Professor Marston and the Wonder Women: More like Prof. Maasdam

Hey when you write a film blog, sometimes you learn something new, like this afternoon when I’m looking for a cheese that starts with M (like Marston does) and and ends in an N or M (like Marston does). And Eureka (!) you find Maasdam cheese from the Netherlands which is perfect since it’s a semi-hard cheese and that’s about as excited this movie will make either gender.

People, the concept is titillating, a Harvard Professor of Psychology and his wife begin a menage a trois which blossoms into a permanent, shall we say mini Mormon experience, meaning relative bigamy, cohabitation and child rearing. All of which were shocking lifestyle choices in the 1940’s.

And certainly all three lead actors were competent (Rebecca Hall being the strongest of the three by far, and yes I’m biased-see my “Christine” and “The Dinner” reviews), the other two being: Luke Evans and Bella Heathcote, both of whom still have hope for greater films.

But oh the screenplay is the Maasdamiest (cheesiest) of any screenplay I’ve seen in recent memory. A tell tall cough here, maudlin music here, sexy strip music (with slo-mo) there.

The best that can be said about Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is that I got to spend time reclining (@CineBistroSKey) with Pete, a gentleman who gave me space after a long workday (and who I am truly honored to have been visited by). I also like true stories and the fact that we got to see photos of the real people at the end always heightens my affection for a film. My only wish is that the screenwriter would have opted for human commotion over the ‘mellow’ (cheese) drama.

The Dinner, have some reservations

Oren Moverman, how are you? I had no idea until just now that Moverman who directed The Dinner, the new movie based on the book by Howard Koch, also directed one of my (and my movie date)’s favorite movies of all time: Love&Mercy. The Dinner, sadly, is a film you should have reservations about….

Am I wrong to not want to glorify heinous acts by showing visuals? Especially when it involves malicious, misguided teens? I guess, if I’m open minded, showing incidents of affluenza may wake up some wealthy parents that perhaps they should take responsibility (early on, not once they reach adulthood) of their children’s upbringing (aka teaching them how to behave and how to love) and their mental health (if it walks like a depressed duck and talks like a depressed duck, get some therapy).

Anyway, while I understand to some extent the moral dilemma portrayed in The Dinner, I care about my fellow human beings enough to know; a sociopath, no matter if he or she is your child, should never get a free pass.

The movie’s subject matter was obviously almost good enough to make me forget I was watching one of my favorite actors (Steve Coogan) minus his typecasted upperhand sarcasm. His character, father of “Charles Manson”, is certainly bitter, but undermined by said son Charlie and his own wife; portrayed by another favorite actress of mine, Laura Linney.

Equally compellng was Rebecca Hall, who I envy most for how good she looks in short hair, a shallow female commentary. To be super objective, Hall’s acting was best of the four (Hall, Coogan, Linney, Gere) as Gere’s strong willed trophy wife. Pulling up four out of four is Richard Gere, who always seems to be playing the same dang man of power with an equal amount of ‘white people’s problems’ angst. I look forward to his upcoming performance as a homeless man, it’s high time for him to mix it up.

Due to the movie’s unsatisfying ending and it’s violence porn quotient, I say this is better off as a rental. Choose a dark deary night and it’ll fit right in.

Whoa…Christine, from Sarasota no less

Warning….perhaps for the sensitive this movie (CHRISTINE 2016) should be seen in a matinee for a re-balance of post film light of day. I related way too much to the film’s topic due to experiences I have had as a mental health counselor and the chicken or egg toss up of social anxiety and dysfunctional upbringing.

The film’s subject matter is the suicide of a Sarasota reporter in the 1970’s. So first things first: bravo to Craig Stolovich, as a screenwriter you made me care about people even though I knew the bones of the story. And to Antonio Campos for braving probably a lot of, ‘nah don’t make that movie, it’s not ‘pretty’.

The absolute worst day of my life was in 1997 when a student at my school committed suicide. Some are resilient to withstand emotional and/or physical abuse, while others like Christine and my student, did not. Reconciling this took me years with which to come to grips. But I finally understood pain as relative and, try as we might, we can never fully understand another person’s plight.

