Monthly Archives: November 2014

White Bird in a Blizzard: A Review

White Bird in a Blizzard: A Review

Daniel Davis

11/16/2014

White Bird in a Blizzard is set in the 1988, and tells the story of Kat Conner, played by Shailene Woodley, a 17 year old girl who seems to live a normal life until her perfect, homemaker mother, Eve, played by Eva Green, disappears one day. Having lived in a dysfunctional relationship with her mother, she feels little pain or sadness towards her mother’s absence. She doesn’t even blame her father, Brock, played by Chris Meloni, as he is too much of a wimp to have anything to do with her disappearance. As a few years go by, and Kat goes to College, she begins to realize just how much her mother’s disappearance really impacted her, as she finds herself investigating and discovering the truth about what really happened.

White Bird in a Blizzard is based on a novel by Laura Kasischke and adapted by director Gregg Araki. Simply put, it is a somewhat bizarre, silly, sex romp, featuring a great lead performance by Shailene Woodley. This film fits director Gregg Araki’s usual teenage sex and violence overtones, and features some pretentious and overbearing dialogue that almost comes off as an unintentional comedy. There are also some interesting things in this film, directing-wise: an unusual opening with a shot of Eve, the mother, on her back and a recurring dream sequence throughout involves Kat seeing her mother naked in the snow (hence the title). This is actually supposed to be a symbol for the film and a clue to the audience about the truth of the mystery. Additionally, the film’s use of flashbacks is both bizarre and fascinating at the same time, making the relationship between mother and daughter all the more dysfunctional and creepy.

In the lead role, Shailene Woodley demonstrates her talents portraying a teenager who really doesn’t know who to trust. The flashback where her mother comes into the room and tries to psychically assault her features some very fine acting by Woodley. In comparison, Eva Green appears more “over the top’ and gives a notably “hammy” performance, portraying a clearly disturbed woman. In one of the scenes, for example, when she tries to act younger than her age and then breakdowns, it is mildly disturbing and gloriously cheesy all at the same time. The other actors in the film are good, especially Chris Meloni as the father who has a secret to hide, and Angela Bassett as a psychiatrist. I found this film to be one of the most fascinating films to be shown at Catamount Arts.

My Old Lady – A Review

My Old Lady: A Review

Daniel Davis

11/15/2014

My Old Lady is set in France, and tells the story of Mathias Gold, played by Kevin Kline, a down-on-his-luck New Yorker who only inherits a Parisian apartment from his estranged wealthy father. When Mathias, penniless and unemployed, arrives in France with the intention of selling the apartment and living off it for the rest of his life, he’s discovers that the apartment’s current tenants, an Englishwoman named Mathilde Girard, played by Maggie Smith, and her daughter, Chloe, played by Kristin Scott Thomas, will not budge from the building. French real estate law supports the tenants staying as long as the mother lives.

Well known playwriter Israel Horovitz’s major directing debut, adapting one of his own plays, has a beautiful setting and contains excellent acting performances. Kevin Kline, as a New Yorker, is a bit of a fish out of water in Paris. One of Kline’s best scenes is about “my mother committed suicide”, which I found to be an incredibly well done. One scene is amusing as we see Kevin Kline’s character, Matthias, picking up several chairs to bring to a store to sell as he is penniless and desperate. Maggie Smith brings her usually likeability, and in a few scenes, anger and desperation to her role. The scenery is gorgeous and includes the Parisian neighborhood.

In the end, I can admire My Old Lady for the performances and the lovely shot of France, but I can’t say I was overly impressed, as it felt overly long even with a 107 minute runtime (that include credits). The audience, however, in the theater clearly enjoyed it, and the film’s short score of opera singing and classical music was a pleasant surprise.

Swim Little Fish Swim: A Review

Swim Little Fish Swim tells the story of a 19 year old French girl named Leelas who is trying to get away from her overbearing mother and make it big in New York as an artist. She shares an apartment with a bickering couple named Leeward and Mary. Leeward is a musician who sees himself as a misunderstood artist and a New Age visionary, while Mary is a hardworking nurse who wants to change her life. With Leelas entering the picture, the couple’s relationship only gets rockier, as the film shows us magic tricks and crazy characters.

Before going into Swim Little Fish Swim, I had never heard of this film, so it caught by surprise to see the film’s title. That being said this film’s weakness largely falls to the fact that I can’t feel for any of the characters in this film. Leelas is an unconvincing “so-called” protagonist and the actress who plays her, Lola Bessis, doesn’t convoy all that much emotion to get me to even care about the character in the first place. Her actions are also questionable and she makes far too many mistakes. While Leeward and Mary’s relationship has too much arguing in it to make me care. The rest of the characters in the film are unknown.

Getting the negatives of Swim Little Fish Swim out of the way, their a few positive and interesting things I could say about this film. For one thing, I quite liked the video camera perspective as some characters like Leelas and Maggie speak from a video camera, recording their own opinions on certain things that are happening in the film at the time. At first, I assumed these were some dream-like sequence that the characters were having when they fell asleep, but as the film went on, I realized that it was something altogether entirely different. Additionally, the character of Maggie, a young four year old is pretty cute played by Olivia Costello giving a fine child performance.

Swim Little Fish Swim just never caught my attention all that much. I wasn’t impressed and I found the characters of the film to be unmemorable. While I’m sure some people could enjoy this film, for me it just doesn’t work.

Love Is Strange Review: Strong Performances Help What Could Have Been an Average Film

Love Is Strange is a good quiet film that’s elevated by strong performances from its leads (John Lithgow and Alfred Molina) and supporting cast. The film is also a well-made “gay” film, dealing with the subject of same-sex relationship without making the characters straight-up stereotypes. Love Is Strange is a good movie overall, even if the film is real nothing special.

Love Is Strange tells the story of gay lovers, Ben played by John Lithgow a painter and George played by Alfred Molina a music teacher, who finally tie the knot after living together for some time. Only things get complicated when George is fired from his position as a music teacher. This forces the two to live separately from each other, with George living with two cops played by Cheyenne Jackson and Manny Perez), and Ben living with his nephew played by Darren Burrows, wife played by Marisa Tomei, and their son played by Charlie Tahan, as the two try to look for cheaper housing.

The two lead performances by Lithgow and Molina feel very natural and real as does their chemistry as lovers. Even though the two share little scenes together (being separated throughout most of the film), you can tell that Ben and George are genuinely in love with each other. The scene where the two hug is quite touching. While Marisa Tomei gives a natural well layered, good performance as a mother who feels a little bit disconnected from her family. Her best scene is when she complains to her husband about how he’s too soft on his uncle Ben. Darren Burrows is also another good standout as Joey, Tomei’s son in the film who has a bit too many problems that he’s hiding from his family.

Some of the shots in Love Is Strange are nice. The opening sequence with a shot of the legs of the two main characters (Ben and George) sleeping together in their bed was well done. While there’s another nice quiet scene where Ben is shown painting. The short scene consists of little dialogue and just music played in the background.

Love Is Strange doesn’t really tackle the gay subject matter all that much, but it doesn’t play it up either. Very few times throughout the film is the word gay actually said, and because of this, I appreciate Love Is Strange.

One of the best things about the film it’s score. Although the score is very limited and small, it consists of classical music, primarily that of a piano. This helps to give certain scenes a nice feeling. Additionally, the use of classical music in the film makes sense considering that George is a music teacher himself.

Love Is Strange is a very quiet and understated film. While not perfect, the film is helped by its lead performances and is overall enjoyable to watch.