On the other hand The Boston Globe is reporting that Kevin Spacey has been charged with felony sexual assault in Massachusetts. He allegedly sexually assaulted “the teenage son of former Boston WCVB-TV news anchor Heather Unruh at a Nantucket bar in July 2016,” according to Matt Rocheleau’s story.
I was so taken the other night by Springsteen on Broadway, which I regard as a piece of one-man musical portraiture, that I thought I’d assemble a roster of my 25 all-time favorite musicals. How am I defining a musical? Any presentation of any kind (filmed narrative musical, stage musical live or captured on film/video, filmed concert) in which a minimum of five or six musical numbers are performed, for any reason or within any scheme.
2. John Carney‘s Once
3. Lars von Trier‘s Dancer in the Dark
4. Sunday in the Park with George (1999 taping of B’way stage musical)
5. Damien Chazelle‘s La La Land
6. Richard Lester‘s A Hard Day’s Night
7. Alex Gibney‘s Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown
7. Alfred and David Maysles‘ Gimme Shelter
8. D.A. Pennebaker‘s Monterey Pop
9. Carousel (Live From Lincoln Center)
10. Michael Wadleigh‘s Woodstock
Yesterday I posted a riff about how Joe Biden‘s 2020 Presidential campaign will probably turn out better if he acquires a Clint Eastwood jawline. Right away some commenters started calling me shallow and whatnot, essentially declaring that attractive appearances don’t matter in politics.
One question: Imagine if during the 1960 Presidential election John F. Kennedy didn’t have his thick, wavy, reddish-brown hair but a thinning Biden-like thatch. Not to mention a pasty-faced complexion instead of his regular Florida tan. Plus a bulky, pot-bellied, Tip O’Neil physique due to a thing he had for ice cream, cheesecake, pasta and Pabst Blue Ribbon. Would his appearance have made any difference in the polling? Would he have still edged aside Richard M. Nixon?
See what I mean?
At the risk of boring the regulars, HE’s legendary Sundance disenfranchisement has happened in two stages. Two years ago Sundance decided to withhold the Press Express Pass they had very generously allowed me to use for five years straight (Jan. ‘12 to Jan. ‘16) and demote me to grunt status. I was also given a grunt press pass last year.
And then a few weeks ago they zotzed me altogether out of press-pass accreditation. For the first time since 1993 (or was it ‘94?) I’ll be A Man Without A Sundance Press Pass.
I’m re-stating this to officially announce that I’ll be attending anyway and catching what I can through the good graces of publicist and producer pallies.
At least I’m good with the Slamdance gang and will be able to catch Steven Soderbergh‘s High Flying Bird, among other Slamdance attractions.
I trust we’re all in favor of an egalitarian press-pass approval process. Like Toronto began to do in earnest last September, Sundance is trying to spread press-pass access evenly and liberally, giving passes to younger critics, POC critics, woman critics, gay and trans critics…generally lowering barriers, opening the doors and trying to breathe with the times.
In line with this, I was informed last night that a certain midwest blogger who’s never been to Park City before is not only good for a Sundance ‘19 press pass but approved for an Press Express Pass — i.e., the kind of pass that for years has been de rigueur for Owen Gleiberman, Todd McCarthy, Eric Kohn, Anne Thompson, Kyle Buchanan and others at the top of the heap, given their general prominence and years of shrewd, diligent reviewing, industry assessments and backing from major print or web publications.
What does this tell us about where Sundance is at this year? Blowing me off entirely after attending and reporting on Sundance festivals for 25 years and yet giving a novice first-timer a coveted Press Express Pass? This is what a “woke” festival walks and talks like in The Year of Our Lord 2019.
An egalitarian festival, it seems, should really try to be an egalitarian festival. There should be room at the inn not just for hard-working and impassioned midwest critics but also, in a fair-minded, even-handed world, for hard-working, strongly opinionated, less than fully “woke” columnists like myself.
I’m just glad, given the cultural currents of our times, that the good people behind the Toronto, Cannes, Telluride, Berlin, New York, Slamdance and many other festivals subscribe to a different attitude and philosophy.
