Hello My Name is Doris – Delicious, Delicious Satire

Hello My Name is Doris is a pleasant surprise: a satisfying satire of today’s youth thinly veiled as a geriatric rom-com. I initially decided to watch the film as I was in the mood for something light and bubbly, and adore Sally Field. Field, in the role of Doris, shines. Her character is multidimensional and fleshed out guaranteeing the viewer truly wants good things to happen to her. After her live-in mother’s death, she is left to pick up the pieces and examine her life and single lady status. What happens is absolutely delightful: she falls hopelessly in love with a man thirty years her younger (played by Max Greenfield, most notably from New Girl). Soon she is accepted into his very hipster fold, and this is where the fun really starts. Instead of the usual formulaic unrequited love film, viewers are treated to a bold examination of the hipster lifestyle. Doris goes with the flow, elated that she has found some new young friends, and suddenly her routine, rut filled life is ripe with possibility. But the question isn’t if she gets the boy in the end, but rather, does these friends truly see her as an equal? Or an ironic footnote to their tragically hip existence? I found myself laughing out loud several times throughout the film. Especially at the fictional indie electropop band Baby Goya and the Nuclear Winters. Yep. You read that right. See this film and delight in the meta humor, and a story around a character that is lovable and deserves great things. I heartily recommend.

Wildlike – A Gentle Walk Through Hazardous Terrain

Sometimes the darkest stories lend the most hope. Wildlike from indie director Frank Hall Green is a sleepy study of Mackenzie, a young abused teenager on the run (played by Ella Purnell) after her trust is heart breakingly betrayed. She finds hope in an unlikely middle aged man (Bruce Greenwood, from Star Trek) in the Alaskan wilderness and they make a human connection they both desperately need. The subject matter is heavy and uncomfortable, but it is done with grace. Green does a lot with a small budget – and the result is a polished film. The breathtaking scenery is the perfect backdrop to the film – adding a balance of beauty to the ugly reality of Mackenzie’s life. The pace is slow but not too slow  burning- just enough to let the plot unravel slowly and quicken at the denouement. This technique lends the ending gravity and depth.The acting is excellent – Purnell conveys so much emotion through her large, expressive eyes – often without saying a word. She is excellent in this role, and Greenwood compliments her with his veteran experience. Don’t let the subject matter dissuade you – Wildlike  is a beautiful film which captures both the fragility and toughness of nature – and the human spirit. I heartily recommend.

The Lobster – It Is Better to be Dead or a Wild Animal Than Single

…At least that is what the dystopian society in The Lobster believes. So profoundly in fact, that this truth – as it where – hinges entirely on the preposterous vision of an entire subsection of society dependent on the “rehabilitation” and matchmaking of single folk. From the hilarious and dark mind of Greek director Yargos Lanthimos (Dogtooth, AlpsThe Lobster is just as deliciously strange as Lanthimos’ previous films. Juxtaposing the banal: awkward small talk with strangers, stiffly dancing with a potential match at a singles mixer, sitting down to breakfast in a hotel alone; with the extraordinary: what lengths one will go to to find a potential mate and well, being turned into a wild animal if one’s match is not made. (Don’t worry, the characters comically get the choice of what they want to be turned into.) The actors do an amazing job (especially John C. Reilly) with delivering the purposefully emotionally stunted dialogue, and the cinematography is stunning. The use of chiaroscuro is brilliant -contrasting bright colors is some scenes and matching dour, muted grays in others.  The music perfectly highlights the tension in some scenes and the awkward levity in others. Despite the high quality production value, I wasn’t sure if I liked the film after the first viewing. I had to really think about it, mull it over and digest the message, the harsh, biting satire. I found it a bit disturbing, but also completely nonsensical in some ways. I even re watched some scenes. Then it occurred to me – the fact that I was thinking about it so much, trying to understand it is proof alone that it is a well done film. Most films drift away in my memory – usually as soon as the very next day. This one stays. It sits in your belly like something that disagrees with it, churning almost sickly, causing you to examine your own society and the pressure for a perfect relationship. I heartily recommend, but urge to go in open minded, and willing to think a little.

