Lost in Paris, Found in Hyperbole

Ok, here’s the weird phenomena. During the movie Lost in Paris (directed by Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon), I turned to my friend Carrie and said, “Sorry I blew it, we could’ve been watching Sean Penn smoke a doobie.” (To be explained momentarily). But this morning, as I researched the writer (aforementioned Dominique Abel), I find myself wanting to see his other films: The Fairy and Rumba.

First, what’s with the Sean Penn reference, did I have a chance to go to Haiti? No. Fast Times at Ridgemont High was playing on a big screen in Sarasota (and also nationwide for two special nights). But being a good girl and researching briefly on Rotten Tomatoes, critics had cited Lost in Paris at 89% and certain reviewers compared it to Buster Keaton (if you hear rumbling that’s Buster rolling over in his grave) and Tati’s Mon Oncle. (Jacques Tati is also writhing 6 feet under).

This comparison is as ludicrous as saying LaLa Land was the worthy comeback of great musicals! First, there was nothing real about the stunts. The Eiffel Tower scene was totally cgi. Second, though Abel used color creatively, there were plenty of dead scenes where nothing was going on artistically. This could have been a better film, by adding color to every scene, creating more absurdist moments, and developing characters that moves us.

Instead it was akin to a 90 minute cartoon played out by humans.

Still as reported, I find myself somewhat endeared by the combination of Dominique and Fiona, proof that at the very least these two have good on screen chemistry. I’ll see if my friends at the Selby Library have either of his past films.

In conclusion, I’d say, go if you’re feeling down and need a bit of a light distraction, but enter knowing you need to have very low expectations.

What I’d give for the simple life: Maudie

First of all, my hats off to Trace Hardman who has to be one of the sweetest people in Sarasota. Not only was he kind enough to treat me out for a birthday lunch last year, but he treated me this week to Maudie directed by Aisling Walsh.

PLOT (without spoilers of course):

And Trace, Maudie (as in a major theme of this film based on the true story of Maud Lewis) and I have something in common; a wish for simpler times. For instance, we both agree that going out on a weeknight to a low key place is better than some raucous Saturday evening.

Through a halcyon lens, Maudie had a great low key life with her husband Everett Lewis. From a realistic perspective, her life could also be viewed as cloistered and Everett abusive. Yet, Maudie’s artistic ability evened out the power struggle enabling them to form a close partnership.

Trying not to have any regrets in life, I still do wonder if I had had more patience with either husband if bumps in the road would have evened out. Yet in the first case, I truly believe my self-esteem, (still somewhat shoddy) would have withered, and the restraints on travel surely would have hindered my son’s trajectory. In the second case, his philanderings I could have tolerated (given he didn’t bring back any disease or illness), but his manic temper would have continued a stress I grew up with my first 18 years of life and may have cut my life shorter. So I am back to thinking I have no regrets.

Actors:

While researching the 8 wins and 2 nominations for Maudie, I was shocked and appalled that Sally Hawkins wasn’t named in any of the ten. Here’s where I have to pull a McEnroe, “You’ve GOT to be kidding me!!!!!!!!!!” Again this year, I may have to throw things at the t.v. if Sally Hawkins isn’t AT LEAST nominated for best actress. She is phenomenal here, not only emotionally capturing this woman, but in the physicality of her performance (Maudie suffers from debilitating arthritis).

If you’ve never seen Sally Hawkins, go out immediately and rent Happy-Go-Lucky (which I saw alone on my birthday in Rochester one year and WASN’T sad, which tells you how good the movie was). And if possible, get a hold of the short film The Phone Call where she’ll knock your socks off. Not to mention Blue Jasmine for which she was nominated for an Oscar.

Ethan Hawke is one of those guys I could watch eat toast so I enjoyed him as Maudie’s husband. But I can totally get people saying he is Ethan Hawke first, the character second. I wondered if that’s why his character wasn’t shown facially until I’m approximating 20 minutes into the movie. Perhaps the director wanted us to get his overall physical aggression before we see Ethan’s face. But I’ll always be a EH fanatic, from Dead Poet’s Society to Before the Devil Knows Your Dead, to the Before Sunset trilogy, Ethan Hawke is great!

