Goodbye Columbus, Goodbye Mr. Roth

My good friend and co-worker Barry suggested Goodbye Columbus a a library loaner last week after Philip Roth died. My experience with Mr. Roth began during my relationship with a Manhattan born handsome devil who encouraged me to read Portnoy’s Complaint.

I had admittedly lost track of Philip Roth except for his announcement a few years back that he was retiring from writing. Then I had heard even more recently that Lisa Halliday had written a roman a clef about her May December affair with Roth in her novel Asymmetry. During the reading of that novel, Mr. Roth passed away at the age of 85.

Hence, I rented Goodbye Columbus that Barry joked was ‘the story of my life’. Did you know that 1969 was a looooong time ago? Meaning, the world has changed leaps and bounds and this film no longer holds up. Sure, there are certainly still conflicts regarding wealth disparity and dating below or above your income status, but the main conflicts no longer exist. The fact that one of the culminating conflicts involved Ali McGraw (and while this was her first movie and she was drop dead gorgeous, let’s face facts, she was not expressive aka had zero range) being verkelmpt over her mother finding her diaphragm while in college isn’t as big of a deal these days as it was in the stubborn repression that the wild 60’s was trying to snuff out. And sure, there were nuances to this conflict, trying to make a relationship work when two people exist in two different realms (one college, one not) rarely works out.

And while Richard Benjamin did a decent job as the middle class outlier, he was an equally flat character. I felt I was watching two actors, almost too nervous and new to really make this film. But then again, it could be I’m just cynical about the outdated plot.

Don’t get me wrong, I needed something somewhat fluffy to get me through Anthony Bourdain’s suicide and it was comforting to see Jack Klugman who I always saw as the ultimate father figure; tough but super caring. And thinking of a younger Barry navigating dating socialites also made me smile.

Let This Be a Lesson: RBG

Wow, was I ignorant about Ruth Bader-Ginsburg! Here I’ve been working at BookStoreOne in Sarasota, and in my defense, with a constant stream of books going by me on a daily basis…here was The Notorious RBG book, the RBG workout book (my interior though being, ‘does this get shelved in Humor or Health and Fitness?, There is No Truth Without Ruth, etc.

And I just thought, ok, she’s an impressive ageing Supreme Court judge who misspoke and revealed her opinion about our current President. But after seeing the documentary RBG (BIG THANKS to my friend Carrie who treated me last night at Burns Court Cinema!) I now know how INCREDIBLY impressive her life has really been. One of the first women at Harvard Law School, had children while going to law school, had children while going to law school AND a husband going through cancer treatments. Championed equal rights for women AND men! Battled two types of cancer and decided after the first illness to get fit! Isn’t a braggart and never yells! I mean, this lady rocks!

Now that’s not to say that the doc was perfect by any stretch. Oft times too kitschy, and the old timey stock footage was somewhat lazy, and when I saw CNN produced the doc, I wasn’t surprised. But I so appreciated learning about her that all is forgiven (Directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen, God bless you). If the vehicle necessary to ‘get me there’ is a somewhat clunky one, so be it. Totally worth seeing and perfect for any Grandma or Grandpa who needs inspiration.

Giant Post Script: And boy do I covet her marriage to a funny guy!

Late Marriage from 2001, Consummate This!

After seeing Foxtrot and loving it at Burns Court last week, I sought out an older film starring Lior Ashkenazi with whom I am now obsessed. In a good way of course, but perhaps in a negative sense as he makes me miss both an emotionally abusive social worker (holy oxymoron) I dated and my other Jewish five year once a week boyfriend. Oh well, what are you gonna do? In an odd coincidence, I just started a play reading class at the Temple Beth Shalom. Suffice to say, I’d definitely be willing to convert if it brought back the latter of the two relationships previously mentioned (it’ll never happen since I haven’t heard from said person since the Trump election, no connection other than the date, although perhaps he thought Trump’s slogan was “Make America Date Again”, hardy har har har). But I digressed before I even began! My apologies.

Late Marriage from 2001 was directed by Dover Koshashvili an dis a fun film for both sexes. The basic premise is a Jewish man in his 30’s is causing his family anxiety by not getting married. His relationship with a divorcee does not sit well with his fundamentalist family, and hence, conflict ensues.

But it’s a fun conflict in that the film is written sardonically with terrific sex scenes and great chemistry between Ashkenazi and the hot divorcee (great actress Ronit Elkabetz). Interesting twists forbid me to reveal any more, but suffice to say that the snappy dialogue and interesting narrative (also written by the director) are well worth seeking out at your local library or Netflix.

