Another Round, Perhaps another run at my top 10

Another Round written and directed by Thomas Vinterberg, who according to IMDB, is one of the Danish forefounders of “dogme95, a set of rules dedicated to reintroducing the element of risk in film-making,” is best known to me from his direction in the great Thomas Hardy adaptation from “Far From the Maddening Crowd”.
Another Round passes the great movie litmus test of evoking a mood or feeling that reverberates long after the movie ends…in this case a feeling of mindfulness over reckless abandon. After witnessing several men and teenagers lose their control over moderate drinking habits, I was left with the ‘watch what you’re doing’ self-observation even in the reality that I fall under the CDC’s guidelines on healthy average weekly drinks.
The acting is top notch; Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen (four time winner of Best Danish actor), Magnus Millang, and Lars Ranthe portray a bros before hoes gang who, like my never to be seen or read screenplay “Buck Up” get together and decide to re-claim their identities through a drinking experiment.
A universal truth, for me, and evidently the psychological study’s founder Finn Skarderud, I believe having a tiny buzz certainly adds to my extroversion and ability to speak my mind. It helps shut off my rigid self-consciousness. What I definitely DON’T believe in is doing this 24-7, which also led to the demise (spoiler alert) of the four men.
The film is a scathing look at alcohol misuse and abuse by both young and old, and yet I see dumb asses who are billing this film as a “delightful comedy” (Sean Burns WBUR, and Hollywood Reporter Scott Roxborough). They must also think Leaving Las Vegas was a laugh riot spoof. Lord, send breathalyzers to both these folks.
To end on a positive note, Thomas Vinterberg helps bring up our society’s overuse of alcohol and yet, to give Burns and Roxborough a break, since no children were hurt during the film and since we do collectively like to giggle at drunks-Otis Andy Griffith, your ‘drunk Uncle’, he possibly sanitizes the negative results a little too much.

News of the World, a Mainstream Media Metaphor

You know what your going to get when you turn on or read mainstream news, you choose what makes you feel congratulated with stories that say, ‘you’re right!’ or ‘be afraid’ which in this sense, means, ‘You’re left.’ Ok enough of my political humor…I’m a moderate for the record, wishing everyone could always compromise and be adults…and with that to finish off the metaphor…in my perfect world, the news of the world stories would be more like the truly precise and helpful graphs they (the Times) posts about Covid outbreaks. A factual news paper with the obvious exception of the Op-Ed pages.

And since my m.o. is for everyone to be happy and get along, and since we did sell many copies of Jiles’ book News of the World for that very reason-the ‘nice story aspect,’ a feel good, feel right tale that brings everyone comfort, I was in the mood for a lazy river ride, where I can tell the beats coming up in a story. And who is more of a reassuring actor than Tom Hanks, ground zero Covid celeb?

I guess I raised my hopes for maybe a more complex story given the two who adapted the screenplay were Paul Greenglass (who also directed News of the World and directed the fantastic Captain Phillips) and Luke Davies who wrote both Lion and Beautiful Boy, both complex and very moving films.

And I really do like Tom Hanks (should receive the most handsome beard and mustache set for sure), but maybe it’s that I can’t unsee him in his better films, so everything else now is simply gravy. Or perhaps the story was just too simple…And I really don’t want to hear how profound the young girl (what gives with the Howdy Doody makeup freckles?) as (Helena Zengel) since she didn’t have a lot to do, REALLY, and young actors like Lucas Jaye from Driveways did ten times the acting this year.

Sorry to bring the bad news to the world…News of the World is just mediocre to me.

Black Bear and Black Bottom (Ma Rainey’s)

Black Bear, written and directed by Lawrence Michael Levine, had a lot of promise, yet landed with a thud. Let’s just say it’s a movie about a screenwriter full of ideas.
The lead is one of my favorite comedic actresses Aubrey Plaza (my faves: Ingrid Goes West &An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn). And while she is great here, I did not find her character sympathetic enough to care about, she was just another histrionic female who I would not want to know. Ditto with actress Sarah Gadon, super acting, but another broad I’d steer clear of in real life.
The male of the triangle, actor Christopher Abbott who could be a long lost brother of Shia LeBouef, is terrific as the sadistic and narcissistic husband and boyfriend, but at the risk of sounding redundant, not someone I want to know. Hence, lack of plot plus unlikable characters equals an annoying movie.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom was also annoying, but only until I settled in and quit fixating on Viola’s lip syncing and the obvious playwright’s (August Wilson’s original, screenplay by Ruben Santiago-Hudson) techniques of a one room hostage situation where we are stuck in a room with people arguing. Once I got past those items, I marveled in Chadwick Boseman’s performance. Not being hip to Black Panther (just not a super hero movie fan), I was amazed at the depth of his acting. He BECAME his trumpet playing character, not overly acted (as I found the two record execs to be-Jeremy Shamos and Jonny Coyne). Ma’s love interest, actress Taylour Paige, also seemed rather overblown, but strategic in standing out in an ensemble as formidable as Davis and Boseman. Viola Davis is an acting force, I genuflect to her power. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is definitely worth seeing, just be ready to don your Broadway thespian patience cap.

