Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Oscar, Oscar, Oscar (WARREN!!): 2017 Edition

Oscar, Oscar, Oscar (...WARREN!)

The Oscar broadcast was held Sunday and I, generally, enjoyed it. I went to bed before the big awards were presented, so I missed the kerfluffle about the PricewaterhouseCooper reps* giving out the wrong envelope to presenters, Bonnie and Clyde. 

I think of it this way. La La Land won the popular vote, but Moonlight won the electoral college.

I can't kick either way—and I'm sure there won't be the hysterical bitching that happened when Crash won out over Brokeback Mountain for Best Picture. Frankly, the awards don't matter much in the main scheme of things and they have the sustained legacy of a fiscal year projection.

I thought Jimmy Kimmel was an excellent host from what I saw and I loved the sustained bit where a Hollywood tour bus was escorted through the ceremonies—I genuinely enjoy when the immaculately coiffed, coutured, and immaculate are invaded by the hoipolloi; one of my favorite bits was a few years ago when Chris Rock did interviews with patrons at a Magic Johnson Theater, asking what they thought the best movie of the year was and it was all horror movies. I like seeing the disconnect between the common and the pretentious. It amuses me no end.

What struck me was how Hollywood is so no longer Hollywood; technical awards went to people with accents from other countries. Hollywood may be the center of film production, but, a lot of people from outside The Left Coast are invited to the party. Makes you think that the influx of "ferners" might actually be doing the industry some good, technically, socially and content-wise. All for the good.

My one genuine thrill was to see Katherine Johnson (portrayed—and I felt given short-shrift—in Hidden Figures) wheeled out to a standing ovation. The more that woman gets accolades and her name mentioned is all to the good and the deserved. Also deserved was Viola Davis' first Oscar win. She's great and so much of the soul of Fences was due to her performance. There was no way Emma Stone was NOT going to win the Oscar, short of Kim Jun Un "hiring some guys (and girls)," and I think I prefer Casey Affleck winning over Ryan Gosling.

The most chilling moment for me was the "In Memoriam" segment which, this year, seemed especially hard-hitting with the wealth of talent that was lost.

* What do you expect? The can't even alphabetize properly.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Don't Make a Scene: Sherlock Holmes (2009)

The Story: Never invite Sherlock Holmes to dinner.

And if you do, don't treat him like an amusing parlour game. You'll lose. Every time.

In Guy Ritchie's steam-punk version of Sherlock Holmes, Holmes is still recognizable as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's consulting detective—the blazing intellect, the restlessness, the bad habits, the weakness for drama, the misogyny he disguises as motive-psychology, all recognizable as canon, the game afoot played by rules according to Doyle.

But, this scene added an aspect to the character that I hadn't realized before—Holmes is a collector of observations, so any adventuring into the public circle must be like jumping into the Thames (which he also does in the film). So many people, so many things to see and overhear and deduce, it must be maddening to be assaulted with all that...all those...clues. Like a mind-reader for whom the most important lesson is to learn to not listen to the thoughts invading his head, Holmes' knowledge of minutiae and behavior makes him anticipate aberrant behavior wherever he looks. The raised voices, the style of jewelry, the cut of a knife, the set of a head--everything is grist for the mill of his pre-disposed mind. The world is full of motivations, even without the presence of a crime. No wonder he's so eccentric. It's like knowing you're the only unaffected member of a leper colony.

Below the break is the scene as it was originally written—the screenplay dated March 14, 2008 by Johnson, Peckham and Wigram), with a far less together Holmes, who lets his emotions get the better of him (rather than his intellect), arriving late at the dinner arranged to meet Dr. Watson's fiancee,* and leaving early. It's a weaker Holmes there, and not a very accurate one, if you've read the books. This version of the script would have you believe that Holmes, interrogator and investigator, panics at the presence of crowds. Not bloody likely. The re-write makes Holmes stronger, less vulnerable and prone to panic attacks. In the final film, it is Holmes who waits for the happy couple and has his patience tested by the melee of modus operandi surrounding and swirling about him. And rather than having his concentration get the better of him, as in the earlier draft, it is Holmes' arrogance and tendency to deduce the worst about people (especially women) that douses the evening's happiness (and Holmes' face). Hit 'im again, Mary!

Holmes, you see, is distrustful of women. In the Doyle story "The Sign of Four," the one where Mary Morstan is a client, he states: "Women are never to be entirely trusted, -- not the best of them." And, elsewhere, "I am not a whole-souled admirer of womankind" and "the motives of women... so inscrutable... How can you build on such quicksand? Their most trivial actions may mean volumes... their most extraordinary conduct may depend upon a hairpin." Yet, he was chivalrous to them and polite...the one women—"THE woman"—who he admired was the one who bested him in "A Scandal in Bohemia," Irene Adler, who also figures in the screenplay.

