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Los Angeles Times – April 20, 2018 part 2

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L AT I M E S . C O M / CA L E N DA R
F R I DAY , A P R I L 2 0 , 2 018
More stoner
cops? Uh, no
The world doesn’t
need ‘Super Troopers
2.’ Yesterday’s silly
is today’s offensive.
By Katie Walsh
Idle Wild Films
SHARIA LAW Judge Kholoud Al-Faqih at her desk in the documentary “The Judge” from Erika Cohn.
Her honor, the ‘Judge’
The first female jurist
in the history of
Middle East’s sharia
courts is profiled.
“The Judge” is not the
eagerly anticipated documentary on Supreme Court
luminary Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That film, “RBG,” is
coming soon, but in the interim viewers would be wise
to take in this story of another female jurist who is just
about as impressive.
That would be Kholoud
Al-Faqih, a judge in a Palestinian sharia or religious
court in the West Bank. That
may not sound like a big deal
until you realize that when
appointed she was the first
woman to hold this position
in the Middle East in the
more than a thousand years
these courts have been in existence.
Given that, it’s no surprise to discover in Erika
Cohn’s fascinating documentary that the confident
Al-Faqih is an altogether remarkable person, a firebrand whose formidable
knowledge of sharia helped
get her appointed in the first
Al-Faqih began her professional career as a lawyer
defending abused women.
Because sharia courts are
routinely involved with issues of women and family,
she didn’t understand why
there were no female judges.
Al-Faqih’s research revealed that that lack was
caused only by custom and
convention, not the tenets of
the Hanafi school of Islamic
thought followed in Palestine.
When she so informed
Chief Justice Sheikh Tayseer Al-Tamimi, he was so
aghast that “tradition overrides actual sharia law” that
he appointed her in 2009.
Her goal, she does not hesitate to say, was to “throw a
rock and stir these stagnant
Not that it has been easy.
Traditionalists such as the
interviewed legal scholar Dr.
Husam Al-Deen Afanah
continue to insist that women have no place as judges.
More than that, candid
interviews with Palestinians, both lawyers and ordinary citizens, reveal a widespread agreement with tradition, a feeling that, as both
men and women claim,
women are more emotional
‘The Judge’
Not rated
Running time: 1 hour, 20
Playing: Laemmle Monica,
Santa Monica
and thus not ideal jurists.
It’s no wonder that AlFaqih says, and more than
once, that “we need to be our
own advocates. We need to
be involved, we need to be
taught that we have the
same rights as men.”
Aside from interviews
with its subject, where we
hear Al-Faqih deride customary patriarchal notions
as “10th century ideas in the
21st century,” “The Judge”
takes several tacks.
We see the jurist with her
husband (they met when
they were opposing lawyers)
and their four children, including a daughter who says
in irrepressible sing-song,
“my mom is a judge, my
mom is a judge.”
Also talked to are the
judge’s remarkable parents,
including a father who, despite having no more than an
himself, put 11 of his 12 children through college.
Best of all, we get to see
Al-Faqih in her office-like
courtroom, revealing slices
of judicial life shot unobtrusively by cinematographer
Amber Fares using small
cameras on the order of GoPros and DSLRs.
Though the cases don’t
go beyond women and families, all kinds of arguments
come up, and Al-Faqih
comes across as smart,
tough and very much in
charge. “You can fight outside, not here,” she says to
one bickering couple, and
they promptly shape up.
The judge is also shown
as believing deeply in the religious basis of sharia law.
“In the end,” she wants people to know after they’ve
placed their hand on the Koran and sworn to tell the
truth, “you stand alone before God.”
A side benefit of seeing
“The Judge” is that it reveals
the rarely seen everyday side
of Palestinian society, where
ordinary people just want to
have a good life and be
treated fairly by their family.
People who need a fairminded adjudicator like
Kholoud Al-Faqih and are
fortunate to have her.
Like many of a certain
age, I was a fan of Broken
Lizard’s 2001 stoner cop cult
classic “Super Troopers,”
which circulated smoky
dorm rooms in the early
aughts. The energetic, silly
and wordy comedy of the
then-unknown troupe was
absurd, naughty and endlessly quotable.
Seventeen years later, the
crowdfunded sequel, “Super
Troopers 2,” is a whole lot
more of the same, resplendent mustaches and all. But
have I grown up? Or is it
that Broken Lizard hasn’t?
Because the second time
around is an exercise in diminishing returns.
The wildly successful
Kickstarter campaign that
funded the sequel proves the
audience is still there for
“Super Troopers,” but will
fans get a return on their
investment? The members
of Broken Lizard might still
squeeze into their uniforms,
but the years of wear and
tear on their shtick is really
starting to show.
This time, the boys of the
Vermont Highway Patrol,
disgraced and working construction after something
referred to as the “Fred Savage incident,” are tapped by
the governor (Lynda Carter)
to head up a transition team
to bring a small Canadian
village under the American
flag after a border reassessment. When the prankobsessed crew members
meets their mounted Canadian rivals, an all-out war ensues. They also stumble on
some smuggled contraband
items, so the story has a
modicum of “police work.”
Costar and director Jay
Chandrasekhar and his costars and cowriters — Kevin
Heffernan, Steve Lemme,
Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske — apply a loose formula to “Super Troopers 2”:
wordplay, physical comedy,
drugs, nudity, a brawl every
15 minutes and a cacophonous rock soundtrack that
jackhammers away annoyingly in every scene.
The complicated sexual
politics of the Broken Lizard
style come fully to the surface in “Super Troopers 2”
— perhaps watching it now
offers a different lens with
which to see it, or perhaps
the troupe just leaned way
too hard on homophobic
and sexist material.
So the film is rife with gay
panic; come on, guys — it’s
2018. We have marriage
equality. “Queer Eye” is a
hit, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is
on VH1. Did you think “CPR
is kissing” jokes were going
to fly? Every prank is some
male-on-male sexual violation to squeal and scream
“eww!” in some sort of bizarre heterosexuality contest. It’s like being trapped
in a dark room with a bunch
of very loud eighth-grade
boys. Except eighth-grade
boys these days are probably
way more enlightened.
The rampant sexism is
also worthy of note. We start
off with some aggressive
jokes about ogling women’s
bodies, move on to sex bets
and end up with a running
gag about Thorny (Chandrasekhar) developing a dependence on Canadian female Viagra. Side effects include lactation, hair loss,
and a bad sense of direction
while driving. Yes, it’s wildly
offensive, but it’s also so
corny and outdated that
you almost feel bad for
the troupe.
