Haiku and Review: First Reformed

a man of God, lost
finding purpose in darkness
and bliss in a cup

The film begins with a perfectly centered shot of a church at dawn, the camera slowly pushing in as the sky lightens.

Within ten seconds, you know you’re in the hands of a pro, and the pro here is Paul Schrader.

In a way, this movie is reminiscent of one of Schrader’s earlier works, Taxi Driver, which he wrote.  I’m not usually a fan of voiceovers, but I make my exceptions with Schrader and Terrence Malick, because these aren’t really voiceovers per se.  Voiceovers can easily become a crutch in a film, the laziest way to info-dump, but in this movie, it serves to build character more than anything else.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to watch this movie with as little information as possible.  All I knew was that Ethan Hawke plays a priest (turns out to be a minister) who’s lost his way.  That’s all you need to know.

First Reformed is a work of art.  I think that’s the highest praise you can accord a film, and this movie deserves every bit.  Taxi Driver is a movie written by a young man; it possesses that raw, unbridled energy.  First Reformed is a movie written and directed by an older, wiser man, and it’s full of grace and beauty.  Best movie I’ve seen this year so far, hands down.

11/2/2018 7:30pm: The Washing Society/Loads of Prose

Attention, friends and strangers who happen to live in the vicinity of NYC!  I’ll be at the Anthology Film Archives on Friday, 11/2 at 7:30pm, to take in the screening of the film The Washing Society and afterwards, I’ll be doing a reading in support of Emily Rubin‘s Loads of Prose.  My story is titled “The Best of the Vest,” and if you want to know what it’s about, come on by!

Here’s a trailer for the movie.

The Washing Society (trailer) by Lizzie Olesker and Lynne Sachs – 2018 from Lynne Sachs on Vimeo.

And here’s all the info you need for the event.

THE WASHING SOCIETY/LOADS OF PROSE
Screenings and Readings
Thursday and Friday November 1, 2 at 7:30

ANTHOLOGY FILM ARCHIVES
32 2nd Ave NYC NY 10003
212-505-5181
http://anthologyfilmarchives.org

The Washing Society
by Lizzie Olesker & Lynne Sachs
2018, 45 min, digital

Film Notes

SPECIAL SCREENINGS: ARTISTS & SPECIAL GUESTS IN PERSON!

Featuring laundry workers Wing Ho, Lula Holloway, and Margarita Lopez, and actors Ching Valdes-Aran, Jasmine Holloway, and Veraalba Santa.

THE WASHING SOCIETY brings us into New York City laundromats and reveals the experiences of the people working there. Filmmaker Lynne Sachs and playwright Lizzie Olesker collaborate to observe and investigate the disappearing public space of the neighborhood laundromat, and the continual labor that happens there. The intersection of history, immigration, and underpaid work is woven into the film’s observational moments and interviews, along with the uniquely public/private exchange of dirt, lint, stains, and money. The juxtaposition of narrative and documentary elements creates a dream-like, yet hyper-real portrayal of a day in the life of a laundry worker, both past and present.

Screening with:
Lizzie Olesker & Lynne Sachs DESPERTAR: NYC LAUNDRY WORKERS RISE UP (2018, 5 min, digital)

SPECIAL GUESTS:
Thurs, Nov 1:
Historian Tera Hunter, whose book TO ‘JOY MY FREEDOM depicts the 1881 organization of African-American laundresses in Atlanta, and Mahoma Lopez and Rosanna Rodriguez (Co-Directors, Laundry Workers Center), will join us to discuss justice in the workplace.

Fri, Nov 2:
‘Loads of Prose,’ a reading series staged in laundromats, presents authors Emily Rubin (STALINA, 2011), Sung J Woo (LOVE LOVE 2015, EVERYTHING ASIAN, 2009), and Christine Lewis (Organizer, Domestic Workers United), who will read their stories of hidden labor and the challenges of our changing neighborhoods, where infrastructures are crumbling due to the visceral and economic demands of gentrification.

And here’s a bit of lovely trivia — I watched the film Private Life this afternoon, written and directed by the always wonderful Tamara Jenkins.  It’s currently playing on Netflix, and how cool is it that the Anthology Film Archives is featured in the film!  Check out the screencap.

