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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Favourite

The immortal Rick Blaine once observed: “The problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.” “The Favourite”, set in the early 18th century against the backdrop of the War of Spanish Succession, refutes this sentiment. In the heightened style of director Yorgos Lanthimos, the foreign policy of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman), lonely and stricken by gout, pertains strictly to her whims. These whims are guided and exploited by Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), Duchess of Marlborough, who has installed herself as the Queen’s closest confidant, until her destitute cousin, Abigail (Emma Stone), shows up at the Palace and quickly insinuates herself into the mix, gradually gaining the Queen’s ear, though less from concerns of national interest than her own selfish pleasure and eventual distaste for Lady Sarah. The hunger for status and power suggests “All About Eve”, but there are also prominent notes of “Phantom Thread” given not just the motif of vomit but in the erotic power plays and how easily these women bend the men to their will. Spanish inheritance and European expansion might be at stake, but that doesn’t mean a hill of beans compared to the problems of three little people.

The period specificity is aesthetically on point, particularly Sandy Powell’s typically splendid costume design, not only charting Stone’s rise from servant to noblewoman through clothes but putting Weisz in a black and white jacket for pigeon shooting that would, even now, so many centuries later, if the world had wit, instantly become the New Blaze Orange. Despite these details, however, Lanthimos picks and chooses his history and then dementedly choreographs it, emblemized in a dance sequence between Lady Sarah and Baron Malsham (Joe Alwyn), Abigail’s eventual husband, that does not meld past and present so much as jettison past entirely; it’s like re-imagining Marty McFly at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance as Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball at Windsor Castle.

It’s a revisionist costume epic, in other words, and one placing women front and center. True, the movie essentially conforms to the old angry white man belief that women in positions of power will be subject to their, shall we say, feminine urges, yet Lanthimos paints his males with that same brush. Indeed, Abigail’s wedding night rendezvous with Baron Masham where she, ah, pleasures her new husband becomes a riotously ribald encapsulation of the old Jerry Seinfeld observation of how women are working on a whole other level; she literally holds this dithering idiot in the palm of her hand. “The Favourite” might believe, as “Dr. Strangelove” did, war is an extension of sexual desire and frustration by other means, but he also connects that idea to society itself. When Lady Sarah suffers a riding accident after being poisoned by Abigail, she briefly winds up in a brothel, and though she quickly escapes with Royal help, her departing macabre crack about gainful employment to fall back on acknowledges the slippery slope for women of the era and puts everyone’s role into perspective.

It also epitomizes how delicately “The Favourite” straddles the line between brutish drawing room farce and just brutish, underlined in a musical score toggling between baroque strings as laugh track and a single tense piano note, and with which Weisz beautifully harmonizes by playing both hysterically icy and plain icy. In one of the year’s best scenes, Weisz’s character has it out with Tory Opposition Leader Robert Harley (Nicholas Hoult) who can’t deal with the war’s extravagant cost. Lanthimos shoots this scene looking up at Lady Sarah, where Weisz’s rock-solid posture suggests an immovable object, and, fed up, Harley kicks a table, leading Lady Sarah to observe that a war is on and every penny counts, a deft line reading where Weisz’s inflection communicates that the Duchess knows she is landing a comic haymaker. Then the moment flips, briefly, as Harley rushes at her, staring her down, evoking and slyly inverting the familiar sexually tense old school movie shot where the leading man stares down at the leading lady before planting one on her lips. In this moment, Weisz is astonishing; she doesn’t buckle, but she also looks like she’s about to burst out laughing at this blockhead.

Weisz’s wicked restraint is countered by Stone’s more broadly comic performance, complete with reaction shots made for belly laughs. But if her performance is bigger, it is also true to the character of Abigail, introduced covered in mud, suggesting what she is willing to roll around in to get what she wants, flipping between virtuous and vile to do so. The character might have a tragic past suggesting a glint of humanity, but Stone chooses to play the part not as if that humanity has been repressed but eliminated, treating her relationship with the Queen as a cruel joke.

