Tag Archives: NYC

On the 30th Anniversary of WHEN HARRY MET SALLY…

WHEN HARRY MET SALLY… Country: USA. Director: Rob Reiner. Screenwriter: Nora Ephron. Language: English. Cast: Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan,, Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby, Harley Jean Kozak, Steven Ford, Lisa Jane Persky. Runtime: 95 minutes. Rating: CLASSIC.

Jane Austen once wrote how difficult it is for a man and a woman to establish a relationship not based in sex with her timeless classic Pride and Prejudice. Unless you’ve lived under a rock, or plain skipped every literary assignment you were given in high school, you’ll definitely know at least the bare-bones premise of the story and the development of its characters who for the most part remain blind around the fact that they love each other.

Flash-forward almost two centuries later and Nora Ephron, an author known for her acerbic, razor-sharp wit, developed, in conjunction with director Rob Reiner, a movie based on themselves to a degree (even when neither of them had been in a relationship with each other, which makes me wonder how that would have ended). The result… well… it’s made cinema history, thirty years later, as it gets re-released to either new audiences who might walk into theaters and watch it out of hearsay or moviegoers suffering from a case of nostalgia who, like me, saw it when it came out on cable in 1990, and want a shot at experiencing it — love in New York! oh, so romantic — on the big screen.

Who would have thought that this little movie which was a surprise hit back when and would have garnered more had it been considered for Oscar nominated performances by its two leads (who anchor the movie with their chemistry and those lines written by Ephron), would by now have entered our lexicon with that the line, “I’ll have what she’s having?” If only anyone knew back then, what comedic material they had in their hands. This is why you owe it to yourself to experience this movie. Rent it, buy it, or go check it out again in any retrospective near you. It’s that good of a film, you can watch it over and over and the entire film feels fresh and up to date. Much of what was true then rings true now, as men and women continue to circle each other and attempt relationships with each other.

[Heck, entire series have been created based on this “let’s be friends only” rule. Most of “Friends” was angled at this type of dynamics, and “Seinfeld” offered yet another example of a woman and a man being friends with no interest in each other whatsoever. “Sex and the City” brought this setup to the late 90s and the start of the new millennium, and “Will & Grace” took it a whole other direction by flipping sexuality and establishing a solid friendship with hints of sexual tension not just in its two main leads (Will and Grace) but in its two other leads (Jack and Karen).]

In short, When Harry Met Sally is timeless and the best movie Woody Allen never made (although it does bear some slight relation to Allen’s Annie Hall). With not only Carrie Fisher and the criminally underrated Bruno Kirby on board to produce a solid foursome, but also, as I mentioned earlier, the brilliance of New York City a its own character, to provide ample scenery for the clueless couple at the center to fall in love. And with a killer view of the Empire State Building (as seen in Harry’s character’s loft apartment), or with those walks both Harry and Sally take throughout the Upper West and Central Park, who wouldn’t want to meet someone and fall in love?

GOOD TIME

GOOD TIME

USA
Director: The Safdie Brothers
Runtime: 100 minutes
Language: English

Mostlyindies’ grading:

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

It’s no spoiler that in a heist movie nothing will go as planned, and nothing — not one single thing — happens according to plan in the Safdie brothers’ vibrant, pulsing second feature film Good Time which follows their equally electric debut film from 2014 Heaven Knows What. Nick Nikas (Ben Safdie) opens the film in therapy. Mentally disabled, he’s in an institution trying to improve his own quality of life that from the looks of it, seems rather dim. In the middle of a session barges in Connie (Robert Pattinson, in a career-defining role reminiscent of Pacino of a younger DeNiro) who has other plans for Nick. Once out of the facility, he recruits Nick into assisting him in a bank heist in which they walk out with about 65,000 dollars cash. Unbeknownst to them,  a dye pack has made it in with the money and once inside the getaway car, the pack explodes into a vivid red cloud, temporarily blinding both men, causing Connie to crash and then go on the run with the money and Nick. Unfortunately, Nick gets caught and arrested by the cops and winds up in a Rikers Island holding cell. Connie winds up looking up an old girlfriend Corey (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and asking her for money to get Nick out on bail, but Corey’s mother, sensing a problem, places a stop on  the cards and that scene grinds to a screeching halt.

