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!

Sofia Two: I like it so I should have put a “Bling Ring” on it

Researching the IMDB page for for Bling Ring http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2132285/, I did something I rarely do; read a subscriber review. icreatfilms_UK evidently felt an excoriating review was in order. And while I think this person sounds like a pompous arse, I did avoid Bling Ring at first for some of the reasons she hated the film. Meaning that even though the critic says the movie was boring and shallow, it’s really the kids portrayed who are thus.

Another criticism by the IMDBer was that Coppola appears holier than thou in her approach. Again, I totally disagree. The self-righteousness comes from the arrogance of misguided, rebellious teens (like those portrayed in the film) who feel they are above culpability. Coppola was just reporting the story, not condemning the kids. As Baretta’s theme song once admonished: “if you can’t do the time, than don’t do the crime”.

Now back to my cinema therapy:) I was thinking during the film how sad it is that males are so susceptible to female charms and probably why I will avoid “Beguiled”. In Bling Ring, the male lead Israel Broussard, falls prey to Katie Chang’s character, in being conned into helping her rob celebrity houses. I’ve seen this in real life time and time again*, and also why I refuse to use men for materialistic purposes even though I have had plenty of chances.

It’s also why I think we don’t need to continue the male bashing. We don’t need a big pants suit nation to prove we’re strong, just look around and see how women have won their fair share of battles between the sexes, without having to own any of the emotional use or abuse they dish out. In addition, I think guys feel more guilt about taking care of themselves than women do. They have been trained to suck it up, stick it out, to their own emotional demise.

*Three quick examples are: about five summers ago my best friend basically forgot about his entire existence after having the attention of a female. The excitement of someone wanting to have a physical relationship with him was so engrossing, he was ‘beguiled’ into ridiculous shenanigans that made him believe he caused her physical ailments, that without going into specifics, were definitely not his fault. A second example is a sweet teacher friend of mine who was constantly upbraided by his emotionally abusive wife, but continued/s to stay.

Last example: currently I work with a kind man who is socking a good deal of money into sending gifts to an ex-girlfriend who is 20 years his junior and who resides states away, all in naive hopes that they’ll reunite. If the ‘fairer sex’ in this example would be honest (instead of selfishly raking in the gifts) to tell the guy that she has no intention of reuniting, he could move on, but sadly, the bling ring continues to delude. To be fair, I’m not omnipotent, wh knows, maybe they’ll wind up together. Maybe I’m jealous that people can continue to communicate ‘after the love has gone’, rather than disappear into the mist.

Three shout outs for acting in this film are: Leslie Mann (great new agey super spacey mom), Emma Watson (captures the shake your head at this-girl-is-so-shallow) and Israel Broussard (the desperate male in need of a hug, and hence becomes a thug).

What will be Sofia Coppola’s claim to fame is her ability to put the film goer into a very specific milieu. In Lost in Translation, we feel lost and misunderstood like Bill Murray. In Marie Antoinette, we feel desperate like Kirsten Dunst. In Bling Ring (as semi annoying the continuous party and dance club scenes are) it is actually because of this materialistic lifestyle repetition that we feel empowered in a deluded way, that we, too, can be idolized if only we dress nicer and shine brighter.

Seek out Bling Ring if you never saw it. You’ll care about what you wear for at least for a day or two in an attempt to get a little more attention. And feeling different about the world is a cool, substance-free way to feel affected.

Sofia Coppola First of a Trio: Some Day My Dauphin Will Come “Marie Antoinette”

This review is rated PG13, just like the film!

In an attempt to gear up for the misandrist Beguiled, I decided to warm up with 3 Sofia Coppola movies I have never seen. Mind you, one of hers, Lost in Translation, could be my number one modern era movie of all time (though Whiplash is close as is The Reader), so I have high hopes for this trio, the first of which is Marie Antoinette from 2006.

I need to fact check history^ in order to truly enjoy the plot (I’m not a fan of taking history and rewriting it, though isn’t that what memory is?*), but from what I gather of Sofia’s version, at least one small part was that her husband Louis wasn’t that into sex, but came through in the end. ^Post check: the film’s pretty accurate, save for the number of children and which ones lived vs. died.

*Recently, I had my own rewriting of history in a failed mini relationship which doesn’t happen too often in life. (Sometimes life brings you this close to a mulligan only to have it snuffed away. Like last year when I thought a reunion might happen with one of the three (seems to be a trio motif happening) greatest loves of my life, but when life quid pro quo inquiry was requested, away he ran. Which brings us to an approximate separate flight tie score of 5 to 5).

