Once, Twice, Three Times a Billy (Bob Thornton)

Forgive the old Commodores song title. Summertime always reminds me of middle-high school when I’d hear the sweet sounds of the Commodores at some carnival or outdoor event. This is actually a review of three Billy Bob Thornton movies I watched (or confessional tried to watch) over the last three days.

I’m a Billy Bob Thornton fan, yeh yeh Slingblade, sure, but I’m a weird one because I loved Bad Santa. There’s nothing funnier to me than an angry misanthropic BBT. But as usual, I was dissuaded by critics against Bad Santa 2. Can I tell you the utter shame I felt witnessing another (and now I know, MUCH sadder) holiday film known as The Office Party? I blogged about that walk of shame already.

So needing a laugh here, I threw caution to the wind and borrowed Bad Santa 2 worried I was headed for another shameful Christmas blasphemy. But Holy Almost Christmas in July! Not quite as funny as the first, I still think this film is laugh out loud worthy, far better and healthier than smoking a joint. I love Kathy Bates, she’s a balls to the wall type of actress and I respect that she, Billy, Tony Cox and Brett Kelly had the courage to make a non p.c. movie in this dicey climate. Hence, why it didn’t do well. And thanks to Mark Waters for directing it.

My favorite scene is Billy Bob coaching Brett Kelly on what to do with woman, or should I say grandmother of the night, Octavia Spencer, hysterical. If everyone could lighten up a bit like these folks, the world would be a much better place. Rotten Tomatoes 24%, boo hoo to you. At least IMDB had it at a respectable 55. April Wolfe of the LA Daily is my new hero for speaking up for this film. (Though she enjoyed Jackie…proof that any given day, we can disagree on a film).

In fact if it wasn’t for the pablum of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, I never would have sought out Bad Santa 2. But after suffering through an hour of formulaic: here’s a scene of the Middle Easterners, here’s a hot broad (Margot Robbie) being ogled by the soldiers, here’s poor Billy Bob as an angry uptight military leader, but safe authorized derision, not cynicism. It must have taken all of Tina’s strength not to rip the boring script out of Carlock and Barker’s hands and add some 30 Rock zip to it.

But sure enough, we Americans love our wars, so WTFT gets a 67% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Last I didn’t research well enough, panicking to get a third film with Billy Bob (that’s accessible at the library), I wound up with a documentary called Down From the Mountain about the music from O Brother Where Art Thou. Now I know what you’re saying, “oh that music was great!” Yeh, it was great because you had the spoonful of sugar (Goodman, Clooney) to help the medicine (sad country music) go down. I double dog dare you to rent this and be riveted and happy throughout. And while I had the fantasy that Billy Bob was playing on it or at least giving an erudite commentary….noooooooooooo, he’s just an audience member. I haven’t watch the special features yet, so there’s still hope of a BBT quote at least.

At any rate, give peace a chance and look at Bad Santa 2. I guarantee you’ll laugh five times. And who couldn’t use that release? At the very least, seeing a snowy Chicago (where the movie is set) will make you feel a little sweet breeze during the dog days of summer.

Parkland, Better Than Jackie. Reviewers, what gives?

Ok, I realize stylistically Jackie is superior to Parkland. But being a Terrence Malick wannabe, is that really better than story? I want to walk away from a film feeling like I learned something new as I did with Parkland, and not bludgeoned with gore porn as I did with Jackie.

And I promise I will look up the ‘experts’ opinions on Parkland (and will decide if it was justifiable in making me avoid it at the box office).

But come on! Who doesn’t want to see Paul Giamatti be Zapruder, Billy Bob Thornton as Forrest Sorrels and Marcia Gay Harden as Nurse Doris Nelson (sad side note, think she’s gotten typecast as nurse now in some lame weekly tv drama)?

And extra credit goes to the actor James Badge Dale (please change your name bro) who stood out among the stars in his moments as Bob Oswald, Lee Harvey’s justifiably angry brother. His scenes truly made the movie in my book. The actress, Jacki Weaver (you son of a gun! I didn’t even recognize you!) who played Lee Harvey’s mom was also terrific, but in an almost Bette Davis Whatever Happened to Baby Jane can she be that crazy comic way.

Great storytelling and directing by Peter Landesman who also wrote Kill the Messenger an even greater film. Definitely seek Parkland out at your local library or Netflix.

