We all have our notions about what’s been happening with Shia LaBeouf over the last year or two (i.e., “I’m not famous anymore“), but this extreme motivational video he’s made is very Tyler Durden, and therefore cool in my book. How many guys did Durden save from a life of muddling along and zoning out in Fight Club? LaBeouf is trying to do the same thing. I know how it feels to be stuck in a hole. I was there in my mid 20s, that place of “yeah, I really gotta make some serious moves and if I don’t…I don’t want to think about it.” What prods you along is a quiet, nagging voice that says “you’re still not doing what you need to do…you’re still procrastinating…how can I get through to you, man?” That voice doesn’t go away but it never gets loud. It never insists. LaBeouf is saying “enough…enough of your bullshit…get going or else.” [Thanks to friend-of-HE Jon Rahoi for bringing this to my attention.]
Yesterday morning Reese Witherspoon spoke to a crowd at the Producers Guild of America’s 7th annual “Produced By” conference on the Paramount lot. Variety‘s Dave McNary reports that Witherspoon “addressed the question of whether she’d ever portray Hillary Clinton. She responded by saying that she’s been asked to do so several times and wryly pointed out that she portrayed a young version of Clinton as Tracy Flick in 1998’s Election.” The actress-producer added that when she met the former Secretary of State and current presidential candidate, Clinton said, “Everybody talks to me about Tracy Flick in Election.” One, I’ve seen Election six or seven times and have never flashed upon any similarities between Flick and Clinton. If Flick reminds me of any politician it’s Richard Nixon. (I’ve also always suspected that on some level Flick is Witherspoon.) And two, take away Alexander Payne‘s satiric, dryly humorous attitude and Tracy Flick is a virus — one of the most screwed-down, demonically calculating female characters in the history of American cinema. Clinton/Flick is almost like Clinton/Cruella de Vil or Clinton/Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity. Obviously not flattering, and yet Clinton good-naturedly went up to Witherspoon and more or less said, “So I was the inspiration for Tracy Flick, eh? Imagine!”
Prague seems to be relatively light on Africans. There may be more than I’ve noticed but it definitely seems like a “few and far between” situation. There’s an African-flavored bar/cafe called Emotan and also a light-skinned guy named Ray Koranteng who’s a popular TV personality, but Prague is certainly not Paris in this respect. A Trip Advisor post says Africans have been living in Prague since the 1970s “when the communists offered them scholarships to study at Czech universities in order to help spread good socialist values to Africa.” Three years ago an Expats.cz commenter wrote that Czech racism exists but is “more a reflection of [the natives’] cultural isolation under communism and also their larger history of constantly getting screwed by foreign invaders for the last 400 odd years or so. You’ll get stares and whispers and maybe even comments but Czechs generally are pretty nonviolent so it’s not hard to ignore.” Another says she’s “never seen a Czech man with a black woman [but] many Czech girls date African men just to try something different.” I only know this is a very gentle city, mild and considerate and liberal to the core.
I had a glass of this stuff the other day. It tastes like Coke mixed with licorice. Awful. Expats.cz editor and film guy Jason Pirodsky, who’s been here a few years, tells me he’s come to prefer it.
Two days ago Esquire.com‘s John Hendrickson posted a piece called “25 Ways to Know If You’re an Asshole on the Subway (or on the bus, light rail, ferry, or any other mode of public transportation).” It caught my attention because I’ll be back on the New York subway by tomorrow afternoon. Most of it is spot-on but I have some disputes and qualifications.
No. 16 says, “If you don’t instinctively offer your seat to a woman, child, or elderly person, you’re an asshole.” HE response: “Kids and old people, okay, but are we living in the 1880s? Is Lillie Langtree the biggest female star of the day? Women can handle standing just as much as guys can, and I would imagine that some might feel pleasantly insulted if I offered them my subway seat. Lizbeth Salander would probably sneer and ignore the gesture; ditto Lena Dunham. Are we all trying to shoulder the burden equally and play it even-steven or not?”
