The basic thing about cigarettes is that during the days when they were regarded as an attractive way to flirt with ill health (i.e., back in the ’70s or ’80s), each one was your little friend. You would buy a pack of 20 little buddies who would provide comfort and make you feel fairly cool as you sat at a cafe or walked down a street or whatever, particularly in the evenings. It follows that the brand names of cigarettes had to sound either friendly or fraternal or enobling on some level. They had to sound like a club you’d want to join. The Loyal Order of Camels or Galouises. The Chesterfield or Davidoff club. All to say that in the old days, no way would a cigarette company have created a brand called Drome.
I forgot to review Ben Affleck‘s Live By Night, which opened yesterday (12.25). It’s not a failure by any stretch but it is a period crime pic that never gets off the ground. It’s mildly engrossing and certainly looks good, but it feels like a bust. The only thing you can be legitimately cranked about is the carefully lighted, perfectly framed cinematography by Robert Richardson, which is more than worth the price.
The general rap is that director-star Affleck was too committed to making his character, a mild-mannered, romantic-minded Boston bootlegger named Joe Coughlin, into a likable guy without so much as the beginnings of a thorn or a weakness or a crippling flaw of any kind. I agree with that assessment.
I also feel that too few characters (i.e., hardly any) behave in a practical, common-sense way. Except for Coughlin, I mean, and his always-wisecracking, good-natured sidekick, Dion Bartolo (Chris Messina), along with his wife Graciella Corrales (Zoe Saldana), who has a fairly sensible head on her shoulders. Nearly everyone else (and this is on Dennis Lahane, who wrote the 2012 novel) behaves like an obsessive nutso of one kind of another.
I don’t really care to write any more, no offense. I just don’t feel like banging out ten or twelve paragraphs. It’s 4:30 pm and I feel spent. I’ll only say (and I mean this) that if you pay to see Live By Night, you won’t feel burned at the end. You’ll probably say to your date or your friend, “What was that? A collection of nicely directed scenes but where was the movie?” But you won’t say “I’ve been burned…that movie took two hours of my life that I’ll never get back!” Live By Night is not that kind of disappointment.
It hit me yesterday that I haven’t owned a package of Reynolds Aluminum Wrap in years. A couple of decades, I think. I don’t know why, but I suddenly felt a surge of nostalgia for poor, unloved, old-timey Reynolds Wrap. I bought some yesterday because having Reynolds Wrap around reminds me of the old days (i.e., the early ’90s when the kids were young) when I’d occasionally wrap stuff for a picnic or a school lunch — a sandwich or celery stalks or a leg of fried chicken. I feel the same way about Reynolds Wrap as I do about blue Aqua Velva, which I absolutely swear by.
Pretty much everyone these days has bought into the idea that weddings have to be costly, and that a marriage that doesn’t begin on a fairly lavish scale probably won’t last. Prospective brides in particular believe that a modest and simple ceremony (i.e., a dawn wedding in Monument Valley, let’s say) would be an omen of a problematic marriage. The wedding racket gets an average of $27K per wedding. Prospective brides want romantic splendor and an exorbitant send-off, and that’s that. All to say that the October 1987 wedding between my ex (the robust Maggie Wells, the mother of Jett and Dylan) and myself, which happened in Paris, cost maybe $5K, all in. Round-trip air fare from Los Angeles plus hotels and whatnot, a ceremony at St. Julien le Pauvre, a reception at Les Deux Magots plus a honeymoon in Communist Eastern Europe (East Germany, Czechoslovakia). We did it “big” in a sense and certainly in a “special” way, but outside the reach of the wedding industry.
This morning a friend who reads HE asked if I’ve run my top ten of the year list. I reminded him that I posted a roster of HE’s most admired 2016 films on 11.25. Apparently too early in the cycle. So here’s the final rundown — zero consideration given to award-season politicking or Oscar predictions, solely according to personal preference and/or recognition of serious merit, shake and bake, a little shifting around:
Tied for top spot: Kenneth Lonergan‘s Manchester By The Sea and Damien Chazelle‘s La La Land.
(2) David Mackenzie‘s Hell or High Water;
(3) Luca Guadagnino‘s A Bigger Splash;
(4) Ezra Edelman‘s O.J.: Made in America;
(5) Paul Verhoeven‘s Elle;
(6) Denzel Washington‘s Fences;
(7) Paddy Breathnach and Mark O’Halloran‘s Viva;
(8) Robert Eggers‘ The Witch;
(9) Martin Scorsese‘s Silence;
(10) Gavin Hood‘s Eye in the Sky;
In the wake of yesterday’s riff about the failure of Passengers, a few commenters were saying that between this and the flopping of Joy (which was far from an out-and-out catastrophe — it didn’t catch on very well domestically but it earned $101 million worldwide) Jennifer Lawrence‘s superstar rep is in trouble and that she needs a hit badly, and that perhaps Darren Aronofsky‘s scary flick (sometimes referred to as Mother) will do the trick, etc.
Bad luck. It happens. Nobody can make a weak or crucially flawed film into a hit. She’s fine. For now.
JLaw pulls down big-star fees because (a) she fronted the mediocre but curiously successful Hunger Games franchise (four films that thematically spoke to Millenials), (b) she’s got that naturally intense X-factor thing like few actresses of her generation (the same quality that Emma Stone, Carey Mulligan and even Amy Schumer exude), (c) her Oscar-winning Silver Linings Playbook performance flooded the room with historic alpha vibes, and so (d) the industry is trusting or hoping that even though JLaw lacks the ability to lay golden eggs on her own dime (if you’re in a movie that doesn’t work then THAT’S THAT — no amount of star-power charisma can save it) sooner or later the combination of Lawrence and the right property will result in another bonanza — if not another franchise then at least another big commercial hit or an important success d’estime.
Once it’s been recognized that you’re an exceptional actor who has the ability to really connect with Joe and Jane Popcorn, that you’re good enough to win an Oscar and that you’ve had something to do with a hugely successful franchise, it takes many years and a herculean effort to convince Hollywood that you’re not worth the candle.