Thursday, January 22, 2015

Still Alice, Inherent Vice, and The Duke of Burgundy

          One Oscar Race Is Practically Over, 
          “The Dude” Goes to the Beach by Way of Chinatown,
           and Sad Lesbian Love in a Box
                                                       Reviews by Ken Burke
This week’s cluster of reviews has no reasonable internal connections (except for all of the films being projected onto screens) so I’ll take them one at a time after my standard warning:

Take care, curious readers, for plot spoilers gallop rampantly throughout the Two Guys’ superbly 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.  Now, onward to illumination; you may want to protect your eyes from the dazzling brilliance.
Still Alice (Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland; 2014)
A highly-respected linguistics professor is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, destroying her sense of personhood and causing great trauma within her family.
What Happens: Distinguished linguist academic (Columbia University, NYC), Dr. Alice Howland (Julianne Moore), in her 50th year, suddenly experiences disturbing lapses of memory—loses an easy word in her field’s vocabulary in the midst of an important lecture, goes for a run from her home to the nearby campus but finds herself lost (shown successfully by keeping only her in focus as the rest of her fuzzy environment becomes as unclear to her as it is to us)—only to get the terrible news that she’s developed hereditary-early-onset-Alzheimer’s disease.  She’s distraught at the news (shaking her back into the kind of vulnerability she felt when at age 18 her mother and older sister were killed in an auto accident); her husband, John (Alec Baldwin), offers unquestioned support; her eldest daughter, lawyer Anna Howland-Jones (Kate Bosworth), is devastated (especially when it’s determined that she has the gene for it as well, as might her in-progress-twins); med student son, Tom (Hunter Parrish), seems aloof from this tragic discovery; while the youngest sibling, Lydia (Kristen Stewart), is concerned for Mom but wants to stay in L.A. to pursue her aspiring-but-minimal-acting-career, even as she continues to resists Mom’s insistence on college as providing for a back-up-occupation.  As Alice’s condition worsens she leaves herself a video message with overdose-suicide-instructions for a future escape from a total loss of herself, but when the time comes that goes awry, leaving her trapped in active deterioration.  John (also a Columbia professor; I never did catch which discipline) secures a new post at Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic, in hopes advanced treatments there might also aid Alice, but she wants to stay in Manhattan where she has what’s left of her connections and memories.  Eventually, the grief of the situation overwhelms John who takes the Midwest job, even as Lydia makes the choice to come home for added caretaking duties (along with a full-time pro), allowing mother and daughter to better connect as Alice is quickly slipping away from higher cognitive function, heartbreakingly uncoupling from the person she was.  By the end of the film, she’s barely “still” the Alice that anyone (including herself) has known, although her limited awareness is taking on another definition of “still” in that her mind is becoming sedentary, barely aware of or at least hardly responsive to the stimuli around her.

So What? Moore is frightfully-terrific in this role, fighting through the anger and trauma that’s overwhelming her as the comfortable life and career that she’s grown accustomed to goes into recession, leaving her no choice but to “Live in the moment” because long-ago-memories and immediate impressions are now all she has (with the former beginning to fade as a fairly short amount of time passes in this narrative), not allowing her to construct the ongoing understandings of how distant past, recent past, and present events interweave to construct the consciousness that all of us expect to experience, then frantically grasping for if it begins to unravel (as an academic myself, I had to face up to my own mildly declining ability to instantly pull up words, names, and facts while in the immediate flow of lecturing, but for me—so far, I hope—it was only a series of normal “senior moment” aging conditions, not any form of dementia, but I can relate somewhat to the horror of having the primary skills that have helped define your public/private identity suddenly abandon you, leading to the questioning of the worth of your continued existence).  Moore says that she did extensive research for this role, in order to honor the dignity—lost or partially-remaining—of the people she observed, a noble effort given how easy it can be to recoil in fear (of what might be awaiting you someday) from groups of the seriously-deteriorated, seen in the film when early-diagnosed-Alice visits a nursing home of elderly dementia patients—mostly women, possibly because many of the men in this condition have already died; you can see the quiet terror on her face when she realizes that this will likely be her end-of-life-phase, leading to the suicide-strategy she devised for her future less-competant self, which, sadly for her, doesn’t materialize.  (I’m also reminded of my own deceased parents when watching these scenes as my father harbored an Alzheimer’s-like-potential which began to slowly manifest itself as he approached his early 90s then became rapid in the few months before he died; my mother kept her wits—and her sharp tongue against the many things she didn’t approve of—but not her eyesight, so she also spent her final years in assisted-living-facilities where I frequently saw first-hand those lost-consciousness-elders that Alice—and I—so feared becoming one of.)

