Thursday, May 18, 2017

Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer, plus (somewhat) Short Takes responses to Snatched

                                                The Kindness of Strangers

                                                           Reviews by Ken Burke
                Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall
                    of a New York Fixer  (Joseph Cedar)
A mysterious (financially-strapped?), friendly man is eager to meet and connect other people in his hopes of leading them (and him) to mutually-beneficial (and profitable?) results, with Norman's most recent acquaintance being an official of the Israeli government; eventually our protagonist will find himself with more potential influence than he’d ever had before but not without mounting problems.

“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): Norman Oppenheimer’s one of the nicest guys that you’d ever want to meet, although his background, his motivations, his operations are all ambiguous for us at best as he attempts to bring together various people with likely mutual interests, even though he may have no previous connection with them at all.  Early on in this film he happens upon a Deputy Minister of the Israeli government, befriends the man, then a few years later starts enjoying some of his long-sought-success when the guy rises to the position of Prime Minister, but this leads Norman to try to swing even bigger deals than before (including finding millions of dollars in donations to keep his synagogue from being torn down by the property owner) which produces a collection of complications even master-manipulator-Norman has a difficult time finding solutions for.  Norman …’s a very intriguing film, well acted by the whole cast (but especially by the subdued-yet-compelling-performance of Richard Gere in the lead role), presented in many oddly-unexpected cinematic tactics that make the film an added pleasure to watch, offering a fascinating account of a compelling character within a narrative structure that doesn’t offer smooth answers to every question it raises (often about what’s going on sometimes in the plot) but leaves you willing to explore it further through post-screening contemplations and conversations.  It’s playing in a tiny number of theaters so you might have to track it down later via video; either way, it’s worth your effort as my highly-recommended investment of your cinematically-determined-time.

So, curious readers, if you can abide plot spoilers in order to learn much more about the particular cinematic offering under examination this week please feel free to read on for more of the traditional Two Guys in-depth-explorations in our brilliant (!)-but-lengthy review format.

What Happens: When we meet Norman Oppenheimer (Richard Gere) we know he lives in NYC (exactly where, we never learn); he seems to be a man of modest means (about the only meal we ever see him consume is a snack of crackers and pickled herring in a back room of his synagogue, an apparently-acceptable-practice to Rabbi Blumenthal [Steve Buscemi]); he’s always wearing the same outfit of a dark suit, a light tan overcoat, and a cap, no matter his temporal or spatial location (mostly “Wintertime in New York town The wind blowin’ snow around,” to quote an old Bob Dylan song [“Talkin’ New York,” a 1962 tune if you care to look it up; for once I won’t cite a link because I’ve got enough Dylan waiting for you at the end of this review]); he’s constantly trying to swing various interpersonal connections (between people he either doesn’t know or just met) in order to bring about better fortune for them, along with some material gratitude for himself (yet, he’s no hustler nor con artist simply trying to take advantage of strangers; he truly believes the network of connections he seeks to create among various individuals will benefit them, thereby justifying the constant exaggerations/lies he tells everyone, in order to pursue the greater good for all concerned).

 Despite some other projects Norman maneuvers throughout the film, his most pressing schemes involve Micha Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi), initially Israel’s Deputy Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor later Prime Minister of the country, a guy who embraces Norman as his “special ambassador” to the NYC Jewish community as the result of Norman starting a spontaneous conversation with him on a busy Manhattan street while window-shopping an attractive pair of shoes (a cinematically-interesting shot from inside the store so we can’t hear their conversation [lip-readers who care to transcribe and circulate this part of the script are most welcome to do so]); their dialogue continues as they enter the store where Micha considers a suit he ultimately rejects as being too expensive on the government’s tab, leading to Norman buying him the shoes anyway just as a goodwill-gesture.

