Booksellers Who Suggest Movies: Ghost Story

Sad as I was to see Barry Rothman move off to Denver, he did leave me with great classic film knowledge, goading me to watch “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”, “Stranger on a Train” and “Top Hat”, just to name a few.
And now as one door closes, another opens with our new bookseller James Mammone. I knew I’d enjoy working with him, when at the staff lunch, I brought up the film “Another Earth”. Somewhat deservedly, the film’s a bit obscure, and everyone at the table turned and looked at me like I was from another Earth, when out of the silence came James’ voice who said, “Great movie, Britt Marling”.
So when James said, you should watch “Ghost Story” after a “Joker” discussion which ended with Rooney Mara, Joaquin’s fiance (today’s the wedding!), I agreed.
My prior knowledge of “Ghost Story” was simply that a few folks and reviewers had said it was odd, hence I avoided it at the theater. But much like many great films, you can’t listen to the critics. David Lowery who wrote and directed this, also wrote The Old Man & the Gun. And while I heavily panned that as boring, there certainly were similarly quiet, important moments.
“Ghost Story” is truly a special film, as quiet as the stillest Terrence Malick, “Ghost Story” weaves its tale through several lifetimes with an evocative score.
Usually I break my own no spoilers for a film that’s two or more years’ old, but in “Ghost Story”‘s case, I want to preserve the surprise. It’s not a spooky horror film, but a hauntingly deep journey. I dare say this movie might be great consolation for anyone suffering from the loss of a loved one.
Acting wise, Rooney Mara is a force to be reckoned with, her expressive eyes and mighty mouse physicality a wonderful combination. I love Casey Affleck no matter what he allegedly did and one other actor of note here is Will Oldham as ‘Prognosticator”.
I’ve now found another reliable film friend in James. Definitely see “Ghost Story”.

Is the Paint Dry Yet? The Old Man & the Gun

The most exciting thing about The Old Man & the Gun was Tom Waits in the one scene he was allowed to speak. He tells a funny story about his macho step-dad on Christmas Eve. The scene was unfortunately only five minutes out of the 1 hour and 33 minute running time.

So again, I channel Fred Willard in A Mighty Wind, “What Happened?”

Let me go out on a limb and say that perhaps Robert Redford is stoically coping with a debilitating disease. I have to give him props for not caring about Botox, but perhaps there’s something more sinister behind his lack of lines in this film. If this is so, and I hope its not, then the ‘last film’ is a heroic goodbye. If he does still have all his marbles, for shame Robert. And I say to you, Robert what I said to “Dan” (Daniel Day-Lewis), please do not end your career on THAT note. (the emasculating Phantom Thread)

When I saw Casey Affleck pop up, I thought, aw excellent, someone to hang on to, but nope, denied. They (David Lowry and David Grann, screenwriters) must’ve said to Casey, “hey we have a cinch of a film for you-come high, hungover and lacking energy and it’ll be great!” I can only assume here that the real detective was as lethargic as Casey acted. His detective makes Andy Griffith’s law enforcement look James Bond-like.

Toward the end of the film, there’s a montage of clips of the outlaw’s numerous escapes. Again, like the Tom Waites moment, I thought, why, oh why couldn’t we have focused on that? I’d even have taken Sissy Spacek (a weak horse riding love interest) taking the wall paper off her Victorian house and finding the signature of the man that built the house. Here you probably think, ‘ooh that’s sounds mysterious’ to which I reply, ‘Yes! And it shall remain so!’

Just to prove I haven’t jumped into a negative trough (going along with the supposed ‘iconic’ shot of Redford on a horse), here’s a list of all the positives in my life this week:
making my son laugh
talking to Tim about fun topics we like to discuss
my film class with Gus Mollasis
talking to my Grandmother
hanging out with Jack who makes me laugh
my empathic co-workers Andrea and Katia

So there, proof I remain balanced, yet still disappointed in The Old Man & the Gun.

The Assassination of Jesse James: a History Lesson

I sought out The Assassination of Jesse James after being blown away by Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea. I was fully aware that Casey had ‘been around the block’, but hadn’t been able to suffer through the violent films he usually participated in.

But first, do you ever wonder what happens to your brain on a daily basis? Like my third Sofia review…what the hell happened? It was like my brain had a brown out, a dim wattage moment. I’ve since spruced it up, but was it dehydration? Pizza rather than popcorn for dinner? Let’s hope my foot bone preservation pool jogging this morning doesn’t have the same ill effects on my writing.