However, the Canadians
get it the worst. Broken Lizard take a page from Kevin
Smith’s book and uses Canada as the country “safe”
enough to pillory with national stereotypes and horrible accents. If it were any
other country, the film
would be boycotted. But
even before the bad French
accents are trotted out, it’s
almost impossible to decipher the language of “Super Troopers 2,” a rapid-fire
jumble of groan-worthy
puns, vulgarities and insults, delivered with the
highest level of sarcasm —
with the exception of Heffernan, who remains fully committed to inhabiting the antagonist Farva, and the only
performer worth watching.
Have I changed so much
that I can’t find this funny
anymore? Nah. Broken Lizard hasn’t changed enough
to keep up with the times,
turning in a badly degraded
copy of the original. Stale,
unfunny and offensive is
quite the hat trick.
Walsh is a Tribune News
Service film critic.
Troopers 2’
Rated: R, for crude sexual
content and language
throughout, drug material
and some graphic nudity
Running time: 1 hour,
40 minutes
Playing: In general release
FR I DAY , A P R I L 2 0 , 2 018
L AT I M E S . C O M / CA L E N DA R
Hostility in a rugged land
Valeska Grisebach offers a broodingly intelligent drama about culture clash
Like its title, “Western” is
both startlingly direct and
full of resonance and ambiguity. Written and directed
by the gifted Valeska Grisebach, the movie follows German construction workers
into a remote stretch of Bulgarian countryside, near the
Greek border, where they
have come to build a hydroelectric power plant.
The story is a faultlessly
observed, broodingly intelligent piece of realism, a dispatch from a sun-baked
frontier that could hardly
feel more mundane or specific but that Grisebach
somehow suffuses with the
beauty and power of myth.
We are a long way from
Monument Valley, but the
images in “Western,” shot by
the cinematographer Bernhard Keller, have a roughhewn majesty that cuts
across genre and geography.
You can sense Grisebach’s
stealth homage to the work
of Hollywood masters like
John Ford and Anthony
Mann in her feel for magnificent, rugged landscapes,
which also includes the craggily handsome face of her
leading man, Meinhard Neumann.
Like the other members
of the ensemble, Neumann is
a first-time actor giving authentic shape to an utterly
plausible situation. He plays
Meinhard, a German ex-Legionnaire who has come to
Bulgaria to make money and
perhaps purge a few painful
memories. Directing the
viewer’s attention at times
with little more than a disapproving stare, Meinhard
guides us through what
looks at first like a straightforward study of clashing
cultures and homosocial
group dynamics.
In temperament and life
experience, he stands apart
from his fellow laborers,
most of whom are younger
and more unruly. The
group’s arrogant boss, Vincent (Reinhardt Wetrek),
gets off on the wrong foot
with the locals when he harasses a young Bulgarian
woman (Viara Borisova)
swimming in a river near
their camp.
In another scene, he
Cinema Guild
MEINHARD NEUMANN, left, and Syuleyman Alilov Letifov are first-time actors in “Western,” set in the Bulgarian countryside.
Not rated
In Bulgarian, German and
English dialogue with
English subtitles
Running time: 2 hours
Playing: Laemmle’s Music
Hall 3, Beverly Hills
marks the construction site
with a German flag, which is
promptly stolen. His justification for his men’s presence
on foreign soil — “We’re
bringing infrastructure” — is
more of an excuse for his own
Meinhard, by contrast,
has a gift for defusing ugly
situations, which suggests
he’s seen his fair share of
them. For reasons he has little interest in explaining —
perhaps to compensate for
his colleagues’ misbehavior
but also perhaps out of natural curiosity — he begins
hanging out with the villagers.
He forges an especially
close bond with a landowner,
Adrian (Syuleyman Alilov
Letifov), and even borrows
the latter’s beautiful white
horse, adding another layer
of western imagery even as it
pushes the story in a harrowing, unsettling direction.
“Western” is Grisebach’s
third feature, and it marks a
long-overdue return to the
big screen after her internationally acclaimed 2006 film,
“Longing.” In between, the
director served as a script
consultant on the masterful
2016 comedy “Toni Erdmann,” whose director,
Maren Ade, is credited as a
producer here. The kinship
between the two pictures is
unmistakable: Beyond their
shared interest in cultural
dislocation and 21st-century
global economic imperatives, both unfold over a long
arc that can seem meandering in the moment but reveals its tight, intricate
structure in retrospect.
The animus between locals and outsiders occasionally surfaces in dialogue,
and more than one character alludes, with bitter irony,
to the German occupation of
Bulgaria during World War
But the menace mostly
simmers just beneath the
surface, and Grisebach
shows a remarkable talent
for drawing out and modulating tension within a
scene. She is clearly fascinated by the interplay of
hostilities here, by the ways
in which individual resentments can intersect with a
broader, cultural and historical sense of indignation.
But the understated
achievement of “Western” is
that it never feels like it’s illustrating a thesis about the
brutality of man or the inevitability of bloodshed. Rather
than surveying her nonprofessional actors with a detached, analytical eye, Grisebach shoots them in a style
both observant and intimate.
Even when a group conversation is taking place, she
tends to isolate speakers
and listeners in the frame, a
technique that involves us
even as it teases our peripheral vision. (The frequent
nighttime shots demand
similarly close attention.)
And while certain characters have a built-in iconic
Indie Rights
William Friedkin
strong, silent type, Vincent’s
callow brute — the director
confounds our temptation
to think we’ve got them figured out.
“Violence is not my
thing,” Meinhard says, and it
isn’t really this movie’s either. Even as “Western”
channels the themes and
mechanics of its eponymous
genre, it resists every inclination to lead the viewer
down a familiar path.
If conflict is inevitable,
the movie suggests, then
perhaps friendship is at
least possible. In one of the
scenes, Meinhard and Adrian bond so readily, you
might momentarily forget
that they aren’t speaking the
same language.
Film Chest
DIRECTOR William Friedkin, left, filmed Father
MAREM HASSLER and Michael Marcel are city-
CAMPING turns deadly for a group of friends includ-
Gabriele Amorth’s final exorcism before his death.
slicker spouses who meet a family of isolationists.
ing Jamie Bernadette, left, and Vanessa Rose Parker.
