“Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far on Foot”…Hmmm…

Ok, I usually have a strong opinion about a film, however, “Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far on Foot” is tricky.

Here is a two facts I do know:

One: Joaquin Phoenix should get nominated. Done. He is like Christian Bale was in The Fighter, transformed into being John Callahan. A very close absolute best, tied with his role in The Master, a PT Anderson masterpiece.

Two: Jonah Hill‘s performance is also magnificent, his best ever. He uses Gus Van Sant‘s (writer and director) material like a virtuoso conductor, making his understated role crescendo to a moving denouement.

My main difficulty with the film is the story, it’s more a sweet tribute piece then it is a narrative. I’d almost like to see another layer added to the film, like Van Sant’s reasoning for making the film, his learning about the man, what attracted him.

So a great rental, or if you’re a giant Joaquin fan like me, worth the $6 bucks admission.

Deer in the Headlights: Chappaquiddick

Guess I’ve been a bit of Ted Kennedy myself recently, deer in the headlights, sort of mired in thought. That’s actually a faulty analogy because I didn’t cause an accident that killed anyone. Just not sure where I’m going with projects and relationships.

But I digress. Chappaquiddick the film (directed by John Curran-the only other film I’ve seen of his is We Don’t Live Here Anymore which was rough, but worthy) is worth it’s 80 Rotten Tomatoes percentage points. Certainly not an upper, Chappaquiddick recounts the fatal accident in which Ted was driving and his female companion is drowned.

Here are two sides of a theory that I wonder what others think-possibly even would be Kennedy scholars who have read or know more…the movie wants us to believe that Mary Jo was a confidante and a champion of Teddy to reach higher politically without a sexual component. If this is true, did that make it easier for Ted to walk around in a stupor for 12 plus hours while his car lay upside down in the water?

On the other hand, let’s say the writers’ (Taylor Allen, Andrew Logan) simply left that out and Ted and Mary Jo were lovers. Would that have been more of a reason for Ted to want to avoid the controversy? It wasn’t just a girl drowned, but also a lover, given that he was married. The movie did seem to intimate that Ted really wanted the ‘boiler room girls’ at this party, but leaves it open for debate the reason, leaning more toward it simply being a family of Bobby supporters needing to get together to wax philosophical about past tragedy vs. future hope.

I won’t go further into the dehumanizing way many of these rich folks treated each other, watch the film to be shocked abut the nuances of that cut throat world.

I will mention the acting though of whom Jason Clarke hits it out of the park. He is definitely deserving of an Academy Award nom though that might just seem too morbid to be giving a nomination to man portraying a man who seemingly killed someone without caring. Bruce Dern was also fabulous a stroke victimized and emotionally abusive Papa Kennedy. Ed Helms is admirable as Teddy’s ‘friend’ and tool, Joseph Gargan, who according to the film, attempted several times to be the moral compass. I will research on whether he’s written a book on his thoughts about this tragic time.

An acting misfire that I will now call the LCK (for Louis CK in Trumbo) goes to Jim Gaffigan. Sure he makes a good bumbly chunky guy, but is just too anachronistic in a movie about tragedy. I kept thinking he was going to look at the camera and say, “Hot Pockets’.

So while I wrestle with the belief that people don’t need to see each other daily for closeness or monogamy, I obviously know if a friend or lover is in a life or death situation and you do nothing, you’re a scumbag, no matter what your last name may be.

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.

Way Late to the Party: Bridge of Spies

What can I say? When Bridge of Spies came out I avoided it like the plague thinking it was a war movie, combined with the fact that Tom Hanks has become like chocolate cake. He looks good, tastes good, but gosh darn it, is he healthy to like so much? I felt the same way watching him in Bridge of Spies as I did watching Meryl Streep in August, Osage County, literally almost tearing up at the thought of the day when she (in this case, he) won’t be acting any longer.

But let’s not forget what brought me late to the part to begin with, and that is the majesty of Mark Rylance. If you enjoy dry British humor and have some time to kill, google his Tony Acceptance speeches (2008, 20011). Now I still say he didn’t deserve the Oscar as much as Tom Hardy did the same year for The Revenant, but I will say that I lust after his quiet demure attitude and handsome appearance.

The movie was not violent to my relief and I will always cherish the memory of viewing it with my Grandma and Dad. Not to mention, because Tom Hanks is always so good, I looked like the superstar for picking it out at the library. Thanks Tom!

