“It took President Trump 601 days to top 5,000 false and misleading claims in The Fact Checker’s database, an average of eight claims a day. But on April 26, just 226 days later, the President crossed the 10,000 mark — an average of nearly 23 claims a day in this seven-month period, which included the many rallies he held before the midterm elections, the partial government shutdown over his promised border wall and the release of the special counsel’s report on Russian interference in the presidential election.” — from “President Trump has made more than 10,000 false or misleading claims,” a 4.29 Washington Post report by Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly.
The two greatest Nebraska-born auteurs of the last 100 years are surely the late Harold Lloyd and the alive-and-well Alexander Payne. Different world views and approaches to cinema, of course — a brilliant physical comedian and a brainy, low-key dramatist with a wry sense of humor — so there’s no need to compare the two. Geographical origins mean nothing in the greater schemes.
But if someone insisted upon comparing them, who would be the greater, more formidable talent in the eyes of the Movie Godz? And who would be the “winner” if the same question was put to Joe and Jane Popcorn?
The answer, of course, is that the Movie Godz would side with Lloyd because of his physically inventive comic scenarios (i.e., that hanging-from-a-clock shot from Safety Last) while Joe and Jane would choose Payne because of Election and Sideways, and because they’ve probably never even seen a clip from a Harold Lloyd film, much less one from beginning to end.
It doesn’t matter how good you are or were — all that matters is (a) what people remember and (b) the quality of the biographies or documentaries made about your work.
I was thinking about Payne this morning because the 20th anniversary of Election (which is either his best or second-best film — you decide) is only a few days off. Payne has been a fully respected, brand-name director since Citizen Ruth, but he’s touched greatness only twice — with Election and Sideways (’04). Basically he was a beneficiary of what turned out to be a five-year hot streak.
Artists are merely channellers or conduits of creative insight and energy. They don’t get to choose when their output is going to be brilliant or mezzo-mezzo or disappointing. All they can do is keeping pumping the handle and hope for the best.
Payne exuded an almost wizard-like aura after Election, but after everyone saw About Schmidt (’02) the consensus was that he’d lost his touch. Then be bounced back with the glorious Sideways.
Seven years later Payne came up with The Descendants, which everyone found fairly exceptional and rooted in real-people behavior (it was a solid 8 or even an 8.5) even if they privately muttered that it wasn’t quite on the level of Sideways (9) or Election (9.5). Two years later he delivered the Oscar-nominated but vaguely underwhelming Nebraska (7.5)). Then he came up with Downsizing (5.5), which had a brilliant first act but collapsed somewhere around the halfway mark.
If there’s such a thing as a dry Nebraskan aesthetic, Payne is the emblem of this. (I think. Probably.) I’m not sure I know enough about Lloyd to say that he thought or wrote or performed like a Nebraskan; nor am I certain if “Nebraskan” means anything in the realm of creative endeavor. I do know that as a producer-performer Lloyd had a personal stamp, and that he enjoyed a six- or seven-year peak period from Safety Last (’23) to Welcome Danger (’29).
This is one of the most hare-brained things I’ve ever written.
I’ve been wondering why James Gray‘s Ad Astra — a hard-luck, behind-the-eight-ball sci-fi movie if I ever heard of one — hasn’t been screening despite Wikipedia, IMDB and Box-Office Mojo all reporting an opening date of 5.24.19.
The answer is that Ad Astra, a father-son, space-travel, Heart of Darkness-like drama with Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Donald Sutherland and Jamie Kennedy, isn’t opening in May. The latest is that it’ll “most likely premiere at Venice,” according to a distribution exec.
The 5.24 date was announced last October. But here we are less than a month away and there’s no trailer, no screenings…nothing. That’s because the Disney-Fox transition has slowed down the usual process, and so no one thought to tell Wikipedia, IMDB and Box Office Mojo to change the 5.24 date to “sometime in the fall of ’19.”
Ad Astra was made for only $50 million. For a film of this scope (astronaut space adventure, other realms and universes, etc.) that’s a nickle-and-dime budget.
Last February Gray was asked what were the odds that Ad Astra might show up at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.
“We’re trying, we’re certainly hopeful,” Gray replied. “The issue is a little bit out of our hands ’cause the shots come in from the VFX houses and right now our delivery date is late April early May, which is really, really cutting it close. You want your visual effects to be so good that nobody thinks about them, that people don’t think of them as visual effects.”
A Washington Post-ABC News poll says that 54% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents have no particular preference for any candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, Joe Biden included.
Think about that for five or ten seconds. For months and months it’s been “Biden and Bernie in front, Biden and Bernie in front, Biden and Bernie in front” and yet — and yet! — 54% of likely Democratic voters are saying “no one in particular” when asked to name a candidate they currently support.
This means that support for Biden is soft. It means the majority is still sniffing around and kicking the tires with no strong passion for anyone.
Until yesterday I hadn’t realized that Kamala Harris is only 5′ 2″. I’m sorry but that changes things slightly. Hillary Clinton (5’4″ or 5’5″) appeared to be fairly short in her debates with the 6’2″ Trump, but Kamala is two inches shorter. That’s visually worrisome.
Beto O’Rourke is obviously going through a rough patch, but he’s the only front-polling Democratic candidate who is clearly taller than Orange Cheeto. He’s got him by two if not three inches. Don’t kid yourself: One of the reasons that Michael Dukakis lost to George H.W. Bush (Willie Horton and tank video aside) is that fact that next to Bush he looked like Rocky the Squirrel.
1:15 pm update: Variety‘s Cynthia Littleton is reporting that director John Singleton has died after being taken off life support.
Earlier: 12 days after suffering a stroke and then slipping into a coma, Boyz in the Hood director and TV producer John Singleton, 51, has apparently come to the end of the road. It was announced this morning that he’ll be taken off life support. Which probably means what it seems to mean.
The 23 year-old Singleton hit the mother lode in mid-1991 with the release of Boyz In The Hood, a first-rate South Central drama costarring Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding Jr., Morris Chestnut, Laurence Fishburne, Nia Long, Regina King and Angela Bassett. For the 64th Academy Awards Singleton was nominated for Best Director (making him the youngest to ever be so nominated) and Best Original Screenplay.
Lamentably, Boyz in the Hood remained Singleton’s only gold-standard achievement. Over the last 28 years he never matched it, much less made something better.
It was after seeing his Boyz followup, Poetic Justice (’93) with Janet Jackson in the lead, that I realized Singleton would at best be looking at an uncertain, up-and-down career. Poetic Justice was one of the worst titles ever used by anyone n the history of motion pictures, as Jackson’s character, a hairdresser with a gift for poetry, was named Justice. A friend remarked at the time that this was like Clint Eastwood‘s character in Unforgiven being named “Forgiven.”
Singleton also directed Higher Learning (’95), Baby Boy (’01), Rosewood (’97) Shaft (’00), 2 Fast 2 Furious (’03) and Four Brothers (’05).
Singleton family statement: “We are grateful to his fans, friends and colleagues for the outpouring of love and prayers during this incredibly difficult time. We want to thank all the doctors at Cedars Sinai for the impeccable care he received.”
Littleton reports that the statement also cited Singleton’s history of dealing with hypertension, or high blood pressure that places great strain on heart functions.