Friday 5: Teal This Record

This week was as rough as last week, but I somehow managed to be pretty productive at the office and at least non-destructive away from it. Progress!

The office move is now happening. There’s even a date and schedule for when we’re supposed to have our stuff packed and everything. They’ve distributed our parking assignments and the seating chart (I’m between two of my favorite coworkers and don’t know how they’ll ever get any work done) and new direct phone numbers. We’re supposed to have our allotted three bankers boxes packed on our desks when we get out of here one Friday and then just show up for work at the new place the next work day, when our spaces will be waiting for us.

My office wall art. Haven’t decided if I’m bringing it to the new cube with me or if I’m bringing it home. Yes, I live alone. Why do you ask?

I’ve packed up a lot of stuff, but I still have my Christmas lights up and my wall art. Guess I’ll be coming in Saturday to strip it all down.

The new Weezer covers album is good. Reviews are lukewarm and I totally get it, but I’m down with the song selection (mostly songs from the 80s). As I’ve written elsewhere, I like a cover by a band I like of songs I also like. I’ve had it on almost non-stop repeat since the album dropped Thursday. And surprise! This week’s Friday 5 is inspired by the first five songs from the album.

1. Where in Africa would you like to visit?

Casablanca for sure, even though I don’t know anything about it. I have some friends who did missions in Morocco for close to twenty years and for some reason I’ve never asked them about Casablanca.

2. If you ruled the world, what would you forbid people to talk about in the company of strangers?

This might be too vague, so I’d put my experts to work putting it in more reasonable words, but I don’t like hearing gossip in general, and try to go away when it’s about people I know. When it’s about people I don’t know, I somehow like it even less. I get it. Talking about other people is interesting for some reason. However, geez. Spare us if we’re in a public space. Keep your poisonous storytelling to within your circle and keep it away from me and others who don’t care. New law!

3. In what way do you tolerate (or enjoy) being used?

I’ll tell you what. Being used is really kind of a matter of perspective. In a relationship, if someone is merely using me for whatever, and if I’m getting from the relationship what I want, who’s to say which of us is using the other? Are you using me for nice company while you get over whoever just dumped you? Fine. It might not end well for me, but I know what I’m getting myself into when I’m just the rebound relationship. So my answer is really this. If what I’m giving is a regular expression of my feelings for you — whatever the feelings are — use me any way you want. If I have the money to give, take it. If you just want my body (ha!), here it is. If you need to talk late at night about some jerk you think you love when I’m really the one you should be with, well, I’ve survived it more than once and I can take it. If I’m unwilling to give it, I won’t give it. In many cases I’m using you, too. I like that late-night phone time. I like having the money to give you. I can’t really speak to the body thing yet, but here I am, ladies, if you’d like to try me.

4. When did you recently have an a-ha moment?

This is going to sound idiotic. I have a bunch of chores I’ve fallen way far behind on. Nothing too gross, like not the dishes (I don’t let dishes stack up). Just stuff that needs doing but hasn’t been done. Over the New Year weekend, when pretty much everything was closed, I figured out that if I make myself stay put, I can get past the stir-craziness and what’s on the other side is an unexpected energy to get that stuff done. Was this a short-lived New Year’s resolve, or do I finally just say to myself that here I am with nowhere to go, so I might as well do the work? It felt like an important lesson. I’m hoping to try it out again on Presidents Day weekend.

5. What’s something you know about turtles?

I’m not allowed to have pets in my rented house, but I have gotten away with an aquarium. For a while, I considered getting a turtle for a separate aquarium, so I asked my friend about her turtle. She says they’re fun pets to own, but they stink up their tanks really bad. If you don’t wash them and whatever is in their tank every week, it gets nasty.

Review: If Beale Street Could Talk

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Brian Tyree Henry, Regina King. Written and directed by Barry Jenkins.

If Beale Street Could Talk is adapted from a novel by James Baldwin.  It’s a discouraging film, but it’s a beautiful discouragement.

Tish and Fonny are a young black couple, friends since childhood, ready to begin life together in 1970s Harlem. She works at a perfume counter in a department store. He’s a talented sculptor. At a moment where things seem finally to be turning their way, Fonny is locked up for a crime he didn’t commit. Tish’s family rallies to clear Fonny’s name.

