Minari, a Sophie’s Choice for my top 10

What do you do when your favorite movie of the year “Driveways” (directed by Andrew Ahn) is upstaged by a grander (action-wise) movie “Minari” (directed by Lee Isaac Chung)? I guess both could be in my top ten, but it’s a difficult choice. Both films by Asian and Korean directors are masterpieces in my book.
Minari’s tralier was a bit suspect…it looked like it could be a corny affair, meaning here comes an Asian family moving to Arkansas to re-start their lives after menial jobs in California were driving them mad. The movie’s conflict seemed quite poignant and real (until the end-no spoilers, but will be in my upcoming quibbles paragraph). Which helps me make up my mind that Driveways stands as my number one, there wasn’t one false move in the entire film and the music was delectable (though don’t get me wrong Emile Mosseri’s soundtrack is very good).
Before I tear the movie down a bit, let me explain what got me…marital strife between two people who loved each other initially is always an emotion grabber for me, as are elderly Grandma’s who try, but are never going to beat the devil of mortality. In addition, cute little kids, however precocious, always make me smile.
Here are my problems with the film: any woman who still bitches after receiving great news is a beeatch. That does not ring true with reality. If you are with a woman who is not grateful, get rid of her asap! Second, if you’re a mother allegedly worried about your son’s heart murmur, you don’t allow him to stay over night at some rando kid’s house or let your elderly mother take charge.
In a head to head match up between little kid actors (mind you I’m still way ticked off that Noah Jupe didn’t get more accolades for Honey Boy) Lucas Jaye from Driveways wins over Alan S. Kim from Minari. And while I was wringing my hands during the first paragraph, trust me when I say that while Driveways doesn’t have the ‘fireworks’ that Minari does, it is a better movie. Email me with disagreements at irun2eatpizza@hotmail.com

“Down Goes Frazier!” in this case “Mank”, “One Night in Miami” moves into the Top Ten

A true case of “it ain’t over till it’s over”, One Night in Miami just moved into my Top 10 of 2020.

But first, this positive race relations commentary….six Caucasians (actually 4 parties, 2 separate solo single females and two couples) walked into the CineBistro Siesta Key to pay acknowledgement to not only the four great real life men, but also the four tremendous actors who portrayed them AND the brilliant woman who directed (Regina King) AND the man who wrote the script based on the play (Kemp Powers). Not looking for any trophy, just pointing out that there are kind well meaning white Floridians.
The movie began as a newborn calf, kinda clunky, but once I understood the premise that each on these guys: Muhammed Ali, Sam Cooke, Jim Brown and Malcom X had incurred their own unfortunate racist moments, the movie was off to the races. Where Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom play to movie cellar scene seemed stifling, One Night in Miami’s hotel room seemed roomy enough to hold tighter interest. The choreography of movement of four restless males may have had much to do with this higher level of excitement. Perhaps it’s a metaphor for how more (though in desperate need of more OBVIOUSLY) 1964 was evolved than 1927, but whatever the case, I was fully engaged in their philosophical wranglings. What does ‘freedom’ mean? Is economic freedom more important than proper racial respect? That seems to be the crux of the argument between Malcom X and Sam Cooke.
Let’s talk about the fantastic acting…I would be super pleased to see Kingsley Ben-Adir win the Oscar for Best Actor. You can not show concern and inner turmoil for nearly two hours and make it interesting unless you’re an A+ actor and this man did it handly. Bravo! The other actors were also supreme, Eli Goree scoring the most extroverted part of Cassius Clay. Leslie Odom Jr was fantastic as Sam Cooke who handles Malcom X’s debates with sly intellect. and I can’t leave out Aldis Hodge, while least animated as Jim Brown, he still had to reign in masculinity to hang and be king empathizer to Malcolm X, not an easy task.
At any rate, as pretty and smart as Mank was, this movie represents a piece of history far more important in my book. And it shows that grown men (and women) can disagree politely and lovingly….advice we can all use about now.

Eternal Beauty, Talented Writer/Director

Craig Roberts wrote and directed Eternal Beauty starring the incandescent Sally Hawkins. She could make almost any script look good, but all she had to do was bring her A game given the poignant, well drawn dysfunctional family comedy/drama.
With the help of another new, dare I predict future Oscar nominated, actor David Thewlis (Golden Globe winner for Fargo and amazing in I’m Thinking of Ending Things), this pair makes you dream of Todd Solondz’s happier script moments. While I haven’t deep dived into Craig Roberts (note to IMDB: your biographies offer scant inf lately), let’s just say he has the jaded Scotsman approach to life down cold, reminding me of Solondz cynicism.
The other characters in Eternal Beauty are also terrific, notably Sally’s ‘sisters’; Billie Piper and Morfydd Clark.
The movie’s theme is normal is boring, and as a self-proclaimed non-conformist, I second that emotion. While the movie’s subject schizophrenia is nothing to laugh at, Roberts puts things in perspective by showing how nuts the general population surrounding Sally, ne Jane, really are.
I’ll definitely backtrack to see Craig Roberts act in Submarine, of which Sally Hawkins plays his mother. I have a feeling all three of these talents (Hawkins, Thewlis and Roberts) will get a golden statue sometime soon.

