“If you are going to tell the story, then tell it right.”

Catching-up with some films at the end of the year proved a confusing and frustrating endeavor.  Three films in particular failed to stand out due to problems with focus or their handling of the truth.

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SPOTLIGHT seems to be a movie that is about the wrong story.  Granted the film’s focus is on the “Spotlight” team of reporters, but their’s is not the important story that needs to be told.  Scenes of interviews of the abused are hackneyed and undramatic. What works and what the films needs more of are scenes in the affected community, such a when Brian d’Arcy James’ character realizes there is a safe house around the corner from his own home. The scenes with Rachel Addams grandmother rang true as well. Unfortunately little else raised SPOTLIGHT above an average TV movie of the week.

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TRUTH, about the Dan Rather scandal at CBS, strikes me as another film at odds with itself.  At times it seems to desperately want to portray Mary Mapes as not responsible for the debacle in the News department. But facts are facts and the facts at CBS were wrong. The aftermath was hardly surprising and someone had to pay. Redford is wonderful as Rather and shows what just a little bit of nuance can go a long way to establish character.  Blanchett is technically brilliant as Mapes but is hampered by the writing and the film’s arbitrary tone.

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THE BIG SHORT is another film that ask it’s audience to eat a turd and pretend they like it. Neither pitched as a satire or a black comedy the film just expects the viewer to be aghast and that is supposed to be enough on which to hang a movie. Through all its noise and bad wigs, THE BIG SHORT ultimately says nothing about these vile people and the worldwide effect they had on the economy.  Making miscreants palatable is not art, or at least not in this case.

Exposure and concern only go so far and as they say,”If you are going to tell the story, then tell it right.”

 

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Louis CK’s HORACE AND PETE

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Louis CK’s HORACE AND PETE is the much needed, and somewhat delayed, artistic kick start to 2016 . Perhaps the muses were too busy mourning the loss of so many great artists at the beginning of the year. They finally realized it was the time for something new.

HORACE AND PETE is hard to pin down. It deals with extremely serious issues such as mental illness, family loyalty, abandonment, turrets, gentrification, adultery. It’s hard to know what to think at times. Nothing Louis CK has done prior has prepared us for his newest offering. The key here is the show’s humanity. It helps to make the characters more palatable and ultimately recognizable. There is an odd combination of the spontaneous and the mundane that recalls real life.

Currently there is no better cast than on HORACE AND PETE. Who could have ever imagined Jessica Lange or Alan Alda to be on a show with Louis CK.  Neither actor plays a typical TV character and both seem to revel inhabiting these fully drawn souls. Lange seems to only get better in her career and was sorely missed on last season of AMERICA HORROR STORY. Alda all but steals the show as the foul mouthed bar keep. His work here reminds me of his stage work which is stellar. The rest of the cast is working at the top of their craft including Steve Buscemi, Edie Falco, Aidy Bryant, Steven Wright, Rebecca Hall, right down to the smallest part.

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Kudos to Louis CK! He made the show he wanted to make. He distributed it the way he wanted.  From all angles HORACE AND PETE seems admirable, forward thinking and fodder for the hungry viewer.

 

 

 

RIP DAVID BOWIE

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My practice teaches impermanence; in fact it stresses the point. Nothing lasts so we should appreciate every moment as the end is inevitable. For some reason I didn’t think this applied to David Bowie. His influence has always been there for me from when it mattered to now.

On Valentines Day of 1973, I saw David Bowie and the Spiders from Mars at Radio Music Hall:NYC.  My friends Siobhan and Alice who accompanied me, were as we believed, the three biggest Bowie Fans in the world. Each of us had a bedroom wall devoted to pictures of Bowie. We referred to him with a slurred one worded “DaveBowie.” Had anyone corrected us we would have sworn we said “David Bowie” but we knew what we were saying and, I guess, it made us feel connected.  All three of us were FIFTEEN YEARS OLD. The show was so earth shattering that we returned the next night and scalped tickets.  I think we all held our collective breaths for those two days.

The three of us continued our obsession and saw The Diamond Dogs Tour in Boston and twice at Madison Square Garden, we saw five out of seven nights back at Radio City Music Hall for The Young Americans Tour, the Garden for The Station to Station Tour. I’ve seen several subsequent shows with the last time being two nights of the Bowie/Nine Inch Nails Tour at the Forum in L.A.  I never saw David Bowie live where he wasn’t the consummate performer.

When this type of passing happens all of a sudden parts of your life flash by. For me there were so many live moments, listening to HUNKY DORY, ZIGGY STARDUST and ALADDIN SANE as a teen and being positively transported, seeing Bowie in THE ELEPHANT MAN at the Booth Theatre on Broadway and crying at the end. There are so many memories for me tied to David Bowie.  His influence on my life is beyond record.  He was a God for me when I was growing up and Gods are Immortal.

