“Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” (2007): Sidney Lumet’s Last Movie

Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Andy, a plump, middle-aged real-estate wheeler/dealer whose world comes crashing down on him in a very big way, after he has the genius idea of knocking off his parents’ mom-and-pop jewelry store in a Westchester mall (It’s like Fargo, only twice as painful):

Andy to his brother Hank (Ethan Hawke):

  • It’s too late to think. It’s too late.

Also, Seymour Hoffman’s character is a cocaine addict. Watching him do a line is gut-wrenching.

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Noir City: San Francisco’s 15th Annual Film Noir Festival, at the Castro

Stay tuned.

Matt Zoller Seitz Reviews “Love & Friendship” (Another of Self’s Favorite Movies of 2016)

Really nice review. Read it in http://www.rogerebert.com.

Kudos to Director Whit Stillman, lead Kate Beckinsale, and Xavier Samuel, who plays the man Beckinsale’s character sets her sights on.

  • “Love & Friendship feels like it was inevitable. The director Whit Stillman adapting Jane Austen is one of those ideas that sounds like it’s made up because it’s so perfect, like Wes Anderson announcing that he’s going to make an animated film about foxes based on a book by Roald Dahl.”
  • “Stillman’s films are comedies of manners . . .  the more brazen or ambitious characters run roughshod over people who have, well, manners.”
  • The main character, Susan, “is distinguished by her audacity, not just in her wants and desires but in the way she talks to other people, turning subtext into text in a way most people would not do unless the person they were talking about was in another room, or another state. But they’re standing right there! And they can’t get their minds around how staggeringly rude and entitled Susan is — most of all Reginald, who’s played with great precision by Samuel as a decent man who is so stunned by Susan’s nerve that he can barely bring himself to reprimand her: he’s too busy marveling at her existence.”

In addition, self is looking forward to seeing the following films, hopefully in the next few weeks:

  • Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson
  • Paul Verhoeven’s Elle
  • Denzel Washington’s adaptation of August Wilson’s Fences
  • Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea
  • Disney’s Moana

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

One of Self’s Favorite Movies of 2016

“Hell or High Water.”

In that movie, Chris Pine had such a mournful, thin frame. He looked extraordinary. Perhaps he and Casey Affleck are evolving the same laconic style. But there was so much he was able to express in just the way he stood.

And the other thing: Ben Foster. Yeah, him. Mr. Intensity.

When self last saw Ben Foster, he was in that coast guard movie, “The Finest Hours” (also with Chris Pine), looking overweight but fitting the part so perfectly. Here, Foster’s more like self remembers him being from other movies: runty-looking yet powerful.

In perfect opposition to Pine and Foster, another stellar pair: Jeff Bridges and his dour, heartbreaking deputy, played by Gil Birmingham.

Right now, everyone’s talking Casey Affleck and “Manchester by the Sea”, which self has not yet seen. But let’s not forget: there were four great performances in “Hell or High Water.” Let’s not forget.

Also, there is a restaurant scene that rivals Jack Nicholson’s Hold the Chicken scene in “Five Easy Pieces.”

A waitress runs down a list of choices with Jeff Bridges and his deputy. She finally ends up saying, “What don’t you want?”

Here’s a crucial scene from the movie:

“Momma died.”

“When?”

“Two weeks.”

“Well, good riddance. (Pause) No offense.”

(Sigh) That dialogue. Perfection.

Stay tuned.

A. V. Club Review: PASSENGERS

As a committed Everlark fan fiction writer, self still hasn’t gotten over J-Law.

But the fandom is up in arms over Passengers.

Do dear blog readers know that there are a number of Hollywood screenplay writers who write Everlark? For fun?

Neither did self, until the rumbling about Passengers started.

First, there was a tremor over the photoshopping of Lawrence’s eyes in the promo posters.

Next, the trailers.

And finally, the screenplay. Apparently, Lawrence’s status as a feminist is strained to the utmost in this movie, where she is presented as a kind of trophy for Chris Pratt. There are, of course, worse things in life than becoming the trophy/girlfriend of Chris Pratt, but Lawrence surely deserved more than just to play that role.

This is a kick-ass woman, Hollywood! Self things she’s moved past the girlfriend roles.

From A. V. Club:

A spaceship malfunction wakes up Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) 90 years early “and he’s now doomed to live out the rest of his life surrounded by sushi bars and infinity pools, but not a single human companion.”

