As recently as two weeks ago, I was being chided for being the only Gold Derby spitballer who didn’t have Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk) as one of the top five Best Supporting Actress contenders. I thought she was good but not great in Barry Jenkins‘ film, but I had second thoughts because everyone was saying “Regina King, Regina King…she’s so well-liked, this is her year,” etc. Then the SAG noms popped this morning and she was nowhere to be found. They drop-kicked her. So what happened?
Thanks to Ankler editor Richard Rushfield for chatting me up yesterday afternoon. And thanks to Mrs. Fields cookies for sponsoring! How does Hollywood Elsewhere actually feel about Mrs. Fields? I love the idea of cookies or cupcakes or anything in that realm, but two seconds after taking a bite of anything fattening I’m immediately filled with guilt and remorse. So HE unequivocally endorses the idea of eating Mrs. Cookies cookies, but no more than that. A delicious thing to contemplate if not actually embark upon.
Description-wise, I would politely dispute Rushfield’s notion that I’m “the most dangerous man in movie blogging” and replace that with “the most”…I don’t know, “curiously individualistic, idiosyncratic, gut-impulse, conventional-wisdom-disputing blogaroo”…something like that.
My other correction is that Clint Eastwood’s The Mule, which I saw last night, is not “shock humor-heavy.” That idea was conveyed by a guy who posted on a Clint Eastwood fan site. The Mule is jocular in the way Clint’s old-guy character tosses off insensitive, politically incorrect racial terms and other old-guy inappropriate-isms, but the tone is not satirical.
The Mule is basically a sincerely-told saga of an old guy coming to terms with his shortcomings as a man who’s always selfishly preferred work over family, etc. It’s an entirely decent film in this respect. Yes, Warner Bros. publicists have gone with a minimal, semi-hands-off approach because they’re concerned about potential adverse reactions to the offensive dialogue, but it’s a respectable film overall, and a well-structured one to boot.
Again the podcast.
TO: Jason Berger, John Cooper c/o Sundance Film Festival
FROM: Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere
RE: Sundance ’19 press pass
Hope you guys are doing well.
Before I jump in on the issue of my usual press pass being denied for next month’s Sundance Film Festival, I’d like to offer an apology to whichever parties within the Sundance organization who have decided that I’m a bad or unworthy fellow, and a pledge that I will try to do whatever it is that they would prefer I try to do henceforth.
Obviously I’ve rubbed this or that person the wrong way, but I am a determined, hardworking columnist-critic who’s been diligently covering Sundance each and every year since ’93, and I’d like to continue doing that. If nothing else Sundance saves me from award-season coverage for roughly ten days, and it’s wonderful for this aspect alone.
Since announcing in my column that the Sundance press office is denying me a press pass for the first time after 25 years of coverage, I’ve heard from colleagues and filmmakers who’ve found this decision “alarming, deplorable, appalling, ridiculous,” etc.
One response I’ve been pondering is to post a letter-to-Sundance that various veteran journalists and producers might want to sign — something to the effect of “we the under-signed feel it is extremely ill-advised of the Sundance press office to withhold press credentials of a 25-year veteran of the festival because they don’t agree with his viewpoints. This smacks of ‘woke’ McCarthyism, and is clearly not in keeping with the liberal, inclusive, independent-contrarian spirit of the Sundance Film Festival”…something like that.
It’s a fairly simple notion that arbitrary withholding of press credentials under these circumstances (all of us being in the the midst of revolutionary changes in the industry as far as inclusion, identity politics and representation, #MeToo and #Timesup advocacy, p.c. admonishings of older white guys, SJW sloganeering and a general climate of “woke” political intimidation) is not a good idea and that it sets an unhealthy precedent, freedom of the press-wise.
Anyway, I’d be most grateful if the offended parties with the Sundance organization could find it within their hearts to turn the other cheek and let bygones be bygones, etc.
Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere
The SAG ensemble award is more or less SAG’s idea of a Best Picture trophy, and so the inclusion of Crazy Rich Asians — an oppressively downmarket wealth-porn romcom that is noteworthy for the all-Asian cast aspect (inclusion) and its impressive box-office performance — is a little startling.