That cruel joke connects to the film’s ultimate tragedy, which is The Queen herself, a character who is easy to laugh at yet also to empathize with, even, in a way, when she is screaming at subordinates for the sin of simply looking at her. The character is at once emotionally isolated and physically surrounded, always in the glare (hence, the recurring fish eye lens), a dichotomy that Colman improbably embodies, teetering on the edge in every frame, trying to keep it together even as she seems mentally checked out. She is not really Royalty, not in the heightened way we think of it, but nor is she like you and me; she’s just wrecked. When she stuffs cake and her mouth only to immediately throw it back up, she might as well be throwing up all over the monarchy.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Christmas on Honeysuckle Lane

“Christmas on Honeysuckle Lane” revolves around a secret – nay, two secrets. If these Hallmark Holiday movies typically begin with exposition bombs and unrepentant telegraphing to ensure the audience on its couch at home will not change the channel, “Christmas on Honeysuckle Lane”, based on a novel by Mary McDonough, resists. Yes, an opening airport conversation between Emma (Alicia Witt) and her sister Andie (Laura Leighton) establishes a few crucial details, but it is more notable for what it withholds, emblemized in the lead-in sequence where Emma won’t take a call from Ian, her good-for-nothing gluten-free pancake making ex-beau. And that withholding nature is what Witt, in the 2018 Hallmark Christmas Movie Performance of the Year, plays straight to, deliberately refusing to make eye contact with Leighton in their introductory scene, visually conveying the idea of something gnawing at her. You see it more explicitly in a later scene where she clenches a wooden nutcracker; you’d swear if director Maggie Greenwald held the shot just a little longer that Witt’s grip would grind that nutcracker to dust.

That is not to suggest Witt is simply playing a Grinch destined to transform into a merry Celebrant. She deftly toes the line, glimpsed in the scene where she first encounters Morgan Shelby (Colin Ferguson), an old foe destined to become her flame, while also encountering an old family friend. Witt throws shade at the former even as she simultaneously, earnestly glows toward the latter, suggesting, contrary to popular belief, that occasionally, in the hands of the greats, characters on the Hallmark Channel can contain multitudes.

Those multitudes come to include her family home (on Honeysuckle Lane) which she returns to, along with Andie and their brother Daniel (Jordan Dean), to sell, both their parents having died, a metaphor for the past that kept her away for so many Christmases, re-visited in flashbacks where the diffused lighting meant to represent the fuzziness of memory instead lends the appearance of a soap opera. It is a home filled with antiques in need of appraisal, causing Emma to enlist the town’s foremost antique appraiser, who, of course, is Morgan. This might be by narrative default, but their transition from at odds to in love nevertheless comes off because rather than just passing the screenplay’s mile markers, they really seem to come to enjoy one another’s company.

Together Emma and Morgan unearth clues about her parents’ history, lending her emotional clarity, though she, and eventually Andie, choose to keep these clues from their brother. That might sound like a convenient means of delaying the reveal until late to spur a third act dramatic confrontation, but in the case of Daniel it is entirely narratively copacetic. He repeatedly implores that this Christmas, the last one on Honeysuckle Lane, needs to be perfect, pleas that Dean dresses up in a nigh jittery verbal inflection and a squinty facial expression evoking Nathan Fillion if he was a legit basket case rather than comically harried. I don’t think the movie realized it, but this poor guy needs therapy.

But if he seems set to explode, he never does, just as the secrets, when finally brought to bear, are not nearly as disreputable as the movie seems to be claiming. But that, alas, ties into the movie’s failure to honor Witt’s impeccable acting unpredictability by turning totally predictable, and not in fun ways but hoary ways, like Ian turning up at just the wrong moment and putting an engagement ring on Emma’s finger that gets stuck meaning Morgan sees it and yada yada. And though I admittedly sign away the rights to most critical concerns the moment I click on the Hallmark Channel, Emma, as written and played, screams of someone who hold that ring up for everyone to see and say “Nope! Stuck!” Seriously, Hallmark, don’t hang Alicia out to dry.

Still. Despite pivoting off an ancient sort of misunderstanding, the conclusion finds emotional truth, particularly because even if the script conspires to keep Emma and Morgan apart, it does not mystically rush them back into one another’s arms at the end. No, it allows them to sit down and communicate, a surprisingly affectionate scene where Ferguson actually has his character just sit and listen to what she has to say. Contrary to Hallmark’s slogan, finding love at Christmas does not require a miracle; it requires acting like two grown ass adults.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Friday's Old Fashioned: Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

