Moment of Zen: Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams isn’t for the Fast and Furious crowd, but given the overload of stress and information, the documentary certainly fit the bill yesterday granting me a much needed Moment of Zen.

The cave which was discovered in the 90’s dates back 35,000 years ago (not a typo:) Within it’s walls lay works of chalk art that have survived throughout history. While my friend had an apt and well timed Mystery Science Theater 3000 comment, “a nerd parade” in relation to the scientists and film makers lucky enough to venture in (the cave is now closed for preservation), the doc was enthralling to think of past civilization who survived much more than Covid.

Ernst Reijseger’s music also added to the documentary’s grandeur. Unplug from the news feed and check it out.

Corpus Christi, Finding a Positive Mission

In need of distraction, I took in Corpus Christi written by Mateusz Pacewicz and directed by Jan Komasa due to its high Rotten Tomato Score. And sure, the film was like a ripe banana, sweet in spots, but with an emerging brown spot.

Not sure if it’s the nascence of a new movie genre, including now One Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite and Uncut Gems, but add Corpus Christi to the pile of Fourth of July ending fireworks films.

And ok, it certainly makes you go out of the theater saying ‘wow’, but sometimes a tidy ending is much appreciated. We don’t need apocalyptic endings every time.

This isn’t me breaking my spoiler code either because you still have no idea what type of fireworks will happen, could be corkscrew, multi-colored or merely all white lights.

Bartosz Bielenia stars in the film and does an absolute fabulous job and I do understand the symbolism of the story line. But at this point, analogous to my not reading any novels about pandemics, I had hoped for a feel good film.

Don’t get me wrong, Corpus Christi is worth seeing, but I have to wonder about the psyche of the screenwriter. May he find salvation.

In fact, let’s all start loving each other. Right now.

William Nicholson’s Hope Gap, Mega Talent Takes Up All the Spaces

I was about to type William Nicholson where you been all my life, but never seeing The Gladiator #girlwhodoens’tlikeviolence, I did not know that this gent was previously Oscar nominated for best screenplay, as well as for Shadowlands which I did see suckerforalovestorywithanintrovert.

Ok, ok, enough hash tagging. How about a lecture instead? For the love of God, get out of your CNN, David Mueller fear hovel and go to the movies to see Hope Gap written and directed by the aforementioned.

You may not believe me, but ‘check the tape’ as they say in radio, since I spied how special Josh O’Connor was in Emma last week (not knowing he is already an award winner himself). Low and behold, in this film, he was the third leg of a highly talented triumvirate with Bill Nighy and Annette Bening.

This movie is for anyone who has ever been divorced, in fact, while wildly different in tone, (this is a super meditative and pensive film), it could have been called Divorce Story as a counterpoint to Bambauch’s Marriage Story.

I’m not going to ruin anything by giving away plot, suffice to say that this is a couple who divorces and the son is put very unfairly in the middle. I know I can relate to that, as well as trying very hard not to continue the pattern.

Go. See. This. Movie. And I already vote for Annette and Bill to get Oscar noms.

At the Urging of…Art School Confidential

The Book Store has always been a source for movie recommendations, from classics Barry Rothman hipped me to (Sweet Smell of Success to name one) to modern ones, from James Mammone (Ghost Story) and one from my Curb Your Enthusiasm compatriot Carrie from 2006 (Art School Confidential) when I was knee deep in teaching and being a mom. This last film is what I just finished this afternoon.

Terry Zwigoff (Bad Santa and Ghost World) doesn’t put out movies in bulk in fact according to IMDB, the last thing he did was a TV short in 2017 called Budding Prospects. And while Art School Confidential had a few positives, it didn’t grab me in the way it charmed my co-workers.

First, I love John Malcovich and one of the many difficulties I had with this film is, he wasn’t in it enough! The same could be said for Anjelica Houston who I also cherish. Additionally telling was the fact that main star Max Minghella hasn’t actually gone on to bigger and better (though is in the very popular-though not with me) Handmaids Tale. Almost ditto for Sophia Myles. Last, Jim Broadbent’s character was too dark to be believable.

The film uses college and artist stereotypes for humor which is ok and worked some of the time. But the strangler sub-plot took away from my enjoyment of the humor. Hence, a good way to stay away from the media monster feeding our poor frenzied cell phone hostages, but definitely a lesser film than Bad Santa and Ghost World.

From N.E. to Gem: Emma

During the first ten minutes of Emma, the confused me was conjuring humorous blog titles, like N.E.mma, (enema, get it?), but then I got it, as in understood who the characters were and what in goodness name the plot was actually about.

