Mistress America (2015) (dir. Noah Baumbach) (84mins) (viewed 07/28/2015): As was the case with While We’re Young, Baumbach had me for ¾’s of the running time. Great comic rhythm, sharp dialogue, with performances by Gerwig, Kirke, et al to match. Then he goes for emotive summing-up with a side-slather of malaise and I don’t believe any of it. (I do, however, believe these gals would spend Thanksgiving at Veselka.) One-note hermetic narcissism is Baumbach’s thing. I’d like him to just keep tappin’ that gas.
Ricki and the Flash (2015) (dir. Jonathan Demme) (100mins approx) (viewed 07/29/2015): There are several auteurs here. I’m great with one, fine with another, and very iffy on the third. Worst first: Diablo Cody, whose script (the Hollywood to Rachel Getting Married’s Dogme) is rife with sketchy and/or glib details—like the title character’s voting record (Dubya all the way)—that never feel grounded in reality. This is catnip for Streep, who loves details, tics and other surface ephemera that help her build a role from the outside-in. See The Iron Lady: a terrible film, but one in which she uses the copious pancake that turns her into Thatcher to cut deep into a terrible person. There, the old-age makeup and Klump-like prosthetics feel lived-in in ways I’ve rarely experienced. Here, Streep barely gets beyond Ricki’s braids and bracelets, though I don’t mind too much because she still seems dedicated. If she can’t make this particular character believable, she’ll at least put on the illusion of a good show. Sometimes the mimicry is enough, and I especially got into her scenes with Rick Springfield because their chemistry seemed to come from an extratextual place that the shallow script couldn’t touch. Then there’s Demme who, gracious artist that he is, loves everyone and everything here regardless of the flaws, and on that level I groove hard. I love how he and d.p. Declan Quinn let most of the musical numbers play out in full, and the eye for background detail, animate and otherwise, is superb. The wedding finale reminded me of Renoir in its proscenium staging and overall air of generosity—The Golden Coach scored to a Springsteen cover.
Ghost in the Shell (1995) (dir. Mamoru Oshii) (83mins) (viewed 07/31/2015): Re-seeing this on the big screen was revelatory. The Major is an anime fanboy wet dream, yet her existential crisis drives the story in ways that agitate rather than arouse. I’d forgotten about the gorgeous passage in which she wanders the rain-slicked city like a Resnais heroine.
Help! (1965) (dir. Richard Lester) (92mins) (viewed 08/01/2015): The Fab Four, high as a friggin’ kite. The euphoria mostly translates. At the very least I can see where Soderbergh’s Schizopolis came from.
Hannibal, Season 3, “…And the Woman Clothed with the Sun” (2015) (dir. John Dahl) (44mins) (viewed 08/02/2015): Not the same atrocious aftershave. Dolarhyde makes his celluloid fetishism verbally explicit. A series of potent two character scenes that give equal weight to the stellar ensemble.
Difficult People (2015), Episodes 1-3 (cr. Julie Klausner) (viewed 08/02/2015): I only have so much tolerance for relentlessly acidic farce like this. Klausner and Billy Eichner play off each other well, but their it's-the-world-not-me abrasiveness is exasperating. Found the inspired supporting cast—Hal Hartley alumnus James Urbaniak and cabaret performer Cole Escola, among ’em—much more captivating.