"Sincerely, your favorite fan", actors, Are You Not Entertained?, Dear..., directors, Film Spotlight, In My Opinion, movies, Science Fiction

Dear Christopher Nolan,

My daughter and I recently saw Tenet, and we talked about you for the rest of the day. Vanessa’s initial reaction was that your film was more of an experience than watching a story unfold. I was doing my best to listen carefully because I knew I was in for a cerebral experience that demanded my concentration. I wish key clues of the narrative weren’t given when the characters wore various kinds of face masks. It happened a few times. That was one way in which I had no idea what just happened or what was said. I started to panic because I kept scratching my head. I mentally checked, “Okay, I’ll have to watch that again to find out what was said.” To my daughter, I asked, “Maybe I’m too old or stupid to get it?” She replied, “If the whole movie is like that, isn’t ironic you get bored? You love smart movies, Mom. Maybe this was too smart for its own good?” Hmm.

This was the first time since the pandemic that we were back in the movie theaters. We went to a 1pm showing and there were ten people in the whole theater spread about wearing masks. I crunched on my popcorn with enthusiasm. Yes! Back at the movies. Focused and ready to love it. Why did I leave the movie two-and-a-half hours later feeling confused and unsure if I could even say I liked it? I told Vanessa, “Well, I guess I’m going to have to watch it again to find out what I missed the first time.” She replied, “Shouldn’t you want to see it again instead of having to see it again?”

Tenet

Mr. Nolan, let me take a moment to commend you for your efforts. I love mind-benders. I was your biggest fan while watching Inception (2010). You had the perfect balance of outstanding graphics, edge-of-your-seat thrilling cat and mouse scenes. You had an ensemble cast who all did their part to make the narrative interesting to watch. What worked? Your film had heart. I watched Inception many times because I wanted to. Each viewing brought me pleasure and another detail I’d missed before that raised my esteem for you. Tech + heart + thrilling = An A+ movie. May I suggest, sir, that you remember that formula?

Mr. Nolan, I enjoyed your Dark Knight trilogy. You do have a gift for bringing great talent into the ensemble cast. That’s a strength of yours. Heath Ledger was at his best. I loved Sir Michael Caine as Alfred (I didn’t know he was knighted!) I never tire seeing the faces of Gary Oldman or Tom Hardy or Christian Bale. Marion Cotillard is always mesmerizing. Congratulations.

With regards to Tenet, Elizabeth Debicki and Kenneth Branagh acted best. Nice Russian accent, Ken. Their relationship was more interesting than the physics involved in the narrative. I suppose that was the “heart” element to focus on when not wondering what the hell was going on with the backward/forward interplay of time. However, I feel John David Washington‘s character was a wasted character. Heck, he didn’t even have a name. Just a secret agent known as “the Protagonist”. I never had a chance to care about him. This would be my biggest complaint with Tenet. Pattison did okay. Sometimes the actor acts; sometimes he’s a bore. I can’t decide how I feel about Robert Pattinson. Now I hear he’ll be the next Batman. Hmm.

In Tenet, the chase scenes involving the time sequences were thrilling and complicated and gorgeous to watch. You are unique and clever. I don’t see how anyone would object to your thrilling scenes. I won’t.

If I ranked Tenet, I’d give it a 7/10.

Mr. Nolan, I think your contribution to cinema is important. I certainly like your work more than I dislike it. After all, you gave us Memento (2000). Guy Pierce was outstanding and the mysterious thriller worked for me. Can you make more of those?

I’ll watch whatever you make,

Cindy Bruchman

P.S. Interstellar was fantastic. Heart–your protagonist had heart! Please don’t get lost in the cold abyss of technology that you forget to give your characters a heart. After all, that’s what makes movies worth watching.

 

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L13FC: Regionalism in Coen Brothers Movies

Welcome back to another rendition of the Lucky 13 Film Club featuring the Coen Brothers. Your friendly opinion is welcome here–don’t be shy–let’s talk to one another. I pulled from Wikipedia their eighteen films and each has a link that provides a synopsis in case you need a refresher.

After thirty years of filmmaking, we all have a favorite Coen film. When I was younger, my eyes and ears appreciated their strange storylines, quirky supporting characters, and their dark humor. As I aged, my interest in their work varied upon the project. Sometimes I felt their balance was off, that is, the story was too ludicrous for me to back emotionally–but always, throughout the decades, an element in the whole, a nugget in the creek, makes watching the film worth it. A performance. A character. A scene. A song. An idea that harkens back to the Greeks, and I like that about them; there is an endearing, universal quality about their stories. As screenwriters, they are the gods taking mythical pokes at the foolishness of man. They employ dramatic irony and we laugh. Well, I do.

I like Mojo.com. Have fifteen minutes? Watch this to help you remember the laughs and the technique of the Coen Brothers.

When I think of the Coen Brothers, here’s what comes to mind: 

  1. They remind me of Mark Twain. Folk tales–their films express America by the region including the vernacular and its superstitions and beliefs.
  2. They appreciate the genre of film noir. Miller’s Crossing is one of my favorites. Gabriel Bryne locks it for me.
  3. They love Hollywood and hate it, too.
  4. The songs and scores are a key part of the tale. Kudos to Carter Burwell.
  5. The themes are universal: heroism, friendship, greed, loss, betrayal, strange love, sacrifice
  6. The setting plays a huge role in their films. The violence of nature infiltrates and determines the violence in man.
  7. Romanticism. Naturalism. Modernism. Post-Modernism. It’s all there in the visual form. Like watching instead of reading the assigned anthology of the second half of a U.S. Lit course. While I still prefer to read the anthology, I enjoy seeing the stories on the screen.

