“Obvious Child”: Pregnant in its Details

Gillian Robespierre may have been inspired by Louis CK’s stand up comedian’s “life on display” award winning formula in her film Obvious Child which she both directed and co-wrote. The movie stars comedian Jenny Slate (as Donna) and actor Jake Lacy (as Max). Although I enjoyed the flick as a whole, overly antiseptic aspects mixed oddly with quasi corny romance kept me from going full term, so to speak, in my adulation.

In any art form, pushing the envelope is necessary to make an indelible mark. And if anything, this new century will be remembered for the ‘killing sacred cow’ genres; Tarantino, Jack Ass’s Tremaine, Sasha Baron Cohen’s movies just to name a few, not to mention Stone and Parker’s musical The Book of Mormon.

sacred cow

And while I’m very much pro-choice, knowing that quality of life (loved and cared for the premiums) equals the overall peace and joy on earth, AND that I am saddened by the recent Supreme Court decision severing a recent Massachusetts law that banned protesters within 35 feet of abortion clinics, I feel Obvious Child may have taken a too clinical approach for a rom-com.

At times, I felt like I was watching a really, really well done how-to video: here’s how you perform a pregnancy test, here’s how you talk to a doctor, here’s how you tell your mother, here’s how you lay on the table.

The characters were all likeable, though realism was stretched a bit when Jenny’s mother (played by Polly Draper) does an about face from austere critical mom to an understanding touchy feely one.

But let’s be positive. The drunken fun of Donna and Max dancing in varying states of disrobing to Paul Simon’s song “Obvious Child” was suffused with palpable joy. The scene where Donna goes to a fellow comedian’s (played by Dave Cross) loft and is consequently hit on after he changes into a hideous cowpoke patterned tank top is also a stitch.

“Obvious Child” is definitely worth seeing for those moments and because it has done what few, if any, has attempted, to build a story around a sensible choice, that has before this film, been a woman’s shameful secret.

Battle of the Exes P. Smith vs. S. Shepard: “Nobody Gets the Money“

Battle of the Exes

In probably my most oxymoronic relationship of all time (think Dickens “It was the best of times and it was the worst of times”), my then boyfriend would cite an old Superman episode line by a chagrinned Jimmy Olsen, “Aw, nobody got the money,” when neither of us reached the summit (a coitus euphemism).

And now I must say in the tussle between two former exes who both were in movies I saw this weekend, that nobody got the money in film either. The ‘frigid’ films were Patty Smith’s “The Dream of Life” actually from 2008, but re-released to indie theaters, like my Little Theater in Rochester, New York , and in the other corner, Sam Shepard in “Cold in July” starring beside Sam, Don Johnson and Michael C. Hall of Dexter fame.

First, Patty Smith’s “Dream of Life” wins merely because disorganized non-fiction is better than crazy buffoonish fiction. I actually saw this documentary when it first came out, and think more was added to the mayhem since its first incarnation. So, it’s a mess, but a pretty mess, with singing, poetry and a lot about Patty looking at her own mortality due to the death’s surrounding her (spouse and a former lover to name two). But I swear the former doc I saw ended with her and Flea on the beach, where this devolved further into more poetry and grave sites. Let’s just say her railing against George W. didn’t stand up to the test of time. But I really do love Patty Smith and feel guilty criticizing her film, yet less bad that it’s 9 years old and therefore, past the statute of limitation perhaps to be judged.

Second, “Cold in July”, which as the credits rolled looked at my dad (his Father’s Day outing) and said, “there’s a screenwriter who has got some dough to burn, because anyone with half a brain, would have questioned the hell out of the screenplay. Like, why didn’t the police ever care about Sam Shepard’s body being missing after it disappeared of the railroad tracks (the old Snidely Whiplash trick) or why did Michael C. Hall’s character quit caring about the scapegoat he killed? Or why is MC Hall’s town suddenly safe with rotten cops still in charge at the film’s end? And probably the largest question….why did critics give this a fairly high rating (a 92% early at last check on Rotten Tomatoes)?

I know vaguely the last answer because though I try not to read reviews before forming my own original opinion, I did see the critics mooning over Don Johnson’s southern charm of a role. Hopefully Melanie Griffith saw it, too, and the pair can go for marriage number 3, because while he’s certainly a handsome devil and a comic relief, he certainly could not turn the temperature up on this freezer burnt hot dog of a film.