Bottom Line Final Comments: Despite the strong contenders that Moore faces in her quest to add this year’s Best Actress Oscar to her already won or pending awards (including her recent Golden Globe triumph in their Lead Actress-Motion Picture Drama category) she’s already at the victory podium in my mind (I admit I haven’t seen Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night [Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2014] nor Jennifer Aniston in Cake [Daniel Barnz, 2014] yet, and I would have like to have seen Charlotte Gainsbourg from the 2-volume Nymphomaniac [Lars von Trier, 2014; review in our March 30 and April 3, 2014 postings] in the competition over Reese Witherspoon [despite her strong, physically-challenging-performance] for Wild [Jean-Marc Vallee; review in our December 11, 2014 posting]), with a well-deserved-win, if it should come, for an outstanding display of the full range of joy-to-sorrow-human-emotions presented in a manner that tries (and succeeds) in exploring this tragic situation but neither sentimentalizing it nor presenting her character as wallowing in despair.  Based on Moore's past work I understand completely why the directors set out to cast her when they began adapting Lisa Genova’s 2007 novel, as she embodies the dignity needed to properly pull off this presentation of a person in internal dire straits who ultimately must provide her own sense of rescue (as best she can, for as long as she can), just as her potentially-suicidal character, Laura Brown, finally did in The Hours (Stephen Daldry, 2002; Moore was nominated for Oscar’s Best Supporting Actress), even though that self-rescue by moving to Canada ultimately contributed to the toll on her abandoned son (these 2 films would make a great double-feature for those with the stomach for so much emotional agony in 1 sitting).  However, the real surprise for me was in the fine performance of Stewart, not quite Oscar-worthy (especially with the competition she’d face this year) but still wonderfully raw, sincere, underplayed as an independent spirit willingly confronts her own obsessive needs, then sacrifices for a higher good (fortunately for me, I kept myself as far away from the Twilight series as possible, allowing me to better appreciate Stewart for several well-played roles, especially as Joan Jett in The Runaways [Floria Sigismondi, 2010], that aren’t so “vampy”).

 With full disclosure, I’ll note that Still Alice has resonant relevance for me in that a friend of mine (another academic, in fact) died last year, after suffering from Alzheimer’s for a decade, aware (at times, as best I understood) of his personal loss but probably not fully cognizant of the (continuing even now) emotional drain on his loving wife, family, and many caregivers over that unusually long period of suffering.  I can’t claim to know even a tenth of what it must be like to live with someone undergoing such an ordeal, watching the steady loss of a once-vibrant, engaging loved one (let along what it must feel like to be the victim of this disease, with a mind floating ever-more-aimlessly within an outwardly-appearing-normal-body), but at least I’ve gained valuable insights into some sense of this awful, unwarranted penance, which just helps me all the more to appreciate what Still Alice offers graciously to a society where so many of us will succumb to this dreadful disease (unless we make our own escape plans or a cure is found), giving us some understanding of what many of our relatives, friends, and neighbors are enduring as they watch helplessly while the ship that holds their memories of another beloved person sails sadly out of sight beyond the horizon.

