New York City Stories (Film Thoughts: Love Is Strange/Still Alice)

Earlier this week, a news story affected me: Ess A Bagel, which a lot of people – including me – consider as the best bagel shop in New York City announced it was closing its doors, a victim of a greedy landlord demanding higher rent. To me it mars an end of an era. Then I finally saw Ira Sach’s “Love Is Strange,” a movie I have been wanting to see since it first came out, but for some reason or another has eluded me. Alfred Molina and John Lithgow (both excellent here) play a married couple who, after thirty nine years of being together, gets married (yay for marriage equality) The marriage affects Molina’s character, though, since he works for a Catholic school, and of course we know where the Catholic church stands on that. As a result, he loses his job, and they have to leave their apartment and temporarily live with relatives and friends. While this premise is a little bit over-the-top (I can think of different ways of circumnavigating the situation they nevertheless get thrust into households, and well you can probably guess what happens next. But Sachs is smarter than that, dealing hands that are very subtle but ass effective. We get to see meanings in ordinary circumstances, and extra ordinary circumstances pushes characters to see, feel, and express love. Strange dear, but true, dear. The last act simmers quietly, and i surprise myself by no even aware that I have been sobbing. The best scenes here come from still moments. Maybe this resonated to me more because I suffered a loss recently, and maybe that is part of the reason why I am just seeing this movie now. Maybe it was designed to heal a certain part of my pain.  I consider this one of the best movies of the last year, with probably the best ensemble cast of the year. Marisa Tomei is particularly effective, and Darren Burrows, in a scene towards the end of the movie, epitomized the pain felt by all of the characters in the movie. Moving beyond belief.

Meanwhile, we move from the West Village to the  Upper West Side where we see Alice, played with subdued perfection by Julianne Moore, diagnosed with early on set Alzheimer’s disease.  This come almost as an irony to her, for she is a Columbia University professor specializing in the study of how people communicate with each other. Based on the book of the same title, written by neuroscientist Lisa Genova. Moore is such an intelligent actress, as she never chooses the most obvious ways for her character to deal with the deterioration of the disease. No histrionics here, no cliched disease of teh week tv movie grabs. She gives an intuitive, nuanced performance that shows that she prepared for the role in the most prepared way. But her preparedness sometimes becomes too obvious at times. But no matter, if this is the vehicle that would finally give her an Academy award, then so be it. Sometimes her acting is more intelligent than the movie, and for that she should be rewarded.

These two movies represent, for me, quintessential New York stories. These are two distinct, and individual tales that show how people live, survive, perish in the city. I will not lie when I say that it made me miss the city that made me th eperson I am today. But is today’s New York City still my New York?

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