Movie Reviews

Blue Jay MOTD

Blue Jay (2016)

Blue Jay was directed by Alex Lehmann in his fictional feature debut, from a screenplay by Mark Duplass. It stars Duplass and Sarah Paulson. The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 12, 2016.

The film was released on October 7, 2016, in a limited release prior to being released through video on demand on October 11, 2016. (from Wikipedia)

Blue Jay (2016)
Written by Mark Duplass
Directed by Alex Lehmann
Movie of the Day

Meeting by chance when they return to their tiny California hometown, two former high-school sweethearts reflect on their shared past. The film marked the Duplass Brothers’ first film under their four-picture deal with Netflix. Netflix financed the film without seeing a script, but just reading a 10-page outline of the story. This allowed for a true independent film experience.

The film had no script. The actors were given a summary of the movie and their characters and the rest was improvisation.

Blue Jay was the first feature film for director Alex Lehmann. He also served as the director of photography and cinematographer of the film.

The film was shot over the course of seven days in and around Crestline, California. It was filmed on a canon camera without built-in recording or built-in power source.

The film’s score was composed by Julian Wass.

One of my best friends recommended Blue Jay to me. I’ve said this before, at lyriquediscorde, but any and every movie she has ever recommended to me has ended up on my list of all-time favorite movies (if you want some recommendations by her, too, you should follow her movie Instagram – breewatchesmovies.

Here are some of my thoughts on the movie, written originally after seeing it for the first time.

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Nostalgia has plot holes, but oh how I have such a soft spot for it. How many times have I thought about what it would be like to run into a past love, to have a day to spend together, to talk and re-connect, and share a moment again. Not just any past love, but one that mattered, one that had real significance. But, given that opportunity, is it not potentially loaded with emotional landmines that can, or most likely will, go off unexpectedly?

This movie hit very hard. I had a nostalgia reuniting situation a few years ago, and it was full of wonder and magic and passion – at first, but eventually all it had was a hell of a lot of landmines, and boy did they go off. Would I do it again? At one time I would have said yes, but now, where I am in my life, my answer is no. Would these two characters do it again? Yes, I think they would. I really do.

Blue Jay Movie MOTD

This film reminded me at times of the second installment in Richard Linklater/Ethan Hawke/Julie Delpy’s “Before” series, as well as Graham Greene’s book, “The End of the Affair”. The former because of the reconnecting of past lovers, and the day spent together, though to me “Blue Jay” had more hope and joy to it, even in the sad moments, than “Before Sunset” did. The latter (“The End of the Affair”) in the reveal that what you assume, and what you decide to say, is not always what you want, or mean. I do not want to spoil anything, but there is a moment where you see that things that happened, and things said, were not as true as they seemed at the time.

Sarah Paulson and Mark Duplass are two favorite actors of mine, and they were brilliant in this. They had chemistry and ease and emotional deft that brought these characters immediately to life for me, and also pulled my heart around for the entirety of their day/night together. I felt so much watching this film. I laughed, I cheered, I sang-a-long, I hurt, I cried — a lot, and I felt — a lot, too.

I think what hit me the most was how lost Amanda seemed to be, in her life, and in herself. Jim is lost, too, but he seemed more cognizant of it, more recently aware. But, I felt like it was all hitting Amanda. Maybe seeing Jim joggled some of that in her; the experience of hearing her voice on the tape, coming head-on with her younger self, as well as her first love. That resonated with me as I find myself wrestling with my own lost self, and traversing my way through it.

I loved the way these two connected to music in this, and how music played a part in their relationship, and their meeting up again moments. I love the black-and-white filming of it, the way it added to the starkness of winter in this small town, and the bleakness of being lost and being back home again. And, I loved both of these characters so much. When the movie ended I wanted so much more, but at the same time was good with where they left it.

The film plays out like a play. I’d actually love to see it performed on-stage, preferably with Mark and Sarah. I can’t imagine anyone else playing them.

The choice to have the movie shot in black-and-white was a brilliant one. I think it adds to the intimacy and almost too close look into these two people’s lives. It strips away the distraction of color and just focuses on these two characters – just as a play, in a small theater, with two actors on a stark and nearly empty stage would.

Mark Duplass Sarah Paulson Blue Jay MOTD

“No More I Love You’s” by Annie Lennox scene

The Incredible Jessica James Lyriquediscorde Movies

The Incredible Jessica James – LD Movies

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The Incredible Jessica James
Written and Directed by James C. Strouse

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“This is your one and only life. What do you want to tell people about it?”

The Incredible Jessica James LD Movies

Indie, unconventional “Rom-Coms” are a favorite of mine. Beyond the “Rom” in the “Com” (or Dramedy, which this seems more like), I love when the story goes beyond a romance, and also has a strong story arc for the main character/characters, and also showcases other relationships in the lead(s) life. A good Soundtrack does it for me, too. All of this and more were part of the Netflix Original Movie, The Incredible Jessica James.

