Thursday, June 14, 2018

Let the Sunshine In, Disobedience, and Ocean's 8

                (Almost) All Women, All the Time

                                                  Review by Ken Burke

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

Let the Sunshine In (Claire Denis)

Disobedience (Sebastián Lelio)

Ocean’s Eight (Gary Ross)

“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): I finally got a chance to see a few more movies over the past week than I’d been able to do lately so I decided to stir my comments on all 3 of them into 1 combo review (I haven’t done that for awhile either), although there’ll be enough separation with the remarks to easily allow you to focus on just 1 or 2 of them if you prefer (although in most cases you won’t be able to find the more esoteric ones anyway, but I’ll have to leave the logistics to you).  For this brief opening (with the ascending order based on how much I was impressed with what I saw, although if you consult the Bottom Line Final Comments quite a ways below you'll find my reactions are frequently opposite of the overall critical consensus), devoid of spoilers, I’ll note that Let the Sunshine In is a French film starring Juliette Binoche as a divorced, middle-aged artist on the hunt for a satisfying romantic relationship despite her difficulties in connecting with men who even care to meet her expectations while the storyline of Disobedience gets considerably more intense as these younger women, played by Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams, from/in a very conservative London Jewish community find themselves struggling against the reality of their intense mutual attraction although one of them is the deceased rabbi’s daughter while the other is married to his likely successor.  Finally, we meet up with a previously-unmentioned-branch of the Danny Ocean (George Clooney) family in Ocean’s 8 where sister Debbie (Sandra Bullock) intends to also follow a stay in prison with a seemingly impossible heist, accompanied by a crew of equally-talented women (pictured above) whose commitment to this meticulously-planned-crime easily matches Danny’s crafty henchmen in those earlier parallel-feats of Ocean’s … accomplishments.

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 want to learn more details yet avoid important plot-reveals I’ll identify any give-away sentences/sentence-clusters like this: 
⇒The first and last words will be noted with arrows and red.⇐ OK, now continue on if you prefer.

What Happens: Starting with Let the Sunshine In (which, translated from the original French—Un beau soleil interior—should be more like [at least in literal form as best my limited language skills allow] A Radiant Internal Sun, implying a successfully-self-driven-soul rather than someone who finds redemption from exterior sources), we find roughly-50-year-old divorcee-artist, Isabelle (Juliette Binoche), having sex with her lover, married banker Vincent (Xavier Beauvois), who’s quite happy to spend erotic time with her but bluntly acknowledges he’d never leave his wife because she’s “extraordinary” (Isabelle confesses to a friend the only way she can reach orgasm with this guy is to tell herself what an insufferable bastard he is, although he periodically assumes she’ll be delighted with his presence—when he bothers to call beforehand or after—even as that finally proves to be untrue).  As this story moves along she also attempts to find her soul-mate in a younger, bored-with-life (despite his denials) character about to be divorced himself, simply identified as The Actor (Nicholas Duvauchelle), but he’s consumed with his own personal concerns so she flirts with a connection to artist-friend Marc (Alex Descas) who’s not interested in moving quickly into a relationship, then she seemingly discovers her true love by chance in enigmatic, working-class Sylvain (Paul Blain), yet he’s not a clear choice due to his attitudes.  She even has infrequent sexual visits from ex-husband François (Laurent Grévill), who insists on keeping a key to her flat in his concern for their young daughter, as he doesn’t care much for some of the things he hears from the child about Mom’s personal life regarding this assortment of men passing through.