Unbeknownst to all (or maybe not unbeknownst to all!), Jim has developed an obsession with one of the sleeping passengers, of course a gorgeous blonde (played by Jennifer Lawrence) named Aurora. But, just so you know J-Law’s character is no bimbo, the script has her playing a journalist.

Preston “deliberately wakes her up early so he has someone to talk to.” (I’ll bet!) He then “proceeds to present an innocent face to his new friend/captive and to charm/manipulate her into” a “sexual relationship.”

As Yoda himself might say at this point: The ICK factor is high in this one.

Passengers becomes —  Barbarella???!!

Jane Fonda played Barbarella and she was good in the role.

Lawrence cannot play this role because, no matter how high the hot-ness factor, that gaze of hers is just too knowing, too capable of pinning a man to the floor.

So, who could play this role as space girlfriend? Someone curvy, since this is a male fantasy movie. Scarjo, perhaps? Margot Robbie? Or that woman in the TV series Quantico?

But there is a problem here because Lawrence for the life of her cannot play anything but shrewd. That’s just who she is. And whatever role she plays, big or small, the hugeness of the Lawrence bullshit-detector cannot be hidden, much less effaced. So it is really, really asking a lot of the audience to swallow the fact that one of the shrewdest actresses in movies today is playing someone who cannot read through a man’s intentions. Especially since the screenplay has her playing a journalist. And surely it doesn’t take a journalist, or even a whole village of journalists, to deduce that Jim Preston has an ulterior motive in waking Aurora up early? Because why wake up a journalist in outer space? Wouldn’t it make more sense to wake up an engineer? Wouldn’t it make more sense to have J-Law play an android? Space ship + woken up early + by Chris Pratt = yes, do go there.

Who wrote this?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Guardian’s Top 50 (U.S. Released) Films of 2016 — Up to No. 9

They have a separate list for UK films, and right now self doesn’t have time to compare the two. So here are the Guardian’s Top 50 U.S. Released Films of 2016 (Up to No. 9, “The Handmaiden.” The entire list gets posted on Dec. 16).

Self is posting the list in reverse order: meaning, #50 first.

She put asterisks next to the movies she’s seen.

She walked out of “Nocturnal Animals.” She could probably have watched Armie Hammer’s turn as an ultra-detached husband, forever. But the violence, especially in those Texas scenes, was too much, even for self’s normally iron-clad stomach. Not only was it too much, it was predictable. From the moment the bored daughter gives a car of yahoos the finger, she knew what was going to happen. First of all, the father (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) reminded her of a type. The middle-class clueless type. Which impression was only reinforced with every passing second of the unfolding scene.

As for “Fantastic Beasts” — Eddie Redmayne seemed to be channeling Stephen Hawking, but this time with the use of all limbs. Sorry. There was no charisma. Which self cannot believe she just said. About Eddie Redmayne. Who is usually so damn cute.

There are several documentaries in the below list. Which self will have to hunt up on Netflix.

  • Deepwater Horizon
  • The Neon Demon
  • 10 Cloverfield Lane *
  • Fences
  • The Clan
  • The Jungle Book
  • The Eagle Huntress
  • Hail, Caesar!
  • Wiener Dog
  • The Witch
  • I, Daniel Blake
  • High-Rise
  • Hunt for the Wilderpeople
  • Cemetery of Splendour
  • From Afar
  • Everybody Wants Some!
  • The Light Between Oceans
  • Embrace of Serpent
  • Zootopia
  • Sing Street
  • Chronic
  • The Childhood of a Leader
  • Dheepan
  • Green Room
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them*
  • Tale of Tales
  • Deadpool*
  • Things To Come
  • 20th Century Women
  • American Honey
  • Doctor Strange*
  • Hell Or High Water*
  • The Lobster*
  • Paterson
  • Our Little Sister
  • The Club
  • Loving
  • Nocturnal Animals*
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Sausage Party
  • Weiner
  • The Handmaiden

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

RELAX: Daily Post Photo Challenge, 2 December 2016

This week’s Photo Challenge — RELAX — is perfect, just perfect!

We all need to relaaaaaax. Especially after the kind of elections we just had.

Three relaxing things self got to enjoy in 2016 (Can you believe it’s almost 2017? Time flies!)