So I wish I lived in a world with less choices, a simpler time, where people were stuck together and hence their love grew deeper. But then again, perhaps the sacrifices would be detrimental to life’s longevity. Just like Robert Frost pondered, one of life’s unanswered mysteries.

The Big Sick, a Perfect Antidote

I was pleasantly surprised with The Big Sick, directed by Michael Showalter and here’s why: I wrongly assumed it would hammer political ideology, of which I’m simply fatigued. But instead, Emily V. Gordon and her husband, comedian Kumail Nanjiani have presented a human story which was sweet and moving.

What helped the movie, besides a smart and funny screenplay, were the outstanding supporting actors (and by actors I mean male and female).

Ray Romano, the Tom Hanks of comedy, is such a solid dude no matter what he does. In fact, I’m sure he probably improved some of the dialogue as you can sense his wholesome sense of humor bleeding through the story, which was great! I miss this guy, Rob the Mob from 2014 was underrated though from the looks of his IMDB page, he’s been around the t.v. world. Next up is a series called Get Shorty on Epix (8/13/17).

I also love Holly Hunter, her petite, but spit fire nature shining as the momma protecting her adult child. Like Romano, you know she’s dependable and impressive. An IMDB search shows she has a new sci fi’ish show (can’t deal), but I will seek out a movie from this year called Breakable You, that also stars Al Molina (another favorite of mine).

Zoe Kazan, who I loved in Ruby Sparks was excellent as well. I actually didn’t want to like her for a very deeply embedded territorial feeling that Kumail’s own wife should be playing the role (since it’s based on their story). But Zoe was so good that I felt totally pacified and ridiculous for this sentiment. Looking at what I may have missed of Zoe’s, Our Brand is Crisis is something I bypassed originally, but being a Billy Bob fan, should round the bases and watch.

So healthy vibes from The Big Sick, definitely worth the price of admission. An excellent night out and some good movies on the horizon.

One Outta Three Ain’t Bad: Gilliam, Gillespie and LaGravenese

I attempted three movies in the last five days and only got through one…I know, rescind my film fanatic card. Ya see, I need some comedy in my life and that wasn’t going to happen in any way shape or form in The Last Five Years (LaGravense-a name that works-‘grave’) nor in Lars and The Real Girl. Hence, Gillian’s the winner this week with The Zero Theorum (Gilliam).

Before I criticize LaGravenese, I did see he worked on Behind the Candelabra, well done and award winning. And what did I expect about a musical that ends in a break up? I’ve owned the song Shiksa Goddess on my ipod for probably ‘the last five years’ and was simply enamored with the song and the fantasy of being one once. But waaa, waa, waa, did not happen.
The good news, Anna Kendrick, who I slayed in Mr. Right is the perfect fit here. She can sing and she can pout, perfection. Jeremy Jordan, who plays the male lead, was too pretty for my taste, but I get how difficult it must be to find a great singer and rugged all in one body.

Round Two of weird sadness was Lars and the Real Girl. For once, I’m going to say I was right in the first place to avoid this film. Love Gosling and love Patrica Clarkson…even like Paul Schneider (why I gave it a chance), BUT it was schmaltz city. Perfect fodder for a short film, but a full length film about a guy in love with a mannequin that’s not absurdist is simply ridiculous.

And now on to the winner of the week, suggested by my friend Pat (THANK YOU FOR HAMILTON AND SAN FRAN!!!!). Zero Theorum stars Christoph Waltz who usually bugs me and even here with his glaring bald head was a tad annoying, but the film’s theme of ‘existentialism’ or rather existential crisis caused by technology and the corporate are my pet peeves, too. And there was that Gilliam light hearted ‘we’ll get through this together’ mood which is always affecting. Melanie Thierry was adorable as the love interest, and look at old or should I say pre-Manchester young Lucas Hedges who did a great job here as a kid with affluenza. Matt Damon and Tilda Swinton also do nice side action work.

