Glad It’s Night and The Two Popes

To finish off the Cine-World Film Festival at Burns Court Theater in Sarasota, the programmers showed The Two Popes, directed by Fernando Meirelles (The Constant Gardener) and written by Andrew McCarten (Theory of Everything and Bohemian Rhapsody).

The Two Popes, while a tiny bit bloated (chop off the first chaotic ten minutes), was charming and heart warming.

While rumored to be a Spotlight indictment of the Catholic Church, this is actually the antithesis, a hope that the Church is getting back in touch with human needs and pain partially due to the beauty of Pope Francis.

My Catholic exposure is not extensive (though I went through Pre-Cana to get married and agreed to raise my son Catholic) and The Two Popes taught me a lot about Catholicism in regards to how a pope is chosen and some of the politics involved with religion. I certainly was ignorant to Argentinian strife that the movie told in a perfect balance of angst without gratuitous violence (PRAISE JESUS!).

At its core The Two Popes reprises the famous adage: “it’s not about the religion it’s about the relationship.

The acting was tremendous. I can easily see Jonathan Pryce, who I had merely seen in The Wife when he’s done so much more, be nominated for an Oscar. And while Anthony Hopkins was great as well, after reading his Wiki page, have decided he might really be a cold hearted cannibal (ok a bit hyperbole) in hat he has basically disowned his only daughter. I realize there obviously might be much more to the story than any of us can know to judge.

Once this makes it normal run in Sarasota theaters, go see this. Definitely a well told story that not only teaches history, but humanity, too.

“Saint Frances” Blesses Us On Many Levels

As satisfyingly ‘fun’ Parasite was, what a refreshing change Saint Frances is to the violence of current cinema. St. Frances is also a shining light in a predominately moody selection currently showing at the Cine-World Film Fest (not counting A Faithful Man, but sorry Frenchies, you’re silly, not moving).

Saint Frances written by its star Kelly O’Sullivan (think younger Amy Schumer in humor or younger Kate McKinnon in looks) works on many levels. Pro-choice, pro-you-don’t-have-to-be-a-parent-to-be-a-great- life-contributor, pro-nebulous relationship status and anti-religion (on the latter, Catholicism’s the target, due to its self-shaming dogma).

The film’s subject matter in a nutshell: a woman ambiguous about children becomes nanny and forms a bond with the child of whom she’s in charge.

Poolling two men afterward, Vince, an astute lawyer from Canada and Robert (?) a local cinemaphile, both men confirmed that Saint Frances is not just a chick flick and enjoyed the film as much as me. Vince even wowed me by naming, without my prodding, I cross my heart, PEANUT BUTTER FALCON as his favorite movie of the year.

I know, FIRST: Willem Dafoe Best Actor, THEN: Peanut Butter Falcon Best Original Screenplay.

But back to Saint Frances…if it comes back for a longer run, go see this. And while O’Sullivan goes for dialogue and scene shock value with menstrual and abortion talk and blood (clearly redundant, and a bit insensitive and too frank at times), no one around me seemed offended in the slightest.

So what they hey, it’s an anything goes culture. Go see Saint Frances, directed by, in his first attempt at feature length, Alex Thompson, with cutie Kate Sullivan as lead, and super adorable and amazingly steady little 5 year old Ramona Edith-Williams.

Motherless Brooklyn; an orphan in this year’s films

I love Ed Norton. My admiration began in 1996 with “Primal Fear”, where his performance and shockingly cool twist ending made me say, ‘Wow’. From there, in Spike Lee’s super hip “25th Hour” with Philip Seymour Hoffman, moving on to his many Wes Anderson film performances.

But the real affection began watching his roast speech for Bruce Willis, when after many funny jokes, he teared up thanking him for his help in financing Motherless Brooklyn. On recent podcast appearances, I wanted to jump through my lap top and give him a hug for his sincere commentary of the giant harm cell phone distraction does to humanistic values.

So I skipped into Motherless Brooklyn, loving Ed, though somewhat warily having been non-plussed with the trailer I had seen.

Here’s the deal: Motherless Brooklyn is a good movie and is validation or should I say incrimination of Robert Moses’s hand (and shovels) in tearing down African-American residences to build his sanitized white people parks and highways. Bravo for that indictment.

And a usual, Ed Norton as the Tourette’s syndrome lackey turned private eye was perfection. As was his stellar cast: Alec Baldwin as “Moses”, my G.O.A.T. Willem Dafoe, and a Sarasota grad Dallas Roberts who had strong presence as one of the other lackeys. To round out the cast: two fine women: a newbie actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Cherry Jones all contributing to a solid story.

