I’ve yet to see B.J. Novak‘s Vengeance (Focus/Blumhouse) but I intend to stream it within the next day or two. This contemporary dark comedy been viewable since late July. Sasha Stone has only just watched it, and she insists that Vengeance is “one of the best films I’ve seen this year.”
Last two Stone paraaraphs: “Vengeance is the kind of movie that I could see Roger Ebert discovering on his show, back when he was alive and when he had a weekly show. People would watch it and find out about a great movie called Vengeance.
“[But today] a movie has to have some sort of platform, lots of money behind it, and some kind of hook. And this film doesn’t really have a hook. It’s just about great writing and especially some interesting observations about this moment in our history.
“Vengeance only made about $4 million at the box office. It was clearly something that was hard to sell. But in the end, my friends, take it from an old timer: great movies have a way of being discovered and rediscovered as we move through time. This one will be one to look back on years from now and see just how insightful it was about things everyone feels deep down but few will talk about in an up-front way.”
Has anyone in the HE community seen Novak’s film, and if so, what’s the verdict?
I can’t think of a single clever or irreverent thing to say about Rian Johnson‘s Glass Onion. I can only repeat that Johnson is a good egg (bright, perceptive, fast on his feet) who’s been friendly and considerate to me for years. Except now he’s a multi-millionaire, which means that the once stimulating Rian-and-Jeff chemistry has been altered on some level.
We all understand that life sometimes brings about ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, and that “money doesn’t talk, it swears.” Okay, not always.
We’re all (a) invested in Daniel Craig‘s Detective Benoit Blanc, (b) ready to chuckle at Edward Norton‘s perversely witty bad guy, a tech billionaire named Miles Bron, who will presumably as Chris Plummered sometime during the first two acts, and (c) prepared to identify with Janelle Monáe‘s Cassandra “Andi” Brand, a tech entrepreneur and Miles’s ex-business partner.
Glass Onion pops theatrically sometime in November, and begins streaming on Netflix on 12.23.22.
There’s absolutely no question that Damien Chazelle‘s Babylon (Paramount 12.25) is going to arrive with a huge bang at year’s end. Hell, it already has with today’s trailer (although one insider is calling it a teaser).
I’ve spoken with two people who saw a version of Babylon last March, and they both say it’s such a flamboyant, orgiastic, lavishly imagined, decade-spanning Hollywood epic of the 1920s and ’30s (i.e,, Vincente Minnelli meets Fellini Satyricon meets Singin’ in the Rain without the music) that not nominating it for a Best Picture Oscar would seem all but impossible.
You’ll notice that the main Babylon characters are quite the lively and diverse bunch, but let’s boil out some of the snow, shall we?
First and foremost, Diego Calva‘s “Manny Torres” is the lead character…the audience stand-in and neutral observer who’s prominently introduced at the film’s wild-party beginning and is also front and center in the somewhat subdued finale in 1952.
Margot Robbie‘s “Nellie LaRoy” (based on Clara Bow and in fact called CLARA BOW in a 2019 draft of the script) is the strongest or certainly the most feisty and relentless female character, and is likely to land a Best Actress Oscar nom.
The trailer is selling Brad Pitt‘s “Jack Conrad” (Clark Gable-resembling but based on John Gilbert) as a major character, but in fact it’s a strong supporting role. Jack isn’t a constant presence, and he doesn’t carry the story.
Fourthly, current attitudes are such that I’m required to point out that 1920s Hollywood (or 1920s America for that matter) wasn’t exactly known for being invested in equal-opportunity trailblazing. With a few minor if distinctive exceptions (Anna May Wong, Josephine Baker, Sessue Hayakawa, Louis Armstrong) the film industry was largely a white-person fraternity with guys enjoying the upper hand.
The trailer conveys a certain impression of a diverse demimonde (Calva plus Jovan Adepo‘s “Sidney Palmer”, a jazz musician, and Li Jun Li‘s “Lady Fay Zhu”, based on Anna May Wong) but that’s Paramount marketing doing the presentism two-step.
