The truth is that all day I’ve been afraid to acknowledge the death of porn publisher Larry Flynt, much less say anything about the guy. That’s because I’m afraid that progressive industry women might somehow get the idea that I’m a fan or that I respect Flynt’s career accomplishments or vaguely approve of his cultural influence, etc. Which I never have in any regard. I always thought Flynt was an icky sort. Not my kind of heavyweight mogul. The only thing I ever liked about him was Milos Forman‘s The People vs. Larry Flynt (’96) — a better than pretty good film. Let’s leave it at that.
Who cares if Bruce Springsteen was arrested in New Jersey last November on suspicion of DUI? I’m presuming he wasn’t totally sloshed and slurring his words and vomiting on the side of the road when he was popped, and that he’d probably had two or three glasses of wine and was moderately buzzed. And so what? Jeep has removed the youTube link to his Super Bowl spot, titled “The Middle.” Big deal.
Driving while impaired isn’t cool, but Springsteen hasn’t lost his authority as a working-class folk hero because of it. I’m guessing that all proletariat salt-of-the-earth types drive buzzed from time to time. Against the law but negotiable.
I used to drive half-slurry during my vodka-and-lemonade days (’93 to ’96) as well as during my Pinot Grigio period. Don’t bring up my Connecticut party-animal behavior in the mid to late ’70s. I drove semi-inebriated every weekend. I used to believe that I was a better driver when I was half in the bag. Obviously not good, but I didn’t hurt anyone. How many times did I get into a fender-bender due to my semi-compromised state? Never — not once. It was only during my Los Angeles vodka-and-lemonade period that I got into vehicular trouble. Don’t ask.
The article is a smooth conveyance of two ideas — one, that Boseman deserves a Best Actor Oscar for his work in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and two, that “Levee,” the randy, cornet-playing hustler with the cool shoes who suffers a tragic emotional breakdown at the finale, is “the performance of [Boseman’s] career.”
I’m sorry but the performance of Boseman’s career was James Brown in Get On Up. In that 2014 biopic he delivered the same kind of highly-charged, go-for-it quality that defined two previous performances that won posthumous Oscars — Peter Finch‘s “Howard Beale” in Network (’76) and Heath Ledger‘s “Joker” in The Dark Knight (’08).
Everyone knows that Boseman’s “Levee” doesn’t blow the doors off the hinges — not really. It’s a poignant performance (especially during the scene in which Levee recalls a sad episode involving his mother), but the main reason Boseman has been hailed as a Best Actor (and in the case of Da 5 Bloods, a Best Supporting Actor) nominee is because of his tragic passing last August, which broke everyone’s heart.
I understand the sentiment behind giving Boseman a special tribute, of course, but giving him an Oscar for performances that are no more than approvable — good acting but lacking that certain extra-ness or crackling charge — feels like a disproportionate thing to do.
Texting early this morning…
HE: “A deeply tragic turn for a gifted actor and a nice guy, but giving him an Oscar for a pair of okay performances is a stretch. “We all feel really badly that he died so young” shouldn’t translate into a Best Actor or Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Most above-the-line Oscars are about three things — audience feeling, a zeitgeist bull’s-eye and first-rate craft. A Boseman Oscar would be mainly about feelinga of sadness, and that’s really not enough. If Chad’s dying performance had been James Brown, that would’ve been a different deal.
Friendo: “Of course, but during a pandemic people want something to feel good about. Giving an Oscar to a young black actor who just died is too incredible a narrative to resist. Who knows, he might even win two Oscars! He might beat Anthony Hopkins’ masterful performance in The Father. He might beat Riz Ahmed in Sound of Metal.”
HE: “All he does in Ma Rainey is grin and grin some more, and then he talks about his arranging ideas and songwriting plans and argues with Ma, and then he puts the moves on Taylour Paige‘s Dussie Mae. And then he grins some more. And then, at the very end and out of the blue, he loses his temper over the song-publishing rejection and suddenly stabs Glynn Turman‘s Toledo out of a sense of misplaced rage. The killing at the end is historically understandable but feels insufficiently motivated in a dramatic sense.”
Friendo: “He seems to overact as Levee because Ma Rainey is essentially a stage play. Same with Viola Davis’ grotesque burlesque singer.”
HE: “He should just be given a special tribute. A special sad Oscar. But ‘the performance of his career‘? That’s just dishonest. It’s a good performance but it’s not a piece of the constellation.”