Mr. Right indeed, but the Movie, Mr. Mediocre

My number one fantasy man is still John McEnroe (not a movie actor-smiley face). He’s the primal adolescent raging hormone man I fell in love with, and plastered my bedroom wall with a giant photo collage with, so long ago. And speaking of high school, I felt that way and this photo reflects that sentiment at a recent ‘Meet up”: https://www.meetup.com/Parties-by-LeslieSRQ/photos/27917964/461772634/?#461772644

And now you’re asking, what’s with the fantasy talk lately, first Bright Star and the James Taylor dance and now this? Wait for it. But also in my defense, this is Florida, the supposed sunshine state and yet it has rained almost (one was rain free) ten consecutive days. But do spread the word on the miserable Florida weather, I’d like to stave the population rush here (newspaper reports 600,000 new Fla. residents annually…is that even possible?).

Back to the movie review, I knew going in that Mr. Right (directed by Paco Cabezas (if I ever become domesticated myself, Paco Cabezas is my next cat’s name hands down!) was not well reviewed. In fact, I believe it went straight to dvd.

At any rate, I knew I wouldn’t hate it since my number two fantasy man (told you I’d get to it) is Sam Rockwell. I’m geeky enough to have watched and re-watched his audition (a dvd special feature) for Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. Which I just realized I loaned to Mr. “Hey Let Me Tell You What to Watch and Listen, But I’m Not Going to Quid Pro Quo”. Oh well, perhaps I don’t need to see Sam break dance any longer.

As much as I do like Sam (best film “Moon” though “Snatch” is also great), he looked like he wasn’t totally enjoying being Mr. Right. I may be projecting given that I am not an Anna Kendrick fan (though I don’t dislike her-best film “Up in the Air”). After wracking my brain thinking of who would have been good in this female lead, I came up with two ideas: Sarah Silverman and even better, Jenny Slate. Max Landis (screenwriter) wrote a crazy girl role, but then someone chose Pollyanna (Kendrick)to play her. Bad choice.

But on a rainy Saturday, a little profanity and flirtation wasn’t half bad. Althought Mr. Right was a Kiss Kiss Bang Bang wanna be, it was still a good PPLL.

God Before Bod: Becket (1964)

I was going to title this Bro’s Before Ho’s, but decided to at least be p.c. in my hook.

Male fellowship is more of a recurring theme in film than I had previously considered. Or perhaps, it just happens to be a motif occurring in some of the movies I’ve seen as of late: The Lives of Others, Bright Star, and now Becket from 1964.

I mean isn’t that what today’s senate hearings are about? Trump trying to get loyalty from Comey? In Becket’s case, the narcissist King Henry the 2nd demanding Becket’s fidelity? Even Becket expecting Brother John’s?

To go further, isn’t that what team sports are all about, LeBron and the Cavs, Crosby and the fellow Penguins? The man cave, fantasy football, and Buffalo Wild Wings:)?

These are simply observations. Do men feel the need to band together because they don’t have the life giving power that women do? I know women can be equally as united. I guess I’ve just never experienced that, not having a sister or as my maudlin aforementioned best friend disasters have indicated. Why I also wrote a full length screenplay (Buck Up) about a group pf men attempting to reclaim their power by watching old westerns.

Back to the flick: Peter O’Toole, obviously awesome, Burton as well. What was most refreshing for me though was the writing (Jean Anouilh and Lucienne Hill). I love the scenes where women were involved, especially King Henry’s wife and mother. The King’s blatant derision toward his family played out comically absurd.

The actual conflict within the movie seems so foreign to me being an agnostic. And not to mention the fact that Beckett’s love interest (who had been a battle prize) committed suicide rather than have relations with King Henry would be a friendship deal breaker to put it lightly. I realize these were medieval times, but let’s hope we’re not headed backwards to a similar humanitarian crises.

A movie definitely worth watching these two old school acting power houses in their prime.

The Nearness of You: Bright Star, a 2009 Perfection

I started having a fantasy the year James Taylor came out with his version of Glenn Miller’s classic “The Nearness of You”. The fantasy was simple, a slow dance with the man I love (preferably in moonlight or candle light). The man I was dating at the time, a sensitive itinerant painter who would not sleep next to me for fear of ‘losing his artistic edge’, not surprisingly told me he was not a dancer.(see Craigslist Sarasota for his painting I’ve decided to sell, don’t judge, this was the mid 2000’s and he’s since gotten married and had children).

