Category Archives: drama

Movie Week in Review: From The Fog to Love

There were some flops last week as part of my movie challenge.

fog_poster_06It started out strong with John Carpenter’s The Fog, a film I knew little about but enjoyed both for its visual effects and solid scares. The film, based on a fable about shipwrecked—possibly murdered—men who attack the village of Antonio Bay on the 100-year anniversary of their death, builds slowly but it was an effective style choice.

As the Antonio Bay residents anticipate the anniversary, a green, thick fog approaches the village. By the time the fog is in full force, and night falls, the victims are only able to see glimpses of the disfigured monsters as they seek revenge for what happened 100 years ago.

Carpenter’s score, much like in Halloween, completes the fear factor in the film.

A test of a good horror film, in my opinion, is how often you think of it after the fact or feel the need to check if the door is locked or, even worse, if there is a mangled monster hiding in your closet. In other words, if a film has the power to send you back to age 10 and to thinking checking the closet or under your bed at nightfall is going to help you survive – it passes the test for me. Films are all about imagination and The Fog—again with its fable influence—is a creative story with just the right amount of fright that holds up today.

The Fog and Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief (now streaming on Netflix) are loosely connected in the strength of their visual styles. In fact, a rarity for Hitchcock, I think the visuals of To Catch a Thief are one of its stronger points over the script and acting. Hitchcock, at least the films I’ve seen so far, usually presents a triple threat but some components of To Catch a Thief faltered a bit. Cary Grant, as a retired jewel thief bumbling away at his French villa, and Grace Kelly as a tourist who takes to him (and wants to solve a mystery behind missing diamonds) shine together on screen. It’s hard to top that but, given that the film won an Oscar for best cinematography, its stylistic points to depict the mystery burglar and capture the beautiful French countryside were more memorable components of this Hitchcock picture.

Other than the wonderful Ali: Fear Eats the Soul,  which I found by happenstance at the library, the memorable moments from the films I watched last week dwindled a bit after To Catch a Thief.

I’ll save Ali: Fear Eats the Soul for last so as to end a high note, but Margaret and Urban Cowboy presented some dark times for me last week in cinematic history. Maybe I’m being a little over dramatic but not as much as Anna Paquin in her role as entitled teenager Lisa after she witnesses, or possibly causes, a horrific bus accident in New York City in Margaret.

I am still kind of baffled about how a strong cast of Paquin, Mark Ruffalo and Matt Damon (although his role is small and he can be blamed for nothing wrong in this world) can deliver such forced performances that lack any depiction of real emotion. The film is nearly three hours long and I stuck with it hoping their character depictions would improve, with no such luck. Paquin and Ruffalo, as the bus driver, have the biggest roles and lack any real tension even as they are at odds with each other about what happened on the day of the accident.  At one point in the film it seemed like some of the actors with smaller roles knew how bad it was and just flubbed through their lines on purpose. It was almost like watching one take of the movie being made live and they had to release whatever they made it through. I hope to find other people who saw Margaret, and made it beyond the violent bus accident scene, to know if I am just imagining how bad it was or if there is a different take on the film that I am missing.

The same is the case for Urban Cowboy, starring John Travolta, because I didn’t even watch the last 20 minutes. I tried, but the last hour of the film really went downhill, in my opinion. The first hour delivered what I expected as far as a 1980s story of a rural man moving to the big city to ultimately do the same things he did before with the addition of falling in love and getting married. It was like a less-serious Saturday Night Fever with nowhere near the depth and strength in it’s story but, at least at first, entertaining nonetheless. Someday I’ll have to watch those 20 minutes to technically count it in my challenge, but for now I don’t feel like I missed much.

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, however, redeemed my week of ups and downs as a perfect, unexpected love story between a Moroccan migrant worker and a German woman 20-years his senior after they meet at a bar. The description on the library DVD sounded interesting, but I had no idea the film is so well regarded or that it is so wonderful.