The cinematography was amazing in certain sections: jazz club, pool scenes, Brooklyn Bridge scenes.

You’re waiting for my ‘but’ and here it is: BUT, the movie overall was too dark and bleak both in color and tone. I hate to be the one to say, the book is better, but there, I said it. Only because in the novel by Jonathan Lethem, the Ed’s Tourette’s sufferer has a beautiful back story of being taken in as a tormented orphan by Bruce Willis (not in the movie long enough to stand out) AND in a related novel subplot point, Ed attempts painstakingly to call all the names in the 1950’s phone book thinking he wants to reconnect with the parents who abandoned him. If these two super poignant parts plus another which would have involved more Leslie Mann into nearly seducing Ed’s vulnerable character would have added light and spice to the film.

Instead we are left with a neo-noir which is just too flat and run of the mill. I still love Ed Norton and totally understand his need to make this more historical fiction. Not a failure in any measure.

Just like 1981: Colette

Funny, when I looked up the 1981 Commodore’s song Lady (You Bring Me Up), a commented posted under the YouTube video said, “Back when it all still made sense”. Amen, brother!

But I’ve actually had a couple of 1981 experiences that made perfect ‘sense’ this past week. First was dancing to “Lady, You Bring Me Up” and feeling like a kid again. In fact, all the Lionel Richie songs remind me of college (and/or high school). I mean who doesn’t remember dorm room dancing to MTV’s former video days repetitive play of Lionel’s “All Night Long”?

My second 1981 flashback was inspired by film class advisor, Gus Molassis, who assigned our class Colette. Having just seen The Wife, I was miffed thinking it was just the same story minus 100 years. (And this is partly true, the stories: wife ghost writes for husband were eerily similar). My negative presumption paralleled the 1981 emotion I had freshman year at St. Bonaventure when the only elective available for me was Detective and Sci Fi Literature. I immediately said spoiled brat style “yuck”, similar to my film assignment reaction.

Boy, was I wrong in both circumstances. If it hadn’t been for the Sci Fi class back in 1981, I may never experienced Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, which brought me to tears with its beauty. And today, while Colette didn’t move me to tears, it was heart warming and much MUCH better written than The Wife.

The key difference between The Wife and Colette were the scene specificity of the marriages. In Colette, we see a real couple with genuine difficulties; infidelity, gender and sexuality self-discovery mixed with cultural aspects of the time period; in this case, the tail end of Victorian Age repression, with tiny fissures cracking its frigid core.

Was some of the dialogue unrealistic? Sure, like Dominic West‘s pompous ass Willy (though also lovable and charming) who talks with such self-knowledge you would think he had a Masters in Johnson (joking aside, I meant Counseling). The old ‘honey I stray because I’m a man and can’t control my penis’ -I paraphrase of course-that’s probably what Harvey W. said).

Yet, the acting was superb and West and Keira Knightley seemed very realistic, unlike the more jokey Pinnochio Jonathan Pryce in The Wife. Other acting praise goes to Denise Gough, an Irish actress who plays the masculine half of Knightley’s bisexual experience. Her performance showed tremendous verisimilitude.

My misgivings about the movie were also its tributes. These two seemed to have enough marital joy that the suffering didn’t seem painful enough, more, ‘I’m hurt, but skipping along, tra la la’. And it seemed Colette got her own way most of the time, and if so, wasn’t Willy more of the victim? A well developed point of contention though, which again, equates depth and excellence. Props to Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, co-screenwriters and the director respectively.

I will say the trailer did it no favors, a large reason for my premature bias. The trailer made it out to be a simplistic man-keeps-woman-down story when it was so much more.

So here’s to trying experiences which seem foreign and finding gold!

Paris, Texas a PPLL Extravaganza

Well, my main complaint about Paris, Texas was going to be the length (2 and a half hours), but as I type, I’m watching and listening to director Wim Wenders‘ commentary on deleted scenes and I am transfixed with hypnotic awe.

Except for the older vehicles, Pars, Texas (circa 1984) could be shown today. It’s a timeless tale of lost love and the invincible bond of parent and child. Compounded with the poignancy of the film, is the bittersweet sadness of Harry Dean Stanton’s life and death. If you get a chance and care, listen to Marc Maron‘s podcast with Harry Dean Stanton which captures Harry’s level of despair with a hint to some trauma suffered at the hands or mind of his mother that sent him into an abyss of eternal solitaire. Not that he didn’t date (and younger!) or have a good life, but there’a deep melancholy to his life story that leaks out in Paris, Texas and his last movie, Lucky.

