More than just ‘The Souvenir’

‘The Souvenir’ written and directed by Joanna Hogg is an artsy pot boiler for which one needs to fasten a seat belt. The occasionally muffled dialogue forces you to lean forward and work to fathom its depths.

But depths there are; how someone can be duped into enabling a partner, how closely tied are immigration and class struggle, how much does a writer have to personally relate to his/her screenplay, and the age old question. ‘what is art?’.

Akin to walking down a corridor with a sudden recognition of your own reflection, I caught myself judging the main character’s foolish enabling, until the reflection shown its ugly head and said, ‘remember 2000 to 2006?’. I also thought our society’s unfortunate resurgence of hateful religions, anti-semitism and homophobes lends itself to sticking with a a dysfunctional partner due to an ‘any port in a storm’ mentality.

Hogg, along with the tremendous acting of Tilda Swinton and her daughter Honor Swinton Byrne, take a two hour time period to let these marinate with, at times, obscure cinematography and quiet lulls. Probably beloved to fine arts majors most, winning Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema should be the only sign needed to know rewards will be reaped from this meditative film.

One Outta Three Ain’t Bad: Gilliam, Gillespie and LaGravenese

I attempted three movies in the last five days and only got through one…I know, rescind my film fanatic card. Ya see, I need some comedy in my life and that wasn’t going to happen in any way shape or form in The Last Five Years (LaGravense-a name that works-‘grave’) nor in Lars and The Real Girl. Hence, Gillian’s the winner this week with The Zero Theorum (Gilliam).

Before I criticize LaGravenese, I did see he worked on Behind the Candelabra, well done and award winning. And what did I expect about a musical that ends in a break up? I’ve owned the song Shiksa Goddess on my ipod for probably ‘the last five years’ and was simply enamored with the song and the fantasy of being one once. But waaa, waa, waa, did not happen.
The good news, Anna Kendrick, who I slayed in Mr. Right is the perfect fit here. She can sing and she can pout, perfection. Jeremy Jordan, who plays the male lead, was too pretty for my taste, but I get how difficult it must be to find a great singer and rugged all in one body.

Round Two of weird sadness was Lars and the Real Girl. For once, I’m going to say I was right in the first place to avoid this film. Love Gosling and love Patrica Clarkson…even like Paul Schneider (why I gave it a chance), BUT it was schmaltz city. Perfect fodder for a short film, but a full length film about a guy in love with a mannequin that’s not absurdist is simply ridiculous.

And now on to the winner of the week, suggested by my friend Pat (THANK YOU FOR HAMILTON AND SAN FRAN!!!!). Zero Theorum stars Christoph Waltz who usually bugs me and even here with his glaring bald head was a tad annoying, but the film’s theme of ‘existentialism’ or rather existential crisis caused by technology and the corporate are my pet peeves, too. And there was that Gilliam light hearted ‘we’ll get through this together’ mood which is always affecting. Melanie Thierry was adorable as the love interest, and look at old or should I say pre-Manchester young Lucas Hedges who did a great job here as a kid with affluenza. Matt Damon and Tilda Swinton also do nice side action work.

So I’m left to focus on the positive, relishing a call from my good college friend Laurie who’s in the same boat (date people I don’t feel a connection with or feel lonely) and listen to jazz fusion to erase Lars and The Last Five Years.

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.”

The Bigger Splash-A Must See!

A Bigger Splash is a must see, partly due to Tilda Swinton who plays a muted (due to her character’s vocal injury) rock and roll singer. And while seeing this in my new home town of Sarasota, I felt a little like Tilda, muted in my won way by a stress fracture due to running, a clipped bird, but trying my best to move on. Tilda Swinton has always been a beauty who leans toward masculinity, and I, too felt this too, with my clomping fracture boot topped off with a flowered sun dress. Goofy yet oddly elegant. i
I’m neither arrogant nor masking insanity. I’ve just decided to embrace life and pray that my deep loneliness due to decades of rigid independence be finally relinquished.
And Ralph Fiennes is enough to rekindle desire. He owns this film and hasn’t been this good since The English Patient. I’m glad he’s come out of the shadow of Wes Anderson kookiness.
Dear reader may I explain that this beautiful Kindle has the sound of an old typewriter and seems to want to put periods in between words like Morse code. But I persevere.
And after a lackluster start in 50 Shades of Backwash, Dakota Johnson is jaw dropping.
The fourth actor in this tangled quadrant, Matt Schoenhaerts, more than held his own. Astonishingly, M.S. was also in Far from the Madding Crowd, and even though I loved that movie, he seemed like a completely different person. Which I believe is probably the highest praise an actor can receive.

