Tag Archives: Bradley Cooper

TIFF18: A Star Is Born (2018)

When Angelina Jolie directed herself in By The Sea, they called it a vanity project. When Barbra Streisand starred in a remake of A Star Is Born, they called that a vanity project too. Bradley Cooper directs himself in yet another remake of A Star Is Born, and: crickets. Nobody says toot about no vanity project. And it’s not that I begrudge him this project at all; we all choose to do things that will show us in the best light. We just need to be more careful about the language we use when women do the same thing that men have always done.

Have you seen any or all of the previous remakes? This one is really well-done in a lot of ways. Bradley Cooper plays Jack, the established rockstar who can’t get through a show, or life, sober. But one night, in search of his next gin & tonic, he sees Ally (Lady Gaga) perform in a drag show and he’s a goner. Ally’s been unable to break into the music business because of her “looks” (ugh) so he gives her her first big break…and then regrets it? Her star shoots up while his pummels down. His hearing loss and his drinking problem and his anger get in the way of his career, but he still finds time to be condescending about Ally’s career trajectory, which he deems less authentic than his own (ugh again). And well, if you haven’t see the previous remakes, I won’t spoil it for you (yet), but: ugh.

Bradley Cooper turns out to be an excellent director who’s hooked up with an excellent cinematographer, Matthew Libatique. And he’s terrific in this. I was particularly astonished in the earlier scenes in which he’s a charming, functional alcoholic. It’s very subtle what he does, and very right – nothing big and sloppy, but there are tell-tale tics suggesting a man who has spent decades drunk. It’s brilliant. And Sam Elliott is fantastic, truly, tearfully terrific. And Dave Chappelle is great for what little he’s in it. And Anthony Ramos manages to stand out amongst all these stars – his face, beaming with pride for his friend, feels so honest. And okay, yes, Lady Gaga is good. Not great, but she doesn’t flub anything up, she’s not wooden, and she’s not even a big distraction. And of course when she’s singing she’s on fire. It’s disingenuous to cast her of course – the biggest thing to happen to pop music since Elvis. It’s insulting to brunettes everywhere (anywhere from 75%-97% of the world’s population) that they just made her hair a little mousy and suddenly the woman whose music cannot be separated from her style, her beauty, her glamourous image, is playing a woman discriminated against on the basis of looks? Let’s take a moment just to remember but a few of the low-key looks she sported to this very movie’s premiere, and ask ourselves again if she was really the best choice for the role.

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And to have her particular hang-up be her nose in this remake, the remake following Barbra Streisand‘s…it’s just rich. Barbra has her own kind of beauty of course, but a much less conventional one. It meant something. Putting Lady Gaga in this role almost makes me feel like they’re laughing at us. And every time they do their “cute” reference to her being ugly, my stomach turns. In fact, this whole idea that a big, rich star could fall for an ugly duckling, could see past her looks and discover talent…it’s quite patronizing. Meanwhile, if my eyes do not deceive me, this imperfect woman has glowing skin and luscious locks and a tight, size-0 figure. And yes he still deigns to look down on her when her career necessitates a makeover. But what does he know of such things? He gets to show up in the same sweat-stained hat every day. The privilege! The privilege to not even recognize that gender divide, to not even have it occur to you. But that brand of career has never been viable for a woman, not in 1937 with the first A Star Is Born, and not in 2018.

[Spoilers ahead]

This movie is ostensibly about how fame is a trap, how Hollywood can eat you up and spit you out, but in the end, it’s still portrayed as the only dream worth having. Ally accuses her father of being a star-fucker but their relationship spontaneously brightens as she gets famous, and she brings him to the Grammys as her date. This is the story Hollywood loves to tell about itself (obviously, they can’t stop remaking it). But the truth is, these ideas are toxic as hell.

Like in all the remakes, when she gets her makeover, her beau is quick to wipe her face clean. We’re so trained to think of this as somehow empowering or worse, romantic, that Bradley Cooper has even admitted to doing the same thing to Lady Gaga in real life. But there’s nothing empowering about a man deciding what your face should look like, and it’s never his place to wipe your face like a child. I was so upset when I heard him repeat this story in the press it made me not want to watch this movie. Lady Gaga’s makeup has never obscured her art – it is her art, or part of it.

