Archive for March, 2014

NEIx6hevwmSiLO_1_1By the time Corey Feldman writes, in Chapter Fourteen of his memoir Coreyography, “He was the only person in my immediate circle who wasn’t molesting me”, he’s already dished enough tawdry shenanigans among the young Hollywood set, and those who exploited them, to gain your trust: He’s telling the truth and he’s not holding back. Eminently, incessantly readable – indeed, compulsively readable, and digestible in one sitting if you’ve got the stomach – Feldman’s memoir has enough drug abuse, child molestation and general sleaze for a month of miniseries.

Of course, you’re going to ask, Why would I want to read Feldman’s memoir? To which I can only reply, Why in the world wouldn’t you? Feldman, now a father, was hugely famous, with some of his monster hits being Gremlins, Goonies, Stand By Me and The Lost Boys, the latter with Corey Haim, with whom he’d be forever linked and with whom he became lifelong (Haim died in 2010) best friends. This guy took meetings with Spielberg before he was a teenager. His is the inside story of what it was like to be a working child actor, and then a teenage movie star, in Hollywood in the 80s and 90s. You have probably, at some point, wondered what that kind of upbringing would be like. Here it is.

08_corey_haim_dec92There’s more too: stage parents from hell (indeed, just parents from hell), trashed hotel rooms (literally), behind-the-scenes scoops on famous scenes and moments from the films and the lives (wait’ll you read about an appearance on Larry King Live) and a cast of characters that includes Spielberg, Joe Dante, Richard Donner, Drew Barrymore (one of Feldman’s girlfriends), Ricky Shroder, Crispin Glover (whom Feldman seems to be channeling for the book’s cover photograph), Sam Kinison, River Phoenix (and the full family Phoenix), Robin Williams and, in a truly memorable portrait, Joel Schumacher. (In the audio book, Feldman, who reads, does truly excellent – and very funny – impersonations of all of these, and everyone else, including a version of his mother that sounds like Patty and Selma from The Simpsons).

Haim, not at his best.

Haim, not at his best.

Of course, the main other character is Haim, who comes and goes throughout the book like Mercutio to Feldman’s (admittedly drug-fucked) Romeo. As Feldman laments late in the book, Haim never told his story, and Feldman’s will almost certainly be the best primary-source version we get. Haim’s was a truly tragic Hollywood tale, and seeing the famous Two Corey Story from the inside is, if you’re into this sort of thing, incredibly revealing.

The other argument you may have against reading Feldman’s book is that Feldman is cheesy, and that’s harder to refute. That title is enough of a super-cheesy turnoff, and Feldman is prone to stacking on the cheese at times, especially in his audio book reading, which makes everything… a little too… dramatic. But he’s definitely likeable, and while not possessed of rivers of humour, the book’s stories are so outrageous that a human comedy exists; Feldman just has to relate it, and relate it he does: one thing that cannot be denied is the book’s honesty. He’s willing to tell you everything. (One area he keeps away from: his own, personal, consensual sex life. But there’s plenty of molestation).

NEIx6hevwmSiLO_1_2The book could’ve been longer, but maybe that would be pressing the point, or maybe Feldman’s skills as a writer would become more and more exposed as he strove to embellish or deepen his descriptive imagery. As such, he lays the many sordid anecdotes down, straight and no-frills, and lets you hoover them up like a line of cocaine. Seems appropriate. I got addicted, and it was a rush.

Despite The Man

Posted: March 12, 2014 in movie reviews

9780345803221_custom-6d500a2e0c2c1f89197fd6f0574851f252e232a4-s6-c30In Spite of Myself by Christopher Plummer; Published 2008; newly available as an audiobook read by Plummer.

It isn’t until Chapter 41 of Christopher Plummer’s more-revealing-than-he-intended memoir In Spite of Myself that what you may have suspected for awhile becomes clear. Alongside his brief evocations of a couple of large-scale films, Plummer, in this chapter, expresses great love for, and spends a decent chunk of prose, on his growing pack of dogs – far more prose than he has spent on his daughter, Amanda, who, you realise, he has barely had any contact with her entire life. He also, in this chapter, tells you about his haunted house.