As Jimmy said, “Aw nobody got the money”.

Tom Cruise shouldn’t be a punchline: Edge of Tomorrow

You shouldn’t wait till the Edge of Tomorrow to see this film. See it on the brink of today.

And let’s discontinue the Scientology jokes, shall we?

Tom Cruise not only chooses again and again self-deprecating characters (think his rotund balding exec from Tropic Thunder to the frightened military officer in this film), but delivers each performance with sincerity.

As for his public persona, Tom Cruise has learned not to jump on couches declaring his love for a woman or proselytize his patriarchal views as he did with Today Show’s Matt Lauer years ago. He’s left the ring as media’s punching bag. If anything, his silence almost admits that he either is: a. is what people have said, a bit of a controlling religious zealot or b. that he has taken Polonius’s advice in ‘to thine own self be true’ and be darned with the rest of ya.

Emily Blunt’s been great in everything, from wonderfully wounded in Her Sister’s Sister, to glowing scarecrow in the corn of Salmon Fishing in Yemen to a believable Linda Hamiltonesque action hero in Edge of Tomorrow.

Edge’s story is the perfect metaphor for life; that we wake each morn to die another day. That we take our punches and become smarter and stronger . We battle rejection, cancer, divorce. We keep on trying until the demons have been slayed. That we learn to keep our mouths shut on opinions and simply lead our lives using our own genuine compass.

The best gift films give us is the empowerment that lingers well after you leave the theater. After Edge of Tomorrow, my grip on the steering wheel was more confident, the turns and traffic feeling like an alien easily conquered. And I’ll wake up tomorrow knowing I can face another work week.

Palo Alto: James Franco’s Atmoshpheric Dystopia

Considering author and director James Franco’s idiosyncratic ways, gives me permission to start my Palo Alto blog with an analogy; that even beginning this review is like trying to mount a gigantic marshmallow…what the hell should be my form of attack?

As I skulk around the marshmallow, deliberating, how about a ‘fun fact’? (an expression that has evolved in a justification for random commentary): did you know that the charter city Palo Alto was named after a large redwood tree “El Palo Alto”?

And a-ha! Now I tricked you, marshmallow, into my first mini rant of the film; two delinquents saw down a 200 plus year old tree and there’s zero repercussions?! I know, I know, it’s ‘just a movie’, but heaven forbid there’s some numb skull who thinks Twain thought the n-word was cool and that harming nature is condoned.
One more old lady type comment: Gee, am I glad I came of age in the 70’s and 80’s when parents still took pride in knowing their kids’ whereabouts and took a stand on curfews and behavior. Remember the shaming voice-over spoken ominously before the late news: “It’s 11 o’clock do you know where your children are?” Time to bring that phrase back, my friends. Because the only difference between ghetto kids running wild, the street urchins of Oliver Twist days and these California hipsters, is the I-phone they all own.
Now the positives:

Palo Alto, the film, makes me want to read Palo Alto: Stories the James Franco book. I want to know the resolution to one of the many strands left untied; for instance, whether the blonde with the McDonald’s ‘over one million served’ fellatio reputation attempts suicide, since movie sections allude to this (cyber bullying against her, a voice over that intimates a gang bang). So if anything Gia Coppola’s screenplay is the unique feat of being a 100 minute book trailer.

Two more pluses: atmosphere and sex scene originality…

Palo Alto had intense atmosphere, not nearly as good as another recent film Under My Skin did, but still the dreamy soundtrack blanketing visual montages helped create a hallucinatory cushion to the sinister undercurrent of self-medicating pain that all of the teens are feeling.

As for the pivotal sex scene between coach and student, an eclipse-like shade that recurrently slides across Emma Roberts’ face (the student) as she folds into the shadow of James Franco (the coach) intensified the moment symbolically. We understood that her ‘light’, aka virginity, was given up to the ‘dark’, emphasizing the importance of this moment in a young woman’s life.

As I plant my spear in the top of the marshmallow*, “Palo Alto” is a sad commentary on modern culture using interesting cinematic tricks and ‘toast-worthy’* acting performances.