August 18, 2014

I love Colin Firth, and I’m pretty keen on Emma Stone, too, but not in this movie. After mulling it over for a day or so, I can’t think of anything in particular to recommend about Magic in the Moonlight.

If you are one of the diehards who thinks it is important to see every film Woody Allen writes and directs, I suppose you have a reason, though I’m not sure how many of those remain.

His best films date to the 1970s and 1980s, but if we’re honest with ourselves (and I do dearly love a handful of his films that continue to hold up over time as wonderful, funny, and full of insight), even back in Heywood’s heyday, the movies were hit and miss.

Magic in the Moonlight hits a nerve with me because it returns to one of Allen’s favored themes: the older, sophisticated, intellectual man who takes the lovely but untutored woman “under his wing.”

In Annie Hall (1977), the age difference was not important, and Annie made up in resilience and charm what Alvy had in great books. I winced a bit at Manhattan (1979) but gave Allen the benefit of the doubt for a time.

Mighty Aphrodite (1995) was the last straw for me, and subsequent pairings of grouchy old men with the young women who would be better off without them have irritated me endlessly.

In Magic in the Moonlight, Emma Stone plays a young, American psychic opposite Colin Firth as an English illusionist out to unmask her as a fraud. Their growing attraction to one another is as unbelievable as the frequently stilted dialogue.

I remember the Woody Allen films filled with wit and sprinkled with fresh ideas. This is not one of those.


Tennis Anyone?

August 17, 2014

Actually, you don’t have to be a tennis fan to enjoy Shiv Paul’s new documentary short Queens at Court.

The delightful film follows four tennis players – some likely some unlikely – who have found community (and more, but why would I include spoilers?) through participating in the Gay and Lesbian Tennis Alliance.

Queens at Court will screen in Winston-Salem Wednesday night, and Paul will be present for a Q & A session following the film.

What’s somewhat remarkable about the screening, given the reluctance of many major sports organizations to acknowledge much less embrace sexual diversity, is that this particular screening is sponsored by the United States Tennis Association, one of three cities where the USTA is showing the film this summer (the other two are Washington, DC and Toronto).

I know. Surprising. And, your ticket to the film also gets you an evening of tennis at the Winston-Salem Open.

Here’s the deal:

Wednesday, August 20
5 p.m.
Deacon Tower, 475 Deacon Boulevard

$20 gets you the film screening, Q & A, cocktails, hors d-oeuvres, and a ticket to the evening session of the Winston-Salem Open. Sounds like a great deal to me.

For tickets call 336.758.6409 and provide code QAC14 or visit, click on Tickets, click on Buy Tickets, click on Presales/Promotions and enter code QAC14.

I don’t think wearing tennis whites is mandatory. (Couldn’t resist that.)

Queens at Court


August 16, 2014

It’s time to pull out the old b-word. B is for Boyhood, of course, but the b-word I am referring to is brilliant.

This longitudinal, narrative feature is unprecedented. In what must surely have been an experiment (how could have known this would work at all much less work so very well?), writer-director Richard Linklater peeks into the world of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) as he ages from 5-18 with significant insights about his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), his mom (Patricia Arquette), and his dad (Ethan Hawke).

The movie feels a lot like life, which is a stark reminder of how unusual it is to evoke this in the movies and also something to celebrate because of its importance and because of how difficult it is to achieve verisimilitude in motion pictures.

While Boyhood does not exact the same intensity of emotion I feel when I’m watching any one of the films in Linklater’s trilogy with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight), it inspires different types of resonances that are remarkable in their own way.

As the single mother of a 22-year-old former boy, I recognize the stages and transitions explored in the film with nostalgia and a bit of ongoing fear. After all, I know how my own son’s boyhood unfolds having been there but on first viewing do not know the particularities of what will happen to Mason.

And, this is part of the gift of the film. It is both expected and unexpected from moment to moment and filled with the mundane and the extraordinary, which are sometimes one and the same.

There’s another b-word that fits here: bravo.



