Quote of the Day: Glenn Kenney

What admiration self has for Chaz, Roger Ebert’s widow, who kept his name alive with the site RogerEbert.com, where you can find a collection of great reviews on all the most recently released movies (It is so much better than Rotten Tomatoes. On RogerEbert.com, a reviewer can actually say Suicide Squad stinks, and it will have 10x the persuasive power of someone on Rotten Tomatoes saying Suicide Squad stinks. Even though they both mean the same thing: that Suicide Squad really really stinks)

Self was looking over recently released movies (She’s just seen two back-to-back: Pete’s Dragon and Indignation. Since she’s already gotten this far, she might as well keep going with the one-movie-a-day!) and was un-enthused until she got to the three-star review of Ben-Hur by Glenn Kenney.

Self did not realize that the star of Ben-Hur was Jack Huston, Anjelica Huston’s nephew. She also did not realize that she’s actually seen him before: in American Hustle, seducing J-Law’s tempestuous character (who was married to Christian Bale’s character)

She did not realize that the director of Ben-Hur was Timur Bekmambetov. This guy is grrrreat! He directed Wanted, with James McAvoy. Sometimes self gets him confused with Tarsem Singh, who directed 2011’s The Immortals, a movie Roger Ebert described as “without doubt the best-looking awful movie you will ever see.” But, self digresses.

Kenney begins his review by calling Ben-Hur “a masterpiece of condensation.” Self likes that opening sentence so much that she continues reading the review. And comes to another great sentence:

  • “… this Ben-Hur has more Christ in it than any previous version.”

And that’s it. That’s her sentence of the day.

In this movie, Jesus has a cameo. And is played by, of all people, Rodrigo Santoro, whose body piercings in 300 are etched in self’s memory to this day.

This is such a fun review. Just one more quote: “The characters all speak in a completely contemporary tone, which shows the influence of — what do you know? Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, which was criticized for (among other things) having the apostles talk like they’d just jumped off the IRT.” Har, har, har! Thank you, Glenn Kenney.

Since self is challenged in the time department this week, and she’s already posted twice today about movies, she’ll just slip this one in: She loved Pete’s Dragon except for the dragon. He looked like a stuffed toy.

Don’t get self wrong: she believes in dragons. But if a studio with deep pockets like Disney does a movie about dragons, she would like to see a screen dragon who is All Creature. One who looks like it could positively reek. You might call this the Game of Thrones Affect: it’s the satisfaction of knowing that when you look at a wildling, you can imagine wildling body odor.

The boy, however, that boy was really feral. More feral even than the dragon. She hasn’t seen a boy that convincingly feral since the kid in Road Warrior.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. 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.

 

Actually a Very Good Question

Self has been browsing movie reviews, and binge-watching Ripper Street, and tweeting with fans about it, and beginning yet another fan fiction, which she needs like a hole in the head, but this one’s irresistible, this one’s got a Really Really Dark Peeta, a Peeta who just might be a murderer! Like Jack the Ripper! . . . Sorry! Back to the reason for this post.

From Critic After Dark’s review of The Shallows (which self saw aaaaages ago, at the start of the summer — feels like a lifetime!) starring Blake Lively, whose legs are so on point self can’t even:

Then of course death crashes the party in the form of a humpback whale carcass. Clever way to account for the Great White cruising nearby (otherwise it’s a bit of a puzzler why the shark — which habituates the waters of California, Northeast United States, South Africa and Australia — is hanging around a Mexican beach) but also raises a whole other question: why forego this tasty, properly wet-aged all-you-can-eat buffet of rich blubber and tender meat for a bony surfer who would hardly make up a satisfying snack?

In answer to which self wishes she could insert a hundred “shrug” emojis!

And self  has a question of her own for reviewer Noel Vera: How does he know the carcass is that of a humpback whale? Because it literally is half gone. So there is no possible way to determine whether it really does have a humped back. Har, har, har! Sorry, self just couldn’t resist making a lame joke.

Self will close with a list of the summer 2016 movies she most enjoyed:

  • The Shallows
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Our Kind of Traitor
  • Café Society
  • Love & Friendship
  • Ghostbusters
  • Bad Moms

Oh, summer. Self can’t believe it’s almost over.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Seamus Heaney’s Translation of The Aeneid, Book VI

Earlier this year, self was in Ireland, cutting out book reviews from a copy of The Guardian at the breakfast table in the Main House of the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig. She was explaining to a writer from Belfast that back home in California she had file drawers full of book review clippings and now . . .

The writer just smiled.

What is it about the Irish? Self never has to complete sentences there. Never. They’re pretty observant and never waste words.

In the Wall Street Journal of Wednesday, 17 August 2016, there’s a review of Seamus Heaney’s last work, a translation of the Aeneid, Book VI, which according to reviewer Christopher Carroll, he completed just a month before he died:

  • It is his last published poem, a poignant rendition of Aeneas’ arrival in Italy and journey into the underworld to see his dead father.

Right. Self is adding it to her reading list, as well as Heaney’s “Station Island” (1984) and “Route 110” (2010).

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.

 

 

Quote of the Day: Alice Gregory

From Gregory’s review in The New York Review of Books of Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, by William Finnegan (August 13, 2015):

  • This capacity for geographical familiarity — knowing exactly where the neighbor’s fence warps slightly — is a visceral kind of knowledge, gained organically, and it atrophies as we age. Learning a place by heart is a luxury rarely afforded to adults, and unless absolutely forced to, one seldom even notices that the ability has been lost.

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.

Fandango & Rotten Tomatoes Disagree Over “Suicide Squad”

Since self is so confused by the Rotten on Rotten Tomatoes and the 4 1/2 stars on Fandango, she goes straight to rogerebert.com.