By the Grace of God Go “I Tonya”

That’s it. I’m writing a card to my cousin Karen after seeing I, Tonya. To tell her how proud I am of her crawling her way out of a horrific upbringing, inspired by the terrible cards also dealt to Tonya Harding. My dear friend Carrie was nice enough to go to the movie and drive me home (via Jimmy John’s via stupid road closings since I had an intense post movie lettuce wrap craving).

Can I say how much more important I, Tonya is than Liam Neeson’s new stupid, ‘I gotta save the world’ movie is? I, Tonya is about a real human being, flawed due to a white trash upbringing, brought down according the movie by her abusive husband.

The move was disturbing, in a good way, as Carrie and I skipped (figuratively speaking) like we were seeing an elongated “Ice Skaters of Orange County” and what we got was basically The Fighter, only set on the west coast in Portland Oregon, where evidently, as in every city in America, children are abused and made to feel worthless enough to continue the cycle of dysfunction to marry abusive people.

It can happen to the best of us. All it takes is to feel discounted as a youth, to make you choose what feels ‘normal’ aka abuse. Trust me when I say I had to look away several times from the abuse in this film, and definitely had a flashback with the ‘you’re a Queen one day, and worthless the next’ second marriage. Don’t cry for me Argentina, I want no sympathy, only congratulations that I had my limit reached and now look back and wonder who the heck I was…besides a woman in love with a handsome, intelligent athlete who had to self-destruct every two weeks. As lonely as I am now, I know I am at peace.

I hear you saying, “excuse me honey, this is a film review”. Yes, yes, but this movie struck a nerve.

Acting: spot on. Alison Janey can play a mother of all sorts, comedic and in this case demonic. I’d give her an award for best supporting, though I think Laurie Metcalf showed more range in Lady Bird. Margot Robbie finally got my attention as a 3-d person and was excellent. Sebastian Stan came out of nowhere to blow me away as the douche bag husband. Craig Gillespie (though I couldn’t make it through Lars and the Real Girl did a brilliant job of directing) and the cinematographer Nicholas Karakatsanis deserves high high praise for camera work. I, Tonya appears to be his first noteworthy film.

My favorite scene was when you think Tonya is finally leaving her husband and the road trails off to a great 80’sound track cranked to evoke freedom. The soundtrack was a character in itself, everything from ZZ Top, to Fleetwood Mac to Supertramp, just great songs in all the right places.

If you can handle a lot of punching violence you’ll have no problems with I, Tonya. If you grew up in a small town that many people didn’t make it out of, you’ll also truly appreciate this movie. And if you’re a silly girl like me, who fell in love with the bad boy and got stuck in the whirlpool for while, you will definitely cringe and root for Tonya to disengage. I salute Tonya and my cousin Karen, two women who fought tooth and nail to overcome chronic negativity to hopefully live peaceful and happy lives.

A Solid Second Serve, Borg vs. McEnroe

So right off the bat I have to say Mea Culpa in being THE most biased reviewer when it comes to a film about John McEnroe (Borg vs. McEnroe directed by Janus Metz). See I’ve been in love with him since I was 17, had my bedroom wall plastered with his photos as a senior in high school, met him for an autograph in 1983, even loved his short lived interview show, and am still to this day, downright giddy when I see him commentating. I LOVE THIS MAN.

On the other hand, I may be the most biased against a film that stars Shia LaBeouf as John McEnroe. HOWEVER, Shia LaBeouf actually did a very good job portraying him. And I mean, very, very believable. My only nitpick is that McEnroe is a rocker (meaning in the physical self-soothing way) and in a scene where he’s on an interview Tonight Show like show, he sat perfectly still. That’s not Mac. But beyond that, excellent. And talk about kindred spirits…it’s no secret that Shia has been arrested a few times due to reckless behavior. I’d actually read Shia’s book about his obviously tortured past. I’d even help him edit (HINT, HINT).

The man who plays Borg could have easily been Borg’s son, or an identical clone that was cryogenically defrosted, Sverrir Gudnason. Not much acting involved besides pensive looks, but still, well done. And the man who’s in every Lars Von Trier film, Stellan Skarsgard, was also good as ‘the coach’.

The screenplay by Ronnie Sandahl (who won accolades for a foreign film called Under Dog) told each player’s back stories enough for us to understand their tremendous drive to be victor. And extra congrats to the man who did the musical score, Jonas Struck who not only saved, but refreshed re-watching a condensed 5 hour tennis match.

Definitely worth seeing on the big screen, especially if you’re a tennis fan. And thank you very much to my comedy editor and com padre, Bob, for treating me to this film, the finale of the Cineworld Film Fest sponsored by the Sarasota film Society.