Foxtrot, Sins of the Father

Foxtrot is an amazing film written and directed by Samuel Moaz. This blog will be exceptionally short because to say much about the film would spoil the various and fantastic surprises that occur.

I can and will say a few things, of course.

First, you know the old real estate slogan: location, location, location. To call Moaz’s keen eye for camera angle artistic, is an understatement. From the downward angle at a mesmerizing tile floor, to the upward reflection off a stagnant water filled trench, to the soldiers’ tilted, sinking bunker, Moaz helps keep us visually stimulated and off center adding to the suspense.

Moaz is ten years older than Asghar Farhadi, yet his film has the delicious obscurity of A Separation and Farhadi’s other great films. This appears to be only Moaz’s third film, yet I know he’ll be a film force to be reckoned with and that Foxtrot is only the beginning.

Tremendous acting was done by: Lior Ashkenazi, Sarah Adler and Yonaton Shiray. Bravo to all, but especially the writer and director, remember his name folks, Samue Moaz!

Concert Review: Making America Abbreviated Again

America played at Van Wezel Hall in Sarasota last night and if America, the country, was analogous to the band’s performance, we’d be short about 10 states. I think it’s a cop out and money grab to play 90 minutes (exactly) when as a band they’ve complied 40+ years of music. At the very least, they should have allowed their two youngest members to each showcase one of their own songs. It’s called paying it forward Dudes. Not to mention, some of us in the audience are part of the shrinking middle class, meaning we don’t have throw away money to spend willy nilly on concert tickets. My friend Dave who graciously took me for a Christmas gift is a hard core fan, and for him alone, I wish the band had extended their play to two hours. I mean really, the set up of all the instruments probably took more time than the actual performance.

Sure I got to hear my three favorite songs; Sister Golden Hair, Tin Man, and Ventura Highway. And thanks to the bass player (who also created the video) was treated to stimulating images of California, celebrities and a metamorphosis of old band photos.

Unfortunately aural and visual stimulation weren’t enough for Twitchy Millennial gal seated to my immediate right(who literally was giving herself a facial and simultaneously checking her phone on average of every 5 minutes) and her bored to death father who also had his nose in his phone during the show. Other stuffed white shirt Caucasians in front me included a husband, their backpack in a separate seat between (who didn’t clap once-that’s a joke) and then S&M wife. S&M is an assumption on my part because she had an accountant look on her top half (severe haircut, conservative sweater) and her bottom half (mini-skirt, patterned panty hose with knee high black boots). She continued to give her husband dirty looks during the first half hour of the show as he couldn’t take his eyes off the woman right next to him, a young Ann Margaret type who was grooving to the music and enjoying herself (as I was) and whose companion looked like a hoody wearing Burgess Meredith from Grumpy Old Men outtakes (you remember, “what day say we go back to my place and I’ll show you my beefy bologna?”). Anyway S&M ended up reaching across the backpack with a slap to hubby’s shoulder which was his indication to move backpack next to Ann Margaret and fall back in cuckolded line. This my friends, is the curse and comedic blessing of being hyper-aware of one’s surroundings.

Another half hour of shenanigans would have helped me round out this essay to novella length. For shame abbreviated America:)

Fantastic Woman, Mediocre Script

There are many reasons to like Fantastic Woman, written and directed by Sebastian Lelio and nominated for best foreign film in both the Golden Globes and the Oscars.

First, the film bravely challenges the stupidity of homophobes. More can and needs to be done to shine the light on cruel intolerance across the globe.

Second, certain scenes in the film were beautifully done: slow dance sequences and dance club sequences were evocative and sexy, Marina trail running with her dog overlooking the city of Santiago exhibited gorgeous cinematography.

Third, the acting was great. The main character (Marina) was portrayed by real life trans and opera singer Daniela Vega who wasn’t originally cast for the role. Lelio hired her on as a consultant, but after hearing the poignancy of her story, decided to use her as the lead. She makes Beyonce’s ‘fierce’ look like a fluffy bunny. Daniela Vega is truly a fantastic woman.

Francisco Reyes, though only on the screen for a short time, was also great. And back up!!! Doing my due diligent research, I discovered he also starred in The Club, a mind blowing Golden Globe foreign film from 2015.

Even the minor characters were portrayed with realistic subtlety of special note being the female police detective, Amparo Noguera and Francisco’s wife, Antonia Zegers, also nominated from the aforementioned The Club.