I’m not sure how long Cooper and company kicked this movie around  before it eventually made it into production, but it feels like it’s about 20 years late to the conversation. If anything, it’s a death sentence for grizzled old guys like Jack; those who cannot change with the times will be left behind. Of course, I realized right from the opening credits that this movie was never going to get anything right about the music industry. I called it when I spotted the studio behind it: Live Nation Productions. You know, the people who merged with Ticketmaster and forever ruined your actual concert-going experiences? Their service and “convenience” fees add half as much again to ticket prices even though you do all the work yourself, online, and then print out the ticket at home, with your own ink. Since the merger ticket prices have risen 142%, and that’s just for the tickets that scalpers buy up in rigged advanced offerings. In 2018, there isn’t a single venue that Jack could play and not be selling out himself. But the movie of course looks the other way.

Meanwhile, Ally is no cowering Vicki Lester. When the label pushes her, she pushes back. Yes, sometimes she compromises, but she’s paying her dues, she’s happy to be there, and her career is a collaboration in which she has final say.

[Serious spoilers ahead]

Except even in 2018, the man is determined to take that choice away from her.

Ally is ready to sacrifice her career in order to stay home with him, stabilize him. When he realizes this, he kills himself rather than hold her back. Now think about your own loved one deciding that for you – deciding to commit suicide in order to preserve your job. In most fairy tales, we believe in love above all else, but not Hollywood. In Hollywood, fame may be cannibalizing, but career is king. It’s everything. Jack would rather end his own life and break his beloved’s heart rather than risk her tour in Europe. He believes he is saving her from herself. It’s so many flavours of fucked up it made me sick.

I think this movie tried to say something real. It knows that music legends like Jackson Maine are already a thing of the past (is there a single modern-day equivalent?) but even as it pokes holes in the cloudy mythology, it can’t help but place value in his “integrity.” But even as he positions his own career path as the only legitimate one, his jealousy and fear are activated. He, and this film, and the 3 before it, are fueled by the Hollywood fear that for every new star, an old one is pushed out. He rails against it, but his subconscious has a firm grip – “Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die” – and Jackson dies along with them.

There are a lot of good elements to this movie and I get that many of you will enjoy it. I’m just finding that 2018 has left me angry, really angry, and I can’t watch movies without that filter of rage and indignation. Movies are the stories we tell of our time, and I don’t really like what this one is saying.

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Top 10 Actors Who Play Assholes

Kevin Spacey: Se7en, Swimming With Sharks, The Usual Suspects, Glengarry Glen Ross, American Beauty, Superman Returns for fuck’s sake. Or Nine Lives for that matter, and tenor.gifBaby Driver and Horrible Bosses. The man played Richard Nixon! No one plays mischievous evildoer as well as Spacey, but even his good guys tend to be smug bastards at best. His dialogue comes out razor-sharp, often coated with either sarcasm or condescension, and likely both.

Jeremy Piven: This guy is just insufferable. You can crown him King of Pricks based on his role in Entourage alone, but his screen credits offer further proof: Old School, Sin City, Very Bad Things. The guy even plays sleezy cartoon characters in both Cars and The Pirates! Band of Misfits. His deadpan delivery is infuriating and he has the kind of shit-eating grin that just begs to be slapped. Hard.

Christopher McDonald: I wondered if I was just holding a grudge from Thelma & Louise shooter.gif(he played the shitty husband) but no, he followed that up playing Shooter McGavin in Happy Gilmore, and what a fantastically smarmy role that is. He even plays the guy who wants to steal flubber from poor Robin Williams. He has the kind of arched eyebrow that makes me wonder: is he perpetually typecast as a dick, or do characters turn into dicks once played by him? Chicken or egg?

John C McGinley: If you see this guy on screen, you know you’re in trouble. He’s often thetumblr_mhfd5iDNow1qgqpr6o1_400.gif socially awkward dad who gets under everyone’s skin. You just want to snap his unironic suspenders to deflate his pomposity for just a moment. Platoon, Wall Street, Office Space: Hollywood seems to agree that this guy just oozes jerk.

