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!

Menage a` Trois: two cons and an inferno

Got behind on the blog due to writing a play, titled “Thanks for Giving a Damn”, my apologies.

Three flicks on tap, two about cons, one doc and the other based on a true story.

First, “The JT Leroy Story” about a woman who, due to trauma either caused by or combined with sexual and physical abuse as a child, summoned an alter ego who eventually needed a separate ‘body’ in order for JT to profit from her writing. (Perhaps it’s not too late for my pseudonym, Faith Perry, to rise like a phoenix, but where would I find a kook like me:)

But seriously folks, I have mixed feelings about exploiting mental illness which I think can glamorize problems that beg for healthy intervention. BUT, I also see the other side of the argument that genius is sometimes wrapped in dysfunction, so how is JT’s troubles any less relevant than, say, Shirley Jackson*. * A name/author from the past who is the subject of a new book featured in yesterday’s NY Times Book Review section which sounds riveting. But I digress.

Second film of the recent past is ‘Masterminds’ with Zach Galifianakis and Kristen Wiig. I enjoyed it, needing a laugh in a very big way. Ironically, just like my dad’s misgivings with Tallegdaga Nights, another close relative of mine, didn’t see the humor in this film. I think it’s due to generational differences and the fact that I have a soft spot for Zach and all the modern cast of SNL: Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Jason Sudekis. True, the movie’s like cotton candy, and to be honest, if it weren’t for the based on a true story aspect, I’d probably think it was juvenile. I was in the mood, what can I say? A feather in my cap for those few ho think I’m a simply high brow intellectual.

Third, last, and best of the three was ‘Deepwater Horizon’. I’ll get the minor problems out of the way first. Kurt Russell’s Mr. Jimmy while expertly acted, was faulty in the screenwriting. Meaning, Mr. Jimmy can’t be blind one minute and seeing an oil clad John Malkovich (aside: JM is great in that unique-John-Goodman-Jeff-Goldblum can show up in anything and make it great-routine) and reading a clipboard the next minute. Besides that, the film was excellent. Suspense was built rapidly and stayed tense, Mark Wahlberg, though he might be a cad in real life (beating up people in Boston years ago) is a great actor in the tough Boston guy mode. Like me, he hasn’t gone too highbrow as fellow ‘Bahston’ natives, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have done. He’s the Bill Burr of movie making.

To give credit to the ladies, Kate Hudson who has annoyed me after her brilliant ‘Almost Famous’, was palatable as the sexy dutiful wife. Even better was Gina Rodriguez, who is definitely headed for an Oscar one of these days, a rock solid performance making me wish her role was bigger.

good

Tiny T.O.Ts (Temptation of Trumbo) with their eyes all aglow

Dear Academy

I know there’s a double halcyon temptation in giving Bryan Cranston the Oscar for Best Actor.
First, he’s an acting genius virtually putting on a second skin to play roles such as Dalton Trumbo in Jay Roach’s TRUMBO, not to mention, he’s probably the most iconic tv character since SEINFELD in BREAKING BAD. Second, how could the Academy not want to give the award to an actor playing a blacklisted screenwriter? Talk about posthumous salve!

But please, Academy, re-visit the film TRUMBO. While it had some laugh out loud one liners and the subject matter a sad commentary on a putrid and oppressed time in America, the film had an extremely predictable and cumbersome beat. Louis CK was the anachronism I suspected he’d be. He is LOUIS CK and there’s no hiding behind his giant comedian aura, nor can his cherubic physicality perform as a man stricken with lung cancer. That’s the biggest stretch since the fake baby in AMERICAN SNIPER.

I revisited STEVE JOBS with a friend who had yet to see it and I remain firm in my three favorite films of the year being the aforementioned, FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD and LOVE & MERCY. These films had a pacing and undeniable emotive quality not present. I anxiously await O’Russell’s JOY and THE BIG SHORT to see if any last minute rivals come to the fore.

