Wherever You Are, There You Are…”Lucky”

Serendipity led me to see Lucky, meaning even though I had already done my self-psychoanalysis, talking myself down from the proverbial roof (hit a wall after working 50+ hours a week, became ill and also became very aware of poor working conditions of impoverished folks directly in front of me, combined with the self-imposed high anxiety of doing stand up comedy), the film helped add the necessary cement to my rediscovered zen. Picture my aforementioned realization, hitting myself in the head: I live in Sarasota and AM LUCKY, so curb the neuroses for Pete’s sakes.

Included in my muchos gracias to the cosmos is a thank you to my friend Pedro, another deep soul in the universe, for going with me.

Lucky is John Carrol Lynch’s directorial debut, but you’d recognize his face from many acting roles, most famously Fargo (Frances’s husband), but recently in a performance as LBJ in Jackie. Here’s where my amoxicillin infused whining kicks in in that I’m tired of people with three names and I’m also weary of the ridiculous number of television aka internet series there are (of which JCL stars in several-see IMDB if you care).

The screenplay was co-written by Logan Sparks (sounds like a fake name but at least it’s just two words) and Drago Sumonja, both of whom are new to big fame, but according to their filmography have put in their time as assistants.

Enough of the rabbit holes you say, what about the movie? The story is crucial considering our aging population’s need for story lines with which they can relate. I say this on behalf of the best Grandma on the planet, Florence Baker, 94, still kicking intellectual and physical buttocks in spite of her advanced age. Grandma doesn’t want to see Surburbicon or Thor, so thank you!

Henry Dean Stanton (ok we’ll let hm have three names God rest his soul, in fact anyone over 80 can have their three names) was a wonder and pretty much revealed on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast that this plays pretty close to his own life. Three quick commonalities are: was in the Navy, sang in a band, lived a solitary life.

HDS (aka Lucky the character) was an interesting dichotomy of melancholy and zen of which I can totally relate. My only wish for the film and my English speaking population is that there had been subtitles during the beautiful mariachi song he sang three quarters into the film. Trust me, I’m going to research and find out, but it would have added to the poignancy to see the words (though I can see the opposite argument and possible reasoning for subtitles distracting).

Minor characters were beautiful in both composition and story. Of note were: Yvonne Huff as a caring 420 friendly waitress, Tom Skerritt as a fellow armed services vet, and dear to my heart, Ed Begley Jr as Lucky’s wise cracking doctor.

Here’s where I call out the worst: David Lynch, my man, you can’t act. James Darren, you’d have been better stopping after Gidget (though you’re well preserved) and Beth Grant, you might be good, but your big mouth wise ass bar owner character was a turn off.

Overall though, great film, with an important message that since we don’t have proof of an afterlife, we better best enjoy we we have right now. Carpe Diem.

I Do…Until I Don’t: the perfect explanation of my opinion

I Do…Until I Don’t is not only the title, but the perfect explanation of my opinion of this film. I do like it, or did, until about three quarters of the way in, when the plot turned so oddly you could hear the proverbial record scratching switch over.

But still, I would see it on the big screen. We need to support comedy as our country’s become much to maudlin and dour. I mean Marc Maron moaning that we’re in the ‘end times’ is ridiculous. The only comedian who seems to be immune (and thus my favorite) is Bill Burr.

So, let’s support Lake Bell who wrote and directed I Do…Until I Don’t. She is talented even if her character was a bit too annoying to be crowned protagonist. In fact, her massage parlor scene is worth the price of admission alone. Supporting her in that hysterical scene is someone for whom I came late to the fan club party, but boy, am I upfront now-Paul Reiser. From his excellent concerned Dad in Whiplash, to his funny cameo in The Little Hours, Reiser is as solid as Romano in the comedy world. Of the seven individuals depicted in I Do Until I Don’t, he was by far my favorite.

