Directed by Kevin Connolly and (this is key) written by Leo Rossi and the great Lem Dobbs, Gotti (Lionsgate Premiere, 12.15) looks fairly decent. It might be better than that. It’s obvious John Travolta has lucked into a choice opportunity; he might even be giving a great performance. Pompadour, threads, steely glare. The story spans three decades, but for some reason I’m not finding the running time. Costarring Kelly Preston, Stacy Keach, Pruitt Taylor Vince and Spencer Lofranco.
Now that the big festivals are done and I’m back in Los Angeles for the long haul, I’m determined to wade through all 18 hours of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick‘s The Vietnam War. I’m not thinking of buying the Bluray — it’s easy enough to upload all the episodes and watch at my own pace. Ten 90-minute episodes. Here we go.
“The Vietnam War is not [Ken] Burns’ most innovative film, but it is probably [his] saddest film. The Civil War was mournful, but at least the Union was preserved. The War ended with fascism defeated. The war in Vietnam offers no uplift or happy ending. It’s simply decades of bad decision after bad decision, a wasteful vortex that devoured lives for nothing.
“It was, the narrator Peter Coyote says, ‘begun in good faith by decent people out of fateful misunderstandings, American overconfidence and Cold War miscalculations.’
“The Vietnam War is less an indictment than a lament. The saddest thing about this elegiac documentary may be the credit it extends its audience. The Vietnam War still holds out hope that we might learn from history, after presenting 18 hours of evidence to the contrary.” — from James Poniewozsik’s 9.14 N.Y. Times review.
Yesterday The Hollywood Reporter‘s Scott Feinberg posted lists of likely Oscar nominees in all the major categories. He limited himself to films that have been commercially released or seen at festivals. Here are HE’s counter-views of same minus Best Director picks, which I don’t have the energy to think about now:
Feinberg’s Best Picture Frontrunners (HE estimates of strongest or most deserving contenders in boldface): Dunkirk (Warner Bros.), The Shape of Water (Fox Searchlight), Darkest Hour (Focus Features), The Florida Project (A24), Lady Bird (A24), Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Fox Searchlight), Get Out (Universal), Battle of the Sexes (Fox Searchlight), Call Me By Your Name (Sony Classics), The Big Sick (Amazon).
Comment: Though pleasing and reasonably well made, Battle of the Sexes isn’t strong or extra enough for be regarded in this light. It doesn’t have the drillbit emotion, the dimension or the weight. Get Out is a catchy genre film in the tradition of Larry Cohen and John Carpenter. It was critically popular and it made money — great — but all along the Best Picture talk has more or less been propelled by progressive identify politics.
Best Actor Frontrunners (HE estimates of strongest or most deserving contenders in boldface): Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour), Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.), Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name), Jake Gyllenhaal (Stronger), Robert Pattinson (Good Time…NO WAY!). Feinberg knows full well that the forthcoming performances by Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread and Tom Hanks in The Post are all but locked. There’s also a medium to fairly high probability for Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman.
Best Actress Frontrunners (HE estimates of strongest or most deserving contenders in boldface): Jessica Chastain (Molly’s Game), Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird), Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), Margot Robbie (I, Tonya). Feinberg knows full well that the performances by Meryl Streep in The Post and Kate Winslet in Wonder Wheel are all but locked. He also knows (or should know) that if The Wife acquires a distributor and opens before 12.31 that a Glenn Close nomination is also quite likely.
Best Supporting Actor Frontrunners (HE estimates of strongest or most deserving contenders in boldface): Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project), Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name), Michael Stuhlbarg (Call Me By Your Name), Mark Rylance (Dunkirk). Feinberg should have included Mudbound‘s Jason Mitchell among his frontrunners. Feinberg knows full well that the performance by Jim Belushi in Wonder Wheel is all but locked — partly for the performance, partly for the comeback narrative.
Best Supporting Actress Frontrunners (HE estimates of strongest or most deserving contenders in boldface): Allison Janney (I, Tonya), Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird), Holly Hunter (The Big Sick), Mary J. Blige (Mudbound), Andrea Riseborough (Battle of the Sexes). Feinberg should have included Novitiate‘s Melissa Leo among his frontrunners. I’m not saying that Phantom Thread‘s Vicky Krieps or Lesley Manville are likely contenders (what do I know?) but I’d be surprised if neither performance doesn’t at least a degree of serious consideration.
