Thursday, January 25, 2018

Phantom Thread and Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool

                 “You Get Too Soon Old And Too Late Smart”
      (kitchen-wall-wisdom on a little wooden plaque, available at Stuckey’s highway rest 
       stops during my 1950s-‘60s early years in Texas; now it’s also similar to the title of 
       Gordon Livingston’s 2004 book [paperback, 2008], but Stuckey’s was there first)

 It’s been awhile since I’ve swirled comments about 2 films together into one combo-review, but this pair seemed to offer likely connections (which I’ll note further below so as to not jump in with those screaming plot spoiler arrows too soon) so I hope this blended approach works well for you.
                                                               Review by Ken Burke

                              Phantom Thread 
                             (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)

                             Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool 
                            (Paul McGuigan, 2017)
“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): Phantom Thread’s a fictional story about a prestigious 1950s London dress designer whose irritable nature makes him difficult to live and work with, except for his business partner, his sister, until he meets a young woman who catches his attention for a time but then inevitable conflicts arise, with different results than what he’s come to expect with other women he’s chosen for lovers because she proves to have more inner strength than he’d assumed she would.  Our other film is based on history, about how 1940s-‘50s Hollywood star Gloria Grahame was still trying to keep her acting career alive in 1979 London when she meets a young actor about half her age, begins a relationship with him, then finds that unexpected problems will angrily push them apart until she desperately needs him again a couple of years later.

Here are the trailers: (Use full screen button in an image’s lower right to enlarge it; activate that same button on the full screen’s lower right or your “esc” keyboard key to return to normal size.)

If you can abide plot spoilers read on, but as this blog’s intended for those who’ve seen the film—or want to save some bucks—to help any of you who’d like to learn more details yet avoid important plot-reveals I’ll identify such give-away sentences/sentence-clusters thusly: 
⇒The first and last words will be noted with arrows and red.⇐ OK, now continue on if you prefer.
What Happens: Set-UpsLet’s begin our dual-explorations in 1950s London with Phantom Thread where fabulously-successful, highly-sought-after (by London’s upper class and European royalty) dress-designer Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) runs his small-but-impressive-haute couture-empire from a single building with many floors containing living quarters, showroom, and production space where a small army of seamstresses finalize his inventive creations.  Another aspect of this lofty dwelling is the presence of Reynolds’ most-current-girlfriend (he’s a confirmed bachelor, apparently with tastes only for women considerably younger than his upper-middle-age [at best] status), but as he inevitably becomes bored with a relationship the latest semi-paramour (he doesn’t devote much time to whomever shares his home as most all of his attention and energy goes into his clothing creations: “I simply don’t have time for confrontation”) she’ll be dismissed by his tough-as-nails-sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville), who runs the business operations of the House of Woodcock.  After the most-recent-temporary-affection-underling, Johanna (Camilla Rutherford), is shown the door, Reynolds heads off to his countryside studio to recharge his sartorial visions, wanders into the local village to order a huge breakfast, takes an immediate liking to his waitress, Alma Elson (Vicky Krieps), invites her to dinner, finds her to his liking, soon moves her into his London headquarters, then quickly begins to lose interest as work once again takes precedence.

 Now we’ll jump ahead to 1979 (although several accounts I’ve read indicate this should be 1978) where fading Hollywood star from the 1940s-‘50s Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening) is in London, often turning her attention now to stage work as her best film days, especially as a leading lady, are behind her (even though she won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The Bad and the Beautiful [Vincente Minnelli, 1952]); there she chances upon aspiring Liverpool actor Peter Turner (Jamie Bell), asks him to help practice her Saturday Night Fever (John Badham, 1977)-inspired Hustle moves, they then move on to a date to see Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979), a connection which quickly becomes a passionate romance despite their notable age difference (her 54, him 26) whether they’re in England (watching her in a screening of Naked Alibi [Jerry Hopper, 1954… Liverpool’s final credits imply this is a real clip from that movie, my viewing companions say it’s a reshoot with Bening; I can’t find evidence one way or the other, but at least in these shots you see resemblances between the actresses, something not the same when toward the end of … Liverpool we see the actual brief Grahame acceptance speech for her Oscar as it took her longer to get to the stage than to say “Thank you” for the award]) or when he flies to LA to visit in her beach home in Malibu (a nice place but it seems to be a converted trailer, another indication Grahame’s no longer Hollywood royalty).  

