Making a film is so hard. Sometimes you wish it had been impossible.
The cinema has always done hostility better than history. Perhaps that is a characteristic it shares with most of us. So, 33 years ago, the spaceship Nostromo was a beaten-up heap ready to be retired, but the engine of its story and the stealthy uncovering of its ultimate confrontation of raw hostility and Sigourney Weaver in her underwear might have been handled by a trio of Einstein, Heisenberg, and Ben Hecht (the latter a pro screenwriter, the first two theorists on larger matters of story).
Since first seeing The Artist, I believed it was going to win Best Picture. It’s “different” without being challenging or difficult or worrying. The Artist could have been designed by a computer to appeal to anyone who has a sense of nostalgia for movie history. (And 54 percent of Academy voters are over sixty). It is also a light, entertaining picture in which froth passes for energy, and pat ironies are made to seem intelligent. I enjoyed it, until the moment I guessed how close it was to getting Best Picture.
What do you expect from a film called Shame with an NC-17 rating? Right at the start we see Brandon awake in the pale blue sheets of his bed. He gets up, goes to the bathroom, and turns around. He has a penis, and I suppose it is Michael Fassbender’s. So many of the things an actor brings to a picture are his parts, and it is up to us and the whole project to decide whether they also belong to a credible and interesting fictional character. Brandon exists alone in a Manhattan apartment with those bed sheets and his situation.
Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre opened over a month ago, but it’s staying in theaters and word-of-mouth is building. As well it might. There have been too many film adaptations of the Charlotte Bronte novel (published in 1847), and some of us have wearied of keeping up with them all. So I neglected the picture when it opened, but was stirred into action by my wife, Lucy Gray, who told me it was wonderful. She was right—she usually is.
For a certain type of woman, having read Jane Eyre—more specifically, having consumed it several times in feverish bursts, having carried a battered paperback from high school to college to a first apartment, having memorized certain lines (“Do you think because I am poor, obscure, plain and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong!”)—is the functional equivalent of a top-secret handshake.