It’s the little things: suddenly,last summer

3 Aug

In 1957 people didn’t talk much about family members who were gay. “suddenly, last summer” sets the action in 1937 & examines the implications that being closeted had on all members of a family. While extreme in its drama & use of expositional dialogue, the film has gripping performances by Katharine Hepburn, Liz Taylor & Montgomery Clift & this adaptation of the play of the same name by Tennessee Williams is worth seeing.

Quick note- really interesting production design by Oliver Messel makes me wonder how strong an influence this film was on production designer Bruce Ryan & his work creating Will’s apartment in the hit comedy “Will & Grace” back in 1998.
Beautiful sculpted male torsos, and sketches & paintings of lovely young men abound in deceased New Orleans poet Sebastian Venable’s room & are more subtly echoed in Will’s Manhattan living room. Incredible though, how media presentations have changed in the 4 decades between these 2 works.

Top of the lake: jane campion’s thoughtful thriller

19 Jul

Worth searching out is Jane Campion’s thriller Top of the Lake. Tagging in at 6 hours, this BBC Co-production looks at life in a sparsely populated mountain wilderness in the South Island. While the area & the lake nestled within- are pristine & beautiful, the isolation they offer also offers is at times comforting & at times petrifying.

Called Paradise, the lake top region holds mysteries, murders & intrigue within its confines & the script, deftly written by Campion & writer Gerard Lee, looks at such issues as rape, child abuse & misogyny through a gritty, harsh lense.

Stellar performance by Peter Mullan (On a Clear Day), Holly Hunter & Mad Men’s Elizabeth Moss. Beautifully shot, he New Zealand environment plays its role as well- serving to remind us of how small & insignificant our intrigues are, when compared to awe-inspiring vastness of nature in its untapped beauty.

The mafia only kills in summer but pierfrancesco diliberto’s film has already slain me…

12 Jun

I am on my last day of new Italian films, Italian films that sadly, for the most part, don’t have distribution here in the US. Watching the powerful filmthe south is nothingby Fabio Mollo, the other night, I was struck by how terrible conditions are in Mollo’s home town of Reggio. This especially saddened me since it was my mother’s home town, and the lingering question of how her life would have been different if her parents had stayed there was only made more poignant when I noticed the similarity between the last name of my mother’s family and Mollo’s heroine. I was shocked and saddened at the stronghold the N’drangheta still has on our region, even in the face of what Mollo says is the desire by a new generation for change.

This afternoon’s screen docket seemed to stay a bit in the South, and while viewing Diliberto’s phenomenal film, la mafia uccide solo d’estate ( the mafia only kills in the summer) I was struck again by the seeming stagnation of the South caused by the stranglehold that the Mafia has had for so long in this beautiful region. While diliberto’s film takes place in Palermo, the message is the same – things must change. He presents it so beautifully, contrasting the comic, the shocking, and the bittersweet so masterfully against a backdrop of young love, and school kid events, that when the Mafia assassinations occur more frequently in the film, they hit you full force. And as they hit me, as the realization that things haven’t changed enough, if at all, in a South that I love, in a South that is tremendous, I started to cry. Right there, in my center row, center seat. While I hope for US distribution for such incredibly well-crafted films as Mollo’s il Sud e niente and Paolo Zucca’s full-course of a film, l’arbitro/ the referee, I hope that Diliberto’s film makes it to many an American screen, and I hope even mor fervently that people go to see this film that makes an observation about the social and political state of the South of Italy while being laugh out loud funny, poignant, and pull out your tissues sad.



New Italian cinema

11 Jun


I wait all year- ital cinema!

