Thursday, December 1, 2016

Loving, Allied, and The Edge of Seventeen

                             Identities: Imposed, Constructed, and In Flux

                                                        Reviews by Ken Burke
 Now that we’re fully into awards-nomination-consideration-season there are more films playing I’d like to see than I can keep up with so bear with me as I try to get to all of the most potent of them as best I can, although—as with this posting—at times all I can do is see what’s playing very locally rather than making the much longer trek to where the more exotic examples take up residence.

Take care, curious readers, for plot spoilers gallop rampantly throughout the Two Guys’ insightful reviews.  Therefore, be warned, beware, and read on when you’re ready to be transported to … wherever we end up.  Please protect your eyes from the dazzling brilliance.
                                             Loving (Jeff Nichols)
In 1958 a White man and a Black woman in Virginia marry in nearby Washington, D.C. given that such an act is illegal in their home state, although they see no reason to abide by such a law; after they’re arrested their sentences are suspended provided they move out of state for at least 25 years which they find to be intolerable so the monumental appeal begins.
What Happens: Back in 1958 in Caroline County, Virginia, a White, quiet-but-determined-bricklayer, Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton), follows through on his affection for a Black woman, Mildred Jeter (Ruth Negga), he’s grown up around (his father had a Black employer; he and his mother live in what seems to be a rural Black community where he fittingly drives around in a black and white Ford)—who’s now gotten pregnant by him—by deciding to marry her even though such an action’s illegal in their state.  So, with minimal support from her family (her father, Theoliver Jeter [Christopher Mann], accepts it but her sister Garnet [Terri Abney] is bitterly opposed because of the social stigma sure to come down on the Jeters as well as the personal harassment that Mildred will face) and a noncommittal-attitude from Richard’s mother, Lola (Sharon Blackwood)—at least until later, as I note below in this review—the committed couple drives to nearby Washington, D.C. where such nuptials are allowed.  Back home, though, even though the newlyweds live quietly away from their larger community someone informs the sheriff about this illegal marriage (based on the Old South's cruel maintenance of so-called "anti-miscegenation" laws) so they’re both arrested in stormtrooper-like-action one night (with no regard for their wedding license because it doesn’t transfer legitimacy into VA, where even the children of such a union have no inheritance rights because they’re considered to be illegitimate); Richard’s soon out on bail but Mildred stays locked up where he can’t even visit her for a few more days because he’s not allowed to post bail for her (someone in her family must do so but even then they have to wait until the judge is available).

 Local Sheriff Brooks (Marton Csokas) tries to convince Richard that this marriage has no validity nor chance of stability in their community but his warning is to no avail as this decent workingman finds a local lawyer who manages to work out a deal with Judge Leon Bazile (David Jensen) that the couple's mutual 1-year-prison-sentences will be suspended if they both leave the state for at least 25 years. Sadly, they move to D.C. where Richard finds work and Mildred’s baby’s on the way but she wants to return home to VA for the delivery; they sneak back at night so that midwife Lola can help deliver the child.  Whoever that local snitch is must be vigilant, though, because the sheriff’s soon back for another arrest, with that same (now angry) lawyer taking concocted-blame for their return, which allows them to go free back to D.C.  As more kids are born in the coming years, they don’t really care for this urban area as a home but Mildred—inspired by seeing Civil Rights actions on TV news—writes to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy for help with their situation.  He refers it to the American Civil Liberties Union, leading to the Lovings (a properly ironic name, noted from the beginning of their long saga in the annals of the actual events that inspire this film) being visited by attorney Bernie Cohen (Nick Kroll) along with his associate, Phil Hirschkop (Jon Bass).  However, their plan for Richard and Mildred to blatantly return
to VA in order for them to be arrested once again to set in motion an appeal of their original conviction is flatly turned down by Richard who wants what he sees as common-sense-justice (“I love my wife.”) rather than a protracted, public legal battle. The attorneys finally convince the Lovings to slip back to VA, taking over an old farm house in King and Queen County while the appeal goes forward (denied locally, then on to the VA Supreme Court) while the case gets some useful notoriety in Life magazine, supported by some family-friendly-shots from photographer Grey Villet (Michael Shannon).  Eventually—1967—the rejected-case’s appeal reaches the Supreme Court where the decision is to not only nullify VA’s anti-miscegenation laws but all such still remaining in the states of the Old South and a few of their neighbors.  Mildred and her family are jubilant (they’ve all come to embrace Richard by now, accepting his sincere love for his wife and children, respectful that he was willing to sneak her back home for that long-ago-childbirth), Richard’s his usual stoic self, now busy with building the home he promised Mildred back in 1958 on some land he bought near where they both grew up.  Ending graphics just before the credits tell us that she lived in this house until her death in 2008 but sadly he was killed by a drunk driver in a 1975 car accident, just a few years after their victory.