Some themes are familiar, and this is not a movie for everyone. Yet I recommend it for excellent acting, the beauty of Baldwin’s prose (delivered intermittently in well-chosen voiceovers), and gorgeous filmmaking. When people say this about a film they almost always mean visuals, and while the visuals are excellent, the audio is stunning. Ambient sounds from distant record players playing jazz, mumbles of conversations through thin walls, traffic on distant streets below, and rain create a background against which you might expect intimate triumph or enormous heartbreak. I can’t remember when the background noise of a movie moved me this way.

One scene by itself will justify the cost of your ticket and make up for a couple of bad decisions by director Barry Jenkins. Brian Tyree Henry (Paper Boi in Atlanta on FX) was in six movies this year, and if you’re not familiar with him yet you’re about to be, because he delivers a monologue about the effects of prison on a man, and it will stop your heart.

82/100
8/10

Friday 5: Movement

Brain’s been a little out of it lately. I do okay at work, but the place where the writing comes from feels tired when I get out of the office.

I’m still working on new year’s resolutions. Getting fresh wheels in September put a huge dent in my walking, and at first it wasn’t too difficult to make up for it on weekends and late evenings. Near the end of the year it was. I’ve been trying to make a good night’s sleep a much higher priority than I have for most of my life. With all my sleep issues, that’s just not an easy thing. Now I’m finding myself with less time for the walking I think I need to do. And please don’t even ask me when I last went for a swim. Ugh.

I have to make this all work. I’m rather sure it’s doable. Maybe the resolutions should be based on that.

Friday 5 from here.

  1. What’s a song that recently moved you?
    The new WordPress doesn’t handle bulleted lists the way I like. This is going to take some getting used to or some code manipulation. I can’t even seem to get it into HTML view. So, a weird thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago. Someone at work sent me a link to a pop song on YouTube, and the ad ahead of the video was for a Miley Cyrus song, and it sounded really good. Then I heard the song in public places twice and Shazamed it both times (I didn’t recognize it the second time but it was the same song). It’s actually Mark Ronson (the guy who did “Uptown Funk” with Bruno Mars) featuring Miley Cyrus, and it’s good. It sounds like it was right off the Hell or High Water soundtrack, with that kind of evil, outlaw sound. Like a Highwaymen song. It’s my best song of 2019 so far, even though I guess it was released at the end of 2018. There’s a kind of irritating disco beat underneath it, but there is also an acoustic mix of it on Spotify, the version I’ve been listening to all week. Here it is as they performed it on SNL. I can’t watch SNL nowadays because the stuff that’s supposed to be funny isn’t funny anymore. Ugh again.

2. What’s a song that recently moved you — right out the door?
Okay. It’s not a specific song. I went to a little restaurant in my ‘hood. It was blasting one of the local pop radio stations, and I just couldn’t take it. I ordered my food to eat there, but before they called my number I asked them instead to pack it to go. It was loud. It was insipid. I don’t hate pop music, contrary to popular belief, but most of it is unlistenable. Another reason that Miley Cyrus song impresses me.

3. What kinds of dance performances interest you?
Dance just isn’t my thing. I don’t dance, and most contemporary dancing today just baffles me. Folk dances of just about every type (including those from my own Japanese heritage) (and including hula, which I can’t just tell people without considering my audience) bore me. However, I’ll say the dancing in some classic movie musicals does move me. I’m thinking of Singin’ in the Rain and maybe that’s it. Oh, I paid to see Stomp many years ago and that was fun, but I didn’t see it again when it returned once or twice.

4. What’s a good song with the word move (or some form of it) in the title?
The ones that leap to mind are “You Gotta Move” (especially the recording by the Lost Dogs), “I Feel the Earth Move” by Carole King, “She Moved Through the Fair” sung by Megon McDonough on the first Four Bitchin’ Babes album, and “Moving in Stereo” by the Cars from The Cars (1978). However, the very first song I thought of is the best. “Moving Right Along” sung by Kermit and Fozzie in The Muppet Movie. “We did what?” “Just forget it!”

5. How do you feel about prunes?
Canned prunes were in the regular fruit rotation at my public elementary school cafeteria, and they were so gross-looking I never even tried them. I had to drink prune juice on occasion when I was a kid and hate dit, but about fifteen years ago, I gave it another try and it was decent. I’d willingly drink it again if I didn’t have to buy a whole quart. Of course, now I know that you can’t judge a food based on what it looked like in the school cafeteria, so I’m open to giving prunes another shot. Maybe even out of a can.

