Hey, I know — let’s have George Clooney get blown up and burnt to death on the way back from Westchester to Manhattan in Michael Clayton. Forget the mystical moment with the horses. He’s a flawed guy anyway. A fixer, a janitor and a shortfaller so let’s kill him. Better that way. We can just insert a bit in which Clayton, before leaving for Westchester, mails that incriminating memo to the N.Y. Times. That way the audience will know that Tilda Swinton, Ken Howard and U-North will pay in the end.
Hollywood Elsewhere agrees with the AMPAS Board of Governors’ decision to give a special Oscar to Alejandro G. Inarritu’s Carne y Arena, the virtual reality installation that I submitted to on 5.18 in Cannes and again on 7.1 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. (I was told at the time the installation would be discontinued last month, but it’s still going.) The Carne y Arena experience is a six-and-a-half-minute virtual reality trip that simulates with all-encompassing realism what Mexican immigrants often go through while attempting to cross the United States border in the Southwestern desert region. It’s a collaboration between Inarritu, dp Emmanuel Lubezki, producer Mary Parent, Legendary Entertainment, Fondazione Prada, ILMxLAB and Emerson Collective. The Oscar will be presented to Inarritu, et. al. during the 9th Annual Governors Awards on Saturday, 11.11, at the Hollywood & Highland Center.
I finally finished watching Netflix’s Mindhunter last night. All ten episodes. Wow. Precise, patient, unnerving, character-rich, exacting dialogue, blissfully intelligent. By far the most engrossing Netflix thing I’ve sat through this year, and that includes Okja, First They Killed My Father, Mudbound and The Meyerowitz Stories. I’m really glad the second season has been approved as I couldn’t get enough of season #1. Really and truly riveted. A perfect thing to watch at the end of a long, vaguely depressing, anxiety-ridden day consumed by writing and researching and…you don’t want to know the rest.
Though Mindhunter I’ve come to know four…make that five actors I’ll never forget and want to engage with again — Jonathan Groff (Holden Ford), Holt McCallany (Bill Tench), Hannah Gross (Debbie Mitford), Anna Torv (Wendy Carr) and even Joe Tuttle, who plays God-fearing, goodie two-shoes FBI agent Gregg Smith, who rats out Groff when he sends a Richard Speck interrogation tape to a pair of FBI internal affairs investigators.
An HE salute to producers David Fincher (who directed episodes #1, #2, #9 and #10), Charlize Theron, Josh Donen and Cean Chaffin.
For whatever reason I didn’t do my research until a week or so ago, and hadn’t realized that Holden Ford is based on former special agent John Douglas, who co-authored the same-titled book about his 25 year career with the FBI’s Investigative Support Unit.
I loved the Holden and Debbie breakup scene in episode #10. [After the jump.] Or rather the “Holden breaks up with himself” scene. Debbie is radiating that silent hostility thing that women love to radiate when so inclined, signalling everything and saying nothing. Holden calmly adds up the signs and indicators and comes to a conclusion that “you’re breaking up with me?” Yup, that’s what she’s doing but she’s making you do the work.
Nine days after Deadline‘s Michael Fleming reported that Dan Gilroy‘s Roman J. Israel, Esq. has been trimmed by 12 minutes and to some extent re-edited, elite L.A. journos have been invited to see the “new” Roman J. Israel a few days hence. And in the morning yet — bagels, coffee and scrambled eggs at 9 am, the movie at 10 am, and then Gilroy and star Denzel Washington sitting for a q & a around noon.
A month and a half ago I conveyed how much I loved the first 85% to 90% of of Roman J. Israel. I called it “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.
I loved the specificity of Denzel’s stuck-in-the-past attorney character (the old-fashioned earphones, the modest apartment, the odd ’70s dress style, the music he listens to, the Asperger’s social tics), and that I was really pulling for the guy, and that a feeling of comfort came over me when he bought a couple of nice suits and lost the ’70s Afro and started going out with Carmen Ejogo‘s Maya, in some ways a kindred spirit of Roman’s and vice versa.
Then the thing happened and I was saying “this is how it ends? I don’t want this. I don’t like this.” But I so loved the film right up to this point.
“Roman is a brilliant guy,” I explained to a friend this morning. “I understand that for dramatic purposes he needs to be in a difficult or desperate place at the end of Act 2, but Gilroy should have somehow figured a way out of this, some clever-ass, end-run gambit that involves Denzel’s amazing recall and generally phenomenal brain-power. He pulls something off, lucks out, fortune smiles, etc.”