Richard Dreyfuss: He played conceited in Dillinger, self-involved in American Graffiti, self-important in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, egotistical in The Goodbye Girl, pretentious and selfish in Mr. Holland’s Opus, and arrogant in Red. Come to think of it, is he even capable of pretending to be nice? At least he’s a bit sympathetic in Whose Life Is It Anyway; yeah he’s a real jerk to pretty much everyone around him, but the dude’s paralyzed and you cut him some slack. In everything else, you just kind of hate him.

Sam Rockwell: I kind of love Sam Rockwell, but there’s something weaselly about him. tumblr_inline_n66089BWPG1sn461n.gifHe seems to get stuck playing the douchebag an awful lot, but to his credit, he has a certain charm that makes the douchebaggery slightly lovable. Except in Iron Man 2: in that one, he’s downright evil, but I think if you’re in a movie with Robert Downey, Jr who plays the lovable scoundrel card pretty hard, you have to go big or go home.

Jason Bateman: you pair that chubby, boyish face with the condescending hot garbage that comes out of his mouth, and you’ve got a goldmine of narcissistic characters on your IMDB page. He’s obnoxious in Bad Words, manipulative in Horrible Bosses, irresponsible in Juno, patronizing in This Is Where I Leave You, bullying in Central Intelligence, a swindler in Zootopia, and downright infuriating in The Ex. This guy plays to his strengths!

Bradley Cooper: He may play a rapscallion, but he’s an irresistible rapscallion. Those dimples let him get away with murder, and sometimes his characters come pretty close. tumblr_lnzkidiQ4a1qix5n3o1_500.gifHe played the lying, cheating husband in He’s Just Not That Into You, the lying, cheating fiance in Wedding Crashers, an amoral arms dealer in War Dogs, a diva in Burnt, a shit-don’t-stick-to-me arse in The Hangover, a corrupt cop in The Place Beyond the Pines, and a reckless raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy. Does his devilish grin suit him? It does. And Cooper knows it.

Billy Crudup: He didn’t have time for his dying dad in Big Fish. He didn’t have time for his band or for child prodigy journalists or devoted fans in Almost Famous. He puts the nails to a grieving widow in Jackie. He leads people astray in Alien: Covenant. He terrorizes kids in The Stanford Prison Experiment. His characters are not often likeable, even if they aren’t bad. What does it say about Crudup that he’s so good at that?

Jason Schwartzman: This is the guy we love to hate. He’s an angry bear in Listen Up tumblr_o1qjdbWn651ujfksmo1_500.gifPhilip, an insecure uppity asshole in Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, a conceited actor in Funny People, and as Louis XVI (in Marie Antoinette), he was the very symbol of tyranny – and that’s without mentioning every smug arsehole he’s played in every Wes Anderson film. He embodies neuroses and self-loathing. Even when he’s playing earnest, he’s coming off overearnest and cloying. He just can’t win, which is why he always plays an asshole.

 

Who’s on your list?

 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-Vol-2-wallpaperI have avoided writing this review since Thursday.  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 left me entirely uninspired. Was it the mediocre 70s music? The laughable indestructibility of the heroes and villains that only disappeared when convenient to a plot point? That we have seen this movie before, a thousand times? Or that these heroes, who seemed so fresh the first time around, had nothing new to offer?  Whatever the reason, this movie was missing the spark that made the first Guardians of the Galaxy so much fun.

“More of the same” is generally something that necessarily is tied to a sequel; after all, the reason the sequel exists is because we liked the first one and asked for more. But the sequels I most enjoy are those that could stand alone if the first one was somehow wiped from memory. I don’t think Guardians Vol. 2 passes that test. It starts strongly (as Jay said to me afterward, she would have preferred it if Groot had danced his way through the whole movie) but loses its way, sacrificing action scenes and momentum to rehash the first movie’s tale of outcasts forced together to save the galaxy.

Strangely, for a movie that I don’t think could stand on its own, Guardians Vol. 2 also does not really do anything to advance things in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. If it had, I might have felt better about the movie as then it would have had a purpose. Without that, and without any real progress from the first film, Guardians Vol. 2 felt like a throwaway franchise episode, another The Fate of the Furious, another blockbuster that will have been forgotten in six months. In other words, the polar opposite of how I felt after seeing Guardians Vol. 1.

