A friend just sent me a love-story script that he describes as “Brokeback Mountain meets Jarhead.” Gay love stories have only had a foothold since the beginning of the century, or maybe a little later. They were a relative rarity when Brokeback came out 13 years ago. Nowadays they’re all we’re seeing, it seems, in a romantic context. Certainly in my realm.
Not that many haven’t been good or generally made the movie universe a more intriguing or open-hearted place, but we’re basically living through an era in which the romantic and sexual lives of 96% of the population — am I allowed to say this? — are being elbowed aside. Partly because the 4% side of things feels fresher, more interesting, different and more politically correct, and partly because screenwriters these days seem to believe that the straight side of the aisle is fairly boring. Right now, in terms of green-lightable love stories, the 4% equation is pretty much everything. And yet the 96% must be experiencing some intense or certainly unusual times these days, no? Some of them good enough to turn into a film?
You know what would be really shocking right now? A movie like The Way We Were. I know how sappy that sounds, but never forget that Sydney Pollack‘s film has, at the very least, a great ending. A film like that could never happen now, of course, in part because we’re living in a realm in which 96% of the population is being commonly referred to by the politically attuned (and for the first time in the history of civilization, and somewhat derogatorily) as cisgender. 2018 to the ghost of James Stewart: “Did you know that during your time on earth you were a cisgender person?” Stewart to 2018: “I didn’t know that.”
I’m probably going to get killed for saying this.
Awards Daily‘s half-year poll, announced earlier today, has Paul Schrader’s First Reformed at the top of the list, followed closely by Ari Aster’s Hereditary.
114 film critics, journalists, bloggers and entertainment reporters participated in the poll, which was compiled by Jordan Ruimy. Responders included Stephen Witty, Katie Walsh, Peter Travers, Claudia Puig, Ray Pride, Steve Pond, Amy Nicholson, Joana Langfield, Tomris Laffly, Pete Howell, David Edelstein, David Ansen, Matt Zoller Seitz and yours truly. More than 70 movies (mostly English-language) were mentioned. Six of the top 30 were foreign-language films.
1. First Reformed (Paul Schrader, U.S.) (71 lists)
2. Hereditary (Ari Aster, U.S.) (65)
3. You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay, U.S.) (64)
4. Annihilation (Alex Garland, U.S.) (61)
5. Black Panther (Ryan Coogler, U.S.)( 61)
6. The Rider (Chloe Zhao, U.S.) (54)
7. A Quiet Place (John Krasinski, U.S.)(49)
8. Paddington (Paul King, U.K.) (49)
9. Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, U.S.) (40)
10. Won’t You Be My Neighbor (Morgan Neville, U.S.) (34)
HE’s Ten Best So Far (revised today): Paul Schrader‘s First Reformed, Ari Aster‘s Hereditary, John Krasinski‘s A Quiet Place, Stefano Sollima‘s Sicario: Day of the Soldado, Eugene Jarecki‘s The King, Lynne Ramsay‘s You Were Never Really Here, Tony Zierra‘s Filmworker, Andrej Zvyagintsev‘s Loveless, Tony Gilroy‘s Beirut, Wes Anderson‘s Isle of Dogs.
Posted on Facebook earlier today: “Back in the mid-1990s, we rode up to a bistro in Paris on our bikes. At the same time a posh, snooty couple parked their SUV on the sidewalk and walked over to the proprietor, who was outside having a smoke, to see if he had a table. He looked them up and down, looked at the whale of a vehicle taking up the sidewalk, and said ‘Nope.’ I was sad — it looked so charming and I was hoping we could have dinner there. My French husband said, ‘I’m not so sure we can’t.’ We locked up our bikes — this was ten years before bikes were everywhere in Paris — and walked over, and my husband asked. The proprietor looked us up and down, looked at our bikes, smiled and said, ‘Yes, of course.’ We dined there regularly for the next 15 years, until the owner retired and sold the place. That’s what prerogative is all about.” #teamredhen
Last week Entertainment Weekly‘s Joey Nolfi and Piya Sinha-Rpy suggested 15 Oscar contenders thus far (“Oscars 2019: From Black Panther to Hereditary“). Here they are alongside HE reactions:
1. Spike Lee‘s Black Klansman for Best Picture. HE response: A partly illogical but reasonably decent procedural about an actual undercover FBI operation again the Ku Klux Klan that happened in the ’70s. Great anti-Trump finale but it’s just not stellar enough to rank as a Best Picture contender. Not happening.
