vineri, 30 iunie 2017

Note on What Doesn't Kill You, with Ethan Hawke, Mark Ruffalo

Note on Angel Heart, written and directed by Alan Parker, with Robert de...

Harvard Positive Psychology Lectures by Professor Tal Ben-Shahar, 10 out of 10

Harvard Positive Psychology Lectures by Professor Tal Ben-Shahar
10 out of 10

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

These lectures are life changing, literally.
They are the most popular in the history of Harvard and that says a lot, given that this is where the crème de la crème studies.

You can find one and then the rest of the lectures starting from here:

As the professor makes clear, a tremendous change took place when Martin Seligman decided to change the emphasis in psychology.
Up to about 2000, psychology was solely concentrated on taking people from minus six to zero whereas positive psychology is interested, does research and a lot of studies in order to find out how to take us from an average point to becoming Happier.

As you can learn from these astounding lectures and the books by Tal Ben-Shahar, there are exercises that you can do to become happier.
From the gratitude exercises that you could engage in for a few weeks, expressing, writing things you are grateful for to physical exercise.

As the professor emphasizes in his twenty-second lecture, exercise works like a wonder drug, offering the runner’s high and all sorts of positive effects, for we have been programmed for much more activity that we engage- mostly we do not- in this day and age.
Tal Ben-Shahar uses examples from folklore, other luminaries like Martin Seligman, Nathaniel Brendan, John Gottman and many others and even films like Pay It Forward, The Dead Poets Society, Woody Allen works.
Ellen de Generes is a comedian that appears in these courses, with her views on procrastination, rat race and lack of exercise in today’s world, when we do not even need to move in order to open the windows of the cars.

Learn to Fail or Fail to Learn is one of the leitmotifs of these lessons, with the professor encouraging students to try and fail more, for those who do not fail are people who did not try, examples like Edison are used as proof.
Two lectures are dedicated to love and relationships, with educational insight gained from those who have the happiest marriages or relationships.

John Gottman is used here as one of the ultimate authorities on marriage and love and his reference to the ideal 1 to 5 ratio.
For every five positive exchanges, the happiest couples have a negative inter change, which shows that they learn to fail or fail to learn- for if there were no negative (but not violent or aggressive clashes) moments that would mean that those involved do not inter act…

Words create Worlds and Be a Merit Finder not a Fault Finder are other quotes that Tal Ben-Shahar likes to repeat in classes.
Those who are Merit Finders live longer happier lives than the rest, much like the positive, optimistic people enjoy the same, with better professional and private lives when compared with negative or neutral people.

One aspect that I appreciate a lot in these lessons, apart from their incredible accessibility, is the fact that tests and research are at the basis of all the propositions, rules and exercises that are recommended in them.
From the Pygmalion Effect study, to the Stanford Prison Experiment, through to The Notre Dame nuns research and on to the amazing Ellen Langer experiment with seventy years old people that became younger and then also the study on maids that work in the Hospitality Industry and lost weight when they were made aware of the amount of calories they burn during their daily intense activity.

There are also stories that I loved, including the one with the man who goes to the rabbi for advice on becoming happier and the rabbi tells him to get the horse in the house and then the poultry, the cow and at the end of this “trial period” take them all out only to experience a Flow moment or learn the lesson: Be Grateful for what you have.
Self Esteem has a lecture dedicated to it, with repeated references to Nathaniel Branden, apparently a friend of Tal Ben-Shahar and a former mentor.

If you do not love and appreciate yourself, who will? This is part of the message, with the phony, false appearance of the arrogant explained.
An attitude like that of the Donald- to which the professor makes no reference, for these are courses recorded in 2007- is not one reflecting self-esteem, but on the contrary, someone who is insolent, narcissistic does not have self-esteem.

Beliefs become self-fulfilling prophecies and Behavior shapes attitude are two other mantras that are repeated, together with the insistence upon the special effect that meditation has, tests are mentioned in which lamas have demonstrated incredible capabilities of controlling the mind, reactions to gunshots and in other circumstances.

These lectures offer solutions, exercises that will help you become happier and not just you, but also those around you…

Note on Jackie Brown, directed and written by Quentin Tarantino, based o...

Note on Truman, written and directed by Cesc Gay, with Ricardo Darin

Note on A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, based on the novel by Betty Smith

Note on The Hangover, with Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis

Good Bye Lenin, written and directed by Wolfgang Becker, 8 out of 10

Good Bye Lenin, written and directed by Wolfgang Becker
8 out of 10

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

Given my own experience and the wonderful quality of this film I loved this comedy.
It takes place in East Germany, in 1989.