So What? Once again this year we find that Hollywood’s gone to the well of “based on actual events” to offer us a repackaging of history for a tale “stranger than fiction” (that last phrase is from me; I’ve yet to see it used in a film’s opening graphic statement but it's become a frequent trope in a seemingly-endless-line of movie reviews), although Loving hasn’t yet generated (at least that I’m aware of) the kind of revisionist reaction that’s come out against such fare as we've seen in Free State of Jones (Gary Ross; review in our July 7, 2016 posting), Florence Foster Jenkins (Stephen Frears; review in our August 31, 2016 posting), Sully (Clint Eastwood; review in our September 15, 2016 posting), Snowden (Oliver Stone; review in our September 22, 2016 posting), or, most especially, The Birth of a Nation (Nate Parker; review in our October 27, 2016 posting)—I'll note that others don’t seem to be as bothered as I am by a similar twisting of the historical record for dramatic impact in the story of Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date shown in Southside with You (Richard Tanne; review in our September 1, 2016 posting) but, as with these others, I see its accuracy questions as equally undermining the major dramatic arc of this First Couple narrative.  Loving, however, seems to have stayed true to the kind of people that Richard and Mildred Loving were as well as how events (and actions from outside forces) altered their lives, along with any other interracial couple* who’s come after them once the legal decision for their appeal finally rid the U.S. of these racist laws (although it took some time for the 16 individual states impacted by this ruling to finally clear these restrictions off their books—South Carolina got around to it in 1998, Alabama 
brought the needed end in 2000) while 26 others had purged themselves of such segregation prior to 1967 (some of these laws went beyond Black-White marriage to also forbid Whites, in various cases, from marrying Asians, Native Americans, East Indians, Filipinos, and/or Native Hawaiians—while others just bluntly said “all non-whites”), with only 8 of our 50 states never passing such awful restrictions on human conduct to begin with.  

*This is a term I hesitate to use because, following biology, human beings are all of just 1 “race” or specific species, despite our surface-appearance-differences, which are more like the distinct breeds in domesticated dogs and cats than true "racial" distinctions, so that tiny Chihuahuas and mighty Great Danes all belong to the family Canis lupus familiaris just as common Domestic Shorthair and elegant Persian cats are all Felis catus under their various fur coats; however, the use of “race” to divide various human ethnicities from each other is such an ingrained-sociopolitical-term that it's clumsier to keep explaining its inaccuracy than to just use it, just like so often with the outdated-diminutive-implications of a word like “actress” for a female thespian even though “actor” should be gender-inclusive (and is beginning to be used that way more so in reviews I've seen, except where established awards categories are concerned).