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Relaxed in Capitola, CA

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Relaxed in Ferrycarrig, County Wexford, Ireland

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Old Blind Dogs Performing in Fort Bragg, CA in March 2016

“Hell Or High Water”: Brilliance

For weeks, self had been wanting to see this movie. Why? First of all, Ben Foster doesn’t make that many movies. But every time she stumbles across a Ben Foster performance, no matter how small the supporting role, she’s noticed him. Admired what he brings to every part. Especially his eyes!

So, come on, you’ve probably seen the trailer and read the rave reviews. And self had been trying to see it for weeks. Weeks. So, finally, today, she succeeded in her quest. And, dear blog readers, her verdict:

FAN-TA-MA-TAS-TIC

She could see the legacy of Fargo and the Coen Brothers all over it. At least, in the first third or so. As the movie continued, she realized the director (who she’d never heard of before) was of a more melancholy bent.

She can’t say enough about the chemistry between the two leads, and even about the chemistry between the two supporting leads. Actually, this movie isn’t just about money and bad fortune and how when bad luck hits, it hits you from all directions.

It’s also about a kind of manliness that is perfectly embodied in Chris Pine. There are several shots of him with his back to the camera, and self swears: even his back is acting. His back, his shoulders, his legs. Chris Pine, who knew?

MILD SPOILER. JUST MAKING SURE. THERE ARE NO REGRETS.

Her favorite scene in the movie is not, however, one with Pine. It’s a scene with Jeff Bridges and a walk-on. A walk-on whose presence is so, so grounding that self will never forget his lines:

“You look pretty winded, you ought to let me take the shot. That’s my gun.”

“Not on your life.”

There’s also another scene — involving a waitress — that recalls Jack Nicholson’s “Hold the Chicken” ordering-in-a-restaurant scene in Five Easy Pieces for scratch-your-head befuddlement. Self was in absolute stitches. Watch for it.

Brilliance. Just brilliance.

Stay tuned.

 

 

“Indignation”: It Ends

SPOILER ALERT!!! SPOILER ALERT!!! MAAAAAJOR SPOILER ALERT!!!

Interesting, the way the characters in this movie spoke. No one sounded natural delivering the dialogue, but perhaps this was done deliberately, to reflect an “uptight” decade in American life (the 1950s)?

Everyone, that is, except for:

  • Logan Lerman
  • The actors who played Logan Lerman’s parents, especially the woman who played his mother
  • His childhood chums, discussing the death of one of their friends in Korea
  • His college roommates, one of whom (the phlegmatic big guy) was very, very good

This arch-ironic delivery, however, ends up being pure acting gold when it comes to the portrayal of a Dean of a University located in, of all places, Winesburg, Ohio (How very Sherwood Anderson!).

Nothing the Dean said (mainly a string of platitudes) made any sense. He was all about double-talk and veiled warnings, yet he delivered them with such a sense of conviction, as a man absolutely unshakeable in his moral beliefs, a man who’s been taken over so completely by his need to uphold the “right” standards that he doesn’t even know how to react when Logan’s character says (at least 5x): “I’m about to throw up. I have to go.” (Because self has seen Animal House at least 3x, she knew exactly how this scene was going to go down. How weird is it that Indignation and Animal House have a scene like this in common?)

The performances in this movie were really, really on point.

Lerman’s character, who hails from Newark, New Jersey, is completely out of his depth. Not only is he from Newark, New Jersey, he’s the son of a butcher. Not only is he the son of a butcher, he’s the son of a kosher butcher. Can you imagine? Oh the horrors of a guy like this attending university in Winesburg!

Lerman’s character is an atheist but unfortunately for him, he’s the only “out” atheist on campus. Everyone else — aside from 80 Jews — is Christian.

There’s a femme fatale. Okay, so she slit one wrist, was treated, she’s okay now. Self is so tired of these fragile college girls, these doomed Sylvia Plath iterations, who mess up the lives of innocents like our hero played by Logan Lerman. From the moment her character was introduced, self knew she would mess up the hero’s life. (Yes, Hero, You Should Listen to Your Overprotective Mother!)

And then the end. Let’s just say, not since that trendy woman’s novel where a woman kept going to bars and sleeping with strangers and ended up describing how she was killed, on the very last page, has self ever felt so cheated, cheated, cheated!

You cannot do first person when you’re dead at the end, all right?

If you’re dead — unless you’re an angel or a ghost or the second coming of Alice Sebold — you cannot tell a story like this, where everything is wrapped up so prettily in hindsight. Because the human being who lives the story will not tell it like this. He’ll be all: I cannot believe I’m going down like this! This sucks!

