Tag Archives: Leonardo DiCaprio

Golden Globes gets it mostly wrong

Director Martin Scorsese poses backstage with the award for Best Director of a Motion Picture for the film "Hugo" during the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

George Clooney poses with his award for best actor in a motion picture - drama for "The Descendants," backstage in Beverly Hills

Associated Press and Reuters photos

Martin Scorsese poses with his undeserved Golden Globe for best director for his overhyped “Hugo” in Los Angeles last night, and George Clooney poses with his undeserved Golden Globe for best actor in a drama for his role in the overrated “The Descendants,” which also unfortunately undeservedly took the Golden Globe’s award for best dramatic film. The Golden Globes snubbed Steven Spielberg, but at least gave the film “The Artist” the props that it deserves, naming it the best musical or comedic film and naming Jean Dujardin as the best actor in a musical or comedy for his leading performance in the film. (Below are pictured Dujardin, left; the director of “The Artist,” Michel Hazanavicius, middle; actress Berenice Bejo, far right; and Uggie the dog, far left.)

Dujardin, Hazanavicius and Bejo of "The Artist" pose backstage at the 69th annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills

Reuters photo

I haven’t written a movie review for a while, although I see a lot of movies, perhaps especially at the end of the year, when the Oscar bait is trotted out to the theaters.

Since I haven’t reviewed most of this year’s contenders for the big awards — but have seen most of them — I’ll comment on last night’s Golden Globe winners for film.

First up is the movie that got the Globes’ award for best drama, Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants.”

Yikes.

Payne has done so much better than “The Descendants,” such as “Sideways,” “Election,” and even “About Schmidt” and “Citizen Ruth.” That “The Descendants” stars Hollywood golden boy George Clooney and that its director has made better films doesn’t mean that “The Descendants” is worthy of being on anyone’s best-picture list, because it isn’t.

“The Descendants” has some nice visuals — it takes place in Hawaii — and I found the character of Sid to be adorable, but otherwise, “The Descendants” is overlong as it meanders and dawdles, with a plot that is mediocre at best and that never arrives anywhere, leaving its audience waiting for a point that never arrives. I give the film a “B-” at best. (Probably it deserves a “C” or “C+”, since I have little to no interest in viewing it ever again.)

“The Descendants'” competitors for the Golden Globes’ best drama were “The Help,” “Hugo,” “The Ides of March,” “Moneyball” and “War Horse.”

I didn’t see “The Help” because of its shitty reviews, and I have no interest in catching it on DVD.

“The Ides of March,” another George Clooney vehicle, while watchable, also doesn’t belong on anyone’s best-picture list. Clooney, Ryan Gosling and Philip Seymour Hoffman give decent performances in “Ides,” but the script is mediocre and nothing novel, just a rehash of political movies that we’ve seen before. I give “The Ides of March” a “B-” or “C+” also. This wasn’t actually George Clooney’s year.

“Hugo” I found to be fairly entertaining but overrated. Even the wildly talented Sacha Baron Cohen as a quasi-villain couldn’t really save Martin Scorsese’s self-indulgent flick that turns out to be more about the French director Georges Melies (played by Ben Kingsley) than about our young protagonist Hugo. I found the whole automaton thing rather senseless and strange and uncaptivating, and films about filmmaking often are about as good as are novels about writing novels, it seems to me. (“The Artist” is an exception; more on that shortly.)

“Hugo’s” 3-D effects were decent, and the film overall is entertaining, although a bit too long, and overall “Hugo” was just overhyped. Martin Scorsese, contrary to apparent popular opinion, does not shit gold. I give “Hugo” a “B.”

I wanted to see “Moneyball” but never did, so I’ll have to catch it on DVD, but I did catch Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse,” which is far superior to “The Descendants.” My guess is that even if I’d seen “The Help” and “Moneyball,” “War Horse” still would be my pick for best drama from the list of the Golden Globes’ six nominees.

“War Horse,” which garners a solid “A”, is reminiscent of the films of yore (we’ve had plenty of films about World War I and films starring horses or dogs as our protagonists), perhaps especially with its ending scene, which (fairly) has been compared to “Gone with the Wind,” but “War Horse” works quite well nonetheless. I found myself teary-eyed at the end of the film, and that’s fairly rare. And despite the film’s length, my interest in it never waned, which I cannot say for “Hugo” or “The Descendants.” Steven Spielberg still has it.

The Globes unusually has a second category for best picture, best musical or comedy. I have seen three out of four of the nominees in that category. (Not bad, right?)

The nominees were “50/50,” “The Artist,” “Bridesmaids,” “Midnight in Paris” and “My Week with Marilyn.” “Bridesmaids” is the only one that I didn’t see, due to its lackluster reviews.

