Oscars and a new job at Krossover!

Well Oscar night is usually one of my favorites of the year (and maybe would be THE favorite if the Oscars weren’t one of the most drawn out/unnecessarily long awards ceremonies).

Also, I’m passing the time leading up to the show by moving to New York City (I’m literally writing this on my phone from the train). While it may cut into some of my production here, I’m pretty thrilled about my new position as a Product Marketing Manager at an awesome company called Krossover (www.Krossover.com), located right in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.

This job change and subsequent move all came about very quickly (as more than a few of my friends and family members have pointed out to me), but it looks like getting laid off from my previous company couldn’t have turned out any better.

Anyway, I don’t feel like writing too much here, but you should check out the company and my latest post (and keep an eye out for more) on our company blog: http://buff.ly/YPwIl6, which features my top ten sports movies and a few predictions for tonight.

Like I said, unfortunately posts will probably begin to trail off here as I’m familiar with the way working at a startup has the tendency to overtake many areas of like (in particular former leisure activities). However, what more could I have asked for in a new job than to be responsible for writing blog posts and tracking their effecton our social media presence? (Pretty much exactly what I was doing for free when unemployed…).

While you’re at it, if you’d like to make an aspiring marketer very happy, check out and follow us on Twitter @Krossovr and Facebook!

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#7 “If what you say is TRUE, the Shaolin and Wu-Tang could be dangerous…”

A lot of things in this world come down to what version of the “Truth,” one accepts. When it comes to whether or not one believes the reports of a detained individual, one who has potentially been starved, sleep-deprived, or even tortured, the meaning of “Truth,” could be the difference between life or death, between stopping a terrorist attack or missing crucial intel that leads to the death of innocent civilians.

Film awards season is one of my favorite times of the year. I don’t particularly care for watching the actual ceremonies themselves, but the time between the holidays and early spring time usually brings with it plenty of compelling features to draw me to theaters. This year has been no exception.

zero-dark-thirty1

Ever since I saw the first trailer for it, I’d been looking forward to checking out Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, starring Jessica Chastain (known for Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, and more recently The Help) and Kyle Chandler (of the Television Series, Friday Night Lights, one of my guilty pleasures). Given the rave reviews I’d come across, both from professionals and friends alike, not to mention the award nods Bigelow had received both for the film and her direction, it was only a matter of time before I made it to check this one out.

The story follows Chastain, cast as a CIA agent, who we are told was recruited directly out of high school to work for the agency, and has spent her entire (albeit short) career hunting Osama Bin Laden. From early on, we are led to look past Chastain’s beauty and delicate natue and see her as a “hardened killer.” We learn this  by way of the description provided by her partner, Dan, played by the Aussie Jason Clarke (though, interestingly, with no discernable accent). Furthermore, Chastain gives off some of this same no bull-shit vibe in a few of her own quotes. When one of Clarke’s prisoners pleads with her for help, she calmly explains, “you can help yourself by being truthful.” By the time Chastain teams up with Clarke, he is mostly on his way out. He returns to DC to take a much needed respite from the intense line of work he has been deeply involved in for some time. Also, despite his warning, Chastain continues with the tactics of hard questioning, and even orchestrating torture of her own, including beatings and water boarding, though she often directs others to carry out the measures.

Later on, while attending a meeting to discuss a possible attack on the safehouse where Chastain believes Bin Laden is hiding, she answers the Director’s (played by James Gandolofini) question of who “this girl is,” with a curt, “I’m the motherfucker that found this place.” This response comes not only as a shock to Gandolfini, but also much to the dismay of her fellow less-senior team members. This quote serves not just to continue to build the reputation of her toughness, but also highlights one of the underlying themes of the film, a commentary on the place of women in the military, in particular in the intense and gritty places like detainee camps in Abu Gharib, Guantonomo bay, and interrogations that range from hardball questioning and even torture.

