Let's start with the starrier side of this superhero news. Evidently since Parks and Rec’s Chris Pratt won the lead in Guardians of the Galaxy, it's all systems go for comedy-bred actors to lead future Marvel properties. To be fair, Ant-Man was always bound to be weird and stylistically detached from the big-screen Marvel universe. But Paul Rudd as a superhero! In an Edgar Wright joint cowritten by Attack the Block’s Joe Cornish! Joseph Gordon-Levitt is also in the mix, which is a little easier to fathom, considering his handful of serious characters and the fact he did The Dark Knight Rises — but Don Jon being his most recent role lends the prospect some definite silliness.
The longest sexual relationship that you have in life is with yourself. That means you expend a lot of time and energy over the years learning how to romance yourself, homing in on preferences, refining the aesthetics of your desires. For those of us who grew up without unrestrained access to pornography only to be granted it later on, there's no question that it's much better to have more options. Sure, we had to get more creative with our source materials (thanks, various 1990s issues of men's magazines!) and our younger compatriots will never understand the bleak thrill of scanning a scrambled cable channel like the Spice Networks in the hopes you might catch a glimpse of some naked adult humans. But analog fantasies aren't actually superior to digital ones, they're just different. You could argue that porn images reinforce impossible standards of beauty and sexuality, but you could also say the same about all the advertisements and idealized art that preceded it. Whether you're working off a department store lingerie catalogue or a Digital Playground compilation, what you like to look at and imagine doing is still always wrapped up in broader cultural constructs, personal imprints, and onanistic shame.
In Enough Said, Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Eva, a long-divorced Los Angeles masseuse who starts dating a dour television archivist named Albert (James Gandolfini). She's not enthusiastic not because he's fat but, oddly, because his name is Albert (no one calls him "Al"). The movie was written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, who is a master of throwaway truths. When Eva tells a new client that she finds Albert intriguing, she includes a parenthetical: "to me." Unfortunately, that client, Marianne, happens to be Albert's ex-wife, who is played by Catherine Keener, whose career owes everything to dissatisfaction. Holofcener builds her entire movie on that coincidence.
Eva becomes Marianne's confidante, and Albert is the diminished subject of much of what she confides. Soon Eva starts to see in Albert the same annoyances that used to bother Marianne. She starts to treat him similarly, too. This isn't a dumb gimmick. But it's a gimmick nonetheless, and from a woman whose intricate social comedies — Walking and Talking, Lovely & Amazing, Friends With Money, Please Give — have been gimmick-free. This is the first of Holofcener's movies that can be described in a sentence.
It’s Friday night, and we’re in a mansion high atop a mountain somewhere in nearby Deer Valley, the kind of place that doesn’t have an address. A cab driver takes me over. He reminisces about the old days at Sundance. “I’ve had some crazy times, man.” I ask him what he means. “Oh, you know: big parties, hot tubs, cougars.” He’s a local, remembers sending the yellow cabs that drive up from Salt Lake City during Sundance on wild goose chases around town. But GPS put an end to that, he says, sadly.
Which I’m grateful for tonight, actually: It’s all we can do to find the hotel at the base of the mountain, where in the lobby I give my name to a waiting factotum, who dispatches another factotum, who brings another car around. I get in and we drive for a while, heading up the hill. There is no address because this road is private: We pass through one gate manned by a security guard, and then another, pairs of leaping deer glinting off the ironwork. Up the mountain we go, making lefts and rights at seeming random, speeding up in the dark.
