Hillbilly Elegy director Ron Howard has endorsed a Ben Shapiro tweet that says the film has been trashed primarily for political-cultural reasons. That’s largely true, but I also believe that Amy Adams‘ performance as J.D. Vance‘s drug-addicted, drama-queen mom is a tough element to hang with. It’s been on Netflix for over two weeks now — what’s the general verdict of the HE commentariat?
There’s no question that (a) dying is a part of life, (b) we’re all gonna get there and (c) there’s nothing like a little wit and levity to brighten our awareness of the inevitable. And yes, Dick Johnson Is Dead has ratings of 100% and 89% on RT and Metacritic, respectively.
The user scores on these aggregate sites, however, are somewhat lower — 7.4 on Metacritic, 8.1 on RT. And that’s where the real truth lies.
Never, ever trust critics when it comes to films like this. They’re not allowed to be honest about their deep-down feelings about anything, and they know it and so do readers. Which is one of the ways in which Hollywood Elsewhere is different.
I watched my father and mother approach death and deal with the physical and mental decline aspects, and they weren’t especially happy about it, I can tell you. At the very end my mother just said “fuck it” and refused to eat or even talk with me or Jett when we last visited her. She just wanted it to be over.
I’m sorry but I’d rather contemplate life and all its myriad intrigues, expectations and pitfalls than the absolute finality of “lights out and adios muchachos”. And I really, really don’t want to submit to a meditation about old-age dementia.
If a deep dive into old age is required, give me Stephen Walker and Bob Cilman‘s Young At Heart (’07). I loved this film, and so did my mom when I finally managed to show it to her.
I’m not refusing to watch Dick Johnson Is Dead. I’m actually nudging myself in that direction by the very act of writing this riff.
But at the same time I’m a bit like Terrence Stamp in The Hit — philosophically or even serenely accepting of death on a certain level, but when the proverbial John Hurt figure pulls out the gun and says “we’re gonna do it now, Willy,” my reaction would be “not now…it’s tomorrow…we have to get to Paris first…you’re not doing the job…not now!”
Keith Watson’s Slant review: “A drawback to Johnson’s deliberately gimmicky style—which includes glitzy visions of Dick in heaven surrounded by notable personages as diverse as Frederick Douglass, Sigmund Freud, and Bruce Lee—is that it doesn’t allow us to access her father as a person. We feel his warmth and his abiding love for his family, but we learn relatively little of his personal history beyond the highlights.
“Dick’s attitude toward his own death is so breezy and his relationship with Johnson so frictionless that the film can at times feel remarkably undramatic.”
You have not laughed…nay, you have not lived until you’ve listened to the bilingual Tatiana pronounce The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.
“Laughed” in a hearty, approving way, I mean. As in “please mispronounce more movie titles this way.” As in “thank you so much.”
When Tatiana mentions the title of this 2018 Coen brothers anthology western, here’s roughly how it sounds: “Thuh Ballot of Bhastuhr Scrahhgz.”
May I say that The Ballad of Buster Scruggs plays nicely the second time? Once you’ve gotten past the initial disappointment, it’s very pleasurable to sit through.
My initial reaction: “Diverting, amusing, first-rate chops, 132 minutes, good but ‘minor,’ etc. I’m calling it the Coen’s ‘death film’ as quite a few characters get killed in it, and some with the same exact wound.”
Over the last few days the pre-holiday plea (from Joe Biden and Dr. Fauci, among others) has been to please keep Thanksgiving dinners to immediate family. Don’t flirt with spreading the virus, show a little discipline, etc. As Tatiana and I were walking down Nowita Place toward Venice Beach a few hours ago we came upon this mixed gathering of at least…oh, 20 or 25 people, I’d say. Outdoors, yes, but almost all were congregating inside or on the sunporch before the food was served. No masks, no distancing, no nothin’.
I apologize for previously implying that only hinterland righties would be dumb enough to do something like this in the face of spiking infections.
N.Y. Times film critics A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis have authored a piece titled “The 25 Greatest Actors of the 21st Century (So Far)“. My immediate impression was that it’s mainly an opportunity for Tony and Manohla to demonstrate how profoundly aroused and motivated they are by the woke political winds that are currently blowing through urban culture.
Leaving aside the half-smirking inclusion of Keanu Reeves and Melissa McCarthy, neither of whom are regarded as even semi-major actors by anyone (even though both are respected**), Tony and Manohla apparently picked their faves from a woke checklist perspective. A couple of seasoned critics making an honest effort to be as inclusive as possible or a pair of eloquent gladhanders sucking up to the p.c. vanguard?
