The only way Spencer helmer Pablo Larrain can get around the casting of the too-short Kristen Stewart (5’5″) as Lady Diana (5’10”) is to (a) employ the usual height-adding tricks (lifts, boxes) and (b) cast costars who are also shorter than their real-life counterparts. The announced Spencer costars are Timothy Spall, Sally Hawkins and Sean Harris.
“White people are on their way out. This is the century of the brown man and the yellow man. I’ve broken out of the coop.” Translation: Kill your masters and don’t look back.
Based on a 2008 novel by Indian author Aravind Adiga, Ramin Bahrani‘s The White Tiger (Netflix, 1.22) is a Nicholas Nickleby-like saga of a low-born, small-village grinning wannabe, Balram Halwai, who hustles his way into a chauffeur gig in Delhi, and then on to Bangalore, where he launches his own taxi business after [spoiler hide] and stealing his cash.
It’s basically about class divisions In India — appalling poverty, Hindu vs. Muslim, caste, loyalty, corruption, payoffs, outsourcing, hunger.
Notes as I watched: “A hungry, clever, intelligent young man from a lower caste learns the rules of the game, figures out the angles, turns a bit ruthless, makes his way up the ladder, gets what he wants.
“Bahrani is an excellent director. The native Indian atmosphere is rich and fascinating, the film is well-edited and nicely shot. A complex tale of ambition, corruption, hunger and lust for power. Inch by inch, rung by rung, darker and darker. Learn to smile as you kill.
“I know where this film is going. By hook and by crook, Balram is going to make it. Even if it requires the unfortunate murder [spoiler stuff]. It’s a Dickens tale with a touch of O Lucky Man. The long journey, the long road and all the potholes along the way.
“But I have to ask everyone who’s told me that I have to watch this, what’s the big deal exactly? I mean, it’s quite the class-A package, quite the immersion, very good writing, a respectable effort….a window into the real, rough-and-tumble India. But what am I supposed to do with it exactly?
“Nicholas Nickleby as a smiling and obsequious but surprisingly ruthless fellow in the end. Who doesn’t appear to be smart enough to even bury the body. Or bleach his teeth. Much better than Danny Boyle‘s Slumdog Millionaire, but that’s not saying a great deal.
“Only two ways to the top. Crime or politics. Is it that way in your country too?
Friendo: “It’s an engrossing movie. All about the disparity between rich and poor in India. It’s staggering how the poor live. If it has any flaw, it would be that it’s too short. This could have worked even better as an epic, with an additional hour showing his rise to the top. Call it capitalism run amok. They should have showed him going full-on Scarface in the last third.”
Imaginative rewrite of “Mike Pence, wife Karen reportedly homeless, couch-surfing in Indiana,” posted by Yahoo News’ Biba Adams: “Word around the campfire says that the priggish Mike Pence and his wife are basically homeless and on God’s good humor as they figure out where to stash their luggage and furniture.
Actual, non-imaginative quote: “They may be ‘crashing with kinfolk back in Indiana or staying at the Indiana governor’s getaway cabin, but either way they’re laying low out of fear that Trump supporting loonies may want to lynch them for betraying Orange Plague in his hour of need,” etc.
The “homeless Pence” story was originally shared by Business Insider. Quote: “Pence is reportedly staying at a cabin that Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb uses as a retreat, while two other Indiana Republican insiders say that the former second-in-command and ex-Second Lady are staying with family.”
Direct, non-imaginative follow-up quotes: “Money shouldn’t be a major issue for the former VP, who earned more than $235,000 annually during his four years in office. Pence will also have Secret Service protection for up to six months after leaving office and is entitled to a pension.
“Some have speculated that the Pences are moving around frequently to avoid death threats or assassination attempts from supporters of his former boss, embattled ex-President Donald Trump, who just weeks ago chanted ‘Hang Mike Pence’ as they stormed the U.S. Capitol Building.
