20th Century Women: At least one Goddess

Please listen to one of my favorite Jazz singer’s Gregory Porter as you read this blog:

The best thing a movie can do to you is make you realize, as Gregory Porter sings, that time is ticking. And 20th Century Women does just that, quietly sneaking up on you to say, “Pssst, what are you waiting for?”

20th Century Women was so great that it took a day to fully appreciate the film’s entirety. Truth be told, I went straight to work after and then on to a dinner meeting, but I’m glad the writing locomotive was slowed to give 20th Century Women its proper adoration.

20th Century Women was deeply moving. My friend Carrie and I were both in joyful appreciative tears at the film’s finale. And as a pseudo single mom of one son, I truly related to Annette Bening’s relationship with her son, young actor Lucas Jade Zumann.

Mike Mills, who basically wrote this from an autobiographical viewpoint, (as he also did with his relationship with his father in The Beginners)(see the recent New Yorker profile article, an exhibition of him as the man I most want to meet; sensitive, nerdy, but creatively courageous) does a very inventive job of portraying the late 70’s by using still photographs of punk bands along with real footage of such 70’s events like Jimmy Carter’s 1979 “Crisis of Confidence Speech”, of which I say, where was I? Oh yes, an ignorant 9th grader in a small American town in an apolitical household.

The speech interestingly parallels Annettes’s single mom, a woman without a backup as to whether she is providing her son with the best and well rounded child rearing experience. Just as Jimmy asks for America’s support, Annette seeks out others for help:
“Little by little we can and we must rebuild our confidence. We can spend until we empty our treasuries, and we may summon all the wonders of science. But we can succeed only if we tap our greatest resources — America’s people, America’s values, and America’s confidence.”

Annette Bening‘s search for outsiders lead her to two females for this tutelage. And while they were good, they were not fantastic. I was a huge Greta Gerwig fan to start, but now find her in that Ellen Degenres/Lena Dunham camp…meaning whatever candid part of them I appreciated has seemingly been washed away by their stardom and subsequent shallowness. And while Greta’s character seemed real enough, I just couldn’t buy it. Likewise, Elle Fanning was cute and believable as the teenage nymph, but again, I was not amazed.

Or it could be very possible that Billy Crudup just out shone them both, in his understated, but truly powerful rendition of a sensitive man, afraid to give his heart away, as he indeed gives his heart every day to the gaggle of women and children with whom he takes shelter.

There was a split second where I thought, ok Annette plays a competent woman with doubts…is that such a stretch from the real Annette Bening? And then I thought, nah! She’s the woman who ‘bagged’ Warren Beatty and got him to commit to a marriage and family. It is Annette Bening acting after all in a beautifully nuanced script that allows this vulnerability to shine through.

A great film makes you want to re-visit others. I’ll definitely revisit The Beginners and also look up some Crudup films that fell by the wayside.

The Founder? The Flounder!

The good news is I was able to fulfill part of my ‘Christmas gift to Dad’ promise by taking him out for a movie. And my Dad was entertained by the automobiles of the 1950’s he could name by make and model.

And the bad news is:
There’s a great comedic way that Fred Willard says, “What Happened?” in one of Christopher Guest’s masterpieces that I was reminded of after seeing the name of the screenwriter for the film “The Founder”, the Ray Kroc story. I mean, Robert Siegel? You were the man who thrilled me with ‘The Wrestler’ and ‘Big Fan’? Forget about it (meaning FANTASTIC!). So, what happened?

Here’s my guess. I bet Ray Kroc’s estate refused to let him add certain aspects of Ray’s life (for instance, he was married three times in real life, but only wife 1 and 2 are ever mentioned).

Only a person buying a fast food franchise would care about the first three quarters of the this film. You can tell where they decided to edit and add filler (hey just like the hamburgers!) like why we needed 10 minutes on the ketchup and mustard squirt process or another 10 of Michael Keaton gnashing his teeth, hotel bedside about his sad financial state. I wanted to scream out, ‘GOT IT’ several times. This was a slow food film about the fast food industry.

The last quarter of the film finally breaks into a stride, where we see a ruthless Ray Kroc who doesn’t mind trampling on a few underlings (notably the McDonald brothers) in order to climb is mountain of golden arches.

There is a more interesting story here (whether it be the wife stealing Ray did with Joan who according to the movie, was married to a franchisee and had cost saving ideas of her own-non refrigerated milk shake mix). Or perhaps Ray’s drinking which seemed to be an ongoing habit at least. Or even when they put drive thru windows in….But alas, that film was not written or at least not allowed to be acted on screen.

