Of the five Best Actress nominees, Carey Mulligan has the most compelling narrative — portrayed a definitive #MeToo character, has been delivering ace-level performances for over a decade, weathered the Dennis Harvey Sundance review altercation. Andra Day‘s Billie Holiday is quite commanding and lived-in, but there’s no narrative as Holiday was her first substantive role (had smallish roles in Cars 3 and Marshall before this). Frances McDormand Nomadland performance is obviously top-grade, but she won her Three Billboards Oscar three years ago. Viola Davis‘s blustery Ma Rainey performance never caught on, and Vanessa Kirby‘s Pieces of a Woman performance warrants serious praise, but again — no narrative except that she kills it.
The Hollywood Reporter‘s Scott Feinberg and David Rooney have posted a “should win” / “will win” piece about the Golden Globe awards, which will happen on Sunday, 2.28. Rooney offers the shoulds; Feinberg projects the wills.
Herewith are HE’s reactions with a particular focus on two questions in the matter of Best Picture, Drama. One, does the viewer want to “live” in the world of a given film or performance? (A major consideration that journos almost never ponder.) And two, what does the film in question say about life on the planet earth right now that strikes a resonant chord?
Best Picture, Drama
SHOULD WIN: Rooney says Nomadland
WILL WIN: Feinberg says either The Trial of the Chicago 7 or Nomadland.
HE SEZ: Nomadland is a sad, sporadically spirited mood poem about “houseless”-ness — about good people who’ve suffered blows and lost the battle but continue to push on like the Joad family. The cultural/political winds obviously point to a Nomadland win. We all feel the heart current, but who wants to “live” in this world of roaming 60-plus vagabonds who exchange stories, sit around campfires and take care of business in buckets? Answer: Nobody. Which is why The Trial of the Chicago 7 might win because hanging, strategizing and arguing with the likes of Hoffman, Kuntsler, Hayden, Rubin, et. al. is a more vital way to be.
What does Nomadland say about our current communal state that’s real and truthful? Thank God for strength, reaching out and resourcefulness in this most
brutal difficult soul-draining of realms, but who rejects a good deal (safety, security, better hygiene, a bathroom) when it’s offered? What does Chicago 7 say? We may have our strategic differences and combative personalities, but there’s the spit and spunk of it all. Fight on!
Best Picture, Musical or Comedy
SHOULD WIN: Rooney says Hamilton (“In a weak category this year, it has to be Thomas Kail‘s performance-capture recording of the Broadway juggernaut that bottles the thrill of live theater with rare skill,” he says.)
WILL WIN: Feinberg says Borat 2.
HE SEZ: Hamilton is a play that was captured by cameras…period. Borat 2, a film that ridicules red-hat bumblefucks and Rudy Giuliani, will win. What does Borat 2 say about our current communal state that’s real and truthful? Answer: There are assholes aplenty out there (including the medieval sexists of Eastern Europe), and it’s fun to laugh at them. No harm, no foul.
Who wants to “live” in the world of Borat 2? Answer: No choice — we are living in that world.
Best Actress, Drama
SHOULD WIN: Rooney says Carey Mulligan.
WILL WIN: Feinberg says Mulligan. “Frances McDormand and Viola Davis won recently,” Scott reasons, “whereas Mulligan never has.”
HE SEZ: Mulligan. She’s good in Promising Young Woman in a dry, brittle, controlled fury way. She was at least five if not ten times more affecting in Sarah Gavron‘s Suffragette, Thomas Vinterberg‘s Far From The Madding Crowd, Lone Scherfig‘s An Education, in 2015’s Skylight on Broadway, in BBC/Netflix’s Collateral, etc. And she’s very good in The Dig. But sometimes you win for the performance that you win for — just happens that way. Mulligan won’t thank Variety‘s Dennis Harvey, of course, but that whole kerfuffle probably did a lot to cement her winer’s circle status.
Who wants to “live” in the world of Promising Young Woman? Answer: Not this horse. Young men are pigs, but I’d prefer to live in a realm in which guys who resemble Bo Burnham‘s pediatrician stay the way they were written for the first seven-eights of the film, and don’t pull a last-minute switcheroo to satisfying some arbitrary “we need a twist” requirement.
Best Actor, Drama
SHOULD WIN: Rooney says Ma Rainey‘s Chadwick Boseman.
