Monday, January 28, 2008

SAG Crowns 'No Country' King

The Coen Brothers' crime thriller No Country for Old Men continued its awards season hot streak by taking the top prize at last night's 14th Screen Actors Guild Awards ceremony. The film also received the Best Supporting Actor award for Javier Bardem's chilling performance as a psychotic killer sent to recover a cache of drug money. Both he and the film are now considered front runners in the Oscar race. See the complete list of winners here.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Coen Brothers Claim DGA Award

Just as I predicted, Ethan and Joel Coen snagged the Directors Guild of America's award for feature film direction last night at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles. This win now propels the dynamic duo of filmmaking to the front runner position for Best Director at next month's Oscar ceremony and, as well, makes No Country for Old Men the odds-on favorite for Best Picture. Those familiar with the history of the DGA's track record will note that only six times in their 60-year history has the winner of their award failed to win the Academy Award. For the record, here are those disparities:

1968 DGA Winner: Anthony Harvey, The Lion in Winter
1968 Best Director Oscar Winner: Sir Carol Reed, Oliver!

1972 DGA Winner: Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather
1972 Best Director Oscar Winner: Bob Fosse, Cabaret

1985 DGA Winner: Steven Spielberg, The Color Purple
1985 Best Director Oscar Winner: Sydney Pollack, Out of Africa

1995 DGA Winner: Ron Howard, Apollo 13
1995 Best Director Oscar Winner: Mel Gibson, Braveheart

2000 DGA Winner: Ang Lee, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
2000 Best Director Oscar Winner: Steven Soderbergh, Traffic

2002 DGA Winner: Rob Marshall, Chicago
2002 Best Director Oscar Winner: Roman Polanski, The Pianist

So far as I know, the awards show is not televised. Please post a comment if you know which stations broadcast this event, if any. That's why I logged on to the DGA's official web site with eager anticipation earlier this morning to learn the winner. For a moment, I thought Julian Schnabel might pull a photo finish as he did with his upset Golden Globe win for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, but the Coen's came out on top this time around. If they win the Academy Award for Best Directing, which I believe they will, this will be the first time since 1961 that the Oscar for that category will go to two directors. 46 years ago, Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins won for co-directing West Side Story.

Next up for award shows is the 14th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, airing tonight on TNT at 8pm. View the complete list of nominees here.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Stolen Gift

A young man sits in a horse-drawn buggy, lit by a brilliant midday sun. He is dressed in the unpretentious garb worn by 18th Century Americans. Just before the buggy pulls away, the young man stands, turns to bid the young lady he loves farewell, and smiles. Though his teeth are stained black (thanks to an innocent prank played on him the night before), his face beams as radiantly as the sun shining overhead. This scene from The Patriot has a special place in my heart, not because it is a tender moment in a violent war movie, but because it was responsible for my introduction to a gifted young actor named Heath Ledger. It is a simple, wordless moment that speaks a treasured message that few scenes do: "a star is born".

When I saw the film, I knew little about this charming, robust lad. He had made quite a sensation with 10 Things I Hate About You the year before, he was from Australia, and judging from the self-proclaimed arbiter of taste that is "Entertainment Tonight", this young Turk was the Next Big Thing. Usually, I cringe at such assertions. Long ago, I caught on to the garbage-in-garbage-out cycle that Hollywood follows whenever it discovers their new pretty face to market and sell ad nauseam...only to be replaced by another vacant matinee idol a few years later. (Should you disagree with this statement, just watch the final shot of All About Eve.) Star cycles grow shorter as time goes on, and the relationship between surface appeal and genuine talent is, at best, inversely proportional.

