When this or that celebrity expresses strong disapproval of some person or policy or behavior, the tabloids constantly use the transitive verb “slam”. To slam someone is to assault them with the verbal equivalent of a right cross…right? Except when criticisms are voiced or more often tweeted, they often feel more like taunts or glares or jabs. HE “slam” substitutes: backhand, side-eye, upbraid, zing, reproach, poke, scold, diss, badmouth, stiff-arm, ding.
Attorney General William Barr, amply defined as Orange Plague‘s toady, enabler, spinner, protector and personal grudgemeister, has been whacked for not being sufficiently slavish and obsequious over the last few weeks.
Sin #1 was Barr’s refusal to officially agree with Trump’s bullshit claims of massive voting fraud in battleground states.
Sin #2, as reported last week by The Wall Street Journal, was Barr’s decision to keep the the Justice Department’s investigations into Hunter Biden under wraps. Trump allegedly believes that had this been made public, the 11.3 election might have swung in his favor.
Oh, and the electoral college officially ratified Joe Biden‘s win. That happened too.
I never knew any Vinnie Barbarino or Tony Manero “borough” types in the mid ’70s, but I’d known a few Italian-American guys during my painful upbringing in Westfield, New Jersey. They proudly called themselves “guineas”, wore pegged pants and pointy black leather lace-ups, radiated pugnacious vibes and seemed to live in their own angry little world.
And I knew that the bridge-and-tunnel chumps who came into Manhattan on weekends in the late ’70s, the ones who were too thick to realize that their chances of getting into Studio 54 were completely nil…those razor-cut slash polyester goons who radiated sartorial cluelessness in so many ways, and thereby indicating a certain myopic mindset…I knew these guys.
And so I believed Nik Cohn‘s “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night,” the 6.7.76 New York cover story that soon became the basis for Robert Stigwood and John Badham‘s Saturday Night Fever, which became a huge hit and cultural earth-shaker after opening on 12.14.77.
I loved the 2001 Odyssey dance sequences as much as the next guy, but I wasn’t a fan of the film itself, largely because I found John Travolta‘s Tony Manero an impossible asshole — chilly, closed off.
Yes, I know — that was who and what he was, being based on the “Vincent” character Cohn had written about and so on. But where was it written that I had to like Manero’s company?
I bought a ticket to see Badham’s film at Westport’s Post Cinema just before Christmas of ’77. I wanted to have an interesting and perhaps an eye-opening time, but almost immediately I was saying to myself “I have to hang out with this asshole?” On top of which FUCK DISCO…that was one of my foundational beliefs at the time.
What a shock, therefore, to discover 20 years later that Cohn had basically “piped” the New York cover story. He’d done a little research in Bay Ridge and poked around and talked to a few locals, but had more or less made it up.
And yet Cohn’s article felt genuine. I totally recognized (or felt that I recognized) his observations about a certain strata of young, under-educated Italian-American guys in their late teens and early 20s and their dead-end jobs and whatnot…it seemed to convey certain basic impressions of borough guys of that era. I bought it and so did Hollywood, Stigwood, Badham, Travolta and, down the road, tens of millions of fans of the film.
It just went to show that fiction could masquerade as honest reportage and vice versa. I re-read Cohn’s piece last night after watching the Bee Gees doc, and I had a good time with it. Even knowing about Cohn having admitted the truth in ’96, I bought it all the same. Good writing is good writing.
The competition henceforth is between a Democratic party, a party that believes in democracy, vs. an autocratic party of bumblefuck-kowtowing Alamo defenders…rubes determined to use their last reserves of gunpowder to fight the leftist Khmer Rouge comintern, the white cis male-hating #MeToo brigade, the BLM “defund the police” store trashers, etc.
Last night I caught Frank Marshall‘s How Can You Mend A Broken Heart? (HBO), the 111-minute Bee Gees doc. It’s a kick and a ride…always interesting, finely crafted…a deep-drill exploration slash celebration of the Brothers Gibb and their whitewater journey through the bruising rapids of ’60s and ’70s pop progression invention.
