A feisty, blunt-spoken, deeply moral director, Spike Lee carved his own path, spoke with his own voice and put Fort Greene, Brooklyn on the world map. I still say his best film is, was and always will be Malcolm X. Yes, he’ll be greatly missed, but what’s surprising — okay, shocking — is how he managed to hoodwink the Hollywood community as well as the ticket-buying public for over 35 years as to his true identity. All this time we thought he was “Spike Lee” when in fact he was a kind of Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent. Not to mention the fact that all this time he was 34 years older than he claimed. Shape-shifter, artful dodger.
Peter Farrelly‘s Green Book (Universal 11.16) had its big Manhattan premiere Tuesday night at the Paris, and then threw itself an elegant, lavishly catered after-party inside the Plaza’s Oak Bar. Farrelly, costars Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen, producers Jim Burke and John Sloss, Universal brass (Ron Meyer, Michael Moses), etc. Everyone was feeling the same bubbly champagne buzz when it ended. Great reviews, bullseye performances, perfectly written and edited, feelgood vibes, all-but-locked Oscar noms for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Screenplay, etc. The only concern is that Green Book isn’t tracking all that well, but awareness will explode once the word gets around — a week or two to ignite, and then it’ll keep playing and playing.
Green Book‘s Mahershala Ali, heavily favored to win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his deliciously precise, emotionally affecting performance as the late jazz pianist Don Shirley, and Blackfilm’s Wilson Morales at Oak Bar after-party — Tuesday, 11.13, 10:10 pm.
(l.) Green Book and The Descendants producer and current Focus Features production president Jim Burke, Green Book star Viggo Mortensen.
Drop into a local time tunnel and consider the merits of six popular, well-reviewed 1995 films: Mel Gibson‘s Braveheart, Ron Howard‘s Apollo 13, Michael Mann‘s Heat, George Miller‘s Babe, Michael Radford and Massimo Troisi‘s Il Postino, Ang Lee‘s Sense and Sensibility.
23 years later, which of these is commonly regarded as the finest of the lot? As one of the greatest films of the ’90s? As one of the coolest, most stylish, most memorable and geographically distinct films of the 20th Century? And as the 1995 film with the greatest performances, both in the lead and supporting categories?
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I’m a little ashamed of what I’m about to reveal, but I just want it understood that I only meant to cast a little sunlight on a dire situation. You can say to me “that’s one of the dumbest things you could have possibly said in that situation” and I wouldn’t argue with you, but I was only trying to offer some positive spin. In this instance “positive” was inextricably linked with the term “idiotic,” agreed, but we all make little verbal mistakes from time to time.
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Playboy in Germany said Tuesday that some of the quotes in that controversial interview with Ennio Morricone — the one in which the fabled Italian composer allegedly described Quentin Tarantino as a “cretin” — have been “reproduced incorrectly.” Morricone quickly called the Tarantino remarks bullshit. The magazine initially stood by the article — now they’re waffling.
German Playboy is reportedly blaming the writer, Marcel Anders, for the errors. The magazine also apologized to Morricone.
“Up to now, we have considered the freelancer who conducted the Ennio Morricone interview on our behalf to be a renowned print and radio journalist,” German Playboy editor-in-chief Florian Boitin said in a statement. “In the past, we have had no reason to doubt his journalistic integrity and skills. Based on the information now at our disposal, we must unfortunately assume that the words spoken in the interview have, in part, been reproduced incorrectly.”
This morning I asked a Munich-based journalist friend if he could shed any light or tell me what’s really going on.
“I couldn’t tell you,” he replied. “I’ve been reading Marcel for years, but I don’t know him personally. He’s only covering music, to the best of my knowledge. I’ve never heard any complaints about him, and he is writing for one of the magazines I’m contributing to.
“This is a very awkward story. Especially since in Germany almost no interview gets published without authorization. I’m not really sure if the magazine did its homework in ascertaining those quotes were legit. Then again I don’t know the whole story.
“A few years ago the publishing house, Burda, was involved in a lawsuit with Tom Cruise about incorrect quotes. A different magazine though.”
The good news is that in a new Politico poll of registered Democrats, Beto O’Rourke is suddenly ahead of of Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Corey Booker. The Texas Democrat is at 8% compared to Warren’s 5%, Harris’s 4% and Booker’s 3%. That’s significant for Beto, who wasn’t even in the national conversation a few weeks ago.
The not-so-good news is that 55% of polled Democrats would like to see Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders — a pair of well-respected, highly principled good guys — run against Donald Trump in 2020.
The problem with this scenario (and don’t imagine it’s not a big one as far as the under-40 voters are concerned) is that Bernie will be 79 in November 2020, and Joe will be 77. Are you going to tell me that doesn’t give you a moment of slight pause?
I despise ageist thinking and even I’m thinking “hmmmm.” Bernie is definitely too far along. If Biden was seven or eight years younger, maybe, but my gut is telling me “no, someone younger…Joe has been too wishy-washy.”
“Beto O’Rourke is emerging to be an outside contender for the 2020 Democratic nomination, outpacing other potential nominees,” said Tyler Sinclair, Morning Consult’s vice president.
Hats off to Netflix marketing — this Roma trailer (released this morning) is fleet, nimble, darting — as strikingly artful within its own realm as Alfonso Cuaron‘s film is a major arthouse film in the big-screen arena. And don’t kid yourself — Roma is a movie you really ought to see on a big-ass screen in a sizable theatre somewhere. I’m not saying it won’t work on your 65″ or 75″ OLED screen at home (I’m actually looking forward to the 4K Ultra HD Bluray), but trust me — it would be a shame to miss seeing it the way hundreds of us did in Telluride and Toronto. Argue if you want.