There was something different about Heath. He wasn't just another pretty face. He was a presence -- and an unforgettable one, at that. Granted, there were times when he had difficulty harnessing his boundless vigor, but this is hardly a quibble. Young actors live to play those coveted scenes that grant them the luxury of emotinal climaxes, marked by tearful confessions and racking sobs of pain; scenes leading up to those golden moments of truth have a way of confining a young thespian like a racehorse whose gate won't open. Heath was no exception to this rule, yet he was a star pupil. His earliest roles, like those of De Niro, Nicholson, Pacino, and Newman, now seem like veritable Polaroid pictures with glimpses of inspiration waiting to be cultivated. Even when required to speak the most vapid dialogue in forgettable movies, he dedicated himself to these tooth-cutting roles in such a way that made his own work rise above the embarrassing quality offered him by the script. Perhaps this staggeringly uncommon effort reflected a blind faith that a casting director might see something in him, and that better work would follow.

Then in 2004, Heath accepted the role that rocketed him to screen immortality: Ennis Del Mar, the lovelorn cattle rancher in Brokeback Mountain. Only 25 years old when the picture was made, Heath painted a nuanced master work of muted enthusiasm, festering resentment, tight-fisted pride, and shattering anguish. Considering that Heath didn't have as much experience from which to draw as an actor in his 40s would, the effort is all the more astonishing. His Ennis is an inspired physicalization of a character supplied to him only in the form of Annie Proulx's short story. Any actor would feel daunted by the overwhelming challenge of converting a simple marriage of ink and paper into a fully fleshed-out human being. (a greater challenge could be to create a fresh interpretation of a role already played by at least one other actor -- Hamlet comes immediately to mind -- but that discussion does not bear mentioning here) His command of wordless gestures (a clenched fist, an adjustment of his hat, the fumbling with a cigarette lighter) is a shining example of metamorphosis acting in the same league as Olivier.

Critics were unanimous in their praise of his performance. When the nominations for the 78th Academy Awards were announced, Heath found himself in the running for the Best Actor award. Though he lost to Philip Seymour Hoffman (nominated that year for Capote), his nomination cemented his place in the pantheon of our generation's acting talent. The morning after the ceremony, a dear friend of mine lamented, "But I wanted him to win!"

"Don't worry," I assured him. "He'll be back."

His next roles were as the heroin-addicted poet in Candy and one of the six soulful incarnations of Bob Dylan in I'm Not There. Both were solid performances, and gave him a chance to sharpen his tools in preparation for his next big turn. His most eagerly anticipated appearance was as The Joker in The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan's follow-up to Batman Begins. The trailers painted a distinctly different portrait of the character than Jack Nicholson's comic book hamfest in Tim Burton's 1989 summer blockbuster. Heath Ledger's Joker is a demented serial killer that chills you just to look at him. The advance buzz on the movie was white hot going into the New Year, and the July 18th release date seemed like ages away.

Then last Tuesday, the terrible news broke: "Heath Ledger Found Dead". The mere thought seems unreal. The loss of Brad Renfro, who died at the age of 25 in his Los Angeles apartment only weeks earlier, was smaller and to be expected. Unlike Heath, Renfro had a history of drug abuse and never gave a breakthrough performance that solidified his reputation as a serious actor. Heath had everything going for him: a successful career, a beautiful daughter, and the respect of his friends and colleagues. The initial thought that raced through my mind was suicide, a speculation tempered by police confirmation that no illegal drugs were found in his apartment. All suppositions aside, I kept wanting the news to be some sick prank concocted by some dissolute gossip journal, immediately followed by an official press release from Heath's agent that he is alive and well. But alas, such reassurance never came.

As it is when any talent leaves us too soon, the question of what said person would have gone on to do had they lived naturally arises. With regard to Heath, one can only wonder. His best work was, without a doubt, ahead of him. Like Paul Newman before him, Heath would have gone on to enjoy a distinguished career whose orbit is marked by important transitions and incredible versatility. Perhaps he would have reunited with his good friend and Brokeback Mountain co-star Jake Gyllenhaal in a film totally unlike their first and only collaboration. Perhaps he would have crossed over from leading man to supporting player once he reached his senior years. Perhaps he would have tried his hand behind the camera. There was at least one Oscar in his future. That's for sure.

