“The most turgid and sordid ‘That Girl’ ever!” Author Susie Duncan Sexton offers guest critique of Darling (1965)

[Image Source: Wikipedia]

[Image Source: Wikipedia]

I got an email today from my mom Susie Duncan Sexton that I found so very funny and spot on; I figured it was time for another guest reviewer on this blog! (Check out a guest review of ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ by Rebecca Biber here.) My mom is an author and columnist, animal rights advocate and culture pundit – you can read her wonderful and free-wheeling blog here and check out her website (including info on her two books Secrets of an Old Typewriter and Misunderstood Gargoyles and Overrated Angels) here.

From Wikipedia: “Darling is a 1965 British drama film written by Frederic Raphael, directed by John Schlesinger, and starring Julie Christie with Dirk Bogarde and Laurence Harvey. Darling was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. Christie won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance as Diana Scott. The film also won the Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay and Best Costume Design.”

Here’s Susie’s no-hold-barred-wittily-concise assessment of ‘Darling’ …

Susie Duncan Sexton

Susie Duncan Sexton

so atrocious…as if marlo thomas’ That Girl went apesh*t and became accidentally more comedic than one could ever imagine…move over holly golightly…welcome ‘holly go-darkly.’ awkwardly thunky…one of the worst movies I have ever seen.

for starters…christie is 5 ft. two in. and we are supposed to believe she is a model?  she got the academy award?  shirley maclaine was offered the piece of crap first.  christie looked exactly like carole king to me.  she has an abortion…a cuckolded husband, two lovers and marries a prince?  in the longest piece of drivel I have ever sat through.

just atrocious…that guy who hates giant and doris day [David Thomson] also hates this time-warped mod squad sleaze…if it weren’t so pathetically hilarious, it would be the most turgid and sordid That Girl ever!

Misunderstood Gargoyles and Overrated Angels Thanks to Debbie Lannen for this fabulous review (just posted here!) of my mom’s book Misunderstood Gargoyles and Overrated Angels: “Susie Duncan Sexton has a way of opening your eyes into a world long gone. Her unique style invites you to imagine as she guides you through her experiences. A delightful book. I enjoy her references to musicals, theatre, and music of all types. It is a book that can be read in one sitting or enjoyed throughout a series of sittings, as I have. Sit back with your favorite beverage and enjoy!” Check out Debbie’s just-published We Won You in a Raffle: An Adoption Story here.

Secrets of an Old Typewriter

________________

Reel Roy Reviews is now a book! Thanks to BroadwayWorld for this coverage – click here to view. In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the book currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan. My mom Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.

It was the 70s, and our entertainment choices were limited! The Bullfighter and the Lady

Description: Film poster; Source: Wikipedia [linked]; Portion used: Film poster only; Low resolution? Sufficient resolution for illustration, but considerably lower resolution than original. Other information: Intellectual property by film studio. Non-free media use rationales: Non-free media use rationale - Article/review; Purpose of use: Used for purposes of critical commentary and illustration in an educational article about the film. The poster is used as the primary means of visual identification of this article topic. Replaceable? Protected by copyright, therefore a free use alternative won't exist.

[Image Source: Wikipedia]

When this blog was on its way to becoming a book earlier this year, my mom reminded me that my first reviews weren’t actually written here in cyberspace, but rather were scrawled on legal pads during my toddler days.

One day long, long, long ago, I took it upon myself to watch whatever old movies were being broadcast on Fort Wayne’s Channel 55 and transcribed everything I saw on the telly for my mom who was otherwise occupied with tasks that (wisely) took her away from watching things like Robert Stack’s “classic” The Bullfighter and the Lady (produced by John Wayne).

It was the 70s, and our entertainment choices were limited!

At that time we had only five channels – ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and the new kid on the block Channel 55 that was a precursor to AMC (when AMC still showed nothing but fabulous films).

Below you will find the pages (carefully illustrated, I might add!) from my take on this very odd film. Thanks to my mom for saving these and for lovingly scanning them all. Keep your eye on this blog in future weeks, as I will post some more of my juvenilia – the juvenilia from my actual youth as opposed to the middle-aged musings I typically post.