Suddenly the entire civilized world is aware of Baraboo, a modest-sized town in Wisconsin that’s being probed and investigated after a photo was tweeted showing dozens of high school students — guys, of course — offering a “seig heil” salute.
They were probably doing it as a jape — as a way of being intentionally, ironically rude and outrageous. They probably thought they were saying “fuck political correctness” or something in that realm. But seriously, what kind of young squealing pigs would throw a “seig heil” without thinking twice?
The photo was allegedly taken last spring. The students were reportedly told to offer the salute by the photographer. And they did it laughingly, without hesitation? A tweet with the photo claimed “we even got the black kid to throw it up.”
One guy (top row, upper right) refused to join in — cheers and salutations.
Posted on HE-plus on 10.19, reposted here out of general respect and affection: I missed Lukas Dhont‘s Girl in Cannes last May, but I caught it last night at a special Peggy Siegal-orchestrated screening at the Quad.
Stop the presses — this Belgian submission for Best Foreign Language Film felt like the most assured, immersive and delicately effective drama about a transgender person that I’ve ever seen in my life, or am likely to see in the future.
It’s the kind of film that could have conceivably been awful if it had been written or directed by the wrong kind of button-pushing American director (Dan Fogelman, say), but it feels deft, assured and completely right with Dhont at the helm.
Seriously — I was knocked out by how good Girl was, by how clean and upfront and non-manipulative the whole thing played (with the exception of a traumatic third-act scene that I won’t describe), and how much I felt for the character of Lara (Victor Polster), a 15 year-old dude who clearly ought to be female — he has the emotional timbre of a quiet, gentle, impeccably mannered young woman who was well-raised.
The story is about how poor Lara, who has a loving, understanding dad (Arieh Worthalter) and a highly emotional younger brother, is trying to do two difficult things at the same time — become a top-ranked ballerina in one of Belgium’s most prestigious ballet schools and prepare for transgender surgery.
Polster’s screen time isn’t especially verbal — he has a fair number of lines but mostly his performance is conveyed with his eyes (often glistening, anxious, conflicted) and his half-smile and a general look of Grace Kelly-like composure that he’s struggling to project at every turn.
I was told last night that Polster had to learn the ballet moves (which are considerable) from scratch, that he had no background in dancing whatsoever. All the more reason to praise. Polster won the Un Certain Regard Jury Award for Best Performance,
Girl was directed by Dhont, whom I enjoyed speaking to during the after-party. Shot in Brussels and co-written by Dhont and Angelo Tijssens, pic will be streamed by Netflix down the road. Please don’t overlook it. It’s one of the finest Best Foreign Language contenders I’ve seen this year. Curious as this may sound, but it’s accurate to describe Girl as “straight-guy friendly.” It projects sensitivity, dignity, poise and class. I liked it right away.
A24 will open Sebastian Lelio‘s Gloria Bell on 3.8.19. It was my opinion last September that Julianne Moore‘s lead performance as the titular character — a single, middle-aged woman looking for love — would almost certainly snag a Best Actress nomination. And I wasn’t the only one saying this.
But A24 is a play-it-safe outfit — they’re not exactly known for passionate, balls-out, never-say-die Oscar campaigns (just ask Paul Schrader and Ethan Hawke), and so they’ll be opening Lelio’s film in the dog days of March and then hope for some Gotham/Spirit Awards action in late ’19 and early ’20. They’re basically giving Moore the bum’s rush,
Posted on 9.13.18, or before A24 announced their 2019 release plan: Sebastian Lelio‘s Gloria Bell, a nearly shot-for-shot remake of his 2013 original, is once again a very good film — emotionally relatable and affecting, wonderfully acted, a bit sad.
And I’m sorry but there’s no way Julianne Moore, who knocks the lead role out of the park, can be elbowed out of Best Actress contention. Like it or not she’s in the running alongside Lady Gaga, Melissa McCarthy, Glenn Close, Viola Davis and Ben Is Back‘s Julia Roberts.
Some will say “hold on, she won the Best Actress Oscar for Still Alice only four years ago” but she’s really superb here with a truly appealing role. The only thing that might prevent Moore from being nominated will be if A24 doesn’t step up to the plate with a serious commitment to Moore’s Best Actress campaign. Do I think she’ll win? Perhaps not, but once people see Gloria Bell they’ll know there’s no choice here.
Is it okay if I say that the Americanized Gloria Bell seems a tiny bit better — riper, funnier, more relatable — than Lelio’s Chilean-produced original? It’s not a stretch to call it a shot-for-shot remake of the 2013 original, and yet I found the actors in the new version more engaging.
Spider-Man, the Hulk, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Black Panther, X-Men, and co-creator of Ant-Man, Iron Man and Thor — Stan Lee lived a rich and bountiful life. Attention and respect must of course be paid and Hollywood Elsewhere is offering both. That’s all I’m going to say because I’m not a comic-book guy and I can’t pretend that I have a lot of personal stuff to share so let’s just leave it there. Hail to a good man who worked hard and pulled a lot out and put it down on paper and had a huge impact upon the Hollywood entertainment realm, particularly this century. Tip of the hat. We should all live so long, or as fully.