Director Richard Thorpe is primarily known as “the guy who didn’t get it.” Reason #1 was because Thorpe was fired off The Wizard of Oz after two weeks of shooting, one reason being dissatisfaction over his decision to dress Judy Garland in a glossy blonde wig, which made “Dorothy Gale” look inappropriately older and even sexy. Reason #2 was Thorpe’s direction of this scene from Jailhouse Rock. For some odd reason Thorpe decided to allow a homely guy (heavy horn-rimmed glasses, Brylcream hair) stand next to Judy Tyler as Elvis Presley sang “Treat Me Nice”. Look at him clapping along. What was Thorpe thinking? Directing is about visual composition as well as guiding actors, and Thorpe nearly destroyed this scene by allowing “four eyes” to seriously distract.
In a just-posted Variety interview with Elizabeth Wagmeister, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson says he’s seriously considering running for U.S. President. Before this interview Johnson has only admitted to flirting with the possibility — now he’s getting specific.
Not against Trump in 2020, of course — that would require serious courage, which Johnson apparently doesn’t have — but in 2024 when the electoral playing field will be relatively free and clear. If you ask me Johnson has revealed himself here as a political showboater — an ostensible good guy who wants to help but not if it requires growing a pair. He sounds, in fact, like an opportunistic coward.
Johnson totally contradicts himself in the interview, talking about his own Hollywood power, self-interest and movie-starring being more important for now than trying to change things in Washington, at least in a 2020 sense.
“I care deeply about our country, and I care deeply about our people,” Johnson says. “Decency matters and being a decent human being matters, and character matters, and leadership matters.”
And yet Johnson tells Wagmeister that a 2024 run “would be the realistic consideration” because he has more movies and more millions to make before he tries to restore big-government decency and character.
“Realistically, as we go into 2018, when you look at my slate as we’re developing and shooting into 2019 and 2020,” Johnson says, “[and] the slate goes deep into 2021, so it feels like the realistic consideration would be 2024.”
Jumping into the ’24 campaign would require speaking and fundraising commitments starting in early ’23, at which point Johnson would be 50 to 51 years old. He was born in May 1972.
I’m not misinterpreting or misquoting in the slightest way here. Johnson really has told Wagmeister that while he has serious arguments with Trump and that he’s giving serious thought to running because he cares about the U.S. and wants to restore a climate of decency and character, he can’t see running in ’20 because of existing commitments to make and produce a few more films.
On top of which Johnson expresses himself like a fence-straddling candy ass, saying stuff like “the best thing I can do is continuing to listen and learn as much as I can” and “watch our presidency and…how every new development is handled.” He says that he’s “hopeful that our leaders exhibit poise, perspective and the ability to bring our country together during these tough times — which I don’t feel our presidency is currently doing — so that’s where I’m at.”
What kind of Pollyanna bullshit is that, Dwayne? You’re “watching” and “listening” and still trying to decide if Trump is an authoritarian jackass and orangutan who cares only about attracting media attention and fortifying his own business empire? You’re not sure about who and what Trump is?
A couple of hours ago the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to kill net neutrality. Yes, this has actually happened. The internet was more or less a level-playing field in the ’90s and during the Dubya and Obama administrations. That’s over now — it’s no longer considered a utility like water or electricity, the big guys are running the shots, and bit by bit consumers are going to have to adapt to increasing effects of corporate authoritarianism.
It won’t happen overnight, but things are gradually going to become more and more benignly Orwellian and less open-rangey. The Obama-era regulations that prohibited broadband providers from blocking websites or offering preferential treatment to bucks-up interests are history. The rules that until today stood against the all-but-complete corporate takeover of online content and to some extent discourse have been tossed.
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) December 14, 2017
In a 11.29.17 N.Y. Times piece, columnist Farhad Manjoo wrote that “when the rules go, the internet will still work, but it will look like and feel like something else altogether — a network in which business development deals, rather than innovation, determine what you experience, a network that feels much more like cable TV than the technological Wild West that gave you Napster and Netflix.”
FCC chairman and Trump lackey Ajit Pai said killing net neutrality “would gradually help consumers because broadband providers like AT&T and Comcast could offer people a wider variety of service options,” according to a 12.14 N.Y. Times piece by Cecilia Kang. “We are helping consumers and promoting competition,” Pai said in a speech before the vote. “Broadband providers will have more incentive to build networks, especially to underserved areas.”
