Andrew Pollack, whose daughter was murdered in the Parkland massacre, to Orange Orangutan: “We’re here because my daughter has no voice…she was murdered last week, shot nine times. How many schools, how many children have to get shot? It stops here, with this administration and me, because I’m not going to sleep until it’s fixed. It should have been one school shooting, and we should have fixed it…and I’m pissed. Because my daughter, I’m not going to see again.”
There’s no way to say this without sounding like a lowlife, but Marion Cotillard has an excellent nude scene in Ismael’s Ghosts (Magnolia, 3.23). I’m sorry but she does, and I’d be lying if I said I was neutral or displeased by this. Ditto Depleschin if he said he doesn’t approve.
The other stand-out scene comes when Cotillard dances to Bob Dylan‘s “It Ain’t Me, Babe.” I was reminded, of course, of Ralph Fiennes dancing in a similar fashion to the Rolling Stones‘ “Emotional Rescue” in Luca Guadagnino‘s A Bigger Splash. Fiennes totally nailed it; Cotillard is okay.
“Just saw the Despleschin,” I wrote on 5.17.17. “Indulgent, too long, at times overheated, generally undisciplined, taxes the patience, no tension to speak of and all over the place. In a word, minor.”
I can’t imagine it’ll make the slightest dent in the U.S., even among admirers of the kind of talky, drifting French films that over-40 urbans used to pay to see at urban arthouses on slow Sunday evenings. Back before streaming lessened their interest in seeing them in theatres.
The story (which is a kind of free-associating fantasia) concerns an impulsive, immature film director (Mathieu Amalric…frequently shouting, slurping alcohol, smoking cigarettes and doing his bug-eyed, intense man-child routine) whose imagination heats up and starts to merge with reality when an ex (Marion Cotillard) returns after a long absence, and stirs up a hornet’s nest of emotions.
From the lefty-progressive perspective things are looking good for the ’18 midterms. Trump is a louche sociopath who’s dirty to the bone, and every now and then God actually steps in and says “okay, I’m gonna put my finger on the scale and help out the good guys for a change.”
But lately I’ve become worried about hinterland pushback against the left. I’m even starting to worry that Trump might, God help us, be re-elected if a decent Democrat contender isn’t nominated, and right now there’s no rockstar in the wings. Not because swing voters will regard Trump as a first-rate President, but because some may be genuinely terrified of the alternative — of politically correct Stalinoids coloring the culture and pointing the finger every which way.
Attending the 2018 Sundance Film Festival is what put the fear in. As I mentioned on 1.21, it was like a socialist summer camp in the snow — insular, forward-thinking, politically correct, change-oriented, Time’s Up-embracing, POC and gay-celebrating. It felt a teeny-weeny bit oppressive. Like a shortage of oxygen or something.
I’ve been a lefty all my life and feel a deep-seated kinship with progressive ideals and goals today, but I’m genuinely scared about what lefties have been generating image-wise. By that I mean two impressions that have sunk in about what has felt at times like a cruel and dictatorial temperament.
One impression, which is arguably inaccurate, is that many lefties feel that whiteness is a genetically diseased condition, and nothing genuinely fair and benevolent can come from white people these days because there’s too much racism and horror in their history and so the historical ledger sheet has to be balanced. It’s not that whites have been asked to step back and let people of other shades run the show, but there seems to be a general sense that less whiteness will be a good thing all around.
“The most challenging interview was with Greta Gerwig. When we spoke on the phone, she was in Sacramento and I was in Rome. The time difference was ridiculous, time was tight, and I felt a little awkward about the fact that I had just filed my review of Gerwig’s Lady Bird. I ducked into a doorway on a semi-quiet street and took notes by the light of a streetlamp.”
This took me back to “Adapt or Die,” an HE post from Rome that was filed on 6.2.17:
“The wifi at Hollywood Elsewhere’s Rome apartment (154 via Monserrato) is all but worthless, so I’ve been tapping stuff out at the nearby Barnum Cafe (Via del Pellegrino 87). A half hour ago the Barnum proprietors told me I’d have to take the Macbook Pro across the street as their place turns into an eating establishment around 8 pm or so. No problem. The wifi is strong enough to extend several feet beyond the cafe’s walls. So here I am, tapping away on a worn-down cobblestoned street that’s been here for at least 2000 years.”
The Black Panther sartorial thing is not for guys like me, and by that I mean X-factor movie guys. To me a movie is a movie is a movie — it’s not any kind of statement about representation or cultural celebration or any of that. It’s all about structure and believability and planting the seeds and delivering the right kind of third-act payoff, and that’s all.
