At the Movies

Movie Round Up, What?: Conversations with Eileen & Slice of Life Tuesdays

Evening Friend,

Max’s bris is tomorrow and I’m so sad I can’t make it, but I have some workshops to present in Dover tomorrow for their Superintendent’s Conference Day.   But I can’t wait to meet him.

Of course his bris comes on a very big day: election day.  Will we have the Obamas in the White House for a second term?  I think Tuvia will be heartbroken without Michelle for the next 4 years, but things are looking very good now.  Over the last week of hurricane Sandy Nate Silver and movies kept me sane.  I’ve written a lot about Nate so let me switch to the collection of movies we raced to see when we had no power, when we had no TV and even when it all came back.

I’d recommend ALL the movies we got to see,  in fact let me move back to an earlier flick experience to add to the list.

1. The Perks of a Wall Flower:  It’s a coming-of-age story, adapted from a novel about a young boy living with childhood demons who writes therapeutically  to his dream girl.  He is the new boy at school after a stint in a mental hospital.  He is back home but not quite steady yet. His older sister is distracted with a goofy boyfriend and as the new kid he is tortured by bullies.  He is befriended by his English teacher, and soon he does find his “group”.  A freshman taken in by an outlandish boy and his sister, a dream girl for our new boy.  Their eccentric crowd fits him perfectly.

I believed it all, in fact the last 30 minutes offered me time to a great cry. A great set of actors in a familiar story. In fact Harry Potter’s Hermione steps away from her magical role effectively.


Sandy flicks included Denzel’s new Flight  and even though the trailers paint it as a comedy, there’s nothing very funny about a talented pilot who lands his plane skillfully but he is not viewed as a hero, not with a very serious drinking problem and that’s what this movie takes on, spiraling out-of-control-alcoholism. Denzel fans, you will love this one! Do I smell an Oscar coming ?

So far the two movies above can be easily found in most malls in the area but the next two will be harder to find and that’s a shame.

A Late Quartet stars Christopher Walken,  Seymour Philip Hoffman,Catherine Keener and Mark Ivanir  and  was directed by new Israeli filmmaker, Yaron Zilberman. At the Burns Film Center we got to preview the movie first and then meet with the director during a live interview.  I can’t think about this piece without remembering the passion of  Zilberman.  I loved listening to his stories about selecting and working with this amazing quartet of actors.  He shared his own passion for chamber music and his selection of the movie soundtrack: Beethoven’s Quartet in C  sharp minor, uniquely composed in 7 movements without a pause.  As the group is challenged to its core  and how perfect that their shooting time in the dead of a NYC winter allowed for a perfect setting for this piece.

Zilberman not only directed this, his first fictional film, but he is the author of its screenplay and we loved it.  Tuvia was in heaven as each transition included another segment of the musical piece.  The story was a good one, filled with the entanglements of  this quartet family celebrating its 25-year anniversary as its center, cellist Robert, played by Walken, is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease  and knows he will have to leave the group.

Will the group survive? We ride along to find out.  It’s great acting again that moves the story along.

And finally, the lights come back, the TV and internet return as well and we are still on the road to Cinema 100 in Greenberg, NY to see the Israeli film, The Flat.

 We assumed that everyone was coming back to normal and as we turned left into the mall, lights were on everywhere but as we parked right across from the theater, crossed to the box office  we read the small, hand lettered note to customers: NO HEAT!  I thought twice.  Tuvia didn’t and we gave it a try.  Luckily I had my winter coat, Tuvia was layered and fortunately the documentary was the usual, 1 &  1/2 hours.  My nose, fingers and toes did begin to freeze but it  was only uncomfortable in the last minutes.

This documentary was intriguing.  The family’s grandmother has recently died in Tel Aviv, Israel and her large  family clan takes on the task, led by her daughter, of cleaning out her apartment after 50 years of living. One grandson Arnon Goldfinger, an established documentary filmmaker,turns his cameras on as the cleanup begins. Collections of gloves, hats, shoes, books, newspapers, lead down to layers of collected papers, photos and nicknacks, that uncover a Nazi mystery.

In the tradition of Holocaust survivors, Gerta and Kurt Tuchler kept their past lives in Germany before the war buried from the next generations.  The future was the focus and that next generation, Arnon’s mother, accepts the silence even when confronted with questions from Arnon about his grandparents and their strange ties with a high profile Nazi.  His mother is focused to face the past but she can’t judge her parents.

I loved Arnon’s passion for uncovering the history of his family.  Yes, the theater was freezing but the hunt was hot.  I might have to watch this one again.  It’s in Hebrew with subtitles in English.  I enjoy movies laid out authentically but  it’s a heads up if that might be a problem for you.

