Neruda, Who Knew Ya?

So I go to Neruda after work, thinking my cursory review of Rotten Tomatoes said it had a comedic air. Little did I know, I was in for lightening quick subtitles. Holy Chilean speed read!

Well worth it though and while I did not see “No”, Pablo Larrain’s other famous movie also starring Gael Gracia Bernal (referred to hereafter as GG B), I have always been intrigued by GG B, after seeing him in Y Tu Mama Tambien back in 2001, my mere youth as a filmologist (yeh I made that up).

Ok, so Neruda is a rough biographical foraging of Pablo Neruda’s (poet, political activist) joining the Communist Party in the 1940’s. The movie centers on Neruda’s bombastic nature juxtaposed against the over seriousness of an Inspector Clouseau type character played by GG B.

What I enjoyed most was: a. the pacing of the movie, a taut clip that kept me engaged throughout, b. top notch acting, not only by GGB, but also the actors playing both Neruda and his wife (Luis Gnecco and Mercedes Moran respectively). Neruda is made out to be a Svengali and after selling 250 tickets in a flash to a Stephen King book signing at my store this week, I understand the hypnosis authors have over their adoring fans.

Chilean films always remind me of how uptight Americans are (myself included). We’re shy to dance, to sing, to cry as opposed to the free love and emotional outpouring of our South American counterparts.

I won’t spoil the movie’s end, but enjoyed it thoroughly. According to IMBD, it has already been submitted fr next year’s Oscars. This doesn’t mean it’ll be nominated, and to be honest, I wasn’t awestruck, but the film is worthy of a theater or at home movie rental.

What I learned from incidental research:
Neruda may have died from a North Korean type of poison (not from a noxious facial rub at an airport), but from a ‘doctor’s injection) at the age of 69.
And that the show Mozart in the Jungle of which GG B has won Golden Globes, is based on a book that has been compared with one of my faves Kitchen Confidential (now another book on my ‘to be read’ list).

You’ve earned the right…Moscow, Belgium

In an attempt to preserve my budget, I talked myself out of seeing Toni Erdmann a second time and instead did a library borrow of a foreign film called Moscow, Belgium. I know, I know, it’s old, from 2008, but the familial conflicts so timeless and universal, that it could have been made yesterday.

I titled this blog with a quote my mother has repeated a few times since I’ve moved to Florida. Every time I would question whether I should stand up for myself, in regards to decisions about possible careers or jobs, my mom has said, “you’ve earned the right to relax a bit” after spending 30 years teaching and counseling young people.

Today I applied this quote to a second date situation and after subsequently cancelling said date, and instead watched my third and final installment of Moscow, Belgium .

Did I need company tonight? Yes. Did I want company tonight? Mais oui! Yet I felt like I was already contributing plenty (bringing my own refreshments, driving to this person’s place, watching a dvd of his interest). When then asked to take him shopping (on the eve of my 6th day in a row of early and rather strenuous (yet super rewarding) work (helping move our book store from one block to a gorgeous new place in a historic building), I had to say no thank you with my mother’s advice, “you’ve earned the right to expect empathy and a meeting in the middle”.

Now on this person’s behalf, he doesn’t know that I have spent a major portion of my 30’s and 40’s taking care of people, my therapist called it a broken wing fixation (son excluded-he was a joy and my responsibility and has more self-reliance than many of those I’m about to mention). Everyone from a long term relationship in which I helped a person who started his teaching career late in life, only to have him date a former student of mine to a few men who lived with me while either starting a company or limping through life only to end up moving back to his parents’. So I’ve done all the figurative ‘taking people shopping’ that I can bear. Based on his curt response to my very calm an polite drawing the line, I highly doubt I’ll see this person again.

So back to my cinematic emotional rescue:
Moscow, Belgium mirrored my emotions to a certain extent. It’s about a 51 year old mom who loves her children and pours her heart out to the people she cares about. Her husband has cheated on her and moved out, but still isn’t sure if he wants to end the marriage. For awhile she allows other people to dictate her existence. Now here’s the part I can’t relate to, she falls for a 29 year old. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t believe and enjoy the film.

