Relationship and connection venture into uncharted territory in the powerfully moving tale that is ‘Her’
We live in an era where our interactions and repeated behaviors with our electronic devices suggest a strong sense of devotion to them. More often than not, we hold our smart phones more than we do other people, or we hold our gaze upon computer screens with far more determination and presence than we do if we were sitting across from another person. Two human beings meeting for, say, coffee, might become distracted and eventually find themselves being more committed to making a connection to their electronic device than remaining present in the conversation taking place in front of them. It is no stretch by any means to suggest that most individuals in the 21st century are already having some type of relationship with their electronic pals.
Playwright (and sometimes actor) Tracy Letts garnered a Pulitzer Prize for “August: Osage County,” which first hit Broadway in 2007 with actress Deanna Dunagan in the lead role of Violet, the 65-year-old, boozing, pill-popping, cancer-stricken, sharp-tongued matriarch of the Weston family. Estelle Parsons later morphed into the role on tour and did a superb job with it. On stage, the spectacle unfolded into a brilliant, three-act odyssey of dysfunctional family dynamics and the emotional quicksand from which people struggle to be freed.
Last big movies of 2013 heading our way this month
Most of the big, end-of-the-year "event" movies of 2013 are already playing in Santa Cruz. But there are always a few entries whose parent studios decide to avoid the crush at the end of December and "platform" their films more gradually into release during the month of January—hopefully drumming up business along the way for movies aiming for Academy Award recognition come February.
Which is not to say that all the films heading our way in the next couple of months are bona fide Oscar bait. But the traditional moviehouse doldrums of January look to be livened up by these few random, plucky holdovers from last year coming soon to a local screen near you.
Big and small films to remember from 2013
What is it about these angsty times that’s causing the movies to go all Gloria Gaynor on us? The biggest trend in the films of 2013 was the simple fight for survival—on land (Dallas Buyers Club; 12 Years a Slave), sea (All Is Lost; Captain Phillips), outer space (Gravity), even in the music biz (Inside Llewyn Davis; 20 Feet From Stardom). Some of these were great, but I was mostly drawn to small human stories this movie year. Here are a few of my favorites (including some you might have missed):
‘Saving Mr. Banks’ surpasses expectations and delivers the compelling backstory of bringing ‘Mary Poppins’ to the big screen
Sometimes the backstory to a creative work is more intriguing than the actual finished product. Not all of the time, of course, but chances are the route in which, say, J.M. Barrie took to bring the 1911 novel “Peter Pan” to life holds some sizzle. Others might be surprised with the creative hoops writer Anita Loos may have gone through to lift her beloved book “Gentleman Prefer Blondes” from page to screen in the 1950s—and with Marilyn Monroe on the marquee.
And so it goes. It’s all in the drama that happens to get the drama made.
Great music, atmosphere, problematic character in ‘Llewyn Davis'
The new film, from Joel and Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis, may not quite be what viewers expect. After the Coens celebrated the rural, regional folk music of the American South of the 1930s in O Brother, Where Art Thou, a few years back, fans may expect more of the same from the new film, with a more urban vibe. But while Llewyn Davis is set in the Greenwich Village folk scene ca. 1961, and positively teems with yearning, vintage-sounding music that might very plausibly have come from that era, it mines a much darker vein of experience as a down-on-his-luck, would-be folk singer struggles against all odds to get a foothold in the music business.