I didn’t post anything about Adam McKay‘s The Big Short because…well, because I feel I should give it another chance. So I’ll be buying and reading Michael Lewis’s book and re-seeing it again on Saturday. I got most of it, generally speaking. But I don’t have a place in my head for high-stakes betting, and I didn’t understand some of the fast-flying terminology. Some of it felt too dense and arcane and wonky, and I was (and still am) too dumb to fully process it. So I’ll be re-immersing tomorrow and maybe writing something on Sunday.
“Adam McKay‘s Big Short bid to leap from Anchorman director to Oscar contender is a bold one, but his let-me-spell-it-out-for-you comic take on the financial crisis still flew over the heads of many befuddled media members I spoke to.” — from 11.13 Oscar Futures post by Vulture‘s Kyle Buchanan, posted late this afternoon.
Me to 3 Guys Who Saw Big Short A While Back & Told Me How Game-Changing It Was: “You didn’t tell me it was really wonky…that a viewer has to contend with loads of impenetrable jargon, and that sometimes it’s hard to keep up with what is actually going on. Don’t get me wrong — I understood the basic shot and some of the specifics, but not all of it, and sometimes I was muttering to myself ‘…the fuck?’ Some of that terminology is hard to wrap around your head, bro.
“And you guys didn’t even mention this when I asked you for reactions? You didn’t bury the lede — you ignored it altogether. You mostly just said ‘very good’ and ‘Carell, Carell, Carell.’ What do you have to say for yourselves now that the truth is known far and wide?
“You glad-handed it. You sold me a bill of goods. You led me down the garden path. You pulled the wool over my eyes. You tied a tin can to my tail.”
Response from Tipster #1: “Jeff, you’re on some madness. There’s nothing in that movie that’s particularly hard to understand. It’s not a traditional film in the sense that it has a multi-plot structure and it isn’t necessarily narratively traditional, but the key scam seems clear: the banks forced the rating agencies to give bogus ratings to the loans that allowed them to sell them and pretend they were secure loans when in fact they were garbage likely to default.
“This is really all you need to understand, and it came through for me.
“A secondary point is that federal oversight at the SEC and other agencies was pathetic, and the government failed its citizens, in part because of the revolving door between government and the finance industry. Some smart guys figured out the game was soon to be up, bet heavy, and won. Carrell’s moral dilemma is somewhat contrived for dramatic effect, but I’d bet none of these guys felt exactly right about building their fortunes off other people’s misery – – unlike Goldman Sachs.”
Response from Tipster #2: “What can I tell you, Jeff? It made me feel a bit smarter. If I were you I wouldn’t proclaim how this movie left you in a dizzy haze. People at least have the perception that you’re on top of things, that you’re a smart guy. Don’t burst their bubble, Bubba.”
My Response to Tipster #2: “I’m not the only one crying ‘too dumb!'”
Roughly 120 people dead in my blessed City of Light, a place I’ll always call my second home. I know next to nothing but this was all starting to happen when I came back from a Sicario lunch at Craig’s in West Hollywood. Between your unstable, garden-variety, NRA-empowered nutters and your ISIS-supporting, foam-at-the-mouth terrorists…it’s enough to make you think medieval thoughts.
The legendary Roger Deakins has delivered distinctive, mouth-watering, world-class cinematography on so many great films it’s almost tiring to review them all. All of those Coen brothers films alone…Barton Fink, The Hudsucker Proxy, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Man Who Wasn’t There, Intolerable Cruelty, No Country for Old Men, A Serious Man, True Grit and the forthcoming Hail, Caesar!. Not to mention The Shawshank Redemption, Kundun, A Beautiful Mind, In the Valley of Elah, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford…the list goes on and on.
Sicario dp Roger Deakins in West Hollywood’s London hotel — Friday, 11.13, 10:22 am.
Deakins is in the pantheon with Emmanuel Lubezki, Robert Richardson, Wally Pfister, Jeff Cronenweth, Matty Libatique, Dante Spinotti and…I don’t know, you tell me.
Currently on the plate is Denis Villeneuve‘s Sicario, which Deakins shot the hell out of in his usual striking way. Hot blasts of Texan-Mexican sun, noirish atmosphere, serious malevolence. Good hands, good eye, enormous assurance.
I spoke to Deakins around 10 am this morning inside West Hollywood’s London hotel. The primary idea was to discuss Sicario but also to afford myself and others a chance to remind everyone that this brilliant resident of Santa Monica — British, lanky, white-haired, laid back — has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography twelve fucking times, and that it’s time to finally give him the trophy already.
Lewis Beale has written an L.A. Times piece (dated 11.12) about how Spotlight has once again cast the Catholic Church in a sordid light. This has been an increasingly common occurence in Hollywood movies for some time now, Beale writes. Tom McCarthy‘s fact-based saga of the Boston Globe‘s “Spotlight” team uncovering a pattern of coverups of degenerate clergy is but the latest manifestation.
We all carry around notions of the Catholic church being steeped in shady dealings, political corruption and perversity. This wasn’t always so, of course. For decades Hollywood portrayed priests as heavenly emissaries. The mid to late ’40s were the high point of Hollywood’s glorification crusade with films such as Going My Way, The Bells of St. Mary’s and The Miracle of the Bells. But these films popped over 65 years ago.
The tide began to turn in the late ’80s, Beale believes, “when the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal began to become known.” One of the first eruptions along these lines, he contends, was Judgment, a 1990 TV flick starring David Strathairn as a Louisiana priest accused of molesting his young parishioners. That was followed by The Boys of St. Vincent, a 1992 Canadian TV film (shown theatrically in the U.S.) about boys being diddled in a Catholic orphanage in Newfoundland.
But by my sights the Catholic church’s Hollywood rep has been going downhill big-time since 1982, when Frank Perry‘s Monsignor (Christopher Reeve as a priest with mafia dealings) and Sidney Lumet‘s The Verdict (the Boston archdiocese trying to pay off Paul Newman‘s sunken attorney to cover up the truth in a medical malpractice tragedy) were released.
All along 20th Century Fox has wanted The Martian to compete in the Golden Globes’ comedy/musical category, and today, by a reported single-vote margin, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s eligibility committee voted to classify Ridley Scott‘s film as a comedy. How is this not a pothole on the road to potentially winning a Best Picture Oscar? How can this scientific space-rescue flick compete for an Oscar with its own studio willing to call it a comedy in order to win a GG award, when in fact it’s pretty much a straight drama with a few laugh lines? Author and former Grantland columnist Mark Harris has called this “an embarrassment for the Globes [and] a stumble for the movie.” From Glenn Whipp’s L.A. Times story: “Finding The Martian in the comedy category is…raising a few eyebrows around town [as] ‘comedy’ isn’t the first genre that springs to mind when discussing the film. And, apparently, some HFPA members agree. The Martian made it into the comedy category by just one vote.”