Confessions of a 55 Year Old (Classic Movie) Virgin

Ok Ok, I confess. I had never seen Citizen Kane before last night’s showing at Sarasota Film Society’s Cinematheque.

(A quick aside, why the heck isn’t Sarasota Cinematheque packed with Ringling College Film Majors? You’re missing out! Giant screen, great sound, hipster vibe, talk back op, get over to 500 Tallevast Road on Saturday nights!)

Ok, back to my confession…Much like my virginal metaphor, I had seen the Citizen Kane trailer plenty of times and only noticed some old guy ranting…and hence thought, won’t this be painful? Isn’t it overrated?

But alas, the movie truly is an orgasmic masterpiece. Like my English teacher literary equivalent I tout almost weekly (Ray Bradbury‘s 1959 prescient Fahrenheit 451), Citizen Kane for 1941 is the gold standard for universal storytelling; hoarding to fill emotional needs, the replay of familial cyclical dysfunction (CK’s dad abused him, he then neglects his own son), man’s weakness to infidelity and subsequent political downfalls, the corruption of wealth and power. It’s all there in under 2 hours.

Besides my awe of having missed this for more than half my life, my main takeaways were: Orson Welles (genius, of course, both acting and in storytelling), Joseph Cotton (funniest in the film, especially the nursing home scene where he was trying to remember the name of a place and said a long list ending with Sloppy Joe’s) and the cinematography of doors and windows, shadow, smoke, and in the end, fire. The women in the film, notably three: mother (Agnes Moorehead) and two wives (Ruth Warrick-wow I watched All My Children for years and never knew, and Dorothy Comingore) were all extreme;y well performed, both due to the writing (strong women for their day) and in believable portraits of women in angst of different varieties.

I couldn’t help notice a strong resemblance of Orson Welles and Leonardo DeCaprio and also how The Wolf on Wall Street seemed to copy Citizen Kane in its mania of wealth gone wild. This is especially seen in the scene where CK acquires the writers from a competing newspaper and gets up to do a number with dancing girls. Make no mistake, I’m not saying that Wolf on Wall Street or Leonardo is better than CK, just that there is a resemblance. Surely Scorsese had to have Citizen Kane dreams while filming Wolf.

So, I’m glad I pulled a Tim Tebow and waited because now I know why the film Citizen Kane has been rated the number one movie in American Film history and is far better than one With the Wind and Vertigo due to its universal themes and artistic quality.

Excuse Me Mr. Bale, Meet Viggo Mortenson

Much like director Peter Farrelly’s movie career, [some highs comedy-wise with Dumb and Dumber and lows The Three Stooges, which was utterly disappointing even with my main man Larry David] Green Book was a 10 in its story and acting and a 1 for its trailer. Thank God for my watching the Golden Globes and discovering one of the screenwriters Nick Vallelonga is son of Viggo Mortenson’s character. Otherwise, I would have passed it off as ho hum based on the trailer alone.

So after the ol’ don’t judge a movie by its trailer, I was enthralled with the Green Book story and totally in love with both Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortenson. While both men were off the charts and Mahershala scored the Golden Globe, I am really hoping Viggo can win the Oscar. While Christian Bale had me at Dick Cheney, I have to say that Viggo’s role (similar weight gain) is a greater acting performance based on the Italian diction and overall mannerisms he performed with aplomb of a thespian acrobat. I also think that Mahershala’s truly outstanding work in Moonlight overshadows this less demanding role.

The most mystifying commentary regarding the film is how people raved about Linda Cardellini. Sure, she’s good as the devoted, eyes mist up when she reads her husband’s letters, but she wasn’t on screen long enough or showed any range to deserve the heaping praise given.

The essence of Green Book is that folks can evolve and learn to come together in support of one another despite our differences. A great message to carry in all of our hearts as we ride out the waves until 2020. Let’s be united and positive!

Maria “Solo Me So” Callous (Pun intended) vs. Freddie Mercury

It’s all in the ear of the beholder of course, but one of the reasons I cared so much about Bohemian Rhapsody (thank you Golden Globes by getting that right!) was the purity (and full length songs) of original Queen music. The benefit that Bohemian Rhapsody had besides my halcyon high school and college memories forever linked with Freddie’s voice, was that it also told the poignant story of Freddie’s life in full.

In a documentary such as Maria by Callas however, I would have loved more narrative, rather than operetta after operetta. True, I had Habanera in my head all the next day (and liked it!), but that would have sufficed for the sake of more of her life story.