 Alice delivers a powerful speech to a group at the Alzheimer’s Association far into the film (where she highlights with a yellow marker every word as she reads it so that she knows what’s already been covered, what still needs to be said) in which she explains how she’s struggling to hold on to whatever she can of herself, knowing that reclaiming what was lost is now beyond hope.  Given the rest of the film as context, this brave act by a woman who wants the world beyond her troubled brain to understand what it feels like to be her constitutes a scene award-worthy in its own right, but when you put it together with the rest of ex-Professor Howland’s story it just makes this compelling character (fictional, but certainly representing an enormous number of actual “Alices”) all the more inspiringly-memorable, while verifying that Julianne Moore has offered us a performance for the ages.  I’ll conclude these comments with my usual Musical Metaphor; in the case of Still Alice I think an appropriate choice would be “Brain Damage/Eclipse” from a Roger Waters-less Pink Floyd concert at (Earls Court, London, October 20, 1994, song pair from the 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon; if you want to get Roger in there, here’s the same music from the original recording with him on lead vocals at watch?v=DVQ3-Xe_suY, but if you’d like to indulge in that full 2 hr. 26 min. concert it’s available at PNCs&index=2 [each number separately, though, but they flow from one to the next]); however, please understand that I see the “lunatic” referred to here as the dementia demon that attacks its human host, not the innocent victim of the awful events brought on by this horrible disease.
                           Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson)
Follow, if you can, the convoluted story of detective “Doc” Sportello as he wanders through 1970 L.A. attempting to solve a crime before a dozen more suddenly appear.
What Happens: Attempting to summarize the plot of Inherent Vice is sort of like trying to untangle another L.A.-set detective yarn, The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks, 1946), famously obscure in clarity in its own right, so much so that even Raymond Chandler (author of the original 1939 mystery novel of the same name) claims he doesn’t know if a central character was murdered or committed suicide.  Therefore, forgive me if I don’t attempt to offer a lot of detail regarding Inherent Vice beyond my appreciation for the overall cast of crazy characters, welcome presence of some enjoyable actors, and a lot of scenery set near Southern California surf (the suburbanish setting here is fictional Gordita [“little fatty” in Spanish] Beach, played marvelously by Manhattan Beach, a favorite location of mine next door to even-more-desirable Hermosa Beach and its marvelously quaint Sea Sprite Motel).  I’ll start by saying that Inherent Vice reminded my marvelous wife, Nina, of a cross between Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974) and The Big Lebowski (Joel Coen, 1998, with the usual producing and writing help from brother Ethan), although this new offering disappointed her because she wanted more of the former reference (especially in terms of plot clarity) while I was satisfied with its goofy resemblance to the latter.  In general, this 1970 L.A. trip (in more ways than one) is about how druggie private eye Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix, doing his best 1970s John Lennon imitation in this photo above) gets a visit from his ex-girlfriend, Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston), asking for Doc’s help in protecting her current lover, Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts), a Jew with neo-Nazi aspirations, from being shut away in an asylum by his wife (and her lover!) in order to keep Mickey from acting on his conversion to altruism by wanting to give away his real-estate-fortune.  When Doc visits Mickey’s in-progress Channel View Estates he finds a brothel masquerading as a massage parlor, succumbs to a knockout clobbering from behind, awakens next to a dead body, then endures a grilling from vicious, hippy-hating police Detective Christian F. “Bigfoot” Bjornsen (an hilarious Josh Brolin; he could almost have had a shot at a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination) about the corpse and the disappearance of both Shasta and Mickey.

 From that start the insanity just increases exponentially, as the “plot” rambles along through Doc’s meeting with Mickey’s wife, Sloane (Serena Scott Thomas), unconcerned about her husband’s disappearance or the general lack of clothing covering her body; his meeting with Hope Harlingen (Jena Malone), actually concerned about her missing husband, Coy (Owen Wilson)—whom we find out later is essentially held captive by a cult in order for him to continue as a police informant; his meeting with Deputy D.A. Penny Kimball (Reese Witherspoon), who’s willing to help him as long as he provides the sex and drugs; his discovery of Mickey at an asylum where he’s watched over by FBI agents; his attempt to get information at a dentist’s office run by Dr. Rudy Blatnoyd (Martin Short) but this guy also turns up dead; his further attempt to get info from loan shark/police dept. hired killer (he even terminated Bigfoot's former partner years ago) Adrian Prussia (Peter McRobbie), leading to Doc’s capture, escape, and death of Prussia; culminating in a finale in which drug smugglers are caught, Coy is given his freedom, and Shasta and Doc are (possibly) reunited.  As a bonus, you also get infrequent appearances from Sauncho Smilax (Benicio del Toro), acting somewhat as a lawyer for Doc.  While there’s a lot more meandering detail here that I’m not even attempting to cover you can read more about it if you wish at this site.