Former Maryland governor and Baltimore mayor Martin O’Malley announced his Presidential candidacy yesterday. He’s a liberal vision-and-uplift guy, but his voice isn’t quite deep enough — he’d be a little better off if he sounded like Lee Marvin. He certainly speaks a lot more plainly and precisely than Hillary Clinton has so far, and it’s good, I suppose, that he’ll be hitting Hillary’s measured, center-right corporatism just as hard as Bernie Sanders presumably will during the Iowa and New Hampshire debates. Then again O’Malley might be one progressive leftist too many. Right now his name recognition is way below Clinton’s and even significantly south of Sanders. The bottom line, it seems, is that O’Malley will just split the anti-Clinton Democratic primary vote. He may siphon a sizable chunk of Sanders’ supporters or perhaps only a bit…who knows? O’Malley’s best quote so far: “The presidency is not some crown to be passed between two families.”
A 5.30 report by The Film Stage‘s Jordan Roup confirms that Richard Linklater‘s That’s What I’m Talking About, a “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused that Paramount will release later this year, has been officially re-titled as Everybody Wants Some. The title comes from a Van Halen song released in 1980, which is when the film takes place so it all fits. The fact that the new title is being used in research screenings (i.e., the basis of the Film Stage report) doesn’t mean it’s “official”, but it seems likely. The research screening copy reads as follows: “Set in the world of 1980 college life, Everybody Wants Some is a comedy that follows a group of friends as they navigate their way through the freedoms and responsibilities of unsupervised adulthood. Get ready for the best weekend ever.” Pic costars Blake Jenner, Ryan Guzman, Tyler Hoechlin, Wyatt Russell (son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn) and Zoey Deutch.
Posted last night by Raw Story‘s Kati Holloway: “As if to prove there are new depths to be plumbed in the world of reality television (because who knew?), CBS just debuted The Briefcase, a show which takes poverty porn, class anxiety [and] emotional exploitation and packages them all neatly into a despicable hour of primetime television. Kicking off each episode with the question ‘What would you do with $101,000?’, the show asks two unwitting, financially strapped families to choose between two no-win options: being financially solvent yet appearing heartless and greedy, or drowning in debt yet having audiences recognize them as selfless and giving.”
Holloway suggests that the idea for The Briefcase almost certainly came from the ‘Button, Button‘ episode on the relaunched ’80s version of The Twilight Zone. It’s highly unlikely that the team behind The Briefcase wasn’t at least aware of this precedent, and given this you have to wonder what kind of cold-blade shitheels decided to produce this show…God!
Based on an original 1970 story by Richard Matheson, ‘Button Button‘ is about a financially hurting couple (chipper, upbeat Brad Davis and bitter, cigarette-smoking layabout Mare Winningham) who are given a wooden box with a red button and then visited by a tall creepy guy who offers a weird deal. If they push the button, he explains, they’ll receive $200 grand as a tax-free gift but someone they don’t know will die. Davis doesn’t want anything to do with the proposition but after some delay Winningham pushes the button. The creepy guy returns to reclaim the box and deliver the $200K. He also mentions to Winningham that the next person to receive the box won’t know her. She realizes in a flash that she’s dead, that each button pusher will be killed by the next one.
“Accusing women of supporting Hillary Clinton just because she’s female is misogynistic [bullshit],” Lena Dunham recently wrote on her Instagram account. “Women are smart enough to make decisions based on a number of factors: policy, track record, campaign strategy. Yes, I think it’s time for a female president but I’m not part of a witch’s cabal that senses ovaries and suddenly must vote.” And the default reason that the vast majority of African-Americans voted for Barack Obama wasn’t for kinship. And the default reason that many boomers and GenXers voted for Bill Clinton in ’92 and ’96 wasn’t because he shared their generational perspective and vice versa. And the default reason that Hillary is expected to win in ’16 has little if anything to do with the fact that a woman in the Oval Office will symbolically strengthen the hand of women everywhere. I don’t blame Dunham or any thinking progressive woman for being on Clinton’s team for gender reasons — it totally makes sense. But in the same breath it’s obvious that Dunham is talking right through her hat.
