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Entries in women who lie to themselves (13)


Kristen Wiig's Awards Bait: 'Crying in a Sweater'

Margaret here, bringing you the first of this year's Oscar-bait parodies and with it proof that awards season is fully upon us.

Kristen Wiig, on the promo circuit for Nasty Baby, used her spot as a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live! to debut the trailer for her new "extremely independent" movie Crying in a Sweater (directed by Michael Bay). The title, if you can believe it, about covers it: Wiig lolls about tearfully in a series of sweaters while rhapsodic critical praise scrolls by. She's poking fun at the kind of dramatic low-budget Oscar hopeful that she's starred in more than once, but the result is silly enough that it doesn't read as snide.

My personal favorite performances in the Crying in a Sweater subgenre include Toni Collette in The Sixth Sense, Jaye Davidson in The Crying Game, and Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine, but the gold standard has to be Diane Keaton in Something's Gotta Give:


In fact, there's a lot of overlap here with the favored TFE movie category Women Who Lie to Themselves. Which prompts the question: what are your favorite crying-in-a-sweater performances? How many of them come from Women Who Lie to Themselves?


What Is It With Ruth Madoff and Actresses?

You've already heard that Michelle Pfeiffer is finally planning to work again for an HBO movie called Wizard of Lies. So let's give the story its proper due.

Pfeiffer in The Family / Ruth Madoff

(I included the Pfeiff News in the last link roundup but the Pfans among you didn't deem that sufficient. (I heard from a pflummoxed pfew by e-mail). Look, stop demanding my bonafides! I have been devoted to La Pfeiff since 1985 in. real. time. I've followed her long enough to take each new probject with a full brick of salt until I see footage. She is so skittish about working.)

For the moment at least she is planning to play Ruth Madoff in Wizard of Lies with Robert De Niro in the leading role of fraudulent financier Bernie Madoff. Aside from cameos and voice work this will be her first TV role since just before superstardom hit in 87/88. In her last film The Family, DeNiro (who is 72) and she had teenage children but they're aging up this time around and delicious/undervalued Alessandro Nivola (who is 43) will play their son. Frankly I'd rather see Alessandro romantically paired with Pfeiffer than playing her biological! She's closer to his age than De Niros (by one year - hee - as she's 14 years older than Nivola and 15 years younger than De Niro - but it counts! Especially since she's so foxy. And especially because Nivola is even hotter (it sounds impossible but it's totally true) when paired with actresses that are older than he is - think Frances McDormand in Laurel Canyon, Embeth Davidtz in Junebug and Emily Mortimer in real life (his wife is just one year older - but for this argument it counts ;) 

But back to the Madoffs.

It's worth noting here that Ruth Madoff has already been played by Cate Blanchett (kinda) in Blue Jasmine, and BEFORE Pfeiffer she'll be played by Blythe Danner in the ABC miniseries Madoff (currently filming) so the disgraced rich lady is really getting around among the actresses. It is kind of an instant classic dream role in the Women Who Lie To Themselves™ subgenre.

Blythe Danner and Richard Dreyfuss in Madoff, coming to ABC in 2016.

If Pfeiffer actually goes through with it, we can hope for an Emmy but won't hold our breath. Despite her fame and acclaim, she has never been an awards magnet only picking up an odd trophy here and there (the BAFTA for Dangerous Liaisons, the Silver Bear for Love Field, and several coveted prizes for Fabulous Baker Boys including the Globe, the NBR, and the holy trinity of critics prizes -- NYFCC, LAFCA, NSFC -- before losing the Oscar for that role. ARGH x ∞).

But after both Blue Jasmine (2013) and ABC's Madoff (2016) will audiences and showbiz voters still be into this story for a third round in late 2016 or 2017? 


Lukewarm off the Presses: Tetris and Angry Birds Movies

All our jokes are coming true...

Margaret here, reminiscing back to when The LEGO Movie was first announced and we were all so dismissive and full of wisecracks. Hollywood must really be out of ideas, we said. What's next, a Tetris movie? 

