I was calling Westworld a bullshit puzzlebox series at the end of its first season, and it doubled down on that puzzlebox awfulness in season 2. THR‘s James Hibberd: “Fans [had] increasingly griped that the show had become confusing and tangled in its mythology and lacked characters to root for”…no shit?
[Posted on 11.28.16]: Last night a pair of posts about HBO’s vaguely infuriating Westworld series — one by Matt of Sleaford, the other by brenkilco — really hit the nail on the head. Together they explain why some viewers feel that good movies, which have to set everything up and pay off within two hours or so, are more satisfying than longform episodics. Here’s what they said in condensed form:
Brenkilco: “The problem with episodic TV narratives designed to blow minds is that the form and intention are at odds. A show designed to run until the audience gets tired of it cannot by definition have a satisfying structure. It can only keep throwing elements into the mix until, like Lost or Twin Peaks, it collapses under the weight of its own intriguing but random complications.
“Teasing this stuff out is easy. But eventually the rent comes due. Dramatic resolutions are demanded. The threads have to be pulled together. And that’s when things gets ugly.”
Matt of Sleaford: “Westworld is a puzzle-box show, which is kind of the opposite of a soap opera. Puzzle-box shows, like the aforementioned Lost and X-Files, can be fun to chew on while they’re progressing. But the solution is almost always anticlimactic. And though it may seem counterintuitive, puzzle-box shows are less effective in the internet era, because someone in the vast sea of commenters is almost certain to solve the puzzle before the end (see: Thrones, Game of).”
THR‘s Scott Roxborough, posted on 11.4.22: “Oscar-winner Michael Douglas and son Cameron will share the screen in the upcoming family drama Blood Knot, playing a father and son trying to mend their broken relationship.
“Howard Deutch (Empire, Young Sheldon) will direct the adaptation of Bob Rich’s book Looking Through Water, based on a script by Rowdy Herrington (Road House).”
Sounds good and looking forward, but for me the defining Cameron Douglas moment happened two and a half years ago, or on 5.5.20:
“Due respect to Cameron Douglas, grandson of Kirk and son of Michael Douglas. But if I’d been advising during the recording of this AFI Movie Club announcement, I would have gently reminded Cameron that the last syllable of Spartacus rhymes with “cuss” (i.e., as in “to curse”) or the first name of former Communist Party USA chairman Gus Hall. I’m sorry but at the :53 mark Cameron pronounces it Spartakiss, as in ‘kiss my ass’ or Gene Simmons.”
A serious industry guy saw Ridley Scott‘s Napoleon last night at the Grove, and has shared some observations with World of Reel‘s Jordan Ruimy.
The guy, a person of actual accomplishment as opposed to some pot-bellied film bum who attends research screenings in the fashion of a basement-dwelling fetishist, is calling Napoleon a “masterpiece.”
Here are some remarks:
“Running about 150 minutes, it covers the sweep of Napoleon’s life from his promotion around the time of the French revolution to the end” — a presumed refernce to Napoleon’s final defeat at Waterloo and subsequent exile. The guy thinks it’s “bigger, better and MORE PSYCHOLOGICAL than Scott’s epics like Kingdom of Heaven and Gladiator. Also more political.”
He thinks it’s “a masterpiece, or very nearly one…the culmination of Ridley’s life’s work as a filmmaker.
“[Scott’s] staging of battle scenes on a near-cosmic scale is mind-blowing,” the guy continues. “Joaquin Phoenix gives a Marlon Brando-like performance, taking some very big risks, and at times verging on the absurd, but always taking the audience with him.
“As a movie about a nationalist in a time of chaos and disintegration who thinks in terms of pure power, it has a lot of parallels to 2022. It’s a great movie and I’ll be surprised if there is anything better released in 2023.”
Given the weakness of 2022 films so far and that recent Tatiana Siegel-reported rumor that Apple was thinking about releasing Napoleon this year, it’s a shame that Apple has pussied out.
Napoleon costars Vanessa Kirby as Empress Joséphine, with Youssef Kerkour and Tahar Rahim also starring.
I’m imagining a chat with a Millennial-Zoomer pally about the Tudor exhibit at the current Metropolitan Museum. (The actual title is “The Tudors: Art and Majesty in Rennaissance England.”) Since ’15 or thereabouts this fellow has seen features, plays and cable series set in the 19th and 18th Centuries as well as Elizabethan England, including Netflix’s Bridgerton, Josie Rourke‘s Mary, Queen of Scots, Lynsey Miller and Eve Hedderwick Turner‘s Anne Boleyn, B’way’s Hamilton, Joel Coen‘s The Tragedy of Macbeth (set well before Elizabethan times) and so on. The casting of all these productions reflect the woke aesthetic known as “presentism”, and I’m telling this dude, who’ll be visiting the Met this weekend, that “The Tudors” doesn’t do the presentism thing because the paintings were actually painted back in the day. And this dude is looking at me going “wait…what do you mean?”
