“Rules Don’t Apply”: period comedy about reclusive Howard Hughes again presents a post-teen as the adult in the room

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Name: Rules Don’t Apply
Director, writer:  Warren Beatty
Released:  2016/11
Format:  1.85:1 (unusual for this studio)
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Common, light audience, 2016/11/29, evening
Length 127
Rating PG-13
Companies: 20th Century Fox (Searchlight?), Regency, RatPac
Link: official site

Rules Don’t Apply”, a period dramedy in which director Warren Beatty plays the eccentric billionaire isolani Howard Hughes, gives another case where the kid parents that pap.

Alden Ehrenreich plays the 20-something Uber-careful driver for Hughes in 1958 Los Angeles, made to look art deco with all the sunny valley smog.  Pretty soon he, following the fraternization rules, is escorting aspiring actress Mamie (Haley Bennett), and he gradually gets brought in to helping Hughes and Mathis (Matthew Broderick) managing Howard’s flailing legal problems as he faces Congress.

Why does he get this opportunity?  Frank seems like the only grownup in the movie.  Yes, he has a good evangelical upbringing in Fresno, and takes the idea that sex implies marriage seriously, at least for starters.  Pretty soon he is flying private planes, going to Europe, and DC, keeping Howard out of trouble,  At the end of the film (as most of it is told in flashback), there is a press conference in LA in 1964 where reporters want to locate Hughes (in Acapulco), rumored to have dementia, lying in bed I a resort, admitting that “I need to get out more.”  It’s sad.  Frank could have used all of this to get rich himself, but he just always does the right thing, or almost always.  There is, of course, some heterosexual temptation.

The plot has an interesting twist:  Hughes has to face the idea that if he gets married, a sympathetic spouse could protect him from getting committed.  Yup, he’s become an M.P., like what I saw a NIH I 1962.

Beatty has said that this film is not really a biography of Hughes, but rather a story of a religious young man and woman coming to terms with the coming sexual revolution.

Ehrenreich looks spiffy, having grown chest hair since “Beautiful Creatures”.

Beatty, remember, starred as a young man, the virile and tempting Bud Stamper in Elia Kazan’s “Splendor in the Grass”, where the young girl (Natalie Wood) winds up in a Kansas mental institution over family sexual repression – and they each marry someone else at the end.  Based on the Wordsworth poem, the film got a lot of attention among students at William and Mary in my lost semester in 1961;  my roommate said he had “emoted” over the movie (just before I saw it).  Then in 1964 he plays a virile attendant in another mental institution who gets gradually undone by “Lilith” (Jean Seberg).  I remember seeing this at the old Buckingham Theater in Arlington VA.

Posted: Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016 at 11 AM EDT

“Haven”: 2001 miniseries about Ruth Gruber provides a parallel to today’s immigration debate

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Name: Haven
Director, writer:  John Gray, Souzette Couture
Released:  2001
Format:  1.85:1, and TV
When and how viewed:  Netflix DVD
Length 183
Rating PG-13
Companies: Miramax, CBS Films
Link: documentary

Haven”, directed by John Gray and written by Souzette Couture (2001), is a 3-hour two-part miniseries for CBS, packaged as a film by Miramax, which provides a fitting parallel for today’s debate on immigration.

The film tells the true story of Ruth Gruber (Natasha Richardson) who travels to Italy in 1944 to escort 1000 Jewish refugees back home by sea.  Once they arrive in the United States (at the end of Part 1), they are interred in a detention camp in Oswego New York.

Gruber fights for her people all the way.  At the beginning, her father asks, “Are you willing to risk your life?” and she answers that her brother is already fighting.

Once the refugees are on a boat, the typical scares from planes erupt, and they behave like savages to the to the heads of food lines.  The film establishes a somewhat melodramatic tone throughout.

The film also has flashbacks to Nazi Germany, in black and white, with a quote “Let’s get rid of the Jews and maybe mediocre Germans can rise to the top.”  Indeed, a parallel to today’s xenophohia and “politics of resentment”.