At least we have the luxury of knowing that his performance in The Dark Knight is completed. His work in Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, however, is unfinished and, according to the latest press stories, Johnny Depp is rumored to pick up the role where Heath left off. Whatever happens, I just hope that the studio doesn't do to this movie what Columbia Pictures did to Game of Death after Bruce Lee died.

In one of his last interviews with The Daily Ledger, Heath was quoted as saying, "I'm not good at future planning. I don't plan at all. I don't know what I'm doing tomorrow. I don't have a day planner and I don't have a diary. I live completely in the now, not in the past, not in the future." In spite of any and all evidence to the contrary, this reader refuses to interpret the man's words in a destructive light. Rather, they reflect the dynamic spontaneity of the artist's life. Perhaps that's what made his every moment on screen so magnetic. In every role he played, both on screen and in real life, no matter how comic or serious, he was always -- as they say at The Actors Studio -- in the moment. And that is how I shall always remember him.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

RIP, Heath Ledger


I was sitting in my home office when a dear friend to called to break this sad, shocking news to me just minutes ago. Read the developing story here. What a devastating loss for the world of cinema to suffer on the day of the Oscar nomination announcements. A full in memoriam piece will be posted later. I would like to take this opportunity to extend my deepest condolences to Heath's friends and family.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Oscar Prognostications

Good evening, dear readers.

As I'm sure most of you know, the nominations for the 80th Academy Awards will be announced tomorrow at 5:30am PST. Just as I have done every year since I was sixteen, I will be getting up at the crack of dawn to catch the announcement live. In anticipation of this event, I have made a list of contenders I expect to make the cut.

Some of you are probably wondering why I included more than five nominees in each category. The main reason for this is simple. For the first few years I tuned in to catch the announcement, I sat in front of the TV with blank sheets of paper and scribbled out the names and categories like mad. After going through this frenzied cycle a number of times, it occurred to me that compiling a set of lists sorted according to category ahead of time and checking off the names as they're being announced would be much simpler...and that's exactly what I've been doing for about eight years now. Granted, there are still those occasional times when a jaw-dropping surprise nominee pops up from out of nowhere and I have to quickly scribble their name by hand, but for the most part, this system has worked out quite well for me.

Though the fate of the Oscar telecast scheduled for Sunday, February 24th remains in doubt, I choose to remain optimistic that the WGA will get this ridiculous strike nonsense overwith so that the ceremony won't have to suffer the fate that fell upon the Golden Globes last week. Can you imagine? If worse comes to worst, the ceremony might have to be moved to a private location (Jon Stewart's basement, perhaps?) for the first time in its televised history. (shades of the very first Academy Awards ceremony held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles on May 16th, 1929, in the form of a private banquet where the awards took about five minutes to hand out; the party has grown a bit since then)

Allow me, if you will, a brief confession before I unveil my list: I have not seen all of the pictures expected to garner nominations. While some of these movies are not currently playing at a theater close to where I live, I shall make it an imperative to see as many of them as I can before the Oscar ceremony (hopefully) airs next month. Still -- and I'm going to do my best to say this without sounding like a pompous egomaniac -- I believe I have a fairly good sense of which way the voters will lean when choosing their nominees.

And now, without any further adieu, I present to you my predictions for the ten categories scheduled to be announced tomorrow morning.

Best Picture

No Country for Old Men (bet)
Sweeney Todd (bet)
Juno (bet)
Michael Clayton (bet)
There Will Be Blood (bet)
Into the Wild
American Gangster
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

Best Director

Ethan and Joel Coen, No Country for Old Men (bet)
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood (bet)
Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (bet)
Sean Penn, Into the Wild (bet)
Joe Wright, Atonement
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton (bet)
Ridley Scott, American Gangster
Jason Reitman, Juno
Tim Burton, Sweeney Todd
Sidney Lumet, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

