She’s A Lady (Film Thoughts: Lady Bird)

ladybird_fin11_onlineNow that I am middle aged, I look to large parts of my life with fondness. I remember those times I wanted to break free from family – I wanted to go on and live my life. Now I realize I was already living my life then. All the differences I had with parents – I would gladly acquiesce just to go back in time, so I could spend even one day with them.

‘Lady Bird’ took me to a reflective mood, as I am sure we can all relate to the story of Catherine (‘Lady Bird’) who is in the cusp of adolescence and young adulthood. She is struggling along her senior year in High School, wanting to be free of middle California, yearning to be in the East Coast, ‘where culture is.’  She has a complicated relationship with her mother, and they volley back and forth between arguing and hunting for dresses.

Written and directed by actress Greta Gerwig, you can easily discern her voice here. I am probably one of the few people who do not appreciate her as an actress (she annoys me, mostly, if I have to be truly honest) and I still hear her cadence her, but Saoirse Ronan eases the character well, so that even if Lady Bird sometimes veer into unlikable category, we still appreciate and empathize. I love that she is surrounded by these rich characters: Laurie Metcalf as her mother is subtle and bombastic, and I was particularly drawn to Lucas hedges’ Danny. (He has one scene that was particularly touching and unforgettable)

But I wish i was truly in love with the movie. Right now, I just merely like it, and perhaps the near unanimous praise it is getting (100% on Rotten Tomatoes) raised my hopes too high. I do think that this is one of those movies that gets better after a second viewing, so I will still be open. For now, though, I won’t complain if this gets all the nominations it deserves.

A Case Of You (Film Thoughts: Murder On The Orient Express)

largeposterAn All-Star Cast is assembled in ‘Murder On The Orient Express,’ directed by Kenneth Branagh and each one is visually stunning. I mean, Johnnhy Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench – they’re here. Add to that Broadway-centric stars like Josh Gad and Leslie Odom Jr. and that makes me doubly happier. So why is it that I was not overwhelmed with happiness after seeing ‘Murder On The Orient Express’? Perhaps because I felt a lot of things were overly familiar, and also maybe because the ‘reveal’ is the same as the 1974 version. The screenplay, by Michael green, introduces a bit of ‘new stuff’ but it just did not connect for me. And while the film is gorgeous (the cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos is nomination worthy) to look at, a lot of times it felt pretty but no substance. Branagh’s direction had some nice touches – the last-supper type scene with all the suspects was inspired – the movie still limped. Pfeiffer is great here, but just like most people in the cast, underutilized.

Perhaps the movie just isn’t for me. I vacillated quite a bit on seeing it, and only did when a friend asked me to go with him. I don’t know if I would have gone alone.

Some Good (Movie Thoughts: Good Time/The Good Catholic)

429200_pt‘That movie is not your type of movie,’  someone said to me while I was watching ‘Good Time.”  That person is right, but I am always up for a challenge. This film is being described as a 70s type beats-in-the-city crime action thriller, and that’s not really my favorite film genre. Surprisingly, I wasn’t bored watching this, and who would be with how Directors Ben and Josh Safdie layers the action non stop. And Robert Pattinson is sensational here, and really who would think that both he and Kristin Stewart have emerged as two of the best young actors working nowadays. I don’t know if I even appreciate what is all going on here in this movie, but I bet a lot of other people do, and that’s fine with me.

gccMoving along to another movie with good on its title, ‘The Good Catholic,’ which is a tepid rom-com about a priest (Zachary Spicer) who falls in love with one of his parishioners. This could hav ebeen a film that explores how Catholicisms and its oudated principles can affect lives of people today, but the film isn’t really interested in that. Instead, it focuses on a cutesy love story that doesn’t offend nor inspire. This is just one of those films that ones forgets even as the credits are still rolling.

Summer Breeze Makes Me Feel Fine (Perfume Thoughts: Tel Aviv, Gallivant)

375x500.44623There’s a love song in ‘Guys and Dolls’ that goes ‘I’ll know when my love comes along, I’ll know even then.” and I thought of that while I was sampling Gallivant’s Tel Aviv. You see, I just wrote about another Gallivant scent, Brooklyn, and even though I liked it, and it was very nice, I felt like I didn’t have an emotional connection to the scent. Talk about a night and day difference with Tel Aviv.  Mere seconds after sniffing it, I knew that Tel Aviv would be a fragrance that would be part of my wardrobe. I knew, right there and then, that I had already fallen in love with this scent.and even though this bottle is not in my collection yet, I know at some point I will hold it in my hand and it will fit in squarely with all my other perfumes.

