Category Archives: Comedies

Faded tickets, magazines and Todd Barry!

The next movie on my list, or it really should be, is “Enemy” starring that doe-eyed Jake Gyllenhaal and his doppleganger or whatever.

I’ve had it on DVD from Netflix since Jan. 24, 2017, but alas it still sits atop my DVD player and probably will until the Guinness Book of World Records people show up at my door.

I honestly was going to watch it last night, but instead went down a rabbit hole of Conan O’Brien episodes (did you know he is still doing the string dance?) That prompted me to catch up on “Silicon Valley” after seeing Thomas Middleditch’s wonderfully awkward appearance.

After a day in the sun both from a long walk (I actually ran for part of it, woo!) and then lounging in my new favorite chair reading InStyle and listening to podcasts, it was the perfect evening.

I also started to think about a subject for my blog this morning and, with no material on “Enemy,” looked for inspiration by sifting through my old movie tickets.

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I keep meaning to buy a scrapbook for them, especially now that some have faded beyond recognition. I saw one where all I could make out were the words “Hunt for” and I thought … did I see “The Hunt for Red October” at some point? No, it was a ticket from “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” last year. (One of the best movies of the year, by far.) Now I do have to watch “The Hunt for Red October” … but only if it is re-released in the theaters so I have the ticket to prove it.

Or maybe I can win the Guinness record as the only person who hasn’t seen it.

My ticket nostalgia continued this morning with a quick look through a box of old cards and whatnot from high school and I found the mother of all movie stubs from my senior year:

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I also uncovered some mint condition magazines from the 1990’s:

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Why do we save stuff like this? If anything it’s for the random moments you decide to look through old boxes and even better when you don’t know what you’ll find.

I didn’t know I kept some old magazines, especially not this one:

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Oh how things have changed.

A little nostalgia from time to time can’t hurt, just remember it’s memories associated with the past that wouldn’t be the same today. My favorite nostalgia expert, John Hodgman, would tell you that.

That’s why I subscribe to his Lifestyle newsletter and then often don’t read it because I forget to check under the Promotions tab in Gmail.  (I just added him to my contacts –why didn’t I think of this earlier?– so maybe the messages will arrive in my primary inbox.) Anyway,  I did click over one tab  (tough stuff) while catching up on emails yesterday and read the newsletter, which included a recommendation for what is now my new favorite blog by musician and writer Carsie Blanton.  I purchased her album “So Ferocious,” which I’ve been listening to while working on this post, and also read her most recent blog with words of wisdom on pursuing your life goals.

It also references the (visually) aforementioned Brad Pitt after she watched “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” with her husband during a cabin getaway. (They didn’t have many movies to pick from.)

The lyrics from her song, “Lovin’ is Easy” made me smile and I think my favorite tune on the album is “Hot Night.”

From “Lovin’ is Easy”:

“I’m in love with you but it’s alright/I fall in love nearly every night and it fills up my heart until I can’t keep it in/so I hope you don’t mind if I say it again.”

It’s time for other happiness news in that the Minneapolis movie in the parks schedule is hot off the presses and “Clueless” is showing on my birthday. The list includes many of the 1980’s and 1990’s classics that are a perfect excuse to get out at dusk during the heydays of summer. Now I can finally see “Space Jam” on the big screen.

And lastly, since I probably won’t write before then, I am headed off to Madison this weekend to see my favorite deadpan man Todd Barry at the Comedy Club on State.

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I have his book ready to be signed and now just have to think of what to say to him. (I also need a purse big enough for it in case I chicken out, which is very likely.) Do I tell him I think it’s cute that he included his cat Sunflower in the acknowledgements or just that I really admire him?

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Should I show him this selfie? There is a good chance I am going to embarrass myself, but it’s going to be great.

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Bye!

 

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Catching up with My Friend Dean

IMG_2081Well I’ve seen four movies in the last two weeks. I guess I really am failing at me trying to be me in 2016 when I was watching the equivalent of a movie a day.

In reality, toward the end of the DLM Challenge, weekends would mean watching several movies in one day and thinking that if things went south during “Sleepwalk With Me” my obit writer from The New York Times could at least lead with “She died doing what she loved.”

For those of you fascinated with The New York Times, (see also “Page One: Inside the New York Times), there is a new documentary with an inside look at the obits department … wait for it … “Obit,” and the process the writers use to have information on those who are still with us at the ready to publish when they become the opposite. Two of the film’s subjects, Bruce Weber and Margalit Fox, were recently interviewed on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Even if you can’t stand her voice like me, it’s a good listen. Good news, “Obit” is coming soon to the Lagoon Cinema and there are several other screenings listed on the film’s website.