I just think it’s a bad idea to create a complex guy with flaws and character ripples and attributes, and then show him going through a fairly profound life-change that feels good and calming all around, and then pull the rug out. That really didn’t work for me.
I understand that we need to wipe the Toronto slate clean and see how the new version works and then go from there. I get that. I’m ready to absorb and possibly adjust.
“Few Americans serve in uniform today, by design. Our all-volunteer force neither wants nor needs more than a couple hundred thousand recruits each year. Most Americans appear to feel comfortable with this relationship, whereby others serve and sacrifice in a well-compensated military so that they may continue to enjoy life uninterrupted. It may feel good to salute the troops at baseball games, or say you love them through other patriotic expressions, but those gestures are insufficient and fleeting. Supporting the troops starts with understanding who they are and what they do. Watching Thank You for Your Service is a good start.” — from a supportive Slate piece by Phillip Carter, posted today at 5 pm.
It’s after 7 pm Eastern and we’re still waiting for the long delayed JFK assassination files to be released. Maybe this evening; maybe not. It appears that some of the files (roughly 200 out of 3000) will be held back for six months due to redaction requests from the CIA and FBI. All this delay, all these decades and they couldn’t get things ready for the deadline. Slackers. Foot-draggers.
Jefferson Morley‘s jfkfacts.org and maryferrell.org are two of the most respected JFK assassination sites around. In a 10.25 piece for Alternet, Morley stated that “the most significant story in the new JFK files will be details of the CIA’s pre-assassination monitoring of Oswald,” which were allegedly known to and under the control of CIA spook James J. Angleton. If Trump approves CIA and FBI requests to withhold some records, the JFK files that Trump keeps secret will be more important than the ones he releases.”
Dee Rees‘ Mudbound (Netflix, 11.17), a ’40s period piece about racial relations amid cotton farmers toiling in the hardscrabble South, is a heart movie. It’s about community values, hard work, compassion or a lack of, racial resentment on both sides and the eternal struggle to survive among the dirt-poor.
As such it bears more than a few resemblances to Robert Benton‘s Places In the Heart (’84). The Benton is far, far superior — better story, more skillfully written, more emotionally affecting. But three Mudbound performances — given by Mary J. Blige, Jason Mitchell and Carey Mulligan — are quite special and almost redeeming.
Based on Hillary Jordan‘s 2008 novel, Mudbound (adapted by TV writer-producer Virgil Williams) is about the relations between the white McAllans, owners of a shithole cotton farm (no plumbing or electricity) in the muddy Mississippi delta, and their black tenant-farmer neighbors, the Jacksons, in the immediate aftermath of World War II.
The McAllans are composed of paterfamilias Henry McAllan (a sullen, beefy-looking Jason Clarke), his city-bred wife Laura (Mulligan), their two kids, Henry’s racist dad (Jonathan Banks) and Henry’s younger brother, Jamie (Garrett Hedlund), who recently served as a bombardier during the war in Europe.
The Jackson principals are Hap (Rob Morgan), his wife Florence (Blige) and their oldest son Ronsel (Mitchell), also a recently returned WWII veteran.
Three Billboards costar and likely Best Supporting Actor nominee Sam Rockwell to Variety‘s Kris Tapley [4:20]: “I couldn’t survive El Lay as a struggling actor so I had to go back to New York. I say to actors there are two El Lays. There’s El Lay when you’re successful, which is fabulous. And then there’s El Lay when you’re not, and that’s not a good El Lay. So New York was a little easier [or at least] it was back [in the ’90s].”
I’ve been a Sam Rockwell fan for ages. He’s primarily known for playing loopy eccentrics or crazy fucks. He plays a somewhat more interesting character in Three Billboards outside of Ebbing, Missouri — Jason Dixon, a small-town, none-too-bright deputy who screws his life up with violence and stupidity, and then actually self-reflects and grows out of a place of despair and self-loathing. And you admire him for that. This is why, I suspect, Rockwell is looking at a likely Oscar nomination.
But his two most likable performances, for me, were variations of droll — Owen, a droll father figure type, in Nat Faxon and Jim Rash‘s The Way, Way Back (’13), and Craig, a droll single dad and a possible romantic attachment for Keira Knightley, in Lynn Shelton‘s Laggies (’14). And he was even more winning as the perversely droll Mervyn in Martin McDonagh‘s A Behanding in Spokane, a B’way play that happened in 2010.
So in my mind Rockwell’s forthcoming nomination is about Jason, Owen, Craig and Mervyn all rolled into one. Plus the dancing thing.
