wesley morris

A lovely remembrance of Debbie Reynolds in today’s New York Times:

“Nobody like Debbie Reynolds is ever happening at the movies again. Who’ll be as plucky? Who’ll work as hard to stay as morally pure? Who the hell is gonna be named Debbie? These days, when we talk about “showbiz,” we have to adjust for deflation, because it just doesn’t mean as much as it did when Ms. Reynolds was a star.

“We’ve all been happy to be at the movies. She always seemed happy to be in the movies. She never ceased to be thrilled to be herself. Ms. Reynolds, who died Wednesday, didn’t so much act as sell — she sold happiness, she sold pragmatic romance, she sold professional stardom.”  Wesley Morris, NYTimes, “The Unsinkable Debbie”

Growing up brown in mostly white circles means learning from a very young age that language is inured to prejudicial glitches. Time and again, I have concealed my amazement. The semantics of ignorance are oddly extensive and impossible for foresee. Close friends of mine goof. There is, after all, no script. As Wesley Morris recently wrote ‘For people of colour, some aspect of friendship with white people involves an awareness that you could be dropped through a trapdoor of racism at any moment.’ Zero notice met with my own, long-harvested ability to recoup, ignore, smile, move on.
—  Durga Chew-Bose Too Much and Not the Mood
How does a talentless, lying hack like Wesley Morris get paid to write by Grantland?

I don’t get it. I just don’t. I’ve had problems with his work in the past but his review of American Sniper was the equivalent of taking a shit on the keyboard and hitting the send button. It’s a dishonest and completely gutless hatchet job that has everything to do with his personal politics and nothing to do with the actual film. It’s the leftist version of a Fox News hit piece and Grantland should be ashamed of itself for employing this punk.

American Sniper is not a political movie. It’s the story of a man who goes to war and is good at it, and the deleterious effects it has on his personal life. The fact that it was a war we had no place starting is beside the point. Not for Wesley Morris, though. He’s apparently so bothered by the fact that the filmmakers take a neutral stance on the war that he felt obliged to trash the film.

Morris either flat-out lies about the content or is a completely clueless moron. I’m not going to dignify his garbage writing with a full-on rebuttal but I will give you one example. Morris describes an early scene wherein Kyle has to decide whether or not a young boy is a legitimate target. It’s a deeply nuanced scene, the heart of which is watching an innocent looking boy who may be about to commit an act of violence. In an attempt to be dismissive and reductive Morris describes the kid as “shifty looking”. Nothing could be farther from the truth. This paragraph alone tells me that Morris is either the least perceptive viewer since Mr. Magoo, was distracted by the negative review he was already composing, or is simply a lying piece of shit.

It’s truly unfortunate that Grantland continues to pay this man to write. Conversely Will Leitch wrote an excellent piece on the same film. It is perceptive and nuanced and tells all the truths that Morris lied about. Don’t bother with the garbage Grantland published, read Leitch instead:

http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/features/2014-12-24/the-minimalist-patriotism-of-american-sniper

it’s hard to leave McFarland, USA feeling that it means anything but well. It’s for sheltered audiences — for the Whites in the film and the ones watching it — who lack the capacity or opportunity to see Latinos as more than service-class citizens or illegal invaders. It’s also a movie for Latinos who wouldn’t mind a glimpse at even scarce approximations of a fuller screen self.
—  Grantland’s Wesley Morris in “Run This Town: Ridiculous Tolerance and Real Heart in ‘McFarland, USA,’ Plus ‘Hot Tub Time Machine 2’”
nytimes.com
The Year We Obsessed Over Identity
2015's headlines and cultural events have confronted us with the malleability of racial, gender, sexual and reputational lines. Who do we think we are?
By Wesley Morris

Wesley Morris throws a wide net over identity politics and race, gender, and sense of self in 2015.

The yearning to transcend race keeps coming up against the bedrock cultural matter of separateness. But the tectonic plates of the culture keep pushing against one another with greater, earthquaking force. The best show in our era about that quake — about the instability of identity and the choosing of a self — has been ‘‘Key & Peele.’’ For five seasons, in scores of sketches, two biracial men, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, became different women and different men of different ethnicities, personalities and body types. They were two of the best actors on television, hailing from somewhere between the lawlessness of improv comedy and the high-impact emotionalism of Anna Deavere Smith’s one-woman, zillion-character plays. ‘‘Key & Peele’’ granted nearly every caricature a soul.