 Certainly, time was on the side of the Lovings in terms of the historical era they lived in when actions such as the Supreme Court’s outlawing of “separate but equal” structures in the famous 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, along with the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and the follow-up 1965 Voting Rights Act, helped put this long-standing-injustice in place for removal even though it had long been unconstitutional, from at least those post-Civil War civial-rights-changes such as the now-often-legally-cited-clauses about “due process” and “equal protection” in the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, but de facto segregation was just so institutionalized in our society that it was difficult to eradicate, especially in the Old South attitudes of Texas that I grew up in where Hispanics were tolerated (as long as they focused more on their White than their Native or Latin American heritages [Asians were rarities for me except those few running Chinese restaurants]) more so than Blacks but it was always clear who ruled the roost.  While our current society is far from post-racial, there are certainly more areas of integration and tolerance today than when I was younger and the Lovings were being persecuted so it’s important that we periodically be reminded of the difficulties faced by anyone who challenged whatever the dominant paradigm of the times might have been, as today’s clamorings for “freedom” are often more about nostalgia for White (and male) supremacy than for inclusive acceptance for all citizens (and those trying to meet the requirements to become such).

Bottom Line 
Final Comments: From now into February we’re constantly going to see prizes given to some of the 2016-released-films from the various critics’ and professional media organizations, including Moonlight (Barry Jenkins; review in our November 10, 2016 posting) getting the NYC Gotham Independent Award for best feature (and some other areas), Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan; not yet available for Two Guys in the Dark review) chosen as Best Film (and some other areas) by the National Board of Review*, with Loving already being noted as a contender for Oscar’s Best Picture award by Entertainment Weekly and many others.  At this point—with a lot of releases still set to grace the screens in my area—I’d have to agree with that attitude toward the simple-yet-powerful-impact of Loving (although other contenders at this point for my choices for Oscar’s 10 nominees for Best Picture would include Knight of Cups [Terrence Malick; review in our March 24, 2016 posting], The Lobster [Yorgos Lanthimos; review in our June 9, 2016 posting], The Innocents [Anne Fontaine; review in our July 13, 2016 posting], Indignation [James Schamus; review in our August 11, 2016 posting], Hell or High Water [David Mackenzie; review in our August 26, 2016 posting—possibly my favorite so far], and Moonlight [my other current year's-top-contender]).  The usual suspects (to borrow an allusion from the conclusion of Allied, reviewed below) at Rotten Tomatoes have offered 90% positive reviews for Loving while the folks surveyed at Metacritic give it a 79% cumulative score (which is generally high for them, although of films we’ve mutually reviewed this year they top that with Hell or High Water [88%] and Moonlight [an astounding 99%]), which adds greatly to its prestige if not its box-office-success (just a bit over $4 million in domestic receipts after a month in release but now starting to open wider as its momentum and word-of-mouth-respect builds up).

*You can track various awards nominations at this Metacritic site; in the past they’ve also tracked various critics’ Top 10 lists, but I haven’t been able to find anything like that so far for 2016 releases.

 While watching this film I found myself consistently impressed with Loving’s low-key-approach that constantly emphasized Richard’s sincere love for Mildred but his reluctance to literally make a federal case out of their situation, hoping that their ACLU lawyers could speak directly to his local judge to overturn the state’s legal objection to their marriage, while she was able—from her quiet-but-escalating-determination-stance as an invested-observer of what was currently happening in the nationwide Civil Rights movement while their own personal situation continued to fester—to make the initial move that ultimately would provide stability for their marriage in the location where they wanted to live and raise their children while also destroying the barriers that had kept couples like them from being able to publicly, legally, permanently declare their mutual love despite the barbaric thinking that still tries today to isolate people based on nothing more than physical characteristics and historical ancestry.There’s nothing bombastic nor inflammatory about the presentation of this significant historical situation (although Richard gets his share of dismissive looks from both White and Black characters—along with some co-worker-harassment—as the story progresses, with even his mother telling him it was a mistake to marry Mildred, although it comes 
across as an after-the-fact-concern about the ruckus they’ve caused rather than any rejection of her daughter-in-law simply because of who she is); it's just a straightforward account of 2 people who are deeply committed to each other wanting to live together, where they’ve grown up, around other family members rather than be forced into an unfamiliar location as the result of oppressive laws, with Bernie and Phil more energetic about pursuing the appeal while the Lovings are simply trying to lay low, doing their best to avoid trouble.

