Philip Seymour Hoffman God’s Pocket, what an encore!

I was devastated from announcement word one of PSH’s death, not only because he was from my neck of the woods (Rochester area), but I met him once as well, at the hometown debut of his film “Flawless” at the Little Theater in 1999. He was two people; just a guy who seemed sweet and normal and the acting genius that was his career.

Today I saw him in one of his last roles as Mickey Scarpato of John Slattery’s directed “God’s Pocket”. First let me call out any critic who divested the measly 33 % I last spied on Rotten Tomatoes. I have already shown my prejudice, being enamored with PSH’s work, yet even an unsophisticated movie goer could wholeheartedly applaud PSH’s and Richard Jenkins’ performances over the 50% mark.

Philip Seymor Hoffamn may best be remembered decades from now as the consummate sad sack, this time in God’s Pocket cuckolded to an uncaring shrew. And Richard Jenkins (whose poorly written role in the recent college related movie “Liberal Arts” stunk out the dorm room) returned to his master class form with a much more carnivorous role, of a desperate alcoholic journalist.

My favorite scene for poignancy depicted PSH’s Mickey dejectedly undressing to take a despairing Whiteny-esque bath after his wife literally (and figuratively) rejected him. His character makes me want to contact Tammy Wynette to rewrite her famous song into “Stand By Your Woman”, making Hillary Clinton’s forgiveness look like chump change.

The one minor critique of the film is its ending, which I will not spoil here. As my son aptly said, it was too much of a mood change.

Seek out God’s Pocket (though you must look deeply as most mainstream theaters aren’t grabbing this worthwhile indie flick) and let me know if you agree.

Sophie Fienne’s Documentary “The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology”

What’s not to like about Slavoj’s Zizek’s “The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology” (available on Netflix) which had its Rochester, New York premier at the majestic George Eastman House Dryden Theater on May 17th?
And yet how do I impart the vast knowledge that Sociology and Psychology Scholar Zizek imparted in his two hour plus documentary? Perhaps this Zizek quote may give you the flavor of the man’s manifesto:
“I am a pessimist in the sense that we are approaching dangerous times. But I’m an optimist for exactly the same reason. Pessimism means things are getting messy. Optimism means these are precisely the times when change is possible.”

In appearance and speech Zizek vaguely resembles a Werner Herzog on amphetamines, reporting with a twitchy kinetic energy that makes the movie fly by, but that also makes you wish you could slow down to 33 and 3rd rpms.slavoj zizek

Morsels gleaned as they skimmed by me like skipping stones:
Movies can be viewed as metaphor for our basic fear and Freudian needs. An example of the former was Jaws (Spielberg, 1975) with the great white shark representing United States’ fear of Cuba.
The latter example exemplified by Psycho (Hitchcock, 1960) in which the three floors represent man’s id (basement), ego (first floor) and super ego (2nd floor).

Last Zizek made an interesting case that atheism is a much kinder and gentler belief system, given the torture, human sacrifice, and twisted interpretations Christianity and other theologies espouse. For this theory, Zizek cunningly wove in clips of The Last Temptation of Christ (Scorsese, 1988).

While this all sounds quite heady, Zizek wrote the screenplay with humor, putting himself into the scenery of the films mentioned, prone on a dilapidated apartment twin bed during a talk about DeNiro in Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 1976) or clad in a monk’s frock for The Sound of Music clips (Wise, 1965). His sardonic view gave the viewer the spoonful of sugar enabling us to entertain the intellectual medicine. Kudos to Zizek and director Sophie Fiennes for a fine doc! sophie fiennes

Jim Jarmusch: Only Lovers Left Awake (Alive)

Despite being somewhat disentranced through much of Only Lovers Left Alive, I did enjoy the film.

Jarmusch made darkness and despair look attractive, proof of his early trainiing at Columbia, NYU and Cinematheque Francasie. The sets were gorgeous even in their centuries old accumulation of books and instruments. Romance exists even in dimly lit disorganization which is excellent news for my bulging clothes closet.