Leonardo DiCaprio is a gutsy, committed, risk-taking actor. I loved him as Hugh Glass in The Revenant, as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street, as that undercover cop in The Departed, as Jack Dawson in Titanic, as Jim Carroll in The Basketball Diaries. But every now and then he chooses roles that are completely wrong for him.
It was impossible to accept Leo as J. Edgar Hoover in Clint Eastwood‘s J. Edgar — all I could see and hear was the makeup. The idea of the six-foot-tall DiCaprio playing the stringbean-sized Frank Sinatra in that misbegotten Martin Scorsese biopic about the legendary crooner was an atrocious idea. And now the latest — DiCaprio as Theodore Roosevelt in some kind of life-saga biopic, to be directed by Martin Scorsese. Can you imagine DiCaprio wearing T.R.’s bushy-bear moustache? He’ll never top Brian Keith‘s Roosevelt in John Milius‘s The Wind and the Lion (’75) so why even go there?
After catching Our Souls At Night (Netflix, 9.29), the Robert Redford–Jane Fonda love story, I was inspired to re-watch Barefoot in the Park, the 1967 adaptation of the Neil Simon play about young marrieds in which they co-starred. Redford also costarred in the original Broadway version, in which Elizabeth Ashley played Fonda’s role. It opened on 10.23.63, or almost exactly a month before JFK’s assassination. Redford recounted that period this morning on the Today show:
“We did the play in 1963. It was a different time. There was a lot of innocence in the world, and laughter was different. There was laughter at a certain points in the play, of course, and then Kennedy died and the play went quiet for a couple of nights because it had to, and then we came back again. I was concerned about ‘what are we going to do with the comedy?” It’s going to be hard when you say a line that’s supposed to get a laugh. But we had to do it. What I noticed was that the laughter from the audience was different, and has been different ever since. There was something harsh about the laughter. And it hit my ear and I thought, ‘This is weird…the laughter is there and it’s even stronger, but there’s an edge to it.’ And from that point on, it’s been the same ever since.”
Last night a N.Y. Daily News story reported that disgraced ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner may be facing a tough time in the slammer. How tough depends on which jail he’ll be sent to, but John Webster, a rep for National Prison and Sentencing Consultants, Inc. told reporter Victoria Bekiempis that Weiner will probably not be serving his 21 months in a cushy, white-collar “Club Fed”-type prison. Which means he’ll be rubbing shoulders with garden-variety criminals and will most likely be coping with some hostility, given that child sex offenders are universally regarded as the lowest of the low in any prison culture.
Everything I “know” about prisons comes from movies, but time and again I’ve heard that men sentenced for sexual exploitation of minors are routinely despised. Weiner doesn’t fit the strict definition of a “short eyes” offender (which Bruce Davison played in Robert Young and Miguel Pinero‘s Short Eyes), but “sexting” teenage girls is fairly close to that realm. The Daily News story said Weiner “may” be sent to a prison in Fort Dix or Allenwood, Pennsylvania. Weiner’s sentence will begin on 11.6.
“He’s not going to a hellhole — he’s not going to be raped, abused and beaten,” Webster said, “but he’s certainly not going to be very well liked.”
These are obviously encouraging responses to Denis Villeneuve‘s Blade Runner 2049 (Warner Bros., 10.6), but they’re mostly from fanboys so caution is advised. There was also a fair amount of fanboy excitement over Arrival, which I for one didn’t share. Warner Bros. is screening BR49 twice today for regular, less-fanboy-concentrated critics. I’m assuming that an all-media screening for second-tier types will happen next Monday or Tuesday. Somehow or some way, Hollywood Elsewhere will eventually engage. If nothing else this will be a major visual-bath experience (Roger Deakins‘ high-quality cinematography has long been apparent in the trailers) so I’d naturally prefer to see it on a full-sized IMAX screen in 2D.