It’s a simple story made deeper with its commentary on culture and society shown through the responses of Emmi and Ali’s friends and family to their unlikely relationship. Stylistically, not counting teh dialogue and music, it was beautiful to watch the camera angles that provided a voyeuristic view into the characters’ lives. Of all the movies I watched last week, I definitely recommend Ali: Fear Eats the Soul. We could all use something unexpected in our lives now and then.

“Is all that we see or seem

But a dream within a dream?”

Edgar Allan Poe

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.

born-to-be-blue-14833-large
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.

princess_shaw_promo1
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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

92 and 93 of 366: Five Easy Pieces and Carol

I AM SO BEHIND ON THIS CHALLENGE!

I feel better now after venting just a little, but if anyone has the power to stop time so I can catch up on my movies, please please please let me know.

I did watch two movies over the weekend; please hold your applause, Carol and Five Easy Pieces.

carol

I still can’t get the visual and audible elements from Carol, including the costumes, music and exterior scenery of 1950s New York, out of my mind.

Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara carry the film with a strong supporting cast of Kyle Chandler and Sarah Paulson but, even with its elements of conflict, romance and drama, the pace was a little slow.

Those elements make for dynamic story but I am still left with the feeling that not a lot happened in the film, and I’m not sure why.

Blanchett plays Carol Aird, who is married to Harge (Chandler), and they have a daughter together. It’s not long into the film when Carol meets Therese (Mara) while Christmas shopping at the store she works at and they develop a relationship. Carol has dated women before and her new relationship further angers her husband and shows how society reacted to same-sex relationships in that era. It is also an impetus for Harge to keep their daughter away from Carol and he goes to all lengths to prove her infidelity.

Therese, an aspiring photographer, is less tied down than Carol, but she does have a boyfriend Richard (Jake Lacy), who she knows she doesn’t want to be with forever. It’s either her sexuality or lack of love for him specifically, or both that causes their relationship to end, especially when she meets Carol.

Carol presents the themes of not only sexuality and the acceptance of it decades ago but also those of love and passion and what people will do when those feelings come into play.

The film, directed by Todd Haynes and based on The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, is overall told in a flashback after one glimpse of Carol and Therese together. That style of the film, in my opinion, resulted in an ending that felt a little flat and predictable as far as how relationships that are considered forbidden are portrayed in cinema.

Carol is worth seeing for the visual elements and acting but, although I haven’t read it, perhaps Highsmith’s book is the more complete of the two versions of the story.

five

I also felt Five Easy Pieces, while Jack Nicholson is amazing in it and I could watch him act all day long was a little slow-paced despite the performances, visuals and music.

Music is a key part of the film given that Nicholson plays a classical pianist-turned oil rigger, Robert Eroica Dupea,  who returns to his hometown to visit his ailing father and other family.

It’s known as a standout performance for Nicholson in his career after his supporting role in Easy Rider, which I still need to see, but that was the primary high point of the film for me.

It could be the time that has passed since it was released that took away from the film for me, but I did somehow still feel connected to the depiction of the 1970s middle-America despite not having been born yet

Five Easy Pieces maybe didn’t make Nicholson’s career in its entirety, I’ll decide on that after I see as many of his movies that I can this year, but it is a part of the puzzle that makes him one of my heroes and best actors today. Even if there were other people in the scenes, Nicholson’s character was always the focus in the film — from when he plays a piano on a truck stuck in traffic to the more intimate, and heartbreaking, moments when he sees his Dad after many years.

The ending was similar to that of Carol in that there was some uncertainty about the future of the characters and their relationships, but I think it was a more effective choice in Five Easy Pieces given Robert’s establishment as a loner and independent spirit.

There isn’t much audio in the end of the film, leaving me to imagine Robert saying (to quote Mr. Dana Gould in his latest podcast episode, Look Back in Langour) “All I … want is solitude and Fritos.”

 

90 of 366: Glengarry Glen Ross (and a surprise.)

ross
Kevin Spacey and Jack Lemmon.

