You Say Tommaso, I say Too Macho

Ok, I couldn’t resist the title, if anything, I felt for Willem Dafoe’s character to a point…

But first, let me say that Abel Ferrara’s a new director to me. I did not see The Bad Lieutenant, but did love Herzog’s sequel Bad Lieutenant Port of Call. From what I’ve read of Ferrara’s filmography, he’s too rough for me.

Dafoe has worked with Ferrara before and will be in his next project as well (Siberia) and my fandom of Dafoe means even in his dish washing scenes, I’m riveted. The man can do no wrong in my book. To be completely serious check out the Al Anon scene where he professes gratitude for the man who helped save him from drugs and alcohol.

And for the love of God, since the Oscars are going to be gutted anyway, let’s give a tiny white guy award just at the end for someone with a filmography that is so underappreciated in awards: The Lighthouse (come on!!) At Eternity’s Gate (what????) and The Florida Project (get out of town)…for those ALONE, come on up and grab your award Willem.

Back to our regularly scheduled review, Tommaso. Ok, the story is cinema verite’ and it’s tough to feel sorry for a rich director living with his 25 year younger girlfriend who has had his child* . Part of me of course is unsympathetic…a you reap what you sow mentality…meaning when you engage with a woman half your age (portrayed perfectly by Cristina Chiriac) and get verklempt that you have nothing in common, I say, I told ya so…

(*said child played by Abel’s daughter-please get her therapy now for scaring the hell out of her in one screaming scene)

Yet I appreciated the honesty of the film, that Ferrara doesn’t paint Dafoe as innocent. If anything, Dafoe’s character IS trying to insert himself into a family milieu with a woman who grew up without one.

Answer me this? Have you ever had a relationship where you were trying to recreate your parent’s marriage/relationship. My hand is up and in marriage two, I chose a volatile, somewhat infantile, yet extremely intelligent and sexy man, and I filled the role as spoiled woman who enjoyed the highs of occasional trophy boyfriend. I know, gross, you may be saying, but look in your own mirror and perhaps you’ll see where you also, recreated the familial scene (for better or for worse).

In Tommaso the young wife rejects her older companion, thus setting him up to be a enraged without ventilation, though certainly his dalliances with other woman are an outlet, justifiable to him, due to this rejection.

So the movie is deeper in that it makes me wonder, what do we want of our men? Do we really want them involved in child rearing, or would we prefer to have them just as financiers and protectors until the kids are out of the house….and by that time, we find ourselves different people who no longer fit together as we once did?

For this meditative thinking, Tommaso is worthy of watching, as the director allows us the quiet space to decide for ourselves, what is fantasy and intentional.

Easy Girl, Complex Plot, Halcyon Memories

When I was just a lass, there use to be Saturday matinees at 2 pm on channel ten (showing my age when there were 4 channels: ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS) that were mostly foreign films. And in the tiny town of Perry, New York, Rochester was foreign enough, let alone artsy films from the likes of Italy or Paris, which might as well have been Venus or Mars. But often, I would get sucked in by the otherness of it all, the classical music, the gorgeous scenery, the oddly dubbed in English.

Tonight on Netflix, I took in Easy Girl, after seeing it won the SACD Award at Cannes.

And man, what a find! This movie took me back to the halcyon days of my youth, being enthralled by the sights (literally filmed in Cannes), the sounds (gorgeous soundtrack including Naimi as well as beautiful classical numbers), and best of all, Easy Girl communicates many levels of love (and lust).

The French director and screenwriter Rebecca Zlotkowski communicates the love of family-mother daughter (including teenage contention), cousin to cousin, male female friendships, and the mixed up hormonal need to connect, lover to lover, however awkwardly.

The acting is superb: Mina Farid will bring you to tears and make you smile by the movie’s end, Zahia Dehar will have you drooling and dreaming of Sofia Loren and Lakdhar Dridi will remind you of every beautifully sweet outrageous gay teen you’ve ever known.

The two adult men: Benoit Magimel, was THE student in The Piano Teacher, and is tremendous here, and award winning Portuguese actor Nuno Lopes is wonderfully complex…

As is the whole darn beautiful film. Watch with some patience for the dubbed n weirdness and be moved.

