Tag Archives: Jena Malone

The Public

This movie as at TIFF in 2018 and while it did make my long list, it ultimately got cut in favour of god knows what else. And then what happened is that I never heard another single thing about it, and it might have literally fallen right out of my little ole brain until this weekend, when I was in a hotel room in Toronto and saw it on the pay per view. I did not at that time pay to view it. Sean has this weird hotel kink where he always watches HGTV when in them – these shows about “hunting” for houses that are necessarily imperfect so that they may then renovate them to within an inch of their foundations, with a lot of bullshit drama along the way. If we watch more than one episode in a row, Sean will invariably be convinced that they are the same episode, and I’ll say something like “No, last time it was lesbians with 2 dogs and this time it’s lesbians with 2 dogs EACH” but still that won’t convince them because they truly are interchangeable. Anyway, I’m glad I didn’t watch The Public in a hotel room where it would have cost $18 to rent when I have just rented it in the comfort of my own home for $6. What a savings!

But anyway: libraries. Public libraries. I love em. I am in a codependent relationship with them. I’m an insomniac who sometimes reads as much as a book a day, on average, so yeah, I check out a lot of books and I read each and every one of them because I’m not yet strong enough to walk away from a book I don’t enjoy. I’ve always loved libraries, even my school library which was too broke to stock books; in library period (because we still had one), we learned typing, and chess, and read (free) newspapers. I played library as a kid; stamping books was the most satisfying joy I knew. It is my dream to own one of those card catalogue cabinets with the dozens of tiny drawers. I’m pretty sure that’s all that’s standing between me and eternal happiness (which must mean that my life is pretty great). That said, libraries feel essential to me because my life without books would be nothing. But some people don’t use libraries for borrowing books. For them, libraries may be essential in different ways: a place to warm up, or to cool down, a place to congregate, a place to use the washroom, to wash up, to greet and be greeted.

The Public is about Cincinnati’s public library, and a lawsuit against it alleging discrimination when a homeless man is asked to leave because of his body odour. This highlights a struggle that librarians face every day that you may never have thought about: the balance between the rights and needs of one person versus the comfort of the patrons in general. There aren’t too many places where a mentally ill, unwashed man with nowhere else to go might rub shoulders with a kid researching a class project on geodes. But both have an equal right to be there. I don’t know this for sure, but I’m assuming they don’t really cover this stuff when you’re majoring in library sciences. It’s actually amazing how the most important and vital parts of your job you won’t even heard mentioned in school.

Meanwhile, a couple of the Cincinnati library’s employees, Stuart (Emilio Estevez) and Ernesto (Jacob Vargas) have been named personally in the lawsuit. But they’re still going to work, still breaking up fights in the men’s room, still erasing hate crime graffiti in precious books, still navigating people’s crushing loneliness, still stepping over dead bodies, people frozen to death in the night waiting for library to open its warm doors in the morning. In the face of which, one particular homeless man, a war vet named Jackson (Michael Kenneth Williams) means to ‘occupy’ the library, turn it into an emergency overflow homeless shelter since there aren’t nearly enough spaces and the city is suffering through a terrible cold snap.

Estevez wrote and directed a compelling, human story. Librarians become teachers, social workers, front line workers. Their job is not just caring for books, but for the patrons. I think sometimes the film gets a little bogged down by Big Thoughts but personally I wasn’t bothered in the least. If it wasn’t perfectly executed, at least he took a stab at saying something Important. I tend to feel very forgiving toward movies that Think and Challenge and Try. In all honesty, had I paid $18 to rent The Public, I wouldn’t have been mad about it.

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Lovesong

Sarah (Riley Keough) feels like she’s bringing up her young daughter Jessie by herself, abandoned sometimes for months at a time by an older husband who travels for work and is fuzzy on his return dates. A visit from her college friend Mindy (Jena Malone) brings her a little comfort, a little joy…and a little more. There’s a chemistry and a crackle that’s been notably absent in her life. The three of them take off a little road trip that ignites things, but just as they get going, Mindy’s back on a bus for NYC and Sarah is back to her old life.

MV5BZWFhMGE2N2YtZTI5Yi00Zjc0LWJlNjAtZWE4ZDEzZmYzOTkyL2ltYWdlL2ltYWdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTU2NDMyOTM@._V1_Cut to: a few years later, Sarah and Jessie are on the road again, headed toward Mindy’s wedding. Mindy’s future husband seems nice. Sarah’s husband seems to be out of the picture. And Sarah and Mindy? They haven’t seen each other since that road trip so things are suitably tense and complicated. Sarah might be trying to reestablish their earlier intimacy, but the day before Mindy’s wedding is probably neither the time nor the place. So if you’re hoping to see something awkward, you’re in luck!

