There are three reasons, I suspect, why Marwen died so quickly and decisively. One, who wants to see a movie about a place or an entity or a state of mind called Marwen, which sounds like some nowhere burgh off the New Jersey Turnpike? Two, people could smell the oversaturation of twee. And three, moviegoers are sick of Steve Carell‘s mopey and mournful performances — The Big Short (mopey investor Mark Baum), Last Flag Flying (mopey dad mourning his dead son) and especially Beautiful Boy (mopey dad trying to save his son from drug addiction).
Two or three days ago some Berniebots went after Beto O’Rourke’s partly centrist, somewhat politically incorrect voting record in the House of Representatives over the last four or five years. Ardent supporters of Bernie Sanders are claiming, in other words, that O’Rourke isn’t progressive enough and has been too accommodating to Republican and corporate interests.
The most thorough and agenda-free answer to this, it seems to me, was posted yesterday on Twitter by NBC political reporter Jonathan Allen. He reviewed 167 votes in which O’Rourke went against the majority of Democrats, and found that he’s a reasonably forward-looking moderate-mixed lefty.
Allen: “A fair reading of the votes is that [O’Rourke] isn’t always aligned with the most progressive set in the Democratic Caucus but that he usually is — and that he doesn’t like dilatory votes.”
“Does this mean he’s ‘progressive’ or ‘progressive enough’?”,” Allen concluded. “Not for me to decide. Certainly, each vote will get its vet.
“But it’s fascinating that the first shots of the invisible 2020 Democratic primary are Bernie backers targeting O’Rourke. A fair reading of the politics is that Sanders backers are worried about his pull with progressives and millennials — and that is framed by portraying O’Rourke as a tool of the old Democratic establishment. This fight is just starting, and it will be interesting to watch. It’s easy to dismiss reporting on it as ‘horserace’ journalism, but the way the candidates, their campaigns and their supporters engage in politics is a big part of how campaigns are won and lost.”
I’m a fairly robust and energetic type, but recovering from surgery over the past three weeks has reminded me that you can’t shrug off biological vulnerability. We’re not made of hard plastic, steel and titanium, and it hurts when a scalpel slices into your skin and digs into your muscles, tendons, fatty tissue and bones. It takes weeks to really feel like yourself again, and you can get easily accustomed to popping pain pills — trust me.
And I went through one of the least traumatic surgeries imaginable — a skin-removal (and then skin graft) operation by first-rate professionals. I’m imagining how it would have felt if I’d been seriously clubbed or shot or stabbed, and then have to recover without decent medical care. Or if I’d been Ethan Hunt in last summer’s Mission: Impossible: Fallout, tear-assing around Paris on a BMW motorcycle and slammed by a speeding car. Or if I’d suffered any of the other ridiculous body traumas that action heroes endure as a matter of routine these days.
Nothing hurts, nobody gets wounded, nobody limps around…every punch or bullet wound or head blow is taped up and shrugged off. Because action filmmakers aren’t interested in wounds or stitches or vulnerability. Which is one more reason why I hate most action flicks today (apart from the fact that they don’t respect physics in the least) and almost all superhero films. And it wasn’t always this way.
There’s a scene in Mike Hodges‘ Get Carter in which a friend of Michael Caine‘s titular character has been beaten up pretty badly, and is all bandaged and bruised and even moaning from the pain. You’re not likely to see anything like that these days.
It was around ’84, maybe ’85. I was platonically friendly with Kathryn, a whipsmart production executive with a good heart who suffered no fools. She was sharing a sizable home in Topanga Canyon with a couple of others, and every so often would invite friends over on the weekend. I attended a couple of these schmoozers. Filmmakers, publicists, producers, writers, production veterans…most in their late 20s to late 30s.
