TIME movies

“We’re the People”: John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath at 75

The Grapes of Wrath.
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As an incendiary novel and as a daring film, this tale of Dust Bowl Okies speaks passionately to today's migrants and underdogs

In 1939, this seemed the most topical of novels: the story of one Oklahoma family, the Joads, leaving their devastated Dust Bowl home to find work picking fruit in California and finding more misery and pricked hopes when they get there. But John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath also speaks urgently to today’s concerns: the cratered trail of dreams for Mexican immigrants seeking a promised land in the Western U.S.; the perfidy of banks in foreclosing on poor people’s homes; and the insurgent urge of the book’s protagonist, Tom Joad, to speak truth to police power. “Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy,” Tom promises, “I’ll be there.” In Salinas, Cal., Ferguson, Mo. or Staten Island, N.Y., Tom’s truth goes marching on.

TIME, in its April 1939 review, called the book “Steinbeck’s best novel, i.e., his toughest and tenderest, his roughest written and most mellifluous, his most realistic and, in its ending, his most melodramatic, his angriest and most idyllic.” That anger resonated through the decades and throughout popular culture—from, say, the 1941 Woody Guthrie ballad “Tom Joad” to Bruce Springsteen’s 1995 “The Ghost of Tom Joad.”

The echoes haven’t faded. In 2010, choosing The Grapes of Wrath as one of the all-TIME 100 Novels (published since 1923), Lev Grossman wrote of the Joads: “their indomitable strength in the face of an entire continent’s worth of adversity makes Steinbeck’s epic far more than a history of unfortunate events: It’s both a record of its time and a permanent monument to human perseverance.”

The same can be said of the film version of The Grapes of Wrath. Starring Henry Fonda as Tom Joad and directed by John Ford, it had its world premiere in New York City on Jan. 24, 1940—75 years ago today.

The movie, which would be named the year’s Best Film by the New York Film Critics Circle, was greeted with hosannahs from pertinent reviewers. One was Frank S. Nugent of the New York Times, who wrote that the movie deserved a place on that “small, uncrowded shelf devoted to the cinema’s masterworks, to those films which by dignity of theme and excellence of treatment seem to be of enduring artistry, seem destined to be recalled not merely at the end of their particular year but whenever great motion pictures are mentioned.” Years later, Nugent would write screenplays for 11 Ford films, including their joint masterpiece, The Searchers. But his Times review was no preemptive apple polishing for a future employer, simply the expression of the majority opinion.

The man who reviewed The Grapes of Wrath for TIME had a more complex career biography. Before coming to the magazine in 1939, Whitaker Chambers had already translated Felix Salten’s Bambi into English, written journalism and poetry for the Communist paper The Daily Worker and fiction for The New Masses and served as a spy for the U.S.S.R. against the U.S. government. Riven by news of the 1938 Moscow Trials, Chambers defected from the Party and was hired by TIME. Toward the end of his tenure as Senior Editor, he was the star witness testifying against Alger Hiss in the most prominent espionage trial of the postwar years. TIME has harbored some famous movie critics—James Agee, Manny Farber, Richard Schickel—but none so notorious.

Chambers poured a vat of his conflicted political passions into his rave review of the Grapes of Wrath movie, which he saw as an improvement on the Agitprop aspects of the book:

It will be a red rag to bull-mad Californians who may or may not boycott it. Others, who were merely annoyed at the exaggerations, propaganda and phony pathos of John Steinbeck’s best selling novel, may just stay away. Pinkos, who did not bat an eye when the Soviet Government exterminated 3,000,000 peasants by famine, will go for a good cry over the hardships of the Okies. But people who go to pictures for the sake of seeing pictures will see a great one. For The Grapes of Wrath is possibly the best picture ever made from a so-so book. It is certainly the best picture Darryl F. Zanuck has produced or Nunnally Johnson scripted. It would be the best John Ford had directed if he had not already made The Informer.