 However, we see that Norman’s real intention is to get Eshel to attend an exclusive dinner at the swanky home of high-roller-investor Arthur Taub (Josh Charles), but that doesn’t happen because Micha‘s associates warn him from involvements with sudden-appearance (con?)-artists such as we see in Norman.  Later that night, though, after a most hearty dinner at his hotel washed down with a lot of booze, Micha's feeling guilty so he calls Norman, with a sincere-but-drunken attempt at an apology, saying how much he appreciates the shoes (a $1,200 cost, likely a major expense for his sudden benefactor), leaving the door open for future connections.  That opportunity arrives 3 years later when Norman, along with nephew Philip Cohen (Michael Sheen), attends a huge reception celebrating Eshel‘s elevated position; Norman gets in the receiving line, nervous he won’t even be remembered, then affirmed in friendship by Micha who immediately introduces him to a vast array of potentially-profitable-contacts (shown in a lengthy montage of accepting faces with their images, colored lights, and upbeat verbal greetings overlapping, seemingly to infinity).  Norman’s contacts don’t turn out to be as useful as he’d hoped, though, when Rabbi Blumenthal informs him of an imminent crisis for the synagogue, needing $14 million to prevent the property from being sold, assuming Norman has the wherewithal to be the congregation’s savior.  Norman shares that assumption but can’t find a means of delivering the goods, with no help from PM Eshel who’s not only shielded by his protective-associates from Norman’s incessant phone calls but also has bigger problems from a growing corruption scandal tied to implications of improper dealings with some anonymous American business titan (connected to some complex networking scheme which Norman tried to set up that I never fully understood).

 Norman’s last hope for help is from government investigator Alex Green (Charlotte Gainsbourg)—the lead agent probing Eshel’s situation—whom he met on a train ride from Washington, D.C. back to NYC with his usual lines (“What do you need?  I can help you get it.”), but she’s also not useful in getting Norman anything he desperately needs.  Surprisingly, in a manner as mysterious as Norman’s own unrevealed life story (never shown to us, along with how he’s lived this long via these always-in-motion-means to find success through linkage of people who don’t yet even know each other—with many of them not yet knowing Norman either) we find everything suddenly wraps up well for everyone facing problems in this film:  Micha’s scandal disappears even as he negotiates a celebrated, historic pipeline deal with Turkey; his son gets into Harvard (with some help from Norman’s nephew, as best I followed the various swirling-negotiations on many fronts of this story); Philip as well finds victory in marrying his Korean fiancée who’s finally accepted for conversation to Judaism; while some anonymous donor did come through to save the synagogue, noted in the final scene which is actually a memorial for Norman (who cheerfully committed suicide toward the film’s end by eating a bag of peanuts—to which he was highly-allergic—leaving us with the implication his work on behalf of everyone else was blissfully done).  It’s unclear who the synagogue donor is—maybe Norman made connection with Taub after all (or some other bigwig whose associate Norman kept bothering on his jogs through the park), maybe Eshel quietly “reimbursed” Norman for his help over the years (or maybe it was that mystery businessman from the scandal), who knows?  

 Maybe Norman wasn’t as broke as he appeared to be, putting up the money himself as a silent testimony to his own publically-unreported-successes (although his presentation throughout the film gives little reason to argue much for this option, so I won’t).  Whatever may lie behind all of the lies and events of this film, everyone ends in peaceful-prosperity, leaving director Cedar with the ironic twist of calling Norman’s end a “Tragic Fall” in his lengthy-subtitle, even as tragedy's relative.*

*After this was posted I got some helpful plot-clarification-commentary in the Comments section at the very, very end of all this which clears up some of my questions about this plot.  Rather than try to fix all my previously-published-confusion I'll direct you to read the Comments, with the hope that you’ll always do that with these reviews because the Internet offers us the useful option of after-the-fact-editing (or at least clarifications) so take a look to see what I missed upon my initial viewing.

So What? We'll find that Norman …’s set up in designated units (as is the other current Richard Gere film now in theaters [although it's probably no more near to most of you than this film will prove to be], a raw-yet-insightful-example of such complex drama, The Dinner [Oren Moverman—easily rated as a 4-star-triumph for me, review in our May 11, 2017 posting]), as events occur within what the on-screen-titles tell us are the various subdivisions of Act One—A Foot in the Door, Act Two—The Right Horse, then Act Three—The Anonymous Donor, with the finale by Act Four—The Price of Peace, all of which (as I've experienced them) are generally more thematically-specific than Moverman’s similar use of "chapter" titles (although his are taken, my well-read-wife, Nina, tells me, from the original novel of The Dinner so maybe those designations were always intended to be ironic); Cedar’s 1st "act" focuses on Norman’s intrusive-operating-procedure, successfully connecting him to Micha; the 2nd act reconnects them with Eshel as the new PM, determined to bring peace in the Middle East no matter how hard the bargain (“Life is compromise.”); this film's 3rd act is about the crisis for the synagogue’s continuation vs. Norman’s assurances of finding a matching-donor; in the 4th Norman takes a public fall to alleviate corruption charges against Micha, leading to the closing montage of notable characters eventually getting what they want, set against Norman’s nut-munching-suicide.  

