Not every moment is spent inside the ring. Nay! One of El Jefe de Santo's passions besides the hallowed Squared Circle is cinema. This should be apparent by now seeing as how many reviews he's posted but rarely does he get to tread outside the mainstream due to time constraints and the like. A brief bit of vacation from making gringos tap like little girls to his patented submission moves and the celebrity glamour afforded him an opportunity to take in not one but two films recently! Both are far from mainstream, but both were quite good. Double Shot HURRICANRANA MOVIE REVIEW!
Conan O'Brien Can't Stop
Written and Directed by Rodman Flender
I could opine about how NBC really gave Conan a raw deal, but honestly it's been done to death and frankly there are few people I've talked to that that disagree with the statement. Sure he got plenty of money out of it, but he was left without the top spot in all of Late Night and forced out of a job and off television for six months.
The last episode of Conan' "Tonight Show" run was rounded out by a speech that saw, for one of the few times in his history on television, a man honestly speaking from his heart. It was a truly touching moment that, for my money, made me a true supporter of the man and his craft.
"If you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen." Those are the words he said in his speech ending the Tonight Show run and also the phrase that best sums up the heart of this film. This is a guy who puts everything he has into what he does, and by God he just can't stop.
The presence of cameras throughout the first half of the tour is readily apparent are Conan seems to be more of the manic goofball we all know and love. The tour, as it presses on though, visibly wears on the man. We see the lengths he wants to go just to make sure his fans know that they are appreciated. It is visible just how much this means to O'Brien and the rest of the staff in making it the best show possible.
The most telling instance of this comes from one of the later dates on the tour in Los Angeles. O'Brien, without prior knowledge, has to go to a pre-party where he has to schmooze with A-list celebs and, at times, looks like a trained monkey going through his routine. The hob-knobbing doesn't end there, though, as more celebs are waiting for him outside his dressing room. It doesn't hurt, though, that Jon Hamm and Jack Brayer are waiting back there for him and we get to see Conan at his most biting and at his funniest. This is all before the show even gets underway. The post-show routine is followed by all of his backup dancers/singers and friends/relatives coming in for pictures and autographs. Exhaustion is clearly setting in by this point and you just hope that maybe somebody would not agree to another photo op or just decline an autograph session on his behalf.
He makes the statement near the end that this tour has brought him closest to the purest essence of what true show business is, but if he were to try to sustain this sort of pace and activity that it would probably kill him. He, more than anyone else, though, wants to return all the kindness fans have shown him over the years ten fold and also to repay his staff for the years of hard work. This film won't really sway you either way if you're for or against Team Coco, but damn if it wasn't an outstanding look into the inner-workings of one of television's most fascinating personalities.
Written and Directed by Mike Mills
Coming out of the closet is a thing that some people never do. It is an intensely powerful struggle within one's self that some people don't have the courage to overcome.
Hal (Christopher Plummer), father of Oliver (Ewan McGregor), is 75 years old and has finally come out of the closet. Six months after the death of his wife he finally felt free enough to live as he's always wanted. This, naturally, comes as bit of a shock to Oliver but he accepts it over time. The time frame shifts and we left witnessing Oliver digging through the remains of his Father's things. We'll be doing this a lot over the course of the film as it moves rather seamlessly between three different segments of time: the time between his father coming out and his death, Oliver's life after his Hal's death, and his childhood.
Oliver wasn't the only one in the closet, though. He's not gay, as his Father was, but is instead afraid to commit, afraid to fall in love. Ultimately this is a movie about how after years of being afraid both men, one young and one old, find what they've avoided for so long.
This film is one in which a dog , a Jack Russell Terrier named Arthur (Hal's dog) seems to have a truly grounded perspective on everything going on. He doesn't talk, and only communicates through subtitles but it's an interesting narrative ploy that I really dug. He is the sort of foil that allows for great exploration of emotional depth while all the while still having that reality check that is needed with these sorts of films.
Hal had an arrangement, of sorts, with Oliver's mother, Georgia to have a normal structured home despite the fact that both knew Hal was gay. This leads to a childhood filled with time mostly spent with Mother as father Hal was spending most of his time away from home at work, and when he did arrive at home he slept in a separate bedroom.
The acting is, well, fantastic. Ewan McGregor is tops here and I think plays one of the best roles he's had in years. Plummer, however, steals the show for me. There is such dignity, grace and joy in that man. He inhabited the skin of the character and made it something even better than we could have imagined. Seriously impressive. Melanie Laurent (Oliver's newfound love Anna) and Goran Visnijc (Andy, Hal's love) are good as well, though nowhere near as impressive as Plummer or McGregor.
This was, ultimately, a fable that optimistically proclaimed that it is never too late to be happy and to start fresh. The love interest of both Hal and Oliver seem a bit too shiny and perfect at times, but that can be taken more as window dressing. I honestly was left wondering at the end though, what happened with Georgia. She was in a loveless marriage for decades and died of cancer. The end? Seems a bit awful.
There is a fair amount of indie quirk in this film that probably could have been left out, but in only a few instances did it seem really unnecessary. Mills does, for the most part, a superb job of pacing the film and making sure he gets every since emotional nuance out of shots with Plummer and McGregor in them. It's a great film, honestly, and I look forward to watching it again.