So What? While the mere mention of Paul Thomas Anderson releasing a new film during Oscar-contention-season usually draws great interest (and I have great respect for his past work, especially There Will Be Blood [2007] and The Master [2012; 1 of only 2 films explored at this site to earn my coveted 4 ½ star rating—you’d have to be at The Big Sleep or Chinatown-level to ever hope for a 5 from me—review of The Master in our September 27, 2012 posting], although I think I need to rescreen Boogie Nights [1997] to recall why so many others are so effusive about it), I quickly admit I hardly expected anything except maybe a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nomination for Inherent Vice (an honor which it did achieve; soon we’ll see how it holds up against the oddly-placed-Whiplash in that category [see the final paragraph of my non-reminder-comments below for more on this matter]).  However, there was some enthusiasm for this film simply because Inherent Vice is the first film adaptation of a Thomas Pynchon novel (not that I’ve read it, given my usual lowbrow-avoidance of respected literature, although with its 2009 publication date it might contain some influences from other media products noted here that it certainly seems to parallel in places; however, by chance I have read Pynchon’s 1966 postmodern satire, The Crying of Lot 49, which, I admit, I cannot remember a damn thing about, although there’s a summary of it that intrigues me toward a reread); overall, though, critical response toward Inherent Vice has been reasonable, not wildly wonderful (Rotten Tomatoes 70% positive, Metacritic 81%; more details if you like in the links far below).  Nevertheless, I flowed well with the dark humor (absurdities in many cases, including that Chick Planet Massage shop, offering a full menu such as “Pussy Feast” for $14.95), the rambling plot which I didn’t even bother to try to keep up with, and the extreme characters (now I really want to read the book, if I can ever finish the monstrously-long Edgar Allen Poe anthology I’m trying to march myself through … but I may just have to put it aside in favor of the wonderful wackiness of a depth-immersion into Pynchon).

Bottom Line Final Comments: Sure, Inherent Vice doesn’t offer the masterful nuances of Chinatown and it’s even harder to follow than The Big Lebowsky (intended by the Coens, so they say—even if it’s just a good after-the-fact-excuse—to be a Chandleresque plot-clarity-nightmare just for the fun of it), but watching all of this silliness flow together (augmented by some nice tunes on the soundtrack) in an L.A. that seems more romantically-private-eye-mysterious rather than more-likely-racially-potboiling made it a great diversionary pleasure for me (of course, any movie that features some windblown driving along Southern California beaches has a lot going for it already, just as I enjoy watching the current version of TV’s Hawaii Five-O every week, despite the torturedly-convoluted-plots, just to bask in high-def-images of that gorgeous scenery).  So, as long as you don’t expect Inherent Vice to be notably coherent nor are you bothered by how it refuses to take itself very seriously (despite all of the danger of violence and actual homicide that follows Doc around like a pot-infused-haze), I think you might enjoy it as well as long as you can grab it soon because with only about $7 million gross at the domestic box-office after 6 weeks in release I don’t think it’s destined to be around much longer.  As for Musical Metaphors to complement Inherent Vice, I’ve picked a couple of tunes from its soundtrack by Neil Young, “Harvest” (from the 1972 album of the same name) at, a live performance (date and location unknown to me) that ends with a nice multi-image-video-collage, and “Journey Through the Past” at, a 1971 live performance at the BBC, along with his random comments (my hero!) about harmonica playing (this song is on Young’s 1973 Time Fades Away album, but you could get confused looking for it because it has the same name as his 1972 soundtrack album from a film—also of the same name—directed by Young, with concert footage of Buffalo Springfield; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; and recording sessions for the Harvest album, along with artsy interludes, but this song isn’t part of that soundtrack’s contents).  Listening to early Neil Young music just puts me into that dreamy, laid-back sense of late 1960s-early 1970s L.A. that underlies this crazy film so it seemed the right choice to evoke the mood—if not the actual content—of Inherent Vice.
                          The Duke of Burgundy (Peter Strickland)
A lesbian couple living in the French (?) countryside continually play out scenarios of dominance and submission but with more complexity than we first understand.

