Okay, I wasn’t exactly leaping out of my seat when I wrote last Saturday that while Ghostbusters costar Kate McKinnon “is the most internalized of the four, I’d love to see her as a lead in something…a smart lesbo or hetero romcom? I’m good either way.” But I meant what I said. The gist was that McKinnon popped larger than the other three, as Kyle Buchanan’s Vulture praise piece underlines all to hell.
Right after the recent Dallas tragedy I was thinking about tapping out a piece that analogized the twisted fury that sent Micah Xavier Johnson on an anti-cop killing spree and the obviously justified rage that sparked Nat Turner’s 1831 slave rebellion, which of course is the subject of what is probably the most Oscar-baity film of the moment — Nate Parker‘s The Birth of a Nation. I was wondering if the Dallas shootings had made Parker’s film a stronger, more inevitable Best Picture contender, or on some level a slightly less inevitable one.
But I wimped out. I was all but guillotined last January by the p.c. hounds when I shared some candid comments about Parker’s film during Sundance, and I figured the Twitter dogs would somehow spin this article, had I posted it, into an accusation that I was somehow trying to tarnish or diminish Parker’s film.
Don’t kid yourself — right now each and every critic and Oscar forecaster is being very careful about Birth. Certain persons are tippy-toeing or hiding their true opinions about it, at least for the time being. I’m no exception.
So hats off to Variety columnist Kris Tapley for stepping where I, candy-ass that I can sometimes be, feared to tread.
Excerpt: “Following a screening of Sundance prize-winner The Birth of a Nation last week, I took out my phone and saw the horrifying news coming out of Dallas. After watching the events of Nat Turner’s 1831 slave rebellion unfold on the screen — depicted with impassioned grace by director Nate Parker — a wave of thoughts and emotions was crashing inside.
“Of course, it would be intellectually careless to equate the actions of Dallas shooter Micah Johnson with the retaliation of slaves against their oppressors. They’re not at all one and the same. But there is shared DNA between the emotions that sparked the two events.
Obviously no documentary about John F. Kennedy, Jr. can be complete without two things. One, asking the question “why is he dead?” And two, answering it candidly and fully. Because the doc wouldn’t have been made if he didn’t accidentally (you could say recklessly) kill himself in a 1999 plane crash. The doc in question may come to grips as suggested, but the trailer indicates otherwise.
Profuse apologies for not dipping into Matt Ross‘s Captain Fantastic (Bleecker Street, 7.8) before today. For this is one of the most complex and provocative dramas about parenting and passed-along values that I’ve seen in a dog’s age. I didn’t love it because it unfolds in such an exotic and woolly realm (I don’t hold with killing deer or living without deodorant or Aqua Velva) and because the last 10 or 12 minutes seem more fanciful than grounded, but I admired it. I certainly found it intriguing. It warrrants a thumbs-up.
Ross’s fascinating scheme is to acquaint us with an unorthodox good guy like Viggo Mortensen‘s Ben Cash — a brilliant, willful, Noam Chomsky-worshipping father of six, an Allie Fox type who’s highly independent, disciplined and obstinate. And then show us that he can also be a selfish prick and even a tyrant. But one who also has the decency to recognize his faults and the humility to pull back when life has told him to do so. But he’s still bull-headed. But he cares. He even shaves his beard off at the end.
With his wife in failing health, Ben and his six kids — three older teens named Bodevan (George MacKay), Kielry (Samantha Isler) and Vespyr (Annalise Basso), the tweener-aged Rellian (Nicholas Hamilton) and Zaja (Shree Crooks) and a little towhead named Nai (Charlie Shotwell) — have been living for ten years like survivalists in a Pacific Northwest forest, hand-to-mouthing it like Swiss Family Robinson, killing game and growing vegetables while immersing themselves in martial-arts training, Esperanto lessons and campfire sing-alongs.
I had forebodings about Jeff Nichols‘ Loving (Focus Features, 11.4). I was concerned that a dramatization of the legal case surrounding a once-controversial interracial marriage between Mildred and Richard Loving might not amount to anything more than a rote retelling. Well, the film is better than I expected. A warm, measured, adult-level thing. I wasn’t doing handstands in the lobby but I was telling myself “hmmm, okay, not bad.”
It’s less fact-specific than I would have preferred, and there’s the usual emphasis on emotional rapport and interplay and fine, nicely underplayed performances, my favorite being Ruth Negga‘s as Mildred. And at 123 minutes it feels 10 or 15 minutes too long.
If you’re at all familiar with the facts or if you happened to catch Nancy Buirski‘s The Loving Story, a 2012 HBO doc, it’ll be hard to avoid a feeling of being narratively tied down. Alessandra Stanley‘s 2.13.12 review of Buirski’s doc is a good place to start if you’re not up on the case.
The fact that Loving is a compassionate, plain-spoken, better-than-decent film will almost certainly result in award-season acclaim, particularly some Best Actress talk for Ms. Negga’s kindly, sad-eyed wife and mom. I suspect she’s the hottest contender right now for the festival’s Best Actress prize.
Many Brits have been interviewed about their participation last weekend in Spencer Tunick’s naked blue-skinned photo shoot in the northeastern coastal city of Hull. They all said it was exciting, disarming, liberating, etc. Nothing shameful about our bodies, they should be celebrated, etc. I don’t think there’s anything “shameful” either. None of the participants I was able to inspect in various photographs look like they work out much, but that’s fine. (I guess.) Hundreds of Pillsbury doughboy bods, ample bellies, sloping breasts, sagging asses, guys hung like cashews…all dyed blue and teal. I can’t find one guy — not one! — with a bod like Tom Hiddleston‘s. Not complaining, just observing. The only respectful qualifier is whether these bods should be “celebrated.” Accepted, tolerated, nothing to feel ashamed of…okay. But apart from these people being alive and their systems being disease-free and in reasonable working order, what biological aspects warrant celebration? I’m asking.
Was it really so awful, so devastating, so crippling to the cause that Bernie Sanders waited five weeks to endorse Hillary Clinton? If Sanders had capitulated right after the California primary, his supporters would have seen that as a shameful betrayal. Bernie “hung on”, quixotically, because he and his team wanted progressive Democratic platform concessions that probably wouldn’t have happened if he’d conceded in early June. You know the Clintons.
Does anyone except Sasha Stone seriously believe that Donald Trump might prevail in November? Hillary is naturally and unstoppably self-destructive, agreed, but there are no more threats hanging over her now. No more emails, no more Benghazis…nothing except the unfortunate fact that millions and millions of people don’t like her much.
“Secretary Clinton has won the Democratic nominating process, and I congratulate her for that,” Sanders said this morning. “She will be the Democratic nominee for president and I intend to do everything I can to make certain she will be the next president of the United States.
“I have come here today not to talk about the past but to focus on the future. That future will be shaped more by what happens on November 8th in voting booths across our nation than by any other event in the world. I have come here to make it as clear as possible as to why I am endorsing Hillary Clinton and why she must become our next president. Mainly because Donald Trump must not win. Please. Get real. Oh, right…the yokels out there have a different idea of what that means.
“Am I concerned that Secretary Clinton isn’t Elizabeth Warren? That she’s not really on the Sanders-Warren revolution team? That she’s more of a practical minded center-right Atlanticist than a real lefty? Am I concerned that Susan Sarandon is contemplating driving off the Grand Canyon as we speak? Does the fact that Hillary has been nurturing all of those cozy, amicable relationships with Wall Street billionaires give me a moment of pause? Of course it does. Of course I am.