I also saw a sold-out screening of “Dean,” Demetri Martin’s first feature film at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Festival.

Judging from the crowd and audience’s reaction, and its festival buzz, this film will make the rounds at independent theaters again this summer.

Martin stars in the film as Dean, a wayward writer coping with his mother’s death and how his father is coping with it by selling the family home. Dean runs away to Los Angeles to work on his book only to find old and new friends and a healthy dose of complicated romance. The mix of sadness and comedy in the film seemed a little uneven at times, to the point where you may forget what the premise of the story is, but maybe that’s the point. Who really wants to think about what’s making them sad when they can go on impromptu road trips and chill at the beach?

The film is also illustrated with Martin’s own drawings to depict Dean’s feelings, which adds to the distance from his struggle with processing mortality (for the viewer) while you see him try to woo Nicky (Gillian Jacobs) at a party in LA.

The mortality theme comes back with full force in the end, ultimately making the whole audience cry, from what I could tell. That said, you may want to watch “Dean” at home and really let it all out. Then you can watch some of his stand-up comedy as a palate cleanser.

I returned to the film festival the next night for a Finnish film “Little Wing” and a Q&A with the lead actress Paula Vesala.

It also stars Linnea Skog as the young girl in the film, Varpu, struggling with her own independence while in some ways taking care of her mother. Varpu defines her independence by stealing a car and driving overnight to find her birth father.

That journey ultimately brings Varpu and her mother closer together. Vesala talked about the music she wrote for the film and the connection between the title “Little Wing” and a Jimi Hendrix song of the same name. Skog, who is 12, won the Finnish Academy Award for her performance and it’s one that deserves more attention in the United States if the film gets distribution here. Unfortunately Vesala said they’ve struggled with video on demand rights and other streaming distribution, but if you can find it I definitely recommend this film. I also listened to the song “Little Wing” today and can see the connection and inspiration between the lyrics and the character of Varpu.

“Well she’s walking through the clouds
With a circus mind
That’s running wild
Butterflies and zebras and moonbeams
And fairly tales

That’s all she ever thinks about

Riding the wind

When I’m sad she comes to me
With a thousand smiles
She gives to me free

It’s alright, she says
It’s alright
Take anything you want from me
Anything

Fly on, little wing.”

The story has a happy ending overall, so you shouldn’t need any comedic relief after watching it.

If you need some anyway try Pete Holmes’ new special on HBO “Faces and Sounds” or Maria Bamford’s “Old Baby” on Netflix.

I ordered a T-shirt I am going to try to incorporate into my wardrobe … not pajamas … just because Bamford’s special is so wonderfully uncomfortable and brilliant comedy.

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I’ve watched “Faces and Sounds” twice now and will again because with Pete Holmes, joy is everywhere.

It’s also the perfect follow up to any episode of season 2 of “Fargo,” or anything from “Breaking Bad” or “The Sopranos” in case you’re still catching up on those. For me, each episode of “Fargo” is 45 minutes of worrying that Jesse Plemons’ character is going to be brutally murdered. Landry Clarke CANNOT Die. Wait, wrong show, but you know what I mean.

Last thing (I am not in the best writing mood today and my usual perfect transitions are just not coming to me) there is a podcast for all of you Fargoheads “Aw Jeez: A Fargo Podcast” that analyzes each episode based on historical accuracy, the actors’ Minnesota accents and a view hidden plot points.

Okay, that is all for today. Bye!

 

 

 

 

I’ve been lost on Kong: Skull Island

IMG_1710.JPGWell, I survived my movie challenge last year and (partially) as a result it’s been eight months since I’ve worked on this blog.

It’s fitting that my writing perch now has a view of my signed Mike Birbiglia poster (taken from the poster sale by a former coworker at the ol’ Edina Cinema) because my last post here was about Birbiglia’s film “Don’t Think Twice.” He did a Q&A about the film after the July 2016 screening at the Lagoon Cinema and, other than his obviously flawless and brilliant response to the questions I kept telling myself I would ask if I had the courage, I remember the breeze of comedic genius as he walked by my aisle seat to the front of the theater. Maybe I’ll meet him someday, but at the same time it’s enough for me to sit and listen and admire that he can sell out huge theaters and at the same time spend weeks touring to different cities doing Q&A’s and teaching improv classes to local comedians.

I could talk and write about him forever, but I didn’t come back here only to gush about Mike Birbiglia.

BUT I could keep going about him … no? Okay fine.

