“Love Simon” or at the very least Very Much Liked

Ok, so I didn’t love “Love Simon”, but I did like it a lot. Let’s focus on the positive first. I’m broke as a joke from now until December 1st when I pray NYSUT makes good on my 30 years as a teacher. That said, my kind generous friend Carrie treated me to the movie after picking my tired keister up after work. So that’s a positive in its own right.

The ‘teen’ actors were all fantastic and I’ll name my top four: Nick Robinson (23) plays a great high school senior wrestling with his sexuality becoming public. Katherine Langford, 22 who I haven’t seen because she stars in 13 Reasons Why which I think is exploitative to teens vulnerable to suicidal ideation. Yet she does well here as the jilted gal. Keiynan Lonsdale (27!) is wonderful as a humble classmate and Logan Miller is wonderful as the cringe worthy guy who tries way too hard to get a girl (and trust me) this doesn’t just happen to teens, I know 60 year olds doing the same damn thing.

The dialogue was mostly witty and novel. The fact that gay people ‘have to come out’ while heterosexuals just get to be was well taken. Technology (emails and texts) were interwoven smoothly. The school seemed even more repressed than is the norm and the rallying of Nick Robinson’s character seemed a bit over the top, but this is a movie and heightened drama is essential.

Now the bad news: oy! Jennifer Garner and blech! Josh Duhamel. Ok, Jennifer did an adequate job and super role model as a caring, but non-oppressive mother, but the corny couple dynamic of she and Josh was nauseating. And Josh Duhamel should really look for a nice little game show to host. He’s got the pretty boy Ryan Seacrest look going for him, but drama ‘ain’t his bag’.

Greg Berlanti, the director, is new to me, but was nominated for a Golden Globe for a 2012 mini series called Political Animals.

Definitely worth seeing especially if you are in need of some optimism.

Ode to Grandma and Photographer Sebastiano Salgado

Today is my Grandmother’s 95th birthday. It’s also the day I finished Wim Wenders 2014 Oscar nominated documentary and free Selby Library loaner “The Salt of the Earth”.

What could these two things possibly have in common?

First, my grandmother, Florence Baker, has endured countless deaths and tragedies. From her parents passing, to four siblings, to her husband and her 50 year old son, she has endured. She’s lived in Sarasota since Old 301 was a dirt road to the present where there is barely room for a sidewalk between condos. A mind bending life for anyone.

Similarly, the photographer, on which “The Salt of the Earth” was based, weathered existing among, and taking photos of, dying populations, from the Ethiopian famine to the Rwandan genocide. He also wrestled with his son’s Down Syndrome to the disintegration of his Dad’s ranch. Brazilian photographer, Sebastiano Salgado has also survived.

Not only has this unlikely pair lived to tell, so to speak; they are joyous.

My Grandmother has never giggled more in her life. She laughs at the strife of Pence’s book and its liberal rebuke; she shakes her head at my father who thinks he remembers better than she does.

Salgado found his renaissance in the replanting of trees on the barren Brazilian farm he inherited from his father; in essence turning away from the pessimism of human death to the wondrous birth and survival of nature.

Perhaps the key to life is to focus on joy and to turn our attention to where happiness and re-birth occur.

Both Grandma and Sabastiano would agree, it’s high time to stop the whining nonsense. Look around and take time to appreciate your blessings.

Concert Review: Making America Abbreviated Again

America played at Van Wezel Hall in Sarasota last night and if America, the country, was analogous to the band’s performance, we’d be short about 10 states. I think it’s a cop out and money grab to play 90 minutes (exactly) when as a band they’ve complied 40+ years of music. At the very least, they should have allowed their two youngest members to each showcase one of their own songs. It’s called paying it forward Dudes. Not to mention, some of us in the audience are part of the shrinking middle class, meaning we don’t have throw away money to spend willy nilly on concert tickets. My friend Dave who graciously took me for a Christmas gift is a hard core fan, and for him alone, I wish the band had extended their play to two hours. I mean really, the set up of all the instruments probably took more time than the actual performance.