“The Trump-incited mob that stormed the Capitol earlier this month shouted that they wanted to hang Pence, and some of the people came within about 100 feet of confronting him and his family as they were hurried to a secure location in the Capitol,” Business Insider reports.
The Cannes Film Festival guys have confirmed that the usual May timeslot has been tossed. This year the 2021 festival will happen between July 6th and 17th, they’re saying. That’s a little more than five months hence. As I’ve already explained, Cannes in July is a fantasy…a child’s dream. We won’t be free of this hellish Covid nightmare for at least another seven or eight months, if that. We may not be completely shorn of masks until early or even mid ’22.
Let’s imagine that the Cannes Film Festival happens anyway, Covid be damned. They’d still have to enforce social distance seating in the Grand Lumiere, and how the hell would that work? There could be no crowding around the ropes in front of the Salle Debussy. Obviously no gatherings at La Pizza, and no parties to speak of. No crowds of diners jammed together and popping bottles of wine in the restaurant district. No press conferences. Forget it. Next year is the best hope.
Beloved Cloris Leachman, 94, has left the planet. The first thing she did that struck a chord was playing the panicky barefoot woman running away from Albert Dekker in Robert Aldrich‘s Kiss Me Deadly (’55). 14 years later she played a prostitute in Butch Cassidy and teh Sundance Kid (’69), but I didn’t connect the dots. Her career didn’t really take off until the early ’70s, when she was getting into her mid 40s. First came her performance as Timothy Bottoms‘ older lover in Peter Bogdanovich‘s The Last Picture Show (’71). Then came Frau Blucher in Mel Brooks‘ Young Frankenstein (’74) and her legend was forged forever.
Sam Levinson, John David Washington and Zendaya meet John Cassevetes, Ingmar Bergman, Ben Gazzara, Peter Falk, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in a prolonged, soul-draining, “you give me nothing but pain and lethargy and despair” fuck-you argument film, shot inside Carmel’s “Caterpillar house” and captured on luscious black-and-white celluloid.
Malcolm & Marie (Netflix, 1.29) isn’t half bad as a penitentiary exercise yard film — a “we’ve got some money and a cool location and nothing else to do because of Covid so let’s shoot this sucker and hope for the best.”
It isn’t bad for a two-hander in which the combatants piss into each other’s souls for 106 minutes as they say (a) you’re an obnoxious asshole, (b) you don’t sufficiently value who I am or what I’m about, (c) life is struggle and toil and trouble, and you’d better man up and get used to that, (d) you’d do well to get past yourself and your swollen bullshit ego, etc. Bitter pissed-off resentful wake up go to hell oh God you’re stabbing me in the ribs and kicking me in the teeth, etc.
Not to sound petty but I lost interest when Washington sat down at the dining table and began to wolf down a bowl of macaroni and cheese. I hate it when people wolf their food, on-screen or at home or anywhere. I’d like to add a new Hollywood Elsewhere slogan — “no wolfing of any kind of meal but especially macaroni and cheese.” The general rule of thumb is “always eat sparingly”. Always little half bites, if that. In fact don’t eat at all. In fact, I don’t want to see anyone in a movie eat food ever.
If Cary Grant had sat down in the middle of North by Northwest and started wolfing macaroni and cheese, the movie would’ve tanked and his career wouldn’t been over.
HE to journo pally: Do I understand correctly that you believe Zendaya is some kind of Best Actress contender? Did I miss something? Is this “Be Kind to Marginally Talented Actresses Who Began As Dancers'” month?
She tries to act but she can’t strike a match. Ingrid Bergman, she’s not. She has glassy shark eyes. She has three arrows in her quiver, three modes within her range of expression. Sarcastic belittling attitude pout. Frosty, resentful anger pout. And silent weeping in the bathtub.
Plus her hairline is right on top of her eyebrows. You know how they used to say Claudette Colbert had no neck? And the same about Mickey Spillane? Zendaya barely has a forehead. Okay, she has one in the middle section but not on the sides.
