Paris, Texas a PPLL Extravaganza

Well, my main complaint about Paris, Texas was going to be the length (2 and a half hours), but as I type, I’m watching and listening to director Wim Wenders‘ commentary on deleted scenes and I am transfixed with hypnotic awe.

Except for the older vehicles, Pars, Texas (circa 1984) could be shown today. It’s a timeless tale of lost love and the invincible bond of parent and child. Compounded with the poignancy of the film, is the bittersweet sadness of Harry Dean Stanton’s life and death. If you get a chance and care, listen to Marc Maron‘s podcast with Harry Dean Stanton which captures Harry’s level of despair with a hint to some trauma suffered at the hands or mind of his mother that sent him into an abyss of eternal solitaire. Not that he didn’t date (and younger!) or have a good life, but there’a deep melancholy to his life story that leaks out in Paris, Texas and his last movie, Lucky.

In fact, I wish I had seen Paris, Texas before seeing Lucky as the two are definitely parallel films (though the former was written by Sam Shepard, another bone deep melancholy soul) and the latter by Logan Sparks. They share similar settings (southwestern desert), similar music (twangy soulful electric acoustic) and the search for meaning in a solitary hermetic life.

A scene from Paris, Texas that I adored reminded me of a scene from the original Jaws. In Jaws, Roy Schneider is at the dinner table with his son. Each begin mimicking the other’s facial expressions in a cute father-son bonding moment. In Paris, Texas, Harry Dean Stanton and his son, (played gorgeously by Hunter Carson, son of one of the writers for the film and Karen Black, the actress) execute a similar scene while walking on opposite sides of the street, mimicking each other’s gaits.

I loved the use of color in the film, from gorgeous Texas skies, to LA night sky; from matching red shirts to Nastassja Kinski and Hunter bother wearing green shirts with the green lit buildings behind them outside a Houston hotel, the film was produced with an artistic eye.

And don’t let me forget to praise Dean Stockwell and Aurore Clement who were also fabulous in their sibling and parental roles.

I’m partial to this film due to the aforementioned, and Hunter, the young boy loved his Star Wars action figures which took me back to my son’s childhood. I had just written to a friend the other day that if I could have one day of my life back to re-experience, it would be a day of fun with Liam (this was brought on by the sad closing of Toys R Us).

Two and a half hours of film didn’t seem long until an unnecessarily over written cathartic scene in a peep show between Nastassja Kinski and H.S. Stanton, but in watching the deleted scenes and becoming mesmerized by the Texas landscape and the German accent of Wim Wenders, it was worth the time.

PPLL for any newcomers to my blog stands for Pre Pension Library Loaner, #55thbirthdayninemonthsaway!

Filling the Voight Void: Coming Home

After adoring Midnight Cowboy, I realized I needed to fill more of the Voight void, never having seen Coming Home (written by Waldo Scott and Robert C. Jones). Waldo Scott, won the Oscar for best screenplay for this film, as well as for Midnight Cowboy. Robert C. Jones also wrote Bullworth, one of my favorite political films, as well as the classic, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Hal Ashby, director of Coming Home, is very close to my heart since it was his film Harold and Maude that ignited my love for film after seeing it on a lonely night, heart broken from my second soon to be ex-husband, shown on the big screen at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York.

An aside on Hal Ashby: researching his life just now, I had never realized how tragic it was; horrendous upbringing involving abuse and his father’s suicide, drug abuse, ending in liver and colon cancer. Sean Penn dedicated his first film to Ashby who he had never worked with, but by whom he was obviously influenced. I’ll be tweeting to Penn to do a biopic on Ashby as his life seems to be perfect for dramatization.

And speaking of dramatization, please indulge me in a quickie:

At rise: Roxanne, a film auteur, calls in the cast of The Party, which includes seven actors. The cast gathers in a fancy screening room.

Please guests, take any seats you’d like.

(All actors sit politely, mumbling under their breaths, ‘what is this all about?’)

Roxanne (continued)
Ok, well, what I’d like you to do is watch the following film. Take note that there are basically 6 characters, with essential focus on three.

(All actors look at one another, mentally counting themselves.)

Kristin Scott Thomas
Excuse me, what is the purpose of this?

Patricia Clarkson
Well, it’s a fantastic American film from the ’70’s!

Kristin Scott Thomas
Yes, but won’t it be terribly depressing, I mean Vietnam. Even you Americans are passed all that-

Timothy Spall
Yes, none of my American chaps ever discuss that, you’ve got enough problems with Post Iraq PTSD.

