Category Archives: Film

Feeling the earth shift from Cameron to Seth to Oprah

 

I watched Buffalo lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars yesterday afternoon. It was the first football game – only part of a game really – I have seen since watching Bama beat the stuffing out of Arkansas, 41 to 9, in Mobile AL. On Facebook, Karen Amy had said something like So, is everybody rooting for Buffalo? I am, and I thought Man, it’s playoff season and I have no idea who in the playoffs except, now I know Buffalo is in and Baltimore probably isn’t, and it’s playoff season and I had better catch up. I turned on the game and it ran the background until we went to the Farmer’s Market. At the end of the day, I turned on the recording of the Cougars and Saints game, again pretty much in the background, while Michele put a chicken in a Römertopf. At one point, I watched Cameron Newton get slammed. Over and over again, by David Onyemata, and I thought These guys are like Roman Gladiators, risking getting hurt, or worse, only for their glorification and our entertainment. Yes, skill counts, very much so, but skill put to the use of overpowering the other.

As the chicken cooked in the Römertopf, we watched the final two minutes of the Cougars/ Saints game before switching to the Golden Globes. Seth Meyers opened with “Good evening, ladies and remaining gentlemen. I’m Seth Meyers and I’ll be your host tonight. Welcome to the 75th annual Golden Globes, and Happy New Year, Hollywood. It’s 2018, marijuana is finally allowed, and sexual harassment finally isn’t.” and I felt the world start to shift. 

The masculine skill of overpowering the other, that football so admires and showcases, may have got us into this modern world but, in a civilization drowning in its own excess stuff and carbon excrement, that skill has turned toxic. We need change, we need cooperation and collaboration, not alpha males bragging about the size of their buttons.

Halfway through the awards, Oprah was presented with The Cecil B. DeMille Award for outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment, and we were treated to a glimpse of the future. One of the most powerful people in the world gave a speech that was both a call to action and a call for inclusion:

But it’s not just a story affecting the entertainment industry. It’s one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics, or workplace. So I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They’re the women whose names we’ll never know. They are domestic workers and farm workers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants and they’re in academia, engineering, medicine, and science. They’re part of the world of tech and politics and business. They’re our athletes in the Olympics and they’re our soldiers in the military.
 
And there’s someone else, Recy Taylor, a name I know and I think you should know, too. In 1944, Recy Taylor was a young wife and mother walking home from a church service she’d attended in Abbeville, Alabama, when she was abducted by six armed white men, raped, and left blindfolded by the side of the road coming home from church. They threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone, but her story was reported to the NAACP where a young worker by the name of Rosa Parks became the lead investigator on her case and together they sought justice. But justice wasn’t an option in the era of Jim Crow. The men who tried to destroy her were never persecuted. Recy Taylor died ten days ago, just shy of her 98th birthday. She lived as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up.
 
The world shifted a little more. 

We saw Lucky Logan and I saw a part of me I don’t like.

Michele and I saw Logan Lucky last night. It is a heist movie, similar to Ocean’s Eleven in concept and fantasy, except that it involves rednecks from West Virgina rather than a nattily dressed Frank Sinatra or George Clooney (take your pick at which Ocean’s Eleven you prefer). The redneck part is the rub. In one of the first scenes, the hero, played by a very scruffy Tatum Channing, is laid off – for insurance reasons – from the shitty job he got after he was laid off from the coal mines. When he goes to pick up his daughter from his divorced wife, I fully expected him to be violent. I didn’t expect the well dressed Danny Ocean to be violent but this guy was a redneck, a laid off coal miner, and, at a deep level, I thought of him as a violent, white, Trump supporting, loser. He wasn’t of course, any more than Danny Ocean was and seeing my own prejudging, my own bigotry, was not fun even if it was enlightening.   

Once I got past my bigotry, the movie was a fun, if lightweight, romp. 

Dunkirk….Wow! what a movie

dunkirk-teaser900Dunkirk is an epic movie and an intimate series of character studies. It is a three-part fugue on war and is uncommonly powerful, it is also so very, “keep calm and carry on”, English. Christopher Nolan wrote and directed the movie and it bends time and space in a way only he seems to be able to do. The three parts of the fugue are on the beach, on the sea, and in the air; each of the three parts have different tempos in that they take place over different time spans but they all play the same melody. The first part takes place over a span of one week which is about how long the troops were stranded, the second over one day which is about the time it takes a small boat to go from England to Dunkirk and back, and the third takes place over one hour which is about how long a Spitfire can fly in aerial combat. Then the three parts are intermixed so our sense of time is yanked around.

