Jan 16

“Still Alice”: Julianne Moore with Early-Onset Alzheimer’s

Alice is too young to assume that a momentary lapse might be an early sign of dementia. And then, over the length of a single devastating close-up, Alice learns that the rest of her life will be devoted to what she later refers to as ‘the art of losing.” David Ehrlich, Time Out, about Still Alice

Last Sunday Julianne Moore won a Golden Globe for her lead performance in Still Alice, the new film based on neuroscientist Lisa Genova‘s 2009 novel about a 50-year-old married professor who finds out she has early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease.

Co-written and co-directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, Still Alice opens nationwide today.

The trailer below opens with Alice having confusing memory lapses; she later starts to come to terms with what’s actually happening to her and her family, which includes her husband (Alec Baldwin) and three adult kids (Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, and Hunter Parrish).

ALICE

Christy Lemire, rogerebert.com: “’Still Alice’ is about how she reacts to her own deterioration–how she constantly reassesses it and figures out how to cope. She doesn’t always do it with quiet dignity, which is refreshing; sometimes she even uses the disease to manipulate those around her or get out of a social occasion she’d rather avoid.”

Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times: “Moore is especially good at the wordless elements of this transformation, allowing us to see through the changing contours of her face what it is like when your mind empties out. When Alice says at one point ‘I feel like I can’t find myself,’ it is all the more upsetting because we’ve already watched it happen.”

THE DIAGNOSIS AND PROGRESSION OF THE DISEASE

Rex Reed, New York Observer: “Determined to continue her research and lifestyle uninterrupted, with the full support of her husband (Alec Baldwin, in one of his more sensitive and totally natural performances) and family, Alice eschews the terror of what lies ahead and embraces logic and common sense.”

Peter Debruge, Variety: “It’s not until Alice learns that the disease is hereditary that the severity of her situation sets in: As if it weren’t bad enough that she will eventually cease to recognize her own children, Alice may also be responsible for passing the condition along to them.”

A.O. Scott, New York Times: “With what seems like shocking rapidity — the film’s chronology is appropriately fuzzy — Alice slides from a witty, intelligent, capable adult into a fragile and confused shadow of her former self.”

ALICE’S FAMILY

David Ehrlich, Time Out: “Perhaps owing to the fact that Glatzer and Westmoreland know a thing or two about living with a debilitating disease (the former has ALS), the movie always evinces an acute understanding of how pity can be the most painful thing to feel for someone you love.”

Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times:”…(I)f it wasn’t for costar Kristen Stewart, who plays Alice’s daughter Lydia, ‘Still Alice’ wouldn’t be nearly as emotionally effective as it is. Moore and Stewart have been off-screen friends for more than a decade, and that bond only enhances the work they do here.”

OVERALL REVIEWS

Dana Stevens, Slate: “Glatzer and Westmoreland don’t need to stack the emotional deck on Alice’s behalf…They just leave the camera on Moore’s beautiful but increasingly faraway face, and our tears come on their own.”

A.O. Scott, New York Times: “The story is sad and sincerely told, but it is too removed from life to carry the full measure of pain that Alice deserves.”

Christy Lemirerogerebert.com: “Co-directors and writers Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland don’t shy away from the steady and terrifying way the disease can take hold of a person and strip away her ability to communicate and connect with the outside world. But they also don’t tell this story with much nuance or artistry in adapting Lisa Genova’s novel.”

Aug 19

“Blue Jasmine” Updates “A Streetcar Named Desire”

Just out is the new character-driven film written and directed by Woody AllenBlue Jasmine, starring Cate Blanchett as a New York City woman in crisis who reconnects with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) in San Francisco. Watch the trailer here:

MORE ABOUT THE PLOT

Everyone agrees—Blue Jasmine is Allen’s modernized version of A Streetcar Named Desire.

Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News, offers further info about the plot:

In a series of flashbacks, Jasmine’s investment broker ex-husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) is revealed as a philandering sneak. His Hamptons home and Park Avenue life were paid for via Bernie Madoff-style schemes.

After Hal commits suicide in prison, Jasmine, who’s been wandering the streets, winds up at Ginger’s. But Ginger’s fiancé Chili (Bobby Cannavale), a speak-the-truth mechanic with a rough persona, sees Jasmine for what she is, throwing her even deeper into her mental crisis.

