The Intern Review

The Intern should have been a movie I loved.  As most of you know I love romantic comedies.  There aren’t very many made these days and I miss them.  The Intern isn’t really a romantic comedy but more of a friendship comedy but it has the lightness of the genre.  It is also a movie about work which is another favorite topic of mine in the movies.  (I think the movie may be getting more praise than it deserves because so few movies like this are made more than how great it actually is…)

Unfortunately, I ended up with really mixed feelings on this one. I explain why in my video review where I give a spoiler warning to give you time to stop watching if you want too.

There are things I liked in The Intern. Robert Deniro and Anne Hathaway are really charming in their roles.

Anne Hathaway’s Jules (a very romcomy name) felt to me like what Devil Wears Prada Andy might be doing at that phase of her life.  She has a daughter and her husband is a stay-at-home Dad.  She runs an internet startup company that is new and hip and overwhelming her life.

They decide to hire senior interns and Robert Deniro is bored with his life much like the guys in Walk in the Woods. So, he decides to apply and gets the job.  Showing up in a suit and tie and carrying a handkerchief for all girl crying moments (seriously) he charms his way into the hearts of the entire office.

internHe really charms the audience too.  He’s so likable and fun and it makes you wish you could hire a senior intern to help you and give you counsel whenever you need it…

However, that is also a weakness of the film.  He really becomes kind of a senior citizen superhero.  I’m all for having characters in movies that are good people but why not have one piece of advice he gives actually not apply to the new workplace?  Wouldn’t that have been an interesting dynamic for both characters to absorb and learn from?

intern19I really liked the scenes with him and the other young men in the office but I also thought they could be a bit patronizing.  Are young men really so stupid they need to be told to not show up for a new job in your pajamas?

intern8But they do work and I was charmed by them and I did laugh.  Where the movie really had problems for me was in the conflict and resolution in Jules’ personal life and with her marriage.  It is very spoilery but I go into it in a spoiler section in the video if you want to know.  Basically I didn’t buy the way it was all resolved.  I didn’t think it made sense for either character (both professionally and personally) and it was kind of a deal break for me on the film.

So I like things about it but I think it could have been much better.

Overall Grade- C

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Hit Me with Your Best Shot: The Red Shoes

It’s time for my third entry in the Hit Me with Your Best Shot film project done by Nathaniel over at the Film Experience

I’m really excited about this project because it is kind of like a book club- in that it is interesting to see what other people think about the same movie, all watching it at the same time.  Plus, it introduces me to new films I might not have discovered on my own.  I won’t be able to review every movie because of content (as last week’s Magic Mike selection demonstrated) but the one’s I can I’m very enthusiastic about.

red shoes4This week’s choice is The Red Shoes which is a film made in 1948 by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (known as The Archers) .  It is a movie I admit I had never heard of before but of course it is a classic (so  many of those it’s hard to keep track of all of them).  And it is fortunately a classic for a reason.  It is a stunning movie about passion, work, love and dance.

Frequent readers to this blog will already know one of my favorite topics in film is work. Why we work? How we balance work?  When have we over-worked?  How do you know what work to do?  What is passion and what is too much?  What about the doldrums when we are miserable at work?  I love comedies, dramas, even cartoons about work.

Well, in The Red Shoes you have a woman that has an unusual job- she is a prima ballerina.  At the beginning I was a little bit confused about who all the characters were and what was going on.  If this happens to you stick with it.  It all gets explained.  The ballerina in question is named Victoria ‘Vicky’ Page (Moira Shearer) and through an aunt of hers she is introduced to Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook).  He is an eccentric strange man who’s obsession is having the greatest ballet company in all of France.

As the director he ends up giving Vicky a shot when his ballerina gets married and is fired (there is no option of a working woman in this film).  Vicky’s first role is as the lead in a ballet called The Red Shoes based on the Hans Christen Andersen story.  It is written by the conductor Julian Craster (Marius Goring) who is new to the ballet company like Vicky.

I don’t want to give too much away because I went into this movie completely fresh and I’m glad.  Basically it is about Vicky’s battle between her love or personal life and her passion for dance or career.  There is an extended ballet sequence which is a stunning surrealist masterpiece.  I loved this shot from that dance.  You can see both the home and the dance reaching out to Vicky.

red shoes 3There is also a great scene towards the end where Lermontov tells Vicky ‘you cannot live two lives’ and she must choose what she wants. (I have to admit I was a little bit let down by the ending but given it was 1948 it is kind of understandable). Even in modern times most working women will tell you ‘you can’t have it all’.  Something is always sacrificed whether it is work, family or both.

red shoes 1The Shot-

But my favorite shot from The Red Shoes is from the ballet.  One of the things I noticed is whenever Vicky is dancing she is always smiling. You can tell she is so happy and perhaps that is the best litmus test of all?  Whatever makes you happy than try do as much of that as you can…It may not be your career but make it the thing you work for.

In a way watching her dance reminded me of the movie Ed Wood (I know strange comparison but hear me out).  He is so happy making his terrible movies.  The smile on his face never leaves.

So rarely is great passion matched with talent, so especially in Vicky’s case she should embrace what gives her that big smile. That’s why I picked this shot.  I love the dancing, red shoes and the smile.

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Whiplash: A Review

whiplash poster 2014

Today I got the chance to see the Best Picture Oscar nominated film Whiplash and it is a very good movie.  It is not my favorite movie of 2014 or anything but an extremely engrossing one, that I have a feeling I might like more the more times I see it.