Some of the events, jokes and situations are probably harder to understand for someone who has lived in the free world.
But for the rest of us, trapped behind the “Iron Curtain”, so much of this film is painfully familiar, even if some aspects are different.

East Germany, for all its backwardness when compared with its federal enemy across the border was far ahead of my country.
In the film, some of the jokes move around different food items, cans that where in the communist German shops.

This is just the point:

-          They had those food cans and packages
-          Notwithstanding their rudimentary, unattractive look when compared with the capitalist variety, East Germans could get them

We could not.
Whenever they brought in the empty shops bread, butter, oil and I mean Anything! Long queues would be formed.

Our tyrant and regime was crazier, much more like the series of lunatics in North Korea than the likes of Gorbatchev.

Our mad fool wanted to pay all the external debt no matter how many went hungry and died in the process.
So a certain sad smile is added on the face of a viewer from here, for the differences between East, West and after 1989 Germanies are striking and still they belong to a different world from the one in which we suffered over here.

Before 1989 the East German secret police was all too powerful, the STASI would arrest dissidents and opponents of the regime.
This is what happens in the film, in 1989, before the fall of the Berlin Wall, that more many years kept Germans trapped in a dictatorship.

During one protest, Alex, the young hero of the movie is arrested by the communist authorities and his mother has a heart attack.
She enters a coma and only wakes up months later, in a completely different country that has been liberated in the meantime.

Only the doctors fear that such a tremendous shock, of losing conscience in the GDR and waking in capitalist heaven- or hell, depending on political views- some supporters of Bernie Sanders and the like might prefer socialism- I can only hope they have the opportunity to experience it- could be too much for Mutter.
So Alex, his sister and friends create a funny, now obsolete tyranny in which the same old cans are available- lucky East Germans.

Now that Coca Cola and all the new, shinning capitalist brands are on the market, the old labels have disappeared.
So it is difficult and comical to see the young man and co searching through rubbish and pealing on and off old communist brands on bottles and jars.

They organize some funny and phony communist get together with students dressed in the old uniforms near mother’s bed.
Because she wants to see the news and the ones available on TV would give away the new reality, they organize a television set.

And so they record “Fake News”- as the weird orange Donald likes to call all the real media that tells the truth but does not praise, but rightly criticizes his crazy moves-so that mother can hear the old socialist crap.
But there is only so much that the talented, inventive team can do, for there are events beyond their control.

At one point for instance, a huge Coca Cola banner-indeed, what else represents America, capitalism better? - is installed on a nearby building.

The “Fake News” teams come up with silly, awkward and humorous explanations that make this comedy so enjoyable.

Wolf, with Jack Nicholson, directed by Mike Nichols, 9 out of 10

Wolf, with Jack Nicholson, directed by Mike Nichols
9 out of 10

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

I loved this film.
Jack Nicholson is in top form and for this viewer, he not only renders the idea of the Wolf, but does so with Magic.

It can be a fabulous experience to watch someone transform himself into a being that can smell, feel so much better.
Again, one can watch this Wolf in a key, as a symbol of wild, perhaps real life that represents not a fantasy, but:

-          An Awakening

The plot in itself, with the running over with a car, in the snowy forests of an animal that bites the driver is not the most important thing.
Paramount is…

-          The Transformation

Jack Nicholson is absolutely superb as, in the first place the normal, sophisticated, intellectual Will Randall.
But the “real horror show”- to use Alex’s expression from A Clockwork Orange- starts when Randall becomes…

-          Wolf

This is when the man starts what looks to me like a positive psychology intense course, with emphasis on

-          Carpe diem

The scene from the publishing house where Will Randall works will stay in my mind, with his Awakening or maybe

-          Redemption is the better world

He starts smelling and feeling with intensity, at the surface because he is an animal now, with senses that are many times better than human ones.
Apparently, superficially for me, because I choose to see this as a metaphor and a process that we can all undertake.

Indeed, should try because this is where our happiness rests, in Awakening and enjoying the moments, smelling the roses.
We generally act as Will Randall before becoming Wolf, navigating through life without noticing its “Many Splendored Things”.

Of course, I deliberately exaggerate and with an honest, objective lens I would just insist on the horror side of the film.
Only that is of little interest to the under signed and I think the paramount message is that we need to become Wolves.

Not with all the trappings of course, without going through parks to kill prey, humans if need be and attack with the teeth.
To continue this line of thought I would refer to a psychology classic, the masterpiece by the genius Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi- Flow

The author writes in it about peak experiences, being in the zone and how to achieve levels of maximum happiness.
In my view, a good lesson in that sense is Wolf and the way he is able to concentrate and live moments with maximum intensity.

