Notting Hill, Notting Wrong Wid It!

Running today I concluded our lives had become pretty darn boring preCovid. At least mine anyway. I ran my 3 and a half miles, I went to work, I eat my ritualistic meals. Pretty solitary, but enjoyable and the only true novelties were restaurant outings, vicarious pleasures I got from movies and the trips I had planned to see Liam in NYC.

Then an opportunity arose a long with the suggestion that I watch Notting Hill. Richard Curtis, the screenwriter, has certainly had an up and down career. Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually and Pirate Radio, all top notch screenwriting.

Yet, he should have lost his license after last year’s Yesterday which was abominably bad. Here directed by Roger Mitchell (My Cousin Rachel, one of my faves of his) in Notting Hill, however, Curtis still has some mojo and while not a perfect film by any stretch….when I say the characters are written broadly (especially his flat mate played by Rhys Ifans), I mean USS Comfort ship size broad.

But who doesn’t love Hugh Grant as a dashing, bumbling humble sentimental in love with emotionally confused, but gorgeous Julia Roberts? You can’t lose! And look who had a cameo, skinny Alec Baldwin!

So yeh, it’s time to roll the dice and live a little wouldn’t you say? When I like corny romance more than Woody Allen classic, you know I’ve lost my marbles, but in a good way. Happy Covid19 Shakeup!

Hey Woody, No offense, but can I get my 3.99 back?

I like Woody Allen. There I said it and have now retreated behind a bullet proof fortress. I like Woody Allen, just like I like Michael Jackson and Klimt, in that their minds created art of beautiful genius. Would I want to rely on any of them as a husband or father, no, but I don’t need to!

However(!), I rented Zelig on MGM last night for 3.99, which isn’t a large sum, but in Covid19 non-working times, every dime counts. So I wish Woody would understand every dame counts (like me) and refund my money.

I appreciate that it took immense time and creativity to make this documentary styled film, and that’s my exact problem. I wanted the trite narration to end and get to a narrative film, like Bananas or Annie Hall. But I know, that’s my fault for not researching first.

Even as a doc, the humor just doesn’t hold up. Black face, not funny, Nazis, not funny (not even JoJo Rabbit, sorry).

I mainly watched due to Gordon Willis’s nomination for best cinematography. And it was a bonus to see (semi-local man) Dick Hyman’s name listed as musical creator and performer.

I did get two laughs out of the film, so I guess for a buck fifty each, that’s not too bad. But come on Woody, how about a tiny check?

The Parallax View’s 1974 Sage Advice for 2020

Coincidentally themed, Rashomon (1950) and The Parallax View (1974), a film I watched last night, both address how an object (in both films the object in question is a crime) can look different depending on the angle from which you view it. An not to sound too much like Mister Rogers, but, ‘Kids, isn’t that true of life as we know it?”

For instance, one angle of Covid19 is the profound tragedy, including the hundreds of thousands of deaths and vast financial ruin. YET, another viewpoint unfolds a necessary pause from a world spinning out of control, re-uniting families and friends to a more natural, non-material goods based relationships. Mature folks can hold on to both realities and take a breath realizing that beauty can be found even in our restricted lives. We breathe, we have water, food and electricity.

In The Parallax View, a Presidential candidate assassination spurs a reporter to uncover a conspiracy.

First and foremost, Gordon Willis (Oscar nominations for Zelig and The Godfather III) deserved huge credit for the cinematography. If you want a vicarious travel experience, watch this film. You get a trip to the Space Needle in Seattle, the Skagit River Gorge Dam, as well as the wonder of watching two colorful marching band scenes. Equally praise worthy are the trio of sound men [Dockendorf, Grenzbach (Oscar winner for Platoon) & Overton]. if your jaw doesn’t drop going from rushing rapids sound to absolute quiet, you’re not listening.

The acting is also topnotch: Warren Beatty, probably the most handsome man from the ’70’s, Hume Cronin, at a young 63 years of age, William Daniels (the Dad from The Graduate, still alive into his 90’s), and Paula Prentiss (also still kicking and still married to Richard Benjamin).

