There are a lot of things about Francois Girard’s ‘The Song of Names’ that appeal to me: the historical drama theme, the classical music, the Britishness of it. The story, based on Norman Lebrecht’s novel, and with screenplay by Jeffrey Caine is weaved intricately – a young violinist, on the night of his big concert, suddenly disappears on the same night, and we are there to piece everything together, moving both backwards and forward. But the heart of the film is set in the mid 80s, when Martin (played by Tim Roth) gets a clue on what happened that night to his friend Dovidl (Clive Owens) and pursues the latter’s whereabouts.
The film doesn’t really work in a lot of ways, buy for me, it sill works. As a thriller, it is tepid, and the direction is much too low key for it to be really suspenseful. But there’s a quiet dignity to the whole thing, and Roth plays the role with expert subtlety. When the ‘big reveal’ is finally narrated, it isn’t as bombastic as you thought it would be, but it still packs intensity. And the music is breathtaking (Ray Chen plays the violin) and gives the film layers, along with Howard’s Shore’s score. I have family members who make fun of my film choices, saying I love ‘talkies.’ This film probably best describes what they mean, and I would gladly wear my admiration for it.
Thoughts on some films I have seen recently.
I have to admit it took a while for me to get into ‘International Falls.’ Initially, I thought the main characters in the film – Dee, an aspiring stand-up comic working at a hotel, and Tim, the visiting comic of the week – were uninteresting. To be honest, I almost gave up on it. But I kept on watching regardless. All in all, I still think the film was a little on the slow and dull side, but I have to admit the final twenty minutes was like a punch in the gut. I think maybe I finally warmed up to the film because of its theme of loneliness and how it affects all of us, and exacerbated by what we are all experiencing now, the message is timely.
So I am not gonna lie. I wanted to see ‘Banana Split’ because of Dylan Sprouse. I mean, he is a cutie. I remember this was on the roster of the Los Angeles Film festival and it was such a hot ticket (because of Dylan Sprouse, I heard) and I had been awaiting its release since then. And now that I have seen it. I can say that this is a great movie – but not because of Dylan Sprouse. To be honest, he is the third lead here, and quite frankly, his role could have been played by any other young actor and it would not have made a difference.
A lot of people have compared this movie to ‘Lady Bird’ and I see why – it’s a story of a young woman graduating from High School and in the course of the summer before her Freshmen year finds a little bit more about herself. Hannah Marks stars and wrote this film based on her own experience. This film is also about women friendship, which in a lot of cases is a lot stronger than most romantic relationships. Think of this as a started Oprah-Gayle story. I think there are some lesbian undertones too, but I am not an expert on that. But Marks gives a great performance here, along with Liana Liberato, who plays Clara. I found myself thoroughly enjoying this film, and that is note even the Quarantine speaking.
It’s funny how all of us get to a point in our young lives when we had to grow up. And no one is immune to it. Stories may be very different in a lot of ways, but all in all, it’ the same old story. I saw two films recently that have very similar stories even though the characters in them are so different in so many ways.
Emily Ting wrote and directed ‘Go Back To China,’ and I think it’s a very entertaining film. Surely, the story employs some of the most familiar tropes – spoiled rich girl gets thrown into a situation where she is a fish out of water, and she learns a major lesson – but Ting makes everything interesting. And I was very impressed with Anna Akana, who stars in the film. I learn later that she started as a YouTube personality, and I am glad I did not know that information beforehand, as I might have been a little more prejudiced. The story flows smooth here, and even though you sense where the stories will all go, you are still engaged by them. I like how it gives me a glimpse of what life is like for ordinary citizens in Shenzen China. Certainly, we get a deeper glimpse of the culture than where ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ brought us. This film made me smile.