The film also made me glad for my day job as vampires lack thereof might be partially why they are so bored and lethargic. The burden of being immortal is what to do with all that time. How much sight seeing can one do for eternity?

In fact, they were so bored (here’s where you shout: HOW BORED WERE THEY?), that stars Tidla Swinton (Eve) and Tom Hiddleston (Adam) took a sightseeing tour of Detroit! Yet even ruined cities can look majestic by night.

The plot was weak to say the least which leads me to believe there is a new film genre in its nascence. Similar to Inside Llewyn Davis, not much happens in Only Lovers Left Alive. But as I told my English students recently when they complained about their apathy at the lack of action in the film Wadjda (mind you, they’re 12, Wadjda was far from boring) that life is a journey with more moments of slack than static. Inside Llewyn Davis and Only Lovers Left Alive highlight life’s daily grind. In addition, both films dealt with the characters’ interior minds tough to depict visually, a wrestling within about finding new challenges to embrace based on years of previous rejections and disappointments.

And given Jarmusch’s quips within the film about our dependency on technology (though hypocritically sporting Eve’s Apple I-phone in several scenes), the dysfunction of self-promotion and fame, our ruination and disregard for the environment; perhaps Adam’s depression comes more from overload, where the years (century years) are merely a metaphor for our informational and consumerism excess.

Last, perhaps the vampire motif has come full circle. We are now back to kinder gentler Counts, like Chocula and Sesame Street’s von Count, empathic guides for people’s chocolate satisfaction and math skills. According to Only Lovers Left Alive, the new vampire rule is only bite and amorous souls whose cells will live on generating positive vibrations throughout space and time. Count Chocula

Le Weekend: How Do I Loathe Thee, Let Me Bark the Ways

Ok, my title isn’t true to the film’s last fifteen minutes, but I couldn’t resist.

Le Weekend’s directed by Roger Mitchell (never saw his other films, Notting Hill being one) and stars Jim Broadbent (from my favorite Moulin Rouge), Lindsay Duncan (a new actress to me, but could play Julie Delphy’s mother in a heartbeat,  pretty and 64) and (insert trumpets blaring for expertise) Jeff Goldblum

First of all what’s a girl like me (perpetually single a la Marc Maron style, meaning I crave closeness yet feel oppressed the minute a date lasts longer than 3 hours) doing at a movie about the beauty of relationship longevity, aka marriage?

I wanted to see what was green about the other side since it’s been so long since I was on marital turf.  Happily I can report that I did not come away super envious, nor depressed of what I have not.  I can also be thankful that this couple was not about who Helen Fielding coined as ‘smug marrieds’ , who I unfortunately see way too many of in Rochester, NY,   those couples who wear their duoship as if they were Kate and William.

So while the movie didn’t make me feel envious or sad, I do feel a bit alarmed that some feel feminism comes with permission to be verbally abusive to men, which I think is wrong and ugly.  When Lindsay’s character Meg calls her husband and f’n idiot or, after pushing him down, tells him to stop being such a girl, that that is verbal abuse.  And to reject your husband sexually for what was implied in the film as years, only to demand periodically to be held, is also an abuse of female power.  And for men who tolerate that for the sake of: the children, the sanctity of marriage, their family status or bank account, may I just say a very stern, “shame on you” for going green light on a dysfunctional model for your children to continue.  Putting men down isn’t funny or right.

On a happy ending positive note, may I say that Jeff Goldblum has that same beautiful quality that John Goodman has; that no matter how depressing the movie, when Jeff (or John) is in a scene, he adds crackle and spice.  Jeff’s canape chomping scene where he manically explains his start up second family (young wife included) is priceless and filled with an honesty that the rest of the cloying cast doesn’t quite ever achieve.

No real lesson learned this time around, only a wish that Jeff Goldblum will do more indie flicks.