The Florida Project, wish he was my relative; Sean Baker

Sean Baker has done it again, floored me with a film of beauty and poignancy….I’d like to call him my brother from another mother, read on….

I dated a brilliant, handsome and funny man for five years of Saturday nights before I moved to Florida, and before you think it was some string of boozy weekend affairs, please continue. We had busy week day lives (me: running, teaching and exhausted; he: tough mudder training, IT at community college and exhausted) so we’d get together Saturday evenings for movies, drinks, snacks and well, you get it. Those were good times that sadly ended when I moved south.
HOWEVER, our best night maybe ever, was the night we rented Tangerine off Netflix written and directed by Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch. I think we had more surprised belly laughs than any other night, which added to the glow of our camaraderie.

The Florida Project did not elicit belly laughs, HOWEVER, it is my favorite movie of this year this far. It will be the movie I scream at the tv about if Oscars are not presented. The Florida Project was real, haunting, and to steal a word from Willem Dafoe (star of the film) on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, “noble”.

The Florida Project is an ode to children and should be required viewing for any parent who gets involved with DSS. It would be the perfect scared straight film for those not already permanently lost.

The movie made me think of my cousin JJ, who depending on the real truth, either suffered from lack of guidance and parenting, fetal alcohol syndrome, an individual chemical imbalance, brain injury or a combination of any of the aforementioned. Whatever the cause, his life has been very sad, even from a distance.

Fortunately for the viewers, The Florida Project doesn’t follow the children into adulthood to see possible the jail time or ruin carried over into their adult lives. Seeing the neglect in their formative years is impactful enough. And if any complaint is to be made, is that many children who grow up in an undernourished and chaotic setting are not as cute or manageable as the gorgeous children in The Florida Project, but very few people, unfortunately, would seek out that film.

As with Tangerine, when I researched the actors, there was little known about them. Sean Baker likes to choose unknowns who add to the verisimilitude (a motive of which I’m guessing). Huge praise needs to be heaped on the kids in the film, notably Brooklynn Prince, the main child and daughter to Bria Vinaite, who also is simply amazingly believable.

The beginning of the film and end are bookended by beautiful music; Kool and the Gang‘s Celebrate and, and, swing and a miss! No soundtrack on Itunes or elsewhere. Their offical movie website says touch to continue, but my touch not working tonight. Take my word for it, it was an orchestral arrangement of a popular song. Any one who sees the film, hang out, watch the credits and let me know what the end song was, please, because the film doesn’t even have its own website.

GO SEE THIS, it’s y number one as we head into the big competition.

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.

Heads Spin, Beatrix at Dinner

Ok, my head is spinning from Beatrix at Dinner, directed by Miguel Arteta and written by Mike White (School of Rock! The Good Girl!).

And by heads spin, I mean spinning in both positive and negative rotations.

The positive: Salma Hayek is dynamite, in fact, the entire ensemble was absolute perfection:females: Britton, Landecker, Sevigny; males: Lithgow (extra star!), Warshovsky (where’d you come from? you’re excellent!) and Duplass (the perfect d-bag).

Another positive: the story by Mike White nails class differences and the subsequent uncomfortable moments when classes mix. I understand that now more than ever living in Sarasota. In my previous life (Rochester and Bloomfield, NY), my position of teacher was for the most part upper middle class. I didn’t even see or really understand those below me. Sure, certainly I saw the dichotomy of classes in Bloomfield, we had everyone from equestrian aristocrats to mobile home multiple job occupants. And for the most part, everyone there accepted and could associate without awkwardness, which is a tremendous testament to how special Bloomfield really is.

And Sarasota is pretty special, too, in that I see people being really civil to each other. With rare exception, the wealthy people I know here are super nice. The difference is though that many of the wealthy people I know don’t really understand (or perhaps are simply ignoring or self-centered) the plight of those below them. Some of the folks I work with far wealthier than me with double incomes will agonize and pontificate about how few garments they’re allowed on an African safari, for one example, yet never turn the spotlight back to you about how your coping making ends meet with your pre-pension two job salary. They never get to hear me whine back about my intimidation with requesting air conditioning maintenance (it’s not working) because I am hoping my (wealthy) landlord will renew my lease at the same rent for one more year.

Having said all that, Beatrix at Dinner dares to cross these waters with great success.

The only negatives of the film were: the slow start, again, editing issue (as with The Lovers) and second, just a few loose ends with connecting the dots between real and metaphorical.

Beyond those tiny problems, Beatrix at Dinner should garner Salma an Academy Award Best Actress nomination, and even Lithgow for Best Supporting. Go see it!

