The headline for this piece sounds cruel and harsh, but how does Louis C.K. recover from being the latest powerful, perverted famous guy to be exposed and shamed by a reputable publication (in this instance The N.Y. Times)? He’s just been thrown into a leaking lifeboat already occupied by Brett Ratner, Kevin Spacey, James Toback and Harvey Weinstein. The Times story reports that four female comedians — Dana Min Goodman, Julia Wolov, Abby Schachner and Rebecca Corry — and an anonymous source are claiming that several years ago Louis C.K. either jerked off in front of them or asked to do same or something along these gross lines. No assault but what asinine behavior! What is this “jerking off in front of women” thing? I’d never even heard about it until recently. What kind of blithering idiot even thinks about doing such a thing, which seems to be mainly about hostility and aggression?
It was one thing for Ridley Scott to replace the disgraced Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer in the role of J. Paul Getty in the forthcoming All The Money In The World (TriStar, 12.22). But his intention to shoot and insert the brand-new Plummer footage into the film within the next 30 days in order to stick to the locked-in release date…whoa! That’s one hell of a ballsy and dynamic move, especially for an 80- year-old. I haven’t done the research, but I’m almost certain this kind of casting switch-out has never happened to a major film only a month and a half before opening. HE to Scott: Please, please don’t junk Spacey’s scenes. Hang onto them and use them as an extra on the Bluray. By the way: When will the Academy expel Spacey from the Academy a la Harvey Weinstein and perhaps even demand that he return his two Oscars? Not advocating for this, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
(l.) Brand-new All The Money in the World costar Christopher Plummer; (m.) director Ridley Scott; (r.) former All The Money in the World costar Kevin Spacey.
I’ve seen Arthur Miller — Writer, an intimate, not-uninteresting, years-in-the-making portrait of the late playwright. Scheduled to air on HBO next spring, the doc is a highly personal project by respected director Rebecca Miller, the playwright’s daughter by his third wife. I’ve admired Miller and his plays all my life, but the doc acquainted me with a semi-intimate, unguarded version of him, which was new. Miller was a crusty, somewhat brusque fellow when it come to being interviewed — you could use the word “blunt” or even “craggy” — but he never seemed less than wise or perceptive.
Born in 1915, Arthur Miller led an interesting life as a fledgling writer from the mid ’30s to mid ’40s, but led a ferociously fascinating life when he began to produce important, critically respected plays. His big creative period began in ’47 (All My Sons), peaked in ’49 (Death of a Salesman), rumbled into the ’50s (The Crucible, A View From The Bridge) and concluded with his last two big-league plays (’64’s After The Fall and ’68’s The Price) — a little more than 20 years.
Miller’s Marilyn Monroe period (’56 to ’61) made him into a paparazzi figure, and also seemed to bring on the beginning of his creative decline. Miller and Monroe divorced in ’61, and of course she died in August ’62, an apparent suicide. Miller still “had it” for a few years after this period. After The Fall, a thinly disguised drama about his turbulent relationship with Monroe, opened in ’64. Then came the less ambitious, more emotionally engaging The Price in ’68.
It sounds unkind to note this, but from ’68 until his death in ’05 Miller was more or less treading water (trying but never getting there, working on his Roxbury farm, the great man who once was, writing less-than-great plays, writing travel books with his wife) and never managing the comeback that we all wanted to see.
A little more than half (maybe 60%) of Miller’s doc covers her father’s life from his birth to ’68, or roughly 53 years. A little less than half covers the 37 years between The Price and his death in ’05. I’m sorry to note this, but the film runs out of gas around the 60% mark just as Miller himself ran out of creative high-test gasoline in the late ’60s. Arthur Miller — Writer is therefore half of an interesting documentary. I’m sorry if this sounds cruel, but the doc actually becomes a semi-downer once his life and work start to downshift. Your heart starts to slowly crack and break, watching the poor man go through this long, drawn-out, soul-draining, relatively infertile period.
You’re not allowed to talk about famous people looking different because of “work” they’ve had done. Well, you can, I suppose, but you might get knifed, punched and bitten by the same Twitter militants who pounced on Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman when he mentioned Renee Zellweger in June 2016, etc. But I’m allowed to talk about “work”, you see, because I’ve undergone a Prague procedure or two. I’m therefore allowed to say whatever I want about this subject, and too bad if you don’t like it. Here’s my viewpoint: You can pay for a little physical refinement, but you really have to at least resemble the person you were when it’s all over. That’s all I’m going to say.
I haven’t read Annette Insdorf‘s “Cinematic Overtures: How to Read Opening Scenes,” but I can guess what’s in it. I’ve always been more affected by great closing scenes, to be honest, but give me an hour or so and I can come up with several great opening scenes. Or great opening shots, for that matter. Like that baroque steambath shot in the beginning of Arthur Penn‘s Mickey One, for example.
What’s my favorite opening scene or montage? The longish opener of Apocalypse Now is near the top of the list, followed by the dialogue-free beginning of Alfred Hitchcock‘s Rear Window, and then the eight-minute opening of Robert Altman‘s The Player. Right now I’m having trouble thinking beyond these three. No, I don’t have a big sentimental thing about the beginning of John Ford‘s The Searchers.
A big swanky Academy screening of Joe Wright‘s Darkest Hour happens tonight, followed by a lobby party with the usual press and Academy types munching and schmoozing. But you know what the real occasion is, the real agenda? An official, communal acknowledgment that Gary Oldman is the most likely winner of the 2017 Best Actor Oscar.