Watching Jane Campion’s beautiful film Bright Star from 2009, reminded me of this relationship. First, John Keats was also a very sensitive artist who, along with his buddy Mr. Brown, guarded his own artistic milieu. Second, the movie occurred in an era when people were near each other log enough for feeling to simmer and grow to a full boil, without pressure or distraction. This was the case with my relationship, too. Sure it wasn’t the 1800′, but it was the aughts, pre-internet frenzy and while I don’t necessarily want reminders, I have fond memories, if that makes any sense.

But, to me, Bright Star was even better than The Piano, Campion’s other more famous film. The movie was a perfect depiction of an era when finances and romance were intricately entwined. Due to the fine trio of actors, never did I think ‘this is maudlin’ or sappy. Abby Cornish was terrific, a look alike to Lindsay Lohan, as Fanny Brawne. Ben Whishaw, equally great as the sickly Keats. And Paul Schneider, terrific as the womanizing deviant and Keats cock blocker, Mr. Brown.

Looking up the actors, there’s not much with Cornish coming out that thrills me, nor past-RoboCop? But I wish I could re-watch scenes from The Lobster and The Danish Girl to catch Whishsaw, now that I have seen him at his best. I’ve now got two of Schneider’s on my library list; Rules Don’t Apply, last year’s Howard Hughes failure with Warren Beatty and The Assassination of Jesse James which I’ve heard is fantastic.

One of these days I’ll get back to read more about Keats and Brawne’s long, suffering relationship.

Sorry to Say You’re a Bad Lay: The Lovers

Thanks to a knight in shining armor (literally, a friend who’s a metal worker), my Friday evening was salvaged, meaning good post film conversation on a balmy spring Floridian evening.

However, I’d like to hand out an award based on the film The Lovers I saw at Burns Court Friday evening. No, no, not to any actor or director, to the audience, including myself, who did not scream out, “God this movie is quiet and boring!” I mean really…what was Tracy Letts thinking? Tracey, you write better stuff as ideas on napkins! I have to chalk it up to one of two theories: 1. He was taking a money grab to help make one of his own passion projects or 2.He was just thrilled to play a Lothario.

Azazel Jacobs, writer and director of The Lovers, did a much better job on a previous film, Terri. If you’re going to make a ‘comedy’, you have to balance the squeamish with laughter which Terri did, probably because John C. Reilly could teach a master class on uncomfortable humor. The Lovers lacked a funny bone. Stupid, vapid parents are not funny, bad editing (like do I need to see Tracey roll up his car window?) not funny, and drama queens and kings, also, not funny.

I like Debra Winger, but her eye brow twisting is also not funny or endearing. I saw an exuberant review quote by Peter Travers in the Rolling Stone. I really have to look that up and read. I fear he’s received an overdose of edible medicinals because the only think I can think of combining this film with his magazine, is a literal rolling over the master tape of this film with a rolling stone.

The Lovers makes Norman look like Tolstoy, and that’s saying something.

Back to PPLL’s I go.

Last of the Female Director Trilogy: Jane Campion’s The Piano

Again, thanks to the Amazon series “I Love Dick”, I happened upon two older films and a reminder of a third (I had already taken in) from three power house female writers/directors. To recap, I had seen Chantall Ackerman’s film, recently saw Potter’s Orlando, and last night viewed Jane Campion‘s The Piano.

And I know, I know, for shame on me for not seeing this three time Academy Award winner (best actress, best supporting actress, best original screenplay) earlier. My cinematic passion didn’t reach full flame until the mid 2000’s or ‘aughts’ as the lingo goes. I do remember thinking, once upon a time, that I really didn’t need to see Harvey Keitel nude, nor do I think Sam Neill is a very charismatic actor, both snobbish opinions on my part to be sure. And yet I think HK is a superb actor and loved him in Youth, from a few years ago.

The movie The Piano, of the three power house films, comes in third in my book after Ackerman #1, with Potter obviously at #2.

Why? Mainly due to the setting, which I get was a choice to enhance the feelings of oppression, but I couldn’t think of April/May being the cruelest months (along with November through March) in that Godforsaken land I left called Rochester, New York, mud and cold, mud and cold, (shiver) mud and cold. I have post traumatic frost bite, what can I say?