WILL WIN: Feinberg says Anthony Hopkins (“Only Hopkins’ The Father is up for best pic, plus the HFPA adores him…eight noms going back 42 years!.
HE SEZ: Boseman might win, but a Best Actor trophy should be about more than expressing a great collective sadness about a young actor’s untimely death. The finest performance of Boseman’s career was James Brown in Get On Up. Plus “everyone knows that Boseman’s ‘Levee’ doesn’t blow the doors off the hinges — not really. It’s a poignant performance (especially during the scene in which Levee recalls a sad episode involving his mother). I understand the sentiment behind giving Boseman a special tribute, of course, but giving him a posthumous GG award for a performance that is no more than approvable feels like a disproportionate thing to do.” — posted on 2.10.21. The GG trophy should go to either Hopkins or Sound of Metal‘s Riz Ahmed.
Who wants to “live” in the world of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Father and Sound of Metal? Answer: Ixnay on the first two, but the world of Sound of Metal is vast and cosmic and full of wonder.
Best Actress, Musical or Comedy
SHOULD WIN: Rooney says French Exit‘s Michelle Pfeiffer (“Her withering hauteur and spent surrender elevate every moment”).
WILL WIN: Feinberg says Borat 2‘s Maria Bakalova.
HE SEZ: Rooney is right — the award should go to Pfeiffer. Critics have been hailing Bakalova’s praises all along, and she’s totally fine in the film but the fact that she’s won 19 Best Supporting Actress prizes around the country is, like…what? Strictly a falling-dominoes dynamic.
Best Actor, Musical or Comedy
SHOULD WIN: Rooney says Borat 2‘s Sacha Baron Cohen. (“Andy Samberg‘s role in Palm Springs doesn’t extend his range, Lin-Manuel Miranda isn’t Hamilton‘s strongest player, and James Corden is abrasive in The Prom.”)
WILL WIN: Feinberg says Cohen
HE SEZ: Cohen.
When Kyle Buchanan wrote a profile about Promising Young Woman‘s Carey Mulligan a couple of months ago, attention was gained and the pot was stirred. Especially when Mulligan was quoted saying that she “took issue” with Dennis Harvey‘s Variety review of her film.
On 3.15 McDormand and Mulligan will almost certainly be announced as competitors for the same Best Actress Oscar. Why do I have this feeling that this is not McDormand’s year to win? Partly because she won an Oscar three years ago for her performance as an angry mom in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, her second such honor after winning for her Marge Gunderson in Fargo 24 years ago. Enough, right?
But now McDormand has offered another reason. She’s told Buchanan that she’s still looking to live under the radar. Buchanan notes McDormand “is highly skeptical of any ceremony where actors are done up like glamorous gladiators“, adding that when her husband Joel Coen “was asked to produce the Oscars alongside his brother, Ethan, McDormand suggested they set the telecast at Coney Island, which would have forced Hollywood glitterati to mingle with the freak show.”
Buchanan further notes that McDormand sometimes appears “barefaced instead of Botoxed and once wore her own jean jacket in lieu of borrowed couture,” a form of “mild noncompliance [that] is tantamount to a declaration of war in Hollywood.”
Right after Fargo, McDormand “made a very conscious effort not to do press and publicity for 10 years,” she says, “but it paid off for exactly the reasons I wanted it to. It gave me a mystery back to who I was, and then in the roles I performed, I could take an audience to a place where someone who sold watches or perfume and magazines couldn’t.”
“To her,” Kyle writes. “Nomadland is the culmination of that effort to keep herself unspoiled in the public eye. ‘That’s why it works,’ she said. ‘That’s why Chloé could bear to even think of doing this with me, because of what I’ve created for years not just as an actor, but in my personal life.”
Get the picture? Low-key, no thanks, we’re good, the Oscars are a bit gaudy, we have our own deal.
Actual conversation that took place yesterday (HE being one of the participants), mostly focused on Kylie Jenner:
Friendo #1: “You can be as shamelessly sexual as you want any time you want. You just can’t be a guy noticing or commenting or looking.”
Friendo #2: “I think that cognitive dissonance you’re talking about in the culture — i.e., encouraging male lust while demonizing male lust — is almost psychotic. And toxic in its hypocrisy. One can only weep for the vanished honesty of Sex and the City. The demonizing of male sexuality now symbolizes a kind of cultural death wish.”