Read TIME’s Feb. 1940 review of The Grapes of Wrath, free of charge, here in the archives: The New Pictures

The 1930s birthed two great agrarian novels: Gone With the Wind from the viewpoint of the ruling class, The Grapes of Wrath for the underclass. And both were turned into movies that dared to be true to the books’ controversial themes. Just six weeks after David O. Selznick’s epic adaptation of the Margaret Mitchell novel premiered in Atlanta on its way to becoming the most popular film of all time, 20th Century-Fox hosted the New York City opening of The Grapes of Wrath. The property had gone from first printing of the book to finished film adaptation in about nine months. Everything happened faster back then.

Gone With the Wind, the decade’s best-selling novel, had been a natural for the movies, though its rosy view of slavery seems a harsh delusion today. Hollywood had long romanticized the antebellum South as a home of vanished gentility; D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, depicting the Ku Klux Klan as Arthurian knights freeing Southern gentlewomen from their black oppressors, was the first blockbuster feature film exactly 100 years ago.

In 1939, though, Steinbeck’s migrants’ tale was much more immediate: a scorched-earth headline, a suppurating wound. The book had been banned in Kern County, Cal., the end point of the Joad family’s travels, and burned in Salinas, Steinbeck’s home town. Some California theater owners didn’t care much for the real Okies either: they made anyone who looked like a migrant worker sit in the balcony’s “colored section.”

So why should Fox boss Zanuck go where no Hollywood film had gone before: to expose the inequities of capitalism as the Great Depression staggered into its second decade? Because Steinbeck’s book was an enormous popular and critical success; and because Zanuck was hungry for a prestige hit.

A staunch Republican from Yahoo, Nebraska, and the only gentile then in charge of a major movie studio, Zanuck had produced socially incendiary films (I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, Wild Boys of the Road) in his early-’30s job as head of production at Warner Bros. At Fox he got rich on Shirley Temple movies and nostalgic musicals starring Alice Faye but had never got near Oscar hardware. Now Zanuck would assign Ford (already an Academy Award winner for The Informer) and producer-screenwriter Johnson to make the film of 1940.

At first, Zanuck and Steinbeck circled each other warily. Determined to red-check the book’s charges of official brutality, the mogul sent private detectives to the migrant camps and found that conditions were even worse than Steinbeck had portrayed. The author, for his part, was troubled that Fox was owned by the Chase National Bank, whose president, Winthrop Aldrich, was the brother-in-law of John D. Rockefeller Jr. In one of those improbable twists that are supposed to happen only in the movies, Aldrich’s wife Harriet told her husband she loved the book—and that was enough for the banker. Zanuck got the green light and sealed a $100,000 deal with Steinbeck. Ford shot the movie, which cost $750,000 to produce, in an efficient 43 days.

Johnson, who had written The Prisoner of Shark Island for Ford and the 1939 Western hit Jesse James, quickly fashioned a script that distilled the 473-page book and wove some of Steinbeck’s descriptive chapters into the narrative. (Virtually all the film’s dialogue is from the novel.) Fonda, who had already starred for Ford that year in Young Mr. Lincoln and Drums Along the Mohawk, was Ford’s choice for Tom Joad; Fonda wanted it too. But Zanuck insisted that the actor sign a seven-year contract with the studio before giving him the part.

In return, Fonda gave a perfect performance, revealing the idealism that grows inside desperation. Tom, who has killed a man before the story begins and kills another at the end, is a dead man walking. As illuminated by cinematographer Gregg Toland’s low-key lighting, Fonda’s face is that of a spirit haunted by crimes and warmed by possibilities. He is both Guthrie’s Tom Joad and Springsteen’s Ghost of Tom Joad.

In a family saga with zero romantic interest, the towering female figure is Ma Joad, a dominant life spirit incarnate. Ford considered Beulah Bondi for the role, then gave it to the more maternally configured Jane Darwell. The young Orson Welles, in Hollywood in 1940 to make Citizen Kane, said that by emphasizing Ma’s role Ford had turned The Grapes of Wrath into “a story of mother love. Sentiment is Jack’s vice.” But the movie needs Ma’s flinty optimism. If Tom is the firebrand of the family, Ma is the hearth. And Darwell brings a truculent warmth to the film. Somebody has called her one of the all-time great movie mothers.

