I really admired the craft and style of this horror film. It manages to strike some really dreadful notes, tones and imagery all while mostly in the bright everlasting light of a little Swedish town inhabited by a cult all dressed in white. There are no dark long nights, gloomy moods or creatures walking on the ceiling here. Rather we have a brightly lit nightmare that mostly works for me. I might not have bought all the performances or really was into the plot but I’m glad Aster is making some interesting takes on horror.
Wuthering Hights….I love it. I’m talking about the book by Emily Bronte that was assigned to us to read in High school. It was intense, rough and ragged, full of passion and brutality and love. It’s always been a favorite of mine. The film by Andrea Arnold is an excellent adaptation. It is dreamy and immediately captures the beauty and wildness of the house in the hights. She manages to make it both tender and brutal with close ups where the camera lingers so close to our characters that it feels like we can touch them. I think the casting, the sparse sharp dialogue and the location natural filming made for an amazing rich tapestry.
Lemongrass is a crazy fast growing weed. I have two bushes and they need to be constantly trimmed down to ensure they don’t get too unruly. A while ago the weather was nice (as in not sauna hot) and I spent a couple hours trimming and cleaning the lemon grass. It smells great as you chop it. At least it has that going for it.
Various types of birds visit our backyard as well. I usually have a bird feeder that attracts all manner of birds (and the pesky squirrels too). None are more fascinating than the hummingbirds that are attracted to whatever that plant with red flowers is called (Firebush I think). They zoom from one bush to the next like little flying emeralds. I have tried to photograph them before and was never fast enough. They come and go and fly around. I could not keep up with them.
This time I literally had a lot of time on my hands and I set my camera to the “fast shutter speed” setting and took over 50 pictures as I worked and they sipped flower nectar. Several of those came out pretty damn nice! It was a good day. I hate to waste anything and it made perfect sense to make a syrup with the lemongrass trimmings and use that for a cocktail.
The name of the cocktail was pretty much coined before I even made it and required no thinking. This is the “Hummingbird Cocktail”, a sort of variation on a sour using Gin, Cachaca, egg white and lime juice plus of course the lemongrass syrup. The syrup is a basic simple syrup with equal parts water and sugar by weight. When it comes to a simmer and the sugar dissolved I added a boatload of chopped lemongrass and turned the heat off. When it cools I strained it into a jar.
The Hummingbird Cocktail
- 1.5 oz Gin (I used Beefeater)
- 0.5 oz Cachaca (a light rum would be good too)
- 1 oz Lime Juice
- 1 oz Lemongrass syrup
- 1 Egg white
- Pinch salt
Shake all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker without any ice (dry shake) for about 20 seconds. The dry shake make for a much frothier drink. Add a cup full of ice and shake again for 20 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass over one large ice cube or several regular cubes.
I am so glad I got the chance to catch this in an actual theater before it finished its short run and dropped on Netflix. It’s a movie that spans decades starting in what seems like the 1950’s and ending mostly in 1975. It has an excellent cast playing real life mob and mob connected figures like Russ Bufalino (Joe Pesci), Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) and Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). We are introduced to Frank and Russ as they embark on a road trip from Philadelphia to Detroit for a wedding or a “peace mission”. That would be in 1975. They are accompanied in the car by their wives and we are off on a tale told from Frank’s perspective about how he met Russ, his mentor, how he became a trusted hit man to him and other mobsters of the time even though he is not Italian, he is the Irishman.
Through the second half of the movie we get to meet Jimmy Hoffa when Frank is introduced to him. The two become very good friends throughout the years and until Jimmy “disappears”. How he disappeared, I believe, is purely conjecture but more or less what we see is the most likely story. How much did Frank really have to do with it? who knows…All along the journey we also meet a ton of side characters (mostly real life personalities and mobsters), we focus a bit on the Kennedy assassination and the Bay of Pigs failed invasion and we learn a lot about the Teamsters Union.
As you can imagine there is so much here to unpack and go through and at over 3.5 hours Scorsese takes his time. Good for him and I love that he was allowed to do that. There are no shortcuts here and no character is minimized. Even Anna Paquin who plays Frank’s daughter Peggy says very very little but she feels real and seems to communicate so much with her purposeful silence. As the road trip progresses from city to city, cigarette stops and money collections on the way, we slowly realize where this is going. Sure, there is a wedding in Detroit but there is much more there. De Niro plays Frank perfectly. He is a man who you want to like but really, he is a monster. His daughters know that and push him away. We see that happen gradually and from their early ages. It’s like we lived through it with him. The actors all due tremendous jobs and there are too many to mention. Pacino is incredible as the over the top and amazingly stubborn Hoffa and Ray Romano is so good as the mob/union attorney Bill Bufalino.
This is not the high energy fast cool film like GoodFellas and I feel it has a much more subdued portrayal of what it means to be a mobster. While films like Casino and GoodFellas can be criticized as romanticizing the gangster life, this one definitely does not. The “life” will not end well. It leaves you with no family, few friends that you care about or who care about you, and if they do they are probably already dead or in prison. You end up alone, praying to a God with a priest who feels sorry for you and with no one other than your guilt to share a meal with on Christmas.
I think over all I am not a huge fan De Palma. Not sure what it is exactly that turns me off in his work. Maybe the feeling that I get that everyone in every movie he makes is over acting, the artifice is on full display and it pulls me out of whatever it is I am watching. This one might actually be one of his better films. I like the premise of a sound mixing guy (John Travolta) who works on cheap B and soft-core movies and then he witnesses an accident. He captures it not on film, but on his microphones. He can tell that the car that went over the bridge had the tire shot out. It was not a blow out. The process of him matching the sound to the series of photographs that were taken of the accident by a sleazy photographer is fascinating. Then you have everything around this main theme that did not work for me. We have the girl who was in the car (Nancy Allen) delivering a cheesy performance. We have the odd plot of an assassin that -as far as I can tell- went rogue. That would be John Lithgow delivering a laughably over the top performance. Anyways, it’s not bad, just not that good either and seems like a wasted opportunity.
Ah too bad. Except for the last 10 minutes or so this movie is a slog. A good spy movie has to either embrace the insanity and action theme (like the Mission Impossible series) or it has to be a realistic and methodical slow burn (like the great Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) for me to enjoy it. This one is trying to be both I think and fails. Worse, it makes Jennifer Lawrence, a very capable actress, seem dull boring and just clumsily making her way through 2+ hours of bad Russian accented dialogue. Not even sure I should waste time talking about her arc or that training “school” she goes to…oy was that dumb.
Quiet and pensive is how i would describe this film. The title pretty much sums it up. We have a new young priest in a small remote French village. He interacts with the villagers, young and old and documents his thoughts and concerns in a diary. This is not a sweet bucolic movie, it’s quiet the opposite. The villagers by and large seem indifferent and down right hostile to the young priest. He survives on misery and red wine and he is obviously in bad health. Yet, as mundane as that sounds, this is a fascinating movie that kept me interested and curious about the lives of these people and their miserable priest.