Dunkirk is a front brain movie that rewards paying attention. It is also a big screen movie that has a zen like simplicity, especially on the beach and in the air. It was shot on film rather than digital and it has a beautiful softness and flatness that are immersive on a big screen. As somewhat of an aside, maybe not, I’ve read more than ten accounts, at least, of Germany’s march into Poland in 1939 and every account talks about the Stukas spreading terror. I intellectually knew that they were a weapon to spread terror and fear but, in the back of my mind, I thought it was exaggerated. The Stukas were old dive-bombers after all, they were designed in 1935 and based on an even older American plane, they didn’t even have retractable landing gear and they had a top speed of less than 200mph. But, the German’s mounted sirens on the bottom and, in the movie – as in real life, in Poland for example – as a Stuka dove in on a bombing run, it could be heard before it was even seen. As it got closer, it got louder. I sort of exonerated the terror because  they were flying against Polish peasants who didn’t know any better, but here, in this movie, hearing the siren getting closer and realizing, feeling, the helplessness of being on the ground, I understand, I felt, that terror. It is that kind of movie. End somewhat of aside.

As the movie gets closer to the end, the pace picks up and all three parts of the fugue come together in a grand finale. It is a tour de force by a master. This is a war movie, and a powerful war movie with shocking and very intense scenes in a first twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan way so, if that scares you, stay away. But, if you want to see a masterpiece by a master at the height of his powers, see this on the biggest screen you can.

Go see “The Big Sick”

The Big Sick A-As an aside, I am definitely doing something wrong, this is the third time I’ve typed this. Then I think I save it and all that comes back is the picture. Michele and I went to a small get-together to honor Catherine Santos, it was at her home and I had never been there without her and that really brought home the realization that she is gone. Today I learned one of my co-cardiac-rehabbers, Placida Chavez, died last Wednesday at 93. We often walked on treadmills next to each other and sometimes we chatted; a week ago, we chatted about her finally getting all the weeds in her garden pulled. Now all that is left of Placida is our talking about her and an obit on the table where we write down our vitals. Somehow, my pitch on The Big Sick disappearing seems to fit right in. End aside.

Michele and I saw The Big Sick last Friday and I’ve been thinking of it ever since. It stars Kumail Nanjiani, playing himself, and Zoe Kazan, playing the movie’s script writer, Emily V. Gordon who in real life is married to Nanjiani and the movie is about their early relationship. Zoe Kazan is radiant – the only other time I’ve seen her in a movie, Ruby Sparks, she was also radiant and she should get more work – and that radiance is bright enough to carry her presence through the Big Sick phase of the movie in which she is in a coma. The movie is billed as a RomCom and it is very romantic and very funny but it is also about how our relationships don’t exist in a vacuum and a big chunk of the film is about Nanjiani’s relation with his and Emily’s parents. Every player in this movie, from the loving- couple to the nurse in the hospital seems real.

Trust me on this, go see The Big Sick.

“Get Out” and the outsider

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We saw Get Out, the horror movie by the comedian Jordan Peele. I am not a horror movie fan or, more accurately, I didn’t think I was until I heard the genera explained on Terry Gross’ Fresh Air the day before the movie. Apparently, there are two species of horror films, the slasher in which some relentless force, like Freddy Kruger, is chasing the protagonist and movies in which the protagonist is sucked into what looks normal but seems slightly off. I want to add that a horror film must also have creepy music.

The second kind of film, the sucked in one, turns out to be the kind of film I really like. Rosemary’s Baby is one of my favorite movies and I have always chalked it up to  Roman Polanski, turns out that I just like horror movies (although Polanski did a great job). One of my favorite movies from last year was  10 Cloverfield Lane.

Get Out is stylish, witty, and great fun to watch. It also approaches race and racism in an eye-opening way and we saw it in a racially mixed, packed theater. As an aside, when I say racially mixed, I really mean a higher than usual proportion of African-Americans. Silicon Valley is about 32% Asian, 26% Hispanic, 35% white and only 2% black and I think most of the 2% are former pro-ball players who are now investors. End aside. Peele, the director, is black and so is the protagonist and point of view of the movie – which, I  suspect, changed our usual theater demographic breakdown – but most of the actors in the movie, and the guys we are rooting against, are white.

Looking back at my headline, the hero being black is an integral part of the movie in that he is an outsider. Like all outsiders, he has outsider-radar and is seeing things that are slightly off but his desire to please, to be a good black man, keeps overriding his instincts (but, of course, not ours). The instincts, that are not reciprocal,  that any outsider, including women I suspect, must have about the insiders…if they are going to survive.

If you want to catch a movie that you will walk out of feeling great, I whole heartily recommend Get Out. If you want to stay home, try 10 Cloverfield Lane.

As an after thought, the movie is also funny at times and there was one scare, after which the audience clapped, in effect saying Nice, you got me!