Now that the Oscar race is more or less over and it’s just a waiting game between now and February 28th, I’m reviewing the award-season stories and reviews that I’m modestly proud of for…well, which may have exerted a small measure of influence upon the conversation. The slamdunk Best Picture assurance of Spotlight when it popped in Telluride, the heightening of interest among under-40 urban women in seeing The Revenant, the respectful downgradings of Bridge of Spies‘ Mark Rylance and Black Mass‘s Joel Edgerton, the realization that Eddie Redmayne‘s chances of winning a Best Actor Oscar for his The Danish Girl performance were toast, and the obvious surge of support for his costar, Alicia Vikander.
In a 2.15 article about last night’s BAFTA awards (“How the BAFTA Winners Do and Don’t Foretell the Oscars”), N.Y. Times Oscar-season columnist Cara Buckley says the following: “Oh, and The Revenant picked up five awards including Best Picture, Director (Alejandro G. Inarritu) and Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), which may or may not mean anything for the Oscars because everything is haywire this season.” No, wrong, no longer haywire — it’s over. Fairly or unfairly, advise and consent of the Movie Godz or not, it’s The Revenant, The Revenant, The Revenant…Best Picture, Director, Actor, Cinematographer, etc. My current Gold Derby picks.
Cameron Crowe‘s Roadies doesn’t launch for another four and a half months (Showtime, 6.26) but it feels…well, like it came from the same well as Crowe’s autobiographical Almost Famous (’00), his last fully successful and popular film. My heart goes out to Crowe — a good guy who’s been through a kind of career nightmare over the last decade. I truly want him to find his way out of the dark forest. Exec produced by J.J. Abrams and My So-Called Life creator Winnie Holzman, the series will focus on the grunts and technicians — Luke Wilson, Carla Gugino, Imogen Poots, Rafe Spall, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Luis Guzman — who assemble the stage, work the laser light show, keep the parts greased and the whole rock-band caravan rolling and gassed up with good air pressure in the tires. Which reminds me: I can’t find a decent clip of that superb Jimmy Fallon scene in Almost Famous when he explains to the band why they need him — i.e., “Your manager needs a manager…if you think Mick Jagger is still going to be prancing around at 50, you’re sadly mistaken.”
I sat through Martin Scorsese‘s two-hour Vinyl pilot last night, and I’m sorry, man, but it didn’t quite cut it for me. Here and there, yes, but overall no. The greatest rock music era was not the glitter-trash early ’70s but the mythical explosion-and-transformation period between ’64 and ’68 — the arc that began with Motown, early British invasion (Beatles, Stones, Kinks, etc.), schmaltz and bubble-gum succumbing or getting swallowed or pushed aside by Bob Dylan and folk rock finessings and then the Yardbirds and the Velvet Underground and early-to-advanced psychedelia. (And don’t forget the Boxtops!)
I’m also unable to believe in a loud, crude, non-levitational guy named Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale) as a kind of electric talent-spotting, trend-spotting savant. Cannavale has been playing none-too-bright New Jersey goombah types for too long to attempt this kind of transition, and I just didn’t care what happened to him or what he lucked into or what new rock group is about to restore his faith in rock ‘n’ roll. I don’t mean to sound harsh or dismissive but I didn’t like or care about anyone…fuck ’em all.
Vinyl suffers from way too much sweat, cocaine, awful clothing, booze from the bottle, shouting, guns, threats, lying and a general lack of recognizable human behavior. I don’t want or need this shit in my head. I’ll stay with it for another episode or two, but I’m not happy, I’m tellin’ ya.
“Cocaine Is Boring. Jack Daniel’s Is Boring” — posted on 11.17.15: I know a little something about the trials of a rock band (having been a mediocre drummer in my early 20s in a not-half-bad blues rock group called the Sludge Brothers) and the difficulties of creating a sound that works and recording it the right way and getting the right gigs, etc. And yet Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger‘s Vinyl, to go by this trailer and previous teasers, seems uninterested in the brick-and-mortar stuff. It looks like just another bacchanalian coke-and-booze Satyricon thing. Self-destruction (or dangerously flirting with same) by way of drugs and booze is not interesting.