*Leon Bazile, the Lovings’ trial judge, offered this justification for denying their right to marry: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents.  And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages.  The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”  Fortunately, that kind of warped logic (and poor anthropology) helped undermine Virginia’s position in this matter when the Supreme Court Justices made their unanimous decision in overturning such oppressive laws in their Loving v. Virginia ruling.

 Loving moves along at what might seem like a languid motion, but this is how the legal system often works with years consumed by the snail’s pace of appeals while the involved plaintiffs or defendants just have to go on with their lives as if everything’s still normal despite there being little of that as those involved languish in jail or try to avoid becoming a news item to prevent further attention to their fragile lives or additional prison time if they’re still being accused of breaking local laws.  The Lovings’ long-sought-victory comes quietly as well, as Mildred gets a phone call with the good news but she can hardly express her elated feelings at that point any more than Richard’s been able to throughout this narrative, as he’s a man of direct action rather than explanations or discussions.  This restrained, subtle approach works wonders for Loving, as it underscores how all these unassuming country folks wanted was to live largely in seclusion, taking comfort in each other and their children rather than disrupting local mores.  That they had to participate in a Constitutional challenge in order to achieve these personal needs is just a fact of the larger society that was long set up to deny them certain essential human rights (as the Court determined), conveyed successfully in this film where the understated presence of the principals (and the principles of justice they embodied) is what remains with us after the screening concludes, how these people grew up together, found a human connection that many in their larger society wanted to prevent, continued to pursue what they felt were basic needs (including Mildred wanting to come home to have her baby, despite the “no return” aspect of their sentence-suspension), ultimately achieved what they needed for themselves even as they struck down the remaining barriers for others like them across the South and Midwest.

 Loving is an understated cinematic delight (with Edgerton and Negga solid enough in their roles to deserve awards consideration) that helps us remember what a short trip it’s been for the U.S.A. to finally start purging itself of lifetimes of formalized-injustices, with hopes that we don’t sabotage that progress in the name of Trump-led-returns to a cruel understanding of American “greatness.”

 In celebration of the Lovings’ determination to find ways to live their lives as they intended (just as most everyone else in their codified-
“racial”-community was free to do) I’ve chosen as my Musical Metaphor, to reflect on my experience of this film through a different artistic medium, the sung-vow of “Ain't No Mountain High Enough” (on the 1967 United album) from Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell at com/watch?v=IC5PL0X Imjw, in possibly the oddest setting for a music video I’ve ever seen (it looks like an empty amusement park, with a pay-phone right behind them—I wonder if younger viewers even know what this device is), although, unlike the Metaphors I’m offering in reviews below this one has to be understood for its symbolic notations where the singers are pledging their love even though they’ve separated for some reason, with assurances that if there’s a need to reconnect there’s no barrier that can prevent it even though with Richard and Mildred they’ve never been separated physically (except in their individual jail cells at the start of the ordeal, followed by a court order for him to stay away from her which he violates by sneaking back to their home at night) but it’s clear that if either one is “ever in trouble” the other will “be there on the double,” to provide whatever comfort/aid is needed “Some way, some how,” which is what sustained them for 9 years from initial arrest to final vindication.  Given the significant change in personal-fulfillment-opportunities (finally extended to same-sex-marriage in June 2015 by the U.S. Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges decision) that their case brought about, the drama this time is in the history itself rather than what was felt by some other filmmakers to be needed-additions to better enhance the various 2016 history-based-films that I cited at the start of the So What? section above (most of which I didn't need to see nearly as much as I did this one)Loving’s straightforward-yet-impactful and should be on your 2016 must-see-list.
Short Takes
 As part of my ongoing-effort to keep these multiple-item-postings to more manageable length (for your reading pleasure as well as a few extra hours of sleep for me) I’m forcing myself to actually be brief in these Short Takes comments by starting with the plot resolutions, filling in only necessary explanatory details, so I now repeat my Spoiler Alert warning after which you’re on your own.
                                                       Allied (Robert Zemeckis)
During the early days of WW II a French-Canadian man and a French woman work as spies in Morocco, posing as a married couple, to pull off the assassination of Germany’s ambassador; after that mission’s accomplished they find that true love has enveloped them so they’re now in London, married with a baby, when suspicion arises that she’s a Nazi spy.
 OK, the secret’s now out in this one that Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) really is a German spy who took on the identity of a secretly-deceased-Frenchwoman-Resistance-fighter due to a physical resemblance which allowed her to maintain her ruse, even as she and Canadian aviator/ intelligence officer Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) turned a reception for Casablanca’s German Ambassador into a bloodbath with machine guns they’d hidden under a table (turns out that Hitler had problems with this guy so the German high command was all too eager to get rid of him anyway).  However, pseudo-Marianne really is deeply in love with Max, whom she’s been married to for a bit over a year, after she was allowed to join him in London following the successful accomplishment of their grim-disruptive-mission in French Morocco.  Once the Brits suspect her being a double-agent, Max flies solo into German-occupied France one night on a clandestine-munitions-delivery in order to show her photo to a man who could verify her identity.  After an unplanned escape from a German patrol (who happened to show up at the local jail, where Max’s drunk contact was being held)—leaving even more of the invaders dead in the darkened streetMax flies home, confronts his wife with new evidence leading to the admission of her true identity but she swears she'll truly throw in her lot with him and their baby, Anna, so after Max quickly kills her 2 local-undercover-contacts he attempts to steal a military plane to fly them to a secret new life.  However, the plane won’t start; base soldiers are on their way as Marianne shoots herself to prevent Max from being executing for aiding the enemy, so he gets credit for the kill along with the responsibility of raising Anna which seems to be successful in the fade-out-shot with voiceover reading of a final letter from Mom to her daughter.