In the second half, she fights to get them gradually released, and eventually refugees go to work at a plant near Oswego.  At the end of the war, Truman finally signs an executive order allowing the refugees in Oswego to apply for permanent status without returning to Europe first.  Gruber gets to meet Truman, and there is a scene where immigrants from all over Europe do sham volunteering to be deported.

Gruber very recently passed away at the age of 105.

This film has also been produced as a stage play.

There is a documentary “Ahead of Time: The Extraordinary Journey of Ruth Richman” (2009) by Robert Richman from Vitagraph, not on Netflix yet and only available now as a collector’s item on Amazon.

Wikipedia attribution of image, By Dirk Ingo FrankeOwn work, CC BY 3.0, Link

(Posted: Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016 at 12:30 PM EST)

National Geographic Explorer Ep. 3: “Kill List”, “Propaganda Wars”, “Electrotown”

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National Geographic Channel’s “Explorer” series reviews a number of controversial international problems.  Each episode covers about three topics, with a short documentary film and short panel QA.

On Monday. November 28, 2016, the “Episode 3” started with “Kill List”, and examination of how the US government, under the Obama administration, has identified targets (on a “disposition matrix”) for drone assassination in countries housing terrorists (usually Muslim).  Tim Samuels, from London, led the investigation along with Jeremy Scahill.  They visited Islamabad and talked to a cleric who believed he was on such a list, and usually travels without his cell phone, even without the battery, which can be tracked.  Drone attacks are unlikely in major cities but more common in rural areas.  The episode suggested that the drone attacks have about 35% accuracy, down from 80% during the Bush years – with a considerable likelihood of collateral civilian casualties.  Targets are identified by social media and especially by NSA collection of metadata.

The panel discussion offered former CIA director James Woolsey, who was rather blasé about the risk to innocent people.

There have been several fiction films about the ethics of drones: “Eye in the Sky” (2016), “Drone”, “Drones”, and “Good Kill” (2015).

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The second episode was called “Propaganda Wars” which started with the assertion that ISIS is like a media company that kills people.  In 2014, journalists found that a boundary had been crossed indeed (by the public beheadings).  But in Turkey, a few Syrian refugees make comedy videos and code computer games to counter ISIS, and also make forays back into Aleppo to deliver a print newspaper (Enab Baladi ).  I’ve heard Vladimir Putin talk as if control and power were about propaganda and nothing else (when speaking about the gay speech issue in 2013), as if individual speech means nothing to him.

The panel discussion featured Lana Logan, who gave a brief presentation of “Our Fundamental Rights” (as in the spirit of my 1998 booklet, described here ) She said that all other fundamental rights are predicated on the freedom of speech (although that’s #4 on my booklet, link) . She also said that people need free flow of information in order to hold leadership of a country accountable.

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The third segment was called “Electrotown”, Green Bank, W Va, where for ten miles radius cell phone towers and devices are not allowed, to prevent interference with the radio telescope there hunting for alien signals.  People who claim sensitivity to microwaves and cell signals move there and live totally off the grid.  It could become an inviting place for doomsday preppers.

On Dec. 5 there were three more controversial segments.

In a segment called “Wakaliwood“, Director Billie Mintz works in a poor suburb of Kampala, Uganda making B-movies, reflecting violence in Ugandan society, legacy of Idi Amin.

In “Russian Role-Ette: Going Commando“, British journalist Tim Samuels visits some private academies in Russia where young men toughen up and become more manly. Likewise some women go to charm schools. After WWII, where Russia lost so many males, and after decades of women working under communism, more men today are raised by single women. Valdimir Putin wants to strengthen gender roles to increase the Russian birth rate, which helps explain the anti-gay propaganda law of 2013 (“Dispatches”). Samuels participated on a rifle range and in some male hand-to-hand. His hairy body looked soft compared to the laconic Russians.

In “Exploding Bus“, a police academy in Pennsyvlania blows up a bus full of carcasses to simulate an investigation after a hypothetical terror attack.

National Geographic Channel is looking for correspondents.  The website is “Assignment Explorer”.

Wikipedia attribution link for Islamabad Skyline under CCSA 4.0   by Kamranmangrio; link for Aleppo Skyline under CCSA 2.0 by Richard Renwick.