In fact, I wish I had seen Paris, Texas before seeing Lucky as the two are definitely parallel films (though the former was written by Sam Shepard, another bone deep melancholy soul) and the latter by Logan Sparks. They share similar settings (southwestern desert), similar music (twangy soulful electric acoustic) and the search for meaning in a solitary hermetic life.

A scene from Paris, Texas that I adored reminded me of a scene from the original Jaws. In Jaws, Roy Schneider is at the dinner table with his son. Each begin mimicking the other’s facial expressions in a cute father-son bonding moment. In Paris, Texas, Harry Dean Stanton and his son, (played gorgeously by Hunter Carson, son of one of the writers for the film and Karen Black, the actress) execute a similar scene while walking on opposite sides of the street, mimicking each other’s gaits.

I loved the use of color in the film, from gorgeous Texas skies, to LA night sky; from matching red shirts to Nastassja Kinski and Hunter bother wearing green shirts with the green lit buildings behind them outside a Houston hotel, the film was produced with an artistic eye.

And don’t let me forget to praise Dean Stockwell and Aurore Clement who were also fabulous in their sibling and parental roles.

I’m partial to this film due to the aforementioned, and Hunter, the young boy loved his Star Wars action figures which took me back to my son’s childhood. I had just written to a friend the other day that if I could have one day of my life back to re-experience, it would be a day of fun with Liam (this was brought on by the sad closing of Toys R Us).

Two and a half hours of film didn’t seem long until an unnecessarily over written cathartic scene in a peep show between Nastassja Kinski and H.S. Stanton, but in watching the deleted scenes and becoming mesmerized by the Texas landscape and the German accent of Wim Wenders, it was worth the time.

PPLL for any newcomers to my blog stands for Pre Pension Library Loaner, #55thbirthdayninemonthsaway!

“Happy End”, an Equally Fitting Description to a Single Gal’s Evening

“Happy End” is dark, but not in a violent way, more akin to the relative darkness of a movie theater. Just as you can still see the goodness of even the most selfish characters in Michael Haneke‘s new film, I could still see the other movie goers around me. And I could certainly hear the movie goers around me as there were: knuckle crackers, Junior Mint box shakers, horn (nose) blowers and audible sighers. What would normally annoy the bleep out of me was zen-fully equalized by the fact that there were three other loners in the theater besides me. Hence, the movie plot, albeit dark (snobbery, adultery, poor parenting, poisoning, etc.) made me feel as normal as the demographics in the room.

Granted, I could hear more of my noisy neighbors since this film is super quiet, there is no sound track. The film opens with at least 3 to 5 minutes of silent snapchat screens and continues with equally hushed scenes of a woman on her laptop, a man wheeling himself down a city street, only the natural sound of keyboard typing and city street racket (respectively) bleeds through.

I really enjoyed Haneke’s Amour which he was Oscar nominated for both screenplay and best foreign film. Yet there was no way in hell I was ever going to see the sadistic Funny Games. Still, I have to hand it to Haneke for covering uncomfortable situations in Happy End without making me feel like I have to have a mind flush at the end of the film. In fact, the loner a seat away from me and I both laughed at the same time when we figured out the ending which true to my caption I will not spoil.

The acting was spot on. As much as I abhorred the fact that Isabelle Huppert won awards for that piece of dung film Elle, I guess I’ll chalk that up to what will now be retroactively referred to as the Jeff Bridges/Crazy Heart-Sam Rockwell/Three Billboards syndrome, where a great actor/actress gets an award for a junk film. And long aside now over, Huppert was fantastic as the female lead. Equally super were: Jean-Louis Trintignant, star of Amour (aside: my blood just boiled researching realizing he didn’t get a nomination for best actor, like you must be kidding me!), Mathieu Kassovitz, and Franz Rogowski (a dead ringer for Joaquin Phoenix).

Definitely worth the price of admission, though the any synopsis you read of ‘backdrop of refugee crises’ is a bit misleading (percentage-wise only 20% of the film’s focus).