Best Actor

Christian Bale, Rescue Dawn
Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood (bet)
Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd (bet)
George Clooney, Michael Clayton (bet)
Ryan Gosling, Lars and the Real Girl
James McAvoy, Atonement (bet)
Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises (bet)
Denzel Washington, American Gangster
Tom Hanks, Charlie Wilson’s War
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Savages
Tommy Lee Jones, In the Valley of Elah
Brad Pitt, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Emile Hirsch, Into the Wild

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie, Away from Her (bet)
Marion Cotillard, La Vie En Rose (bet)
Angelina Jolie, A Mighty Heart (bet)
Ellen Page, Juno (bet)
Helena Bonham Carter, Sweeney Todd
Jodie Foster, The Brave One
Keira Knightley, Atonement (bet)
Laura Linney, The Savages
Amy Adams, Enchanted

Best Supporting Actor

Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (bet)
Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men (bet)
Tommy Lee Jones, No Country for Old Men
Josh Brolin, No Country for Old Men
Russell Crowe, American Gangster
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson’s War (bet)
Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild
Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton (bet)
Max Von Sydow, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
John Travolta, Hairspray (bet)
Paul Dano, There Will Be Blood
Albert Finney, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
Philip Bosco, The Savages

Best Supporting Actress

Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There (bet)
Catherine Keener, Into the Wild (bet)
Saoirse Ronan, Atonement (bet)
Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone (bet)
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton (bet)
Ruby Dee, American Gangster
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Margot at the Wedding
Kelly MacDonald, No Country for Old Men
Vanessa Redgrave, Atonement
Marisa Tomei, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

Best Original Screenplay

Diablo Cody, Juno (bet)
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton (bet)
Judd Apatow, Knocked Up (bet)
Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, Superbad
Brad Bird, Jim Capobianco, and Jan Pinkava, Ratatouille (bet)
Tamara Jenkins, The Savages
Woody Allen, Cassandra’s Dream
Kelly Masterson, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
Steven Knight, Eastern Promises (bet)
Todd Haynes and Oren Moverman, I’m Not There
Adrienne Shelly, Waitress

Best Adapted Screenplay

Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood (bet)
Ethan and Joel Coen, No Country for Old Men (bet)
John Logan, Sweeney Todd (bet)
Steven Zaillian, American Gangster
Christopher Hampton, Atonement (bet)
Aaron Sorkin, Charlie Wilson’s War (bet)
Andrew Dominik, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Sean Penn, Into the Wild
David Benioff, The Kite Runner

Best Foreign Language Film

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (bet)
4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (bet)
The Kite Runner (bet)
Lust, Caution (bet)
Persepolis (bet)

Best Animated Feature

Bee Movie (bet)
Ratatouille (bet)
Persepolis (bet)
The Simpsons Movie
Shrek the Third

Who do you expect to be nominated? Leave me a comment and let me know. I'll be back tomorrow to report on who made the cut, who I believe should have been nominated but wasn't (read: my sins of omission list), and who I expect to win.

As always, thank you for reading and I'll see you at the movies!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Vengeful Confection

The genre of the musical is one to be regarded by the serious moviegoer as crabgrass in the lawn of movies. From the sickeningly over-the-top products manufactured by that glitz-ridden dream factory that was MGM in the 30s, to the audiovisual stress test that was Moulin Rouge, film history provides no shortage of irritating creations that teach us nothing about life and exist simply to give singing non-actors a chance to exhibit their “talent”. With Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Tim Burton provides us with a refreshing exception to this rule, and makes a triumphant contribution to 21st century cinema in the process.

Based on Stephen Sondheim’s 1979 stage musical of the same name, the story follows Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp), a successful barber with a young wife and daughter. After banishing Barker to Australia on false charges, the predatory Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) snares the poor man’s wife and eventually ruins her life. The evil arbitrator holds the daughter, Johanna (Jayne Wisener), hostage throughout her childhood. When a prison-weary Barker returns by ship years later, he embarks on an unwavering quest for vengeance, dead set on killing anyone who did him wrong. The milieu for this blood-soaked saga: 19th Century London.

