The Nest Wasn’t Quite Empty Enough

Sean Durkin, director and writer of “Martha Marcy May Marlene” decided to spare us the word count with his latest of sparer title, “The Nest”. I wish his screenwriting could have also been trimmed.

Don’t get me wrong, The Nest is worth seeing, especially if you’re in for a moody, gray foreboding Surrey landscape. Not to mention, superb acting by Carrie Coon, Jude Law and even ‘their children’; Oona Roach and Charlie Shotwell.

So what’s my problem, you ask? Well, have you ever heard the Louis CK method of comedy writing (no not the ‘come into my hotel room’ one-lol), the write your heart out and then use you closer at the beginning and rewrite forward? If Sean had cut the first five, maybe even ten minutes off The Nest, his film’s pacing would have been tighter. Or possibly the ‘beating of the dead horse’….you’ll see.

But even with the bloat, I enjoyed The Nest, in addition, even the message at the end, which as I always promise, I won’t spoil.

Jimmy’s Middle Name Should be Joy: Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President

Jimmy Carter is one of those rare individuals who has truly lived a life of integrity. And I’m so glad Bill Flanagan helped write the documentary Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President. Additionally, I hope this is just the start of bigger projects for director Mary Wharton, though she’s no novice, having won a Grammy in 2004 for best long form video for the song Legend.

What struck me about the doc within the first ten minutes was how much Jimmy Carter (and wife Rosalynn) smile. Genuine smiles from grateful, earnest people. Boy is that missing in our world right now. If we have to wear masks until Christmas, PLEASE, let’s make them transparent. We need to see people smile.

The doc details Jimmy’s humble upbringing (probably the antithesis and main curse of our most angry US clientele these days, meaning spoiled folks raised in luxury who now subconsciously suffer due to never having any real hardship, aka, ‘so let’s create one’) and his listening to radio music and his Sunday worship gospel songs.

We are what we watch and listen to and the point is hit home by countless musicians within the doc, too many to mention. The largest screen time goes to Willy Nelson, Gregg Allman, Larry Gatlin, Nile Rodgers and Bono.

While I loved the entire documentary, my highlights were:
Seeing Dizzy Gillespie have such a blast making Jimmy ‘sing’ Salt Peanuts, and Jimmy Carter’s Inaugural Gala where Aretha in all her beauty sang “God Bless America” and Paul Simon sang “American Tune”. This should be mandatory viewing for anyone angry these days. Get back to the music, y’all!

A Kaufman Plug: Woman Under the Influence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How about frozen dead animals?

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

Robin’s Wish: A gorgeous documentary tribute (?)

Taken on the surface, Robin’s Wish is a loving tribute of Robin Williams by his wife, friends, neighbors and doctors directed and written by Tyler Norwood with the help of Scott Fitzloff, both worked together previously on another doc called The United States of Detroit, and both are specialists in cinematography.

And the cinematography in Robin’s Wish is of particular note, not just the gorgeous geographic pans of San Francisco, but even in the nuanced eye for light and water reflections on a ceiling, the occasional shading of the screen to denote Robin’s diminishing mental health.

His friends tearful last moment stories are beautiful, as is his widow’s nascent romance re-telling…here’s where my ugly conspiracy theory skepticism comes in:

If he was getting more ill and more paranoid for months all the while being tested, it’s hard for me to believe that a wealthy man, with I assume, state of the art doctors that didn’t know his brain was turning to Swiss cheese from Lewy Body’s Disease. And if they didn’t see it, where’s the oops? And what spouse doesn’t peek in to check on their ailing partner first thing instead of to just assume he’s sleeping before you leave the house for the morning.

I guess if the doc contained an all encompassing take (none of his children took part, nor any celebrities, though Ben Stiller was certainly dangled out there in many scenes), I’d be less suspicious. Give it a look for a mere 6.99 on Bezo’s Monster and let me know what you think.

