Dunkirk, The Shape of Water, The Post and Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri continue to enjoy the Gold Derby and Gurus of Gold heat; ditto Darkest Hour to a slightly lesser extent. If you ask me the four hottest Best Picture contenders are Dunkirk, The Post, Call Me By Your Name and Lady Bird. Just how things seem at this stage.
Hollywood Elsewhere has just signed Tom Steyer‘s impeach Trump petition at needtoimpeach.com. The tally is now at 2,809,000 — will probably hit 3 million by tomorrow or the next day. And Steyer now has a Times Square electronic billboard alerting passersby to the petition. What are you waiting for?
In the view of N.Y. Times critic Glenn Kenny, Lili Fini Zanuck‘s Eric Clapton: A Life in 12 Bars “comes up short” as a musical biography, but “plays substantially better as a story of recovery and recovered integrity.” I wouldn’t know as I bailed on this 135-minute documentary sometime around…oh, the 35-minute mark. I departed over issues with the technical quality of what I’d seen up to that point. I tried to explain my complaints on 9.11.17, in a post from the Toronto Film Festival:
Zanuck’s doc opens today (11.24), and will air on Showtime starting on 2.10.18.
“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.
Steven Spielberg‘s The Post (20th Century Fox, 12.22) screened in Manhattan last weekend at Loews’ Lincoln Square. Mark Harris moderated a post-screening discussion between Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, supporting performance standout Bob Odenkirk and Matthew Rhys (who plays Daniel Ellsberg). A similar gathering will take place on Monday evening, 11.27, at the DGA and also on the 20th Century Fox lot. The Twitter embargo lifts that night at 9 pm. I for one am tapping out thoughts and preparing drafts in advance so I can post right at the stroke. By the way: I’m leaving 90 minutes from now to catch the first-in.L.A. press screening of Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Phantom Thread.
With Forbes‘ Rob Cain having reported on 11.20 that Justice League will likely suffer a loss between $50 and $100 million, it’s safe to call this latest DC Extended Universe flick a dead monkey. Pic cost $300 million to make and $150 million to sell, meaning that the Zack Snyder-Joss Wheedon enterprise needs $750 million just to balance the books.
Right now the worldwide tally, seven days after opening on 11.17, is $315,816,643. With the bloom off the rose and returns dropping from here on, pic will have to double its current worldwide haul to reach $630 million, which would be $120 million shy of the break-even mark.
Now that the film has flopped and the game is over, what did the HE community think of Justice League?
Forgive me for not participating, but I don’t “do” movies like Justice League or the general DC realm for that matter. Until, that is, Matt Reeves‘ The Batman comes along.
From A.O. Scott’s 11.21 review of Joe Wright‘s Darkest Hour: “The challenges facing Winston Churchill are of lethal seriousness, but the key to his effectiveness is his capacity for pleasure. He enjoys the push and pull of politics, the intellectual labor of problem-solving and the daily adventure of being himself.
“In grasping that joy, Gary Oldman partakes of it and passes it along to the audience. He is having fun, playing the part in every sense. And his blustery, blubbery charm, backed as it is by a sly and acute intelligence, is hard to resist.”
From HE 9.2.17 review: “Churchill is winningly played by Gary Oldman in a colorful, right-down-the-middle, straight-over-the-plate performance. Will this flamboyantly twitchy turn result in a Best Actor nomination? You betcha, but honestly? Oldman has delivered in a classically actor-ish, heavily-made-up way that could have been performed 30 or 50 years ago. There will be no ignoring Oldman’s work here, but it’s not wedded to the present-day zeigeist. It’s a golden-oldie performance, but delivered fresh with plenty of zing.”
Scott: “Like The King’s Speech, Darkest Hour is a serviceable enough historical drama. But like Dunkirk, it falls back on an idealized notion of the English character that feels, in present circumstances, less nostalgic than downright reactionary.”
HE: “Darkest Hour is a stirringly square, well-handled audience movie…it feels familiar and well-trod (how could it not be given all the recent Churchill portrayals?) but rousingly straightforward.”