The film follows an interesting timeline, going back and forth between Chastain’s desparate chase for Bin Laden and chronicling many of the post 9/11 terrorist attacks, including those that killed innocent citizens in London, Pakistan, and elsewhere. After Chastain loses one of her only other female colleagues on the front lines (when a breached security measure leads to a car bombing by supposed Jordanian friendlies within the confines of foreign-based US military and intelligence camp), she turns up the intensity of her search, only to be pulled out when she becomes the target of an attack herself, while driving out of her compound one morning.

With the sour taste left in the mouth of the agency after the loss of several lives in the Jordanian attack, they didn’t want to take any second chances with Chastain and decided to pull her off of the front lines. Much to her dismay, Chastain was forced to relinquish her lead on the safe house she discovered and where she believed Bin Laden could be found. However, even from her removed position, Chastain does her best to stay on top of her superiors. She begins to note the number of days that have passed since the discovery of the presumed whereabouts of Bin Laden in bright red marker on the glass door to her supervisor’s office. As this number grows, so too does the pressure on the agency to do something. This portion of the film feels very reminiscent of another of this award’s season’s top picks, Argo, where a good portion of time is devoted to getting permission for a risky mission. One of the major challenges that both Chastain and her superiors face, is the hesitation of the “decision-makers” to pull the trigger on any attack that isn’t grounded in “certainty.” In another meeting of the minds, Gandolfini again goes around the table, asking each member on the team what ‘probability’ they’d assign to the chance that Bin Laden is actually hiding out there. When it gets to Maya (Chastain), she touches on their juxtaposing fear of, but also requirement for, certainty in saying, “I know certainty freaks you guys out, but it’s a 100%.” It is her confidence that ultimately pushes them over the edge and to green light the mission.

This same confidence, not only launches the mission, but also instills a similar confidence in the members of Navy Seal team 6, who will be the actual ones to carry out the attack. Chris Pratt (notably of Parks and Recreations), plays one of these seals. Even after Chastain has expressed her dislike for the oft lack of professionalism among their team, with their “dip and Velcro and all (their) gear bullshit,” but Pratt feels inspired by her same confidence- “I’ll tell you buddy, if her confidence is the one thing that’s keeping me from getting ass-raped in a  Pakistani prison I’m gonna be honest with you bro. I’m cool with it.”

Other than the pace of getting a risky mission approved, the feel of Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, more closely resembles other feature war films from recent years, such as Black Hawk Down and The Hurt Locker. Interestingly, the key “mission,” involves the use of previously non battle-tested radar-avoiding helicopters and one of the only SNAFU’s in all of the missions, is one of these choppers getting too close to a building and going down after clipping a blade, much like in the 2001 film starring Josh Hartnett and Ewan McGregor. Not surprisingly, Zero Dark Thirty handles the difficult topic film dealing with the sensitive topic of detainee camps and torture as The Hurt Locker, led by a stellar performance from Jeremy Renner, does with the intense work involved in dismantling IEDs, as Bigelow was at the helm of both films.

The running theme of the film surrounding the role of women in the military, in particular, in areas as sensitive as interrogations, anti-terrorism, and torture comes to a fitting conclusion along with the eventual capture and killing of Bin Laden. After the return of Seal Team 6, while the team members are dumping and sorting their “loot,” from the raid, their commander, Admiral Bill McCraven, played by Christopher Stanley (of Mad Men) stands and waits by the body bag with an open phone line to some high-ranking official (possibly the President). He calls in Chastain to perform the final task, the one she has been waiting for since being recruited out of high school to hunt down Bin Laden. When she finally unzips the back and pulls back the cover to reveal the long grey beard and hated face she hoped to see, she simply nods to Stanley and he relays the message that the “girl,” has positively ID’d the target.

All in all, Zero Dark Thirty is led by standout performances from Chastain, Chandler, and Clarke. Given my preference for character-driven narratives, I would have liked to learn a little more about some of their personal lives. However, given the skill of Bigelow, it’s possible that this lack of character depth was intentional and meant to highlight the lack of personal lives that these individuals had outside of their mission to capture Bin Laden and help prevent the senseless further loss of lives.

It’d be quite the task to stack this intense film up against the others I’ve seen this season, but it is certainly in good company.

