“The Square”, Way Outside the Box

There were many reasons to escape into the cinema today; 11 hours (in two days) of intense retail work (100% friendly customers though), wide angle steer clear of some who haven’t found their zen, and an ice cold message from a former college sweetheart. Need I go on?

I was even willing to go solo to “The Square” knowing how much I loved the director’s (Ruben Ostlund) previous film “Force Majeure” which was nominated for a Golden Globe back in 2015. But to the companionship rescue galloped my friend Dave, who went way outside his box by attending a foreign film of considerable length, 2:22.

And just like Mikey in the old Life commercials, he liked it! And so did I….but….

Ok positives first:
Tremendous screen writing*. This film had that verisimilitude that the phrase “you can’t make this sh*& up” implies. I won’t give away any of the ‘what the bleep just happened’ moments, but three stand out specifically to me.

The acting was top notch: Claes Bang, who rarely leaves the screen, was totally believable as the museum director who slides down the slippery slope of megalomaniac justice seeker. Elisabeth Moss’s character is if the Handmaid (she’s in the Margaret Atwood novel inspired tv series) got revenge by going off the deep end.

Cinematography, again, gorgeous, from the sex scenes to the art work, to the spiral staircases that symbolically end in a square, just fabulous.

And if the *one wild loose end that isn’t tied up is a message that we care more about the impact of fictional work then we do human reality, then let’s give this movie the Academy Award. Though Ruben should really have a flyer ready to explain that to people on their way out.

My only gripe (besides the obscurity of the aforementioned) was the last 15 minutes. If Ruben had ended it at the press conference, hand the Oscar over right now. But to go on and on meandering to a cheerleader’s competition and then a near miss at a dumb ass parent move (never leave your kids in a car in a strange place) which negates character development (like hello, wasn’t that what got you in the mess to begin with?) was a disappointment. Like a Fuji apple I have thoroughly enjoyed only to find a rotten spot on the last bite, that’s “The Square”.

But all is forgiven. One last bite can’t spoil the wonderful surprises, much needed escape, and calm company this experience supplied. Go see this.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women: More like Prof. Maasdam

Hey when you write a film blog, sometimes you learn something new, like this afternoon when I’m looking for a cheese that starts with M (like Marston does) and and ends in an N or M (like Marston does). And Eureka (!) you find Maasdam cheese from the Netherlands which is perfect since it’s a semi-hard cheese and that’s about as excited this movie will make either gender.

People, the concept is titillating, a Harvard Professor of Psychology and his wife begin a menage a trois which blossoms into a permanent, shall we say mini Mormon experience, meaning relative bigamy, cohabitation and child rearing. All of which were shocking lifestyle choices in the 1940’s.

And certainly all three lead actors were competent (Rebecca Hall being the strongest of the three by far, and yes I’m biased-see my “Christine” and “The Dinner” reviews), the other two being: Luke Evans and Bella Heathcote, both of whom still have hope for greater films.

But oh the screenplay is the Maasdamiest (cheesiest) of any screenplay I’ve seen in recent memory. A tell tall cough here, maudlin music here, sexy strip music (with slo-mo) there.

The best that can be said about Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is that I got to spend time reclining (@CineBistroSKey) with Pete, a gentleman who gave me space after a long workday (and who I am truly honored to have been visited by). I also like true stories and the fact that we got to see photos of the real people at the end always heightens my affection for a film. My only wish is that the screenwriter would have opted for human commotion over the ‘mellow’ (cheese) drama.

Battle of the Sexes, I Miss the 70’s

For many reasons, I love the 70’s. It’s partly the drop dead beautiful music (Elton John‘s Rocket Man, George Harrison‘s What is Life!), partly that I was a little girl obsessed with the adult world (10 at the time of the King-Riggs match), and partly due to the moments of spectacle (like the aforementioned tennis match and another off the top of my head- Evel Knievel). These days, everything has become a spectacle and consequently, very few things are that amazing.

At any rate, Battle of the Sexes was good. Emma Stone, good. Steve Carell, great. But because the real people are so damn cool, I’d prefer to see a well executed documentary rather than people playing them. Which goes back to corroborate my love of that decade.

Probably the most extraordinary part of the film is the back story of Billie Jean’s sexuality and that she was one of the first people (at least of that era) that had to finally be courageous enough to live the life she truly wanted. Although according to Wiki, she didn’t actually get divorced until 1987, but perhaps the movie, which led me to believe he knew at 1973 that Billie was a lesbian, stayed married for practical purposes.

