Ben Shapiro vs. Malcolm Nance on Critical Race Theory, and I was riveted. Delighted actually. It lasted nine and a half minutes, and I wished it could have gone on for 20. This is the kind of crossed-swords dispute that Bill Maher‘s show needs more of. Shapiro “won”, by the way — it was the first time I’d watched him debate while saying to myself, “This is reasonable, he’s making sense,” etc. Shapiro’s CRT definition struck me as spot-on, and Nance (who was a little unfair and dismissive with that statement about his great-grandfather) agreed with it.
Now that Leos Carax‘s Annette is playing in theatres, I’m a bit put off by the positive reviews. More than 60% of the critics on both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic are giving it a pass, and that’s not cool. But I’m mainly perplexed by the the genteel tone of the pans. Nobody hates this film, in short, and that doesn’t feel right. Because if there’s one movie I’ve seen this year that really pushed the revulsion button, it’s Annette.
You can admire or love Annette, of course, but if you don’t approve mild naysaying is not the way to go — trust me.
In his New Yorker review, Anthony Lane delivers what feels to me like a kid-gloves pan. He says that Annette “is a folie de grandeur, alas, without the grandeur,” and that it “strikes one false note after another,” and that “there’s nothing in Annette” — a sung-through musical, for the most part — “that’s quite as overwhelming as Adam Driver’s roaring rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Being Alive’ in Marriage Story,” etc. See? He wont do the mean.
CNN’s Brian Lowry: “Let the record show that no drinking took place while watching the movie for this review. But by the time it was over, that didn’t seem like a bad idea.” Not bad, still too restrained.
Time‘s Stephanie Zacharek: “Driver’s height and brawn are used to menacing effect here. He’s never been so believably unlikable, which is certainly an achievement, if it’s the kind of thing you want to see.” Better!
“Only the most perverse, anti-populist critics will even flirt with being kind to, much less praising, Annette when it opens stateside,” I wrote. “Once you get past the strikingly surreal visual style and the fact that it was, like, made at all, there is only the self-loathing rage of Adam Driver’s Henry McHenry character, and Carax’s seething disdain for easily led-along audiences.
“Annette is ‘brave’ and wildly out there, but this is arguably the most morally repellent musical ever made in motion picture history. Driver’s Henry, an envelope-pushing comedian who performs one-man shows that aren’t in the least bit amusing, is astounding — one of the most flagrantly revolting protagonists I’ve ever spent time with in my moviegoing life.
“Henry is a kind of sociopathic Jack the Ripper figure, and Annette is a misanthropic rock opera about rabid egotism, demonic personality disorder, black soul syndrome, rage, alcoholism, murder, self-loathing, self-destruction.”
In an 8.4 Variety interview Amanda Knox told Chris Willman that she hadn’t yet seen Tom McCarthy‘s Stillwater. (She added she wouldn’t mind being invited to a screening while hinting that paying to see it might be a bridge too far.) I wrote yesterday that this didn’t make a lot of sense, and that Knox should’ve paid to see it at a local plex as soon as she was able to, in order to lend authority to her argument that the film had unfairly appropriated her legal troubles in Italy from over a decade ago.
And now, in a just-posted interview with Variety‘s Janelle Riley, McCarthy has pounced on Knox’s admission that she hasn’t seen the film.
Riley: “I’m sure you’re aware Amanda Knox has taken issue with the film, saying it’s based too closely to her own story. What’s your response?”
McCarthy: “I deeply empathize with Amanda and what she went through. She was rightfully found innocent and acquitted in the Meredith Kercher case. She has platforms to speak her truth and engage with the media and she is exercising her absolute right to do so. But, by her own account, she has not seen Stillwater and what she seems to be raising feels very removed from the film we actually made.
“Stillwater is a work of fiction and not about her life experience. It does take from aspects of true life events, like many films, but Stillwater is about Bill Baker’s journey, his relationship with his estranged daughter Allison and a French woman and her young daughter he meets along the way. The questions the movie poses about American identity and moral authority are what compelled me to make this film. But I do think good films spark conversation in and around the story, and I welcome audiences’ engagement in that.”
In short, McCarthy is better at this game than Knox.