The Incredible Jessica James self LD Movies

Jessica James is struggling. She is trying to make it as a playwright in New York. She is in the throes of getting over someone she may have been in love with. She is also trying to both be inspiring to her class of theater kids, and also be inspiring, and true to herself. She has stories to tell, and stories that she feels. She seems a little lost. She also seems to be on the cusp of something life-changing, and big.

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She has a best friend who when not stuck in being the typical funny sidekick (it falls into that trope only a few times) seems to be a real and true best friend. Tasha has Jessica’s well-being at heart and is genuinely happy when good things happen to Jessica. She is a catalyst for Jessica meeting the love interest of the story, Boone, introducing them at the front part of the Film.

The Incredible Jessica James Jessica and Boone LD Movies

What I loved was that despite the romance that is obviously building, with a somewhat expected up and down arc, the real story really focuses on Jessica. Her dreams and ambitions, here emotional makeup, her boldness and her insecurities, her relationship with her students, and with Tasha, with her family, and with herself. I also love what they chose to do with the end (no spoilers, go now go and watch it).

“Body and Soul” by William Onyeabor
from the Soundtrack

Jessica Williams, previously of The Daily Show, is phenomenal in this. This is her Movie, and she shines and stands out in every single scene. When the final credits rolled all I kept thinking is how much I want to see her in something else. Chris O’Dowd is charming as always, his low-key sincerity perfect for the role of somewhat broken Boone. And, Noël Wells, as Jessica’s best friend really stood out to me. I was always waiting for more scenes with her and Jessica, and was hoping to see a sequel with the two (or really three, counting Shandra) adventures in London, or a road trip sequel – yes, please!

The Incredible Jessica James Trailer

Incredible Jessica James Lyriquediscorde Movie Review

Last Night (2010) :: MOTD

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Last Night (2010)
Written & Directed by Massy Tadjedin

In the middle of most nights, when I can’t sleep I still replay you.” ~ Joanna

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Movies that happen over the course of one night (or one day) are a favorite of mine, as I mentioned in a recent post where I listed my 10 favorites. Also, I am quite a big fan of Keira Knightley, and many (if not all) of the roles that she’s played. So, when I stumbled on the movie, “Last Night”, while searching through movies in one day/one night, I realized Keira is in it, and that I’ve never seen it before.

I’m also a fan of unrequited love, chance encounters, and unpredictable love stories. All that said, I’m not sure that this was any of those, not completely. I could argue that there was unrequited love between Joanna and Alex, but it was definitely not the theme of the film, or what the unfolding of the story was meant to be – at least not from my perspective.

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I was severely split on the characters in this film, and the storylines. I would have been perfectly happy to have never met Michael, or had any time spent on his storyline with both Joanna, and Laura. It was Joanna’s story that interested me, and no, not just because Keira played her, but because she seemed more flushed out, more complex, and definitively more interesting. She had a complicated relationship with herself, as a writer, a wife, and an individual. She wasn’t any one thing at all, which is refreshing in a female cinematic character, and made me pause to think…oh, well of course, this is written and directed by a woman.

Alex was also interesting, even though we only really saw him through the eyes of Joanna, and his friend/agent (I think), Truman (yay, Griffin Dunne, please be in more films). Alex was the quintessential one that got away, but he was more than just that past fantasy that we all (or most of us) have, we got to see a bit of his side of it, and that Joanna, too, was his one that got away – maybe in a much bigger, deeper way than he was to her.

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There is a moment on the train, towards the end of the film, where I think we really see how Alex feels – and its done silently, through expressions on his face, as he clicks through photographs of Joanna, and flashes on memories he has. There is also a moment with Joanna, as she sits in a window sill quietly crying, that says volumes about her, and how she is feeling about not just Alex, but about her life.

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I wanted more of her, and honestly think her husband Michael, and his encounter with his coworker, could have been left out. We still could have understood the conflict and confusion, and doubt, Joanna had about her marriage without meeting him. Also, his story, and his dalliance with his coworker, were too surface and stereotype. There were no surprises there, or complexities (except a glimpse at complexity with Laura, and her being  a widow, which I wanted more of), to these characters. They felt predictable, and throw away.

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It made me feel that the writer’s heart was really invested in Joanna, and in Alex, and even Alex’s friends, and that flushing out a story with Michael and Laura was just an afterthought.

All criticisms aside, the movie was worth seeing for Joanna and Alex. For them, I would recommend it.

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Trailer

Points for a haunting, romantic, moody soundtrack, too. One I think I may need to own.