Bruno Ganz
And Jake Gyllenhall just did a movie about paralysis about a Boston Marathon fan.

Emily Mortimer
Yes, and this is going to cut into my prime whining time.

(Roxanne nods and smiles, and without replying, turns to shut the lights and start the movie. Grousing continues briefly, and Patricia Clarkson moves herself away from the Brits. All quiet down with the opening song by the Rolling Stones. Fast forward through film, Roxanne is upfront.)

Kristin Scott Thomas
Oh my, that film was gorgeous, the acting, the soundtrack, the emotional resonates.

Timothy Spall
The love story of Voight and Fonda had weight. The scene where he stops her jittery running about with his hand firmly on her waist-
Kristin Scott Thomas
And how vulnerable he was getting from wheelchair to bed when they finally make love-

Patricia Clarkson
Unlike our shallow piece of crap.

Bruno Ganz
Well, what if we add something, like a love scene between Timothy and Kristin and have him be withdrawn, Kristin clueless, since she’s absorbed in her affair.

Emily Mortimer
Yeh, and maybe you don’t even need me and my spouse, I mean it just muddies the water and I could easily go whine in my next film.

As you Brits might say, “By jove, that’s Brilliant!”

First Post Oscars Film: “The Party”, New Term ‘Bittershort’

Has anyone else taken stock of the people around them, people you encounter in a store or on a street, and realized they’re tense and sour?

I’m not saying everyone, but I can confidently say, MANY. My arm chair psychologist theory is that we’ve entered a period where well off people have lost meaningful purpose and the disenfranchised are working so hard that they are either bitter or exhausted.

Movies often reflect the sentiment of our times and certainly Get Out and Three Billboards reflect the bitterness and thirst for vengeance that many in our society are thirsting for.

Frankly I want to buy and wear a t-shirt that says: CHOOSE JOY and one of the savings graces of the Oscars was that the Best Movie of the Year was about enduring love, aka, joy (The Shape of Water).

So what brings you joy? Go out and find it today! Mine comes from the ability to run out in the fresh air, 15 minutes of sunshine and working on a creative project. Hence, I’ll gladly be gluing 20 more hand cut out balloon shapes for my Grandma’s 95th birthday card.

If you’re wealthy, why not give of yourself to a school by volunteering to read or donating books? Or pay it forward at a coffee shop to someone who obviously has less than you? Not to sound corny or like Whitney Houston, but children our are future, literally, they’re the ones that will be caring for us as we age. Or the less fortunate who take on the low paying home health aide positions at nursing homes across the country.

Roxanne, where the heck is the movie review? Oh yes, I saw The Party last night which made me come up with a new compound word: bittershort. Bittershort can be taken literally; this film was bitter and very short (a mere 71 minutes). Bittershort can also be figurative, every character, but one held bitterness in their heart and were short fused. Kristin Scott Thomas who I love, bitter toward her husband even though she was committing the same sin. Patricia Clarkson who I also adore, bitter and tired of her ‘up with people’ life coach boyfriend (Bruno Ganz-the sole positive force). Emily Mortimer (annoying) bitter about a relationship her lover had 30 years ago (give me a break), Cherry Jones (who are you?) pessimistic over her impending future as a co-parent. Cillian Murphy who needs a lecture that there are other fish in the sea. Timothy Spall, well? His character wasn’t exactly bitter as just stymied by his current situation.

Put these people all together for 71 minutes and there’s your description of bittershort. Wealthy folks without clear focus or aspirations. Even Kristin Scott Thomas whose election win should have been happy, was willing to abandon it and with it, her senses, immediately.

Shot in black and white (reminiscent of Jim Jarmusch) with bad sound editing and even the fuzzy unintended bottom screen shots of Cillian Murphy, this movie got me off the bitter world for a few minutes, but the black hole I entered was truly even darker, a confirmation that the world is in a sad space.

People, choose joy.

Annihilation of My Cynical Ways

People, am I getting soft on my film criticism? From enjoying Greatest Showman to giving Killing of a Sacred Deer a positive review, here I go again with Annihilation, written (from a Jeff VanderMeer novel) and directed by Alex Garland.

During the flick, in the multiple sweater wrapped comfort of the refrigerator known as Siesta Key CineBistro, I was dying to start snarky Mystery Science Theater like comments. Annihilation takes itself waaay too seriously. The monotone dialogue reminded me of Killing of a Sacred Deer (could this be a new trend? Like the musical shoe gazing genre of cinema?).

But here’s the thing: because the movie is a one tone wonder, the reincarnation, dust to dust motif is able to take root and make an impact that really didn’t hit me (or should I say ‘seed’ until the day after). That last comment will only seem brilliantly creative after you’ve seen the film.