 In a most unusual final scene, where the end credits finally start to roll superimposed on the interactive dialogue between Isabelle and David (Gérard Depardieu), a guy who initially seems to be her therapist but upon extended conversation between them seems more like a psychic who’s offering Isabelle ambiguous insights into what her future may hold while encouraging her to experience that “inner sunlight” that explains the title in order for her life to be more fulfilled.  (This is an intriguing device to lead us to the final fadeout, but after awhile—it’s quite a long scene by the time all of the various contributors are noted—you can easily get the feeling it’s mostly improv, with 2 well-seasoned-actors simply playing out the concepts of their characters to see how long they can sustain this conversation; my apologies to director Denis if this was all carefully scripted even with the understood reality audiences might drift away from the characters’ interchanges if there’s some specific interest in any of the filmmaking team, with this rolling-graphic-distraction even more of a problem for those monolingualists among us [like me] who’re also trying to keep up with reading subtitle translations of the ongoing dialogue.)⇐   While IFC Films praises this product as “something altogether deeper, more poignant, and perceptive about the profound mysteries of love,” I think you might be more impressed with Binoche’s usual performance mastery more so than what you’ll find in the content flow of this film, offering its minor variations on an unengaging theme.

 Conversely, the 2 lead women in Disobedience (like … Sunshine In, a 2017 production just now going into extensive U.S. release) are struggling through a theme of considerably more importance as they know where love is to be found but their very Orthodox North London Jewish community has no intention of condoning it between them, even though that’s where their hearts have truly resided since they were younger.  Their story on screen (but not in chronology) begins with Rabbi Goldfarb (Nicholas Woodeson) sermonizing on God’s creation of man and woman as separate beings (the difference visually emphasized by the assignment of women in the congregation to the balcony); suddenly, his talk is cut short by death (Stated later as pneumonia. [Or maybe God being fed up with eons of misogynistic interpretation of the scriptures?  I know, I’ll burn in Hell for such blasphemy, but at least I’ll be surrounded by a lot of familiar faces.]), which brings his successful NYC photographer-daughter Ronit Krushna (Rachel Weisz) back to England for his funeral after years of isolation due to her youthful-indiscretions with close friend Esti (Rachel McAdams), which were shamefully discovered one day by her father.  Adding to the community’s surprise at Ronit's return is her shock Esti’s now married to mutual-friend Dovid Kuperman (Alessandro Nivola) in her goal of re-establishing acceptance in the congregation (and purging herself of lesbian desires) through union with a man likely to be the next rabbi, even though it means denying what’s truly in her heart, wearing a wig in public (not sure what that’s about), and having dutiful sex every Friday with Dovid, despite how she looks as bored with it as did Isabelle in her opening tryst with Vincent.  

 In a show seemingly of forgiveness (in a strained, formal manner, no touching allowed), Dovid allows Ronit to stay in his home, but proximity only stirs the smoldering embers within the women, even as the synagogue elders question the possibility of revived temptation between them while Dovid counters with his righteousness being able to overcome any possibility of a breech of faith.  (Ironically, the standard greeting among all these folks is “May you live a long life,” but it’s clear how meaningless it is when addressed to Ronit, especially when she learns Dad left the family home to the synagogue rather to her, reflecting how bitterly-troubled this return is to her former London life.)

 While Let the Sunshine In can easily be characterized as slow-moving—from one affair to the next—as we wait for Isabelle to explore yet-another-unlikely-liaison, Disobedience at least connects slow with somber as we weigh the sincere passions of 2 truly-aligned-women (even though they’re not fully in a relationship, except for a few secret encounters, their love for each other is clearly more than anything we’ve seen with Isabelle) against the strictures of a community convinced it has legitimate reason for forbidding such passion (I’m totally on the side of Ronit and Esti, but my values have long been informed by ethical considerations rather than religious ones, especially rejecting “sins” condemning legitimate decisions of people trying to follow their hearts rather than some ancient scripture claiming to be from the mouth of God).  While Ronit has no reason to stifle her renewed attraction to Esti—except in consideration for her would-be-lover’s reputation within a closed society—Esti’s trying to be true to her faith, her husband, and, ⇒eventually, her soon-to-be-child once she discovers she’s pregnant, even as her longing for Ronit keeps asserting itself,⇐  from the sharing of a cigarette to hotel-room-sex that’s likely a godsend to lesbians who rarely see their desires as subject matter in mainstream cinema but isn’t as steamy as some reviews imply it is (Mick LaSalle [more about him in the next section below] gushes: "[…] the love scene […] people will be staggering out of the theater talking about, the one that must not be seen by anyone with high blood pressure or prone to excessive perspiration."), with mostly just a lot of kissing, mutual hands in each other’s underwear, and sharing of spit (a sort of open-air French kissing, I suppose).   