 What should have been a joyful night turns hostile when Gloria’s mother, Jean (Vanessa Redgrave), and Aunt Joy (Frances Barber) come to visit, with Joy warning Peter what he’s getting into by recounting the sordid story (the real Peter, in his book about the affair, says this is just a mean myth) of how Gloria’s 2nd husband, director Nicholas Ray, divorced her after finding her in bed with his 13-year-old-son, Anthony, a situation made even more scandalous when 10 years later she took the young man as her 4th husband (all of them divorced from her by 1974, leaving her with 4 children, ⇒although they don’t factor into this film until the very end when one son comes to Liverpool to take Gloria back to NYC for emergency medical care).⇐ You’d think that news would be enough to push us into our next section already, but Peter remained faithful to Gloria, at least for a bit longer.

ConflictsIn … Thread we first see Reynolds’ irritation with Alma’s breakfast manners where she annoys him with such “distracting” actions as making too noise buttering her toast or drinking her tea; Cyril tries to give her advice on how to best cohabitate with the “genius,” but Alma’s more assertive than other women her brother’s brought home, which ultimately impresses Cyril, probably earns Alma unspoken respect from Reynolds who’s used to having strong women in his mostly-closed-to-the-outside-world-personal-life (his mother had the audacity to tell him she wasn’t pleased with the dress he made for her 2nd wedding, Cyril warns him at one point not to feud with her), so he’s created an identity for himself through his haughty, demanding ways, which admittedly have paid off well in regard to reputation, income, and artistic freedom (he does show exquisite skill with his work, commanding every aspect of fabric, clothing details, exact fit).  Conflicts come to a head between the ill-suited “lovers” later on when Alma painstakingly arranges for the many servants/employees to take the night off so she can prepare an intimate dinner for just the 2 of them while Reynolds is out taking his long daily walk; however, all he does is criticize what she’s prepared, leading to a nasty exchange of mutual derision, after which she takes revenge by preparing tea for him using poison mushrooms.  His ensuing illness interrupts crucial work on a wedding gown for Belgian Princess Mona Braganaza (Lujza Richter), although Alma proves to be a useful partner with Cyril to keep the process going while she also nurses Reynolds back to health, after which he’s impressed enough to ask her to marry him.  She accepts, they’re happy for awhile, then he returns to his old domineering ways so this time she poisons an omelet (made with butter instead of oil, insulting his stated gastronomical tastes), admits it with the intention of weakening him long enough to gain his trust, love, and respect (the gown gets finished to perfection as well).

 Similarly, romance continues to grow between Gloria and Peter in … Liverpool, with both of them continuing to find work, mostly on the stage, but while they’re living together in a spectacular apartment in NYC (don’t get the idea this film flows in the chronologically-linear-manner I’m describing here for the review’s parallel-structure and convenience, though; there are marvelous flashback transitions from the opening scenes in 1981 England [where Gloria’s starring in The Glass Menagerie in a Lancaster theatre but collapses backstage one night before a performance, then calls Peter to ask if she can come stay with him and his family in Liverpool to recuperate] to various events up until that time, with such devices as a character walking through a door, suddenly into a past or present time frame, sometimes clarified with an on-screen year graphic, sometimes left to our interpretive understanding, so temporal depictions in ... Liverpool are quite fluid) suddenly the relationship breaks down after Gloria’s been gone most of the day a couple of times, with the excuse she’s meeting with her agent yet Peter calls the agent to find out this is a lie.  When he confronts her with his suspicions something’s going on to undermine their relationship she flies into a fury, throws him out (allowing him to return to England where an acting job conveniently awaits).

