To Die For (Movie Thoughts: Blackbird)

If ‘Blackbird’ was done well, it would have been a movie right up my alley. It’s one of those family dramas, and of course this one is a dysfunctional family who gets together for one last weekend with their matriarch, played by Susan Sarandon. She has some kind of degenerative disease, and has decided to ‘take care of things.’ See: euthanasia. It’s a polarizing topic but here the decision is treated like deciding which schmear to put on your bagel.

That’s only the beginning of the film’s problems – each of the children have ‘quirks,’ all cookie-cutter traits we have all seen before in better films, though the cast tries best in making the characters feel real. But the likes of Kate Winslet and Mia Wasikowksi are not miracle workers, and there’s only so much they can wring out of a flat screenplay. And I am sorry, the whole time I am watching this I cannot help but think that Sarandon is a big Trump supporter so I cannot just fully get on with things.

In New Mexico and Syria (Film Thoughts: Off The Menu/The Viper Club)

offmIn my never-ending search for rom-coms, I stumble upon really bad ones. ‘Off The Menu,’ directed by Jay Silverman, is really bad. I was drawn to it because it stars Santino Fontana, who is a sometime Broadway actor, and sometime Disney Prince, and he is fine here, but he also seems miserable being in it. The screenplay is by-the-books in the worst possible way, and not even the presence of Maria Conchita Alonso as a spicy hot mama can save it.



large_viper-club-posterSusan Sarandon wants to save her kidnapped son in Syria in ‘The Viper Club,’ and she displays subdued scting here that is very effective. The rest of the movie, directed by Maryam Keshavarz, is ho-hum at best, with its plodding pacing. Matt Bomer is wasted as his son’e best friend. if you have to, see this for Sarandon’s performance, but I just can’t shake that she is a Trump supporter in real life, so I cannot fully empathize with the character.  I know that is on me, but this is where I am in the world right now.

The Good Fight (Television Thoughts: Feud, F/X: The Rest Of Season One)


I have just finished the last episodes of F/X’s Feud, and I cannot believe how touched I was by the series.  This has always been the story of two women, separately, who once was together, but spent a lot of both their lifetime coasting on their feud. It is also a story of how we put people on a pedestal, only for us to tear them down once we have no more use for them.  But what really touched me more is how gay men figure prominently in the lives of both Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. It seems that gay men have devotion and loyalty t their idols, and it may stem from their seemingly lonely lives. men who have come to idolize these two women come from a generation when they cannot really be out, and these women were the ones they turned to for identification, for company, for comfort. Look at that scene wherein a young gay man asks for Crawford to autograph her book and tells her “you’re a survivor!’  In his eyes, she is someone he looks up to – because he probably thinks of himself as one as well, escaping his small town, ending up in New York City to be himself.

And Jessica Lange’s Joan is a real, three dimensional human being. It is a carefully constructed performance but it’s most touching, and elegant, with grace and control. I know she has won the Emmy, but please start engraving her next one for here. Sarandon’s Davis is uneven – I still see Sarandon there instead of the character, but it’s not all bad. I sometimess see glimpses of brilliamce but it just falls short especially next to Lange’s.

This is a series I will follow. Apparently, the second season will focus on Charles and Diana. While I have high hopes for that one,  it would be hard to top this feud.

In Transit (Movie Thoughts: About Ray)

55fb091a3f85eThere are very few films about the trans experience and Gaby Dellal’s film ‘About Ray’ tried to bridge that gap. It tells the story of Ramona/Ray, a New York City teen who wants to transition from female to male. the issue is handled sensitively, and his mother, Maggie, played by Naomi Watts, is for the most part supportive, although naturally she has reservations about the whole transition process. The topic is commendable, as it sheds light on what trans peopel have to go through. but, this film tries to be much more than that, as if that wasn’t enough. It also deals with how maggie has to deal with that, in addition to an unnecessary soapy sub plot regarding Ray’s real father. Add to the mix Ray’s grandmother (Susan Sarandon) who is very much against the transition (‘Why can’t she be just a regular lesbian?”)  As a result, Ray’s character suffers from the result, as it feels underdeveloped. His whining about the transition sometimes feel like a petulant kid not being able to get a new iPhone. Elle Fanning, as Ray, tries hard to bring sensitivity to her portrayal, and she mostly succeeds despite the thin characterization. I liked Watts’ performance here. I always think she is one of those actresses who always disappear in her characters. Sarandon plays her character her not unlike every other character she has played in the past – her cutesy meddling mother routine is frankly getting old. Still, I think this film is worth watching. Although everything at the end is tied up with an unrealistic pretty bow, i was touched by the film in general, and in today’s Trump America, the unenlightened can use a glimpse of this light.

Bet Meddler (Movie Thoughts: The Meddler)

52d4e6e070d41558941b75b214ae3def_500x735I am now home after seeing ‘The Meddler’ and I am torn. I was ready to give this a pan, but as I thought about it more, I go back a lot to what is good about it (and those goods are great) Perhaps it’s my mood: I was a bit anxious while I was watching it, and that may have coloured my opinion somewhat negatively.

It’s Sarandon’s movie, for sure. She gives a sunny, hyper performance, which is probably necessary for the role, but at times for me felt too eager, as if she is winking at the audience and saying “Hey look at me, I am doing this comedy, aren’t I great?” A lot of times, the performance calls attention to itself, and she does come on so strong that when it is time for her character to be vulnerable, the struggle doesn’t seem real, and you think, nah, she can handle this. And the character comes across as horrific – needy, fussy, annoying – as written. I never got over that, even with the infinite charm Sarandon put in there.

And she has ample support, too. Rose Byrne is great, and it is nice to see J K Simmons as a light character – nothing evil about him here. This movie has the city of Los Angeles as another character – the sunny skies, the beach, The Grove – they all add texture to the characters. I mean, it made me want to visit. But somehow, though, there was something in the movie that felt empty for me – perhaps the plot was a tad skinny? This is one of those movies I now want to see again, perhaps when I am a better mood. I wonder if how I feel about it will change. For now, though, I am still on the fence.