Unsupervised Teens, Always Big Trouble “L.I.E.”

Wow, just finished a recommendation for a PPLL, L.I.E. directed by Michael Cuesta. Was surprised I hadn’t heard of this director considering how well written and how artistically directed this film was from ‘way back’ in 2001. And while an Emmy for Homeland is nothing to sneeze at, I would have expected his subsequent films to be accolade worthy.

A sucker for Paul Dano, I will admit seeing him so young was disconcerting, given the unpleasant obstacles facing his teenage character. Sure, the film is 16 years old, but I’ll bypass plot details, not wanting to spoil this for anyone who hasn’t seen it. Suffice to say, Paul Dano’s Long Island existence is basically without any supervision.

Tawdry and damn depressing, the movie is compelling due to the verisimilitude of the characters and actors. Not since the film Little Children 2006 with Jackie Earle Haley have I seen a sympathetic portrayal of a pedophile. And I realize this film was actually a predecessor (in this case Brian Cox) I simply had not seen.

Much like Philip Seymor Hoffman in Scent of a Woman and Ethan Hawke in Dead Poets Society, Paul Dano’s teenage performance was surely prescient of his acting brilliance. So much so, that I can forgive him for Swiss Army Men, which is his only clunker. Love & Mercy, 12 Years a Slave and Youth certify him as a favorite of mine no matter what he chooses to do next (which appears to be a mini series of War and Peace).

I’ve been to Long Island’s* suburbia and always seem to see seedy articles about the area’s violence and crime reported in the New York Times. Sad that this area is a fine setting for such a dysfunctional plot. And yes, I realize I’m saying this ironically, from the king nutville of the U.S., Florida:)
*Long Tsland has beautiful areas as well, obviously. The Hamptons and a gorgeous park (Eisenhower) where I saw Soulive with Martin, Medeski and Wood.

O’ Captain, Middling Captain: Captain Fantastic

Red Box Rental: While my best buddy was here in Ft. Meyers for the last time until the next yule tide, we rented Captain Fantastic (Oscar nominated Viggo Mortensen), after I pulled my movie snob card and outvoted his Melissa McCarthy as girl scout master coach pick. But before you place the Oscar medallion around my neck (let’s pretend they have one of the statuette), please note that I took a turn to the dark side and went with my friend’s policy of “fast forwarding is perfectly ok”. Meaning, this movie was ok, but not worth relishing every moment.

The most fun takeway, which we look for being cut-ups, were two lines that have now surpassed one of the lame Bourne Identity films “We’ve got a situation.”: “Stick it to the Man” and “Power to the People.”

What was the problem, you say? Well, Viggo Mortensen certainly was good, but his character’s actions sometimes didn’t ring true. I won’t divulge the whats and hows to preserve your experience, but I guess I didn’t buy some of the story aspect. Matt Ross (both writer and director) is no slouch at technique. I felt creeped out by the opening scene and the undercurrent of something terrible about t befall the children.

The kids (Viggo has an excess of them in this film) were also decent, the two stand outs being the oldest son, George Mackay and the brooding middle son who’s the non-conformist to non-conformity, Nicholas Hamilton. The female standout of the film is Kathryn Hahn, who, would someone give this girl a nomination? I mean, talk about being able to do both ends of the spectrum. Here she’s the guarded distraught pc sister-in-law to Viggo, there she’s sticking her tongue in the ear of Jennifer Aniston (Meet the Millers). One last person I’d be remiss not to mention is Frank Langella, who has that John Goodman quality of hitting even the smallest roles right out of the park.

I don’t mean to take away from Viggo, he did have to play a fine line between abuser and strict Dad and gain our sympathy which he did by portraying an almost mythical fatherly archetype. But, if I think it’s best to push the FF button, you know something’s not quite right. But see for yourself.

Why the lobster screams: The Lobster

I pulled an Anomalisa with The Lobster, expectations being through the ceiling. I mean John C. Reilly in a bitter satire about couples and the single shaming that occasionally happens to me? I hadn’t heard ‘smug marrieds’ since the original Bridget Jones Diary book (the movies look like schlock) and I was ready for action and laughs.

But oh Yorgus Lanthimos, is it your name that makes you so damn sad? As lonely as I am some days, I’m never The Lobster lonely! Maybe I’m misremembering Dogtooth, maybe that was equally dismal, yet I gave you a pass because I was with a person who’s company I enjoyed. Or maybe because Dogtooth was so different than any other movie I had seen. Certainly there must be a story in your past about being hit in the nose with blunt force (NOT a spoiler, trust me).

But on the positive side, the actors were all amazing. Colin Farrel, who normally plays a tough Irish lad (except for the mermaid movie which I didn’t think i could take), actually played a pudgy, rejected fragile man. Rachel Weisz also was virtually unrecognizable (a poor mans Julianna Marguelis-spelling to be checked later) as Colin’s last attempt at love. And John C Reilly, he might be the most lovable actor of all time. Yo just want to give the guy a hug and make him feel better. He’s the guy in the movie we feel the most empathy for, whether it be Magnolia or Step Brothers.

The movie had the right idea, coincidentally the same idea I had in a ten minute play two man play I wrote called “Matt Ramoney”, but my play didn’t send anyone of the 25 people who watched it in to a deep depression. Goodness Yorgus, lighten up. Though I now know why the lobster screams!

Leviathan, tis the season

I was thinking how depressing a movie Leviathan (direcetd by Andrey Zvyagintsev) is, not depressing in the, ‘Boy do I feel melancholia!”, but more of a super realist/pragmatist life reference.

Yet, isn’t that what our pre-Easter/mid lent period is all about? Suffering and self-denial leading up to the…ta-da!- resurrection.

But I digress. Leviathan was up for an Academy Award for a very good reason; it resonates like a deep headache, reverberating for days after the initial onset.

Think Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead only in Russian. There’s no literal brother vs. brother feuds, but certainly the Ruskies don’t mind offing another fellow man. While I’m now against giving any awards to antagonist figures (sorry JK, enough of your types), I will give a prop to this Putinesque mayor, portrayed by Roman Madyanov.

For me, the stand out performance was by the long suffering Job-like figure of Kolya, played by a David Letterman look alike named Aleksey Serebryakov Aleksey who did win the Russian Guild of Film Critics Award. His distressed vodka swigging persona is no stereotype. His pain and suffering injustice is palpable.

And isn’t it true, that the world can be a horribly cruel place to be, if one does not avoid negativity at all costs, which includes relationships and residences? Isn’t the Buddhist existence of zero expectations a much much more satisfying way to live?
If you struggle with this existential dilemma, see Leviathan. I guarantee you’ll lead a more pure life at least until the reverberations fade away.