 Cedar also uses some visually-interesting-devices throughout this film, such as at the spectacular reception where Micha welcomes Norman into his inner-circle as everyone else at the event goes into freeze-frame or moves in slow-motion while Norman navigates among them; various scenes of Norman on the phone to different people with his image seamlessly-integrated into their environments so we can watch both ends of the conversations without always resorting to the standard-tactic of a split-screen showing both of the conversants; all of this punctuated by several scenes where the film's basic-wide-screen-format is filled with massive closeups giving none of these manipulators any open-air-space where they can conceal their ongoing-chess-game-tactics.

 Another very interesting aspect of this film is that toward the end Norman meets a younger version of himself, Srul Katz (Hank Azaria [sadly, I can find not even a single promotional image with which to illustrate him so you'll just have to put up with looking at Norman and Micha again here]), who offers his help to our beleaguered-protagonist (he’s also insistent about leaving his business card, which is a direct parallel of Norman’s consistent tactics), although I have no clue as to what element he adds to this narrative. (Can he provide the contacts that Norman needs to help the others solve their problems?  Is he an unknown apparition of Norman at a younger age, giving him assurance that somehow all these complications will be put to right?  Is he just a whimsical addition from the crafty mind of writer-director Cedar to start turning this plot in a more lighthearted direction after all the trauma built up in Act 3?)  Norman …’s not a film intended to leave you with satisfying answers to such queries, with debate-stimulating-questions seemingly more Cedar’s intent, based on what little I know of his previous work, the maddeningly-intriguing Footnote (2011; review in our May 12, 2012 posting [as always with these long-ago-ones, I beg indulgence for my Faulkner-length-paragraphs which needed more photos to break up their text-packed-flow]), set in the arcane-battles of academic research where the plot elements are more overt than in Norman … but still blend mystery, allusion, and interpersonal conflict into an equally-ambiguous ending, paralleling the intrigue of Cedar’s current filmic offering.

(With all of the Jewish/Israeli comments here it
seemed interesting to me to show Norman ...'s
poster in Hebrew
[for those who can read it].)
Bottom Line Final Comments: Our great nationwide community of critics (at least the ones surveyed by Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic—but don’t give these sites too much credit; after all, you won’t find the brilliant analyses of Two Guys in the Dark among their listings, the snobs) have been very supportive of Norman … with the RT result of 88% positive reviews, Metacritic’s average at 76% (not unusual for them to place a bit lower, making them even snobbier), in response to a Jewish-oriented-story that doesn’t require you to be Jewish to appreciate it (Cedar’s got roots in both American and Israeli culture, born in NYC, raised in Jerusalem, educated there and at NYU), but understanding the concept of the mensch (meaning "a person of integrity and honor") might be somewhat helpful in better appreciating why Norman at least hopes to see himself in such a positive light as a man trying—for whatever altruistic motivations (maybe un-mensch-like material ones also?) that drive him—to create positive outcomes for those around him (For himself as well? That aspect of his incessant drive never [intentionally?] becomes clarified.),* even as his chief strategy for achieving his desired results involves a lot of deceit, obfuscation, and, at best, circumstantial luck.  However, it’s going to take a lot more than luck (such as an advertising campaign that I doubt Sony Pictures Classics will care to risk) for awards voters to even remember this film in a few months, just as it won’t likely stick too much with the few viewers who will have seen it given that a
release period of 5 weeks now has yet to see this film find a home in more than 153 theaters during that time, taking in a tiny domestic (U.S.-Canada) gross of just about $1.6 million (putting it a long way down at #6,801 on Box Office Mojo’s current All Time Domestic list—with even my here-we-go-again-for-2017-cellar-dwelling Oakland [CA] A's baseball franchise getting better awareness than that, at least in our area but maybe nowhere else), which is a damn shame that Gere’s fine work here (as well as in The Dinner, pulling in even less thus far, at only around $1.15 million) is going to be largely ignored while the silliness of Snatched, to be reviewed just below, pulls in vastly more box-office-income, even as a forgettable-escapist-comedy, but this is now Gere’s fate for his Buddhist-inspired-support of Tibet, making him an unacceptable inclusion in anything the studios want to promote in the lucrative markets of ChinaNorman …’s not a big-ticket-concept anyway, but I do encourage seeing it for its unexpected cinematic tricks, its less-than-obvious-plot elements, and its solid acting all around.

