Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Woman in Gold, and Danny Collins

Speaking of twenty years back, as I did in my last post – the actor Al Pacino was 55 years old in 1995. Helen Mirren was 50. Judy Dench was 61, Maggie Smith was 61, and Richard Gere was the youngest of this group. Twenty years back, he was just 46 years old.

I mention these five because in the last six weeks I’ve seen all of these folks in films. Pacino has appeared in two films that I’ve seen within this period. So the question I’m asking now – concerning actors and actresses is – do they get better as they get older?

On March 10th, I was scheduled to fly from Orlando, Florida to Oslo, Norway. The flight was basically a red-eye, or overnight flight, and not wishing to drive too much at night, I got to Orlando in time to take in a late afternoon movie before heading for the airport.

The film I saw that night, and will be one of the three films I’ll review in this post, was The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,=. This film was a sequel to the popularly received The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which came out in 2011. Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, and Richard Gere were the headliners in the sequel as was Dev Patel. By the way, in 1995, Patel was just 5 years old and a school child in Harrow, London, England.

While I won’t say that the sequel (I’ll call it 2nd Best Exotic for short) was a failure, it wasn’t – for sure it was less of an artistic success than the original. Dench, Smith, and Gere were marvelous as was Bill Nighy. But the film has to take 2nd place behind the original because of the way Dev Patel’s role was written.

To be fair, Patel played the role with a lot of zest. It was as if he relished playing a character who had previously been a sweet kid, a hotelier who was a hard-working and striving young man who got his hotel to go from a near derelict ruin to a successful venture in the original. But in this, the sequel, he changed into an obnoxious lout who was also rude and indifferent to any thing except his own goals which was to expand by adding a second hotel.

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Braveheart (1995): Looking Back Twenty Years

That clip was from Braveheart which is my latest entry into our Looking Back Twenty Years series of reviews. The year was 1995, and Braveheart walked off with 5 Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director. Mel Gibson would not direct for about 8 years had passed until 2003. It was then that he directed his controversial film, The Passion of the Christ, which was released near the end of February, 2004.

I recall seeing Braveheart in a big movie house in Manhattan and was quite impressed at the time. But twenty years have passed and all of us see things with different eyes. Attitudes have changed, both personally and collectively. Besides that, both film makers and movie stars have grown older, and some have exhibited strange or awkward behaviors which cannot help but color our memories.

On top of all of that, we just get smarter as we age, in general. Not because we are truly gaining wisdom, but rather because information arrives in our brains much quicker, and we have the benefit of added life experiences and maturity. Okay, maybe maturity is not as universal as one would hope.

Braveheart was filled with bravery and courage, with romance and dastardy acts, and with heroes of epic proportions as well as villains never to be forgotten. As much as this film was about William Wallace the freedom fighter for Scotland, it was also about the inequities of the English nobility and rulers.

But when you look past the clanging swords, the brutal deaths on the fields of battle, the English were always wearing helmets and protective gear on their heads, while the Scots and the Irish did not. The English were tidy in one sense, but oppressive and morally corrupt in another sense.

Longshanks: The trouble with Scotland is that it is full of Scots.

Wallace and his cohorts were manly, rough and tumble, shaggy and long haired, but beneath their gruff exteriors – they were a gentle and loving folk. Which is why this film is as much about Wallace’s love for Murran as it is about fighting to rid the land of the oppressors.

The scenes with Murran and Wallace courting and loving each other forever are almost so ethereal. so nearly spiritual, and romantic, that we are helpless before the images. We are carried along by Gibson’s canvas of visual splendors. And Murran’s smile would melt the heart of anyone. Which is why her demise was so difficult – not only for Wallace himself, but also for the viewers.

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The Good Wife: The Deconstruction – Sn 6 Ep 20 Recap

So, The Good Wife tossed a series of crazy pitches at us in Sunday’s Season 6 Episode 20 called The Deconstruction. Some of these require a closer look. ****MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD*****.

The show opened with Alicia stepping down as the Cook County State Attorney. Although Alicia and her election folks had nothing to do with the rigged voting machines (it was engineered by the State Democratic Party), Alicia sacrificed herself for the good of the party. Or so it seemed. What was so cool was that the show opened with Alicia and Peter walking into a press conference – the very same way the series opened six years ago.

