If I were in Park City now, I would be paying attention to Dee Rees‘ The Last Thing He Wanted (Netflix, 2.21). I’m presuming it isn’t a homer and probably not a triple, but a ground-rule double would be nice. I’m moderately encouraged by the Joan Didion source novel, the ’80s Contra conspiracy plot weave, the conflicted daughter-father relationship, and the reliable-sounding cast — Anne Hathaway, Willem Dafoe, Ben Affleck, Rosie Perez, etc.
If you know anything about Martin Scorsese, you know that guilty Catholicism and anxious conversations with God are always embedded somewhere in the fabric of his films, going all the way back to Mean Streets and up through Silence and The Irishman. You also know that The Irishman is basically a 209-minute church service in a cavernous cathedral, and that it’s basically about Marty considering the mortal coil and looking to come to terms with who he is and where he came from, and particularly his decades of immersion in the gangster realm.
For The Irishman is the great, grand finale in the serial Scorsese crime saga that began 47 or 48 years ago — Mean Streets (young Little Italy hustlers), Goodfellas (Queens mob guys in their 30s and 40s), Casino (middle-aged Vegas guys funded by Kansas City mob), The Departed (Boston bad guys) and The Wolf of Wall Street (flamboyant white-collar sharks).** And now the last testament.
The Irishman is about karma and regret and dubiously going through life with your head down and not letting any airy-fairy or side-door considerations get in the way. It’s also about “the hour is nigh” as well as “good God, what have I done?” Who out there (and I’m talking to you, Academy members) hasn’t considered that question while lying in bed at 3:30 am and staring at the ceiling?
SPECIAL HE ADVERTORIAL:
Can we just blurt it out? The Irishman is Marty’s acknowledgment-of-death film. An acceptance of the inevitable mixed with currents of regret and trepidation. The New Yorker‘s Anthony Lane said it several weeks ago — it’s “Wild Strawberries with handguns.”
Which is why some Millennials and GenZ types don’t feel as reverential toward The Irishman as 40-and-up viewers. Because many of them have this notion that the cloaked visitor is so far away that they might as well be immortal. Why not, right? I remember that attitude.
Scorsese is surely our greatest and most nominated director, yet he’s only won a single Oscar and ironically for a film he made with dexterity and efficiency but which he regarded at the time as a generic exercise — The Departed. The Irishman, by contrast, is Marty through and through…DNA, fingerprints, history, obsessions, personality.
Plus The Irishman contains 11 or 12 master-class performances. Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Stephen Graham, Marin Ireland and the nearly wordless Anna Paquin are the stuff of instant relish and extra-level pulverizing. Not to mention Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Kathrine Narducci, Domenick Lombardozzi as “Fat Tony” Salerno, Sebastian Maniscalco as “Crazy Joe” Gallo, etc. Everyone in this film is perfect. The awareness that you’re watching actors giving performances goes right out the window almost immediately. You’re just there and so are they. And then it’s all one thing.
Movie Godz to Academy members: We understand that no one is perfect and that you all have a lot on your minds, and that many of you observe the age-old habit of raising your damp finger to the wind before voting for Best Picture. You’d like to vote for what you sincerely regard as 2019’s Best Film, but at the same time you don’t want to stand alone. We get it. We’ve been there.
But of course, you won’t be standing alone if you vote for The Irishman. You’ll be with us, the fathers of the realm. Along with the ghost of Howard Hawks, who knew a thing or two about what made good mustard and what didn’t.
Legendary journo and fellow Gold Derby expert Michael Musto has spoken to an anonymous Oscar voter (presumably an East Coaster but who knows?) about the various choices before the Academy. Nothing particularly headline-worthy in his/her choices, but I was struck by the below quote about Fox News. They were talking about Charlize Theron‘s Megyn Kelly performance, and then kaboom. What does it tell you if a person announces in 2020 that they’ve found the idea of Fox News being a ruthless and dicey news org “revelatory”?
Last Friday I saw Luca Severi‘s That Click, an engaging 90-minute doc about renowned Hollywood glamour photographer Douglas Kirkland, whom I’ve admired from afar for my whole life. What a nifty profession, I’ve always thought. Access to the coolest realms, excitement, pressure, travel, challenges.
Plus I have a thing for docs about storied 20th Century photographers. I was transported, for example, by Richard Avedon: Darkness and Light (’95), an American Masters special.
How does Severi’s doc compare with the Avedon? They’re both quality-grade biopics — comprehensive, intriguing, probing, to some extent intimate. And Severi has edited his admiring portrait with discipline and precision. He holds your attention.