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For the record: As of 12.24.18, the easily-led-astray, slow-on-the-pickup Gurus of Gold are calling Spike Lee‘s BlacKkKlansman the fourth hottest Best Picture contender — ahead of Green Book and Black Panther and way ahead of Bohemian Rhapsody, the brilliant First Reformed and the widely praised Can You Ever Forgive Me? They may be right (what do I know?) but if you remove the brilliant slam-bang finale that links the KKK to Donald Trump, Spike’s film is a middle-range undercover caper film that no one has done cartwheels over. It’s a better-than-decent package with logic problems. I’m sorry but serious Best Picture contention is a stretch too far. And yet the myopic Gurus believe otherwise. Incidentally: A get-around guy I spoke to this morning isn’t predicting a Green Book Best Picture win, but his nose and his gut are telling him it could happen.
The roads of Wilton, Connecticut, where I endured my last two years of high school, were narrower and hillier and twistier back then. In the decades since many roads have been widened and re-graded to some extent, especially in the areas right off Route 7, which is the main drag between Norwalk and Danbury.
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Late Saturday afternoon I drove the beater from Wilton to Jett and Cait‘s home in Jersey City for a modest Christmas hang-out. Merritt Parkway to Cross County, the Hutchinson River Parkway and into the Bronx, over the George Washington Bridge and down the NJ Turnpike, and three infuriating three loop-dee-loops on the road to Jersey City because the GPS woman lost her mind.
I picked up ex-wife Maggie (i.e., Jett’s mom) at her Warren Street apartment. We landed at Jett and Cait’s around 7 pm. Dinner, dogs, gifts. Watched a movie (Can You Ever Forgive Me?, which I’d seen twice before). Maggie and I left around 10 pm. I went back through the Holland Tunnel ($15 access!) and up the West Side Highway. I was back in the Wilton abode in less than two hours.
Jett, all his life a highly considerate fellow, thinks I’m a fragile reed because I underwent basal-skin-cancer removal and skin graft surgery on 12.4. “Get back okay last night?”, he texted at 6:30 am. “Back in the crib before midnight”, I replied.
Two more days here (today and tomorrow) and then back to Los Angeles on Tuesday morning, and then on to HE’s first Existential Sundance Film Festival, and then down to Santa Barbara in late January.
Slowly but increasingly angry over James Mattis‘ strongly worded resignation letter, President Trump is removing the Secretary of Defense earlier than announced. Mattis will be out of the Pentagon on January 1st rather than February 28th, as the retired four-star general had stated in his letter.
Trump has tweeted that Mattis deputy Patrick M. Shanahan will take over as acting defense secretary.
A 12.23 N.Y. Times story by Helene Cooper essentially says that the accelerated departure was announced today because Trump was too stupid to fully understand the import of Mattis’ resignation letter right off the bat. Mattis personally delivered the letter to Trump on 12.20.
“When Mr. Trump first announced that Mr. Mattis was leaving [on] 2.28, he praised the defense secretary on Twitter, saying he was retiring ‘with distinction’,” Cooper reports. “One aide said that although Mr. Trump had already seen the resignation letter when he praised Mr. Mattis, the president did not understand just how forceful a rejection of his strategy Mr. Mattis had issued.”
But “the president has grown increasingly angry as the days have passed,” according to that aide. And today Trump finally said in effect “okay, I can be slow at times, I realize this, and this is why this is only just hitting me…all kinds of bad currents because of that letter so fuck Mattis…he’s out of here in eight days.”
Pawel Pawlilowski‘s Cold War “is one of those love-among-the-ruins romances that turn suffering into high style. Like its two sexy leads — who fall for each other and keep on falling — the movie has been built for maximum seduction. It has just enough politics to give it heft, striking black-and-white images and an in-the-mood-for-love ambiguity that suggests great mysteries are in store for those who watch and wait. You won’t wait long. The movie runs just 89 minutes, during which swaths of the 20th century flutter by like a flipbook.