Does anything sound interesting? Have you seen any of these?  Leave me a comment.



Categories: At the Movies, Conversations with Eileen | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

The Black Swan: 31/365

The Black Swan was torture for me,  BUT,  I had to see it; after all, it’s a contender for Oscars, and the way it looks, Natalie Portman will be walking home Best Actress, instead of more worthy performers like: Annette Bening, Nicole Kidman, Michelle Williams and Jennifer Lawrence.

Movie lovers seems to either embrace this film or reject it as I did.  I can’t speak for others, but for me it was like the horror films I ran from as a kid. My best friend Steven couldn’t wait for Saturday SCREAM matinees, I dreaded them. I tried to go along for the ride and be a good sport but there was no way I could stay in my seat when the monster was just about to devour the young girl.  Steven laughed at me, ‘come on it’s so fake!”  I was sucked in. My screams were filled with terror, followed by late night wake ups.

The elements were all here: a shrewish mother, pushing Natalie on. Natalie’s own self abuse, the theaterical frills offered by the “over the top” director who brought us “The Wrestler” building to the obvious conclusion.  No surprises in the plot, no depth to Portman’s character as she descends into her nightmare.

There was a moment that I did enjoy and the movie poster above captures it.  Finally Natalie comes into her own, but it was too late.

As I walked away with Tuvia, into the clean, crisp winter sunshine , I remembered our post-movie conversations about  Blue Valentine,  The Rabbit Hole, Winter’s Bone and The Kids Are All Right.  As we left The Black Swan we moved as far away as we could from the two hours of dental torture, to dinner plans and finally, why we had nothing to say about the BS of the Black Swan.

Categories: At the Movies | Tags: , | 2 Comments

My Favorite Movies: 26/365

My Favorite Movies: 26/365

I am avoiding a conversation on the State of the Union speech this morning because as usual, I want to LOVE  Barack Obama and something holds me back: he is not on the same page with me when it comes to education,

but he isn’t alone.  So many media pundits(not educators) agree with him that I wonder if we are living on the same planet, reading the same articles on education. So I’m leaving this hot potato alone for now.

But the Oscars, that’s a safe topic to take let’s get the popcorn bowls ready for Sunday, February 27,  the night before we leave for Aruba.

My favorite Movies this year are:

1. The Kids are All Right:

LOVED IT! Could be my favorite this year and one that I can to my all-time faves.

Up for: Best Picture, Best  Actress: Annette Bening, Best Supporting Actor: Mark Ruffalo, Best Screenplay.

Why not BEST Director? Oh well, Lisa Cholodenko was the heart of this piece and one of its authors.

2.  127 Hours: Big surprise!

Based on a true story, we know that the main character, passionate about climbing mountains and exploring on his own, gets his arm caught under a bolder and after much exciting trouble shooting, is forced he has to cut off his arm.Of course I was dreading that moment, but the film is so much more than that.  What a showcase for the acting of James Franco, deservedly nominated for Best Actor and Danny Boyle(Slumdog Millionaire) who directed the piece and was not acknowledged for the creative use of his cast and technical expertise to keep us riveted to this story of human courage and ingenuity.

3. Rabbit Hole

A serious movie, based on a play by David Lindsay-Abaire, about how a marriage survives with the death of a child.  Nicole Kidman was at her best. She looked  real and played this her role authentically with the support of her movie husband Aaron Eckhart and quirky mom, Dianne, Wiest.

4. Blue Valentine

Excellent, serious and well-made movie about the highs and lows of a relationship with great acting from Michelle Williams who was nominated and Ryan Gossling who should have been as well.

5. The King’s Speech

Thumbs way up!  Great that Colin Firth, Geofrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter were acknowledged for their work, along with best director, best picture and probably a few more.  All good and an excellent selection.

6. The Fighter

Loved it!  A movie with a heart.

Great Cast:

Christian Bale, who took his role seriously and lost 30 pounds necessary to look like a drug addict. He sounds like someone from a small town in MA.  He is not Batman here. Amy Adams, who seems to always hit her marks but she’s competing against Melissa Leo from the same movie who was great too but has the more showy role.  Best Picture, Best Director are nominated  but Mark Wahlberg has been left out and he is the lead, the center and the heart of this piece. I would have left off Jeff Bridges or Jessie Eisenberg instead.

7. Winter’s Bone

Tough movie to watch, but an important view into poverty   outside the burbs and cities. Wonderful performance by the young lead, Jennifer Lawrence , who creates a resilient character and with this nomination, more people may get a chance to see her in this small gem of a film.