As always, my hopes were definitely too high for this sequel but I think the main reason I was so underwhelmed by this movie is because what I liked so much about the first film was its originality, and this is a carbon copy of #1 in practically every way.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 gets a score of five dancing Groots out of ten.

 

War Dogs

I like to picture Jared Leto and Jonah Hill sitting in a dark hookah bar, one-upping each other with weird, deranged laughs. Jared Leto was playing the Joker but even so, I think Jonah Hill won.

In War Dogs, Jonah Hill plays Efraim, a young 20-something high school drop out who casually becomes a multi-million-dollar arms dealer. No big deal. He brings grateful high maxresdefaultschool bud David in on the deal and soon the two of them are rolling around naked on crisp 100 dollar bills (I assume: this wasn’t in the movie, it just seems intuitive).

Do they get in over their heads? You betcha. As soon as they meet Shady Henry (They don’t call him that to his face. Or call him that ever, come to think of it) (You can tell Bradley Cooper’s shady because of the beard. And the shades) it all goes to pot. But they’re such knuckleheads they actually pound fists over surviving The Triangle Of Death just by blind luck.

Todd Phillips, director of The Hangover trilogy, is driving the bus. The first thing you’ll notice is that this movie isn’t nearly as funny as you’d expect from him. And it’s not even trying to be. Sure there are laughs (Matt felt that lots were misplaced) but it’s a pretty muddy, ethically gray situation and pretty soon we’re sweating at least half as much as Hill (he sweats A LOT).  But you have to hand it to the sly dog – that Jonah Hill is getting mighty good at creating characters we love to hate. He’s a Scarface-quoting, two-faced, super-slick (nearly as slick as his hair) dude who isn’t willing to sell his soul for money because that’s a deal done long ago – he is, however, willing to sell yours. Willing to sell his “best friend’s”. Pretty crafty. Miles Teller as David is marginally more likeable but goddammit neither of them are displaying one iota of charisma (Matt described Bradley Cooper as “wooden” so I guess that’s three of a kind).

Phillips divides the work, based on a true story, by the way – did I forget to mention that? True story all the way. Worrying. Very worryingly. God bless Dick Cheney’s America as Efraim might say. These two chuckleheads were actually granted an American military contract worth tens of millions of dollars. Your actual tax dollars lined their greasy war-dogs-3pockets. But as I was saying, Phillips divides the film into chapters, which is kind of a neat trick, except he forgets to have a point of view. So this movie, which should have a lot to say, actually says nothing. Take a fucking stance! Two uneducated, inexperienced kids, got their grubby hands on a) crazy amounts of money and b) crazy amounts of weapons and the United States government didn’t just let it happen, it made it happen. War is about money. We all know this, rationally, no matter George W.’s stated reason. It’s about economy. But it’s still painful that there’s no context. There are no good guys, no bad guys, no victims, no soldiers, no dead or dying or shot or bleeding. There’s just greedy little fucks making bank.

And here’s the other problem: with Efraim being a soulless sociopath and David being hapless and bland, you don’t really care about either of them. Even David’s narration starts to sound a little impatient. It’s cynical as fuck but it’s also just kind of dead. And maybe that’s why even the comedy falls flat: this movie doesn’t feel like a living thing. There’s no bite, no moral compass. It’s entertaining and occasionally offers up some galling guffaws. Just don’t expect it to own its own horribleness.  War Dogs is just as careless as its characters.

Las Vegas Chronicles: The Hangover

Today the Assholes are in lovely Las Vegas, so what better movie to discuss than The Hangover? If your brain reaches back to 2009, you may remember that in the original movie, the boys wake up the morning after a wild and crazy bachelor party in Vegas only to discover that their groom is missing.

The boys stay at Caesars Palace during their stay, which wouldn’t be most people’s first choice of accommodation on the strip. It’s an older place, not as glam, and nowadays its claim to fame is hosting Celine Dion’s ongoing concert series, which you wouldn’t think attracts a lot of bacherlor parties, but what do I know? When Sean and I hit up Vegas in 2011, it was already cashing in on The Hangover success with a movie-themed slot machine that was a lot of fun to play (similarly, Sex and the City and The Dark Knight slot machines also took a LOT of our quarters).