Hollywood Elsewhere approves of eight of the Academy’s nine shortlisted foreign film contenders — Pawel Pawlikowski‘s Cold War (Poland), Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra‘s Birds of Passage (Columbia), Gustav Moller‘s The Guilty (Denmark), Florian_Henckel von Donnersmarck‘s Never Look Away (Germany), Hirokazu Kore-eda‘s Shoplifters (Japan), Nadine Labaki‘s Capernaum (Lebanon), Alfonso Cuaron‘s Roma (Mexico), and Lee Chang-dong‘s Burning (South Korea).
It’s not that I disapprove of Sergey Dvortsevoy‘s Ayka (Kazakhstan), which is ninth on the list — I just haven’t seen it.
HE strongly disapproves, however, of the Academy having blown off Lukas Dhont‘s Girl (Netflix). Winner of Un Certain Regard performance award and the Camera d’Or prize, Girl is the most finely assembled and emotionally affecting drama about a transgender person I’ve ever seen.
In his review of Vice, Variety‘s Owen Glieberman complains that Adam McKay‘s film never answers the big question, which is “who is Dick Cheney? How did he get to be the singular domineering bureaucrat-scoundrel he is? What is it that makes this scheming man tick?”
Gleiberman hasn’t been paying close attention. There’s one simple answer, not just about Cheney but all conservatives. The answer is ice-cold fear.
Fear of the dark and terrible unknown. Fear of the beast. Cheney needs to keep that bugger away from this doorstep. He woke up one day and felt the hot breath of the grizzly bear and saw that huge, terrible claw about to come down and rip half of his face off, and Cheney screamed and said “no! I won’t be destroyed! I will instead become the bear and I will snarl and smite others, and they will bow down and show obeisance before my power, and that will make me safer. Me and my fellow grizzlies. It’s a kill-or-be-killed world out there, and you simply have to decide which kind of animal you are.”
HE to Gleiberman: Now you know.
Another way of examining Cheney is that he became the bear to hold onto Lynne Vincent, a young Wyoming girl who became his wife.
N.Y. Times critic A.O. Scott: “The way Vice tells it, Dick Cheney, who would go on to become the most powerful vice president in American history, started out as a young man in a hurry to nowhere in particular. After washing out of Yale, he retreated to his home state of Wyoming, pursuing his interests in booze and cigarettes and working as a utility-company lineman on the side. Dick was saved from ruin — or at least from the kind of drab destiny unlikely to result in a biopic — by the stern intervention of his fiancée, Lynne Vincent, who told her wayward beau that they were finished unless he pulled himself together.
“Her reading of the romantic riot act would have far-reaching consequences. In that pivotal moment, Dick (Christian Bale) looks Lynne (Amy Adams) in the eye and swears he’ll never disappoint her again. The thesis of this film, written and directed by Adam McKay, is that Dick kept his promise. And that everyone else — including his daughter Mary (Alison Pill), thousands of American soldiers, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians and just about everyone on the planet with a care for justice, democracy or simple human decency — paid the price.”
A few hours ago The Hollywood Reporter posted a Gary Baum-authored profile of former Woody Allen girlfriend Christina Engelhardt, and more precisely her eight-year relationship with the director-writer-actor-comedian that began in late ’76 and ended in ’84.
She was Allen’s secret sexual partner between the ages of 17 (although they first met when she was 16) and 24. No public dates, no dinners at Elaine’s — just furtive assignations at his Fifth Avenue apartment.
Engelhardt was one of two inspirations for Mariel Hemingway‘s Tracy character in Manhattan; the other was Stacey Nelkin, who hooked up with Allen when she was attending Stuyvesant High School in ’77 or thereabouts. Engelhardt tells Baum that she felt badly about how her Allen relationship came through in the film; it hurt to consider how Allen had objectified her or kept her at a distance. But think about it — Tracy is in some ways the most centered and least neurotic or deceptive character in Manhattan.
Engelhardt’s Allen relationship was unequal and certainly exploitive on his end, but show me a relationship between any famous film-industry hotshot and any “civilian” that wasn’t similarly unfair or lopsided, especially in the context of the ’70s and ’80s when a whole different set of rules and assumptions were in effect.
