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.

The Bees’ Knees: Honeyland

I looked at several movies to watch this afternoon trying to fit in one more film that was ‘in the conversation’ as the hipsters say, so I chose Honeyland, which has been Oscar shortlisted for both best doc and best foreign film. Additionally, Honeyland’s been nominated for the Independent Spirit Award and won prizes at both Sundance and even the little ol’ Sarasota Film Fest.

Part The Gods Must Be Crazy and Ulee’s Gold (sorry the last beekeeper movie I’ve seen), Honeyland is a survival of the fittest story that makes Biggest Little Farm look like Disneyland.

Set in Macedonia (geographically, think of it like the toilet paper that Italy kicked off it’s heel) the story follows a 50 something female beekeeper and her relationship with the noisy neighbors that move in next door.

Directed by Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska, the film is a miracle in the cold hard truths about life in the Macedonian frontier. The neighbors who come with five children and herd of cattle, are the European Grapes of Wrath. The children are fundamentally uninsured employees, kicked by cows, injuring each other in play and work, at times refusing their abusive existence.

Meanwhile the main character, Hatidze Muraova, beekeeper and dedicated daughter to an sick elderly mother, had made out adequately by caring for bees and selling honey at local markets. Even in the primitive world, Hatidze tries to improve herself by buying chestnut hair color. I marveled at the fact that our first world and her third world have some of the same preoccupations.

Yet, without giving any spoilers, suffice to say, her world is turned upside down by the interlopers. Morally, I wonder how film makers justify filming families in chaos and suffering just as I wonder how dispassionate reporters detail the afflictions of other third world countries. On the one hand, it’s good to bring awareness to the needs on our collective human planet. And true, I’ve read that the documentarians did share their awards income with Hatidze, so I guess good karma does outweigh exploitation.

Tale of Two Shells: Bomb & Smucker’s Magic

Jay Roach’s latest directorial film Bombshell has something in common with Smucker’s Magic Shell. You remember Smucker’s….you pour it over your ice cream and it becomes a crunchy shell. I don’t know about you, but I always thought the shell ruined the pleasure of ice cream, just as I felt at the beginning of Bombshell when the make up or ‘shell’ was simply overload.

Anything that distracts from feeling the emotion of characters detracts from the experience and Charlize Theron, a fantastic actress, was just way too artificial in trying to be Megyn Kelly. Ditto for Jon Lithgow as Roger Ailes and Nicole Kidman as Gretchen Carlson.

I realize this is hypocritical. I really liked Christian Bale’s Cheney in “Vice”, but strike it up to their facades looking different in any given scene. For example, Charlize looked more and more Charlize like by the end of the film. Did they exceed their make-up budget and say ‘come as you are’ by the end of the film.

Much like the make up, the writing also seemed uneven. Charles Randolph (The Big Short) seemed on one hand to want to copy that form, reporter-like Charlize explaining the Fox News Building, Nicole looking directly into the camera, yet these tropes would stop and start intermixed with attempts at more real moments between Margot Robbie and Kate McKinnon. Additionally there were way too many characters; reporters, lawyers, administrators that again, the emotion becomes too diluted on the ones we’re suppose to care about most.

The important message was still well conveyed and I did feel ‘stronger in my femininity’ when I left the theater. And just like I Tonya, Margot Robbie stole this show (with her normal face I might add). I also really like Mark Duplass who brought a sense of realism as Megan Kelly’s husband. Allison Janney was fun to watch as Roger’s lawyer.

However, the better bomb story of the year was Richard Jewell, both superiourly written and directed and hence, more effective.

Richard Jewell, What a Gem!

Do you care if a movie strays from a historical tale IF it is a well told story? I guess I’ll find out after I write this review as I had avoided the articles about the controversy after finding a key piece of plot surprise that I did not want to know about the actual history.

My son was three in 1996 and I was fully in mommy mode, meaning my main television watching was Barney by day and Seinfeld at night.

Let’s just Billy Ray’s (screenwriter of Captain Phillips and Hunger Games) screenplay starts out shaky, as he and (?) Clint Eastwood decided to jam all the minor characters down our throats without saying who they were-sure, we know they’re Jon Hamm and Sam Rockwell but who the hell are they in the movie? It wasn’t clear. Olivia Wilde is the only from-the-get-go character who is fleshed out (and for anyone with a human hormone, hummina hummina, she’s gorgeous). YET, her character is what the primary controversy is all about…did she expose~ herself for the news expose~? Again, I look forward to finding truth vs. fiction, yet I don’t think it’ll affect my film opinion.

Paul Walter Hauser (the ultimate doofus hood hired to hit Nancy Kerrigan in I Tonya and had a role in Late Night, which now I really want to see) nails the role of Richard Jewell. He looks like Jewell and plays the super naive security guard to perfection.

Kathy Bates whose choices in the last couple of years have been so so, is also tremendous as Richard’s mom. I fully support her as Best Supporting Actress nominee. Sam Rockwell is finally back in the pocket as the sexy, charming, smart ass nice guy.

Fortunately the narrative rises to the performers acumen once the bombing happens and in regards to sound and score, the movie is also topnotch.

