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Hail, Caesar! (2016)

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Yeah, that was a great scene.  Some funny stuff supporting deeper ideas.

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Were the studios really that manipulative and powerful.  I mean I know that they were powerful and that there were some shenanigans going on.  But was it to that degree?

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Attica wrote:
: Were the studios really that manipulative and powerful.  I mean I know that they were powerful and that there were some shenanigans going on.  But was it to that degree?

As I mention in my review, the movie actually soft-pedals the degree to which studios were manipulative back then. The Brolin character tries to *cover up* the Johansson character's pregnancy, but he never suggests (as many studio chiefs back then would have done) that she get an abortion. In fact, the real-life scandal that the Johansson subplot most closely resembles -- that of Loretta Young, who had a daughter in secret and then "adopted" her a year or two later -- took the form it did precisely because Loretta Young was a devout Catholic for whom abortion was out of the question.

Josh Brolin has also suggested in interviews that the real-life Eddie Mannix (after whom his character is named) had mob connections etc., which the Eddie Mannix of the movie most definitely does not (as far as we can tell).

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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Mark R.Y. Young wrote:
: Anyone else catch an obvious visual reference to Barton Fink (aside from the Capitol Pictures logo)?

I haven't seen Barton Fink since it first came out 25 years ago. What's the reference?

: "Have you heard the one about the rabbi, the Catholic priest, the Protestant minister and the Orthodox patriarch who all got together for a board meeting?"  That scene hearkened back to the best of rapid-fire Coen dialogue scenes.  It's like a well-oiled vaudeville routine. 

It's kind of amusing that the movie-studio chief got an Orthodox *patriarch* in there, considering there *aren't* any Eastern Orthodox patriarchs in North America (and there are only eight or nine in the whole world). I was also amused by the fact that Mannix already had the Catholic and the Orthodox lined up and added the Protestant and the Jew as an after-thought. Really? In a country that's majority Protestant?

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31 minutes ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

Mark R.Y. Young wrote:
: Anyone else catch an obvious visual reference to Barton Fink (aside from the Capitol Pictures logo)?

I haven't seen Barton Fink since it first came out 25 years ago. What's the reference?

A shot of waves breaking and crashing against rocks by the seashore.  I want to post screenshots from the two movies (once I get the Caesar DVD) to compare their similarity. 

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9 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

As I mention in my review, the movie actually soft-pedals the degree to which studios were manipulative back then.

I wasn't thinking along the lines of the pressure to have abortions or adopt ones own child etc.  I can easily see how that would have been so.  I was thinking more about things like the idea of sending another person to prison instead of a star and just evading and controlling the legal system to those degrees.  But I guess even in current times we are left with questions as to how much power there is when it comes to some of these big celebrity trials etc.

It seems to me that with that much money involved, the mob would surely have wanted to be connected to Hollywood in some ways.  That's no real surprise.

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11 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

It's kind of amusing that the movie-studio chief got an Orthodox *patriarch* in there, considering there *aren't* any Eastern Orthodox patriarchs in North America (and there are only eight or nine in the whole world). I was also amused by the fact that Mannix already had the Catholic and the Orthodox lined up and added the Protestant and the Jew as an after-thought. Really? In a country that's majority Protestant?

Personally I think that they put that Orthodox "patriarch" in there because having someone with that high of a position in the scene made that one comment he had made that much funnier.

Maybe having the Protestant fellow in there as an afterthought is touching on the fact that Protestantism came later in the Christian timeline... like an afterthought (at least according to a possible humorous view of such things.)

Edited by Attica

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I think some of those "real life" scenes that had the feel of the films they were making, such as the scene on the water were related to the idea that the actors could often view their own lives as like the films they were making. The idea that they live as the illusion that is their films, to some degree.

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There is no realism whatsoever in the "real life" scenes. To the extent that that idea *might* have been in the film, it went out the window the moment Michael Gambon began narrating the "real life" footage.

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I'm not sure that we are talking about the same concept Peter (but I may be misreading.)  I'm saying, for example, that someone who was acting as superman would go on to see themselves as being something like Superman in real life.  Maybe a better example is Belo Lugosi who saw himself as being something like his vampire character in real life to the extent that he supposedly slept in coffins.  That's a pretty extreme example of course, but it should hopefully help get across what I'm getting at.