Plus the Allen alliance opened a few doors. After they went their separate ways Engelhardt became a kind of half-employee and half-platonic muse for Federico Fellini. She’s currently working for producer Robert Evans and living in the Beverly Hills flats.
Baum’s article is smoothly written, carefully phrased, seemingly well-researched and for the most part fair-minded.
But at the same time a tad clueless. Because it applies a #MeToo filter to a story that happened during a time when urban upscale lah-lahs were frolicking in an almost I, Claudius-like culture that in some ways was more sexually impulsive and freewheeling and live-as-let-live than anything happening today. Which doesn’t seem quite fair.
The idea, at least on the part of Baum’s THR editor, seems to have been to “get” Allen by furthering the #MeToo-linked narrative that he used to be a manipulative and to some extent unscrupulous fellow who used his fame and power to get what he wanted from women. But Engelhardt doesn’t exactly cooperate with this goal. “I’m not attacking Woody,” she tells Baum. “This is not ‘bring down this man.’ I’m talking about my love story. This made me who I am. I have no regrets.”
Engelhardt was right in the thick of things when Allen began a somewhat committed relationship with Mia Farrow in ’80 or thereabouts. I’m using the term “somewhat” because Woody, Mia and Christine enjoyed a menage a trois thing for a while. Baum: “Despite the initial shock of jealousy, Engelhardt says she grew to like Farrow over the course of the ‘handful’ of three-way sex sessions that followed at Allen’s penthouse as they smoked joints and bonded over a shared fondness for animals.”
I almost feel as if I’ve seen this already, but the trailer for The Mustang is well judged. Obviously a healing-and-therapy movie, but intriguing. The director is Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, whom I don’t know. I’m sensing the right kind of vibes. Matthias Schoenaerts, Bruce Dern, Connie Britton, etc. Slated for Sundance, opening in March.
It’s awfully damn hard to make a film that even half-works. It’s probably just as hard to make something that stinks. Everyone is always trying to like hell to make a film that will do them and their parents proud. Even makers of dumbshit comedies and genre spoofs. So what does it take to make something that’s actually, seriously good? Serious talent or the ability to channel divine inspiration…whichever is available. And the ability of above-the-line creatives to keep sweaty, thick-fingered, Sam Spiegel-ish producer types as far away as possible from the creative levers.
WB publicists have been adopting a qualified-hands-off posture with Clint Eastwood‘s The Mule because they’re scared of reactions to casually racist dialogue spoken by Clint’s p.c.-oblivious character, the 90-year-old Earl Stone (based upon real-life drug runner Leo Sharp).
They’ve presumably been fearful that the outrage brigade (a member of which would seem to be Variety‘s Peter Debruge) would howl about what an offense Earl’s vocabulary is to our delicate ears. An old white coot talking like an old white coot…horrors!
Debruge is all but apoplectic about Earl’s racist vocabulary — his review is almost a parody of knee-jerk woke-ism. “Most white Americans have a relative like Earl, who’s old enough to remember a time when good old boys ran the country and everyone else was their inferior,” Debruge notes. So when they start “spewing politically incorrect garbage, most of us let it slide, accepting that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Except you can and we must.
“There’s nothing inherently wrong with presenting bigoted people on-screen, since heaven knows they exist in real life,” Debruge goes on, “but the trouble with The Mule is that it invites audiences to laugh along with Earl’s ignorance. From here, it’s no great stretch to imagine a movement — call it ‘Make Hollywood Great Again’ — advocating for movies in which politically incorrect characters like the ones Eastwood has played for most of his career will be free to speak their minds again.”
Debruge is like Sessue Hayakawa‘s Colonel Saito in The Bridge on the River Kwai. There’s a part of him that would like to put Eastwood, his producing partners and screenwriter Nick Schenk into tin-box cages and let them bake in the sun.
Yes, there is a kind of amiable, jocular tone in the way Clint’s character tosses off politically incorrect racial terms and other inappropriate-isms, and it does make you half-flinch or at least shake your head. Yup, there are crotchety old guys who think and talk like this, and yeah, they probably voted for Trump, but at the same time they don’t appear to be emissaries of Satan as much as indifferent about whether or not guys like Peter Debruge approve.