As for the rest, Wolf meets Laura Alden, portrayed by the resplendent Michelle Pfeiffer and this becomes a romantic horror show.
But in the love between woman and this strange centaur-like creature, which is half man and half wolf, the latter part becoming active at night, what is striking is the same vigor, passion that is animalic, intense.

Jack Nicholson shows an evident pleasure in combining his usual detachment, Zen attitude with the passion, ferocity of Wolf.

The actor is extraordinary, effervescent and a great pleasure to watch.

Note on Talk to Me, with Don Cheadle and Chiwetel Ejiofor

Note on Nine and a Half Weeks, with Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger

Note on The Incredible Hulk, with Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, William Hurt...

miercuri, 28 iunie 2017

Note on The Year of Living Dangerously, directed by Peter Weir, with Mel...

Note on Rain Man, directed by Barry Levinson, with Dustin Hoffman

Note on...and justice for all, directed by Norman Jewison, with Al Pacin...

Unagi aka The Eel, written (with Daisuke Tengan, Motofumi Tomikawa , Akira Yoshimura) and directed by Shôhei Imamura

Unagi aka The Eel, written (with Daisuke Tengan, Motofumi Tomikawa            , Akira Yoshimura) and directed by Shôhei Imamura

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

Unagi has won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
And since this is the most prestigious award of all, if you ask me, it is evident that this film is exceptional.

The narrative is both simple and outré.
Takuro Yamashita is the hero.

Or maybe the anti-hero, for he commits murder.
Early on.

We see him at the opening scenes in an office in Japan.
On the train, he reads an anonymous message:

-          Your wife is cheating on you, when you go fishing…

And then he arrives home, where the spouse is asking all the normal questions, including about his plans:

-          You are going fishing tonight, isn’t it?
-          Yes
-          I prepared sandwiches for you…what are you fishing for?
-          Bass…
-          So there will be…here I am not sure…she said something like sushi or was it surinami…anyway it will not happen

The husband returns early from his fishing party, after leaving the food prepared by his wife with his fellow fisherman.
When he gets home, he stops at the window, with a horrified look that might haunt me for a few (only?) days.

In the bedroom, his wife is having wild sex with a man that seemed to me a bit violent and rough, but it also appeared consensual.
The moaning, evident excitement and intense pleasure of the woman could not have been but painful for the husband.

Notwithstanding his grief, the killing of his wife is of course abominable and it was done with repeated knife stabs.
The camera filming the scene is covered in red and so is the anti-hero of these gruesome moments of violence.

As he is, with clothes soaked in blood, Yamashita is jumping on his bicycle and rides to the police station where he surrenders.
Eight years of prison follow and I thought that he got off easily, for in America he could have been executed for the same crime.

He even has a pet coming out of jail, where the guards have pretended it is theirs, for it was against regulations:

-          Unagi aka the Eel from the title that is the metaphor for the state of the protagonist, who has this pet because it cannot talk back and it could also betray a maladapted personality, with feelings of guilt and other issues

Yamashita opens a barber shop, but not before displaying some peculiar symptoms, such as starting running after a group of exercising men, with his pet eel in a bag with water in his hand…indeed those with him remark about the strangeness of this individual.
One day, the killer who has ended a human life has the possibility of saving another, a woman about to die.

True, instead of getting to the police, or better still an ambulance, Yamashita gets a neighbor first, worried about his status.
He is after all on parole for two years and any incident or trouble with law will return him to prison in aggravating circumstances.

A relationship develops between the former convict and Keiko, the depressed young woman who has attempted suicide.
She starts working in the barber shop, but it is a complicated evolution, with an attack of her and further consequences.

An excellent film, with a special atmosphere, challenging viewers to meditate on important subjects and think about life and its

-          Many-Splendored Things"

Note on Twins, great work Danny de Vito

There Will Be Blood, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, based on the novel by Upton Sinclair, 9 out of 10

There Will Be Blood, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, based on the novel by Upton Sinclair
9 out of 10

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

There will be blood is a stupendous chef d’oeuvre.
Alas, Daniel Day-Lewis, responsible in great part for this achievement, has just announced he is retiring…

The only actor to have won three Academy Awards for Best Performances in Leading Roles, being nominated two more times.
He also has two Golden Globes and another four nominations, four BAFTAs and two more nominations…

Daniel Day-Lewis has an astonishing 135 prizes and a brilliant, supernatural career behind him and all this:

-          Without Compromises!!

You have never seen him in stupid fare, destined to smash the box office or just to make audiences pay tickets.
His work is hard, thorough, without the usual immersion into the world of cartoon characters that all his peers engage in.

So in a way it is regrettable that he has decided to stop while he is a master, God of the game, but it is also…

-          Commendable!

