You’d think that a brainy, circumspect guy like Owen Wilson, who voted for Barack Obama once or twice, would be “feeling the Bern” right about now, but no. (Has he or hasn’t he seen Inequality For All?) And he’s not on Team Hillary either. Is he a Joe Biden man? Is he one of those Elizabeth Warren supporters who refuses to fold the tent? I think it kind of means something that Owen, who’s one of the most free-thinking, oddly mystical-minded actors I’ve ever spoken with, is in a kind of disengaged levitational place. Plus he’s of two minds on Donald Trump — appalled but faintly amused (“You can’t help but get a kick out him…you sort of feel he could be a character from Network“). Here‘s the interview.
Less than two weeks ago Ed Helms was hauled before a Movie Jail judge and sentenced to a ten-year…okay, make it a five year probation for having starred in Vacation, which is tied with No Escape for being the most repellent film of 2015. I’m sorry but the terms of Helms’ probation forbids all film lovers from being favorably disposed to any film he may costar or star in between now and mid-August of 2020. So that’s an ixnay, I’m afraid, for Jessie Nelson‘s Love The Coopers (CBS Films, 11.13). Costarring Diane Keaton, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Jake Lacy, Anthony Mackie, Amanda Seyfried, June Squibb, Marisa Tomei and Olivia Wilde. Will Keaton be in a good movie ever again, or is she stuck on an irreversible downslide? Her last decent film along these lines was The Family Stone, which is almost ten years old now.
Today, 8.26, is Women’s Equality Day — the 95th anniversary of the final certifying into law of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women the right to vote. (The 19th Amendment was actually ratified on 8.18.20.) The amendment had first been proposed in 1878 so the process took 42 years. It didn’t become law because women smiled at lawmakers and said “please.” It happened because they pushed for it, and then pushed and pushed and pushed until it hurt. Power always has to be fought for, and this often means that the foot soldiers of any political movement will have to suffer cuts and bruises and deprivations. I just hope that there’s more to Sarah Gavron‘s Suffragette (Focus Features, 10.23) than a dramatization of what a struggle it was for English women to fight against complacency and dismissive attitudes. I’m just hoping there’s more to it than just “these women really paid the price.”
Five or six days ago I was at M Cafe de Chaya, a very cool place that specializes in macrobiotic dishes, to meet a couple of ladies. It was just before 9 pm. I ordered something or other, went out to the patio and noticed this pretty blonde in her late 20s. (Maybe her early 30s.) She acknowledged my glance and smiled. We chatted a bit. She told me her name. I asked what she did and she eventually confided that she worked as a hostess at a high-stakes Beverly Hills card game. Me: “You mean one of those games that guys like Tobey Maguire and Ben Affleck attend?” She nodded. Me: “The money, the tips are pretty good, I imagine.” She: “If somebody wins big…”
In a 2014 interview with former “poker princess” Molly Bloom, who hosted one of the hottest high-stakes games in Los Angeles (and also one in New York) and who wrote a book about her experiences called “Molly’s Game“, Bloom is asked “about the models that hung around the games to provide eye candy.” Bloom: “The girls I chose weren’t stupid and they weren’t bimbos. I tried to mentor them and empower them. I told them, ‘Don’t sleep with these guys.’ They’d make $10,000 for doing nothing.”
The not-to-be-named blonde and I spoke a bit more and then my two friends showed up. I introduced them to poker lady, lah-dee-dah, greetings all around, chit-chat. And then five or six minutes later she finished her sandwich, got up, smiled and waved goodbye.
Paolo Sorrentino‘s Youth “is a visually poetic, beautifully captured, symphony-like film, which is what Sorrentino does, of course. This has been his signature style in The Great Beauty and Il Divo (let’s ignore This Must Be The Place) and here’s the same tray of gourmet delights — deliciously photographed, serenely scored, composition for composition’s sake, drop-dead delectable, etc. And at the same time Youth is rather languid and swoony and a touch melancholy from time to time, and dryly amusing whenever Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel chew the fart fat while walking in the hills or sitting in a hot tub or sipping tea. But this is mostly a film that celebrates Sorrentino’s gifts as a visual composer.
“And I’ll tell you something. After a while I wanted a respite from all the beautiful framing and the luscious, perfectly lighted Swiss scenery. I wanted Caine and Keitel to take a train to Bern or Zurich on some pretext and hit a topless bar or something, if only for a few minutes respite from Sorrentino Land, which — don’t get me wrong — is a fine, rapturous place to be but which can feel, after a time, a bit narcotizing. You could even say that it offers a kind of confinement. It’s not that I don’t value it. I’m not an idiot. I’ve been savoring fine cinematography, editing and production design all my life, and I know what goes.
Another shooting incident, another disgruntled ex-employee…business as usual in this great land of ours. If WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward had been armed, they could have fired back at the shooter and possibly stopped him from committing this malicious act. We clearly need more guns — preferably everyone wearing holsters and six-shooters — and fewer restrictions. (HE to slow person who will write in to complain about my response: I’m being bitter and facetious.) The latest Amurrican shooting happened early this morning during a live feed in Bridgewater Plaza, Virginia. WDBJ is based in Roanoke, Virginia. Condolences to friends, family and co-workers of the deceased.
