What should have been one of the most satisfying months of Bryan Singer’s professional life has eroded into a living nightmare. Last week, The Wrap broke the story that Singer was being accused in a lawsuit of doing some deeply dark things to an underage boy, as part of a Hollywood sex ring. The lawsuit was timed to inflict maximum damage: Singer’s mega-budget movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past is being released on May 23, and was being hailed as a comeback of sorts after Singer’s last film, Jack the Giant Slayer flopped hard at the box-office.
The question in my mind immediately became, how could Singer, who directed the first two X-Men movies, possibly participate in the global marketing push that $200 million dollar movie requires? We now have our answer: he can’t. Buzzfeed broke the story, which has since been confirmed by Singer’s rep:
“The allegations against me are outrageous, vicious and completely false. I do not want these fictitious claims to divert ANY attention from X-Men: Days of Future Past. This fantastic film is a labor of love and one of the greatest experiences of my career. So, out of respect to all of the extraordinary contributions from the incredibly talented actors and crew involved, I’ve decided not to participate in the upcoming media events for the film. However, I promise when this situation is over, the facts will show this to be the sick twisted shake down it is. I want to thank fans, friends and family for all their amazing and overwhelming support.”
Singer’s absence was inevitable, but his presence will no doubt be felt all the way up to the red carpet premiere. For the actors, who in this case are some of the biggest stars in Hollywood, it is almost impossible to talk about a film of this technical and structural scope without mentioning the director’s contribution. And if they purposely avoid mention of Singer’s name, that’s almost worse. For once in our life, we don’ envy Jennifer Lawrence.
Finally a selection from People magazine for their Most Beautiful cover that we can agree with. The magazine chose the Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave star Lupita Nyong’o to cover the annual edition, and boy did they get it right this time.
“It was exciting and just a major, major compliment,” she said of the selection. “I was happy for all the girls who would see me on [it] and feel a little more seen.”
We interviewed Nyong’o in October of last year for Bullett. She credited her time at the Yale school of drama for much of her success. “There is no way I would have even got past the first audition if I hadn’t done my training there. I think it opened me up to a larger existence and gave me the courage––to fail. Because that is one of the biggest lessons. Sometimes you’re going to fail and that’s okay and life goes on.”
Read the rest of the interview here.
There are no prosthetic vaginas in Young and Beautiful, French director François Ozon’s meditation on the unholy trinity of sex, youth, and power. Unlike Blue is the Warmest Color and Nymphomaniac, it likely won’t face accusations of pornography, but of the three erotic bildungsromans, Ozon’s story of Isabelle, a teen girl who has sex for money she doesn’t need, is the most morally challenging. Not because the film suggests anything Isabelle does is amoral, but because she leaves her parents and the police stumped, and at a loss for why she’s doing it, their reasons for why she shouldn’t lose weight.
Ozon is prolific. The 45 year old has made 16 films in the past 17 years, and Young and Beautiful isn’t the first where teens and adults collide in a darkly sexual universe: seeSwimming Pool or Dans La Maison. For his latest, Ozon found model-turned-actress Marine Vacth to play Isabelle. In the film, her blue-eyed gaze unsettles. She betrays nothing looking her customers-cum-lovers directly in the eye. The way she guards her interiority, it’s hard to think of what she’s doing as selling herself. “I think she discovers a sense of power through the different encounters with those men,” suggests Vacth in her native French.
Before I met Vacth in the hotel room in Toronto last Fall, I spotted her smoking outside. She had on a black leather bomber and looked nearly regal. Later we met upstairs in a suite not unlike the ones Isabelle spends much of the film in, with the white-haired and balding businessmen she solicits online. In the film, she tells them she’s a student, the implied motivation for what she’s doing is to pay tuition, but the wads of cash stay untouched in her closet. When her mother finds out what’s going on, she begs her daughter for a reason why. I kept asking Vacth the same thing. “I don’t think she knows exactly why she’s doing,” she says of Isabelle, adding that to play the part “it wasn’t necessary for me to imagine something specific.”
Isabelle’s youth and beauty, juxtaposed against wrinkled faces, suggests maybe she does it because she can. “Beauty makes it easier,” agrees Vacth. The film invites a meditation on the relationship between interiority and exteriority. Isabelle’s actions pivot on this dialectic. She hocks her good looks while she keeps her internal motives guarded, but the self is not divorced from the body—in many ways, it’s determined by it and by how others see it. “I think it’s more in the look of others that we realize those things,” suggests Vacth. The first time we see Isabelle, it’s through the eyes of her younger brother watching her sunbathe—his gaze curious, innocent, and pervy all at the same time. “She was born in the body she has. She’s not living through her body or the beauty imposed on her through the way others look at her.”