 ⇒Due to complaints from a member of their congregation, Mrs. Shapiro (Caroline Gruber), who witnessed a much-tamer-interchange between Ronit and Esti, Dovid’s angry with both women, leading to Esti’s attempted suicide via pharmacy pills in yet-another-hotel room but she relents even as Dovid calls Ronit back from her intended airport departure, then in an impassioned speech when he’s supposed to be accepting his rabbiship he talks of freedom, directly grants such to his wife, declines his flock’s stewardship, even though Esti simply moves to their couch rather than considering a relocation to NYC with Ronit (seemingly to raise her child in the London community, providing easy access to the father).  After Esti rushes to her would-be-lover's cab for one last kiss Ronit stops at the cemetery on the way out of town, paying final respects at her father’s grave.⇐

 In complete contrast to the difficulties faced by the female protagonists noted above (possibly because love doesn't enter this plot, with just a little nod to sex), Ocean’s 8 is a celebration of empowered women, although their strength comes in masterminding a devious crime for (almost) no other reason than to enrich themselves at society’s expense (but, as with other heist movies, including the Ocean’s Eleven through … Thirteen [Steven Soderbergh; 2001, 2004, 2007] trilogy this one spins off of, the focus here is on a victimless crime [almost] with the stolen properly surely covered by massive insurance so even the robbees [not a word, but you get my intention] don’t really get hurt by this clever act, except where law-enforcement/security pride is at stake).  While we never had any mention of Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) in those previous “big caper”-stories, she’s the sister of now-deceased-Danny (George Clooney)—not a plot device we’d been aware of but it does absolve Clooney of needing to appear in these tales again—having spent well over 5 years in prison because her former art-dealer/fraud-partner/lover, Claude Becker (Richard Armitage), turned her in to the feds in order to save himself.  Her seeming scheme is just to steal the $150 million Toussaint diamond necklace (normally kept safely in a Cartier vault) at the annual Met Gala at NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (a place well worth a visit if you ever get a chance), then sell it clandestinely to provide a big payday for her crew of 6: Lou (Cate Blanchett), a master organizer, later taking a key post in the Met’s kitchen; Amita (Mindy Kaling), a jewelry expert who’ll disassemble the diamonds from the necklace for easier transport from the museum; Constance (Awkwafina), a slight-of-hand-artist who’ll pass off the diamond clusters to the others during the getaway; Nine Ball (Rihanna), a genius hacker needed to overcome various security functions of the museum; Tammy (Sarah Paulson), who’ll fence the stolen jewels; Rose (Helena Bonham Carter), a fashion designer who’ll establish herself with uppity-actress Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) in order to convince her to insist on wearing the Toussaint to the Gala so Lou can poison her soup, then Constance can slip away with the necklace while Daphne’s vomiting. ⇒All's well with the heist (including overcoming the usual tense moments of seeming disaster), but there’s more to come.⇐