 Talent abounds in Allied, both behind and in front of the camera (the acting by both leads is quite-pleasingly-effective but with Cotillard especially; Lizzy Caplan as Max’s lesbian sister’s also solid in a minor role), with the tension-building-situation at the end played well because we truly don’t know what to expect until Marianne admits that she can’t play the required “La Marseillaise“ on the piano as her counterpart could (and did once to irritate a gathering of occupying Germans, providing echoes of a notably-similar-scene in Casablanca [Michael Curtiz, 1943], along with the seeming-parallel of an ending-airplane-escape, until this new plot takes a different turn; for that matter, there are also echoes of Mr. and Mrs. Smith [Doug Liman, 2005] with the lover-assassins, although this time they have to build up to marriage but are already in league with whom they’re going to kill—plus a further extra-textual-twist of Pitt once again seeing his actual marriage fall apart after making a movie with a co-star not his wife, although it’s not clear this time there was an actual affair between him and Cotillard as there was with Angelina Jolie in that earlier-cinematic-situation)—although their escape seems doomed because it would tarnish his hero image if he runs off with a dangerous enemy agent—while some of that opening-desert-cinematography as Max parachutes in to meet his contact is stunning, just as the blitz-bombing-scenes of London are impactful. However, the whole effect here, for me at least (and the Tomato 
Tossers/Metacritiquers aren’t so jazzed about it either with respective positive scores of 62%, 60%; more details in the Related Links below), is just run-of-the-mill-action (but with crisp production values), a major plot shift that’s not really all that engaging, and a love story that sure catches fire quickly back in the desert (although their sex scene in a car being covered by a sandstorm as the camera swirls around inside of their vehicle yields something that borders on either erotic or absurd but fun to watch nevertheless).*  As for my chosen Musical Metaphor, I’ll go with The Beatles’ “Do You Want to Know a Secret” (from the 1963 UK EMI Please Please Me album or the 1964 USA Vee-Jay Records’ Introducing … The Beatles album) at watch?v=yDK-n9cCfk8 (which sadly enough is done by a tribute band because I can’t find any version of it done by the actual Fab Four, as a lot of their material I've formerly seen on YouTube has disappeared now that their music’s available on iTunes [smells like corporate-collusion to me]), a song referencing both Marianne’s devious-double-cross as well as her unplanned-but-sincere passion for her compromised-husband who faces death for treason if he doesn’t kill this concealed-enemy-operative himself (both reminding us that all’s fair in love and war and that the storied Allied procedures of WW II weren’t always as noble as they’re so often shown in movies—look up the ghastly-destructions of Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki if you need to), so “listen” indeed, because with these characters their lives depend on what they hear and how they then respond.