Only the Brave, plus new cinema ailments

Can a movie be a nice tribute, but a mediocre film? Yes. Can there be ailments that are specific to cinema aficionados? Yes, and I’ll be the first to name them: NUMB BUM. Symptoms include: a voice in one’s head that says, “wow, this is a long ass movie” or questions, “the caption just read THREE YEARS LATER, could it really be 2020?”. Physical symptoms such as tingling or numb glutes, restless leg syndrome, eyes on wrist watch…or how about the ailment HOT CORN, symptoms include a voice burning in one’s head that says, “yeh I get they’re a fraternity of bros, I got it with the mooning and yuck yuck man pranks, I don’t need 6 scenes of this.”

This is Only the Brave written by Sean Flynn, directed by Joseph Kosinski and edited by…oh yeh, probably no one. Or no one objective.

How about a little editing folks? Did we really need the Jeff Bridges fighting city hall subplot? Or his scene where he’s country singing as yet ANOTHER old haggard western dude? In fact, please allow me this quick break to write him a letter:
Dear Senor` Bridges:
I use the Spanish Senor` as you insist on becoming an old man with an obvious dental or jaw difficulty. Why oh why? Where did Jeff Bridges go? You know the sexy one from Against All Odds or The Fisher King or even the slightly sexy in a rough way ‘dude’ from The Big Lebowski. Sure, I know you’re two years from 70, but please Jeff, do something besides the Ed Brimley selling Quaker Oats before you retire.

Ok, sorry, had to get that out of my system…the move was good, ok? Certainly the 19 men who died deserve a tribute. And I do like Josh Brolin, though his character is corny. But OMG, Josh, just looked you up assuming you were at least my age and you’re younger than my brother? Jesus, excuse me for another distraction:
Dear Senor` Brolin,
Do not become typecast like Senor` Bridges. Hire a trainer, stat!

Sorry again, sigh. Ok Jennifer Connelly, she’s ‘good’, but her character, do I really need to hear her story of her peeing her pants? I get you’re showing how intimate they were as a couple, but ew, and the lovey dovey scenes, candle lit bathtub, ‘you’re sweaty, I’m, sweaty”, that’s really only sexy in real life, not voyeuristic-ally speaking.

Star of the movie to me (and I might just have Hagiographa from Whiplash still) is Miles Teller, who kicks ass as the f-up who rises to the challenge of becoming a firefighter after becoming a father prematurely. This subolot was done well and without much corn (I didn’t need his disapproving single mom martyr). You’re the man, Miles. In fact give a lesson or two in staying hip to Senor` Bridges and Brolin. Gracias!

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women: More like Prof. Maasdam

Hey when you write a film blog, sometimes you learn something new, like this afternoon when I’m looking for a cheese that starts with M (like Marston does) and and ends in an N or M (like Marston does). And Eureka (!) you find Maasdam cheese from the Netherlands which is perfect since it’s a semi-hard cheese and that’s about as excited this movie will make either gender.

People, the concept is titillating, a Harvard Professor of Psychology and his wife begin a menage a trois which blossoms into a permanent, shall we say mini Mormon experience, meaning relative bigamy, cohabitation and child rearing. All of which were shocking lifestyle choices in the 1940’s.

And certainly all three lead actors were competent (Rebecca Hall being the strongest of the three by far, and yes I’m biased-see my “Christine” and “The Dinner” reviews), the other two being: Luke Evans and Bella Heathcote, both of whom still have hope for greater films.

But oh the screenplay is the Maasdamiest (cheesiest) of any screenplay I’ve seen in recent memory. A tell tall cough here, maudlin music here, sexy strip music (with slo-mo) there.

The best that can be said about Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is that I got to spend time reclining (@CineBistroSKey) with Pete, a gentleman who gave me space after a long workday (and who I am truly honored to have been visited by). I also like true stories and the fact that we got to see photos of the real people at the end always heightens my affection for a film. My only wish is that the screenwriter would have opted for human commotion over the ‘mellow’ (cheese) drama.

What I’d give for the simple life: Maudie

First of all, my hats off to Trace Hardman who has to be one of the sweetest people in Sarasota. Not only was he kind enough to treat me out for a birthday lunch last year, but he treated me this week to Maudie directed by Aisling Walsh.

PLOT (without spoilers of course):

And Trace, Maudie (as in a major theme of this film based on the true story of Maud Lewis) and I have something in common; a wish for simpler times. For instance, we both agree that going out on a weeknight to a low key place is better than some raucous Saturday evening.

