My holidays are over despite efforts to hang on to every second. I had a great time. Between double turkey dinners and a crummy virus that wouldn’t leave me the hell alone, I had plenty of time to hang out with family, friends and the semper fi feline, oftentimes with a fine glass of Crown Royal over ice in my hand.
Now I understand how much fun retirement can be.
I didn’t write much. I was lucky to jump into a hashtag game or two, but with Book Three out in the world finding its audience, I was content to take a pause.
I watched a lot of T.V. and was surprised by the quality of the content.
JOE’S PALACE & CAPTURING MARY (Movie Network, Canada)
I have seen CAPTURING MARY before, so I was delighted to find its companion film, JOE’S PALACE, on the roster in December. Set in contemporary London, both films flash between now and “back then.” With a vacant and very smart London townhouse as the anchor, both films show how an inanimate object—the house—can be as vital and real as its carbon-based companions. I couldn’t take my eyes off it, especially when the tortured Mary (played by the intense Ruth Wilson) and her nemesis Greville took the stage to mount a cat and mouse game that left this viewer chilled.
Enter Joe, a young man who works in the now vacant palace as a concierge and keeper of the building’s secrets. Joe appears innocent and unfettered, yet it’s his absence of baggage that enables him to cut through his tormented visitors and get to the truth of their pasts. The truth is ugly, but the resolution is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.
A GHOST STORY (Netflix)
Imagine Casey Affleck mute and under a sheet with only two eye holes through which to communicate. (I checked. It was him.) A GHOST STORY is a “watching film” in that you can’t look away for a second or you might miss something. The hook of course is the notion that something silent and unseen could be wandering through your house as you sit and write or eat or sleep, and that—let’s face it—is both compelling and creepy. Affleck’s taken some personal hits over missteps settled privately, but I couldn’t let it get in the way. I couldn’t stay away. His is a stunning, soundless performance that elicited rave reviews to go with kudos for the film all around. Something different.
A “reading picture” if you cannot speak French, this production is luxe and takes place just before the out break of World War II in France. Natalie Portman’s “Laura” plays sister to Lily-Rose Depp’s “Kate” who is a sought-after medium in elite circles. Both sisters rely on the gift to get ahead in life, but things take a tragic turn when they become enmeshed with their patron Korben. Korben has a past that he very much wants to unlock with Kate’s help, but the results of their experiments have the unforeseen effect of releasing the full weight of Parisian society in the negative’s column. Here’s a case where the spirit world may be preferred. Visually gorgeous and somewhat long-running, it is “art house” and moody and worthy of a boo if “different” is for you.
I’M THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE (Netflix)
Actor Ruth Wilson again (See her in Showtime’s The Affair if you haven’t already) in a joint Canadian-American production that’s classy psych-thriller from start to finish. Throw in some Bob Balaban (right up there with Buck Henry) in a limited, but pivotal role, and you’ve got something that will freak you out with minimal effort. The scare is in Wilson’s eyes. She is a hospice nurse called in to care for dying horror author Iris Blum in a remote and gorgeous century home (trope-I don’t care) that has a lot of supernatural activity going on. Dialogue is sparse, and the scenes are CGI free with ghostly specters using more traditional (old-fashioned) tricks that blend well with this type of bare bones presentation. Just wait for the phone to fly out of Wilson’s hand.
CRIMSON PEAK (Netflix)
The antithesis of the film above, this beauty is a good old timey gothic horror with freaky ghosts set in an even freakier house in 19th Century England. Here, Tom Hiddleston and excellent Jessica Chastain pair up as a larcenous brother and sister seeking to bilk heiress Mia Wasikowska of her fortune and her life. As if! The heiress kicks butt without aid of 50 caliber fully automatic machine weapons or hunter killer satellites. Shot in gorgeous “Triadic” color (a go-to for director Guillermo del Toro), CRIMSON PEAK reminds me of the Technicolor films of yesterday, with frames that look more like paintings only to move like Harry Potter’s newspaper.
GERALD’S GAME (Netflix)
The plot description read like a BDSM cheesefest, but when I cracked into it I found it was anything but. Based on what book reviewers have called “one of Stephen King’s lesser works,” this psych horror thriller will freak you out as a viewer and have you wishing you could think that way as a writer. What’s up with the dog? Perfect for late night with the lights out, all I’ll say is that I’ve never seen actor Carla Gugino like this. (I used to watch her in Spy Kids 1,2 and 3 with the kids). This one is not for kids.
Well, if I had any sense I’d get back to researching Book Four, but I still have a house to paint from top to bottom and there’s this little Australian series called GLITCH that keeps calling out. It’s on Netflix, of course.
Adult, unapologetic and wholly cognizant,
January 16, 2018