Tag Archives: Andie MacDowell

Only The Brave

Fire is scary as hell and I think societally we’ve all agreed that it’s better not to die in or around one. But some people make their livings alongside it. Are they the brave ones? Sure, some of them. But in my experience, not exclusively. Like any profession, there are some who are called to it and others who are there for the paycheque and while that’s inevitable, it’s also not ideal if you’re running into a life-threatening situation and counting on that guy to not fuck your shit up.

Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin) has put together a crew of hot shots, which is apparently what they call the elite firemen who battle dangerous, raging forest fires. I have not used the word fireman since I was 4, but there’s no other kind in this movie. There are only 3 kinds of careers for women in this movie: 1. wife 2. baby mama 3. porn star.

As the Granite Mountain Hotshots are finally about to qualify, they swell their ranks to take on several rookies, including Brendan (Miles Teller), who’s got some issues, and not just that he calls his mother dude, but I’d say that’s chief among them. He’s a classic fuckup but he’s also ripe for a father figure, so this career path is only half as stupid as it seems.

Only The Brave is based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots as they took on the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire. It has one of the highest mustache ratios you’ve seen on screen this century, and the movie has annoying habit of sounding like it’s being written in Michael Bay slogans (it’s based on a GQ article, so, you know). Miles Teller is sporting a blond look and someone either bleached his eyebrows or shaved the damn things off so it looks like he’s already lost them in a fire, which sort of takes the fun of forest fires if you know what I mean. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty to boil your blood: just boys being boys, by which I mean bros being dumbasses, trying to out-testosterone each other with feats of extreme stupidity.

It’s not all bad; Josh Brolin and Jeff Bridges are solid and dependable, and sometimes the story is affecting in a sparse kind of way. But it lost me during its rah-rah-heroes shit and a lot of the time I just felt pretty eye-rolly about it.

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Paper Year

Franny (Eve Hewson) and Dan (Avan Jogia) are young and broke but they’re terribly in love so they get married at city hall, keeping mum until after the fact.

The first year of marriage is supposed to be the easiest. You’re literally still in the honeymoon period. You’re still writing thank you cards for all the wonderful gifts you received at the wedding. You’re blind with bliss and you’re killing it so hard at this marriage thing that you practically think you invented it. But it’s also a time of transition and adjustment. Now that you’re officially bound to another human being, you have to make real compromise.

Franny and Dan are in for a bumpy ride. He, an out-of-work actor, takes a job house sitting/ dog walking while some other, luckier actor is out of town. She, a writer, finally lands a job writing for a terrible reality TV show. It’s not a glamourous job but she does respect her boss, head writer Noah (Hamish Linklater)….maybe a little too much? Because it certainly causes friction at home, her landing a dream-adjacent job, and him taking a job that forces him to admit that acting is not a thing he gets paid to do. Their paths diverging, they grow apart.

Paper is the traditional anniversary gift for a first anniversary. But I think in this case, it’s also referring to the fragility of that first year. Paper is so easily creased. So easily ripped, in fact. By the third year you’re into leather, which, whoa, is a lot more durable. Also durable: fifth year’s wood, 10th year’s aluminum, and motherfucking 60th anniversary’s diamond. Jeez Louise. Marriage, as an institution, makes less and less sense. And yet most of us are still making the attempt. Lots of us fail in that attempt. Some of us fail multiple times. I mean, can you even imagine being with someone for 60 years? When marriage was invented, it was a social bond, a partnership wherein financial stability and child rearing were emphasized. Today we expect everlasting romance. For 60 years? Yikes.

Franny and Dan are having a heck of a time just making it to year one. I remember my own year one: we bought a house, we got a third dog, and a new car. My nephew was born. My sister got married. Sean changed jobs. We traveled to New York City, and to Vegas where we renewed our vows for the first time. It was a good year. But Sean and I were not young newlyweds – Sean was an old maid in his 30s, in fact. We already had homes and careers and lives. We didn’t need to complete each other. Franny and Dan have a lot more working against them, and let’s be honest: they’re not half as charming as Sean and I. So while it’s understandable that you’d keep coming back here because we’re so damn irresistible, I’m not sure even 89 minutes is worth spending with Franny and Dan. Dan and Franny (do couples always agree on who’s name goes first?). Paper Year is an okay movie, strictly speaking, but it didn’t move me, it didn’t inform me, it didn’t delight me or captivate me. And those are all things I continue to get from my own marriage, on a surprisingly daily basis. And it’s just plain old Sean going about his ordinary life, being a (mostly) wonderful person and (largely) thoughtful husband.

