I mentioned this two or three years ago, but I’m still struck by Cary Grant‘s looking-forward remarks after being handed his Life Achievement Oscar on April 4, 1970. Right at the start of Hollywood’s golden era, just as things were kicking in big-time, all the great ’70s film yet to be made. And here‘s what he said.
“I’ll say it again: Revolutionary Road is one of the best, if not the best, movie of 2008,” writes HE reader Jeremy Fassler. “It was a great book and it made an equally great movie.
“But I was initially shocked by how alone I was in this feeling. Several of my friends either hated the film or refused to see it. Every single year there’s one film I love which my friends don’t warm to. In previous years those films were Sideways and Brokeback Mountain, proving that typically I’m vindicated in these situations.
“After thinking about it for a while, I think people simply are uncomfortable when marital discomfort is thrown in their faces. This movie makes no bones about this. From the first scene you know you’re not going to leave the theater doing a tap dance. I think that put people off, a movie starting with your two lead actors getting in a major fight. From then on, the people I know complained that they felt no sympathy for anyone in the film.
“For some reason stories of marital trauma don’t depress me. Depressing is a movie about someone who has an incredibly shitty life, like The Wrestler or Monster. But people, especially middle-aged ones, don’t want to see marital trauma thrown back in their faces.
“On the flip side is The Reader, a film dealing with the greatest tragedy in human history — and somehow that’s not depressing for a lot of people because they can feel good about supporting a film dealing with such a sensitive topic.
“Make no mistake: Kate Winslet deserves the Best Actress Oscar for Revolutionary Road, for giving one of the best performances of the year and perhaps her best ever.”
Copied from IGN, which put up some ostensibly exclusive Inglourious Basterds stills and poster art this morning.
I’m fundamentally flawed as a handicapper and Oscar-pool better because I can’t step back and say “this film or filmmaker will win even though I have problems with it/him/her.” If I have issues with anyone or anything, I can”t just look at the odds and predict victory. Except when the odds are so overwhelming there’s simply no other choice, as it is with Slumdog Millionaire winning the Best Picture Oscar two days and six hours from now.
Here we go anyway…
Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire. Conflicted Feelings Factor: So-so to moderate as I’ve never truly felt this film is a major-league home run. It’s a solid double — maybe a triple at best. And I hate, hate, hate that guy who plays the game show announcer. I hate his suit, his haircut…everything about him.
Best Director: Slumdog‘s Danny Boyle. Conflicted Feelings Factor: Hardly present. Boyle is a good fellow, knows his stuff, he did a good job. This is his year, let well enough alone.
Best Actor: The Wrestler‘s Mickey Rourke. Conflicted Feelings Factor: Absent. If Sean Penn wins, we’ll all survive and a very fine performance will have been honored. But it won’t feel right.
Best Actress: The Reader‘s Kate Winslet. Conflicted Feelings Factor: See the piece I posted an hour ago. Either way, I’m ready to let this be Kate’s time. I think we all feel this way.
Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight. Conflicted Feelings Factor: Strong. I’d honestly rather see Michael Shannon win for Revolutionary Road, in part because he’s great in that film, and in part because he’s here. I was extremely pissed off when Heath did what he did to himself, accidentally or otherwise, and I guess I haven’t quite gotten beyond that.
Best Supporting Actress: Vicky Cristina Barcelona‘s Penelope Cruz. Conflicted Feelings Factor: I’d be very happy to see this go to Doubt‘s Viola Davis.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Slumdog Millionaire.
Best Original Screenplay: Andrew Stanton‘s WALL*E as an acknowledgement that it is and was somehow more than just the year’s best animated feature. Conflicted Feelings Factor: It would be lovely to see the prize go to Frozen River.
Best Art Direction: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button because it was well handled as far as it went, and Paramount at least needs those tech awards as a return for their $150 million investment.
Best Cinematography: Slumdog Millionaire, Anthony Dod Mantle.
Best Costume Design: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The rule of thumb is that any period film involving exotic ruffled duds tends to win on this score, which would point to The Duchess. I still say Button because it cost so much and people feel sorry for Paramount having shelled out so much and come up empty on the Best Picture front.
Best Film Editing: Slumdog Millionaire.