Andrew Dominik, director, of The Assassination of Jesse James, now to be abbreviated as TAOJJ, has done two other films I’d be willing to check out based on the quality of TAOJJ. The Nick Caves doc, which sadly can not be had via the library system This Time With More Feeling and what sounds like violence galore (I’ll shut my eyes, as I did with TAOJJ) Killing Them Softly.

So about TAOJJ. At first, the corny narration and blurried frame sequences made me feel like I was watching a lesser Ken Burns PBS special. But I got use to it and I understand that it was the best way to impart a lot of back story in little time. The ending(S) were a tiny bit tedious, but again, I get it. Dominik wanted to show the ‘rest of the story’ and chose to do it in shorter vignettes.

And what a sad tale it was…I mean when I hear Jesse James, sure I know of the bank robber, but my first thought always goes to that philandering tattooed scoundrel who was married to Sandra Bullock. But based on my historical learning from this film-poor Bob Ford! Talk about no good deed goes unpunished! Hence the annoying subtitle I didn’t bother you with earlier: “By the Coward Robert Ford”.

Casey was off the charts and should be eclipsing his big bro by now…who cares about Ben, besides the dimwitted woman who just left her husband for him. Casey’s part was also far richer than that of Jesse James himself, though played well by power house Brad Pitt.

Equally good were the other supporting roles: Paul Schneider who I’m getting to know more and more after bragging about him in Bright Star (next up Lars and the Real Girl, based on his IMDB page), Sam (my #2 man in the world) Rockwell and someone I’ve never seen before, Garret Dillahunt who was tremendous as bunny scared Ed Miller. I’ll be checking him out on The Guest Book, a Community looking TBS show premiering August 3rd.

So I learned some history and got to see Casey Affleck agonize in another gorgeous portrayal over having to kill his hero. Bravo!

Best Ten Movies of 2016!

#10. Suspense tie/honorable mentions: Sully and Deep Water Horizon, solid performances by all.
#9 Certain Women: Kelly Reichardt does it her way
#8. Sing Street: Coming of age cutie.
#7. My Name is Doris: Sally Field still has the chops and tight ropes perfectly an elder woman trying to remain relevant in modern society.
#6. Christine Super dark, but PLEASE, Academy, lend me your ear for Rebecca Hall!
#5. La La Land: Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, an oxymoron- realistic optimism.
#4. The Bigger Splash: Ralph Fiennes and Tilda Swinton at their finest.
#3. Moonlight: Gorgeous story, gorgeous music.
#2. Toni Erdman: Best comedy I’ve seen in years, hands down.
And the number one movie of the year 2106 goes to:
#1. Manchester By the Sea: Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams owned these parts. Well worth with sadness!

Manchester by the Sea, Sweet Glorious Sadness

I stick by my stance of amore` for this film, in spite of people I’ve talked to, who comment, “But it’s so sad!”

What can I say, even in a sunny Floridian December, you can’t help but feel a little melancholy (re. John Lennon’s “So this Is Christmas”). Trust me, I’m not maudlin about anything, other than I won’t be with my son on Christmas, BUT I do appreciate some sap when it is expertly acted.

Broken record here in how much I like Michelle Williams (singing her praises most recently in a recent blog about “Certain Women”). I don’t think she’ll get the reward she deserves for this as there are too many other political contenders, BUT she certainly deserves it.

Fortunately the star of the movie, capitals S-T-A-R, Casey Affleck did win the Critics Award just last night for his portrayal of a broken man (no spoilers as promised). Just get thee to a movie theater and witness acting genius. And might I add a girlish comment that I actually liked his demure Joaquin Pheonix-esque aceptance speech. Make no mistake, this guy’s got some real demons to be able to dive this deep. Let’s just hope he can stay afloat and not do self-harm (aka Hoffman, Ledger, etc.).

The teenager in the movie also won a critic’s award last night, though I didn’t tune in in time to see this presentation. Lucas Hedges was a natural and has that Ron Howard with a nasty steroid reaction edge.

Manchester By the Sea’s screenwriter/director is Kenneth Lonergan who wrote another movie “You Can Count on Me” I’ll be seeking out. YCCOM came out in 2000 before my film infatuation began, but with Linney, Ruffalo and Broderick in it, I’m ashamed I did not know of it. Broderick, by the way, makes a cameo appearance in Manchester By the Sea and the packed house at Burns Court’s reaction was cute, a collective titter, of “oh, how sweet, Matthew Broderick”.

Go see this film and you’ll be shouting Casey Affleck when they announce the nominees for best actor in the next award show.