In addition to the theme’s strength, the acting, again while monotone, is mesmerizing to watch because of its relentlessness. Natalie Portman is always interesting to watch, furrowed brow and all. One of my all time actress faves (see my previous Good Time review) is Jennifer Jason Leigh and here she ascends fantastically as the cancer stricken leader. Gina Rodriguez is also a stand out and has the most emotionally expressive role in the entire film.

A pressing scene was one of my favorite’s due to its intensity and personal flashback provocation to a sensation I have had in the past.

The soundtrack (Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury-aside: why do I have to dig for this info? Soundtrack composers get ripped off on accolades!) which I’ll go back and re-listen to on Itunes preview, was indeed a piece of art which crescendos to a gorgeous climax at the end. And Garland obviously possesses enough of an old soul to use an old CSNY song, “Helplessly Hoping” that I had never heard before, so come on, he’s my kind of guy.

Still, there were some annoying aspects:
1. I just don’t like Oscar Isaac, he just bores me to tears no matter what he does.
2. The editing could have been much tighter, in fact take out a lot of fluff and add more about an extra-marital affair that NP’s character was having. I mean even bread (monotone) needs a little pepper and olive oil sometimes.
3. The two extra actresses on the mission were superfluous on the mission and made the film seem more banal. Though I do understand you have to have someone to kill off. Perhaps better writing or acting could have helped.
4. Special effects were on the weak side up until the end. The ‘shimmer’ (mawkish name) looked like the film seen on the utensil used to blow bubbles out of the bottle.

Being thrifty due to ye old pension still nine months away, I probably would not have spoken so positively about it had it not been for the gift card (thank you Steve Ralph) of which I spent the remainder. Hence, Annihilation not only reflects the theme of the film, but also a descriptor of my gift card balance.

Fantastic Woman, Mediocre Script

There are many reasons to like Fantastic Woman, written and directed by Sebastian Lelio and nominated for best foreign film in both the Golden Globes and the Oscars.

First, the film bravely challenges the stupidity of homophobes. More can and needs to be done to shine the light on cruel intolerance across the globe.

Second, certain scenes in the film were beautifully done: slow dance sequences and dance club sequences were evocative and sexy, Marina trail running with her dog overlooking the city of Santiago exhibited gorgeous cinematography.

Third, the acting was great. The main character (Marina) was portrayed by real life trans and opera singer Daniela Vega who wasn’t originally cast for the role. Lelio hired her on as a consultant, but after hearing the poignancy of her story, decided to use her as the lead. She makes Beyonce’s ‘fierce’ look like a fluffy bunny. Daniela Vega is truly a fantastic woman.

Francisco Reyes, though only on the screen for a short time, was also great. And back up!!! Doing my due diligent research, I discovered he also starred in The Club, a mind blowing Golden Globe foreign film from 2015.

Even the minor characters were portrayed with realistic subtlety of special note being the female police detective, Amparo Noguera and Francisco’s wife, Antonia Zegers, also nominated from the aforementioned The Club.

Ok, so what’s the problem, you ask? In a word (ok 5): Loose ends and sloppy editing. The screenplay could have easily tied up one of at least two loose ends. The fact that Marina was training for opera and the vacation Francisco proposes are never addressed. We also see the end result of a demand Marina made, but do not know how the transfer occurs. Supernatural scenes are ok, but some seemed to be non-sequitur.

Too bad, because had these small fixes been accomplished, this ‘coulda been a contender’.

One last note, Sebastian Lelio also directed Gloria from a few years back which was uplifting and fun. I see it’s being remade for American audiences with Julianne Moore. Let’s hope the originality doesn’t get lost in translation.

Midnight Cowboy: Something Old, New, Borrowed, and Blue,

My love for cinema didn’t really begin until 2006 after the breakup of what I thought was the love of my life. I’ll never forget the night my film love affair started at the Dryden Theater at the George Eastman House where I saw Harold and Maude for the first time. I was mesmerized by the black comedy and the beautiful Cat Stevens soundtrack. I was hooked.

In between then and now, I concentrated on both new and old films trying to play catch up. This is a long way around to say that I just had the chance to watch Midnight Cowboy from 1969. Wow! The movie truly is something old, something new (to me), something borrowed (library) and something blue (sad).

