Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"The Shrine": ritualistic sacrifice in a road horror film set in rural Poland


The Shrine” (2010, John Knautz) is indeed a formulaic road horror movie, and even more graphic than most.
  
Three journalists (Aaron Ashmore from “Smallville”, Cindy Sampson and Megan Heffern) travel to rural Poland to locate a missing hiker, who had been investigating bee colony collapse disorder. 
   
Soon they encounter hostile townspeople, who seem to run a strange religious cult.  That sounds trite enough, but there is also a strange dark cloud hanging over the woods, and when you enter it, the world shifts to black and white and you’re walled off from the rest of creation (and effect like the film “The Corridor”).  Soon they encounter monstrous skeletons covered with ironworks. 
  
The rituals follow, but eventually we will learn that the townspeople have to engage in them to drive away an alien presence.  The film does have suggestions of another horror concept, “The Wicker Man”.

Ashmore’s character Marcus has to do a home invasion to get out of this mess, something totally out of character for a normally good guy.

The official Facebook is here,  IFC films (and Canada, DGC).  The former official site has become a parked domain.
  
As for Poland, I rode from Cracow to Warsaw on the train in 1999, and it is very rural, with lots of low-tech farming. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

"The Overnight": a couples comedy with body-image issues for straight (or "bi") men


The Overnight”, by Patrick Brice (2015), is a suburban (LA) couples sex comedy, and it does remind one of older movies, like “Bob, Carol, Ted and Alice” or even “The Ice Storm”. In another way, it has some elements (for straight or bisexual people) from “Judas Kiss”. 

The film was also produced by the Duplass Brothers (remember “The Puffy Chair”).

As the film opens, Alex and Emily (Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling) seem to have a robust marriage and family bed.  Soon, Alex meets Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) in the park, and Kurt invites the family to a pizza welcome with wife Charlotte (Judith Goodreche).

And this is a bring-the-kids night. I can recall my parents doing this when I was growing up.  I’d go to sleep in another bedroom in a host’s house, and my parents would play cards until about 1 AM, and then they would come get me and we would go home.

Kurt has other interests besides just hospitality.  For one thing, he paints.  He encourages Alex to become a partner in self-discovery.  But things get racier when the two couples start smoking pot and then jump in the pool.  Kurt and Charlotte go completely nude.

Alex loses it and vomits at the edge of the pool (recalling the Polanski  couples movie “Carnage”).  Theb Kurt makes a big deal of why Alex keeps his briefs on.

What follows is a comic exercise in what we make of primary sexual characteristics in men as well as women. The issue was covered here in the documentary “Unhung Hero”.   Women want to make this “all right”.  I friend’s wife one time suggested my becoming a hippy to compensate, and I found that idea rather insulting.   

As to secondary characteristics more of fantasy value to me, well, Kurt is hairier, but Alex is taller, leaner and has a slightly deeper voice. Things balance out. 
   
Finally, there is another exercise – men turn to some temporary intimacy with each other, not for lifestyle purposes because it will actually reinforce heterosexual marriage.  I explore that idea in my novel “Angel’s Brother” with the bisexual (but usually straight) major character Randy (turning 40).  I think this possibility is much more important in practice than people want to admit.

In that scene, there is a suggestion of the technique used in an intimate "tutorial" scene in “Judas Kiss”, which I think the filmmakers must have been familiar with. But finally, as an element of comedy, the kids walk in on the homoeroticism.  It's not too much of a stretch to compare Kurt to the character "Shane" from the Judas movie. 


The official site is here  (Orchard Films).

I saw the film before a small audience Monday afternoon at Angelika Mosaic in Fairfax Va.
   
The film has no connection to “The Overnighters” (a controversial documentary, Nov. 15, 2014).

Sunday, June 28, 2015

"Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me": Glen continues to sing Rhinestone despite Alzheimer's


Sometimes in 1975 or 1976 when working for NBC, I worked the “night shift” when there was more computer time, and I remember hearing Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy” on the radio in my office a lot.

On Sunday, June 28, 2015, CNN aired the documentary “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me”, directed by James Keach.

The film shows his continuing on with his country music career with the devotion of his fourth wife despite the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease in June 2011.  The doctor shows the brain scan with the loss of volume in specific areas now associated with that diagnosis.  But his music ability and perfect pitch carry him, and he is able to continue singing until the end of 2012, after his memory loss progresses more rapidly.  The final concert took place in Napa, California.  Campbell is now age 79.
I was quite struck by the dedicated attention he gets from the fourth wife.

Campbell says he cannot remember ordinary facts (like what month of the year it is) because he has “no use” for them.
  
The film shows a lot of Ozark country in Arkansas. 
  
My own mother was “officially” diagnoses with early Alzheimer’s near the end, but her symptoms were not as dramatic as Campbell’s near the end.  Much more of her dementia was vascular-related. 
Related: Maria Shriver’s “The Alzheimer’s Project” series for HBO, television blog, May 10, 2009.
  
  
The official site is here , from PCH films, Area23, Volunteers for America, and the Alzheimer’s Fund.
 /
"BuffaloRiver" by Original uploader was Vsmith at en.wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Andrei Stroe using CommonsHelper.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -  link.   I was in the area in 1979, close in 1988.  Second picture: me at the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

"Dead Man's Luck" aka "The Ante": a spoof of Coen Brothers' work (like "Blood Simple")


Some crime thrillers are meant to entertain with only clever plot manipulations and situations. Such is the case of the French Canadian (in English thriller  “Dead Man’s Luck” (2006) by Max Perrier. The film is also known as “The Ante”.  The obvious recollection is the Coen Brother’s “Blood Simple” but not all comic thrillers happen in Texas.  Quebec can get in on the act, too.
   
Chain-smoking Sam (Paul Burke) takes a wrong turn in the country, and winds up asking directions from a farm wife ({aula Davis) with a nefarious scheme.  She wounds him, and in the ensuing scramble seems to have murdered her husband and set him up to be framed.  He kidnaps her, putting her in the trunk, but soon releases her.  When his “despicable me” wife (Anastasia Bondarenko) finds out, she wants to set him up, in a complicated scheme to wind up with a portion of the life insurance money.  This is clearly a good example of what the industry means by “anti-selection”.
   
So, Sam has to commit more crimes to free himself.  Indeed, the three principal characters are in a triangular war, and only Sam will be left standing for the police to find.  
   
Getting framed for a crime is, of course, an existential threat to one’s life and legacy. We can be unlucky.
  

There is some nice scenery of the Laurentian Mountains, which I last visited in 1993.
  
