Flat and Flatter

August 26, 2015

I’ve put this off as long as I can.

Ricki and the Flash is no Silence of the Lambs (probably the high water mark for Jonathan Demme’s directing career). Meryl Streep plays an aging rocker who left her husband and kids years before to find fame and instead is playing covers at a sparsely populated bar in Southern California with her boyfriend/band mate played by Rick Springfield.

A family crisis (involving her daughter character played by Streep’s real-life daughter Mamie Gummer) brings her back home to ex-hubby, played by Kevin Kline, his wife, and the original couple’s two sons.

No one is particularly glad to see her at first. Okay, maybe Kline’s character a little bit.

The film feels flat. Lots of unexplored emotional territory and too many mediocre cover songs played in full instead of in snippets to convey just why Ricki never made the big time.

Ricki

For all Ms. Streep’s considerable and celebrated technique, I never bought her in the role.

If that seems unkind, just wait to hear what I have to say about Grace and Frankie. This is the “flatter” part of the equation.
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GAZE 2015 and MR. HOLMES

August 5, 2015

No, these two really have nothing in common except what I’m about to relate!

Just had a great trip to Ireland (hope to return!) for the GAZE International LGBT Film Festival Dublin where a documentary I co-directed, Living in the Overlap, screened.

GAZE photo with Rose and Noel

Pictured here with Festival Programmer Roisin Geraghty and Festival Director Noel Sutton.

I returned to a query from my friend Teraesa asking whether or not she should see Mr. Holmes, which I have seen but not found time to write about. Since I’m flying out for the University Film and Video Association Conference in about two hours and still have to throw the things on my bed into a bag, I’m not going to do better here than what I managed to post in reply on her Facebook page:

If I can find a spare moment, I’ll try to post a paragraph on the blog…just got in from one work/fun event out of town and heading off for another in the morning. In short, I thought it was a tad slow at the beginning but ultimately quite rewarding. It’s hard after all this time to think of something new to do with the Sherlock Holmes character, but this film achieves it!

And, so it does. Well worth seeing. Strong performances, gorgeous landscapes, and a new twist on a familiar character. Win-win-win.

Mr. Holmes


TRAINWRECK

July 23, 2015

Earlier in the week I desperately needed a movie break and went to see Trainwreck.

The next morning my mother left me a voicemail message about how all the commentators on Morning Joe had been discussing the film during a segment, and they were shocked by how vulgar the film is. She wanted my opinion.

I told her just as I’m going to tell you that the film is coarse and funny and also – and this is what really hooked me – sweet and surprisingly romantic.

Now, let me ask you, do you think those same commentators took up valuable airtime to discuss the vulgarity of The Hangover? I doubt it.

What a double standard.

Trainwreck

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Runoff

July 23, 2015

I have a predilection for intimate dramas that unfold in realistic, slice of life segments. I’m a political junkie and care deeply about the issues of our day. And, I very much want to see more women telling stories about women on screens large and small.

That being the case, Runoff is my kind of indie pic.

This is writer-director Kimberly Levin’s feature debut, and it’s a promising start informed by a rich perspective that yields a powerful film. There is an authenticity to the film that emerges from Levin’s growing up in Kentucky and her background as a biochemist, but ultimately it’s the little details and larger emotional truths in her storytelling that carry this beautifully photographed film.

Joanne Kelly, whose rural roots rest in a Newfoundland fishing village, gives a particularly strong performance as Betty, a farm worker, wife, and mother under intense pressure to try to figure out how to save their home and enhance future prospects for her children.

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Endings…

July 23, 2015

The Mad Men series finale was discussed a great deal at the time, but several signature series have ended this season and a little reflection on all of them is, perhaps, a good thing.

For me, the Mad Men finale was perfect.

At the outset, Don Draper is his own best invention, and the series explores over time his history as Dick Whitman as well as the man he becomes. During the early years of the show, Draper hits his stride as an advertising man and seems to have an enviable lifestyle because of his ability to tap into the fears and desires of others and craft effective advertising to take advantage of his insights.

As the seasons unfold, culture seems to move on without him. He doesn’t understand the music his second (even younger) wife enjoys. He’s in a rut at work. While still able to attract a variety of women, he starts to seem – gasp – old and maybe a little out of touch. The series concludes as we see Don get his mojo back by tapping into the California youth culture and using his new inspiration to create a new campaign and make himself relevant yet again.

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Television Musings

July 23, 2015

Stuff I’ve been watching and thinking about…

Borgen – I binge-watched this Danish series while on vacation. It’s marvelous. Politics, media, unusual but realistic characters, and great writing make this a winner. It makes me wonder, too, whether we should reconsider our political system. Political junkies will want to binge just like I did! Available on DVD (thirty episodes).

Borgen

Deadwood – I’m teaching a course spring 2016 called Critical Media Studies: Deadwood exceptionally good, which reminds me of how much I do not like True Detective. Available on DVD and streaming.

Deadwood

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Playing Catch-Up Again

July 23, 2015

Several weeks ago, I went to the North Carolina coast for a week by myself. I planned to take my computer to finish up a little work but mostly to relax and clear my head. When I arrived at the cottage in Swansboro where I was staying, I realized that I brought everything I intended to bring except my computer case.

After a beat, I laughed out loud.

I think the message was clear; I needed a break and took it. Now, it’s time for me to play a little catch-up with things I’ve been watching but not reporting in this space. Here’s I’ll make a little report on movies then will devote a second post to television musings.

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