Some might say that we have been a little obsessed with Lincoln, Steven Spielberg's latest cinematic jaunt into American history, for months now. Before we had glimpsed even a millisecond of actual footage from the film, we were convinced that the very first promotional image had begun and ended the Oscar race with the terrifying efficacy of a bloody head on a pike outside a cannibal village, warning us to proceed no deeper into the jungle lest an angry tribe of awards consultants eat our still-pulsing hearts whole and work off the meal by jumping rope with our glistening entrails. Then came our possibly reactionary concerns about the official poster, followed closely by a totally reasonable, frame-by-frame dissection of the trailer and its inevitable impact on Academy voters. Doubts crept in. Beards were feared. But then Abraham Lincoln himself, perhaps sensing, as great leaders do, that it was time to end our petty squabbling about trivial matters, brought down a thundering fist and bellowed, "I am the President of the United States of America, clothed in immense power, and I am tired of you nattering idiots carrying on about a movie you have not seen!"
So that was that. There was nothing left to do but wait. And then, finally, Lincoln debuted on a handful of screens in Los Angeles, and we were there to extinguish our ignorance. Today, it opens wider, and so it's time to answer, once and for all, the only remaining question that truly matters: Should you see it? Read on, and let's try to make your ticket-buying decision a well-informed one. We wouldn't want to turn you loose on the Fandangos without all the information you require.
Editor's note: Steven Spielberg's Lincoln gets its wide theatrical release this weekend, so the rest of the country can see what we coastal elites have been ooh-ing and ahh-ing about. Fun fact about Lincoln: Everyone is in it. And sure, everyone will be talking up Daniel Day-Lewis's no-brainer Oscar nomination as the titular president, but we thought the rest of its all-star ensemble should get their moments in the sun as well.
On today's Hollywood Prospectus Podcast, Andy and I are united in the studio but divided on the subject of Rian Johnson's new sci-fi mind-bender, Looper (2:15). It's not like oceans of time separate us, but let's put it this way: The order of people who love this movie definitely goes like this: (1) China, (2) me, (3) Andy. How did we feel about the dizzying narrative, JoGo's eyebrows, or Emily Blunt's pantomime smoking? Listen and learn.
It would have been difficult to judge any host based on the sketches of this past Saturday Night Live. Opening monologue and bizarrely satisfying hypnotist segment aside, this was the kind of episode where you think, Oh, thank God, it’s "Weekend Update." That’s not usually a good sign. But it’s also not the host’s fault: Besides the fact that Gordon-Levitt slayed it in a Magic Mike–themed opener, he also glided unself-consciously through a terrible version of the sometimes-great “guys having a beer and sharing unsettling stories and then singing the chorus of popular songs” skit and almost made the semi-weaksauce two-part “Tres Equis” scenarios fun. That is a good idea! The Son of the Most Interesting Man in the World should have been sensational! But, for some reason, the best joke was a tie between “he’s got five different styles of fedora” and the fact that he goes by Dildo Baggins when he orders his macchiatos. SNL, come on. At least match the caliber of lines like “his blood smells like cologne.”
Let’s start with a rant. Last week, in a long New York Times lamentation, the paper’s two lead film critics, Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott, argued that talking about the Oscars this far in advance, specifically in the context of film festivals, is “a drag” that sucks up “all the air in the room” (Dargis), that “the machinery of hoopla and trivia…overshadows everything else” (Scott), and that awards jockeying is an “unwelcome guest” in the conversation (the headline writer). Dargis and Scott are two of the smartest and most engaged critics around, and when they’re both pissed off about the same thing, it’s worth confronting.
While pretty much any schmuck in the greater Pittsburgh area would probably be able to tell you everything there is to know about Christopher Nolan's upcoming The Dark Knight Rises these days, the film's cast can't say a word — if they spoiled anything, the famously secretive Nolan would presumably have them killed. Awkwardly, though, nearly the entire cast of the movie is currently (or was recently) giving interviews in support of other movies, including Gary Oldman (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (50/50), Anne Hathaway (One Day), Tom Hardy (Warrior, which is out today), and Marion Cotillard (Contagion, also out today). Since 2008's The Dark Knight made like a billion dollars, reporters have to ask about Batman. So how best to avoid Nolan's wrath? We've scoured the cast's interviews for their five most effective tactics.