Marriage Story Busts into My Top Three of the Year, Easily!

As if my birthday wasn’t fun enough in NYC with my beautiful son Liam, yesterday thanks to my-friend-who-treats-me-like-gold Jack Guren, I was privileged enough to see a screener of Marriage Story, Noah Baumbach’s take on the gut wrenching process of divorce.

You’d think the way our jaded culture (and myself in colder moments) throws the D-word around like it was simply dust we sweep under the rug that Marriage Story would be a so what story. HOWEVER, anyone who’s gone through the process knows those initial daily disrupting moments are much more than a carpet can hide AND Noah B. captures these awkward and painful moments in true movie magic.

BUT WAIT! There’s more! Not only does he capture the pathos, he articulated this with humor and love. AND THEN he chose the best of the best to portray even the minor characters. The two stars (Scar Jo and Driver) who I’ve adored and then despised, won me over as they escaped into these two human characters. And dare I say, I was convinced by the end that Adam Driver does have more to him than a dead stare, especially after he belts out “Being Alive” at a NYC bar.

Other fantastic performances were executed by: Ray Liotta (GREAT!), Laura Dern who almost always feels to me like she’s overreaching or perhaps is merely a bitch in real life was also great, ALAN ALDA (can I give you a hug-PLEASE nominate this man, I LOVE HIM), and my ever awkward cutie from Baskets, Martha Kelly. Also super were Julie Hagerty and Merritt Weaver….and Merritt is where my heart sank as it did last night, upon coming back to the quiet of my condo, I remembered Noah’s the guy who left Jennifer Jason-Leigh for Greta Gerwig…ok you’re wondering, ‘what’s Merritt got to do with it?’ Merritt was in Greenberg, another fantastic Baumbauch film CO-WRITTEN by Jason-Leigh at which point, Noah fell for Greta and now I’m sad…which, in the end, only adds to the depth of this film.

I’m so glad I got to see this now as the various podcasts I listen to (and yell at for their occasional lack of taste: you LIKED Hustlers AND The Irishman, blech!) were beginning to drip out spoilers on Marriage Story. But not here folks.

I’ll just say after you get through the annoying (yes I was scared) opening 10 minutes of cliche-ish montage (necessary for back story I am aware and pivotal by story’s end), you settle into moment after moment of cinematic genius. Emotion, Laughs and Atmosphere, the stuff of which every great life should accomplish.

I will see this again. FOR SURE.

Spike Lee’s Signature: Blackkklansman

I enjoy Spike Lee. God Bless him, seriously, every movie he makes really tries to do what his first big film was actually titled, “Do The Right Thing”. And every movie he makes definitely has his signature. Kooky graphics, mystical camera tricks, and ‘hit you over the head morality’. He also has the gift of Scorsese, meaning he’s rich enough that he can pour everything but the kitchen sink into one film, without having to regard any advisers or editors going, “Maybe you could trim back a bit”.

The acting was rock solid. John David Washington, the star of the movie, didn’t have to show great range, yet, he was terrific. Adam Driver, also, isn’t the king of stretching, but can be damn serious and still interestingly watchable all day long. The poor saps that had to play the angry Klansman (Topher Grace as David Duke) were all good, too, even though cringe worthy to watch such hate or even fathoming that type of person existing in the world.

I thought Colorado Springs was an interesting setting choice, being ignorant to the Klan and merely assuming it was mostly south of the Mason Dixon line. And wow, if you check out History vs. Hollywood, you’ll find out just how true the movie is AND, having not read John David Washington’s IMDB bio, I just learned that he is the son of Denzel Washington! Having not seen many interviews or entertainment shows, I think it’s great that they didn’t lead with this, letting JDW stand on his own merit. So a two-fer for me in learning important history as well as trivial movie relationships.

Blackkklansman is definitely worth seeing. Is it a perfect film? No. Spike wraps the plot up too quickly and neatly for deep emotional resonance in order to make his other points, but that’s ok, that’s Spike and I like him. He’s trying to get us to wake up and be nice and there’s nothing ever wrong about that.

Adam “Baby” Driver, Just One Reason to see Logan Lucky

Logan Lucky was just what the doctor ordered, a squeeze in of fun between one enervating work shift and before a totally different, and oft times lonely eight hours. I shan’t bore you with the details, besides there’s too much to say about Logan Lucky.

