Carol Takes the Train

Carol Christmas

In Todd Haynes’ picture-perfect design of aching mid-century refinement and repression, Carol (adapted from the Patricia Highsmith novel, The Price of Salt), our titular maddening matron (Cate Blanchett) meets her soon-to-be lover/shop girl Therese (Rooney Mara) in the toy department while looking for a doll for her four-year girl for Christmas.  Therese convinces her instead to buy a train set.  The whole film, delicately detailed and quietly chugging along, is like that perfectly constructed train set – and the characters are all there perfect in their places…until they aren’t…until their desires cause everything that was supposed to represent the American Dream in the 1950’s to derail.

Haynes and his lead, Blanchett, are firmly in their wheelhouses.  Blanchett is right at home depicting a troubled woman stuck at the echelons of society in an impossibly well-do-family with a controlling husband (Kyle Chandler) and adorable little girl with impossibly WASPy names like Harge and Rindy.  She was made to play this type of role, a woman of carefully controlled mannerisms hiding her repression and passions.  Continue reading

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If It Was Never New and It Never Gets Old Then It’s a Coen Brothers Film

Inside Llewyn Davis - Oscar Isaac and Cat

The milieu of Inside Llewyn Davis wraps around the Coen Brothers and their audience like a cozy sweater in the dead of winter.  Watching it is akin to sitting down with an old friend you haven’t seen for years during the holidays, perhaps with hot tea or coffee cupped in your chapped hands, a fireplace hopefully roaring nearby, and listening to them tell a story…maybe one you’ve heard before, maybe one that seems new only to reveal the classic themes of your lives, and you’re held wrapt, comfortable, and full of bittersweet feelings.

The film, which chronicles the ups and – well, let’s be honest – primarily downs of gallows humor-laden folk singer Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac, perfectly melancholy and full of piss and heartache), is bathed in the soft muted glows and dark greys of wintertime and 1960’s New York City, strung up wall to wall with amazing folk tunes, and filled to the brim with opportunities and love lost.  The Coens, who previously found their hearts tied to music with their blue-grass fueled Southern-fried odyssey O’ Brother Where Art Thou? have never had their love of music tied more closely to their themes – the film (like all of their best films, lest we forget the homespun folksy wisdom of Fargo) is itself a kind of folk song.  There are hints of an odyssey here, too, as Llewyn flounders about from place to place struck with bad luck, bad timing and a perpetual failing when it comes to life’s big decisions, and he finds a bit of a kindred animal spirit in a series of cats who cross his path on their own odysseys through life, and one of the felines is not coincidently named Ulysses. Continue reading

The Two Faces of Cate Blanchett and Woody Allen in Blue Jasmine

Blue Jasmine 2

Happy Jasmine

Blue Jasmine

Blue Jasmine

In Woody Allen’s last dramatic mini-masterpiece, Match Point, his protagonist showed that with a bit of hard work, and a bit of good luck, a person could get away with anything…even murder.  But maybe the old Woodster really wasn’t that cynical, and maybe he wanted to atone for that message.  Allen has plenty to atone for.  And so does Wall Street.  His latest, Blue Jasmine, shares a bit thematically with Match Point in its depiction of charades and human beings willing to do anything (even start Ponzi schemes) to hold onto the good life, but it also shows that bad luck is just as easy to conjure as good luck.  Here, Allen’s culprit (Alec Baldwin) gets caught, and Allen depicts the aftershocks of a Madoff-like scandal through the eyes of the criminal’s fractured wife.  With its bi-coastal setting hopscotching timeframes between New York and San Francisco, Allen seems to be atoning for all the time he spent in Europe, and perhaps communally for Wall Street’s dirty deeds…for the gilded life he’s lived for so long in New York alongside those financial schemers…for the snobbery…for the elitism…the casually charming arrogance of it all.  Every good thing comes to an end…right?  And all we need to get through it is a little vodka and Xanax. Continue reading

The Incendiary Game

I spent the weekend visiting friends in NYC.

On Saturday night, I suggested we see Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams. They shot me down – I get it, not everyone wants to look at 30,000 year-old cave paintings – and then they suggested In a Better World. Darn – I’ve seen it already, and it’s not worth a repeat.

Wait!  They say, what about this movie Incendies?

Okay…I remember seeing the preview for that.  Looks dramatic as hell.  It’s gotten some great reviews.  It was nominated for an Oscar.  Let’s give it a shot.

There’s drama in hell.

Hot holy hell – what a trial it was to sit through this film.

– POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD –  Continue reading

Sidney Lumet Dead at 86

Legendary filmmaker Sidney Lumet (1924-2011), whose cinematic depiction of his hometown of New York is rivaled only by Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen in terms of lasting and prolific impressions, passed away in Manhattan on Saturday, April 9th, at age 86 from lymphoma.

You can’t say the man didn’t have a long and fruitful life, as he directed films for over half a century from the 1950’s all the way through the 2000’s, with successful stints directing stage and TV as well.  I had feared for a while Lumet might be near the end as the workaholic who never turned down a job had no projects in the works since 2007’s Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, which I initially named as the second best film of that amazing year behind only There Will be Blood.