I know you’re all wondering about the side effects of watching 366 movies in one year (you can see the full list here) and I will say (Captain Obvious – be on alert, I’m about to steal your thunder) it’s too many movies and I think I missed some of the impact they would have had if I watched them at the pace of a normal person.

That said, there’s a good chance I would never get around to some of the classics and obscure films I made it through — “It Happened One Night,” “Charade,” “Prayer of the Rollerboys,” and “The Story of Ricky” come to mind.

This brings to mind another side effect of the challenge, any time someone asks me what my favorite or most memorable films are from last year, the answer always changes.

I should just carry my movie notebook around with me so I can consult the list and make sure I am really delivering the goods. (Dating tip: read from your movie, shopping, pet name, dream vacation, etc. list when things get awkward.)

I do have a movie notebook with my list now, which is another benefit of the challenge, although it makes me wish I had kept one all along so I would have a record of everything I’ve seen; and a tool for those extremely awkward date moments — like when a guy says you have nice veins. Um, so have you seen “Working Girl?”

This year, I only have nine movies to refer to compared to 75 by the end of this day last year when I watched “Upstream Color” and “That Touch of Mink.” Don’t ask me what they’re about.

The last movie I saw was “Kong: Skull Island” — mainly to see my girl Brie Larson and my boy Marc Evan Jackson, who delivers some great one-liners — my favorite being “Oh dear.” I can’t give away the context to that line, but just wait until you see it.

Since the beginning of the year I’ve also watched “Jackie,” “Pitch Perfect,” “Julieta,” “20th Century Women,” “Sing,” “Moonlight,” “Split,” “Baby Mama,” and the aforementioned “Kong: Skull Island.”

I knew very little about the film before seeing it and learned, from another former co-worker at the ol’ Edina Cinema when I stopped in there the other day, that the director– Jordan Vogt-Roberts — also made “The Kings of Summer.”

It’s an indie film that didn’t get nearly the attention it deserved, in my opinion, and represents a new trend of those directors breaking into the Hollywood blockbuster world with positive results: witty scripts and comedic actors coupled with special effects and action.

Another example: Colin Trevorrow made “Jurassic World” in addition to “Safety Not Guaranteed,” thus bringing together Chris Pratt, Lauren Lapkus and Jake Johnson and some pesky dinosaurs.

“Kong: Skull Island” has the right mix of action, humor (John C. Reilly) and heart and I hope the trend represented by the work of Vogt-Roberts and Trevorrow (who is making a “Jurassic World” sequel) continues.

As for me and my movie-watching challenge plans for the future, I think it’s to be continued …

I’ll see what I want to see and what I’m in the mood for this year (something I couldn’t always do in 2016) and next year might embark on a challenge of a smaller scale than 366 movies.

There are a lot out there I need and want to see and perhaps I’ll be ready to put some lipstick on and watch a ton of movies, again, by 2018.

Until then, I leave you with this reminder from Paul F. Tompkins to see ‘Kong: Skull Island” and one from me to see “The Kings of Summer.”

Don’t Think Twice

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I knew something would get me out of the blogosphere—or lack thereof for KatyLovesMovies—this  year, if only temporarily.

I stopped writing posts as part of my movie challenge because I thought I could spend that critical time watching other films (not to mention I was struggling to find the creative words to reflect my thoughts  on so many titles before moving on to watch the next one.)

I will get back into blogging in 2017 when I feel like don’t have  to do it and at times I feel inspired to write. Outside of that, this movie challenge has been really fun and I have seen a lot of great films there is a chance I wouldn’t have made it through in my lifetime.

That said I do have some source material I want to reflect on after the delight of being able to listen to Mike Birbiglia talk about his new film, Don’t Think Twice, on Monday at the Lagoon Cinema.

We sat in the front row on the end and Mr. Birbiglia walked right by me on his way to talk with the crowd of hipster Minnesotans, improv artists, movie lovers and the like.

I had the same experience when he talked after a screening of Sleepwalk with Me at the Uptown Theater and then sat in awe pondering whether I could work up the courage to ask a question.

I didn’t even really think about that too much this time, plus I am pretty sure there would be crickets chirping if I asked what I really wanted to know (other than learning the insights into his creative genius.)

Me: “Um, Mr. Birbiglia who would you pick to spend the night with if you were locked in a Target store –similar to the plot of the smash hit Career Opportunities –and why?” (It may come as a shock, but that movie does not hold up now.)

Birbigs: What is Career Opportunities? Could someone please get security?

I did think of one actual serious question during the talk, moderated by Star Tribune critic Colin Colvert.