Instead of joining the long line of actors that are happy with whatever comes their way- a script like The Intern- he is better off saying so long.
One of the Academy Awards won by Daniel Day-Lewis is for his magnificent acting in the role of Daniel Plainview.

The director and writer is the equally fabulous Paul Thomas Anderson, winner of 60 prizes and nominated for…6 Oscars.
He is the one who gave us Magnolia, Boogie Nights, The Master among others and of course this exceptional movie.

There Will Be Blood has an incredible 106 awards, including 2 Oscars and a Metascore of 92, which means that critics loved it.
Daniel Plainview is not just a hard, obsessive, humorless man; he is a killer and actually makes two victims.

Nevertheless, he is a complex character, for he is not just the “bad guy” pure and simple, there are other sides to this man.
He is hard working, an entrepreneur that knows no fear and will stop at no obstacle, for better or worse.

Sacrificing his private life, he is driven by his thirst for oil that he explores and then extracts with skill and in difficult circumstances.
Daniel Plainview could be a role model, in the sense that he may have found his calling and works without pause.

Only the dark, murderous side makes it so that he will step upon and eventually kill an adversary that tries to stop him.
Eli Sunday is a preacher, although I have doubts over his real calling for the “profession”, and an adversary.

Daniel Plainview and the preacher clash, with the former asking at one point for the “repentance” of the oil man.
As aforementioned, the obsessive-compulsive would stop at nothing to get his oil and therefore he acts as asked.

The plot has various sidelines and threads, as is the case of the supposed brother who comes to join Daniel Plainview.
There Will Be Blood is an extraordinary vehicle for a magnificent actor that dedicated himself to his art…

All the gratitude for his legacy!!

marți, 27 iunie 2017

Note on Saving Private Ryan, written by Robert Rodat

Note on Coal Miner's Daughter, based on the autobiography of Loretta Lynn

Saving Private Ryan, written by Robert Rodat, directed by Steven Spielberg

Saving Private Ryan, written by Robert Rodat, directed by Steven Spielberg

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

This is one of the best and most popular movies ever made.
It is at number 28 on the IMDB list of most popular films:

it has won five Academy Awards, been nominated for others and won multiple prestigious prizes around the world.
The film is also on The New York Times’ Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made List:

the story is overwhelming and believable: the many dead, the horrible violence, bravery and cowardice have been real.
It is also an interesting angle, with the Saving of Private Ryan at the forefront, but with the background of the World War II.

The cast is formidable:

-          Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Paul Giamatti- one of my favorites, Ted Danson- an outstanding professional, Dennis Farina- very likeable and good, Bryan Cranston- Breaking Good in a brief role, Vin Diesel- somebody I do not care much for and so many other excellent actors…

And the director is Steven Spielberg, showing here that he can create anything and he really is one of the best…

The introduction is gruesome, but one of the best entries there ever was, with the invasion of Normandy.
June 6th, 1944 as it was, with many soldiers killed, acts of bravery but also the dark side of war that involved murder.

In one scene, some American soldiers advance towards Germans that evidently want to surrender, with hands up.
The “good guys” keep shouting to their enemies and these answer in…German, but it is not good enough and they are killed.

Unjustified and to make matters worse, if that is even possible, the murders mock their victims with…”look, we cleaned ourselves for dinner.
Captain Miller aka Tom hanks is witnessing this and so many other outrageous deaths, violence throughout the film.

He used to be a teacher of English in his civilian life, but he now has to cope with attempts at desertion and mainly… the Nazis.
The mother of Private Ryan has to receive three letters of condolences, for three of her sons killed in battle.

When they notice this, officials in the Army decide to try and Save the only remaining son, given that this mother has had enough sacrifice in the family.
So they send a team, led by Captain Miller, to extract Private Ryan and send him home from the front.

It is not just a difficult task, for on the way soldiers are killed- and spoiler alerts are not needed for that, because it makes sense, doesn’t it? - and at times all hell breaks loose, with acts of heroism and cowardice.
I thought that the take on this war was extraordinary in that it showed real life and what happens, not the fairy tales that are made up
At one point, one member of the team is really scared and as a consequence he cannot even move from the spot where he is.

If he did, he could save the life of one of his mates, engaged in a life or death struggle with the enemy.
But this anti-hero sits there on the steps leading to where his fellow soldier was giving his life for country and freedom.

And the audience can realize that this is a different film, for in other takes, heroes simply destroy the enemy.
Our side is better, always ready to shoot and kill, fly from danger and always shooting down the enemy tank or plane.