“Pawlikowski has ideas he wants you to chew over, but at times his narrative brevity can make the story feel as if it’s stopping before it has really begun. If you want more, it’s because the worlds he opens up and his two impossible, irresistible lovers — Tomasz Kot and Joanna Kulig — are so beguiling that you would like to linger longer, learn more, see more. The movie is filled with ordinary and surprising beauty, with gleaming and richly textured surfaces, and the kind of velvety black chiaroscuro you can get lost in. Its greatest strengths, though, are its two knockout leads, who give the story its heat, its flesh and its heartbreak.” — from Manohla Dargis‘s N.Y. Times review, posted on 12.20.
Last night a friend considered yesterday’s “Progressive Poker Chips” piece, which passed along a feeling that Black Panther may be gathering the most Best Picture momentum because (a) it’s a major Hollywood history landmark, (b) it’s a leading virtue-signaling contender, and (c) that great final scene on the outdoor Oakland basketball court.
The friend said he hasn’t spoken to a single Academy member who’s given Black Panther the time of day or even MENTIONED it. He wonders if it can win without a level of noticeable enthusiasm. If Black Panther is going to take the Best Picture Oscar it has to build momentum with the Critics Choice and Golden Globes, and later the guilds. But he’s not seeing that either, he said. He allowed that he might be talking to the wrong folks.
HE REPLY: Okay, check. But are you talking to the New Academy Kidz along with the aging liberal virtue-signalling crowd (i.e., the bunch that actually wanted Get Out to win the Best Picture Oscar last year)? These people are genre-friendly and seemingly indifferent to the concept of “magical swoon cinema for its own sake”, and they’re a significant voting block.
What are you sensing serious love for?
I don’t think Vice has the horses. Christian Bale is brilliant, of course, but the film feels SNL-ish to some.
The Favourite is a good, sharply written, visually striking and well acted film for the first two-thirds but flattens out during final third — it doesn’t pivot or deepen or deliver richer cards. Or chords.
And please don’t insist upon A Star Is Born. Very winning during first half, but it loses the charm during the second half. (My affection ceased during the “URINE TROUBLE, MISTER!” Grammy awards scene.). Bradley back-pat for arguably delivering the best version of this old crusty Hollywood tale, but it’s still an old crusty Hollywood tale.
If Roma wins, fine. It’s a film to be completely proud of, and it’s a resonating Trump-pushback totem. All along I’ve been sensing admiration for Alfonso Cuaron and his exacting monochrome achievement, but something less than great cascading waves of passionate love. Smarthouse respect and some MEASURED love from people of education, taste and breeding, but not great waves of the stuff. Plus there’s the Netflix resentment from the old farts.
My personal top-tier favorite is Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War, but it’s strictly regarded as a foreign film contender.
My emotional fave is still Green Book, but the New Academy Kidz and p.c. purists have condemned it for not being woke enough — for being a “white savior” film. Which is COMPLETE BULLSHIT. It’s basically a parent-child road dramedy — Mahershala is the strict if constricted parent, Viggo is the casually brutish adolescent. It’s a spiritual growth and friendship film. I’m sorry but it’s the only contender that makes you actually feel good at the end.
My third favorite after Cold War and Green Book is Marielle Heller‘s Can You Ever Forgive Me? And Melissa McCarthy is FAR & AWAY the most deserving Best Actress contender who’s actually playing a lead role. The fact that right now I have Roma in fourth place on my personal fave list in no way indicates that I have any kind of beef with it. It’s a luscious and mesmerizing serving of elite smarthouse cinema, and a heartfelt tribute to a household saint.
You’re a seasoned screenwriter on retainer with a prominent studio-based producer. He/she is excited by the Nuro-designed, driverless, grocery-delivering bot, and has told you to either (a) integrate the bot into an existing thriller screenplay that’s waiting green-light status or (b) create your own thriller in which the bot is part of action sequence of some kind. He/she wants some ideas written out before he/she leaves for a lunch appointment at 12:30 pm. You have 90 minutes to deliver. And…?