The “Star Wars” Holiday Special of 1978, it turns out, at least based on what appeared to be an old VHS copy uploaded to the Interwebs, was sponsored by GM. I mention this only because it instantaneously brought home why I sought out this infamous CBS production in the first place. Last year, as America 2017 wound down, I sought out John Denver’s ABC 1975 Holiday special “Rocky Mountain Christmas” to soothe my soul. But as America 2018 winds down, I do not want to soothe my soul; I want to court disaster. And what is more legendarily disastrous than the “Star Wars” Holiday Special, which nearly every December inspires editors to demand articles recounting, once again, the Special’s confusing genesis, confounding rendering and wretched product. Those articles are usually fun, but they allow you to maintain your distance, like watching a garbage barge from the shore through binoculars. That, in America 2018, is the coward’s way out. I wanted to go straight to the source; I wanted to see for myself; I wanted to stand amidst the trash and breathe in the fumes.

The production, subject to differing reminiscences as creative debacles often are, seemed to spring from both CBS’s desire for a Holiday-type variety show to capitalize on the massive box office success of the (real) first “Star Wars” and George Lucas’s insistence that the Special’s narrative backbone be – God help us – Wookie home life. The result, in which Chewbacca’s family’s concern over the famous Wookie’s failure to return home for something called Life Day (likely leaving a certain kind of contemporary viewer to wonder why they don’t celebrate Christmas in a galaxy far, far away), is both metaphorically and literally unintelligible, giving rise to the late Roger Ebert once asking in a review: “Does Han Solo really understand Chewbacca’s monotonous noises? Do they have long chats sometimes?” I don’t think he would without the benefit of the screenplay. Half the dialogue, so to speak, is just Wookie noises regretfully sans subtitles, a little like “2001’s” Dawn of Man sequence absent any artful touch.

This is truly explicated in the sequences where Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher as, respectively, you know who, are made to communicate with Chewbacca’s family by way of wall screen, or something. The actors are not Phoning It In so much as Unsure of What in The World They Are Supposed to Be Doing. Hamill’s double-take, in fact, epitomizes this confusion, truly looking like bewildered man without an acting partner. Harrison Ford, who the Special occasionally cuts to in the Millennium Falcon with Chewebacca as they try to get him home, comes across disinterested, though he came across disinterested in “Star Wars” too, which fueled his roguish charm and implies context counts for so much.

The aesthetic, meanwhile, is the Special’s downfall and saving grace, at least to someone watching it in 2018, with the Wookie home something like the dodo family house in “Follow that Bird!” crossed with Barbarella’s cockpit. And if that sounds risqué, well, I haven’t even mentioned the apparent mind evaporator (which I can only namecheck courtesy of Wikipedia), into which an impressionable Wookie places his head where we suddenly find ourselves teleported out of a galaxy far, far away and into a Disco-era music video starring Diahann Carroll. This moment is evocative of the entire Holiday Special, at once family-friendly and not family-friendly at all, like when I saw “Jurassic Park” in the summer of 1993 and decided, afterwards, to see “Rambling Rose” because it had Laura Dern too.

The mind evaporator is representative of innumerable other gadgets and gizmos the Wookies mess around with, which, and I’m admittedly stretching here, sort of evoke old school holiday RadioShack ads, a tie-in I’m surprised was overlooked. And it is through these screens that the clearly overmatched Holiday Special writers are able to incorporate their variety show add-ons, like a Jefferson Starship performance, or a cartoon featuring a pre-“Empire Strikes Back” Bobba Fett which is probably the closest this hootenanny gets to True “Star Wars” (unless you count the actual “Star Wars” footage the Special employs because it wouldn’t have afforded or managed the effects otherwise), or, best of all, Bea Arthur.

Bea Arthur serving Mos Eisley booze out of a Kool-Aid pitcher, apparently.
Upon first learning years ago that Bea Arthur was in this thing as proprietor of the Mos Eisley Cantina on Tatooine, I imagined it as a “D.C. Follies” situation, complete with a laugh track. What transpires, however, is less simply comic than theatrically surreal. To say this is what the “Star Wars” Holiday Special could have been is out line because even if had been just this it would have only appealed to leisure suit lounge lizards. Still, it’s the lone moment truly trying to approximate a “Star Wars” revue as Arthur, who might not have been game so much as “oh, the hell with this” professional, tries to kick all her extra-terrestrial clientele out of the cantina due to an Imperial-mandated curfew by leading the whole place in a singalong to some sort of riff on “The Alabama Song.” “Just one more round, my friend,” she sings, “just one more dance, my friend,” advising the aliens to leave even as her song intrinsically encourages them to stay, spiritually embodying the Holiday Special itself, a precursor to the unrelenting cycle of “Star Wars” spinoffs and by-products, claiming we don’t want more but mindlessly consuming it anyway.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Parsing Miami Vice: Figurative Screen Shots on the Wall, part 4 (conclusion)

Parsing Miami Vice: Screen Shots on the Figurative Wall is Cinema Romantico’s sporadic pseudo art exhibition in which we peruse frames from Michael Mann’s Miami Vice (2006) like the paintings they pretty much are.