Deep dive into a Gruesome chills Just go with the
real exorcist’s life in the backwoods goofy, gory flow
There are no rotating
heads or spewing green goop
on display, but “Exorcist” director William Friedkin’s
documentary, “The Devil
and Father Amorth,” serves
as a curious companion
piece to his 1973 horror classic and has its own chilling, if
limited, charms.
“At the time I made ‘The
Exorcist,’ I had never witnessed an exorcism,” admits
host-narrator Friedkin, who
more than four decades later
would correct the oversight
when granted permission to
film then-91-year-old Father
Gabriele Amorth, the chief
exorcist of the Diocese of
Rome since 1986, perform
the ritual purging on a seemingly possessed woman
named Cristina.
There were conditions to
be met — Friedkin wasn’t allowed to bring in a crew or
lights — but was otherwise
permitted to film Cristina’s
ninth and final exorcism
(the affable Father Amorth
died shortly after), during
which she would writhe and
growl like a caged animal.
Friedkin pads out the
main attraction with archival commentary by author
William Peter Blatty, revisiting the “Exorcist” steps in
Washington, D.C., and engaging neurosurgeons in a
dialogue on demonic possession versus dissociative
identity disorder.
While the slim sampler
platter would be more at
home on an “Exorcist” commemorative DVD, the documentary, accentuated with
unnerving bursts of music
sampled from the works
of neoromantic composer
Christopher Rouse, should
placate the rabid fan base.
— Michael
“The Devil and Father
Amorth.” Not rated. Running time: 1 hour, 8 minutes.
Playing: Ahrya Fine Arts,
Beverly Hills.
Ignore the nondescript
title; writer-director Jeff
Houkal’s backwoods horror
film “Edge of Isolation” has
personality and just enough
splatter to satisfy gorehounds. The plot’s a rehash
of ’70s/’80s drive-in classics
like “The Hills Have Eyes,”
but this movie has its own
odd energy and is effectively
Michael Marcel and
Marem Hassler costar as
Lance and Kendra, spouses
who have a car accident in
the country and end up recuperating with the Polifers:
Ivan (Monte Markham) and
Mary (Judi Barton), eccentric oldsters who lead a
makeshift family of isolationist weirdos.
Lance and Kendra can
tell something is off with the
Polifers — like the way they
won’t answer questions
about how they survive or
talk much about the folks
living in nearby camps. The
visitors try to make the best
of things until they start realizing they’re not so much
guests as prisoners.
Houkal plays some with
the racial and class tensions
underlying the relationship
between the city slickers and
their rural hosts, though
“Edge” isn’t really a political
film. It’s more about how
these cultured heroes go
from being mildly weirded
out to openly disgusted by
the Polifers’ ways.
The story takes some
turns that’ll be predictable
to anyone who’s seen other
films in this “strangers in a
strange land” horror subgenre. But a creeping gruesomeness compensates for
the lack of originality. Spines
will tingle. Stomachs will
— Noel Murray
“Edge of Isolation.” Not
rated. Running time: 1 hour,
30 minutes. Playing: Arena
Cinelounge Sunset, Hollywood.
Whatever else can be said
about “4/20 Massacre,” at
least it lives up to its ridiculous name. Equal parts
goofy and gory, the horror
movie directed by Dylan
Reynolds never intends to
be an arty mood piece or social commentary covered in
blood. Instead, its C-movie
horror should only be experienced while under the
influence when your judgment isn’t at its best.
To celebrate the birthday
of Jess (Jamie Bernadette),
she and her friends go camping in the wilderness. Unfortunately, the woods are also
home to “guerrilla growers”
who will do anything to protect their crop of marijuana.
A mysterious figure begins
taking out hunters and hikers, and soon Jess and her
friends find themselves targets too.
Though “4/20 Massacre”
loves weed, its biggest problem isn’t laziness; in fact, it’s
admirably inventive in its
kills and use of viscera, even
if most of the film’s plot feels
like every other slasher-inthe-woods movie. Instead,
its worst offense is its tone,
which veers from sincere to
silly to sadistic over the
course of less than 90 minutes.
It features real moments
of honesty and emotion
among the friends and
lovers, humanizing them before they’re brutally dispatched. At first, centering
the film around a group of
women made up mostly of
lesbians feels like a fresh
twist on the wilderness horror subgenre, but this exploitative movie never does
anything with these characters other than kill them.
— Kimber Myers
“4/20 Massacre.” Not rated.
Running time: 1 hour, 24
minutes. Playing: California
Institute of Abnormal Arts,
North Hollywood; also on
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L AT I M E S . C O M / CA L E N DA R
Cohen Media Group
ANNE WIAZEMSKY (Stacy Martin) in “Godard Mon Amour,” about her marriage to Jean-Luc Godard.
Homage that falls short
‘Godard Mon Amour’
isn’t as smart or funny
a sendup as it would
like to be.
By Robert Abele
Naturally, when you envision the ideal character to
lead a romantic comedydrama, you think of JeanLuc Godard. Specifically,
you call to mind that notoriously nebbishy charmer who
in 1968 was so fortified with
revolutionary fervor that he
turned his back on the satirical, visually rapacious popart cinema that made him
famous to pursue the kind of
political tract movie that
just screams Date Night.
Boy meets Mao! I mean, girl!
French filmmaker Michel
Hazanavicius loves movies,
as shown by his Oscar-winning ode to the silent era,
“The Artist,” and the affectionately
“OSS-117” adventures. But
“Godard Mon Amour,” the
director’s half-parodic/halfearnest stab at turning his
country’s rule-breaking enfant terrible (played by Louis Garrel) into half of a
prickly movie couple — focusing on his then-new marriage to his “La Chinoise”
(Stacy Martin) — is the kind
of curiously inconsequential
homage that neither stokes
your interest in cinema/Go-
dard nor illuminates a turbulent love story between
You’d never guess Hazanavicius’ screenplay was
based on Wiazemsky’s own
late-in-life memoir of the
marriage called “Un an
après,” so frustratingly passive is this movie’s 20-yearold Anne as she endures the
increasingly alienating radicalization of her 37-year-old
cinema god paramour.
Godard is at first insecure about the dulled reaction to his explicitly political
“La Chinoise,” then animated by the 1968 student
protests convulsing France
until he’s dismissed by the
movement’s young revolutionaries, after which his attempts at career disruption
— picking fights with fellow
filmmakers, trying to shut
down Cannes, starting a collective with Maoist cohort
Jean-Pierre Gorin (Félix Kysyl) — begin to reframe him
as poisonously arrogant
rather than startlingly bold.