“The Artist” won the Golden Globe for best musical or comedy, and I can’t complain about that. I saw the film this past weekend and it’s best-picture material, a solid “A” (maybe a rare “A+”). A film that mostly is silent and in black and white but can keep the audience’s attention nonetheless is an accomplishment. The protagonist’s heroic dog is a bit too reminiscent of the heroic dog Snowy of Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin,” which I saw before “The Artist,” but “The Artist” is a solid film with good performances and a captivating, clever script.

“The Artist’s” protagonist George Valentin (played by Jean Dujardin), a silent-movie star, at first is an annoying, spotlight-hogging ham but becomes more and more likeable as the film progresses, and protagonist Peppy Miller (played by Berenice Bejo), also a movie star, is mesmerizing, although I don’t know that most starlets of the 1920s and 1930s looked like Bejo does; I’m not an expert on the films of the 1920s and 1930s, but she does look a little out of place. However, Bejo’s charisma more than makes up for that.

“50/50,” which stars Joseph Gordon Levitt, one of my favorite actors, also earns a solid “A,” but its material — a young man diagnosed with cancer — apparently wasn’t novel enough for it to win in its category. Still, “50/50” has some great lines and Seth Rogen does a great job as protagonist Gordon Levitt’s supportive-as-he-can-be best friend. (Unfortunately, in “50/50” Bryce Dallas Howard pretty much plays the same role that she played in the lacking Clint Eastwood vehicle “Hereafter.”)

“My Week with Marilyn,” which I can give only a “B” at best, isn’t a comedy or a musical, so why it landed in this category escapes me. Michelle Williams does as good a job as Marilyn Monroe as she can, but the film isn’t as compelling as it should be, and it’s not very believable that Marilyn Monroe essentially was a drugged-out bimbo who had enough occasional flashes of acting brilliance that an entire film could be cobbled together from these apparently brief and accidental episodes of talent.

“Marilyn” also suffers, I think, from being too self-referential. Again, the number of films about filmmaking that we’re seeing as of late seems to indicate that the filmmakers have run out of ideas, and so they’re now turning the camera on themselves.

“Midnight in Paris” would have won, I suspect, were it not for “The Artist.” Unfortunately, we’re used to good work from Woody Allen (although he’s made some lackluster films, too), and so he often unfairly is overlooked. “Midnight in Paris,” while not a complete departure from Allen’s past films, is a solid film that earns an “A.”

The Globes’ nominees for best director were Woody Allen (for “Midnight in Paris”), George Clooney (for “The Ides of March”), Michel Hazanavicius for “The Artist,” Alexander Payne for “The Descendants” and Martin Scorsese for “Hugo.”

As I did see all of these films, I can say that I find Scorsese’s win for best director to be disappointing. He apparently was awarded for his past work, because “Hugo” doesn’t deserve best director.

We can cross Clooney, Payne and Scorsese off of the best-director list right off, which would leave us with Allen and Hazanavicius. I probably would have given the best-director award to Hazanavicius, as much as I love most of Allen’s work. “The Artist” is quite an accomplishment and doesn’t deserve less only because Hazanavicius is new to us Americans.

The Globes gave best actor in a drama to George Clooney for his work in “The Descendants,” another mistake. Clooney is popular — I get that — and he is a solid actor, but there is nothing very remarkable about “The Descendants,” which, next to “Hugo,” might be the most overrated film of the year.

Unfortunately, I have yet to see Michael Fassbender in “Shame” (it comes to my city later this month, and I like Fassbender, so I’m there), and, as I noted, I have yet to see “Moneyball,” so I am not sure if I would have picked Brad Pitt or Fassbender, who, along with Pitt, also was nominated for the Globes’ best-actor award. Leonardo DiCaprio was nominated for his performance in “J. Edgar,” but that film (which I rather generously gave a “B”) is so flawed that it probably sank his chances, and I don’t feel that DiCaprio was screwed, not really. Ryan Gosling was nominated for his role in “The Ides of March,” but again, there is nothing special about that film, either.

I’m really fucked where it comes to the Globes’ nominees for best actress in a drama, as I haven’t seen any of the nominated perfomances, Glenn Close’s for “Albert Nobbs” (also arrives at my city later this month, and I’ll probably go see it, even though it seems “Yentl”-ish to me), Viola Davis’ for “The Help,” Rooney Mara’s for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” Meryl Streep’s for “The Iron Lady” (which is getting lackluster reviews and which I’ll probably wait for on DVD), and Tilda Swinton’s for “We Need to Talk About Kevin” (which seems to be an awful lot like her role in “The Deep End,” but I love Tilda).

My guess is that Streep, who won the Golden Globe, will end up getting the best-actress Oscar again — only because she more or less looks like Margaret Thatcher. “Saturday Night Live” achieves lookalikes all the time, so really, so what? Word is that “The Iron Lady” fairly sucks, with Roger Ebert giving it only two of four stars.