Well, it's official: a big-budget, live-action Tetris movie is coming and there's nothing we can do about it. Cue the death knell for original stories! Also in the pipeline is an Angry Birds animated feature, which in addition to being less than inspired might also a bit past its moment. Sony has rounded up an enticing group of voice actors including Maya Rudolph, Peter Dinklage, Kate McKinnon, Danielle Brooks, Jason Sudeikis, Bill Hader, and Danny McBride; even so, the concept sounds destined for corporate tie-in mediocrity. Then again, that's what many predicted for The LEGO Movie, which turned out to be much better than it had any right to be. 

Perhaps even for the Tetris movie it's not too late. As yet there is no fixed plot or cast attached to the Tetris project. Brainstorm with me! How might we spin this in our favor? 

To start, here are some ideas for a Tetris movie in our favorite genre here at The Film Experience: Women Who Lie to Themselves

  • Julianne Moore is a celebrated game engineer, but in her personal life she just can't seem to make things fit. (Must include at least one extended crying jag.)
  • Lifelong friends Juliette Lewis and Emayatzy Corinealdi have inherited a factory that produces Tetriminos--apparently the official term for Tetris pieces-- and must rise to the challenge of managing it together.
  • Michelle Pfeiffer is a writer who, Adaptation-style, is tasked with writing a screenplay for a Tetris movie and grapples with artistic integrity and personal demons.

Pitch your ideas for a TFE-friendly Tetris movie in the comments!





"We don't like the twins" - On Robert Altman's 3 Women (1977)

I've seen 3 Women exactly 3 times. Look at me all numeriffic. Each time it shapes-shift fluidly like its still half submerged in the embryonic waters of pools, aquariums, nursing home baths, and dream floods that keep engulfing the women, particularly Sissy Spacek as "Pinky" (or "Mildred" depending on how you read the picture). She's the most permeable of them all.

Permeable, maybe, but never painlessly transforming; if the movie camera had never discovered Sissy Spacek's face in various stages of psychotic breaks (see also Carrie) it would have missed its calling entirely. 

The first time I saw the film it was like looking a crystal clear umbillical cord between Persona (1966) and Mulholland Dr (2001). The second time it was a singular experience, untethered to other films from my favorite genre (Women Who Lie To Themselves™) and played as a remarkable feat of interiority and actressing (Shelley Duvall won "Best Actress" at Cannes and that jury deserves a prize of its own for going there.). With this third screening 3 Women morphed into a messy horror comedy, a pitch black and deeply uncomfortable but still funny horror comedy about social autism, menstrual cycles, and the terrors of having no center and no support system to reinforce your youness. Follow?

Whichever film 3 Women is while you're watching it, it's impossible to miss its obsession with twins.

We don't like the twins. You'll learn about them soon enough"

Or, I'd argue more emphatically, its obsession with triplets; two identical, one fraternal. Though Altman's undervalued picture spends most of its time with the odd twosome of Millie (Duvall) and Pinky (Spacek) and though Pinky's initial trajectory seems to be very Single White Female in her urge to be with (or just be?) Millie, we're almost always dealing with triplets; the third is easy to miss, never identical and nearly always silent. Whether we're looking at actual twins (unfriendly blondes Polly & Peggy) or one woman reflected who appears to be two, or two women who appear to be three or four (reflections galore and too many images to screencap) or an actual rarer three-shot of the film's stars there's always some sort of triangulation going on when the image is placed in its narrative context.

Which is why my choice for "Best Shot" multiplies the multiples yet further and encapsulates absolutely everything that's so rich and weirdly specific yet vaguely disconnected about Millie and the movie itself. Millie has just been displaced from her own bedroom by Pinky when she returns to work and talks about nothing but Pinky.

I think she'll be back to work next week. The doctors really thought she was going to die. What's worse there could have been brain damage! 

