A “Lady Bird” in the Hand…is Worth 3 in the Oscars

Lady Bird, written and directed by Greta Gerwig, has nested three more nominations for my Academy Award picks: Gerwig for best original screenplay, Laurie Metcalf for best supporting actress and Saoirse Ronan for best actress. I say nominations obviously because the film season is just getting warmed up.

Great attributes of Lady Bird are many. First, a super sharp dialogue and a realistic plot. Most women will relate to the mother daughter struggle that is beautifully portrayed between Metcalf and Ronan. I love Laurie Metcalf and was fortunate enough to see her in New York City play opposite Jeff Goldblum in “Domesticated”. She has the perfect timing to play dramatic, with a pinch of ironic humor. Ronan had me at Brooklyn, a corny epic that I should have groaned at, but instead bought in hook line and sinker. Here in Lady Bird, she is unrecognizable, meaning a genius at owning the part of a senior straining to get the hell away from her family of origin.

And now let’s talk about Greta Gerwig…and what’s weirdly coincidental is that right now as I simultaneously listen to Greta’s Fresh Air interview, where God Bless her, Terry Gross, is asking pointed questions regarding men with whom Greta has worked. And may I just muddy my review further by an error of Terry’s: she is saying that Ronan Farrow has stood by his step sister’s abuse claims, when I read that he’s quite the contrarily said he believes his mother, Mia, coached her daughter to make these allegations.

I can appreciate Greta Gerwig, though I am skeptical about her kindness, from her relationship with Noah Baumbach which probably is more about my projecting the past rejection I can’t get rid myself of by Mr. Saturday Night, the smart, sporty Jewish man who doesn’t seem to miss me. This isn’t immaturity, just honesty. Check yourself right now in the figurative mirror and tell me there isn’t some former romantic pain still in your heart. If you can claim freedom, God Bless you or perhaps, you don’t pass the “I’m Not a Robot” test(smiley face).

Anyway, when reviewing the movie Good Time with Jennifer Jason Leigh, I keyed into the fact that Greta and Noah fell in love on the set of Margot at the Wedding, a movie they did with then Baumbach wife JJ Leigh. I feel for JJL, what can I say? And while I loved Greta’s role in Greenberg and Frances Ha (which she also wrote), I thought she was terrible (or was it the writing?) in Maggie’s Plan. No matter, she is a great writer and a competent director, so here here to that!

The entire cast was just incredible, let me count the ways:

The men: Tracy Letts, plays an excellent detached dad, but I’m rooting for an even bigger acting comeback after the horrrrrrrrrrible movie he did called The Lovers. Lucas Hedges, while a genius in Manchester By the Sea, seemed to be overacting in a few scenes as the anguished Catholic school student. Timothee Chalamet was perfect as the Jack Kerouacesque boy toy.

A notable pair who play Lady Bird’s brother and sister-in’law were Jordan Rodrigues and Marielle Scott, fantastic as the dull-eyed underachievers who post college still reside at home.

Other notable females were: Beanie Feldstein and Odeya Rush who couldn’t be more genuine as the (heavy sweet and slutty worldly) Catholic gals respectively.

And now I’ll listen to the remainder of the Gerwig interview and see how she squirms under the question of ‘how do you feel about working with men accused of sexual harassment?’. I’ll be sure to postscript any interesting tidbits. Until then, I root for Gerwig, Metcalf and Ronan at the Academy Awards!

Postscript tidbit: Greta turned the tables and make Terry answer the question, too, so both woemn, in so many words, said or didn’t say how I feel, and that is I think we can appreciate a person’s talent, and yet be disappointed in some f their behavior. Bravo Gerwig (and Gross), I respect you.

Daddy’s Home 2, Proof I’m not a Film Snob

There’s a famous song by Garth Brooks, “I’ve Got Friends in Low Places” and if he changed the lyric from Friends to Films that would be the perfect description for my affection for Daddy’s Home 2. Hey, on a Friday night after running three miles, lunching with an ambivalent date, working six hours and walking a half hour to and fro to work, a silly comedy with a sweet friend is really quite satisfying.

Sure, Daddy’s Home 2 isn’t a cerebral challenge and I could have gone without the physically violent slapstick moments, but fortunately the dialogue was pretty sharp. Not surprising since Sean Anders and Brian Burns also co-wrote one of the most satisfying comedies of recent note, Meet the Millers.

Mel Gibson plays a great cad, John Lithgow a lovable old nerd and I laugh at simply looking at Will Ferrell. Mark Wahlberg, even in his inability to hide behind his larger than life personality, is hard to resist.

