Under the Silver Lake: Part Dos of Creepy Films

“Under the Silver Lake” (2018) Rated R graphic violence and at a tad bloated 2 hours and 19 minutes.

I’ve been trying to enlarge my podcast listening to more movie pods since I began my own with the super sharp Gus Mollasis. Already I know we need a sign off slogan, like how Siskel and Ebert said, we’ll save the aisle seat for you or Brother Wease’s ‘it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice’, the latter oh so true.

At any rate, in an odd coincidence after seeing “Psycho” Saturday (see blog part UNO) I heard a gent I respect on The Big Picture Podcast say “Under The Silver Lake” was one of his top five of the year thus far. This intrigued me as I had heard mixed reviews, with some criticism saying it actually promoted what it was trying to negatively highlight (and that topic is: men who feel women owe them sex).
Hence, I decided to see for myself what I thought of David Robert Mitchell’s film.

The short answer is the movie definitely did NOT glorify patriarchal domination. In fact, if you choose to read on, the male main character has a heart. Sure, he enjoys sex, but from what I had read in the headlines, I was prepared for a date rape/sex by force scene which never happened (thankfully).

If you’re good at celeb dating trivia (and who isn’t, eye roll), you guessed at the end of Creepy Part Uno that the star of “Under the Silver Lake” is Andrew Garfield. Confession, I never really cared for this guy, mainly based on shallow reasons, like he’s too thin for me to find attractive, I know, a momentary shallow moment.
I do know that his acting has received accolades, one biggie, an Academy Award Best Actor nom for “Hacksaw Ridge”, and I had totally forgot his Golden Globe nom for “The Social Network” (lip bite, I don’t remember his part, but loved that movie and certainly recall Jesse Eisenberg).

But talk about ‘holy he could be Anthony Perkins son’…what an odd coincidence. If his character had been a bit more shrewd, he really would have nailed Norman’s persona. But here’s the rub, while his character Sam seems to be a drifting heartless pig, he actually redeems himself (won’t spoil it) by truly caring about the welfare of one of the gals he encounters.

I can see some of David Robert Mitchell’s possible influences, including David Lynch, Kwan & Scheinhart and Terry Gilliam in both the eerie sinister nature we all harbor, bizarre behavior and the magical realism of underground networks of hybrid human/animals respectively.

Is “Under the Silver Lake” as artistic as Hitchcock’s Psycho? No way, and not even as chilling. In fact, where Herman’s music added to the suspense of Psycho, the overly dramatic orchestral music took me out of the scenes in Under the Silver Lake.

Pretty typical for 2018 though where surplus or extreme is considered edgy when really good old black and white and a couple of violins are all you need to scare people.

On the other hand, Under the Silver Lake was worth seeing for Garfield, whose performance was multi-faceted and the story vivid enough to pain modern day Hollywood as a super sad and freaky place to live.

A Double Feature of Creeps: Part Uno

Fitting to recent real life soulless wonders in many ways, I’ve witnessed a double play of cinematic creepiness this week.
First, I’m glad to say that people have become hip to the Sarasota Film Society’s vintage warehouse at 500 Tallevast Road as it was packed last Saturday for Hitchcock’s Psycho from 1960.
And confession, I had never seen the movie all the way through, simply knew of the iconic shower scene.
And of course, Hitchcock was as amazing for first timers almost 60 years later (trippy how time flies, right?). His artistic vision to land unforgettable scenes is simply unparalleled. I can still clearly see Janet Leigh’s entire face, dead and wide eyed laying on the bathroom floor. Art is far more acceptable than gore and gratuitous violence. If only the current horror numbskull writers could reckon with that, I might start trying the genre again.
Anthony Perkins had enough vulnerability to dupe someone into thinking he deserved sympathy and the fact that Janet’s character had just stolen 40 grand made her more susceptibility blind to ‘Norman’s” red flags.
Sure, the screenplay’s a tiny bit slow in spots, and much like Hitchcock wondered, I thought the psychiatrist’s explanation was a bit long-winded. But as I read, people working on the film felt the need to explain Norman’s wickedness. Unfortunately today, mad men (and women) have become more common place with the advent of mass shootings. And in truth, there’s no explaining people (are they really human?) who care nothing for human life.
One other comment I’ll make here is that as a huge Ted Knight fan, I loved seeing him in a bit part at the end of the film. As usual, Gus Mollasis did a fine comedic turn as Q & A moderator post film.
If you live in the Sarasota Area, get thee to a showing, the next one on July 26th at 6 pm.
And here’s a hint to Part ‘Dos’ of Creepy Films, this one from 2018 starring an actor who use to date Emma Stone…..

