About Goldie

Aspiring writer who has pre-retired from the institution of education. Have loved my career (and was thrilled to teac the Common Core, which should not be thrown out due to public misinformation and paranoia) but am embarking on my own creative adventure, while the juices are still flowing.

My Love & Hate for the new film First Reformed

I haven’t seen every Ethan Hawke film, but I’ve come pretty darn close. There’s some immense sadness behind his eyes that makes me want to give him a hug. Though I fully realize his persona is that of a cad, a guy who left Uma for the nanny. That said, my favorite film remains Before the Devil Knows Your Dead in spite of the 98% rating of First Reformed which I saw last night as a generous treat from my friend.

I’ve had this experience before, wary of where the film is going, yet willing to jump on for the ride. I was at first bored and depressed by the bleak Upstate New York winter setting, and the stifling repressed religious ministers. But I bought it, as Hawke is an amazing blank slate who takes on the gray coloring of the film written and directed by Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull). Fun fact I just read about Mr. Schrader is that he grew up in a strict Calvinist family and that his next film is titled The Jesuit. Looks like he’s on a ‘give us this day our daily religious roll of film’.

So there I am, riveted, more so than my friend, who had every right to be turned off due to some spoilers of which I won’t mention that she’s all too familiar. But after offering to leave (movies aren’t worth psychological torture, aka my leaving Thin Red Line which was much too violent for me to take) and my friend saying she was ok due to some vastly different circumstances between her life and the film, I was fully ‘woke’ to experiencing what the culmination would be.

Schrader does a great job of establishing both a menacing foreboding and many foreshadowing red herrings. Where he lost me was at probably an hour and fifteen in, a magical realism sequence cascades into an Aronofskyesque Mother ending. At the conclusion (big question mark), my friend and I looked at each other thinking perhaps Burns Court was sent a bad cut of the film. Or perhaps we’re not ‘deep’ enough to get all the symbolism.

Hence, I’ll be heading to Rotten Tomatoes now to read the trained critics’ unpacking this film which means I was moved enough to care about what the hell it all means. Ethan Hawke definitely deserves fanfare, as does Cedric the Entertainer, who is an ultra serious role, is terrific as the financially minded super preacher. Amanda Seyfried is also fantastic as the emotionally confused pregnant Mary.

The film certainly confirms my opinion of organized religion in that much like any organization that becomes large, power corrupts. And if my life is any indication (my best friend pretty much breaking my heart in her rejection of me once she became full Baptist), religious folks can be some of the coldest. A visceral scene from First Reformed is when Ethan says an inch away from the face of a woman (portrayed by Victoria Hill, also very good) who loves him that he despises her for her petty emotions, you fully get that he is not a man who can heal.

Unfortunately, due to the uneven story, this won’t win Ethan the Oscar, but it was worth seeing for the acting and ‘interesting’ story idea.

Goodbye Columbus, Goodbye Mr. Roth

My good friend and co-worker Barry suggested Goodbye Columbus a a library loaner last week after Philip Roth died. My experience with Mr. Roth began during my relationship with a Manhattan born handsome devil who encouraged me to read Portnoy’s Complaint.

I had admittedly lost track of Philip Roth except for his announcement a few years back that he was retiring from writing. Then I had heard even more recently that Lisa Halliday had written a roman a clef about her May December affair with Roth in her novel Asymmetry. During the reading of that novel, Mr. Roth passed away at the age of 85.

Hence, I rented Goodbye Columbus that Barry joked was ‘the story of my life’. Did you know that 1969 was a looooong time ago? Meaning, the world has changed leaps and bounds and this film no longer holds up. Sure, there are certainly still conflicts regarding wealth disparity and dating below or above your income status, but the main conflicts no longer exist. The fact that one of the culminating conflicts involved Ali McGraw (and while this was her first movie and she was drop dead gorgeous, let’s face facts, she was not expressive aka had zero range) being verkelmpt over her mother finding her diaphragm while in college isn’t as big of a deal these days as it was in the stubborn repression that the wild 60’s was trying to snuff out. And sure, there were nuances to this conflict, trying to make a relationship work when two people exist in two different realms (one college, one not) rarely works out.

And while Richard Benjamin did a decent job as the middle class outlier, he was an equally flat character. I felt I was watching two actors, almost too nervous and new to really make this film. But then again, it could be I’m just cynical about the outdated plot.

Don’t get me wrong, I needed something somewhat fluffy to get me through Anthony Bourdain’s suicide and it was comforting to see Jack Klugman who I always saw as the ultimate father figure; tough but super caring. And thinking of a younger Barry navigating dating socialites also made me smile.