In Season 1 Episode 1 it was Peter who stepped down as State Attorney. Now it was Alicia’s turn to do the same thing. Symmetrical – yes certainly. But that begs the question of why did this show spend ALL of this season visiting Alicia and her campaign. If you recall it was Eli who plotted and launched the idea of Alicia as S.A. back in Sn 6 Ep 1.

In Sn 6 Ep 2, Eli continued to pressure Alicia to run. In Sn 6 Ep 3, no less a figure than Gloria Steinem appeared to encourage Alicia to seek office. And in Sn 6 Ep 4 Alicia’s decides to actually campaign and run for the office.

All of the next 15 episodes continued on that long strange trip – all to prove what a dirty game politics really is – to set up Alicia’s stepping down before serving even one day State Attorney.

My question is the same as yours – fill up a season with Alicia heading in one direction only to have her give it up with two episodes remaining. Why?

Then there was the Corporate infighting – Alicia’s Exit package, Alicia returning to the firm, Alicia starting her own firm. Diane and David Lee plotting and scheming, trying to get Alicia’s clients to stay with them rather than following Alicia out the door.

But Alicia was only plotting and scheming because she thought that Diane and David Lee didn’t want her back. It made for a frantic bit of activity that made one nervous and dizzy. Like watching a team of jugglers spinning plates on a series of sticks, then tossing and catching hurled plates. Whew.

Then, Alicia and Diane talked – off screen – and it was all just a misunderstanding. Like once upon a time – a whole season of Dallas was then described as a dream. Bobby Ewing didn’t die – it was all a dream. Being manipulated is sometimes fun, but this was like crazy – at least to me.

Next we come to the gazillionaire client RD. If Alicia comes back he’s leaving. Really? He had no problem with Diane being Lemond’s attorney. He had no problem with Cary’s almost drug conviction. But now he has a problem with Alicia’s supposed involvement with the rigged ballots resulting in her stepping down (for the good of the Dems). Please!

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Park City

Recently I had an opportunity to review a film about a film and  a film festival. Being in the midst of two festivals = both in Florida, I had to delay a bit until my schedule cleared. So here we go.

The film is called Park City and the director of this film is Hannah Rosner. For those of you who may not know where Park City is and what it is known for – the answer the answer to those questions can be answered in four words – The Sundance Film Festival.

In fact, I had briefly considered applying for press credentials to attend Sundance. However, I live in Sarasota, Florida – and a journey to Park City, Utah would involve considerable expenses like air fare, apartment rental, and a car rental – and all of that in high season, because when Sundance is not happening – Park City Utah is a major ski-resort town.

Plus, I would have to leave the warm climate of Sarasota and venture out to the wilds of Utah for some if not all of the last 10 days of January. So I passed on attending which of course meant that I didn’t apply for press credentials either.

But Sundance is one of the largest of Independent Film Festivals in the United States, so I can say with certainty that other folks would be willing to take on the possible hardships.

Hannah Rosner’s film is the story of a small and scrappy band of indie film makers who got a chance of a lifetime. Their film was accepted by Sundance and would be screened there.

The film is the story of their adventure – from getting to Park City, to enjoying the party atmosphere, and once there – they discover that the sole 35mm print of their film has gone missing.

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Mad Men – Season 7 Episode 10 – Forecast

So last week, Mad Men ended with Don standing by himself in his now empty penthouse.

This week, the episode ended with Don standing, alone, in the hallway outside of his now sold empty apartment. I’m not sure if this is a sign of progress, or is it more like a huge neon arrow signally EXIT THIS WAY. Meaning Don is slipping away into what for him will be the endless night.

His daughter Sally is leaving on a Greyhound bus for 12 states in 12 days – a school trip or ‘teen tour’, no doubt, but it ended badly between Don and Sally. It seemed to Sally (she’s burning with anger as she watches)

that Don had been flirting with one of her school girl buddies at the ‘farewell’ dinner. I didn’t see it that way. I thought the girl was being the aggressor in the one-sided flirting. And Sally’s seemed to be harboring some deep-seated resentment – understandable as Sally blames Don for the end of his marriage to Betty. But wasn’t that a while ago = shouldn’t Sally be past that?