#6 “We did it man. We did it. We’re rich, man….You know Billy, we blew it.”- Easy Rider (1969)

Easy Rider

Easy Rider (starring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and a very young looking Jack Nicholson) had long been on my list of “older” (pre-1990ish) movies to see.

Anyway, I knew very little about the film other than that it starred two counter-culture buddies who take a road trip across America. Other than that, I didn’t know much about their agenda or the adventures and mishaps they’d find along the way. Also, I didn’t realize that Dennis Hopper not only starred in the movie, but also co-wrote it with his fellow lead actor Peter Fonda and even directed the film. Given the fact that Fonda and Hopper appear in most of the movie’s scenes, that is an impressive directorial effort.

The two hippie bikers do get into a decent amount of trouble on their route from LA to go check out Mardi Gras in New Orleans. They pick up a hitchhiker who doesn’t tell them how far he needs to go, other than reassuring them that it “isn’t too far.” This fellow (only listed as a ‘Stranger on the highway,’ by IMDB) also answers questions in the vaguest way possible. When asked “Where ya from man?” He responds, “Hard to say.” Then he goes on to elaborate, but only in a similarly vague fashion: “I’m from the city…Doesn’t matter what city; all cities are alike.” Billy (Hopper) gets frustrated by this answer (he hasn’t really liked the stranger since Fonda picked him up) and asks why he would even mention it, “Cause I’m FROM the city; a long WAY from the city, and that’s where I wanna be right now.”

Billy is fairly skeptical of most of the people they meet along the way, Including the rest of the folks belonging to the commune where they drop the ‘Stranger’ off and spend a little time. His skepticism stems partly from his fear that everyone just wants to steal the money he and Captain America (Fonda) have just scored in a Coke deal that sets off their travels. The copious amount of weed he smokes throughout the film’s entirety probably also doesn’t help keep his  fears at bay, however rational they may or may not be. Billy doesn’t really want to stick around the commune too long, nor did he want to hang around the farm where they stopped to fix a flat tire and were graciously offered a warm cooked meal. However, he doesn’t seem to mind picking up two females while there and bringing them to a local watering hole for some frolicking in the buff.

I think my favorite parts of the movie are after the point (or perhaps just before the point) where Hopper and Fonda team up with Nicholson. They somehow end up in some small podunk town where a parade is taking place and they attempt to join in the festivities on their bikes, only to be arrested for “parading without a permit,” a crime that really rubs Billy the wrong way. It is while locked up in the local jail that they meet George Hanson, played by Nicholson, an alcoholic Attorney, presumably locked up for some drunken antics. The relationship between the three starts off with a fair amount of animosity, as Nicholson wakes Honda up within their shared cell and Hopper comes to his aid, threatening Nicholson. However, the three make up when Nicholson is able to pull some strings with the guards and get Hopper and Fonda some much desired cigarettes. When they are released, the three set off (but only after Nicholson starts his day with his swig of Jim Beam and a good morning salute:

When he puts on an old-school football helmet and his jersey sweater, we’re supposed to believe that the now washed up Nicholson once played football at Michigan (a little difficult to swallow).

Some of my favorite scenes in the movie come during the many nights spent around the campfire (other than the strange multiple quick scene cuts that often come in a row before or after the travelers set up camp). It is in one of Nicholson’s first nights with the crew that they introduce him to what he claims is his first “marijuana cigarette”. He only gets through part of it, partially out of concern for mixing it with his heavy boozing, but also at Fonda’s suggestion that he save the rest for the next day to see things in “a whole new way”. Nicholson doesn’t appear to see much of anything, as he looks mostly comatose after finishing off the joint the next morning.

Another one of my favorite scenes (but unfortunately one that leads to one of the strangest and most tragic scene in the film) *** Spoiler alerts*** comes when the three musketeers wander into a small diner somewhere in Louisiana. All of the locals (other than a group of young girls) are both scared of and put off by the appearances of the three shaggy looking travelers. They make crude and threatening remarks and the waitress refuses to even acknowledge them. The young girls are intrigued by the older and mysterious threesome, but quickly lose interest when the trio won’t give them motorcycle rides.