Total disintegration would be preferable to tragic story arc (In hindsight, everything can be made to seem tragic. It’s “spin.” It’s also a cheat. That is self’s humble opinion. You can get away with it but please, not in first person)

But, Holy Cow, LOGAN LERMAN. The only other movies self has seen him in are 3:10 to Yuma and Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. Her main objection to him was that he looked like a girl. She won’t be saying that again, after this movie.

When the movie ended, self had to turn to her seatmate and ask, What the heck just happened there? Is he really dead?

The woman’s countenance was completely shattered. Yes, she said. He is dead.

And with that, self left the theatre in a very bad mood. Practically stomped out. Like, she could not believe she just spent two hours listening to Logan Lerman’s poetic narration, only to have it end up like this. So, all that before, that was his disembodied dead self telling us the story? Nooooo!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Jamie Dornan, Who Knew?

Since self broke the ice by mentioning Jamie Dornan in her previous post, she’s decided she might as well go whole-hog and discuss the Jamie. Specifically, the Jamie Dornan in “The Fall.”

(She hasn’t seen “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Only seen huge black-and-white photos of Jamie’s back — he has very nice shoulders — on the sides of buildings in London’s South Bank, summer 2015. Which was enough to send her rocketing to the nearest bookstore to purchase a copy of The Grey. Which she ended up giving away to someone because she couldn’t get past the first 10 pages)

Self has just finished watching all the episodes of “The Fall,” Gillian Anderson’s come-back role as a detective. Gillian plays a sexy, high-heel wearing, sultry detective named Stella. Couldn’t be farther from her X-Files character.

In “The Fall,” she deliberately leaves her top dangerously unbuttoned for press interviews, wears nail polish in the killer’s favorite shade of red (Self is not kidding!) and in general behaves in very un-Scully fashion. Which would make the whole thing ludicrous were it not for the fact that — yes, we do want to see Jamie Dornan come out from hiding! We do! We do! We do!

(No spoilers here. The identity of the serial killer is revealed to the viewer from the start. It’s all a matter of when Stella & cohorts will finally be able to put two and two together and catch him before he kills again)

Jamie’s character is named (of all things), Spector. As in Spectator. Get it?

Stella sleeps with everyone — fellow detectives, bosses. Even the young Merlin detective (Self means, the young boy who plays Merlin in the TV series). From this we are expected to infer (Seriously?) that the sexual predator played by Jamie Dornan would find her attractive. But Stella’s sex life is the weakest part of the series, at least it is in self’s humble opinion.

Coming clean, “The Fall” is the first time self has ever enjoyed looking so much at Jamie Dornan’s face. It’s hidden behind a full beard but it’s the emotionally distant look that makes him so, so magnetic.

There’s one moment where he has a victim completely at his mercy, and he removes his face mask. For the first time, the woman sees his face. It’s a very pretty face but it’s such an awful moment because you realize (as does the young woman) that the showing of the face means that he’s not afraid to be ID’d. He’s going to kill her.

AAAARRRRRGH.

Self will say no more. Watch “The Fall” on Netflix. (Was this guy nominated for an Emmy for his performance? Should have been)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Café Society: Angst, But No Meltdown

Live every day like it’s your last, and one day you’ll be right.

— a character in Woody Allen’s Café Society

Why do Woody Allen’s recent movies end like that?

Why do they just seem to stop — as if the director realized he was running out of time and it would take at least an hour to untangle the mess he’s thrown his characters into but uh-oh, he doesn’t have the time or the budget so, rather than compromise with a manufactured ending, he just stops.

Sometimes, he can get away with it, but not here. No, no, no. Self refuses to accept that this ending “works.”

About the performances: Jesse Eisenberg, it’s almost a physical transformation. Is the actor really that skinny, that stooped, that — plain?

Kristen Stewart — not nearly as convincing as the California object of men’s desires. J-Law could have done this part, in her sleep. And she would have nailed it, too.

Blake Lively — her part was sooo under-written but she did her best with the little she was given.

Steve Carell — okay, you were good. So good that self hated you. Almost all the way through.

And Corey Stoll — Self knows. Corey who? But, what a performance. Scary and convincing. Watch for it.

Cinematography — aced. The settings were so beautifully framed, in almost every shot.

More later.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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