The BeeGees were all but drummed out of the business in the wake of the anti-disco backlash of ’79 and ’80 (one of my proudest all-time possessions was a black, Euro-style “Death to Disco” T-shirt) but they were fairly awesome in their spotty, in-and-out, up-and-down fashion.
I became a fan with ’67’s “New York Mining Disaster 1941” and “To Love Somebody,” and stayed on through “Lonely Days, Lonely Nights” (’70). Then I dropped out for a bit (or they dropped out rather), and then we reconnected with Main Course, their 1975 album that included “Jive Talkin'” and “Nights on Broadway.”
But I permanently checked out with the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack album. Hah-hah-hah-hah…hated that album, hated that album.
Marshall’s direction of the doc is sharp and fleet and comprehensive…the doc does almost everything you want it do and more, but that “almost” constitutes a major asterisk.
I’m referring to the fact that the voice and vantage point of 74 year-old Barry Gibb, the only surviving brother of the original trio (Maurice passed in ’03, Robin in ’12), is the dominant factor. The doc could (and perhaps should) have been titled Barry’s Story, As Told to Frank Marshall.
And so the constant friction between Barry and Robin, both personally and professionally over four or five decades, is downplayed. And, as I mentioned last Friday, the the big-screen debacle that was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the 1978 musical fantasy that starred the Brothers Gibb, is completely omitted. Because Barry said so.
For a doc that’s earned your trust and admiration for not hedging or playing games, the refusal to deal with this catastrophe iis like…what?
And yet the doc doesn’t shy away from the anti-disco thing, which was also ruinous for the group because of the Fever association. As long as Marshall and Gibb are allowing that ’78, ’79 and early ’80 ushered in the dark times, why not simply acknowledge the Sgt. Pepper calamity? So strange.
I’m especially glad for last night’s viewing because I hadn’t listened to “Nights on Broadway” for decades. I fell for it all over again.
I love the story about how the song, recorded in Miami, was originally called “Lights on Broadway”, and how Atlantic Records Ahmet Ertegun, upon hearing this early version, told them “no way guys…the song has to allude to wild nocturnal behavior and great sex and toots of cocaine.” And so “Lights” became “Nights.” And then Barry added some falsetto for the chorus, and suddenly they had this whole falsetto thing going, which became their signature.
The doc’s final line — Barry telling Frank that he would trade all the hits if his brothers could somehow return from the great beyond — is touching, and it feels right to end the film on this note. But I don’t think Barry honestly meant it. I think he just said it because it was in his aging heart at the moment, but serious, major-league artists almost never “nice” and “gentle” their way into fame and fortune. They make it to the top because of a burning drive and hunger, and the tension and turbulence that went along with that…it’s all part of the same package, the same psychological soup.
It may sound vaguely disrespectful or even dismissive to state that the career of John le Carre, the spy-novel maestro whose given name was David Cornwell, peaked with the publishing of his third novel, “The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.”
Le Carre was a brilliant spinner of complex, morally ambivalent intelligence tales — an amazingly shrewd and skillful novelist, and a brilliant story strategist. But no Le Carre book had a greater impact than “TSWCIFTC”.
And from this came the excellent movie adaptation from director Martin Ritt and star Richard Burton as Alec Leamas, a British agent who pretends to defect in order to bring about the murder of a malevolent East German agent. Le Carre’s fake-out ending is the greatest in the history of espionage thrillers, bar none.
I’ve always felt slightly under-served by the ending of “Smiley’s People”, in which Moscow Center honcho Karla is forced to defect and surrender to British intelligence in Berlin.
It wasn’t the finale itself that bothered me (far from it) but the fact that Le Carre didn’t provide an extra chapter or two about what happened after Karla crossed over. I needed to decompress and contemplate the whole history and ramifications. I needed to know what Karla told the British “Circus” boys, where he wound up living, how his schizophrenic daughter fared, and so on.