(Posted: Monday, Nov. 28, 2016 at 11:55 PM EST)

“Allied” has the plot of a WWII Hitchcock mystery, and plays on real world identity theft

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Name: Allied
Director, writer:  Robert Zemeckis, Steven Knight
Released:  2016/11/23
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  2016/11/26, Regal Ballston Common, evening, large auditorium, nearly sold out
Length 124
Rating R
Companies: GK, Image Movers, Paramount
Link: official

Allied”, directed by Robert Zemeckis and written by Steven Knight (the story seems original), has the plot devices of a 1940s Hitchcock thriller, dealing with spies, deception and stolen identities. The movie could also be called “Casablanca II”.

Brad Pitt plays Max Vatan, an intelligence officer working in occupied North Africa in 1942, and the opening scene of the film reminds one of “Babel”.  Soon he meets apparent French resistance leader Marianne (Marion Cotillard).  They fall in love.  Marion leads him to a party for the German ambassador, complete with swastika, and Max and Marriane stage a violent attack.

Sometime later they are man and wife in London and have a child.  But British intelligence calls him in one day and confronts him with the theory that his wife is a spy with a fake identity.  Max has married and given his body into sexual passion with what seems to be identity theft, pre-Internet. A complicated ruse follows to discover the truth, and it is not guaranteed to end well.

There is an interesting scene where Marianne is challenge to play a particular piece on a piano in a bar they have broken into.  It’s the piece from “Casalanca” and set to hymn by Hector Berlioz.

While the suspense is quite real and recalls the master director, the setting looks a little hokey.

The plot of this movie starts about the time I was conceived.

(Posted: Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016 at 9:45 AM EST)

 

“Fastball”: Baseball documentary limits itself to just one pitch

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Name: “Fastball”
Director, writer:  Jonathan Hock
Released:  2016
Format:  HD
When and how viewed:  Netflix DVD; available on Amazon Prime for $3.99
Length 88 + extras:
Rating NA
Companies: Legendary, Kino Lorber
Link: official


Fastball” is a documentary, directed by Jonathan Hock and narrated by Kevin Costner, about the science of Major League Baseball pitching, with emphasis on flamethrowers.

The film traces the history of the fastballer from Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators, through Bob Feller and Nolan Ryan (who didn’t have to retire until an injury in Seattle at age 46), as well as others like Sandy Koufax.  The old selves of the pitchers and batters (and they do age in appearance normally with time) often speak.

The film also presents the experiments which measure ball speed.  Physics says that a pitch speed decreases with air resistance as it approaches the plate.  The standard today for a radar gun is to measure speed 50 feet in front of home plate.  By that standard, Bob Feller and Nolan Ryan had the fastest pitches, at over 108 mph.  Aroldis Chapman, from Cuba, who pitched for the Chicago Cubs in the World Series with the Cleveland Indians, tops out at 105.  The film explains how the fast ball “hop” is an illusion.

The film also relives some great moments in baseball, such as Koufax’s first perfect game.

Bryce Harper talks about Craig Kimbrell, and Goose Gossage talks about the 1978 playoff game in Boston which the Yankees won 5-4 on Bucky Dent’s home run.  Gossage got Yastremski to pop up on a fast ball. I remember listening to that game at work at Bradford National Corporation in midtown Manhattan.  The game occurred at an eventful time in my own life.

Particularly disappointing is he history of Oriole pitcher Steve Dalkowski, who had control problems and then had a career-ending elbow injury on a routine infield play in his first start with the Orioles in 1963.  The DVD includes a longer segment on Dalkowski, as well as 30-minute Extended Interviews with other pitchers.

The film did not cover Herb Score, the Cleveland Indians’ pitcher injured by a line drive in 1954. It also didn’t mention Clayton Kershaw, who got the last two outs for the LA Dodgers against the Nationals this year.  (He got Daniel Murphy to pop up on an inside fastball, not willing to risk Murphy’s poking an outside pitch to the opposite field).

