This has happened to me exactly twice in my life, but I live in fear of it happening again. I work very, very hard on the column. Always scanning, looking for triggers, drilling down, rewriting…always on the hunt for the mistake, the sentence that needs to rewritten or eliminated, whatever needs attention. Sometimes I overdo it. Sometimes I drink too much coffee or lemonade-flavored Monster or fail to get enough sleep, and as a result I’ve twice fogged out behind the wheel, as if I’m there but not there. I’ll spot a momentary danger of some kind (reckless driving, guy ahead of me suddenly braking, red light) but for some fatigue-related reason I won’t respond fast enough, because I’ve fallen into a kind of dream. And all of a sudden…shit!…almost a fender-bender. 99.8% of the time I’m the sharpest driver in the world (especially on the rumbling scooter hog), but when sneaky fatigue creeps in…well, I’ve said it.
Right after this portion of last night’s Rami Malek interview, Scott Feinberg brought up “the elephant in the room” — director Bryan Singer. I described Malek’s reaction last night — empathy for Singer’s alleged victims, a terse and steely dismissal of the director himself. We all understand the campaign narrative — Singer may have directed 90% of the film but he’s currently radioactive, so his contributions are dismissable.
It’s significant but unsurprising that the Santa Barbara Film Festival video team decided to lop off the portion of the interview in which Singer was discussed.
Earlier this evening Rami Malek and Scott Feinberg had a nice, easy chat on the stage of Santa Barbara’s Arlington theatre. Under the auspices of Roger Durling‘s Santa Barbara Film Festival. I had never really listened to Malek talk at length before, and I’m telling you he’s got it. He’s 37, educated, centered, gracious, confident, fairly wise for his years (he could be a guy in his mid 50s) and with a relaxed, sharp-toned voice. Plus he’s an excellent schmooze artist.
And I’m telling you he’s going to win the Best Actor Oscar. Okay, I don’t know anything but I can feel it. There’s a vibe around Malek. You should’ve seen the ridiculously long line to get into show tonight — down State and onto Sola and waaay down the block. In the rain. And the standing ovation when Malek came out…fuhgedaboudit.
We talked a bit during the after-party, and everything was cool and smooth. I had this idea that Rami’s kinda on the shortish side — he’s not. He’s 5′ 9″-ish, or only an inch shorter than the 5′ 10″ Freddie Mercury. And he’s friendly with my hairdresser, Phillip Rothschild. (They live near each other.)
By the way: Feinberg mentioned “the elephant in the room” — i.e., Bohemian Rhapsody director Bryan Singer. You could see Malek tightening at the mention. Most of what he said in response conveyed sympathy for Singer’s alleged victims. But he also said his relationship with Singer during the shoot was “not pleasant…at all.” He wouldn’t touch the subject beyond that, and who can blame him?
About ten days ago I spoke to a friend who’d seen Bart Freundlich‘s After The Wedding, which was about to open the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
I asked for a brief assessment, and he said, “It’s what they used to call a woman’s picture.”
When I mentioned this remark a couple of days later, a Sundance colleague bristled and shuddered. “That’s a very uncool term today,” he said. “Very perjorative, very demeaning.”
I agreed, of course, but with the understanding that his remark was valid mostly in militant p.c. circles. You probably can’t say “chick flick” either. No female journalist would dare to use either term unironically, but if a male journalist was dumb enough to do so, Film Twitter would skin him alive. This despite the fact that “woman’s film” has its own Wikipedia page as we speak.
It would be almost as bad as when Viggo Mortensen said the “n” word a couple of months ago.
But in reference to violent action flicks or anything directed by Michael Bay, we’re still allowed to say “high testosterone guy movie.” Nobody (least of all guys) will attack you for saying that. Mainly because guys aren’t in the middle of a cultural movement — their identities aren’t being progressively redefined.
Everyone liked Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody after it opened on 11.2.18, but nobody thought he’d be a serious Best Actor contender until he won two awards a short while ago — the Golden Globe award for Best Actor, Drama on 1.6.19, and then the SAG Award for Best Actor on 1.26.
Now there’s a better-than-even chance that Malek will beat out Vice‘s Christian Bale for the Best Actor Oscar.
Malek is being toasted tonight with the Santa Barbara Film Festival’s Outstanding Performer of the Year Award. Yesterday I wrote festival honcho Roger Durling (aka “Nick the Greek”) to ask when he decided to try and book Malek.
“When did you decide that he was festival-worthy?,” I asked. “Before or after the Globes?”
Before, Durling answered.
HE: “So you booked him because of the popularity of the film, and then you lucked out when his winning streak began at the Globes?”
Durling: “We were actually after him since September but his shooting schedule made it difficult to confirm.”
HE: “Since September? But Bohemian Rhapsody didn’t open until 11.2, and it didn’t even screen for industry and journalists until 10.6. Oh, I get it — you’re just a Queen freak, and you knew the local audience would show up in droves. It wasn’t an Oscar-centric call like with Glenn Close.”
Sorry for posting a late reaction to Tony Gilroy‘s Velvet Buzzsaw (Netflix, 2.1), an upscale foie gras horror film that I saw three or four days ago in Park City. My reaction is that I liked it well enough. At the very least I was mildly amused, mainly because it embraces an effete, arm’s-length approach to horror. Because elevated horror is right up Hollywood Elsewhere’s alley — “horror” as social metaphor in order to reflect some problematic aspect of present-day culture or whatever.
VB is a riff about greed among the phony-baloney denizens of the art world, and how a trove of spooky, recently-discovered paintings by a deceased madman are somehow able to kill their owners or, you know, anyone trying to profit off them in some way. As the Wiki synopsis says, it’s about “a supernatural force enacting revenge on those who have allowed their greed to get in the way of art.”
