A friend sent me this four-day-old clip. It made me feel SOOOO bad. It made me want to start drinking again. The audience takes a half-beat longer to respond to George Clooney and Julia Roberts than it does to Gwen Stefani. Number of times I’ve sung “The Sweet Escape” on my own while driving — zero. Yes, things improve somewhat when Clooney and Roberts get into the back seat but it goes on for 14 and 1/2 minutes! Friend: “Stefani is seriously creepy….her albino hair is so intense along with the intense eye makeup.” Somebody (Roberts?) is off-key when they sing “We Are The Champions.”
This afternoon I was running to catch a Chatelet-bound metro on my way to Gare de Lyon, where I would buy a pricey (185 euro) ticket for Tuesday morning’s train to Cannes (departing at 7:19, arriving at 12:23 pm). A train was just pulling out as I was coming down the stairs. In New York that would mean shaking your head and going “okay, bad luck…now I have to wait eight or ten minutes for the next train as I sit here without wifi and smell the urine and watch the rats scurrying across the tracks.” But this is Paris. Less than two minutes later the next train pulled in. Arguably the best metro system in the world — clean cars, doors you can open on your own, good wifi in every station.
Posted on 7.4.10: Fred Ward tells a joke in this scene from Mike Nichols‘ Silkwood (’83). I’ve told it off and on myself for the last 30 years, but jokes don’t land unless you master exactly the right tone, timing and emphasis. Message: Life occasionally sucks so badly that even (or particularly) your own family or community will bring pain into your life, which is kind of what Joel and Ethan Coen‘s A Serious Man was about. Every time this clip surfaces, copyright attorneys have it taken down. On top of which you can’t even stream Silkwood — all you can do is buy the DVD. I wouldn’t mind watching it again.
For me, Jay Roach, Robert Schenkan and Bryan Cranston‘s All The Way (HBO, 5.21) is a more engaging thing than the Broadway play version, which I saw and reviewed exactly two years ago. (I expressed modest misgivings — the key phrase was “engaged but not emotionally engulfed.”) I know the Lyndon Johnson saga backwards and forwards, and yet I was gripped and fascinated by this strategic re-telling. It’s about as tightly organized, propulsive and snappy as anyone could reasonably expect.
And yes, Cranston kills as LBJ in a performance that hits all the highs and lows of his Tony Award-winning performance but with extra seasoning that allows for a bit more compassion. Most of Cranston’s stage performance was about LBJ’s grand overbearing manner and gusto with maybe 25% conveying his doubts and uncertainties. In the HBO film it feels more like a 60-40 deal.
Like the play version, All The Way lacks the emotional sweep and tragic dimension of Dave Grubin‘s LBJ, the 1991 American Experience documentary. The focus is strictly on Johnson’s first year in office (JFK’s murder to LBJ’s landslide victory over Barry Goldwater in November ’64), and as much as I would have preferred to see Cranston play Johnson in a five- or six-hour miniseries combining All The Way with Schenkan’s The Great Society (which was performed on stage in Seattle late 2014), that was never on the table.
And yet there’s no denying that the HBO version, like the play, is an expertly written ensemble piece and a crackling political drama. The bonus is that Roach’s film takes the story into more intimate realms. Like any good director would have, he finesses and intensifies in a way that no stage director could have managed. The camera doesn’t just stay close to Johnson but slips into his recesses, fears, inner determinations, anxieties. The film is more affecting for this effort. Yes, Cranston delivers all of the shadings and crafty impulses and whatnot — all the scrappy bombast that came through on stage but with a sadder, more vulnerable underside.
The opening weekend of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival looks a teeny bit soft, and yet the first two nights (Wednesday, 5.11 and Thursday, 5.12) seem to promise some degree of intrigue. How can you go all that wrong with Woody Allen‘s Cafe Society, Jodie Foster‘s non-competitive Money Monster (which, by the way, a friend said he “really liked…the ‘system is rigged, Wall Street is corrupt’ theme plus the [narrative of the] Jack O’Connell character is tailor made for Trump and Sanders messaging”) and Christi Puiu‘s SieraNevada? The Romanian-made family reunion drama will likely prove the strongest of the three.
But the Friday thru Sunday fare…I don’t know, man, but so far I’m not sensing great currents of snapping, zapping electrical energy from Park Chan Wook‘s The Handmaiden, Bruno Dumont‘s Slack Bay, Ken Loach‘s I, Daniel Blake, Maren Ade‘s Toni Erdmann and Andrea Arnold‘s American Honey, among others.
I’m not very interested in seeing the weekend’s two big non-competitive attractions — Steven Spielberg‘s The BFG on Saturday (which I’m not firmly committed to blowing off but I just might) and Shane Black‘s The Nice Guys on Sunday. I won’t skip the latter but I’m kind of half-dreading what will almost certainly be a wallow in formulaic ’70s rowdyism with Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe.