Ironically Not a Marvel, The Irishman

Dear Mr. Scorsese,

You had me at ‘Marvel movies are not films’ having seen my share of 6 minute CGI’d super hero vs. villain fight scenes, HOWEVER, if you’re going to throw stones, check out your house’s (in this case The Irishman) exterior first, because honey, you need an editor who can be Frank who’s not mafia (comic drum beat).

Cut off the first and last 30 minutes of your film, and now we have something palatable. Get an Adam McKay-like (pick me!) script doctor to weave in Charles Brandt’s role as sharply witted reporter/interrogator, add a musical soundtrack of Italian music, and a pinch of the beautiful food served in Italian restaurants and THEN we have the start of a masterpiece.

Sincerely,

Roxanne Baker

PS to my handful of readers, first, BLESS YOU for reading.
Second, here’s whats good about The Irishman, no make that great:
Al Pacino, the movie doesn’t start until he shows his manic gorgeous histrionic self. Ditto Joe Pesci, an acting virtuoso…for those two guys alone, it’s worth a look on Netflix where you can fast forward and use your own bathroom. Honorable mentions go to Stephen Graham and Louis Cancelmi for their spicy add ins. Beyond that, this. is. not. riveting.

Motherless Brooklyn; an orphan in this year’s films

I love Ed Norton. My admiration began in 1996 with “Primal Fear”, where his performance and shockingly cool twist ending made me say, ‘Wow’. From there, in Spike Lee’s super hip “25th Hour” with Philip Seymour Hoffman, moving on to his many Wes Anderson film performances.

But the real affection began watching his roast speech for Bruce Willis, when after many funny jokes, he teared up thanking him for his help in financing Motherless Brooklyn. On recent podcast appearances, I wanted to jump through my lap top and give him a hug for his sincere commentary of the giant harm cell phone distraction does to humanistic values.

So I skipped into Motherless Brooklyn, loving Ed, though somewhat warily having been non-plussed with the trailer I had seen.

Here’s the deal: Motherless Brooklyn is a good movie and is validation or should I say incrimination of Robert Moses’s hand (and shovels) in tearing down African-American residences to build his sanitized white people parks and highways. Bravo for that indictment.

And a usual, Ed Norton as the Tourette’s syndrome lackey turned private eye was perfection. As was his stellar cast: Alec Baldwin as “Moses”, my G.O.A.T. Willem Dafoe, and a Sarasota grad Dallas Roberts who had strong presence as one of the other lackeys. To round out the cast: two fine women: a newbie actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Cherry Jones all contributing to a solid story.

The cinematography was amazing in certain sections: jazz club, pool scenes, Brooklyn Bridge scenes.

You’re waiting for my ‘but’ and here it is: BUT, the movie overall was too dark and bleak both in color and tone. I hate to be the one to say, the book is better, but there, I said it. Only because in the novel by Jonathan Lethem, the Ed’s Tourette’s sufferer has a beautiful back story of being taken in as a tormented orphan by Bruce Willis (not in the movie long enough to stand out) AND in a related novel subplot point, Ed attempts painstakingly to call all the names in the 1950’s phone book thinking he wants to reconnect with the parents who abandoned him. If these two super poignant parts plus another which would have involved more Leslie Mann into nearly seducing Ed’s vulnerable character would have added light and spice to the film.

Instead we are left with a neo-noir which is just too flat and run of the mill. I still love Ed Norton and totally understand his need to make this more historical fiction. Not a failure in any measure.

Promise: No Spoilers, “Joker”‘s Wild

(Public Service Announcement: DO NOT TAKE ANYONE UNDER 17 TO THIS!)

Joker, directed and co-written by Todd Phillips is worth seeing. I don’t usually see super dark films since I’m sensitive to violence, a hide-behind-my-sweater-type, as well as a staunch believer that what we ingest visually has the psychological nutrition equivalent of gorging on a deep dried bologna sandwich with a side of deep fried Twinkie. But considering Mr. Phillips’ previous films were mostly comedy; (Old School, Hangover) AND given that his co-writer, Scott Silver, wrote one of my favorite movies of all time, The Fighter, I took a chance.

As a huge Joaquin Phoenix fan, my two favorite Phoenix performances being “Two Lovers” and “The Master”; I knew the performance would be breathtaking and indeed it was. With ribs protruding from his skinny physique, Joaquin giggles maniacally and dances like a mixture of Fred Astaire meets Justin Timberlake. His poignant performance gives us a slightly similar feeling to the closure of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, emphasis on slightly.

No plot spoilers, but the cinematography in Joker’s dancing scenes, in the public bathroom and on the super tall ascension of outdoor stairs, are mesmerizing. Likewise the multiple subway scenes, both quietly eerie and violently chaotic have a deep impact. I’d like to think that Phillips and Silver wanted to wake our distracted ignorant technology fixated society in one of the most impressionable scenes where a wall of tv screens shout their competing cacophony drowning out human suffering.

A topnotch soundtrack added to the film’s hip milieu: Smile
(Jimmy Durante) written by the great Charlie Chaplin (who gets his own cameo shown on the big screen in one scene), Laughing (The Guess Who), and White Room (Cream) to name a few. My favorite, That’s Life (Frank Sinatra), is used in a Johnny Carson-like late night show (hosted here by Robert DeNiro) that Joker watches religiously, added to the mad mix of emotions I felt leaving the theater. I got in my Uber with that other worldly feeling great movies give you, even if it wasn’t the happy face the Joker’s mom always told him to wear.

As I rode along in the dark, listening to NPR News detail separate stories that President Trump wants Biden and his son investigated since their new business made millions and yet Biden raised ‘only’ 1.5 million far below Elizabeth Warren 4 million….I couldn’t help feel like our political system has become surreal; coincidentally a core foundation of Joker the film, that the fat cat Governor of Gotham, doesn’t truly care about us average Joe’s, I mean, Jokers. The solution isn’t violence, but positive, loving changes to our mental health system AND restrictions on guns meant for warfare.

The Dinner, have some reservations

Oren Moverman, how are you? I had no idea until just now that Moverman who directed The Dinner, the new movie based on the book by Howard Koch, also directed one of my (and my movie date)’s favorite movies of all time: Love&Mercy. The Dinner, sadly, is a film you should have reservations about….

Am I wrong to not want to glorify heinous acts by showing visuals? Especially when it involves malicious, misguided teens? I guess, if I’m open minded, showing incidents of affluenza may wake up some wealthy parents that perhaps they should take responsibility (early on, not once they reach adulthood) of their children’s upbringing (aka teaching them how to behave and how to love) and their mental health (if it walks like a depressed duck and talks like a depressed duck, get some therapy).

Anyway, while I understand to some extent the moral dilemma portrayed in The Dinner, I care about my fellow human beings enough to know; a sociopath, no matter if he or she is your child, should never get a free pass.

The movie’s subject matter was obviously almost good enough to make me forget I was watching one of my favorite actors (Steve Coogan) minus his typecasted upperhand sarcasm. His character, father of “Charles Manson”, is certainly bitter, but undermined by said son Charlie and his own wife; portrayed by another favorite actress of mine, Laura Linney.

Equally compellng was Rebecca Hall, who I envy most for how good she looks in short hair, a shallow female commentary. To be super objective, Hall’s acting was best of the four (Hall, Coogan, Linney, Gere) as Gere’s strong willed trophy wife. Pulling up four out of four is Richard Gere, who always seems to be playing the same dang man of power with an equal amount of ‘white people’s problems’ angst. I look forward to his upcoming performance as a homeless man, it’s high time for him to mix it up.

Due to the movie’s unsatisfying ending and it’s violence porn quotient, I say this is better off as a rental. Choose a dark deary night and it’ll fit right in.