NYE, Resolutions, & Whatever

I stopped writing at the end of the last decade not because there wasn’t stuff to write about, but because I had nothing more to say. My old assistant Nasdaq (or Nadeska Alexis) pointed out that that’s never stopped me before, but there was something about the snow that brought it all to a standstill after the rush of Christmas past. It was like a deep breath worth taking. I guess I could have told you where to go for New Years Eve, or at least warned you not to go there, but if you hadn’t figured out that you shoulda been in Miami hanging at Chloe and Paul Sevigny’s soiree, then you haven’t been paying attention to me anyway. For me, with a thousand and none options, I chose to stay home and watch The Battle of Stalingrad, a WWII marathon on the Military Channel. I’m not sure what fascinates me about it – watching the great city destroyed by the Germans, and then their demise. Maybe it’s the warm feeling that things here aren’t so bad, and could actually get much worse. Perhaps it’s the fear factor that things here are getting bad, and could really get much worse. Then the gal pal mustered me away from the tube and into the streets.

Times Square was all warm and cozy – and so Disneyfied and sanitized that it kind of was anti-climatic. People bounced babies on their arms, and there were more goo-goos and gaga’s than DJ Serato’s. There was a rumor that they were gonna drop Snooki in some sort of death-defying ball drop—a fitting end to a decade that saw our culture erode to a Roman Coliseum-level of spectator thrills. Reality TV showed us just how lame our reality was, but if there was chance they were going to whack Snooki, I wasn’t gonna miss it. I turned my thumb down a long time ago, but alas, cooler heads prevailed, and I heard she was somewhere in New Jersey.

We hit Lit, as I always do on New Years Eve. Owner/curator/bon vivant Erik Foss was having a backroom affair with Paper’s Carlo McCormick and a smart set. Carlo wondered over my Issey Miyake tux, which reeked of mothballs if you got too close. Of course, that could have just been me. I told him I hadn’t really been anywhere and gave him a bit about Stalingrad, the horse and dog eating and such. “Then, Why?” he queried. I told him my old departed friend, Arthur Weinstein, had once or thrice told me that, once in a while, you break out the tux so people think you went somewhere. Carlo said my imitation was spot on.

We blasted into the streets of the East Village, giving directions to Webster Hall and Greenhouse to bumblers and lost souls. We hit White Noise as the last revelers reveled into the street. It was a grand mess, and the bartenders laughed when they saw me. It was great fun, they declared, and I believed them. It was a collage of glitter, party hats, lost clothes, and spilled cheer. We headed to a basement party in Brooklyn, and caught a crescent moon rising as we dodged snow drifts. It was a great New Years Eve. There was an energy on the streets less desperate than previous years. Except for a few exceptional exceptions, people were having fun. Maybe there is a sense of optimism that our world won’t see Stalingrad this decade. Maybe we can live our lives without fear. Someone at the basement bash said they didn’t know what had happened in the decade past, that they had a handle on the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, but that the 2000’s confused them. They said nothing had happened. I thought of the World Trade Center, Obama, Gay Rights, a couple of wars, but kept quiet for once. My New Years Resolution had held for at least a couple of hours. My decade resolution was to come out of 2020 alive and well enough.

The snow melted at just about the same pace as the leftovers disappeared. The week saw me see a bunch of movies on the telly and in the theater. It was a great way to meet up with old friends. Movies allow a certain amount of quiet – preserving the resolution – and still show love. I caught the old John Wayne classic The Searchers and the new True Grit. For the record, Jeff Bridges is no John Wayne, but the movie is great. I caught the classics: My Darling Clementine and Cloverfield Imitation of Life and that new imitation of life, The Fighter (or Rocky 8, or whatever they call it). I resolved not to say “Whatever” this year, but that’s going down with the no “brickbreaker” promise. Whatever. The Fighter is bunk, pure Boston Beans bunk, the fight and prison scenes ridiculous, and Christian Bale’s stand-up level imitation of a crack head laughable. I wanted to walk out before the clichés came at me faster than a Mark Wahlberg speed bag routine, but I wouldn’t have finished my small (another resolution) popcorn. Dinner after with friends revealed that Greenhouse is being sold, or put under new management. It might be true and I might care.

‘True Grit’s Hailee Steinfeld on Her Screen Debut & the Coens’ Amazing Synchronicity

Here’s at BlackBook, we’ve been on a little bit of a Hailee Steinfeld kick. We included the 14-year-old actress in our 2011 New Regime, and last week, put her toe-to-toe with Elle Fanning to determine who gave the best tween performance of 2010 (apologies to Chloe Moretz). Steinfeld won, and since that victory, she’s continued to rack up accolades for her screen debut as the plucky Mattie Ross in the Coen brothers’ square-jawed Western, True Grit. Last week, the Screen Actors guild nominated her for Best Supporting Actress – despite the film centering on her character’s quest for revenge – and she also won the Chicago Film Critics award for Best Supporting Actress. At this point, an Oscar nomination seems more like a probability than a possibility. Here’s Steinfeld speaking about how she beat out 15,000 girls for the role and what it’s like working with the brothers Coen.

