Certain contenders have fallen off the map after Telluride and the first six days of the Toronto Film Festival. Here’s how I honestly see things now via my most recent Gold Derby picks. Tell me what I’m missing or overlooking. I’ll be seeing The Wife tomorrow night so we’ll know soon enough if Glenn Close is in fact a new contender in the Best Actress race. The below boxes are as follows from the top down: Best Picture (boxes 1 & 2), Best Director (box 3), Best Actor (4), Best Actress (5), Best Supporting Actor (6) and Best Supporting Actress (7).
It was reported yesterday that that Drafthouse CEO Tim League has decided to show a little compassion and largesse to Devin Faraci, the Birth.Movies.Death editor who lost his job amid allegations of a long-ago incident of sexual assault. League said that in light of Faraci having “entered recovery” and embraced sobriety since the allegations were made, he’s offered Faraci some work — copywriting at Alamo Drafthouse and writing blurbs for the Fantastic Fest guide.
“Seeing the work that Devin has been doing to acknowledge his faults, to address his addiction, and to better himself, I thought it was important to contribute to his recovery process by helping him with some means to earn a living,’ League said.
Speaking as one who became sober on 3.20.12 and who knows a little something about the clarity of mind and sense of stability that sobriety can bring, I think it’s great that Devin has taken this path. You have to show a little love in this world, we all make mistakes, people deserve second chances, etc.
Certain voices on Twitter have voiced disagreement with League and actually called for reprisals. People like this make me want to vomit. I know that Devin has some enemies and that maybe he’s earned their enmity, but journos who call for the utter ruination of fellows in their own trade are, in my opinion, grotesque. I pray that God will bring an appropriate dose of counter-karma into their lives.
I would never, ever come within 100 feet of a guy like Wiseau. Who in their right mind would? So you have to wonder about Dave Franco‘s character…where could he possibly be coming from? How many brain cells is he bringing to the table? I missed The Disaster Artist screenings here in Toronto. A24 is distributing, opening on 12.1…no invites in the inbox.
From Guy Lodge’s Variety review of Our Souls At Night, posted from Venice Film Festival on 9.1.17: “Fonda and Redford play this potentially sleepy material with spry, generous adroitness, genuinely listening and subtly playing off each other’s reactions and body language. This is hardly the most testing work of their careers, but even when Our Souls doesn’t require them to dig especially deep, their enjoyment of each other’s onscreen company is warmly palpable, and thus infectious: We share their pleasure in hanging out together, and duly miss them when they miss each other.”
I didn’t attend this morning’s 8:45 am screening of Bjorn Runge‘s The Wife, but The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw did, and his review goes nuts for Glenn Close‘s performance as a “charming, enigmatically discreet and supportive wife” of a world-famous author and New York literary lion (played by Jonathan Pryce.
Close’s performance as Joan Castleman “may be [her] career-best,” Bradshaw says, and “a portrayal to put alongside Close’s appearances in Dangerous Liaisons and Fatal Attraction.” He describes her character as “unnervingly subtle, unreadably calm, simmering with self-control…a study in marital pain, deceit and the sexual politics of prestige.”
That sounds like something strong enough to launch Close into the Best Actress derby, but we’ll need to hear from a few more critics before going down that path. No Rotten Tomatoes entries as we speak.
Hollywood Elsewhere is going to try to attend a 6:30 pm screening of The Wife on Thursday evening at Roy Thomson Hall. So dar I can’t find a publicist who’s repping the film. If anyone knows anything and could lend a hand, please get in touch.
Close and Pryce aside, The Wife costars Christian Slater, Annie Starke, Max Irons, Elizabeth McGovern and Harry Lloyd.
If you count the Telluride adventure (and I do) Hollywood Elsewhere has been doing heavy-travelling and film-festival hours for nearly two weeks straight. Like it or not, I’m feeling exhausted by the pace and the demands (14-hour work days, the usual column demand of four or five stories daily), and so I decided today to back off for the next three days and maybe see one or two Toronto Film Festival flicks per day…no more hard-charging between now and Friday, which is when I fly back to Los Angeles. I might squeeze in a dinner with Jordan Ruimy but no more parties or running around and getting five hours a night, if that.
