There She Is (Television Thoughts: Phyllis, Mrs America S01 E01, Hulu)

mrs-america-movie-posterPhyllis Schalfly is one of the most despicable figures in the Republican party, and that’s a group chockful of deplorables. I wondered if I would like a show featuring and about her. But who can resist Cate Blanchett? Blanchett plays Schlafly as a deliciously evil as she can, and you gotta love her. Schafly is that kind of woman with a place reserved in hell – she doesn’t support other women and goes against her own interest. After her failed congressional run, she tries to go to a think thank meeting in Washington DC and there she is treated like dirt, but still she perseveres and joins the group, offering her services. By the end of the episode, we see her rallying against the ERA (Equal Rights Ammendment) owning ‘libbers.’ I know that she has a great dislike of gay people so I would be curious if the series will cover that part, and of course I will be watching the rest of the season.

How Deep Is The Ocean (Movie Thoughts: Ocean’s 8)

o8This isn’t really my kind of movie. I never saw the previous ones, and I am probably the only one in the world who hasn’t. But sure, this all-female cast is alluring, and surely anything with Cate Blanchett in it is worth my time, so, yeah I went ahead and played and saw ‘Ocean’s 8.’   And I didn’t die from watching it. Ultimately, I was underwhelmed. I expected glitz, glamour, over-the-top production. It didn’t deliver that.

What I got was a mild action film, with a snazzy performance from Anne Hathaway – she steals the film from all her co-stars. Sandra Bullock was competent, and her assured subdued confidence is certainly appealing, but too low-key at times. Cate Blanchette just showed up and did what she did – she wasn’t given that much to do, and she did it well. Rhianna was just there – she really did not make any splashy impression, showing as much ‘star power’ as Awkwafina (What the eff is that name, by the way)

yrThis could have been much better. I think it would have benefitted from a female or gay point of view. For example, I think it would have been great if the ladies’ wardrobes reflected their characters more – I am imagining Rhianna’s Island wardrobe, for example. And the screenplay could have used some tightening. I was expecting non-stop action instead of the press and play pace we have here. All in all, it wasn’t a total disappointment, but ultimately unmemorable.

Without A Song (Movie Thoughts: Song To Song)

song2songposterIt would be easy to dismiss ‘Song To Song,’ Terrence Malick’s latest movie. It can try your patience. Malick’s fragmented style of storytelling  – there’s no structure, scenes begin and end haphazardly, nature scenes show up out of the blue – is admittedly a tough pill to swallow. But there has to be genius behind the madness, and I do get it – perhaps he is using the film as a metaphor to creating art through songs. As Stephen Sondheim says “Art isn’t easy.’

Or maybe it’s just plain crazy. This is probably the kind of film where the actors don’t know what film would come out of their performances. The A List Cast – Michael Fassbender, Cate Blanchette, Ryan Gosling, Natalie Portman – seem there just to support Rooney Mara, who is for the most part front and center in this film. The trouble is that Mara doesn’t and never had the natural instincts for characterization. She seems a blank slate here, and perhaps that’s the point – everyone else is colorful and she is just plain white. Though it appears that Gosling brought his La La Land character here. Portman is luminous, though, and brings a certain heartache to her small role as a teacher who gets involved with Fassbander.

The story is just a musical chairs of pairings but I liked the fact that it went forward without you sometimes realizing how it does. Perhaps that is where the brilliance of Malick lies – in the subtlety, in the unspoken. There’s little dialogue here, as most is said through character’s voice-overs. But scenes do play out redundantly – you blink and sometimes wonder if it’s the same scene over and over again. And since the movie is set around various music festivals in Austin, you kind of wonder why there is very little actual music here (Patti Smith is glorious in her one number)

At my matinee, two women hurriedly left as soon as the credits came up – I bet they saw Goslng’s name and expected a retread of La La – and I stayed and stewed over what I had just seen. This is the kind of movie that has layers. I cannot wait to see it again – probably on disc or streaming – and peel some more.

So In Love (Movie Thoughts: Carol)

index“Carol” opens as Carol Aird (Cate Blanchette) meets Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) while shopping for a doll for her daughter. It’s a random kind of moment, and this film is much too serious for a “meet-cute” scene. But you know there’s more to the meeting, because as Carol looks away, she looks back at Therese, and Therese catches her eye. The look back test – there’s nothing more dangerous, more passionate than that. It’s a prelude to love, and you better believe it.

But this is still the 50s, and loving someone of the same sex is frowned upon, and we see Carol and Therese do a cautious dance, until they eventually go to lunch, and fall in love. Todd Haynes, the director, does this is a very slow manner and I have to confess I thought the pace was deadly slow. But this is a melodrama, and like a Douglas Sirk outing, we get the dramatic complications: Carol’s husband won’t let her go, and uses their daughter as a pawn – there’s even a private detective scene that is kind of corny by today’s standards. Blanchette and Mara give quiet integrity to their roles that you don’t care – you just take it, and everything is instantly believable. If I had to take a pick between the two performances, I will pick Mara’s : it’s Hepburn-esque and more subtle than Blanchette’s more showy performance. But what I find most magnificent about this movie is that it accurately shows that feeling of being in love, as very few movies nowadays are able to convey that. This is love with a Capital L : it’s soaring, it’s deep, it hits you square in your chest. If you have ever been in love (I mean, let’s face it, we all have) you will find yourself identifying with what these characters are feeling.

Handling Their Truth (Movie Thoughts: Truth)

truth-300x442Can Cate Blanchett do no wrong? I feel like, just like Meryl, she elevates whatever anything she is on, and that is certainly true with “Truth.” In this movie, Blanchett plays Mary Mapes, the CBS News producer responsible for the 2004 investigation of President George W Bush’s National Guard sham of a service (an accusation that was never denied by the White House)  But, scrutiny of some documents led to her downfall, and eventually Dan Rather’s as well. The movie, written and directed by James Vanderbilt, based on Mapes’ book. This may not be the fairest source for this story, but the film painstakingly recreates this version of what happened, how CBS threw its news division under the bus, instead of protecting their news team. This movie shows how nowadays, sound bites are more important than the actual story, and how small details can obscure the real questions in pertinent issues. I thought it was a fascinating story, and as I said, Blanchett is a joy to watch – we see her embody Mapes’ character, and believe. Redford does a more subdued portrayal of Rather, and even though they look dissimilar, Redford captures the newsman’s spirit, and after a while, you cease to see Redford and you start seeing Rather. This is a great his-and-hers performance, and I hope the movie finds an audience. It isn’t doing terribly well, as the film is being buried among the Fall releases.