“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.

Joanna Hogg, part 2 in my weekend, Archipelago from 2010

I was so intrigued slash mystified by the obscure artsiness of The Souvenir that I had to go back and watch one of Joanna Hogg’s previous films, Archipelago from 2010.

The only major star in the film, Tom Hiddleston, plays Edward, the son of a family on holiday (as the Brits say).

I found several similarities to The Souvenir, reminding me that some directors keep familiarity, and audiences who dig that, like me, respond favourably. Latnhimos, for instance, is known for his repetitive beating soundtracks that drive one to suspenseful insanity.

Hogg, I’ve discovered, is a fan of the wide open sky, something that I connect to living on the 6th floor of my condo, with windows that are a tad high to see the actual skyline yet open to the clouds, akin to what you see on a plane (though not as high, OBVIOUSLY). She also does not mind making you sit and ponder, leaving lulls of awkwardness that remind one of past moments when silence can lead to skin crawling madness. Other interesting shots she leans toward are people on phones and from the two I’ve seen, people climbing: in The Souvenir a shot that stayed in my head is Jack, the uncaring beau, callously far ahead at the top of steep stairs leading to the Venice Opera, while Honor Swinton Byrne tries to catch up in a very long and complicated gown. In Archipelago, the family hikes up a hill, the older sister claiming possible injury, only to be feigning so that she may gain on lead on her brother (the aforementioned Hiddleston).

Amy Lloyd also stands out as the family’s personal cook, whose chemistry with Hiddleston is something palpable and yet annoying to the women of the family.

Definitely worth a freebie watch on Amazon Prime, especially on a rather gray, but fortunately rare, Sarasota afternoon.

There’s really no madness in Archipelago, except for the Satre-like ‘hell is other people’. We’ve all experienced being cooped up with family and when moods take over, watch out. We’ve also all been in situations longing for another person to arrive to break up the monotony. Here, the wife and mother, played by Kate Fahy, longs for her husband to arrive to help her socialize with her own children.

This morning I chose the A24 Podcast where Scorsese and Hogg are interviewed and I stopped it realizing Marty was going to speak to his first experience with Hogg’s work. I stopped it earlier, knowing I was going to watch. Now having finished the film (my homework), have given myself permission to listen. Marty says the same thing I felt, that he was drawn into the film despite its quiet milieu.

Say No to Pharmaceuticals, A Different Kind of Post

I decided to write my medical story after deciding to be a human guinea pig. Why not document my results in hopes of helping others?

First, a short intro: When I chose to retire after 30 years as an educator and counselor for NYSUT, I sacrificed my 100% retirement and went two years without a salary (I started at 21 and hence couldn’t collect even my smaller percentage until I hit 55). I chose wisely though. I couldn’t take another harsh New York State winter, nor the equally cold public living in that God forsaken area.

Suffice to say, from 2016 to 2018, I gladly scrimped here in Florida, worked two jobs, and am proud to say in July of 2017, I worked 33 days straight. The upside, I was warm and healthy. That last word is key; I avoided doctors and dentists for two years, saving co-pays fortunately except for one nasty sinus infection. That’s right, no check ups, annual visits, with the exception of 6 month dermatologist skin checks having had surface melanoma and basal cell while in Upstate New York.

Once my pension kicked in, I decided to be more ‘mature’ and responsible and begin the gamut of physicals. I knew from my last gynecologist appointment in New York, by my long term and caring physician William Harvey that I had osteopenia (the precursor to osteoporosis). His take on this condition was; start weightlifting everyday and increase your calcium intake. He also said that any bone density medication should be saved until the last 10 years of life, due to possible side effects. I took his advice.

Now four years later, I decided I should probably have a bone scan done again. I gladly and happily walked the 2 and a half miles to the doctor as I love to be outside (and got rid of my car living in a walkable and bus commutable city). Again, not bragging, just tell you how healthy I am.

I did not think about this until later, again being the ‘good girl’ and going to my appointments, that having a combo mammogram and bone scan appointment (which I was talked into since they were in the same building) might be a bit of a radiation overload. But again, I trust (-ED, past tense now) medical professionals and had no averse effects from any previous mammo or bone scan, so what the hey.

In the P.A.’s office afterward, a beautiful and articulate woman came in with an equally pretty intern. I mention these descriptors only because if one is going to direct a drug advertisement, it’s much better to have a good looking spokesperson. In the moment however, I was merely impressed by her smooth and professional demeanor. The P.A. detailed that I now had full on osteoporosis and that one of my discs was at a negative 2.8.

I wasn’t flabbergasted by the diagnosis, but the minus disc measurement did freak me out. My first question was: I run 3 and a half miles every day on pavement, should I stop, already envisioning my spine breaking in half as I ran merrily parallel to Lido Beach. Her response was immediate, “Oh no, keep going, just don’t fall down.” Ooooo.kkkkkk.

Funny enough I had fallen a year previous, stupidly yacking on my cell phone, while going too briskly over uneven bricks and literally almost did a face plant. Points of body to brick contact were right knee, right wrist, right bottom lip. I credit a full body blow to not allowing anyone area to take the full brunt. But surely, had my bones been decrepit that would have been the time to crack.

