Dear Stanley, ‘Final Portrait’: a masterpiece!

Looking to broaden my film community, I looked longingly at Selby Library’s Film Group Meeting which was showing “Shine”, the Australian movie for which Geoffrey Rush won an Oscar. Alas, I could not attend due to work, but thought I’d check out the protocol there on the off chance their discussion lasted longer than my shift.

In advance, I decided to watch another Geoffey Rush flick that I had almost gone to at Burns Court when it came out in 2017, Final Portrait, written and directed by Stanley Tucci.

And as my blog title already hinted, I loved it! Only the best movies can engage me at home, as you may also agree dear reader, is a place fraught with distractions, from internet dating texts, to dust I notice growing on the tv, to books I should be reading, etc. But I gave no thought to those items as I became enmeshed in Stanley’s tale of the artist, Alberto Giacometti.

Truth be told, I’ve loved most movies based on painters’ lives: Pollock, At Eternity’s Gate and Picasso, just to name a few. But Final Portrait was beautifully different than the aforementioned, having a more 3d approach to the painter’s life.

As most painters, Giacometti was self-involved, persnickety and tortured. However, Tucci showed the comic side to his personality; his very French infidelities and his o.c.d. habits. Geoffrey Rush was amazing as was Armie Hammer as his portrait sitting muse. Tony Shalhoub, who seems like such a namby pamby (yet an award winning one) in the Miss Maizel series, knocks it out of the park as the faithful, shrugging brother. His appearance changed to gray haired and non-descript enhances his acting that much more.

Other visual nuances included an antique wash to the film that made the muted colors Giacometti use seem more vibrant, and the bust that sits between Armie and Giacometti which symbolizes mystique, the third presence, that otherwordly alchemy which happens when someone produces great art.

A wonderful film, offered free on demand right now without interruption on the Starz network. Check it out.

The Dude Meets the Daddy Longlegs: An early Safdie (of the recent Good Time) film

Daddy Longlegs is an early film from 2009 by brothers Benny and Josh Safdie, along with Ronald Bronstein who also stars as ‘the Dad’.

Much like Good Time, the movie Daddy Longlegs is well done and simultaneously difficult to watch. Like going on a roller coaster that might make you ill, you ride along with the Safdie’s knowing the quality is worth the discomfort. A.O Scott called this film “lovely and hair raising” which suits my analogy to a T.

Set in NYC, this movie is especially for divorced parents trying to juggle jobs and family responsibilities. Based partly on their upbringing this semi autobiographical film opens with a written font-like tribute to the Safdie dad.

Two connections I made to this film were with an autobiographical sketch in the Rolling Stone of Robert Downey Jr’s upbringing where his father sits at the breakfast table, stirring his screwdriver with a hammer. Acting (and screenwriting geniuses) often come from creative and chaotic childhoods.

Connection two comes from Rachle Cusk‘s book Outline which I mentioned in my previous Ingrid Goes West blog. Cusk’s books offers so many pearls from such a gorgeously deep reservoir. This quote is intimately intertwined with the father (acted brilliantly by co-writer Ronald Bronstein) in Daddy Longlegs in the push pull of his loving his sons with his desire for freedom.

“My mother once admitted she used to be desperate for us to leave the house for school but that once we’d gone, she had no idea what to do with herself and wished we would come back.” (Cusk, Rachel. Outline. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2014.)

Much like their film Good Time where the brothers’ love for each other was both gorgeous and destructive, intimacy whether it be sibling to sibling or parent to child is one of life’s many challenges.

Definitely worth a local library search. I am grateful to the Selby Library for their tremendous inventory.

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……….