Another controversial pitcher is Stephen Strasburg, who had Tommy John surgery in 2010, and had a season-ending flexor strain in 2016 after a fantastic season.  I believe I saw him jogging in Arlington.

The film does not cover the physics of curveballs or sliders (it mentions sinkers), or the knuckleball (Hoyt Wilhelm, Charlie Hough and Wilbur Wood).  It does mention that pitchers used to throw complete games more often than now, when everyone is so concerned about pitch count, even in the American League, with the designate hitter rule since 1973.

(Posted: Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016 at 11 AM EDT)

“Manchester by the Sea”: an uncle becomes guardian of a teen, who turns out to have to parent the uncle

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Name: Manchester by the Sea
Director, writer:  Kenneth Lonergan; Matt Damon is a producer
Released:  2016/11
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Angelika Mosaic, 2016/11/24, Thanksgiving night sneak preview, starts today
Length 137
Rating R (implicit sex, including teens, in a strongly dramatic context)
Companies: Amazon Studios, Roadside Attractions
Link: official;  Vox review

Manchester by the Sea”, is the name of a town along the north coast of Massachusetts, and it’s the setting for the newest family drama film from Kenneth Lonergan.  The film is billed as a tear-jerker and as an essay on involuntary family responsibility.

The protagonist is a 40-year-old apartment handyman from Quincy, MA, Lee Chandler, played by Casey Affleck (and the obvious comparison is his role in the 2005 film “Lonesome Jim” (2005), also “Gerry” (2002)). He does good work but his interpersonal skills are mixed, as there is a slight degree of Asperger in his personality. (Oddly, the has personality behavioral quirks like sensitivity to being looked at in bars, and starts a fight over it.)  One day he gets a call from relatives in Manchester that his slightly  older brother has had another heart attack.  When he arrives, his brother has passed away.  And soon, the family lawyer is challenging him to become legal guardian of the brother’s (Kyle Chandler) erratic son Patrick (Lucas Hedges – the last name is tricky, not the more common “Hodges”).  He will become trustee, and the will provides him some income for doing so.  So this sounds like another “Raising Helen” scenario.

But Lee has actually contributed some of his own karma.  An early scene on a boat in the bay shows him bonding with the little boy (Ben O’Brien) Patrick, out of character for his otherwise sometimes introverted personality.  Later (by the time the moviegoer has gotten used to the flashbacks) we learn of a late night party where some inattention to home safety by Lee led to a house fire that destroyed his wife’s life.  We already know of the divorce, and ex-about wife Randi’s (Michelle Williams) problem with alcohol.  By present day, she has an older man dating her and having given her another child.  The older man is quite possessive.

So, partly because of Lee’s actions, mom would not be a suitable parent.  It seems that Lee is the best possible father figure for Patrick.

Patrick is emotionally disturbed but also probably profoundly gifted.  He plays hockey and basketball, and leads a rock band, all in high school.  He has the athletic talent to become a hockey pro, and probably the musical talent to become a rock star.  It’s as if someone like Bryce Harper also able to become a concert musician existed  (Bryce has already made a short film for ESPN).  Patrick does a good job of handling interpersonal conflicts among others in his band, so that bodes well for a future music career from a business aspect (even if that’s Trump-like).  He doesn’t want to go to college, but Peter Thiel would be fine with that (Thiel funds his own entrepeneurs like Taylor Wilson to skip college and start innovative businesses while teens, and Thiel regards college, with its student debt fiasco, a scam and ponzi scheme). Patrick is also very interested in keeping dad’s boat, which is breaking down and will cost $$$ to fix.  He has already learned to run it, but can do so legally until 18 or 21.  Most of all Patrick doesn’t want to move back Quincy because he has his life (including two girl friends he wants to “score” with)  in Manchester.  (Patrick also reminds me of the piano prodigy “Ephram” from the WB show “Everwood”, played by Gregory Smith.)

Patrick is also very verbal and snarky at times.  He is prone to sudden emotional breakdowns, especially over the idea of his dad’s corpse staying in a freezer before the burial and funeral, which seem to take a long time to happen. But otherwise, it’s apparent that Patrick is rapidly becoming the parent and Lee the child.  It’s Patrick who has the talents to make a lot of money on his own, without college or much financial support.  It’s Patrick whose gifts could provide a living for everybody else.  So playing his dad seems like a good deal.