As is usually the case with the 80-plus set, it’s best to just offer them a chair and a glass of lemonade and hope for the best.
The bottom line is that The Mule is a very decent, nicely handled film about family, aloofness, guilt and facing one’s own nature.
Indiewire‘s David Ehrlich says it’s Clint’s best in “more than 25 years” — better than Unforgiven? — but I’m playing it safe and calling it his finest since Gran Torino. It’s a plain-spoken, well-ordered saga of a guy coming to terms with his failures as a man and a father — a selfishly-inclined fellow who’s always preferred work over being with family, etc. I think it’s an entirely decent film in this respect, and a well-structured one to boot.
Wait…The Favourite is suddenly the most likely winner of the Best Picture Oscar?
The Critics’ Choice Awards, which in the movie realm are voted upon by the Broadcast Film Critics Association, have been the most accurate predictor of Academy Award nominations. There’s something about the non-elitist, emotional-pocket-drop BFCA mindset that seems to synch with the Academy. Remember when Spotlight was apparently losing steam in the 2015-2016 Best Picture race, and then to everyone’s surprise it won the BFCA’s Best Picture trophy? Spotlight won the Best Picture Oscar a few weeks later. I’m not saying that the Critics Choice and Oscar awards have always reflected each other, but BFCA and Academy members do seem to park their cars in the same garage.
If you go by the legend that the most nominated films tend to win the Best Picture Oscar, the fact that Fox Searchlight’s The Favourite corralled 14 Critics Choice nominations this morning — Best Picture, Best Comedy, Best Director (Yorgos Lanthimos), Olivia Colman for Best Actress and Best Actress in a Comedy, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz for Best Supporting Actress, Best Acting Ensemble, Best Editing, Best Original Screenplay (Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara), Best Cinematography (Robbie Ryan), Best Production Design, Best Costume Design and Best Hair and Makeup — suggests that The Favourite might also turn out to be the most Oscar-nominated feature, and therefore (if you go by odds and tradition) the Best Picture Oscar winner.
All I can tell you is that this hit me in the stomach when I read the Critics Choice tally last night. Because as much as I admire The Favourite and as impressed as I am by Olivia Colman‘s brilliant performance as Queen Anne (not to mention the “supporting” performances by Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone), I don’t think The Favourite is slam-dunk Best Picture material, largely because the third-act doesn’t pivot or deepen the stakes of the story, let alone maintain the tension of the first two acts.
And because I’m more of a Roma, Green Book, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, First Man and First Reformed type of guy.
Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther was the second most nominated film with 12 Critics Choice nominations. Damien Chazelle’s First Man accumulated ten nominations. Adam McKay‘s Vice, Bradley Cooper‘s A Star Is Born and Rob Marshall‘s Mary Poppins Returns tallied nine nominations each while Alfonso Cuaron‘s Roma — which has seemed to many like the most esteemed and most arthouse-credentialed Best Picture contender — managed to assemble only eight nominations.
Slightly more dispiriting is the fact that Peter Farrelly‘s Green Book, seemingly the most beloved Best Picture contender (if you step outside of lefty fascist p.c.-scold circles) and easily one of the best acted and most finely crafted mainstream features of the year, ended up with only seven nominations.
Green Book is one of the year-end hotties, for sure, but a little man in my chest is saying “what’s going on here? Why are the films and performances that we know are the best of the year…why are they not faring as well as they should?”
HE approves of Ethan Hawke landing a Best Actor nomination for his First Reformed performance; ditto Paul Schrader for his Best Original Screenplay nomination. But the film itself should have been Best Picture nominated; ditto Alexander Dynan‘s 1.37:1 cinematography.
I’m seriously offended by the BFCA not having nominated Marielle Heller‘s Can You Ever Forgive Me? as Best Picture, or Heller for Best Director. At least they nominated Melissa McCarthy for Best Actress and Richard E. Grant for Best Supporting Actor, as they should have.
Viola Davis should have definitely been nominated for her lead performance in Steve McQueen’s Widows, but she wasn’t.