Straight Up a fun flick!

Good on ya James Sweeney, writer and director Of Straight Up available now on Netflix. This was the perfect movie to quench my cinematic thirst since I was getting a LIT-TLE angry that Hollywood/China is holding us movie fans hostage waiting for the miracle Covid19 cure….

Thank God for James Sweeney’s Straight Up (only his second feature film where he’s the head honcho) which employed romantic comedy mixed with sexual orientation confusion. Gen Xer’s will be able to relate and again, the movie made me forget momentarily about the news grabbers of that generation. According to this film, many aren’t focused on deconstruction and cancellation….some according to this movie are looking for good old fashioned joy and contentment, while loving each other despite differences and disagreements. Ah heavenly!

Katie Findlay plays the female half of the film who has the jaded ‘does it all have to be about sex?’ philosophy, a true Saposexual. While she was a tad cloying at times, equally cloying was the male half, lo and behold triple threat James Sweeney…that sneaky guy’s photo is not on IMDB hence did not know until just now! Anywho, James Sweeney (as Todd) was so cute as the guy who earnestly wants a successful relationship that he’ll do almost anything. The fact that they were both corny emotionally isn’t an insult, if anything their sentimentality gave their relationship its poignancy.

The minor characters were very well acted making the entire movie a joy: Tracie Thoms as James/Todd’s therapist, Betsy Brandt and Randall Park as James/Todd’s parents…all solid performances. Also good were Dana Drori as Todd’s shallow gal pal and James Scully as the male on the prowl.

My favorite nuanced scene was between James and his ‘dad’ Randall Park which communicates many emotions in once impactful scene.

Just gorgeous, innocent and funny with a clever fast paced script that anyone can appreciate.

Notting Hill, Notting Wrong Wid It!

Running today I concluded our lives had become pretty darn boring preCovid. At least mine anyway. I ran my 3 and a half miles, I went to work, I eat my ritualistic meals. Pretty solitary, but enjoyable and the only true novelties were restaurant outings, vicarious pleasures I got from movies and the trips I had planned to see Liam in NYC.

Then an opportunity arose a long with the suggestion that I watch Notting Hill. Richard Curtis, the screenwriter, has certainly had an up and down career. Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually and Pirate Radio, all top notch screenwriting.

Yet, he should have lost his license after last year’s Yesterday which was abominably bad. Here directed by Roger Mitchell (My Cousin Rachel, one of my faves of his) in Notting Hill, however, Curtis still has some mojo and while not a perfect film by any stretch….when I say the characters are written broadly (especially his flat mate played by Rhys Ifans), I mean USS Comfort ship size broad.

But who doesn’t love Hugh Grant as a dashing, bumbling humble sentimental in love with emotionally confused, but gorgeous Julia Roberts? You can’t lose! And look who had a cameo, skinny Alec Baldwin!

So yeh, it’s time to roll the dice and live a little wouldn’t you say? When I like corny romance more than Woody Allen classic, you know I’ve lost my marbles, but in a good way. Happy Covid19 Shakeup!

Two Semi Oldies: Both Blue in Language and History

I recently watched two PPLL (Pre-Pension Library Loaners) and was surprised at their similarity regarding a legion of f-bombs. The two films also both have either a sad back or front story.

I took out Object of My Affection after starting a play reading class in which we started with one act by Wendy Wasserstein. While I had heard of her Pulitzer and Tony Award winning play The Heidi Chronicles, I didn’t know much abut her. She wrote the screenplay for The Object of My Affection (directed by Nicholas Hytner, who these days directs mostly National Theater Live productions). Wendy Wasserstein had a sad ending to her brief life (died of cancer at age 55 after having a baby late in life (49)).

In her honor I watched The Object of My Affection which despite it’s Rotten Tomatoes 49% was very real and well written. The only negatives I saw was the hacky saxophone music (like it was stuck in the 80’s still) and the acting. Both Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd meant well, but their performances were no match for the script’s verisimilitude. Which I think is rare, believing the words, but not the people speaking them. Again, a tribute to Wendy W. I will say something about solid acting in the film, too, and that was by John Pankow who has done mostly tv work as of late.

The second f-bomb laden film I watched was for totally different reasons. My favorite co-worker, Barry, and I are on a constant conversation about film. He has suggested mostly great films for me to watch. This latest, Auto Focus, directed by Paul Schrader (coming out next week with what looks like a blockbuster with called First Reformed), had its pluses and minuses. The sad front story here was the move’s focus of Bob Crane’s sad descent into drinking and sex addiction after hitting it big with Hogan Heroes.

