Twenty Eighteen Renewal
Having lost track of what I wanted to do in this blogging space over the past year or so, I’ve resolved to renew emphasis on filmgoing and dramatic criticism for now, and see what may come of other experiences ahead.
While recently back in the great state of California, I enjoyed a few filmgoing experiences. The 2017 moviegoing year ended in the same place where the 2016 moviegoing year had both ended and began: the Century Cinema in Corte Madera, CA. I’ve surely written before about how this particular cinema is the ultimate in big-screen entertainment for Marin County and possibly the entire Bay Area itself, with one single large screen and almost always featuring the latest and biggest blockbuster. Legend has it that the Cinema has always been a top commercial venue of both choice and gross for the Star Wars films, and that tradition continued with its screening of The Last Jedi, the latest installment in the Skywalker Saga.
This was my second and likely last big screen viewing of the film, and I found it more enjoyable the second time around, though not an overall tops experience .If the first viewing was about riding the crest of anticipation mixed with a dose of melancholia stemming from Carrie Fisher no longer being among the earthly realm, the second time around was a way to sit back and enjoy the ride of the story, while also staying present in the flow of the narrative and not over-anticipating elements i already knew were coming around.
Later in my California stay I enjoyed some moviegoing as rainy day counter-programming. The film of choice, somewhat randomly, was Molly’s Game, a new drama written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, and seeing the film brought back memories of seeing Sorkin’s The Social Network in California for the first time in 2010, which I ought to do a retrospective post about at some point. I wasn’t really aware of the story of Molly Bloom and her self-made poker empire, so that helped to keep the material fresh. Chastain, who seems to have gained a new level of confidence in her public persona within the last year or two, carries the film splendidly but never too show-ily, even letting herself blend into the background of a few scenes and letting the story focus on gender politics along with systematic challenges of business and professional identity, among others.
Unfortunately, the film takes a sharp turn into sentimentality for its final act, and thus caused me to lose interest in its overly pat resolution. Sorkin obviously loves his dialogue, delivered in trademark rapid fire style, but the material could have used some greater editing. The film narrative is one that shifts back and forth in time, making for an absorbing and immediate sensation, but I had to wonder what it would have been like as a more straightforwardly chronological story. (Most likely not as dynamic, of course.)
On a different note, the filmgoing experience for Molly’s Game (in downtown Santa Cruz) was unusual in that a person was being arrested in the lobby as I walked in for my film, and I’d be very curious to know what became of their situation.
My third California film became The Post, a very East Coast story that I had tried to see on the East Coast itself earlier in the holiday break, only to discover that showing was sold out. Related to that general East Coast feeling, my knowledge and appreciation of Martha’s Vineyard history led to an intriguing subtext while viewing this film, which features several real-life individuals – Katherine Graham, Robert McNamara, and more – all of whom summered here on Martha’s Vineyard and socialized together, concurrent with their “real lives” in Washington. The island’s storied weekly paper, The Vineyard Gazette, is even name-dropped in one brief sequence during the film.
I knew that the filmgoing experience with this film might be a bit frustrating, as I was heading to a large corporate style multiplex, but I wasn’t expecting to wait ten minutes in line due to limited staffing at their box office. As well, the film was showing in a “premium” cinema, which meant a higher ticket price, and that might have been more irritating if I hadn’t been using a gift certificate.
So I arrived a few minutes late to the film, but it puts you right in to the tense, claustrophobic atmosphere of the early 1970’s. The story eventually falls into the mechanics of leading up to One Big Event, and therein lied some of its problems for me. While undoubtedly well-told, once that Big Event is past, the film seemed to rush along to its conclusion. There’s no doubt either that Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks offer stellar work as the two main real-life characters in the story. But … Streep is obviously Streep, and i had to wonder what a lesser-known actress might have done with the part. On the other hand, Hanks seemed more at ease, and not necessarily being Tom Hanks, than in some of his other work I have seen in recent years.
The Post also lays on the contemporary allegories a bit too thickly, never in the sense of “this is happening again, ahh!” but in a bit too much of a showing the past to make your own judgements about the present. Nonetheless I feel I would still recommend the film.