A Girl Walks Into a Movie Theater…

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A girl walks into a movie theater, intent on seeing Little Women, but just as I veer towards the men’s group at any Super Bowl party, the minute I heard a woman say how Little Women dripped a little too much maudlin, I spun and drove for a power lay up back into Uncut Gems.

Before the opening jump shot, I had second row ‘court seats’. With two hipsters behind me, I struck up a conversation with one after his pal went to retrieve some popcorn. I had heard them jiving Safdie and turned to agree on how tremendous Good Time is/was. Like the enthusiastic school marm I’ll always be, I cheered, ‘buckle up’ in delicious anticipation.

While I harangue bad movie behavior, this viewing entailed a magic moment where out of the corner of my eye during the last 10 minutes of the film, the two hipsters were LITERALLY on the edge of their seats, as if they, too, were at game 7 with the bet of their lives at stake.

THIS is what movies are for, the vicarious thrill and off the planet escape that brings such joy.

My second viewing was better than the first. I laughed harder at the Sandlerisms, his “NO” to his flirty mistress, his grabbing a pillow out of his office filing cabinet in order to sleep on the couch, his calling his son, over the top excited to be wearing Garnett’s NBA championship ring. THIS MOVIE WILL ROCK YOU in a far different way than my muscial allusion to Bohemian Rhapsody, but equally fun.

Uncut Gems: Sparkling!

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Not sure how to write a review about a revelation without spoiling this film written by my cherished Safdie brothers (Good Time, Daddy Long Legs) and their writing partner Ronald Bronstein. BUT I will keep my promise!!

Suffice to say it’s a must see and certainly breaks into my top ten at ‘lucky’ number 7 (a call back to gambling which Uncut Gems is all about). Scroll down for the rest of the top ten.

I will briefly mention magic moments that do not give away major plot points:
*Adam (Howard) Sandler wheeling and dealing in his jewelry store
*The frenetic sound of the magnetic locked door
*Camera work on Adam’s fingers on is telephone (researched and discovered famous and seasoned Tehran born cinematographer Darius Khondji did the work (Okja, Evita, Amour)
*Judd Hirsch and the auction scene
*the closet texting scene
*Weekend concert scene (and another closet!)
*suspenseful moments that came to nothing but were fun exactly because they were unfulfilled
*John Amos (funny cameo and call back to Good Times (with an s) and the Safdie movie without the s
*the bat mitzvah dress scene with Idina Menzel
*the unfeeling atmosphere of NYC
*Daniel Lopatin’s eerie soundtrack

The acting is HUGE: Adam Sandler deserves a nomination.
Julia Fox has come out of nowhere, but fantastic!
Eric Bogosian, Judd Hirsch, Lakeith Stanfield, Kevin Garnet and Idina Menzel were magic.

I almost liked Good Time a tiny bit better, but need to re-watch to figure out why. Perhaps time has warped my perception.

And, I would doctor this script in two tiny ways:
Add maybe one more moment with Adam and his youngest son, some bonding or lack thereof
Add a scene at the beginning where Adam talks to his aquarium fish or defends them against an insult by basketball players
With just a dash more soft side of Adam would have heightened the emotion.

But overall, BRAVO. Safdie and Bronstein are my favorite writers!

My top 10 (can Little Women usurp anyone?)

Marriage Story
Honey Boy
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
The Lighthouse
Peanut Butter Falcon
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Uncut Gems
Her Smell
Parasite
Judy

Sweetest Peanut Butter I’ve Ever Known

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Hyperbole, schmyperbole, I’m jumping on The Peanut Butter Falcon Oscar bandwagon ready to throw non-breakables at the television should it not win several awards.

Best Original Screenplay: Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz are the new Affleck/Damon, great storytelling and not a second of filler in the entire movie. My movie companion was dying to get a popcorn refill, but didn’t dare leave. I’m even more proud I’m his friend since once he realized what we were witnessing, movie magic, there’s no popcorn worth missing a second.

Best Actor: Tie: Zack Gottsagen, the Down syndrome actor is tremendous, such a tender nuanced performance doesn’t happen very often. Shia LaBeouf, hands down the role of a lifetime and he nails it. A la Casey Affleck and Willem DaFoe in Manchester By the Sea and Florida Project respectively. Understated, and real, his guilt ridden life takes on new meaning as he finds a run away Down syndrome man and becomes his caregiver.

And breaking news (to me), Shia has a screenplay he wrote and filmed coming out in November with Lucas Hedges called Honey Boy. I’ll call it now, this is LaBeouf’s year to rake it all in.

Best Picture: Roma certainly was a work of art and deserved the best picture win, and this year it’s time to give to a work of heart. So many small gorgeous moments in this film had me crying midway, a first ever. But a cry that feels good to be human and blessed to be in this world.