The facts are that Manny, who sounds like a cross between Desi Arnaz and Marlon Brando‘s Emiliano Zapata, is the lead guy (he actually becomes a senior studio exec as the story goes on) while Sidney and Lady Fay are no more than modest supporting characters. Sidney is part of the band in the opening orgy-party sequence, and then he re-appears as a minor player in a film. Lady Fay is an important figure in the opener (at one point she sings a song about eating pussy), and is prominent in a few other scenes.
Olivia Wilde is in Babylon (there’s actually a quick shot of her in the trailer), but Mr. Snitch doesn’t recall seeing her in the version he caught several months ago.
I’m going to be completely honest. Before hearing this morning’s news I would’ve hesitated if you’d asked “is Jean-Luc Godard still with us”? Not out of lack of respect, but because he’s been so absent from not just the conversation but the realm…a crabby Swiss hermit for so many years. He might’ve passed three or four years ago, and it could have conceivably slipped my mind.
If you stop making creative noise or speak-outs of some kind (even on Twitter), sooner or later even your acolytes will begin to forget about you.
I doubt if @RealJLG was the real deal. Either way he/she/it stopped posting in 2013. If @RealJLG was real, he/she/it should’ve kept at it. I get positively moist thinking of the tweets that this one-time cinematic colossus might have posted about wokesters. He would have sliced them into little bits with a sushi knife, and shamed what was left for all eternity.
Godard went out in a ballsy and declarative way — assisted suicide. Quality of life had declined to such an extent that he said “fuck it.”
The last thing I recall about Godard was when he blew off Agnes Varda when she came to visit in Faces Places (’18). Who denies an old friend a smile and a hug and a little generosity of spirit? A shitty thing to do.
“Godard Redux,” posted on 6.24.06: Jean Luc Godard‘s “influence is immeasurable, yet his popular reputation stems from only a small fraction of his output,” according to a Sunday (6.25) N.Y. Times piece by Nathan Lee.
“From 1960 to 1967 [Godard] became immensely famous for a series of radical entertainments that fused youth-quake insouciance and jazzy improvisation to genre deconstruction and high-culture formalism. They were genre movies with a twist: pseudo gangster films (Breathless), thrillers (Le Petit Soldat), war movies (Les Carabiniers) musicals (A Woman Is a Woman), science fiction (Alphaville).
“Godard is the original meta-movie maestro, the first director as D.J.. He is also an accomplished film critic, and has always maintained that writing and directing are two sides of the same coin. But when the familiar reference points to Hollywood vanished in the 1970’s, as he became more occupied with Marxism and avant-garde video, people stopped paying attention.”
I remember a story Andrew Sarris told me in the late ’70s about the moment he informed Richard Roud and other Manhattan-based Godard acolytes that he had gotten “off the boat.” That was when Godard’s revolutionary Marxist period had reached full boil.
I’ve been a Godard dilletante all my life — there for the classic entries (my all-time favorite is Weekend) and spotty on his more recent stuff (In Praise of Love, Our Music). And yet I’m unquestionably into seeing, for the first time, Masculine Feminine at the L.A. Film Festival next Thursday, 6.29.
“Jean-Luc Godard In Love,” posted on 5.15.17:
I was too distracted to watch when this French teaser for Michel Hazanavicius’s Redoubtable, which will debut at the Cannes Film Festival, appeared online last month. Set in the mid ’60s, the film is about a love affair between legendary nouvelle vague director Jean-Luc Godard and Au Hasard Balthazar and Weekend star Anne Wiazemsky. But what gets me here is Louis Garrel‘s channeling of Godard, particularly the low-key insouciance.
The film, which Godard has allegedly described as “a stupid idea”, is based on Wiazemsky’s writings about her Godard relationship, which began when she was in her late teens. Born in 1930, Godard was 17 years older than Wiazemsky. He wound up casting her in La Chinoise (’67), Weekend (’67) and One Plus One (’68). They were married between ’67 and ’79.