What had started as a
frisky romance built of the
alluring but classically patronizing male-director/female-star
quickly devolves into a jokey
wade into a petulant, misanthropic mind. We all know
Godard is a famously confrontational figure — as
Agnès Varda’s pained callout last year in “Faces
Places” reinforced — but
treats his outbursts like nu-
Mon Amour’
In French with English
Rated: R, for graphic
nudity, sexuality and
Running time: 1 hour, 47
Playing: Laemmle Royal,
West L.A.
trition-free screwball fodder.
As the promising notion
of an intellectually rocky affair between tantalizingly
opposing forces (up-andcoming actress, roiling filmmaker) morphs into empty
mid-career biopic, Hazanavicius is hell-bent on
molding Godard into a superficially
Woody Allen leading man in
the middle of a Mel Brooksstyle parody of the New Wave
legend’s seminal work. We
get winking his-and-hers full
frontal nudity (while the
protagonists talk about the
vogue for movie skin), a gag
about voice-overs, a hat tip
of an extended tracking
shot, black-and-white montages and intermittent intertitles.
The last thing Godard’s
’60s period ever felt like was a
mannered checklist of film’s
possibilities, but Hazanavicius has no such qualms as a
fanboy. But it means “Go-
dard Mon Amour” is never
its own movie, just an approximation.
It is, though, clear about
how ill-chosen it believes its
protagonist was in leaving
behind his cool, heady brand
of high art/low art. The sheer
number of times Hazanavicius has bystanders gush to
Godard about his classics
suggests one long version of
the “early funny ones” joke
Allen made about himself in
“Stardust Memories.” Garrel wears well Godard’s
horn-rimmed disdain in
these instances, and the attendant wounded ego, but
he lacks a necessary air of
mischief to round out a vivid
portrait. Martin, meanwhile, her Anne relegated to
long-suffering eyewitness in
her own marriage saga,
barely registers.
Godard himself is, of
course, still going strong, as
artist and icon: At age 87, he
has a new film at this year’s
Book”), and the festival’s
2018 poster is taken from his
1965 romp “Pierrot le Fou.”
The irascible pioneer even
found time to offer his two
centimes on Hazanavicius’s
movie, which premiered last
year at Cannes, calling it a
“stupid, stupid idea.” The
irony is that, had “Godard
Mon Amour” been brazenly
stupid, instead of just facile
and glib, it might have been
Chayse Irvin Amazon Studios
JULIAN PARKER, left, and Jon Michael Hill are homeless men camped on an urban street corner in film.
Spike Lee is in drama’s corner
By Gary Goldstein
‘Pass Over’
meets “Do the Right Thing”
in “Pass Over,” director
Spike Lee’s filmed version of
Antoinette Nwandu’s electrifying play, which debuted in
June 2017 at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre under the
direction of Danya Taymor.
The movie, shot on the
Steppenwolf stage in September in front of an invited
audience that included community groups (whose arrival and departure buoyantly bookend the film),
proves a brief yet rousing experience, one that retains its
theatrical power via Lee’s
deftly constructed transfer.
Not rated
Running time: 1 hour, 15
Playing: Streaming on
Amazon Prime
Original cast members
Jon Michael Hill and Julian
Parker vibrantly star as, respectively, the guarded Moses and jauntier Kitch, two
homeless African American
men encamped on a volatile
urban street corner, which is
re-created on an effectively
spare set.
The duo spend their time
trading boisterous, N-wordfilled, often absurdist banter
“Godot’s” Samuel Beckett
as one of several influences);
dodging gunfire and dreaming of the day they will “pass
over” to a better existence.
Moses and Kitch’s reveries are vividly interrupted by
Mister (Ryan Hallahan, another original cast player), a
clueless, upper-crust white
man who wanders into the
’hood with a brimming picnic basket, and later by a
racist cop (Blake DeLong)
who will factor in with more
dire consequences.
compact tale, so rich with
jarring authenticity and
boldly configured social
commentary, can now reach
a wide and appreciative audience via Lee’s provocative,
propulsive film.
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1940s French noir still slays
Henri-Georges Clouzot’s deliciously amoral tale shines in a 4K restoration
made and drenched in atmosphere, Henri-Georges
Clouzot’s knockout 1947
crime thriller/film noir “Quai
des Orfèvres” is back in
Originally released in the
U.S. as “Jenny Lamour,”
“Quai” returns in a 4K restoration with the soul-destroying shadows of its vintage
Paris ambience so crisply
presented you can almost
smell the sweat of its music
hall numbers and the cigarette smoke drifting over
rain-drenched streets.
Though it’s based on a
crime novel, “Quai des Orfèvres” bears the unmistakable stamp of the corrosive
sensibility of its director and
co-writer Clouzot.
Best known in this country for the international hit
“The Wages of Fear” starring
Yves Montand and the
Hitchcockian “Diabolique,”
Clouzot was in all honesty
less interested in crime and
punishment than in the psychology of human behavior,
something he did not have
the highest regard for.
In the deliciously amoral
world of “Quai des Orfèvres,”
everyone is hiding something from someone and no
one so much as dreams of
being on the level. When one
of its protagonists says “life’s
no fun, that’s for sure,” you
can almost feel the director
nodding in agreement.
“Quai” is also notable for
the almost neo-realistic care
it took with production design. Working with designer
Max Douy, Clouzot faultlessly re-created not one but
two arenas for his story to
unfold in.
First is the long-gone
world of French music halls,
a crowded, chaotic place
where animal acts share the
stage with singers and magicians. The wages are inevitably low, but the camaraderie is strong.
cramped, unhappy atmosphere of the Paris police’s
Criminal Investigations Division, where the rooms are
tiny, the journalists feisty,
and it’s hard to tell the
thieves from the detectives.
That iconic institution
Rialto Pictures
SUZY DELAIR portrays an aspiring French singer and Bernard Blier is her jealous hangdog of a husband in 1947’s “Quai des Orfèvres.”
‘Quai des
Not rated
Running time: 1 hour,
46 minutes
Playing: Laemmle’s Royal,
West Los Angeles
turns out to be housed in a
building on the city’s Quai
des Orfèvres, making the address of the film’s title the
French equivalent of Scotland Yard.
