The Climb, Placing My Oscar Bet on Zach Kuperstein

Ok, that bet I just posted in my title, I’d like to place it to happen in the next ten years, since the ye olde Academy has enough fish to fry for awhile. But mark my words, they’ll see the genius of Zach Kuperstein (already nominated for a Independent Spirit (the smartest) Awards for The Eyes of My Mother).
In The Climb, you can’t help but notice Kuperstein’s magic in the stripper Thanksgiving scene, the outside the house merry go round shot during the Christmas Scene, the immersion of the ice fishing bachelor party. Visually inspiring, Zach’s got it going on.
Now for the rest of the story…Michael Angelo Covino starred and directed The Climb about a relationship between two male friends, the friend with whom he also wrote The Climb’s screenplay, Kyle Marvin. The story is interestingly told, in chapters with cute title cards, “I’m Sorry”, “let it go”, etc. The premise is also unique in that while I’m sure there’s many co-dependent male friendships, we don’t see friendship looked at with such a magnifying glass often.
The minor characters were well drawn, too, 3 dimensional without over interrupting the through line. I especially liked Gayle Rankin (Glow, Blow the Man Down) Todd Barry and the grooms two sisters (Daniella Covino, Eden Malyn).
A refreshing dark comedy about relationship and family dysfunction playing currently at Burns Court. Please support your independent theaters!

Rebecca, the Original 1940

In anticipation of watching the Armie Hammer remake, I had to first watch the original Rebecca from 1940, which is the only film Hitchcock ever won an Oscar (and this for film, not direction).
The 1940’s version starts Laurence Olivier as the oxymoronic man both aloof and temperamental. The character, at least portrayed here is a bit of a yawner, not compelling enough to elicit a response. Likewise, IMO, Joan Fontaine is also boring and mousey in character, hence again, evoking apathy rather than feeling. The characters with the most acting challenges and achievement were Judith Anderson and George Sanders*, the jealous chambermaid and Bedswerver respectively (thank you https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/7-obscure-words-for-cheating-and-infidelity). A fun runner up with a minor (but comedically shrewish) role is Florence Bates.
I will say for 1940, the cinematography is very realistic and impressive (George Barnes). The screenplay was also titillating enough to almost make it through the 2 and a half hours in one shot. And of course Hitchcock’s takes with photography were gorgeously done.
Fun actor/actress facts:
*George Sanders was married to two Gabor sisters; Zsa Zsa and Magda. And Joan Fontaine was the younger sister of Olivia de Havilland.
Joan was snubbed on the set by Oliver who wanted his then girlfriend Vivian Leigh to get the part. She was also snubbed by her sister at the Oscars after saying an unkind remark about Olivia’s husband.

The Trial of the Chicago 7

Aaron Sorkin’s prolific and still relatively young. As I perused his filmography, here are my top five of his films:

1. Steve Jobs
2. Social Network
3. Moneyball
4. Molly’s Game
5. Tie: Charlie Wilson’s War and today’s specialty The Trial of the Chicago 7

Aaron’s forte is his snappy storytelling and The Trial of the Chicago 7 is right up there.

I appreciated the massive cast in The Trial of the Chicago 7, yet at the beginning of the film, it was difficult to not see them acting. Part of it was the semi mundane cinematography which I realize is tough to glamorize. Protests and courtrooms are not that picturesque.

What didn’t help was the make up and wigs. Again, I realize this was the late 60’s, but Sacha Baron Cohen’s wig looked like something he used on Borat and Rylance’s comb over looked fake as well. Like Rylance (maybe the equal in underappreciated as Willem Dafoe), Jeremy Strong portrayed Jerry Rubin with excellence, yet his wig also looked pasted on.

The most believable acting goes to Frank Langella, Eddie Redmayne and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.

As a historical document of a very dark time in our past, this film is a 10. As far as a best picture Oscar award winner, a yes for screenplay winner but as for a film, yes to a nomination, but in total I wasn’t wowed.

On the Rocks, Conned this Rox

One of my top fifteen movies of all time is Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppola’s gorgeous ode to feeling misunderstood, captured perfectly by two different generations (Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson) who come together in a hotel bar.

So I went skipping to On the Rocks, Sofia’s newest using Bill Murray again, in a different self-aware cad role with the beautiful Rashida Jones as his Eyeore of a daughter.

