The prevailing assumption right now (and please correct if I’m missing something) is that the Best Actor Oscar is Joaquin Phoenix’s to lose. The Adam Driver talk, which will probably re-surge over the next few days with Marriage Story opening on 11.6, began during the Telluride Film Festival but has since leveled out. I realize that Uncut Gems is not a typical Academy-friendly film, but Adam Sandler‘s submission to his Diamond district gambling junkie character is breathtaking — one of the all-time great crazy goon performances with manic energy to burn. (I saw it again two or three nights ago, and was all the more impressed.) Robert De Niro‘s Irishman lead isn’t as much of a knockout as Al Pacino‘s Jimmy Hoffa, agreed, but he can’t be denied a Best Actor nom, especially for his ownage of the final 30 to 40 minutes. It was painful to take Pain and Glory‘s Antonio Banderas out of the fifth slot, but The Two Popes is a popular film with the 50-plus crowd, and the acting honors belong mostly to Jonathan Pryce.
The Joker stairs have become a tourist destination, starting around two or three weeks ago. They’re located at 1165 Shakespeare Avenue in the Bronx. The bottom of the concrete staircase, I mean. The peak is located at the juncture of Anderson Ave. and West 167th Street. Take the 4, B or D line north to 167th Street station. Six blocks north of Yankee Stadium. It’s actually called “Joker stairs” on Google maps.
The last time Hollywood Elsewhere visited a Bronx location via subway was…never. I drove down from Connecticut to a Yankee game with some friends in ’78 or ’79…something like that. If I was in the NYC area I’d probably take a pass.
I was initially turned on by Beto O’Rourke‘s attempt to win Ted Cruz‘s U.S. Senate seat — the youthful elan, the progressive firebrand thing, the humanist current, skateboarding in the parking lot, a tall Bobby Kennedy, etc. And then came the announcement of his Presidential candidacy and that Vanity Fair cover. He seemed destined to have a serious impact. A lot people were sensing this.
But I switched horses when Pete Buttigieg came along. Pete (who is now surging in Iowa polling) struck me as a much more formidable candidate. Suddenly Beto didn’t seem like that gangly rockstar from Texas riding a propulsive groundswell, etc.
Pete aside, the thing that fundamentally killed my Beto allegiance was that he apologized too much to the wokesters. “I’m sorry, so sorry, please forgive me” — too willing to grovel. I’m not suggesting that Beto’s spine is a bit soft, but a vague instinctual suspicion along these lines began to take hold, and I began to feel a certain distance. His compassionate open-border views on immigration were untempered, it seemed, by even a touch of realpolitik pragmatism. He just didn’t seem to have that steady, straight from the shoulder, “this is who I am, take it or leave it” quality. He expressed his beliefs with skill and feeling, but he seemed to be more of an emotional vibe guy than anything else.
And then Beto surged in the early August aftermath of the El Paso and Dayton shootings, and I admired his zeal about automatic-weaponas, and his sudden willingness to pepper his views with profanity while talking to reporters. For the first time he seemed to have thrown away caution; he seemed willing to die on a hill. I admired his declaration that he would, if elected, try to
confiscate buy back automatic weapons. Suddenly he didn’t seem wussy. A fresh infusion of fibre.
But that faded after a few days, and Beto never took off. People in my corner liked Pete better — that was mainly it. That and money. Pete and Beto were selling the same generational turnover thing, more or less, but Pete seems more substantive.
I never figured Beto would withdraw before Corey Booker, Julian Castro or Andrew Yang. Who will drop out next? How long can Kamala Harris last?
It’s too bad Beto won’t be running again for the U.S. Senate seat that is currently held by Republican John Cornyn.
All great or extra-impact films say something that audiences recognize as truthful — things they’ve learned and accepted through their own travails, and which prompt a muttering of at least two things — (a) “Yup, that’s how it is, all right” and (b) “this movie knows what goes.”
The Social Network said that even cold-hearted geniuses have emotional needs and vulnerabilities. The Godfather, Part II said that close-knit families were drifting aport and falling into spiritual lethargy, especially given the fact that mafia karma is a bitch. High Noon says you can’t trust your fair-weather friends — only yourself. The Spy Who Came In From The Cold says that little people will always get squashed in the eternal battles between ruthless governments. Prince of The City says that you can’t purify your soul without ratting out your friends so live with your misdeeds. Shane says that being a gunslinger is a stain that can’t be erased. Sunset Boulevard says we all need to live in the present and that constantly looking back will kill you. North by Northwest says you can’t live a life of shallow, affluent diversion — that you have to man up and do the brave and noble thing. Raging Bull says that if you live like an animal, you’ll end up a lonely animal in a dressing room. Unforgiven says you can’t escape your basic nature, and that no one blows guys away like snarling Clint.
