Sunday, December 14, 2014

Liberal Arts, the movie reviewed

I don't often find myself watching movies a second time. But, while casting about on Netflix to find something to see, I impulsively clicked on Liberal Arts for a second watch.

It was an easy choice, something predictably feel-good. And since it held up very well through a second watch, it was also an obvious choice for a review.

I had a wonderful liberal arts education myself at a small “community of scholars”, Shimer college. I mourn the dumbing down of America which has been very real and sad to experience. So seeing a celebration of good education, smiling over literary references and generally relishing the life of the mind as this movie does is reassuring for me. There are still plenty of folks out there with those values.

Josh Radner does a good job playing the lead character who is a 35 year old alum of a college that gets invited back and gets involved with a 19 year old student. Richard Jenkins does great support as a retiring professor, full of doubt and apprehension at leaving the prison/oasis of academia after oh so many years.

The inimitable Allison Janney plays a cynical Romantics Professor. She is never less than delightful to watch and she does not disappoint for this outing.

Elizabeth Olsen plays the young co-ed brilliantly, just delicious with nary a false note.

Altogether it is a sweet comfort food of a movie, especially if you have a liberal arts education. Recommended.  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Her, the movie reviewed

Joaquin Phoenix plays the lead in this very 21st Century romantic comedy which won an Oscar for best screenplay by Spike Jonze. The story takes place sometime in the near future. In the unlikely event you haven't heard about the story, what essentially happens is that the lead male character who is called Theodore falls in love with his computer's new operating system, who names herself Samantha and is voiced by Scarlett Johansson.

Casting Johansson whose only presence in the movie is as a voice was a bit of genius. She is one of the most fetchingly attractive women currently acting and this all resonates in her voice. So if it is possible for some man to fall in love with a voice, this would be the one that can do it.

The movie is a brilliant commentary on the current state of things, where everyone is walking around with their attention on their iPhones and various other electronic gadgets instead of each other or what beauty might be in their surroundings.

There is an atmosphere of melancholy that pervades the movie, as alienation is the norm. This film deserved its Oscar; it's a haunting script. There is an ongoing sense of intimacy because so much of the time is spent in whispered conversations. At the same time it is all very sad.

What we have here is a very sobering contemplation on the current and future state of society and its preoccupation with artificial intelligence and its attendant costs. Recommended!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Blue Jasmine, the movie reviewed

Blue Jasmine is Woody Allen's latest Opus. It has all the elements of all Woody Allen movies, and this one is filmed right on his home turf of NYC. So we get to be entertained by the neuroses and other emotional storms of stressed out city dwellers.

That is if you are still entertained by this sort of thing. For me it has gotten a bit old. Curiously too, even though there is a solid cast of actors assembled with a really virtuoso performance by Cate Blanchett, the lead, for me a lot of the dialogue sounded stilted and formal. It is as if Allen has created his own form of communication, and all the players respect his writing too much to really lose themselves in their roles.

Of course there are exceptions, notably Blanchett who does an amazing job of portraying a woman who works on maintaining her illusions until her connection with consensual reality becomes tenuous at best. It's Tennessee Williamsesque; and Blanchett is often reminiscent of Blanche DuBois.

The human state of consciousness rules all here, and moments of transcendence are notable by their absence. So for those of us who live to be refreshed by higher states of consciousness, they are not to be found in this film. It feels a bit like reliving places we have outgrown and/or left behind.

Quite evident too, is Allen's narcissistic projecting of his own issues for our entertainment. Like I said, sorry Woody but we are not amused. His solipsism is wearing thin.

Different strokes though. If you still get a vicarious thrill out of watching the machinations of the upper middle class, then go for it. I have better things to do, thanks. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

El Artista Y La Modelo, the Movie Reviewed

The Artist and the Model is a classic subject for an art flick. (Not a movie, not a film, A flick :) Imagine you are casting this in Europe in 2013 and you could have your choice of leads. The Artist is supposed to be an 80 year old sculptor; how about Jean Rochefort? His wife, how about Claudia Cardinale? Done. The model is played by an actress previously unknown to me, Aida Folch, but suffice it to say she holds her own against these two legendary thespians.

For director, how about the Oscar winning Fernando Trueba.?The setting for our flick is 1943 Southern France. Naturally, we have to shoot in black and white.

I don't know about you, but for me this is sufficient information to want to see this film. The beauty of this film is that it is spare and understated, and part of its success is due to this simplicity. I would go so far as to call this an instant classic. It is like a fable, timeless and profound.

Of course in my case, its special resonance came from being an artist myself, who happened to have posed for a sculpture with his ex when they were both young and beautiful in a pose not unlike the one that is the final choice for the artist in this film. And I was born in 1943, so I could certainly relate to being an aging artist. But even if none of this applies to you, anyone with an interest in art and a love of life will appreciate this work.

I loved it, all except for the ending. I won't spoil it for you, but go see this and we can discuss it. It's available streaming on Netflix.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Late Quartet, the movie reviewed

Phillip Seymour Hoffman's tragic death inspired me to take a look and see what movies Netflix might have streaming in which he acted. I was pleased to find A Late Quartet which not only had Hoffman but Catherine Keener and Christopher Walken.

This is a superb movie which was sadly appropriate to watch at this time. Like so many movies filmed in New York City, the city played a silent but essential role in the film. In fact one could almost say that the film could have taken place nowhere else.

Hoffman plays second violin in a legendary string quartet that is celebrating its 25th season. Walken plays the cellist, also the very senior member of the group. Catherine Keener plays the violist. I can't discuss the plot without spoiling it, so I will just encourage you to watch the film to find out what happens.

The milieu is the life of a professional classical musician living in NYC. The central music is the very dramatic Opus 131 late quartet of Beethoven. Everything flows from that; the culture, the refinement, the elegance is all a given. And the Passion with a capital P.

This is a very human drama showing how people with all their frailties can be and often are ennobled by their art. It is full of metaphor and somewhat melodramatic like the music they are playing, with these three great actors and a great supporting cast creating a very watchable, interesting and entertaining ensemble work that aspires to Art. Recommended!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Moving Art: Flowers, a review

There is a whole series of these Moving Art films which I found on Netflix. I give this one Five stars out of a possible five...I would give it 7 stars, it was that wonderful. 25 minutes of bliss!

The Cinematography is by Louie Schwartzberg and he is apparently also the producer. The word superb is bandied about but I can't think of another superlative right now that better fits the bill.

The music is by Ludovic Einaudi. I had run across his sublime music in a Pandora mix of new age music, and he does not disappoint here.

The rest of the production staff had to be top notch too because this was just an excellent,uplifting piece of film making. It is totally appropriate to call it Art with a capital A and it is worthy of your purchase, or at the very least, your viewing.

This first link is to the Moving Art website:

Actually, that is all you need. I'm sure you can find a place to buy it if you want to. I'm not making any commissions here, just sharing the love:)