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The Go-To Movies

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We all have them; those films we go-to over and over again. Go-to movies are not necessarily classics but they sure seem like one when your watching them.

My comedy go-to movie is ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES. The 1993 sequel is a brilliantly written and acted comedic masterpiece. Paul Rudnick’s script has so many laughs and gags that no matter how many times viewed there seems to always something new to see or hear.

Anjelica Huston and Raul Julia were born to play Morticia and Gomez. Julia’s performance is one of incredible grace and beauty. His scene with Nathan Lane at the Police Station is a zany comic highlight. Huston is a study in hysterical stillness. The remaining cast are all strong: Christina Ricci is an unforgettable Wednesday, Christopher Lloyd is superb as Uncle Fester “It means to rot”, the always wonderful Carol Kane as Grandmama and Joan Cusack as Fester’s killer wife. Cusack almost steals the film with her delicious character.

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Go-to movies serve a purpose that is dependable. They can be useful to revisit any emotion, as if on cue. The average of genre choice would most likely sway towards the comedic, but doubt there have been any studies done on the subject. In the case of ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES it is simply to laugh.

When You Want to Make Changes

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An inquiry in criticism that comes up often for this writer is the idea that we review some films for what we want them to be and not for what they simply are. The wish that a character had acted differently or a plot point would be less muddled had it happened differently seems to miss the point of a director and/or writers point of view. Maybe it’s me. Some times I have to ask myself did I miss something?

45 YEARS had me grappling with this question for most of it’s run time. My major concern came from Charlotte Rampling’s character; I didn’t like her.  Rampling is brilliant in the part, but her character sours the film. She seems less than understanding to her husband of 45 years who is going through a monumental life changing moment.  The thought her husband couldn’t have any depth in his life before her is ridiculous. In many ways it is none of her business. Courtenay’s character seemed to have treated her well through their marriage and they both seemed to enjoy their life together. The wife’s reactions and actions struck me oddly and I fought it to the final shot.

Is this what the director wanted as a reaction? I’m not sure if he missed something or I did.  It would have been different if maybe the writer and/or director did this or that. But then that would have been a different movie.

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It Was So Scary in 2015

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In salute to two of my favorite blogs, The Film Experience and My New Plaid Pants, and their recent article asking “what were your scariest movie moments of 2015?” Here were some of mine:

When Petyr, the Nosferatu look-alike, is awakened in WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS. I’ve watched WWDITS many times and he always makes me jump.

The bride’s revenge dance in WILD TALES.

The oven in THE VISIT

Tom Hardy stabbing to death one of his fellow thugs in LEGEND

The reoccurring Dream Men in THE NIGHTMARE

The father’s interview in THE WOLFPACK

Oral Violence in GOODNIGHT MOMMY.

Teen Violence in BREATHE

Indian Violence in BONE TOMAHAWK and THE REVENANT

Hipster Violence in NASTY BABY.

downloadhttp://mynewplaidpants.blogspot.com/

http://thefilmexperience.net/

ANOMALISA and the Puppet Penis

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I never watch a movie with the intention of disliking it. I may prepare myself somewhat when seeing a piece of dreck such as FIFTY SHADES OF GREY; but I always hope that I might be surprised. In the case of that film I wasn’t surprised at all and in the case of ANOMALISA I actually hated it. Yes, I said it, I hated ANOMALISA.

I looked forward to seeing ANOMALISA despite not liking Charlie Kaufman’s other writing efforts other than SYNECDOCHE.  I wasn’t a fan of BEING JOHN MALKOVICH or ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF A SPOTLESS MIND.  His script for  ADAPTATION ruined the possibility of a good movie being made from Susan Orlean’s excellent book THE ORCHID THIEF. None of these films seemed to be as clever as they thought they were.  Maybe because he directed his own script with SYNECDOCHE things seemed to work out better.  There is a sense of control  in SYNECDOCHE that worked, but in the case of ANOMALISA it may be the very thing that kills it. It’s is studied to a point of dullness.

For whom is this film intended? The film’s lead character is a deeply miserable soul who in turn abuses and leaves almost every woman he meets. The women are depicted as either overweight, physically scarred or emotionally at the end of their rope. They all shuffle around mumbling and confessing how bad they feel.  There are no revelations.  Are we supposed to relate?  Perhaps the viewer is being asked to feel as a kindred spirits to their state of loneliness and despair.  It makes for an unpleasant experience especially when you get to see the puppet’s penis. I am haunted by that vision now. Thanks for that Charlie!

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