ResolutionsPhantom Thread (a title subject to a number of interpretations, but one might be Reynolds’ habit of secretly sewing small messages of varying sorts into the linings of his designer clothes so he’s left a thought with a client that will never be known to anyone but him [his own jacket contains a lock of his mother’s hair]) comes to an easy finish after Woodcock willingly eats the 2nd round of poison food in order to submit himself to Alma’s emerging power, at least until he can recover after which they can carry on finally as partners instead of combatants (to quote Bob Dylan from "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry" [on his 1965 Highway 61 Revisited album]: “I wanna be your lover, baby I don’t wanna be your boss”).  As this film wraps up, she has fantasies of them dancing dreamily as others fade away around them in a huge ballroom (putting a better ending on an actual New Year’s Eve conflict in which she went to such a lavish event alone, with him finally coming after her, demanding she return home with him), having a child, continuing the business in a fully-functional-partnership; we’re easily left to assume this will all be the case.⇐

 ⇒Now we'll fast-forward many years back to … Liverpool where through another of those effective flashbacks we find that Gloria’s missing time in NYC was to visit her doctor because her previous breast cancer had returned (she beat it before with radiation and other tactics but refused chemo as it would’ve made her hair fall out, a disastrous-appearance-problem for a woman still determined to continue her stage, film, and TV career [so much so she revealed to Peter early on she still intends to play Juliet somewhere in England, which surprised him because of her age—despite still being quite attractive—leading to their 1st conflict based on her at-times-faulty-self-perception]), then to get treatments again so we assume she purposely pushed Peter away at that point in order to spare him her inevitable fate.  However, when the end’s truly coming for her (although she doesn’t reveal all this to him immediately, enjoying the comfort of his attention as well as his long-time-Grahame-fans-parents, Joe [Kenneth Cranham] and Bella [Julie Walters])—even if we can’t necessarily enjoy everything they say because of those thick accents—Peter grants her long-standing-wish by taking her in the daytime to the empty theatre where he’s now performing at night to read Romeo and Juliet scenes with her, then Gloria’s long-ago-mentioned-son, Tim (Tom Brittney), comes to Liverpool to take her back to NYC for medical treatment but she dies soon after in October, 1981.⇐

The actual Gloria and Peter, ca. 1979.  Peter provided the photo so blame him for its poor quality.
So What? Although I try to generate some interest in all the arts, I must admit designer clothes are an area I note only when skimming through the Style section of a Sunday newspaper (mostly to see what atrocious concoction some famous [eccentric?] charlatan visionary's created I’d never see a woman actually wearalthough my high-society-credentials aren’t much to brag about), so seeking out a bit over 2 hours of such in Phantom Thread was intriguing to me only because I’d previously admired some of what Anderson’s directed (especially There Will Be Blood [2007], even more so The Master [2012; review in our September 27, 2012 posting—one of the very few films I’ve gone as high as 4½ stars for], although I liked but wasn’t overly wowed by Magnolia [1999] or Boogie Nights [1997]) but more so because it marks another opportunity to see Day-Lewis, one of the finest actors ever to grace the silver screen.  As for Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, it was also more about getting another cinematic dose of Bening (nominated for 4 Oscars but, sadly, no wins, despite dozens of awards or nominations in other contests; best chance for a Best Actress Oscar was American Beauty [Sam Mendes, 1999] but hard for anyone to top Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry [Kimberly Peirce] that year) than seeing a biography of the later years of Gloria Grahame (whom I should remember but don’t from The Big Heat [Fritz Lang, 1953] or Oklahoma! [Fred Zinnemann, 1955]; she may have been great in both of them, but it’s just been too long since I’ve seen either, no matter their fame [a disadvantage of aging]; I’ve never even seen The Bad and the Beautiful), whose only role I’m really familiar with (after so many viewings) is that of socially-shunned (but helped by generous George Bailey [James Stewart]) Violet Bick in It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946)—although I’m somewhat rescued by the fact actual-lover-Peter didn’t know who she was at all when they first met (I guess his parents had never shared their admiration for her older movies with him).

 Even with my interest in Bening, though, local (and well-syndicated) critical guru, Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle, gave me reason to reconsider my initial intention to seek out the not-easy-to-find …Liverpool: Why would Gloria/Bening be so attracted to this young man so much as to invest in a relationship? And why would he be so intensely attracted to this former film star more than twice his age? In the playing, the relationship is like a premise inhabited by good actors, rather than something with an authentic visceral charge [...] Bening plays a woman who is asleep, literally."

