Seberg, A Worthy Attempt

Seberg, directed by Benedict Andrews, is a worthy effort that could have been more effective had the pacing been sped up. Watching the film was like playing a record on a speed too slow.

Editing of one scene would have quickened its stride; a totally superfluous NYC scene in which Jean Seberg, portrayed expertly by Kristen Stewart, explains a fact to her husband that was obvious to him, and all of us in the audience, in the previous LA scene.

And I understood what the writers Anna Waterhouse and Joe Shrapnel were going for in a handful of moments suggesting Seberg was emotionally unstable, but they also should have shown her erratic love life a little more clearly. After some research, it is obvious that part of her demise could easily be attributed to the volatile types with whom she chose as lovers. In fact, the person who saw her last was her final lover, playboy Ahmed Hasni. Seberg’s maid stated she had heard them fighting before her disappearance. Not the first time an emotionally delicate person goes missing and people chalk it up to her ‘condition’.

Besides Kristen Stewart, a fine performance was clocked in by Jack O’Connell, who played an FBI agent character with a moral dilemma over his assignment. Anthony Mackie and Zazie Beetz also round out the cast with strong moments as the African Americans who the FBI was targeting, using Seberg as their pawn.

Above all, the people in charge of costuming should be nominated, since I drooled over every outfit Stewart donned.

Worth seeing for an honest assessment of the USA in the late 60’s and 70’s and for Stewart’s heart felt performance.

Finishing the Safdie Iron Man: “Heaven Knows What”

I can now place the Safdie full length narrative film Iron Man medallion around my neck after watching “Heaven Knows What” from 2014. Here’s some tried and true Safdie-isms based on the fill complement of narratives (Daddy Longlegs, Good Time, Heaven Knows What, and Uncut Gems):

1. eerie soundtrack music with a mixture of futuristic organ, baroque, hard rock and classical numbers
2. a begging forgiveness or love scene between lovers
3. shocking brutality and sadness at the conclusion with an added ending scene that scales back with an understanding that we are only specks in the universe and/or the everyday world moves on with or without you

“Heaven Knows What” is the darkest and roughest of the quad of Safdie narratives and deals with the real life story of a New York City homeless junkie. Reminiscent of Midnight Cowboy, the couple attempt to bus to Florida and while no one dies on the bus this time, there certainly are some plot twists. Arielle Holmes, not only wrote the book about her lover, Ilya, she stars as herself in the film.

A poignant, but gritty portrayal of the NYC homeless drug addled populace.

Tale of Two Shells: Bomb & Smucker’s Magic

Jay Roach’s latest directorial film Bombshell has something in common with Smucker’s Magic Shell. You remember Smucker’s….you pour it over your ice cream and it becomes a crunchy shell. I don’t know about you, but I always thought the shell ruined the pleasure of ice cream, just as I felt at the beginning of Bombshell when the make up or ‘shell’ was simply overload.

Anything that distracts from feeling the emotion of characters detracts from the experience and Charlize Theron, a fantastic actress, was just way too artificial in trying to be Megyn Kelly. Ditto for Jon Lithgow as Roger Ailes and Nicole Kidman as Gretchen Carlson.

I realize this is hypocritical. I really liked Christian Bale’s Cheney in “Vice”, but strike it up to their facades looking different in any given scene. For example, Charlize looked more and more Charlize like by the end of the film. Did they exceed their make-up budget and say ‘come as you are’ by the end of the film.

Much like the make up, the writing also seemed uneven. Charles Randolph (The Big Short) seemed on one hand to want to copy that form, reporter-like Charlize explaining the Fox News Building, Nicole looking directly into the camera, yet these tropes would stop and start intermixed with attempts at more real moments between Margot Robbie and Kate McKinnon. Additionally there were way too many characters; reporters, lawyers, administrators that again, the emotion becomes too diluted on the ones we’re suppose to care about most.

The important message was still well conveyed and I did feel ‘stronger in my femininity’ when I left the theater. And just like I Tonya, Margot Robbie stole this show (with her normal face I might add). I also really like Mark Duplass who brought a sense of realism as Megan Kelly’s husband. Allison Janney was fun to watch as Roger’s lawyer.