Now, the positives: Anna Paquin was astoundingly good and recognized with an Academy Award. I’m surprised (though a Golden Globe win for True Blood s noteworthy) that she hasn’t made more of a grand splash in major films. Holly Hunter is probably the best of all time at the derisive unsatisfied frown. The aforementioned gentlemen were good, but again someone more appealing may have heightened the interest (again, fully confess that’s a pompous ass comment).

What I got from this in a feminist perspective: women have to give up art or at least part of themselves for love. Probably true in the past, not so sure it’s as true in the modern era. I do know this recent relationship I ended was punctuated by the male trying to cover me with his music (most of which was great, especially the Tears for Fears guy’s solo cd) and film (if I heard the movie title Laura one more time or the phrase film noir, I may have pulled a Barbara Stanwyck). And, this should be in all caps: DON’T GET ME WRONG, I LOVE LEARNING NEW THINGS, BUT, when I tried to insert my favorites, it was almost as if the person felt threatened or unwilling to give it a try-Lost in Translation, Bfore the Devil Knows You’re Dead, The wood Brothers, Chris Trapper, etc. So maybe Campion is more on the money than I give her credit for. she did say this:

“I think that the romantic impulse is in all of us and that sometimes we live it for a short time, but it’s not part of a sensible way of living. It’s a heroic path and it generally ends dangerously. I treasure it in the sense that I believe it’s a path of great courage. It can also be the path of the foolhardy and the compulsive.”

To which I agree and disagree. If I had to list my top 20 life moments, the first 14 would be child birth, moments with my son and running.
(That’s not to discount the 16 years of safety and intermittent happiness I felt with my first husband, but that almost goes in a different category-Best Life Segment, maybe?)
However, the other 6 would involve adventure I had giving and receiving love: Ft Lauderdale 1985, Atlanta 199?, Montreal 2002, etc.
If we don’t reach for larger than life moments, life just turns in to day to day drudgery and turmoil. In fact, I wrote to a friend today, finally communicating info I had neglected to impart based on a recent compliment that I am a light in his life. After I wrotea and sent the communication, I looked up my Free Will Astrology for this week (don’t eye roll, it’s philosophical) and realized I had just done what was advised:

“Life is inviting you to decode riddles about togetherness that could boost your emotional intelligence and earn you the right to enjoy lyrical new expressions of intimacy. Will you accept the invitation? Are you willing to transcend your habitual responses for the sake of your growth-inducing relationships? Are you interested in developing a greater capacity for collaboration and synergy? Would you be open to making a vulnerable fool of yourself if it helped your important alliances to fulfill their dormant potential? Be brave and empathetic, Sagittarius. Be creative and humble and affectionate.” (Ron Brezsny’s Free Will Astrology)

To which I tell Jane Campion, yes, Jane, it’s totally worth it.

Next I’ll try to get a hold of her film Bright Star about the poet John Keats which I almost saw in 2003.

Carpe Diem.

Not AABA’s “Orlando”, But Just as Pretty

So I’m watching what I thought was a new Amazon show, I Love Dick (not an Anthony Wiener expose`) hoping to scoop my ultra hip friend Carrie-

(only later to be told by Carrie that she saw the show previewed a year ago among many other Amazon shows which were voted on, “but wait, I say, I just heard Kevin Bacon on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast?” foiled again)

-when I see Kathryn Hahn (the woman who loves Dick) mind flash a reference to an obscure Chantall Ackerman movie I saw at the Film Forum, combined in a trio of female film makers references (Sally Hopper and Jane Campion being the other two).

So little Ms. School Marm borrows Orlando and The Piano (Hopper and Campion respectively) in yet another attempt to learn everything.

The movie Orlando, based on a Virginia Woolf novel was written and directed by Sally Hopper. Look for a new movie from Hopper this year called The Party with one of my favorite actresses Patricia Clarkson.

True confession about Orlando (looked from the dvd jacket like it might have some adult content wink, wink, but alas, the jacket was for marketing purposes only). Before you, too, begin to whine, let me say that the 1992 flick is gorgeous to behold, acquiring two Oscar nominations, one for best costumes. To boot, the film’s essence was both epic and thought provoking. Now isn’t that better than sex anyway? Well?…

The movie begins in the year 1600 and transcends into the modern age. I’d have to read (and will if ever bedridden) Woolf’s novel and know from surface study she wrote it as a love letter to a lesbian lover, but my naïve take on Hopper’s influence is the message: women make their best impact by being good mothers due to a male dominated society. A melancholy motif to the entrapment of this message carries our immortal heroine through centuries of governance, war, love and art.