An interesting sub-plot was the nutritional advisor Rheo Blair who Bobby Riggs employed to help is stamina. Fred Armisen of SNL and Portlandia portrayed the man, and unfortunately, his appearance reminded me of Louis CK in Trumbo and here I’ll invoke another tennis legend in Fred as actor choice, “You Can’t Be Serious!”. Even more strange, ther’s no wiki page on this dude. Try it, all you’ll come up with his his own website-Nutritionist to the Stars! I expected some Brian Wilson psychiatrist type scandal bringing this guy down eventually. Hmmmm, a mystery.

So, Battle of the Sexes a good walk down memory lane, but not as spectacular as the spectacle of the genuine articles.

Another Gorgeous Slice of Life: Brad’s Status

Thanks to my benevolent friend Carrie, I sat in luxury leather to watch Brad’s Status. And not just anywhere, but in the hometown of one of the film’s stars (read on to find out!).

But that’s not why I liked the film. The story by Mike White (School of Rock, The Good Girl) was not only extremely realistic in portraying the awkward relationship parents have with their late adolescents ready to leave the nest for college, but was also produced it in such a way to also detail the interior mind of a middle aged man with social anxiety.

We all have an interior monologue going on in our heads (come on admit talking to yourself:) and movie voice overs can sometimes be cringe worthy. But Ben Stiller has a presence and a voice that makes you feel camaraderie, like, “Yeh man, I know what you’re talking about!”.

The awkward silences and stoicism of parent-child relationships were very well done as were the college finance and major questions, the hope-you get-into-a-prestiguous-school, but how-the-hell-are-we-going-to-pay-for-it struggle? The you’re-a-great-musician vs. can-you-make-a-living-wage-at-it?

Austin Abrams who played Ben’s son is the aforementioned native of my new home town of Sarasota*: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3641002/?ref_=tt_ov_st_sm, and walks a talented line between tolerant and ready to explode upon his awkward dad. *In fact, for shame distributors! It’s only playing in one theater in Sarasota!

Class struggle was also gracefully, but honestly handled. Living in Sarasota means seeing a wide range of incomes. Those of us in the middle class can’t help but feel occasional envy at the mega wealthy. Brad’s four friends in the latter category were portrayed just enough for us to understand without straying from the main story. Mike White (yes he wrote it, directed it and acted in it) Michael Sheen, Luke Wilson and Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords(PLEASE do more movies, I love you!) all do stand out performances in minor roles.

In fact the beauty of a good movie is that the story makes you think more about it after the fact. For instance, did Michael Sheen’s character have accurate info on his wealthy buddies or was he simply as envious as Ben Stiller?

Definitely worth the CineBistro price. Go root, root, root for the home boy Austin Abrams while the film is still in town!

See Stronger, Be Better, Forget ‘It’

Hellooooooo, is anyone (deep) out there? For God’s sakes, according to the trailers and the number one film at the box office “It”, we are a country of violent dunces. Do me a favor, go see Stronger and redeem our collective reputation.

Funny thing is, before the violent 8 trailers, my companion and I realized we were both feeling trepidation about seeing the movie. Here I thought my dear friend Dave wanted to see it and I was worried it would be too schmaltzy for me. Meanwhile my friend thought I really wanted to see it and was also somewhat reluctant. Since it was my idea, a lump was in my throat at the film’s start that I would be looking like the idiot and that had wasted our hard earned doe. Fortunately, we both loved it, he-man and tom boy alike.

Stronger is not just a man gets injured, man learns to walk again. It’s literally a biopic of a real human being, with real failings (arrested development, toxic family, menial job). It’s also not a jingoistic let’s nail the terrorists film and in fact, actually looks at all angles of military service. If I was again a woman in my mid thirties, wishing my then husband would mature beyond lothario, this might be the movie that could cause such an epiphany (though realistically, probably not since Wonder Boys didn’t do the trick).

But I digress…can we give Jake Gyllenhaal a definite nomination? I mean, the guy works his a@$ off. The last film I saw him in was South Paw, a mediocre film, but JG’s six pack of steel deserved some kind of accolade. Before that, in a movie I loved, Nightcrawler, he became a shriveled violence-porn addict. In Stronger, he pulls off a skinny Mass-hole, complete with the accent and through some kind of acting and cosmetic magic, almost seems to possess a different face.

Equally strong is Tatiana Maslany who portrays Jake’s girlfriend. Tatiana should also get an Oscar nom as you can’t fake the mixture of emotion of someone conflicted over duty vs. love, and stay in hopes of someone maturing vs. leave and start over. Fantastic!