 Debbie’s also arranged for Claude to be seated next to Daphne so he can be implicated in the necklace’s disappearance (until it’s seemingly found but actually is a zirconium replica, quickly realized as such back at the Cartier vault) in retaliation for his much-earlier-turn on her, with the circumstantial evidence heightened by an after-the-theft-trick pulled on him by Daphne who’s now in on the deal (recruited by Debbie and Lou because she’s voicing suspicions about a few of the heist “coincidences”), so it’s implied he’ll be sent up the river himself soon by insurance investigator John Frazier (James Corden), even though there’s now no longer any evidence of the purloined Toussaint to help aid his cause.  Further, these clever gals are set for an even-richer-payday because Debbie didn’t tell the rest of them how she quietly arranged for a split-second-timing-heist of various European Crown Jewels also on display at the Met event, acrobatic thievery performed by “The Amazing” Yen (Shaobo Qin) from previous Ocean’s … episodes.  (Which, technically, means this should be Ocean’s 9, but let’s not quibble about the advertised all-female-crew; another cameo from the previous Soderbergh heists comes from Reuben Tishkoff [Elliot Gould] as Debbie’s gets her plan together, while a host of other celebrities either have quick appearances in various roles, including Dakota Fanning, Marlo Thomas, and Elizabeth Ashley or appear briefly as themselves including Anna Wintour [Vogue’s a key player with the Gala], Katie Holmes, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, Olivia Munn, Heidi Klum, along with many others whose names and fame might mean more to you than to me so you can look them up here under that listing's Production heading if you like).⇐  It all ends joyfully as each thief now has the needed financing to live the extra-good-life, with Debbie visiting Danny’s grave once again to share her triumph with him (a very different final-resting-place-scene from what you'd see in Disobedient).

So What? As noted above, I’ve explored these narratives in order of appeal they have for me, even as I’ve defied conventional-critical-wisdom on 2 of them.  Much of the reason why I was interested in Let the Sunshine In, beyond always being mesmerized by the onscreen performance-presence/command of Binoche (her frequent outfit of fashionably-modified-motorcycle jacket, leather miniskirt, and thigh-high-boots didn’t hurt either), came from the recommendation of my local San Francisco area (and widely-syndicated) chief-cinematic-analyst, Mick LaSalle, who gave it his maximum rating (the Little Man wildly clapping, jumping out of his chair) because “It’s a deep and moving investigation into one woman’s inner struggle as she goes about looking for true love.”  Of course, by now I should know it takes a truly terrible French film to not stir great interest from LaSalle so in this case we diverge mightily on the movie’s merits.  While I can’t necessary argue with his decision that … Sunshine In offers “the great Binoche performance of the decade” (at least so far, I assume, given we’ve got 2½ more years before this timeframe’s up [proper accounting of such temporal measurement includes 2020], unless he knows something about her near-future-appearances the rest of us aren’t privy to)—he certainly sees many more French films than I do, including recent work of hers I haven’t watched—with no argument about her limited impact in Godzilla (Gareth Edwards, 2014; review in our May 15, 2014 posting) but not ready to concede yet Isabelle is more of a presence than Maria Enders in Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas, 2015; review in our May 14, 2015 posting), I just don’t find that the overall effect of Let the Sunshine In matters much to me, unless it gets added value for those scenes where Binoche wears no clothes at all, as with the opening shots from above of her nude body as sex with Vincent plows its weary way through her moderate efforts to satisfy his self-image as an effective lover, as he continues to pound away on her body, increasingly incensed she hasn’t yet climaxed (I make no assumption about what it is that stirs Mr. LaSalle’s responses to Binoche, in his loins or otherwise, although her presence in bed could easily move anyone to decent levels of interest, not just about her acting), but, truly, there’s not much more to this movie than Isabelle's longing for good sex, having various levels of attempted-sexual-satisfaction, and complaining her sex life's not working well for her, an otherwise-well-satisfied artist (although we see very little of her work [one's in the photo above], just as we find almost no interaction between mother and young daughter over the course of this story).