Ford filled out his cast with a character actors’ Hall of Fame: sepulchral John Carradine as the itinerant preacher Casy; John Qualen as poor Muley, the Oklahoma landowner who must watch a tractor turn his shack into tinder; and Ward Bond, the director’s favorite supporting star, as a California cop. Dorris Bowden, Nunnally Johnson’s wife, was the pathetic Rosasharn, who in the novel’s conclusion is so overwhelmed with grief at losing her infant baby that she feeds her mother’s milk to a dying stranger. That scene didn’t get into the movie (no surprise, since Steinbeck’s editors had wanted it out of the book) nor did several scenes of political fingerprinting.

In fact, the film’s famous ending was not shot by Ford.

Anyone who’s seen the movie remembers the two final speeches. The first is Tom’s, when he leaves his mother to become the floating conscience of working-class America’s threats and promises: “I’ll be all around in the dark. I’ll be everywhere, wherever you can look. Wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad. I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready. And when the people are eatin’ the stuff they raise and livin’ in the houses they build—I’ll be there, too.”

Tom and Ma kiss—the movie’s one fervent expression of emotion—and we see an image of Tom walking away on a hill crest toward an uncertain future. That, Ford thought, should be the final shot. “I wanted to end on a down note,” he said later. “And the way Zanuck changed it, it came out on an upbeat.” A meticulous and dominant craftsman on the set, Ford usually left his films to be cut by Zanuck, whom he greatly admired as an editor; and this time, Zanuck wanted to show that, for the Joads, to survive was to triumph. So he pulled a speech from earlier in the book (and from an earlier draft of the screenplay) to express an affirmation of almost Constitutional grandeur. Instead of “We the People,” “We’re the people.”

The family finds a government camp that treats migrants decently and informs them of 20 days’ work nearby. And in their rickety car, Ma tells Pa Joad (Russell Simpson) about the indomitability of the poor: “Rich fellas come up an’ they die, an’ their kids ain’t no good an’ they die out. But we keep a-comin’. We’re the people that live. They can’t wipe us out, they can’t lick us. We’ll go on forever, Pa, ’cause we’re the people.” The scene is filmed in a single two-shot of about 1min.45sec. And Zanuck directed it himself.

Steinbeck, who saw the movie about a month before it opened, might have balked at some ellipses and euphemisms. But he loved it. “Zanuck has more than kept his word,” he wrote in a letter read by Ford historian Joseph McBride in an illuminating commentary on the film that appeared in the 2007 box set Ford at Fox. “He has [produced] a hard, straight picture to which the actors are submerged so completely that it looks and feels like a documentary film. And certainly it has a hard, truthful ring. No punches are pulled. In fact, with the descriptive matter removed, it is a harsher thing than the book by far. It seems unbelievable but it is true.”

Nearly as incredible is that, the following year, the film lost the Oscar for Best Picture to Selznick’s romantic mystery Rebecca. Only Ford and Darwell received Academy Awards. In 1941 Ford left Hollywood for four years to shoot war documentaries in the Pacific (his The Battle of Midway is a classic), eventually rising to the rank of Admiral. Fonda also joined the Navy, earning Lieut, JG stripes and a Bronze Star; and Zanuck was commissioned as a Colonel in the Army Signal Corps. Steinbeck, whom the FBI had investigated for Communist leanings around the time of The Grapes of Wrath, was not allowed to join the Armed Forces. He became a war correspondent for the New York Herald-Tribune and was informally involved in the OSS, predecessor of the CIA.

If The Grapes of Wrath speaks with eerie eloquence to Americans today, it had an immediate effect on two prominent viewers across the Atlantic. Seeing the movie several times in 1940, Adolf Hitler was convinced by its dramatizing of downtrodden Anglo-Saxon farmers that U.S. soldiers from such a debased stock would be a pushover in any war against the Third Reich. Turned out Hitler was misinformed, or a dupe of American propaganda. He must have turned the movie off before the “We the people” speech.