The ladies are very solid as well and I kept racking my brain wondering where I had seen Linda Cardellini before. I’m thinking it had to be The Founder or Welcome to Me though she looks like she could be Ellen Page’s older sister. Alessandro Ambrosia is gorgeous and is probably acting her little brains out.

The cameos were cute and I won’t give them away. Best of all the message was a positive one, that we need to love one another in spite of our differences AND even more importantly, we need to step up and shut up regarding stupid worries and hand wringing, be them familial or political, and simply be grateful for what we have for the sake of our children or if you don’t have kids, for the sake of the child still inside of you. And I certainly can’t dismiss a movie based on that gorgeous idea.

Last being a sucker for sentimental music, what Meet the Millers did for “Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls”, Daddy’s Home 2 does for “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”. Love it, love it!

Happy Holidays!

Best of the PPL’s “Wilson” and “Happy Tears”

Whatchu Talkin’ bout Wilson? I wanted to title my post this, but worried in our overly pc culture that people wouldn’t get the reference from the old television show Different Strokes.

Wilson, based on the graphic novel by Daniel Clowes and directed by Craig Johnson, was irreverent and funny. Woody Harrelson can do no wrong in my book and continues his excellency here. Laura Dern (why the long face?) was not as believable, but then again, I always think she’s just miserable. Evidence? Artifact one: Certain Women, Two: Founder, just to name some recent films. Has she been typecast? I know she’s in my favorite comedian of all time (today, admittedly fickle) Bill Burr‘s F is for Family, but here again she plays the long suffering wife of the 1973 set racist Archie Bunker-like husband.

What I disliked about Wilson was the gratuitous violence. In three scenes the violence was too close and too long. I don’t need to see and hear Cheryl Hines punched in the nose, it’s just not necessary. Likewise, don’t need to see Woody beaten to a pulp, but not really harmed (ridiculously unrealistic and we wonder where people get their violent ideas?!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Anywho, on to my mission to see more Parker Posey, I borrowed Happy Tears from 2009 written and directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein. I really enjoyed this, so much so that I bought it on Amazon for my brother for Christmas (shh, don’t tell him) because the dad in the flick (played by Rip Torn) reminded me of my Dad. Not only was Parker Posey good, but Demi Moore was perfect as her sardonic sister and Ellen Barkin hit it out of the park as the crack whore masquerading as the father’s girlfriend (and no, that’s not the commonality with my dad: he does not date a crack addict).
The only thing wrong with Happy Tears is the subplot with the artist husband of Parker, could easily have been excised and still been a worthy endeavor.

Next on my PPL list are two older films The Lost Weekend, a Barry Rothman request, and The Secret of Success.

Would the real Steve Coogan please stand up? (The Trip to Spain)

I’ve had enough of Mother Nature (Irma here, deadly Maria and Mexico City earthquakes there) so I decided to forego mother! until I have someone to give me a hug after.

And I could use a hug. Let’s just say I wish people were more self-aware, acknowledged questions or previous plans and communicated in a linear fashion.

And so I took The Trip to Spain, loving Steve Coogan as I do. The movie parallels some of Coogan’s life (he brags about his Philomena Oscar nominations and meeting the Pope) and intrigues those of us middle aged women who are attracted to his unknown real life. IMDB reports that he has a college aged daughter with a solicitor and was married for three years.

I won’t give away those plot details that lead you to believe that Coogan needs a hug. Let’s just say one of the film’s themes is ‘you can’t have everything’. Which is a great message the cinematic gods were sending me; I have a great son, two interesting, semi easy jobs, and my health. So I should quit my whining about romance and consistent friends.

The Trip to Spain is the third in a series. I loved the first The Trip and was sad about the weak, maudlin The Trip to Italy. Spain seems to be a little closer to the first, albeit with a really dumb ending, which I can only hope alludes to the fourth in a series and if it is, let’s get it rolling.

To me, “The Trips” (directed by Michael Winterbottom) have become the parallel monosex version of Linklater’s Before Sunrise, Sunset and Midnight in that I hang on every word, wondering what Coogan or fellow actor Rob Brydon will say next. Unlike Linklater’s films though I am NOT sad when the trips end, mainly because there’s just a little too much meandering and not enough conflict, or in Spain’s case the conflict shows up at three quarters in, when my vacation enthusiasm has started to wane.

