Finite Focus: Do You Know Mr Sheldrake? (The Apartment)

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[spoilers for The Apartment]

C.C. Baxter’s non-descript walk-up in The Apartment is like any other apartment in New York City – one bedroom, a kitchen, a washroom, and a cozy living area, with a table brought out only for meals. But this apartment is the key to C.C. Baxter’s potential success at Consolidated Life, where he hopes to move from pencil-pushing to a corner office faster than the company’s other 32,000 employees. Baxter’s apartment might not be much, but well-stocked with cheese, crackers, and a bit of booze, it’s the perfect rendezvous point for company execs and the girls they’re seeing on the side.

Baxter’s corporate interests rise significantly when Personnel Director Jeff Sheldrake gets wind of the apartment and offers a juicy promotion in exchange for exclusive use of the apartment. Baxter knows better than to ask any questions. Instead, now that he’s a well-heeled exec, he asks out Fran Kubelik, the comely elevator operator who’s been a breath of fresh air in an office otherwise full of men and women looking out for number one. She stands him up; he doesn’t know why (we do – she’s just renewed her relationship with Sheldrake). The next day, Baxter discreetly returns a compact with a broken mirror that Sheldrake’s girl left in his apartment.

This scene is the office Christmas extravaganza. Baxter is giddy with his new private office and ridiculous bowler hat, but Fran has just learned the devastating truth about Sheldrake. This is one of the most heartbreaking scenes Wilder ever filmed, and a perfect example of how his subtle filmmaking style could tell so much through showing, even though he’s best known for his trenchant dialogue. Lemmon and MacLaine are utterly perfect, as they each come face to face with the harsh reality of dashed hopes and yet must put up a front for the other.

Blindspotting #5 – Kramer vs Kramer and Terms Of Endearment

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As my tastes have changed and morphed over the years, my willingness to try different things has increased. I now relish, particularly in the universe of film, diving into something heretofore unknown (e.g. I dabbled in some Czech new wave films a little while ago and then couldn’t wait until that Eclipse set rested in my hands). But in my younger days I simply avoided a lot of movies. None with more conviction than the dreaded family drama – especially the ones that were “critical darlings” or multiple Oscar nominees.

I’m not sure why, but at the time most of them struck me as dull, unlikely to have much visual splendor and probably designed to wrench undeserved emotion from their viewers. In recent years, two such films have moved into my “I’m kinda curious now…” ruminations: Kramer vs. Kramer and Terms Of Endearment, both of which hogged Oscars in their respective years. They’ve been staring balefully at me over the last 30 years constantly reminding me at any opportunity that they remained unwatched like that hole in my fence remains unpatched (I swear I’ll get to it in the Spring). I mention the Oscars mostly to tie back to my young feelings of “it won awards, so it must be boring”, but far more interestingly because each film won almost the exact same 5 statues: Best Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay plus two acting wins (Kramer won for Best Actor and Supporting Actress, while Terms flipped that to garner Actress and Supporting Actor).

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Cinecast Episode 277 – He’d Pass a Polygraph But He Ain’t Innocent

In which Andrew and Kurt Argo fuck ourselves trying to get at the pleasures and the frustrations of Benna-fleck’s latest film. We grade homework in the middle (lots of good choices in there). Then we encounter the same set of frustrations and pleasures in counting up the Seven Psychopaths in Martin McDonagh’s latest offbeat violent comedy. The Watchlist is mainly Kurt as he digs through a diverse trio of films (Bernie, Watchmen, The Living Daylights) before waxing rather prosaically (sorry folks) on the great George Carlin. We have a fun time chatting Joss Whedon’s “Firefly” to close out the show.

