Thanks to the haters, uglies and tortured souls who’ve cheered my Sundance ’19 announcement. One thing I’ve never done and never will do is applaud a journalist’s political difficulty or misfortune, but there are some who revel in such distractions. And they all have their bathroom-mirror reflections to consider each night. Last January I covered Sundance like everyone else — reviews of Ethan Hawke‘s Blaze, David Wain‘s A Futile and Stupid Gesture and Paul Dano‘s Wildlife, a chat with Jonah Hill about Gus Van Sant‘s Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot, a riff about Marina Zenovich‘s Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, a pan of Blindspotting, a mostly positive review of Amy Scott’s Hal Ashby doc, etc. Sundance is a job, a task, a 10-day march…something you try to do as best you can. And then you move on.
Kevin Hart: “I have made the choice to step down from hosting this year’s Oscars. I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from the past. I’m sorry that I hurt people.”
Earlier: Hart’s hours-old Instagram post (and corresponding video clip) is an attempt to persuade everyone to cut him some slack regarding the clearly homophobic tweets that he posted seven or eight years ago. He’s claiming that on the brink of his 40th birthday he’s “in love with the man that I am becoming” and that “you live and you LEARN & you GROW & YOU MATURE…I love EVERYBODY, once again EVERYBODY.” So please let it go, he’s basically saying, and accept that he’s no longer the homophobic guy he was in his early 30s.
Deadline‘s Mike Fleming has written that Hart “might get the benefit of the doubt but only if he stands up and takes responsibility for the hurtful things he has written. Or at least explains himself more fully.” But what could Hart say in a follow-up other than an expanded replay of this afternoon’s Instagram, which is that the hurtful tweets were then & “I love EVERYBODY” is now? Right now the conversation seems to be tilting against Hart but who knows? I know the news about Hart landing the Oscar host gig broke faster than anticipated, but you’d think that vetting his tweets and stand-up material would have been a top priority during the discussion phase. How is this likely to shake out?
Kenneth Branagh as a weary and melancholy William Shakespeare, aged 49 in the year 1613 — three years before his death at age 52. Retired and unable to write, Shakespeare has returned to his home town of Stratford to reflect and complain and fret about his shortcomings. Judi Dench as Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway, and Ian McKellen as confidante Henry Wriothesley. Penned by Ben Elton (Blackadder, The Thin Blue Line), All Is True is receiving an award-qualifying one-week release on 12.21.
Two years ago the Sundance Film Festival withdrew my beloved Express Pass, which I was honored to carry for five straight festivals (’12 thru ’16) and by which I had easy access to screenings and therefore some extra, extremely valuable writing time. I was initially devastated but I gradually adjusted to grunt status during the ’17 and ’18 festivals. But now the Sundancers have really lowered the boom. Two days ago they told me they’ll be “unable to accommodate your request for press credentials at [the 2019] festival.”
Seriously — they actually said that.
I’ve been “going out” with Sundance for 25 years, and suddenly we’re done? I’ve been attending Sundance festivals each and every year since ’93, and if memory serves I filed a New York Post story about Robert Redford‘s launching of the Sundance Institute way back in ’80. A quarter century’s worth of round-trip plane tickets and condo rentals and hobnobbing and working my tail off to see and review everything…two and a half decades of wearing that cowboy hat and working and wailing and watching the history of independent film unfold in the snowy Wasatch mountains.
Has any other longterm Sundance veteran been told to take a hike after 25 years of devotion? I doubt it. Can anyone imagine the Cannes Film Festival guys doing this? I think this is fairly historic on some level. It’s been nice, Jeff, but that’ll do…we don’t like you any more.
I’ve been advised by journalist friends to let this go and just attend next month’s festival without a pass, and basically mooch tickets from publicist pals. Which I may do. But this is an instructive moment that tells us a little something about the punitive mindset of the cabal that’s running Sundance these days.
For this is clearly a censorious and illiberal response to my having written critical riffs about the matters near and dear to wokeness. I’ve lamented the off-with-their-heads Robespierre mentality within the #MeToo movement. I’ve stood by Woody Allen and particularly Moses Farrow. There exists, I gather, a suspicion that I’m not sufficiently supportive of woman filmmakers, which I’m sure will come as a surprise to Kathy Bigelow, Marielle Heller, Jennifer Kent (nobody worshipped The Babadook more than myself), Andrea Arnold, Sarah Polley, Lynne Ramsay, Sofia Coppola (whose direction of Somewhere reminded me of classic-era Michelangelo Antonioni), Ava DuVernay (whose Middle of Nowhere I flipped over six years ago) and Olivia Colman (whose performance in Tyrannosaur I found so devastating that I raised money to pay for press screenings that Strand Releasing wouldn’t spring for).
And it’s possible, I suppose, that my having called last year’s festival a “socialist summer camp in the snow” rubbed them the wrong way.
In a 1.21.18 piece titled “Sundance ’18 Feels Sluggish, Listless, Agenda-Driven,” I wrote that “this festival seems to be largely about woke-ness and women’s agenda films — healings, buried pain, social ills, #MeToo awareness, identity politics, etc.”
I’m not going to offer any sweeping judgments about the recently announced 2019 Sundance Film Festival slate, except to suggest that with a competition slate that is 53% female (i.e., nine of the 17 directors eligible for the festival’s top prize are women) it would appear that 2019 Sundance is going to be just as progressive-minded as last year’s festival, if not more so.
But even with the currents of p.c. instruction every Sundance delivers at least four or five knockouts, and the 2019 crop seems like it might be a little better than normal.
I’ve naturally written an appeal to the Sundance press office, and have been told they may change their minds.
