I’ve been in Connecticut for the last eight or nine hours. And I’ve read all about everything that happened today (including the Spirit Awards — congratulations, Mr. Aronofsky, Rourke, Black and Ms Leo) and I just don’t think I can add anything of interest from the frozen backwoods of Fairfield County. And I don’t care that much either. There’s that too.
Last night I saw Will Ferrell‘s “You’re Welcome, America: A Final Night with George W. Bush” at the Cort theatre on West 48th. It’s a show for the shlubs — an extended lowbrow comedy skit with a fair amount of back-and-forth repartee between Ferrell and the audience, the sort of thing that could easily enjoy an extended run in Las Vegas. Written by Ferrell and directed by Adam McKay, it lacks depth and reflection but I laughed, dammit — loudly and often.
The best bit happened when Ferrell’s Bush asked audience members to tell him their name and occupations so he could give them a pet nickname (i.e., one of the Real McCoy’s better-known habits/tendencies). In a performance described by N.Y. Times critic Ben Brantley , a guy said he was a reviewer and Ferrell said, “Obsolete profession.” Last night he called upon a woman who said she was a nurse. “I’ll call you tits,” he said right back. A man said he was the mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, and Ferrell replied, “Mayor of Shittown.” That one brought down the house.
Ferrell owns it all — Bush, the frat-boy patter, the show, the audience. He knows exactly and I mean exactly what he’s doing. I enjoyed him last night more than all his screen performances combined. If you’re a tourist or someone off the bus from New Jersey you could do a lot worse than pay to see this show. It’s funny, it’s easy to get, and it doesn’t go into the ghastly horror aspects (i.e., the fact that this country was all but decimated within and without during Bush’s presidency) at all. Well, it sort of does once but only for 30 or 40 seconds. In silence.
And then the red phone rings and it’s back to the funny bullshit. “They used to call me gin and tonic,” “Awww, Brownie,” “Diego Luna,” etc.
Haaretz.com’s Gideon Levy has waffle-ironed Waltz With Bashir in an psychologically exacting, very well written piece that went up sometime late yesterday. He basically says that Ari Folman‘s film lies about Israel’s heart of darkness, and particularly about its culpability in the wanton slaughter of Israel’s enemies, past and present.
“Everyone now has his fingers crossed for Ari Folman and all the creative artists behind Waltz with Bashir to win the Oscar on Sunday,” Levy begins. “A first Israeli Oscar? Why not?
“However, it must also be noted that the film is infuriating, disturbing, outrageous and deceptive. It deserves an Oscar for the illustrations and animation, but a badge of shame for its message.
“It was not by accident that when he won the Golden Globe, Folman didn’t even mention the war in Gaza, which was raging as he accepted the prestigious award. The images coming out of Gaza that day looked remarkably like those in Folman’s film. But he was silent. So before we sing Folman’s praises, which will of course be praise for us all, we would do well to remember that this is not an antiwar film, nor even a critical work about Israel as militarist and occupier. It is an act of fraud and deceit, intended to allow us to pat ourselves on the back, to tell us and the world how lovely we are.”
Boil the snow out of Pete Hammond‘s 2.20 Envelope piece about possible Oscar stunners, and it comes down to a closer race going on between Best Actress contenders Kate Winslet and Meryl Streep than some people realize.
“A lot of bloggers have been throwing out Melissa Leo as a threat to presumed winner Kate Winslet,” he writes. “Really? How can Kate lose? She’s on the cover of Time magazine this week so it’s over, right?”
Not necessarily, he warns, because “just as in the actor race a strong three-way contest can produce an unexpected result.
“A lot, I mean A LOT of voters have told me they went with Meryl Streep. But A LOT have said the same thing about Winslet. One guy I know voted for Melissa Leo, but apparently many voters outside of the actors branch caught up with her small indie film, Frozen River, quite late in the game even though Sony Classics got it out to the academy first back in September.
“That fresh front-of-mind factor could work in Leo’s favor. If it were just actors voting I would make Leo the front-runner. They love her and they’ve all worked with her, but it’s the entire academy voting so the main contest is Streep vs. Winslet. And don’t forget there’s a lot of academy love for Winslet’s film, The Reader. It would indeed be a stunner for me if she lost here.
“But a REALLY close vote between those two could make Leo a real, not imagined, factor.”
