Saturday, December 9, 2017

Dr. Thorne

Dr Thorne is a totally enjoyable miniseries on Amazon written and produced by Julien Fellowes who did Downtown Abbey (which I wasn't crazy about). This four-part production of a Trollope novel has some cheesy aspects (mainly the music, some of the lighting, directorial things like that; and the acting isn't particularly special with one exception). Some of the plot elements are a little predictable. But really it was just what the doctor ordered (HAHAHA!) for my mood. A perfect distraction. Plus it had my favorite Allison Brie (maybe slightly miscast?). The only performance that stood out was Ian Mcshane as Sir. Roger Scratcherd.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a little ridiculous and schticky, but there is so much I enjoyed by it. I usually don't like movies/tv where the hook is finding the lead charming. Other than Annie Hall that hasn't really worked for me. So Mrs. Maisel grated slightly. But I loved the larger than life story, the exuberance of the series, the bright colors, the caricature of bourgeois Jewish life, the Forrest Gump run-ins with Lenny Bruce and Jane Jacobs. In spite of the corniness it's really something enjoyable and special.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Roaming Eye

The Roaming Eye at the Shirley Fiterman Art Center is an eclectic exhibition of mostly abstract work. There is a dynamic energy in the rooms. The art is so different but they pieces play off each other well. My favorites were the ones that had more texture to them like Kathleen Kucka's "Sun Still Tender" (I posted a detail), nine panels of canvas with cuts and burns in them, and Alison Blickle's painting of women with urns ("Moon Phases", I posted a detail.) The women's clothing looks to made of mosaic tiles, and below the painting are stone objects that are part of the piece and add weight and dimension to it.

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold

The documentary on Joan Didion, The Center Will Not Hold, is excellent but not satisfying. She is such an accomplished writer, such an icon of the literary world, with so much glamor and history attached to her. The documentary made me ant to revisit her writing, which I enjoyed in several different stages of my life, though mostly in my 20s.

But The Center Will Not Hold didn't give me enough. I wanted to know more about her writing process and more about how she grew and developed as a writer. I also wanted to know more about her personally. There were interviews with her and her family and old friends and editors. But even as she was speaking I felt that she was remote and enigmatic.

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story

I had never heard of Hedy Lamarr, so had no expectations going in to the documentary about her life, Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story.

It was fascinating. An assimilated Austrian Jewish girl becomes a Hollywood starlet. She was known as the most beautiful woman in the world. Disney's Snow White was modeled after her. It seems she was an okay actress, not great but passable. Her passion wasn't movies, though. It was inventing. During WWII she worked on a strategy to create signals that couldn't be intercepted. It's called frequency hopping and she patented it. It couldn't be used during that war, but decades later the patent was discovered and her ideas are the basis of many communications technology we have today including Bluetooth and WiFi! She didn't get credit in her lifetime but is now recognized in the tech world for her significant contributions.

Bombshell featured interviews with her children as well as original footage. Her story gets quite sad at the end as she ages and cannot manage the loss of her beauty. The filmmakers were at our screening and held a Q&A session.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is kind of brilliant. It is a dark story of a woman's deep, unrelenting rage about the murder of her daughter and the effects of her blind determination. The focus of her ire is the police chief who never found the murderer and she puts up stark, menacing billboards on a town road that call him out.

This seems like it's going to go in a creepy direction of searching for serial murderers or something. Instead it draws out many of the characters in this small town in surprising ways. I thought maybe it was going to show the mean small-mindedness of them. But instead it shows a great deal of compassion for everyone. Almost all of them, especially France's McDormand's Mildred, have unattractive harsh sides to them, yet almost all of them are shown as suffering, and pretty much all of them show kindness and sympathy for others. The solid heart of the movie is Woody Harrelson who plays the police chief with humility and dignity.

There is violence. And there is a sense of dread and potential violence in most of the scenes. But the director manages to mix this lurking sadism with humor. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is extremely funny. The awkward dialogue, the little tricks of facial expression, the unexpected edges of the characters are all hysterical. In the end this is a very heartwarming movie.

Christina P: Mother Inferior

I loved Christina P's Netflix special Mother Inferior. She has a unique way of being charming and biting at the same time. Her style is nothing like Sara Silverman's but she plays on being cute in a way that is kind of a nod to her. I loved listening to her and can't wait for her next special.