*Cedar addresses aspects of these motivations (and the heritage of the "Court Jew") in the press notes I have access to; I can’t convert the entire 28-page-file to anything that can be included here (unless I make a separate attachment for each page) so I’ll add a relevant sample at the very end of this posting (after all the Related Links material) with the willingness to share the whole PDF file via email with anyone who contacts me at the address noted in that Links section's closing remarks.

  I try to end each of these reviews with a Musical Metaphor (offering final commentary on what’s just been analyzed but from the perspective of another artform)—as long as I can think of something remotely connected to the cinematic-subject-at-hand—with my considerations for Norman … taking me into some personal deep-memory-sifting, which I’ll brighten your day by sharing it with you.  Even though I try to choose songs I haven’t used before (for the benefit of those of you faithful readers far-flung around the globe's several continents [that I proudly manage to connect with at least 3 or 4 of each week—continents that is, not readers, where the numbers are usually in the 20,000 range, for which I thank all of you immensely; I'm still stunned at those numbers, but you can see my verification graphic of such way down below at the end of each of these postings] who are keeping track of these things) my ruminations led me to some previously-posted-material, so I hope you’ll indulge me because I do think these aural statements carry notable relevancy for the character of Norman Oppenheimer, so I felt the repetition was justified.  For an objective evaluation of Norman and his various schemes I’m using “The Stranger Song” (from the 1967 Songs of Leonard Cohen album) at because of its focus on a man “who is reaching for the sky just to surrender […] Like any dealer he was watching for the card that is so high and wild he’ll never need to deal another He was just some Joseph looking for  
a manger […] Oh you’ve seen that man before his golden arm dispatching cards but now it’s rusted from the elbows to the finger And he wants to trade the games he plays for shelter” (even though the cards referenced here are used for “the holy game of poker” rather than the little business cards Norman’s always so quick to share, but then his whole life’s been like an extended poker challenge, always bluffing, waiting as long as possible to finally reveal what assets he actually holds).  However, despite some critics' observations that Norman may be just a lying hustler, trying to find any advantage to better his own situation, after listening to what Joseph Cedar and Richard Gere have to say about this character (found at their interview in the 3rd link connected to this film, far below) I think from Norman’s own perspective he’d choose Gordon Lightfoot’s "Don Quixote" (from the 1972 album of the same name), seeing himself as a selfless-crusader but often reduced to “Standing like a prophet bold He shouts across the ocean to the shore Till he can shout no more […] Then in a blaze of tangled hooves He gallops off across the dusty plain In vain to search again Where no one will hear.”  Norman really does seem to have the betterment of others at heart, although his messages and methods often fall on deaf—or suspiciousears of those around him.*

*Where my above-noted-memory-sifting becomes relevant isin thinking about how this Lightfoot song applies to Norman’s self-understandingI can now see how back in my own undergrad and grad-school years (mid-1960s through mid-‘70s) that I often imagined myself in such-similarly-ennobled-Don Quixote-terms (“He is wild but he is mellow […] He is wise but he is meek”), as my hormone-driven-passions drove me to fierce interpretations of everything I encountered, taking on challenges that I surely wasn’t ready for (including a badly-failed-1st marriage as part of a bewildering [yet mercifully short] move to NYC; the loss of my Catholic faith), yet somehow feeling that I had to do something about the injustice of having “seen the strong survive [… while] the lean grow weak.”  However, unlike Norman, who’d somehow survived a full life before taking on his final self-chosen-missions, becoming sincere in his motivations to make things better for those around him because he honestly felt he had workable tactics to bring about positive change (which he did by the end of his story), I was just a spinning-weather-vane in my 20s, desperate for self-importance to counteract a sense of inadequacy, a failing I was somewhat aware of even then when listening to Bob Dylan’s "My Back Pages"** (a guy I tried to emulate in thought, if not full-idealization, back in those days).

