Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah and Blessed Holidays

From my house to yours, a blessed and wonderful holiday season, surrounded by those you love  and warmed by the fire of your hearths.

Songs out of tune, the words always a little wrong...Canzoni Stonate

Friday, December 9, 2011

J. Edgar, Shame (some spoilers here) and Brad and Angie

Much as I liked Coriolanus (still working on my review), Ray Fiennes wonderful adaptation of the Shakespearean classic and all the performances in it, including Gerard Butler's very natural turn as Tullus Aufidius, as well as the Gerry's very good performance as Sam Childers in Machine Gun Preacher, after seeing Leo DeCaprio in J. Edger and especially Michael Fassbender in Shame, I have to admit that this is one hell of a tough year to have to compete for the too few movie awards.  There are quite a few good films out there and I am trying to catch a few of them.

J. Edgar

I went to see J. Edgar last week and have to give it up for Clint Eastwood as a director, for the kind of movies he makes and the intelligence he exhibits as a filmmaker.  The screenplay by Dustin Lance Black, who penned one of my favorites of a few seasons ago (Milk), was excellent and Eastwood, a darling of screenwriters for not fucking up their scripts, did a masterful job bringing it to the screen.  The final ingredients were, of course, some fine performances, especially by Leo DeCap, who again proves that he can tackle the tough roles and bring them to life with great skill and verve, but not to exclude some good supporting players in Armie Hammer, Dame Judi Dench, and the always good Naomi Watts.

This is a movie where story counts and the movie makers make the most of of the good script in telling it.  The cinematography and costumes add a great deal, but for me it all goes back to a good story, a savvy director and terrific actors and this movie has all three ingredients that line up to make it a strong award contender.  I highly recommend it.

Perhaps this is Leo's year?  Always the bridesmaid, but never the bride, he has consistently chalked up some impressive performances and his J. Edgar is no exception.  Oscar is surely taking note?


Last night I went to see Shame.  There are two words that came to mind as the ending credits for this film went up on the black screen in a very quiet theater.  The first one was "gutsy."  The second, "wow!"

As opposed to a meticulous detail to get the story right in J. Edger, Shame, although just as meticulous in presenting its theme of sexual addiction, was an exercise in "in your face" filmmaking.  It grabbed you from the moment you went in, with it's starkness,  and it didn't let you go until the final tortured scene.   For me, I think this was due to the gutsiness of the director to go deeper and deeper into obsession and addiction and his apparent symbiosis with his lead actor to put it out there with little or no frills, such as the usual, and to me, important back story to fill in the blanks.   Steve McQueen lets his actors and the camera do the talking and here the payoff is one very bleak, but fascinating story that makes you, or at least it did me, go "wow!"

After seeing Michael Fassbender in a few films (300, Inglourious Basterds, some BBC work, and now in just about every movie coming out), this is one fearless and talented actor.  From the first scene to the last, he gives an impeccable performance as the sexually tortured Brandon.

*Since going through puberty at 10 and my first orgasm too many years later, when I lost my virginity to the player who was to be my lover for the next five years, that electrical current, unlike any other, that starts in your brain and travels down your body to your genitals, that most pleasurable of sensations that leaves you limp and satisfied and craving the next one,  has fascinated me.  That's how the first time was for me.  I guess I was one of the lucky ones, as I was crazy about the man who was responsible for it and (as he was later to tell me) he had met his sexual and emotional match.

Not being sure exactly what to expect, other than the obvious, what shocked me back then was the fact that sexual climax (for me at least) completely took over my brain where I  had expected it to be more confined to other parts of my body.  It was an inexplicable thing, that euphoric fuzziness, almost like you are going to faint from the pleasure as your whole body convulses, the kind of pleasure that begs for a repeat....because addiction (as well as sexual excitement) starts in the brain.

This is what made me think that that is what a sexual addict like Brandon is striving to sate and recreate in the obsessive pursuit of sexual gratification at all hours of the day, that euphoric fuzziness that obliterates everything else and takes over your body, even if for just a few moments.

But it can't be just that, that drives a man like Brandon.  There is a hole (no pun intended here) somewhere in his existence, that can't be filled up with anything else, a kind of vacuous nothingness that his life is and he can't face, that has to be filled up with  mindless ejaculation, the only game interesting him, exchanging glances with his prey on the subway and progressing to wherever his need for gratification leads him.   And in this movie, where it leads him...well... some of it isn't pretty.