The show started as a commentary on the hilarious absurdity of race, but it never fully escaped the pernicious reality of racism. The longer it ran, the more melancholy it became, the more it seethed. In the final episode, its anger caught up with its fancifulness and cheek, exploding in an old-timey musical number called ‘‘Negrotown,’’ which opens with a black man (Key) being arrested by a white cop one night while walking down a dark alleyway. He says he’s innocent of any wrongdoing and asks why he’s being arrested, intensifying the cop’s anger. Entering the police cruiser, he hits his head on the car door. Suddenly, a homeless man (Peele) arrives on the scene and offers to take the black guy off the cop’s hands. The cop gratefully acquiesces.

Taking the disoriented man by the hand, the homeless guy leads him through an alley door. They find themselves on the threshold of a sunny neighborhood. The homeless guy is now dressed in a three-piece suit the color of pink grapefruit meat, and he begins to sing in a camped-up, zero-calorie Paul Robeson baritone about this new place, ‘‘where there ain’t no pain, ain’t no sorrow.’’ Black people in bright clothes are dancing in the streets, singing in giddy verse about the special virtues of their town: You can get a cab to pick you up, have a loan application approved, even wear a hoodie without getting shot. Plus: ‘‘There’s no stupid-ass white folks touching your hair or stealing your culture, claiming it’s theirs.’’

But it’s clear from the start that the ‘‘neighborhood’’ is a studio backlot, and the dancers are costumed in the colors of Skittles, and their dancing involves a lot of grinning and spinning and stretching out their arms — shuffling. Black freedom looks like a white 1940s Hollywood director’s idea of it. At the end of the number, the dancers stand frozen with their arms raised in a black-power salute, as if waiting for someone to yell ‘‘cut.’’ No one does.

The dream melts away, and we’re back with the guy being arrested, passed out on the ground. The cop starts shoving him into the cruiser. ‘‘I thought I was going to Negrotown,’’ he says.

‘‘Oh, you are,’’ the cop replies, as the piano riff from the song starts to play and the car drives off.

The show left us with a dream of Edenic self-containment as the key to black contentment — a stunning contradiction of all its previous sketches. It was a rebuke to both racial integration and ghettoization. It split me open. I cried with laughter at the joke of this obviously fake place as a kind of heaven. I cried with sadness, because if you’re in Negrotown, you’re also in a special ring of hell.

Two of the best comments left by critics in the BFI Sight and Sound poll, courtesy of Richardy Brody and Wesley Morris:

Brody: 

“Trying to get past the conundrum of balancing love and analysis, of taking into account personal passion, historical importance and aesthetic assessment, I landed on the word ‘awe’ to line up movies in terms of what both defines the cinema as an art and what launches it into an orbit akin to that of the other arts. But that word came afterwards; I had no hesitation about eight out of ten, and that criterion helped me out of my final jam. And yet, it seems arbitrary and Procrustean and leaves me full of regret over what’s left out.”


Morris: 

“Some history is time reinforcing itself for posterity’s benefit, and the immediate trouble with a list of ten movies spanning two centuries is that you begin to see how posterity springs a leak. I’m not interested in reinforcement, which is the eternal argument against including Citizen Kane or Seven Samurai or Tokyo Story. It’s either: “Someone else will do it” or “This is greatness as received wisdom.” That’s not how I feel. They are great. But their greatness – and the greatness of about three dozen other movies – doesn’t thrill me the way Spike Lee’s or, in Naked, Mike Leigh’s does. I’m also interested in the recent past and the way great directors rose to the occasions of their times. Or how they were directors of their times; I didn’t choose a movie by Michael Haneke, Abbas Kiarostami, Claire Denis or Apichatpong Weerasethakul, but I could have. How reassuring it would be to see this magnificent list and not feel that the movies – cinema! – stopped after the second Godfather. No one seriously believes that, do they?”

“The same goes for Oscar Isaac, who made Inside Llewyn Davis so much deeper and more human than any movie the Coens have made.” -http://slate.me/1aHdG9H

uhh, what? all of the coens’ films are inherently about the absurdity of the human condition, and thereby, human by nature. where do you get off saying such a blatantly wrong sweeping statement? so confused.

(i’m not arguing about the merits of inside, just to say that it showcases these things more than anything else they’ve made is ridiculous)

An Actor Celebrating Acting: What the Brilliance of Eddie Redmayne's Work in The Theory of Everything Can Teach Us About Acting

1. EDDIE REDMAYNE, TheTheory of Everything. Eddie gave a performance as physical and riveting asanything I’ve ever seen. His brilliance is hardly calculable and simply scaling his performance based on his transformation diminishes the quality of his work, as if creating a real-life, historical still-alive character wasn’t challenging enough. I want to explore every aspect of his work from practice to product. A brush-through of his opus may hardly suffice, but I’ll try to sum up why he stands alone above all other performances this year.

