Universal’s two big Oscar ponies are Damien Chazelle‘s First Man (10.12) and Peter Farrelly‘s Green Book (11.21). By any comprehensive, even-handed standard Chazelle’s film is the grander, more far-reaching and more muscular achievement — a movie that delivers a somewhat familiar tale in unusually intimate terms, and with fresh cinematic brushstrokes. And yet Farrelly’s film, conventional and safely conceived as it is, is more emotionally winning than Chazelle’s by a country mile. And it deals with a subject and a climate that every over-45 person can recall (black-white relations as they used to be in the bad old days) while engaging audiences in an easy, comforting, non-challenging way. In a phrase, Green Book has a better shot at winning the Best Picture Oscar. I’m sorry but it does.
After averaging five or six hours of nightly sleep over the last two and a half weeks (Telluride + Toronto), I actually allowed myself to catch eight hours last night. Which is why I began a little later this morning than usual. Perhaps a little more relaxation this weekend, and then New York Film Festival press screenings begin early Monday morning. The first will be (what the hell) Alex Ross Perry‘s Her Smell.
Last night Bill Maher reiterated his longstanding frustration with Democrats who seem constitutionally incapable of talking tough and blunt about Donald Trump, and about the fact that the guys who are really letting him have it are fellow Republicans. Agreed — with the exception of Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and a few others, Democrats are mostly acting like cowards. Yes, I know — they’re waiting for the blue mandate that will presumably come in November. But the fact that there’s still no galvanizing Democratic frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination is troublesome.
Two or three days ago Sasha Stone sent me a Gene Maddaus Variety story about ongoing litigation about the failure of Warren Beatty‘s Rules Don’t Apply. Beatty and Regency Enterprises (Yariv Milchan and his billionaire dad Arnon Milchan) have sued and counter-sued each other** about who bungled the marketing of Beatty’s Howard Hughes film, which opened and quickly died in late November of 2016. It ended up with a lousy $3.9 million domestic.
My reply to Sasha: “Who gives a shit? Outside of journalists and industry types nobody much cared when Rules opened and flopped two years ago. It was an odd duck of a film — partly farcical, partly constipated and partly a repressed love story between Alden Ehrenreich and Lily Collins, whom no one cared about. The strongest elements all came from Beatty’s darkly eccentric performance as Hughes. The problem was that Hughes was in his early to mid 50s in the realm of the story (1958 to ’64) and Beatty was 76 and 77 when he performed the role in 2014. The bottom line is that Beatty looked too damn old, plus he hadn’t been in a film for 15 years. He was certainly too long of tooth to have sex with the 20something, champagne-buzzed Collins in that one scene. Some of Rules Don’t Apply worked, but too much of it didn’t.”
** From Wikipage: “In December 2017, it was announced that Arnon Milchan and Regency Enterprises, one of the film’s financiers, was suing Beatty for $18 million. The company cited breach of contract, claiming Beatty had not repaid the promotion cost losses the company took on following the underperformance at the box office. In March 2018, an investment group including Brett Ratner, Ron Burkle and Steve Bing counter-sued Regency for $50 million, claiming it was their under-promotion of the film that had led to its ‘disastrous box office results and the loss of cross-complainants’ entire investment.'”
In the wake of Criterion’s garishly tealed-up Midnight Cowboy and Bull Durham Blurays, the teal monster has re-appeared in Criterion’s forthcoming Bluray of Brian DePalma‘s Sisters (’73). Or it has, at least, according to frame captures posted by DVD Beaver’s Gary. W Tooze.
HE to Tooze: “This continuing Criterion teal thing is crazy. WHAT IS CRITERION DOING? No disrespect but is there any chance at all there’s something screwy on your end? Something to do with 4K discs or your 4K player? Nobody else is talking about Criterion’s teal obsession. Please level with me — WHAT COULD BE HAPPENING HERE? BECAUSE IT’S INSANE. Why would Criterion do this? The latest offender is Sisters.”
Notice the distinct teal tint in the bottom image, which is taken from Criterion’s Sisters Bluray; the above image is from an earlier Arrow Bluray.
Mark Smith to HE: “To go by DVD Beaver frame captures Criterion’s Sisters Bluray is not as egregious, offensive and baffling as the recent Bull Durham and Midnight Cowboy releases, but it’s in the ballpark.
“This MUST have something to do with color technology on 4K or HDR or…something. I cannot believe that this is just a series of full–on botch–jobs. These transfers are director- or cinematographer-approved. There’s no way Criterion and Adam Holender looked at the teal sky in Midnight Cowboy and said, ‘Perfect!’