So I’m left to focus on the positive, relishing a call from my good college friend Laurie who’s in the same boat (date people I don’t feel a connection with or feel lonely) and listen to jazz fusion to erase Lars and The Last Five Years.

Deserving of the Title: The Hero

First of all, few movie related rip offs make me want to curse, but I will name two: Albert Brooks not winning best supporting actor for Drive (was he even nominated?) and Sam Elliott not being nominated for Grandma (2015). I think I heard through the grapevine that Grandma couldn’t be nominated for Oscars due to it not meeting the minimum length. Ah well, c’est la vie.

But here he is again, in all his handsome, damn-I-miss-Joe-Spencer glory, as an older grass imbibing Dude with a heart in Brett Haley and Marc Basch‘s The Hero. Perhaps, he’ll get a nomination for this.

Oh wait: This movie’s sponsor is my good friend Carrie who treated me back. We take turns. She’s a sunshiney upper of a friend in my life!

Here’s what was solid about The Hero (besides Sam who’s ROCK solid):
1. spare writing, great editing
2. unique camera angle (mostly side view on Sam) to show we don’t know him or he doesn’t know himself?
3. great supporting cast:
Laura Prepon (almost too pretty for the role)
Krysten Ritter (perfection)
Nick Offerman (tough not to see Nick Offerman, but he’s cool, no matter what)
4. cinematography (great contrast scenes between ocean waves and Los Angeles skyline)

Here’s a tiny problem:
1. One scene of Sam’s where a woman is given a life time achievement award. For the plot to include this moment going viral, the scene should’ve been more substantive or moving for this to seem real.

Beyond that, though for cinema The Hero isn’t quite a 10 for me because it lacked great highs and lows, as a top quality slice of a ‘normal’ person’s life piece it ranks 11. We’re all just grains of sand as Sam’s character says, but we each add to the beach (MY ADDITION, not bad eh?).

The Assassination of Jesse James: a History Lesson

I sought out The Assassination of Jesse James after being blown away by Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea. I was fully aware that Casey had ‘been around the block’, but hadn’t been able to suffer through the violent films he usually participated in.

But first, do you ever wonder what happens to your brain on a daily basis? Like my third Sofia review…what the hell happened? It was like my brain had a brown out, a dim wattage moment. I’ve since spruced it up, but was it dehydration? Pizza rather than popcorn for dinner? Let’s hope my foot bone preservation pool jogging this morning doesn’t have the same ill effects on my writing.

Andrew Dominik, director, of The Assassination of Jesse James, now to be abbreviated as TAOJJ, has done two other films I’d be willing to check out based on the quality of TAOJJ. The Nick Caves doc, which sadly can not be had via the library system This Time With More Feeling and what sounds like violence galore (I’ll shut my eyes, as I did with TAOJJ) Killing Them Softly.

So about TAOJJ. At first, the corny narration and blurried frame sequences made me feel like I was watching a lesser Ken Burns PBS special. But I got use to it and I understand that it was the best way to impart a lot of back story in little time. The ending(S) were a tiny bit tedious, but again, I get it. Dominik wanted to show the ‘rest of the story’ and chose to do it in shorter vignettes.

And what a sad tale it was…I mean when I hear Jesse James, sure I know of the bank robber, but my first thought always goes to that philandering tattooed scoundrel who was married to Sandra Bullock. But based on my historical learning from this film-poor Bob Ford! Talk about no good deed goes unpunished! Hence the annoying subtitle I didn’t bother you with earlier: “By the Coward Robert Ford”.

Casey was off the charts and should be eclipsing his big bro by now…who cares about Ben, besides the dimwitted woman who just left her husband for him. Casey’s part was also far richer than that of Jesse James himself, though played well by power house Brad Pitt.

Equally good were the other supporting roles: Paul Schneider who I’m getting to know more and more after bragging about him in Bright Star (next up Lars and the Real Girl, based on his IMDB page), Sam (my #2 man in the world) Rockwell and someone I’ve never seen before, Garret Dillahunt who was tremendous as bunny scared Ed Miller. I’ll be checking him out on The Guest Book, a Community looking TBS show premiering August 3rd.