In this magnificent film we learn that it does not always work that way and heroes fight alongside ordinary men…

Note on Kills on Wheels, written and directed by Attila Till

The Earrings of Madame de…, based on the novel by Louise de Vilmorin, directed by Max Ophüls

The Earrings of Madame de…, based on the novel by Louise de Vilmorin, directed by Max Ophüls

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

This is a very good romantic comedy.
And you can find it on The New York Times’ Best 1,000 Movies ever Made List:

the director, Max Ophüls was one of the most acclaimed filmmakers…

-          Lola Montes, La Ronde, Le Plaisir and The Earrings of Madame de…are among the most appreciated movies

Charles Boyer is also a glorious actor.
He is sophisticated, majestic, at times flamboyant, aristocratic in manner, charismatic and able to play both sides.

He has been a perfect villain in the recently viewed and noted on Gaslight, but he can act in comedies perfectly:

-          Barefoot in the Park is the perfect testimony

As for his opponent in The Earrings of Madame de…, Viitorio de Sica is one of the Gods of cinema, with an impressive career as actor…
But he is also sure to be included in the history of motion pictures for the masterpieces that he has directed:

-          Bicycle thieves for instance is among the best movies ever made, perhaps among the best five
-          Two Women, The Gold of Naples, Umberto D., Shoeshine, The Garden of Finzi- Continis, Marriage Italian Style and others are also among the best ever made films!

Charles Boyer is Général André de... and he is married to the Comtesse Louise de…
In the first stages of the narrative, the Comtesse is trying to sell her earrings.

And as the title suggests, these jewels will be one of the important personages of the story and they will change hands.
The jeweler is offering a good sum, since they are not just diamonds, but have been bought from his own shop.

Nevertheless, he announces the baron, especially given the circumstances under which their loss has been announced.
Because they were a present from the general, the wife makes up a lie about their being lost on the way to the opera.

Given their immense value, a theft is not excluded and this is when the Jeweler thought it better to talk to the general.
The latter buys the earrings- again- and then he makes them a gift, but…not to his own wife, but to a mistress.

This one is departing from Istanbul, where she engages in roulette games where she loses everything and has to sell the jewels.
Enter the stage the Baron Fabrizio Donati, portrayed by Viitorio de Sica, the man who buys the earrings.

He meets the Comtesse Louise de… and is fascinated and a relationship is developing between the two.
She even faints at one hunting party, when she sees with binoculars that the baron has fallen from his horse.

It is also an amusing incident, for the husband is reproaching the duration of the faint, which was inappropriate:

-          Keep your lapses short my dear

Throughout the film, the parties involved act with incredible politeness and extraordinary restraint, up to when duel is in question.

This viewer was often tempted to quote:

Note on Big, with Tom Hanks

Note on Don't Drink the Water, written and directed by Woody Allen

luni, 26 iunie 2017

Note on Raspberry Boat Refugee, directed by Leif Lindblom, with Jonas Ka...

Note on The Jane Austen Book Club, written and directed by Robin Swicord

Note on Bridesmaids, with Kristen Wiig, who also worked on the script

Note on The Bucket List, with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman

Note on Titanic, written and directed by James Cameron

The Jane Austen Book Club, written and directed by Robin Swicord, based on the book by Karen Joy Fowler

The Jane Austen Book Club, written and directed by Robin Swicord, based on the book by Karen Joy Fowler
8 out of 10

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

This is a fine, rather sophisticated romantic comedy- drama.
It is not just about insight into the psychology of suffering women, but we also have analysis, various takes on…Jane Austen

We have a series of interesting characters, most of them women dealing with some sort of deception or failure in their lives.
Maria Bello has the role of Jocelyn, who is a dog breeder and I recognize the type for my wife is a borzoi owner that I try to convince to limit the number to the five we had.

Amy Brenneman is Sylvia, married to Daniel and Allegra’s mother.
One fine day, her husband comes home and says that he cannot lie any longer and he is moving in with another woman.

After many years of what was supposed to be a happy marriage, Sylvia is depressed and her friends try to change that.
Therefore Bernadette and Jocelyn come up with the idea of a book club to distract the abandoned woman.

Jocelyn meets with the younger Grigg, who is a fan of science fiction literature, but is willing to read Jane Austen.
So he becomes he only man in the club with six other women members.

They meet in each others’ homes and when Grigg’s turn is up, he offers a gothic, haunting show for the scared company…

-          What do you do for Halloween, if you did all this now?
-          Oh, Halloween is very different

Jocelyn tries to make the young man interested in Sylvia, or at the very least take her out for lunch and distract her.
Instead of experiencing PTSD- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder- Sylvia has to try PTG- Post Traumatic Growth.

Alas, when it seems to work and Grigg and Sylvia talk and appear to have a great time, both Jocelyn and Daniel are not overjoyed.
As a matter of fact, we learn that Daniel had dated Jocelyn, gave her first puppy and then Jocelyn passed him on to Sylvia…

-          She traded your husband for a dog?