Repeated SPOILER ALERT here because this film is just now opening in my San Francisco are so it may be newly arriving in your neighborhood as well.  Read on with caution!
What Happens: Set (seemingly but not definitively) in the French countryside (but a British production where everyone speaks English, even though somewhat with accents that often sound French to my Anglo ears), we find a story that begins with a timid maid, Evelyn (Chiara D’Anna), arriving at the home of her employer, Cynthia (SIdse Babett Knudsen), for regular cleaning duties of this old, large country home.  Cynthia seems to be a rude, demanding woman who distains her employee, but we soon realize that this is a bondage and domination relationship between these two woman, with Evelyn in the willing role of someone who cleans carpet spots on her knees and meticulously polishes Cynthia’s boots in order to be chastised for her incompetence so that she can be punished accordingly.  We also see that these women have much more conventional, passionate bedroom encounters that don’t require any role-playing.  Yet, the biggest surprise is that Cynthia’s not really a dominatrix but is simply following daily scripts from Evelyn, who at times is frustrated that her lover’s not more assertive in her actions, just as Cynthia tires of the games, the tight clothing that goes with her role, and the inability of Evelyn to even have a masturbatory orgasm without additional verbal reminders of their B & D scenarios.  Eventually, Evelyn intensifies her submission needs by requiring Cynthia to tie her to a couch then sit on her face while reading a book or bind her hands before locking her in a large wooden chest in their bedroom for the night.  This situation is uncomfortable enough for the “dominant” one of the pair, but when she gets wind of Evelyn coming on to a mutual acquaintance she finally displays sincere anger toward her mate, coming up with scripts of her own that frighten Evelyn when she experiences the irony of being truly bossed around (required to bake her own birthday cake, then lie on the floor while Cynthia eats it), of not actually being in control of her fantasies.  Eventually, Cynthia finds herself incapable of keeping up the domination façade so they lay off the games, allowing the tensions between them to recede, but the story closes with them receding as well back into the “downtrodden maid” scenario that we began with, showing both of them caught in an unfulfilling union that neither has the strength to overcome or change.

So What? By the way, the film’s obscure title refers to a somewhat rare species of European butterfly, reflecting both women’s amateur fascination with lepidoptery (the study of moths and butterflies), shown in this film through beautiful shots of hundreds of these varied insect specimens pinned into wood-and-glass-cases and the lovers’ attendance at lectures (sometimes Cynthia delivers them, generally to almost-all-female-audiences; both are fascinated by minutia regarding this topic) about these attractive flying creatures (although Strickland’s equally capable of offering mundane-yet-evocative-images of underwear in a sink, as part of the maid game where Evelyn’s punished for not washing Cynthia’s intimate apparel properly).  This story and its presentation seems to be fascinating those who’ve previously reviewed it although it’s not having that effect on me; I’ll admit it gets much more intriguing after the opening scenes that seem to be little more than “perfume ad porn” of well-designed, well-shot “punishment” situations, but the progression to me is just into the realm of broken dreams, as neither of these women is truly getting what she wants but is simply accepting the status quo as needed to keep their union functional.  Visually, though, there are some fascinating dream scenes with imagery that could come straight from David Lynch, as we have shots that move slowly into Cynthia’s darkened crotch, a skeleton in the bedroom chest where Evelyn’s supposed to be, Evelyn actually in another chest in the woods, etc.  It’s all very evocative and disturbing but merely gives us a respite from the increasingly-strained-connections between these frustrated lovers whose mutual needs are not being resolved as their power games progress.

