About Goldie

Aspiring writer who has retired from the institution of education. Have loved my career (and was thrilled to teach 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.

Everybody Knows Farhadi’s a Master at Moral Dilemma

I’ve loved every Asghar Farhadi film, specifically four to be exact: About Elly, A Separation (Oscar nominated for Best Foreign Film), The Past, and The Salesman (Academy Award Winner!). Each as hauntingly memorable in its own right, that try as I might, I can’t choose one that is notably better, they’re all fine films. Feel free to search for my past reviews of those gems by plugging in Asgahr’s name in the search engine.

Signature to Iranian director Farhadi’s style is the moral dilemma. In his newest film Everybody Knows playing at Burns Court, this is no exception. Secrets are revealed that bind people together, in this case the ever gorgeous Penelope Cruz and her real life husband Javier Bardem. Without giving spoilers away, you often hear true life stories where teenage love haunts us well into adulthood. While Cruz and Bardem are not married in the film, Farhadi’s choice of pinning them as star crossed unrequited lovers is a work of genius.

Javier Bardem, in fact, is the Atlas of the film, doing the mountain share of nuanced inner struggle and portraying this beautifully on screen. His exasperation in his line to friend Fernando, “Oh don’ don’t f*** with me Fernando,” is gut wrenchingly real.

Set in Madrid, Farhadi also takes his time in establishing the passionate culture, the duty to family, the wild celebrations. His layering of difficulties, wanton teenage behavior, rain storms and power outages, never seem cliche. His ending as with all his films is a non-ending, meaning there are more moral dilemmas that ripple like a rock thrown in a stream that grant further discussion once you leave the theater.

While not his most superior film, Farhadi’s Everybody Knows is worth seeing and with any smarts other writers and directors will pair Cruz and Bardem together again.

Still Hot After All These Years: McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Vertigo

Consider this review a ‘cleanse the palate course’ after the Oscars (which I thoroughly enjoyed and was pleased about) and the new movie season.

Two films I saw last week were McCabe and Mrs. Miller at my very close confidant’s big screen and then Vertigo on an even bigger screen at the hip Sarasota Cinmeatechue space.

And while they were made 13 years apart (1971 and 1958 respectively), they do have commonalities. First, both directors (Robert Altman/Alfred Hitchcock) while nominated, never received an Oscar.

Perhaps another similarity and larger slight is that neither cinematographer even received an Oscar nomination for these films. Vilmos Zsigmond DID win for Close Encounters, yet in McCabe and Mrs. Miller, I was mesmerized by the snowy landscape and the ending scene with Warren Beatty becoming one with the snow. Pure fascination!

Likewise, in Vertigo, I was transfixed by the camera angles. And yes, I realize a lot of this was ‘Hitch’, but Robert Burks must have had something to do with it as well. Another gripping scene (pun intended and not) came at the film’s end, as Jimmy Stewart, way out of his good guy type casting, man handles Kim Novak up the stairs of the mission to recreate the crime. Even more orgasmically suspenseful is the creepy black shrouded nun at the top of the stairs. Watching this, I totally forgot the creation’s year was 1958, the suspense felt new.

Both films also built the physical and romantic desire to titillating heights. In McCabe and Mrs. Miller, we witness Warren Beatty spellbound by Julie Christie’s voracious appetite, his mutterings of how enervating she is (yet his angst proof that he loves her) and her imploring that he settle affairs or at least seek safe shelter. In Vertigo, Kim Novak utters the sultry film noiresque line, “One person can wander around, but two people doing that are going places.” Hummina, hummina.

So if you’ve got nothing to do, wander over to your tv and rent one of these classic beauties. Or if you’re on a date that’s ‘going places’, both McCabe and Mrs. Miller and Vertigo are pretty darn good foreplay.

Shoplifters (a Foreign Film up for Best Oscar) Will Steal Your Heart

If Shoplifters directed by Hirokazu Koreeda does not bring you to tears, can you call me? Because I’ll bet if you’re not moved, the next time you check the box “I’m Not a Robot”, you’ll be discovered for your cold internal wires.

I’m not saying Shoplifters is perfect (editing definitely was an issue), HOWEVER, seeing this make shift family navigate the sometimes brutally cold Japan (both in temperature and social/economic climate) and sweltering (you’ll see pitted sweat shirts and sweaty post coital nudity) will make your heart ache.

It’s about who really is your family, how titles such as biological mom and dad are not always accurate or healthy. Best of all, you’ll feel for this family and forgive them their trespasses.

