Tag Archives: Bruce Dern

Chappaquiddick

This is the greatest story of white privilege ever told.

Just days before man landed on the moon, Senator Ted Kennedy was drinking too much when he flipped his car off a bridge and into a shallow pond. He was fine. He got out. But he left behind his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, who died slowly, in agony, as her pocket of air expired. Which is not to say Ted Kennedy was completely unmoved. He was very sad to realize this meant he would never become president. Thinking only of himself, he walked by several houses and many phones in order to let his lawyers know, who encouraged him to report the accident while standing beside a payphone not one of them ever picked up. Instead he snuck back to his hotel, and on the advice of his father, established an alibi. Ten hours later, he made his way to the police station, minutes after her body was discovered. Had he summoned help, she would have lived. Instead she died, not of the impact, not of drowning, but of suffocation over the course of several hours.

mv5bodnlngjjnjutyzgyzs00mmjjlwi3yzmty2fmzthiogvkndk5xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndg2mjuxnjm@._v1_sy1000_sx1500_al_The film follows the despicable events that follow: Kennedy’s obsession with minimizing the consequences to himself while painting himself as the victim. He assembles a whole team of men willing to lie and spin the story in his favour. Not a single one of them sheds a tear for the woman who died alone in the dark backseat of Kennedy’s submerged car.

In many ways, I hate this movie. It made my blood boil. But that’s exactly what it’s supposed to do. Jason Clarke gives a pretty able and nuanced performance as the unconscionable Senator. Ed Helms also does a good job trying to be his conscience, and that’s not an enviable position. But despite these winning performances, the truth is still obscured. Director John Curran makes some choices I don’t understand, but he’s very capable at leaving space where Kennedy has the opportunity to do the right thing and doesn’t. And though his brother John is of course already gone, the moon looms over Teddy in many a scene, as if his older brother is looking down upon him, reminding us of their very different legacies. It’s a heartbreaking story that perhaps doesn’t fully play that way on screen, in part because the movie is as absorbed with Ted and Ted alone as Kennedy himself is. Opportunity vs. integrity – that’s what Helms says as Kennedy cousin Joey Gargan. And Ted Kennedy certainly chose one over the other.

 

 

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Nostalgia

John Ortiz plays Daniel the insurance guy. He knows he’s talking to you on the worst day of your life. He knows you don’t want to talk to him. Whether you’ve been robbed or had a fire or lost a loved one, he’s the guy who helps you determine what you’ve lost, what you still have, and how much it’s all worth. But insurance guys stop at the dollar value. What, really, are those objects worth to you?

Nostalgia explores grief, loss, memory, and our attachment to the things in our lives. The movie hosts several vignettes that help unpack this notion of the valuable item. An old man (Bruce Dern) is dying, and believes his home is filled with nothing but trash. A widow (Ellen Burstyn) suffers a fire and saves only one item, one she prizes only because it was once important to her dead husband, and clashes with her grown son (Nick Offerman) over keeping it. A brother (Jon Hamm) and sister (Catherine Keener) sift through their late father’s possessions ahead of selling his now empty house. Some nostalgia_09people want to keep everything, even if they cannot bear to look at it. Some people want to toss everything, keep only memories. There is no right answer. Toughest of all, the movie also explores the notable difference between losing an elderly father and discovering the hand-written love notes he once sent your mother while traveling on business, and losing your teenage daughter and discovering that without her passwords you have no access to any of the dozens of pictures she took every day of her short life.

This movie takes on some tough subjects and inevitably it’s not always a comfortable watch. It can be challenging, but only because it touches our own raw nerves. It’s also surprisingly beautiful, as if with flaring sunlight director Mark Pellington wants to cleanse us of the heaviness we might otherwise take from one tile of the mosaic to another.

This movie made me think and feel. It’s a meditation more than a narrative, a sense of melancholy meant to wash over you. Sometimes it’s maddeningly vague but it’s also expertly acted (Keener and Burstyn are of course favourites and stand-outs). There are quiet gaps meant to be filled with your own reminiscence. You will surely relate to one ore more of the vignettes.