The film is available on Netflix instant play until July 15 (Panorama Films).
  
Wikipedia attribution link for photo by Cephas near Cartier Mountain. under Wikipedia Commons 3.0 Share Alike license.  

Friday, June 26, 2015

"Stripped" depicts the world of the newspaper cartoonist, and how the Internet has changed her livelihood


Stripped” (2014), directed by Dave Kellett and Frederick Schroeder, shows how technology has forced a relatively less visible type of artist – the cartoonist – adapt.
  
The early portions of the documentary show how many people were “hooked” on individual comics in print newspapers, and would buy print just to follow the story.  It’s a bit like following soap opera on television.  Comics would get picked up by agents who would sell their work to newspaper syndicates.  Cartoonists were expected to help sell newspaper copies.

Their living ebbed as print newspapers gradually went out of business.  I remember the end of the Washington Evening Star, the Rocky Mountain News, the Dallas Times Herald.
  
The Internet  (try “TopWeb Comics” ) and web have challenged cartoonists to become self-publishers, and deal with the “it’s free” content model.

Other bigger disruptive technology questions are examined.  Would radio kill print?  Would television kill radio?  Will books disappear? I deal with this in my own operations all the time, as I have often written.


The official site is here  (Sequential Films). The closing credits are among the longest ever. 

The film can be rented for $3.99 on YouTube or from Netflix Instant Play.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

"Queen Margot", displaying Catholic-Protestant violence in Medieval France, foreshadows today's religious terrorism


I was enjoying a potluck brunch at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC (where I was raised) earlier this month, and some of us were discussing why some young adults are so easily recruited by what seems foolish propaganda online through social media.  One of the other people said that the 1994 French film “Queen Margot” (“La reine Margot”) may illustrate how this happens.  It is based in a historical novel by Alexander Dumas and is directed by Patrice Cherereau.
  
The religious conflict is in 15th Century France, between Catholics and Protestant Huguenots.  It seems to incite violence very comparable to what happens in the Middle East, including Syria and Iraq, today.  The plotting leads to the notorious St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of 1572, of Catholic mob violence. At the beginning, Catherine de Medici (Virna Lisi) marries her daughter Margot (Isabelle Adjani) to Henri de Bourbon (Daniel Auteuil), but she does not love him. Instead Margot has a clandestine relationship with another Protestant La Mole (Vincent Perez).  Intrigues and violent retributions follow.  Catherine plots to put her son the Duke of Anjou (Pascal Greggory) on the throne.  There is a plot to murder Henri by contaminating a book with arsenic (something that would be akin to using anthrax today) but it winds up killing Charles. 
  
This is a violent, even grotesque film, and long (2 hours and 40 minutes).  The Netflix video now comes from the Cohen Media Group, but the original theatrical release was from Miramax and was manipulated supposedly to draw American audiences. 
  
  
The film is also spectacular, with an opening wedding scene with music by Goran Bregovic.  There are references to Handel’s Messiah, which could not have been composed yet; but period spectacles often use much more modern music than what was possible at the time shown (an interesting problem that comes up in my own screenplay concerning some particular music by Rachmaninoff).  
  
The complete film can be rented on YouTube for $3.99 from Entertainment-One.
  
Curiously, the Netflix stream did not have subtitles for the French dialogue and titles. I don't think I've encountered this before. 
   
Wikipedia attribution link for Francois Dubois painting of the Massacre, Wikimedia commons public domain. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

"Rudderless": How a father deals with his son's having done a campus shooting


Rudderless”, a musical drama, is the first film to be directed by William H. Macy. 
  
The film juxtaposes a few issues, but the most important of these is how the parents of someone who has shot people in a mass incident carry on with their lives.  But for part of the film, the viewer only knows that the father Sam (Billy Crudup) and wife (Felicity Huffman) lost their son to a campus shooting, to the added layer of possible guilt (and suicide) is not at first present. The father has become rootless, lost his career, and lives on an Oklahoma lake  (even pees in it), and tries to organize a band, around a “substitute son” Quentin (Anton Yechlin) who, with better street smarts, is a more stable person – despite his lack of reticence about vomiting.

As the film opens, we see son Josh (Miles Heizer) performing in his dorm room, and seems to be annoyed when interrupted.  We don’t learn of any other reason for his outburst (and we need to).  Sam calls him and tries to get Josh to cut class and join him at a sports bar to celebrate Sam’s promotion at work. Sam learns about the shooting on the sports bar TV when the son doesn’t show.
    
The film quickly skips two years.  I think that a more interesting drama would exist if we are shown the process of Sam’s deterioration, but all of that becomes back story.
   
The other interesting issue of the film, so to speak, is “plagiarism”. Sam passes off some of Josh’s songs as if they were his own. These  (fourteen of them) include “Hold On, I wanna go home” and “Sing Along”, with Selena Gomez and Ben Kweller.  The film builds up to a curious climax including a boat race and accident on what may be Lake Murray, which I visited a few times when living in Dallas in the 80s. 
     
The official site is here (Paramount, IFC and Samuel Goldwyn),

   

The appeared at Sundance in 2014 and is now available on Netflix DVD.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

"Testament of Youth" plays the shared-risk issue on British life during WWI, in a memoir of a famous pacifist


Testament of Youth” (directed by James Kent), based on the autobiographical memoir of British pacifist Vera Britain (Alicia Viklander) during World War I.  The film certainly covers the moral area of shared sacrifice, for goals set by politicians and not always valid.
  
The film opens in the summer of 1914 just after news of the assassination in the Balkans has reached England. Vera wants her own life as an educated woman.  Her father (Dominic West) objects to her writing and gives her a piano, which she rejects.  He scolds, how will you ever find a husband. She pretends to throw her writing out, but gathers it up.
  
She takes entrance exams for Oxford, and despite writing a critical essay in German rather than Latin, gets in. But soon she has fallen in love anyway, while the World War I patriotism (and eventual draft) calls her fiancé and brother to battle. 
  
She decides to volunteer as a nurse, and is rebuffed again on many fronts.  The headmistress thinks that some people need to stay home and reflect. That sounds like student deferments! Once on the lines, she gets the usual class warfare lectures from her supervisory nurses. 
  
And then the war itself gets graphic, will all the wounds, gangrene and amputations. She loses her fiancé, brother and another friend. At one point, the fiancé says he has to go to war because if he doesn’t, others have to.  That’s the “somebody’s gotta do it” argument that drove the military draft here during the Vietnam era.
  
   
Official site is here (Sony Pictures Classics).
   