The film had your textbook screenplay construction: comical subplot at the heroine’s workplace, and I won’t divulge the other aspects to preserve your potential viewing. But what I really liked about the film was the raw dialogue and real emotion. The star of the film was the female lead played by Barbara Serafian. The ’29 year old’ Jurgen Delnaet seemed to be showing his underwear so to speak, meaning you could see he was acting which took away some of the emotion. This was perhaps due to his character being on the immature side. And I’m not calling my 2nd date that didn’t happen immature, as he was older than me and even commented that talking to women his age made him feel like he was talking to an aunt (and channeling a Groucho Marx response, I’d say, “Well now, your Aunt would take you shopping.”

The film premiered at Cannes in 2008 and won some lower level awards. It’s definitely worth checking out, if only to see how free the Belgium society is with people expressing themselves. Sure Americans seem to be really good at expressing negative emotion and angst, but how about if we all start counting our blessings and being kind? There is no irony to beginning of this piece, kindness does not mean continuing to lower the bar on expectations, it simply means giving and expecting the same in equal fashion. We all have earned the right.

O’ Captain, Middling Captain: Captain Fantastic

Red Box Rental: While my best buddy was here in Ft. Meyers for the last time until the next yule tide, we rented Captain Fantastic (Oscar nominated Viggo Mortensen), after I pulled my movie snob card and outvoted his Melissa McCarthy as girl scout master coach pick. But before you place the Oscar medallion around my neck (let’s pretend they have one of the statuette), please note that I took a turn to the dark side and went with my friend’s policy of “fast forwarding is perfectly ok”. Meaning, this movie was ok, but not worth relishing every moment.

The most fun takeway, which we look for being cut-ups, were two lines that have now surpassed one of the lame Bourne Identity films “We’ve got a situation.”: “Stick it to the Man” and “Power to the People.”

What was the problem, you say? Well, Viggo Mortensen certainly was good, but his character’s actions sometimes didn’t ring true. I won’t divulge the whats and hows to preserve your experience, but I guess I didn’t buy some of the story aspect. Matt Ross (both writer and director) is no slouch at technique. I felt creeped out by the opening scene and the undercurrent of something terrible about t befall the children.

The kids (Viggo has an excess of them in this film) were also decent, the two stand outs being the oldest son, George Mackay and the brooding middle son who’s the non-conformist to non-conformity, Nicholas Hamilton. The female standout of the film is Kathryn Hahn, who, would someone give this girl a nomination? I mean, talk about being able to do both ends of the spectrum. Here she’s the guarded distraught pc sister-in-law to Viggo, there she’s sticking her tongue in the ear of Jennifer Aniston (Meet the Millers). One last person I’d be remiss not to mention is Frank Langella, who has that John Goodman quality of hitting even the smallest roles right out of the park.

I don’t mean to take away from Viggo, he did have to play a fine line between abuser and strict Dad and gain our sympathy which he did by portraying an almost mythical fatherly archetype. But, if I think it’s best to push the FF button, you know something’s not quite right. But see for yourself.

French Movie: misogyne….for shame “Elle”

If my blog could be a live feed, which I’m sure might be possible on Facebook (which I loathe, which I consult begrudgingly once a week), we would learn together the name and sex of the writer and director of “Elle”, possibly the worst movie I’ve seen in years.

So here we go. I did not look at specifics beforehand and was a little too wind blown and distracted from my walk to ‘le cinema’ that I didn’t have the presence to memorize credits….drum roll….

First in our twitchy internet age, let me interrupt this search with a distraction just now: Rotten Tomatoes popped up, and can you believe the host of idiotic critics that scored this as an 89%? May I quote McEnroe here and say, “You’ve GOT to be kidding me!”

So, ok, thanks to IMDB, three dudes wrote this, and I justify using the pejorative dudes because this movie was extremely misogynistic. And the fact that Isabelle Huppert won an award for this film really frosts my onions, or as her character might suggest, ‘hit me again lover!’

The plot of this film is so overdone with stupid detail, combined with Huppert’s ‘protagonist, or should I say ‘masochist’, making THE most stupid decisions since the last horror flick you saw when some ditzy millenial says, “I’ll be right back, just let me check the basement”.

What I gleaned from this: video games lead to violent behavior, video games lead to callous women who delve way into s&m, major bi-polar issues are cleared up overnight with a windfall of insurance money, friendships can be repaired after adultery by suggesting cohabitation. I shake my head and wonder, are French people this cruel and cavalier?