A few weeks back I bought the Twilight Time Bluray of Elliot Silverstein‘s Cat Ballou (’65). Jack A. Marta‘s cinematography is crisp and colorful but lacking in character; the lighting is flat and too bright, only a step or two above the textures of a mid ’60s TV western. The stand-out element, of course, is Lee Marvin‘s dual performance as Kid Shaleen (good alcoholic gunslinger) and his twin brother, Tim Strawn (evil outlaw with a strap-on nose), which netted him a Best Actor Oscar. But Jane Fonda‘s titular performance is just as noteworthy. Cat Ballou is a mild western parody — light humor plus slapstick plus dabs of drama plus musical accompaniment by Stubby Kaye and Nat King Cole — but Fonda acts with all the passion and intensity she can muster. Yes, every so often she delivers some exaggerated expressions and gestures to convey that she’s in a comedy, but most of the time she could be playing the lead in Hedda Gabler or A Doll’s House. At no time does she adopt any kind of winky-wink, “just foolin’ around and collecting a paycheck” attitude. She’s serious about this dopey spoof and going for broke in every scene.
I just updated my Gold Derby predictions but nothing much has changed over the last couple of weeks. The Best Picture Oscar is La la Land‘s to lose, even though it can be argued that Manchester By The Sea makes for a far more penetrating experience. The two big stories of the week will be whether or not Ang Lee‘s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk will punch through in some unexpected way and whether or not Warren Beatty‘s Rules Don’t Apply will deliver something extra. I’ve already decided in Billy Lynn‘s favor by virtue of the 120-frames-per-second cinematography, which I can’t wait to sink into.
“I don’t see how Michelle Williams doesn’t get nominated for Manchester By The Sea. She is magic throughout, but in one scene, you will not see better, this year or any. After that…who knows?” — from 10.11 handicap piece by MCN’s David Poland, titled “Settling Into The Starting Gates.”
The bottom line is that Gary Faulkner, the real-life Colorado guy who tried to capture or assassinate Osama bin Laden 11 times (or so Chris Heath reported in a September 2010 GQ article), never got his man. The architect of the 9/11 attacks was killed by U.S. special forces in Islamabad on 5.2.11, or roughly eight months after Heath’s article appeared. So Larry Charles‘ Army of One (11.4 VOD, 11.15 Bluray/DVD), which has not been screened for critics or shown at any festivals, will deliver, at best, a portrait of American rural eccentricity and a lively Nic Cage performance. Costarring Wendi McLendon-Covey, Rainn Wilson and Russell Brand.
It takes intestinal fortitude to stand against prevailing winds, and even more of that stuff to take exception with some on your side of the fence. With voices like Dana Harris, Alex Billington and Matt Zoller Seitz cheering the downfall of Birth.Movies.Death editor Devin Faraci, who yesterday announced his resignation over a barroom sexual assault that happened in 2004, Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone, herself a one-time victim of sexual assault, has pushed back against the anti-Faraci contingent and — the thought!– voiced her own opinion according to her own values, judgments and experience.
Devin Faraci, Sasha Stone and Amy Nicholson during a recording of one of the Canon podcasts. [Date unknown.]
Stone is basically saying that whomever Faraci was 12 years ago and however vulgar or appalling his behavior was on this now-notorious night in question, he’s a better man than the Twitter mob is currently giving him credit for and has shown himself to be, in Sasha’s opinion, something of a woke feminist. Here are excepts from her 10.12 article:
“[So far] the press has continually left out one major aspect of this story. Maybe it doesn’t matter to you, but it certainly matters to me, and that is Faraci’s advocacy for women online, specifically women at the center of the 2014 Gamergate controversy, the Ghostbusters controversy and the need for more representative depictions of women in film.
“Why it matters is that there is no one in fanboy film culture to take Faraci’s place, to take on that fight because it’s too hard. So perhaps there is some kind of justice on one end, but it comes with a price.
“It’s ironic that the one former fanboy blogger who spent many recent years a transformed person will no longer be contributing to the ongoing debate about women representation in video games and superhero/fanboy film culture because of sexual assault allegations online. Fanboy culture is not exactly known for embracing feminism. That needed to be challenged and destroyed. Faraci was on the way to doing that. Only someone of Devin’s stature could have. He was one of them [but] he stopped being one of them, even if eventually his past caught up with him.
“No one covering this story, not Dana Harris at Indiewire, not Dustin Rowles at Pajiba and not Seth Abramovitch at The Hollywood Reporter has noted that Faraci’s loss is a major blow towards this fight to undo the damage fanboy culture has wrought on women. Maybe they don’t think it matters. Maybe to you reading this it doesn’t. Maybe you think he made no impact at all, but I can tell you this much — there is a massive population of fanboys who are cheering right now that there is no longer anyone who is going to take them to task for their stream of shit against women.
Late yesterday Hollywood Reporter award-season pundits Scott Feinberg and Stephen Galloway posted one of their where-are-things-right-now? chit-chat pieces. Like many politically sensitive pulse-takers these guys tend to sand off the edges or otherwise soft-pedal what they’re sensing or hearing so I’ve (a) shortened the piece and (b) boiled the snow out of it.
Point #1: Best Picture winners “tend to reflect the larger zeitgeist,” Feinberg believes. Meaning that if Hillary Clinton wins the election (which of course she will) the Best Picture winner will not be a melancholy masterpiece like Manchester By The Sea (which Feinberg regards as too heart-breaky) but something upbeat, which means Damien Chazelle‘s La La Land, according to this tea-leaf reading, has it in the bag;
Point #2: The Birth of A Nation, already deemed a financial failure, also got the cold shoulder from industry types when it had its first AMPAS screening last weekend. Feinberg-Galloway believe that three alternative racially-themed dramas — Moonlight, Hidden Figures, Loving — will pick up the slack, but the real heavyweight in this realm, I suspect, will be Denzel’s Fences;
Point #4: Having seen a portion of Ang Lee‘s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Feinberg says the 120 frames-per-second process in which it was partly shot is “eye-opening…there’s never been anything quite like it,” although it’s “risky” and “whether or not people will like this new look remains to be seen.” Translation: Huzzahs for the audacity but we all know what “remains to be seen” means.
Seriously, the idea of slogging through the waves of toxic fumes and hate memes for another four weeks…yeesh. From Trip Gabriel‘s 10.11 N.Y. Times piece about denial among Trump supporters: “Mr. Trump was in high spirits on Monday night in northeastern Pennsylvania, in the heart of a largely white, blue-collar region that he has visited regularly, running a campaign sustained by a visceral feel for his audience while ignoring abstractions like data and research. ‘I think the state of Pennsylvania, we’re going to win so big,’ he said. A New York Times polling average shows [Hillary] Clinton 7.2 percentage points ahead in the state.”
Cropped version of N.Y. Times photo by Stephen Crowley.