I saw the film before a fair audience at the AMC Shirlington Monday night.

 

Monday, June 22, 2015

"Larry Kramer in Love and Anger": the early days of the anti-AIDS activist's career are the most interesting


Larry Kramer in Love and Anger”, directed by Jean Caromusto, is a biography of the famous writer and AIDS activist (Wiki).  He is still alive at age 79 and back home in Connecticut with his new husband, to whom he was married while still in the hospital, where the film opens. He was very ill for a while after a liver transplant related to past Hepatitis B, and became HIV positive himself but never developed AIDS opportunistic infections before the time that more effective medications (protease inhibitors) became available.
   
The HBO film could be viewed as a companion to “How to Survive a Plague” (June 24 2012) by David France, where the history is presented that the development of protease inhibitors would not have happened without ACT UP, which Kramer organized.

But this film concentrates, of course, much more on Kramer himself.  Very early, he is shown screaming that “GRID” (before AIDS had a name) is a “plague” and that it is ignored because of who the “victims” are (with epithets).  He helps organize the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, and gets kicked out. He moves to London for a while and pens “The Normal Heart” (May 28, 2014). He then organizes ACT UP.

The most interesting part of the film may be the early portion, where Larry reports being seen as a “sissy” by his dad when compared to his older brother Arthur. He becomes a “writer”, and unlike me, writes primarily at first about others more different from himself, and he does also build the ability to motivate and organize or galvanize people.  He got a couple of major films made: his adaptation of D. H. Lawrence’s “Women in Love” which I think I saw (the male wrestling scene), and them Frank Capra’s “Lost Horizon” from James Hilton’s novel, not artistically important, but what other people wanted. That made him financially secure.
  
The film discusses his 1978 novel “Faggots” and showed scenes from Fire Island.  I remember taking the LIRR, then the ferry, eating at The Pines and walking to Cherry Grove. I thought I would see an image of myself in the footage. I remember also seeing the 1973 off-broadway musical “The Faggot” by David Carmines.  Kramer was one of the first writers to question the 1970s idea of bathhouse sex as a political statement (as in the indie film "Gay Sex in the 70s"). 
Kramer would later write “Just Say No”, “Reports from the Holocaust” and “The Destiny of Me”, and finally the pseudo—novel “The American People: A History”.

 I moved to Dallas at the start of 1979, partly out of a personal circumstance that would ironically foreshadow AIDS. By 1980, people knew something was “wrong”. I first heard about Kaposi’s Sarcoma in early 1982, and in later 1982 I actually met James Curran at a meeting in Dallas where AIDS got its name. I became notorious for my letter-writing campaign to CDC and various politicians regarding an attempt by the right wing (“Dallas Doctors Against AIDS”) to enact a very draconian anti-gay law in Texas trying to ban gays from everything (let alone the military – yet by 1993 things would improve enough that lifting the military ban became a credible idea).
My life narrative differs from Larry’s in that I had another “career” in computer programming for financial security.  I didn’t have to be able to sell what I wrote and I had little incentive to “organize people”.

The film shows images of early Kaposi's Sarcoma patients, including Kenny Ramsauer (story), who was featured by Geraldo Rivera on ABC 20-20 in 1983, along with "healed" (sometimes with scarring) lesions on patients treated with protease inhibitors.  KS was particularly dreaded because of the importance of body image in the gay male community. It is now known to be connected to an unusual herpes virus that gets activated sometimes when cellular immunity is deficient. 


The official site is here

I saw the film at AFI Docs at the AFI theater in Silver Spring. The director is also a history professor. One of the questions led to his being characterized as a “conservative”.

The title can also be spelled “Larry Kramer in Love & Anger”.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

"CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap" looks at disparity in tech employment


Code: Debugging the Gender Gap”, directed by Robin Hauser Reynolds, examines the relative lack of women in high-tech and computer programming, historically.
  
It’s a no-brainer that the film (often humorously animated, like by showing the first "bug") mentions Rear Admiral Grace Hopper (link) inventor of the first compiler.  The film does not really delve into how computing culture evolved as it moved from defense to commercial mainframes, and then smaller platforms (“minis”) and finally PC’s, mobile and the Internet.

My first summer programming job was with the Navy in 1965 (David Taylor Model Basin in Carderock, MD), and I remember a Fortran class taught by “Sharon Good”.  Most of the first summer was spent in that class. My first job after the Army would be with RCA, shown in the film (in 1970).  I would wind up with the Navy again, and then Univac, and I personally found in the early 70s that Univac was ahead of the game in employing women in programming (but also in sales of keypunch machines).

At Chilton in the 1980s, the main DBA was female (and lesbian).  Throughout the remaining years, there were many female programmers (and particularly managers and executives at ReliaStar and ING/Voya), but still less than half.

But it’s true that in high school, when I graduated (in 1961) not as many girls took science and math.  Only one person in the Science Honor Society in 1961 was female.  She would get a PhD and eventually marry another member who also earned one (in Physics). 

In graduate school at KU, more of the math students were men, but the females were outstanding;  one would earn a PhD at Illinois later.

Females develop biologically earlier than men, who catch up at about age 14.  It always seemed like a paradox that the boys were expected to take the lead.

The film, and the QA afterword, made the point that many high tech positions are hard to fill without more women and minorities going into the field.


The official site is here.   The production company is listed as “Finish Line” (not Fine Line).  The film was shown at AFI Docs, in Silver Spring, before a sold out audience Saturday afternoon.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

"Out to Win" documents slow but increasing acceptance of LGBT athletes in pro sports


Out to Win”, a documentary by Malcolm Ingram (“Small Town Gay Bar”, 2006), examines the gradual acceptance of gay and lesbian athletes in professional sports.  In very recent years, major sports leagues have started to announce non-discrimination policies. 
  
While opening with an enactment of some old-style hate rhetoric, the film soon moves to interving Dave Kopay, probably the first professional football player to later come out.  But during his career, he was married and then lived clandestinely with a lover who would die of AIDS (he apparently never became infected). To cover up, he played the day of his partner’s funeral.
   
The second big narrative is baseball player Billy Bean, who was a pretty effective utility player with some home run power for the Tigers, Padres and Dodgers.  But Bean eventually left the game, rather than live in the closet, but today he works for MLB on its diversity and inclusion programs.  (On the other hand all MLB teams offer paid paternity and parental leave to players and employees.)  
  
Curiously, the film omitted the narrative of Glenn Burke (who would die of AIDS in 1995).
  
