INT. Oscars 2020 Awards- Night “The Lighthouse”

February 9, 2020 Oscars Night, No Host as Usual. The Best Actor Category is about to be given.

INT. Oscars 2020 Awards Theater- Night
Regina King announces the Best Actor for 2020. The audience applauds. As the actor approaches the stage, ROXANNE, a lithe blonde woman in a satin black jumpsuit she borrowed from Jenny Slate’s Netflix stand up, runs ahead of the actor to grab the statue and microphone.

ROXANNE
Ok, I don’t mean to pull a Kanye, and (looks at actor)
I’m really happy for you, I’m going to let you finish,
but Willem DaFoe’s had one of the best performances in The
Lighthouse of ALL TIME!
(She takes a deep breath)
In fact, no, no, Willem, get up here
I can not let this happen again.
(The audience gasps. Willem starts to get up at the urging
of Robert Pattinson).

ROXANNE (Cont’d)
(to Willem as he approaches stage)
You were ripped off on The Florida Project, At Eternity’s Gate…

(Willem makes it to the stage, chagrined, but hugs Roxanne in gratitude. Audience gives standing ovation. Willem takes the microphone. Crowd cheers louder.)

FADE OUT.

Academy, got the message?

My vow to no spoilers remains intact. Go. See. “The Lighthouse”. A movie written and directed by Robert Eggers. A man so cool, he realizes our best stories are in the past when people had creativity and personalities unglued from cell phones like zombies. Robert’s brother Max had the original Lighthouse idea, and Robert asked to use it once his brother had moved on. Hence, it could be the year of the Brothers: Eggers and Safdie’s (“Uncut Gems”).

I have only had the urge to shout out hurrah to a stage (in this case screen) two times in my life. The first time was on Broadway to “On the Mountain Top” when Angela Bassett gave an impassioned rap version of the entire Civil Rights Movement. I literally couldn’t control myself and uttered a quiet, “Holy Sh$%”. The second time was yesterday at AMC Sarasota when Willem Dafoe had two of these masterwork speeches in “The Lighthouse”.

In addition, the cinematography was off the charts profound. Robert Pattinson, also ripped off without a nomination for Good Time (ARE YOU SERIOUS?) is amazing as well.

Again: Go. See. “The Lighthouse”.
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Email: irun2eatpizza@hotmail.com

Booksellers Who Suggest Movies: Ghost Story

Sad as I was to see Barry Rothman move off to Denver, he did leave me with great classic film knowledge, goading me to watch “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”, “Stranger on a Train” and “Top Hat”, just to name a few.
And now as one door closes, another opens with our new bookseller James Mammone. I knew I’d enjoy working with him, when at the staff lunch, I brought up the film “Another Earth”. Somewhat deservedly, the film’s a bit obscure, and everyone at the table turned and looked at me like I was from another Earth, when out of the silence came James’ voice who said, “Great movie, Britt Marling”.
So when James said, you should watch “Ghost Story” after a “Joker” discussion which ended with Rooney Mara, Joaquin’s fiance (today’s the wedding!), I agreed.
My prior knowledge of “Ghost Story” was simply that a few folks and reviewers had said it was odd, hence I avoided it at the theater. But much like many great films, you can’t listen to the critics. David Lowery who wrote and directed this, also wrote The Old Man & the Gun. And while I heavily panned that as boring, there certainly were similarly quiet, important moments.
“Ghost Story” is truly a special film, as quiet as the stillest Terrence Malick, “Ghost Story” weaves its tale through several lifetimes with an evocative score.
Usually I break my own no spoilers for a film that’s two or more years’ old, but in “Ghost Story”‘s case, I want to preserve the surprise. It’s not a spooky horror film, but a hauntingly deep journey. I dare say this movie might be great consolation for anyone suffering from the loss of a loved one.
Acting wise, Rooney Mara is a force to be reckoned with, her expressive eyes and mighty mouse physicality a wonderful combination. I love Casey Affleck no matter what he allegedly did and one other actor of note here is Will Oldham as ‘Prognosticator”.
I’ve now found another reliable film friend in James. Definitely see “Ghost Story”.