She’s a flavor of the month-slash-flash in the pan who lucked out when Levinson cast her as a druggie in Euphoria, and then Levinson got the idea that she could handle a Liz Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf-level virtuoso performance. Not on this planet.
Honestly? Washington the macaroni wolfer isn’t that great either. Yes, he’s better than Zendaya but that’s not saying all that much. At least he’s energetic. At least he doesn’t pout.
Did I hate Malcolm & Marie? No, I didn’t. It was okay while it lasted, but it’s nothing to jump up and down about. I occasionally texted while I watched it — I’m just being honest.
I’m reposting something that’s less than four months old, but it has to be re-injected and re-contemplated. The spiritual message herein is like oxygen, like honeysuckle, like the moisture of clouds in Switzerland.
Three and a half months ago a journo pally became alarmed by my anti-Khmer Rouge postings. He wanted to help me adjust and accept. “If you were a driver heading into the wrong lane of the Malibu Canyon tunnel, I’d stop you,” he wrote, sounding like a combination of O’Brien in Nineteen Eighty-Four and Bing Crosby in Going My Way. “If you were a neighbor whose house was on fire, I’d hand you the water hose. If you reported to me at [a publication], I’d steer you toward writing about film and television…writing that called upon your vast reservoir of knowledge, your passion, intellect, savvy — and away from your darker impulses.”
“There’s a way to have fun, serve your readers and steer a sober, responsible business course,” O’Brien went on. “There are ways for you to embrace the changes of our times, to highlight the incredible talents in every creative category of filmmaking, celebrate filmmakers from around the world and in every corner of our country. That’s a much better use of your time and a much better business strategy than [following your present course].
“You wrote a column a while back about reflecting on your life, your feelings, about turning over a new leaf. Do that. Lay down your weary tune. Turn on your love light. Get in touch with your inner Pig Pen. Submit, surrender, get with the program.”
HE to Journo Pally: Wow, thanks. I agree with the positive thrust of the message, but — don’t take this the wrong way — you also sound a bit like Dr. Kauffman trying to persuade Kevin McCarthy‘s Miles to relax and let the seed pods take over.
Dr. Kauffman: Less than a month ago, West Hollywood was like any other town. People with nothing but problems. Then out of the progressive community came a solution. Seeds drifting through space for years took root in a farmer’s field. From the seeds came pods which had the power to reproduce themselves in the exact likeness of any form of life.
Miles: So that’s how it began…out of the sky.
Dr. Kauffman: Your new bodies are growing in there. They’re taking you over cell for cell, atom for atom. There is no pain. Suddenly, while you’re asleep, they’ll absorb your minds, your memories and you’ll be reborn into a simpler, purer world.
Miles: Where everyone’s a wokester?
Dr. Kauffman: Exactly. If you give in, tomorrow you’ll be one of us, and you can become the new Perri Nemiroff. You’ll be happier. You’ll smile all the time.
Miles: I love films by Roman Polanski and Woody Allen. Will I feel the same tomorrow?
Dr. Kauffman: [shakes his head] There will be no more need for Allen or Polanski or any other artist who hasn’t accepted the new reality.
Miles: No more watching J’Accuse or Rosemary’s Baby or The Pianist? No more Manhattan or Crimes and Misdemeanors?
Dr. Kauffman: You say it as if it were terrible. Believe me, it isn’t. We’ve all seen their films. They never last. They never do. Sardonic wit. Love and desire. Intrigue. Betrayal and facing evil. Without their films, life will be so much simpler, believe me.
Miles: You’re basically saying I need to stop fighting the idea that if I wasn’t a huge fan of Little Women, I’m a sexist who doesn’t get it.
Dr. Kauffman: Miles, if you didn’t like Little Women you are a sexist who doesn’t get it. Don’t you understand that?
Miles: I don’t want any part of it.
Dr. Kauffman: You’re forgetting something, Miles.
Miles: What’s that?
Dr. Kauffman: You have no choice.