When we think of fire or flood threatening our homes, we think also of which valuables we’d grab if we had the time. There are two kinds of valuables: we’d grab the ones worth the most money, like the jewelry, and we’d grab the ones worth the most sentiment, like the photos. But later, sifting through the ashes, would you have regrets? Would you miss the pots and pans you’ve used to lovingly feed your family for the past thirty years? Would you miss the wallpaper you painstakingly picked out and pasted up with blood, sweat, and tears? What items are worth saving, and what items are worth leaving to someone else? What are YOUR valuables, the ones you hope to pass on, or the ones that have been left to you?

Our Souls At Night

Actor-comedian Patton Oswalt lost his wife suddenly in April 2016. He was very vocal in his grief following her death so it took people by surprise when he announced his engagement barely a year later. Some were critical. I, however, wish him nothing but the best, and I’d wish the same for Sean if he were ever in the same spot. I know a little about love and grief, and how they are not mutually exclusive. I’d also never want Sean to feel lonely.

That’s how Louis (Robert Redford) and Addie (Jane Fonda) are feeling when we first meet them – lonely. Both of their spouses are long dead and they’ve each been leading pretty Fondasolitary existences up until Addie gets up the courage to ring Louis’s doorbell and invites herself in for a chat and a little proposal. Why not sleep together, she suggests. No, not sex. Sex doesn’t interest her. But the nights are long. Very long. Couldn’t they come to some arrangement? After thinking on it, he agrees, so off he goes in his best blue plaid shirt, to have a platonic sleepover with a neighbour he’s lived alongside for decades but never really known.

I’m often critical about movies starring senior citizens. So many feel demeaning, unworthy of their subjects, but I must admit, this new one from Netflix feels invigorating and authentic. Addie clearly has agency. They both have plenty to offer. Of course they’re not immune to aging but they’re also not done living, and that was fantastic to see on the big screen.

Jane Fonda and Robert Redford both accepted Lifetime Achievement awards here at the our-souls-at-night'-will-reunite-'barefoot-in-the-park'-stars-robert-redford-and-jane-fondaVenice Film Festival, in a ceremony preceding the screening of their new film. They’ve co-starred in movies before: The Chase (1966), Barefoot in the Park (1967), and The Electric Horseman (1979); this is their first in 38 years. To mark the occasion, Fonda said “It was fun to kiss him in my 20s and then to kiss him again in my almost-80s.” I have to say, it was fun for the audience, too. Yes, it’s great to see mature faces getting meaty roles, but you’re also getting a masterclass in acting. These two make it look easy. Their chemistry feels effortless.

nintchdbpict000349666861Of course, if you’re looking for classic, cheesy romance, this isn’t it. Louis and Addie are too wise for that. They have responsibilities, baggage, obligations. Kent Haruf, who wrote the novel upon which this film is based, knew a little about that. He wrote his book under a death sentence: he was 71, and he finished it just months before he died of lung cancer. The novel was published posthumously, so Louis and Addie are his legacy. Fonda and Redford would have made him proud.

This is an excellent movie from Netflix that will be available for streaming later this month.

Miraculum and Other Crap I Watched Instead of Being a Productive Member of Society

Miraculum is one of those movies that knits together different stories and hopes to make a beautiful afghan but sometimes ends up making a bit of a mess. Let’s face it, it’s hard to find, miraculumsay, four different stories that are equally compelling, and in this case, Gabriel Sabourin does a better job with some stories (as screenwriter) than with the one he tells himself as an actor.The city of Montreal has just been home to a terrible plane crash where the lone survivor remains unidentified. Julie (Marilyn Castonguay) a nurse and also a Jehovah’s Witness, becomes quite taken with this unidentified stranger, maybe as a placeholder for her complicated feelings toward her boyfriend (Xavier Dolan), also a Witness, who is dying from leukemia and unwilling to get the treatment that would save his life, as per their religious doctrine.

