Yesterday I bought a slightly used GoPro Hero3 Black along with the usual accessories plus a chest pack, a head device and motorcycle helmet mounts. I recognize that wide-angle footage of a ride along the Strip is borderline boring, but it was my maiden voyage. It looks like I’m driving way too fast, recklessly even. Nope.
Earlier today N.Y. Times Carpetbagger columnist Cara Buckley posted a nice piece about the award-season blogger gang, including Hollywood Elsewhere and yours truly. Except the headline includes the word “Oscarology” — yeesh! — and the subhead reads “Oscar Race Leaves Showbiz Reporters Hungry to Guess Winners.” Well, we all play in that sandbox but guessing winners is one thing Hollywood Elsewhere is not hungry to do. The name of the HE game is advocating for the best upon the advice of the Godz — no more, no less.
Oscarologists, Buckley writes, “populate a small reportorial subuniverse that fully came into existence only a decade ago. Denizens of this world include, but are not limited to, a mélange of former show business and music journalists, film enthusiasts and kooky pontificators, working at or running sites and outlets that include Awards Daily, Deadline Hollywood, Fandango, Gold Derby, Grantland, HitFix, Hollywood Elsewhere, The Hollywood Reporter, Indiewire, The Los Angeles Times, Movie City News, Variety, The Wrap, and, yes, The New York Times.”
So who’s the kook?
41 years ago Michael Corleone said quietly and solemnly to his wife Kaye, with whom he’d been arguing, “I’ll change…I’ll change…I’ve learned I have the strength to change.” That was bullshit, of course, but it reminded viewers of The Godfather, Part II that achieving change in one’s life is awfully damn hard. Age itself stands in the way, especially when you pass 40. Supportive “friends” and family also get in the way for their own reasons. And if you’ve become successful at doing a certain thing, your fans (i.e., people who’ve been buying your “product” for years) are especially resistant to a new brand. Which is why I respect Jennifer Aniston for saying to the industry over the last couple of months, or since her Cake campaign kicked into gear, that she wants to shed the old skin.
She really appears to want that, and it takes guts to stand alone and say that. Because in so doing she’s also kind of admitting that…well, that perhaps she could’ve tried harder or maybe took the too-easy path, relying a bit too much on her comedic gifts. Or maybe she’s saying that she wanted what she wanted before, but today is now, today is different.
Aniston’s performance as a wealthy, pain-besieged woman is quite deft and precise. She’s always been a good actress who knows exactly how to convey whatever flickers of feeling might be happening within. Cake is no one’s idea of a great film but it’s good enough to snag our attention and ask us to consider how good Aniston, upon whom, the entire film rests, is. I’ve said before that Aniston really gives it hell, and that she can be quite subtle and on-target, always letting you know what’s happening with just the right amount of emphasis. If you ask me she almost didn’t need to make herself look frumpy and haggard with the brown stringy hair and somewhat heavier appearance. It almost might have been more startling if she’d merged her natural blonde and lithe self with the hurt and the struggle and the Percocets.
L.A. Times critic Betsy Sharkey disagreed a few weeks back. She wrote that “ugly-ing Aniston up in Cake frees her from all of the preconceptions pop culture has been imposing for so many years. Friends ended a decade ago, so give it a rest, people. But no one does. Social media and the tabloids serve her up in almost daily doses — Jen swimming, Jen smiling, Jen with friends, Jen with boyfriend, Jen without boyfriend, Jen with boyfriend again.” Thus in Cake Aniston “has never looked worse or perhaps performed better…it is a serious treat to see the actress stretch herself.”
It’s bad enough that West Coasters have to get up at 5 am tomorrow morning…well, actually 4:50 am if they want to be fully awake and ready to riff when the Oscar nominees will be announced at 5:30 am (8:30 am Eastern). This is the last chance to post predictions, and boy, am I proud that Hollywood Elsewhere doesn’t live by tea-leaf readings! This site lives, rather, for passionate advocacy and…okay, the occasional pile-on or take-down but with an emphasis on love, worship and listening to the Godz. Fortunate fate had led me down a more spiritual path, and at times a more intuitive, gut-instinctual one. Best Picture locks: Boyhood, Birdman, The Imitation Game, Grand Budapest Hotel, Whiplash, American Sniper. Will Nightcrawler and Foxcatcher make the cut? The Dissolve‘s Scott Tobias believes that Selma was “kneecapped” (not hardly), but perhaps it’ll catch a last-minute break with a Best Picture nomination? This, at least, might help with ticket sales this weekend.