Signed your cinema lover,
Roxanne

“Spotlight” on Research and Conscience

Spotlight, directed and co written by Tom McCarthy, is an important film. Period. And sometimes having a dysfunctional part of our society exposed is more important than media entertainment.

In an artistic sense, “Spotlight” was ho-hum. Research and conscience do not equate great visuals. I’m sure Charlie Kaufman or PT Anderson could come up with some outside the box conceits, but Tom McCarthy simply told the straight story of four + reporters who had to simply research thoroughly and wait out the ‘best’ time to publish the expose` against the Catholic Church.

The acting was tamped down due to, again, the subject; men and women poring over boxes and boxes of abuse and court documents, calling on witnesses who sometimes slammed doors in the face of well intentioned reporters. That and the paper thin characterization (these reporters had invisible spouses and children) did not stop me from enjoying watching two of my favorite actors, Mark Ruffalo and Michael Keaton

While I was well aware of the cover up history in the Catholic Church, I had no idea of the magnitude. The film displays at least 5 screens worth of domestic and international cities with similar scandals.

Can we all just agree to watch over our children and teens better and to intervene when there’s a concern? If even one parent pays more attention, the movie was a success.

Pawn Sacrifice, seats available

I saw Pawn Sacrifice a week ago, and attempted to laugh a most intellectual snicker when I heard the woman in front of me at the box office complain that now that recliners were installed ‘good’ movies are sold out. She was lucky to be saved from The Intern, subtitled DeNiro Doesn’t Care About His Legacy.

Anyway, there were plenty of open recliners at Pawn Sacrifice! Even better news was that Steven Knight (who wrote the screenplay) made chess seem exciting to the non-chess moi.

Ed Zwick also has to be given credit as a director, although I believe Bobby Fisher’s life as a youngster could also have been pared down a bit. (as could that sentence:)

Toby Maguire is one of those thespians who you forget is an actor. Could it be the blandness of who we know as Toby Maguire allows him to slip into personas easier? Perhaps. I mean the only news I ever hear of the man is alluding to a possible gambling addiction.

Liev Schrieber who I never want to like (my wackiness) did a great job as Bobby Fisher’s Russian foe. And Peter Sarsgaard hits another supporting role out of the park (Black Mass) as the Priest who takes a vicarious liking to Bobby’s goal to be world champion.

Definitely worth seeing either on the big screen or a rental on some rainy afternoon.

Black Mass, Shine Up the Oscar

JD.

“Black Mass” directed by Scott Cooper (as in director of Crazy Heart-eye roll) wasn’t a 10 in my book, but Johnny Depp deserves the Oscar for totally absorbing the persona of Whitey Bulger. Much like other pros, Phonenix’s Johnny Cash, Bale’s Dicky Eklund, you forget you’re watching an actor.

Describing the movie’s flaw is a tough one as it did fulfill many purposes:

*had an exemplary performance as the lead…and the Oscar goes to Depp!
*explained complex mafia war in a manner where I was never lost (though Patrick Radden Keefe’s “Assets and Liabilities”, New Yorker 9/21/15 was a great pre-read)
*had engaging actors and actresses in minor roles; for instance Dakota Fanning has overcome her 50 shades of ridiculousness to genuine acting!, Rory Cochrane was gorgeous as the sad eyed stooge friend
*added accolades to ‘the year of Joel Edgerton’, who was phenomenal as FBI agent and “Southie Brother”, and is another actor who I didn’t keep thinking, ‘oh yes, just saw him in The Gift’, another great transformer
*showed supposed caring nuances of Whitey Bulger

Maybe that’s the problem…maybe the story’s sum total is too large and thus sucks the emotional component out
OR even more possible, its tough to give a hoot about cold blooded killers and the guys who enabled them. Karma does rule in this story though and the most viral thugs are rotting in jail. And the Pope’s comin to Phili, so all’s well that ends well:)

Go Chasin Water Falls, “Straight Outta Compton”

When a two and a half hour movie goes by in a flash, you know you’ve been entertained.

