Today, 20th Century Fox released the trailer for Widows, Steve McQueen’s first feature-length film since 12 Years a Slave. The film is co-written by McQueen and Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, and is adapted from the 2002 ABC series Widows written by Lynda La Plante that starred Mercedes Ruehl, Brooke Shields, Rosie Perez, and N’Bushe Wright. The film is set in present-day Chicago and concerns four women who take fate into their hands in the wake of their criminal husbands’ deaths, forging a future on their own terms.
Viola Davis (#1–10 of 18)
If for no other reason than managing to make blood, sweat, and tears no match for snot, the conspicuously overdue Viola Davis has this award locked down, and would in just about any year, even one when #AllLivesMatter emerged as the most virulent “alternative fact.” So we could easily cut this prognosticating short and give this race the Heath Ledger treatment and call it a day, which would be apropos given that Davis also emerged with her dignity intact playing opposite Ledger’s spiritual opposite in David Ayer’s Suicide Squad. (Then again, anyone who had to endure the gift of a dead piglet from Jared Leto would’ve come out smelling like roses, at least in the good old days when chief executives didn’t regularly and metaphorically douse significant portions of their electorate in pig’s blood.)
The democratization of technology is a boon for globalization, but for anyone who ever felt an inkling of pleasure watching the Oscars, it’s become a blight to an institutional process that once made seemingly genuine attempts toward establishing even playing fields. Today, the Oscar season begins as soon as the curtain falls on the previous one. The full-time awards pundit predicts nominees, sometimes even winners, months before a film has even left the editing room (“Could it be two in a row for Eddie Redmayne?!”), the insta-reactionary-ness of Twitter trending films and people up or down like stocks. How good the work is matters less than how good one works a room, or how closely the work aligns with a cultural shift in imagination. Show up at a festival to promote your film, pretend to enjoy getting your picture snapped by a #blessed “industry expert,” thus securing their approval, and suddenly you’re a “lock.” At least that’s what said expert will report to their followers, who’ll slavishly lap up and spread the pundit’s hosannas for films sight unseen—a domino-like effect of readiness and willingness perpetuated by the studios with For Your Consideration campaigns.
- better call saul
- Bob Odenkirk
- Damian Lewis
- Gaby Hoffmann
- Game of Thrones
- Jeffrey Tambor
- Jonathan Banks
- julia louis-dreyfus
- Lena Headey
- mad men
- maggie gyllenhaal
- Mark Rylance
- modern famly
- olive kitteridge
- Steven Soderbergh
- the honorable woman
- tituss burgess
- unbreakable kimmy schmidt
- viola davis
The Sessions: The flagship poster for The Sessions is just your latest example of a marketing brainfart: How does one sell a dramedy about a polio survivor looking to lose his virginity? The answer, sadly, is the old, square, film-still-collage standby, whose slanted positioning doesn’t make it any less banal. The ad may be preferable to its illustrated counterpart, which walks a dangerous line between the inspired and the vulgar, but it still fails to do the movie justice, its design appearing unfinished and its lone pullquote a cheap ploy for Oscar love. [Poster]
Save the Date: Never mind the whole bottom-heavy layout here, which opts to crush a pair of stills with a needless mountain of whitespace. The real problem is what’s conveyed in the stills themselves: an aesthetic defined by boring over-the-shoulder shots. Is it a metaphor for the male characters’ lack of emotional presence? Is it underscoring the prominence of the females of the film? Not really—it’s just bad design. And rather than providing quirky adornment as intended, the pencil-drawn faces merely appear tacked-on, somehow making this minimalistic-in-all-the-wrong-ways fiasco look busy.[Poster]
The Giant Mechanical Man: A wonderful gem that never quite found an audience, The Giant Mechanical Man deserved much better than this tossed-together one-sheet, which basically slaps a still on a blue background and scrawls in some text. None of the film’s infectious, magical-realist nature is expressed, only the fact that Jenna Fischer and Chris Messina go for coffee. The lone cloud and subtle heart might suggest that love is in the air for these drifters, but none of it succeeds in piquing interest. [Poster]
- alec baldwin
- anna kendrick
- bill murray
- black hole sun
- brooklyn decker
- cameron diaz
- chris messina
- darling companion
- David Lynch
- Elizabeth Olsen
- hyde park on hudson
- jenna fischer
- josh radnor
- joyful noise
- katherine heigl
- liberal arts
- maggie gyllenhaal
- magic mike
- one for the money
- Penelope Cruz
- poster lab
- roberto begnini
- save the date
- the devil inside
- the giant mechanical man
- the sessions
- the village people
Ed Howard: Towards the end of Spike Lee’s viciously funny media parody Bamboozled, there’s a shootout between the police and a militant rap group in which all the black members of the group are quickly killed, leaving behind the one white guy (played by MC Serch of real-life hip-hop outfit 3rd Bass). As the cops put him in cuffs, this one survivor repeatedly cries out to them, “Why didn’t you shoot me?” It’s such a poignant moment because he seems to be pleading with them, begging them to treat him the way they’d treated the black members of the group, demanding that he not be spared because of the color of his skin. He’s so upset, not only because his friends are all dead, but because he’s realized an essential truth that Lee is getting at in this movie: no matter how well he’d fit in with his black peers, no matter how fully he’d been accepted by them and participated in their work, he was still separated from them, cut off from their experience of the world at a very basic level over which he could have no control.