Anyway back to the nearer past, I take responsibility for this mini relationship’s original rocket’s failure to launch since I was unable to get passed that uncomfortable getting-to-know-you-phase. Possibly my life’s greatest tragic flaw.

In launch two, my past date/relationship came for a five day visit. Five days may sound like an easy feat to accomplish, but I’m a girl with two jobs who hasn’t had a serious relationship (tried with my every Saturday night 5 year long stint with my Jewish gentleman, but he was elusive, yet fun for my exhausted school teacher years) in a decade (come to think of it, probably no real solid relationship since Marie Antoinette was made! And if you thought I was going to say ‘lived’, how old do I look?!:)).

At any rate, on evening four (after two previous tko successfully fun nights!) of the encounter, we arrived home and my partner announced he had to take a shower. If I could rewrite history and make a movie like Sofia, I’d have my self/character say, “No please, take me like a cave man now. I could care less if you’re sweaty. I’ll get too tired by the time you’re out, let’s do this!”, but instead, I said mealy mouthed, like Marie Antoinette did for years (as her underlings whispered about her ‘frigidity’), “ok” and proceeded to horizontal, aka only-good-if-you’re-into-necrophilia-state.

Unfortunately, this one fatigued rejection** took the wind out of the visitation’s sails, and since we didn’t have years ahead of us for make up time, the remaining time fizzled as unspoken second guessing grew into fleeting lost opportunities.

But I digress, isn’t this a film review?! Ok back to Marie Antoinette and Sofia’s rewriting of history. Perhaps I passed this by, many moons ago, blowing it off as a stuffy biopic. Mais porquoi! M.A. combined modern music and some of THE most beautiful cinematography and costuming (won the Oscar for costuming) I have ever seen. Who doesn’t like hearing Bow Wow Wow’s “I Love Candy” while seeing French royalty in the height of their hedonistic eating, drinking and dancing?

And the cast, magnifique! I love Kirsten Dunst, cat teeth and all. I love every ounce of Jason Schwartzman (see former Jewish boyfriend, not JS obviously, but similar in the quiet serious faced, but percolating under the surface kinda way.) And I love even more Steve Coogan, that irresistible, sarcastic son of a gun. Two other special mentions were Rip Torn as Louis XV and Judy Davis as Comtesse de Noailles.

I noted bad editing twice in the film where it was obvious something had been chopped out and then like a cold slap in the face, the next scene jumped in. Perhaps that’s where Tom Hardy went (saw him in the credits, but that was all she wrote).

If you didn’t see it the first time, give Marie Antoinette a re-do. Like me, you might get two great nights of libidinous fun, music, eating and fashion out of it at least:)

Once, Twice, Three Times a Billy (Bob Thornton)

Forgive the old Commodores song title “Once Twice Three Times a Lady” (by the way was that a secret fat shaming title? an overly p.c. world joke…) But summertime always reminds me of middle-high school when I’d hear the sweet sounds of the Commodores at some carnival or outdoor event. This is actually a review of three Billy Bob Thornton movies I watched (or confessional tried to watch) over the last three days.

I’m a Billy Bob Thornton fan, yeh yeh Slingblade, sure, but I’m a weird one because I loved Bad Santa. There’s nothing funnier to me than an angry misanthropic BBT. But as usual, I was dissuaded by critics against Bad Santa 2. Can I tell you the utter shame I felt witnessing another (and now I know, MUCH sadder) holiday film known as The Office Party? I blogged about that walk of shame already.

So needing a laugh here, I threw caution to the wind and borrowed Bad Santa 2 worried I was headed for another shameful Christmas blasphemy. But Holy Almost Christmas in July! Not quite as funny as the first, I still think this film is laugh out loud worthy, far better and healthier than smoking a joint. I love Kathy Bates, she’s a balls to the wall type of actress and I respect that she, Billy, Tony Cox and Brett Kelly had the courage to make a non p.c. movie in this dicey climate. Hence, why it didn’t do well. The director Mark Waters deserves recognition also for directing.

My favorite scene is Billy Bob coaching Brett Kelly on what to do with woman, or should I say grandmother of the night, Octavia Spencer, hysterical. If everyone could lighten up a bit like these folks, the world would be a much better place. Rotten Tomatoes 24%, boo hoo to you. At least IMDB had it at a respectable 55. April Wolfe of the LA Daily is my new hero for speaking up for this film. (Though she enjoyed Jackie…proof that any given day, we can disagree on a film).

