I think the beauty of a good movie is being able to see yourself inside of it–that your connection to a film is indicative of what lies beneath the surface. So it is fitting that just when I needed to feel a bit of lightness in my life, when I was feeling a bit lost, I stumbled upon The Ramen Girl–a charming and eloquent tale of a twenty-something American named Abby, who had been abandoned by her boyfriend after following him to Tokyo.
Abby (Brittany Murphy) is the quintessential wanderer–a romantic and a dreamer, who perhaps hasn’t yet found within herself enough purpose to create a stronghold on reality. After being blindsided by her graphic designer boyfriend, Abby is left alone in a country where she does not speak the language. One night when she’s feeling her lowest, she drifts into a ramen noodle restaurant and finds that the warmth of the broth makes her happy again. She becomes consumed with the idea of learning the craft of ramen-making and begs the owner of the shop to be her sensei and teach her to be a ramen chef.
Not only did I see a true character arc in Abby, but I was also treated to a charming love story steeped in Japanese culture and music. I think what I enjoyed the most, aside from the story line itself, was the fact that the foreigner was actually the foreigner: i.e. the American was actually portrayed as truthfully living in a foreign country as opposed to the foreign country adapting to the American. This read true even as Abby’s story developed and more characters were introduced. The Japanese characters are not dumbed down at all to support any American egos, and there is truly something to be said for that given American cinema history.
If you can get past the tongue in cheek (sort of shallow) movie poster (pictured at the top), you’ll find a divine and relateable treat about growth, love and not giving up on yourself.]]>
High school sweethearts, Celeste and Jesse, are the best of friends. They are so close they practically have their own language, so it is shocking when it is revealed that the young couple are actually in the middle of a divorce. For what in the beginning seems like a very fun and emotionally connected relationship, midway through we see the eloquent unraveling of history, friendship and love.
Celeste (Rashida Jones) is a successful trend analyzer with her own marketing company, and Jesse (Andy Samberg) is an out-of-work artist who seems to be content with where he is in life. The two have been carrying on for months as though nothing has changed between them when in fact, everything has absolutely changed. Their lives are headed in different directions although the history that holds them together is as pure and untainted as it was at the start of their relationship. Rashida Jones and Will McCormack, who also starred in the film as Jesse’s weed-supplying friend Skillz, co-wrote this vibrant, current and relevant screenplay.
Although most certainly a drama of sorts, Celeste and Jesse Forever is frequently surprisingly “light” and full of humor. What keeps you from sobbing is laughter and that’s important in any great movie (relationship, too). Also, you get to watch a story unfold to the likes of a wonderful and timely soundtrack!
Whether it’s watching the evolution of a dear friendship or experiencing the warmth of a new love, matters of the heart are real and changing, and they deeply effect the lens through which we see the world, either with those people or beyond them. Celeste and Jesse Forever was perhaps one of the most poignant films I have seen in years.
In perfect timing with some current themes in my life, Ira & Abby comes along with all the right questions (and not so bad solutions) for marriage 21st century style. In a movie about love, leaping and loyalty, neurotic PhD candidate, Ira (Chris Messina), and bohemian sales associate, Abby (Jennifer Westfeldt), marry each other after only being acquainted for a week.
Completely sold on “a feeling” about each other, the two exchange vows with the expectation that love conquers all, only to find out that their lofty ideals lead to a bed of disappointment. Abby and Ira end up having to confront the truths of what it means to be with someone forever and the role that plays in today’s world.
Even though I’m not yet married, I have been struggling with understanding the relevancy of the construct as I discover my personal definition of what I want in a relationship. I think Ira & Abby does a wonderful job of setting up the question at hand, not focusing on what marriage should be as much as what a relationship should be. The movie itself shines with lots of humorous, quirky moments and witty repartee with great supporting actors such as Fred Willard and Frances Conroy, who play Abby’s equally flighty parents, and Robert Klein and Judith Light, who certainly mirror Ira’s neuroses as two professional “analysts.”