Chapter 41 thus reveals both Plummer’s enormous self-absorption (or, frankly, selfishness) and the fact that he’s a little batty. All actors are self-absorbed and a little batty, and many, many actors have drinking challenges. Plummer’s life has taken these elements to a far greater extreme than most, something which is hidden, but there – “in spite of himself” – in his pages. His chosen title essentially acknowledges that he’s had a miraculously charmed life despite his own shortcomings, but he is sometimes annoyingly coy about them, at least directly. Thus we are told of hundreds of drunken adventures, but never with any tinge of regret – and nor is there regret for his complete rejection of any fatherly duty. This is hardly a mea culpa. Rather, it’s a bit of a gloat: “Look at me! I was a drunken cad, quite horrible to many people, and I got away with it! Hell, last year they gave me an Oscar!” The closest he comes to any form of acknowledgement that his behaviour may not have been, always or perhaps at all, conforming to society’s preferences, would be in his (guiltily short) chapter on The Sound of Music, in which he admits to being a prize dick.tumblr_me6xf7qqKp1qgpddwo1_500

His philandering is treated with the same celebratory air, and, in least in his younger years, his bawdiness will startle some readers who see him as nothing other than the epitome of elegance. As a husband, he’s obviously been lacking (he’s on his third wife) but he’s proud of himself as a cocksman. Indeed, he’s quite simply very proud of himself, something that comes through in his prose style, which is gratuitously florid; it’s as though he’s set himself the task of writing a theatrical memoir in the style of those grand actor-managers from a bygone era, and, while he’s certainly earned the right to do so, the effect is unintentionally almost parodic; it’s certainly pretentious, especially when he quotes long passages of Shakespeare (and in the audiobook, very much performs them). He also chooses, very often, the weirdest anecdotes to include: from the set of Waterloo, he spends the better part of a page detailing the time the crew started lunch without him; it’s as though he’s still pissed off about it, decades later, and wants to have a little sulk. When he commits a truly appalling act – not attending the funeral of his lifelong theatrical agent, who literally would cross oceans to bring him his contracts to sign, and who spent her life serving him – he tosses it off in a quick sentence without explanation, excuse or, again, regret.

Plummer would probably be a fantastically entertaining guy to have a bunch of drinks with, a boorish dinner guest, an ungrateful houseguest and a hellish husband or co-star. I realised at some point during his book that I didn’t like him. But his career has been so huge that it has a thousand points of light, and I liked the book, for all its stories, places, and characters, despite the man.

Plummer reads the book beautifully, of course: he’s got one of the most beautiful speaking voices in the world. But he has a hugely unflattering habit of laughing at his own witticisms, as well as his own more outlandish behaviour. Almost any reference to getting loaded is followed by his little chuckle, which again smacks of nothing less than and I got away with it. His reading is a perfect metaphor for the book itself: he comes off sounding very much in love with the sound of his own voice, knowing that we’re pretty much guaranteed to fall in love with it too.Christopher Plummer--credit Richard Bain

article-2173384-140DC805000005DC-996_634x691I saw Jessica Chastain today in Whole Foods. If not, I saw her stand-in (these are people paid to stand on a movie actor’s mark while the DP lights the setting; they are often extremely close physical types so the lighting can be as precise as possible, and they often are employed by a movie actor on movie after movie for this reason). It made me wonder what she was working on. Then I thought of how quickly these days the flame of fame can cool. It’s not just that Jennifer Lawrence is the new Jessica Chastain – it’s that Lupita Nyong’O is the new Jennifer Lawrence.091013-global-kenyan-actress-lupita-nyongo-tiff

And then I thought, what if, unlike the above-mentioned, your level of beauty steps far outside the “Hollywood” norm? I was tremendously guilty of thinking this when Gabourey Sidibe stepped out to present an Oscar this year: “Boy, you haven’t capitalised on being an Oscar nominee, have you?” The capitalisation, of course, being to lose weight.

gabourey-sidibe-2010-oscars-red-carpet-01This led me to worry about Barkhad Abdi, especially since I read in the Sydney Morning Herald that he’d been paid slave wages to appear in Captain Phillips and was now destitute and surviving on “per diems”. He was actually, in turns out, paid sixty-five thousand American dollars for his role – pretty sweet for an amateur – and personally, I would like a Hollywood Studio’s per diem. Turns out the studio was also paying for his accommodation. The Herald also reported that he was “lent a suit” but almost every actor at the Oscars has been lent a suit. You think they’re all given those Alexander McQueens, Georgio Armanis, Tom Fords and the like? Think again.maxresdefault

Luckily, the Herald redeemed itself by making me feel better about Abdi. Turns out “He has reportedly been in talks over starring in The Place That Hits the Sun, a drama about South African marathon runner Willie Mtolo, who won the New York marathon in 1992 once sanctions against South African athletes competing internationally were lifted.” If this is true, obviously this is a script that’s been kicking around, waiting for an appropriate actor. Abdi is nothing if not that actor.