In fact if it wasn’t for the pablum of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, I never would have sought out Bad Santa 2. But after suffering through an hour of formulaic: here’s a scene of the Middle Easterners, here’s a hot broad (Margot Robbie) being ogled by the soldiers, here’s poor Billy Bob as an angry uptight military leader, but safe authorized derision, not cynicism. It must have taken all of Tina’s strength not to rip the boring script out of Carlock and Barker’s hands and add some 30 Rock zip to it.

But sure enough, we Americans love our wars, so WTFT gets a 67% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Last I didn’t research well enough, panicking to get a third film with Billy Bob (that’s accessible at the library), I wound up with a documentary called Down From the Mountain about the music from O Brother Where Art Thou. Now I know what you’re saying, “oh that music was great!” Yeh, it was great because you had the spoonful of sugar (Goodman, Clooney) to help the medicine (sad country music) go down. I double dog dare you to rent this and be riveted and happy throughout. And while I had the fantasy that Billy Bob was playing on it or at least giving an erudite commentary….noooooooooooo, he’s just an audience member. I haven’t watch the special features yet, so there’s still hope of a BBT quote at least. *Post special features note: no such luck.

At any rate, give peace a chance and look at Bad Santa 2. I guarantee you’ll laugh five times. And who couldn’t use that release? At the very least, seeing a snowy Chicago (where the movie is set) will make you feel a little sweet breeze during the dog days of summer.

Parkland, Better Than Jackie. Reviewers, what gives?

Ok, I realize stylistically Jackie is superior to Parkland. But being a Terrence Malick wannabe, is that really better than story? I want to walk away from a film feeling like I learned something new as I did with Parkland, and not bludgeoned with gore porn as I did with Jackie.

And I promise I will look up the ‘experts’ opinions on Parkland (and will decide if it was justifiable in making me avoid it at the box office).

But come on! Who doesn’t want to see Paul Giamatti be Zapruder, Billy Bob Thornton as Forrest Sorrels and Marcia Gay Harden as Nurse Doris Nelson (sad side note, think she’s gotten typecast as nurse now in some lame weekly tv drama)?

And extra credit goes to the actor James Badge Dale (please change your name bro) who stood out among the stars in his moments as Bob Oswald, Lee Harvey’s justifiably angry brother. His scenes truly made the movie in my book. The actress, Jacki Weaver (you son of a gun! I didn’t even recognize you!) who played Lee Harvey’s mom was also terrific, but in an almost Bette Davis Whatever Happened to Baby Jane can she be that crazy comic way.

Great storytelling and directing by Peter Landesman who also wrote Kill the Messenger an even greater film. Definitely seek Parkland out at your local library or Netflix.

Neruda, Who Knew Ya?

So I go to Neruda after work, thinking my cursory review of Rotten Tomatoes said it had a comedic air. Little did I know, I was in for lightening quick subtitles. Holy Chilean speed read!

Well worth it though and while I did not see “No”, Pablo Larrain’s other famous movie also starring Gael Gracia Bernal (referred to hereafter as GG B), I have always been intrigued by GG B, after seeing him in Y Tu Mama Tambien back in 2001, my mere youth as a filmologist (yeh I made that up).

Ok, so Neruda is a rough biographical foraging of Pablo Neruda’s (poet, political activist) joining the Communist Party in the 1940’s. The movie centers on Neruda’s bombastic nature juxtaposed against the over seriousness of an Inspector Clouseau type character played by GG B.

What I enjoyed most was: a. the pacing of the movie, a taut clip that kept me engaged throughout, b. top notch acting, not only by GGB, but also the actors playing both Neruda and his wife (Luis Gnecco and Mercedes Moran respectively). Neruda is made out to be a Svengali and after selling 250 tickets in a flash to a Stephen King book signing at my store this week, I understand the hypnosis authors have over their adoring fans.

Chilean films always remind me of how uptight Americans are (myself included). We’re shy to dance, to sing, to cry as opposed to the free love and emotional outpouring of our South American counterparts.

I won’t spoil the movie’s end, but enjoyed it thoroughly. According to IMBD, it has already been submitted fr next year’s Oscars. This doesn’t mean it’ll be nominated, and to be honest, I wasn’t awestruck, but the film is worthy of a theater or at home movie rental.

What I learned from incidental research:
Neruda may have died from a North Korean type of poison (not from a noxious facial rub at an airport), but from a ‘doctor’s injection) at the age of 69.
And that the show Mozart in the Jungle of which GG B has won Golden Globes, is based on a book that has been compared with one of my faves Kitchen Confidential (now another book on my ‘to be read’ list).