Last night I stayed at the Trump International Hotel & Tower at Columbus Circle. Never mind how or why. The building began its existence in 1969, and has been under Trump control since ’95. For roughly 26 years (’69 to ’95) it was all offices and known as the Paramount Gulf & Western building. Paramount publicity was on the 22nd or 23rd floor, or so I recall. I attended several screenings there in the ‘early ’80s, including an early showing of Warren Beattys’ Reds. This is a very uncool place to be staying in right now. Last night I was leaving the main lobby around 8:20 pm, and five or six people were sipping champagne and chuckling and having a gay old time. I glanced at them as I telepathically said the following: “Do you even get the symbolism of staying at this joint? This is a pig hotel. Do you understand that only clueless people would even think of staying here now? Especially since yesterday?”
View from 20th floor of Trump International Hotel & Tower, looking northwest.
There’s an art to making good movies about nothing. The common thread in the best of them (Michelangelo Antonioni‘s early ’60s films are the ultimate expression of this form) is a sense that something is churning even if nothing is really “happening” in terms of decision, desires, events or consequences. L’Avventura, L’eclisse and La Notte say to viewers in a thousand small but significant ways, “Are you sensing what’s wrong here?…are you feeling the absence of something?”
Mike Mills‘ 20th Century Women (A24, 12.25) is about an absence of strong interest in what you’re seeing on-screen. I got through it, but I never felt caught up or swept along or anything along those lines.
But please, don’t let me stop you. One of the blogaroonies thinks it’s a charmer, and that Annette Bening may end up as a Best Actress contender. So far 20th Century Women has racked up an 88% and a 74% from Rotten Tomates and Metacritic, respectively.
It’s basically a lefty, leafy period piece, set in 1979 Santa Barbara, about a thoughtful, laid-back, somewhat fickle character based on Mills’ mom (Bening). Dorothea is a 50ish independent-minded divorcee who smokes too much, rents out rooms, holds down a drafting job and tries to get through to her son (the Mills stand-in, played by Lucas Jade Zumann, who’s supposed to be 15 but looks physically closer to 13) as he makes his way through early puberty.
Uproxx’s Mike Ryan has observed that Dorothea is like Frances McDormand‘s Elaine Miller, the headstrong mother of William Miller, in Cameron Crowe‘s Almost Famous, except that 20th Century Women is told almost entirely from Dorothea’s viewpoint and not the kid’s. That’s fairly close to the mark.
The characters and situations are semi-diverting as far as they go, but nobody ever really does anything and nothing ever heats up. The film muses, meditates, dithers, meanders, piddles along, Mills’ screenplay is all character study. It has no story, no tension, no arc, no pivot point, no climax and no conflict to speak of. Just a lot of semi-interesting dialogue, and a few better-than-decent scenes and performances (especially from Bening, who’s landed her best-written role since The Kids Are All Right).
It’s partly the fault of the setting. Santa Barbara is a great place to chill and enjoy, but nothing interesting ever happens there except for Roger Durling‘s annual Santa Barbara Int’l Film Festival. It’s like what Orson Welles said about Switzerland in The Third Man — a tidy and bucolic little country from which the only noteworthy contribution has been the cuckoo clock.
A friend “appreciated” the meditative tone of 20th Century Women. “I liked the connection between the small moments and the historical aspects,” he writes. “But otherwise I agree [with your viewpoint]. Bening is a knockout but what else is new? I love how she dresses and acts like Amelia Earhart, and the large crumbling house and the various characters. It has stuck with me. As flawed as it is.”
Tate Taylor‘s The Girl on the Train opened yesterday in 3144 locations, and will end up with something like $26 or $27 million (a per-screen average of around $8500) by Sunday night. This is mainly about the popularity of Paula Hawkins’ book (11 million copies worldwide) overcoming the mostly shitty reviews (45% and 47% from Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, respectively). Here’s my 10.3 pan. I’m an admirer of the New Yorker illustration (Adrian Tomine) that accompanies Anthony Lane’s review. Some HE readers attended, I’m presuming.
Fat Baby (112 Rivington, Wed. thru Sunday, 7 pm to 4 am) “is a multi-level bar/lounge…both a rock and roll venue as well as a unique version of downtown NYC nightlife set in an LA-inspired lounge setting.”
Snapped ten minutes before last night’s 9 pm New York Film Festival screening of Personal Shopper. Maybe 10% occupancy, and then suddenly everyone began streaming in between 8:55 and 9:05 pm. They’d all been schmoozing in the lobby. Every seat was taken when the lights went down. The film actually began a bit after 9:15 pm. The room loved it (you could feel it) but the projectionist deserves a spanking for initially failing to frame the image so the occasional subtitles could be read.
Babeland (94 Rivington St.) is a casual, relaxing, feminized atmosphere. (For the most part the days of dudes working in sex shops are long gone.) Their paraphernalia is viewable & purchasable on their site but for some reason one of the staffers told me “no photos.”
(l . to r.) Personal Shopper director Olivier Assayas, Kristen Stewart, NY Film Festival honcho Kent Jones during post-screening q & a.
This black-and-white video, posted last night by Megyn Kelly, was taped by Robert De Niro some time ago, but the timing seems especially apt in the wake of last night’s crotch-grab hot mike Billy Bush video.
Swaggering, big-dog alpha men — connected, financially fortified, honeyed — tend to talk crudely about basic urges and attitudes in private. With a smirk. Guys with less-than-elegant educations and backgrounds, I mean. Not writers and directors as much as bulldog producers, agents, executive producers, etc. I’ve witnessed their behavior in private sanctums, within the quiet corridors.
This is one of the things I hate about guys who lug golf clubs around…their yaw-haw chortlings, the smug entitlement. Introspective X-factor types (including guys like Jimmy Carter) may have occasional thoughts along these lines, but big dogs boast and chuckle about them. It gives them comfort to let their hair down, goad each other.