Earlier this year I saw my man Claude’s painting Antibes, 1888 at The Courtauld Gallery in London. The placard quoted Mr. Monet himself: “What I bring back from here,” he said of Antibes in the south of France, “will be sweetness itself, white, pink and blue, all enveloped in this magical air.” Truth. The gallery room bearing the painting was small, empty, and I spent a long time with it. The tree, as are so many other objects in Monet paintings, just a kind of formal specificity in the foreground; the point is everything else.

Not everyone was dismissive of “Miami Vice” upon its release, as this blog can attest, and as, say, the righteous Manohla Dargis review in The New York Times can go to show, but the box office was nevertheless lackadaisical and the grades at that bastion of math, Rotten Tomatoes, were low. But that, as the reappraisals have gleaned over time, stemmed from the movie’s disinterest in narrative and its avant-garde leanings, preferring visual poetry culled from negative space, which is how Steven Hyden put it for Uproxx.

You see this in the dramatic lead-up to the climactic shootout, where the people are just sort of blots against the big blackened sky.

You see this when Justin Theroux’s character is standing guard as his machine gun, enveloped in the darkness, becomes beside the point, deferring to the puffy white clouds.

You see this on a rooftop where the charged nature of the characters’ conversation’s got nothing on the looming mounds of cumulonimbus.

You see this is in a romantic episode down Cuba way where a movie of drug cartels and white supremacists momentarily makes like a damn gallery postcard.

You see this in a speedboat race through Biscayne Bay where we never even find out who wins because none of these go-fast boats can compete with that aerial panorama. 

That, as our sporadic 2018 blogging art show winds up, brings us to the best shot in “Miami Vice.” I have written about the shot before, but that was less a contemplation of the actual frame than a romantic speculation of its genesis. And I suppose I know I loved the shot from the beginning simply because I am a sucker for storm clouds.

But considering this shot in lockstep with Claude, I see now that the jet, while proffering the trigger for the scene, is also just the tree in Antibes, 1888. And what would normally seem the negative space in the frame becomes, in fact, the point. Here, in the space of that sky, lo and behold, Michael Mann, genius evermore, did not just capture a Miami sky on camera; he brought the sweetness of that goddam sky back with him.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Support the Girls

“Support the Girls” opens with a montage of location shots showing the Texas Interstate system where multitudinous cars rush around mix masters and along multi-lane freeways. If it does not seem part and parcel to the film’s predominant setting, a Hooters-ish independent restaurant called Double Whammies, the familiar omnipresent sonic whoosh that goes hand in hand with traffic congestion sort of evokes the white noise of testosterone-themed restaurants like the one in question where all the waitresses in low-cut tops and tightly cropped shorts are conveyed as window dressing, scantily clad ornamentation in addition to the big game on the big screen, clearer when the cable TV keeps going out and the patrons look past the ladies in search of a signal. “Support the Girls”, then, as the title implies, becomes about restoring the humanity of these women, though without turning sanctimonious, as writer/director Andrew Bujalski threads the needle between light and dark, droll and sincere.

In a sense, threading the needle is the job description of Double Whammies’ general manager Lisa Conroy (Regina Hall). As the movie opens, she is crying in her car even as she pulls herself together enough to ask a co-worker how she’s doing, a delicate strength embodied in Hall’s entire performance, her air remaining staunch even if she lets pockets of stress peek through in her eyes and inflections. Lisa’s life is non-stop. Never mind normal considerations like employee shifts and unruly customers, there is a burglar trapped in the air ducts who necessitates the cops who accidentally knock out the cable which agitates the clientele, while Lisa also devises a makeshift carwash fundraiser for one of her employees in need of a legal fund, which is the movie ingeniously repurposing an activity where management exploits labor. If the latter suggests what Lisa will do for her co-workers, so does the former since it eventually connects to a cook, in a scene where Lisa demonstrates empathy even as she gently fires him, and letting him finish shift because she is cognizant that his presence is necessary . This, in other words, is her family, which becomes apparent not just in the way she babysits the kid of an employee, Danyelle (Shayna McHale), who can’t get a sitter, but when the subject of her actual home life is eventually broached.