The actors, with the exception of Bell (at times), Reiser (all) and Ed Helm (all, who must have won Most Sincere superlative back in high school) were celebrities first, actors second. Mary Steenburgen (I see right through you) and Amber Heard (I see you and your post Johnny Depp/Elon Musk gorgeous self) suffered from characters too stereotypical to be real. Dolly Wells who I had never seen before, was funny as the rueful Brit documentarian, but again, her cliche lacked depth enough to take seriously.

The screenplay also suffered from too many people and sub stories (and I speak from firsthand experience with my own screenplay, Buck Up, which had the same fault). The Hollywood ending seems to be more of a necessity in comedies, though maybe next time, Bell will choose a darker shade to allow for something more real and open ended.

Still a gallant, worthy effort by Lake Bell.

Twilight is Broken and thank goodness: Good Time

If it hadn’t been for Jennifer Jason Leigh’s interview on Marc Maron’s podcast, I would have been very reluctant to see Good Time. I mean a crime drama starring the dude from Twilight isn’t exactly in my wheel house of interests.

But JJ Leigh interested me, even more so her back story, her dad Vic Morrow killed in the Twilight (wait Twilight again, holy coincidence) Zone movie accident, her husband Noah Baumbach leaving her for Greta Gerwig, etc.

JJ Leigh’s only in Good Time for ten minutes max, but she definitely causes a stir. Those with the most screen time are equally magnetic, especially the star, Robert Pattinson. In Good Time, he looks so different from his plain white milk vampire films that he seemed brand new. His performance is worthy of an Oscar nomination, but the character lacks the range for a trophy. This isn’t the actor’s fault, but just a tiny flaw in the writing. Without more back story, we’re left as an audience to wonder. Not a bad thing, and certainly intriguing, but not deep enough then to be a tko of a film.

Two other male leads are also fantastic, one of whom co-wrote and co-directed the film, Josh Safdie. His performance as a hearing impaired brother of Robert Pattinson had an Of Mice and Men Lennie and George quality and was equally poignant and elusive due to the plot. The third ‘stooge’ who garners screen time is a very good question that I need to research further. He’s not on the top of the imdb list, but I will keep searching as he plays a very believable thug rendition.

Minor characters added to the film’s verisimilitude which really felt like a director’s cut of a Cops episode, a Paul Harvey’s ‘the rest of the story’, which is even alluded to in scenes where characters are watching the Time Warner 24 hour news program.

This film was so real, I was frightened for my son’s safety in NYC, as any one of these characters and situations could harm an innocent bystander. Akin to lifting a blanket up and discovering your bed infested by bed bugs or the human equivalent thereof. Good Time is thus best seen in the cinema as you need to put your seat belt on without distractions to really enjoy the suspense and ironic subtlety of the film’s performances.

I am grateful for my friend Dave who picked me up in the pouring rain and who not only understands the art of conversation (meaning he didn’t lecture or bludgeon my ears with his life expertise) as have my last few encounters. Bless Dave with good karma this week as he undergoes some medical testing.

Not AABA’s “Orlando”, But Just as Pretty

So I’m watching what I thought was a new Amazon show, I Love Dick (not an Anthony Wiener expose`) hoping to scoop my ultra hip friend Carrie-

(only later to be told by Carrie that she saw the show previewed a year ago among many other Amazon shows which were voted on, “but wait, I say, I just heard Kevin Bacon on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast?” foiled again)

-when I see Kathryn Hahn (the woman who loves Dick) mind flash a reference to an obscure Chantall Ackerman movie I saw at the Film Forum, combined in a trio of female film makers references (Sally Hopper and Jane Campion being the other two).

So little Ms. School Marm borrows Orlando and The Piano (Hopper and Campion respectively) in yet another attempt to learn everything.

The movie Orlando, based on a Virginia Woolf novel was written and directed by Sally Hopper. Look for a new movie from Hopper this year called The Party with one of my favorite actresses Patricia Clarkson.