Well, more or less.
Allegra has her own misfortunes, but they involve a woman, not a man, for she is a lesbian and experiences a break up.

Emily Blunt- an actress that I like- is Prudie Drummond, yet another woman unsatisfied with her married life.
When her mother dies, at the funeral, her spouse is talking to a hot, sexy woman and Prudie is very upset.

In the following heated exchange, she accuses the man of wanting to hump that bitch there at the funeral…
He protests that he just talked to one of her friends…Friends? That woman only came because it was a funeral and she wanted to see me suffer and down, she has always hated me…

So Prudie is on the point of having an affair with one of her students, realizing very well it is inappropriate…

On the other hand, Madame Macron, even if she had been the mother of three and married, went on to marry the man who is now…the president of France and…more than twenty years her junior(?)
There are interesting quotes from Jane Austen- which has her Pride and Prejudice listed on the list of Best 100 Books Ever Written:

And various analysis, takes on characters from her books, a discussion on why the author did not marry and much more.

Very good film

Barcelona, written and directed by Whit Stillman

Barcelona, written and directed by Whit Stillman
10 out of 10

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

This is one of the best comedies that I know.
It is definitely one of my favorites.

Sophisticated, modern, fresh, sparkling, witty and unusual.
It is funny throughout and at the beginning we meet the protagonists, Ted, who is a regular man involved in sales and his visiting, outré cousin who talks to some women, at a disco where he describes his relative:

“Fred: He's not at all the way he seems. He might seem like a typical American, like a big unsophisticated child, but he's far more complex than that. Have you ever heard of the Marquis de Sade? Ted's a great admirer of de Sade. And a follower of Dr. Johnson. He's a complex - and in some ways dangerous - man. He has a serious romantic illusion problem. Women find him fascinating. His nickname is "Punta de Diamante" - point of a diamond. You see that odd expression on his face? Under the apparently very normal clothes he's wearing are these narrow leather straps drawn taut so that when he dances...”

And the dialogue keeps the same tone, with interesting propositions, challenging stories and metaphors on almost everything, from love to NATO, from the anti-Americanism of the moment to…pretended sadism.
The aforementioned lie about Ted will become somehow part of the folklore, making him more interesting.

-          “Fred: You think wedding vows are going to change everything? God, your naiveté is astounding! Didn't you see "The Graduate"?
-          Ted: You can remember "The Graduate"?
-          Fred: Yeah, I can remember a few things. Apparently you don't. The end? Katharine Ross has just married this really cool guy - tall, blond, incredibly popular, the make-out king of his fraternity in Berkeley - when this obnoxious Dustin Hoffman character shows up at the back of the church, acting like a total asshole. "Elaine! Elaine!" Does Katharine Ross tell Dustin Hoffman, "Get lost, creep. I'm a married woman"? No. She runs off with him - on a bus. That is the reality.”

As proved by the above quotes, Fred has a different view, outrageous and hilarious most often on various subjects.
Including The Graduate and jazz, on the latter he says: “My jazz rule is: If you can't dance to it, you don't want to know about it.”

In can appear as a bit thick and indeed, when they have another exchange, it is: Marta: “You seem very intelligent for an American…Fred: Well, I'm not.”
And if not all the lines contain the same level, which is impossible and counterproductive, most of the lines are sparkling

When they talk about positive thinking, Ted remarks that it makes him depressed and he does suffer a sort of Awakening.
He is a stuffy, “Bible dancing, goody- goody” in the words of the same, inventive cousin who has other interesting ideas.

Fred claims that the anti-Americanism has roots in sexual impotence, which is preposterous I guess, but so is the exaggerated, violent, murderous attitude of so many opponents of America at the time, many of whom were in Spain.
At a party, there is another moment that I thought hilarious, when Ted is trying to make an analogy with…ants.

-          “Well, take... take these ants. In the U.S. view, a small group, or cadre, of fierce red ants have taken power and are oppressing the black ant majority. Now the stated U.S. policy is to aid those black ants opposing the red ants in hopes of restoring democracy, and to impede the red ants from assisting their red ant comrades in neighboring ant colonies.”

To which Ramon, a man that seemed pretentious, arrogant and stupid in his outrageous stand against anything America, protests vehemently.
But Fred, with his complex personality that proved he can be astonishingly creative, humorous and likeable and then soon after silly, naïve and provocative, has a final, excellent point:

-          Fred: Where are the red ants?
-          Ted: [pointing to an ant hill] There….[Fred crushes the ants]

And there are so many more gems, including the moment when Fred is told about Americans, who are more violent and he denies it, with the woman continuing and emphasizing the number of victims killed in shootings…”Oh, shootings, yes. But that doesn't mean Americans are more violent than other people. We're just better shots…”
And there is more on Communicating Across Cultures: “You see, that's one of the great things about getting involved with someone from another country. You can't take it personally. What's really terrific is that when we act in ways which might objectively be considered asshole-ish or incredibly annoying... they don't get upset at all. They don't take it personally. They just assume it's some national characteristic.