So I learned some history and got to see Casey Affleck agonize in another gorgeous portrayal over having to kill his hero. Bravo!

One Sofia, Two Sofia, Three Sofia “Somewhere”

I noticed by my third Sofia film that many of her actors don’t seem to have star power longevity. Is it simply a matter of how they can act mediocre enough to do well in Sofia’s atmospheric, minimum plot roles, like Somewhere from 2010?

Of course, there are exceptions. Besides the obvious Scar-Jo (Lost in Translation), Elle Fanning, terrific in Somewhere, also stars in Coppola’s newest (torture porn) Beguiled, not to mention previously winning awards for J.J. Abrams’ Super 8. No doubt EF’s career has legs.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, others do get work. Like Emma Watson (Bling Ring) who just made a bad film with Tom Hanks (aside: he’s wracked up a few now: the aforementioned The Circle and the NOTHING HAPPENS Hologram for a King).
And others get tv work: (Israel Broussard Bling Ring, as does Stephen (could it be his name?) Dorff, star of Sofia film #3: Somewhere.

In Somewhere, Stephen Dorff was impressive in his role as the shallow Hollywood dad living at Chateau Marmont. In fact the Chateau is a character in itself giving the movie a celebrity-eavsdroppiing voyeur’s delight. Who hasn’t been curious about what the inside looks like? The circus-like goings on, twin strippers showing up to perform in Stephen’s room, topless women sunning themselves on the patio, crashers and guests partying till dawn in the (what appear to be) dorm like rooms.

Having called Stephen impressive maybe overstating (hence the aforementioned lack of accolades). In fact, can’t we all look totally bored to tears with life sometimes, a deep ennui settling into our bones? As usual, Coppola’s framing and slow food type film making bring this energy to life, even when the emotion is ‘slightly depressed’. My favorite shot was of Stephen in full face puddy being prepared for an aging John McCain special effects type role in which the camera just sits on his face (not literally), the only visual of his facial ‘skin’ are the two air holes of his nostrils. This represented Dorff’s character at its essence, simply a manatee like breathing vessel.

Of course there’s character development, but no where near my favorite of her films Lost in Translation. By the end of the film, we get the impression that Dorff will change as much as he is able. Again, the best acting came from adorable Elle Fanning who does so well as the kid lost in the Hollywood shuffle.

Perhaps Sofia gets so lost in the photograph of the movie in her head, she forgets about a much needed narrative depth.

Having said all that, I’m glad I did the Coppola three-peat and am also content to let the darker Beguiled pass me by. The world needs more comedy Sofia, not more torture.

Sofia Two: I like it so I should have put a “Bling Ring” on it

Researching the IMDB page for for Bling Ring http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2132285/, I did something I rarely do; read a subscriber review. icreatfilms_UK evidently felt an excoriating review was in order. And while I think this person sounds like a pompous arse, I did avoid Bling Ring at first for some of the reasons she hated the film. Meaning that even though the critic says the movie was boring and shallow, it’s really the kids portrayed who are thus.

Another criticism by the IMDBer was that Coppola appears holier than thou in her approach. Again, I totally disagree. The self-righteousness comes from the arrogance of misguided, rebellious teens (like those portrayed in the film) who feel they are above culpability. Coppola was just reporting the story, not condemning the kids. As Baretta’s theme song once admonished: “if you can’t do the time, than don’t do the crime”.

Now back to my cinema therapy:) I was thinking during the film how sad it is that males are so susceptible to female charms and probably why I will avoid “Beguiled”. In Bling Ring, the male lead Israel Broussard, falls prey to Katie Chang’s character, in being conned into helping her rob celebrity houses. I’ve seen this in real life time and time again*, and also why I refuse to use men for materialistic purposes even though I have had plenty of chances.

