I’ve been encouraged by the complaints about Solo‘s overly-dark cinematography, which of course is the doing of Bradford Young, the most somber and pea-soupy cinematographer on the planet. In other words, popular opinion seems to be catching up to mine, and from here on people will be “on” to Young…good! It needs to be understood that Young’s murky palettes are markedly different than the pitch-black shadow stylings of the late Gordon Willis, the legendary “prince of darkness” whose work I’ve long admired.
Last night I gave Hail Caesar! another shot. Having expressed my initial disappointment 2 and 1/3 years ago and moved past that like any sane person, I thought I might somehow see this period Hollywood “comedy” (i.e., one that’s actually funny in only one or two scenes) in a more approving light.
Alas, it wasn’t to be. As well-made, well-acted and handsomely designed as it obviously is, I still felt irked and underwhelmed. My re-viewing wasn’t boring. It’s still diverting in several portions (Channing Tatum‘s dance number, Aldren Ehrenreich‘s “would that it twuhhh” scene with Ralph Fiennes) but it feels oddly thin and scattershot.
Has anyone watched it again and felt differently?
I’m still hugely peeved at the Coen’s aspect-ratio wrongo. Two or three clips are screened within the film, and they’re all presented in CinemaScope-like widescreen, which of course didn’t appear until 1953 with The Robe and didn’t really kick in on a mainstream basis until ’54. Hail Caesar is happening in ’50 or ’51, given the obvious allusion to Quo Vadis. The fact is that all movies were shot and projected at 1.37 back then so we’re talking an aspect-ratio boner of stunning proportions. Unforgivable.
From my 2.3.16 review: The smarty-pants dialogue has verve and flair. The attitudes, haircuts, costumes and production design are all aces. Pic has many elements, in fact, that are sharp and zippy and loads of fun, but something is missing. Yes, if you ease up on your Coen Bros. expectations Hail, Caesar! is agreeable enough. It’s not slop and far from a trainwreck, but at best it’s a 6.5 or 7. Amusing here and there but never consistently funny in a follow-through, momentum-building sort of way.
Remember the inspired “Wheezy Joe” bit in Intolerable Cruelty (i.e., the gun mistaken for an inhaler)? There’s nothing in Caesar that comes close to that. If you ask me Inside Llewyn Davis — by any yardstick a downish, somber-attitude film — is funnier in its own studied way. John Goodman‘s back-seat performance as a junkie musician was a stone classic; ditto that “where’s his scrotum?” scene plus the moment when the amiable G.I. folk singer slurps the cereal milk. There are no bits or performances in Hail, Caesar! that deliver on this level.
Hail, Casear! is about real-life MGM general manager and vp Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) and how he deals with the kidnapping of Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), a Robert Taylor-like star during the filming of a Quo Vadis-like Biblical epic called Hail, Caesar!: A Tale of the Christ.
Ethically, philosophically and attitudinally I am a daily contradiction — a war of opposing viewpoints contained in the same vessel. While I despise default bumblefuck attitudes (pro-Trump, stop the multicultural hordes from overtaking “our” country, lefties are Godless politically-correct Stalinists) with all my heart and soul, I also occasionally find myself sympathizing to some extent with these doofuses. Not “agreeing” with them as much as understanding why they feel as they do. And on a certain level of horrific premonition I’m feeling very, very scared about what might happen two years hence.
Having just watched the Munk Debate on Political Correctness and White Privilege, I am strongly sensing that the vast majority of Average Joes agree more with Jordan Peterson (“12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos“) than they do with the brilliant Michael Eric Dyson, who called Peterson “a mean and mad white man” during that recent Toronto encounter. [The rant begins at 5:15 and ends at 8:12.]
Somehow Peterson has become a kind of poster boy for pushback against the radical p.c. left in the name of calmness and common sense. And yet when Peterson asked how he was supposed to react to being perceived as a much-loathed white-privilege person, Dyson maintained that Peterson “isn’t suffering from anything except an exaggerated sense of entitlement and resentment.”
