Snapped in ‘62: Gregory Peck was peaking with To Kill a Mockingbird. Cary Grant had peaked with North by Northwest three years earlier, but he was on the gradual downslide and would retire four years hence. The stout, moustachioed, Ugly American-ized Marlon Brando had peaked in the early to mid ‘50s but would resurge in the early ‘70s. Rock Hudson was peaking with Lover Come Back but…okay, he had Seconds to look forward to, I suppose.
Us Weekly ‘s Yana Grebenyuk is reporting that Pete Davidson (aka “Mr. Bone”) is doing the old in-out-in-out with Madelyn Cline. The 25-year-old Cline costarred in Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion, but I honestly don’t remember who she played or what she did or anything. Okay, I just looked it up — she played Whiskey, Dave Bautista’s girlfriend.
Yesterday N.Y. Times industry reporter Kyle Buchanan declared that The Pot-Au-Feu (aka The Taste of Things) is “absolutely” competitive above and beyond the Best Int’l Feature category. He believes this because Tran Anh Hung’s French culinary romance is “incredibly Academy friendly.”
Most of us know what “Academy-friendly” means…a film that feels confident and well-crafted in a classic, well-settled sense…one that delivers emotional comfort by way of a well-threaded conveyance of commonly held truths and values…a film that resides within familiar boundaries and doesn’t push the envelope too much. In short, a film that appeals to over-45 sophistos.
But of course, there’s another kind of Academy-friendly film these days — one that appeals to the under-45 crowd by placing significant value upon identity politics (i.e., celebrating female, LGBTQ and non-white actors and filmmakers) above everything else…a film that caters to the tastes and views of the New Academy Kidz.
So which of the currently hot contenders and performances are traditionally Academy friendly vs. NAK-friendly? And which among these exude an intimidation factor — a film or performance that may be very good on a quality-level, but which voters will feel obliged to support regardless because they don’t want anyone to think they lack of a social conscience or, God forbid, may be harboring a certain undercurrent of racism.
Abbreviation-wise, the three categories are (a) AF, (b) NAK and (c) IF (intimidation factor). HE has also created a fourth category — FI or forget it.
HE director-screenwriter friendo: “There’s some movement on a rewards-based residual for streaming, based on viewing levels, but there’s no word on whether the minimum staffing as been resolved. It will probably get some caveat — that’s the showrunner’s call in some fashion. It’s telling that Amazon is adding advertising to Prime, commercials to its movies and originals, with an additional charge for an ad-free tier. This is a major concession. Jennifer Salke doesn’t read scripts and is inept. Advertising is easier to maintain and monetize, also meaning unions want that revenue as ads fuel profit margins. As I’ve long said, ad-supported streaming is the new basic cable.”
“I think the Vietnam War drove a stake right through the heart of America. [And] we’ve never really moved [beyond] that…we never recovered.”
I’ve been to Vietnam three times, and would love to return. I’ve even flirted with the idea or moving there permanently. There’s never been the slightest doubt in my mind that Johnson and Nixon administration policy makers brought immense horror and unimaginable slaughter to that beautiful, once-divided country, but during my three visits I’ve never felt anything but the most tranquil vibes. Nobody has ever given me so much as a hint of a dirty look because of my heritage. The natives who fought against the Americans are, of course, in their 70s and 80s or passed on. The 45-and-unders weren’t even born during the hostilities. Nobody wants to carry that war around — we all want to live in the present.
Which is why I didn’t want to watch Ken Burns and Lynn Novick‘s The Vietnam War, a ten-part, $30 million, 17-hour doc about that tragic conflict, when it premiered on PBS almost exactly six years ago (9.17.17).
But last night…I don’t know why exactly, but I felt suddenly drawn to this miniseries. So I watched three episodes — “The River Styx” (January 1964 – December 1965), “This Is What We Do” (July 1967 – December 1967) and “Things Fall Apart” (January 1968 – July 1968). Five hours without a break. This morning I watched episodes #7, #9 and #10.
I was fascinated, fascinated, horrified, saddened, at times close to tears. What a deluge of death, delusion and horror. Immeasurable and irredeemable. The second most divisive war in U.S. history. And I couldn’t turn it off. Had to see it through. Glad I did.
Excerpt from a 10.10.14 assessment of David Ayer’s Fury: “The climactic situation comes when the weary Brad ‘Wardaddy’ Pitt and his four bone-tired men (Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf, Michael Pena and a revolting redneck animal played by Jon Bernthal) are stuck next to a country farmhouse with their tank temporarily disabled by a land mine. They soon after discover that 300 well-armed German troops are marching in their direction.
“Pitt has been ordered by his superior, Jason Isaacs, to protect a supply train, but five guys in a broken-down tank vs. 300 German solders is just suicide, plain and simple. They’ve no chance so why does Pitt decide to fight it out? To what end? They aren’t trapped. They could run for the trees and meet up with U.S. forces later and live to fight again. But no. You can call it bravery but I call it nihilism.