On Chesil Beach: I’m a runner not a skater, likewise McEwan should stick to novelist

On Chesil Beach (screenplay written by the novelist Ian McEwan, directed by Dominic Cooke) was intriguing and worth seeing. Just realize you’ll spend the first third of the movie motioning the log roll “and then” speed it up signal, and then be equally flabbergasted when you flash forward from a Loooooooong 1962 to a semi quick 1975 to a super sped up 2007.

My movie companion brought up a fair point about Britain’s cinematic fascination over ‘the old day’s’ rather than tackling current issues. Perhaps its fitting with the surfacey insistence that perfect (or in the cinema sense ‘halcyon’ days) royalty must somehow reflect a perfect society, a sweep under the rug of violent crime and racism happening in the ‘real’ England.

Back to the film: cinematography; great. Chesil Beach’s pebbles is/are a perfect backdrop for a marriage ‘on the rocks’. And to be fair, turning a novel into a screenplay is no small feat. McEwan attempts to layer the sedementary rock of their courtship, their separate but equally dysfunctional pasts.

Acting by the leads; Saoirse Ronan, though ubiquitous in recent films, was solid as ever as the repressed English musician. Billy Howie, who I had never seen before (didn’t see Dunkirk), was not an attractive man, but he did grow on me (almost literally considering the decades covered) as the movie wore on. Props to the make up artist who helped him age realistically and convincingly. Emily Watson and Samuel West were impressive in making their small, but abusive parental roles very memorable.

In a nutshell (part pun there as Ian McEwan’s most recent famous novel (new in paperback) is called Nutshell), this is the story of probably 75% of young marriages. Here are two people who don’t know themselves yet and are equally crippled due to family hardships or abuse and thus, two broken kids can not equal a whole or healthy beginning. This is exactly what happened in my first marriage (which I was too immature to just hang in there and wait), and my second marriage which age unfortunately had not advanced to wisdom.

My film companion chalked the film’s message up to “Pride Goeth before a Fall” blaming the male. I see a woman who clearly wasn’t ready for marriage, but was towing the ‘company line of the 1960’s’. The reality is, we all make early mistakes which we inevitably second guess as we age. Yet the most important epiphany to hold on to is that we’re given each new day to make the most of, and we damn well better do that.

Let This Be a Lesson: RBG

Wow, was I ignorant about Ruth Bader-Ginsburg! Here I’ve been working at BookStoreOne in Sarasota, and in my defense, with a constant stream of books going by me on a daily basis…here was The Notorious RBG book, the RBG workout book (my interior though being, ‘does this get shelved in Humor or Health and Fitness?, There is No Truth Without Ruth, etc.

And I just thought, ok, she’s an impressive ageing Supreme Court judge who misspoke and revealed her opinion about our current President. But after seeing the documentary RBG (BIG THANKS to my friend Carrie who treated me last night at Burns Court Cinema!) I now know how INCREDIBLY impressive her life has really been. One of the first women at Harvard Law School, had children while going to law school, had children while going to law school AND a husband going through cancer treatments. Championed equal rights for women AND men! Battled two types of cancer and decided after the first illness to get fit! Isn’t a braggart and never yells! I mean, this lady rocks!

Now that’s not to say that the doc was perfect by any stretch. Oft times too kitschy, and the old timey stock footage was somewhat lazy, and when I saw CNN produced the doc, I wasn’t surprised. But I so appreciated learning about her that all is forgiven (Directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen, God bless you). If the vehicle necessary to ‘get me there’ is a somewhat clunky one, so be it. Totally worth seeing and perfect for any Grandma or Grandpa who needs inspiration.

Giant Post Script: And boy do I covet her marriage to a funny guy!

Two Semi Oldies: Both Blue in Language and History

I recently watched two PPLL (Pre-Pension Library Loaners) and was surprised at their similarity regarding a legion of f-bombs. The two films also both have either a sad back or front story.

I took out Object of My Affection after starting a play reading class in which we started with one act by Wendy Wasserstein. While I had heard of her Pulitzer and Tony Award winning play The Heidi Chronicles, I didn’t know much abut her. She wrote the screenplay for The Object of My Affection (directed by Nicholas Hytner, who these days directs mostly National Theater Live productions). Wendy Wasserstein had a sad ending to her brief life (died of cancer at age 55 after having a baby late in life (49)).

In her honor I watched The Object of My Affection which despite it’s Rotten Tomatoes 49% was very real and well written. The only negatives I saw was the hacky saxophone music (like it was stuck in the 80’s still) and the acting. Both Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd meant well, but their performances were no match for the script’s verisimilitude. Which I think is rare, believing the words, but not the people speaking them. Again, a tribute to Wendy W. I will say something about solid acting in the film, too, and that was by John Pankow who has done mostly tv work as of late.