What I’m terribly afraid of is that two years from now there may be enough Average Joes in swing states who will be so turned off by the aggressive p.c. judgments and admonitions of the progressive left that they may once again vote for the most demonic and rabidly sociopathic crime-family President in this country’s history just to spite the left, even though they may agree that Trump’s authoritarian attempts to dismantle democracy have become truly horrifying.
In short I am scared shitless that in defiance of all common sense the schmoes will wind up hating the left more than Trump. Average Joes are generally furious at the idea of all white people being told to hang their heads in shame for a history of inherent genetic venality.
I for one am in the Bill Maher camp about Peterson. I believe that the levels of intimidation and career ruination at the hands of the progressive left have become ferocious and in some cases too extreme, and that standing by free speech means you should be down with the idea of occasionally giving offense in a debate. I’m just sensing that things have tipped into a kind of madness and that swing-state voters are sensing this also, and that this may become a factor in the 2020 election. I really hope it doesn’t. God help us if it does.
Last night in Paris a 22 year-old hero, an immigrant from Mali, scaled a Montmartre apartment building to save a child dangling from a balcony railing. But look at the guy from the apartment next door, right next to the kid and reaching out with his wife or girlfriend standing by. All the neighbor had to do was step around the plastic barrier that separates the balconies and pull the kid up. But he just stood there, holding the kid but not really doing anything, as the Mali guy climbed four stories like an Olympic athlete. Cheers to the rescuer but the neighbor is worthless. And where were the kid’s parents? Or his caregiver?
John McCain did a great thing when he cast the deciding vote against the repeal of Obamacare, and I confess I felt a smidgen of compassion for the poor guy when Ed Harris portrayed him in Game Change. And he did the right thing when he said “no, ma’am” to that blithering idiot who said to McCain that “I can’t trust Obama because he’s an Arab.” And he’s maintained friendly relations with Warren Beatty and other okay people. And he’s behaving with courage as he faces death, just as he behaved with courage while a prisoner in Hanoi. But McCain did a truly reckless, bordering-on-evil thing in choosing Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate in ’08, and he’s supported cruelty and selfishness time and again. I don’t think he deserves to be regarded with any kind of halo over his head.
Anya, our one-year-old Siamese female, knocked my iPhone 6Plus off a bedroom bureau last night and cracked the screen all to hell. Image Wireless (1006 Broxton in Westwood) seem to be the only reputable repair guys open on Sunday — $99 plus $25 labor. Update: I went with puls, per a recommendation by TheRealBadHatHarry, and it only set me back $71.
By the way: I’ve had all kinds of duplicates in my photo library for years. As of three days ago I had 12,750 photos, give or take. Then I downloaded the Gemini II app and scanned for dupes, and it found over 3000 of them. It got rid of them all. My photo count is now down to 9500.
Not my actual iPhone 6Plus with the screen cracked, but a close relation.
This morning Variety critic Guy Lodge tweeted that “Alden Ehrenreich‘s best performances top anything Harrison Ford has done.” “Performances”? I was under the impression that Ehrenreich’s only big score was his performance as Hobie Doyle in Joel and Ethan Coen‘s Hail, Caesar! Lodge is probably also alluding to Ehrenreich’s argument-in-the-rain scene in Beautiful Creatures (’13), which nobody saw or cared about.
Ehrenreich is a reedy-voiced, square-faced, pain-in-the-ass type who performs as best he can for the part he’s been hired to play, but he hasn’t a clue about delivering big-screen, laid-back presence and manly charisma, which is Ford’s metier. Ford delivers like a movie star, and that kind of delivery is worth its weight in gold.
Ford may be less emotionally agile or intense than Ehrenreich, but he was mythic during the carbon-freeze scene in The Empire Strikes Back and completely steady and sufficient in Blade Runner, Witness (perhaps his career-best performance), The Mosquito Coast, Working Girl, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger and — I’m being serious here — Hollywood Homicide. If Ehrenreich had somehow starred in any of these films, I would’ve hated them and probably walked out.
Is it now permissible to use the term “Solo collapse”? Over the last two days it’s gone from being an “uh-oh, not doing as well as expected” to an “aagghh, I’m melting, I’m melting!…oh, what a world, what a world!”
