So Michael Avenatti’s as-yet unnamed client, a woman who was “both” a witness and a victim of Kavanaugh’s who “had a number of security clearances issued by the federal government over a number of years,” will come forward…what, later today? Certainly by tomorrow. A friend predicted yesterday that when the “third woman” comes forward, Kavanaugh might turn tail and withdraw himself from the process. That would be Trump’s smart play — cut Brett loose, nominate another anti-choice hardliner. I suspect, however, that Congressional Republicans are so angry and obstinate about what they see as a fiendish liberal conspiracy to destroy a good man (i.e., an entitled conservative cut from their own cloth) that they’re telling each other “damn the torpedoes….we’re pushing Brett through no matter what.”
Todd Haynes‘ Carol may have been, for me, the most emotionally affecting relationship film of 2015. I’m not going to rehash all the praise-worthy elements (Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara‘s fully felt performances, Ed Lachman‘s 16mm cinematography, the early ’50s vibe of repression and propriety). It so perfectly captured, for me, what it feels like to be in love (“I know how it feels to have wings on your heels”). I particularly remember what a high it was to see it in Cannes…everyone was levitating, it seemed. Then I saw it again six months later — in late October, or a month before it opened commercially on 11.20 — at the Middleburg Film Festival. Middleburg is a more conservative town than Los Angeles, of course, but it’s similar to the Academy in that it’s full of wealthy over-50 white people. And the instant Carol finished playing in the main conference room of Middleburg’s Salamander Resort and the lights came up, you could feel the vibe. They “liked” and respected it, but they didn’t love it. The atmosphere was approving and appreciative, but a bit cool. And I said to myself, “Okay, that’s it…not even Christine Vachon dreamed that Carol could win Best Picture Oscar but after Cannes I thought it would probably be Best Picture-nominated because it’s so affecting and classy and poised….now I don’t think that’ll happen.” It went on to win big with critics and industry groups, but older whites never embraced it. They somehow didn’t see themselves in it. (Here’s my 10.24.15 post about Carol‘s Middleburg reception.)
A Carol cabal almost totally dominated the New York Film Critics Circle today, resulting in wins for Best Picture, Best Director (Todd Haynes), Best Screenplay (Phyllis Nagy) and Best Cinematography (Ed Lachman). We all love Carol & sincere congratultations to these four, but boy, that Carol cabal!…they really strong-armed this normally eclectic, spread-the-wealth-around group into submission. I was expecting a Spotlight win but whatever. Obviously this ups Carol‘s stock among the Academy and guild members — a very welcome gift for the Weinstein Co.
Spotlight‘s Michael Keaton won for Best Actor — a welcome but somewhat confusing surprise given that Spotlight is totally an ensemble piece — there are no leads in that film & the NYFCC definitely knows that. Brooklyn‘s Saoirse Ronan won for Best Actress (brilliant, agreed). Kristen Stewart (Clouds of Sils Maria) won for Best Supporting Actress — a rich performance but the film (which doesn’t work at all) belongs to 2014 — I’m telling you straight out that the NYFCC is wrong to regard Stewart’s performance as better than Jane Fonda‘s in Youth or Elizabeth Banks‘ in Love & Mercy. Bridge of Spies‘ Mark Rylance won for Best Supporting Actor — fine.
Inside Out won for Best Animated Film (the NYFCC should have gone against the grain and given it to Anomalisa). Frederic Wiseman‘s In Jackson Heights won for Best Non-Fiction Film (really?). Timbuktu won for Best Foreign Film (a bit of a head-scratcher but fine). Laszlo Nemes‘ Son of Saul won for Best First Film.
With the exceptions of the Keaton, Rylance and Wiseman awards the NYFCC rule seems to have been that if a film/performance was seen or released after 9.1.15, it didn’t qualify. Carol was Cannes (May 2015), Brooklyn was last January (Sundance 2015), Clouds of Sils Maria was May 2014 (Cannes), Inside Out was last May (Cannes), Timbuktu was May 2014 (Cannes), Son of Saul was last May (Cannes).
Keaton is superb in Spotlight and all power to him and the proud and gifted Spotlight team (HE worships this film body and soul), but giving him a Best Actor trophy is category fraud, plain and simple. And that’s not a slam against Keaton at all. He simply doesn’t give a “lead” performance by any standard or criteria I’m familiar with.