Millie, singular and perpetually out of place Millie (note how Duvall towers over the other women like some absurd weed that needs pruning), trails her oblivious co-workers down the hallway in a continuous shot, talking non-stop as she does for the entire film. No one is listening despite her dramatic flourishes. Each of them are paired with their twin, literal or figurative ("Doris the Chinese one - she and I are best friends") shutting Millie out entirely. The last line as the undifferentiated women begin to dissipate out of the shot is brilliantly apt. It starts out all inclusive before it shuts someone out with its casually exclusive desperation. It's as lonely as Millie's foldout bed outside the now shuttered bedroom door. 

She asked about each and everyone one of you... especially the twins."

There's every reason to believe that Millie didn't like Pinky as her perpetual shadow/other before the medical drama. But now she's alone again. And what could be worse than that?

More 3 Women?
Here's a Visual Index of all the "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" entries 'round the web. 

Oscar Shut-Out
Oscar voters had no time at all for 3 Women despite their fondness for Altman in the 1970s. I'd gladly hand it nominations for Actress, Director, and Art Direction for starters. In fact, an early aborted mental draft of this article was entirely about the art direction. 

Programming Note
One change in the upcoming schedule. I didn't realize that Warner Bros / DC had chosen an official day for Batman's 75th (the date of his birth is complicated) so we'll postpone that Batman-related Best shot episode until July in the second half of this season



TIFF Shocker: Isabelle Huppert is "Perverse" Again

I like to start my film festivals with an atypical choice just to get the globe-trotting adventures rolling. So my first screening at TIFF, which I drunkenly forgot the name of the night before --  "Undefebeatable?" "Indestructafeated" -- was a mixed martial arts 'ultimate fighting' movie. I don't only watch movies about actresses, people! Those are just the ones I like best is all. I chased the MMA fighters with some Romanian actressing and French perversity... although it was more like Romanian Actress Perversity (Lhuminita) AND French Actress Perversity (Huppert - who else?)

So basically this was me settling in with each movie on Day One.

Movies make me feel goooooooood.

In many ways Dante Lam's mixed martial arts fighting movie is just one giant wheel of cheese. It's a wheel of cheese so big I was reminded fo the cheez-it commercial as it rolls through Hunnan, Beijing, Macau and into Hong Kong before it slams into its bone crunching finales.  The movie never met a plot advancing montage it didn't like and there's a lot of plot so cue the music again! (I may never be able to hear "The Sound of Silence" without shuddering at the ways its egregiously deployed here and the incongruous things it accompanies.)

Eddie Peng & Nick Cheung are trainee and coach in Unbeatable

Yet despite these deal breakers, the only thing broken is a few bones but no spoilers! The movie totally works and that's largely due to its character focus even though it clearly knows how to stage and film a fight scene, something that too few action movies can claim. Nick Cheung headlines as a one time shady boxing champ who has fallen so far in life that he can't shake the name "Scumbag" even though he's become a decent guy. Taiwanese Canadian actor Eddie Peng is his young fiercely committed protege and the film. Their chemistry is so great that they can even pull off a really funny winking scene about the latent homoeroticism of wrestling without making you hate them The acting from the supporting players is broad, sure, but vivid. The actress playing a young girl Scumbag befriends (I can't find her name) gets some of the best scenes and a really great final moment -- "Come stomp on me!" which makes playful make-believe violence into affection. And also accurately describes both the movies love of its genre and the masochistic impulses of the MMA set. Unbeatable isn't really unbeatable as movies go but it is not remotely unenjoyable. B

Romania's great actress Lhuminita Gheorghiu (The Death of Mr Lazarescu, 4 Months3 Weeks and 2 Days) has a doozy of a role in Child's Pose. Her character Cornelia, is a rich and smug society wife. Cornelia is rarely seen without a drink in one hand and a stubby cigarette in the other and she still has hands free for figuratively greasing palms around town, or literally greasing down her son's back in one provocative scene. Let's just say that she seems to be a spiritual film cousin to Angelica Huston's Lily in The Grifters. One might derisively and accurately refer to Cornelia as "a piece of work."

