Best of the PPL’s “Wilson” and “Happy Tears”

Whatchu Talkin’ bout Wilson? I wanted to title my post this, but worried in our overly pc culture that people wouldn’t get the reference from the old television show Different Strokes.

Wilson, based on the graphic novel by Daniel Clowes and directed by Craig Johnson, was irreverent and funny. Woody Harrelson can do no wrong in my book and continues his excellency here. Laura Dern (why the long face?) was not as believable, but then again, I always think she’s just miserable. Evidence? Artifact one: Certain Women, Two: Founder, just to name some recent films. Has she been typecast? I know she’s in my favorite comedian of all time (today, admittedly fickle) Bill Burr‘s F is for Family, but here again she plays the long suffering wife of the 1973 set racist Archie Bunker-like husband.

What I disliked about Wilson was the gratuitous violence. In three scenes the violence was too close and too long. I don’t need to see and hear Cheryl Hines punched in the nose, it’s just not necessary. Likewise, don’t need to see Woody beaten to a pulp, but not really harmed (ridiculously unrealistic and we wonder where people get their violent ideas?!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Anywho, on to my mission to see more Parker Posey, I borrowed Happy Tears from 2009 written and directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein. I really enjoyed this, so much so that I bought it on Amazon for my brother for Christmas (shh, don’t tell him) because the dad in the flick (played by Rip Torn) reminded me of my Dad. Not only was Parker Posey good, but Demi Moore was perfect as her sardonic sister and Ellen Barkin hit it out of the park as the crack whore masquerading as the father’s girlfriend (and no, that’s not the commonality with my dad: he does not date a crack addict).
The only thing wrong with Happy Tears is the subplot with the artist husband of Parker, could easily have been excised and still been a worthy endeavor.

Next on my PPL list are two older films The Lost Weekend, a Barry Rothman request, and The Secret of Success.

Columbus, Docked Just Shy of the New World

Ok, I know Columbus, the new movie by relatively new(?) director Kogonada, has nothing to do with Native American destroyer Christopher Columbus, but the analogy of C.C. not quite going the distance to make it to the new world, fits perfectly with Kogonanda’s film being so close to greatness that it’s almost painful.

Columbus is actually about Columbus, Indiana which I am so excited to have learned is a mecca for architecture. I’ve not been exposed to building design instruction, but I appreciate beautiful homes and buildings enough that I am making it a goal to become schooled on the wealth of architectural wonders right here in Sarasota.

With this gorgeous motif as its setting, Columbus (the movie) has a cast just as luminous. First, there’s one of my top ten actresses of all time: Parker Posey. I have loved and seen Parker Posey in most of her films but her tiny role in Columbus just compelled me to request two former films from Selby Library, MORE PARKER NEEDED:) Parker reminds me of my clumsy, but endearing self (or at least the latter’s my hope for what people see in me).

Another excellent actor in Columbus is John Cho (Star Trek, Harold & Kumar) who was superb as the long suffering son of an aloof architectural aficionado. The other two standouts were Haley Lu Richardson (equally good in Edge of Seventeen and The Bronze) and Rory Culkin (who I really need to go back n my posts and see what I praised him for-could it be Lymelife? He was just a little kid, but had that glow akin to Ethan Hawke in Dead Poets Society).

SO the acting was excellent, the direction interesting, many scenes shot from peoples’ backs or through angles (in a reflection of a mirror, from a hallway), so what gives, you ask? Well, it’s all in the pacing. Meditative is fun, but clunky leads to dropping anchor before you hit the shore.

I still recommend Columbus, just be prepared to swim a ways.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women: More like Prof. Maasdam

Hey when you write a film blog, sometimes you learn something new, like this afternoon when I’m looking for a cheese that starts with M (like Marston does) and and ends in an N or M (like Marston does). And Eureka (!) you find Maasdam cheese from the Netherlands which is perfect since it’s a semi-hard cheese and that’s about as excited this movie will make either gender.

People, the concept is titillating, a Harvard Professor of Psychology and his wife begin a menage a trois which blossoms into a permanent, shall we say mini Mormon experience, meaning relative bigamy, cohabitation and child rearing. All of which were shocking lifestyle choices in the 1940’s.

And certainly all three lead actors were competent (Rebecca Hall being the strongest of the three by far, and yes I’m biased-see my “Christine” and “The Dinner” reviews), the other two being: Luke Evans and Bella Heathcote, both of whom still have hope for greater films.

But oh the screenplay is the Maasdamiest (cheesiest) of any screenplay I’ve seen in recent memory. A tell tall cough here, maudlin music here, sexy strip music (with slo-mo) there.

The best that can be said about Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is that I got to spend time reclining (@CineBistroSKey) with Pete, a gentleman who gave me space after a long workday (and who I am truly honored to have been visited by). I also like true stories and the fact that we got to see photos of the real people at the end always heightens my affection for a film. My only wish is that the screenwriter would have opted for human commotion over the ‘mellow’ (cheese) drama.

That’s amore`, that’s a screenplay! Spinelli’s American Made

Two aspects of American Made immediately impressed me; first the taut screenplay by Gary Spinelli* and Tom Cruise‘s perpetual likeability**.

*I’ll continue to research, but thus far, there’s not a whole lot of bio information about Gary Spinelli. I assume he’s relatively new at screenwriting according to the short list of his writings on IMDB. Though it appears he wrote a stinker back in 2012 (Stash House), and has since roared back now with American Made (with a tv show and a film in pre-production). Spinelli’s American Made condensed a complicated story (drugs and weapon running in the 80’s) with equally convoluted politicians (are there any other kinds?) and clearly established three sets of characters (Cruise and wife, the CIA and a drug cartel). So bravo Mr. Spinelli. Your script is worth seeing again.

Speaking of seeing a movie again, a shout out to the prince of princes who saw American Made a second time for my benefit AND who bought me a garment to keep me warm in the why-the-f-must-Floridians-a.c.-the-hell-out-of-us atmosphere of CineBistro?

**Another gentlemen who’s a prince in his roles at least, Tom Cruise is certainly irresistible in his polite and handsome, “ma’am, I’m sorry to inconvenience you, but this is the way it has to be. I must be heroic, or anti-heroic.” Here, he’s the latter, playing real life Barry Seal who is fleshed out in a fantastic piece of journalism (http://fair.org/home/american-made-a-largely-true-story-with-some-not-so-fun-lies/) that takes apart the truth vs. make believe of the story. Tom Cruise with his gargantuan acting ability hypnotizes us into rooting for him, no matter what his character does, in this case putting his family in danger for his thrill seeking career pursuits.
And anti-hero could be closer to the real Tom Cruise, according to the rumor mill, what with his rather demented Scientology fixation).

Three other quick accolades must be mentioned: Doug Liman, director (and not coincidentally, probably got the great stories from his dad, Iran/Contra counsel Arthur Liman) also director of Edge of Tomorrow (great film!), Sarah Wright as Mrs. Seal, and though not a huge role, the always consistently good, Domhnall Gleeson as a cold, calculated CIA agent.

American Made is definitely worth going to, even for a second viewing to fully grasp the screenwriting’s excellency.