The story, originally from a novel by Buffalo born Loren Singer and was directed by Alan J. Pakula, (three time Oscar nominated for writing Sophie’s Choice, directing All the President’s Men and To Kill A Mockingbird).

Not sure which writer to blame for the last twenty minutes which slowed down to the same pace as the kiddie train ride Beatty takes to procure a fake i.d., but until then, The Parallax View is a thrilling ride of color and sound, with the added eye candy and panache of Beatty, Daniels and Cronin.

Rashomon (1950): I Know Nothing, How Invigorating!

I grew up a poor white child…ok, that’s take off on The Jerk, but seriously folks, I’ve got holes in my cinematography education since all my learning has been self-taught. So Covid 19 is a mighty fine time to study some greats of whom I am ignorant.

Kurasawa for Pete’s sake! I started with Rashomon at the direction of a movie guru friend. I feel stupid and relieved at the same time. After all, it is the Buddhist way to admit we really know nothing. This is good advice anytime but it’s especially appropriate as we become bombarded with increasingly venomous and often erroneous, if not entirely false, journalistic renderings.

In fact, I just got off the phone with someone who read the Cliff Notes of Hamlet. Man, was Hamlet a really mentally disturbed human being. Did you know he slept with his mother? This is an analogy of the Live Press Conference last night that someone read ‘highlights’ from. Folks, the truth is only what facts are put through your most objective brain. Do NOT let journalists tell you what is true. Nor politicians. Listen to the doctors who only know what science and data has shown them today. Tomorrow we will know even more. Have hope.

Back to the story/movie which spawned an effect called you guessed it, the Rashomon Effect which basically means that eyewitness testimony is not always objective. Coincidence? In the end, we must believe what we take away from the story. Whose story do I believe?

The bandit? portrayed by the great Toshiro Mifune (so I’ve heard, this is my second Kuroasawa). He obviously has a personal bias to stay out of jail. Hence, he did not rape the girl and felt quite despondent after killing her boyfriend.
The woman? She wants to save her pride and say she wanted to be killed.
The ghost/spirit of the deceased? (Noriko Honma plays the medium through which the deceased speaks in my favorite portion of the film) wishes to move on from purgatory and look noble.
The onlooker? Perhaps he (gorgeously poignant performance by Takashi Shimura) is most reliable having less at stake, yet even he hid facts due to a temptation he could not resist.

The onlooker’s attempt to right his wrong; intervene at the movie’s end instead of just look on, restores his young friend’s hope in humanity. Was this restoration due to: a. his friend’s remorse of stealing a dagger? b. his friend’s attempt to learn from previous mistake, consequently saving someone despite of it possibly backfiring? or c. because his attempts to care for another human when he has so little?

Or does that even matter? Restoration of faith and love for humanity is crucial. Anyone who tries to help and give hope is noble. Anyone who loves and claims to be ignorant of what’s ahead is also heroic. You only know what you see with your own two eyes. Avoid news and love yourself AND your neighbor. Talk positively and realistically. This is all we can hope to do.

Hooray for something new! Never Rarely Sometimes

Eliza Hittman gorgeously wrote and directed Never Rarely Sometimes Always, available now for the price of two tickets at your living room tv screen. Not ideal conditions, I realize, but dang if this isn’t the best dramatic film I’ve seen this year. Please shoot me if Corpus Christie is my last ever movie theater experience because that flick was far more distressing than First Reformed.

Back to the topic at hand, Hittman’s Never Rarely Sometimes Always (winner of Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize) is dripping with verisimilitude from the opening scene of the small washed out town high school talent show. This IS rural America. The grocery store cashier jobs, the bleak lower middle class upbringings, the implied incest, and undercurrent of sexual promiscuity are all woven into a film centering on sisterhood.