Well I now know I could not work in a real estate office after watching Glengarry Glen Ross this week. All the phone calls to try to get sales and Alec Baldwin yelling, not to mention constant pouring rain, would just be too stressful for me.

It was even a little stressful just watching the movie, which shows the skill of David Mamet (who also wrote the play it’s based on) and director James Foley to make the grind of a highly competitive — and shady — real estate office feel, well, real.

Baldwin is only in one scene early in the film, in which he rails on the real estate team about the “leads” they need to pursue and sets to tone for the anxiety and stress I was talking about. His speech ultimately causes the characters to go to all lengths to make their sales quota and get to work on the best leads.

Kevin Spacey is the boss of the office, John Williamson, who controls the leads his team receives only if they are successful on other sales; presenting a true psychological test of their will and trust between all the characters.

At first the team, Shelley “The Machine” Levene (Jack Lemmon); Ricky Roma (Al Pacino); George Aaronow (Alan Arkin); and Dave Moss (Ed Harris); seems simply earnest to do their work but it doesn’t take long for some to turn on each other and the office as a whole to get their hands on the best leads.

As the rain continues and the characters toggle their time between the office, the restaurant across the street, phone booths and house calls to customers seemingly at all hours of the night, it is eventually robbed and causes an investigation into who on the team could be responsible.

While there were several more locations in the film than could be used in a stage production, it still felt like a play to me with the intense focus on individual characters in various scenes and their dialogue.

The intensity only builds throughout the film until a final showdown between Shelley and John that exemplifies another of its strong points; the acting. Lemmon especially had a stand-out role because of the mystery of his character, but the entire cast had performances that made it hard to pick a favorite.

Glengarry Glen Ross has many layers that make it a solid play-turned-film and just remember, “Coffee is for closers.”

ricky
The Story of Ricky

I also watched a surprise film this week as movie #91 thanks to what may be my new favorite thing at my new favorite place, Tape Freaks at the Trylon Microcinema.

The hosts pick a film each month based on a theme and give away clues on their blog leading up to the screening. This month’s was a movie you know based on seeing clips on YouTube. I couldn’t think of anything that would be, and didn’t know about the clue factor until I went to my first Tape Freaks screening, so I was truly surprised. The chosen presentation was Riki Oh: The Story of Ricky, a 1991 martial arts film about a man in prison using his superpowers, essentially, to fight rival prisoners and guards for the greater good.

Ricky’s powers allow him to severely injure or kill fellow prisoners, even without weapons, and any wounds he sustains will heal so he can continue to fight the injustice in prison. It is a combination of campy/gratuitous violence that overall turns the film more into a dark comedy within the horror and action genre.

It was fun to have no idea what I was in for with Tape Freaks and The Story of Ricky is such a film that, even if you plan to watch it one day, it pushes the boundaries to present an unexpected, entertaining story.

That is all for now.

“And it ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe.
It will never do anyhow.”

Bob Dylan – Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright.

 

 

 

 

81 of 366: Listen Up Philip

philip
imdb.com

It didn’t take long for me to realize I had to look past the idea that Listen Up Philip would be a film centered on the title character (Jason Schwartzman) truly isolated at a cabin in upstate New York as he awaited publication of his second novel and did not interact with anyone else for most of the story.

I also had to look beyond Schwartzman’s impeccable ability to grow a beard and focus on the fact that, while the story does build to Philip knowing it’s best he stay alone, he doesn’t distance himself from other characters while getting to that point.

The plot of the film, written and directed by Alex Ross Perry, starts as Philip wants to focus on himself and he is invited to stay at the cabin of his literary hero Ike (Jonathan Pryce). However, what Philip really seems to do is embark on a character exploration that must include those close to him as a way to validate his self obsession — especially in scenes where he is convinced his girlfriend will take him back.

The story is told visually, often with jittery camera work focusing in on a character’s face, actions, or both, and in a literary tone as narrator (Eric Bogosian) describes inner monologues of the characters as they go about interacting with each other.