Best Makeup: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Best Musical Score: Slumdog Millionaire.
Best Original Song: “Jai Ho” from
Best Sound Editing: The Dark Knight. Compensation award.
Best Sound Mixing: The Dark Knight. Ditto.
Best Visual Effects: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. No contest.
Best Animated Feature: WALL*E.
Best Foreign Language Feature: Waltz With Bashir.
Best Documenary Feature: Man on Wire.
Best Documentary Short: Dunno, clueless, pass.
Best Short Film (animated): La Maison en Petits Cubes.
Best Short Film (Live Action): Toyland. Holocaust factor, naturally.
Ron Rosenbaum‘s blistering anti-Reader piece on Slate (“Don’t Give an Oscar to The Reader“) went up on Monday, February 9th. Three days later , on 2.12.09, Rod Lurie‘s similar criticism piece (“The Holocaust Revisionism of Hollywood”) appeared on the Huffington Post. Five days later — Tuesday, 2.17 — the Oscar balloting deadline arrived and the voting issue became moot.
Nonetheless it’s taken Harvey Weinstein, Reader director Stephen Daldry, Reader screenwriter David Hare and producer Donna Gigliotti until today, 2.20 — eight days after the Lurie article, 11 days after the Rosenbaum — to send out a press release arguing with “fringe criticism” of their film.
If you’re going to wait this long, guys, why even bother? If you want to try and shape a debate, you need to retort hours later, or certainly no more than a day or so after the initial blow has been struck. Waiting 11 days is like waiting 11 weeks.
“We are proud of The Reader and everyone who made this film,” theri statement begins. “It is outrageous and insulting that people have called it a ‘Holocaust denial film.’ While entitled to their opinion, these allegations are fueled by ignorance and a misunderstanding of the material, and are based on unsubstantiated arguments.
“The greatest films elicit great debate and conversation. Unfortunately, the recent attacks on The Reader have generated debates, not about the substance of the film, but about what people believe to be the intent of the filmmakers. To take a piece of art that was constructed with the hard work of many talented people and turn it into propaganda is plain ignorant.
“No one is suggesting that The Reader must be beloved by everyone. On the contrary, there is always room for criticism. If one does not like the film that is one matter; but to project one’s personal bias on the filmmaker’s objective is wrong and something we could no longer remain silent about.
“The Reader is a film about how a generation of Germans lived in the shadow of one of the greatest crimes of the 20th century. Some detractors of the film have said that it is a piece of Holocaust revisionism; however Holocaust survivors, children of Holocaust survivors and a Nobel Peace Prize winner feel differently.
“Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner, has praised The Reader as ‘a film that deals powerfully with Germany’s reconciliation with its past.’ He said that ‘it is not about the Holocaust; it is about what Germany did to itself and its future generations.’ He called it ‘a faithful adaptation of an important book, that is still relevant today as genocide continues to be practiced around the world.’
“Abe Foxman, the ADL National Director and a Holocaust survivor agrees with Mr. Wiesel. ‘As we move further away from the Holocaust we must continue to tell the story of the Shoah in ways that will reach and touch new generations. The Reader, which takes place in post-WWII Germany, clearly portrays the horrors of the Holocaust, not visually but intellectually and emotionally. There is no doubt to what Kate Winslet’s character, Hannah Schmitz, did during the war. Her guilt is given. At her trial her crimes are portrayed in detail and she is brought to justice for them. The Reader is not meant to be a factual re-telling of the Holocaust; for that we have documentaries. Rather it is about guilt and responsibility that is as important for our times as it was for post-war Germans.’
“Unfortunately,” the statement concludes, “we live in a world where Holocaust denial still exists. Just a few weeks ago, the Vatican made headlines when the Pope lifted the excommunication of a Catholic Bishop who made statements denying the full extent of the Holocaust. In today’s world, with the recent genocides in Darfur, Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia, there are enough signs that bigotry still exists to an alarming degree. Denial and revisionist history of some of the greatest atrocities of our time can only lead to further violence and horrors.
“The Reader is a film that has sparked controversy and it is not something we are shying away from. In this day and age we need healthy debate but what some have written is mudslinging at its worst and we think it is time to rise above it.”
Mr. Rosenbaum and Mr. Lurie — the floor is yours. That is, if you still care at this point.