JASMINE’S MENTAL HEALTH: CRITICS WEIGH IN

Rex ReedNew York Observer:

Like Blanche in Streetcar, Jasmine is a mystic combination of purloined innocence and Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis—exasperatingly manipulative but meltingly vulnerable, always waiting for someone to save her…

…Cate Blanchett dominates this film from start to finish. As a mortgaged soul in the gradual stages of a nervous breakdown, she is heartbreaking and hypnotic. From black-belt shopping, window-gazing at Cartier and matinees on Broadway to anxiety, depression and shock treatments, she runs the gamut of psychiatric forensics. Jasmine is blue, all right, but she remains trim and stylish, a real Bergdorf mannequin, until she winds up talking to herself on street corners.

Dana StevensSlate:

Washing down her Xanaxes with a vodka martini (or in a pinch—and Jasmine gets into a lot of pinches—a straight shot of vodka) as she narrates her constant, anxious inner monologue to whoever will listen, Jasmine attains the paradoxical state of being fascinatingly tiresome…

Jasmine’s various pathological behavior patterns are on ample display—in scene after scene, we watch in squirming half-sympathy as she traps herself with self-aggrandizing lies…She disintegrates beautifully before our eyes…

Claudia Puig, USA Today:

She lies incessantly, recasting situations to put herself in the best possible light. She pops fistfuls of Xanax and tosses back vodka to numb her pain.

‘She’s cuckoo, baby,’ says Chili (Bobby Cannavale), Ginger’s boyfriend.

Allen’s well-structured, deftly written story centers on a complex character struggling with mental illness. Blanchett gives Jasmine dimension. She’s entitled, egocentric and unsympathetic. But she’s also a victim of a devious spouse, heartless friends and a culture whose materialistic values have encouraged her vapidity.

SISTERS JASMINE AND GINGER (AND SUPPORTING CHARACTERS)

Andrew O’HehirSalon:

…Ginger and Jasmine are both adopted and not biological sisters, but despite their drastically different personalities, both are stuck in a repeated cycle of domineering and borderline abusive men. Both meet white knights who offer the promise of redemption and are way too good to be true. Ginger has a torrid fling with a sound engineer named Al (comedian Louis C.K.), while Jasmine meets a smooth-talking, well-dressed diplomat named Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard), who moves with startling speed toward a marriage proposal and promising Jasmine a future as a politician’s wife, smiling beside the lectern.

Stephanie ZacharekVillage Voice: “Only Andrew Dice Clay, in a small role as Ginger’s Low-Class™ onetime husband, pierces the movie’s highly polished bubble world; he comes off as a person whose veins run with blood rather than some liquefied director’s conceit.”

Richard CorlissTime: “If the film has a vital, complex character, that would be Ginger…This congenital optimist does the best with the scraps life offers her: a sister she has little in common with and, cross your fingers, a kindly new beau, Al (Louis C.K.). Her affair with Al summons Blue Jasmine’s most plausible, affecting scenes.”

SHOULD YOU SEE IT?

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly: “…(T)here’s something cathartic about a contemporary film that’s willing to explore madness as an expression of who a person really is. Blue Jasmine is about what happens when one lost soul meets the cruel real world.”

Rex Reed, New York Observer: “Richly chronicled characters, sharp dialogue and that stupendous centerpiece performance by Cate Blanchett are contributing factors in the best summer movie of 2013 and one of the most memorable Woody Allen movies ever.”

Andrew O’Hehir, Salon:

I haven’t even brought up Tennessee Williams’ ‘Streetcar Named Desire’ or the doomed character of Blanche DuBois (whom Blanchett has played on Broadway), for a couple of reasons. If the specter of Blanche hangs over this whole movie like a combination of San Francisco fog with New Orleans humidity, it’s also the ultimate invidious comparison. On one side, we have one of the greatest works of American drama, whose tormented and self-deluded central character stands for so many inexpressible things about women and sexuality and the painful cost of pretend normalcy and the divided soul of the South. On the other, we have this pallid imitation, a freak show whose alternately compelling and repulsive heroine can’t disguise the fact that it’s a movie by a sour old guy who no longer likes anything or anyone and who also, more damningly, just isn’t interested.

Feb 04

“30 Rock” and Liz Lemon Come to a Finale But Will Live On Forever

30 Rock has come to an end. It happened last week, and if you haven’t yet seen the finale, I’m not intending on ruining that for you.