The film opens with the roaring blast of an organ’s doomful toccata played to the familiar Dreamworks bumper. This music will gradually, smoothly transition into the ovation-worthy opening number, “There’s No Place Like London”. Never mind waiting for the first scene – much less the opening credits! – to create atmosphere. To paraphrase what Ingmar Bergman remarked in reference to the staggered opening credits of his film Persona, this is a story whose insistence to be told is so strong, it simply cannot wait to begin.

The sound is soon joined by the camera’s first glimpses, the lugubrious London of Dickens’ darkest chapters. In the space of two minutes and without a single word of dialogue (although relying a bit too heavily on CGI), Burton baptizes us with flickering images of a world with which we are unfamiliar. This London is not the jolly metropolis that supplied the backdrop for Peter Pan. This is a bleak, brutal world where high-reaching chimney stacks belch black clouds of smoke overhead. This is a world whose streets are littered with pickpockets lurking around dark corners; a world where starving, orphaned children turn to the bottle in despair, where the gap between the rich and the poor stretches wider than the filth-ridden Thames, and where life is cheaper than magic potions hawked by traveling swindlers.

Soon after the credits begin, the scene is greeted by rain…only this precipitation is not water. The downpour is reminiscent of Taxi Driver, another tale of revenge set against a gritty urban backdrop, where Robert De Niro’s sociopathic cabbie prophetically informs us that “someday a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets”. From this puce, viscous fluid emerges a livid, unbending line that flows steadily downward. In this single, simple image we are given the perfect metaphor for Benjamin Barker, now going by the name Sweeney Todd. Like that downward gliding blood drip, Todd walks with an unwavering, cocksure swagger that will not stop until he avenges his dear beloved bride. And may God Himself be damned, this possessed avenging angel will stop at nothing to claim his retribution.

Todd soon reconnects with the landlady at his old quarters, the homely but congenial Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter). There, she informs him of his wife’s fate while preparing, by her own admission, the worst pies in London. The egregious disregard of sanitation practices therein would make Upton Sinclair nauseous. The pair soon strike up an agreement: he will lure customers to his establishment with a shave, slash their throats with a razor, and with the aid of a cleverly installed trap door, discharge their bodies into the basement. There, Mrs. Lovett will grind the corpses into scrumptious meat pies. Business picks up and the two of them turn a handsome profit, but once a frightening secret is unveiled, tragedy strikes. To reveal any more of the plot would be a crime against humanity.

One would think that such grisly subject matter would hardly make for two hours of first class film entertainment, but in the hands of a cinemaestro like Tim Burton, a misanthropic opera that has the depth of Shakespearean tragedy and the delicious horror of Grand Guignol is born. The dark side of life is hardly new ground for Mr. Burton, but since Todd marks his first foray into the musical world, he succeeds in simultaneously working from familiar territory and challenging himself as an artist.

In Johnny Depp, Burton has found the perfect actor with whom to collaborate. This is their sixth film together and with each outing, the effort steadily improves. With Todd, their pairing has earned their alliance the right to be counted alongside the greatest actor-director partnerships in all of cinema: witness Ford-Wayne, Scorsese-De Niro, Kurosawa-Mifune, and Bergman-Von Sydow, to name just a few. The teaming of the bravura Burton with the dynamic Depp fits like a hand in a glove…or, in this case, a corpse in a coffin.

Though Todd is a musical that demands a presentational approach (nothing is duller than turning a talking play into a static talking picture), Burton skillfully exercises creative economy in translating this grand theatrical production from stage to screen. He never lets the pace become languid, but he also keeps the action from going over the top. During the magnificently executed musical numbers, for example, a less capable director would have let the urge to tear the scene down the middle with wrecking ball subtlety rip, but Burton keeps the firepower in check. It’s a slender thread to walk, and Burton never missteps.

