Mo’Nique in Precious.
“Mo’Nique’s spotty campaign and the certainty of her winning the Oscar is proof that you don’t have to campaign as much as most publicists think you have to,” I say toward the end of the piece. “IF, that is, you’re the only real standout in your category and IF you’ve got every critics group going ‘baaaah!’ and giving you a win almost every time at bat. Plus there was never a strong Mo’Nique alternative choice.”
“Mo’Nique is a cable-TV talk show host and stand-up comic,” says O’Neil. “Who knew she was even an actress before Precious? Normally, a star like her needs to campaign to win, but she’s benefitting this year from a lack of competition and, as she continues to win award after award this derby season, her winning streak suggests a shocking thought: Hey, maybe you can really refuse to campaign and still win!”
Fair warning: Anyone who complains that I’m harping on Mo’Nique again will be immediately banned for life. I’m simply linking to a well-written summary by a well-respected journalist on a high-profile site.
Frozen costars Shawn Ashmore, Emma Bell, director-writer Adam Green, costar Kevin Zegers following brief Yarrow Hotel chat this afternoon.
Sundance volunteer Nikki Staton,
(Untitled) dp Svetlana Cvetko with
Banksy graffiti just off Main Street. (Shot taken last weekend.) Banksy is profiled in Exit Through the Gift Shop, which screened during the festival.
The Catfish buzz has been pretty strong, perhaps too much so. I saw it today and found it engrossing and certainly reflective of cyber-culture relationship intrigues, but I wasn’t exactly levitating out of my seat. I also found it a bit curious — the film’s depiction of hinterland culture reveals elements of delusion that suggest echoes of American kookery unbound.
Catfish star Nev Schulman (l.), co-director Ariel Schulman (center) and co-director Henry Joost following today’s press/industry screening at the Holiday Cinemas.
Village Voice critic Amy Taubin felt a lot more than that — she was quaking with rage in the lobby after the q & a, calling Catfish a “disgusting” sneak-attack job on an unsuspecting subject. (I can’t reveal the particulars or I’ll spoil the doc’s surprise.)
The trailer gives away too much but Adam Green‘s Frozen (Anchor Bay, 2.5), which I decided to see yesterday afternoon, is a realistic, relatively decent kids-in-a-bad-situation terror-drama. I respected Green’s efforts to keep it all believable. He actually spends about a half hour exploring his 20-something characters (played by Emma Bell, Shawn Ashmore, Kevin Zegers) before the bad stuff happens. That’s unusual.
By bad stuff I mean “chairlift cable stops, the lights go off and they have to do something to avoid freezing to death.” (All in the trailer.) Nothing earth-shaking, mind, but Green has clearly struggled with every last detail in order to eliminate credibility bumps. The wolves look a wee bit fake but otherwise it’s really not too bad. Don’t listen to those IMDB posters who are trashing it. It’s not the Eric Von Stroheim‘s Greed but it’s a very servicable thriller along these lines.
AFI Fest programming director Robert Koehler (who’s also reviewing Sundance flicks for Variety).stopped by to say that Debra Granik‘s Winter’s Bone, the second-hottest Sundance title besides Crayfish…no, Catfish (which I’ll be seeing in two or three hours time), is “wildly over-rated..in fact the heat it’s been getting here is a demonstration of what’s wrong with the Sundance Film Festival. It’s the same thing with regular critics who sit through crap film after crap film, and then when something fairly decent comes along they’re so grateful that they over-praise it.”
Remove the first 20 or so minutes and Jay and Mark Duplass‘s Cyrus could be called a mature, somewhat comedic and satisfying handling of an unusual romantic triangle situation — 40ish love-starved guy (John C. Reilly), 40ish mom (Marisa Tomei) and quietly psychotic fat-ass son ( Jonah Hill). It’s “funny” here and there but mostly it’s just believable, buyable and emotionally even-steven. A truly welcome surprise.
In the hands of Adam McKay or Shawn Levy or any of the other big-studio whores who are always directing expensive Eloi comedies,Cyrus would have been a Joe Popcorn animal-bullshit torture chamber movie like Stepbrothers, in which Reilly costarred with Will Ferrell. But it’s something else with the Duplass brothers running the show. It’s quietly absorbing and occasionally hilarious, and made all the better by superb acting.
But those first 20 or so minutes are very weird. For during this period Cyrus plays like it was directed by McKay or Levy. Reilly behaves so over-the-top needy and neurotic and boorish and lacking in social skills that I was ready to leave. “I really don’t want to hang with this asshole,” I was saying to myself. I was just about to bolt when all of a sudden Reilly hooked up with Tomei, went home with her, fell in love and turned into a different person.