XXXXX

Saturday morning I slept ’til noon.  Then, since I didn’t really have a plan for the day, I took my time getting up and out of bed.  Close to two hours, just looking at my phone and considering options.  Finally made myself brunch.  Two hot dogs with sauerkraut and some potato salad, which doesn’t sound like much but was exactly what I wanted.  I’ve been buying these no-fillers, no nitrites dogs, of which there are a lot of options lately, most of them labeled “natural” hot dogs, which of course is ridiculous.  Dang it if they aren’t yummy, though.

Got into my car and headed toward town, still with no plan.  If nothing called to me by the time I got to the university, I figured I’d just drop off a few plastic storage boxes for my personal stuff.  We’re moving offices in two weeks, supposedly, and the company is moving up to three boxes of work-related stuff but not personal stuff, which we’re all supposed to take home since we won’t have any room in the new space for personal stuff.

As a little office experiment, I’ve been putting jigsaw puzzles on this unoccupied desk, so people who need a little break could come relax their brains a bit and work on something collaborative and fun.  I was about to head back out when I realized there was nothing I’d rather spend the next hour or so doing than immersing myself in the puzzle, so that’s what I did.  Probably not the best idea, spending time in the office like that when I wasn’t doing any work, but it was just an hour.  Or two.

I actually did do some tidying up, which I consider work-related, and then I knew what I wanted to do.  I drove to the zoo, paid for parking, and walked around Waikiki for a bit.  I remembered that there was this ramen spot I’ve been wanting to try for a few years, in King’s Village behind the KFC.  They’re closing King’s Village at the end of January, alas, so I figured this was my last chance.

Double alas: many of the businesses there have already cleared out, including the ramen joint.  It’s too bad.  In a neighborhood where things look typically the same, King’s Village really stands out as something interesting and fun-looking.  I’ll miss its Hogsmeade-like walkways and alleys.

Now my heart was set on ramen (despite having driven into the area at first interested in Italian; I’m easily distracted), so I went over to Kalakaua Ave, the main drag along the actual beach at Waikiki, and took at look at Momosan, Masaharu Morimoto’s ramen spot.  It was surprisingly casual and reasonably priced.  I’d found my dinner spot.

I ordered the gyukotsu, a ramen served with a braised short rib.  They only make 20 per day and what the heck?  It was the priciest item (I think) on the menu but it was a day for indulgence.  There were other ramens I was actually more interested in, so I’ll be back.  I also ordered a side of gyoza, because you have to when you’re trying a new ramen spot, and a glass of the Morimoto Soba Ale.  When I asked the waitress to tell me about it, she said “It’s a beer.”  And when I asked why it was a soba ale, she didn’t know.  I ordered it anyway and it was very good.

Oh wait a minute.  The expensive item may have been a shot of the Yamazaki, and I was tempted but decided I’d rather have the beer.

It was a nice dinner on the lanai so I could people-watch (there’s no better place on this island than Waikiki for people-watching).  I wandered about Waikiki a bit more after the meal, hoping to burn off enough to make room for dessert, but I just didn’t have the room.

I made it back to my car and drove aimlessly about for a little while, then went home, staying up late to watch The Breakfast Club, a new Criterion Collection edition I just picked up as a present to myself.  I also got The Princess Bride from Criterion, and they are both wonderfully done.

Went to bed after returning a few text messages from well-wishers, and this is how I turned 50.

Holy freaking cow.  50.

Review: Aquaman

Aquaman (2018)
Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nicole Kidman. Written by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall. Directed by James Wan.

There was a point at which I almost said aloud, “This is completely ridiculous. How in the world am I supposed to believe any of it?”

Then in the very next second, I had a flash of some of my favorite movies, many of which would be unbelievable in any world outside the worlds created for them, for an audience ready to believe them. The Harry Potter movies, which I love, are in a fantastic world right against the real world. If I could accept the fantasy of Hogwarts, why not of Atlantis?

This is when my entire movie-watching self simply relaxed. I popped some Junior Mints into my mouth and eased comfortably into a world where a man speaks to fishes and his half-brother rides giant seahorses. Perhaps I’m ready to give The Shape of Water a try, now that I’ve seen and enjoyed Aquaman.