The Globes’ best actor in a comedy or musical went to Jean Dujardin of “The Artist,” which I confidently assert was a deserved win, even though I didn’t see Brendan Gleeson in “The Guard” or the good-enough-but-overrated Ryan Gosling in “Crazy Stupid Love.” (Really, are Ryan Gosling and George Clooney the only two actors that we have left?) Joseph Gordon Levitt was quite good in “50/50,” and Owen Wilson also was quite good in “Midnight in Paris,” but neither of them, nor the two other nominees, had a snowball’s chance against Dujardin’s performance.

The Globes’ award for best actress in a comedy or musical went to Michelle Williams for “My Week with Marilyn,” although, again, “My Week with Marilyn” is neither a fucking comedy nor a fucking musical, and it was no super-human feat to doll up Michelle Williams to resemble Marilyn Monroe any more than it was to make Meryl Streep look like Margaret Thatcher, for fuck’s sake. It’s too bad that Williams wasn’t given a better script to work with.

I’ve yet to see “Carnage,” which garnered both Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet nominations for best actress in a comedy or musical. I am there when “Carnage” comes to my city, however; the previews look compelling. (I love movies that give us insight into dysfunctional relationships, which is perhaps why I like Woody Allen’s work so much, and I liked Winslet in “Revolutionary Road.”)

I also have yet to see Kristen Wiig’s performance in “Bridesmaids,” but I like Wiig, so I might catch her peformance, which also was nominated for the Globes’ best actress in a comedy or musical, on DVD. Ditto for “Young Adult,” which garnered Charlize Theron a nomination in the category.

The Globes’ best supporting actor went to Christopher Plummer for his role as a gay man who comes out of the closet late in life in “Beginners.” I give “Beginners” a “B+”, but I have to wonder if Plummer was given the award more for his past work than for his role in “Beginners.” I could argue that Kenneth Branagh, who also was nominated for best supporting actor for his role in “My Week with Marilyn,” was more deserving of the award.

The Globes’ best supporting actress award went to Octavia Spencer, whoever that is, for her role in “The Help.” I can’t imagine that Spencer was better than Berenice Bejo, who also nominated for best supporting actress, was in “The Artist,” however, and it escapes me as to why Bejo wasn’t nominated for best actress, since her role in “The Artist” is equal to the male protagonist’s. (I remember when Heath Ledger was nominated for an Oscar for best actor for “Brokeback Mountain” but Jake Gyllenhaal inexplicably was nominated only for best supporting actor, even though his role was equal to Ledger’s.)

The Golden Globes’ winner for best screenplay went to Woody Allen for “Midnight in Paris.” It seems that the Globes wanted to recognized Allen’s film in some way and so gave it best screenplay, but arguably “The Artist,” which also was nominated for best screenplay, should have won. Why “The Ides of March” and “The Descendants” were nominated at all for best screenplay eludes me, as neither is a remarkable film in any way, and George Clooney doesn’t shit gold, either. Again, I’ve yet to see the also-nominated-for-best-screenplay “Moneyball,” but I can live with Allen’s win in the category.

The Globes’ best animated feature went to Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin,” the only film in the category that I’ve seen (the others were “Arthur Christmas,” “Cars 2,” “Puss in Boots” and “Rango.”) “Tintin” is a solid, entertaining film (I give it an “A” or “A-“), perhaps a little overlong but quite watchable, although, in my book, not as good as Spielberg’s “War Horse” (“A” or “A+”). Still, with “Tintin” it’s apparent that Spielberg hasn’t lost his talents, and I have to wonder if the dearth of nominations for Spielberg in the Golden Globes means that he’s going to be given short shrift with the Oscars, too.

Spielberg should have been nominated for, and perhaps won, the Globes’ best director, in my book.

I have plenty of films to catch up on between now and the Oscars, but thus far my picks are “War Horse” or “The Artist” for best picture and Steven Spielberg (for “War Horse,” not for “Tintin”) or Michel Hazanavicius for best director.

At least the Golden Globes ignored the sanctimonious-as-Scorsese Terrence Malick’s God-awful “Tree of Life” (which I gave a rare “F”), and hopefully the Oscars will, too, but the Globes overlooked Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia” (which I give an “A” or “A-“, and which unfairly has been compared to “Tree of Life”) — a mistake that, hopefully, the Oscars won’t make.

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Clint Eastwood’s ‘J. Edgar’ is not your father’s gangster movie

Film review

Leonardo DiCaprio and Armie Hammer J. Edgar

Clyde Tolson (played by the Adonis Armie Hammer) and J. Edgar Hoover (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) have a lovers’ quarrel in Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar.”

Woe to the heterosexists who don’t bother to research the movies that they see who stumble into Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar” thinking that they’re going to see an action-packed gangsta movie (he-man Clint Eastwood is directing, after all) but who instead get “Brokeback Mountain” meets “Bonnie and Clyde” — in which “Bonnie” is the late long-time FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.

