On 10.2.04, James Gandolfini performed a Saturday Night Live “Weekend Update” bit with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. He spoke as Tony Soprano, of course, and so his remarks about recently resigned New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey were meant to be absorbed ironically or, you know, winkingly. Even within this strict context, this kind of routine would never be performed today…not a chance. The twitter howls would be deafening.
In Focus Features’ press notes, Ethan Coen clearly stated that A Serious Man “takes place in 1967.” (And particularly during the “summer of love.”) And yet when the Columbia Record Club guy calls Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) about late payments, he mentions two 1970 albums — “Santana Abraxas” and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Cosmo’s Factory.” The Coens are very exacting screenwriters and filmmakers so why would they do this? They could have easily fixed this.
This early scene in Louis Malle‘s Damage (’92) is one of the all-time best of its type — a scene in which penetrating eye contact removes any doubt whatsoever about what will soon transpire. It doesn’t matter that the below clip has been dubbed into German — the absence of native English almost intensifies the effect.
I can think of only one other eye-current scene that works as well — the scene when Warren Beatty runs into Julie Christie at the very end of Heaven Can Wait inside the L.A. Colisseum — they’ve only just “met” in a certain sense, but their shared emotional future is instantly apparent.
After a prolonged period of denial and obfuscation about the outcome of the 11.3 election, General Services Administration honcho Emily W. Murphy finally agreed to initiate transfer of power procedures between the Trump and Biden teams. “I have always strived to do what is right,” Murphy wrote to Biden. “I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official — including those who work at the White House or GSA — with regard to the substance or timing of my decision.”
From Keith Olbermann’s 11.23 rant: “This is no judgment call by an overly cautious bureaucrat…this is pure cover-your-ass politics…what Murphy is doing, simply, is trying to avoid Trump’s anger. More practically, she is trying to avoid having Trump fire her. She’s been holding up the peaceful transfer of power in this country for the sake of her resume. ABC News reported on 11.16 that Murphy privately sent a message to a colleague, [a message] which ABC has seen, in which Murphy asks for leads and help getting a new job.
“She is doing all this…inserting herself into the wheels of government and literally freezing a nation in place [while trying to] humor a psychopathic lame duck…so that she doesn’t piss off any other Trump cultists who might hire her, and for all potential employers she doesn’t have to admit that Trump fired her…this is how sick this individual is…’screw the nation, I need a good reference.'”
Variety‘s Clayton Davis has posted an updated list of the Top Ten Likeliest Best Picture Nominees, and I’m telling you right now that at least three of his picks are somewhat questionable. I’m speaking of Emerald Fennell‘s Promising Young Woman, Shaka King‘s Judas and the Black Messiah and Ryan Murphy‘s The Prom.
The safest bets on Clayton’s list are Nomadland, Mank, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Minari and The Father (5). The soft positives are One Night in Miami and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2).
If The Prom lands a Best Picture nomination…well, let’s hold up on that puppy.
It may be that Promising Young Woman will land a Best Picture nomination as a gesture of respect. It has its finger on the pulse, so to speak, and it’s an impressive film for its hardcore asshole-hating sensibility and its refusal to offer even a semblance of a warm, reassuring, semi-fuzzy ending. It’s a mark of integrity to stick to your guns the way Emerald Fennell has. I’d nonetheless be very surprised if a film this didactic and hate-driven turns out to be Best Picture nominated. Respected, yes. Ballsy, yes. But that may be all.
I’ve asked around and it doesn’t appear as if any of the usual in-the-loop handicappers have seen Judas and the Black Messiah. One naturally wonders if Clayton knows someone associated with the film, etc.
Judas and the Black Messiah seems to be basically a riff on John Ford‘s The Informer, minus the alcoholic Gypo Nolan factor. Lakeith Stanfield‘s performance as the FBI snitch William O’Neal, who infamously ratted out Black Panther organizer Fred Hampton, would have to be the central figure, I would imagine.
I’m sorry but Judas and the Black Messiah strikes me as overly “on the nose” for a movie title. Hampton wasn’t a “black messiah” by any definition I’m familiar with. The term generally alludes to perhaps a deliverer of some kind, or some kind of holy figure who might bring a measure of salvation to followers. Hampton was a hardcore Black Panther and a respected organizer who had a certain profile in New Left circles in Chicago. The FBI regarded him as an incendiary figure, but he wasn’t famous. He wasn’t Eldridge Cleaver or Bobby Seale or Stokely Carmichael. He had a certain profile, and of course he was killed (in December 1969) before the famous Radical Chic party thrown by Leonard and Felicia Bernstein, which had invited Don Cox as a guest of honor.
It just seems a bit excessive to call Hampton a messianic figure, and then to identify O’Neal as a “Judas”…yes, he was that but to label him as such in the title seems so sledgehammer. It indicates to me that the film may follow suit. Who knows?
