In his 1954 dystopian novel “Lord of the Flies,” William Golding creates a world of British boys as sole inhabitants of an island without adult authorities. They try to govern themselves but end up with disaster. Simply put, the youngsters become barbarians. In THE NOTEBOOK, we discover that adult authorities do nothing to civilize a pair of twin boys. To the contrary, the youngsters, copying what they see around them, imitate the adults. They become barbarians. In short, given the right circumstances, kids without adults can turn savage, and kids with adults can become unemotional, unfeeling, and violent.
ARE YOU HERE is a buddy movie not unlike those of the 1980s. This one finds a friendship between Steve Dallas (Owen Wilson), a TV weatherman and serial dater, and Ben Baker (Zach Galifianakis), a person judged emotionally unstable who is being helped through his long-term friendship with Dallas.
The recession brought on by the bankers and Wall Street may be over, but tell that to the hundreds of thousands of newly minted college grads who must remain living with their parents because they can’t find jobs. But, what about the millions of people who have been laid off from their jobs, have gone through their unemployment benefits, and are still looking? If they can’t afford to remain in their apartments and houses, what do they do? If they’re lucky enough to find friends and relatives who will take them in, that’s fine, but there’s a limit to how long these benefactors will put up with their guests. Then what? If the unemployed wind up on the streets, I don’t see them. Where do they go?
The main reason for the high divorce rate in the U.S. is probably not adultery or violence but simply the disappointment that one or both partners are simply not the same as they were when they met and courted. Either they have grown apart, developing different interests, or they can’t understand why they don’t feel the same passion that electrified them during their honeymoon. Just my opinion, but my viewpoint is given graphic representation by thirty-one year old Charlie McDowell in his full-length directing debut, using actors who are experienced in small, indie dramas and comedies. With Ted Danson in a small role and Mark Duplass largely improvising, think “Cheers” meets “Your Sister’s Sister,” as the popular star of the long-running tv episodes crosses paths with one of the great avatars of mumblecore. This is not to ignore the starring role of Elisabeth Moss, heretofore known to audiences in the brilliant cable tv series “Mad Men.”
Gorgeous Italian scenery, exquisite food, cute convertible to see it all, even a few beautiful women. What could possibly go wrong? Just one thing: the two principal performers, particularly Rob Brydon, never shut up and what they do almost throughout the picture’s almost two hours is perform impersonations of actors. Sean Connery, Marlon Brando, Timothy Dalton, those are just a few of the celebrities that undergo satiric takes by the two noted comedians. Most of the imitations are amateurish, and even if they were more polished, who cares?
In the Broadway musical “My Fair Lady,” Henry Higgins notes, “The French don’t care what they do, actually, so long as they pronounce it properly.” We do, in fact, have the impression that what’s taken with some seriousness here in the States is treated more casually across the Atlantic. Bar pickups, for example. We may think to them it’s no big deal if you have a wife and home and you hit the bars for one-night stands, that even your spouse would not be jealous if she hears about this, but Philippe Garrel has other ideas. In fact in his latest film JEALOUSY, he finds three separate incidents of La Jalousie, one involving a child, but the more important one focusing on the intense emotions felt, in turn, by the wife of the principal character after he blithely takes off with all his belongings, and later, by the principal performer himself. So the French don’t lightly take the brush-off when the dumping involves a long-term commitment, and Mr. Garrel presents a slight but involving black-and-white drama as his contribution to this epiphany.
Here in New York, the city with the world’s most diverse population, you’re lucky if one day passes without your spotting at least one crazy out of our eight million people. But, I’ve never seen a guy wearing a large plaster mask covering his entire face, hair painted on top, fitted so he is unable to take solid nourishment. Man, that’s nuts, but the folks in an Irish band take such a character in stride. In fact, FRANK is inspired by the true story of one such person, Chris Sievey, who took on the name of Frank Sidebottom, but is inspired as well by other musicians like Daniel Johnston and Captain Beefheart. Jon Ronson, who co-wrote the film, was part of the band, the action shot in County Wicklow in Dublin and in New Mexico taking the place of Austin, Texas, the home of the SXSW festival. This by way of preventing you in the audience from saying that the plot is too far-out to be real, though anything can happen in musical comedy.
Each year when August comes, New Yorkers can count on several annual rituals that mark the waning days of Summer. The movers and shakers who’re determined to wring every last bit of hard-earned relaxation from the season decamp even more fervently to the Hamptons and other points east (and north, for that matter), and this in turn leads to an events calendar in the city drastically pared down from the typical hurly-burly. As September nears, however, the human tide flows back to the metropolitan area, and perhaps the biggest happening signaling this shift is the US Open tennis tournament, the showpiece event of the USTA (United States Tennis Association).
If good food could end the French and Indian War and lead to rapprochement—at least in the version given us by Lasse Hallstrom’s new movie—then surely the Palestinians and Israelis can get together. After all, French cooking and Indian cuisine are as different as Barack Obama and Sarah Palin, while both Palestinians and Israelis like falafel, hummus, babaganoush and halvah. THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY, then is about how different cultures make a war of sorts across a DMZ of one hundred feet in a small town in the South of France, a film that will find its principal audience among fans of Hallmark green cards but will have appeal across a wide spectrum of folks whose taste in movies is as different as two principal performers played by Om Puri and Helen Mirren.
Recall this recent news item. A family in California hired a maid/nanny to take care of their house. She was fine for a while, but soon she began to act like Herman Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener, the guy whose boss asked why he stopped working and would not leave the firm and getting the reply “I prefer not to.” This nanny, who scammed many people before, refused to leave the house, taking advantage of an odd California law that states that if you offer a bed and board to a person, she has certain proprietary rights and can be evicted only by going through a few months of proceeding. In other words, sometimes it doesn’t pay to hire a maid.
Ever since that disastrous choice in the Garden of Eden, the world has been going to hell. It’s no wonder that our young people have stopped reading books and newspapers and train their smart phones not to CNN nor NY Times nor Huffington Post, but instead communicate frantically with their friends via SMS. Not for them a great concern with the explosive Middle East, the fights in the U.S. Congress, the potential revival of the bad old Soviet Union. With CALVARY Michael McDonagh deals with allegorical impact on the sad state of affairs, but instead of painting on the world’s canvas, he restricts himself to a tiny community on the west coast of Ireland (filmed largely in County Sligo in the town of Easkey and on Streedagh Beach). You’d think that the diverse sort on whom he trains his lenses would be found in New York or Chicago, but no, even in a community that you could virtually count on your fingers and toes, you have a group of sad characters who for one reason or another feel lost, even suicidal.
Living close to nature is not what it’s cracked up to be. Yeah, it’s fine for a week, if you’re into camping, but when you have to live like a feral animal in the hills of East Tennessee, virtually homeless with nary a shack within a mile, you could get mighty lonely—and dirty. But that’s not the least of it. Dirty he is, but Lester Ballard (played in a tour-de-force, theatrical performance by Scott Haze), tolerates his own presumably smelly body and then some. As Tennessee’s most notorious necrophiliac, he had sexual relations with at least two dead bodies, one, a woman who was already gone in a seeming suicide pact with a man, and another that he shot and dragged back like a cave man to wooden abode. Eating the dead? Talk about a Paleolithic diet!