“What is Gary Tooze seeing that Criterion is not? What monitors are they all using? Why are not all of Criterion’s new releases tealed-up? I’d be willing to bet that this is an HDR/4K monitor problem.”
Tooze replies: “Hello, Jeffrey — We don’t obtain our captures on 4K UHD monitors. We have sampled comparisons with other sites (that also use the VLC software) and they seem to be the same on our reviews of other films.
“As I noted in our review, [the teal tint] is less-visible on my OLED (4K UHD) but all systems may have different filters, especially nowadays. We used the latest version of VLC — flat with no enhancement.
“The teal effect has been noticed on plenty of non-Criterion Blurays for years. And you can see about 800 Criterion reviews on DVD Beaver WITHOUT the teal…so it ain’t me. I’ve been doing this 18 years.
“Maybe directors in the booth are swayed by modern technical-ability to shift colors? I don’t have an answer as to why it exists – I am just reporting it.” — Regards, Gary Tooze”
Hollywood Elsewhere also totally agrees with Virginia Postrel’s additionally brilliant suggestion for a Best Hindsight Oscar for the Best Picture from 25 years ago.
“Nominees would be selected through the same process as the current year’s Best Picture nominees but from the earlier year’s offerings,” Postrel explains. “To keep already-confusing dates consistent, the award would count back from the year whose films are being honored — say, 2018 — rather than the year of the ceremony.”
If, in other words, the Academy was to hand out a Best Hindsight Oscar next February, the applicable year (a quarter century prior to 2018) would be 1993…right? Academy voters who therefore re-consider the best films of that year (Groundhog Day, Jurassic Park, True Romance, Philadelphia, Schindler’s List, The Firm, The Age of Innocence, In The Line of Fire, Falling Down, A Perfect World, A Bronx Tale, In The Name of the Father) and vote for their favorite.
Schindler’s List might still take the top prize, of course, but guess what definitely wouldn’t win? Correct — Philadelphia. What should win? Correct — Groundhog Day.
Three or four days ago Bloomberg’s Virginia Postrel re-posted a solution to the Best Picture Oscar problem (tickets buyers preferring mass appeal or FX-driven popcorn flicks, Academy members preferring to honor movies that are actually good in some kind of profound, refined or zeitgeist-reflecting way) that I think makes a lot of sense.
The short-lived Best Achievement in Popular Film Oscar idea died because (a) it was too vaguely defined and (b) it would have essentially denigrated the potential contenders in this category by categorizing them as popular but a bit slovenly — i.e., lower on the cultural totem pole than bona fide Best Picture nominees.
Postrel’s idea is to not cast indirect shade upon mass-appeal films but simply create two Best Picture categories based on admissions — a Spirit Awards-type Best Picture Oscar for films that have sold less than 10 million tickets and a mainstream Best Picture Oscar for films that have sold more than 10 million tickets. Simple, no shade, and fully reflective of how the the movie-watching world is defined these days.
This is it! This really and truly solves the problem, and nobody (not even Kris Tapley, Mark Harris or Jeff Sneider) could possibly argue against it. Attention John Bailey, Dawn Hudson and all the ships at sea — this double-Oscar solution will boost Oscar telecast ratings, save the Oscar brand and make everyone completely happy in a fair, even-steven way.
Now watch the Academy dither and delay and probably never act upon it. But I’m telling you straight and true that this is the answer on a silver effing platter.
It’s the admissions, stupid!
In Postrel’s words: “[The solution would be to] emulate journalism awards that divide publications by circulation: Divide the Best Picture awards into two categories, best picture (under 10 million tickets sold) and best picture (10 million tickets or more). Just as publications with wildly different circulations operate under different constraints, so do movies aimed at different-sized audiences.
“Rather than stigmatizing one or both categories, this division would treat them as equally valid, just as the Oscars do with short versus standard-length films. Adding a December 31st cutoff date for counting tickets would encourage less crowding of Oscar-worthy pictures in the waning weeks of the year.
“Ten million tickets puts a movie in about the top 40 for the year, a large-enough universe to offer diversity in both genre and artistic ambition. For 2017, nominees might have included Baby Driver, Blade Runner 2049, Coco, Dunkirk, Get Out, Girls Trip, It, Logan, Wonder and Wonder Woman.”
Final Postrel commentary: “The Academy Awards have two purposes. One is to let industry insiders honor their peers and congratulate themselves for jobs well done. But their more important goal is to get the general public to appreciate and patronize the movies — and thereby to keep the insiders in business.