Are you getting used to all this new attention? I don’t know if I’m getting used to it. It’s still a first for me. I guess it’s something I have to get used to, but it’s definitely something I enjoy. This is such a huge journey for me, and it’s such an amazing time in my life, and every day is a new day and I have something to look forward to.

How has your life changed on a day-to-day basis? I’m much busier, but my life at home with my family, that hasn’t changed, and I don’t think it’s going to change. I think everything is practically perfect in every way, and I just want to keep it that way.

Why did you choose to be homeschooled instead of attending a typical school? It was actually half and half. Some of it had to do with the acting— the school was really not supportive of me leaving to shoot–and the other half was social issues. Now that I’m homeschooled, it’s been a lot easier, a lot more flexible.

What was the path like that led you to True Grit? Were you trying to land a part like this? Honestly, when it came along, it was just kind of that idea that whoever gets this, it’s like winning the lottery. It felt like that one-in-a million opportunity. I don’t think I really thought it through. You would think that from me doing a couple shorts and a couple of guest stars, I would work my way up to doing a movie like True Grit, but it really felt that I went from A to Z with this one.

What made you want to be an actress? Up until I was 8 years old, I had tried every type of dance and every kind of sport, but I didn’t stick with anything, I just kind of jumped from one thing to the next, and it was hard for my parents because they invested a lot of time and money. But I had an older cousin who at the time did some Barbie doll commercials, and that was absolutely all I was into. It was a huge inspiration for me.

Did you leave your final True Grit audition feeling confident? You know, I went in that room feeling like what I thought was Mattie Ross. I was dressed in character, I was prepared, and I think that was the first time that I didn’t doubt myself in the 5 or 6 years that I’ve been doing this. There was something about this project, something about having the connection right there with the guys, that didn’t make me doubt myself. I was really confident walking out, and I had that idea in the back of my mind that if it wasn’t this, I’d be seeing them soon anyway.

How familiar were you with the Coen brothers’ work before this? Of course I knew who the Coens were, but I hadn’t seen too many of their movies. Most of them are really bizarre. But the ones that I have seen are really incredible. And now after working with them for as long as I did, and seeing really what it’s like behind the camera and how things really go down, it’s more fun for me to watch Coen brothers films now. I know what to look for.

Has making a film like this changed the way you watch them? Yes, it’s hard. I’ll go to the movies with my friends and they’ll literally tell me, Hailee, don’t say anything, just let us watch the movie. I’ll be pointing out everything there is to know about everything. But I try my hardest not to pay attention to the little things. image

People still consider you a child actress, but you’re already a teenager, so you won’t be playing children for much longer. Are you prepared for that? Yeah, I am, actually. It’s not exactly a problem, but I have this thing where I’m very tall for my age, so I’ve kind of been pushed to go for the older roles. When I was 12, I did a pilot where I played a 15 year old. I have an older brother—this has nothing to do with it—but my brother used to play football, and I would cheer for his team, but he’s 3 years older than me, so I would always be with older girls. I think I’m a little bit more mature, well, so I’ve been told.

How did the Coens treat you compared to the other actors on set? They were very patient with me, and they were very open to working with any idea that I had, which was amazing. They never made me feel intimated, and always made me feel like I was part of the team. Honestly, I feel like they treated me exactly like they treated the other actors. Maybe they would give me a bit more… what’s the word?

Pointers. Exactly. But other than that, they were just—god, the way they work is so amazing/ The way they work together as brothers, and their connection as brothers is incredible.

Can you describe how they work together, and how it related to you? Joel did most of the directing, at least with me. I would go one-on-one with Joel if I ever needed help with anything. I love my brother to death, but I don’t think I could ever direct a film with him. Nothing would ever get done. They’re always on the same page, they always agree with each other. If one of them has an idea, the other one encourages it. You’ll ask a question and they’ll both answer the same exact thing.

What was the biggest learning curve for you on set? The entire thing. I know that’s not the answer you were looking for, but I see where exactly where I want to be. I have a vision now for my career, to have one like all of my costars have had.

What is it like working with those three guys? Those are three of the best actors working today and you got to work with all of them. From day one, they really made me feel like I was one of them. I feel like I learned more from their actions than I did from any of their words. And I feel like what I’ve learned will come out in my next performance. It’s hard when I get that question–what have you learned –because you just take it all in. If you were to spend 10 minutes with one of the guys, you would get it. They just leave such an impact on you. All of them have such an incredible presence.

