10 or 12 years ago I was seated next to Paul Morrissey at a Peggy Siegal luncheon in some plush Manhattan eatery. I recognized him right away, but even if I hadn't I would've felt instantly at home with the sardonic attitude and the seen-it-all, slightly pained facial expressions. I love guys like this. They've lived long enough and have met enough people of consequence to know that much of what constitutes modern life (even in a first-class town like New York City) is distasteful or disappointing or phony. And yet they soldier on with their squinty smiles and witty asides. Login with Patreon to view this post
Yesterday Facebook film maven Martin Bradley posted a list of “TEN BORING FILMS THAT ARE HELD IN HIGH CRITICAL ESTEEM.” It reminded me of a Mr. Showbiz piece I wrote in July ’99 titled “A Wee Bit Boring.” The basic idea was that 90% of films that are held in high critical esteem are very slightly boring. Here’s how I put it:
“Anyone interested in higher-quality films these days knows the truth of it. Some of the better ones are unique, special, X-factor — Go, The Matrix, Election, Rushmore, There’s Something About Mary, Run Lola Run, Saving Private Ryan, etc. The rest of the quality movies flirt with being boring from time to time. A good kind of boring, I mean. Nutritional, Brussels-sprouts, good-for-your-soul boring.
“It’s important to understand the degree of boring I’ve speaking of here. I don’t mean sinking-into-a-coma boring. Or regular boring. Or even mildly boring. But a little bit boring.
“I’m always glad after seeing a high-quality, slightly boring film, because I can then say to myself or someone I happen to meet that I’ve just seen one, and because of this my soul is richer and my horizons have been broadened. I never feel this way after seeing a big-studio, high-velocity idiot movie. Does anyone?
“Face it — most of us are peons when it comes to upscale, slightly boring movies. We don’t want to know from complex or sophisticated. We just want to sit there and get stroked.
“This is probably our fault, to some extent. Maybe movies just seem a bit boring at times because we’ve lost the ability (or the willingness) to stay with movies that require a little patience or concentration. The cliché about kids not having the attention span of a flea is reaching out to the older age brackets. Even the over-40s seem to be losing interest in movies with even a minute meditative edge.
“So clearly, in the backwash of all this cultural deprivation, ‘a little bit boring’ is a serious compliment these days. You just have to mean it (or hear it) the right way.”
Last night I sat through the first three episodes of Robert Siegel‘s Pam & Tommy, an eight-part dramedy about the Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee sex tape, which was stolen from Lee and Anderson’s home by contractor Rand Gauthier in late ’95 and covertly, half-assedly released in late ’97 or early ’98…somewhere around then.
The generally engaging series delivers the how, the why, the motive, the background, the personalities and the fallout. The first three episodes are titled “Drilling and Pounding”, “I Love You, Tommy” and “Jane Fonda.”
When I first saw the promos and the trailers, I rolled my eyes when I realized Seth Rogan would be playing Gauthier, and probably, I assumed, resorting to his usual schtick. Not was I thrilled at the idea of spending time with Lily James and Sebastian Stan as Pam and Tommy Lee, but I figured their performances…well, who knew?
I was therefore surprised to find myself enjoying the smart, clean construction that Siegel put into the storytelling. This is a well-made effort, logically assembled and absorbing as far as it goes.
I also found myself relating more to the none-too-bright Gauthier and his sleazy partner-in-crime, “Uncle Miltie” (Nick Offerman). It’s obvious early on that Rogan and Offerman are taking these guys fairly seriously, and not playing them as blue-collar dolts. Gauthier and Miltie are low-rent scuzballs but reasonably decent fellows with recognizable human aspects if you can relax your standards.
Pam and Tommy Lee, however, are not only portrayed but fully believable as egoistic, drooling, moronic (as in breathtakingly stupid and comically simple-minded) and pathetically under-educated fools.
HE to friendo: “Rogan and Offerman’s characters are the best. Lily James and Sebastian Stan’s Pam & Tommy Lee are stupid, vapid, uneducated cyphers…not just bad company but profoundly boring characters.”
Friendo to HE: “The perfs by Stan and James are great.”
HE to Friendo: “No, I really do not agree with you. James and Stan deliver energetic performances — physical and loud and loutish, yes, and she never seems to stop grinning or giggling or shrieking with delight, and yes, the animatronic penis scene is stupidly funny But Stan and James are playing REPREHENSIBLE PEOPLE. He’s an angry, mascara’ed, ovr-indulged, over-tattooed heavy metal asshole and she’s an utterly brainless boop-boop-pee-doop Barbie Doll.
“I mean, the movie pretty much dies when it’s just about James and Stan, and it comes back alive when Rogan and Offerman return. Not to mention Taylor “I’m not letting that guy fuck me up the ass” Schilling.”
Friendo to HE: “Well, let’s both agree that this did not need to be eight episodes long.”
HE to Friendo: “I’m not bored as we speak but the idea of watching five more episodes of this does seem like a possible stretch. One thing the series makes clear at the beginning was that the sex-video theft was provoked, that Tommy Lee’s seriously abrasive and bullying treatment of Gauthier led to some angry payback. Perhaps not justified, but certainly understandable.”
