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Flash Movie Review: The French Dispatch

THERE ON PAGE 4 OF THE newspaper was my professor’s name. I was excited to see her name right below the title of the news article. She was a cool journalism teacher with a colorful vocabulary. Of course, I had to read what she wrote to see if she practiced what she preached. Her class was my first introduction into journalism; I had not made up my mind if I wanted to be a reporter or a novelist. The college I was attending was known as a “working” school of education. The professors worked in the field they taught. For example, my poetry professor was a famous poet with several published books of poetry. I remember seeing them all lined up on a shelf at a large, national chain bookstore. The journalism teacher was on staff at the newspaper. I still remember how she explained to us how to start writing an article; it was like an upside-down pyramid. The opening line should grab the readers attention, so hit the reader with the facts of the story, starting with the most dramatic one. She also was a stickler for spelling and punctuation, editing our news’ stories with a red inked fountain pen. Periodically, she would surprise us with a scenario she created, and we would have to write up an article as she timed us. It was obvious she loved her work.      THE OTHER IMPORTANT THING MY JOURNALISM teacher taught me was the importance of words, that words mattered. She taught us how to remove our feelings from our writing because a journalist’s job was to report the facts. We would have newspapers delivered to the classroom then go through them, dissecting the articles that were city, national or world news. The ones about culture, fashion and sports were rarely needed. Our teacher stressed upon us to choose our adjectives carefully. She would show us by reading an article as written then repeat it with the adjectives changed, to show us how it can change the reader’s perspective. The class truly was a master class in my opinion. And though it was one of my favorite classes my heart yearned more for the fictional verse. I loved creating a picture in people’s minds with my words. Now granted I may not utilize my fictional skills in my reviews, but I still watch what words I choose. Being a reporter is a noble job and I know it has taken a beating the past few years. Some of the blame honestly is justified. Seeing how the newspapers I read carry the same story but based on who owns the newspaper, there may be a different slant to the story. However, a reporter’s job is to report the news and that is why I was happy watching this inventive film.      AN AMERICAN NEWSPAPER WITH AN OFFICE in France is determined to report the stories. The reporters would go to any lengths to get the story. With Benicio Del Toro (No Sudden Move, A Perfect Day) as Moses Rosenthaler, Adrien Brody (Manhattan Night, The Pianist) as Julian Cadazio, Tilda Swinton (A Bigger Splash, I Am Love) as J.K.L. Berensen, Lea Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Color, Midnight in Paris) as Simone and Frances McDormand (Burn After Reading, Nomadland) as Lucinda Krementz; this dramatic comedy romance was a kaleidoscope of visual treats. The scenery and use of color kept me attentive to what was taking place in the scenes. The other aspect that grabbed my attention was the abundance of actors in the story. Though some were utilized more than others, I still enjoyed watching them. It did take me time to get into the movie. A quarter to a third way in things started to click for me. The story is a tribute to journalists, told in a fun and entertaining way. If you are a fan of Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Isle of Dogs) then you will enjoy this film; if you are not, I do not believe you will be as entertained.                                          

3 stars  

Flash Movie Review: Beautiful Boy

THOUGH THE CLERGYMAN TOLD ME HIS tragic story years ago, it all came back to me as I was watching this emotional film. I was friends with this clergyman, not a person who attended his church. I do not recall how we wound up talking about this individual, but our conversation was about relationships. Let me first say I have not had much exposure to individuals with addictions. Sure, I have some friends who drink in excess from time to time, but they tend to only get that way at a celebration event or weekend party and not on a consistent basis. The clergyman started telling me about a couple he knew, never divulging how or where he knew them. They were together for something like 15+ years, both employed with no children. At some point in time the husband started experiencing mood swings. At first, they were not so dramatic; but as time went on, they became more intense. The husband was losing weight and he was away from home for longer periods of time. I am not sure if the wife tried to find out what was going on, but the outcome was so sad. It turned out the husband was addicted to drugs. Not only did he wipe out their savings account, he lost their house.      WHEN THE CLERGYMAN TOLD ME THIS story I could not believe such a thing could happen. On the one hand I wondered how the wife did not know bills and past due notices were being ignored; but then on the other hand, if his responsibilities were the financial dealings, how could the husband let things get so out of hand. You see, I did not know addictions could be that debilitating. I did not, nor do I still know, how dangerous addictions can be. Granted, my exposure to this type of disease pretty much revolves seeing it on the big screen, but still I do have an inkling. Since it has not touched me personally, I feel I have this buffer zone around me that isolates me from experiencing the horrors of addiction. For me, I have always looked at addiction as being a tool to fill a void in one’s life. Something is lacking so the person focuses on trying to fill an emotional need. Drugs and alcohol are the first 2 things that come to mind, but I guess almost anything done in excess can be considered an addiction. This dramatic movie based on a true story allows you to experience the tragedy caused by addiction without being a part of it.      NEVER IN HIS WILDEST DREAMS DID David Sheff, played by Steve Carell (Battle of the Sexes, The Big Short), ever think the beautiful boy he raised would wind up being someone he no longer understood. This dramatic biographical film also starred Timothee Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name, Lady Bird) as Nic Sheff, Maura Tierney (Insomnia, Forces of Nature) as Karen Barbour, Amy Ryan (Escape Plan, Gone Baby Gone) as Vicki Sheff and Jack Dylan Grazer (It; Me, Myself and I-TV) as young Nic Sheff. The best part of this picture was the acting, hands down. Steve and Timothee were exquisite together as father and son. Timothee’s acting in particular is something special to watch. His transformation throughout this story was mesmerizing. Not that any of the other actors were slouches; they all did a fine job here. My only complaint was I felt for the topic the emotions on display could have been rawer. There was a slight repetitiveness to the script that came across without much variance. Still I could not look away at what I was seeing on the big screen. Truly a command performance of a brutal addiction.