2. Ethan Hawke for Best Actor in First Reformed. HE response: Yes! Great performance, superb film, great Schrader comeback. If there’s a God, it’ll happen.
3. Glenn Close for Best Actress in The Wife. HE response: Definitely. Close’s performance stands tall on its own, but the role (gidted writer married to best-selling author) and the film synch perfectly with the #MeToo zeitgeist, and Close is totally owed after six Best Actress noms. She’s not only a Best Actress lock, but she really might win. Hell, she probably will.
4. Ryan Coogler‘s Black Panther for Best Picture. HE response: It’ll be nominated, yes, but don’t forget that only the last hour of Black Panther is really good — the rest is just okay. It’ll get the nomination because of (a) the huge grosses ($699,747,193 domestic, $1,346,344,642 worldwide) and (b) the fact that representational identity politics matter to the New Academy Kidz.
5. Toni Collette for Best Actress in Hereditary. HE response: Agreed, she’s great in this, but when was the last time that the Academy nominated a performance in a horror film? This said, HE totally supports Collette and Hereditary.
6. Daveed Diggs for Best Actor in Blindspotting. HE response: Not a chance.
7. Brad Bird‘s Incredibles 2 for Best Animated Features. HE response: Probably, but it’s not as good as the original and the Academy knows this.
8. Natalie Portman for Best Actress in Annihilation. HE response: Forget it.
9. Wes Anderson‘s Isle of Dogs for Best Animated Feature. HE response: SURE!! What does Justin Chang know?
10. RBG for Best Documentary Feature. HE response: Definitely!!
Country singer and songwriter Blaze Foley was much admired within his realm, but he was also a big ornery sucker who drank too much. When his significant other Sybil Rosen introduced Blaze to her parents, her mother took one look and reportedly wept. I myself wept when I read about Foley’s habit of wearing duct tape wrapped around his boots (total low-rent asshole move), and how he once made a suit out of duct tape (worse), and how his casket was wrapped in the stuff. (Foley was shot to death at age 39 in 1989.)
From “Song Of a Poet Who Died in the Gutter“: “It almost goes without saying that films about musicians will focus on boozy, self-destructive behavior — Walk The Line, Bird, I Saw The Light, Payday, Michael Apted‘s Stardust, etc. But Blaze feels home-grown and self-owned in a subdued sort of way. It has a downmarket, lived-in vibe. I wasn’t exactly ‘entertained’, but every line, scene and performance felt honest and unforced.
Gifted but temperamental, Foley (Ben Dickey) never really got rolling as a recording artist, but he was a well-respected outlaw artist with a certain following in the ’70s and ’80s. Dickey’s purry singing style, similar to Foley’s, reminds me of a sadder Tony Joe White (“Polk Salad Annie”).
Hawke focuses on the guy’s soft, meditative side and particularly his relationship with real-life ex Sybil Rosen (Alia Shawkat). He gets a truly exceptional performance out of Dickey, a hulking, elephant-sized musician who’s never acted prior to this. Dickey’s Foley is such a good fit — centered, settled, unhurried — that I nearly forgot about the bulk factor.
Blaze offers noteworthy supporting perfs from Kris Kristofferson (as Foley’s dad), Sam Rockwell, Richard Linklater, Steve Zahn (as a trio of record company partners) and Josh Hamilton, among others.
The script was co-written by Hawke and Rosen, author of a relationship memoir titled titled “Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze Foley“. You can just sense that Hawke knows musician behavior like his own. Hell, I was one myself (i.e., a mediocre drummer) for a while, and know the turf to some extent, and it all feels right.