When Sergio Leone titled his famous 1966 spaghetti western The Good, The Bad and The Ugly ,he didn’t specifically allude to the fact that Clint Eastwood was playing “the Good”, Lee Van Cleef “the Bad” and Eli Wallach “the Ugly.” The title allowed you to think that maybe all three characters possessed these characteristics in equal measure. It allowed you to think that it wasn’t necessarily a settled issue.
Translation: Forget turkey dinner with your in-laws, cousins, grandparents, best friends, good neighbors. None of that works this year. Small gatherings, immediate family. In John Le Carre terms, Thanksgiving 2020 can only be celebrated according to strict “Moscow rules“. I’n saying this because I keep hearing that roughly 30% of the country is determined to turn Thanksgiving into a super-spreader event.
Although it didn’t open commercially until March ’01, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Amores perros began to make the rounds in the fall of 2000. Hence the 20th anniversary excitement emanating from the upcoming Criterion Bluray (12.15.20).
The Mexico City-based film had a somewhat coarse and desaturated appearance, and Criterion’s 4K digital restoration, supervised by Inarritu and dp Rodrigo Prieto, recreates this visual aesthetic. Which presents a stark contrast with the more colorful if less accurate 2017 Lionsgate Bluray.
DVD Beaver’s Gary Tooze: “Criterion [has] restored a ‘bleach-bypass process on the camera negative’ technique to attain a certain rough-hewn image. This grittier appearance is both intended and important to the film’s visual expression — an appearance that appears less crisp and almost dirty. It is also now in the correct 1.85:1 aspect ratio.”
Red Flag: Tooze writes that the Amores perros disc contains “some minor teal infiltration”…teal again! So far the Criterion teal gremlins have distorted the color palettes of three significant films — Pier Paolo Pasolini‘s Teorema (which I watched last weekend on the Criterion Channel, and the teal-tinting is both glaring and vulgar), John Schlesinger‘s Midnight Cowboy and Ron Shelton‘s Bull Durham. If Tooze is correct, Criterion’s Amores perros Bluray is the fourth.
AP, filed on 11.21: “Skeletal remains of two guys — a rich man and a slave — have been discovered in Pompeii, officials at the archaeological park in Italy said Saturday. The two were attempting to escape death from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius nearly 2,000 years ago
“Parts of the skulls and bones of the two men were found during excavation of the ruins from what was once an elegant villa with a panoramic view of the Mediterranean Sea on the outskirts of the ancient Roman city destroyed by the volcano eruption in AD 79.”
Jett and I visited Pompeii 13 and 1/2 years ago, but the administrators in charge of the ruins blew us off, in a sense, by not exhibiting any bodies to speak of. The bodies were on tour, it turned out. They could’ve left a few behind to sate the appetites of people like ourselves, but nope.
Posted on 5.31.07: Hollywood Elsewhere visited the actual Pompeii ruins yesterday. I’m very glad I went — this is the best-preserved ancient Roman city anywhere, covered as it was and frozen in time by tons of ash that spewed out of Mount Vesuvius on August 24, 79 AD. The problem is that I was too cheap to buy a map or go with a tour group, and by the end of our visit I’d come across only one lousy plaster-covered body.
The frescoes and the pottery and the precisely preserved apartments and villas are fascinating, but let’s be honest — if you come to Pompeii, you want to see how the citizens met their doom. You want freeze-frame death statues of people going “aaaah, this hurts!” And in this respect, Pompeii struck me as a faint ripoff. There should be bodies everywhere, in every house. Bodies of men, women, children, dogs, horses. Plus there were no chariots or carts. Or none that I came across.
On top of which the area just outside Pompeii’s ancient walls looks like a cross between Orlando Disney World and the border approach in Tijuana. Scores of ticky-tacky motels, gross souvenir shops, low-grade pizzerias and fruit stands. Jett found it disgraceful, saying that the commerce dishonors the dead.
People like Steven Gaydos will groan and slap their foreheads and say “give it a rest already!” But 40 or 50 years from now college students will ask their sociology professors what it was like to live through woke terrorism, and for starters the profs will send them this URL and say “watch this…this is what it was like.”
Four days ago I noted that Bryce Dallas Howard had created an alternate Facebook avatar by the name of Bry Dearing. Now Jennifer Lawrence (aka “JLaw“) has created her own — i.e., Jen Maroney of Indian Hills, Kentucky (where Lawrence is from), self-described as a “professional pizza slayer.”
Posted on 11.18: “Is this a thing or a put-on…? Creating a substitute Facebook identity by way of an alternate name but still using your regular photos? I don’t know what this actually is, but it seems to be about splitting a social-media identity into two halves — the real-deal organic self with an actual history, and a recently created alternate mirror self that exists only as a reflection. Or something like that.”