Kenneth Lonergan, where you been all my life?

I’ve been a bad girl here at the tail end of 2016. After more defeats than victories in human connections department, I went back into a bit of a hermit mode, knowing full well I had a life line coming on December 31st (best friend from Rochester arriving).

But there’s a silver lining in every cloud, like last night, renting a Kenneth Lonergan film from 2000 from our local library. I enjoyed Manchester By the Sea so much that I decided to go back in time. And what a pleasure! I already love Laura Linney (Savages still my favorite), and just like the aforementioned she was given an Oscar nom for this film You Can Count on Me. Mark Ruffalo, another precious acting resource (favorite film Foxcatcher) and Matthew Broderick (best kissing scene in this one that I’ve seem in quite some time). And my God, little Rory Culkin, a cutie, who I just noticed won a Gotham award last year for a film called Gabriel (will put it on the list).

Not knowing him well, I learned that Kenneth Lonergan has always used music to evoke emotion. In You Can Count on Me he chose country tunes to show the simplistic and base problems of a small New York town.

I laughed and I cried at this beautiful brother sister relationship. This is a great rental and companion piece to Manchester By the Sea.

Happy New Year and I resolve to get my groove back in 2017.

Best Ten Movies of 2016!

#10. Suspense tie/honorable mentions: Sully and Deep Water Horizon, solid performances by all.
#9 Certain Women: Kelly Reichardt does it her way
#8. Sing Street: Coming of age cutie.
#7. My Name is Doris: Sally Field still has the chops and tight ropes perfectly an elder woman trying to remain relevant in modern society.
#6. Christine Super dark, but PLEASE, Academy, lend me your ear for Rebecca Hall!
#5. La La Land: Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, an oxymoron- realistic optimism.
#4. The Bigger Splash: Ralph Fiennes and Tilda Swinton at their finest.
#3. Moonlight: Gorgeous story, gorgeous music.
#2. Toni Erdman: Best comedy I’ve seen in years, hands down.
And the number one movie of the year 2106 goes to:
#1. Manchester By the Sea: Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams owned these parts. Well worth with sadness!

Great Cake, Too Much Frosting: “La La Land”

La La Land, directed by Damien Chazelle, was a fine film, but I can’t help but feel nostalgia for the power of his ‘Whiplash’ or even the rapture of a similar love story musical ‘Moulin Rouge’.

So, let me complain first. The first two musical scenes needed to be combined or shortened. Dancers in a California traffic jam is unique, girls singing in their bedrooms, not so much, but again, shorten them up and I wouldn’t have been thinking, “Ok when does the tremendously praised movie start”.

My only other complaint are the Disneyesque scenes where I thought I was re-watching Fantasia. Not that there’s anything wrong with children’s films, but it added schmaltz which limited my emotional response.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling were amazing and they made me want to take tap dancing lessons. And I appreciated and concur on the ‘moral to the story’ which I’ll relate in a few months again to protect my dear readers. Justin Hurwitz’s music is fitting to the film, sweet, in an overly confectionery way. I didn’t leave saying, I have to have the soundtrack as I did in a musical like ‘Rent’.

The last 30 minutes of the film were wonderful, realistic and emotionally effective. Won’t say more to protect you from spoilers. I just wish Mr. Chazelle had started from a more serious angle from the get go.

Foghorn “Jackie” Horn

“Jackie”, directed by Pablo Larrain, has given me fits and starts as far as purpose. Was the purpose to show Jackie Kennedy as a 60’s Stepford Wife, who after her husband’s assassination decided to try to assert herself, only to feel defeated? If so, then, Jackie decides to preserve the fantasy of Camelot through an interview with Theodore White? Ok, fair enough.

The fog horn like monotone sound track, as Jimmy Pardo’s minions just reported on his Never Not Funny podcast was a character in itself. Not since Jaws have I heard a refrain quite that strong. This isn’t necessarily a positive comment. Movies are meant to have substance as well as style. There wasn’t a scene in Jackie that I cherished as much as the many in Jaws, notably two: the dining room scene where Roy Scieder makes faces with his son, or the galley scene where Schieder, Dreyfuss and Shaw share scar stories.

Probably obvious that I can’t recommend this movie. Two major reasons are it’s sensationalized gore porn, and there’s just not enough new information (like Jackie says they didn’t sleep together the night before the parade….ok, more, where was he?) Let’s get out some facts. If we’re going to hang out Jackie’s braziers and panties, meaning showing her as a cigarette smoking, pill popping neophyte, why be unfair and preserve JFK? We know the rumors, so what’s wrong with some facts?

Natalie Portman is capable of a better script and I can’t believe Bobby Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard) would be pleased that he looked like quite the dullard, which from watching his speeches, he was anything but.

So, on behalf of Jackie and Bobbie, What’s the frequency Pablo?

Manchester by the Sea, Sweet Glorious Sadness

I stick by my stance of amore` for this film, in spite of people I’ve talked to, who comment, “But it’s so sad!”

What can I say, even in a sunny Floridian December, you can’t help but feel a little melancholy (re. John Lennon’s “So this Is Christmas”). Trust me, I’m not maudlin about anything, other than I won’t be with my son on Christmas, BUT I do appreciate some sap when it is expertly acted.

Broken record here in how much I like Michelle Williams (singing her praises most recently in a recent blog about “Certain Women”). I don’t think she’ll get the reward she deserves for this as there are too many other political contenders, BUT she certainly deserves it.