And in 1948 Joseph Stalin allowed the film to be shown in theaters in the U.S.S.R., believing that audiences would be enlightened by the misery of the proletariat in the so-called Golden State, the self-described America the Beautiful. Stalin was wrong too. Soviet moviegoers gazed enviously on the jalopy that took the Joads from Oklahoma to California. The message Russians took from The Grapes of Wrath: even the poorest capitalists have cars!

TIME

Mandy Moore and Ryan Adams Set to Divorce

The 2012 MusiCares Person Of The Year Gala Honoring Paul McCartney - Backstage And Audience
Kevin Mazur—WireImage/Getty Images Mandy Moore and Ryan Adams in 2012.

The duo pulled off an under-the-radar wedding in March 2009 in Savannah, Georgia

It’s over for Mandy Moore and Ryan Adams.

Nearly six years after the duo tied the knot, Adams, 40, filed for divorce from Moore, 30, PEOPLE confirms.

“Mandy Moore and Ryan Adams have mutually decided to end their marriage,” her rep says in a statement. “It is a respectful, amicable parting of ways and both Mandy and Ryan are asking for media to respect their privacy at this time.”

The duo pulled off an under-the-radar wedding in March 2009 in Savannah, Georgia, just four weeks after announcing their engagement.

Last March, the couple presented a united – and goofy – front as theycelebrated their fifth anniversary with pals including Minka Kelly.

“Celebrating love w the greatest friends and family last night. Feeling incredibly grateful today,” Moore wrote on her Instagram page, captioning a shot that featured the men in ’50s attire and the women donning funny hats.

The week prior, Moore shared a photo of their marriage certificate. “The best five years….” she wrote.

The couple, who collaborated on his self-titled album last year, have always been private about their relationship.

Explaining why he cut an interview short last fall after being asked about Moore, Adam explained: “I’m a private person and I’ll be a gentleman and say I’m not talking about my marriage ever. I’ll never talk about it. Ever.”

This article originally appeared on People.com

 

TIME celebrities

Miley Cyrus Admits She Can’t Spell Boyfriend Patrick Schwarzenegger’s Last Name

The DAILY FRONT ROW "Fashion Los Angeles Awards" - Show
Frederick M. Brown—Getty Images Singer Miley Cyrus attends "Fashion Los Angeles Awards" at the Sunset Tower Hotel on January 22, 2015 in California.

The singer also said she's not as "wild" as people think

Miley Cyrus admitted that she has no clue how to spell her famous boyfriend‘s tough last name.

“I can’t tell you, apparently there’s not a ‘T’ in it,” Cyrus, 22, said when asked Friday by Good Morning America‘s Cameron Mathison about how she might spell current love interest Patrick Schwarzenegger‘s difficult moniker.

Cyrus went on the show to promote her new MAC Cosmetics Viva Glam campaign, which donates 100 percent of proceeds from her lipstick to the MAC AIDS fund. She also shared her passion for working at the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

The “Wrecking Ball” singer defended herself as a role model for youth, noting that what she promotes is acceptance.

“What is important to teach people is that … you can’t judge other people,” she said, adding that she, too, has been unfairly criticized.

“I’m not the way that people try to make me seem … I don’t go around just trashing hotel rooms and partying, that I’m actually working on, you know, music that I love and being involved in things that I love,” Cyrus told GMA.

Cyrus also said she was “stoked” by her Grammy Award nomination but that she doubts she’ll win.

And in an interview with Entertainment Tonight, she said her actions are often wrongly portrayed in media, making her seem wild.

“I think people try to make me seem a lot less centered than I am,” Cyrus said. “You make choices and sometimes they’re right, sometimes they’re wrong just like in life. [My choices] are magnified and people kind of try to make you seem out of control when actually I’m a pretty happy, centered person that likes to do a lot of things for people. I’m not driven by just my own self and wanting more.”

This article originally appeared on People.com.

