Stream of the Week: FRANK & LOLA – Bad Girl or Troubled Girl?

Imogen Poots with Michael Shannon in FRANK & LOLA. Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society.
Michael Shannon and Imogen Poots in FRANK & LOLA.
Photo courtesy of SFFILM.

The San Francisco International Film Festival is underway, so this week’s video pick comes from the program of last year’s festival.  The absorbing neo-noir romance Frank & Lola opens with a couple lovemaking for the first time – and right away there’s a glimmer that he’s more invested than she is. Soon we’re spirited from Vegas to Paris and back again in a deadly web of jealousy.

Lola (Imogen Poots) is young and beautiful, a lively and sparkly kind of girl. Frank (the great Michael Shannon) is older but “cool” – a talented chef. He is loyal and steadfast but given to possessiveness, and he says things like, “who’s the mook?”.

In a superb debut feature, writer director Matthew Ross has invented a Lola that we (and Frank) spend the entire movie trying to figure out. Imogen Poots is brilliant in her most complex role so far. She’s an unreliable girlfriend – but the roots of her unreliability are a mystery – is she Bad or Troubled? A character describes her with “She can be very convincing”, and that’s NOT a complement. Poots keeps us on edge throughout the film, right up to her stunning final monologue.

Shannon, of course, is superb, and the entire cast is exceptional. There’s a memorable turn by Emmanuelle Devos, the off-beat French beauty with the cruel mouth. Rosanna Arquette is wonderful, as is Michael Nyqvist from the Swedish Girl With the Dragon Tattoo movies. I especially liked Justin Long as Keith Winkleman (is he a namedropping ass or something more?).

Frank & Lola has more than its share of food porn and, as befits a neo-noir, lots of depravity. But, at its heart, it’s a romance. Is Lola a Bad Girl or a Troubled Girl? If she’s bad, then love ain’t gonna prevail. But if she’s damaged, can love survive THAT either? We’re lucky enough to go along for the ride.

I saw Frank & Lola in May 2016 at the San Francisco International Film Festival. I liked it more than most and put it on my Best Movies of 2016. After a brief and tiny theatrical release in December which did not reach the Bay Area, Frank & Lola is now available to stream on Amazon Instant, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play.

Movies to See Right Now

TONI ERDMANN
TONI ERDMANN

This week’s absolute MUST SEE is the wholly original German comedy Toni Erdmann.

You’ll also enjoy these four movies:

  • La La Land: the extraordinarily vivid romantic musical staring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.
  • Lion: an emotionally affecting family drama that makes the audience weep (in a good way).
  • The Founder: the enjoyably addictive story of how a the money-grubbing visionary Ray Kroc built the McDonald’s food service empire.
  • Hidden Figures: a true life story from the 1960s space program – a triumph of human spirit and brainpower over sexism and racism; the audience applauded.

I also recommend I Am Not Your Negro, the documentary about the American public intellectual James Baldwin. It’s a searing examination of race in America as analyzed through Baldwin’s eyes and as expressed through his elegant words.

Other top recommendations:

  • Manchester by the Sea: MUST SEE. Don’t miss Casey Affleck’s career-topping performance in the emotionally authentic drama .
  • Elle: MUST SEE (but increasingly hard to find in theaters). A perverse wowzer with the year’s top performance by Isabelle Huppert. Manchester by the Sea is #2 and Elle is #4 on my Best Movies of 2016.
  • Paterson, Jim Jarmusch’s gently funny portrait of a poet’s inner life. Starring Adam Driver.
  • The Salesman is another searing and authentic psychological family thriller from Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, The Past).
  • The Eagle Huntress: This documentary is a Feel Good movie for the whole family, blending the genres of girl power, sports competition and cultural tourism.

Also in theaters:

  • Arrival with Amy Adams, is real thinking person’s sci-fi. Every viewer will be transfixed by the first 80% of Arrival. How you feel about the finale depends on whether you buy into the disconnected-from-linear-time aspect or you just get confused, like I did.
  • The remarkably sensitive and realistic indie drama Moonlight is at once a coming of age tale, an exploration of addicted parenting and a story of gay awakening. It’s almost universally praised, but I thought that the last act petered out.
  • Skip the dreary and somnolent Jackie – Natalie Portman’s exceptional impersonation isn’t enough.

This week’s DVD/Stream of the Week is the Argentine neo-noir The Aura.  Featured last week at San Francisco’s Noir City film fest, The Aura is available to rent on  DVD from Netflix and to stream on Amazon Instant.