And the favored/probable winners at today’s Film Independent Spirit Awards will be….uhm, I had the nominees pasted somewhere, can’t find ’em, whatever. I know this much at least — hooray and hip-pip for Melissa Leo! Okay, the nominees are posted on this IFC.com news page. Get it together already.
If I was in Los Angeles I’d be driving over on the motorcyle to the big circus tent on the beach in Santa Monica around 11 am or so. Wine and champagne schmooze time begins around noon and the show, hosted this year by the great Steve Coogan and beamed by the IFC Channel, will kick off around 2 pm. And then the after-party at Shutters. Except I’m here in New Jersey/New York, where it was Northern Canadian cold last night.
The winner of this year’s Robert Koehler Austere Indie Gloomhead I-Don’t-Wannna-Get-It Award is Lance Hammer’s Ballast.
Ballast is also nominated for the Best Feature along with Frozen River, Rachel Getting Married, Wendy and Lucy and The Wrestler. The winner, I’m guessing, will either be The Wrestler or Rachel Getting Married. Could Frozen River take it? I don’t think so. The secretly-agreed-upon deal is for Melissa Leo to take the Best Actress award and maybe Courtney…I don’t want to give too much away.
Best Director nominees are Chop Shop‘s Ramin Bahrani, Rachel Getting Married‘s Jonathan Demme, gloomhead Ballast guy Lance Hammer, Frozen River’s Courtney Hunt, and The Visitor‘s Thomas McCarthy. Give it to McCarthy!
Who cares about the Best First Feature award? We all should this year because it presents an opportunity for Synecdoche Judgment Day, yay or nay. Will they give it to incorrigible gloom-head Charlie Kaufman or the Latino guy who directed Sleep Dealer, which I saw at Sundance ’08? The nominees are Afterschool, Medicine for Melancholy and Sangre de Mi Sangre besides Sleep Dealer and Synecdoche, New York.
Nobody cares about the John Cassavetes Award, which is given out to the best feature made for under $500,000.
The Best First Screenplay Spirit Award will go to Milk‘s Dustin Lance Black as a symbolic repudiation of the the pro-Prop. 8 position held by former L.A. Film Festival director Rich Raddon, who worked for FIND and who resigned on or about 11.25.08 after his monetary contribution to the Prop. 8 campaign became known. The indie gay contingent and their many supporters need to make the point that intolerance won’t be tolerated in the FIND ranks, and so Black wins for writing a screenplay about a legendary martyr to the gay-rights cause.
The other contenders for this award — Lance Hammer (Ballast), Courtney Hunt (Frozen River), Jonathan Levine (The Wackness) and Jenny Lumet (Rachel Getting Married) haven’t a prayer against this.
The Best Screenplay nominees are Woody Allen (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Sugar), Charlie Kaufman (Synecdoche, New York) , Howard A. Rodman (Savage Grace) and Christopher Zalla (Sangre de Mi Sangre). Let’s see…the sexiest marquee-value contender is Allen but he never shows up so let’s give it to Kaufman.
Best Female Lead nominees: Summer Bishil (Towelhead…journalists in Toronto were offended by her jailbait sex scene with Aaron Eckhart), Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married…yes!…but probably won’t win!), Melissa Leo (Frozen River), Tarra Riggs (Ballast….forget it!) and Michelle Williams (Wendy and Lucy). Like I said, Leo wins. She deserves it besides.
Best Male Lead: Javier Bardem ( Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Richard Jenkins (The Visitor…HE’s favorite in this realm), Sean Penn (Milk), Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker…why nominate him now with The Hurt Locker not opening until August?) and Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler). Rourke or Penn will win.
Best Supporting Female: Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Rosemarie DeWitt (Rachel Getting Married), Rosie Perez (The Take), Misty Upham (Frozen River), and Debra Winger (Rachel Getting Married). HE would love to see the award go to DeWitt.
Best Supporting Male: James Franco (Milk), Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker), Charlie McDermott (Frozen River), JimMyron Ross (Ballast), and Haaz Sleiman (The Visitor). Mackie is entirely right and convincing in Locker, but the award will probably go to Franco, who did a fine job. (And who deserves props for repeatedly kissing a fake-bearded Sean Penn, who always has cigarette breath on top of everything else.)
I haven’t time to list all the others. Que sera, sera.