Ingrid Goes West: Thought Provoking

As much as I want to say I’m above worrying about social judgment, I am hurt that a recent simplistic choice has cast me in a homely light. As a pedestrian commuter, I transport necessary a.c. sweaters in a Publix bag INSIDE my book bag so they don’t co-mingle with anything dirty. So, what’s the big deal? Well occasionally said sweaters have to be brought forth to the light of day due to cooler air and some times said bag is met with horror by one, if not two, people in my life. Guess I need to find a more fashionable bag within a bag. Mea culpa.

And so it is through that lens that many women, like moi, can appreciate the film I saw last night called Ingrid Goes West (directed by Matt Spicer) starring Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen, an unnerving mix which, depending on your idea of what cinema or art should be, might be palatable. Like my Publix bag, can a film be solely provocative and still be acceptable? In my one and done year with the Sarasota Area Playwright’s Society, I was taught, and agreed to, the definition of art as being something uplifting (though ironically ripping actual humans to shreds in public over their writing is mighty fine*). But is simply ‘moved’ a better art indicator? *Not sour grapes, I promise. I received praise for another play that was performed at a nursing home, but the viciousness of critique when your work is not liked is downright mean.

Some might argue that the end of the film is uplifting, but I would disagree. I won’t tell you the ending as my promise of no spoilers remains true.

Let’s first explore what was unnerving about Ingrid Goes West. First the teacher-mother in me wants to say for shame in glamorizing suicide attempt as a way to gets loads of positive attention. I’m not sure we want impressionable teens and young adults to think taking a chance on suicide is a good way to win folks over.

Second, are we suggesting that if you have an army (meaning having a few influential people snowed into thinking you’re perfection) when you’re not any better than anyone else that you are allowed to bully, berate and judge others who are more alone? Or is that merely the law of nature, survival of the fittest/biggest army?

Friendship* and loyalty are the main themes in Ingrid Goes West. In the film, extreme cases of rejection and reactions are portrayed. Aubrey’s Ingrid was alone, her mother having recently passed away (in the plot from the get go, not a spoiler). She was also unlucky in friendships (not invited to a wedding for instance), had no sisters, or father (which never is addressed). In a more extreme sense, this movie reminded me of what could have been a prequel to Christine, the real life story of Sarasota news reporter Christine (see my previous review) who had parental abandonment issues as well as social awkwardness and perfectionistic qualities. Was this solitary essence combined with uneven brain chemistry what made the Ingrid character and the real life Christine more vulnerable to our current world’s pack mentality?

*Speaking of friends, thank you to David Utz, who’s also a talented artist http://www.utzart.com/, for treating me to the film and his friendship.

Male female relationships are also explored, ang again, to my second aforementioned point, I’m not sure I like the message. Why do men stick with women who are unkind? Why don’t they follow the adage that there are more fish in the sea and continue to look? One confesses how quitting his job to please his girlfriend has made him miserable and then buys right back in, another is seriously injured as a result of psychosis, but goes right back to the woman. Love, as well as friendship, according to this film, truly is an illusion.

Coincidentally, love as illusory is also theme in the Rachel Cusk book I’m reading now entitled Outline, Rachel sums up the end of illusion in relationships perfectly: “And then one day the river dried up: their shared world of imagination ceased, and the reason was that one of them stopped believing in it. In other words, it was no one’s fault; but all the same it was brought home that the what was beautiful in their lives was the result of a shared vision of things strictly speaking to could not have been said to exist.”

Obviously Ingrid Goes West sparks a lot of thought. The acting was superb and I’d be remiss not to mention the three male leads who followed in that high regard: O’Shea Jackson Jr. (fantastic in Straight Outta Compton as well), Wyatt Russell (as good looking as his mom and dad and great in this film), and Billy Magnussen, most impressive of the three, who plays such a jerk, you want to reach through the screen to strangle him yourself.