Daniel :: Bat For Lashes

Pillow Talking :: Clint Mansell

It Follows (2014) :: MOTD

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It Follows (2014)
Written & Directed by David Robert Mitchell

When I was a little girl my parents would not allow me to go south of 8th mile. And I did not even know what that meant until I got a little older. And I started realizing that. That was where the city started and the suburbs ended. And I used to think about how shitty and weird was that. I mean I had to ask permission to go to the state fair with my best friend and her parents only because it was a few blocks past the border.” ~ Yara

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 I love horror movies. All kinds of horror movies – good ones, bad ones, cheesy ones, classic ones, but I most especially love ones that go beyond the surface of scare, and make me think. “It Follows” is one of those kinds of horror movies.

At first glance, I found my self thinking late 70’s/80’s John Carpenter. The movie opens on a neighborhood that is very “Halloween”. Long shots and very muted music, subtle and subdued, but effective. The story pulls you in immediately, but not in a jarring way. No, the tone is softer than that, almost lulling, but haunting, all at once.

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At times I was reminded of Sofia Coppola’s “The Virgin Suicides” in the style and the pace of the film. Something, too, in the beauty of it. The story unfolds slowly, and in close up proximity. It almost feels, at times, like the viewer is eavesdropping on these teenagers private moments – some big, some small.

The movie does not rely on jump scares, gratuitous gore or nudity, or manipulative music to make the viewer feel. You feel because of the story, because of the acting, because of the emotions, and because there is something so off-kilter and unusual going on. This isn’t about a STD haunting, but instead, it feels like a kind of coming-of-age, and coming to grips with the reality of growing-up, and one’s own mortality – but wrapped up in a horror package.

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This isn’t a cautionary tale on sex, or the old trope that only the virgin lives. Our final girl wasn’t a virgin at the start, and she has other final friends who make it to the end (though it is arguable that they have survived anything permanently). I read a comparison somewhere to “My So-Called Life” and it made me laugh a little, but also kind of agree. There is a realism to these characters, to teenage life, as well as a timelessness to it (if it wasn’t for the presence of cellphones, I’d almost think this was set in the late 80’s/early 90’s).

Don’t get me wrong, the movie terrified me. And it left me looking behind my own shoulder the next day…just because…

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If you enjoy horror with some thinking involved (and nothing wrong with horror that is mindless either – love those, too), then I highly recommend this one. It is definitely making it to my favorite horror movie list.

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Boys on the Side and Thelma and Louise :: Tuesday Double-Feature

For this week’s “Tuesday Double-Feature” I decided to feature stories about female friendship and the road. Both movies I selected involve road trips and running away from things in one, or more, of the women’s lives that carry with them consequence, both legal, and otherwise. The two films chosen also illustrate the strong bond of friendship, and how it can overcome just about anything. Warning, though, they both have sadness in the end, but they also have laughter and love, action and suspense, and the kind of best friendship that is rare and wonderful. Oh, and the movies in this “Tuesday Double-Feature” also celebrate road trips, something I love and am currently longing for. I could think of more than a few more “road trip” movies, and may resurrect this theme again before Summer ends, but for today the two movies I chose are Boys on the Side and Thelma and Louise.

1Boys on the Side (1995)
Written by Don Roos
Directed by Herbert Ross

I don’t know what it is but there’s something that goes on between women. You men know that because it’s the same for you. I’m not saying one sex is better then the other. I’m just saying, like speaks to like. Love or whatever doesn’t always keep. So you found out what does, if you’re lucky.” ~ Robin

Trailer

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 Alright, let’s start with a movie about an unlikely threesome of women travelling across country together, Jane (Whoppi Goldberg), a lounge singer from New York in search of a new life after she loses her job and her girlfriend, Holly (Drew Barrymore), a pregnant girl who just wants to escape her abusive boyfriend, and Robin (Mary-Louise Parker), an uptight real estate agent who wants to recreate a trip she made with her family when she was a young girl, and who is carrying a big secret about herself, and her health.

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Friendship is key here, and though they seem to all have their differences at first, and all three certainly come from very different walks of life, it is life itself that forges a bond between them that is deeper than family, and stronger than any lover any of them have ever had. They save each other, more than once. They confide in one another. They help bring a new life into the world, and build a new reality together, one borne out of both need and necessity. Although they cannot heal each other physically, they heal each other emotionally, gifting each other a safe place to call home, and security that they all desperately needed, even if they did not realize it.

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Keep your eyes peeled for a young Matthew McConaughey playing a young police officer who falls for the pregnant, sort of outlaw, Holly, who may, or may not have, killed the abusive father of her baby.

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Boys on the Side is one of those movies that will certainly bring me to tears every single time I watch, and also make me feel very grateful for the friends I have in my life, the kind of friends that would go cross-country with you to get to a gig, to fulfill a last rite of passage, and to get as far away from an abusive partner as possible. This movie makes me want to hit the road with my best female friends, packing copious amounts of music to listen to, and sing-a-long to, stopping at all the roadside attractions, and stopping to fill-up monster sized travel coffee cups.

