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The seven rages of David Mamet: genius or symbol of toxic masculinity?

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With his weaponised dialogue and hypnotic macho characters, no writer has so relentlessly confronted the explosive issues of our times. But theatre and Hollywood are changing. As he hits 70, we ask: is David Mamet losing his magic?

David Mamet arrives at his 70th birthday this week, and there couldnt be a better moment for his classic Glengarry Glen Ross to be storming Londons West End once again: that gripping spectacle of desperate middle-aged men competing to sell real estate in a recession or get fired. They are twitching rats in a laboratory of capitalism, terrified of failure and terrified of death.

For me, the authors birthday milestone is a time to ponder something else: a quintessentially Mamet moment in the 1991 movie Homicide, which he wrote and directed. Two cops Bobby Gold, played by Joe Mantegna, and his partner Tim Sullivan, played by William H Macy are working on a case with unexpected personal implications for Bobby. He appears, in the eyes of his aghast partner, to be suffering some kind of breakdown. Tim fiercely lectures him on the need to stay tough: Its like the old whore says, Once you start coming with the customers, its time to quit.

There is no sign of Mamet showing this kind of empathy with his own customers, and no sign of him quitting. Those customers were treated to an unforgiving display of control freakery recently when he banned all post-performance Q&As, on pain of a $25,000 fine. Mamet was perhaps irritated by a concession to audience debate that encourages disruptive campus-style challenges as if in the academic classroom, that arena for painful ideological confrontation he explosively depicted in his 1992 play Oleanna, about teacher-pupil harassment. Mamet took out a cease-and-desist action against a Milwaukee theatre company who wanted to change the female character to male, in order to make it about same-sex harassment.

Coffee
Coffee is for closers Stanley Townsend and Christian Slater in the current production of Glengarry Glen Ross. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

Yet Mamet reaches his 70s with his face on Rushmore pretty well complete. He is an American icon who has been influenced by Arthur Miller, Harold Pinter and Philip Roth and who in turn has influenced Aaron Sorkin and James Gray. He has compellingly tackled masculinity, sexuality, capitalism and Judaism. His movies are serious, but he can take on pop forms like thrillers, capers and neo-noir dramas, while films such as House of Games and The Spanish Prisoner are wonderful trompe loeuils, essays in illusion.

His non-fiction writing is also terrifically witty, readable and smart and he is a master of the Hollywood insider genre. Above all, there is his legendary dialogue terse, fierce, telegrammatic, often imitated and spoofed, celebrated as a unique prose poetry of disquiet and confrontation. It is a fugue of verbal violence. His characters riffs smack into each other like sumo wrestlers bellies. His 2001 movie Heist has one of the great noir lines of all time. Danny DeVitos villain lies dying after an almighty shootout and sneeringly asks Gene Hackman: Dont you want to hear my last words? Hackman replies coolly: I just did and finishes him off with a final shot.

Yet Mamet does not have an endless golden touch, perhaps inevitably for someone so magnificently productive. He has had some recent Broadway flops: China Doll (2015), starring Al Pacino, received tepid reviews, The Anarchist (2012), about a Weather Underground-type protest veteran, and the political comedy November (2008) did not run long.

Lia
Radioactively brilliant a 2004 Royal Court production of Oleanna, with Lia Williams and David Suchet. Photograph: Alastair Muir

Furthermore, his 2011 book The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture dismayed his fans by trumpeting a personal shift to the right, with climate-change scepticism and attacks on feminism, progressives and liberal academia. Christopher Hitchens called it an extraordinarily irritating book, written by one of those people who smugly believe that, having lost their faith, they must ipso facto have found their reason.

It is, however, possible to be sceptical about this shift. Mamets tough-guy aesthetic has always looked conservative and provocations like Oleanna and Race (in which a top defence lawyers female African-American junior appears to leak information to the prosecutor in a racially charged rape case) were male-centred. His aggressive tendencies became weaponised in the war-on-terror era with his frankly absurd movies such as 2004s Spartan, in which Val Kilmers special forces hombre interrogates a suspect in a back alley by threatening to cut out an eye, and Redbelt (2008), about Mamets infatuation with martial arts.

Viewed unsympathetically, even the famed Mamet dialogue is just a Tourette syndrome chorus of macho self-pity, and the Hollywood-themed works are very much of the Weinstein age, which takes a drolly forgiving view of Hollywood honchos seducing younger women, who are often shown as knowing and complicit.