But if that project pans out for Abdi, it’s very much “right place at right time”. I don’t know what the key is to capitalising on an Oscar or a Nomination, but I know one thing: do it immediately. Because the flame dies quickly. No-one at Whole Foods seemed to notice Chastain, even if it was her stand-in.

selfie3f-1-webWhen Ellen DeGeneres introduced Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs as “the woman who could fire me”, she was being disingenuous, in the same way Cate Blanchett was when she thanked her makeup people for “somehow” managing to make her look good. Ellen was nailing it, and she knew it.

From her calm, laid-back, simple, coyly edgy, sweet and ultimately perfect opening monologue, where every joke landed and built, Ellen owned her second Oscars and set the tone for the night: warm, inclusive, and loving. Looking so comfortable up on the tasteful and simple set of a friendly army of life-size Oscar statues lit from the inside (I wonder if they called them the “lightbulbs” during construction), Ellen set about humanising those weird aliens we call movie stars, first by hanging out with them in the stalls, then by offering them pizza, and finally by coming up with the single greatest Oscar gag in years, perhaps ever – the group photo that broke twitter (and it really did, in about a minute) – that was brilliant in endless ways. It wasn’t just something to talk about, it was something to look at and to have; it, of course, will be in more publications today than the word “Ukraine”; it finally and wholly organically bridged the event and social media in a way that the Academy has been trying for years to do (and hasn’t yet); and it made those movie stars seem just like us: Meryl Streep has never been more human than when she uttered (sounding like an adorable Auntie), “That was my first tweet!”

The Awards themselves were the most predictable, or should that be the most correctly predicted, ever; there were no surprises except Best Animated Short, which did not go to Disney’s Get a Horse. Everything else went down by the book. (Some might argue that Her’s Best Original Screenplay was a surprise; I saw it coming). But that was okay. Everyone deserved their Oscar, most of the speeches were warm, tasteful and charming, and no-one could really begrudge anything. These were nice Oscars.

Novak: facially challenged.

Novak: facially challenged.

All the musical performances were very fine and were tastefully under-produced, which is to say they weren’t gaudily over-produced. Bette Midler’s appearance was cleverly placed immediately after the cavalcade of the dead rather than during it (which would have happened in the 90s for sure) and the Wizard of Oz appreciation, while weirdly getting Judy Garland’s kids to “stand up and take a bow!”, was fair enough. The running theme of pairing old and young presenters made for some highly unpredictable couplings, which was fun, and Matthew McConaughey, while being very freaky in his acceptance speech, was a truly debonair and thoughtful dude in dealing with plastic surgery nightmare Kim Novak, who had obviously proved to be a loose cannon in rehearsal, such that McConaughey was given carte blanche to step in and steal her lines should she wander off-text (as she did), or (as she did) announce the wrong category. Later, Angelina Jolie was similarly classy in helping Sidney Poitier appear as dignified as possible in the light of his age and also, perhaps, some infirmity.

Ridley: pointer.

Ridley: pointer.

In terms of scandal, there was little, but John Ridley, the sour-faced writer of 12 Years A Slave, pointedly didn’t mention Steve McQueen in his acceptance speech, and pointedly (literally pointing down the barrel of the lens) did overly thank Jeremy Kleiner, one of that film’s many producers, stating (while pointing at the camera), “Jeremy, you made it happen.” Cut to McQueen, who did not look happy, and clapped very perfunctorily. Something is definitely up between those two, and it’s not nice. (There may also be something not very nice going on between Jared Leto and his mum, but let’s not go there).

Leto and mum: Oedipal?

Leto and mum: Oedipal?

Everything else was nice, and gratifyingly so. It was an excellent, dare I say it again, tasteful Oscars. Boone Isaacs has said that she’s looking for continuity, and by that she means a regular host, as Billy Crystal, Johnny Carson and Bob Hope have been in the past. Ellen just secured that gig, and that’s going to be a good thing.

Well, tomorrow they’re not gonna matter more than a hill o’beans except to the winners, but it’s Oscar Day, so some final thoughts are due.

Every year, the punditry (of which I am part) gets noisier, more crowded, but also – I guess because of the first two – more accurate. The Oscars are losing their surprising quality. When I was a kid, I could cross my fingers ‘till they ached hoping that Raiders of the Lost Ark was going to win Best Picture; these days, by the time I’ve read the blogs, heard the radio spots, and checked the bookie’s odds, I know what is likely to pan out (and it wasn’t going to be Raiders). I have put my money where my mouth is before (by laying bets), and I’ve won. I decided to stop doing that because it took a little of the fun out of it for me.

