Monday, August 10, 2015

Irrational Man

I liked the simple storytelling, which was augmented by lots of narration from Phoenix and Stone.  "Phoenix and Stone" - sounds like figures from fantasy, but no they are the two actors Joaquin and Emma.  The week before we saw "Mr. Holmes", which has some of that timeplay storytelling, the narration suddenly shifting to a scene from the past, then back to the present, without any obvious storytelling helpers, like written text "30 years earlier...".  "Irrational Man" is strictly linear, I appreciate that for a weekend matinee's entertainment.

There is a lot wrong with the story, but it wasn't hard to sit through.  Oy vey, another Allen film about an older man and a much younger woman; why Woody why?  Emma Stone seems to be fine with this longtime conceit of girls chasing greybeards; can anybody watch "Manhattan" anymore?  I liked that Phoenix has a gut and is not afraid to "dare to be fat", to quote Rootboy Slim.  Fat is where it's at.

This idea of committing "the perfect crime" is kind of dated.  Professor Phoenix is shown to own a copy of "Crime and Punishment", so we are meant to consider that, but I think the auteur Allen missed a great opportunity by not having his murderer suffer the exquisitely insufferable paranoia that haunts Raskolnikov and makes that book a classic.  Professor Phoenix doesn't seem to change his demeanor much after the murder.  He even is still giving matter-of-fact voiceover, even up to the point where he is about to be killed - so who is the voiceover telling the story to?  

Is there a professor of philosopher in this day who carries a flask and is constantly nipping from it and in all sincerity offer an unsanitary sharing with other grown adults?

We loved the Rhode Island setting, though.  Also, Allen's movies always have nice supporting casts,  of course nobody is ever asked to act too much, but nevertheless there is a lot of sincere effort.  People don't have unfunny dramas in these later Allen films, there's always a lighter side to poison.  That helped the straightforward storytelling, though.  No scenery chewing rants or fits.

So not a really memorable film, but an acceptable diversion for a weekend matinee.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Finally, a positive review: "Love and Mercy" is a good story, if you are already sympathetic to Brian Wilson

We finally saw a movie I watched all the way through without resenting.

"Love and Mercy" braids two stories for two ages of  Brian Wilson, the composer youth embodied by Paul Dano, and the casualty manchild disembodied by John Cusack;  Cusack acted it fine, but Dano had the charisma.  The early years thread is rightfully praised for elucidating BW's creative process, working with squarewear classical musicians, the wood-paneled tube and dial board studio, and BW's craft.

Paul Giamatta should get a Best Supporting for the dodgy doctor who controlled BW for years, I love his mad energy every time he's on screen dominating the sheeped out BW.

It isn't short, but it follows a real human story, illuminates a life, does a fair behind the music, it is offers real lessons not Hollywood bromides, so I give it 7 thumbs up.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

House of Cards Indeed

The first season of House of Cards was plausible and entertaining, like a real house of cards, the second season was implausible but entertaining, like a dramatically positioned, fantastically piled house of cards, and the third season was stupid, foolish and unentertaining, like fallen cards, flat and splat.

It was gloriously brazen reckless to kill Zoe Baird shortly in the second season, since she had charisma, did the actress have another opportunity?

In the third season the major addition was the plagiarist biographer with crazy hair, but why?  The hair and its actor were unwatchable.

Season Three President Underwood says nobody cares about Social Security, he wants to take money from it to fund job subsidies, for jobs like washing dishes.  The cynical Frank Underwood I knew from the first season would never consider touching the third rail of American politics!  This is just crazy plotting, something went terribly wrong in the arc of season three.  Then the stupid showrunner wants us to thing this wouldn't cause an outrage.  This is a shark jump of record breaking breadth.

The main problem seems to be that the great Sarah Treem, who wrote season one, left to write the intriguing, nuanced, and adult first season of "The Affair".

Season one Underwood sweet talked and bamboozled people, it was a lot of fun, but season three Underwood just yells and bullies and gripes and mopes.

The worst of all this putrid decaying corpse of a once-great series was the Doug character, who spends the whole season either blank-faced or enraged and crying and destroying cellphones and laptops, thoroughly miserable and unlikeable, not a good looking actor to begin with, he was like Gollum without the charm and warmth.

I may sue this wretched showrunner Beau Willimon with ruining once great characters, Frank Underwood and Claire Underwood.

Clearly this yet another case of an American show that is closely modeled on a European show, but going completely off the rails when it has used up all the ideas from the original.  All of season three's drama were standard soap opera junk tropes.

"Veep" is a delightful comedy that is firmly grounded in the reality of Washington, but this decrepit senile "House of Cards" is just shitty cornball melodrama conceived by some Hollywood Bubble pinhead.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Birdman negative review

Last December we saw a downer movie about unpleasant men and the women who suffer from them called"Birdman" and then it won Oscars.