The ensemble of actors couldn’t be more perfect: Bruce Dern has had an acting renaissance since Nebraska and just keeps excelling. This year with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and now even bigger and better as Josh’s accomplice in Peanut Butter Falcon.

Best Supporting Actor (almost): If Thomas Hayden Church who I LOVE (Sideways!!!) had had a bit bigger role as the washed up wrestler, he’d be in the running. Here’s where I’ll come down from the soap box and say, great performance, but not large or wide ranged enough for a nomination.

And while I think Dakota Johnson is fantastic (Black Mass especially), I don’t think her character gets enough screen moment time to win an award. Nomination(?) Sure. Win(?), probably a stretch.

I’ll be going to see this again and will be rooting for it for the next six months. This is the best picture of the year, hands down.

Maiden: Using undertow as a verb

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I’m declaring undertow as a verb, as in underdwhelmed, as in, ‘I got undertowed’ by the high praise for the documentary “Maiden”. I like the sound of it and hope to have it goes viral. Of course I’m saying this somewhat tongue in cheek.

On the one hand, what the women on “Maiden” did, as the first all woman team to sail around the world, is a really big deal.
Yet I was undertowed by the footage and the narrative by Alex Holmes. Consequently, the doc only grabbed me near the end.

What’s sadly ironic is that in the late 80’s the women were asked almost solely about the crew members relationships crew vs. tactical questions fed to men, yet Alex Jones the writer and director only focused on the women’s faces in present day interviews and soundbites of male chauvinists. If you want to help evolve, tell mini stories of the women, show moments that make us realize just how big a feat this was.

The relativity of it all, is that other documentaries I’ve seen this year that were much more inspiring, “Ask Dr. Ruth” and even “Echo in the Canyon” showed more humanity. And that’s the crux of the problem. I didn’t get to know any of the other gals besides the skipper and even her story didn’t ‘dive’ into the angst enough for me to have the big splash or payoff.

Interviews of present people and old 80’s blurry film doesn’t make for riveting story telling. Lesson learned: Don’t get undertowed by over enthusiastic reviewers.

Another Adults Home Alone Flick: “Come Undone”, That’s I-talian!

Available for free on Tubi is “Come Undone” written and directed by Silvio Soldini. I happened upon this title after a failed attempt of viewing “The Treat”, a decade plus old film starring my fantasy sister Julia Delphy (the acting was horrific and I lasted less than 10 minutes).

Come Undone, while also a decade old, is far superior and received Italian Golden Globes, so I thought, why not?

The acting is terrific! Alba Rohrwacher is the lead female who cohabitates with the stereotypical nice guy and yet falls for the mysterious bad boy. Not a new plot, but so well acted that you ‘go with it’. Team Nice is portrayed by Giuseppe Battiston and Team Bad by Pierfrancesco Favino (most recently in the Italian gangster flick The Tratiors-no thanks- Godfather and The Soprano are my last mafia meals).

Silvio Soldini is also responsible for “Bread and Tulips” which won a the Cannes CICAE Award which upon my Covid unrestricted research time, is an organization that helps push independent films into the mainstream.

What makes this better than most adultery themed flicks is the cinematography by Ramiro Civita. Pretty blurry night time highway scenes and the sexiest reddish toned dimly lit hotel room I’ve seen in film.

While the title makes it sound like a porno, this was a genuine story with torrid sex in the middle, which I am pretty sure was filmed on a different speed. While disrobing, the frame seems to speed up, possibly to add to the tension/friction. Overall, a realistic and stylistically quality film.

Wiener-Dog; Solondz Always Worth a Little Darkness

You need to buck up when you watch Tood Solondz. Prepare to be disturbed at some point in each of his films…maybe most disturbing was Happiness (but to see Philip Seymour Hoffman in his prime, again, worth it!!).

In Wiener-Dog we get snapshots of four stories detailing the lives of at least three different dachshunds.

The first sub-plot uses one of Solondz’s tried and true motifs of broken childhood dreams. In Todd’s world, there’s no such thing as a protected child. The best thing about this story was Tracy Letts as a curmudgeon of a husband/father and Julia Delphy as the matter-of-fact Mom. Theri dead pan deliveries added the most comedy of the film. And if I could choose any actress in the world to be my sister, it’d be a tough choice between Julia and Parker Posey.

In the second vignette, Greta Gerwig plays a geeky dog lover and Kieran Culkin as her convenient store pick up of a romantic interest. In the third, Danny DeVito plays a washed up Film Professor, and in the final episode, Ellen Burstyn plays an elderly Grandma to Zosia Mamet (Girls, Madmen), a wayward granddaughter stuck in a dysfunctional relationship. Burnstyn is amazing for still acting her arse off into her 90’s and Zosia has young acting chops that I look forward to seeing again in future projects.