So the way some of those scenes are handled could be dealing with the idea of a star taking elements of their on-screen persona (or movie world) into their real world.  Thus their world becomes, in part, an illusionary aspect of their films.  

The fake world of their films and their real world become blended together to some degree, and we see an example of blending in some of those scenes.  So their "real life" scenes would also be "movie-ish."

 

Edited by Attica

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This film has some issues (Mannix isn't compelling enough to emotionally anchor the film, as Jeffrey points out in his review), but its biggest problem is it just isn't funny or weird enough. That's a bit of a shame, since I adore what the film is doing on a conceptual level. Still, as you'd expect, this film works like gangbusters whenever religion or philosophy takes center stage (my favorite moments in the film include the "religious advisers" meeting, Whitlock's interactions with "The Future," and, especially, the climactic scene of the titular movie-within-the-movie).

Note that the priest's advice to Mannix at the end ("God wants us to do the right thing") echoes the rabbi's advice in A Serious Man ("Be a good boy").

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Those are probably my three favourite scenes as well.  So far as "the Future" goes my favourite character was the guy who was just sitting there staring at Whitlock.  I got a kick out of him.  I loved how Whitlock just accepted everything without any real hesitation or concern.

Another scene I quite enjoyed was the bar dance scene.  It was entertaining with funny bits, but then I thought it was hilarious (in a dry sort of way) when it started to get a little be "naughtier" near the end, being in a way where the characters and choreographer didn't seem to see what some of the moves were implying.  I thought that was a pretty clever take on some of those old dance numbers.

 

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Well, that was fun. I agree with everyone who claims it feels slight--a souffle compared to the meat-and-potatoes of, say, A Serious Man or even Inside Llewyn Davis--but as usual, there are hidden depths just begging to be sussed out.

The Coens once again demonstrate an amazing felicity with images, especially the kind that subtly distort reality for satirical purposes. The scene that parodies a famous moment in Ben-Hur (1959) is so perfectly done that it will forever change how I view the original. It almost renders certain forthcoming period pieces (Risen, the Ben-Hur remake, etc.) superfluous and irrelevant!

If A Serious Man is the Coens coming to grips with their Jewish heritage, then Hail, Caesar! is the Coens grappling with their inheritance as Hollywood filmmakers. It's a less withering portrait of the dream factory than Barton Fink (it leaves room for nobility, through the Mannix character, where the former does not), but it pokes holes in several cherished stereotypes--especially leftist screenwriters (take that, Trumbo!)--with equal giddiness.

There are also some dark, unexplored subplots involving sexual scandals and H-bomb tests that bring us close to appreciating how paranoid the '50s really were for many Americans. But they never upstage the comedy. And that gag with Frances McDormand and the scarf--oh man. Worth the price of admission, as they say.

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Box Office Bomb despite stellar reviews. 

I was noticing it didn't even show up at my theater in town, admittedly a small town theater, but we did get Bridge of Spies and other Coen Bros. movies, so wondering if its bombing is a distribution problem

Edited by Justin Hanvey

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I think the problem has more to do with the fact that 99% of the population doesn't give a rip about Hollywood history or the Coens' puckish attempts at recreating kitschy musical numbers.

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Justin Hanvey wrote:
: I was noticing it didn't even show up at my theater in town, admittedly a small town theater, but we did get Bridge of Spies and other Coen Bros. movies, so wondering if its bombing is a distribution problem

Yeah, here in my neck of the woods, the film played at the big multiplex in Langley but not at my neighbourhood multiplex in Surrey -- but at least it found its way to my side of the river, instead of being stuck in Vancouver proper. So it had a semi-limited, but not *too* limited, release over here.

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I enjoyed the film, though it did feel a bit uneven in places. It spurred me to write about it.

Quote

Indeed, this opening scene bestows on Mannix a religious bearing. That the film returns Mannix to the confessional in its final minutes, forming a bookend with the earlier visit, only serves to undergird the identification. As the film plays out with Mannix in the midst of every narrative thread, it gradually becomes clear that the Coens have fashioned this studio head a priest of the secular realm.