The biggest story is, of course, about Michael Sam, who got picked in draft by the St. Louis Rams, washed out, and then also didn’t make a tryout with the Dallas Cowboys. The film showed what the tryouts (at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis) look like. 
  
John Amaechi presents the issues for the NBA.  Billy Jean King and Martina Navratilova speak about the tennis circuit, and Martina had emigrated to the US from a Communist country before announcing her lesbianism, which at the time could have been a problem for legal status.
  
Toward the end, a high school football player and another baseball player provide mutual support at an event in Portland OR.
  
The acceptance of LGBT people in sports follows the acceptance in the military (with the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” in 2011, which does not yet help with transgender), and gradual changes in the Boy Scouts of America.
    
I remember hearing homophobic rhetoric about sports locker rooms back in the 1970s in the workplace.  When I was living in Dallas in the 1980s, I knew someone who had been a relief pitcher in the minors but had tested HIV positive.  During the time I lived in Dallas he did not become ill.

But the whole "locker room" and "showers" argument, as an analogue with the barracks privacy argument made by Moskos and Nunn for the military back in 1993, seems to have totally lost traction now.  A younger generation does not care about this idea the way some people did thirty years ago. 
    
The NBC soap “Days of our Lives” has a subplot about a gay Major League baseball pitcher forced out by injury after living in the closet and then coming out, creating a love triangle.

The best site I can find is here. The production companies are Brothers Double and TCB.


The film was screened Friday night at Silverdocs at Landmark E Street and it was at SXSW.

Friday, June 19, 2015

"Wuthering Heights": 1939 version covers less of the novel


I did rent the classic version of Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights”, directed in 1939 by William Weler/ (A more recent “art film” version from 2011 is reviewed here April 4, 2015).
  
The Wyler version covers only about half of the novel, omitting a middle generation entirely.  It comes across more as a typical melodrama than as a ghost story or gothic horror “chiller” (which the 2011 film becomes).  The schmaltzy music score is by Alfred Newman.
  
The opening of the film, where a traveler named Lockwood (Miles Mander) seeks “radical hospitality” at the remote country estate when caught in a storm, from an aged owner Heathcliff (Lawrence Olivier).   Soon we hear about the ghost of Cathy Earshaw (Merle Oberon).  Much of the film is told as a flashback of 40 years, a narrative presentation style to frame a “major backstory” that sometimes can weaken the stake in the present (I have to deal with that in my own screenplay).  But “Dr. Zhivago” (1965) is told as a huge backstory, too.

The film uses a natural highland formation, Peniston Crag, site of love scenes, as a connector, where at the end the couple “climbs every mountain” in the snow.

I wonder if this novel is on summer reading lists for high school.


The DVD (WB and Samuel Goldwyn) contains an interview with Geraldine Fitzgerald (Isabelle Linton character. The film was nominated for Best Picture in 1939, against "Gone with the Wind". 

For a short film today, look at “More”, directed by Brian McCulley (2012) and produced by Timo Descamps, who sings the music and dance number, link here. The tagline is “West Side Story meets the future”. 

 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

"Rise: The Promise of My Brother's Keeper" previews at AFI-Docs before airing on OWN and Discovery


Rise: The Promise of My Brother’s Keeper”, 50 minutes, directed by Dawn Porter and produced by the Discovery Channel, played at the ASI-Docs at a screening this evening at the Newseum in Washington DC. There is a subtitle: “A National Initiative to Improve the Life Outcomes of Boys and Young Men of Color”.
  
The official site is here

The film examined a mentoring program supported by the White House, specifically in Chicago (Urban Prep Academies), Yuba City-Marysville CA (Youth Build), and Baltimore (Halstead Academy of Art and Science), all part of “BAM” or “Becoming a Man”. 

I have a couple of personal reactions.  One is that this sounds like a moral imperative for all of us (including the childless) to become involved. Indeed, in the QA, one of the speakers mentioned the “Brother’s Keeper” passage in Genesis. I asked about the personal aspect and here is the answer.

The other is that I don’t see “helping people” as something that should be conceived in terms of racial or religious groups. 

One of the panelists described the role of technology in improving educational opportunities for those of color.  But that it a different issue from the personal one.  There was a general consensus from the panelists that everyone should "do what she could" and keep things real when interacting with others.
 
One member of the panel had a relative shot yesterday in Charleston, SC in a tragic incident mentioned before the film started.
   
In Washington DC, a charter school related to a program like this runs a boarding school and hires teachers and mentors to run the residential program.
  
The film will be aired on OWN Sunday June 21 and streamed on Facebook.

Update: September 1, 2015

The White House has a YouTube video with President Obama speaking about "My Brother's Keeper" here

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

"Jurassic World" seems like an overblown Epcot, belonging in Orlando


Jurassic World”, by Colin Trevorrow, didn’t promise me anything new.  I remember a friend from Dallas had compared me to Jeff Goldblum from the earlier “Jurassic Park”. 

What I saw was a model world, a kind of Epcot park, belonging in Orlando (Oh, I forgot -- Epcot belongs to Disney, not Universal), but set up in Costa Rica (according to the script), actually filmed in Hawaii.  It took pretty good CGI to set up this little universe, which rather resembles an Adventureland. 
    
You have the ideal family leaving snowy Minnesota for a tropical Christmas vacation.  The two kids, Zack and Gray (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins), have tremendous charisma, you rather expect Zack to become Clark Kent soon, as he navigates the sphere through he wilderness, learns to drive a truck and helps rescue his little brother from the artificial predators on the loose in the park.

Chris Pratt (remember “Bright” from Everwood – and calling himself “Pratt” cubed on Twitter) plays the solid good guy managing the animals, competent, but with rather wooden lines.  

The plot, of course, concerns a nefarious project to create new creatures by genetic engineering to earn the park more money for Wall Street.  Predictably, the creatures run wild.  We wind up with effects that recall the Japanese horror flick “The Giant Behemoth”.  The creatures are intelligent and communicate (not was well as dolphins).

Dinosaurs were the ancestors of modern birds, and the movie does homage to that idea with an attack on the Epcot-portion of the park right out of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”.  But it is the monstrous reptile-like carnivores (they are supposed to have been warm blooded) that provide the entertainment, as various less desirable zoo employees get eaten up.  We don’t see arms and legs roll (or heads roll) as much as in some other films from the 80s (remember the end of “An American Werewolf in London” or even “Wolfen”?)
The next time I go outside, a friendly robin will great me.  He always recognizes me and doesn’t fly away.  He doesn’t know who is distant ancestors were.  There is a crow in the area who kept chasing me inside the day that Hurricane Sandy was approaching.  These wild animals know us better than we think.
  