A wise and rock-solid Oscar piece from New York‘s David Edelstein because of two judgments, one explaining the invincibility of Slumdog Millionaire and the other on the wrongness of Kate Winslet winning the Best Actress Oscar for The Reader and not Revolutionary Road.
During a Revolutionary Road screening q & a at the AMC Lincoln Square — (l. to r.) moderator Glenn Kenny, costar Michael Shannon, star Kate Winslet — Thursday, 11.20.08, 9:25 pm
I’ve said this to myself several dozen times but never quite tapped it out in so many words, so here’s how Edelstein puts it: “Slumdog Millionaire will win big because the hopeful Third World hero overcomes a system rigged against him in the same way Barack Obama overcame his race and broken home to become president of the United States. Also, winning a TV jackpot is about the last pipe dream left as the world economy crumbles.”
Actually, I did say something along these lines on 11.30.08: “In this spirit a Slumdog win could be seen as kindred to the election of Barack Obama. Black president, brown movie.”
Edelstein also says “it’ll be an outrage and a scandal” if Winslet wins for The Reader instead of Revolutionary Road — a view I subscribe to 110%. “There’s no rational reason for favoring thick-clumpy-German Kate over pretty-suburban-American-hysteric Kate,” he says. Of course, Winslet was nominated for The Reader because a good number of Academy people simply disliked the spiritually stagnant vibes — morose, defeatist — that Revolutionary Road was necessarily coping with and, after a fashion, spreading around.
I myself thought those vibes were choice and truthful. They were so well acted and captured in so many haunting and oddly creepy ways, and Thomas Newman‘s spare piano score sank right into my bones and will never evaporate. So few notes but so well chosen, and so deeply felt and performed.
I was never quite sold on the inevitability of what happens at the very end of Revolutionary Road, although it didn’t bother me greatly. If April’s dreams of acting were unrealistic, why couldn’t she and Frank have gone into the city more often and gone to some Broadway shows and fed off that? Why didn’t they go to see East of Eden and The Rose Tattoo and talk about these films over drinks, and maybe started a film discussion group? If April wasn’t a talented actress couldn’t she have at least tried to direct some plays in their local theatre?
I also couldn’t finally understand why the Wheelers couldn’t have bought a nice-sized flat in Paris with Frank’s money and visited two or three times a year to live in it and fix it up a bit more each time. You can work problems out at times. Half measures are better than no measures.
Either way I was certain and remain certain than Revolutionary Road is a far greater film that The Reader, and that Winslet’s performance in it will be much more valued down the road. Actually I think it’s already won more raves and respect than her work in The Reader. People just didn’t like what Rev Road was up to so they threw the baby out with the bathwater. What a perverse decision. Deranged, really.
Do you want to feel momentarily depressed? Just for a couple of minutes, I mean? In Contention‘s Kris Tapley believes that Departures, a Japanese-produced nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, is “waiting in the wings to upset” — i.e., may take the Best Foreign Language Oscar from Waltz With Bashir.
Maybe. Not having seen Departures (i.e., nobody ever offered me a screening or a screener) I’m hardly in a position to speak about quality or the odds or anything else, although I’ll be flabbergasted if Bashir loses. But listen to Tapley’s description of Departures and ask yourself if this is really the sort of thing that people might prefer to vote for.
“It’s a beautiful film in a lot of ways,” Kris begins. “Certainly not a more artistic achievement than Waltz With Bashir but the kind of soft, safe, solid work that tends to take out the frontrunner in this category time and again.” In other words, it’s a Salieri movie and what the hell, people have shown a soft spot for the old Salieri brand around Oscar time so who knows, maybe it’ll win.
“It deals with death in a really affecting way, at once eerie, humorous and, ultimately, moving,” Kris continues. “When it threatens to pass into trite territory, it finds a way to stay fresh and alive, very human and absolutely satisfying.” Trust me — when a guy like Kris observes that a film in question “threatens to pass into trite territory,” he’s politely saying that it fucking steps into the trite swamp for a bit — period, underline, boldface.
Does Bashir flirt with trite? Uhhm, no. Does it dabble in trite for even a minute or so, glancingly, in and out before you know it? No. Then why are we talking about a film with slight traces of trite stuck to its shoe soles…why are we even talking about that film overtaking a majestic accomplishment like Waltz With Bashir?