Killing net neutrality is essentially about allowing corporate forces to make more money and, if they choose, to selectively discourage or suppress certain forms of content or discourse. This is a huge, huge deal, and most U.S. citizens are still saying, “Uhm, what exactly does net neutrality mean again?”
It’s certainly not a burn. Not by my yardstick. Not if you accept and understand that a 40 year-old franchise can’t really go home again. Engages, strives, tries like hell. Draws a bead, hits the mark often enough. Aimed at families, sure, but in a way that doesn’t strenuously alienate. A diligent, crafty, resourceful attempt to wow fanboy dads who were 13 when The Empire Strikes Back opened in ‘80. Sticks to formula expectations as far as it can without seeming overly desperate. Plays the game like a spirited opportunist. A visual tribute to Empire‘s noirish lighting scheme. Perhaps a tad too jokey here and there. Tries your patience to a certain extent, okay, but whaddaya expect? A well-worn franchise is being re-milked, re-baked, re-fried, re-seasoned and vigorously stirred in order to turn a profit. A good looking-to-future-generations ending. Rian Johnson is an honorable tactician, an architect with a plan, an above-average engineer, a good fellow.
The rumpus started this morning just after the SAG nominations. It began with my being surprised by the fine-but-unexceptional performance by Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out being nominated for a SAG Best Actor award. “For playing cool, anxious and freaked in a horror comedy?,” I wrote. “SAG members honestly believe that Kaluuya’s performance was craftier and more planted or affecting than The Post‘s Tom Hanks, Stronger‘s Jake Gyllenhaal and Phantom Thread‘s Daniel Day Lewis? C’mon!”
The notion of Kaluuya suddenly becoming a Best Actor Oscar nominee and especially Get Out being positioned as a formidable Best Picture contender “makes me feel like I’m drowning, like I’m drowning in jello,” I wrote in a comment thread. “This is staggering…I’m literally wobbling as I walk around.”
About five hours ago Variety‘s Guy Lodge wrote, “It’s not like you need extra reasons to root for Daniel Kaluuya to get an Oscar nomination, but here’s one: it’ll make Jeff Wells actively convulse.”
Melanie Lynskey: “He said that people who voted for Get Out“ are ‘wrong’ and ‘perverse’…it’s hysterical.”
So I tweeted the following: “Guy & Melanie — who had even flirted with the idea of Kaluuya having given an award-worthy performance? Who even fiddled with it? Nobody had picked up this torch before the Boston Society of Film Critics did last weekend, and now all of a sudden you’re both longtime Kaluuya devotees. Bullshit.”
In response to my “who had even flirted?”, Joseph Finn tweeted “Literally 99% of the people who saw it and have been talking about it since spring.” Last February, he meant.
What Finn meant is that for the last nine or ten months in Coffee Bean and Starbucks cafes all over Los Angeles, people have been saying to each other, “Wow, that good-looking chill guy who perspires and opens his mouth in horror in Get Out when the evil whiteys try to hypnotize and lobotomize him? What a performance!”
My reply to Finn: “If you say so, but for months and months the Gurus of Gold and Gold Derby spitballers never once mentioned Kaluuya, even as a boredom killer. So I guess the various chapters of the ‘Daniel Kaluuya deserves an Oscar’ fan clubs met in secret dungeon-like bars and cafes during the wee hours.”
Yesterday HE reader Dean Treadway asked me to reevaluate an 8.18.17 comparison piece, posted by Award Watch‘s Erik Anderson, between Guillermo del Toro‘s The Shape of Water and Marc S. Nollkaemper‘s The Space Between Us, a 13-minute, English-language short that appeared on 6.29.15.
The basic scheme of both films (erotic sparks fly when a clean-up woman at a research center encounters an aquaman who’s being kept inside a large tank) are obviously similar. The Shape of Water was shot between August and November 2016.
I never suspected for a nano-second that Guillermo would crib from another filmmaker, but I nonetheless asked him about this last night, and we spoke a little while ago today. He was in a rush so I took some hasty notes.
Guillermo said that he and Daniel Kraus (co-author of a forthcoming 2018 book version of The Shape of Water) began work on a The Shape of Water treatment after meeting on 12.17.11. GDT began to develop a script the following year; he also “memorialized” his partnership with Kraus in ’12.
He said that a Fox Searchlight rep would be able to forward docs that would validate this timeline.