It’s a big, dumb, super-enjoyable movie, kind of a refreshing break from the darkness and ponderousness of DC’s recent films. Let Superman have his fortress of solitude and Batman his cave; Aquaman will do fine with a few enormous tankards of beer with his homies in the neighborhood bar.

Arthur Curry (the alterego I didn’t know Aquaman had) is the product of a romance between a lighthouse keeper in Maine and the queen of Atlantis. His half-brother, who sits on the throne in Atlantis, rallies the other undersea kingdoms for a war against the humans of the surface. To intervene, Aquaman must find the trident of his ancestor kings, so he might defeat his brother and claim his place as ruler of the sea.

Aided by Mera, a princess from another sea kingdom, and of course all the creatures of the sea, Aquaman chases the legend of the trident in something of a Temple-of-Doom manner. It’s all rather predictable but getting there is entertaining. The acting is fine, highlighted by Nicole Kidman and Amber Heard. Jason Momoa as the prince of Atlantis is like a better-looking Thor with slightly less acting talent.

It works for me, and it pretty much accomplishes exactly what it intends: brain disengagement and an escape from the sad ruminations of daily living, and who couldn’t use a bit of that?

7/10
70/100

Review: Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas (2014)
Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey, Joe Swanberg, Lena Dunham, Mark Webber. Written and directed by Joe Swanberg.

Happy Christmas is the first film I’ve seen by Joe Swanberg, but this guy gets me, and I want to see more of his work. Starring Anna Kendrick (one of my favorite actresses) and Melanie Lynskey in mostly improvised dialogue, this is a good example of a movie that doesn’t really go anywhere. Yet it goes so many interesting places that I look forward to seeing it several times more.

Kendrick plays Jenny, a twenty-something emotional cripple coming out of what seems to have been a very painful breakup. She moves in temporarily with her brother Jeff (Joe Swanberg) and his wife Kelly (Melanie Lynskey), themselves only recently out of their twenties and only recently new parents. It’s unclear where she’s moving from, but Jenny arrives in a cab from the airport, so she is a new part of this young family’s everyday life.

Jeff and Kelly seem to have a solid grip on the parenting. They’re careful but not stressfully careful, and they seem genuinely to enjoy their new duties as mom and dad. Only Jeff, however, seems to have figured out where fatherhood and his career as a film director fit together. Kelly, a writer who has published one novel, hasn’t worked out any time for her own career.

Jenny is the kind of upsetting force that will bring family issues to the fore. Everyone loves her, including the baby, but she occasionally self-medicates in dangerous ways, dangerous for her and for people around her.

Yet this is not that kind of movie. It’s not about Jenny’s drinking or weed-smoking, or about how emotionally needy and self-destructive she is, just as it is not about a young married couple trying to reconcile the needs of career and the duties of parenthood. Swanberg as director uses these premises instead to let his actors explore their connectedness, especially their compassion for one another at this moment in these lives.

Jeff and Kelly can’t undo their parenthood, but they can express their feelings about this moment, and with sympathetic hearts motivated by (I’m interpreting here) basic goodness, try to reconcile conflicting needs. Whether Jenny makes it happen for them, whether they all make it happen for each other, and whether they’ll continue to do so is irrelevant to this movie, something that may disappoint many viewers who expect cinematic closure. The fact that they are doing it in the moment, and that we can see how it happens, is what matters, and this is what makes Happy Christmas beautiful.

Swanberg is (according to his Wikipedia article) a major figure in the mumblecore school. This film has definite mumblecore filmmaking sensibilities, but it’s quite a bit less lo-fi than most movies I’ve seen in the genre. It still has indie written all over it, but despite its improvised dialogue, it doesn’t feel as messy as those other films while it maintains a kind of DIY vibe I enjoy.

Kendrick is an A-list Hollywood force now. I love that she still has room in her artistic life to do a film like this.

80/100
8/10

Review: Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joe Mazzello, Tom Hollander, Mike Meyers, Priya Blackburn. Written by Anthony McCarten. Directed by Bryan Singer.

I had pretty low expectations going into Bohemian Rhapsody. I worried that it would overly prettify Queen’s surviving members’ stories or overly dramatize Freddy Mercury’s sexual preferences and his related death. There was plenty of the former, and not too much of the latter, and since there’s a decent amount of emphasis on the music itself, the movie feels pretty good.

