Strangers on a Train: another PPLL Review

Hey why not preserve some of your pre-pension finances, too, and head to your local library and borrow a classic like Strangers on a Train? Obviously no stranger to some of Hitchcock’s films, and also a fan of a fine documentary on Hitchcock’s legacy in film Hitchcock/Truffaut (2015), this was my first viewing of Strangers on a Train.

I loved it for the following reasons:

Hitchcock’s keen eye for detail, specifically three scenes:
1. The tennis match when all audience heads are exhibiting the classic back and forth watching of the match with the exception of Robert Walker as Bruno who stares straight ahead.
2. The murder scene filmed in the reflection of an eye glass lens.
3. The climactic scene on the merry go round, when a strange old geezer (carnie) crawls under the out of control amusement ride in order to shut it off. And he doesn’t just crawl, he stops and wipes his face (hysterically funny). In fact, in this scene in particular, I love the layering Hitchcock did, the geezer, the little boy having a blast as the merry-go-round speeds up, then the same kid starts to hit Bruno/Robert Walker to help Farley Granger, the cops who tell the old geezer it’s dangerous, then second guess saying, they don’t want to crawl under there, the Bruno shots from the floor with him kicking at Farley’s hands. Pure cinema gold.

Hitchcock’s playful sense of humor:
1. the sister of Ruth Roman/Anne, who was actually Alfred’s daughter Patricia, has the best lines in the entire film, calling Farley’s wife a tramp, saying her dad isn’t afraid of scandal because he’s a senator, her prescient “I see dead people” stare.
2. of course, his notorious appearance in each o his films, this time by getting on a train with a bass.
3. the aforementioned merry-go-round scenes.

I also appreciated how well done the tennis match was filmed and edited. This could not have been easy back in the manual days of the early 1950’s.
This has now become my favorite Hitchcock film.

A few Postscripts:
So sad that Robert Walker had a mental illness, but on the bright side, he had made it out of a sanatorium and was resilient enough to make several more films before succumbing to anxiety/alcohol/a Brian Wilson-like psychiatrist. His demise also goes to show how unrequited love (Jennifer Jones basically left him for Jeffrey Selznick) can destroy those less resilient.
Equally sad was that his son, Michael seemed to have a similar demise.
And if this story on IMDB is true, shame of Hitchcock for his sadistic trick of bullying his daughter Patricia’s fear of heights by paying her 100$ to ride the ferris wheel and summarily having the ride stopped at the top and the lights shut off.

A sick bastard, but a fun director, nonetheless.

The Lives of Others, a PPLL edition

Following my pattern of occasional pre pension library loan reviews, is this Oscar winner for best foreign film in 2007, The Lives of Others. Both a V.I.P and a P.I.P recommended this film which always makes it a bit tenuous to review.

First a bookend coincidence to the day I watched the film: the morning of, I was listening to WSLR while run/walking the Ringling Bridge. Tuesday mornings on WSLR is a show called Soul School with Troy, where r&b tunes from the past make me smile with bittersweet nostalgia throughout my workout.

One of my many random thoughts while running was if only the most recent San Bernadino shooter had been listening to live Luther Vandross or Prince, perhaps he wouldn’t have committed a violent act, which led to a thought about musical chip brain implants to prevent violence…ok Big Brotherish I realize.

The strange coincidence which occurred the same evening following the film happened when I watched the director’s comments (perhaps one of the longest names I’ve ever typed: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck) when he described his inspiration after hearing someone ponder whether listening to Bach could have stopped the Stasi from committing some of their evil acts. Spooky, right?

At any rate, I found The Lives of Others moving, but not better than say a more recent German film nominated for an Academy Award: Toni Erdmann. BUT, I believe this is a gender difference and not a fault of the film. And true confession, I was interrupted a few times in viewing, hence my concentration was not 100%. But to my gender difference point, the end sum of The Lives of Others is that one man saved another, so there’s a subtext of a bromance in this film. This is NOT a criticism, but perhaps the reason the film appealed to two men I know. Likewise, Toni Erdmann had a female centric story, and yet did not involve a woman saving another however, which is probably why I liked it, as I’ve always had more comfort in the friendship of men.

What I did love about the film were the three main actors; Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Muhe (my favorite of the three) and Sebastian Koch, the latter of which I am super excited about his participation in a film version of the musically moving Ann Patchett book, Bel Canto. THAT I will see in a heart beat.