As others have noted, “J. Edgar” isn’t going to wholly please either side. The heterosexists don’t want the slightest flowery whiff of male homosexuality contaminating their gangster movies, as evidenced by the male homophobe behind me in the audience who twice uttered “faggot!” (and who once uttered “AIDS!”) during the movie and the female homophobe behind me who vocalized her disapproval during the scene in which a distraught J. Edgar Hoover dons his recently deceased mother’s dress.

And gay men like me are going to feel, as I do, that screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (who won an Oscar for his screenplay of “Milk”) and/or director Eastwood wussed out by having portrayed the very apparent real-life same-sex relationship between Hoover and his long-time “assistant” Clyde Tolson as essentially sexless.

No, I didn’t need a steamy sex scene, although I can’t say that I would have minded one; Armie Hammer, who plays Clyde Tolson in “J. Edgar” (and who played the “Winklevi” twins in “The Social Network”) is achingly beautiful, and much more handsome than was the real-life Tolson, just as the real-life J. Edgar never looked anything like Leonardo DiCaprio, even with all of that makeup piled atop his baby face.

But are we really to believe that although the real-life Hoover and Tolson were inseparable and never heterosexually married — and that although Tolson inherited Hoover’s estate after Hoover’s death and later was buried near Hoover — that the two of them never did more than hold hands and share just one (bloody, very conflicted) kiss?

“J. Edgar” apparently would have us believe so, and while many movies about gay characters have a closeted feel to them, this closeted feel can be artful if it is intentional and thus helps us to understand the characters and their sufferings better, but if this closeted feel is a result of the filmmakers’ own cowardice and/or discomfort with the material, then it diminishes the film, and this appears to be the case with “J. Edgar.”

“J. Edgar,” as others have noted, also tries to do too much. Hoover’s time as head of the FBI, which spanned from 1935 to 1972, can’t be captured in one film. Not that it has to be; “J. Edgar” is a fictionalized film, after all, not a documentary, but because “J. Edgar” portrays so many of the historical events during Hoover’s decades-long tenure at the FBI, it has lent itself to be criticized for what it leaves out — such as the “Lavender Scare” of the 1950s, which surely was relevant to the real-life Hoover and Tolson.

And because “J. Edgar” tries to capture so many historical events, the examination of Hoover’s psyche gets short shrift.

Judi Dench is good as Hoover’s mother, even if she is portrayed as a textbook case of the overbearing mother who lives through her son so that of course he turns out gay.

Perhaps the most memorable scene in the film is the one in which Hoover’s homophobic mother tells him the story of another young man who turned out to be gay and who killed himself, which was a good thing, in her eyes. Many of us gay men (my husband included) have been told by a homophobic parent that he or she could never accept a gay son, as Hoover is told by his mother in “J. Edgar,” so I expect that scene to resonate with millions of gay men.

Still, “J. Edgar” doesn’t go far enough with the examination of J. Edgar Hoover’s homosexuality. My guess is that that is a result of the combination of Dustin Lance Black’s upbringing as a Mormon, which, I surmise, keeps him on the “safe,” conservative side, and of the generation of Clint Eastwood (he’s 81 years old), who, while he reportedly is pro-gay, on other issues leans to the right (he reportedly can recall having voted for a Democrat only once, and that was former California Gov. Gray Davis in 1998), and who might be one of those individuals who is much more intellectually accepting of homosexuality (that is, in theory) than he is viscerally accepting of it (that is, in practice) — you know, the kind of person who says that he’s OK with gays as long as he doesn’t ever actually have to see two men kissing. (Thus, we could see Tolson and Hoover kiss in “J. Edgar” only if violence was involved. [The scene, by the way, is fairly reminiscent of a similar scene in “Brokeback Mountain” in which our two conflicted lovebirds who live in a homophobic place and time pummel each other.])

“J. Edgar” probably should have picked one path and stuck with it: the documentarian path or the psychoanalytical path. Hoover’s professional life alone was interesting enough to carry a film. It was because of Hoover’s gross abuse of power, including his notoriously illegal monitoring of prominent individuals, that directors of the FBI need the Senate’s approval to serve more than 10 years, indicates Wikipedia.

But also interesting are the psychological dynamics in which those who have something to hide — such as homosexuality in a society in which homosexuality is stigmatized — react to their inner conflict and their self-loathing by becoming anal retentive and relentless moralists who viciously attack others in order to ease their own self-hatred. We saw this not only in J. Edgar Hoover, but in Roy Cohn, the gay assistant to Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who isn’t portrayed in “J. Edgar.” (I’ve wondered about the sexual orientation of McCarthy, too, since he was an alcoholic who viciously attacked others and since he picked Cohn to be his assistant, but that’s purely conjecture on my part.)

