Eternal Beauty, Talented Writer/Director

Craig Roberts wrote and directed Eternal Beauty starring the incandescent Sally Hawkins. She could make almost any script look good, but all she had to do was bring her A game given the poignant, well drawn dysfunctional family comedy/drama.
With the help of another new, dare I predict future Oscar nominated, actor David Thewlis (Golden Globe winner for Fargo and amazing in I’m Thinking of Ending Things), this pair makes you dream of Todd Solondz’s happier script moments. While I haven’t deep dived into Craig Roberts (note to IMDB: your biographies offer scant inf lately), let’s just say he has the jaded Scotsman approach to life down cold, reminding me of Solondz cynicism.
The other characters in Eternal Beauty are also terrific, notably Sally’s ‘sisters’; Billie Piper and Morfydd Clark.
The movie’s theme is normal is boring, and as a self-proclaimed non-conformist, I second that emotion. While the movie’s subject schizophrenia is nothing to laugh at, Roberts puts things in perspective by showing how nuts the general population surrounding Sally, ne Jane, really are.
I’ll definitely backtrack to see Craig Roberts act in Submarine, of which Sally Hawkins plays his mother. I have a feeling all three of these talents (Hawkins, Thewlis and Roberts) will get a golden statue sometime soon.

Mank, David Fincher’s Gorgeous Tribute to Dad; Jack

Wow, I already was in love with Mank the movie, fresh out of the can on Netflix. The black and white cinematography (filmed on Red Prototype by Erik Messerschmidt making me feel I’m in the halcyon Wizard of Oz and am so happy I don’t even want colorization), Gary Oldman’s amazing performance, Arliss Howard as Louis B. Mayer, Amanda Seyfried as Marian Davies and Charles Dance as William Randolph Hearst: all enchanted me from the get go.

While the film is about the writing of Citizen Kane, Orson Welles, portrayed in a small number of scenes by Tom Burke (so good in The Souvenir!) the film centers on Herman Mankiewicz who used Upton Sinclair’s election campaign and his long time affiliation with William Randolf Hearst as super muse to write the first draft of what is arguably the best movie of all time.

The arrow that struck me in the heart in researching this review was that the screenwriter of THIS film is actually director David Fincher’s father, Jack, who died in 2003. The parallelism is outstanding as Jack Fincher’s biopic screenplay on Howard Hughes was turned down for The Aviator. Hence, David was fulfilling his dad’s own dream posthumously all while telling the story of heroic Mankiewicz who also went largely unheralded during his lifetime.

The film is long and maybe a tad overpopulated (did I need the scenes with multiple screenwriters playing cards?) and the flashbacks were a little annoying as well, yet I totally get the need for flashbacks to rev up a story mostly about a writer (Mank) and his muse (WRH’s unruly power and Upton Sinclair’s plea for labor reform).

Gary Oldman is a marvel as is Fincher (both father AND son), the latter of whom is a two time Oscar nominee for The Social Network and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Probably my highest praise is for Jack Fincher’s screenplay which is whip smart and what Covid couch potatoes need to fire up their brain and attention skills again. Definitely in my top 5 now for 2020.

Sound of Metal, Profound: in upcoming best of 2020

Derek Cianfrance is a great writer, known previously for Blue Valentine and The Place Between the Pines. With Darius Marder, who he worked with on “Pines”, teamed up with Derk to do the new movie “Sound of Metal” which I was lucky enough to see on the big screen before the big shut down at Burns Court Theater. (Fear not, they will re-open in April).
Sound of Metal can be streamed without losing the punch as long as you strap yourself in for an undistracted 2 hours. It’s not an easy task, as the movie moves in what feels like real time, since who the heck would enjoy the experience of going deaf. HOWEVER, the acting and story are worth the bottom barnacles. Riz Ahmed who is on a show I’ve got to watch with Brit Marlin (The OA), does a profound (to use a deaf term) job as the drummer who is losing his hearing.
Olivia Cooke (from Ready Player One, Me Earl and the Dying Girl) is also tremendous as the helpless girlfriend. Paul Raci is amazing as Riz’s sponsor and one of my favorites, Mathieu Amalric rounds out the cast as Olivia’s father.
You will definitely be transplanted into the deaf world thanks to the amazing sound tricks achieved by (I counted) 14 people. Bravo. See this film!

