Sorry to Say You’re a Bad Lay: The Lovers

Thanks to a knight in shining armor (literally, a friend who’s a metal worker), my Friday evening was salvaged, meaning good post film conversation on a balmy spring Floridian evening.

However, I’d like to hand out an award based on the film The Lovers I saw at Burns Court Friday evening. No, no, not to any actor or director, to the audience, including myself, who did not scream out, “God this movie is quiet and boring!” I mean really…what was Tracy Letts thinking? Tracey, you write better stuff as ideas on napkins! I have to chalk it up to one of two theories: 1. He was taking a money grab to help make one of his own passion projects or 2.He was just thrilled to play a Lothario.

Azazel Jacobs, writer and director of The Lovers, did a much better job on a previous film, Terri. If you’re going to make a ‘comedy’, you have to balance the squeamish with laughter which Terri did, probably because John C. Reilly could teach a master class on uncomfortable humor. The Lovers lacked a funny bone. Stupid, vapid parents are not funny, bad editing (like do I need to see Tracey roll up his car window?) not funny, and drama queens and kings, also, not funny.

I like Debra Winger, but her eye brow twisting is also not funny or endearing. I saw an exuberant review quote by Peter Travers in the Rolling Stone. I really have to look that up and read. I fear he’s received an overdose of edible medicinals because the only think I can think of combining this film with his magazine, is a literal rolling over the master tape of this film with a rolling stone.

The Lovers makes Norman look like Tolstoy, and that’s saying something.

Back to PPLL’s I go.

Last of the Female Director Trilogy: Jane Campion’s The Piano

Again, thanks to the Amazon series “I Love Dick”, I happened upon two older films and a reminder of a third (I had already taken in) from three power house female writers/directors. To recap, I had seen Chantall Ackerman’s film, recently saw Potter’s Orlando, and last night viewed Jane Campion‘s The Piano.

And I know, I know, for shame on me for not seeing this three time Academy Award winner (best actress, best supporting actress, best original screenplay) earlier. My cinematic passion didn’t reach full flame until the mid 2000’s or ‘aughts’ as the lingo goes. I do remember thinking, once upon a time, that I really didn’t need to see Harvey Keitel nude, nor do I think Sam Neill is a very charismatic actor, both snobbish opinions on my part to be sure. And yet I think HK is a superb actor and loved him in Youth, from a few years ago.

The movie The Piano, of the three power house films, comes in third in my book after Ackerman #1, with Potter obviously at #2.

Why? Mainly due to the setting, which I get was a choice to enhance the feelings of oppression, but I couldn’t think of April/May being the cruelest months (along with November through March) in that Godforsaken land I left called Rochester, New York, mud and cold, mud and cold, (shiver) mud and cold. I have post traumatic frost bite, what can I say?

Now, the positives: Anna Paquin was astoundingly good and recognized with an Academy Award. I’m surprised (though a Golden Globe win for True Blood s noteworthy) that she hasn’t made more of a grand splash in major films. Holly Hunter is probably the best of all time at the derisive unsatisfied frown. The aforementioned gentlemen were good, but again someone more appealing may have heightened the interest (again, fully confess that’s a pompous ass comment).

What I got from this in a feminist perspective: women have to give up art or at least part of themselves for love. Probably true in the past, not so sure it’s as true in the modern era. I do know this recent relationship I ended was punctuated by the male trying to cover me with his music (most of which was great, especially the Tears for Fears guy’s solo cd) and film (if I heard the movie title Laura one more time or the phrase film noir, I may have pulled a Barbara Stanwyck). And, this should be in all caps: DON’T GET ME WRONG, I LOVE LEARNING NEW THINGS, BUT, when I tried to insert my favorites, it was almost as if the person felt threatened or unwilling to give it a try-Lost in Translation, Bfore the Devil Knows You’re Dead, The wood Brothers, Chris Trapper, etc. So maybe Campion is more on the money than I give her credit for. she did say this:

“I think that the romantic impulse is in all of us and that sometimes we live it for a short time, but it’s not part of a sensible way of living. It’s a heroic path and it generally ends dangerously. I treasure it in the sense that I believe it’s a path of great courage. It can also be the path of the foolhardy and the compulsive.”