8. The Town

Ben Affleck returned to his hometown, Boston and wrote a piece that he cared about. He wrote it and starred in it and while Jeremy Renner was good enough to walk away with a nomination for best supporting actor, but Ben and the film was dissed here.

9. I am Love

This is an Italian movie with subtitles so that’s two strikes for many American movie goers but I saw it twice and loved it.  Tilda Swinden stars as a Russian-born wife of a rich Italian who is married to a successful businessman and oversees a very social family but something is missing for her and as the story unfolds she allows herself to explore.

Tilda Swinden is English and she speaks Italian throughout the movie. Wow!

One nomination for best costume design. Come on…

10. The Social Network

Good Movie.

I saw it on opening night and sorry, but it didn’t stay with me beyond the moment. It’s good but I’m not sure if it’s on my top 10 but I will leave it here for now.  I’m not rooting for it. Sorry.

And… I saw True Grit and honestly I don’t get what all the shootin’s for.

Still to see: Black Swan, Blutiful

What do you think?

Categories: At the Movies, post a day 2011 | Tags: , | 11 Comments

Movies on the Couch: 23/365

Movies on the Couch: 23/365

Last night I needed a movie but it was too cold to enter outside and my head cold was kicking in and we HAVE NETFLIXS.

So, the selection is still limited but movie lovers will never have a problem finding an old favorite to reconnect with and last night it was


Tuvia and I were not together in 1988 when it first came out but neither of us could remember what our first experience was like.  For sure, I had been back with it much more than he had, in fact, I once owned a VHS copy of it, but my old video library was long ago been replaced by DVD’s. You too?

But last night, as we flipped through our choices this movie won, hands down!

It was a perfect flim for a night indoors with a fire, a comfy couch and a blanket.

Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal and New York City share the complexity and romance of how relationships evolve.

By the end, at the moment of their New Year’s Eve resolution I was in tears, and it wasn’t from my head cold.

Thumbs way, way up, STILL!


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Celebrating Movies Tonight: 16/365

The New Year’s Eve Celebration Continues with the Golden Globes tonight.

Yes, the balloon is losing its original power but I remember its night of glory just a few weeks ago.

Tonight, as we settled in to watch the Golden Globes award show, it was still blowing along with us as I cheered on my favorites.

The Kids are All Right, The Rabbit Hole, 127 Hours, Barney’s Version, The King’s Speech,The Fighter, Blue Valentine, I am Love…  I could go on of course..

And Tuvia sat with me through most of it without yawning (too much)

Categories: a photo a day 2011, At the Movies, post a day 2011 | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

An Odd Sunday: 10/365

Just a usual Sunday at the Jacob Burns Film Center.  The place was packed with movie lovers.  A select group of donors were lunching upstairs with Robert Redford. Some were there just for a good movie and then another group, our group had a special event combination: a new movie,” Barney’s Version”  and then an interview with its star, Paul Giamatti.

We arrived early enough to get close enough to the front of the line to grab our favorite seats once the house doors opened. Once the theater went dark and to movie began It did  take  me a while to get connected to it, but with patience, I found the movie’s center, powered of course, by great acting.   Barney is hard to like, let alone love,  but when he meets “the one”, Miriam at the marriage ceremony to his second wife played by Minnie Driver.  Once his relationship to Miriam takes center stage the characters unfold: demanding Barney and stoic, composed, Miriam.  And  Dustin Hoffman appears often dazzling us as  Barney’s loving father and I was in.

When  the credits rolled I was softly sobbing and with chairs being set on the stage for Janet Maslin to interview Paul Giamatti, I was ready to applaud him for his work that has been publicly acknowledged  with a Golden Globe best actor nomination for his Barney.

Okay, lights up! A burst of sound, we are on our feet, Paul looks relaxed and a regular guy and it’s all down hill.

What happened?

Janet Maslin, New Times movie and book critic has been a big supporter at the Burns and usually interviews the stars.   I often find her surprisingly unimaginative in this role, but she is always positive.  Yesterday, for the first time, she wasn’t.  Paul G. is a star and he is modest about it; just a guy who works hard and loves making movies.  This was a good movie and he was wonderful. It was clear that Janet didn’t think so.  From the start, she put down the screenplay and encouraged Paul to agree with her. How ridiculous, he was the star and sitting there to be the film’s cheerleader.  She set an odd tone and it seemed disrespectful.  Afterall, she was not wearing a reviewer’s hat now.

And then the conversation moved from begin sacrcastic about the quality of the piece to the issue of  religion. Yes, Paul Giamatti  isn’t Jewish and he played a Jew.  So what?    Maslin commented incorrectly that Paul had played four Jews. He, seemingly uncomfortable with this focus, corrected her. No, only 3.  Wait, what about” Sideways”? No, that character was not Jewish. “Really, but what about that mother? She seemed to be one of those…” The audience gasped.

