Saturday, December 17, 2022

Seen in November 

Inside the New York Public library. 

Does it seem late to say what I saw in November, mid-way through Decemeber? Pish posh, hang it all, old chaps, this is what I saw in that dreary dark month and there may be something for you to find here.

Ex Libris: The New York Public Library

Despite its three-hour plus runtime this fly-on-the-wall documentary is a fascinating reminder of the scope and scale of the New York City Library. This film may appeal city-builder urbanists and book nerds but the American filmmaker Frederick Wiseman is a master of letting a scene tell its own story. The feeling of immersion, of really being in the room, may lead yourself to excusing your own coughs or sneezes for fear of interrupting whoever is speaking in the scene.

Across & Down

Word nerd alert. If you do a lot of crossword puzzles, especially ones from American or British sources, you quickly see how important culture is to solving the puzzle. The same is true of creating a puzzle. This documentary shifts from the creation of puzzles to the creators and why wider, more diverse representation counts. While talking about representation of people of colour, or diverse genders or sexuality in the creation of crosswords sounds like the ultimate example of "political correctness", it's really more about the inclusivity of language and popular culture in general. When you think of it that way, why would word games be exempt?

See How They Run

What to say. It's a murder mystery set around a long running production of the play Mousetrap. Yet, it's one of those plays, inside a play inside movie type of things. It has a wonderful cast of terribly miscast actors. Sam Rockwell has never been so unbelievable as a tired, jaded London detective. His accent is neither here, there or anywhere. I'm not familiar with the director but more often than not it looks as though they are mining the well-dug soil of Wes Anderson. So many scenes have the Anderson pastiche that it feels close to parody. The murder mystery trope is ripe for comedy and there are plenty of good throwaway lines here but despite a pretty production, it's mostly throwaway.

California. 1970s.

Licorice Pizza
Amazon Prime

This is a perhaps not entirely appropriate love story set in 1970s California, between a fifteen-year-old actor and a twenty-five-year-old who still hasn't figured out her life. What she has figured out is that she should not be falling for a teen-ager. Yet, there she is, drawn to this kid's indisputable charms. Imagine the gender roles were reversed and just how icky it would all be if say, a brightly mature 15-year-old Natalie Portman were trying to catch the eye of an adrift a 30-something Timothy Hutton (as was the case in Beautiful Girls) and you can see the weirdness. The difference was in Beautiful Girls, Hutton's character sees the teen-age Portman as a fascination who is far too young to thinking about someone such as himself, and tries to navigate her interest thoughtfully and carefully whereas in this film, love, despite its roadblocks, eventually blooms. This is the latest film by American P.T. Anderson and it has a very Punch Drunk Love feel to it but also touches on a kind of nostalgia Anderson holds for California of the 1970s where he grew up. I'm not sure what the film is about really. Celebrity? Fads? Opportunity? In the end, it's mostly about, the heart wants what the heart wants.

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