You almost don’t have to read Julia Ioffe’s GQ profile of Donald Trump, Jr. Because Nigel Buchanan‘s illustration pretty much says it all. Final paragraph: “Like Republican populists of the past decade, Don speaks of ‘real Americans,’ people he defines as ‘the forgotten people between New York City and Malibu.’ It’s an improbable notion: that the billionaire’s kid from 66 stories above Fifth Avenue is the one who speaks for the disaffected and the overlooked. But it’s no less surprising than the faint rumors suggesting that he might someday run for office — a way to finally, perhaps, make a name for himself.”
For whatever reason I wan’t invited to press screenings of Shana Feste‘s Boundaries, but I’ve been passed into a 7 pm screening this evening at the Royal. I was enthused after Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman called it “a touching yet wised-up father-daughter road movie that’s the best version of this sort of film you could imagine…it’s standard, but very tastefully done.” Alas, about 50% of the critics don’t approve — Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes scores of 50% and 57%, respectively. Now I feel like I have an appointment with a dentist.
Mike Molloy‘s cinematography for The Hit (’84) was sufficient but unexceptional — it might have been shot on 35m but looked like 16mm. Which wasn’t a problem — it was what it was. So buying the just-released French Bluray doesn’t seem worth it. I’d rent a streaming HD version but that’s not an option. The Criterion DVD is good enough.
John Hurt‘s performance as Braddock is grim and taciturn but entirely readable — he barely moves a facial muscle but you can sense what he’s feeling and struggling with and is scared of at every turn. As minimalist performances go it’s masterful — right up there with Steve McQueen‘s Jake Holman in The Sand Pebbles and Kristin Scott Thomas‘s acting in I’ve Loved You So Long.
I’ve relentlessly shared enthusiasm for the idea of Alfonso Cuaron‘s Roma, which will almost certainly debut at the Venice and Telluride festivals, or about ten weeks hence. (As well as Toronto in mid-September.)
Roma is Cuaron’s first film since Gravity, which debuted six years ago. The only 2018 film that even begins to sound like serious Best Picture rocket fuel, as in allegedly “beyond great” (i.e., a second-hand quote from a publicist who saw it). A Spanish-language film, yes, and digitally shot in radiant black-and-white. A year in the life of a middle-class family in Mexico City in the early 1970s, more specifically about the Corpus Christi Massacre of 6.10.71.
Team Roma will launch a balls-out, take-no-prisoners Best Picture campaign, as well as (I’m hearing) a Best Supporting Actress campaign for Marina De Tavira, a 44 year-old actress who apparently plays the maternal heart and soul of said middle-class family.
Will the Netflix factor (i.e., the company’s reluctance to commit to a serious theatrical exposure prior to streaming) get in the way? Ask the Mudbound people who managed four Oscar noms last year (Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Song). So probably not.
What about the foreign-language factor? Michael Haneke‘s Amour was Best Picture nominated six years ago so why not Roma? I’m presuming that, like Amour, Roma will aim for simultaneous Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Feature noms.
I know I’ve listed these films several times, and that a good portion probably won’t matter in the long run, and that some may not even open this year, but I’ve listed them anyway. Which ones would you describe as pulse-quickening and which sound meh or dismissable?
1. Damien Chazelle‘s First Man (Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Corey Stoll, Kyle Chandler, Jason Clarke).
2. Alfonso Cuaron‘s Roma (Marina de Tavira, Marco Graf, Yalitza Aparicio, Daniela Demesa, Enoc Leaño, Daniel Valtierra).
3. Adam McKay‘s Backseat (w/ Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell).
4. Cold War (d: Pawel Pawlikowski) (Joanna Kulig, Agata Kulesza, Borys Szyc, Tomasz Kot, Adam Ferency).
5. Bjorn Runge‘s The Wife (Glenn Close‘s Best Actress campaign + Jonathan Pryce, Christian Slater, Annie Starke. Max Irons).
6. Bradley Cooper‘s A Star Is Born (w/ Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay and Dave Chappelle).
7. Jonah Hill‘s Mid ’90s (Sunny Suljic, Katherine Waterston, Lucas Hedges, Alexa Demie).
8. Felicity Jones as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in On The Basis of Sex.
9. Mary, Queen of Scots (Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, David Tennant, Jack Lowden, Guy Pearce);
10. David Lowery‘s The Old Man and the Gun (Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, Tika Sumpter, Tom Waits, Elisabeth Moss).
I’ve mostly been avoiding YouTubes of James Corden‘s “Carpool Karaoke” over the last couple of years, but a sentimental journey with Macca in Liverpool? And then hitting a pub? Rules are made to be broken. Sidenote: I’m not sure how I feel about Paul letting a fair amount of gray hair push out. Gives me an uneasy feeling. A little gray on the edges, okay, but not this much.
By the standards of a violent drug-cartel drama and particularly those of a sequel in this realm, Stefano Sollima‘s Sicario: Day of the Soldado is, for me, a serious knockout. I can’t call it a great film, but I can certainly tag it as beautifully calibrated pulp with a surprisingly strong heart. Given what I expected due to the somewhat low Rotten Tomatoes score of 68% (due to bizarre pans by Indiewire‘s David Ehrlich, TheWrap‘s William Bibbiani and Screen Crush‘s Matt Singer) it’s surprisingly, almost mind-blowingly good.
For me it’s much better than Denis Villenueve‘s Sicario, which was seriously compromised by Emily Blunt‘s tedious, pain-in-the-ass female FBI agent. Rock-steady, dead-on performances by Josh Brolin and particularly from Benicio del Toro and the young Isabela Moner anchor this sequel, which for me felt far more assured, poignant and suspenseful than the 2015 Villenueve film, which I never warmed to all that much. Not to mention more purely cinematic. You can just tell right away when a director really knows what he/she is doing, and this is one such occasion.
I strongly suspected that Soldado was an X-factor keeper less than five minutes in. I was absolutely certain of its excellence after ten minutes. Then it kept getting better and better and I kept whispering to myself “wow, wow…wow.” Until, that is, slight problems began to manifest in the second and third acts. But they weren’t enough to change my mind,.
The weakness, as others have noted, is that Soldado slows down in the middle section and goes a little crazy in the third act (but in a fascinating, holy-shit way). The other issue is that the ending doesn’t feel like a true-blue, well-earned crescendo as much as a story that just screeches to a halt with an invisible title card that reads “to be continued in Part Three.”
But God, the current of cool malice, dead-center confidence and absolute cinematic command that Sollima delivers — a feeling of purpose and absolute mastery of all the forces and currents, and with a Taylor Sheridan screenplay that gradually shifts away from drug-war brutalities to focus on humanism and compassion and saving children from horrible lives, particularly Moner’s character, a young daughter of a drug cartel kingpin (who’s never even seen!), as well as a poor border-town kid (Elijah Rodriguez) who early on accepts cartel money to work as a coyote guiding illegal immigrants across the Rio Grande.
For a film that delivers scores of cold-blooded shootings and bombings amid bureaucratic malice or indifference, it’s quite odd how Soldado dovetails into a focus on south-of-the-border compassion and, strange as this may sound in a drug-war context, parenting. Really. Soldado slaughters people by the truckload, but it cares about kids.