Sam Elliott Didn't Understand Power of the Dog

Meet Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, a former political prisoner now fighting for his country; Matt Reeves misses The Batman premiere due to COVID-19; Sam Elliott might like The Power of the Dog if he understood it; behold the Lohannaisance. All in today’s Movie News Rundown.

Streaming Today: Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story is finally out on both HBO Max and Disney+, and Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car is on HBO Max, which means some of us will finally get to see these acclaimed films.

Matt Reeves: The double-vaccinated and boosted director of The Batman had to miss the film’s premiere in New York City last night due to a COVID-19 diagnosis. “The good news is that I’m healthy, I’m good,” Reeves said via video, according to Variety. “But I’m not with you. It’s a great heartbreak for me because this movie means so much to me. It was a five-year journey for me and I’m really excited that we’re sharing it with you tonight.” Here’s our profile of Reeves for our latest issue.

Ukraine: The Stockholm International Film Festival says it will focus on Ukraine in its upcoming edition, starting Nov. 9, and that Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, whose gangster film Rhino won best film at Stockholm last year, plans to attend. He could not attend last year’s ceremony due to the pandemic.

Who Is Oleg Sentsov? Besides being a filmmaker, he’s also a free expression activist and former political prisoner. When Russia forcibly annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, Sentsov joined thousands of other Ukrainians in protests, and delivered food and supplies to Ukrainian troops. Russia arrested him on charges that Amnesty International and others denounced as fake, and locked him in a prison in the Arctic Circle. After pressure from Amnesty, filmmakers, and many others, Sentsov was finally released in a prisoner exchange in 2019. Variety reports that Sentsov is currently in Ukraine, defending his country from the Russian invasion, along with other filmmakers. Here is a video made by the European Union’s European Parliament when he received the group’s Sakharov Prize in 2018:

Meanwhile: The list of films that will not be released in Russia is growing, Deadline reports.

The OnionRemember after 9/11 when The Onion published the brilliant headline “A Shattered Nation Longs to Care About Stupid Bullshit Again?” Please understand that we understand that the stories below are stupid bullshit compared to the events overseas. We offer them in the hopes that they may provide you some pleasant distraction.

Lindsay Lohan: She’ll make two new movies for Netflix, in addition to her upcoming rom-com Falling for Christmas, and people are calling it a Lohannaisance. I don’t know if this will catch on because it is, like McConaissance, hard to spell, but I’m into it. Here’s EW with details.

Sam Elliott Didn’t Understand The Power of the Dog: The actor, who I like, said on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast that he’s really not a fan of Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog.

Elliott told Maron: “There was a fucking full-page ad out in the LA Times and there was a review, not a review, but a clip… and it talked about the ‘evisceration of the American myth.’ And I thought, ‘What the fuck? What the fuck?’ This is the guy that’s done Westerns forever. The evisceration of the American West? They made it look like — what are all those dancers that those guys in New York who wear bowties and not much else. Remember them from back in the day?” (Chippendale’s, Maron added.) “That’s what all these fucking cowboys in that movie look like,” Elliott said. “They’re all running around in chaps and no shirts. There’s all these allusions to homosexuality throughout the fucking movie.”

Maron Helpfully Responded: “I think that’s what the movie’s about.”

Elliott Continued: “What the fuck does this woman… she’s a brilliant director by the way, I love her work, previous work — but what the fuck does this woman from down there, New Zealand, know about the American West? And why in the fuck does she shoot this movie in New Zealand and call it Montana and say, ‘This is the way it was.’ That fucking rubbed me the wrong way, pal.”

May I Editorialize: Look, the Power of the Dog doesn’t spell things out, and it’s very twisty, and you only realize at the very end that all this time you haven’t been watching a Western: You’ve been watching a thriller… and a tragedy. So even well-meaning people are going to misunderstand it. I don’t want to ruin it for people who haven’t seen it, so y’all should stop reading and go see it. But for those who have seen it and would like an interpretation: It’s a movie about a very closeted man named Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch) so afraid that his homosexuality will be discovered that he builds a wall of exaggerated masculinity, refusing to bathe, for example, because bathing is gay, I guess. He torments a young man (Kodi Smit-McPhee) he suspects of being gay, and the young man learns his secret and manages to earn Burbank’s trust… with dark results. I think it’s one of the best movies of the year, along with Sean Baker’s Red Rocket, which is also about sexuality, manipulation, and being outsmarted.

‘The Evisceration of the American West’: I don’t know who called it that, but no one should blame Jane Campion for some writer misrepresenting her movie in a hacky way: That description is terrible. The Power of the Dog isn’t interested in a documentary-like recreation of the American West, or in eviscerating it. It’s about the tragedy of letting a secret consume your life. In that sense it’s a bit like Brokeback Mountain, another Western-on-the-surface about the insidiousness of the closet.

Also: I don’t know what Elliott means about guys in The Power of the Dog dressing up like Chippendale’s dancers — did we see different movies? He may be thinking of his Roadhouse co-star, Patrick Swayze, God rest his soul.

Main image: Sam Elliott and his glorious, Chippendale’s-worthy hair in Roadhouse.