TIFF13: Older/Younger. Capsule Reviews: Gloria, Gerontophilia, Bright Days Ahead, Adore

Posted in Australia, Canada, Chile, Cultural Mining, Drama, France, LGBT, Montreal, Uncategorized by CulturalMining.com on August 29, 2013

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, documentary, genre and mainstream films, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

The Toronto Film Festival opens next Thursday for ten days, showing most of the good movies that will be in your theatres in the fall and spring. Well I’ve started watching some of these movies, and there seems to be a trend. Have you ever seen Harold and Maude? Or the Graduate? A lot of the films there are about cross-generational relationships.

So this week I’m looking at love and lust of May-September couples, but with a twist. The movies come from Canada, France, and Chile, and range from younger man/ older woman, middle-aged woman /older man, and very young man / geriatric man. (plus an Australian movie with a different theme.)

A193_C008_0101IKGloria

Dir: Sebastien Lelio

Gloria (Paulina Garcia) is an average, middle-aged divorcee in downtown Santiago. Her kids are adults now so she lives alone in an apartment, with just a noisy neighbor and a hideous, hairless cat intruding on her privacy. But she’s still full of energy – she wants to enjoy life, sing songs, have sex, fall in love. So she starts hanging out in discos, picking up guys – much older guys. She falls for Rodolfo, a very conservative elderly man. At first their relationship seems solid, but he always runs home whenever his daughters need him (he says he’s divorced but still responsible.) She wants him to meet her family and friends. Will he commit? And will he fit in with her lifestyle (Gloria’s a free-thinking Chilean, Rodolfo has roots in Pinochet’s military.)

Although told in an everyday manner, this is a fantastic, bittersweet look at one woman’s life. Paulina Garcia completely embodies Gloria, and exposes her feelings –and her entire body — for the camera.

gerontophilia_02Gerontophilia

Dir: Bruce la Bruce

Lake (Pier-Garbriel Lajoie) is a young guy in Montreal who likes making out with his revolution-obsessed girlfriend beneath a blow-up image Gandhi. But one day, at an aqua fitness class, while giving mouth-to-mouth resusetation to an elderly man, he discovers something.

Old people turn him on. He gets a job at a nursing home, to satisfy his obsessive fetish. Soon he falls for Mr Peabody (Walter Borden), formerly a flamboyant actor, now nearly catatonic on meds. They embark on a trip across Canada, but can this relationship last? Or is it headed for its final burn-out? This is a cute, very Canadian (bilingual French and English), and very mainstream movie. The former Reluctant Pornographer has made the switch to conventional director. Bruce la Bruce has left out the porn, the explicit sex, the nudity and instead made a simple, sweet coming-of-age romance. You could bring your grandpa to this one without blushing… well, your gay grandpa. I liked this movie.

brightdaysahead_01Bright Days Ahead

Dir: Marion Vernoux

The beautiful Caroline (Fanny Ardant) is bored and depressed in her seaside town. She’s mourning her best friend and the loss of her dental practice – she was forced into early retirement. So her daughters enroll her in classes at the local senior centre. She hates the cheesy nature of the place, the condescending tone of the teachers and the infantilisation of formerly dignified adults. That is until she falls into a passionate sexual relationship with Julien (Laurent Lafitte), a lusty computer teacher. Caroline is married and has never strayed before. But she decides to let go – get drunk, have sex, seize the day. Can her casual relationship survive the wagging fingers of small town life? Can she stand being one of many sexual partners? And what about her husband?