Every family, though, has an elder and that is the owner, Cubby (James Le gros), who shows up at the worst possible time and has a heated argument with Lisa about hiring practices, laying bare not just her true place in the hierarchy but everyone’s, all subject to the top dog’s impulses. Bujalksi sets this scene in Cubby’s car, concluding it with a moment of road rage gone wrong as his would-be confrontation with a driver cutting him off is less a violent release than a sudden, hysterical diffusion of the bomb that seems set to go off as Cubby gets punched once in the you-know-what, both his aforementioned impulses and his precious masculinity skewered. Bujalski shows us this moment, however, from inside the car so that we can’t even hear it, emblematic of the film’s overriding deadpan humor, glimpsed later in a confetti cannon putting an exclamation point on the film’s come to Jesus moment, revising a hackneyed marketing tool as a colorful kiss-off.

That epiphany, however, unexpectedly, incisively happens apart from Lisa. If the narrative seems to be shaping up as a Day in Lisa’s Life, she suddenly gets moved offstage as Danyelle steps into her management shoes, not a triumphant moment but a realization of everyone’s disposability in the world of unskilled labor. The movie culminates by conforming to and upending your expectations in a lengthy, funny, unsettling sequence allowing the women to maintain their dignity even as it acknowledges how nothing truly changes for them at all. Indeed, the denouement, spread across a couple scenes, is sort of a new beginning of old ways, a cruel contradiction, but one that Lisa meets with a defiance akin to the whole movie, standing on a rooftop, screaming at the freeway traffic below, a release even if all the pent-up rage let out only seems to dissolve into the white noise.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Skate Kitchen

As “Skate Kitchen” opens, teenage Camille (Rachelle Vinberg) is skateboarding in her Long Island neighborhood, alone. As “Skate Kitchen” closes, Camille is skateboarding through the streets of New York City, but in the company of several new friends, their bond having been tested but reaffirmed. It’s an ancient arc, yet director Crystal Moselle lends vitality by blending fiction with docudrama (most of the teenagers here, including Vinberg, are playing versions of themselves), investing each decision Camille makes with the sensation of impulse rather than storytelling necessity. A scene outside some faceless, nameless corporate building where Camille talks a fed-up security guard into giving back her skateboard by saying she just wants to make peace and go home really feels, for a moment, as if she’s being earnest. Then, upon having her board returned, when she pulls a trick right in front of the incredulous guard anyway, it feels totally spontaneous, not some dramatic hurdle to cross but a real time throwing caution to the wind.

Through and through, “Skate Kitchen” is a hangout movie, where we spend most of our time in the company of Camille and her skateboarding clique as they shit-talk each other and skate, skate and shit-talk each other. That has typically been the province of males, like the recently reviewed “Summer of 84”, though there the characters were rarely given space to actually, you know, hang out whereas despite the frequent close confines of Moselle’s camera, she provides plenty of downtime, where often aimless chit-chat suddenly bursts into straightforward profundity, lending credibility to how Camille’s friendships can suddenly spiral on a dime. She enters this fold after a no more skateboarding ultimatum issued by her Mom (Elizabeth Rodriguez), with whom Camille butts heads throughout, a story genesis that could have been contrived if not for how Rodriguez deftly emotes a consistent panic born from knowing she’s losing control of her daughter as well as Camille’s moving monologue to Janay (Adrelia Lovelace).

The monologue is the heart of the film, explaining Camille’s plight, living with her father after her parents’ divorce because she could not stand her mother, only to move in with her mother when she realized her upbringing required a woman’s touch, alienating her father, forever emotionally stranded between two points. Indeed, even as she makes friends with her roving female gang, Camille is often off to the side and back of center in frames, staying out of group photos intended for Instagram until she is physically pulled in. She remains unsure as she works to open herself up, and so when she eventually finds herself drawn to Devon (Jaden Smith), the ex of Janay, she can’t help but be drawn into his orbit too. It evokes “Everybody Wants Some!!”, by Linklater, master of the hangout movie, in so much as she is sort of moving from one subculture to the next. If the guys accept her, the social dynamic nevertheless proves untenable, engendering an absolution with Camille’s original crew that feels wholly believable in how youth allows grudges to just be shaken right off.