Much like Portrait of a Lady on Fire, women rally together in times of unwanted pregnancy, yet Never Rarely Sometimes Always is more emotionally accessible.

The lead, Sidney Flanigan (who stars as Autumn) hails from Buffalo, NY, but I swear I loved her ability and vulnerability before ever knowing she was bred in my backyard. Her cousin Skylar is played by Talia Ryder, who delivers the goods as both feminine toughie and nightingale of sacrifice. According to IMDB, she’ll be starring Spielberg’s upcoming West Side Story remake, and if her Ariana Grande look-alike features go deeper, may have singing and dancing talent to boot.

The male lead who stood out was the twenty-something bus rider who courts Skylar, Theodore Pellerin, whose IMDB page is the most experienced of the three.

I found myself talking to the screen, telling the characters what to do, proof that I was moved enough to try to intervene. Unlike Corpus Christi, I didn’t ‘walk out’ of the living room feeling bleak. If anything, I felt uplifted and optimistic about our deeply rooted human bond. And that’s exactly the recipe we need right now.

Another Adults Home Alone Flick: “Come Undone”, That’s I-talian!

Available for free on Tubi is “Come Undone” written and directed by Silvio Soldini. I happened upon this title after a failed attempt of viewing “The Treat”, a decade plus old film starring my fantasy sister Julia Delphy (the acting was horrific and I lasted less than 10 minutes).

Come Undone, while also a decade old, is far superior and received Italian Golden Globes, so I thought, why not?

The acting is terrific! Alba Rohrwacher is the lead female who cohabitates with the stereotypical nice guy and yet falls for the mysterious bad boy. Not a new plot, but so well acted that you ‘go with it’. Team Nice is portrayed by Giuseppe Battiston and Team Bad by Pierfrancesco Favino (most recently in the Italian gangster flick The Tratiors-no thanks- Godfather and The Soprano are my last mafia meals).

Silvio Soldini is also responsible for “Bread and Tulips” which won a the Cannes CICAE Award which upon my Covid unrestricted research time, is an organization that helps push independent films into the mainstream.

What makes this better than most adultery themed flicks is the cinematography by Ramiro Civita. Pretty blurry night time highway scenes and the sexiest reddish toned dimly lit hotel room I’ve seen in film.

While the title makes it sound like a porno, this was a genuine story with torrid sex in the middle, which I am pretty sure was filmed on a different speed. While disrobing, the frame seems to speed up, possibly to add to the tension/friction. Overall, a realistic and stylistically quality film.

Wiener-Dog; Solondz Always Worth a Little Darkness

You need to buck up when you watch Tood Solondz. Prepare to be disturbed at some point in each of his films…maybe most disturbing was Happiness (but to see Philip Seymour Hoffman in his prime, again, worth it!!).

In Wiener-Dog we get snapshots of four stories detailing the lives of at least three different dachshunds.

The first sub-plot uses one of Solondz’s tried and true motifs of broken childhood dreams. In Todd’s world, there’s no such thing as a protected child. The best thing about this story was Tracy Letts as a curmudgeon of a husband/father and Julia Delphy as the matter-of-fact Mom. Theri dead pan deliveries added the most comedy of the film. And if I could choose any actress in the world to be my sister, it’d be a tough choice between Julia and Parker Posey.

In the second vignette, Greta Gerwig plays a geeky dog lover and Kieran Culkin as her convenient store pick up of a romantic interest. In the third, Danny DeVito plays a washed up Film Professor, and in the final episode, Ellen Burstyn plays an elderly Grandma to Zosia Mamet (Girls, Madmen), a wayward granddaughter stuck in a dysfunctional relationship. Burnstyn is amazing for still acting her arse off into her 90’s and Zosia has young acting chops that I look forward to seeing again in future projects.

Definitely worth a watch and a mere 88 minutes of quarantine time!

You Go Girls!: Blow the Man Down

Hey Bridget Savage and Danielle Krudy, you go girls!!