This is another light romance – the type that the French do so well. It’s a refreshing afternoon treat, with a palateable finish, much like the wines Caroline so enjoys tasting. Fanny Ardant is great, and Laurent Lafitte is a good foil. (Picture Mark Ruffalo with Candice Bergen…)

Outside of TIFF but opening next Friday is

AdoreFC_adore

Dir: Anne Fontaine (based on a story by Doris Lessing)

Roz and Lil are (Robin Wright, Naomi Watts) are blonde Aussie beach bums. Roz’s husband is dead, and Lil’s husband is distant – he wants to move to Sydney. But the two women grew up by the ocean and won’t leave it. Nor will they leave their friendship – they share everything. Now it’s just them and their two newly-adult sons, Ian and Tom. The boys are unusually handsome, the women are beautiful, and an unusual relationship develops there (no spoilers.)

It’s kept on the down low to stop gossip in the town, but everyone feels something is going on between the two families. Will there paradise last forever? Or will it wash away with the tides? Although Australian in location and cast, the feel of this movie is totally French. This is another summer sexual romance, with touching and erotic undertones.

Gloria, Gerontophilia, and Bright Days Ahead are all playing at TIFF starting next week – tickets are still available. Go to tiff.net for details. Adore opens next Friday in Toronto. And opening today is Our Nixon a documentary made of newly- uncovered super-8 footage taken by his Watergate co-conspirators Haldeman, Erlichman and Dean – excellent documentary.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website,culturalmining.com

Summer Adventures. Movies Reviewed: The Mortal Instruments City of Bones, Prince Avalanche

Posted in 1980s, Art, Bullying, comedy, Cultural Mining, Drama, Movies, Science Fiction, Supernatural, Uncategorized, Witches by CulturalMining.com on August 22, 2013

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, documentary, genre and mainstream films, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

Summer’s coming to an end, but there’s still time to get away. So how about some movies that take you on  journeys to strange places? This week, I’ve got two movies: one’s a supernatural drama about a girl in Manhattan who discovers a hidden world engaged in an epic fight between good and evil;  and a comedy/drama about two guys repairing roads for a summer job in the woods who discover their own hidden neuroses.

TheMortalInstrumentsCityOfBonesThe Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Dir: Harald Zwart

Clary (Lily Collins) is a typical teenaged girl in New York, who lives with her mom — an artist. No boyfriend, but Simon (Robert Sheehan) is her best friend who will follow her anywhere. (I think he likesher.) And she just happens to live above a tarot card fortune teller. But one day, something happens: she starts doodling a strange runic symbol, over and over. It’s a diamond shape with two horns coming out of the top. She sees it everywhere — what could it mean?

It’s actually a sign: something her mom should have told her City Of Bonesapart before mysteriously disappearing. You see, Clary has special powers – she can see a whole lot of people, monsters and heroes, invisible to us muggles. And one of them, a waifishly pale blond guy named Jace (played by the fortuitously named Jamie Campbell Bower), offers to show her around his world.

He shows her the City of Bones – a catacomb beneath the city – and takes her out to a weird, metal-goth swinger party. (Simon tags along, too.)

City of Bones 3Jace lives in an ancient secret academy filled with stone walls and stained glass. It’s run by a decrepit old guy, and a few of brash fighters. They take fencing lessons and cultivate their special powers. They’re an ancient group – sort of like Templar Knight vampires. Not many of them still around and they distrust Clary intruding in their sanctuary.

But they all want to fight an evil man named Valentine, and to keep his dark forces at bay. There’s a magical passage inside the building, where the bad guys might come in.

Well, Clary discovers she has the power to turn flat objects 3-D — without any special glasses. And she is somehow connected to a cup –  a cup that everybody wants — sort of a non-religious holy grail. Clary has so many questions: What is this cup? Who is Valentine? Where’s her mom? What’s her own role in all this? …and does that Jace-guy think she’s cute?

If you haven’t guessed, this is a very complicated, somewhat confusing movie, based on a City of Bones 2series of books. The genre: supernatural action/romance. Not for everyone, but I actually liked this movie. It’s kind of like the Twilight series, but much easier to take, without all those Jesus-y chastity vows, sparkly skin, and painfully awful music.

