Blue Jasmine Review

Woody Allen’s gotten some of his steam back and Blue Jasmine is a pretty great movie for him. It’s fun and playful and a bit tortuous. It’s got a lot of interpersonal tension between its characters that roils in a very quiet way until it ultimately explodes.

Blue Jasmine is the story of Jasmine, a New York City socialite, who’s lost everything. She was a figurative mob wife while her husband was guilty of something involving money and illegal off-shore accounts. I think there was something about a ponzi scheme, not sure. It’s not important. (Do you get it?)

Jasmine (played by Cate Blanchett) is left with nothing and is forced to move to San Francisco to live with her sister for a bit as she gets her life together. She’s teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown as a result.

Jasmine is not a terrible person (though her personality can be abrasive) and you’re hoping the best for her. She takes up a job as a receptionist at a dentist’s office and works at learning computers so she can be self-sufficient. Her sister, meanwhile, is more of a lowly slums girl (from Jasmine’s perspective) who was screwed over by her husband’s asset management and Jasmine takes no responsibility for it.

That these are brought up passive aggressively is a testament to the writing skills of Woody Allen, but he still needs to pick his subjects better. Once again, we’re dealing with upper crust New Yorkers. Once again, we’re dealing with a story about infidelity.

Blanchett really does a number on this film, so much that I’d rival her with Amy Adams. While I think Adams would win if American Hustle were strictly about Sidney, Blanchett  will win because a) she’s the focus of the film and b) her position and acting is far more obvious.

That’s not a knock at all–Blanchett absolutely nails this role in the lilt of her upper crust accent and disaffected New York hautiness. There’s one scene in particular, when Jasmine is looking for some vodka and can’t find it, that she loses her shit and shouts “Who do I have to screw to get a vodka around here” in the most visceral tone. We never see that side of Jasmine again, sadly, but it burns bright enough to leave an impression.

Her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) is the antithesis–a low down hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold who’s beginning to think about the relationships around her. Hawkins does a fantastic job with this role, fitting it quite neatly, but doesn’t provide a whole lot of depth because, again, the movie is about Jasmine and not her. When she sees Jasmine is poison for the people around her, she kicks Jasmine to the curb.

The movie is essentially about Jasmine’s dependence on the kindness of strangers and how that ends up hurting her. She eventually recedes into her personality habits and hurts the people around her. It ends with her being homeless on the streets of San Francisco.

It’s a bleak ending and one I hoped wouldn’t happen, but it was still a pretty decent movie and Blanchett really did chew the scenery in it.


Verdict: Pretty good character drama, Blanchett nails her part and will probably get an award or two, Hawkins does pretty well.

1 Comment

Filed under movie review, movie reviews

American Hustle Review

I’m a big lover of David O. Russell films. His films explore realities of characters and nobody ends up the same by the end of it. They’re thoughtful and thought-provoking and fun and crazy and engaging. He always gets the best of his actors.

American Hustle, though, isn’t quite as good as his previous work.

The story is about a grifter and his girlfriend who get caught by the FBI and wrangled into a major sting of politicians and mobsters. Christian Bale plays Irving Rosenfeld (Irv), the master grifter. Amy Adams plays his girlfriend, Sydney Prosser, who acts as Lady Greensleeve when grifting. Irv and Sydney are busted by Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). Richie forces them to help perform a sting on Atlantic City mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). When they get through to the mayor, whose main goal does seem to be helping his city, more politicians come through the door and it links to a couple of mobsters as well.

Irv also has a flamboyant sparkplug wife who he’s not particularly interested in: Rosalyn Rosenfeld (played by Jennifer Lawrence). When she’s brought into the fold against his wishes, she gets jealous at Irv and Syd’s relationship and begins playing with fire, putting the entire mission in danger and nearly killing Irv. Irv figures his way out of it, though, and etc. etc. etc.

Russell took an extraordinary amount of time to develop the characters. He’s absolutely the best in the business at this and American Hustle succeeds because of it. It doesn’t transcend into the realm of other-worldly, though, because of it.

