Sound of Metal, Profound: in upcoming best of 2020

Derek Cianfrance is a great writer, known previously for Blue Valentine and The Place Between the Pines. With Darius Marder, who he worked with on “Pines”, teamed up with Derk to do the new movie “Sound of Metal” which I was lucky enough to see on the big screen before the big shut down at Burns Court Theater. (Fear not, they will re-open in April).
Sound of Metal can be streamed without losing the punch as long as you strap yourself in for an undistracted 2 hours. It’s not an easy task, as the movie moves in what feels like real time, since who the heck would enjoy the experience of going deaf. HOWEVER, the acting and story are worth the bottom barnacles. Riz Ahmed who is on a show I’ve got to watch with Brit Marlin (The OA), does a profound (to use a deaf term) job as the drummer who is losing his hearing.
Olivia Cooke (from Ready Player One, Me Earl and the Dying Girl) is also tremendous as the helpless girlfriend. Paul Raci is amazing as Riz’s sponsor and one of my favorites, Mathieu Amalric rounds out the cast as Olivia’s father.
You will definitely be transplanted into the deaf world thanks to the amazing sound tricks achieved by (I counted) 14 people. Bravo. See this film!

Two-Fer NEW MOVIE Reviews: something light, something heavy

The Fatman and The Life Ahead are two movies I’ve taken in this week; subversive-lite and poignant-beautiful respectively.
The first, The Fat Man is playing for a few more days at Lakewood Ranch (please support them) and probably longer at CineBistro. The movie stars Mel Gibson as Kris Kringle and if the Nelms brother had veered a little more comedic instead of the weakling sibling of violence, it could have been a winner. Either evil within their own twin beings, or within the Hollywood execs that led led them, the film ends Tarantino-essque. Still, the movie did attempt to make some points about the shallowness of the ultra rich and how karma can come back to bite you in the flannel clad fanny.

The second, The Life Ahead, should be a nominee for film of the year, best actor and best actress. The director, Edoardo Ponti, Sophia Loren’s son, did a great job with the adapted screenplay by Ugo Chiti. The actor who just threw me off my feet (granted I was on a couch watching it streamed on Netflix) is Ibrahima Gueye. He is going places at the young age of, I’m guessing, 14 max (?) as no date is available on the internet. Sophia Loren plays his foster mother and the jist of the film is Loren is a former call girl who now takes in younger call girls’ neglected or abandoned children.
Gorgeously shot in Italy, the movie made me tear up several times. If this isn’t THE film to watch about crossing barriers from race color to we are all of the HUMAN race, I don’t know what is. Essential holiday viewing to mend hearts at the holidays.

God’s Own Country, a must see

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Recently I was asked to co-host a program at our local Independent Theater Burns Court for the movie “Ammonite” which debuts November 13th.

As a dutiful life long learner, I looked into the writer/director Francis Lee. Lo and behold, was a movie on his filmography I’d been meaning to watch starring one of my favorite young actors, Josh O’Connor.

God’s Own Country, from 2017, is by far the best love story between two men that I’ve ever seen. Kudos to Francis Lee for his expert writing and direction. Thank God Sundance and the Chicago Film Fests honored this film. Where in the H-E-double pitchforks (going with the farming theme) were the Oscars or Independent Spirit Awards that year?….asleep at the tractor, I guess.

The harsh Scottish farming setting lends itself to the desperation and loneliness felt by Josh’s character. Romanian actor Alec Secareanu was also outstanding as his out of town gypsy co-worker.

The parents portrayed by Gemma Jones and Ian Hart (playing much older than his actual age and VERY believable) are an absolute duo of acting marvel, beaten down by the weather and farming life.

I was truly moved by this movie to the point where I felt the emotions resonating into the next day. Mark my words, Josh O’Connor SHOULD win an Oscar in his life time and if not, he should at least clink glasses with others who unfortunately have gone without (Willem Dafoe to name one).

And fun fact: Alec Secareanu and Gemma Jones are both cast again in Lee’s upcoming November release.

The Artist’s Wife: Almost 3-D

I really enjoyed The Artist’s Wife, but I have an old man crush on Bruce Dern, so own that bias. Actually I had a young man crush on him, too, even though I saw his younger man movies way after the fact.

Bruce Dern has that amazing charm to be able to be a total verbal barbarian, yet also be lovable (again stamp me ‘biased’). And in The Artist’s Wife, written and directed by Tom Dolby (wrote The Last Weekend which I need to see as a Patricia Clarkson fan) h certainly adds to this talent.

The acting in the film was superb. Lena Olin wins you over in the first five minutes. Her acting is real and her beauty just as genuine. Equally affecting was Juliet Rylance, in Frances Ha, but I was too in love with Greta Gerwig to remember her. Avan Gogia also does a bang up job, no pun intended, but it works (find out for yourself).