I loved their moody noir set in a Maine fishing town. The movie opens with fishmen singing traditional sea faring songs. And yet the movie doesn’t take itself too serious, and one of the fishmen actually breaks the fourth wall giving a knowing look and a smile. Love it!

Acting wise, Sophie Lowe stole the show for me. Her big sister trying to fix up ‘little’s mayhem was poignant. Morgan Saylor portrayed the younger sister, and while proficient, her acting seemed to be more clumsy. Equally as good was Gayle Rankin, whose stark blonde hair and hawk like nose give her a unique fierceness.

Other acting highlights were June Squibb and Margo Martindale who after brief research, won Prime Time Emmy’s for The Americans. Male acting highlights (besides the aforementioned fishmen) got to the two cops: veteran Skipp Sudduth and relative newbie Will Brittain who’s tough vulnerability was the perfect oxymoron.

Blow the Man Down is not a 10. Like Phone Booth, it’s a shake your head knowing what the characters should do (which would negate the plot, I fully realize). Yet, unlike and better than Phone Booth, I never thought it was cheesey. Eerie, yes, and with that I’ll end and commend the music gurus who composed beautifully creepy music: Jordan Dykstra and Brian McOmber.

Phone Booth from 2002

Hey, just curious…do I ever get to retire? Trust me, I feel blessed to be working 33 hours this week, BUT just when I thought I was on easy street, working part-time and having fun dog sitting, here comes Covid-19 to screw up the works. At least my gravestone will say “She Worked It!”

Last night I took in a somewhat iconic film I had missed due to my son being 9 years old in 2002, and since I was having so much fun as a mom and home owner, I didn’t give a fig about movies back then.

Phone Booth was directed by Joel Shcumacher (written by Larry Cohen) starring Colin Farrel with Forrest Whitaker, Katie Homes (man did she look like a teenager (she was 23) with annoying baby voice) and Radha Mitchell. Oh yeh and Kiefer Sutherland’s voice (eye roll).

First, the good news; the movie is short and tightly written. The acting is top notch, especially Colin Ferrel (can we give him an Oscar soon? Killing of the Sacred Dear was amazing and of course In Bruges was terrific as well). The minor characters were also beleiveable.

The plot though, I’m sorry to say, is cheesey. Kiefer’s voice sounded much too Messiah-like and unreal. I kept thinking (since I didn’t allow myself to read about it ahead a time) the voice was actually Kevin Spacey (since he is the biggest Hollywood creep of all time-next to Weinstein).

The ending, too, just seemed cheap. I don’t think this held up over time, but I’m open to comments if someone wants to convince me of something more profound.

Let’s Talk About Sex: Amorous from 2014

Trying to get my Josh O’Connor (“Emma’ “The Crown” “Hope Gap”) fix, I happened upon a freebie via Tubi from 2014 called Amourous (also known as Hide & Seek according to IMDB) directed (and co written) by Joanna Coates. The other writer is Daniel Metz. Curiously, neither has done anything since Amorous, leading me to believe there’s an investigative podcast and Netflix special just waiting to happen.

So what’s it all about Alfie? Well, first, my name’s Roxanne (insert your hilarity). The movie is quite interesting: two couples go to a remote English cottage and set up a nightly rotational schedule of: entertainment and then sleeping arrangements.

If you can handle sex of both hetero and homo, the movie is very entertaining. The nudity and sex are not gratuitous and tastefully done (akin to Portrait of a Lady on Fire).

I really don’t buy the log line that four ‘fragile’ young people get together. None of these folks seemed vulnerable. Not one of them balked at nude drawings or sex with a different partner every night. If anything, the most fragile character was the fifth wheel interloper.

The four ‘stars’ are Josh O’Connor, Hannah Arterton, and Rea Mole and Danile Metz (the latter two disappeared into the same abyss as the director and writer). Joe Banks (the fifth wheel who may have had the most acting range displayed) also, gonzo. Covid-19?

Anyway, if you’re alone and without a partner, but need some titillation, this is tasteful fare.