Creem: America’s Only Rock N Roll Magazine

I’d like everyone to read and see the combo I ate today. I started my day with Jason Whitlock’s recent blog on Howard Stern, detailing the demise of his subversive style equating it to the death of free speech. Of course, since he sold his soul to Sirius, this is no surprise, but nonetheless tragic.

I then ended my afternoon with the new documentary Creem: America’s Only Rock N Roll Magazine and I was compelled to call the younger generation together for an intervention, that perhaps they need to realize Mommy and Daddy (represented by the media and politicians) have abusive tendencies from which they need to run. Let’s get back to y.o.l.o and eradicate the Polo (as in all that corporate America and the stuffy mega wealth sport touts as so important).

Ok less sarcastic: evolution depends on us a. loving each other, b. continuing to hash out and listen too all ideas and opinions and c. coming to compromise. Devolution is going on ‘recess’ and not talking to each other. We won’t break if we disagree, but we will break if we stop talking.

Creem was a brilliant magazine which I never saw back in the day, but that’s because I did not have older rock n roll siblings showing me the way. But to be honest, I didn’t need Creem Magazine to feel free in the ’70’s because we all were…free to joke around, free to laugh at human folly, free to make mistakes and LEARN from them without getting immediately cancelled. Thank the good Lord I grew up when I did.

The doc was brilliantly told with a story arc of wild men who burned out quickly, masking depression or bipolar disorders with too many substances. But before their demise, they reported on, praised, criticized, made fun of and yet were beloved by their own targets.

Bravo to Scott Crawford who directed and help write the doc, with writing help from Jaan Uhelszki. This film is not only a love letter to the magazine, but to Detroit and writers and artists everywhere who should take this as inspiration to be brave enough to return to the truth plus an essential sense of humor, not the facade all are parading today.

First Cow, A Friendship Fable

First Cow, directed by Kelly Reichardt, known for her unmistakable ability to capture simple pleasures and universal pain, has another wonder with First Cow (now streaming on Itunes). This time she has re-teamed with Jonathan Raymond (Mildred Pierce, Wendy and Lucy) to bring the latter’s novel “The Half-Life” to cinematic life.

A perfect circular plot, the story is of two men (one American, one Chinese) who find each other lost and on the run in the gold mining craze of centuries yore.

Reichardt makes sure to take her time and in our frenzied world, you really need to release the monkey mind and take the lazy river ride. She’s worth it as well as the two actors chosen to play friends: John Magaro (who was in the cast of thousands in Big Short) plays the American ‘Cookie’ and Orion Lee (who needs more opps than the tv schlock his IMDB details) as King-Lu.

While you’ll know the end of the tale at the movie’s start, you care enough about the pair to travel with them as they succeed in selling their oily cakes (think the first Krispy Kremes).

Again, certainly the Icarus who flies too close to the sun tale is as old as time, yet powerful acting and careful directing and storytelling make it ever so delicious…much like the sweet treats noted in the film.

If You Could Read My Mind, You’d See a 7…

While I thoroughly enjoyed the company (my Mom and dear Jack), I don’t think the narrative aspect of Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind was well organized. At least twice, I remember hearing a random comment, out of sync with the previous sequence…for instance, Martha Kehoe and Joan Tosoni (newbies so forgiven) establish that Gordon was a drinker, then they move on to another topic, then they throw in a line from someone else saying he liked to drink…

The best section of the doc dealt with the history behind the song Sundown when Gordon had an ominous feeling about his then girlfriend, Cathy Smith, later convicted of serving John Belushi the deadly drug cocktail which led to his death.

Two other positives: I will say is that Gordon wanted to come clean about his womanizing days and the emotional pain subsequently inflicted. He is also deserving due to his tremendous lyric writing and distinctive vocal talent.

Beyond that, the story isn’t as well crafted, nor is their an explanation why Alec Baldwin is commenting. And Bruce Cockburn is more prolific, but lesser known as far as best Canadien folk singer. But hey, at least it’s music and apolitical. Hallelujah!

I Use to Go Here, A Pleasure!

I Used to Go Here (written and directed by Kris Rey) was a delight, even overcoming my ‘I miss the theater’ nausea caused from at home video. But no kidding, right? Since I love Jemaine Clement and really like Gillian Jacobs (who I adored in the Netflix series “Love”).

With the aid of an outstandingly casted minor role group, the combo of hormonal crises, both college and biological clock, work. Normally, I’d be shaming the 35 year old woman, but here all’s fair in honest vulnerable people needing connection.

