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Posts Tagged ‘Sofia Coppola’

Rashida Jones, Bill Murray

“ON THE ROCKS”  My rating: B (Now on Apple +)

96 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Bill Murray and his gleefully smarmy insouciance have been part of our collective unconscious for so long — more than four decades now — that it’s easy to forget that he is one formidable actor.

And to prove that point one need look no further than Sofia Coppola’s “On the Rocks,” a father/daughter road trip that chugs along without a misstep, providing along the way many an opportunity for Murray to do his glorious thing.

The premise is simple enough. Approaching 40, with two young children to care for and a writing career that appears stalled, New Yorker Laura (Rashida Jones) is a envious of her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans), an entrepeurial type working on a big project that requires much travel, usually in the company of his team of young go-getters.

Laura’s doubts about herself and her marriage go from lukewarm bath to slow-simmer when her father, famous art dealer and inveterate womanizer Felix (Murray), puts a bug in her ear.  Could Dean be having a fling with one of his young helpers?

Felix, after all, is a past master of marital deception; he knows the signs of a cheating husband and doesn’t want his little girl blindsided in the same way as when he broke up with Laura’s mother decades earlier.

Or could it be that in maturity he’s desperate to connect with the child he once almost drove away? That he has an agenda beyond Dean’s presumed infidelity?

Basically what we’ve got here is a comic mystery in which father-and-daughter sleuths go searching for proof of Dean’s fooling around. It’s a quest that will have them crashing swank Manhattan  soirees and even a Mexican resort.

Mostly, though, it provides a series of opportunities for superbly written and performed verbal exchanges.

Jones is terrific as a woman whose faith in her marriage is tested but never shattered. Her attitude toward Felix — equal parts loving admiration and clear-eyed suspicion — is precisely limned. And she has a great third-act monologue in which she tells off her old man for his selfishness.

But of course Laura is the straight-man role. Murray’s the one who gets one standout moment after the other.  In one marvelous scene he talks his way into the good graces of a NYPD cop who has pulled him over for racing his red convertible through Soho: “Are you Tommy Callaghan’s kid?” he asks after reading the officer’s name tag. “I don’t know why I didn’t make you right away. You’re a dead ringer.”

Before it’s over he has not only sweet talked his way out of a traffic ticket, but he gets the city’s finest to provide a running jump start for his temperamental roadster.

Just about every woman who encounters this sad-eyed Lothario seems to get a buzz off him. Laura is no exception.  The guy is remarkably entertaining.  In one instance Felix has her  walk backwards through a cocktail party — that way the hostess won’t realize they’re leaving early.

And at a posh Mexican resort where Dean is attending some sort of business deal, Laura finds her father serenading the other guests with a pretty righteous rendition of “Mexicali Rose.”

Coppola provides her leads with a late confrontation in which Laura reveals the many times she’s been hurt by her father, and Felix tries to explain how a mistress gave him the “glow” his wife no longer bestowed.

With its love of the big city “On the Rocks” sometimes feels like a long-lost Woody Allen effort, but Coppola is very much her own auteur; it’s doubtful that Allen or any male writer/director could have so succinctly captured Laura’s predicament.

The result is an amusing film that ultimately delivers a few deep lessons.

| Robert W. Butler

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“MAKING WAVES: THE ART OF CINEMATIC SOUND” My rating: B

94 minutes | No MPAA rating

The cinema has always been dominated by its visual elements and the moving image…there’s a reason we refer to them as “the movies,” after all.

But as powerful as visual images may be, they can be enhanced immeasurably by the judicious and creative use of sound. Some filmmakers, in fact, argue that what we hear in the theater is as important — perhaps more important — than what we see.

Midge Costin’s documentary “Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound” — she’s a veteran sound and dialogue editor making her directing debut — is a little bit of everything: history, aesthetic exploration, technological geek out.

It is also, for the most part, a look at the careers of two of the still-living giants of movie sound: Walter Murch, whose sound designs have graced the films of Francis Coppola, and Ben Burtt, who brought his talents to George Lucas’ “Star Wars.”

The film opens with Murch, now 77, commenting on how even before birth we are accustomed to hearing our mother’s breathing and heartbeat, as well as voices and noises coming from outside her body. For that reason, Murch asserts, hearing is a much more profound experience than viewing.

