It's time to answer reader questions again! Roughly once a week I'll throw up an "Ask Nathaniel" post and then select the questions that trigger something in me. There are often great questions I don't answer because they'd require a whole book. Or a top ten list and we save the listing mostly for other features. Let's go.
CARLOS: I recently came across Working Girl (1988) on TV by chance. I think Griffith and, especially, Weaver are great and the costumes (unintentionally) hilarious when seen today, but what's YOUR opinion on the movie and Griffith? Do you think she could have a comeback? What would it take?
Working Girl is a total time machine for the late 80s. But truth: the costumes were intentionally funny. Or at least those worn by Griffith and the adorable Joan Cusack who were meant to be absurdly dressed. Most readers won't be aware of this because there's no reason to talk about her now, but Melanie Griffith was, for me in the 90s, the equivalent of Swank and the Zeéeeee in the 00s (i.e. actresses who I just can't with). My friends in college used to hide pictures of her in my dorm room to torture me with when I discovered them. Once, a huge poster of Melanie was staring at me from the ceiling when I jumped in bed!
I like the movie well enough but at the time it was wildly overawarded -- one of those AMPAS Christmas crushes that plays so well in the moment but is hardly better than earlier releases that it temporarily shoves out of favor during the crucial nomination period. When I look back at 1988 I'm always pissed that Bull Durham (a summer hit 1 nomination), Running on Empty (a September critical darling, 2 nominations) and Who Framed Roger Rabbit (a June smash with 6 nominations and better than nearly every one of the Best Picture nominees) didn't get various big Oscar props that they deserved. I blame Working Girl because it's the easiest film to blame that year. And I especially blame Griffith because Susan Sarandon's "Annie Savoy", one of the greatest performances of the whole decade, was snubbed to include her!
JAMES: Many lament the onslaught of remakes/reboots/re-imaginings, but what film(s) would actually benefit from a remake? As an example, I ask you to consider Rosemary's Baby. While the acting stands up, much of the rest of the film is pretty creaky. What are your thoughts?
STEVE: What cinematic, television or literary character do you think should be revisited?
[Remakes, Chris Nolan, and Oscarables AFTER THE JUMP]
The notion that Rosemary's Baby is anything less than perfect is so alarming to me that I'll have to send Ruth Gordon over to knock on your door and peer through your keyhole. You've been warned, James!
As for reboots and revisits and all the rest, I would greatly enjoy the return of Tarzan but I realize I have a Tarzan problem -- most people don't care about the Lord of the Jungle no more. To me he's as wonderful as James Bond only monogamous and with wild animals instead of techno-gadgets. Also: I like naked men.
The other thing I'd like to see remakes of is noirs both because they have such great roles for glamorous actresses and because I think you have to twist them about for modern consumption. Like Double Indemnity is classic but it's not like Body Heat wasn't a worthy filmmaking endeavor. But nobody should ever remake anything just because it's old. If you don't have something fresh to offer, don't do it! I'm talking to you Amazing Spider-Man.
EUROCHEESE: In preparation for the Nolan explosion: What's your favorite Nolan film, your least favorite, and tell us why on both?
I wasn't going to pick this question until I realized I didn't know the answer. Even once I thought it over I still didn't know the answer. I guess I just don't respond all that well to his filmmaking. I nearly always find the films somewhat technically impressive but deeply flawed and I rarely feel anything while watching them. They're all in the B to C+ range for me. My favorite is probably Memento which I still find interesting even if I haven't ever been sure that it transcends its gimmick. I like pieces of The Prestige very much. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight both have indelible moments here and there (love the Scarecrow and the Joker so Nolan does right by the villains. Hoping for the same with Bane) but I'd prefer that they were much shorter and more comprehensible in terms of editing. My least favorite Nolan film is easily Inception which I find thunderously boring and full of itself after the first viewing. The exposition is unbearable on repeat viewings when you don't need it anymore and I think DiCaprio and Page are both not very good in it at all. I literally can't sit through it a third time. I know because I tried.
