Thursday, July 31, 2014


               My, How You’ve Grown, Little Man
                                     Review by Ken Burke                    Boyhood

Richard Linklater spent 12 years making this film as his actors aged naturally through a child’s life from grammar school to college, a simple but compelling story.
[Take care, curious readers, for plot spoilers gallop rampantly throughout the Two Guys’ brilliantly insightful reviews.  This is how we write, so as to explore what must be said as art transcends commerce (although if anyone wants to pay us for doing this ...); therefore, be warned, beware, and read on when ready to be transported to—well, wherever we end up.

We also encourage you to check your tastes against ours with the summary of Two Guys reviews, which we update with each new posting (please note that Two Guys critic Ken Burke is a bit odd—in more ways than one—using a 5-star-rating-system but rarely going to the level of 4 ½ or 5 stars, reserving those rankings for films that have been or should be acknowledged as time-honored masterpieces so that a 4 is about the best you can hope for from star-stingy Ken).  But we ask you to be aware that the links we recommend within our many reviews may have been removed or modified without our knowledge.  Other overall notations for this blog may be found at our Two Guys in the Dark homepage.  Now, onward to illumination; you may want to protect your eyes from the brilliance.

But one more thing first:  If you’d like to Like us on Facebook you’re welcome to find us on our Film Reviews from Two Guys in the Dark page by typing that name into their “Search for people, places and things” box or just Google twoguysinthedark.  We appreciate your support whenever and however you can offer it!]
I’ve seen an ad somewhere for Boyhood (Richard Linklater) in which quotes from different critics are cited to call this film the best of “the year,” “the decade,” and “the century” (I guess we’re far enough into the 21st of our relatively-recent-century-cycles to start making such outlandish claims, although only being at July of 2014, along with just 5 years out of 10 of the current decade is a bit too early to make these other pronouncements either, in my opinion)—of course, I can’t find it again to tell you who said which of these accolades so if anyone happens to notice it please pass along the specific citations.  Certainly, I can agree that this marvelous-cinematic-idea-made-into-a-tangible-film is one of the best of each of these designations, although I can’t say that it’s the absolute tops in any of them (for this year so far I’d pick the Polish story Ida [Pawel Pawlikowski] set in the early 1960s about a young girl about to become a nun who finds out that she’s Jewish and her family was killed during WW II, with a review in our June 3, 2014 posting; for this decade it’s a toss-up so far between the only 2 current films I’ve gone to 4 ½ of 5 stars for, The Master [Thomas Paul Anderson, 2012; review in our September 27, 2012 posting] and Twelve Years a Slave [Steve McQueen, 2013; review in our November 14, 2013 posting]; and for this young century, I think it’s way too early to be making such pronouncements, although the ones I’ve just mentioned could all be contenders, along with Amour [Michael Haneke, 2012; review in our January 24, 2013 posting], A Beautiful Mind [Ron Howard, 2001], Black Swan [Darren Aronofsky, 2010], Brokeback Mountain [Ang Lee, 2005], The Departed [Martin Scorsese, 2006], No Country for Old Men [Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007], and I’m sure some other worthy ones that I’m forgetting at the moment).  What I can say with no hesitation about Boyhood, though, is that it’s a successfully-audacious-concept for a fictional film (although the premise has been seen before in the documentary world with Michael Apted’s Up series which began in 1964 [Paul Almond directed the first one], with the filmmaker returning every 7 years so far to examine what’s been happening to his “cast” of 14 British former-children-now-adults during the intervening time, which has now taken us to 56 Up [2012]—a concept copied in many other countries as well due to the positive response to this one), in which Linklater recruited a group of actors—Ethan Hawke as Dad Mason Sr., Patricia Arquette as Mom Olivia, his own daughter Lorelei Linklater as daughter Samantha, and casting-victor Ellar Coltrane as son Mason Jr.—in 2002, then shot a few scenes with them and others through the period of the next 12 years with the result that we come to know these characters as individuals who age with us over our lives (even though we haven’t met them until now, there are enough clues as to what year we’re in along the way so that we can connect our own histories to theirs, as this transition from elementary through high school feels all too familiar).

Normally in years-spanning-movies, we have only present-tense-people who must be altered through makeup in order to appear younger or older (one of the most celebrated of that sort being Dustin Hoffman as Jack Crabb in Little Big Man [Arthur Penn, 1970] being aged from his actual 32 years at the time to 121 in the film, with a new example about to hit our screens when we’ll soon see Chadwick Boseman cover many years of James Brown’s life in Get On Up [Tate Taylor]) or—in more drastic cases—there must be different actors playing the same character in order to compensate for how a body changes over a period of many years (such as with Robert De Niro and Marlon Brando taking on various ages of Vito Corleone in the first two parts of The Godfather [Francis Ford Coppola; 1972, 1974] or Nymphomaniac: Volume I and II [Lars von Trier, 2013; reviews in our March 20 and April 3, 2014 postings] in which Stacy Martin and Charlotte Gainsbourg play the younger and middle-aged Joe, a woman with an insatiable appetite for orgasms, with or without a partner).  In contrast to those standard approaches, with Linklater’s methods in Boyhood we see those changes in his film as just being the natural aging of the cast, with facial hair coming and going on the men, hair color changing for Samantha, and hair length alternating between the extremes of shaggy and complete burr for Mason Jr.  We also see a succession of fathers (well, father-figures, actually, as I don’t think that either of Olivia’s next husbands after Mason Sr. adopted her children as these guys go completely out of the picture after their respective divorces—useful for the plot that they just disappear—but that’s just another of many facts that aren’t necessary to understand what’s happening in the larger context of these people’s lives) as Samantha and Mason Jr. weave their way through public school in Houston, then move on to their university years toward the end of this lengthy narrative, well-structured so that we hardly notice how much running time has passed.

