The Fascinatingly Conflicted ‘Bombshell’ Documents the Downfall of Roger Ailes

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CREDIT: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle SMPSP

Starring: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Rob Delaney, Kate McKinnon, Connie Britton, Mark Duplass, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Liv Hewson, Allison Janney, Malcolm McDowell

Director: Jay Roach

Running Time: 108 Minutes

Rating: R for Powerful Men Behaving Badly

Release Date: December 13, 2019 (Limited)/Expands December 20, 2019

Most of the audience who will see Bombshell are probably not regular Fox News viewers. Although I don’t want to assume anything too definitively. Maybe there are actually some people who have the mental capacity to watch both a notoriously conservative news network and a movie that is fundamentally critical about it. Bombshell makes a similar argument against rushing to judgment when being critical seems like the most obvious correct approach to take, especially in one key scene when a woman confronts Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) in a grocery store, and Carlson shoots back about the virtue of treating with respect the people you disagree with. That could easily be a shallow bromide, but when you consider what Carlson is going through, it has unexpected resonance.

What Carlson is going through is a fight against the systematic misogyny at Fox News, a workplace whose initiation for its female employees apparently includes a signature piece of harassment from founder Roger Ailes (a gluttonously made-up John Lithgow). After Carlson is let go from the network in 2016, she files a lawsuit alleging harassment against Ailes, prompting the other women at Fox News to consider if they will support her. Many of them are reflexively Team Roger, but a few of them actually have a crisis of conscience, especially Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) and a fictional character named Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie).

The filmmaking trick here is generating empathy, which is generally pretty easy to do for people who have clearly been harassed and abused. But matters are complicated by the fact that these women so resolutely insist that they’re not feminists as they come to terms with speaking out against the misogyny they’ve endured. I certainly believe it is possible to extend humanity to someone you deeply disagree with, but the struggle is even deeper than that. Even if these women leave and renounce their employer, they can’t ever escape the mark of having once worked at Fox News, so far removed is the network from the rest of the media landscape. It’s a sort of original sin that traps them in an infinite labyrinth. For a film that could have so easily been straightforward in many ways, I appreciate the complexity at its heart.

Bombshell is Recommended If You Like: Feeling disgusted and empathetic at the same time

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Lawsuits

Super Chill Movie Review: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

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CREDIT: Andrew Cooper/Sony Pictures Entertainment

A movie that presents an alternative history can be cathartic, and there may be no better example of that than Hitler biting it at the theater in Inglourious Basterds. Quentin Tarantino goes back to that well once more with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood by considering: in 1969, a pregnant Sharon Tate was murdered by members of the Manson Family, but what if things had gone a little differently? It must be said, though, that while going back and getting rid of Hitler as soon as possible is a fantasy harbored by many, I don’t think it’s as widely-held a wish that Tate and her baby had been spared. Since the relatability factor isn’t as built-in, Tarantino lets us see Margot Robbie as Tate just living her life and finding the joy in being a movie star, ultimately giving this what-if scenario enough oomph. And on a pure cinematic level, the climactic showdown with Charles Manson’s associates just ramps up the preposterousness factor to an irresistible degree.

Beyond that wild what-if, I found Once Upon a Time most satisfying in the comfy friendship between struggling actor Rick Dalton (Leo DiCaprio) and his steady stunt double Cliff Booth (Mr. Brad Pitt). After a busy day on a Hollywood set, a typical night for them consists of pizza and beer at Rick’s house. That sounds like an ideal evening, if you ask me. There are a lot of kooky characters and psychological pitfalls in Hollyweird, and sometimes, especially in 1969, there is also real mortal danger. So the melancholy-but-resilient mood between Rick and Cliff in the face of all that is by contrast delightfully optimistic and downright inspiring.

I give Once Upon a Time in Hollywood 40 Job Securities out of 50 Flamethrowers.

This Is a Movie Review: Mary Queen of Scots

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CREDIT: CREDIT: Liam Daniel/Focus Features

This post was originally published on News Cult in December 2018.

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Jack Lowden, Joe Alwyn, David Tennant, Guy Pearce

Director: Josie Rourke

Running Time: 125 Minutes

Rating: R for A Surprisingly Horny Approach to the Material and the Violent Retribution That Results

Release Date: December 7, 2018 (Limited)

If you’re an anglophile who loves tracking all historical matters of royal succession, then you ought to add Mary Queen of Scots to your to-watch list. But if you’re more ambivalent on the subject, this film is likely to instead get you frustrated and shout at the 16th century to move ahead hundreds of years when questions of leadership have less to do with the intricacies of bloodlines. Of course, 21st century politics has its own problems, but Mary Queen of Scots feels obsessed with the minutiae of what was specific to a bygone era. There is some intriguing conflict to be had, as Mary (Saoirse Ronan) and her cousin Elizabeth (Margot Robbie) both apparently have legitimate claims to the English throne. The internal psychological drama and external tension of impatient courts and citizenry are present, but the same points keep getting pounded over and over.

Part of the problem is the film’s lopsided structure. It makes sense that the title is what it is and not “Mary & Elizabeth,” as this is at least two-thirds Mary’s story, if not more. Perhaps there is an element of correcting the historical record, or the cinematic historical world, as Elizabeth’s story has hitherto been told more often than Mary’s. But if that’s the case, then you might as well go whole hog into Mary’s realm and render Elizabeth more or less heard but not seen. As it stands, though, it makes me wonder, “Why can’t they both be queen?” Alas, for the sake of the narrative (and historical accuracy), that’s probably too pat and conflict-free. But it’s almost all worth it for the scene when Mary and Elizabeth finally meet in person. Ridiculous measures are taken to keep this meeting “secret,” thus fulfilling a promise to really examine the nonsense inherent to this state of affairs. It’s all silly, and should be treated as such, instead of resorting to beheadings.

Mary Queen of Scots is Recommended If You Like: Any and all royal British period piece

Grade: 3 out of 5 Heirs

 

This Is a Movie Review: Peter Rabbit

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CREDIT: Sony Pictures

I give Peter Rabbit 3 out of 5 Winking Rabbits: http://newscult.com/movie-review-peter-rabbit-fun-enough-kiddos-also-kind-insane/

This Is a Movie Review: I, Tonya

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CREDIT: Neon

I give I, Tonya 4.5 out of 5 Triple Axels: http://newscult.com/movie-review-tonya-enthralled-audience/

SNL Review October 1, 2016: Margot Robbie/The Weeknd

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SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- "Margot Robbie" Episode 1705 -- Pictured: (l-r) Colin Jost, Michael Che, and Cecily Strong as Cathy Ann during Weekend Update on October 1, 2016 -- (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC)

My letter grades for each sketch and segment is below. My in-depth review is on NewsCult: http://newscult.com/snl-love-itkeep-itleave-it-margot-robbiethe-weeknd/

Presidential Debate – B

Margot Robbie’s Monologue – B-

Action 9 News – B

The Librarian – B-

Family Feud: Political Edition – B+

The Weeknd performs “Starboy” – B-

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B+
Cathy Anne (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – B+
David Ortiz – C+

The Hunch Bunch – C-

Melania Moments – B

New York Film Festival Women’s Roundtable – C

The Weeknd performs “False Alarm” – B+

Mr. Robot – C