Shoplifting doesn’t look so bad when loving human bonds and play bring joy. Lily Franky is a genius as the loving but wayward father as is Sakura Ando as his romantic (and the children’s maternal) counter part.

In preparation for my Oscars guest role on Gus Mollasis’s At the Movies Facebook Live show (airing tonight at 630 pm EST 2/21/19), I decided to count the poignant beats in my favorite movie of the year (tune in to find out which one it was that scored 7). In Shoplifters, I’ll list the same:

1. Lily Frank’s sweet “we’re connected here (heart) not just here (crotch)”
2. the subtle nuanced love making scene and shower scene
3. the beach scene (“grandma telling her she’s turned out to be beautiful)
4. women’s fitting room scene
5. sex trade woman hugging the mute customer, sharing self-abuse stories
6. Lily Frank and his ‘son’ played so well by child actor Jyo Kari in the ocean and at the movie’s end

Just a fantastic film that you need to have patience wading in slowly, but you’ll come out awash in emotion and tenderness….if you’re really not a robot (smiley face). American film makers should start taking notes!

Cold War(s), Worm Heart

Shakespeare’s noted for the Hamlet proverb, ‘brevity is the soul of wit,” and Cold War, written and directed by Pawel Pawlikowski is certainly a film of which The Bard would be proud. Briskly paced at 90 minutes, we’re taken on a European musical escapade through starkly frigid Poland, austere Yugoslavia and comparatively freewheeling Paris.

Shot in black and white, star crossed lovers Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot are genuine and tortured by the confines of post-World War 2 communism. The monochrome film adds not only to the nostalgia of lost love, but also to the bleak surroundings. The cinematography moves like a stately photo album filled with clips; the couple’s cloaked embraces, a wind-swept field tiff, and raucous bar gyrations.

Much like many Shakespearean plays, characters Zula and Wiktor do not live happily ever after, or do they? Depending on your level of faith and ability to identify with unrequited love, may determine your adoration or lack thereof for Cold War. If nothing else, the film is tremendous eye and ear candy with conversational inspiration about the nature and duration of true love.

Perhaps our modern day’s frenetic speed has me craving more constructive and redemptive stories since in total Cold War did not impress me and wasn’t what the media had my ‘hype’ it would be.

Stan & Ollie Needed a (Script) Fluffer

I wrote a play about five years ago about a conversation between two old friends. Feedback repeatedly came back that I needed to move the conflict sooner in the script. Stubbornly, I held fast until recently and Stan & Ollie‘s led weighted script is definitely a good slapstick kick in the arse to that same point.

What could have been a blockbuster; poignant friendship between to men starring two outstanding actors, ends up stumbling and fumbling as much as the real pair’s schtick use to include.

I couldn’t help but feel for Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly, titans in my list for Philomena (and Jeff Pope helped write that AND this??? A mystery.), The Trip (the former) and Magnolia and Chicago (the latter). They had to have loudly gulped at the script which leaves out ‘coulda been scenes, LIKE:

what about sailing with a bevy of actresses?
what about Stan’s drinking or Oliver’s gambling?
or either’s failed relationships?

In all three circumstances we’re told the information instead of shown. Instead, we’re smothered entirely by their vaudeville scenes and hotel rooms, and even the music which seems cloistered.

One character who could have been written at least with some charisma is their manager, who again limps through bland writing without leaving a mark.

Ok, so it did receive a Rotten Tomatoes 92% so let’s switch hats to the positive, a la Nicki Minaj, and say, “Myley, what’s good?”

The make up and superior acting of the two male leads are certainly worth seeing. The scene where Stan visits Ollie in his post heart attack bed, and blathers on about a new bit where Ollie cries, is projecting Stan’s deep feelings for his friend. Here, Coogan’s watery eyes made the movie soar to Oscar worthy, again, had that type of depth or visual been allowed in the film’s entirety. Likewise the actresses who portrayed their wives were very good. Had they been able to let loose a little more in their scenes (Nina Arianda as Stan’s fiercely independent Russian wife and Shirley Henderson as Ollie’s straight out of central casting 50’s wife) the movie would have been livelier.

So what we’re left with is a semi boring movie with a halcyon look back at two vaudeville originals. Stan & Ollie deserved better, as did Steve and John.

If Beale Street Could Talk: So Gorgeous, It Doesn’t Need To

Keeping with my Citizen Kane metaphor of a luxurious cinematic bath, If Beale Street Could Talk is a spa treatment for the eyes and ears.