On February 6, Turner Classic Movies brings us two INTENSE movies. First, there’s The Deer Hunter from 1978. This was director Michael Cimino’s three hour masterpiece. Cimino chose to spend the first hour setting up the characters and their hometown life – just so we can later measure the personal cost of the Vietnam War. When we are plunged into the War, it is terrifying. Then Cimino’s third act – also with some suspenseful moments unmatched in cinema – explores the personal aftermath. After I saw this in a theater for the first time in 1979, I settled myself with a whisky.

And then we have another classic just as INTENSE: Deliverance from 1972. It’s one of my all-time favorites – still gripping today – with a famous scene that still shocks. Jon Voigt, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox form an impressive ensemble cast. Beautifully and dramatically shot by the late great cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond.

DELIVERANCE
DELIVERANCE

Movies to See Right Now

TONI ERDMANN
TONI ERDMANN

I love the wholly original German comedy Toni Erdmann, and today it opens widely throughout the Bay Area. It’s a Must See.

You’ll also enjoy these four movies:

  • La La Land: the extraordinarily vivid romantic musical staring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.
  • Lion: an emotionally affecting family drama that makes the audience weep (in a good way).
  • The Founder:  the enjoyably addictive story of how a the money-grubbing visionary Ray Kroc built the McDonald’s food service empire.
  • Hidden Figures: a true life story from the 1960s space program – a triumph of human spirit and brainpower over sexism and racism; the audience applauded.

I also recommend Noir City, the world’s best festival of film noir, running through Sunday in San Francisco. This year’s festival theme is the Heist Film, and they’ve got some bang up choices from classic film noir, international noir and neo-noir.

Other top recommendations:

  • Manchester by the Sea: MUST SEE. Don’t miss Casey Affleck’s career-topping performance in the emotionally authentic drama .
  • Elle: MUST SEE (but increasingly hard to find in theaters). A perverse wowzer with the year’s top performance by Isabelle Huppert. Manchester by the Sea is #2 and Elle is #4 on my Best Movies of 2016.
  • Paterson, Jim Jarmusch’s gently funny portrait of a poet’s inner life. Starring Adam Driver.
  • The Salesman is another searing and authentic psychological family thriller from Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, The Past).
  • The Eagle Huntress: This documentary is a Feel Good movie for the whole family, blending the genres of girl power, sports competition and cultural tourism.

Also in theaters:

  • Arrival with Amy Adams, is real thinking person’s sci-fi. Every viewer will be transfixed by the first 80% of Arrival. How you feel about the finale depends on whether you buy into the disconnected-from-linear-time aspect or you just get confused, like I did.
  • The remarkably sensitive and realistic indie drama Moonlight is at once a coming of age tale, an exploration of addicted parenting and a story of gay awakening. It’s almost universally praised, but I thought that the last act petered out.
  • Skip the dreary and somnolent Jackie – Natalie Portman’s exceptional impersonation isn’t enough.

This is Imogen Poots Week at The Movie Gourmet, and my Stream of the Week is A Country Called HomeA Country Called Home can be streamed from Netflix Instant, Amazon Instant, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play. And last week’s pick was the TOTALLY OVERLOOKED neo-noir romance Frank & Lola, available to stream on the very same streaming services.  After seeing it at the San Francisco International Film Festival, I put Frank & Lola on my Best Movies of 2016.

On January 28, Turner Classic Movies will play Robert Altman’s superb 1992 satire of Hollywood, The Player. Wickedly funny, it features a stellar cast: Tim Robbins, Greta Scacchi, Fred Ward, Lyle Lovett, Dean Stockwell, Whoopi Goldberg, Richard E. Grant, Vincent D’Onofrio, Peter Gallagher, Sydney Pollack and Dina Merrill.

Ricardo Darin in THE AURA at Noir City
Ricardo Darin in THE AURA at Noir City

IMOGEN POOTS: girl for all seasons

Imogen Poots in GREEN ROOM
Imogen Poots in GREEN ROOM

Sometimes actors become a brand name in the sense that you can depend on a movie being good if they are in it. Actors like Robert Duvall, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Parker Posey, Alfre Woodard and Michael Shannon come to mind – they just don’t seem to ever be in a lousy movie.  Imogen Poots is proving that she belongs on the list.

Poots is only 26, but she’s been in EIGHT really good movies in the past eight years.  She can play anything except uninteresting.

Here’s her most recent work:

  • Me and Orson Welles – don’t blink or you miss her in a good indie coming of age film.
  • Solitary Man – after Michael Douglas beds a girlfriend’s daughter (Poots) while taking her to tour colleges, she gets the best of him.
  • Jane Eyre – haven’t seen it, but she got good notices.
  • Greetings from Tim Buckley – she’s the girl who takes the musician Jeff Buckley off track from his coming-to-terms-with-his-dad navel gazing.
  • A Late Quartet – has the best monologue in a movie filled with great actors; she blasts her mom (Catherine Keener) out of the water with a lasered-in rant.
  • The Look of Love – almost steals the movie as the daughter who inherits a porn empire.
  • A Country Called Home – In this underrated indie, she’s a low self esteem young woman who returns to the funeral of her estranged alcoholic father and finds self-discovery.
  • Green Room – In this bloody thriller, she goes from a numb basket case to a fierce force of nature bent on survival at all costs.
  • Frank & Lola – her most complex role so far as an unreliable girlfriend; but the roots of her unreliability are a mystery – is she Bad or Troubled?

