Saturday, August 17, 2019

Blinded By The Light

"Blinded By the Light is out tonight," I yelled to my daughter Griffyn, who I figured would be the most willing in my family to grant my last minute ask. 

"Let's go see it!" 

She loves the buttered popcorn, and she's into great song lyrics. So on any night of the week she'd be into seeing this particular movie. 

Tonight, though, happened to be the last Friday night she'll be at home before moving out for college. Several weeks ago I was excited and proud as I watched her pack up her room; now, as time draws close, I'm heartbroken.

I want more time with her. 

I got somethin' in my heart
I've been waitin' to give.
I got a life I wanna start
One I've been waitin' to live

Blinded's Javed Khan can't wait to get out of his home and get on with his life. His is an isolated existence filled with racial strife and economic struggles. He identifies with lyrics written by The Boss: tramps like Springsteen and Khan, baby they were born to run.

In between bites of popcorm I found myself watching Griffyn, especially during the movie's most emotional scenes. We haven't talked much about the fact she's moving out. It's an emotional challenge for me, and it's a challenge I'm not facing well.

Did she identify with the lead character, I wondered? Was she eager to get the hell out and start this new adventure? Were Springsteen's lyrics speaking to her, too?

Talk about a dream,
Try to make it real

"That was a really great movie," she said as we discarded our trash and headed toward the exit. On the way to the car we talked about the plot, praised the acting, and talked about how Springsteen has written so many lyrics that inspire.

"You know," she said as we drove out of the parking garage, "I'll be moving out in just a few days. I'm nervous, but I'm excited too. It will all be OK, but I'm going to miss seeing you every day."

Same, kid.  . . . same.

You've got to learn to live
With what you can't rise above

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Kitchen

Dear Couple In Row B:

I'm glad you enjoyed The Kitchen.

Despite being seated seven rows behind you  -- and on the far right of the theater, while you were on the far left -- I overheard you talking to each other about how much you loved the flick. You loved the soundtrack. You loved the violence. You loved watching the women grow from milquetoasts to badass gangsters.

I know you loved it because you talked about how much you loved it. From start to finish. From opening to closing credits.

Between several really loud burps you loved it.

Between your inappropriate knee-slaps and laughter -- it's wasn't a comedy, after all -- you loved it.

Between the dozens of loud, Marlboro-influenced coughs you loved it.

Me?

It was OK?


Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Once Upon A Time In . . . Hollywood

In case you didn't know, Once Upon A Time In . . . Hollywood is director Quentin Tarantino's ninth movie.

(And how could you not know this? For months, trailers promoted the movie by plastering "QUENTIN TARANTINO'S 9TH MOVIE" across the screen in bold, 1970s-style lettering as if to announce the second coming of Christ.)

Tarantino has stated several times during interviews that he plans to retire after his tenth flick. If and when this happens I'll no longer have reason to be annoyed by his self-indulgence and his love affair with Hollywood.

But then again, we'll be losing a master storyteller.

Tarantino tells stories in a way that just draws me in and keeps me there. His tricks of the trade -- highly saturated colors designed to set a mood, close-ups shots that linger on a character longer than necessary, rapid-fire dialogue interspersed with extended periods of silence, non-linear story-telling, cartoonish violence, and eclectic musical scores -- are all there in Hollywood.

And the results are as good as any Tarantino flick yet.

Once Upon A Time In . . . Hollywood blends real and imagined events to tell the story of a society in transition. Actor Rick Dalton, played masterfully by Leonardo DiCaprio, struggles to find his place as the film industry and American culture evolve from a simple to a more complicated existence. Frightened and insecure, Dalton finds comfort in routine. His stunt double Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt, provides for Dalton the consistency and confidence he needs to get by.

Their friendship is unflappable and a real joy to watch.

Tarantino uses this Tinseltown setting to re-image the Manson Family murders of Sharon Tate and four friends that took place on Cielo Drive during the summer of 1969. Hollywood is a fairytale, after all, and fairytales are best when they combine myth with truth.

And with this movie, Tarantino tells a Hollywood fairytale that is both satisfying and fun to watch.


Spider-Man: Far From Home


Truly great special effects 
+ Tom Holland as Peter Parker
 + sound script with humor =
Why Marvel will always produce better movies than DC


Friday, July 05, 2019

Midsommar

If you're like me, the first questions you ask your movie-going-partner after the credits roll and you walk toward the theater exit is: "Did you like the move?"

Nearly 24-hours after I watched Midsommar, I'm still stumped about how best to reply. Every time I try, it comes out sorta like:

"Well, I was absolutely horrified."

"It was kinda predictable, but I was transfixed."

"The cinematography was beautiful."