Every Which Way But “Luce”

I watched the beginning of “Luce” with a sideways skeptical glance…as in, “Really? Why did I choose this movie? I don’t like dramas, real life holds plenty of drama.”

But dubiousness turned to respect as this intricate story seemed to be 90 percent (see below for the 10% baloney) possible in the real world.
Conversations between students (Kelvin Harrison Jr. being the lead), our society’s addictions to the f’n phones, arguments of spouses (expertly played by Naomi Watts and Tim Roth) and even school situations (BIG applause for Octavia Spencer’s performance as her character had the most to deal with script wise, minus my 10% exception) seemed very plausible. And in the latter, I have expertise being a school counselor and witnessing nuttiness from all sides (students, parents and yes, even teachers).

Did I love the movie? No, but I did respect the editing, music and aforementioned screenplay. So bravo to director Julius Onah who adapted the original play by J.C. Lee.

My malarkey radar went up at the freshly rehabbed sister subplot and her subsequent breakdown which would never have gotten that far out of control in a school foyer, and the old horror movie trope where no one calls the police about criminal matters wanting to solve it themselves.

The movie promised to have people arguing about moral issues that crop up and sure enough, my friend and I had respectful but different takes on the ‘shoulds and should nots’ of the story.

Sweetest Peanut Butter I’ve Ever Known

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Hyperbole, schmyperbole, I’m jumping on The Peanut Butter Falcon Oscar bandwagon ready to throw non-breakables at the television should it not win several awards.

Best Original Screenplay: Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz are the new Affleck/Damon, great storytelling and not a second of filler in the entire movie. My movie companion was dying to get a popcorn refill, but didn’t dare leave. I’m even more proud I’m his friend since once he realized what we were witnessing, movie magic, there’s no popcorn worth missing a second.

Best Actor: Tie: Zack Gottsagen, the Down syndrome actor is tremendous, such a tender nuanced performance doesn’t happen very often. Shia LaBeouf, hands down the role of a lifetime and he nails it. A la Casey Affleck and Willem DaFoe in Manchester By the Sea and Florida Project respectively. Understated, and real, his guilt ridden life takes on new meaning as he finds a run away Down syndrome man and becomes his caregiver.

And breaking news (to me), Shia has a screenplay he wrote and filmed coming out in November with Lucas Hedges called Honey Boy. I’ll call it now, this is LaBeouf’s year to rake it all in.

Best Picture: Roma certainly was a work of art and deserved the best picture win, and this year it’s time to give to a work of heart. So many small gorgeous moments in this film had me crying midway, a first ever. But a cry that feels good to be human and blessed to be in this world.

The ensemble of actors couldn’t be more perfect: Bruce Dern has had an acting renaissance since Nebraska and just keeps excelling. This year with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and now even bigger and better as Josh’s accomplice in Peanut Butter Falcon.

Best Supporting Actor (almost): If Thomas Hayden Church who I LOVE (Sideways!!!) had had a bit bigger role as the washed up wrestler, he’d be in the running. Here’s where I’ll come down from the soap box and say, great performance, but not large or wide ranged enough for a nomination.

And while I think Dakota Johnson is fantastic (Black Mass especially), I don’t think her character gets enough screen moment time to win an award. Nomination(?) Sure. Win(?), probably a stretch.

I’ll be going to see this again and will be rooting for it for the next six months. This is the best picture of the year, hands down.

Diane…Realism Personified

Kent Jones (known most for his documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut) wrote and directed Diane, the second of what I call noble films I’ve seen this week (For those who don’t read my every critique; Saturday was The Public by Emilio Estevez).

Diane was noble in taking on the true true reality that none of us get out of here (Earth) alive. Mary Kay Place (who I envied as an adolescent ogling over her sexy character Loretta on Mary Hartman Mary Hartman) does a tremendous job as the lead character, who like a Timex watch that keeps on ticking even after being dented again and again.