Ok, so what’s the problem, you ask? In a word (ok 5): Loose ends and sloppy editing. The screenplay could have easily tied up one of at least two loose ends. The fact that Marina was training for opera and the vacation Francisco proposes are never addressed. We also see the end result of a demand Marina made, but do not know how the transfer occurs. Supernatural scenes are ok, but some seemed to be non-sequitur.

Too bad, because had these small fixes been accomplished, this ‘coulda been a contender’.

One last note, Sebastian Lelio also directed Gloria from a few years back which was uplifting and fun. I see it’s being remade for American audiences with Julianne Moore. Let’s hope the originality doesn’t get lost in translation.

Molly’s Game; Great Inspiration, Twin Peaks

I thoroughly enjoyed Aaron Sorkin‘s Molly’s Game. And no kidding, right? This guy can write, having penned other such gems as Steve Jobs and Moneyball. Molly’s Game was smart, fast (especially given its long running time) and entertaining almost throughout and Sorkin’s directorial first.

The only cringe worthy scenes were some corny bits of flashback to Molly’s childhood, the overly long mafiaso punch out scene and the worst (which is major deduction of point since it was sooo stupidly flawed) was the ice skating scene where she just happens to run into her estranged father. And one last chagrin that’s legit given the characterization was fit to the real life ‘Cinemax dressed’ Molly; but in case you weren’t aware, Jessica Chastain has cleavage (hence, my coy mountain skier double entendre subtitle twin peaks). This is on display in virtually every scene but three or four when in flashbacks pre-boob job Molly or an end scene where she finally covered up for her judge sentencing.

The best part of the film, besides the pro-female empowerment story line played expertly by the always steely Jessica Chastain, dare I say, was the male lead of Idris Elba. I wasn’t the only one who wanted to applaud his monologue at the end. In any lawyer film worth its mettle, is the upstanding lawyer who gives an impassioned speech on behalf of his client. I heard people tittering in the audience after Idris presented his, too shy to clap, but certainly impressed. Let’s find this guy a worthy part, shall we? Instead of crap like The Mountain Between Us. Idris deserves first billing!

Two other side roles played by Michael Cera and Chris O’Dowd made me sad in a way. Two more gents who are consistently great and probably working their fannies off for lead roles that are probably tough to land. And of course I have to mention Kevin Costner because he’s a rock solid actor even in the film’s corniest role AND because he wins my award for Best Man Ageing Well. Find out what his diet and vitamin regimen is, stat!

Besides the Directing Oscar nom for Sorkin (no small feat), I’m not sure why this film didn’t get more attention and not to repeat myself, but Idris got snubbed. Still Molly’s Game is a film certainly worth seeing.

“Happy End”, an Equally Fitting Description to a Single Gal’s Evening

“Happy End” is dark, but not in a violent way, more akin to the relative darkness of a movie theater. Just as you can still see the goodness of even the most selfish characters in Michael Haneke‘s new film, I could still see the other movie goers around me. And I could certainly hear the movie goers around me as there were: knuckle crackers, Junior Mint box shakers, horn (nose) blowers and audible sighers. What would normally annoy the bleep out of me was zen-fully equalized by the fact that there were three other loners in the theater besides me. Hence, the movie plot, albeit dark (snobbery, adultery, poor parenting, poisoning, etc.) made me feel as normal as the demographics in the room.

Granted, I could hear more of my noisy neighbors since this film is super quiet, there is no sound track. The film opens with at least 3 to 5 minutes of silent snapchat screens and continues with equally hushed scenes of a woman on her laptop, a man wheeling himself down a city street, only the natural sound of keyboard typing and city street racket (respectively) bleeds through.

I really enjoyed Haneke’s Amour which he was Oscar nominated for both screenplay and best foreign film. Yet there was no way in hell I was ever going to see the sadistic Funny Games. Still, I have to hand it to Haneke for covering uncomfortable situations in Happy End without making me feel like I have to have a mind flush at the end of the film. In fact, the loner a seat away from me and I both laughed at the same time when we figured out the ending which true to my caption I will not spoil.

The acting was spot on. As much as I abhorred the fact that Isabelle Huppert won awards for that piece of dung film Elle, I guess I’ll chalk that up to what will now be retroactively referred to as the Jeff Bridges/Crazy Heart-Sam Rockwell/Three Billboards syndrome, where a great actor/actress gets an award for a junk film. And long aside now over, Huppert was fantastic as the female lead. Equally super were: Jean-Louis Trintignant, star of Amour (aside: my blood just boiled researching realizing he didn’t get a nomination for best actor, like you must be kidding me!), Mathieu Kassovitz, and Franz Rogowski (a dead ringer for Joaquin Phoenix).

