The three films I’ve seen so far this year, as I maybe/maybe not get back into the “one film per week” routine, all focus strongly on the feminine experience, which feels appropriate and important as the Trump era begins in US government. (As we clearly saw yesterday with the widespread women’s marches around the country.)
Going in reverse chronological order, last night’s film of choice was the new 20th Century Women, which I caught back at the Devonshire Mall cinema, a place that would be my favorite local cinema if it wasn’t over a country border that requires often irritating logistics, not to mention a toll both ways. Anyway, I continue to appreciate the times that I do get over there, and this was the first time in awhile, probably over a year, although I had been to the mall – and not the cinema – at more recent times.
So the film of choice was 20th Century Women, an ensemble piece that has arrived with some “buzz” into a semi-wide release, although I’m guessing it may be overlooked when the all-important Academy Award nominations are announced on Tuesday morning. A small ensemble cast – Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, Elle Fanning, Billy Crudup and Lucas Zellman – anchors the film in a surprisingly robust way.
The film seemed unusual to me in that it built my interest in the characters, as opposed to starting early with a lot of information and then losing interest as the narrative goes on. Related to that, the characters seemed to exist in and out of the story, thanks to the use of voice-over, with several individuals offering audio perspective from later in their lives as the “immediate” visual played on the screen.
I was pleased to see the Santa Barbara area of California, a region I’m quite familiar with, be represented in the story, and a few visual shout-outs to locations in the area I’ve passed by numerous times. As well, the heart of the story seemed to be one that focused on the nuances of life and art of communication between individuals, which made it more relatable in some ways than your average film about misfits, which all of the characters clearly were.
My previous post reminded me of That Time I saw John Cleese live in person, which I wrote up on LiveJournal soon after the fact. Here it is again:
Went back down to Santa Barbara on Thursday night to catch a special event on the UCSB campus: Mr. John Cleese introducing a screening of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, followed by a question and answer session with Cleese. It wasn’t quite what I expected it to be, though worth the trip, and it was delightful to experience such a hearty dose of British wit that I’ve been missing. Cleese himself was on fine form despite being in a wheelchair due to a recent muscle injury. In fact, his wit was so sharp and very funny that I decided to write down what he was saying. Here are some soundbites.
(On his in-process divorce): “I gave her $155,000 – can she live on that?”
“It is extremely good for people in their 20’s to be very uncomfortable.”
(Before the film started) “I’m off to a banquet. We’re eating far better than you.”
Audience Member: “Uhhh….”
Cleese: “Do you speak English?”
(On SPAMALOT) “The play was directed by Mike Nichols. He’s been around for 400 years! The late 50’s was just after the Second World War.”
“I get $5000 a year for being God.”
“I will possibly get married again. I’ll find someone I don’t like and buy her a house”
(On his wife’s spending habits) “I have an idea for a new show. Lifestyles of the Seriously Demented.”
Audience Member, about to ask a question: “John?!”
Cleese: “Who said you could call me John? It’s fucking Professor Cleese. It makes me feel so smart.”
Audience Member: “Fucking Professor Cleese?”
(On a moment while making the film) “There was a silence, as though someone had said let’s all go fuck Queen Elizabeth.”
“That’s a very good question, and I don’t think I can tell you the answer.”
“I love those kind of flattering words.”
“Would a drugstore have any cheese? It would be medical cheese. You would need a prescription.”
“Most of the really interesting people are here in America, where you can make things better.”
“What a fucking marvelous man.”