Oh Father (Film Thoughts: The Father)

Anthony Hopkins gives another masterful performance in ‘The Father,’ and it is one of his bests. In Florian Zeller’s film, he plays the titular character, a character who is suffering from dementia, and Zeller not only tells us a story, he puts right smack and center inside the mind of Hophins’ character. The film is set in London, and in n the beginning of the film he is speaking to his daughter, Anne, who tells him he will have a new caregiver. She has met someone, and is moving to Paris to be with her new beau. But the next scene sees Anthony with another man, who is supposed to be Anne’s husband of ten years, and it seems Anthony is living with her Ann and her husband at their home, only now Anne is another woman.

The film is part mystery, part drama, and all affecting. It is based on Zeller’s play and I could now imagine the production. As an audience, we experience the confusion, the shock of this disease. As I said Hopkins is so effective that we see, and more importantly, we feel what someone like him is going through, making the film an unforgettable watch. I am still thinking about it. I bet you will be as haunted.

I Would Never (Movie Thoughts: The Never List)

First there was the ‘To All The Boys’ movie series on Netflix, and now we have also in ‘The Never List’ an Asian-American young lady as the leD IN a major motion picture. I hope this is a good step in reversing all anti-Asian hate that the Trump administration instilled in his bigoted base.

But I’m sorry, Michelle Mower’s ‘The Never List’ is just a little too dumb for me. While it gets the Asian Tiger Mom correctly, everyone else int he film is unbelievable cardboard that I lost all my interest about halfway through.

Don’t Explain (Movie Thoughts: The United States vs. Billie Holiday)

Andra Day is so good as Billie Holiday in Lee Daniels’ ‘The United States Vs. Billie Holiday’ that you are with her every step of the way. She gives her all to make sure that the Billie Holiday we see here is as full, vivid and sympathetic, even if the Billie Holiday she portrays here is vaguely written and cartoonish.You can kind fo feel sorry for her, and I guess for Holiday. What the film doesn’t capture is what made Holiday tick – we see she is a great singer but we don’t see her and her artistry. What propelled her to her art?

But I guess that’s not what Daniels was interested at. The screenplay, written by Suzan Lori Parks, shows Holiday as a victim of racial discrimination, and was targeted because this is a singer who insisted on singing ‘Strange Fruit,’ a song about lynching. They said it incites violence – of the wrong kind.

The film also shows Holiday wallowing in misery – we never see her triumphs as a singer, besides fleeting shots of adoring concert goers and autograph seekers. I wanted to see more of her relationships – what drew her to Tallulah Bankhead? Holiday was pansexual becfore that word had any real meaning, yet that fact was side tracked and treated just in passing. There is so muich wasted opportunity here – we should have seen a legend, not a sick drug addict. Day’s performance is raw and inspiring, and it may be worth your trip, but I don’t know if it’s worth staying.

In Harmony (Film Thoughts: The Independents)

I am such a show queen that the lure of Kelli O Hara made me want to watch Greg Naughton’s ‘The Independents.’ Alas, the music here is of the folk variety, but it is actually quite good and it is mostly what kept me watching. This is a sweet little film with a lot of heart – a lo-fi version of the ‘let’s put on a show’ variety – that all in all it’s really not such a waste of time to watch. But, it is on the slight side. Its energy and enthusiasm will make you want to finish it, though.

Woody’s World (Film Thoughts: Rifkin’s Festival)

Woody Allen’s ‘newest’ film is titled ‘Rifkin’s Festival’ and it is set at the San sebastian Film Festival in Spain. I say it is kind of fitting, since most of his films now do not get American distribution, because of child abuse allegations against Allen. But let’s put that aside for now, and just talk about the film.

I would file this under the ‘leeser Allens,’ that group of films that aren’t the best, but a ‘bad’ Allen movie, for me anyway, is still not the worst thing in the world. This one is a love quadrangle. Mort Rifkin, (Wallace Shawn) is at the festival with his wife (Gina Gershon) who is a publicist for a hot shot director with the festival’s opening film. Mort suspects that the two are haviung an affair, while he seems to be starting one himself with a local doctor.

