Movies – no spoilers.

One of the indulgences that I enjoy when I come to Forida for the Christmas holidays is taking in a few of the movies that are released year-end.  Since I am here for three weeks this year, I can easily enjoy a few afternoons to take the Longboat Key trolley into Sarasota, see a movie and be back on the beach for an hour long walk to soak up the golden sunset.

Here are a couple that have seen so far.

Rogue One

Why can’t these Star Wars movies be released in some sort of chronological order? They are all starting to look the same to me, maybe because they are all the same, the only additions being the jump in technology in the 40 years since the franchise began. I have to wonder about a movie that I thought the character with the most depth was a droid.

Put on the 3D glasses… A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….Speeding airships. Crashes. Explosions. Sparks flying. Big music. More sparks. Lasers.  Ping ping,  More explosions. Where are we now?   Who are these people?  Swells of French horns. Eye glances between the protagonists. I thought they didn’t like each other. Father-child reunion.  Violins. Swoopy hats, or are they helmets. Explosions. A city destroyed. Big CGI boulders coming at us.  Dead storm troopers. French horns and violins together. How much more? I have to pee really badly. Dizzying heights. Will she fall? Trite dialogue. Explosions. Big air ships colliding.  Saved? Eye glances. That looks like…Too late it’s over. Full orchestra. Credits. Rush to the toilet. The force be with me.   Ho hum.  3 stars out of five.

Nocturnal Animals

Where Rogue One was in my face, this one got into my head.  I knew from the opening ten seconds that this is going to be an edgy film. I saw the name Amy Adams but have to admit that the visuals in this opening sequence were so distracting that I saw not one other title or credit as the opening sequence ran.  The film is a two hour nightmare.  And that is meant as a complement.  Amy Adams plays a bored, unhappy art dealer named Susan with a cheating husband and a superficial unfulfilling career.  She receives a manuscript from her ex ( Jake Gyllenhaal) and as she reads it she is absorbed into that story and reflects both on her past and present situations.  The movie jumps between these three settings, sometimes abruptly but always adeptly.  We are bounced in and out of an increasingly disturbing and violent story and Susan’s life.

 All of the performances in this movie were creditable and compelling but I particularly liked Michael Shannon as the crusty, enigmatic Texas lawman.  Tom Burns’ ( A Single Man) direction was what made the movie so disturbingly engrossing.  Tight close ups felt intense. Susan’s world was stark and monochromaticaly elegant but barren.  I cringed as Tony and his family drove down dark roads in the middle of nowhere in Texas, knowing the fear of the dark and and not knowing where you are going or what lurks around the corner or in the next moment. In contrast with the “blow you out of the theatre” orchestrations in Rogue One, there was one suspenseful scene where the music was a barely audible tremulo on violins. You could almost not hear it but it was there, eerily adding to the suspense.  In another segment a dull drum beat softly, mimicking a heartbeat. At other moments, dead silence added to the apprehension. 

I came away thinking of how this reminded me of the way I felt reading my friend Iain Reid’s latest book “I’m Thinking of Ending Things.”  When I got into the last half of this book I had to keep going and in my mind I could hear the violin tremulo and visually imagine, like Susan does in the movie, the story tensely unfolding. I think Iain’s book could make this kind of movie.
I liked this movie a lot but know it would not be for everyone. I will give it 4.5 stars out of 5. I am guessing that if you loved Rogue One you would not like this one and vice versa. 

Part of the fun of my movie afternoon is waiting for the return trolly at the downtown bus station. What a collection of characters there. One man yelling  angrily at another woman across the benches, a security guard who looks like he is right out of Fargo, and  someone wanting to sell me scalped bus passes. My fifteen minutes there was like turning the afternoon into a double feature.

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