"Sincerely, your favorite fan", actors, Are You Not Entertained?, Dear..., directors, Film Spotlight, movies

Dear Jane Campion,

Benedict Cumberbatch has an excellent shot at an Oscar nomination/win.

I wanted to thank you for adapting Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel and directing The Power of the Dog (2021). Your films feel like good books that beg to be analyzed. Take The Piano (1993), for instance, your signature film for the past thirty years.

I taught it in English Composition class as a visual text twenty years ago. We discussed how the piano was a character in the film. Was it not the voice of the mute protagonist Ada? Was it not a metaphor for the treatment of women in a patriarchal world in 19th century New Zealand? That is, the piano was a burden to men. It was carried, abandoned, tattooed, mutilated, and drowned at the bottom of the sea.

We compared and contrasted the spiritual connection of Ada and George Baines while the clueless colonizer Alisdair Stewart (one of Sam Neill’s best roles) attempted to control his environment, the Maori people, and his wife with disastrous results. The best character was the eight-year-old daughter, Ada. Flora was a precocious, mischievous “angel” who becomes a little demon, manipulating Christianity to punish her mother for choosing to distance their bond for another man.

You embraced the wild scenery with a passion. It was necessary for the piano to have a complex voice. Michael Nyman‘s score is still breathtaking.

Today, I’m awestruck with my favorite film of 2021. I feel compelled to write you and extend my gratitude for your adapted screenplay and direction of The Power of the Dog (2021). The emotional wrestling between the characters makes it worth many discussions. Set in Montana in the 1920s, you embraced the topography and shared to the audience the beauty and harsh realities of the cowboy culture and the ambitions of a ranching family.

Kirsten Dunst plays Rose, a fragile mother who is intimidated and close to ruin by the bossy, jealous Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch). Photos courtesy of Netflix.
Kodi Smit-McPhee, smoldering, complex, and exciting to watch.

Jane, your characters are never one-dimensional. Their motivations are hidden. Their feelings are hidden. Their narrative arcs are complete. Through the camera’s lens via close-ups, staging, and the stark lines of the setting, you flush out their feelings. To some, the characters may seem too hidden, but I’ve always been a fan of inference and subtlety. That disturbing score heightens psychological warfare. You have created a beautiful film and given me hope that the art of filmmaking has returned.

Sincerely,

Your Favorite Fan

P.S. What did Phil Burbank see in the hills? What was he staring at? Ah, the lines of the hills are hips, torsos, legs of a lover’s embrace. Perfect.

"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.

 

actors, Dear..., In My Opinion, movies

Dear Burt Lancaster,

I watched The Boy in the Striped Pajamas in class today. There’s a line where the Jewish doctor/potato peeler asks 8-year-old Bruno, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It made me think about the span of human life in general. Youth is for daydreams and imagining your life ahead of you. We dream. We learn. We keep calm and carry on. As adults, beyond responsibilities, one dares of mastering a skill or flowering into something unique.

Burt, you had one Broadway play under your belt and Hollywood talent agent, Harold Hecht, persuaded producer Hal B. Wallis to sign you to an eight-movie contract. The move made you an instant star in 1946 with The Killers. Your lucky break turned into a 45-year career during which you were a four-time nominee for Best Actor, (winning for Elmer Gantry), two BAFTA Awards, and one Golden Globe (Elmer Gantry). Ah, what does this have to with The Boy in the Striped Pajamas? 

I finished Against Type: The Biography of Burt Lancaster by Gary Fishgall last night. I saw many of your movies during the Winter Project featuring your life and filmography. The Sweet Smell of Success, Come Back, Little Sheba, The Killers, Elmer Gantry, Seven Days in May, and Field of Dreams are my personal favorites. Thinking about your life, I can see that you did your best to become something special in the field of acting. You had a voracious appetite for life. You wanted to be your own man, call your own shots. You picked your roles, and started a production company. Lost it in the 1960s. You stayed in perfect shape and loved a lot of women in and out of wedlock. It bewilders me that you needed a wife. Monogamy was impossible. What did matter to you were your five children. You had several close friends who were loyal to you to the end. Passionate, argumentative, virile, you embodied the physical looks that made women swoon and men shiver with intimidation.

I think you were unselfish as an actor, Burt. Your passion was to be a part of a great picture. You took an active part in films by suggesting to the director what to do. You revised scripts and allowed co-stars to have the limelight. I think of many films where you stood there tall and broad and your costars flushed with extraordinary performances. Are you wooden? Or did you have that ability to inspire others to go deeper and express themselves by standing next to you?

When I think of you, I will remember a man at the end of his days whose eyes expressed wisdom and affable charm. I suppose that’s why I liked your bit part in Field of Dreams. I swear you weren’t acting on the screen. It was you. That’s how I like to remember you. You rose out of poverty from Harlem, became a circus performer, and transformed into a bonafide classical star. You didn’t stop. You lived true to your personality.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Well, obviously little Bruno and the life span of millions of Jews were severed tragically. I take life seriously, to a fault. I feel obligated to those who didn’t get the chance to chase after dreams or exist to enjoy the pleasures of nature and love and friendships. I admire people who live actively and with passion.

Burt, your children, and your friendships are a testament to your character. Your faults didn’t overcome you. What a tough act to play. You passed at age 80 in 1994. What more did you need out of life?

Thanks for the films, Burt. It was fun to get to know you this winter.

Sincerely,

Cindy