Four days ago The Atlantic‘s Adam Serwer posted “The Nationalist’s Delusion,” a seminal portrait of the racist mindset of Trump Nation — a constituency of white, mild-mannered yahoos who don’t see themselves as racist at all.
“During the final few weeks of the  campaign, I asked dozens of Trump supporters about their candidate’s remarks regarding Muslims and people of color. I wanted to understand how these average Republicans — those who would never read the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer or go to a Klan rally at a Confederate statue — had nevertheless embraced someone who demonized religious and ethnic minorities.
“What I found was that Trump embodied his supporters’ most profound beliefs, combining an insistence that (a) discriminatory policies were necessary with (b) vehement denials that his policies would discriminate and (c) absolute outrage that the question would even be asked.
“It was not just Trump’s supporters who were in denial about what they were voting for, but Americans across the political spectrum, who searched desperately for any alternative explanation — outsourcing, anti-Washington anger, economic anxiety — to the one staring them in the face. The frequent post-election media expeditions to Trump country to see whether the fever has broken, or whether Trump’s most ardent supporters have changed their minds, are a direct outgrowth of this mistake.
Key sentence: “These supporters will not change their minds because this is what they always wanted: a president who embodies the rage they feel toward those they hate and fear, while reassuring them that that rage is nothing to be ashamed of.
“Most Trump supporters I spoke with were not people who thought of themselves as racist. Rather, they saw themselves as antiracist, as people who held no hostility toward religious and ethnic minorities whatsoever — a sentiment they projected onto their candidate.
“’I don’t feel like he’s racist. I don’t personally feel like anybody would have been able to do what he’s been able to do with his personal business if he were a horrible person,’ Michelle, a stay-at-home mom in Virginia, told me.
“Far more numerous and powerful than the extremists in Berkeley and Charlottesville who have drawn headlines since Trump’s election, these Americans, who would never think of themselves as possessing racial animus, voted for a candidate whose ideal vision of America excludes millions of fellow citizens because of their race or religion.
“The specific dissonance of Trumpism — advocacy for discriminatory, even cruel, policies combined with vehement denials that such policies are racially motivated — provides the emotional core of its appeal. It is the most recent manifestation of a contradiction as old as the United States, a society founded by slaveholders on the principle that all men are created equal.”
Please read the latest Seth Abramson twitter thread about Trump-Putin, kompromat and Trump Tower Moscow. For whatever reason the mainstream media seems to be dragging ass on this story. Or, if you aren’t caught up, scan a thread he posted in late August/early September.
What’s perfectly clear, Abramson tweeted, is the Trump-Russia scandal began in earnest the moment Trump corruptly gave Russia the 2013 Miss Universe pageant. Mueller will investigate many crimes — see Manafort and money-laundering — but it all comes down to a four-year-old scenario: Trump, Putin and Trump Tower Moscow.
“We know a Trump Tower Moscow letter-of-intent was signed, then lied about; we know Trump and his team tried to convince us his only play for Trump Tower Moscow was a failed 2015 bid; we know Russians knew before we did that Trump was running for POTUS; we know Trump wanted to meet Putin at the 2013 pageant, and surrounded himself with every resource he could to make it happen telephonically, even as Putin was sending him every imaginable resource needed to get a Trump Tower Moscow deal done; we know a one-time Trump friend confirms all this.
“So while we don’t—yet—have 100% conclusive proof, every piece of evidence now available says (a) yes, Trump established a Trump Tower Moscow/presidential run quid pro quo with Putin in Moscow in November 2013, and (b) yes, he was lured to Moscow as part of a kompromat plot.”
Variety‘s Kris Tapley has posted a Thanksgiving Day “Playback” interview with Lady Bird director-writer Greta Gerwig and star Saoirse Ronan. It’s aimed at people who’ve seen the film, but that’s fine. I love Ronan’s Irish accent, and I adore Lady Bird. It deserves all the appropriate Oscar nominations — Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress (Ronan), Best Supporting Actress (Laurie Metcalf), et. al.
The aspect that really stands out, for me, is Tapley’s engaging manner — gently chatty, streetcorner friendly, smooth. I listen to his voice and think “yeah, nice guy, cool personality…sounds like he’d be good to know.” Except I’ve known Tapley for 10 or 12 years, and have discussed stuff with him numerous times but (and I don’t mean this as a put-down) I’ve never met the guy who’s talking to Greta and Saoirse here. Honestly, not once.
