Hey, it’s Mutual Oscarbation, our awards season feature in which Benjamin Sutton and Henry Stewart find out what sorts of movies Academy members are watching while they listen to wire taps of their colleagues’ phone calls. This week they feel like daffodils after watching Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar.
So, Ben, J. Edgar turned out to be a lot more interesting than I initially expected. For an hour or so I was thinking, “this is the Oscarbaitiest piece of shit I ever sat through,” but then I realized Clint Eastwood and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black were up to something kinda interesting. Structurally, their film is as tricky and sophisticated as The Social Network, I think, blending a present-day narrative with two flashback storylines from different points of view; Black ups the ante by having the same character enunciate both of them: Hoover (Leonard DiCaprio) reliving private memories regarding his mother (Judi Dench) and his chastely homosexual relationship with associate Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer); and Hoover the unreliable narrator revising his own professional history. (We observe the sad, sad process of a bitter, broken man trying to invent for himself a heroic arc.) I thought it was interesting how Black and Eastwood try to subvert, or at least complicate, the old-fashioned,