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Showing posts from 2018

Can You Ever Forgive Me

Things are not going well for Lee Israel as we meet her in Can You Ever Forgive Me?   The solitary New Yorker is fired from a copy editing job due to her two most distinguishing characteristics:  a caustic personality and a glass of scotch on the rocks affixed to her hand with only slightly less permanence than her fingers.  A strait-laced co-worker reminds her that food and drink aren't allowed in the office and the busybody is invited to fuck off.  When a man asks her to repeat what she said, Lee does so with zest.  The man, she realizes too late, is her boss, who summarily dismisses her.  Ms. Israel finishes her drink, tosses the ice into a trash can and returns the glass to her purse, off to joust with an adversarial world on other fields of battle.  
Loss of the no-doubt poorly paying job only exacerbates the already tenuous standing in the world of  writer Lee Israel.  Once there were magazine assignments (a profile of Katherine Hepburn, memorialized with a letter from the …

Leave No Trace

It's significant that  one of the most moving bits of communication between daughter and father in Debra Granik's Leave No Trace is not an exchange of words.  It an occasional clicking sound, an affirmation between the child and parent.  It's a tolling of animal sympathy and understanding.  A simple, eloquent expression of love beyond speech.  

Delivering her third memorable feature film, Debra Granik wrote the script with her long-time creative partner Anne Rosellini.  Their collaboration in the case Leave No Trace is a masterwork of understatement, if not blatant minimalism.  Both father Will (Ben Foster) and Tom (Thomasin McKenzie), whom we first meet living secretly amid the lush vegetation of forested public lands somewhere outside of Portland, Oregon, tend toward the laconic in speech.  Granik and Rossellini, like their characters, speak mainly when they have something important to say.
From this source, this minimal script like telling ripples on deep bodies of wat…

A Quiet Place

A quiet place indeed, any movie theater (I'm extrapolating from my own experience at a small screening room at Chicago's New 400 Cinema, usually a lively neighborhood house) in which one might take in John Krasinski's A Quiet Place during its highly successful first run.

One of the points on which A Quiet Place impressively succeeds is immersing its audience into the experience and plight of the Abbot family, stepping very softly through some sort of post-monster-invasion American landscape in which drawing attention to oneself with any sort of noise can quickly prove fatal.  So too does the audience almost breathlessly proceed through the film, especially the nearly silent early stages.  While it is both unusual and extremely refreshing to be among an American film audience in which such a hush - nary a smart phone; virtually no resounding ruminant chomp of popcorn -  prevails, A Quiet Place ultimately resorts to all manner of loud plot mechanism, clunking logic.

The nea…

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Three billboards with bold black letters in and an attention-grabbing orange field.  These the work of grieving mother Mildred Hayes, goading local Sheriff Bill Willoughby and his police force to show more initiative in solving the rape and murder of her daughter seven months earlier.

 Three films now for Irish playwright and filmmaker Martin McDonagh, each a kind of blazing billboard in its own right, full of provocation, contrivance, violence, heart and amusement.  Yes, all of that.  Audiences and critics have responded much more enthusiastically to the latest provocation of Mr. McDonagh than most of the residents of the fictional Ebbing, Missouri to those billboards of Mildred.  And yet, skepticism of the film seems even more justified than the disapproval of Ebbing for Mildred's roadside gesture; which is to say - what's the point? 

Accomplished both as a playwright and a filmmaker, Mr. McDonagh is, by his own acknowledgement, more comfortable in the role of the latter. …