So, without any other options, Connie makes the bold move to bust Nick out of jail and hope for the best. Needless to say, this is easier said than done, and I really don’t want to say any more about the movie because it offers so many unpredictable twists and turns to its labyrinthine plot that I’d be destroying the experience for you. Clearly, the Safdies know their way with mood and setting and manage to imbue Good Time with a screaming nocturnal palette that constantly seems to reflect a hyper sense of alertness without a safety net. A detour into a more quiet moment offers a very New York sense of humor along with a teenage actress (Tallah Webster) that is more than a match for Pattinson in every scene she’s in, which are many. Once it returns to its grittiness, Good Time revels in its own nightmare and only builds upon it until it seems that the tension must give way with a snap. This, in short, is a muscular, mean story that burns in neon colors while offering a sense of desperation, brotherly love, and a twisted version of an American Dream, even when we as an audience know that there is  no light at the end of this tunnel but a sigh that says No Exit.






TWO BY GERE: THE DINNER AND NORMAN

Steve Coogan, Laura Linney, Richard Gere, and Rebecca Hall star in the darkly funny The Dinner.

THE DINNER
USA
Director: Oren Moverman
Runtime: 120 minutes
Language:  English

B+

There’s nothing as lurid as watching four grown people get together for an uncomfortable night together in which they progressively set aside the pleasantries and start revealing the ugly hidden just underneath the smiles, the gestures, the light exchanges, and the occasional snap of a misinterpreted question. It’s been done to death — think Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, September, Closer, and most recently, August: Osage County — and it still manages to draw you in like that train wreck you absolutely do not want to miss even if it means holding it in until your bladder or something more . . . backdoorsy can stand it no longer.

The Dinner is the newest in this branch of dark comedies, a movie that is already bristling from the first handful of scenes as Paul Lohman (an acid tongued, quick-tempered Steve Coogan, totally against his more comedic type), a history professor with who treats life as the Battle of Gettysburg who clearly has resentment issues towards his politician brother Stan Lohman (Richard Gere, understated) and would rather not sit down at a too-posh for his ilk restaurant, order over-the-top fancy food and drinks, and talk. However, a talk has to happen, and their future and the future of their two sons depends on it. You see, both Lohman’s sons have committed a crime. They’ve killed a homeless woman by lighting her on fire inside an ATM booth, but so far, surveillance cameras haven’t captured their faces in full. So what are they to do?

While Moverman’s 2014 entry, Time Out of Mind, tackled the forgotten from a point of view of the downtrodden (and gave Gere one of his finest, most moving performances as a man that society forgot), here he goes the opposite direction. He exposes that very same society — the haves vs the have nots — and presents every scene as part of an elaborate dinner complete with its courses, every segment revealing just how ugly the four of them (which also includes Laura Linney as Coogan’s wife and Rebecca Hall as Gere’s wife and both are a delight to watch) can and will go in order to either one-up the other, bring blame, and finally, reach no real agreement on how to act. Moverman’s movie is appropriate for its release as it depicts the excesses of affluenza and what can happen when indulgence and money get in the way of morals and scruples.

The only part that I personally didn’t really care for was some of the exposition leading to the dinner itself. Some of the backstory involving Chloe Sevigny as a family member who exists as a part of a subplot involving her adopted son Beau Lohman (Miles Harvey) serves little purpose as to open up the story from the confines of the restaurant. I would have preferred to keep the events of Moverman’s movie within its increasingly claustrophobic interiors to enhance the savagery rising from beneath the foursome’s distress and harshness towards each other. Still, The Dinner — the American version of the Danish novel by Herman Koch, filmed twice as the Danish movie The Dinner and the Italian movie I Nostri Ragazzi — is a nasty piece of work that offers no easy answers and four great actors behaving deliciously awful towards one another.