The following tragic scene, which these events lead up to, came completely out of left field (for me at least). Once again, we find the three vagabonds camping somewhere just outside of town, only to be accosted in the middle of the night by the same men who stared them down earlier in the small town diner. Hopper scares the men off, brandishing a knife; however, not before the real damage is done, which leaves Nicholson fatally wounded.

Sadly and ironically, at that point, I remembered a line between two of the men in the diner when the “Deputy” asked “What’cha think we ought to do with ’em?” And the other replied: “I don’t damn know, but I don’t think they’ll make the parish line.”

From this point forward, the movie continues down the stranger and darker course it started on in Louisiana. Wyatt and Billy vow to return George’s (Nicholson’s) things to his family, they visit a brothel (following through on the suggestion from George), which Billy seems much more enthusiastic about than Wyatt, and then carry on with the two prostitutes for much longer than would be expected. These misadventures include a drug-induced trip in an abandoned and run-down cemetery and finally visiting the much anticipated Mardi Gras celebration.

The final scenes of the film came almost equally as unexpected to me as the scene in the woods in which Nicholson loses his life; however, after that, maybe I should have expected as much.

All in all, I am glad I saw this movie, as Nicholson, Hopper and Fonda were great and I had intended to for some time. However, other than that, I don’t have really positive things to say about it. In some ways, I’m sure it will always be considered a classic and the multiple-effort roles by Hopper and Fonda are indeed impressive; however, there are two many idiosyncrasies in it for me to really rave about this one.

As one final note, I have to mention the stunning resemblance I saw between Peter Fonda and the New England Patriot’s Quarterback Tom Brady:

Peter Fondatom on bike

Fonda’s bike is a little cooler though…(also weird coincidence that Nicholson’s character was supposed to have played football at Michigan as Brady did)

#5 “Hey. I got a bet. I come in this game right now, same score…” – Derek

Image

Look familiar?

I think I saw these same courts several years ago when I visited Venice; but while staying just up the beach from them this trip, I was able to get a great shot.

This intense scene comes from American History X, one of my favorite movies of all time. I’m not sure which came first, my appreciation for Edward Norton (probably one of my favorite actors) or my love of this movie.

Interestingly, I think some small element to my affinity for writing comes from various characters in movies I’ve liked who happen to be good writers, such as Derek’s little brother Danny (played by Edward Furlong) and Rob Brown’s leading character in ‘Finding Forrester,’ both a writing prodigy and basketball phenom.

American History X is certainly not for the faint of heart. The movie follows a group of neo-nazis living in a racially contentious period in LA following the beating of Rodney King and subsequent riots. Norton plays Derek Vineyard, an extremely bright, but angry and vulnerable youth following the tragic death of his father, who becomes the young leader through which a local neo-nazi legend (Stacy Keach) orchestrates acts of violence and attempts to spread his hateful propaganda.

Arguably one of the most violent and well-known scenes in the film comes as a direct result of the victory of “whites over the blacks,” on the basketball court:

***Warning Violent ***

Incidentally, the subsequent prison sentence Derek faces after his brutal crime and the violence and abuse he suffers while there eventually leads him to question all of the propaganda he had previously simply accepted when blinded by anger after the death of his father. This questioning along with a friendship he develops with a black man he is forced to work with in the prison laundry room as well as discussions he has with his former teacher (one of the few black people he had looked up to and respected) eventually lead to his redemption and an attempt to save his younger brother from ending up on the same path for destruction he took.

#4 “Aint no mountain high enough…” – Marvin Gaye

poker

In my first full week of “Funemployment,” my movie watching rate has increased over and above an already avid pace. After enjoying Jennifer Lawrence’s recent performance in the Silver Lining’s Playbook, I wanted to check out one of her earlier films and one that my father recommended. He did warn me that the movie, ‘The Poker House,’ (2008), was much grittier and more similar to the 2010 adaptation of Daniel Woodrell’s novel “Winter’s Bone,” (also starring Lawrence).