*For a defense of what he’s attempting with Allied, you might want to read this interview with director Zemeckis (who should be familiar to you from such work as Back to the Future trilogy [1985, 1989, 1990], Who Framed Roger Rabbit [1988] Forrest Gump [1994], Cast Away [2000], The Polar Express [2004], The Walk [2015; review in our October 22, 2015 posting for this last one]).
The Edge of Seventeen (Kelly Fremon Craig)
A high-school junior feels her life is a miserable mess as she has only one friend, her Dad died several years ago, she constantly feuds with her mother who lavishes all her attention on the girl’s slightly-older-brother, then to top it off the friend gets a crush on the brother; all this comes after an opening scene where she threatens suicide, yet it all plays out as a comedy.
 The ultimate plot reveal here is that not only does our protagonist not commit suicide (that would make for a much darker comedy than what’s presented in … Seventeen) but she also ends up with all of her problems suddenly on the back burner after just 1 bad night where everything previously shown seems to fall apart for her: Nadine Franklin (Hailee Steinfeld) finally begins to understand how pressured her mother, Mona (Kyra Sedgwick), has felt about trying to raise 2 kids without the help of husband Tom (Eric Keenleyside) just as Mom accepts that her daughter’s old enough to be making some independent decisions about what direction her life will follow; brother Darian (Blake Jenner) finally vents his frustration to Nadine about having to take on the unwanted responsibility of keeping fragile Mom on track, a constant burden to him even as Mona keeps seeing him as her “perfect” child compared to his depressive, scattershot sister (a problem that goes back years given that Dad was always the one to cheer up Nadine so she’s horribly lost without him); Nadine sees that her brother and her only friend (since 2nd-grade), Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), are truly in love so she accepts their connection despite her previous problem with Krista showing interest in a guy that Nadine despises because of his looks, popularity, and seeming-bond with her only (usually estranged) parent; Nadine also finally accepts the attention she’s been getting from eager-but-shy-classmate Erwin Kim (Hayden Szeto)—a rich but lonely Korean-American-kid living in a mansion by himself with his parents away for 3 months—attending the screening of his animation film (vaguely about her previous rejection of him), then joining in with his circle of friends; finally, Nadine’s only adult confidant, American history teacher Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson), is shown to not just be a bored, cynical man (for 1 class lesson he simply walks out, leaving his students to watch Young Mr. Lincoln [John Ford, 1939]) but one who has a happy home life with his loving wife and baby son.