“In that pursuit, the Oscars need to find ways to recognize that popular taste isn’t always bad. You don’t win fans by insulting your audience. And many popular movies are actually excellent, even if it takes hindsight to realize their merits.”
“Part sincere and part smarmy, part amusing and part windy nonsense, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs plays like an old Western-themed vaudeville show featuring six unrelated sketches of drastically differing quality. In other words, this little Western anthology is minor Coen brothers, worth checking out on Netflix, which backed it, but of very limited potential theatrically.” — from Todd McCarthy‘s Hollywood Reporter review, posted on 8.31.
About a half-hour before the Gloria Bell screening, I slipped into a theatre across the Scotiabank lobby where Jason Reitman‘s The Front Runner was about to play. I’m a huge fan of this film (The Candidate meets Primary Colors meets tabloid journalism) and wanted to re-experience the first 20 or 25 minutes. The lights were on as I strolled inside. For a few seconds I stood in front and assessed the situation.
Almost immediately a TIFF volunteer asked, “Are you okay, sir?” I translated this as “do you need help finding a seat?” or something in that realm, but I was also amused by her professed concern for my health or well being. So I turned to the volunteer, a woman of about 20, and said what I now realize was a bad thing.
I said to her, “Uhm, no, I’m having a heart attack.”
That was a grevious error for which I am truly, deeply sorry. For the volunteer became alarmed. So alarmed, in fact, that she reported the incident to her supervisor. 30 to 45 seconds later the supervisor, another young woman, approached my front-row seat. She didn’t have to say anything as it was obvious what was up. She said that the volunteer was a bit stunned, etc. I explained that “it was a joke…an attempt at humor…maybe not a very funny one and I’m sorry for the joke falling flat, but that was the idea.”
The supervisor repeated that she felt obliged to investigate because the volunteer felt upset, etc. I then realized this had actually become a thing. Me: “Please…it was just a little stab at goofball humor,” etc.
Then the supervisor alarmed me. She reached over and held my press badge in her hand and flipped it over so she could inspect it. In other words, she apparently intended to report this incident to her superiors.
“You’re kidding,” I said. “You’re going to report this? A guy making a joke about having a heart attack? I’m sorry if it wasn’t funny but the idea was to sprinkle a little mirth into the situation. I mean, it never hurts to have a sense of humor…right?”
Update: A24 is apparently planning a spring ’19 release for Sebastien Lelio‘s Gloria Bell, despite glowing notices and lively Best Actress buzz for Julianne Moore‘s performance, That’s what an A24 rep has told a friend, at least — “not this year…I suppose they could always try a qualifying run if the need arises but it is presently undated and intended for 2019.”
Posted last night (Thursday, 9.13): I saw Sebastian Lelio‘s Gloria Bell (A24) earlier today, and this nearly shot-for-shot remake of the 2013 original is once again a very good film — emotionally relatable and affecting, wonderfully acted, a bit sad. And I’m sorry but there’s no way Julianne Moore, who knocks the lead role out of the park, can be elbowed out of Best Actress contention. Like it or not she’s in the running alongside Lady Gaga, Melissa McCarthy, Glenn Close, Viola Davis and Ben Is Back‘s Julia Roberts.
Some will say “hold on, she won the Best Actress Oscar for Still Alice only four years ago” but she’s really superb here with a truly appealing role. The only thing that might prevent Moore from being nominated will be if A24 doesn’t step up to the plate with a serious commitment to Moore’s Best Actress campaign. Do I think she’ll win? Perhaps not, but once people see Gloria Bell they’ll know there’s no choice here.
Another Gold Derby/Tom O’Neill alert: Right now your Best Actress options don’t include Moore’s Gloria Bell performance. You need to fix this right away.
Is it okay if I say that the Americanized Gloria Bell seems a tiny bit better — riper, funnier, more relatable — than Lelio’s Chilean-produced original? It’s not a stretch to call it a shot-for-shot remake of the 2013 original, and yet I found the actors in the new version more engaging. Does that make me a North American chauvinist? Probably, but is it a crime to prefer Moore’s vibe, appearance and chops to those of Chilean actress Paulina García? Maybe I prefer Moore because she’s been around for decades and I feel more at home with her, and because she strikes me as prettier and so on.
I definitely feel that John Turturro‘s performance as Arnold, Moore’s immature, daughter-obsessed boyfriend, is preferable to Sergio Hernandez‘s version, and I don’t care what that sounds like or who disagrees.