That doesn’t count two not-so-great movies from great directors: Peter Bogdanovich’s She’s Funny That Way and Terence Malick’s Knight of Cups – those certainly weren’t  her fault.  And we’re not counting her debut as a 15-year-old in V for Vendetta.  Right now, she’s also starring in the Showtime series Roadies.

Poots is on an impressive streak, and she’s earned this much – if it’s an Imogen Poots movie, we should all go and check it out.

Imogen Poots with Michael Shannon in FRANK & LOLA. Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society.
Imogen Poots with Michael Shannon in FRANK & LOLA. Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society.

Movies to See Right Now

Michael Shannon and Imogen Poots in my DVD/Stream of the Week RANK & LOLA
Michael Shannon and Imogen Poots in my DVD/Stream of the Week RANK & LOLA

I love the wholly original German comedy Toni Erdmann, and it opens this weekend in San Francisco and throughout the Bay Area next weekend.  It’s a Must See.  I’m sure that you’ll also enjoy these three movies:

  • La La Land: the extraordinarily vivid romantic musical staring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.
  • Lion: an emotionally affecting family drama that makes the audience weep (in a good way).
  • Hidden Figures: a true life story from the 1960s space program – a triumph of human spirit and brainpower over sexism and racism; the audience applauded.

I also recommend Noir City, the world’s best festival of film noir, opening today in San Francisco and running through January 29. This year’s festival theme is the Heist Film, and they’ve got some bang up choices from classic film noir, international noir and neo-noir.

Other top recommendations:

  • Manchester by the Sea: MUST SEE. Don’t miss Casey Affleck’s career-topping performance in the emotionally authentic drama .
  • Elle: MUST SEE (but increasingly hard to find in theaters). A perverse wowzer with the year’s top performance by Isabelle Huppert. Manchester by the Sea is #2 and Elle is #4 on my Best Movies of 2016.
  • Paterson, Jim Jarmusch’s gently funny portrait of a poet’s inner life.  Starring Adam Driver.
  • The Eagle Huntress: This documentary is a Feel Good movie for the whole family, blending the genres of girl power, sports competition and cultural tourism.

Also in theaters:

  • Arrival with Amy Adams, is real thinking person’s sci-fi. Every viewer will be transfixed by the first 80% of Arrival. How you feel about the finale depends on whether you buy into the disconnected-from-linear-time aspect or you just get confused, like I did.
  • The remarkably sensitive and realistic indie drama Moonlight is at once a coming of age tale, an exploration of addicted parenting and a story of gay awakening. It’s almost universally praised, but I thought that the last act petered out.
  • Skip the dreary and somnolent Jackie – Natalie Portman’s exceptional impersonation isn’t enough.

My Stream of the Week is the TOTALLY OVERLOOKED neo-noir romance Frank & Lola. After a brief and tiny theatrical release in December which did not reach the Bay Area, Frank & Lola is now available to stream on Amazon Instant, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play. After seeing it at the San Francisco International Film Festival, I put it on my Best Movies of 2016.

On January 21, Turner Classic Movies brings us Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, another film noir from the great Fritz Lang: seeking to discredit capital punishment, a reporter (Dana Andrews) gets himself charged with and CONVICTED of a murder – but then the evidence of his innocence suddenly disappears! Crackerjack (and deeply noir) surprise ending.

Then, on January 25, TCM presents Sam Peckinpah’s very underrated neo-noir crime drama The Getaway (1972) starring Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw. McQueen and MacGraw are delightful to watch as they move between violent clashes and double- and triple-crosses. There’s a still-shocking but funny plot thread involving a sadistic villain (Al Lettieri – Sollozzo the Turk in The Godfather), a trashy bimbo (Sally Struthers) and her poor hubbie (Jack Dodson – Howard Sprague in The Andy Griffith Show). The wonderful cast is rounded out with Peckinpah regulars: Slim Pickens, Ben Johnson, Dub Taylor, Richard Bright and Bo Hopkins.

Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw in THE GETAWAY
Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw in THE GETAWAY

Stream of the Week: FRANK & LOLA – Bad Girl or Troubled Girl?

Imogen Poots with Michael Shannon in FRANK & LOLA. Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society.
Michael Shannon and Imogen Poots in FRANK & LOLA. Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society.