NORMAN, THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER
USA
Director: Joseph Cedar
Runtime: 116 minutes
Language:  English

B

It’s criminal to me to see that Richard Gere is approaching 70 and has never even once received a single acknowledgement from the Academy for any of the complex characters he’s played on screen since American Gigolo almost 40 years ago. And yet, he continues to work, to bring something unique into his roles, and with the advent of indie films, he can now work on quality pictures that don’t necessarily have to be commercial successes as long as the performance onscreen remains intact and his best. In Joseph Cedar’s movie Norman, Gere plays a character that exists, and is a chameleon, even when we never get even as much as a glimpse of who he is underneath the perpetual beige peacoat, Burberry scarf, and cab driver’s beret he wears while haggling people for a deal. He may as well he homeless for all we know, but somehow, the man, larger than life, insinuates himself into the lives of Upper Crust Manhattan, makes his mark, and disappears without as much as a trace (although his repeated calls to associates . . . not so much).

To discuss about the quixotic twists and turns that lead Norman into morphing from being a small time dealer (okay, con-artist, let’s say it) to be all but the toast of New York is to spoil all the fun. Norman might as well be distantly related to the aunt in Travels with my Aunt with the difference that we never meet a son or daughter and Norman’s only apparent ambition gets revealed in the end in a poignant shot. I would say that it is safe to call Norman a noble opportunist, albeit not a clever one — had he been clever, he’d have turned into a Madoff for sure — and Richard Gere tackles this character, sheds every last piece of vanity, and becomes this mousy little Jewish man that might be charming in small — very small — doses. And perhaps, now that I think of it, it’s probably for the best to never reveal where Norman actually lives, who his family is, who is roots are. The choice to avoid these questions elevates Norman the man from little more than a potentially pathetic creature and turns him into almost myth.






CATFIGHT

 

CATFIGHT
USA
Director: Onur Tukel
Runtime: 95 minutes
Language: English

3.75/5

Frenemies come together; chaos ensues, and that, in a nutshell, is your movie, still playing in theaters around the country and on VOD platforms. There is a running satire concurrent with the main story that reflects to a larger political climate in which we, as inhabitants of our own micro-cosmos, can’t seem to find a middle ground without wrecking the shit out of each other, but the movie per se is less invested in that unless it’s by occasionally throwing glimpses at the state of affairs abroad and our entries into the wars under the Bush regime.

At least, the extremely appropriately titled Catfight lets its two female leads — Sandra Oh and Anne Heche, both sharp TV comedians — to let loose and really go for roles that are absolutely unsympathetic from start to finish, redeem themselves not an inch even at the face of abject tragedy, and seem to be aware that they’re trapped in an endless loop that skips on its own groove. The women are ex-college classmates and the reason of their dislike is nebulous, if ever mentioned. How they get together is through circumstance: Veronica is a trophy wife living in SoHo and married to a guy who’s just secured a deal with a mid-Eastern nation. He’s in celebratory mode. Serving drinks the party are Anne and her girlfriend Lisa (Alicia Silverstone, in a nice supporting touch). Anne is a talented artist struggling in Bushwick, but her paintings are so extremely aggressive — basically red on red violence — that they don’t really sell. Interestingly enough, Veronica gets introduced by cutting her son’s artistic dreams down for something more practical, a thing that will haunt her later.

When Anne and Veronica meet exchanges are in the frosty pleasantries that people who are now essentially strangers share with each other (partly because they have to; partly because since they’re caught in situations they hate, they need to unload the venom on someone, and who better than the old college chum whom you’ll never see again? Think again, girls.

Anne’s humiliation at being put down by Veronica is complete and lands her in a stairwell. Drunk out of her mind, Veronica also winds up there, and both women, angry beyond etiquette, go to blows. The blows, mind you, are of the action variety — so ferocious that you realize it’s not Nicholas Cage or Keanu Reeves kicking the shit out of ten guys at once but two petite New York women. The thing is, Veronica takes a tumble down the stairs after a crucial blow to the head and wakes up two years later. In a hospital. Alone. No family, no assets; she’s basically homeless and dependent on the kindness of her former maid (Myra Lucretia Taylor) who takes Veronica in, introduces her to chambermaid work, and tells her a few less savory things about herself.

