Archive | Film Matters

Charmless, I’m Sure

Here in NYC, yesterday was bright and sunny and hot. Some seemed to find it glorious but I found the 85-degree mugginess a bit much, especially because I’ve absolutely had it with my summer wardrobe and am just enough of a slave to social convention to wear clothes even when it’s very hot. I was shvitzing like a crazy lady by the time I met up with B, and I’d already been pretty wild-eyed.

We were at the Williamsburg Cinemas for Crazy Rich Asians, thus far the only halfway-satisfying rom-com of 2018. When I saw it last month, I’d liked it enough to agree to rewatch it with B, who’d just finished all the books. The problem was I was playing for the other team then.* This month I’m on far shakier ground in the love department, and the film grated hard. Venus is still only shadowed by its upcoming retrograde, but I’m already turning into a Cathy comic on lithium. That’s because this retrograde begins at the exact degree of Libra where my moon is located. In laylady’s terms, this witch is getting hit by a Mac truck in all areas of love and aesthetics.

Which is practically my whole life. Continue Reading →

Weather Fail, Feminist Film Fail (Oceans 8)

I ducked upstate this weekend to avoid the three-digit temps of NYC, not to mention the Mars retrograde kerfuffle (and, boy, do I have some stories for a later date). But even here in Hudson the weather’s been too swampy to do anything but cower in air-conditioning. Yesterday I fetched things from greenmarkets and farmstands: beets, tarragon, mint, cilantro, green cabbage, rainbow carrots, boston lettuce, cherries, blueberries. I thrifted: two dresses, one skort, one vintage slip, three milkglass candle holders, one pyrex pitcher, all for 20 bucks! I assembled meals: chopped greens and herbs and roasted chicken and beets, all dressed with plain yogurt and tarragon and mint and cilantro and lemon.

Twas an embarrassment of simple pleasures.

Today was too hot for that level of activity, though. So I decided to put my money where the women were: Oceans 8 at the local cineplex. The screening was well-attended, I’m happy to report, not only by my fellow retirees (lately I’ve been taking dowager chic a little too seriously) but, surprisingly, by a handful of fathers with their young sons and daughters. I’m less happy to report that the lady-packed sequel felt like another H-Wood sloppy second: boy director, boy co-writer, boysboysboys behind the camera. Every one of these brilliant female actors-Rihanna, Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Awkwafina, Sandy Bullock, Sarah Paulson, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway– were reined in by electric dog collars, the plot points and joke setups languishing on mobile fainting couches. I’m guessing this was meant to read as what my colleague Odie Henderson calls “ratpack laissez-faire.” Really it read as thorazine shambles.

It’s high time we female-identified people ran more shows from top to bottom.

Still, twas a much-needed visual model in feminine competence and solidarity, if one not nearly as funny as its individual performers. Cate and Sandy were searingly hot with sexual chemistry galore and a distinctly grownup swagger. Elliot Gould in a fur coat and Swifty Lazar glasses waddled through a much-welcome cameo. And the air conditioning? Killah.

‘En El Séptimo Día,’ In Plain Sight

What follows is a transcript of a talk I gave about En el Séptimo Día for the Westchester Film Club, where I often deliver lectures on new independent and foreign film releases.

This may sound odd, but I am very grateful to have watched this film with you fine people. As a critic I embrace any film that does its job well, regardless of the genre. But I admit I most embrace films that shed greater light on the human condition. En el Séptimo Día achieves this and then some by providing a window into the everyday challenges of an immigrant existence that is too often ignored in cinema.

It is, as David may have told you, the first feature in 15 years from much-revered Brooklyn independent director Jim McKay. A few weeks ago when we were discussing the biopic Mary Shelly, I said that a gifted and empathic person could tell any story regardless of race, gender or any other identity marker. This is very true of McKay, who made his mark with two no-budget movies, Girls Town (1996) and Our Song (2000), which both depicted female high-school students of color. It’s safe to say McKay’s approach to filmmaking is classic neorealism, which I consider to be the opposite of reality TV. By this I mean that that through careful research, scripting, and casting he labors to achieve an accurate glimpse of woefully underrepresented subcultures. Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy