A “Lady Bird” in the Hand…is Worth 3 in the Oscars

Lady Bird, written and directed by Greta Gerwig, has nested three more nominations for my Academy Award picks: Gerwig for best original screenplay, Laurie Metcalf for best supporting actress and Saoirse Ronan for best actress. I say nominations obviously because the film season is just getting warmed up.

Great attributes of Lady Bird are many. First, a super sharp dialogue and a realistic plot. Most women will relate to the mother daughter struggle that is beautifully portrayed between Metcalf and Ronan. I love Laurie Metcalf and was fortunate enough to see her in New York City play opposite Jeff Goldblum in “Domesticated”. She has the perfect timing to play dramatic, with a pinch of ironic humor. Ronan had me at Brooklyn, a corny epic that I should have groaned at, but instead bought in hook line and sinker. Here in Lady Bird, she is unrecognizable, meaning a genius at owning the part of a senior straining to get the hell away from her family of origin.

And now let’s talk about Greta Gerwig…and what’s weirdly coincidental is that right now as I simultaneously listen to Greta’s Fresh Air interview, where God Bless her, Terry Gross, is asking pointed questions regarding men with whom Greta has worked. And may I just muddy my review further by an error of Terry’s: she is saying that Ronan Farrow has stood by his step sister’s abuse claims, when I read that he’s quite the contrarily said he believes his mother, Mia, coached her daughter to make these allegations.

I can appreciate Greta Gerwig, though I am skeptical about her kindness, from her relationship with Noah Baumbach which probably is more about my projecting the past rejection I can’t get rid myself of by Mr. Saturday Night, the smart, sporty Jewish man who doesn’t seem to miss me. This isn’t immaturity, just honesty. Check yourself right now in the figurative mirror and tell me there isn’t some former romantic pain still in your heart. If you can claim freedom, God Bless you or perhaps, you don’t pass the “I’m Not a Robot” test(smiley face).

Anyway, when reviewing the movie Good Time with Jennifer Jason Leigh, I keyed into the fact that Greta and Noah fell in love on the set of Margot at the Wedding, a movie they did with then Baumbach wife JJ Leigh. I feel for JJL, what can I say? And while I loved Greta’s role in Greenberg and Frances Ha (which she also wrote), I thought she was terrible (or was it the writing?) in Maggie’s Plan. No matter, she is a great writer and a competent director, so here here to that!

The entire cast was just incredible, let me count the ways:

The men: Tracy Letts, plays an excellent detached dad, but I’m rooting for an even bigger acting comeback after the horrrrrrrrrrible movie he did called The Lovers. Lucas Hedges, while a genius in Manchester By the Sea, seemed to be overacting in a few scenes as the anguished Catholic school student. Timothee Chalamet was perfect as the Jack Kerouacesque boy toy.

A notable pair who play Lady Bird’s brother and sister-in’law were Jordan Rodrigues and Marielle Scott, fantastic as the dull-eyed underachievers who post college still reside at home.

Other notable females were: Beanie Feldstein and Odeya Rush who couldn’t be more genuine as the (heavy sweet and slutty worldly) Catholic gals respectively.

And now I’ll listen to the remainder of the Gerwig interview and see how she squirms under the question of ‘how do you feel about working with men accused of sexual harassment?’. I’ll be sure to postscript any interesting tidbits. Until then, I root for Gerwig, Metcalf and Ronan at the Academy Awards!

Postscript tidbit: Greta turned the tables and make Terry answer the question, too, so both woemn, in so many words, said or didn’t say how I feel, and that is I think we can appreciate a person’s talent, and yet be disappointed in some f their behavior. Bravo Gerwig (and Gross), I respect you.

Daddy’s Home 2, Proof I’m not a Film Snob

There’s a famous song by Garth Brooks, “I’ve Got Friends in Low Places” and if he changed the lyric from Friends to Films that would be the perfect description for my affection for Daddy’s Home 2. Hey, on a Friday night after running three miles, lunching with an ambivalent date, working six hours and walking a half hour to and fro to work, a silly comedy with a sweet friend is really quite satisfying.

Sure, Daddy’s Home 2 isn’t a cerebral challenge and I could have gone without the physically violent slapstick moments, but fortunately the dialogue was pretty sharp. Not surprising since Sean Anders and Brian Burns also co-wrote one of the most satisfying comedies of recent note, Meet the Millers.

Mel Gibson plays a great cad, John Lithgow a lovable old nerd and I laugh at simply looking at Will Ferrell. Mark Wahlberg, even in his inability to hide behind his larger than life personality, is hard to resist.

The ladies are very solid as well and I kept racking my brain wondering where I had seen Linda Cardellini before. I’m thinking it had to be The Founder or Welcome to Me though she looks like she could be Ellen Page’s older sister. Alessandro Ambrosia is gorgeous and is probably acting her little brains out.

The cameos were cute and I won’t give them away. Best of all the message was a positive one, that we need to love one another in spite of our differences AND even more importantly, we need to step up and shut up regarding stupid worries and hand wringing, be them familial or political, and simply be grateful for what we have for the sake of our children or if you don’t have kids, for the sake of the child still inside of you. And I certainly can’t dismiss a movie based on that gorgeous idea.

Last being a sucker for sentimental music, what Meet the Millers did for “Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls”, Daddy’s Home 2 does for “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”. Love it, love it!

Happy Holidays!

A Solid Second Serve, Borg vs. McEnroe

So right off the bat I have to say Mea Culpa in being THE most biased reviewer when it comes to a film about John McEnroe (Borg vs. McEnroe directed by Janus Metz). See I’ve been in love with him since I was 17, had my bedroom wall plastered with his photos as a senior in high school, met him for an autograph in 1983, even loved his short lived interview show, and am still to this day, downright giddy when I see him commentating. I LOVE THIS MAN.

On the other hand, I may be the most biased against a film that stars Shia LaBeouf as John McEnroe. HOWEVER, Shia LaBeouf actually did a very good job portraying him. And I mean, very, very believable. My only nitpick is that McEnroe is a rocker (meaning in the physical self-soothing way) and in a scene where he’s on an interview Tonight Show like show, he sat perfectly still. That’s not Mac. But beyond that, excellent. And talk about kindred spirits…it’s no secret that Shia has been arrested a few times due to reckless behavior. I’d actually read Shia’s book about his obviously tortured past. I’d even help him edit (HINT, HINT).

The man who plays Borg could have easily been Borg’s son, or an identical clone that was cryogenically defrosted, Sverrir Gudnason. Not much acting involved besides pensive looks, but still, well done. And the man who’s in every Lars Von Trier film, Stellan Skarsgard, was also good as ‘the coach’.

The screenplay by Ronnie Sandahl (who won accolades for a foreign film called Under Dog) told each player’s back stories enough for us to understand their tremendous drive to be victor. And extra congrats to the man who did the musical score, Jonas Struck who not only saved, but refreshed re-watching a condensed 5 hour tennis match.

Definitely worth seeing on the big screen, especially if you’re a tennis fan. And thank you very much to my comedy editor and com padre, Bob, for treating me to this film, the finale of the Cineworld Film Fest sponsored by the Sarasota film Society.

Only the Brave, plus new cinema ailments

Can a movie be a nice tribute, but a mediocre film? Yes. Can there be ailments that are specific to cinema aficionados? Yes, and I’ll be the first to name them: NUMB BUM. Symptoms include: a voice in one’s head that says, “wow, this is a long ass movie” or questions, “the caption just read THREE YEARS LATER, could it really be 2020?”. Physical symptoms such as tingling or numb glutes, restless leg syndrome, eyes on wrist watch…or how about the ailment HOT CORN, symptoms include a voice burning in one’s head that says, “yeh I get they’re a fraternity of bros, I got it with the mooning and yuck yuck man pranks, I don’t need 6 scenes of this.”

This is Only the Brave written by Sean Flynn, directed by Joseph Kosinski and edited by…oh yeh, probably no one. Or no one objective.

How about a little editing folks? Did we really need the Jeff Bridges fighting city hall subplot? Or his scene where he’s country singing as yet ANOTHER old haggard western dude? In fact, please allow me this quick break to write him a letter:
Dear Senor` Bridges:
I use the Spanish Senor` as you insist on becoming an old man with an obvious dental or jaw difficulty. Why oh why? Where did Jeff Bridges go? You know the sexy one from Against All Odds or The Fisher King or even the slightly sexy in a rough way ‘dude’ from The Big Lebowski. Sure, I know you’re two years from 70, but please Jeff, do something besides the Ed Brimley selling Quaker Oats before you retire.

Ok, sorry, had to get that out of my system…the move was good, ok? Certainly the 19 men who died deserve a tribute. And I do like Josh Brolin, though his character is corny. But OMG, Josh, just looked you up assuming you were at least my age and you’re younger than my brother? Jesus, excuse me for another distraction:
Dear Senor` Brolin,
Do not become typecast like Senor` Bridges. Hire a trainer, stat!

Sorry again, sigh. Ok Jennifer Connelly, she’s ‘good’, but her character, do I really need to hear her story of her peeing her pants? I get you’re showing how intimate they were as a couple, but ew, and the lovey dovey scenes, candle lit bathtub, ‘you’re sweaty, I’m, sweaty”, that’s really only sexy in real life, not voyeuristic-ally speaking.

Star of the movie to me (and I might just have Hagiographa from Whiplash still) is Miles Teller, who kicks ass as the f-up who rises to the challenge of becoming a firefighter after becoming a father prematurely. This subolot was done well and without much corn (I didn’t need his disapproving single mom martyr). You’re the man, Miles. In fact give a lesson or two in staying hip to Senor` Bridges and Brolin. Gracias!

The Florida Project, wish he was my relative; Sean Baker

Sean Baker has done it again, floored me with a film of beauty and poignancy….I’d like to call him my brother from another mother, read on….