Luca Severi, director-editor of That Click, at Santa Barbara’s Palace Grill — Saturday, 1.18, 6:50 pm.
The difference is that the Avedon doc is a bit more focused on quirks, problems and peculiarities while That Click is more or less content to dazzle and delight while persuading viewers what a genius Kirkland was and still is. It’s a cinematic counterpart to his glammy photographs of the rich and famous — visually sleek and alluring, but conveying only a marginal interest in the periodic potholes and occasional downturns that all creative adventurers go through.
But Kirkland and wife-partner Francois are nice people to hang with, active and mobile and attending several annual gallery presentations (five or six in Europe alone), and Douglas is still in the game (at 85!) with occasional gigs and publishings of coffee-table compilation volumes and whatnot. If I were Kirkland I’d assemble a new high-quality photo volume and call it “That Click: The Big Book.”
Douglas and Francoise took a bow at a SBIFF screening last Thursday hight, but not the morning-after showing that I attended.
I spoke with Severi early Saturday evening, and he’s certainly alive on the planet earth. Enterprising, ambitious. Born and raised in Milan, currently a Los Angeles resident, around 31 or so. He shot That Click in 2017, and edited it for about a year. The film premiered at the Rome Film Festival (Festa del Cinema di Roma) last October.
Born in 1934, Kirkland broke into the big-time in the early ’60s after landing exclusive photo sessions with Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe. Over the succeeding decades he’s shot roughly 600 celebrities (Nicole Kidman, Leonardo DiCaprio, Judy Garland, Marcello Mastroianni, Sharon Stone, HE’s own Luca Guadagnino, Elle Fanning, Angelina Jolie, Pierce Brosnan, Nicole Kidman, Audrey Hepburn, Sharon Stone), booked 2000 assignments and worked on over 150 film sets (2001: A Space Odyssey, Sophie’s Choice, Out of Africa, Butch Cassidy and the Kid, Romancing the Stone, Titanic, The Great Gatsby, Moulin Rouge).
Who were the other legendary 20th Century commercial portrait photographers beside Kirkland, Stern and Avedon? Any basic list (and in no particular order) would include Ruth Harriet Louise, George Hurrell, Helmut Newton, Ellen von Unwerth, Mert and Marcus, Albert Witzel, Clarence Sinclair Bull, Milton H. Greene and Cecil Beaton. Who else?
What a difference five years can make! From “Sundance Chest Fever,” posted on 1.19.15:
“Each and every year Sundance is almost nothing but a blast — a pulsing spiritual high in terms of the films, conversations, events, parties, press conferences and the generally up-with-everyone-and-everything Park City vibe. This is my 20th anniversary of attending …no, wait, the 21st. But I’d be a lying Polyanna if I said that various irritations don’t pop through all the same. Goes with the territory.
“Young guys who run around in shorts and sneakers without socks, for example. Or those absolutely awful people who work at 350 Main, the most unfriendly restaurant in town. Gangs of party people who trudge up and down Main Street. (I generally despise groups of people in any situation…’are you afraid to walk alone or with a friend? Do you need the feeling or power and protection that comes from being part of a small mob?’) The coldest, draftiest hotel lobby in the world inside the Yarrow. Townies. People who laugh too long and loudly in screenings (‘All right, it’s funny, I agree…but take it easy’). The 20-something party gah-gahs who hang out in packs in front of Tatou and Harry O’s each and every night. Groups of 20-something women who shriek and squeal in bars and cafes.
“And most of all, those amazingly vacant facial expressions on ski enthusiasts — the ultimate nowhere people of the Wasatch. Whenever I see skiiers clump onto a shuttle bus I mutter to myself, ‘The coolest festival in the country is happening right now and you guys are here to ski?'”
The title of this post is a shard of dialogue from what 1966 film?
This non-speaking, monacled, top-hat-wearing asshole has been around for over a century, etc. Yes, the forthcoming Super Bowl ad (i.e., the funeral) draws attention to Mr. Peanut and Kraft Heinz but…it just feels like a lotta bullshit.
“Once you file the indictment, or the impeachment charges here, you should get discovery for trial. [The Senate’s] job is to hear the evidence, to hear all of it. Not some of it or none of it, which seems to be the way they’re going. Republican senators need to look themselves in the mirror and think of what it’s going to be like 5 years from now, 10 years…what their legacies are going to be. This evidence is going to keep coming out. Truth has a way of coming out…”
If there’s one thing that’s totally undercutting the general health care situation in this country, it’s “I am perfect the way I am.”