Not just because Adam Driver, is the attractive introverted, quirky, yet intelligent machisomo co-star. And not just because Steven Soderbergh is so prolific. Check out his IMDB page some time, but be sure you have awhile. Under each sub category: writer, director, producer…his lists are vast. In fact, who knows (?), Soderbergh could have written the screenplay for Logan Lucky since the ‘real’ writer Rebecca Blunt may be a fictitious person (according to IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm8362793/?ref_=tt_ov_wr)

And here’s where I have to call out the establishment on Channing Tatum. Is he going to be the new Jeff Bridges, where he does all this outstanding work with no wins until he’s old and scraggly? I mean come on, Foxcatcher should have earned him something besides best ensemble. And in Logan Lucky, he plays a West Virginain hick with a limp, a feat (pun unintended) and a stretch (pun intended) and a half considering the guy’s got Timberlake caliber dancing skills!

Daniel Craig, fantastic as the explosives expert convict, has earned a merit badge from me. He’s got acting and comedy in his blood in spite of the needs-to-be-put-to-rest James Bond franchise.

And let’s give kudos to the women, too. Katie Holmes, so heartening to see her in a quality film. And breaking news, just realized that Riley Keough, also is Elvis’s granddaughter (or Lisa Marie’s child), wow! This girl not only has soul, but is married to a stunt man, priceless! Farrah MacKenzie is also so sweet as the little Jon Benet Ramsey type.

The smaller parts were classic as well. Seth MacFarlane (say his name tangy and he seems like he could be a West Virginian, ok, an Irish West Virginian) was a CLASSIC. Dwight Yoakam also PRICELESS as the prison warden. Hillary Swank, cardboardy (see my upcoming caricature complaint), but always good to see.

The heist plot is super intricate, and the characters well drawn if even too much so. Meaning, the characters were close to caricatures, especially Hillary Swank’s stick up her backside FBI agent, as well as Daniel Craig’s doofy brothers who reminded me of Larry Darryl and the other Darryl on the Bob Newhart show. But I guess that was part of the Blunt/Soderbergh’s fun.

Definitely worth seeing in the grandeur of the big screen, especially if you’re in need of an escape from quasi menial jobs that can occasionally get on your nerves.

Rituals Paterson Rituals

The Red Wheelbarrow*
(William Carlos Williams, 1883 – 1963)

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.


Jim Jarmusch
used William Carlos Williams as his muse for the movie Paterson. And if you’re going to see a movie without any action, based on poetry, one would think you would not want to take a rugged retired fireman.

But wait!

Jarmusch would say that’s exactly who would appreciate such a film, just as the main character-Adam Driver-is the bus driver poet, why couldn’t there be the fireman poet? And in fact, didn’t Guy Montag, the main character and fireman in Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, have such poetic leanings, ‘her dress was white and it whispered’?

Perhaps a firemen would alter WCW’s poem to:

The Red Firetruck
(ghost written by Roxanne Baker 1963-)

so much depends
on a red
fire truck

blackened by smokey
soot

beside the white
two story.

Paterson was an ode to the poet in us all, and in this movie, everyone is a poet: a laundry mat rapper, a 10 year old girl, a Japanese tourist. The film could also be seen as an ode to director Chantal Ackerman, specifically her film Jeanne Dielman, an epic film where the housewife goes through everyday routines repeatedly.

The habits of Adam Driver and his girlfriend made me miss the predictability of coupledom and paradoxically, made me glad I have the freedom as a single gal to do whatever the heck I want. The fact that Jim Jarmusch can evoke opposing emotions is a feat unto itself.

His eye for art is also appealing, and in this film black and white patterns fill the home courtesy of actress Golshifteh Farahani, the unemployed, but dream filled love interest. Their pug, in his gloriously bored expressions, mirror the mundane life most of us live. The most fun aspects of our lives are the tiny surprises that interrupt the predictability of the rest of our lives. For instance, when you meet someone on a bridge walk and end up going to a movie.

Thought provoking messages about yin and yang, and the idea that the world eventually gives us what we need, also supplied and required reflection. The shadow within every person was found in a talented poet beaten down by the drudgery, the shadow in every relationship in an unrequited love affair, or the shadow in many life moments as two guys on Paterson’s bus share similar stories of the promise of a dating opps, only to let them slip away. The world giving us what we need was seen in a bar incident on the verge of violence and a gift of an empty notebook.

Paterson doesn’t hold it’s power in action, but in its ability to make you ponder. The film’s equally enjoyable for poetry fans and for the dreamer in us all.

*1985 Ft. Lauderdale