If I had made “J. Edgar” and were focusing on Hoover’s personal life, I’d have left out all of the Lindbergh baby stuff and focused more on the relationship between Hoover and Tolson, and I especially would have focused on the “Lavender Scare,” which bizarrely gets no real mention in “J. Edgar.”

And I would have left out the scene in which Hoover tries on his dead mother’s dress. The account that the real-life Hoover was seen in a dress is dubious, and in any event, it wasn’t as it is portrayed in “J. Edgar,” and we gay men have enough problems as it is for Black and Eastwood to give homophobes the idea that all gay men like to wear women’s clothing (not that there is anything wrong with that; it’s just that it’s a tiresome stereotype, and Black’s screenplay shows keen gay sensibility except for this fairly unfortunate scene).

Still, despite its flaws — which include the fact that it tries to do too much and that Armie Hammer’s old-man makeup is bad (maybe there’s just no way to make such an Adonis look unattractive) — and despite the fact that it doesn’t belong in the pantheon that includes “Brokeback Mountain” and “Milk,” “J. Edgar” is worth seeing.

My grade: B

Update:I don’t think that I’ve been unfair here to Dustin Lance Black. In a recent interview with the Advocate, he remarked, “I grew up in a military family, which was also Mormon and conservative, so he [J. Edgar Hoover] was seen as a bit of a hero.” Again, Black’s conservative upbringing seems to have greatly colored his portrayal of Hoover in his screenplay. And of the historical Hoover and Clyde Tolson’s relationship, Black stated:

I don’t know how much sex they were having. I couldn’t anchor that in anything provable. I also didn’t need it for what I was trying to say. They may or may not have [had a sexual relationship], but frankly, I wouldn’t want to see it. What’s important to me is they were not straight. They were two gay guys, in my opinion.

What is it with this phenomenon of de-sexing gay men, of stripping them of human sexuality? We don’t do that to heterosexual people! I can’t say that I would have wanted to watch the historical J. Edgar Hoover (who, again, was not an attractive man) getting it on with anyone, either, but was the only alternative to making “J. Edgar: The Gay Porn” making a film that portrays him as a celibate, frustrated closet case?

True, we cannot “anchor” the assertion that Tolson and Hoover had a sexual relationship “in anything provable” — we have only the very strong circumstantial evidence that they had a decades-long sexual relationship — yet the scene in which Hoover puts on his deceased mother’s dress very apparently was fabricated from whole cloth. Why was that liberty OK, but we couldn’t take the liberty of having the two of them ever do anything more than occasionally hold hands and share only one frustrated kiss? 

Critic Roger Ebert also apparently has jumped on the no-sex-for-gay-men bandwagon, proclaiming in his review of the film:

Eastwood’s film is firm in its refusal to cheapen and tarnish by inventing salacious scenes. I don’t get the impression from “J. Edgar” that Eastwood particularly respected Hoover, but I do believe he respected his unyielding public facade.

So to have made the two men sexually active human beings, I suppose, would have been “cheapening,” “tarnishing” and “salacious.” Since they were gay, much better to make them celibate! And apparently “[respecting Hoover’s] unyielding public facade” means going along with Hoover’s having been in the closet, because to do otherwise would have been “disrespectful.” (Fuck the truth!)

Ebert also notes in his review:

In my reading of the film, they were both repressed homosexuals, Hoover more than Tolson, but after love at first sight and a short but heady early courtship, they veered away from sex and began their lives as Longtime Companions. The rewards for arguably not being gay were too tempting for both men, who were wined and dined by Hollywood, Broadway, Washington and Wall Street. It was Hoover’s militant anti-gay position that served as their beard.

That reading of the film is correct, because indeed “J. Edgar” intended to keep the two lovers celibate, since gay sex is so dirty, you know, and while we can posit that Hoover was gay, we just can’t go so far as to assert that he ever actually had gay sex (ick!).

Again, the real film in the story of Hoover and Tolson’s relationship is the one indicated by Ebert’s assertion that “It was Hoover’s militant anti-gay position that served as their beard,” and I still find it rather stunning that the film glosses over the Lavender Scare of the 1950s. Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn should be in any film about the very-most-likely-gay relationship between Hoover and Tolson, it seems to me.

And speaking of McCarthy, I’m not the only one who has wondered about his sexual orientation. David K. Johnson, author of The Lavender Scare (The University of Chicago Press, 2004), notes (on page 3) that although McCarthy in early 1950 first raised the specter of Communists and gay men having “infiltrated” the U.S. government, McCarthy went on to pursue only the Communist angle, having “mysteriously recused himself” from the witch hunt against gay men. Johnson goes on:

A knowledgeable observer at the time suggested that [McCarthy] did not pursue the “homosexual angle” more aggressively because he was afraid of a boomerang. As an unmarried, middle-aged man, he was subject to gossip and rumor about his own sexuality.