Most of all, the ending was perfection and I don’t say that quite often.]]>
I live in Brooklyn so lucky for me Brooklyn Babylon popped up as a suggestion. I’m not sure what exactly intrigued me about this film. Maybe it was the interracial setup of a black Rastafarian rapper played by Tariq Trotter, aka Black Thought from The Roots, and a Hasidic Jewish girl played by Karen Goberman. But I think the fact that the film was shot in Brooklyn and was a love story was reason enough.
Sara (Goberman) and Solomon (Trotter) are from two different worlds. She’s an Hasidic Jew, he’s a Jamaican Rasta yet they both live in neighboring areas of Brooklyn, divided by the lines of their faith and ethnicity. When a car accident occurs between those from either group, a series of hate crimes ensue with Sara and Solomon’s budding relationship at the helm of it all.
I’m not normally one for “hip-hop love stories” but Trotter does a good job at portraying himself, basically. His character in the movie doesn’t require him to stretch too far from a concept he’s familiar with: a rapper. Although the film is set up to discuss love and race, Brooklyn Babylon doesn’t pose the big questions. It simply does a literal song and dance around the ideals of the Jewish faith versus the black community and at the end of it all, the entire film comes off as a Romeo and Juliet -esque promenade of betrayal, loyalty and star-crossed lovers that at times seems a bit hokey.
I expected a stronger stance considering the movie starred some rather political hip-hoppers, minus the random cameo of the legendary Slick Rick. Then again, the film was written and directed by Marc Levin, a white man out of Jersey who according to IMDB, has a penchant for “thug/hood” stories/drama. Enough said. But with a little more research, I dug up that Levin actually based this story on real events after his own family erupted when his sister ran off to live with a Rastafarian man. Yet, learning that fact only made me wonder why he didn’t delve deeper into the hatred and resistance. He only skimmed the surface leaving froth instead of milk.
But all in all, it was more about the love, I suppose, and if that was what was to be at the forefront, Sara and Solomon displayed some authentic chemistry on screen, much like a dream sequence.]]>
I’ve seen Chris Rock’s live stand up performances and I’ve watched Martin Lawrences’ many contributions to the world of comedy but these two as a duo totally made my evening. “Death at a Funeral”, a remake of a 2007 British film, salutes the origianl award-winning farce yet brings its own magic to the screen.
Rock and Lawrence star as two estranged brothers who, due to their father’s wishes, must have the funeral in their parents’ home. With a cast full of scene stealers and a tight script, this movie delivered sequence after sequence of turns and plot-twisting and funny “ha ha” moments. Seriously, who wasn’t in this film?! Danny Glover, Loretta Devine, Zoe Saldana, James Marsden, Tracy Morgan, Kevin Hart, Luke Wilson and the list goes on. I’d hardly payed attention to the previews for this so much of the cast was a scene by scene surprise for me.
Though a bit predictable, watching this film reminded me of the old days of GOOD Martin Lawrence and Will Smith comedies that made you want to memorize lines they were so funny. But really it’s the compliment comes more out of the appreciation of solid black comedic performances than anything else. Also, I say all of this because I’m not an easy one to crack. I despise most slap-stick comedy and I certainly tend to lean towards more clever reels so if I’m laughing, then congratulations!
I also give two thumbs up for lack of coonery. That may read harsh but the satisfaction in not seeing another black cast film of church scenes and cornbread and mike cousin tony who just stepped outta prison is a relief and a pleasure you can’t even dream of. Although this is a remake of a predominantly white cast, the opportunity could have presented itself to rewrite the script and add a little “kool-aid” color to it but thank goodness that didn’t happen. Writer Dean Craig stayed on the up and up.
My only quam was the lack of dimension for the female characters. With such illustrous woman actors in this film, the writing for them was bland and static. But I get it, I get it. It was about the men.
And the boys put their foot in this one! This is by far, one of the best comedies I didn’t have to pay for…this year. But again, all of my enjoyment could have simply stemmed from the fact I snuck in a little “drink” prior to the movie.
Thanks to being home for a relaxing Easter weekend with the family, I got to see America Ferrara do something besides being “ugly” (Ugly Betty) or “fat” (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants). It was actually refreshing to see her in all her glory: an illuminating actress and quite a beauty. Our Family Wedding was a romantic comedy treat!
