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.

Is the Pain Dry Yet? The Old Man & the Gun

The most exciting thing about The Old Man & the Gun was Tom Waits in the one scene he was allowed to speak. He tells a funny story about his macho step-dad on Christmas Eve. The scene was unfortunately only five minutes out of the 1 hour and 33 minute running time.

So again, I channel Fred Willard in A Mighty Wind, “What Happened?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Of8JOVXYU0Q

Let me go out on a limb and say that perhaps Robert Redford is stoically coping with a debilitating disease. I have to give him props for not caring about Botox, but perhaps there’s something more sinister behind his lack of lines in this film. If this is so, and I hope its not, then the ‘last film’ is a heroic goodbye. If he does still have all his marbles, for shame Robert. And I say to you, Robert what I said to “Dan” (Daniel Day-Lewis), please do not end your career on THAT note. (the emasculating Phantom Thread)

When I saw Casey Affleck pop up, I thought, aw excellent, someone to hang on to, but nope, denied. They (David Lowry and David Grann, screenwriters) must’ve said to Casey, “hey we have a cinch of a film for you-come high, hungover and lacking energy and it’ll be great!” I can only assume here that the real detective was as lethargic as Casey acted. His detective makes Andy Griffith’s law enforcement look James Bond-like.

Toward the end of the film, there’s a montage of clips of the outlaw’s numerous escapes. Again, like the Tom Waites moment, I thought, why, oh why couldn’t we have focused on that? I’d even have taken Sissy Spacek (a weak horse riding love interest) taking the wall paper off her Victorian house and finding the signature of the man that built the house. Here you probably think, ‘ooh that’s sounds mysterious’ to which I reply, ‘Yes! And it shall remain so!’

Just to prove I haven’t jumped into a negative trough (going along with the supposed ‘iconic’ shot of Redford on a horse), here’s a list of all the positives in my life this week:
making my son laugh
talking to Tim about fun topics we like to discuss
my film class with Gus Mollasis
talking to my Grandmother
hanging out with Jack who makes me laugh
my empathic co-workers Andrea and Katia

So there, proof I remain balanced, yet still disappointed in The Old Man & the Gun.

Just like 1981: Colette

Funny, when I looked up the 1981 Commodore’s song Lady (You Bring Me Up), a commented posted under the YouTube video said, “Back when it all still made sense”. Amen, brother!

But I’ve actually had a couple of 1981 experiences that made perfect ‘sense’ this past week. First was dancing to “Lady, You Bring Me Up” and feeling like a kid again. In fact, all the Lionel Richie songs remind me of college (and/or high school). I mean who doesn’t remember dorm room dancing to MTV’s former video days repetitive play of Lionel’s “All Night Long”?

My second 1981 flashback was inspired by film class advisor, Gus Molassis, who assigned our class Colette. Having just seen The Wife, I was miffed thinking it was just the same story minus 100 years. (And this is partly true, the stories: wife ghost writes for husband were eerily similar). My negative presumption paralleled the 1981 emotion I had freshman year at St. Bonaventure when the only elective available for me was Detective and Sci Fi Literature. I immediately said spoiled brat style “yuck”, similar to my film assignment reaction.

Boy, was I wrong in both circumstances. If it hadn’t been for the Sci Fi class back in 1981, I may never experienced Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, which brought me to tears with its beauty. And today, while Colette didn’t move me to tears, it was heart warming and much MUCH better written than The Wife.

The key difference between The Wife and Colette were the scene specificity of the marriages. In Colette, we see a real couple with genuine difficulties; infidelity, gender and sexuality self-discovery mixed with cultural aspects of the time period; in this case, the tail end of Victorian Age repression, with tiny fissures cracking its frigid core.

Was some of the dialogue unrealistic? Sure, like Dominic West‘s pompous ass Willy (though also lovable and charming) who talks with such self-knowledge you would think he had a Masters in Johnson (joking aside, I meant Counseling). The old ‘honey I stray because I’m a man and can’t control my penis’ -I paraphrase of course-that’s probably what Harvey W. said).

