For months I’ve been thinking that Quiara Alegría Hude and Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s In The Heights (HBO Max, 6.18) may be a better, more rousing thing than Steven Spielberg‘s West Side Story (20th Century, 12.10), which I’ve been secretly scared of for a long time. The original West Side Story B’way musical is over 63 years old, having came out of the Upper West Side jungle of the early to mid ’50s. In The Heights is based on a 2007 Off-B’way show, and is therefore at least part of this century. The only thing that scares me about the film version is the possibility that director John Chu might inject some of the same glossy emptiness that made Crazy Rich Asians such a painful thing to sit through.
“So maybe [the current Best Picture contenders] is the field we were always meant to have. Maybe this is the field we’re always going to have from now on, more or less. Let that one sink in, why don’t you?” — from 3.16 edition of Richard Rushfield‘s The Ankler — “Emergency Edition: Nom Com.”
Three years on, what are your honest, deep-down, no-bullshit feelings about the nine Best Picture Oscar nominees of 2017? Which, if any, would you gladly see again and perhaps would be down with re-watching repeatedly as the years pass on? Here are my current feelings…three are keepers, the rest you can put in the freezer.
The Shape of Water — I liked Shape well enough to give it a pass when I first saw it in Telluride ’17, but because of Michael Shannon‘s detestable Colonel Strickland character I’ll never, ever see it again.
Call Me by Your Name — I could easily catch it again tonight. Great love story, blissful laid-back Italian countryside vibe….it all falls into place.
Darkest Hour — Never again.
Dunkirk — Sure…would watch it again any time. A Nolan knockout.
Get Out — Truly sorry that I saw this fucking thing even once. I’ll watch The Stepford Wives again any time, but this? Never.
Lady Bird — Excellent “heart” film, made by a real filmmaker…I’d watch it again tonight.
Phantom Thread — A small, well-made, mostly infuriating film. Never again.
The Post – I’ll re-watch All The President’s Men any time, but this? Saw it twice in ’17. Meryl Streep is quite good as Katharine Graham, but I’m not that interested in a third viewing. Okay, maybe.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri — Never again, ever.
If I had cast the smallish Gael Garcia Bernal as a husband and family man, I would cast an actress who was either his height (officially 5’7″ but rumored to actually be 5’6″) or perhaps a tiny bit shorter. Because 98% or 99% of the time the guy is usually a bit taller or the same height as his significant female other. I certainly wouldn’t cast an actress who’s a good two or three inches taller.
I don’t regard myself as a size-ist (I dealt with a certain amount of pushback from classmates when I was young for being a “giant”) but it’s quite rare to see a husband or boyfriend who can obviously be beaten in a wrestling match by his wife or girlfriend. C’mon, be honest.
And yet that’s exactly what director M. Night Shyamalan has done in Old (Universal, 7.23) — he’s cast the 5’9″ Vicky Krieps (Bergman Island, Phantom Thread) as Bernal’s wife and mother of their three kids.
There are so many actresses of the right age (late 30s, early 40s) and the right height who could’ve played Bernal’s wife without half the audience saying “jeez, she’s obviously too big for him.” Or Shyamalan could’ve stayed with Krieps and cast a taller actor as her husband…easy. Why create credibility problems?
Did anyone ever cast a tall, leggy actress opposite Alan Ladd or Dustin Hoffman? It’s not a male-ego thing — it’s a reality thing. Yes, runty guys occasionally hook up with tallish women…5’11” Nicole Kidman was four inches taller than Tom Cruise, and Katie Holmes was two inches taller. But generally this doesn’t happen. Not in 7-11 land, they don’t.
The Bernal-Krieps casting is actually part of a pattern. In Bergman Island, Krieps is paired with the 5’7″ Tim Roth. And in her private life she’s reportedly married to actor Jonas Laux, who’s also 5’7″.
This is easily the most emotionally affecting scene from Martin Brest‘s Midnight Run (’88), and generally speaking action road comedies don’t do this kind of thing at all. But Midnight Run, written by George Gallo, was different.
A violent chase-caper flick with a quippy attitude, fine. But a film of this calibre delivering this kind of emotion would be all but inconceivable today…be honest.
Robert DeNiro (as bounty hunter Jack Walsh) and Danielle DuClos (as DeNiro’s 12 year-old daughter Denise) handle the heavy lifting, making the most of non-verbal currents. But the silent-witness vibes from Charles Grodin (as white-collar criminal Jonathan Mardukas) and Wendy Phillips (as Walsh’s ex-wife) are poignant in themselves.
When Midnight Run opened 32 and 2/3 years ago somebody wrote that it was a hamburger movie that occasionally tasted like steak, but if you re-watch it (as I did a year or two ago) you’ll recall that it wasn’t that great, not really — that it was formulaic and goofy and rarely subtle.
But it was good enough to temporarily “lift all boats,” as the expression goes. Brest peaked four years later with Scent of a Woman (’92), and then he hit the rocks with Meet Joe Black (’98) and then Gigli (pronounced “Jeelie”).
Imagine how this scene might’ve played if Brest hadn’t cast DuClos or someone else on her level. Born in ’74, she was 13 when this scene was filmed. DuClos is now 46 — a crisp salute for excellent work.