Luckily for me a bold fellow who asked “What would you have done differently?” led Birbiglia to answer my question –that is after only a brief period of obvious hurt feelings about the question focusing on the film we just watched.  I also wanted to know what he learned about film-making between Sleepwalk With Me and Don’t Think Twice, which he determined the audience member was really asking – just in a passive-aggressive way.

It’s at this point I really wish I brought a notebook, or stolen the one Birbiglia had in is hand during the talk, but I do remember he said he wished he had captured more film and unscripted moments on set of Sleepwalk With Me.

All in all, I loved Don’t Think Twice. (No surprise there.)  I thought it was really well written and something any human at any point in their life could relate to –improv comedian or not. There were some dark moments I did not expect based on the trailer, but I think that’s what actually completed the movie—which also has a good share of humor and is in fact about a group of friends pursuing careers in comedy.

Birbiglia stars as one of the comedians, Miles, alongside Gillian Jacobs, Kate Micucci, Chris Gethard, Tami Sagher and Keegan-Michael Key.

They all work on an improv team together at a theater that is closing down while trying to pursue other comedy aspirations; creating tension in the group. However, they are also brought closer together when dealing with other life struggles from relationships, loss and the like.

During his introduction to the Q&A Monday, Birbiglia said he couldn’t watch the film anymore because “he likes crying, just not every day.”

I kept it together during the film even though a lot of the moments hit home and I was dealing with all the emotions from Birbiglia’s impending appearance after the credits rolled. (In case you missed it, I love comedy and idolize comedians, A LOT.)

I just keep going back to what a delight it was to hear Birbiglia talk and go off on eloquent tangents from the audience’s questions that led to personal stories about his career.

I also don’t remember the first question for Birbiglia, I think it was from Colin Colvert, but his response was how he likes films that are about life and mirror people’s lives and that he sought out to make a film like that with Don’t Think Twice.

He also said, I think stemming from a question about what’s next in his career, that he feels directors and writers in Hollywood often get into a pattern of sorts and do the same thing over and over. He said they often make formulaic films and don’t try anything new, often because they don’t have to in order to get audiences to their films.

Birbiglia said he doesn’t want to do that in his career going forward. He wants to keep his films personal, or as he described in the one direct quote I do remember:  “I want to continue to give you my soul.” It was really heartfelt and shows how much he must love making people laugh and cry through his work. He reflects on that more in a director’s note about Don’t Think Twice.

That’s pretty admirable for an artist and comedian to just put it all out there in a creative work for everyone to see. For me, after much studying of their work and listening to podcasts, I know that’s what comedians do.

They take their personal ups and downs and craft them into what the rest of us can relate to and laugh at, not in a mean way, but because we’ve all been there.

I am grateful to Mike Birbiglia for sharing his work and thoughts behind it and hope people see this film. It is opening at the Lagoon Cinema in Minneapolis and August and other Landmark Theatres throughout the U.S.

“That is all.”

Movie Week in Review: More Spies and Romance and just a little 1980s action flick.

Hey hey all you international people of mystery. I just watched Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery again, taking me back to my high school days and watching it a lot in college, with the added treat of being able to see it on the big screen.

I saw one of my favorite comedians, Kurt Braunholer, at Acme Comedy Club last night and, after making sure to awkwardly introduce myself to him, got the bat signal there would be a midnight screening of the aforementioned Austin Powers at the  ol’ Edina Cinema.

The comedy show and then laughing a lot along with my theater compatriots made for a good night and all-in-all the ingenious Austin Power worth watching again. I have been trying to stay away from repeat watches, but some films warrant a pass this year.

I also watched Can’t Buy Me Love since I last stopped here on the Internet. I wasn’t going to count it in my challenge until it set in again how behind I am. It’s okay though because I think the film is a respectable work among the 1980s classics we all know and love that also delivered McDreamy long before he would be on Grey’s Anatomy for what seemed like decades.

The first season of that show was its best and, while I watched several others, I recommend  Can’t Buy Me Love if you’re in the mood for more Patrick Dempsey.

I also fit in an unknown (to me) 1980s gem, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, this week featuring future TV starlets Sarah Jessica Parker and Helen Hunt as rebellious private school students by day and aspiring “Dance TV” contestants by night.

Janey (Parker) is raised by a military father who installs alarms on their apartment building windows and interrupts her phone calls, but that’s not going to stop her from dancing … especially after she meets Lynne (Hunt.) Lynne encourages Janey to break the rules in order to spend weeks rehearsing in an uncomfortable leotard and the opportunity to be on national television.

Girls Just Want to Have Fun was part of the trifecta of other early-1980s dance films like Flashdance and Footloose and certainly helped set the stage for the genre. It was also a refreshing visit back to the 1980s before Can’t Buy Me Love because I knew little about the film and because now I have several ideas for this year’s Halloween costume.