True confession about Orlando (looked from the dvd jacket like it might have some adult content wink, wink, but alas, the jacket was for marketing purposes only). Before you, too, begin to whine, let me say that the 1992 flick is gorgeous to behold, acquiring two Oscar nominations, one for best costumes. To boot, the film’s essence was both epic and thought provoking. Now isn’t that better than sex anyway? Well?…

The movie begins in the year 1600 and transcends into the modern age. I’d have to read (and will if ever bedridden) Woolf’s novel and know from surface study she wrote it as a love letter to a lesbian lover, but my naïve take on Hopper’s influence is the message: women make their best impact by being good mothers due to a male dominated society. A melancholy motif to the entrapment of this message carries our immortal heroine through centuries of governance, war, love and art.

Tilda Swinton is the title actress and is enthralling to watch. I have loved her in most films, Jarmusch’s laconic vampire flick being one exception. The other stand out for me in a cast of thousands was Lothaire Bluteau as the Middle Eastern ruler. The scene with Swinton offering up competitive toasts to Bluteau is worth the price of admission (in this case 0, since it a library loaner).

Hopper likes to wink at the audience now and then, with a comical wry comment here, or a Swinton speaking to the camera there. The movie cheered me enough to momentarily forget the emotional turmoil of the week, agonizing over whether to end a 2 month infatuation. I chose to abort for self-preservation reasons. At 53, I can’t swing with people who need to talk into the wee hours of the night. I just need someone who reads at night, wants to see a movie and have a dinner out once a week. Doesn’t seem too impossible. Let’s hope my casket doesn’t read: “well, she was productive.”

Sins of the Father and Fences (TBR)

I’ll be seeing Fences sooner or later (TBR=to be reviewed), and my justification for a movie break was my mission to read as much of Stalin’s Daughter by Rosemary Sullivan and then attend a talk about the book at Selby Library by a very well spoken Dr. Kushner. A quote he articulated sums up not only the book, but also ties in perfectly to the primary theme of August Wilson’s play “Fences”: “Perhaps there is no sadder curse than the gift of a titanic father”.

This father curse of course can be a blessing depending on the resilience and tenacity of the child, a thought which connects with Bruce Springsteen’s new memoir Born to Run. Listening to Bruce on Marc Maron’s podcast Episode 773, I was heartened to hear Maron’s opening monologue about the difference between beating one’s self up vs. self-determination to keep improving one’s self. Maron claimed that Springsteen seems to have mastered the latter. This was a great reinforcement for my New Year’s Resolution that faithful readers will remember was to be kinder to myself, and to award myself for attempts at evolution. After a week of ‘family pleasing’ activities I’m going to add another; that it’s ok for me to occasionally isolate and simply focus on my own goals.

A co-worker mentioned being disappointed by Tama Janowitz’s Scream which was billed as a ‘how I endured caring for my mother with dementia’, but didn’t deliver (according to my co-worker, a solid second-hand source). I think any type of writing these days is difficult without isolation. In re-working a play of mine which was slayed by a writers’ council, there isn’t a morning that goes by that a variety of interruptions creep in destroying any conversations my characters, aka my mind, is trying to manipulate. Hence, if Tama’s memoir sounds disjointed, who can blame her? Well, I guess her editor’s might, unless of course, it sells well anyway. If my last few year’s of teaching are any indication, when I noticed a certain twitchiness that had crept into many of my 7th graders, which I attribute to our constant switching from lap top to cell phone to tv to tablet….leads me to believe that disjointed writing might be ok (which also would affirm this non-movie review blog installment:).

Which leads me back to movies and Bruce Springsteen and one of his biggest fans, my son, Liam Enright, who’s visiting me this Saturday. He’s living in Brooklyn right now, trying his best to find a way into the music industry. This serpentine blog is a long way of saying that I’ll be seeing a movie of his choice on Saturday night. His first choice is Elle, but due to distribution problems, Burns Court was unable to procure the film. Hence we’ll be seeing Lion, Manchester (sure, it’d be my second time (his first), but it’s movie magic) or the aforementioned Fences.

Until then, let’s focus and breathe……….