Has anyone honestly concluded that Boseman’s Levee is the equal of the performances given by Hopkins and Ahmed?
Southern Friendo to HE: “Here’s a simple solution to the theater attendance issue: Once you’ve been vaccinated twice, you get issued a card with a scannable barcode/chip that says you’ve gotten two stabs (or have been vaccinated with the single-stab Johnson & Johnson). Use this to get into restaurants, theaters, etc. If you’re not vaccinated, no card and no admittance to public places where you can potentially spread. REPEATED DUE TO IMPORTANCE: Your card can only be issued after you’ve had two vaccinations.”
The packaged food industry has been erasing racial stereotyping in terms of brand names and marketing. Last September Mars, Incorporated changed Uncle Ben’s Converted Rice (aka Uncle Ben’s “Perverted” Rice) to Ben’s Original. And Quaker Oats’ deep-sixed Aunt Jemima pancake brand will henceforth be known as Pearl Milling Company pancakes. Companies keeping in step with the times, etc.
When’s the last time Hollywood Elsewhere ate a breakfast plate of Aunt Jemima pancakes or enjoyed a bowl of Uncle Ben’s rice? Not since I was eight or nine years old, and I really don’t care.
But (and I say this with a slight twinge of trepidation) I have a sentimental attachment to the character of “Gussie”, a black maid working for Jim and Muriel Blandings (Cary Grant, Myrna Loy) in Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (’48), and especially the WHAM ham ad slogan that Gussy dreams up at the finale — “If you ain’t eating WHAM, you ain’t eating ham.”
Obviously Gussie is just as much of a woke cultural prohibition as Aunt Jemima or Uncle Ben or Uncle Remus from Song of the South. You know that wokester activists would like to digitally erase Gussie out of existence if they could; ditto Hattie McDaniel‘s “Mammy” in Gone With The Wind. But if they did, Mr. Blandings wouldn’t end with that socko slogan. It’s a problem.
I’m kidding. I’m kidding. John Krasinski‘s A Quiet Place Part II, originally slated to open on 3.10.20 before being bumped into oblivion by the worldwide pandemic, is now, after two previous delays, set to open theatrically on 9.17.21 — seven months hence.
Maybe, I should say. Be honest — who believes that theatres will be up and running and packing them in next September when tens of millions of idiots are refusing to take the jab? That’s why I joked about a ’22 opening. Because I don’t think we’ll be truly free of this gloomy, narcotized, walking-dead lifestyle until the spring or summer of ’22. I wish it were otherwise. I fear it may not be.
But honestly? I lost all interest in the sequel when Krasinki rejected Richard Brody‘s 4.1.18 riff on what A Quiet Place was about deep down — i.e., the social undercurrent element. Key passage from his New Yorker piece, titled “The Silently Regressive Politics of A Quiet Place”: “In their enforced silence, these characters are a metaphorical silent white majority, one that doesn’t dare to speak freely for fear of being heard by the super-sensitive ears of the dark others.”
Almost two years later I happened upon a similar notion. In an HE essay called “Eureka — A Quiet Place Metaphor,” I wrote that “all you have to do is change ‘don’t make a sound’ to ‘don’t make the wrong sound’ or more precisely ‘don’t say the wrong thing.’ Then it all fits. The big brown monsters are fanatical wokesters who rush in like the wind and destroy your life and livelihood if you mutter the wrong phrase or use incorrect terminology or happen to like Real Time with Bill Maher or late-period Woody Allen films or if you posted the wrong thing in 2009, etc.”
Earlier this year Krasinki dismissed these interpretations — insights that lend metaphorical heft to the 2016 original. “That narrative is certainly not the narrative I intended to put out there,” he told Esquire‘s Matt Miller last February. “I never saw it that way or ever thought of it until it was presented to me in that way. It wasn’t about being, you know, silent and political…if anything it was about, you know, going into the dark and, and taking a chance when all hope looked lost, you take, you know, you fight for what’s most important to you. Again, my whole metaphor was solely about parenthood.”
My spirit sank into a heap when I read the words “solely about parenthood.” That was it — Krasinki, I realized, will never be any kind of deep, thoughtful fellow. He only deals with the obvious. To him, undercurrents and metaphors are oddities, foreign concepts, exotic elements.