Thank Goodness For Chuck Klosterman

March is a movie desert folks, but being a reader, I took the opportunity to grab the reins (or the binding) and get to the page. A giant perk of working at BookStore One in Sarasota (see our current staff pic with Stephen King who did a signing at our store last week at is the ability to score ‘advanced readers’ aka pre-publication books. To my great surprise, I found Chuck Klosterman’s X (tdp in May 2017) in a recent pile.

X is a re-release of essays and articles written by CK. To which many would say, ‘ho-hum’. But step back Jack (and Jaclyn, this is a very female friendly book), because not only are his essays timeless, he sprinkles in both prologues and epilogues to add new revelations.

What a joy this man is to read. A former ESPN contributor, he covers sports with the eye and pen of VanGogh. He appreciates moments from his past, like the flukey basketball game he witnessed in North Dakota, when an undersized Native American team beat two more affluent teams. My explanation doesn’t do his writing any justice, let’s just say he makes special human moments seem like Olympic highlights. His interview with Kobe Bryant mined an unbelievable commonality I have with the former NBA’er (to be discussed below).

Working as a reporter for Esquire, he interviewed many musical greats such as Eddie Van Halen, Jimmy Page and Noah Gallagher. His everyman questions make interviewee and reader alike ponder much deeper than “What tree would you be?”.

Here are just two takeways, one tiny, one large:

Small; Chuck questions whether nostalgia is good or bad (related to songs, relationships, and time periods) and then decides the more important question is why people feel nostalgia. He reiterates his youth when he was a captive audience to his brother’s Van Halen tape and subsequently his own choices, among just 7 tapes he himself purchased, such as Ozzie Osborne. His point is two-fold: one piece of music may never be known as in depth in the future (by an individual) as it once was through repetition, but yet, nostalgia as a concept will still be possible, but will take on different forms (eg. people may remember listening to the same song at the same time as 500 twitter folks all give immediate reactions). I still am happy, nostalgic? that I grew up in a more restrictive time, and that even a decade older than Klosterman, I was ‘stuck’ listening to Boston’s self-titled album which included More Than a Feeling over and over, or my Elton John or Billy Joel album over and over again. And who doesn’t want to brag at knowing the lyrics of Italian Restaurant by heart?

Large; This solitary bedroom listening I did as an adolescent (partly due to the War of the Roses happening in my downstairs livingroom) is the perfect segue to my bigger epiphany, that I have something in common with Kobe Bryant. First a preface: I have had a negative perception of Kobe since what appeared to be a pay off on the rape charge he incurred a decade or so ago. Possibly unfair, given the accuser might have been dishonest and the fact that I am not a lawyer, nor have I studied facts of the case, but at any rate, he seemed seedy as a result.

Yet, after reading CK’s interview of KB from 2015, I see Kobe as more human. Kobe, through CK’s suave and insightful questioning, assessed himself as a good friend, but one who would never be a ‘great’ friend. While I have different reasons why I may never be a great friend, (Kobe’s main one was, he forgets birthdays and is unsentimental), our reasons are similar. He grew up in Italy, basically isolated from social situations with children his own age. While I have had great friends and was a great friend, past wounds from said friendships, like being asked and then ‘terminated’ as my best friends maid of honor (I was not Baptist enough), and with another friend being used as an accomplice to infidelity, and most recently, having a cantankerous friend who I had honored when she retired a few years earlier, not only no call or care about my retirement, but had the nerve to chastise me unfairly while I was injured, and to add insult to injury subsequently troll me with text messages, some of which could be construed as semi-threatening. Conclusion: Takers often don’t want to admit they’ve been had. Hence, self-sufficiency seems entirely less messy.

But like me, Kobe sees his inability to be a great friend, or maybe in my case, have a great friend, as a weakness. I wish I could form friendships now and have hope, but don’t know how much effort I’m going to put into the search. Our modern age seems to move too swiftly (at least for my age group and younger) for real bonding to occur which if anything, is a convenient excuse.