The Movie Drought’s Over: Echo in the Canyon

Echo in the Canyon written by Eric Barrett and Andrew Slater (who also directed the doc) is a glorious celebration of the California music scene in Laurel Canyon in the late 60’s and 70’s.

You know a documentary is great when you have no relation to the concept and yet you’re still enraptured. My first trip to California wasn’t until I was in my 40’s. And I was probably about the same age when I first awakened to Brian Wilson.

And thank God I did AND was smart enough to get to Van Wezel for his Pet Sounds concert a few years back. As Tom Petty (God rest his soul) said in the doc, Brian Wilson may be our century’s Mozart.

But I digress. The doc had a perfect balance of old footage of the Mamas and the Papas, the Byrds, the Beatles, Stephen Stills and Neil Young (among many others) and the new concert honoring that music, starring Jakob Dylan, Beck, Fiona Apple and many more.

Also woven in were Jakob Dylan conversing and jamming with both icons of yesteryear and his newer musical friends helping him on the tribute concert.

Jakob Dylan was originally inspired by the Jaques Demy movie “Model Shop” from 1969 set in Laurel Canyon. Proof that movies can inspire anyone to create their own masterpieces. And while Jakob Dylan is most probably a giant egomaniac (given his name was the only one front and center: STARRING JAKOB DYLAN), he does have a more melodic singing voice than father Bob and is downright handsome, hence his spokesmanship in the doc was heavenly. And who better to carry on a torch than the son of an icon like Bob? I also appreciated that Bob was not a large part of this narrative, having just had the spotlight in Scorsese’s Rolling Thunder Revue.

I know I’m not the only one who watched this doc and was saddened by the contrast of our current world’s frenetic life style. I hope my son, a beautiful spirit whose passion is music, has time and like minded musical comrades to get together and just hang, play cheer on and compose. But I’m praying that making ends meet and the stupid number of distractions in our world don’t inhibit his dream.

A must see in my book and I’ll definitely take in a second helping when and if Echo in the Canyon goes to Parkway 8.

“The Fall of the Amercian Empire”, Denys Arcand is only half Woke

I’m new to Denys Arcand, having just seen “The Fall of the American Empire” at Burns Court. The film was stimulating enough that I’ll check out his earlier work.

I’ll probably start with the Academy Award winner from 2003 “The Barbarian Invasion” (which won the Oscar for best foreign film in 2003), but I’m also intrigued with “The Decline of the American Empire” from 1986 referred to as the French’s Big Chill which won accolades at Cannes.

So, I’m assuming, given his movie titles, Arcand has a bit of a fixation about the United States and from “The Fall of the American Empire” I assume he sees us (or U.S. in this case) as the ne’er do well older brother who has corrupted their (Canadian) morals.

If Arcand movie is based at all in reality, Canada seems to be a mess; rampant homelessness, political and police collusion, gang warfare and an overall ennui. And much like Wall Street, the movie seems to be chagrin about wealth and that if greed’s not at least good, then it sure gets you out of legal problems.

I did not appreciate the gratuitous violence (two really graphic scenes), and I was also offended about his racist take on African Americans. Perhaps Arcand justifies this due to his sympathy for indigenous people and for homeless, but two rights don’t make a wrong in my book.

The film’s other cliche was the whore with the heart of gold (played by the gorgeous Marpier Morin), but again, Arcand balances this by having an intelligent male who becomes the Robin Hood hero (well acted by Alexandre Landry) and a sly old ex-con (played by Remy Girard) in a plot that is super complex. Again, Arcand seems to be half Woke, or to sound more grammatically correct half awake. one thing’s for certain, he holds no favor for politicians or the police.

To compare another French film of recent viewing, “The Fall of the American Empire” is far better even with its flaws, than the fluff of “Non-Fiction”.

“Yesterday”, I Had A Headache

Yesterday is an awkward film that actually displays more about what’s wrong with society all the while thinking that it’s cute. Hence, my headache, but like a heart ache since I know many male bashers will find this charming, and I say nearly choking, romantic.