1The soundtrack is one of my favorite 90’s albums. I almost bought a CD copy of it over the weekend when I found it in a clearance bin, but unfortunately it had the wrong CD inside the case. In the meantime, I put together a Spotify playlist here with some of the songs from the soundtrack. Unfortunately, it is missing great tracks from Stevie Nicks, Bonnie Raitt, Toni Childs and Melissa Etheridge that are not on Spotify, but its better than nothing.

Somebody Stand by Me :: Stevie Nicks

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Time for intermission…

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Now back to the show…

1Thelma and Louise (1991)
Written by Callie Khouri
Directed by Ridley Scott

“I don’t ever remember feeling this awake.” ~Thelma

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Second movie is a story about two best friends, Thelma (Geena Davis) and Louise (Susan Sarandon), who set out for a two-day vacation to take a break from their dreary lives. Thelma is married to a controlling, asshat of a man, Darryl (Christopher McDonald), while Louise works as a waitress in a diner, and is dating a musician who spends most of his time on the road. They head out in Louise’s 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible, but their vacation in the mountains quickly turns into a nightmare before they reach their destination.

This was meant to be a fun escape for the two of them, a kind of trip I’d love to take with one of my best friends, but an unexpected stop at a roadside truck-stop bar changes everything. An attempted rape turns in to murder turns into Thelma and Louise on the run. During their “escape” the two discover things about themselves, and about each other, that they never knew. They open up and become strangely free, even though their lives are destined to be anything but free.

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It sounds so very serious, and at times it certainly is. But, there are lighter moments, too, and empowering ones, as well. The story helped open up a dialogue for many women I knew, including myself, about assault and rape in their own lives, which is the unintentional happy ending to a movie whose ending is more tragic, than happy.

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Thelma and Louise also reinforced how I feel about certain unshakable women in my life, those kind of friendships that nothing breaks.

Ending

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Valley Girl and Pretty in Pink :: Tuesday Double-Feature

1Valley Girl (1983)
Written by Wayne Crawford & Andrew Lane
Directed by Martha Coolidge

shouting over the noise just as the music ends] “So, when can I see you again?” ~ Randy

[embarrassed] “Gee, Randy… why don’t you wait until the end of the evening to say these things?” ~ Julie

It’s how I feel. It’s what I want.” ~ Randy

I’m here with you now.” ~ Julie

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For this week’s “Tuesday Double-Feature” I wanted to not only feature two of my favorite movies, but also two movies that have teen love stories where both are from different “sides of the tracks”. Star-crossed, in some ways, but more like money and society separated. This is not a Romeo and Juliet kind of situation, there are no feuding families, or suicide endings. No, instead this is more the pressures of high school groups, and the audacity to step over the invisible dividing lines to fall in love. There are other movies that I could showcase for this theme. I could probably do an entire month’s worth of Double-Features, but for today I chose two that I personally love, and would enjoy seeing back to back – Pretty In Pink and Valley Girl.

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Let’s start with a story about a girl from the Valley who falls for a punk boy from Hollywood. I love this story, and in some ways can understand Julie’s attraction to Randy. I may have not grown-up in the Valley, per se, but Orange County was not too far from the social standards and “dividing lines”. I fell for more than one Hollywood boy, though not when I was in high school, but not too long after. Though, the irony of the two Hollywood boys I fell for is that they both lived in the Valley, but spent their time hanging-out in Hollywood. Wow, that reads a lot more complicated than it ever was.

I think Julie (Deborah Foreman) would get it.

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My best friend and I watched this movie obsessively (along with Modern Girls, Sid and Nancy and Dogs in Space) nearly every Saturday night for months on end, so much so that the family fun video store (Video Sky) down the street would often just hand them to us as we walked in. I wanted to be Julie, I think, and melt away with Randy (Nicolas Cage). Hearing the song below, well, there is a little part of me that still wouldn’t mind melting away with that boy from Hollywood, or at least sharing a soda with him at Du-par’s.

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I Melt With You :: Modern English
with scenes from Valley Girl

Julie’s friends didn’t approve of Randy, though there was never reasons given. It was more a case of “same with same“, within the social constructs of cliques in high school. Everyone wants to belong at that age, and there are few that step outside of the norm, unless of course they are out of the norm already (funny, isn’t it, that the misfits and outcasts seem to have more freedom in the teen years).

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Randy’s friends don’t seem much to mind, though the only friend of his we ever meet is Fred (Cameron Dye), who I’m not sure counts as he seems eager to get with one of Julie’s friends, just not as seriously as Randy is.

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Ultimately, it is Julie who wants to cross the divide, and let her heart win over any pressure from friends, though she has her moments of doubts. Some of the best parts of the story arc are Julie’s parents (misfits themselves), and her interactions with them, as well as times with Julie and her friends (even if they can be hard on her for her choices). I also love the dating montage we are given between Julie and Randy, that actually lasts for an entire song!