1ST YEAR: Paper
2ND YEAR: Cotton
3RD YEAR: Leather
4TH YEAR: Fruit & Flowers, or Linen & Silk
5TH YEAR: Wood
6TH YEAR: Iron / Candy
7TH YEAR: Wool/ Copper
9TH YEAR: Pottery
10TH YEAR: Tin/ Aluminum
11TH YEAR: Steel
12TH YEAR: Silk
13TH YEAR: Lace
14TH YEAR: Ivory
15TH YEAR: Crystal
20TH YEAR: China
25TH YEAR: Silver
30TH YEAR: Pearl
35TH YEAR: Coral
40TH YEAR: Ruby
45TH YEAR: Sapphire
50TH YEAR: Gold
55TH YEAR: Emerald
60TH YEAR: Diamond

The Last Laugh

Al Hart (Chevy Chase) is a retired showbiz manager touring the local senior living facilities with his granddaughter and frankly, he’s just not feeling it. He’s not ready for death’s waiting room. So when his retirement home tour guide happens to be his first client, Buddy Green (Richard Dreyfuss), it seems kind of fortuitous. Buddy is a stand-up comedian who quit the business 50 years ago, just as he was about to break on Johnny Carson. He went into podiatry instead. But with nothing to lose, and nothing better to do, the two concoct a scheme to hit the road and work the comedy club circuit to see if they can mount a comeback that’s been 50 years in the making.

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The jokes are as old as the stars delivering them. The formula’s as stale as the butterscotch candies in their pockets. But Chevy Chase and Richard Dreyfuss prove the point their characters are trying to make: there’s still some gas left in the tank. Chase is charming in a doddering kind of way, but Dreyfuss still has that killer zing. If Buddy’s stand-up isn’t exactly fresh, Dreyfuss at least delivers it with some salty panache. They’re the ones who sell the material. And since neither has had a notable starring role in a film this century, it’s kind of nice to see some friendly, if wrinkly, faces.

Still, no one’s going to mistake this for a great movie. It’s on the forgettable side even while you’re watching it, so if memory’s the first thing to go, we’re in trouble. But if you’re looking for some “easy watching” and you don’t mind an oldies station, this movie is the perfect antidote to loud, explody, VFX-heavy blockbusters. Plus it’s got Andie MacDowell, Chris Parnell, and Lewis Black in small doses, so you can’t go wrong exactly, you just wish for more right. But I guess past a certain age, we all take what we can get.

Love After Love

Warning: do not ask your spouse (or your friend or your kid or your brother) if they’re happy unless you’re really, truly prepared to hear the answer. Unless you’re certain the relationship, and your heart, can survive honesty. Happiness is a tricky thing, perhaps overvalued, perhaps not, but certainly contentious, perhaps elusive, always sought-after.

Brothers Nicholas (Chris O’Dowd) and Chris (James Adomian) are dealing with the death of their father, which was a rough one (or are they all?). Grief never exists in a vacuum. Death doesn’t wait for marriage, divorce, career, or even nervous breakdowns. It doesn’t wait to be convenient. Grief gets woven into the pastiche of life and it’s hard to watch these two mostly lovable guys flail about. But in some ways it’s even harder to watch their mother (Andie MacDowell. Andie MacDowell!) try to cope. She’s too young to be a widow and too vibrant to just curl in on herself. And too concerned about her children to not say what’s on her mind. Grief doesn’t make you a better person.

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Love After Love is a bold movie that refuses to put on a brave face. There are no easy answers and no Hollywood endings. Grief changes a person, distorts a family dynamic. It can be ugly and it can be cruel, and director Russell Harbaugh savours those moments like they’re precious, and I suppose in some essential way, they are. The film feels loose and untethered; a series of family gatherings reveal their struggle to return to stasis. It’s as messy as they are, and seeing these emotions portrayed so honestly and unflinchingly is bleak of course but refreshing – I almost felt a sense of relief to not have to buy into the normal Hollywood tropes.

The cast is wonderful because they’re fearless. I have loved Chris O’Dowd since I first laid eyes on him and in the past few years he’s shown incredible range (though I tend to believe that if you can do comedy, you can do anything – not true in reverse). But I’m also super glad to see Andie MacDowell because we never get enough and she’s as underrated as they come. Together, the three of them reflect an authentic experience that can be hard to watch because it feels personal. This kind of unraveling is meant to be private, or at least that’s what the death rites in North American tell us, and it makes us uncomfortable to witness it. This film delivers some very raw performances and if you can maneuver around the emotional minefield, I think you’ll be quite pleased that you did.

 

Utter Christmas Crap

Christmas Inheritance

Ellen is set to inherit her father’s ambiguous “gift” business but first she must prove she’s worthy by travelling to a small town and hand-delivering a letter to a man who isn’t there. She leaves her grinchy fiance behind, all the better to fall inappopriately in love with the good-hearted jack of all trades who drives the town’s cab and serves as the hotel’s bell boy, played by a face you’ll recognize if not the name – Jake Lacy was on The Office and in Girls, and has starred in real, legit movies like Carole, Miss Sloane, and Obvious Child. I’m guessing this movie was a last-ditch effort to save his knee caps. But what then is Andie MacDowell’s excuse?

Anyway, this movie hits all the Christmas movie check marks: baking montage, helping the homeless, fake snow that looks suspiciously like shaving cream. Plus the plot never makes a lick of sense. Not a lick.

 

Christmas in the City

Wendy moves to the “big city” in order to save her dead father’s candy store by working a minimum wage temporary job in a failing department store where she’s terrorized by the new “marketing” expert who hates Christmas as much as she hates Wendy, who she deems a romantic rival. I think.