You Say Tommaso, I say Too Macho

Ok, I couldn’t resist the title, if anything, I felt for Willem Dafoe’s character to a point…

But first, let me say that Abel Ferrara’s a new director to me. I did not see The Bad Lieutenant, but did love Herzog’s sequel Bad Lieutenant Port of Call. From what I’ve read of Ferrara’s filmography, he’s too rough for me.

Dafoe has worked with Ferrara before and will be in his next project as well (Siberia) and my fandom of Dafoe means even in his dish washing scenes, I’m riveted. The man can do no wrong in my book. To be completely serious check out the Al Anon scene where he professes gratitude for the man who helped save him from drugs and alcohol.

And for the love of God, since the Oscars are going to be gutted anyway, let’s give a tiny white guy award just at the end for someone with a filmography that is so underappreciated in awards: The Lighthouse (come on!!) At Eternity’s Gate (what????) and The Florida Project (get out of town)…for those ALONE, come on up and grab your award Willem.

Back to our regularly scheduled review, Tommaso. Ok, the story is cinema verite’ and it’s tough to feel sorry for a rich director living with his 25 year younger girlfriend who has had his child* . Part of me of course is unsympathetic…a you reap what you sow mentality…meaning when you engage with a woman half your age (portrayed perfectly by Cristina Chiriac) and get verklempt that you have nothing in common, I say, I told ya so…

(*said child played by Abel’s daughter-please get her therapy now for scaring the hell out of her in one screaming scene)

Yet I appreciated the honesty of the film, that Ferrara doesn’t paint Dafoe as innocent. If anything, Dafoe’s character IS trying to insert himself into a family milieu with a woman who grew up without one.

Answer me this? Have you ever had a relationship where you were trying to recreate your parent’s marriage/relationship. My hand is up and in marriage two, I chose a volatile, somewhat infantile, yet extremely intelligent and sexy man, and I filled the role as spoiled woman who enjoyed the highs of occasional trophy boyfriend. I know, gross, you may be saying, but look in your own mirror and perhaps you’ll see where you also, recreated the familial scene (for better or for worse).

In Tommaso the young wife rejects her older companion, thus setting him up to be a enraged without ventilation, though certainly his dalliances with other woman are an outlet, justifiable to him, due to this rejection.

So the movie is deeper in that it makes me wonder, what do we want of our men? Do we really want them involved in child rearing, or would we prefer to have them just as financiers and protectors until the kids are out of the house….and by that time, we find ourselves different people who no longer fit together as we once did?

For this meditative thinking, Tommaso is worthy of watching, as the director allows us the quiet space to decide for ourselves, what is fantasy and intentional.

Easy Girl, Complex Plot, Halcyon Memories

When I was just a lass, there use to be Saturday matinees at 2 pm on channel ten (showing my age when there were 4 channels: ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS) that were mostly foreign films. And in the tiny town of Perry, New York, Rochester was foreign enough, let alone artsy films from the likes of Italy or Paris, which might as well have been Venus or Mars. But often, I would get sucked in by the otherness of it all, the classical music, the gorgeous scenery, the oddly dubbed in English.

Tonight on Netflix, I took in Easy Girl, after seeing it won the SACD Award at Cannes.

And man, what a find! This movie took me back to the halcyon days of my youth, being enthralled by the sights (literally filmed in Cannes), the sounds (gorgeous soundtrack including Naimi as well as beautiful classical numbers), and best of all, Easy Girl communicates many levels of love (and lust).

The French director and screenwriter Rebecca Zlotkowski communicates the love of family-mother daughter (including teenage contention), cousin to cousin, male female friendships, and the mixed up hormonal need to connect, lover to lover, however awkwardly.

The acting is superb: Mina Farid will bring you to tears and make you smile by the movie’s end, Zahia Dehar will have you drooling and dreaming of Sofia Loren and Lakdhar Dridi will remind you of every beautifully sweet outrageous gay teen you’ve ever known.

The two adult men: Benoit Magimel, was THE student in The Piano Teacher, and is tremendous here, and award winning Portuguese actor Nuno Lopes is wonderfully complex…

As is the whole darn beautiful film. Watch with some patience for the dubbed n weirdness and be moved.