First, in an age where we’re allegedly embracing globalism, why the heck can’t the actor, Himesh Patel, obviously of Indian descent, be given a character name of that ilk. In my mind, the whiter than white name Jack Malik is an absolute slap in the face.

Second, I didn’t believe Lily James’ performance as a pouting, ‘why don’t you make a move on me’, galloping Airedale terrier for one millisecond. If her character’s mixed messages weren’t the poster child for the growing number of emotionally abused men, I’ll eat my Queen Elizabeth hat.

And I truly thought Kate McKinnon was ‘going places’ given her extreme comedic talent on SNL, but she keeps taking crap role after crap role in films. Here she plays an even worse misandrist than Lily James. To my utter chagrin, folks were giggling at her put downs of Himesh’s appearance.
If Himesh’s character had been a female, #Metoo heads would have broken the internet.

So here’s the real message Yesterday gave us:
1. People these days are too distracted to even recognize a profound song (this should have been the through line (instead of the gag reflex cutesie Ed Sheeran and Jame Cordon schlock) and hence a great social commentary on society).
2. Women get to do and act however they want; cruel, ‘confused’ and men will fold and become their “wife guys”, (a new term, see the NYT article about it).
3. Coco Cola and Cigarettes killed John Lennon (see the film and you’ll get my drift here).
4. Parents are bumbling idiots.
5. A screenwriter evidently doesn’t have to answer questions about why people forgot their memory about just a few cultural icons, but others remain intact.

“Hey Miley, what’s good?” You (and Nicki Minaj) ask?

Well, Himish Patel was the best actor of the lot and has a excellent singing voice as well. Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis should get back to the drawing board to redeem themselves. And the CineBistro (aka end of the Roman Empire, people gorging themselves while reclining) Theater probably got my last $27 (ticket and popcorn) because people act like they do in their bedrooms; chatting, texting, and getting up to use the facilities way too often. But super fitting considering the silly movie on screen.

Go ahead and see Yesterday, but lower your bar to something not even a contortionist limbo dancer could fit under.

Whole Hog on Hogg

I’ve now watched all four of Joanna Hogg’s films. Here they are from most recent to oldest:

The Souvenir 2019
Exhibition 2013
Archipelago 2010
Unrelated 2007 originally, made a USA splash in 2014

And here’s what I have to say first. It’s a sad state of affairs, when lesser movies like Assayas’ Non-Fiction get more local attention than a masterpiece like The Souvenir. Specifically, trendy artsy conversations (as in Non-Fiction, vindicated by a favorite film podcast movies.imo as intellectual masturbation and also by the film God Martin Scorsese who was executive producer of The Souvenir) some how trumps heroin amongst a similar bourgeois population.
It’s not that something wicked has to befall wealthy people, yet without a conflict, (in Non-Fiction, they’re all cheating on each other except for the emotionally abusive character) a movie doesn’t really resonate. Again, to agree with the imo movies men, the characters in Non-Fiction are forgettable.

Now I sound like someone on the Democratic panel last night moaning about current digression rather than talk about the positive.
Despite my defending The Souvenir, it’s not my favorite of the four Hogg films, though second is nothing to feel remorse over. In the top spot would be her first film “Unrelated” which stars a very young Tom Hiddleston (26) (who Hogg uses in roles both big and small in all but The Souvenir) and Kathryn Worth. In this film, Worth is the fifth, no make that seventh wheel of a family on vacation in Sicily. Without spoiling this (you can watch it on VuDu for free), Worth is going through a bit of a mid-life crisis and Hiddleston is a young and restless youth corrupting the morals of the nuclear family’s young adults.

What’s delicious about all of Hogg’s movies is she’s a reliable artist where you’ll find all of these trinkets in every film:
closing doors
phone conversations
wind in trees, long winding paths
boisterous shots juxtaposed with quiet nature
lying prostate
the theme of disconnection or search for true self

If you’ve never seen a Hogg film, seek one out, they’re meditative voyeuristic compelling features that may annoy you at the beginning, but I dare you to walk away from there deep magnetism.

A Relaxing Bath of Music: “Pavarotti” the Doc

Bless Ron Howard, man has this guy come such a long dirt road from whistling with Andy Griffith. Bravo on another fine music documentary, this time on the late great Pavarotti.