As with many other late entry movies (Marriage Story and Honey Boy), I teared up at the ending. Not only is Richard Jewell belong in the justice genre, it also encompasses a buddy flick and mother son film.

Shame on the media for knocking the film (can’t help but think this might be political since Eastwood is a somewhat vocal Republican) as well IMDB who let some dumb ass comment that there were 30 f-bombs which sounds about like the FBI case against Jewell, fabricated. I definitely did not notice excessive swearing and say there weren’t more than 8 to ten expletives.

Go see Richard Jewell for the story and acting. Then appreciate the facts for what they are.

The Second Time Around

2019’s been such a great year in film that I’ve seen several a second and some even a third time around. Do I have a movie addiction(?), probably, but thank goodness for the directors. screenwriters and actors making it a tremendous buzz.

Here’s what I noticed on my recent second time films:

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, so much magic within the film, that I noticed but quickly forgave the clunky beginning where Matthew Rhys’s
character accepts an award.

Likewise in Honey Boy, my second time realized the story’s rough edges, the almost too independent movie scent of it, but still the performances and the atmosphere certainly make you not care so much about the lack of polish. In fact, like Florida Project, polish might take away some of the emotion.

I need to see Marriage Story a second time before I really place my top three: but currently my top ten are:

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Marriage Story
Honey Boy
The Lighthouse
Peanut Butter Falcon
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Her Smell
Parasite
Judy
Uncut Gems (haven’t seen it yet, but I love my Safdie’s)

Honorable Mentions: Book Smart, The Farewell and The Souvenir

Cine-World Film Voting

If you find you can not leave a vote or comment, please email me at irun2eatpizza@hotmail.com
I welcome your opinions and will publish the results by week’s end.

Here is the list of movies shown at The Cine-World Film Fest at Burns Court Theater in Sarasota part of The Sarasota Film Society:

Narrative Films:
A Faithful Man Saint Frances VHYes!
Age Out Second Date Sex
Boy Genius The Chambermaid
Chained For Life The Infiltrators
Cosmos The Kill Team
Don’t Be a Dick The Report
Olympic Dreams The Song of Names
Premature Three Peaks

Docs:
Autonomy
Deconstructing the Beatles Abbey Road: Side 1
Deconstructing the Beatles Abbey Road: Side 2
Ferrante Fever
For Sama
Leaving Home, Come Home
Loopers
Midight Traveler
Scandalous
Screwball
Slay the Dragon
Vision Portraits

JoJo Rabbit: An Overly Frosted Carrot Cake

JoJo Rabbit directed and adapted to screenplay by Taika Waititi is like a good friend who you love dearly, but always goes too far with a joke. Charlie Chaplin knew the fine art of subtlety in the Great Dictator. Sure, mock the Fuhrer, but do so in such a way that it doesn’t make mockery of the cause and pathos.

Like an overly frosted carrot cake, it also frosts my onions when you mix heinous true life death (in this film hanging bodies) with hilarity. They don’t mix, ever.

But it’s a generational divide, considering the millennials on either side of me were gaga, and I almost mean that literally, with the ‘AWWWW” and “OOOOHS’. The difference is, I was protected from media violence as a kid (mom was home and had boundaries for us AND this was pre-computers). Hence, I get the difference between comedy and violence.
Either Waititi should have played all of Germany’s stain as an outright farce or tone it down a notch.

Ok, but it wasn’t all bad. I liked his clever use of comparing Beatles mania with Hitler mania. I looooooved Sam Rockwell, back in the silly, comic department I feel he does his best. The lead little boys (Roman Griffin Davis and Archie Yates) were terrific as was the Anne Frank like young lady (Leave No Trace’s Thomasin McKenzie). Scarlett Johansson, while I like her a lot, was wasted in JoJo, her character wasn’t developed enough for me to really understand her, but I totally get she was needed as a plot device. I could have lived without Rebel Wilson, who just stuck out like a sore thumb. As was Taikia as the Hitler character, again, stop with yourself! He was too dopey and too frequent, the too much frosting part of this carrot cake.

Promise: No Spoilers, “Joker”‘s Wild

(Public Service Announcement: DO NOT TAKE ANYONE UNDER 17 TO THIS!)

Joker, directed and co-written by Todd Phillips is worth seeing. I don’t usually see super dark films since I’m sensitive to violence, a hide-behind-my-sweater-type, as well as a staunch believer that what we ingest visually has the psychological nutrition equivalent of gorging on a deep dried bologna sandwich with a side of deep fried Twinkie. But considering Mr. Phillips’ previous films were mostly comedy; (Old School, Hangover) AND given that his co-writer, Scott Silver, wrote one of my favorite movies of all time, The Fighter, I took a chance.

As a huge Joaquin Phoenix fan, my two favorite Phoenix performances being “Two Lovers” and “The Master”; I knew the performance would be breathtaking and indeed it was. With ribs protruding from his skinny physique, Joaquin giggles maniacally and dances like a mixture of Fred Astaire meets Justin Timberlake. His poignant performance gives us a slightly similar feeling to the closure of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, emphasis on slightly.