Ryan Earl Parker needs a shout out for cinematography for making winter look pretty in the NYC and Long Island area and Jeff Grace’s music complemented the film as well.

My only quibble is that the film was almost too pretty, all were gorgeous and rich. But I still felt the emotions, so in the end, the film definitely won me over.

The Devil All the Time (switch out Violence for Devil)

An often asked interview question is “if you could have four dinner guests, who would they be?” and typically, people name Jesus, Mother Teresa, Steve Jobs and Freud…you get the idea…

Based on my viewing The Devil All the Time, I’d like to dine with Antonio and Paulo Campos (writers and director of said film), the Safdie Brothers (Uncut Gems) and Charlie Kaufman (I’m Thinking of Ending Things).

Of course, I’d be tricking the Campos to attend what is really an intervention. One where I’d go, “Hey, Campos’ listen to the Safdie’s explain how small bits of violence have much more impact that constant slaughter.”
And Charlie would chime in with, “You realize you’re capable of creeping people out without a lot of bloodshed.”

And the Campos would pensively reply, “Oh yes, now we see, we thought Americans liked a violent waltz where on the three count, we strike with violence and then repeat.”

Luckily I didn’t read anything in advance of viewing except for a snippet that said Robert Pattinson stole the show. Trust me, I’m a huge RB fan every since the Safdie’s Good Time and felt this was probably accurate. However, I disagree. This was an epic acting collaboration and the only reason RB stuck out was, he was the only character not West Virginia slack jaw and depressed. (Note to West Virginia, which I suggest from direct experience since my great grandparents lived there and I visited most summers growing up: put Prozac in the drinking water pronto as 99% of the folks are clinically depressed, including all the characters except RB).

There are so many competent actors to mention, but I’ll just name the standouts: Riley Keough who is proving her acting chops rather than ride on her grandfather (ELVIS, yes, THAT Elvis’s coat tails), Tom Holland, and Jason Clarke.

The screenwriting as a story was well done and intelligent. Kudos should also obviously go to Donald Ray Pollock author of the novel on which the screenplay was based. Worth watching, I guess, as long as you turn your head or squeeze your eyes shut every ten minutes for the duration of two hours and 18 minutes worth. Hence, please Antonio and Paulos, come to my dinner party:)

The Nest Wasn’t Quite Empty Enough

Sean Durkin, director and writer of “Martha Marcy May Marlene” decided to spare us the word count with his latest of sparer title, “The Nest”. I wish his screenwriting could have also been trimmed.

Don’t get me wrong, The Nest is worth seeing, especially if you’re in for a moody, gray foreboding Surrey landscape. Not to mention, superb acting by Carrie Coon, Jude Law and even ‘their children’; Oona Roach and Charlie Shotwell.

So what’s my problem, you ask? Well, have you ever heard the Louis CK method of comedy writing (no not the ‘come into my hotel room’ one-lol), the write your heart out and then use you closer at the beginning and rewrite forward? If Sean had cut the first five, maybe even ten minutes off The Nest, his film’s pacing would have been tighter. Or possibly the ‘beating of the dead horse’….you’ll see.

But even with the bloat, I enjoyed The Nest, in addition, even the message at the end, which as I always promise, I won’t spoil.

You Say Tommaso, I say Too Macho

Ok, I couldn’t resist the title, if anything, I felt for Willem Dafoe’s character to a point…

But first, let me say that Abel Ferrara’s a new director to me. I did not see The Bad Lieutenant, but did love Herzog’s sequel Bad Lieutenant Port of Call. From what I’ve read of Ferrara’s filmography, he’s too rough for me.

Dafoe has worked with Ferrara before and will be in his next project as well (Siberia) and my fandom of Dafoe means even in his dish washing scenes, I’m riveted. The man can do no wrong in my book. To be completely serious check out the Al Anon scene where he professes gratitude for the man who helped save him from drugs and alcohol.

And for the love of God, since the Oscars are going to be gutted anyway, let’s give a tiny white guy award just at the end for someone with a filmography that is so underappreciated in awards: The Lighthouse (come on!!) At Eternity’s Gate (what????) and The Florida Project (get out of town)…for those ALONE, come on up and grab your award Willem.

Back to our regularly scheduled review, Tommaso. Ok, the story is cinema verite’ and it’s tough to feel sorry for a rich director living with his 25 year younger girlfriend who has had his child* . Part of me of course is unsympathetic…a you reap what you sow mentality…meaning when you engage with a woman half your age (portrayed perfectly by Cristina Chiriac) and get verklempt that you have nothing in common, I say, I told ya so…

(*said child played by Abel’s daughter-please get her therapy now for scaring the hell out of her in one screaming scene)

Yet I appreciated the honesty of the film, that Ferrara doesn’t paint Dafoe as innocent. If anything, Dafoe’s character IS trying to insert himself into a family milieu with a woman who grew up without one.