**This video is a great live performance (time and place unknown to me) which omits the verses about how “Lies that life is black and white Spoke from my skull, I dreamed” plus the “self-ordained professor’s tongue […] spouted out that liberty Is just equality in school,” but it does contain some nice harmonica work by our Nobel Laureate (if you want to hear the entire original version here it is—becoming not only a song I’ve used before but now also a repeat video [another tactic I try to avoid, for the benefit of any reader possessed of a photographic memory] from the 1992 Madison Square Garden 30th Anniversary Concert celebrating Dylan’s career where all the verses are sung, in order, by Roger McGuinn, Tom Petty, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Dylan, and George Harrison—well worth repeating, though).  I realize these 2 footnotes get much more into my psychology than Norman’s, but that’s part of the beauty of this film: in trying to better understand his ambiguously-presented-motivations we're encouraged to re-examine our own, helping to better understand what guides our actions even when illuminated by those of a fictional character whose inclinations are noble even as his tactics become suspect.
(longer than it should be) SHORT TAKES (spoilers also appear here)
                                                Snatched (Jonathan Levine)
In this successful-at-times-but-not-overall-comedy, a young woman’s life isn’t going well so she’s off on a vacation to Ecuador only for her boyfriend to break up with her so she talks her reclusive mother into coming along, but the 2 of them are kidnapped for ransom by local thugs; occasional flashes of dialogue, gross-out-humor, and action work, but it’s not coherent.

 For most of its history, commercial cinema has functioned with glaring discrepancies related to career opportunities and accomplishments allowed to males and females working in those jobs “behind the camera” (although there have been some notable instances over the years of women taking important film production roles, with their contributions mainly as directors, scriptwriters, script supervisors [who manage on-set-shooting-continuity in the areas of locations, props, wardrobes, etc.], and editors; fortunately, in more recent times there have also been somewhat better opportunities for women as producers or even studio executives) even as female actors in front of the camera have been much more successful in terms of film careers (although subject to society’s ongoing sexism about age and physical attributes allowing the continuance of such); however, few women across the decades of cinema have been trusted by film-financiers to have the audience-attraction-power of successfully “opening” a movie, providing a sufficient run of grosses onward from the initial weekend to insure a profitable investment.  In recent times, a few female headliners (not just costars with their usually much-higher-paid-male-ensemble-partners) have emerged, though, such as Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock, and Jennifer Lawrence (with salaries sometimes becoming more equitable as well, although that’s still a major point of contention), so I’m sure it seemed reasonable for producers to team up 2 well-known-screen-women, Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer, for this oddball comedy/somewhat-action vehicle of Snatched, especially given Schumer’s success with Trainwreck (Judd Apatow, 2015)—worldwide gross of $140.8 million, 85% RT positive reviews, 75% MC score—with Hawn also acknowledged as a beloved media figure, even though she hasn’t been in a movie for 15 years, with her notable days of such fare as TV’s Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In (NBC, 1968-1973), Butterflies Are Free (Milton Katselas, 1972), Private Benjamin (Howard Zieff, 1980), and The First Wives Club (Hugh Wilson, 1996) now long behind her.