The actors Greg Kinnear and Willem Dafoe were terrific, yet the movie felt a bit clunky. A little cliche in the beginning and downright uncomfortably cloying as far as their characters fascination with sex. Ironically, I realize what they did back in the early 70’s was nothing compared to the probable rampant porn addiction happening today.

I forgot to mention that Barry’s recommendation was partly due to our common fascination and admiration with Richard Dawson and how he is the person who introduced (unknowingly) Bob Crane to his future assassin, John Carpenter.

All in all, not a bad way to spend a few rainy afternoons in Sarasota.

The Big Sick, a Perfect Antidote

I was pleasantly surprised with The Big Sick, directed by Michael Showalter and here’s why: I wrongly assumed it would hammer political ideology, of which I’m simply fatigued. But instead, Emily V. Gordon and her husband, comedian Kumail Nanjiani have presented a human story which was sweet and moving.

What helped the movie, besides a smart and funny screenplay, were the outstanding supporting actors (and by actors I mean male and female).

Ray Romano, the Tom Hanks of comedy, is such a solid dude no matter what he does. In fact, I’m sure he probably improved some of the dialogue as you can sense his wholesome sense of humor bleeding through the story, which was great! I miss this guy, Rob the Mob from 2014 was underrated though from the looks of his IMDB page, he’s been around the t.v. world. Next up is a series called Get Shorty on Epix (8/13/17).

I also love Holly Hunter, her petite, but spit fire nature shining as the momma protecting her adult child. Like Romano, you know she’s dependable and impressive. An IMDB search shows she has a new sci fi’ish show (can’t deal), but I will seek out a movie from this year called Breakable You, that also stars Al Molina (another favorite of mine).

Zoe Kazan, who I loved in Ruby Sparks was excellent as well. I actually didn’t want to like her for a very deeply embedded territorial feeling that Kumail’s own wife should be playing the role (since it’s based on their story). But Zoe was so good that I felt totally pacified and ridiculous for this sentiment. Looking at what I may have missed of Zoe’s, Our Brand is Crisis is something I bypassed originally, but being a Billy Bob fan, should round the bases and watch.

So healthy vibes from The Big Sick, definitely worth the price of admission. An excellent night out and some good movies on the horizon.

Mr. Right indeed, but the Movie, Mr. Mediocre

My number one fantasy man is still John McEnroe (not a movie actor-smiley face). He’s the primal adolescent raging hormone man I fell in love with, and plastered my bedroom wall with a giant photo collage with, so long ago. And speaking of high school, I felt that way and this photo reflects that sentiment at a recent ‘Meet up”:

And now you’re asking, what’s with the fantasy talk lately, first Bright Star and the James Taylor dance and now this? Wait for it. But also in my defense, this is Florida, the supposed sunshine state and yet it has rained almost (one was rain free) ten consecutive days. But do spread the word on the miserable Florida weather, I’d like to stave the population rush here (newspaper reports 600,000 new Fla. residents annually…is that even possible?).

Back to the movie review, I knew going in that Mr. Right (directed by Paco Cabezas (if I ever become domesticated myself, Paco Cabezas is my next cat’s name hands down!) was not well reviewed. In fact, I believe it went straight to dvd.

At any rate, I knew I wouldn’t hate it since my number two fantasy man (told you I’d get to it) is Sam Rockwell. I’m geeky enough to have watched and re-watched his audition (a dvd special feature) for Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. Which I just realized I loaned to Mr. “Hey Let Me Tell You What to Watch and Listen, But I’m Not Going to Quid Pro Quo”. Oh well, perhaps I don’t need to see Sam break dance any longer.

As much as I do like Sam (best film “Moon” though “Snatch” is also great), he looked like he wasn’t totally enjoying being Mr. Right. I may be projecting given that I am not an Anna Kendrick fan (though I don’t dislike her-best film “Up in the Air”). After wracking my brain thinking of who would have been good in this female lead, I came up with two ideas: Sarah Silverman and even better, Jenny Slate. Max Landis (screenwriter) wrote a crazy girl role, but then someone chose Pollyanna (Kendrick)to play her. Bad choice.

