Older women didn’t come out in sufficient numbers to support Sarah Gavron‘s Suffragette last weekend, and as a result the Focus Features release is now being assessed as an under-performer. The idiotic analogizing of box-office heat with artistic validation also means that Carey Mulligan‘s entirely deserving Best Actress campaign is now regarded as being in a cool-down mode. Despite the fact that (a) Mulligan is one of our finest actresses (right at the top, unquestionably Streep– and Blanchett-level) and (b) this is her finest performance since An Education. Brilliant!
The following was posted yesterday by Thompson on Hollywood‘s By Tom Brueggemann: “A year ago Pride, a retelling of the struggle for equal rights with a much lower marketing and awards profile than Suffragette‘s, grossed around $75,000/$15,000 PTA for its five New York/Manhattan theaters (it also opened in five other cities) on its way to a sub-$2 million national total.
“While Suffragette‘s total at a little under $20,000 PTA (at very prime theaters) is best for the weekend, it is very ordinary for the advance festival and awards league territory and has to be considered disappointing compared to expectations and where it needs to be even as a Best Actress contender for rave-reviewed Carey Mulligan.
James Vanderbilt‘s Truth has been accused of fudging facts so many times that I’ve lost count. Okay, maybe not that many but it’s definitely been Zero Dark Thirty‘ed, as I predicted it would be. One result is that it’s all but dead as an award-season contender. On top of which after ten days of theatrical play (or as of 10.25) in a maximum of 18 theatres Truth has earned a completely pathetic $213K. So if anything a 10.23 attack piece by Bloomberg‘s Megan McArdle seems a bit superfluous as the movie’s been finished for at least a week.
I’ve nonetheless sent the following email to McArdle:
“Megan — I love your idea of re-thinking or re-scrambling Truth and coming up with a better hero than Mary Mapes. But who would that be? Karl Rove? Bill Burkett? Burkett’s wife?
“Your piece focuses entirely on the probably inauthentic Killian memos, and how their lack of authenticity means that (a) Mary Mapes destroyed herself, (b) the movie is basically horseshit and (c) James Vanderbilt was taken in by a really bad source and has therefore suffered (or is suffering) the same fate as Mapes.
“You understand, I’m sure, as clearly as I do that the film is not saying that the Killian memos used on the original 60 Minutes segment were irrefutable. The film clearly says that Mapes and Rather and their immediate supervising producers screwed up, but also that the story about George Bush being derelict during his National Guard Service was true, which is what Mapes’ basic point is throughout the film.
Voicemail has been a thing since the ’90s and old-fashioned answering machines have been around since the late ’70s if not earlier, but believe it or not some people (including a famous actor I call from time to time) still use “live” answering services. That’s right — in the year 2015 there are people who still pick up and say “may I take a message?” for someone else. These are people, of course, with personalities and attitudes and occasional faintly implied judgments about this and that aspect of your life. Which is why people prefer digital voicemail — who needs all that?
Anyway, I was reminded last night by Experimenter of an answering service war I got into with cartoonist-guitarist Chance Browne in the mid ’70s.
He started it, I recall, by calling my service and leaving a message about something vaguely unsavory, possibly having to do with my not paying a bill or my having been recently arrested or something. I got him back by telling his answering service lady that I was calling on behalf of the American Racial Purity Organization and that Mr. Browne’s annual contribution was overdue. He responded by pretending to be from a drug clinic, and regretfully informing my answering service that authorities were looking to speak to me regarding a recent theft of liquid morphine and could I get in touch with them? I returned fire with a message from the Connecticut Man-Boy Love Society and that new teenage boys under the age of 15 would be attending the next get-together and did my friend want to rsvp?
Michael Almereyda‘s Experimenter is somewhere between decent and diverting. It’s about famed psychologist Stanley Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard) and particularly the Milgram experiment of 1961, which proved that most Americans were willing to subject others to pain and torture as long as they didn’t have to bear the responsibility. Milgram’s peers criticized him for the obedience studies, mainly because they didn’t like the idea that most Americans were willing to behave like Nazis concentration camp guards.
What Experimenter lacks in emotion and story tension it occasionally makes up for in other ways.
The film more or less follows Milgram from the ’61 experiment and through his various trials and uncertainties until his heart-attack death in ’84. (The poor guy was only 51.) At times it’s like like watching an experimental play at the Cherry Lane Theatre. I enjoyed the fourth-wall destruction when Sarsgaard addresses the audience, and especially in two such scenes when he’s being followed by an elephant (probably CG, possibly not). I also enjoyed other reality-altering devices, such as the use of black-and-white backdrops instead of sets.
Last night I saw Michael Almereyda‘s Experimenter (Magnolia) in the subterranean recesses of Washington’s E Street Cinema. About halfway through renowned psychologist Stanley Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard) is speaking with William Shatner on the set of a 1975 TV movie about Milgram’s famous obedience-authority experiment, which happened in 1961. Shatner proudly mentions to Milgram that he planted the first inter-racial kiss in TV history upon Nichelle Nichols‘ Lieutenant Uhura in 1968. I YouTube’d the kiss when I got home, and it should be noted that the vibe between Shatner and Nichols was far from heated. It was an odd theatrical moment, a kiss in a play of some kind with the players dressed in ancient Roman grab, and Shatner made a point of not closing his eyes when he kissed Nichols but glaring at the audience. It’s more than a bit weird. I wonder when the first real inter-racial kiss happened — one in which the couple was experiencing real chemistry and desire.