Tilda Swinton is the title actress and is enthralling to watch. I have loved her in most films, Jarmusch’s laconic vampire flick being one exception. The other stand out for me in a cast of thousands was Lothaire Bluteau as the Middle Eastern ruler. The scene with Swinton offering up competitive toasts to Bluteau is worth the price of admission (in this case 0, since it a library loaner).

Hopper likes to wink at the audience now and then, with a comical wry comment here, or a Swinton speaking to the camera there. The movie cheered me enough to momentarily forget the emotional turmoil of the week, agonizing over whether to end a 2 month infatuation. I chose to abort for self-preservation reasons. At 53, I can’t swing with people who need to talk into the wee hours of the night. I just need someone who reads at night, wants to see a movie and have a dinner out once a week. Doesn’t seem too impossible. Let’s hope my casket doesn’t read: “well, she was productive.”

“Norman”, or more apropos, a Seinfeldesque, Newman!

Here’s my culpability, I didn’t properly vet the movie Newman, I mean “Norman”. Working two fun jobs before my pension kicks in, I am admittedly sleep deprived. Hence, I thought Norman was the Richard Gere film about a homeless man that received great reviews. And who knows? Norman may have been homeless, too, for all we know, as we never saw the guy’s house or personal life beyond his suit, trench coat and cravat. Also in my defense of thinking he was homeless, is a scene in which he raids the synagogue’s refrigerator to scarf down gvelte fish and crackers. Last, he definitely had a Willy Loman poor man vibe, minus the creep.

In addition to my not properly researching the movie (didn’t even Rotten Tomatoes it until just now -it scored an 88 critic, 69 audience), I also committed yet another sin: I left with 20 minutes to go. I know, I know, don’t revoke my reviewer’s license. But the movie was so verbose, too many conversations, and too long to circle the wagons back to the end (which I think I can guess and I promise I will rent this and cross the finish line).

I so wanted to like it more: I mean I like Gere and he was actually doing a great job being semi geeky and annoying. He was the powerless one this time and played it well. I also LOVE Charlotte Gainsbourg and as usual she had some memorable scenes, but there just wasn’t enough of her. And Hank Azaria, again, like him, but he didn’t appear until 3/4 in and by then I was ready to crawl out of my skin or find noise cancellation headphones, akin to being on a long flight with someone who won’t stop babbling.

I have to think that the actors themselves, upon seeing the final product, were like, ‘ay yi yi, too much Joseph!’ (Cedar) the director.
I did really enjoy one of Cedar’s earlier films called “Footnote”, but Norman was just too much talking, not enough personal insight.
Better luck next time.

The Dinner, have some reservations

Oren Moverman, how are you? I had no idea until just now that Moverman who directed The Dinner, the new movie based on the book by Howard Koch, also directed one of my (and my movie date)’s favorite movies of all time: Love&Mercy. The Dinner, sadly, is a film you should have reservations about….

Am I wrong to not want to glorify heinous acts by showing visuals? Especially when it involves malicious, misguided teens? I guess, if I’m open minded, showing incidents of affluenza may wake up some wealthy parents that perhaps they should take responsibility (early on, not once they reach adulthood) of their children’s upbringing (aka teaching them how to behave and how to love) and their mental health (if it walks like a depressed duck and talks like a depressed duck, get some therapy).

Anyway, while I understand to some extent the moral dilemma portrayed in The Dinner, I care about my fellow human beings enough to know; a sociopath, no matter if he or she is your child, should never get a free pass.

The movie’s subject matter was obviously almost good enough to make me forget I was watching one of my favorite actors (Steve Coogan) minus his typecasted upperhand sarcasm. His character, father of “Charles Manson”, is certainly bitter, but undermined by said son Charlie and his own wife; portrayed by another favorite actress of mine, Laura Linney.

Equally compellng was Rebecca Hall, who I envy most for how good she looks in short hair, a shallow female commentary. To be super objective, Hall’s acting was best of the four (Hall, Coogan, Linney, Gere) as Gere’s strong willed trophy wife. Pulling up four out of four is Richard Gere, who always seems to be playing the same dang man of power with an equal amount of ‘white people’s problems’ angst. I look forward to his upcoming performance as a homeless man, it’s high time for him to mix it up.

Due to the movie’s unsatisfying ending and it’s violence porn quotient, I say this is better off as a rental. Choose a dark deary night and it’ll fit right in.