minded female critics have a problem with it.
Consider this post by Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson, one of the more seasoned and plugged-in journo-critics with ties to the industry’s most powerful women. Like many others Thompson was impressed by Magic Mike‘s character currents and socio-economic reflections, but she also said the following: “As for Magic Mike‘s place in the feminists’ history books, further thought and consideration is necessary.”
In other words, it’s probably on the mainstream establishment feminist shit list.
The anti-Mike sorority includes L.A. Weekly/Village Voice critic Karina Longworth, Movieline‘s Alison Willmore, Seattle Times critic Moira MacDonald, About.com’s Rebecca Murray and Flickfilosopher‘s Maryan Johnson. Even the mild-mannered, comme ci comme ca-ish Claudia Puig of USA Today said that “when the focus [of Magic Mike] drifts to more peripheral characters, or follows more serious plot threads, it’s a grind.”
This also from Indiewire‘s Melissa Silverstein: “In general, Magic Mike is not exactly the type of film we write about here on Women and Hollywood. It’s a movie about men and directed by a man. But it seems that the audience for this film is going to be pretty much all women so it’s worthy of looking at.”
“As a kid I had a huge crush on John Phillip Law after I saw him in The Russians are Coming!, The Russians Are Coming!,” a producer friends recalls. “Anyway, one day I was in the post office on Fairfax and Santa Monica Blvd. in the late ’80s. That post office was a depressing green-fluorescent lighthole back then. Remember that that whole general area was on the dinghy side before the posh Whole Foods opened across the street and gave the neighborhood a facelift.
“So I’m standing there and suddenly I see a guy with bony white legs in cheap shorts, a faded T-shirt and a torn straw beach hat. I got a little closer as I used the xerox machine, and when I saw who it was I gasped — John Phillip Law. I was horrified. He looked like a homeless person. Later on I heard an anecdote from a close friend who had rented the lower level of a duplex in the hills that Law owned. He said that he/they moved out quickly after they realized Law was stark raving mad.”
Really? I would have put differently. I would have said “after they realized Law had more or less tipped over into eccentricity.”
My British Airways Munich flight just arrived at Heathrow/London, and I’m reading about SCOTUS having just given a Constitutional pass to Affordable Health Care…whoo-whoo! And while we’re at it, WTF? Really wasn’t expecting this. Like, at all. I’m imagining Justice Scalia baring his fangs and going “Aaarrrgghhhh!” How did it happen? I’m about to start my reading but first…another security check line!
From Cinema Blend‘s Katey Rich: “You can probably tell by now that Magic Mike isn’t exactly the glitter-caked bachelorette party romp promised in the trailers, or at least not entirely. But what’s probably most impressive about the work Steven Soderbergh does, directing from Reid Carolin‘s script, is that it’s got the glitz and the heavy character study, without sacrificing either.
“Shot by Soderbergh through a dingy yellow filter that makes everything feel like it’s been left in the sun too long, Magic Mike is about dreams that curdle and get deferred, about how you need more money than what’s stuffed in a G-string to make it in this world, but how those $1 bills can make it easier to wait — for a little while, at least. It’s also about Channing Tatum being a crazy good dancer, about how fun it would be to party all day on a sandbar, and how a male stripper really can make a woman’s night with a good lap dance. These things might be mutually exclusive in the hands of another director, or disastrous when combined, but as usual, Soderbergh makes it look easy.”
If I’m lucky enough to know them, brilliant, bothered urban women with a caustic tongue and an absolute inability to converse about anything without sharing the brutal, often amusing truth of it are the light of my life. Guys too. If I had my way the ones I know who fit this description would never leave, at least before my own demise.
2012 is halfway done and although I’ve been out of the American commercial loop for almost two months (I’m flying back to NY today), I’m dead certain of the year’s best so far. Cannes favorites are included because I’ve seen ’em and I know what I know. Beyond the top category is a mashup of my April-June assessments plus January-March judgments. The usual admonishments, corrections and disputes are requested.
