I was sitting at my desk about 25 minutes ago when I heard five or six shots fired. Bam-bam-bam-bam!…loud. I ignored it. Then six or seven shots followed — bam, bam, bam, bam bam bam! I walked outside to see what’s what, and saw there were cops everywhere (eight to ten cars, lights flashing) with guns drawn at the corner of Melrose and Huntley. I wanted to take photos but was told twice to get back inside for my safety. Two or three African American guys plus a caucasian blonde woman. Hands up, raise your T-shirt, drop to your knees. A loudspeaker telling someone to drop their weapon and get down. A couple of choppers flying overhead.
But hold upski a second. Because in the other corner we have The Hollywood Reporter‘s Scott Feinberg declaring that Chloe Zhao‘s Nomadland is “the first across-the-board Oscar contender of the unusual 2020-2021 season.”
Didn’t Feinberg see One Night in Miami? He probably did. It’s been streaming around since its Venice Film Festival debut. So why didn’t he call Regina King‘s film the first serious Oscar contender and Chloe Zhao‘s the second?
Feinberg: “Adapted by Zhao from Jessica Bruder‘s acclaimed 2017 non-fiction book of the same name, Nomadland paints a beautiful and haunting portrait of the ways in which many older Americans have been impacted by the Great Recession. And it features a leading turn by a never-better Frances McDormand that could well result in her becoming only the second person to accumulate as many as three best actress Oscars, after Katharine Hepburn, who won four.
“It’s hard to imagine a film that could better capture the zeitgeist — often a major consideration for members of the film Academy, conscious or not — than this portrait of mournful and weary resilience, which begs the question: is this really what has happened to America, the land of promise, and the American dream? It is set during the Obama years, but is just as much a comment on the Trump years, so it won’t be easy for either side to politicize it.
“The closest comparison that I can think of is the 1940 classic The Grapes of Wrath, which was adapted from John Steinbeck‘s story of people hit by hard times but passing by or surrounded by people in the same boat and therefore, perhaps, maintaining their dignity and their strength to carry on.”
Feinberg won’t say it, but I will. The ’20/’21 Oscar race is going to be strongly influenced by women, people of color and wokeness in general. The ideal Best Picture Oscar winner will ideally be directed by a woman (preferably by a woman of color like Zhao), and the least likely contenders for the Best Picture Oscar will probably be, unfair as it sounds, films primarily about white-guy realms. I suspect that Mank, a mostly-white-guy period film, may run into resistance because of this. If this doesn’t happen, great. But the wind is the wind.
Variety award-season columnist Clayton Davis was apparently floating on a cloud while writing his review of Regina King‘s One Night In Miami, calling it “the first solid Oscar contender to drop in the fall festival circuit.”
Okay, maybe it is, especially given the current woke criteria and all. But I saw it last night and I’m here to say “yep, good film in a disciplined and concentrated sort of way, but calm down.”
I don’t know how to explain it in so many words, but I somehow expected that a film about a February 1964 meeting between Cassius Clay, Malcolm X, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke in a Miami hotel room would amount to something more than what this movie conveys.
.One Night in Miami is a respectably decent translation of a good, thoughtful play about African American identity in the ’60s. But it’s not a great film or even a brilliant one. But it’s good enough in terms of observational fibre and social relevance, or at least the second half is. But the fact that it was directed by Regina King doesn’t make it any more or less than it actually is.
And for a film that largely (65% or 70%) takes place in a single hotel room, it visually underwhelms. Tami Reiker‘s cinematography doesn’t match the high water marks of Boris Kaufman‘s one-room lensing of 12 Angry Men or Glen MacWilliams‘ cinematography for Hitchcock’s Lifeboat.
Denzel Washington’s titular performance in Spike Lee‘s Malcolm X was a tougher and more resolute dude than Kingsley Ben-Adir‘s version. Malcolm won’t stop beating up on poor Sam Cooke, and he seems weak when he asks Cassius (“Cass”) to join him in breaking with Elijah Muhammad. And he weeps! Just not the solemn, heroic figure that I’ve been reading about all these years. And wasn’t he wearing that carefully trimmed Van Dyke beard in ‘64?
Good moment: When Cooke criticizes Malcolm for reacting in a cold, racially dismissive way when JFK was murdered (“The chickens coming home to roost”). Cooke says his mother cried over the news, and Clay says his momma cried too.
Leslie Odom, Jr. is quite good as Cooke, but I didn’t believe an early scene at the Copacabana in which the snooty white clientele reacts to Cooke’s singing with derision and rudeness. In ’64 Cook was known all over as a major-league crooner who had released a cavalcade of hits going back to ‘57. No way would an audience of uptown swells treat him like that. Even if they didn’t like his act, the middle-class politeness instinct is too embedded.
I felt the same contemptuous attitude toward whiteys in the Copa scene that Ava DuVernay showed when she invented that Selma scenario in which LBJ told J. Edgar Hoover to tape-record MLK’s sexual motel encounters in order to pressure him into not pushing for the Voting Rights Act. You’ll recall how Joseph Califano called b.s. on that.
The postscript reminds that Malcolm X was murdered by gunfire a year later, but it ignores Cooke’s death in Los Angeles less than a year later. That tells you that King is a bit of a spinner — she didn’t want to leave the audience with a downish, mystifying epilogue. But it happened.
Repeating: Clayton Davis did One Night in .Miami no favors by calling it Oscar-worthy.
Last night I watched the new 4K UHD Psycho Bluray disc, and I’m very sorry to report that portions of it are grainstormed all to hell, and I mean totally smothered in swarms of digital micro-mosquitoes.
There were complaints here and there about the previous Psycho Bluray being overly DNR’ed (digital noise reduction), and so the Universal Home Video grain monks (i.e., “the grainmakers”) went into the control room and took their revenge.
The older DNR’d Psycho Bluray (which I can no longer find on Amazon) is much more pleasing to the eye. Yes, I know that the DNR’ed look isn’t what the film really looked like when it came out of the lab in ’60, and I couldn’t care less. All the surfaces and textures look clean and smooth and ultra-detailed, but now the Universal gremlins have injected hundreds of billions of throbbing mosquitoes into this classic Hitchcock film.
Plus there are some scenes in the newbie that appear way too contrasty. Steer clear of the 4K version and stick with the 2010 Bluray. If you don’t own a copy, buy one now.
By the way: As noted earlier, the 4K Psycho includes some excised material that had never been available before, including a brief glimpse of Janet Leigh side-boob as Anthony Perkins watches her undress through a peephole.
Also: The knifing of Arbogast (Martin Balsam) at the bottom of the stairs now includes two or three extra stabbing strokes. Except the sound of Arbogast’s “arrhhwwghhhh!” is oddly delayed. The knife plunges in a couple of times, but he doesn’t go “arrhhwwghhhh!” until the third stab. Brilliant.
Note: The top video clip is an ECU of the Bates Motel parlor scene from the new 4K disc. The Egyptian mosquito grainstorm effect is obvious to the naked eye. The below video clip is an ECU of a scene from the 2010 Psycho Bluray — very little grain to speak of.