Two-Fer NEW MOVIE Reviews: something light, something heavy

The Fatman and The Life Ahead are two movies I’ve taken in this week; subversive-lite and poignant-beautiful respectively.
The first, The Fat Man is playing for a few more days at Lakewood Ranch (please support them) and probably longer at CineBistro. The movie stars Mel Gibson as Kris Kringle and if the Nelms brother had veered a little more comedic instead of the weakling sibling of violence, it could have been a winner. Either evil within their own twin beings, or within the Hollywood execs that led led them, the film ends Tarantino-essque. Still, the movie did attempt to make some points about the shallowness of the ultra rich and how karma can come back to bite you in the flannel clad fanny.

The second, The Life Ahead, should be a nominee for film of the year, best actor and best actress. The director, Edoardo Ponti, Sophia Loren’s son, did a great job with the adapted screenplay by Ugo Chiti. The actor who just threw me off my feet (granted I was on a couch watching it streamed on Netflix) is Ibrahima Gueye. He is going places at the young age of, I’m guessing, 14 max (?) as no date is available on the internet. Sophia Loren plays his foster mother and the jist of the film is Loren is a former call girl who now takes in younger call girls’ neglected or abandoned children.
Gorgeously shot in Italy, the movie made me tear up several times. If this isn’t THE film to watch about crossing barriers from race color to we are all of the HUMAN race, I don’t know what is. Essential holiday viewing to mend hearts at the holidays.

The Climb, Placing My Oscar Bet on Zach Kuperstein

Ok, that bet I just posted in my title, I’d like to place it to happen in the next ten years, since the ye olde Academy has enough fish to fry for awhile. But mark my words, they’ll see the genius of Zach Kuperstein (already nominated for a Independent Spirit (the smartest) Awards for The Eyes of My Mother).
In The Climb, you can’t help but notice Kuperstein’s magic in the stripper Thanksgiving scene, the outside the house merry go round shot during the Christmas Scene, the immersion of the ice fishing bachelor party. Visually inspiring, Zach’s got it going on.
Now for the rest of the story…Michael Angelo Covino starred and directed The Climb about a relationship between two male friends, the friend with whom he also wrote The Climb’s screenplay, Kyle Marvin. The story is interestingly told, in chapters with cute title cards, “I’m Sorry”, “let it go”, etc. The premise is also unique in that while I’m sure there’s many co-dependent male friendships, we don’t see friendship looked at with such a magnifying glass often.
The minor characters were well drawn, too, 3 dimensional without over interrupting the through line. I especially liked Gayle Rankin (Glow, Blow the Man Down) Todd Barry and the grooms two sisters (Daniella Covino, Eden Malyn).
A refreshing dark comedy about relationship and family dysfunction playing currently at Burns Court. Please support your independent theaters!

Ammonite, see it and ignore the critics!

I’m a lover, not a fighter and if you still disregard me because I think people can have different opinions without the need for cancellation, so be it. Addio, arriverderci, thank you next.
Same with the critics of Ammonite, who were NOT accurate in these complaints:
“The ocean drowned out the dialogue.” What? Nope!
“It was dark and depressing.” A period piece needs to have reality. A movie needs to take you to a place you’ve never been, nor can ever go…1840’s Dorset Coast, two women in a patriarchal society…there weren’t discos or fashion shows folks.
“The sex was as gratuitous as ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’.” What are you crazy? There were two scenes and only one explicit and not one second was extreme. Classy in execution and anyone who differs is obviously homophobic.
The acting was tremendous. Kate Winslet achieves the perfect tight rope walk of stubborn and vulnerability, and Saoirse does well with wispy loneliness, too. They are Mary and Charlotte, neglected paleontologist and budding geologist. Fiona Shaw, who is new actress to me, was also great as the well to do neighbor of Kate/Mary’s past.
Please support your local movie theaters like Burns Court/Sarasota Film Society. We need communal experiences to keep our humanity intact.
And write to my email with any comments at irun2eatpizza@hotmail.com

What a find! Citizens of the World

Wow, what a refreshingly slow paced film with a mood that transcended it’s 90 plus minutes; “Citizens of the World” written and directed by Gianni Di Gregorio.
The jist is three men in their 70’s (Gregorio being one of the actors as well) decide they are suffering from wanderlust and make a grande` plan to move to a different country. What ensues isn’t hilarity but a beautiful meditation on gratitude for the mundane and routine, something I think anyone in Covid times can fully appreciate.
The other two actors of the trio were Girogio Colangeli and Ennio Fantastichini, who were fantastic in their humanity. Salih Saadin Khalid helped the trio put things in perspective. Bellisimo!

