Friday, December 2, 2022

Film Reviews: Gay Romance “Spoiler Alert?” You Will Cry. “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” Is a Fine Adaptation. “She Said” Takes on Harvey Weinstein to Dispute What He Said.

Spoiler Alert (c) Focus Features

Film: Spoiler Alert 
In Cinemas 

“Spoiler Alert” is the third major film to focus on the gay relationships this year, along with “Fire Island” and “Bros,” and it’s interesting to note that the only thing the three movies have in common is Kylie Minogue. Fair. Where the other two films seem to want to highlight some social justice issues along with its slice of gay life, “Spoiler Alert” mainly focuses on the romance of Michael and Kit (yes, very “Knight Rider”) and their 14-year life together before, spoiler alert, Kit dies of cancer. Before then, Michael (Jim Parsons), a writer at TV Guide, and Kit (Ben Aldridge), a graphic designer, seem like the perfect New York couple at the start, despite Michael’s body insecurities and Kit still being in the closet to his parents (Sally Field and Bill Irwin). Although “Spoiler Alert” warns its audience at the get-go, when the Big C diagnosis finally does happen, and the tone of the film changes into the film we all knew it would be, it still manages to tug on the heartstrings, thanks to the performances by Aldridge and, particularly, Parsons. Although he doesn’t completely shed his idiosyncratic mannerisms after ten years of “The Big Bang Theory,” Michael is a bit less uptight than Sheldon and more emotionally effusive. Their relationship starts cute, then before you can say calendar montage, they are already at the couples therapy stage of their lives, which is a bit jarring. The film is the perfect combo of the old and new Lifetime Channel film: the weepy disease of the week and the Christmas love story (just in case you were wondering why this is being released during the holidays, Christmas plays an important part in the plot). Director Michael Showalter, who directed the similarly themed and plotted “The Big Sick,” again shows how he can successfully balance comedy and drama while dealing with illness. Based on the true story and book by Michael Ausiello, the movie feels very authentic, even when dealing with the familiar tropes the film fully embraces (“Terms of Endearment” is name-checked). “Spoiler Alert” may not be the most elegant title for a love story, but it doesn’t lie. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Opera Review: The World Premiere Production of “The Hours” at The Met Gives Three Sopranos the Chance to Shine

The Hours (c) Evan Zimmerman

Opera/Theater Review: The Hours 
At the Metropolitan Opera 

Premise: “Am I Monster? Or a Mother?” sings Laura Brown (Kelli O’Hara), the suburban housewife in 1951, as she has a panic attack and impulsively drops her young son nicknamed Bug off at a babysitter and gets a hotel room to do the one thing she wants to do: read Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway.” But, maybe Laura has an ulterior reason? Meanwhile, in 2001, Clarrissa (Renée Fleming), whom her soulmate Richard (Kyle Ketelsen) calls Mrs. Dalloway (Clarrissa is the first name of the Woolf heroine), is throwing a party for Richard, who says he’s getting a literary award for still being alive (he has AIDS). Clarrissa even announces that she “would pick up the flower herself.” This is the famous first line of the novel, which in 1923, Virginia Woolf (Joyce DiDonato) is writing at her country house, but is always being interrupted by her husband, Leonard (Sean Panikkar) and their maid. Woolf wonders if she could set her novel (she hasn’t decided if she’ll call it “Mrs. Dalloway” or “The Hours”) over the course of one day but she is certain someone will die at the end. All three time periods take place over the course of one day and are played simultaneously on the stage, and at the end of one of these three days, someone does indeed die. 

Friday, November 25, 2022

The Interested Bystander’s Oscar Predictions: November 2022

Avatar: The Way of Water (c) 20th Century Studios

Thanksgiving is start of the onslaught for Oscar voters and critics group. So, let’s take one more look, objectively (without the influences of critics’ awards) to see which films has the best chance of getting some Oscar love. The only films with Oscar chances still unseen are "Avatar: The Way of Water" and “Roald Dahl’s Mathilda.”  I am also including my Best Score predictions here instead of at Film Score Monthly this year because timing is off at the magazine, and I won’t be able talk about Best Score until after the short list is announced. So, enjoy this month’s bonus category. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Film Review: Steven Spielberg's Childhood Is On Display in Wonderful "The Fabelmans"

The Fabelmans (c) Universal Pictures

Film: The Fablemans 
In Cinemas 

Premise: Burt (Paul Dano) and Mitzi Fableman (Michelle Williams) are living in New Jersey in the 1950s and they decide that their son, young Sammy (Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord), is old enough to see his first film in a movie theater, “The Greatest Show on Earth.” At first, they are afraid that Sammy would have nightmares, especially after the scene of a horrific train accident involving zoo animals and train robbers. But when he screams out that night, it isn’t because of fear – he knows what he wants for Hanukkah: a train set. So starts the journey of director Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical stand-in, who uses Burt’s small camera to recreate the train crash, which ultimately leads to teenage Sam (now played by Gabriel LaBelle) making Western films with his boy scout pals. The Fabelmans are now living in Arizona for Burt’s job, with three daughters added to them and their best friend Bennie (Seth Rogen) in tow. But when Burt’s job uproots the family again, this time to Los Angeles, cracks begin to show, especially with Mitzi, a former classical pianist whose restlessness and unhappiness take its toll on everyone. Sam is now in high school and as one of the few Jewish students, his biggest obstacle is the antisemitic jocks (with another “West Side Story” mini-rumble in the gym), but he is also now closer to Hollywood and dreams one day to be involved with the film industry somehow (spoiler alert: I think he’ll make it). 

Friday, November 18, 2022

Film Reviews: “The Menu” Is Tasty; “The Inspection” Makes an Impressive Debut for Director Elegance Bratton; “Causeway” Is a Superb Actor’s Showcase

The Menu (c) Searchlight Pictures

Film: The Menu 
In Cinemas 

Just in the time for Thanksgiving, director Mark Mylod (of many “Succession” episodes) has fashioned a satire of both pretentious foodies and self-centered two percenters as a small boatful of rich diners arrive at Hawthorne, a small island that doubles as a restaurant locale for a $1,250 meal with the famous Chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes). Along with the usual wealthy suspects, like a movie star (John Leguizamo), a renowned food critic (Janet McTeer) and a trio of financial douches (Arturo Castro, Mark St. Cyr and Rob Yang), are Tyler (Nichols Hoult), who loves cooking shows and worships Chef Slowik, and his date, Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy), who doesn’t seem to be half impressed with the evening festivities as the other guests. Greeted by Slowik’s first-in-command (played by, mwah - a chef’s kiss, Hong Chau) at the pier, the guests get a tour of the self-sustaining island before starting their meal with Slowik, who narrates each deconstructed course with crazy metaphors. As the meals progress, even these guests cannot help but realize there’s something creepy to Slowik’s increasingly menacing stories and dishes (wait till you hear why there’s a garnish of a small scissor stabbed into each of their roast chickens), especially when the blood, which was not on the menu, starts flowing. The script by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy does a better job satirizing the haute cuisine culture with all the buzzwords and anachronistic ingredients than it is does taking down the only people who can afford an evening like this. Taylor-Joy and Fiennes have a nice antagonistic relationship that grounds the movie as it starts its descent into the plot’s madness. There’s also a moment that seems to indicate a Hunger Games twist that ultimately has no consequence. But I was never bored, and I had fun trying to figure out how the heck all of this would resolve itself. This may not be as satisfying as a well-balanced meal, but it is a fine, tasty amuse bouche.