Like the Deepest Ocean, Time Out of Mind Directed by Oren Moverman

I’ll always love Owen Moverman for his superb Love&Mercy and so I spent three nights of penance to get through Time Out of Mind. One of my friends said, “why do you feel the need to finish movies?”

Well, in this case, because I have a home, and yet almost daily, I see homeless in Sarasota sleeping on benches by the bay, meanwhile working two jobs where to say people have money to blow is an understatement. And that’s not judgment merely commentary.

I am pleased to report though from reading Friday’s Sarasota Herald Tribune (Zach Murdock article) that the justice system has put pressure and requirements for the city to offer beds rather than mats for at least 30 homeless people a night. In addition, if all the beds are full, the police are not allowed to arrest people sleeping outside.

This is the movie I thought Norman was, a month ago, and I wonder if Richard Gere (star of both) made any connection. Norman could have just as easily become the homeless man in Time Out of Mind, as freewheeling he was with cash to impress the rich people he was hanging on.

Two hours is a long time to watch what was basically a case study of a homeless man. Overman chose to allow ambient New York City noise to be an all intrusive character. And due to this technique Gere becomes more ‘reduced’, as Ben Vereen, his temporary homeless buddy refers to them as.

Gere does a fantastic job in his portrayal as a man who lost his i.d. and with it his own place and importance in the world. The actress who plays his daughter (Jena Malone) is also excellent as well in presenting an angry young woman who can’t get passed familial injuries too deep to let go.

Tough to watch, but worth the empathy practice.

Rituals Paterson Rituals

The Red Wheelbarrow*
(William Carlos Williams, 1883 – 1963)

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.


Jim Jarmusch
used William Carlos Williams as his muse for the movie Paterson. And if you’re going to see a movie without any action, based on poetry, one would think you would not want to take a rugged retired fireman.

But wait!

Jarmusch would say that’s exactly who would appreciate such a film, just as the main character-Adam Driver-is the bus driver poet, why couldn’t there be the fireman poet? And in fact, didn’t Guy Montag, the main character and fireman in Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, have such poetic leanings, ‘her dress was white and it whispered’?

Perhaps a firemen would alter WCW’s poem to:

The Red Firetruck
(ghost written by Roxanne Baker 1963-)

so much depends
on a red
fire truck

blackened by smokey
soot

beside the white
two story.

Paterson was an ode to the poet in us all, and in this movie, everyone is a poet: a laundry mat rapper, a 10 year old girl, a Japanese tourist. The film could also be seen as an ode to director Chantal Ackerman, specifically her film Jeanne Dielman, an epic film where the housewife goes through everyday routines repeatedly.

The habits of Adam Driver and his girlfriend made me miss the predictability of coupledom and paradoxically, made me glad I have the freedom as a single gal to do whatever the heck I want. The fact that Jim Jarmusch can evoke opposing emotions is a feat unto itself.

His eye for art is also appealing, and in this film black and white patterns fill the home courtesy of actress Golshifteh Farahani, the unemployed, but dream filled love interest. Their pug, in his gloriously bored expressions, mirror the mundane life most of us live. The most fun aspects of our lives are the tiny surprises that interrupt the predictability of the rest of our lives. For instance, when you meet someone on a bridge walk and end up going to a movie.

Thought provoking messages about yin and yang, and the idea that the world eventually gives us what we need, also supplied and required reflection. The shadow within every person was found in a talented poet beaten down by the drudgery, the shadow in every relationship in an unrequited love affair, or the shadow in many life moments as two guys on Paterson’s bus share similar stories of the promise of a dating opps, only to let them slip away. The world giving us what we need was seen in a bar incident on the verge of violence and a gift of an empty notebook.

Paterson doesn’t hold it’s power in action, but in its ability to make you ponder. The film’s equally enjoyable for poetry fans and for the dreamer in us all.

*1985 Ft. Lauderdale

Certain Women: Beginning, Middle and En-?

I thought I was a big fan of Kelly Reichardt, yet after looking at her IMDB page, I realize this is a false claim based on only 3 films: her BEGINNING film “River of Grass” (looking to buy this, it’s a keeper, will explain below), her MIDDLE film “Wendy and Lucy” and her latest (EN-?), “Certain Women” last night at Burns Court in Sarasota.

First, her first:) RIVER OF GRASS is bar none, the penultimate Florida film. It’s funny, subversive and is so right on with the kookiness of all that Florida is, that I honestly don’t think any other movie could top it. Why it didn’t gain traction for a re-do with bigger celebrities and bigger budget is beyond me. In fact, it’s so timeless, it could be re-done today. It’s what Caddy Shack is to golf courses.

