This life-size bust of Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Willhuff Tarkin, the governor of the Imperial Outland Regions and commander of the Death Star, sits just to the left of the first-floor reception desk at Bad Robot. The hair strands are amazing; ditto the slightly blemished, liver-spotted skin. Cushing passed in 1994 at age 81; he was around 63 when he shot Star Wars. Wiki page: “George Lucas originally had Cushing in mind for the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi, but Lucas believed that ‘his lean features’ would be better employed as an antagonist, so Cushing was given the role of Grand Moff Tarkin instead. Lucas commended Cushing’s performance, saying ‘[He] is a very good actor. Adored and idolized by young people and by people who go to see a certain kind of movie. I feel he will be fondly remembered for the next 350 years at least.'”
The Last Five Years is a sung-through opera about a five-year relationship and marriage between an actress (Anna Kendrick) and her novelist husband (Jeremy Jordan). Was the last significant sung-through film Les Miserables? And before that Alan Parker‘s Evita? Directed by Richard LaGravenese and based on the original stage musical by Jason Robert Brown. Slated to open on 2.13.15. (Note: Last night I mentioned that Lars von Trier‘s Dancer in the Dark was sung-through — incorrect.)
After winning the New York Film Critics Circle award for Best Actress a week ago, Two Days, One Night‘s Marion Cotillard won the same award yesterday from the Boston Film Critics Society and the New York Film Critics Online. Today she was nominated for the same award by the Online Film Critics Society. A few hours ago I wrote some colleagues and asked why they were ignoring what I called “the Cotillard surge.” I also asked why none of the critics groups have even mentioned presumed Best Actress frontrunner Julianne Moore except the LAFCA lunch-breakers, who named her the Best Actress runner-up behind Boyhood‘s Patricia Arquette.
Marion Cotillard in Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardennes‘ Two Days, One Night.
“You can’t be total ostriches,” I said. “I’m as much of an industry whore with my hand out as anybody else, but at least I’m acknowledging that Cotillard has definitely elbowed her way into the Best Actress race…you can’t just keep saying ‘Julianne Moore is due’ over and over.”
“I’m gonna write about this,” said Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone,”but Julianne so has this.” (A couple of hours later she posted this.) “Moore has this, I get that, yes,” I replied, “but it seems right now as if you and yours are hiding your heads in the sand about the Cotillard surge. She doesn’t fit into the narrative and I get that, but she’s happening right now. You can’t push this idea away over and over. You have to let it in.”
An award columnist asked, “Is there an Oscar consultant hired for her campaign? Will the DVD be sent to AMPAS members? If no & no, she’s a bye-bye.”
Last week I agreed through 42West’s Ashton Fontana to a Jessica Chastain phoner today at 2:30 Pacific to talk about A Most Violent Year. I’m a major fan of the film, of course. I’m also convinced that Chastain’s performance as Oscar Isaac‘s feisty wife is the leading Best Supporting Actress contender. In any event Fontana said 15 minutes, I asked for 20 and she said “we’ll try to delay the cutoff.” Two hours before the phoner they called to say JC was running late. At 3:15 pm a woman called and said, “Are you ready to speak with Jessica? And…uhm, you have ten minutes.” Ten minutes? “Let me ask her publicist,” she said, referring to BWR’s Nicole Perna. “Thanks all the same,” I said, “but I’m not asking. I’m telling you this doesn’t work. But it’s okay.”
Some publicists play this little game. Their client runs over the schedule so they invite journalists in the waiting line to drop out by cutting their interview down from 15 to 10. It’s a kind of insult, of course, and if you have any pride you say “thanks anyway” and bail. Perna might have just as easily told me I could have five minutes. The point is to discourage.
If I had spoken to Chastain (whom I last spoke to during a Zero Dark Thirty press day at the Beverly Wilshire) I would have spent a minute or so on flattery and high-fiving about AMVY winning the National Board Review Best Picture award. And then maybe a question or two about her favorite scene in the film (shooting the deer? the argument in the kitchen) and maybe a question about her modified Queens/Brooklyn accent.