I find the parallels between Hoover and Tolson and McCarthy and Cohn to be striking. Maybe Dustin Lance Black can redeem himself somewhat for his wussy “J. Edgar” screenplay and pen a movie with balls about Joseph McCarthy and his relationship with Roy Cohn, the latter of whom we know for sure was gay. I’ll even give Dustin a highly creative working title: “McCarthy.”

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Deep thoughts on the week that was

I post only a fraction of what I could post, because my time is limited (like it is with most bloggers, I have to earn a paycheck, and that doesn’t happen with my blogging, which is a labor of love) and because I’m a bit of a perfectionist and don’t like doing something unless I do it right.

So here is some of what I would have posted in the past week or so if I’d had the time (and if I weren’t such a perfectionist):

Movie reviews

“Countdown to Zero”: This documentary about nuclear weapons was disappointing. It taught me little that I didn’t already know or that I couldn’t have discovered on my own via Google (which now is evil, I understand, and which is too bad, because I’ve always liked Google).

“Countdown” apparently lets the United States of America off of the hook for having been the first nation on the planet to nuke another nation. It’s an obvious conclusion that if nukes are bad and the United States is the first and thus far the only nation ever to have nuked another nation — what does that say of the U.S.?

“Countdown” also doesn’t delve into the uber-hypocrisy of the United States — the only nation ever to have nuked another nation (I never tire of saying that) — dictating to the rest of the world which nations get to have nukes and which nations don’t. No, I’m not big on the idea of Iran having the Bomb, either, but it was the United States that opened that Pandora’s box, and “Countdown to Zero” doesn’t even begin to address that adequately.

My grade: C+

“Inception” is entertaining enough, but it also could have been titled “Deja Vu,” because it’s a mixture of “The Matrix” and “Shutter Island.”

“Inception” explores what is real and what is not, and features characters kicking each other’s asses in a video-game-like fantasy land while their physical bodies are unconscious and wired up, a la “The Matrix.” What’s most bizarre about “Inception” is that in both “Inception” and “Shutter Island,” Leonardo DiCaprio plays a man who is tortured by the ghosts of his dead wives. The similarity is such that my having seen “Shutter Island” first made me able to enjoy “Inception” less.

Any movie starring both Ellen Page and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, two of my favorite young actors, however, can’t be all bad. (Marion Cotillard, as DiCaprio’s character’s deceased wife, is pretty good, too, although her accent sounds a bit like Arianna Huffington’s…)

“Inception,” besides being too derivative, is too long, though…

My grade: B-

“The Kids Are All Right” is more than all right. Julianne Moore and Annette Bening do a great job playing a lesbian couple with two teenaged kids. Each of them had been inseminated by the donations of a sperm donor (played by Mark Ruffalo, who can donate sperm to me any time…) who later is contacted by the older teen (played by Mia Wasikowska, who starred as Alice in Tim Burton’s latest film) and who comes into their lives.

Probably because I’m a gay man, I have no problem seeing any two people of either sex in a relationship, and having been in a relationship for almost three years now, I see certain dynamics in all relationships, regardless of gender and sexual orientation. (While my boyfriend and I watched “The Kids Are All Right” together, I poked him in the arm several times to declare: “That’s us!”)

I understand that the lesbian community is not thrilled about the type of porn that the lesbian couple in the film enjoy, but, as Moore’s character explains, human sexuality is complicated.

My biggest problem with “The Kids Are All Right” is that Ruffalo’s character isn’t all that believable. Is he a care-free Bohemian or is he a successful businessman? And how does he have all of that time and energy (and the money) to do all that he does, including having a romance with one of the lesbians? Still, the insightful dialogue and the realistic situations in “Kids” make it worthwhile.

My grade: A

Politics

Leave Michelle alone! Had Barbara Bush or Laura Bush gone to Spain on vacation, it would have been no big fucking deal. But because Michelle Obama went on vacation to Spain, and not, I suppose, to Haiti or Darfur or Uganda, she’s taken shit for it. Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker recently huffed:

Is it really such a terrible thing that the president’s wife took a few days off to enjoy the beaches of Spain? Yes and no. Michelle Obama’s trip, though expensive in the context of our dire financial straits, isn’t putting a dent in the Treasury.

But as a political move, it could not have been more out of step with most Americans’ reality. The obvious reasons include the stagnant job market, the depleted fortunes of the middle class, millions of lost homes and, for many, the prospect of an insecure financial future….

On balance, the vacation was poorly conceived but hardly a crime befitting the condemnation. Perhaps of more lasting concern is the missed opportunity for the first lady to set an example of restraint and even generosity. I hear the Gulf Coast beaches could use a cash infusion.

When do the Richie Riches of the Repugnican Party ever “set an example of restraint and even generosity”? Why the fucking double standard that a conservative white man is expected to be a selfish asshole, and gets away with it, but if a black woman takes a trip that any well-enough-to-do white woman would take, she instead should have “set an example of restraint and even generosity”?