Bottom Line Final Comments: While I often find myself being close to the rounded-off-scores of the critics surveyed in the Rotten Tomatoes and/or Metacritic sites, when I differ from them (and the local lights-of-insight in my San Francisco area) it’s usually toward higher scores from me, as I find fascination with just about anything on screen so that a film has to sabotage itself in execution beyond its potential in order to pull me down into the 3-stars-or-below-range.  However, with The Duke of Burgundy I’m going in the opposite direction from those who find it “emotionally wise” (The Hollywood Reporter), “A considerable work of art” (The Guardian), or “an erotic masterpiece … incredibly romantic” (The Hollywood News); to me it’s just a beautifully-shot (I’ll agree with The Hollywood Reporter’s statement of “Visually ravishing”) but sad story of a love entanglement that’s undercut with obsession on the one hand and melancholy on the other.  While the rest of the critical establishment is in high spirits over this film (an astounding 100% positive from the Tomato Tossers—although based on just 21 reviews, a smallish number for them—89% from the lofty Metas—but with that average taken from an even smaller 9 examples at the time of this writing; you might check back later to see if any changes evolve) I just felt bad for each of the women involved in that neither of them was getting the willing cooperation of the other to fully immerse themselves in their sexual agreements, with Cynthia longing for something other than an involvement “kinky as a coiled rope” (The Hollywood Reporter again; I admit I’m jealous that they can pack into one sentence what takes me most of a paragraph to elucidate) and Evelyn getting her submission needs met but not by a partner who truly delights in the control that she envisions (even though Paste claims that The Duke … “weaves quite a spell”) but simply follows her directions through a daily rote performance.

 I have nothing against lesbians, same-sex sex, or erotic bondage, it’s just that here I find that eroticism has been generally been replaced (except for some truly intimate bedroom scenes where the women seem to be fully enthralled by just the close contact of each other’s bodies) with a labored form of intimacy in which neither woman is truly getting her needs met, as they both seem incapable of finding some more acceptable mutual arrangement so they simply revert to their established patterns.  As for a Musical Metaphor for The Duke of Burgundy I think immediately not of something that speaks to an exotic form of erotic love but instead a pronouncement of well-enjoyed-domination from a singer proud to be subjugating his lover, The Rolling Stones reveling in “Under My Thumb” (from the 1966 Aftermath album) at ekYI8kI, an October 22, 2006 concert at immense Zilker Park in Austin, TX (where I spent a lot of college-era-time, but without the Stones or even being stoned—because in those days in Texas getting caught with even a single joint could get you a 99-year-jail-sentence).  But on a darker note, reflecting my opinion of what happens when B & D scenarios up the ante into the dangerous realm of S & M (if you like it, that’s your choice, but for me that level of pain just seems to deny all sense of real eroticism, replacing it with a type of violence that speaks to hatred, including self-hatred), here’s that song again at from the (in)famous 1969 San Francisco-area Altamont concert where drug-fueled-fan Meredith Hunter (seen briefly in a green suit) pulled a pistol, leading to his brutal stabbing death from the Hell’s Angels “security forces” (you can get a lot more detail on this from the Gimme Shelter documentary [Albert and David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin; 1970]).  I fear that with the contained-resentment that both Cynthia and Evelyn find in their relationship arrangements their “power exchange” games will someday inadvertently explode into something more vicious, unanticipated but uncontrolled until the results are unredeemable, like Alice’s loss of identity to forces beyond her control in our first film under review in this collection of analytical comments.  Such a disaster isn’t inevitable with Cynthia and Evelyn, but the constant concern I feel for it goes a long way toward diminishing my potential enjoyment of something others find to be “surprisingly relatable” (The Hollywood News).
And the (Questionable) Envelope Please …
 I’m sure you’re aware that the Academy Award nominations for films released in 2014 have been announced (see link a bit below for details) but in addition to the usual responses over perceived snubs (most famously for the omission of Selma’s lead actor David Oyelowo and director Ava DuVernay [review in our January 15, 2015 posting], whom I think could easily replace Steve Carell and Bennett Miller, respectively, from Foxcatcher [review in our November 19, 2014 posting]; here’s a related article about that) there’s another controversy over the placement of the script for Whiplash (Damien Chazelle as scriptwriter as well as director, 2014; review in our October 16, 2014 posting) in the Adapted Category because Chazelle made a short version of this story which was honored at the 2013 Sundance Festival, even though the Writers Guild of America has nominated Whiplash for their Original Screenplay award, with the rationale that both versions are all part of a continuous narrative.  Honestly, I think it has a better chance of winning Oscar gold for Adapted Screenplay but that could penalize other contenders which more clearly fit this category, so we’ll just have to wait until February 22 to see what comes of this anomaly.  Given this problem, though, and the various interpersonal conflicts in our 3 reviewed features this week I’ve decided to offer a final Musical Metaphor for all of these troubles, the Everly Brothers’ 1961 hit, “Walk Right Back,” at (written by Sonny Curtis, included on the 1962 album The Golden Hits of the Everly Brothers, taken here from a 1983 London concert), given how so many of the above-involved want someone to “walk right back” (including Alice Howland‘s former self in Still Alice) to how something used to be while admitting the melancholy sense that such a result may not come to pass (even the repeat of the song’s single verse and chorus underscores the ongoing sense of constantly-manifested-loss felt by all that I’m dedicating this tune to).  However, in using those Neil Young songs with Inherent Vice I’m reminded of a more optimistic statement from him about good times still in action with “Harvest Moon” at https:// (a performance of the title song from his 1972 album, shot at some unknown time [to me], once again in Austin, TX, used here also because of its rhythmical similarity [and, probably, chord pattern, if I were a good enough musician to know such] to “Walk Right Back” and its embrace from my loving wife, Nina, whom I haven’t had any occasion to spot check in these postings for awhile so I just wanted to remind everyone how her support for this silly enterprise of mine serves as inspiration to keep me going on weeks when the writing and posting feels more obligatory than enjoyable—although this one hasn’t been any such chore).
We encourage you to check your tastes against ours with the summary of Two Guys reviews (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—including Internet formatting craziness—may be found at our Two Guys in the Dark homepage.  