Wherever You Are, There You Are…”Lucky”

Serendipity led me to see Lucky, meaning even though I had already done my self-psychoanalysis, talking myself down from the proverbial roof (hit a wall after working 50+ hours a week, became ill and also became very aware of poor working conditions of impoverished folks directly in front of me, combined with the self-imposed high anxiety of doing stand up comedy), the film helped add the necessary cement to my rediscovered zen. Picture my aforementioned realization, hitting myself in the head: I live in Sarasota and AM LUCKY, so curb the neuroses for Pete’s sakes.

Included in my muchos gracias to the cosmos is a thank you to my friend Pedro, another deep soul in the universe, for going with me.

Lucky is John Carrol Lynch’s directorial debut, but you’d recognize his face from many acting roles, most famously Fargo (Frances’s husband), but recently in a performance as LBJ in Jackie. Here’s where my amoxicillin infused whining kicks in in that I’m tired of people with three names and I’m also weary of the ridiculous number of television aka internet series there are (of which JCL stars in several-see IMDB if you care).

The screenplay was co-written by Logan Sparks (sounds like a fake name but at least it’s just two words) and Drago Sumonja, both of whom are new to big fame, but according to their filmography have put in their time as assistants.

Enough of the rabbit holes you say, what about the movie? The story is crucial considering our aging population’s need for story lines with which they can relate. I say this on behalf of the best Grandma on the planet, Florence Baker, 94, still kicking intellectual and physical buttocks in spite of her advanced age. Grandma doesn’t want to see Surburbicon or Thor, so thank you!

Henry Dean Stanton (ok we’ll let hm have three names God rest his soul, in fact anyone over 80 can have their three names) was a wonder and pretty much revealed on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast that this plays pretty close to his own life. Three quick commonalities are: was in the Navy, sang in a band, lived a solitary life.

HDS (aka Lucky the character) was an interesting dichotomy of melancholy and zen of which I can totally relate. My only wish for the film and my English speaking population is that there had been subtitles during the beautiful mariachi song he sang three quarters into the film. Trust me, I’m going to research and find out, but it would have added to the poignancy to see the words (though I can see the opposite argument and possible reasoning for subtitles distracting).

Minor characters were beautiful in both composition and story. Of note were: Yvonne Huff as a caring 420 friendly waitress, Tom Skerritt as a fellow armed services vet, and dear to my heart, Ed Begley Jr as Lucky’s wise cracking doctor.

Here’s where I call out the worst: David Lynch, my man, you can’t act. James Darren, you’d have been better stopping after Gidget (though you’re well preserved) and Beth Grant, you might be good, but your big mouth wise ass bar owner character was a turn off.

Overall though, great film, with an important message that since we don’t have proof of an afterlife, we better best enjoy we we have right now. Carpe Diem.

The Dude Meets the Daddy Longlegs: An early Safdie (of the recent Good Time) film

Daddy Longlegs is an early film from 2009 by brothers Benny and Josh Safdie, along with Ronald Bronstein who also stars as ‘the Dad’.

Much like Good Time, the movie Daddy Longlegs is well done and simultaneously difficult to watch. Like going on a roller coaster that might make you ill, you ride along with the Safdie’s knowing the quality is worth the discomfort. A.O Scott called this film “lovely and hair raising” which suits my analogy to a T.

Set in NYC, this movie is especially for divorced parents trying to juggle jobs and family responsibilities. Based partly on their upbringing this semi autobiographical film opens with a written font-like tribute to the Safdie dad.

Two connections I made to this film were with an autobiographical sketch in the Rolling Stone of Robert Downey Jr’s upbringing where his father sits at the breakfast table, stirring his screwdriver with a hammer. Acting (and screenwriting geniuses) often come from creative and chaotic childhoods.

Connection two comes from Rachle Cusk‘s book Outline which I mentioned in my previous Ingrid Goes West blog. Cusk’s books offers so many pearls from such a gorgeously deep reservoir. This quote is intimately intertwined with the father (acted brilliantly by co-writer Ronald Bronstein) in Daddy Longlegs in the push pull of his loving his sons with his desire for freedom.

“My mother once admitted she used to be desperate for us to leave the house for school but that once we’d gone, she had no idea what to do with herself and wished we would come back.” (Cusk, Rachel. Outline. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2014.)

Much like their film Good Time where the brothers’ love for each other was both gorgeous and destructive, intimacy whether it be sibling to sibling or parent to child is one of life’s many challenges.

Definitely worth a local library search. I am grateful to the Selby Library for their tremendous inventory.