 

Bone

Lawrence plays the difficult female lead Agnes, the eldest sister of three girls in a dysfunctional family torn apart by physical abuse, poverty, and drugs. They live in small Iowa town circa 1976, in what is locally referred to as “The Poker House,” which serves a combination of purposes- underground casino, a brothel, drug den, and also unfortunately, the home where three girls, the oldest being only 14, must attempt to lay their heads at night.

Agnes’ mother, played wonderfully by Selma Blair, we learn wasn’t always as pitifully worthless as a mother. Her husband, a preacher, and the father of her three young girls, had a tendency toward violence and anger. Sadly, he often took this out in the form of physical abuse upon the rest of his family. In what would hopefully be an improvement, social services removes the girls from his care and they are never to see him again. Within short order, Blair falls victim to the luring appeal of alcohol and harder drugs, eventually feeding her addictions by turning tricks and allowing her pimp to take over her home in order to conduct his ruthless and gritty business.

Miraculously, Lawrence manages to fill the role of mother to her two younger sisters, caretaker to her drug-addicted mother,a straight-A student, the hard working part-time employee of the local newspaper, and the star of her high school basketball team.

Given that I had prepared myself for the intense story to come and the stage set for disaster early in the film, I was on edge from the start, waiting to see what tragedy would befall these already disadvantaged girls next.

First I worried that the father of one daughter’s best friend, at who’s house she spent much of time,  usually until she was kicked out by the girl’s mother who had six children of her own to care for, would turn out less gentle than he appeared. Interestingly, when his kind gesture of taking her to breakfast, albeit at a bar, which struck me as a terrible place to bring and eventually leave behind a young girl, turned out to be a much healthier environment for her to spend the day. Whereas instead, the middle sister, who after waking early on a cold day when she didn’t even have school (because of some “jewish people’s holiday”)  must first deliver papers and then to go wait in line for a few dollars made by returning empty liquor bottles along with the town’s local bums (who appear to be two of her only friends). She then must return home only to barricade herself in her room in an attempt to practice her saxophone and get some rest while one of the typical “poker parties,” begins to surge just outside her door.

Despite her constant proximity to her mother’s multitude of vices and seedy associates, Agnes manages to remain mostly free from these dangerous influences. However, the she does give in to a bizarre relationship with Duval, her mother’s pimp. In narrating her poetry, Lawrence describes how she likes to give in to him and his seemingly innocent kisses, enjoying the soft and gentle feel of his lips. However, she deludes herself into thinking this man can actually love her, while ignoring the fact that he is the same man who pimps out and beats her mother, often right in front of her. In the same way she wears the many hats of the roles she needs to fill, she maintains multiple distinct views of who this man really is.

The film takes place mostly in the span of one day (an unintentional theme of many of my recent flicks), the day of Agnes’ semi-final game in the state basketball tournament, which she describes as the biggest game of her career to date. As the day goes on and Agnes must juggle waking, feeding, and caring for both of her sisters AND her mother, stealing household necessities such as toilet paper from the local convenience store, gracing the local court for pickup with some younger boys from town, doing homework, and dropping her freelance poetry off at the newspaper, one begins to wonder whether she’ll even make it to the game.

This worry really takes shape when Agnes returns home to a full-blown “poker party.” Again, she puts the well-being of her sister ahead of her own, planning somewhere safer for her to go spend the evening. With all of your heart you wish she’d just leave the house as well and head to the gym to warm up. Instead, you cringe as she removes her sister’s barricade and wanders out into the party among the drunks, whores, pimps, and card players.

When Duval sees her, she tells him that she can’t stay because of the duties she has both to her team and coach and one still hopes that she’ll escape, despite the fact that she has already started smoking her second joint of the day. She gives in to his kisses once again, however, we see that even he senses the inappropriateness of making out with the 14-year old daughter of his hooker, as he pulls away when someone else walks by. However, when Duval returns to the party and Agnes sees him simultaneously kissing her mother and planning the next john to pimp her out to, things go from bad to worse. Agnes struggles to deal with this difficult scene and grabs the nearest pint of liquor she can find and begins drinking.

