Sils Maria

If you come by this space with any sort of regularity, you might look at the tally and see it as a little bit light. You’re not wrong. Eight films over twelve days? I can usually chalk up eight films (or more) in just one week.

The answer is pretty simple.

The weekend before my father passed away was tremendously busy, and as such only allowed me time to watch one film from end-to-end (I slipped away for a late Sunday screening of THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN). The week that followed…well…movies were on but I wasn’t watching them all that closely.

Matter of fact, in my mother’s house, movies were always on in the days that followed. Commercial selections like THE MARTIAN and BROOKLYN. Vintage musicals like TOP HAT and THE BARKLEYS OF BROADWAY. Even some vintage 007 with GOLDFINGER and FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE.

It was our quiet comfort, our solace. The background noise that kept us company. Of course, I never fully watched any of these selections. My mind drifted in and out, as did my very consciousness sometimes…so I didn’t log any of them.

Not even LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, which I put on the night my father died…and which I sat through every one of its 216 minutes hoping my mind would stop racing and I could get some sleep.

It never did. And I never did.

So movies were on a lot over the last little while, but I didn’t watch the way I usually do.

But better days ahead…and more movies.

I have officially caught-up with the #52FilmsByWomen  project thanks to Kelly Fremon’s THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN, Liza Johnson’s HATESHIP LOVESHIP, Claire Carré’s EMBERS, and Nora Ephron’s THIS IS MY LIFE.

 

 

THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN is glorious in every way, and encouraging since it was a film where producers turned to writer Kelly Fremon and said “You should direct this yourself”. Fremon’s film speaks with a gloriously clear voice, and it is completely unfair that it had to open opposite FANTASTIC BEASTS. Hopefully the justice is a better slot for her follow-up film.

HATESHIP LOVESHIP is the first film in the project I straight-up did not like. It’s well-directed and handsomely shot, but its story feels inert. It was funny to watch Hailee Steinfeld in back-to-back selections because where she’s so effervescent in THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN, this film had her so seemingly flat. There’s nothing especially egregious or offensive about Liza Johnson’s selection…there’s also just nothing special.

EMBERS was a massive step up. While it was certainly flawed, it was devilishly handsome and the sort of sci-fi that really blows my hair back (think CHILDREN OF MEN or MOON). Perhaps more than any of the women I’ve met through this project, Claire Carré created an entire world that I wanted to wander around. It’s bleak, it’s dangerous, it’s soothing, and it all seems to exist in that space between awake and asleep. I feel like this film is the rough draft for something…the way MONSTERS led to GODZILLA and ROGUE ONE. Or maybe I’m just overly optimistic…

Finally, I arrived at Nora Ephron – one of the women I was most looking forward to including in this journey.

Ephron’s writing has influenced and affected me like few other screenwriters ever. She is sitting at a table with Billy Wilder for me as two of the writers whose words have cut closest. Trouble is, once you get past SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE, she’s not what one would call a great director. I mean, I could have soldiered through MIXED NUTS or LUCKY NUMBERS for this series, but I didn’t want to smear what drives me so wild about Nora (her wonderful words).

And then a funny thing happened…

I went all the way back to her directorial debut, THIS IS MY LIFE – a film critically panned, but that held great promise. The film was a goddamned joy! The characters are so gloriously fleshed-out, their chemistry incredible, their challenges so vivid. In the film landscape of 1992, this might have somehow seemed “lesser”…but the warmth of this family has only strengthened over time, to the point that I feel like this film is truly underrated.

What I was interested in and looked for in this film is something Tom Hanks mentioned upon Ephron’s passing – that the scene that ends act one, where the family packs up and moves into Manhattan actually follows the correct route one would drive if they were making such a journey. Hanks said that it was Ephron’s attention to detail like that which set her apart as a director.

Pity she didn’t get to employ that skill more instead of getting saddled with silliness like BEWITCHED.

Mainlining the work of these four women, and taking them for all the ups and downs they come with was cathartic this past week. I’m really proud to say that I caught up on the assigned reading…and really look forward to the final four weeks of this project.

 

 

 

Here’s the last few weeks at hand…

 
Screenings
THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN As the film ended, I really hoped that Nadine would be okay and get things sorted out. That’s a sign of a well-constructed character, right?
HACKSAW RIDGE –No, I never thought I’d enjoy a Mel Gibson movie again either.
NOCTURNAL ANIMALS –This has left me a lot to chew on. I shall chew tonight and get back to you in the morning.

 
Streaming/Blu-Rays/DVD’s I’ve Never Seen
HATESHIP LOVESHIP –I quite enjoy Kristen Wiig in drama…just not this drama.
EMBERS –Pretty pencil sketch. Tap me when she starts working in oils.
JACKIE –Timely, and not really what I expected.
THIS IS MY LIFE – It’s nice when you expect a flop, but get treated to something with so much warmth.

 
Streaming/Blu-Rays/DVD’s I’ve Seen Before
CAROL I feel like I want to have tea with these women and just listen to them talk for twenty minutes.

 

Boxscore for The Year
233 First-Timers, 121 Re-Watched
84 Screenings
354 Movies in Total

How’s about you – seen anything good?