I have scratched together a living, in one way or another, as a writer for more than 50 years now. I was a free-lance writer during the early stages of the Vietnam War. I was the Southwest Division Overnight News Editor for United Press International back when UPI was a legitimate news gathering organization. Following that, I went to the Dallas Morning News where I became the first person to write about rock 'n' roll on a daily basis for a Texas metropolitan newspaper. I later became the News' entertainment editor. Following some stints with a couple of prominent PR firms, I had the extraordinary good fortune to team with two communications legends, Ken Fairchild and Lisa LeMaster, as part of one kick-ass media consulting/crisis communications team. That was followed by short stays with the City of Dallas, as its public information officer; the Dallas Northeast Chamber of Commerce where I had the good fortune to meet and work alongside some of this city's business and political titans; and editorial director for QuestCorp Media until that company went out of business. Now officially retired, concentrating on this blog.
Blue Is the Warmest Color ***** Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche. Adèle’s (Adèle Exarchopoulas) life is changed when she meets Emma (Léa Seydoux), a young woman with blue hair, who will allow her to discover desire, to assert herself as a woman and as an adult. Kechiche’s style is dizzy, obsessive, inspired and relentless, words that also describe Adèle and Emma and the fearless women who embody them. Many more words can — and will — be spent on this film, but for now I’ll settle for just one: glorious.
Gravity ****½ Directed by Alfonso Cuarón A medical engineer (Sandra Bullock) and an astronaut (George Clooney) work together to survive after an accident leaves them adrift in space. You must see this film in theaters, because on television something will be lost. Cuarón has made a rare film whose mood, soul and profundity is bound up with its images. To see such images diminished would be to see a lesser film, which is why I knocked a half star off the rating of what is the best film of the year.
Nebraska ****½ Directed by Alexander Payne. An aging, booze-addled father (Bruce Dern) makes the trip from Montana to Nebraska with his estranged son (Will Forte) in order to claim a million-dollar Mega Sweepstakes Marketing prize. This is one of Payne’s best films, a near-perfect amalgam of the acrid humor, great local color, and stirring resonances that run through his work. It features a career-capping performance by Dern, who is so convincing as an addled, drunken, embittered and probably dying man that he doesn’t appear to be acting, but Forte is just as good playing a preoccupied, emotionally constricted man-child.
Narco Cultura **½ Directed by Shaul Schwarz. Exploring the lives of a Mexican crime scene investigator and a Mexican American narcocorrido singer, this documentary examines how the culture of narcotics trafficking has become a twisted new version of the American Dream. Interesting as it is, this documentary aims to tell the story of what’s happened in Juarez and in Mexico (and, by virtue of its immense appetite for drugs, the United States). Instead, it feels more like a couple of intriguing chapters.
Thor: The Dark World *½ Directed by Alan Taylor. When Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is possessed by a great power, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) must protect her from the Dark Elves. Low-stakes, low-emotion, lowbrow. The battle scenes are as lacking in heat and coherence as the central love story. This action-adventure sequel from Marvel soon turns so dumb and murky that it hurts.
Twice Born * Directed by Sergio Castellitto. A single mother (Penélope Cruz) brings her teenage son to Sarajevo, where his father (Emile Hirsch) died in the Bosnian conflict years ago. Dripping with floridly phony dialogue that no actor should be forced to speak, this paternity mystery uses the Bosnian conflict as the manipulative backdrop to a preposterously overwrought and overlong melodrama.