Moving on, the theme of spies and romance (including Austin Powers) was still part of my selections this week … primarily in Notorious.

The 1946 Alfred Hitchcock film explores politics in near post-World War II society times and the powers of “suave spymaster” (as described in 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die) T.R. Devlin to convince Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) to be his mole on a mission to investigate Nazis in hiding in Argentina.

Huberman, as the daughter on of a convicted traitor, ends up being perfect for the job but is faced with mixed feelings about Devlin’s (Cary Grant) motives and whether she can ultimately trust him.

I love one of the first shots of Devlin in the film as he sits at a party hosted by Huberman not long after her father’s conviction. He is completely in the dark and shadows and, as Alicia sees him come into the light, there is an instant spark leading them on a troubled path to the mission in Argentina and the complications in their relationship.

review625.jpgNotorious is a flawless and brilliant work by Hitchcock as he continued to explore common themes and characters in the film in partnership with regular star Bergman and writer Ben Hecht. They also pushed the boundaries of the production code with the longest on-screen kiss between Alicia and T.R. that brought to light chemistry between Grant and Bergman.

Another film this week, April and the Extraordinary World, pushed cinematic boundaries in terms of its animation style and creativity, at least of what I’ve seen.

I’ll refer you over to a post about the film on Joyless Creatures that says it all in such a way that is as much of an artistic accomplishment as the French film, which specifically explores post-war society survival, invention and family bonds.

My initial reaction to April and the Extraordinary World was that it’s so imaginative and unique in my world of film and now I remain inspired by the story and its style. Plus there is a talking cat to tie it all together.

The Accidental Tourist also has a strong presence of an animal used as a literary tool in the form of Macon Leary’s (William Hurt) troubled Corgi who acts after the death of Leary’s son and divorce from Sarah (Kathleen Turner.)

Enter Muriel (Geena Davis in an Oscar-winning performance) who watches the dog while Leary must travel for work to write his next travel guide for businessmen.

Muriel instantly takes to pursuing Macon, which leads to an up-and-down relationship as he tries to figure things out with Sarah and process the loss of his son. The film is heavier than I thought it would be and centers on the exploration of relationships, loss and family.

There are some humorous undertones and comic relief, although mostly in a deadpan style by all the characters, a classic line being “He ate my turkey and didn’t get sick.”

The Accidental Tourist has been on my list to watch for a while and it must have been fate that a copy was available this week at the library, in addition to the consistent three copies of American Sniper and The Imitation Game.

maxresdefaultAnother fateful encounter at the library was with a lone copy Die Hard, resulting in the fact that “yippee-ki-yay-motherfucker” is now part of my vernacular (or at least my internal monologue.)

That’s obviously one of the most famous one-liners from the 1988 film, but some of my favorites also include “cute toy” when John McClane has to use the computer at his wife’s office building as well as his commentary on terrorists’ shoe sizes and the plight of TV dinners as he worms his way through a heating vent trying to find Hans Gruber.

“You bet your ass I wish to proceed.”

The special effects in Die Hard alone set it apart in the world of cinema and action movies, especially for 1988, and certainly increased Bruce Willis’ star factor.

I think Die Hard, even having just seen it, holds up and has universal appeal. I may be partial to independent films and have a weakness for romantic comedies, but Die Hard really has it all.

Yeah baby. (Too bad that also wasn’t one of John McClane’s lines.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Movie Week in Review: Music Royalty

Hey hey.

I’ve decided to take a new approach to this challenge and not blog about every movie right after I see it. I obsess too much about my blog posts, to the point where it may be detrimental to my writing and sanity, so instead I will attempt to write weekly recaps about my movie adventures.

My decision is also based on the fact that I need to spend more time watching movies and get caught up in this race. It hasn’t worked so far, but I think it will help on the weekends when I am watching four or five movies and won’t need to pause to express my critical non-genius on the Internet.

This week in watching ended up being largely focused on films with a connection to music, including Presenting Princess Shaw, Saturday Night Fever, Born to Be Blue and the most classic of them all Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.

I missed the opportunity to see the director’s cut of Walk Hard Sunday when my manager screened it at the theater, the trouble being it was at midnight and I was movied-out that day (I wish that wasn’t a thing.) I just rented it on Netflix, the non-director’s cut, but definitely could deal with another hour or so of Dewey Cox this year when I have the time. I did fulfill my original plan for Sunday to watch Born to Be Blue and Walk Hard as a double feature and, while one is a strict biopic drama and the other is a complete farce, they are both brilliant and a perfect pairing.