Regarding the contributions of Mr. Burton’s production staff, technical wizardry is on display. The sets of Dante Ferretti burst with vivid richness. The subdued hues of London contrast beautifully with the expressive palate of the fantasy sequences. Not since The Last Emperor has this reviewer seen such a splendidly designed motion picture. Equally worthy of praise is the brilliant camerawork of Dariusz Wolski. A gifted cinematographer with a natural eye for composition, Wolski lovingly lights his close-ups with artistry indicative of Francis Bacon. During the strident songs, his camera dances as nimbly as Nureyev in his prime. Giving the film its importunate rhythm is the airtight editing of Chris Lebenzon. Marking his ninth collaboration with Burton, Lebenzon demonstrates his usual swiftness in handling scenes of hushed dialogue and thundering action with equal confidence.

And the music! Mr. Sondheim’s soaring melodies make a subject as gruesome as violent revenge as appetizing as the titular, mouth-watering meal in Babette’s Feast. Time and again, I wanted to stand and applaud at the end of those dynamite musical numbers…and that would have been appropriate, had I been watching a live theatrical performance. Admittedly, this reviewer has never seen Sweeney Todd on the stage. Since the film version is so magnificently good, it is doubtful that any stage version could equal – muss less surpass – this inspired creation.

Before paying due attention to the actors, a few words about approach to casting musicals must be said. When preparing for a musical, the onus is on the director to cast non-singers who can act. There are those who disagree, foolishly insisting that singing non-actors can be coached (or perhaps coaxed) into giving serviceable performances. Invariably, the results produced by this approach prove disastrous. No singer can make it to the top of his or her profession without, at the very least, learning how to act. Otherwise, their renditions would lack any grounding in emotion to which the audience would naturally connect. That being said, Mr. Burton has made the wise choice to cast this film mainly with professionally trained actors who were coached to sing. What the performers lack in musical aptitude, they more than make up for in showmanship of the grandest kind. Less talented performers could be (and often have been) aided by the invisible hand of electronic sound manipulation in the post-production phase, but in the case that point is moot.

The younger players are terrifically good, and show only the subtlest hints of sentiment in their performances. Making her screen debut, Jayne Wisener amplifies a fragile beauty in the role of Johanna. Ed Sanders shines as Toby, the lad who yearns for her love. As well, the supporting players lend able foundation to the leads. Alan Rickman oozes chilly menace as Judge Turpin, a heartless arbiter who dispenses Draconian death sentences like punitive party favors. Talented character actor Timothy Spall scores a direct hit as the pastry-faced Beadle Bamford, Turpin’s loathsome watchdog. Shaking all remnants of his Borat character from memory, Sacha Baron Cohen delightfully hams it up in a brief but memorable fine-tuned performance. As the ambitious pie shop proprietor Mrs. Lovett, Helena Bonham Carter projects an acidly comic cynicism that simultaneously chills your spine and tickles your funny bone. She projects a darkly acerbic wit through her eyes and body language that recalls Isuzu Yamada’s best work under the direction of Kurosawa.

Finally, for recognition of superb acting, kudos must be paid to Johnny Depp. In carving out his portrayal of the amiable Benjamin Barker turned bloodthirsty murderer Sweeney Todd, Mr. Depp claims responsibility for the most absorbing performance in the history of film musicals. From the subtlest twitch of his eyes to his most sweeping gestures, Depp exudes a presence more commanding than he has ever projected on screen. It is a marrow-deep performance that, like Robert De Niro’s stunning turn in Raging Bull, procures sympathy for an unappealing character.

Perhaps Sweeney Todd can best be summed up by adducing The Searchers. Before John Wayne rides off from his brother’s burial to hunt down the killers, a mournful Olive Carey implores, “Don’t let the men waste their lives in vengeance!” Unlike John Wayne’s ruthless Confederate veteran in that film, Depp’s Todd awaits a fate crueler than drifting unwanted among the sunburned landscaped for the rest of one’s days.

Please find room on your awards season dinner plate for this vengeful confection. Though this is a crowded year for great movies, Sweeney Todd must not go unseen. This is a musical that dares to be different than its countless predecessors, and succeeds brilliantly for that very reason. To miss it would be ghastly.