Given what it obviously is, Fisher Stevens and Justin Timberlake‘s Palmer (Apple, 1.29) has the right kind of attitude. Or so it seems. Timberlake (who hits 40 on 1.31.21) as a former high school football star who returns to his small podunk hometown after serving a 12-year sentence for…who knows? Moves in with mom (June Squibb) and forms an unlikely friendship with Sam (Ryder Allen), a young effeminate lad who lives next door. You can see where it’s going in a flash.
If I’d been in Times Square during last night’s snow storm, the idea of peddling around on a bicycle would’ve never crossed my mind. I would’ve just tramped around in my snow boots, scarf, silken long johns, three T-shirts, sweater, gloves and thermal hoodie. I hate what Times Square has become, but what a thing to miss out on. What a moment.
Times Square during great blizzard of December 1947.
If you’ve ever read any of Scott Feinberg‘s “Brutally Honest Oscar Voter” columns, you know that a lot of Academy members are, to put it gently, stubbornly resistant to what could be described as present-tense, finger-to-the-wind, representational snowflake currents.
If you wanted to be dismissive you could call them woke-indifferent, under-the-radar scowlers. As in unenlightened, incurious, living in their own foxholes, “I miss the ’70s”, somewhat resentful, “I’m from Missouri,” “everything sucks,” etc.
They’re not lacking in talent or intelligence or love for movie lore, these people, but they do seem irked by the social justice warrior syndrome…to processing all the contenders with a carefully calibrated woke filter. They like what they like and respect what they respect, but they sometimes vote for films that the wokesters despise (i.e., Green Book) and thank God in heaven for that.
God Herself howled in triumph, trust me, on the night that Green Book won and Spike Lee turned his back. And She beamed with delight when Get Out was blown off.
There are, of course, many other Academy members who see things differently. Particularly the newly added internationals who voted overwhelmingly for Parasite + the New Academy Kidz who hate anything that smacks of OLDER WHITE GUYS and are always thinking “let’s give actors and filmmakers who aren’t part of the older-white-guy, Spielberg-stamped network a chance.”
But based on those “Brutally Honest” confessionals, a good percentage of Oscar voters and guild members don’t think like…well, any of the elite critics and Oscar-watching columnists.
It’s like Clayton Davis, Eric Kohn, Justin Chang, Tom O’Neill, Robbie Collin, Manohla Dargis, Angelica Jade Bastién, Steve Pond, Erik Anderson, David Ehrlich, Alison Willmore…it’s like the wokesterati and SJW banner carriers live on one planet, and the people who actually work in the film industry and vote for Oscars (and Emmys and guild awards) live on another.
Do certain tastes and preferences overlap? Yes, of course, but generally speaking very few….I should say almost no critics or columnists seem to live, think and breathe like the rank and file. Put another way, very few critic-columnists dare to think and write like stubbornly independent foxhole contrarians. Because to do so would mean (and this is crucial) not getting hired by the editors and publishers who are also living in fear of the Khmer Rouge…who are white-knuckle terrified of offending the comintern.
Bottom line: If you want to be survive in the film-assessing, Oscar-covering journalistic world of 2020 and ’21, you must play along with the wokesters. Or at least pretend to play along. Which is why almost everyone is more or less singing the same tune.
Except, that is, for Hollywood Elsewhere (i.e., myself) and a few others out there. That’s right…HE and very few others stand alone. Alone against the wind and the herd.
[Posted in 6.14.19 comment thread for “And I Knew When I Got There…“]
In the opening voice-over, Tommy Lee Jones‘ Sheriff Bell speaks about decency, trust, values, tradition. About how previous generations of Texas lawmen had behaved and held their end up and handled their jobs with due diligence. And about a kind of feral madness in the land that, to Bell’s dismay and confusion, has begun to manifest.
The dream Jones tells his wife about at the finale is a bookend — a return to this meditation. The trust and affection he felt for his father and the values he lived by — knowing without being told that his dad was riding on ahead to find a camping spot and build a fire. Jones longs for that history, that sense of assurance and steadfast character in daily life.
“And then I woke up,” Bell says, finding himself in the present with the spreading malice and madness of the Anton Chigurhs and a moral or spiritual atmosphere that will one day embrace even worse things, including the monster that is Donald Trump.
“We’re now only one Presidential election [away] from the end of America as we know it. For the first time in our history, a majority of a major political party has refused to accept the results of a Presidential election. Tens of millions will now teach their children they live in a country with an illegitimate President. This is how democracy dies. Today the dividing line in American politics is not between conservative and liberal — it’s between those who believe in democracy, and those who are killing it.”
HE to friendo: “Given that the original Wonder Woman (’17) was joyously celebrated and embraced by women everywhere, and that WW84 has a pre-opening woke pass (not to mention the Covid sympathy factor), I found it significant that a woman from a major outlet — Angelica Jade Bastien — wasn’t sold. In the current climate a major-outlet male critic would have had a fairly tough time if he’d written such a review.”
Friendo to HE: “I had mixed feelings about WW84. I actually thought the first one was better. I think it’s being overpraised in a depressing, boilerplate way that is totally about the woke factor.