You almost feel sorry for Michael Keaton who can do so much more. Let’s hope his next role can be more Birdman like, perhaps Colonel Sanders? Get it, Birdman, KFC…ok…

Rituals Paterson Rituals

The Red Wheelbarrow*
(William Carlos Williams, 1883 – 1963)

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

Jim Jarmusch
used William Carlos Williams as his muse for the movie Paterson. And if you’re going to see a movie without any action, based on poetry, one would think you would not want to take a rugged retired fireman.

But wait!

Jarmusch would say that’s exactly who would appreciate such a film, just as the main character-Adam Driver-is the bus driver poet, why couldn’t there be the fireman poet? And in fact, didn’t Guy Montag, the main character and fireman in Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, have such poetic leanings, ‘her dress was white and it whispered’?

Perhaps a firemen would alter WCW’s poem to:

The Red Firetruck
(ghost written by Roxanne Baker 1963-)

so much depends
on a red
fire truck

blackened by smokey

beside the white
two story.

Paterson was an ode to the poet in us all, and in this movie, everyone is a poet: a laundry mat rapper, a 10 year old girl, a Japanese tourist. The film could also be seen as an ode to director Chantal Ackerman, specifically her film Jeanne Dielman, an epic film where the housewife goes through everyday routines repeatedly.

The habits of Adam Driver and his girlfriend made me miss the predictability of coupledom and paradoxically, made me glad I have the freedom as a single gal to do whatever the heck I want. The fact that Jim Jarmusch can evoke opposing emotions is a feat unto itself.

His eye for art is also appealing, and in this film black and white patterns fill the home courtesy of actress Golshifteh Farahani, the unemployed, but dream filled love interest. Their pug, in his gloriously bored expressions, mirror the mundane life most of us live. The most fun aspects of our lives are the tiny surprises that interrupt the predictability of the rest of our lives. For instance, when you meet someone on a bridge walk and end up going to a movie.

Thought provoking messages about yin and yang, and the idea that the world eventually gives us what we need, also supplied and required reflection. The shadow within every person was found in a talented poet beaten down by the drudgery, the shadow in every relationship in an unrequited love affair, or the shadow in many life moments as two guys on Paterson’s bus share similar stories of the promise of a dating opps, only to let them slip away. The world giving us what we need was seen in a bar incident on the verge of violence and a gift of an empty notebook.

Paterson doesn’t hold it’s power in action, but in its ability to make you ponder. The film’s equally enjoyable for poetry fans and for the dreamer in us all.

*1985 Ft. Lauderdale

Never Say Never: Lion

I said I’d never see Lion because I couldn’t handle a lost child story. Then my son visited for a weekend and he also declined both Manchester and Lion, I think because he’s feeling a bit lost in Brooklyn right now and I assume because he was worried a downer or emotional movie might make him feel more ill at ease.

I have regrets about the planning of his time here, meaning I pulled a Prince (this is a reference of the time I had Prince concert tickets in Toronto (early 2000’s) and asked Liam if he wanted to go-this was when Liam was at an age when his music adoration hadn’t kicked in, so he said he didn’t really need to go, and to this day we both say how sorry we are that I didn’t just say-WE’RE GOING). So this past weekend, I did the same, just kept asking him if he wanted to do this or that (Like a movie) instead of cajoling him and using my motherly instinct to know what’s best for him. I’m the mom who used to say, ‘it’s recreation time’ and get us out on a local baseball diamond where I’d pitch balls or we’d play badminton for a short time. Sure, this past weekend we did in fact, walk the Ringling Bridge and our time wasn’t a negative, but a lot of it was eaten up by visiting well meaning, but stress inducing, folks.

Nothing to do now about the visit except beat myself up more and to better plan the next time, which may mean me going to Manhattan to preserve my sanity. We shall see.

At any rate, a friend in my new home town had sent me a short recording of his playing Fire and Rain on his acoustic guitar yesterday and so, feeling lonely and blue about my son’s going back to NYC and the aforementioned paragraph, ask if he’d be willing to see a movie tonight.

And thank God, we did. LION, directed by Garth Davis and written by Luke Davies was just what the doctor ordered. I already put my mothering instinct into a higher gear since the weekend; making my son a vision board, shipping him Brazil nuts (a good mood food) and calling him twice to see how he was since his return. I may be states away, but he’s going to know I’m here. And as I mentioned, I didn’t need Lion to tell me this, but the film certainly reinforced my maternal importance and power.

The film was gorgeously meditative. This was true visual storytelling. Dialogue isn’t needed to when great actoresses and actors display emotion, of being lost, of being found, being loved, being torn or being obsessed. Dev Patel is a real actor and should never ever go back and do one of those lame Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, or whatever the hell those films are titled. He is very deserving of award nominations and if Casey Affleck didn’t just own acting this year, Dev would be my runner up. And Nicole Kidman is a class act; she is right up there with Meryl Streep in my book. She evokes and makes you forget all of her plastic surgery and her enviously (I want one, too, can you tell?) ebullient relationship with Keith Urban.