This sordid affair was explored in a 2014 Rolling Stone article by Amanda Chicago Lewis. I’ve never read it, but I’d like to now.
Congratulations to Pack, a management company and record label, and co-founder Jett Wells for the use of OTR’s “Midnight Sun” on the just-out Netflix preview trailer. Pack represents OTR and many other groups. OTR’s stuff is “emotional electronic music,” I’ve been assured, and “not techno, which is a very different genre.”
Of the nine Best Picture nominees among films that were released in 2011, three are eminently re-watchable and regarded by the Movie Godz as quietly vibrant and human and truly salutable — Bennett Miller‘s Moneyball, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor‘s The Descendants and Woody Allen‘s Midnight in Paris. You can re-watch these films once a year for the rest of your life, and you’ll never be sorry.
Terrence Malick‘s The Tree of Life, a competing Best Picture nominee, was the first of Malick’s “whispering soup movies”…swoony, swirling meditations about birth, life, love, beautiful women as spiritual-vibe vessels, nothingness and everythingness and leaves on the ground, not to mention granules of sand. Tree was applauded as a major stand-out at first, but after Malick kept making this kind of movie over and over and over (To the Wonder, Knight of Cups, Song to Song, A Hidden Life) and taking up to two years to edit them, people realized he was mainly wallowing in a kind of hazy mist of meandering mysticism and distracted indecision…that he was basically jizz-wanking.
The remaining five Best Picture nominees are regarded today as over-praised (as in “what were they thinking?”) embarassments — earnest, plodding films that nobody and I mean nobody has re-visited.
I’m speaking of Michel Hazanavicius‘ The Artist, a stunt movie beloved by the chumps (I repeatedly begged the critics groups to stop giving it their Best Picture trophies and they wouldn’t listen) and the winner, of course, of the Best Picture Oscar.
Stephen Daldry‘s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close was close to unwatchable even in 2011. Tate Taylor‘s The Help was agony to sit through; ditto Martin Scorsese‘s Hugo (the one portion that everyone admired was the flourishy tribute to Georges Méliès at the very end). Steven Spielberg‘s War Horse did decent business and was embraced by the middle-class sentimentalists, but nobody will ever re-watch this fucking movie…please.
With Oscar nomination voting having ended two days ago, the just-out 2022 BAFTA nominations won’t be influencing anyone about anything. If you ask me they’re only “meaningful” as a clear indication that Kristen Stewart, whose BAFTA snub of her Spencer performance follows the SAG omission of a few weeks back, is almost certainly finished as a Best Actress Oscar nominee.**
On top of which the BAFTA nominators ignored Parallel Mothers‘ Penelope Cruz…what is effing wrong with these guys? We’re talking about a thoroughly degenerated set of aesthetic values. They don’t even nominate the year’s finest female performance?
The BAFTA Best Actress nominees are House Of Gucci‘s Lady Gaga (a premonition that she’ll probably win the Best Actress Oscar is truly soul-crushing), Licorice Pizza‘s Alana Haim (rounding out the pack), CODA‘s Emilia Jones (forget it), The Worst Person In The World‘s Renate Reinsve (superb performance, great part), After Love‘s Joanna Scanlan (who?) and Passing‘s Tessa Thompson (minimalism, no voltage, no nothing).
Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone: “Reading anything into the acting categories is basically like fan fiction role play for Film Twitter.”
All but one of BAFTA’s Best Film nominees are the usual nod-outs — Belfast, Dune, Licorice Pizza and The Power Of The Dog. The surprise (to me at least) is the nomination of Don’t Look Up, which has run hot and cold across the board. It got in, I’m guessing, because it says the right things about political imbeciles and climate change. Meanwhile I am still deeply, deeply depressed about the likely triumph of The Power of the
Outstanding British Film nominees are After Love, Ali & Ava, Belfast, Boiling Point, Cyrano, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, House Of Gucci, Last Night In Soho, No Time To Die and Passing. I can’t muster the passion to even speculate. God, this is so boring.
Sasha Stone’s bottom line: “The BAFTAs aren’t really the BAFTAs as we once knew them. Meaning [that] they aren’t really a consensus vote. They are a tightly micromanaged jury vote to spare the membership embarrassment or bad headlines for not being inclusive enough.”
BAFTA declaration: “Juries are made up of industry experts, with each jury comprised of BAFTA members from a diverse range of backgrounds, experience, gender, location and age groups.” Translation: “It’s more important for the BAFTAs to be sensitive and supportive of artists representing historically marginalized cultures and tribes than to select the ‘best’ in this or that category, whatever that actually means.”
In other words, a signification portion of the BAFTA nominees have been decided upon by woke-minded jurors. It’s basically political bullshit. The BAFTAs used to be about the usual factors — popularity, the “due” factor, estimations of quality, reflections of Academy sentiments. Now they’re almost worthless — woke whores, a dog-and-pony show by way of Twitter.
** BAFTA’s Stewart snub can also be read as a rejection of Pablo Larrain‘s flourishy, “Diary of a Mad Princess” fantasia.