The story centers around the wedding of newly engaged couple, Lucia (Ferrera) and Marcus (Lance Gross) as they deal with the clashing of their families and the plight of marriage. Sure this plot has been addressed before, but in this day and age what hasn’t? Thanks to a wonderful cast, I believe the old story had some life breathed into her.
Knowing that there was a biracial couple involved, I was prepared for an hour and a half of riotous ethnic jabs, of which there were plenty. From the very beginning, Forest Whitaker and Carlos Mencia are at odds, throwing racial slurs around like people used to toss coconuts off floats at Mardi Gras. It almost felt inappropriate; but again, it was what I expected. As an aside, I feel the whole concept of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” has been played out. Unfortunately, the racial divide was my least favorite aspect of this film, this part of the movie being the stalest concept of the entire script.
Aside from the layer of cultural bashing that ensued, the performances were phenomenal! It was truly a treat to see Forest Whitaker, who plays Marcus’ play boy father, remove his hat of pomposity and dish a few lines that delivered whit, charm and quite a bit of “funnies”. It was simply enjoyable to see him add a different dynamic to his repertoire. In the scenes where he “pals around” with Regina King, my mom, sister and I couldn’t help but snicker a little as we spent most of the film silently cooing over the sexiness that was Mr. Whitaker.
Lance Gross was another charmer, as he is known to be, but I was unsure if his presence was inspiring because he is a talented actor or because he is so gosh darn goodlooking … shrugs! But if nothing else, his eye-candyness has been confirmed and reaffirmed Cameos by Charlie Murphy and Taye Diggs made for some added comedic depth and it was nice to be inspired to reflect a little on love and marriage and how one knows when it’s right. Whitaker’s character was really allowed to delve deep into the “why some men become players and fear commitment” aspect. Luckily, his role as father stayed away from the stereotypical approach to black men and parenting and instead showed a man who loved his son and took strides to guide him in spite of his own mistakes in matters of the heart.
It was the performances more than anything that kept this stale plot together. Had it been done with another cast, I’m quite sure the movie would have flopped. Kuddos to Casting Director Kim Coleman. Also, I have to add, the soundtrack and musical composition for this film was excellent. The perfectly timed rhythms playing throughout were another wonderful accent to “Our Family Wedding” that kept my attention in groove mode. Overall, this was a fun way to spend a Saturday morning!]]>
Okay, I’m not sure if I should publicly admit to this but my dad is now a bootlegging fiend and thanks to him, I’ve been able to see many a good movie (and bad) without having to squalor my low-income writer lifestyle. Hence, Green Zone.
I am certainly not opposed to a good action flick or “shoot ’em up” movie, a throwback term from my childhood, so I agreed to an evening of watching a war movie with my dad the Vietnam vet. Aside from all the erroneous shooting and explosions, I generally enjoyed the plot (plus Matt Damon is always lovely bonus footage).
The story itself is loosely based on the major speculation behind the war in Iraq and the Bush Administration creating false leads as to why we went to war. Matt Damon’s character, a precocious chief officer in the field, goes into true combat mode against the American powers-that-be in an effort to bring the truth to light and inform the world. But in the end, although the facts were out there, the damage had already been done.
Movies like this always have a way of confirming my belief in conspiracy theories and the like. Also, because I’m home visiting my family for Easter, it is inevitable that we will watch movies together and that ordinarily means war movies if it involves my dad. And because of all of these factors, I will wonder why a war veteran would even want to watch a film about a war. But I suppose I’ll leave those concerns to someone who knows what war really is because from where I stand, the only thing that’s ever changed is how we watch these movies—and currently, that’s by the hand of the neighborhood bootleg man.]]>
This 1987 chase across the West truly reminded me of what Saturdays are made of. Shelley Long and Bette Midler play two actresses that discover they are dating the same man. Driven to confront him about who he liked the best, the pair end up going on a wild goose chase to track him down.