What amazed me were both the trivial and the profound:
Trivial first…I both forgot (Leona Hemsley) and didn’t realize (a scene from Midnight Cowboy shows a wealthy woman putting false eye lashes on her dog as well as designer clothing) that pet worship has been around for quite awhile. I witness this often in Sarasota (an observation not a judgment as noted widely as in this Wired article form 2015:

Profound: John Schlesinger competently moved from flashback to fantasy to reality scenes in a movie made before many high tech editing was available. Hence, why the film (and his direction) won Academy Awards.

More profound: Like my Taste of Honey review, though ten years later, Schlesinger bravely portrayed homosexuality, in America, this time. He also, like the British kitchen sink films, chose to highlight reality over Hollywood endings.

And if I had to choose a song to be looped in my head forever, Everybody’s Talkin’ At Me by Nilsson, which bookends the film, would always be a solid choice.

More trivial: Jon Voight’s perfect baby round face and his full lips are clear paternal lineage to Angleina Jolie’s beauty. Dustin Hoffman was brilliant as Ratzo and proves his acting chops started from the get go. Too bad he, as well a DeNiro, have let their careers slide into “Meet the Fockers Two” caliber flicks. Seeing Brenda Vaccaro as a young woman in a hot sex scene was a blast.

My favorite scenes show my Floridian bias: the fantasy scene where Ratzo dreams of making it big in Miami. His fantasy show how much he wanted simple recognition, not babes. The beach scece where Hoffman races Voight in a white suit is drop dead gorgeous. As my Dad warned me, the end scenes are heartbreaking, but poignant.

Truly a treasure to dig up at your local library if you’ve never seen Midnight Cowboy.

Molly’s Game; Great Inspiration, Twin Peaks

I thoroughly enjoyed Aaron Sorkin‘s Molly’s Game. And no kidding, right? This guy can write, having penned other such gems as Steve Jobs and Moneyball. Molly’s Game was smart, fast (especially given its long running time) and entertaining almost throughout and Sorkin’s directorial first.

The only cringe worthy scenes were some corny bits of flashback to Molly’s childhood, the overly long mafiaso punch out scene and the worst (which is major deduction of point since it was sooo stupidly flawed) was the ice skating scene where she just happens to run into her estranged father. And one last chagrin that’s legit given the characterization was fit to the real life ‘Cinemax dressed’ Molly; but in case you weren’t aware, Jessica Chastain has cleavage (hence, my coy mountain skier double entendre subtitle twin peaks). This is on display in virtually every scene but three or four when in flashbacks pre-boob job Molly or an end scene where she finally covered up for her judge sentencing.

The best part of the film, besides the pro-female empowerment story line played expertly by the always steely Jessica Chastain, dare I say, was the male lead of Idris Elba. I wasn’t the only one who wanted to applaud his monologue at the end. In any lawyer film worth its mettle, is the upstanding lawyer who gives an impassioned speech on behalf of his client. I heard people tittering in the audience after Idris presented his, too shy to clap, but certainly impressed. Let’s find this guy a worthy part, shall we? Instead of crap like The Mountain Between Us. Idris deserves first billing!

Two other side roles played by Michael Cera and Chris O’Dowd made me sad in a way. Two more gents who are consistently great and probably working their fannies off for lead roles that are probably tough to land. And of course I have to mention Kevin Costner because he’s a rock solid actor even in the film’s corniest role AND because he wins my award for Best Man Ageing Well. Find out what his diet and vitamin regimen is, stat!

Besides the Directing Oscar nom for Sorkin (no small feat), I’m not sure why this film didn’t get more attention and not to repeat myself, but Idris got snubbed. Still Molly’s Game is a film certainly worth seeing.

“Happy End”, an Equally Fitting Description to a Single Gal’s Evening

“Happy End” is dark, but not in a violent way, more akin to the relative darkness of a movie theater. Just as you can still see the goodness of even the most selfish characters in Michael Haneke‘s new film, I could still see the other movie goers around me. And I could certainly hear the movie goers around me as there were: knuckle crackers, Junior Mint box shakers, horn (nose) blowers and audible sighers. What would normally annoy the bleep out of me was zen-fully equalized by the fact that there were three other loners in the theater besides me. Hence, the movie plot, albeit dark (snobbery, adultery, poor parenting, poisoning, etc.) made me feel as normal as the demographics in the room.

Granted, I could hear more of my noisy neighbors since this film is super quiet, there is no sound track. The film opens with at least 3 to 5 minutes of silent snapchat screens and continues with equally hushed scenes of a woman on her laptop, a man wheeling himself down a city street, only the natural sound of keyboard typing and city street racket (respectively) bleeds through.