Which region do they personify best? Also, what performance or character resonates? Which repeat actor starring in a Coen film grate on your nerves? For me, that’d be Frances McDormand. I like Jeff Bridges and Steve Buscemi. 

actors, Are You Not Entertained?, authors, books, crime drama, documentary, Film Spotlight, movies, music

Are You Not Entertained? Books, TV, Movies

Always on the quest for excellent entertainment, here continues a series of a quick report of above-average finds.

BOOKS

 

The German Girl (2016) by Armando Lucas Correa. Historical Fiction. A fine opportunity to tell the story of the plight of the passengers of the St. Louis, when in 1939, 900 passengers sailed from Hamburg to Havana. They were mostly German-Jewish refugees escaping from the Nazi regime. The protagonist is a 12-year-old girl named Hannah Rosenthal. Her wealthy family hoped to start a new life in Cuba. Her best friend Leo and her father are refused entry. The ship leaves without Hannah and her mother who are forced to live in Cuba. After failed attempts to disembark in Canada or the United States, the St. Louis is forced to return to Germany where the passengers meet their demise. There is a duo narration between Hannah the girl who grows and ages in Cuba and her eventual grand-niece, who pieces together the mysterious puzzle of her aunt’s life.  It’s a good story but falls short at times. Hannah’s life in Cuba is glossed over. It would have been better had Correa devoted more time to the challenges facing the Jewish pair living in Cuba. 4/5.

Lilac Girls (2017)  by Martha Hall Kelly. Historical Fiction. A fascinating topic concerning the Rabbits, the female concentration camp victims at Ravensbrück, who suffered medical experiments. The POV alternates between three characters based on real people. It’s sophisticated, interesting and a gripping account of WWII and the aftermath. Set in New York, Paris, Germany, and Poland, Caroline the New York sophisticate and survivor Kasia bring justice to those that time has forgotten. 4.2/5

MOVIES

A Fortunate Man (2018)2018 Danish drama film directed by Bille August. Starring Esben Smed Jensen, it’s an intellectual film about a nineteenth-century ambitious young man named Lykke-Per who escapes his strict Lutheran family in remote Denmark and becomes an important engineer in Copenhagen. He is a man who seeks opportunity and advances himself in any way possible. He’s a flawed character which makes him interesting to watch and Jensen gives a fine performance. It’s a beautiful film about the possibilities of technology from the 1880s and Lykke-Per is complex and likable despite poor decisions. Equally important is the role of Katrine Rosenthal, the spinsterly oldest daughter of a Jewish family who sponsors Lykke-Per’s projects. The actress who plays the progressive feminist is Jakobe Salamon. She is marvelous. It’s long with a running time of 2 hours and 42 minutes. If you have time to kill and want sumptuous scenery and fine acting with interesting ideas and a convincing protagonist, you can find it on Netflix. 4/5

The Professor and the Madman (2019). Great fun seeing Mel Gibson and Sean Penn give convincing performances depicting the making of the OED. The irony does not fail me — how odd that a Scotsman and an American would have a huge influence over the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary. I loved it. The story, the acting, the story-line. I don’t know how authentic this film is based on “the incredible true story”, but I was greatly entertained. Check out the trailer. 4/5

TELEVISION

So as I was preparing to go to Scotland and London this summer, I watched a lot of United Kingdom storylines. Purely to get me in the mood.

Outlander (2014 -) At first I thought it was a Harlequin Romance put to television, but I did have to concede how historically interesting and the culture of the highlanders were displayed to my utter satisfaction. Details were accurate and the setting was absolutely what I was looking for. Of all things, my mother (at 78) recommended it to me. I was shocked at the graphic sex in the first season. I blushed. Now I understood what my young colleagues were talking about when they mentioned how exquisite Jamie Fraser was played by the buffy actor Sam Eughan. I offhandedly heard of the novels written in the 1990s by the author Diana Gabaldon but I was unaware Dr. Gabaldon holds three degrees in science: Zoology, Marine Biology, and a Ph.D. in Quantitative Behavioral Ecology. I am growing restless at the end of season two and might switch to Reign. It is about Queen of Scotland Mary Stuart. My mom says it’s better. We’ll see. 4/5

Luther (2010-)  This was easy to binge on. My blogging buddies, Pete and Abbi O, raved about it so I gave it a go. I got through a few seasons easily. Idris Elba plays Luther, a brilliant but emotionally impulsive detective who is tormented by the dark side of humanity while hunting down murderers. The cat and mouse plots are top-rate albeit gory. The best part of the series is the unusual relationship he has with psychopath Alice Morgan played to perfection by Ruth Wilson. 4.5/5

DOCUMENTARY

May it Last (2017) The Avett Brothers are refreshing because they don’t follow the pattern of a band rising up to stardom via sex, drugs, and rock and roll. I love their music and their relationships are heartwarming. Authentic and beautiful, their story will move you to tears in parts. 4/5.

This is the prettiest, astute song I’ve heard in ages. “No Hard Feelings”