TIME feminism

How 7 Disney Princesses Could Change the World

Without a magic wand

After a U.S. official suggested this week that Anna and Elsa from Frozen could be good ambassadors for fighting climate change, we got to thinking about how some other Disney Princesses could wield their mighty influence on young American minds.

Princess Diana raised awareness about AIDS and land mines after her fairy-tale wedding glow faded, so why shouldn’t Disney Princesses be do-gooders, too? Here are some ways these fictional characters could change the world.

Read next: Alan Menken Tells the Stories Behind Your Favorite Disney Classics

  • Mulan (from Mulan)

    Disney

    She could fight for increased protections for women in the military, especially when it comes to being sexually assaulted or filmed in the shower. She could also fight to reform the hairstyle rules for military women, so that no female soldier ever has to give herself a terrible haircut with her dad’s sword ever again.

  • Belle (from Beauty and the Beast)

    Disney "Beauty & the Beast 3D" Belle. ©2011 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
    Disney

    She could campaign for child literacy programs and for more online education options for people who live in boring towns. She could also be a vocal advocate for increased social security and adult-home-care programs to reduce wolf attacks among the elderly.

  • Ariel (from The Little Mermaid)

    Disney

    She could be an spokesperson to clean up the oceans and save the diversity of species under the sea. She could also fight for immigration reform, so that evil witches stop taking advantage of anyone who wants to cross a border. And she could do it all in mime.

  • Pocahontas (from Pocahontas)

    Disney

    Her conflict resolution skills could make her an excellent candidate to be a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador, especially in areas with indigenous tensions. She could also fight to eliminate corporal punishment and serve on the board of Save America’s Forests.

  • Cinderella (from Cinderella)

    Disney

    She could fight for a higher minimum wage in the service industry and advocate for increased protections against child labor. She could also secretly fight to lower estate taxes so that other children of rich parents don’t end up poor like her.

  • Tiana (from The Princess and the Frog)

    Disney

    The star of the New Orleans fairy tale could demand a larger investment in small businesses and an increased environmental commitment to global warming to reduce the rising waters that threaten her hometown.

  • Jasmine (from Aladdin)

    Disney

    She could be a vocal advocate for the rights of women in the Middle East, and could fight for an expansion of girls’ education in that region. She could also oppose any laws that forbid women to drive cars or operate magic carpets.

TIME Environment

Official Wants Frozen to Teach Kids About Climate Change

FROZEN
Disney Arendelle

Apparently Disney didn't go for it

The U.S. special representative to the Arctic said this week that he told a Disney executive educators should use Frozen to teach kids about climate change—but the idea didn’t go over so well.

Admiral Robert Papp told an audience at this week’s Arctic Frontiers conference that after realizing his granddaughters were obsessed with Frozen, he approached Disney executives about making PSAs about climate change starring Anna and Elsa to raise awareness about the disappearing ice. “I said you’ve taught an entire generation about the Arctic,” Papp said he told the executive. “Unfortunately the Arctic that you’ve taught them about is a fantasy kingdom in Norway where everything is nice. What we really need to do is educate the American youth about the plight of the polar bear, about the thawing tundra, about Alaskan villages that run the risk of falling into the sea because of the lack of sea ice protecting their shores.”

Papp said the executive was receptive, but skeptical. “‘Admiral you might not understand, here at Disney it’s in our culture to tell stories that project optimism and have happy endings,'” he told him.

But who knows what’s in store for the rumored Frozen sequel that may or may-not be happening.

[h/t National Journal]

TIME movies

Here’s What You Need to Know About the Screen Actors Guild Awards

Fox Searchlight; Universal Pictures From left: Michael Keaton in Birdman; Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything

The ceremony prides itself as an Oscar predictor

The Screen Actors Guild Awards telecast, which will air this year at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on TBS and TNT, is the newest of the three major televised awards for film in the first quarter of the year: While the Oscars date back to the 1920s and the Golden Globes to the 1940s, the SAG Awards honored Tom Hanks and Jodie Foster at their first ceremony in 1995.