It’s been reported that Wiazemsky was 17 when her affair with Godard began. I’m figuring more like 19. She was born in ’47, and was 18 when Au Hasard, Balthazar (released on 5.25.66) was shot in the summer or fall of ’65.
In her book “Jeune Fille” Wiazemsky wrote that Bresson was obsessed with her and never let her out of her sight, so it seems unlikely that Godard was circling her then. The timetable indicates that the Godard coupling began in late ’65 or ’66.
Yesterday HE reader and L.A. Daily News guy Bob Strauss wrote that “any critic who can’t distinguish between the performance and the character doesn’t just have lousy perception, they’re unfit for the job.”
That’s almost total bullshit — all actors blend themselves into the characters they play, and when the process is finished nobody really knows where the actor ends and the character begins, least of all the critics. It’s all an improvised mashed-potato process. With the exception of those rare world-class actors who can truly be called chameleons (Meryl Streep, the late Laurence Olivier, Daniel Day Lewis and maybe, what, 10 or 12 others?) very few actors are really playing “somebody else”. A performance is simply a process by which an actor tries on a coat or a pair of shoes or a mood or a history lived by some character on a page, and then they cross-blend themselves into this person and…tah-dah! How’s this sound? Should I do it differently? I love this job, man…I love making movies.
Those who can do this well or at least smoothly and who’ve been agile enough to scale the hurdles and who have sufficiently big heads…they’re all good to go. Almost no successful actors will admit this because revelations of this sort seem to devalue their craft. They want you to think it’s tricky magic or rocket science, but it’s not. I’m not saying it’s easy or that anyone can do it, but a lot of people can.
Every actor in Hollywood history has lied through their teeth about this process. They’ve all used the same line about simply and purely playing a made-up character, and that what they perform has nothing to do with who they really are and so on. That is undoubtedly true to some extent but it’s NEVER, EVER 100% true. Even though Cary Grant always claimed he would like to be “Cary Grant” as much as the next day, he was still always Cary Grant. Vince Vaughn has always been (and always will be ) Vince fucking Vaughn. Humphrey Bogart was always that guy with the dangling unfiltered cigarette and the tough Manhattan attitude. Owen Wilson has always been Owen Wilson in every performance he’s ever given.
Very few actors are serious chameleons. Most of them are just making it up as they go along. All good actors take their looks and personalities and attitudes and toss them around in a salad bowl, and then they tailor or modify a character to fit their own personality or psyche and swirl the salad around some more and then they GO THERE. They do that thing, they let it rip and that‘s what makes certain performance “pop” and others not so much. No film is entirely pretend. In a sense all performances are documentary-“real” if you allow the deep-down to come forward in your perceptions.
“Whatever the on-screen persona or character, whatever the makeup, it is nigh on impossible to obfuscate the person. Not only that, but it records them doing what inspired them the most — acting. A film is the plate on which a butterfly is preserved.” — Checking On My Sausages, 7.30.10.
A half-hour ago I fell asleep at the local diner (i.e., Orem’s). Sitting up, head resting on my chest. Like Tom Cruise‘s “Vincent” on the L.A. metro car at the end of Collateral. The 50ish, uniformed waitress wasn’t sure due to my darkly tinted, red-framed reading glasses, but she eventually realized I was out like a light. She gently shook my shoulder. “Sir? Sir?” Whunnh? Oh, God…okay, thanks.
It took me over four months to finally watch Emma Cooper‘s The The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes (Netflix). It’s basically a montage of digitally enhanced (and quite beautified) clips of Monroe’s life and times along with an assembly of corresponding audio excerpts from 29 interviews conducted by British author Anthony Summers. And what the doc conveys feels entirely frank and honest and sobering.
Now 79, Summers actually conducted 650 Monroe-related interviews, and they consumed about three years of his life. The ultimate result was Sumnmers’ “Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe” (’85).
