Tag Archives: Gillian Jacobs

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!

 

 

 

 

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Don’t Think Twice

dont-think-twice

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.”