Embrace the Serpent, Small Hug at Best

At the risk of appearing shallow, I have to say Embrace the Serpent wasn’t as awe inspiring as some reported (or nominated as in the Oscars).

Maybe it was the cardboard performance of Brionne Davis, who in an authentically created South America filmed beautifully in black and white, here comes a guy who looks like he should stick to toothpaste commercials. Not much better was the other main Caucasian actor Jan Bijvoet as pretentious as his acting.

The tales of the tragic lives of natives at the hands of greedy rubber tree plant interlopers was powerful. Equally sad were the narcissists masquerading as men of God. Maybe choosing bad actors for those roles was done on purpose, magnifying the whites as more asinine.

My favorite scene was the shaman mocking the ‘whites’ for lugging material possessions over the jungle’s rough terrain. As I take off for NYC to see my son, I’ll be similarly chagrin watching derelicts drag half their houses to stuff into the overhead bins. Maybe I need a coffee.

Something Borrowed, Something Bronze: “The Bronze”

For shame Rotten Tomatoes…12%? You must be watching too many negative political stories. Sure The Bronze is totally inappropriate at times, but it’s that Bad Santa wrong that pays off so well in the end.

Written by the lead actress and her husband (Melissa Rauch and the hubby that took her last name, Winston Rauch) and directed by advertising film director Bryan Buckley.

Melissa’s acting was hysterical, yet I couldn’t help feel sorry that Gary Cole got stuck in the boring dad role, similarly to how I felt about Bill Hader in Trainwreck. As for directing, Buckley does a terrific job with a hysterical, yet oddly arousing sex scene between two former gymnasts. You’ll not only laugh at the absurdity, but also think, “Hmm, looks fun.” Rarely can you say that about a slapstick comedy.

Mark my words, The Bronze will be a film that carries, like a slow burn that gathers a cult following.

Mustang; Classic Car, Even Better Movie


“Mustang” is a compelling film written and directed by Deniz Gamze Ergurven that garnered several film festival awards. To the Oscar judges, “Mustang” must have produced a 12 Angry (white) Men conundrum before said group finally decided on “Son of Saul” as the victor.

If I had a daughter, and she was over 16, this would be mandatory viewing simply as an inspiration to feminine empowerment.

My movie companion is your typical American, unaware that in many parts of the world, (including Turkey where this movie is set) arranged marriages and archaic misogynistic child rearing is still alive and well. And that is not a slam against my friend, it’s just a first world myopia that occurs when one has complete freedom.

All five the sister siblings’ acting was on point. Gunes Sesoy who plays the youngest daughter and from whose viewpoint the movie is told, won a very deserving best actress award in several film festivals. The villainous Uncle and Grandma, torn between old school customs and wanting his niece/her grand daughters to be safe and happy, were also spot on.

This was a film that had me riveted and rooting for the girls to escape their depressing fate.

This must see movie may still be available at art house theaters near you. In lowly Rochester, we just received the movie this week. Better late than never; go see this film!

The Lady in the Van (down by the river)

Who doesn’t think of the phrase ‘down by the river’ when you hear the prepositional phrase IN A VAN? In fact, not to get too far off the mark, I’ve thought of Chris Farley skits three times in the last week: motivational speaker here, the Gap girls-inspired by the Aunt Alexandra social hour in To Kill a Mockingbird, and my son said I reminded him of Chris Farley and the Zagat guide skits when I was reading him play reviews in order for him to make a choice for my upcoming NYC visit.

And while there are comedic aspects to The Lady in the Van, it’s far from lighthearted. This was suppose to be a calming movie after a stressful day of teaching and the opening audio (no spoilers remember) was enough to send me running for the hills, but I’m glad I stuck it out.

The director, Nicholas Hytner, is a famous dramatic director in England. The trouble with my movie re-awakening back in 2000 is that I am now finding a slew of movies from the 90’s that I did not see, but want to, such as Hytner’s The Madness of King George..one of these days.

Maggie Smith is a prolific actress (yes I did see The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie!) who never fails to make her characters both believable and empathy-worthy. The Lady in the Van is no exception. this is not a movie that makes fun of the elderly. if anything the film proves that most treat the elderly patronizingly, when they have so much to teach us about their longer experience on this earth. And isn’t this photograph of her, grand (click on the question mark symbol)?
While I disliked the conceit of double Alex Jennings at first, and even worse, his robotic sounding narration, I grew to like it we writers are in our own heads much of the time and an apt way to portray this is with ‘twins’.

I’m curious to know whether older people would find it entertaining or depressing.
Worth a full ticket price, at any rate.