From a rousing speech by incoming Democratc Congressperson Jamie Raskin, delivered the night before last in Silver Spring, Maryland: “We will not let a cabinet of robber barons and white nationalists destroy everything the civilizing movements of the last century created. They can make a prepped-out Harvard Business School neo-Nazi strategize us into becoming Germany 1933. They can make an anti-public school activist [Betsy DeVos] the secretary of education. They can make Jeff Sessions the attorney general of the United States of America, but my friends, we are still here. They can put Goldman Sachs in charge of the Treasury Department, but we are still here. They can try to dismantle the EPA, but we are still here. They can put a fox in charge of every hen house — they can put the Joker, the Riddler, and the Penguin in charge of Gotham City — but we are still here, and we’re not going anywhere.”
Moonlight‘s Barry Jenkins is admired and respected by every industry and press person, but I suspect that he’s just won a pair of Best Director awards (from the Gothams last Monday night and the New York Film Film Critics Circle today) because of the New York foo-foo crowd, and that the real top-dog among the directing contenders is La La Land‘s Damian Chazelle. For whatever reason Manchester By The Sea‘s Kenneth Lonergan hasn’t won anything yet (he hasn’t even been nominated by the Spirit Awards), but when things settle down he might pull even with Jenkins. Maybe. For all I know Fences‘ director-star Denzel Washington is even or slightly ahead of Lonergan right now, but my gut tells me otherwise. Jackie‘s Pablo Larrain may also fall behind Silence‘s Martin Scorsese when the latter film begins to be seen by sizable crowds starting this weekend.
David Kelley and Jean-Marc Vallee‘s Big Little Lies (HBO, 2.19.17) is based on Liane Moriarty’s 2014 novel. The book was set in Australia; the seven-part series appears to be set somewhere on the California coast. The title of this post comes from a 7.3.14 Amazon book review by “Nitty Mom.”
The series is obviously aimed at women who read airport novels, and appears to be on the same spiritual level as The Girl on the Train.
From Nitty Mom’s review: “Madeline Martha Mackenzie (Reese Witherspoon) is a mouthy, well-dressed 40 year old who lives in the same town with her ex-husband, Nathan (James Tupper) and his yoga-chanting, euphorically perfect second wife, Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz). Nathan left Madeline and their newborn infant 14 years ago, and while Madeline has re-married a wonderful man (Adam Scott) and has two children with him, it still hurts that their 14 year old daughter Abigail (Kathryn Newton) now wants to live with her ex and his wife.
“It would seem that Celeste Wright (Nicole Kidman) has it all. She is a beautiful woman, married to a very wealthy man, Perry (Alexander Skarsgard) , and has two adorable twin boys attending Pirriwee Public School. What looks to be a perfect relationship to others, can become toxic when the couple is behind closed doors. This is a fact that is finally becoming glaringly clear, even to Celeste.
Natalie Portman‘s Jackie Kennedy dialogue is mostly discernible in this clip, but try listening to it in a big echo-y theatre (as I’ve done in screenings in Toronto and Santa Barbara). It’s a struggle. And yet every vowel and syllable that Billy Crudup (who plays historian Theodore H. White) speaks in this clip is perfectly crisp and clear. The fact is that a bassy baritone fortified by clean diction is easier to understand than the voice of a breathy female (Matt Zoller Seitz has described her speech as “a researched, considered, Marilyn Monroe-breathy impersonation”) mitigated by an upper-crust Rhode Island accent. I’m sorry but there’s a difference.
Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg‘s Patriots Day (CBS Films/Lionsgate, 12.21) is a fine, efficient, fact-based thriller about the 2013 Boston marathon bombing and its aftermath. As I wrote on 11.22, Berg tries to emulate the Paul Greengrass aesthetic, and he more or less accomplishes that with the help of dp Tobias Schliessler and the bouncy, brilliant editing is by Colby Parker Jr. and Gabriel Fleming.
The editing during the already-celebrated Watertown gunfight sequence between the Tasrnaev brothers (Alex Wolff‘s Dzhokhar, Themo Melikidze‘s Tamerlan) and local cops is easily one of the best of its kind. The worst violent action sequences around, hands down, are always found in superhero-fantasy films because you can never believe in the physics — it’s always the same CG body-slam razmatazz in which the adversaries never get tired or confused or hurt. But when a shootout feels as chaotically real and crazy as it does in Patriots Day, it really makes you sit up in your seat and lean forward.
Not that I’m immune to slick, well-choreographed gunplay (like that famous downtown L.A. bank robbery sequence in Michael Mann‘s Heat or that moment when Tom Cruise plugs a couple of street thieves in the space of three seconds in Collateral), but sloppy, chaotic action always feels best. The Watertown cops are scared and confused, especially due to the Tsarnaev’s tossing a series of grenade-like pipe bombs. Nobody knows who has the upper hand, and it’s all edge and anxiety and a lot of shouting and swearing. I’ve seen Patriots Day a second time because of this sequence, and I’m thinking of going back to see it again.
In an 8.12 EW piece about Morten Tyldum‘s Passengers, Sara Vilkmmerson wrote that Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, travelling on a luxury interstellar spaceship bound for the Homestead II colony 120 years away, are “two out of 5,000 souls traveling in suspended animation before they’re mistakenly awakened 90 years too early.”
Having heard from a Sony rep and confirmed that a version of Jon Spaihts‘ script that I read last summer more or less represents the finished film, I can say that Vilkmmerson’s synopsis is somewhat inaccurate.
In a new Vanity Fair cover story on Lawrence, author Julie Miller repeats the same vaguely misleading information, to wit: “Due to a mechanical malfunction, both characters wake up about 30 years into the 120-year voyage and struggle to survive while hurtling through space.”