 Fortunately, my prescient wife, Nina (also a big Bening fan [as well as for Day-Lewis]), wasn’t about to be put off by LaSalle (or any other critic, including me), so off we went to explore how valid his complaint was that in Chilly Scenes of Winter (Joan Micklin Silver, 1979)—made about when Gloria met Peter—“At 54, Grahame seemed nutty and anarchic, as if something about her refused to mature. She wasn’t alert and radiantly curious, in the way that Bening is in her essence, but rather like someone who’d taken a nap for 30 years and had woken up, in every sense but chronologically, still 25.”  As Nina pointed out after our screening it’s no surprise that Grahame still acted as if she were that young (even if her actual age belied it), given her glory years (including her Oscar win) were when she was about 25-35, despite continuing to be on screen (although in a lot of TV series and movies) right up until her death.  Nina admits it took her well into her middle-aged-years (she’s now 67) to not see herself somewhat as still 17, given what a glorious time of her life that was.  (Of course, that doesn't factor in the tremendous wonder of meeting me 30 years ago ... or does it?) Plus, Bening—now approaching age 60 herself—presents Grahame as continuing to be quite vivaciously-attractive in her 55-57 years (just as Nina is today, if I do say so myself), so it’s not so weird at all (as LaSalle states it) that these assumed-to-be-mismatched-lovers could truly be that invested in each other (although, for me, I’m glad I’m only 3 years Nina’s senior as some attempts earlier in my life to connect with someone 9 or so years younger than me didn’t work out very well).*

*A footnote (literally) to our screening of … Liverpool concerns some anecdotes shared by our long-time-friend/my Mills College colleague, Jim Graham, that Bening was his father’s student at San Francisco State U. in the late 1970s (although he, like Jim, taught technical aspects of theatre rather than acting), continued to stay in touch with him off and on until his death in 1995.  Jim said had he known what a talented actor she’d turn out to be he’d have paid more attention to her when she occasionally came to their home to visit, but in a final irony of that disconnect the last time she was in public with his father was soon before his death when she was granted an honorary degree at SFSU with the elder Mr. Graham sharing the stage; however, Jim said parking was so bad there that day he had to just keep driving around during the ceremony so he wasn’t even present to witness it.

 Nina also gave me some good insights on Phantom Thread in regard to how Woodcock’s character could easily have been formed by his relationship with the powerful women in his life, his mother and sister.  She noted how a relative of hers explained to her a few years ago that his seemingly-aggressive (teasing, insulting) actions toward his several sisters was just a way of trying to establish an identity in an almost-female-household (except for his father), possibly reflecting how Reynolds was simultaneously respectful of his mother and sister yet intimidated by their powerful presences, leading him to impose himself on other women whom he found attractive but not truly assertive enough to match his constructed-self-image, until he’s challenged by Alma’s determination to speak up for her own interests.  This insight made the story more complex for me, more satisfying.

 With Phantom … and ... Liverpool I’m now wrapping up writing in 2018 about films released last year (so I’m still catching up but may not be able to delay my 2017 Top 10 long enough to get the opportunity to see Mudbound  [Dee Rees, 2017] or Hostiles [Scott Cooper, 2017]), glad to find those from the imagination of a screenwriter rather than so many being “Based on True Events” (how much we can only guess, because of the totally-fictional-disclaimer to that effect in Fargo [Joel and Ethan Coen, 1996], forever setting the template for those who want to cover their asses with claims actual fact is “fake news”), so I now have 4 fully-fictional-films reviewed this year with which to celebrate original ideas along with the other 5 that either mine history for lesser-known situations such as … Liverpool, revive it for nostalgia-embracement (I, Tonya [Craig Gillespie, 2017; review in our January 18, 2018 posting], although I much admire this one for a marvelous script structure and Margo Robbie’s acting), or comment on current politics with a carefully-chosen-parallel (The Post [Steven Spielberg, 2017; review in our  January 18, 2018 posting], based on decades-old press vs. government conflict yet still effectively builds tension, features great acting especially from Meryl Streep).  However, … Liverpool just may be the least-fictionalized of these fact-derived-stories, given that it’s based on the actual Peter Turner’s 1986 memoir but hopefully kept within the bounds of probability by the situation that he’s been out on the promo circuit with the filmmakers so I’d hope he’d be honest about anything that was egregiously-fabricated (such as Paolo Getty’s rescue in All the Money in the World [Ridley Scott, 2017; review in our January 11, 2018 posting] or who knows what in I, Tonya as that wacky plot came from filmmaker-admitted contradictory interviews).