Definitely worth the price of admission, though the any synopsis you read of ‘backdrop of refugee crises’ is a bit misleading (percentage-wise only 20% of the film’s focus).

Circus Peanuts and Ice Skating Blunders: Wiseau’s “The Room”

Ok, let me say that mixed feelings is an understatement after watching Tommy Wiseau‘s “The Room” which James Franco so lovingly made into something bigger and better than its initial notoriety.

My first kooky analogy is to the difficulty I had even finishing this film:

Imagine being on a desert island and after days of not eating, you find a bag of those gross peach colored circus peanuts (in fact do they even sell them any longer?). You’re starved, so you gorge on half a bag, then the next day you realize you still have nothing else to eat, so you finish the remainder, feeling full, yet nauseous. That was my experience watching The Room. I couldn’t even watch the entire movie in one sitting, but forced myself to go the distance the following day.

Kooky analogy number two:

You’re watching Olympic figure skating, fully aware that someone has trained his keister off to get to this moment and then see him on tumble on his first double toe loop, then tip over during a simple spin, etc. You feel total empathy for his utter despair. Knowing the passion Tommy had for acting made me sad for his inability to possess the skill necessary for greatness.

So I felt disgusted by how bad this film was (circus peanuts) (couldn’t get to the funny it’s so bad feeling) because I knew how much Tommy thought and wanted this to be great (fumbling ice skater).

What else can I say? All the acting was bad if that’s any consolation for Tommy. All the writing was incredibly silly and simplistic. If any good can be said about this film is that the cheesey r&b tunes played during the soft porn scenes wasn’t half bad.

Until I read a full fledged legitimate story of harassment committed by James Franco, I think he’s downright Mother Theresa for caring enough about Tommy to shed him some light/resdiuals/money. James must know that Tommy is broken at some level (flat affect usually equals depression, ptsd or autism) and wanted to give him some props.

Rent The Disaster Artist, you’ll see.

You Can Get More Flies with “A Taste Of Honey”

Granted it’s a (PPLL) Pre Pension Library Loaner, but A Taste of Honey is worth a borrow and the film equivalent to Ray Bradbury’s literary prescient Fahrenheit 451.

Based on a play in 1958, this British film from 1961 broke barriers for addressing inter-racial relationships and homosexuality.

An aside of how I was introduced to the film: two Saturdays ago I was skipping out to meet some British folks I was to meet for the first time. And here’s where I do a public service announcement: don’t skip, especially on uneven brick sidewalks. Without any drop of alcohol in my veins and with only my clumsy feet to blame, I did a face plant. The spirit of Memphis still inside me from my recent ABA conference, I stubbornly continued to my destination fat lip and scraped elbows (not to mention bruised knees) to meet my new acquaintances. Fast forward and we shared fun conversation and favorite movies, hence, A Taste Of Honey.

A Taste of Honey was directed by Tony Richardson (winner of an Oscar for Tom Jones, ex-husband to Vanessa Redgrave and father of the two actress daughters). The stars of the movie, namely four, were all fantastic. Rita Tushingham who was 19 at the time of filming was truly awesome as a neglected pregnant teen. Equally good was her homosexual buddy Murray Melvin. I watched the second dvd of interviews and was inspired by his moxy, saying, “I was the face of gay pride in 1958!” (he also starred in the dramatic version). Rita’s immature mother was brilliantly played by Dora Bryan, so cute that you almost couldn’t hate her (emphasis on ‘almost’). Her ninkampoop of a boyfriend/husband was played by Robert Stephens, ex-husband of Maggie Smith.

From the scant research I have time for, it appears that the director and Robert Stephens have much in common (both died in their 60’s after unsuccessful marriages to successful actresses).

An interesting psychological question is can two broken people (Rita and Melvin) ever have a whole relationship or would their neediness end up destructing their marriage (as did mine). Another psychological question is whether non-sexual relationships are more sustainable and more fulfilling in the long run (as mine seems to be).

A cultural question is whether all British folks are both abusive and loving and do they also vary their moods so drastically moment to moment. In the film they could equally hate and love their partner/relative all in one breath as well as be suicidal and then gay (meaning happy).

At any rate, A Taste Of Honey was a kick to watch, for its honesty and to get a glimpse into British culture.
And an update on my tripping, I healed in a week, proof that I’m leading a healthy life.