Likewise, Miranda Richardson, is tremendous as Jake’s alcoholic, narcissistic mother. I mean God Bless her that can’t be fun to play such an ignorant attention whore, but she owns that role. In fact, she’s so good, I was moved to library request an Oscar nominated performance she did in Tom and Viv.

Negatives? I can’t really think of any. I didn’t even mind hiding my eyes several times due to my oversensitivity to violence and people on the precipice of injury.

Stronger is more than meets the eye. The fact that two people with vastly different tastes loved it speaks highly of the screenplay (John Pollono/Jeff Bauman), director (David Gordon Green of Pineapple Express-woo woo!) and actors.

A literary segue, Conversing about Horse Walks Into a Bar by David Grossman

Sometime soon, I’ll be filmed (https://www.instagram.com/books1sarasota/) having a conversation about Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman. To prepare, I thought I’d riff here to work out the kinks.

Speaking of riffing…let’s talk first about whether a stand up comic could get away with what Grossman’s main character (Dovaleh) did, which is basically tell what appears to be a 2 to 3 hour story about his life. What was realistic were the folks in the audience who did finally walk out, after first protesting that they came for humor.
While I think a big name comic could certainly do this, especially if it was a big reveal (I’ll let you decide if Dovaleh’s reveal was ‘big’), I think most unknown comics would be booed or taken off the stage by the management. It’d be interesting to pose this question to Les McCurdy, owner of McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre.

The best part about the book was the sub plot with Dovaleh asking his childhood friend to watch him and to really see him. He explained it like this:”I mean, you know, what does someone get when they see me? What do people know when they look at me…” When his childhood friend protests, claiming it wouldn’t be objective since he knows him, Dovaleh responds, “It’s been years,” he said immediately. “I’m not me, you’re not you.”

This is a deep philosophical thought, like who knows you, who really knows you and could make an assessment you could hang your hat on? Dovaleh picks his childhood friend (a judge) who he feels can give an objective assessment and yet this person wasn’t there for him when he truly needed someone. There is a qualification here, his ‘friend’ was there for the defining moment of his life, yet the friend never knew what the moment actually was in its totality until this on stage catharsis. It’s almost as if his friend knew him as the innocent (though bullied beyond belief) before the moment he was forced to grow up, the moment his childhood was thoroughly broken.

There are several true things about this statement. While people we know from our past certainly at their essence are the same, much of them have adapted by mean of experience. I use to get sad sometimes looking back on my life that people who I felt truly knew me and loved me, I no longer talk to on a regular basis and they were few in number to begin with: in order of appearance, here they are:

Becky Jones, my childhood friend, we shared many intimate moments (not sexual), John E (my first husband and father of my child), the demise of this is a mixture of my immaturity and his lack of wanting grow, John B a post college romance that went deeper than your typical, yet who became (I’m guessing) repulsed by either my wanting to rid myself of some art work from an ex or simply had found another safer bet than trying to rekindle something that had fallen apart so many times. These three humans knew me on a level that I felt safe and protected, (despite my super ironic running away from the last of the trio). Jon Z/strong>y, my second husband, who though I never could truly trust (mood imbalance/infidelity), I did feel he truly cared about me on a level, many before or since, have not. Rich A., a man I spent 5 years of Saturday evenings with and who was with me during a difficult time (post basal cell surgery) when no one else was around. And while he cried when I left New York, he hasn’t lifted a finger to say, ‘hey, I miss you, let’s get together’ (but he did text me for a job reference….chagrined).

With any of these people, I feel like singing Todd Rundgren’s “Can We Still Be Friends”? I don’t demand romantic love, but care and contact would make my life more complete.

The four who remain in my life with consistency are my parents, though I parented them early on as much as they parent me now, and I still love them. I enjoy immensely talking to each of them on the phone and see myself as part of them and vice versa. My precious son Liam, who I believe ‘knows’ me and still loves me, though I do feel an undercurrent of anger sometimes, (but aren’t we all angry at our mothers…I mean the old, ‘she did a lot, but it’s never enough-mentality?) and last, but certainly not least (in fact very very important) my best friend Tim Larson who does know me best of all and still loves (platonic) me (and I him). The last two mentioned, I am dead serious to say I truly don’t know if I could live without.

