My critical riffs about Craig Gillespie‘s I, Tonya (A24, 12.8) since catching it in Toronto have been a bit heated, so here’s an attempt to tone them down. I’ve said repeatedly that the film’s satirical brush is coarse and vulgar. Those two words are a fair description of the Harding family and their ne’er-do-well allies, but also the film’s supercilious mocking of these lost souls. As HE commenter Bobby Peru put it, “Aren’t we hilarious making fun of these local yokel shitheads?”
You could argue that I, Tonya’s satirical strategy is somewhat akin to an anti-pornography satire that buries the viewer in a torrent of X-rated footage. A closer analogy is The Wolf of Wall Street (’13), in which Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio broadly satirized ravenous Wall Street bottom feeders. The difference is that Wolf’s brand of outrageous black humor frequently connects, at times hilariously so. (The quaalude overdose sequence.). In my humble view I, Tonya (a) isn’t nearly as funny or even amusing, and (b) could conceivably give you cancer.
Am I voicing a minority opinion? Certainly. Satirically speaking, does I, Tonya have a kind of rough-hewn integrity? Yes — it sticks to the battle plan of looking down at these seething, cigarette-smoking, not-smart-enough losers. And it doesn’t attempt any manipulative emotional outreach strategies except by way of Margot Robbie’s anguished lead performance. Agreed, Robbie and Allison Janey will probably snag Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress Oscar noms, respectively, but what else is new?
A Universal film called Girls Trip opened last June and pulled in $137 million. I wouldn’t know but terrific. Regina Hall, Queen Latifa, Jada Pinkett Smith and Tiffany Haddish costarred. Haddish hosted Saturday Night Live last night, and in her opening monologue the two stand-outs were about sexual harassment (“If you got your thing-thing out, and she got all her clothes on, you’re wrong…wait ’til she takes her own clothes off, then pull your thing-thing out!”) and Donald Trump‘s hair — dusty material, easy target. Haddish said she gets all her news “from the beauty shop” — brilliant — and noted that the girls are saying “dang, who is doing Donald Trump’s wigs? His lace fronts are off the chain! What kind of glue is he using?”
Not to defend Trump in any context, but that’s a sexist crack. Imagine a male comedian telling a joke about a 60-plus actress wearing a great-looking wig or hair extensions. The room would become Edgar Allen Poe‘s The Tomb of Ligeia, and then he’d be apologizing the next day to the club owner. Longish pompadours look weird on older guys, agreed, but there’s something dictatorial about the fashionistas ridiculing same.
Hollywood Elsewhere + Tatyana Antropova attended last night’s big AFI Film Fest screening at the TCL Chinese, and then the big after-party at the Hollywood Roosevelt. It was my third viewing, and it didn’t diminish in the slightest. This film is full of little rivulets and off-angles and cross-corner pocket drops. I easily could see it another couple of times. It’s a perfectly realized thing, nothing off or miscalculated. The term is “masterpiece.”
Tone-deaf predictions and sluggish attitudes from certain quarters aside, CMBYN has to be Best Picture-nominated. At least that. The Movie Godz would be appalled if the Academy elbows it aside.
And the following paragraph from an 11.11 piece by TheWrap‘s Mikey Glazer is, no offense, almost surreal in its disconnect from reality: “While Brokeback via Lombardia may not normally raise eyebrows, in the current climate of hourly explosive revelations of sexual harassment and assault across the entertainment industry, any tenor of impropriety in a physical relationship made this all the more sensitive.”
“Impropriety”? There isn’t a whiff of the stuff in Call Me By Your Name, and that’s all that should matter to anyone. There’s no emotional indifference or bruising in this film. No cruelty, exploitation, selfishness. Okay, a young girl gets her feelings hurt but quickly recovers. This is simply an elegant love story that unfolds at its own leisurely pace, and in a way that touches everyone.
Elio, the precocious 17 year-old played by Timothee Chalamet (who actually turns 22 next month), falls in love with Oliver (Armie Hammer), a studious, somewhat glib guy in the mid 20s, and they seem more or less on an equal footing. It hurts when love slips away, of course, but people of all ages have felt this over the centuries, and Elio’s parents are with Elio on his emotional journey every step of the way.
Posted on 6.4.17: “Call Me By Your Name is, yes, a first-love film, an early ’80s gay romance and a sensual, laid-back Italian summer dreamscape. But it connects in a more fundamental way with family values, which is to say father-son values, extended-family values, community values…we’re all together in this.