The absorbing neo-noir romance Frank & Lola opens with a couple lovemaking for the first time – and right away there’s a glimmer that he’s more invested than she is.  Soon we’re spirited from Vegas to Paris and back again in a deadly web of jealousy.

Lola (Imogen Poots) is young and beautiful, a lively and sparkly kind of girl.  Frank (the great Michael Shannon) is older but “cool” – a talented chef.  He is loyal and steadfast but given to possessiveness, and he says things like, “who’s the mook?”.

In a superb debut feature, writer director Matthew Ross has invented a Lola that we (and Frank) spend the entire movie trying to figure out.  Imogen Poots is brilliant in her most complex role so far.  She’s an unreliable girlfriend – but the roots of her unreliability are a mystery – is she Bad or Troubled?  A character describes her with “She can be very convincing”, and that’s NOT a complement.  Poots keeps us on edge throughout the film, right up to her stunning final monologue.

Shannon, of course, is superb, and the entire cast is exceptional.  There’s a memorable turn by Emmanuelle Devos, the off-beat French beauty with the cruel mouth.  Rosanna Arquette is wonderful, as is Michael Nyqvist from the Swedish Girl With the Dragon Tattoo movies.  I especially liked Justin Long as Keith Winkleman (is he a namedropping ass or something more?).

Frank & Lola has more than its share of food porn and, as befits a neo-noir, lots of depravity.  But, at its heart, it’s a romance.  Is Lola a Bad Girl or a Troubled Girl? If she’s bad, then love ain’t gonna prevail. But if she’s damaged, can love survive THAT either?  We’re lucky enough to go along for the ride.

I saw Frank & Lola in May at the San Francisco International Film Festival.  I liked it more than most and put it on my Best Movies of 2016. After a brief and tiny theatrical release in December which did not reach the Bay Area, Frank & Lola is now available to stream on Amazon Instant, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play.

 

Best Movies of 2016

Chris Pine and Ben Foster in HELL OR HIGH WATER
Chris Pine and Ben Foster in HELL OR HIGH WATER

Visit my Best Movies of 2016 for my list of the year’s best films, complete with images, trailers and my comments on each movie – as well as their availability to rent on DVD and to stream. My top ten movies for 2016 are:

  1. Hell or High Water
  2. Manchester by the Sea
  3. Toni Erdmann
  4. Elle
  5. La La Land
  6. Eye in the Sky
  7. Chevalier
  8. Weiner
  9. Frank & Lola
  10. Take Me to the River

The other best films of the year are:

  • The Handmaiden
  • OJ: Made in America
  • Green Room

And these three would be on my list if they had been made widely available to US audiences through release in theaters or on video:

  • The Memory of Water
  • Magallanes
  • Lost Solace

Note:  I haven’t yet seen Paterson, Fences or 20th Century Women.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
Caset Affleck and Lucas Hedges in MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

Best Movies of 2016 – So Far

THE MEMORY OF WATER
THE MEMORY OF WATER

Instead of waiting for my year-end Top Ten list, I keep a running list throughout the year: Best Movies of 2016 – So Far. At year’s end, my list usually is comprised of 20-25 films with an Official Top Ten.  I’ll also be updating my list throughout the year as films become available to stream or to rent on DVD.  Right now, my list includes:

  • The Memory of Water
  • Eye in the Sky
  • Magallanes
  • Chevalier
  • Weiner
  • Frank & Lola
  • Take Me to the River
  • Lost Solace
  • Green Room

I usually start my list in April or May, and I don’t think that I’ve ever waited until July before.  I guess that’s because none of these early-in-the-year releases have popped out at me like Ex Machina from last year, Boyhood or Ida from 2014, Blue Is the Warmest Color or The Hunt (2013), Winter’s Bone (2010) and the like. But these are all really, really excellent films.

Eye in the Sky and Take Me to the River are available streaming or on DVD right now, (see Best Movies of 2016 – So Far for details) and Frank & Lola will be in theaters later this year.

I’m self-conscious about how many of these films can’t be seen right now (or maybe ever) because they don’t have US distribution. I really try NOT to be precious and list a bunch of super obscure films. I’m particularly wringing my hands over three gems from Cinequest – The Memory of Water from Chile, Magallanes from Peru and the Canadian indie Lost Solace. But I’m pretty sure that you’ll be able to find the rest of the movies on my list by year’s end.

I’m still waiting to see many, many contenders for my year-end list, including film festival favorites Loving, Manchester By the Sea, The Birth of a Nation and Toni Erdmann.  I also reserve the right to reshuffle the list.

Helen Mirren in EYE IN THE SKY
Helen Mirren in EYE IN THE SKY