Oh, so maudlin, right? Not really. I am blessed. My parents are still relatively healthy. My son (I hope) is healthy and happy. And my friend is flying down for my birthday. I live in paradise and have two interesting jobs, so don’t cry for me Argentina. But I do strive still to find a loving partner to live with and enjoy activities with on a long term everyday basis, and that need and desire is healthy, not desperate. I can now finally be there for someone and deserve it in return.

So if I tried this on a stand up comedy stage? There’s no way I’d get away with it.

What the book leaves unanswered (despite it’s Man Booker Prize) is more depth about the childhood friend’s life, the supposed illness of the main character, the true relationship of the other witness who knew him in the audience, what Dovaleh had been dong all these years…just stand up? Did he mention relationships?

In conclusion, I see where the powers that be felt Horse Walks Into a Bar was worthy of a prize. However, I don’t think it’s a flawless work by any stretch. Yes, Dovaleh’s friend finally makes good on ‘being there’ for his buddy. And Dovaleh finally has a cathartic moment and is seen, warts and all. So in that sense the book is rewarding. And maybe that’s what the essence of life is all about. One person who is there for you in your moment of humanity.

And here’s the coincidence with the book, how many of you stayed till the end of the show (this entry)? For Horse Walks Into a Bar, it seemed there were 3 or more-manager, friend, neighbor lady, and possible lover.

Daniel Day-Lewis, Say It Ain’t So: Before Retirement, How about Lincoln in the Bardo, the movie?

Here was a 2:45 a.m. thought: Why doesn’t Daniel Day-Lewis wait and retire after doing Lincoln one more time for a George Saunders inspired Lincoln in the Bardo inspired film?

At any rate, the minute I heard DDL was retiring I decided I needed to go back and see a film I had never seen. I chose My Beautiful Laundrette from 1985, nominated for an Oscar for best original screenplay (Hanif Kureishi, most recently wrote Le Weekend which I enjoyed, and never saw Venus with Peter O’Toole, oh the movies I need to see!). My Beautiful Laundrette was directed by Stephen Frears (Philomena! The Program, a Lance Armstorng film, what happened to that, never heard of it, will seek it out!)

I understand that My Beautiful Laundrette was a break out movie for DDL and astonishingly honest at a time when people feared homosexuality. And I realize this is still sadly true (cake bakers, get over it!). What also still rings true is the ethno-class conflict between London natives and immigrants (in this case Pakistanis). Why is it that many movies portray Londoners as violent ruffians? Is it stereotype or true? I guess I have two polar opposite impressions of people in England: bad teeth, foul mouthed ruffians, aka Pygmalion OR genteel wimps aka the royal family as well as anyone with wealth, Hugh Grant, etc.

Though I will say a woman I work with currently from London does not fit either of those types, in fact, she is the smartest, most level headed, but also very creative and soulful person I have met in Sarasota. Kate (her name) has even taken to giving me advice on where to meet like minded people, which I will duly begin (with confidence in her opinion) after the holiday.

“Get to the movie review!” you scream. Ok, ok, the movie was well done in showing ethnic and class conflict. Of course, it was interesting to see one of DDL’s first films and his punk look. The movie certainly didn’t do Pakistani’s any favor, portraying them as depraved, money hungry mobsters. Likewise, the British toughies were portrayed as ignorant lazy d-bags. Our main character, Omar, played by Gordon Warnecke, was supposed to be this naive Pakistani kid, which he does pull off, yet his acting is a bit wooden, and maybe why he continues to do tv with not too much fame or accolades.

And I’ll be frank, I couldn’t watch the end. I can only guess, that Omar gets killed, either by the London toughies or his d-bag cousin. I knew the movie was headed for a very violent end and to be brutally honest (the only type of brutal I allow), I can not do violence any longer. I get enough scrolling to a channel where I witness UFC or insert-crime-drama-title-here. ENOUGH! If people want to start resisting something really threatening, let’s start with violent images for children: RESIST VIOLENT IMAGES. There, there’s your new bumper sticker. When people have taken to beating to death tortoises: real news:http://www.mysuncoast.com/news/local/search-continues-for-person-or-people-responsible-for-beating-to/article_a2a7a3c0-5adb-11e7-ba38-13ebfa0f997c.html…then we have to start looking at how this depravity evolves. Seriously.

So feel free to do a spoiler for me, tell me how this movie ended. Omar dies, right? And the beginning of the film was actually the circular ending of the film, where DDL winds up back with his London toughies in a sad alcoholic, squatter lifestyle. “Wonderful.” (chagrined).

Hang in there DDL and do one more Lincoln (for the Bardo) for the road.

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.

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.

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.