Let This Be a Lesson: RBG

Wow, was I ignorant about Ruth Bader-Ginsburg! Here I’ve been working at BookStoreOne in Sarasota, and in my defense, with a constant stream of books going by me on a daily basis…here was The Notorious RBG book, the RBG workout book (my interior though being, ‘does this get shelved in Humor or Health and Fitness?, There is No Truth Without Ruth, etc.

And I just thought, ok, she’s an impressive ageing Supreme Court judge who misspoke and revealed her opinion about our current President. But after seeing the documentary RBG (BIG THANKS to my friend Carrie who treated me last night at Burns Court Cinema!) I now know how INCREDIBLY impressive her life has really been. One of the first women at Harvard Law School, had children while going to law school, had children while going to law school AND a husband going through cancer treatments. Championed equal rights for women AND men! Battled two types of cancer and decided after the first illness to get fit! Isn’t a braggart and never yells! I mean, this lady rocks!

Now that’s not to say that the doc was perfect by any stretch. Oft times too kitschy, and the old timey stock footage was somewhat lazy, and when I saw CNN produced the doc, I wasn’t surprised. But I so appreciated learning about her that all is forgiven (Directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen, God bless you). If the vehicle necessary to ‘get me there’ is a somewhat clunky one, so be it. Totally worth seeing and perfect for any Grandma or Grandpa who needs inspiration.

Giant Post Script: And boy do I covet her marriage to a funny guy!

Undulous and Evocative Swells: The Shape of Water

I remember the first time I heard Schubert’s Winterreise on NPR, white knuckle driving the snowy commute from home to school. Made more poignant by dancer Bill T Jone’s tale of watching his father’s brutal walk in the bitter cold to make ends meet for his family. (https://www.wabe.org/winter-songs-bill-t-jones-picks-schuberts-winterreise/) The music and memory made me calm.

Much like last night, where I walk-ran from work at 40 degrees to Burns Court Cinema to see The Shape of Water. I could have done stand up comedy last night and had my script prepared, yet the four day run of cold temperatures had frozen any mojo I had mustered. And just like Schubert’s beautiful music soothed, so did the magnificent story telling of Guillermo Del Torro and Vanessa Taylor on a chilly night in Sarasota.

Trust me, it wasn’t ‘just’ the story. This was a family affair, an incredible mixture of acting and music virtuoso. My two tiny complaints I’ll get out of the way right here, in that I can’t say I liked the cinematography. As other reviewers have pointed out, del Torro likes things a little too dark. And speaking of dark, figuratively this time, I really wish the torture scenes were shorter. I know, I know, I can hear screenplay script Gordy Hoffman saying this now, “you have to torture your hero.”

Now what I was amazed at:
the acting: I’ve championed Sally Hawkins forever and see my previous blogs, most recently “Maudie” for which she may have even shown more brilliance. Here she is perfect as the dreamy mute who fantasizes her way into the arms of a sea creature.
Richard Jenkins is also stunning as Sally’s man pal and I had to take a commercial break to research. He was nominated for an Oscar for The Visitor (gorgeous film) and garnered a Golden Globe Award for this film. He has my vote. I also added a library hold on one that I had seen the trailer for called The Hollars for which he also earned praise.
Michael Shannon, well, if you know me, you know I’ve been infatuated with him since Revolutionary Road, was privileged to get to see him in person at a George Eastman House Q&A, and now hope he doesn’t get pigeon holed as the Lurch like villain. He has much more to him than this role, and yet, I can’t say he wasn’t tremendous here.
Octavia Spencer, who I felt sorry for, playing another role of ‘the help’ in the 1950’s, was also so good, that my awe outweighed my shame for how stupid and prejudiced America used to be (though sadly there are obviously still pockets remaining).
The writing and editing spot on, again, except for the violence. The weaving in of water imagery, eggs=birth, implied sex, romance, an homage to cinema past, all beautifully done. Even the nuanced prejudice and male chauvinism added to the film’s verisimilitude making you forget any skepticism about the sea creature. It was almost as if to believe that humans could be so ignorant to each other’s needs then you might as well better believe the creature from the black lagoon could actually exist.

The end of the film literally reminded me of the denouement of a gorgeous piano concerto. Perfection. Watch out Top Ten List, some one’s gotta make way for this water!

Philip Seymour Hoffman: A Double Header Pilgrimage

Living in Rochester, New York grants me the privilege of seeing Philip Seymour Hoffman movies on the big screen once a week for the next few months at the grand Dryden Theater (George Eastman House). And since one of his last movies “The Most Wanted Man” opened at the independent Little Theater on Friday 7/25/14, I gladly took in a double header of PSH films.

Listening to the podcast “On Being” this morning afforded me the musings of an artist by the name of Dario Robleto, “Sculptor of Memory”. Mr. Robleto spoke of how art is our way of keeping deceased family and friends in our memory. Watching the films “State and Main” and “The Most Wanted Man” is an obvious way of memorializing.

Having met PSH very briefly during his visit to the Little for the opening of Flawless doesn’t in any way make me a friend, but being of his generation and having lost a friend to addiction in 2000, keeps me rooted in this loss, in a good way, a way of keeping memories alive.

“State and Main” from 2000 showed that as in Boogie Nights, PSH can deliver poignant vulnerability. I had not seen the film before last Wednesday and was struck by Mamet’s renowned razor sharp dialogue, William H. Macy being the antagonistic foil to PSH’s sweetness. The only thing negative about the film was the cheesey music that curdled in the background of the budding romance scenes between PSH and Mamet’s real life wife, Amy Pidgeon.

I feared going to see “The Most Wanted Man” after spending a miserable couple of hours at the adorable Burns Court Theater in Sarasota Fla watching “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”, another John Le Carre novel-turned movie, but hooray for Andrew Bovell, a far better screenwriter!

Instead of the flat terrain of “TTSS”, The Most Wanted Man at least provided an incline to a climactic finish. PSH was never better as a depressed failure of espionage yet a character who still had enough punch to duel with the always fantastic, but in need of a new hair-do, Robin Wright.

And while it may sound shallow to comment on a woman’s hair, I do so, only because of what I discovered in my own life. I found that getting my hair chopped off was one of my tendencies toward self-loathing, along with an ultra strict diet, both of which I am proud to say I moved on from in my more self-confident middle age. Perhaps RW’s hair is a positive choice for her, I’m simply commenting on the sadness in her eyes, maybe more than the characters she portrays. Chalk it up to my Masters in Counseling observation skills.

Certainly seeing a sad over weight PSH mad me sad, but simultaneously I benefited from the beauty of one his last do-not-go-gentle-into-that-good-night performances.
In addition here’s to my friend Mary whose red headed Irish temperament also hung on to her bitter end. To remembering!