But on a rainy Saturday, a little profanity and flirtation wasn’t half bad. Althought Mr. Right was a Kiss Kiss Bang Bang wanna be, it was still a good PPLL.

Great Cake, Too Much Frosting: “La La Land”

La La Land, directed by Damien Chazelle, was a fine film, but I can’t help but feel nostalgia for the power of his ‘Whiplash’ or even the rapture of a similar love story musical ‘Moulin Rouge’.

So, let me complain first. The first two musical scenes needed to be combined or shortened. Dancers in a California traffic jam is unique, girls singing in their bedrooms, not so much, but again, shorten them up and I wouldn’t have been thinking, “Ok when does the tremendously praised movie start”.

My only other complaint are the Disneyesque scenes where I thought I was re-watching Fantasia. Not that there’s anything wrong with children’s films, but it added schmaltz which limited my emotional response.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling were amazing and they made me want to take tap dancing lessons. And I appreciated and concur on the ‘moral to the story’ which I’ll relate in a few months again to protect my dear readers. Justin Hurwitz’s music is fitting to the film, sweet, in an overly confectionery way. I didn’t leave saying, I have to have the soundtrack as I did in a musical like ‘Rent’.

The last 30 minutes of the film were wonderful, realistic and emotionally effective. Won’t say more to protect you from spoilers. I just wish Mr. Chazelle had started from a more serious angle from the get go.

I Cinema-ed a Girl and I Liked it, “The Edge of Seventeen”

Was going to use the more provocative line, “I Flicked a Girl and I Liked It” an allusion to the Katie Perry song, but didn’t want anyone to think I was questioning my sexuality (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but I remain 99% hetero).

I think the last time I went to a movie with a girl my own age was ‘The Hours’, back when I was all verclempt of whether to go to Arizona for a half marathon with an emotionally unstable boyfriend. SO today’s meeting a co-worker for The Edge of Seventeen was a fairly new experience.

The Edge of Seventeen stars Hailee Steinfeld, who I first got to know during one of the coldest winters ever in Rochester, when I was forced to run at the JCC. Slave to the elliptical machines, I’d watch VH1 videos and one of my favorites was Hailee Steinfeld’s “Love Myself”, a happy “Walking on Sunshine” pop piece that always helped me feel better about the minus 5 Fahrenheit outside.

Hailee, like so many of those who make it, is multi-talented, singing and acting with equal aplomb. She portrays 17 year old angst in a very genuine performance. I teared up which is telling of movie quality as I’m not one for teenage problem movies perhaps due to 30 years of somewhat jaded ‘oh not more hormonal drama’ experience.

Other actors were very solid-Blake Jenner, Haley Lu Richardson, and Hayden Szetzo, the latter of whom should be cast immediately in a Tiger Woods biopic. In fact, all these folks may some day be the Joilees and Pitts, they’re that good.

Woody Harreslon is another one of those guys who I could watch eat toast and be riveted. He plays a bit of a teacher stereotype here (lounging at his teacher desk reading is NOT something that happens in 99% of schools), but certainly fits public perception. And while I like Kyra Sedgewick, I though her character, also, was a bit cliche`; the sad single myopic mom.

My only other quibble was that some of the awkward silences between Woody and Hailee and Szetso and Hailee were a little too quiet. Silence works in many films (“Certain Women” at least did it better), but it was almost a beat too long here in a few spaces.

All in all though, twas a great experience; a sunny .7 mile walk, camaraderie with a gal pal, and a moving positive film.

Birbiglia and Gethard, equally irresistible

“Don’t Think Twice” is an amiable rom com that I wouldn’t say you need to run out to see, but because I love Mike Birbiglia and thought his one man show “Thank God for Jokes” in NYC was genius, I have to promote this movie. Chris Gethard is also equally charming in a vulnerable, boy-needs-a-hug way.

*Addendum 9/9/16: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Keegan-Michael Key. I do really like him as a comedian, and while he’s almost believable in this dramatic role, he’s a touch too affected. His comedic talent might overshadow his ability to be taken seriously, much like Louis CK in Trumbo.

This movie actually might be a good training manual for some (6 to be exact) of the Sarasota gentlemen (platonic, this is not a kiss and tell) I’ve met since moving here who do not seem to understand the balance of a male female conversation, nor have they obviously ever heard Shakespeare’s ‘brevity is the soul of wit’. I don’t need a 20 minute sermon on Plato’s Republic and then a measly fill in the blank question for the ‘my ideas’ portion of the discussion.