And, speaking of songs, the soundtrack is one of my eighties favorites – see for yourself here.

MPW-39945Intermission time…

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What’s your favorite movie treat to get at the lobby snack bar?

1Pretty in Pink (1986)
Written by John Hughes
Directed by Howard Deutch

If somebody doesn’t believe in me, I can’t believe in them.” ~ Andie

Trailer

The second feature is one of my all-time favorite movies, and my number 1/2 (tied with/sometimes second to The Breakfast Club) John Hughes movie, 1986’s Pretty in Pink. Molly movies hold a special place in my heart as we are both the same age, and every movie she came out with in her teen years, were during the same age of my teen years. This one , though, is the Molly-movie I relate to the most.

The story of a girl raised by a single parent, who grew up on the “wrong side of the tracks”, went to a High School with a bunch of rich kids who seemed to think they were better because of money and status, who worked in a record store, and whose best friend was just as quirky as she was (if not more) could be ripped pages from my own upbringing. I wore thrift shop clothes that I pieced together to come up with something that fit together with a sense of self I was trying to come up with. I listened to music that was on the fringes of punk and goth, alternative when it really was alternative, and hung out at darkened, smokey clubs where some of these bands played. I knew what it was like to have to be a grown-up and the responsible one in my teen years, not necessarily by choice.

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I wish I’d had an Iona (Annie Potts), and a record store job, in my teen years though. I would get a record store job right out of high school, but I wish I’d had it during.

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She was a Mom to Andie, and a best girlfriend, and a mentor, as well as a boss, and Annie Potts definitely stole every scene she was in, with the only exception possibly when Duckie does his dance to Otis Redding, a favorite music in movie scene of mine.

Try a Little Tenderness

My Duckie (Jon Cryer) and Blaine (Andrew McCarthy) came a few years after High School, though I watch the movie now and can see both the attraction and detraction in both choices. That said, I still believe Duckie was the better choice. No matter how many times I watch Blaine tell Andie that he believed in her, just did not believe in himself, I still do not believe it. He felt spineless to me, and hurt her more than he ever seemed to be there for her. Yes, there were moments, but not enough to warrant her choice at the end.

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Duckie, on the other hand, was always there for her, no matter what the consequence or cost. I can see why she may not have chosen him, especially as they were such good friends she may not have been able to see him like that, but I do wish she had.

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I hope to someday find, and see, the original cut of the film where she did choose Duckie, and the two of them danced to David Bowie’s Heroes (one of my all-time favorite songs, by the way) at the dance. To me, Duckie was her hero, and always came through.

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Who would you have chosen/wanted her to choose?

Musically speaking, Pretty in Pink is in my top five list of best movie soundtracks ever, featuring some of my best loved bands from the late 80’s: OMD, Suzanne Vega, Inxs, The Psychedelic Furs and New Order. Though, I do think they should have included the Otis Redding song (see above) on the soundtrack, as well as the band from the club scene (and one of Molly Ringwald’s favorite bands at the time), The Rave-Ups.

Listen here.

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I think of you day and night :: Monday Movies

It’s Monday, and I can feel the blues circling around everyone I know. Let’s shake them off, though, and head out to a coffee house (we all need an extra shot of caffeine on a Monday, don’t we?) and find out what happens with an insomniac barista falls for the unavailable boy that she has so much chemistry, and quotable banter with. Can you meet your soul mate in a coffee house? What if said soul mate belongs to someone else? In this installment of the A-to-Z Cinematic Love Story Series, we take a visit to the letter D, and the 1996 movie Dream for an Insomniac.

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Dream for an Insomniac (1996)
Written and Directed by Tiffanie DiBartolo

Trailer

My all-time favorite book, God Shaped Hole, was written by the same author/filmmaker that wrote and directed this movie. The only film she ever created, I was drawn to it because of the love I have for both her books, and because I have always both indie films. Ione Skye, too, was a draw, as she has always been a favorite actor of mine. More than anything else, it was the dialogue and writing that I fell in love with in this film, so much so that a quote from it has become a mantra of mine, and one that I have quoted and shared time and time again.

“Anything less than mad, passionate, extraordinary love is a waste of time. There are too many mediocre things in life to deal with and love shouldn’t be one of them.”

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The cast is very nineties, with Ione Skye and Mackenzie Astin taking the leads, as well as supporting roles played by Jennifer Aniston, Seymour Cassel, and Michael Landes. Frankie (Ione Skye) is my favorite character, one that has made its way to my list of all-time favorite fictional characters, as well as characters I relate to. She is flawed, a dreamer, idealistic, and prone to fantasy and romanticism, and she is so well-read and pop-culture infused. She is a good friend, and loves in big, bold ways, oh, and she also suffers with insomnia, something I can certainly relate to, and empathize with.

