Posted seven years ago, re-posted because I happened to rewatch it today: Press Play’s final chapter of the Roman Polanski series’s . Cut and commented upon by Matt Zoller Seitz along with Kim Morgan.
Seitz clarification: “This video essay is a collaboration between me and Kim, but the text is a slightly rewritten version of a column Kim originally wrote for her blog Sunset Gun. If you watch to the end you will see that the first credit after the final shot is ‘written and narrated by Kim Morgan,’ followed by my editing credit.”
I’ve long had a problem with singular possessive movie titles, and how the corresponding films almost always result in a certain dissatisfaction. I can think of ten off the top of my head, and only two — Joel and Ethan Coen‘s Miller’s Crossing and Mike Nichols‘ Charlie Wilson’s War — passed muster. The ones that felt problematic or not quite good enough were Meek’s Cutoff, The Private War of Major Benson, Zandy’s Bride, The Secret War of Harry Frigg, Ulzana’s Raid, Murphy’s War, Spencer’s Mountain and Merrill’s Marauders.
The idea, I suppose, is that any such title seems to imply that the main character will be some kind of egoistic, manipulative, obsessive type, and who wants to spend two hours with an asshole?.
In my mostly positive 9.7 Toronto Film Festival review of Bradley Cooper‘s A Star Is Born, I said that Variety‘s Kris Tapley had oversold the situation when he wrote that the Warner Bros. release has “the muscle to win all five major Academy Awards (picture, director, actor, actress, and screenplay)…it’s that kind of accomplishment.”
Since then three things have happened. One, A Star Is Born not only failed to win the Toronto Film Festival Grosch People’s Choice Award, but it didn’t even come in second or third. (I was told the other day that it came in fourth.) Two, a critic friend who recently saw it was fine with the first half but not the second, and was dismissive of Lady Gaga‘s performance. (I don’t agree — I think she’semotionally affecting and believable as far as it goes.) And three, a person who attended a recent screening of 50-plus types says that “it played great and they loved it,” but “I’m not sure they Best Picture-loved it…we’ll see.”
In other words, A Star Is Born is playing well, as it ought to. I said in my review that it’s the best of the four versions, and I’ll never back off from that. But it’s not playing super-gangbusters, and therefore it (a) doesn’t have the muscle to win all five major Academy Awards, and (b) is not that kind of accomplishment.
I don’t have a case against the film, but it’s clearly been over-hyped, and the over-hypers, I believe, need to man up and admit to their readers that maybe they should have taken two steps backward and re-thought things a bit before going ape-shit.
Last four paragraphs of my 9.7 review: “So what am I saying? A Star Is Born is a very well-done musical drama, and will wind up being nominated in a few categories, but it’s not (to use a classic Steve Pond term) ‘the one.’ It’s an expertly assembled film for what it is, but keep in mind that it’s basically big-studio schmalz of a very high, very hip and musically pleasing order.
“Kris Tapley wasn’t wrong about a certain kind of Academy member falling for this film, but after everyone sees it they’ll need to step back and take a breath. They’ll need to look in the mirror and ask themselves, ‘Do I really think that a reconstituted high-end romantic tragedy that works all around the track as far as it goes…do I really think this is the absolute cat’s meow?’ Some people will say ‘yes!’ without thinking, but others will think twice.
“Said it before, saying it again: everyone needs to calm the eff down.
“What grade am I giving A Star Is Born? Somewhere between an A-minus and a B-plus. It’s very good but it’s a remake that throbs with wall-to-wall music, for God’s sake. Control yourselves.”
The “third woman” whom attorney Michael Avenatti spoke of a couple of days ago is named Julie Swetnick, and she’s filed a sworn affidavit about Kavanaugh’s behavior at a series of parties (approximately ten) in the Washington, D.C. area between 1981 and ’83. She witnessed the usual (for Kavanaugh and buddy-boy Mark Judge) excessive drinking and aggressive, inappropriate sexual behavior towards women, including alleged instances of gang-rape.
(l.) Julie Swetnick, (r.) Brett Kavanaugh.
Swetnick claims that she saw Kavanaugh, Judge and others “cause girls to become inebriated and disoriented so they could then be ‘gang raped’ in a side room or a bedroom by a ‘train’ of numerous boys.” Second statement: “I have a firm recollection of seeing boys lined up outside rooms at many of these parties waiting for their ‘turn’ with a girl inside the room. These boys included Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh.”
Key Swetnick statement: “I have reviewed Brett Kavanaugh’s recent claim on Fox News regarding his alleged innocence during high school and lack of sexual activity. This is absolutely false and a lie.”