Plus I felt so destroyed and depressed by I, Tonya today and particularly by the fact that everyone loves it and I’m the only one who’s sane enough to hate it, and so I just trudged back to the pad at 2 pm and flopped on the bed. I slept for four hours. Go away, leave me alone.
About getting into I, Tonya this morning: I arrived at the Scotiabank plex 25 minutes before the start of the 10:45 am I, Tonya press screening, and the line was like “you’re fucking kidding me.” All the way down Richmond and then all the way down John and around the corner to Adelaide. I walked back to the front to speak to Wilson Morales, and as we were chatting the line began to move and — what the hell — I kind of slipped in next to Wilson. Just before entering the theatre a TIFF volunteer was asking for little paper stubs that had been handed out to the legit line-waiters, and I just said “uhm, I think I was using a bathroom when they handed them out” and the guy let me slide.
So I was able to see I, Tonya….yaaaay! But wouldn’t you know it made me feel really bad and alienated and out of sorts. If I never see another movie like I, Tonya ever again it’ll be too soon.
Abuse begets more abuse, and abused victims sometimes (often?) seek out fresh replacement abusers. And so Tonya Harding‘s bitter, chain-smoking mom, Lavona, beat and belittled her daughter from age of 7 onward, and as teenaged and then 20-something Tonya ascended in the figure-skating realm she became a ferociously angry abuser herself with a huge chip on her shoulder…what else?
Tonya married and then separated from an abusive, moustache-wearing asshole, Jeff Gillooly, who conspired to have Harding’s skating rival Nancy Kerrigan temporarily disabled with a police-baton blow to the knee, and with many presuming, fairly or unfairly, that Harding was aware of Gillooly’s plan and was more or less down with it.
Most of us are up to speed on Harding‘s sad life and the pathetic tabloid calamity of the Kerrigan conspiracy.
Craig Gillespie‘s I, Tonya, an exaggerated, pugilistic black farce that some are calling grimly comedic, is all about the Harding catastrophe, and it’s definitely the Toronto Film Festival movie to see and get walloped by right now.
I, Tonya press-screened this morning at 10:45 am. Well, actually 11:05 am because it took so long to get everyone in. I was there and dealt with the long, horrible, hope-crushing line that stretched east along Richmond and south down John Street. I saw it and I ate it, suffering the blows and bruises and the eye-popping realization that I, Tonya currently has a 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating.
The cool kidz love it, but I’m telling you that unless you have a strange liking for the company of losers, abusers and total dipshits, you’ll definitely want to steer clear of this cesspool exercise. It lasts 119 minutes, and it feels, trust me, like 139 or 149.
When it ended I turned to the guy next to me and said, “How long was that?” “Two hours,” he said. “Good God,” I replied.
Am I the only honest, straight-shooting journo-critic in Toronto right now? I, Tonya is cinematic abuse, pure and simple. It’s an ugly pill from hell — a violent, vulgar, relentlessly profane assembly of lower-middle-class white-trash types beating on each other and smoking and swearing and losing their tempers and causing cuts and swellings. It’s a tacky portrait of American self-loathers, brawlers, grotesques, hungry-for-famers, human garbage, etc.
I tweeted the following just after 1 pm today: “I, Tonya is an ugly, abusive, lower-class tale about a demimonde of ugly, abusive, lower-class people. A movie full of rage and resentment. A toilet-bowl downswirl of wretched, lower-middle-class misery.
Thirteen months ago I threw some praise at a 5.11.16 draft of Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan‘s Chappaquiddick. I tore through it in no time. It’s the kind of well-finessed backroom melodrama that I love — no bullshit, subdued emotions, no tricks or games. It’s tense and well-honed, and, like I said on 8.18.16, a nightmare that had me shaking my head and muttering “Jesus H. Christ”.
Like the script, the film (which I saw this morning at 8:30 am) is a damning, no-holds-barred account of the infamous July 1969 auto accident that caused the death of Kennedy family loyalist and campaign worker Mary Jo Kopechne, and which nearly destroyed Sen. Edward Kennedy‘s political career save for some high-powered finagling and string-pulling that allowed the younger brother of JFK and RFK to more or less skate.