Anomalisa: Marc Maron Podcast Recommended as a Preview

Definitely go see “Anomalisa”, but first, listen to Marc Maron’s WTF podcast with directors Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson. Then, you’ll have more appreciation of the stop animation craft. Every minute of the film took one week to shoot which breaks the record for difficult actresses (AND actors, step down ladies).
http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=anoalisa&view=detailv2&qft=+filterui%3alicense-L2_L3_L4_L5_L6_L7&id=218F3A4F6CC0D700E9EB67A53410B2A52EBADACE&selectedIndex=7&ccid=HL6vKiwW&simid=608039732148833508&thid=OIP.M1cbeaf2a2c16003e839f507a836ec7bfo0&ajaxhist=0

Was it “A Masterpiece” as one of the poster quotes foretold? Ah, no, BUT it was a contender. What’s missing is the following: As stated previously, unless you precede the film with a 10 minute documentary about the process, no normal American is going to understand the art work needed to achieve this film. (I really should have been in marketing and P.R. My other big tip of the week would have been a shoe to Trump’s groin when he said he wanted Sarah Palin to endorse him, “What are you crazy?”)

The other difficulty with Anomalisa is that there’s got to be a scene left out between Michael Stone’s re-connection with his old girlfriend and his shower scene. My guess is he called an escort service OR assumed his old girlfriend had second thoughts and come up to his room. Without either of those scenarios, the film lacks a continuous thread. If a character is suddenly mentally ill, his or her untrustworthiness is a significant flaw.

So maybe ‘Masterpiece’ should be changed to “Highly Admirable” because even though the film lacks story, there is something incredibly human about the eyes and skin of the claymation figures. Or perhaps that’s more of a depressing statement of how plastic real humans have become. Certainly the message is spot on since many men (or women) can spend countless Saturday evenings together (or even one special one) and discard the other human interacted with like a disposable tissue. The character Michael Stone wasn’t able to communicate, like so many humans who prefer to be mum, resulting in a passive aggressive expiration of human connection.

Woody Allen’s The Irrational Man, surprisingly not ‘The Donald’s Story’

Parker

I went confidently to Woody Allen’s ‘Irrational Man’, thinking, Joaquin and Parker Posey could save any movie. Ugh, except this one. Woody, you need a retirement intervention, focus on your clarinet.

I’m sorry to be so blunt, but when a brand new recliner seat can’t save me from fidgety ennui, I’ve got to speak the truth. Let me be a role model for Mr. Trump in being frank; just state the facts man, no insults needed.

Most scenes were first, acted out, then separately narrated to jazz music. Yes, I get it, Joaquin’s character is nihilistic. Yes, I get it, Emma Stone has a father fixation on her professor. Yes, I get it, her boyfriend is the ‘nice guy’ who’s going to finish last for awhile.

Parker Posey literally had to hide her beautiful quirkiness amidst the bored desperation of an unhappily married professor. Please someone give this woman a script! Let her last great film not be the satirical “Best in Show”.

On Marc Maron’s podcast interview with Parker, she was told it was ok to improvise. When she did she reported that W.A. screamed something to the effect of no, terrible.

A Baker’s Half Dozen (Seven) The Wolfpack

I wanted more resolution from “The Wolfpack” (directed by Crystal Moselle) instilled from the former school counselor in me. If anything, the film shows how inept our social services programs are, and on the sick flip side, probably gives hope to abusive parents. The Angulo father seems unphased and unscathed after an intervention landed all seven of the children in therapy even though one of the boys definitely hints at abuse he can not ever forgive.

And what about the only daughter? I would assume her issues might be larger than her 6 older brothers just by the nature and lack of interaction allowed with the camera.

The film just left me wanting way too much. How has this family existed financially for all these years, how a woman allows her seven children to be controlled by megalomaniac? How does one get so out of touch with her own needs or those of her children?

Most stunning is a successful familial prison existing for 15 years in a major metropolitan area. And at the risk of sounding like Rod Serling here, as shocked as I was about this family, there are probably even more horrific stories happening in the same apartment complex….in the Twilight Zone.