So thank you to Trace and thank you to the film Lion, for not only do I now have my maternal roar back in place, but I have a clearer vision of how and who to spend my time and emotion on. As my favorite band in the world sings, “Just when your faith is gone, give it one more day.” https://www.bing.com/search?q=wood+brothers+give+it+one+more+day&form=PRASUS&pc=ASU2&mkt=en-us&httpsmsn=1&refig=2bf12047dee94f8bb6cd6067589a78c1&sp=-1&pq=wood+brothers+give+it&sc=0-21&qs=n&sk=&cvid=2bf12047dee94f8bb6cd6067589a78c1
This holds true for the real life person on whom Lion was based and for this real life character calling herself a film blogger.

Music to My Ears

Another off film topic that I love–music!

My son’s visiting this weekend inspired me to GET HIP and listen to Ben Ratliff’s Best Albums of 2016
which I reordered from his article into my best to worst:

The first three are pretty much a tie and far above the rest (though Chance the Rapper? why can’t I preview your work?). All three of these are inventive, uppers, at least in total! Song titles are listed after the colon for those of you who want to let your fingers do the dancing over to Itunes.

Blood Orange, Freetown Sound: Chance, Hadron Collider and Thank You
Bon Iver, 22, A Million: 22 Over Soooon rocks, 33 God “I’d be so happy if you stayed for tea”, such a pinch your cheek cute lyric.
Beyonce, Lemonade: You’re angry, but I’ve been there.

Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book? Tried to find it on I-tunes, saw you live on SNL and know you’ve got game.
Solange, A Seat at the Table: Literally, you’re soulful.
Laura Mvula, The Dreaming Room: Overcome, Bread
Mitski, Puberty 2: Happiness, not bad!
Cass McConmb, Mangy Love: Honorable mention for the title and the song Opposite House.
Cate LeBon, Crab Day: Pepi Le___ fill in the blank.
Elder Ones, Holy Science. I say Holy Florence and the Machine.

He also mentioned Ahnoni which I previewed and thought, like he did, an original sound, especially liked 4 Degrees.

Sins of the Father and Fences (TBR)

I’ll be seeing Fences sooner or later (TBR=to be reviewed), and my justification for a movie break was my mission to read as much of Stalin’s Daughter by Rosemary Sullivan and then attend a talk about the book at Selby Library by a very well spoken Dr. Kushner. A quote he articulated sums up not only the book, but also ties in perfectly to the primary theme of August Wilson’s play “Fences”: “Perhaps there is no sadder curse than the gift of a titanic father”.

This father curse of course can be a blessing depending on the resilience and tenacity of the child, a thought which connects with Bruce Springsteen’s new memoir Born to Run. Listening to Bruce on Marc Maron’s podcast Episode 773, I was heartened to hear Maron’s opening monologue about the difference between beating one’s self up vs. self-determination to keep improving one’s self. Maron claimed that Springsteen seems to have mastered the latter. This was a great reinforcement for my New Year’s Resolution that faithful readers will remember was to be kinder to myself, and to award myself for attempts at evolution. After a week of ‘family pleasing’ activities I’m going to add another; that it’s ok for me to occasionally isolate and simply focus on my own goals.

A co-worker mentioned being disappointed by Tama Janowitz’s Scream which was billed as a ‘how I endured caring for my mother with dementia’, but didn’t deliver (according to my co-worker, a solid second-hand source). I think any type of writing these days is difficult without isolation. In re-working a play of mine which was slayed by a writers’ council, there isn’t a morning that goes by that a variety of interruptions creep in destroying any conversations my characters, aka my mind, is trying to manipulate. Hence, if Tama’s memoir sounds disjointed, who can blame her? Well, I guess her editor’s might, unless of course, it sells well anyway. If my last few year’s of teaching are any indication, when I noticed a certain twitchiness that had crept into many of my 7th graders, which I attribute to our constant switching from lap top to cell phone to tv to tablet….leads me to believe that disjointed writing might be ok (which also would affirm this non-movie review blog installment:).

Which leads me back to movies and Bruce Springsteen and one of his biggest fans, my son, Liam Enright, who’s visiting me this Saturday. He’s living in Brooklyn right now, trying his best to find a way into the music industry. This serpentine blog is a long way of saying that I’ll be seeing a movie of his choice on Saturday night. His first choice is Elle, but due to distribution problems, Burns Court was unable to procure the film. Hence we’ll be seeing Lion, Manchester (sure, it’d be my second time (his first), but it’s movie magic) or the aforementioned Fences.

Until then, let’s focus and breathe……….