I'm not certain I liked the movie. In fact, I might be a little suspicious of anyone who liked the movie. But I can't stop thinking about it.

Ari Aster's pagan cult movie is beautifully filmed and speaks to the power of relationships. In fact, relationship is the heart of this movie: relationship with family and with lovers, and how it affects decision making; exchange and communal relationships, and how those systems create and affect beliefs and rituals; relationship with friends and acquaintances, and how those are affected by trust.

Midsommar ain't no ordinary horror flick.

The movie is not perfect, and I'm certain there are many who will hate it. Characters feel two dimensional, and the lack of character development makes the plot predictable early on. However, that predictability plays in the movie's favor -- the anticipation of what is to come adds to the distress and horror as the viewer rides that slow, emotional build until it reaches climax.

(No pun intended.)

I'm unsure if I liked Midsommar. But I'll remember Midsommar, and want to talk about Midsommar, for years.

And that makes for a great movie to me.






Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Annabelle Comes Home

Porcelain skin, and
Wide eyes that cut to the bone
Can't save a poor script


Saturday, June 29, 2019

Yesterday

Yesterday, created by writer Richard Curtis and director Danny Boyle, spends nearly two hours proving to the audience that The Beatles were the greatest musical artists of all time. 

Not John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, or Ringo Starr, despite their individual artistry and ability. But The Beatles together, as a band. 

There was something special about those four musicians coming together at exactly that time in history to produced that body of work. A body of work that changed music forever, and profoundly influenced art and culture. 

Sure, we know a lot of Beatles trivia. We know the band started out in Liverpool, England, nearly 60 years ago. We can sing all the words to Hey Jude and Let It Be, and hum most of Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. We know they are the best selling band in history, and hold the record for most Number 1 hits. 

We know intellectually that The Beatles were great. But seven decades later, I think we take the band for granted. We've heard their best songs so often that, perhaps, we don't appreciate them as we should.

And that's the beauty of Yesterday. Curtis and Boyle place the best of The Beatles in our modern world, and we watch as people hear and appreciate them for the first time. Curtis and Boyle allow the audience to compare and contrast songs by The Beatles to those of modern pop icons, and, . . .  it's clear there is no comparison.  

As Ed Sheeran - the real musician in a supporting role -- discovers, there are songs by The Beatles and then there are songs by everyone else. 

Yesterday is a powerful tribute to The Beatles contained within a well-acted romantic comedy. Himesh Patel is good at emoting the many internal conflicts he feels throughout, and Lily James is terrific as his first manager who wants to be more. And while Kate McKinnon seems a bit over the top as the record industry executive, I suspect those in that profession are more like her portrayal than they'd like to admit.

But the strength of Yesterday is the reminder that real art, such as the legacy left by The Beatles, is by far something greater than the iTunes-driven pop industry of today. 

Sixty years from now no one will be singing Justin Bieber's Boyfriend. But without a doubt people will still be singing Yesterday






Friday, June 14, 2019

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese

                              pre·ten·tious
                                                                   /prəˈten(t)SHəs/
                                                                          adjective
  1. attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed.
    "a pretentious literary device"
    synonyms:
    affected, ostentatious, chi-chi, showy, flashy, tinselly, conspicuous, flaunty, tasteless, kitschy; More

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Dark Phoenix

My summary of the entire 114 minutes of Dark Phoenix. 







Saturday, June 08, 2019

Rocketman

OK, let's first get the obvious comparison out of the way: Rocketman is a far better movie than Bohemian Rhapsody, and Taron Egerton a better Elton John than Rami Malek was a Freddie Mercury. 

There, I said it, and it's true. Deal with it. 

Rocketman tells John's story through music and metaphor. And if, like me, you've been a decades-long fan of Sir Elton Hercules John, then take note: you'll still learn something new about him after watching this biopic. 

Egerton is a force in this flick. The total package. He sings beautifully, and connects with the audience in a deeply personal way. Viewers can clearly tell that sweet, shy Reg is morphing into obnoxious, dickhead Elton, but we never look away or lose faith. That's due primarily to Egerton's ability to portray John as deeply flawed and fragile, yet lovable. 

We know he's an ass, but we also know why. And we understand. 

Jamie Bell almost steals the show as Bernie Taupin. Rocketman is as much the story of Taupin's deep brotherly love for Elton as it is about Elton's struggle to understand and accept himself. Watching their platonic relationship grow is wonderful. One scene in particular, where we witness the genius involved in writing "Your Song," may be my favorite movie scene from the last several years. 

The scene is that damn good. 

Rocketman, like the music of Elton John, won't be everyone's cup of tea. But I suspect the bandwagon will be really crowded come Academy Award time.