The official site is here  although Universal says it is redoing the site.
The film was shot in the unusual aspect ratio of 2.00:1 to accommodate Imax formats. 
  
I saw a 3-D version last night at the AMC Courthouse, before a near sellout in a reclining seat auditorium. The theater seems to have reduced weeknight 3-D prices for seniors. 

Public domain picture of Maui Landsat, NASA  Most recently there in 1980 and drove to the volcano summit.

Monday, June 15, 2015

"White Bird in a Blizzard": a teenager's mom disappears, and then her life encounters horrific twists


White Bird in a Blizzard” (2014), directed by Gregg Araki (“Mysterious Skin”, 2004), based on the novel by Laura Kasischke, sounds like an intriguing concept.  A teenager’s mother disappears. Why?
  
Any disappearance of an important person could generate a compelling mystery. The “lady vanishes” (Eva Green) simply enough in 1988.   Here, the protagonist Kat (Shailene Woodley) has a boyfriend Phil (Shiloh Fernandez) and seems to have a promising life in the early 90s despite her colorless father Brok (Christopher Meloni). 
  
The story is told back and forth, with flashbacks (and fantasies of mom in a snowy heaven), which is fair enough, given the viewpoint strictly from the heroine.
  
But dark clouds come into play.  Brock eventually maintains that Eve was spelling with Phil (who is quite handsome and “smooth”).  That sounds like a subplot in “Days of our Lives” where JJ sleeps with his grilfriend’s mother out of anger.
  
But at the end, we are in for a real shock, which does not help the cause of gay equality.

   
The official site is here.  
  
I watched the film on Netflix instant play,

 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

"Dylan" and "Triple Standard": two LGBT short films (it's Capital Pride weekend)


Here are two short films for today, Capital Pride Sunday in Washington DC.

I got an email promoting a short film “Dylan” (8 min) directed by Elizabeth Rohrbaugh), film link here
  
  
The film is a selfie monologue by Dylan Winn Garner, shot on Coney Island in Brooklyn, NY, where Dylan explains his transition from woman to man.  He even notes with some pride masculinization, like the growth of some body hair.  He talks about the gradual process of getting is family to accept the real new person.  He also has a love life with another transgender person, and uses both pronouns.  I guess I am so into upward affiliation that I would do neither.
 
Of course, there's a good question: can you make a "real film" by having someone talk into the camera and tell his or her story (not mockumentary).  I have to do that myself.  There was a feature film in 2002 "Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary" (Andrew Heller and Othmer Schiderer) where Traudl Junge simply talked for 95 minutes.  Even the two-person drama "My Dinner with Andre" (1981, Louis Malle) uses this technique. 
   
I remember the boardwalk area of Coney Island and even the Seaside Courts, where paddleball used to be played.  I don’t know if it is still there
  

The second film today is “Triple Standard” (18 min), by William Braden Brinn.  An ex-basketball star Crim (William Jennngs) tries to maintain the public face of having girlfriends and being straight (or at least bi) to keep getting endorsements.  His lover “D.” (Lee Amer-Cohen) of three years confronts him, saying he won’t have a double life any longer.  The plot line parallels two characters in the NBC soap “Days of our Lives”, namely Paul, a major league baseball pitcher (fictitious) whose career ended with an injury, and Sonny, his first gay lover, when now there is  love triangle with Will. Paul had tried to remain straight publicly while dating Sony and pitching in the big leagues, even tossing an imaginary no-hitter.  

Saturday, June 13, 2015

"Two Lives" tells an obscure story of Nazi-fathered "war babies" in former East Germany, emigrated to Norway and elsewhere


Two Lives” (“Zwei Leben”, 2012), directed by Georg Maas and Judith Kaufmann, is interesting first because it is based on a novel unpublished at the time of filming.  That is a manuscript by Hannelore Hippe, eventually published as “Ice Ages”, based loosely on real history, inspired by the discovery of a corpse in Bergen, Norway in 1990.  So, if you’re novel is unpublished or “just” self-published, there’s hope.
  
The main part of the drama is set right after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.  Katrine Evensen Myrdal, age around 50 (Julianne Kohler) lives an ordinary family life in Norway, married with daughter and grand-daughter, and elderly mother (Liv Ulhmann).  A lawyer approaches her about her past, as one of the Lebensborn, or war children, conceived by occupying German soldiers during WWII with “Aryan” women intending to give the Fatherland more “superior” children.  Many of these children were brought to what became East Germany.  After WWII, the East German Statsi tried to use some if the kids as Communist spies.  Katrine, however, had secretly escaped through Denmark, as shown in some flashbacks.  The attorney involves here with litigation against the Norwegian government (parallel to “Woman in Gold”) that will lead to catastrophe for her family.
  
The film has a couple of critical scenes involving auto crashes that are quite well done.
  
In 1999, when visiting a gay bar called the “Connection Disco” in Berlin, I met a graduate student from England who said he had been born in East Germany but had “escaped”. 
  
  
The official site is here. The DVD is available from Netflix. 

Wikipedia attribution link for Bergen, Norway picture, by Aqwis,  by Creative Commons 3.0 share-alike license.

Friday, June 12, 2015

"Me and Earl and the Dying Girl": Should (young) people be pressured into relationships they at first wouldn't want?


Shortly after starting substitute teaching in the spring of 2004, I was in for a shock. I had done one other day as an assistant for special education and just watched, but this second time, I was quickly switched to another classroom and suddenly asked if I would be OK with helping teens in the locker room (undressing) and then manning the deep end of the swimming pool for a day field trip.  
  

Well, I don’t swim (that is a problem), and I’ve never done anything that could procreate a child, so I was shocked at being invited to step into something like this.  I went home early, but with a full day’s pay.  I scratched that particular place from the profile.  
  
A few years later, on a Friday evening in February 2009, I got a surprise cell phone call asking if I were interested in a job supervising low income teens doing fund raising in shopping malls.  I had never filled out anything online suggesting an interesting in doing anything like this.  
  
In the indie Sundance hit “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”, directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, based on the novel by Jesse Andrews, the 17-year-old high school senior Greg (Thomas Mann) and budding filmmaker is challenged and pressured by his progressive-thinking parents (his dad is a sociology professor) to develop a platonic but real friendship with a female classmate Rachel (Olivia Cooke) after everyone learns of her leukemia diagnosis.  
  