But as I told someone recently, I’m a lover not a fighter, glad to be in this world, even in spite of rejection over a plastic bag. Smiley face emoji.

Twilight is Broken and thank goodness: Good Time

If it hadn’t been for Jennifer Jason Leigh’s interview on Marc Maron’s podcast, I would have been very reluctant to see Good Time. I mean a crime drama starring the dude from Twilight isn’t exactly in my wheel house of interests.

But JJ Leigh interested me, even more so her back story, her dad Vic Morrow killed in the Twilight (wait Twilight again, holy coincidence) Zone movie accident, her husband Noah Baumbach leaving her for Greta Gerwig, etc.

JJ Leigh’s only in Good Time for ten minutes max, but she definitely causes a stir. Those with the most screen time are equally magnetic, especially the star, Robert Pattinson. In Good Time, he looks so different from his plain white milk vampire films that he seemed brand new. His performance is worthy of an Oscar nomination, but the character lacks the range for a trophy. This isn’t the actor’s fault, but just a tiny flaw in the writing. Without more back story, we’re left as an audience to wonder. Not a bad thing, and certainly intriguing, but not deep enough then to be a tko of a film.

Two other male leads are also fantastic, one of whom co-wrote and co-directed the film, Josh Safdie. His performance as a hearing impaired brother of Robert Pattinson had an Of Mice and Men Lennie and George quality and was equally poignant and elusive due to the plot. The third ‘stooge’ who garners screen time is a very good question that I need to research further. He’s not on the top of the imdb list, but I will keep searching as he plays a very believable thug rendition.

Minor characters added to the film’s verisimilitude which really felt like a director’s cut of a Cops episode, a Paul Harvey’s ‘the rest of the story’, which is even alluded to in scenes where characters are watching the Time Warner 24 hour news program.

This film was so real, I was frightened for my son’s safety in NYC, as any one of these characters and situations could harm an innocent bystander. Akin to lifting a blanket up and discovering your bed infested by bed bugs or the human equivalent thereof. Good Time is thus best seen in the cinema as you need to put your seat belt on without distractions to really enjoy the suspense and ironic subtlety of the film’s performances.

I am grateful for my friend Dave who picked me up in the pouring rain and who not only understands the art of conversation (meaning he didn’t lecture or bludgeon my ears with his life expertise) as have my last few encounters. Bless Dave with good karma this week as he undergoes some medical testing.

Adam “Baby” Driver, Just One Reason to see Logan Lucky

Logan Lucky was just what the doctor ordered, a squeeze in of fun between one enervating work shift and before a totally different, and oft times lonely eight hours. I shan’t bore you with the details, besides there’s too much to say about Logan Lucky.

Not just because Adam Driver, is the attractive introverted, quirky, yet intelligent machisomo co-star. And not just because Steven Soderbergh is so prolific. Check out his IMDB page some time, but be sure you have awhile. Under each sub category: writer, director, producer…his lists are vast. In fact, who knows (?), Soderbergh could have written the screenplay for Logan Lucky since the ‘real’ writer Rebecca Blunt may be a fictitious person (according to IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm8362793/?ref_=tt_ov_wr)

And here’s where I have to call out the establishment on Channing Tatum. Is he going to be the new Jeff Bridges, where he does all this outstanding work with no wins until he’s old and scraggly? I mean come on, Foxcatcher should have earned him something besides best ensemble. And in Logan Lucky, he plays a West Virginain hick with a limp, a feat (pun unintended) and a stretch (pun intended) and a half considering the guy’s got Timberlake caliber dancing skills!

Daniel Craig, fantastic as the explosives expert convict, has earned a merit badge from me. He’s got acting and comedy in his blood in spite of the needs-to-be-put-to-rest James Bond franchise.

And let’s give kudos to the women, too. Katie Holmes, so heartening to see her in a quality film. And breaking news, just realized that Riley Keough, also is Elvis’s granddaughter (or Lisa Marie’s child), wow! This girl not only has soul, but is married to a stunt man, priceless! Farrah MacKenzie is also so sweet as the little Jon Benet Ramsey type.