Jason Clarke as the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy in John Curran’s Chappaquiddick.
Just about every scene exudes the stench of an odious situation being suppressed and re-narrated by big-time fixers, many of whom are appalled at Ted’s behavior and character but who do what’s necessary regardless.
There’s no question that director John Curran, dp Maryse Alberti and editor Keith Fraase are dealing straight, compelling cards, and that the film has stuck to the ugly facts as most of us recall and understand them, and that by doing so it paints the late Massachusetts legislator and younger brother of JFK and RFK in a morally repugnant light, to put it mildly.
All along I’ve been hoping that Curran would just shoot the script efficiently, minus any kind of showing off or oddball strategies that might diminish what was on the page. This is exactly what he’s done. Curran has crafted an intelligent, mid-tempo melodrama about a weak man who commits a careless, horrible act, and then manages to weasel out of any serious consequences.
Chappaquiddick may not be the stuff of monumental cinema (stylistically it feels like a respectable HBO-level thing), but it’s a frank account of how power works (or worked in 1969, at least) when certain people want something done and are not averse to calling in favors. EMK evaded justice by way of ingrained subservience to the Kennedy mystique, a fair amount of ethical side-stepping and several relatively decent folks being persuaded to look the other way.
Last Thursday night Call Me By Your Name star Timothy Chalamet told me that the new Woody Allen film in which he costars with Elle Fanning and Selena Gomez would begin filming on Monday, 9.11 (i.e., today). Sure enough, this happened several hours ago on the streets of…not sure if it was Manhattan or Brooklyn but definitely somewhere in the general New York City area.
(l. to r.) Selena Gomez, Timothy Chalamet, Woody Allen on the set of Allen’s latest.
Lili Fini Zanuck‘s Eric Clapton: A Life in 12 Bars illustrates a rule about documentaries and particularly talking-head footage that bears repeating.
If you have an ample supply of alluring, great-looking, non-grainy footage, you’re free to forego talking heads. Just hire a top-tier editor, overlay some wise, insightful narration and you’ll probably be fine. But if your footage is mainly composed of grainy, shitty-looking photos mixed with black-and-white TV footage, you definitely need to intercut with well-recorded, high-def color footage of this and that knowledgable, insightful authority.
The reason, obviously, is that you’ll want to occasionally free the viewer from the prison of fuzzy, shitty-looking stills and black-and-white TV footage, and you’ll also want to heighten the impact of your vocal observations as a way of adding intellectual intrigue and fighting the general monotony.
Eric Clapton, 72, during Sunday’s visit to the Toronto Film Festival to promote Lili Fini Zanuck’s Eric Clapton: A Life in 12 Bars.
I’ve just walked out of a screening of Eric Clapton: A Life in 12 Bars because the portion I saw (a) was almost all grainy, shitty-looking photos and black-and-white TV footage (it really needs a roster of well-lighted talking heads) and because (b) the cutting felt uninspired and inelegant and (c) I began to feel hugely irritated and then angry from the generally sloppy, substandard feel of it.
Granted, I only lasted from the beginning of Clapton’s guitar-playing career to the dawn of musical psychedelia, or from late ’63 to early ’67 (Yardbirds, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, Cream). But Zanuck didn’t even touch upon the musical influence of pot and LSD and particularly the mystical-psychedelic consciousness that began to spread all through the music industry starting in late 1965, and which flourished in ’66, ’67 and beyond.
Cream wasn’t just another band for Clapton (or Jack Bruce or Ginger Baker) — it represented a whole spiritual changeover, a new way of living and seeing…everything top to bottom. To quickly transition from being a hard-core blues purist to a psychedelic pioneer was huge for a guy like Clapton, and yet the doc just cuts from shitty-looking black and white stills and footage of Clapton hanging and playing with Mayall and the gang to shitty-looking black and white film of Clapton, Bruce and Baker playing “I Feel Free,” which was among the strongest cuts from Fresh Cream.
