The reason I say “so don’t tell me” all the time is because of this From Here To Eternity scene, and more particularly the way Mickey Shaughnessy says it to Burt Lancaster. Every time I write those four words I am Shaughnessy — I’m channelling his pugnacious attitude.
Right now the likeliest 2017 Best Picture nominees are Christopher Nolan‘s Dunkirk, Luca Guadagnino‘s Call Me By Your Name (Sony Pictures Classics, 11.24); Steven Spielberg‘s The Papers (20th Century Fox, 12.22); Alexander Payne‘s Downsizing (Paramount, 12.22); Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Phantom Thread (Focus Features, 12.25) and Hugh Jackman‘s The Greatest Showman (20th Century Fox, 12.25).
That’s six, but there could be two or three more: Guillermo Del Toro‘s The Shape of Water, Dan Gilroy‘s Roman Israel, Esq. and Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris‘s Battle of the Sexes.
Denzel Washington as attorney Roman Israel in Dan Gilroy’s film of the same name, due for Columbia Pictures release on 11.3.
That’s my best guesstimate so far. Leaving aside the excellent Dunkirk and Call Me By Your Name, the others will most likely register as pretty good if not more so. But the surest way to calculate the odds is not to consider suspected quality as much as the socio-cultural agendas of this or that group that will champion this or that film.
I’ll tell you right now that the lack of a significant contender portraying an African-American milieu (unless you want to consider Roman Israel, Esq., an ethical drama starring Denzel Washington, in this light) or made by an African-American director means things are wide open as we speak.
Dunkirk will have the support of anyone with the ability or willingness to acknowledge grand, ahead-of-the-curve greatness when they see it. It will surely gather special support from 40-plus males and members of below-the-line guilds.
Call Me By Your Name will definitely corral those who are soothed by naturalism and stirred by its lulling emotional bath elements and bucolic travelogue delights. It will occupy a special place for those with the ability to appreciate and revel in an Eric Rohmer-like realm.
The Spielberg drama, which is about how Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham (Streep) decided to grow a journalistic backbone in the midst of the Pentagon Papers episode of ’71, will obviously have the 40-plus feminist vote and the support of sedate older boomers who automatically kowtow to anything bearing the beardo stamp.
As Battle of The Sexes is another feminist-themed drama set in the early ’70s, it may be highly competitive with The Papers as far as the older-woman or feminist-sympathy vote is concerned. If, that is, it turns out to be exceptional.
The Greatest Showman, a brassy musical about P.T. Barnum, will obviously excite those voters who prefer cheery, sparkly entertainments to solemn, thoughtful dramas or this or that sort.
I’ve only seen 10 or 12 minutes’ worth of Downsizing, but my impression following a viewing of said excerpt during last March’s Cinemacon is that it’s a visionary, Metropolis-like film that will definitely turn heads.
The only ones I really know about about are Dunkirk and Call Me By Your Name. I’ve read early drafts of The Papers and Downsizing. Everything else is spitballing.
On Facebook this morning Rod Lurie posted a lamentably familiar Joe Popcorn view about Christopher Nolan‘s Dunkirk. Lurie basically said that (a) it’s too brilliant not to be nominated for Best Picture but (b) it can’t win because the SAG contingent will find it too Olympian, too studied and not character-driven enough. Pretty much the same complaints could have been levelled at Barry Lyndon, right?
Dunkirk, of course, is much grabbier and more commercial than Lyndon ever had a hope of being, but the sons and daughters of the peons who spoke dismissively of Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 masterpiece are just as vocal today, sad to say.
“Yes, Dunkirk is a masterpiece,” Lurie wrote. “One of the great war films of our time, maybe one of the greats period. It’s an auteur’s work. Celluloid Beethoven. I saw it for a second time last night on IMAX — and the experience was different. Immersive. Ethereal. Especially in the ‘air’ segments where we were so in the sky that I feared running out of oxygen. And yet… and yet…Dunkirk will not win the Best Picture Oscar.
“Nolan likely gets the directing statue, so brazenly original a movie it is, so arduous an exercise it might have been, but it’s not getting the top award.
“Best Picture Oscars go to character-driven films. Pretty much every time they go to movies that are humanly driven and not necessarily creatively driven. Maybe that’s because ‘human’ movies are actor-dependent and actors are the plurality of the Academy.
From N.Y. Times report filed a few minutes ago: Reince Priebus, the establishment Republican-turned-loyalist to President Trump who served as his White House chief of staff for the last six months, was pushed out Friday in the latest convulsion in a chaos-wracked West Wing to which he had repeatedly failed to bring some semblance of order.”