It plays as if the Duplass brothers suddenly changed their minds about Reilly’s character and decided to go with a much calmer and more emotionally secure vibe. It’s almost as if they sat down and said “we need to get the animals to see this so let’s make an animal comedy straight out of the Will Ferrell loser file so the Fox Searchlight trailer guys can sell this portion, and then turn around and make Cyrus into a whole ‘nother bird — a movie aimed at a smarter crowd — about 20 or so minutes into the running time.”
The Sundance press notes describe Derek Cianfrance‘s Blue Valentine, which had its big press screening last night, as “an intimate, shattering portrait of a disintegrating marriage.” That sorta works if you leave out “shattering” and replace it with “heavily affected in a way that may be tolerable for some viewers, depending on their tastes and limits.”
Michelle Williams, Ryan Gosling
It’s an old-fashioned arthouse relationship movie with next to no story but an intensely observational art-bubble thing going on in which we’re shown a relationship between Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in two time periods — young, hot and feverishly in love and somewhat older, frustrated and not in love or certainly less so.
And on and on it goes for two hours. Back and forth, back and forth with lotsa stylistic coolness. I was in and out of it — admiring the naked emotionalism at times, dozing off, hating being in the world of another twitchy and heavily mannered Gosling performance with cigarettes, checking my watch, sitting there like a Val Lewton zombie and half-wishing I was somewhere else. But knowing at the same time I was watching a pretty good film, or certainly one made by some undeniably talented folks who would rather shoot themselves than make another relationship movie in the same old way.
For the most part Blue Valentine is about Cianfrance showing off his John Cassevetes chops — one deep invadin’, high falutin’ close-up intimacy moment after another with the camera doing the old duck-and-weave.
It’s basically about Gosling and Michelle Williams giving us their acting-class utmost as a couple of not-very-bright instinctuals who want each other and lah-dee-dah-dee-dah and then they’re older and life is harder with the burden of the cute little daughter and all. I couldn’t tell what was wrong except for Williams being frustrated with Gosling’s blue-collar complacency and Gosling going “whassa matter?….wait, wait, whassa matter?” and smoking so many damn cigarettes (even while holding his daughter) that I wanted to pick him off with a high-powered rifle.
Gosling drives me nuts every time. He’s always doing that rop-bop-a-loo-bop, always focused on behaving in his own particular way and making damn sure that we notice this.
Gosling is inventive and never predictable, and I’m going to loathe him for years and years to come for this very nimbleness, this determination to imprint and infiltrate each and every film he’s in with a Ryan Gosling mood spray. He’s a behavioralist who lives inside a very deep mine shaft, and when he takes over a movie (as he does this one) you’re suddenly deep in that mine with him and noticing that air is thin and wondering why but feeling it might be time to get the hell out of there, and yet knowing this would be heresy because Gosling is, at the end of the day, a very intense presence with a very shifty bag of tricks that most other actors would never devise, much less resort to.
I felt like I needed some kind of flu shot after watching 30 or 40 minutes of Blue Valentine. By the end the flu had totallly taken over my system. I felt defeated, spent. But it’s a pretty good film. There’s never a moment in which you’re saying to yourself “this is crap, I can’t take this.” What you’re saying is “this a high-end thing made by some fiercely committed people, and I can barely stand it.”
I especially admired Gosling’s receding hairline in the parts in which he’s somewhat older. The whole time I was wondering if Gosling’s hair is really thinning and that he wore a hairpiece for the youthful scenes, or if he and Cianfrance decided to have his head partly shaved and then have the makeup guy give him a very realistic thinning-hair coif. Either way I was mesmerized. Blue Valentine deserves some kind of special commendation for this aspect alone.
My AT&T air card wifi keeps failing — connects weakly and then dies, connects weakly and then dies. And the wifi at the Park Regency is worthless. The guy at the desk says it can’t keep up with the increased demand from festivalgoers. The situation is so bad I wish I had an extra phone line so I could try dial-up. (Remember dial-up?) I’ve been trying to post a piece about Blue Valentine and two other films I saw yesterday. I guess I’ll hump it over to the Yarrow and work there. This is a kind of hell.
“I knew where the American people were on health care….they wanted somebody to get up and fight for it…I don’t believe in bipartisanship….after the way they ran the country down for the last eight years, what the hell do you want me to work with them on? I told Gibbs he was full of shit..and he gave me the Senator Leahy f-bomb…[I said] do you understand that you’re losing your base?”
MSNBC’s Ed Schultz tells it very well. If only someone like him would stand tall and strong within the Obama inner circle. “It’s my mission to tell it like it is…I’m only trying tio do the movement a favor…It’s money, it’s dirty, it’s wrong…it’s not us, it’s not the American people,…mistakes are made, but tomorrow’s another day…if we don’t have a course correction, who else is going to do it?…We’re with you, but you’ve gotta be with us.”