The movie follows the biopic formula, and I suppose that’s a good thing. For those of us unfamiliar with the band’s origins and its musical ambitions, it’s enlightening to see how members of the band worked together to create the sound and feel of their music, how (for example) A Night at the Opera began with the concept of rock and roll performed with the scope, scale, and aspirations of opera, and how the band moved into a farm for the recording sessions.

One recurring theme is that Queen was a band. In one early scene, an interviewer begins a question with, “As the leader of Queen—” only to be cut off quickly and sharply by Mercury, who insists, “I am not the leader of Queen; I am only the lead singer.” Other scenes show individual creative contributions by bassist John Deacon, drummer Roger Taylor, and guitarist Brian May. For a rock and roll geek like me, this is the good stuff, if the content can be believed.

This is where I have my biggest issue. Some of the dialogue, especially in scenes where the band is talking about itself, feel like promo videos for Queen albums. Here’s some made-up dialogue that’s not in the movie, but it could very well have been.

May (to a record label executive): The first single must be “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Exec: The song is six minutes long! Radio won’t play it!
Deacon: They’ll play it because we’re Queen.
Mercury: They’ll play it because it’s beautiful.
Taylor: And if you don’t like it, we’ll leave right now!
Mercury: And you’ll forever be known as the guy who let Queen get away!

The band takes several such moments to demonstrate how rock and roll it was, how Queen wasn’t just Freddie Mercury and some guys, and how its members always knew what they wanted. The overall feel is horribly manufactured as if to present Queen in its best possible light.

And that’s not rock and roll at all.

My second-biggest issue is the issue I have with most musical biopics. There’s just not enough of the band creating the music, and there’s not enough of the band performing the music, although there’s a good amount of the latter. Not once do we see the band perform a song in its entirety, not even the track whose title is the movie’s. This is a crime. The film does get big points for showing us an enormous chunk of the Live Aid performance, but again: it would have been nice there to experience at least one whole song the way the audience experienced it.

That music, though, is as sweet as ever. If you love Queen, it’s impossible not to leave feeling good.

69/100
7/10

Review: Welcome to Marwen

Welcome to Marwen (2018)
Steve Carell, Leslie Mann, Merritt Wever, Janelle Monáe, Eliza González, Gwendoline Christie, Diane Kruger. Written by Caroline Thompson and Robert Zemeckis. Directed by Robert Zemeckis.

It was difficult to ignore the trailer for Welcome to Marwen. It promised Steve Carell in his best, outsider mode, which I’ll sign up for every time. Robert Zemeckis is always a coin toss for me, but he did make several films I like very much (I have not joined the anti-chorus of haters for Forrest Gump ,a movie I still love) so I try to set my sights low before sitting down with my Junior Mints. In some ways my expectations were greatly exceeded. In a few ways they were a bit too high.

Carell plays Mark Hogancamp. We meet him three years removed from a vicious beating that wiped all his memories away. Suffering from extreme PTSD, Mark has learned to deal with his demons by creating a small, WWII-era Belgian town named Marwen. Marwen is populated by a G.I. Joe kind of doll who looks like Mark and is named after Mark, plus a half dozen beautiful women dolls, all counterparts of women in Mark’s real life.

Mark creates and enacts elaborate scenarios with his dolls, posing them for photographs coveted by collectors.

The setup is pretty creepy, but there’s some novelty here that make the premise itself mostly work. Most of the credit goes to Carell’s strong, tortured performance, Zemeckis’s audacity, and sympathetic supporting characters who indulge Mark’s eccentricities while keeping him anchored in the real world.

Yet the movie’s greatest novelty, an uncanny animation that brings Mark’s dolls to life, is its greatest weakness. Midway through the film, I silently begged the film to give us less—much less—Marwen and much more Mark. Alas, Zemeckis hits the accelerator hard, and at least half the film has us seeing the real world through Mark’s make-believe dramatizations, and it goes well past tired, into maddening.

Like most metaphors taken too far, Marwen gets cheesy, forced, and ridiculous. Mark is surrounded by people reaching out to him with genuine, human touch, and while it’s fully understandable that he would retreat further into his pretend world as his real world becomes increasingly stressful (in its most brutal sense), by now we get the picture and would much rather see the story from his real friends’ real perspectives.

The hobby shop clerk who sells Mark his dolls is clearly interested in him, liking him as he is, caring enough about him to deal with his damage. His employer patiently reminds him of his work schedule. His new neighbor, a very pretty woman named Nicol, genuinely wants to be Mark’s friend. What is Mark to them? We never really find out.