There’s nothing worse than knowing you’re probably about to be fired and just waiting for it to happen. Tick, tick, tick. Hollywood Elsewhere wants Steve Bannon to get the axe next. Communications director Anthony Scaramucci made it clear in that New Yorker interview that he regards Bannon as a self-fellator. Kick his ass to the curb!
Another Times excerpt: “In barely half a year on the job, Mr. Priebus never won the full confidence of the president nor was granted the authority to impose a working organizational structure on the West Wing. Always seeming to be on the edge of ouster, Mr. Priebus saw his fate finally sealed a week ago when Mr. Trump hired Mr. Scaramucci, an edgy Wall Street financier, over the chief of staff’s objections. Mr. Priebus’s ally, Sean Spicer, the press secretary, resigned in protest.”
A guy who passed along reactions to an Detroit screening a while back mentioned that there might be some grousing about the film not sufficiently investing in black women characters, whatever that means or implies. Consider this excerpt from Angela Jade Bastien’s 7.28 review:
“Before the film’s release, a lot of fury was unleashed when it became clear black women wouldn’t be important to this story. Films about black history seldom grant black women the importance they deserve. In Detroit, black women are in the margins. They’re dutiful wives placing a gentle hand on the shoulder of their husbands; they’re silent spectators in courtrooms; they’re sweet hotel clerks with no real weight in the story. Although an elderly black female character voices dialogue that is the closest the film gets to any commentary: ‘No way would they do this to white men,’ she says angrily to a news reporter hungry for a pull quote.
“But Detroit’s disinterest in black women despite significant time in the film being spent beyond the Algiers Hotel incident is the least of its problems. What leaves the film feeling grotesque and even a bit exploitative is its soullessness.”
This is what triple-A Bigelow-Boal cinema is like. This.
“It’s an odd thing realizing that you’re seeing a movie that is a step above most of what you have seen in the commercial cinema this year,” MCN’s David Poland wrote on 11.25.12. “My pulse gets faster, I start being a little hyper-vigilant, even though I don’t take notes in movies — at least the first time through — and I start hoping, beat after beat, scene after scene, that the high won’t disappear.
“And that’s what I felt from the very first minutes of Zero Dark Thirty tonight.
“Kathryn Bigelow & Mark Boal are in a kind of sync that is rare in the history of cinema. Boal has raised the bar on the output of Bigelow’s master-level visual skill by giving her material to work with that is seriously challenging and meaningful. She’d make a great Bond movie, I suspect, but that was her earlier career. This is the stuff of Lean and Bolt. Of course, even that relationship had its misses. But this, the second movie for this duo, was ripe to be mediocre or even horrible. So there was enormous pressure to deliver…and in spite of that, they did.
“Comparisons to All The President’s Men are completely valid. But an even stronger beating heart lies beneath this material. B&B personalize the big picture for the audience in a not-so-tricky way…they put us in the room with torture…they remind us of the violence and danger inflicted by terrorists…and they let us experience the ‘it’s a job’ side of life and death. Because the truth of this story…the truth of almost all stories…is the balance between all those truths. ATPM has a lot of that balance too… but in the end, it is still about reporters and The Big Story. The stakes are much higher when lives are on the line in a very human, not movie-like, way. And Jessica Chastain is B&B’s way into that humanity.
“There are some truly great performances by actresses this year. Marion Cotillard is a miracle in Rust & Bone. Jennifer Lawrence is going to be one of our great stars for years to come and her superstar turn in Silver Linings Playbook shows us why, beyond doubt. But Chastain turns the double trick…movie star stuff and the in-your-face character work…and her movie is a more overt heroic tale than either of the other films.
I saw Rob Reiner‘s LBJ in Toronto last year. I didn’t hate it, but it mostly feels like a dutiful, going-through-the-motions thing. Not bad, okay at times, an in-and-outer. But not as commanding as HBO’s All The Way, and Bryan Cranston performance as the 36th president has more juice and bombast than Woody Harrelson‘s. The best Johnson ever was Randy Quaid in LBJ: The Early Years (’87). You can tell right off the bat that Harrelson’s appearance and accent aren’t right. He doesn’t have that Texas hill country drawl, which had a Huckleberry Hound-like tonality. On top of which Woody sounds awfully similar to Carson Wells, the bounty hunter he played in No Country For Old Men. Plus there’s something inhuman about his features.
