Sorry to Bother You: A Movie Ray Bradbury Would Dig

Sorry to Bother You (directed by Boots Riley, writer of Superbad) was a movie Ray Bradbury would love.

I was such a huge Fahrenheit 451 fan having taught it for years and Sorry to Bother You certainly had the dystopian society function on high. In Fahrenheit 451, Midlred is addicted to violent tv shows that everyone thinks are hilarious.

And today, if you watch Highly Questionable (a show that I like except for when they laugh hysterically at people beating each other up) you’ll get an unfortunate sneak preview into the dystopian world of Sorry to Bother You with a tv show called (I believe) I Got the Sh*& Kicked Out of Me where people humiliate themselves and get beat up for fame and possibly fortune.

And that’s just one of the many subversive tricks Boots uses to get our attention. His evil corporation looks eerily like what they already have in China, whereby people live like sardines in dormitories attached to their work places.

If it couldn’t actually happen someday, Sorry To Bother You would be knee slapping science fiction. However, due to the fact that we have become a stupid society praising big wealth, numb to social issues that matter, rather obsessing about who the ruler is instead of caring about the issues, and that act like we are helplessly hooked to our devices and violent images makes Sorry To Bother You maybe the most relevant movie of our times, a social satire to wake us up, if it’s not too late.

I am happy to say that I am living life, and thank God, right? Because who knows if our society isn’t on the border of the violent revolution Boots predicts since people have stopped loving each other based on whether you like donkeys or elephants, meanwhile being brainwashed by a vile media. And anyway, my dermatologist may find some deadly mole on my next visit this week. So why not Carpe diem Baby. Crank up the R.E.M. I say, “It’s the End of the World as We Know it.” But seriously, I hope it’s not.

I promise if you see Sorry to Bother You, you’ll surely laugh and then think the same as me. Acting cred goes to the main actor: Lakeith Stanfield, a relative newbie whose biggest known role is probably the hit show Atlanta. And I can’t help but mention that handsome hunk of a man Armie Hammer, who got even sexier in this film by sporting a beard all while playing the most despicably funny role in the film.

What a great way to end a weekend.

The Truth Will Set You Free: Whitney

Leave it to a brilliant Scot, Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) to do a top quality documentary on Whitney Houston. While you may think you know everything you could possibly know or suspect, this doc has a dramatic arc to which I (a huge Whitney fan) was riveted. Macdonald names names and pulls no punches. I do believe even Whitney would be sighing relief at the truth coming out.

Suffice to say, she was not so much an ignorant drug addict and neglectful mother, but a person broken spiritually by abuse.

Does she have culpability in her own demise? Absolutely. However, her parents are just as much to blame. Whitney was better made than the award winning doc on Amy Winehouse. Macdonald was neat and tight in detail, yet thorough in its history telling.

Despite the following distractions, can I just say that while Mr. Rogers can not be beat for his outpouring of love, Whitney the documentary slays Mr. R in that it has much more revealing details than the Won’t You Be My Neighbor including never before seen footage of many of Whitney’s performances including highlights and low lights. I learned a LOT I didn’t know that I won’t spoil. Let’s just say that you wonder whether the root of Whitney’s trouble (and of many people I know personally) doesn’t deserve center stage in research and development of cures/counseling techniques and places designed to help folks heal.

Here’s a news flash for folks approaching a movie theater:
A movie theater is NOT:

a parade. I sat in the front row on purpose, yet out of the corner of my eye I mush have seen at least 10 people walking up an down the stairs. Perhaps they were breaking in a Fitbit, but sit the hell down. Follow my lead, as I think I probably acquired a bladder infection having to urinate after the 35 minutes of previews, but toughed it out not to miss a second of Whitney, the tremendous documentary by .

a chat room. Why can’t you shut the hell up for 120 minutes. Consider it vocal rest. Who would want to utter a sound as Whitney Houston belts her her iconic National Anthem? Apparently the idiots behind me who also had to recline or decline their chairs at least 5 times during the film adding the nails on chalk board flatulence sound they make, leather hitting leather.

a fashion walkway. Some dame had to come in 20 minutes late and instead of ducking under the Disney World maze of walkway to the front row, paraded by us two and half times before landing like a lab trying to find a comfy position on the mantle rug.

Hearts Beat Loud, Perfection

Hearts Beat Loud (written and directed Brett Haley and Marc Basch who wrote another great indie called The Hero in which Nick Offerman also starred) is the perfect movie for many generations, especially millennials headed off to college and middle aged parents. It’s also an uplifting movie for anyone with dreams or conflicts that Robert Frost approached in The Road Not Taken.

The acting by Nick Offerman in an almost entirely dramatic role was terrific. Is there anything this guy can’t do? Comedy, drama, wood working, music…Come on man, you must be the photo that pops up first when someone does an internet search for the term renaissance man. Kiersey Klemons has the potential to be the next Whitney Houston, with a million dollar voice and much better acting ability.