Ditto with Glen who appeared out of no where still hankering for Betty Draper Francis. Lots of guys left for Vietnam without making a pass at a school friend’s mother. It seemed creepy to me. If the purpose of the final episodes is to pick up and tie off every character from the past – this was one that surely could have remained forgotten.

Don’s office is in turmoil as well. Peggy Olsen didn’t like the fact that Roger had told her to write her own performance review. So she approached Don, who correctly asked some questions about Peggy’s plans and goals for the future. Maybe he went too far, in pressing Peggy to lay it out for him, but he didn’t deserve the dumping that Peggy offered. But it could also be argued that Don overstepped the boundaries by reacting to Peggy’s dreams to be the first Female Creative Director, to land a huge account, and to create something of lasting value.

Peggy didn't know it but she dreamed of being the first Martha Stewart

Peggy didn’t know it but she dreamed of being the first Martha Stewart before there was a Martha Stewart

Don’s reply In advertising?  definitely hit Peggy the wrong way.

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Al Pacino as Manglehorn – 2015 Sarasota Film Festival: Day Eight

When you’re alone, who cares for starlit skies
When you’re alone, the magic moonlight dies
At break of dawn, there is no sunrise
When your lover has gone

Those lyrics come from the jazz standard, When Your Lover Has Gone, written by Einar Aaron Swan in 1931. From Billie Holliday to Frank Sinatra, and from Ray Charles to Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong, this song has attracted many well-known as well as unknown singers. You can generally expect to hear this song, in a smokey club, with a solo singer, with a big or small group of musicians laying down the tracks.

It is a song with a universal theme. Hearts are broken in all cultures and in all languages. And that very theme is the subject of the film Manglehorn. I caught this film on Day Eight of the 2015 Sarasota Film Festival.

Al Pacino is the lead. He plays Angelo Manglehorn, a forlorn locksmith, in a small town near Austin, Texas. He lives alone, or rather with a long-haired white cat called Fannie, and his memories. Truly, for him, even as his alarm clock goes off every morning at seven AM, there is no sunrise for Manglehorn.

Simply, he’s a man living in the present but one who is a prisoner of his past.

Despite the fact that he has a rather successful son, and a granddaughter that he loves, Manglehorn’s life, is as nondescript as can be. Opening locked cars to rescue a child, opening doors, or safes, along with duplicating keys is his day job – or at least the one that pays the bills – is all the same to him. Nothing in his line of work seems satisfying. He doesn’t turn away business, he’s just rather unenthused about it.

Things go on in the real world and almost all of them seem unremarkable to Manglehorn. Even a minor earthquake which results in a framed picture falling off the wall after a few seconds of the tremors leaves him unfazed. As does a deadly six car pileup on a nearby road.

Manglehorn is self-contained. He ventures into the real world to earn his living, but he’s really chosen to seal himself off from emotions – at least the kind that arrive through interacting with his grown son , played by Chris Messina, or his local bank teller, played by Holly Hunter, or even a now grown man who once played on a baseball team that Manglehorn coached.

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Jane Seymour and Bereave at Day Eight at the 2015 Sarasota Film Festival

Garvey (Malcolm McDowell) and Evelyn (Jane Seymour) have been married for 40 years, and today is their anniversary. Only Garvey has a secret that he’s been keeping from Evelyn – and he’s determined to keep it from her – even if it means ending their marriage – today.

So begins the film Bereave which played at the Sarasota Opera House on Day Eight of the 2015 Sarasota Film Festival. For the record, Jane Seymour was feted by the SFF with a special tribute event called A Lunch With Jane Seymour earlier in the day. This was held at the prestigious Sarasota Yacht Club. Then before the film screened there was a Red Carpet entrance for Jane and one of the film’s Directors Evangelos Giovanis, plus they were introduced on stage. George Giovanis, who co-directed was off in Peru shooting a film so he could not attend the SFF.

As for Seymour, isn’t she gorgeous? And who doesn’t recall Jane as Solitaire in the James Bond thriller Live and Let Die which came out in 1973. Or a bit more recently Jane played Dr. Quinn – Medicine Woman which was a well-loved TV series running from 1993 to 1998.

Bereave is about a couple who have experienced and are experiencing bumps in the road which is a natural turn of events in any marriage.