But, his churlish behavior at the dinner table goes beyond distrustfulness and devotion to obtaining the truth, as Mary Marston/Morstan represents isolation to Holmes; she is marrying his fellow lodger and adventurer Watson and understandably proud of the fact--which gets under Holmes' skin like a seven percent solution. Mary throws her triumph in Holmes' face; he retaliates by questioning her motivation; Mary throws her drink in Holmes face. Tit for tat. Perhaps they should get a room, or have a bout in the ring...which is Holmes' next destination in the film, in both versions of the screenplay.

It should be noted—not that I'm questioning anyone's motivations—that Mary Morstan Watson was not married to the good Doctor for very long, as Doyle vaguely hinted that she had died. That she met her demise while Holmes was supposedly dead—suspected by Watson killed by Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls—when he was actually traveling the world incognito (a journey that Holmes describes only in the most general of terms), I'm sure it's only a coincidence. I'm just saying....

The Set-Up: Wedding bells are breaking up that old detecting duo of Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and Dr. John Watson (Jude Law): Watson is moving from 221B Street in preparation for marrying Mary Marston (Kelly Reilly). Although he has been avoiding it, Holmes has finally agreed to meeting her again...in public...at a fine restaurant.

The Game is Afoot!


A romantic French restaurant in a fine hotel.
Almost every table is occupied by happy couples, or groups. The kind of place you take the woman you want to marry to
meet a difficult friend. Unless the difficult friend doesn’t show up.
WATSON Holmes!
Holmes looks up.
WATSON You're early.
HOLMES Fashionably.
Holmes pockets his watch.
WATSON Mary Morstan...
HOLMES Ah, my goodness! What a pleasure.
Holmes kisses her hand.
HOLMES For the life of me, I can't understand why it's taken him so long to introduce us properly.

Holmes smiles at Watson.
MARY The pleasure is mine..
Mary is a pretty, well-turned-out woman in her mid-20’s. Not spoiled, not silly, not ephemeral. A clear-eyed,modern woman -- with whom Watson is very much in love. They all sit.
MARY (CONT’D) It really is quite a thrill...
MARY ...to meet you, Mr. Holmes.
MARY I've heard so much about you.
MARY I have a pile of detective novels at home. Wilkie Collins, Poe...
WATSON It's true.
MARY It can seem a little far-fetched, though, at times.
MARY Making these grand assumptions out of such tiny details.
HOMES That's not quite right, is it?
HOMES In fact, the...
HOMES ...little details are by far the most important.
HOLMES Take Watson.
MARY I intend to.
Holmes laughs, surprised.
HOLMES See his walking stick?
HOLMES A rare African...
HOLMES ...snakewood hiding ...
HOLMES ...a blade...
HOLMES ...of high tensile steel.
HOLMES A few were rewarded...
HOLMES ...to veterans of the Afghan wars...
HOLMES...so I can assume he's a decorated soldier.
HOLMES Strong, brave. Born to be a man of action.
Mary chuckles.
HOLMES And neat, like all military men.
HOLMES Now...I check his...
HOLMES ...pockets.
HOLMES Ah! A stub from a boxing...
HOLMES Now...I can infer that he's a bit of a gambler.
HOLMES I'd keep an eye on that dowry if I were you.
WATSON Those days are behind me.
HOLMES Right behind you. He's cost us the rent more than once.
MARY Well, with all due...
MARY ...respect, Mr. Holmes. You know John very well.
MARY What about a complete stranger?
MARY What can you tell about me?
WATSON I don't think that's...
HOLMES I don't know that's...
WATSON Not at dinner.
HOLMES Perhaps some other time.
MARY I insist.
HOLMES You insist.
WATSON You remember we discussed this..
HOLMES The lady insists.
Watson looks uncomfortable. Holmes adjusts his chair and scrutinizes Mary.
HOLMES You're a governess.
MARY Well done.
WATSON (rushing things along) Yes, well done...Shall we?!
HOLMES Your student...is a boy of eight.
MARY Charlie's seven, actually.
HOLMES Charles, ah...
Watson pours some more water.
HOLMES Then he’s tall for his age. He flicked ink at you today.
MARY (horrified) Is there ink on my face?
WATSON There's nothing wrong with your face.
HOLMES There are two tiny drops on your ear.
HOLMES Almost invisible. (trying to soften the blow) India blue’s nearly impossible to wash off.
HOLMES Anyway, a very impetuous act by the boy.
HOLMES But you're too experienced to react rashly, which is why the lady for whom you work leant you that necklace.
HOLMES Oriental pearls, diamonds, a flawless ruby. Hardly (beat)... the gems of a governess.
HOLMES However...
HOLMES ...the jewels you are not wearing tell us rather more.
WATSON(angry) Holmes...
HOLMES You were engaged. The ring is gone, but for the lighter skin where it once sat...
HOLMES ...suggesting that you spent some time abroad wearing it proudly.
Mary is beet red with embarrassment.
HOLMES That is, until you were informed of its...
HOLMES ...true and rather modest worth in which time you broke off the engagement...
HOLMES ...and returned to England for better prospects.
Mary is past embrassment. Now she is angry. Holmes turns to Watson.
HOLMES ..A doctor, perhaps.
Mary throws her wine in Holmes' face.
MARY Right on all counts, Mr. Holmes.
MARY Except for one.
MARY I didn't leave him. He died.
Mary gets up from the table and leaves. Watson nods at her.
WATSON Well done, old boy.
Watson gets up and leaves, leaving Holmes to dine alone.

