Top Sevens

I had an interesting conversation the other day when a friend who popped out with his top 7 songs and movies…this was a person who I was trying to get to know, but seemed elusive. And because I’m a bit of a chameleon I, too, tend to clam up when with another clam.

Anyway, I thought it was pretty important, being a film blogger that I have a top 7 list of modern films. And why not have 7 songs as well?

So here goes my films, not in any order of importance, they’re just all darn good.

Moon
Whiplash
Saving Private Ryan
Drive
Revolutionary Road
Adaptation
Magnolia

And because I do so many foreign films I am going to add 2 of those:
Toni Erdmann and Avalanche

Songs:

Please Forgive Me David Gray
For the Love of You Whitney Houston
Beautiful Ones Prince
Express Yourself Madonna
You’re Too Early Kenny Loggins
Sweet Reunion Kenny Loggins
Whenever I Call Your Friend Loggins/Nicks

Eye Eye Captain; First Man

Tongue in Cheek: Sure Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon, but I may be the first to discover there are at least two different movie watching personality types that coincide with five astrological signs. Sagitarius, Virgo, Scorpio and Aquarius folks are intense movie watchers…we don’t talk, and stare at the screen GLADLY for the full movie. Whereas Leo’s are restless types, needing to look at their company, for reassurance perhaps, or in my Dad’s case even inquire, “what did they say?” or my friend last night who needed to comment on an average of once every five minutes. One small primal scream for man, one giant yelp for man kind.

But back to the movie…Damien Chazelle is credited (by me) for one of my favorite seven modern films of all time (Whiplash– see my next blog post for the full list) and one of my most frustrating (LaLaLand). This time with First Man, I’m in the middle, or a little to the right. I didn’t LOVE it, but it certainly satisfied.

Chazelle focuses much of his camera work on close ups, way way close, with a lot of eye concentration on Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy (who definitely should get a best supporting actress nod). For Ryan/Neil, eye work makes sense since through his helmet, that’s the the only facial target. But even out of his suit and with his wife, played as I just mentioned expertly by Claire Foy, the eyes have it as it were.

The story (screenplay by Josh Singer is good, but perhaps a tad too long). I do fully appreciate the fact they (the book’s author and subsequently Singer) wanted to show the full sacrifice and missteps along the way, as well as increase the suspense. I mean after all the accidents, who the hell would think a tin can could actually make it to the moon? That’s faith or bravado or a hell a lot of both. I also loved the inner workings of the Armstrong marriage and the honest approach of Neil, who struggled with his daughter’s death and his need to be a workaholic. In his defense, this was the oppressed 50’s and 60’s when men didn’t cry or were shamed into being stoic and thus, manly.

Other supporting actors had minimal coverage, but I will say Jason Clarke (Chappaquiddick) and Corey Stoll (I know him from Girls) were solid and stood out as Neil’s co-astronauts.

Chazelle’s directorial work seems to lean toward Terrence Malick and that’s ok for me (and probably my fellow Sagitarians). We hear the odd noises of the rocket, we ‘feel’ the jittery, dizzying shakes, and the frantic pushing of buttons. Chazelle bucks the trend of having everything be neat and pretty and instead, also uses silence, space and different types and lengths of scenes to make a meaningful collage.

A Salad Bar is Born

You did read the headline right, a salad bar is born. I wanted to like A Star is Born (directed and starring Bradley Cooper) having a halcyon remembrance of seeing the Kristofferson/Steisand version at Silver Lake Drive Inn many moons ago. I remember thinking that movie was sexy (though I’m sure I didn’t even know what that word meant at 13).

I’m bucking the crowd here in my dislike of the film, but I’ll tell you what I did enjoy first. I liked it for the same reasons it may win awards….the people in it are drop dead gorgeous. Bradley Cooper is downright adorable and Lady Gaga looks prettier without much makeup than she does with. But this is the same reason I didn’t feel for the characters. They weren’t tortured enough (or ever looked to be like anyone who could experience pain).

Another bias against the film is that I’ve seen Lukas Nelson perform (in Nashville by accident). I was there a night early and wanted something to do so thought, why not? Lukas is peripherally in A Star is Born and worked with Cooper on seeming to be a realistic guitar player. Lukas Nelson is ten times as “real” as Cooper and I think it may be telling that he didn’t even get a speaking role, in that, ‘don’t let anyone with genuine talent overshadow ‘the star’ sort of way. Its even strangely coincidental that Lukas’s band name is Lukas Nelson and The Promise of the Real. If a brave director had cast Lukas in the starring role with a younger Gaga like ingenue, we might have had a film. Lukas Nelson’s performances are entertaining and 3D, whereas Cooper’s were like a cardboard cut out.

My last problem with the movie has to do with my salad bar analogy. You know when you’re in line at a salad bar and you can’t linger too long in choosing because someone’s directly next to you? That’s what the scene length and therefore shallowness was in this film. I’d like to go see it again just to time out the scenes. I bet in the two hours and 17 minutes of the film, there wasn’t a scene longer than 5 minutes. Again, if we don’t linger in any pain or joy for more than that, we don’t feel anything.

So the film was admirable and the music was decent. Both Cooper and obviously Gaga are mega talented. it’s just too bad they’re so pretty and the screenplay was just too fast scene-wise to evoke an emotional response.

What Gilda Radner and Anthony Bourdain suddenly have in common

I recently saw Love, Gilda with a new funny friend, so I was grateful that the cancer and death piece of the new doc Love Gilda (directed by Lisa Dapolito) was as brief as it could possibly be. Yet the doc was also too safe, not wanting to hurt Gilda’s mom perhaps if she’s still alive(I researched and came up with nothing, there goes my budding (sarcasm) private detective practice).

Clearly, for reasons I will not give (no spoilers, remember?), her mother was not up for any parent of the year award.

I really enjoyed the old SNL footage, especially those including Bill Murray as I lusted for him in my youth. I also learned some things about Gilda (easily found on her Wiki so NOT a spoiler) that she dated many men (nothing wrong with that, as I clear my throat in solidarity) and was even married to G.E. Smith famed guitarist from the SNL band. I also appreciated as with most comics, there dark side, apart of which spurs them to the therapeutic ‘make a joke out of it’ response.

The commonality I see between Anthony and Gilda now, isn’t so much about them as individuals, though, now that I consider it, they both had depressive tendencies. But more so the lack of verve in Gilda’s doc and Anthony’s last episode set in Spain which aired on CNN last Sunday.

The first of the last of Bourdain’s episodes was set in Africa with W. Kamau Bell as his sidekcik. this one still held the beauty of what former seasons had been known, poignancy, intellect, humor. This last one seemed to be cobbled together, inserted seemingly haphazardly was the Spanish chef’s salute to now deceased Anthony. I get not wanting to end the show on the doner note, but the alternative, some weird bonfire scene with random (I assume Spanish) woman dancing like whirling dervishes. This show was not indicative of the talent of his staff. So I invoke Fred Willard from A Mighty Wind…’what happened?’

I consider this last season to be the closest thing to a funeral dirge I’m going to get. Let it not be akin to having store bought cake at a Moose Club. And truth be told, Gilda deserves more fanfare and emotional heights than this doc. No offense to anyone involved, just my opinion.