Ashanti stars as the “witch” and believe it or not, she’s the only one in the movie who doesn’t sing. She also throws a mean wreath – and every time she does, the extras react like she threw a baby right on its soft little fontanel. The mere suggestion that Christmas is somewhat about presents brings literal tears to their eyes despite the fact that they all work in a DEPARTMENT STORE.

Oh, and if the ending where everyone joins hands and sings their hearts out in the direction of the one person who lacks Christmas spirit feels familiar – I’m pretty sure it’s lifted directly from The Grinch.

Christmas Crush aka Holiday High School Reunion

Georgia is “on the verge of her first milestone” (which I take to mean she’s pushing thirty) and barely feels like she has time to find Mr. Right with the pressure to settle down and marry breathing down her neck (or is that her mother?). When she goes home for Christmas, she finds that her old high school is also hosting a reunion and lo and behold, the torch she’s been carrying for her high school boyfriend Craig is reignited. And this time she won’t let anything come between her and the one that got away – not even true love, played by the guy who was also in the unfathomably necessary Christmas Kiss 2, and the glorious A Dog Walker’s Christmas Tale and also featuring a dude from the above Christmas in the City, plus Harry Hamlin and Merilu Henner, all of whom embarrass themselves as you know they must. But if your idea of a holiday classic involves slutty dancing to Christmas hymns (which are, not coincidentally, royalty-free!), you’re in luck.

 

 

Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day has recently been resurrected as a Broadway musical, and Bill Murray went to see it on Tuesday. And Bill Murray went to see it on Wednesday. Is Bill Murray fucking with us?

By all accounts he enjoyed the show, laughing and pumping his fist during musical numbers. Not all of us are destined for NYC this summer, but the good news is, you can catch Groundhog Day pretty much any old time, and here are but a few reasons why you should revisit this classic over and over again.

  1. Director Harold Ramis originally wanted Tom Hanks for the role but realized Hanks was “too nice” and went knocking elsewhere. Michael Keaton turned it down. Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Alec Baldwin, Howie Mandel, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, Kevin Kline, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner and John Travolta were also considered before Bill Murray was cast.
  2. Harold Ramis has a cameo in the film as Phil’s neurologist. Also appearing, if you shannon-groundhog-day.jpgwatch dedicatedly enough: Michael Shannon in his big screen debut – he’s Fred, one of half of the young couple who’s supposed to get married that day.
  3. Although a family of groundhogs was raised specifically for this movie, when Bill Murray was severely bitten not once, but twice, he had to receive rabies treatment, which are rather painful injections.
  4. Although set in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, the film was actually filmed in Woodstock, Illinois, just 50 miles from Murray’s hometown, Wilmette. Tourism in Punxsutawney spiked after the film’s release, but it’s in Wilmette where you’ll find a small plaque that reads “Bill Murray stepped here” on the curb where Phil continually steps in a puddle, and another marked “Ned’s Corner” where Phil perpetually meets Ned the insurance salesman (Stephen Tobolowsky).
  5. There are 38 days depicted partially or in full in the movie. Ramis said originally he wanted about 10 000 years worth of days and ended up with what he considers to be a decade’s worth which is still a really, really, sad, lonely long time to be reliving the same day.
  6. Bill Murray was offered a “spit bucket” for the scene in which he gorges on pastries. That was a terrifically bad idea on his part…guess who got a tummy ache?
  7. In one scene, Phil throws the alarm clock, destroying it. In real life, Murray’s throw did little to damage the thing so the crew took baseball bats to it to smash it up. And yes, it really did keep playing that stupid song, just like in the movie.
  8. Murray was going through a divorce at the time and compensated by becoming obsessed with the movie, calling up Ramis with all kinds of questions. Ramis tired of it and sent the writer (Danny Rubin) to sit down with him and iron out all the wrinkles. This caused a rift in their friendship – Murray didn’t speak to Ramis for many years.
  9. When Phil is at the piano teacher’s house, it’s actually Bill Murray playing. He can’t read music but plays by ear, and learned that passage by heart to play it in the movie. [It’s Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme by Paginini, fyi]
  10. Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, and Stephen Tobolowsky have all served as honourary Grand Marshals in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
  11. In Swedish, the movie’s title is translated as “Monday Every Day” – although in 1993, when the movie came out, Groundhog Day was on a Tuesday. The specific day of the week is not mentioned in the film.
  12. In once scene, Phil throws himself from a bell tower. The building is actually the opera house in Woodstock, Illinois, where local legend has it that the ghost of a young girl haunts the building ever since she fell off a balcony section and died.
  13. uxyA34o.gifThe famous line “Don’t drive angry!” was improvised by Murray when the groundhog in his lap was aggressively trying to escape by climbing over the steering wheel. [Yes, this was one of the times when Bill got bit]
  14. In the final shot, we see Phil carry Rita over the gate before climbing over it himself. This may seem romantic but was unscripted: in real life, the gate was simply frozen shut.