Six Degrees of Cinema: Ricki & the Flash

 I’m still trying to figure out Ricki and the Flashnot because it’s particularly complicated – it’s a fairly run of the mill dysfunctional family dramedy with an excellent cast and bonus Meryl Streep/Rick Springfield soundtrack – but because, although I had a fun time (and got caught up in the emotion) in the end I’m not sure there’s much to this. It felt like a bunch of moments, some great, strung together with fun songs. Which is great, because, well Meryl Streep – but it was clearly trying to say something about ambition and family and love, but I’m not quite sure what that something was.

That being said it gave me 3 great moments:

  1. Mamie Gummer with her unwashed, post breakdown hair stirring up drama between her parents and her brothers because she just doesn’t have energy to be polite.

2. Rick Springfield & Meryl Streep using this song:

to convey more emotion than any speech in the script.

3. Meryl singing one of my favorite songs of all time:

I forgot for most of the movie that it was written by Diablo Cody (then she shows up dancing to U2, which was pretty cool.) I still think of her as the voice of Junowhich isn’t fair, because I saw Young Adult and they are not similar (though thinking of these 3 together I like the variety of weird women Cody has brought to the screen. There’s a stereotype of the “alternative” woman and she sort of refuses to allow easy categorization for her characters. Ricki, for instance, despite her anti-establishment life choices, is a pro-military Republican.) So, I’m going to use her as my link and watch Paradise (because you couldn’t pay me money to see Jennifer’s Body.)

In this chain: The End of the Tour – Ricki & the Flash

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What’s the Opposite of Bro Country?

Ironically, I’ve been listening to less country music since moving to Texas. Mostly, I just haven’t been listening to the radio as much now that I have internet access in my apartment, but I was also getting really sick of the repetitiveness of modern country radio. It seemed like every other song (if not more than that) was a generically attractive white dude singing about a girl in cutoffs in his truck. I like some of those songs so don’t get me wrong, but I was a little bored. So I made you all (and myself) a list of some good girl country (some recent, some classic – some I know I’ve put on playlists before, but I don’t care.)

Takin’ Pill – Pistol Annies

Chris Isaak – Lydia Loveless

Truth no. 2 – Dixie Chicks

Sleeper Awake – Kelly Hogan 

(This one may not be a country song, but I don’t care. I needed to include Kelly Hogan…)

Looking Back Now – Maggie Rose

Biscuits – Kacey Musgraves 

The Blade – Ashley Monroe 

The Bug – Mary Chapin Carpenter

Stand Beside Me – Jo Dee Messina

I Beg Your Pardon, I Never Promised You A Rose Garden – Lynn Anderson

Rest in peace, Ms. Anderson.

Google Images is pretty brilliant sometimes (Click the image to read the brilliant post that accompanies this image)

Six Degrees of Cinema: The End of the Tour

 I had the really interesting experience of literally finishing the book this movie is based on on the bus ride to the theater. And, well, the book was better, but only because it feels more complete. (And there’s a lot more book nerd shop talk about line editing and the ethics of accepting large advances that was fascinating to me, but might not be very cinematic.)

A little background, The End of the Tour, is based on the transcripts of a five-day interview that the journalist and novelist David Lipsky (played in the film by Jesse Eisenberg) conducted with David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) during the end of his book tour for Infinite Jest. The article was meant for Rolling Stone, but was never published, and after Wallace’s death in 2008, Lipsky edited it together into a book length piece (with the wonderfully long title of Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself – which is a Wallace line about the futility of parents trying to train their children). The posthumous nature of the project (and of the film) means that you read Wallace’s words, especially about his depression and his fears for the future, through the lens of knowing what will come for him. (As Lipsky writes in his preface, “Suicide is such a powerful end, it reaches back and scrambles the beginning. It has an event gravity. Eventually, every memory and impression gets tugged in its direction.”) But the best bits of the book are where the two guys aren’t trying to craft anything at all, but just like arguing over whose expense account should cover the bill at Denny’s. Because it’s easy to make Wallace, especially posthumously (and especially in light of his sage wisdom in This Is Water) into some sort of prophetic voice, but really he was an incredibly smart dude who liked to go dancing at the Baptist Church in Bloomington, IL and loved his dogs. (His sister said to Lipsky that her biggest question after her brother’s death was “Will he be remembered as a real, living person?” I think the book helps accomplish that.)

 But, let’s be real, not a lot of people are going to spend three days reading a 300 page interview, and that’s part of why adaptations are made (I’m sure Wallace would have a lot of thoughts on that, but I won’t pretend to know what they would be.) So, I’ll move on to my thoughts about the film.