And talk about pettiness. Parker notes in her column that

George W. Bush largely escaped scrutiny because his preferred getaway was a place no one else, especially the media, wanted to go. Crawford, Tex., in August? Fabulous.

Whatever else one thinks of Bush, he did have a sense of propriety in matters recreational, perhaps in part attributable to his life of privilege and attendant guilt. He gave up golf after invading Iraq because he felt it would look bad to be perfecting his swing while those he had consigned to battle were losing their limbs. A token, perhaps, but a gesture nonetheless.

A token gesture “perhaps”? And oh, please. The xenophobic, parochial George W. Bush never showed interest in other nations or cultures unless they had vast oil reserves that could be stolen. He didn’t take vacations at home out of some “sense of propriety in matters recreational,” but out of his utter lack of curiosity about the rest of the world.

And Gee Dubya gave up golf? Oh, gee, what a sacrifice! That almost makes up for the damage that he did to his own nation, including leaving office with (not in any certain order) a record federal budget deficit, an overextended military, a crumbling domestic infrastructure, far more enemies around the world than there were before he stole office in late 2000, and what economists have dubbed the “Great Recession.”

Why does Kathleen Parker get paid to write and I fucking don’t?

(Well, that’s mostly a rhetorical question, but the answer is that she’s a baby boomer, and boomers never have needed any actual talent to make big bucks, and because as a writer she supports the status quo, which includes keeping Americans stupid and disempowered by discussing such non-issues as Michelle Obama’s vacation, and my intention when I write is to destroy, not to prop up, the status quo. And, we Gen X’ers historically have been shit and pissed upon by the talentless boomers.) 

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a Gen-X hero!

Steven Slater, a JetBlue flight attendant (pictured above in a MySpace photo), had had it. As a (U.K.) Guardian columnist tells it,

…as the plane was coming in to land, Slater asked a passenger who was attempting to get her luggage from the overhead compartment to remain seated. After the passenger verbally berated Slater, a piece of her luggage fell on to his head. [This website states that Slater’s mother says that Slater was hit in the head by the door of the overhead bin the foul-mouthed passenger was yanking open, not by luggage.] Slater took to the plane’s PA system and announced that he was quitting. Then, after grabbing two beers from a food cart, he opened one of the plane’s doors, slid down the emergency chute, and was gone for good.

This story is being told as a simple episode of “take this job and shove it,” but I think that there is a lot more than that beneath the surface.

Slater is in his late 30s — a Gen X’er, like me, who, I am sure, is sick and fucking tired of being squeezed in the middle between overly demanding (mostly baby-boomer) customers and rich (mostly baby-boomer) overlords who do little to no work themselves but who reap all of the profits while we Gen X (and Gen Y) wage slaves, who usually live from paycheck to paycheck, make their wealth and their comfort possible. (I felt this big squeeze especially in nursing, which I left in 1998 and to which I’ll never return.)

I don’t know how old the obnoxious passenger is, but my guess is that she’s a fucking baby boomer. (I’d bet money on it.)

The passenger’s selfish, inappropriate and illegal actions — this website reports that the Federal Aviation Administration is looking for the passenger because she is accused of “several airline infractions,” including “unbuckling her seatbelt and walking while the plane is taxiing, [constituting] two separate fines of $1,100” — ended up creating a visible wound on Slater’s forehead, but, as a Gen-X wage slave in the “service sector” (the new slavery system) he was just supposed to take it.

The boomers clearly expect us Gen X’ers to continue to take it up the ass indefinitely. We Gen X’ers are overeducated and underpaid, and we’re quite clear as to the future that the uber-selfish boomers intend to leave us, yet the boomers expect their gravy train to chug on forever at our continued expense.

If we Gen X’ers — and the “illegal aliens” — all ever were to refuse to continue being whipped wage slaves for the overprivileged boomers — if we all were to activate and slide down that emergency chute — their comfort would come to a screeching halt.

We Gen X’ers and other wage slaves have the real power, not those parasites who are dependent upon us yet act as though we need them.

Severing the hand that feeds you (and slapping your benefactor in the face with it): I’d already decided long before Obama administration spokesweasel Robert Gibbs called us progressives members of the “professional left” who should be drug tested that I’ll never give another penny nor another vote to Barack Obama. So I can’t call Gibbs’ smug comments the final nail in Obama’s coffin. That coffin was nailed shut long ago, so I guess that Gibbs’ latest statements are just concrete poured over that coffin.

You know, George W. Bush is a major fucktard, but neither even he nor any of his spokesweasels, to my recollection, ever publicly bashed the Repugnican Tea Party’s far-right-wing base.

You may not like your base all of the time, but you don’t alienate your base.

Clearly, starting with DINO (Democrat in name only) Bill Clinton, the Democratic Party decided that it’s OK to promise some things to us progressives but then to do other things — because where else are we progressives going to go?