 One last personal note about … Liverpool (as I can’t think of much else to say about … Thread, which still remains at a bit of a distance from me [honestly, while watching it my initial response was much like LaSalle’s concerning … Liverpool: except for the pleasure of viewing superb acting—and some marvelous-although-restrained-cinematography—I really couldn’t see why anyone would care to endure 2 hours of this ego-driven-twit, that is until I got a better perspective on it from Nina])  is the general concept reminded me of the 2nd review I ever wrote for this blog, also about a fact-based-film, telling how a lowly production assistant in England on The Prince and the Showgirl (Laurence Olivier, 1957), Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), had his own brush (much briefer than Peter‘s) with fame in his starstruck-but-not-amorous-encounter with another famous Hollywood female actor in My Week with Marilyn (Simon Curtis, 2011; review in our December 15, 2011 posting—back when I knew how to keep paragraphs at a reasonable length before they later expanded into William Faulkner territory, then got under control again in the last couple of years, although I wasn’t nearly generous enough with supportive visuals in those original days or many following until recently).  It’s not a full-blown-parallel (the protagonists weren’t that far apart in age, Marilyn Monroe  [Michelle Williams] was not only married but also at the height of her career so there was no chance of anything coming from this innocent almost-coupling, the overall tone of this earlier film’s much lighter than the tragedy of slowly-creeping-death in … Liverpool), but the surface similarities brought back some nice memories of years when I wrote/posted these reviews much faster, both because I was still working full-time then with less available downtime and, in this case, I’d seen My Week … before I knew Pat and I were going to launch this blog so I had no notes nor awareness of Internet backup sources, just memory and as much verbal padding as I could come up with—as Archie and Edith Bunker used to sing on CBS TV’s All in the Family  (1971-’79, based on a British BBC show, Till Death Do Us Part, to complement this week’s review subject), but without the retrograde-sociopolitical-attitudes Archie always celebrated, "Those were the days."

Bottom Line Final Comments: While I eventually found a good bit to admire in both of the films under review this week (but I had to reconsider a bit more about Phantom Thread, encouraged by Nina’s gradual further warming to it as well—she wasn't immediately swept up by it either), they haven’t fared equally in the critical and awards communities, with … Thread now doing considerably better than … Liverpool.  The latter was completely overlooked by both the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild while the former managed only to score a Motion Picture Best Actor-Drama nomination for Day-Lewis from the Globes, although both pulled in a good number of other wins or nominations but just a handful for … Liverpool compared to the trove offered up for ... Thread, including from the just-announced-Oscar-noms (see the Related Links section just below for a full list) where it scored 6 including for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Day-Lewis in what he claims to be his final screen appearance (which might win him some sympathy votes this year [likely not enough to top Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour {Joe Wright ,2017; review in our December 14, 2017 posting}], although he hardly needs further accolades as he’s already won 3 of these prestigious trophies [My Left Foot {Jim Sheridan, 1989}, There Will Be Blood, Lincoln {Spielberg, 2012; review in our December 28, 2012 posting}] making him the all-time-leader in this category [Jack Nicholson has 3 acting Oscars but 1 was in the Supporting category, just as Walter Brennan has 3, all Supporting; no one’s yet topped Katharine Hepburn with her 4 Best Actress wins but Meryl Streep’s far ahead with Oscar nominations, a total of 21 so far]).  Critical consensus has followed this trend, with Rotten Tomatoes offering 78% positive reviews for … Liverpool compared to a much-heartier-91% for … Thread, results largely-mirrored by Metacritic with a 64% average score for … Liverpool, yet an (astoundingly-high for them) 90% average score tallied for … Thread.