Less dreamy mooning, more action, drama, magic and plot, plot, plot. Lily Collins and is good as Clary. And Simon – real surprise. It’s the guy who does Nathan on the great UK TV show Misfits! Totally unrecognizable and low-key, he manages to keep his over-the-top persona under wraps, only rarely mugging pantomime for the camera.

Prince_Avalanche_poster_08Prince Avalanche

Dir: David Gordon Green

Alvin and Lance are semi-brothers-in-law working for the summer as the road crew on a remote highway. They paint stripes and nail posts. It’s the 1980s, so they communicate with the folks back home by writing letters. A phone call means a trip to the nearest town. They camp out at night and do repairs during the day. Alvin (Paul Rudd) is pompous, uptight and bossy.  He wants to learn German. He likes giving lectures (about whatever) to his girlfriend’s brother; he wants to bring some gravity to the tarmac.  Lance (Emile Hirsch) is long-haired and chubby, and talks Prince_Avalance_1like a childish dork. He wants to get laid, but is shy about meeting girls.

They two of them dress like the Super Mario brothers in baggy blue overalls and hardhats. Alvin even has a bad mustache to go with it. They look like cartoon characters, but their dialogue seems more like Pozzo and Lucky… if Lucky spoke, and was an obnoxious brother in law, not a slave.

As they work their way down the road they meet some people. There’s an old woman picking through the rubble of her former house, looking for a piece of paper. And a boisterous old man – maybe their boss? – who wants to share his rotgut alcohol with them.

Prince_Avalanche_6Prince Avalanche is a movie, but feels more like a minimalist play. The brothers gradually reveal their feelings, confess their fears, air their differences.

Here’s a dramatic moment… listen:

Prince Avalanche is one of those movies that waivers between the sublime and the ridiculous. I struggled at the beginning to take it seriously, but by the end I was thinking – hey! this is good, funny, clever, interesting. The movie looks and feels more like a European minimalist art film, than a goofy American comedy. (It turns out it was based on an Icelandic film, which somehow makes a lot of sense.)

I know Director David Gordon Green for his stooopid stoner comedies like Pineapple Express and The Babysitter, but after seeing this, I think I have to revisit his comedies – maybe there’s something more to them, too…

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones just opened and Prince Avalanche starts today: check your local listings. Also on now is the Art Gallery of Hamilton film festival – showing an amazing selection of great movies from other festivals. Go to aghfilmfest.com for more info.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website,culturalmining.com

The Life and Times of Leos Carax: Les Amants du Pont-Neuf, Mauvais Sang, Pola X, Holy Motors

Posted in Art, Cultural Mining, Dance, Fantasy, France by CulturalMining.com on August 22, 2013

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking Boymeetsgirl_photofest_01_mediumat high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, documentary, genre and mainstream films, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

Leos Carax is a French Director. He’s one of those filmmakers that you may not have heard of, but who, once you see his movies, you’ll be hooked. He’s impossible to categorize, partly because he’s not like any other director, and partly because he’s not even like himself – he’s constantly changing his style and techniques. They shift from absurdist, comic-book-like films, to classic film noir gangster movies, to hyper-realistic semi-documentaries, and then back again. The one constant, in almost all his films, is the actor Denis Lavant.

Loversonthebridge_frl_03_mediumLes Amants du Pont-Neuf

Dir: Leos Carax

The first Leos Carax film I saw was Les Amant du Pont Neuf – Lovers on the Bridge. It’s a simple, — but not simplistic – story of an artist who is going blind (Juliette Binoche) who meets Alex, a street busker (Denis Lavant). They fall in love, sort of, and meet on an ancient Paris bridge that’s under repairs.  With the help of an eccentric, white-bearded hobo named Hans, the two of them try to stay together… but can they?