Finally, 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!

AND … at least until the Oscars for 2014’s releases have been awarded on Sunday, February 22, 2015 I’m also going to include reminders in each review posting of very informative links where you can get updated tallies of which 2014 films made various individual critic’s Top 10 lists and which ones have been nominated for and/or received various awards.  You may find the diversity among the various critics and the various awards competitions hard to reconcile at times—not to mention the often-significant-gap between critics’ choices and competition-award-winners (which usually pales in comparison to the even-more-noticeable-gap between box-office-success, which you can monitor here, and what wins the awards)—but as that less-than-enthusiastic-patron-of-the-arts, Plato, noted in The Symposium (385-380 BC)—roughly translated, depending on how accurate you wish the actual quote to be—“Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder,” so your choices are as valid as any of these others, especially if you can offer some rationale for your decisions (unlike many of the awards voters who simply fill out ballots, sometimes for films they’ve never seen).

To save you a little scrolling through the “various awards” list above, here are the Golden Globe winners for films and TV from 2014 and the Oscar nominees for 2014 film releases.
If you’d like to know more about Still Alice here are some suggested links: (be sure and click the screen after the trailer plays—or before if you prefer—to get to more of this site) (33:45 interview with co-directors [and spouses] Wash Westmorland and Richard Glatzer [now suffering from ALS, communicating via computer as with Stephen Hawking] and actors Julianne Moore and Kristen Stewart)

If you’d like to know more about Inherent Vice here are some suggested links: (29:31 press conference from the 2014 New York Film Festival with director Paul Thomas Anderson and actors Joaquin Phoenix, Katherine Waterston, Benicio del Toro, Maya Rudolph, Joanna Newsom, Michael K. Williams, Hong Chou, Jena Malone, Owen Wilson, Sasha Pieterse, and Martin Short; be aware that the audio level is low)

If you’d like to know more about The Duke of Burgundy here are some suggested links: (17:49 press conference from the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival with director Peter Strickland and actress Chiara D’Anna [her Q & A audio isn’t very loud either)
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.


  1. I was reminded of Ronald Reagan's occasional repeated speech slip-ups as I watched Julianne Moore's "yellow highlighter" speech in Still Alice. Of course Reagan eventually acknowledged full blown Alzheimer's disease after he left office.

  2. Hi rj, In deleting some inappropriate ad from this post I notice I made no reply to your comment (I guess) back in Feb. so let me thank you now for this relevant comment. Ken