 Domestic (U.S.-Canada) box-office grosses follow this same pattern, with … Liverpool taking in only about $190.8 thousand after 4 weeks in release (making it an uninspiring 9,778 on that All-Time list when I went to post), playing so far at a mere 16 theaters (I’m lucky to live relatively close to 1 of them) whereas … Thread’s pulled in about $6 million during that same release period, now playing in 896 of the northern North American (on the U.S. side of the ever-debated-border wall) theaters (although that small victory still places it only at 5,266 on the All-Time Domestic list [by the way, in case you’re interested, after many repetitious clicks in the Box Office Mojo site I found the absolute bottom of that list to be Zyzzyx Road {John Penney, 2006} at #15,320, having made a ghastly $30 {in release for just 1 week, starring Katherine Heigi—this honor couldn’t have happened to a more deserving actor—and Tom Sizemore}, so maybe the folks with this week’s reviewed films won’t feel so bad about their response thus far]).  For my money, which also is in about the $30 range, I would have given Bening serious consideration for an Oscar Best Actress nomination (although ultimately she wouldn’t have made my top 5 choices for that category—more on that in about a month when I note my Oscar predictions vs. actual preferences), but I certainly agree that Day-Lewis belongs within the Oscar finalists, with strong hopes he’ll reconsider that retirement decision (although he’d probably have to somehow condition himself to not invest himself so emotionally-deep into his roles in order to preserve his sanity).  At this point, you’ll certainly have an easier time locating Phantom Thread if you’d care to invest yourself in one of these options, although I still consider this film a bit aloof until it reaches its last scenes whereas the emotions on display in … Liverpool are much more accessible, even relatable, despite Mr. LaSalle not being able to fathom the attraction of the lovers, separated as they are by decades of chronology, much more than that in terms of social standing.

 In that I’ve woven together all my previous comments about these 2 films, it’s only appropriate I do the same with my decisions for the Musical Metaphors I suggest to bring this combo-review to a close.  As you know (assuming you’ve visited this site anytime in the last few years—and, if not, I do hope you’ll come back on a regular basis, wherever you may be in the world) I like to round off each cluster of commentary with a perspective on the film(s) in question from the realm of the aural arts, so, while there are aspects of each of my chosen songs that could viably relate to each film, I’ll begin with The Beatles’ “Love You To” (from the 1966 Revolver album) at,love-you-to,uvrum.html* (sorry, no visuals here except the album cover) for 2 reasons: (1) because I sense it as something that Peter (at his most occasionally-eloquent) could have said to Gloria when trying to pull her back toward him in response to her personal-needs-rejections: “Love me while you can […] A lifetime is so short A new one can’t be bought But what you’ve got means such a lot to me [… because I truly care about you while] There’s people standing round Who’ll screw you in the ground They’ll fill you in with all their sins, you’ll see,” to which Gloria, in her various ways in the short time she knew Peter, replies in response to those various distances she created between them, “I’ll make love to you If you want me to,” (2) even though this film makes no mention whatsoever of The Beatles’ hometown/original homebase (as the plot had no need for such), there’s no reason for me not to offer such a connection just because Peter never hauled Gloria out of her sickbed for a little uplifting stroll to Penny Lane or Strawberry Fields.  (Of course, if you prefer something more easily accessible about the healing waters of Liverpool, there’s always "Ferry Cross the Mersey" [from Gerry and the Pacemakers’ 1965 album of the same name], a song about a place where “they’ll never turn you away,” even if you won’t stick around to die there.)

*I’m extremely glad to have stumbled upon this site some time ago (given most Beatles' recordings—but not live performances—have been stripped from YouTube), but even though you’d just be looking at 1 photo while playing the song you might still want to go to full-screen-mode (small icon under the Jukebox logo in the lower-right-corner) to avoid being distracted by all the clutter on the page; you may also have to click on the little speaker logo to bring up the volume within the video.

 There’s also an aspect of trying to save the famous one of each of the lovers’ pairs from “people […] Who’ll screw you in the ground” as well as an eventual mutual desire to (in various ways) “Make love all day long Make love singing songs” in Phantom Thread, but I also see 2 other songs that speak even more specially to this film (while having some resonance with … Liverpool as well in the rejections/attractions of Gloria and Peter), beginning with Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Dangling Conversation” (from the 1966 Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme album) at (again, just an album-cover-visual, but it’s the best version I could find) which speaks to the emotional distance Reynolds eventually draws between himself and all of his revolving lovers, Alma included (until she resists being dismissed): “Couched in our indifference Like shells upon the shore […] the superficial sighs The borders of our lives […] verses out of rhythm, Couplets out of rhyme, In syncopated time […] You’re a stranger now unto me.”  But Alma, rather than leaving like all the others, refuses to “note our place with bookmarkers That measure what we’ve lost”; rather, she forces Reynolds (with the help of mushroom poisonings; you know you’re dealing with true love [or masochism] when the victim stays in the relationship after a couple of bouts of that level of sickness) to finally admit, in the words of The Beatles (again, but now with a hint of a connection to their successful move to London) in “Here, There and Everywhere” (Also from Revolver—did I mention I got the idea for these songs while listening to this album a couple of days ago?  They follow each other on the recording, hit me as appropriate for these 2 films.): “To lead a better life I need my love to be here […] Changing my life with the wave of her hand Nobody can deny that there’s something there […] Each one believing that love never dies [even though I might have come close to it] Watching her eyes and hoping I’m always there.”  If you’re not tired of that Revolver cover, here’s the song (in a 1995 remix) simply illustrated by it (a slightly different version of that cover too) at*