Through a halcyon lens, Maudie had a great low key life with her husband Everett Lewis. From a realistic perspective, her life could also be viewed as cloistered and Everett abusive. Yet, Maudie’s artistic ability evened out the power struggle enabling them to form a close partnership.

Trying not to have any regrets in life, I still do wonder if I had had more patience with either husband if bumps in the road would have evened out. Yet in the first case, I truly believe my self-esteem, (still somewhat shoddy) would have withered, and the restraints on travel surely would have hindered my son’s trajectory. In the second case, his philanderings I could have tolerated (given he didn’t bring back any disease or illness), but his manic temper would have continued a stress I grew up with my first 18 years of life and may have cut my life shorter. So I am back to thinking I have no regrets.

Actors:

While researching the 8 wins and 2 nominations for Maudie, I was shocked and appalled that Sally Hawkins wasn’t named in any of the ten. Here’s where I have to pull a McEnroe, “You’ve GOT to be kidding me!!!!!!!!!!” Again this year, I may have to throw things at the t.v. if Sally Hawkins isn’t AT LEAST nominated for best actress. She is phenomenal here, not only emotionally capturing this woman, but in the physicality of her performance (Maudie suffers from debilitating arthritis).

If you’ve never seen Sally Hawkins, go out immediately and rent Happy-Go-Lucky (which I saw alone on my birthday in Rochester one year and WASN’T sad, which tells you how good the movie was). And if possible, get a hold of the short film The Phone Call where she’ll knock your socks off. Not to mention Blue Jasmine for which she was nominated for an Oscar.

Ethan Hawke is one of those guys I could watch eat toast so I enjoyed him as Maudie’s husband. But I can totally get people saying he is Ethan Hawke first, the character second. I wondered if that’s why his character wasn’t shown facially until I’m approximating 20 minutes into the movie. Perhaps the director wanted us to get his overall physical aggression before we see Ethan’s face. But I’ll always be a EH fanatic, from Dead Poet’s Society to Before the Devil Knows Your Dead, to the Before Sunset trilogy, Ethan Hawke is great!

So I wish I lived in a world with less choices, a simpler time, where people were stuck together and hence their love grew deeper. But then again, perhaps the sacrifices would be detrimental to life’s longevity. Just like Robert Frost pondered, one of life’s unanswered mysteries.

The Assassination of Jesse James: a History Lesson

I sought out The Assassination of Jesse James after being blown away by Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea. I was fully aware that Casey had ‘been around the block’, but hadn’t been able to suffer through the violent films he usually participated in.

But first, do you ever wonder what happens to your brain on a daily basis? Like my third Sofia review…what the hell happened? It was like my brain had a brown out, a dim wattage moment. I’ve since spruced it up, but was it dehydration? Pizza rather than popcorn for dinner? Let’s hope my foot bone preservation pool jogging this morning doesn’t have the same ill effects on my writing.

Andrew Dominik, director, of The Assassination of Jesse James, now to be abbreviated as TAOJJ, has done two other films I’d be willing to check out based on the quality of TAOJJ. The Nick Caves doc, which sadly can not be had via the library system This Time With More Feeling and what sounds like violence galore (I’ll shut my eyes, as I did with TAOJJ) Killing Them Softly.

So about TAOJJ. At first, the corny narration and blurried frame sequences made me feel like I was watching a lesser Ken Burns PBS special. But I got use to it and I understand that it was the best way to impart a lot of back story in little time. The ending(S) were a tiny bit tedious, but again, I get it. Dominik wanted to show the ‘rest of the story’ and chose to do it in shorter vignettes.

And what a sad tale it was…I mean when I hear Jesse James, sure I know of the bank robber, but my first thought always goes to that philandering tattooed scoundrel who was married to Sandra Bullock. But based on my historical learning from this film-poor Bob Ford! Talk about no good deed goes unpunished! Hence the annoying subtitle I didn’t bother you with earlier: “By the Coward Robert Ford”.

Casey was off the charts and should be eclipsing his big bro by now…who cares about Ben, besides the dimwitted woman who just left her husband for him. Casey’s part was also far richer than that of Jesse James himself, though played well by power house Brad Pitt.

Equally good were the other supporting roles: Paul Schneider who I’m getting to know more and more after bragging about him in Bright Star (next up Lars and the Real Girl, based on his IMDB page), Sam (my #2 man in the world) Rockwell and someone I’ve never seen before, Garret Dillahunt who was tremendous as bunny scared Ed Miller. I’ll be checking him out on The Guest Book, a Community looking TBS show premiering August 3rd.

So I learned some history and got to see Casey Affleck agonize in another gorgeous portrayal over having to kill his hero. Bravo!