The Hangover boys upgrade to a very swanky suite during their stay, one that doesn’t actually exist in real life but is modeled after two of Caesars Palace’s most luxurious suites in its Forum Tower – the Emperor suite penthouse, natch, and the so-called “Rain Man suite” (guess which other movie was filmed there!) that takes up two floors, has 10 TVs including in-mirror bathroom televisions, and will set you back $3500\night.

Mike Tyson appears in one of the best, most random cameos ever written, and this man has a real history with Caesars Palace, it being a popular boxing venue since the 1970s. He has said that he only took the part to further fund his drug habit, and was high on cocaine during his scenes. Mike Tyson does not own a tiger in real life. In real life, he owns 7.

The staff of Caesars Palace will tell you that to this day guests enjoy quoting lines from the movie to them upon check-in, particularly “Did Caesar live here?” and “Do you know if the hotel is pager friendly?” They are beyond tired of hearing it, but if you must, a nice tip helps secure a forced chuckle.

Las Vegas got a bump of tourism thanks to this movie, but it was already a busy place. In fact, Vegas is naturally so debauched that Bradley Cooper walked around with bloody tiger scratches on his neck, and not a single person ever questioned it. He has said that he does not believe Vegas even noticed there was a movie being made.

 

While we’re carousing in Vegas, be sure to follow us on Twitter @assholemovies to get a load of our debauchery!

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You

rockthekasbah_review_article32BC796E300000578-0-image-a-1_1440879836035Rock The Kasbah: a has-been (never was?) agent (Billy Murray) decides to cash in on his one remaining client (Zooey Deschanel) and have her tour the USO circuit in Afghanistan. A panic attack has her taking off with his cash and passport, which means he’s stuck in the middle east with his thumb up his ass. He meets a number of expats – Scott Caan and Danny McBride are war profiteers, Kate Hudson is a very profitable hooker, and Bruce Willis is “Bombay Brian” – but none are overly helpful (unless you count being hog-tied in a Marilyn Monroe wig, which I don’t) and some are down right exploitative. But then he comes across big talent (Leem Lubany) in a small cave in Kabul, and convinces her to seek fame and fortune on Afghan Star (their American Idol). The Rock-the-Kasbah-review-Billonly problem: women in her culture are forbidden to sing, or to even remove the face covering that would allow her to do so. Critics are savaging this as a one-note performance and I suppose they’re right. I kinda loved it though. I love Bill Murray, and I liked Kate Hudson very much in this too. I wish we could have seen more of Deschanel but Lubany was such an interesting discovery I couldn’t help but root for her.

Zooey Deschanel interviews Palestinian co-star Leem Lubany here.

Our Brand is Crisis: Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton play fictionalized versions of American political analysts brought in to our-brand-is-crisishelp rival parties during a Bolivian presidential election (based on a true story and a documentary of the same name). This movie goes straight to a cynic’s heart, not even bothering to pretend that politics are remotely about doing good or making change, or that elections are the will of the people. They have no respect for the electorate they manipulate so easily. I’m not always crazy about Bullock but she’s better in this than I’ve seen her before. Her talents are harnessed effectively, her comedic timing not wasted on idiotic movies nobody would ever watch if it wasn’t for cross-Atlantic flights (and this role was converted for her – it was originally intended for  man). That said, there’s a little something lacking in Our Brand is Crisis. It’s not biting enough. You can’t make a political satire and then go limp.

Burnt: the Assholes were busy dancing with Dan Aykroyd so we passed our screener tickets along to a couple of conscripted assholes, Justin and Ben.  When I asked Justin what he thought 01-bradley-cooper-burnt-kitchen-in-movieabout the movie, about a nasty chef played by Bradley Cooper, he said “It was good.” So what do you think? Does he have what it takes to become a permanent Asshole? When prodded for further detail, he called it “decent”, which in a way is a win because half of all of Justin’s movie reviews consist of him making the retching throw up sound, but it’s also a loss because what he means is: it’s fine. If you’re curious to see Cooper play an asshole, then rent it when it comes out on DVD, but don’t waste your money on this one.