COREY: Which country (outside of the US) do you believe consistently produces high quality movies?
Right now I'm really into South Korean movies. I think France has always had a pretty good ratio in terms of quantity/quality but as with any country, what we see here in the US might not always be indicative or comprehensive of what is actually on offer. So much hinges on international fame for specific directors. When a country gets "hot" like Romania a few years ago with 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (my god what a movie that was), people start looking around for other masterpieces. One major film can make a big difference but does it really reflect what's happening in any national cinema?
JOEY: Do you think people can get over the stripper stigma of Magic Mike to maybe snag a screenplay nomination? Or anything?
I do not. Even people who like it all seem kind of like bewildered sheepish that it's actually good. Maybe Matthew McConaughey under a "his year" type of career honor to make the character more palatable for them under the stuffier "award worthy" paradigm.
DERRECK: The world of Magic Mike actually exists. You can actually go and throw dollars at Channing, Matt and Matthew if you like. Which actor/actress would you take with you for the show and some drinks?
I immediately thought of Charlize Theron because she was such a cut up on the campaign circuit last Oscar season and because of her Fatal Attraction sex-ed story at that Actress Roundtable. So definitely Charlize. (She can bring Fassy as her date because he also enjoys a good time) In order to not be a third wheel, I'd also bring Parker Posey along because she's fun, period. And if I'm taking a whole group maybe Juliette Lewis, Miriam Margolyes, and Drew Barrymore.
DAVID: Who is the next actor or actress to win a 2nd Academy Award? 3rd?
This is such a tough one. It could be anyone since second Oscars are hard to come by and you can't always assume that they'll go to flawless actors. Unlike the rest of the internet, I don't really feel bullish on Daniel Day-Lewis winning for Honest Abe this year. I'm currently guessing that the next multiple is Maggie Smith with a third or Philip Seymour Hoffman with a second.
Here are a few people I think are real threats to join the two-time winner list. If they nailed a great part, I don't think the media or AMPAS or the public would be all put out like "but they've already won": Marisa Tomei, Cate Blanchett, and Judi Dench.
ROARK: Does the obligation to respond to a near endless bombardment of questions about future Oscar winners ever make you want to jump out the nearest window?
I have a balcony so if it ever gets to me I can leap off. For the record the only time it really gets to me --it's not like I don't love talking Oscar -- is when I've written something I'm proud of that has nothing to do with Oscar speculation and the comments are all off topic about who might win the Oscar. At these moments I picture a horde of grayish people stumbling slowly down a red carpet moaning "ossscaarrrrrrr" like zombies hungering for brains.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK
BRIAN Z: Do you believe comedies are generational? I mean, as if to say that people only love comedies made for their generation, give or take, and can't truly embrace those that came before? I don't believe this, but have been talking to more casual film fans, whom all think this is true.
I get where this feeling comes from since I don't think comedy is as universal as drama. What people find funny seems to be so much more individualistic or socially determined than what people find moving. I mean you can see this all the time in international cinema. Big hit comedies from one country don't always transfer well. I think some of this has to do with implicit cultural references and assumed knowledge that isn't always passed down from one generation to the next or across borders. Especially verbal comedy. Any jokes that reference celebrities or politicians or other entertainment can immediately date your material or make it slightly head-scratching for a future generation.
But I think this idea is grossly overstated anyway. You can love comedies from any eras if you adjust your antennae a bit. My favorite comedies, for example, tend to be from the 30s which is hardly my generation -- it's not even my parents' generation! But maybe I'm just out of time with comedy? I was recently watching the trailer to that Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Ben Stiller thing The Watch and the theater obviously found it hilarious. I did not. I turned to my friend annoyed and whispered "Shouting is not comedy."
- Do you think comedies from your lifetime are much funnier than the ones that came before?
- Who do you think wins a second or third Oscar soon?
- What's your favorite and least favorite Nolan film?