Ever since Darkest Hour debuted in Telluride nine weeks ago conventional wisdom (i.e., the Gold Derby gang, those groovy Gurus) has been stating that Oldman’s flamboyantly twitchy, broadly conceived performance as Winston Churchill — heavy latex, cigar, cane, bowler hat — is the one to beat.
Daniel Day-Lewis‘ late-arriving performance in Phantom Thread could result in a winning surge, especially given that Reynolds Woodcock is supposed to be DDL’s swan-song performance. Some feel that Denzel Washington‘s brilliant-but-quirky-attorney performance in Dan Gilroy‘s Roman J. Israel is tied with Jake Gyllenhaal‘s Boston bombing victim in David Gordon Green‘s Stronger. Tom Hanks‘ turn as Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee in Steven Spielberg‘s The Post looks like a keeper, but Hanks has won twice before (Philadelphia, Forrest Gump). Considering his 21 years on the planet, Timothee Chalamet‘s expected Best Actor nomination for his Call Me By Your Name performance will be a triumph in itself.
I just can’t see Oldman not winning. His Winston Churchill performance is broadly, at times hammily effective. There’s the “we’re sorry you lost the last time” factor with Oldman having nearly won six years ago for playing George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Solder Spy. And finally there’s the “he’s paid his dues and done great work for 30-plus years so it’s time to finally give him the gold” thinking. It doesn’t feel as if Oldman’s breakout debut in Alex Cox‘s Sid and Nancy happened 31 years ago, agreed, but it’s definitely been that long. Ronald Reagan was president then.
A truly impressive one-sheet. The steps, one presumes, are an impressionistic rendition of the steps outside the U.S. Supreme Court building, where the New York Times & Washington Post vs. Nixon administration dispute over the Pentagon Papers was decided on 6.30.71. The size and steepness of the steps appear to have been exaggerated for dramatic effect.
The most exciting comment in yesterday’s thread about the Post trailer was “Reverent and free” expressing relief that it appears to be “more [of] an ensemble thing than the Meryl Streep Show…they actually underplayed her in the trailer, giving her no big lines.” A trailer rarely represents the film it’s selling, but here’s hoping that an “emphasis on ensemble’ dynamic manifests in the film itself.
Trailer are always about simplification, broad strokes and lowest common denominator appeal. But even knowing this, I’m favorably impressed by this trailer for Steven Spielberg‘s The Post (20th Century Fox, 12.22). Right away you sense the pressure and complexity of the do-or-die decision facing the Washington Post. For what it’s worth I’m sensing a stronger dramatic current than I got out of reading an early draft of Liz Hannah‘s script. But of course, that’s what trailers do; they present the basic ingredients in a neat, easy-to-process way. Reactions? As TheWrap‘s Steve Pond would say, could this be “the one”?
The only thing I really loved about Kenneth Branagh‘s Murder on the Orient Express (20th Century Fox, 11.10) was the train itself. It’s an exquisitely designed and decorated pre-war thing — beautiful carpets and drapes, nicely upholstered dining-car seats, lamps of softly glowing amber, that wonderful dark-wood paneling and old-world bathroom fixtures and all the other trimmings, and that soft clackety sound of wheels meeting rails. So very comforting.
What I saw in the film was partly an actual moving train, partly a stationary outdoor set and partly (just guessing here) a sound-stage set constructed with real-world refinement. I’ve been queer all my life for classic European trains and that cocoon-y feeling of bygone luxury, and so hanging with Branagh’s Hercule Poirot and the dozen or so stiff-necked suspects was…well, pleasant enough.
The rest of it felt…what, rote and pre-programed? I didn’t mind it. Well, I did but I tried to brush those feelings away. We all know where it’s heading and who did it so what kind of real satisfaction can be derived? It’s basically about drinking in the sets, the Middle Eastern and European scenery and thinking hard about Branagh’s ludicrous paste-on moustache, all curly and silvery and waxed to a fare-thee-well.
The only folks who will go this weekend will be the over-50 Joe and Jane Popcorn set, but that’s okay…right?
I don’t recall liking the 1974 Sidney Lumet version any better, but…wow, it was nominated for six Oscars?
Seriously, why did Branagh wear such an elaborate Poirot ‘stache when it’s obviously intended only to portray this celebrated fellow as an egoistic, self-inflating, dandified showoff? You look at it and start to imagine Poirot trimming and brushing and fixing it just so every morning, and being extra-careful to make it not look like some kind of doofusy silver handlebar. What does he do, devote an hour each morning and then re-wax and re-comb just before dinner?
The big opening scene in Jerusalem shows the charismatic Poirot announcing his conclusions about who killed a certain party to a crowd of 300 or 400 onlookers, like some kind of upscale circus barker. Why would a meticulous, world-renowned detective, a worldly man of refinement, want to simultaneously resolve a crime and put on a show for a mob? It’s a silly notion, but Branagh is determined to deliver a big visual wow effect for the ADD crowd. The scene happens only four or five minutes in, and I was already rolling my eyes.
Twitter announced today that nearly all of its 330 million users will henceforth now be able to tweet with 280 characters. Only Twitter users who post in Japanese, Korean or Chinese are still restricted to 140 characters. Tatyana says she always enjoyed and admired the discipline of keeping things to 140 characters, and fears that 280 characters will result in too many people going “blah blah blah blah.”
Every three or four years I’ll mention this scene from Ted Post‘s Go Tell The Spartans (’78). Easily one of the best monologues Burt Lancaster ever delivered in his 43-year career, and certainly the most memorable scene in this low-budget Vietnam drama, which was one of the Vietnam wave of films that came out that year (Coming Home, Rolling Thunder, The Boys From Company C). Lancaster’s tale echoes back to this story from screenwriter Ernest Lehman, a recollection of his work on Sweet Smell of Success.
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