Bar exams are an easier ordeal than being subjected to up-close scrutiny on a first date. Everything you do and say, every inflection, every look, every response…everything is being examined under a microscope for possible flaws or trouble signs. You feel like Henry Fonda being questioned by those two Queens detectives (Harold J. Stone and that other guy) in The Wrong Man. After the 50th or 60th question about your background or your core values or your history with your mother, your soul just starts to wilt. I remember having a “fuck it” moment on a second or third date with a fetching blonde who had previously gone out with a name-brand director. I shouldn’t have tried, I later told myself, because I didn’t have the director’s wealth or slick resume, but I went for it anyway. We were in the Malibu Canyon area, lying in the sun near a swimming hole, and she asked me another question that might reveal a bit more about who I really was, and something just snapped inside. I didn’t care after that, and it felt great.
I’m sorry but I’ve watched this six-day-old segment containing Bill Maher‘s Ted Cruz jokes (“25 Things You Don’t Know About Me”) and I can’t stop laughing. I’m mostly an LQTM type, but Maher is laughing as much as Van Jones (who can’t contain himself) or anyone else, and it’s infectious.
I’ve always found the idea of bawdy bachelor parties offensive if not icky. Drunkenness, strippers, animal behavior. I’ve attended two and I vaguely regretted it both times. But I completely understand the idea of dipping the wick one last time before saying your vows. And not just among grooms-to-be but brides. I’ve gotten lucky twice with women who were about to get married, and it wasn’t really my idea. They flashed the come-hither — all I did was agree. They knew it was their last pre-marital opportunity.
I’m mentioning this because I happened to watch a Bluray of Sideways last night. I’m a big fan of Thomas Haden Church’s performance as Jack, the actor friend of Paul Giamatti’s Miles who’s due to be married in a few days but is determined to get laid during their wine-country safari any which way he can. Jack is a seven-year-old, but Church gives him a kind of dignity because he takes hound-dogging very seriously. He’s borderline insane but he means it.
This morning I re-read some coverage I wrote of the September 2004 Sideways junket in Santa Barbara. Excerpt: “You should have heard the journos at the press table imparting their p.c. sentiments about what a despicable misogynist Jack is. Maybe he is, but Jack is like 80% of all the engaged guys I’ve ever known or heard about. And don’t presume that the syndrome doesn’t include women.”
Does anyone have any weekend-before-the-wedding stories to share?
I’m not saying Jodie Foster‘s Money Monster has “issues”, but you have to give Sony publicity credit for persuading journos and critics that it might. Red flags always go up whenever a studio declines to press-screen a film until 24 to 48 hours before opening, which is what’s happening here. The obvious suggestion or suspicion is that Money Monster‘s soup might be served at room temperature. Or not. Who knows?
It can’t be that bad, can it? Not with a socially urgent theme (high-level financial chicanery), a proven director (Foster), a strong cast (George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell, Dominic West) and a presumably half-decent script by Jamie Linden, Alan Di Fiore and Jim Kouf.
The political situation thriller (i.e., angry guy takes a Jim Cramer-like financial soothsayer hostage in a TV studio) will press-screen at the Cannes Film Festival on the morning of Thursday, 5.11, with domestic press screenings slated for Wednesday, 5.10. The first U.S. commercial screenings will happen on Thursday night, so U.S. critics will have to bang out reviews immediately, especially if they want to keep pace with Cannes critics, who will post early Thursday afternoon (or roughly breakfast time in New York and 3 or 4 am Los Angeles).
Put it this way: If Money Monster isn’t problematic, it’ll do until the problematic gets here.
I posted HE’s best of the first third of ’16 list too soon. Because I need to add Paddy Breathnach and Mark O’Halloran‘s Viva (Magnolia, 4.29), which I finally saw last night, to the roster. Yes, I’ve been delinquent. I should have seen Viva eight months ago when it played Telluride. But I’m on it now. This Irish-made Oscar submission (even though it’s set entirely in Havana and is spoken in Spanish) may follow a predictable course with a payoff you can see coming from a mile away, but it still does the trick.
Some films know how to turn the tumbler lock just so. This one does that, I swear. You might be suspicious of someone describing a formulaic pupa-into-a butterfly saga as fresh and enlivening, but these are the words that came to mind ten minutes after it began. Have I seen films like Viva before? Yes. But did I believe it, feel it, go with it? Yes. Breathnach’s direction has just the right finesse, O’Halloran’s script is skillfully honed and assured, you can feel and smell the Havana atmosphere in every frame, and the performances are completely persuasive and affecting.
It’s about Jesus (Hector Medina), a poor Havana hairdresser with a crew of close-knit friends (mostly drag performers plus an apparent boyfriend who hustles tourists). The plot is basically about how Jesus’s attempts to become a drag-lip-synch star are interrupted when his alcoholic, brutish father (Jorge Perugorría) moves into his apartment after being released from prison. This angry macho dickhead insists that Jesus not work in the club for the usual crap reasons (it’s dishonorable to be gay, effiminacy equals weakness), and for some curious, deep-seated emotional reason Jesus temporarily obliges.
I own a beautiful Bluray version of Ace in the Hole. I certainly respect it as a film of relentless acidic cynicism and conviction. So acidic that it stalled Billy Wilder‘s auteurist career, forcing him to become a director for hire until Some Like It Hot came into being seven years later. And I love certain scenes (like the one captured below). And I love “I’ve met some hard-boiled eggs in my time, but you’re 20 minutes.” But I’ve never liked it as a whole, not really, and every time Chuck Tatum drops dead on the floor at the end I have the taste of ashes in my mouth.