Blacklisted after the war
because of the savage perspective of “Le Corbeau,” a
film he made under the German occupation, Clouzot
found a producer who
agreed to work with him if
his project was a commercial
one. The director agreed,
but “Quai des Orfèvres,”
though it turned out to be a
success, did not necessarily
have commercial written all
over it.
Clouzot starred his thenmistress Suzy Delair as the
Jenny Lamour of the old
American title, the stage
name of an aspiring singer
named Jenny Martineau.
A va-va-voom style of entertainer before it was a
word, Jenny has a way with a
tune, but she’s also a worldclass flirt, something that infuriates her jealous sad sack
of a husband, her accompanist Maurice (Bernard Blier,
father of director Bertrand).
Kino Lorber
Though she loves Maurice, Jenny is extremely ambitious and not above
playing with fire in the person of a hunchbacked roué of
a movie producer named
Brignon, impeccably played
by Charles Dullin.
Brignon is a desiccated
and dissipated creature,
pure Clouzot in his leering
lust, and accurately described by film historian
David Shipman as “the
dirtiest old man on celluloid.”
“Quai” couldn’t be a fullfledged film noir without a
corpse, and when someone
shows up dead things start
to get truly complicated for
Jenny, Maurice and their best friend, Dora Monnier (Simone Renant).
Dora is a stylish lesbian
photographer with a habit of
wearing elegant clothes featuring her name on them in
big letters. She has a terrible
crush on Jenny even though
she is Maurice’s closest
None of these people, as it
turns out, is as clever as they
think they are. That distinction belongs to Det.Lt. Antoine, played with great
verve by one of the great
names of French theater
and film, Louis Jouvet.
Cranky, irascible, Columbo-rumpled despite his
bow-tie and plastered-down
hair, the lieutenant is the
kind of cop who’s seen it all
twice and has forgotten
nothing. When a suspect
grouses, “I’ve spent two
hours answering dumb
questions,” Antoine shoots
back “I’ve spent 10 years asking them, do I get upset?”
But Jouvet’s character
also turns out to be a doting
father who lives with his
black pre-teen son, the only
thing that remains, he says
enigmatically, from his days
overseas in the Foreign Legion.
Filmmaker Clouzot, who
won the directing prize at
Venice for this film, is incapable of making anyone or
any situation standard, and
that’s a gift this brand new
digital version of “Quai des
Orfèvres” only embellishes.
Twitter: @KennethTuran
Ricardo Hubbs Little Pink House
CARRIE (Jessica Walter) and Lenny (Tibor Feld-
CATHERINE KEENER plays a real-life homeowner
AMONG THE MANY oddball characters in “Wan-
man) ponder their next moves in tender rom-com.
who fights to keep her house from being seized.
derland” are Tate Ellington and Adepero Oduye.
Sweet slice of love Meandering over A bit of twee goes
in the Big Apple a complex topic a long, long way
New York City is the romcom capital of the movie
world, and it’s rare to watch
a cinematic love story set in
the metropolis that we
haven’t seen before. But
writer-director Rachel Israel’s debut, “Keep the
Change,” manages to make
romance in the city feel
fresh, while still using
tropes of the genre. By
making her lead lovers
autistic and by casting
autistic actors, she creates
a film that feels more authentic in the process.
When David (Brandon
Polansky) is forced to attend a social group for
people with autism, he feels
out of place among the
other attendees.
He’s slick and enjoys
telling dirty jokes, but is
bored by the others, begging his parents (Jessica
Walter and Tibor Feldman)
to stop going.
However, as he spends
more time there with Sarah
(Samantha Elisofon), he
begins to fall for her sweet,
outgoing spirit.
Using nonprofessional
actors means Israel’s film
doesn’t feel polished — but
that’s OK. This is a tender,
generous movie that likes
its characters and presents
them as real people, full of
flaws and strengths.
“Keep the Change” isn’t a
film for cynics, but romantics will find plenty to warm
their hearts here.
David and Sarah’s story
is a new take on love in the
city, but it’s also a reminder
that the relationships of
people with autism aren’t
that different from the ones
we’ve been swooning over
for decades.
— Kimber Myers
“Keep the Change.” Not
rated. Running time: 1
hour, 33 minutes. Playing:
Laemmle Royal West L.A.;
Laemmle Town Center 5,
Writer-director Courtney Moorehead Balaker
taps a pair of powerful actresses to face off in her film
“Little Pink House,” which
depicts a real-life battle surrounding eminent domain
Catherine Keener stars
as Susette Kelo, a paramedic who returns to her
Connecticut hometown of
New London, renovates her
little pink house, and finds
love with the local handyman and junk dealer. But
soon, she’s fighting to keep
her home from being seized
by the government.
Her foe is Charlotte Ward
(Jeanne Tripplehorn), a college president tapped by the
governor to woo Pfizer to revitalize struggling New London and shine up the governor’s résumé.
“Little Pink House” has
the potential to be an “Erin
Brockovich” for Keener, a
wonderfully grounded performer. However, she’s un-
moored in this film, which
can’t decide if it’s a smalltown indie romance, a political corruption thriller or a
courtroom drama.
It meanders wildly before stuffing all of the meaty
parts, including the Supreme Court case, into the
last 15 minutes of the film.
It’s confusing and inconsistent, and no amount of
Keener can truly anchor it.
The case of Kelo v. New
London is an important
one, and the film doesn’t
end the way you might expect.
“Little Pink House”
shines a light on this issue
but isn’t entirely successful
in its execution.
— Katie Walsh
“Little Pink House.” Not
rated. Running time: 1 hour,
38 minutes. Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center,
Santa Monica; Laemmle
Playhouse 7, Pasadena; Edwards Westpark 8, Irvine.
One’s attention tends to
wander while taking in
“Wanderland,” a musiclaced trifle concerning an
uptight New Yorker’s surreal
adventures in the hippiedippy
treads a shaky line between
quirky and laborious.
A stressed-out, straightlaced millennial, Alex (likable Tate Ellington), is looking forward to a change of
scenery after he responds to
an email request for a sitter
for a woman’s rural Long Island home.
However, he quickly discovers that his definition of
R&R at Enchanted Forest is
going to be challenged by a
succession of eccentrics he
encounters over the course
of a wacky evening, a number of whom manage to
break into song, accompanying themselves on various
stringed instruments.
Although the prospect of
watching a mash-up of “La
La Land” and Martin Scors-
ese’s “After Hours” holds
Josh Klausner, in a departure from his screenplays for
“Shrek Forever After” and
“Date Night,” opts instead
for offbeat spiritual enlightenment but is unable to sustain a delicate tone that becomes increasingly twee as it
goes along.
