Deftly and yet plainly and succinctly, The Last Word‘s Lawrence O’Donnell described last night the syndrome of Academy voters dismissing this or that film at the moment when the screeners arrive. Quote: “Beasts Of No Nation is an ignorable story. Why is that? Because nothing in it speaks to them.”
In the frilly, elitist, politically correct realm of HE judgment-bringer Glenn Kenny, you’re either a pusillanimous lefty who’s terrified of saying anything that might vaguely smack of being out of step with the Twitter Stalin brigade or you’re a crude, insensitive right-wing thug. Hence he’s described me to the Toronto Globe & Mail Calum Marsh as “William F. Buckley crossed with Daffy Duck.” Yup, that’s me, all right — a William F. Buckley who believes in Bernie Sanders. Kenny has been dining out on his HE dart-throwing for some time now. There’s no dealing with him in any kind of rational way when it comes to political-cultural topics. Kennyisms!
Kenny qualifies via email: “Calum Marsh kind of fucked up my quote. The Buckley-Daffy Duck thing had nothing to do with what you actually say or believe but referred to how you increasingly sound on the Oscar Poker podcast.”
The second season of HBO’s Togetherness began last Sunday night, and undercurrent #1 was Michelle’s (Melanie Lynskey‘s) recent infidelity with silver-haired David (John Ortiz) and whether or not she should tell her husband Brett (Mark Duplass). I don’t know where this is going but co-creators Mark and Jay Duplass are obviously invested in the concepts of marriage and stability and are looking for ways to keep things together between Brett and Michelle. I can’t say I’m happy about that.
Near the close of season #1 I wrote about the best episode yet — “Party Time” — and what a glorious possibility it was that Brett and Michelle might amicably separate and agree to be friendly and cooperative co-parents of their kids. Please! So I was hoping that things would continue to gradually move in that direction.
Because Michelle, bless her, lives to drag everyone down into the hole that she lives in, and which she probably couldn’t climb out of if she wanted to. Because Brett and Michelle are in a San Quentin marriage with occasional furloughs. Because everything that draggy, down-headed Michelle touches turns to glum. And because I, the viewer, felt the clouds begin to part at the end of “Party Time.”
I, the jury would love to see Brett discover a better, more tingly and euphoric life. Escape from the Lynskey…I’m sorry, the Michelle!
“Yes, I realize Brett might turn around and mesh together with Michelle for the sake of the kids, and that’ll be too bad but on the other hand…well, okay. I understand the impulse,” I wrote on 3.5.15. “I was more than willing to stay in my bad marriage for the sake of the kids so I wouldn’t blame anyone if this happens. But Brett and Michelle would be so much happier if they could drop the idea of making each other miserable and just forget about sex and just be with people they want to be with when there’s time.”
What do these guys know about the Oscar race that I don’t know? Nothing. Okay, maybe one or two things. Maybe Franklin Leonard, the Black List C.E.O. and founder, is ahead of the game in some respects. The rest, no offense, are political personalities who always tred carefully and cautiously. They’re all good people…people of character, accomplishment, charm and obvious intelligence: Vanityfair.com Hollywood editor Katey Rich, Vanity Fair executive West Coast editor Krista Smith, Fandango’s Dave Karger, Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson, Skydance Media senior V.P. of digital marketing Bladimiar Norman. But who besides Leonard understands the existential samurai-poet thing? If you don’t have a little bit of Colonel Walter E. Kurtz in you, you’re not going to slay anyone with your opinions. That’s the bottom line.
For years former Chicago Tribune entertainment reporter Mark Caro posted a more-than-a-little-difficult Oscar quiz during Oscar week. Then he took a buyout. Now the quiz has landed at the New York Times. Who is honest enough to take Caro’s quiz without the aid of online research? Not I. Okay, I answered two questions without checking– I got only one right.