The Recent Tributes (30 Rock Is Quotable, Fast-Paced, Funny, Relatable)

30 Rock was my favorite show. I sneezed once during an episode and missed seven jokes.” Nikki Glaser, WitStream

Liz Lemon’s universality, relatability. Chris HarnickThe Huffington Post:

In Liz Lemon, Tina Fey created a character that could appeal to pretty much every kind of audience and not just man/woman. Liz was overworked, looking for love, incredibly nerdy, sweet, lazy in some aspects, a lover of food and so much more. She made a sort of misfit into a hero…

Liz Lemon as female role model. Blog Dorothy Surrenders:

I will miss ’30 Rock’ for so many reasons. Its humor, intellect, zaniness, nerdiness, metaness, catchphrasecoiningness. (BLERG FOREVER!) But probably most of all I will miss it for allowing Liz Lemon to be so smart, unabashedly so. And despite her flaws and foibles, her capability – to run the show and trust her intellect – was never in question.

As comic Steve Martin once said, “I like a woman with a head on her shoulders. I hate necks.”

A line that, with its mixture of intellect and silliness, would itself have fit so well on 30 Rock.

Liz (Tina Fey) had some of the best lines, of course. Throughout the series, fans of the show have been known to compile “Lemonisms.” Just a few:

  • I pretty much just do whatever Oprah tells me to.
  • You are my heroine! And by heroine I mean lady hero. I don’t want to inject you and listen to jazz.
  • If reality TV has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t keep people with no shame down.

The Finale (“Because the human heart is not properly connected to the human brain, I love you. And I’m gonna miss you.” Liz Lemon)

Much is jam-packed into the finale. Rest assured, there are themes totally relevant to Minding Therapy. Jack (Alec Baldwin), for instance, questioning if he’s really happy—and if not, how to be. Liz working on a similar dilemma.

In addition, there are issues related to abandonment, friendship, fear of goodbyes, suicidality, antidepressants, food obsession, workplace dysfunction, narcissism, life meaning and fulfillment, personal growth, marital and parental roles, etc.

Ethan AndertonScreen Rant:

For a show with as much ridiculous humor, non sequiturs and general nonsense as 30 Rock, this finale pulled at the heartstrings and allowed each of the chief characters to have a touching moment in the sun…

This whole time 30 Rock was about love, friendship and life, as any good TV show should be. It just happened to have a cast of great comedians, phenomenal writing, and a lot of Liz Lemon snacking…

Whether you haven’t watched any or much of the seven years of the series or have loved it as much as I have, there will still be chances to see the finale and everything that came before it, I’m sure, on your DVR’s or DVD’s or in reruns. Perhaps while munching on some tasty night cheese.

As for me, wherever the 30 Rock folks are right now, I want to go to there.

Dec 30

30 Rock Therapy: Jack Role-Plays Tracy’s Shrink

Coworkers. Often they become kind of a second family—and sometimes they feel as or more important than your real one. If you’ve had some time off for the holidays, perhaps you’re missing them. If so, try the following episode of sitcom 30 Rock on for size. You’ll appreciate the 30 Rock therapy scene.

On this sitcom about the production of a sketch comedy show similar to Saturday Night Live, Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) is often both troubled and troubling to those around him. But he still seems loved and appreciated for who he is.

In one episode from Season Two titled “Rosemary’s Baby,” his boss, Jack (Alec Baldwin), brings in a therapist to offer some needed assistance to Tracy regarding his relationships with his (real) family. The shrink, however, clearly isn’t up to the formidable task that is Tracy. Nor does she know (how to handle) Jack.

30 Rock therapy described in Wikipedia:

…Jack role-plays Tracy’s father, Tracy, and Tracy’s mom, among several other people from Tracy’s childhood, conveying the message that even though Tracy’s parents may have divorced, they still loved him. This comforts Tracy, and affirms that while he loves his family, they are crazy, and he needs to stay away from them. Tracy hugs Jack, and tells him that he is the only family he needs.

Watch the scene below:

Some Featured Favorite Quotes on IMDB

Tracy Jordan: I don’t need the therapy! I’m just mentally ill!

Tracy: [to his psychiatrist] Who’s crazier, me or Ann Curry?

Tracy’s Father: Tracy, don’t stare directly at the sun. It’ll make you crazy. Tracy Jordan: You’re not my dad!

Wikipedia offers a sampling of reviews:

‘Rosemary’s Baby’ was named as one of the ‘Top 11 TV Episodes of 2007’ by UGO, and ranked thirteenth on The Futon Critic‘s list of ‘the 50 Best Episodes of 2007’; both citing the Baldwin and Morgan therapy scene as the reason.[14][15] Matt Webb Mitovich of TV Guide declared it as ‘one of 30 Rock’s best episodes ever…Bob Sassone of TV Squad…called the therapy scene ‘one of the funniest scenes … on TV this season’.[17] Robert Canning of IGN…called the therapy scene “the best moment of the episode”.[11]