Even if you don’t like opera, you’ll love this doc. You just have to hang in there for the first 15 minutes which are a little opera heavy, but that’s allowed especially for aficionados.

What’s enchanting about his life story (and really with the help of a great storyteller or ‘framer’**, Howard here, Scorsese with Rolling Thunder Revue isn’t everyone’s story enchanting? Ok, maybe not Manson.) is his joie de vivre, a substance not found in the Maria Callas doc. But to Tom Volf’s defense, perhaps she was just too damn depressed to find it. **Props to the writers who helped Howard, Cassidy Hartmann and Mark Monroe.

In any case Luciano had enough joy for two lives. Now was he always moral in the Catholic tradition? No, but, he sure gave himself to friends and charity.

I loved his passion for wanting to perform with Bono and U2, his empathy for children with cancer and war atrocities and his friendship with Lady Diana.

My day began with Hitchcock’s “Shadow of a Doubt” (thank you Burns Court for the Breakfast Movie Treat) with its wry humor and intrigue and ended being almost sung to sleep by “Pavarotti”. Now, that’s a damn near perfect day. (Picture me walking off whistling holding hands with Andy. LOL. Ok maybe don’t.:)

City of Gold, Perfectly Timed Doc Rec for Bourdain’s B-day

There are so many great things about working at BookStore1. We give and get smiles from super savvy customers, share the mountains and valleys of everyday life with our co-workers, shelve and research books and even write reviews.
A bonus is two of my co-workers share my film passion. Scott recently hipped me to the doc “City of Gold” about Jonathan Gold, the first food critic to win the Pulitzer Prize who dominated the Los Angeles area with sage restaurant critique. Sadly, Gold died in 2018 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 57.
In fact, how apropos that I watched this on the cusp of what would have been Anthony Bourdain’s 63rd birthday on June 25th. Anthony actually attributed some of his ideas to Gold as, “the first guy to change the focus from white tablecloth restaurants to really cool little places in strip malls”.
City of Gold, written and directed by Laura Gabbert, is a moving tribute to a man who loved food, music and family. As a kid growing up in South Central before the riots of the 60’s, he describes a halcyon world where all races lived in harmony.

Gold truly loved the city of L.A. and he gave back in spades by writing moving food reviews that inspired chefs and helped literally make dreams come true. If Gold thought a restaurant was worthy and wrote about it in the LA Times, it was pretty much destined for success.
The litmus test of a documentary in my eyes, is to make you want to be a better person. Recently, “Ask Dr. Ruth” accomplished the task and now so has “City of Gold”. I want to improve my writing, and actually thought of ideas while watching the doc on how to jazz up my restauarant review podcast (Jackontherox.com) and film podcast (Baker & Mollasis At The Movies on Spreaker.com. So look for future innovation all thanks to Jonathan Gold via Laura Gabbert via Scott. And R.I.P. Anthony Bourdain, gone but not forgotten.

Dear French People: Non-Fiction?

Dear French People,

I’ve seen and enjoyed French films before, namely Starbuck (2011) and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007). But Non-Fiction? Non, non.

Let me get this straight:
You’re intellectuals; ok, I respect that.
You’ve got labor problems and politicians are forced to be super moral and transparent. Ok, got it.

But, sex with multiple people? C’est la vie.
Your spouse or partner has an affair? C’est la vie.
You’ve seen each other for 6 years? Ghosting is an appropriate way to end things.
Women deserve consoling, but men get spat on.
You have kids, but farm the raising off to grand mere and the nanny.

I appreciated the drinking debates about digital vs. print media, but must ask this of Americans as well, why is everything such a black and white issue these days? Why can’t we do both? Certainly the case has been made for bisexuality (and in this film) which is defined by liking both sexes, so what the heck is the hand wringing about other much easier choices that also need not be binary. It’d be like a war about cake is better than pie (which it is), but why not have both as choices?

I appreciated the ennui couples feel in their relationships, but why not work on intimacy rather than just secretly sleep with others? Sure, it doesn’t have the titillating risk of getting caught, but it sure as heck makes you a deeper person.

Sure there’s some cutesy bits about Juliet Binoche’s character not wanting to be referred to as a police officer, but instead a crisis conflict manager, and a roll your eyes wink wink at the end when she says maybe they could get Juliet Binoche could play her in the movie version of her show (hardy, har har), but come on. Let’s face facts because Assaysas is an industry darling everyone gushes even when it’s just plain mediocre.

