Tag Archives: Greta Gerwig

Top Ten Reasons Why 20th Century Women is My Favorite Film of 2016

Billy Crudup, Elle Fanning, Annette Benning, Greta Gerwig and Lucas Jade Zumann Star in 20th Century Women

The Coming-of-Age Story can fall into one of two categories: Sublime when done well, but Worse than Anything when done poorly. 20th Century Women, a new film directed by Mike Mills (Beginners) flips this genre sideways by looking at a pivotal year in the life of a fifteen year old boy through his relationships with three strong and finely nuanced women. Set in Santa Barbara, California in 1979, 20th Century Women follows Dorothea Fields (Annette Bening), a dedicated single mom in her mid-50s, who is raising her teenage son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) during a time filled with cultural change and rebellion. Without a father figure in Jamie’s life, Dorothea enlists the help of two younger women to help her bring-up Jamie  to be a good man. Abbie (Greta Gerwig) is a free-spirited, 20-something punk artist and cancer survivor who is a boarder in their home, while 17-year-old Julie (Elle Fanning) is a troubled, promiscuous neighbor, who is also Jamie’s best friend. Billy Crudup also stars as William, a charming but aimless Handyman who also rents a room with the Fields home.

For anyone who lived through an important time of his or her life during 1979 (it was the year I graduated from high school, lost my virginity, and started college) 20th Century Women will feels like a unique, cliché-free set of life experiences that creates a pitch-perfect time capsule, dictated by a very specific time in pop culture history. Here are my Top Ten reasons why I love this film so much.

1. Even when she is horrible-piece-of-shit films like Greenburg, Greta Gerwig is the best thing in any movie she makes.  I love everything about her character, Abbie, who reminded me of my former Punk Rock self, only way cooler.

2. The cinematography and art direction make each frame of the film look like a William Eggleston photograph.

3. Its depiction of the California Punk Rock scene in 1979 (which I was deeply immersed in) also manages to includes songs from the NYC’s No Wave scene and of course British First Wave Punk. The soundtrack reflects the film’s time period with music from artists who helped define the era: Devo, Suicide, The Germs, The Raincoats, Siouxsie and the Banshees, David Bowie, Buzzcocks and Black Flag. Holy Cow! I felt like someone stole my vinyl collection from this era and put it in the film.

4. The soundtrack also features and original score by Roger Neill, which is utterly transportive.

5. I wouldn’t really call myself a fan of the Talking Heads’ music, but three of their songs – “Don’t Worry about the Government,” “Artists Only” and “The Big Country” — are far superior to any their popular hits, and arguably better than most other songs on the planet. Two of these three songs are included on the soundtrack. You will have to see the movie to find out which ones. BTW I predict that this film will provoke a surge in downloads of the Talking Heads’ catalog.

6. There’s a 3D acid flashback visual effect that the filmmakers use to elucidate the feeling of traveling in a fast car as being comparable to moving across time. I’ve never seen anything like that before and it is so trippy and profoundly emotionally effective.

7. 20th Century Women reminded me so much of three of my favorite films, ever: Dazed and Confused, Almost Famous,  and American Beauty. If you dig those films, then you will just love this one.

8. An old high school friend of mine makes a cameo appearance in the film, sort of by accident. Tony Reflex from the seminal Orange County punk band, Adolescents, can be seen in a photograph used in a montage that depicts the rise of the punk rock movement in the late 1970s. That was fun.

9. No meaningless violence or senseless tragedy. I hope that isn’t a spoiler for anyone.

10. It is just the best movie, and you should go see it!

Grade: A+

20th Century Women — which was just nominated for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy for this year’s Golden Globes, opens in New York and Los Angeles on Christmas Day, and Nationwide on January 20th, 2017. Music From The Motion Picture: 20th Century Women will be released digitally on December 16th, while a CD version will be released on January 13th 2017, followed by an LP version on February 10th, 2017.

various artists 20th century women music from the motion picture

Russell Brand Charms in Arthur Remake

Russell Brand Stars in Arthur

The 1981 comedy Arthur, starring the late Dudley Moore and the even later Sir John Gielgud, is a movie that most people recall so fondly that it’s become a bit of a celluloid sacred cow. In this now 30 year-old film, Moore played the titular character; a lovable, billionaire playboy / drunk, against Gielgud’s role as Arthur’s staid butler, Hobson; an Oscar-winning performance that was memorable for Gielgud’s many droll one-liners that continually upstaged every scene he and Moore shared. The vibrant, on-screen chemistry created by these two actors has understandably inspired a warm-fuzzy feeling in the memories of Arthur fans, and there’s nothing wrong with that. What’s interesting is the pre-emptive “Don’t Fuck With Arthur” backlash that seems to be swirling about the Internet in anticipation of an Arthur remake, starring comedic actor Russell Brand and screen legend Helen Mirren (directed by Jason Winer, due in theaters tomorrow). As if casting Brand – an actor famous for his hilarious portrayal of an out of control, licentious, alcoholic rock star – as Arthur and Helen Mirren Dame Helen Mirren, I might add – as a female version of Hobson is anything but inspired casting. Having attended a press screening of Arthur last night, please let me assuage your fears that it might take a cinematic dump on your kind regard for its predecessor. While undeniably a vehicle driven by Russell Brand’s showcase performance (because, let’s get real; the guy is a superstar in training), Arthur is a charming update on its source material that’s laugh out loud hilarious pretty much from beginning to end.

For those unfamiliar with the story, the plot of Arthur remains faithful to the original: Arthur is a perpetual Man-child, sworn to fun and debauchery and able to bankroll his endless adolescence thanks to a seemingly limitless income from the family business, Bach Worldwide. When Arthur’s outrageous shenanigans (crashing his ‘Bat Mobile’ hot rod into the Wall Street Bull) land him in jail, threatening to besmirch the company’s reputation among its investors, his mother, who runs the business with an iron fist, decides it’s time to tame him down. Through marriage to one of her ambitious young employees, Susan Johnson (Jennifer Garner), she aims to rein-in Arthur’s irresponsible behavior and keep the family name out of the tabloid headlines. The catch, of course, is that on the cusp of his engagement to Susan, Arthur meets “the woman of his dreams” in a NYC tour guide named Naomi (Greta Gerwig in a role made for her). If you’ve ever seen a Hollywood movie, you can figure out the rest of the plot for yourself.

The acting in Arthur is one of its high points, with lots of memorable supporting characters that help to flesh out the rather simple plot. Helen Mirren is fantastic as Arthur’s “Nanny” Hobson. Her and Arthur’s interactions obviously include a lot of improvisation (one of Brand’s great talents honed in his stand up comedy act) and their chemistry, as in the original, is right on. In the original Arthur, Susan (played by Jill Eikenberry) is a very sweet and beautiful socialite whom Arthur simply does not love. In the new version, Susan is a calculating and manipulative career woman whose ambition to control Arthur’s family business is all–consuming. She’s determined that Arthur marry her, whether he likes it or not – and her bullying, borderline-psycho father (Nick Nolte) is equally determined that his daughter get what she wants. Here, both Garner and Nolte create worthwhile, Love-to-hate characters out of fairly one-note roles. But it’s most rewarding to see an appealing actress like Greta Gerwig shine as Naomi, as she plays so well off of Brand’s improvisational, physical performance. After having suffered through the thoroughly unpleasent 2010 film Greenberg, (which is, seriously, one of the most dreadfully awful indie films ever made) in which she played the only likeable character, I hope she will become known for many other good roles. The Worley Gig Gives Arthur Four out of Five Stars.

Arthur Opens Nationwide on Friday, April 9th