October 26, 2015
October 10, 2015
Ridley Scott’s pop space adventure “The Martian” has the heart that all of his previous films were missing.
I’ll See You in My Dreams is at times refreshingly unpredictable. Carol meets two men at roughly the same period, and two distinct, dynamic relationships develop. One of them, Lloyd (Martin Starr), a banal 30-year-old man who cleans her pool, becomes her friend. Their affinity for each other is strangely lovely, perhaps because we tend to live such splintered lives, shutting out people who aren’t carbon copies of ourselves. The other relationship—a budding romance with Sam Elliott—also travels in unexpected directions, all of them adding new layers to Danner’s characterization. Elliott's charming, carefree attitude proves to be life-changing for Carol.
The one element of I’ll See You in My Dreams that feels the most calculated is Carol’s group of rambunctious girlfriends, all of them fellow retirees, living at a posh seniors community. Those scenes reminded me a little bit of the 2005 film In Her Shoes, when Cameron Diaz visits her grandmother, played by Shirley MacLaine, at one of those retirement homes where all the old people are hooking up with each other. (The speed dating scene is admittedly funny in a horrific sort of way.) It's funny, but it feels a little bit like the movie's cheap hook. And yet, the portrayal is not unrealistic. The girlfriends—played by Rhea Perlman, Mary Kay Place, and June Squibb—are funny, too, but they’re used much in the same way Betty White has been in the last five years: as old women saying inappropriate things. When The Golden Girls did it, it worked because they were fully realized characters and they could deliver the one-liners with verve. But these characters aren’t as well drawn as the others.
This is, incidentally, Blythe Danner’s first starring role. Readers may recognize her as the mother in the Meet the Parents franchise or as Will Truman’s mother on Will & Grace, or as Gwyneth Paltow’s mother in real life. Danner always lends a touch of class to a production, but rarely does she get to be the center of attention herself. Brett Haley lets her fill the room. And she’s not a particularly showy actress. Even when her character performs that lovely little number at a karaoke bar, she’s never ostentatious, never a camp queen. Danner cares deeply about the humanity of this woman, and this in turn makes us care deeply for her.
October 04, 2015
October 03, 2015
October 01, 2015
We so rarely get operatic drama anymore, that there's something deeply comforting about the way The Crucible shatters us emotionally. Daniel Day-Lewis masterfully shows us a man tormented by his own guilt but equally convinced that the authorities in his community are utterly insane fools, at best, and abusive dictators at worst. The tension builds and builds until the thing lies bleeding before us, and it's a deeply affecting experience. We've achieved what the Greeks all along told us was the purpose of tragedy: catharsis.
And of course, Crucible is a really fun ensemble piece. Everyone gets to play dress-up, do their best cocktail of Anglo-Colonial accents, and shout beautiful, intense prose from the rooftops. It's delicious, it's powerful, it's touching, especially when Joan Allen weeps into her husband's shoulder, "Forgive me, forgive me, forgive me," as the music swells, or when Abigail leads the other girls in their hysterical accusations of witchcraft, and the camera actually moves and twists, as though Sam Raimi's demon-camera in Evil Dead has temporarily invaded this play. The more the film lets loose, the more wonderful it all is.
Directed by Nicholas Hytner. The screenplay was adapted by Arthur Miller, who doesn't shy away from the bleak ending, thus letting his criticism of the ignorant and stupid mob mentality of both the witch trials and the Red Scare remain as stinging and powerful as ever. With Rob Campbell, who does good work as the beleaguered witch-hunter Reverend Hale, Paul Scofield as the imperious Judge Danforth, Bruce Davison as the cowardly Reverend Parris, Jeffrey Jones as Thomas Putnam, and Charlayne Woodard as Tituba, the Barbados slave.
But despite its flaws, Eyes Wide Shut is a show-stopping final note from Stanley Kubrick, and one that deserves a re-appraisal. With Sydney Pollack, Todd Field, Marie Richardson, Vinessa Shaw, and Alan Cumming. Written by Kubrick and Frederick Raphael, loosely adapted from Arthur Schnitzler's short novel Traumnovelle.