I really enjoyed Haneke’s Amour which he was Oscar nominated for both screenplay and best foreign film. Yet there was no way in hell I was ever going to see the sadistic Funny Games. Still, I have to hand it to Haneke for covering uncomfortable situations in Happy End without making me feel like I have to have a mind flush at the end of the film. In fact, the loner a seat away from me and I both laughed at the same time when we figured out the ending which true to my caption I will not spoil.

The acting was spot on. As much as I abhorred the fact that Isabelle Huppert won awards for that piece of dung film Elle, I guess I’ll chalk that up to what will now be retroactively referred to as the Jeff Bridges/Crazy Heart-Sam Rockwell/Three Billboards syndrome, where a great actor/actress gets an award for a junk film. And long aside now over, Huppert was fantastic as the female lead. Equally super were: Jean-Louis Trintignant, star of Amour (aside: my blood just boiled researching realizing he didn’t get a nomination for best actor, like you must be kidding me!), Mathieu Kassovitz, and Franz Rogowski (a dead ringer for Joaquin Phoenix).

Definitely worth the price of admission, though the any synopsis you read of ‘backdrop of refugee crises’ is a bit misleading (percentage-wise only 20% of the film’s focus).

Circus Peanuts and Ice Skating Blunders: Wiseau’s “The Room”

Ok, let me say that mixed feelings is an understatement after watching Tommy Wiseau‘s “The Room” which James Franco so lovingly made into something bigger and better than its initial notoriety.

My first kooky analogy is to the difficulty I had even finishing this film:

Imagine being on a desert island and after days of not eating, you find a bag of those gross peach colored circus peanuts (in fact do they even sell them any longer?). You’re starved, so you gorge on half a bag, then the next day you realize you still have nothing else to eat, so you finish the remainder, feeling full, yet nauseous. That was my experience watching The Room. I couldn’t even watch the entire movie in one sitting, but forced myself to go the distance the following day.

Kooky analogy number two:

You’re watching Olympic figure skating, fully aware that someone has trained his keister off to get to this moment and then see him on tumble on his first double toe loop, then tip over during a simple spin, etc. You feel total empathy for his utter despair. Knowing the passion Tommy had for acting made me sad for his inability to possess the skill necessary for greatness.

So I felt disgusted by how bad this film was (circus peanuts) (couldn’t get to the funny it’s so bad feeling) because I knew how much Tommy thought and wanted this to be great (fumbling ice skater).

What else can I say? All the acting was bad if that’s any consolation for Tommy. All the writing was incredibly silly and simplistic. If any good can be said about this film is that the cheesey r&b tunes played during the soft porn scenes wasn’t half bad.

Until I read a full fledged legitimate story of harassment committed by James Franco, I think he’s downright Mother Theresa for caring enough about Tommy to shed him some light/resdiuals/money. James must know that Tommy is broken at some level (flat affect usually equals depression, ptsd or autism) and wanted to give him some props.

Rent The Disaster Artist, you’ll see.

Killing of a Sacred Deer, Communal Grousing Fun

Immediately following (and actually many times during) my friend Tim and I derisively mocked the film Killing of a Sacred Deer. “Implausible”, “Who cares about these non-emotional people?”, “No mother is ever going to say (with the exception in this silly classic horror film trope), ‘Don’t involve the cops'”.

But there I was the following day in Ft. Myers, defending the film. “Wasn’t it fun to mock?” “Isn’t it a film we won’t forget?” “Did it not hold our suspense?” Hence, I suggest renting it when you really need a distraction from reality.

What was well done, besides the aforementioned suspense? Well, the actors were top notch: you can’t get much bigger or better than Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell for Pete’s sakes. And if they can be monotone for the entire script (with one or two scenes of rare exception) then doggone it, we gotta hand it to them for consistency.

And if some deranged parents convinced their children to act in such bizzaro roles and they’re not scarred (or scared) for life, well, then you’ve got some good family therapists.

Probably who stole the show was Barry Keoghan who from my research had a pretty bizarre upbringing of his own (mother deceased, IMDB implying drug or alcohol abuse) raised by a tough Grandma. Perhaps he has a second career opportunity in figure skating (that’s a bad Tonya Harding joke). Barry was also in Dunkirk which I did not see, unable to do a war movie, since Saving Private Ryan pretty much did me in. But this guy’s going places, hopefully at least out of Grandma’s house.

Of the three Yorgo Lanthimos (writer/director) films I’ve seen, I’d say Dogtooth was my favorite, this one second, followed very closely by The Lobster. And due to the beauty of IMDB, I am now in search of one more Yorgo film I have not seen, Alps. Get it at Redbox and live a little.