I saw Charlotte Wells‘ Aftersun many months ago in Cannes. Jordan Ruimy dragged me to it, and I tried, man…I really tried,. I watched and waited and gradually zoned out. My reaction was such that I didn’t write a review. I “respected” it but it didn’t turn the key. Mainly (and I know this makes me sound like a peon despite my rapt admiration for Michelangelo Antonioni”s L’Avventura and L’Eclisse) because nothing really happens.
It’s about a youngish, dopey-looking dad and his not-quite-teenaged daughter sharing a vacation at a low-key (i.e., not lavish) resort on the Turkish coast. Dad and mom have divorced and so this is a special father-and-daughter getaway. The problem is that dad is a dork who (a) smiles too much and (b) weeps in private.
Maggie and I divorced when the boys were under three, and I used to weep from time to time about not seeing them more often. But you have to suck that shit up.
I watched Aftersun to the end, and yet I can’t recall the last quarter. I know that boredom was a factor. I recall waiting for something to happen and gradually losing interest. Partly due to not liking Mescal, as I recall. Or feeling annoyed by his face. “I’m stuck with this guy?” I remember muttering to myself. I know I didn’t finish watching it in a focused sense. I floated away on some level. My eyes were watching the screen, but my head was somewhere else.
If I hadn’t sat through Aftersun six months ago and was thinking about seeing it now, I would be asking myself “what’s with the title?” I still don’t know what it means. Aftersun refers to…what, dusk? Or sundown? The way a person’s skin feels or looks like after exposure to too much sunlight? Or, in other words, sunburn? If it had been called Afterburn, I would understand. Either way the title doesn’t land.
And then there’s the “uh-oh” premise. A young girl discovers that her youngish idealistic father has another side to him that she didn’t see at first. And that other side has something to do with…uhm, the uncertainty of life? A father’s grief that comes from living apart from a young daughter? The goalie’s anxiety at the penalty kick? God’s silence?
Here’s a review from the honorable Dennis Harvey, the Variety stringer who was more or less assassinated when Carey Mulligan said that a line that he wrote about her not being hot enough to play the lead in Promising Young Woman had hurt her feelings. Here’s Harvey on Aftersun:
“Contrastingly opaque is Charlotte Wells’ Aftersun, a debut feature that’s won a great deal of critical praise whose enthusiasm I can’t quite share. In the 1990s, 11-year-old Sophie (Frankie Corio) goes on a holiday with her father Calum (Paul Mescal) to a Turkish resort obviously catering to British families. He is divorced from her mother, and evidently does not see his only child often, so this is a dual sojourn both welcome and a little awkward.
“Working in a style of psychological nuance and elliptical narrative that strongly recalls Lynne Ramsay’s films, Wells does assured work, and gets very good performances from her two main actors. But while Aftersun’s plotlessness isn’t dull, it is cryptic to an exasperating extent. We find out almost nothing about these characters’ shared past, why the marriage ended, what Calum is doing now, what failures or frustrations he’s found crying over in one late scene.
“There are also strobe-cut sequences interspersed throughout that show an adult Sophie (Celia Rowlson-Hall) apparently still haunted by this damaged-by-implication parental relationship…but they tell us even less. Wells does very well evoking subtle tensions. Still, 100 minutes of vaguely hinting at issues the film is far too discreet to reveal made for a slice-of-life drama more affected than affecting, in my book.”
Jason P. Frank and Rebecca Alter’s “49 True Facts About Lydia Tar” is brilliant. But in a vaguely cruel way. Okay, not cruel but certainly subversive. And yet it fits right into the film. Because it’s basically saying, humorously, that Lydia Tar’s banishment and ruination wasn’t such a bad idea.
In other words, Frank and Alter are a pair of cold icepicks who privately salivate at the idea of taking down a dynamic talent who’s long revelled in an elite celebrity orbit but who holds the wrong (i.e., politically brusque, anti-woke, vaguely amoral in the manner of many X-factor genius types) views and — this is the really damning part — has treated Columbus Ave. Joe Coffee baristas rudely.
Friendo: “This is part of why democracy is ending in America in four days. The point of that piece is: ‘We hate Lydia Tar.’ Translation: ‘Our Marxist absolutism trumps ambiguity in art.’”
- 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 »