         *** (DISTURBING) SPOILER ALERT **

After a quick scare caused by police sirens heard outside, the scene jumps to the disturbing moment I had been anxiously waiting for, but one I never expected. We see Duval and Agnes lying together on the floor in her bedroom in a moment that quickly turns from gentle to disgusting and violent as the much older, stronger, and larger man rapes the 14-year-old child.

Agnes is overwhelmed with worries, the most pressing of which is that she may now be carrying the child of her mother’s pimp. In a desperate attempt to cleanse herself, she gets into a bath still wearing her oversized T-shirt. At this point, her mother comes in, having no idea what has transpired and ignores the sight of her child crying in the tub. Agnes reaches out to her mother, in the way a child who has defiantly presented herself as strong and independent, honestly screaming for the comfort only a mother could provide after such a horrific trauma. This may be the first moment in the entire film where viewers actually see Agnes for the 14-year old girl, vulernable, and immature as she is (and should be at her age). Her mother, fucked up beyond belief, is incapable of providing any solace and instead recounts some tale of how tired she used to grow of the constant requests from her daughter to read to her.

At this point, most viewers won’t remember that just a few short scenes ago they were pulling for Lawrence to still make it to her game, let alone that she would even be able to still play in her current post-traumatic state. However, she defies every doubt and steals a car from the poker house, changes into her uniform in the parking lot and shows up in time, albeit late, to still take the court. Her coaches anger at her tardiness quickly subsides when she begins to take over the game within her first possession. She scores some unprecedented number of points in the few minutes she has left to play, and gets her team within one basket of a win. As you would expect, she gets the opportunity to take the game-winning shot, and in a brief respite from the utter defeatism that has surrounded the rest of the movie, she makes it, landing a huge victory for her team and her town, all of whom rely on her almost as much as her dysfunctional family.

This hard to imagine comeback carries over nicely into a pleasant, even if certainly and utterly fleeting, feeling when she finds her two sisters hanging out by a bridge. The three of them then go off together to celebrate the victory, both in the game and in their constant struggle for survival against unimaginable odds, as they sing Marvin Gaye’s “Aint no mountain high enough,” in a display of the bond only sisters who have gone through trials such as these three could know.

Even though I noticed the “Based on a true story” tag when the film opened, I thought little of it throughout the emotional rollercoaster of a tale. However, I was that much more floored to learn that the film’s writer and director, Lori Petty, based the story on her own traumatic experiences as a young girl growing up in a the real life “Poker House.”

#3 Always try to find the Silver Linings

Silver Linings

I knew it had something to do with football, featured Robert DeNiro, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence, and had received some rave reviews and even a few awards early in the season (pre-oscars). Other than that, I didn’t know much.

I certainly didn’t know that the film’s opening scenes would take place in a Baltimore psychiatric facility. Given  work I had done both while volunteering in college at a state run hospital just outside of Philadelphia (where the rest of the movie takes place) and also as a full-time research coordinator in one of the most expensive private psychiatric treatment centers in the country, just outside of Boston, I might have reconsidered before choosing this as thing to see on a second date. However, it was her suggestion originally, and given my love for movies, I usually don’t turn down the opportunity to incorporate them into a date, especially when I don’t even have to suggest it.

However, in the end, the film lived up to expectations and didn’t confirm my initial fears that the film choice would drag down the evening, given what I know of the bleak and dreary settings of some psychiatric hospitals and their capacity to dampen moods.

Instead, David Russell’s adaptation of Matthew Quick’s novel (of the same name) uses the theme of mental illness to contrast and compare the two main characters (Bradley Cooper and Lawrence) as the attempt to both “out-crazy” one another, yet also maintain the mental stability high ground, in their developing friendship. Moreso, the theme of mental illness or “craziness,” appears to fascinate many of the so-called “sane” characters in the film, including a relentless student who repeatedly tries to interview and even catch on film some of the “bi-polar episodes,” and the co-workers of Cooper’s older brother, a well-meaning but overshadowing successful  lawyer, who struggles to relate to his younger brother without bringing up areas in which he has “out-performed” him in some way or another.