And being an occasional playwright and screenwriter myself, means needing the audience to hang in there long enough to figure it out. You can’t hand out Cliff notes ahead of time to explain everything to folks who haven’t read Austen since college or ever.

In fact, in the major ball scene, I daresay I am on the record to vouche for Emma being a better film than Little Women, as relatively new screenwriter Eleanor Catton and first feature length director Autumn de Wilde ingrained in Emma what Billy Joel sang about, and Greta Gerwig failed at, which is “Leave a Tender Moment Alone”. The dance sequences and near romantic teases were far more evocative than any Gerwig managed. So bravo to the new crew in Hollywood.

Acting wise, Anya Taylor-Joy, while not aesthetically pleasing to me, did a honest job portraying an entitled brat. Johnny Flynn makes up for Taylor-Joy’s missing charisma and is wonderful as Emma’s hopeful suitor. Bill Nighy was a joy as Emma’s germaphobe father. And Josh O’Connor had a special sparkle despite his goofy character. And sure enough, on further inspection the guy’s already racked up two lead actor British Independent Film Awards. I’ll be sure to catch up on his award winning performances (God’s Own Country and Only You).

The cinematography and production were also crisper and more authentic than Little Women. The minor characters while at times a bit clunky at least seemed more human than L.W.’s Lauran Dern (who simply can’t do 19th century) and Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk.

Bravo to Emma for making us feel for conflicts nearly 200 years old and going from enema to gem-ma in a mere two hours.

The Way Back(End)

My attitude about writing this blog is probably similar to how Ben Affleck feels, like sure The Way Back, not the greatest script, but hey a Friday matinee is a fun way to pass the time, right?

I think the actual title, The Way Back, might come from a conversation between Gavin O’Connor (director and Captain of the screenplay) and Brad Inglesby (Head Coach) when Brad said, ‘Even though this is the same old story, what if we put the bulk of the reveals of deep seeded problems in the second half of the film?.’ That makes it new-ish, right?

The positives are Ben Affleck can carry a mediocre script. And certainly his real life struggle with alcoholism added to the sincerity. Ben’s basketball team were all talented up and comers, and I’m a sucker Al Madrigal, who nerded up to play Ben’s assistant coach.

Similar to the racing scenes in Ford vs. Ferrari, the basketball game footage was engaging and realistic. My basketball love began in high school with a mixture of hormones and adrenaline watching Coach Dave Gillett strip first his jacket, then aggressively loosen his tie, to finally ripping it off.

Affleck doesn’t strip, though we do get to see an aerial shot of him showering a couple of times. But hey, this isn’t Gone Baby Gone (thank God). This is a sports and redemption flick.

I confess I teared up, yet don’t think they needed to throw so many struggles the characters’ way. Some people, unfortunately, have a gene pre-disposing them to alcoholism. Making the conflict more generic may would have made the film more accessible to common folk going to cinema and more importantly, real.

Seberg, A Worthy Attempt

Seberg, directed by Benedict Andrews, is a worthy effort that could have been more effective had the pacing been sped up. Watching the film was like playing a record on a speed too slow.

Editing of one scene would have quickened its stride; a totally superfluous NYC scene in which Jean Seberg, portrayed expertly by Kristen Stewart, explains a fact to her husband that was obvious to him, and all of us in the audience, in the previous LA scene.

And I understood what the writers Anna Waterhouse and Joe Shrapnel were going for in a handful of moments suggesting Seberg was emotionally unstable, but they also should have shown her erratic love life a little more clearly. After some research, it is obvious that part of her demise could easily be attributed to the volatile types with whom she chose as lovers. In fact, the person who saw her last was her final lover, playboy Ahmed Hasni. Seberg’s maid stated she had heard them fighting before her disappearance. Not the first time an emotionally delicate person goes missing and people chalk it up to her ‘condition’.

Besides Kristen Stewart, a fine performance was clocked in by Jack O’Connell, who played an FBI agent character with a moral dilemma over his assignment. Anthony Mackie and Zazie Beetz also round out the cast with strong moments as the African Americans who the FBI was targeting, using Seberg as their pawn.

Above all, the people in charge of costuming should be nominated, since I drooled over every outfit Stewart donned.

Worth seeing for an honest assessment of the USA in the late 60’s and 70’s and for Stewart’s heart felt performance.

Didn’t Karen Carpenter sang about this flick? “I Long To Be Cloistered You” P.O.A.L.O.F.

Ok people, here’s where I go against the grain, AGAIN, and say reviewers, you are so predictable. Pander to feminists and you’ll get the glory.
If you’re stuck in a castle with two other women, you can guess that two will eventually hook up, hence my blog title about being cloistered.

