February 28, 2016


Hail, Caesar! (Mark Steyn, February 27, 2016, Mark at the Movies)

On the eve of the Oscars, here's a new film from the Coen brothers that's far droller and more genuinely subversive of Hollywood than the self-serving leaden propagandizing of Trumbo. [...]

The plot? Well, Lockheed have made Josh Brolin's Eddie an offer: Come and work for them - better pay, civilized hours, and you'd be spending your days on something important, not just cleaning up for circus freaks. Eddie dithers, unable to give the Lockheed headhunter a final answer. And then his biggest star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) gets kidnapped by Commie writers... The Coen brothers' first draft set the action in the Twenties, but at some point they decided to move it to the era of HUAC and the Hollywood Ten. And so it turns out the Lockheed guy is wrong: Eddie isn't just airbrushing problematic pregnancies and homosexual liaisons; whether he knows it or not, he's dealing with the biggest geopolitical issue of the day. A Soviet submarine even puts in an appearance.

There's none of the usual sentimentalized idealism about the red screenwriters here. It's a Soviet cell of dour, resentful, misshapen types who, having shanghaied George Clooney's character to a beach house in Malibu, explain that they've been slipping Communist sub-texts into their films for years, but are irked that the studio gets all the profits and they have to make do with their pitiful salaries. Clooney's befuddled Baird Whitlock, who spends the entire picture in his Roman centurion's garb, complete with sword, is fascinated by his kidnappers and asks them to explain this Communism business to him. The real Herbert Marcuse (John Bluthal) is present and endeavors to instruct the airheaded Baird in power differentials, and Baird responds yeah, he totally gets that because he was once on a bender in San Berdoo with Danny Kaye, and Danny Kaye made Baird shave Danny's back supposedly for an upcoming role but then it turned out it wasn't for a role, it was just 'cause Danny Kaye wanted to make Baird shave his back...

George Clooney plays this scene brilliantly, and then tops it with one in which he tells Josh Brolin that there's this big book that explains everything and it even has the same name as the studio - Capitol Pictures - but the book spells it with a K...

And Brolin rises from his desk and starts slapping Clooney around, and tells him he never wants to hear that again.

Posted by at February 28, 2016 8:32 AM