Life Long Learning “The Night Full of Rain”

I thank Jack Guren for filling in this cinematic movie gap, assuming I’d know who Lina Wertmuller was, when I sheepishly replied, ‘never heard of her.’ Call me chagrined. His Wertmuller comment came after a Wertmuller memory was sparked by an aborted attempt at watching the remake of Rebecca, which was such a far cry from Hitchcock’s original that we abandoned ship.
I searched and missed his specific “Swept Away” and “Seven Beauties” (nominated for best foreign film) reference and instead wound up with “The Night Full of Rain” from 1978. Candice Bergen and Giancarlo Giannini star as a battling when opposites attract (and I mean battling, ugh ptsd flashback from my youth)…must be the 70’s was the couples’ conflict decade, “The Way We Were”, “Woman Under the Influence” as further evidence.
Wertmuller definitely has a unique modernist style, in this film, for instance, she employs flashy cinematography, a groovy if not disturbed soundtrack, religious statue allusions, and a modern day Greek chorus who debate what makes love and relationships work. Is it comfortable repetition or passionate fire? Can both possibly co-exist? According to this film, passion is fueled by disagreement which means sex is better with someone with whom you could never cohabitate. And Lina, I have to concur!

Rebecca, the Original 1940

In anticipation of watching the Armie Hammer remake, I had to first watch the original Rebecca from 1940, which is the only film Hitchcock ever won an Oscar (and this for film, not direction).
The 1940’s version starts Laurence Olivier as the oxymoronic man both aloof and temperamental. The character, at least portrayed here is a bit of a yawner, not compelling enough to elicit a response. Likewise, IMO, Joan Fontaine is also boring and mousey in character, hence again, evoking apathy rather than feeling. The characters with the most acting challenges and achievement were Judith Anderson and George Sanders*, the jealous chambermaid and Bedswerver respectively (thank you https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/7-obscure-words-for-cheating-and-infidelity). A fun runner up with a minor (but comedically shrewish) role is Florence Bates.
I will say for 1940, the cinematography is very realistic and impressive (George Barnes). The screenplay was also titillating enough to almost make it through the 2 and a half hours in one shot. And of course Hitchcock’s takes with photography were gorgeously done.
Fun actor/actress facts:
*George Sanders was married to two Gabor sisters; Zsa Zsa and Magda. And Joan Fontaine was the younger sister of Olivia de Havilland.
Joan was snubbed on the set by Oliver who wanted his then girlfriend Vivian Leigh to get the part. She was also snubbed by her sister at the Oscars after saying an unkind remark about Olivia’s husband.

Comedy’s Core: The anticipatory laugh and how Borat Subsequent Film nails it

If we ever needed to have belly laughs, it’s the week before the election and “Borat Subsequent Film” delivers in spades. Just Sacha Baron Cohen’s word play (and to be fair, his 11 other collaborators who worked on the screenplay) alone, is commendable. I double dog dare you to check out Rudy Guillani’s Twitter response to his role in the film and then Sacha’s twitter video follow-up and NOT laugh….classic puns and double entendre!

While there’s many minor characters who are hysterically funny as straight men and women (and for any millennials reading: I mean that in the non-comedic sense, not sexual preference sense), Sacha’s only other main co-star is a Bulgarian actress names Maria Bakalova.

While I thought Maria fit the bill as believable foreigner, I didn’t think she was perfect for this role. She hammed it up a little too much which almost sounds impossible given the absurdity of the plot. My rationale is when you have one character who is the jester, I think the secondary character calls for more subtlety.

A minor flaw though in a perfect film. Sacha is the Groucho Marx of our time and God Bless him we need the humor now more than ever!