Yet, the acting was superb and West and Keira Knightley seemed very realistic, unlike the more jokey Pinnochio Jonathan Pryce in The Wife. Other acting praise goes to Denise Gough, an Irish actress who plays the masculine half of Knightley’s bisexual experience. Her performance showed tremendous verisimilitude.

My misgivings about the movie were also its tributes. These two seemed to have enough marital joy that the suffering didn’t seem painful enough, more, ‘I’m hurt, but skipping along, tra la la’. And it seemed Colette got her own way most of the time, and if so, wasn’t Willy more of the victim? A well developed point of contention though, which again, equates depth and excellence. Props to Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, co-screenwriters and the director respectively.

I will say the trailer did it no favors, a large reason for my premature bias. The trailer made it out to be a simplistic man-keeps-woman-down story when it was so much more.

So here’s to trying experiences which seem foreign and finding gold!

Top Sevens

I had an interesting conversation the other day when a friend who popped out with his top 7 songs and movies…this was a person who I was trying to get to know, but seemed elusive. And because I’m a bit of a chameleon I, too, tend to clam up when with another clam.

Anyway, I thought it was pretty important, being a film blogger that I have a top 7 list of modern films. And why not have 7 songs as well?

So here goes my films, not in any order of importance, they’re just all darn good.

Moon
Whiplash
Saving Private Ryan
Drive
Revolutionary Road
Adaptation
Magnolia

And because I do so many foreign films I am going to add 2 of those:
Toni Erdmann and Avalanche

Songs:

Please Forgive Me David Gray
For the Love of You Whitney Houston
Beautiful Ones Prince
Express Yourself Madonna
You’re Too Early Kenny Loggins
Sweet Reunion Kenny Loggins
Whenever I Call Your Friend Loggins/Nicks

Eye Eye Captain; First Man

Tongue in Cheek: Sure Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon, but I may be the first to discover there are at least two different movie watching personality types that coincide with five astrological signs. Sagitarius, Virgo, Scorpio and Aquarius folks are intense movie watchers…we don’t talk, and stare at the screen GLADLY for the full movie. Whereas Leo’s are restless types, needing to look at their company, for reassurance perhaps, or in my Dad’s case even inquire, “what did they say?” or my friend last night who needed to comment on an average of once every five minutes. One small primal scream for man, one giant yelp for man kind.

But back to the movie…Damien Chazelle is credited (by me) for one of my favorite seven modern films of all time (Whiplash– see my next blog post for the full list) and one of my most frustrating (LaLaLand). This time with First Man, I’m in the middle, or a little to the right. I didn’t LOVE it, but it certainly satisfied.

Chazelle focuses much of his camera work on close ups, way way close, with a lot of eye concentration on Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy (who definitely should get a best supporting actress nod). For Ryan/Neil, eye work makes sense since through his helmet, that’s the the only facial target. But even out of his suit and with his wife, played as I just mentioned expertly by Claire Foy, the eyes have it as it were.

The story (screenplay by Josh Singer is good, but perhaps a tad too long). I do fully appreciate the fact they (the book’s author and subsequently Singer) wanted to show the full sacrifice and missteps along the way, as well as increase the suspense. I mean after all the accidents, who the hell would think a tin can could actually make it to the moon? That’s faith or bravado or a hell a lot of both. I also loved the inner workings of the Armstrong marriage and the honest approach of Neil, who struggled with his daughter’s death and his need to be a workaholic. In his defense, this was the oppressed 50’s and 60’s when men didn’t cry or were shamed into being stoic and thus, manly.

Other supporting actors had minimal coverage, but I will say Jason Clarke (Chappaquiddick) and Corey Stoll (I know him from Girls) were solid and stood out as Neil’s co-astronauts.

Chazelle’s directorial work seems to lean toward Terrence Malick and that’s ok for me (and probably my fellow Sagitarians). We hear the odd noises of the rocket, we ‘feel’ the jittery, dizzying shakes, and the frantic pushing of buttons. Chazelle bucks the trend of having everything be neat and pretty and instead, also uses silence, space and different types and lengths of scenes to make a meaningful collage.

