“John McCain‘s campaign has decided it can’t hold back on the serious mudslinging any longer. Sarah Palin tipped their hand today by spinning the David Ayers thing into “palling around with terrorists.”
“This is only the beginning. It’s going to get much, much worse. McCain has already shown he will trash his reputation for this in small ways, and now the big guns are coming out as it dawns on McCain, Schmidt and the others that the polls are going the wrong way and this is his last shot at the Presidency. We’re about to see the depths the GOP rottweilers are willing to sink to when pushed into a corner.
“The nation would have been better served had the election remained close until the end.” — posted by HE reader “Deathtongue Groupie” at 6:10 pm today. (Edits added.)
In some of his films director Jonathan Demme has revealed a profound affection for Caribbean culture and music, and occasionally for African-American characters and subject matter. Examples include his two Haiti docs — 1988’s Haiti: Dreams of Democracy and ’03’s The Agronomist. His 1998 adaptation of Toni Morrison‘s Beloved. That Hannibal Lecter-in-the-Bahamas scene at the end of The Silence of the Lambs. The end-credit singing of “Wild Thing” at the close of Demme’s Something Wild by Jamaican singer “Sister” Carol East.
Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt
So it feels very Demme-ish that the union that’s endlessly celebrated in Rachel Getting Married, his latest feature, is between a very alabaster lassie (Rosemarie DeWitt, playing Rachel) and a handsome Afrique-ebony guy (musician Tunde Adebimpe, playing Sidney the groom). It’s also a very Demme thing that nobody so much as mentions this.
You can say “well, why would anyone mention it?” and I’d take your point, of course. We all like to see ourselves as color-blind. My point is that in real life someone in the wedding party would at one point or another throw some kind of slider ball — something anecdotal, flip, netural, whatever– into the proceedings. In the same way someone would say “oh, it’s raining” if a cloudburst were to happen. My other point is that such a remark (which wouldn’t necessarily be coarse or gauche ) is verboten in a Demme film because it doesn’t reflect his values or sensibilities.
You may have noticed that movie critics haven’t come within 20 feet of mentioning this in their reviews. That’s because it’s not cool, dude. If you do you open yourself up to being called a subliminal racist of some kind. Just wait — someone is going to say this about me in the comments.
But if the blunt-spoken alcoholic played by Howard Duff in Robert Altman‘s A Wedding (1978) had been invited to Rachel and Sidney’s wedding, he would have said something or other, trust me. Because he was the kind of wealthy middle- aged guy who didn’t give a shit because he was always half in the bag.
Tunde Adebimpe, DeWitt
I was hoping that Demme had decided to include one character like this in Rachel Getting Married. Someone who wouldn’t necessarily say the wrong thing, but who might say the right thing in a slightly wrong way. Someone who doesn’t quite fit the sensitive mold. Demme doesn’t, of course. It’s not in him.
Rachel Getting Married, written by Jenny Lumet, is mainly about how Rachel’s older sister Kym (Anne Hathaway), a longtime alcholic and drug-user now living in a rehab facility, screws things up by being her natural attention-grabbing self, scheming to make most of the conversations about her, only sometimes letting the happy couple have the spotlight. Me, me, me, me. me.
It’s wonderfully shot in a darting, hand-held, Dogma-like way, making everything feel very loose and random and catch-as-catch-can. It’s also magnificently acted by Hathaway and De Witt.
But a friend has observed that the way Demme portrays the African-American and Jamaican characters — Sidney, his Army-serving younger brother, his parents and the various musicians and guests who float in and out — is a form of benevolent reverse racism. He does this, my friend argued, by making certain that only the white characters — Rachel and Kym and their parents, played by Debra Winger and Bill Irwin — are the screwed-up ones. Antsy, haunted, angry, nervous, gloomy. But the darker-skinned characters are all cool, kindly, radiant, gentle, serene.
I was a little surprised when I first heard this view, but I’m starting to think she may have a point. It does seem a little phony. I would have invested myself a little bit more in Rachel Getting Married if, say, Sidney has been a wee bit obnoxious or an obsessive-compulsive or a relentless pot smoker — anything but the dull block of wood that Demme, Lumet and Adebimpe have created. Everyone everywhere has conflicts, problems, insecurities, regrets. Except in films like this one.
All to say that I never really believed Rachel Getting Married. I enjoyed the craft and random energy of it, but I never believed that I watching real-life people. Every step of the way I felt Exiled in Demmeville.
Last night I saw Mark Brecke‘s They Turned Our Desert Into Fire, an intelligent, impassioned, well-sculpted doc about the horrors of the Darfur genocide, which apparently will never be stopped by anyone because it’s not in their economic interest to do so. Pic was shown to a modest-sized crowd under the auspices of the Artivists Film Festival at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian.
They Turned Our Desert Into Fire director Mark Brecke (center); his wife stands to his right; friend-supporter Svetlana Cvetko to his left.