With Robert Eggers‘ The Witch finally opening this coming weekend (2.19), or 13 months after its debut at the 2015 Sundance Film festival, here’s a repost: “This is easily the most unsettling and sophisticated nightmare film since The Babadook. That’s a roundabout way of saying that the dolts who pay to see the usual horror bullshit will probably avoid it to some extent. Insensitive, all-but-clueless people tend to favor insensitive, all-but-clueless movies, and I’m sorry but The Witch is mostly too good for them — too subterranean, too otherworldly, too scrupulous in its avoidance of cliches. And because it goes for chills and creeps rather than shock and gore.
This is the fate of all exceptional, extra-good horror flicks — they must suffer rejection by morons. Just ask Jennifer Kent.
This little creeper (which was projected last night at a 1.66:1 aspect ratio!) is set on an isolated farm in 17th Century New England, when the lore of witches and sorcery was at an all-time high. I was seriously impressed by the historical authenticity and the complete submission to the superstitious mythology of evil in the early 1600s and the panicky mindset of those God-fearing Puritans who completely bought the notion that demonic evil was absolutely manifest and waiting in the thicket. And I was entranced by Eggers’ slowburn strategy, which finally pays off in spades during the final 25 to 30 minutes. And I was fascinated at the allusions to sexuality as a kind of budding demon seed.
The focus is on a farming family of seven — a strong, devout father with a deep resonant voice (Ralph Ineson), a wiry, agitated, asexual mother with a mostly impenetrable accent (Kate Dickie), an intelligent and very hot mid-teen daughter (Anya Taylor-Joy), a younger brother disturbed by sensual stirrings (Harvey Scrimshaw), two toddlers (Ellie Grainger, Lucas Dawson) and an infant — and one of the most fearsome and persistent threats, never acted upon or spoken of but constantly flowing in the blood, is the animal energy of sex.
I’m repeating myself, yes, but Michael Moore‘s Where To Invade Next opened last weekend on 308 screens, and took in $930,240 for a per-screen average of $3030 — quite good for a documentary. Here, again, is the partial Where To Invade Next fact sheet that I posted on 11.11.15. And here, again, are excepts from my 9.11.15 Toronto Film Festival review:
Michael Moore‘s Where To Invade Next is an amusing, alpha-wavey, selectively factual love letter to the kind of European Democratic socialism that Bernie Sanders has been espousing for years. And it’s funny and illuminating and generally soothing (unless you’re a rightie). And engaging in an alpha, up-with-people sense. It’s basically an argument in favor of “we” values and policies over the “me and mine” theology that lies of the heart of the American dream.
The primary theme of Sanders’s domestic philosophy is that benefits for working Joes are far more bountiful in many European countries (France, Italy, Finland, Norway, Slovenia, Portugal), and that we should try to humanize American life by instituting some of their social policies. He’s talking higher taxes, yes, but guaranteed health care, free universities, longer vacations (up to 35 days per year in Italy), a far less predatory work environment, better school-cafeteria food, more relaxation and apparently more sex, etc.
By any semi-humane measuring stick this is a much more attractive, more dignity-affirming way of life — imperfect and fraught with the usual problems, but far preferable, it seems, to the ruggedly Darwinian, rough-and-tumble, wealth-favoring oligarchial system that Americans are currently saddled with.
Mass-market ticket-buyers have never been and never will be all that hip. If, however, you can deliver a film — particularly a self-regarding, fourth-wall-breaking, supermetahero thing — that flatters them by making them feel hipper and sharper than they actually are, you’re more than halfway home.
This, to go by reviews and Twitter, is apparently what’s happened with Tim Miller and Ryan Reynolds‘ Deadpool. God help me but since I missed the Los Angeles all-media screening and couldn’t fit in a Santa Barbara viewing last weekend (partly because I didn’t give a shit and partly out of concerns that some shows might be sold out given the huge response — $135 million domestic, $260 million worldwide) I feel I have to submit today. Because it’s made so much money, I mean.
I feel like a nine-year-old kid with cavities who has to go to the dentist. I loved the Captain America films and I worshipped Peyton Reed‘s Ant-Man, but I know I’m going to hate this. Insult to injury, I have to pay to see it. My soul is wilting.