A Salad Bar is Born

You did read the headline right, a salad bar is born. I wanted to like A Star is Born (directed and starring Bradley Cooper) having a halcyon remembrance of seeing the Kristofferson/Steisand version at Silver Lake Drive Inn many moons ago. I remember thinking that movie was sexy (though I’m sure I didn’t even know what that word meant at 13).

I’m bucking the crowd here in my dislike of the film, but I’ll tell you what I did enjoy first. I liked it for the same reasons it may win awards….the people in it are drop dead gorgeous. Bradley Cooper is downright adorable and Lady Gaga looks prettier without much makeup than she does with. But this is the same reason I didn’t feel for the characters. They weren’t tortured enough (or ever looked to be like anyone who could experience pain).

Another bias against the film is that I’ve seen Lukas Nelson perform (in Nashville by accident). I was there a night early and wanted something to do so thought, why not? Lukas is peripherally in A Star is Born and worked with Cooper on seeming to be a realistic guitar player. Lukas Nelson is ten times as “real” as Cooper and I think it may be telling that he didn’t even get a speaking role, in that, ‘don’t let anyone with genuine talent overshadow ‘the star’ sort of way. Its even strangely coincidental that Lukas’s band name is Lukas Nelson and The Promise of the Real. If a brave director had cast Lukas in the starring role with a younger Gaga like ingenue, we might have had a film. Lukas Nelson’s performances are entertaining and 3D, whereas Cooper’s were like a cardboard cut out.

My last problem with the movie has to do with my salad bar analogy. You know when you’re in line at a salad bar and you can’t linger too long in choosing because someone’s directly next to you? That’s what the scene length and therefore shallowness was in this film. I’d like to go see it again just to time out the scenes. I bet in the two hours and 17 minutes of the film, there wasn’t a scene longer than 5 minutes. Again, if we don’t linger in any pain or joy for more than that, we don’t feel anything.

So the film was admirable and the music was decent. Both Cooper and obviously Gaga are mega talented. it’s just too bad they’re so pretty and the screenplay was just too fast scene-wise to evoke an emotional response.

What Gilda Radner and Anthony Bourdain suddenly have in common

I recently saw Love, Gilda with a new funny friend, so I was grateful that the cancer and death piece of the new doc Love Gilda (directed by Lisa Dapolito) was as brief as it could possibly be. Yet the doc was also too safe, not wanting to hurt Gilda’s mom perhaps if she’s still alive(I researched and came up with nothing, there goes my budding (sarcasm) private detective practice).

Clearly, for reasons I will not give (no spoilers, remember?), her mother was not up for any parent of the year award.

I really enjoyed the old SNL footage, especially those including Bill Murray as I lusted for him in my youth. I also learned some things about Gilda (easily found on her Wiki so NOT a spoiler) that she dated many men (nothing wrong with that, as I clear my throat in solidarity) and was even married to G.E. Smith famed guitarist from the SNL band. I also appreciated as with most comics, there dark side, apart of which spurs them to the therapeutic ‘make a joke out of it’ response.

The commonality I see between Anthony and Gilda now, isn’t so much about them as individuals, though, now that I consider it, they both had depressive tendencies. But more so the lack of verve in Gilda’s doc and Anthony’s last episode set in Spain which aired on CNN last Sunday.

The first of the last of Bourdain’s episodes was set in Africa with W. Kamau Bell as his sidekcik. this one still held the beauty of what former seasons had been known, poignancy, intellect, humor. This last one seemed to be cobbled together, inserted seemingly haphazardly was the Spanish chef’s salute to now deceased Anthony. I get not wanting to end the show on the doner note, but the alternative, some weird bonfire scene with random (I assume Spanish) woman dancing like whirling dervishes. This show was not indicative of the talent of his staff. So I invoke Fred Willard from A Mighty Wind…’what happened?’

I consider this last season to be the closest thing to a funeral dirge I’m going to get. Let it not be akin to having store bought cake at a Moose Club. And truth be told, Gilda deserves more fanfare and emotional heights than this doc. No offense to anyone involved, just my opinion.