The two basic criteria behind this morning’s SAG ensemble award nominations — A Star Is Born, Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody and Crazy Rich Asians — seem to be (a) commercial popularity and (b inclusion. All five made their mark in terms of box-office and/or representation, but none are anyone’s idea of profoundly great cinema. I felt immediately that A Star Is Born is the best of the five versions (including What Price Hollywood?) but it peaks during the first half, and Black Panther — a very strong film in some respects — doesn’t really kick in until the final hour.
Clearly the old-fashioned idea of quality for quality’s sake has been more or less tossed. SAG actually nominated John David Washington for his lead performance in BlacKkKlansman….c’mon!
Inclusion and box-office, inclusion and box-office, inclusion and box-office.
Congrats to Ozark‘s Jason Bateman for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series nomination — his episode-by-episode performance is perfectly measured and emoted in an adult, low-key, entirely gripping way,
(HE) = special Hollywood Elsewhere approval; (NSM) = not so much.
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role:
Christian Bale, Vice / (HE)
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book / (HE)
John David Washington, BlacKkKlansman / (NSM)
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role:
Emily Blunt, Mary Poppins Returns
Glenn Close, The Wife / (HE)
Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me? / (HE)
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role:
Mahershala Ali, Green Book / (HE)
Timothee Chalamet, Beautiful Boy
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me? / (HE)
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role:
Amy Adams, Vice / (HE)
Emily Blunt, A Quiet Place
Margot Robbie, Mary Queen of Scots (makeup)
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture:
A Star Is Born (best of the five Star Is Born flicks, but peaks at halfway mark)
Black Panther (historic superhero film, rooted social metaphor, soars only during final hour)
BlacKkKlansman (police caper flick, GREAT ENDING!) (NSM)
Bohemian Rhapsody (paint by numbers but immensely likable regardless)
Crazy Rich Asians / (NSM)
The Trump wall has never been anything more than a symbolic totem for the rubes — a rhetorical us-vs.-them concept, and a line-in-the-sand presentation thqt President Trump would like to put on to the tune of $5 billion, solely for the emotional benefit of his information-challenged base. Trump threw it out during the ’16 election, of course, and has continued to hail the wall in subsequent hillbilly Nuremberg rallies.
Sen. Chuck Schumer: “The President made clear that he wants a shutdown. If he sticks to his position for a $5 billion wall, he will get no wall and he will get a shutdown. We want border security, we offered high border security, but Americans know that the wall is not the way to border security, and the experts say that. This Trump shutdown, this temper tantrum that he seems to throw, will not get him his wall. The $1.3 billion that we gave him last year for border security — no wall but border security…less than 6% of [this amount] has been spent.”
You Broke My Heart is a new feature of HE Plus — a personal relationship advice and recollection column based entirely upon real episodes that have happened in my life or the lives of friends:
Zackey: There’s an issue with this woman I’ve been seeing. It sounds vapid but it’s getting in the way. Not her problem — mine.
[Click through to full story on HE-plus]
Wes Anderson‘s Rushmore, far and away the best film he’s ever made (not to mention the funniest), opened exactly 20 years ago today. For me the more meaningful anniversary was a couple of months ago, or the 20th anni of the New York Film Festival debut on 10.9.98.
I had just begun my Mr. Showbiz column that month, and boy, was I delighted with Rushmore when I saw it out at the Disney lot one night! I was floating when it ended. Wes, whom I’d known since he hit town with Owen Wilson in the fall of ’94, had allowed me to read a copy of the script when I was miserably working at People, and I was pretty happy with it. But the film version represented one of the very few times in my life that a movie turned out to be significantly better than the script. (It usually works the other way around.)
At what point was I dead certain that Rushmore was a one-in-a-million bull’s-eye? It may have been when I realized that Mason Gamble‘s little-kid performance (he was seven years old during filming) was something I’d never seen in a film before. No one had ever heard a kid that age say a line like “do you say my mom gave you a hand-job?” And he meant it. It wasn’t a joke line.