Straight Outta Compton directed by F Gary Gray (director of TLC’s video “Waterfalls”) was truly compelling. Perhaps this is partly due to the fact that I didn’t know the story, but the tale is inspirational in its theme of men with a passion overcoming all odds (poverty, drug addled neighborhoods, violence, lack of education, racist police groups).

This could be debated (and feel free), but I believe making it in the music industry may be more difficult than athletics. Much, from what I’ve read about, is being in the right place at the right time and NWA was there.

The acting was very well done (O’Shea Jackson Jr.’s [Ice Cube real life son], Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell) brought a mixture of intense drama with comic moments as well.

I feel smarter about the plight of African Americans in the 1990’s and the hip hop movement due to this film.

Aging Al Pacino (Danny Collins)vs. Female Robot (Ex Machina)and the winner is…

You would think that an aging Al Pacino in Danny Collins (directed by Dan Fogelman) couldn’t hold a candle to a futuristic Ex Machina robot (directed by Alex Garland), but you would be wrong.

Ex Machina makes Under the Skin look like an action flick. A more appropriate title might be “Pregnant Pause”. Conceptually it’s great, and I’ve never liked Oscar Isaac more, oddly enough, as he’s the one who usually makes me yawn (Inside Llewyn Da-snore). But the script, ah, jeepers, no life and not enough creep factor. At least Under the Skin had pounding suspenseful music and Scotland’s miserable woods and cold. But inside Ex Machina’s compound with only the old red light power outage to scare us, I just wasn’t moved. On a positive note, there is a kooky scene with Oscar Isaac and Sonoya Mizuno, where Isaac’s Dr. Frankenstein character encourages Domhnall Gleeson to blow off steam by dancing. The disco type dance in the middle of a sterile sci-fi flick reminded me of the oft times kookiness of Star Trek (the original series). A laugh in the oasis of ennui was quite welcome.

The night before I had seen Danny Collins and while it was certainly August in its surplus of corn, I have to say at least I cared about Bobby Cannavale’s character (good in everything he does!) and felt nostalgia for the Dog Day Afternoon vitality of Al Pacino. I also felt mixed feelings of embarrassment (like you would for your mom wearing a neon pink frock) and respect (God love her for saying yes to this) for Annette Bening who plays the geekiest hotel manager I have ever seen. Christopher Plummer should still be a leading man (and I know he is, Beginners, for instance, but not often enough). His sarcastic manager was a breath of fresh air in what was a little predictable. Based on a true story about a man who receives a letter from John Lennon decades after his death, may make us change the saying, ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ to ‘truth is more mawkish than fiction’.

Yes, Virginia there is a S.C.! (Steve Carell)

Steve Carell

I was skeptical about Foxcatcher, partly because I couldn’t hide from reviews that claimed the screenplay was thin.

Thank goodness I sometimes take these reviews with a grain of salt, as Foxcatcher contains a very well written story and fabulous performances by Steve Carrel, Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum.

First, the most unique aspect of the script is the silence. As my son, quipped afterward, “Thank God we didn’t have popcorn.” I loved the stillness of the film, not only for added suspense, but also for the oppressive spirit that is inherent in rural areas (I know, having worked in one for 29 years).

Steve Carell is over the top, the penultimate moment of his career. Please Steve, don’t ever do another Anchorman EVER.
Mark Ruffalo, probably the most perfect human male on the planet (against fracking, survived a brain tumor, lives in my neck of the woods, born in good hearted Wisconsin. mother’s French Canadien), is equally wonderful.
Channing Tatum, along with Ruffalo, had to learn very difficult wrestler’s choreography. I learned that wrestling requires near gymnastics like talent, which shows my novice depth knowledge of the sport.

Definitely in my top five movies of the year!

As a reminder, coming soon in 2014, my new domain name which is getroxy.xyz