ART & CULTURE In AMERICAN LIFE


( the following I wrote was in response to a review that appeared in the Roger Ebert site: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/labor-day-2013 )

I would argue that it’s because technology is so pervasive in our lives today that the most basic elements that can bring us together – like playing toss or changing a tire, or yes – even making a pie from scratch – are things that are absent from the DNA of the current generation of those under 45. Performing simple physical acts, finding joy in physical labor and repeating those on a regular basis…these are things that are missing in that age group today that uses it’s index fingers and thumbs to begin and end connections to other humans. LABOR DAY is a wonderfully executed throw back to the very era of filmmaking and stories that some reviewers criticize.
Dealing with the struggle of a deep depression that Winslet’s character is facing goes way beyond her being ‘a lonely divorcee’. To simplify it that way misses the point of the story entirely: it’s about the forces that bring us together in spite of our flaws and the damages done to our psyches.
The two adult actors are so capable in these leads that they were willing to risk these quieter performances instead of the bombastic hurling-sex-in-our-faces that is more common in film today. The youngest actor in this predominant triad was refreshingly convincing as well: caught in that small window in his pre-teen years, Gatlin Griffith reminded me of seeing Natalie Portman for the first time in The Professonal – a performer to look out for. Directing young actors as well as choosing WHICH of the adult actors will best bring out the chemistry in the required scenes can make-or-break any film. Under Winslet’s confident umbrella of ‘been-there, done-that’, Griffith is able to benefit from her wisdom and gentle influence and it translates for the viewer to our benefit as well.
Reitman has evoked a by-gone style of story telling in LABOR DAY. I had a visceral reaction
that caused trickery of my mind to almost SMELL the font yard with its grasses and car grease, the tension in those retail stores, the thickness of that humid air, and yes – even the peaches coming out of the oven.
Maybe some reviewers need to lock up their laptops and cell phones and hop in a car and drive to the countryside for at least three days, pick up some dirt and let it flow through your fingers to understand how all that feels when the world seems against you and you’ve lost something precious that was taken away forever. LABOR DAY is truly a breath of REAL cinema in all the sea of action films and their drawn out sequels of numbness towards humanity.

Written & Performed by Liberty Bradford Mitchell

(The eldest daughter of the slain porn owner of The Mitchell Brothers in SF)

Some writers should not read their own work out loud and publish to digital books. Their own vocal ability to capture the ears and hold them often doesn’t prove a success. ‘The Pornographer’s Daughter’ is a case where I felt like I was experiencing a piece that was being workshopped: unfinished.

There is no question that the material is rich and the possibilities are many for visual expression as well as storytelling; I just didn’t feel like Liberty has the acting chops or chemistry/charisma to pull this off as well as if another actress were portraying her.

While I had compassion and felt the humor (in the first half), the second half just drug onward and my brain kept coming up with the following: ‘Who could have been cast to play this lead?” Then, a plethora of names of female comedic actresses came to mind. That is never a good sign when witnessing an autobio piece unfolding before your eyes in an intimate venue.

Made into a film starring Kristen Wiig would be fabulous.

For anyone who was living in the Bay Area when the murder of Liberty’s father happened, the SF Chronicle ran almost DAILY juicy bits with gruesome details and speculation. Here it is all these years later, and the daughter who has written this interesting piece finally reveals that even she never got the answer as to WHY her uncle decided to kill his own brother like he did.

Here’s a lengthy, good article about the real story:

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Growing-up-moving-on-in-porn-s-shadow-4185091.php

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http://thegirlsintheband.com
The documentary, The Girls in the Band premiered in the San Francisco Bay Area on January 17 & 18, 2014. At both screenings, a panel of female jazz musicians was present to address their responses to the content of the film. At the second screening which was held at The California Film Institute, (Jan 18), Director Judy Chaikin & Producer Nancy Kissock introduced the panel which consisted of the following female musicians: Ellen Seeling, Trumpeteer/Activist of Jazz & Women/Founder of The Montclair Women’s Big Band/ jazz trumpet teacher, UC Berkeley;
Dr. Christy Dana, Professor of Music at UC Berkeley;
Laura Klein, Pianist/Composer/Co Bandleader with FivePlay Jazz Quintet/ Faculty UC Berkeley, teacher of the Alexander Method;
Destiny Muhammad, Harpist/Composer/Bandleader;
Erika Oba, Pianist/Faculty, The Jazzschool

This is PART I of 4 parts.

WARNING TO THOSE WHO HAVE NOT YET SEEN THESE FILMS- THESE DO CONTAIN SPOILERS.

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS   (See Below)

BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR (See Below)

LAST DAYS ON MARS    http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_last_days_on_mars/

EVE’S BAYOU: I have to revisit this one as a third viewing is planned next week (by Dec 30, 2013)

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/eves_bayou/

SAVING MR. BANKS     http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/saving_mr_banks_2013/

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY   http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/august_osage_county/

THE BOOK THIEF     http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_book_thief/

Other posts from my Facebook:

ALL IS LOST: https://www.facebook.com/notes/joey-brite/all-is-lost-orwhere-is-the-sextant-when-you-need-one/10151900734974681

MUD comment: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/mud-2013

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (I’m the only person I know who did NOT love this film):https://www.facebook.com/notes/joey-brite/beasts-of-the-southern-wild-review/10151062109734681

MEEKS CUT-OFF:  https://www.facebook.com/notes/joey-brite/meeks-cutoff-my-review-didnt-make-it-into-nyt-comment-section-a-shortened-versio/10150203666629681

BRIDESMAIDS: https://www.facebook.com/notes/joey-brite/bridesmaids-pure-gold-all-wrapped-up-inside-some-kind-of-funny-geniuses/10150210693384681