Trailer:

It is about a boy named Andrew played by Miles Teller.  He is a freshman drummer  at Shaffer Conservatory, the best music school in the US and has dreams of being the greatest jazz drummer in the world right up there with Buddy Rich (I got to know that name quite well through this movie!).

The ‘Studio Band’ at the school is conducted by a man named Terence Fletcher played by the always great JK Simmons. He is a beast of a man who believes by manipulating and pushing his students he will push a student beyond what is good to what is great.

000036.2771.Whiplash_still1_JKSimmons_.JPGMy friends who have more experience in the arts felt this type of teacher could exist.  It seemed a little over-the-top to me but Simmons is mesmerizing in the role so whether it is or isn’t I bought it for the sake of this movie.

Fletcher throws chairs, yells, curses, makes Andrew play until his hands are raw and bloody.  A little challenge for me is unlike singing where I know when a singer is off key, the bad and good jazz music here sounded exactly the same. But it doesn’t really matter because even if Andrew played perfectly Fletcher is not going to tell Andrew that.  He says the worst words in the English language are ‘good job’ because it makes you rest.

I wonder about this basic premise.  I know for me when a mentor says ‘good job’ nothing makes me want to work harder and do better, so I’m not sure that Fletcher is right. What do you think?

Whiplash-4Andrew becomes totally obsessed with pleasing Fletcher and you can feel the meltdown coming.  He even breaks it off with his girlfriend because he is afraid it will distract him from the drums.

I would have liked to have learned more about why it is so important for Andrew to be the best?  There are a few quotes and we see him listening to Buddy Rich albums but nothing more.  What is it that makes him want to be first?  So many are satisfied with simple things but Andrew wants more.  Why?

Whiplash-Miles-TellerThe movie is basically like a pot of water getting hotter and hotter till it boils over.  Andrew practices like a mad man and Fletcher does not let go for a second and the ending is surprising and extremely satisfying.

Whiplash made me think a lot which is always a good thing.  It made me think about success or greatness.  According to Fletcher  to give such greatness to the world is of prime importance at any costs.

On a certain angle it is tough to argue with.  I’ve thought about this many times.  For example, if a young Mozart came to you and said ‘I’m sick of this. I’m going to live on a farm the rest of my life.  I know this music thing isn’t going to end well for me” Would anyone in their right mind say “Absolutely, do what makes you happy and live a good life”.  No, not when we know what resplendent masterpieces he left us with.

Miles-Teller-WhiplashTo continue on the Mozart comparison in the movie Amadeus Salieri is jealous over the seemingly lack of effort Mozart has to go in order to produce sublime works of music.  He is even angry at God for blessing Mozart with these gifts and only giving him mediocre talent. Whiplash is a different approach.  Fletcher seems to think greatness is either cultivated or it is wasted. Andrew works so hard it literally destroys his hands. Is it worth it? I don’t know.   That’s kind of the question the movie  and there isn’t a tidy answer.

Whiplash1I would have liked to have gotten in Andrew’s head a little more about these issues and had maybe one less practice scream session.  Andrew feels a little robotic at times and again I was left wondering why it is so important for him to be the greatest? The creators may assume it’s human nature to want to be the best and it can be but it can also be human nature to be lazy and do just enough to get by which is why Fletcher justifies his treatment of the students.  There has to be some underlying motivation for not doing the bare minimum for Andrew and I don’t know if I quite got that in Whiplash.

But that’s a bit nitpicky.  You certainly know he loves jazz music and maybe that’s enough.  Andrew’s father wanted to be a writer but ended up being a teacher and this is treated in the movie as a sell-out and maybe it is. Did his father not work hard enough, not innately talented enough or did he realize he wanted other things?  It’s a tough but insightful question the movie allows us to think about and ponder. I love that!

 

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Andrew even has a moment where he tells Fletcher ‘where is the line? When do you go too far and discourage people from playing at all?’.  Are the truly greats so great they can only be pushed, and pushed and those that give up simply weren’t good enough?  Or is someone with a slower more methodical training approach turned off from achieving their goal, which could be equally great?  I don’t know.

Another interesting question the movie had me pondering is isn’t it almost inevitable that someone better will eventually come along and then what have you sacrificed it all for? Again, that’s the struggle with Salieri in Amadeus. In another era he could have been great but someone who was simply better came along.

In contrast we have roles that only we can do like being a mother, father, sister, friend.  Doesn’t sound as glorious as being the greatest but in a way doesn’t it actually matter much more? I mean if you are going to offer your life up for sacrifice shouldn’t it be for something that only you can and should do?  But in the movie Fletcher says he has never found a truly great player (perhaps a testament to the problem of his methods…) so maybe they aren’t as common and repeatable as it might seem? After all, Mozart died in 1791 and I’m still talking about his genius on a blog in 2015.  It’s really tough. (See how this movie makes you think!)

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So to sum it all up- Whiplash is an excellent movie that asks a lot of intriguing questions with great performances.  All the music scenes are done incredibly well and it builds tension to a very satisfying ending. I wish we had gotten inside Andrew’s head a little bit more and understood more his desire for greatness but it still definitely earns a recommendation from me.  Worth your time to check out!

As far as content goes there is a fair amount of profanity including some homophobic slurs.  It is bloody and tense with shouting and other disrespectful behavior.  Whiplash is most appropriate for mature teens and adults, and I think it would be a good movie to show young people who have great ambition and talk about what success looks like and what is worth sacrificing to get where they want to go.

If you see it I am very curious what you think especially if you are an artist or musician.  Please share your thoughts and feelings in the comments. Thanks!

Content Grade- D, Overall Grade- B+