Definitely worth a watch and a mere 88 minutes of quarantine time!

You Go Girls!: Blow the Man Down

Hey Bridget Savage and Danielle Krudy, you go girls!!

I loved their moody noir set in a Maine fishing town. The movie opens with fishmen singing traditional sea faring songs. And yet the movie doesn’t take itself too serious, and one of the fishmen actually breaks the fourth wall giving a knowing look and a smile. Love it!

Acting wise, Sophie Lowe stole the show for me. Her big sister trying to fix up ‘little’s mayhem was poignant. Morgan Saylor portrayed the younger sister, and while proficient, her acting seemed to be more clumsy. Equally as good was Gayle Rankin, whose stark blonde hair and hawk like nose give her a unique fierceness.

Other acting highlights were June Squibb and Margo Martindale who after brief research, won Prime Time Emmy’s for The Americans. Male acting highlights (besides the aforementioned fishmen) got to the two cops: veteran Skipp Sudduth and relative newbie Will Brittain who’s tough vulnerability was the perfect oxymoron.

Blow the Man Down is not a 10. Like Phone Booth, it’s a shake your head knowing what the characters should do (which would negate the plot, I fully realize). Yet, unlike and better than Phone Booth, I never thought it was cheesey. Eerie, yes, and with that I’ll end and commend the music gurus who composed beautifully creepy music: Jordan Dykstra and Brian McOmber.

Phone Booth from 2002

Hey, just curious…do I ever get to retire? Trust me, I feel blessed to be working 33 hours this week, BUT just when I thought I was on easy street, working part-time and having fun dog sitting, here comes Covid-19 to screw up the works. At least my gravestone will say “She Worked It!”

Last night I took in a somewhat iconic film I had missed due to my son being 9 years old in 2002, and since I was having so much fun as a mom and home owner, I didn’t give a fig about movies back then.

Phone Booth was directed by Joel Shcumacher (written by Larry Cohen) starring Colin Farrel with Forrest Whitaker, Katie Homes (man did she look like a teenager (she was 23) with annoying baby voice) and Radha Mitchell. Oh yeh and Kiefer Sutherland’s voice (eye roll).

First, the good news; the movie is short and tightly written. The acting is top notch, especially Colin Ferrel (can we give him an Oscar soon? Killing of the Sacred Dear was amazing and of course In Bruges was terrific as well). The minor characters were also beleiveable.

The plot though, I’m sorry to say, is cheesey. Kiefer’s voice sounded much too Messiah-like and unreal. I kept thinking (since I didn’t allow myself to read about it ahead a time) the voice was actually Kevin Spacey (since he is the biggest Hollywood creep of all time-next to Weinstein).

The ending, too, just seemed cheap. I don’t think this held up over time, but I’m open to comments if someone wants to convince me of something more profound.

Let’s Talk About Sex: Amorous from 2014

Trying to get my Josh O’Connor (“Emma’ “The Crown” “Hope Gap”) fix, I happened upon a freebie via Tubi from 2014 called Amourous (also known as Hide & Seek according to IMDB) directed (and co written) by Joanna Coates. The other writer is Daniel Metz. Curiously, neither has done anything since Amorous, leading me to believe there’s an investigative podcast and Netflix special just waiting to happen.

So what’s it all about Alfie? Well, first, my name’s Roxanne (insert your hilarity). The movie is quite interesting: two couples go to a remote English cottage and set up a nightly rotational schedule of: entertainment and then sleeping arrangements.

If you can handle sex of both hetero and homo, the movie is very entertaining. The nudity and sex are not gratuitous and tastefully done (akin to Portrait of a Lady on Fire).

I really don’t buy the log line that four ‘fragile’ young people get together. None of these folks seemed vulnerable. Not one of them balked at nude drawings or sex with a different partner every night. If anything, the most fragile character was the fifth wheel interloper.

The four ‘stars’ are Josh O’Connor, Hannah Arterton, and Rea Mole and Danile Metz (the latter two disappeared into the same abyss as the director and writer). Joe Banks (the fifth wheel who may have had the most acting range displayed) also, gonzo. Covid-19?

Anyway, if you’re alone and without a partner, but need some titillation, this is tasteful fare.

Perfect Frivolity: The Jesus Rolls

Another great calming pic is The Jesus Rolls, written primarily by Bertrand Blier, with help from the Coen Brothers, and John Turturro who also directs and stars.

In spite of a thin plot, the cast is so charming: Christopher Walken, Bobby Cannavale, Audrey Tautou, Susan Sarandon, Jon Hamm and Pete Davidson. Isn’t that the best dinner party group ever?