How does it compare to Ted Braun‘s Darfur Now and Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern‘s The Devil Came on Horseback? Favorably. Brecke, a war photographer, lays out the facts, the whys and the wherefores with clarity and fervor. It’s a rough film to watch here and there, but impossible to turn away from.
The following wasn’t included in the doc: (a) interview footage of Sudan president Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, who was alleged on 7.14.08 by the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to bear criminal responsibility for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed since 2003 in Darfur; (b) a hard-hitting interview with rebel leaders and their feelings about the mass slaughter; (c) an interview with a representative of the Chinese government, which has financed the slaughter, in a sense, by being a principal purchaser of Khartoum’s oil without demanding humanitarian conditions; (d) an interview with a rep of the American news media, which has paid scant attention to the Darfur genocide since it began in 2003; and (e) a review of the Darfur-related events from late ’06 to mid ’08.
A respected acquaintance with friends in the banking world says he’s been told that barring an unlikely miracle, three Hollywood-based distributors will go under before the end of 2009. And no, he wasn’t referring to the Weinstein Company. At least two financial specialists have told him this is in the cards. Partly due to huge debt and the near-collapse of the country’s financial institutions in recent days, partly due to much of the industry’s activity over the last two years having been financed by funny money. I could name the three studio-distributors but it might be more intriguing to ask for speculations.
Barack Obama‘s chances of being elected on 11.4 look pretty good now, but the worst thing his supporters can do is get cocky or complacent. Then again a little celebrating never hurt anyone. Here‘s another reminder about an Obama fund-raiser being held on Sunday, October 5th, at Cedering Fox‘s very cool home from 4 pm to 7 pm. They’re looking for $250 a head but they’ll take $175 if you’re strapped. I’ll probably attend.
I absolutely take this video at face value. At first you think “no, can’t be real, too appalling”…but it’s not a put-on. The obviously desperate Dan Aykroyd is channelling Ed McMahon as he plugs a new luxury vodka that comes in bottles shaped like crystal alien heads. Just like the ones in Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull. Who would care about a hustle like this? I know, I know — I’d be surprised.
Willamette Week‘s Aaron Mesh reported yesterday that director Todd Haynes (I’m Not There) is “in talks to produce a television adaptation of Mildred Pierce, the 1945 Joan Crawford tearjerker. The wrinkle is that Haynes intends to base his film on the original James M. Cain novel instead of the Michael Curtiz film.
“I read the book recently, and it’s so different from the Crawford film,” Haynes said. No casting ideas, he said. He said he’s writing the script with Old Joy screenwriter Jonathan Raymond, and plans to move the setting back a decade to the 1930s, when the book was set. “It seems so fitting,” Haynes said, “because it’s really about the Depression-era economy. It feels particularly prescient right now.”
I’m wondering what the tolerance levels are for that cell-phone-dropped-in-the-gross-toilet scene in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. I realize this may be a cultural failing on my part, but I have a real problem with body-waste humor — in movies, in real life, anywhere. Did I just write that? The grossification of movie comedy continues on a downswirl. It used to be that seltzer bottles and custard cream pies were laugh props; today, the brown torpedo.
What would the ghosts of Irving Thalberg, Preston Sturges, Ernst Lubitsch or Billy Wilder say about the ongoing fecal-matter syndrome in contempo films about twentysomething characters? Which began with those two scenes in Danny Boyle‘s Trainspotting…right?
To quote from Pete Hammond‘s Backstage review: “Norah’s friend Caroline, played to the hilt with grating drunken abandon by Ari Graynor, gets separated from the pack and winds up passed out in a public bathroom, where she later tries to retrieve her cell phone and chewing gum, which have fallen into a toilet that looks like it has never been flushed. This attempt at gross-out comedy is where I checked out.”
Yesterday The Envelope‘s Tom O’Neil asked a few columnists to respond to one of his impassioned topic du jours — i.e., does Oscar have a grudge against Angelina Jolie? Sucker that I am, I bit. I meant to tap out a brief reply, but it turned into something longer. Happens every time.
Angelina Jolie during filming of Changeling
“She hasn’t been nominated since 1999,” O’Neil argued. “And last year she won heavy praise for her Mighty Heart performance (receiving Golden Globe and Spirit award noms, among others) but got snubbed by Oscar. Is this the price that Hollywood’s most fabulous star must pay for her life in the tabloid headlines? Or can that Oscar magnet Clint Eastwood change things with Changeling?”
Here’s what I wrote:
“I’m not sensing a punishment mentality directed at Angelina Jolie because she’s a gossip press mainstay. Perhaps subconsciously there’s a certain resentment aimed at anyone whose life has become a pageant of relentless tabloid fodder and thereby is adding to the idiot wind sandstorm out there that does none of us any good. I think we could all do well to focus less obsessively on the perks and pleasures of abundant wealth, which is what every vapid, under-educated status seeker in every corner of the globe dreams about every waking day.