Landline, an abrasive ringer, but it gets your attention

A GETROXY TRAILER: Coming soon, I’m going to try my hand at an audio widget! Stay tuned!

Landline is a new movie written by Gillian Robespierre (also the writer of Obvious Child) and Eisabeth Holm (creator of the doc Paradise Lost which sounds grueling to watch, but perhaps worth the torture considering it involves the Innocence Project).

Acting: Much like Obvious Child, Landline stars Jenny Slate, who I absolutely loved in Robespierre’s original film. In Landline, Slate’s character is less likeable, but in the end I respected her performance in an unflattering though very realistic role. Jay Duplass, who is a mystery to me based solely on the fact that he looks nothing like his brother Mark, does a very good job making a refreshing wholesome man who’s not a wimp. Edie Falco, who I’ve had mixed emotions for post Sopranos (horrible blase` role in The Comedian, too soap opera-like in Nurse Jackie) does well in Landline as the wife-in-denial-over-her-misandrist-role in her husband’s infidelity and fierce tiger mom. John Turturro is always rock solid and here he continues his prowess as the philandering Dad who wants to do right. Abby Quinn is a relatively new actress who has promise, if only as a gritty tom girl.

Plot: The narrative has verisimilitude in portraying marital engagement for the twenties set, when fear of choosing the right person and the perfect career path can make for emotional messes. Also marriage in general is viewed under an unforgiving 100 watt light, for all its blemishes and unrealistic expectations. I’m not sure we needed the 90’s motif to fulfill this as the movie (where the title comes from, pre cell phones) could have just as easily happened today*, but it was neat to see a floppy disk and telephone booths.

*One after thought that angers me, is the breezy look at heroin use in teenagers. I don’t care if this was a harmless 90’s thing, it is currently the main drug issue in our country. I think it is downright careless to have heroin in a film without some kind of skull and cross bones warning. “Opiod deaths have nearly doubled” is literally what I just heard on a WSRQ radio newscast.

Theme: Just today in a soulful conversation with a female co-worker, we agreed that these days (current times) we are realistic about the fantasy of this thing called a long term relationship, and the absolute importance, instead, of moments. Moments of connection, moments of fun, and if we’re lucky, moments of bliss. This is really all we have in 2017. This belief has made a former fan and recent visitor of mine head for the hills, rather than be grateful for the fun we had. Que cera cera. And for shame on folks who insist on everything being perfect in both materialistic and idealistic ways. Perhaps for some, image has become too much of their core, and therefore, too addictive to leave behind for precious ‘moments’. Though I understand and am not bitter (though I still invoke Todd Rundgren’s “Can We Still Be Friends?”, I am just grateful I have never cared for image over depth.

You need to wade through the muck of the first quarter of Landline in order to enjoy the prize. It’s not a perfect film, but is worthy in possessing heart, realism and dramatic arc.

Deserving of the Title: The Hero

First of all, few movie related rip offs make me want to curse, but I will name two: Albert Brooks not winning best supporting actor for Drive (was he even nominated?) and Sam Elliott not being nominated for Grandma (2015). I think I heard through the grapevine that Grandma couldn’t be nominated for Oscars due to it not meeting the minimum length. Ah well, c’est la vie.

But here he is again, in all his handsome, damn-I-miss-Joe-Spencer glory, as an older grass imbibing Dude with a heart in Brett Haley and Marc Basch‘s The Hero. Perhaps, he’ll get a nomination for this.

Oh wait: This movie’s sponsor is my good friend Carrie who treated me back. We take turns. She’s a sunshiney upper of a friend in my life!

Here’s what was solid about The Hero (besides Sam who’s ROCK solid):
1. spare writing, great editing
2. unique camera angle (mostly side view on Sam) to show we don’t know him or he doesn’t know himself?
3. great supporting cast:
Laura Prepon (almost too pretty for the role)
Krysten Ritter (perfection)
Nick Offerman (tough not to see Nick Offerman, but he’s cool, no matter what)
4. cinematography (great contrast scenes between ocean waves and Los Angeles skyline)

Here’s a tiny problem:
1. One scene of Sam’s where a woman is given a life time achievement award. For the plot to include this moment going viral, the scene should’ve been more substantive or moving for this to seem real.

Beyond that, though for cinema The Hero isn’t quite a 10 for me because it lacked great highs and lows, as a top quality slice of a ‘normal’ person’s life piece it ranks 11. We’re all just grains of sand as Sam’s character says, but we each add to the beach (MY ADDITION, not bad eh?).