I appreciated the equality of nudity, both male and female. Harkens back to why we have statues of body forms (which was coincidentally addressed in Herzog’s Cave of Dreams where people 35,000 carved bodies out of ivory which I watched and experienced on the same day).

This all comes back to the reality that we are all one and all miracles to be experiencing this time together. Let’s keep helping each other up.

The Jesus Rolls will deifnitely give you a smile and a laugh. Turturro and Cannavale should defitniely do a sequel.

Moment of Zen: Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams isn’t for the Fast and Furious crowd, but given the overload of stress and information, the documentary certainly fit the bill yesterday granting me a much needed Moment of Zen.

The cave which was discovered in the 90’s dates back 35,000 years ago (not a typo:) Within it’s walls lay works of chalk art that have survived throughout history. While my friend had an apt and well timed Mystery Science Theater 3000 comment, “a nerd parade” in relation to the scientists and film makers lucky enough to venture in (the cave is now closed for preservation), the doc was enthralling to think of past civilization who survived much more than Covid.

Ernst Reijseger’s music also added to the documentary’s grandeur. Unplug from the news feed and check it out.

Corpus Christi, Finding a Positive Mission

In need of distraction, I took in Corpus Christi written by Mateusz Pacewicz and directed by Jan Komasa due to its high Rotten Tomato Score. And sure, the film was like a ripe banana, sweet in spots, but with an emerging brown spot.

Not sure if it’s the nascence of a new movie genre, including now One Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite and Uncut Gems, but add Corpus Christi to the pile of Fourth of July ending fireworks films.

And ok, it certainly makes you go out of the theater saying ‘wow’, but sometimes a tidy ending is much appreciated. We don’t need apocalyptic endings every time.

This isn’t me breaking my spoiler code either because you still have no idea what type of fireworks will happen, could be corkscrew, multi-colored or merely all white lights.

Bartosz Bielenia stars in the film and does an absolute fabulous job and I do understand the symbolism of the story line. But at this point, analogous to my not reading any novels about pandemics, I had hoped for a feel good film.

Don’t get me wrong, Corpus Christi is worth seeing, but I have to wonder about the psyche of the screenwriter. May he find salvation.

In fact, let’s all start loving each other. Right now.

William Nicholson’s Hope Gap, Mega Talent Takes Up All the Spaces

I was about to type William Nicholson where you been all my life, but never seeing The Gladiator #girlwhodoens’tlikeviolence, I did not know that this gent was previously Oscar nominated for best screenplay, as well as for Shadowlands which I did see suckerforalovestorywithanintrovert.

Ok, ok, enough hash tagging. How about a lecture instead? For the love of God, get out of your CNN, David Mueller fear hovel and go to the movies to see Hope Gap written and directed by the aforementioned.

You may not believe me, but ‘check the tape’ as they say in radio, since I spied how special Josh O’Connor was in Emma last week (not knowing he is already an award winner himself). Low and behold, in this film, he was the third leg of a highly talented triumvirate with Bill Nighy and Annette Bening.

This movie is for anyone who has ever been divorced, in fact, while wildly different in tone, (this is a super meditative and pensive film), it could have been called Divorce Story as a counterpoint to Bambauch’s Marriage Story.

I’m not going to ruin anything by giving away plot, suffice to say that this is a couple who divorces and the son is put very unfairly in the middle. I know I can relate to that, as well as trying very hard not to continue the pattern.

Go. See. This. Movie. And I already vote for Annette and Bill to get Oscar noms.

At the Urging of…Art School Confidential

The Book Store has always been a source for movie recommendations, from classics Barry Rothman hipped me to (Sweet Smell of Success to name one) to modern ones, from James Mammone (Ghost Story) and one from my Curb Your Enthusiasm compatriot Carrie from 2006 (Art School Confidential) when I was knee deep in teaching and being a mom. This last film is what I just finished this afternoon.

Terry Zwigoff (Bad Santa and Ghost World) doesn’t put out movies in bulk in fact according to IMDB, the last thing he did was a TV short in 2017 called Budding Prospects. And while Art School Confidential had a few positives, it didn’t grab me in the way it charmed my co-workers.

First, I love John Malcovich and one of the many difficulties I had with this film is, he wasn’t in it enough! The same could be said for Anjelica Houston who I also cherish. Additionally telling was the fact that main star Max Minghella hasn’t actually gone on to bigger and better (though is in the very popular-though not with me) Handmaids Tale. Almost ditto for Sophia Myles. Last, Jim Broadbent’s character was too dark to be believable.

The film uses college and artist stereotypes for humor which is ok and worked some of the time. But the strangler sub-plot took away from my enjoyment of the humor. Hence, a good way to stay away from the media monster feeding our poor frenzied cell phone hostages, but definitely a lesser film than Bad Santa and Ghost World.