Fortunately the star of the movie, capitals S-T-A-R, Casey Affleck did win the Critics Award just last night for his portrayal of a broken man (no spoilers as promised). Just get thee to a movie theater and witness acting genius. And might I add a girlish comment that I actually liked his demure Joaquin Pheonix-esque aceptance speech. Make no mistake, this guy’s got some real demons to be able to dive this deep. Let’s just hope he can stay afloat and not do self-harm (aka Hoffman, Ledger, etc.).

The teenager in the movie also won a critic’s award last night, though I didn’t tune in in time to see this presentation. Lucas Hedges was a natural and has that Ron Howard with a nasty steroid reaction edge.

Manchester By the Sea’s screenwriter/director is Kenneth Lonergan who wrote another movie “You Can Count on Me” I’ll be seeking out. YCCOM came out in 2000 before my film infatuation began, but with Linney, Ruffalo and Broderick in it, I’m ashamed I did not know of it. Broderick, by the way, makes a cameo appearance in Manchester By the Sea and the packed house at Burns Court’s reaction was cute, a collective titter, of “oh, how sweet, Matthew Broderick”.

Go see this film and you’ll be shouting Casey Affleck when they announce the nominees for best actor in the next award show.

Watch for me by the “Moonlight”

On an afternoon when my head was spinning from too much play editing, I made myself calm down with a highly rated movie. “Moonlight”, adapted from a play by Tarell Alvin McCraney was just what the writing doctor ordered. (My title by the way, is an allusion to an Alfred Noyes poem I use to teach that the 7th graders loved called “The Highwayman”, a scintillating unrequited bad boy/good girl love affair).

In the movie Moonlight, there isn’t any unrequited romantic love, rather the worse elephantine version of a drug addicted mother too rattled to focus on child rearing. The best part of this film is the cautionary tale nestled inside the three part movie which traces the life of one young African American boy through childhood, adolescence and manhood. If I wanted to be snarky, it’s the real version of “Boyhood”. So, in case any parent with a young child ever reads this (not my demographic typically), may you get this message: ‘you reap what you sow’.

Down for the soap box I want to commend first the playwright (aforementioned McCraney), and second the director, Barry Jenkins (screenwriter and director). The Independent Spirit Awards have nominated both for the 2017 Awards, and I concur wholeheartedly.

The acting is nothing less than perfection. Notably, the actor who portrayed the middle Chiron (Black) played by Ashton Sanders and his boyhood mentor portrayed by Mahershala Ali.

I’d be sexist not to mention Chiron’s mother, Naomie Harris, but it’s the hollow Michael Fassbender syndrome, praising an actor for playing the villain. Ms. Harris does make you feel some sympathy for her which is the acting trick of the year. And if we want to give accolades for antagonists, and we should, someone has to be the ‘bad guy or gal’, let’s also notice the school bully of bullies played consummately by Patrick Decile.

One of the thoughts running through my head almost immediately was, ‘thank God we (the movie plus audience) are talking about the now, the present’. I worried America had lost touch with the present and felt all too comfortable in the long past or silly fantasies. If anything, maybe 2017 will be the time to get real.

Update: was in my glory last night with Awards season now upon us…..watched the Critic’s Choice Awards and am glad to say that Mahershala Ali did indeed score the best supporting actor award.

And if you read my next blog, you’ll discover another terrific winner!

I Cinema-ed a Girl and I Liked it, “The Edge of Seventeen”

Was going to use the more provocative line, “I Flicked a Girl and I Liked It” an allusion to the Katie Perry song, but didn’t want anyone to think I was questioning my sexuality (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but I remain 99% hetero).

I think the last time I went to a movie with a girl my own age was ‘The Hours’, back when I was all verclempt of whether to go to Arizona for a half marathon with an emotionally unstable boyfriend. SO today’s meeting a co-worker for The Edge of Seventeen was a fairly new experience.

The Edge of Seventeen stars Hailee Steinfeld, who I first got to know during one of the coldest winters ever in Rochester, when I was forced to run at the JCC. Slave to the elliptical machines, I’d watch VH1 videos and one of my favorites was Hailee Steinfeld’s “Love Myself”, a happy “Walking on Sunshine” pop piece that always helped me feel better about the minus 5 Fahrenheit outside.

Hailee, like so many of those who make it, is multi-talented, singing and acting with equal aplomb. She portrays 17 year old angst in a very genuine performance. I teared up which is telling of movie quality as I’m not one for teenage problem movies perhaps due to 30 years of somewhat jaded ‘oh not more hormonal drama’ experience.

Other actors were very solid-Blake Jenner, Haley Lu Richardson, and Hayden Szetzo, the latter of whom should be cast immediately in a Tiger Woods biopic. In fact, all these folks may some day be the Joilees and Pitts, they’re that good.

Woody Harreslon is another one of those guys who I could watch eat toast and be riveted. He plays a bit of a teacher stereotype here (lounging at his teacher desk reading is NOT something that happens in 99% of schools), but certainly fits public perception. And while I like Kyra Sedgewick, I though her character, also, was a bit cliche`; the sad single myopic mom.

My only other quibble was that some of the awkward silences between Woody and Hailee and Szetso and Hailee were a little too quiet. Silence works in many films (“Certain Women” at least did it better), but it was almost a beat too long here in a few spaces.

All in all though, twas a great experience; a sunny .7 mile walk, camaraderie with a gal pal, and a moving positive film.