The great thing about Lovesong is that it fearlessly portrays the complexity and ambiguity of real human emotion. Director So Yong Kim gives her two leads room to breathe, room to communicate through glances and grazes. I’ve always been convinced Jena Malone is an underrated actress, her resume an eclectic mix of indie gems and art-house risks. Riley Keough is less of a known quantity to me, but if nothing else, the last scene in this movie told me that she’s not just some lucky celebrity spawn, she’s legit. There was some heartbreak on that screen, the tangled, tricky kind, and that’s no joke. Lovesong will be too slow for some, lacking perhaps in the closure we usually week, but it’s a brave portrayal and a bittersweet reminder that not every couple gets their love song.

Nocturnal Animals

As the film opens, Susan (Amy Adams) feels guilty for not being happy, despite having ‘everything’ – Armie Hammer plays her current husband, but apparently they were maybe never truly supposed to be together.

A successful art gallery owner, Susan’s home is perfectly styled, filled with lacquered objets, 18nocturnal1-master768-v2beautiful things, much like herself, impeccably dressed, heavily made up. Her “bare” (movie bare, of course) face comes as a shock when she curls into bed to read a manuscript that has arrived that earlier that day, a surprise from the ex-husband she hasn’t heard from in 20 years.

She’s immediately engrossed in the story, which we see recreated as a movie within a movie. Jake Gyllenhaal and Isla Fisher play two halves of a couple travelling down a remote road at night. Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays a sinister man threatening them. It’s immediately tense. Disturbing. Distraught, Susan slams the book shut.

But that’s not the end, is it? No, she keeps going. And things get darker, and trickier. Director Tom Ford pulls a nasty trick on us: in casting Isla Fisher, he is intentionally making her a very easy substitute for Amy Adams (Isla Fisher once sent Christmas cards to friends and family with Amy Adams photo-shopped in her place, and no one noticed). But we’re not the only ones to notice the similarities: Susan starts to feel a little unsettled too.

This is only Tom Ford’s second film; I was blown away by his first effort, A Single Man. He has a distinctive style, he’s incredibly visual, but the story in A Single Man held up. More than that: it crawled right into my soul and crushed it, just a tiny bit. Colin Firth was robbed when he didn’t maxresdefault-6win an Oscar for it (well, he lost to Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart, and that was certainly deserved as well; luckily Firth one the very next year for The King’s Speech). You may know that Tom Ford is a fashion designer, but that’s clearly not the only trick up his sleeve. His direction is not a gimmick (it likely helps that he leaves the costuming to someone else, and that no Tom Ford suits appear in the film). Maybe it’s little more style than substance, but it’s not without substance, or merit, or worth. Nocturnal Animals is dark and moody and horrible. It is sometimes graphic, and psychologically tortured, and stunning.

It’s the kind of movie that will haunt you for days. There are lots of performances worth talking about: Amy Adams, and the sadness she can convey in her downturned eyes; Jake Gyllenhaal’s fire, and his anguish. Aaron Taylor-Johnson was nominated for a Golden Globe for his supporting skeevy work here, but I think it’s Michael Shannon who maybe deserved the nomination, mustache and all. Can this man do any wrong? Oh wait

Most people bill Nocturnal Animals as a work of revenge, but I feel it’s more about regret. I suppose your interpretation may rest on the ending, which is intentionally vague, but I believe an indictment on Susan’s character. What did you think?

 

 

Teen comedies

TMPLadies and Gentlemen, we’ve made it to another Thursday! This week our friend at Wandering Through the Shelves had us exploring teen comedies, which means that one of us actually sat through Porky’s. True story.

Matt

Thanks to Wandering Through the Shelves for inspiring me to watch so many great movies this week. The term “teen comedy” made me wince at first until I realized how many of them I actually love. I really struggled to get my list down to 3 this week.

American Graffiti  Set in 1962 during the last night before two high school grads head off to American Graffiticollege, four friends spend one last hilariously wild night driving around the strip trying to get laid, find someone to buy beer for them, and give a clingy 12 year-old the slip. Most teen comedies are made by filmmakers looking for easy money but, in 1973, few people thought there would be an audience for this story and Universal apparently sat on the finished film for months before finally getting around to releasing it. It became a surprise hit and one of my favourite movies of all time. Filled with energy from beginning to end- not to mention the music of the 50s and early 60s-, it’s like Superbad just with less dick drawings. It’s a rare thing to see a teen party movie made by such a celebrated and talented filmmaker (George Lucas).