On the Rocks, Conned this Rox

One of my top fifteen movies of all time is Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppola’s gorgeous ode to feeling misunderstood, captured perfectly by two different generations (Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson) who come together in a hotel bar.

So I went skipping to On the Rocks, Sofia’s newest using Bill Murray again, in a different self-aware cad role with the beautiful Rashida Jones as his Eyeore of a daughter.

If L.I.T. was about feeling misunderstood, On the Rocks is about feeling unappreciated. Rashida feels unappreciated by her husband, Marlon Wayans (pretty face, not an actor). Bill relates to the under appreciation having felt that ‘back in the day’ and consequently straying from Rashida’s mom.

Hence, Bill wants to help his daughter get ahead of the curve and find out if indeed Marlon is the cheater he (Bill) use to be.

Many missed opportunities: one being use Jenny Slate as more than just three funny cameos, two give Rashida’s character more pizzazz (I mean no wonder Marlon would be bored), three, the pivotal daughter-father showdown needed to be amped up to evoke emotion.

Fortunately for Sofia, Americans have been bludgeoned by Covid 19 and are so starved for movies that this looks good enough to rate an 87% on Rotten Tomatoes. In reality, however, this is a 72and a half (I’m averaging my film buddy Gus Mollasis’s 75 and my 70 here) at best.

Kajillion ways to improve Kajillionaire

I pat the couch like Sigmund and say, “Miranda, come sit over here. In fact, lay down and tell me what you wanted to communicate in this film.”

I really enjoyed Miranda July’s “Me You And Everyone We Know,” back when through lines were a thing. Kajillionaire was billed as a comedy, but if I laughed once, it was in delirium over how slow an hour and 36 minutes can actually feel.

A bit of an exaggeration. Yet Gina Rodriguez’s allure toward the grifter family didn’t make sense. Evan Rachel Wood seemed to be trying too hard to be weird, as was Debra Winger and Richard Jenkins. The movie just felt beneath them.

Evan Rachel Wood’s post tremor epiphany needed more explanation as to why she ignored Gina’s character, given that REW’s character had such an epiphany due to the child rearing and parent bonding classes she was taking.

Make us care more by not being so weird. Save that for a more capable eccentric, like Todd Solondz or Charlie Kaufman.

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.

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.

You Can’t Handle “The Truth” (2019), especially if you like tight screenplays

I am really confused by “The Truth”. How can the same man (Hirokazu Koreeda) who wrote and directed the BRILLIANT “Shoplifters” move on to a follow up of circuitous drivel like The Truth?

My guess is he has the bank to surround himself with the best actors, so he thought, let’s do this, even if it’s not fantastic.

I mean who doesn’t adore Catherine Deneuve? Or Juliette Binoche? Or Ethan Hawke?

The story has promise addressing a damaged mother and daughter relationship, but never really probes deep enough for impact.

Instead, the drab script just crinkles and falls apart like the dried up autumn leaves shown at the beginning and end of the film.

Gratitude and Genuflection for Driveways

My my my I felt sad when Brian Dennehy died, not that I was even that hip to his filmography, but he reminded me of my former father-in-law, a hard shelled exterior soft hearted interior Irish guy. And after seeing Driveways (fantastic screenplay written by Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen) directed by Andrew Ahn, I am in a combination of awe and mourning.

Driveways has already garnered a nomination for the Independent Spirit Best First Script Award. And I am hoping, flattening the curve willing, that Driveways will get a big screen release, not because the Hudson Valley shots are all that profound as this movie is more about the relationships among humans, yet the emotions are so large, they deserve a big screen to let them breathe. Jay Wadley’s poignant original music is also worth theater sized speakers.

Suffice to say I was teary eyed in the first 10 minutes as Lucas Jaye is an absolute marvel as the 9 year old boy who forms a friendship with neighbor Brian Dennehy. Likewise, Hong Chau, already nominated for a Golden Globe in Downsizing, portrays Lucas’s single mom with a realistic tenderness.

I am rooting for this film as I did last year’s Peanut Butter Falcon. For a mere 3.99 on Amazon Prime, watch it now, and then go see it again when it hits the cinema.

Abe: Reality After the Mirage

For a day or two, Rotten Tomatoes had Abe at 100% and in Covid times, that’s like walking the desert and seeing a fountain up ahead. By the time I got to said fountain aka Abe, the RT rating was at a much more sensible 71%.

And rightly so…
Is the story of Abe excellent fodder?
Battling relatives of different religions and nationalities is certainly intriguing and even if you’re a Wonder Bread white girl, you can still appreciate strife caused by differences in political opinions.

HOWEVER, take the same intrigue and then stretch it out like silly putty so that the images are now of the Circus mirror type, and you have how the four writers (too many cooks adage, SO apropos here) screwed up this script.

Noah Schnapp (the boy Abe) and Seu Jorge (Chico the chef) are super realistic and great, but besides the Uncle (I tried finding the actor on IMDB and I don’t know if he was ever named in the dang film and without photos, many actors are without them on Abe’s page, I can’t name the actor), ALL of the other family members are hack actors. Or were given the Circus mirror of a script and seem like hack actors.

I was moved by Abe’s story and the neglect form his rather ignorant parents who seemed so blase’ about most everything, but then would clamp down on punishments hashtag #stupidparenting.

The other highlight was the soundtrack, a mix of Brazilian reggae fusion by Gui Amabis.