The second f-bomb laden film I watched was for totally different reasons. My favorite co-worker, Barry, and I are on a constant conversation about film. He has suggested mostly great films for me to watch. This latest, Auto Focus, directed by Paul Schrader (coming out next week with what looks like a blockbuster with called First Reformed), had its pluses and minuses. The sad front story here was the move’s focus of Bob Crane’s sad descent into drinking and sex addiction after hitting it big with Hogan Heroes.

The actors Greg Kinnear and Willem Dafoe were terrific, yet the movie felt a bit clunky. A little cliche in the beginning and downright uncomfortably cloying as far as their characters fascination with sex. Ironically, I realize what they did back in the early 70’s was nothing compared to the probable rampant porn addiction happening today.

I forgot to mention that Barry’s recommendation was partly due to our common fascination and admiration with Richard Dawson and how he is the person who introduced (unknowingly) Bob Crane to his future assassin, John Carpenter.

All in all, not a bad way to spend a few rainy afternoons in Sarasota.

Disobedience, Two Rachels Sitting in a Tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G

Don’t you feel proud to remember something before you end up doing an internet search?

Like I was going to pose the question: does Rachel Weisz play the same femme fatale character in every darn movie?….but then I remembered, ‘wait, no! Remember one of your favorite films OF ALL TIME (thanks Kanye) called “Truth” where she played Michael Caine’s loving daughter. A maudlin role, but not a malevolent one. But then came another memory question: why can’t I remember The Constant Gardener for which she won the Academy Award when I adore Ralph Fiennes? And a non-memory question: why did she leave poor Darren Aronofsky (who has now also been left by Jennifer Lawrence)?

As usual, I digress, but at least I left out my wish for the halcyon days, because guess what Disobedience (written and directed by Sebastian Lelio, [Fantastic Woman]) was about? The Jewish culture! I’m on a Hebrew Roll as they say. If you’ve seen the movie poster for Disobedience, you can almost cite the plot to me without ever seeing the film. Rachel Weisz comes home for the funeral of her father only to be tempted back to her true lesbian tendencies that had her excommunicated from the Hasidic culture.

“Fun” fact, wiki Hasidic Jewish Culture and this definition pops up: “The Hasidic movement is unique in its focus on the joyful observance of God’s commandments (mitzvot), heartfelt prayer, and boundless love for God and the world He created.” Which sounds so kind, right? According to the film Disobedience, all’s good as long as you follow the strict rules, which does not include homosexuality or women with fun hairstyles or a sexy sense of fashion.

Rachel Weisz was great as the self-loathing lesbian. I don’t really care for Rachel McAdams as a rule. She was fine in The Notebook, but I don’t see a thing on her IMDB page she’s done since that thrills me. On a Rona Barrett (how’s that for an old reference?) note, she did just have a baby with Jamie Linden and it has to frost her onions that on his IMDB page there are nothing but photos of he and Zoe Deschanel. Anyway, she’s fine for what she had to do in this film; repressed scowling.

Who stole the show for me was Alessandro Nivola, of whom I’ve not had much exposure. His understated, yet moving portrayal of a man scorned was original.

Not a fantastic film, but it held my interest for at least veering from textbook screenwriting in the last half.

Late Marriage from 2001, Consummate This!

After seeing Foxtrot and loving it at Burns Court last week, I sought out an older film starring Lior Ashkenazi with whom I am now obsessed. In a good way of course, but perhaps in a negative sense as he makes me miss both an emotionally abusive social worker (holy oxymoron) I dated and my other Jewish five year once a week boyfriend. Oh well, what are you gonna do? In an odd coincidence, I just started a play reading class at the Temple Beth Shalom. Suffice to say, I’d definitely be willing to convert if it brought back the latter of the two relationships previously mentioned (it’ll never happen since I haven’t heard from said person since the Trump election, no connection other than the date, although perhaps he thought Trump’s slogan was “Make America Date Again”, hardy har har har). But I digressed before I even began! My apologies.

Late Marriage from 2001 was directed by Dover Koshashvili an dis a fun film for both sexes. The basic premise is a Jewish man in his 30’s is causing his family anxiety by not getting married. His relationship with a divorcee does not sit well with his fundamentalist family, and hence, conflict ensues.

But it’s a fun conflict in that the film is written sardonically with terrific sex scenes and great chemistry between Ashkenazi and the hot divorcee (great actress Ronit Elkabetz). Interesting twists forbid me to reveal any more, but suffice to say that the snappy dialogue and interesting narrative (also written by the director) are well worth seeking out at your local library or Netflix.