Greg opens the film with a narrative, where he describes his shyness and then his strategy to mix well with every group by remaining mellow.  Then he tells us how he befriended Earl (RJ Cyler), and African-American kid in a lower income neighborhood on his way to school (in Pittsburgh).  Together they made a large library of “Claymation” short films that satirize famous hits – said to really exist in the closing credit.  
  
Greg does use the films to entertain Rachel, but the film does test the boundaries of friendship, given the circumstances.  Greg’s history teacher (rather uncouth in his own coverage by tattoos) gives him slack on term papers, but Greg’s attention to Rachel takes so much time and effort that he develops “senioritis”, and his college admission is rescinded. Well, maybe there’s another way (spoiler).  

No question, Greg is as likeable as teens get.  He probably did learn a lot more taking care of Rachel than from books.  He does, as David Brooks writes in “The Road to Character” (soon to be reviewed on my Books blog) learn to “be good”, although it seems he already is.  The actor’s looks and body language and personal values resemble those of Belgian singer and actor Timo Descamps. 

Technically, the film (in 2.35:1 widescreen) manipulates the geometry of many indoor shots, making, for example, high school hallways meet each other at acute angles.  The scenery of the Washington Heights area of Pittsburgh is effective. 

Nico Muhly and Brian Eno wrote the original music, which includes excerpts from choral works by Vivaldi and Bach (B Minor Mass). Pressburger-Powell gets mentioned, but I didn't pick up the name of the film ("A Canterbury Tale"?) 
   
The film sold out the last night at FilmfestDC, so I saw “Limited Partnership” (April 25) which turned out to be a very good thing. 

  
The official site is here (Fox Searchlight and Indian Paintbrush).  I saw the film before a sparse crowd Friday afternoon at Angelika Mosaic in Fairfax.  Jurassic is big distraction.


Pictures:  Johnstown and Pittsburgh, Mine, May 2007 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

"Geronotophilia": an 18-year-old male attendant takes to the old men he cares for at a retirement home


There is a point in the French Canadian dramedy “Gerontophilia” (by Bruce La Bruce) where Desiree (Katie Boland) tells the attractive 18-year-old Everyman Lake (Pier-Gabriel Lajoie) that he is indeed revolutionary (a boy with an "old soul"), going against even what nature says is desirable (a favorite world during my Army stay) when he courts the affection of elderly men, approaching their ends in a Montreal assisted living facility where Lake works.

It starts innocently enough. Lake works as a lifeguard, and feels depressed when an old man drowns when he is at work, probably because of a natural causes in the pool. His mother gets him a job as an attendant at the home, and he immediately takes to the intimacy of the duties.
  
As he washes them, he imagines that they were at one time young like himself. He plays cards with them, and then becomes suspicious that the home is keeping them drugged to keep them controllable. One man whom he first comes on to passes away (they show the body bag), and another fellow, Mr. Peabody (Walter Borden) is caught “wandering” (a term used with Alzheimer’s patients).  But when Lake befriends Peabody (even not so secretly drinking with him in the room), he learns that Peabody wants to go on one last trip, across Canada to the Pacific Ocean.
  
So the last act of the film becomes a road movie, although there seem to be some narrative gaps.
      
I can remember my fist “gay talk group” in New York in 1973, when I was pleasantly surprised to find that a number of the men wanted to meet someone who was “older”.  But I personally find I need to start out with perfection.  Marriage, of course, implies that people will remain interested in each other as they age or face calamities that would, at first glance, make them “unattractive”.  Other calamities, like war, can deny some people the chance to get started, unless others are “realistic”.  So there is some.
  
Lake himself would make eye candy.  He looks a little mature for 18, already with chest hair.  He is always personable, even a bit controlling, and sometimes combative.
  
Of course, what would also be controversial is ephebophilia, a bit the subject matter of my own controversial screenplay short, "The Sub".  But exclusive upward affiliation can lead to bad karma. 

The official site is here  for the DVD July 17 from Strand Releasing, or here from Canada.  I watched a private Vimeo screener.
  
Wikipedia attribution link for panorama of Montreal;  the stadium used to house the Expos. by Antoine Mgyayhar under creative Commons 3.0 Share Alike license;  my last visit was in August 1993. Indeed, Blame Canada!
   

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

"Unsung Heroes: The Story of America's Female Patriots" plays at Fort Lee, VA in the Army Women's Museum


Unsung Heroes: The Story of America’s Female Patriots” (2014, 65 minutes), directed by Frank Martin, plays at the U.S. Army Women’s Museum  (link) at Fort Lee, Virginia, near Petersburg. 
  
The film traces the gradually increasing contributions of female members of the Armed Forces, which go back to the Revolutionary War.  But biggest change came during World War II, with the “Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (later called WAC), to “free the men to fight”, which today sounds like a challenging idea, but that was the idea at one time behind the male-only draft (April 27).  The military, however, didn’t provide full military benefits to women until much more recently.
 
During WWII, women designed the targeting system for US bombers, but were never allowed to get public credit; their contribution was kept classified.
  
For Army nurses, at the beginning of 1941, the Philippines was one of the most fun destinations, until Pearl Harbor.  Suddenly the Japanese attacked, and the nurses were taken POW, yet continued to work as nurses in the camps.  One nurse was not allowed to get her distinguished service cross until 2000.
  
The film contains a number of anecdotes from the Middle East, including Desert Storm (1991) and then the mid 2000’s Iraq war.  One helicopter pilot lost both her legs and one arm to an IUD. 
The film traces the history of lifting of bans for combat:  in 1991, women were allowed to fly combat missions (after the Gulf War);  in 2013, women were allowed almost all ground duties in combat.
In the asymmetric modern world the idea of a “front line” has become archaic.
  
  
At the end, one female soldier defines the word “sacrifice”: to give something of lesser value out of oneself for the greater good”.
   
There is another DVD there, “A Legacy: Army Women’s Contributions from 1775 to the Present
   
I was able to get on the base by just showing a driver’s license, but they will soon add requiring car insurance papers and vehicle registration, and probably a second picture ID (a US passport is best).
     
There was no direct mention of lesbians or transgendered persons in the Armed Forces, but the film seems to have been made after the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” and we know of cases where people have served even in Special Forces as men before becoming transgender. 

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

"The Day of the Dolphin": Cetacean intelligence outwits human assassination plotters


The Day of the Dolphin”, a 1973 film from Mike Nichols, provides a good example of a suspense and sci-fi film deviating from the book by Robert Merle, “The Sentient Being” ("Un animal doue de raison"), adapted to screen by Buck Henry.
  
Of course, the allure of the film and book is the mind and intelligence of the dolphin, and what the results could be if they collaborate.