After reading more about Callas after the fact (I was trying to save any surprises to my own ignorance aka Three Identical Strangers for the doc viewing), I wish the documentary had addressed her supposed feud with a fellow opera singer, dating Warren Beatty or Omar Sharif, her childhood (IMDB reports she was in a 22 day coma after being hit by a car), etc.

Instead, the movie either cheats, or is too lazy, relying on three old interviews where Maria speaks of her tough upbringing and destiny to be a singer, with obvious regrets about being childless.

Like Freddie Mercury who I fully realize died of AIDS complications, you have to wonder if regret, loneliness or a broken heart may have contributed to his and Maria’s early demise. I’m certainly not the first to mention this theory, but true genius (Mercury, Callas in singing, Philip Seymour Hoffman in acting, David Foster Wallace in writing just to name a few) often comes at great cost. No matter what, I do believe this doc could have been much more moving had emphasis been placed on story over song.

Sugar and Vice and Everything Nice, that’s not what Cheney was made of

Vice directed by Adam McKay (Academy Award winner for The Big Short) recasts many of the same Big Short actors (Bale and Carell) in this solidly entertaining movie about Dick Cheney.

No doubt, the real Cheney is an A Number One Villain, but McKay plays fair enough for most of the movie allowing him to be at least a good husband and father.

Much like Big Short, Vice is an excellent history teacher, with snappy visuals and a compelling narrator that keeps the movie rolling at a 2018 fast paced clip. Jesse Plemons plays the narrator role which could have been easily drowned out in a cast with Bale, Carell and of course, one of my faves Sam Rockwell, here as a too skinny version of George W., (more on Rockwell in a sec). Plemons drew me (and the rest of the audience) in with mystery and intrigue. Mark my words that this guy’s got big potential.

But of course, the piece de la resistance is Christian Bale (cue angels singing) who I’ve been a sucker for since The Fighter and adored equally (comb over and all in American Hustle). You know you’re sexy when you can make Cheney seem appealing. Bale’s my number one pic for the Oscar.

Sam Rockwell made a decent George W. capturing his naive innocence and sheer desire to redeem his reputation with his dad. Steve Carell is also a wonder as Rumsfeld. He really has become a lesser Jimmy Stewart at this point. I really thought he was deserving for Fox Catcher, so let’s hope he gets another role of that caliber soon. Right now unfortunately he’s suffering from the Welcome to Marwen taint.

Amy Adams is a solid actress who I feel slightly sorry for her due to the Emma Stone/Saoire Ronan Young Gal’s Steamroller that seems to be hogging many roles. She’s awesome as Mrs. Cheney and proof that women can be just as cunning and power hungry as their male counterparts.

My only quibble is the post ending clip which is a tad pandering. We get it, Republicans of recent history are cut throat idiots. I personally didn’t need a video that further divides us. We need to come together.

Where’d the Van Gogh? At Eternity’s Gate

Ever since The Florida Project, I’ve devoted myself to be a life long Willem Dafoe fan, so unless the guy’s in an untra-violent film, I’ll be at his cinematic door step. And At Eternity’s Gate proves again that his acting talent should be rewarded in the industry. He won’t win the Golden Globe for which he’s nominated and if it’s anyone else but Rami Malek, popcorn will be flung at the tv. If Bradley Cooper wins, I may throw the entire bag.

Speaking of Golden Globes, former winner Julian Schnaebel (for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly-probably one of my top 20 of all time) directed At Eternity’s Gate and while it didn’t affect me as greatly as shortened title “The Bell” did in 2007, At Eternity’s Gate evokes the true spirit of a a sensitive and misunderstood painter.

If the French teenagers were portrayed accurately, there were some mean kids back in the 1890’s bullying poor Vincent. The French are stereotypically not your friendliest group, and this movie certainly further contributes to that idea. Additionally, like Mike Meyers did in Bohemian Rhapsody as Joe Record Producer (have to get to my Christmas retail job, otherwise I’d look that up), many a man and woman questioned and discouraged poor Vincent, going as far as calling his work ugly and disturbing.

The film makes me want to look up more about his demise and I will do so once the holiday mayhem slows down. At Eternity’s Gate is another acting ‘masterpiece’ for Willem. Oscar Isaac, while I’m not a fan, does well as a self-absorbed Gaugin and in a Mike Meyeresque semi-caemo, former The Diving Bell and the Butterfly star, Mathieu Amalric plays bemused VanGogh’s doctor.