President Obama addressed my pet cause eloquently in his recent talk with Marc Maron, that your primary goal as a parent is to make your children’s world less crazy than the one you grew up in. Evolution is everyone’s responsibility, but ESPECIALLY for those who have children. If you raise your children in dysfunction either consciously or not, you need to be held accountable for the future ills of our society. How I wish we could actually enforce such a law.

I’m not sure The Wolfpack is as good as it could have been, yet the film at least sheds light on child abuse that that can easily be hidden, and ongoing, even in a city that never sleeps. I guess wild insomniacs do not equate to observant humanitarians.

for photos and more info

Happy Christmas Justified

Looking out my window in Upstate New York this morning, my car window was covered with snow. I lost the opportunity, though contemplated it, of writing in the snow: Spring break ends?

Hence, I was justified in watching Joe Swanberg’s “Happy Christmas” who I found out about via Marc Maron’s podcast. While I enjoyed hearing Swanberg talk, and while I was mildly entertained by the film, I can’t recommend it. The conflict was just too flimsy and never came to a head. Akin to the first game of the Final Four game last night, just wayward and sloppy (Duke and Michigan) instead of taut and exciting (Wisconsin and Kentucky).

In need of keeping it positive (it’s Sunday before work, come on!), here’s what I did like:
Melanie Lynskey is more than a one trick pony (aka the nut job on Two and a Half Men) and who knew she hid her New Zealand accent for all those years!
Anna Kendrick is a real actress in spite of the fact that she annoys me occasionally.
Lena Dunham is always fun to watch.
Both male leads were very credible: Joe Swanberg, Mark Webber.
The movie ended realistically with….oops, no spoilers. Now you have to watch it:)

Two and a Half

Le Weekend: How Do I Loathe Thee, Let Me Bark the Ways

Ok, my title isn’t true to the film’s last fifteen minutes, but I couldn’t resist.

Le Weekend’s directed by Roger Mitchell (never saw his other films, Notting Hill being one) and stars Jim Broadbent (from my favorite Moulin Rouge), Lindsay Duncan (a new actress to me, but could play Julie Delphy’s mother in a heartbeat,  pretty and 64) and (insert trumpets blaring for expertise) Jeff Goldblum

First of all what’s a girl like me (perpetually single a la Marc Maron style, meaning I crave closeness yet feel oppressed the minute a date lasts longer than 3 hours) doing at a movie about the beauty of relationship longevity, aka marriage?

I wanted to see what was green about the other side since it’s been so long since I was on marital turf.  Happily I can report that I did not come away super envious, nor depressed of what I have not.  I can also be thankful that this couple was not about who Helen Fielding coined as ‘smug marrieds’ , who I unfortunately see way too many of in Rochester, NY,   those couples who wear their duoship as if they were Kate and William.

So while the movie didn’t make me feel envious or sad, I do feel a bit alarmed that some feel feminism comes with permission to be verbally abusive to men, which I think is wrong and ugly.  When Lindsay’s character Meg calls her husband and f’n idiot or, after pushing him down, tells him to stop being such a girl, that that is verbal abuse.  And to reject your husband sexually for what was implied in the film as years, only to demand periodically to be held, is also an abuse of female power.  And for men who tolerate that for the sake of: the children, the sanctity of marriage, their family status or bank account, may I just say a very stern, “shame on you” for going green light on a dysfunctional model for your children to continue.  Putting men down isn’t funny or right.

On a happy ending positive note, may I say that Jeff Goldblum has that same beautiful quality that John Goodman has; that no matter how depressing the movie, when Jeff (or John) is in a scene, he adds crackle and spice.  Jeff’s canape chomping scene where he manically explains his start up second family (young wife included) is priceless and filled with an honesty that the rest of the cloying cast doesn’t quite ever achieve.

No real lesson learned this time around, only a wish that Jeff Goldblum will do more indie flicks.