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Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker

I thought Born to Be Blue might be my new Whiplash (which I saw three times in the theater) this year and it did have the same effect of completely taking me into the story of the characters and the music. If I had the time, I know could watch Born to Be Blue over and over.

Born to Be Blue is a true story, depicting Chet Baker in his 40s and later in his career, with Ethan Hawke completely transforming into his character and persona. I didn’t even know I was watching him on screen most of the time, that’s how good he is in this film. Born to Be Blue is clearly a passion project for Hawke and director and writer Robert Budreau. Hawke even wanted to play Baker in a movie by Richard Linklater 20 years ago, but the project didn’t get off the ground. Hawke, in a Village Voice interview, said he’s felt like he’s been thinking about playing Baker in a movie for 20 years. That explains, perhaps, how he completely embodies Baker on screen. I didn’t even know much about Baker in real life but felt the opposite immediately upon seeing Hawke with trumpet in hand and crooning at Birdland in New York City. Hawke performs with a stylistically beautiful film in his background, juggling between color and black and white and different moments in Baker’s later life after he loses his front teeth and has to find a way to play the trumpet again. It seems he was happy in the end, but there was always a looming tone of sadness and heartbreak throughout the film — fitting with the final line by Hawke “Born to Be Blue.” (It doesn’t have spoilers, really, but after you see this film I definitely recommend listening to Hawke’s interview with Marc Maron on WTF.)

Whether you need some cheering up after Born to Be Blue or not, a good follow up is Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. It presents the perfect parody of music biopics without being too silly and the comedic writing (Judd Apatow and Jake Kasdan- also the director) was top-notch in my book. It mostly follows a similar story to that of Johnny Cash in Walk the Line but crosses over with applicable themes that are in most biopics: tragedy , addiction, death, career ups-and-downs, love and of course rising above challenges. Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly), the oldest looking 14-year-old ever, has a quick rise in his career even though he has no sense of smell and goes on spiral that every young pop star with a hit like “Take My Hand” is expected to have. Walk Hard hits all the right notes (sorry had to say it) and has so many good cameos, the scene with The Beatles has to be my favorite, and shows Reilly’s continued comedic genius alongside a cast of Jenna Fischer, Kristen Wiig, Tim Meadows, Matt Besser, Chris Parnell and so many other Saturday Night Live and improv comedy stars.

To conclude, okay I am nowhere near being done, I also watched Saturday Night Fever (a 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die recommendation) with John Travolta. I was mostly surprised about how dark the film is. It’s more a coming-of-age story about family and friendship with the 1970s Brooklyn disco scene in the background than an exploration of that era and dancing than I thought it was.

Travolta (Tony) spends his days at a paint store and nights at the disco club breaking in his platforms and bell bottoms until he realizes he really wants to dance all the time. He switches his days to the studio practicing with an older woman, Stephanie, to enter a disco competition. Tony smokes while dancing and is always in his skin tight silk shirt and bell bottoms while Stephanie is ready to work in the most uncomfortable-looking leotard. Those moments focus on the dance and bring you into the 1970s, but the film really is more about the characters at transitional moments in their lives they release through breaking out their boogie shoes until it all becomes too much. Gosh that does sound really dark, but it just is that type of film.All-in-all Saturday Night Fever somehow successfully bridges the gap between exploring a significant era in pop culture history and delivering a character-driven drama.

While it’s a documentary that may never have the fame of Saturday Night Fever, Presenting Princess Shaw could be known in that way years from now. I saw the film during the Minneapolis St. Paul Film Festival this week followed by a  Q&A and after party with Princess Shaw herself.

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Princess Shaw

Princess Shaw, aka Samantha, grew up in Chicago with a rough childhood and moved to New Orleans as an adult. There she works with patients in nursing home, often singing to them, and at home makes YouTube videos of her songs. Across the world in Israel, Kutiman explores YouTube for musician’s work to make “mashups” between instrumentation and vocals. He comes across Princess Shaw’s work, including one video where she says she is looking for a beat to go with it, and the rest is history. It’s not so much about a “YouTuber” being discovered as it is a connection between two kindred spirits across the world and how success can come in unexpected ways to the most deserving people like Samantha. She graciously answered the audience’s questions after the film and it is evident she just wants to make her music, live her life and doesn’t expect any fame from it. I learned more about that listening to her talk at the after party. My friend and I sat at a big open table only to be bombarded by board members from MSPIFF and I was one seat away from Samantha. She is humble and again gracious in answering the board member’s questions, mostly about what YouTube is and if the story about how she and Kutiman found each other was authentic or “reenacted.” It was a little uncomfortable for me (mostly because of my self-diagnosed mid-30s social anxiety and awkwardness) as more and more board members crowded our table and I couldn’t get a word in edge-wise when I wanted to ask Samantha a question. BUT when they calmed down a bit and took a break to complain about the deejay being too loud I did ask her what her favorite movie is. The answer: Zombieland because of Bill Murray’s cameo role.