“AJ is a likely…okay, certainly a possible Best Actress nominee for Changeling, although much of what viewers are feeling from that performance is sympathy/ empathy for her real-life character, Christine Collins, being unfairly pushed around and beaten up by politicians and bureaucrats, and, of course, admiration for her steel and determination. It’s not so much about who she is and what choices she makes as much as her character’s refusal to buckle under.
“As such, the performance, good as it is, is a wee bit one-note. As it was given to her, I mean. It’s a bit of a noble endurance test. Oh, how I suffer but they won’t keep me down because I will not rest in my attempts to find my real kidnapped son. Maybe I’ll find him and maybe I won’t. but I will nonetheless cross that finish line because Christine Collins doesn’t back down.
“Jole is a very beautiful actress who knows how to emote and play to other actors in an honest, untricky way that doesn’t prod or grate. But her performance is somewhat less interesting and less penetrating than the performances by Kristin Scott Thomas (I’ve Loved You So Long); Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married), Melissa Leo (Frozen River) and Kate Beckinsale (Nothing But the Truth).
“And yet to come is Kate Winslet (Revolutionary Road, The Reader) and Meryl Streep (Doubt).
“But AJ will probably get nominated….maybe. I don’t know, really. I wouldn’t have a problem with this if it happens. Did I come out of Changeling feeling respect and admiration for her performance? Certainly. Do I really care if she gets nominated? Honestly? No, I don’t. Not really.
“You know why? Because she’s too famous, has too many kids, has too much money and spends it too conspicuously, is too drop-dead beautiful, is too ambiguous in her position about Iraq (does she support the Bush-Cheney war effort because more American money means more Iraqi families will have a chance at restoring their day-to-day lives to where they were before the 2003 invasion?…something like that?), and because she and Brad pay some ridiculous amount each month to live in a 35-room mansion (i.e., Chateau Miraval) in the south of France.
“And she wants an Oscar nomination on top of all of this? And if this happens, then what? Will she want to lead her own space shuttle mission? Will she use her fame and influence to fund the construction of a huge European style stone castle somewhere in the Rocky Mountains that will provide food and shelter for homeless people and the terminally ill, and allow them to learn computer skills while providing access to high-def/Blu-ray TV watching in the evening hours, 7 to 11 pm?
“Angie has convinced most of us that she’s basically a good lady of talent and taste, myself included. She’s a not-untalented actress whom I very much respect (her work in A Mighty Heart was more compelling that her Changeling performance), but on the other hand she really is quite the queen, and I’m not sure how I finally feel about that. I do think she has quite enough on her plate as it now stands. And I think that plate is quite large (you could say banquet-sized) and nouveau-riche flamboyant and gold-plated, and at the end of the day I’m not sure that I find the Brad-Angie brass band/circus caravan/media show all that appealing.
“Consider a parental values piece I tapped out last July called “A Lesson in Modesty,” which focused on their opulent lifestyle:
“‘My interest is in Chateau Miraval, the $70 million dollar, 35-room estate near Aix en Provence which Pitt and Jolie are reportedly intending to lease for three years. Who needs 35 rooms? Little kids always share bedrooms, Brad and Angie will share a room with the twins plus..what, a nanny and a couple of assistants? They could all probably make do with a ten-room mansion. Fifteen might be a wee bit extravagant. Twenty would be, like…whoa, take it easy. But thirty-five friggin’ rooms?
“‘I’m talking about passing along decent values to your kids. I realize that Chateau Miraval is a working wine vineyard so you need facilities for the guys who work it, but it’s not a good thing to instruct your children through day-to-day experience that nouveau riche extravagance is the norm. Even if you pass along the best kind of emotional and spiritual upbringing by your words and deeds, an opulent lifestyle will always create a sense of swagger and entitlement and a nonstop litany of lusts and appetites.
“‘The best thing you can do is give your kids to a natural, non-flamboyant, modestly-scaled life. They should have love and comfort and occasional perks, but mainly within the framework of a life based upon need and nutrition and not whimsical indulgence. The lives of Brad and Angie’s kids should not be about what they’d like to taste or fuck around with or splash around in on a daily whim because their parents are loaded and ‘why not?’ The Jolie-Pits are doing their kids no favors by bringing them up this way. 99% of the world lives in a world of limits and natural proportion.’
“What am I saying at the end of the day? That at best, Angelina Jolie is a third-place contender right now behind Kristin Scott Thomas and Melissa Leo. She has the power of Universal and her own fame behind a campaign effort, and I imagine she’ll prevail nomination-wise, which will be fine if it happens. But I don’t think she’ll win because of what I wrote in paragraphs #5 and #6 (as well as the three that follow, plus my view that Changeling is at best an A-minus or B-plus). I don’t think I’m alone in this view. I think a lot of people probably feel this way.”