Best Films of 2012 So Far: Beasts of the Southern Wild, Magic Mike, Miss Bala, Holy Motors (Cannes), Haywire, Bernie, On The Road (Cannes), No (Cannes), God Bless America, Killing Them Softly (Cannes), Amour (Cannes…continues to grow upon reflection but a grueling sit), The Three Stooges, The Sessions (formerly known as The Surrogate), Michael, Rampart, 21 Jump Street, The Grey, Rust and Bone (Cannes) (18)
April through June Toppers (commercially released): Beasts of the Southern Wild, Magic Mike, God Bless America, Bernie, The Three Stooges (5)
Austere, Penetrating, Disciplined, Bressonian: Beyond The Hills (Cannes) (1)
Good Things (April-June): The Dictator, Moonrise Kingdom (2)
“Impressive” But Bothersome/Cumbersome, Don’t Wanna See it Again, Eff It: Prometheus (1)
Not Half Bad (January through June): Safety Not Guaranteed, The Hunt (Cannes), Take This Waltz, Neil Young Journeys, Polisse, Your Sister’s Sister, Under African Skies, We Have a Pope, Monsieur Lazhar, Jeff Who Lives at Home, Declaration of War, Coriolanus, Footnote, Friends With Kids, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, The Woman in Black, Damsels in Distress, Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope.
Stirring Production Design (April-June): Dark Shadows, Snow White and the Huntsman (2)
Enhanced, Undiminished: Titanic 3D (1)
Reportedly Awful (March-June): Rock of Ages, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2)
Passable with Great Musical Finale: Mirror Mirror (1)
Special Awfulness Distinction: The Paperboy (Cannes) (1)
Arousing/Primitive/Punishing: The Avengers, Hunger Games, The Raid: Redemption, Lawless (Cannes) Cabin in the Woods, Lockout (5)
Catastrophes (April-June): John Carter, Battleship (2)
Mostly Grotesque: Peace, Love and Misunderstanding (1)
Unseen As We Speak (a ridiculous amount given my absence from the American megaplex for the last two months): People Like Us, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Brave, Seeking A Friend For The End of the World, To Rome With Love, Men in Black 3, Five Year Enagegement, Piranha 3D, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, Bel Ami, Paul Williams Still Alive, Lola Versus, Dark Horse, El Gringo, My Way, Life Happens, The Lady, etc., etc.
Entirely Decent Tony Scott Film With An Ending That Underwhelms: Safe House (1)
Mildly Gripping: Silent House (1)
Mildly Likable, Amusing: Wanderlust (1)
Best Docs: Undefeated, Bully, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Pray for Japan, The Island President (5)
Slow-going: Turn Me On, Dammit!, 4:44 Last Day on Earth (2)
Lesser Dardennes: The Kid With A Bike (1)
Unfulfilling, Irksome, Bad: Contraband, Red Tails, Man on a Ledge, One for the Money, Flowers of War (5)
Labored, Less-Than-Likable Family Relationship Dramas: Being Flynn, The Snowtown Murders, Boy, The Deep Blue Sea, W.E. (5)
Didn’t See (January-March): Chronicle, Act of Valor, The Forgiveness of Blood (3)
Avoided Like Plague: Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, Let the Bullets Fly, Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, A Thousand Words (4)
“Magic Mike delivers on its promise of gyrating and pelvic-thrusting, barely-clothed men as the music plays and the lights shine, but beyond that you get a film that comes across as a truly authentic drama with a performance from Channing Tatum that makes you believe you may actually be looking at the movie star Hollywood so desperately wants him to be.” — Rope of Silicon‘s Brad Brevet in a review that posted today at 10:26 am.
“Most audiences, expecting something closer to a masculine Showgirls, might be surprised by the relatively serious tone: Magic Mike crams together several derivative subplots that dangle (sorry) around energetic striptease sequences enacted with the ostentatiousness of an MGM musical. It’s such a slick…er, package that one can easily overlook the lack of originality as things veer toward a series of clichéd resolutions. [And yet] a lot of its shortcomings are only apparent in retrospect. Soderbergh hugs a familiar arc that makes its path visible long before it arrives at various twists, but even when revealing its secrets, Magic Mike casts a seriously entertaining spell.” — Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn in a review that posted today at 11:33 am.
Somebody at Cinemacom (or was it after Cinemacom?) told me that Looper was a lot better than Total Recall. Damnation with faint praise? Maybe. How did he know this? He didn’t — he was just passing along what he’d heard. So it’s all bullshit, right? Maybe not. Looper might be half-good, pretty good or just plain good. Or at least fair.