 However, rather than stumbling along with Binoche while she’s "Lookin' for Love" (although it’s much more pleasant watching her than Mickey Gilley for 2 hours—which I’ve done in Reno, NV, hoping cousin Jerry Lee Lewis might show up; you don’t see Gilley much or hear a lot of the song in this video, though, so here’s Johnny Lee's version added to footage of Urban Cowboy [James Bridges, 1980] where everything works out better for John Travolta than it does for Isabelle, even though it’s just plain old Pasadena, TX [not even my home state's underachieving-version of Pariswhere my Dad was born back in 1913] rather than exotic France) we can easily appreciate the immense-but-unsanctioned-longing uniting Ronit and Esti (even as Esti tries with all her might to resist but honestly can’t until Ronit forces herself to break it off for good so both can move on with their lives, in a manner more like what The Supremes wail about in "Love Is Here and Now You're Gone").  OK, enough random musical diversions, back to Disobedience, which is once again a marvelous experience from the standpoint of watching great actors convey tortured emotions in a manner commanding attention, even as you might be appalled at the social barriers erected to keep these women apart, keep Esti feeling an obligation to stay in a marriage (or a shared parenthood) more like what Catholics (the religion I was raised in, with little understanding of the true intricacies of Judaism) would consider penance in shame for the community taboo she broke years ago, keep Ronit from staying in London even though Esti wants her to, desperately trying to retaining some sense of their true love even though she knows any further interactions with this “forbidden” woman would enhance ostracization from her community, which maybe she could deal with but would place a harsh burden on her child as he/she (not specified yet) might want to share Dovid’s adherence to a faith that must give him comfort in some ways even as it tears him apart in others.

 All in all (but dangerously connected to Pink Floyd's bricks in the wall ), these could be ideas ripe for a fascinating story mixing love, denial, choice, and intolerance—which it is for the critical consensus (see the next section below)—but for me, beyond the superb performances (as with … Sunshine In) I don’t find much to care about here except for wanting these women to escape this confining milieu (although I see Esti wants her child to know its father).  So, dear Brutus, maybe the fault's not in our stars (of this film) but in myself.  Whatever, I find Disobedience to be tragic (emphasized by powerful closeups) but far too removed from anything I’d ever want to encounter.

 Something else no one wants to encounter is running afoul of Debbie Ocean because revenge will always be hers, ⇒as Claude finds out when he’s framed for the Toussaint heist (various women working with Debbie and Lou sold pieces of the necklace, raised enormous sums of cash, invested their money in Becker’s business, drawing further suspicion he’d fenced the jewels).⇐  While there’s really not much else in Ocean’s 8 you haven’t seen in previous heist movies, especially Soderbergh’s Ocean’s … adventures (here’s a brief video from Mashable noting some others: Fast Five [Justin Lin, 2011], Inception [Christopher Nolan, 2010], Reservoir Dogs [Quentin Tarantino, 1992], The Town [Ben Affleck, 2010]; I’d add Topkapi [Jules Dassin, 1964], both versions of The Italian Job [Peter Collinson, 1969; F. Gary Gray, 2003], Inside Man [Spike Lee, 2006], The Sting [George Roy Hill, 1973], the latter the only one of this bunch to win the Best Picture Oscar), these “big caper” pictures always provide audiences with a solid sense of respect for the careful plotting/execution such thefts require as well as the adrenalin rushes an audience feels as unexpected complications arise putting the whole operation in peril, adding to this picture’s strong opening-weekend-appeal.  In other considerations, maybe because there’s enough current Trump-macho-Presidential-news about the Singapore summit with North Korea’s Kim Jung-un to keep the misogynistic Internet trolls occupied or maybe because Ocean’s 8 is like a sequel to the Soderbergh trilogy rather than a remake I’ve noticed no fanboy misery over this (mostly) all-female-rendition of an established concept mostly focused on men in the Clooney-led-versions (except for Julia Roberts’ role as Danny’s ex-wife in the first 2, Catherine Zeta-Jones as a European detective in … Twelve, Ellen Barkin as Al Pacino’s assistant in … Thirteen) like there was for the female-focused-remake of Ghostbusters (Paul Feig, 2016; review in our July 20, 2016 posting), even though this most-recent-Ocean’s … episode has the biggest weekend opening of all the series at $41.6 million.