Friendo #1: “Hah — I can’t imagine what it’s like to grow up as a young white male right now.”
HE: “But wasn’t female sexuality (much less open expression of same?) rigidly of not punitively repressed in this country and throughout the world for centuries? Since forever? The pendulum has simply swung sharply in the other direction. Woke society to young males: We can’t stop your natural hormonal urges, but step out of line just once and WE WILL LOP YOUR HEAD OFF.”
Friendo #2: “True enough. But that repression of female sexuality took place within a more repressed culture, period. That didn’t justify it, but that was the context. Trying to make the pendulum swing the other way in a culture as openly, rabidly sexual as ours is insane. It doesn’t work. It only breeds…more Republicans!”
Friendo #1: “What I’m noticing is the Kardashian brand…Cardi B or Miley Cyrus or any young female on Instagram or Tiktok, and even the rise of ‘only fans’ where young women are selling naked pictures of themselves. For instance, on Tinder apparently young beautiful girls attract a whole bunch of men who then pay them to send photos. Most of the young women only want that kind of interaction.”
“But the puritanism is played out on a much bigger stage where men are ‘creepy’ if they even comment on a woman’s looks (like Variety‘s Dennis Harvey). Maybe this ONLY applies to white men. Maybe black men or men of color can say or do whatever they want and it won’t matter. But I just find it all very odd — women seem to be at once infantilizing themselves as perpetual victims while also, and at the same time, feeling empowerment by displaying their hyper sexuality.
“I find it all really confusing. We know what the rules are who must obey them but they seem to change all of the time with the one constant being to remove the cultural power of straight white men.
“Like, for instance, how does this picture [of Kylie Jenner] get 12 million likes on Instagram:
HE: “What’s she drinking, iced tea? WHO CARES?”
Friendo #1: “I know. But she has 200 million followers. Barack Obama only has 34 million. The point is that ALL she’s selling is sexuality. That is it. Sold mostly to women, I would imagine.”
Friendo #2: “The power of EVERYONE is being removed. Women are coerced into these roles, and it only looks like ‘freedom.’ This is late-capitalist corporate control — Orwellianism in a thong.”
If you want to hear four film journalists — TheWrap editor Sharon Waxman, Independent film critic Clarisse Loughrey. Wrap assistant managing editor Daniel Goldblatt and Wrap reporter Brian Welk — totally tiptoe around the National Society of Film Critics having called on Variety to remove an apology it added to a review of Promising Young Woman and afford critic Dennis Harvey a bit more respect…if you want to hear four people dodge this issue like their lives depend on it and say almost nothing of substance, please click on the embedded link (“Summer of Soul Director Questlove”) and go to the 28:20 mark.
Waxman doesn’t tiptoe as much as the other three, but they mostly seem to feel that Harvey misunderstood the film and expressed himself inelegantly — that, to them, is the main issue. Otherwise they have zip to say about Variety undercutting Harvey and totally groveling before Mulligan and Focus Features, etc.
Clarisse Loughrey: “[I was] a little dismayed as a woman…I do think that we have to give room to women’s concerns about [Harvey’s] review….I did take issue with [it] although not in the sense that something should be done about this.”
Will you listen to her? Loughrey almost believes that Variety‘s 11-months-later apology was the right thing to do, and that Harvey was guilty of an actual mistake in perception. This is exactly what the NSFC didn’t say, of course, but nobody points this out to her.
I’ve said repeatedly that I don’t agree with what Harvey seemed to be saying in the review, and that relative hotness standards have nothing to do with sexually predatory behavior by young males, and that Mulligan’s dry, stylized performance was chilly but compelling.
Mulligan didn’t ask for an apology. Variety offered one willy-nilly after she mentioned her displeasure with a certain paragraph in mid-December ’20 to N.Y. Times award-season columnist Kyle Buchanan. If Variety editors had an issue with that paragraph they should have addressed it with a counter-review or an editorial after it first appeared in January ’20. But they didn’t say or do anything for a full 11 months.
Did @Variety handle the criticism of its #PromisingYoungWoman review correctly? The @NatSocFilmCrix doesn’t think so. @clarisselou critic @independent chats with @sharonwaxman and the team on the latest episode of #TheWrapUp.
— TheWrap (@TheWrap) February 12, 2021
The last time Variety apologized for a movie review was in 1992. The film was Philip Noyce and Mace Neufeld‘s Patriot Games, the critic was Joseph McBride, and the National Society of Film Critics stood up for McBride, just like they did today for the critic with tire tracks across his back, Promising Young Woman reviewer Dennis Harvey.