Then I would have asked two questions about plot particulars. Who’s the guy who comes to their home (Oscar and Jessica’s) hat night and later drops a gun in the bushes? And who beats up Oscar’s young salesman during a sales call? Or rather upon whose orders?
I was just going to ignore Ridley Scott‘s Exodus: Gods and Kings, which I saw last Friday evening, but duty calls. It’s second-tier Scott at best. It might even be third-tier. It didn’t feel like anything more than a soulless, scene-to-scene, grab-baggy CG demonstration film. Scott basically threw money at his problems, and money wasn’t enough. Exodus is basically about (a) Scott wanting to avoid the shadow of Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 version at all costs, which means staying well clear of the Christian Biblical stuff at all costs, and (b) throwing massive gobs of CGI at each and every visual composition in this film, but having no clear emotionality or thematic undercurrent. I sympathize with Scott wanting to avoid the Old Testament mythology and wanting to spin a counter-myth, but the story is the story — there’s nothing to hold onto without the Bible bullshit.
The Exodus performances, which are also about avoiding the color and tone of the 1956 performances, are nothing special. And no Exodus performance approaches the studly venality of Yul Brynner‘s Ramses, a performance that still has bite and snap. The plague scenes are wildly over-the-top. The climactic Red Sea effects are cool, but it’s utterly ridiculous to have Moses and Ramses do a mano e mano face-off in the damp bed of the Red Sea as the killer wave is about to engulf them…absurd. I never thought I’d say this, but as cornball and creaky and in some ways loathsome as the DeMille version is, it at least understands itself and knows what it’s about and has that hokey Victorian DeMille aesthetic. It’s not as accomplished or textured as Scott’s film, but at least it delivers something spiritually palpable. Scott’s film only delivers VFX.
Tonight at 9pm Eastern CNN’s Don “Bite Me” Lemon will co-host a round-table discussion of five Bill Cosby accusers — Joan Tarshis, Barbara Bowman, Kristina Ruehli, Patty Mastin and Victoria Valentino. The dominant consensus in this clip is that most of them want Cosby to suffer the lash. Tarshis is the lone-wolf, stand-out humanist who wants him “to get well.” The only way Cosby could even start to get past scandal this would be, as I recently suggested, if he offered a $100K payoff to each accuser but without legally “admitting” anything. The damage was done decades ago but that would at least start the conversation. Ray Liotta‘s Henry Hill: “Oh, your career is in the toilet and you’re suddenly a pariah? Fuck you, pay me.”
Alisyn Camerota is co-hosting as a sop to some of the women who had issues with Lemon’s suggesting to Tarshis a while back that she could have bitten Cosby as a way to avoid oral sex.
All film lovers are down with the idea of Paul Thomas Anderson, or certainly drawn to it. He’s “one of us”…gets it, talks it, walks the walk, etc. But having watched Inherent Vice twice now, once during the New York Film festival and again on a DVD screener, I have to say two things. One, it’s a real pain in the ass. And two, I’m not sure I want to watch it again. Partly because I still can’t make heads or tails of it…and I’m saying this as a huge fan of The Big Lebowski, which was and is about something flaky and hazy, and hilariously so. And partly because I don’t just find Joaquin Phoenix‘s Doc Sportello an irritant — I actually kind of hate him. He’s an affected, doughy-faced, sandal-wearing mumbler whose fate I couldn’t care less about. If he’d been shot at the 30-minute mark I honestly would have thought, “Whoa….okay. But you know what? There’s an upside here.”
I said on 10.5 that “starting with Magnolia my initial exposure to Anderson’s films have felt like stretching exercises or mindfucks of one kind or another — never easy, always a climb or a tangle. And then with the second or third viewing they seem more engaging, less gnarly…of course! I’m fully down with the notion that Inherent Vice may kick into place for me during my second or third viewing, or certainly when I watch the Bluray.” Well, the screener version didn’t kick in and in fact I felt a little more annoyed even though I could finally hear most of the dialogue, which was all but impossible during the NYFF screening. What do I have to do, watch it four or five times to really get it?