Clinton’s gender will of course be the default consideration for women during the ’16 election. But Dunham tries to deny it anyway and other women are (presumably) raising their fists and going “yeah!” Or are they? There’s so much rage and animus among Type-A media and showbiz women these days, obviously and justifiably directed at the suppressive chauvinists of the other side of the canyon. And yet the tone of much of the commentary from go-getter women is fierce and militant and “shut up, you’re full of it.” The mantra seems to be “I despise men or at least I frequently sneer at their bullshit and therefore I am.” I’m not saying women are the least bit unwarranted in pushing back at sexist bullshit, but too much rage leads to intemperate statements. It’s like a guerilla war out there. It’s almost like the Irish against the British in the 1920s.
Paul Dano‘s extremely vulnerable, dug-in performance as the young Brian Wilson in Bill Pohlad‘s Love & Mercy (Roadside, 6.5) is an Oscar-worthy achievement if I’ve ever seen one. On the other hand SAG and Academy members are notorious for ignoring this or that performance if it doesn’t seem like their kind of thing so you never know. On the other hand they’ve often saluted performances for which an actor has gqined or lost a lot of weight (i.e., Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull, Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club). Perhaps the fact that Dano packed on 30 pounds to play Wilson and then turned around and lost it…maybe.
Zoe Kazan, Paul Dano at Cannes premiere of Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth.
The last time I checked David Jones‘ Betrayal (’83), a note-perfect adaptation of Harold Pinter’s 1978 stage play, is still not available via disc or high-def streaming. Until recently the only way you could see it was to watch a murky version on YouTube. Now, via recent uploads, you can watch four of the best scenes in a somewhat cleaner condition. Pinter’s scheme, of course, is to run the natural order of the scenes backwards but for the sake of this post, here they are in sequence. The first is between literary agent Jeremy Irons, publisher Ben Kingsley and Kingsley’s wife Patricia Hodge — a scene that I love for the repeated use of the term “brutally honest.” It’s followed by a hotel-room scene in Venice (actually happening a year earlier) in which Kingsley discovers that Hodge and Irons have been lovers for five years. The third is the “modern prose” scene in which Kingsley, post-Venice, says nothing about the affair to Irons during lunch, but at the same indicates everything. The fourth clip is a scene in which Irons and Hodge meet at a pub to talk about their long-past affair and how she’s just told Kingsley everything. The fifth and final clip, in which everything is hung out to dry, is a scene between Irons and Kingsley. This is one of Kingsley’s greatest-ever performances, and you still can’t find a decent-looking version of Betrayal anywhere, for any price.
I hate paying $30 dollars for a Bluray when I know that a high-def streaming version will be available down the road. I’ve nonetheless ordered the Bluray of Edward Dymytryk‘s The Young Lions (Twilight Time, 6.9), mainly because I’m a sucker for black-and-white Scope as well as an admirer of legendary dp Joe McDonald (My Darling Clementine, Call Northside 777, Viva Zapata).
The Young Lions has always been sold as a war drama when it’s actually a rather talky piece about three guys who aren’t very lion-like or war-daddyish at all, and are more caught up in wrestling with personal issues than in fighting the enemy.
On the German side is blonde-haired officer Christian Diestl (Brando) who becomes more and more repelled by war as his military experiences accumulate. Stateside there’s a just-enlisted American Jew with jug ears — Montgomery Clift‘s Noah Ackerman — grappling with anti-Semitism in the ranks along with a louche showbiz type — Dean Martin‘s Michael Whiteacre — dealing with his own selfishness and cowardice.
Given Diestl’s disdain for war and the fact that he spends almost the entire film not shooting or even aiming at anyone, it’s a joke that the Twilight Time Bluray jacket features an image of Brando pointing a handgun at the camera.
At least I now have an excuse to trot out an eight-year-old piece about one of Brando’s greatest death scene, which happens near the finale of this 167-minute film.