 

3 stars   

Flash Movie Review: Call Me By Your Name

THE LINE BETWEEN LIKE and love is a permeable one. In my past relationships I can come close to telling you when I went from liking to loving the person, but I cannot give you an exact moment when it happened. Though each relationship was unique, there were a series of events/moments in each one which were the catalysts that made me fall in love with them. Where in one relationship we were exact opposites, to one where we could finish each other’s sentences; they each combined with me in such a way where love sprung out of my heart. Recently talking with friends the question was posed to one, “Do you love him?” The reply was meaningful to me because they talked about always feeling different in past relationships, not referring to it being a bad or good thing. With their present relationship they felt for the first time that they found someone who thinks and acts in a similar way to themself.     I FOUND THEIR ANSWER powerful, the idea of feeling like you are the only one until someone comes along who appears to belong to your particular “species.” Love truly has a way of sorting out the various attributes (some would say faults) of a person and ranking them in some sort of hierarchy in importance. A friend of mine’s past significant other loved eating in bed. I am talking where there would be crumbs in the sheets, according to what I heard. Truthfully I do not know if I could handle that situation; if I put myself in their place I might not have continued long enough to have fallen in love with the individual because of their eating in bed. It is similar to some people who refuse to date someone who smokes cigarettes. Love has such a way of smoothing out the wrinkled doubts and buffing away the rusty fearfulness; it has its own special type of fluidity in my opinion. I really see it as falling in love with the person’s being, which I refer to as their makeup; their actions and thoughts as opposed to their appearance. You might at one time looked at a couple and wondered what the two saw in each other; but you know what, you are not in love with one of them, so you are not seeing who they see.     LIVING A RELAXED EXISTENCE at his parents’ villa in northern Italy Elio, played by Timothee Chalamet (Lady Bird, Love the Coopers), becomes intrigued with his father’s guest Oliver, played by Armie Hammer (The Long Ranger, The Social Network). There is something about Oliver that intrigues him in a way he has never felt before. This film festival winning dramatic romance also starred Michael Stuhlbarg (The Shape of Water, A Serious Man) as Mr. Perlman, Amira Casar (Night of a 1000 Hours, Saint Laurent) as Annella and Esther Garrel (House of Tolerance, Jealousy) as Marzia. The scenes in this movie were so lush and beautiful; I felt I was on a trip through Italy. I thought the framing of the scenes was thoughtful and precise because it laid the groundwork for the smoldering tension that was rising up in the story. Timothee was amazing in his role; his way of conveying emotions was almost palatable in the theater. As for Armie I felt this was a smart move on his part to focus on his acting ability, instead of just being a part of some big budget picture. Now I will say the script was not without fault; there were times where I felt the story dragged. However, I did appreciate the subtleness to the story. Love is one of the most powerful emotions and it was obvious this film was created with love, because they took the time to show what happens when one goes from liking to loving a person.

 

3 ¼ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Lady Bird

THE CHARACTERISTICS DETERMINING WHO or what a person is makes up their identity. My question is how much of that identity is affected by outside influences. Recently I had a lunch date with a father and daughter. They had similar facial features but that is not so unusual; their shared characteristics however really intrigued me. Besides having similar personality traits they both had common likes and dislikes, along with some interesting quirks. I was fascinated seeing them together since it was my first time meeting the daughter. Later in the day I remember thinking about the similarities between those family members and wondering how much of my identity was created by outside forces. When you think about it aren’t you usually surprised when a couple has more than one child and each one is so different? You would assume being raised in the same type of environment their children would have similar temperaments, but it is not true.     ONE OF THE CHARACTERISTICS I feel a child needs to go out into this world is to be independent. This is a trait that can come about from having parent(s) active in child rearing or on the other hand not having parents involved. I have seen children grow up fiercely independent from both home environments. Not that I would ever cringe if a young adult said they wanted to be just like their mother or father, unless their parent was a serial killer; but being able to discern between positive and negative characteristics is important and I do not believe everyone can tell the difference. In previous reviews I have talked about abusers more than likely having been abused themselves. There is a family I know where the parent neglected their child for the most part. That child grew up and when they had children they did the same thing by neglecting them. On the other hand you can have a parent and child who are so much alike they might not even be aware of it, just like in this film festival winning dramatic comedy.     NOT WANTING TO BE the same like everyone else Christine McPherson, played by Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn, Hanna), chose to become “Lady Bird.” It would be her way to escape her hometown of Sacramento, California and her mother Marion, played by Laurie Metcalf (The Big Bang Theory-TV, Roseanne-TV). Written and directed by Greta Gerwig (Jackie, Mistress America) this was one of the best coming of age stories I have seen this year. With Odeya Rush (The Giver, Almost Friends) as Jenna Walton and Timothee Chalamet (Love the Coopers, Interstellar) as Kyle Scheible, I thought the entire cast was perfect with their characters. Laurie was so outstanding I believe she could get a nomination for her role. What I appreciated most about this movie was the authenticity of the dialog and action. Without giving much away let me just say the scene where Lady Bird and her mother are shopping for a dress was pitch perfect. Now granted I have no experience regarding the mother daughter connection, but I have been privy to the dynamics of it through friends and family. I felt Greta did an excellent job capturing the feelings and flavor of the turmoil being experienced by the McPhersons. In a field of comedies and coming of age stories this one certainly stands out as being different, which is a good thing.

 

3 ½ stars

 

 

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