Blind Spot 21: Manhattan

I went into this month’s Blind spot pick, Manhattan, with kind of low expectations. Despite it being a well regarded film amongst critics and film snobs nobody I know seems to like it much. So perhaps it was these low expectations that left me feeling surprised at how much I liked it. Manhattan is a funny look at how we ruin things by idolizing them. Whether it be relationships, sex, art, literature or even New York City itself, when we place things on a pedestal we take the joy out of what we are admiring.

I can see why many don’t like Manhattan. It has Woody Allen’s classic mannerisms which can be annoying to some. It also has him in a relationship with a 17 year old which can be awkward especially with Woody Allen’s own background.

My favorite part of Manhattan is the script. It shows how ridiculous we are when we love something (or are infatuated). This scene I particularly loved when the group of pedantics are criticizing everything they think is ‘overrated’.

There were a lot of scenes like that which made me laugh and could have been easily criticizing modern internet culture today  just as much as New Yorkers in 1979. These people are trying so hard to appear smart that  it is funny.

Manhattan is also a beautiful movie with amazing black and white photography. I think it is even more stunning than Annie Hall. I don’t know if I can think of a Woody Allen film that looks as good. Maybe Midnight in Paris but this might be even better.

We also see this idolization with Meryl Streep’s character who was Woody Allen’s ex but left him to be with a woman. She looks stunning in this film but she is writing a whole memoir on her relationship with Allen. This is definitely Allen puffing his own ego up but it is also about how we place past relationships on a pedestal and puff them up to protect us from new pain.

My only big problem with Manhattan is I never felt invested in the romance with Mariel Hemingway. She is so sincere and he is more than a little creepy. I think that is intentional but it also wasn’t as funny as scenes with Diane Keaton and others.

In the end Manhattan is about looking at things in our lives the way they really are and taking off the rose colored glasses. But not only that- it shows how silly we all are with those glasses on.

If you would like to purchase Manhattan click here

Overall Grade- A-

PS I didn’t even think of the fact I watched Manhattan on 9/11. How perfect 

The Shallows and Cafe Society Reviews

I just thought I would give you guys two quick reviews of films I was able to see this week. Ironically both films star Blake Lively in all her gorgeousness but aside from that they couldn’t be more different.  Today we are looking at The Shallows and Cafe Society. Neither will make my best of the year list but they are both solid entertaining films.

The Shallows-shallows

Those of us who love Jaws were excited to see what  a modern film could do with a killer shark story. In the case of The Shallows we have Jaume Collet-Serra in place of Steven Spielberg and he delivers an entertaining film that isn’t near approaching Jaws but is better than the Jaws sequels so that’s something.

The Shallows stars Blake Lively who looks stunning in her bikini on the beach. She has arrived at a secluded beach in Mexico to swim at her Mother’s favorite spot. It takes a while to get her to the core shark part of the story but since I love the ocean and surfing I didn’t mind that.shallows4

However, it was painfully obvious they pasted Lively’s face on another surfer’s body in the surfing scenes. This brings up my major problem with the movie- the visual effects were uniformly poor.  I mean look at the shark above. Don’t you think it looks like styrofoam?

shallows2When Lively was on the rock and we didn’t know where the shark was then it was tense and exciting (and that’s a lot of the movie) but as soon as they showed the shark it took me out of the film. Collet-Serra should have learned from Spielberg if the shark doesn’t look good don’t show the shark.

shallows3It also gets extremely silly towards the end of the movie with Lively lighting the ocean on fire at one point and her spearing the shark with a buoy like a superhero.

Nevertheless, Lively is really good, the ocean looks gorgeous and the survival scenes when she is caring for her leg and trying to figure out what to do were gripping. There’s enough there to give a mild recommendation.

For me 10 Cloverfield Lane is the better small horror movie of the year but if that is too gory for you The Shallows could be just the thing.

Overall Grade- B-

Cafe Society-

Cafe_SocietyI have to say I had an absolutely terrible theater experience seeing Cafe Society. A group of older women were in front of me being loud and one woman literally looked at her phone the entire time.  So, perhaps it says something that I liked it as much as I did.

Cafe Society is the latest film from Woody Allen and it’s not one of his best but it is an enjoyable little movie. It’s pretty simple story about Bobby played by Jesse Eisenberg who goes to LA to work for his big time Hollywood agent uncle Phil played by Steve Carell.

cafe societyHe meets Vonnie played by Kristen Stewart who is lovely and luminous in the role. People need to let the Twilight movies go and give Stewart a chance to act. She’s proven herself in movies like Still Alice, Into the Wild, and this that she can be a good actress with the right material. In this movie she has to compete with Blake Lively and yet you still understand why Bobby is in love with her.

wasp2015_day_14-0220.CR2Speaking of Blake Lively, man is she beautiful in this movie. It reminded me of Age of Adaline in how well she wears clothes and graces the screen. She is definitely Woody Allen’s shiksa goddess in this film. wasp2015_day_38-0044.CR2I also loved Corey Stoll here. He plays Bobby’s mobster brother and I think I just have a crush on the guy. I like him in everything I’ve seen him in.