HeathersHeathers- “Dear diary. My teen angst bullshit has a body count”. The genre doesn’t get much darker than this. Teen murders made to look like teen suicides inadvertently brings much-needed (albeit phony) attention from the students, faculty, and media to this very real problem. Director Michael Lehmann and writer Daniel Waters apparently made the movie partly as a reaction to the John Hughes movies that they despised and it doesn’t get much different from Pretty in Pink than this. I found the dream-like tone disorienting at first but I was quickly won over by the twistedly hilarious writing and a great lead performance by Winona Ryder.

SuperbadSuperbad- Sometimes less dick drawings isn’t necessarily a good thing. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg started working on this script when they were 13 and it shows. The pair have never written anything else so far that felt so personal. It’s filthy as it gets and quotable as hell (“The funny thing about my back is it’s located on my cock”) but what’s most impressive is that it never forgets what it’s really about. Two best friends who have been joined at the hip for years are experiencing lots of separation anxiety knowing that they’ll be going to different colleges next year but can’t bring themselves to talk about it. It’s excruciatingly awkward to watch at times but also pretty sweet. And did I mention that it’s quotable? “This plan has been fucked since Jump Street and it’s all because of that used tampon Fogell.”

Jay

superbadWell Matt and I have come to our very first agreement – Superbad. The chemistry between Michael Cera and Jonah Hill is supergood, and though neither likely attended much actual high school, they sure capture the awkwardness with great gusto.

Saved! Set in a private Christian high school, Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore) is lead singer in the Christian Jewels. Mary (Jena Malone), her best friend and band mate, begins to pull away as she i-am-filled-with-christs-love-saved-mandy-moore-gifdiscovers that her attempt to degay-ify her boyfriend Dean has resulted in a not-so-immaculate conception. She finds solace in the school’s only alternatives – Jewish bad girl Cas (Eva Amurri), Roland, the paralyzed atheist (Macauley Culkin), and Patrick, the skate-boarding pastor’s son (Patrick Fugit). It’s got all the familiar trappings of a classic teen comedy – the cliques and the outcasts, the bumbling parents, and the prom – they just happen to be coated thickly in Jesus. And on that level, it’s a great subversive critique of religion. Hypocrisy and high school – can you imagine a better pairing?

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off   I’m expecting to see this on each and every list today because Ferris is ferristhe seminal teen comedy. We may as well have stopped making them, or at least seeing them, after this point, and nearly all that are made can’t help but reference it. Ferris Bueller, at the age of 17, knew how to take a day off. How many of us can say the same even now?

jawbreakerJawbreaker Bonus pick! This is not the best movie, but it’s a sentimental favourite. The Mean Girls of the 90s, three of the school’s most popular girls (Rose McGowan, Rebecca Gayheart, and someone else) accidentally kill the prom queen in a kidnapping prank. A cover-up of the crime is discovered by the school nerd (Judy Greer) and only the promise of a makeover and popularity will keep her quiet.

Sean

Teen Wolf – I first saw this movie before I was a teenager at a slumber party. I don’t rememberteen wolf much from that first viewing but I remember loving it. I mean, wolf Michael J. Fox was pretty much the best basketball player ever. And watching it now adds a whole other level of comedy because it’s so dated and so cheesy but so great. Probably the worst sports scenes ever filmed though.

billandtedBill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure – this is without question one of my favourite movies ever. I remember renting it for a week (along with a rental VCR of course) and watching it over and over and over. The history presentation is both the most awesome and most stupid climax to a movie but I always wished I could put together something as randomly great for a school project or anything in life.

Dazed & Confused It’s the last day of school in small town Texas 1976. The seniors are hazing dazedthe freshmen, and everyone is trying to get stoned, drunk, or laid, even the football players that signed a pledge not to. “Alright, alright, alright!” in the scene at the drive-in was Matthew McConaughey’s first line ever spoken on camera and is now basically his trademark. His  production company, JKL Productions, comes from Wooderson’s life credo: Just Keep Livin’!, so it’s safe to say that this movie was as big for him as it was for us. This movie is one of the best ensemble casts of my generation. Absolutely everyone is in this movie – it’s unbelievable how many familiar faces are here. I can’t say whether Dazed and Confused properly captures the 1970s teenage experience but it is so timeless and universal that the time period doesn’t matter. Richard Linklater really captures what it is to be a teen while taking us on a hilarious ride. Incidentally, the other movies on my list are more personal favourites and I don’t pretend they are actually good movies, but this one is not only good, it’s great. If you haven’t seen it you need to.