The intervening 21 years of SAG Awards have been most notable as a way-station before the Oscars. Historically, the the Screen Actors Guild ceremony has fallen between the announcement of the Oscar nominations and the Oscars themselves. Given the overlap between nominees for the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Oscars (both because of the number of individuals who vote for both prizes and because the SAG prides itself on predicting the more prestigious ceremony), this gives the whole ceremony the sense of a dress rehearsal; acceptance speeches, here, are more or less televised auditions for the bigger prize. (Last year, Oscar voters got to see Matthew McConaughey as an oddball extemperaneous speaker and Cate Blanchett and Lupita Nyong’o as preternaturally poised, all attitudes they responded to.) Last year, all four actors who won SAG Awards went on to win Oscars, as was also the case in 2011 and 2010; in 2013 and 2012, the SAGs named three of four eventual Oscar winners.

The Golden Globes — because of their larger pool of nominees, an earlier date before consensuses on who’s likely to win an Oscar have formed, and a general idiosyncratic streak — tend to go out on a wild limb from time to time. This year, Amy Adams won a Golden Globe for Big Eyes long after it seemed apparent she stood no real chance at an Oscar nomination. She was in a category, Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy, in which she was joined by four other Oscar long-shots; the whole thing was just for fun.

But, in contrast to the effervescent Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild Awards pride themselves on an earthbound seriousness, beginning with the show’s traditional emphasis on the cultural import of actors. (SAG is, after all, a trade union representing thespians’ interests.) By now, things have gotten serious, and a ceremony whose very reason for existence is to predict or subtly influence the Oscar race has no room for those whose awards season is drawing to an end. This means that actors who were nominated for SAG Awards but not Oscars — among them Jake Gyllenhaal for Nightcrawler, Jennifer Aniston for Cake, and Naomi Watts for St. Vincent — will have an anticlimactic evening.

It also means that an unsettled Oscar race for Best Actor, in which SAG nominees Michael Keaton (Birdman) and Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) and non-nominee Bradley Cooper (American Sniper) all have their fans, may get a bit more clarity. If, as is extremely likely given the SAG’s taste for anointing Oscar contenders as the frontrunner, Keaton or Redmayne wins, we may get a bit more clarity. But Cooper’s increasing momentum for awards season’s sole genuine hit has caught the ceremony unawares. He might place the Screen Actors Guild in a position in which they hate to find themselves: Out of touch with the Oscars.

TIME Music

Bob Dylan Will Mail 50,000 Free Copies of New Album to AARP Members

Bob Dylan performs on stage during Hop Farm Festival on June 30, 2012 in Paddock Wood, United Kingdom.
Gus Stewart—Redferns via Getty Images Bob Dylan performs on stage during Hop Farm Festival on June 30, 2012 in Paddock Wood, United Kingdom.

Old Man Dylan does something for fans knocking at heaven's door

On Feb. 3 Bob Dylan will release Shadows in the Night, a collection of covers of pop standards from Frank Sinatra’s repertoire. If that sounds to you like something that only people over the age of 50 will be interested in, you and Dylan are on the same page: He’s broken his latest bout of media silence by giving his first interview in three years to AARP The Magazine, where he tells former Rolling Stone writer Robert Love, “a lot of those readers are going to like this record. If it was up to me, I’d give you the records for nothing and you give them to every [reader of your] magazine.”

And he’s following through with that sentiment—at least partway. He and Columbia Records will be mailing out physical copies of Shadows to 50,000 randomly selected AARP members—physical copies, sent through snail mail, with few to no issues that will require recipients to call up their children or grandchildren for tech support. There’s no word whether or not the packages will include lists of talking points about why music isn’t as good today as it used to be, back in the ’60s, when things really mattered.

This article originally appeared on EW.com.

TIME Music

Watch The Decemberists Sing YouTube Comments on Jimmy Kimmel

Who knew the comment section could provide musical inspiration?

The Decemberists released a new album, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, this week and to mark the occasion, they made an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Instead of performing one of the songs off of their new album, though, the band took a page out of Kimmel’s playbook and turned to the Internet for inspiration, composing original songs based on YouTube comments. The result was something like Kimmel’s Celebrities Read Mean Tweets series, but set to a catchy tune.

