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?).

One Sofia, Two Sofia, Three Sofia “Somewhere”

I noticed by my third Sofia film that many of her actors don’t seem to have star power longevity. Is it simply a matter of how they can act mediocre enough to do well in Sofia’s atmospheric, minimum plot roles, like Somewhere from 2010?

Of course, there are exceptions. Besides the obvious Scar-Jo (Lost in Translation), Elle Fanning, terrific in Somewhere, also stars in Coppola’s newest (torture porn) Beguiled, not to mention previously winning awards for J.J. Abrams’ Super 8. No doubt EF’s career has legs.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, others do get work. Like Emma Watson (Bling Ring) who just made a bad film with Tom Hanks (aside: he’s wracked up a few now: the aforementioned The Circle and the NOTHING HAPPENS Hologram for a King).
And others get tv work: (Israel Broussard Bling Ring, as does Stephen (could it be his name?) Dorff, star of Sofia film #3: Somewhere.

In Somewhere, Stephen Dorff was impressive in his role as the shallow Hollywood dad living at Chateau Marmont. In fact the Chateau is a character in itself giving the movie a celebrity-eavsdroppiing voyeur’s delight. Who hasn’t been curious about what the inside looks like? The circus-like goings on, twin strippers showing up to perform in Stephen’s room, topless women sunning themselves on the patio, crashers and guests partying till dawn in the (what appear to be) dorm like rooms.

Having called Stephen impressive maybe overstating (hence the aforementioned lack of accolades). In fact, can’t we all look totally bored to tears with life sometimes, a deep ennui settling into our bones? As usual, Coppola’s framing and slow food type film making bring this energy to life, even when the emotion is ‘slightly depressed’. My favorite shot was of Stephen in full face puddy being prepared for an aging John McCain special effects type role in which the camera just sits on his face (not literally), the only visual of his facial ‘skin’ are the two air holes of his nostrils. This represented Dorff’s character at its essence, simply a manatee like breathing vessel.

Of course there’s character development, but no where near my favorite of her films Lost in Translation. By the end of the film, we get the impression that Dorff will change as much as he is able. Again, the best acting came from adorable Elle Fanning who does so well as the kid lost in the Hollywood shuffle.

Perhaps Sofia gets so lost in the photograph of the movie in her head, she forgets about a much needed narrative depth.

Having said all that, I’m glad I did the Coppola three-peat and am also content to let the darker Beguiled pass me by. The world needs more comedy Sofia, not more torture.

Dean, a BBQ type of film=well done!

Continuing with my kookie summer time references is the BBQ review title of Demetri Martin’s well done film Dean.

A new feature of this review will be a “This review is sponsored by…” ad whenever some kind person pays for my movie going experience. My way of acknowledging nice folks.

So this review is brought to by Dan Coughlin, journalist, former Wall Streeter, and man looking for fellow documentarians with whom to build projects.

NOTE TO Demetri Martin: shield your eyes to this next sentence. Dan didn’t think I’d blog about Dean with a veiled reference of it being unimportant cinema.

Au contraire! But here’s where my razor sharp Masters In Counseling ‘see all sides’ mediation comes in: Sure this film might be akin to a lazy river water park ride. However, the script and story were totally relatable (won a Jury Prize at Tribeca) and VERY important in portraying how we each experience grief in different ways. Dean, played by writer/director Demetri Martin, chooses the run away/flight model of grief denial. Kevin Kline (always marvelous, really-wish I could see him on Broadway in Noel Coward’s Present Laughter , but alas it ends July 2nd) portrays Dean’s dad, who takes public intellectualizing regarding his wife’s death with private therapy.

Can’t tell you a lot about what I enjoyed due to my no spoiler vow, but will say that I am happy to see a movie with some ends still loose, instead of an unreal, ‘look at this 100% happy ending’, which is partly why I threw out the hard copy of my novel Jokers to the Right because I hated my false feeling joy! joy! ending.

I can tell you stylistically what I enjoyed about Dean: the split screen frames where Demetri and his dad are seemingly in similar poses. Similarly or perhaps, narcissistically, I think of my Dad and I like this, on any given weeknight, separately alone, tv remote in hand looking for TCM, or some other movie channel, to take the edge of loneliness.