In the film’s slow methodical scenes—Isabelle changing into grown-up clothes for a rendez-vous, Isabelle looking out the window on the metro—Vacth is given quite a bit of room to interpret the role in how she embodies it. She cautions me, though, against drawing any grand conclusions. “It’s still a story, a story that came from François Ozon. I don’t think it represents the sexuality in young women today.” For me, Isabelle wasn’t just a middle-aged man’s fantasy or second-wave feminism’s archetypal empowered whore. She was deeply relatable in her disdain for idiots and a bourgeois conception of love she deemed idiotic.
Back around the time of the Oscars when People magazine did this bit with the winners posing with younger versions of themselves we thought it was pretty cute. But for some reason this version of the same idea, in which they’ve done it with their “Most Beautiful” cover stars from over the years is kind of giving us the creeps. Plastic surgery is a hell of a drug kids. As a side note: these were the most beautiful people in the world at the time? Yikes. 80s Christina Applegate is still, however, our queen. See the rest here.
Reviews have been coming in for Anna D. Shapiro’s revival of “Of Mice and Men“, which opened this week in New York starring James Franco. Many of them, like this review from Variety, which called it ”emotionally devastating” and “flawless, beautifully acted” have been great. Others, like this one from the New York Times were…not so great:
Though Mr. Franco musters a single, perfect tear for the play’s tragic climax, I only came close to shedding one. That was in the first act, when a dog (a real one) is led offstage to be shot because it stinks. That dog seemed to have true fear and bewilderment in its eyes. It felt, well, human, in a way none of the people did, and my heart sank when I knew it wouldn’t be coming back.
Franco did not take kindly to the review, sharing his thoughts on Instagram in a post that has since been edited, but was screen-grabbed here via Vulture.
The “little bitch” comment was bad enough, but saying he should be working for Gawker? That’s just over the line.
“Hello dear.” Harry Dean Stanton answered the phone in his familiar drawl. Raspy is the word people tend to use to describe his voice, and it has no doubt been eroded by decades of smoking. I heard he requests flights routed with two stopovers between LA and New York to puff away. He’ll be 88 in July.
“I can’t help feeling a bit like Nastassja Kinski having you on the other end of the line,” I told him. In Paris, Texas, Kinski and Stanton share a phone conversation through one-way glass at a peepshow. (Even thirty years ago, in what was probably his finest role, he already sounded weathered.) He laughed gently and added, “What are you wearing?” I told him it’s not a pink sweater à la Kinski, but something my mother knit. When I put it on that morning, I wasn’t anticipating that sweater to foreshadow anything to do with a film about cattle.
Harry and I were talking because he narrated the documentary Fishtail, premiering tonight at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film is ostensibly about a ranch in Montana, but it’s really about a mother. Its climax is a cow giving birth—the forty-minute live birth artfully condensed into around fifteen for the film. It’s a scene you lovingly endure, not unlike the Stanton-Kinski phone scene. But while Kinski reunites with her estranged son in Paris, Texas, in Fishtail, the sow watches ranchers eartag her newborn from the other side of a metal fence.
Stanton’s voice anchors the film with spoken word and music. Director Andrew Renzi went over to his house with a single microphone. “It was a freeform music-prose-poetry session,” he explained. “We had the TV on in the background, and during commercial breaks we would work on voiceover.” Renzi and co-writer Tylee Abbott, also the rancher in the film, chose passages for Harry to read from Montana-native Rick Bass’s writings, overflowing with a sublime rapture for the landscape, which the doc luxuriously paints with 16mm film: It may not be your church—this last one percent of the West—but it is mine.
The music, however, was from Stanton’s childhood, folk songs his mother taught him—“she was quite the singer”—growing up on a tobacco farm in Kentucky. This isn’t the first time Stanton’s musical roots have carpeted a film. He sings and plays guitar in Cool Hand Luke, lending a diegetic score for many of its scenes. He was only 21 then. There’s a scene Paul Newman plays guitar on a bunk bed, a single tear rolling down his face. It’s a song Harry learned from his mother. “I do think I taught that one to Paul,” he noted, and then he started singing it for me, “I don’t care if it rains or freezes/as long as I’ve got my plastic Jesus.”
Stanton’s voice connects Fishtail to a lineage of other Americana films. The documentary is a love letter to Montana, the big sky state. Its slow pace affords it to linger on lush wide shots of the landscape: prairies, mountains, and expansive blue skies. From the bleak rock chimneys of the American Southwest in Paris, Texas to the dystopian parking lots of LA in Repo Man, Stanton’s appeared in many films where the landscape becomes its own character. “I didn’t plan it,” he said. “Nobody’s in charge. It all just happened.”