When I first saw this movie I thought – who the hell is playing this guy, alex? Denis Lavant is an intense performer who uses fire, acrobatics and bodily contortions and fighting as part of his acting. The movie feels like Carax just run into this busker on the street at random, and decided to film him. (That’s not the case, obviously). Oh yeah, and in this movie he doesn’t really speak. He’s an unbreakable but cartoonish figure, while Binoche is a tragic and passionate heroine.

Critics tend to exaggerate the importance of movies, every poster has some critic saying a movie is the best thing ever. Personally, I think hyperbole is the most overated technique in the world – no the universe… But honestly, if you’re a cinephile, if you love movies, you should be required to see Les Amants du Pont-Neuf. It’s that different, that important.

Mauvaissang_photofest_01_mediumMauvais Sang

… was one of Carax’s earliest films, the second one he made. It’s as complex as Pont Neuf is simple. This is about two young lovers, Lise and Alex (played by a teenaged Julie Delpy and Denis Lavant), happy and carefree in the fields of Paris. He is known as a trickster – he picks up extra income doing street scams like three card monte in dark allies. But Alex is pulled away from this life by a pair of aging gangsters.

They know him from working with his late father, and they need Alex – known for his nimble fingers – to help pull off a complicated theft. You see, they owe money to an older American woman, also a gangster; if they pull off the heist, she’ll will cancel their debt. If not… they’re dead meat.

What’s the heist? They have to break into a lab and steal a deadly sexually transmitted virus called STBO, that could kill millions, and whose vaccine would be worth a fortune. (This movie was made in 1986, during the height of the HIV plague).

Alex agrees. He leaves his motorcycle with Lise and flees the city – only to be smitten by the gorgeous Anna (Juliette Binoche) , the mistress of one of the white-haired gangsters. But she rejects him, saying she’s attracted to much older men, bigger men, not to him.

And Lise, meanwhile, won’t let Alex leave her.

Mauvais Sang is a highly-stylized film, filled with peeping toms, bizarre scenes of jumping out of airplanes, staring up at windows, and chase scenes down those long French roads lined with plane trees.

Sometimes it feels like he’s mocking the audience, that it’s all just a big parody; and then it’ll shift into an amazingly passionate and playful scene between Binoche and Lavant and you’re totally caught up in it.

The women in this movie are always smartly dressed and coiffed, while the men, even the older gangsters, seem to walk around semi-clothed, with shirtless chase scenes and shootouts.

In this film, Lavant is still a boy, given to extended shots of him racing down a street, shifting from modern dance to shadow boxing to spontaneous handsprings. Binoche is a pixie with a black, page-boy haircut with flawless, porcelain skin and red lips. The two of them setting up scenes of unrequited love you can follow in Les Amant du Pont- Neuf. Wow – what a movie.

Pola X

…was made in 1999, and it feels different from his other movies. It’s about Pierre (Guillaume Pola X (1999 France)  Directed by Leos Carax Shown: Guillaume DepardieuDepardieu), a young novelist from a very rich family. He wears only white linen and hops in and out of bed with his equally blonde fiancée. His publisher loves his innocence and immaturity. But Pierre  wants to experience reallife. Then his controlling mother (Catherine Deneuve) discovers a secret – some old papers that his late father (a French diplomat who served in Eastern Europe) left behind.

Meanwhile, Pierre discovers that a scruffy, dark-haired street woman is following him – who is she? Listen to her story: (clip)

When he discovers that she may be his blood sister, he throws away his best friend, his fiancé, his family and wealth and plunges into her life of danger and poverty… and possibly, love.

Were this by any other director, I’d say, wow, cool, passionate drama – but it feels like something’s missing. While it has a lot of Carax’s touches – it feels like his most main-stream or conventional film. What’s missing is Denis Lavant. Lavant is a very unusual-looking movie star – he has a compact muscular body, a flattened nose, gap-teeth, scarred skin. He can also do just about anything – magic, acrobatics, dance… anything. In comparison, the late Depardieu (he tragically died from an infection) while compelling, just doesn’t seem to match the greatness and strangeness of someone like Lavant.