Answer me this? Have you ever had a relationship where you were trying to recreate your parent’s marriage/relationship. My hand is up and in marriage two, I chose a volatile, somewhat infantile, yet extremely intelligent and sexy man, and I filled the role as spoiled woman who enjoyed the highs of occasional trophy boyfriend. I know, gross, you may be saying, but look in your own mirror and perhaps you’ll see where you also, recreated the familial scene (for better or for worse).

In Tommaso the young wife rejects her older companion, thus setting him up to be a enraged without ventilation, though certainly his dalliances with other woman are an outlet, justifiable to him, due to this rejection.

So the movie is deeper in that it makes me wonder, what do we want of our men? Do we really want them involved in child rearing, or would we prefer to have them just as financiers and protectors until the kids are out of the house….and by that time, we find ourselves different people who no longer fit together as we once did?

For this meditative thinking, Tommaso is worthy of watching, as the director allows us the quiet space to decide for ourselves, what is fantasy and intentional.

First Cow, A Friendship Fable

First Cow, directed by Kelly Reichardt, known for her unmistakable ability to capture simple pleasures and universal pain, has another wonder with First Cow (now streaming on Itunes). This time she has re-teamed with Jonathan Raymond (Mildred Pierce, Wendy and Lucy) to bring the latter’s novel “The Half-Life” to cinematic life.

A perfect circular plot, the story is of two men (one American, one Chinese) who find each other lost and on the run in the gold mining craze of centuries yore.

Reichardt makes sure to take her time and in our frenzied world, you really need to release the monkey mind and take the lazy river ride. She’s worth it as well as the two actors chosen to play friends: John Magaro (who was in the cast of thousands in Big Short) plays the American ‘Cookie’ and Orion Lee (who needs more opps than the tv schlock his IMDB details) as King-Lu.

While you’ll know the end of the tale at the movie’s start, you care enough about the pair to travel with them as they succeed in selling their oily cakes (think the first Krispy Kremes).

Again, certainly the Icarus who flies too close to the sun tale is as old as time, yet powerful acting and careful directing and storytelling make it ever so delicious…much like the sweet treats noted in the film.

An Ironic Mutiny: The Ghost of Peter Sellers

Ironically, I abandoned ship on a movie that WASN’T about a ship, since Peter Medak’s doc
The Ghost of Peter Sellers
was poignant enough to keep me engaged. Realize, I rarely give up on a film anyway, but my increasing impatience with the distractions of home cinema is fraying my ability to make it to the finish line.

Peter Mendak idolized Peter Sellers, as anyone with comedic taste would, and was thrilled when he agreed to do a movie with him in 1973. Trouble is, between horrible weather, a budget that got out of control and Peter’s mental health, the movie was an entire unreleased failure. Mendak’s doc is his attempt to reconcile the guilt and to explain his rationale for going forward despite the many red flags or should I say, Jolly Roger flags that appeared.

The movie I DID pull the plug on had a really good review
Sorry I Missed You
and granted, it was well acted and by all rights, I should have done my due diligence of research on director Ken Loach, known for his socialist realism. Mind you, I am all for the working class, and know firsthand that employees can be exploited, especially now in desperate pandemic times, but I could only do 45 of the hour and 41 minutes. I am interested in how the movie ends, but it was just too bleak for me to continue.
The film has garnered BAFTA nominations and I was super impressed by all the actors especially Debbie Honeywood and Kris Hitchen as the married couple working their British fannies off to provide a living for their two children.

Corpus Christi, Finding a Positive Mission

In need of distraction, I took in Corpus Christi written by Mateusz Pacewicz and directed by Jan Komasa due to its high Rotten Tomato Score. And sure, the film was like a ripe banana, sweet in spots, but with an emerging brown spot.

Not sure if it’s the nascence of a new movie genre, including now One Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite and Uncut Gems, but add Corpus Christi to the pile of Fourth of July ending fireworks films.

And ok, it certainly makes you go out of the theater saying ‘wow’, but sometimes a tidy ending is much appreciated. We don’t need apocalyptic endings every time.

This isn’t me breaking my spoiler code either because you still have no idea what type of fireworks will happen, could be corkscrew, multi-colored or merely all white lights.

Bartosz Bielenia stars in the film and does an absolute fabulous job and I do understand the symbolism of the story line. But at this point, analogous to my not reading any novels about pandemics, I had hoped for a feel good film.

Don’t get me wrong, Corpus Christi is worth seeing, but I have to wonder about the psyche of the screenwriter. May he find salvation.

In fact, let’s all start loving each other. Right now.