As the film starts, Dr. Jake Terrell (George C. Scott) talks while we watch a live birth of Alpha (or Pha), tail first, as he swims to the surface for a first breath.  Terrell explains the consciousness of a dolphin, able to communicate simultaneously with other individuals at different distances in the water with sonar.  He speculates as to why their ancestors went back to the water 60 million years ago (for "free fish" and living space).   It’s a while before we realize he is lecturing. It's an interesting writing trick to start a film as if it were going to be a documentary.
      
Terrell has taught Pha English, but when he grows into “manhood” he regresses until he is introduced to a female, Beta.  Pha teaches Beta some English, although it is somewhat toddler-like.
   
Eventually, outside interests surreptitiously capture and recruit Alpha and Beta for a clandestine mission, to plant a magnetically held bomb underneath a yacht operated by the president of the United States (maybe Nixon at the time?)  When Terrell discovers the plot (that’s rather convoluted), he speaks English to Pha and gets him and Beta to abandon the mission. But the dolphins figure out who the enemy is and blow up the assassin’s boat instead.
   
It would seem that research ought to be able to unscramble dolphin (especially orca) language, which may somewhat resemble some Asian languages in ascribing meaning to pitch.
   
The novel was different in that the US government uses dolphins to attack a Chinese ship and try to start WWIII.  It also has dolphins in more intricate conversations than Buck Henry thought could be believable, according to the DVD (Image) interview.  Note other movies about dolphins here unser the "animal abuse" label. 
   
   
The orchestral music score, by George Delerue, is somewhat melodramatic.
  
The original film was released by Avco Embassy.  I remember reading the paperback book, translated, but somehow I missed the film originally.
   
Wikipedia attribution link for NASA picture of dolphin. 

Monday, June 08, 2015

"Anita" Hill's testimony to the Senate about sexual harassment changed workplace culture on the problem


Anita”, directed by Freida Lee Mock, is a brief (76 min) biography of Anita Hill, the African-American lawyer from OSU and Yale, who was called to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991 after an FBI report a private interview with her about Clarence Thomas was leaked to the press, before Thomas could be confirmed to the Supreme Court.
  
Some of the testimony about sexual harassment was quite graphic, getting down to mentioning public hairs, for example.   
  
Hill would eventually move to Massachusetts, which she says was an adjustment (well, she had gone to Yale).
  
I rather remember that time, when the first George Bush was president, somewhat after the Persian Gulf War of 1990-1991. 
  
Because of her testimony, a lot more attention came to be placed on sexual harassment in federal workplaces and most private corporate workplaces.  There was even an incident in my own workplace that led to a sudden Monday morning firing in early 1998.
  
At the end of the film, there is a teen classroom workshop on bullying and harassment. 
  
Thomas was confirmed, and has remained the usually most socially conservative member of the Supreme Court, as even Justice Scalia seems to be softening a bit now. 
  
  
The official site is here (Samuel Goldwyn Films).  The film is on Netflix Instant Play.
  
“Strange Justice” was a TV film about the Thomas hearings and Hill in 1999. 

Sunday, June 07, 2015

"Love and Mercy": two phases of the life of Beach Boys's Brian Wilson, and what Paul Dano had to do to himself for the role


Love and Mercy”, directed by Bill Pohlad, presents two narrative streams of the life of Brian Wilson, founder and leader of the Beach Boys in the 1960s.  The most current streak shows John Cusack as a 40-something Brian, under “medical guardianship” in a coastal California home after his mental crashes, misdiagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia.  Actually, the real history is longer and more complicated than the film presents (Wiki).  Paul Giamatti plays Dr. Eugene Landy, who watches him 24 hours, and interferes with his new girl friend Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks), whom Brian meets when be buys a car from her at a dealership.  Landy explains to her that Brian once weighed 300 pounds, and there is an odd scene on the beach over Brian's taking a bite out of a hamburger. 
     
I can recall an odd moment early in my own private “treatment”, in 1962, when I actually asked the psychiatrist if he wanted to talk to any of my friends.  No, he didn’t, but in the scenario of this film, he would have.
  
The earlier narrative stream shows the younger Brian (Paul Dano), working with other band members, as he starts to fall apart.  For the role, the normally trim Dano (who does not look like Cusack anyway) had to gain about 30-40 pounds.  His face looks bloated, his body feminized.  There have been a few other cases of actos’ transforming their bods (sacrificially) for movie roles.  Most notably, of course, was Jake Gyllenhaal, how lost weight and shaved his arms and chest for “Nightcrawler”, and kept shaved for the tattoos of “Southpaw”.  Other “victims” (especially for tattooing) include Justin Timberlake and Ryan Gosling. Beware if you date an actor.
  
  
The official site is here (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions collaboration).
  
I saw the film at Regal Ballston Common before a fair audience.  Yes, the music was wonderful. The stereo soundtrack was very effective in showing the younger Wilson’s “hearing” sounds and voices from different directions, but, again, the diagnosis was “overturned”. The name of the film is often spelled as "Love & Mercy". 

Saturday, June 06, 2015

"Blood Done Sign My Name": a boy's and a teacher's view of a raced-based slaying in North Carolina in 1970, including kangaroo acquittal


Blood Done Sign My Name” (directed by Jeb Stuart) is another story of the latter part of the Civil Rights movement, and it shows how slowly attitudes change. It’s based on the autobiographical book by Timothy Tyson, a professor at the University of Wisconsin. That in turn is based on the narrative by a liberal white minister, the author’ father, Vernon, driven out of the church for his support of integration.  I’ve seen plenty of disputes in churches that drive out ministers in my own life.
  
The film concerns the trial of a white businessman, Larry Teel (Cullen Moss), a white businessman in Oxford, North Carolina, for the murder (by shotgun and beating) of a black man and Vietnam War veteran, as well as the riots that occur after the crime and then after the jury’s staged acquittal.  One result is a boycott of businesses. 
  
The movie is framed as two stories, that don’t intersect that much.  One is the narrative of a young Tim Tyson (Gattlin Griffith) of his father’s (Vernon Tyson, played by Ricky Schroder) view of the whole tragedy.  The other is that of a high school English teacher, Ben Chavis (Nate Parker) and his students. 
  
The long (128 minutes) film starts out as if it were going to be a documentary.  There are newsreel scenes from the Vietnam War, as if to emphasize that the nature of the Vietnam era military draft and deferment system made it more likely that black men would wind up as casualties.  I played this own situation to my advantage at that time in life.  It also shows reels of Richard Nixon’s speeches.