REMINDER: Megan and Peter Blackshear of Bookbound, in Ann Arbor (1729 Plymouth Road), have generously agreed to host a Reel Roy Reviews book-signing/Q&A this Saturday, April 26 at 3 pm. There will be singing and laughing and merriment … and punch and coffee. So be there!

bullfighter and the lady 1  bullfighter and the lady 2bullfighter and the lady 3bullfighter and the lady 4bullfighter and the lady 5bullfighter and the lady 6bullfighter and the lady 7bullfighter and the lady 8     [The end. 🙂 ]

_________________________________

Reel Roy Reviews is now a book! Please check out this coverage from BroadwayWorld of upcoming book launch events. In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the book currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan; by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan; and by Memory Lane Gift Shop in Columbia City, Indiana. Bookbound, Common Language, and Memory Lane also have copies of Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series.

“Pray for the best; prepare for the worst” – Prisoners

Description: Film poster; Source: Wikipedia [linked]; Portion used: Film poster only; Low resolution? Sufficient resolution for illustration, but considerably lower resolution than original. Other information: Intellectual property by film studio. Non-free media use rationales: Non-free media use rationale - Article/review; Purpose of use: Used for purposes of critical commentary and illustration in an educational article about the film. The poster is used as the primary means of visual identification of this article topic. Replaceable? Protected by copyright, therefore a free use alternative won't exist.

[Image Source: Wikipedia]

In post-9/11 America, paranoia and violence, xenophobia and religion have become a toxic brew. It is in these murky waters that the new film Prisoners trucks.

The movie is directed by Canadian Denis Villeneuve who shows a surprising level of fair-mindedness for our nation’s current warts-and-all rugged surburban survivalism. The atmosphere is overcast and thick, defined smartly by the bleak Midwestern weather that typically blankets the Thanksgiving holiday.

Even that choice is symbolic – for what are we truly thankful anymore when real (or imagined) bogeymen lurk around every corner … and we are armed to the teeth to shoot them (as well as any neighbors who get caught in the crossfire)?

I can’t even begin to summarize the mobius strip of a plot in the limited space here. (That’s what Wikipedia is for, after all!) The long and the short of it is that two families  – one deer-hunting, Jesus-loving, stranger-phobic and the other yuppified, highly-educated, inclusive – venture across their tract home lawns to break bread on Thanksgiving only to find the young daughters of each brood seemingly vanish into thin air.

The prime suspect is RV-driving, greasy-haired, 80s-glasses-wearing Boo Radley-in-training Paul Dano (a mumble-mouthed marvel). And, as you have no doubt gathered from the trailers, hot-headed Hugh Jackman, for whose character violence is a deep-seated expression of his faith, abducts the supposed kidnapper and brutally tries to “Gitmo” the truth out of him.

The sad reality – and the film’s ultimate revelation – is that there is no black and white “truth,” in even the most horrific of circumstances, and violence only begets … well … more violence. I won’t spoil the “fun” as it were, but there are surprises (but blessedly not M. Night Shyamalan-style SHOCKS!) aplenty. The twists are all logical and integral to the plot, leaving the viewer with the perspective that if only the characters, in their rush-to-CNN/Fox-News-judgment, had slowed down for just one minute, they would have seen the real picture much sooner.

The film is a series of muted grays – visually and emotionally. Just when you feel certain in your philosophical alignment with one character (say, Jackman’s righteously raging papa) or another (say, Jake Gyllenhaal’s “facts will set you free” police detective), the story – like life – ebbs and flows and leaves you questioning your … faith.

At times, the film is a bit obviously symbolic in the way early Hitchcock could be: rain = sadness and torment, frost and snow = frustration, children = innocence lost, plaid = middle class. Yet, there is also extraordinarily complex thematic work here that I will be mulling for days.

Most notably, at the heart of the film, there is a jigsaw puzzle of faith and disillusionment and self-determination. The mantra “pray for the best; prepare for the worst” gets repeated at least a half dozen times by Jackman and occasionally by Gyllenhaal. The irony is (without ruining the film) that all of Jackman’s prayer and preparations actually make things worse while Gyllenhaal’s agnostic “slow and steady wins the race” approach proves (arguably) best in the end.

