Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Movies’

Dinner with Isak Dinesen, Marilyn Monroe, and Carson McCullers

April 14, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies No Comments →

With Marilyn’s then-husband, Arthur Miller. Read The Feminine Heroic in The Paris Review.

There’s a play in here.

Weekly Report Cards 12 and 13: Sometimes you just want a solid, old-fashioned narrative

April 10, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies 2 Comments →


Life: B (See my review)

Ghost in the Shell: C. I never read the manga or saw the anime, so I did not fly into a rage over this live action adaptation by Rupert Sanders. But even I could see that casting Scarlett Johansson (so effective as a post-human character elsewhere) as a Japanese woman, even if her consciousness was occupying a synthetic body, was odd. She only speaks English to her boss, Takeshi Kitano, who only speaks to her in Japanese, and no one points out the strangeness. Maybe if the setting had not been Tokyo of the near-future. The production design is beautiful, even if the writing chews over philosophical problems tackled in greater depth in Blade Runner and elsewhere.

To Walk Invisible: B. How did three young women who lived in isolation in the middle of nowhere produce Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and other spellbinding classics of Victorian literature? The Brontes are an argument for the shut-in life. This film by Sally Wainright, creator of the excellent British series Happy Valley, opens with little Charlotte, Emily and Anne creating imaginary worlds with their brother Branwell. Branwell, the only boy, was believed to be a genius. The family expected him to be a great writer and artist, but he was weak, became addicted to alcohol and opium, and often brought shame to the family. On the other hand, his dramas and afflictions shook up the quiet household and may have unleashed something in his three sisters. A fascinating study of a literary family, even if the ending makes it look like an ad for the Bronte Parsonage Museum.

Books: The Idiot by Elif Batuman and Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Both abandoned at the halfway mark because while I admired their intelligence and craft, Batuman’s explorations of language and Saunders’s relentless wit, I was in the mood for a traditional narrative in which I root for the protagonist and something happens. Maybe when the weather isn’t so hot, humid and friendly to mucus.

Weekly Report Card 11: The exquisite tale of a love affair, to be devoured in one sitting

March 29, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies, Television 3 Comments →

TV: Legion – A. From the showrunner of TV’s excellent Fargo, an X-Men origin story with shades of Wes Anderson. I’ll review it when I’ve finished the first season.

Movie: Get Out – A

Book: Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift – A.

On Mothering Sunday (the religious precursor of the commercial Mother’s Day) in the English countryside in 1924, 22-year-old housemaid Jane has an assignation with Paul, the son of the owners of the neighboring estate. They’ve been having an affair for seven years. He is getting married in two weeks to the daughter of the owners of another estate. This is the last time they will ever see each other again.

It sounds heart-rending, and it is heart-rending, but that’s just the beginning. Graham Swift’s short, exquisite novel is about the English class system, sex, and loss (Jane never knew her parents; her employer’s sons died in WWI and so did Paul’s two brothers). It’s about the stories we invent about ourselves, the stories we find ourselves in, and how stories can be true even when the pieces are made up. It’s about becoming a writer.

(I especially recommend this novel to readers who love Atonement.)


Life is an efficient space horror movie for people who want more Alien

March 27, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies No Comments →

They really should’ve thought of a more intriguing title because Life could mean anything. In this context it refers to the discovery of the first extraterrestrial biological entity, and its needs are more basic than phoning home. I just realized another admirable thing about E.T.—the filmmakers weren’t interested in turning it into a franchise. Life can’t be turned into a franchise because one already exists. It’s called Alien by Ridley Scott, and its next iteration opens this year.

Faster and less queasy-claustrophobic than Alien, and minus a ginger cat named Jonesy, Life stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Ryan Reynolds as three of six crew on the International Space Station. You know the ISS—it’s the one that was destroyed in a meteor shower in Gravity, stranding Sandra Bullock in space. The players are all stock characters, with the exception of Jake’s Dr. Jordan (Green Lantern joke?), who doesn’t want to go back to earth, which makes us curious about his history. The most interesting thing about the monster is its name, Calvin. Ryan Reynolds makes wiseass comments (the script is by the Deadpool guys). There are grisly deaths and foiled plans.

We’ve all seen this stuff before, and director Daniel Espinosa knows we’ve all seen it before so he doesn’t pummel the audience into submission. We get 100 minutes of entirely predictable but still effective thrills, just enough to make us wonder what might’ve happened if the filmmakers had more ambition. It does bring up an interesting question: What are the NASA protocols for this scenario? I hope they have protocols, because if they’re as unprepared as the crew in the movie, our species is screwed.

If you have 100 minutes to kill and you want to get out of the blistering heat, watch it.

The genius of Get Out is treating benign racism as the horror.

March 21, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 2 Comments →

Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams (Marnie from Girls) star in Jordan Peele’s Get Out

You need to see this movie. It’s genuinely scary and funny AND it tackles oppression without once mentioning oppression. It’s consciousness-raising without the lecture. People who fancy themselves broad-minded think that because they voted for Obama, idolize black athletes and have black friends, they can’t possibly be racist, but benign racism is particularly insidious. (And the movie is produced by the studio that made Insidious.) Some of the horror comes from the shock of recognition.

Director Jordan Peele takes your expectations and turns them on their heads. Unrelentingly clever and expertly orchestrated, Get Out is required viewing for the year 2017. Bravo.

The Money Diaries of famous people will make you feel less inept about your finances

March 21, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Money, Movies, Television 1 Comment →

It’s heartwarming, discovering that clever people whose work we admire can be just as stupid about money as we are.

Richard Linklater, the director of Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight and many other movies we love, explains why he’s glad he got downsized.

Anthony Bourdain seems to have all the answers, but when he was 44 he had never had a savings account, hadn’t filed taxes in 10 years, and was AWOL on his AmEx bill.