The Wife: A Whole Lot of Hand Wringing

The Wife directed by Bjorn Runge is a whole lot of hand wringing. Do we fault his Danish maudlin ways? Or should we go after Jane Anderson who wrote the screenplay based on Meg Wollitzer’s novel? I say Jane.

The dialogue was a bit like a high school chorus practice, at times the singing’s revelatory, at others, as if half of them are experiencing nails on a chalkboard adolescent hormone induced voice changing.

But enough whining, let’s talk about the positives, of which there are many. As I said, at times, this film soars: Close is fantastic, even if I kept waiting for her to pull out an ice pick or boil a rabbit. Equally great was Elizabeth McGovern, stealing a scene that resonates far beyond its short duration. The plot does indeed thicken on a slow burn and was suspenseful and unpredictable.

And the movie was realistic in showing the stickiness of co-dependent relationships. I spent 6 years of my life in one and sometimes wonder what the hell I was doing. Yet my time was chump change compared to the long duration of this marriage.

Not to end a negative, but Jonathan Pryce is a bit precious at times and Jeremy Irons’ son, if you can believe it, shows LESS emotion than his steely dad (hey how’s that for a pun: iron, steely)….ok, go easy on me.

Go see it, especially if you think your partner might be cheating on you. If he or she sweats profusely, you might want to retain an attorney:)

Juliet, Naked and Mission Impossible

One of the wackier weeks I’ve had as a Floridian including computer hijack scammers, a move to a place I’d only been able to view twice, and a leaning into the old temptation of barking up the wrong trees.

In the midst of all that, I saw two films: Mission Impossible and Juliet, Naked. It was the worst of times and it was the best of times, respectively.

I wanted to like MI, as Tom Cruise, despite his regimented Scientology, is a good actor. But he phoned this in. Don’t be fooled by the B.O.A.T. (Best of all time) malarkey. This movie was ludicrous. Baby Driver had better and more engaging chase scenes. The two women in Cruise’s life (I guess three counting the blonde villainess) were bland, beyond their enticing accents. If you’re going to do bathos, at least add some more humor to the mix.

All fitting though considering my back story involved. Phoning it in would have been an excellent subtitle for the movie and my life.

Juliet, Naked on the other hand was an unexpected delight. I’m not a big Rose Byrne fan, but here she proves emotional range. Chris O’Dowd is a man I loved, then hated and am now respecting again. He also has a stilted Irish/Scottish reserve that is still capable of leaking enough emotion to be believed.

And Ethan (Hawke that is)…we all know, well maybe you don’t, that he holds a nearly McEnroesque stature in my cinematic life; from the glow he first showed in Dead Poets, to his anxiety ridden brotherhood in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, to his sweet charm in the trilogy of Before Sunrise, etc. Not to mention his profound turn as a pained minister in the recent Reformed (here visualize me in a prayer stance whispering: please give this man a nomination).

In Juliet, Naked, Hawke plays, well probably, Hawke, father to children by different baby mamas, a disheveled ‘artiste’ who goes around saying, aw schucks, did I f up my life again? Not that he’s been in that much ‘trouble’, but he appears to be just enough absent minded professor mixed with a lot of testosterone which we all know leads to stolen kisses and broken hearts. His turn here as a washed up rocker was perfection.

So let this be a lesson to you; be the water and not the grinder. Go with the flow rather than paddle upstream.

Book Review of Lisa Jobs Memoir

I had six likes on Good Reads and decided to post it here:
Small FrySmall Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs

Lisa Brennan-Jobs new memoir, Small Fry, is searing in a Mommy Dearest expose` way, with me exclaiming and throwing the book down on at least three occasions, with a, “He did what?!”.

And that’s saying something for a former high school counselor, who’d thought I had hardened to any shock at inconsistent parenting and emotional abuse. So let me tell you, Steve Jobs takes the Apple cake. But instead, pick up a copy of Lisa Brennan-Jobs’ book and let her tell you in her very rational, yet compelling writer’s voice.

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