Finally,

holymotors_wildbunch_02_mediumHoly Motors

…which just came out last year.

Oscar (Denis Lavant) gets picked up in the morning by a white stretch limo, driven by a handsome, older chauffeur named Cecile.

Maybe it’s just a day like any other for a rich businessman… or is it? You soon discover that inside the limo he has costumes, makeup, spirit gum, wigs and beards. He turns into the man or woman he plays in each act. So, over the course of a day, he becomes a middle-aged, ruthless businessman, a homeless Eastern-European woman, an assassin, a doting dad, a dying man, and Kylie Minogue’s lover. Occasionally, between acts, he’s just Oscar: the man in the car.

In one especially marvellous and shocking sequence he becomes an eccentric street maniac (“M. Merde”) who crawls out of a manhole, pushes his way through a crowd, and stumbles into a fashion shoot in a Parisian cemetery. He violently attacks the photographer’s assistant, biting off her fingers, and smearing the blood all over an unflappably blasé supermodel… before carrying her off to an underground hideaway for a bizarre sexual encounter and another shocking transformation. (No spoilers here — watch the movie to find out the rest of it.)

So what’s going on? Is Oscar (which is also the director’s middle name) like the guy in the Truman Show, unknowingly living an artificial life for the delight of viewers? Or is Oscar doing this for you and me (the moviegoers) playing his role in the cosmic scheme of things — the entire movie is his act. Life’s an illusion, but an enjoyable one, and Denis (with Edith Skob as the driver) have never been better.

Modern Love – The Films of Leos Carax, curated by James Quandt,  is being screened in Toronto beginning this weekend, with the director speaking at some of the shows. Go to tiff.net for details. And the funny road comedy I reviewed last week, We’re The Millers, opens today – check your local listings.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website,culturalmining.com

Daniel Garber talks to Calvin Thomas and Yonah Lewis about THE OXBOW CURE

Posted in Art, Canada, Cultural Mining, Disease, First Nations, Folktale, Horror, Movies, Mystery, Psychology, Uncategorized, Women by CulturalMining.com on August 22, 2013

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM.

Yonah_Lewis_Calvin_Thomas+wEsmSlSQuf0mSomething’s wrong with Lina. She’s sure she’s dying. So she heads due north, up the frozen roads and raw nature of Oxbow Lake. There’s a cottage up there, surrounded by a curved body of water — a retreat from big city life. Will she find a cure or come face-to-face with death itself?

A new movie, the Oxbow Cure, which opens today at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, tells her story, largely without words, in a natural Canadian setting.oxbowStill01_medium

It’s a minimal, impressionistic and passionate look at one woman’s retreat — a journey back to the land — in an attempt to clear her mind and body. Calvin Thomas and Yonah Lewis, the filmmakers of The Oxbow Cure, tell us more.

Run Silent, Run Deep? Movies Reviewed: La Pirogue, Lovelace

Posted in Africa, Cultural Mining, Drama, drugs, Migrants, Movies, Penis, Porn, Psychology, Refugees by CulturalMining.com on August 18, 2013

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies forculturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, documentary, genre and mainstream films, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

People leave their homes for different reasons. Some people are tied down by their pasts, held back by their parents. They’ll never succeed unless they can break free. Others are content, but feel they’ll missing out on something better, their destinies unfulfilled, unless they move away. But the grass isn’t always greener…

This week, I’m looking at two movies about people who go out into the world to seek a better life, but find their new world may be worse than what they left behind. One’s a realistic drama from Senegal about a journey across deep waters; the other’s a US biopic, about a movie called Deep Throatthe

Lapirogue_ArtMattanProductions_01_mediumLa Pirogue

Dir: Moussa Touré

Baye Laye (Souleymane Seye Ndiaye) is a fisherman who plies the waters off Senegal looking for the next catch. He has a pretty good life, with a beautiful wife, and a nice home. He even dabbles in sponsoring fighters at public matches. He goes on fishing trips for weeks at a time in his long, wooden boat. But there’s hasn’t been a good catch for ages.

