From “Lindelof = Uh-Oh, Here We Go,” posted on 10.9.14: “To me, the idea of Damon Lindelof being attached to a film or TV project…to me that’s a threat.”
The wifi in the Georgetown Airbnb where we’re bunking until tomorrow morning barely has a pulse, and so streaming the first episode of Lindelof’s new HBO Watchmen series is a dicey proposition. But sight unseen I’m scared, and the reason for this fear is Lindelof, a puzzleboxer and head-fucker from way back. I’m get around to it when I return tomorrow or sometime Wednesday, but until then….
Damon Lindelof‘s Watchmen (HBO, now streaming) “is here to shake you up,” writes Indiewire‘s Ben Travers. “To stimulate new discussions about age-old issues; to challenge preconceived notions by framing them from new perspectives. Admittedly, as a white critic, I can only imagine it’s easier for me to process a lot of these images and themes from a safe distance.
“The world of Watchmen is as important to absorb as it is fascinating to deconstruct. Having seen the premiere half-dozen times now, there are still new details emerging and more to come as the subsequent episodes roll out. Yes, there’s even more to admire if you’re familiar with the comic, but a deep understanding of the text doesn’t change the quality of the current story. It’s just a fun additional layer, for those who want to cover it.”
HE observation: Travers felt compelled to watch the opening episode six times? What does that tell you?
The first episode, titled “It’s Summer and We’re Running Out Of Ice”, “will beg the audience to ask, ‘What the fuck is going on?‘,” Travers writes, “and that’s before getting to the final twist, where one of the central characters, played by one of the cast’s more famous faces, is killed off.”
Travers summary: “Robert Redford is the President of the United States. He has been for more than three decades. The ‘Sundancer in Chief,’ as one radio caller labels him, passed a reparations bill where descendants of slaves don’t have to pay taxes.
“These three pieces of information are critically important to understanding many of the personal dynamics at play in the premiere. It’s why Topher (Dylan Schombing) attacks his classmate for bringing up ‘Redfordations‘ during Angela’s presentation. It’s why the Nixonville suspect probably shouldn’t have answered “yes” when Looking Glass (Tim Blake Nelson) asked him if all Americans should pay taxes. It’s why there’s a different, yet all-too-familiar, kind of tension at play when a black cop pulls over a white hick hauling a truckload of lettuce.
Francis Coppola, quoted during an appearance at the Lyon Film Festival: “When Martin Scorsese says that the Marvel pictures are not cinema, he’s right because we expect to learn something from cinema, we expect to gain something, some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration. Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema. He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is.”
I say that Avengers: Endgame is cinema; ditto the first two Captain America flicks and the first Ant Man. At least these.
Yesterday’s pleasant surprise was realizing that Destin Daniel Cretton‘s Just Mercy (Warner Bros., 12.25) is not a run-of-the-mill “get an innocent guy out of jail” diligent do-gooder thang, but a carefully made, better-than-decent, stirringly acted, emotionally affecting drama of a slightly higher order.
We have to check out of the Salamander by 11 am (40 minutes hence) but I’ll try to elaborate later today.
Thanks so much to Susan Koch, Dana Bseiso Vazquez and the Middleburg Film Festival for a hugely enjoyable three and a half days. A brilliant gathering with all the right films…comforting, stimulating and exciting at every turn. The Irishman is the final screening (1 pm) but we’ll be catching it on Thursday in Los Angeles.
When Jett graduated from Syracuse in 2010, his mother bought him a nice spiffy suit at Bloomingdale’s. Principally, it was understood, for job interviews and special business occasions. To the best of my knowledge he may have worn it once or twice, but otherwise that lovely suit has done nothing but hang in his closet over the last six or seven years.
For suits…hell, jackets and ties have been fading away for at least that long. Certainly among X-factor Millennial creatives (Jett is a music-industry guy), screenwriters, journalists, Silicon Valley brainiacs, freelancers and gig economy types.
Perhaps not in the Wall Street or banking or governmental realms, but…okay, I don’t really know what I’m talking about as I haven’t done the homework. But I do know I haven’t worn a tie to any social event since Jett and Cait‘s wedding two years ago, and before that Kris Tapley‘s wedding in Palm Springs four or five years ago.
When I want to present myself in a semi-uptown, semi-businessy way I’ll maybe wear a suit and buttoned shirt but without a tie. My recent inclination is to wear a suit jacket along with a black Calvin Klein T-shirt, slim jeans and nice Italian lace-ups (or maybe a pair of black Beatle boots). The way it is.
I know that suits, jackets and occasional ties were fairly de rigeur when I attended industry screenings at the Academy in the ’90s and aughts, but over the last eight to ten years Hollywood male dress sense has downshifted big-time. You could even say “fallen off a cliff.” And I’m not just talking about guys who wear gold-toe socks or whose pant cuffs that are two to three inches above the shoe line.
I’ve eyeballed guys at Academy after-parties and said to myself, “Is he kidding? This is his idea of looking semi-dressy or stylishly urban at a big movie premiere? I wouldn’t wear those duds to shop at Walmart.”
Even (or especially) in the face of all this death and decline and sartorial drudgery, I love die-hards who dress with style and angularity. Santa Barbara Film Festival honcho Roger Durling, for one. Always impeccably dressed for any and all occasions, including beach walks. I wish I was in his class.