After a while, the parade of oddball characters
played by the likes of Austin
Pendleton, Harris Yulin and
Tara Summers grows tiresome.
Not helping matters are
the bland songs. The notable exception is Atarah Valentine’s lovely acoustic rendition of the Modern English
hit “I Melt With You.”
— Michael
“Wanderland.” Not rated.
Running time: 1 hour, 30
minutes. Playing: Laemmle
Monica Film Center, Santa
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up the
Sophie Fiennes’ combination concert film and intimate observational documentary of musician, actress and cultural icon
Grace Jones bills itself as the
most revealing portrait of
the star yet.
It takes viewers behind
the scenes and into the life of
Jones, who hasn’t historically granted much access to
her personal life. But there
are times in “Grace Jones:
Bloodlight and Bami” where
she behaves exactly as you
might imagine, complaining
that no one parties like they
used to; eating oysters in the
recording studio jamming to
her own songs — just being
the lovable weirdo that we
always imagined she is.
Fiennes cuts between familiar images of Jones —
performing onstage in her
signature costumes, all milelong legs and Philip Treacy
fascinators, and that commanding, resonant voice.
glimpses into Jones’ personal life, bouncing between recording sessions, backstage
and, most fascinating, trips
to her native Jamaica, where
she excavates her personal
and family history and investigates how that informs her
art, channeling her ancestry
and trauma into her work.
Fiennes takes an observational approach to these
personal moments. The
camera sometimes hangs
back, or gets up close and
personal, but it’s always laser focused on Grace, who is
always fully authentic within
her many selves. She codeswitches frequently and fluidly, from language to language, accent to accent,
from urbane art diva to nature girl.
The observational style
and relaxed structure make
for a film that’s a bit obtuse
at times, but it lulls the
viewer into a rhythm, from
concert to backstage to Jamaica, cycling through
Grace’s worlds with the
same ease that she does. Ultimately, “Bloodlight and
Bami” is a rich, delicate tapestry of a life, where each
thread is lovingly woven together to create a full picture.
— Katie Walsh
“Grace Jones: Bloodlight
and Bami.” Not rated.
Running time: 1 hour, 55
minutes. Playing: Landmark Nuart, West Los Angeles; Edwards University
Kino Lorber
CONCERT FOOTAGE and personal moments in “Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami” offer a revealing portrait of the dynamic performer.
Town Center, Irvine.
1968’s turmoil in
an ‘Intense’ light
A rich, immersive contemplation of the emotional
battery life of revolutions,
Brazilian filmmaker João
Moreira Salles’ remarkable,
deeply felt essay film “In the
Intense Now” examines
1968’s turbulence in four
countries through the prism
of what its amateur documentarians filmed.
Spurred by curiously ecstatic travel footage his aesthetic-driven mother shot in
1966 of a Mao-saturated
China she found vital and
beautiful rather than politically antagonistic, Salles examines archival footage of
the student protests in
France, the Soviet invasion
following Czechoslovakia’s
Prague Spring, and his own
childhood split between
France and an increasingly
militarized Brazil. (Salles’
brother is filmmaker Walter
His interest is twofold:
what filmmakers chose to
record and what the images
show, sometimes unwittingly.
Salles, who narrates in the
hushed tones of a mournful
detective, finds something
inexorably meaningful and
powerfully human in the
spark and ecstatic burn of
revolutionary fervor — the
dispossessed heard, the
powerful knocked back —
even as countermeasures
ensure the reactive pullback
toward ordinary, unheroic
The combination of archival bounty with Salles’
touching analysis has a hypnotic effect, serving up the
past plus reflection, garnished with a resonant mel-
ancholy about the ebb and
flow of uprisings. Through it
all, Salles shows abiding respect for these forgotten and
anonymous chroniclers of
the momentous, whether
captured in ecstasy, obliviousness, fear or wounded
resignation. It brought to
mind Stephen Sondheim’s
exquisite lyrics from “Someone In a Tree” about witnessing history: “I’m a fragment of the day/If I weren’t
who’s to say/Things would
happen here the way/That
they happened here?”
— Robert Abele
“In the Intense Now.” In
Portuguese, French and
Czech with English subtitles. Not rated. Running
time: 2 hours, 7 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle Music
Hall, Beverly Hills.
Selfless service
propels ‘Nuba’
The title of the gripping,
inspiring documentary “The
Heart of Nuba” describes
Catholic missionary Tom
Catena, an American doctor
running the Mother of Mercy
Hospital in southern Sudan’s remote Nuba Mountains. Since 2011, the oil-rich,
rebel-held region has been
targeted for aerial bombings
by the nation’s dictator, indicted war criminal Omar
Bashir, resulting in death,
destruction, displacement
and a shocking lack of humanitarian aid for the besieged Nuba peoples.
Suffice to say Catena, the
only permanent physician in
a vast area of an estimated 1
million citizens, has his
hands full.
Still, this upstate New
York transplant, 53, is as
committed and selfless as
they come: He lives in spare
digs 100 yards from the
under-equipped hospital,
handles a nonstop array of
critical health and surgical
issues (some graphically depicted), is on call 24/7 and,
until more recently, forfeited
marriage and children to follow his longtime path of
medical service.
Through it all, the whippet-thin,
245pound college football star
maintains an upbeat, cando attitude, charming patients and villagers alike
with boundless devotion,
warmth and grace. Catena’s
stirring trip back to the U.S.
to visit his family is filled
with an equal show of love
and support.
Producer-director Kenneth A. Carlson (a teammate of Catena’s at Brown)
absorbingly, unfussily captures Catena’s daily challenges and feats while also
painting a vivid, often heartbreaking portrait of a forgotten people trapped in an
underreported sociopolitical nightmare.
— Gary Goldstein
“The Heart of Nuba.” Not
rated. Running time: 1 hour,
25 minutes. Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly
The wisdom of
elders celebrated
Sky Bergman’s documentary “Lives Well Lived”
— offering positive snapshots of a variety of functioning, happy seniors — is less a
film than an upbeat birthday video, which isn’t surprising given the project was
perky, ever-smiling, Italian
Bronx grandmother Evelyn
turning 100, and showing no
signs of slowing down.
The subtitle is “Celebrating the Secrets, Wit and Wisdom of Age,” which again
suggests less a movie than,
in this case, a positivity tract
for anyone who needs their
dismissive attitude about
the elderly reconfigured.