If she and Devon can’t last, him taking pictures and filming videos of Camille skateboarding elicits the impression of him seeing through to her core, never more than a moment where they do something like an ersatz photo shoot in the shadow of The Empire State Building. Moselle shoots scene this looking up, as if from Devon’s vantage point, where it is just Camille, her skateboard and 102 stories of impeccable Art Deco. In the endless hustle of the city, which these characters frequently roam through, where the ground-level aesthetic lends a guerilla vibe, this moment of just them in the shadow of a massive tourist attraction, feels intimate, stolen, not unlike, you suddenly realize, every time they step on a skateboard.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Who Was the Golden Globes-iest Golden Globes Nominee?

Nominations for the 76th Golden Globes were announced last Thursday. If they were, as pundits noted, diverse, one year after Natalie Portman memorably, righteously threw a stink bomb right in the middle of an awards announcement when she called out the complete lack of women in the Best Director category, well, hey, look! There are no women nominated for Best Director! And this in a year when the Best Director of 2018 was Lucrecia Martel for “Zama” (not that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has seen it). What’s more, nearly thirty years after “Driving Miss Daisy” won Best Picture at the Academy Awards while “Do the Right Thing” was snubbed from being nominated at all, we have a Best Director showdown between Spike Lee for “BlacKkKlansman” and Peter Farrelly for “Green Book”, or “Driving Miss Daisy 2.” The arc of justice bends...how does that go again?

But reading the tea leaves of Hollywood’s Office Christmas Party is difficult and sometimes dangerous. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association speaks for itself, no one else, even if they often seem to operate from some place of doing in advance what they think the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is going to do so as to appear part of the big kid’s club. No, the HFPA is mostly interested in mingling with stars. And that is why, once again, as we do every year, Cinema Romantico is here not to contextualize this set of nominees in any meaningful way but merely to examine them and then determine which person the HFPA most likely nominated to simply to schmooze. I am here, in other words, to determine which of The Golden Globes nominees is the Golden Globes-iest.

Cinema Romantico’s own Golden Globes-iest Golden Globes Nominee is a tie between Eventual Oscar Winner™ Lady Gaga and Nicole Kidman, her eminence, for Best Actress. This is the award show equivalent of Jupiter aligning with Mars. Cinema Romantico strongly suspects the only reason Keira Knightley was not nominated for “Colette” in the same category was to prevent this blog’s head from exploding. But this is not, from the HFPA perspective, the Golden Globes-iest set of Golden Globes nominees. That is because, as intimated, Lady Gaga is going to win the Oscar (we have this on authority from the cosmos) and the last time Nicole Kidman gave a bad performance was – [checking notes] – oh, right, never. The HFPA surely wants both Gaga and Kidman at the party, but they also didn’t have to bend their rules to make it happen.

On first glance, Christian Bale’s Best Actor nomination for playing Dick Cheney in “Vice” might appear like the very bending of rules to which we just referred since his nod comes in the Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. But, while I’d like to think that’s just a drag on Cheney himself, it was probably a way to maneuver more room for nominations for Rami Malek and Lucas Hedges, which is the predominant purpose of having Both Dramatic and Musical or Comedy categories – that is, more invitations to go around. And anyway, I struggle to believe the HFPA wants to mingle with Bale. He strikes me as, shall we say, anti-mingle.

Robert Redford for “The Old Man and the Gun” feels a little Globes-y because he, too, is in the Musical or Comedy category, does not come across necessarily like an Oscar front-runner and his star power makes him a definite Would-Want-To-Mingle-With person. But, his presence also seems designed to elicit an appearance onstage along with Bob Woodward in the face of, well, everything, which, right or wrong, is antithetical to cocktail party ethos. No, there is another.

I have not seen “Dumplin’”. I might not see “Dumplin’”. It is the end of the year and I am busy, in life and at the movies and there are other movies I need/want to see first. And so I do not mean to cast aspersions against “Dumplin’”. But whatever the reason for Dolly Parton’s Best Song nomination for her “Girl in the Movies” for “Dumplin’”, it adheres to Southern Living® Magazine’s #1 rule for hosting a party. Rule #1 is: if Dolly is available, invite her. The HFPA did. She is Golden Globes-iest.