However, the better bomb story of the year was Richard Jewell, both superiourly written and directed and hence, more effective.

Richard Jewell, What a Gem!

Do you care if a movie strays from a historical tale IF it is a well told story? I guess I’ll find out after I write this review as I had avoided the articles about the controversy after finding a key piece of plot surprise that I did not want to know about the actual history.

My son was three in 1996 and I was fully in mommy mode, meaning my main television watching was Barney by day and Seinfeld at night.

Let’s just Billy Ray’s (screenwriter of Captain Phillips and Hunger Games) screenplay starts out shaky, as he and (?) Clint Eastwood decided to jam all the minor characters down our throats without saying who they were-sure, we know they’re Jon Hamm and Sam Rockwell but who the hell are they in the movie? It wasn’t clear. Olivia Wilde is the only from-the-get-go character who is fleshed out (and for anyone with a human hormone, hummina hummina, she’s gorgeous). YET, her character is what the primary controversy is all about…did she expose~ herself for the news expose~? Again, I look forward to finding truth vs. fiction, yet I don’t think it’ll affect my film opinion.

Paul Walter Hauser (the ultimate doofus hood hired to hit Nancy Kerrigan in I Tonya and had a role in Late Night, which now I really want to see) nails the role of Richard Jewell. He looks like Jewell and plays the super naive security guard to perfection.

Kathy Bates whose choices in the last couple of years have been so so, is also tremendous as Richard’s mom. I fully support her as Best Supporting Actress nominee. Sam Rockwell is finally back in the pocket as the sexy, charming, smart ass nice guy.

Fortunately the narrative rises to the performers acumen once the bombing happens and in regards to sound and score, the movie is also topnotch.

As with many other late entry movies (Marriage Story and Honey Boy), I teared up at the ending. Not only is Richard Jewell belong in the justice genre, it also encompasses a buddy flick and mother son film.

Shame on the media for knocking the film (can’t help but think this might be political since Eastwood is a somewhat vocal Republican) as well IMDB who let some dumb ass comment that there were 30 f-bombs which sounds about like the FBI case against Jewell, fabricated. I definitely did not notice excessive swearing and say there weren’t more than 8 to ten expletives.

Go see Richard Jewell for the story and acting. Then appreciate the facts for what they are.

Almost Toxin, West Virginia

Mark Ruffalo deserves some credit. He could choose pretty roles at this point in his career, fun stuff like all comic book movies or even hold out for the ninth Tarantino, but no, Ruffalo has consistently chosen movies he finds important: Spotlight, Foxcatcher and now the well written and directed “Black Waters”.

“Black Waters” details one attorney’s brave journey over almost two decades in nailing the DuPont Company for gross negligence in hiding injurious effects of chemicals used and dumped at their many factories. Todd Haynes, directed this, as well as the award winning film “Carol”. Haynes has an artistic eye and from the get go, I was taken in by the West Virginian curves of this tale. Much like Ford V. Ferrari, DO NOT google this ahead of time, let Todd and the trio of writers do the heavy lifting while you enjoy the twists and turns.

And that’s a revelation I had tonight, questioning myself for ‘running away from home’ as I do, to attend a movie, when I could easily turn on the news to get some intelligence. But that’s just it: the news is no longer investigative, unless you count the violence porn of what 20/20 has become. We really don’t know what the biggest news stories are right now due to media bias. If we are not getting political slant, then it’s fluff pieces (quite literally) on cute pets.

So the bad news is we sit in our internet fog looking at what J Lo wore on SNL, while we drink and swim in water that might be harming us. But the upside is that due to concerned citizens like Todd Haynes and Mark Ruffalo (and the previously mentioned screenwriters and magazine reporters) who cared enough about actual humans, we at least receive some real news at the movies.

So my question is, could movies be our new news source?

Inside Game, A Tremendous Rebound

Say what you might about the B level soundtrack and some of the clunky performances, Inside Game (directed by Randall Bantinkoff and written by Andy Callahan) has the true to life gritty feel of a quality reality show. It’s the perfect movie for sports fans, especially NBA fans, a hot topic right now considering that Uncut Gems (the Safdie Brothers new movie) also delves into the sometimes sordid world of sports betting.