The film doesn’t make much of the brother’s congenital or maybe genetic heart disease that causes his early death, but it’s fair to wonder if it could run in the family.  One could another movie plot where heart transplant is considered (as with Dick Cheney).

The film is long (137 minutes) and filmed in regular aspect, which tends to emphasize close-ups and de-emphasize the gorgeous coastal scenery, even in winter.

Lucas Hedges, apparently 19, seems like a very charismatic teen actor, whose personality tends to dominate the films he is in (much as is the case with Richard Harmon, 25, for example).  Patrick here resembles “Bob” in Terry Gilliam’s “The Zero Theorem“, when Bob says “I’m nobody’s tool” and when Bob essentially parents Christopher Waltz’s Qohen Leth. Lucas would have been 15 when acting the part, and he completely dominates the second half of the film.

Some other films for comparison on filial piety include “Saving Sarah Cain” (a mainstream columnist becomes involuntary guardian of Amish sister’s kids) and “Gracie’s Choice“.

It does indeed happen, that childless career people are suddenly expected to raise nieces and nephews.  Much of the generosity of inheritance law (from a left-wing perspective, at least) expects “you take care of your own first.”

The picture above is mine (2015), from Cape Cod.

(Posted: Friday, Nov. 25, 2016 at 12:15 PM EDT)

“Kiss Me, Kill Me” gay noir mystery comedy, with some borrowed plot twists

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Name: “Kiss Me, Kill Me”
Director, writer:  Casper Andreas
Released:  2015
Format:  2.35:1 (imdb is wrong)
When and how viewed:  private vimeo screener
Length 100
Rating NA (R)
Companies: Spellbound, Breaking Glass (?)
Link: official

Kiss Me, Kill Me”, directed by Casper Andreas and written by David Michael Barrett, is a gay “neo-noir” comic murder mystery which actually builds on the wrongful conviction concerns of recent documentary film directors and producers (like Andrew Jenks and Ryan Ferguson).

The “hero” is Dustin (Van Hansis), a soap star, and companion to producer Stephen (Gale Harold).  Dusty becomes more likable and charismatic as the film progresses.  Stephen throws a big party at his West Hollywood pad, with a transgender magician providing entertainment.  When Stephen and Dusty go to a convenience store, “The Pink Dot”, afterwards, the store is robbed while they are there and Stephen and the store attendant are shot dead.  Dusty wakes up after a concussion and soon finds the persistent LAPD officers (Yolinda Ross and Jai Rodriquez) think he staged the robbery to get rid of a partner with a life insurance policy.

Later the officers will try go get him to plea bargain, trying to fake him out, before the DA drops the charges.  But that’s only an interlude.

Its all pretty cynical.  You wonder how Dusty has so much freedom when out on bail, to solve his own mystery, with the help of a rogue psychiatrist (Craig Robert Young) who hypnotizes him.  Another boyfriend Graigery (Matthew Ludwinski), who bears that “Liquid Sky” look at first looks unsavory but turns out the be a redeemed Shane.

The underlying situation is serious enough: that somebody could get framed for a convenience store robbery-hit-murder that seems random.  The comic style of the film, with the noir jazz music, undermines the horrible tragedy that is possible (which is what filmmaker Jenks works on in his documentaries).

At this point, the plot becomes like a Clue game, and more bodies pile up, and the plot takes on some ideas from other movies and shows, including Jenks’s “Dream.Killer”, the use of hypnosis in “Days of our Lives”, and the mystery wills of “The Dark Place”.  But because the movie wants to have a comedy and “40s” look, it seems less engaging.  I didn’t fund myself caring about the characters in this film as in some stronger dramatic gay films in the past (like “Judas Kiss”).