It’s also why I think we don’t need to continue the male bashing. We don’t need a big pants suit nation to prove we’re strong, just look around and see how women have won their fair share of battles between the sexes, without having to own any of the emotional use or abuse they dish out. In addition, I think guys feel more guilt about taking care of themselves than women do. They have been trained to suck it up, stick it out, to their own emotional demise.

*Three quick examples are: about five summers ago my best friend basically forgot about his entire existence after having the attention of a female. The excitement of someone wanting to have a physical relationship with him was so engrossing, he was ‘beguiled’ into ridiculous shenanigans that made him believe he caused her physical ailments, that without going into specifics, were definitely not his fault. A second example is a sweet teacher friend of mine who was constantly upbraided by his emotionally abusive wife, but continued/s to stay.

Last example: currently I work with a kind man who is socking a good deal of money into sending gifts to an ex-girlfriend who is 20 years his junior and who resides states away, all in naive hopes that they’ll reunite. If the ‘fairer sex’ in this example would be honest (instead of selfishly raking in the gifts) to tell the guy that she has no intention of reuniting, he could move on, but sadly, the bling ring continues to delude. To be fair, I’m not omnipotent, wh knows, maybe they’ll wind up together. Maybe I’m jealous that people can continue to communicate ‘after the love has gone’, rather than disappear into the mist.

Three shout outs for acting in this film are: Leslie Mann (great new agey super spacey mom), Emma Watson (captures the shake your head at this-girl-is-so-shallow) and Israel Broussard (the desperate male in need of a hug, and hence becomes a thug).

What will be Sofia Coppola’s claim to fame is her ability to put the film goer into a very specific milieu. In Lost in Translation, we feel lost and misunderstood like Bill Murray. In Marie Antoinette, we feel desperate like Kirsten Dunst. In Bling Ring (as semi annoying the continuous party and dance club scenes are) it is actually because of this materialistic lifestyle repetition that we feel empowered in a deluded way, that we, too, can be idolized if only we dress nicer and shine brighter.

Seek out Bling Ring if you never saw it. You’ll care about what you wear for at least for a day or two in an attempt to get a little more attention. And feeling different about the world is a cool, substance-free way to feel affected.

Sofia Coppola First of a Trio: Some Day My Dauphin Will Come “Marie Antoinette”

This review is rated PG13, just like the film!

In an attempt to gear up for the misandrist Beguiled, I decided to warm up with 3 Sofia Coppola movies I have never seen. Mind you, one of hers, Lost in Translation, could be my number one modern era movie of all time (though Whiplash is close as is The Reader), so I have high hopes for this trio, the first of which is Marie Antoinette from 2006.

I need to fact check history^ in order to truly enjoy the plot (I’m not a fan of taking history and rewriting it, though isn’t that what memory is?*), but from what I gather of Sofia’s version, at least one small part was that her husband Louis wasn’t that into sex, but came through in the end. ^Post check: the film’s pretty accurate, save for the number of children and which ones lived vs. died.

*Recently, I had my own rewriting of history in a failed mini relationship which doesn’t happen too often in life. (Sometimes life brings you this close to a mulligan only to have it snuffed away. Like last year when I thought a reunion might happen with one of the three (seems to be a trio motif happening) greatest loves of my life, but when life quid pro quo inquiry was requested, away he ran. Which brings us to an approximate separate flight tie score of 5 to 5).

Anyway back to the nearer past, I take responsibility for this mini relationship’s original rocket’s failure to launch since I was unable to get passed that uncomfortable getting-to-know-you-phase. Possibly my life’s greatest tragic flaw.

In launch two, my past date/relationship came for a five day visit. Five days may sound like an easy feat to accomplish, but I’m a girl with two jobs who hasn’t had a serious relationship (tried with my every Saturday night 5 year long stint with my Jewish gentleman, but he was elusive, yet fun for my exhausted school teacher years) in a decade (come to think of it, probably no real solid relationship since Marie Antoinette was made! And if you thought I was going to say ‘lived’, how old do I look?!:)).