While Mason Sr. was obviously not a fully-compatible-match for Olivia (we don’t see too much interaction between them, as they’re already divorced when the story picks up with Mason Jr. in first grade, but their initial on-screen-encounter results in an argument, just as does the frustration of Olivia’s current boyfriend that they can’t go out that night because she couldn’t get a babysitter; she truly loves these kids but their presence in her life is a constant source of tension with any man that she tries to couple up with), at least he truly cares about his kids and relishes the every-other-weekend-arrangement that he has with them, whereas the next guy to wed Olivia, Bill Welbrock ([played by Marco Perella] he’s a professor in one of her psychology classes when she uproots her kids to move to Houston so that she can finish her college work, leading to a job that will better support the 3 of them), has 2 kids of his own from a former marriage—an older daughter and a younger son, so there’s the possibility of a natural merge of the households—but deteriorates over the years into someone who first seems to favor Mason over his own son, then turns hostile to both of Olivia’s kids, then becomes a troubled alcoholic that Olivia finally leaves behind, much to his chagrin (but at least he doesn’t reappear after an embarrassing scene where he finds that his wife has disappeared, then cleaned out the ATM account so—already a bit toasted in mid-afternoon—he scrawls his signature on a [bum] check, then sends the boys into his local liquor store to cash it for him; even more embarrassing for the available-co-dependency of dysfunctional families everywhere, the store clerk sees Bill out in his car so he cashes the $500 check [I’m surprised Bill didn’t want the kids to pick up a couple of quarts of vodka while they were at it]).  Some years later, Olivia’s gone all the way through a master’s degree and is teaching in San Marcos (at what I think is Texas State University [called Southwest Texas State U. when I was in the area, most of the years from 1966-1976]) where she hooks up with one of her students, Jim (Brad Hawkins) an ex-GI catching up on his college work after a few tours of duty in the Middle East; Linklater doesn’t bother us with explanatory details, but through appropriate circumstantial evidence we understand that he’s the latest in Olivia’s husband line, a seemingly-decent-guy in our first couple of encounters with him but as Mason gets older this newest stepdad finds work as a corrections officer at a local prison, is yet another boozer, and—like the previous jerk—becomes increasingly hostile toward Mason and his disinterest in the traditional Texas religions of football, guns, and a solid preparation for a business career, but Mason instead “develops” a strong interest in photography (sorry, couldn’t resist), which eventually gets him a college scholarship as Boyhood wanders toward its arbitrary ending (at least for now; given that Linklater’s been revisiting another Ethan Hawke character, Jesse, and his along-the-way-wife, Céline [Julie Delpy], in the Before Sunrise [1995], Before Sunset [2004], and Before Midnight [2013; review in our June 5, 2013 posting] series, we can’t count out the possibility that the Boyhood troupe is under secret contract to keep this saga going into Mason Jr.'s undergrad school and beyond, so we’ll just have to see if they surprise us in another dozen years).

The reason I’ve dwelt so much on Olivia’s change-partners-routine (if you’re possibly still humming “Woodstock” from my previous review of Lucy [posted on July 30, 2014] maybe you’d like this Stills tune right now [one of his best solo hits], “Change Partners,” at com/watch?v=BA6lPXT wV-E [a good audio recording of a live performance but with nothing much happening in the visuals, somewhat like Olivia’s marriages where some of the situation is working but not completely]) is that despite the name-brand-value that Hawke brings to Boyhood (and its available publicity stills which feature him quite a bit, thus explaining the poorer image quality of some alternatives that I had to scrounge up for photo variety), he’s more of a flow-in-and-out-character throughout this film (with his own couple of post-Olivia wives and a new baby that we don’t see much of in the overall scheme of things, although this Dad’s continuing presence continues to mean something of value to Mason Jr. as those other useless father-surrogates fall by the wayside over the years) whereas Arquette’s Olivia is a constant in her son's life (as well as Samantha’s, but after all this is called Boyhood not Childhood so she’s increasingly less important in the overall focus, especially after she heads off to college at my old alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin, while Mason still has a couple of years of high school to finish back in small-city San Marcos).  Olivia is a strong-but-battered-character (sometimes literally although we don’t get graphic scenes of that) who gives all she can of herself for the good of her kids, even when they’re resisting her all the way as with what she often calls Samantha’s “horse shit attitude” and Mason’s mumbled “I dunno”-type responses to her concerns, but despite having good reason for us to care about her exhaustive life (even when she’s got the college teaching job, but with a Master’s rather than a Ph.D. so I imagine that her pay’s not that great and her job security is tenuous—rather than tenured) it’s critical for her that when her own kids head off to college that they become financially-independent, just as she forces them to accept her downsizing by getting rid of the family house, moving into a smaller apartment, then beginning to disappear from our story as the focus has shifted to Mason’s final years in high school, his very-on-again-suddenly-off-again-romance with fellow-social-outcast Sheena (Zoe Graham)—that is, until she starts dating a college guy who happens to be an athlete (at least it’s just lacrosse rather than the full-Establishment-zombie-sport [as far as Mason’s concerned] of football)—and his eventual escape.  (His college not specified but intentionally far from home, yet still in-state to help Mason Sr.’s contributions to the costs, so I’m speculating either U.T. at the Permian Basin [in Odessa] or U.T. at El Paso, simply because wherever he is it seems fairly big but is close enough for him, his new roommate, and their likely new girlfriends to jaunt off for a hike in Big Bend National Park, in the area where the Rio Grande makes a major course change as it separates a ruggedly beautiful mountainous area of Texas from Mexico—although I guess they could be at Sul Ross State U. in Alpine, much closer to Big Bend and former college home of my father, for about a week before he got pissed about some of their policies so instead he jumped a few freight trains, then ended up during the Depression working with my grandfather in the Civilian Conservation Corps.)  

None of these events are developed in any better detail that what we’ve experienced before because Linklater (director, not daughter) is determined that we’re to weave in and out of this boy’s life as if we just meet up with him at some annual family reunion and figure out for ourselves what’s going on rather than have all of the links along the way explained to us.  Linklater does provide a few chronological clues such as Mason Sr. taking his kids to a Houston Astros game when (potential Hall of Famer, depending on how the steroids situation finally resolves itself in the next few years) Roger Clemens is pitching for the home team, which must be 2004 or 2005, then we have a scene where kids are waiting anxiously for the release of J.K. Rowling’s novel, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which is definitely 2005, finally we have Mason Jr. and Samantha asking neighbors to put Obama-Biden signs in their yards (some do, some vehemently don’t) but then they also steal a McCain-Palin sign so we know this must be 2008.  Otherwise, we can tell that the kids are growing, at times Mason Jr.’s hair has changed styles (once very arbitrarily when Bill forces him to get a burr, shearing off his substantial locks) or Samantha’s has changed color, or we notice other minor-but-telling-environmental signs that the scene we’re currently watching isn’t a direct follow-up to the previous one, although initial cues certainly give us reason to think that until we observe more closely (which is exactly what Linklater is trying to encourage us to do—a tactic that takes us all the way back to his debut feature, Slacker [1991], where there’s no foundational plot nor continuing characters, just a lot of vignettes in Austin where we follow one person or small group around for awhile, then something happens so that in a metaphorical sense the baton is passed to the next focused-upon-someone until such time as we shift our focus again to the next incident [I swear I had an idea for a film such as this back when I was at U.T. in the mid-1970s and mentioned it to my friends, so I’m sure that the concept just hung around Austin for years until Linklater pulled it out of the ozone; Richard, if you’re reading this—and I know you are—what about some royalties checks, huh, big guy?  Just sayin’, ya know?]), all of which forces us to pay attention to what’s going on in the present, just as Mason Jr. finally ends our voyeuristic observation of most of his life with his emphasis to that emerging new girlfriend on “the moment” and how we should always be focused on that rather than obsessing about the past or the future: more specifically he’s responding to her question about whether when a situation seems right do we seize the moment or does the moment seize us.  I'd say he's opting for awareness, if not control, of whatever's happening.