To be true to my blog, I’ll add in a PPLL film aside. I watched Swing Time recently at the request of my co-worker. And while I admire the dancing (painful in a way in that I wish I had had the opportunity to study it as a youngster) and scoff at anyone who says Lala Land can even hold a matchstick, let alone a candle, to any of these musicals, I didn’t love the film. My lack of feeling has something to do with Fred Astaire’s inherent sadness, even when he’s laughing, I see some melancholy. But that won’t stop me from borrowing Funny Face, another Barry Rothman suggestion, this time with Audrey Hepburn at Fred Astaire’s side.

Suffice to say, hope springs eternal, both with friends and flicks.

PPLL Flick of the Week

Ok readers, the situation is not dire, yet due to pre pension (PP) budgetary reasons, I need to do library loans (LL) once in awhile to preserve my 401k. And I am not suffering after this week’s classic gem.

Inspired by the trailer for Feud, the new FX show about the real life feud between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, I borrowed “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane” from 1962 directed by Robert Aldrich. The range of emotions I felt for this film were psychedelic, from fear to hilarity. Bette Davis’s stellar performance is so nuanced that I am watching the film with commentary for a second even more enjoyable time.

I am not a fan of horror films which tells how great this movie truly is. This morning, my co-worker Barry and I howled repeating some lines from this cult classic, one of which is, “But you are Blanche, you are in this chair!”

Victor Buono, who played a money hungry piano player ready to cater to Bette Davis’s whims, is also both cunning and sarcastically comical.

The FX show Feud is also very entertaining with Sarandon looking like a Davis doppelganger. Jessica Lange certainly evokes the melancholy of Crawford, but her facial features are too wide for a true physical match. Nevertheless, since FX has only shown episode one of Feud, I look forward to even more Baby Jane related fun.

Get thee to your local library and borrow this film. But don’t show it to anyone under 18. I mentioned it to a few friends who said they were scarred from watching it at an emotionally impressionable age.

Good Fences Make Good Actors: August Wilson’s Fences

I read the criticisms of the movie version of Fences (‘too confined and stagey”) and as a result, didn’t go for a time. I’ve taught the play and was obviously moved by the story, with an added sentimental attachment to the physical book (which is now on the shelf at Bloomfield Central School) after seeing David Gray at my hotel pool in Dayton Ohio and having nothing else for him to sign.

But the movie was far better than the shallow reviewers revealed. I was physically moved by the acting, so much so, it was difficult to return to the real world and my gala art walk shift at the bookstore. Denzel Washington had a right to scowl at the Oscars upon hearing Casey’s name read. I really think they should have hack sawed the trophy in half and had an unprecedented tie. Why not? It would have made Warren Beatty look better (aside, poor guy, I love Warren). Denzel was Troy Maxson, just as other great actors (Christian Bale “The Fighter” and whatever real life kook he played in “Big Short”/aforementioned Casey Afleck in Manchester/JK Simmons in Whiplash). He reminds everyone of the universal father figure, equally afraid to be surpassed by his son and equally afraid of the opposite, a non-evolutionary expansion.

And what human words can actually explain the force of Viola Davis????????????? She deserved an Academy Award for her acceptance speech alone!!!! She truly gets what it means to come from poverty and to be blessed to have ridden on the backs of those with far less choices. I, too, had a similar epiphany just the other day on one of my lengthy bridge walks: my mother married my dad to get out of the house! It was an escape from the insanity of 8 unsupervised kids as my grandparents eeked out a small town existence.

Movies that help you see your past and your future while telling a compelling story are truly magical. Denzel obviously, having portrayed Troy on Broadway, felt the power and universality of August Wilson’s play and wanted to give it permanence on film. My next internet search is a hope to find that he won the Tony for it at least, as he is one of the finest, if not the finest, actors of our time.

PS Thank you Jesus, Denzel won a Tony for Fences in 2010.