Weekend Round-Up

Project_Almanac_posterProject Almanac – I have mixed feelings about this one. I wasn’t bored by it, but the story is thin. I like the championing of the inventor, but I disliked the very trite time-travel routine, where the same costs and benefits are explored here as have been elsewhere a thousand times before. The kids are likeable enough but you know what? Enough with the “found footage” thing. It’s done. Let’s drop it.

colin-firth-alan-rickman-and-a-lion-feature-in-first-posters-for-gambitGambit – A movie with Colin Firth and Alan Rickman AND Stanley Tucci you want to like. But can you? It’s a remake, written by the Coen brothers, about an art thief who recruits ditzy Cameron Diaz to pull  a fast one on his boss – and then dares to be surprised when it doesn’t quite get pulled off as planned. Firth is solid and has great comic timing but Diaz exists on a level so far beneath him it’s not fair to either. I have the feeling Firth was hoping for The Big Lebowski but ended up in The Ladykillers. Better luck next time, y’all.

San Andreas – The three Assholes who went to see this together are also the same three Assholes planning a trip to shitty, shaky San Francisco next month. Oh sure it seemed like a good idea at the time. Lots of wine, we heard, those weird, slopy streets, and just a beautiful coastal drive away from LA. San Andreas is not exactly a boon to tourism. Made it seem a little sanandreasreckless to travel there (let alone live there), in fact. But we survived the movie and as of this time have not cancelled our plane tickets, mostly because Sean couldn’t find the number. I watched this movie totally stressed out, from start to finish. Is there a plot to this thing? I have no idea. WATCH OUT FOR THAT FIRE! Is there good acting in this thing? I don’t know, does dodging debris count? WATCH OUT FOR THAT FLYING CRUISE SHIP! It was a disaster movie so jam-packed with disaster that some leaked out the sides. It keeps you so busy racing from one near-death experience to another that you never have time to question the holes in the movie, because every hole is filled with exploding glass – in 3D!

Dear Zachary: A Letter to his Son About his Father – In 2001, Andrew Bagby was brutally dearzacharymurdered. Soon after, his girlfriend, the prime suspect, announces she’s pregnant and Bagby’s bereaved parents have to interact with their son’s killer in order to gain any visitation with the grandson who looks just like him. This is a documentary Kurt Kuenne who isn’t a particularly talented documentarian, but who was Bagby’s best friend. This is a tribute to his friend, and also to the parents who went to great lengths to make a life for a grandchild born out of tragedy. I was prepared for this one to hurt my heart, but I wasn’t quite as prepared as I needed to be. Check it out on Netflix.

Aloha – Cameron Crowe’s greatest offense is being too successful too early in his career. Does this stand up to Almost Famous? No, it doesn’t. And not many movies would. But would people be giving Aloha as hard a time if it were written and directed by anyone else? This film is imperfect. It drags in places (but has flashes of brilliance to prop things up) and it tries to involve too many, which takes away from the central story, which is the one we’ve put our butts in the ALOHA-Movie-Reviewseats to see. Emma Stone plays Jennifer Lawrence opposite Bradley Cooper (what is it about Bradley Cooper, by the way, that his characters are constantly romancing women he could have fathered?). Anyway, he plays this deeply flawed individual and she plays so pert and perfect you want to punch her right in the googly eyes. But you’re supposed to root for them I think, even though Rachel McAdams makes a tantalizing (and age appropriate, while still being younger) alternative. They exchange some witty banter, some banal banter, look at an atrocious toe, and induce Billy Murray into a dance scene. It’s not a cohesive movie by a long shot, but nor is it as bad as the critics will tell you.  The story wants to be more than it is. The movie is beautiful but straight-forward. There’s very little art here. What we have in abundance is white people, puzzlingly, since it’s set in Hawaii, where the census tells us they’re relatively rare and Hollywood tells if you squint hard enough, George Clooney passes for Hawaiian.

goingclearGoing Clear – The more I learn, the less I understand. I didn’t learn anything new (in fact, nothing that’s not on the Wikipedia page), and I think they went a little soft on the former members they interviewed. Has anyone else seen this?