“There’s one performance that hasn’t been recognized by any movie critics group or awards organization despite being one of the year’s most widely praised,” writes Pop Machine‘s Mark Caro. “Where’s the year-end love for Daniel Craig, a.k.a. Agent 007 in Casino Royale? Here’s a guy who was widely dismissed and even ridiculed upon being cast in this iconic role, yet the consensus is he’s the best James Bond since Sean Connery and perhaps the closest one to author Ian Fleming’s original vision.”
A more-than-possible Best Picture scenario: Little Miss Sunshine, the little family comedy-drama that could, wins the Oscar. It wins because (a) it’s the only top-five contender without any nagging negatives, and (b) it’s the only top-five contender that’s really and truly about “us” instead of a film about “them” — a simple but primal insight I’ve just lifted from Oscarwatch‘s Sasha Stone.
The Queen is primarily a story about “them” (the Royal Family, the elites in the Blair government, the British public). Ditto Letters From Iwo Jima (i.e., the doomed, duty-bound Japanese troops of 60 years ago). And The Departed is too impersonal, in a sense, to be about either “them” or “us” — it’s basically about great Scorsese chops suffused with live-wire writing, acting, editing. (This happens to be a very personal thing with me, but that’s another story.)
Dreamgirls seems very much about “them” — Motown culture of the ’60s, black entertainers from the same period, the gents who wrote, directed and produced the Broadway show along with those who produced and made the film. Is there an “us” element in Dreamgirls? I liked a lot of this film, but nothing from my own life seemed woven into it in any way. Am I missing something?
Babel is absolutely about “us” — it’s about kids and parenting and the random nature of interconnected fate that so affects us en masse — and so is Children of Men (which is all about “our” planet and where we seem to be going), The Lives of Others (in one sense about “them” — urban-artist East Germans during the early ’80s — but also about “our” paranoia plus “our” capacity for compassion and growth) and Volver (one of the all-time great family films, but with an “us” focus because it’s so fully about women).
Perhaps the only other film that is as much about “us” as Little Miss Sunshine is United 93, because it shows who we are and what we’re made of. Don’t tell the Academy ostriches about this — it’ll just make them dig their heads all that deeper into the sand.
And yet these five films are all said to have negatives. Babel, I keep hearing from crabby critics, is too much of a stacked deck. The Lives of Others is seen in some quarters as too specifically German (wrong!) and is, of course, German-made and therefore more of a candidate for Best Foreign-Language Film. Volver is Almodovarian and Spanish and looking at the same deal. And a fair-sized portion of the Academy is apparently (I’m hearing) still refusing to see United 93, despite all the Best Picture awards it’s gotten from critics group.s
The films with the two lowest negative factors are Little Miss Sunshine and The Queen — everyone I know either admires or truly loves these two — but Sunshine will take it in the end because it’s more American and more “real” — more about everyone’s day-to-day lives, choices, failings, uncertainties. The Queen, finally, is about how change sometimes comes along out of nowhere and knocks you over, especially if you’re older. But it is also about an exotic culture that is hardly reflects the deep-down American experience.
With mixed feelings, HE is announcing the death of Elsewhere Classic. It lived for a total of nine months, give or take. I created it so people who couldn’t roll with the bloggy format (instituted last March) would feel more comfortable, but you have adapt and go with the times. Plus having a separate parallel column was a drag on memory and resources. I’ve also killed the news ticker, which I added in the summer of ’05. It wasn’t adding anything very significant to the site, although I always liked the energy — the travelling fluidity — of it.
“A movie about the last days of humanity that opens on Christmas Day may seem like a bleak choice for holiday viewing. But Children of Men (Universal, 12.25) is a modern-day nativity story that’s far more moving and even, in its way, reverent than the current film by that name. It’s also the herald of another blessed event: the arrival of a great director by the name of Alfonso Cuaron.
“Though I’ll be coming out with a 10-best list in this space next week, I’ve never been much of one for the year-end obsession with sorting and ranking cultural products in neat rows. But I’ll go out on a limb and say this: [Cuaron’s] dense, dark, and layered meditation on fertility, technology, immigration, war, love, and life itself may be the movie of the still-young millennium.” — from a review by Slate‘s Dana Stevens, posted 12.21.