No plot spoilers, but the cinematography in Joker’s dancing scenes, in the public bathroom and on the super tall ascension of outdoor stairs, are mesmerizing. Likewise the multiple subway scenes, both quietly eerie and violently chaotic have a deep impact. I’d like to think that Phillips and Silver wanted to wake our distracted ignorant technology fixated society in one of the most impressionable scenes where a wall of tv screens shout their competing cacophony drowning out human suffering.

A topnotch soundtrack added to the film’s hip milieu: Smile
(Jimmy Durante) written by the great Charlie Chaplin (who gets his own cameo shown on the big screen in one scene), Laughing (The Guess Who), and White Room (Cream) to name a few. My favorite, That’s Life (Frank Sinatra), is used in a Johnny Carson-like late night show (hosted here by Robert DeNiro) that Joker watches religiously, added to the mad mix of emotions I felt leaving the theater. I got in my Uber with that other worldly feeling great movies give you, even if it wasn’t the happy face the Joker’s mom always told him to wear.

As I rode along in the dark, listening to NPR News detail separate stories that President Trump wants Biden and his son investigated since their new business made millions and yet Biden raised ‘only’ 1.5 million far below Elizabeth Warren 4 million….I couldn’t help feel like our political system has become surreal; coincidentally a core foundation of Joker the film, that the fat cat Governor of Gotham, doesn’t truly care about us average Joe’s, I mean, Jokers. The solution isn’t violence, but positive, loving changes to our mental health system AND restrictions on guns meant for warfare.

American Factory; Teeter Totter

I actually had to google teeter totter just now having not used the word in so long. In fact, I miss teeter totters and should go find one. Of course, I’d have to find a partner, not the bully types who back in grade school bumped you up too high and too fast where you feared you’d be read about in a newspaper article, like those tragic car accidents where someone gets ejected from a vehicle.

But I digress, instead of talking about American playground apparatuses (which I will make an analogy of, promise), I should be talking about ‘American Factory’ directed by Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar. Reichert is known as the ‘godmother of the American independent film’ and has been nominated for Oscars, most recently for Seeing Red (1983).

In American Factory, a Chinese billionaire buys a failed GM Plant and turns it into a Chinese factory for automotive glass. Fair enough right? No, say wrong, or wong to use a bad politically incorrect pun.

This documentary shows both sides, hence, the teeter totter and if you’re objective like me, you’ll be seeing the middle; the sometimes beautiful friendships between Americans and Chinese, the ‘at least we have jobs’ gratitude of the down and out Daytonites (Dayton, Ohio), the horrific conditions of workers in China which has slowly bled back into American culture. As one of the pro union supporters seconds in the doc, and I paraphrase, ‘didn’t we already fight these battles and win? Why are we sliding backwards? A la Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire as well as many more…

The film does inspire a person to want to discover new human jobs as the last footnote explains that over 375,000 human jobs will be replaced in the next ten years. This is a crisis in my opinion, as people need to be productive to feel self-esteem (is that a clue to the gun violence and suicide rate increase?). I’d like to see a 2020 political candidate address this concern or any person of means, including Mr. and Mrs. Obama. You want the stories told and are willing to fund them, but how about HELPING TO FIND A SOLUTION!

Tel Aviv on Fire: Firing on All Cylinders

‘Tel Aviv on Fire’, directed by Sameh Zoabi, winner of Best World Cinema at this year’s Sarasota Film Festival, provides what movies are made for: the tonic and affability to temporarily assuage real life troubles.

Yet due to Sameh Zoabi and co-writer Dan Kleinman’s complex web of conflicts and sharp dialogue, Tel Aviv on Fire is also an astute person’s film even if romantic comedy is the overarching motif. Savvy audience members will appreciate the movie’s other premises; real love as defined by two people who attentively listen and the question of whether art’s purpose should be to reflect or direct sociopolitical culture.

Individual testimonials would be the true test on the latter question, probably studied by social scientists, but I wonder if mass media, such as Norman Lear’s hit television show All in the Family, a reflection of American’s biased ignorance, actually influenced people to be better, less racist, human beings.

In the case of Tel Aviv on Fire, the argument becomes whether it is naive to think a soap opera could heal or at least ameliorate the centuries old Israeli conflict. Few American rom coms take on such heady issues, yet Seth Rogen’s “Long Shot” this year did in its attempt to convince us that Republican or Democrat, we are all humans searching for love and acceptance. Let’s hope we can keep that in mind as we head into 2020.

The lead actors are all outstanding: a very charming Kais Nashif as the aspiring unfocused writer who eventually reaches out for help with the soap opera’s story within a story.

To the same degree, his girlfriend, portrayed by Maisa Abd Elhhadi, is a competent, not to mention gorgeous, actress as the ambivalent object of Kais’s affection. In the third and fourth layers of conflict, Lubna Azabel is terrific as the fussy t.v actress, and Yaniv Britonover just as good as the check point captain in Kais’s daily life, who becomes the overinvolved director in the serial’s screenwriting as he aims for more adoration from his wife.

So here here for Tel Aviv on Fire, a gift for sapiosexuals who prefer intellectual word play with their flirtation.