Throughout the film, Lee has multiple characters try to take on the attributes of a race other than the one indicated by the color of their skin: black people trying to sound white, white people trying to sound black, and of course many people of various races donning blackface as a TV-inspired fad. For the most part, Lee has nothing but contempt for these characters; MC Serch’s character is the one arguable exception, and in the end he can no more escape the color of his skin and what it means than anyone else in the film. I’m starting at the end, to some degree, because this sequence is so suggestive of the film’s themes, and also because we should probably admit up front that we’re two white guys about to discuss a film that has a very provocative and challenging view of race and racism. It’s a film that’s at least in part about how it’s all but impossible for one race to understand the experience of another—especially whites thinking they understand what it means to be black.
Bamboozled follows the black TV executive Pierre Delacroix (Damon Wayans) as he develops a blackface minstrel show that he thinks will expose the racist attitudes of the media but only winds up feeding into and inflaming that racism. I didn’t entirely know what to make of this movie when it came out in 2000, but I’ve come to believe that it’s one of Lee’s best, right up there with Do the Right Thing. A bold satire that doesn’t pull any punches, Bamboozled is a deeply discomfiting film that’s purposefully exaggerated and outlandish and yet is packed with real-world references that ground its satire—even that shootout with the white survivor is based on real events. Lee is exploring the history of racist entertainment in the US, and as the closing montage makes clear, he’s suggesting that the same forces that made Birth of a Nation and the vaudeville caricatures of comics like Mantan Moreland so popular are still very much present, in a more covert way, in the modern American entertainment industry. As a result, Bamboozled does what great satire always does: it takes a scenario that should seem ridiculous—it’s hard to imagine an actual blackface variety show being aired on American TV today—and uses it to explore the submerged but very real racial attitudes that underpin all sorts of entertainment that only seems less racist than Delacroix’s Mantan: The New Millennium Minstrel Show.
How Viola Davis took Meryl Streep’s Oscar.
U.N. panel accuses Syria of crimes against humanity.
President Hamid Karzai blamed a U.S. soldier for “ignorantly” burning copies of the Quran at a NATO base, an accusation that could trigger more protests across Afghanistan.
Chevrolet Volt owner shows Newt Gingrich how to put a gun rack in one.
City governments are threatening to kill the food truck revolution with dumb regulations.
Mitt Romney clawing his way back in Republican race.
Sarah Palin aids lash out at HBO’s Game Change.
Jon Stewart rips GOP’s Obama fear-mongering.
MUBI gathers coverage of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Film Comment Selects series.
- Academy Awards
- barack obama
- chevrolet volt
- Film Comment Selects
- game change
- hamid karzai
- j.k. rowling
- jon stewart
- Luis Bunuel
- meryl streep
- mitt romney
- museum of modern art
- newt gingrich
- republican party
- rick santorum
- sarah palin
- united nations
- viola davis
At this point, being a Meryl Streep diehard who also cares about Oscar hoopla is a kind of brutal self-flagellation. Year after year, be it a silver fox in a royalty role, a can’t-miss Brit in a Holocaust film, or a rom-com sweetheart awarded for years of box-office gajillions, there’s always someone younger, fresher, or less-anointed to make voters feel better about passing on Streep, their near-perennial Oscar queen. This year, of course, the guilt-free alternative is Viola Davis, whose movie-carrying brilliance in The Help is fortified by the unavoidable race discussion, which, whether you pray at the church of Tate Taylor or Tavis Smiley, is all but certain to catapult her to victory. Up to now, Streep and Davis have more or less split the precursor trophies, and Streep has a fresh Kennedy Center Honor and Berlinale career kudo in her corner, but it’s next to impossible to imagine Davis’s snowballing awards narrative being derailed in the place where it would wring the most tears. Yes, a 2012 Best Actress win for a black woman in a maid role sends all kinds of regressive messages, but stronger yet is the voter urge to self-congratulate by coloring Oscar history, however sad the truth of the matter. Indeed, Streep had better hope she stays in her seat, for a win might make her look as monstrous as the shrew she so embodies in The Iron Lady.
Whitney Houston’s family scraps plans for a public memorial for the singer.
Rather than flirt with audiences, Oscar producers play hard to get.
Viola Davis on a mindset that she says harms black actors.
Liquid gold: Skrillex uses satanic and homosexual influence to win Grammys.
J. Hoberman and Ken Jacobs talk movi-verse, double projecting, and more.
The 30 best SNL characters.
Fiona Apple to play Pitchfork SXSW showcase.
Why Detroit loves Clint Eastwood.
And that Eastwood ad was David Gordon Green’s best work in years.
The White House responds to Virginia anti-gay adoption bill.
Press Play kicks off its Oscar-prediction coverage.
Amazon stores might invade your neighborhood.
Josh Melnick and Water Murch in conversation.
Simpsons dolls banned in Iran as “promoters of Western culture.”
Author Damien Bona, who I met some 15 years ago right out of NYU and humbled me not long after by thanking me in the pages of Inside Oscar 2, passed away yesterday at the age of 57. He will be missed for his wit, sensitivity, and bringing sanity to the yearly Oscar chatter.
Why Viola Davis gets it right.
Ignatiy Vishnevetsky reviews HBO’s Luck.
Why has Lana Del Rey’s reinvention caused such a stir?
Armie Hammer is going places.
How the Academy Awards slant our views of movies.
What were the gayest (and straightest) Super Bowl halftime shows?
Ben Marcus urges writers to march on the enemy.