“That said, if you read between the lines of Bastien’s review, it’s not really an anti-woke critique of WW84. It’s kind of saying that the movie, and all these movies, fail because they aren’t woke enough. It’s criticizing the idea that corporate blockbuster moviemaking, by going all diverse (black superheroes! women superheroes! transgender paraplegic possum superheroes!), thinks it’s ‘done enough’ to qualify as ‘progressive’, when it fact that’s just tokenism.
“My problem with WW84 is that [it has] a weird monkey’s-paw plot device (you’re granted a wish but you have to lose something in the bargain!) that never completely tracks, and a villain who seemed like Bill Pullman‘s goofball comedian brother.”
Friendo to HE: “Wiig is actually the second villain. In that busy, overstuffed Batman Returns way.”
Just a reminder that Andrei Konchalovsky‘s Dear Comrades! (Neon), winner of the 2020’s Venice Film festival Special Jury Prize, will begin to appear later this month. A virtual Film Forum booking begins on 12.25; other viewing opportunities will presumably follow in close order.
Excerpt of HE review, posted on 9.13.20: “Yesterday Andrei Konchalovsky‘s Dear Comrades (Dorohgie Tovarischi) won the Venice Film Festival’s Special Jury Prize. With Chloe Zhao‘s Nomadland and Michael Franco‘s New Order taking the Golden and Silver Lion prizes, Konchalovsky’s film, an emotionally intense capturing of the 1962 Novocherkassk massacre, basically came in third.
“I didn’t see Franco’s film, but in my humble view the Konchalovsky is even-steven with the Zhao. It’s really quite stunning in its own severe but ravishing fashion, captured in bracing black-and-white and pushed along by the engine of Julia_Vysotskaya‘s lead performance, which is fierce and blistering.
“This infamous atrocity, which happened under the reign of Nikita Kruschev, was about the Russian military murdering 26 Russian citizens and the wounding 87 others in an effort to discourage angry protests over increased work quotas and food prices.”
Transportation Secretary? Okay, I guess, whatever. No offense to Uncle Joe, but in a more perfect world Pete Buttigieg would be the President-elect. Thanks once again to all those homophobes and progressive ayeholes who did what they could to hobble Pete’s presidential primary campaign.
If confirmed, Buttigieg will be the first Senate-confirmed openly LGBTQ cabinet secretary, as well as the youngest person to serve as Secretary of Transportation. He probably won’t serve any more than three years; he’ll probably run for President in ’24.
Incidentally: A couple of days ago a sharp-eyed friend predicted that Biden will, at age 80 and 81, run again in ’23 and ’24.
I love roaming around Manhattan (i.e., not Brooklyn) during a moderately serious snowstorm. Which seems to be happening now. By this I mean the kind of rough and tumble snow that sticks to the sidewalk and accumulates at least a half-foot or more. Today’s Nor’easter could actually deliver two feet.
That awesome feeling of standing on a streetcorner in my black overcoat and cowboy hat, getting splattered by bits of flying ice and snow when a taxi speeds by, delighting to that muffled-snow-blanket sound, ducking into a deli for a plastic container of watermelon salad or a Starbucks for a cup of black battery acid…loving it all.
Here’s HE’s latest Best Picture chart. I’m honestly split 50/50 on the merits of Chloe Zhao‘s Nomadland and David Fincher‘s Mank, and so they’re tied for second place. (At least for the time being.) They’re both excellent films, and in a Mangrove-free world either could easily occupy the #1 slot. But Steve McQueen’s film happened, and there’s no question it’s 2020’s finest.
Curious as it may seem to some, I regard Roman Polanski‘s J’Accuse (i.e., An Officer and a Spy) as a 2020 feature, even though it never opened (and probably never will open) stateside.
It had its world premiere at the 2019 Venice Film Festival, and began to illegally stream earlier this year. In my book that makes it a necessary 2020 release, as there was no other way to see it. The Polanski stamp demanded the attention of film mavens the world over. Even if J’Accuse was streaming right now on Amazon, Netflix or HBO Max, would most critics ignore it all the same? Probably. The applicable terms are “fear” and “cowardice.” Or, if you will, “playing it safe.”
I have nothing but disgust and condemnation for any sexual abuser in any realm, but in this instance it’s also unconscionable, I feel, to not separate Polanski the artist from Polanski the flawed individual. Brilliant filmmaking is brilliant filmmaking, and it’s completely derelict for critics to ignore this film, as almost all of them have over the last year or so.
I had to give J’Accuse the third place slot — it’s too mesmerizing, too exacting and too searing to be designated any other way.
The Mangrove irony, of course, is that Amazon has decided not to go for Oscars but Emmys, which I regard, due respect, as a mistake. If I’d been in Amazon’s shoes I would have submitted the other four Small Axe films — Lovers Rock, Education, Alex Wheatle and Red, White and Blue — for Emmy consideration while declaring Mangrove to be a theatrical, Oscar-qualifying, stand-alone feature.
There’s no theatrical realm to speak of these days so any half-decent streamer can (and in Mangrove‘s case, definitely should) be regarded as a Best Picture contender. If any 2020 film deserves to be so regarded, it’s Mangrove.
If not for the pandemic Mangrove would have premiered in Cannes last May, perhaps played a couple of early fall festivals besides NYFF ’20, and gone on to a semblance of theatrical glory. It would’ve certainly emerged as a top-ten favorite on all the lists. Academy and guild voters would’ve had no choice but bestow a Best Picture nomination, as they did six years ago with McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave.