All hail the return of Oscar Poker…Jeff and Sasha relaxed about everything, a lot of chuckling, etc. We tried to cover the whole award-season waterfront and bounced all over the place, as usual. I said that after Interstellar I’m not sure I want to see another Chris Nolan film ever again. We discussed Ed Norton‘s recently-voiced notion about shutting down all award-season campaigning. We discussed Marnie, Miles Teller and the temporary destruction loop, transgender cultural issues, Michael Keaton, the persistence of Love & Mercy, Eddie Redmayne and The Danish Girl, etc. I’m not going to try and summarize any further but Sasha came up with two interesting observations. One, a current stand-out strategy is to run a Best Actor-level performance in Best Supporting, two examples being Jason Segel and Paul Dano‘s performances in End of the Tour and Love & Mercy, respectively. Not to mention Carol‘s Rooney Mara, Best Actress winner at last May’s Cannes Film Festival, being run as Best Supporting Actress. And two, there are seven strong Best Actor contenders now — Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs, Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl, Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant, Johnny Depp in Black Mass, Bryan Cranston in Trumbo, Joseph Gordon Levitt in The Walk/Snowden and Tom Hardy in Legend. And possibly one of the actors in Spotlight (Mark Ruffalo?). So who might not make the cut? Again, the mp3.
Last night I caught Joel Edgerton‘s The Gift (STX, 8.7) at the urging of an old journalist friend, and now I’m obliged to pay him back. One way or another I’m going to talk this guy into catching another extremely irritating, poorly motivated, button-pushing thriller that adds up to very little. Yes, a much-admired stalker thriller (92% at Rotten Tomatoes) is basically a load of hackneyed cliches that dissolve into slop once you examine them closely. Plus it leaves you adrift and hovering without anyone to identify with because (a) the two lead males are obviously repulsive and (b) the lead female (Rebecca Hall‘s Robin) is almost worse than the guys — an all-but-brainless cypher with a pixie haircut. At times she merely annoyed me; at other times I despised her.
The Gift is basically about a wounded psycho-loser (Edgerton’s Gordon, a.k.a. “Gordo the weirdo”) who skillfully insinuates himself into the life of Jason Bateman‘s Simon, a former high-school classmate who’s now a married, well-to-do security company executive, and who’s just moved to Los Angeles with his ultra-delicate dodo-bird wife (Hall). And then, bit by bit, creepy Gordo causes increasing paranoia and chaos. Simon, it turns out, is a manipulative amoral shitheel who ruined Gordo’s life in high school (or so Gordo believes) with a heartless gay-smear gossip campaign. We’re further informed that Simon is still fucking people over with loose gossip at work so it’s time for him to pay the piper because the chickens have come home to roost…right?
The basic idea is that if you did something cruel in high school you have to pay for this as an adult by being completely destroyed. “You might be done with the past,” Gordo tells Simon, “but the past isn’t done with you.” I’m sorry but that’s almost 100% bullshit. The dawn of every new day tells us to shed our old skins and fears and start anew. Many of us do that. Remnants of past errors or traumas may linger in this or that way (guilt, nightmares, self-destructive habits) but unless you’re a former murderer or child-molester healthy people move on. Sometimes they transcend. We’ve all done things we’re sorry for. I’ll never forgive myself for repeatedly whacking a turtle’s shell with a board when I was seven or eight and causing the poor thing to bleed. (I thought it was a snapping turtle.) But you have to try to forgive yourself and try and grow into a better person. Unless…you know, you’re Josef Mengele and the only option is a black capsule.