Written and directed by Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk (noted hereafter as IBSCT) is not Moonlight by any stretch. To me Moonlight was a masterpiece, in story, in acting, cinematography and so on.

Reminiscent of Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, in IBSCT, we’re treated to the gorgeous symbolic benefits of color (the feminine yellow that Kiki Layne and Aunjanue Ellis wore (the former an innocent chick [as in baby chicken], the latter as a religion jaundiced old bag). Layered innocence again in Kiki’s baby blue mock turtle neck and her more sophisticated paisley numbers as she works the perfume counter. And let’s not forget the dapper gents costuming; the manly leather worn by Colman Domingo and Michael Beach, the slick but honest suede worn by the movie’s main male character Fonny, played by Stephan James.

Our ears were gifted the string magic of Nicholas Britell ( I defy you to listen to the track “Eden” and not be stirred inside), our eyes basked in the slide and swing cinematographer James Laxton. Two scenes that stood out to me in this cinematographic regard were: 1. During Fonny’s empathetic listening to his friend Danny’s prison horror stories where the camera glides back and forth between them is indicative of a truly human exchange. This isn’t just one man’s story, it is two men sharing a moment. 2. When Fonny and Tish are shown the loft by a yamaka clad Dave Franco, the camera moves up and down Tish with the grace of a high rise elevator even though they are on the cusp of renting a barren warehouse.

The acting was excellent in most places: Kiki Layne-terrific, Stephan James (in need of a smidge more emotion) and the fathers (Domingo and Beach)-great, both mothers (Regina King and the aforementioned Ellis) fantastic. Even the sour sisters (reminiscent of the Lowell bitches of the film The Fighter) were phenomenal.

Overall, IBSCT is prime example of art transcending story….we don’t need to know the back story of the two families antagonism. We don’t need to see prison brutality, nor be bludgeoned by a rape scene. Jenkins does well in the documentary style interruptions of Kiki’s voice over just stating the facts, that police and prison systems worked jointly (present tense ‘work’ probably in some places still today) to continue slavery and racial bias. A sad, sad story told through magnificent art.

The Mule: Love for Clint, but What Gruel!

Addendum to my previous confessional blog:
For the record, I’ve seen my share of classics. So probably like Tebow, I’ve “dated” plenty of film circa 1965, my favorites being: The Bridge on the River Kwai, Double Indemnity, The Thin Man Series, and Philadelphia Story (Hepburn, Stewart and Grant of course). So Ive been around the classics block so to speak. And still (!) Citizen Kane stands out.

Now empathy first for Mr. Eastwood. I love the man! Not only is he hot (yes I said it and mean it! He can make my day any day.) at 88, he’s obviously still a force with whom to be reckoned. And his acting was spot on for what the story of The Mule was…but there’s the trouble: the ‘writers’ Sam Dolnick should stick to newspaper journalism because he (and fellow ‘writer’ Nick Schenk) only wrapped up one story and certainly decided to air on the side of what, where, when, why.

The first half of the film which I saw with my Dad was intriguing and it was probably a joy for my Dad to see an 88 year old guy dance (and much more suggested) around with bikini clad gals a quarter of his age. I also enjoyed watching Clint sing along to the oldies while driving a fancy Cadillac truck and say silly things that older people some times do in not keeping up with the current p.c. lingo.

HOWEVER, once Dianne Wiest, who I normally adore, utters her first hiccup, the movie takes a giant swan dive into corn and just ludicrously written dialogue. More than three times I did the rolling hand gesture to get on with it, only to have the ‘on with it’ be a giant thud.

So, while I hand it to Clint for continuing his career, he needs to choose better writers to achieve and maintain his theatrical reputation.

Confessions of a 55 Year Old (Classic Movie) Virgin

Ok Ok, I confess. I had never seen Citizen Kane before last night’s showing at Sarasota Film Society’s Cinematheque.

(A quick aside, why the heck isn’t Sarasota Cinematheque packed with Ringling College Film Majors? You’re missing out! Giant screen, great sound, hipster vibe, talk back op…Get over to 500 Tallevast Road on Saturday nights!)

Ok, back to my confession…Much like my virginal metaphor, I had seen the Citizen Kane trailer plenty of times and only noticed some old guy ranting…and hence thought, won’t this be painful? Isn’t it overrated?

But alas, the movie truly is an orgasmic masterpiece. Like my English teacher literary equivalent I tout almost weekly (Ray Bradbury‘s 1959 prescient Fahrenheit 451), Citizen Kane for 1941 is the gold standard for universal storytelling; hoarding to fill emotional needs, the replay of familial cyclical dysfunction (CK’s dad abused him, he then neglects his own son), man’s weakness to infidelity and subsequent political downfalls, the corruption of wealth and power. It’s all there in under 2 hours.