What possibly could have moved the movie from good to great for me also smacks of gender bias; I would have liked more love scenes between Martina and Sebastian’s characters increasing my angst if and when they were torn apart (no spoilers, right? though surely the statue of limitations is up on a film this old). The sex montage scene nor the brief affectionate encounters didn’t provide enough of the intimacy I needed to buy in. Though perhaps this simply reveals a subconscious need which until recently has been a deficit, which in turn makes me very much like the character played by Ulrich Muhe. Who needs Freud?:)

My next PPLL review will be of Mildred Pierce, which is in my current Joan Crawford/Bette Davis fixation ever since liking the FX show Feud, inspired by the iconic “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane”.

California Dreams at the Sarasota Film Fest

Thanks to my sweet and generous co-worker Carrie, I was able to attend one of the independent films at the Sarasota Film Fest.

First kudos to the SFF which struck me as very well organized. The Rochester Film Fest in comparison seemed haphazard and confused in comparison. But then again, I felt haphazard and confused in my “Yukon” years, so I chalk it up to lack of vitamin D.

The film I took in was “California Dreams” by Mike Ott. I usually find docs such as this, a story about people trying to make it (whether it be show business as in this case, or business or art, etc) as sad that there are just too many talented people in the world for everyone to be successful.

However, in “California Dreams”, the folks aren’t talented, yet are delusional in their desire and aspirations. This is not intended to be a put down; striving toward a goal is never a waste of time in my opinion. Let’s face it, I, too, am delusional in my playwright aspirations as I was in my stand up aspirations. The main difference is that I am fully self-aware and know I simply don’t have the time or talent to make it big. And I’m ok with that.

The “California Dreams” actors may be self-aware, too, but Ott’s focus was on their desire, attempts and pomposity each had of getting there. While somewhat sad in the people’s futility, the doc was touching in how Ott listened to, and honored, each person as an important human being whether they ever reach success or not.

Mike Ott was actually at the fest and may have done a Q&A afterward, but alas, I had to scoot to work. I do have a question into is website for the film (which is gorgeous in and of itself, by the way). If I get an answer, I will add an extra post as an addendum.

Somewhat of a waa waa waa (downer noise) was that after Ott’s introduction prior to the film, his initial comments were not impressive, “Yeh, I had an interesting night after the film’s showing getting drunk and hit by a car.” (I saw no visible injuries or bruises). Like dude, you don’t need to share your Valley Girl, ok Guy, mentality. Show your depth, not your underwear, if you know what I mean.

At any rate, I did enjoy the film, especially in its frankness about real life issues (sexuality). A few conservative folks left I noticed, but that’s what happens sometimes when people are faced with reality.

Non-Fiction Book Review: Radical Candor

Since we’re in the drought of movie season, here’s another book review:

Staff Member Book Review: Radical Candor by Kim Scott

Being a retired school teacher, I’ve been to plenty of workshops where the presenter spends the first hour telling you what they’re going to tell you. Annoying, right?

Well, the good news is, reading a book version means you can motor to the first chapter and cut to the chase. So even though Kim Scott’s book Radical Candor: Be a Kick Off Boss Without Losing Your Humanity (2017, St Martin’s Press) does start out that way, the depth and width of information provided is well worth the opening chapter.

Ms. Scott, a manager at two of the most prominent companies in America (Google and Apple), insists that akin to child rearing or dog training, constructively criticizing employees toward growth is essential for success. Scott insists this is ‘not mean, but clear’.

Scott devotes a significant chunk to a manager’s self-care, similar to the mantra of my Masters in Counseling training, “if you haven’t figured yourself out, how you can help someone else?”. Scott encourages managers to take care of themselves and to “figure out a recipe to stay centered” as key to their own ability to govern. Again, the book provides concise and realistic strategies to achieve all of her propositions.

I don’t think I’m giving away any ‘spoilers’, but one other particular concept I loved were the terms rock star and super star as applied to employees. Scott defines rock stars as employees who are wonderfully consistent (think Bob Seeger “Like a Rock”) while super stars are employees looking for career advancement. Scott makes the point that both types of representatives are valuable to a company and that each need guidance (praise for the latter, incentives and stimulation for the latter).

Stop in at BookStore One located at 12 S. Palm Avenue in Sarasota to check out Kim Scott’s book Radical Candor. You’ll go far in life by adopting Scott’s suggested practices like I did just now (her GSD wheel- containing the elements needed to Get Stuff Done).