There was also that scene in which Jason Schwartzman‘s Max shoots Steven McCole‘s Magnus Buchan character in the neck with a beebee gun, and the way McCole played it when he got hit — “Aarrgghhh!”, like he was really hurt, which is how I used to howl when I was shot with beebee pellets when I was nine or ten — is perfect. Has anyone ever had to deal with a hailstorm of crab apples thrown by the “enemy” (i.e., other kids in the neighborhood)? I have, and it’s very serious when this happens. It hurts, I mean.
When I posted HE’s 150 Greatest American Films list on 7.24.15, I ranked Rushmore as my #8, and I meant it. I still do.
[All of the preceding except for paragraphs #3 and #4 was previously posted on 8.23.17.]
How’s the Warner Archive Bluray of Howard Hawks‘ Thing From Another World? The four-word response is “sufficient, acceptable, no worries.” But it doesn’t deliver what I’m always hoping for, which is a Bluray “bump”.
Most of it looks as good as can be expected, I suppose — it certainly looks better than the 2005 DVD — but it didn’t blow me away. I wanted it to look as good as Warner Archives’ Out of the Past Bluray, but it doesn’t even come close to that.
I’m glad I own the Thing Bluray, but the greatest satisfaction I got from the whole package was the needle-sharp menu photo of Robert Cornthwaite, Dewey Martin, Douglas Spencer and the gang inspecting the directional stabilizer of the alien spacecraft. That’s the only image that really and truly got me off.
I’ve always been bothered by the casual cold-weather gear worn by the various Thing characters. They’re coping with brutal North Pole temps (anywhere from minus-20 to minus-50 fahrenheit) and yet they’re dressed more for standard January or February temps in Massachusetts or Maine (i.e., 20s or teens) — standard parka hoodies, overcoats, skullcaps and galoshes. For the North Pole you’d need a lot more bundling up — thermal underwear, goggles, layers upon layers of protective clothing, etc.
I’ll be seeing Clint Eastwood‘s The Mule early this evening, and I sorta kinda can’t wait. I don’t know Carmen Tse but for the sake of discussion let’s presume he/she is an actual Letterboxed person and not a plant. I love the “one of the funniest movies of the year” remark, whatever it actually means.
I love the split sensibilities of the San Diego Film Critics Society. On one hand they gave their Best Picture trophy to Debra Granik‘s Leave No Trace, but their runner-up favorite is Peter Farrelly‘s Green Book. These two films — a subdued, Hollywood-averse, tension-free indie vs. a somewhat old-fashioned, Hollywood-convention-embracing, racially-stamped buddy film — don’t just represent different filmmaking approaches but separate aesthetic continents.
The SDFCS is vigorously applauded for handing its Best Actor prize to First Reformed‘s Ethan Hawke. There’s no stopping Hawke now. A sizable portion of the Gold Derby gang — mostly finger-to-the-wind sheep who wouldn’t recognize a strong aesthetic conviction if it came up and bit them in the ass — have recently caved in their months-long resistance to Hawke and are now including him in their top-five Best Actor projection rosters. SAG and Academy voters are almost sure to follow.
You know what would have been really great? As in “wow, I can’t believe they had the artistic conviction to man up and actually do this” audacious? If the furniture and clothing in Raleigh Studios’ Roma exhibit were to be presented in monochrome facsimiles. If they were to somehow recreate all the clothing in black, white and silvery gray-weave, and then artfully (and I mean very carefully) paint the furniture in silvery gray, black and white with just a touch of grain. I would be down on my knees with admiration. It would be totally next-realm magnifico.
If only Lisa Taback had come to me first and said, “Jeff? We’re about to present a Roma exhibit at Raleigh — photos, props, clothing. What can we do to give it a feeling of artistic integrity…something that would deliver a snap-crackle-pop vibe…you know, something extra-level?”
ROMA, in living color, on the Raleigh Studios lot pic.twitter.com/YdswDvlPkl
— Scott Feinberg (@ScottFeinberg) December 10, 2018