And that, trust me, is totally par for the course. Guys never talk to other guys the way they do to women. Every guy is like this, myself included.
We all turn it on when we interview talented hotshots, but male interviewers really turn it on when the hotshots are brilliant, attractive ladies. The Tapley in this discussion — warm, chuckly, gentle-voiced — is way different from the guy I occasionally run into at industry parties. That Tapley is downbeat, a bit sullen, rarely a smile and sometimes a vibe that indicates he’d rather be elsewhere.
I’m also describing my own personality when I run into colleagues and whatnot. I’m much friendlier — perkier, smiley, even giggly — when I’m interviewing someone or talking to some director or screenwriter or actor I admire. When the interview ends I turn off the “sell” and default to my basic personality, which is on the wry, sardonic, occasionally glum side. But when a pretty woman enters the room that personality will vaporize in less than two seconds.
We all act like phonies at parties, but guys will sometimes outdo themselves. I’ll sometimes watch a guy I know talk to a woman at a party and think to myself “Jesus, man…are you going to just completely bullshit her or are you going to turn it down and get just a little bit real?”
On the other hand I’ll sometimes force myself in social situations to turn on my interview personality because I occasionally get tired of myself and all of my creations.
Yesterday I posted a short piece titled “When Horse Cruelty Was Common.” It was sparked by an interest in Alan K. Rode‘s just published “Michael Curtiz: A Life In Film,” a reputedly excellent biography. Yesterday I focused on allegations about the tripping of horses during a military attack sequence in Curtiz’s The Charge of the Light Brigade (Warner Bros., 10.20.36). A Wikipedia account contends that “125 horses were tripped with wires; of those, 25 were killed or had to be put down afterward.”
Unable to reach Rode yesterday afternoon, I repeated the Wiki account along with a comment about Curtiz from a critic friend.
This morning, however, I learned that the Wikipedia report, which partly stems from a tale about the Light Brigade shoot by David Niven in his book “Bring On The Empty Horses,” is exaggerated and erroneous. Rode, who got in touch this morning, calls it “a myth.” Only four horses were killed during the shoot, Rode contends, and the real bad guy in the Light Brigade horse tragedy was second-unit director “Breezy” Eason.
To explain his case Rode sent along a couple of pages from his book. He also gave permission to reprint them.
“Several horses did die during the filming of The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Rode wrote in an email, “but the stories of the mass killing of horses propagated by David Niven and other sources including Wikipedia appears to be yet another anecdote that has fossilized into the bedrock of Hollywood folklore.
“Curtiz could be quite merciless when it came to putting ‘realism’ on screen, but, as you indicated, this was in keeping with the times. The more notorious story is his alleged drowning of three extras during the filming of Noah’s Ark (’28).
“I’ve attached an extract from my unedited manuscript that discusses the Light Brigade horse situation in some detail. My research on this matter was quite thorough. All of my writing about Curtiz is traceable to a verifiable source.”
2nd unit director “Breezy” Eason (hat, beard), sometime in the 1930s.
I still haven’t seen Wonder so here it is, right? But among these five you know which one I really feel like popping onto the Bluray player? The Disaster Artist, and I’ve already seen it twice. You know why? I’ll tell you why. I don’t know why. Actually it’s because I love James Franco‘s performance as the wailing Count Dracula from Eastern Europe. “Aaagghhh!!”…give this man a Best Actor nomination.
A few hours ago I dropped off the Mini Cooper at A & M Auto Repair for a tune-up. Rather than take a cab home and return at 5 pm, I decided to file from Sprouts Farmers Market, which is right next door. They have a nice cafeteria area, and what I would call half-decent wifi. I was hit with a sudden urge to nap around 2 pm and so I stretched out on a bench, and the staffers didn’t hassle me. Good fellows. I’ve also done a lot of people watching over these last few hours, and it left mem with a certain melancholy feeling. A lot of hangdog expressions, a mood of slight despair, people with stooped shoulders, etc. A lotta people out there hurtin’. Life is demanding and then you die.