In this film, both of them are forced to try to deal with and understand something which we all must do – which is to face our own mortality. Given that as a premise, the film does have lots of lighter humorous moments.

Most of the humor comes from Keith Carradine who is playing the President of the United States on the CBS TV Series Madam Secretary. Here he plays the younger brother of Garvey. Watch for Christine Kelly, who plays Laura, a beautiful young woman who Garvey meets in the park. She’s pretty enough to get him focused on what he must do rather than what he thinks he should do.

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The End of the Tour – Day Six of the 2015 Sarasta Film Festival

“You will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do.” – Infinite Jest

Infinite_jest_cover

That’s a quote from David Foster Wallace’s book Infinite Jest, which was published in 1996. Following was the highest of acclaim for Mr. Wallace. On his book tour for Infinite Jest, Wallace spent a few days with a staff writer for Rolling Stone. His name was David Lipsky. Although Lipsky did conduct this interview, it was never published.

Although_Of_Course

However, Mr. Lipsky published a book called Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself in 2010. This book told about these five days or so at the end of Wallace’s book tour. This movie, The End of the Tour, is an adaption of that book. The film is directed by James Ponsoldt, and the screenplay was written by David Margulies.

I saw this film on Day Six of the 2015 Sarasota Film Festival.

Essentially, this film is a two-hander meaning two actors dominate the screen. Unlike an interview that you might see or have seen on TV with Charlie Rose, Mike Wallace, Oprah, or Barbara Walters – where the interview is on a single set – this film is out and about. Wallace and Lipsky were on a book tour so there was travel involved. Meaning there was a rather large supporting cast – but really, the supporting players were not of consequence.

David Lipsky is portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg. I’ve not a lot of experience with Eisenberg in the movies but two films come to mind – To Rome With Love (from Woody Allen) and The Social Network. I guess I’ll always recall early on in The Social Network when Rooney Mara called Eisenberg (as Mark Zuckerberg) an asshole.

While Eisenberg can excel in characters that are frustrating, annoying, or awkward, apparently he has reigned in most of those traits to appear as David Lipsky. Lipsky is smart, competitive, in awe of Wallace, and a person who will forever hope he can attain the same acclaim as did David Foster Wallace. Yet, Eisenberg as Lipsky, breathes life into a character we may be predisposed to dislike. Of course this is an inherent and unavoidable situation in the world of celebrities and those who use celebrities.

David Lipsky

David Lipsky

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Love & Mercy – Day Five at the Sarasota Film Festival

 

Love & Mercy screened on Day Five of the Sarasota Film Festival. The film is under tight wraps. According to SFF Creative & Program Director Mike Dunaway, the Festival was only permitted one screening of the film rather than the usual two showings. There was a further restriction and that was the film could NOT be screened at the Sarasota Opera House. It had to play at one of the Regal theaters. Likely because the movie theater is a smaller venue.

Finally, Dunaway, rather than just telling the audience to keep their cell phones on ‘silent mode’, he specifically requested that all cell phones be completely turned off. The reasoning was that the owners of the film were specifically concerned about film piracy.

I know this for a fact, because the gentleman I sat next to told me that he had been hired by the film company to ensure that piracy did not occur. Dunaway closed his introduction by saying that there were film security people in the audience. Which I had never heard before at any of the previous film festivals that I have attended.

So what was Love & Mercy about?

In the simplest of descriptions, it is a music-bio film about Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys. But this is not a straight linear bio.

In fact the film begins in late 1965 when the Beach Boys were preparing for a tour. Brian Wilson (Paul Dano plays the younger Wilson) begged off on joining his fellow Beach Boys on tour, stating that he wanted to stay behind and work on their next album. The record label was demanding the product, and Brian was never comfortable performing on stage.

Mike Love and Brian’s brother Carl Wilson begged him to join them, but in the end, he stayed behind to work on the album. He said he heard things in his head. and they had to come out.

The album that he worked on while his band mates were on tour, playing in Shibuya, Japan on January 7th, 1966, would eventually become Pet Sounds. When Love and the rest of the band returned home, and the band set down to rehearse before recording, Brian found that the band hated the new style songs. Love claimed that this album would never sell as it was so far from their very successful ‘formula’ music.

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