Neruda, Who Knew Ya?

So I go to Neruda after work, thinking my cursory review of Rotten Tomatoes said it had a comedic air. Little did I know, I was in for lightening quick subtitles. Holy Chilean speed read!

Well worth it though and while I did not see “No”, Pablo Larrain’s other famous movie also starring Gael Gracia Bernal (referred to hereafter as GG B), I have always been intrigued by GG B, after seeing him in Y Tu Mama Tambien back in 2001, my mere youth as a filmologist (yeh I made that up).

Ok, so Neruda is a rough biographical foraging of Pablo Neruda’s (poet, political activist) joining the Communist Party in the 1940’s. The movie centers on Neruda’s bombastic nature juxtaposed against the over seriousness of an Inspector Clouseau type character played by GG B.

What I enjoyed most was: a. the pacing of the movie, a taut clip that kept me engaged throughout, b. top notch acting, not only by GGB, but also the actors playing both Neruda and his wife (Luis Gnecco and Mercedes Moran respectively). Neruda is made out to be a Svengali and after selling 250 tickets in a flash to a Stephen King book signing at my store this week, I understand the hypnosis authors have over their adoring fans.

Chilean films always remind me of how uptight Americans are (myself included). We’re shy to dance, to sing, to cry as opposed to the free love and emotional outpouring of our South American counterparts.

I won’t spoil the movie’s end, but enjoyed it thoroughly. According to IMBD, it has already been submitted fr next year’s Oscars. This doesn’t mean it’ll be nominated, and to be honest, I wasn’t awestruck, but the film is worthy of a theater or at home movie rental.

What I learned from incidental research:
Neruda may have died from a North Korean type of poison (not from a noxious facial rub at an airport), but from a ‘doctor’s injection) at the age of 69.
And that the show Mozart in the Jungle of which GG B has won Golden Globes, is based on a book that has been compared with one of my faves Kitchen Confidential (now another book on my ‘to be read’ list).

You’ve earned the right…Moscow, Belgium

In an attempt to preserve my budget, I talked myself out of seeing Toni Erdmann a second time and instead did a library borrow of a foreign film called Moscow, Belgium. I know, I know, it’s old, from 2008, but the familial conflicts so timeless and universal, that it could have been made yesterday.

I titled this blog with a quote my mother has repeated a few times since I’ve moved to Florida. Every time I would question whether I should stand up for myself, in regards to decisions about possible careers or jobs, my mom has said, “you’ve earned the right to relax a bit” after spending 30 years teaching and counseling young people.

Today I applied this quote to a second date situation and after subsequently cancelling said date, and instead watched my third and final installment of Moscow, Belgium .

Did I need company tonight? Yes. Did I want company tonight? Mais oui! Yet I felt like I was already contributing plenty (bringing my own refreshments, driving to this person’s place, watching a dvd of his interest). When then asked to take him shopping (on the eve of my 6th day in a row of early and rather strenuous (yet super rewarding) work (helping move our book store from one block to a gorgeous new place in a historic building), I had to say no thank you with my mother’s advice, “you’ve earned the right to expect empathy and a meeting in the middle”.

Now on this person’s behalf, he doesn’t know that I have spent a major portion of my 30’s and 40’s taking care of people, my therapist called it a broken wing fixation (son excluded-he was a joy and my responsibility and has more self-reliance than many of those I’m about to mention). Everyone from a long term relationship in which I helped a person who started his teaching career late in life, only to have him date a former student of mine to a few men who lived with me while either starting a company or limping through life only to end up moving back to his parents’. So I’ve done all the figurative ‘taking people shopping’ that I can bear. Based on his curt response to my very calm an polite drawing the line, I highly doubt I’ll see this person again.

So back to my cinematic emotional rescue:
Moscow, Belgium mirrored my emotions to a certain extent. It’s about a 51 year old mom who loves her children and pours her heart out to the people she cares about. Her husband has cheated on her and moved out, but still isn’t sure if he wants to end the marriage. For awhile she allows other people to dictate her existence. Now here’s the part I can’t relate to, she falls for a 29 year old. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t believe and enjoy the film.