It’s massive, messy, and noisy. And it stinks.

She notices Joel Kinnaman is in the cast. She almost forgot because of all the attention Margot Robbie was getting.

Then she feels sad because she remembers Kinnaman was with Mireille Enos in the dark detective series The Killing. And she really, really liked him there.

She heard over the grapevine that Suicide Squad advocates (Who?) are so incensed by the movie’s low rating on Rotten Tomatoes that they’re calling for the shut-down of the website.

Really?

Too funny.

Wow, is it really going to get down to that?

This is going to be fun.

Which reminds her: Aubrey Plaza is a great and witty actress but she is used so poorly in Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates that self can’t even. It’s really crass, but crass in a way that made her feel sorry for Plaza. (Anna Kendrick’s in the movie, too, but there is a little more respect shown for her character. Mebbe because she’s a bigger star?)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Quote of the Day: Yes, You Know It

From Matt Zoller Seitz’s review of “Love & Friendship,” Whit Stillman’s new movie, on rogerebert.com, which is self’s current go-to site for reviews of new movies:

(NOTE: Parenthetical comments are self’s adds)

(Lady) Susan is distinguished by her audacity, not just in her wants and desires but in the way she talks to other people (not least of whom is her own daughter, a most woeful waif named Frederica), 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.

Yes, in Stillman’s movie, social cruelty is played completely straight by Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny and also by Xavier Samuel. Beckinsale’s Lady Susan utters lines like “Facts are horrid” with such sweetness you don’t even know if that’s what she really said so you go “Facts are WHAT?”

Great job with directing this sly and absolutely wicked Jane Austen work, Whit Stillman!

Stay tuned.

“X-Men: Apocalypse” at Odeon, Covent Garden

Self spent three hours in the British Museum, then walked to Shaftesbury. It was a beautiful Sunday in London. Crowds were out walking, and tourists were arriving (How did self know they were tourists? Because they were pulling their suitcases along behind them)

The Odeon is quite a nice cinema, with very plush seats. Self was hoping to see “Captain America: Civil War” (Notice how all these superhero titles have colons now? Like book subtitles?) but on learning that the next show wasn’t until two hours later, and “X-Men: Apocalypse” was on in 10 minutes, she opted for “X-Men.” Besides, self will never not enjoy a J-Law movie. The girl is simply a hoot.

It’s a very long movie. At first, self went all gooey-eyed over James McAvoy rocking a thin top under a tweed jacket, plus 70s long hair. Not even the materialization of Nicholas Hoult in glasses could detract from the utter, utter  fabulousness of James McAvoy (Later, he appears in a lavender t-shirt. Which is sort of a shock because: Would Charles Xavier really be caught dead wearing a lavender t-shirt underneath a tweed jacket but anyhoo)

The movie has Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique iteration appearing in posters all over the world, like she’s some kind of rock star. Which is amusing.

Michael Fassbender is always very intense. Nothing new there. He sings, too, if dear blog readers want to know (For heaven’s sake, self felt like saying, as soon as he broke into song: it’s just a lullabye to your daughter, why are you singing like you’re at an audition? Perfectly in tune. Even, loud. Self finds Fassbender so annoying: he’s so good and yet he has to keep reminding you of it. He never — at least in self’s humble opinion — disappears completely into a role. Self is always aware, watching him, that she is watching a Fassbender performance)

But self only realized after Evan Peters appeared, more than halfway through the movie, that he was going to save it. The best scene in the last X-Men movie was his. And when he finally makes his appearance in this one, self actually laughed out loud, so great was her joy at seeing him again.

You know how you know you’re watching a movie in a British (as opposed to an American) cinema? Self watched the last “X-Men” (Days of Future Past) movie in an American cine-plex, and the audience was in stitches over Evan Peters. This time, she belatedly realized, after she was doubled up and chuckling, that she was the only one laughing. In the entire theatre. Everyone else was still as stone. Graven, if you will.

What? How could one not enjoy the leather pants, the sass, the playing of Mrs. Pac-Man, the whole Dude Affect? He’s got that role nailed to a T. Not even J-Law comes close in capturing the antic spirit, the rebelliousness, that made teen-agers the world over embrace the X-Men comic book series.

Here, for those who might have missed it, a link to Evan Peters as Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past.

SPOILER ALERT!!!!

By now, self finds the thwarted, twisted love between Magneto and Mystique so repetitive and — just get over it already, you two! Either hook up or stop making goo-goo eyes at each other!

In the end, self always knew Magneto would turn. He always threatens to go bad, and then he turns. There is just nothing new in this universe anymore.

But please, more of Evan Peters?

Self loves that when Quicksilver (who is actually Magneto’s son) is asked by Magneto what he is fighting for, he doesn’t say something corny like, “I’m your son!” There’s this moment of hesitation. You can actually see Quicksilver tempted to say it. But he doesn’t. He saves it for another day. Instead, he simply says, “I’m fighting for my family, too.”

Yes! That’s a sure sign that the filmmakers are planning to make something of this relationship in a future “X-Men” movie. Self expects Michael Fassbender will milk his new role as Quicksilver’s father to maximum dramatic effect, but  it’s not him self is looking forward to watching, it’s Evan Peters.

And oh yes, Sansa  Stark saves the daaaaaay! Self was so happy that Sansa gets to kick ass, finally! After all the torments she’s had to endure in Game of Thrones!

The bad guy is played by Oscar Isaac. God, what a waste of a face! He is completely unrecognizable; he could be Darth Vader, for all we know.

Stay tuned.

« Older entries