Tuesday, January 12, 2016


As a distraction from the sad news of David Bowie’s passing, I went to a screening of the restoration of Orson Welles’ 1965 Falstaff epic, Chimes at Midnight. I’d never seen it, but I love Shakespeare and the bearded, corpulent Welles looked like Zardoz. This old lady in the audience simply could not get over Welles’ appearance. “OH MY GAWD!” she yelled. “He looks like a Macy’s Parade balloon!” This made me wish for an Orson Welles balloon in the next Thanksgiving Day Parade. Somebody oughta do an online petition for this.
But I digress. So much to digest here, in such great posts!

Room might be tough going for you. I’m less enthusiastic about it than others—it’s better in its first half—but I liked it. I avoided The Visit, which I kept getting mixed up with Lily Tomlin’s Grandma. Lily Tomlin in a found-footage horror movie sounds absolutely delicious, but I still wouldn’t see it. I wish that genre would die a thousand shaky-camera deaths. Grandma is cute, at least until Ernestine the Operator starts killing people. See, there I go again.
We also agree on Carol, which I saw at the NYFF and then again before filing my review because I was on the fence about it. I felt nothing, concluding that it was a hollow exercise in style. It’s gorgeous to look at, with Lachman and Powell doing spectacular work. But it’s like thumbing through the 1952 Spiegel Catalog. It’s a construction so precious it should be served under glass. Rooney Mara is way better than Cate Blanchett; the former is all internal longing while the latter is a cipher whose red-Red-RED lipstick would make The Rocky Horror Picture Show lips green with envy. It’s also too docile, like a Guess Who’s Coming To Sapphic Dinner? I can imagine the ladies of Tangerine watching this and saying “Gurrl, PLEASE!”
I was no fan of Beasts of No Nation. Folks like Matt Prigge at Metro and Matt Seitz at Roger’s site do a better job of calling bullshit on it than I have time to at the moment. But it irritated me something fierce.
I love the show Silicon Valley (and do the recaps for it at Vulture) because I work in Silicon Valley. I understand the desire to slug folks like Oscar Isaac in Ex Machina because I’m a programmer. Unfortunately, I don’t have a robot to dance with like he does, because no robot can dance “Da Butt” without exploding.
I hope Billy Crudup never goes the Laurence Fishburne route. Going all guv’ment name on us didn’t make Death Wish II respectable, artist formerly known as Larry Fishburne! BILLY Crudup forever!
I was all ready to come out here and defend Sly from your brutal (though not necessarily inaccurate) assessment of him, but then Stallone’s Golden Globes acceptance speech forgot to thank the brown people who helped him win. Allegedly, he came back during the commercial break to thank director Ryan Coogler and co-star Michael B. Jordan, but no TV viewer saw it. What do the young whippersnappers say today? “PICTURES OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN?”
But I love Creed (and Stallone’s performance) too much to not speak to your comments. A prequel with Apollo Creed would be useless for a variety of reasons. In the series, Apollo has a fully formed arc. He goes from charitable villain to trusted ally to tragic figure (that last one is in the most absurd chapter, Rocky IV, which oddly enough is Coogler’s jumping off point for his movie). Coogler talked about wanting to do this movie because he bonded with his dad over the Rocky series. I bet he asked the same question I did as a kid: It’s great that Rocky’s the hero I’m rooting for, but why couldn’t Apollo—someone who looks like me--be the hero? (Stallone eventually does make Apollo a hero of sorts, but he’s still filtered through Rocky’s shadow.)
Regarding Coogler’s subversive pivoting of the franchise: It’s important how and why he did it. Hollywood simply does not accept the notion that white male audiences will accept and embrace a hero who is a minority or female. And considering all the screaming and clothes-rending that went on vis-à-vis the colorization and/or feminine invasion of the Star Wars and superhero franchises, I can’t say I blame Hollywood for thinking this way. Coogler knows the series runs through the Rocky character, so he needs to give him a storyline for the Rocky fans. But it’s a rope-a-dope on the order of the similar switcheroo in Sirk’s version of Imitation of Life. This soapy, yet effective Rocky storyline is a front for the real story of Adonis Creed’s ascension to the status of new torchbearer/hero. Coogler knows that to have the audience acceptance required to make his remix work, he’ll have to use Rocky the way other movies use a Sidekick Negro character. Except unlike those characters, Rocky has a backstory and an arc. And Stallone does a great job.
More importantly, for all his love of Rocky’s character, Coogler gets to engage in some childhood wish-fulfillment with his new hero, which I immediately picked up on and embraced. He even cops to it in the film visually, with those scenes of young brown faces looking at Adonis with admiration and hope. I’d never seen that in a movie in 43 years of attending the cinema. I wish I had seen this movie when I was a kid.
I look forward to Coogler poking the Marvel hornets’ nest, though I kind of wish he’d said no to Black Panther.

Awards junkie that I am, I must now go submit my Oscar predictions in my annual competition with my pal, Danny. Hoping George Miller and Michael B. Jordan make the cut on Thursday, and a CGI bear eats all the Revenant votes.
Odie Henderson is based in Clifton, New Jersey and makes his living writing computer code, but is better known in online circles as a film critic for RogerEbert.com who also writes extensively for his own sites, Big Media Vandalism and Tales of Odienary Madness. In 2013 he programmed a film series at the Off Plus Camera Film festival in Krakow, Poland and has been known to perform a karaoke version of EU’s ”Da Butt” upon request.


1 comment:

Craig said...

It was your original review, Odie, that prompted me to see "Creed," a movie I almost certainly would have avoided (despite - or perhaps because of - the praise generated for it on #FilmTwitter). Again, thanks for that.

I'm also delighted you saw "Chimes at Midnight." Welles was indeed getting heavy by that time, but he still wore a fat suit for Falstaff.