It’s here that Veronica learns that luck has been much kinder to Anne, now a famed artist gracing magazines the likes of ArtInfo (the movie uses a variant of the title but you can see where they were going). Anne is now not in struggling Bushwick but in the limelight, planning her first baby with Lisa, and is even more insufferable than Veronica ever was, humiliating her meek assistant Sally (Ariel Kavoussi) for using the color blue. while planing her next exhibit. Who should walk into the exhibit but Veronica, who sees a painting that resembles her. Guess what happens next.

The good thing about a movie like Catfight is that it isn’t trying to sell you a product better or with loftier aspirations that to see two women beat the shit out of themselves and still, somehow, continue ticking like a clock that just doesn’t know when to stop. Tukel amps up the satire by winking at you with the fight sequences, choreographed to death and with sound effects that magnify the sheer ridiculousness of these women’s predicament. Sometimes you need this kind of movie to take you out of the sheer seriousness of it all and deliver a (feel-good? ridiculous) story of women who should stay away from each other. Who cares if these women even evolve past their primal hatred? Anyone looking for a movie where two adversaries come together to sing “Kumbaya” should definitely not check this one out: forget Feud: Bette and Joan; this one is nihilistic, violent fun.






SULLY

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Forget what you know about Clint Eastwood as a director of slowly paced character dramas that expand to over two hours; while he returns to the recurrent theme of the biopic, his newest movie, Sully, pares the subject matter topic — Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, during what had to be the most dramatic period of his professional life — down to a muscular 90 minutes of precise storytelling. I don’t think I need to remind anyone what the Miracle on the Hudson, as the forced landing of US Airways Flight 1549, is about. And while the movie builds up to that harrowing event, Eastwood doesn’t tell his story as a straight line. In probably what has to amount to the single most frightening nightmare anyone living or working in New York has thought about he starts the movie by seeing Sully, flying US Airways 1549, reacting to his plane losing its engines. He tries to send it to the nearest airport for landing, flying lower and lower over the Manhattan skyline until he crashes into a building, sending the city into a panic reminiscent of September 11, 2001.

He then leaps forward in time to the fall out from the Miracle on the Hudson to the media frenzy that followed and the inquest from the board of inquiry. The board claims that there is comprehensive evidence that Sully had enough engine power to land the plane safely back in LaGuardia or Teterboro — but then, they’re clearly less interest in the heroics as in the liability for a lost plane. Scenes with his wife (Laura Linney), his co-pilot (Aaron Eckhart) pepper the movie as it plays on the emotional turmoil Sully has suddenly fallen into. However, the crux of the film — the heart of it, if you will — is that fated event that looms large over the the screen like a ghost that won’t die. Eastwood presents it not once but twice — first, in its entirety, which involves snippets of stories from a cluster of the 155 survivors. The build-up to that fateful moment is terrific, but more so the actual landing and the events that followed on the Hudson River proper. The second time, it’s at at the audio level to an audience — but we still see the event, partial, cutting the moment the plane landed on the water. Even then, it’s still horrifying.

What I find incredible is that Eastwood hasn’t lost his touch or gone the way south to create movies that send him into that “late period” where subject matter is either sub-par, or too indulgent to really connect with the crowd. Sully, muscular and lean, gripping and exhilarating, is his best movie yet. It’s a pity Eastwood hadn’t worked with Tom Hanks before — I wonder what kinds of films they would have created. Hanks is the perfect actor for this part, having played the Everyman in almost each one of his movies, While not looking like his real-life counterpart he brings the requisite pathos and gravity to his character. We don’t need to see more than this one chapter in Sully’s life to know the kind of man he is and Hanks, as I have stated, fits this role to a T.

In a nutshell, Sully is not just a textbook examination of courage under fire, but also in a way it’s a love letter to the spirit of New York. I challenge you not to get emotional when a minor character simply says to a distraught survivor, “No one dies today.”