Tag Archives: Movie reviews

Express Yourself – An Evie Taloney Movie Observation Worth Ropin

There was a song written in 1970-71 by Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band that summed up a good part of the 1970s.  It was “Express Yourself”.  It said “Whatever you do, do it good.”  “It’s not what you look like when you’re doing what you’re doing.  It’s what you’re doin when you’re doin what you look like you’re doin.”

As we approach the Oscars, I can’t help thinking about how perfectly David O Russell’s “American Hustle” captured the 1970s with all it’s gaudy messiness.  The film’s characters and costumes and art direction and cinematography and, of course, direction help capture and amplify the strange whirlwind that blew through the 70s.

Here is the costume designer,  Michael Wilkinson, describing how he went about the design of the costumes.  He remarks that the 70s were more about expressing yourself than “looking your best”.

Women were coming into their own and becoming bolder about their sexuality.  While still trapped in hair curlers the size of lemonade cans, they also began to let their hair down and lowered their necklines.  And I remember the color, oh the color.

Wilkinson had as much fun with the men’s costumes as he did the women’s.  In the 1970s men also felt freer to “express themselves” even while they too seemed trapped by their hair; Christian Bale’s Irving Rosenfeld carefully applied comb over and Bradley Cooper’s Richie DiMaso permed-look hair took a lot of time and effort.   Jeremy Renner’s silver/gold tux lights up the screen as does Renner’s New Jersey mayor with a pompadour that takes a lot of gel and spray.  He’s a sunny big-hearted character who dresses the part of the would be savior of his city.

At the heart of the story is Christian Bale’s Irving and Bale dazzled me.  As Wilkinson remarks in the video, Bale’s lead character is awash in “paisleys and patterns” in his suits, scarves, shirts, and ties.  He carefully constructs a persona for his hustler and Bale loses himself completely in Irving.  Amazingly, Irving doesn’t see what we see when he looks in the mirror or when Amy Adams’ Sydney looks at him.  We see a paunchy balding slime ball with an ID bracelet.  They see a clever and dapper cultured entrepreneur out to have some fun as do the other characters in this wild frenzied ride through the heart of the darkness of America; a land born of hustlers and con men who still think of themselves all as masters of the universe and kings of the world.

It is a story about deceptions and lies.  But these are mostly small time cons while a much bigger con was starting to be hatched as wages stagnated never to rise again for the average worker.  By the end of the 1970s when this film takes place, hard times were the norm and what was coming was the era of “greed is good” that hasn’t yet let up. I lived in New York during this time.   So, as Cindi Lauper sang “When the working day was done, girls just want to have fun.”    That’s what I did.  And as the designer Michael Wilkinson concludes, it’s about a time when you just didn’t give a damn.  You just wanted “to try stuff”.  For a time we were out of the box called adulthood and we had some fun.

P.S. I hope the film and it’s designers win lots of awards. It is the mirror opposite of the lovely, funny and sad “Nebraska” which should also win gobs of awards.  Maybe that’s why there shouldn’t be any awards at all.  How can one really choose what’s best?

Do Overs – An Evie Taloney Movie Review

There are quite a few lines in the incredibly visually rich movie “Nebraska” that resonated with me.  Though the characters speak few words, when they do, you listen.  It’s funny how most of us don’t think too much about our parents’ inner lives until we are much older and when it’s almost too late as they “can’t remember” when you ask questions.   But David “Davey” Grant gets to have a few exchanges with his father, Woody, that move this story along emotionally.  One such exchange is when they are looking out on to  Nebraska farm land with the round bales of hay lying across the horizon and the pasture dotted with black Angus cows.

David asks his father:

“Did you ever want to farm like your dad?”

Woody replies:

“I don’t remember.  It doesn’t matter.”

In the script David asks again if his dad had it to do all over would he have stayed here and farmed.  Woody replies that you can’t “do it all over”.

But people try to “do it all over” in many different ways.  When I was an actor and director in New York City in the 1980s, I directed plays by a wonderful playwright Jack Heifner.  Jack’s play “Vanities” held the record for longest Off Broadway run for quite a few years.  It is what made Kathy Bates a star.  I directed a one act play of his called “Twister”.  It was about a small plain town in Texas that is wiped away by a tornado. It looked a lot like the desolate town of Hawthorn in “Nebraska”.   There are only two people left, Betty and Roy.  When they find each other after the storm, Roy says he wants to  find their stuff  like her stuffed animals and a mattress and then bring them to where their house used to be.  He wants to rebuild it exactly like it was.  Betty doesn’t want any of the “stuff” because it’s just junk.  She wants to go away and have a brand new  prettier life.  She wants to be born again.  At the end she leaves and Roy is left alone with the rubble.

Jack returns to this born again theme in several of his plays.  There are many times that people want to reinvent themselves and be “born again”.  Sometimes it’s as simple as going off to college or moving to another town or state.  Sometimes it’s getting a divorce and starting a supposedly new life.

More often than not no one can do a complete do over of themselves unless they are actually making it all up like a grifter or con artist or someone mentally ill like Cate Blanchett’s character in “Blue Jasmine” who announces “People reinvent themselves….I met someone. I’m a new person.”   But for most people, you don’t really reinvent yourself, but you can come to terms with who you really are.  Carl Jung called this process “individuation”.  It’s “getting to know you, getting to know all about you.”  It’s accepting the quirks that make you an individual while at the same time seeing what makes you part of the whole of humanity.  In the Bible, Paul says that we are “all of one body, with gifts differing.”  We each have different gifts but together we make a whole.  Good marriages and partnerships work that way.

In “Nebraska” “Davey” Grant  finds out a whole lot about gifts and giving on this road trip with his dad.  He has inherited his Dad’s kindness and sense of humor and that’s the payoff.  Is it better than a million bucks?  Doesn’t matter. It’s a great story.

Evie Taloney’s “Flics Worth Ropin” – “Lilyhammer”

Run, don’t walk, to view “Lilyhammer” the original series on Netflix.  Well, in the spirit of the thing, you should shush not snowshoe since it takes place in the little town of Lillehammer, Norway site of the 1994 Winter Olympics.  And there is a whole lot of snow there, you betcha. And every conceivable kind of character from tree huggers to ice skating Muslim immigrants.

Steven Van Zandt (of the E Street Band and “The Sopranos”)  stars in this dramedy about a mob guy, Frank “The Fixer” Tagliano, who goes into witness protection and asks to be relocated to Norway.  Figures no one will find him there.  But as the series continues, a series of flukes and flukey characters like a cop who moonlights as an Elvis impersonator may test that theory.  His theory that this is a peaceful idyllic place is also tested from the get go as he has to “fix” a situation on the train ride from Oslo to Lillehammer. Continue reading

Evie Taloney’s “Flics Worth Ropin'” (and some that aren’t) – The Hairdo That Ate The World

I couldn’t take my eyes off her hairline.  As I watched “The Iron Lady”, a disjointed yet disturbing movie, starring Meryl Streep, I became mesmerized by her head.  First it was the hairline that attached a massive Eighties’ hairdo to a massive forehead.  As I watched the flic, the head got larger and larger like Helena Bonham Carter’s head as the Red Queen in “Alice in Wonderland”. Continue reading