Sherlock Holmes

Words by Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, Simon Kinberg, and Lionel Wigram

Pictures by Philippe Rousselot and Guy Ritchie

Sherlock Holmes is available on DVD from Warner Home Video.

* Here is where this film and Conan Doyle's stories differ: Mary Morstan (that's how her name is spelled in the stories) had, indeed, met Holmes before—she hired him in the classic "The Sign of Four." That is where she and Watson met. Subsequently, they wed.


A romantic French restaurant in a fine hotel. Almost
every table is occupied by happy couples, or groups. The
kind of place you take the woman you want to marry to
meet a difficult friend. Unless the difficult friend
doesn’t show up.
We find Watson and MARY MORSTAN seated at a table made up
for three. Watson has run out of patience.
WATSON We’ll just eat without him.
MARY Let’s wait a little longer.
Mary is a pretty, well-turned-out woman in her mid-20’s.
Not spoiled, not silly, not ephemeral. A clear-eyed,
modern woman -- with whom Watson is very much in love.
MARY (CONT’D) I think it’s important that I meet him.
WATSON So do I. Evidently Holmes disagrees.
But a ripple through the room pulls their attention to
the entrance -- where Holmes stands, looking out over the
crowded room. He has shaved, he has dressed, his hair is
overlong, but clean and corralled.
ON HOLMES as he looks across a sea of happy faces. He
was more at home fighting in the sewer than he is in the
He finds Watson and Mary, and crosses the restaurant
towards them, with the air of a wolf moving through a
flock of sheep. All eyes on him.
Mary suddenly looks a little nervous.
WATSON We’d almost given up on you.
HOLMES (clearly a lie) I had trouble with my tie.
WATSON May I present Miss Mary Morstan.
Mary extends her hand.
MARY I’ve heard so much about you.
Holmes leans down, takes Mary’s hand, awkwardly.
HOLMES And I ... um I ...
Holmes’ failed attempt at small-talk becomes not-such polite
scrutiny. Still holding her hand, he examines
Mary with a prolonged, acute gaze.
Mary shifts, doesn’t know what to do.
Watson clears his throat. Holmes realizes what he’s
doing, releases Mary’s hand immediately.
HOLMES Yes, well ... I’m glad to see that you didn’t punish your student today. It never worked on me.
Mary is stunned by Holmes’ insight. Watson sighs.
WATSON Why don’t you sit.
But Holmes feels compelled to explain, not sit.
HOLMES Watson told me you’re a governess.
MARY Yes, I am.
HOLMES Your student’s a boy of 8.
MARY Charlie’s 7, actually.
HOLMES Then he’s tall for his age. He flicked ink at you today.
MARY (horrified) Is there ink on my face?
WATSON No, your face is perfect.
HOLMES There are two tiny drops on your ear. Almost invisible.
(trying to soften the
India blue’s nearly impossible to wash off, anyway.
WATSON Please sit down.
MARY How do you know I didn’t punish him?
HOLMES Well, because --
And then Holmes notices Watson glaring at him.
HOLMES -- perhaps I should sit down.
Holmes sits.
MARY I’d like to know. Really.
Holmes shoots Watson an apologetic look, but he’s in too deep to stop.
HOLMES Your necklace and bracelet are matched South African diamonds from Asprey’s, flawless. Not ...
... not the jewels of a governess. The lady you work for lent them to you. She wouldn’t’ve done so if you’d punished her son, not even if he deserved it -- human nature being what it is.
Mary is beet red with embarrassment.
WATSON(angry)Some human nature is unaccountable. In my professional opinion.
MARY Well ... I did ask.
Holmes and Watson sit in silence. Watson’s anger brings out the haughty worst in the detective. The awkwardness is rescued when the WAITER arrives with three menus.
WAITER Mam’selle, messieurs ...
Watson and Mary read their menus together. Holmes does not. Instead, he looks at Watson and Mary deciding what to eat. They look every inch the happy couple. Holmes looks around at the room.

HOLMES POV: happy couples eating, laughing, talking.
Suddenly, Holmes hears no words. He just sees their
mouths moving. The sound of silverware clinking and
scraping on fine china rises to an orchestral roar.
WATSON (sharply) Holmes!
Holmes jerks back to reality.
WATSON (CONT’D) Would you like to order?
The waiter stands, poised. Holmes discovers that he is sweating.
HOLMES Perhaps ... Excuse me. My appetite ...
Holmes bolts, unable to stay in the Royale a second longer. Mary is visibly concerned.
MARY Was it something I said?
WATSON No, it was something I said.

OVER, WE HEAR the roar of a BLOOD-THIRSTY MOB and the
MEATY THUD of a fist smashing into a face.