The condo in my picture above is visible along the 405 from the Angelino Hotel in which I stayed in 2012; I thought I spotted it in the film.  The West Hollywood disco scene is quite well done technically.  I remember that in West Hollywood  there is no street parking, but you pay a flat $10 a weekend night to park at the library.  That’s how all bar parking should work.  My favorite bar was the Abbey; not sure if that is the bar in the movie.

(Posted: Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016 at 11:45 PM EST)

“True Memoirs of an International Assassin”: a novelist is forced to live out his own “true story”

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Name: True Memoirs of an International Assassin
Director, writer:  Jeff Wadlow
Released:  2016
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix instant play
Length 98
Rating PG-13
Companies: Netflix Red Envelope
Link: FB

True Memoirs of an International Assassin”(2016), directed by Jeff Wadlow, presents another layered concept where an “esteemed author’s” writings trigger his own musings in real life.

Ordinary looking  Sam Larson (Kevin James) imagines himself as hit man mason Carver behind the scenes in a coup in Venezuela.  The movie opens with his visualizing violent action scenes, with bodies blown up and the like.  Soon we see him as a wannabe novelist with a desk job, getting rejection slips from traditional publishers, for a novel with the same title as this movie.

One day a woman calls him late at night and offers to meet him in a Starbucks.  He signs a contract to have his novel published as a “true story” online only, as fake news.  It goes viral, and he’s famous quickly, interviewed by Katie Couric (where in one scene it looks like he could vomit on morning television).  He is getting set up to become his own character, “The Ghost”.

He does get asked things like, why doesn’t he live his own life instead of writing about other people’s.  (I get asked the inverse, why don’t I write outside my own narrative?)

Then real life catches up him, as he is kidnapped in his own apartment by a home invasion, and taken to Venezuela, where he is expected to act as a real hit man to assassinate the Venezuelan president (Kim Coates) and then counter-hired to get rid of a political opponent El Toro (Andy Garcia).  The CIA and DEA are involved in what becomes a conventional comic caper. Caracus is said to be the most dangerous city in the world.

In the end, he will write a real novel, “A Ghost in Colombia”.

By Superyessicanovahttp://www.flickr.com/photos/superyessicanova/468649543/, CC BY 2.0, Link

Posted Wednesday. Nov. 23, 2016 at 8:45 AM EST

“The Time Traveler’s Wife”: some silly paradoxes set up a romantic drama

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Name: The Time Traveler’s Wife
Director, writer:  Robert Schwentke, Audrey Niffenegger
Released:  2009
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix DVD, 2016/11/21
Length 107
Rating PG-13
Companies: New Line Cinema
Link: FB

The Time Traveler’s Wife” (2009), directed by Robert Schwentke, and based on the novel by Audrey Niffenegger, presents some cute paradoxes in this romantic drama.  But does this really say anything?

Eric Bana plays Henry De Tamle, a librarian in Chicago.  He has a “genetic” disorder that causes him to travel in time unpredictably and return.  He has first learned of his “gift” when he survives an auto accident (caused by an over-height truck hitting an overpass, a real highway safety problem) that kills his mother by temporarily disappearing back in time right before the impact. When he meets his future wife Clare (Rachel McAdams), she tells him that she had met his future self when he was a child.  This sounds like a paradox itself, because “later” he talks to his future self as a boy.

The ensuing love story brings up the question of what would happen to the kids they have.  Would they have the “gift”?  Henry winds up having his tubes tied to avoid the possibility (it leaves you feeling like you were kicked in the nuts, according to a married friend who had it done once) but that doesn’t quite work.

Henry sometimes has to indulge in some “Disturbing Behavior” (1998), like picking locks to burglarize apartments to steal casual clothes, because his travel episodes are in the nude.  And then he can dematerialize, leaving an empty suit. “Sartor Resartus” indeed.

I think there are other variations you can imagine on this theme, like what if a virus caused you to inherit (in an object-oriented sense) someone else’s consciousness, or caused humans to develop a more distributed sense of self like dolphins.  Something like that will happen in my novel “Angel’s Brother”.

To its credit, the script says that on his flashback visits, Henry isn’t allowed to change any outcomes (other than when he escapes the accident).  That would violate the “law of causality” in physics, which is what creates time.