Barton Fink is still my favorite Coen Bros film.They had me at Blood Simple and I have only seen a consistent effort to create great visual storytelling with each project we are lucky enough to be graced with. Why this particular film is being promoted as their ‘best’ is just hype to me. Creative use of PR to gain attention to the fact that I’ve had to wait like so many others for another brilliantly birthed piece of American cinema coming from these two minds.
These artist-siblings use a kind of torturous whimsy that demonstrates time and again that they are unafraid to dig into the not-so-likable characters that most humans can be. Most humans ARE.
I LOATHE this character of Llewyn Davis. I wanted for someone to shut a door on HIM in the rain and cold of that car and simply walk away. I was so done with his narcissistic, anti-social behavior that if it were not for the brilliant acting of Oscar Isaac that made me want to watch him sing each time he did, I would have walked away from the screen. Which causes me to say this: this is my least favorite film the Coen Bros. have made. That is separate though from the fact that I feel this is yet another really good film from the Coen’s: I just did not like the protagonist of this one. At all.
So I am back to repeating that I believe the Coen Bros are one of the best reasons to go to the movies with anything they make. When it comes to the idea of ‘best’ in a large body of work over decades now, if you ARE a Coen Bros fan, I think that ‘favorite’ is a better descriptive to use. All the elements it takes to make a great film in the end has to be because they all fit well together: the music, the direction, the sets, the wardrobe, the lighting, the casting, the sound quality, the use of the camera, etc. For me, the Coen’s have ALWAYS GOTTEN IT RIGHT. And that is an enormous positive in a culture that screams out for sequels and main characters with guns in their hands. Inside Llewyn Davis gives us a fictionalized view into a tiny-but-important piece of Americana: folk-turning-into-political-pop-music, and shows that yes, there were others BEFORE Dylan took his scratchy vocals to the microphone and dominated the medium (oye- my ears are cracking at the memory of that voice of his- argh!)
As a feminist who likes to note the attention to the writing of female characters in historical retellings like this, I found Carey Mulligan’s character quite funny and acerbicly wonderful. Just the nastiness of her dumping her anger upon this Llewyn added the layer that was necessary for the audience to laugh out loud and at the same time – if you’re paying attention – recognize that the birth control pill had not yet existed. That fact alone helps us to see Carey’s character in a sympathetic light even while we all do know that “it takes two to Tango” as Llewyn reminds her. “Who cares!” I wanted to scream at him. “You need a vasectomy AND a JOB you irresponsible idiot!”
So I do recognize that even if I did not care for this film so much because of my dislike of the main character of Llewyn – (that I adore and care for domestic felines and am an activist in that regard doesn’t help my holding empathy for him, I admit) – I highly recommend this film for movie lovers with a desire to explore some really interesting territory about a period of time in American music history and culture that affected so much that goes unnoticed of what we listen to now. Many of the tunes written during those early years are reappearing as the backdrop sound for hip-hop and rap to be layered upon, while the message in the lyrics has remained fairly consistently about loss, life and simply trying to get by.
The Coen Bros do more than to just ‘get by’ though by making their films. They have become part of Americana that will be discussed and argued about for decades to come, much like the influence of the music they have showcased in this film.

coen_brothers

Lea Seydoux

(Warning: contains spoilers)

I absolutely adored this film. It might be my top film that I’ve seen in 2013 (if there is such as a thing as ONE film of the year to fall in love with). Time was taken with the story, the dialogue was realistic, and the whole way the relationships were played out felt like I was right in the room, on a particular street or in that school yard with the characters. The excitement of first contact (for the younger character) with another high schooler girl’s kiss, then that same teen later actively seeking out a bar where lesbians frequent hoping to catch a closer look at the gal she turned her head for passing on the street, then the psychological foreplay of philosophical discussion leading to getting into the sack and having the kind of sex that most lesbians I’ve known could only dream to have…any negative comments I’ve read about the sex scenes just allude my reality.

Much like ‘Brokeback Mountain’, the director had these two actresses barely say “hello” offset before jumping into their first sex scene (the one we see first), and what you see is just a portion of 800 hours of footage shot over 5 months. I found the sex scenes very HOT. The way that the storyline played out before they made it to the sheets was a more feminine approach than we normally see in a cross-over film.

What struck me about the entirety of the project was the way the class differences were handled, the consequences of internalized homophobia, the concept of betrayal and ‘cheating’ (in who’s eyes?), and just experiencing a first devastating falling in the kind of can’t-help-it-lust-love thing that many of us have had…Blue is the Warmest Color is a lifesaving film that should be seen by every teen in America and abroad and used to stimulate discussion about several topics.

For anyone who wonders, “why all the accolades?”, it is precisely because the story is pretty universal and is so much bigger than any one thing that can be focused on. Sex as a single issue to dwell on for many reviewers just tells me more about how rigid that reviewer must be – even if she or he sees themselves as sexually open and progressive when it comes to critiquing art. As with the film Melancholia (2011) which some critics narrowed down to the subject of depression, Melancholia was so much more than that. It was a film that contained such an enormous emotional depth to every frame that was wrapped in some cinematic magic, and Blue is the Warmest Color does the same for me.

I believe this film deserves a lot of praise for taking on so many levels of humanness while the subject of passion burns at its core. It took me on an emotional journey of my own past and reminded me of several friends I’ve known – both gay and straight – who have traveled this road before. Other than the youth, body types and light skin color of the actresses involved, this is in no way a lesbian relationship given the Hollywood-style treatment type-of-film. If it were, the ending would have been very predictable, and this one is far from that.