Can you imagine how hot it would be if a digitally reanimated Marlene Dietrich and Gene Tierney could somehow be cloned into playing Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara‘s roles, respectively, in Todd Haynes‘ Carol? No complaints about Blanchett-Mara whatsoever, but I felt a slight hormonal surge when I saw this side-by-side of Dietrich and Tierney on Twitter the other day. What other old-Hollywood actresses could have played these roles if they were somehow time=travelled into the present? Katharine Hepburn as Carol and Rita Hayworth as Therese Belivet? Dietrich and Elizabeth Taylor as she was in the early to mid ’50s? Mid-50s Susan Hayward as Carol and Shirley MacLaine as Therese?
Middleburg Film Festival attendees were seriously into catching yesterday’s 5pm screening of Meg Ryan‘s Ithaca…long lines, hopped-up chatter. They wanted to see Meg, of course, but this transferred into what seemed to be serious interest in the film. And then Ithaca played and the aftermath was “uhm, okay…ssshhh, keep it down, she’s right over there.” By contrast the pre-screening vibe before the 8 pm showing of Todd Haynes‘ Carol could be described as one of interest but not excitement. The “air” in the room felt settled (i.e., less than fully engaged) when it played, and my sense of the after-vibe was one of respect more than anything else. This is a conservative community, after all — I shouldn’t have expected the same near-euphoria that greeted Carol‘s first screening in Cannes. It played just as effectively for me, I can tell you. Cate Blanchett gives such a glammy actressy performance, so 1950s elegant in so many ways, mannered but vulnerable. And the cigarettes, my God! I was on the verge of coughing just from watching her ignite one after another. And there’s no diminishment from Rooney Mara, who deserved that Best Actress award from the Cannes jury. I understand, of course, the political strategy of running Mara as Best Supporting Actress, but also the irony as she’s arguably playing the lead role, despite what the title implies.
My experience with Danny Boyle‘s Steve Jobs (Universal 10.9) has been both a charge and a puzzlement. I fell in love with Aaron Sorkin‘s jackhammer script when I read it last summer, but I didn’t like Boyle’s version as much when I saw it in Telluride. Sorkin’s dialogue had flown off the page and sunk into my system like pure cocaine. I had such a great time with it that I convinced myself that the film would come together perfectly if the director just gets out of the way and shoots it with top-tier actors. That’s what Boyle has more or less done, and yet somehow the infuriating, obnoxious dickishness of Steve Jobs’ character seemed much more palatable on the page than it does when performed by Michael Fassbender. And what felt pungent and drill-bitty in the script feels repetitive and hammered in the film.
It’s a month later and Steve Jobs is opening this Friday, and I feel I need to give it another shot at tonight’s all-media Arclight screening. Because I’ve been telling myself that the reason I wasn’t knocked out after seeing it in Telluride (I called it “more impressively conceived and poundingly ambitious than affecting or, truth be told, likable”) was because of my own blockage. Not Boyle’s or Fassbender’s fault, but mine. Because for all the difficulty, this is a movie about what genius often behaves like and feels like. About how life-changing things come about. And that’s not nothing. So what’s my problem?
The film is basically a dialogue-driven, three-chapter stage piece set during three launches of three Jobs products — the ’84 Macintosh, the ’88 NeXT cube and the ’98 iMac. A brave, pushy “talk opera” (Sasha Stone‘s term) or “verbal action film” (a guy at Universal suggested that one) or aggressive cine-theatre (my own). Obviously an audacious concept — again, loved it on the page — but when you boil it all down Steve Jobs is basically about a demanding, hyper-drive genius being an abrasive dick to his employees, friends and ex-partners for two hours, and especially being an astonishing world-class dick by refusing to admit to his daughter that he’s her biological dad. Really, seriously…what an asshole.
And after the first 45 minutes to an hour the tone of Steve Jobs becomes a bit strident and fatiguing — a torrent of argumentative, badgering jabbermouth about the joys of obstinacy and belligerence and trying to bend people to your immaculate will. It was fascinated by it, but I can’t honestly say I “enjoyed” it.
There are press & industry screenings Thursday afternoon at the Scotiabank plex — 45 Years (which I couldn’t get around to at Telluride), Jawar Panahi‘s Taxi, the uncut German bank robbery flick Victoria, etc. And then comes the opening-night double-header at the Princes of Wales — Jean Marc Vallee‘s Demolition and Michael Moore‘s Where To Invade Next. The only thing happening tonight is a Toronto Star-sponsored journalist soiree at some Mexican joint. The party has a name — “Critical Drinking.” Thanks to Peter Howell for the invite.