Her dings come in the form of an abusive drug addicted son (a supporting actor worthy performance by Jake Lacy), a cervical cancer stricken cousin, and other family members who both support and deride each other.

Also pinged by the cold winter of New England, Diane shops, enables her son by doing his laundry and grocery shopping, and works at a low income food co-op. She gives so much of herself, that she has no self left to nourish. Added to her plight is a painful secret (or maybe two) that haunts her and a true love that got away.

The dichotomy of mystery and symbolism (we are in the car with her viewing the winding road at several points) of the journey capture what our real lives truly are. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring (mystery), but we must keep driving the journey (symbolism) to discover. The flip the story takes where instead of mother badgering son, son badgers mother is beautifully portrayed and shows the evolution most of us face in being the givers and subsequent receivers of care.

A tiny bit wonky in parts and a little confusing as far as Diane’s own experimentation and denouement, Diane reminded me of a lesser First Reformed, yet totally worth viewing this thought provoking story.

The Public: Important Conceptually; But Cinematically? Well….

Dear Emilio,

First, let me say you should have been nominated for best screenplay, director AND actor for The Way. You’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for that poignant father son film. On the lighter side, I enjoyed your work in The Stakeout, as sweet as the Bubble Yum gum I devoured in my youth.

Now, dodging rain drops in Asheville, North Carolina, I gladly took in your newest film The Public. I mean, you’re such a humble man with good intentions and the homeless using public libraries must be an issue in many cities, my hometown of Sarasota (shout out to the Selby Library!) included. And due to the aforementioned films, I had high hopes especially with two of my other favorite actors also in the film; Alec Baldwin and Christian Slater.

But boy, did I wish wish wish after the fact that I could have been a script doctor or more apt, let me shelve alphabetically what character contradictions I would have excised:

A for Alec; how can a person specializing in conflict resolution then lead a charge of storm troopers?
C for Christian Slater: he goes from prosecutor/bully to acting with the authority of chief of police? Christian threw his weight around more than a WWE Wrestler. He also sued on behalf of a homeless man’s rights being denied at the library (who paid for his service?) yet called them bums and basically wanted them taken down in the coup so that he could go watch The Tonight Show? Did we go back in time to the Johnny Carson days when The Tonight Show was a one time event? Now you can watch clips in any cab in NYC days later.
D is for dialogue: much too snappy and choreographed…there were times when I was waiting for this to be a musical and then sure enough, it became one! A mixture of Hair and The Full Monty!
E for Emilio Estevez: your character defended the privacy of the public within the library, but you were pumping (see Groucho Marx and his wiggling cigar say, “in more ways than one”) your cute Apartment manager for the dirt on other tenants?
G for girlfriend: her mood swings were bigger than Mariah Carey’s; one minute she’s supportive the next she’s lecturing, wait, that’s actually realistic of most women…add that to the positives…

Segue…for the positives: the movie held my suspense, I really didn’t know where it was going, sort of like what it must feel like to lose your brakes on Lombard Street.
I did believe the chemistry between you and the Apartment Manager. I did believe some of the homeless people and the crazy antics that must happen in libraries every day. I also appreciated your attempt to see the rift between the haves and the have nots.

Your resolution, while Hollywood in bright lights was cute, and Emilio, so are you! And see me for future script help, I’ll work for peanuts (make that almonds, I need calcium:)

Yours Respectfully and Truly,

Roxanne Baker

Three is a Magic Number, Man and a Woman Had a Little: Aftermath

You remember School House Rock cartoons from the ’70’s, right? The one about the number 3; “man and woman had a little baby, they had three-ee-ee in the family.” I loved that cartoon and was reminded of trinity significance after seeing the critic maligned movie The Aftermath written and directed by James Kent.