 However, despite the pedigree of these stars, their new opportunity of Snatched has been roundly-rejected by critics (RT 36%, MC a slightly higher 46% for a change), along with a less-than-overwhelming-worldwide-gross of about $24 million (the vast majority of it domestically) in its debut week (putting it as much better than Norman … on the All Time Domestic list, #3,166, but still far short of the income it will take to push it into desirable profit unless it picks up steam quickly against the ongoing-onslaught which will soon come from this summer's blockbusters, competing for the cash Snatched will need to overcome its $42 million budget [plus likely half that again for distribution costs]).  Mostly this is due to a thin script (Norman … just didn’t tell you some things; this one couldn’t connect all its dots if it tried, although as an intentionally-silly/ actionish-comedy I’m sure plausible-continuity wasn’t high on its “must-achieve” list).  Essentially, the plot’s about Emily Middleton (Schumer) who’s self-absorbed (constantly shooting selfies, I guess in hopes of impressing her less-than-invested-“friends”) yet miserable (fired from her clothing-store-job for jabbering about her upcoming vacation to Ecuador rather than pushing product to customers; deflated when boyfriend Michael [Randall Park] dumps her because his band’s on the rise while he sees her life stuck in neutral), even desperate (finally convinces her loving-but-critical, divorced, agoraphobic mother, Linda [Hawn], to join her on the nonrefundable trip when none of those friends are available) for her mundane existence to find some spark.  So, it’s off to South America where Linda’s satisfied to just hang around their luxury hotel (although bundled up more for the mountains than the local seashore to avoid tanning) while Emily seeks solace in the bar, surprisingly finding sexy James (Tom Bateman) seemingly attracted to her, as he insists on showing both women the local countryside the next day after much drinking with Emily.

 Turns out he’s merely a “procurer,” working for a local gang of kidnappers (led by Morgado [Óscar Jaenada]) taking revenge on rich tourists using their country as a temporary playground so these guys snatch ransom victims, including our frightened blondes.  As the silly plot more-or-less progresses the thugs contact the women's adult-nerd/still-living-at-home-watching 1970s-TV-shows/brother-son Jeffrey (played well in mostly-clueless-fahsion here by Ike Barinholtz) with their stiff $100,000 demand; he in turn calls the U.S. State Dept. but gets essentially nowhere with exasperated agent Morgan Russell (played equally well in a small role by Bashir Salahuddin); through a series of events our gals escape to a jungle village (in the process, Emily kills Morgado’s nephew with a shovel-slam, then when the “bad hombre” catches up with them she accidently kills his only son with a spear gun) in nearby-Colombia (where a doctor helps Emily expel a huge tapeworm in a particularly-grotesque-scene) only to be found by Morgado again so Mom helps daughter escape while she’s recaptured.  Emily makes contact with a couple of women from the hotel, Ruth (Wanda Sykes) and her friend Barb (Joan Cusack)—the latter an ex-Special Ops commando (who cut out her own tongue to avoid divulging secret info, although Emily asks “What keeps an interrogator from forcing her to just write out her secrets?”)—who capture James, thereby learning where Linda’s being kept with Emily managing to break her loose (Ruth and Barb get sidetracked) only to be once again confronted by Morgado but then be rescued just in time due to an arrest/extraction-squad led by Russell who was somehow browbeat by Jeffrey (?)—tearfully-delighted to see “Mamá” again—so it’s all good, with a closing scene a year later in Kuala Lumpur where Emily’s volunteering to help the locals (?) but it’s mostly about her and Mom at a dance club adding energy to the final credits.

(Please pardon the repetitious imagery of these last 2 photos,
but they give some idea of the ongoing "sense" of this movie.)
 I’ll admit that there are some funny scenes in Snatched which feature the occasional burst of witty dialogue (if you’re old enough to attend this R-rated assault on human credibility, with a noted scene being a quick shot through a restroom door of Emily washing her vagina in the sink [nothing explicit here but clear enough in its implication] in hopes she and James will have sex that night, although as we learn later that was never in his plan—along the nature of that plotline, there’s enough commentary [along with a steaming load of clear innuendo] about intercourse in the first third of this movie to justify “snatched” referring to more than kidnapping, if you get my drift; however, an even-grosser-opening-bit at the hotel mixing “welcome” with “whale cum” is best left as further unexplored, believe me), but overall this movie's a pleasant diversion at best, something to acquire more cheaply on some form of video later if you’re really interested.  I guess my cat, Bella, summed it up best for me the morning I wrote these words when I woke up to find that overnight she’d barfed up some dry food on the newspaper section containing a review of Snatched on its front page; maybe she's telling me I didn’t need to say even this much about this movie, although I did find it to be more interesting than the critical consensus noted above would indicate (yet my local guru, Mick LaSalle, gave it 4 of 5 on the San Francisco Chronicle’s “little man” scale [with the guy clapping but not fully jumping out of his seat in ecstasy; I guess Bella’s more of the opinion of using the graphic that just shows an empty chair]).