It’s not a 80’s flick with teased hair and the risky shoulder pads, but it does bring some nostalgia to how simple movies were back then. For instance, there’s a scene where Shelley and Bette realize that the people chasing them are the good guys so they spend about six good minutes of the movie running in circles trying to get under the light of the flying helicopter only to continuously be too late for the light. It’s hilarious! This movie is just slap-stick comedy at its best.
Even the not too ominous references to issues of race were welcomed. Like when Bette and Shelley pay a black cabbie to take them to the projects where they presume their two-timing man had been. Surrounded by Hispanics and blacks, Shelley’s character says, “Oh my gosh, there’s not one white person around here.” True 80’s form.]]>
Based on the stage play by Rebecca Gilman, “Spinning Into Butter” stars SJP as Sarah Daniels, a dean at a college in Vermont who must come to terms with her own feelings about race after one of her students becomes the victim of a campus hate-crime. In the first few minutes a Latino student accuses Dean Daniels of forcing him to claim Puerto Rican heritage in order to receive a scholarship. From there I was all on board! I immediately wanted to know where this story was headed—and thankfully, it was in a direction that few films go. From there, we saw the school conduct a forum to address tolerance amongst its’ students but not without some media backlash. Thanks to a black journalist capturing the event, it was soon shown across the evening news that the forum was a failure with the mandated assembly ending in a brawl between the races. The same black journalist also becomes a device to expose Dean Daniels’ past experience teaching at an inner city high school and what drove her to “whiter pastures”. The scene closes with her exclaiming,”If you go around calling yourselves niggers and acting like niggers, how do you expect the world not to think you’re niggers?!”
Race is a huge topic and it is normally way too foreboding to even skim the surface in any body of work but I admire that writers keep trying. Recently, I had a discussion with a work friend of mine who is Haitian. With the aftermath of the earthquake still rumbling in the news, I recalled an interview where several Dominicans in New York City were asked to give their take on the loss in Haiti. As many are aware, Dominicans and Haitians share a long history of animosity and so the irony of one said group showing empathy to their “Haitian brothers” was beyond me. It definitely sparked a passionate conversation about skin color, ethnicity and tension amongst brown peoples around the world.
The honesty and depth portrayed in a mere 86 minutes was, to me, a great feat and the story of Dean Daniels was told in a way that was neither on the shoulder of what’s black nor white but instead all that’s gray in the world. “Spinning Into Butter” was digestible and that is no simple task when it comes to race.]]>
I woke up with nothing to do but eat bacon and yogurt, and to my delight watch “Mr. Holland’s Opus” on HBO. It’s really the little things that psyche me up, I say with a large grin.
Richard Dreyfuss is an oldie but goodie and watching him frump around as the composer turned music teacher of the 60’s is a treat. Believe you me. Not to mention the awesome soundtrack of Gershwin, Bach and the Beatles. I swoon. Watching “Mr. Holland’s Opus” is like stepping into my sixth grade self when I was longing for someone to identify me and give me the golden tiara that said I was worth noticing.
As an awkward teenager, I was commonly found alone or alone in front of a television, either way, soaring through my own imagination. The help of a good movie was something akin to my spiritual well-being – I needed it to get me through – and watching this movie was no different. I loved to sing and was inherently ashamed of my voice, even though my father was a singer and musician. I never felt comfortable being realized in that way. A secret dream of mine to be on stage or behind the scenes writing music, it was the one talent I had that was both the center of ridicule by my peers and the center of praise from adults. But without a doubt, I saw myself on a stage, in the light, singing beyond measure just like the character of Rowena (Jean Louisa Kelly) singing “Someone to Watch Over Me”.
One day Rowena escapes on a bus to New York City to pursue her dreams and I was in awe. She wasn’t even a central character but it was all a part of the fabric of the film – setting your sights and shooting up (with an occasional detour).
And of course I never shy away from a good tearjerker. The irony of Mr. Holland’s son being born deaf, still pinches my heart. Yet again, that’s the beauty of this movie. Just like music, this film invites audiences to note human significance in the lives of others. That even when our plans are going awry and we think we’re not touching someone in some way, we in fact are.]]>