I also really liked the well drawn minor characters, even the minor minor characters filled out to reality. Four deserve mention: Dean’s love interest, Gillian Jacobs, a woman confused emotionally, her best friend Ginger Gonzaga, an icy Rochesterian type of gal, Dean’s good L.A. friend, Rory Scovel (who should be chosen for a Beach Boys bio pic and may have amassed being on the most tv series ever) who shows why men are pigs and also simultaneously in need of a hug, and last (deep breath) his quirky roommate Luka Jones (will look out for him in an upcoming I Love Dick episode.)

Ashamedly for the movie business, Dean’s gone already after a whopping week in Sarasota. In its place is sheer crap (no other way to call it, unless feces makes you feel better. At any rate, if you’re in a major metropolitan area, give Dean a chance. If not, hope Red Box picks it up.

Good Fences Make Good Actors: August Wilson’s Fences

I read the criticisms of the movie version of Fences (‘too confined and stagey”) and as a result, didn’t go for a time. I’ve taught the play and was obviously moved by the story, with an added sentimental attachment to the physical book (which is now on the shelf at Bloomfield Central School) after seeing David Gray at my hotel pool in Dayton Ohio and having nothing else for him to sign.

But the movie was far better than the shallow reviewers revealed. I was physically moved by the acting, so much so, it was difficult to return to the real world and my gala art walk shift at the bookstore. Denzel Washington had a right to scowl at the Oscars upon hearing Casey’s name read. I really think they should have hack sawed the trophy in half and had an unprecedented tie. Why not? It would have made Warren Beatty look better (aside, poor guy, I love Warren). Denzel was Troy Maxson, just as other great actors (Christian Bale “The Fighter” and whatever real life kook he played in “Big Short”/aforementioned Casey Afleck in Manchester/JK Simmons in Whiplash). He reminds everyone of the universal father figure, equally afraid to be surpassed by his son and equally afraid of the opposite, a non-evolutionary expansion.

And what human words can actually explain the force of Viola Davis????????????? She deserved an Academy Award for her acceptance speech alone!!!! She truly gets what it means to come from poverty and to be blessed to have ridden on the backs of those with far less choices. I, too, had a similar epiphany just the other day on one of my lengthy bridge walks: my mother married my dad to get out of the house! It was an escape from the insanity of 8 unsupervised kids as my grandparents eeked out a small town existence.

Movies that help you see your past and your future while telling a compelling story are truly magical. Denzel obviously, having portrayed Troy on Broadway, felt the power and universality of August Wilson’s play and wanted to give it permanence on film. My next internet search is a hope to find that he won the Tony for it at least, as he is one of the finest, if not the finest, actors of our time.

PS Thank you Jesus, Denzel won a Tony for Fences in 2010.

Kenneth Lonergan, where you been all my life?

I’ve been a bad girl here at the tail end of 2016. After more defeats than victories in human connections department, I went back into a bit of a hermit mode, knowing full well I had a life line coming on December 31st (best friend from Rochester arriving).

But there’s a silver lining in every cloud, like last night, renting a Kenneth Lonergan film from 2000 from our local library. I enjoyed Manchester By the Sea so much that I decided to go back in time. And what a pleasure! I already love Laura Linney (Savages still my favorite), and just like the aforementioned she was given an Oscar nom for this film You Can Count on Me. Mark Ruffalo, another precious acting resource (favorite film Foxcatcher) and Matthew Broderick (best kissing scene in this one that I’ve seem in quite some time). And my God, little Rory Culkin, a cutie, who I just noticed won a Gotham award last year for a film called Gabriel (will put it on the list).

Not knowing him well, I learned that Kenneth Lonergan has always used music to evoke emotion. In You Can Count on Me he chose country tunes to show the simplistic and base problems of a small New York town.

I laughed and I cried at this beautiful brother sister relationship. This is a great rental and companion piece to Manchester By the Sea.

Happy New Year and I resolve to get my groove back in 2017.