 Given the material comfort for Debbie’s colleagues (Lou was easily recruited, as her hustle had deteriorated to watering down cheap vodka at the bar she was running, the others—except Daphne—not doing all that well either) it’s not clear what the premise of an Ocean’s 8 sequel might be, but as this one competes nicely against male superheroes and critics’-darling-horror movie Heredity (Ari Aster) there well could be more of this easily-satisfying-entertainment (not reaching for the dramatic heights—for many critics, successfully realized—of Let the Sunshine In or Disobedience, but for me more successful in its limited, focused ambitions) which I’d love to see more of if such a high-powered-cast can be reassembled  (which could be as difficult as restoring the Toussaint necklace).

Bottom Line Final Comments: I’ve given you enough clues so far as to how out of synch I am with the general critical consensus on the first 2 of these current offerings to result in no surprises when I share the details but here they are anyway.  Let the Sunshine In has achieved 85% positive reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, along with a very substantial 79% average score from the normally-more-restrained-folks surveyed by Metacritic; Disobedience can cite similar results: RT response of 83% positive reviews, MC average score of 74%, with my 2½ stars (roughly 50%, with the always-modifying-consideration I’m very stingy with 4½ or 5 stars, so 4’s my usual high mark, but as you can see from my format and commentary-style, there’s little about my approach that’s very standard or easily-absorbed) for the former, 3 stars (mathematically 60%, but there's that  pesky "rarely above 4" factor) for the latter.  Then I head a bit in the other direction with Ocean’s 8 as my 3½ (70%until, again, you factor in how hard it is for me to ever get above the assumed 80% for 4 stars of 5) tops the 67% positive reviews from RT, as well as the 60% average MC score.  It’s certainly clear enough from the trailer you’d easily know what you’re getting onscreen with … 8, so my rough agreement with the critical establishment (or the specific responses at RT, MC you can get more details on in the Related Links section of this posting farther below) probably won’t have much impact either way if you choose to add to its previously-noted $41.6 million debut-weekend-gross (plus another $12.5 million from international venues), with easy availability at 4,145 domestic (U.S.-Canada) theaters.  However, where the others reviewed here are concerned, Disobedience is in only 101 of those domestic theaters (grossing just about $3.5 million worldwide), disappearing fast after 7 weeks in release, while Let the Sunshine In, also out for 7 weeks, is in a mere 50 domestic theaters, also losing ground quickly (with just $759.8 thousand to show for it), so if you can even find either of these in your vicinity (or might care to explore them later on video) you’ll just have to decide if my rather blasé attitude toward them (regardless of their lofty intentions) is more in line with your probable reactions or whether critics such as Mick LaSalle speak more to your sensibilities.  However, if you pick LaSalle maybe I can at least capture your interest with my trove of Musical Metaphors below that'll bring this long epistle to the Cinephilians to an acoustic closure.