If L.I.T. was about feeling misunderstood, On the Rocks is about feeling unappreciated. Rashida feels unappreciated by her husband, Marlon Wayans (pretty face, not an actor). Bill relates to the under appreciation having felt that ‘back in the day’ and consequently straying from Rashida’s mom.

Hence, Bill wants to help his daughter get ahead of the curve and find out if indeed Marlon is the cheater he (Bill) use to be.

Many missed opportunities: one being use Jenny Slate as more than just three funny cameos, two give Rashida’s character more pizzazz (I mean no wonder Marlon would be bored), three, the pivotal daughter-father showdown needed to be amped up to evoke emotion.

Fortunately for Sofia, Americans have been bludgeoned by Covid 19 and are so starved for movies that this looks good enough to rate an 87% on Rotten Tomatoes. In reality, however, this is a 72and a half (I’m averaging my film buddy Gus Mollasis’s 75 and my 70 here) at best.

A Kaufman Plug: Woman Under the Influence

Charlie Kaufman’s an influencer, not the Instagram type, more of the cinematic and literary type. Having attempted to read a book he mentions in Antkind (The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty, blech, a shallow, yet ironic attempt to analyze our fixation with beauty), I took a crack at Woman Under the Influence from 1974 (after the characters in “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” talk about the film at great length) by the late great father of Independent Film-John Cassavetes.

I did finish the movie as uber difficult that it was due to my own PTSD from domestic squabbles in my youth. Yet now I have to go back to “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” to grasp the critique of the female character. I’m hoping (and almost sure) she recounted how the people surrounding the Woman in Woman Under the Influence were just as crazy as she. The Woman by the way was portrayed marvelously by Gena Rowlands for which she won the Golden Globe, aside trivia: Cassavetes wife.

Peter Falk wasn’t just kooky Columbo, he was a powerhouse actor as Gena’s equally insane husband. I loved his angry ‘we’re going to have fun kids!’) mentality. I think Adam Sandler would do a great rem-make of this as long as the Safdies’ are willing to direct. I thought a lot of the Safdies’ during this film, as their upbringing was almost as chaotic and brought to film wonderfully in Daddy Long-legs.

I literally was concerned about the welfare of the three children in the film as the scenes they had to perform were traumatic. On IMDB, it appears the two boys made it out alive into adulthood, but the little girl (Christina Grisanti) doesn’t not have an internet footprint which worries me. If you want to know the extent of extremes, Christina was dragged around by her arm several times by Peter Falk, had tea (praying it was cold) splashed in her eye and ran around naked in a house full of people. Can you see why I became a School Counselor?

At any rate, the movie certainly will stick with you and is available for free on HBO.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things, But Confusion Set In, Instead

I’m fixated on Charlie Kaufman lately, immediately falling in love with Antkind, his new epic comedy novel. So when it piggybacked (great callback that no one will appreciate unless they see “I’m Thinking of Ending Things”) a new movie he adapted from a novel by Iain Reid, I was in.

But wait, an hour in to the Netflix release, I was so creeped out and overwhelmed by the experience (it was night), I called a time out. Finishing it a day plus later IN DAYLIGHT, I was confused, but impressed.

What to say first: I said it first (though Charlie repeats it in “ITOET”, that he is the accessible David Foster Wallace…and given the title of this movie, I do worry about him. How can one many possess so much obscure knowledge and creativity? Iain Reid of course is due much of the credit here, supplying the story, but I wonder whose idea the dance sequence was…guess I know have to read the book though to be frank, I JUST read the summary and it sounds way way violent, where Kaufman’s genius in “ITOET” was creeping me out without bloodshed. How did he do this? Let’s talk about the images which won’t spoil anything:

Like Kubrick’s The Shining, there’s nothing like a snowy, blizzardy dark night for fear. Use the creepy lonely repetitive sound of windshield wipers on a dead night and you amp that up. Lukasz Zal is the cinematographer from the great black and white film “Cold War”.

Like Lynch, add in some minor characters of overly giggly fake looking women juxtaposed with sad hideous folks.

How about continuous scenes with a different face appearing to speak out of nowhere?

How about three power house actors whose moods change on a dime? Toni Collette (I bow at your feet), Jesse Plemons and Jessie Buckley all fantastic.

How about a cellar door with bloody scratch marks and tape marks like it had been manically taped shut? Or a black spot in the hay where an animal had died?

How about frozen dead animals?

See, stupid gratuitous violent movie makers, you can do scary without your stupid simple minded violence and gore! Let this be a lesson for you.
So watch this film, in daylight, in two chunks. You’ll still get the mood, trust me!