The interstitial talking-head
responses to generically
posed questions produce
unsurprising tips for longevity — stay curious, have passions, goals and friends, be
yourself, take chances (or,
conversely, ease up a bit) —
which leaves the individual
stories, augmented by photos and music cues, to get
the most traction emotionally.
There are compelling
hardship tales (a Japanese
American nonagenarian’s
World War II internment
saga, a married couple who
met in San Francisco and
learned they were both
saved by Britain’s Kindertransport rescue program
as children). There are also
plenty of gently affirming instances of new skills learned,
evergreen joys continued
and dreams still nurtured.
“Lives Well Lived” isn’t exactly artful moviemaking,
but it’s a heartfelt reminder
that for many, age is just a
— Robert Abele
“Lives Well Lived.” Not
rated. Running time: 1 hour,
12 minutes. Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center,
Santa Monica; Laemmle
Town Center 5, Encino;
Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena.
‘Christmas’ fun
takes a holiday
Black comedies don’t get
much broader or more
cheerless than “Let’s Kill
Grandpa This Christmas,” a
low-budget tale of malice
and murder played out by
six singularly unlikable people. Writer-director-star Brian Gianci keeps a snappy
pace, and his cast is admirably willing to take
chances, but when the humor doesn’t land — which is
most of the time — the movie’s tough to take.
Gianci plays Brett, a
cocky schemer who, along
with his meek brother-inlaw Carl (James Wirt), concocts a plan to bump off their
wives’ cantankerous ex-hippie millionaire grandfather
(Robert John Keiber), to get
their hands on an inheritance both men desperately
No piece of scenery goes
unchewed in “Let’s Kill
Grandpa.” Keiber snaps and
snarls; Wirt plays Carl as an
uber-nerd; Diana Bologna
and Courtney Desmond are
unpleasantly shrewish as
the men’s spouses; and Mackenzie Westmoreland is
sweet but awkwardly cartoonish as a brain-damaged
Most of the film consists
of these one-note characters
sniping at each other, interrupted by jokes about sexual
and cultural identity that
are probably meant to be
boldly politically incorrect
but instead come off as
Gianci has a decent ear
for dialogue and does a fair
job of recapturing the raucous,
play-to-the-cheapseats style of John Hughes.
But here he’s applied those
gifts to a dyspeptic farce
about as much fun as a holiday hangover.
— Noel Murray
“Let’s Kill Grandpa This
Christmas.” Not rated.
Running time: 1 hour, 21 minutes. Playing: Arena Cinelounge Sunset, Hollywood.
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Mary Cybulski Universal Pictures
AMY SCHUMER starred with Bill Hader in “Trainwreck.” For the film, she decided to go on a diet, but said that was she was “still being trolled for being heavy.”
A heart-to-heart with comedian
[Schumer, from E1]
of a friendship than a traditional interviewer/celebrity
rapport. I wasn’t, like, chilling
with her and J-Law at her recent wedding or anything,
but we message a lot, and
she wrote a really nice blurb
for my book, which is about
“The Bachelor.”
Which is why when I
wound up at the fancy house
where she was staying in
Beverly Hills, our conversation about “I Feel Pretty”
became less of an interview
and more of a heart-to-heart.
When I walked in,
Schumer’s husband, chef
Chris Fischer, had just finished cooking lunch, so she
was eating a very professional-looking plate of sea
bass and Brussels sprouts
while wearing sweatpants.
Her dog, Tati — named after
actress Tatiana Maslany —
was staring at her longingly,
hoping for a piece of fish.
A couple of stylists were
wandering around, unloading heels and dresses for the
“I Feel Pretty” press tour, so
Schumer suggested we move
to the backyard to talk. I told
her I wanted us to candidly
discuss body image, as well as
the backlash to the new film.
When the first trailer was
released this spring, it made
a lot of people mad. In the
movie, Schumer plays Renee,
a thirtysomething with low
self-esteem who yearns to
be what she describes as
“undeniably pretty.” One day,
during a SoulCycle class, she
falls off her bike and hits her
head, and when she comes to,
it appears her wish has been
granted: She looks in the mirror and sees everything
she’s always dreamed of.
On Twitter, critics argued
that the premise was tone
deaf. Schumer is “blonde,
white, able-bodied, femme
and yes, thin … society’s
beauty ideal,” so how are
those even further outside
traditional beauty norms
supposed to feel about
themselves if Schumer is
considered ugly?
doesn’t think it’s fair to
“say who you do and don’t
think should be insecure,”
she understands why the
story makes some people
“I don’t know that the
country really has an appetite to hear the story of a
white, blond woman with a
belly,” she admitted. “I get it.
I personally feel woken up
about inequality for women
and people of color in a way I
didn’t before seeing ‘Get Out’
and ‘Hamilton’ and ‘Atlanta’
— and all these police shootings and the election. I
thought things had gotten
better. But I had no idea. I
just grew up thinking everybody was equal, and that’s
not enough. I need to do
something, otherwise I’m
just part of the problem.”
But she also thinks the
message behind “I Feel
Pretty” is important. She
STX Films
THE ACTRESS stars with Rory Scovel in the film “I Feel Pretty,” the premise of which as drawn criticism.
wants women to feel “empowered to live up to their full
potential” — to not be held
back by the fear of being
perceived as fat or ugly.
Both of which in fact, are
things she says she’s been
called since the moment she
entered Hollywood. After
watching the trailer for
“Trainwreck,” one award
season blogger argued that
there was “no way she’d be
an object of heated romantic
interest in the real world,”
given her “wide facial features” that made her look
like a “blonde Lou Costello.”
“She’s not grade-A or
even B-plus material, certainly by my standards as
well as those of any moderately attractive, fair-minded
youngish heterosexual dude
who’s feeling hormonal or
what-have-you,” argued this
blogger, who was instantly
ridiculed for his post.
The backlash he faced
made it seem as if he were
just a lone voice in the crowd
— an older white dude hung
up on antiquated standards
of attractiveness. But in her
comedy, Schumer has made
it clear that this is the way in
which many people see her.
In her 2015 stand-up special,
“Live at the Apollo,” she
joked that her arms “register
as legs” in Los Angeles and
her “legs register as firewood.” At auditions, she kidded, she was asked if she
were “reading for the girl getting gastric bypass.”