As you can probably tell from the photos Cafe Society looks great. The costumes and production design are impeccable and it is a pleasant enjoyable story of old town Hollywood.

That said, certain scenes fall flat like when Bobby hires a Jewish call girl. It’s supposed to be funny but it doesn’t work at all. Also, the whole film feels inconsequential.  There is nothing memorable about it. It feels extremely derivative of 30 other better Woody Allen films.

Allen also does the narration in the film which is distracting and helps remind the viewer of all the other films he’s done that are better.

Still, not a bad watch and I’m glad I saw it even with the stupid moviegoers who were with me.

Overall Grade- B

Do you have a favorite animal horror movie like The Shallows? What about your favorite Woody Allen movie? I’d say Jaws is my favorite animal horror movie and Midnight in Paris is my favorite Woody Allen movie with Annie Hall and Blue Jasmine close behind.

Rewrite Movie Review

The-Rewrite-movie-posterApril is just my month for liking movies that other people don’t like or that at least aren’t championed by many. That said movies like Jupiter Ascending and Longest Ride I enjoyed for what they were but didn’t love them. Now let me get behind a movie I really love that nobody saw called The Rewrite.  It is exactly the kind of movie I LOVE.

Nora Ephron is my literary muse.  I love her writing.  The little moments of commentary about books, movies, Starbucks, New York, whatever it is.  I love how funny her scripts are and yet her characters feel real and have moments of depth and compassion rarely captured in a light comedy.  I mention Ephron because The Rewrite was as close to a Nora Ephron movie I have seen since her passing in 2012.

Since 2012 very few romantic comedies have even been made let alone good one’s and for a huge fan of the genre it has been very sad. I miss going to the movies to feel good and be with people that I liked and who made me laugh.  I sincerely miss it, so that is part of the reason The Rewrite made me so excited.

rewrite 8It is perhaps appropriate a return to the romcom would star the key of the genre, Hugh Grant.  In The Rewrite he plays Keith Michaels an Oscar winning screenwriter who has fallen on hard times after the luster of his youthful career has faded (and his wife leaves him for the director of his big hit…).  He doesn’t have a relationship with his son, has no creative energy,  can’t get a script sold and is even considering a sequel to his Oscar winning film- something he said he would never do.

His agent played by Caroline Aaron convinces him to go and teach in a small town called Binghampton and having little else to do he agrees. Naturally he starts out feeling that teaching is beneath him and he dismisses class rationalizing that ‘talent can’t be taught so why waste everyone’s time’.

The cast is uniformly excellent with Marisa Tomei, JK Simmons, Allison  Janney, Chris Elliott, Bella Heathcote and more.

DSC_5395.NEFI particularly loved Janney who is an English professor who loves Jane Austen and has some very funny dialogue with Grant on that topic and many others.  It is especially funny because Hugh Grant was in a Jane Austen movie (Sense and Sensibility) so there are more than one winks to the audience in the script.

rewrite 4Simmons and Elliott are a lot of fun as fellow teachers.  Simmons is in love with his family.  He cries every time he mentions them.  Elliott is Grant’s neighbor and he has a lot of funny observations of those around him.

I loved the students and even though they are tropes they are well written tropes.  There’s the feminist girl, nerd, slut etc but they are funny and the scripts they are writing have a lot of good jokes that made me laugh (like the Bar Mitzvah gone wrong crossed with Dirty Dancing…).

rewrite 2Tomei is lovely as an older student in Grant’s class who is writing a script based on her life as a single Mom. They have terrific chemistry which is essential in this type of movie.

I have mostly male readers of this blog for some reason so I am sure most of you will probably discount this as a ‘chick flick’ and if you do that’s a shame.  It has so many funny lines about work, entertainment, pop culture, movies, writing, education etc.  It really reminded me of a Nora Ephron script and maybe even a lighter Woody Allen like Midnight in Paris.

All I know is this is exactly the kind of movie I love.  You might say it is the Rachel hat trick- funny, romantic, with a nice heart to it. If you are a writer or love movies I think you will particularly enjoy it.  Have an open mind and give it a shot.  If any of you do see it let me know what you think.

As far as content there is a little language and talk of an affair with a student although nothing is shown.

Overall Grade- A+  Content Grade- A