Micheal Keaton never cracks a smile nor hints at non-unpleasantness as the Hollywood hack vet doing Broadway, and he seems to have the DT's, the film portrays his hallucinations of telekinetics and Birdmanisms inline, is it all in his mind or not, the film ends truthing towards the hallucination translived through his predictably moody-crazy daughter, they are all unpleasant so screw them; the soundtrack is crazy drums and sometimes we see the crazy drummer as Keaton walks about; as Robert Plant said at LiveAid, does anybody remember laughter?

They might as well have filmed this in black and white because the palette was so close.

The one good scene was Keaton walking through Times Square and entering the theatre in his undies, but that could have been done as a Fruit of the Loom commercial.

Atlantis downer post

The #1 NPR program is "On Point", and today the second hour featured Plato's story of Atlantis, with Mark Adams, a man obsessed with the tale.  Okay, as an amateur who has only read library books, I don't know why anybody would trust Plato's account of some foregone place, since he lived in the 4th century BC, long past the age of myth, and there is no mention of "Atlantis" or any some-Atlantis like situation in Homer or Hesiod, or in any ancient Greek myth or cult, nor in Roman myth or the known other tales from Mediterranean cultures.

So, some 4th century BC Athens metropolitan is the first known author to have heard of this tale from pre-history, which in his telling involves Athens, a city shameful with self-promotion in that time, pushing the Theseus franchise, getting the common Greek polis goddess known as "Athena", not Thebea or Argoa; and he supposedly heard this from sailors, who are well known not to be shy in telling tales, yet nobody before Plato had heard a sailor talk about this mysterious ill-fated place, when in reality sailors tell all they know and more than they to know to anybody who can stand to listen to them, and if there had really been an Atlantis that had fallen into the sea in prehistory, the tale would have been huge in Homer and Hesiod and many of the mythic tales involving the gods and heroes.

But there is nothing until Plato?  Why would this ancient tale have been not recorded in the story of Ilium or the Calydonian Boar or Jason?

Odysseus in "The Odyssey" visited all kind of crazy nonsensical ungeoprachical places but never heard of Atlantis.  The ancient bards loved to reference other mythic tales in their stories, people love references.  But nothing is told until Plato, who lived in a rational post-Socratic age, when triremes had sailed out and back over the possibly explored near seas.

Plato was wholly dealing out parable and metaphor here.  There is no Atlantic you dumbasses. Nobody in the Bronze Age or Archaic or Classical Greece until Plato knew of any Atlantis, until the philosopher in 4th century BC Athens described it in great detail.  This ends the Atlantis conversation, no more will be heard.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Wes Anderson is like Terry Gilliam without the edge?

Once again, the post title is the thesis, doesn't that make it easier, like when a song is named after its most earwormy lyric ingredient?

We saw "Grand Budapest Hotel" at Coolidge Corner Theatre last weekend, where it had the third largest weekend gross in its history.  The reviews were good.  I had not yet seen a movie by Wes Anderson.  I don't watch movies much because most are so interminably tiresome like this one.

I went in thinking this some period piece but the pseudo period setting was just dress up, after some initial setup the script played with anachronism beyond its welcome.  It's a bad sign the first time a punchline is a cuss, junior high school style.

Hijinks ensue, characters were cartoons, sight gags, stunts, running jokes, some characters used a voice or an accent and some spoke Californian.  Cameos aren't a bad thing, they indicate respect in Hollytown. I perked up when Bill Murray was on screen, but he didn't do much and then was gone.  I couldn't follow the story at times. I was sorry they left the grand hotel, which had a nice look and where I had expected the story to take place, to run amok in the outside world.  Some of the gags were good, some groans.  One interesting thing, how every shot seemed to be centered and framed by symmetry.

Watching the clock by halfway, how long oh lord?  So much gratitude when the narrator voice indicated coming closure.  During "Drive" I sat in the bathroom reading my email I was so bored, this wasn't that bad, set pieces kept dropping and I had some hope something better might come.

So to expand the thesis, "Grand Budapest Hotel" is like a defanged Terry Gilliam movie, fanciful comedic fable, but without the edge, with lightweight character development, patchwork storytelling, a frame to hang scenes on, and not as funny.

Oh well it was a night out.  Then we went to Lemongrass for defanged Vietnamerican food for Brookline, I like that, I'm an old Yank myself, please no spicy.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

When money grew in ponds weather like this was like hitting the lottery.

Thomas Perkins is the guy who recently dinged the Godwin's Law bell by saying resentment of the rich is akin to the Kristallnacht of 1930's Germany, but in a more simple time Colonel Thomas Handasyd Perkins was the man who created an industry, like an Edison or Fulton, by marshalling the early 19th century craft of refrigeration, not yet a technology so much as an art, to export ice sawn from Boston area ponds overseas. 

Caribbean plantation owners and English manors paid well for this luxury of the pre-refrigeration days, making it profitable even if most of the goods melted in transit.

If this lost industry existed today, then this wintry March we are still enduring, like going out not at all like a lamb so much as a rabid rogue ram, would indubitably be classified an economic boom time.