The narration brought the film to the level of Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums came to mind) and the neurotic points of the plot reflected an homage to Woody Allen.

It was an interesting style choice, especially to show how well-written the film is, but I thought it would be more effective for Philip to be truly alone for awhile before he went on a self discovery mission connecting with past ex-girlfriends and ultimately shutting out anyone close to him.

Philip’s presentation as a loner was almost too blatant and there wasn’t anything left to interpret or guess as far as his true goal in life or even the reasons he had that goal.

Schwartzman played Philip well, despite the shortcomings in the development of his character, and I found his scenes with Ashley  (Elisabeth Moss) during the course of their relationship to be the most telling of who he is besides a writer who wants to be alone.

Overall. Listen  Up Philip is a strong visual presentation about a writer’s life and quest to be alone, the path to get there was just a little disjointed for me.

“There’s many reasons we are what we’ve become. I’m going through changes, ripping out pages. I’m going through changes now.”

Langhorne Slim & The Law – Changes

 

 

 

79 of 366: Hannah and Her Sisters

hannah
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.

 

 

 

77 of 366: Your Sister’s Sister

Hey hey, happy Flashback Friday. Is that a thing or just for people who missed celebrating Throwback Thursday?

sistersIn any case, here is an old picture of my sister Carla and I from Spring of 1982 at our old house on Springdale Court.

I am also celebrating Flashback Friday by going back to movie 77 of my quest to watch 366 this year, Your Sister’s Sister.

I am hurting a bit by not writing about the film after I saw it. Even though I take notes, my feelings about a film is hard to express days later.

sisterssister
imdb.com

What has continued to be on my mind about it, however, is the ending. There was one moment when I thought it was going to end and then one more short scene after that took it away from a predictable conclusion to the story.

I enjoyed the film up until that point anyway but the last addition to the plot was effective to conclude a story focused on character development, family relationships, love and loss.

There are only three main characters in the film, written and directed by Lynn Shelton, Iris and Hannah, who are sisters, and Jack.

Jack (Mark Duplass) is Iris’s (Emily Blunt) best friend and Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt) is her sister.

Jack, at the suggestion of Iris, decides to spend some time alone at her family’s cabin after his brother dies.

Hannah has the same plan, going to the cabin after a tough break up, leaving the two lost souls together in a time when they planned to be alone.

They have a drunken night together only to be visited the next day by Iris, who decides to go check on Jack, and possibly express her romantic feelings for him.

Each character went to the cabin for their own reasons, but they end up discovering as much about themselves as they do about their dynamic together with a good share of challenges along the way.

Having only three characters presented a solid platform for focusing on the individuals as much as their relationships together as their feelings and life decisions were tested in a concentrated environment.

I feel like I’m being a little vague here but there were some surprises in Your Sister’s Sister, in addition to the ending, that took the well-written and developed film to a more mysterious level open to interpretation by the viewer.

With that, here’s a quote for today from a randomly-selected page in Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses.

“We shall see what fate has in store for us, won’t we?

I thought you didn’t believe in fate.

She waved her hand. It’s not so much that I don’t believe in it. I don’t subscribed to its nomination. If fate is the law then is fate also subject to the law? At some point we cannot escape naming responsibility. It’s in our nature. Sometimes I think we are all like that myopic coiner at his press, taking the blind slugs one by one from the tray, all of us bent so jealously at our work, determined that not even chaos be outside of our own making.”

 

 

 

 

74 of 366: Upstream Color

 

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erbpfilm.com

Upstream Color is a beautifully experimental film exploring man’s relationship with nature and at the same time human relationships and love. From there, the film honestly was difficult to understand and, from the brief commentaries I’ve read, it’s supposed to be that way.

Shane Carruth’s (Primer) film festival darling starts with a woman infected with a parasite in her blood stream and evolves from there to a story of survival, independence and the themes I mentioned above, if you choose to interpret it that way.

Carruth, in addition to writing and directing the film, stars in it as Jeff, who later falls in love with the infected woman, Kris.