Thanks to Nat Almirall for this week’s poster promo sitting to the right. Yeah! (sorry, we had to censor it. Non-censored version can be found HERE.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


 

 

 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_12/episode_277.mp3

Full show notes are under the seats…
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Review: Valentine’s Day

There really isn’t all that much to get into with this past weekend’s box office champ, Valentine’s Day, so it doesn’t lend itself all that well to a full length review. It does warrant some mention however, particularly considering its pretty epic cast. With films like Beaches, Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride and The Princess Diaries under the wing of director Garry Marshall, you gotta kind of know what type of film you’re getting into here. I have to admit not bothering to check the director’s credits before seeing the picture, so I was sort of going in under the (poor) assumption that Valentine’s Day was actually penned and directed by the same crew that was responsible for Love, Actually; which seems pretty reasonable considering the trailer and the holiday scheme.

For what the movie is and knowing what to expect, the best adjective for the film would be satisfying. The script writing is some of the more cliché and at times eye rolling material one will find in main stream cinema these days. But again, c’mon. It’s a Valentine’s Day movie entitled Valentine’s Day; it’s gonna be a bit on the cheesy side. Luckily, the big names are quite fun to watch as they enjoy their limited time on screen and make the most of it. We’re really only in the theater for one of two reasons, we’re interested in watching the big stars sparkle or we’re there because it’s simply expected of us (for whatever reason).

Comparing the movie to the up-and-coming Christmas staple, Love, Actually, is not completely out of line. After all, it’s got the same sort of tone and indeed, some very similar plot details in a couple of the story threads. But instead of taking place at Christmas time, it’s February 14th. If we’re bored or on the verge of shrieking at a certain character or actor we’re not too fond of, we need only wait a minute or two and we’ll be swept away to another storyline with different appeal (or lack thereof I suppose). This isn’t to say that the storylines are completely detached from one another. Very loosely several of the characters in seemingly different storylines will intersect or interact with one another on occasion.

What attracted me personally to the film was, besides the aforementioned Love, Actually comparison, was indeed the star power. After 2008’s Rachel Getting Married I’ve pretty much convinced myself in seeing anything starring Anne Hathaway (yes, even the atrocious Bride Wars). As the female cast members for this movie go, she was clearly a stand-out as a seemingly conservative, small town girl secretly moonlighting as an “adult phone entertainer” while trying to keep a secretarial day job and a new found relationship. Equally as fun but with very little screen time was Queen Latifah, who in these types of films usually pulls off these types of roles remarkably well. On the men’s side was the usually grating, but here surprisingly charming Ashton Kutcher as the owner of a major floral company on the busiest day of the year as he struggles with his own relationship issues. The veteran sophistication of Hector Elizondo, the wit of Topher Grace and the style of Jaimie Foxx all add to the fun as well. Of course a whimsical, unrelated exchange between Bradley Cooper and Julia Roberts on board a bumpy airplane ride is full of natural smiles too. Then there’s about three pages of other recognizable names filling out the cast on the IMDb profile for the movie.

And while a lot of the dialogue is certainly eye-rolling and just plain dumb, a lot of it is dumb in a good way; and lot of it isn’t dumb at all. There are easily two good handfuls of laugh out loud moments to make this particular 120 minutes more than satisfying. And really, the good bits in the script are the details in the dialogue. The little inconsequential one-liners and quips from people you might not expect it from. Then of course there are some nice twists in the plotting that are maybe a little bit predictable, but then there are the moments (like the narrator’s final jest) that are completely surprising and fun; leaving the audience with a good laugh and a smile as they exit the theater with ten bucks having been well spent on some quality junk food. In life, it’s often the small things that make it all worth it. So goes Valentine’s Day.

So though it’s as obvious and sweet as heart shaped milk chocolate, that doesn’t make it any less of a guilty pleasure. If you’re into the names on screen, you like to laugh a little bit or have someone special to snuggle with, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy Valentine’s Day – despite that some of the characters on screen might try to convince you of the contrary.

CAST: Anne Hathaway, Bradley Cooper, Eric Dane, Hector Elizondo, Jaimie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Kathy Bates, Patrick Dempsey, Topher Grace, Carter Jenkins, Ashton Kutcher, Queen Latifah, Taylor Swift, George Lopez, Shirley MacLaine, Emma Roberts, Julia Roberts, Larry Miller, Taylor Lautner, Bryce Robinson