 Much praise has come to this movie (RT gives it a whopping 94% positive reviews, MC’s a bit more in my frame of mind with a 77% score; if you like, you'll find more details in the Related Links below), especially for its sharp script, which I will admit might just win some consideration for Best Original Screenplay nominations (depending on what else emerges in the next month, but, then, comedies often don’t make much impact in that area—despite Woody Allen having 16 Oscar nominations and 3 wins in this category), although these well-constructed individual lines are put in service of a story that, to me, is far short of the impact of Juno (Jason Reitman, 2007; an Original Screenplay Oscar winner itself) to which … Seventeen’s been frequently-compared in terms of audacious situations (although it certainly earns its R rating with real-life-teen-language, Krista’s easy sexual sleepovers with Darian [even when Momma Mona’s home], Nadine’s ill-conceived-text to hunky-but-previously-disinterested Nick [Alexander Calvert] where her overly-explicit-hook-up-offers lead him to quickly drive her to a secluded spot later that night [maybe her sudden rejections of his right-off-the-bat-advances are intended to teach boys the “no means no” lesson but they also give girls confusing-encouragement to make such offers, assuming they can cool down their hot guy with conversation when all he wants is penetration], along with a casual scene in a yogurt shop showing Nadine just sitting on the restroom toilet as if urination makes for great cinema [although it is refreshing to see movie characters actually eat a casual snack or need to relieve themselves once in awhile, something you won’t find in Loving or Allied]).  The seemingly-built-in-natural-audience among the strong demographic of adolescent moviegoers hasn’t yet 
responded all that well either with only about $10.2 million in domestic (U.S-Canada) revenue after 2 weeks in release (against a cautiously-small-$9-million-budget, some of which I hope was heavily augmented by Coca-Cola given the frequent, obvious product placements).  As much as I greatly enjoyed several scenes in … Seventeen, especially the verbal jousting between Nadine and Mr. Bruner (I admit, it heartens me somewhat to see depictions of today’s teenagers being just as hair-trigger-emotional and clueless as back in my day of the mid-1960s despite their much-freer, hopefully better-informed social climate, but I’m not quite ready to just easily accept that she could mouth off to him the way she does with no response except sarcasm as cutting as what she's dishing out; if I’d said anything close to that to any of my teachers back then I’d probably still be in after-school-detention writing tedious punishment essays), it ultimately comes across as a “live, love, laugh and be happy” (but raunchy) teenage-pep-talk which doesn’t hold up for me as an entire movie as much as I’d hoped it would based on the intriguing trailer (although its concept and presentation didn’t seem to bother most of my noted-criticism-brethren, as shown above by their much-more-enthusiastic-responses).

 However, in that peppy vein I’ll go with the obvious (from my high-school-years at least) for my Musical Metaphor with The Beatles “I Saw Her Standing There” (on the same albums cited in the just-above-Metaphor, along with the 1964 Capitol Records’ Meet the Beatles!)—as felt from Erwin’s giddy-wrap-up-with-Nadine-perspective—at 
(where it’s actually the Liverpool Lads this time, in their 1st performance on The Ed Sullivan Show [February 9, 1964], although the video quality is pathetic but the audio’s better than any other live Beatles’ video I’ve found of this song) where, because “she was just 17 You know what I mean” (getting us into R-rated-innuendo again) we can celebrate innocent love that verifies “I’ll never dance with another” even as we know that eventually it won’t just be a “heart” that goes “boom,” as Darian and Krista have already demonstrated and Mona would have had the guy she ran off to Portland to see not actually been married already—surely Nadine and Erwin will be following soon.
            Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash, 1991)
 In my last posting I included a brief notice about a restored-reissue of Tampopo (Juzo Itami, 1985), a marvelous Japanese comedy (to which I’d easily give 5 stars if I were actually reviewing that film) interweaving various stories about food, now playing in select cities.  By chance, there's another somewhat-contemporary-classic also getting a restoration-revival, Daughters of the Dust, which is a marvelous, mesmerizing film that I used to show in my cinema history class (as a great example of Lyrical Realism, which I paired on my screening night prior to the upcoming lecture with an example of Photographic Realism, The Grapes of Wrath [John Ford, 1940] because both dealt with fractured-families facing up to the rigors of a long journey into the unknown, the latter moving on from dust-bowl-Oklahoma to the dubious-paradise of California, the former from an off-shore-island of the deep South to become fully part of our American nation in the North).  Dash draws on her roots of her father’s Gullah/Geechee (a creole name for these people who were either escaped-would-be-slaves prior to the Civil War or freed slaves in its aftermath) heritage to tell of the fictional Peazant family preparing for their breakaway from the ancestral home of Ibo Landing on Dawtuh Island 
(a mostly-tranquil-place still alive with the tales, religions, dialects, and customs of West Africa) to finally integrate into a world completely foreign to most of them.  In the process of their story we meet 5 generations of this family: the oldest being matriarch Nana Peazant (Cora Lee Day), the youngest is the Unborn Child (Kay-Lynn Warren) narrator whose voiceover explanations of the discord within the family over leaving or staying might be heard as after-the-fact-memories but whose unexplained presence in a couple of scenes clearly puts this film into the realm of what's called Magical Realism in Latin American-fiction-contexts.  I encourage a viewing* of Daughters ..., either on screen (if it's available in your area) or by video, another one I’d give my rare 5 stars to if this were an actual review (RT said 93% positive when it first came out while MC offered 81%).

