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.

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.

The Climb, Placing My Oscar Bet on Zach Kuperstein

Ok, that bet I just posted in my title, I’d like to place it to happen in the next ten years, since the ye olde Academy has enough fish to fry for awhile. But mark my words, they’ll see the genius of Zach Kuperstein (already nominated for a Independent Spirit (the smartest) Awards for The Eyes of My Mother).
In The Climb, you can’t help but notice Kuperstein’s magic in the stripper Thanksgiving scene, the outside the house merry go round shot during the Christmas Scene, the immersion of the ice fishing bachelor party. Visually inspiring, Zach’s got it going on.
Now for the rest of the story…Michael Angelo Covino starred and directed The Climb about a relationship between two male friends, the friend with whom he also wrote The Climb’s screenplay, Kyle Marvin. The story is interestingly told, in chapters with cute title cards, “I’m Sorry”, “let it go”, etc. The premise is also unique in that while I’m sure there’s many co-dependent male friendships, we don’t see friendship looked at with such a magnifying glass often.
The minor characters were well drawn, too, 3 dimensional without over interrupting the through line. I especially liked Gayle Rankin (Glow, Blow the Man Down) Todd Barry and the grooms two sisters (Daniella Covino, Eden Malyn).
A refreshing dark comedy about relationship and family dysfunction playing currently at Burns Court. Please support your independent theaters!

Now this is the Jenkins I Know: The Last Shift

Before “Kajillionaire”, I never suspected Richard Jenkins of any acting fraud. And with “The Last Shift”, which was suppose to be premiered before Covid took out the Sarasota Film Festival, Jenkins is back, possibly in his best role yet.

In The Last Shift his character is once again, down and out and awkward, but with Andrew Cohn’s amazing writing and direction, he is more than a character, he is a tragic figure. Bravo.

Equally as wonderful was Ed O’Neill, who should have catapulted to comedic movie stardom rather than be stuck in tv sitcom drudgery. Ed scene steals every minute he’s in. I love that man!

Shane Paul McGhie should also now be front listed for every part that Lakieth Stanfield turns down. He is a monster actor who evokes empathy while projecting keen intelligence. Birgundi Baker is destined for greater heights as well.

Go see this film. It’s real, raw and heartbreaking. You’ll want to go help a fast food worker afterward and rightly so, as these folks work thankless jobs for little pay.

Wiener-Dog; Solondz Always Worth a Little Darkness

You need to buck up when you watch Tood Solondz. Prepare to be disturbed at some point in each of his films…maybe most disturbing was Happiness (but to see Philip Seymour Hoffman in his prime, again, worth it!!).

In Wiener-Dog we get snapshots of four stories detailing the lives of at least three different dachshunds.

The first sub-plot uses one of Solondz’s tried and true motifs of broken childhood dreams. In Todd’s world, there’s no such thing as a protected child. The best thing about this story was Tracy Letts as a curmudgeon of a husband/father and Julia Delphy as the matter-of-fact Mom. Theri dead pan deliveries added the most comedy of the film. And if I could choose any actress in the world to be my sister, it’d be a tough choice between Julia and Parker Posey.

In the second vignette, Greta Gerwig plays a geeky dog lover and Kieran Culkin as her convenient store pick up of a romantic interest. In the third, Danny DeVito plays a washed up Film Professor, and in the final episode, Ellen Burstyn plays an elderly Grandma to Zosia Mamet (Girls, Madmen), a wayward granddaughter stuck in a dysfunctional relationship. Burnstyn is amazing for still acting her arse off into her 90’s and Zosia has young acting chops that I look forward to seeing again in future projects.

Definitely worth a watch and a mere 88 minutes of quarantine time!

At the Urging of…Art School Confidential

The Book Store has always been a source for movie recommendations, from classics Barry Rothman hipped me to (Sweet Smell of Success to name one) to modern ones, from James Mammone (Ghost Story) and one from my Curb Your Enthusiasm compatriot Carrie from 2006 (Art School Confidential) when I was knee deep in teaching and being a mom. This last film is what I just finished this afternoon.

Terry Zwigoff (Bad Santa and Ghost World) doesn’t put out movies in bulk in fact according to IMDB, the last thing he did was a TV short in 2017 called Budding Prospects. And while Art School Confidential had a few positives, it didn’t grab me in the way it charmed my co-workers.

First, I love John Malcovich and one of the many difficulties I had with this film is, he wasn’t in it enough! The same could be said for Anjelica Houston who I also cherish. Additionally telling was the fact that main star Max Minghella hasn’t actually gone on to bigger and better (though is in the very popular-though not with me) Handmaids Tale. Almost ditto for Sophia Myles. Last, Jim Broadbent’s character was too dark to be believable.

The film uses college and artist stereotypes for humor which is ok and worked some of the time. But the strangler sub-plot took away from my enjoyment of the humor. Hence, a good way to stay away from the media monster feeding our poor frenzied cell phone hostages, but definitely a lesser film than Bad Santa and Ghost World.

Genuinely Great: Downhill

Wow, Rotten Tomatoes Reviewers, take it down a notch. I feel like yesterday I was guilty of whining, yet I don’t see a lot of other folks being as self-aware. Both in my personal life and in movie criticism there’s a lot of hair trigger condemnatory folks walking around. When we read a Facebook or Instagram post, can we start with the assumption that everyone has flaws and that most people aren’t out to take anyone down. Please, can we?

Isn’t is also alright that we come from different opinions and perspectives and if we don’t agree, that does not and should not mean we are suddenly not able to care for one another?

With that lament out of the way, let me say, going in to Downhill I worried whether this was another foreign film remake ruined by Americans. In this case, I was the premeditated hypercritical person, since Downhill was very well done. I confess my bias had come from three lesser remakes: Starbuck (turned into Delivery Man) and Intouchables (adapted to The Upside) and the worst Gloria Bell (adapted to the mean spirited Gloria).

I confess, Force Majeure was a tremendous film, but due to bad memory, I just remember being moved in a disturbed “Joker” type of way. Remember, the responsible party, screenwriter Ruben Ostlund, also wrote the ultra wonder called The Square which is equally upsetting.

So why is Downhill worthy on its own? First and foremost the two leads, known for comedy, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrel were simply outstanding portraying married folks who have grown apart. I know this won’t go over well in our current populace though since we have glorified marital partnership and villainized singledom. How dare screenwriters try to suggest that sometimes married people have different moral compasses either unaddressed from the get-go unaddressed or those whose personal ethics fork off in different directions? Yet if we were all really honest and self-aware, this would not necessarily be tragic

I stand by Downhill’s writers Jesse Armstrong, Nate Faxon and Jim Rash and hope people can be more open-minded and as a result more loving. One of my favorite scenes in the entire film (NOT a spoiler) is when Julia is riding a chairlift with a 30 year old woman who claims “black and white” judgment on a couples’ issue, and Julia questions if everything is that cut and dry. Let’s hope our human connection has more than two colors: love or hate.

Murder She Wrote was Only an Hour Long for a Reason: Knives Out

Here’s where the easily entertained American Public wins the ratings war: “Knives Out” scored a higher Rotten Tomatoes audience review than Bombshell. Enough said.

I had higher hopes than normal about a movie like Knives Out after hearing over and over that Rian Johnson really brought something novel to the murder mystery genre. Something novel as in too many pages long!

Lord, two hours and ten minutes is a ludicrous length for a mystery as you can’t possibly have red herrings maintain a SMART audience’s interest for that duration.

Very rarely do I walk out, but I could not sit this one out. Call it The Irishman of murder mystery, yikes.

The good kernel of the movie was the fine cast: Christopher Plummer, Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas and Chris Evans to name the best and brightest of the crew. Sure, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon and Don Johnson don’t hurt. Less likeable was Toni Collette who seemed like two dimensional bronze bimbo.

But the sheer marathon duration spoiled any of the fun. I would say the same to anyone who fully enjoyed the entire 2:10 minutes that I do to those who drive way too slowly, “Gee, you don’t want to go home, do you?”.

JoJo Rabbit: An Overly Frosted Carrot Cake

JoJo Rabbit directed and adapted to screenplay by Taika Waititi is like a good friend who you love dearly, but always goes too far with a joke. Charlie Chaplin knew the fine art of subtlety in the Great Dictator. Sure, mock the Fuhrer, but do so in such a way that it doesn’t make mockery of the cause and pathos.

Like an overly frosted carrot cake, it also frosts my onions when you mix heinous true life death (in this film hanging bodies) with hilarity. They don’t mix, ever.

But it’s a generational divide, considering the millennials on either side of me were gaga, and I almost mean that literally, with the ‘AWWWW” and “OOOOHS’. The difference is, I was protected from media violence as a kid (mom was home and had boundaries for us AND this was pre-computers). Hence, I get the difference between comedy and violence.
Either Waititi should have played all of Germany’s stain as an outright farce or tone it down a notch.

Ok, but it wasn’t all bad. I liked his clever use of comparing Beatles mania with Hitler mania. I looooooved Sam Rockwell, back in the silly, comic department I feel he does his best. The lead little boys (Roman Griffin Davis and Archie Yates) were terrific as was the Anne Frank like young lady (Leave No Trace’s Thomasin McKenzie). Scarlett Johansson, while I like her a lot, was wasted in JoJo, her character wasn’t developed enough for me to really understand her, but I totally get she was needed as a plot device. I could have lived without Rebel Wilson, who just stuck out like a sore thumb. As was Taikia as the Hitler character, again, stop with yourself! He was too dopey and too frequent, the too much frosting part of this carrot cake.

A Faithful Man, More Passivity Proof

I’m wringing my hands together like Columbo did when he was on the brink of cracking a case, because if A Faithful Man does not prove my theory* that men stay too long in dysfunctional relationships, then I’ll eat my NFL hat (see the Columbo NFL hat trivia at https://m.imdb.com/review/rw4400766/). *I’ve written an essay detailing my theory called “High Time for a Male Self-Contentment Revival”, ask me I’ll share it with you. Request the essay pitch at my email: irun2eatpizza@hotmial.com

While a bit uneven in mood, A Faithful Man was entertaining and surprising. Concerned by the movie poster’s depiction of two women kissing one man, basically the story of my second marriage (well, he had about 5 others after him), would memories I’d like to keep in the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind category bubble to the surface? Mais non, c’est not what happened…sorry slipped back into English.

Louis Garrel wrote, directed and starred in this short movie (hour and fifteen) and was impressive as the lead. Louis does a fine job with a story that I can’t say much about without spoilers. I will say while I worried it was a film about silly men dependent on women, it may actually be a film about silly men dependent on women…AND it didn’t incense me, meaning the writing and acting were pleasant enough to make the sadness of men who stay with manipulative women not seem quite so tragic.

And speaking of women, the two leads were a mixed bag: Laetitia Casta, drop dead gorgeous (may I have her chest? instead of my pancakes?) was terrific. Lily Rose-Depp (Johnny’s daughter) seemed a bit transparent and cloying as the other woman.

Garrel’s story telling shone in his depction of the young boy (Joseph Engel) who to tie back to my Columbo reference is a bit of a sleuth himself. Engel was fantastic and probably has a big film future ahead of him.

A Faithful Man was a nice kick off for my first film in the Cine-World Film Fest.