First, let’s talk about the triumvirate of actors: Keira Knightley, Alexander Skarsgard and Jason Clarke who commanded the movie each with a particular set of respective skills: welling believable tears, pained, but not annoying countenances, and polite European rage. Their love triangle is plausible and moving. While I don’t know Skarsgard as well (wasn’t a True Blood fan, mainly due to middle class HBO-less wages), I’ve loved and hated Knightley (loved: Atonement, eye rolled: Laggies) and thought Clarke nailed Kennedy (well technically Mary Jo, ok bad joke) in Chappaquiddick.

In The Aftermath, the love triangle doesn’t take long to build, but this is war torn Germany where wives are often alone and some men happen to be widowed. What worked best is some snappy Double Indemnityesque dialogue: Skarsgard, “I was going to apologize (for kissing you),” Knightley: “Why?” as well as other witticisms from the invaded Germans, “They’re making themselves at home”, “yeh, just like maggots in the bacon”.

An additional bonus saving this film from being a stuffy period piece is characters experiencing joy (Skarsgard and Knightley frolic in the snow and have some hot cabin sex). Hence, kudos to the other terrific trio (James Kent had help writing the screenplay from Joe shrapnel (great war writer name) and Anna Waterhouse). Bless all three of you for writing a script that had light as well as dark; and for having layers of stories, the teenage daughter of Skarsgard naively falling for the malevolent German boy also was credible.

To finish my troika analogy and commendation, watching The Aftermath had the delicious combination of a mudslide (Kahlua, Baileys, Cream aka the actors) with Napoletana pizza (Tomato sauce, achiovies, crust aka the writers) without the cheese. Unfortunately, all the cheese was in the trailer which probably dissuades some from seeing this impressive film.

The Mustang: They Punch Horses, Don’t They?

As usual, I was glad for Gus Mollasis‘s film class to force me to eat the proverbial film equivalent of spinach. I’m not a prison movie fan, yes, even Shawshank Redemption is not something I’m going to seek out, but The Mustang, written and directed by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre was definitely worth getting in the saddle for.

First it included one of my old man crushes, Bruce Dern. Truth be told, I had a crush on this actor young, The King of Marvin Gardens, continuing into his ‘experienced’ years, Nebraska. In this, he plays a crusty horse wrangler, perfect for his wagon wheel house.

Second, the writer/director Cleremont-Tonnerre, starred in one of my favorite movies of all time The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

The real star of the film, Matthias Scheonaerts, plays a violent inmate with boiling rage. In a perfect parallel, he is placed to tame wild mustangs. He’s been in a few of my favorite films as well, Far From the Madding Crowd and The Bigger Splash.

What I loved about this film were the many co-existing symbols: Schoenaerts (his character’s name is Roman) being told not to look the horse in the eye, the prison visiting room camera man who tells Roman and his daughter not look in the lens (eye) rather look at his finger. The fact that “Roman’s” daughter will not allow her father to be close to her, correlated to the mustang not trusting Roman in the pen.

Connie Britton, the prison psychologist does a magnificent job as the understated no nonsense anger management counselor. I first became a fan of hers in the film Beatriz at Dinner. And while I could only take one episode of the soap operatic Dirty John, appreciated her role.

Best of all, The Mustang taught me information: First, 100,000 wild mustangs roam the northwest and occasionally some are rounded up, tamed and trained to be auctioned off to police agencies. Second: the movie made me realize (once again) how tragic prisoners’ lives are, in the most profound group counseling scenes, Britton asks the men how long the pre-meditation of their crimes was, to which many of them answered mere minutes, contrasted to the decades duration of their sentences (and rightly so for the most part considering death and destruction caused). Having a cousin who spent time in Attica for a violent crime, when his upbringing was abusive and lacking to say the least, re-broke, for lack of a better word, my heart again for his trajectory.

I certainly could have done without the violence and yet it was not gratuitous, just sad realism. Great story writing and tremendous acting!

If Beale Street Could Talk: So Gorgeous, It Doesn’t Need To

Keeping with my Citizen Kane metaphor of a luxurious cinematic bath, If Beale Street Could Talk is a spa treatment for the eyes and ears.

Written and directed by Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk (noted hereafter as IBSCT) is not Moonlight by any stretch. To me Moonlight was a masterpiece, in story, in acting, cinematography and so on.