Q: In the wake of Sylvester Stallone‘s second acting nomination for playing Rocky Balboa, who of the following has not received two Oscar nominations for playing the same character in different movies? A: Despite the facts I couldn’t force myself to acknowledge that Cate Blanchett was Best Actress nominated for playing Queen Elizabeth I in Elizabeth (’98) and Elizabeth: The Golden Age (’07). Because the latter film is atrocious — I wanted to jump off a building after seeing it. And yet people said, “Cate was so good in it!” How could they do that?
Among Gold Derby’s 27 Oscar-predicting “experts” (of which I am one), 18 are choosing The Revenant, 4 are sticking with Spotlight and 5 are picking The Big Short. Among the 13 Gurus of Gold, The Revenant has been favorited by 9, Spotlight by 2 and The Big Short by 2. A 2.24 USA Today poll of 1000 ticket buyers reports that The Revenant is preferred by 33%, The Big Short by 6% and Spotlight by 2%. And you know what? None of this matters in the end. What matters is what those less-than-consistently-insightful Academy members interviewed by Scott Feinberg think. Along with their friends, I mean.
Almost every public activity is about confirming or asserting status, even if you raise pigs on a ranch in Bumblefuck, Montana. This being Los Angeles and Oscar week in particular, status is an unfortunate agenda amongst even X-factor types like myself. Parties, I mean. The cool part is being invited to this or that party and then getting through security, etc.. The draggy part is hanging out and talking to the same people you’ve seen at 37 previous parties about the same blah-dee-blah-blah-blah.
That aside, I would have liked to attend last night’s Spotlight dinner at the Chateau Marmont, but the invite list was owned by Vanity Fair and Barney’s New York so my friends at Open Road couldn’t help, or so they said.
I’ll be attending tonight’s J.J. Abrams and Bad Robot Oscar Wilde party, which is mainly about celebrating Irish talent and the usual hub-bub-bee-dop-a-lop-ah-loopah. Daisy Ridley will be there, but I’ve been told in so many words to steer clear of the Cary Grant issue.
I’d like to also drop by tonight’s A24 pre-Oscar party at the Sunset Tower hotel, but (a) I’m not a fan of Room and the A24 guys know that, and (b) I’ve already chatted with Ex Machina‘s Alex Garland and Amy‘s Asif Kapadia.
“If you wanted to get serious about My Big Night, you’d say that it was a 60s-inspired, Fellini-esque record of the night that old-style variety performance, swollen by its own audience-seeking successes, finally blew up. But My Big Night doesn’t want you to get serious. It wants you to sit back and enjoy the ride, and mostly you will, if overblown kitsch, hammerhead subtlety and gags are your thing. What’s frustrating is not the film itself, but [that] director Alex de la Iglesia seems permanently blighted by a boyish restlessness which so far has prevented him from slowing down and taking stock to make the special film he’s capable of.” — from Jonathan Holland‘s 9.19.15 Hollywood Reporter review, filed from tyeh San Sebastian Film Festival.
The basic goal of Scott Feinberg‘s “Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot” series is to infuriate seasoned movie hounds — to goad them into saying “this is a typical Academy member?…where does Feinberg find these idiots?” By this standard today’s voter (from the “member-at-large branch”) doesn’t quite cut it — dim but not epically dumb, sufficiently lazy (he couldn’t manage to see Trumbo and The Hateful Eight) and lazy-brained, and yet he never quite nails it with a truly appalling, forehead-slapping opinion.
Choice quote #1: “I was bored to tears by Brooklyn…this immigrant girl comes [from Ireland to Brooklyn] and everything wonderful happens to her and so what?” This guy wanted Saoirse Ronan to fall for a cute mafia guy, get fired from her job, thrown out of her rooming house, attacked by a mugger, hit by a bus. Plenty of stuff happened to her. No shortage of intrigues and decisions were required. They just didn’t happen to be the usual cliches.
Choice quote #2: “The Martian was entertaining enough and I loved Matt Damon, but it was basically Cast Away on Mars, and you knew where it was heading from the very start.” This is actually dead-on. There’s nothing wrong with The Martian being a smart, formulaic popcorn movie, but there was something very, very wrong with certain blogarooonies saying “it’s so well done, so satisfying, so lovable…nominate this Jerry Bruckheimer film for Best Picture!”