Linklater has given us plenty of present moments with Mason Jr., along with his family and friends, which gives us every reason to applaud his vision, his determination, and his success at capturing a seemingly-seamless-immersion where 12 years of these people’s lives have been compressed into about 2:45:00 on screen, which flows by easily in the theater as long as you prepare properly beforehand to avoid bathroom breaks (because it’s all so casual, so reminiscent of the lives we all share that you’d never be able to tell if you missed anything significant, so if you left for a brief break you’d sit there afterward distractedly wondering if some key scene eluded you—it didn’t [although younger audience members might be aghast that Mason Jr. is so determined to be real rather than a techno-screen-person that he’s seriously contemplating deleting his Facebook page]—possibly missing the essence of the rest of it all as it finally wanders to closure in a Big Bend canyon).  One casting point to make, though, is praise to Dad Linklater for being able to coax (or just record, depending on how much of a natural she is) fabulous performances from his daughter, Lorelei.  I know that the needed time-space-convergence couldn’t have been in place for this to happen (unless director Linklater somewhat stumbled onto a time machine), but I can’t help but wish he’d been able to go back to 1990 to show Coppola some footage of a daughter becoming a successful screen presence either in an attempt to pass on some secrets or just dissuade Francis entirely from casting Sofia as Mary Corleone in The Godfather Part III ([1990] which never would have happened had Winona Ryder not reported very sick to the set, forcing a last-minute-actor-change).  Lorelei is such a natural, such a strong screen presence in the earlier years when she’s very sassy to her mother, much the preening peacock to her grandmother in contrast to her messy, scattered brother (although she recedes as the film goes on, but that’s likely as well for the typical sullen teenager, given that we’re seeing her mostly with her mother and little brother, not in extensive conversations with her like-minded-friends).  Coltrane is a wonder as well, as everyone has already said, a fabulous chance-investment that paid off magnificently over the years; however, his subtle-but-commanding-screen-presence is supported and enhanced by the caliber of the ensemble he’s working with at all ages throughout this story, allowing Linklater Sr. to dazzle (rather than daze and confuse) us with this most unique, most penetrating look into ordinary lives made somewhat-extraordinary because we become so invested in these characters, watching them intently.

We must participate actively in understanding the details of those life decisions, making constant assumptions about the details that have been intentionally withheld from us (as great Realism filmmakers have been doing since the early days of Charlie Chaplin roughly a century ago), and the unanswered questions of what will become of them next.  In Lucy (Luc Besson; review in our July 30, 2014 posting) the main characters—with the help of Lucy’s (Scarlett Johansson) super-brain-boost—determine that time is the only relevant measure in the universe, as events have no meaning unless they have progressed over some duration (whether it’s the billion years that life was existed on our planet or the roughly 24 hours that Lucy has to reach full-cognitive-capacity before her body dies from the rapid acceleration of her cells); Linklater proves the same in Boyhood as the individual events of Mason Jr.’s life aren’t so drastically significant (although they may have seemed that way to him at the time as he’s uprooted for the Houston move, gets all of his hair cut off, witnesses Bill’s plate-throwing-tantrum at dinner, is irritated that Mason Sr. sold his precious GTO rather than giving it to his son for his 16th birthday [instead he gets a Bible and a 20-guage-shotgun from his new grandparents, which he quietly but graciously accepts]) but in accumulation they produce who he is for this “time-being” and set him on a personal course for whatever the next years may bring as he begins a more independent life away from his family and previous friends.  Boyhood, as well, needs more time to establish itself as the cinematic-game-changer that it’s being touted as, more opportunity to resonate against what’s come before it in past and current film history as well as how it may stand up against whatever else is produced this year, decade, century.  For now, though, it’s a very engaging, satisfying experience, possibly similar to what we are reputed to see in moments of supreme trauma (including immediate-pre-death) as past events of our life flash before our eyes (but in a unique, time-suspended-manner so that even this near-3-hour-summary would likely feel like it occurs in mere seconds; but for the counter-experience of such a chronological summary you might want to search out the much-more-obscure Happy Christmas [Joe Swanberg; review in that same July 30 posting] in which events generated by a troubled protagonist take on much more weight because that story is focused on just a few badly-mismanaged-days in the life of a late-20s woman trying to gain better control of her situation).  In this way, we’ve been treated to a life-flash of Mason’s presence on the planet (along with his necessary surrounding cast) in a procedure that may have approximated real life in a fictional setting more uniquely and successfully than any such film has been able to accomplish prior to Linklater’s folly-transcended-experiment.  It’s all so ordinary that it becomes somewhat extraordinary, well worth your carefully-considered-investment of that precious commodity—time—so essential in Boyhood and Lucy, both vying now for your attention, both well deserving of it.

As for my regular concluding Musical Metaphor, to speak in another voice to the circumstances of Boyhood, I find only one reasonable choice, the Beach Boys' “When I Grow Up to Be a Man” (from their 1965 album, The Beach Boys Today!) at com/watch?v=0EzEh W1VO9M (a live performance from back in the day, appropriately ragged in places; conceptually, it also seems appropriate to offer this version at [where the raggedness comes via recording from within the audience rather than having a tap to the house sound system] shot at their 50th anniversary tour 2 years ago, sadly without Carl and Dennis, except in video recordings from when they were alive [I saw this show when it got to Berkeley, one of the best of the many times I've seen this group—the originals, that is, not the shell of the band just fronted by Mike Love and Bruce Johnson still playing today under the original name (August 1, 2014 Mountain Winery, Saratoga, CA for example)] when they’d grown up to be the men they are now; but if all of this raggedness is ruining the song for you, here’s the actual recording at  It probably seemed too cheesy to Linklater to use in his soundtrack (and too out of keeping with the other songs employed) but for me it fits perfectly, just like when George Lucas kicked off his end credits of American Graffiti (1973) with the Beach Boys' “All Summer Long” (from their 1964 album of the same name—even though Lucas' film is set in 1962 with almost all of the rest of the soundtrack as era-appropriate), so I’ll just add it myself here and wonder what great new approach to filmmaking Linklater will come up with next (even as I applaud him, native Texans that we both are, for so well capturing the sense of growing up in that state, reminding me of my own formative years in Galveston and El Campo; my boyhood came about 4 decades earlier than Mason’s but only the surface environment [such as cellphones; damn, those early ones were big] has changed, the inner experiences still seem much the same—however, I’m very lucky to have had an adoptive Dad who was much better for me than any of Mason’s fathers were for him, even accounting for those missed days with Eddie Burke as he perfected his golf game while I withdrew into my private world of comic books and TV shows) as he may be clandestinely following Mason Jr. around until it’s time for this insightful kid to deal with his own (father-related?) midlife crisis (stay tuned, if you’ve got that much time).
If you’d like to know more about Boyhood here are some suggested links: (16:35 interview from Sundance Film Festival premiere of the film with director Richard Linklater and actors Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, and Lorelei Linklater)