In walks a sleazy, but rich, local entrepreneur. He needs a ship captain to ferry a fishing boat to the coast of Spain. It’ll only take a week – much shorter than his normal trips. But this is no pleasure cruise. Baye’s pirogue – a deep, wooden canoe – won’t be hauling seafood. The cargo will be two dozen hopeful migrants.

He refuses. It’s illegal, dangerous, and immoral. But there are crowds of men in aA scene from THE PIROGUE, directed by Moussa Touré. Courtesy o corrugated shack on the beach, all waiting for him to take them to Europe. Young men want to experience western culture, up close. Join a world cup football team, or just buy an iPhone. A disabled man needs to buy a prosthetic limb Others have family, lovers or jobs waiting for them there. He finally agrees, when he discovers that his fishing navigator — and even his own brother – are going to Spain the next day, with or without him. And so begins the journey.

But there’s trouble from the start. A stowaway leads to talk of mutiny. And ethnic tensions emerge: There are national splits – with Fulani refugees from Guinea who have never been the ocean; battling ethnic groups who don’t speak a common language; and devout Muslims – contrasted with their sophisticated, hard-drinking cousins. The pirogue itself is built for piles of fish not crowds of people.

A scene from THE PIROGUE, directed by Moussa Touré. Courtesy oAs tension builds, they gag a panic-stricken man with only a chicken to keep him company. Someone breaks the ceremonial bottle. And another pirogue they encounter in the ocean does not bode well for their future. Things reach a crisis after a big storm washes away the GPS and disables one of the engines. Without much fuel, or even drinking water left, they are faced with a dilemma. Do they continue toward Spain? Or do they let the tides take them to Brazil?

La Pirogue is a good story, well told and nicely shot.  For once, there’s a movie told by the migrants themselves. Director Toure takes a few stylistic leaps, everything from the excellent opening in a public square, to an unusual (and oddly mannered) sex scene. And I love the complex rhythms of Salam Diallo’s music. Worth seeing.

lovelaceLovelace

Dir: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman

It’s the early 70s in Florida. The sex and drug revolution is happening, man! Everyone wears loud clothes and listens to wooka-wooka music. Men battle each other for the worst facial hair combos and the biggest collars. Even the fonts are fat. (In the opening credits, the movie title gets an erection.) In the midst of all this is young Linda (Amanda Seyfried), a cute, freckled girl with dark curls. Her conservative and Catholic parents (Sharon Stone, Robert Patrick), had whisked Linda down south to hide her pregnancy. They want to bring her up right and whip her back into shape. She just wants a tan.

Soon enough, Linda meets the much older Chuck (Peter Sarsgaard) a bartender with ambition. They marry, and before you know it, Linda is Linda Lovelace, the star of Deep Throat. This is a porn movie about a woman who can only reach an orgasm by giving head who meets a man with a large penis. All these topics were very taboo at the time – oral sex was never openly discussed. Suddenly, the film is a crossover hit  (this is when porn was still watched in movie theatres) a blockbuster, a cultural meme before the term existed. Even the Watergate whistleblower – the man who brought down the Nixon government – called himself “Deep Throat”.

She rises to the top, with instant stardom and notoriety. There are scenes of lovelace d1 _155.NEFporn in-production, meeting celebs like Hugh Heffner, and the glamour of talk shows and Hollywood life. It’s a campy, over-the-top look at those wacky, zany days of porn. Except it’s not.

Halfway through, the movie does a complete about face. Suddenly it’s a deadly serious drama, based on Lovelace’s autobiography: how she was raped at gun point, forced to do abominable things, kept under close watch by her evil husband Chuck. She does an extended tell-all to daytime TV host Phil Donohue.