The smaller parts were classic as well. Seth MacFarlane (say his name tangy and he seems like he could be a West Virginian, ok, an Irish West Virginian) was a CLASSIC. Dwight Yoakam also PRICELESS as the prison warden. Hillary Swank, cardboardy (see my upcoming caricature complaint), but always good to see.

The heist plot is super intricate, and the characters well drawn if even too much so. Meaning, the characters were close to caricatures, especially Hillary Swank’s stick up her backside FBI agent, as well as Daniel Craig’s doofy brothers who reminded me of Larry Darryl and the other Darryl on the Bob Newhart show. But I guess that was part of the Blunt/Soderbergh’s fun.

Definitely worth seeing in the grandeur of the big screen, especially if you’re in need of an escape from quasi menial jobs that can occasionally get on your nerves.

Ghost World and the Mysteries It Created

The movie Ghost World used to come up in conversation with the last man I dated in New York, who from this day forward will be nicknamed my Saturday Night Boyfriend. My SNB was (actually ‘is’, he’s still alive and well and needed a job recommendation to a water park from me this past spring) a highly intelligent, good looking Jewish man who also had (has) a wickedly dark sense of humor. The way he pitched Ghost World to me as a film rec, though, did not make me want to go get it. His pitch made it sound like Steve Buschemi was semi predatory toward Scarlett Johansson and Thora Birch which I didn’t really want to watch.

Cut to this month where I work with a highly intelligent Jewish man with a wickedly dark sense of humor (ringing any bells? Not my SNB but eerily similar) who also suggested Ghost World. Knowing my co-worker’s refined taste in film (Man For All Seasons, his favorite which I have not seen yet) and coming off a couple of great recommendations from him (my personal favorite was The Night of the Iguana), when he suggested Ghost World, I decided to bite.

And I’m so glad I did! Though mysteries abound now, even more than why my SNB doesn’t miss me; like how Thora Birch went from stunning in this film (and previous to that American Beauty) to mediocre obscurity. And the director, Terry Zwigoff, who is so against THE MAN that he hasn’t done anything since Art School Confidential in 2006 (though does have a tv movie coming out this year about a start up marijuana business). Sadness tinges this film in worse ways, Brad Renfro, who plays the girls’ guy pal, died of a drug overdose in 2008.

At any rate, Steve Buschemi is not the predator, in fact the girls are! Poor Buschemi is the prey and a fantastic actor in playing the vulnerable guy who can’t get a date! Illeana Douglass was fabulous as the overly subjective art teacher as is Bob Balaban, as Thora’s non-confrontational dad. Aside on Balaban, I just put a request in on the Golden Globe nominated film Georgia O’Keefe tv film he directed which sounds fascinating!

The only thing I didn’t like about Ghost World was the ending, but I do understand the reason for it. Definitely worth seeing, a unique movie with an interesting soundtrack to boot.

The Little Hours: Forgive Me Father For I Have Sinned

“Forgive me Father for I have sinned.” is a line from The Little Hours, but it’s also a literal confessional. I’ll discuss the movie first and then segue into my own transgression.

The Little Hours is a new movie by Jeff Baena, most famous for writing I Heart Huckabees. He had two other mainstream movies: Life After Beth and Joshy, but neither of those concepts lure me into trying a library loan….which brings me to an intersection of art and life, a struggle between what’s funny and what’s mean.

Let me contrast a library loaner, Rumba, the third film I’ve partaken by Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon (Lost in Paris-his new one recently at Burns Court in Sarasota, L’Iceberg the eldest of the three, and Rumba, (the lost middle child and aforementioned I’ll discuss here). There were moments in Rumba that were not funny to me. A house fire is not funny, punching children also not funny, and a woman with a wooden prosthetic, again, not funny. The saving grace for Rumba was the visual rainbow of colors, the dancing and the fact that I really don’t think Dominique Abel, nor Fiona Gordon are truly mean people.

