It’s a “gift” to tell people to watch a TV show? If you were producing Neil Patrick Harris‘s first Oscar promo spot, would you have gone with this? Seriously? Not amusing, not even faintly. Guys are getting paid serious coin to do this stuff. If this is even faintly indicative of the material on the actual show…
I have this thing for Halls mentholyptus lozenges. Mainly for the flavor. They’re cough suppressants but sometimes they make me cough when I suck in too much menthol. All to say that I made the mistake of popping a couple of lozenges during last Tuesday night’s performance of Constellations. Right away I felt a cough coming on but Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson were right in the middle of it. I had to stop it cold. I should have spit the lozenges into my hand but I didn’t want to offend the guy sitting next to me so I kept them in my mouth but outside my lower bridge. Another cough spasm welled up but I suppressed it. Well, mostly. I made a faint wheezing noise…”wheeem.” And then another. A woman in front of me and two seats to the right turned around and glared. I was terrified that I’d collapse in a loud wretched hack. Jake and Ruth continued with the scene. Did they hear me? Why did I pop the lozenges? Help me, God. They began to melt but I had to concentrate on sitting frozen. Another couple of minutes passed before I knew the danger was over. Never again during a play.
Angelina Jolie‘s Unbroken (Universal, 12.25) opened today. Sold a decent amount of tickets but didn’t do so well with the critics — 59% on Metacritic, 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. Who saw it and what did you think? And how did “the room” feel? How did it seem to play with Joe and Jane? Seriously…I’m asking. Maybe on some level it’s connecting. What do I know?
I saw Jolie’s film on 11.30. The next day I called it respectable, well-crafted Christian torture porn. I acknowledged that it “comes straight from Angie’s heart and innards so you can’t call it dispassionate or cynical…as problematic as some aspects of Unbroken are for me, I respect Angie for her devotion to a story she cares about and believes in on more than one level, and the film for its honesty and craft levels.”
I’ve been thinking for years about trying to slip into Friends Cemetery in Prospect Park so I could visit the grave of Montgomery Clift. I finally got there today and realized I’d have to be a Navy Seal to scale the chain-link fence, which is eight or nine feet high and serious as a heart attack with angled barbed wire on top. The Quakers who own the private cemetery don’t want people like me poking around. Serves me right for not doing the research beforehand. A 9.27.98 N.Y. Times piece titled “He’s Here For Eternity But Don’t Ask Where” says it all.
Every time I consider the Oscar handicapper faves, I’m reminded that I’m constitutionally incapable of standing completely off to the sidelines and trying to guess which films and filmmakers that Academy members are favoring at the moment. I try to ask around and listen and “read the town” as much as the next guy but I can’t keep my own convictions out of it. The mindset of the dispassionate handicapper-statistician is too bloodless and clinical. I don’t know how anyone in this game can go 100% dispassionate and still sleep at night.
You’ve got to go personal these days. Or at least half-personal. Dispassionate reporting and sage analysis are so…print. We are all advocates. A columnist or critic is nothing without convictions and cojones that he/she is willing to lay on the line.
One of the things I love about Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone is that she predicts from two places — an industry-savvy, ear-to-the-rails perspective and from personal passion. She knows whereof she speaks, but at the end of the day she can’t seem to keep her favorites out of the equation. That’s me also, but I’m also listening to the Godz.
When I insist that this or that film or performance or screenwriter deserves award-season acclaim, I’m not just offering opinion; I’m also to some extent channeling. I honestly believe there are ghosts who are looking down upon our culture and doing what they can to nudge us along, and at the risk of sounding like an eccentric I am, I feel, a kind of instrument in their service. Because — this is key — I am willing to be that. Go ahead and chortle, but all creativity is about letting in the spirits.
There’s a basic requirement when it comes to 21st Century monster movies, which is that the latest beast must somehow top the last guy in some respect. He/she/it has to be bigger, meaner, more threatening on top of the usual bad-ass ferocious. Which means, in the case of Ron Howard‘s In The Heart of The Sea (Warner Bros., 3.15), that the strangely aggressive sperm whale which attacked the whaling ship Essex in 1820 and inspired Herman Melville to write Moby-Dick must become a kind of flat-tailed Godzilla. Major dread and CG awe must happen among the Joe Popcorn class. Obviously Howard’s film is trying to satisfy that demand. One hopes that Howard and screenwriter Charles Leavitt also chose to tell the actual story of the last voyage of the Essex, which was passed along in Nathaniel Philbrick’s same-titled novel. Read the Wiki version and tell me it’s not an eye-opener. Shipwrecked, lifeboats, starving…seven sailors were cannibalized. Please don’t reduce this to a man-vs. beast thing. Here’s my previous (10.16.14) post about the initial teaser.
Last night Jett and I watched The Interview via YouTube. It felt a little less problematic than during my initial 12.10 viewing at the Ace Hotel premiere. Then again it’s something else now — no longer a Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy but a metaphor for the chimes of freedom flashing. This is one of those rare moments when I feel a kind of (hideous) kinship with Fox News watchers. The movie slows down for 20 or 30 minutes in the middle section when Franco’s none-too-bright Dave Skylark goes through a bro-bonding thing with Kim Jong-Un and then gradually wakes up to the reality. You’re immediately looking at your watch and going, “Oh, great…dumb-ass Franco doesn’t get it and now we’re stuck with this plot thread.” But again, The Interview is forever linked with red-white-and-blue feelings. As indicated by those outfits worn last night by the Cinefamily guys. The ghost of Thomas Jefferson is comforted and pleased. Well, pleased and a bit mortified.