It’s all erudite fun, and I always catch myself chuckling at Allen’s one-liners. There’s a running joke here about classic films, Allen style, and these characters are also featured in scene reenactment of these films – think Citizen Kane, think Breathless. They all revolve around Woody Allen’s world of taste and refinement, and that’s fine if a bit stale perhaps. And unfortunately, the same can be said about the film.

Funny Pals (Movie Thoughts: Barb & Star go to Vista del Mar)

Josh Greenbaum’s ‘Barb & Star goes to Vista del Mar’ is definitely odd… and silly. I don’t know if anyone has ever used those two words together in describing a film but I cannot think of two adjectives that are more apt. Kristen Wiig and Annioe Mumulo both write and stars in this film, which sometimes feels like an overstretched and inflated SNL sketch. You have to re3ally ‘get’ it to enjoy it, and to be honest, I was only with them half of the time.

But I appreciate the silliness, and their total commitment to the piece. And they found a really dependable partner in Jamie Dornan, who flexes not his biceps here but his comedic chops. In my eyes, he became fifty shades hotter.

The silliness is sometimes just a tad too much for me, but I bet if caught on a airier mood I would enjoy this more.

The Lonely Land (Film Thoughts: Land)

‘Land’ is the first movie directed by the actress Robin Wright Penn and she stars in it as well. She plays Edee,a. woman who runs away from it all. She deals with the grief she is feeling by running away from it all, and live in a house in the mountains. Halfway through the film, she realizes that no one can handle things alone and is befriended and helped by a hunter, played by Demian Bichir.

As a film, it is a little wanting (‘Nomadland’ is of a similar idea but is done much better) but the film captures I feeling that resonates with me: loneliness. Wright is great in essaying how that feels, and I feel very few things get solitude well.

The film is also beautifully shot. The wilderness of Canada never looked more picturesque, and it added to the overall feel of the film. As a first feature, Wright does well with what she is given, and she will do much better things.

Going Private (Film Thoughts: Pvt Chat)

When I first saw the blurb for ‘Pvy Chat,’ I thought it was kind of cheesy and just wasn’t for me. But I found that people were talking about it positively, so I said to myself how bad could it be? I have to say, after seeing the film, that it has to be one of the more interesting films I have watched this year.

Written and directed by Ben Hozie, the film is an exploration of a lot of things: online obsession, loneliness. Maybe that’s why it kind of resonated with me in these pandemic Zoom times. It is the story if a man, Jack, living in an apartment in Manhattan He spends his time playing blackjack online, and then the rest of the time he scours cam girl sites looking for Scarlett (Julia Fox) While you may think that he wants sex (or the idea of it) from Scarlett, he perks up when she. responds just wanting to talk to him.

The one day, as he walks around New York City Chinatown, he sees her. She has been lying to him, sayings he is based in San Francisco, and we get a glimpse into her life. I won’t say more, but the film takes interesting twists and turns, They are not unsurprising, but it made me think, and it certainly wasn’t boring. This is billed an ‘erotic love story,’ and it is sometimes quite uncomfortable to watch (I can’t imagine seeing this in a movie house) but I think there is great pay off if you give it a chance.

Supermen (Film Thoughts: Supernova)

Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci play an old married couple in Harry mcQueen’s ‘Supernova’ and they instantly click with you – there is a familiarity with both of them and you believe right away that these two actors have known each other for a while. Maybe it’s a look they give each other, a pat on each person’s arm, but you instantly feel comfortable with them. Both of them give masterful performances here, full of subtlety. There is no need for histrionics here, a simple glance or nod can express a multitude of emotions.

I wish I liked the film they are in more. The dialogue at times feel inauthentic and pretentious (even as both try to sell them as convincingly as they can) and the film suffers from a little too much self-indulgence. A little plot would have been nice as well, besides the basic premise. I found my mind wandering at parts of the film, as magnetic as the actors are. There is only so much they can do.

A Place Called Home (Movie Thoughts: Drawn Back Home)

Another sign of getting old: movies about reconnecting get to you. I felt that way about Thomas Awrey’s ‘Drawn Back Home,’an other wise run-of-the-mill story about two friends reconnecting. But there’s something about the honesty of the performances here that is quite appealing, and before I knew it, the film got to me. It’s a fairly basic story, but all it needs is for it to be told authentically and it will work. This film’s big heart will touch you.