So does it work? Combining these two very different feelings within one movie? In a word, no! In fact it fails miserably. This is one of the worst movies of the year, a painfully awful mistake.

How could so many famous stars – Adam Brody, James Franco, Hank Azaria, Eric Roberts, Juno Temple – make such a monstrously bad movie? Seyfried plays Lovelace well, and doesn’t lose her way, but Sarsgaard is unbelievably bad as Chuck. Just dreadful. (And what’s with actors throwing phones? Denzel in “Flight”, Sarsgaard in this movie? – it’s a sure sign an actor is losing it and the movie is going to suck.) Even the directors – who made that excellent documentary bio of Harvey Milk – what were they thinking?

Lovelace is like a two course meal – first a stale Hostess Twinkie… closely followed by a plate of excrement. It’s like a slapstick look at the Rwanda massacre. Watch it at your own risk.

Lovelace is playing now, and La Pirogue opens today at the TIFF Bell Light Box in Toronto (check your local listings.)

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website,culturalmining.com

Crime Families? Movies Reviewed: We’re the Millers, 2 Guns, Blue Jasmine

Posted in Action, comedy, Crime, Cultural Mining, Drama, drugs, Guns, Mexico, Uncategorized, Wall Street by CulturalMining.com on August 2, 2013

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, documentary, genre and mainstream films, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

Something strange happened to me recently – apparently my downtown bank was robbed… while I was there! The thing is, I didn’t even know it had taken place. In fact, if a teller hadn’t handed me a mugshot photocopy and told me to circle a face, I still wouldn’t know. Meanwhile, the bank refused to say that they’d been robbed, just what do you remember, what did you see? (Truthful answer: nothing). All very strange.  Nothing like the movies where someone in a mask always shouts Nobody move! I have a gun and it’s loaded! Don’t move and you won’t get hurt!

This week I’m looking at three new movies about how crime can affect the criminals themselves, their friends and their families. Two of the movies – one action, one comedy – focus on the lucrative drug trade across the US/Mexican border. And one’s a drama, set in San Francisco, about the ex-wife of a Bernie Madoff-type character.

were the millers poulter sudeikisWe’re the Millers

Dir: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Dave (Jason Sudeikis) is loving the single’s life as a small- time pot dealer. But when street punks steal his money and his drug stash, he suddenly finds himself in debt to his drug boss, a goofy, but cruel, businessman who keeps killer whales for pets. So he’s forced to do a one-time smuggling run from Mexico in an RV. But, in order to fool government agents at the border, he must totally change his look, from stoner to suburban straight guy. So he recruits a fake family to accompany him. Rose, a bitter and angry stripper who lives in his apartment building (Jennifer Anniston) is now his “wife”. (She hates him). Naïve Kenny (Will Poulter) — another neighbour, who was abandoned by his mom – is his pretend son, and homeless Casey (Emma Roberts) is his wisecracking daughter.were-the-millers-jennifer-aniston-jason-sudeikis-emma-roberts-439x600  Together they cross the border, evade vengeful Mexican druglords, and try to fit in with the lily-white Christian campers they meet on the road.

were the millersMeet the Millers is a cute, risqué road movie about a bunch of ne’erdowells who, in spite of themselves, gradually morph into the family roles they are given. The laughs come from the fact that we, the audience — but not the characters they meet – know that this suburban family is actually just a façade. The characters are all funny and sympatico, but Will Poulter (the wide-eyed kid in the UK comedy Son of Rambow) especially stands out as a goofy twerp forced to grow up.