Tony and Manohla kept their white cisgender male honorees down to four (five if you count Reeves). They named 12 women if you count McCarthy. They selected two South Korean actors and one from China. (Friendo: “Two Korean actors? You’d almost think this list was drawn up by LAFCA!”) They saluted four African American actors, but in the case of Mahershala Ali were careful to thoroughly trash Green Book. And they love the over-exposed Nicole Kidman, who’s listed fifth from the top. They included Wes Studi, a seasoned Native American whose coolest performance was in Michael Mann‘s Heat. And three with south-of-the-border origins — Oscar Isaac, Gael Garcia Bernal and Sonia Braga.
The honorees, in this order, are Denzel Washington, Isabelle Huppert, Daniel Day Lewis, Keanu Reeves, Nicole Kidman, Song Kang Ho, Toni Servillo, Zhao Tao, Viola Davis, Saoirse Ronan, Julianne Moore, Joaquin Phoenix, Tilda Swinton, Oscar Isaac, Michael B. Jordan, Kim Min-hee, Alfred Woodard, Willem Dafoe, Wes Studi, Rob Morgan, Catherine Deneuve, Melissa McCarthy, Mahershala Ali, Sonia Braga and Gael Garcia Bernal.
I seriously love the way Scott goes through pretzel contortions to praise Ali while hating on Green Book — i.e., “Mahershala was great despite Green Book being a piece of shit,” he basically says. Wrong — Mahershala’s Best Actor Oscar and Green Book’s Best Picture win happened for the same reason — carefully applied, just-right burnishings of an emotionally poignant period piece.
Tony and Manohla definitely dropped the ball by ignoring Leonardo DiCaprio‘s 21st Century output, if only for his wowser-mythical Wolf of Wall Street performance. Not to mention his work in The Revenant and The Departed.
And what about Meryl Streep, for God’s sake? Her greatest 21st Century performances would minimally include seven — Adaptation, A Prairie Home Companion, The Devil Wears Prada, Doubt, The Iron Lady, August: Osage County and The Post…how could they have possibly blown her off?
Ditto Phillip Seymour Hoffman in all the well-buffed films he made this century…Almost Famous, The 25th Hour, Capote, Charlie Wilson’s War, Doubt, Moneyball, The Master, A Most Wanted Man. A friend says that PSH “seems to have been left off by dint of being dead, as apparently they limited the pool of candidates to living actors.” HE response: That’s not fair, is it? PSH was on the planet for the first 13 years of this century (or roughly two-thirds of the first two decades) so why should he be dismissed because he’s gone? Quality, not quantity…right?
Casey Affleck‘s Oscar-winning performance in Manchester By The Sea…this alone plus his fascinating turns in Gone Baby Gone, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Out of the Furnace and The Assassination of Jesse James by The Coward Robert Ford earn him a place on this list. Oh, wait, sorry, I forgot…Casey was accused of boorish sexual behavior by a couple of female coworkers (resulting in a cash payout), which necessitates a #MeToo penalty.
And what about Adrien Brody‘s emotionally devastating, less-is-more performance in The Pianist? Naaah…Roman Polanski‘s regarded as a bad person so that cancels out Adrien.
Critic friendo: “You see what happened, right? White men relegated to the sidelines (in an ‘Oooohhh, take that!’ way). And what about Brad Pitt?
“[The list is] presented as a mixed international bag, but it’s clearly conceived to be almost exclusively women and POC. It’s a game, a stunt, a woke conceit. It’s so patronizing: They’re handing out fake trophies to the ‘disenfranchised,’ and want a pat on the back for doing so. What could be more…white?”
** McCarthy is especially admired for Can You Ever Forgive Me?
I thought I might quit early and try to ease into the holiday mood, odd as that sounds. That’ll involve picking up a couple of Thanksgiving dinners at Whole Foods or Gelson’s or wherever. And then taking a nice stroll down Nowita Place in Venice and then making our way down to the beach (I read somewhere that no more than half of those hanging out on the esplanade are wearing masks, if that) and sitting on the sand while Tatiana sips some complimentary Netflix champagne. (Thanks, Nicole!)
New movies used to be buzzy objects of interest. You’d watch the trailers, read some reviews, catch the all-medias or go to a plex to see it on opening weekend. That’s all gone now. This is how a movie opens these days. You read some reviews (maybe), watch a trailer on YouTube, and then glace at it as a clickable option on your Amazon main page. And that’s as far as it goes.
