Frank @ The Ross

Frank (MIchael Fessbender)

Frank (MIchael Fessbender)

It all started with a father’s good intentions in Bluff City, Kansas. Mr. Burroughs (played by Paul Butterworth) knew there was no costume party, but he humored his fourteen-year-old son Frank by making for him a paper mache head to wear to this imagined event. Mr. Burroughs laments, “The worse thing to do with something like that is to pander to it,” — The “it” being what Frank thinks is real in his head.

Filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson directs an oddity of a film entitled Frank, a story about a musician wannabe named Jon Burroughs (played by Domhnall Gleeson) who lives in a small English village. Frank, played by Michael Fessbender, chooses Jon to join his looney-tunes band called Soronpfrbs that he leads with all of his idiosyncrasies in that paper mache head. He sleeps in it. Showers in it. Sings through it. Drinks food supplements through a straw; solid foods are discouraged. The head itself is a remarkable work of art, and Frank takes care to preserve it.

The Soronfrbs

The Soronfrbs

The band isolates themselves in a cabin in the woods; there, they begin work on their album. Songs are arranged according to Franks’s own musical coding system; the band design instruments from string, glass, and wood; all band members participate in daily exercise required by Frank. Jon looks on Frank with awe, and his hero worship taps into Jon’s own obsession with stardom. The whole scenario is kind of weird; but Abrahamson succeeds in staging a play between mental illness and mental health masked by the sturm and drang that usually swirls within the world of celebrity pop rock. In the middle of Frank is a frail thread of a love story between Frank and his interest, Clara (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal). Throw Jon into the equation, and stories of The Beatles, John Lennon, and Yoko Ono come to memory.

Clara (Maggie Gyllenhall)

Clara (Maggie Gyllenhall)

Fiona Weir, casting director, has gathered together a fine ensemble cast of band members who are: Scott McNairy as Don, Francois Civil as Baroque, Carla Azar as Nana, Shane O’Brien as Lucas. We have all heard their kind of music before, and it’s that familiarity that throws us off track with seeing, really seeing the dysfunction between members. Fessbender marvels as he merges the fake head with flesh and bone into a believable “dude with the big head” such that we forget something is a little off with Frank, or is there really?

Poppa Burroughs should not lament too much; a choo-choo train set or a game of Monopoly would not have brought Frank to his place at the close of the film. Lenny Abrahamson suggests in Frank that at the end of the crazy manic in our life, where we really want to be is with the family that we love and to love them all.

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Frank plays through October 2 at The Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.

Listen to the review recorded for Friday Live at the Mill! @ 28:12.

http://netnebraska.org/interactive-multimedia/none/friday-live-lied-center-3

Watch for in-depth Film • Television • & More reviews & commentary.

In the meantime, Catch a film … Share the Popcorn … Feed Your Soul!

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The Congress @ The Ross

Robin Wright animated  in her psychedelic world.

Robin Wright animated in her psychedelic world.

My father always would offer these stern words of caution when I went to a social gathering. He would say, “you may go, but know when to leave the party.” My father’s caution is exactly what I would have offered to film director Ari Folman if I had the opportunity. Folman takes the audience on a psychedelic mind trip in his film The Congress, starring Robin Wright and Harvey Keitel.

I got it — this excursion into the world of primary colors and dreamscapes—this alternative universe into which Robin Wright travels to escape the reality of aging. But Folman stays so long in that sphere that it no longer matters what happens to anybody; it wears on the mind. I also got the messages that Folman doles out with a heavy hand. There is a critique of celebrity culture and how the operators of it salivate over young flesh with a hatred of its natural ability to age; how fans become so hungry for its stars that they will virtually eat and/or drink them alive; and, how film studios and their mogul administrators tire of handling the volatile personalities of actors.

Robin Wright in the Digital Laboratory "recording" all of her mannerisms

Robin Wright in the Digital Laboratory “recording” all of her mannerisms

Miramount, the fictional film studio has just the solution to assuage its woes: digitize the still youthful looking Robin Wright, upload all of her mannerisms and feelings into a database, and cast that digitized image in films for all eternity. There is a devil in the catch, and it is evil: Robin Wright must never act again – not in theater nor onscreen. Robin Wright signs the contract, and Folman rightly imagines then answers the question: what happens when an artist never can practice her art nor lend her talents to the world again. She turns to chemicals and trips out on a fantasy filled with a la-la land of personalities, to include Jesus, Michael Jackson, Queen Elizabeth, Elvis Pressley, and a Tom Cruise look-a-like.