Posted Sunday morning by Deadline‘s Anthony D’Allessandro: Solo: A Star Wars Story is now sinking well below its $130M projection with Disney now reporting the pic’s three-day at $83.3M and four-day at $101M. Industry estimates are in sync with what Disney is seeing.
“As we already detailed in the previous update, Solo‘s weekend prospects were dragged down by a maelstrom of fan negativity toward the concept and/or behind-the-scenes problems” — — i.e., the absurdity of casting the short, small-shouldered, beady-eyed Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo — “as well as summer tentpole and Star Wars movie over-saturation (we just had Last Jedi in December).
“The under-performance of Solo is a high-class problem for Disney, and they’re the victims of their own success especially when you consider that their first three Star Wars movies grossed $4.45 billion worldwide. Solo reps a barometer of how well [forthcoming] classic character spinoffs” — i.e. James Mangold‘s Boba Fett project — “can do.”
Sometimes columnists have to stray afield to find something to write about, so I’m not condemning Variety‘s Kris Tapley for delving into Darth Maul’s cameo in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Tapley isn’t an out-and-out fanboy but now and then he’s conveyed fanboy yearnings, and discussing the character path and backstory of one-dimensional asshats like Darth Maul is what turns these guys on.
It takes all sorts to make a world. I understand and accept this. But on the other hand…really?
To millions upon millions of Star Wars fans, Darth Maul is one thing and one thing only — the scowling, acrobatic, horn-headed, black and red tattoo-faced shithead with the double-headed lightsaber. As a “character” he’s nothing, nothing…less than nothing. He also reminds everyone of the deeply despised prequels and particularly The Phantom Menace (’99), in which DM appeared and then was sliced in half by Ewan McGregor‘s Obi-Wan Kenobi. (Which Monsieur Maul “survived”, by the way, because the makers of the animated Clone Wars series wanted to use him again in 2011.)
But if you’re a semi-fanboy like Tapley, Darth Maul is like “oohh, cool…let’s talk more about this guy!”
Tapley is all but fascinated by the Darth Maul saga, so much so that he describes a 10-year unaccounted for period in his story as “juicy.” From this point on, any further usage of the term “juicy” by Tapley will be regarded askance if not with skepticism. Rules of the game.
On Friday morning the disgraced Harvey Weinstein smiled as he was being arrested by New York City authorities for Harvey Weinstein over sexual misconduct allegations, including rape. It was definitely a weird thing to do under the circumstances, but big-swaggering-ego guys tend to respond this way when they feel their dignity has been sullied or compromised. (Which is definitely the case here, except the compromiser is Weinstein’s own behavior.) They feel they have to project a certain no-sweat, water-off-a-duck’s-ass insouciance.
Anyway, Philadelpha-based film critic Carrie Rickey was understandably irked or disconcerted by Harvey’s signage and tweeted, “How do you describe that half-smile?” So I tweeted a response by channelling Harvey: “I can’t frown or look forlorn…I have to convey that I’m not overly ruffled by this…appearing too chastened or contrite would be humiliating…I may be a rapist, but I’m Harvey fucking Weinstein and I have my pride, or what’s left of it.”
And what happened? A few hours later the dickish Brooklyn life form known as Glenn Kenny tweeted that a new blurb from Weinstein might theoretically appear on the HE masthead: “Jeff Wells gets me.” In other words Kenny tried to turn what I wrote, which was merely an impulsive stab at character-explaining as if I had temporarily become a playwright, into a p.c. slur. The world we live in is so full of rancid bile and sickening spear-throwing and intellectual snakebite venom it’s enough to make you want to throw up on a daily basis.
On 8.21.18 Criterion will release a 4K digital restoration Bluray of Ernst Lubitsch‘s Heaven Can Wait (’43), and yet there’s a above-average-looking version on YouTube right now. [After the jump, posted on 6.24.17 by some Russian guy.] I’ve seen this once, and the Warren Beatty-Buck Henry version, which is actually a remake of 1941’s Here Comes Mr. Jordan, at least ten times. I’m sorry but the Beatty version really gets me emotionally while the well-crafted Lubitsch version is mainly deft and amusing.
The Criterion restoration was done by 20th Century Fox and the Academy Film Archive in collaboration with Martin Scorsese‘s Film Foundation.