In a 10.5 piece about the Best Feature Documentary Oscar race, TheWrap‘s Steve Pond has listed what he suspects are the presumed front runners: Amanda Knox, Cameraperson, Fire at Sea, Gleason, I Am Not Your Negro, Into the Inferno, Life, Animated, Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, Miss Sharon Jones!, O.J.: Made in America, 13th, The Ivory Game, Trapped and Weiner.
Speaking as BFCA member whose ballot will help select the winner of the first Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards, which will happen on Thursday, 11.3 in Brooklyn, I’m thinking that the hotties, in this order, are O.J.: Made in America, Weiner, Amanda Knox, Life Animated, The Ivory Game, I Am Not Your Negro, and 13th. I”m basing this assessment on a combination of buzz plus my own opinions. Then again I haven’t yet seen Gleason (which I’ve despised since catching the initial trailer), Fire at Sea, Into The Inferno and Trapped. Yes, I need to get on it.
In a 10.5 post, Vulture‘s Kyle Buchanan has offered five reasons why Nate Parker‘s The Birth of a Nation was embraced with such excitement and became such a huge Sundance sensation.
One, “the premiere was highly emotional.” Two, “#OscarsSoWhite was the talk of the town.” (Minutes after the big Eccles screening I declared on Twitter that the emotional response was largely because of #OscarsSoWhite pushback — “We ain’t ‘white’, we get it, we’re the first to feel the love!”) Three, “black films are acquired, not developed” because distributors are usually afraid to stick their necks out by financing films about racial subjects. Four, “we’re in a new era of bidding wars” due to Amazon and Netflix. And five, “no one wanted to rain on Parker’s parade.”
Buchanan’s explanation of the last point is interesting: “I talked to plenty of people at Sundance who felt the film was just okay or even mediocre,” he writes. “but they weren’t eager to share their reactions at the time, lest they step on Parker’s moment.” Except for Hollywood Elsewhere, that is. “Don’t kid yourself about how good and satisfying this film is,” I wrote two or three hours after the Eccles debut. “It’s mostly a mediocre exercise in deification and sanctimony.”
Ava Duvernay‘s 13th (Netflix, 10.7), which I saw last night, is a brilliant whack across the chops — a ranty, studious, well-ordered indictment of the evils of racist incarceration and profiteering by white culture, particularly by the governmental, corporate and law-enforcement branches. It lays it all down, makes the case, tough as nails, bang.
But at the end of it I felt a bit distanced. I’m not arguing with any of the doc’s observations for a second, not a one. But I am a white motherfucker and therefore one of the bad guys…right? Or my parents or grandparents were. (And my dad was a hard-core liberal.) Yes, they were racists and in their own ways reflected, fortified or contributed to cultural attitudes that caused a lot of pain among people of color. There’s no skirting or shaking this off.
So how, apart from acknowledging the quality of 13th, am I supposed to respond to it? I nodded glumly and soberly as I watched it. I nodded glumly and soberly as I discussed it with a couple of friends in the aftermath. Is there anything about American white culture that gets a pass? Probably, but 13th is only concerned with the exactitude and comprehensiveness of the indictment. Which, again, is of a high order.
Is there another doc about racism and the general divide that I didn’t feel distanced from? Yeah — Ezra Edelman‘s O.J.: Made in America. This sprawling ESPN doc covers a lot of the same territory in a roundabout way. I had lived through it, after all, and felt that Edelman offered real insight into the various whys and wherefores, and particularly why the infamous “downtown” jury found O.J. innocent in less than two hours.
The only thing that seriously irritates me about Jackie (Fox Searchlight, 12.2) is the fact that every time the actor playing John F. Kennedy (i.e., Caspar Phillipson) appears, he looks like a nobody coping with a hopeless task. Which is all the more striking given that Natalie Portman impressively pulls off her Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.
Even today, 53 years after his murder, JFK’s looks and manner are simply too distinct and well-known to be convincingly replicated. On the other hand they don’t need to be. Because we’ve reached a stage in filmmaking which famous folk don’t have to be impersonated by anyone, or so I gather. It’s been 22 years, after all, since the crude CG pastings of Forrest Gump.
If I’d been a major Jackie financier I would have leaned on director Pablo Larrain and producer Darren Aronofsky to go to the archives, spend a shitload of money and use a digitally reconstituted version of the actual guy. JFK appears in…what, six or seven scenes at most, and briefly at that? It would have been expensive and arduous (i.e., Portman and others performing scenes with an actor covered in a green body stocking) but if at the end of the day Jackie had featured the Real McCoy…wow.
Item #1: No one is more crestfallen than myself about the apparent discrediting of that “Page Six” story about Angelina Jolie allegedly filing for divorce after a private investigator discovered that Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard were having it off during the filming of Allied.
Item #2: Is it me or does Pitt’s face seem digitally airbrushed here and there?
Item #3: Allied‘s World War II tale begins with Pitt and Cotillard, playing disparate assassins, falling in love while carrying out the murder of a German official. But instead of discreetly shooting the Nazi bigwig in the right temple while he’s sipping cappucino in a cafe or in the back seat of a taxi, they decide to blast away with automatic rifles at a big swanky party with all kinds of people around. Does that make any sense?
Item #4: Yesterday (10.4) Hollywood Reporter columnist Scott Feinberg tweeted about Paramount having screened 20 minutes’ worth of Allied footage in Manhattan. I’d never heard about a corresponding screening here so I asked — silencio.
Patriot’s Day director Peter Berg and marketers for CBS/Lionsgate are aware of Berg and Mark Wahlberg‘s rep as action-focused propagandists for brawny middle-class Joes who do the heroic, selfless thing under adverse circumstances — Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon and now Patriot’s Day. The same rah-rah flick over and over. And they know I wasn’t the only one to complain about an emphasis on domestic bliss in the first two Deepwater trailers with Wahlberg, wifey-wife Kate Hudson and their little daughter in the kitchen.
And yet they’ve begun their first Patriot’s Day teaser with a scene of domestic bliss between Wahlberg’s Tommy Saunders (working-class beat cop who’s basically a composite) and loving wifey-wife Michelle Monaghan. Where’s the cute daughter? Where’s the puppy and the bowl of Cheerios? And then we’re given a brief heroism montage of those brave, selfless Bostonians who stood up to terrorism, etc.
Hey, guys? I have an idea. Feel free to ignore but I just thought I’d share. How about just making a complex Costa-Gavras– or Paul Greengrass-like thriller about what happened in the Boston area between 4.13.13 and 4.19.13? Just make a good film and maybe spare us the hometown sentiments?