But a general, blood-level resentment of the non-Anglo Saxon “other”, and the numerical potential to change the tint and flavor of this country. This was the primal tide (along with general non-denominational Hillary hate) that allowed Donald Trump to squeak into an electoral college victory in 2016. “He tapped into something in a very profound way that began to redefine the debate in the political year of 2016, and continues to redefine the politics of the country today.” — Dan Balz, respected Washington Post journalist-editor.
I don’t know which aspect of Kanye West‘s Jesus Is King is more grotesque. The notion of the profligate Kanye expressing strong allegiance for the teachings of Yeshua of Nazareth plus the ongoing obscenity that is Donald Trump. (Or has he backed away from the Trump pallyhood?) Maybe it’s the idea of a super-rich, notoriously flaky superstar promoting King Jesus aka Judean Badass, King Shit of Bethlehem, the boss of bosses. Or the idea of IMAX somehow making an allegedly spiritual venture feel more righteous.
Jesus Is King obviously wasn’t made for your generic West Hollywood smart-ass types but the devotional gospel crowd — I get that. HE nonetheless disapproves.
One discussion panel and two (or possibly three) films today at the Middleburg Film Festival: (a) “Talk Back to the Critics” — DC-area film critics kicking it all around — Travis Hopson (News Channel 8, WETA Around Town), Nell Minow (rogerebert.com), Susan Wloszczyna (GoldDerby.com), Jason Fraley (Entertainment Editor, WTOP)and Tim Gordon (FIlmGordon) — 2 pm at Old Ox Brewery; (b) Destin Daniel Cretton‘s Just Mercy, a fact-based “noble lawyer struggles to get innocent guy out of jail” drama with Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson — 3:15 pm at Hill School; (c) toss-up between catching a 6:30 pm screening of Alma Har’el‘s Honey Boy, written by Shia LaBeouf and based on his childhood relationship with dear old shitheel dad, or just sitting down somewhere and writing for an hour or so; and (d) Rian Johnson‘s Knives Out, at long last — 8:30 pm, Hill School.
In a 10.16 “On Second Thought” essay N.Y. Times critic A.O. Scott regards Taika Watiti‘s JoJo Rabbit in the same authoritarian-mocking tradition as Charlie Chaplin‘s The Great Dictator (’40), Ernst Lubitsch‘s To Be Or Not To Be (’42) along with the less respected 1983 Mel Brooks remake, not to mention Brooks’ “Springtime for Hitler”, an inadvertently successful Broadway musical within the fictitious context of The Producers (’67), and the WWII German-spoofing in Hogan’s Heroes.
“But what if we don’t live in that world?,” Scott asks. “For a long time, laughing at historical Nazis has seemed like a painless moral booster shot, a way of keeping the really bad stuff they represent safely contained in the past. Maybe that was always wishful thinking.
“Recent history shows that the medicine of laughter can have scary side effects. Fascism has crawled out of the dust pile of history, striking familiar poses, sometimes with tongue in cheek. It has been amply documented that ‘ironic’ expressions of bigotry and anti-Semitism — jokes and memes on social media; facetious trolling of the politically correct; slurs as exercises in free speech — can evolve over time into the real thing. A dress-up costume can be mistaken for a uniform, including by its wearer.”
So Scott is saying that anti-Nazi humor doesn’t have the bite or relevance that it once had, and that on a cultural-processing level Jojo Rabbit may not be the anti-hate satire that its admirers believe it to be? Something like that. My first reaction to Jojo was why reach all the way back to 75-year-old Nazi culture to deliver an anti-racist message? Why not fiddle around with anti-immigrant Trumpster sentiments or focus on the go-along child of an ICE officer…something in that vein? Why use the filter of WWII history when it probably doesn’t register all that strongly with a good portion of the audience?
Side issue: David Poland has become an unofficial award-season Twitter lobbyist for Jojo Rabbit. As the Poland ardor ebbs or surges, so goes the campaign itself. Keep close tabs.
A little voice is asking why are Hillary Clinton and other Democratic establishment voices (including The New York Times) trying to unambiguously discredit Rep. Tulsi Gabbard by declaring she’a some kind of Manchurian Candidate? This level of disparagement feels suspicious. A non-interventionist against regime-change wars, sure, but the last time I checked she was also a Bernie-adhering social progressive who supports Medicare for All and wants Roe v. Wade strengthened.
AXIOS’ Marisa Fernandez, posted yesterday (10.18): “(a) Gabbard’s foreign policy stances significantly differ from other top Democratic candidates, especially on Syria. She has controversially defended Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad, and met with him on a secret trip to Syria in 2017; (b) The New York Times reported that alt-right internet stars, white nationalists and Russians have praised her campaign; (c) CNN analyst Bakari Sellers called Gabbard a ‘puppet for the Russian government.’ He said, ‘That’s not just an allegation…I firmly believe that Tulsi Gabbard stands on that stage and is the antithesis to what the other 11 individuals stand for, specially when it comes to issues such as foreign policy’; (d) At this week’s Democratic debate, Gabbard condemned news outlets like the Times and CNN, saying it was ‘completely despicable’ to call her an asset to Russia.”