THE GOOD, THE NOT SO BAD AND THE UGLY: AFI 2015, Part 4: Married Without Children – 45 Years and Macbeth

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45 years 2Is this the year of the older, older woman?

For some reason, a number of films have been released this year with a central character that is probably not only not in any recognized quadrant of the four that studios so dream of capturing, it’s a target audience many producers probably consider non-existent: a female in her somewhat twilight years.

These include I’ll See You In My Dreams (Blythe Danner as a widow discovering that life isn’t over by any stretch of the imagination); Grandma (Lily Tomlin as a grandmother helping her granddaughter raise money for an abortion); Youth (Jane Fonda as an aging actress desperately trying to hold on to her career); The Woman in the Van (curmudgeon Maggie Smith as…a curmudgeon in a van).

And now we have Charlotte Rampling as Kate Mercer in 45 Years, a heartbreaking and at times emotionally devastating film about a wife who has to reevaluate her more than four decade long marriage in the days leading up to her and her husband’s anniversary.

It’s a roster that perhaps is worthy of an entry in the Guinness Books. Read the rest of this entry »

THE HALF YEAR OF THE WOMAN: Movie Reviews of Ida, Young & Beautiful and The Immigrant by Howard Casner

young and beautifulI am one of those annoying movie fanatics who tend to make year end lists. You know what I mean: the top ten movies of the year, the best acting, directing, writing, etc. And if that’s not bad enough, like most people who do this, I start building that list early on such that by June, say, I have some strong possibilities as to who might make it out of the Darwinian survival of the fittest mire and who might not.

But there is something interesting happening this time round. While I already could easily have a top five or more list when it comes to female actors, I don’t have anyone I feel that strongly about for their male counterparts. So far this year, roles for women have been more interesting, more complex and more exciting than roles for men. Read the rest of this entry »

Movie Review: THE EYE OF THE STORM and KEEP THE LIGHTS ON by Howard Casner

The Eye of the Storm, the new period film written by Judy Morris and directed by Fred Schepisi, employs the Merchant/Ivory recipe for making a film, along with the same results.  Take a classic novel (here one written by Nobel Prize winning Australian Author Patrick White); add a lot of money, time and energy on the technical aspects of the film (cinematography, costumes, sets, etc.); then fold in a roster of well respected actors (Charlotte Rampling, Judy Davis, Geoffrey Rush).  Let it all simmer together until voila: a meal that is sumptuous, but more than a bit dull.


The story revolves around Elizabeth, an aging matriarch nearing death, played by Rampling with a courageous lack of vanity (i.e., make up) that even surpasses Bette Davis’ performance in Mr. Skeffington (okay, okay, a little too inside a reference there, I admit it, but you go with what you got).   Elizabeth’s two children (Rush and Davis) don’t love her (and it’s not long before you figure out why), but they dutifully gather to wait for the inevitable: the reading of the will.


Schepisi, who has made some wonderful films in the past (The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith and The Devil’s Playground to name a few) can never quite get the tone right here.  It’s all a bit much and off center (is it a comedy, a drama, a tragicomedy; is it a breath mint, a candy mint).  And Morris can’t quite find a focused enough through line to hook the story to (it’s almost unclear why Rush’s character is even in the movie, he really has so little to do with it all but mine it for an autobiographical play he writes in the epilog).


Everyone and everything is filmed for maximum decadence and decay.  And in case you don’t get it, there are shots of worms eating their way out of pears; flies caught in mason jars of preserved fruits; and gardens overflowing with earthworms.  But perhaps the most bizarre bits are Helen Morse as the appropriately named Lotte, Elizabeth’s companion and housekeeper, performing cabaret numbers in 1920’s drag, singing as if the Nazi’s were nipping at her rear end and she were a cast member of Luchino Visconti’s The Damned (though I doubt it would have helped if her act had been modeled on Bob Fosse).


Everyone tries hard and the movie reeks with sincerity.  But in the end, what everyone is trying to do here is all a bit too vague.  To return to the opening metaphor, it’s a soufflé that just refuses to rise.


I’ll just make this next one short and sweet.  Weekend was a movie about two gay men who somehow convinced themselves (and the audience) that a three day, one night stand had more romantic meaning than it did.  The characters weren’t very interesting and it was like watching paint dry.  Keep the Lights On is about ten years in the life of two gay men and the difficulty of maintaining their relationship since one is a drug addict.  The characters are marginally more interesting and the paint dries a little faster, but that’s about it.