As noted above, we encourage you to look over our home page (ABOUT THE BLOG), found as the first one in our December 2011 postings, to get more information on what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, including our formatting forewarning about inconsistencies among web browser software which we do our best to correct but may still cause some visual problems beyond our extremely-limited-level of technological control.

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By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile.    Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lucy and Happy Christmas

Lucy’s in the Sky … But the Rest of Us Are Just in Chicago
              Review by Ken Burke         Lucy
Combo sci-fi, action-thriller, and conceptual speculation about a woman whose brain capacity keeps increasing even as killers attempt to recover the drugs responsible.
                                                                      Happy Christmas
A young woman at loose ends decides to move to Chicago to live with her brother and his wife; her aimless irresponsibility doesn’t mesh well with their babysitting needs.
[Take care, curious readers, for plot spoilers gallop rampantly throughout the Two Guys’ brilliantly insightful reviews.  This is how we write, so as to explore what must be said as art transcends commerce (although if anyone wants to pay us for doing this ...); therefore, be warned, beware, and read on when ready to be transported to—well, wherever we end up.

We also encourage you to check your tastes against ours with the summary of Two Guys reviews, which we update with each new posting (please note that Two Guys critic Ken Burke is a bit odd—in more ways than one—using a 5-star-rating-system but rarely going to the level of 4 ½ or 5 stars, reserving those rankings for films that have been or should be acknowledged as time-honored masterpieces so that a 4 is about the best you can hope for from star-stingy Ken).  But we ask you to be aware that the links we recommend within our many reviews may have been removed or modified without our knowledge.  Other overall notations for this blog may be found at our Two Guys in the Dark homepage.  Now, onward to illumination; you may want to protect your eyes from the brilliance.

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One last warning for you, this posting is another one of those failed attempts on my part to be concise but what came tumbling out based on the contents of these 2 films goes on for quite a bit so either settle back for your long perusal or use this as an exercise in speed reading (I had a roommate back in college who paid good money for a speed-reading-course; he said he built up some good muscles in his index finger but didn’t achieve much else with it).
One situational problem that creators in all of the arts sometimes face is timing of the release of their work into the general cultural stream, in terms of whether their ideas and expressions (in painting, photography, literature, cinema, theatre, dance, music, etc.) arrive at a time when they’re considered unique and attractive, part of something that’s still in the popular ascendency curve when this new installment is released thereby being accepted as enhancement of the embraced “whatever,” or are perceived as too late in the sense that we’ve seen too much of the “whatever” lately so that what may have been quite inspiring at the conceptual and execution stages for the artists is now dismissed as too much “been there, done that” by the public.  Certainly, this timing situation could have been a problem for Luc Besson, writer-director of Lucy in which Scarlett Johansson—as the titular lead—once again plays an embodiment of advanced intelligence (although this time she’s a human being with unlocked brain capacity rather than a disembodied computer operating system as she voiced as “Samantha” in Her [Spike Jonze; review in our January 9, 2014 posting]) which causes her to evolve past normal human traits such as fear, pain, uncertainty, and compassion (very similar to her unnamed, no-nonsense-hunter-of-able-bodied-Scotsmen in Under the Skin [Jonathan Glazer; review in our April 16, 2014 posting]).  Whatever qualms a potential audience member might have had about possibly seeing yet-another-Johansson-retread are quickly dismissed, though, upon watching her flawless work in Lucy, in which she evolves (literally) from an ordinary, scared young woman (apparently doing college work in Taiwan but gets involved with a scuzzy guy who pushes her into such a dangerous situation that she can’t even catch her breath to talk into the phone to the needed translator to explain to her why she’s now surrounded by Asian thugs who want the briefcase attached to her wrist) to become the supremely confident, powerful person who transcends her physical existence by the time her encounter with a new synthetic drug has pushed her to full cerebral potential.  There’s a lot else to appreciate here as well—including marvelously-well-choreographed action scenes, editorial uses of inserted footage to expand the ideas and occurrences in the on-screen-plot, and the always-welcome-presence of Morgan Freeman as Professor Norman who successfully handles the task of explaining neural evolution to us—although it does seem odd at times to be dealing with what could so easily be a PBS exploration of the possibilities of a fully-functioning-person’s-brain juxtaposed with an action thriller where human death is as casual in Taipei and Paris as it is on the plains of Africa where leopards hunt down some overmatched gazelles.

By chance, I saw Lucy twice last week (once as an invited guest at a press screening [thanks as always for these opportunities to my friend and colleague Barry Caine], then again a few days later with my wonderful wife, Nina, and a couple of other close friends).  I’m glad I got that second chance before writing this review because it helped me do something that Lucy herself decided to do in the film: push my brain cells beyond their previous capacity to gain additional insights.  Now, I’m not saying that I’m exceeding the normal 10% functionality of the human mind that Prof. Norman cites as being the relatively-low-level-standard that we’re normally satisfied with (not that our 10% is so bad; he cites dolphins as the only creatures that normally go beyond us, reaching 20% in their standard existence, which has allowed them to do such things as evolve a natural form of life-protecting-sonar), but I do better see now that what I initially perceived as a genre mismatch of crashing cars, a growing mass of dead bodies, and some Matrix-like (Andy and Lana Wachowski; 1999, 2003) aberrations of the physical world vs. a scientific/philosophical probe into what powers are yet to be discovered when our organ of consciousness is called into higher levels of activity isn’t the crazy collage that I first assumed but is more of an intentional contrast of watching human beings barely beyond the jungle-ape-stage (with resonances from both 2001: A Space Odyssey [Stanley Kubrick, 1968] and the entire concept of the Planet of the Apes franchise, especially the current one, Dawn of … [Matt Reeves; review in our July 18, 2014 posting]), furiously killing each other in the halls of a hospital vs. Lucy’s race to full 100% brain function, not to counterattack her would-be-killers (she’s done a good bit of damage to them already in this story as her cognitive capacity keeps growing) but to transform herself into the most advanced computer she can conceive of so as to store that knowledge to pass on to Prof. Norman before her physical existence completely disappears.  (Of course, this slight change of heart could call into question any critic’s response to any art work if experienced a second time or more prior to publishing a review, but for me that’s just the subjective reality of how our perceptions are existential, part of a larger gestalt of our lives even when we don’t realize how the overall context might have changed for us; I remember that the first time I saw my all-time-favorite-film, Citizen Kane [Orson Welles, 1941] I was highly impressed but upon a second viewing I found it pompous and overwrought for some reason; since then I’ve viewed it as the ultimate cinematic masterpiece, so who knows what I was thinking with my self-absorbed-graduate-student-perspectives back in the early 1970s.)