The key thing isn’t that Kavanaugh drank a lot or allegedly acted like a salivating hound — many of us acted that way at one time or another in high school. The key thing is that Kavanaugh is apparently lying by insisting it’s all bullshit. If his response had been “yeah, I drank too much back then and acted like a jerk, and I’m sorry if I hurt anyone’s feelings,” it would be a whole different thing. But Kavanaugh hasn’t been smart enough to adopt that approach. Alan Ladd‘s Philip Raven at the end of This Gun For Hire: “You lie! You lie!”
Christine Blasey Ford will testify tomorrow before the Senate Judiciary Committee about her 36-year-old recollection of alleged sexual assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who was 17 at the time. But the 11 Republican Senators who sit on that committee won’t question her. Like, at all. Because they don’t want to personally contribute to nationwide female-voter pushback in the coming midterm elections. In short, they’re too chicken.
And so a rightwing surrogate inquisitor — Rachel Mitchell, an Arizona prosecutor who specializes in sex crimes — will do the dirty work instead.
Mitchell has been a Maricopa County prosecutor since 1993, which is the same year when the notorious pro-Trump blowhard Joe Arpaio became sheriff of Maricopa County. (He stayed in that office until losing re-election in 2016.) One can infer that Rachel and Joe weren’t too far apart politically. It can also be presumed that the 11 Senators wouldn’t have arranged for Mitchell to question Ford unless they knew she would do her best to weaken (i.e., cast doubt upon) her anti-Kavanaugh testimony as much as possible.
But as the former head of Maricopa County’s sex crimes bureau, which handles child molestations as well as adult sexual assault, Mitchell has a certain expertise. She’s now the head of the Special Victims Division, which investigates sex crimes and family violence. “She’s one of these career prosecutors who specializes in sex crimes,” Paul Ahler, who worked at the county attorney’s office years ago, told The Arizona Republic. “It’s hard to find those people because a lot of people get burned out on those issues, but it’s kind of been her life mission.”
Interesting Mitchell quote: “People think that children would tell right away and that they would tell everything that happened to them. In reality children often keep this secret for years, sometimes into their adulthood, sometimes forever.” Ford was 15 when she was allegedly assaulted by Kavanaugh. She obviously wasn’t a child at the time, but she wasn’t an adult either.
I’ve been a Jonah Hill admirer from the get-go. It’s not just his nervy, envelope-pushing talent that I love, but his moxie and ambition. He began as a Millennial jokester but since The Wolf of Wall Street and Moneyball Hill has been upping his serious actor game, and now he’s a director of considerable merit. You can call me one of Hill’s obedient little bitches, but I know a serious X-factor talent when I see one.
Now, I wasn’t over-the-moon about Mid90s (A24, 10.19), his autobiographical West L.A. skateboard-culture film, but I definitely felt respect and admiration. And in my 9.10 review I included three or four blurbs that could have been easily been used in the new, just-posted Mid90s trailer:
(1) “Mid90s holds its own, and that ain’t hay”; (2) “Jonah Hill has stepped up to the plate and swung on a fastball and connected…crack!”; (3) “[Hill] has honored that straight-from-the-pavement aesthetic by dealing no-bullshit cards, at least by the standards that I understand”; and (4) “This is a fully realized, nicely shaded, highly engaging first film.”
So what review quotes did A24 marketers choose for the new trailer? Fellatio quotes. Review excerpts that are so gushingly positive that the likely Average Joe response is “Uhm, really?…it’s that good?”
According to the trailer the Globe and Mail‘s Barry Hertz has called Mid90s a “straight-outta-the-gate masterpiece.” Now that’s just ridiculous. That’s an undisciplined effusion. Mid90s is a real-deal, shrewdly honed and honestly observed film but it’s not a “masterpiece”…c’mon!
Little White Lies critic Hannah Wooodhead has called it “a scrappy triumph with heart, soul and boundless energy.” Really? “Boundless” energy? Does anyone remember Tom Tykwer‘s Run Lola Run? That had boundless energy. Mid90s is mostly a dialogue-driven thing, group shots and two-shots and whatnot. Some skateboard action but mostly a hang-out deal. And what does she mean by “triumph”? A triumph over what?
Business Insider‘s Jason Guarrasio called it “beautifully authentic.” Yes, that’s true, I’ll go along with that.
On the other hand Vice‘s Justin Staple has allegedly called Mid90s “the film of the year.” Whoa there, sunshine. You can’t call a very well done, emotionally trustworthy skateboard flick “the film of the year”…c’mon! The film of the year in what sense? Critics who ejaculate without discipline accomplish one thing and one thing only — they diminish their cred.
Collider‘s Perri Nemiroff called Mid90s “masterful” Okay, I’ll buy that. Within its own realm Hill does exert a certain masterful command.
All to say that A24 should’ve come down to earth and used one of my quotes. Because unlike 80% of the critics whose blurbs they used, I’m a Hill admirer whose feet are on the ground and who hasn’t gotten carried away.