This is a mightily powerful film, extremely well acted. The powerhouse cast also includes Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard (who brought me to tears for some reason nearly every time he was onscreen), Len Cariou, and an especially crackerjack Melissa Leo (about whom I potentially could write another entire entry but only by completely spoiling the intricate plot).

I don’t know how I will feel about this film tomorrow or next week or next month (my parents who viewed it Friday warned me about that) but I am so glad I saw it. I suspect this film will become a dark and unsettling touchstone for our era, and I hope one that will cause those brave few among us to question their deeply ingrained assumptions/prejudices about their fellow man.

Cost of feeling: Two Muses production of Next to Normal

Description: Film poster; Source: Wikipedia [linked]; Portion used: Film poster only; Low resolution? Sufficient resolution for illustration, but considerably lower resolution than original. Other information: Intellectual property by film studio. Non-free media use rationales: Non-free media use rationale - Article/review; Purpose of use: Used for purposes of critical commentary and illustration in an educational article about the film. The poster is used as the primary means of visual identification of this article topic. Replaceable? Protected by copyright, therefore a free use alternative won't exist.

[Image Source: Two Muses Theatre]

This isn’t a review. If anything it’s an ode to a phenomenal local professional production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Next to Normal.

(In full transparency, several of my friends have been involved in putting this production together … and I even donated a nickel or two to the Kickstarter campaign that helped fund it.)

I had seen a few numbers from the Broadway production of this challenging show on the 2009 Tony Awards, and I promptly bought the two-disc cast album, but I had not yet ever had the privilege of seeing it.

It definitely exceeded my expectations.

Next to Normal, with music by Tom Kitt and book/lyrics by Brian Yorkey, details in rock opera form the travails of a young couple as they careen toward middle age, navigating Yuppie-dom, petulant teenagers, and a predilection for making sandwiches on the kitchen floor. A traumatic cloud hangs over their McMansion, the truth of which is revealed M. Night Shyamalan-style toward the end of the first act.

This narrative context – which shares its genetic code with such tragic familial dramas as The Subject Was Roses, Glass Menagerie, Fear Strikes Out, Ordinary People, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, or All My Sons – is the perfect framework to explore the thorny topic of mental illness in today’s America. Our overeager societal penchant for pharmacological solutions receives the most caustic critique, though the authors have plenty to say about gender, age, economics, and the medical profession writ large.

The musical ends with an open-ended if nebulous note of hope, a hope that seems to rely chiefly on honesty, candor, risk-taking and acceptance as the true road to any mental recovery from a catastrophic event.

For those who haven’t seen this show, my words above may be, excuse the expression, maddening. I don’t mean to be coy (Roy! – with apologies to Paul Simon) but if I say more I will spoil the twist that sets the show toward its inevitable conclusion. So there. (You know you’re headed to Wikipedia right … about … now!)

Keeping in mind my admission that many of these folks are friends and acquaintances, the Two Muses cast, in my estimation, was uniformly excellent. With minimal staging, heartfelt performances, and a blessedly light touch, the six-person ensemble (Diane Hill, Nathan Larkin, John DeMerell, Aubrey Fink, Rusty Daugherty, and Richard Payton) delivered an exceptional show. Hill and DeMerell captured beautifully the delicate and painful dance of a couple perfectly wrong for one another, whose youthful good intentions have calcified into painful resentment.

With expert direction by Hill and Barbie Weisserman (including additional staging by Frannie Shepherd Bates) and strong musical support from Jamie Brachel (and fully visible musicians sharing the stage with the actors), this production strips away any visual distraction, simply and effectively using lighting, movement, and a simple chrome dining table and chairs to evoke a wide vary of locations, moments, and emotions.

So, here’s the punchline, Metro Detroiters. You only have one more shot to see this stellar production. Run don’t walk to the Two Muses website – www.twomusestheatre.org – and get your tickets for tomorrow (Sunday, June 30) afternoon. You won’t be sorry!