The film takes a turn from the plot about Kris to their relationship and fight against the world, but there are many other subplots going on that I know fit, but again, didn’t comprehend.

It’s actually a film that I feel okay about not understanding because I think it’s meant to be experienced as a visual film as much as it is a literary exploration of some deep ideas bordering on science fiction.

Carruth effectively balances science fiction with a story about love and presents a project you can appreciate at any level. I think it’s a film worth watching again, for people who have the time (not me), to experience what other themes and meanings stand out without reading any of the analysis available in many places on the Internet first.

Henry David Thoreau’s Walden has a strong presence in the film, both in readings by Kris’ character and physical copies in many scenes. That, combined with many scenes in and about nature, presented the theme that exploring how humans fit into nature was one of Carruth’s ideas.

If you want to dig deeper, Indiewire has a cheat sheet on Upstream Color (I only skimmed it before writing this post) that would be worth reading as well whether you watch the film one or 10 times.

Overall, I like the choose your own adventure style of Upstream Color. Its story is piecemeal and, as I said, can be interpreted at any level of depth and intensity you like or just taken at face value as visually mesmerizing artwork expressing the magic of film and storytelling.

 

 

73 of 366: Southpaw

southpaw
imdb.com

I’m trying to decide if Southpaw is more than just another boxing movie or if I believe that it is because I really wanted it to break out of that mold and the standard plot points of sports movies focusing on themes of redemption and revenge.

My expectations were probably too high after seeing Creed, but Southpaw does have the selling point of Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance as Billy Hope that I tried to focus on over its clichés, especially that scene leading up to the big fight, game, dance routine (for all you Step Up fans), etc.

Creed has them too: the slow motion shots of a boxer jumping rope, the obligatory scene of him running through the city streets in a hoodie, perhaps with rap music playing the background, taping up his hands … I could go on.

Creed is perhaps a better movie because of the back story of its main characters and connection to Rocky, but its plot and that of Southpaw really aren’t all that different.

Southpaw, however, does stray in its format a little bit as it presents a top dog to underdog back to top dog development of Hope’s character and career as a boxer while Adonis Johnson in Creed doesn’t have quite as many ups and downs.

I’ll stop comparing the two other than to say both films also feature and focus on their boxer trying to find a new trainer, in Hope’s case it’s Tick Wills (Forrest Whitaker) who is hesitant to take on a new protégé.

Before Hope and Wills meet, he loses almost everything he had going for him in his life and is seeking redemption to get back what is left of his family and career.

The trailer for the film unfortunately spoils what happens to Hope but I won’t here because I think not knowing would have added a little more to the viewing experience.

The pivotal scene that sends Hope on his redemption quest is one of the many in the film that exemplifies Gyllenhaal’s performance and acting skills.

Plain and simple, Gyllenhaal is a good crier and can bring the emotion to any scene effectively (maybe it’s those puppy dog eyes) and the showing of the loss he experiences early on in the film made me think of that moment where Brad Pitt’s character just loses it in Legends in the Fall. You know what I’m talking about, or I hope you do because I’m about to admit the fact that I used to rewind the movie and watch that scene over and over again like a total weirdo. Boy it feels good to get that off my chest after all these years although I really just want to delete this whole paragraph. Would the redeemed Billy Hope do that? No, I think he would say you just have to accept who you are and move on.

Which, thank goodness, brings me back to Southpaw. I’ve actually been watching the final fight scene as I type this (I need to watch four movies before I work today to catch up on my challenge), and it unfortunately takes away from how Gyllenhaal carried the film with his performance by delivering a completely expected ending.

The fight is redemption for Hope and his family life, but it’s mainly just a final cliché moment synonymous with boxing films that took Southpaw down a notch for me.

I didn’t have a fitting quote connected to Southpaw to end this, so I picked a book on my shelf and turned to the first page in the first chapter.

“A man’s alter ego is nothing more than his favorite image of himself.”

Catch Me If You Can.