Instead we get a heavy-handed metaphor worn thin without any sense of the real struggle Mark goes through to put on his best self. We get rising action rising acting rising action climax oh man that’s how you’re going to get us there?

And now a word about Leslie Mann, whom I adore, who plays Nicol. Mann’s voice has a quality I cannot explain but it hits exactly the right nerve for me in a way rivaled only by Mary Steenburgen. I didn’t know she was in this movie until, so deeply in love with her voice was I after a few scenes, I snuck a peak at the movie’s Wikipedia article and saw that it was her. Here she has a head of deep red hair, which may be why I never recognized her, and her voice is quite a bit higher, but it retains a sweetness that all by itself makes this movie worth it to me. I understand this is a unique position, which is why I’m explaining it here. My rating of the film is going to be crazy biased. Emphasis on crazy.

Last month I gave a greatly flawed plot major make-up points for excellent performances in Green Book. The performances here aren’t quite as good and they have much more to make up for. Leslie Mann’s voice makes up for a lot, but not that much.

55/100
5/10

Review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Luna Lauren Velez, Zoe Kravitz, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicolas Cage, Kathryn Hahn, and Liev Schreiber. Written by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman. Directed by Bob Perischetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman.

There’s a lot to spoil about Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, so what I’ll say here will not tell you much about it. Still, I think it’s safe to offer a few thoughts in the interest of convincing you it’s worth checking out.

I kept saying holy moly. Leave your pessimism at the box office and meet Spidey where he is: at the crossroads of multiple universes, animated unlike any concept you have about what a comic book superhero movie looks like.

The story may sound like typical teen-angst fodder but it stands out because of what’s going on as the film tells it: multiculturalism, hyper-surreal visuals, and plenty of humor. I can’t believe the filmmakers get away with some of their bizarre decisions, but they get away with them all because once the movie establishes itself as a story where anything can happen, anything happens.

Audaciously imaginative and one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. Kid-friendly. Just go.

8/10
81/100

Review: The Front Runner

The Front Runner (2018)
Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga, J.K. Simmons, Alfred Molina, Sara Paxton, Mamoudou Athie, Kevin Pollack. Written by Matt Bai, Jason Reitman, and Jay Carson. Directed by Jason Reitman.

The Front Runner is Jason Reitman’s film about the candidacy of Gary Hart for the 1988 presidential election. There are a lot of approaches a filmmaker could take for a picture like this. It’s the rise and fall of an intellectual, good-looking senator. It’s the victimization of a young model aspiring to a career in government. It’s the turning point in our national discourse where a politician’s personal life becomes relevant for American voters. Or it’s the moment when American journalists stopped turning a blind eye to politicians’ dalliances and actively reported on them.

Reitman hits that last one, with dramatizations of conversations between publishers, editors, and reporters at the Washington Post and Miami Herald. The decision to pursue a story about Hart’s relationship with his alleged mistress Donna Rice is nothing shy of an identity crisis for everyone involved and for the institution of journalism.

I was confused and annoyed by the director’s decisions in the first half of the film. Some reviewers have called the overlapping dialogue, quick edits, and enormous number of characters Altmanesque, but I’ve never been this confused by an Altman movie. As the film progresses, a few key characters emerge (notably A.J. Parker, a fictional Washington Post reporter played by Mamadou Athie), and the movie becomes a lot less chaotic. I want to see this again to decide if I simply got used to the style or if Reitman deliberately creates an experience that becomes less confusing as the story progresses.

Hugh Jackman is excellent as Hart, and Vera Farmiga, as always, is terrific as well, playing Hart’s wife Lee. I’d never heard of Molly Ephraim, who plays a fictional Hart campaign scheduler and kind of Donna Rice’s handler when things get hot, but she’s an interesting actress in kind of a challenging role.

Although the film has its problems, when it ended I felt I’d come through an amusement park ride, baffling at first but strong and clear at the end, although Reitman seems deliberately to avoid making a statement.  Instead, he presents the moment as important and lets the viewer make the judgment. The film suffers some because of it.

I have a strong bias in favor of Reitman, who is probably one of my two favorite working directors, but I didn’t know he directed this until the end credits rolled. I clapped quietly when it was over, then felt kind of thrilled to see that it was Reitman I applauded.

7/10
71/100