The killer, a former WDBJ employee identified as Vester Lee Flanagan (a.k.a. Bryce Williams), filmed himself as he walked up to shoot the victims. (YouTube has deleted the video.) Flanagan has reportedly shot himself as cops confronted him. Update: He’s dead. Flanagan was hired by WDBJ in April 2012. His Facebook and Twitter accounts have been suspended.
Windows 95 popped exactly 20 years and one day ago, or 8.24.95. It was no snap thing, that program. I remember hanging out at a computer retail place on Pico Blvd. back then and asking advice from guys who worked there about some of the snarlier Windows 95 issues. I remember one of them saying, “Windows 95, man! Better men than I have been beaten down by it. Do not take that operating system lightly!” I’ve been a Mac guy for only six and a half years. I struggled and sweated within the Microsoft realm for the better part of 15 years or more. I don’t want to think back on those times, but it was rough going. The viruses alone.
Not that I find anything likable or defensible about Donald Trump‘s brusque, blustery personality, but as far as I can tell he didn’t call on Univision’s Jorge Ramos before Ramos went into his question. Journalists are obliged to observe a certain protocol at press conferences. You raise your hand, you eventually get called upon and then you ask your question. Right? Am I missing something?
A second poll is showing Bernie Sanders substantially ahead of Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, according to Public Policy Polling. The findings have Sanders with 42 percent to Clinton’s 35 percent. A Franklin Pierce-Boston University poll conducted earlier in the month also found Sanders leading Clinton by 7 points.
Sanders would probably be happening country-wide if it wasn’t for stubborn Clinton support among women, white moderate-conservatives, African Americans and Hispanics. The latter three groups apparently view him, somewhat resentfully, as the candidate of elite educated whites.
The question is whether these mule-headed blacks, Hispanics and bubbas will shift allegiances if Joe Biden jumps in, especially if Barack Obama endorses him.
One of these weeks or months or years, the nominally hip crowd is going to wake up to Mistress America and realize it’s a knockout — fleet and motor-mouthed in a way that Howard Hawks used to dream about. And a nimble character-driven dramedy that keep shifting gears and re-loading and turning the wheel sharply. New Yorker essayist and film cardinal Richard Brody (a.k.a. “tinyfrontrow“) doesn’t need months or years — he gets it right now. His 8.24 piece about Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig‘s film, “Mistress America and the Art of Making A Living As An Artist,” is probably a little too dense and gymnastic and whirling-dervishy for a cheese-brain like myself but it’s probably the inspiring impression of this film that I’ve read since it played at Sundance last January. Boiled down, Brody is calling Mistress America an M3 — a masterwork of “entrepreneurial cinema,” a masterwork of “literary cinema” and a masterwork of “literary cinema in the other, qualitative sense: it isn’t merely about literature [but] a work of brilliant writing.” A review certainly worth reading, and a film definitely worth seeing if you’re still dragging your feet.
In a 2.2.15 article related to See You In My Dreams, I wrote about a certain metaphor that applied to Blythe Danner and septuagenarian sexuality. I wrote that it seemed a bit…well, a tiny bit curious that unlike her widowed character in the film, who falls in love with and has gentle sex with Sam Elliott, Danner herself hasn’t done the deed in over 13 years, or since the death of her husband Bruce Paltrow in ’02. This, in any event, is what Danner told Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson in a Sundance Film Festival interview that appeared just before my piece.
Danner’s sex life (or a lack of one) is, of course, none of my damn business. Except, due respect, when Danner is doing award-season interviews about her performance as a woman very much like herself who decides to take a lover after 20 years of abstinence. The film is obviously mirroring her own life to some extent and vice versa, and she’s presumably agreed to make herself available to some extent as part of a Bleecker Street effort to put her name into the conversation for Best Actress.
I heard last night from a guy who attended a Manhattan research screening of Gaby Dellal and Nicole Beckwith‘s About Ray, a drama about a teenaged girl (Elle Fanning) looking to transgender into dude-ness. This is not about my guy’s opinion of the film but the opinion of an outraged transgender person who posted on Tumblr. [See below.] His/her view is that it’s “transphobic” for Dellal to have cast Fanning as the transitioning teen. That’s because Fanning is cisgender, a term that basically means being comfortable with how you were naturally born. It also means anyone who hails from a slightly larger group than the 96.2% of the U.S. population that doesn’t identify as LGBT. Apparently the only acceptable casting would have been a transgender boy. In Tumblr guy/girl’s eyes, the Fanning casting is equivalent to John Ford having chosen Henry Brandon to play “Scar” in The Searchers. He/she also mocks Dellal’s explanations for why she cast an actress and why she cast Fanning, and states that “this movie is not for trans people but for cis people who pretend to care.”
Respect and compassion for the LGBT community is, of course, de rigeur for anyone with a heart and a brain, but identifying every non-transgender straight person in the world (i.e., everyone except for an undetermined fraction of 3.8% of the population that identifies as LGBT) as “cisgender” strikes me as a bit forced. A certain militancy or hyper-sensitivity from anyone representing a discriminated minority is to be expected and is totally cool and understood, but you also have to take a breath from time to time. There’s a special kind of oxygen on the planet Transneptune that’s a little different from the oxygen on planet Earth.