But still worth the price, even just to see two witty, dapper (they should get a male fashion award of some kind) gents pare off amidst the splendor of Spain’s food and gorgeous vistas.

Muy bien.

I Do…Until I Don’t: the perfect explanation of my opinion

I Do…Until I Don’t is not only the title, but the perfect explanation of my opinion of this film. I do like it, or did, until about three quarters of the way in, when the plot turned so oddly you could hear the proverbial record scratching switch over.

But still, I would see it on the big screen. We need to support comedy as our country’s become much to maudlin and dour. I mean Marc Maron moaning that we’re in the ‘end times’ is ridiculous. The only comedian who seems to be immune (and thus my favorite) is Bill Burr.

So, let’s support Lake Bell who wrote and directed I Do…Until I Don’t. She is talented even if her character was a bit too annoying to be crowned protagonist. In fact, her massage parlor scene is worth the price of admission alone. Supporting her in that hysterical scene is someone for whom I came late to the fan club party, but boy, am I upfront now-Paul Reiser. From his excellent concerned Dad in Whiplash, to his funny cameo in The Little Hours, Reiser is as solid as Romano in the comedy world. Of the seven individuals depicted in I Do Until I Don’t, he was by far my favorite.

The actors, with the exception of Bell (at times), Reiser (all) and Ed Helm (all, who must have won Most Sincere superlative back in high school) were celebrities first, actors second. Mary Steenburgen (I see right through you) and Amber Heard (I see you and your post Johnny Depp/Elon Musk gorgeous self) suffered from characters too stereotypical to be real. Dolly Wells who I had never seen before, was funny as the rueful Brit documentarian, but again, her cliche lacked depth enough to take seriously.

The screenplay also suffered from too many people and sub stories (and I speak from firsthand experience with my own screenplay, Buck Up, which had the same fault). The Hollywood ending seems to be more of a necessity in comedies, though maybe next time, Bell will choose a darker shade to allow for something more real and open ended.

Still a gallant, worthy effort by Lake Bell.

Adam “Baby” Driver, Just One Reason to see Logan Lucky

Logan Lucky was just what the doctor ordered, a squeeze in of fun between one enervating work shift and before a totally different, and oft times lonely eight hours. I shan’t bore you with the details, besides there’s too much to say about Logan Lucky.

Not just because Adam Driver, is the attractive introverted, quirky, yet intelligent machisomo co-star. And not just because Steven Soderbergh is so prolific. Check out his IMDB page some time, but be sure you have awhile. Under each sub category: writer, director, producer…his lists are vast. In fact, who knows (?), Soderbergh could have written the screenplay for Logan Lucky since the ‘real’ writer Rebecca Blunt may be a fictitious person (according to IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm8362793/?ref_=tt_ov_wr)

And here’s where I have to call out the establishment on Channing Tatum. Is he going to be the new Jeff Bridges, where he does all this outstanding work with no wins until he’s old and scraggly? I mean come on, Foxcatcher should have earned him something besides best ensemble. And in Logan Lucky, he plays a West Virginain hick with a limp, a feat (pun unintended) and a stretch (pun intended) and a half considering the guy’s got Timberlake caliber dancing skills!

Daniel Craig, fantastic as the explosives expert convict, has earned a merit badge from me. He’s got acting and comedy in his blood in spite of the needs-to-be-put-to-rest James Bond franchise.

And let’s give kudos to the women, too. Katie Holmes, so heartening to see her in a quality film. And breaking news, just realized that Riley Keough, also is Elvis’s granddaughter (or Lisa Marie’s child), wow! This girl not only has soul, but is married to a stunt man, priceless! Farrah MacKenzie is also so sweet as the little Jon Benet Ramsey type.

The smaller parts were classic as well. Seth MacFarlane (say his name tangy and he seems like he could be a West Virginian, ok, an Irish West Virginian) was a CLASSIC. Dwight Yoakam also PRICELESS as the prison warden. Hillary Swank, cardboardy (see my upcoming caricature complaint), but always good to see.

The heist plot is super intricate, and the characters well drawn if even too much so. Meaning, the characters were close to caricatures, especially Hillary Swank’s stick up her backside FBI agent, as well as Daniel Craig’s doofy brothers who reminded me of Larry Darryl and the other Darryl on the Bob Newhart show. But I guess that was part of the Blunt/Soderbergh’s fun.

Definitely worth seeing in the grandeur of the big screen, especially if you’re in need of an escape from quasi menial jobs that can occasionally get on your nerves.