If you go to this movie, expecting to be titillated by lots of full frontal, you may be surprised how naturally it is presented here.  The nudity in this movie is essential to its telling and Fassbender (and even Mulligan) seems so comfortable in his skin that it is his face that becomes the magnet here, so eloquent in going from flirt, to conqueror over and over and over, until all you see is the tiredness and the desperateness for that next click in his brain that may obliterate whatever it is he is afraid to face...the emptiness perhaps, his eyes looking more tired, his climaxes becoming more grimace than pleasure, a desperateness that makes you cringe...the silence palpable in the theater as the audience (each in his own thoughts) feels his pain and self loathing.  

Michael Fassbender's performance blew me away, literally.  It was raw, unvarnished and perfect.  Carey Mulligan, as his sister Sissy, also gave a fearless, earthy performance and her rendition of New York, New York was poignantly lovely and, its slow, almost sad,  execution became an anthem for these two damaged siblings whose past is left for us in the audience to fill in, but our hearts ache for them and whatever has brought them to the place where  seeking a closeness and a connection with something or someone, each in their own manner.... he, unable to love anyone else because he can't love himself... and she, perhaps for the same reason, but at least willing to reach out to her brother, but again, both seeking their redemption in self-destruction and ultimately, a self loathing rush to oblivion.

Steve McQueen has done a masterful job bringing this movie to life and the bleak tones of the cinematography is his partner in setting the tone and theme for this very compact film.  

I recommend this movie highly, but not for the silly minded, even though I will have to add as an afterthought that any actor considering doing full frontal might be a little intimidated after seeing this movie.   Mr. Fassbender is obviously blessed in a few areas, but not the least in his acting ability, because in this movie, it IS the acting and the actor's facial expressions that carry the day and the attention of all but the most puerile.

Brad, Angie and other Trivia for the night.

I saw Shame at ArcLight in Hollywood, where I was supposed to meet some friends.   As I was going down the stairs after parking, I almost ran smack into Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie getting ready to make their grand entrance to the red carpet for the premiere of her movie, In the Land of Milk and Honey.  

I was surprised, as I was unaware of this event going on, and delighted, as well to get to see them up close, as they both looked quite lovely, especially the regal Angie, in a stunning, dark navy dress.   I smiled and continued to the forecourt of the theater, where the photographers were lined up behind the ropes and the fans behind other ropes, all trying to get a glimpse of their idols.   

Once in the theater lobby, I waited around, for my friends were stuck in the traffic on Sunset.  While they were moving people around, I was very happy not to be hassled by the security, perhaps because I looked like I belonged (I was wearing a dress and heels as we were going to dinner afterwards to celebrate my friend's birthday) and because I was not gawking (I do not gawk).  While everyone else was trying to take pictures with their phones,  I was happy to exchange a few glances with Mr. Pitt, perhaps because I was one of the few in the lobby not preoccupied with them, and really most anxious that we might miss the movie if my friends arrived too late.  Or perhaps because I looked familiar (I do have a double out there).  Either way, it was very nice.

Anyway, once my friends got there, we embraced and headed for the theaters and made it just in time before the lights went down.   I have to give thanks to the young man at the ticket counter, who let me have their tickets on good faith (they had  two free vouchers) so that we could sit together, and trusted me to bring back the vouchers for him once they arrived.  

After the movie we ate at Cleo's at the Redbury,  where the food is good, even if the acoustics are horrible.   We got a booth and, once several tables full of  very young women (who all looked the same...dresses up to their asses, high heels they could barely walk in, and yelling instead of speaking) left, it was very pleasant and we could discuss our impressions of the movie.  M and I also had fun discussing our recent trips to Paris and, to my credit and his liking of me, I was able to convince the strict vegetarian that he "must" visit a certain taxidermy shop on his next visit.

After toasting our friend T, who had just returned from another grueling trip to Shanghai, for her birthday and  discussing the merits of a house in Palm Springs' old movie colony that M is thinking of purchasing, we made plans to go out to dinner again soon before heading to the valet.

I still have several movies to catch up with before awards season starts, so I anticipate a few trips to the ArcLight, though probably not so hectic and exciting as this one.

All in all, another great night in La La Land.

Songs out of tune, the words always a little wrong...Canzoni Stonate

*My apologies if this is too much personal information for some, but as a writer and even as a person, I can't intellectualize the feelings of the character without digging deep to understand his motivation.  I am a person who tends to empathize a great deal and if that means tapping into my own experiences of something for some kind of understanding, than I need to go there and do.