Well, this member of the “professional left” won’t support Obama anymore. Clearly, the Obama administration has decided to sell us progressives up the river for the unstable, volatile support of the “swing voters,” who can’t tell right from wrong, good from evil, or friend from foe.

I’m more than happy to pick up my marbles (which Gibbs claims I’ve lost) and go home, even if doing so means the quicker collapse of the American empire. I’m with Ralph Nader, whom I voted for president in 2000 and whom I should have voted for president in November 2008 (instead of Obama) — and of whom one of his detractors once claimed believes that things have to get even worse before they’ll ever get better.

And this pundit had it right when he remarked:

We “professional leftists” do indeed need drug testing because apparently the … hallucinogenic of “hope and change” has worn off and the ugly mediocrity of modern Democratic leadership stares us in the face with the not-so-friendly smugness of a hookah-smoking caterpillar.

Yup. It was the Obama campaign that had sold us the drug of “hope” and “change” and now criticizes us for having imbibed it.

Well, we of the professional left are going to have to find a new drug.

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Relationship movie

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in DreamWorks Pictures' Revolutionary Road

Sinking together again: Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in a scene from “Revolutionary Road,” the scene in which they first meet and believe that one day they can be the king and the queen of the world. (Instead, they end up mired in 1950s suburbia.)

They talk about date movies, but “Revolutionary Road” is what I’ll call a great relationship movie.

My boyfriend and I, who have been together for more than a year now, are both in our first “real” same-sex relationship, and we are learning all of the lessons that you learn in a relationship, whether you are straight or gay, male or female. These are the lessons that make or break your relationship, depending upon whether you successfully negotiate them or not.

There have been a few times in the course of the past 15 months that I thought that our relationship was facing its imminent demise; this past week I really thought that it was the end, but we pulled through. So we saw “Revolutionary Road” last night in what was great timing; we saw the film when we really needed to see it.

“Revolutionary Road” can be taken as a cautionary tale about letting a relationship go on automatic pilot, about failing in a relationship to communicate constantly — you easily can under-communicate, but arguably you never can over-communicate — and about allowing resentments to build until there is the inevitable volcanic explosion.

“Revolutionary Road” also examines the pressures of what happens in a relationship when one of the partners wants to go in one direction and the other wants to go in another. And the film tackles the problem of whether wishing to get away from it all is a brave, bold move or whether it’s a cowardly move to run away from it all, and whether being happy with what you have is the wisdom of being happy with you have or is resignation, defeat.

With its witty, insightful dialogue and great drama — and plenty of (usually darkly) hilarious moments — no review could do “Revolutionary Road” justice, so I won’t try too hard to do so.

“Revolutionary Road” arguably is too dark — one could argue, I suppose, that even stifled life in the conservative 1950s wasn’t that bad (I don’t know because I wasn’t there) — but it seems to me that if “Road” weren’t as dark as it is, the lessons that it has to teach wouldn’t sink in as deeply, and “Road” is directed by Sam Mendes, who brought us the dark “American Beauty.” Would we expect less of a film by Mendes?

Speaking of “American Beauty,” “Revolutionary Road” feels like a mixture of some movies that we’ve seen before, including “American Beauty,” of course, but also “Far from Heaven,” with its very un-“Leave-It-to-Beaver”-like portrayal of the 1950s, and even “Brokeback Mountain,” because both “Revolutionary Road” and “Brokeback Mountain” co-star David Harbour, who in “Brokeback” played Randall, the working stiff with the annoying, rather clueless wife who presumably has a homosexual extramarital affair with Jake Gyllenhaal’s character of Jack, and who in “Road” plays Shep, a working stiff with the rather annoying, clueless wife who has a heterosexual extramarital affair with his neighbor April Wheeler, the character played by Kate Winslet.

Speaking of Winslet, it’s great to see Winslet and Leonard DiCaprio back together again, this time as married couple April and Frank Wheeler in the dystopian 1950s, and I noted while watching it that “Revolutionary Road” has at least one sly reference to “Titanic” (which was a great date movie…). I would tell you what it is, but I won’t; if you see the film and figure it out, feel free to leave the answer in the comments portion of this post.

For the great performances of Winslet and DiCaprio, it’s co-star Michael Shannon, as psychiatric patient on furlough John Givings, who steals the show, however; I expect him to at least be nominated for Best Supporting Actor (if he hasn’t already been; are the Oscar nominations out yet? I should know that…).

It’s true that the point that it’s the “crazy” man who actually is the sanest character in the film is fairly beaten into the ground, but the dialogue among the John Givings character, the Frank and April Wheeler characters and the characters of John Givings’ parents (Kathy Bates plays his mother) alone makes “Road” worth watching. It’s masterful dialogue that is rare these days. 

My grade: A-

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