On the other hand, The Little Hours lampoons the Middle Ages, late 1300’s to be exact. And unless there’s some serious reincarnation going on, this movie can not possibly offend. Safe to say 700 years is not ‘too soon’ to joke about. While religious folks would probably still find this blasphemous, hearing the anachronistic quality of an f bomb by monks and nuns was immature fun to me.

Now for the bad news. I avoided this movie a few weeks ago on its opening, assuming it was a one trick pony, meaning that the anachronism I just mentioned, as well as libidinous desire and conflict in 1389, lost its edge about half way in. And sure enough, my instinct was right. Though I have no regrets about going as I got to sit next to, and kibitz with, a new friend who I should do a prayer of thanks for right now (!) due to his having a sense of humor and easy going personality.

Jeff Baena is obviously very intelligent. I base this on a New Yorker piece I read where he pontificated on his obsession of Bocaccio’s “Decameron” on which The Little Hours in based. But intelligence doesn’t always translate into a full length comedy.

The acting was great, I mean who doesn’t love John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, and Aubrey Plaza? Having not watched much of Mad Men or Community, I also was introduced to an actress new to me, Alison Brie, who is currently hot due to the show Glow. Dave Franco, Fred Armisen and Kate Miccucui were also very talented as the Medeival answer to pool boy, overly serious monseignor, and dorky nun respectively.

My confessional goes back to what is funny vs. what is mean spirited: I feel guilty for poking fun at a trend (which I won’t even mention here due to shame) which really I should just leave be. I don’t want to be a social commentarian. Or I should at least wait 700 years. I’ll stick to my self-deprecating don’t-I-look-like-the human equivalent-of-a praying mantis jokes. Even though I didn’t even do this mocking in a public stand up routine, but rather privately to an equally cynical co-worker, I still feel ashamed. So, since John C. Reilly is not around, I’ll give myself my own penance of three hail Mary’s or even better, go out of my way to be kind to someone in need today.

Landline, an abrasive ringer, but it gets your attention

A GETROXY TRAILER: Coming soon, I’m going to try my hand at an audio widget! Stay tuned!

Landline is a new movie written by Gillian Robespierre (also the writer of Obvious Child) and Eisabeth Holm (creator of the doc Paradise Lost which sounds grueling to watch, but perhaps worth the torture considering it involves the Innocence Project).

Acting: Much like Obvious Child, Landline stars Jenny Slate, who I absolutely loved in Robespierre’s original film. In Landline, Slate’s character is less likeable, but in the end I respected her performance in an unflattering though very realistic role. Jay Duplass, who is a mystery to me based solely on the fact that he looks nothing like his brother Mark, does a very good job making a refreshing wholesome man who’s not a wimp. Edie Falco, who I’ve had mixed emotions for post Sopranos (horrible blase` role in The Comedian, too soap opera-like in Nurse Jackie) does well in Landline as the wife-in-denial-over-her-misandrist-role in her husband’s infidelity and fierce tiger mom. John Turturro is always rock solid and here he continues his prowess as the philandering Dad who wants to do right. Abby Quinn is a relatively new actress who has promise, if only as a gritty tom girl.

Plot: The narrative has verisimilitude in portraying marital engagement for the twenties set, when fear of choosing the right person and the perfect career path can make for emotional messes. Also marriage in general is viewed under an unforgiving 100 watt light, for all its blemishes and unrealistic expectations. I’m not sure we needed the 90’s motif to fulfill this as the movie (where the title comes from, pre cell phones) could have just as easily happened today*, but it was neat to see a floppy disk and telephone booths.

*One after thought that angers me, is the breezy look at heroin use in teenagers. I don’t care if this was a harmless 90’s thing, it is currently the main drug issue in our country. I think it is downright careless to have heroin in a film without some kind of skull and cross bones warning. “Opiod deaths have nearly doubled” is literally what I just heard on a WSRQ radio newscast.

