Tag Archives: Meg Ryan

City of Angels

After a lovely sojourn at the cottage, Sean and I came home to no internet. No internet! So after a nice vacation of living off the grid by choice, we are immediately and understandably enraged that we are now forced to continue doing so IN OUR OWN HOME. And guess what: the Bell guy (internet provider) says they can’t fix it until September. SEPTEMBER. Which is not this evening. It’s next month! Which is a long way of saying there’s a reason there’s been a dearth of reviews on the site lately, and that some of the past reviews were random cottage finds (see: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) and many of the future ones will be pulled off the dusty shelves of our DVD collection, which has been housed in the garage ever since DVDs became obsolete. And yet here we are, watching movies like “a homeless person” (I’m quoting myself here, in a moment of admitted hyperbole).

Anyway, there we were on a Saturday night, which is to say, a Sunday morning, watching The Big Lebowski. And no, you’re not having a stroke. That’s not the same title as the one up top. We were maybe 90 seconds into the film when Los Angeles is referred to as the City of Angels. That’s not endemic to The Big Lebowski, it’s a pretty common if misleading nickname for L.A. but at any rate, it DID remind of the 1998 romantic classic City of Angels (I know, not a big leap) and as soon as I learned that Sean never saw it (clearly he was terminally single in 1998), I insisted that Sean go out to the garage to find a copy of the movie I was 36% sure I owned and 98% sure I hadn’t seen this century.

And here’s how that panned out.

First I am shocked to recognize Captain Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher). Actually, it took me a while to convince myself I was actually recognizing him – it looked like him, sorta. A younger him to be sure, but really the problem is that Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Capt. Holt is the world’s most deadpan character AND HE NEVER BREAKS. I’ve never seen his face express emotion before. I’ve never seen his lips do that slight curling upwards thing known as a smile. Even his voice was different; Capt. Holt is serious, and monotone. Braugher is my favourite part of the show, and he has transformed himself so wholly for the role that I could barely recognize him even though this film does nothing to obscure his identity. Watch carefully and you’ll also see a brief cameo from Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), so all your TV idols really did start off in a Nicolas Cage movie. Just kidding. That’s not a saying. Gross.

I’m actually very surprised that there’s a 1998 version of me that liked this movie. I was young, but was I really that dumb? I pretty much loathe Nicolas Cage and it’s hard to imagine that there was a time that I did not. And this movie gives you LOTS of reason to hate him. Dear god.

Nicolas Cage plays an angel, in a city that is chock-full of them. They creepily hover around people in order to better swoop them away at time of death. Seth (Cage) is doing exactly that, and exactly as creepily, during a man’s heart surgery. His surgeon, Maggie (Meg Ryan), loses him on the table, and unaccustomed to loss, she starts to fall apart. Seth starts to fall in love. Usually invisible to the living, he’s convinced she somehow saw him as he lurked about her operating room. And so he makes it so: he appears to her, and compels her to fall in love with him, and just when it starts to feel crazy for a human who saves lives and the angel of death to be in a romantic relationship, he becomes human for her. He takes the fall from grace.

I remember being a kid in full meltdown mode for like HOURS after this movie. HOURS. Oh the hormones pumping through my little body.

This time I just can’t get past Nic Cage’s cadaverous skulking about. I feel insulted on Meg Ryan’s behalf. Cage is in no way suitable for a romantic role. Deranged psychopath? Sure. I buy that. I still don’t like him. I still think he’s a terrible actor. But I’d buy it. Here? Not for a second. I keep wanting to yell at Meg Ryan that there’s a vampire waiting to eat her face! And frankly, when they kiss, I can’t help but feel like my suspicions are confirmed.

Even though my eyes were extra extra dry at the end of the film this time around, I still had to explain the ending to Sean, who is a robot. He doesn’t get stuff about love and sacrifice and forever. Sean’s review would consist solely of a shrug. Mine is likely far more hostile. This thing just isn’t holding up.

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Ithaca

Should you tip the boy who brings you the telegram that says your son is dead?

That dilemma and others covered in Ithaca, loosely based on William Saroyan’s The Human Comedy, which is not remotely funny. But it did give Meg Ryan some comfort when she was going through her divorce from Dennis Quaid, so what better material to use in her directorial debut?

ithaca9f-2-webShe plays the mother of sons, a hard thing to be in 1942; Marcus, who is off to war (played by Jack Quaid, Ryan’s actual son), Homer (Alex Neustaedter) who struggles with being the 14 year old man of the house now that his father (Tom Hanks) is gone, and little Ulysses (Spencer Howell) who doesn’t remember anything different.

This is really Homer’s story and the growing up he had to do. He’s such an exuberant kid at the start of the film, determined to be the best and fastest bike messenger in town. But 1942 means WW2, and WW2 means lots of devastating telegrams. How does it transform a 14 year old kid to deliver grief in an envelope? To witness the moment a woman is made a widow? To see a mother torn apart by pain? That’s pretty heavy stuff to be grappling with when you’re also mooning over your first crush and taking your little brother down to the local fishing hole. It makes for a heightened existance, but it’s also just life for Homer, who has his own little odyssey to live.

The film is a little under-achieving, a retread of themes we’ve seen elsewhere, and often. Sam Shepard has a pretty compelling role, which makes up for the very rare glimpses we get of Hanks. If it doesn’t quite live up to its potential, it’s still bittersweet in its nostalgia, and tucked sufficiently at my heart strings. Meg Ryan hasn’t hit it out of the ballpark on her first swing as director, but don’t count her out.