Wednesday, May 1, 2019

American Animals

Sometime in March, I scrawled a note to myself to see Boogie Nights.  Later that day, picking up holds at the public library, I discovered it in Tim's pile.  We watched it later that night and I felt like I needed three months to recover.  I also discovered, with Mark Wahlberg's full head of hair that, in the right light, with the right angle, he almost does it for me.  I think that means we should all be wearing wigs, all the time.  

After reading my last post, a good friend called it "borderline sacrilege."  Apparently, Reality Bites is one of those movies she quotes with her partner all the time, and though I absolutely stand by my own experience of watching that film as an adult, her reaction threw me into a bit of a panic.

One of my biggest fears about talking openly is of being a jerk and/or crapping on someone else's joy.  The internet is full of cranky opinions.  I never want one of mine to make someone feel bad about something they like or, worse, something they made. At the same time, if I don't like something, I want to be able to say so in a fair and, hopefully, intelligent way.  Do I sound defensive? Ha!  I'm just trying to figure out how to be a good citizen - on the internet, and in the world. 

All this hemming and hawing is an appropriate segue to a film that got mixed reviews when it came out, a movie called American Animals about four college students who stole books from a special collections room at a private college in Kentucky.  An exploration of a true story, American Animals is one part-documentary, one part-fiction.  Using moody imagery and a deliberately overlapped mix of interviews and narrative, it operates as a heist movie with added, real-life gravity.  I loved it.  Tim said it caught flack for being a film about white boys pushing against the limits of their privilege, and while the emotional substance of the film is a little thin, I could not stop thinking about one of its most successful images - the famous pink flamingo from James Audubon's Birds of America, lit up inside a giant glass case inside the special collections room.  I also just appreciated the film's stylish cinematography.  It plays with genre and perspective, as well as veracity in story-telling, and feels like the director is winking right at you, which really worked for me. 

I've watched a few other things, like Maudie, which I liked.  It looked saccharine but was, in fact, pretty moving.  I also can't stop thinking about Call Me By Your Name, for some reason, which I watched last year and loved.  Maybe it's all those summer scenes: the sun in Italy, the bikes and the stone pool, but I'm craving a re-watch.

I'm reading Tonight I'm Someone Else, by Chelsea Hodson, a collection of essays so intense I vibrate when reading it.  When I started it, I couldn't stop sending passages to my friend Amelia, basically reading the book aloud, via text. 

I finally saw The Favourite, which I dragged my feet about because I found The Lobster so disturbing.  Once upon a time, I was on the fence about Rachel Weisz, but after seeing her in Youth, the Paolo Sorrentino film that followed his 2013 masterpiece, The Great Beauty, I'm for her. Youth is less compelling than The Great Beauty, and maybe not as good as The Young Pope, Sorrentino's 2016 HBO series starring Jude Law as - what else? - a young pope, but I'm not sorry I saw it. If anything, Sorrentino has a casting problem.  He gets big American stars but doesn't use them in the best way.  Meanwhile, some of his Italian actors are deployed with perfection.  If you can find a more likeable playboy than Jep in The Great Beauty, I'd like to see it.

To sum: if you can work flamingos on screen, as Sorrentino does in The Great Beauty, or a kangaroo inside the Vatican, as he does in The Young Pope, you've won me.

And now it seems we've come full circle, what with a second flamingo anecdote.  Wishing you magic and mystery in your daily lives, and all the wild animals your dreams can hold.



  1. I haven't seen The Great Beauty!! I think I came across it one day but didnt follow through. Point being, it looks great. Thank you! MOSTLY though, I came here to say that last night we watched Beetlejuice with the kids as it's one of Matt's and my favorite things to do--watch movies we grew up on with them--and guess what makes a split-second appearance? James Audubon's Birds of America! Also worth noting? Beetlejuice gropes the woman ghost for laughs. :( :( :( :(

  2. Oh WOWWWWW I had not caught that appearance of Birds of America! But I saw it when I was so young, it's entirely possible I had more knowledge of Beetlejuice than I did James Audubon (both are really weird, though). I had a real thing for Michael Keaton back in the day. I can't believe your kids can handle that movie! Everyone's makeup is so terrifying. And young, skinny Alec Baldwin! He's not scary, but it's sort of mind-blowing to see him in those early movies now. I HIGHLY recommend The Great Beauty, but it's long and rambly, so buckle up for some lovely, meaningful meandering. XOOX


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