Kitchen Sinks Times Two: Man Called Ove and Aquarius

Ok, did a two days in a row of foreign cinema. Name a tragedy and I saw it in film. Actually, I posed that query to my co-worker about A Man Called Ove (directed by Hannes Holm) and he guessed the tragedy shipwreck. Ok, he had me there, there is no shipwreck in A Man Called Ove. I suspect my experience is similar to the book Unbroken. The book was so phenomenal, making a film of the same impossible. At least that’s what I assume now about Frederick Bachman”s A Man Called Ove.
The movie did have charm, but there was something too maudlin for me to give it a fantastic score. But again, I didn’t read the book, and wouldn’t now, knowing what ashes (as in sadness) I’d have to sift through. Don’t let me dissuade you, however, and to be honest, the movie had comic aspects, especially if you’re a Saab or Volvo fan, just not enough for this Sagitarian clown.

Last night’s movie was Aquarius (Kleber Filho), a Brazilian film set in two time periods 1980 and the present, but broken up into three parts: Hair, Love and Cancer. While the movie was way too long, it piqued my interest. One of the motifs was LP vinyl records (my son would probably tell me that’s redundant). To hear a couple of Queen songs cranked over a movie speaker (Fat Bottomed Girl and Another One Bites the Dust) is reason enough to perk up. Certainly the theme of modern development bulldozing over the past and sentimentality is a hot topic in Sarasota. Sonia Bragga, who I had not heard of since Kiss of the Spider Woman, was fantastic (not to mention drop dead gorgeous at age 64, and tell me she doesn’t remind you of Alicia Keyes?). Yet the movie begs for editing. Worth seeing, but be sure to go in dehydrated so you have no desire for the restroom for 2 and half hours.

Money Can’t Buy You Soul, proof: The Pickle Recipe’s Delish!

Give Sheldon Cohn a round of applause! He wrote and directed a sweet indie movie called The Pickle Recipe. My hope is some big wig producer will buy the rights and remake it to make Mr. Cohn a rich man. Or better yet, just hire him to write your next script.

What makes “The Pickle Recipe” sweet rather than dill? (excuse the pickle pun, I’m such a gherkin). First the characters are drawn realistically. Grandma’s stubborn, but not crazy, our hero is a failure in business, but has a big heart. His buddy, a wanna be stand up comedian is clumsy, but has morals. His uncle is a scheister (ok to use here since it’s a Jewish family), but capable of redemption.

The highlight for me, and seconded by my fellow movie lover, were the scenes with Eric Edelstein who plays the hero’s buddy, willing to masquerade as a Rabbi in order to score Grandma’s recipe. Edelstein is adorable and really funny. His IMDB filmography fortunately has some upcoming titles so I hope he’s been duly noted. Though I see some dramatic titles (Twin Peaks) I have faith someone with a brain sees and exhibits his comic side.

If this small indie film comes to your town, roll out the barrel, you’ll have a barrel of fun (last pickle reference, promise). The movie far surpasses both big budget comedies I’ve seen during the month of October.

So Easy to Pass Keeping Up With the Joneses

You know artistic integrity has gone out the window when actors get so large that their advisors start choosing their scripts, picking mediocre ones, just to rake in cash while they can. I’d like to think that was the case with Keeping Up with the Joneses.

If anything, the silver lining is, you, too could be a Hollywood screenwriter! Get a basic story, attempt to insert irony (living in suburbia is more difficult than being hit men), sprinkle in how adult men long for male friends to whom they can bare their true feelings about life (but for heavens sake, don’t make it touching-I’m being facetious), then add two hot women who are opposites. Forget that you’re dealing with one of the most intelligent comedians (Galifianakis) whose dry wit is killer on its own, or a former tv star (Jon Hamm) who can be both dramatic and genuinely funny. Just let them do your pablum script and cha ching, cha ching.

Too bad for Mottola, the director of Superbad and Adventureland, two quality movies. LeSieur, the screenwriter, on the other hand, what can I say? His IMDB oeuvre pretty much says it all.

