As a regular moviegoer have I shown limited interest over the years in films about characters who are not like me in this or that way? I’m probably guilty of this. Anyone who says they aren’t at least initially interested in movies that reflect their lives, interests, gender, income level and appearance to some extent is a little bit of a liar.
On the other hand I’m not sure I’d want to see a film about a married Los Angeles movie columnist who drives a rumbling two-wheeled beast and goes to film festivals. I know all about that. If I’m sitting down with a container of popcorn I’d rather sink into a milieu that feels a wee bit exotic.
I’ll tell you right now I would probably be reluctant to sit down with an early ’80s comedy about three obese, none-too-bright Samoan guys who work at the local Target and want nothing more than to party and get laid. Nor would I be all that keen on watching the story of a dull, pudgy married guy from Iowa who…fuck it, I don’t want to hang with anyone who can’t show a little dietary discipline. Seriously. People like that bother me unless they’re canny or clever or extra-witty, like Jonah Hill in Superbad or War Dogs or The Wolf of Wall Street….pretty much any Jonah movie.
But I will nearly always take a chance with well-made, well-reviewed films about characters of almost any shape, ethnicity, political outlook or income level, and especially those with drive and determination and higher-than-average brain cell counts.
I really am a sucker for Metacritic scores in the 80s and 90s. If I have an option of seeing, on one hand, a movie about a dirt-poor farming family struggling to bring in a crop in 1930s Texas and on the other a film about a dirt-poor farming family struggling to bring in a crop in 1940s Mississippi, I’ll probably take a chance with the Texas flick first because I’ve read everywhere that it’s, like, way better than the Mississippi one….no offense.
And I’ll definitely risk seeing a film about people who aren’t like me if they have at least one of two things going for them — innate intelligence or nerve. I can’t stand films in which the main characters are too dumb or stubborn or emotionally blocked to figure out the rules of survival and therefore can’t or won’t figure out a strategy that will move their situation along. As long as the main characters (even criminals or shitkicker types) have some kind of half-sensible plan, I’m on their side.
If you want to know what was happening in the award race two or three weeks ago, check with the Gurus of Gold. They’ve always been safe betters, like retirees having fun at Santa Anita with their social security checks. They’re slow in catching up with trends and bends in the road. Cautious, stodgy.
They’re all still projecting, for example, that Darkest Hour‘s Gary Oldman is the likeliest winner of the Best Actor race. Not one Guru is betting on Timothy Chalamet? Oldman might win in the end, but Chalamet has clearly had the momentum in recent weeks. Are the Gurus even aware of this?
I’m cool with a majority believing that Lady Bird may win the Best Picture Oscar, as Greta Gerwig‘s film is one of HE’s three Best Picture standouts, the other two being Dunkirk and Call Me By Your Name. Yes, the vote for Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri is very close to Lady Bird, but the Gurus don’t seem to be channeling a damn thing. David Poland and Susan Wloszczyna have Billboards at the top of their lists. A fair number of them haven’t even voted for (seen?) Phantom Thread.
Toronto Star critic Peter Howell is the only Guru who thinks The Shape of Water might take the prize. Howell was the only Guru who last year predicted a Best Picture win for Moonlight.
When I read the below tweet an hour ago, I told myself that if it checks out this might be the first thing this raging blowhard has claimed to have done that I half-approve of. I felt badly about admitting this, but if Trump’s Middle Eastern fighting tactics had really made a difference, I had to give him fair credit.
Then I read a 10.25 Washington Post article that evaluated a similar claim that Trump made on 10.13.17, which was that his administration had “done more against ISIS in nine months than the previous administration has done during its whole administration — by far, by far.” Reporter Glenn Kessler determined that Trump’s claim was mostly about exaggeration and hyperbole, although tactical changes ordered by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis have “resulted in an acceleration of the coalition meeting its objectives.”
I took this shot of a huge black-and-white fashion poster (possibly for Calvin Klein jeans) seven or eight years ago. It was right on Fifth Avenue around 53rd Street, give or take. Right smack dab in the middle of tourist-ville, and nobody said anything because the aesthetic was gayish without being queer. Last weekend artist Carolina Falkholt painted a huge red johnson on the side of a building on Soho’s Broome St., but it was soon painted over due to neighborhood complaints. I understand why Falkholt went there (she had the Robert Mapplethorpe precedent to consider, and she had to at least out-provoke Calvin Klein) but nobody likes queer art interfering with the general urban neutrality. That includes me.
Six days ago Danny Peary posted a q & a with author, film historian, screenwriter and former Variety critic Joseph McBride. The main order of discussion was McBride’s 2017 book, “Two Cheers for Hollywood,” a compilation volume (64 essays and interviews) that I mentioned eight months ago in a piece called “McBride’s Way”.
Right in the middle of Peary’s piece is a 42 year-old photo of McBride, future Variety and Hollywood Reporter critic Todd McCarthy and directors Sam Fuller and Francois Truffaut. It’s a poorly cropped, bad-angle shot — you can only see one-third of McBride at far right — but it was taken in late ’75 at an event that McCarthy helped organize on behalf of the promotion of Truffaut’s The Story of Adele H.. McCarthy was handling publicity for the film as well as the so-called Oscar campaign for Best Actress contender Isabelle Adjani. At the end of the day McCarthy’s boss, the notoriously cheap Roger Corman of New World Pictures, paid for two FYC trade ads for Adjani.
(l. to r.) Francois Truffaut, Samuel Fuller (where did Sam find that Kiwanis Club sport jacket?), Todd McCarthy, Joe McBride.
McCarthy’s campaign was nonetheless successful. Adjani was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar in early ’76 (although Louise Fetcher won for her Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest). In late ’75 Adjani won Best Actress trophies from the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review, and from the National Society of Film Critics in early ’76.
McCarthy’s recollection: “The event happened at the AFI when it was still up at the Doheny/Greystone mansion. I invited all the great old directors in Hollywood, ostensibly to get them to rally around the film for Oscars but privately so I could meet them all. Attending alongside Truffaut and Fuller were George Cukor, King Vidor, Rouben Mamoulian, Alexander Mackendrick and numerous others like Buck Henry, Milos Forman, et al. Quite a night. This was the first time I’d met Truffaut, and while the film was screening we sat outside and all he wanted to talk about was Watergate — he felt he didn’t understand it and American politics sufficiently so he pumped me for endless information so he could better comprehend was going on.”
McBride on general cultural downturn and betrayal: “I feel I was betrayed by the movies, as I was by the Catholic Church, my parents, my schooling, and our government. It’s hard not to continue loving the movies I once loved, though, as well as some occasional new ones. My feelings about the medium today are highly ambivalent. I feel in a sense I went into the wrong profession.
“But my interests have always been broad, and I’ve incorporated them into my work. My biographies of directors range widely into sociopolitical subjects, and I recently have been branching out into books on other subjects besides movies. So I can’t regret the choices I made as a youth (once you make them, it’s almost impossible to turn back), but the art form I loved [has] been trashed and turned largely into moronic fodder for the adolescent male audience, [and that] makes me beyond sad.”