While I love Ted Danson, his character was a bit of a throwaway, but who cares, he’s so good and seeing him behind a bar serving drinks again was like his career going full circle. Toni Collette is always a doll.

Definitely worth seeing on the big screen, an ode to brick and mortar record stores and a feel good movie about living your dreams, Hearts Beat Loud was very well done.

Deer in the Headlights: Chappaquiddick

Guess I’ve been a bit of Ted Kennedy myself recently, deer in the headlights, sort of mired in thought. That’s actually a faulty analogy because I didn’t cause an accident that killed anyone. Just not sure where I’m going with projects and relationships.

But I digress. Chappaquiddick the film (directed by John Curran-the only other film I’ve seen of his is We Don’t Live Here Anymore which was rough, but worthy) is worth it’s 80 Rotten Tomatoes percentage points. Certainly not an upper, Chappaquiddick recounts the fatal accident in which Ted was driving and his female companion is drowned.

Here are two sides of a theory that I wonder what others think-possibly even would be Kennedy scholars who have read or know more…the movie wants us to believe that Mary Jo was a confidante and a champion of Teddy to reach higher politically without a sexual component. If this is true, did that make it easier for Ted to walk around in a stupor for 12 plus hours while his car lay upside down in the water?

On the other hand, let’s say the writers’ (Taylor Allen, Andrew Logan) simply left that out and Ted and Mary Jo were lovers. Would that have been more of a reason for Ted to want to avoid the controversy? It wasn’t just a girl drowned, but also a lover, given that he was married. The movie did seem to intimate that Ted really wanted the ‘boiler room girls’ at this party, but leaves it open for debate the reason, leaning more toward it simply being a family of Bobby supporters needing to get together to wax philosophical about past tragedy vs. future hope.

I won’t go further into the dehumanizing way many of these rich folks treated each other, watch the film to be shocked abut the nuances of that cut throat world.

I will mention the acting though of whom Jason Clarke hits it out of the park. He is definitely deserving of an Academy Award nom though that might just seem too morbid to be giving a nomination to man portraying a man who seemingly killed someone without caring. Bruce Dern was also fabulous a stroke victimized and emotionally abusive Papa Kennedy. Ed Helms is admirable as Teddy’s ‘friend’ and tool, Joseph Gargan, who according to the film, attempted several times to be the moral compass. I will research on whether he’s written a book on his thoughts about this tragic time.

An acting misfire that I will now call the LCK (for Louis CK in Trumbo) goes to Jim Gaffigan. Sure he makes a good bumbly chunky guy, but is just too anachronistic in a movie about tragedy. I kept thinking he was going to look at the camera and say, “Hot Pockets’.

So while I wrestle with the belief that people don’t need to see each other daily for closeness or monogamy, I obviously know if a friend or lover is in a life or death situation and you do nothing, you’re a scumbag, no matter what your last name may be.

Mr. Rogers was a Wonder, But If We Take It Down a Notch We Can All Be Him

Won’t You Be My Neighbor is just what you would expect it to be, which is great for the collective us who all need optimism and love at this point in history. And Won’t You Be My Neighbor the documentary is also a worthy film in that it holds a few surprising insider tidbits.

Director Morgan Neville of 20 Feet From Stardom fame does a great job of weaving show clips, interviews with Mrs. Rogers and former cast members. In looking at Neville’s IMDB page, I wonder why I never heard of Best of Enemies: Buckley vs. Vidal and plan to seek that out at Selby Library.

My only quibble with the documentary was the lack of comment on cast member Betty Aberlin who according to IMDB formed a friendship with Kevin Smith and acted in the movies Dogma and Red State. At the risk of sounding like Seinfeld, what’s the deal with not appearing in the doc?

And while Mr. Rogers’ loving nature may seem like a marvel, I’d like to challenge any future protesters on either side of the insipid political strife to literally help a neighbor (meaning impoverished, abused, elderly) in the real time rather than just waste it with bilious talk and sign posts. We can all be Mr. Rogers when you really think about it.

My Love & Hate for the new film First Reformed

I haven’t seen every Ethan Hawke film, but I’ve come pretty darn close. There’s some immense sadness behind his eyes that makes me want to give him a hug. Though I fully realize his persona is that of a cad, a guy who left Uma for the nanny. That said, my favorite film remains Before the Devil Knows Your Dead in spite of the 98% rating of First Reformed which I saw last night as a generous treat from my friend.