 The great thing for me (if not for you, to borrow a line from Bob Dylan whom you’ll be encountering as these final paragraphs roll along) in doing this combo review is I get to wallow in Musical Metaphors that provide closing statements from an aural perspective on each of these cinematic offerings, so let’s get to it.  About 2/3 of the way into Let the Sunshine In we’re given hope the soundtrack’s own use of Etta James singing her signature song, "At Last"  (Mack Gordon, Harry Warren for the musical movie Sun Valley Serenade [H. Bruce Humberstone, 1941]—although done then only in instrumental form by The Glenn Miller Orchestra; title track of James’ 1960 album; video here from her 1993 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), when Sylvain shows up would indicate a culmination of Isabelle’s quest for a stable-love-match, but as the plot continues no such verification’s confirmed so instead I’ll officially offer something more “attuned” to David’s psychic-sensibilities-predictions, The 5th Dimension’s version of  “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” from the 1967 play Hair (music by Gait MacDermot, lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni) at (this video’s a 1969 live performance, their recording’s on the 1969 Age of Aquarius album), given the optimistic-world-changing-expectations that medley represented so many decades ago which still haven’t come to pass (debate continues over whether the Aquarian Age actually arrived in the 20th century [if so, not with its supposed blessings] or will come about around 2600 [maybe by then Isabelle will have found the elusive love David implied is out there for her—despite director Denis’ displeasure with the movie’s English translation of her title, with such Hair-y associations]).  Moving on to Disobedience, my most obvious choice based on the film’s plot should be The Moody Blues’ "Go Now" (written in 1962 by Larry Banks and Milton Bennett, on the Blues’ 1964 The Magnificent Moodies album with a significantly different lineup then than on their more famous works beginning in the later ‘60s; this 1965 video has a false start, not unlike what occurred in the younger days between our female protagonists) because these lyrics reflect how Ronit and Esti have “already said ‘Goodbye’ [… yet both clearly feel] darling, I’m still in love with you now,” but that's all so spot-on my intended metaphor becomes a mere simile, therefore I’m drawn to something a bit more wistful, more removed in its melancholy, Bob Dylan’s "Girl from the North Country" (the recording’s on his 1963 The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan; this rare video is from some early 1960s [TV?] appearance in Canada).

 However, as with the rationale about my official choice for Let the Sunshine In, I’m not using this Dylan video as my formal Musical Metaphor for Disobedience because that undercuts the tragedy of woman-for-woman-longing this film concentrates on by focusing on a man’s reminiscences of a long-gone-female-lover.  Therefore, I’ll retain the song but in a version sung by a woman, Rosanne Cash at (song starts at 1:15; live performance at the Library of Congress on December 5, 2013; I’ll note I was ideally looking for a k.d. lang possibility but didn’t find one); so, even though Rosanne (with 2 marriages to men, including the current one since 1995) doesn’t show any evidence of the gender-preferences shared by Ronit and Esti, she retains the female references in the song’s lyrics allowing me to—metaphorically, don’t forget—offer this tune (one of my Dylan favorites, although that’s a long list) as a quiet memory Esti might still carry for Ronit years after our present story’s concluded, especially as those snowy winters descend upon London and NYC (I’ve experienced the former, lived awhile in the latter) as she thinks back upon the intense relationship she felt forced to forfeit, “a-wonderin’ if she remembers me at all […] She once was a true love of mine.” (While there are other available videos of other women singing this song I went with Cash’s version in recognition of her inclusion of it on her 2009 album The List and her father, Johnny Cash’s, duet of it on Dylan’s 1969 Nashville Skyline album as well as his other duets of “Girl …” first with Dylan, later Joni Mitchell during his 1969-1971 ABC TV series [easily found via a YouTube search]).  Well, that brings us to Ocean’s 8 where I don’t have anything as clear-cut as the above tunes but that doesn’t prevent me from taking a spontaneous idea from a radio station broadcast which I’ll do with The Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited” (on their 1982 So Excited! album) at, with my metaphorical mind at work again to transfer a song about romantic lust about to burst into orgasm (“I want to love you, feel you Wrap myself around you I want to squeeze you Please you I just can’t get enough And if you move real slow I’ll let it go”), but with a little imagination I think the energy/implications of this song could easily note the thrill of success these women experience in pulling off their grand heist so the thought of those precious gems (and their extreme cash value) could easily having them feeling “I’m so excited And I just can’t hide it I’m about to lose control and I think I like it” (especially with this full-orchestra-video—date and place unknown to me—reminiscent of the Met gala in … 8).