This fine Romanian picture (is there another kind?) won the Golden Bear in Berlin earlier this year and is now the country's Oscar submission for the upcoming Foreign Film race. The best thing about Child's Pose, aside from Lhuminita's intense gripping star turn, might be the way it so thoroughly isn't what it keeps seeming to be. Cornelia is the anti-hero of this fine Romanian picture (is there another kind?) a woman who will stop at nothing to keep her son from being held responsible for a car accident which killed a young boy. But to the movie's credit she doesn't appear to be at first (when your sympathies are with her, or at least warily near her - she's not exactly a warm presence) and doesn't quite remain so even after her often heinous behavior. It's a slippery thorny picture, forcing you to observe lots of ugly situations, and confront relatable if unpleasant emotions as it shapeshifts subtly from biting satire about the entitlement of wealth, to really uncomfortable family drama, to tense bureaucratic police procedural. It finally comes crashing head on into the ugly truth, the very thing Cornelia is most eager to swerve around. B+

Isabelle Huppert as Maud as Catherine Breillat in Abuse of Weakness

I still have psychic scars from Catherine Breillat's breakthrough Romance (1999) though I tried not to hold that against her when viewing her latest. Abuse of Weakness is an indulgent autobiographical picture of sorts though Catherine is now going by "Maud". Contrary to what any synopsis and the film's first couple of reels suggest the picture is not really about the director's physical illness, but about a post-stroke relationship with a conman who fleeced her of all her money.

The film opens exceptionally well with credits over white sheets which begin to move oddly, trouble broiling under the pristine surface. The camera moves until we're looking at cinema's great chilly ginger Isabelle Huppert, as Maud, writhing about naked and then very disconcertingly dropping to the floor, her body betraying her. The first few scenes reenact  Breillat's debilitating stroke and her physical therapy but the picture doesn't really get started until Maud falls for a true "character" she sees on television, Vilko (Kool Shen) telling her assistant that they just don't make actors like that. She invites the criminal to be the star of her new picture and they begin a friendship wherein he drops in repeatedly and begins to "borrow" money from her. He also repeatedly calls her "perverse" which Isabelle/Maud/Catherine obviously enjoy hearing said about them. Vilko is coldly hesitant to help her in and out of chairs and up and down stairs when she's physically struggling but he's right there with a helpful hand to hold down the checkbook while she scribbles on it.

This goes on and on until the film's finale a long virtual monologue though lawyers and children occassional egg Maud on in her own confession. Huppert nails it by underplaying, glassily admitting her own stupidity, and rewitnessing from afar what she just lived from afar, never quite "present" in her foolish decisions. Huppert's face is a marvel, trouble always broiling under its glassy surface. Abuse of Weakness has a fine beginning and a killer ending --  too bad there's no movie in the middle. It's all just a series of check-signings and a very vaguely observed relationship that's never truly examined by the protagonist living it or the director filming an actress reliving it. It's as if Breillat is determined to make the same mistakes all over again, botching her own would be exorcism. C


Review: Blue Jasmine

This review was originally published in my column at Towleroad

Cate Blanchett can't shut up in Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen's latest dramedy which added more cities this weekend for its platform rollout. We join Jasmine (real name "Jeanette") in medias res on a flight to San Francisco as she's chattering away with, no, at an older companion. She goes on and on (and on some more!) about her love affair with her husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) all the way through to baggage claim.

But Jasmine is a liar or at least a half truth-teller. We will immediately discover that her great love affair ended in ruin. Hal was a criminal, a financial con artist who pampered Jasmine with other people's fortunes and ruined everyone including Jasmine. She's moving in with her estranged adopted sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins), also ruined by Hal's crimes, now that she's destitute. Jasmine hasn't adjusted to her new facts, though, treating her cabbie from the airport like a personal chauffeur, and leaving him a big tip considering she's supposed to be penniless.Jasmine isn't always "in the now" as it were. She never is actually, talking or bragging or obsessing over the past. [More...]

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