Reminiscent of Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, in IBSCT, we’re treated to the gorgeous symbolic benefits of color (the feminine yellow that Kiki Layne and Aunjanue Ellis wore (the former an innocent chick [as in baby chicken], the latter as a religion jaundiced old bag). Layered innocence again in Kiki’s baby blue mock turtle neck and her more sophisticated paisley numbers as she works the perfume counter. And let’s not forget the dapper gents costuming; the manly leather worn by Colman Domingo and Michael Beach, the slick but honest suede worn by the movie’s main male character Fonny, played by Stephan James.

Our ears were gifted the string magic of Nicholas Britell ( I defy you to listen to the track “Eden” and not be stirred inside), our eyes basked in the slide and swing cinematographer James Laxton. Two scenes that stood out to me in this cinematographic regard were: 1. During Fonny’s empathetic listening to his friend Danny’s prison horror stories where the camera glides back and forth between them is indicative of a truly human exchange. This isn’t just one man’s story, it is two men sharing a moment. 2. When Fonny and Tish are shown the loft by a yamaka clad Dave Franco, the camera moves up and down Tish with the grace of a high rise elevator even though they are on the cusp of renting a barren warehouse.

The acting was excellent in most places: Kiki Layne-terrific, Stephan James (in need of a smidge more emotion) and the fathers (Domingo and Beach)-great, both mothers (Regina King and the aforementioned Ellis) fantastic. Even the sour sisters (reminiscent of the Lowell bitches of the film The Fighter) were phenomenal.

Overall, IBSCT is prime example of art transcending story….we don’t need to know the back story of the two families antagonism. We don’t need to see prison brutality, nor be bludgeoned by a rape scene. Jenkins does well in the documentary style interruptions of Kiki’s voice over just stating the facts, that police and prison systems worked jointly (present tense ‘work’ probably in some places still today) to continue slavery and racial bias. A sad, sad story told through magnificent art.

Roma: singular in its perfection, multiple in definitions

This is a blog of numerations.

First, I am doubly blessed to have access to pre-published books (most recently a phenomenal epic novel coming in March called The Old Drift) working at BookStore1 Sarasota and second, having met Jack Guren, friend of Larry Singer (Emmy Award winner for sound) who was gracious enough to show us the new foreign film Roma directed by Alphonso Cuaron (probably most known for winning the Oscar for Gravity).

And continuing the twin peaks theme, Roma has at least two definitions: plural for gypsies and in the urban dictionary, a big hearted female introvert who trusts few, but when she does, consider yourself extremely valuable (sounds like someone I saw in the mirror before my jog this morning).

Roma was incredible. I don’t need to see any other foreign film to tell you that this should be the winner of all of the major film awards. Clearly, this is Cuaron’s magnum opus.

Shot in black and white and set in Mexico in the 1970’s, I experienced another world that I only get a much glitzier, (yet certainly not glamorous) glimpse of here in Sarasota, the interior lives of domestic servants. New actress Yalitza Aparico, the domestic servant lead role, is as awe inspiring as Lupita Nyong’o was in 12 Years a Slave.

Also fantastic is Marina de Tavira as the jilted middle class mother of four. This is more of a woman’s movie than Colette without having to club you over the head with feminist philosophy. Even the Caitlin Jenneresque Grandma, actress Veronica Garcia, was terrific.

On the men’s side, the stand out role was the impregnator, if there is such a word, the actor Jorge Antonio Guerrero. He has obviously just begun what will surely be an illustrious film career.

I don’t want to give anything away on this one. One could definitely make a case that the cinematography almost outshines all the acting. Experience it yourself, in all its cinematic glory. Just gorgeous through and through.

A list of precious details/scenes I don’t want to forget for class next semester (so spoilers)
hotel room scene
hospital scene
Gravity homage in movie theater
movie theater scene
going to movie with Grandma/Dad sighting
tai chi guru scene
drunk mom scene
holiday fire scene