Fred: Cosa de gringos.

duminică, 25 iunie 2017

Note on Flirting with Disaster, written and directed by David O. Russell

Note on Califórnia, written and directed by Marina Person

Note on Forrest Gump, based on the novel by Winston Groom, directed by R...

Note on the Bank Dick, written by and starring W.C. Fields

Note on Cockpit, written by Erik Ahrnbom, directed by Marten Klingberg

Schneider vs. Bax, written, directed by and starring Alex van Warmerdam

Schneider vs. Bax, written, directed by and starring Alex van Warmerdam

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

This is a very interesting Dutch film.
We are lucky to have such fare on the five HBO channels that we have available- ever since Netflix moved in town.

Competition can produce miracles.
Schneider vs. Bax is a thriller with a twist.

We have the familiar story of a killer, assigned a target.
But this could be about all that comes “naturally”.

Because Schneider does not want to do the job.
And I think it is unusual to call the killer on his birthday.

Surrounded by family, the hit man says no, but he is convinced by Mertens, the employer.
He has a Skoda that he drives to his “office”.

This is where he keeps a Volkswagen van and the tools of the trade.
Ramon Bax is a writer and lives in a secluded place.

He is therefore an accessible target.
Schneider takes the van, after he uses some disguise.
As he is assessing the location, he is approached by a guard.

On the phone with Mertens, the killer is very upset:

-          You did not tell me about this being a reservation
-          I was stopped by a guard and now I have to go back
-          But why?
-          I have to use another disguise…you didn’t know I am using disguises?

Ramon Bax is not the most likeable victim, one that we would feel sorry for…
He is in the company of a woman, Lucy, towards whom he is very offensive, telling her to leave quickly.

His daughter is coming and when the lover protests that she is also important, she is told to be out in 10 seconds.
The viewer almost wishes to see Schneider walk through the door and teach the old chauvinist pig a lesson…

When the daughter comes, she does not get an answer at the door and when she looks around the house, the father is on the toilet.
All sorts of personages make an appearance, from Bax’s father and his really young girlfriend to Gina, who is taken prisoner by Schneider.

Lucy comes back with a friend, to take her things and she meets with her much older lover, Bax, who is upset:

-          Is this the friend who can take care of me with a finger?!
-          Yes

So Bax, who is in turn a sort of killer himself, shoots a finger off the hand of the outraged and freaked out young man.
The grandfather turns out to be a weirdo, outré if not totally outlandish and despicable man that suffers a tragic fate.

All sorts of unexpected incidents take place and this is a comedy drama, with victims when we expect nothing and laughter when we see a death in the script.
Gina, the kidnapped middle aged woman is sent as a messenger to the Bax house, where the daughter answers the door.

The prisoner is on the run and says something like- “look, I gave you the message and I have to go know…

-          Look at my ankle, if I do not return now, he will blow me off…

A good entertainment, 8 out of 10.

Flirting with Disaster, written and directed by David O. Russell

Flirting with Disaster, written and directed by David O. Russell

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

Flirting with Disaster is a fabulous comedy.
The creator of this film is David O. Russell

And he is behind other great achievements like:

-          Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle and the little less significant for the under signed- Joy

There is a pattern that we can discover in the films of the writer- director.
And that is motion films that are creative, unpredictable, somewhat chaotic and at times crowded with characters.

But when there is a cast like in this movie, it is all an exquisite pleasure:

-          Ben Stiller as Mel Coplin, Patria Arquette as his wife, Nancy; Tea Leoni as Tina Kalb, George Segal as Ed Coplin, Mel’s adoptive father; Alan Alda as the real father of Mel, Richard Schlichting with Lily Tomlin as his wife, Richard Jenkins as Paul Harmon, the gay partner of Agent Tony Kent, played by Josh Brolin…

Mel Coplin wants to find his biological parents and for that he pays for the services of an agency that tracks them down.
The agent is portrayed by the gorgeous Tea Leoni and at a certain stage, Mel is on the point of having an affair with her…

I guess no spoiler alerts are needed, given that the construction of this narrative implies so many surprises that they cannot all be mentioned here…

Even if I tried.
Nancy is the outré wife of Mel, but then everybody is unusual, to say the least, on this Ship of Fools that navigates through America.

Tina, the agent wants to film the reunion between Mel and his mother and for the “rights” to this action she will pay the bill.
Only things get complicated.

