The Corner

Culture

The Coen Brothers’ ‘Hooray for Hollywood’

People who go to Joel and Ethan Coen’s new movie Hail, Caesar! hoping for the broad comedy suggested by the trailers for it will be disappointed: I laughed out loud only once, and the others in the audience didn’t do much audible chortling either. And people who go to it hoping for an acidulous anti-Hollywood satire like the Coens’ 1991 film Barton Fink will be equally disappointed: This new film is so affectionate toward the Old Hollywood that it feels almost like an act of reparation for having made that earlier one. (A good subtitle for the difference between the two would be “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Studio System.”)

But if you don’t go into the film with either of those specific expectations, you might enjoy it every bit as much as I did – because it is a very beautiful piece of work indeed. It is a gorgeously photographed recreation of early 1950s Hollywood that includes loving pastiches of several film genres from that era. (If you are fan of Hollywood films of that period, this is definitely a movie for you.) Josh Brolin plays a studio “fixer” who gets stars out of public-relations and other messes — picture him as the Fred Ward character from Robert Altman’s scorching 1992 masterpiece The Player, only this time the fixer is the good guy. George Clooney plays the movie star (of a Biblical epic being made on Brolin’s lot) who is kidnapped by radicals; he demonstrates yet again his Jimmy Stewart–style likeableness as he makes a rather gullible character charming and sympathetic. (I don’t want to give away any surprises, but conservatives who dislike Clooney for his liberal politics will stand up and cheer at some of the stuff his character undergoes in this film.) And Tilda Swinton does a great job playing two different characters – sisters who are competing Hedda Hopper–style gossip columnists.

The central word in the film’s script is “faith.” There is some very positive depiction of religion in it (as well as some barbs aimed at the foibles of clergymen). And the entire work is dedicated to the idea that making movies – even mass-market Hollywood movies – is something worth doing: It’s a reassertion of faith in art, even when the art being produced does not view itself as Art with a capital A.

I saw this movie at the Cinerama Dome on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, and I think many people in the audience were expecting something harder-edged. That’s not what this was, so I heard some disappointment as folks were leaving (in addition to some applause). But what this movie did, it did well. I recommend it. (And I also recommend that, when movie lovers visit L.A., they visit the Cinerama Dome; it’s a lovely venue. It’s not as grandly baroque as Grauman’s TCL Chinese, which is about a half hour’s walk away; but it’s a great place to see a movie.)

Most Popular

The Pollster Who Thinks Trump Is Ahead

The polling aggregator on the website RealClearPolitics shows the margin in polls led by Joe Biden in a blue font and the ones led by Donald Trump in red. For a while, the battleground states have tended to be uniformly blue, except for polls conducted by the Trafalgar Group. If you are a firm believer only in ... Read More

The Pollster Who Thinks Trump Is Ahead

The polling aggregator on the website RealClearPolitics shows the margin in polls led by Joe Biden in a blue font and the ones led by Donald Trump in red. For a while, the battleground states have tended to be uniformly blue, except for polls conducted by the Trafalgar Group. If you are a firm believer only in ... Read More
Media

Jeffrey Toobin and Our Public-Hate Ritual

Oh, Jeffrey Toobin — let him among us with a free hand cast the first stone. Toobin, a writer for The New Yorker and fixture on CNN, was participating in a role-playing exercise on a Zoom call with his magazine colleagues, wargaming election-night scenarios. Toobin was standing in for the courts when he ... Read More
Media

Jeffrey Toobin and Our Public-Hate Ritual

Oh, Jeffrey Toobin — let him among us with a free hand cast the first stone. Toobin, a writer for The New Yorker and fixture on CNN, was participating in a role-playing exercise on a Zoom call with his magazine colleagues, wargaming election-night scenarios. Toobin was standing in for the courts when he ... Read More
Elections

Biden Is Still Underperforming Hillary

On October 20, 2016: Hillary Clinton was up 6.8 in the RealClearPolitics average in Pennsylvania. Today, Biden is up 3.8. (that race only tightened to 2.1 in the last week of 2016.) Clinton was up twelve points in Michigan on that day. Biden is up 7.5 right now. Clinton was up 6.5 in Wisconsin. Biden is ... Read More
Elections

Biden Is Still Underperforming Hillary

On October 20, 2016: Hillary Clinton was up 6.8 in the RealClearPolitics average in Pennsylvania. Today, Biden is up 3.8. (that race only tightened to 2.1 in the last week of 2016.) Clinton was up twelve points in Michigan on that day. Biden is up 7.5 right now. Clinton was up 6.5 in Wisconsin. Biden is ... Read More
Media

The Biden Protection Racket

Joe Biden is the most cosseted presidential candidate in memory. He’s run a minimalist campaign that’s avoided the press as much as possible, while the press hasn’t been braying for more access and answers, but eager to avoid anything that could be discomfiting to the campaign. Never before have the ... Read More
Media

The Biden Protection Racket

Joe Biden is the most cosseted presidential candidate in memory. He’s run a minimalist campaign that’s avoided the press as much as possible, while the press hasn’t been braying for more access and answers, but eager to avoid anything that could be discomfiting to the campaign. Never before have the ... Read More

A Few Cracks in the Progressive Wall

The contemporary progressive agenda — of, say, an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren — has rarely appealed to 51 percent of the American electorate. Most polls show opposition to Court packing and the abolition of the Electoral College. Voters don’t seem to like ... Read More

A Few Cracks in the Progressive Wall

The contemporary progressive agenda — of, say, an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren — has rarely appealed to 51 percent of the American electorate. Most polls show opposition to Court packing and the abolition of the Electoral College. Voters don’t seem to like ... Read More