Is She Really Going Out With Him?

the souvenir

The Souvenir, British director Joanna Hogg’s fourth feature film, is the first part of a two-part memory piece that focuses on a love affair that took place in Hogg’s early twenties, when she was in film school in London. Though not quite a memoir, the film is unabashedly autobiographical, and similar to Alfonso Cuaron’s recent Roma in how it seeks to reconstruct a particular period in the director’s life. To play a version of herself, a young woman called Julie, Hogg has cast Honor Swinton Byrne, a newcomer who at this point in her life is best known as Tilda Swinton’s daughter—though her performance in The Souvenir and next year’s sequel will likely change that. Swinton herself plays Julie’s mother, Rosalind, tamping down her usual charisma to embody a meek matron who rarely exerts her influence or reveals her knowledge of the world. It’s startling to see Swinton this way, especially with Byrne nearby, exuding youth and curiosity. With her height and her red hair, Byrne looks enough like Swinton to bring to mind her mother’s glamour, but also has a calm dreaminess that it is all her own.

Read the rest over at The Common . . . 

Long Shot

long shot

I saw Long Shot last weekend, when it opened, and really enjoyed it, but I’ve been struggling since then to write a review. On the one hand, it was the easygoing, funny, romantic comedy I’ve been waiting for. Seth Rogan and Charlize Theron are both charming and fun to watch. I laughed a lot and never felt bored. On the other hand, there was something amiss about the world they occupied, an alternate version of D.C. that was sometimes depicted realistically, sometimes satirically, and sometimes seemed to be a part of a TV-D.C. whose qualities I hadn’t yet learned. I wasn’t there for the sharp political satire, so I mostly didn’t mind, but some of the nonsensical aspects of the setting did make the characters less believable–and that made their romance a little less believable too.

Continue reading “Long Shot”

Wine Country

wine country

This movie was a like canned rosé wine: light, great for a picnic, and not very complex. You could do something else while you watch this movie — like get play cards and gossip with friends — and not miss much of anything. I really enjoyed it even as I can’t vouch for its quality.

Continue reading “Wine Country”

Movies I Watched in Florida: Part 2

debbie.0

Writing to you from lovely but chilly Brooklyn. It feels good to be home. We went to the playground and I made two little videos of my daughter. I’m experimenting with my home videos, trying to make them with some thoughtfulness and a sense of narrative or at least framing them in some way. I’ve only been doing it for a few days but I feel like it’s already helping me to understand better how story is conveyed through film. I was going to post the video here because it’s pretty low-key in terms of showing my daughter–you can’t see her face clearly–but apparently that would require giving WordPress access to all my photos on Google. So, I’ll put the video sharing on hold for now, until I figure out how to address all the privacy issues.

Anyway, back to the movies I saw in Florida, which, surprisingly, included Singin’ in the Rain. It was showing on Sunday night, our second night in Florida, as part of Epic Theatre’s “Flashback Cinema.” Epic Theatre seems to be a cineplex chain in the south, and our screening  was introduced, via video, by one of its executives, who shared some interesting facts about the movie. For instance: did you know that Gene Kelly has a 103 degree fever when he shot the title number, “Singin’ in the Rain?” Did you know the entire movie was written around that song? I did not. Nor did I know that Debbie Reynolds was not Gene Kelly’s first, second, third, or fourth choice and that she had to prove herself. To prepare, she took dance classes for eight hours a day for six months. Which is incredible. I feel like Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling did not put that much effort in for La La Land. Their dancing style was sort of “whatever works.” Whereas Debbie Reynolds’s was “I’m gonna make this work/prove myself to Gene Kelly.” Can you imagine the pressure? Only someone as young and hungry as Reynolds was then would have been able to stomach it.

Continue reading “Movies I Watched in Florida: Part 2”

Birds of Passage

birds

From its joyous opening dance sequence to its melancholy ending, Birds of Passage (Pájaros de verano) is unlike any movie you have seen about illegal drug trafficking. It’s a gangster movie that downplays violence, looks closely at attempts at peacemaking, and is centered on the fate of a mother and a daughter. Set in Colombia between the late 1960s and early 1980s, the film is told from the perspective of a Wayúu family who live in the arid, northern region of the country and become significant exporters of marijuana to the U.S. Their success in the drug trade brings wealth, but it also pulls them into a world of violence and greed that engulfs and divides their family and their community.

Read the rest of this review over at The Common

Period. End of Sentence.

91st Annual Academy Awards - Show

I was pleasantly surprised when Period. End of Sentence won best documentary short at the Oscars on Sunday. I hadn’t actually seen the documentary but I voted for it on my home ballot because I thought it seemed like an important subject. For a while, I’ve been mulling over an essay idea about how periods are rarely represented in fiction and in film, even though it is a monthly occurrence in the lives of girls and women. The silence around it contributes both to a feeling of shame and a sense that it’s not really that important. But so many of my friends have gone through times in their lives when they were in a lot of pain because of their periods, and there’s very little in the way of treatment. Which is really kind of crazy, from a capitalist perspective, because how much money could you make if you offered women some pain relief during their periods?

I kept thinking of how flawed capitalism is as I watched Period. End of Sentence. on Netflix last night. (It’s streaming there, and it’s only about a half hour, so it’s an easy watch.) The documentary takes place in a rural part of India, and observes what happens to a group of women after a pad machine is installed in their village. There is a lot of shame and misinformation around menstruation, but soon the women are working at the pad machine and going door-to-door to sell them. It is a product that the local women desperately need, especially young women, who often skip school when they are on their periods. They eagerly buy pads, but admit that they are hesitant to purchase them at the store because it is too embarrassing to do so. Continue reading “Period. End of Sentence.”

The Two Movies That Got Me Through January

tuscan_sun

We’re well into 2019 and I’ve barely watched any movies because my kids have been so sick. January was a festival of viruses, a nasty cold that just never left and then, last week, when the last of the phlegm departed, my baby brought home a novel stomach flu that incubated for about 36 hours before hitting me, my husband, and my first-grader in six-hour intervals.

I feel like this is the third or fourth time I have written about illnesses, so at this point it is a leitmotif of this blog and probably warrants its own tag.

Anyway.

When Under The Tuscan Sun came out in 2003, I was 25, and I remember kind of wanting to see it, but feeling that it was for older women. That feeling didn’t always stop me from seeing movies I wanted to see–for instance, I sat in a theater of seventy-somethings watching the 2004 Cole Porter biopic De-Lovely–but in this case, I think a part of me thought I should save this movie for a time in my life when I needed it.

Well, my two readers, that time has come. I’m 40, and I spent the past six weeks cooped up in a virus-ridden apartment with two small children and an unfinished novel manuscript. (The second unfinished novel to take up residence in my laptop in the past few years.) One night, I was perusing HBO’s offerings and I saw beautiful Diane Lane and a bouquet of yellow sunflowers. I thought, that is exactly what I need: Diane, flower gardens, Tuscany, and a serious real estate makeover.  Continue reading “The Two Movies That Got Me Through January”