The Little Hours: Forgive Me Father For I Have Sinned

“Forgive me Father for I have sinned.” is a line from The Little Hours, but it’s also a literal confessional. I’ll discuss the movie first and then segue into my own transgression.

The Little Hours is a new movie by Jeff Baena, most famous for writing I Heart Huckabees. He had two other mainstream movies: Life After Beth and Joshy, but neither of those concepts lure me into trying a library loan….which brings me to an intersection of art and life, a struggle between what’s funny and what’s mean.

Let me contrast a library loaner, Rumba, the third film I’ve partaken by Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon (Lost in Paris-his new one recently at Burns Court in Sarasota, L’Iceberg the eldest of the three, and Rumba, (the lost middle child and aforementioned I’ll discuss here). There were moments in Rumba that were not funny to me. A house fire is not funny, punching children also not funny, and a woman with a wooden prosthetic, again, not funny. The saving grace for Rumba was the visual rainbow of colors, the dancing and the fact that I really don’t think Dominique Abel, nor Fiona Gordon are truly mean people.

On the other hand, The Little Hours lampoons the Middle Ages, late 1300’s to be exact. And unless there’s some serious reincarnation going on, this movie can not possibly offend. Safe to say 700 years is not ‘too soon’ to joke about. While religious folks would probably still find this blasphemous, hearing the anachronistic quality of an f bomb by monks and nuns was immature fun to me.

Now for the bad news. I avoided this movie a few weeks ago on its opening, assuming it was a one trick pony, meaning that the anachronism I just mentioned, as well as libidinous desire and conflict in 1389, lost its edge about half way in. And sure enough, my instinct was right. Though I have no regrets about going as I got to sit next to, and kibitz with, a new friend who I should do a prayer of thanks for right now (!) due to his having a sense of humor and easy going personality.

Jeff Baena is obviously very intelligent. I base this on a New Yorker piece I read where he pontificated on his obsession of Bocaccio’s “Decameron” on which The Little Hours in based. But intelligence doesn’t always translate into a full length comedy.

The acting was great, I mean who doesn’t love John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, and Aubrey Plaza? Having not watched much of Mad Men or Community, I also was introduced to an actress new to me, Alison Brie, who is currently hot due to the show Glow. Dave Franco, Fred Armisen and Kate Miccucui were also very talented as the Medeival answer to pool boy, overly serious monseignor, and dorky nun respectively.

My confessional goes back to what is funny vs. what is mean spirited: I feel guilty for poking fun at a trend (which I won’t even mention here due to shame) which really I should just leave be. I don’t want to be a social commentarian. Or I should at least wait 700 years. I’ll stick to my self-deprecating don’t-I-look-like-the human equivalent-of-a praying mantis jokes. Even though I didn’t even do this mocking in a public stand up routine, but rather privately to an equally cynical co-worker, I still feel ashamed. So, since John C. Reilly is not around, I’ll give myself my own penance of three hail Mary’s or even better, go out of my way to be kind to someone in need today.

Now I Get the Hyperbole: L’Iceberg

Ok, last week I saw Lost in Paris and was unimpressed. Yet I now see this as a Woody Allen analogy after seeing Abel’s earlier film L’Iceberg which was a knockout. So, it’s like seeing Woody Allen’s Match Point and going, ‘what’s the big deal about this guy?” and then seeing “Anne Hall”.

L’Iceberg was from 2005 and is the perfect suburban-neglected-wife-and mother-who-runs-away story. While watching this fun film over the course of two nights (I work a lot), I was also reading Horse Walks Into a Bar by David Grossman. Coincidentally, both the film and book had intriguing sub-plots that kept you involved. In the movie L’Iceberg, the story is bookended by a Inuktitut woman explaining how she met her husband. In Horse Walks Into a Bar, while we watch the stand up comic from the childhood friend’s POV, we are also cognizant of the fact that the friend has lost his wife.

Like Lost in Paris, Dominque Abel and Fiona Gordon wrote this film. And now I clearly see the Buster Keaton comparison. The physical comedy in L’Iceberg was phenomenal and I watched with mouth open at how Fiona bent her legs and body (without serious injury). The scenes on the sailing boat were entertaining as well, especially since some of the splashes were clearly produced by a bucket of water thrown in the air. And I’d be remiss not to mention Philippe Martz who plays the sailor in L’Iceberg, an entertaining Peter Boyle in Young Frankensteinesque performance. In Lost in Paris, Philippe is underutilized as the neighbor.