The Motion Picture Academy has invited 928 new people to join. Women will henceforth represent 31% of the membership, up 28% from last year. POCs will now comprise 16% of the membership, up from last year’s 13% tally.
If I were a senior member of the governor’s board, I would push for in-depth questionaires before final admittance. I would ask the following of all prospective new members: “Do you primarily regard motion picture theatres as (a) churches, (b) amusement arenas or (c) watching-and-texting salons?” If the prospective member answers “churches,” he/she would be admitted. If not, forget it.
Specific Tiffany Haddish question: “You’ve said you often decide which movies you want to see from what the women at your beauty salon tell you. Do you occasionally decide on your own? Do you ever read reviews or at least Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic?” If Haddish were to answer “Rotten who?…Meta what?…my beauty salon girls know best!,” I would say “approve her membership!”
I would also ask Haddish the following: “If you’re again asked to announce the Academy Award nominees, would you consider trying to learn how to pronounce their names correctly before going on the air?”
Timothee Chalamet: “Last January you threw Woody Allen under the bus in order to enhance your standing with the #MeToo community, but have you since read Moses Farrow’s essay? If so, any second thoughts?”
Mindy Kaling: “Do you still feel that the views of old-white-guy critics should be regarded askance if they aren’t part of a focus-group demographic that a certain film has been made for? Should only critics who relate to target demos review this or that film?”
Not quite a full day in Palm Springs. Arrived last evening, up early this morning, hiking in Palm and Andreas canyons, cable-car to the peak of Mount San Jacinto (which I hate visiting because of the tourists) and then back to Los Angeles by 7:30 pm — 22 1/2 hours total.
It was suggested yesterday that in the absence of Movie City News, an industry-news-link aggregation feature could be a major selling point for HE-plus. Hollywood Elsewhere is hereby looking for a sharp journalism graduate to perform this task on a valued-intern basis. You can honestly claim on your resume that you served (are currently serving) as news editor for a prominent, industry-followed site that everyone reads, and you can get yourself into occasional L.A. and N.Y. screenings in exchange. A nice deal.
“Ten years ago at Telluride I said on a panel that theatrical distribution was dying. It seemed obvious to me. I was surprised how many in the audience violently objected: ‘People will always want to go to the movies!’ That’s true but it’s also true that theatrical cinema as we once knew it has died. Theatrical cinema is now Event Cinema, just as theatrical plays and musical performances are Events. No one just goes to a movie. It’s a planned occasion. Four types of Event Cinema remain: 1. Spectacle (IMAX-style blockbusters) 2. Family (cartoon-like features) 3. Horror (teen-driven) and 4. Film Club (formerly arthouse but now anything serious). There are some isolated pockets like black cinema, romcom, girl’s night out, seniors and teen grossouts, but it’s primarily those four. Everything else is TV. Now I have to go back to episode five of Looming Tower.” — posted yesterday on Facebook.
Scott: “You take the audience into this condition of extremism, but you’re there as if it were a perfectly natural place to be.”
Schrader: “I’ll tell you the trick, and I figured it out years ago. It’s a three-stage trick. First stage is nonemotive narration. So it’s like intravenous feeding. You’re getting nutrition but you can’t taste it.
Than Hawke in First Reformed.
“The next stage is the world is only as our protagonist perceives it. You see no other reality. There’s never a scene that he’s not in. So now you’re seeing his life, you’re being filled up with his thoughts and after about 45 minutes or so, you’ve identified. How could you not identify?
“Then, often slowly, you have to go off the rails a little bit, a little bit, a little bit. The first few times it doesn’t bother you, but then all of a sudden [you’re] saying ‘whoa, I’m identified with somebody that I don’t think is worthy of identification.’ What do I do about that?
“And that’s a great place for an artist to take a viewer because you can’t predict how people will respond when they’re opened up that way, [and so] they’re going to have to do something to defend themselves. Here’s how you can defend yourself: Just take a jump, you know.”
Scott: “On one hand you’re appalled by what he’s contemplating and you realize that you are in some way rooting for…
Schrader: “A jihadist.”