What I liked about the movie:
most of the dialogue was realistic
the acting was genuine, especially the leads: Erc Mabius as Tim Donaghy; Tim graciously came to Burns Court Cinema for a post movie Q & A by my charismatic friend and film expert, Gus Mollasis. Will Sasso as Baba and Scott Wolf as Tommy, all three of whom were high school buddies.

The story telling was mostly good, a nice sandwich of boyhood hoop dreams that devolve into sports betting and drug and alcohol.

The female characters were portrayed as materialistic, but given our extremely wealthy area, it seems the resemblance is very familiar. The men seem sympathetic, attempting to make the moola necessary to fulfill their needs. This does not blame them or excuse the men for their extra-marital conquests, but ask me for my Modern Love column submission where I give my take on the current sad status of men who cater to women’s needs, stuffing their own and then acting out immaturely. This plot adds to my case.

Don’t get me wrong, this is truly a B level movie, yet there was a certain honesty and rawness to it that led me to enjoy most. And of course, given we had one of the three represented to speak after, certainly added to my enjoyment. I root for Tim Donaghy to shop his book, Personal Foul since I think with the right cast and director, and Tim’s personal after prison journey, this could be a blockbuster. Hey PT Anderson, what are you up to?

Ford V. Ferrari…Plastic Bumpers & Loose Screws

Ok, I need a mechanic..ya see, I’ve got this car and it looks great (Christian Bale, Tracy Letts) and has a tremendous history (the life story of Ken Miles is truly compelling), HOWEVER, the freakin’ thing seems to sputter.

Jez and John-Henry Butterworth co-wrote the script and have done super work on Black Mass and Edge of Tomorrow, so maybe perhaps they tried. Jason Keller’s history isn’t as strong (could he be the plastic bumper?), don’t know what his input was. The irony is that the Ford Motor’s problem was too many cooks running the show, perhaps the movie suffers from the same problem. The first ten minutes of the film could have easily been excised.

I don’t think its the director James Mangold’s fault either as his legacy (3:10 to Yuma, for one)…aw wait! Here’s a screw loose…The Greatest Showman…ok the crux of the problem in this film has The Greatest Showman’s corn factor, for one. Bale is such a heavy weight actor, let him get in the dirt more. More anger, more obsession. Yet the movie played it too safe, sanitizing him (as they did Mr. Barnum in Greatest Show) to be a wholesome dude who threw a wrench once in awhile. Not enough.

The Bale marriage was contrived and the couple (sorry Caitriona Balfe) had no chemistry. Give me some sex for goodness sakes.

What’s good: the race scenes were very well done and better than some of the dialogue. Scenes with Ray McKinnon as Phil Remington (Academy Award winner for a short film in 2002!) were genuine. Noah Jupe does his best as the son, but compared to what he did in Honey Boy, he probably felt like saying, ‘can I phone this in (yawn)?’

I was moved by the end when finally Matt Damon was allowed to act rather than just chew gum and look angry. Ken Miles’ life story deserves better writing and a more avant-garde stylistic rendering.

This model, unfortunately, needs a re-call.

My New Number One Movie of the Year: Honey Boy

Results may change after some thought, but after seeing Honey Boy over the weekend in NYC, it’s my number one film of the year. In fact, when you think about it, the film has a great horse name, hence my top three finishers in this year’s ‘race’ are:

1. Honey Boy
2. The Lighthouse
3. Peanut Butter Falcon

If you’re a true buff, you see a two out of three ain’t bad theme running here: Shia LeBouf. And once you see Honey Boy, you’ll have what I now refer to as “Brian Wilson” moment, empathy for those who were traumatized by well meaning, but abusive parents.

Shia wrote the film about his father and chose Israel born music video and film director Alma Har’el to execute direction. Shia happened upon a Ha’rel video a few years back and decided her artistic eye would be perfect for his tweener to mid 20’s slice of life story. This summer smitten by Peanut Butter Falcon, I watched Alma’s Love + True, after seeing it pop up on my X-finity Demand list as a Lebouf project…he merely produced it, which while disappointed not to see his ruggedly handsome face, was a poignant and moving film mixing real and dramatized versions of from memory, a surfer in Hawaii and a stripper from Alaska. I watch at least two movies a week and for me to even be able to conjure up specific scenes as I can easily with this one, speaks highly of Ha’rel’s impact.

The acting in Honey Boy is phenomenal. Every single human in the film is genuine. Shia playing his own father (talk about a mind trip!), Noah Jupe is terrific as the tweener Shia, Lucas Hedges fantastic as the 22 year old Shia. Byron Bowers has one of the funnier (ironic) lines in the film and two tv veterans Laura San Giacomo and Martin Starr are great in their therapists’ roles. Last, but certainly not least, FKA Twigs is super as the equally damaged tweener seductress.

Go see this!! I can’t go again, it’s too traumatizing emotionally, but Shia is a triumph playing a man trying to break the cycle of abuse. I truly believe his film could reach some people locked in a self-abusive cycle.

ASIDE: Angelika Theater (NYC) is definitely worth going to: excellent atmosphere, roomy leg room, excellent popcorn and a staff that treats you like Jim Carey did his constituents in The Majestic. Really.

Pain & Glory: Espera un Minuto

Excuse me Senor, while I respected and ‘enjoyed’ the thorough story telling of Pain & Glory, I have to scream out ‘espera un minuto’ as far as all the accolades the film has received. Willem, Shia and Joaquin all did mucho more acting in The Lighthouse, Peanut Butter Falcon and Joker respectively and deserved the Cannes Best Acting Award more.

And if you wanted to break it down to best male actor in a foreign film, I’d say that without a doubt, Ka-ho Song does more acting in Parasite than Antonio Banderas does here. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a fine actor and a handsome, earnest devil, but I’m not sure what politics might have been involved in the voting.

But let’s focus on the good for a moment….Pain & Glory is auto fiction meaning partially based on writer/director Pedro Almodovar’s real life. Perhaps because it is revealing and sometimes sad, the award was given for his ultimate vulnerability.
The story telling is dense, meaning a lot of dialogue. Colors and art are vibrant touches to the cinematography.
The acting is great. Besides Antonio, Asier Etxeandia was great as Salva’s junkie actor/frenemy, Penelope Cruz is gorgeous and competent as Salva aka Pedro’s mother, as is Asier Flores as his younger self.

Yet when I think of meaningful, truly moving moments, I can count them on one hand, and even then they were merely evocative blips.

Just four years later, bet it wouldn’t be made: True Story

I wondered if Rupert Goold was one of those writer/directors that critics just don’t like after many disparaged “Judy”, a movie I found quite moving. Hence, I watched “True Story” from 2015 which Goold co-wrote with David Kajganich (from A Bigger Splash!!!) based on the book by former New York Times Reporter Michael Finkel.

Cue Throat Clearing sound effect: Well? Definitely a movie that should have been left as a book, better yet, should have been simply a case study listed in the DSM-5.

I feel the same about this film as I do every time I see yet another new ‘complete biography’ of Hitler come into BookStoreOne where I work in Sarasota, Florida….like why are we giving this monster the time of day? And in fact, not only does the movie, and I assume the book, establish notoriety of the actual sociopathic murderer (which the movie doesn’t do proper justice showing the evidence that proved he indeed killed his whole family), but also makes the book author and part subject of the book also look like, I’m struggling not to use an expletive, a narcissistic jerk off.

A heinous act happens and the person who gets the most attention is the criminal….WRONG. And I think our news media, as much as I can’t stand their non-news bias (this includes the other extreme, too, Fox News) has done a better job of not detailing the criminals’ lives in some of the more recent mass killings. Shun the bad guys, in other words.

The one blessing I can say of the movie, speaking of the media I feel has completely sold out to political leanings, is that the New York Times, having been disproved recently in bold faced untruths, certainly look like idiots in the closing captions of the film in that they would never re-hire Finkel as a reporter, but DID accept articles from the mass murderer, Christian Longo. How’s that for morality and integrity?

As much as I like Jonah Hill and James Franco, they should have said no way to this project and ditto for Executive Producer Brad Pitt.