A less-than-fully-illuminated HE reader concurrently named “FearDread” and “Imogen De Wynter” wrote this morning announcing that “the first legit Watchmen review is up on the Huffington Post.” Let it never be said that Hollywood Elsewhere has it in for Watchmen, at least to the extent that I won’t post friendly descriptions of it.
The review’s author, however, is a guy named Mike Ragogna. “In the music business since his teens, Mike Ragogna has been a singer, songwriter, guitarist, keyboardist, producer, arranger and even a songplugger,” the bio reads. “He’s worked on projects ranging from those by Joni Mitchell, Ringo Starr, Burt Bacharach,Toby Keith, Aerosmith, Cher, Sublime and Al Green.”
The “g” is silent in his last name, I’m presuming, so you pronounce it “Ragohnya” like lasagna.
I wrote FrearDread/Imogen De Winter right back and said, “Legit? The guy’s a music industry this-and-thatter — musician, session man, entertainment writer, fringe player. He once worked for Cher. Worse than that, he uses an apostrophe when spelling the possessive ‘its’. What is it that makes him a legit film critic exactly? Help me out.”
And FearDread wrote back with the following: “He writes for the Huffington Post, a highly respected website. The other review you ran [i.e., Matt Selman‘s fanboy riff] originated on the website for Time, a national magazine. These were positive reviews. The negative reviews you have run were anonymous, unsourced and would be thrown out of any court of law in the land. I thought you were a journalist. This kind of behavior wouldn’t get a pass on the National Enquirer.”
To which I responded, “Slow down, Bambi. Matt Selman is a dug-in Simpsons exec producer, a vested industry relationshipper go-alonger and my idea of an ignoble reviewer. And almost anyone with a semi-legit job or position or connection with the right friend can post an opinion piece on the Huffington Post. And by the way, the National Enquirer has delivered some solid reporting here and there and broken more than a few hot stories, including one that legit media types wouldn’t touch until they were forced to — i.e., the John Edwards extramarital affair scandal.
On top of which “the first Watchmen review I ran came from a stone professional who toils for a major media organization, and I’m not going to be goaded by the likes of you into divulging his name and affiliation. The second review-writer is just a guy, but I know him somewhat, he definitely saw the film, he’s obviously intelligent, he obviously knows how to write, knows film, knows the Watchmen graphic novel, and so on. I fail to see the lack of legitimacy.”
Pedro Almodovar‘s Broken Embraces opens in Spain on March 18th, less than four weeks hence. (So why isn’t there a Spanish-language website?) And it will certainly play in Cannes less than three months hence. Watching it in the Grand Lumiere will surely be another variation on your basic holy-moley Pedro penetration experience. How could it not be?
The Coming Soon guys have this description posted: “Broken Embraces is a four-way tale of amour-fou, shot in the style of ’50s American film noir at its most hard-boiled, and will mix references to works like Nicholas Ray‘s In a Lonely Place and Vincente Minnelli‘s The Bad and the Beautiful, with signature Almodovar themes such as fate, the mystery of creation, guilt, unscrupulous power, the eternal search of fathers for sons, and sons for fathers.”
The “f” in “Fate” was capitalized but I de-capitalized it. Fate rules the universe, but it shouldn’t be flattered or rewarded with a capital F. Fate is something to be dodged, outfoxed, blown off, gotten around, stepped over, ignored, made a joke of.
“He is a genius. He writes the most incredible roles for women. In this one, ‘Broken Embraces,’ I am an actress playing two roles, one comedy, one drama, one real-life, one the movie she is making. A movie-within-a-movie. It’s complex, mind-blowing. I am so lucky to have him in my life.” — Penelope Cruz speaking about Broken Embraces.
The sound on this clip is weak, but the words that Laurence Olivier spoke when he accepted his Lifetime Achievement Oscar in 1979 — classy, precisely described and deeply felt, his emotional pores wide open — has never left my memory. I also vividly recall Jon Voight putting his hand to his head and going “whoa!” after Olivier finished. That’s something only an open-hearted liberal does. Voight, as we all know, has let that part of himself go.