A Confession of True Romance

I had better things to do in 1993, having had my precious son during that year, 27 years ago. And I was a Tarantino naysayer up until Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, his old stuff being too rough for my silky blood.

But now that I’m older and more jaded (and can mute and fast forward violent parts) I took a gander at True Romance who many a man I’ve encountered have claimed the movie as one of their favorites.

And I get it: buxom beautiful Patricia Arquette, charming Chrstian Slater, bad boys like Gary Oldman, James Gandolfini and Christopher Walken though the latter just makes me giggle. Best of all is Brad Pitt who might be the best stoner of all time (ditto in Once Upon a Time and Burn After Reading).

I enjoyed the steel drum music that served as background as the romantic music for Christian and Patricia…tell me they didn’t date with that chemistry. Confirmed, though he’s dated just about everyone.

The story’s implausible, but the mega talent mixing it up in vignettes make it all worthwhile and Tarantino iconic. And true to it’s true title, the movie opened up a portal in me, as I conjured up two romantic memories of my own.

Coogan + Brydon=Bliss: A Trip to Greece

Here’s a first: I rented the new, fourth and unfortunately last of Michael Winterbottom’s Trip series with the delectable Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon AND was enjoying it so intensely, I watched it in spurts in purpose. Their impersonations, singing, sound effects are so dizzying, their conversations so witty and fun, that why you would you want to gobble it all down in one sitting?

While the middle two movies were more basic, the first and last of this series are home run hits. Part travelogue; in this a gorgeously shot trip to Greece and part foodie paradise, the men allegedly are orchestrating a chronicle for the UK Observer amongst all this hedonism.

What’s special about this series is the men play a fictionalized version of themselves: their names are their real names, they have their acting careers as fodder (here for instance, Coogan’s 7 Bafta’s) and their personal lives are a close facsimile to reality (Coogan is single, Brydon married). This last contrast adds poignancy to each movie, this one especially.

I love these two men and am sad this is the last. I could watch them talk, eat, banter forever.

For rent now from IFC for a mere 7.99. Worth the over 90 minute smile I had on my face.

Here’s my own coming attractions: Did you know I also write book reviews? Here’s the link to my recent review posted on Goodreads and feel free to support the book shop I work for at www.bookshop.org/shop/book1 ! Here’s the review link:
View all my reviews

Another Adults Home Alone Feature: Aberdeen

In the rabbit hole of what to watch, I happened upon Aberdeen from 2000, written and directed by Hans Petter Moland (his most recent film was Out Stealing Horses [2019] which garnered several awards in Norway).

Aberdeen stars Lena Headey who I’m probably the only person on Earth who didn’t know who she was (Game of Thrones heart throb). Before knowing this, I thought admiringly, even as a binary, at her beauty AND even more importantly, her tremendous actress prowess.

Co-starring with Headey is an actor I’ve expressed admiration for in the past, Stellan Skarsgard (Good Will Hunting, a Lars Von Trier go-to and apparently a favorite of Moland also starring in the aforementioned Out Stealing Horses) does his usual yeoman’s job as Headey’s drunken Dad.

The movie had enough twists and turns to keep me entertained. Like other well done father daughter films (Toni Erdmann being my fave) this dysfunctional duo seems very realistic. Ian Hart puts in a nuanced show as Headye’s lover and Charlotte Rampling does her best with what’s she’s given, a la Dianne Weist in The Mule, a bedridden dying woman.

Worth a look if your home alone and need an adult drama.

Perfect Frivolity: The Jesus Rolls

Another great calming pic is The Jesus Rolls, written primarily by Bertrand Blier, with help from the Coen Brothers, and John Turturro who also directs and stars.

In spite of a thin plot, the cast is so charming: Christopher Walken, Bobby Cannavale, Audrey Tautou, Susan Sarandon, Jon Hamm and Pete Davidson. Isn’t that the best dinner party group ever?

I appreciated the equality of nudity, both male and female. Harkens back to why we have statues of body forms (which was coincidentally addressed in Herzog’s Cave of Dreams where people 35,000 carved bodies out of ivory which I watched and experienced on the same day).

This all comes back to the reality that we are all one and all miracles to be experiencing this time together. Let’s keep helping each other up.

The Jesus Rolls will deifnitely give you a smile and a laugh. Turturro and Cannavale should defitniely do a sequel.