Confessions of a 55 Year Old (Classic Movie) Virgin

Ok Ok, I confess. I had never seen Citizen Kane before last night’s showing at Sarasota Film Society’s Cinematheque.

(A quick aside, why the heck isn’t Sarasota Cinematheque packed with Ringling College Film Majors? You’re missing out! Giant screen, great sound, hipster vibe, talk back op, get over to 500 Tallevast Road on Saturday nights!)

Ok, back to my confession…Much like my virginal metaphor, I had seen the Citizen Kane trailer plenty of times and only noticed some old guy ranting…and hence thought, won’t this be painful? Isn’t it overrated?

But alas, the movie truly is an orgasmic masterpiece. Like my English teacher literary equivalent I tout almost weekly (Ray Bradbury‘s 1959 prescient Fahrenheit 451), Citizen Kane for 1941 is the gold standard for universal storytelling; hoarding to fill emotional needs, the replay of familial cyclical dysfunction (CK’s dad abused him, he then neglects his own son), man’s weakness to infidelity and subsequent political downfalls, the corruption of wealth and power. It’s all there in under 2 hours.

Besides my awe of having missed this for more than half my life, my main takeaways were: Orson Welles (genius, of course, both acting and in storytelling), Joseph Cotton (funniest in the film, especially the nursing home scene where he was trying to remember the name of a place and said a long list ending with Sloppy Joe’s) and the cinematography of doors and windows, shadow, smoke, and in the end, fire. The women in the film, notably three: mother (Agnes Moorehead) and two wives (Ruth Warrick-wow I watched All My Children for years and never knew, and Dorothy Comingore) were all extreme;y well performed, both due to the writing (strong women for their day) and in believable portraits of women in angst of different varieties.

I couldn’t help notice a strong resemblance of Orson Welles and Leonardo DeCaprio and also how The Wolf on Wall Street seemed to copy Citizen Kane in its mania of wealth gone wild. This is especially seen in the scene where CK acquires the writers from a competing newspaper and gets up to do a number with dancing girls. Make no mistake, I’m not saying that Wolf on Wall Street or Leonardo is better than CK, just that there is a resemblance. Surely Scorsese had to have Citizen Kane dreams while filming Wolf.

So, I’m glad I pulled a Tim Tebow and waited because now I know why the film Citizen Kane has been rated the number one movie in American Film history and is far better than one With the Wind and Vertigo due to its universal themes and artistic quality.

Excuse Me Mr. Bale, Meet Viggo Mortenson

Much like director Peter Farrelly’s movie career, [some highs comedy-wise with Dumb and Dumber and lows The Three Stooges, which was utterly disappointing even with my main man Larry David] Green Book was a 10 in its story and acting and a 1 for its trailer. Thank God for my watching the Golden Globes and discovering one of the screenwriters Nick Vallelonga is son of Viggo Mortenson’s character. Otherwise, I would have passed it off as ho hum based on the trailer alone.

So after the ol’ don’t judge a movie by its trailer, I was enthralled with the Green Book story and totally in love with both Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortenson. While both men were off the charts and Mahershala scored the Golden Globe, I am really hoping Viggo can win the Oscar. While Christian Bale had me at Dick Cheney, I have to say that Viggo’s role (similar weight gain) is a greater acting performance based on the Italian diction and overall mannerisms he performed with aplomb of a thespian acrobat. I also think that Mahershala’s truly outstanding work in Moonlight overshadows this less demanding role.

The most mystifying commentary regarding the film is how people raved about Linda Cardellini. Sure, she’s good as the devoted, eyes mist up when she reads her husband’s letters, but she wasn’t on screen long enough or showed any range to deserve the heaping praise given.

The essence of Green Book is that folks can evolve and learn to come together in support of one another despite our differences. A great message to carry in all of our hearts as we ride out the waves until 2020. Let’s be united and positive!

Maria “Solo Me So” Callous (Pun intended) vs. Freddie Mercury

It’s all in the ear of the beholder of course, but one of the reasons I cared so much about Bohemian Rhapsody (thank you Golden Globes by getting that right!) was the purity (and full length songs) of original Queen music. The benefit that Bohemian Rhapsody had besides my halcyon high school and college memories forever linked with Freddie’s voice, was that it also told the poignant story of Freddie’s life in full.

In a documentary such as Maria by Callas however, I would have loved more narrative, rather than operetta after operetta. True, I had Habanera in my head all the next day (and liked it!), but that would have sufficed for the sake of more of her life story.

After reading more about Callas after the fact (I was trying to save any surprises to my own ignorance aka Three Identical Strangers for the doc viewing), I wish the documentary had addressed her supposed feud with a fellow opera singer, dating Warren Beatty or Omar Sharif, her childhood (IMDB reports she was in a 22 day coma after being hit by a car), etc.

Instead, the movie either cheats, or is too lazy, relying on three old interviews where Maria speaks of her tough upbringing and destiny to be a singer, with obvious regrets about being childless.

Like Freddie Mercury who I fully realize died of AIDS complications, you have to wonder if regret, loneliness or a broken heart may have contributed to his and Maria’s early demise. I’m certainly not the first to mention this theory, but true genius (Mercury, Callas in singing, Philip Seymour Hoffman in acting, David Foster Wallace in writing just to name a few) often comes at great cost. No matter what, I do believe this doc could have been much more moving had emphasis been placed on story over song.