2 Guns2 Guns

Dir: Baltasar Kormákur

Stig and Bobby (Mark Wahlburg and Denzel Washington) are carefree partners in crime. They kibitz with a Mexican crime lord, knock over banks and blow up donut shops. And Bobby has a beautiful non-girlfriend, Deb (Paula Patton), who’s a fed. But when a simple bank job yields the boys $30 million in untraceable cash, the dynamic changes. There’s no honour among thieves. They turn against each other. Both of them turn out to be secretly working for competing groups – and everyone seems to know this except the two of them. Soon enough, they’re each being chased by the military, the CIA, another sinister and deadly agency, and the drug lords themselves – all of whom want to get their hands on the cash. If 2-guns-denzel-washington-mark-wahlberg-549x600Bobby and Stig can’t trust each other, how will they survive this “war on drugs”?

If you like light action movies — with getaways, shoot-outs, explosions, disguises and chase scenes – this is a good one. Wahlburg is a very likeable comic actor. Washington seems to have a bit more trouble doing good comedy, but he’s got the weather-worn-persona down pat. And I love Icelandic director Kormákur’s constant use of stark, rusty-steel locations: all his trains, cars, industrial kitchens, rooftops, deserts… just beautiful to watch.

(One point: both 2 Guns and Meet the Millers are filled with dated, negative stereotypes of Mexicans… but, since the movies are also filled with negative stereotypes of Americans, I guess it evens out.)

Blue Jasmine Cate Blanchett  Photo Merrick Morton © 2013 Gravier Productions, Courtesy of Sony Pictures ClassicsBlue Jasmine

Dir: Woody Allen

Rich, blond and upper-class, New York socialite Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) arrives in San Francisco with just the shirt on her back (and some jewels and dresses in her Louis Vuitton luggage.) She’s losing it. Penniless, lost, disgraced. She can’t stop thinking about her ex-husband’s – a Bernie Madoff-type Wall Street investor who bilked his clients – fall from power. Now she has nowhere to go, so she’s forced to bunk with her sister. Frowsy but affable, working-class Ginger (Sally Hawkins) is her exact opposite – could they have come from the same womb? Snooty Jasmine insists they’re not biological relatives.

Ginger lets her stay in her messy but happy home, along with two kids Blue Jasmine Sally Hawkins Andrew Dice Clay Photo  Jessica Miglio © 2013 Gravier Productions, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classicsand a boorish boyfriend. Jasmine holds that the only way for a woman to improve her lot in life is to marry up. Ginger should meet better boyfriends. (Unmentioned is the fact that it was Jasmine’s billionaire husband that broke up Ginger’s marriage when he squandered their nest egg on worthless stock.)

Blue Jasmine_Alec Baldwin Cate Blanchett Photo Jessica Miglio © 2013 Gravier Productions, Courtesy of Sony Pictures ClassicsBut impeccably good taste isn’t enough to feed Jasmine. A Vassar drop-out, she has no skills, no experience. She is forced to double- date with her sister. She takes work as a dental receptionist, wears a nametag, and deals with relentless customers and sexual harassment from her boss. But she still dreams of better days in the Hamptons, even as she recalls, through flashbacks, the events that led to her husband’s financial collapse. Can a widowed diplomat she meets pull her from this morass? And will Ginger follow suit with a newer, richer boyfriend?

Blue Jasmine is a moving character study of a mentally unstable woman forced to make it on her own. Cate Blanchett is great in the title role, and Sally Hawkins good as her sister. Alec Baldwin and Andrew Dice Clay as their respective ex-husbands, Hal and Augie, round out the cast quite nicely. But I thought this movie dragged. The dialogue is rarely witty, and often repetitive and tiresome. The characters keep having identical arguments, almost word for word: Jasmine say Ginger’s boyfriends are losers, Ginger still likes them, Augie blames Jasmine for his financial losses… While I remember the good parts in retrospect, the film felt slow and repetitive while I was watching it.

We’re the Millers opens on August 9th, and Blue Jasmine and 2 Guns open today. And coming next week, a rare appearance at the TIFF Bell Light Box by French director Leos Carax at a retrospective of his fantastic movies, including Holy Motors and Les Amants du Pont Neuf. Go to tiff.net for more information.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com

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