The film itself doesn’t quite maintain its focus. If it were more character-driven, I’d expect it to be another slam dunk for Russell. It isn’t, though. As a whole, the plot wanders and misses a few major points here and there, failing to really identify what it’s about.

That’s not to say this movie isn’t good; on the contrary, it’s pretty dang good. It’s entertaining and treats us to a pretty fun, sometimes scary, ride. It’s just not one of the best movies of the year.

At the expense of the movie as a whole, Russell does get a few great performances from Jennifer Lawrence, who stole some scenes but was clearly allowed to, and Amy Adams. Adams comes off weird to some in this one because she plays a far more subdued character in an otherwise over-saturated movie. She’s, however, the best actress in the movie.

Women with low self esteem do this thing with the edges of their mouths where they’re constantly frowning. It’s pretty common among women who’ve been sexually traumatized. Adams does this throughout the movie. I’ve never seen an actress even do that before. You can even see it in her face when she’s frowning that she’s … I don’t know, there aren’t words to articulate this well enough. She’s vulnerable and afraid to be hurt again and feels like its coming. Women in these situations also tend to not want to be themselves. All of these issues, and that frown, go away when she’s Lady Greensleeve.

The best part of Adams’ role is the accent: it’s terrible, changes locales, and disappears completely when she’s pushed.

Verdict: Very good, but not great movie. Amy Adams delivers a subtly brilliant role, one deserving of Best Actress in most years.

Leave a comment

Filed under movie review, movie reviews

Philomena Review


Verdict: Oscar bait-y. Decent story that’s ruined by meta-story and melodrama. Has its moments, but is at other times plaintively manipulative. Judy Dench does have some fine bits in it, but that’s about it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

12 Years a Slave Review


Let me start off by saying this movie isn’t as brutal as you’d think–not in the way that you’d think. There’s only a few scenes of abject brutality and punishment and they’re over pretty quick. What sticks with you is how pervasive it is; how impossible it is to escape; how long this goes on. It’s a presentation of the massive, systemic issues with slavery and that’s what sticks with you.

Hollywood has never truly had a great film on slavery. Roots showed the slave life for what it was, but wasn’t as complex. Glory had the complexity, but didn’t show the slave life.  Steve McQueen put together a movie here that shows slavery for its complexity both through slaves and slave owners. It didn’t pull its punches. It didn’t hide slavery’s brutality, but it didn’t indulge in torturing its audience either. It held the gravitas while allowing the audience to hope. It played with the audience’s ideas of right and wrong and brought it back into the morals and ethics of the time period.

This is the movie that slavery deserves.

12 Years a Slave is the story of Solomon Northup’s slavery. He was a free man living in New York with a wife and two children, living as a violin maker and player, until he was kidnapped, tortured into accepting a life as a slave, and working as a slave for 12 years. That’s the basic gist of it. The rest is the nitty gritty details of slave life.

The most incredible part of 12 Years a Slave is how humanizing it is. There are no GOOD GUY or BAD GUY signs hanging around actors necks. It shows the spectrum of people both inside and out of slavery. We’re with Solomon throughout this movie, but we’re still watching his torture, we’re feeling it in him and all of his thought processes. While he starts the movie thinking this is a temporary situation, he changes into finally accepting that he’s a slave. All credit is due to Ejiofor for hinting at those issues with just looks on his faces–and to McQueen for getting that out of his actor.

And yet, we were transported to this time where this was all right and normal. It was the way of the land. Nobody stood up against it. People saw what was wrong with it and did nothing.

The film itself is a little disjointed–as it should be, since we were given extremely specific examples of brutality and the operations of systemic oppression in antebellum south in a 12 year span. The action in it though comes together to form a pretty solid narrative, piece in piece out, of the overall affectations of slavery.