The film also depicts the total dependence of that area on tobacco, which today has become a despised crop, ironically given the movement toward legalizing marijuana. The boycotts lead to the closing of a tobacco curing house and business moving out of town. 
  
  
The official site is here  (Image).

   
The film can be rented from Netflix (DVD). The film can be rented on YouTube for $3.99.   The book (Broadway) is often taught in humanities programs and has often been on a UNC reading list. The film would make a good complement to Gode Davis's "American Lynching" if that project (discussed here Sept. 25, 006) finally gets completed (the filmmaker passed away in 2010).  

Friday, June 05, 2015

"Entourage the Movie": Is this how Hollywood really works with a screenplay like "mine"?


Entourage the Movie” (written and directed by Doug Ellin) is a riot to watch as a macho buddy situation comedy, and it continues the storyline of the HBO series (TV blog, Sept. 15, 2010).
  
Charismatic star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) wants to debut as a director with a horror thriller “Give It Up”, in which Vince morphs into a monster with CGI.  Actually, Vince, lean and agile, looks more like 25 than 38, and is a feast for the eyes.  Gay issues appear as subplots in the movie, as two other characters have a gay wedding as the movie’s epilogue.
  
Vince’s buddies are Eric (Kevin Connolly), Turtle (Johnny Ferrara) and Johnny (Kevin Dillon),  Vince’s brother; and the hardball producer is Ari (Jeremy Piven).
  
Much of the plot concerns a supposed special screening. It is mysteriously stopped when the “projector breaks” and DVD’s are given out instead.  There’s a lot of talk about how the industry works, with agents, investors, and table readings. The attendees at the party have signed a confidentiality agreement.  Does that mean that if I got invited to such a screening, I'd be violating the agreement if I wrote a review of the movie on this blog?  That brings up the "spoiler" issue that isn't discussed as a legal issue much.

The producers don’t like Vince as the lead star morphing into a monster because he looks too trim and too gay.  His older brother is earthier and more suitable. At the end, there is a Golden Globes award ceremony, and their hunch pays off. 
  
The characters all move and talk fast, and tend to bully one another.  They live in their own world, with little idea of  what “real people” face. 
  
A lot of Hollywood personalities, like Armie Hammer (the “Winklevii” from “The Social Network”) and Marky Mark Wahlberg (a producer) make cameos as themselves.  Ronda Rousey has a bigger part as herself, as superwoman, able to out wrestle most men.  There’s a disco scene that reminds me of a similar scene in “Strange Days” (1995).  Some sources claim that Tobey Maguire (who will play Bobby Fischer soon in "Pawn Sacrifice") is the real-life Vince (Fox). 
  
I “admit” that the film is interesting to me because it tinkers with how deals get done to get films made.
  
   
The official site is here  (Warner Brothers and HBO).
  
I saw t he film in the afternoon at Angelika Mosaic in Fairfax VA, before a small audience which liked the film.

 
Picture: Palm Springs, mine, 2012. 

Thursday, June 04, 2015

"La Haine": French thriller from 90s prescient of today's issues with police profiling, and terror; law enforcement should watch this


The 1995 French film “La Haine” (“The Hate”), by Mathieu Kasovitz, in black-and-white and brisk (97 minutes, compressing 19 hours in a format resembling the Fox series “24”), while somewhat forgotten, is oddly predictive of today’s problems with police (racial) profiling (Ferguson, Baltimore, Utah, Cleveland, NYC) and reactive violence in the U.S.  Law enforcement departments should probably view this film.  It also reflects on foreign (ISIS-inspired today) encouragement of targeting US law enforcement and military.  (No, the title was never used to name a Haydn symphony.)
  
Ironically, the most violent of the three young men in the Paris banileues, Vinz (Vincent Cassel) is Jewish.  But he seeks honor by violence, saying he will take out personal revenge against the cops, after another friend (Abdel Ahmed Ghili) lies in a coma from police action in a riot, if the friend dies.  Hubert (Hubert Kounde), although a boxer (as was Tamerlan Tsarnaev, ironically) is the quietest and best self-controlled of the three, and an Arab man (Said Taghmoui) is somewhere in the middle. 
  
The movie pauses sometimes for some great shots, as one of the high-rise apartments with “Je ne regretted rien” (later used by the film “Inception”) playing in the background – the song comes back in the closing credits, just as it did in the score by Hans Zimmer for the Christopher Nolan film (July 16, 2010). But the music for this film is by “Assassin”.
  
At the end, however, there is total tragedy, and ambiguity, as the copus shoot Vinz “accidentally”
The DVD (Criterion Collection) can be rented from Netflix, and the extras are on a separate DVD.  Jane Fonda introduces the film.  Other distributors include Canal+ and Focus Features (Universal). 
  
  
Wikipedia attribution link for BW photo of Paris street gas lamp by Charles Marville, link.  

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

"I'll See You in My Dreams": Maybe life begins at 70, even without becoming a cougar


“I’ll See You in My Dreams” (2015), directed by Brett Haley and written with Marc Basch, from Sundance, has gotten well promoted in indie theaters this week.  It does “feel good”, to give an aging widowed former singer and teacher another shot at a second life.
  
As the movie opens, Carol Petersen (Blythe Danner) has to deal with putting down her beloved Shepard. Back home, in an average San Fernando Valley home, a mouse sometimes appears, and a new young guy cleaning pools, Lloyd (Martin Starr), himself an “amateur” poet and karaoke singer, gives her company.  But before she has a chance to play cougar (this film is quieter than “10 Rules” (April 24, 2014)), her contemporaries at the bridge club in a nearby retirement home get her to try speed dating. 
  
That leads to a possible romance with a retired yachtsman, Bill (Sam Elliott), but Bill may not have long, either.
  
The “speed dating” scene, while early, rather sets the culture of the film.  While I was in Minneapolis, a young man in a table reading group had a screenplay called “I Hate Speed Dating” back in 2003.   This material sounds a little familiar.  Maybe I could have come across it with “Project Greenlight”.  IFPMSP sponsored a lot of table readings (some at the Jungle Theater on Lyndale) when I lived in the Twin Cities.

Toward the end, her daughter (Malin Akerman) appears, and we learn just how long Carol has been "alone". June Squibb stands out as a friend from the retirement home.  
  
I saw the film at the Angelika Mosaic in Fairfax Va, before a small weeknight audience.
  
  
The official site is here (Bleecker Street films --- Le Poisson Rogue is on that street).
  
I do see certain people whom I like in my own dreams. No, I won't tell. 
Picture: From the Angelino Hotel on the 405, my visit, 2012.