Translation: Being slender and healthy has almost become an unpopular, even a semi-shameful thing among weight-challenged people. It’s almost like being overweight has become a national pride movement of sorts. People seem to value protecting people’s emotions more than acquainting them with the reality that they’re eating themselves to death. Heart disease, diabetes, cancer are all fueled by largeness and obesity.
Has Adele betrayed her fan base by losing all that weight? Some seem to feel this way — i.e., “fit-shaming.”
Maher: “By reacting the easy way, James Corden literally blew an opportunity save lives.”
The good stuff starts at 3:30.
I didn’t listen to Bill Maher’s 1.17 visit to the Joe Rogan Experience (#1413) until last night. Watch or listen away, but it doesn’t get really good until 52:56 when Rogan says we’re all living “in such a strange time.” Here’s an mp3 that I captured, and here’s a partial transcript.
Maher: “I feel at times, and I’m sure you do too, like a man without a country. There’s a group of us — Sam Harris, people you’ve had on, Jordan Peterson, Bari Weiss. We’re all progressives, but sensible progressives. Real progressives — not blindly ideological. And we don’t chase these virtue signallers who are always…as a friend of mine said, they wake up offended.
“And I am always reading a story — like daily — I read something, and what goes through my mind is that this country is now completely binary. Two camps, totally trible. You’re either red or blue. Liberal or conservative. And you have to own anything that anyone says from your side. People go “oh, you’re the party of…” So whenever there’s something on the left that’s cuckoo krazy, we all own it.
“And that’s one reason why Trump won. Because when you go through the polling, people [in the right-leaning middle and the right] are not oblivious to his myriad flaws. What they love about him…what they all say they love is that he isn’t politically correct. It’s hard to measure how much people have been choking on political correctness. They do not want to walk on eggshells. They don’t want to think that one little misstep and they’ll get fired, get castigated.
“These are not just famous people but regular people. And I think when someone reads stories [about this syndrome], and it’s an eye-roll. An eye-roll at the left. That’s when you lose people.
“Two weeks ago the N.Y. Giants, my football team, cut Janoris Jenkins because he used the “r” word. Do we have to say the “r” word? [“Retard”] He was cut from the team. First he said ‘I though it was a ‘hood thing.’ Maybe Jinoris Jenkins didn’t get the memo. Because he’s not on Twitter 24/7 and living with the wokesters, that you don’t do this anymore. There’s no room any more for someone just to say ‘oh, I didn’t realize…sorry, my bad’ and then move on with our lives. No — you’re cancelled, you’re cut, you’re irredeemable. And it’s ridiculous.
“And every day there’s some story like that, and it just all goes into the left wing bin, and that’s when people go, ‘You know what? Trump’s an asshole and I don’t like him but I don’t want to live in that [woke punitive] world. Because these [woke] people are even fucking crazier.’ And that is the great danger [that may lead] to reelecting [Trump]. And he very well may do it.”
Guaranteed Sundance Scenario: Many if not most attending critics will over-rave about films they see (especially the Indiewire guys), and all but a fraction of these films will flatline or fizzle when they go out into the world.
From “#MeToo Issues Continue to Make an Impact on Sundance Films,” by Variety‘s Gregg Goldstein:
“Sundance fest director John Cooper and programming director Kim Yutani cite Janicza Bravo‘s Zola, Channing Godfrey Peoples’ beauty pageant chronicle Miss Juneteenth, Eliza Hittman’s teen pregnancy drama Never Rarely Sometimes Always and Eugene Ashe’s romance Sylvie’s Love as some of the U.S. Dramatic Competition films addressing #MeToo-related issues.
“Empowerment, as opposed to victim[hood], tends to be a driving force right now,” Cooper says.
“The movement has also affected what kinds of films are getting made, including Liz Garbus’s Premieres entry Lost Girls, a fact-based crime drama about missing sex workers.”
Thomas Freidman wrote it, but I’ve been thinking the same thing all day, and it’s awful:
“As the country embarks on only the third impeachment trial of a president in its history, there are many unique features about this moment, but one stands out for me: Never before have we had to confront a president who lies as he breathes and is backed by a political party and an entire cable TV-led ecosystem able and enthusiastic to create an alternative cognitive universe that propagates those lies on an unlimited scale.
“It is disheartening, disorienting and debilitating.
“How can the truth — that Donald Trump used taxpayer funds to try to force the president of Ukraine to sully the reputation of Joe Biden, a political rival — possibly break through this unique trifecta of a president without shame, backed by a party without spine, reinforced by a network without integrity?”