The only thing that kept me from loving Velvet Buzzsaw is that I don’t see what’s so awful about art dealers and critics behaving and talking like phonies, or trying to sell overpriced “art” to filthy rich suckers, or any other aspect of this game. If you’re dumb enough to pay through the nose for questionable art, that’s your fucking problem. I certainly have no issues with art-world hustlers trying to fleece your sorry ass.
So I didn’t mind Velvet Buzzsaw. I wasn’t knocked out or enthralled or turned on, but I liked it well enough. I especially liked Jake Gyllenhaal‘s bisexual art critic, Renee Russo‘s art dealer and John Malkovich‘s over-the-hill painter, but at the same time I couldn’t fathom why Gilroy cast Zawe Ashton, who falls under the dual headings of “who?” and “not arresting enough’, in a secondary role.
But I have to be even more honest and admit that nothing I have to say could match Glenn Kenny‘s 1.30 N.Y. Times review, which is so perfectly written I can barely stand it.
I kinda like the “big N” Netflix logo. I tried to find a YouTube capturing when I first noticed it a few months ago….zip.
SOME PERSONAL NEWS: Starting today there's a new logo animation before our originals. It shows the spectrum of stories, languages, fans, & creators that make Netflix beautiful — now on a velvety background to better set the mood.
And before you ask: no, the sound isn’t changing pic.twitter.com/itwYXRe6ZF
— See What's Next (@seewhatsnext) February 1, 2019
In Billy Wilder‘s Avanti! (’72), snippy businessman Jack Lemmon examines the family-owned Grand Hotel Excelsior (on the Island of Ischia on the Bay of Naples) as he checks in. Lemmon: “Well, it doesn’t look like a Hilton!” Desk manager: “I accept the compliment.”
Cut to January 2019, in the scenic beachside city of Santa Barbara…
For the last three or four years the Santa Barbara Int’l Film Festival has graciously gifted Hollywood Elsewhere with a swanky room at the Fess Parker DoubleTree Hotel (633 East Cabrillo Boulevard, Santa Barbara, CA 93103). I always regarded the Fess Parker as a little too sprawling and corporate-feeling, but the festival’s generosity was always appreciated.
Last April the somewhat unfortunate aspects of the Fess Parker were intensified when it re-opened as the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort. The Hilton folks subjected the property to “a multi-million dollar renovation,” but what that meant is that the place seems a little less homey (the main lobby has a chillier appearance). On top of which the Hilton attitude seems a tad greedy.
Under the Fess Parker regime a hotel guest could simply park his/her vehicle in a large gated lot — no biggie. The Hilton folks are now charging an extra $10 per day for parking privileges. (“Welcome to our restaurant! Oh, you want cloth napkins to place on your lap while eating? That’ll be an extra five bucks on your bill.”)
Like every hotel in the world, the Fess Parker guys would ask for a debit or credit card imprint to cover incidental expenses or potential damages. For my ten-day stay, the Hilton guys have preemptively withdrawn $375 from my bank account to cover same.
At the beginning of last night’s Outstanding Director tribute at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, board member Lynda Weinman introduced moderator Scott Feinberg, award-season columnist for The Hollywood Reporter. Well, not precisely. Weinman actually introduced a mythical figure named “Scott Feinman,” who perhaps represents a son, brother or father with whom Ms. Weinman has an unresolved relationship. (Go to 1:10 mark.)
Feinberg diplomatically ignored the faux pas, but let’s imagine for a second that Feinberg had a Jeffrey Wells-type personality or a Hollywood Elsewhere attitude. Which of the following responses would you have chosen as you stepped up to the podium?
Option #1: “Thank you, Lynda Feinberg, for such a kind and gracious introduction.”
Option #2: “Thanks, Lynda. (clears throat) Uhm…Scott Feinman. Feinman. Oh, I get it. Linda’s saying that she regards me as a fine fellow!”
Option #3: “Thank you, Lynda. I like that last name — Feinman. It has a ring.”
Hollywood Elsewhere attended a Santa Barbara Int’l Film Festival tribute to the five gents nominated for the Best Director Oscar — Roma‘s Alfonso Cuaron, Vice‘s Adam McKay, BlacKkKlansman‘s Spike Lee, Cold War‘s Pawel Pawlikowski and The Favourite‘s Yorgos Lanthimos. The moderator was Hollywood Reporter columnist Scott Feinberg. SBIFF board member Linda Weinman introduced him as Scott “Feinman.”
The evening’s tone was jovial, jaunty, collegial. Who seemed the most likable? All of them. Everyone had fun, everyone joshed, everyone smiled and quipped. For my money Lee had the most vivid answers. (My favorite: “It’s hard to make even a bad movie.”) Hollywood Elsewhere regrets to note that Lanthimos was the only director who wore sneakers with white midsoles, a 21st Century shoe design that I’ve previously described as “whitesides.”
(l. to r.) Scott Feinberg, Adam McKay, Pawel Pawlikowski, Alfonso Cuaron, Yorgos Lanthimos, Spike Lee.
It’s very nice — a relief — to attend a well-run, first-rate film festival that treats you with respect and even affection. Unlike (ahem) a certain lefty-progressive Stalinist festival with a passion for diversity and under-represented critics, and a stated concern about the prevalence of seasoned white-guy critics.
SBIFF director Roger Durling interviewing Alfonso Cuaron following a special screening of Roma at Santa Barbara’s Lobero theatre — Thursday, 1.31, 6:25 pm.
Yorgos Lanthimos’ footwear during Directors Tribute at Arlongton theatre.