Topics for the songs ranged from deep thoughts on the 2015 State of the Union address to deeper thoughts on Justin Bieber. Comments from “Kim Kardashian’s Plastic Surgery Transformation,” cute pandas wrestling, some hungry kittens waiting for dinner and a 2005 MIT commencement address providing additional musical inspiration.

 

TIME movies

Here Are the Worst Things Critics Had to Say About Mortdecai

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David Appleby—Lionsgate Gywneth Paltrow and Johnny Depp in Mortdecai

Critics really sharpened their pens for Johnny Depp's latest

Sometimes the best movie reviews are the ones written about the worst movies. Despite boasting an all-star cast, Johnny Depp’s new film Mortdecai has quickly emerged as an early contender for worst film of the year. It has invoked the wrath of critics (and currently has a 8% on Rotten Tomatoes), inspiring some memorably savage critical barbs. Here are some of the harshest:

Robbie Collin for The Telegraph

“It’s hard to think of a way in which the experience of watching the new Johnny Depp film could be any worse, unless you returned home afterwards to discover that Depp himself had popped round while you were out and set fire to your house.”

Kyle Smith for The New York Post

Mortdecai typifies playful English wit in much the same way as Wimbledon is known for its monster truck rallies.”

Brian Truitt, USA Today

“The actor has done a lot better than this forgettable piece of bargain-basement low art.”

Elizabeth Weitzman for New York Daily News

“Without anything funnier to offer, [director David] Koepp leans heavily on a pointless running joke about the way Mortdecai’s mustache continually triggers Johanna’s gag reflex. Should you find yourself subjected to this baffling display of wasted talent, time and resources, prepare to share her understandable instinct.”

Stephen Holden for The New York Times

“What a frantically dull spectacle this vanity project is.”

Peter Sobczynski, RogerEbert.com

Like the film as a whole, [Johnny Depp’s] performance is such a spectacular miscalculation that it begins to generate a strange fascination in that you almost want to keep watching just to see how much worse it can possibly get before it finally comes to a merciful and long-overdue conclusion.”

David Edelstein, New York Magazine

“Having combed Roget’s Thesaurus in vain for a suitable adjective to describe the Johnny Depp comedy Mortdecai, I’m forced to say it’s just … bad.”

But not everyone thought the movie was a complete disaster. The Los Angeles Times had a more generous take:

Gary Goldstein, LA Times

“If the rest of the movie, directed by David Koepp (Premium Rush, Secret Window), isn’t quite as memorable as Depp’s screwball stylings, it’s a mostly zippy, well turned-out concoction. Translated: It’s better than expected.”

 

TIME Music

A New Kanye-Rihanna Collaboration Is Coming

Jon Kopaloff—FilmMagic/Getty Images; Jim Spellman—WireImage/Getty Images Rihanna (L) and Kanye West (R)

Yeezus previewed new music at a surprise appearance

Any hint of a release date for the upcoming Kanye or Rihanna albums could break Twitter. A new collaboration between the two may just end the universe.

Kanye West reportedly interrupted a Def Jam presentation on Wednesday at the iHeartMedia Music Summit to talk for 45 minutes about his favorite topic—himself—and preview some new music, Billboard reports, including that new duet with Rihanna.

The pair already worked together on two of Kanye’s biggest hits, ‘All of the Lights’ and ‘Run This Town,’ so a third collab would be highly anticipated, to put it mildly.

Kanye also spoke at length about his “responsibility to innovate,” reminisced about working with Paul McCartney on “Only One” and even sang some of that song a cappella. He also joked that he asked the former Beatle, “What was p—y like in the ’60s?”

West concluded by playing his collaboration with Rihanna from his laptop. Though he didn’t reveal the title of the song, Billboard reports that it featured acoustic guitar and a melody with a “massive hook.” When the song ended, Kanye (in classic Ye fashion) slammed his laptop closed and walked offstage—to a standing ovation.

MORE: Did A New Rihanna Song Called “World Peace” Leak?

[Billboard]

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