Last Sunday I grieved over my inability to give Detroit a positive review. I was ready to sing and shout before seeing it, but after two viewings the best I could manage was a mild pan. But I don’t want Detroit to be hurt during this weekend’s limited break. (The real opening is next Friday, 8.4) It’s a nervy, honorable thing made by gifted people with real passion in their veins. We’ll all feel better if it connects than if it doesn’t. But will it?
Limited platform openings are about connecting with early adopters and getting that social-media buzz going, so it’s probably fair to say that the word in the big cities will either make it or break it. Did anyone catch it last night?
I spoke this morning to an attorney friend who sees what he sees and likes what he likes, and I asked him about Detroit. “What about it?,” he said. Those three words were damning enough, but I asked if he plans on seeing it. Reply: “Uhm, maybe…uhm, actually, no, I don’t think so. Well, maybe.”
I’m a little surprised by the 96% Rotten Tomatoes rating. I know what this movie is, and I know what films boasting an over 90% RT rating generally feel like, and Detroit, trust me, is not one of those down-on-your-knees hail hossanah experiences. It doesn’t have that schwing. Big-city critics want to be as approving as possible, of course. They sure as shit don’t want to go thumbs down. I honestly thought Detroit would land in the high ’70s or low 80s. The 86% Metacritic rating is more reality-reflecting than the RT.
I’ve never been one for cruelty or needless vulgarity, and since embracing sobriety five and a half years ago I’ve even…well, now and then I’ll take a couple of steps back and temper my prose before posting. But as an ex-New Yorker and one who grew up in a semi-tough, white-bread New Jersey town (Westfield) that had its share of coarse Italians, there’s something in me that relates to those profane, pugnacious quotes from Anthony Scaramucci in that Ryan Lizza New Yorker piece.
I talked to a hundred guys like Scaramucci in New York-area bars during my drinking days; that cussy big-mouth thing is a bullshit-blowhard routine they all get into, or a good percentage of them.
I despise Scaramucci’s politics, of course, and certainly his devotion to the most deranged sociopath to occupy the White House in the history of this country. But I understand the patter. He’s a New York bullshitter, and I miss that music from time to time. “I’m not Steve Bannon…I’m not trying to suck my own cock” — c’mon, who didn’t at least crack a smile when they read that? And calling Reince Preibus “a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac” — that’s angry, saliva-bomb stockbroker talk.
Seriously — Martin Scorsese would be in hog heaven if he could make a film about Scaramucci in a few years. I want to see that movie…please! Scaramucci is Tommy from Goodfellas in a bucks-up, New York-Washington mode.
And speaking of New York bluntitude, there’s a great Bobby Zarem quote about former hotshot columnist Liz Smith in a 7.28 N.Y. Times profile by John Leland (“The Rise and Fall of Liz Smith, Celebrity Accomplice”). When Leland reached out, Zarem said, “I hope it’s for an obituary.”
I’m not saying that’s an unjustified or overly harsh crack on Zarem’s part, but it’s the kind of thing that only a serious New Yorker would say. I didn’t exactly love working for Zarem in the mid ’80s, but I love that I did in retrospect.
I chose to drive all the way down to Norwalk this afternoon in order to quickly renew my fictitious business name statement, which allows me to legally and correctly maintain a Hollywood Elsewhere business account. Google Maps told me to stay off the freeways for the most part, presumably because it wanted to spare me the pain of driving in heavy traffic, but the trip took a helluva long time regardless. Upside: For the first (and probably only) time in my life I visited the oldest McDonald’s in the world, located at Lakewood Blvd. and Florence Ave. I ordered a regular small hamburger.
Word around the campfire is that Amazon will self-distribute Luca Guadagnino‘s Suspiria. (Same thing they’re doing with Woody Allen‘s Wonder Wheel.) I was told last May that this remake of the 1977 Dario Argento classic runs two hours, 50 minutes. (Argento’s version ran 98 minutes.) I’m now told Guadagnino’s cut will run 150 minutes with credits. LG screened it for the Amazon gang at the end of his recent L.A. visit. He and editor Walter Fasano had applied finishing touches to their erotic witch flick before the unveiling. The costars include Dakota Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, Mia Goth, Tilda Swinton, Sylvie Testud, Angela Winkler, Małgosia Bela, Lutz Ebersdorf and Jessica Harper. Do I know for a fact that everyone gets naked in that big scene I described a couple of months ago? No, I don’t. Suggested alternate title: All Of Them Witches.