To which I agree and disagree. If I had to list my top 20 life moments, the first 14 would be child birth, moments with my son and running.
(That’s not to discount the 16 years of safety and intermittent happiness I felt with my first husband, but that almost goes in a different category-Best Life Segment, maybe?)
However, the other 6 would involve adventure I had giving and receiving love: Ft Lauderdale 1985, Atlanta 199?, Montreal 2002, etc.
If we don’t reach for larger than life moments, life just turns in to day to day drudgery and turmoil. In fact, I wrote to a friend today, finally communicating info I had neglected to impart based on a recent compliment that I am a light in his life. After I wrotea and sent the communication, I looked up my Free Will Astrology for this week (don’t eye roll, it’s philosophical) and realized I had just done what was advised:

“Life is inviting you to decode riddles about togetherness that could boost your emotional intelligence and earn you the right to enjoy lyrical new expressions of intimacy. Will you accept the invitation? Are you willing to transcend your habitual responses for the sake of your growth-inducing relationships? Are you interested in developing a greater capacity for collaboration and synergy? Would you be open to making a vulnerable fool of yourself if it helped your important alliances to fulfill their dormant potential? Be brave and empathetic, Sagittarius. Be creative and humble and affectionate.” (Ron Brezsny’s Free Will Astrology)

To which I tell Jane Campion, yes, Jane, it’s totally worth it.

Next I’ll try to get a hold of her film Bright Star about the poet John Keats which I almost saw in 2003.

Carpe Diem.

Not AABA’s “Orlando”, But Just as Pretty

So I’m watching what I thought was a new Amazon show, I Love Dick (not an Anthony Wiener expose`) hoping to scoop my ultra hip friend Carrie-

(only later to be told by Carrie that she saw the show previewed a year ago among many other Amazon shows which were voted on, “but wait, I say, I just heard Kevin Bacon on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast?” foiled again)

-when I see Kathryn Hahn (the woman who loves Dick) mind flash a reference to an obscure Chantall Ackerman movie I saw at the Film Forum, combined in a trio of female film makers references (Sally Hopper and Jane Campion being the other two).

So little Ms. School Marm borrows Orlando and The Piano (Hopper and Campion respectively) in yet another attempt to learn everything.

The movie Orlando, based on a Virginia Woolf novel was written and directed by Sally Hopper. Look for a new movie from Hopper this year called The Party with one of my favorite actresses Patricia Clarkson.

True confession about Orlando (looked from the dvd jacket like it might have some adult content wink, wink, but alas, the jacket was for marketing purposes only). Before you, too, begin to whine, let me say that the 1992 flick is gorgeous to behold, acquiring two Oscar nominations, one for best costumes. To boot, the film’s essence was both epic and thought provoking. Now isn’t that better than sex anyway? Well?…

The movie begins in the year 1600 and transcends into the modern age. I’d have to read (and will if ever bedridden) Woolf’s novel and know from surface study she wrote it as a love letter to a lesbian lover, but my naïve take on Hopper’s influence is the message: women make their best impact by being good mothers due to a male dominated society. A melancholy motif to the entrapment of this message carries our immortal heroine through centuries of governance, war, love and art.

Tilda Swinton is the title actress and is enthralling to watch. I have loved her in most films, Jarmusch’s laconic vampire flick being one exception. The other stand out for me in a cast of thousands was Lothaire Bluteau as the Middle Eastern ruler. The scene with Swinton offering up competitive toasts to Bluteau is worth the price of admission (in this case 0, since it a library loaner).

Hopper likes to wink at the audience now and then, with a comical wry comment here, or a Swinton speaking to the camera there. The movie cheered me enough to momentarily forget the emotional turmoil of the week, agonizing over whether to end a 2 month infatuation. I chose to abort for self-preservation reasons. At 53, I can’t swing with people who need to talk into the wee hours of the night. I just need someone who reads at night, wants to see a movie and have a dinner out once a week. Doesn’t seem too impossible. Let’s hope my casket doesn’t read: “well, she was productive.”

“Norman”, or more apropos, a Seinfeldesque, Newman!

Here’s my culpability, I didn’t properly vet the movie Newman, I mean “Norman”. Working two fun jobs before my pension kicks in, I am admittedly sleep deprived. Hence, I thought Norman was the Richard Gere film about a homeless man that received great reviews. And who knows? Norman may have been homeless, too, for all we know, as we never saw the guy’s house or personal life beyond his suit, trench coat and cravat. Also in my defense of thinking he was homeless, is a scene in which he raids the synagogue’s refrigerator to scarf down gvelte fish and crackers. Last, he definitely had a Willy Loman poor man vibe, minus the creep.