Sure I got to hear my three favorite songs; Sister Golden Hair, Tin Man, and Ventura Highway. And thanks to the bass player (who also created the video) was treated to stimulating images of California, celebrities and a metamorphosis of old band photos.

Unfortunately aural and visual stimulation weren’t enough for Twitchy Millennial gal seated to my immediate right(who literally was giving herself a facial and simultaneously checking her phone on average of every 5 minutes) and her bored to death father who also had his nose in his phone during the show. Other stuffed white shirt Caucasians in front me included a husband, their backpack in a separate seat between (who didn’t clap once-that’s a joke) and then S&M wife. S&M is an assumption on my part because she had an accountant look on her top half (severe haircut, conservative sweater) and her bottom half (mini-skirt, patterned panty hose with knee high black boots). She continued to give her husband dirty looks during the first half hour of the show as he couldn’t take his eyes off the woman right next to him, a young Ann Margaret type who was grooving to the music and enjoying herself (as I was) and whose companion looked like a hoody wearing Burgess Meredith from Grumpy Old Men outtakes (you remember, “what day say we go back to my place and I’ll show you my beefy bologna?”). Anyway S&M ended up reaching across the backpack with a slap to hubby’s shoulder which was his indication to move backpack next to Ann Margaret and fall back in cuckolded line. This my friends, is the curse and comedic blessing of being hyper-aware of one’s surroundings.

Another half hour of shenanigans would have helped me round out this essay to novella length. For shame abbreviated America:)

Paris, Texas a PPLL Extravaganza

Well, my main complaint about Paris, Texas was going to be the length (2 and a half hours), but as I type, I’m watching and listening to director Wim Wenders‘ commentary on deleted scenes and I am transfixed with hypnotic awe.

Except for the older vehicles, Pars, Texas (circa 1984) could be shown today. It’s a timeless tale of lost love and the invincible bond of parent and child. Compounded with the poignancy of the film, is the bittersweet sadness of Harry Dean Stanton’s life and death. If you get a chance and care, listen to Marc Maron‘s podcast with Harry Dean Stanton which captures Harry’s level of despair with a hint to some trauma suffered at the hands or mind of his mother that sent him into an abyss of eternal solitaire. Not that he didn’t date (and younger!) or have a good life, but there’a deep melancholy to his life story that leaks out in Paris, Texas and his last movie, Lucky.

In fact, I wish I had seen Paris, Texas before seeing Lucky as the two are definitely parallel films (though the former was written by Sam Shepard, another bone deep melancholy soul) and the latter by Logan Sparks. They share similar settings (southwestern desert), similar music (twangy soulful electric acoustic) and the search for meaning in a solitary hermetic life.

A scene from Paris, Texas that I adored reminded me of a scene from the original Jaws. In Jaws, Roy Schneider is at the dinner table with his son. Each begin mimicking the other’s facial expressions in a cute father-son bonding moment. In Paris, Texas, Harry Dean Stanton and his son, (played gorgeously by Hunter Carson, son of one of the writers for the film and Karen Black, the actress) execute a similar scene while walking on opposite sides of the street, mimicking each other’s gaits.

I loved the use of color in the film, from gorgeous Texas skies, to LA night sky; from matching red shirts to Nastassja Kinski and Hunter bother wearing green shirts with the green lit buildings behind them outside a Houston hotel, the film was produced with an artistic eye.

And don’t let me forget to praise Dean Stockwell and Aurore Clement who were also fabulous in their sibling and parental roles.

I’m partial to this film due to the aforementioned, and Hunter, the young boy loved his Star Wars action figures which took me back to my son’s childhood. I had just written to a friend the other day that if I could have one day of my life back to re-experience, it would be a day of fun with Liam (this was brought on by the sad closing of Toys R Us).

Two and a half hours of film didn’t seem long until an unnecessarily over written cathartic scene in a peep show between Nastassja Kinski and H.S. Stanton, but in watching the deleted scenes and becoming mesmerized by the Texas landscape and the German accent of Wim Wenders, it was worth the time.

PPLL for any newcomers to my blog stands for Pre Pension Library Loaner, #55thbirthdayninemonthsaway!