Foxtrot, Sins of the Father

Foxtrot is an amazing film written and directed by Samuel Moaz. This blog will be exceptionally short because to say much about the film would spoil the various and fantastic surprises that occur.

I can and will say a few things, of course.

First, you know the old real estate slogan: location, location, location. To call Moaz’s keen eye for camera angle artistic, is an understatement. From the downward angle at a mesmerizing tile floor, to the upward reflection off a stagnant water filled trench, to the soldiers’ tilted, sinking bunker, Moaz helps keep us visually stimulated and off center adding to the suspense.

Moaz is ten years older than Asghar Farhadi, yet his film has the delicious obscurity of A Separation and Farhadi’s other great films. This appears to be only Moaz’s third film, yet I know he’ll be a film force to be reckoned with and that Foxtrot is only the beginning.

Tremendous acting was done by: Lior Ashkenazi, Sarah Adler and Yonaton Shiray. Bravo to all, but especially the writer and director, remember his name folks, Samue Moaz!

Lean on Pete, Saddle Up, It’s a Wild Ride

My brother recommended Lean on Pete (directed by Andrew Haigh, also of 45 Years, another solid film) and I joked with him after that he’d owe for the Valium needed to come down from the angst. But the bigger question is, my brother didn’t like the Florida Project due to its realism, so why did he like Lean on Pete, which was more harrowing by a long shot?

No matter, we all have our pet topics, some of us are PETA people, some care about child neglect and abuse (me), others more concerned with wayward youts (that’s a My Cousin Vinny relate) and I’m assuming my brother’s soft spot.

Lean on Pete took the torture your hero screenplay conceit to new heights. The obstacles were plenty and while the movie kept me in suspense, due to its 2 hours running length frayed my nerves. At one point, I turned to my date (a non-sequitur specialist) and said, “I’m going to kill my brother” since I was tired of shielding my overly sensitive eyes and ears to the violence.

I will say the movie did an excellent job in the putting me in a different mind space as I walked out of the theater thinking I might be homeless, especially as I walked solo home, carting my take out guac and salsa, passing by packs of families and dinner dates.

Yet Charlie (the main character of the film, portrayed AMAZINGLY well by Charlie Plummer, also of The Dinner) understood, and I empathized, that it takes a strong person to deny needing anyone’s help, and to suck it up and go it alone. It beats the hell out of wanting someone’s loong story to come to some type of meaningful conclusion.

Supportin cast-wise, Steve Buschemi was great as the horse owner, Chloe Seivgny fantastic as the cynical female jockey Steve Zahn as drunken a-hole (sorry no other way to say that), Travis Fimmel as drunken dad. The only weak link was the Aunt, who seemed too obscure, but I guess at the point in the film where she is discovered, we just want white milk and not a white Russian.

See this film, it may get a nom or two come awards time.

In a World…..there are still valuable indies: Band Aid

Four score and seven years ago, no not really, just 10 months ago, a little indie called Band Aid appeared at Sundance and was nominated for the Grand Jury prize at the Sundance Festival (it also won at the Calgary Festival, proving once again that Canadians are generally kinder than Americans). Tis true, I have firsthand experience back to back in 2002.

At any rate, my question is, it was prize worthy and then what happened? Why didn’t it get a wider release? How does the horror and violent crap get to screens everywhere (case in point, right now at Hollywood 11: A Quiet Place, Rampage and Avengers….) and that’s if you only officially count violence and horror, I know from the trailer that the anal chugging in Blockers and the physical-she-fell-on-her-head and gained confidence Amy Schumer debacle are not quality films.

But enough soap box. Get a hold of Band Aid, Zoe Lister-Jones wrote and directed (and sang!) this gem about a couple mourning or avoiding mourning a miscarriage. Some hilarious dialogue ensues involving Fred Armisen as a sex addict as well as witty fight songs (no, not Katy Perry’s, better!).

A cameo by my darling Susie Essman and a mention of one of my favorite singers (BabyFace) helped keep me smiling for 91 minutes.

Adam Pallyy was great as Zoe’s husband and talented in his own right. He’s got Mike Birbiglia affability and charm.

Now was the story perfect? No, in fact that’s what makes it real. There’s a conflict scene in which Adam’s character deliberately picks a fight when he should be rejoicing, and something that could have been cookie cut out of my second marriage. But that’s exactly what makes the movie even better. It portrays just how confused and self-destructive we can be when on the brink of success.

I’m just hoping our world is not so full of distractions these days that love can’t sustain the pressure. Guess there’s only one way to find out.

If you get a chance, which I hardly do, also watch Zoe in a Life in Pieces on CBS. There’s enough humor to get you through the corn.