Earlier in the narrative, Prof. Norman explains to a lecture audience in Paris how it is that organisms instinctively find that they must make 1 of 2 choices in order to survive:  (1) If their host environment is fiercely inhospitable then they must become immortal, that is become totally self-sufficient in some manner that can transcend their hostile surroundings (essentially this is what Lucy does as the drug that she’s ingested is causing such rapid growth and evolution of her cells that they can soon no longer be contained in a traditional body so she finally becomes one with the space-time-flow of the universe—what Nina tells me that the late [But is she gone? Lucy says “We never really die.”] Maya Angelou noted to Oprah Winfrey as “The All,” the energy of life that physical existence returns to upon death, as understood from a physics-alone-or-possibly-merged-with-a-spiritual-perspective, similar to what various Eastern religions speak of as the final goal of life, the transcendence of the material world and its reincarnation cycle into some version of Brahman/Nirvana/Tao where we are totally free of the fears, desires, and limitations of organic-based-life); how this state is achieved by organisms not freed from their normal physical basis as was Lucy, Prof. Norman never gets around to explaining, unless he means that on a purely scientific level we’re talking about primitive-but-seemingly-indestructible-life-forms such as bacteria, viruses, and governors of the state of Texas; or (2) Organisms that are lucky enough to live in compatible environments (at least until careless/greedy humans [I never said I was non-partisan, now did I?] make those environments inhospitable) perpetuate themselves by reproduction, from the cellular level up to the most highly-developed-species, such as sequoia trees and human beings.  (Lucy, at Prof. Norman’s urging, participates in this as well, not by mating with a male [which is why I mistakenly at first thought she continued to work with her helpful-but-clearly-inferior-colleague, whom she kept around simply as “a reminder” of what she used to be, Captain Pierre Del Rio (Amr Waked)] quickly [by the time she contacts Prof. Norman she estimates she’s got only about 24 hours of body-life left], producing some 2001-like “Star Child” offspring, but by channeling her new-found-knowledge into a most-advanced-flash-drive [I guess Apple and Samsung could sue each other over which one has the OS capable of downloading it] before revealing on a cell phone at the end of our story that she is “everywhere” [at which point, she is like Johnny Depp’s Dr. Will Caster in Transcendence (Wally Pfister; review in our April 23, 2014 posting) but on a cosmic scale and like the disembodied Samantha but apparently willing to stick around and continue her dialogue with Prof. Norman rather than disappear into cyberspace as did the advanced OS that we noted Johansson voiced in Her].)

This high-concept-plot-line could easily find itself overlaid with esoteric visuals such as those photographs-replaced-by-computer images that Richard Linklater used so effectively in Waking Life (2001) but instead this lofty cerebral content is pushed up against what we so easily recognize as an all-out-assault on our protagonists by the evil Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi), along with his mini-army of assassins (who’ve just flown into Paris themselves from Taipei but already have fast-moving-cars loaded with assault weapons ready to track down and take out their single adversary; I wonder what rental service they use?), in a story that would normally be resolved by Del Rio and his posse being able to employ a breathtaking-last-minute-rescue.  However, this time around the French cops are outgunned (their pistols and rifles are no match for Jang’s bazooka that takes out the wall protecting Lucy and the small group of scientists because she’s so focused on that final stage of achieving 100% [completely absorbed with merging herself into a super-computer] that she has no attention available to dismay/disarm her adversaries as she’s done in their previous encounters [reminding me of how Capt. William Decker (Stephen Collins) merged his carbon-based-existence with the “V’Ger” silicon-based-super-machine at the climax of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Robert Wise, 1979), creating a new entity that we never saw the further manifestation of in other Treks]) so it’s all down to Lucy achieving her ultimate mind-computer-meld at the last second, thereby disappearing from our corporal world just as Del Rio rushes in to kill Jang in the more traditional manner of the action-adventure-aspect of this genre-hybrid-narrative.  At first, Jang and his boys were after Lucy because her increasing powers had allowed her to escape his plot of sending her (back to the U.S. I think, although she must have exchanged that Jang-generated-airline-ticket for a trip to Paris instead to work with Prof. Norman in her final hours), along with 3 male mules, to major cities (Paris, Rome, and Berlin for the guys) where their local operatives would remove the bags of synthetic CPH4 from their lower abdomens where this stuff had been surgically-implanted for massive-profit-distribution as this powerful-consciousness-enhancing-stuff was to be the new drug-on-demand for the cutting-edge-junkies of the Western world (the organic version of CPH4 is what mothers produce in small quantities to enable their growing fetuses to properly form skeletons and organs; however, Lucy’s bag—which was too large anyway to have been implanted into any of these skinny carriers without showing more than it did or causing internal discomfort, but we’ll attribute that to the “fiction” aspect of sci-fi, then continue on with our movie analysis—bursts open during an assault by a vicious henchman during her initial capture so she was inundated by an unintended-huge-dose, leading to her rapid mental evolution).