August 16, 2014

For me, this movie is 90 minutes of moderate tedium followed by 30 minutes of satisfying pay-offs.

Based on a John le Carré spy novel, the film is set in Hamburg and unravels intrigue related to a Chechen Muslim who comes into Germany illegally to claim an inheritance but is detected and followed by a group of anti-terrorism spies almost from the moment he arrives in the port city.

The film is imbued with cool blues and grays, a somber palette, broken up with occasional and meaningful pops of hot yellows and reds in a way that recalls Hitchcock’s cold war thriller, Torn Curtain. The use of color in the film enhances the emotional tone of the movie.

While the major storylines have currency, I found myself frequently thinking about how much more satisfying the early episodes of Homeland were in tackling some of the same territory and also wishing for a bit more backstory for some of the major characters in A Most Wanted Man to explain some of the comments and connections made and to make me care more about events and outcomes.

It’s hard not to watch Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s last filmed performance and wonder if the sadness and frustration that cloak the character he plays were clinging to the actor off-camera, too.

A Most Wanted Man

Playing Catch Up At The Movies

August 14, 2014

I’ve been on vacation, and I’ve been at the University Film and Video Association Conference. But, I’ve not stayed totally away from the movies.

Here are a few short takes to catch up.

Get on Up. Very entertaining. I felt an emotional distance from James Brown (as played by the very talented Chadwick Boseman), and how could it be otherwise with a man forced to construct emotional walls to survive childhood and unable to break them down and connect authentically with others after reaching adulthood? Nicely done all around. Recommended.

Snowpiercer. I saw this film ages ago and am so ambivalent about it that I never got around to writing about the movie. On the one hand, I like movies about ideas that address social class inequality. On the other hand, I want a more carefully articulated ideology than I find in Snowpiercer. Then, a friend of mine made my conflict even more profound. I watched the film online and (to tell the truth) paused it a couple of times when my son had a question and again when I needed to make a little dinner. The production design interests me, but I didn’t think too much about plausibility upon viewing. My friend George said something to the effect of, “If you had watched it on the big screen in one sitting, you would have noticed the story holes big enough to drive a train through.” Upon reflection, he is correct, which is usually the case. Interesting to look at, ideas worth considering, but the script needs more clarity, and where do all those people in the front cars of the train actually live?

And So It Goes. This is a very minor romantic comedy that my mother and I saw together (there are so few movies out now that she wants to see), and we enjoyed it well enough in the moment. Diane Keaton and Michael Douglas are fun to watch. Rob Reiner understands the genre. So what if there isn’t any magic? I have always thought that critics hold romantic comedies to a higher standard than most other genres, which I think is related to gender bias, but also suspect that ageism comes into play with some in evaluating this film.

The Hundred-Foot Journey. This is another movie my mother “claimed,” which is how my friends and family members call dibs on seeing a particular movie with me. While just as predictable as And So It Goes, The Hundred-Foot Journey unfolds more pleasantly, has modest political aims of promoting multiculturalism, has gorgeous food, has young actors as the presumed romantic leads, and has Helen Mirren. Enjoyable. No magic, but entertaining enough.

Boyhood. Brilliant. More on this one later.



July 29, 2014

On August 9, Winston-Salem’s film series OUT at the Movies will celebrate ten years of bringing LGBT films to the Triad with a screening of one of the most charming coming of age films I’ve ever seen.

Listen for my segment on The Way He Looks on Triad Arts Weekend on Friday, August 1, during the one o’clock hour, but get your tickets for the movie now!

You won’t regret seeing this lovely, Brazilian movie, which will be preceded by the Swedish short A Last Farewell, a film that offers a nice contrast to The Way He Looks in tone and theme but that is also worth watching.

Go to the OUT at the Movies site for ticket info.

The Way He Looks

Netflix Rises

July 28, 2014

Miss my Triad Arts Weekend segment on Orange is the New Black and House of Cards? Check it out online (scroll down to the “Behind the Scenes” segment) and let me know how you view the original series.



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