The Nest Wasn’t Quite Empty Enough

Sean Durkin, director and writer of “Martha Marcy May Marlene” decided to spare us the word count with his latest of sparer title, “The Nest”. I wish his screenwriting could have also been trimmed.

Don’t get me wrong, The Nest is worth seeing, especially if you’re in for a moody, gray foreboding Surrey landscape. Not to mention, superb acting by Carrie Coon, Jude Law and even ‘their children’; Oona Roach and Charlie Shotwell.

So what’s my problem, you ask? Well, have you ever heard the Louis CK method of comedy writing (no not the ‘come into my hotel room’ one-lol), the write your heart out and then use you closer at the beginning and rewrite forward? If Sean had cut the first five, maybe even ten minutes off The Nest, his film’s pacing would have been tighter. Or possibly the ‘beating of the dead horse’….you’ll see.

But even with the bloat, I enjoyed The Nest, in addition, even the message at the end, which as I always promise, I won’t spoil.

Jimmy’s Middle Name Should be Joy: Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President

Jimmy Carter is one of those rare individuals who has truly lived a life of integrity. And I’m so glad Bill Flanagan helped write the documentary Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President. Additionally, I hope this is just the start of bigger projects for director Mary Wharton, though she’s no novice, having won a Grammy in 2004 for best long form video for the song Legend.

What struck me about the doc within the first ten minutes was how much Jimmy Carter (and wife Rosalynn) smile. Genuine smiles from grateful, earnest people. Boy is that missing in our world right now. If we have to wear masks until Christmas, PLEASE, let’s make them transparent. We need to see people smile.

The doc details Jimmy’s humble upbringing (probably the antithesis and main curse of our most angry US clientele these days, meaning spoiled folks raised in luxury who now subconsciously suffer due to never having any real hardship, aka, ‘so let’s create one’) and his listening to radio music and his Sunday worship gospel songs.

We are what we watch and listen to and the point is hit home by countless musicians within the doc, too many to mention. The largest screen time goes to Willy Nelson, Gregg Allman, Larry Gatlin, Nile Rodgers and Bono.

While I loved the entire documentary, my highlights were:
Seeing Dizzy Gillespie have such a blast making Jimmy ‘sing’ Salt Peanuts, and Jimmy Carter’s Inaugural Gala where Aretha in all her beauty sang “God Bless America” and Paul Simon sang “American Tune”. This should be mandatory viewing for anyone angry these days. Get back to the music, y’all!

A Kaufman Plug: Woman Under the Influence

Charlie Kaufman’s an influencer, not the Instagram type, more of the cinematic and literary type. Having attempted to read a book he mentions in Antkind (The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty, blech, a shallow, yet ironic attempt to analyze our fixation with beauty), I took a crack at Woman Under the Influence from 1974 (after the characters in “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” talk about the film at great length) by the late great father of Independent Film-John Cassavetes.

I did finish the movie as uber difficult that it was due to my own PTSD from domestic squabbles in my youth. Yet now I have to go back to “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” to grasp the critique of the female character. I’m hoping (and almost sure) she recounted how the people surrounding the Woman in Woman Under the Influence were just as crazy as she. The Woman by the way was portrayed marvelously by Gena Rowlands for which she won the Golden Globe, aside trivia: Cassavetes wife.

Peter Falk wasn’t just kooky Columbo, he was a powerhouse actor as Gena’s equally insane husband. I loved his angry ‘we’re going to have fun kids!’) mentality. I think Adam Sandler would do a great rem-make of this as long as the Safdies’ are willing to direct. I thought a lot of the Safdies’ during this film, as their upbringing was almost as chaotic and brought to film wonderfully in Daddy Long-legs.

I literally was concerned about the welfare of the three children in the film as the scenes they had to perform were traumatic. On IMDB, it appears the two boys made it out alive into adulthood, but the little girl (Christina Grisanti) doesn’t not have an internet footprint which worries me. If you want to know the extent of extremes, Christina was dragged around by her arm several times by Peter Falk, had tea (praying it was cold) splashed in her eye and ran around naked in a house full of people. Can you see why I became a School Counselor?

At any rate, the movie certainly will stick with you and is available for free on HBO.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things, But Confusion Set In, Instead

I’m fixated on Charlie Kaufman lately, immediately falling in love with Antkind, his new epic comedy novel. So when it piggybacked (great callback that no one will appreciate unless they see “I’m Thinking of Ending Things”) a new movie he adapted from a novel by Iain Reid, I was in.

But wait, an hour in to the Netflix release, I was so creeped out and overwhelmed by the experience (it was night), I called a time out. Finishing it a day plus later IN DAYLIGHT, I was confused, but impressed.

What to say first: I said it first (though Charlie repeats it in “ITOET”, that he is the accessible David Foster Wallace…and given the title of this movie, I do worry about him. How can one many possess so much obscure knowledge and creativity? Iain Reid of course is due much of the credit here, supplying the story, but I wonder whose idea the dance sequence was…guess I know have to read the book though to be frank, I JUST read the summary and it sounds way way violent, where Kaufman’s genius in “ITOET” was creeping me out without bloodshed. How did he do this? Let’s talk about the images which won’t spoil anything:

Like Kubrick’s The Shining, there’s nothing like a snowy, blizzardy dark night for fear. Use the creepy lonely repetitive sound of windshield wipers on a dead night and you amp that up. Lukasz Zal is the cinematographer from the great black and white film “Cold War”.

Like Lynch, add in some minor characters of overly giggly fake looking women juxtaposed with sad hideous folks.

How about continuous scenes with a different face appearing to speak out of nowhere?

How about three power house actors whose moods change on a dime? Toni Collette (I bow at your feet), Jesse Plemons and Jessie Buckley all fantastic.

How about a cellar door with bloody scratch marks and tape marks like it had been manically taped shut? Or a black spot in the hay where an animal had died?

How about frozen dead animals?

See, stupid gratuitous violent movie makers, you can do scary without your stupid simple minded violence and gore! Let this be a lesson for you.
So watch this film, in daylight, in two chunks. You’ll still get the mood, trust me!

Robin’s Wish: A gorgeous documentary tribute (?)

Taken on the surface, Robin’s Wish is a loving tribute of Robin Williams by his wife, friends, neighbors and doctors directed and written by Tyler Norwood with the help of Scott Fitzloff, both worked together previously on another doc called The United States of Detroit, and both are specialists in cinematography.

And the cinematography in Robin’s Wish is of particular note, not just the gorgeous geographic pans of San Francisco, but even in the nuanced eye for light and water reflections on a ceiling, the occasional shading of the screen to denote Robin’s diminishing mental health.

His friends tearful last moment stories are beautiful, as is his widow’s nascent romance re-telling…here’s where my ugly conspiracy theory skepticism comes in:

If he was getting more ill and more paranoid for months all the while being tested, it’s hard for me to believe that a wealthy man, with I assume, state of the art doctors that didn’t know his brain was turning to Swiss cheese from Lewy Body’s Disease. And if they didn’t see it, where’s the oops? And what spouse doesn’t peek in to check on their ailing partner first thing instead of to just assume he’s sleeping before you leave the house for the morning.

I guess if the doc contained an all encompassing take (none of his children took part, nor any celebrities, though Ben Stiller was certainly dangled out there in many scenes), I’d be less suspicious. Give it a look for a mere 6.99 on Bezo’s Monster and let me know what you think.