By the time the evil bossman catches up with her, though, she’s already absorbed all 4 bags of the stuff (retrieved from the other mules through an operation set up by Lucy and Del Rio) in order to transcend her physical limitations, so all Jang wanted at that point was revenge on a woman who’d injured him financially, physically (jamming knives into both his hands before leaving Taipei, in a manner that doubled the viciousness of Luca Brasi’s [Lenny Montana] demise in The Godfather [Francis Ford Coppola, 1972]), and professionally (outsmarting him at every turn, laying waste to so many of his henchmen either herself or through Del Rio’s troops).  Even when he’s seemingly got the drop on her, though, she transcends him, becoming “more powerful that [he] can possibly imagine,” as with the sacrificial Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (George Lucas, 1977).  I have to admit, I still question that a human brain operating at close to the transcendence-threshold of up to 99% could take command over the physical world around her (in the same way I’ve never bought the “scientific” explanation that exchanging the red sun and stronger gravitational field of Krypton could give Superman x-ray and heat vision nor allow him to breath when flying through the vacuum of outer space, but I just have to accept those conceits if I want to enjoy what’s done with the character), causing adversaries to be swooped up to the ceiling or pushing cars around on Parisian streets in a chase across town that ups the ante on the old classics such as Bullitt (Peter Yates, 1968) and The French Connection (William Friedkin, 1971)—or, for that matter, sending a huge cluster of ugly tendrils from her body to “mate” with Prof. Norman’s computers rather than just mentally interfacing with them as she’s already demonstrated that she can control electromagnetic technology (then again, I never quite believed that some X-Men could control the weather or shoot fire or ice into the atmosphere as if they were enchanted beings from some Disney feature [but this is why I consider Superman, Spider-Man, the X-Men (and other Marvel heroes with radiation-induced-powers) to be part of that Fantasy genre along with the Disney fairies and witches rather than something more plausibly-sci-fi-based such as Star Trek]).

But, Prof. Norman says anything over 10% of human-brain-function is just speculation, so maybe any of this is possible, and if Besson’s goal truly is to juxtapose the primitive-human-consciousness-level of movies that focus on action, bullets, speed, spilled blood, and sophisticated-CGI-effects with the higher levels of cognition that take us above the familiar-but-limiting-traits that Lucy discovers are all that we’ve allowed ourselves to define as human-identity-characteristics, then just as this photo above (taken from Lucy’s prison escape scene, the action nicely compressed in the movie’s trailer [first suggested video link far below]) shows her using the basest of human temptations in order to achieve an unexpected goal against her duped jailer so are we duped into assuming our highest achievements come through the control and manipulation of other humans and their surroundings rather than a greater understanding of and unity with the vast cosmos that we’re such a tiny part of, at least until we embrace either an appreciation for its higher levels of operations than we can understand from our single-planet-perspective or a willingness to be part of its manifestations, both in this life and in whatever might lie beyond.

Lucy may end up just being appreciated for its well-constructed-battle-scenes; its powerful presence of Johansson as an alluring body coupled with an assertive, mission-focused mind; and its stunning visuals that conjure up allusions to Kubrick’s previous 2001 bequeathing of higher consciousness to our long-ago-ancestors (as in the scene where Lucy directs herself on an actual trip back through time to touch fingers in a Michelangelo-Sistine Chapel-ceiling-Creation-like-manner with the movie’s previously-seen-“Lucy,” the primate considered the oldest true human ancestor [only now it's 2 female entities involved in the consciousness-enhancement-transfer—notice that Adam's eyes are open so he's already alive at the biological level]), Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life (2011) where there were similar attempts at allusions to the interconnectedness of everything across the eons from dinosaurs (Lucy goes back briefly to their time also) to central Texas (as an evolved being, Lucy doesn’t travel there so maybe I’ve taken the right first steps in my own evolutionary journey after all), or Ken Russell’s human-regression-imagery in Altered States (1980) of consciousness-and-DNA-obsessed-scientist Edward Jessup (William Hurt) pushing himself through lab experiments into release of our primitive past, even down to the cellular level (which we witness again in Lucy as those Prof. Norman-described-nerve-cell-emergence-and-divisions from 3.6 billion years ago are pushed back to that singularity as Lucy finds her unity with the universe—I thank Barry Caine again for that observation).  However, with our openness to being aware of the loftier intentions that Besson is trying to induce us to contemplate—while distracting us with flying cars and bodies at the macro level and Johansson’s intimidating, self-assured stare atop her shapely body at the more personal one—we might find that there’s something quite substantial being offered to us in Lucy if we can just get ourselves beyond the leopard-victor-over-the-overpowered-antelope-stage-of-awareness, looking instead for methods of meditation, contemplation, and transcendence of ego (for that wish, I thank Nina’s hopes of such higher-stage-self-understanding, a goal for humankind that she expresses frequently) that will not easily take us even to the 20% level of our brain’s capacity but at least will be start in the right direction.

As always, I like to wrap up the individual filmic comments with my Musical Metaphor of what’s going on in that narrative’s expression; this time an obvious offering comes to me with Joni Mitchell’s 1969 original version of “Woodstock” (from her 1970 album Ladies of the Canyon) at http://www., before it was amped up by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young (and others, even America, whom I saw recently in concert still reminding us of their—and others’—hits, even 44 years after their start), in that she speaks of us as being the product of “stardust, billion year old carbon,” needing desperately to “lose the smog” in order to “get ourselves back to the garden,” whether an actual Eden that the more literal-minded-scripturalists among us might desire or a more metaphorical state of consciousness in its own right of communal-caring and resource-sharing (as that huge art and music festival was convened to celebrate those many years ago).  But, given that Besson’s film is intended (as best as I can optimistically interpret it) to contrast the more contemplative aspects of cognition with the chaos of contemporary human life (and the miserable level of achievement we humans sometimes stoop to given our collectively-limited-brain-usage, as shown at times with some “life out of balance” Koyaanisqatsi [Godfrey Reggio, 1982]-like-footage by Besson), I guess I should also give you the more-energetic version of this hippie anthem as well, so here’s the original recording (from the 1970 Déjà Vu album) at that includes Young in the musical performance and some footage from the fabulous Woodstock documentary (Michael Wadleigh, 1970), along with this live 2009 performance from the 25th Anniversary of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at com/watch?v=D3MUH8tFZTA, done at another famous Garden (NYC’s Madison Square) minus Young (and a good case in point of what a 10% brain capacity coupled with a 100% body capacity in a lifetime of rock and roll can do to your once-melodic-voice in the case of Stephen Stills, but at least they’re all still alive, thanks to David Crosby’s liver transplant accompanied (I hope) by continued sobriety—these guys could have benefitted from a Lucy-lecture on alternative means of consciousness-raising some decades ago you’d think, but then she got there through a drug overdose herself so maybe we should just appreciate what they achieved on their own terms even if some of the vocal cords haven’t made it as far as the guitar chords over the intervening years).

