Tuesday, February 26, 2013


The curious turn taken this year by the usually stuffy, self-important Oscarcast probably warrants psychoanalysis more than critical analysis.

Perhaps weary of being unfavorably compared to the Golden Globes party, with its irresistible frissons, and cognizant of its own dwindling credibility, Oscar decided the most expedient route to the popularity it so desperately covets would be self-debasement and, to a degree, self-loathing.

Fine. Anything that produces results. The show was crude and rude, gleefully so, and it willfully pursued every -ism in the book. Fine.

The problem, however, was that none of it was remotely funny.

The 2013 Oscars was the awards-show equivalent of a conflicted, sexually ambiguous teenage boy: Am I gay? Or am I straight? Do I prefer “boobs”? (To borrow a word from the title of the man-cave song-and-dance extravaganza that set the show’s insecure tone.) Or do I prefer the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles? (Another of the show's “huh?” moments.)

The result was an Oscarcast that was more than just routinely awful. It was embarrassing and pathetic in its dazed quest for validation.

In retrospect, the most recent Golden Globes presentation, with Tine Fey and Amy Poehler, had the sophistication of a Cole Porter lyric.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

cinema obscura: Massy Tadjedin's "last night" (2010)

Thanks to the language barrier and locales that are more exotic than Anywhere, U.S.A., foreign films get away with a lot.

Especially French films which (full disclosure) I love.

Who couldn't swoon over one of Eric Rohmer's talky/sexy films from the '70s?  But even Rohmer's films can seem sightly ridiculous when you stop and try to re-imagine them as - gasp - American movies.

An excellent case-in-point is Massy Tadjedin's more-than-slightly-ridiculous "Last Night," a film which suffers mightily because of its lack of subtitles.

Set largely in New York and with a curious international cast, the film stars Keira Knightley who slouches around artily pretending to be a writer and Sam Worthington (that's him below with Keira) as her rather dull corporate-type husband.  Their marriage makes no sense, except that Sam's apparently handsome income has afforded Keira a magazine-ready loft/apartment that seems to be in either SoHo or Tribeca.

Even though she shows no interest in Sam herself, Keira becomes obsessed with a possible initmate relationship he might be having with coworker Eva Mendes, who accompanies Sam on business trips - the current  one to Philadelphia.  Sam is no sooner gone and being tempted by Eva, when Keira meets her former lover, a grinning Frenchman (no less) played by Guilaume Canet (that's him above with Keira).

There's a lot of drinking and smoking and darting eyes as the newly paired-off couples each anticipate hot sex.

Given that this is something of feminist screed, it's no surprise (spoiler alert here) that prim Keira doesn't give in to Guilaume (who stops grinning and starts agonizing when he realizes he's not getting any) or that Sam behaves like a pig and has sex (twice in one night!) with Eva.

Forty years ago, with Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu in the leads, "Last Night" might have been a sophisticated art-house must.

But today, in English, it's a sorry parody.