I dated a brilliant, handsome and funny man for five years of Saturday nights before I moved to Florida, and before you think it was some string of boozy weekend affairs, please continue. We had busy week day lives (me: running, teaching and exhausted; he: tough mudder training, IT at community college and exhausted) so we’d get together Saturday evenings for movies, drinks, snacks and well, you get it. Those were good times that sadly ended when I moved south.
HOWEVER, our best night maybe ever, was the night we rented Tangerine off Netflix written and directed by Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch. I think we had more surprised belly laughs than any other night, which added to the glow of our camaraderie.

The Florida Project did not elicit belly laughs, HOWEVER, it is my favorite movie of this year this far. It will be the movie I scream at the tv about if Oscars are not presented. The Florida Project was real, haunting, and to steal a word from Willem Dafoe (star of the film) on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, “noble”.

The Florida Project is an ode to children and should be required viewing for any parent who gets involved with DSS. It would be the perfect scared straight film for those not already permanently lost.

The movie made me think of my cousin JJ, who depending on the real truth, either suffered from lack of guidance and parenting, fetal alcohol syndrome, an individual chemical imbalance, brain injury or a combination of any of the aforementioned. Whatever the cause, his life has been very sad, even from a distance.

Fortunately for the viewers, The Florida Project doesn’t follow the children into adulthood to see possible the jail time or ruin carried over into their adult lives. Seeing the neglect in their formative years is impactful enough. And if any complaint is to be made, is that many children who grow up in an undernourished and chaotic setting are not as cute or manageable as the gorgeous children in The Florida Project, but very few people, unfortunately, would seek out that film.

As with Tangerine, when I researched the actors, there was little known about them. Sean Baker likes to choose unknowns who add to the verisimilitude (a motive of which I’m guessing). Huge praise needs to be heaped on the kids in the film, notably Brooklynn Prince, the main child and daughter to Bria Vinaite, who also is simply amazingly believable.

The beginning of the film and end are bookended by beautiful music; Kool and the Gang‘s Celebrate and, and, swing and a miss! No soundtrack on Itunes or elsewhere. Their offical movie website says touch to continue, but my touch not working tonight. Take my word for it, it was an orchestral arrangement of a popular song. Any one who sees the film, hang out, watch the credits and let me know what the end song was, please, because the film doesn’t even have its own website.

GO SEE THIS, it’s y number one as we head into the big competition.

Wherever You Are, There You Are…”Lucky”

Serendipity led me to see Lucky, meaning even though I had already done my self-psychoanalysis, talking myself down from the proverbial roof (hit a wall after working 50+ hours a week, became ill and also became very aware of poor working conditions of impoverished folks directly in front of me, combined with the self-imposed high anxiety of doing stand up comedy), the film helped add the necessary cement to my rediscovered zen. Picture my aforementioned realization, hitting myself in the head: I live in Sarasota and AM LUCKY, so curb the neuroses for Pete’s sakes.

Included in my muchos gracias to the cosmos is a thank you to my friend Pedro, another deep soul in the universe, for going with me.

Lucky is John Carrol Lynch’s directorial debut, but you’d recognize his face from many acting roles, most famously Fargo (Frances’s husband), but recently in a performance as LBJ in Jackie. Here’s where my amoxicillin infused whining kicks in in that I’m tired of people with three names and I’m also weary of the ridiculous number of television aka internet series there are (of which JCL stars in several-see IMDB if you care).

The screenplay was co-written by Logan Sparks (sounds like a fake name but at least it’s just two words) and Drago Sumonja, both of whom are new to big fame, but according to their filmography have put in their time as assistants.

Enough of the rabbit holes you say, what about the movie? The story is crucial considering our aging population’s need for story lines with which they can relate. I say this on behalf of the best Grandma on the planet, Florence Baker, 94, still kicking intellectual and physical buttocks in spite of her advanced age. Grandma doesn’t want to see Surburbicon or Thor, so thank you!

Henry Dean Stanton (ok we’ll let hm have three names God rest his soul, in fact anyone over 80 can have their three names) was a wonder and pretty much revealed on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast that this plays pretty close to his own life. Three quick commonalities are: was in the Navy, sang in a band, lived a solitary life.

HDS (aka Lucky the character) was an interesting dichotomy of melancholy and zen of which I can totally relate. My only wish for the film and my English speaking population is that there had been subtitles during the beautiful mariachi song he sang three quarters into the film. Trust me, I’m going to research and find out, but it would have added to the poignancy to see the words (though I can see the opposite argument and possible reasoning for subtitles distracting).

Minor characters were beautiful in both composition and story. Of note were: Yvonne Huff as a caring 420 friendly waitress, Tom Skerritt as a fellow armed services vet, and dear to my heart, Ed Begley Jr as Lucky’s wise cracking doctor.

Here’s where I call out the worst: David Lynch, my man, you can’t act. James Darren, you’d have been better stopping after Gidget (though you’re well preserved) and Beth Grant, you might be good, but your big mouth wise ass bar owner character was a turn off.

Overall though, great film, with an important message that since we don’t have proof of an afterlife, we better best enjoy we we have right now. Carpe Diem.