 However, this time for a Musical Metaphor I’ll offer something a bit more serious than what you'll find in the movie itself (rather than some of my flippant or sarcastic song choices  used at times in our past reviews), “Teach Your Children” (from the 1970 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album Déjà Vu), found at wXddT_I, featuring sweet
lyrics encouraging all of us to “become yourself because the past is just a good bye [… then] feed [each generation, whether they'll be young or older] on your dreams, the one they picked the one you’ll know by” because these pleas for intra-familial-connection reference Snatched’s underlying (but slapstick-presented, thereby-diluted) themes of taking better command of your own life’s direction as well as purging smothering-fear from “effective” strategies of parenting.  Finally, I'll note before the screening I saw of Snatched there’s a short clip of Schumer and Hawn thanking us for seeing their movie in an actual theater; perhaps that should have been bookended by scriptwriter Katie Dippold and director Levine thanking us for staying, a clip that should play right before the final credits because there likely wouldn’t be many left to hear them just before the lights come up again.

 By the way, my wonderful wife, Nina, and I are taking a short vacation next week so I may not get anything posted, but, if not, I’ll be back to “whale cum” (sorry, couldn’t resist) the beginning of June.
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 Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer: (56:57 interview with director Joseph Cedar and actor Richard Gere)

Here’s more information about Snatched: (this is a Red Band trailer with some of the same R-rated language from the movie; if you’d prefer something a bit more sanitized here’s one at (30:11 interview with director Jonathan Levine, producer Paul Feig, and actors Amy Schumer, Goldie Hawn [begins with the 2nd trailer just above]; this interview and the 3rd link in the cluster just above show excellent contrasts of interview approaches where there’s an expectation that the people who are watching have seen the film [the one above] vs. the sort where everyone has to be circumspect about a project’s details [this one], in the same manner that my spoiler reviews address anything I find relevant, with the reader forewarned about such revelations, whereas the standard “preview reviews” have to be careful to not say too much for the benefit of upcoming audiences who haven’t even had a chance to decide on seeing the film under review)

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*

*Please note that YouTube keeps taking down various versions of this majestic Eagles performance at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame so I have to keep putting in newer links (of the same damn material) to retrieve it; this “Hotel California” link was active when I did this posting but the song won’t be available in all of our previous ones done before 4/12/2017.  Sorry, but there are too many postings to go back and re-link every one.  The corporate overlords triumph again.

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.


Finally, for the data-oriented among you, Google stats say over the past month (which they seem to measure from right now back 30 days) the total unique hits at this site were 20,618 (on the rise again, plus I’m still big in Russia even without an Oval Office photo pop); below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from within the previous week:

Below is the sample page of the press notes from Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer that I said I’d include here at the very end of the posting.  If you’d like to see the entire PDF file this comes from send an email to the address just above; I’ll reply with the PDF as an attachment in which you'll find extensive information about the director's perspective on his film.


  1. Norman clearly is a good film and perhaps not quite as cryptic when you are not taking notes.

  2. Hi rj, You're definitely right about Norman being a good film, likely accurate also about it making more sense during the final scenes if you're not distracted by hurried attempts at note-taking in the dark. Someday I'll revisit it on video to see if I can better understand the wrap-up aspects (one thing I forgot to mention in the review that further complicates things is that Norman admits to his rabbi that there never was a $7 million donor waiting in the wings, but given that someone did actually put up the money it's just one more confusing element for me at this point). Ken

  3. That's when he makes the deal with the wall street jogger (who listens to him the second time) for inside information about what will or will not happen with the peace loving Israeli PM. Norman himself was the compromised source about to be disposed by the investigator.

  4. Hi again, OK that clears up a lot that eluded me while I was trying to simultaneously watch and scribble notes. Thanks for helping to set the record straight here, although I'll just leave the review as is rather than trying to fix it in the main text (with the hope that finding useful revelations in the Comments section will encourage readers to keep scrolling down to the absolute end of these postings). Ken