The Burbs is not one of Tom Hanks’ best, but when he teams up with Bruce Dern as two suburbanites with maybe a little too much time on their hands, it’s still pretty awesome. A new family has moved into the neighbourhood and get this – they don’t mow their lawn! And their theburbsgarbage cans are suspicious! And…do they look a little…foreign to you? Paranoia starts to creep in and suddenly the neighbourhood dads are crossing some pretty serious boundaries to accuse their little-known neighbourhoods of all kinds of mayhem, including murder. Coincidentally, this “neighbourhood” was shot on the Universal backlot, which we’ll be visiting in the next few weeks – it’s the same neighbourhood that was used for Desperate Housewives and Leave It To Beaver.

Words and Pictures has got both Juliette Binoche and Clive Owen, so already I’m sold. They’re both playing higwordsandpicturesh school teachers – she, art (being a talented artist herself, but recently plagued by arthritis) and he, English (being himself a writer, currently stifled by his alcoholism). They’re both a little isolated and angry at home, but shine in their respective classrooms and soon have their students engaged in a “war” – words vs pictures, or is a picture really worth a thousand words? It’s witty and interesting and while not their best work it was a surprising and gratifying Netflix find on a quiet night and I enjoyed it.

I bet nobody like the movie Blackhat, ever.  Am I right? The “action” was silly. The “romance” was even sillier. The “thriller” aspect was completely inert. I can’t write anything about this blackhatmovie without using ironic quotations, for goat cheese’s sake! They bust hacker-Thor from prison to help stop an even evil-er hacker and it’s all cyber-crimey and pretty dull, with really loose writing and lazy directing, and you just want it to be over, but why spend TWO HOURS AND FIFTEEN MINUTES anticipating credits when you could just not watch it at all?

Monster

This movie came out in 2003. I bought the DVD and watched it once and never again – until now. Fifteen years later, it’s as rough as I remembered.

Aileen “Lee” Wuornos is a hooker past her prime. She meets Selby at a bar one night and it’s the oddest case of love at first sight. Lee (Charlize Theron) is smitten, and self-centered Selby (Christina Ricci) loves the attention she lavishes upon her.

Anyway, girlfriends are expensive. Pretty soon Aileen has to start working the highways again. One night, a trick goes wrong. Not that they’re ever right, but more wrong than usual. A john drives her int the woods and beats her unconscious before waking her back up with sodomy. Oh god. I can’t believe I just described that scene so flippantly! It’s HORRIFYING and I’m traumatized and I’m coping by being weirdly light hearted about it. Anyway, Aileen is in a bad way, but what he doesn’t know and she does is that she’s armed. She manages to to break away just long enough to shoot (and kill) him.

Is it weird to describe murder as empowering? Aileen is unsuitable for any other kind of work and though she’d like to quit prostitution, she and Selby can’t quite partying, so it’s back to working truck stops, only this time she only uses sex as the bait, and then murders them for cash and cars. This becomes another one of her addictions.

Aileen Wuornos is a real-life serial murderer. A lot has already been said about Charlize Theron’s physical transformation to play her, so I’m going to concentrate instead on what an interesting character she is. I mean, there’s no denying that Aileen herself is a victim. She even convinces herself it’s a justification for her increasing blood lust. What she does is undeniably wrong but society had already left her in the dust. Where, exactly, was Aileen’s place? That’s what earned Charlize her Oscar. She didn’t try to excuse away her crimes, but she did find empathy for her. Theron is intense as hell in this movie. Her eyes shoot laser beams with such focus you’d think her life depended on it – and in fact, for Aileen, it did. A moment’s inattention could have cost her her life. But otherwise she’s not at home in her body. Theron prowls as Aileen, her shoulders curling, discomfort in her very posture. Her performance is one for the ages.

Director Patty Jenkins treats Aileen with compassion, and she might be the first to do so. Monster doesn’t feel exploitative. Aileen might have had the morals beaten out of her, but we haven’t, and Jenkins’ framing of her always keeps this in mind. The first time Aileen kills, it’s in self defense. Subsequently though, she kills for every time a man has done her dirty, and that’s a very long list. When a tiny sliver of redemption offers itself, Aileen is unequipped to take it. But Jenkins refuses to objectify her; she treats her humanely, which is possibly more than Wuernos ever got in life.