I wanted to absorb Cooper’s excellent doc, which conveys a sense of documented, matter-of-fact, take-it-or-leave-it truth, before seeing Andrew Dominik‘s Blonde (Netflix, 9.23), which is allegedly quite the stacked deck with one odious predator after another. The Summers doc, on the other hand, tells us repeatedly that Monroe had a fair number of friends and allies and considerate acquaintances in her life…people who cared for her or at least tried to care for her, and that her existence wasn’t entirely about being victimized.
I suspect that Blonde will be less balanced and ultimately less forthcoming because of the Joyce Carol Oates narrative, which is that despite having became a flush and famous movie star, poor, brutalized Marilyn never caught an emotional break, and was rarely blessed in the way of good fortune or serendipity or the simple luck of the draw, and that her last two or three years on the planet were especially arduous.
Written last March: “Damien Chazelle’s Babylon is crazy and cranked up to 10 or 11 and at times rather extreme and orgiastic and almost Salo-like in one or two respects…it isn’t mad and indulgent and wicked in itself, of course, but it certainly uses a kind of Vincente Minnelli-meets-Fellini Satyricon-type paintbrush. Call it a flamboyant, envelope-pushing, 185-minute version of Singin’ In The Rain with the songs and dancing and smiles taken out. Or a depravity-tinged survival story about Hollywood transitioning from the silent era to sound, although ultimately spanning three decades (mid 1920s through 1952).”
No feature film director would even suggest such a scene (24-second mark), even during the scriptwriting stage. Nor this one. For this is the New Puritanism. Where is Barry Sonnenfeld now? Perhaps we could…okay, not retroactively cancel him but at least admonish him? Wild Wild West is 23 years old, but (a) right is right and (b) it’s never too late to punish.
Two days ago Deadline‘s Michael Fleming reported about a special private screening of Alexander Payne‘s The Holdovers. The idea, at least in theory, was that Payne’s Christmas-themed, Paul Giamatti-starring dramedy might open later this year. Fleming: “It’s very possible that one of the usual suspects will step up and put this film [into] the awards season race late in the year.”
Not so fast, Mike! You were right about last weekend’s private screening, but Focus features has bought the distribution rights, and they’ve boldly decided to open it during Christmas 2023.
It would seem, in short, that Focus has decided that it’ll be too strenuous to open The Holdovers 14 or 15 weeks hence, and it’ll be somewhat easier (and perhaps less costly) to open it 16 months down the road. Probably because (I’m just guessing here) they’ve decided it’s too subtle and modestly adult and character-driven in a low-key way to compete as a year-end, award-calibre attraction quite so soon. Or something like that.
…but I know who she is. I know her history, beliefs, influences, and to a large extent her personality. She was a Barry Goldwater girl in ’64 so don’t tell me. So there’s absolutely no ambiguity here — Hillary is not a Cardi B. WAP girl, and I don’t believer Chelsea is either. Not really. I think they’re pretending to relate to the WAP thing in order to not seem stuffy or congested or wealthy-white-woman elitist types. I don’t believe a word of this.
The two-year-old Cardi B. meets Megan Thee Stallion WAP video is all about unabashed, non-apologetic sexual arousal in its wettest form. WAP stands for wet-ass pussy. Any semi-mature woman or man who watches this video is going to have…uhm, certain reservations. I’m presuming that a sizable percentage of semi-mature women (or men) who’ve watched this have probably said to themselves “if I think this is sorta kinda shamelessly vulgar, does that make me a bad person? Maybe I should sorta kinda keep this to myself.” I’m presuming, in fact, that outside of your 20something hot-to-trot hormonals, people of all stripes and ages have had this reaction.
Hillary is a flesh-and-blood human with feelings and memories of her youth and all the rest, but she’s not a WAP woman, and she never will be.
Dying of cringe…..Even Megan Thee Stallion looks deeply uncomfortable lmao 😵💫 pic.twitter.com/rKy4io9vY8
— The Vanguard (@vanguard_pod) September 11, 2022
- All Hail Tom White, Taciturn Hero of “Killers of the Flower Moon”
Roughly two months ago a very early draft of Eric Roth‘s screenplay for Killers of the Flower Moon (dated 2.20.17,...More »