Do yourself a favor and simply watch or re-watch Birdman to see what Zack can do with a real script and director.

Howard’s End, Karma comes around

No, you did not time travel back to 1992. Sarasota’s Burns Court Cinema was playing Howard’s End last week (October 2016) because…..hmm, good question. Twenty four years isn’t actually an anniversary milestone.

At any rate, I had missed this film back in ’92, probably due my consuming desire to have a baby. (I got my wish and the best thing to ever happen to me in 1993).

Digression aside, Howard’s End is definitely worth a look. Who can beat the cast? Emma Thompson (who won the Oscar for the role), Anthony Hopkins, ever the perfect austere gentleman and Helena Bonham Carter before she only chose, or was offered, off the wall roles. And oh my, how sad, I just discovered that Joseph Bennett who played one of Anthony Hopkins’ sons, committed suicide in 2015. Doubt that they’d bring back the film as a tribute, but what a shame.

At the film’s end, my movie partner had the best quote about the film: timeless. The plot from EM Forster’s novel from 1910 stands the test of time; class differences impinging on love and property ownership, gentrification, good vs. evil, etc. Possibly a tad long winded, the period piece was an entertaining way to pass the intense heat of a Floridian afternoon. And the best part was, the end of the movie, good karma prevails.

In Difesa Mia Madre

How do you lika my I-talian?

Sorry, shouldn’t be silly when my defending this film is downright serious. IMDB 6.9, really? Rotten Tomatoes Audience 64%? For shame. I agree more with the RT Critic’s score of 88%.

Acting first: Nanno Moretti, who wrote and directed the film, also played the rock solid brother. And yes, yes, John Turturro is getting rave reviews, and while I agree, let’s not discount the the real star of the movie’s main actress, Margherita Buy, who was incredible as the woman trying to be mom, daughter, director and girlfriend, unable to keep each plate spinning properly.

I can relate. Since high school when I broke down into a crying mess after trying to take on a job at an ice cream parlor (Golden Acres Dairy) while on the tennis team and getting straight A’s, I just have never been successful at doing more than, let’s say two roles really well. Hence, one child. Hence, great career, great mother, and zippo in the relationship department. No regrets though, absolutely.

Back to John Tuturro, who does indeed have a mystique about him. I chalk it up to the Italian bravado, and think back to my skepticism at Fading Gigolo (2013) (which I just realized was written and directed by Turturro) and my humble, ‘that worked!’ after viewing. In fact, note to self, go back and watch some of the films I missed him in.

So for those three actors alone the film deserves an 88.

Downfalls, one or two scenes that could have been edited out for not really adding to the plot (seemed like another original subplot was flashbacks/red flags showing the younger Margherita as needy and uncompromising, but this thread did not have continuity). A tiny quibble in significance to how relevant the topics are: mortality, dementia, quality of life, and the aforementioned difficulty with juggling responsibilities.

Go see it.

No Good Deed Goes Un ‘Sully’ ed

How thoughtful of the Hollywood 20 to simulate the arctic air atop the January Hudson River….NOT.:) Hey, I’m grateful, I got to go outside to get warm afterward, which is still pretty novel for a New York transplant.

“Sully”, directed by Clint Eastwood, was excellent. Not tremendous, in spite of Tom Hanks, who is undeniably our generation’s Jimmy Stewart, maybe even bigger (light bulb idea=future comparison blog).

Why wasn’t ‘Sully’ a 10? One bias of mine is Laura Linney. I love this woman and seeing her reduced to a fretting wife made me feel sad. Please some one, give this woman a script! In the meantime, rent “Savages” which is tremendous.

And the ‘meanwhile back at the ranch’ scenes’, while necessary, weren’t enough, just as a telephone or long distance relationship doesn’t give the emotional sustenance of face to face, body to body, skin to skin…you get my touch? No, because I’m not delivering this as a live speech. How to translate his financial concerns to screen is problematic, unless you do back story scenes which may have been better? Tough call, I realize.