*But if you’d prefer even more variety, here's a version with that slightly different mix from the album, along with various Beatles’ imagery, enhanced with Spanish subtitles to aid your bilinguality, or, if you’re already Spanish-fluent, here’s the original recording at Jukebox (with a collage of Beatle imagery—if you're lucky!; I get different results each time I check it)with my same encouragement to use the full-screen-mode for your best visual experience (and be sure the audio’s not turned off).

 That’s it for me this time; be sure and look just below for the Oscar nominations link if you’re not already aware of all of them.  (Let the betting pools begin!)  I’ll probably offer a 2017 Top 10 list in my next posting, whether I get a chance to see a couple of last possible contenders by then or not.
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!

*A Google software glitch causes every Two Guys posting prior to August 26, 2016 to have an inaccurate (dead) link to this Summary page; from then forward, though, this link is accurate.

AND … at least until the Oscars for 2017’s releases have been awarded on Sunday, March 4, 2018 we’re also going to include reminders in each posting of very informative links where you can get updated tallies of which 2017 films have been nominated for and/or received various awards and which ones made various individual critic’s Top 10 lists.  You may find the diversity among the various awards competitions and the various critics hard to reconcile at times—not to mention the often-significant-gap between critics’ choices and competitive-award-winners (which pales when compared to the even-more-noticeable-gap between specific award winners and big box-office-grosses you might want to monitor here)—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 for success are as valid as any of these others, especially if you 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 time scrolling through the “various awards” list above, here are the Golden Globe nominees and winners for films and TV from 2017 along with the Oscar nominees for 2017 films.

Here’s more information about Phantom Thread: (6:05 interview with writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson and actors Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville, Daniel Day-Lewis [audio’s not so clear in places]) and (24:07 Q & A with Anderson [done at my relatively-local San Francisco Castro Theater]—sound quality’s not that great here either BUT if you like go to for a full transcript of this interview, or if you like you could open a 2nd Web browser, copy and paste this 2nd URL into it, then read along as the video plays; your choice)

Here’s more information about Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool: (35:26 interview with director Paul McGuigan, novelist Peter Turner [the real-life-guy played by Bell], and actors Annette Bening, Jamie Bell [at about 26:00 the volume drops notably for a bit, then goes up and down for the rest of the video, almost inaudible at times, damn it!])

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 if you truly have too much time on your hands you might want to explore some even-longer-and-more-obtuse-than-my-film-reviews—if that even seems possible—academic articles about various cinematic topics at my website,, which could really give you something to talk to me about.)

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.  But wherever the rest of my body may be my heart’s always with my longtime-companion, lover, and wife, Nina Kindblad, so here’s our favorite shared song—Neil Young’s "Harvest Moon"
—from the performance we saw at the Desert Trip concerts in Indio, CA on October 15, 2016 (as a full moon was rising over the stadium) because “I’m still in love with you,” my dearest, a never-changing-reality even as the moon waxes and wanes over the months/years to come.


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 55,209; below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from within the previous week:


  1. Phantom Thread is excellent and is such, in large part, because of Daniel Day-Lewis' contribution. There is a dark component to the film but it pulls together nicely for the audience. It seems the actor is always saying the projects he is offered are not challenging enough but then he reappears once again to stun us with his excellence.

  2. Hi rj, Thanks as always for the comment and Happy New Year if I haven't offered that to you previously. Daniel Day-Lewis is an absolute cinematic treasure; if he's really retiring it will a a great loss for film audiences. Ken

  3. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often. thread mills

  4. Hi razzaq, Thanks for the comment; I'll be glad to hear your opinions on my opinions at any time. Ken