David
The playwright and film-maker in 1977. Photograph: Jack Mitchell/Getty Images

Glengarry Glen Ross will perhaps go down as his single greatest work: a compelling display of male paranoia and male competition, although Blake, the guy from head office who appears briefly in act one to tell everyone that under-performers will be canned, is a character invented specifically for the film version, not the play. He is famously portrayed by a shark-like Alec Baldwin. Coffee is for closers, he snarls at over-the-hill salesman Jack Lemmon, who had presumed to pour himself a cup while Blake was speaking. Then he announces the bonuses: First prize is a Cadillac Eldorado, second prize is a set of steak knives and the third prize is youre fired.

There is a lot of vintage Mamet dialogue, when the subject of burgling the office for privileged information is furtively discussed among the sweaty, hapless losers. But it wasnt until I watched the film again that I realised that there is a further dimension to Mamet dialogue: absurdism and black comedy. Perhaps Mamet has been influenced, not by Pinter but Abbott and Costello and their famous Whos on first? routine. Yet always there is desperation the need to grab the brass ring.

Theres something similar in his play American Buffalo: the junk-shop owner needs to get hold of a buffalo nickel, which could be hugely valuable, the kind of a once-in-a-lifetime shot at riches. With it, his entire life in the crummy shop might have meant something but if it slips through his fingers, his life could look terrifyingly meaningless.

For the almost existential maleness of Mamet, you couldnt have a better example than his 1974 play Sexual Perversity in Chicago, whose showstopping and atypically grabby title did much to get him noticed. It is about sex, intimacy, communication and miscommunication; a rackety, juicy comedy that audiences still love. Danny and Bernie are buddies who confide in each other, and their relationship is in some way closer than Dannys with his girlfriend, Deborah. Separate scenes show Deborah listening to her own best friend Joan confide her exasperation with hopeless males. Eventually Danny and Deborah break up; the male-male bond appears to survive where the romantic partnership doesnt.

Joe
Quintessential Mamet Joe Mantegna and William H Macy in the 1991 film Homicide. Photograph: Pressman/Kobal/Rex/Shutterstock

This play, with its language and worldview, is the polar opposite of a writer like Nora Ephron and her much more female-centric When Harry Met Sally, which it might appear to resemble superficially. Sexual Perversity has been adapted twice for cinema, both times with the title About Last Night, and both films look as if they have been forced uncomfortably into the Ephron-romcom-date-movie worldview. Mamet is more male, more cynical.

As for Hollywood, no student of Mamet should neglect the importance of his longtime producer and collaborator Art Linson, who wrote a hilarious memoir of the producing life entitled What Just Happened? with an uproarious account of trying to get Mamets utterly forgotten 90s thriller The Edge, starring Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin, off the ground. Linson is a very funny writer and almost a Mamet character himself. Just as desperate real estate guys sell property to the public, so desperate Hollywood producers sell hot properties to studio heads and these movies putative status as artworks mean the producers invest so much of themselves in them, as well as their male professional self-esteem.

It is often about reclaiming or refusing reality, a land-grab of the mind. Wag the Dog was Mamets adaptation of Larry Beinharts novel about a movie producer and political spin doctor creating a bogus war in Albania to distract the public from a political scandal. State and Main is about an independent film crew that turns up to shoot in a remote Massachusetts town only to find that it is wholly wrong for the story. And the crews troubles include an ageing leading man with a taste for younger women a part of the comedy that looks exposed in todays Hollywood.

From
Once-in-a-lifetime shot at riches from left, John Goodman, Tom Sturridge and Damian Lewis in a 2015 production of American Buffalo. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

But these movies are not as highly charged and intensely felt as his play Speed-the-Plow, which, crucially, has a much more corporate, workplace-oriented setting. A Hollywood producer seduces a younger woman in the office (someone over whom he has power) at least partly as a result of a crude bet with another guy. But this woman turns out to be more Machiavellian and less of a victim than anyone thought.

Again, its the kind of satire that, at this moment, feels dangerously obtuse and dated. But it still has a good insight into the aggressive, scared mentality of the producer who fears that he will never again get another movie into cinemas. Movies are, after all, unlike real estate in that they are pure luxury items: you dont need a film, but you have to be persuaded that you need it by people who have already frantically persuaded themselves. In 2008, it was notably revived at Londons Old Vic with Kevin Spacey.

But perhaps the most tactless, painful and radioactively brilliant work is Oleanna a play and then a film from the Clinton 90s that can still trigger furious responses: it shows a college professor accused of sexual harassment and sexual abuse who is basically innocent. Ultimately, both man and woman are in the grip of something in the air, some tragic force of violence and despair that overwhelms everything and everyone, an imperative that drives them to open warfare.

