Oct 19

“Marshall” Your Forces: “Stand Up for Something”

His name means justice. Tagline for Marshall, about Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993)

As described on Rotten Tomatoes, new film Marshall has a star-studded cast and “is based on an early trial in the career of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. It follows the young lawyer (Chadwick Boseman) to conservative Connecticut to defend a black chauffeur (Sterling K. Brown) charged with sexual assault and attempted murder of his white socialite employer (Kate Hudson). Muzzled by a segregationist court, Marshall partners with a courageous young Jewish lawyer, Samuel Friedman (Josh Gad). Together they mount the defense in an environment of racism and Anti-Semitism.”

The soundtrack features the timely and trending hit “Stand Up for Something,” by Andra Day and Common, that’s already inspiring people to commit to meaningful causes. Watch the music video below and then check out #StandUpForSomething to add your voice.

I stand up for compassion. Andra Day

I stand for peace. Common

Here’s a trailer for the film, which recently opened in a theater near you:

Selected Remarks from the Film Critics

Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times:

Though Marshall‘s script engages in a certain amount of fictionalizing, the basic outlines of this case, far-fetched and right out of Erle Stanley Gardner though some of it may seem, did actually take place.

And while the film is constructed from top to bottom for maximum popular entertainment, it is unwilling to let us leave the theater without reminding us that these battles are far from over.

Close to the end of the credits, the voice of the real Thurgood Marshall (who died in 1993) is heard on the soundtrack, talking about not taking civil rights gains for granted.

‘There are movements by the different branches of this government that are set to push back,’ he says, uncannily prophetic. ‘Only now it’s being done, you know, cleverly.’

Brian Lowry, CNN: “…a 75-year-old story imbued with modern-day resonance.”

Richard Brody, New Yorker: “…(T)he movie urgently dramatizes the threat of racist violence that poisons personal relationships and judicial proceedings alike.”

Peter Keough, Boston Globe: “In this time of intensifying, acrimonious racial division, maybe what we could all use is an old-fashioned courtroom drama that extols the virtues of justice and equality.”

Matt Zoller Seitz, rogerebert.com: “It pays attention to issues of racial, religious and gender discrimination without wavering from its main objective: giving us an entertaining film about a couple of guys who are in way over their heads.”

Jul 25

“Wish I Was Here” By Zach Braff: Reviewing the Reviews

Scan the movie reviews for Wish I Was Here, Zach Braff‘s new partially crowd-funded film, and you’ll find plenty of wordplay regarding both the title—“Wish I wasn’t here, in fact”—and the star’s crowd-funding controversy—“You’ll be wanting your Kickstarter money back.”

And although consumers are often rating it higher, the reviews from top critics are largely bad and snarky. A sampling:

Scott Foundas, Variety: “After exploring twentysomething Millennial malaise in his 2004 hit ‘Garden State,’ Zach Braff shifts his attention to mid-thirties, post-marital anomie in ‘Wish I Was Here,’ a cloying compendium of follow-your-dreams platitudes, new-agey spirituality and mawkish, father-son deathbed bonding that strains so hard to recapture ‘Garden State’s’ calculating but effective blend of whimsy and pathos that it nearly gives itself a hernia.”

Ty Burr, Boston Globe: “Sophomore slumps don’t come any more irritating than ‘Wish I Was Here,’ the painfully sincere, emotionally fraudulent new comedy-drama from actor-writer-director Zach Braff.”

Rex Reed, New York Observer: “Pretentious (it thinks it’s a comedy but descends into depression faster than you can fill a Prozac prescription) and self-indulgent (whole scenes are thrown in for no reason except to stretch a five-minute sitcom pitch into nearly two hours of phony, contrived tedium), it’s a mess begging for coherence.”

THE MAIN CHARACTERS AND PLOT

Braff’s character Aidan is married to Sarah (Kate Hudson). Aidan’s father is played by Mandy Patinkin.

Boyd van Hoeij, Hollywood Reporter, sets up the story:

Aidan Bloom (Braff) is a struggling actor in L.A. whose last job, from a while back, was the ‘before guy’ in a dandruff commercial. His wife, Sarah (Hudson) works in an office putting data into spreadsheets and essentially providing for their two kids, tomboyish teen Grace (Joey King) and her younger brother, Tucker (Pierce Gagnon), as well as her husband, who keeps doing the audition rounds.

The fragile status quo of the family comes apart when the paterfamilias, Gabe (Patinkin), announces he can’t pay for his grandkids’ Jewish school tuition anymore because his cancer’s come back and he needs the money for an experimental treatment. This triggers both practical problems — the kids need an education and Aidan refuses to send them to public school — as well as more spiritual ones, especially after it becomes clear that Gabe’s got little time left.

THE TRAILER:

MAIN THEMES

Sheila O’Malley, rogerebert.com: “‘Wish I Was Here’ shows what happens when people are forced to slow down, assess their lives, and ask the big questions; face the big moments, death, and disappointment. We are stronger than we realize.”