Since this is a foreign film, it may be hard to find on some library systems. I was blessed that Selby Library in Sarasota was able to procure it for me. Next up is Rumba, which I am equally excited about.

I implore Dominque Able and Fiona Gordon to keep writing. Woody Allen kept going after Match Point to find better material and success (Blue Jasmine for example). Keep going, aim higher!

Lost in Paris, Found in Hyperbole

Ok, here’s the weird phenomena. During the movie Lost in Paris (directed by Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon), I turned to my friend Carrie and said, “Sorry I blew it, we could’ve been watching Sean Penn smoke a doobie.” (To be explained momentarily). But this morning, as I researched the writer (aforementioned Dominique Abel), I find myself wanting to see his other films: The Fairy and Rumba.

First, what’s with the Sean Penn reference, did I have a chance to go to Haiti? No. Fast Times at Ridgemont High was playing on a big screen in Sarasota (and also nationwide for two special nights). But being a good girl and researching briefly on Rotten Tomatoes, critics had cited Lost in Paris at 89% and certain reviewers compared it to Buster Keaton (if you hear rumbling that’s Buster rolling over in his grave) and Tati’s Mon Oncle. (Jacques Tati is also writhing 6 feet under).

This comparison is as ludicrous as saying LaLa Land was the worthy comeback of great musicals! First, there was nothing real about the stunts. The Eiffel Tower scene was totally cgi. Second, though Abel used color creatively, there were plenty of dead scenes where nothing was going on artistically. This could have been a better film, by adding color to every scene, creating more absurdist moments, and developing characters that moves us.

Instead it was akin to a 90 minute cartoon played out by humans.

Still as reported, I find myself somewhat endeared by the combination of Dominique and Fiona, proof that at the very least these two have good on screen chemistry. I’ll see if my friends at the Selby Library have either of his past films.

In conclusion, I’d say, go if you’re feeling down and need a bit of a light distraction, but enter knowing you need to have very low expectations.

Dean, a BBQ type of film=well done!

Continuing with my kookie summer time references is the BBQ review title of Demetri Martin’s well done film Dean.

A new feature of this review will be a “This review is sponsored by…” ad whenever some kind person pays for my movie going experience. My way of acknowledging nice folks.

So this review is brought to by Dan Coughlin, journalist, former Wall Streeter, and man looking for fellow documentarians with whom to build projects.

NOTE TO Demetri Martin: shield your eyes to this next sentence. Dan didn’t think I’d blog about Dean with a veiled reference of it being unimportant cinema.

Au contraire! But here’s where my razor sharp Masters In Counseling ‘see all sides’ mediation comes in: Sure this film might be akin to a lazy river water park ride. However, the script and story were totally relatable (won a Jury Prize at Tribeca) and VERY important in portraying how we each experience grief in different ways. Dean, played by writer/director Demetri Martin, chooses the run away/flight model of grief denial. Kevin Kline (always marvelous, really-wish I could see him on Broadway in Noel Coward’s Present Laughter , but alas it ends July 2nd) portrays Dean’s dad, who takes public intellectualizing regarding his wife’s death with private therapy.

Can’t tell you a lot about what I enjoyed due to my no spoiler vow, but will say that I am happy to see a movie with some ends still loose, instead of an unreal, ‘look at this 100% happy ending’, which is partly why I threw out the hard copy of my novel Jokers to the Right because I hated my false feeling joy! joy! ending.

I can tell you stylistically what I enjoyed about Dean: the split screen frames where Demetri and his dad are seemingly in similar poses. Similarly or perhaps, narcissistically, I think of my Dad and I like this, on any given weeknight, separately alone, tv remote in hand looking for TCM, or some other movie channel, to take the edge of loneliness.

I also really liked the well drawn minor characters, even the minor minor characters filled out to reality. Four deserve mention: Dean’s love interest, Gillian Jacobs, a woman confused emotionally, her best friend Ginger Gonzaga, an icy Rochesterian type of gal, Dean’s good L.A. friend, Rory Scovel (who should be chosen for a Beach Boys bio pic and may have amassed being on the most tv series ever) who shows why men are pigs and also simultaneously in need of a hug, and last (deep breath) his quirky roommate Luka Jones (will look out for him in an upcoming I Love Dick episode.)

Ashamedly for the movie business, Dean’s gone already after a whopping week in Sarasota. In its place is sheer crap (no other way to call it, unless feces makes you feel better. At any rate, if you’re in a major metropolitan area, give Dean a chance. If not, hope Red Box picks it up.