Okay — if I could somehow buy an exact duplicate of Cary Grant’s three-button Savile Row suit from North by Northwest, I would wear it to a special screening at the Aero or Egyptian, but that’s as far as I could go.
Michael Musto: “I’m sticking with Three Billboards…Three Billboards for Picture, Guillermo Del Toro for Director plus Gary Oldman, Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell. Martin McDonagh will win Best Original Screenplay. I’m going with Laurie Metcalf for Best Supporting Actress. Three Billboards has some complexity and some deeply flawed characters…it’s more intricate and so I would say a knock above.” Tom O’Neil: But there is a lot of hatred for Billboards out there. But they’re gonna want to put that Lady Bird vote someplace, so where does it go?”
Laurie Metcalf, he’s thinking. But I don’t think she’ll win, as much as I think she deserves to.
“Mellow Wells vs. Irked Russell on Terrorists, San Bernardino, Gun Culture, Gun Controls, etc.“, posted two years and two months ago:
Then I segued into a riff about how movies tend to reflect the times and the culture they come from. I was thinking that the Quentin Tarantino brand, which has always included a swaggering, half-smirking, bordering-on-flippant use of violence at times, might not fit or reflect the post-Paris, post-San Bernardino culture now as well as it did the all-is-well Clinton ’90s.
I was thinking in particular of a 12.3 N.Y. Times survey piece I read this morning. Written by N.R. Kleinfeld and called “Fear in the Air, Americans Look Over Their Shoulders,” it basically observed that “a creeping fear of being caught in a mass rampage has unmistakably settled itself firmly in the American consciousness.” And I was wondering how that wink-wink grindhouse blood and brutality that colors the second half (and more precisely the final third) of Tarantino’s film is going to synch with that…or not.
Here’s a reasonably close transcript of our gun-and-culture discussion. I guess it wasn’t so much a discussion as a kind of argument, except it was more about Russell arguing with me than vice versa. I played it cool and made my points in a mild-mannered way. Listen and judge for yourself:
Wells: The Quentin cult, if you will, is, like, 23 years old, starting with Reservoir Dogs…right? Violence as attitude, violence as style, violence as fashion…not dealt with in an earnest, realistic way. The swagger thing.
Wells: And I was looking in the N.Y. Times this morning and this guy interviewed several people in the country in the Midwest and West. And with almost everybody out there, he reported, there’s a feeling of anxiety in the culture…when’s the next one?
Russell: So…uhm, uh, how do you connect the dots?
Alex Garland‘s Annihilation (Paramount, 2.23) is “trippy,” all right — a visually imaginative, microbe-level, deep-in-the-muck monster-alien flick. And it will bring you down, down, down. It will drop you into a stinking, crawling-insect swamp of your own regrets and fears and lethargies and nightmares, and will make you long for the glorious release of shooting yourself in the mouth.
It’s mainly a CG/FX show with creatures and Spielbergian space aliens and dynamic production design. It’s “inventive” in terms of the day-glo tree tumors and in a generally fungal, micro-bacterial, fiendish-mitosis sort of way, but it makes you feel like shit. It’s unrelentingly grim — basically a film about lambs to the slaughter.
Annihilation is based on a trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer that I will never read, but more precisely on the same-titled book that launches the tale.
It’s focused on Area X, a creepy, muddy lowland area somewhere in the Southern U.S. that’s been invaded and biologically inflamed by aliens. It’s surrounded by a kind of psychedelic wall made of some kind of blow-bubble liquid.
Five well-armed soldier women — a biologist played by Natalie Portman plus Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez and Tuva Novotny — enter this realm on foot, hoping to figure out the root of it all and at the same time save the life of Portman’s husband (Oscar Isaac) who has escaped Area X but is all fucked up…lethargic, no memory, spitting blood, ridden with disease.
In the book it’s a team of four, not five, that goes in, and the women represent the twelfth such expedition. The eleven previous expeditions have all ended in death or erasure for all the participants. Who would be stupid enough to join the twelfth expedition under these circumstances?
Annihilation is imaginative in ways that might feel vaguely new if you haven’t seen Andrei Tarkovsky‘s Stalker (’79) or, more to the point, read “Roadside Picnic,” the 1972 Russian horror novel by Arkady Strugatsky and Boris Strugatsky that inspired the Tarkovsky film. Or seen the two American-made sci-fi thrillers — John McTiernan‘s Predator and James Cameron‘s Aliens — that came in their wake.
So it’s not precisely “new”, but it’s definitely a grade-A, above-average haunted horror film for sci-fi dweebs. But Joe and Jane Popcorn? Not so much.
“This is imaginative, that’s imaginative,” I muttered to myself last night. “Not that I give that much of a shit, but it’s imaginative.”
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