Anomalisa – An Anomaly Of A Film…

…Which seems to be a very intelligent joke. The brainchild of Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptaion, Being John MalkovichAnomalisa  is a  stop-motion animated film that revolves around the main character Michael’s  (voiced by David Thewlis) comfortable yet boring life. Emotionally numb and lacking in emotion, he robotically trundles through his comfortable upper class life, until he meets a woman named Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh). She awakens in him unrecognizable feelings propelling the story forward. The film itself is achingly beautiful – a viewing is worth just the production value alone. The stop-motion animation is so intentional, so deliberate that I was constantly reminded that nothing was accidental. The lighting, the background, every movement down to eyes blinking was meticulously calculated. For this reason I recommend the film. It truly is an experience to watch, and adds a richness to the niche of artistic film. However, its glaring fault lies in the story. It seems the metaphor this film hinges on – tragically revealed in the last scene – has been stretched out from what would be a perfect 20-30 minute short to a slow burning, not much happening 1 hour and 30 minutes. The first scene in a taxi cab and later a  love scene (yes, there is one. And no, it was not creepy – rather tender and intimate) was much, much too long.  If the script was performed by real actors – I guarantee it would not have gotten an Oscar nomination. It pains me to say this as I am huge fan of Kaufman’s and really wanted to like it, but to me it seemed like an elegant way of showcasing stop – motion animation technique and production. My advice is to definitely watch the film – but focus on the technique and ridiculous amount of work that went into producing it. Don’t get too caught up in the story or you will inevitably feel disappointed. So, I recommend – as a rental, and without too much expectation. Just get lost in the beauty of the art, and you will enjoy it just fine.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Still The Most Romantic Movie

Recent research tells us that our memories are flawed. They are reworked again and again in our brains, synapses are rerouted, clipped, ad infinitude until our memories are only shells of the truth encased within. Despite the unreliability, memory is indeed the essence of our humanity, the reason behind our motivations, happiness and sorrows. Anyone who has ever known a person to suffer from Alzheimer’s can tell you this. But is there implicit memory – memory so deep that even as the memories we can access change, warp and grow – that remain always the same, always constant – forming who we are at our core? Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind  would argue emphatically that yes, yes this is true. Even though long term love and commitment is so hard, so trying that few are able to retain it – the love that it all grew from remains. Deep inside, constant, burning forever in us – unchanged. It will lead us to the same person again and again, no matter if we try to fight it. The best romance is tinged with a fateful ruin – doomed for disaster, destruction, sacrifice. And even better if it is laced with a  little science fiction. Another film that has stood the test of time and only gets better with age. I heartily recommend.

The Walking Dead – Beauty is in the (Grisly) Details

I was, let’s say a little pissed off disappointed by the season 6 finale. So, I turned to the graphic novel that was the basis of the tv show. The pictures are breathtaking they really add a whole new dimension to the story of Rick Grimes and his “people” – others who have banded together to attempt survival in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. At many times throughout the book, the pictures would show a panning out – so the reader sees the entire gruesome scene – or is forced to pause and reflect on what just occurred. This moves the dialogue and story  long quite nicely. Even when the story was revolving around character development , it marched along at a quick clip. The action was quick and I found myself often excitedly turning page after page, unable to put down the heavy volume (comics 1-48 printed on thick paper. I propped up the book and read it on a table as it was so heavy). I just put Compendium 2 on my library hold list, I can’t wait to see what happens next, and to continue to compare the story arc between the book and show. I especially can’t wait to see what this whole Neegan mess is all about… I heartily recommend.

Ghost World – Truth and Decision

Let’s go back in time, shall we? Lets go way back – to when Thora Birch was still getting decent roles, ScarJo was just starting out and seemed well, less glamorous and more teenager-ish, and Steve Buscemi had not risen to the heights he would in Hollywood. To the release of Ghost World. I saw this gem on Netflix and immediately pushed play. Didn’t have to think twice. It is one of my favorite coming of age films, and it has stood the test of time. I know it is a good film when a 15 year difference between viewings does nothing but solidify my feelings about it. Ghost World is based on a short graphic novel of the same name by Daniel Clowes (which I also recommend). It is a quiet film, that meanders along, revealing Enid, the main character and her best friend Rebecca as they finally graduate from High School and have to start thinking about whats next. The event they had been waiting for their whole life ends up being, well, a big bummer. Enid, however, doesn’t take this very well at all. The film is a accurate reflection on the passage of time, friendship, art and growing up. Yes, it is dark. And yes, it is a tad depressing. But this is reality. It is how one deals with these truths that determines how life will ultimately turn out. I heartily recommend.