I mentioned my litmus test for a great movie last month, that if a movie makes you feel differently, you know you’ve been affected….well, let me tell you…I was affected in spite of how amateurish CHRSTINE might appear, meaning were some B level actors and the film quality a purposeful tactic to make it feel like the 1970’s? Or was it budgetary?

Trust me, all of the acting was exceptional, most of all Rebecca Hall, Michael C. Hall and Tracy Letts. And I will plant my Oscar flag firmly right now for all three to receive nominations.

Here are other reasons I liked the movie: a 70’s soundtrack, still my favorite musical decade. Dialogue actually spoken by real humans. Acknowledgement of our weapon obsessed part of the world. Actual national news accounts of Christine’s ‘accident’ and political happenings like Nixon’s impeachment.

Strange coincidences or my odd quirky connections:
a. How odd that the reason I went to the film tonight was due to a cancellation of a birthday ice cream combined with the role ice cream therapy plays in this film.
b. Two recent comments; one by a fellow playwright tonight at a staged reading I attended before the movie AND a recent blog of a work colleague both challenging negative portrayals of mothers/parents. The former was regarding a staged reading of a play (not mine) in which a 20 something goes to her grandfather regarding an unwanted pregnancy for fear of her mom’s reaction. My fellow playwright’s critique was, “Nobody’s mom’s that bad.”….all I could hear was what a friend of mine says in his low, dubious low tone, “Right”. The latter was a book comparison blog, liking a more positive spin on family dysfunction, the too negative one being Hillbilly Elegy. And in all fairness to the blogger, while I haven’t read Hillbilly Elegy, I did hear that it was explicitly maudlin.
My point or connection here is that some ‘can’t handle the truth’, to steal a quote from another famous film. Not because they aren’t kind or lack empathy, but because they can’t imagine or don’t want to (who can blame them?) a world where parents don’t unconditionally love their children.
c. Families can do a job on a person’s self-esteem which the movie Christine alludes to. In fact, though 2/5ths of my family celebrated my birthday, a huge thank you to my mom and best friend, still the 3/5th absentees or ‘negators’ did stick with me, in part since the get together occurred within hours of viewing this film and therefore, freshest in my mind; a rather unceremonious or should I say, dis-ceremonious occasion where 85% of the conversation was upbraiding me for not flattering everyone else’s appetites, needs and desires.

In conclusion, may I just say, I am glad I have never owned a gun. Also, I thank God for my best friend Tim who has been the most recent decade long dependable, consistent, unwavering empathetic force in my life thus far. Perhaps the lack of physical intimacy makes this relationship possible, but who knows? The only romantic partnerships I’ve seen (not counting one, a couple I work with right now that seems perfect) have appeared to be compromising of at least one of the partners to be what the other partner wants. I bring this up due to the lack of connection the real life Christine felt with the understanding of her (and my own) frustration and self-defeating behavior.
Third, regarding public cinema etiquette: if you go to a movie with a date (couple who sat two rows ahead of me) and your date includes rubbing your girlfriend’s sock feet, then eating something with same hands, then continuing the foot rub; please either sit in the back row or hand me one of those handy bags the flight attendants pack for airline passengers with air sickness.

Feeling like a teenager again, “The Gift”

The Gift

I’d like to personally thank Joel Edgerton for “The Gift” for making me like being scared again. Not since I gave up horror flicks back in the 80’s due to my hyper guilt feelings/PTSD while watching “Fun House”, have I enjoyed a scary movie. Thank you also for not having to gore us to death. There was less violence in this film than Straight Outta Compton.

And both actors were excellent. Rebecca Hall made what could have been a whiney female role, seem not only plausible, but sympathetic. Jason Bateman, as usual, kicks ass. I mean, come on, this guy excels at comedy (Bad Words, Arrested Development) and at drama (DisConnect, very underrated film) and now this.
And let’s not leave out Gordo the Weirdo (Edgerton’s character in The Gift) since he not only wrote and directed the whole thing, but played the third pivotal role as well! Superb, superb, he also made a creepy guy seem just a smidge enough normal to keep us guessing the entire movie (and that’s not a spoiler, there’s more twists and turns in this than Rodeo Drive, trust me).

Probably most fun on the big screen, but no matter where, see it to experience the old roller coaster days, but none of the violence induced vomit of Jason in Halloween-esque suspense.