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Enter David (Mackenzie Astin) into Frankie’s life, and her world is shaken up and set off-course. They have initial chemistry that is palpable and in vivid color, so bright you could see it across town, and the banter between them is unprecedented. They volley words and phrases and references back-and-forth like its a sport, or foreplay, and it is impossible not to root for them. David is sure he can help cure Frankie’s insomnia, too, and she is more than willing to let him try. All seems perfect and fated and wonderful, all except for the fact that David has a girlfriend who is not Frankie.

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What is left for Frankie to do but prove to David that he is in the wrong love story, and that the two of them is the only tale worth telling. How can she not fight for it? Your soul mate only comes into your coffee shop once in a lifetime, after all.

Confrontation on the beach

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Dream for an Insomniac also offers up a rather keen soundtrack full of a mixture of indie tunes and old standby’s that fit picture perfectly with the story, style and feel of the film. My only complaint? The fact that I cannot seem to find a copy of the soundtrack for my own collection. Here’s one I threw together on Spotify – listen here.

Also, can I please have all of Frankie’s wardrobe? Please.

Words and Pictures (2013) :: Lunch and a Movie

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Lunch & a Movie Series :: Words & Pictures (2014)
Written by Gerald DiPego
Directed by Fred Schepisi

Trailer

About the Movie: Words and Pictures tells the story of a troubled, but enigmatic English teacher (Clive Owen) and a new, somewhat disabled, stoic art teacher (Juliette Binoche) collide at an upscale prep school. A high-spirited courtship begins between the two educators as they challenge each other intellectually, first in word games, and then in the fundamentals of their teaching specialties (English vs. Art). This battle starts to involve, and ignite, their students, as they all join in the battle to prove which is more powerful, the word or the picture (see title). The true battle though is internal, as each of them battle their own demons and difficulties while they both try to connect with each other.

Brief SynopsisCroyden is an upscale college preparatory school in Maine that hires teachers for their advanced courses who are accomplished professionals, and who also are active in their specialties (publishing, producing art, etc.).

Jack Marcus (Clive Owen) is a writer and poet who teaches the advanced writing class. He’s a good teacher who inspires his students. He demonstrates how some carefully chosen words and phrases can stimulate the listener’s imagination to produce vivid mental imagery. One particular grievance of his involves the way in which young developing minds have been hijacked by the tedious distractions of modern technical gadgetry. On a personal note, he seems to be afflicted with writer’s block and hasn’t come out with any original work in several years. He publishes the school’s literary magazine, which the school administration is planning to shut down for budgetary reasons. He is a high-functioning alcoholic who chronically arrives late to work and is on the verge of being fired. He is divorced and has an adult son from his first marriage, but they have become estranged because of Jack’s drinking and general irresponsibility.

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Dina Delsanto (Juliette Binoche) is an artist who has just been hired to teach the advanced art class, which has the same students as Jack’s writing class. Dina was a successful painter in New York, but she now has difficulty painting or even walking and engaging in daily activities because of severe rheumatoid arthritis. She can no longer fasten buttons, open medicine bottles or hold paint brushes. She moved to Maine, where her sister and her mother live, so that they can help her during the spells when her arthritis worsens. As a teacher, she is a perfectionist with no interest in her students’ personal lives. She simply wants them to concentrate on creating the best works of art that they can. She shows them the difference between paintings that merely demonstrate craft and paintings that evoke feeling as well. She struggles to paint again by overcoming her physical limitations as well as her own artistic difficulties. She finally creates a good work of art and sets it aside to dry. She has, incidentally, professed a complete disdain for the spoken and printed word. She insists that artistically rendered images are the only worthwhile media for expressing “truth“.

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Jack’s colleagues and friends perceive him as attention-getting, obnoxious and charming. Once he gets wind of Dina’s personal philosophy, he provokes an argument with her over which is more important, words or pictures. Their students are drawn in to the conflict with class assignments demonstrating the superiority of words over pictures or pictures over words. Dina agrees to have her students contribute their own works of art to Jack’s literary magazine. They decide to have an assembly in which each side will put on a presentation arguing the case for words and for pictures. The school administration becomes impressed enough with all of this activity to retain his services as an instructor.

Jack pursues Dina romantically and ultimately succeeds. But, during his first night over, he gets drunk on her vodka and crashes headlong into her newest painting. He further confesses to plagiarizing a poem from his own son, a moral failing for which Dina is even more unforgiving. She throws him out and tells him she doesn’t want to have anything more to do with him.

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He confesses the plagiarism to the school board and hands in his resignation. He asks only to continue for the rest of the year and put on the War on Words and Pictures assembly program. The board grants him his request, and the movie concludes with a satisfying resolution at the aforementioned assembly.

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Why I chose it: Somewhat a random choice, I was drawn to it because of the two leads, who I’ve always enjoyed (have loved Binoche since The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Owen since Children of Men), as well as the subject matter. One of my “dream jobs” would be to teach English at the high school level, so I was drawn to the teaching aspect of the story. I’d never heard of the film, but the description and leads were enough to have me choose it.