Don’t misinterpret and think that I am a misandrist, rather the men in Don’t Think Twice are excellent models for listening AND speaking, note the two verbs, but I digress…

What’s wrong with this movie is the millennial mistake of, ‘if we’re all just goofy and playful isn’t that cute to everyone?’ Ugh, no. Improv can be funny, on a highly skilled level (Whose Line Is It Anyway, for example) yet in the film’s case it’s Improv that’s reaching too much or perhaps rehearsed improv (which isn’t improv) isn’t that funny. Though a smart ass director would say, “that’s the point, these guys aren’t suppose to be funny”. Oh, I see…

The female characters, except for Tami Sagher were annoying in a cloying, “I get to be wimpy and emotionally unstable because I’m a girl” stereotype.

Again, not a horrible movie. I was nearly touched by the poignant moments, yet wasn’t deeply moved due to the self-entitled silliness of 85% of the improv group.

Or perhaps I’m just grouchy that Nadal was beaten by a young French guy.:)

Woody Allen’s Cafe Society, a place I’d commit to: one day at a time

I have added a link at the end of this blog about the pros and cons of the INTP Myers-Brigg Personality type to peruse if psychology interests you. As I navigate new opportunities and major choices of where to live and work in South Florida, I realize more and more how difficult it is for me to make decisions.

This theme fits perfectly with Woody Allen’s latest “Cafe Society” since the protagonist’s conflict longs for the ‘one that got away’. Jesse Eisenberg plays the latest version of a younger Woody Allen character; a personification of frayed nerves, twitch and anxiety. His love interest Kristen Stewart, is equally ver klempt between the purity of Jesse’s love and a long standing affair with a married man (Steve Carell in a very maudlin role, meaning a 2-d character, impotent in range).

The good news is Eisenberg and Stewart have chemistry, even with writing that’s a little predictable. Another positive aesthetic note: Kristen Stewart’s costuming, for those who love 30’s fashions was divine.

The road not taken is a universal theme that will never become extinct. The grass always looks greener on the other side, yet once there, we all know that it usually isn’t much different. Being such a planner (both short and long term) has always been my way of wrestling and ‘winning’ against the unknown. Since moving here to Florida, I have lectured myself on simply taking one day at a time. Perhaps had I developed this patient zen earlier in life, my whole destiny may have been different. But would it have been better?As I navigate new opportunities and major choices of where to live and work in South Florida, I realize more and more how difficult it is for me to make decisions.

Maggie’s Plan, Nothing Novel

Maggie’s Plan (written and directed by Rebecca Miller) was nothing novel, though the film did have a few highlights.
Let’s get the disappointment out of the way first. Actually, no, let me change that view to optimism since I could have written this easily (sorry Rebecca). In fact, my screenplay Buck Up has more laughs and wittier dialogue, covering roughly the same territory. So given the right eyes and ears, even I could be a screenwriter. But wait, I just remembered, my dad wasn’t Arthur Miller. Oh, I’m blessed, fear not.

I have enjoyed Greta Gerwig, first seeing and loving her in Greenberg. Here, however, she seemed like marshmallow fluff and when she cries at one point, I felt the emotional pull equivalent of a mannequin crying. Not that she didn’t have any grand moments, in fact, there was a truism I could relate to when she said, “Is it true that the squeaky wheel gets the grease and the cactus gets nothing?” Julianne Moore, same story, fake German accent plus histrionic personality equals zero audience empathy.

Bill Hader, should have his romantic comedy license revoked, being a repeat dud offender (first in Trainwreck and now this). Bill is at his best in the humor zone, though I know full well this cold be debated with Skeleton Twins. Chalk it up to quality writing. (Again, sorry Rebecca.)

Ethan Hawke, I’ve already revealed in previous blogs, I’m a sucker for. Even when he seems to be reaching, he’s good. This role possibly strikes closest to home (man who commits affairs and winds up with younger wife and more children) and the pinnacle of the film is his rant at being manipulated. Though watch out Ethan, equally as strong was a minor character, the pickle factory owner Travis Fiimmel. Let me call it now, he’ll win an Academy Award in the next 5 years. Take it to Vegas. He was the most realistic character of the entire film, vulnerable, yet masculine. Someone give this man a role beyond Warcraft (major eye roll).