TV Log: My Brilliant Friend

So, a confession. When I first stumbled upon My Brilliant Friend – a terrific scene in the third episode of Season 1, being re-aired this Spring, I thought, Wow!, what a captivating little Brazilian show, or at least, a show obviously in Portuguese. It wasn’t until the girls were being quizzed on Italian history that it began to dawn on me, is this Italian? Well, yes and no. Officially it’s in Italian and Neapolitan, but I believe everything I’ve seen so far is Neapolitan, a variant of Italian that still sounds more like Portuguese to me than Italian.

Example: when the girls say “Arrivederci,” they say it in a, to me, very Italian inflection and thrust, but with a “rounded” end, specifically as “Arrivederch” – that last syllable is not pronounced. The entire dialog, at least so far in Season 1, is spoken with that “rounded,” Portuguese-like pronunciation.

Another confession: yes, I’m still in Season 1. I’ve been very lazy watching this show (required reading of subtitles does not make it easier), despite the show being among the most compelling television I’ve ever seen. It’s nothing against My Brilliant Friend: I can’t focus on watching any drama show these days, nor any movie in the last month or so.

A dance scene in Ep. 4, “Dissolving Boundaries,” is full of tension and magnificently compelling. It’s that feeling you often have in Better Call Saul, or for that matter the Twin Peaks reboot, that anything could possibly happen at any point. The scene could end benignly enough, but it probably won’t. There could be an explosion, small or large, such as the ones that pop off at the end of that episode.

Oh and the music too. Oh yes. My only ding: I’m a big fan of narrative, but not of narration. The narration in My Brilliant Friend hurts more than it helps, but overall this is a small quibble. I believe there are 3 seasons so far, and a fourth and final on the way; I intend to watch all of it. Based on what I’ve seen so far: highly recommended.

Comparison Notes: Roma


Is Honey Boy bland or bitter?

There’s a reason the marketing for Honey Boy emphasizes the pie in the face and the big airplane crash scenes, making it seem like some quirky piece-study. I imagine test-marketing what this film is really about, an intimate study of a father and son in a less than ideal relationship where very little happens and the story is thin as a wisp, didn’t fare so well.

The irony here is that reading about Shia LaBeouf’s early life proves a much more fascinating, or at least a significantly more compelling story than the snooze-fest put on screen. Not quite sure why he had to downplay much more interesting events of his life that he’s already admitted to. Not like he’s hiding anything here.

Glenn Kenny of The Times:

One could watch “Honey Boy” musing that it must be nice to have someone finance a movie of your 12-step qualification. That assessment is actually too generous.

For such a short film (95 min), Honey Boy was draggy. Not terribly so, but there’s little story here. Another breaking of the Tomatometer. 4/10

Comparison Notes: Maybe two opposites: Fences and The Firm. The Firm is a movie, also with great acting, in which stuff actually happens. A stretchy comparison note, I know. Also: Mid 90sBlue Valentine, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, Boyhood

Booksmart, Wilde & Out

I was intrigued the first time I saw Olivia Wilde in the Tron follow-up.  Now she’s directing movies, and recently stated the following in a New York Times interview:

“It is remarkable that I am 35 years old and this is the first job I’ve ever had that wasn’t entirely dependent on and connected to my looks,” she said. “It grosses me out to acknowledge it, but I’ve been thinking a lot about it.”

All well and good, but I’m not sure puking on a classmate and having condom water balloon fights are a way to elevate yourself, especially when your story is about two geeky kids trying to get to the cool kids’ big backyard bash.  You’re not exactly opening the originality box.  And that is the entire story.  So we’re left with a character-driven story — with characters that are compelling, to a point, but hardly riveting.  They’re just not that interesting.

Booksmart has been referred to as a female Superbad.  Not even close.  Superbad was a truly great, authentically touching, and very funny teen comedy — one of the best of all time.  Olivia Wilde should never be thought of in the same light as Judd Apatow.  So I’m sorry you so tragically had to rely on your looks all this time.

* * *

It may sound like I have some animosity toward Booksmart.  I do not.  I concede that I was entertained and reasonably engaged with these characters.  But calling it a Masterpiece, or even the equations to Superbad just discredit you as a critic.  6/10

Comparison Notes: Crazy Rich Asians, Blockers, Sixteen Candles, Lady Bird, Eighth Grade, Superbad, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Happy Death Day, The Sure Thing, Ghost World, and most other high school-based movies, with the exception of Risky Business.  There are no comparison notes between Booksmart and Risky Business.  None.

PS May is not summer.  By the 4th of July, it’ll be tough finding this picture in theaters.

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

Film Brief: 20th Century Women

There’s a form of contrivance in film which may be termed amalgamation.  The idea that a perfectly good movie can be made by an assembly process, putting a bunch of different elements together in a box.  It’s not a good thing.  Much better is to let your film develop organically.

Nonetheless, I liked the performances and bit of fun in 20th Century Women, so a marginal thumbs-up; 6/10, and one step behind The Accountant on the 2016 List.

Comparison Notes (recommended): The Diary of a Teenage Girl


Film Brief: Moonlight

moonlight-poster-smallI had no desire to see Moonlight, but it has proven to have legs and is likely to garner Oscar nominations including the big one.  Plus, I was in the mood for something that might make me think a little.  And so my review:

Act “i”: Great; Act ii: Great; Act iii: Complete and utter collapse.  Also not happy about omission of an opening title.  8/10 if you lop off Act iii, but since the producers did not, thumbs-down; 5/10.


Film Brief: Everybody Wants Some!!

Everybody Wants Some!! is not without its occasional charms and the ability to fall into a pleasurable rhythm, but it will just as soon stall out.  Not surprisingly, it shares the same lackadaisical non-storytelling style of director Richard Linklater’s 1993 effort Dazed and Confused.  I felt a little better about this one than Dazed and Confused, but Linklater could take a lesson from American Graffiti on how to make a compelling version of the ambling youth film.

Everybody Wants Some - text blockSo my next statement you’d expect is that Linklater is a hack — but that’s not the case.  I liked, from what I saw, the charming Before Sunrise (1995), and Bernie was excellent.  So he’s just inconsistent.  Everybody wants some… good movies to watch.  A better story would help, but when Linklater goes out of his way to avoid any drama, the results are less than optimal.  4/10

Film Brief: The Diary of a Teenage Girl

The Diary of a Teenage Girl - poster

There is a tremendous amount I liked about The Diary of a Teenage Girl, but it left me wanting more.  It was like a train ride — or more appropriately a passage on BART — with 14 stops.  But it takes 16 stops to get me home.

Early in the film, her mother tells Minnie that she has a power she doesn’t realize.  My biggest problem was that this promise is left unfulfilled.  Still, Diary is very fresh, and very good — I just wasn’t over the moon with the product as a whole.  A solid recommendation; 7/10.

Comparison Notes: Welcome to the Dollhouse, Nymphomaniac, Ghost World

UPDATE on MI V: I think I was a little too harsh.  Upon reflection, there were enough good things thrown in to yield a 4/10.  Still thumbs-down, but I didn’t hate it or anything.