In a way, I think Quick (though I haven’t yet read the book), but certainly Russell is attempting to point out the sometimes less than obvious, but certainly present mild “mental illnesses,” or at least psychiatric symptomatology that almost everyone experiences every so often, some more often than others. In Silver Linings, there’s Cooper’s father, played by De Niro, an aging bookie, who we learn has been permanently banned from the Eagles Stadium because of his violent outbursts and fights. Then, while he watches the games at home (not by choice) he engages in his “superstitions,” that border on obsessive-compulsive and even delusional when he believes (mistakenly as she later points out) that Cooper’s developing relationship with Lawrence has somehow thrown off the Eagles good luck. Then there is Cooper’s best friend Ronnie (played by John Ortiz), who struggles to deal with the increasing stress caused by a chaotic marriage, a newborn child, and increasing financial responsibilities, all of which he believes he can successfully cope with by going into his garage, listening to Metallica, and “breaking shit.”

Whether these other characters would actually meet any diagnostically significant criteria, at least as defined by the DSM or some other standard accepted within psychiatry, I don’t know. However, I think the film does a really nice job of pointing out that the individuals who have spent time in facilities, whether state-run or private, whether on a recommendation from friends, loved ones, or a doctor or by the mandate of a court system really aren’t that different from the rest of us when you can look past the the stigma and labels society likes to throw at them.

Regardless of how you feel about the social commentary on mental illness, this turned out to be a fine “date movie,” that handles some serious topics very nicely with both humor and grace.

#2 “Talent is more erotic when it’s wasted” -Didi Fancher, in Cosmopolis (2012)

Image       I read this short Don DeLilo novel several years ago upon the recommendation of my father. He thought I might enjoy and could possibly even relate to the personality of the main character, a 28 year old billionaire who employs a distant, yet matter of fact way of going about his business, financial transactions, doctor’s appointments (including a very intense prostate exam while carrying on a meeting with an employee), and sexual trysts, all within the confines of his stretch white limousine and who vaguely embodies some of the estranged characteristics of Camus’ Merseault.

David Cronenberg (one of my favorite directors- especially of Eastern Promises, A Dangerous Method, and A History of Violence) takes on the difficult task of setting DeLilo’s tale to screen. The story, taking place place in a mere 24 hours, revolves around the self-absorbed finance whiz who claims to accomplish one thing, and one thing only, to get a hair cut. His drive across mid-town Manhattan to accomplish this seemingly simple task gets interrupted by several meetings (again almost all of them conducted within the confines of the half tank, half mobile home-like limo), some personal and some business, and also gets derailed, as New York is overrun with crowds due to an impending visit from the fictional President of the United States, the funeral procession of a local hip-hop legend (and a favorite of Eric’s, the main character), and increasingly violent protests by mobs of anarchists. None of these events (other than the funeral) really seem to bother Eric, nor do they make him believe his chief of security and his detection of “high threat levels,” at least high enough to warrant putting off the trim.

When I first heard that ‘Cosmopolis,’ would make a run at the silver screen, I was thrilled with the choice of Cronenberg as a director, but not with that of Robert Pattison (known to me only for his lead role in the ‘Twilight’ saga). Sure they needed a young, attractive, and talented male lead; however, given the focus on Eric’s role throughout the film, particularly within the confined nature of the limoLimo, where most of the film is shot, I think this was a major let down of the production.

According to one Slate article, Cronenberg was bound by production laws to only use one American actor in the feature, an honor he gave to Paul Giamatti who only really appears in the film’s climax and notably one of the most eventful scenes throughout.

All in all, Cronenberg made the best out of the actor he chose to work with and the difficult to-adapted screenplay, full of highfalutin dialogue and strange financial and apocalyptic themes. I couldn’t lump this one into the same category of some of my favorites by Cronenberg (listed earlier) or on the same level as Spike Lee’s ‘25th hour,’ which also takes on the challenging task of bringing to life characters and weaving a story within the confines of 24-hours (again adapted from a novel, this time from David Benioff).