At Eternity’s Gate might garner Dafoe a Golden Globe in an alternate intellectual society and is definitely worth appreciating for its philosophical age old question; what is art? Likewise, just as it was mesmerizing to watch Day-Lewis as a living breathing Lincoln, watching Dafoe walk, paint, run and even urinate (yes you read that right) as a living VanGogh is highly entertaining.

Babes in Nutland: The Favourite

Hey, do you ever want to comment, but can’t due to the darn mail chimp service of which I have yet to crack the code? Well, don’t fret! Just tweet me at @getroxyxyz I’d love to hear from you!

And don’t let this review title fool you, I really enjoyed The Favourite. See, I’ve been going to Yorgos Lanthimos’s (Director) Greek Cinematic Diner since 2009, when I came off as a film rock star living next door to the prodigious George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, when I came up with the idea of taking a new date and former film major to Lanthimos’s Dogtooth.

To the Greek diner analogy…The Favourite, just happens to be my favorite on the Lanthimos menu. Dogtooth was profound but quite disturbing, ditto squared for The Lobster (don’t torture my poor John C. Reilly, nor sweet little Rachel Weisz!). Killing of a Sacred Deer was pure movie enigma. I absolutely hated the implausibility while watching the film, but the next day found my same brain defending the film for its tenacious eccentricity.

In The Favourite, I really don’t have any complaints, except that it may have been a tad too lengthy. What I enjoyed (no spoilers at least for those familiar with Lanthimos) is his familiarity since Lanthimos has become known for:
*people hitting themselves in the face
*partial or full blindness, eye issues or other medical ailments
*somatic illness
*eerie monosyllabic music to increase suspense
*forests of strange occurrences

The actors of this film are all top notch, and while I thought Rachel Weisz was the highlight of the Hasidic Jew movie Disobedience, I think she is outshone here by Emma Stone and Olivia Colman. And what a cute surprise, since he was all covered up in the pomp and circumstance powdered wig, I just discovered who my favorite male performance of the film is Nicholas Hoult, who stars as the “Read My Fist: No New Taxes” proponent of the film. Hoult first appeared as the sweet caught-in-the-middle-tweener in the sentimental About a Boy. You’ve come along way baby!

The screenplay (virtual newcomer at least fame-wise Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara who looks to be more seasoned in tv) is compelling socio-economically, politically and emotionally, the costuming divine and the cinematography takes you back to another time where decadence and poverty were starkly divided (wait a minute, is that really the past??? Faulkner answers, “no”).

Wrestling with my own relationship status (complicated exponentially by the oncoming train known as the holidays), I greatly appreciated Emma Stone’s line of dialogue and the scene that holds it (pun intended for those who’ve seen the flick), something to the effect of, “My life is like a maze, just when I think I’ve found an exit, another wall appears”.

See The Favourite and be prepared for some deep thoughts. And a shout out to Gus Mollasis for giving us introverts something semi-social to do on a Tuesday afternoon.

Roma: singular in its perfection, multiple in definitions

This is a blog of numerations.

First, I am doubly blessed to have access to pre-published books (most recently a phenomenal epic novel coming in March called The Old Drift) working at BookStore1 Sarasota and second, having met Jack Guren, friend of Larry Singer (Emmy Award winner for sound) who was gracious enough to show us the new foreign film Roma directed by Alphonso Cuaron (probably most known for winning the Oscar for Gravity).

And continuing the twin peaks theme, Roma has at least two definitions: plural for gypsies and in the urban dictionary, a big hearted female introvert who trusts few, but when she does, consider yourself extremely valuable (sounds like someone I saw in the mirror before my jog this morning).

Roma was incredible. I don’t need to see any other foreign film to tell you that this should be the winner of all of the major film awards. Clearly, this is Cuaron’s magnum opus.

Shot in black and white and set in Mexico in the 1970’s, I experienced another world that I only get a much glitzier, (yet certainly not glamorous) glimpse of here in Sarasota, the interior lives of domestic servants. New actress Yalitza Aparico, the domestic servant lead role, is as awe inspiring as Lupita Nyong’o was in 12 Years a Slave.

Also fantastic is Marina de Tavira as the jilted middle class mother of four. This is more of a woman’s movie than Colette without having to club you over the head with feminist philosophy. Even the Caitlin Jenneresque Grandma, actress Veronica Garcia, was terrific.

On the men’s side, the stand out role was the impregnator, if there is such a word, the actor Jorge Antonio Guerrero. He has obviously just begun what will surely be an illustrious film career.

I don’t want to give anything away on this one. One could definitely make a case that the cinematography almost outshines all the acting. Experience it yourself, in all its cinematic glory. Just gorgeous through and through.