All of a sudden I said to myself, “Fuck this movie…Zanuck and her producers and editors are just going through the motions, running footage, hanging wallpaper.” I suddenly needed to feel free, and so I got up and left.
I may catch the rest of Eric Clapton: A Life in 12 Bars when it plays on Showtime. Maybe. If I feel like it. We’ll see how that goes.
Among the films I’ve seen but haven’t written about: Chappaquiddick (first-rate…saw this morning, review half-written), The Florida Project (excellent! Oscar-quality), Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Frances McDormand acting honors, surprising story — more about forgiveness than revenge), Victoria and Abdul (Judi Dench definitely one of five Best Actress nominees), Disobedience (so well-made and full of feeling that I’m not even going to use the phrase ‘hot lesbo action,’ although it does have that), The Mountain Between Us (not bad but nowhere near Touching The Void…slowish, talky) and Battle of the Sexes (I tapped out a reaction or two during Telluride, but haven’t found time to write the requisite four or five graphs.
Plus I’m about to catch Lili Fini Zanuck‘s Eric Clapton:A Life in 12 Bars.
Films I’m looking to see: I, Tonya, Outside In, Sammy Davis: I Gotta Be Me, The Disaster Artist, The Death of Stalin.
I’m going to retire to the apartment tonight to catch up…the to-do list is just going to grow and grow.
The great Darren Aronofsky, director-writer of the controversial but essential mother! — Sunday, 9.10, 5:40 pm at Toronto Ritz Carlton.
A brief respite in a small neighborhood park, a block from HE headquarters at 74 Oxford Street.
Dan Gilroy‘s Roman J. Israel, Esq., which screened on late Sunday night at the Ryerson, is a whipsmart, cunningly performed, immensely satisfying film in so many ways. Such a skillful job of character-building on Gilroy’s part, layer upon layer and bit upon bit, and such a finely contoured performance by the great Denzel Washington.
My only hang-up is that I wanted a different ending. Not that Gilroy’s ending is “bad”, per se, but I didn’t agree with it. I didn’t want it.
Otherwise this is such a brilliant, invigorating and fully believable film for over-30s — milieu-wise, legal minutiae-wise, Asperger’s-wise. It’s my idea of pound cake topped with whipped cream and strawberries…give it to me. You can take a terrific bath in this film and never feel unsatisfied that the story isn’t quite delivering the way you want it to.
Until the last 25 or 30 minutes, that is, but even then it’s not a fatal problem, just an air-escaping-the-balloon one.
Alas, I have to awaken at 6:30 am for an 8:30 am screening of Chappaquiddick, which I hear is quite good, and it’s 1:28 am now.
7:01 am update: Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman agrees with me — a wonderfully detailed Gilroy character, superb Washington acting but with a less-than-satisfying third act:
“The way Roman J. Israel, Esq. is set up, the film should be building to a moral-legal confrontation that tests everyone involved. Instead, it’s content to be a character study; but the audience, after a while, may not be so content.
“Roman gets assigned to the case of a young man (Niles Fitch) accused of murder (he tagged along when his buddy killed a convenience-store clerk). After a while, Roman goes through with an action that seems, in movie terms, to be justified: He turns the identity of the killer over to the victim’s relatives, gathering a private reward of $100,000. Legally, it’s a dicey thing to do, but no one innocent has gotten hurt, and Roman uses the money to put himself through a transformation that feels good.
“He buys real suits. He rents a fabulous apartment. He brushes back his hair. He scarfs honey-and-turkey-bacon donuts. He goes on a date with Maya (Carmen Ejogo), who runs a non-profit and, in her small way, is carrying on the dream of Roman’s formative era. The audience surveys all of this and approves, because Roman J. Israel, Esq. looks like a guy who could use a break.
“But the reward money comes back to haunt him. And that seems, in the end, a little facile. The movie turns into a war of signifiers, an archetypal L.A. battle pitched between going-for-the-bucks and holding-on-to-your-values. We’ve seen that battle before, a few too many times, and Roman J. Israel, Esq. doesn’t play it out in a particularly satisfying way. It leaves us with a character you won’t soon forget, but you wish that the movie were as haunting as he is.”