There are other movies for comparison.  One is “The Astronaut’s Wife” (1998, directed by Rand Ravich), with Charlize Theron and Johnny Depp   Something has happened to a male astronaut while in space, which could lead to the wife’s having an extraterrestrial child – although that might just give you a kid who as a teenager becomes another Clark Kent (“Smallville”).  I’d take that deal.

Another distant comparison is “The Astronaut Farmer” (2007, Michael Polish, WB), about what the title says;  compare to “October Sky” (Nov, 4).

Wikipedia attribution link for Chicago picture by Mindfrieze, CCSA 2.0.

(Posted: Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016 at 6:15 PM EST)

“The Edge of Seventeen”: Straight film follows an earlier gay film by same name with appealing high schoolers negotiating first loves

Tilikum Crossing bridge (Portland, Oregon) with a streetcar and MAX train passing. Mt. St. Helens in background. Photo by Steve Morgan, March 2016.
Tilikum Crossing bridge (Portland, Oregon) with a streetcar and MAX train passing. Mt. St. Helens in background. Photo by Steve Morgan, March 2016.

 

Name: The Edge of Seventeen
Director, writer:  Kelly Freemon Craig
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Common, 2016/11/19
Length 104
Rating R
Companies: STX;  Strand (1998 film)
Link: site

The Edge of Seventeen”, by Kelly Fremon Craig, is a dramedy in the heterosexual high school world of Portland Oregon (filmed partly in Vancouver) that may be distantly related to a gay film with a similar title in 1998, which we’ll come back to.

Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), a junior (and the junior year is the hardest) seems to be looking for her bearings, even to the point of confiding at a high level in her history teacher (Woody Harrelson) who winds up later giving her a ride, and having to keep a safe distance to stay out of trouble.   In an early scene, she tinkers with underage drinking, and winds up over the toilet bowl.  Her older brother, a senior, Darian (Blake Jenner, from “Everybody Wants Some”) seems like a teen Clark Kent waiting to show off his self-teleportation powers – except we never find out that much about him, even when her best friend Kirsta (Harley Lu Richardson) starts dating him.

So Nadine has to find love on social media, and vacillates between another Smallviille-type, this time an Asian-American geek Erwin (Hadyen Szeto), who fulfills the Korean stereotypes of mastering differential equations in high school, and seems to be a talented filmmaker to boot, and the rowdier and more physical Nick Mossman (Alexander Calvert).  He car scene with Alexander shows how a substantial minority of high school boys really do feel that a first experience with intercourse is a text of manhood, and can tolerate no distractions.

Near the end, the kids have a film festival, and Erwin submits the animated “Aliens’ School”, about an extraterrestrial teen masquerading as an ordinary teen in high school, with no one the wiser.  Maybe the inhabitants of Gliese 581 D really look like us and we’ve intermingled in the distant past (although the speed of light seems like a problem for providing social media contact in other solar systems).  There are people who claim, after all, that Mark Zuckerberg is an (human ET) alien (that really would worry Donald Trump if true), and that Facebook is part of a plan of world conquest.  (He’ll be old enough to run for president in 2020 – non-fake news story in a mainstream newspaper ).  A few years back, the high schoolers at a local Arlington church, during a 30-hour fast, produced a live-action short comedy “Alien Fridays” based on the same idea.  Maybe this is all stuff for the 48-Hour Film Festival every May (for which the Westover Market in Arlington has been a filming location).

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David Moreton’s 1998 film “Edge of Seventeen” (Strand)  gives us a likeable high school kid, Eric (Chris Stafford), coming out in 1984 during his post-junior-year summer working in a high school convenience store in Ohio, when he falls in love with an entering college freshman Rod (Andersen Gabrych) and eventually “follows” him to college in NYC.  Eric “gets it” at least twice in the film and gets plenty of gay street smarts in the process.  Despite the time setting, AIDS and HIV are never mentioned, although using condoms does get into the script.

1st Picture credit (Wikipedia):

By Steve Morgan, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Second picture: Mine (Kipton Ohio, Oct. 2010)

Posted: Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016 at 5:15 PM EDT