Besides my awe of having missed this for more than half my life, my main takeaways were: Orson Welles (genius, of course, both acting and in storytelling), Joseph Cotton (funniest in the film, especially the nursing home scene where he was trying to remember the name of a place and said a long list ending with Sloppy Joe’s) and the cinematography of doors and windows, shadow, smoke, and in the end, fire. The women in the film, notably three: mother (Agnes Moorehead) and two wives (Ruth Warrick-wow I watched All My Children for years and never knew, and Dorothy Comingore) were all extremely well performed, both due to the writing (strong women for their day) and in believable portraits of women in angst of different varieties.

I couldn’t help notice a strong resemblance of Orson Welles and Leonardo DeCaprio and also how The Wolf on Wall Street seemed to copy Citizen Kane in its mania of wealth gone wild. This is especially seen in the scene where CK acquires the writers from a competing newspaper and gets up to do a number with dancing girls. Make no mistake, I’m not saying that The Wolf on Wall Street or Leonardo is better than CK, just that there is a strong physical and timing resemblance. Surely Scorsese had to have Citizen Kane dreams while filming Wolf.

So, I’m glad I pulled a Tim Tebow and waited because now I know why the film Citizen Kane has been rated the number one movie in American Film history and is far better than Gone With the Wind and Vertigo due to its universal themes and artistic quality.

Excuse Me Mr. Bale, Meet Viggo Mortenson

Much like director Peter Farrelly’s movie career, [some highs comedy-wise with Dumb and Dumber and lows The Three Stooges, which was utterly disappointing even with my main man Larry David] Green Book was a 10 in its story and acting and a 1 for its trailer. Thank God for my watching the Golden Globes and discovering one of the screenwriters Nick Vallelonga is son of Viggo Mortenson’s character. Otherwise, I would have passed it off as ho hum based on the trailer alone.

So after the ol’ don’t judge a movie by its trailer, I was enthralled with the Green Book story and totally in love with both Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortenson. While both men were off the charts and Mahershala scored the Golden Globe, I am really hoping Viggo can win the Oscar. While Christian Bale had me at Dick Cheney, I have to say that Viggo’s role (similar weight gain) is a greater acting performance based on the Italian diction and overall mannerisms he performed with aplomb of a thespian acrobat. I also think that Mahershala’s truly outstanding work in Moonlight overshadows this less demanding role.

The most mystifying commentary regarding the film is how people raved about Linda Cardellini. Sure, she’s good as the devoted, eyes mist up when she reads her husband’s letters, but she wasn’t on screen long enough or showed any range to deserve the heaping praise given.

The essence of Green Book is that folks can evolve and learn to come together in support of one another despite our differences. A great message to carry in all of our hearts as we ride out the waves until 2020. Let’s be united and positive!

Maria “Solo Me So” Callous (Pun intended) vs. Freddie Mercury

It’s all in the ear of the beholder of course, but one of the reasons I cared so much about Bohemian Rhapsody (thank you Golden Globes by getting that right!) was the purity (and full length songs) of original Queen music. The benefit that Bohemian Rhapsody had besides my halcyon high school and college memories forever linked with Freddie’s voice, was that it also told the poignant story of Freddie’s life in full.

In a documentary such as Maria by Callas however, I would have loved more narrative, rather than operetta after operetta. True, I had Habanera in my head all the next day (and liked it!), but that would have sufficed for the sake of more of her life story.

After reading more about Callas after the fact (I was trying to save any surprises to my own ignorance aka Three Identical Strangers for the doc viewing), I wish the documentary had addressed her supposed feud with a fellow opera singer, dating Warren Beatty or Omar Sharif, her childhood (IMDB reports she was in a 22 day coma after being hit by a car), etc.

Instead, the movie either cheats, or is too lazy, relying on three old interviews where Maria speaks of her tough upbringing and destiny to be a singer, with obvious regrets about being childless.

Like Freddie Mercury who I fully realize died of AIDS complications, you have to wonder if regret, loneliness or a broken heart may have contributed to his and Maria’s early demise. I’m certainly not the first to mention this theory, but true genius (Mercury, Callas in singing, Philip Seymour Hoffman in acting, David Foster Wallace in writing just to name a few) often comes at great cost. No matter what, I do believe this doc could have been much more moving had emphasis been placed on story over song.