In addition to my not properly researching the movie (didn’t even Rotten Tomatoes it until just now -it scored an 88 critic, 69 audience), I also committed yet another sin: I left with 20 minutes to go. I know, I know, don’t revoke my reviewer’s license. But the movie was so verbose, too many conversations, and too long to circle the wagons back to the end (which I think I can guess and I promise I will rent this and cross the finish line).

I so wanted to like it more: I mean I like Gere and he was actually doing a great job being semi geeky and annoying. He was the powerless one this time and played it well. I also LOVE Charlotte Gainsbourg and as usual she had some memorable scenes, but there just wasn’t enough of her. And Hank Azaria, again, like him, but he didn’t appear until 3/4 in and by then I was ready to crawl out of my skin or find noise cancellation headphones, akin to being on a long flight with someone who won’t stop babbling.

I have to think that the actors themselves, upon seeing the final product, were like, ‘ay yi yi, too much Joseph!’ (Cedar) the director.
I did really enjoy one of Cedar’s earlier films called “Footnote”, but Norman was just too much talking, not enough personal insight.
Better luck next time.

The Dinner, have some reservations

Oren Moverman, how are you? I had no idea until just now that Moverman who directed The Dinner, the new movie based on the book by Howard Koch, also directed one of my (and my movie date)’s favorite movies of all time: Love&Mercy. The Dinner, sadly, is a film you should have reservations about….

Am I wrong to not want to glorify heinous acts by showing visuals? Especially when it involves malicious, misguided teens? I guess, if I’m open minded, showing incidents of affluenza may wake up some wealthy parents that perhaps they should take responsibility (early on, not once they reach adulthood) of their children’s upbringing (aka teaching them how to behave and how to love) and their mental health (if it walks like a depressed duck and talks like a depressed duck, get some therapy).

Anyway, while I understand to some extent the moral dilemma portrayed in The Dinner, I care about my fellow human beings enough to know; a sociopath, no matter if he or she is your child, should never get a free pass.

The movie’s subject matter was obviously almost good enough to make me forget I was watching one of my favorite actors (Steve Coogan) minus his typecasted upperhand sarcasm. His character, father of “Charles Manson”, is certainly bitter, but undermined by said son Charlie and his own wife; portrayed by another favorite actress of mine, Laura Linney.

Equally compellng was Rebecca Hall, who I envy most for how good she looks in short hair, a shallow female commentary. To be super objective, Hall’s acting was best of the four (Hall, Coogan, Linney, Gere) as Gere’s strong willed trophy wife. Pulling up four out of four is Richard Gere, who always seems to be playing the same dang man of power with an equal amount of ‘white people’s problems’ angst. I look forward to his upcoming performance as a homeless man, it’s high time for him to mix it up.

Due to the movie’s unsatisfying ending and it’s violence porn quotient, I say this is better off as a rental. Choose a dark deary night and it’ll fit right in.

Unsupervised Teens, Always Big Trouble “L.I.E.”

Wow, just finished a recommendation for a PPLL, L.I.E. directed by Michael Cuesta. Was surprised I hadn’t heard of this director considering how well written and how artistically directed this film was from ‘way back’ in 2001. And while an Emmy for Homeland is nothing to sneeze at, I would have expected his subsequent films to be accolade worthy.

A sucker for Paul Dano, I will admit seeing him so young was disconcerting, given the unpleasant obstacles facing his teenage character. Sure, the film is 16 years old, but I’ll bypass plot details, not wanting to spoil this for anyone who hasn’t seen it. Suffice to say, Paul Dano’s Long Island existence is basically without any supervision.

Tawdry and damn depressing, the movie is compelling due to the verisimilitude of the characters and actors. Not since the film Little Children 2006 with Jackie Earle Haley have I seen a sympathetic portrayal of a pedophile. And I realize this film was actually a predecessor (in this case Brian Cox) I simply had not seen.

Much like Philip Seymor Hoffman in Scent of a Woman and Ethan Hawke in Dead Poets Society, Paul Dano’s teenage performance was surely prescient of his acting brilliance. So much so, that I can forgive him for Swiss Army Men, which is his only clunker. Love & Mercy, 12 Years a Slave and Youth certify him as a favorite of mine no matter what he chooses to do next (which appears to be a mini series of War and Peace).

I’ve been to Long Island’s* suburbia and always seem to see seedy articles about the area’s violence and crime reported in the New York Times. Sad that this area is a fine setting for such a dysfunctional plot. And yes, I realize I’m saying this ironically, from the king nutville of the U.S., Florida:)
*Long Tsland has beautiful areas as well, obviously. The Hamptons and a gorgeous park (Eisenhower) where I saw Soulive with Martin, Medeski and Wood.