Filling the Voight Void: Coming Home

After adoring Midnight Cowboy, I realized I needed to fill more of the Voight void, never having seen Coming Home (written by Waldo Scott and Robert C. Jones). Waldo Scott, won the Oscar for best screenplay for this film, as well as for Midnight Cowboy. Robert C. Jones also wrote Bullworth, one of my favorite political films, as well as the classic, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Hal Ashby, director of Coming Home, is very close to my heart since it was his film Harold and Maude that ignited my love for film after seeing it on a lonely night, heart broken from my second soon to be ex-husband, shown on the big screen at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York.

An aside on Hal Ashby: researching his life just now, I had never realized how tragic it was; horrendous upbringing involving abuse and his father’s suicide, drug abuse, ending in liver and colon cancer. Sean Penn dedicated his first film to Ashby who he had never worked with, but by whom he was obviously influenced. I’ll be tweeting to Penn to do a biopic on Ashby as his life seems to be perfect for dramatization.

And speaking of dramatization, please indulge me in a quickie:

At rise: Roxanne, a film auteur, calls in the cast of The Party, which includes seven actors. The cast gathers in a fancy screening room.

Roxanne
Please guests, take any seats you’d like.

(All actors sit politely, mumbling under their breaths, ‘what is this all about?’)

Roxanne (continued)
Ok, well, what I’d like you to do is watch the following film. Take note that there are basically 6 characters, with essential focus on three.

(All actors look at one another, mentally counting themselves.)

Kristin Scott Thomas
Excuse me, what is the purpose of this?

Patricia Clarkson
Well, it’s a fantastic American film from the ’70’s!

Kristin Scott Thomas
Yes, but won’t it be terribly depressing, I mean Vietnam. Even you Americans are passed all that-

Timothy Spall
Yes, none of my American chaps ever discuss that, you’ve got enough problems with Post Iraq PTSD.

Bruno Ganz
And Jake Gyllenhall just did a movie about paralysis about a Boston Marathon fan.

Emily Mortimer
Yes, and this is going to cut into my prime whining time.

(Roxanne nods and smiles, and without replying, turns to shut the lights and start the movie. Grousing continues briefly, and Patricia Clarkson moves herself away from the Brits. All quiet down with the opening song by the Rolling Stones. Fast forward through film, Roxanne is upfront.)

Kristin Scott Thomas
Oh my, that film was gorgeous, the acting, the soundtrack, the emotional resonates.

Timothy Spall
The love story of Voight and Fonda had weight. The scene where he stops her jittery running about with his hand firmly on her waist-
Kristin Scott Thomas
And how vulnerable he was getting from wheelchair to bed when they finally make love-

Patricia Clarkson
Unlike our shallow piece of crap.

Bruno Ganz
Well, what if we add something, like a love scene between Timothy and Kristin and have him be withdrawn, Kristin clueless, since she’s absorbed in her affair.

Emily Mortimer
Yeh, and maybe you don’t even need me and my spouse, I mean it just muddies the water and I could easily go whine in my next film.

Roxanne
As you Brits might say, “By jove, that’s Brilliant!”

First Post Oscars Film: “The Party”, New Term ‘Bittershort’

Has anyone else taken stock of the people around them, people you encounter in a store or on a street, and realized they’re tense and sour?

I’m not saying everyone, but I can confidently say, MANY. My arm chair psychologist theory is that we’ve entered a period where well off people have lost meaningful purpose and the disenfranchised are working so hard that they are either bitter or exhausted.

Movies often reflect the sentiment of our times and certainly Get Out and Three Billboards reflect the bitterness and thirst for vengeance that many in our society are thirsting for.

Frankly I want to buy and wear a t-shirt that says: CHOOSE JOY and one of the savings graces of the Oscars was that the Best Movie of the Year was about enduring love, aka, joy (The Shape of Water).

So what brings you joy? Go out and find it today! Mine comes from the ability to run out in the fresh air, 15 minutes of sunshine and working on a creative project. Hence, I’ll gladly be gluing 20 more hand cut out balloon shapes for my Grandma’s 95th birthday card.