Private Life (2018)

Haiku and Review: Crazy Rich Asians

 

Ship on three towers

Asian leads in a rom-com

Wedding on water

 

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a good rom-com — for the uninitiated, that’s shorthand for romantic comedy.  Some of my favorites are Bridget Jones, Notting Hill, The Proposal, and the grandmommy of them all, Roman Holiday.  And in retrospect, that oldie is what Crazy Rich Asians reminds me of most, because at the core of it, this is a story of a commoner falling in love with royalty.  Nick Young may not be the prince of Singapore, but he’s the closest thing, and this is an extremely well-made fish-out-of-water story of Rachel Wu’s plight.  Much of the humor is supplied by her best friend Peik Lin, portrayed by the half Chinese, half Korean, entirely American and hilarious Awkwafina (with some choice assists from Ken Jeong playing her dad).

I don’t want to spoil a single thing, so I would just urge you to go see this in the theater.  It’s funny, heart-lifting, heart-rending, heart-everything.  I can’t believe there was a time when Michelle Yeoh was considered only an action star.  She’s so, so good here, her acting largely reserved, her reactions mostly minute — and yet she’s a gigantic presence.  The poster may be featuring the leads, but it’s Yeoh who’s the center of this film, and deservedly so.  Brava!

p.s. Yes, of course it’s a big deal that this is the first movie since The Joy Luck Club to feature an all-Asian cast.  But this film is so much more than a cultural signifier — it’s first and foremost a fine work of cinema.  So on that merit alone, it should be seen.  Though it absolutely bears mentioning that it took guts and sacrifices to put this up on the big screen — worth a read and then some: The Stakes Are High for ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ — And That’s the Point

Haiku and Review, Scifi Edition: Barbarella, Event Horizon, Alien: Covenant, Starship Troopers, The Thirteenth Floor

After listening to the latest season of the podcast You Must Remember This, which featured Jane Fonda, my wife and I thought it would be kind of neat to go through Fonda’s filmography.  We started with her first real movie role on Walk on the Wild Side and after a few more films, arrived at…

Barbarella
This is one strange film.
So strange that I had to stop.
And feel terrible…

After half an hour, I’d had enough.  A sexploitation film in every way, though I think what bothered me more than anything was that Fonda seemed 100% committed to the campy role with absolute seriousness.  There’s something eerie about the juxtaposition.  Not recommended.

Now for the rest — I’ve been meaning to see some of these movies for quite a while; we’re talking years for all but the newest (Alien: Covenant).  I had some time last week, so it was a great joy to finally catch up to them.

Event Horizon
What an engine room!
Gotta love the spike decor.
Hellraiser in space.

Not what I expected.  I mean I’d heard this was a horror movie set in space, in the vein of Alien, but I did not know how much Clive Barker influence it had (he was consulted, even, during pre-production).  Laurence Fishburne was so young and thin!  Recommended.

Alien: Covenant
I’ve seen this before
in Star Trek’s Data and Lore
with much less drooling.

I liked Prometheus better than this one.  Not a bad movie, and Michael Fassbender is wonderful as always, but sadly predictable in just about every way.  My favorite moment of the film was when Amy Seimetz, who plays Faris (and wife of Danny McBride’s Tennessee), in her dash to escape the alien, bangs her shoulder against a metal box in the hallway.  It seemed so utterly real, her panic.  Barely recommended.

Starship Troopers
Time to kill some bugs!
Wooden acting master class.
Hooray…fascism?

Wow, is the acting bad in this film.  Helmed by Paul Verhoeven, who also directed Total Recall and Basic Instinct, you’d think that he’d know how to get a half-decent performances out of his young actors, but no, the leads are uniformly terrible, even Neal Patrick Harris.  I couldn’t quite figure this movie out — it’s made to resemble a propaganda film, I guess to satirize the obvious fascism/Nazism imagery, but it almost seems like it’s celebrating it?  It’s weird.  And really bad, and not in a good way.  Not recommended.

The Thirteenth Floor
Plot is tricky, and
D’Onofrio’s amazing
as geek and barkeep.

Craig Bierko is the lead in this film, but Vincent D’Onofrio, as always, steals every scene he’s in.  I think everyone who knows movies knows about D’Onofrio, but he’s one of these actors that I wish was a household name.  Four actors play dual parts in this movie, but D’Onofrio is the only one who really seems like two completely different people.  There’s a twist in this movie that’s quite ingenious; I wish they went even farther with it, but I’ll take what I can get.  Recommended.