While Variety editors debate and dither over the trade paper’s response (if any) to the National Society of Film Critics’ condemnation of its recent behavior in the Carey Mulligan-Dennis Harvey-Promising Young Woman brouhaha, Hollywood Elsewhere is submitting the following for Variety‘s consideration, should they wish to explain themselves more fully:
“Variety acknowledges, understands and respects the position of the National Society of Film Critics in its just-posted (2.9) criticism of Variety‘s 11-months-later apology for a certain paragraph in Dennis Harvey‘s 1.26.20 review of Promising Young Woman.
“If we were NSFC-allied critics instead of Variety editors, we might well agree with and support this morning’s statement wholeheartedly.
“However, Variety respectfully suggests that the NSFC has missed the point in this matter. Because what the NSFC has condemned us for — disrespecting a top-ranked stringer and needlessly bruising his sterling reputation, plus showing a lack of editorial ethics and backbone — happened for what we believe to be a good and noble reason.
“Simply put, we did what we did because we believe that #MeToo solidarity counts more than editorial integrity.
“We are living through a revolutionary era in Hollywood history, one in which women, people of various ethnicities and LGBTQs are righteously claiming a larger share of power and pressure — power that the white-male heirarchy has singlehandedly wielded for decades. Women in particular are standing up, pushing back and challenging sexist norms.
“And so when Carey Mulligan complained a few weeks ago to N.Y. Times columnist Kyle Buchanan about what she (and, frankly, we) judged as a viewpoint with a certain sexist or misogynist undercurrent, our hearts were stirred.
“And so it seemed necessary, important and perhaps even vital to us that Variety should stand alongside Mulligan, offer an unprecedented editorial apology and say “classic editorial journalistic ethics are well and good and we’re certainly not abandoning
most of them, but women need to stick together in this, an era of #MeToo solidarity and change…we’re with you all the way, Carey. And don’t worry about Harvey and his fuddy-duddy defenders…they’ll get over this little speed bump and we can all go back to business as usual.
“In other words, when we decided to apologize to Mulligan and Focus Features for the tone and phrasing in a single, allegedly inflammatory paragraph in Harvey’s review, our thinking was fundamentally driven by political rather than ethical or critical considerations.
In a just-posted column, The Ankler‘s Richard Rushfield riffs on Variety’s “toadying” apology for Dennis Harvey’s Promising Young Woman review (offered 11 months after initial publication) as well as the deafening, coast-to-coast silence from columnists and critics about Variety, as part of the grovelling process, throwing poor Harvey under the bus. The exceptions (so far) have been Collider‘s Jeff Sneider, author and former Variety critic Joseph McBride, The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw, “Across the Movie Aisle” podcasters Sonny Bunch, Alyssa Rosenberg and Peter Suderman, and myself.
World of Reel‘s Jordan Ruimy: “You know what’s even more disturbing [about the Dennis Harvey thing]? How absolutely nobody in film criticism is defending him. They’re all absolutely frightened to speak out. This is a guy who has been in the field for 30 years and not one of his former or current colleagues is going to bat for him. I’m just disturbed by the way things are going. You can’t defend a person who’s under attack [by the Khmer Rouge] without the risk of hurting your career. This is the result of ultra-progressive cleansing of wrongthink. The Democrats are just letting this shit happen everywhere. They need to start taking a stand against cancel culture. Trump is no longer at the eye of the storm.”
Hollywood Elsewhere has just come up with the hottest and coolest award-season concept of 2021…and not just a promotion but an opportunity for a possibly profound meeting-of-the-minds discussion that everyone, and I mean every living soul in the entertainment industry will have to watch start to finish and then post tweets and articles about. The only question is, will Variety‘s stiff-necked editors go along with it?
Within the realm of the current Carey Mulligan / Dennis Harvey / Variety kerfuffle, each has a profile that could stand some tweaking.
Mulligan is the gifted actress and Promising Young Woman Best Actress contender who didn’t register her displeasure with Harvey’s Sundance assessment of her casting until Kyle Buchanan popped the question, and then, a few weeks later, expressed satisfaction when Variety apologized for a certain paragraph in Harvey’s review. One one hand she’s almost certain to win the Best Actress Oscar, but on another the whole “trade paper apologizes for an allegedly offensive paragraph in a review because an actress didn’t like it” thing is a matter of serious concern among every critic and editor in this industry, and Mulligan is at risk of seeming as if she’s enjoying this debacle a little too much.