AIDAN

Ty Burr, Boston Globe: “The real problem is that the hero is a self-absorbed child who, when his wife expresses dissatisfaction with her hellish job, whines ‘I thought you supported my dream.’ The entire male side of Aidan’s family makes a terrible impression, actually, from that judgmental father to brother Noah (Josh Gad), a misanthropic creep who lives in a trailer and who we’re apparently meant to find adorable.”

SARAH

Sheila O’Malley, rogerebert.com: “…works for the L.A. Water Department, and endures sexual harassment from her cubicle-mate, but she is the bread-winner in the family, and can’t quit. Their lives have been set up to support Aidan’s dream, a dream that is slowly dying, but Aidan can’t let go of it. And Sarah is losing patience with the entire situation.”

G. Allen Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle: “…(T)he depth she [Hudson] displays here, both dramatically and comedically, is key to the success of ‘Wish I Was Here’.”

GABE

Bilge Ebiri, Vulture: “Patinkin is terrific as the dying patriarch whose judgmental jabs at his son come with such regularity that they’ve become mere background noise, a quiet drone of disappointment.”

Sep 27

“Thanks for Sharing”: Dramedy About Sex Addiction Recovery

About the new film Thanks for Sharing, from sex addiction expert Robert Weiss, LCSW, founder of The Sexual Recovery Institute (on The Huffington Post):

Thanks for Sharing is a meaningful and important film in three key ways. First, it is a well-written, well-acted, entertaining movie. Second, it is an accurate portrayal of the trials, tribulations, and joys of sex addiction recovery. Third, it is a film that can and hopefully will educate both active sex addicts and the general public about the nature (and recovery path) of a heretofore mostly misunderstood disease. Perhaps the most telling thought in this regard comes from an associate of mine — a recovering sex addict with more than a decade of sobriety. He saw the movie with a non-addicted friend who has long questioned the existence of sex addiction, despite knowledge of my associate’s troublesome sexual history. After the movie the non-addict friend said two things:

  1. I think I finally get it. Sex really can be an addiction.
  2. Is there a 12-step program for non-addicts? Because if there is, I’d really like to go.

In Thanks for Sharing the three main characters—Adam (Mark Ruffalo), Mike (Tim Robbins), and Neil (Josh Gad)—are in three different phases of participation in Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA). Five years into recovery, Adam has Mike as a sponsor, a guy who’s quick with an SAA aphorism but has conflicted relationships with his wife (Joely Richardson) and son Danny (Patrick Fugit), whose own addiction has been drugs. Adam sponsors the resistant, legally mandated Neil.

It is in fact much more common for men to attend SAA than women, so the fact that there’s only one female group member rings true. Like Neil, Dede (Alecia Moore) is a relative newcomer to SAA. And, by the way, Moore is otherwise known as the singer Pink, and she’s received positive reviews for her role.

Each addict has his/her struggles, but critics seem to focus the most on the emerging romantic relationship between Adam and Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow), who’s already had a bad experience with an addict, an alcoholic partner. Adam thus fails initially to admit his addiction, a dishonest and unhealthy way for a member of SAA to go.

In addition to Adam and Phoebe, another interpersonal thread is the friendship that emerges between Neil and Dede, who’s previously only been able to relate to men via sex. The opinion of Linda Holmes, NPR, echoes that of several other reviewers as well:

…I think the most pleasant surprise is the friendship between the characters played by Josh Gad and Pink. This is the story that underscores the importance of giving a rip about someone besides yourself if you’re ever going to recover from anything. At first, the Gad character is so sketchy…that it seems like he might be irredeemable, but there’s a lot of ground to cover — as there is for all these characters.

What Are Some of the Things We Learn About Sex Addiction?

It’s a real condition for many, not an excuse for inappropriate behavior.

In the film the guys call recovery the daily struggle to “quit [the proverbial] crack while the pipe’s attached to your body.”

Robert Weiss, The Huffington Post, reports that two key sexual recovery books are seen in the film, Patrick Carnes‘s Out of the Shadows and A Gentle Path through the Twelve Steps.

Although generally giving a favorable critique, Weiss adds:

My sole gripe, and it’s a very small gripe, is that the concept of ‘sexual sobriety’ is not adequately explained. I worry that viewers potentially interested in sexual recovery for themselves will walk away thinking that being sexually sober means they can never have sex again, with themselves or anyone else. And in reality that is not the case. Sexual sobriety differs for every person, and it does not equate to an elimination of sexuality. Instead, sexual sobriety is about finding ways to be sexual that are life and relationship affirming. Yes, compulsive and problematic sexual behaviors must be eliminated, but the remainder of the wide-open sexual universe remains in play. Sexual recovery is not a death-knell for sex, just as recovery from compulsive eating does not involve starving oneself to death.

Andrew Schenker, Slant: “The film shrewdly expands its scope by linking sex addiction with other forms of addiction, understanding the addictive personality to be not easily compartmentalized into a single category. Thus Mike is also an alcoholic, Neil a compulsive eater, and Dede is simultaneously attending a meeting for drug addicts.”