December 19, 2018

THE FAVOURITE

FavouriteAvant-garde filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Lobster”) breaks with making half-baked experimental films (“Dogtooth”) in an attempt to go mainstream. Good luck with that. Lanthimos is still making half-baked movies. 

“The Favourite is an ostensibly ribald period drama penned by upstart screenwriter Deborah Davis and television scripter Tony McNamara. The predictably vanilla result is a cup more empty than full.

Queen Anne (wonderfully played for keeps by Olivia Colman) holds court in early 18th century England with the assistance of her trusted maidservant Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), the Duchess of Marlborough. Blenheim Palace is the visually stunning setting for all sort of political and sexual intrigue amongst every resident and visitor.

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Lady Sarah’s oh-so moderne cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) has fallen on hard times when she arrives at the palace, after being kicked into the mud, to call on Sarah’s generosity. Emma Stone is no Marlene Dietrich. Naturally, Sarah installs Abigail as a lowly maid rather than show her any familial favor. Abigail wastes no time earning fast promotion to become her aloof cousin’s number one rival. Abigail’s newly elevated status involves giving head to the Queen. The tasty honor comes at a premium since it means usurping Lady Sarah’s place in the Queen’s heart — cough.

“The Favourite” is a sexed up costume drama that feigns transgression without ever committing to the necessary nasty and naughty perversions essential to sell the goods. It seems that Yorgos Lanthimos has never seen “Caligula.” Where oh where are all those bodily fluids? Some audiences will giggle over the film's rampant use of the C-word in the Old World but so what? Brits do that every day. Too bad John Waters didn’t get his Vaseline-stained paws on this script to defile it in a way that could really speak to modern society’s porn-happy, politically saturated, technology-dulled senses the way it deserves. Von Trier could also have worked a few tricks on this (in-dire-need-of-a-rewrite) script. What a squandered opportunity.

The-favourite

The transgression genre desperately needs some new blood, or some very dirty old blood. Modern Cinema needs it badly. “The Favourite” isn’t even a pale imitation of the sardonic satire that it aspires to. Where is the Marquis de Sade when you need him most?

Rated R. 119 mins. (C-) 

November 07, 2018

THE WORLD BEFORE YOUR FEET

World Before Your FeetMatt Green’s labor of love to walk all 8000-plus blocks (between 6000 and 8000 miles) of New York City’s streets has taken over six years to complete. Green’s insatiable curiosity about the concrete, glass, and stone fabric of “the most populous city in the United States” is contagious. Dressed frequently in the same clothes, and shoes, the thirtysomething Green couch-surfs while frequently cat (or dog) sitting while spending around $15 a day on transportation and food. His is a monk-like existence introduces him to a range of locals who he never fails to charm with his pedestrian story of urban exploration that is nothing if not a living celebration of New York City’s five boroughs. The Queens Museum’s Panorama of New York City (built for the 1964 World’s Fair) gives a sense of scale.

Matt Green

Another aspect of Matt Green’s mission involves constant online research that he turns into articles for his website (imjustwalkin.com) after visiting specific locations. Green is a fountain of historic information. He describes former synagogues turned churches (churchagogues) that dot New York City neighborhoods. Harlem, East New York, South Bronx, and Brownsville once had significant Jewish communities that have been replaced by an ever-changing population. If you look closely at these sanctuaries you can see traces of their religious origins.   

Documentarian Jeremy Workman (son of the revered documentarian Chuck Workman) underscores the film with an array of appropriate instrumental music that lends an emotional underpinning to the seamless editing that transitions from distant neighborhoods like Flatbush, Brooklyn to Gramercy Park, Manhattan. The effect is a feast for the eyes, ears, and heart.

World Before Your Feet

Executive produced by Jesse Eisenberg and Allen Altman, here is a delightful documentary that beckons to be revisited.

“The World Before Your Feet” is an exquisitely profound cinematic historic document on New York City. That might be a mouthful, but Jeremy Workman connects Matt Green’s foot journey to the real-time scale of New York City and to the soul of its citizens. This inspired documentary is perfect. Don’t miss it.

Five Stars

Returning guest co-host documentarian Jeremy Workman discusses his new film THE WORLD BEFORE YOUR FEET and his dad Chuck Workman's Beat Generation documentary THE SOURCE over BROOKLYN OKTOBERFEST from Brooklyn Brewery.

JEREMY WORKMAN


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November 05, 2018

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

Bohemian_rhapsody“Bohemian Rhapsody” achieves its dramatic goal of celebrating the unforgettable music of a groundbreaking rock band whose omnisexual lead singer Freddie Mercury remains a revered pop figure for many good reasons. As with any biopic, this film’s success relies on the ability of the actor portraying the film’s subject to inhabit that person entirely. Indeed, Rami Malek carries off a spitting-image portrayal of Freddie Mercury that wins you over from his first appearance as a singer whose signature overbite allowed Mercury a greater singing range. Who knew an overbite could be so musically effective?

As the filmmakers make clear, the title of the film isn’t “Freddie Mercury.” Fans may well quibble over this film’s sanitized rendition of Mercury’s voracious appetite for sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. However, the movie displays the band’s unorthodox musical methods and interpersonal conflicts toward creating anthemic songs that you’ll be humming in your sleep for days if not weeks after seeing it.  

Freddie Mercury

Actor Gwilym Lee is unrecognizable in his portrayal of Queen’s guitarist Brian May. You can’t help but get a charge out of Lee’s spot-on portrayal of Queen’s charismatic guitarist. Mike Myers turns in an equally impressive act of disguise as Ray Foster, an EMI record label executive (a composite character of several EMI geniuses) who screwed up what would have been a lucrative deal with Queen had he endorsed their experimental approach to songwriting that birthed the film’s title track.

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Dramatic liberties are taken. Pet peeves will be had. I wish they had used the [actual] clip of Freddie Mercury and David Bowie singing their amazing “Under Pressure” duet. Would it have been too much of a cheat to let the audience revel in that dynamic musical moment in time? It certainly could have provided some insight into why Mercury abandoned his bandmates.

Enough splitting hairs, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a fun ride that will put a lump in your throat, a tear in your eye, and more than one terrific song in your heart. Go with it.  

Rated PG-13. 134 mins. (A) 

Five Stars

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