Bottom line: there is suppose to be some character arc or growth in a film and I saw only one character who was sort of maturing, and he with a shrew of a partner who chastised him for his cell phone all the while hanging up on him to get back to work.

Other characters in this film contradicted themselves. Juliet Binoche’s character whines to her friend that her husband is having an affair, but she is also having an affair (a fun fact she doesn’t reveal to said friend).

Guillaume Camet’s character sleeps with a younger woman but doesn’t agree with any of her rigid stance on throwing out all print books (which would include his career).

The reading public in this movie seemed to care about morals, but none of the lead characters, so would the real French person please stand up? What is definite in your society as far as propriety? I am truly curious.

And if sex is something you procure within and outside of relationships, where were the joie de vivre scenes for that? Sex seemed to be as exciting as going grocery shopping for cleaning supplies.

So please, would any Pierre, Monique, Gerard, Phillippe, anyone…please get back to me. Though I sound judgmental, I’m more curious about your cultural norms. Or was Non-fiction more science or dystopian fiction?

All is True, Wondrous Cosmic Connections

I’m sure you’ve had this experience: you’re on vacation (or house/dog sitting as I was the last 5 days) and you forgive yourself for binge watching Netflix (or your channel/show of choice). That was me this morning mesmerized by The Rolling Thunder Revue Bob Dylan doc. Ever since husband number two and his thick ‘bible’ of Dylan acoustic music, I’ve had this love/hate relationship with Bob. I guess I sort of assumed he was a deep womanizing (if those two words aren’t too oxymoronic) soul like my then husband, who absolutely idolized him. I got he was an icon, but because I was only 11 when the Rolling Thunder Tour came about, please forgive me, because I didn’t get ‘it’ until this morning with my mouth hanging open seeing Dylan in his prime singing profound songs like Hattie Carrol….holy sh*&! No wonder he got the Nobel Prize! He basically was the Singing Innocence Project (Hurricane)!!!

So how cool was it, that later I go to see All is True, the Shakespeare mid to end life bio pic starring Shakespearean Whisperer Kenneth Branagh (who I’m sorry I’ve added an unnecessary ‘u’ to in previous writings). And let’s face it, Will was the Dylan, before Dylan of playwrights, living a mere 400 years earlier. Unfathomable, right?

I made this connection when in the film All is True, a curious writer approaches William as he attempts to plant a garden, pestering him with ‘how did you do that?’ questions. A similar scene occurs in the doc, with Dylan just trying to wave the people off. True artists, like Shakespeare and Dylan, don’t need, want or even can explain it, it’s just comes out of them, that’s what makes them geniuses.

All is True (written by Ben Elton, described first as comedian on IMDB, his funny bone in this is employed a scant few, but expertly woven times) is much more than homage to a genius. The movie directed and starring Kenneth Branagh is about the man Shakespeare, much like Rolling Thunder is about Dylan. It’s about humans who due to the gift of the time they rose to stardom and their gift of transforming life into art that the public needed and wanted, are more than men, they’re creators with a capital “C”.

Judi Dench plays Shakespeare’s wife and while her understated role is great, the minor character who shines brightly due to range is Kathryn Wilder who plays Shakespeare’s daughter Judith. There’s way too much at stake to say much more, the spoilers in this have more layers than an Amway sales pitch, but suffice to say, Kathryn’s going places if given a chance. Ian McKellen gets a sweet cameo performance as Shakespeare’s sonnet muse, and I’d need to see this again (or like all students do, buy the Cliff Notes) to understand fully their (Branagh and his) witty 1600 speak dialogue. I think I got the ‘drift’, but need to to research further. History Vs. Hollywood hasn’t tackled this project yet, so I was unable to get a quick fix. I DO know McKellen looked a lot like a skinnier cowardly lion with the blond curls and peculiar mustache.

This movie is about finding your true happiness, what constitutes a ‘big’ life vs. little, the purpose of marriage, the reason to be resilient in relationships, pleasing your parents, why it would suck to live in 1600 for men or women, and last but not least, the ignorance of puritanism. A tall order.

And while I can’t give this a 100, as my film buddy Gus Mollasis did (I saw a few scenes as melodramatic add ons), I will give Branagh the rapier’s award for skilled oratory. And Ben Elton for writing a solid, but just shy of perfect, screenplay.