I remember reading in my US History textbook about how some slave owners never even heard of whipping slaves, as if there were good slave owners. For once, a movie showed one of these slave owners and didn’t pull its punches. Even the “good” slave owner, Ford, (played very convincingly by Benedict Cumberbatch), tortured his slaves psychologically, forcing them to stockholm syndrome there way into loving him. Solomon gets rewards for being a good slave and he seems to be OK with that, waiting for his moment to break free.  In addition, Ford was an apparently decent man, but still complicit in everything wrong with slavery.

Maybe the most powerful part of this movie is when Solomon is finally freed and it dawns on the viewer that this was “only” 12 years for one man who was lucky enough to be freed. It wasn’t every day of his life, of his parents lives, of his grandparents lives, of every life before in his lineage and most likely after. He wasn’t going to see his children born into slavery and suffer the same life he had, playing while other slaves were hanged in front of them, beaten and raped. The entire tone of the movie absolutely nailed the constant chaos of the environment in an otherwise normal field work setting.

My hope is this will be used in schools to teach about slavery and the complexities of systemic slavery.

Verdict: Maybe the greatest movie on slavery ever made, will rest easily among the best historical dramas in film.

Leave a comment

Filed under movie review, movie reviews

Gravity Review

It’s Oscar baiting season, so I’d like to start off with my favorite so far.

There’s a great short story by Jo Ann Beard called The Fourth State of Matter (you can read it here on the New Yorker’s site). In it, she describes working at a science magazine when a gunman walked in and shot up the place. She was out of work for the day because her husband had left her. A good number of her coworkers died. Since she moved to the area and no longer had a husband, she had no one to talk to about this, despite a few people who sympathized. She uses the idea of floating in space as a metaphor for the constant turmoil, numbness, and disconnection she experiences after the event.

Gravity is gonna be remembered for its visual effects and not its story. That’s a tragedy because Gravity is one of the best movies with a message I’ve ever seen.

Sandra Bullock plays Ryan Stone. She’s more or less an astronaut mechanic sent to fix the Hubble telescope. Some space debris collides and tears apart her ship, as well as some of her coworkers. It shatters her reality, sending her adrift in the atmosphere as she loses all contact with anyone that can help her. The movie is about her finding her way safely back home. This entire thing, including the visuals, is a metaphor.

George Clooney plays veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky. He likes to tell stories. While floating in the majesty of space, he calls himself a bus driver, cognitively reframing that, even though this seems like an enormous and rare mission, there’s nothing special about it other than it’s happening above the earth. As things fall apart, he maintains his role as navigator for Stone, helping her adjust amid the turmoil and helping he get back home, often acting supremely casual in terrifying circumstances.

In essence, the film is a meditation/narrative on surviving trauma. The movie very clearly sympathizes with Bullock, who fights every inch to save her life.

A lot of the action in the movie is a metaphor and a sort of facsimile of cognitive processing therapy. The metaphor here is that she experiences a major trauma: people around her are killed and she’s sent adrift into the atmosphere with no guidance. Kowalsky navigates her back to the ship. She then relives these horribly traumatic moments as she jumps space craft to space craft. The tumult and agony for Stone of just trying to survive is great and costly. She loses people important to her on the way until she’s the only one left.

This isn’t just a narrative about trauma itself, but a metaphor of the greater process of trauma. Surviving trauma is similar to Stone’s story. People who survive the initial trauma often get out of it (with some help), but then begin isolating, self-preserving, withdrawing. This is when, for a number of them, they commit suicide.

It’s a tough thing to grasp for people who haven’t been through it (or seen someone go through it) and it can come off as overly simplistic and a little sappy for those that haven’t. I think that’s the case here.

At the lowest point of the film, when Stone finally finds the Russian escape pod, but can’t figure out how to get to the Chinese one, Stone begins to withdraw. She contacts a guy through a ham radio. The guy doesn’t speak her language (metaphor). Think of all of the times you were at your worst, horribly in the dumps, and you start talking to someone and they’re not even close to understanding what you’re going through at that moment. Stone goes through this and withdraws and accepts her fate, resigning to suicide.

