In my view La La Land and Manchester by The Sea are neck and neck. Okay, Manchester might be a very close second. Moonlight is right up there but it has no torque, no rumble in the engine, and so it has reason to be fearful of Fences, which may overtake it in a week or two. All hail Hell or High Water, the Texas shitkicker bank-robbing drama that everyone has admired all along and is thinking more and more seriously about. Hidden Figures is basically a feel-good uplift thing steeped in ’60s social realism (or vice versa), and that’s mainly why it seems to be positioned ahead of the vaguely similar Loving (50something years ago, racial segregation) as we speak. Jackie is a fascinating film, but it’s mainly about Natalie Portman‘s performance. I don’t really know what Sully is doing — do you? Silence will almost certainly wedge itself into the picture once screenings begin.
Earlier this evening somebody on Twitter described Westworld as “soap-opera perfection.” In my book that reads as sprawling, echo-chamberish, complex for complexity’s sake, extended for the sake of filling a second season, hall of mirrors, and Chinese boxes that keep getting smaller and smaller. And with host after host getting stabbed in the gut with a really big fucking knife. (Westworld is as queer for belly stabbings as Nicolas Winding Refn‘s Drive.) Tonight’s episode, The Well-Tempered Clavier, came close to pissing me off. It certainly tested my patience.
Robert DeNiro‘s late-campaign rant about Donald Trump (“He’s a punk, he’s a dog”) was unambiguously great. Then came the tragedy of 11.8, and on 11.22 DeNiro was suddenly in a conciliatory mood, at least to go by a quote posted by The Hill: “I would only say that we’re all waiting and hoping that [Trump] will lead the country in a way that’ll benefit everyone and benefit our neighbors around the world. That’s all. We’re waiting and hoping, and we’ll see.” I know what he was saying (i.e., “Let’s wait until he fucks up to criticize him”) but how can a punk and a dog who’s nominated some of the worst people in the world for cabinet positions “lead the country in a way that’ll benefit everyone”? A leopard with ADD doesn’t change his spots — why offer the benefit of the doubt to a beast? But in a just-posted Scott Feinberg interview in The Hollywood Reporter, DeNiro is back in his blunt mode. In the wake of Trump’s election, DeNiro says, “I feel like I did after 9/11.”
Amy Zimmerman’s Daily Beast hit piece about Casey Affleck popped on 11.22 — five days ago. Thanksgiving weekend is a bad time to try and ignite discussion or gain traction. My first reaction was to leave it alone, and as of this morning I was still inclined to ignore it. But two journo pals have written me over the last two days, both asserting that “the takedown campaign has begun.” And yet so far, silence. But if others start hammering away on Monday and Tuesday, I guess there’ll be no stopping it and I’ll have to jump in whole hog. But I respectfully believe that it should stop here and now. Really. Let it go.
Affleck is described in the Zimmerman piece as having sexually harassed and intimidated to some extent I’m Not There producer Amanda White and dp Magdalena Gorka six or seven years ago. Affleck may have behaved unfortunately, but he didn’t do anything that would fall under the headings of “grotesque” or “ghastly” or “criminal.” While he may have acted in a boorish fashion, Affleck didn’t assault or hurt anyone, and while he was hit with a civil lawsuit (which he settled) he was never charged with anything. It was never on that level.
In an 11.4 N.Y. Times interview/profile of Affleck by Cara Buckley, Affleck was asked if he felt responsibility in the matter, and he replied that he did not. ‘It was settled to the satisfaction of all,’ he explained. ‘I was hurt and upset — I am sure all were — but I am over it. It was an unfortunate situation, mostly for the innocent bystanders of the families involved.'”
I believe in a separation of church (cinema) and state (personal lives of filmmakers, p.c. judgments about this or that incident of alleged bad behavior). I’ve heard stories about almost everyone in this town having acted in some kind of questionable or sleazy or abrasive manner at one time or another. It’s a slippery slope when you start saying “yeah, that’s a great film but the producer is an asshole or the lead actor betrayed his girlfriend or I got into a fender-bender with the screenwriter” or whatever.
I didn’t think that Roman Polanski‘s legal troubles in the mid ’70s should have anything to do with how good or award-worthy The Pianist was, but the online pitchforkers sure did. They tried to tar and feather Polanski that year (i.e, 2002) but he won the Best Director Oscar anyway.
Last night I watched a high-def streaming version of Lonely Are The Brave, and was dazzled once again by Philip Lathrop‘s immaculate black-and-white photography, and especially the exquisite balance in his framings. Lathrop also shot The Americanization of Emily, The Cincinnati Kid and Point Blank.
Posted on 7.29.12: “All my life I’ve been telling people that Lonely Are The Brave (’62) is one of Kirk Douglas‘s finest films, and that his performance as Jack Burns, an obstinate old-school cowboy, was his most touching. I said this to Douglas when I interviewed him 30-odd years ago in Laredo, Texas [i.e., fall of ’82], and he agreed with me. But have you watched it lately?
“I respect Lonely Are The Brave for what it does right. I love the plainness and the simplicity of it. I love Walter Matthau‘s performance as the sheriff who gets what Douglas’s Jack Burns character (or the Burns metaphor) is basically about, and who sympathizes with him. I love the widescreen black-and-white photography. And early on there’s a very well-handled scene between Burns and an ex-girlfriend, played by Gena Rowlands.
Somebody said yesterday that the enemies and victims of Fidel Castro’s dictatorship felt doubly infuriated by the fact that he lived to the ripe old age of 90. Some would have preferred, I’m supposing, a harsher fate. Like the one that enveloped Romania’s Nicolae Ceausescu, the notorious Communist despot who was overthrown and machine-gunned to death (along with his despised wife, Elena) 27 years ago.
Ceausescu’s end happened on Christmas day, and began to be reported on 12.26. I was married then. We were all visiting Maggie’s family in Capitola, right near Santa Cruz. Dylan was a month old; Jett was a year and a half.
So after thinking about Castro yesterday I began to re-read summaries of the Romanian revolution, but I mainly focused on videos. [After the jump.] Footage of the execution of the Ceausescus actually missed most of what happened; the shooting began before the camera crew was ready. So I was surprised yesterday to come upon these two photos, which apparently are genuine. The clouds of plaster dust and the flying hat seem especially convincing. It looks like a clip from the final shoot-out in Sam Peckinpah‘s The Wild Bunch. An excellent job by whomever if the photos are fakes. They may have been on the web for ages but I never saw them until yesterday.
My first thought was that strictly from an aesthetic perspective these are the kind of brutal images that war photographers live for. Robert Capa would’ve given his eye teeth to catch something like this during the Spanish Civil War.