The film had your textbook screenplay construction: comical subplot at the heroine’s workplace, and I won’t divulge the other aspects to preserve your potential viewing. But what I really liked about the film was the raw dialogue and real emotion. The star of the film was the female lead played by Barbara Serafian. The ’29 year old’ Jurgen Delnaet seemed to be showing his underwear so to speak, meaning you could see he was acting which took away some of the emotion. This was perhaps due to his character being on the immature side. And I’m not calling my 2nd date that didn’t happen immature, as he was older than me and even commented that talking to women his age made him feel like he was talking to an aunt (and channeling a Groucho Marx response, I’d say, “Well now, your Aunt would take you shopping.”

The film premiered at Cannes in 2008 and won some lower level awards. It’s definitely worth checking out, if only to see how free the Belgium society is with people expressing themselves. Sure Americans seem to be really good at expressing negative emotion and angst, but how about if we all start counting our blessings and being kind? There is no irony to beginning of this piece, kindness does not mean continuing to lower the bar on expectations, it simply means giving and expecting the same in equal fashion. We all have earned the right.

O’ Captain, Middling Captain: Captain Fantastic

Red Box Rental: While my best buddy was here in Ft. Meyers for the last time until the next yule tide, we rented Captain Fantastic (Oscar nominated Viggo Mortensen), after I pulled my movie snob card and outvoted his Melissa McCarthy as girl scout master coach pick. But before you place the Oscar medallion around my neck (let’s pretend they have one of the statuette), please note that I took a turn to the dark side and went with my friend’s policy of “fast forwarding is perfectly ok”. Meaning, this movie was ok, but not worth relishing every moment.

The most fun takeway, which we look for being cut-ups, were two lines that have now surpassed one of the lame Bourne Identity films “We’ve got a situation.”: “Stick it to the Man” and “Power to the People.”

What was the problem, you say? Well, Viggo Mortensen certainly was good, but his character’s actions sometimes didn’t ring true. I won’t divulge the whats and hows to preserve your experience, but I guess I didn’t buy some of the story aspect. Matt Ross (both writer and director) is no slouch at technique. I felt creeped out by the opening scene and the undercurrent of something terrible about t befall the children.

The kids (Viggo has an excess of them in this film) were also decent, the two stand outs being the oldest son, George Mackay and the brooding middle son who’s the non-conformist to non-conformity, Nicholas Hamilton. The female standout of the film is Kathryn Hahn, who, would someone give this girl a nomination? I mean, talk about being able to do both ends of the spectrum. Here she’s the guarded distraught pc sister-in-law to Viggo, there she’s sticking her tongue in the ear of Jennifer Aniston (Meet the Millers). One last person I’d be remiss not to mention is Frank Langella, who has that John Goodman quality of hitting even the smallest roles right out of the park.

I don’t mean to take away from Viggo, he did have to play a fine line between abuser and strict Dad and gain our sympathy which he did by portraying an almost mythical fatherly archetype. But, if I think it’s best to push the FF button, you know something’s not quite right. But see for yourself.

French Movie: misogyne….for shame “Elle”

If my blog could be a live feed, which I’m sure might be possible on Facebook (which I loathe, which I consult begrudgingly once a week), we would learn together the name and sex of the writer and director of “Elle”, possibly the worst movie I’ve seen in years.

So here we go. I did not look at specifics beforehand and was a little too wind blown and distracted from my walk to ‘le cinema’ that I didn’t have the presence to memorize credits….drum roll….

First in our twitchy internet age, let me interrupt this search with a distraction just now: Rotten Tomatoes popped up, and can you believe the host of idiotic critics that scored this as an 89%? May I quote McEnroe here and say, “You’ve GOT to be kidding me!”

