A typical five-star hotel in the more expensive areas of Europe, Morocco and China would cost, figure, oh, $700 a night and up. And that doesn’t include the enormous tip that would be expected for your butler, assigned to you only, waiting in the hall at your beck and call with room service treats that, of course, would be charged to your bill. Imagine having a job that would take you from one such hotel to another, from one romantic country to the others, with all airfare and taxis paid for and with the power to determine the fate of each establishment to some extent. Would you like that? Probably, and Irene (Margherita Buy), the principal character in Maria Sole Tognazzi’s dramatic comedy A FIVE STAR LIFE (I TRAVEL ALONE in its Italian title), is not exactly miserable. But believe it or not, she feels that she is missing something, and that something is family, a person or group of persons that she could love and who love her back and who provide for this otherwise independent person an anchor of stability. Poor Irene. But she can also laugh at herself for her longing, which is why Tognazzi’s wholly delightful tale is light enough to be called comedy with sufficient weight to be named a drama as well.
Everybody’s fingerprints are unique. No two people have the same ones. We know this because in the movies, detectives can flash thousands of fingerprints across the screen and, despite the vast numbers are able to pinpoint which ones match the model. In other words, nobody has yet found two living people with the same prints. What would you think, though, if you discovered that a guy has the same fingerprints as someone who recently died and whose prints had been on file? I, for one, would suspect there’s some kind of soul brother impact there, or even more far out, that this living person is the reincarnation of the departed one. That’s a major motif in Mike Cahill’s I ORIGINS, which might more accurately be called “Eye Origins,” because a biologist, determined to disprove the theory of Intelligent Design, that the eye had been perfectly formed since the beginning and not evolved via a succession of 12 steps, is working to discover those very 12 steps. But while that is his goal at first, he comes to realize something more dramatic, and that insight, a coup de theatre if you will, has the most resonance for the movie audience.
You’ve heard it in your Sociology course, in newspaper articles, in magazines (though perhaps not in Cosmo) that—put in the simplest terms–people marry because they’re horny, but that you can’t expect the passion to last forever. Passion cools and, if you’re lucky, a more mature “love” takes over. But that doesn’t satisfy Jay (Jason Segel) and Annie (Cameron Diaz). Before they got married and had a couple of kids, they thought of nothing but sex, and had no problem acting on their thoughts. Some unfortunate, but true words of wisdom come from Annie’s dad when Annie announces at dinner that she is pregnant and is getting married: “There goes the sex,” he suggests. And he’s right.
Nothing makes much sense. Is A LONG WAY DOWN a comedy about depression, suicide, and paralytic disease? Does having suicidal impulses in common make for solid friendships? Is there anything in the script that adds up to more than banal chatter among four people with little in common? Who knows? Pascal Chaumeil’s adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel—the volume available on Amazon as an audiobook that received a surprisingly good review from Publishers Weekly—simply does not work as a movie. Perhaps this is because the characters are annoying rather than interesting, while a customer hearing only the voices does not see just how insipid the people really are.
You probably heard the advice “Travel while you’re young. You have the energy, and once you get kids, you’ll have to put off long trips for many years to come.” There is some truth in this: of course you have more energy when you’re 20 than when you’re 60, and traveling with young kids or teens can be trying. But what do you do after the youngsters leave the nest and you leave your career to retire? You may have hobbies but eventually you’ll have wanderlust and will want to break up the routine with some trips abroad. While Reykjavik may not be on your mind as much as Paris or Rome, there are some hardy souls who may appreciate the brisk weather and stunning nightlife of that city and the raw beauty of its natural surroundings.
In the good old days before the Internet, or better still before the telephone was invented, people used to write letters. This is how we got such a wealth of information about the thoughts of our own founding fathers here in the U.S. When friends, families, and lovers regularly wrote to one another, we called those epistolary relationships, which is (kind of) what the two lovers have in Carlos Marques-Marcet’s film 10.000 KM.
One of Pete Seeger’s favorite protest songs dealt with the sinking of the Titanic, the key words being “When that ship left England, it was making for the shore/ The rich refused to associate with the poor/ So they left the poor below, they were the first to go/ It was sad when the great ship went down.” The late Mr. Seeger, a Marxist banjo player, chafed at the idea of rigid social classes. Doubtless he would be offended by the decision of the skipper of a train, the Snowpiercer, who, after the world freezes over thanks to climate change, saved about a thousand people. But: he believed that there is an established order to things and that every society must have distinct social classes.
Romantic comedies are so predictable, following the usual arc Boy Meets Girl, Boy Loses Girl, Boy Wins Girl, that they almost parody themselves. But if you are so in love with rom-coms that you overlook their derivative nature, David Wain comes along to satirize the genre, using repetitions, double entendres (like the very title THEY CAME TOGETHER), impossible sexual stuntmanship, and deliberately insipid conversations. It doesn’t hurt that he has Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler as his principals, going on first dates, building their relationship, tentatively breaking up, and getting together again. Never mind that Rudd in real life is 45 years old and Poehler is 42: they give middle-aged people the hope of starting again, acting almost like kids. If you’ve seen David Wain’s 2001 feature WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER, set on the last day of camp in 1981, you know the director’s style. And you’re not surprised that he continues to employ Rudd and Poehler’s comic charms.
In November 2001, President George W. Bush issued this manifesto. There is no room for neutrality in international politics. You are with us or against us. A nation need not contribute troops, but all moral countries must take an active role in some way in the war against terrorism. Such advice would have gone over like a lead balloon during World War II, when countries like Switzerland and Sweden maintained an iron-fisted neutrality even against an evil such as Nazism. (Even though the U.S. was neutral during the early stages of the war 1939-1941, this was in name only as our country supplied the UK with destroyers under the Lend Lease program).
The three major female characters in THIRD PERSON do not get a fair treatment in a screenplay written and directed by Paul Haggis. The male characters do not fare any better.