Funyuns and Hip Hop, A great film combination!

“The 40 Year Old Version”, Rhada Blank’s amazingly creative new film of which she both wrote and directed had the freshness of ‘Clerks’ and the ‘woke-ness’ of ‘Sorry To Bother You’.
The story of a woman at 40 trying to re-invent herself is as real as any midlife crisis story. Here, Rhada, a teacher by day and former 30 under 30 stand out playwright struggles with what will be her much belated next creative success.
Mix in the comic Greek Chorus of bodega owner, homeless man, and an outspoken naysaying neighbor and you have yourself a charming tale.
Supporting cast members were terrific; Peter Kim as her long time friend and agent, beat mixer and possible cougar fling guy Oswin Benjamin and students Imani Lewis and Haskiri Velazquez all help round out a realistic and refreshingly UN-sermonizing narrative.
Blank’s black and white film choice punctuated with color segues and asides are brilliant. This is definitely a film in need of a re-watch to catch all of her delicate layers.

Some Kind of Heaven, Some Kind of Mediocrity

I fully appreciate Lance Oppenheim’s interest in humans and the choices they make, never having seen his other pieces, among one about a man who got on a cruise and stayed on cruises for twenty years.
Yet, he has a ways to go in making a doc that titillates.
Let me school you just a bit:
First, quiet is fine, but it can also be tedious, especially at the beginning of a film when you’re already a bit discombobulated. This was so quiet (here’s where you yell, HOW QUIET WAS IT?) that I dared not eat my popcorn.
A simple fix is have some type of groovy music, even ambient if you want the sounds of a golf course sprinkler (not exactly riveting) to still come through.
Second, it’s perfectly fine to zero in on three topics that intrigue you, but at least one of the three has to have more comic relief. Oppenheim chooses three depressed souls which is unfair to The Villages. Surely there are some happy folks there who could have added balance to the film.
Third, I’m sure this wasn’t made yesterday (since no one was masked up), so how about an interesting tidbit at the end about how they’re doing during the pandemic?
So, to conclude….interesting yes, imaginative, no. Probably a lot like living at The Villages.
IN HINDSIGHT, I did ponder long after about the theory that when you choose a relationship for comfort that you lose your freedom…a conflict deeply felt by the vagabond man story which was part of the trio. Certainly this also applied to the married couple as well, since her life was affected immensely by her spouse’s legal kerfluffle.

Making Room for Pieces of a Woman in my Top Ten

Time to shove over a few selections for the phenomenal Pieces of a Woman directed by Kornel Mundruczo and written by his fellow Hungarian collaborator Kata Weber. But first, I am glad I heard the beginning of a podcast which foretold the difficult scenes in the first 20 minutes, I’d challenge that and say 27 minutes. If this had been in the theater on the big screen, I may have crawled out of my seat with anxiety. But the labor (very bad pun) is worth this sure to be Oscar nominated film.

Weber’s writing, her characters so well drawn that you forget about them as actors. Even Shia LeBouf, the troubled soul in rehab again, is tremendous as the husband who realistically attempts in many ways to bridge (a better pun, you’ll see) the grief. Obviously a different story than Blue Valentine, but just as melancholy.

The two standouts though are the women: Vanessa Kirby, new to me, but played a young Princess Margaret in The Crown. Here she is the raw, grieving mother, who is angry yet sympathetic. Her mother, played by Ellen Burnstyn steals the movie with a monologue so powerful, reminiscent of the caliber of Chadwick Boseman.

The beautiful off kilter shots of Kirby’s neck (just to give an example) help the viewer stay with the emotion rather than get sidetracked by faces. You’ve surely been in a moment where you are so traumatized or outside yourself that you’ve stared at something other than the other people in the room.

Montreal is an incredibly bleak but gorgeous metaphor and backdrop for the story, so kudos also for the cinematography by Benjamin Loeb and the complementary music by Academy Award winner Howard Shore (Hugo and Lord of the Rings). Watch this film on Netflix.

Three Summers, Like a Tres Leches Cake, Tres Veroes

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Pardon my bad Spanish analogy, but since I love Tres Leches cake, I thought I’d compare Tres Veroes, a fine movie written and directed by Sandra Kogut.
First the perfect three part structure: Decembers of 2015, 2016, and 2017.
2015 begins with Mada, played brilliantly by Regina Case, as housekeeper/family caretaker to a wealthy Brazilian family. Add in holy Cell phone interruptus which reeks of shady, an ailing patriarch and lavish parties.
Mada through it all is a brash, hopeful woman who truly wants to start her own ‘kiosk’, think roadside food stand and appears to be getting a loan from her boss to make this dream come true.
2016 begins with the wealthy family apparently unable to make it back from ‘vacation’ and Mada calling folks to tell them that Secret Santa and their annual celebration are cancelled. Characters, including the ailing patriarch seem to have new life blood, in light of new developments and the ‘help’ is also able to pivot to other pursuits to make ends meet.
2017 begins with further business excursions; the filming of a commercial within the home from what I gather is selling either mixers, or other small appliances and using the house as an airbnb. I won’t spoil the ending.
Well written and well acted, I liked the frenetic pace and the outspoken passion of the characters. Americans certainly look like stiffs in comparison. I found the end catharthis to be a bit stunted, but the structure, cinematography and joy of the main character made up for that tiny glitch. Worth the 10$ rental fee from Sarasota Film Society’s virtual cinema.

Sub ‘Twisted’ for ‘Promising’ Young Woman

Emerald Fennell’s written and directed Promising Young Woman is worth seeing. Good twists, scant violence, bravo on both counts. Now let’s talk about assuming your audience is intelligent, a demographic of which I guess Emerald doesn’t care to appeal.
Much like Fincher’s Gone Girl, the characters are rather 2-D, there’s bad frat boys, there’s disgraced, vengeful women, women who just care about marrying for status and then there’s smarmy coffee shop employees and customers. Yawn.
There’s also the old stupid movie trope where no one goes through the proper channels for justice; police, legal teams, nor is there any ramifications for the ‘hero’s’ tawdry Robin Hood type ways.
And let’s get another item ballyhooed about among some dumber critics; this is NOT Carey Mulligan’s most demanding role: see “Drive’ or “Far From the Madding Crowd” for better quality acting and writing.
I love Jennifer Coolidge in everything she does, even here as Carey’s mom. Ditto Molly Shannon as Carey’s best friend’s mother. Since Alison Bree bugs the tar out of me, I was fine with her being the shallow gold digger. Bo Burnham was perfect as the old college alum who comes back to woo her, anyone else would have ruined the movie for sure.

The Twentieth Century, Oh Canada! Air Kiss!

The Twentieth Century is a satire that makes getting older a breeze…why you ask? Because I learn more about former my upstairs neighbor (me-Rochester, them-Canada). Who knew they had a famous prime minister (or any prime minister) named Mackenzie King who lacked charisma, but made up for that in spades in eccentricity.
If you happened on this movie without knowing a thing….you’d say, ‘hmm, look at this kooky flick from the 1970’s when people could get away with avant-garde.’
The magically hilarious writer/director is Matthew Rankin, who is a newbie in full length films. Encore, encore! The stars, totally commit to their wacky roles, and I’ll name the actors who had to show the most range or captured the most screen time: Dan Beirne as King, Sarianne Cormier as the Nurse, and Emmanuel Schwartz as Lady Violet.
You have to see this film to believe it. It had the subversive charm of Death Race 2000, Sylvester Stallone’s very first film.