If you’re wealthy, why not give of yourself to a school by volunteering to read or donating books? Or pay it forward at a coffee shop to someone who obviously has less than you? Not to sound corny or like Whitney Houston, but children our are future, literally, they’re the ones that will be caring for us as we age. Or the less fortunate who take on the low paying home health aide positions at nursing homes across the country.

Roxanne, where the heck is the movie review? Oh yes, I saw The Party last night which made me come up with a new compound word: bittershort. Bittershort can be taken literally; this film was bitter and very short (a mere 71 minutes). Bittershort can also be figurative, every character, but one held bitterness in their heart and were short fused. Kristin Scott Thomas who I love, bitter toward her husband even though she was committing the same sin. Patricia Clarkson who I also adore, bitter and tired of her ‘up with people’ life coach boyfriend (Bruno Ganz-the sole positive force). Emily Mortimer (annoying) bitter about a relationship her lover had 30 years ago (give me a break), Cherry Jones (who are you?) pessimistic over her impending future as a co-parent. Cillian Murphy who needs a lecture that there are other fish in the sea. Timothy Spall, well? His character wasn’t exactly bitter as just stymied by his current situation.

Put these people all together for 71 minutes and there’s your description of bittershort. Wealthy folks without clear focus or aspirations. Even Kristin Scott Thomas whose election win should have been happy, was willing to abandon it and with it, her senses, immediately.

Shot in black and white (reminiscent of Jim Jarmusch) with bad sound editing and even the fuzzy unintended bottom screen shots of Cillian Murphy, this movie got me off the bitter world for a few minutes, but the black hole I entered was truly even darker, a confirmation that the world is in a sad space.

People, choose joy.

Annihilation of My Cynical Ways

People, am I getting soft on my film criticism? From enjoying Greatest Showman to giving Killing of a Sacred Deer a positive review, here I go again with Annihilation, written (from a Jeff VanderMeer novel) and directed by Alex Garland.

During the flick, in the multiple sweater wrapped comfort of the refrigerator known as Siesta Key CineBistro, I was dying to start snarky Mystery Science Theater like comments. Annihilation takes itself waaay too seriously. The monotone dialogue reminded me of Killing of a Sacred Deer (could this be a new trend? Like the musical shoe gazing genre of cinema?).

But here’s the thing: because the movie is a one tone wonder, the reincarnation, dust to dust motif is able to take root and make an impact that really didn’t hit me (or should I say ‘seed’ until the day after). That last comment will only seem brilliantly creative after you’ve seen the film.

In addition to the theme’s strength, the acting, again while monotone, is mesmerizing to watch because of its relentlessness. Natalie Portman is always interesting to watch, furrowed brow and all. One of my all time actress faves (see my previous Good Time review) is Jennifer Jason Leigh and here she ascends fantastically as the cancer stricken leader. Gina Rodriguez is also a stand out and has the most emotionally expressive role in the entire film.

A pressing scene was one of my favorite’s due to its intensity and personal flashback provocation to a sensation I have had in the past.

The soundtrack (Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury-aside: why do I have to dig for this info? Soundtrack composers get ripped off on accolades!) which I’ll go back and re-listen to on Itunes preview, was indeed a piece of art which crescendos to a gorgeous climax at the end. And Garland obviously possesses enough of an old soul to use an old CSNY song, “Helplessly Hoping” that I had never heard before, so come on, he’s my kind of guy.

Still, there were some annoying aspects:
1. I just don’t like Oscar Isaac, he just bores me to tears no matter what he does.
2. The editing could have been much tighter, in fact take out a lot of fluff and add more about an extra-marital affair that NP’s character was having. I mean even bread (monotone) needs a little pepper and olive oil sometimes.
3. The two extra actresses on the mission were superfluous on the mission and made the film seem more banal. Though I do understand you have to have someone to kill off. Perhaps better writing or acting could have helped.
4. Special effects were on the weak side up until the end. The ‘shimmer’ (mawkish name) looked like the film seen on the utensil used to blow bubbles out of the bottle.

Being thrifty due to ye old pension still nine months away, I probably would not have spoken so positively about it had it not been for the gift card (thank you Steve Ralph) of which I spent the remainder. Hence, Annihilation not only reflects the theme of the film, but also a descriptor of my gift card balance.