First thing every morning, Mannix calls a “higher power” (New York) on the phone to report on the business at hand. He then spends his days mediating between prickly directors and overly sensitive or entitled actors. He makes sacrifices to cover the sins of his people. And he seeks to bring encouragement, guidance, and vision to his flock of misfits and idiots. All the while, none of it is appreciated. None lauded. It’s simply expected that he will be there, someone to rely upon when disobedience and sin seem ready to undermine this society-in-miniature.

 

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On 2/6/2016 at 8:00 PM, Mark R.Y. said:

If this supposedly taking place in 1951, why do so many of the films within the film have wider aspect ratios than they should for the time?  "Lazy Ol' Moon" almost looks like it's in 'Scope!  But, perhaps like The Hudsucker ProxyHail, Caesar! is meant to be taking place in several time frames at once. 

 

 

I'm thinking this might actually be taking place in 1954.  I don't know if that would correspond with the introduction of wider aspect ratios, I just base that date on the photo the Lockheed man shows to Eddie - the first hydrogen bomb to be detonated over Bikini Atoll.  That bomb was detonated on March 1st, 1954.

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20 hours ago, Overstreet said:

Mike D'Angelo's complaints are the same as mine, and he sums them up very well. I found more to admire about its strong points, but reading this I sigh and shake my head for what might have been. 

I very rarely agree with D'Angelo (I so regularly struggle to relate to his perspectives on cinema that it seems to me that he and I come from different universes), but he's very right here. This does feel like the Coens shot their first draft. What's missing here is precision: precision in structural design and precision in pacing. The Coens are usually very good at both, even when dealing with seemingly disconnected narrative strands and absurd narrative alleyways, but Hail, Caesar! never finds its rhythm.

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I had a blast with this one. Top tier Coen Brothers? Not while Barton Fink, A Serious Man, or No Country exist--but it's still pretty funny and it has some fantastic stuff (the debate on the divinity of Christ and a surprise appearance by Herbert Marcuse were two of my favorite bits). It's anyway an example of the brothers firing on most cylinders, and so saves it from being something on the level of The Ladykillers (which I also watched last night and which--while not as dire as I had feared--is certainly forgettable). 

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6 minutes ago, NBooth said:

I had a blast with this one. Top tier Coen Brothers? Not while Barton Fink, A Serious Man, or No Country exist--but it's still pretty funny and it has some fantastic stuff (the debate on the divinity of Christ and a surprise appearance by Herbert Marcuse were two of my favorite bits). It's anyway an example of the brothers firing on most cylinders, and so saves it from being something on the level of The Ladykillers (which I also watched last night and which--while not as dire as I had feared--is certainly forgettable). 

Absolutely. This is very far from being a Ladykillers or Intolerable Cruelty.

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Other things I liked:

1. The payoff to the "would that it were so simple" gag has a nice secondary joke because the line they come up with is actually better than the original one.

2. I liked the way an eagle-cry could be heard in the distance every time the title of On Wings as Eagles was mentioned and the way that same sound effect was also used to punctuate the word sodomy.

3. Channing Tatum is very, very funny here with a limited amount of screen-time.

4. Actually, I get the complaints about the star-studded cameos, but most of the actors do pretty wonderfully with what they get. Ralph Fiennes is a blast as the put-upon director, and the same could be said of Swinton, etc.

On the whole, this movie feels--nicer? Softer? Less cynical?--than other Coen Brothers comedies. Which is neither a merit nor a demerit. I can't help but think that, in an earlier version of the movie, at least one of the characters would have wound up dead. Probably Clooney

EDIT: It certainly plays like a "greatest hits" movie, for better and/or for worse:

 

Spoiler

It's a period piece (how many non-period movies have they made? Three?). It's filmed in a style patterned on older movies, as is The Hudsucker Proxy. You have the befuddled innocent at the center (as in Fargo, Raising Arizona, The Hudsucker Proxy) trying to make sense of the shenanigans of heavily-accented if affectionately-observed idiots. You have a kidnapping (Fargo, The Big Lebowski) by incoherent ideological extremists (Lebowski), and a "plot" that ultimately doesn't really mean anything (almost literally all of them). Heck, even the fate of the money is pretty much on par with Fargo and The Ladykillers, and it's at least in the same ballpark as Burn After Reading. The only way Hail, Caesar! doesn't really replicate the previous movies is in the level of violence.

 

--none of which is to be taken as a knock against the movie. Again, I enjoyed it a lot--in part because of all these parallels and callbacks. 

Edited by NBooth

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