With Andy and Lana Wachowski‘s problematic Jupiter Ascending (Warner Bros., 2.6) opening right smack in the middle of Oscar voting, there’s a joke going around about this being Eddie Redmayne‘s Norbit. I’m told that Redmayne’s reps are doing what they can to suppress awareness of this scifi fantasy film, but it’s not a Redmayne or a Mila Kunis or a Channing Tatum vehicle — they’re just cogs in the Wachowski wheel. Besides the Norbit factor only kicks in when an Oscar nominee is (a) the star of a late January or February release but more precisely when (b) the film reminds Oscar voters of the nominee’s true nature and inclinations. Redmayne is obviously fine. Not to worry.
If a movie respects hinterland culture or theology, flyover-state types will line up in droves regardless of how good it is. This happened with Angelina Jolie‘s Unbroken despite the fact that the second half (i.e., three Japanese POW camps) is acutely unpleasant to sit through. All the yokels knew was that it subscribes to the Passion of the Christ-like notion that he who is tortured and beaten is somehow divine. And now Deadline‘s Anthony D’Alessandro is reporting that Clint Eastwood‘s American Sniper is about to explode this weekend also with a projected $55 million earned in 3555 theatres. Why? The combat sequences are excellent, but Sniper is only a decent to so-so film overall…let’s be honest…so why the boolah boolah? Because the movie reflects hinterland attitudes and values. Because it’s about a beefy, natural-born killer (Bradley Cooper‘s Chris Kyle) who wasted a whole bunch of Iraqi (i.e, “eye-racky”) savages, and then had a hard time adjusting to domestic life and blah-blah. D’Allessandro reports that Sniper “has resonated with Faith-based and military crowds,” adding that a studio exec believes that “red state moviegoers will be particularly attracted to Sniper” given how ISIS and other Middle-Eastern concerns are in the headlines, particularly in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks.”
“Maybe this is what happens when you spend too much time with a movie: you start thinking about it when it’s not around, and then you start wanting to touch it,” Steven Soderbergh has written in an essay that introduces his recut, re-scored version of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. “I’ve been watching 2001 regularly for four decades, but it wasn’t until a few years ago I started thinking about touching it, and then over the holidays I decided to make my move.
“Why now? I don’t know. Maybe I wasn’t old enough to touch it until now. Maybe I was too scared to touch it until now. Because not only does the film not need my — or anyone else’s — help, but if it’s not the most impressively imagined and sustained piece of visual art created in the 20th century, then it’s tied for first. Meaning if I was finally going to touch it, I’d better have a bigger idea than just trimming or re-scoring.”
Last night I went to a screening of Paddington, a charming, sophisticated, exquisitely composed small-kids film all but ruined by a brain-dead story. The stupidity of the plot and the preponderance of klutzy-bear-causes-physical-chaos jokes (oops, another disaster!) pretty much killed the humor for me, but not for a friend of a critic sitting behind me who wouldn’t stop laughing. I almost turned around and glared at him. If I had been coarse and rude enough to do that, I would have have said “really?” Then if he kept it up I would turned around and said, “My God, you’re an easy lay when it comes to this stuff!” But I didn’t, of course, because I believe in at least a semblance of politeness in these situations, and because I respect the fact that what might seem infuriating to me can seem utterly delightful to others.
Yes, I realize that I’m all alone, a grump scowling in a corner. Critics are generally delighted with this thing because movies aimed at kids can dumb down all they want. They don’t have to acknowledge the rules of time or reality or anything else they feel like ignoring. They can just imagine whatever they want and whip up the marmalade and go “wheee!” Paddington is a little bit like E.T. in terms of the basic set-up (i.e., cute non-human looking for home, moves into family abode, causes trouble) but Steven Spielberg‘s 1982 film made some kind of basic sense and it didn’t assault you with absurdities.
Am I going to explain in detail what Paddington‘s absurd plot elements are? Of course not. I have a BBC Twitter chat on the Oscar race beginning at 11 am (it’s 10:25 am as I write this) plus I have a pan of Michael Mann‘s Blackhat to churn out.