So, ok, thanks to IMDB, three dudes wrote this, and I justify using the pejorative dudes because this movie was extremely misogynistic. And the fact that Isabelle Huppert won an award for this film really frosts my onions, or as her character might suggest, ‘hit me again lover!’

The plot of this film is so overdone with stupid detail, combined with Huppert’s ‘protagonist, or should I say ‘masochist’, making THE most stupid decisions since the last horror flick you saw when some ditzy millenial says, “I’ll be right back, just let me check the basement”.

What I gleaned from this: video games lead to violent behavior, video games lead to callous women who delve way into s&m, major bi-polar issues are cleared up overnight with a windfall of insurance money, friendships can be repaired after adultery by suggesting cohabitation. I shake my head and wonder, are French people this cruel and cavalier?

20th Century Women: At least one Goddess

Please listen to one of my favorite Jazz singer’s Gregory Porter as you read this blog:

The best thing a movie can do to you is make you realize, as Gregory Porter sings, that time is ticking. And 20th Century Women does just that, quietly sneaking up on you to say, “Pssst, what are you waiting for?”

20th Century Women was so great that it took a day to fully appreciate the film’s entirety. Truth be told, I went straight to work after and then on to a dinner meeting, but I’m glad the writing locomotive was slowed to give 20th Century Women its proper adoration.

20th Century Women was deeply moving. My friend Carrie and I were both in joyful appreciative tears at the film’s finale. And as a pseudo single mom of one son, I truly related to Annette Bening’s relationship with her son, young actor Lucas Jade Zumann.

Mike Mills, who basically wrote this from an autobiographical viewpoint, (as he also did with his relationship with his father in The Beginners)(see the recent New Yorker profile article, an exhibition of him as the man I most want to meet; sensitive, nerdy, but creatively courageous) does a very inventive job of portraying the late 70’s by using still photographs of punk bands along with real footage of such 70’s events like Jimmy Carter’s 1979 “Crisis of Confidence Speech”, of which I say, where was I? Oh yes, an ignorant 9th grader in a small American town in an apolitical household.

The speech interestingly parallels Annettes’s single mom, a woman without a backup as to whether she is providing her son with the best and well rounded child rearing experience. Just as Jimmy asks for America’s support, Annette seeks out others for help:
“Little by little we can and we must rebuild our confidence. We can spend until we empty our treasuries, and we may summon all the wonders of science. But we can succeed only if we tap our greatest resources — America’s people, America’s values, and America’s confidence.”

Annette Bening‘s search for outsiders lead her to two females for this tutelage. And while they were good, they were not fantastic. I was a huge Greta Gerwig fan to start, but now find her in that Ellen Degenres/Lena Dunham camp…meaning whatever candid part of them I appreciated has seemingly been washed away by their stardom and subsequent shallowness. And while Greta’s character seemed real enough, I just couldn’t buy it. Likewise, Elle Fanning was cute and believable as the teenage nymph, but again, I was not amazed.

Or it could be very possible that Billy Crudup just out shone them both, in his understated, but truly powerful rendition of a sensitive man, afraid to give his heart away, as he indeed gives his heart every day to the gaggle of women and children with whom he takes shelter.

There was a split second where I thought, ok Annette plays a competent woman with doubts…is that such a stretch from the real Annette Bening? And then I thought, nah! She’s the woman who ‘bagged’ Warren Beatty and got him to commit to a marriage and family. It is Annette Bening acting after all in a beautifully nuanced script that allows this vulnerability to shine through.

A great film makes you want to re-visit others. I’ll definitely revisit The Beginners and also look up some Crudup films that fell by the wayside.

The Founder? The Flounder!

The good news is I was able to fulfill part of my ‘Christmas gift to Dad’ promise by taking him out for a movie. And my Dad was entertained by the automobiles of the 1950’s he could name by make and model.