Those great minor actors in order of impact include: Brandon Daley, Hannah Marks (great as the lead in “Banana Split”), Josh Wiggins, and Zoe Chao.

If you’ve ever had a crush on a professor, been the fish out of water (the only unmarried in a swarm of marrieds) or simply heart broken over a breakup, “I Use to Go Here” is a movie for you.

The Sunlit Night: ‘Coulda’ been a Contender (if only…)

I use to be disappointed in kids who cheated when I was a teacher, but downright angry when a super smart kid would cheat.

That’s why The Sunlit Night made me slightly mad. It’s probably a screenwriter issue, which is a shame in this instance, Rebecca Dinnerstein Knight wrote the book from which the movie is based AND the screenplay. So come on girlfriend, why’d you cheat?

What I mean is why be so damn overt with the sexual stuff….like Jenny Slate’s mother picking a leech (which wasn’t a leech but a worm) out of her bottom….or Jenny posing in underwear (when she’s the artist). Sexuality is fine and even fun to watch when it’s not random and super conspicuous.

Mind you, I may still have Little Weirds (Jenny Slate’s recent book which was equal parts moving and Eat Pray Love maddening at the end book) taint on me.

So Miley, what’s good? Ok, there were some beautiful aspects to the movie. First and foremost the cinematography of Norway, bravo to director David Wnendt and cinematographer Martin Ahlgren. Second, I did enjoy Jenny Slate’s character’s allusions to resemblances of people with historical paintings, but Rebecca, why not start that fun narration from the get go, instead of the unevenly paced family melodrama you began with?

I love the artist in residence aspect of the film and thought the head artist’s (Fridtjov Saheim) performance was very realistic. I also appreciated the mourning man’s (Alex Sharp) portrayal as important and raw. As much as I adore Zack Galifinakis, his Viking Tourist Attraction seemed eerily Baskets-like, and the comedic dryness seemed off balance in this story.

To be fair, translating novels to screen is tough business. I just feel like under more objective hands, this could have been a great film, when in the end, it was just mediocre.

Intelligent and Believable! Burnt Orange Heresy

Burnt Orange Heresy, from a Charles Willeford’s novel, has been spun into a marvelous screenplay by Scott B. Smith (nominated for a screenplay Oscar back in 1999) and film directed by Giuseppe Capotondi.

Set in Italy, Claes Bang (absolutely fantastic in the foreign film The Square and currently playing Dracula on Netflix) plays an edgy art expert, very similar to the role in the aforementioned Academy Award nominated film.

In Burnt Orange Heresy, a tryst involving an American tourist, played realistically by Elizabeth Debicki, brings them to a castle owned by mega wealthy art collector, coyly portrayed by none other than Mick Jagger.

Low and behold, down the wooden path from Mick’s castle, lives reclusive artist Donald Sutherland. And here I ask, need I say more? Power house acting, superbly suspenseful, gorgeous music and cinematography, Burnt Orange Heresy is great escape from our new normal.

An Ironic Mutiny: The Ghost of Peter Sellers

Ironically, I abandoned ship on a movie that WASN’T about a ship, since Peter Medak’s doc
The Ghost of Peter Sellers
was poignant enough to keep me engaged. Realize, I rarely give up on a film anyway, but my increasing impatience with the distractions of home cinema is fraying my ability to make it to the finish line.

Peter Mendak idolized Peter Sellers, as anyone with comedic taste would, and was thrilled when he agreed to do a movie with him in 1973. Trouble is, between horrible weather, a budget that got out of control and Peter’s mental health, the movie was an entire unreleased failure. Mendak’s doc is his attempt to reconcile the guilt and to explain his rationale for going forward despite the many red flags or should I say, Jolly Roger flags that appeared.

The movie I DID pull the plug on had a really good review
Sorry I Missed You
and granted, it was well acted and by all rights, I should have done my due diligence of research on director Ken Loach, known for his socialist realism. Mind you, I am all for the working class, and know firsthand that employees can be exploited, especially now in desperate pandemic times, but I could only do 45 of the hour and 41 minutes. I am interested in how the movie ends, but it was just too bleak for me to continue.
The film has garnered BAFTA nominations and I was super impressed by all the actors especially Debbie Honeywood and Kris Hitchen as the married couple working their British fannies off to provide a living for their two children.