Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Facts not Fats!

Jon Hamm and Greta Garbo — Making the connection!
Jon Hamm and Greta Garbo (Honestly — I can make the connection!)  Also "Borg vs. McEnroe," "Rampage" ... and the importance of proper pronunciation. (This is a fact, not a fat!)
by Denis Ferrara

“I THINK having a private life that you only share with your nearest and dearest is important. Otherwise, what are you?”

That’s Jon Hamm talking to Maximillian Potter in the Spring and Summer edition of Esquire magazine. It is Hamm’s final remark in the profile.
Writer Potter observes that while Hamm believes in the dictum that the unexamined life is not a life worth living, the actor himself doesn’t care much to examine that life publicly: “Not here. Not with a journalist.  Not over bacon and eggs.” (Potter and Hamm had chatted over breakfast.) 

In a world that now encourages us to reveal more than we should, because it will make us more interesting or “famous,” I appreciate Hamm’s reticence.  Almost as much as I appreciate Marc Hom’s photos of Hamm, the cover shot being particularly arresting.
Marc Hom for Esquire
Marc Hom for Esquire
Oddly — I do realize this! — Hamm’s remark reminded me of one of the very last print interviews Greta Garbo gave, around 1928 or 29, to Photoplay magazine. (Caught by the press in 1936 and again in 1938 while disembarking ocean liners, GG consented with surprising good humor to answering questions. But she would never again sit one-on-one with a journalist.)

This is what Garbo said in regard to talking about her private life:  “There are many things in your heart you can never tell to another person. They are you, your private joys and sorrows, and you can never tell them. You cheapen yourself, the inside of yourself, when you tell them.” So now I’ve connected Jon Hamm and Greta Garbo. My work here is done.
I have not yet seen Hamm in “Beirut” but I am looking forward to his interpretation of the archangel Gabriel in the mini-series “Good Omens.” (Apparently Armageddon goes wrong in this one. Although how wrong could it go with a winged Jon Hamm hanging around?)
Jon Hamm in "Beirut."
And for admirers of Hamm, the great Lois Smith and Geena Davis try to catch last year’s feature “Marjorie Prime” — this is a slow-burn, melancholy sci-fi take on technology, loss and the vagaries of our most cherished memories.  Requires several viewings — your opinion might vary from mood to mood, or even watching it in daylight or evening. (I watched it the first time at night and wanted to throw myself out the window. I tried it again, accompanied by strong rays of sunny vitamin D, and found myself sentimentally uplifted!)  Hamm is very good in a difficult role, Geena Davis, who we just don’t see enough of, is terrific. I was hoping that Lois Smith, who is never less than brilliant, would finally capture an Oscar nomination.

But the Academy decided that struggling, unappreciated Meryl Streep really needed a 21st nomination for “The Post.”
Hologram husband Hamm in “Marjorie Prime.”
OKAY, I admit it — I took in “Borg vs. McEnroe because I wanted to see Shia LaBeouf run around in 1980’s-style tight tennis shorts.  (In my more than occasional superficiality I often feel like the object of Joan Crawford’s slap-down to her oblivious agent in the movie “Torch Song” — “Your idea of art is the fruit in the slot machine!”)  But naturally I came away with a lot more than Mr. LaBeouf’s thighs. 
People have said the role of the tempestuous tennis champ McEnroe was “made” for Shia, because the actor has had a few public meltdowns.  But his performance is considerably more nuanced than a series of tantrums — although those are fun to watch, of course. The film, which chronicles the rivalry between the unruly McEnroe and Sweden’s icily composed Bjorn Borg, is rich, emotional, very well written and excitingly directed by Janus Metz.  (I’m not a sports movie kind of guy, so finding excitement in such a film is rare.)  I don’t know enough about either man to nitpick any liberties taken in this tale of their professional competitiveness or the intense personal pressures each faced, but it feels seamlessly on-target. (McEnroe reportedly doesn’t like it. He probably just thinks he filled out his shorts better than Shia does.)
And despite my fondness for Mr. LaBeouf, whom I have admired ever since 2005’s “The Greatest Game Ever Played” this movie really belongs to the quiet turmoil of Sverrir Gudnason as Borg, who painfully pushes down his emotions.  Gudnason is well-known in his native Sweden, now a star is born in America, at age 39! (One minor nitpick — both Shia and Sverrir are a shade too mature for their roles, but as I can’t see how more age-appropriate actors could have done any better, let’s just say — it’s a movie.)  And Stellan Skarsgard, who couldn’t give a bad performance if he tried, is wonderful as Borg’s coach. 
I WENT to see “Rampage” because:

A. I love Dwayne Johnson.

B. I had just read a terrific profile about him in Rolling Stone that made me like him even more.

C. “Rampage” seemed exactly the kind of thing I needed to lift my spirits — mutated animals turned into giant monsters, destroying cities willy-nilly. What could be better?  Nothing!  It’s as obvious and corny as hell and I felt like a kid at the Saturday matinee again.  Not one brain cell will be tested, no suspension of disbelief required.  And it’s funny, too. Intentionally!

Johnson has the perfect blend of gravitas and eye-rolling — “Relax, we’re just having a good time here” — to hold a film like this together. (Although he and “Rampage” director Brad Peyton were not as breezily successful with their last joint effort “San Andreas.”  So, I’ll give high marks to the screenwriters here, Ryan Engle and Carlton Cuse.)

I recommend this movie not only to real people, but also to TV’s most tortured heroine, “Homeland’s” Carrie Mathison.  We’ll have to wait until next year to find out just how messed up poor Carrie is, after her seven months in a Russian jail without her meds.  But I’d say one night with “Rampage” would do her a world of good.

The “Homeland” series finale was exceptionally tense and satisfying, although don’t expect anybody currently employed in real-life politics to do anything as intelligently self-sacrificing as the show’s President Keane, aka the terrifyingly good actor Elizabeth Marvel.
ENDTHOUGHT:  If only previously unknown (to me) comic Michelle Wolf had been taught proper pronunciation at some point in her life, much of the controversy around her remarks about Sarah Huckabee Sanders could have been avoided. That the word “facts” sounded like “fat” in the Sanders portion of Wolf’s bit at the White House Correspondents' Dinner meant we had to endure more than the usual outrage that surrounds this ridiculous, meaningless event.

It hardly mattered to the pearl-clutching conservatives that Wolf was just as scorching about Democrats and liberals; in fact her comment on Rachel Maddow’s labored, smug journeys to the simplest point was the one real chuckle I got out of the act. And Wolf was certainly correct that while genuine news is happening, as vital policy is being made and unmade every day, only the president’s tweets, his lawyers, Russia, porn actors, etc., are “Breaking News.”  
I have never found these events funny at all — hatred and mistrust oozing all over the place, with phony nods to “congeniality.” So maybe it’s time to revamp the thing into some sort of quiet, discreetly covered dinner to honor and encourage upcoming young journalists — leave out the commander-in-chief, the comics, pundits, anchors, network officials, cabinet members and everybody who can’t take a joke. (These days that’s everybody!)

There is not one remotely amusing thing happening in the country today, in politics or media. There is no “coming together” anymore.  I say this with a good deal of sadness — both sides have pulled the ugly genie out of the bottle one too many times.  It ain’t going back.
Contact Denis here.