Late this morning Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone and I again discussed whether or not 12 years A Slave is an all-but-inevitable Best Picture winner due to the “pivotal moment in history” factor. We also kicked around The Counselor and the Nikki Finke-at-odds-with-Deadline management thing. Again, the mp3.
Now that Blue Is The Warmest Color has been seen by the Friday night crowd, is it “the first great love story of the 21st Century” or what? And are certain Oscar bloggers earning their hottest-place-in-hell points for dismissing Adele Exarchpoulos‘ world-class performance as a marginal also-ran? N.Y. Post critic Kyle Smith calls it “vulnerable, eager, curious, innocent and thirsty for experience…the opposite of Cate Blanchett’s mannered, tic-laden, strenuously actress-y performance in Blue Jasmine and, as such, it’s easily the most haunting work I’ve seen by an actress this year.”
“I saw The Counselor at a theater in Silver Spring, Maryland,” writes Boxoffice.com‘s Phil Contrino. “The crowd was with the movie for most of the duration. I could tell they were genuinely wondering what would happen next and the soon-to-be infamous car scene with Cameron Diaz generated real laughs. But the film’s momentum died when it became crystal clear that a certain female character was not going to make it out alive. It reminded me of the reaction to Drive when I saw that with a paying audience. The crowd was with it right up to the point when Ryan Gosling punches Christina Hendricks.
“The lesson here is simple: women are driving the box office in a considerable way and they don’t want to see bad things happening to female characters. They are sick of the woman-as-victim, damsel-in-distress idea. They want to watch movies about strong women who overcome obstacles, and Hollywood would be wise to give them more of that instead of relying on tired story arcs that treat women as disposable secondary characters.”
“I’m glad yesterday’s Counselor post [i.e., “A Bleak, Indelible Beauty“] at the N.Y. Times gave you good copy,” F.X. Feeney wrote this morning. “I’m also especially delighted by the surging response by the commentators. ‘Merton’ catches me dead to rights about dismissing a whole genre. I didn’t mean to do that — I was just gnashing my teeth in a fit of lost temper over the way people are reacting to the uncompromising brilliance of The Counselor.
“One of the responders objected to the scene of Malkina (Cameron Diaz) in the Catholic confessional, saying it had no point. Actually, the sceene has a profound one [that is] touched upon in a throwaway line: “I never knew my parents. They were thrown out of a helicopter into the Atlantic Ocean when I was three.” There’s a lot of tragic history under that line. Because she is Argentine, it means her parents were desaparecidos (‘disappeared ones’) killed by the Junta in the 1970s, as part of their holocaust against their own citizens” (i.e., Argentine leftists). “Malkina is thus a literal orphan of history. As she’s not been allowed any ordinary connection to humanity, she has renounced being human (or tells herself she has) and elected to model herself after her beloved Cheetahs. ‘To see a quarry killed with elegance is very moving to me,’ as she says later. ‘It always was.’ In the deepest sense, she was killed with her parents.”
The day before yesterday I loaded OSX Mavericks on all four computers — the two 13″ Macbook Pros, the recently purchased 13″ Macbook Air and the slow-boat-to-China 2009 iMac that I barely use any more. (You need a backup or two in case of disaster.) You have to get with the new program immediately — no dawdling. I definitely like the newer version of Pages. I don’t know what else I like about it. I just like embracing the newest thing. The snake must shed its skin.
I think it’s hilarious that amiable Huffpost guy Ricky Camilleri asked 12 Years A Slave star Chiwetel Ejiofor how he and his fellow cast members had fun on the set. Whee! “There was a lot of love on the set, a lot of focus, a very high level of engagement,” Ejiofor answers, “but the fun was not on the set.” At an earlier point Camilleri laments that “even critics says it’s a masterpiece but Fox Searchlight may have difficulty marketing this because of the brutality” and says that it’s unfortunate that they’re even saying this. By the same light one could complain that Oscar watchers like myself aren’t showing the proper respect for Steve McQueen‘s film by nothing that a significant pushback response has manifested among the Academy rank and file. It’s very unfortunate that this has happened. There is only one valid response to a masterpiece, and this is to kneel down and absorb and be grateful for that communion. The sad reality is that many people are too egocentric for this. They sit there and go “yeah, yeah but what about what I want?”
What killed Burt Reynolds‘ career as a top-dog Hollywood movie star? His decision to star in a string of lowbrow shitkicker films, most of which were directed by his buddy Hal Needham, who started out in the mid ’50s as a stuntman. Under Needham’s Lubistch-like guidance Reynolds starred in Smokey and the Bandit (’77), Hooper (’78), Smokey and the Bandit 2, The Cannonball Run (’81), Stroker Ace (’83) and The Cannonball Run II (’84). It’s generally understood that Reynolds stabbed his career in the heart when he turned down the astronaut role in James L. Brooks‘ Terms of Endearment in order to make Stroker Ace, allegedly out of loyalty to Needham. Today it was announced that Needham, 82, has passed. Condolences to family and friends, but he was one of the worst directors to ever make a dent in this town. No, wait…I didn’t mean that. Well, actually I did. The Cannonball Run II was one of the most throughly cynical and poisonous films I’ve ever sat through (that Frank Sinatra cameo!), and I actually paid to see the damn thing in a Times Square theatre. If you’ve ever cared about the wondrous transportation of cinema, the films of Hal Needham will always be a must-to-avoid. But I’m sure he was a nice guy and a good friend, etc. He knew how to kick back and have a good old time. Yeehaw! If given a choice between leading a Needham-type life and the kind of life lived by Eric von Stroheim or Franz Kafka or John Huston, I’m guessing that most Americans would choose the Needham path.