Either you instantly know (a) what film this shot is from, (b) who the actor is and (c) where the shot was taken…or you don’t.
Apocalypse Now aside, which of these top ’79 grosses do I have an interest in streaming? Or more honestly, which have I actually streamed? Answer: None of ’em. I wouldn’t mind re-watching Starting Over and The Onion Field, I suppose.
This extremely off-putting image is why I’ve never seen Bill Forsyth’s Housekeeping (’87). Obviously a lazy or shallow way to process a film by a director I admire, agreed, but the idea of sitting in a living room, placidly and serenely, while your house is flooding just turned me right the fuck off, and I never looked back.
Gunga Din has been one of HE’s all-time comfort films for a few decades, or at least since the launch of easy access in the ’90s. To me, Eduardo Ciannelli‘s “kill! kill! kill!” rant provides as much as inner warmth as any family gathering or plate of steaming, gravy-coated white meat, stuffing and broccoli. Simultaneously a brilliant example of expertly conceived Hollywood villainy (special props to dp Joseph August and the key lighting of Cianelli’s eyes) and a prime example of racist Hollywood demonizing of a non-white “other”.
From “Among Filmdom’s Wisest and Most Elegant Villains“, posted on 2.22.15: “Ciannelli‘s fanatical leader of the Thug rebellion is called a ‘tormenting fiend’ by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and is made to seem demonic in that famously lighted shot by dp Joseph August. But he’s easily the most principled, eloquent and courageous man in the film. Not to mention the most highly educated.
“And yet there’s an unlikely scene inside the temple that hinges on Ciannelli’s guru being unable to read English, despite his Oxford don bearing and his vast knowledge of world history. Otis Ferguson‘s review of George Stevens‘ 1939 adventure flick ripped it for being a racist and arrogant celebration of British colonial rule. And yet I’ve been emotionally touched and roused by this film all my life. The last half-hour of Gunga Din is perfect, but it ends with Sam Jaffe‘s Indian ‘bhisti’ basking in post-mortem nirvana over having been accepted as a British soldier.
“Which raises a question: Which films have you admired or even loved despite knowing they stand for the wrong things and/or tell appalling lies about the way things are?”
Unless you’re a rural denialist who’s invited the whole clan over for a gluttonous, ten-course. hours-long holiday soirée…Fauci be damned. In which case thanks for spreading and prolonging.
Happy Sliced Turkey Breast with Micro-Waved, Deli-Prepared Gravy plus Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Green Giant or Del Monte Peas and Beans.
Seriously…Happy No-Congregation, Welcome To The New Lockdown, Love and Mercy, Crank Up The Movie Apps And We’ll See You All Next Year Thanksgiving!
Thank God Trump has decisively lost and will soon be out of power. May those who voted for him three weeks ago be haunted and kept awake by this act of sociopathic denial and nihilism for years if not decades to come…you reprehensible bastards.
Hollywood Elsewhere’s 32G Apple TV device was working and then not working, and then working again. Last night it froze again. Today I rebooted the damn thing and it returned to full functionality. Temporarily, I mean. Something is clearly wrong. It’s only two and a half years old, but I’m thinking that a 64G model won’t freeze as much (or freeze at all) because it’s bigger and brawnier.
Right now I’m looking for Black Friday deals that might allow me to purchase a 64G for less than the standard $200.00. Somebody said something about Walmart.
Posted on 11.12.20: Sometime in early ’18 I bought a 32G 4K Apple TV device. It’s a great little platform. All the basic apps plus Apple TV, iTunes movies and music, YouTube…all of it. Sorry but I liked it so much that very soon after I stopped paying for Roku usage.
Two or three days ago the Apple player stopped working. It froze — no home page, no nothing. My TV guy said “try pressing the home button for about 10 seconds, and if that doesn’t work, unplug it for 30 seconds and then plug it back in.” I did both…nothing. Second time, zip. I repeated these steps again last night…flatline.
Today I unplugged it one more time, removing both the power cord and the HDMI cable. A minute later I plugged them back in, and for whatever fickle-ass reason the little black box was suddenly working again.
- All Hail Tom White, Taciturn Hero of “Killers of the Flower Moon”
Roughly two months ago a very early draft of Eric Roth‘s screenplay for Killers of the Flower Moon (dated 2.20.17,...More »