Cornwell also penned the highly respected “The Looking Glass War” (’65), “The Little Drummer Girl” (’83), “The Night Manager” (’93), “The Tailor of Panama” (’96), “The Constant Gardener” (’01), “A Most Wanted Man” (’08) and “Our Kind of Traitor” (’10)
In selecting their 2020 award-winners, the Boston Society of Film Critics did the more-or-less expected thing by giving the Best Picture prize to Chloe Zhao‘s Nomadland, and the Best Director trophy to Zhao. They also handed their Best Cinematography award to Nomadland‘s Joshua James Richards.
I’ve attached a parenthetical classification to some of the BSFC winners — pure craft and quality (PCC) which means quality not necessarily augmented by politically woke currents. The wins by Nomadland, Zhao and Richards are all PCC.
Anthony Hopkins‘ poignant conveyance of dementia in The Father won for Best Actor (PCC), and that film’s director, Florian Zeller, won the BSFC’s Best New Filmmaker award (PCC).
Sidney Flanigan took the Best Actress award for her sad, somber, ultra-minimalist performance in Never Rarely Sometimes Always — a decision that I respectfully regard as a head-scratcher.
Sound of Metal‘s Paul Raci won for Best Supporting Actor (no opinion — still haven’t seen it), and Young Yuh-jung‘s luminous performance as an intrepid grandma in Minari resulted in a Best Supporting Actress win (PCC).
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom won for Best Ensemble Cast.
Charlie Kaufman won the Best Screenplay award for the justly admired I’m Thinking of Ending Things (PCC). And that film’s editor, Robert Frazen, won the Best Editing trophy (PCC).
Alexander Nanau‘s Collective won for Best Documentary. (PCC)
Here’s the rundown:
The Daily Mail‘s Caroline Graham is reporting that President-elect Joe Biden has ordered the White House to be “deep-cleaned and ‘exorcised'” of any and all remnants of the Trumps.
Biden, who will move in after his 1.20.21 inauguration, is “insisting that the 132-room property be thoroughly disinfected beforehand.”
A member of the transition team: “Mr Trump’s administration has been riddled with the coronavirus. The Bidens are taking no chances. The entire property will be deep-cleaned down to replacing doorknobs and taking down soft furnishings. The virus can linger on hard surfaces so the entire residence and executive offices will be wiped clean with disinfectant to exorcise any trace of Team Trump.’”
What are the odds of Trump attending the Biden swearing-in? Zilch, right? He’ll probably clear out a day or two early and head straight for Florida.
Friendo to HE: In today’s NY Times, both A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis put Collective on their top 10 lists. I fully agree — it’s a great film about journalists fighting for truth in a very corrupt [Romanian] society. You never weighed in on the film. Any particular reason why?
HE to friendo: Not for lack of admiration. I haven’t written anything yet because my head is spinning and my brain is being pulled six or seven ways, like taffy or bubble gum. And I’m screaming inside. Collective is a first-rate, hard-hitting art doc because it doesn’t really conclude with a “satisfying” ending. The corruption is vicious, endemic, everywhere. The ending is what makes it.
Friendo to HE: That’s for sure. One truly intriguing thing is that it was a sports daily that was doing the heavy lifting and carrying the torch.
HE to friendo: I loved that aspect!
Friendo to HE: So give it some of your fabulous p.r. It’s a film that deserves more viewers and hype. Just asking as a friend.
No offense, but I would rather shove steak knives into my nasal cavities than watch WandaVision (Disney +, 1.15.21), a forthcoming Disney-Marvel streaming series that costars Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany as superhero couple Wanda Maximoff (aka “Scarlet Witch”) and Vision.
Created and executive produced by Jac Schaeffer (co-writer of Black Widow and Captain Marvel), WandaVision costars Kathryn Hahn, Kat Dennings, Randall Park and Teyonah Parris.