Creem: America’s Only Rock N Roll Magazine

I’d like everyone to read and see the combo I ate today. I started my day with Jason Whitlock’s recent blog on Howard Stern, detailing the demise of his subversive style equating it to the death of free speech. Of course, since he sold his soul to Sirius, this is no surprise, but nonetheless tragic.

I then ended my afternoon with the new documentary Creem: America’s Only Rock N Roll Magazine and I was compelled to call the younger generation together for an intervention, that perhaps they need to realize Mommy and Daddy (represented by the media and politicians) have abusive tendencies from which they need to run. Let’s get back to y.o.l.o and eradicate the Polo (as in all that corporate America and the stuffy mega wealth sport touts as so important).

Ok less sarcastic: evolution depends on us a. loving each other, b. continuing to hash out and listen too all ideas and opinions and c. coming to compromise. Devolution is going on ‘recess’ and not talking to each other. We won’t break if we disagree, but we will break if we stop talking.

Creem was a brilliant magazine which I never saw back in the day, but that’s because I did not have older rock n roll siblings showing me the way. But to be honest, I didn’t need Creem Magazine to feel free in the ’70’s because we all were…free to joke around, free to laugh at human folly, free to make mistakes and LEARN from them without getting immediately cancelled. Thank the good Lord I grew up when I did.

The doc was brilliantly told with a story arc of wild men who burned out quickly, masking depression or bipolar disorders with too many substances. But before their demise, they reported on, praised, criticized, made fun of and yet were beloved by their own targets.

Bravo to Scott Crawford who directed and help write the doc, with writing help from Jaan Uhelszki. This film is not only a love letter to the magazine, but to Detroit and writers and artists everywhere who should take this as inspiration to be brave enough to return to the truth plus an essential sense of humor, not the facade all are parading today.

First Cow, A Friendship Fable

First Cow, directed by Kelly Reichardt, known for her unmistakable ability to capture simple pleasures and universal pain, has another wonder with First Cow (now streaming on Itunes). This time she has re-teamed with Jonathan Raymond (Mildred Pierce, Wendy and Lucy) to bring the latter’s novel “The Half-Life” to cinematic life.

A perfect circular plot, the story is of two men (one American, one Chinese) who find each other lost and on the run in the gold mining craze of centuries yore.

Reichardt makes sure to take her time and in our frenzied world, you really need to release the monkey mind and take the lazy river ride. She’s worth it as well as the two actors chosen to play friends: John Magaro (who was in the cast of thousands in Big Short) plays the American ‘Cookie’ and Orion Lee (who needs more opps than the tv schlock his IMDB details) as King-Lu.

While you’ll know the end of the tale at the movie’s start, you care enough about the pair to travel with them as they succeed in selling their oily cakes (think the first Krispy Kremes).

Again, certainly the Icarus who flies too close to the sun tale is as old as time, yet powerful acting and careful directing and storytelling make it ever so delicious…much like the sweet treats noted in the film.

If You Could Read My Mind, You’d See a 7…

While I thoroughly enjoyed the company (my Mom and dear Jack), I don’t think the narrative aspect of Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind was well organized. At least twice, I remember hearing a random comment, out of sync with the previous sequence…for instance, Martha Kehoe and Joan Tosoni (newbies so forgiven) establish that Gordon was a drinker, then they move on to another topic, then they throw in a line from someone else saying he liked to drink…

The best section of the doc dealt with the history behind the song Sundown when Gordon had an ominous feeling about his then girlfriend, Cathy Smith, later convicted of serving John Belushi the deadly drug cocktail which led to his death.

Two other positives: I will say is that Gordon wanted to come clean about his womanizing days and the emotional pain subsequently inflicted. He is also deserving due to his tremendous lyric writing and distinctive vocal talent.

Beyond that, the story isn’t as well crafted, nor is their an explanation why Alec Baldwin is commenting. And Bruce Cockburn is more prolific, but lesser known as far as best Canadien folk singer. But hey, at least it’s music and apolitical. Hallelujah!