11 Jun

So – in fairness I have to say I wait all year for this week – it’s the week that Lincoln center shows a gaggle of new Italian films that sadly often don’t get distribution here in the states. It’s also special for me because it is my birthday week.
For years I would play hooky from work & hole up inside the Reade theatre & do double, triple & sometimes even quadruple features- overdosing on great, good & sometimes total crap, Italian films. But because they were Italian – in my heart – they are all good.
I even took my dad to a few every year, & he loved it – seeing the same people year after year- catching up with friends & acquaintances like Italian playwright Mario Fratti ( a great man & staunch supporter of new works!), & listening to the Italian he grew up speaking with his family.
Well, after my dad’s unexpected & horrible lost battle to cancer ( what cancer diagnosis isn’t unexpected? What loss to cancer isn’t horrible?) I couldn’t have cared less about getting out of bed for quite a while, & films, Italian or otherwise, were the furthest thing from my mind.
Until this year – this year the fog lifted & life has been returning to normal – I can see movies about fathers who sacrifice so much for their children (L’intrepido; #lavarianilehumana) & think of my dad & not bawl my eyes out – (no mean feat considering the trifecta of my birthday, the father-daughter ital film fest tradition & Father’s Day …)
But here I have been – gorging on Italian cinema all week – seeing old friends, celebrating my birthday & toasting my dad with glasses of chianti after each night’s screenings & double espressi.
Ciao, papa! (Film reviews of the great, the good & the crap to follow…)


Super sized sodas & cinematic fried Twinkies..

14 Apr

No one really cares about anyone else’s guilty pleasure films and yet, everyone has their own guilty pleasure films – even if they won’t admit it. And thats ok. I have mine- I call them my Cinematic Fried Twinkies because they are not good as a steady diet but they are so light & yummy but surprisingly satisfying.

Unfortunately there are a lot of people who either:
A) won’t stop trying to get you to love their Cinematic Fried Twinkies OR
B) can’t see just how much better you’re Cinematic Fried Twinkie really is- because of course it is! My Fried Cinematic Twinkies tend to have accents and be romantic comedies.

I can’t help it- films like GREENFINGERS with Clive Owen, WAKING NED DIVINE with David Kelly, & LOCAL HERO with Burt Lancaster, are my weakness. Why? With a seemingly improbable plot- usually the no fail ‘little guy trying to fight an unjust system wins against all odds’ – these films make me feel warm & fuzzy and yet, as with GREENFINGERS, they give you food for thought.

With GREENFINGERS- you ponder the prison system & concepts of rehabilitation; with LOCAL HERO – you ponder responsibility to the environment & the stewardship of the planet that we all share; with WAKING NED DIVINE- like the less charming WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S & definitely the most fried of my Twinkies – you wonder how the heck you would keep anyone from figuring out your gravy train is dead before you can claim the winning lottery prize.
Stock up on some tasty treat movies for the long holiday weekend & don’t fidget hour super sized soda to go with it!


Earth & water: looking at oppression through film

1 Apr

So I had another great unplanned cinematic double feature Friday night – after teaching a class on Deepa Mehta’s 1998 film, EARTH1947 ( part of her EARTH, FIRE & WATER trilogy on issues in India) I headed over to my local Alamo for an apocalyptic environmental turn & Darren Aronofsky’s Pope Francis approved NOAH. It’s nights like Friday that have me wishing I was at the New Beverly cinema in LA more often- I miss their great double headers – like SPINAL TAP & The DOORS- brilliant!!!

Both EARTH 1947 & NOAH deal with jealousy & misguided motives, repression by an unfettered force, evil in the hearts of men, hope for a new life & a new world order, and the desire for love & happiness. While EARTH looks at India’s independence from English rule on the brink is its split into Hindustan & Pakistan, NOAH looks at the world’s split from human corruption under God’s dominion.

While a more obvious double header might be NOAH with Mehta’s look at Indian widowhood along the banks of the Ganges in her film WATER, EARTH 1947- with it’s message of peaceful co-existence between varying religions worked well as a pre- cursor to Aronofsky’s cautionary tale. If we cannot co-exist harmoniously with the plants and animals on the earth, acting as stewards for a better world (as in NOAH) what hope is there for humans to live together, respectful of our different beliefs, without apartheid or religious division, spurred on by brutal acts of revenge & dominance ( as in EARTH 1947) ?


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