A list of precious details/scenes I don’t want to forget for class next semester (so spoilers)
hotel room scene
hospital scene
Gravity homage in movie theater
movie theater scene
going to movie with Grandma/Dad sighting
tai chi guru scene
drunk mom scene
holiday fire scene

Can You Ever Forgive Me? Waiting Too Long

What happens when life gets in the way of writing a review is correlative to the number of rabbit holes I go down researching the background of the film. Like, just now looking at the screenwriters of Can You Ever Forgive Me? I segued on to the co-writer Jeff Whitty who I discovered starred in a (faux?) documentary called Lisa Piccard is Famous….which was directed by one of my favorite actors of all time Griffin Dunne…so there goes the attention.

Ok, I’m back to focus. The other co-writer of Can You Ever Forgive Me? (new short title for the sake of my paltry typing skills: Me?) is Nicole Holofcener who also wrote some of my favorite indies Enough Said and Please Give.

Me?’s Director is Marielle Heller, who again, brushing off my skirt from that hole fall while reading about a small film she wrote and directed called Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015) that starred Kristen Wiig, which sounds very intriguing. Stating the obvious here, but just like there’s not enough time to write film review while ‘fresh in mind’, it is also impossible to watch all the movies I want nor the read the same in books.

What about the movie?, you’re screaming about now…ok, the film was very well done. Not perfect by any stretch in that it didn’t really match the genre description of ‘thriller’, though I guess you could make a case for the film in a OJ slow speed chase thriller type pace.

Melissa McCarthy is tremendous. You forget she’s a comedian when she becomes the real life frumpy failed bio writer, Lee Israel. Likewise and even more so in my opinion, with the defense of acting that pulled my heart strings was her sidekick, played at an Oscar nom level by Richard E. Grant. His work here had an air of Dick Van Dyke’s sad whimsical chimney sweep mixed with Greg Kinnear’s gay pathos in As Good As It Gets.

Also rans (a racing term) who impressed were Jane Curtain (aside aging well!) and Dolly Wells, who I swear I saw in a Todd Solondz film once…but no luck in that shallow internet quick hole dip.

While specifics are tough to name, I think I thought they went a little overboard in the gross factor in regards to Lee’s apartment…fly infestation, cat feces beneath the bed. Beyond that though, this film had memorable characters connecting on a very real and deeply nuanced way. If time permitted, I revisit this film, but I’m too busy obsessing about what I’ve yet to see at all. Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Beautiful Boy: Like Carson’s Carmac placing the envelope to my head

I haven’t read a review of Beautiful Boy, yet, preferring as usual to give my original take. But I will take a guess as to why the film only received 69% Rotten Tomatoes (77 Audience, always way smarter aka Bohemian Rhapsody). Envelope to my head like Carmac the Magnificent, I’m going to guess ‘too long’ and ‘too depressing’, but I think anyone would be hard pressed to do a Mel Brooks “Crystal Meth: The Musical”. If you’re patient enough to read my review, I promise to read some reviews and save you the trouble with a Post Script down below.

I actually am daughter to a Dad (no spoiler there) who annually winds up in the hospital with heart trouble. He’s had triple bypass, angioplasty, many stints of stents, etc. Still, he continues his wanton ways; multiple beers a night, horrific dietary practices: Pepsi for breakfast, gravy for lunch, some processed meat for dinner, with plenty of sugary goodies sprinkled in all day long. The long story short of that tale is that others are often aghast that I don’t go running to the hospital every time I get the call.

Watch Beautiful Boy for the full two hours and you’ll see Steve Carell’s character reach the same (I need to keep boundaries to keep my sanity) conclusion. He (in this case the he of the movie is the tremendously talented Timothy Chalamet) won’t change his habits so there is really no fan fare (which in the end only results in negative reinforcement) or hand wringing that can make someone change unhealthy behavior. Only you can prevent forest fires (or in this case, substance abuse).

Here’s what was wrong about the movie: it didn’t need to be two hours. The first 15 minutes were a weird kind of guessing game about who was related to who and a time line regarding Carell’s wife and children. We didn’t need that puzzle. As Gordy Hoffman taught us in BlueCat Screenwriting, get to a main conflict within the first 13 (or was it 10?) pages.

Also there wasn’t a clear explanation of his Timothy Hutton office visit. He seemed to be consulting the NY Times, then no, it was a doctor to do a NY Times article…then there’s a random scene (no explanation) of him at the Rolling Stone offices. Again, you don’t need to make the audience work to understand, unless you’re just padding the screenplay bra (when it should be au naturel).