-          “Agent Tony: Do you mind if I look at your armpit?
-          Nancy Coplin: My armpit?
-          Agent Tony: It's my favorite part of a woman's body.”

This is just one example on this joy ride that first stops at the address of the presumed mother that turns to be a case of mistaken identity.
Along the way, they meet with two federal agents, Paul Harmon and Tony Kent, who live together as gay partners.

Only the latter gets interested in Nancy, with whom he has the aforementioned scene that is witnessed by her husband:

-          “Mel: [to Agent Tony] You got a lot of nerve. You come in here, you lick my wife's armpit. You know... I'm going to have that image in my head for the rest of my life with your tongue in there.
-          Nancy Coplin: You deserve it.”

After quite a long, humorous journey, they finally reach the home of the biological parents that are called:

-          “ Mrs. Coplin: [hearing the name Schlichting on the phone] The Shit Kings?”
And these parents, portrayed by Alan Alda and Lily Tomlin are such figures as revealed by this dialogue:

-          “Mel: You made LSD? Is that what you're saying?
-          Richard Schlichting: We made LSD…
-          Mary Schlichting: It's really the only hope for the species.
-          Mel: Did you take acid while you were pregnant with me?
-          Mary Schlichting: You're not gonna bring that thing up, are you?
-          Richard Schlichting: You know the stuff they tell you about, you know, chromosome damage and all that stuff?
-          Mel: Yeah, I do!
-          Richard Schlichting: That's government propaganda.
-          Mary Schlichting: Total propaganda.
-          Richard Schlichting: They just want to get a hold of your head, that's all.
-          Mary Schlichting: I was relieved, though, when you came out in the hospital and you only had one head.”

A splendid comedy- 8 out of 10

sâmbătă, 24 iunie 2017

Note on Pu 239, written and directed by Scott Burns, based on story by ...

The Ballad of Cable Hogue, written by John Crawford and Edmund Penney

The Ballad of Cable Hogue, written by John Crawford and Edmund Penney

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

This is a very good comedy- drama
It is included on The New York Times’ Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made List:

The director is Sam Peckinpah.
And he has been involved with a classic- The Wild Bunch- and a number of other motion pictures that are remarkable

-          Straw Dogs- twice, with two different versions- Junior Bonner- also included on The New York Times’ Best Movies list

Jason Robards has the leading role of Cable Hogue.
And he is one of the best actors I have seen…

-          All the President’s Men, Julia, Once Upon a Time in the West are just a few examples…

At the start of the film, we have the dirty, bad looking hero in the middle of the desert, looking at a reptile.
He talks to it, saying something about the fact that it is its bad luck that it is made up of half meat and half water.

And then the poor creature is blown to bits by a shot gun that was used from a short distance by a cowboy.

Two men are nearby and the hero addresses them as Taggart and Bowen and Cable Hogue has a moment of superiority.
But instead of using it to disarm or even blow away people that he knew and stated that are villains, he loses the upper hand.

When the two scoundrels have their guns in their hand, they disarm Hogue and force him to remain in the desert.
This looks not only like murder, but torture on top of it, because with no water and the horse taken from him, the poor man will suffer and die.

Only he finds a hole with water, that means he is saved and then he is next to the path of the diligence.
When it comes by, the men driving it offer a bottle with what I presume is whiskey and a ride to town, which is twenty miles away.

Cable Hogue understands that he is half way between two small cities, twenty miles each way and there is no water in between.
So instead of taking up the offer, he quickly understands the value of what he has found and returns to dig the water out.

His first customer is quickly dead, because he not only refused to pay the 10 cents asked for the water, but also pulls a gun at Hogue.
Preacher Joshua is the next to come and they will remain close throughout the narrative and suggests that the land should be registered with the authorities so that other claimants could not take it away.

When Cable Hogue goes to town and in other moments, there are humorous exchanges, one of which reveals that the hero does not know how to read or write and furthermore, he does not even know how to spell his name…with le or el is the question to which the man has no answer…
In this town he meets the woman that he will eventually become infatuated with, Hildy, who is selling her body.

The start of their relationship is not under the best auspices, seeing as Cable takes a bath, a massage and when they are supposed to consummate their initial client –sex worker arrangement, the man gets out the door.
On top of that, he does not pay and makes Hildy mad, with a series of objects being thrown towards the insolent, bad customer.

Cable Hogue becomes rather rich, after he invests $ 100 – which could be the equivalent of half a million dollars in today’s money- into his two acres of land, on which he builds a sort of eatery, at each he says when asked that he serves snake combined with prairie rat and other unusual meats that disgust customers.

The Ballad of Cable Hogue is a pleasant entertainment.