Not an Earthquake, Just Julius Rollin’ Over: Hail, Caesar

Rotten Tomatoes, are you kidding me? The collection of critics who averaged higher than a 75% should have their opine licenses revoked.

Hail, Caesar was an utter bore. The trailer may look cute, but the film as a whole has no solid story nor characterization. Remember the halcyon Coen Brohters Days? In Big Lebowski, all character meant something, from Philip Seymor Hoffman to Steve Buschemi.

The most lively section of Hail Caesar was the dancing scene with Channing Tatum. Two hours of just outtakes from that piece would have been more entertaining. Ralph Fiennes and Tilda Swinton deserve honorable mentions, at least their characters were genuinely comical on a teensy minute scale.

Snowpiercer: Ode to McEnroe, “You Can Not Be Serious!”

Much like that chair ump with an obvious stygmatism from the late 70’s are Rotten Tomatoes reviewers(94%) and David Denby of The New Yorker. You can not be serious! Snowpiercer was horrid story telling, due to either the original book being flawed or the screenplay and editing askew, and I’m not about to try to find out. I’m just relieved I escaped with a few laughs from Tilda Swinton’s magical near cameo-esque performance and the ascetic beauty of Chris Evans’ face while I stifled a laugh at his ridiculous dialogue (paraphrasing here, but something to the effect of “I started hating myself for liking the taste of babies.”) Holy Jonathan Swift! See? I cannot even finish a compliment without being stymied by a stupid moment in this film.

Chris Evans

This plot had more holes than my fishnet stockings. Like how were the Korean father daughter team huffing the noxious drug yet still able to snap to whenever ‘danger’ came their way?

In addition, the gratuitous violence was more than one needs in a life time. I have to hand it to Bong-Joon-ho though, even he must have grown weary of your basic man on man violence. In subsequent scenes he added twists like power outage train tunnel fighting lit with an infrared type lighting and slow motion sequences where the sounds of hitting and grunting finally came to an end, proving that even the protagonist was numbed by the sheer banality.

I’ll finish on a positive, the movie’s super antagonist, played by Ed Harris has a great line near the film’s end to Chris Evans, “You’re so tense. When’s the last time you got laid?” Now THAT would have been a much better film!

Jim Jarmusch: Only Lovers Left Awake (Alive)

Despite being somewhat disentranced through much of Only Lovers Left Alive, I did enjoy the film.

Jarmusch made darkness and despair look attractive, proof of his early trainiing at Columbia, NYU and Cinematheque Francasie. The sets were gorgeous even in their centuries old accumulation of books and instruments. Romance exists even in dimly lit disorganization which is excellent news for my bulging clothes closet.

The film also made me glad for my day job as vampires lack thereof might be partially why they are so bored and lethargic. The burden of being immortal is what to do with all that time. How much sight seeing can one do for eternity?

In fact, they were so bored (here’s where you shout: HOW BORED WERE THEY?), that stars Tidla Swinton (Eve) and Tom Hiddleston (Adam) took a sightseeing tour of Detroit! Yet even ruined cities can look majestic by night.

The plot was weak to say the least which leads me to believe there is a new film genre in its nascence. Similar to Inside Llewyn Davis, not much happens in Only Lovers Left Alive. But as I told my English students recently when they complained about their apathy at the lack of action in the film Wadjda (mind you, they’re 12, Wadjda was far from boring) that life is a journey with more moments of slack than static. Inside Llewyn Davis and Only Lovers Left Alive highlight life’s daily grind. In addition, both films dealt with the characters’ interior minds tough to depict visually, a wrestling within about finding new challenges to embrace based on years of previous rejections and disappointments.

And given Jarmusch’s quips within the film about our dependency on technology (though hypocritically sporting Eve’s Apple I-phone in several scenes), the dysfunction of self-promotion and fame, our ruination and disregard for the environment; perhaps Adam’s depression comes more from overload, where the years (century years) are merely a metaphor for our informational and consumerism excess.

Last, perhaps the vampire motif has come full circle. We are now back to kinder gentler Counts, like Chocula and Sesame Street’s von Count, empathic guides for people’s chocolate satisfaction and math skills. According to Only Lovers Left Alive, the new vampire rule is only bite and amorous souls whose cells will live on generating positive vibrations throughout space and time. Count Chocula