“I understand crazy courage and uncommon valor and all that. I choke up every time I think of Sam Jaffe climbing to the top of the temple so he can blow the bugle and warn the British troops of an ambush at the end of Gunga Din. And I understood the situation during the finale of Pork Chop Hill when 30 or 40 trapped U.S. troops have nothing to do but fight back against hordes of Chinese troops. And the ending of Platoon when U.S. troops were being overrun by North Vietnamese but they fight on regardless and even call in an air strike against their own position. And I certainly understand the Wild Bunch finale when William Holden and Ernest Borgnine and the other two decide that they’re getting old and their lives are over so why not go out in a blaze of gunfire?
“But the Fury finale is nothing like any of these scenarios.
Friendo: “That’s not how it went down.’
HE: “What do you mean that’s not how it went down’? That’s exactly how it went down. Pitt said ‘Nope, I’m gonna fight it out….you guys run for the trees if you want.’ Think about that decision for four or five seconds. It was utter suicide and for what?”
Friendo: “If they made a movie about guys who ran for the hills I don’t think it would be quite the same, would it?”
HE: “Not run for the hills but hide in the trees until the company passes by, and then regroup with the nearby American troops and fight on. What’s wrong with that?
“They weren’t fighting the enemy in order to give other Allied troops time to achieve some other objective — this wasn’t the Alamo. They weren’t ordered to protect a bridge at all costs, like the guys in Saving Private Ryan. This was April 1945 — the end of the war. Hitler would be dead in a couple of weeks. It didn’t matter. If Pitt and his homies had abandoned the tank and run like thieves I would have jumped out of my seat and said ‘Yes! Run for it! All right!'”
Friendo: “The Fury finale was analogous to those two cops in the mean streets of Los Angeles in Ayer’s End of Watch.”
HE: “Not the same thing at all. Sorry but you’re throwing out bad analogies. And that finale in End of Watch was ridiculous also. L.A. cop Jake Gyllenhaal is shot by gangbangers, what, 12 or 15 times and he’s attending the funeral of his partner in the next scene?
Friendo: “I will stand to the end of this thread defending my analogies just like Pitt did against the Nazis!”
HE: “During the big court-martial scene in Paths of Glory a French infantryman, Private Maurice Ferol (Timothy Carey), is asked by the prosecution why he retreated after his comrades had all been killed in an attack on the Ant Hill (i.e., a German fortification). The question is satirically re-phrased by Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas), the defense counsel. ‘Why didn’t you attack the Ant Hill single-handed?’ Dax asks. ‘Single-handed? Are you kidding, sir?,’ Ferol replies. ‘Yes, I’m kidding,’ Dax says.
“Pitt and his crew going up against 300 German troops isn’t much different from Ferol vs. the Ant Hill, trust me.
“A soldier can’t go into battle saying ‘I don’t want to die…where can I hide?’ He has to go into battle saying ‘we have to man up and accomplish our objective.’ The chances of survival are never good but suicide is suicide. And as a moviegoer I can’t support a battle in which there’s no chance of the protagonists prevailing. There has to be at least a shot at victory.
“If it’s a choice between self-destruction and running for cover in order to live and fight another day, just call me Jeff ‘run for the treeline’ Wells.”
[Posted in mid-November 2013] Yesterday was a long one. A road and train trip from Hoi An to Nha Trang from 7:30 am until just after 10 pm last night. I wanted to visit the My Lai massacre museum near Quang Ngai so we drove down early yesterday morning — a two-hour trek with all the rain and the traffic and road construction. I was told it would take another 11 or 12 hours to drive to Nha Trang so I bought a train ticket from Quang Ngai to Nha Trang, which would take about eight hours, I was told. It took ten.
The down-at-the-heels, less-than-fully-hygienic train left at 1 pm and chugged along at a moderate pace for 400 kilometers, stopping for 10 or 12 minutes at each station. It was hellish, in a sense, but I didn’t want to be encased in a luxurious tourist cocoon. I wanted to feel and smell and taste the real Vietnam like an average local. Well, I got that.
Did the My Lai massacre museum and the surrounding grounds make me feel revolted and a bit nauseous? Of course. Is the after-vibe as bad as Dachau? Pretty much, yes. Cold-blooded mass murder is cold-blooded mass murder. I don’t think the scale of it (504 Vietnamese civilians vs. six million Jews) matters that much in a moral sense.
Did visiting the site make me feel a bit ashamed to be an American? Within this context, yes. But then I never felt the slightest kinship or compassion for the principal perpetrators (Col. Oran K. Henderson, Cpt. Ernest Medina, Lt. William Calley). I wasn’t there, of course, and I don’t know what it was like to be in a combat environment. But there’s no way to give this kind of barbarism anything but the harshest condemnation.