What was going on?

What an odd experience that seemed to leave us all feeling strange.

But Bravo to Paul Giamatti!

I think I need to send a version of this to the Burns directly.

Have a good one,


Categories: a photo a day 2011, At the Movies, movie reviews, post a day 2011 | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Filmmaking At the Burns: 62/365 SOLC #11

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Categories: A Photo A Day 365/2010, At the Movies, NabloPomo March '10, SOLC 2010 | Tags: , , | 10 Comments

White Ribbons: Movie Review

Yesterday we rode into New York to meet good friends for  White Ribbons and then dinner to digest good food and hopefully, a stimulating movie that’s just won a Golden Globe for best foreign film.

Let’s leave the food and focus on the movie.( I did stay within the parameters of my diet so I didn’t suffer any guilt.)

The movie is not one to find its way to mall theaters but in NYC, at the theater just across from Lincoln Center, we stood in a long time and had a choice of seats in the first or second rows, but thankfully the screen was well placed and we left after 2 1/2 hours without eye strain or neck aches.

The movie, in German with subtitles, was demanding-lots of characters and lots of text to read.  It was a rare piece in black and white and for me, I was heaven.  I miss black and white films. Even Woody Allen has moved totally to color these days.

White Ribbons, directed by Michael Haneke, an Austrian, weaves  a mysterious story that takes place in a small German town in 1913, just before the dawn of World War I.  In this seemingly idyllic environment a series of violent acts occur, seemingly unrelated.

The focus of the movie centers around the town’s children and how rigidly their parents try to raise them. The movie is narrated by an older man who shares his memories when he was, in his younger days, the village’s  schoolmaster.

When I saw the movie trailer at the Burns Film Center last week I was intrigued, thrilled to see it and yes, I was engaged  for the entire 2 1/2 hours, trying hard to keep up with the story’s details and our conversation was stimulating as we decompressed at Oneil’s Balloon. In keeping with my diet, I refused a vodka even though it would have made me feel better.Marie felt that the villages she had visited in Germany were accurately represented in the movie.  I felt and still feel that it was just too simplistic. There has been a great deal of work done on causes for Germany’s embrace of Hitler’s Nazism and I needed more from this film.

Would I recommend it?

Hmmm. I’m on the fence, but if you get to see this one, please remember to come back and share your reflections.

Tuvia was unmoved and in further conversations yesterday, I’m moving closer to him.  It did look gorgeous!

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At the Burns: 10/365 NaBLoPoMo Day 10

We were a part of a big event at the Burns Film Center the other night: a full house with people waiting for standing room seats an hour before the start time

First we would see the hot  new movie, Crazy Heart, already nominated for a number of Golden Globes and Oscar buzz everywhere.

Jeff Bridges a great favorite of mine, stars as a broken down, alcoholic, country western singer on the verge of drowning or rising above with a incentive of a young, loving woman with a very cute son.

I was hesitant.  We’ve been here before, often but this is a small, independent movie where actors are given more opportunties for character authenticity.

I liked it very much. Jeff was really good.  He really sang and played guitar and the score was great, produced by T Bone Burnet, and Maggie Gyllenhaal was great as his young lover, offering a woman who held to her principles, Robert Duvall showed up as the supportive friend and Colin Farrell, who began as the protege and is now the star returning the favor and a fresh, new director-writer Scott Cooper.

It was good,really good and as the lights came up and the actors appeared on the stage we were excited but I don’t know, maybe it was the usual interview questions, their tough post production schedule, but it was a bit boring.  We are used to passionate actors, directors and writers at the Burns. Ang Lee after Brokeback Mountain and recently, director-writer, Mira Nair, who shared their life passions with us.  That didn’t happen here. They were just going through the motions and we were happy to meet, greet and get back out to our real lives.

A fun way to spend an evening, but my heart this year, remains with Precious!

Categories: A Photo A Day 365/2010, At the Movies, NaBloPoMo January '10 | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Back at the Movies: 130/365

At the Movies

Angels and Demons opened yesterday and we were there for the 3:45 feature. It was good to be back in a dark theater, good to be surrounded by other movie lovers at such an odd time of the day, and good to be holding hands with Tuvia.

This was not a movie to love, but I found it easy to race along with Tom Hanks, even if the plot line seemed absurd.  We just watched Tom and Ron Howard and the new leading lady, an Israeli named Aleylet, how lovely.

It was just good fun on a great location, Rome!

Let the summer flicks begin.  On to Star Trek!

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