You Say You Want a Revolution: Snowden and Howard’s Beatle Doc.

Oliver Stone

I took in two equally solid movies this past week, both by famous directors.

First, Oliver Stone’s Snowden which I was lucky enough to see opening night including a talk back with the Stone, the actors, and most importantly, Edward Snowden via satellite. I have not read the reviews yet, not liking to be tainted by the critics, but I did see the percentage number was right around 60%, much too low of a mark.

I can guess the problems were: Shailene Woodley’s bad wig, lack of chemistry between Gordon-Levitt and Woodley, and most problematic, the evil ‘big brother’ NSA boss ridiculously histrionic performance. Sorry Patrick Joseph Byrnes, you sounded like a bad Clint Eastwood, doing the raspy, ‘make my day’.

Beyond that, the film showed an accurate depiction of the documentary CitizenFour, and filled in the back story that the documentary could not address. Gordon-Levitt is a wonder, making you forget he’s an actor. The story also is alarming as to how much technology has taken over our lives.

The real Snowden was so well spoken, I really believe he simply has an exceptionally high moral compass. The fact that he does not dare to come back to the U.S. also speaks to how far we have fallen from our founding fathers democratic principles in regard to due process.

Ron Howard’s The Beatles 8 Days a Week is just adorable, as cute as Opie’s little cheeks in the Andy Griffith Show. I was concerned from the description that the doc would get mired in the days before fame, that while interesting, doesn’t compare to the years of genius. But luckily, the doc’s focus was how under the microscope, the foursome felt confined to pop music, and that not until they disconnected from the ‘machine’ did they break through with truly original sounds. This is not to discount in anyway their younger songwriting gems, but simply to marvel at how they evolved into grown men with different influences. Simply to witness the half hour rooftop concert at the end of the doc, is well worth the price of admission. Great job Ron Howard!

Birbiglia and Gethard, equally irresistible

“Don’t Think Twice” is an amiable rom com that I wouldn’t say you need to run out to see, but because I love Mike Birbiglia and thought his one man show “Thank God for Jokes” in NYC was genius, I have to promote this movie. Chris Gethard is also equally charming in a vulnerable, boy-needs-a-hug way.

*Addendum 9/9/16: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Keegan-Michael Key. I do really like him as a comedian, and while he’s almost believable in this dramatic role, he’s a touch too affected. His comedic talent might overshadow his ability to be taken seriously, much like Louis CK in Trumbo.

This movie actually might be a good training manual for some (6 to be exact) of the Sarasota gentlemen (platonic, this is not a kiss and tell) I’ve met since moving here who do not seem to understand the balance of a male female conversation, nor have they obviously ever heard Shakespeare’s ‘brevity is the soul of wit’. I don’t need a 20 minute sermon on Plato’s Republic and then a measly fill in the blank question for the ‘my ideas’ portion of the discussion.

Don’t misinterpret and think that I am a misandrist, rather the men in Don’t Think Twice are excellent models for listening AND speaking, note the two verbs, but I digress…

What’s wrong with this movie is the millennial mistake of, ‘if we’re all just goofy and playful isn’t that cute to everyone?’ Ugh, no. Improv can be funny, on a highly skilled level (Whose Line Is It Anyway, for example) yet in the film’s case it’s Improv that’s reaching too much or perhaps rehearsed improv (which isn’t improv) isn’t that funny. Though a smart ass director would say, “that’s the point, these guys aren’t suppose to be funny”. Oh, I see…

The female characters, except for Tami Sagher were annoying in a cloying, “I get to be wimpy and emotionally unstable because I’m a girl” stereotype.

Again, not a horrible movie. I was nearly touched by the poignant moments, yet wasn’t deeply moved due to the self-entitled silliness of 85% of the improv group.

Or perhaps I’m just grouchy that Nadal was beaten by a young French guy.:)

Eat That Question: Frank Zappa

The great thing about Frank Zappa is, he doesn’t need an introduction. Even if you weren’t a follower, if you’re above the age of 45, you know his name.

My preconceived notions were that he was a wild man, perhaps even savage given some of the sexually explicit lyrics my friend had played me once just to see me in shock mode. I had also heard his daughter Moon Unit talk to Marck Maron once (they also dated briefly) about how her dad would be inthe basement creating much of the time. Hence, while cad and absentee dad may have a smidge of truth, I came away from this doc as an admirer. The 60’s and 70’s were a time of breaking away from the 1950’s majority, but more than being part of a movement, Frank Zappa simply was following his own off beat inner compass.

This documentary, unlike “Weiner”, was tightly edited and interesting throughout. My favorite moment was at the end of Zappa’s life (certainly not a spoiler) when one of the cheesey morning show hostesses was prodded him with the question, “How do you want to be remembered?”, Frank’s response is refreshingly realistic. His response I won’t give away. See the doc, I hope it gets an Oscar nomination and that Thorsten Schutte who directed, has more upcoming projects.