By the way: New York City is a better place to be if you’re in a marginal, existentially gloomy place. The mass-man density of it all — the skyscrapers, asphalt canyons, grubby subways, churning swarms of humanity everywhere you look — allows you to dissolve into the crowd, to bury yourself in solitude and despair. But you still need a lot of money to get around. Too damn much. I’ll never live there again.
Then again there’s nothing like a lonely life in Los Angeles to make you think despondent thoughts and truly embrace the gloom. I think I can definitely say that any place in the world is better if you have a good income, and that almost any place sucks if you’re under-employed and struggling.
If I didn’t have this daily column to bang out and I had a flush fixed income, I could be very happy living in Paris, Rome, London, Munich, Berlin, Hanoi or Prague.
Harvey Weinstein followed by former President George H.W. Bush, MSNBC contributor Mark Halperin, celebrity chef John Besh, photographer Terry Richardson, Nickleodeon guy Chris Cevino, Artforum magazine publisher Knight Landesman, Amazon executive Roy Price, New Republic editor Leon Wieseltier, etc.
George Clooney‘s Suburbicon (Paramount, 10.27) is no Fargo. But it should have resembled Joel and Ethan Coen‘s 1996 classic at least somewhat. The original Suburbicon script, written by the Coens in ’86 and set in the mid ’50s, was their first stab at a Fargo-like middle class crime noir. Nine or ten years later the Coens went back to the same James M.Cain well and created Fargo, and the rest is history.
In Suburbicon, Clooney and producer and co-screenwriter Grant Heslov have reworked things, keeping the Fargo noir stuff but also, it seems, diluting or ignoring that sardonic deadpan wit that we all associate with the Coens, and deciding to paint the whole thing with a broad, bloody brush.
When it comes to tales about greed, murder and doomed deception, there’s nothing duller than watching a series of unsympathetic, unwitting characters (including the two leads, played by Matt Damon and Julianne Moore) play their cards like boobs and then die for their trouble. There’s just no caring for any of them.
Most significantly, Clooney and Heslov have added a side-plot about how Eisenhower-era white suburbanites were racist and venal to the core, and how things really aren’t much different today.
The Suburbicon victims are the just-arrived Meyer clan (Karimah Westbrook, Leith M. Burke, Tony Espinosa), and from the moment they move into their new, ranch-style home in a same-titled fictitious hamlet (i.e., an idyllic real-estate development right out of Martin Ritt‘s No Down Payment) their cappuccino skin shade incites ugly pushback from just about everyone. But the situation doesn’t develop or progress in any way. The Meyers keep absorbing the ugly, and that’s pretty much it.
Remember how those small-town citizens greeted the arrival of Cleavon Little in Blazing Saddles? Nearly the same broad-as-fuck tone prevails here. There isn’t a single non-racist white adult in Suburbicon. With the exception of Noah Jupe‘s Danny, who’s about ten, and the Meyers clan everyone in Clooney’s film has horns, hooved feet and a tail.
I’m behind in my noteworthy foreign-film viewings, but what else is new? Here’s a rundown of the allegedly hot titles that I’ve seen (listed in order of preference) and haven’t seen. If there’s an exceptional foreign-language title that I need to catch, please advise.
1. Andrey Zvyagintsev‘s Loveless (Russia). HE’s 5.17.17 review.
2. Sebastian Lelio‘s A Fantastic Woman (Chile) — Haven’t seen it, planning to.
3. Angelina Jolie‘s First They Killed My Father (Cambodia) — Obviously focused on recent Cambodian history (Khmer Rouge brutality) but can a film made by Angelina Jolie really be called “Cambodian”? Here’s my brief Telluride Film Festival review.
4. Samuel Maoz‘s Foxtrot (Israel)
5. Fatih Akin‘s In The Fade (Germany) HE’s 10.4.17 review.
6. Robin Campillo‘s BPM: Beats Per Minute (France) — HE’s May 2017 (Cannes Film Festival) review.
7. Michael Haneke‘s Happy End (Austria) — HE’s 5.22.17 review.
8. Petra Biondina Volpe‘s The Divine Order (Switzerland)
9. Hussein Hassan‘s The Dark Wind (Iraq) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reseba:_The_Dark_Wind
10. Ildiko Enyedi‘s On Body and Soul (Hungary)
11. Michael R. Roskam‘s Racer and the Jailbird (Belgium)
12. Agnieszka Holland‘s Spoor (Poland)
13. Jang Hoon‘s A Taxi Driver (South Korea)
14. Joachim Trier‘s Thelma (Norway)
15. Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson‘s Under The Tree (Iceland)
16. Ziad Doueiri’s The Insult (Lebanese)