The Irishman says a lot of things, but the most profound takeaway is you can’t lie to your children or keep them at arm’s length. Well, you can but at your peril. Because old age, walking canes, Depends and death are just around the corner, and you might want a caring someone to talk to and hold your hand during the downswirl. Nobody gets out of life alive.
Consider the following capsule assessment of texasartfilm.net‘s Dustin Chase: “Two good performances and some technical wizardry doesn’t warrant [The Irishman‘s] excessive running time and crippled pacing. [For it] gives the audience very little to take with them or apply to their own lives.”
The natural, obvious, fall-on-the-floor response is “WHAT?” Followed by “what kind of a life has Dustin Chase lived?” God knows, but it hasn’t involved much in the way of mortal meditation. When I staggered out of that first Irishman press screening everyone was feeling gut-punched and gobsmacked by those last 30 to 40 minutes. An older actress friend had tears in her eyes.
And “two good performances”? Try 11 or 12, minimally — Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Stephen Graham, Marin Ireland and the wordless Anna Paquin are the stuff of instant relish and extra-level pulverizing. Not to mention Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Kathrine Narducci, Domenick Lombardozzi as “Fat Tony” Salerno, Sebastian Maniscalco as “Crazy Joe” Gallo, etc. Everyone in this film is perfect. The awareness that you’re watching actors giving performances goes right out the window almost immediately. You’re just there and so are they and vice versa.
“Excessive running time“? The Irishman feels like two, maybe two and a half hours, max.
“Crippled pacing”? Who is this guy?
If you ask me this Irishman scene is as choice and classically hilarious as Joe Pesci‘s “what…I’m a clown, I amuse you?” scene in Goodfellas. It’s about Al Pacino‘s Jimmy Hoffa debating Stephen Graham‘s Anthony Provenzano about business-meeting etiquette.
I’m with Pacino — you wear a suit or at least a sport jacket to a meeting (and not beach shorts and white loafers), and you can’t be late by more than ten minutes. Heavy traffic is an allowable excuse for a five or ten-minute delay, maybe, but not fifteen. Fifteen minutes late means “no offense but I didn’t care that much about being on time…anyway I’m here so whaddaya whaddaya?”
The Irishman‘s three-and-a-half week exhibition experience begins today. (Streaming will begin on Wednesday, 11.27.) New York and Los Angeles are well served, of course, and other major cities (Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle) have a booking or two. But major cities in many other regions do not. Some states have been totally blanked.
When Netflix bookers failed to cut deals with major exhibitors, they were honorably obliged to find indie exhibition playdates that would reach culturally attuned audiences in big cities. We’re talking about a blue-chip, critically-approved Martin Scorsese masterpiece here. What’s the point of showing a film of this calibre in Podunk burghs while at the same time blowing off audiences in big, wealthy, culturally aspiring hives?
Here’s a rundown of where The Irishman is playing nationwide. No bookings at all in at least 22 states — Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Vermont, Virginia, Rhode Island, Kansas, Kentucky, Iowa, South and North Carolina, South and North Dakota, Minnesota, Mississippi, Maine, Nevada, New Mexico, New Hampshire or Tennessee. (I may have missed a state or two.)
In the entire state of Texas The Irishman is playing in exactly one theatre in Dallas. Netflix couldn’t find a booking in the People’s Republic of Austin? The Alamo Drafthouse guys weren’t interested?
And Netflix blew off the entire east coast of Florida to book it in Bonita Springs, a Gulf of Mexico resort town.
A perfect Miami venue would have been the historic, independently owned Tower Theatre (1508 SW 8th St.). Right now Pedro Almodovar‘s Pain and Glory is playing there along with Pierre Salvadori‘s The Trouble With You. Local Scorsese fanatics have no choice but to drive across the state for two hours, rent a motel room in Bonita Springs, and then drive back the next day.
Are you telling me Netflix couldn’t find a single acceptable booking in the entire east coast strip of southern Florida? They couldn’t book it in Key West’s Tropic Cinema?
The evidence suggests that Netflix bookers simply didn’t give a damn about serving upmarket viewers. They adopted a scattershot dartboard approach and booked it whatever and however.
If they’d hired a seasoned indie exhibition veteran to oversee their bookings they could have hit the right cities and regions and reached out to the right audiences.