From Ann Hornaday piece (“Lady Bird makes the case for reframing female stories as epics on a par with ‘male’ genres”) in Washington Post, posted on 11.9: “Lady Bird makes the case for reframing female stories as epics on a par with genres usually coded as male: Our heroine’s crucible might be a snug middle-class home and the sleepy streets of Sacramento, but Greta Gerwig‘s movie is just as big and canonical as a film about young men evacuating Dunkirk or the ponderous existential crisis of a blade runner in 2049 Los Angeles.”
I’ve been gradually warming to James Franco‘s The Disaster Artist (A24, 12.1) since I first saw and reviewed it about three weeks ago. Do I have to describe it again? A drly comedic true-life saga about the making of a notoriously awful indie-level film called The Room, etc.? Naahh.
On 10.25 I called it “a curio, a diversion…fine for what it is…generates a kind of chuckly vibe on a scene-by-scene basis, but that’s all.” Shoulder-shrugging approval, thumbs up but calm down, etc.
Nine days later I said I couldn’t get the sound of James Franco‘s spazzy, primal-scream “aaaggghh!” out of my head. The howling is part of Franco’s dead-on imitation of Tommy Wiseau‘s performance in The Room.
I saw The Disaster Artist again last weekend, and for some reason it seemed funnier this time. Probably because I knew the story and when the highlights would arrive, so I was able to focus on the tone and delivery. Maybe it was also because Tatyana was laughing a lot; ditto several others in the screening room. It just felt like more infectious, more fun. So if it’s okay I’d like to upgrade my reaction. If I gave The Disaster Artist a B-minus in my 10.25 review, I’d like to change that grade to a B-plus or maybe even an A-minus.
People have been staring at me for years (in cafes, at parties, on subways) because they were sure that I was Chris Walken. There’s a resemblance, okay, but my hair is darker and a bit longer, I look younger than C.W. (no facial saddblebag creases or neck wattle to speak of, due in part to my Prague touch-ups), and — hello? — I don’t have his signature voice. At all. Last May a guy in a Rome leather shop came up to me and insisted with a knowing smile that he knew I was Walken, despite my denials. “You’ve seen him in movies, right?” I said to the guy. “So you know his voice. People have been imitating him for years, right? Do I sound like him?” The guy wouldn’t back off, continuing with the grin and the “heh-heh” and saying “okay, Chris, but I know it’s you.”
“Because in the end, none of us live very long on this earth…life is fleeting.” — Robin Williams‘ Jack Powell, a kindly fellow afflicted with Werner Syndrome, which causes sufferers to age four times faster than normal. Oh, my God…there’s Bill Cosby!
Murdered by critics for its treacly mawkishness, Jack (released by Disney on 8.9.96) was probably the worst film and surely the most perplexing career move by esteemed director Francis Coppola, who only four years earlier had directed the mostly respected Bram Stoker‘s Dracula. Coppola followed Jack with another weird film for someone with his exalted reputation — The Rainmaker, an adaptation of a Jon Grisham airport novel with Matt Damon and Danny DeVito.
And that was it for Coppola and mainstream commercial filmmaking. With Youth Without Youth (’07) he began a second career as a self-funded indie filmmaker.
In my mind at least, Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler, Jesse Plemons and Jeffrey Wright are “better” than the kind of movie that Game Night seems to be. They seem to be slumming. Maybe I shouldn’t judge too quickly. This New Line Cinema release opens on 3.2.18.
I’m aware, of course, that Daddy’s Home 2 has ratings of 16% and 29% from Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, respectively. But the serious anguish and agitation in this scene strikes me as funny on some level. All this bother over a thermostat. The little girl turns it up to 85 and all these four guys can do is fret and glare and hyperventilate? I would tell that little girl to cut it out or else. Deadline‘s Anthony D’Allesandro saysDaddy’s Home 2, playing in 3575 situations, will probably end up with $21 million by Sunday night. So Joe and Jane Popcorn have found a place for this in their heads.
If Disney’s animation department had any character or courage, which of course they don’t, they would jump on the Kenyan gay lions story and create an animated feature about swishy lions fighting discrimination among the animal community as they try to find a haven for a stress-free life as a couple. This is just off the top of my head but it would basically be The Lion King meets Brokeback Mountain. I’m sorry but the photo that popped a week or two ago of those male lions going at it uncorked my imagination.
The comic element in the gay lions story emerged on 11.5 when Ezekeil Mutua, head of the Kenyan Film Classification Board, claimed that the lions were copying the activities of gay men who had visited Kenya’s Masai Mara park. Mutua theorized that the only other explanation was Satan. “These animals need counselling, because probably they have been influenced by gays who have gone to the national parks and behaved badly,” the official said.
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