And the bad news is:
There’s a great comedic way that Fred Willard says, “What Happened?” in one of Christopher Guest’s masterpieces that I was reminded of after seeing the name of the screenwriter for the film “The Founder”, the Ray Kroc story. I mean, Robert Siegel? You were the man who thrilled me with ‘The Wrestler’ and ‘Big Fan’? Forget about it (meaning FANTASTIC!). So, what happened?

Here’s my guess. I bet Ray Kroc’s estate refused to let him add certain aspects of Ray’s life (for instance, he was married three times in real life, but only wife 1 and 2 are ever mentioned).

Only a person buying a fast food franchise would care about the first three quarters of the this film. You can tell where they decided to edit and add filler (hey just like the hamburgers!) like why we needed 10 minutes on the ketchup and mustard squirt process or another 10 of Michael Keaton gnashing his teeth, hotel bedside about his sad financial state. I wanted to scream out, ‘GOT IT’ several times. This was a slow food film about the fast food industry.

The last quarter of the film finally breaks into a stride, where we see a ruthless Ray Kroc who doesn’t mind trampling on a few underlings (notably the McDonald brothers) in order to climb is mountain of golden arches.

There is a more interesting story here (whether it be the wife stealing Ray did with Joan who according to the movie, was married to a franchisee and had cost saving ideas of her own-non refrigerated milk shake mix). Or perhaps Ray’s drinking which seemed to be an ongoing habit at least. Or even when they put drive thru windows in….But alas, that film was not written or at least not allowed to be acted on screen.

You almost feel sorry for Michael Keaton who can do so much more. Let’s hope his next role can be more Birdman like, perhaps Colonel Sanders? Get it, Birdman, KFC…ok…

Rituals Paterson Rituals

The Red Wheelbarrow*
(William Carlos Williams, 1883 – 1963)

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

Jim Jarmusch
used William Carlos Williams as his muse for the movie Paterson. And if you’re going to see a movie without any action, based on poetry, one would think you would not want to take a rugged retired fireman.

But wait!

Jarmusch would say that’s exactly who would appreciate such a film, just as the main character-Adam Driver-is the bus driver poet, why couldn’t there be the fireman poet? And in fact, didn’t Guy Montag, the main character and fireman in Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, have such poetic leanings, ‘her dress was white and it whispered’?

Perhaps a firemen would alter WCW’s poem to:

The Red Firetruck
(ghost written by Roxanne Baker 1963-)

so much depends
on a red
fire truck

blackened by smokey

beside the white
two story.

Paterson was an ode to the poet in us all, and in this movie, everyone is a poet: a laundry mat rapper, a 10 year old girl, a Japanese tourist. The film could also be seen as an ode to director Chantal Ackerman, specifically her film Jeanne Dielman, an epic film where the housewife goes through everyday routines repeatedly.

The habits of Adam Driver and his girlfriend made me miss the predictability of coupledom and paradoxically, made me glad I have the freedom as a single gal to do whatever the heck I want. The fact that Jim Jarmusch can evoke opposing emotions is a feat unto itself.

His eye for art is also appealing, and in this film black and white patterns fill the home courtesy of actress Golshifteh Farahani, the unemployed, but dream filled love interest. Their pug, in his gloriously bored expressions, mirror the mundane life most of us live. The most fun aspects of our lives are the tiny surprises that interrupt the predictability of the rest of our lives. For instance, when you meet someone on a bridge walk and end up going to a movie.

Thought provoking messages about yin and yang, and the idea that the world eventually gives us what we need, also supplied and required reflection. The shadow within every person was found in a talented poet beaten down by the drudgery, the shadow in every relationship in an unrequited love affair, or the shadow in many life moments as two guys on Paterson’s bus share similar stories of the promise of a dating opps, only to let them slip away. The world giving us what we need was seen in a bar incident on the verge of violence and a gift of an empty notebook.

Paterson doesn’t hold it’s power in action, but in its ability to make you ponder. The film’s equally enjoyable for poetry fans and for the dreamer in us all.

*1985 Ft. Lauderdale