Another difficulty: Sully’s inner turmoil, his guilt, the ‘did I do the right thing?” I have those questions just rising out of bed in the morning, so I empathize, but similar to me again, this is all internal. Akin to that title “The Loneliness of a Long Distance Runner”. Or as they probably said in the sixties, ‘it’s in my head, man’. So, the Hanks jogging and the Hanks agonizing again is tough, because his inner conflict is problematic to translate visually.

Also challenging were the scenes that didn’t connect up: Sully’s old flying days both on the farm and in the military, Sully’s imagining planes crashing into buildings, no explanations…., Benson’s commentary, ‘clunky scenes’ mentioned on his podcast Doug Loves Movies.

Why it’s worth the price of admission: a. Hanks (aforementioned), b. the great range and realistic emotions displayed by the excellent passenger actors, so well written and executed, c. the investigation, both in writing and acting, also seemed real in the bureaucratic bologna sort of way, d. the awkward, but again, realistic moments with complete strangers who suddenly felt the faux media intimacy television creates, e. the suspense of the cockpit, again A+.

A fact check I want to research is, did they really play the cockpit recording live to the two men who experienced it in front of a large audience of airline execs?

Sully, while imperfect, is well worth a view.

Menage a` Trois: two cons and an inferno

Got behind on the blog due to writing a play, titled “Thanks for Giving a Damn”, my apologies.

Three flicks on tap, two about cons, one doc and the other based on a true story.

First, “The JT Leroy Story” about a woman who, due to trauma either caused by or combined with sexual and physical abuse as a child, summoned an alter ego who eventually needed a separate ‘body’ in order for JT to profit from her writing. (Perhaps it’s not too late for my pseudonym, Faith Perry, to rise like a phoenix, but where would I find a kook like me:)

But seriously folks, I have mixed feelings about exploiting mental illness which I think can glamorize problems that beg for healthy intervention. BUT, I also see the other side of the argument that genius is sometimes wrapped in dysfunction, so how is JT’s troubles any less relevant than, say, Shirley Jackson*. * A name/author from the past who is the subject of a new book featured in yesterday’s NY Times Book Review section which sounds riveting. But I digress.

Second film of the recent past is ‘Masterminds’ with Zach Galifianakis and Kristen Wiig. I enjoyed it, needing a laugh in a very big way. Ironically, just like my dad’s misgivings with Tallegdaga Nights, another close relative of mine, didn’t see the humor in this film. I think it’s due to generational differences and the fact that I have a soft spot for Zach and all the modern cast of SNL: Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Jason Sudekis. True, the movie’s like cotton candy, and to be honest, if it weren’t for the based on a true story aspect, I’d probably think it was juvenile. I was in the mood, what can I say? A feather in my cap for those few ho think I’m a simply high brow intellectual.

Third, last, and best of the three was ‘Deepwater Horizon’. I’ll get the minor problems out of the way first. Kurt Russell’s Mr. Jimmy while expertly acted, was faulty in the screenwriting. Meaning, Mr. Jimmy can’t be blind one minute and seeing an oil clad John Malkovich (aside: JM is great in that unique-John-Goodman-Jeff-Goldblum can show up in anything and make it great-routine) and reading a clipboard the next minute. Besides that, the film was excellent. Suspense was built rapidly and stayed tense, Mark Wahlberg, though he might be a cad in real life (beating up people in Boston years ago) is a great actor in the tough Boston guy mode. Like me, he hasn’t gone too highbrow as fellow ‘Bahston’ natives, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have done. He’s the Bill Burr of movie making.

To give credit to the ladies, Kate Hudson who has annoyed me after her brilliant ‘Almost Famous’, was palatable as the sexy dutiful wife. Even better was Gina Rodriguez, who is definitely headed for an Oscar one of these days, a rock solid performance making me wish her role was bigger.