The plot becomes convoluted with twists and turns that end up somewhere that is nowhere. Folman tarries so long in the animated realm that I found myself conjuring up a shuttle to take me out of there! My father taught me well, though. I pulled my emotions from the story and waited for its end. I knew when to leave that party!

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The Congress plays through October 2d at The Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.

Listen to The Congress @ 1:00:05 recorded for Friday Live at The Mill!

http://netnebraska.org/interactive-multimedia/none/friday-live-lied-center-3

Watch for in-depth Film • Television • & More reviews & commentary.

In the meantime, Catch a film … Share the Popcorn … Feed Your Soul!

The One I Love @ The Ross

Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss)

Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss)

Have you signed up for counselling or therapy to discuss the complicated issues you are experiencing in your intimate relationship? Then cancel that appointment post haste and put your money on The One I Love, the new romantic comedy and film debut from director Charlie McDowell. You will see that this story will quiet those marital gremlins that show up at the oddest of times and wreak havoc on your happy home.

Wrapped within the jacket of science fiction, The One I Love is a smart and finely crafted curious film, starring Mark Duplass and Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss who play Ethan and Sophie. This couple is teeter-tottering on the cliff of separation, until they sit on the couch of the therapist, played by Ted Danson. The Therapist suggests to the couple a break from their familiar settings and retreat to a charming abode with a guest house full of magic. There Ethan and Sophie slowly but surely come to terms with their relationship but in the most mysterious of ways and in the company of people they do not expect.

Duplass and Moss amuse the audience, moving back and forth between the archives of the relationship to retrieve unattended matters such as jealousy and infidelity; distraction when a situation called for paying attention; and the most common of issue: the growth of your partner into someone your partner does not recognize.

Yes, McDowell’s The One I Love could be just the therapy you need to rekindle that spark of enchantment that showed up at your first encounter with each other. Plus, it’ll save you some money! Oh, a note of trivia: Charlie McDowell is the son of Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenbergen.

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The One I Love plays thru Thursday, September 25th at The Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.

Watch for in-depth Film • Television • & More reviews & commentary.

In the meantime, Catch a film … Share the Popcorn … Feed Your Soul!

Trip to Italy @ The Ross

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon  take a break

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon take a break

Bring out your best bottle of wine, and sip and relax with The Trip to Italy, Michael Higgenbottom’s feature film composed from the six-episode BBC television series and his second installment after his film The Trip (2010). British comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon team up once again for a restaurant tour, this time in Italy, and they intend to follow the route of the English romantic poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Bryon.

Take a sip of wine.

The Trip to Italy will amaze you with its enchanting sea adventures off the Italian coast drenched in soundtracks of opera, classical music, and the sound of the waves; the petit dejeuners taken as evening pulls in the night; the poetry recited on the sea shore; poetry recited; the road trip itself opens up the grandeur of Italy’s natural surroundings and magnificent hotels. You’ll be taken inside the Greta Garbo suite at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo; the Terrace of Infinity where John Huston filmed a scene for his movie Beat The Devil in 1953 starring Humphrey Bogart and Gina Lollabrigida or the Bella Palazzo.

Take another sip of wine … You’re going to need it to watch the rest of this film. James Clarke’s cinematography is breathtaking; his high angle shots flaunt the splendor of Italy, and the tight framing showcases all of its warmth, its passion for life, its cordiality. Well, he has to because hanging out with Coogan and Brydon demands a respect for every rule your mother taught you on being polite no matter how uncomfortable you may feel.

Go ahead, finish off that bottle of wine. It will ease the pain.

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The Trip to Italy plays thru Thursday, September 25th at The Ross.

Watch for in-depth Film • Television • & More reviews & commentary.

In the meantime, Catch a film … Share the Popcorn … Feed Your Soul!

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