Summer is over. A new teaching year has begun. So long international travel, spontaneous naps, extended walks, and the chance to catch up on movies and read books. What about my working manuscript, Inside the Gold Plated Pistol? I made steady progress and am pleased with its evolution. As I acclimate now to bells and loud, teenage voices, today I wanted to squeeze in some thoughts about my favorite summer films I’ve seen:
The Lobster (2016) Knowing it was a farce going in, I let the strange love story unfold. I’ll admit it took a bit for me to warm up to the monotone delivery and set aside logic and realism as the absurd premise worked itself into something plausible and universal. People at an asylum complex must find a mate in 45 days or be turned into an animal. What was the message of Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos? Love and loyalty are blind and limited? Society represses the individual and instills herdlike mentalities, or in this case, the crustacean? I loved the ambiguous ending and Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz gave fine performances. 4/5.
Hail, Caesar! (2016). Since I adore classic Hollywood, it won’t be a surprise to hear this Coen Brothers dark comedy thoroughly entertained me. Which parody was the best: George Clooney as Charlton Heston in Ben Hur? Channing Tatum as Gene Kelley in On the Town? Alden Ehrenreich with that Ricky Nelson western charm? Scarlett Johansson imitating swimming queen Esther Williams? Ralph Fiennes as fussbudget director Laurence Lorenz had me laughing aloud. So, too, did Frances McDormand in the editing room. Stuff in the communist writers and the art vs. crap argument, the tabloid cover-ups, the Orson Welles camera tip–perhaps that’s the fault of the film. The fragmented salute to all things Hollywood stumbled around and shortchanged a weak storyline. It was still a lot of fun and laughs. It’s a film I could rewatch many times.4/5.
Midnight Special (2016) The chemistry between Dad (Michael Shannon), Mom (Kirsten Dunst) and their special son (Jaeden Lieberher) was convincing. It’s an X-Files plot delivered with cool authority at the hands of director Jeff Nichols. Can you imagine how different this film would have been if directed by Steven Spielberg? Without a score that spoons out the sap, and believable performances with a very cool ending, Nichols is able to bring out the best of his actors. I can’t wait to see Loving. 4/5
The Sunset Limited (2011) American writer Cormac McCarthy‘s play adapted into an HBO film, directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones. Nihilism vs. Religion. I loved the dark dialogue between two opposing men. White, hopeful (Samuel L. Jackson) attempts to keep Black, the professor (Tommy Lee Jones) from committing suicide. A tough 90 minutes to film and capture the arguments. Jones delivers his lines with apathetic resolve. Jackson is exuberant and funny. One rules with their head. One rules with their heart. The final chilling rant by Jones still hurts my heart weeks later. Want to be intellectually stimulated? I highly recommend it. 4.5/5
You’ve probably seen these films before I did. Which ones from this list did you like best–or not? What’s the best film you’ve seen lately?