*You can go here to find the confirmed locations (this link should lead you right to the Daughters ... page where you can click on Now In Theaters to get the locations and listings links, but if that doesn't work then click Films, then the image link for Daughters ... [I don't know why the main link is so inconsistent on different browsers]), now playing or opening until mid-February, 2017 (as with Tampopo, if you happen to be in my San Francisco Bay area it’s coming on December 2, 2016 to Landmark’s Opera Plaza Cinema in SF and the Shattuck Cinema in Berkeley).  Be forewarned, though, that even though this film’s in English the Gullah dialect is hard at times for a non-native-speaker to understand; if that really bothers you then maybe a video version with English subtitles would be best, but even though it took me a couple of viewings to fully understand what was being said in all of the scenes I still came away with a sense of awed-encounter even after the 1st time.
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
We encourage you to visit the summary of Two Guys reviews for our past posts.*  Overall notations for this blog—including Internet formatting craziness beyond our control—may be found at our Two Guys in the Dark homepage If you’d like to Like us on Facebook please visit our Facebook page. We appreciate your support whenever and however you can offer it!

*We’re sorry to say that a Google software glitch causes every Two Guys in the Dark posting prior to August 26, 2016 to have an inaccurate (dead) link to the Summary page, but there are too many of them to go back and fix them all.  From 8/26/16 on this link is accurate, with hopefully not too much confusion caused by this latest stupid snafu from the Alphabet overlords’ programming problems.

Here’s more information about Loving: (8:50 BBC mini-doc about the actual Richard and Mildred Loving case resulting in the overthrow of anti-miscegenation laws) and (8:02 a similar account of the Loving couple from PBS with some input from director Nichols and clips from the film)

Here’s more information about Allied: (13 :05 interview with director Robert Zemeckis and actors Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard [audio quality poor in many places, very distracting echo])

Here’s more information about The Edge of Seventeen: (this is a Red Band trailer so be aware that the language involved reflects the justifiable R rating; if you’d like a version less raunchy you can go to, a 14:24 compilation of clips and trailers from this movie, but the more sanitized stuff goes only until 7:08 of its running time at which point you’re back to the above trailer and other scenes that generously use f*** so decide for yourself how much you want to watch) (cast members talk about embarrassing high-school-moments)

Please note that to Post a Comment below about our reviews you need to have either 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. The Edge of Seventeen is definitely a woman's movie. I see it is written and directed by a woman (no surprise). I feel this movie was "right on" about being a high school girl with all the emotions, insecurities and desperate need for love. I agree with you that it ended all too nicely but believe me, she is going to be hit the next day with another event that will cause her to spiral out of control again. I felt it was an honest depiction of what it is like to be a teenage girl, no matter what era we are born into. I sobbed with a feeling of camaraderie with this poor, insecure soul who only wanted to feel loved.

  2. Hi Nina, Thanks for your comments which certainly bring a different perspective than I'm able to provide to The Edge of Seventeen, which obviously offered a more personal connection to you than I was able to muster, but, to be honest, if I'd been in the position of Nick back in 1966 I would have reacted the same way he did (my memory is that at such an age guys have about 5 brain cells and 10 gallons of hormones raging through their systems) so I can understand full well why you found better insights into this movie than I did. Ken

    Hi Everyone Else, Full disclosure here, Nina Kindblad is my wife of 26 years (for which I'm most grateful) but for some reason we didn't talk a lot about this movie after we saw it although it's clear we have different opinions about it (and probably different experiences of those high school years in our lives--although I certainly wasn't like either Darian or Nick at that time, likely more like Erwin) which I'm glad we're sharing with the world at large. Also, to the best of my foggy memory this is the only the second time that Nina's posted a comment since our initial Two Guys offering on Dec. 12, 2011 so I commend her for being public with comments that are usually shared privately. OK, Now I'm off to sleep in the garage. Ken