 Yet, the other 2 subjects of discussion above got multiple references to songs so here’s another one from Dylan (long list, right?) for the Ocean’s … gals, "Positively 4th Street,"* where Debbie can once again let out her anger on Claude because, as she might say, “When I was down You just stood there grinning [further, she knows] the reason That you talk behind my back I used to be among the crowd you’re in with [so even though she is] a master thief [she’s not about to rob any of his] heartbreaks [but just wants to leave him] dissatisfied with your position and your place [in jail, ultimately, because] I wish that for just one time You could stand inside my shoes And just for that one moment I could be you […] You’d know what a drag it is to see you.”  Again, though, for maximum impact in context of the content of Ocean’s 8, this needs to be sung by a woman so after listening to a few options I decided to use this one by Lucinda Williams at com/watch?v=ea6R-sALVlA (from the 1994 album In Their Own Words Volume One, live sets of various singers doing other singers’ material recorded at NYC’s The Bottom Line Cabaret), which, unfortunately, only uses the album cover for a visual but the audio’s in fine form which may even be more useful in imagining Debbie Ocean expressing the need for revenge she works into her theft plot (with her various accomplices probably feeling the same way about past indignities they’d had to suffer due to the cruel actions of those “who [try] to hide What [they] don’t know to begin with”).

*This version has marvelous graphic design, filled with Dylan images, but it’s by another singer doing a commendable impersonation of the original record, so if you want the real thing here’s Bob from a 1994 Nashville concert, more in keeping with his current performance tempo but at least you can mostly understand what he’s singing—not always the case in his contemporary shows (I speak from experience)—although the video’s of a distinctly funky quality.  He recorded this song in 1965, released it as a hit record, but it didn’t appear on any album until 1967’s Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits.

 In closing (yes, I hear your applause), I’ll note a couple of completely un-filmicly (another non-word but should be)-related-sports triumphs that occurred last weekend, which I also gave some attention to along with investing more time in local moviehouses than I’ve had the opportunity to do lately.  First, kudos to my even-more-local-than-San Francisco Golden State Warriors (Oakland, CA) who’ve now won back-to-back National Basketball Association championships, along with another trophy in 2015 to give them a rare achievement of 3 victories in the last 4 years (all against the always-ferocious Cleveland Cavaliers, who just barely beat the Warriors in 2016’s game 7 but were swept 4-0 this year, another rare event for the NBA finals).  Even rarer, though, is for a single horse to win all 3 races of the American Triple Crown (the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes), which has happened only 13 times since 1919 (the first horse to do so was Sir Barton) even though these contests have been run since the later 19th century.  The newest Triple Crown winner is Justify, trained by Bob Baffert who also trained the previous Triple Crown horse, American Pharoah, in 2015 (but with different owners).  You can’t repeat as a Triple Crowner (only 3-year-olds can compete each year), but the extremely-difficult three-peat is possible in basketball, so we’ll see in 2019 what the Warriors are capable of (and whether anyone except Kevin Durant can be crowned Finals MVP, after he’s won it 2 years in a row).  However, in recognition of no matter how fast you run to the top there are limits to longevity whether you hope to be a sports dynasty (which probably requires the Warriors to win a couple more titles in upcoming years, never an easy task) or a champion race horse because dynasties soon age out of their prime, horses have a limited career before being put out to stud so to honor victories while admitting realities here are the Beach Boys with "Fun, Fun, Fun" (from their 1964 Shut Down Volume 2 album, but this live performance skimps on the lead guitar part so to finish it up properly here’s the recorded version). 
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Here’s more information about Let the Sunshine In: (22:23 interview with director Claire Denis)

Here’s more information about Disobedience: (46:25 interview with screenwriter-director Sebastían Lelio and actor Alessandro Nivola [audio a bit low at times]) and (4:32 interview, again with Lelio and Nivola but also an opportunity to hear a bit from actors Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams)

Here’s more information about Ocean’s 8: (38:38 interview with co-writer Olivia Milch, 
co-writer/director Gary Ross, and actors Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Awkwafina, Sarah Paulson [audio’s a bit low on this one at times also, then drops out completely just at the end])

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 email address of 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 3,639 (still dreadfully short of our best numbers, but we thank those of you who continue to check in with us) below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from within the previous week:

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