I like that. A lot.

It was a honor to be in the presence of Princess Shaw’s music royalty this week, even though she probably wouldn’t describe it that way, she is really a star in life and I admire her. The film will be out soon on Amazon, iTunes and the like and you must see it.

Okay folks, that is all. I did obsess about this blog quite a bit but once a week should be manageable.

“I think a healthy dose of doubt makes you better.”

Gary Oldman on Nerdist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

89 of 366: What a Way to Go!

What_a_Way_to_Go_0Shirley MacLaine is fierce in What a Way to Go! This is a term I can’t really get away with saying in real life while wearing my cardigans and jeans and, while it certainly wasn’t in the common vernacular circa 1964, it fits MacLaine’s portrayal of Louisa May Foster and her extensive costumes in the film.

Foster is a woman seeking a simple life and a husband who wants the same, but each time she tries said husband lets a quest for money and riches get the better of him and she ends up a widow — four times.

There is the, at first, humble shop owner Edgar (Dick Van Dyke); the eccentric artist Larry (Paul Newman); the millionaire tycoon Rod (Robert Mitchum); and finally the showstopping Pinky Benson (Gene Kelly.)

Yes some of those characters have money, but they didn’t let it get to their head until Foster entered the picture, making her think she is cursed.

Foster recalls her failed marriages – by death and riches – to her psychiatrist over the course of the film and each story is played out throughout the world and different lifestyles. Foster even imagines how each of her marriages would be portrayed in Hollywood, such as a silent film, French romance or lavish musical.

The film is funny and delivers through the on-screen chemistry between MacLaine and each leading man. That said, she is definitely the star of the show while rocking and all pink gown with a Chinchilla fur coat one minute and overalls and big hair the next.

It was a long path for Foster to get there, but she does find happiness in the end — just in the most unexpected place and with the most unexpected person.

Money isn’t everything and love conquers all, at least in the world of Louisa May Foster Hopper Flint Anderson Benson and …

 

79 of 366: Hannah and Her Sisters

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imdb.com

I am in desperate need of artwork for the walls in my apartment. Luckily, I just watched Hannah and Her Sisters and now have one of those lovely pieces with red yarn, thumbtacks and note cards I used to try and connect the characters and their ongoing love triangle.

It’s not that complex really, but I found myself obsessed with who was courting who as Woody Allen’s vignette about three sisters, Hannah, Holly and Lee and their romantic lives and careers played out.

Hannah (Mia Farrow) is married to Elliot (Michael Caine), who becomes interested in her sister Lee (Barbara Hershey).

“God, she is beautiful,” Elliot says of Holly in the intro of the film before a Thanksgiving dinner with the family.

Hannah is also divorced from Mickey (Woody Allen) who wants to rekindle his relationship with the third sister, Holly (Dianne Wiest.)

“Love is really unpredictable.” – Mickey

Allen’s film, an Oscar winner for best screenplay as well as supporting actor and actress for Wiest and Caine, is a wonderfully neurotic and poetic telling of romance and family relationships set against the backdrop of mid-1980s New York.

He uses music consistently in the film, often jazz, yet one of my favorite scenes starts with a 1980s rock concert date between Mickey and Holly.

They try to reconnect on the date, but it’s clear Mickey doesn’t fit in as Holly does just a little cocaine and chastises him for all his quirks.

“Why are you making those faces? … I cannot communicate with you, I never knew you were such a tight ass.” — Holly

Mickey takes Holly to a place a little more his tempo, a jazz concert, in the next scene. Of course she feels out of place, showing it by continuing to use cocaine, smoke and drink among people she says wouldn’t realize it because they’re embalmed.

“You don’t deserve Cole Porter, you should stay with those groups that look like they’re going to stab their mothers,” Mickey responds as they leave the concert.

It’s as much of a humorous moment as it is revealing of the characters, a theme throughout the scenes in the film. The scenes are split by one word or a quote as script on the screen, often connected to the character they focus on as they search for happiness in love and their careers as well.

“The only absolute knowledge attainable by man is that life is meaningless,” Tolstoy.

Hannah and Her Sisters has the standards of a Woody Allen film with a bookend going back to the family’s Thanksgiving dinner and a reunion between the seemingly mismatched Mickey and Holly in a record store — often a location for love connections in film.