She then talks to a mental projection of Kowalsky, who cognitively reframes this whole situation. He navigates her back to fighting for her life because life itself is worth living. She fights perilous scenes and survives. She comes back down to earth (metaphor). She takes her first step on land (metaphor).

This is the problem. Because it’s such a simple story of loss and navigating through trauma, the film comes off as overly simplistic and shallow. The panic and high stress and anxiety in the film are channeled to the viewer and it is SUPER INTENSE watching it on an enormous screen and that distracts from the film’s subtleties, yet enhances its overt (and seemingly simple) message: trauma happens, but it’s survivable and makes the person stronger.

That message was well delivered. Cuaron capitalized on every bit of action in the movie. It was meaningful. It’s one of the few truths of the human experience. It was a goddamn impressive piece of work.

It’s a shame most people aren’t seeing that, though.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Interview: Clayton Kershaw Talking Pitches and Their Order

Found my tape recorder with some old interviews on it. Discovered one with Clayton Kershaw from this game here.


What was your best sequence of the game?

I don’t know. I threw a couple change-ups [to Soto] to get back to 1 ball, 2 strikes. The third curveball, you know, he took for strike 3. That was the best sequence, I guess, using all of my pitches.

Do you feel the curveball broke particularly well, or did it fool him, or was he not looking for it?

Yeah, he wasn’t expecting it, especially for a strike, so um. Any time I can throw off-speed for strikes that gives me something else to throw.

Sorry to ask about this, but that home run to Soriano, what was the sequence? Slider, fastball, fastball?

Yeah, he hit a 2-0 fastball out of the park. I’d rather give up a home run than walk him. That’s just the way it is.

Was it mislocated?

[smiling wryly] I dunno, I’ll look up the film and let you know tomorrow. A homer’s a homer.




Funny how different he sounds in his interviews today. Good kid.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Pacific Rim Review: Why Wasn’t This Expanded Into Two or More Movies?

Let’s be honest here, you’re not seeing this movie for the acting–and that’s great, because despite a pretty solid cast and a few surprisingly good performances, the story and the acting are … not great. I love Idris Elba and there was nothing he could do for this. I don’t like Charlie Hunnam, and although he wasn’t awful, he couldn’t stop himself from playing Jax Teller again (bleugh). This isn’t their fault, though, as there just wasn’t enough time to tell this story. One movie was clearly not enough.

You are seeing this movie because robots and monsters. And it’s awesome. The fighting sequences are incredible–balletic, almost. They’re intense and at times I found myself squeezing the armchair a little too hard. They hold your attention and make the boring dialogue palatable. 

There isn’t much to say about this movie outside of that, except for one thing (which I’ll get to in a second). The story, the acting and most of the things that help a movie tell its story were lacking. Everything was crunched together, tightened so hard that a number of things were left out. You had to wonder how much was left on the cutting room floor–and how much was cut out of the first script.

There’s a much bigger issue here, though. In a movie era where everything is made to fit a trilogy or more, here comes a movie tailor-made for a trilogy and it gets one movie. Del Toro and Beachem packed in so goddamn much that an entire script’s worth of movie was explained in the first two or three minutes. They even laid out how this would’ve worked for a trilogy:

1. First kaiju attack + first jaegers and the first victory over kaiju.

2. Kaiju getting stronger and stronger (Empire Strikes Back kind of ending).

3. The majority of this movie.

And it could’ve been really, really good. Like, legendary good.

There was so much to unpack in this movie that the world of jaegers and kaiju came off as stunted. I honestly wanted more background here, and I don’t say that for a lot of movies.

Regardless of what you thought of the acting and the script and all that stuff, this movie promised robots and monsters fighting. And it was awesome. We’ll remember it for being fun and cool, but there’s a part of me that’s always going to wonder why this one didn’t get a multi-movie deal and a chance to spread its wings.


Filed under Uncategorized

Only God Forgives Review: Slightly Obtuse, Very Beautiful, Pretty Damn Good.

The following part is without spoilers. There will be spoilers below.

This is a tough movie to review. On one hand, it’s a Nicolas Refn movie. You kind of know what you’re getting when you walk in: lots of beautiful shots, lots of very violent, explicit gore.

On the other hand, it’s not like most previous Refn movies. The one character you’re following isn’t a hero (more on that in the spoilers if you want). He’s not Bronson or The Driver. I know a lot of people wanted to see Drive 2. This is entirely not Drive 2, no matter what the promos suggest.

What you do get is a very, very gorgeous movie that’s at times other worldly. Thailand is a completely different land from most of the world and Refn takes advantage of its bizarre beauty, casual sexual explicitness, and quasi-Wild West nature. It’s stranger in a strange land, but the viewers are the strangers this time.

Its biggest strike, however, and probably the biggest reason why most of the reviews so far are negative, is that the narrative isn’t neat and tidy. It’s very subtle. But once you see it, you see the movie that was supposed to be made.

It starts out other worldly. The scenes don’t seem connected and it looks more like you’re watching a bunch of random shots stitched together to make a movie. They make greater sense by the end. The intention is to make the world seem different and it is.

It starts with Julian (Ryan Gosling) and This Other Guy (that turns out to be his brother Billy (played by Tom Burke)) in a kickboxing gym. They pass some drugs. Billy and Julian then go out for their nightly hooker run. Billy finds his 16-year-old hooker, rapes her and murders her. The police find him, docile on the bed with the body on the floor. This one guy, the apparent ringleader, who we later found out is Chang, brings the girl’s father in. The girl’s father kills him. And that’s where the story starts. Chang cuts off his arm.

There’s some odd bits about premonition, dreaming and anticipation here. Julian goes to find the father to shoot him and finds out that the father was just given the opportunity after Billy had raped and murdered the girl–Chang was really behind it.

To make matters worse, Julian’s demanding, cruel mother flies into town to avenge her son’s death and is deeply disappointed in Julian for not killing the father despite knowing Billy had raped and killed his daughter (her exact response is, “he probably had his reasons”).

From there, the vengeance clouds the plot. One person tries to kill another and it builds and builds to a crescendo. Only it’s not really a crescendo.

And there’s one detail the audience needs to figure out to make sense of the movie.

If you want a hint, Refn hid it in the contrast of white and black in clothing.

Spoilers ahead. There’s more review below, so just skip this part.

The one thing that I think most people miss in this movie is Chang is actually the good guy. He’s, in fact, a lieutenant of the police, as Refn pointed out last night at LA Film Fest. That’s why the police officers are constantly around him–he’s actually their boss. He isn’t a ringleader of any kind. His main goal is the protection of his citizens and he is cruel to be kind a few times.

Refn hides this very effectively with some slight of hand movie tricks–camera angles, music, acting from Vithaya Pansringarm. Pansringarm is actually fantastic in the film. He’s absolutely menacing throughout, more or less emotionless. He’s also a fabulous fighter and uses that short sword of his with authority. If you didn’t know he was the enforcer of law, it’d be easy to construe him as the “bad guy.” In fact, I think that was Refn’s intention.

The easiest way to figure that out is by following Julian. Julian is the weakest link in a crime ring and everyone around him is cruel, unusual, and without morals. Julian seems to have some morals, though. Watch for the colors of his shirts. When he loads the gun and aims it at the father of the murdered 16-year-old, he’s wearing a white shirt. He chooses not to kill him after hearing his story.

Later in an apparent dream sequence, while wearing a black shirt, he chooses to be particularly violent to someone who just so happened to be in the same room as him.

Julian wears a white shirt for most of it, which signals his motives: they’re honorable. Even when he’s wearing his black suit, the shirt is always white.

Likewise, Chang’s undershirt is white and his motives are also honorable. However, he wears the same black outer wear throughout because he’s not a particularly forgiving man and his motives are unclear throughout most of the movie.

Julian’s mom is regularly wearing some kind of black undershirt or bra and is often masking it with a white dress or shirt, particularly in her death. Her motives are always dishonorable, though she puts a much nicer cover on it than deserves.

Chang, it turns out, is “God” from the title. Refn confirmed this last night. He’s the only one who forgives. And he spares the life of three people in the entire movie: the only three people who accept the consequences of what they’ve done. Each of them ask for forgiveness in different ways. The father is regretful, but doesn’t know what to do next. The man who hired the assassins completely accepts the consequences of what’s to befall him, but asks his son to be spared (we don’t know what happens to him after that, but I’m guessing he lost a hand). And Julian, although he doesn’t have a particular fault except for killing a man who was about to kill Chang’s daughter, accepts it and is willing to lose his hand.

Movies that play with the protagonist/hero/antagonist/villain roles tend to suffer. As we’ve seen from Breaking Bad and Mad Men, viewers will go a long way to defend the protagonist, even after he’s murdered people in cold blood. I’m about 90% sure this is why most people didn’t like it. That and the scene where Julian sticks his hand inside his mom. That was weird.

There’s also a part about the movie that’s about impotence and not being a good son. That one’s a little more obvious and I think you can figure it out for yourself. If you’re confused, look for the open hand-feminine/closed hand-masculine moments.

Spoilers over.

The movie does have a decent plot, it’s just well-hidden. If you spot it, you’ll probably enjoy it. If you don’t, I understand your complaints. If you do and still don’t like it, that’s understandable.

Without that, though, the movie is jarringly gorgeous. Very  few shots are wasted and the colors pop. Refn captured the day-glo nights, the rural shack life, the seedy underbelly, the sort of humble indifference of good and bad in the streets of Bangkok just within the visuals. It’s alluring. Watch it on a big, big screen.

Though Gosling is extremely muted–Refn commented he wanted Gosling to act as though he were in a dream for parts of the movie (for a reason)–his portion of the movie is still pretty damn good.

The two people who really steal the show, as they should have and, hopefully, with Refn’s intention, were Chang (Pansringarm) and Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas). Both are great characters. Crystal is an absolutely cruel woman, willing to embarrass her son to a huge degree in front of his supposed girlfriend. When push comes to shove, she’s weak.

Chang is a fantastically calm man in the face of a strong challenge. He’s comes off as sinister and a bit frightening. His role is absolutely bizarre and amazing and Pansringarm plays it remarkably well.


As a whole, the movie is obtuse and a little weird. It’s supposed to be. Whether or not you like it is a different issue.

This movie will probably be divisive for years to come and I can see it getting a cult treatment eventually, a little less beloved than Drive.

But I loved it.



Leave a comment

Filed under movie review, movie reviews, review

I Will Fight No More Forever

My father once sat me down before a synagogue service, I think it was Yom Kippur. I wasn’t religious and I was starting to show it. I was 18 at the time.

He said, “I don’t go to services because of religion. I go because when I go, I feel close to my brother.”

His brother, my uncle, died when I was 9, after a five-year battle with cancer. They were close. They were best friends and business partners. They were Dodger fans together. 

I never felt what he did at temple. I’ve lost more than half my family in the last seven years and I never felt it at all sitting in those uncomfy non-folding chairs with the high backs in the last row, listening to a rabbi talk about being a good son or daughter to your parents. In fact, it was the opposite. I felt further from them, because I knew my heart wasn’t in it and the only person I was fooling was myself. The holidays only made me wish they were still around so they could chide me for not having faith.

I felt them at Dodger Stadium, though. I felt them–I heard them talking again–looking through baseball archives and watching games from the ’80s and ’70s and ’60s. I felt their presence watching the 1960 World Series clips and watching Hank Aaron hit no. 715. I could hear my grandpa talk about Ron Cey and Tommy Lasorda and my dad calling for a pinch hitter any time Todd Hundley came to the plate (he hated Hundley).


I hate this time of year now. I hate Passover and I hate opening day.

I hate it because it represents the inverse of what it once was. It’s a reminder that my family has split apart. It’s a reminder that my dad has died and I’ll never get to talk to him again and I have no one I can talk to about baseball. It’s a reminder that my brother doesn’t live here anymore and probably never will be again. It’s a reminder that my sister has been able to move on with her life while my mom and I haven’t. 

After my father’s death, in my grief, I started looking up baseball stuff, just all sorts of shit. Heck, you can find it in the archives of this very blog. And I sat in front of this very computer and rationalized all of the shit that I was going through and all of the heartbreak and all of the pain and suffering and tried to give it reason. 

In the process of symbolically trying to reconnect with a dad I would never speak to again, I alienated the rest of my family. I grew further from them. I lost myself in the ether.


The sport is no longer rewarding. With 30 teams, 29 will not win it all. If we’re watching baseball because it’s rewarding in that casual sense, then that’s just plain old idiotic.

And godforbid it ever does become rewarding. If I’m being completely honest with myself, any victory will taste like ash. It’ll be spent without the one person who made it matter and after hearing for YEARS how awesome it was to watch 1959, 63, 65, 81 and 88 together as a family, I can’t have that now? That’s some bullshit.


Jon Weisman once said this time of year is the start of summer. He opens up his lawnchair and gets a glass of lemonade and takes in a big breath of fresh green hot air and he relaxes and he’s happy. For me it’s the opposite. It’s a source of anxiety and pain. it’s a bitter pill I have to swallow every year.


I find no more joy in this time of year. I thought one day that might change and it hasn’t. I don’t know if it ever will. 

It felt good to say that.


As I started this blog up some years ago, I did it with the expressed intention of finding what drove me to this sport–what was compelling me to still watch this sport and why. I thought the answer would be family, but it’s not. It’s because I enjoy the play. I enjoy watching the tension. It’s Shakespearean on some level. I enjoy it because it’s the most beautiful artform of modern society and it’s rife with gorgeous history.

My family got me into it, though. That’s why it’s painful right now, but, and this is the weird part, only the Dodgers. I love watching other games, I just have no interest in watching the Dodgers right now. I can’t tell if that’s just something for this moment or something that’ll be forever. I hope not forever.

For now, though, I can’t write anymore about baseball. Maybe someday I can pick it up again, just not now. I’ll keep writing movie and TV reviews here, though.

I need to start experiencing shit. I need to get out of my house and go do things and spend time with my niece and sister and brother-in-law and I need to travel. I need to go have fun. I can’t remember when that last was. It feels like forever ago.

It’s time for me to move on now. 


Thank you for reading. Thank you for linking and supporting and being excellent people. I appreciate everything you’ve done, even when you challenged me and asked questions. You never really know the quality of a person’s character until you’ve challenged them and I learned I’m a much stronger person than I’ve ever thought.


I cannot tell you how much I’ve appreciated having this and how helpful it was in some pretty awful times. 

Take care and thank you again.


1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Celeste and Jesse Forever review

So in my lifetime, I’ve seen probably triple digits-worth of romantic comedies, a good number of them directly romantic and most of them dressed as different styles of movies–spy movies (Duplicity) or action movies (Knight and Day) or kids movies (Princess Bride). Occasionally you get a decent movie out of one of these that’s kinda schlocky, but funny, and has a personal piece in there that’s touching. Most of them talk about idealized love or detail-oriented love and come up with maybe one or two universalisms about pain and hurt and love and so on.

And then there’s the other kind of romantic movies, the ones that try to make them serious and usually get either extremely depressing or end up unfulfilling–your Leaving Las Vegases, your Blue Valentines, your Revolutionary Roads, etc.  Eugh.

In the last decade, I can name one romantic movie that pulled us in and disturbingly hit the right chords of funny, endearing, sweet, beautiful, terrifying, painful, and personal and it was so loaded half of it wasn’t even about actually being in love (Eternal Sunshine). (PS, fuck When Harry Met Sally.)

Celeste and Jesse aims just below that and hits its target, showing a sweet love that’s personal, and ultimately painful, but without trying to actively show us a horror story.

Celeste and Jesse promoted itself as a movie about two best friends who were married and got divorced and them working through that. This is kind of true. They divorce. Celeste plays with Jesse a bit and, after one night where they sleep together despite being divorced, he thinks he’s back in and she spurns him. So he gets up and leaves. 

It shakes her world. The movie then follows her meltdown.

While he moves on, wisely, she struggles to adapt. It doesn’t play with us or try to make a Love Hurts montage; he clearly wasn’t treated as an equal in the relationship and was the one to realize it first instead. Celeste, who’s clearly in denial about a number of things, denies it and is devastated when he decides to move on with a different woman.

Jones plays the part jarringly well. She becomes a hot mess. When she cries, you cry. Her neurosis isn’t quite our neurosis, but you sympathize for her without being her. You feel bad for her because she’s done this to herself and her self-righteousness–which is softly pointed out by a potential love interest here and there–keeps her from realizing it.

Maybe the finest part of the movie, and the truest to life, is how Celeste can sometimes navigate through her world and sometimes can’t. Emotions are presented as tethers on a string and not a narrative. She hates dating, she’s nervous, she’s anxious, she’s angry, she’s depressed, she’s anxious and then when she’s dealing with a date, she’s kind of charming again. She doesn’t overcome immediately. In fact, it takes a huge portion of the movie, which is about the right amount. She does, however, manage to handle work decently, in spite of a pretty big slip. 

The pain of a break-up is universal, which is why it’s in movies so often, but it’s so rarely made personal for us as it is in this one. Instead of trying to make it universal, the movie makes it particularly personal, which is what MAKES it universal.

There’s one particular scene where Jesse comes to her and his life is kind of out of order too and he’s unsure of what he’s doing. They make out a little and then he makes the smart decision to leave. When they meet up in the next scene to talk about it, she puts her heart on the line, offering it up to him, which she’d denied the entire movie, and he rolls his eyes and leaves. They fight and she sees red and says self-righteous little bits that are meant to be hurtful but aren’t because he’s seen this dog and pony show before. He sees the bigger picture and she still hasn’t at that point.

She reminded me of an ex or two. She’s an ubiquitous woman whose details are so specific we’ve all known her at some point in the movie, even as she changes in the movie. If Samberg’s character was developed more, you could see the same thing on his side.

And then the movie hangs a lot onto its subtlety, often having the characters just do something that goes against their character. (As opposed to most movies where a straight-laced character shockingly does Y and best friend character says “Jamie, you never do Y!!”). The great news is the movie finds that gap between showing too much and not showing enough and having to explain. If not for that, the movie completely wouldn’t work.

Celeste and Jesse ends up being about self-discovery and recovering from a disrupted world view, but through a personal lens. Celeste isn’t some weak-willed woman who’s wilted by losing a man; she’s a strong woman whose world has been shaken to its core. She overcomes.

Tackling love as an evolving, changing spectacle of highs and lows is an extremely dangerous endeavor, especially in movies, which only get an hour and a half of your attention. C + J doesn’t try to accomplish all of that, but it covers the desperation and the myopia people experience in their own relationships. When that myopia is challenged, worlds fall apart. That’s what makes this movie universal, understandable, painful, sweet and personal.

You can almost see if this movie wasn’t handled so directly by Jones and McCormick, who both star in it (McCormick is the second male lead), it would’ve been half the movie it is.

The other obvious comparison to this movie is 500 Days of Summer. What Summer accomplished was finding the humor in the pain because it’s universal. But C + J figured out why that pain is there and exposed it: break ups happen because someone realizes something before the other. While Celeste realized when they got divorced that he wasn’t shaping up, they both strung each other along. When Jesse realized he would never be his equal while they were together, it hit something at her core. And that’s what made this movie so funny, terrifying, painful and personal. It’s what makes this movie the second-best romance movie of the last decade.

See it when you get a chance.


Rating: 8.8


Filed under Uncategorized