Caught In Middle America (Film Thoughts: Hillbilly Elegy)

When I started hearing that ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ was bad, I did not know how to react. J.D. Vance, the author of its source book, is a big Trump supporter and there’s a part of me that wants to sock it to him. but I also feel for the cast, most of whom I really like, especially Glenn Close and Amy Adams, two actors who have both been ignored by The Academy. But I know I still wanted to see the film and gather my own thoughts about it. I think Netflix is the perfect avenue for this film, too, as it will reach a much wider audience than it probably would have.

Well, the film isn’t the worst thing in the world, to be honest. But it also isn’t good. I have not read the book, but from what I gather, it spews out a lot of Republican talking points. The screenplay by Vanessa Taylor has no time for the politics so she whittled the story down to a family drama, and I can’t say I blame here. What we get is prime melodrama about a family and its struggled with drug addiction, poverty, infidelity – you know, the usual. Close and Adams do sometimes chew the scenery, but what else are they going to do here? Close fares just a tad better especially when you see how successfully they transformed her to Mamaw, the family matriarch. Sure, I got caught in a bit of the story, but then at the same time, I forgot the film as soon as I finished watching it.

Political Ad-Vice (Film Thoughts: Vice)

vice_ver3‘Vice’ had all the elements of a movie I would like – it’s liberal hate bait, it stars Christian Bale, probably the best actor of his generation, and it is directed by Adam McKay, whose previous movie I liked. But ‘Vice’ felt very exhausting for me. It pummels the idea that DIck Cheney is a bad person and is manipulative, and is shrewd. And anyone with any intelligence really knows that – so what. You want to ask, “and then.’ And he does provide the answers – we invade Iraq because of 9/11 when we shouldn’t have – but after a while I just did not want to be in the company of these people. I mean, I can barely stand these people sound-biting on the news, now I will spend two hours with them?  Bale does give a performance of near perfection – he does the Cheney smile/sneer cannily – but that was not enough to keep my interest. And looking back, these issues have been done and dealt with. and we have much bigger problems in politics right now.  I thought it was kind of sweet that Cheney loved his daughter a lot that he was almost for marriage equality. until we get to this calculations in the end while his daughter was campaigning when they just throw their lesbian daughter under the bus. Amy Adams is fine as well as the slimy Lynn Cheney, sure, but still all in all, I just didn’t really like any of these people and I wanted to leave the theater pronto.

Wild Animals (Movie Thoughts: Nocturnal Animals)

imagesI have fond admiration for a lot of Tom Ford’s work: his designs in fashion aren’t a;ways for me, but there’s no doubt they are all beautiful. His perfumes, aesthetic-wise, all match mine, or what I aspire for, since I cannot afford all of them. And he’s a fellow Virgo, so in my head we are kindred spirits. I of course have been wanting to see ‘Nocturnal Animals,’ his latest directorial effort after ‘A Single Man’ from 2009.

‘Nocturnal Animals’ is two films in one – two stylish films with every frame art-directed to death, and they show two opposing landscapes. One is modern, glass steel art galleries and Amy Adams in high heels and hair blown straight Brasilian style. The other is set in a rural landscape somewhere in Texas, the film imagined from the fictional book Adams’ ex-husband has written and has dedicated to her. If these were Tom Ford perfumes, one would be Black Orchid, the other one would be Oud Wood. They are two disparate stories as well, but they kind of intertwine, and they kind of have parallel trajectories. Adam’s work here is pure style and learned acting – it looks and sounds like a major thesis presentation for film school, and I am sure that’s how Ford intended it to be. Jake Gylenhaal gives a blistering performance in his much darker story, and if I were deciding these things, he would surely get a spot for one of the Best performances of the year. It’s quite a feat to still appear natural even if everything around you seems artificial.

I’m probably making it sound like I did not enjoy the movie.  On the contrary, I did. It’s fascinating to look at – every frame is a beaut – and the story is absorbing, If for anything, there are at times too much going on visually that you don’t know where to look. And there’s obviously an attempt to make art, and I think that alone makes it artistic. There are now a lot of articles over the internet about its two endings – of what they mean not only to the film but also the message that Tom Ford wants to convey. You can ignore all that and still enjoy thsi film for what it is – just don’t think too hard.

The Eyes Have It (Film Thoughts: Big Eyes)


Tim Burton’s movie “Big Eyes,” opens with a quote from Andy Warhol complementing the art of Margaret Keane, and the movie tells her story. Clearly, we are already biased and empathetic towards Ms. Keane. Truthfully, I have only heard about her/this story when I heard about this biopic of hers, although I have a very vague recollection of seeing her paintings when I was a young kid. I like her paintings. I think her style is a great mixture of melancholy and whimsy, though I do admit they are kind of kitschy. And I thought her story was interesting. She has a passive personality and agreed when her husband, Walter Keane decided to take credit of her paintings. Burton tells the story clearly. This is not your typical Burton production, though on one scene (the supermarket one) you get a glimpse of his quirk. Perhaps Burton has a lot of respect for this story and wanted to tell it in the most straightforward way possible. He succeeds and you are riveted from the first frame to the last. Amy Adams gives a great performance here, subdued but powerful. Counterpointing hers is Christoph Waltz’s manic over-the-top turn, which really turned me off. Surely, there is a better way to convey the character than his histrionic over-acting style? For me, it just highlights Adams’ performance more.  I think this film has an interesting story to tell, though perhaps may be a bit too tame for today’s mainstream taste.