For me, Lumet will always be remembered for directing one of my top five favorite films of all time – Network. Continue reading

Spotlight on the Independent Arts: Save Yourself

It’s time again for The Schleicher Spin to put a Spotlight on the Independent Arts.  

The goal of this recurring feature is to give exposure to, encourage collaboration with, and provide honest critiques for independent artists.  The plan is to feature filmmakers, writers, photographers, painters and musicians.  As an independent author, I feel it’s important to support and celebrate those working independently to forge their careers in the arts.   

If you are an independent artist interested in having your film, book, music or art considered by The Schleicher Spin for a Spotlight feature, please submit a comment. 

Our current entry will focus on the new full length album from New York’s own Robbie Gil, Save Yourself

Robbie Gil : Save Yourself

The Lowdown:  Robbie Gil should be no stranger to Spin readers or to fans of the New York City music scene.  He’s been featured before on Spotlight on the Independent Arts and is regular headliner at Manhattan’s legendary Rockwood Music Hall.  Recently he released a new album, Save Yourself, which can be purchased at one of his shows or through cdbaby.com.  Older songs from his album Stumble Inn and his EP Lightning in a Bottle are also available on iTunes.

Maybe it’s my bias as a writer, but my favorite musicians are those who are first and foremost masterful storytellers – the Bruce Springsteens, the Fiona Apples – they know not only how to craft a tune, but also how to tell a compelling story in as few choice words as possible.  Robbie Gil, with his “Cat Stevens-by-way-of-Ray LaMontagne” vibe is no different.  Continue reading

Spotlight on the Independent Arts: Uptown

***This is the third post in a new feature I plan to showcase here at The Schleicher Spin called Spotlight on the Independent Arts.  

The goal is to give exposure to, encourage collaboration with, and provide honest critiques for independent artists.  I hope to feature filmmakers, writers, photographers, painters and musicians.  As an independent author, I feel it’s important to support and celebrate those working independently to forge their careers in the arts.   

If you are an independent artist interested in having your film, book, music or art considered by The Schleicher Spin for a Spotlight feature, please submit a comment. 

The third entry will focus on the true indie flick, Uptown

Chris Riqhuina and Meissa Hampton star in UPTOWN.

Independent Film:  Uptown

The Lowdown:  An aspiring filmmaker (Chris Riquinha) goes on a date with a young woman (Meissa Hampton) he hopes to cast in his new film only to find out that she is married, a startling fact he doesn’t let get in the way of making an emotional connection. Continue reading

Spotlight on the Independent Arts: Robbie Gil

***This is the second post in a new feature I plan to showcase here at The Schleicher Spin called Spotlight on the Independent Arts.  

The goal is to give exposure to, encourage collaboration with, and provide honest critiques for independent artists.  I hope to feature filmmakers, writers, photographers, painters and musicians.  As an independent author, I feel it’s important to support and celebrate those working independently to forge their careers in the arts.   

If you are an independent artist interested in having your film, book, music or art considered by The Schleicher Spin for a Spotlight feature, please submit a comment. 

The second entry will focus on independent singer/songwriter Robbie Gil

Independent Singer/Songwriter: Robbie Gil

The Lowdown:  If you’re in the know, the first thing you’ll think of when you hear Robbie Gil is, “Damn, he sounds a lot like Ray LaMontagne.  Hell, they even look a bit alike.”  Continue reading

Difficult Difficult Lemon Difficult

...oh, YES WE CAN!

...oh, YES WE CAN!

A review of IN THE LOOP:

Satire is so hard to pull off.  It’s so far from being “easy peasy lemon squeezy” I would go as far to say that it’s “difficult difficult lemon difficult.”  It’s a British term, you’ll catch on soon.

For the past ten years satire has been regulated to animation (the South Park movie), puppetry (Team America), and well, something called Sacha Baron Cohen, and let’s be honest, is that even real satire, or just mockery?  We really haven’t seen anything live-action of this sort since Wag the Dog, which is why it’s so refreshing to be back In the Loop.  And guess what?  Politics are funny again!

In the Loop is the minor masterstroke of Armando Iannucci, and his central conceit is to imagine a Dr. Strangelove “rush to war” scenario done up in a modern context and filmed like an episode of “The Office” — the British version.  Jesse Armstrong and Simon Blackwell provide the fire power through their whiplash inducing witty dialogue that in turn is spewed forth by a live-wire cast of American and British veterans all playing their A-game. Continue reading

Do Not Make Me Stop This Bus

From the low-brow satire of Sacha Baron Cohen to the high-brow satire of Irene Nemirovsky…from an obscene film preaching tolerance to a museum depicting the obscene cost of intolerance…it was an interesting, albeit low-key and contemplative visit to New York City this weekend.

Here’s the rundown:

Saturday Morning:  I hopped on the bus and endured sitting behind a trio of non-stop nattering nitwits.  Luckily I had my Best American Short Stories  book with me, and I especially enjoyed reading Johnathan Lethem’s hilariously pretentious “The King of Sentences” in the context of sitting behind my unfortunately histrionic and vapidly loquacious travel companions.  If only I could come up with a perfect sentence to describe the situation that would make the King proud! Continue reading