I would imagine you’re getting a lot of scripts sent to you by people who haven’t even seen the film. Yeah, it’s crazy because I’ll go to these events and I’ll go to some general meetings, and these people are like, We heard you’re amazing. And it’s like, oh my god, you haven’t seen anything, I don’t want you to be disappointed or anything.

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Photography by Santiago Sierra.

Elle Fanning vs. Hailee Steinfeld: Who Gave the Best Tween Performance of 2010?

Although 12-year-old Elle Fanning and 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld were shut out of yesterday’s Golden Globe nominations, everyone agrees these two young actors gave the performances of their short lifetimes this year – Fanning in Sofia Coppola’s ode to ennui, Somewhere, and Steinfeld in the Coen Brothers’ steel-jawed Western, True Grit. But who was better? After the jump, we pit these two bright-eyed ingenues in a bloodless death match to find out.

Our Opinion: Full disclosure: We’ve only seen Somewhere, and in it, Fanning does her disconcertingly mature big sister Dakota proud by picking up the torch she left behind after playing a drugged out rocker in The Runaways. Considering Fanning plays an 11 year old in Coppola’s latest, that she seems more grown-up than her father (Stephen Dorff) is remarkable, and sort of the point. As for Steinfeld, we included her in our 2011 New Regime, and will take our own word for it that she shines in True Grit. Winner: Elle, by default.

Difficulty: Based on their experience, this should be Steinfeld’s category. Here’s a girl who’s only major acting credit before True Grit was a guest spot on the TV series Sons of Tucson. And now here she is, holding her own in a film stacked with Oscar winners including Matt Damon, Jeff Bridges, and her directors. She told us that following some understandable first-day jitters, she quickly came into her own. Fanning, on the other hand, has the kind of filmography a seasoned actor would envy, having appeared in everything from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button to an episode of Criminal Minds. She also comes from an acting family (Dakota steal scenes and hearts in movies like I Am Sam). In Somewhere, Fanning plays a little girl trying to reconnect with her father, while in True Grit, Steinfeld’s character is trying to avenge her father’s death. One is heady, the other is heavy. Winner: We give this to Steinfeld, if only for not getting intimidated by one serious boys club.

What the critics are saying: New York‘s David Edelstein calls Steinfeld’s performance “exceedingly accomplished,” while IndieWire‘s Anne Thompson writes that “Watching her earn the respect and admiration of the men who want to dismiss her is one of the great pleasures of this movie.” As for Fanning, Time‘s Richard Corliss writes that she “gives Cleo a fresh, winning goodness,” while Frank Bruni, in his lengthy profile of Fanning for The New York Times Magazine, writes that her “work in Somewhere, in fact, is distinguished by its restraint.” Winner: Neither actror is exactly earning raves, rather positive reviews highlighting their discipline. That means a tie.

Awards: Like we mentioned earlier, both actrors were snubbed by the Golden Globes, and rather surprisingly, so were their films. But Somewhere has already won one of the top film prizes of the year, the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion. But yesterday, the Toronto Film Critics made the surprise choice of awarding Hailee Steinfeld with a Best Supporting Actress award for her role in True Grit. She’s also been nominated by the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the Houston Film Critics Society, the St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association, the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association, and the Phoenix Film Critics Society Award, all for for Best Supporting Actress. Elle Fanning, however, has yet to receive a major award or nomination for her role. Winner: Steinfeld, in a landslide.

Final Result: Hailee wins it 2-1, which means she gets to choose between being the next Jodie Foster or the next Meryl Streep, while Elle has to settle for being the next, er, Dakota Fanning. Thanks for playing!

Jeff Bridges Talks ‘True Grit’ & the Future of ‘Lebowski’

Already riding high from an Oscar win earlier this year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jeff Bridges’ stock dramatically spike again in December when both Tron Legacy (25/12) and the Coen Brothers’ True Grit (17/12) hit theaters. Call it the “geeks & geezers” double bill. The latter is, of course, a remake of the classic 1969 John Wayne vehicle, and Bridges told MTV News that he has high expectations. “I hope it’s going to be a great Western. You’ve got the Coen brothers — master filmmakers — doing a Western for the first time…to be a part of that was great.” Bridges also opened up about the possibility of a sequel to his first and still much-beloved collaboration with the Coens, The Big Lebowski.

Many of that film’s legions of super fans will doubtless be crestfallen to hear the news: “We talked about it occasionally, but no plans man, no plans,” Bridges said. “No, no, no, I don’t think it’s gonna happen.” I, for one, am heartened. I don’t think the peculiar alchemy of that film is something that can be repeated. A follow up would almost certainly compare unfavorably, and perhaps even retroactively discolor the first. Some films are meant to exist in and unto themselves. You need only watch one of the Psycho sequels to know that this is true.