Blaze of something less than glory

Telling your audience at the very beginning of the movie that the star of the film is now dead, and how he died, doesn’t help your plot development a whole lot.  That glitch is emblematic of the weight holding down Ethan Hawke’s Blaze.

Which is too bad, because Blaze had an impact on me.  It is richly textured and filled with outstanding performances, especially the central one.  On top of that, I loved the music.  It was a great portrait of a talented and tragically flawed musical soul with whom I identified.  But a movie is not a portrait.  It’s a movie, something Hawke doesn’t seem to fully understand.

How so?  The movie meanders all over the place, perhaps to echo the rambling nature of Blaze Foley.  It doesn’t work.  Focus on the story was badly needed, as some of the most salient aspects of the musician’s life were glossed over or outright omitted, while less impactful episodes were stretched thin.  And a theme of mine — the power of linear storytelling — is blaring in its absence.

Blaze is a very heartfelt and honest film, so I’d love to give it a higher score.  Maybe because of its meandering nature, I didn’t get the emotional connection I might otherwise.  I absolutely recommend it, but can’t get past 6/10.

Comparison Notes: The most direct comparisons are to Crazy Heart, then to Walk the Line, Ray (Jamie Foxx), and other musical biographies, but perhaps the better comparison is a movie like Leave No Trace — the idea of a character who has some strong personality vectors but is fundamentally flawed.


TV Post 2018 Part 1: Winona Ryder

I get goosebumps every time I see this ad.

Understand that when it first aired, you did not know it was Winona Ryder until the reveal.  Knowing ahead of time may diminish the impact, though I don’t think by much.

And that almost concludes my belated TV 2018 Part 1 post.  I sincerely intend to publish Part 2 in the not-too-distant future.

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The short version above is the original I saw all those months ago, and arguably the more potent, but the full-length version may pack even more of a punch.  Apparently there was some controversy around the original airing of this commercial in regards to the MeToo / TimesUp movement(s), but it was another case of people just not getting it.

All I Asked was A Simple Favor

There’s a lot thrown into A Simple Favor, and, surprisingly, it all works.  It’s not exactly a juggling act, but lesser filmmakers have been stymied with this much story.  The filmmakers never revert to BS pseudocomplexity (yes, I just coined a new word) of garbagepieces (again) like The Girl on the Train, to which it has been compared.  Rather, the layers of A Simple Favor elevate it beyond a comparatively mono-dimensional film like Searching.

Not that this is high art.  A spirited, fun film, there are splish-splashes of hokeyness, especially at the end with a little hackneyed silliness — but then silliness is always just floating above, or below, the surface.  Makes sense given the farcical oeuvre of the director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy).  Point being, A Simple Favor did itself a favor by not taking itself so seriously — the death-blow of many films, the most prominent recent example being A Quiet Place.

Beyond all that, Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively are a sheer joy.  8/10

Comparison Notes: Gone Girl, The Gift, Prisoners, the aforementioned Searching, Gone (2012), A Simple Plan, Fargo

Film Brief: Crazy Rich Asians

Crazy Rich Asians is like a James Bond movie, except the ornate sets aren’t machine-gunned up and blown to smithereens.  It’s also effervescent, a visual treat, and a completely trite re-hash story.

But indefatigable bubbly charm goes a long way.  Another bonus is that this is — or was a couple weeks back when I saw it — the film of the moment, a zeitgeist event picture and therefore borderline must-see.  All of which compensates for it not being particularly funny or dramatic.  It’s rather French Vanilla, yet somehow all works.  7/10

Comparison Notes: The Great Gatsby, Arthur (Dudley Moore & Liza Minnelli), Ever After, Wedding Crashers

Spike Lee and the BlacKkKlansman

There’s a message in this film which Spike Lee is trying to drive home, which is all well and good and which I support.  But this is a broken movie.  Chief among its several issues: it needs to speed things way up and keep better focus.  There’s some entertainment value here, but not enough to recommend.  5/10

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A couple thoughts about Spike Lee

When I saw in NYC Summer of Sam, I was disappointed.  The fresh vision he brought to She’s Gotta Have It, Jungle Fever, and what Ebert AND Siskel hailed as the best movie of 1989 (an exceptionally rare agreement), Do The Right Thing, had had almost completely evaporated.

Going in almost 30 years later to BlacKkKlansman, I was hoping that Spike Lee had his mojo back.  I thought fondly of the great Oldboy.  Though Oldboy had nothing in common with the early African American-centered Spike Lee canon, it was damned good.  I’m wondering if Lee was inspired by the potent story.  In BKkK, he clearly has a message to communicate, but he muddles that up with a blurry dramatic presentation.  Another disappointment.

Until proven otherwise, we have to add Spike Lee to the growing heap of great directors who have turned sour, the best example being Oliver Stone.

Makes you appreciate Quentin Tarantino all the more — really curious about and looking forward to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Film Brief: Eighth Grade

Eighth Grade is simultaneously potent and pedestrian.  At times both the story and the script seemed forced, as if I could feel the writers working away.  It’s not boring, though, and bonus! — an A24 film that both excludes the square frame and includes credits!  7/10

Comparison Notes: Lady Bird, Men, Women & Children, The Ruins (jk), Superbad, Fast Times at Ridgemont High