“I think it’s lucky I ran into you, maybe.”

I loved the ending and conclusion of all the separate stories in one final short scene showing the paths the characters went on weren’t all that bad and that, maybe, what’s meant to be will happen.

 

 

 

76 of 366: Hello, My Name is Doris

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imdb.com

Hello, My Name is Doris is a film I would say is not entirely what it seems. If you watch the trailer (I recommend you don’t because they often ruin the whole movie and/or create false expectations) it appears to be a quirky comedy about an older woman who pursues a younger man she works with and nothing beyond that. That is in fact a main plot point of the film, but director and writer Michael Showalter and writer Laura Terruso take that story to a deeper level to present a heartwarming, sad and yes sometimes comedic character study of Doris (Sally Field.)

According to an interview with Michael Showalter and Sally Field on Nerdist, he wanted her to star as the title character and her involvement in the film was critical to getting it made.

Doris lives on Staten Island and works in the city where one day she meets John, her company’s new art director from California. Having just lost her mother and continuing a lifetime of putting herself aside for other people, Doris meeting John (Max Greenfield) is an awakening that, while misdirected for a while, takes her to a new point in her life she has been wanting to get to for a long, long time.

It’s not just their meeting, but a friendship, that movies Doris forward even as she takes a few missteps along the way and misconstrues what is happening with John.

I think that had to happen for Doris and I also think, bridging the gap between cinema and real life for a second, most people will find some way to relate to Doris, and even John, as they experience love and loss all with a good share of social awkwardness in the background.

Hello, My Name Is Doris is a simple story that maybe has been done before in some form or another, but together Showalter, Terruso, Field and Greenfield take it to another level.

I think it’s how they used just enough restraint in the situations Doris faces with John combined with an imaginative look at the many facets of her character to balance who she was and who she becomes that makes this film and story work.

Field, as an established actress with an admirable library of work in her career, explores something new in Doris and didn’t let anything hold her back while showing the character during her high and low moments.

I really think anyone can appreciate this film, including scholars of the subject, comedy nerds and anyone in between.

It will also stand the test of time, I think, or as Doris says about her aged duck sauce in the fridge, “It keeps!”

For complete lack of a better phrase, don’t judge a book by its cover with Hello, My Name is Doris. It will surprise you, make you laugh and look at your own life through the eyes of Doris. If you don’t take away any life lessons from this story, at least consider a fashion tip or two from Doris.

She’s a baller.

 

 

 

75 of 366: That Touch of Mink

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imdb.com

Cary Grant is certainly the epitome of a leading man, and the moment he is introduced to Doris Day’s character, Cathy Timberlake, in That Touch of Mink proves why but I didn’t care for the dynamic of their relationship from that point on in the film much less its depiction of gender roles.

I should take into account the date of the film, 1962, but Cathy’s transition from meeting Philip Shane (Grant) for the purpose of confronting him about splashing her with his car as he drove by on the street in New York to being completely smitten and willing to do anything to win his heart just didn’t go over well with me.

Philip is a wealthy businessman who can give Cathy anything she wants and a taste of his lifestyle or “a touch of mink” as he buys her fancy clothes and takes her on a trip to Bermuda. But what she doesn’t get is respect or the acknowledgment that she is more than a side piece for Philip and even worse Cathy mostly gives into it.

Perhaps it was supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek commentary about gender roles in society at the time, but I think things have changed so much it’s hard for me to see the film in that way.

Cathy is on her way to the unemployment office when she meets Philip and then was supposed to go to a job interview. Instead, she ends up chasing after him and he just strings her along with the promise of a marriage proposal.

I understand the film is supposed to be a comedy and Day even made a series of films with a similar premise and character, but the “humor” of it all only goes so far in my opinion.

Stylistically, I enjoy the theatrics of the classic films I’ve seen so far this year and That Touch of Mink does have strong points in that regard with its costumes and scenes in New York. It also has solid writing, despite the flaws in its themes and the actual dialogue between Cathy and Philip. Day and  Grant work well together, but their on-screen chemistry wasn’t enough to offset the imbalance in their relationship dynamic.

The film is built with undertones that you’re supposed to want Cathy and Philip to be together and that theme, even for the sake of comedy, doesn’t work when his character mostly degrades women and doesn’t see anything beyond a darling in need of being rescued.

Emily V. Gordon is back today:

“You do not have the responsibility to change yourself in order to meet your partner’s needs. You can make a choice to change if you are able and would like to. And note: this goes both ways. The person you are dating is not the perfected version you see in your head; the person you are dating is the person in front of you.”