‘Mickey and the Bear,’ without a doubt is the better film of the two, for sure. It has depth and soul, and is definitely heavier. But I found myself resisting it. Maybe it’s because of what the globe is going through right now with this pandemic but I was just not in the mood to watch a young girl go through so much hardship. Camila Morrone plays the title role as a teenager who is taking care of her father, who has PTSD. And Mickey goes through a lot here. It got to be a bit unbearable after a while, and I found myself wanting to tune it off. I wonder if I would have felt the same way had I seen this a month ago.
How come I don’t really know Anthony Mackie’s work. I looked on IMDB on the films he is known for and to be honest, most of them I have not seen, as much as I watch. He is on the Marvel franchise movies, and Lord knows I avoid those. I guess I am catching up because by chance, I have seen two movies recently with him in it.
He plays Bernard Garrett in ‘The Banker,’ and it’s a great performance. The film, directed by George Nolfi, tells of two black men in the 1950s who used a front man to acquire real estate properties (some white areas did not allow African Americans to own properties in their areas) and this is a very interesting story. This was supposed to have come out during Oscars season but was delayed because one of the producers get #metoo accusations. I think this is an uneven film, but give it a marginal thumbs up, because the story is very interesting. It does not hurt that this also stars Nicholas Hoult, one of my favorite young actors. The film is well-acted, and the first half is tons of fun. The second half kind of sinks under legalese, but at that point you are already invested in the story.
I also liked ‘Seberg,’ starring Kristin Stewart as Jane Seberg. I thought this was a biopic but it isn’t. the film narrates a specific time of her life, in the late 60s when she started to support the Black Panthers, and got targeted by the FBI for it. Stewart is fantastic here, and I will now say she is the most impressive young actress working nowadays. People who judge her just for her work in ‘Twilight’ should wake up and see everything else she is doing. She gives characters so much flash and bone and her Jean Seberg is no different. When the character started to unravel, Stewart handles the characterization so well and you feel everything. Mackie here plays Hakim Jamal, the man who introduces the Black Panthers to her, and consequently Seberg has an affair with him.
Both stories are very well thought, and I appreciate both.
Jeffrey Orley’s ‘Big Time Adolescence’ was kind of a big deal at last year’s Sundance and the film is finally making its way to audiences via Hulu. Pete Davidson got good notices for his performance here as Zeke, a man-child who hasn’t grown up. Gideom Gluck plays Monroe, a sixteen year old who is Zeke’s best friend (Zeke used to date Mo’s older sister) Their friendship is of the odd-couple variety – people around them wonder why they hang out – for Zeke, it’s a chance to relive his High School glory days and for Mo, it’s the ‘coo factor.’ Orley was Nancy Meyer’s assistant so I was hoping we would get a lot of heart in the film, but alas, there were only a few scenes that show tenderness. We have all seen this story before, and probably better. Gluck and Davidson are both fine, but nothing truly great.. It’s interesting to see Jon Cryer as Mo’s father when during his (and mine) time, he would have probably played his son’s role. The film held such promise, but it’s basically a big time bore – or maybe this is just not my kind of film.
‘Swallow’ is not my kind of movie, and I don’t know how I got swallowed into watching it. It’s about a housewife, Hunter, played by Haley Bennett, and you know she is a troubled housewife because her house is immaculate, she is so cleanly and organized she irons her husband’s neckties. And of course, she is harboring a secret – she suffers from pica, which is a condition common among pregnant women (I have never heard of it myself) Pica is condition wherein you swallow inanimate objects. She starts with a marble, and before you know it, there she is gobbling up thumbtacks, safety pins and batteries. To me, it’s very bizarre and while I am watching it, I am torn between being horrified and nervously laughing, asking myself what the eff am I watching. But of course, there has to be more to the story, as we learn Hunter is a rape survivor, among many other issues. And the film becomes sort of a thriller towards the end. So you can see, there’s a lot to unpack here, and even if it is not my kind of movie, it kept me interested. However, I was kind of glad when it ended. It was a very unpleasant watch, and I doubt I would be repeating this ever.