At any rate, on evening four (after two previous tko successfully fun nights!) of the encounter, we arrived home and my partner announced he had to take a shower. If I could rewrite history and make a movie like Sofia, I’d have my self/character say, “No please, take me like a cave man now. I could care less if you’re sweaty. I’ll get too tired by the time you’re out, let’s do this!”, but instead, I said mealy mouthed, like Marie Antoinette did for years (as her underlings whispered about her ‘frigidity’), “ok” and proceeded to horizontal, aka only-good-if-you’re-into-necrophilia-state.

Unfortunately, this one fatigued rejection** took the wind out of the visitation’s sails, and since we didn’t have years ahead of us for make up time, the remaining time fizzled as unspoken second guessing grew into fleeting lost opportunities.

But I digress, isn’t this a film review?! Ok back to Marie Antoinette and Sofia’s rewriting of history. Perhaps I passed this by, many moons ago, blowing it off as a stuffy biopic. Mais porquoi! M.A. combined modern music and some of THE most beautiful cinematography and costuming (won the Oscar for costuming) I have ever seen. Who doesn’t like hearing Bow Wow Wow’s “I Love Candy” while seeing French royalty in the height of their hedonistic eating, drinking and dancing?

And the cast, magnifique! I love Kirsten Dunst, cat teeth and all. I love every ounce of Jason Schwartzman (see former Jewish boyfriend, not JS obviously, but similar in the quiet serious faced, but percolating under the surface kinda way.) And I love even more Steve Coogan, that irresistible, sarcastic son of a gun. Two other special mentions were Rip Torn as Louis XV and Judy Davis as Comtesse de Noailles.

I noted bad editing twice in the film where it was obvious something had been chopped out and then like a cold slap in the face, the next scene jumped in. Perhaps that’s where Tom Hardy went (saw him in the credits, but that was all she wrote).

If you didn’t see it the first time, give Marie Antoinette a re-do. Like me, you might get two great nights of libidinous fun, music, eating and fashion out of it at least:)

Baby Driver: Gentlemen, You Started My Engine!

And so it (finally) begins, an excellent summer movies season. First, Dinner with Beatrix and now BABY DRIVER. While not perfect, Baby Driver is excellent right up to the last ten minutes.

But wait, this podcast is brought to you by Pete Ryckaert, a Rochester visitor who not only treated me to the movie, but to a high end movie experience. If you live in a city lucky enough to have CineBistro, run, don’t walk to this venue. Recliners and gourmet food? Fuggedaboutit.

Back to the review: anytime you pair great music with action and/or emotion, you’ve got a winner. Most of the time anyway (sorry, no dice Lala ‘B’Land). I was in love with Baby Driver even before seeing it, after reading the LA Times article about how the star, Ansel Elgort, landed the role after telling director Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, etc) that he knew the words to Easy by the Commodores (SOLD! Love that song!)

Ansel was made for this role, though I couldn’t help but be a little sad for my son, Liam Enright, who is just as in to music and trying his darnedest to make it in Brooklyn (go see him at the Bitter End in Brooklyn on July 7th). https://soundcloud.com/socialanimals/subway-dream-girl

But I digress…again, fully confident that you can handle it, in this a.d.d what’s-my-phone-saying-oh-yes, I’m-listening-to-you-world we live in.

If you loved Drive (Ryan Gosling), you’ll love Baby Driver. With a monosyllabic but ultra hip protagonist (Elgort), a submissive and sensitive romantic interest played by Lily James (Downton Abbey), bad guys galore; Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm (can’t get any better for supporting roles) and of course, drum roll, the man that’s so bad he’s so good (in every damn role he’s ever played) Kevin Spacey.

The film’s action scenes are incredible. I haven’t seen car chases scenes this fun since Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw (The Getaway, “Punch it Baby!”) or the kooky ones in Streisand and O’Neal’s “What’s Up, Doc?”.

My problem with the film is the ending, but I get it. Endings are downright impossible. I’d tell you what I would have liked to have seen, but that would be giving spoilers away. And as you know, I am faithfully yours….no spoilers.

GO SEE THIS ONE!