I’ve had this experience before, wary of where the film is going, yet willing to jump on for the ride. I was at first bored and depressed by the bleak Upstate New York winter setting, and the stifling repressed religious ministers. But I bought it, as Hawke is an amazing blank slate who takes on the gray coloring of the film written and directed by Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull). Fun fact I just read about Mr. Schrader is that he grew up in a strict Calvinist family and that his next film is titled The Jesuit. Looks like he’s on a ‘give us this day our daily religious roll of film’.

So there I am, riveted, more so than my friend, who had every right to be turned off due to some spoilers of which I won’t mention that she’s all too familiar. But after offering to leave (movies aren’t worth psychological torture, aka my leaving Thin Red Line which was much too violent for me to take) and my friend saying she was ok due to some vastly different circumstances between her life and the film, I was fully ‘woke’ to experiencing what the culmination would be.

Schrader does a great job of establishing both a menacing foreboding and many foreshadowing red herrings. Where he lost me was at probably an hour and fifteen in, a magical realism sequence cascades into an Aronofskyesque Mother ending. At the conclusion (big question mark), my friend and I looked at each other thinking perhaps Burns Court was sent a bad cut of the film. Or perhaps we’re not ‘deep’ enough to get all the symbolism.

Hence, I’ll be heading to Rotten Tomatoes now to read the trained critics’ unpacking this film which means I was moved enough to care about what the hell it all means. Ethan Hawke definitely deserves fanfare, as does Cedric the Entertainer, who is an ultra serious role, is terrific as the financially minded super preacher. Amanda Seyfried is also fantastic as the emotionally confused pregnant Mary.

The film certainly confirms my opinion of organized religion in that much like any organization that becomes large, power corrupts. And if my life is any indication (my best friend pretty much breaking my heart in her rejection of me once she became full Baptist), religious folks can be some of the coldest. A visceral scene from First Reformed is when Ethan says an inch away from the face of a woman (portrayed by Victoria Hill, also very good) who loves him that he despises her for her petty emotions, you fully get that he is not a man who can heal.

Unfortunately, due to the uneven story, this won’t win Ethan the Oscar, but it was worth seeing for the acting and ‘interesting’ story idea.

Goodbye Columbus, Goodbye Mr. Roth

My good friend and co-worker Barry suggested Goodbye Columbus a a library loaner last week after Philip Roth died. My experience with Mr. Roth began during my relationship with a Manhattan born handsome devil who encouraged me to read Portnoy’s Complaint.

I had admittedly lost track of Philip Roth except for his announcement a few years back that he was retiring from writing. Then I had heard even more recently that Lisa Halliday had written a roman a clef about her May December affair with Roth in her novel Asymmetry. During the reading of that novel, Mr. Roth passed away at the age of 85.

Hence, I rented Goodbye Columbus that Barry joked was ‘the story of my life’. Did you know that 1969 was a looooong time ago? Meaning, the world has changed leaps and bounds and this film no longer holds up. Sure, there are certainly still conflicts regarding wealth disparity and dating below or above your income status, but the main conflicts no longer exist. The fact that one of the culminating conflicts involved Ali McGraw (and while this was her first movie and she was drop dead gorgeous, let’s face facts, she was not expressive aka had zero range) being verkelmpt over her mother finding her diaphragm while in college isn’t as big of a deal these days as it was in the stubborn repression that the wild 60’s was trying to snuff out. And sure, there were nuances to this conflict, trying to make a relationship work when two people exist in two different realms (one college, one not) rarely works out.

And while Richard Benjamin did a decent job as the middle class outlier, he was an equally flat character. I felt I was watching two actors, almost too nervous and new to really make this film. But then again, it could be I’m just cynical about the outdated plot.

Don’t get me wrong, I needed something somewhat fluffy to get me through Anthony Bourdain’s suicide and it was comforting to see Jack Klugman who I always saw as the ultimate father figure; tough but super caring. And thinking of a younger Barry navigating dating socialites also made me smile.

On Chesil Beach: I’m a runner not a skater, likewise McEwan should stick to novelist

On Chesil Beach (screenplay written by the novelist Ian McEwan, directed by Dominic Cooke) was intriguing and worth seeing. Just realize you’ll spend the first third of the movie motioning the log roll “and then” speed it up signal, and then be equally flabbergasted when you flash forward from a Loooooooong 1962 to a semi quick 1975 to a super sped up 2007.

My movie companion brought up a fair point about Britain’s cinematic fascination over ‘the old day’s’ rather than tackling current issues. Perhaps its fitting with the surfacey insistence that perfect (or in the cinema sense ‘halcyon’ days) royalty must somehow reflect a perfect society, a sweep under the rug of violent crime and racism happening in the ‘real’ England.

Back to the film: cinematography; great. Chesil Beach’s pebbles is/are a perfect backdrop for a marriage ‘on the rocks’. And to be fair, turning a novel into a screenplay is no small feat. McEwan attempts to layer the sedementary rock of their courtship, their separate but equally dysfunctional pasts.