Theme: Just today in a soulful conversation with a female co-worker, we agreed that these days (current times) we are realistic about the fantasy of this thing called a long term relationship, and the absolute importance, instead, of moments. Moments of connection, moments of fun, and if we’re lucky, moments of bliss. This is really all we have in 2017. This belief has made a former fan and recent visitor of mine head for the hills, rather than be grateful for the fun we had. Que cera cera. And for shame on folks who insist on everything being perfect in both materialistic and idealistic ways. Perhaps for some, image has become too much of their core, and therefore, too addictive to leave behind for precious ‘moments’. Though I understand and am not bitter (though I still invoke Todd Rundgren’s “Can We Still Be Friends?”, I am just grateful I have never cared for image over depth.

You need to wade through the muck of the first quarter of Landline in order to enjoy the prize. It’s not a perfect film, but is worthy in possessing heart, realism and dramatic arc.

A literary segue, Conversing about Horse Walks Into a Bar by David Grossman

Sometime soon, I’ll be filmed (https://www.instagram.com/books1sarasota/) having a conversation about Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman. To prepare, I thought I’d riff here to work out the kinks.

Speaking of riffing…let’s talk first about whether a stand up comic could get away with what Grossman’s main character (Dovaleh) did, which is basically tell what appears to be a 2 to 3 hour story about his life. What was realistic were the folks in the audience who did finally walk out, after first protesting that they came for humor.
While I think a big name comic could certainly do this, especially if it was a big reveal (I’ll let you decide if Dovaleh’s reveal was ‘big’), I think most unknown comics would be booed or taken off the stage by the management. It’d be interesting to pose this question to Les McCurdy, owner of McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre.

The best part about the book was the sub plot with Dovaleh asking his childhood friend to watch him and to really see him. He explained it like this:”I mean, you know, what does someone get when they see me? What do people know when they look at me…” When his childhood friend protests, claiming it wouldn’t be objective since he knows him, Dovaleh responds, “It’s been years,” he said immediately. “I’m not me, you’re not you.”

This is a deep philosophical thought, like who knows you, who really knows you and could make an assessment you could hang your hat on? Dovaleh picks his childhood friend (a judge) who he feels can give an objective assessment and yet this person wasn’t there for him when he truly needed someone. There is a qualification here, his ‘friend’ was there for the defining moment of his life, yet the friend never knew what the moment actually was in its totality until this on stage catharsis. It’s almost as if his friend knew him as the innocent (though bullied beyond belief) before the moment he was forced to grow up, the moment his childhood was thoroughly broken.

There are several true things about this statement. While people we know from our past certainly at their essence are the same, much of them have adapted by mean of experience. I use to get sad sometimes looking back on my life that people who I felt truly knew me and loved me, I no longer talk to on a regular basis and they were few in number to begin with: in order of appearance, here they are:

Becky Jones, my childhood friend, we shared many intimate moments (not sexual), John E (my first husband and father of my child), the demise of this is a mixture of my immaturity and his lack of wanting grow, John B a post college romance that went deeper than your typical, yet who became (I’m guessing) repulsed by either my wanting to rid myself of some art work from an ex or simply had found another safer bet than trying to rekindle something that had fallen apart so many times. These three humans knew me on a level that I felt safe and protected, (despite my super ironic running away from the last of the trio). Jon Z/strong>y, my second husband, who though I never could truly trust (mood imbalance/infidelity), I did feel he truly cared about me on a level, many before or since, have not. Rich A., a man I spent 5 years of Saturday evenings with and who was with me during a difficult time (post basal cell surgery) when no one else was around. And while he cried when I left New York, he hasn’t lifted a finger to say, ‘hey, I miss you, let’s get together’ (but he did text me for a job reference….chagrined).