Let Them All Talk

Meryl Streep’s political sourness had turned me off for a bit, as well as the quality of roles she was choosing…not sure which came first the chicken or the egg, and yet she is the same woman who in August Osage County, I came to tears thinking, I don’t want this woman (acting GOAT) to ever perish.

So, boy, was I relieved to see Let Them All Talk, THIS is the Meryl I had missed. Of course, she was given quality material by newbie screenwriter (but seasoned actress) Deborah Eisenberg and fabulous direction by none other than Stephen Soderbergh (Oscar Winner for “Traffic”).

Two other major factors made this film ultra gorgeous; Candice Bergen as the middle class friend of the trio, who evokes an empathy for those down on their luck broads who has worked their asses off, yet always seem just out of reach of the brass ring. Second, the classy jazz soundtrack by Thomas Newman (WOW! 15 time Oscar nominee, the Susan Lucci of Oscars….)…check it out if you can, really beautiful romantic jazz music.
Also rans for helping jazz up the film are Lucas Hedges and Dianne Wiest. Lucas is given more to do than Dianne, but quality is quality, even when it’s merely a dash of salt.

The theme of this movie is thought provoking; my take is that deep friendship is tough to maintain over time, especially when some reach fame where others flounder…but I guess the answer is karma wins out in the end.

Eternal Beauty, Talented Writer/Director

Craig Roberts wrote and directed Eternal Beauty starring the incandescent Sally Hawkins. She could make almost any script look good, but all she had to do was bring her A game given the poignant, well drawn dysfunctional family comedy/drama.
With the help of another new, dare I predict future Oscar nominated, actor David Thewlis (Golden Globe winner for Fargo and amazing in I’m Thinking of Ending Things), this pair makes you dream of Todd Solondz’s happier script moments. While I haven’t deep dived into Craig Roberts (note to IMDB: your biographies offer scant inf lately), let’s just say he has the jaded Scotsman approach to life down cold, reminding me of Solondz cynicism.
The other characters in Eternal Beauty are also terrific, notably Sally’s ‘sisters’; Billie Piper and Morfydd Clark.
The movie’s theme is normal is boring, and as a self-proclaimed non-conformist, I second that emotion. While the movie’s subject schizophrenia is nothing to laugh at, Roberts puts things in perspective by showing how nuts the general population surrounding Sally, ne Jane, really are.
I’ll definitely backtrack to see Craig Roberts act in Submarine, of which Sally Hawkins plays his mother. I have a feeling all three of these talents (Hawkins, Thewlis and Roberts) will get a golden statue sometime soon.

Mank, David Fincher’s Gorgeous Tribute to Dad; Jack

Wow, I already was in love with Mank the movie, fresh out of the can on Netflix. The black and white cinematography (filmed on Red Prototype by Erik Messerschmidt making me feel I’m in the halcyon Wizard of Oz and am so happy I don’t even want colorization), Gary Oldman’s amazing performance, Arliss Howard as Louis B. Mayer, Amanda Seyfried as Marian Davies and Charles Dance as William Randolph Hearst: all enchanted me from the get go.

While the film is about the writing of Citizen Kane, Orson Welles, portrayed in a small number of scenes by Tom Burke (so good in The Souvenir!) the film centers on Herman Mankiewicz who used Upton Sinclair’s election campaign and his long time affiliation with William Randolf Hearst as super muse to write the first draft of what is arguably the best movie of all time.

The arrow that struck me in the heart in researching this review was that the screenwriter of THIS film is actually director David Fincher’s father, Jack, who died in 2003. The parallelism is outstanding as Jack Fincher’s biopic screenplay on Howard Hughes was turned down for The Aviator. Hence, David was fulfilling his dad’s own dream posthumously all while telling the story of heroic Mankiewicz who also went largely unheralded during his lifetime.

The film is long and maybe a tad overpopulated (did I need the scenes with multiple screenwriters playing cards?) and the flashbacks were a little annoying as well, yet I totally get the need for flashbacks to rev up a story mostly about a writer (Mank) and his muse (WRH’s unruly power and Upton Sinclair’s plea for labor reform).

Gary Oldman is a marvel as is Fincher (both father AND son), the latter of whom is a two time Oscar nominee for The Social Network and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Probably my highest praise is for Jack Fincher’s screenplay which is whip smart and what Covid couch potatoes need to fire up their brain and attention skills again. Definitely in my top 5 now for 2020.