The P.A. continued her smooth talk by telling me a host of different medications I could begin immediately along with a carrot of, if you try this monthly med first and it doesn’t work, insurance will cover a miracle once a year infusion. This insight now only in hindsight: In other words, be the trial and error with pills and if we don’t kill you with that, we have another more successful* torture chamber down the road.

The one ominous thing she had said was, ‘what ever you do, don’t take this and lay down after’. This was a funny statement to me, as I get up, run my 3 and a half and then it’s off to the races of life. I can’t remember the last time I laid down before it was bed or sexy time….but still the way she said it seemed quite odd.

A mixture of fear and shock had me waiting at Publix to get my Boniva, which she wanted me to start immediately, even though she had also given me a script for blood work to check my para thyroid after my explaining that not only do I get a daily does of vitamin d, I eat 95 of my calcium intake in one sitting every day inhaling frozen yogurt by the pint.

Once home, deciding at the last minute not to invest in meds until the blood work was back, I sat down to research. A host of articles came up about jaw deterioration being a serious side effect of Boniva. I kept searching hoping there would be as many successful posts, though only a scant few were found.

Since we now have patient portals, I decided to write my concern to the P.A. as she had said to feel free to reach out with any questions. So I did ask about the jaw fear, which she had glazed over during our visit. I was also anxious since I had lock jaw as a toddler and had no idea if I have some unknown weakness due to that.

She responded that the chances of me having a jaw problem side effect were the equivalent of getting struck by lightening. I filed this in the back of my mind and decided still to hold off on meds until after my blood test.

Then, approximately 18 to 24 hours after my bone scan, I felt strange. First it was fatigue after running, which I don’t feel especially since the day prior I had swam to take pressure off my feet. Then other symptoms sprang up: hip, back pain, hoarseness, bloody nose, front teeth ached, and fatigue: none of which occurred after any previous exams. I went to be that night wondering if I could have been over exposed to radiation. Did they calibrate the machine for light weights like me?

I woke up at 2:30 feeling like I couldn’t breathe that well. I called an upstairs neighbor telling him I may need a ride to E.R. but was going to call the P.A.’s office on call person and just ask some questions. A mid wife was the on call provider and reassured me it was highly unlikely and that I should be fine. I went through my next day again feeling overheated. I had bought tickets for my dad and I to go on a trolley tour and knew I couldn’t back out since they were non-refundable and it was his last week in Florida before going North for the summer.

Meanwhile I continued my internet research and found this on Harvard Medical School:”Radiation Risk from Medical Devices”:
The actual radiation exposure depends on many things, including the device itself, the duration of the scan, your size, and the sensitivity of the tissue being targeted.

I received a curt message back from the P.A. on the portal when I stated my concern that it could not possibly be related and that I should consult my General Practitioner for further help. She also quipped that she “couldn’t make me take any medication.” Suddenly the pretty articulate woman had lost her bed side manner having to answer pesky questions.

Being resilient, I dug in more, doing two days worth of research in search of possible supplements that could be tried before doing medication. One promising doctor had seen success with a daily does of the following: strontium, boron, vitamin K, melatonin, vitamin d, calcium and Omega 3’s. I have been religiously taking these ever since daily. (I already take lycopene -for skin, turmeric-anti-infammatory, Vitex-homeopathic hormone help).

I’ve decided I may never have another bone scan after gradually feeling better and reading horror stories about how bad radiation exposure is for you (and not to mention known for bone depletion!!!). Same with mammograms. Not. Doing. It. Again. If I feel a lump, I’ll go. Ditto for colonoscopy, if and when there’s a problem, I’ll go.

So follow me as I continue to run everyday, continue my supplement regimen and let’s see how long my bones hold up….naturally. If it works, we’ll know. And if it doesn’t we’ll know that, too. I plan on doing 6 month posts on this issue (or sooner if anything wild happens). I’ve been on the supplements almost two months and do feel stronger (yet realize it could be psychosomatic).

And now one p.s. I told a co-worker (15 years older) of my experience, and she indeed was given the ‘miracle’ annual infusion* once and suddenly had jaw problems taking a year of dentists appointments to overcome. Guess lightning strikes more often, eh?

More than just ‘The Souvenir’

‘The Souvenir’ written and directed by Joanna Hogg is an artsy pot boiler for which one needs to fasten a seat belt. The occasionally muffled dialogue forces you to lean forward and work to fathom its depths.

But depths there are; how someone can be duped into enabling a partner, how closely tied are immigration and class struggle, how much does a writer have to personally relate to his/her screenplay, and the age old question. ‘what is art?’.

Akin to walking down a corridor with a sudden recognition of your own reflection, I caught myself judging the main character’s foolish enabling, until the reflection shown its ugly head and said, ‘remember 2000 to 2006?’. I also thought our society’s unfortunate resurgence of hateful religions, anti-semitism and homophobes lends itself to sticking with a a dysfunctional partner due to an ‘any port in a storm’ mentality.

Hogg, along with the tremendous acting of Tilda Swinton and her daughter Honor Swinton Byrne, take a two hour time period to let these marinate with, at times, obscure cinematography and quiet lulls. Probably beloved to fine arts majors most, winning Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema should be the only sign needed to know rewards will be reaped from this meditative film.