Hollywood Elsewhere will be attending the 2016 Key West Film Festival between now and Sunday. My flight from Miami touched down at Key West airport around 7 pm, give or take. The festival is putting me up at the Caribbean-styled Duval House (815 Duval Street). It’s very good to be here. The tropical air is warm and fragrant and soothing. I’m about to hit the opening-night party at the Audobon House.
Earlier this evening Jessica Chastain asked film crickets on Twitter what advice they might have for a woman looking to break into this devotional calling or difficult racket or however you want to describe it. She got the usual responses — knock on doors, start your own blog, submit pieces to established publications, network your ass off, live online, attend the best film festivals, get to know the community, knock on more doors, etc. Total boilerplate.
So I decided to insert three suggestions that no one else had mentioned. One, make double-sure that you’re a talented enough writer to even give it a shot because if you’re not innately talented to some degree, you’re wasting your time. Two, look at yourself in the mirror and ask if writing about movies matters more to you than anything else, including earning a half-decent salary or even eating regularly. And three, don’t even try to break in unless you’re willing to eat shit — i.e., to do whatever it takes without any thought to how well or poorly you’re being paid, or if you’re being paid at all. You need to be tenacious as fuck, and that might mean having to write for free or next to no money and enduring all kinds of deprivations for a year or two or even longer. Because that’s what I had to do.
And then I thought of something else, which was that it would help if you’re “fetching” along with being a good networker. And right away the p.c. brownshirts, in this instance led by anal-cavity-residing Indiewire critic David Ehrlich, jumped all over me for using the “f” word. I was an animal, they felt, for suggesting that presenting a nice, attractive image at parties and editorial meetings and film festival panels and whatnot will help you, as will being a good schmoozer and chit-chatter. Ehrlich was appalled that anyone would even suggest that an attractive appearance might have something to do with how you’re received in mixed company or by potential employers.
Well, appearances do matter along with all the other stuff. In any profession an attractive or at least a pleasant-looking person coupled with all the other necessary traits will tend to experience better career progress than that of a brilliant job applicant who looks like Charles Laughton‘s Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame or Shirley Stoller in Seven Beauties or The Honeymoon Killers.
Do you have to be moderately attractive or pleasant-looking to make it in the film critic realm? For the most part, no. Not that many critics are lookers. But it sure as shit doesn’t hurt, and that’s all I was saying.
I’m not saying Hollywood Elsewhere’s flight to Miami-Key West is hugely uncomfortable. I can take it. Nobody sitting in coach expects any longish flight to be pleasurable — you just have to tolerate the experience like a man. It’s just that (a) the wifi that I paid $17 to use is faint (the laptop won’t connect) and moody and basically a gyp, (b) my seat was made for a guy the size of Pee–Wee Herman, (c) the 70something gray-haired guy in front of me has reclined his seat so far back that I can’t use the MacBook Air, (d) the awful Ben–Hur remake is playing on two or three nearby mini-screens, and (e) we’re over Houston with around two hours to go, which is two hours too long as far as my inner impatient teenager is concerned.
“This country’s filled with ignorant jackasses. The big red dildo running through the middle of our country needs to be annexed to be its own country of moronic assholes. You can call it the United States of Moronic Fucking Assholes. I don’t know how people got so goddam stupid. It’s the worst thing that’s ever happened. The worst. Donald Trump is going to destroy civilization as we know it, and the earth, and all because these [moronic fucking assholes] don’t have any idea why they’re alive.” — the great Michael Shannon on the Trump electoral tragedy, as quoted by Ebert.com’s Nick Allen on 11.15. [No embed links due to shitty wifi on my American Airlines flight to Miami, resulting in my MacBook Air being unable to connect despite my having paid $17 to use AA’s service. And yet the iPhone connects for some reason.]
40 years after the fact, Carrie Fisher has revealed that Han Solo was putting the high hard one to Princess Leia for three months during the 1976 filming of the original Star Wars in England. The salacious details will be alluded to but most likely not revealed in Fisher’s “The Princess Diarist,” which hits stores on 11.22. Fisher reportedly describes the affair as “intense”, a presumed allusion to her emotional state more than her costar’s. The 33 year-old Ford was married at the time (big deal) and was probably telling himself “life is short, love affairs are shorter…oh, sweet nectar of eros!” Fisher was a ripe 19. It just goes to show that the camera doesn’t necessarily absorb chemistry between costars, as no one has ever sensed a drop of the stuff while watching what later became known as Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope. The sexual tension between Han and Leia breathes and heaves in The Empire Strikes Back, of course, but that was three years later. Fisher’s confession does seem to lend a certain decades-old poignancy to that legendary Empire scene when Princess Leia says “I love you!” as Han is descending into the carbon-freeze pit and Han says “we lived, baby…we went there.”
I spoke early Tuesday evening with the always glowing and effervescent Greta Gerwig, who’s in town for a week to discuss her four 2016 supporting performances — principally those in Pablo Larrain‘s Jackie and Mike Mills‘ 20th Century Women, which are award-season headliners, as well as Rebecca Miller‘s respected Maggie’s Plan and Todd Solondz‘s irksome Wiener-Dog.
Afterwards she’ll return to life in New York but more importantly to 20 weeks of editing on Lady Bird, a Sacramento-based dramedy (“Sorta sad, sorta funny, a lotta talking”) that she wrote and recently directed, and which costars Saoirse Ronan and costars Laurie Metcalf, Lucas Hedges and Tracy Letts. It’s about a 21 year-old woman’s final year of living with her parents, and will probably play the 2017 fall festival circuit.
Greta Gerwig at WeHo’s Le Pain Quotidien on Tuesday, 11.15, at roughly 6:10 pm.
I’ve felt an easy groove with Gerwig since 2010, or after catching her gentle sad-sack performance in Noah Baumbach‘s brilliant Greenberg, which I regard as her first knockout punch. We’ve interviewed two or three times since and run into each other here and there, including a random encounter at a Film Forum screening of L’Avventura in 2013.
We talked a bit about Lady Bird, and then Manchester By The Sea (she’s as big a fan as I) and Lucas Hedges and his principal Best Supporting Actor competition Mahershela Ali, and how gratified Greta feels that Moonlight director Barry Jenkins, whom she’s known for a long while, is coming into his own, and about Fences and Manchester costar Stephen Henderson, and about the Metrograph and hwo disheartewned she feels about more and more people watching movies on devices rather than in theatres, and about making Jackie in Paris last fall (shooting began just after the terrorist attacks) and how she wound up hiring a lot of the crew people she met during the making of 20th Century Women for Lady Bird. Plus 10 or 12 other fly-by topics.
My favorite Gerwig performances in this order: (1) spirited Brooke in Mistress America, (2) the indefatigable Frances in Frances Ha, (3) the endaring Florence Marr in Greenberg and (4) pink-haired Abbie in 20th Century Women. She’s fine in Jackie but is under-utilized and conservatively corseted in early ’60s hair and clothing.
Again, the mp3.