Eddie’s transformation should be discussed at the top, especially since it is most likely where his practice began. Simply stating, ‘He transformed well,’ doesn’t entitle him to an Oscar and it hardly recognizes the fullness of his work, but Jesus he transformed well. For an actor, transformation doesn’t mean someone believably becomes someone (or something) else, because it’s literally approached as the exact opposite. The “becoming someone else” is a product, a perceived result. You need to find out how a completely different person can live within yourself and then explore the possibilities with your body as your only tool and, equivocally, you’re only restriction. After all it’s your body and your voice. Eddie worked with a dancer and an ALS clinic on isolating certain muscles and relearning how to struggle with mobility. Then you have to feel it all. Your body has to reprocess its signal-sending as if you’re being taught how to throw a football after years of throwing a baseball. The physical work is bold, daring and strenuous, but the real work is breathing through his adapted frame to fill his body up with energy and sustenance despite his new state of being.

Nobody can teach you how to “be”, you just “are”. At this point, Eddie can play with the new manipulations to his body and his senses, but he has to find that state of being. With his physical life rooted it had to them connect to his brain. Your brain can mess with you, but it’s where all the nerves and sensory functions meet. Through Eddie’s breath, his body acting as a vehicle for ‘being’, he simply had to leap unapologetically and fearlessly deep until the millions of brainwaves and muscles were in sync, establishing that new state as his state of being. FINALLY, imagination and research can really start to pour in. The reimagining and utter belief in what is true to ones’ self. Once that final touch settled for Eddie he was able to transcend with ease. After all, he wasn’t playing ‘ALS’. Lots of people have ALS. He was playing Stephen Hawking with ALS. Now that he truly understood the effect of the illness on his own physical self, he had to take a person through that life, consistent and aglow, while listening and responding to the world around him. It’s exhausting. EDDIE killed it.

Notice I haven’t said anything about acting. Transformation is more like a dance or a sport. Eddie had to play a real person, a human being who still has many valuable traits that had to adapt over time. Any good actor understands that emotional adaptation is equally as difficult as physical adaptation. He starts as this charming, funny, goofy, genteel savant who is apt enough to recognize his brilliance is the very thing that disrupts his social candor. The beauty of this film is seeing him have an easier time creating an equation that can trace the beginning of time than speaking to a girl at a party. You see the joy he has in life, happiness, potential… he’s an incredibly full human being. But he’s still a page in a bunch of history books and video libraries until someone (or something) breathes new life into him. Eddie’s ultimate task is to create a uniquely remarkable man and take him through the dreadful illness, all the while maintaining every quality he introduced at the beginning. If he pulled that off, he transformed. If he didn’t, he was an actor acting a part.

It’s to the actor’s benefit to believe people don’t inherently change; they merely learn, grow and adapt. Change is too boring and easy, anyway. This gives us an emotional, moral or spiritual through line that is used to compliment time but has its’ own course. Stephen Hawking, that incredible, healthy spirit Eddie created at the beginning of the film, morphed through a struggle of body and mind unlike anything I’ve ever seen-but it didn’t change. His (Stephen’s) work merely became more difficult. A lot more difficult. And, with the help of his amazing wife, Jane, he overcomes. Eddie had to find out how, while his physicality waned and his work became frenetic, he continued to have humor, charm, creativity and humanity, and through his courage and perseverance he changed the way we view the world. Eddie did all of this work and had the balls to let all of this work be EFFECTED by his partners and environment. We got to see not only that Eddie could no longer hold his own child, but also the internal anguish experienced as a result. We got to see him love bragging about his sexual activity. So many human moments stand out, ones where his preparation was no longer the work and he could simply exist in the scenes, dramatic and emotional as they may have been. One of the most powerful moments of the year for me was when he is speaking to students at the end of the film. He sees a student drop a pen and, as if in an alternate place and time, he steps out of the chair, walks to the student, kneels down and hands her the pen. We got to see the man Stephen would be without ALS and guess what? It’s the same man as the one WITH ALS. The same man from Cambridge. The man who loved fireworks and neon lights on TIDE. The man who let the love of his life move on. The man who inspired hope. Looks like Eddie didn’t just transform, he transcended.

When all is said and done, the most important part of the equation is us, the audience. I have to believe what you say and do. Even more than I have to believe this beautiful, able-bodied man has ALS, I must believe that when he looks someone in the face and speaks, he speaks in earnest. I believe every word that Eddie said and Every second of what Eddie did. Every single frame. The scene where he announces he’s leaving his wife still looms over me as the most unforgettable, moving, sincere, everlasting moment I’ve seen captured on screen in a long, long time. Stephen’s love, his passion, his fight, his want, his hunger, how he maintains his magnanimity… Perhaps I’m a simple lush, but if I were Stephen Hawking I would view EDDIE’s work as the highest compliment to a life well lived. I can’t wait to see what he will do next.