Don’t get me wrong, Portrait of a Lady on Fire isn’t horrible. As a study of an artist, the film does draw you in (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk). I was intrigued by the concept of the painter owning the image of the muse, when the muse just as equally owns the painter’s attention. This balance of power was novel to me.

I also cared about the painter Marianne (acted with panache Noemie Merlant) and I also felt for the other two female leads; the muse Heloise (portrayed with perfection by Adele Haenel) and Sophie, the servant/waif (Luana Bajrami).

I respect Celine Sciamma’s vision to capture the essence of two people falling in love and did feel the passion to some extent. I also appreciated and was moved by how the women took care of one another.

What was missing was more story for the length and pacing of the film. I was bored in the first five minutes in the creaking castle. There were many dead spaces in the recurrent crackling fires and beach walks.

Once We Were Brothers: RR & The Band

Not sure how reviewers can give this film anything lower than a 95. What on God’s Earth do they want?

So dog gone it, I’ll be the sales woman:
In Once We Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band, written and directed by Daniel Roher, you’ll be rewarded with:

*a gorgeous history invoked by Robbie Robertson who appears to be a cross between Captain Kangaroo (meaning innocent passion) and Ron Howard (straight laced, but still super hip).
*extraordinary stock photos of the entire band and also precious family photos

(Here’s where I digress to a deja vu I had of my 3/16/2009 concert venture with my sweet son Liam Enright, in the 9th row of Fleetwood Mac, where I repeated at least three times, “Lindsey Buckingham is a very sexy man”, to which Liam eventually said, “Mom, please!”
I had the same heat generating at Burns Court over Levon Helms, who was drop dead gorgeous in his prime.)

*a cautionary tale of the havoc and chaos alcohol and especially heroin can do to one’s creativity and obvious health: Helms (age 71 throat cancer), Richard Manuel (age 42 suicide), and Rick Danko (age 55 heart failure)
*tremendous film footage of Dylan back in the day. And man, do I admire his fashion sense!
*great film footage of The Last Waltz, probably one of, if not THE most important concert of our lifetime (ok, tied with Live Aid)
*Scorsese’s genius re-establishment (in my mind after the abysmal The Irishman), capturing The Last Waltz for film and music history

The only trouble I can see is the odd absence of present day commentary from Garth Hudson (83), who, along with Robbie Robertson, is the last living member. Does this put a question mark on Robbie’s point of view? Did Robbie really take more credit than his due, as Levon emphasized?

In truth, the last man standing gets the final say, but I’d love to know Hudson’s take.

Yet even with that lingering question, you’ll walk out of this doc in a buzz of musical euphoria.

Make it a Double: 63 Up and The Assistant

Not able to run leads me to get desperate, hence I took in two Burns Court movies yesterday.

First 63 Up, the longitudinal British study turned documentary is directed by Michael Apted, Bafta winner for previous incantations of 28 Up and 35 Up. This is my first foray into this series and I was moved. So moved in fact, that I had to opt out with an hour to go. Sure, I lasted 3 hours for The Irishman, but bored-hoping-for-gold sitting is more tolerable than being shaken by actual real lives flashing before your eyes. 63 Up was akin to a music festival, where you’ve already seen 8 great bands, now you want me to watch 5 more? I’d love to see the last hour TODAY, but could not take it all in one shot. Again, that’s a tribute to how well crafted the stories were done. Go see this film!

In the evening, I took in the contemporary drama The Assistant, written and directed by Kitty Green, a champion of realistic psychological abuse issues regarding children in “Casting JonBenet” and Me, Too abuse in The Assistant.

The film stars Julia Garner (best known from Ozarks and The Americans) as a college educated, yet working poor young woman living in Astoria, grinding out a meager living working at a film production office. The film portrays her as virtual slave; as janitor, waitress, irate wife counselor, and secretary, just to name a few.

The film had many similarities to film festival selection “The Chambermaid” which followed the life of a Mexico City Hotel maid, and in comparison pales due to lack of conflictual topography. HOWEVER, the film is worthy of seeing for Julia’s wispy performance as she stifles winces from her bullying boss, and her rejected visage at model types who are granted privileges to which she is never offered. Not only is her job without perks, she is rarely addressed as a fellow human. She is just ‘there’ to work and her pale pick blouse further helps to establish her invisibility.

I enjoyed some of the visual symbolism; when Julia is cleaning up pastries after a meeting, she puts a knotted donut in her mouth making her appear like a canine with a bone. In the HR office where she attempts to level a concern, the chastising manager, slides a cold metallic Kleenex box her way which again evoked an almost dog bowl like sound.

The film will open your eyes to working class loneliness in New York City and I suspect, every city in America.