First: I love the director James Ponsoldt, who was actually the inspiration to start this Six Degrees series (because I saw Smashed and The Spectacular Now within days of each other a couple of years ago). This movie feels like him; it’s quiet, relationship focused, and lovely.

Second: The acting is nearly perfect.  Eisenberg was less twitchy than I was expecting, but also not as cold as he was in The Social Network, and other than a quibble I had with the script (I’ll get to that in a bit) I found his manner matched the Lipsky I found in the book. Jason Segel deserves any and all hype he’s receiving for this role. I’ve always found him charming, but the vulnerability and mental exhaustion he exudes here is heartbreakingly great. He also manages to capture Wallace’s quiet goofiness without ever feeling like an impression, which is a feat.

 I kept thinking the whole time about the changes from the book (inevitable given the closeness of the two experiences for me), but they flipped the order of some conversations from the end of the trip to the beginning (and vice versa), which, I found, didn’t make as much emotional sense. I had a hard time buying that Wallace would just open up right away about how much he used to drink, for instance, when the addiction angle is clearly troubling to him at the end of the film. I’m not sure if I would have even noticed this if I hadn’t loved the rhythm of the book so much, but it was bit jarring.

I was also left with a big question about Lipsky. (Both the book and film gave me a good sense of Wallace, and I almost feel ready to attempt Infinite Jest, but probably not until I’m done with school.) But, in the book there are all of these [Breaks] that indicate when the recorder was turned off. The film fills these in with some personal tensions between the two men (and frankly Lipsky doesn’t come off very well) and I wondered how much of that was invented by the screenwriter Donald Margulies and how much of it was Lipsky owning up to what he had left out of the book. (Which would be fine, the book isn’t a memoir, it’s explicitly not about Lipsky in the way the film is.) I guess I’m just curious what the filmmakers thought they had to add to make this portrait a story.

I’m tempted to use Ponsoldt to start another chain, but I sort of think that would cheating, and I really want to see Ricki and the Flash, which stars Mamie Gummer, who plays Wallace’s friend whom they visit in Minneapolis and so, random as it may seem that is what I am going to do.

Annual East Coast Adventure – Boston Wedding Edition

I guess I should say “mostly annual” as I had to skip my trip to New England last summer because I was making my best friend drive me through Oklahoma. But as most of my travel is now dictated by where people I love decide to celebrate their loves, I was very happy to get to roll a quick trip into seeing my parents in Connecticut as well.

I started it out with a nice relaxing evening on my parent’s porch, drinking wine and arguing with my dad:

photoThen we drove out to our family lake house (lovingly referred to as Shack), and on the way my mom and I found the solution to my singledom:

photo (1)

If you can’t read the sign – it says HaddamSingles.com – I don’t know why they need their own site out there, but who knows

I have the best view in the world:

photo (2)

Salt was far too busy guarding me while I read to pose for photos

Salt was far too busy guarding me while I read to pose for photos

I made my parents take me to one of my favorite restaurants in the whole world – The Blue Oar on the Connecticut River:

photo (4) My mom and I tried to get my dad to take our picture, this was frame 10:

photo (5)

I’m not sure why Mom looks vaguely terrified

The sky was beyond-words-gorgeous:

photo (6) While the rest of the country watched Trump make a Trump of himself and Jon Stewart sign off, we did this…

photo (7) The next day I jumped on the train at New London to head up to Boston, and remembered why I love New England so much in the summer:

photo (8)

Cool public art on the side of the Kingston, RI train station

Cool public art on the side of the Kingston, RI train station

When I arrived, starving, I wandered into Cafe Jaffa for an excellent kebab:

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The view from Miró and my gorgeous hotel room at the Sheraton Boston

The view from Miró and my gorgeous hotel room at the Sheraton Boston

(We were there for Alexis and Tucker’s wedding, but I’m not putting up a lot of wedding pictures here, more will be up on Facebook when I get my broken laptop back, but this isn’t a wedding blog…so…)

The day after a really fun rehearsal dinner Miró and I grabbed delicious brunch at the Trident Bookstore and Cafe:

photo (12) And then we walked around Harvard, because why not?:

I mean it's gorgeous

I mean it’s gorgeous

OK, maybe a couple of wedding pictures (the venue was the gorgeous Moraine Farm in Beverly, MA)

photo (14)

The Harry Potter-esque wedding reception tent

The Harry Potter-esque wedding reception tent