Acting was top notch: Carell is unbelievable both in the past is several comedic roles and a wonder in this dramatically speaking, as he was in Foxcatcher. As previously mentioned Timothy Chalamet, elsewhere the swaggering handsome guy, or in Call Me By Your Name, the vulnerable college aged guy, was tremendous. What brave roles for both these guys who certainly must be able to call the shots on what films to do. Bravo to them for taking the time to spend on a real topic about real people. Gorgeous. the female roles while minor in scope, were beautifully done: Maura Tierney and Amy Ryan, both oozing with sincerity.

So I give Luke Davies (co-writer) and Felix Van Groeningen (co-writer and director) a pass on the few quibbles I have with the total picture. Felix, by the way, previously directed the movie Broken Circle Breakdown, and while it’s been years since I saw it, remember balling my eyes out. I expected to, but did not, cry at Beautiful Boy, though came close at the airport scene when Carrell tells his son he loves him more than everything. But then again, due to my daughterly experience, when at first I did run to the hospital and now merely blink, take a deep breath and go check on Grandma, I have come to the conclusion that my Dad is living the life he wants to lead, however reckless that it is, rather than choose change which while a relatively painful journey (facing his demons, denying his fat and sugar needs) would most probably reap deeper benefits. I’m ok and you will be, too, even after seeing this film.

POST SCRIPT: Wow, and you thought I was heartless, the reviewers ruthless….”messagey Oscar bait” and as Carmac predicted “exhausting”. That’s what addictive behavior becomes to those on the sidelines, honey..exhausting.

Check your bags at the door reviewers: Bohemian Rhapsody was an 11:)

While I know I’m hard on certain films and did take it down an angry notch after listening to others’ opinions of Old Man & a Gun, I CAN NOT BELIEVE the bitching and whining by the mass of critics regarding Bohemian Rhapsody. While I try not to read reviews before writing my own, and did not, my sweet co-worker Katia read some to me as we worked the book store counter. And I had already heard some of The View ladies (eye roll) bias, ‘you didn’t delve into the gay relationship or AIDS epidemic’, to whom I say, ‘what the heck are you talking about?’. Not only did the film dive into it, the screenwriters (Anthony McCarten and Peter Morgan) showed that in the early AIDS epidemic, people were a. in denial and b. super skeptical and ignorantly homophobic.

I also heard the reviewers think his marital relationship was not made complicated enough. Again, I totally disagree. He obviously loved his wife and was conflicted about his bisexual feelings. I’m really not sure why there’s such a backlash to this film.

But I’ll leave the judgments behind and tell you what I enjoyed. In contrast to the all too snappy quick Star is Born, director Bryan Singer allows scenes to breath and thus, we feel more for these people. While I will agree that like Star is Born, illness and alcoholism still don’t look real, again showing our society’s need to have pretty characters in film. Poor Matthew McConaughey probably thinks, ‘why did I knock myself out for Dallas Buyers’ Club’? Though the answer is Academy Award and fame and fortune. Let’s see if the Oscars like Rami Malek better than Bradley Cooper. God knows in this film at least, Rami wins the battle of the balladeers by a long shot.

While the other band members seemed a little bit plastic, I thought they did a decent job of portraying 4 different creative forces trying to hammer out the business side of things. I also was reminded of Love&Mercy in watching man made sound effects (vs. our current everything techno whoopdey do) and their beautiful influence on Queen’s tunes.

Note to self, rewrite my top 7 songs to include Bohemian Rhapsody, it’s pure genius.

And speaking of the song and movie title, while I have complained in the past about comedians anachronistically ending up in dramatic movies (Louis CK; Dave Chappelle), Mike Meyers actually had a reason to be here, having head banged his way through Bohemian Rhapsody in Wayne’s World. And to play such a Tom Cruise from Tropic Thunder douche bag managerial role was perfect.

This film was joyous and maybe that’s the trouble. We seem to be hooked on maudlin at this point in our country’s career. If you’re not hand wringing that the world’s going to end, then you’re frivolous and ‘obviously’ one of ‘them’. How about we all agree to enjoy a great rock concert which Bohemian Rhapsody most definitely is. If you can’t enjoy the pure ecstasy Freddie Mercury got from performing, then you really don’t understand the importance of music. In fact, instead of listening to one more political advertisement, put some headphones on and allow yourself to escape to Someone to Love and get back to me about how bad you feel. I swear it’ll lighten your load.