Acting by the leads; Saoirse Ronan, though ubiquitous in recent films, was solid as ever as the repressed English musician. Billy Howie, who I had never seen before (didn’t see Dunkirk), was not an attractive man, but he did grow on me (almost literally considering the decades covered) as the movie wore on. Props to the make up artist who helped him age realistically and convincingly. Emily Watson and Samuel West were impressive in making their small, but abusive parental roles very memorable.

In a nutshell (part pun there as Ian McEwan’s most recent famous novel (new in paperback) is called Nutshell), this is the story of probably 75% of young marriages. Here are two people who don’t know themselves yet and are equally crippled due to family hardships or abuse and thus, two broken kids can not equal a whole or healthy beginning. This is exactly what happened in my first marriage (which I was too immature to just hang in there and wait), and my second marriage which age unfortunately had not advanced to wisdom.

My film companion chalked the film’s message up to “Pride Goeth before a Fall” blaming the male. I see a woman who clearly wasn’t ready for marriage, but was towing the ‘company line of the 1960’s’. The reality is, we all make early mistakes which we inevitably second guess as we age. Yet the most important epiphany to hold on to is that we’re given each new day to make the most of, and we damn well better do that.

Let This Be a Lesson: RBG

Wow, was I ignorant about Ruth Bader-Ginsburg! Here I’ve been working at BookStoreOne in Sarasota, and in my defense, with a constant stream of books going by me on a daily basis…here was The Notorious RBG book, the RBG workout book (my interior though being, ‘does this get shelved in Humor or Health and Fitness?, There is No Truth Without Ruth, etc.

And I just thought, ok, she’s an impressive ageing Supreme Court judge who misspoke and revealed her opinion about our current President. But after seeing the documentary RBG (BIG THANKS to my friend Carrie who treated me last night at Burns Court Cinema!) I now know how INCREDIBLY impressive her life has really been. One of the first women at Harvard Law School, had children while going to law school, had children while going to law school AND a husband going through cancer treatments. Championed equal rights for women AND men! Battled two types of cancer and decided after the first illness to get fit! Isn’t a braggart and never yells! I mean, this lady rocks!

Now that’s not to say that the doc was perfect by any stretch. Oft times too kitschy, and the old timey stock footage was somewhat lazy, and when I saw CNN produced the doc, I wasn’t surprised. But I so appreciated learning about her that all is forgiven (Directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen, God bless you). If the vehicle necessary to ‘get me there’ is a somewhat clunky one, so be it. Totally worth seeing and perfect for any Grandma or Grandpa who needs inspiration.

Giant Post Script: And boy do I covet her marriage to a funny guy!

Two Semi Oldies: Both Blue in Language and History

I recently watched two PPLL (Pre-Pension Library Loaners) and was surprised at their similarity regarding a legion of f-bombs. The two films also both have either a sad back or front story.

I took out Object of My Affection after starting a play reading class in which we started with one act by Wendy Wasserstein. While I had heard of her Pulitzer and Tony Award winning play The Heidi Chronicles, I didn’t know much abut her. She wrote the screenplay for The Object of My Affection (directed by Nicholas Hytner, who these days directs mostly National Theater Live productions). Wendy Wasserstein had a sad ending to her brief life (died of cancer at age 55 after having a baby late in life (49)).

In her honor I watched The Object of My Affection which despite it’s Rotten Tomatoes 49% was very real and well written. The only negatives I saw was the hacky saxophone music (like it was stuck in the 80’s still) and the acting. Both Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd meant well, but their performances were no match for the script’s verisimilitude. Which I think is rare, believing the words, but not the people speaking them. Again, a tribute to Wendy W. I will say something about solid acting in the film, too, and that was by John Pankow who has done mostly tv work as of late.

The second f-bomb laden film I watched was for totally different reasons. My favorite co-worker, Barry, and I are on a constant conversation about film. He has suggested mostly great films for me to watch. This latest, Auto Focus, directed by Paul Schrader (coming out next week with what looks like a blockbuster with called First Reformed), had its pluses and minuses. The sad front story here was the move’s focus of Bob Crane’s sad descent into drinking and sex addiction after hitting it big with Hogan Heroes.

The actors Greg Kinnear and Willem Dafoe were terrific, yet the movie felt a bit clunky. A little cliche in the beginning and downright uncomfortably cloying as far as their characters fascination with sex. Ironically, I realize what they did back in the early 70’s was nothing compared to the probable rampant porn addiction happening today.

I forgot to mention that Barry’s recommendation was partly due to our common fascination and admiration with Richard Dawson and how he is the person who introduced (unknowingly) Bob Crane to his future assassin, John Carpenter.

All in all, not a bad way to spend a few rainy afternoons in Sarasota.