Her middle film, WENDY AND LUCY was very different. Akin to an uninhibited middle schooler (aka RIVER OF GRASS)
[or me at 52 after a large coffee on email..sometimes stepping over the (tacitly marked) line…]
who takes a high schooler nose dive into moody introspection, came her middle film WENDY AND LUCY. I don’t think I fully appreciated this quiet descent at the time, but looking back, the film had a memorable milieu and considering how many films I’ve seen, is saying something. And for dog lovers, which I am not, I’m sure it would resonate more. In addition, Michelle Williams, a terrific actress, was stellar as a homeless person.

The latest Reichardt invention CERTAIN WOMEN (screenplay/director based on stories by Maile Meloy) was even more quiet than “Wendy and Lucy”‘s Malick-like quiet mixed with Ackerman’s redundancy: http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9C07E0DA143BF930A15750C0A965948260.

I didn’t mind this either, especially after a very chatty work day; my only need was a satisfying ending. But as Jimmy Olsen once lamented in an old Superman episode, “Oh, nobody got the money.”

Once again, Michelle Williams does fantastic work (biased here of course, loved her in Blue Valentine, and saw her live on Broadway with Jeff Daniels in “Blackbird”). Williams’ range and evocative facial expressions is of DeCaprio’s Revenant caliber. Laura Dern and Kristen Stewart were equally great as a miserable small town lawyers, and a relative newbie, Lily Gladstone was tremendous as a ranch hand.

I can’t say who didn’t get the money to be true to my no spoilers. If you need quiet, love Montana and great cinematography, you will be cinematically nourished. For me, once I finish the novel Nicotine by Nell Zink, Truman’s bio by McCullough, I may hunt down Maile Meloy’s short stories to see if there’s more to be mined.

The Bigger Splash-A Must See!

A Bigger Splash is a must see, partly due to Tilda Swinton who plays a muted (due to her character’s vocal injury) rock and roll singer. And while seeing this in my new home town of Sarasota, I felt a little like Tilda, muted in my won way by a stress fracture due to running, a clipped bird, but trying my best to move on. Tilda Swinton has always been a beauty who leans toward masculinity, and I, too felt this too, with my clomping fracture boot topped off with a flowered sun dress. Goofy yet oddly elegant. i
I’m neither arrogant nor masking insanity. I’ve just decided to embrace life and pray that my deep loneliness due to decades of rigid independence be finally relinquished.
And Ralph Fiennes is enough to rekindle desire. He owns this film and hasn’t been this good since The English Patient. I’m glad he’s come out of the shadow of Wes Anderson kookiness.
Dear reader may I explain that this beautiful Kindle has the sound of an old typewriter and seems to want to put periods in between words like Morse code. But I persevere.
And after a lackluster start in 50 Shades of Backwash, Dakota Johnson is jaw dropping.
The fourth actor in this tangled quadrant, Matt Schoenhaerts, more than held his own. Astonishingly, M.S. was also in Far from the Madding Crowd, and even though I loved that movie, he seemed like a completely different person. Which I believe is probably the highest praise an actor can receive.

Clouds of Sils Marie, ‘CirrEus’ clouds that is

I liked Clouds of Sils Marie and was glad that yet another trailer was deceiving. It’s not a shallow Black Swan- cut throat theater actress pic, but more like a dramatic theater like performance; a mountain made slowly with layers of sedimentary rock. In fact, when a dark screen title Part Two popped up, I thought ok, Part Three must be where the showdown happens.

What little I’ve read of reviews (I try to avoid due to spoilers) critics definitely all concur, as do I, that Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart have tremendous individual stage presence and their chemistry together felt real as well. Doug Benson had joked on Doug Loves Movies that the only small highlight was a skinny dipping scene where Juliette strips to reveal an old school throw rug, while KS remains in underwear…which may be true, yet in the time of Avengers saltines, us deeper folk like a hearty piece of bread.

While there is something sad (as a woman clinging to youth myself; re. longer Samsonesque hair) about JB’s husky legs and asexual haircut, I do respect, even envy, her confidence. KS, on the other hand (mirroring the theme of the film) displays her femininity and youth on subtly natural terms, which I also respect. And doesn’t she have the market cornered on brooding female characters that perky Emma Stone could never pull off?

So, on a rainy afternoon, or even a sunny one if you have to watch your sun intake like me, see Clouds of Sils Marie. It’s a complex and thought provoking film.