Three days ago I reiterated what feels to me like an absolute certainty, which is that Greta Gerwig — star, producer and co-writer (with director and boyfriend Noah Baumbach) of Mistress America (Fox Searchlight, 8.14) — is radiating a fairly unique comic attitude, which led me to describe her as “a 21st Century Carole Lombard.” A “funnier, flakier and taller Lena Dunham” without the chubs, I added. Gerwig is not a finely honed performer as much as an unbridled force, and that force has produced a kind of acting and writing that to my mind is breaking fresh ground. She’s creating a new kind of comedic personality — “unfocused” and yet laser-focused on whatever thought or current or insight may pop into her head and, with some exceptions, mostly unconcerned with how it may be received. She’s a nouveau screwball — an oddly charming mixture of absolute certainty, anxiety, exuberance and vulnerability.
A few days earlier I said that my initial analogy for Mistress America, which I came up with when I saw it seven months ago in Sundance, “was His Girl Friday. Which wasn’t quite right. It’s not as formulaic as that 1940 farce, which of course is a remake of The Front Page. Mistress America is more like Holiday meets My Man Godfrey meets The Twentieth Century without the train or any slamming doors.”
This morning Intelligent Life‘s Tom Shone expressed similar impressions. Here’s an edited excerpt: “Gerwig has had same liberating effect for Noah Baumbach what Diane Keaton had for Woody Allen: she has opened him up, lending his films a giddy sense of release. Frances Ha, Baumbach’s first film with Gerwig in 2012, about a young woman trying to find her footing in Manhattan, inhaled deeply of the French nouvelle vague — with it’s black and white cinematography, Georges Delerue on the soundtrack — and outlined in sketch form, a new type of screen heroine, a sort of Annie Hall for millenials: absent-minded, free-spirited and a little dizzy, half in love with her own failures, lolloping from one humiliation to the next as if they confirmed her refusal to join the adult world.
Consult link story before reading: Are you ready for the ultimate Weinstein Co. vs. Sony Picture Classics award-season showdown? A Cate Blanchett-in-Truth vs. Cate Blanchett-in-Carol Best Actress duel that will most likely put Harvey Weinstein in an eyeball-to-eyeball situation with SPC’s Michael Barker and Tom Bernard? Because it seems all but inevitable at this stage unless, you know, somebody blinks.
Cate Blanchett as Mary Mapes, Robert Redford as Dan Rather in James Vanderbilt’s Truth (Sony Pictures Classics, 10.16).
Todd Haynes‘ Carol (Weinstein Co., 11.20) was one of the biggest hits of last May’s Cannes Film Festival, and right away the buzz was that Blanchett’s performance as the titular character was a slamdunk Best Actress contender, even though many (myself included) felt that Rooney Mara‘s performance as Blanchett’s younger lover was just as penetrating. The Cannes Jury voiced their agreement when they gave Mara their Best Actress prize.
SPC announced today that Truth will be going up against Carol in an award-season sense, or rather that Blanchett will go up against herself. They formalized this situation with an announcement that James Vanderbilt‘s Truth, a presumed award-season contender about “Rathergate” starring Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford, on 10.16. Except it’s been more or less common knowledge for some time that they’d be releasing the Insider-like journalism drama sometime in the fall.
Late Thursday afternoon elite press and international distributors viewed the Weinstein Co. preview reel that unspools at the Cannes Film Festival every year. During pre-screening remarks honcho Harvey Weinstein indicated that Todd Haynes‘ Carol, the allegedly Brokeback Mountain-like, early-50s-era lesbian heartbreaker starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, may be the company’s hottest Oscar pony. Maybe. He also made a bold declaration about Southpaw star Jake Gyllenhaal being in line for a vigorous Best Actor campaign while lamenting that Jake should have been nominated last January for Nightcrawler. (Which is true — Jake totally deserved a nomination and had generated lots of heat but was edged out all the same.)
(l. to r.) Cannes Film Festival juror Jake Gyllenhaal, star of forthcoming Weinstein Co. release Southpaw; fellow juror Sienna Miller, costar of Weinstein Co’s Adam Jones; and Alicia Vikander, star of Weinstein Co’s Tulip Fever.
Weinstein stated that Southpaw had been selected for screening at Cannes, but it had to be withdrawn from competition after Gyllenhaal was announced as a jury member. Harvey also mentioned that a Southpaw screening will happen soon in Cannes but for buyers and not journalists
After the clip reel Gyllenhaal, Sienna Miller and Alicia Vikander came on stage and delivered some of the old soft sell. Miller is a costar of John Wells‘ Adam Jones (Weinstein Co., 10.2.15). Vikander is, of course, “Ava” in Ex Machina and the star of Justin Chadwick and Tom Stoppard‘s forthcoming Tulip Fever, which the Weinstein Co. has not decided when to release just yet.
Carol looks like a quality package, all right. This may sound weird coming from me but I admired the dated grainy look of it, due to Ed Lachman‘s having shot it in Super 16mm. Old-fashioned film grain is different than digital grainstorms, which are more specific and emphatic.