With any of these people, I feel like singing Todd Rundgren’s “Can We Still Be Friends”? I don’t demand romantic love, but care and contact would make my life more complete.

The four who remain in my life with consistency are my parents, though I parented them early on as much as they parent me now, and I still love them. I enjoy immensely talking to each of them on the phone and see myself as part of them and vice versa. My precious son Liam, who I believe ‘knows’ me and still loves me, though I do feel an undercurrent of anger sometimes, (but aren’t we all angry at our mothers…I mean the old, ‘she did a lot, but it’s never enough-mentality?) and last, but certainly not least (in fact very very important) my best friend Tim Larson who does know me best of all and still loves (platonic) me (and I him). The last two mentioned, I am dead serious to say I truly don’t know if I could live without.

Oh, so maudlin, right? Not really. I am blessed. My parents are still relatively healthy. My son (I hope) is healthy and happy. And my friend is flying down for my birthday. I live in paradise and have two interesting jobs, so don’t cry for me Argentina. But I do strive still to find a loving partner to live with and enjoy activities with on a long term everyday basis, and that need and desire is healthy, not desperate. I can now finally be there for someone and deserve it in return.

So if I tried this on a stand up comedy stage? There’s no way I’d get away with it.

What the book leaves unanswered (despite it’s Man Booker Prize) is more depth about the childhood friend’s life, the supposed illness of the main character, the true relationship of the other witness who knew him in the audience, what Dovaleh had been dong all these years…just stand up? Did he mention relationships?

In conclusion, I see where the powers that be felt Horse Walks Into a Bar was worthy of a prize. However, I don’t think it’s a flawless work by any stretch. Yes, Dovaleh’s friend finally makes good on ‘being there’ for his buddy. And Dovaleh finally has a cathartic moment and is seen, warts and all. So in that sense the book is rewarding. And maybe that’s what the essence of life is all about. One person who is there for you in your moment of humanity.

And here’s the coincidence with the book, how many of you stayed till the end of the show (this entry)? For Horse Walks Into a Bar, it seemed there were 3 or more-manager, friend, neighbor lady, and possible lover.

Now I Get the Hyperbole: L’Iceberg

Ok, last week I saw Lost in Paris and was unimpressed. Yet I now see this as a Woody Allen analogy after seeing Abel’s earlier film L’Iceberg which was a knockout. So, it’s like seeing Woody Allen’s Match Point and going, ‘what’s the big deal about this guy?” and then seeing “Anne Hall”.

L’Iceberg was from 2005 and is the perfect suburban-neglected-wife-and mother-who-runs-away story. While watching this fun film over the course of two nights (I work a lot), I was also reading Horse Walks Into a Bar by David Grossman. Coincidentally, both the film and book had intriguing sub-plots that kept you involved. In the movie L’Iceberg, the story is bookended by a Inuktitut woman explaining how she met her husband. In Horse Walks Into a Bar, while we watch the stand up comic from the childhood friend’s POV, we are also cognizant of the fact that the friend has lost his wife.

Like Lost in Paris, Dominque Abel and Fiona Gordon wrote this film. And now I clearly see the Buster Keaton comparison. The physical comedy in L’Iceberg was phenomenal and I watched with mouth open at how Fiona bent her legs and body (without serious injury). The scenes on the sailing boat were entertaining as well, especially since some of the splashes were clearly produced by a bucket of water thrown in the air. And I’d be remiss not to mention Philippe Martz who plays the sailor in L’Iceberg, an entertaining Peter Boyle in Young Frankensteinesque performance. In Lost in Paris, Philippe is underutilized as the neighbor.

Since this is a foreign film, it may be hard to find on some library systems. I was blessed that Selby Library in Sarasota was able to procure it for me. Next up is Rumba, which I am equally excited about.

I implore Dominque Able and Fiona Gordon to keep writing. Woody Allen kept going after Match Point to find better material and success (Blue Jasmine for example). Keep going, aim higher!