I’ll admit that the bulk of the moviegoers who coughed up almost $44 million last weekend to see Lucy might have been attracted more to the action-premise that its trailer implies than the cerebral possibilities that the actual story explores (and I acknowledge that Besson hasn’t postulated anything about higher levels of human attainment that aren’t rooted in millennia-old-concepts about some version of a return to “The All”), but if action for its own sake is “all” that these ticket-buyers wanted then you might have to wonder why the epitome of a muscular-triumph-story, Hercules (Brett Ratner)—starring no less of an action hero than Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson—would come in at the far-back #2 position of about $30 million (unless there were more guys ogling Johansson than gals ogling Johnson [with limited viewing time available, even Rock-enthralled Nina had to make a decision on that one but she saw more potential in the unlocked-brain-story and its intrepid-female-protagonist than in another pure destruction-by-superior-might-story [the lack of press screenings for Hercules which nixed any local reviews didn’t help much either, with our preference to base some viewing decisions on the opinions of those we’ve come to intimately trust or loath through constant encounters rather than risk our time and money on what some stranger from the other side of the continent thinks] so off we went to Lucy, which I’m glad I saw again and relieved that my “entourage” also found it fascinating [we talked about it for quite some time at dinner after the screening], but even if so I can hope that something deeper might have penetrated such a primate-focused-intention for those viewers).  I remain quite impressed with Lucy, to the point of encouraging your attendance and serious contemplation of the loftier possibilities beyond the physical command of her surroundings that this CPH4-enhanced-human may open our minds to.  At the very least, it might encourage us to have some conversations with dolphins about ways to better protect our oceans and find new water supplies for the land-dwellers on our climate-changing planet, then we’ll see if they have any ideas about ways that we can stop killing each other over centuries-old-ideological-clashes.  But, we’d better do that soon before we find out that author Douglas Adams wasn’t just joking around in So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish (1984), that the highly-evolved-dolphins will leave Earth to go to an alternate dimension.  At the very least, maybe some of us can make good enough friends with some of them to go along on the journey.  As Lucy says in her sign-off-voiceover, “Life was given to a billion years ago, and now you know what to do with it.”  We can only hope that such knowledge is truly ours to embrace.

Before we go any further, I'll remind you of my Spoiler Alert warnings from the head of this posting because Happy Christmas has been playing only in a few markets but is just now broadening out a bit—including in my own San Francisco area—so while there’s not much plot intrigue to reveal here you may still want to consider seeing this film for yourself before reading much further.  Otherwise, glad to have you join me whenever you're ready to read.

However, unlike the expansive perspectives in Lucy, with Happy Christmas (Joe Swanberg) there’s not much hope during most of the film that our primary protagonist, Jenny (Anna Kendrick), will evolve even up to reasonably-mature-adult-human-standards or knowledge-for-self-improvement-level (thus putting Swanberg’s auteur work at the intentionally-humdrum end of Prof. Norman's eloquently-described-but-reality-based-face-slap on the consciousness-raising-narrative-spectrum when compared to the lofty intentions of Besson’s film; it’s as if Swanberg and his cast want to celebrate the “10% or less” level that Norman has identified as our optimal-species-achievement thus far, recognizing that Kelly represents the many human beings whose goal is simply to swim with the mackerel rather than the dolphins), as a breakup with her boyfriend leads to her moving back to Chicago to crash with her aspiring-filmmaker-brother, Jeff (Swanberg), his aspiring-novelist-wife, Kelly (Melanie Lynskey, both above), and their very young son, Jude (Jude Swanberg; well, there's one way to avoid paying your actors).  In this extremely-independently-minded-film, we can hardly tell if what we witness is from a script or purely from improvisation (although the elder Swanberg gets credit as scriptwriter so some of it must be his) because this fictional film feels so much like a well-observed-documentary of dysfunctional sibling behavior that it’s hard to believe there’s any acting going on here at all, a statement intended as a strong compliment to the ensemble—including Lena Dunham as Carson, Jenny’s long-time-friend, and Mark Webber as Kevin, good friend of Jeff and Kelly, frequent babysitter for Jude, and comfortable pot dealer, probably the last thing that Jenny needs to have easy access to given what a mess she’s capable of making of everything even when she’s consciously being as straight as she ever gets.  Essentially, the plot here is about how her natural irresponsibility sets up immediate problems with Kelly, how Jeff’s attempts to be more forgiving toward his untrustworthy sister run into conflicts with Kelly as well, how ultimately Jenny and Kelly connect over Jenny’s idea that Kelly needs to write a quickie (so to speak) “mommy-porn”-sex-novel to make some fast cash in order to better support her budding writing career (including hiring professional child care on a regular basis) rather than submerging her own artistic hopes (she's written a serious novel previously) in deference to Jeff’s not-yet-very-successful-films, and how that emerging trust between the sisters-in-law is dashed when Jenny does another dumb thing that finally pushes Jeff to the point of wanting to kick her out of the house.

Ultimately, the focus here is on the never-quite-stable-relationship between Jenny and Kelly, 2 women who do have respect for each other but find it hard at times to express it properly, especially Kelly who worries that this relative, slightly younger than her and her husband (Jenny’s in her late 20s), is a threat to the health of her baby, even though a chief goal in agreeing to let her live with them was to utilize her as a built-in babysitter, allowing Kelly more alone time at the temporary office that Jeff had rented as a production center for his latest film but which he no longer needs, even though there is still 10 days paid rent time on the space.  However, Jenny makes a mess of that hope on her first night back in the city, running off not long after she arrives to attend a party with Carson, only to get so drunk and stoned that no one can wake her up to go home.  Finally, the party-givers have to call Jeff who comes over in the middle of the night, finally drags her back to her home-base-basement-bedroom (which, in an unhelpfully ironic manner is a full tiki-bar, built into the underground by a returning WW II vet, so that it came with the house when Jeff and Kelly bought it).  Jenny's still out cold the next day when she was supposed to be caring for Jude, thus Kevin’s called in at the last minute, he does his usual useful job, Jenny finally wakes up to meet him, they begin a sense of mutual attraction which will blossom a bit later in this story, and Jenny sets out to redeem herself later, which does go well, allowing Kelly some time to herself even though when she returns she’s a bit concerned that Jude is sleeping upstairs while Jenny and Carson are availing themselves in the bar down below; they finally convince Kelly to join them, though, which leads to some confessional bonding over the career impasse between Kelly and Jeff, followed by another occasion at the rented office when Jenny and her pal start dishing out ideas for Kelly to pursue regarding the fast-cash-sex-novel, a situation displaying good rapport among the women.