Mamets new play The Penitent, about a psychiatrist who is attacked for appearing to side against an LGBT patient, is an obvious cousin to Oleanna. Im surprised Mamet hasnt weighed in to the trans debate, with a professor or teacher or some other flawed careworn male authority figure being fired or disgraced for appearing to victimise a trans person by failing to use gender-neutral pronouns. Perhaps, once his 70th birthday celebrations are out of the way, he will start something on this theme and prove that no one can match him for detonating an almighty rage.

  • Glengarry Glen Ross is at the Playhouse, London, until 3 February. Box office: 0844-871 7627.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/nov/29/the-seven-rages-of-david-mamet-genius-or-symbol-of-toxic-masculinity

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How ‘Captain Marvel’ pays tribute to the late, great Stan Lee

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Stan Lee at the premiere of Marvel’s ‘Captain America: Civil War’ in 2016.

Image: Getty Images

“In keeping with Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain Marvel features a Stan Lee cameo. What is a little different this time, though, is how it plays out in the movie.

Shortly after Vers (a.k.a. Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel) lands on Earth, she finds herself on a train, trying to spot the shapeshifting Skrull among all the ordinary-looking human passengers.

At one point, her eyes fall upon an elderly man conspicuously reading a Mallrats script. It’s Stan Lee, practicing his lines for his cameo in that other movie. “Trust me, true believer,” he mutters to himself. You can watch that entire Mallrats scene below:

The Captain Marvel scene was originally written by directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck as just another fun, funny appearance by the comics legend. But after his passing in November, the filmmakers felt compelled to update the sequence to acknowledge the “gravitas” of the moment.

“Instead of just the pure laugh we had, we had a little bit of a smile from Captain Marvel in response to it, and she kind of breaks character for a moment,” Boden told me during an interview in Los Angeles last month. “I think it reflects a little bit of what the audience is feeling, and we allowed that to happen.”

In the finished cut of Captain Marvel, Vers’ gaze lingers on him for a few moments and she smiles to herself, before moving on with the rest of her quest. At the screening I attended, the audience definitely appreciated the homage – there were sighs, moans, and even a smattering of applause.

That cameo is actually the second of two Lee shout-outs in the film. The first occurs right at the start. The usual Marvel Studios opening fanfare is replaced by a special Lee-centric version, featuring all his many cameos across various Marvel movies……………………………………………….”

Read more: https://mashable.com/article/captain-marvel-stan-lee-cameo/

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‘A Star Is Born’ takes a theatrical victory lap with bonus footage

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Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in ‘A Star Is Born.’

Image: warner bros.

“After winning an Oscar for best original song, A Star Is Born is returning to theaters for one week with some new bonus footage.

A Star Is Born is taking its Oscar victory lap starting on Friday at more than 1,100 theaters, giving fans and new viewers a chance to see 12 minutes of bonus footage, The Hollywood Reporter reported Wednesday. The new footage includes extended song performances, new song performances, and Lady Gaga’s a cappella rendition of “Shallow.”

“Shallow,” written by Lady Gaga, Mark Daniel Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, and Andrew Wyatt, earned the movie Best Original Song at the Academy Awards on Sunday. A Star Is Born was nominated for a total eight awards, including Best Picture. “Shallow” also earned two Grammys earlier in February………………………………………………………..”

Read more: https://mashable.com/article/a-star-is-born-extended-cut-new-song/

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Here’s a complete list of every winner at the 2019 Oscars

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Image: mashable composite

“Welcome to the 2019 Oscars, where it’s Queen vs. Queen Anne, A Star Is Born‘s fourth time up to bat, a victory lap for Wakanda fans, and so much more.

Last year was packed with some incredible films. In a tight race to determine the best of the best (according to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences), it all comes down to one big night at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood.

Below, updating live, are all the winners at the 91st Academy Awards — and the Oscar goes to…

Best Picture
Black Panther
BlacKkKlansman
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Green Book — WINNER
Roma
A Star Is Born
Vice

Best Actor
Christian Bale, Vice
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody — WINNER
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book

Best Actress
Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
Glenn Close, The Wife
Olivia Colman, The Favourite — WINNER
Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali, Green Book — WINNER
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Rockwell, Vice

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, Vice
Marina de Tavira, Roma
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk — WINNER
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

Best Director
Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma — WINNER
Adam McKay, Vice………………………………………………………………………………”

See the rest of the list here: https://mashable.com/article/oscars-winners-list-2019/

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