Notes on a Scandal book author Zoe Heller (her work is actually titled “What Was She Thinking?” — the movie title is a subhead) recently said during a Hollywood q & a that the plot of the book — about a teacher in her mid ’30s who has an affair with a 15 year-old student — was inspired by the Mary Kay Letourneau scandal of the mid to late ’90s.
My feelings on this issue are roughly those of former Labor secretary Robert Reich (i.e., the brilliant, bearded short guy with the Clinton Adminstration), who reportedly said, “Where were teachers like [Letourneau] when I was in school?”
Older males who take sexual advantage of underage females are venal and deserve every punishment society can throw at them, but there’s definitely a different standard when it comes to older women and teenage guys. When I was in my mid teens my mother used to warn me about predatory women who might take advantage of me; I remember saying to myself once as she shared this warning, “Please, please God…where are they?”
If a hotsy-totsy Mary Ann Letourneau figure had deigned to have a sexual affair with me at age 15 or thereabouts, I would have gotten down on my knees with a Bible in my hands every night and praised God for his merciful bounty.
A glum-faced journalist at the Notes on a Scandal junket earlier this week told me that the fantasy hadn’t panned out for a guy he knew who’d had an affair with an older woman when he was at a tender age. Apparently the guy was emotionally thrown by it. Poor baby. I hear stories all the time from my two boys — age 18 and 17 — about what a jarring, in some cases heartbreaking time they’ve had with high-school girls who run hot and cold and drop guys they’ve been intimate with whenever the mood strikes without blinking an eye. It’s quite brutal out there. My younger son feels that high-school girls are “amost evil” in this sense.
By contrast a 32 year-old girlfriend would have to at least be a bit more stable, no? And most likely gentler, kinder, more considerate, etc.? (Unless she’s a druggie or a psycho.) And yet society seriously punishes women who transgress in this fashion. Society is wrong. Society doesn’t get it.
“We’ve pushed the buttons too far. We’ve been greedy and selfish. Everybody knows what we’ve done to the rivers and the oceans; the fact that there’s only 35 years’ worth of fish in the oceans; the fact that the polar ice caps are melting. I think that right under the surface of everybody’s consciousness is the full understanding that we’re in for a really tough ride and everybody is really afraid to face it. The attitude is: ‘Let me amass my pile and we’ll worry about that 10 or 20 years from now.'” — Little Miss Sunshine costar and presumptive Oscar nominee Alan Arkin speaking to Time magazine. (A Time magazine “Numbers of the Year” report actually says the oceans will be fished out within 50 years, so we can all relax — an extra 15 years to sort things out. Pass the shrimp!)
This is for real as far as “real” goes: “I, Vincent Gallo, star of such classics as Buffalo 66 and The Brown Bunny, have decided to make myself available to all women. All women who can afford me, that is. For the modest fee of $50,000 plus expenses, I can fulfill the wish, dream, or fantasy of any naturally-born female. The fee covers one evening with Vincent Gallo. For those who wish to enjoy my company for a weekend, the fee is increased to a mere $100,000.
“Heavy-set, older, redheads and even black chicks can have me if they can pay the bill. No real female will be refused. However, I highly frown upon any male having even the slightest momentary thought or wish that they could ever become my client. No way Jose. However, female couples of the lesbian persuasion can enjoy a Vincent Gallo evening together for $100,000. $200,000 buys the lesbos a weekend — a weekend that will have them second-guessing.
“I am willing to travel worldwide to accommodate clients. However, travel days are billed at $50,000 per plus all premium flight fees. Scanning for STD’s is required as is bathing and grooming prior to our encounter. Detailed photos of potential clients also required prior. An extra fee for security to protect me is charged on top of the fantasy fee. Security fees will vary depending on the details of an encounter and how much security I will need.”
What’s wrong with redheads? That one stopped me in my tracks. What’s the negative factor he’s alluding to?