Just when things seem to be getting stable on all fronts, though, including some better trustworthiness from Jude's parents toward their new tenant along with romance between Jenny and Kevin (it began when she went to his place to pick up her first stash from him, although she resisted at the time, probably not wanting to get into another relationship so soon after the busted one that sent her packing from wherever she left to get back to Chicago; soon enough, though, her hesitation has been overcome); however, that goes sour on Christmas Eve because she wants to go to his place for sex but he declines, saying he needs his sleep prior to spending the next day with his mother (I guess for Jenny all-nighters aren't just for exam-cramming but for other kinds of cramming as well).  She storms off, gets drunk and stoned again, puts a late-night pizza in the oven back at her home but then passes out before it’s warmed up.  This leads to overheating, smoke in the kitchen, an alarm waking up Jeff and Kelly, their panic on behalf of Jude until they realize that it’s just a hot oven problem that can be easily remedied but their ensuing anger at Jenny for jeopardizing all of their safety with such a stunt, followed by Jenny sneaking out to the office in shame for her miserable mistake.  The film then comes to a simple conclusion with Kelly going to retrieve Jenny (Jeff doesn’t want to have much to do with her at this point) to come home on Christmas morning so that they can try again to connect as a family.  There’s really nothing more to Happy Christmas than these events of problematic behavior, misunderstandings, intra-family-tensions, and sincere attempts to rise above the problems that flew into the house upon Jenny’s arrival, as if rain clouds hover over her head.  We end on a hopeful note but one not yet grounded in needed fact for this family-in-progress.

What would attract you to Happy Christmas will be your openness to watching very ordinary people encounter very ordinary problems with no grand insights, revelations, or notable conclusions to push our understanding of human nature into a higher level of just mundane consciousness of even our famed 10% of cerebral existence.  Jenny is a flake, but who isn’t when in their 20s?  (I could certainly have done without that 4-year-first-marriage during those years for me in the early 1970s, although my marvelous second wife of 24 years, the ever-present Nina in my weekly ruminations, says she could easily have been married at least 3 times herself before we met in 1987 had all of her young-adult-engagements gone to full term, so it’s just a period in probably all of our lives when we think we know what we’re doing but haven’t yet gotten a good enough handle on far-reaching-decisions to truly know which way to turn much of the time.)  Jeff and Kelly, now in their 30s, are determined to be more mature in their actions for the sake of their child (certainly they’re better than the played-for-absurd-laughs-similar-young-couple-with-a baby in Neighbors [Nicholas Stroller; review in our May 21, 2014 posting]), although their professional compromises are all on Kelly’s side so far with Jenny’s encouragement being the needed factor that finally prods her to ask for more for herself at this stage of her just-barely-older-than-the-turbulent-twenties-life.  By recognizing that Jenny sincerely wants to better clean up her act, contribute usefully to their inconvenient family relationship, and offer more-than-mere-in-law-friendship, Kelly’s able to keep the door open for Jenny to regain some stability in their group portrait, whether it’s with their friendly neighborhood pot dealer (far right in the above photo) or not.  Whatever happens to this struggling group isn’t Swanberg’s concern at this point; he merely wants to show us how these combustible elements come together, what sets them off, and what may be the remedy for a more stable future, even if we’ll never know much about what really evolves here, where even just a full embrace of the storied 10% cognitive capacity would be helpful for all concerned.

Kendrick really stands out as the actor to watch in Happy Christmas, delivering a full range of effective joy and turmoil; her castmates all carry their roles well but seem less in command of their characters and their deliveries, although if they weren’t being outshined so well by Kendrick then this story would fully feel like just one step removed from a true documentary (I have a sense that a lot of the final dialogue results from improv, which furthers the “surveillance camera” approach of what we’re seeing here, with the only real drama coming from Jenny’s occasional major screw-ups).  It’s a bit of a reverse from The Godfather Part III (Francis Ford Coppola, 1990) where director’s daughter Sofia seems too much to have wandered in from behind the camera, making herself too noticeable in an ensemble of top-notch-actors; in Happy Christmas, Kendrick is just too good for her companions most of the time, although without her intriguing presence I think that this low-key-film would have trouble maintaining much interest at all.  I respect what goes on here well enough (as have the Tomato tossers, with an 81% positive response; just a 69% score from the Metacritics [details on both in the links below] but based on just 17 reviews at my posting time so you might check back on that one later), but this very restrained slice of life will likely be playing in a minimum number of theaters so if what I’m saying about it catches your interest you might best be served by putting it on a future video queue; if you do find it being screened, though, stick around for the final credits where you get a full extra scene of Jenny, Kelly, and Carson discussing that proposed sex novel, a marvelously-witty bit of chatter among these women, improv-ed or not.  I’ll wrap up with a final Musical Metaphor, one that I hope doesn’t prove too prescient for Jenny and family but there’s already reason enough for at least her to look back on these younger days some time later in her life, wondering “Who Knows Where the Time Goes,” as sung angelically (as usual) by Judy Collins (from her 1968 album of the same name, although as you'll see her introduce it she adds a year, but as they say with the human body [except for Lucy's], "Memory is the second thing to go") in this 2002 live performance at, a song inspired to me both by wanting to balance the above Joni Mitchell tune with something from my other-most-favorite-female-singer from my olden-folkie-days and by seeing the incomparable Ms. Collins in concert just last weekend, being amazed by that golden voice still ringing the rafters at age 75 (unlike her former paramour, Steven Stills—she’s the inspiration for his famous “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”—who at least can still rock a mean lead guitar if not a melodious lyric).  I wish less melancholy for Jenny than what Judy’s offering here, but that’s up to her to build a life that doesn’t seem to vanish in the haze of lost years, needing “Help” from whomever’s willing to offer it (OK, one more song, but at least it’s relevant:  The Beatles, from their 1965 movie soundtrack album, at com/watch?v=ZNahS3OHPwA, from a live performance during that now-long-ago-time).

Believe it or not, that’s finally all for me for this posting, but I’ll be back soon with comments on the newest critics’ darling, Richard Linklater’s ambitious Boyhood, which follows his actors over a 12-year-span with a focus on 2 children growing in fits and spurts into young adults.
If you’d like to know more about Lucy here are some suggested links: (4:46 commentary by actor Scarlett Johansson on her character and the shooting process of the movie)

If you’d like to know more about Happy Christmas here are some suggested links:

clips from Happy Christmas: (1:42 bath time for baby), (1:05 babysitting), and (0:48 second chance at babysitting)

As noted above, we encourage you to look over our home page (ABOUT THE BLOG), found as the first one in our December 2011 postings, to get more information on what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, including our formatting forewarning about inconsistencies among web browser software which we do our best to correct but may still cause some visual problems beyond our extremely-limited-level of technological control.

Please note that to Post a Comment you need to either have a Google account (which you can easily get at if you need to sign up) or other sign-in identification from the pull-down menu below before you preview or post.

If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my new email at  Thanks.

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile.    Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.