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My thoughts in three sentences: Though at first I wasn’t sure I wanted the leads to fall in love, I changed my mind once I saw the life they gave to each other, and the understanding and inspiration. Also, it was nice to see a romance about two people who weren’t young, but instead had some life, and battle scars, in them. I also loved the school and teaching part of it, the intellectual debate, though I wish the ending “battle” had been more than just a catalyst for Jack and Dina to come together.

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Best: Jack in the classroom, and in the teacher’s lounge challenging the other teachers to word games. I loved watching him be alive and lit up with his craft. I also enjoyed the same from Dina, especially in the one-on-one scenes with her, and promising artist/student Emily (Valerie Tian). I love, also, when Dina and Jack are challenging each other.

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Worst: The ending. There was so much build up to the big words vs. pictures battle assembly that I wanted to see more debating, and more of the students arguments and examples, and I wanted it to be more than just a means to the eventual “happy ending” between Jack and Dina. I’m okay that they end up together, happily, I just wanted more integrity to the battle, and then the happy ending after.

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Rating (out of 5): 3.5

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She’s living inside my heart now :: Monday Movies

Moments of love, be them romantic, or heartbreaking, have been an often returned to theme in my writing, and the art I am often attracted to. At times I think it is because I linger too long in the nostalgic gaze of missed opportunities, at other moments I think that in the process of self-understanding I find those most vulnerable times to be defining.

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Sometimes the definitions are ones I would like to abandon on the side of the road. I have had those hide my eyes, cringe-worthy encounters that I run through my head, over and over on a seemingly endless loop, on those nights I lie sleepless, staring at the non-existent stars on the ceiling. I suppose we all have those memories, the ones we wish we could turn back, record over, erase, and rewind.

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I have some breathtaking, beautiful times, too; a few so precious to me that I have not written about them all that often, instead, I have held them inside, clinging internally to their memory, because some moments words just cannot express enough. There are in-between recollections, too. Even in those encounters, though, I still find pieces of myself within; I still learn something.

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Movies about love are like that, too. They span the spectrum of breathtaking to heartbreaking, to the sometimes forgotten middle ground. In my last post I talked about the decrease, and near absence, of romantic movies that cross my path of late. They are still out there, I have found a few here and there, with some digging, and persistence, but they are certainly dancing with extinction in recent days. I did a little theorizing, I kicked some sand at Lloyd Dobler and Troy Dyer (while still holding them close in my younger self’s heart), and pondered the shift to masochistic Romeo’s and break-up believing Juliet’s, but the one thing I did not do is proclaim defeat. The truth of the matter is, I can’t quit the love story, no matter how many knock outs and leave behinds I have faced, and no matter how jaded my life says I should be, I still remain a hopeless romantic inside.

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As a writing project, and a new weekly theme that I am sort of falling in love with, I thought I would explore the cinematic love story by going through an A-to-Z examination of some of my favorites from the past, and from my recent finds. I may make the rounds of the alphabet more than once, and I would love to hear from everyone reading any of their favorites in the letter of the week, especially if it is one I have never seen because I adore a new love to discover. With each choice I hope to not only explore what I love about the selection, but I also hope to uncover, and discover, parts of myself within the choice. Some movies will stir up the past, others may reveal a regret, or a mistake made, and others may be more of a reflection to the places my heart has most recently resided in. As with any of my writing, I hope to learn something about myself, and find new ways and means to express myself in words. Oh, and if you loathe love stories, you may want to avoid this weekly feature.

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About Last Night... (1986)
Written by David Mamet (play), Tim Kazurinsky and Denise DeClue (screenplay)
Directed by Ed Zwick

So, let’s get this started. I have poured myself a cup of coffee and start with a film that was recently remade (no, I haven’t seen the remake yet, but it is on my list) romantic movie that I have always loved, About Last Night (available to stream on Netflix).

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Based on a seventies play by David Mamet, originally titled Sexual Perversity in Chicago, a play I once auditioned during a theater course (I did not get a role in this one, instead was cast in They Shoot Horses Don’t They, another seventies play). The movie version was directed by Edward Zwick, who would go on to produce some of my favorite television series (My So-Called Life, Relativity, Once & Again),  and starred Demi Moore and Rob Lowe as two twenty-somethings embarking on their first experience with “living together” with someone.

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My first time with this film was when I was too young to realize what “living together” entailed. I will admit that it was Rob Lowe’s looks, and Demi’s style and previous role personality that drew me in. I believed in their story, rooting for a happy ending, and was somewhat let down by the uncertainty that the film left me with. I left the theater wanting more of the story, wanting to see Danny and Debbie back together, but instead we just got the “seeing each other again” moment, left open ended intentionally, an end that I tried to string along and follow-up with on sleepless nights. I was always re-writing movies and missed opportunity conversations in my head when insomnia would hit.