The trailers have long made the “woke” part clear, but there’s more to Passengers than this. It won’t be cool to talk about it for a few weeks yet, at least until January sometime and even then spoiler whiners will hit the roof. But when the time is right, a discussion will be had.
In the same piece, however, Miller describes Darren Aronofsky’s Mother as “a home-invasion horror movie.” Until today “horror” has never been part of any description of this Montreal-shot film, which costars Lawrence, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domnhall Gleeson, Ed Harris and Javier Bardem. I should add that roughly a month ago I was told by Aronofsky that “the [Mother] title has not been reported correctly…that’s all I gotta say about that.”
Villery-Boch is a German company (based in Mettlach) that makes stylish ceramic dinnerware. I just popped for a pair of cool coffee cups (called Newwave caffe mugs on a Macy’s site). I first fell in love with this kind of thing at a Nikki Beach press luncheon in Cannes in May 2008. One you’ve sipped your morning coffee out of one of these, you can never go back to mugs. There are a lot of animals out there (especially on Twitter) who would never appreciate, much less spring for, this kind of thing, but I can only answer for myself. Either you get it or you don’t.
Snapped during a Cannes Film Festival luncheon in 2008.
I realized a half-hour ago that I’m not feeling a lot of Warren Beatty mojo in my blood right now, certainly not enough to make me drive all the way to Goleta today in order to watch Beatty receive the Kirk Douglas Award at the Bacara Resort. Roger Durling and the Santa Barbara Film Festival are sponsoring the event, and as much as I love and support Roger and his many tributes, I can’t overcome the indifference I’ve been feeling about Beatty lately. Something snapped inside when he delayed a planned interview a couple of weeks ago. It wasn’t a huge deal, but on some level I suddenly felt as if I was Hubert Humphrey campaigning in the 1960 West Virginia primary in the rain. One result is that the idea of abandoning the column for six hours in order to drive up there in order to take part in a big smooch-ass ceremony suddenly feels like a journey too far. I’ve attended several Kirk Douglas Award ceremonies before, and I will hopefully attend many more in the future. All hail the Santa Barbara Film Festival, and I’ll always admire and respect Beatty for his long and brilliant career. Just not tonight.
The New York Film Critics Circle having divvied up their choice awards in a mostly fair and judicious manner, first and foremost by handing their Best Film award to Damien Chazelle‘s La La Land. They also pleasured Moonlight‘s Barry Jenkins with a Best Director award, Manchester By The Sea’s Casey Affleck with a Best Actor trophy, and Elle‘s Isabelle Huppert as their Best Actress pick. The towering Michelle Williams won Best Supporting Actress for Manchester By The Sea, and Mahershala Ali won Best Supporting Actor for delivering a brief but compassionate performance in Moonlight. Manchester‘s Kenneth Lonergan won the NYFCC’s Best Screenplay award, and Ezra Edelman‘s O.J.: Made in America was named Best Documentary.
Best Film, La La Land (HE reaction: Agreement, approval. I would’ve gone for Manchester but La La Land is brilliant, exuberant — it gains with each viewing. And the Moonlight foo-foos were beaten back…yes!)
Best Director, Barry Jenkins, Moonlight (HE reaction — respectful disagreement — Moonlight is a fine, smallish film about caring, loneliness, intimacy and compassion, but using three separate actors in three succeeding stages of life to depict a single character is not, to me, a mindblowing dramatic strategy — it’s just a strategy — overpraised by the foo-foos and the focused-agenda crowd from the get-go);
Best Actor, Casey Affleck, Manchester By The Sea (HE reaction — approved);
Best Actress, Isabelle Huppert, Elle and The Things to Come (HE reaction — approving if a tiny bit surprised — two awards now for the deserving Huppert (NYFCC, Gothams) and zip so far for presumed front-runner, La La Land‘s Emma Stone);
Best Supporting Actor, Mahershala Ali, Moonlight (HE reaction — approved but Manchester‘s Lucas Hedges delivered so much more, hit so many more notes — Ali played a kind, nurturing soul who was gone after Act One);
Best Supporting Actress, Michelle Williams, Manchester By The Sea, Certain Women (HE reaction — approved);
Best Screenplay, Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By The Sea (HE reaction — approved);
Best Cinematography, James Laxton, Moonlight;
Best Animated Film, Zootopia;
Best Non-Fiction Film, O.J.: Made in America (HE reaction — you bet! You can call it an 8-hour ESPN cable series, but it was too good not to win regardless);
Best Foreign Language Film, Maren Ade‘s Toni Erdmann (HE reaction — still don’t get it after catching this again on disc — dryly amusing here and there, but overlong with off-putting lead, and nowhere near as revelatory as admirers claim);
Best First Film, Kelly Fremon Craig, The Edge of Seventeen;
Best First Film, Trey Edward Shults, Krisha;
Special Award — Thelma Schoonmaker & Julie Dash.
Tons and tons of nominations have been announced by the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) for the 22nd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards, which will happen on the evening of Sunday, 12.12 at Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar. Too many to summarize, really, but the long and the short is that La La Land landed 12 nominations (including Best Picture, of course, as well as noms for director Damian Chazelle and costars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling). Arrival and Moonlight took ten each, Manchester By The Sea nabbed eight (Casey Affleck, Lucas hedges, Michelle Williams), Hacksaw Ridge seven and six for Fences (Denzel Washington for directing and acting, Viola Davis for best supporting), Hell or High Water (noms for Jeff Bridges and Ben Foster both), Jackie, Lion. Plus a sizable truckload of TV nominations that are too numerous to mention…sorry. Another time.