As I understand it Nikki Finke‘s latest eruption about being “locked out” had something to do with Deadline management (i.e., owner Jay Penske) having just installed a new editing system by which Finke would be able to post and edit her own material (i.e., mostly box-office reports) but not reports by other Deadline contributors, despite the site’s “About Us” page stating that Finke’s title is General Manager and Editor in Chief. (The site is primarily edited by Patrick Hipes, Denise Petski and Erik Pedersen.) It also has something to do with Finke having apparently made a technical error in posting a story earlier today about ex-Warner Bros. honcho Jeff Robinov hooking up with Sony, Dune Capital Management and GK Films. I’m also told her Penske Media contract, which runs until June 2016, doesn’t allow her to start a competitive news site, although Finke is apparently otherwise persuaded. “I am building out NikkiFinke.com and will unveil it right after the new year,” she recently tweeted.
Critic, essayist and screenwriter F.X. Feeney, renowned for his brilliant perceptions and occasional big-hearted essays on behalf of disputed films that less engaged critics should (he feels) make more of an effort to get, has riffed on Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy‘s The Counselor. The piece appears in a N.Y. Times comments section following Manohla Dargis‘s positive 10.24 review.
“The Counselor is a superb movie, and how gratifying to find myself in agreement with my pal Ms. Dargis! For I’m otherwise puzzled that so many of my fellow critics are dumping on it. One colleague even cracked, ‘Too many words and not enough plot.’
“The words are there like music — it’s a spoken musical. The submerged ‘plot’, the intricate maze of treacheries happening offstage [that prey] upon the nameless hero, are not being denied us as story points. They’re being held at horizon distance so that we can concentrate, as [Michael Fassbender‘s Counselor] must, on the tragic recognition forced upon him by choices he made well before we came upon him.
“There are a lot of other movies that give us the beat-to-beat tick-tock on drug deals, cartels and treacheries, and disappearances in Juarez. Those are thrillers. Happy endings are part of their contract with us, and [are] essentially false. [Counselor screenwriter] Cormac McCarthy is not out to thrill but take us (and himself) to a place both inevitable and surprising because Fate is in play and will not be cheated. Ridley Scott has the courage to get in the game with him.
When I first saw Nebraska in Cannes I heard Mark Orton‘s folksy, laid-back, quietly moving score, but for whatever reason it didn’t stick to my soul. Then I saw Alexander Payne‘s film a second time on the Paramount lot and wham, it stuck. What got me was the main theme, which is called “Their Pie” (and which is contained in two tracks on the Nebraska soundtrack album, which streets on 11.19). Here’s the opener and the closer. Somehow the music expresses what the film is about better than the film. (Or just as eloquently.) I hear it and somehow Bruce Dern‘s performances and the black-and-white photography and the pickup-truck sequence at the end….it all comes together. You can’t listen to this track and not go “okay, right…I get it.”
I’m presuming that these GQ photos of Blue Is The Warmest Color‘s Adele Exarchpoulos vaguely allude to Tom O’Neil‘s longstanding suspicion that aging male horndog Academy members occasionally like to nominate at least one or two alluring breeding-age (i.e., under 40) females for Best Actress. That’s the legend, at least. A tedious and sexist theory, of course, but with everyone dismissing the 19 year-old Exarchopoulos as an unlikely nominee due to her being relatively unknown (and because IFC Films won’t spend diddly-squat on her campaign), I’ll take any advantage I can grab. Why am I so interested? Because Hollywood Elsewhere has been Ground Zero for the pro-Exarchopoulos forces since Cannes, and I’m in this for the long haul.
Take no notice of The Counselor‘s 34% Rotten Tomatoes rating. It simply means that a lot of reviewers found the movie unlikable or unpleasant. Or they found it too scary to handle — they had to push it away in order to go on living their lives. But shame on those reviewers who are calling it a bad or poorly made film, or that “everyone’s speech is awash in gaudy psycho-blather and Yoda-like observations,” which is blind bullshit. Or that “you can’t believe a word of it.” Yes, you can. You can believe every word. You simply have to understand and accept that The Counselor is expressing a cold and clear-eyed view of the Mexican cartel drug business with a very blunt and eloquent voice. It is an undistilled visit to McCarthyland, which is to say the bleak moralistic realm of novelist and (in this instance) first-time screenwriter Cormac McCarthy. You can say “wow, that’s one cold and cruel place” and that’s fine, but you cannot call The Counselor a bad or negligible or sloppily made film. I hereby declare these viewpoints anathema and excommunicate.
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