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Home » Indie gem a victim of Hollywood bully-vard
Hollywood movies have become so formulaic, so degenerate, or so boring that I’ve gone from watching a weekly movie and avidly watching the Oscars to utter contempt.
I don’t want anything to do with it. don’t watch Be careful not to watch. And I’m not alone, as Oscar ratings have plummeted to little more than 10% of their peaks of the glorious 1990s.
Now even spectacularly well-made films will leave you untouched. Or maybe you’ve played a video game.
No film can win a prestigious Oscar unless it meets a set of racial and sexual diversity quotas, according to the 2020 decree of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, so the agitprop farce is intentional.
Box office receipts last summer were a flop, about 20% lower than the previous decade.
Hollywood has lost interest in attracting an American audience — and it’s only getting worse.
Judging by the latest offerings from the Sundance Film Festival, soon to be hitting your streaming service, there’s no depth filmmakers won’t go to turn away paying customers.
Disgusting Hollywood fare
The latest movie reviews from Sundance (now pretty much a Hollywood subsidiary) were curated on Twitter this week by author Peachy Keenan: grannies celebrating their healthy vaginas, a sex scene ending with the girl covered in blood, penises inside Galore, a the lingering close-up of a woman pleasuring a man while he’s urinating behind a tree, “stomach-churning satanic rituals,” the obligatory nymphomaniac masturbator trapped in a repressive Christian fundamentalist community in rural Kentucky, Anne Hathaway as a lesbian predator and a “bisexual love triangle that delivers vivid straight and gay sex scenes.”
Andrea Riseborough played Lesile in To Lesile. Getty Images
Hollywood is dead.
And then comes a stunning gem of a movie, To Leslie, that will renew your belief in human nature. A micro-budget indie, shot in 19 days, all on film, for under $1 million, it’s director Michael Morris’ first feature film and a breakthrough for little-known screenwriter Ryan Binaco, who loosely bases the story on his own alcoholic Mother.
The title’s “Leslie” is a single mom from a small town in Texas whose life spirals into addiction after she wins the lottery and squanders the money on drugs and alcohol. The film begins when she is evicted from a cheap motel and decides to move in with her now 20-year-old son six years after leaving him.
It’s a familiar subject, but the acting is so superb, the script has such subtlety and insight, and the film is directed with such restraint and a gentle optimism that it takes your breath away. It’s a near-perfect movie that I’ve seen in a long time. It never wallows in the filth of addiction or softens Leslie’s selfishness or pretends that her demons will magically disappear.
British actress Andrea Riseborough manages to bring Leslie to life without theatrics or excessive sharing. She’s so real that one online reviewer said, “I thought they found a drunk Texan girl, not a classically trained British actress, to fill the role.”
I don’t want to ruin the film by overdoing it. It may not be to everyone’s taste. Suffice it to say, after all the bad movies I’ve witnessed over the last few years, it was a blessed relief.
But of course, such a beautiful work of art must simply be destroyed by the ogres that hijacked our culture. They hate beauty so much that they have to root out the last tiny scraps that manage to hold on. They can’t let it, because when people see beauty again, they are reminded of how alive it made them feel and how much more of it used to exist.
To Leslie, with its tiny budget and modest ambitions, shows Hollywood films for the mundane, misanthropic, soul-destroying, decadently expensive, China-pampering excesses they are.
Someone came up with a scandal.
When the film was released late last year, it was ignored and only grossed $27,000 at the box office.
To Lesile was shot on film in 19 days for less than $1 million. AP
The academy decided not to withdraw her nomination from Riseborough. AP
But while it didn’t have the marketing budget to compete with Megabucks Studios, it amazingly garnered a Best Actress Oscar nomination for Riseborough with a low-key word-of-mouth campaign.
The director’s wife, Mary McCormack, created enough buzz through emails and small screenings at their homes to get the right people to notice. She knew they would love it once they saw it.
“Apart from how proud I am of my husband Michael, we feel so much about beautiful movies being seen whether they spend millions and millions on promotion or not,” she wrote in impassioned emails to friends who were made available to Vanity Fair. “Now movies like ‘To Leslie’ are an endangered species. . . just before extinction. I worry that unless we all support small independent filmmakers, it will be eaten up by Marvel Movies and gone forever.”
Everyone who saw it loved it because how could you not? Suddenly big stars like Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Charlize Theron, Edward Norton and Jennifer Aniston were raving about it on social media and holding screenings. Riseborough deserves to win “every prize there is and one that hasn’t been invented,” Paltrow posted on Instagram.
Keyword racism allegations.
Look, this year should be “the most diverse Oscars ever,” as Hollywood podcasters Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez summed it up.
Instead of a feel-good story about an underdog film that was well done, the media narrative became “this white actress with all her white actor friends has squeezed out two highly acclaimed, highly acclaimed and anticipated black actor nominations. . . It was a massive campaign to nominate a white person.”
Andrea Riseborough arrives at the 2023 BAFTA Tea Party on January 14, 2023 in Los Angeles. Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP
Riseborough, who is white, is accused of stealing a black woman’s seat, namely Viola Davis in The Woman King and Danielle Deadwyler in Till.
“Till” director Chinonye Chukwu complained that the process was “the maintenance of whiteness and the maintenance of unabashed misogyny toward black women.”
LA Times film critic Robert Daniels wailed, “What does it say that the black women who’ve done everything the institution asks of them — luxurious dinners, private Academy screenings, meet-and-greets, splashy TV spots and magazine profiles – being ignored when someone who has done everything outside of the system is being rewarded?”
All the usual suspects went to work to quash the joy of Riseborough’s success, urging the Academy to conduct a “review” to see if “To Leslie,” with its “social media and outreach campaign tactics, was addressing the concerns.” excited, had broken any rules. After a week of torment, they decided on Tuesday not to withdraw their nomination from Riseborough.
But the damage is done. An anonymous academy member was quoted in Variety as saying, “No matter what happens, their reputation will be tarnished whether their campaign made a difference or not.”
The only way to defeat the bullies is to watch the movie. You will love it.