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The next time I saw this film it was at after the not so open ended ending that I had with my first “living together” relationship. We had rushed into things, much like Debbie and Danny did, though I think the odds were more in their favor than they ever were for me and mine. We did try to play house though, attempting to recreate our versions of holidays and everyday life, failing more often than not. His best friend was more supportive of me, though, and my best friend, well, she liked him at first, and then changed her mind when she saw the tell-tale unhappiness in my eyes.

UntitledWe did have a “see each other again” moment, a few times actually, and twice we tried to make the moment a “meant to be” kind of thing. We broke and got back together more times than I can count on both hands, each time determined to make it work, and each time having absolutely no fucking clue how to. We had a baby, and that did not help things. We went to couple’s therapy, and he slept with the therapist. We tried the Cosmo paged advice of living out each other’s fantasy, inviting someone else to be in the picture with us, but that backfired, too. She led me away, mesmerized, and had no use for him. The reality shattered what shreds were left of us, and we had to finally reach a finality, conclude that we were never meant to be, and that this was a first time that was not meant to be a forever time.

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No one rooted for us to reconcile, not even us. But, even now when I re-watch this one, I still do root for Debbie and Danny to reconcile. They made some mistakes, but none of them were fatal, none of them could not be worked through. I still watch and believe in them, and yes, I still think Rob Lowe is a beauty, and Demi is iconic and breathtaking. And, in my mind they wind up back together.

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“I think I thought it was going to be different than it...” ~ Danny
than what it was really like? Me, too. Maybe we were just – too naive.” ~ Debbie
Yeah, maybe. Maybe we knew too much.” ~ Debbie

Living Inside My Heart :: Bob Seger

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Another Me (2013) :: Lunch and a Movie

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Lunch & a Movie Series :: Another Me (2013)
Written and Directed by Isabel Coixet
Based on a novel by Cathy MacPhail

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About the Movie: Another Me is a a 2013 Spanish-British film directed by Isabel Coixet. It is based on the novel of the same name by Catherine MacPhail. The film had its world premiere at the Rome Film Festival on November 15, 2013. The film was released in the United States on August 22, 2014. A teenager (Sophie Turner) finds her perfect life upended when she’s stalked by a mysterious doppelganger who has her eyes set on assuming her identity.

Brief Synopsis: Fay is a pretty much typical teenage girl, with the exception of having two parents still married and actively in-love with each other, until her Father’s unexpected illness upends their life, and starts a chain of events that impact Fay’s daily life, and mental stability. Someone seems to be following Fay everywhere she goes, and also playing at being Fay.

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At first it seems mostly an annoyance, but soon becomes both stalking and potentially fatal. At the same time as Fay’s reality is unwinding, her parents are unraveling, as well, as the impact of a debilitating illness wreaks havoc on what seemed like the perfect family. Is this all in Fay’s imagination, the following and the identity stealing? Is it a reaction to the rest of her world collapsing? Or is it something more sinister?

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Why I chose itInstead of my usual Netflix queue to select my next movie from, I thought I’d give HBO GO a whirl, and came across this film that I had not heard of before. It was the cast that attracted me, Sophie Turner, who I’d only ever seen before on Game of Thrones, Jonathan Rhys Meyers because I adore him, Rhys Ifans as he always chooses interesting roles, and Claire Forlani because I’ve wondered whatever became of her after the 90’s. I also tend to love psychological horror, well-told tales of adolescence, and British films, in general.

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My thoughts in three sentencesThough I love supernatural stories, and psychological horror, I think this film would have been better without that element, or if not, that part of the story needed to be handled a bit better in terms of suspense build-up, and more of a climax between Fay and the “supernatural” (trying for no spoilers). That said, the rest of the story I did enjoy, especially the dynamics between Fay and both of her parents individually, and the way Fay realistically depicted the complex feelings elicited when illness and infidelity come in to a family. I also enjoyed the overlap, at times, between the “play in the play” (Macbeth, taking place in the High School), and illusions that happened in the day-to-day life of Fay (i.e. Fay trying to wash the red paint off her hands/Lady MacBeth trying to wash blood off her hands).

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Best: Scenes between Fay and her Mother (Claire Forlani) and her Father (Rhys Ifans) individually, as well as moments when Fay was on her own, dealing with her life, or in some cases, not dealing with it. I also loved the music in this film, both the score by Michael Price, and the cover of Richard Hawley’s You Haunt Me by Lisa Hannigan.

You Haunt Me :: Lisa Hannigan

Worst: The sometimes clumsy/sometimes rushed handling of the supernatural element in the film. I would have also liked to have seen Jonathan Rhys Meyer’s character, John, more flushed out, especially in regards to the relationship he was having in the film, and his encounter with the supernatural element of the story.

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Rating (out of 5): 3.5

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