The lyrics to “Viva Las Vegas“, the 1963 Elvis Presley song, are hokey and shallow. Ditto the same-titled 1964 film in which Presley costarred with Ann-Margret. But Shawn Colvin‘s slowed-down ballad version, heard during the closing credits of The Big Lebowski, is mesmerizing. And yet the only way to purchase Colvin’s rendition on iTunes is to buy a 2017 Twin Peaks soundtrack album. Weird.
Or I may have watched a half-hour’s worth before discreetly slipping out of the screening room. Or I may have seen the whole thing and then discharged it from my memory. This morning I watched a couple of clips (I love the David Letterman scene). The fact that I can’t recall says something in itself. Ditto the fact that the cover of Kino Lorber Bluray describes Cabin Boy as “the contentious classic that angered a nation.”
I was, however, somewhat taken by Michael Tedder’s 12.5 Ringer piece, “The Beautiful, Inspirational Disaster of Cabin Boy, 25 Years Later.” Here’s the best portion:
“Though flawed, Cabin Boy is a cinematic experience like nothing else, and one that has been extremely important to the development of American comedy.
“It’s often said that Mick Jagger failed to become a soul singer, and in the process became one of the greatest voices of rock music. Adam Resnick and Chris Elliott failed to make a big-budget Hollywood comedy, and in the process made a surreal, anarchist experience.
“It looks and feels wrong in a great way, in a way that a more technically accomplished director could never hope to achieve, much as no conventionally ‘great’ singer could ever hope to match the raw emotion of Daniel Johnston’s ‘Some Things Last a Long Time.’
“The film holds a mesmerizing power, from the contrast to the surrealistically fake ocean and old-timey garb of Elliott’s shipmates, played by character actors like Brian Doyle-Murray, and anachronistic elements like a limo and a microwave that are never commented on. The special effects are so delightfully chintzy, especially whenever the cuckold giant shoe salesman shows up. The jokes always arrive at the wrong time and never do what you expect them to do, such as when a giant cupcake spits tobacco on Elliott, and then disappears without explanation.
“[And} Elliott gives a fully committed performance, nailing the stunted man-child archetype years before Will Ferrell would popularize it, and using his posture and awkward gait to fully sell Mayweather’s metamorphosis into a Cabin Man.
Posted on 9.12.18: “I’ve never watched a single film on my Sony 65″ HDR 4K TV with the ‘aid’ of motion-smoothing, which makes everything look overly fluid and video-tapey and generally removes the scrim-texture of film. But as appalling and repellent as motion-smoothing is, I’m strangely attracted to using it when watching old black-and-white films.
“There’s something hypnotic about watching, say, William Wellman‘s The Public Enemy, which I’ve seen several times since I was a kid, with the motion-smoothing effect. Shot 87 years ago, this rickety-feeling James Cagney gangster flick is a formally framed, somewhat squawky-sounding film for the most part, but with motion smoothing it feels (and I know I’m not supposed to say this) cleaner, fresher and less antiquated.”
Marielle Heller‘s Can You Ever Forgive Me? should have been nominated for Best Motion Picture — Drama. It warrants this distinction more than BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody or If Beale Street Could Talk, all of which have problems. Heller’s film is just about perfect.
And yet I placed a special stamp of approval on Bohemian Rhapsody, not because it’s a great film but because I really enjoyed it. So much that I paid to see it a second time after the press screening. A few weeks back a critic friend confided that he liked Bohemian Rhapsody better than A Star Is Born. Even though Bradley Cooper‘s film is of a higher dramatic and cinematic pedigree, I feel the same way.
Why did the Hollywood Foreign Press Association fail to nominate Pawel Pawlikowski‘s Cold War for Best Foreign-Language Film? That’s not an oversight but a face palm.
It’s still seems bizarre that Bohemian Rhapsody — a biopic that is largely about musical creativity, and is filled with songs and performances — was submitted by 20th Century Fox as a straight drama and duly nominated as same by the HFPA. Ditto A Star Is Born. Black Panther‘s nomination in this category probably foreshadows what will happen with the guilds and the Academy.
(HE) = special Hollywood Elsewhere approval.
Best Motion Picture — Drama
Bohemian Rhapsody (HE)
If Beale Street Could Talk
A Star Is Born (HE)
Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy
Crazy Rich Asians
Green Book (HE)
Mary Poppins Returns
Best Director — Motion Picture
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Alfonso Cuaron, Roma (HE)
Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Peter Farrelly, Green Book (HE)
Adam McKay, Vice (HE)
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Drama
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate (HE)
Lucas Hedges, Boy Erased
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody (HE)
John David Washington, BlacKkKlansman
Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Drama
Glenn Close, The Wife (HE)
Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
Nicole Kidman, Destroyer
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (HE)
Rosamund Pike, A Private War
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy
Christian Bale, Vice (HE)
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mary Poppins Returns
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book (HE)
Robert Redford, The Old Man and the Gun
John C. Reilly, Stan and Ollie
Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy
Emily Blunt, Mary Poppins Returns
Olivia Colman, The Favourite (HE)
Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade (HE)
Charlize Theron, Tully
Constance Wu, Crazy Rich Asians
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture
Mahershala Ali, Green Book (HE)
Timothee Chalamet, Beautiful Boy
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (HE)
Sam Rockwell, Vice
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture
Amy Adams, Vice (HE)
Claire Foy, First Man
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture
Roma, Alfonso Cuaron (HE)
The Favourite, Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins
Vice, Adam McKay (HE)
Green Book, Peter Farrelly, Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie (HE)
Best Original Score – Motion Picture
A Quiet Place
Isle of Dogs
First Man (HE)
Mary Poppins Returns
Best Original Song — Motion Picture
Best Animated Feature Film
Best Foreign-Language Film:
Never Look Away