The film picks out from cinema’s past special films that advanced movie sound. There’s “King Kong,” whose sound designer manipulated the roars of zoo animals.  There was the radio era, when entire worlds were fabricated from pure sound; artists like Orson Welles exploited the artistic possibilities of radio and then brought that some creativity to the soundtrack of his “Citizen Kane” (1941). Alfred Hitchcock was an advocate of pure sound, eschewing all music for his “The Birds” (1965) and relying heavily on electronically distorted avian noises.

But these adventurous souls were few and far between. Mostly the studios were run like an assembly line that avoided adventurous sound design; each studio had its own sound library of gunshots, trains, screeching tires, ricocheting bullets and other noises that were used over and over again.

Of course for most of the sound era — which began in the late ’20s — movie sound meant monaural sound, noises coming from one speaker directly behind the screen.  It wasn’t until Barbra Streisand demanded a full stereo presentation for her 1976 “A Star Is Born” that stereo soundtracks became the norm.

In films like “Nashville” Robert Altman got creative with dialogue, wiring up everyone in a crowded scene with their own microphones and recording each actor individually so that he could manipulate what his audience heard in the final print.

(more…)

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Nicole Kidman, Colin Farreell

“THE BEGUILED” My rating: C+

93 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Riding a tsunami of high expectations (she’s only the second woman to be named best director at Cannes), Sofia Coppola’s “The Beguiled” is poised to become the Second Coming of feminist cinema.

Except that it isn’t. Not even close.

It’s not a bad movie. “The Beguiled” (based on the same novel as the 1971 Don Siegel/Clint Eastwood version) is fiercely atmospheric and slyly subversive. It’s been well acted and the physical production is impressive.

But it’s emotionally remote and something of a bore.  Don Siegel may have been a pulp filmmaker, but his melodramatic instincts were fun, at least.

Coppola’s screenplay offers some new dialogue but the plot arc is mostly faithful to the earlier movie and the novel.

During the Civil War, a handful of teachers and students at a Virginia boarding school for women discover a wounded Union soldier, Corporal McBurney (Colin Farrell). They sew up his mangled leg, intending to turn him over to the rebel home guard when he’s healed.

But the presence of a potent male sets off yearnings among the residents. Among them is the outwardly formidable headmistress (Nicole Kidman), a lonely teacher (Kirsten Dunst), a spoiled teen on the cusp of sexuality (Elle Fanning), and even a small girl (Oona Laurence) looking for a playmate.

The canny bluebelly works the situation, becoming to each woman or girl just what she requires in this testosterone-starved environment.

Those looking for a fresh feminist twist to the material will be disappointed.  There’s less about women’s theory here than about the dark corners of the human psyche: sexual fear and repression, jealousy, revenge, exploitation. (more…)

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Emma Watson On The Set Of 'The Bling Ring'“THE BLING RING” My rating: B (Opens June 21 at the Alamo Drafthouse)

90 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The juvenile delinquents depicted in Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring” are neither impoverished nor uneducated. They are the beautiful children of Southern California, privileged numbskulls who wear classy clothes, drive expensive cars and party hearty.

In 2008-09 a half dozen of these handsome young people went on a burgling spree, entering the homes of the famous people—Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton — whose lives they experienced vicariously through the Internet and  TV’s ”TMZ” celebrity gossip show. On their nocturnal prowls they made off with more than $3 million in clothing and cash.

In Coppola’s hands their fictionalized story has become a deadpan comedy about really stupid kids (who consider themselves smart) whose sense of entitlement is so complete and moral compass so nonexistent that they assume the rules just don’t apply to them. 

It’d make a hell of a double feature with “Spring Breakers,” though I doubt audiences are prepared for quite that much adolescent idiocy and arrogance.

We’re introduced to the Bling Ring through Marc (Israel Broussard), a baby-faced teen and a new student at Indian Hills High School (a sort of high-class dumping ground for rich kids who been booted from other schools). Marc is sweet and unassertive and totally bowled over when he’s befriended by the beautiful, catty Rebecca (Katie Chang).

It’s not about sex. Marc is pretty obviously gay. He thinks of Rebecca as his sister.

(more…)

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