But there are still, always, thankfully, some surprises. So here are a few concepts of what might happen. In other words, some possible upsets.

surprised-little-boy1GRAVITY WINS BEST PICTURE

The money’s all on 12 Years a Slave to take the Producer’s prize at the end of the night, and Alfonso Cuarón is as much of a lock as has ever been for Best Director. But everyone I speak to says something along the lines of, “Look, I loved 12 Years A Slave, but for me, the best picture of the year was Gravity.” Some of these people vote. A lot of the voters, I suspect, feel this way. All those sneaky votes for Gravity may just end up in… a win for Gravity.

LEONARDO DiCAPRIO WINS BEST ACTOR

All the money’s on Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club, he deserves it, he’s won all the others, and he’ll almost certainly win it. But DiCaprio has been campaigning like no-one has ever campaigned before, particularly “behind closed doors” – ie, through his Top of the World contacts and status in Hollywood. He wants this award more than anyone in this race wants an award. He bought the rights to Wolf of Wall Street, he went through all sorts of financing hell to get it made (over seven or so years) and it’s become an astronomical financial success and a huge favourite with audiences despite lacklustre reviews. Leo’s the Last Man Standing in Hollywood, the only performer left who can open a picture, guaranteed (Will Smith having fallen to the mat with After Earth, big time). If Leo has said to enough people, on closed lines and in private rooms, “vote for me this one time, and I owe you one”… then, in a huge upset, he may just, bizarrely, win an Oscar tonight.surprise

SANDRA BULLOCK WINS BEST ACTRESS

Even more unlikely, Bullock leapfrogs Amy Adams to then push Cate Blanchett off the podium to take home that weirdest of concepts: an acting gong for Gravity. She hasn’t won anything leading up to the Oscars and Blanchett has had her face stamped with “Oscar Winner” since Blue Jasmine hit the screens months ago. But Gravity only works if the (essentially only) character works, she owned it, and by now everyone knows what a new-fangled method of performance was involved to actually play the role, stitched up like a cyborg in all sorts of contraptions all day, being hurled around and imagining… everything. It’s old-school versus new school, Blanchett essentially giving a performance that smacks of theatre training. If Bullock hadn’t won for The Blind Side a couple years back, I’d consider her a lock. But she did, kind of unfortunately.

gabby-sidibe-laura-linney-big-c-surprise-04THE WIND RISES WINS BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Every bookie in the world would shoot themselves if this happened, as Frozen is already considered The Greatest Animated Film Ever, a true cultural phenomenon, the saviour of all the teenage (and younger) girls in the world; it’s already been green-lit as a Broadway musical, a “Sing-A-Long” version is already playing in theatres, and the DVD will probably outsell the light bulb. But Hayao Miyazaki has stated that The Wind Rises will be his last feature film, it’s made for adults, it quietly takes the concept of animated feature films into new areas, and Hayao Miyazaki has stated it’s his last film. If Picasso was offering his last painting against a still-productive Warhol’s Soup Cans, which would you vote for? It’s that kind of choice.GomerSurprise-271x322

20 FEET FROM STARDOM WINS BEST FEATURE DOCUMENTARY

If this slight, feel-good peek at what is undoubtedly a fun and deserving subject wins over the ground-breaking, bold, challenging and completely original brain-f**k The Act of Killing, it may come as no surprise to anyone who prefers slight, feel-good movies about celebrity to bold, challenging mind-f**ks about mass political slaughter.

HER WINS ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

There’s a lot of love for Spike Jonze’s Her, but not a lot of room to give it any awards. Here’s a spot; it would take a statue away from David O. Russell for American Hustle (isn’t that fun to say?) but in the last couple of weeks, not everyone is saying they liked that script nearly as much as the performances it inspired.

surprise-01ANYONE WINS BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

Dallas Buyers Club reportedly had a hair and makeup budget of $250, which was used to make sure that McConaughey and Jared Leto were always at the right stage of their HIV+ effects. This was really tricky, as the film had an independent film’s shooting schedule – that is, short and out of sequence. Although the actors lost weight, their characters still had to be leaner, and “sicker”, some days more than others. It’s really subtle work, the kind that doesn’t normally even get nominated here (see The Wolfman for the kind of film that wins the Oscar). Bad Grandpa’s makeup is astonishing, and really should win, as the whole film is predicated on that makeup being so good as to fool “civilians” (while they’re surreptitiously filmed) into believing Johnny Knoxville is 86. The thing going against it is that it’s a prank movie called Bad Grandpa. And The Lone Ranger just seems to be here as some sick joke. What’s missing is American Hustle, which used hair and makeup as an essential metaphor for its themes of artifice, illusion and trickery.