Guillermo added that he watched The Space Between Us for the first time this morning.
GDT’s final remark: “What is funny is that I have two movies, Hellboy (’04) and Hellboy II: The Golden Army (’08), with an aquatic creature inside a super-secret tank in a large laboratory….so that [general concept] is not exactly in the province of exclusivity.”
Nine months ago an extended trailer for Alex Garland‘s Annihilation (Paramount, 2.23) was shown at Cinemacon ’17. It wowed a lot of journos (myself among them) and exhibs. There was some talk about releasing it in late ’17, but that idea went south. I’ve been reading for months that it has a killer ending.
This morning’s trailer feels like a marginal improvement over the one that popped on 9.27.17.
It costars Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Oscar Isaac, David Gyasi and Sonoya Mizuno.
Clint Eastwood‘s The 15:17 to Paris (Warner Bros, 2.9.18) is obviously a patriotic tribute piece about the three American guys (Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos) who foiled an Islamic terrorist attack aboard a Brussels-to-Paris train on 8.21.15.
The new trailer tells us the film will mostly be about back-story — childhood, friendship, military service in the Middle East, etc. It feels thin, but Clint has earned our respect and deference.
Pic will costar Stone, Sadler and Skarlatos as themselves. Based on “The 15:17 to Paris: The True Story of a Terrorist, a Train, and Three American Heroes” by Jeffrey E. Stern, Stone, Sadler and Skarlatos.
From director Clint Eastwood, comes an incredible true story portrayed by the actual heroes who lived it. This February, in the face of fear, ordinary people can do the extraordinary. #1517toParispic.twitter.com/KhrOCHRQPg
— The 15:17 to Paris (@1517toParis) December 13, 2017
As the largest voting bloc within the Motion Picture Academy, members of the Screen Actors Guild have a big influence upon the Oscar race. It is generally presumed, therefore, that nominees for SAG’s Motion Picture Ensemble Award (i.e., “Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture”), which were announced this morning along with other nominees, are indicators of significant strength in the Best Picture competition.
And so today’s Ensemble Award nominees — The Big Sick, Get Out, Lady Bird, Mudbound and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri — are sitting pretty. It also means that six other leading Best Picture contenders that weren’t nominated — The Post, Call Me By Your Name, The Shape of Water, The Florida Project, Darkest Hour and Phantom Thread — might have something to worry about.
And I mean especially The Post. This morning’s SAG nominations were like an impact grenade upon that Steven Spielberg film. Smoke, chunks of plaster on the floor, ringing in the ears.
No significant support for a tale of 1970s journalists in Nixon-era Washington, D.C. — too long ago, right? No love or allowances for the exquisite acting delivered by some fine, laid-back people in the sunny, far-away Lombardy region of Italy in the early ’80s. Not enough interest in Londoners facing the threat of Nazi Germany in mid 1940, No particular affection for struggling underclass types in an Orlando hotel. No particular affection for neurotic fashion-world elites in mid ’50s England.
Four of the five ensemble nominees are small-town American stories, self-enclosed and unto themselves, suburban or rural-ish. The only cosmopolitan big-city flick is The Big Sick.
Was identity politics a factor in the decent-but-no-great-shakes Mudbound and the horror genre comedy Get Out making the cut? Of course not. They were selected by merit and merit alone.
SAG nominees for Best Actor: Timothee Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name), James Franco (The Disaster Artist), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour), Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.). Likeliest winners: Oldman or Chalamet.
HE comment: Kaluuya? For playing cool, anxious and freaked in a horror comedy? SAG members honestly believe that Kaluuya’s performance was craftier and more planted or affecting than The Post‘s Tom Hanks, Stronger‘s Jake Gyllenhaal and Phantom Thread‘s Daniel Day Lewis? They really think that, or they want to think that? C’mon!
Democrat Doug Jones has won the special Alabama election, defeating Republican asshat Roy Moore by roughly 20,000 votes, give or take. A crowning victory for lefties, and a devastating setback for Donald Trump. The sexual misconduct accusations plus the huge Democratic get-out-the-vote effort did it. Damn near half of the Alabama voters wanted one of the biggest jokes in American political history to serve in the U.S. Senate so don’t celebrate too much — the bumblefucks nearly got their way. 74% of white men and 65% of white women voted for Moore, but 92% of black men and 97% of black women went for Jones. Thank God and glory hallelujah.