Harvey is the veteran Variety reviewer who may or may not have expressed himself indelicately, but whom everyone feels sorry for now, especially with Variety having thrown the poor guy under the bus after not saying boo for 11 months (the Promising Young Woman review went up in mid January 2020). Certain #MeToo radicals have actually called for Harvey’s dismissal (ridiculous) but these are the Khmer Rouge-tainted times in which we live.
Variety is the unequivocal bad guy in this affair. As The Ankler‘s Richard Rushfield wrote this morning, “Variety has achieved the perfect trifecta that is the trademark of today’s trade coverage — that magic combination of woke grandstanding, kissing up to the powerful and mistreating your underlings.”
The solution? Arrange for Mulligan and Harvey to do a one-on-one Zoom discussion of the whole affair. Let their hair down, explain their respective positions, re-phrase if necessary and presumably arrive at some sort of mutual understanding. Present this historic discussion as an extra-special edition of Variety‘s Actors on Actors series. Instead of a typically toothless chit-chat with actors (forgive the Quentin Tarantino-esque description) sucking each other’s dicks, this could be something you’d actually want to watch and take notes on.
And everyone would come out ahead — Mulligan would be seen as slightly more supportive of journalistic integrity, Harvey would be seen as less of a sexist ogre (which he isn’t but once the #MeToo cadres have a notion between their teeth they never let go of it) and Variety would be seen as a little less deserving of Rushfield’s trifecta trophy. A win-win-win all around.
And if Variety wimps out and decides against this exciting idea, someone else should offer to Zoom it. TheWrap, the NYTimes, The Daily Beast….anyone with balls.
Alan Ball‘s “somewhat autobiographically inspired Uncle Frank (Amazon, 11.26) hits a…successful balance between ensemble seriocomedy, Big Issues and a somewhat pressure-cooked plot. Set in the early ’70s, it casts the reliably deft Paul Bettany as a gay man forced to confront the Southern family to whom he’s stayed closeted. Even at its most manipulative, Uncle Frank remains polished and engaging. A big plus is Paul Bettany, who makes the title character’s residual Southern courtliness, acquired urbanity and painful psychological scars keenly felt.” — from Dennis Harvey’s 1.25.20 Variety review.
One look at Bettany tells you his character probably isn’t straight — the slender frame, the moustache, the extra-precise cut of his sports jacket, the way he holds his cigarette and touches his sternum during solemn discussions. His extended South Carolina-residing family senses something different about him, but they don’t spot the specifics. Or would rather not.
For what it’s worth, this is the funniest Good Boys trailer yet. Assembling an effective trailer for an R-rated tweener comedy requires a certain finesse — timing, cutting, pacing, the right kind of English. The Universal marketing guys got it right this time. Pic opens on 8.16.
“A little too imitative of Superbad with the minor tweaks of three (rather than two) even-younger male protagonists, more swearing, and a lot more drug references, Good Boys lacks that film’s wit and heart. It’s a lively, slick package, yet crude and obvious at every turn, unlikely to attract either the critical or word-of-mouth favor that might create a sleeper hit for Universal’s planned August release.” — from Dennis Harvey’s SXSW Variety review, filed on 3.12.19.
“Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky‘s Good Boys script is packed wall-to-wall with jokes, to the point that this critic missed lines that were drowned out by the roars of laughter from the packed house at [Austin’s] Paramount Theatre. Having written on a string of sitcoms and helmed episodes of The Office, Stupnitsky brings a finely honed skill for punchline pacing to his feature directorial debut. [Except] it’s mostly the same jokes over and over: cute kids cursing and not understanding sex stuff.
“Initially, it’s jolting fun to see these baby-faced boys dropping F-bombs or mistaking a cache of BDSM gear for ‘weapons’ and a sex doll for a CPR dummy. (‘It’s sticky.’) But as the boys run screaming through the second act, these bits offer diminishing returns. The foul language becomes a bit numbing. Thankfully, the third act’s comedy becomes more focused on character than crudeness, which gives its climactic montage a needed oomph.” — from a Guardian review by Kristy Puchko, also filed during SXSW.
- 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 »