It may have just happened, but over the years Stanton’s body of work has been part of an an ongoing American narrative. But there’s also a thread of tragic motherhood in Stanton’s films. For those who want to read into it, the sow in Fishtail is another mother in a long line that includes Molly Ringwald’s absent mom (Pretty in Pink), Laura Dern’s psychotic lipstick-covered mom (Wild At Heart), and Kinski, a mother who abandons her son with her sister and works at a peep show (Paris, Texas). In Fishtail, the mother cow is fiercely protective of her calf as it takes its first wobbly first steps. She stares the camera down. But this is a working farm, and after watching the miracle of a small cow emerging from the body of a larger cow, the ranchers have to separate the newborn from its mother and submit the new stock to their order.
It’s not bleak or sentimental; it’s just life. Calving season is another cycle that gives these ranchers and their way of life meaning. And Stanton’s voice helps enforce the paradox of this callous sensitivity. There’s an impossible intimacy to the film that also borders two extremes. We always seem at once close and far away. The shots stay wide, some out of necessity. Abbott explains they had to give the sow space and film the birth from behind a bale of hay “otherwise the cow just wouldn’t calf.” But others were shot at that distance as a choice, scenes like the ranchers at dusk jumping between bales of hay with their kids. Thanks to the lavaliere microphones the subjects were wearing, we still get to hear every breath and every word as if we are right there with them as they go about their day-to-day.
Roger Ebert once wrote that no film with Mr. Stanton in it could be bad. Fishtail, with its intimate portrait of Montana ranchers’ way of life, is no exception.
Fishtail premieres tonight at 9:45pm at Bow Tie Cinemas (260 W 23rd Street New York) and is scheduled several more times during the Tribeca Film Festival. It is being co-presented by the American Natural History Museum.
If you haven’t watched Sunday’s paradigm shifting episode of Game of Thrones but are planning to, then stop reading now. If you have, and want to be reminded that Westeros is not a real place and its denizens are merely regular humans doing paid work, then behold this photo of Jack Gleeson posing goofily in front of his character’s poisoned face. That character is of course King Joffrey, one of those most reviled villains in the history of TV, who last Sunday finally, finally got his by a mysterious murderer. Gleeson, an intellect who might never act again, got silly at a recent private screening and decided to remind everyone that “guys, it’s just a stupid TV show!!!!”
The success of the recent Fox series Cosmos, in which Neil Degrasse Tyson explains the mysteries of the universe, has led to a predictable series of whines from creationists, saying they deserve equal time to have their views explained. Tyson, to his credit, has called bullshit on that. ”You don’t talk about the spherical earth with NASA and then say let’s give equal time to the flat-earthers,” he said.
But recognizing a demand when they see it — dumb people watch tv too, or, rather, dumb people watch tv especially, a new series called Creationist Cosmos has arrived to fill the void. The series, narrated by Timothy Simons, the sort of lovable idiot from Veep, explains things like “What do we know about black holes? What are they really?” in a way that readers of the Bible will feel comfortable with:
“They don’t exist.”
If you’re a fan of watching super successful, insanely talented, unfairly beautiful people beam with unbridled joy, then boy do we have the video for you! Noted Spice Girls fangirl Emma Stone, deep in the weeds on her The Amazing Spider-Man 2 press tour, was surprised by a British radio station when the disc jockeys informed her that Sporty Spice herself Mel C was at her mum’s house ready to chat via Facetime. The results are a good way to waste 2 minutes of your life. Thank you Steve Jobs, for making this possible.
Following the news last week that David Letterman would be retiring in the next year, there was much speculation about who would best fill his cranky shoes. Much of it pointed to Stephen Colbert, noted racist. Now it’s official, as CBS has announced Colbert will in fact takeover, according to Variety.
But wait, Colbert as Colbert, or as “Colbert”? How will that even work? At least one guy who should know thinks he can do the job. Jon Stewart sang his colleague’s praises this week to Vulture.
“He’s done an amazing job with just that very narrow cast of character, but he’s got a lot more he can show,” Stewart said. “He’s got some skill sets that are really applicable, interviewing-wise, but also he’s a really, really good actor and also an excellent improvisational comedian. He’s also got great writing skills. He’s got a lot of the different capacities. Being able to expand upon [those] would be exciting.”
It will be indeed, or it would be, if anyone watched late night television anymore. At least we’ll get to see the shareable clips on the internet the next day.