It was love at first sniff – the jasmine and ylang ylang together, with the blackberry buds and clementine to put a nice rounding citrus circle around it. and there’s musk in the dry down. It’s very 70s, as aptly described by the brand, evoking gold jewelry on tanned skin. It feels weathered, like you have been wearing it since yesterday, and still settling nicely on your skin. The base where musks join in just frames the whole perfume nicely, and the smell does feel like a painting fully formed. It feels like a summer day, and it would probably be gorgeous on a cold winter day as well. This will be mine.

Love Begins With One Hello (Film Thoughts: Hello Again)

helllo_1507045388I remember seeing ‘Hello Again’ off-Broadway at Lincoln Center many years ago, and I remember disliking it. Even though I liked the performances (Donna Murphy! John Cameron Mitchell!) I really was put off by Michael John LaChiusa’s score. I have always been a purist when it comes to musical theater – I’m old fashioned, please don’t mind me – and it took me a long while to get adjusted to the ‘modern’ composers whose themes are more discordant, and tuneless.

So maybe it’s that maturity that made me appreciate the score now, more than twenty years later, and actually, it really has grown on me, and I even like it a lot now. Or perhaps it’s the MTV effect. Paired with the great visuals in the film, the music resonated more. The show was inspired by Arthur Shnitzler’s La Ronda, and features vignettes of people engaging in sexual acts, all done elegantly, so there’s nothing smutty here.

s592I loved this movie, and I had reservations. It was perfectly cast with a cast with blazing screen presences, voices that life the score, and sensuality that is needed to essay the score. I cannot think of anyone who is a weak link – everyone was perfect. To my eyes, the male cast was perfection – starting with Gerald Nolan Funk and Al Calderone. And has Cheyenne Jackson ever been sexier on film? I was mesmerized by Tyler Blackburn (Where has he been all my life?) and thought T R Knight was best with his scene from the Titanic.

And of course, Audra McDonald. She sizzles on screen as she does on stage. You cannot take your eyes off her, and when she sings, angels would take notes. I hadn’t known that Rumer Willis (of Demi and Bruce) was good like this good, and Martha Plimpton always delivers.

The vignettes, to me, played like music videos, and probably better suited for this medium. Some of the sexuality seems tempered, but I guess that wasn’t really the point of the film. But to me, the whole was very enjoyable, and when the credits started to roll, I wanted more.

Gallivanting I: Germany and France (Movie Thoughts: Die Geschwiter/Basier Caches)

Some quick hits on some flicks.

diegI really liked Die Geschwiter (Brother and Sister) which is set in Berlin and touches upon a couple of issues. Written and Directed by Jan Kruger, it is the story of a gay man who finds himself involved in the life of a brother and sister who are illegal refugees from Poland and Russia. He initially gives them a place to stay, then he gets romantically involved with the brother, but are they really just brother and sister? And is he really gay, or is he just being used? We never really get direct answers for some of these questions, and that’s not the point perhaps. We get a glimpse of life where refugees are discriminated, and I learn here that this type of thing doesn’t just happen in America. This was thought provoking and also engrossing.

baiserFrom France comes Baisers Caches (Hidden Kisses) which is about a gay teenager from suburban France. It is a story about young love, homophobia, bullying. This was really disturbing to me – do these stories still exist in this day and age? I thought the younger generation now do not care about the sexual orientation of people their age? While the film does provide a nice ending, I was really bothered by some of the bullying scenes. At least it gives a positive message for this younger generation.

 

 

 

The Back Bones (Film Thoughts: My Friend Dahmer)

DFMD0s5VYAAvupeEven when it was in the headlines, I never really followed the story of Jeffrey Dahmer. I know he was a serial killer, and killed and chopped his victims, but, that was it. Going into Marc Meyer’s ‘My Friend Dahmer,’ I thought I was going to get the full picture, but then I realize now this film covers only his teenage years, as it is based on the graphic comic/novel written by his high school friend John Beckderf. What we get here is kind of the root of what happens next, and literally so, as the film ends as Dahmer meets his very first victim.

What we do see is a humanized Dahmer, one that is presented without any judgement, and we as an audience are left to ponder what the man is to become. So it seems he is a sort-of outsider in High School, prone to attention seeking antics by mimicking someone having epileptic seizures for fun. He gets in the group with three other young men. And from then on we see signs of his eccentricities – his obsession with carcasses, bones, ‘things that are inside.’  He comes from a dysfunctional family – his mother, played by Anne Heche, is kind of on the crazy side – she also favored his younger brother.

The performances here are uniformally good. Ross Lynch is fine as Dahmer, and I did not know that he is one of those wholesome Disney actors, so people are saying this is a great ‘stretch.’  Heche and Dallas Roberts play the parents, and they bring their own kind of eerieness in their performances.

I wish the film did more. I wish it was scarier, or more dramatic. To be honest, I thought it was on the bland side because surely a colorful character like Dahmer would make a more bombastic film.