Babes in Nutland: The Favourite

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And don’t let this review title fool you, I really enjoyed The Favourite. See, I’ve been going to Yorgos Lanthimos’s (Director) Greek Cinematic Diner since 2009, when I came off as a film rock star living next door to the prodigious George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, when I came up with the idea of taking a new date and former film major to Lanthimos’s Dogtooth.

To the Greek diner analogy…The Favourite, just happens to be my favorite on the Lanthimos menu. Dogtooth was profound but quite disturbing, ditto squared for The Lobster (don’t torture my poor John C. Reilly, nor sweet little Rachel Weisz!). Killing of a Sacred Deer was pure movie enigma. I absolutely hated the implausibility while watching the film, but the next day found my same brain defending the film for its tenacious eccentricity.

In The Favourite, I really don’t have any complaints, except that it may have been a tad too lengthy. What I enjoyed (no spoilers at least for those familiar with Lanthimos) is his familiarity since Lanthimos has become known for:
*people hitting themselves in the face
*partial or full blindness, eye issues or other medical ailments
*somatic illness
*eerie monosyllabic music to increase suspense
*forests of strange occurrences

The actors of this film are all top notch, and while I thought Rachel Weisz was the highlight of the Hasidic Jew movie Disobedience, I think she is outshone here by Emma Stone and Olivia Colman. And what a cute surprise, since he was all covered up in the pomp and circumstance powdered wig, I just discovered who my favorite male performance of the film is Nicholas Hoult, who stars as the “Read My Fist: No New Taxes” proponent of the film. Hoult first appeared as the sweet caught-in-the-middle-tweener in the sentimental About a Boy. You’ve come along way baby!

The screenplay (virtual newcomer at least fame-wise Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara who looks to be more seasoned in tv) is compelling socio-economically, politically and emotionally, the costuming divine and the cinematography takes you back to another time where decadence and poverty were starkly divided (wait a minute, is that really the past??? Faulkner answers, “no”).

Wrestling with my own relationship status (complicated exponentially by the oncoming train known as the holidays), I greatly appreciated Emma Stone’s line of dialogue and the scene that holds it (pun intended for those who’ve seen the flick), something to the effect of, “My life is like a maze, just when I think I’ve found an exit, another wall appears”.

See The Favourite and be prepared for some deep thoughts. And a shout out to Gus Mollasis for giving us introverts something semi-social to do on a Tuesday afternoon.

Battle of the Sexes, I Miss the 70’s

For many reasons, I love the 70’s. It’s partly the drop dead beautiful music (Elton John‘s Rocket Man, George Harrison‘s What is Life!), partly that I was a little girl obsessed with the adult world (10 at the time of the King-Riggs match), and partly due to the moments of spectacle (like the aforementioned tennis match and another off the top of my head- Evel Knievel). These days, everything has become a spectacle and consequently, very few things are that amazing.

At any rate, Battle of the Sexes was good. Emma Stone, good. Steve Carell, great. But because the real people are so damn cool, I’d prefer to see a well executed documentary rather than people playing them. Which goes back to corroborate my love of that decade.

Probably the most extraordinary part of the film is the back story of Billie Jean’s sexuality and that she was one of the first people (at least of that era) that had to finally be courageous enough to live the life she truly wanted. Although according to Wiki, she didn’t actually get divorced until 1987, but perhaps the movie, which led me to believe he knew at 1973 that Billie was a lesbian, stayed married for practical purposes.

An interesting sub-plot was the nutritional advisor Rheo Blair who Bobby Riggs employed to help is stamina. Fred Armisen of SNL and Portlandia portrayed the man, and unfortunately, his appearance reminded me of Louis CK in Trumbo and here I’ll invoke another tennis legend in Fred as actor choice, “You Can’t Be Serious!”. Even more strange, ther’s no wiki page on this dude. Try it, all you’ll come up with his his own website-Nutritionist to the Stars! I expected some Brian Wilson psychiatrist type scandal bringing this guy down eventually. Hmmmm, a mystery.

So, Battle of the Sexes a good walk down memory lane, but not as spectacular as the spectacle of the genuine articles.

Great Cake, Too Much Frosting: “La La Land”

La La Land, directed by Damien Chazelle, was a fine film, but I can’t help but feel nostalgia for the power of his ‘Whiplash’ or even the rapture of a similar love story musical ‘Moulin Rouge’.

So, let me complain first. The first two musical scenes needed to be combined or shortened. Dancers in a California traffic jam is unique, girls singing in their bedrooms, not so much, but again, shorten them up and I wouldn’t have been thinking, “Ok when does the tremendously praised movie start”.

My only other complaint are the Disneyesque scenes where I thought I was re-watching Fantasia. Not that there’s anything wrong with children’s films, but it added schmaltz which limited my emotional response.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling were amazing and they made me want to take tap dancing lessons. And I appreciated and concur on the ‘moral to the story’ which I’ll relate in a few months again to protect my dear readers. Justin Hurwitz’s music is fitting to the film, sweet, in an overly confectionery way. I didn’t leave saying, I have to have the soundtrack as I did in a musical like ‘Rent’.

The last 30 minutes of the film were wonderful, realistic and emotionally effective. Won’t say more to protect you from spoilers. I just wish Mr. Chazelle had started from a more serious angle from the get go.

Clouds of Sils Marie, ‘CirrEus’ clouds that is

I liked Clouds of Sils Marie and was glad that yet another trailer was deceiving. It’s not a shallow Black Swan- cut throat theater actress pic, but more like a dramatic theater like performance; a mountain made slowly with layers of sedimentary rock. In fact, when a dark screen title Part Two popped up, I thought ok, Part Three must be where the showdown happens.

What little I’ve read of reviews (I try to avoid due to spoilers) critics definitely all concur, as do I, that Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart have tremendous individual stage presence and their chemistry together felt real as well. Doug Benson had joked on Doug Loves Movies that the only small highlight was a skinny dipping scene where Juliette strips to reveal an old school throw rug, while KS remains in underwear…which may be true, yet in the time of Avengers saltines, us deeper folk like a hearty piece of bread.

While there is something sad (as a woman clinging to youth myself; re. longer Samsonesque hair) about JB’s husky legs and asexual haircut, I do respect, even envy, her confidence. KS, on the other hand (mirroring the theme of the film) displays her femininity and youth on subtly natural terms, which I also respect. And doesn’t she have the market cornered on brooding female characters that perky Emma Stone could never pull off?

So, on a rainy afternoon, or even a sunny one if you have to watch your sun intake like me, see Clouds of Sils Marie. It’s a complex and thought provoking film.