Hollywood view
“I don’t know if you guys
noticed, but I am what Hollywood calls ‘very fat,’ ” she
said two years later in “The
Leather Special.” “They photographed me once, and this
was the headline: ‘Schumer
buys pastry so she can work
out.’ Kind of mean, right? No,
matchmaker said, ‘Well, look,
she’s no model.’ ”
At one point, Schumer felt
so bad about her appearance
that she even attempted to
get an eating disorder — a
journey she said lasted all
of two hours, when she realized that she couldn’t stand
being hungry. She really
hates being hungry.
Freed by trolling
Ali Goldstein Comedy Central
STRIKING a pose on “Inside Amy Schumer.” For one
episode, a matchmaker set her up. It didn’t go well.
they hit the nail right on the
... head. That’s what I do to
work out. Before I work out,
I go buy a scone, and then I
slowly walk around a reservoir, and I eat it. My workouts are like a woman in hospice. Just, like, nibbling on a
baked good, looking at the
trees and the birds.”
I asked Schumer what her
aim was in saying such mean
things about herself, even in
jest. She said she’d grown up
watching female comedians
like Joan Rivers and Phyllis
Diller — women she thought
were beautiful — make cruel
jokes about their appearances, and that “worked.”
But these were also the
kind of things Schumer has
heard herself since she was
a girl. In sixth grade, she
bought an outfit at the Gap
she really liked: A ribbed
maroon top and tight black
pants. When she walked
into school, a boy looked at
her and exclaimed: “Whoa,
Big Bertha!”
“It just robbed me,” she
remembered. “It just set me
back. And then, instead of
crying, I would just fire back
and make a joke myself. It
was like training for a roast.”
She regained her confidence in high school, finding
self-worth as an athlete on
the volleyball team. But
when she entered college at
Towson University in Maryland, she felt like she was
back at square one — judged
solely on her looks again.
“I’d never get hit on at
bars — I was just invisible,”
she recalled, echoing an experience that has also been
my own. “One hundred percent of the guys I’ve dated
have been because I was the
aggressor. I’ve always been
with guys that I was friends
with — guys who knew me for
a while who would then become attracted to me.”
On one episode of her
Comedy Central series, “Inside Amy Schumer,” she had
a matchmaker set her up.
She was told she was going
out with a great guy — a
musician who was also a
public defender.
“And I think I met him and
he was wearing denim and a
leather vest and he was very
old and he had a toupee and
he also sucked,” she said.
“And he told me that the
When she shot “Trainwreck,” she decided to go on a
diet, per the studio’s suggestion. (“They really made it my
idea, like, ‘This isn’t “Girls.”
This is a movie. I think you’ll
feel great if you prepare for
it.’ ”) She got down to a Size 4,
and when the movie came
out, she was “still being
trolled for being heavy.”
“So I just decided, ‘Oh,
cool. Well, then, I’m not
gonna play this game at
all,’ ” she said. “It’s not worth
it to me to live this life where
I have to be really hungry.”
And in a weird way, the
trolling freed her too.
“In boxing, you know how
you’re scared of getting
punched and then you get
punched and you’re like,
‘Oh, I’m OK?’ ” she asked,
and I nodded my head, even
though I had no idea. “I’ve
been told I’m fat. I’m ugly.
I’ve seen memes of me being
the grossest woman in the
world — me as Jabba the
Hutt. The fear is gone.”
She also started going to
therapy and began focusing
on the things she was grateful
for. Her dad has suffered
from multiple sclerosis for
years, and seeing his physical
limitations made her appreciate the use of her legs. She
changed her diet a bit, still
“eating crap” sometimes but
balancing it out with nourishing food that energizes
her. And she let herself
have fun: drinking, smoking
pot and relaxing.
“I just decided to believe
my own hype,” she said. “If
you think of the things you
would say to your friends
when they’re having a bad
day — why don’t you let
yourself take care of yourself like that? I understand
that that’s really scary and
makes you feel really vulnerable. But, like, Obama’s
‘The Audacity of Hope,’ how
about the audacity of loving
yourself? Seriously, let yourself do it for 30 seconds. It’s
all in our heads.
In “I Feel Pretty,” Schumer wanted to be sure that
she showed her body onscreen the way it truly is.
There’s one scene in which
her character — post headbump — decides to compete
in a bikini contest alongside half a dozen statuesque
women who are stick thin.
“In post, they asked me if
I wanted to retouch anything,
and I was like, ‘What? No,’ ”
she said. “I love it. I think I
look sexy and strong.”
A few months after shooting that scene last summer,
Schumer met her husband.
(They wed Feb. 13.) She was
the heaviest she’d ever been
— about 15 more pounds
than she weighs now. At
first, there was no spark. He
was just hired help — the
brother of her assistant
whom Schumer was paying
to cook for her family on a
vacation. During the trip, she
had a bad reaction to an antibiotic and got sick while she
was out for a walk.
“I came back to the house
and told everyone I’d had to
stop to [defecate] in the
woods,” she said with a
laugh. “And there he was,
cooking. We really got to
know each other as people,
and then when we became
interested in each other, it
was like, ‘Cool, you’ve seen
me at my physical worst.’ ”
“But, Ame, everything
aside, I know you’re gonna
find your person,” she said,
unprompted. “And I can’t
wait to read your writing
after that. And I can’t wait
to talk to you after that.”
We hugged and I walked
back to my car, feeling awkward that an interview with
Amy Schumer ended up
turning into an inspirational
pep talk. That night, I
emailed her some follow-up
questions. She responded,
sent me a photo of some
pasta without any explanation and this James Baldwin
“In order to survive this,
you have to really dig down
into yourself and re-create
yourself, really, according to
no image which yet exists in
America. You have to impose,
in fact — this may sound very
strange — you have to decide
who you are, and force the
world to deal with you, not
with its idea of you.”
Twitter @AmyKinLA
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Mark Schafer STXfilms
AMY SCHUMER portrays a New Yorker whose dream of being beautiful takes an unexpected turn when a bump on the head skews her perceptions in “I Feel Pretty.”
A deceptively thoughtful comedy
[Review, from E1]
wouldn’t a bolder, more progressive version of this story
have cast a relative unknown,
perhaps even a woman of color,
Schumer’s distracting whitefeminist baggage and celebrity profile?
All valid questions, even if
answering some of them
would force us to consider a
different picture altogether,
rather than the goofy, uneven
and surprisingly thoughtful
one in front of us. Not unlike
the recent “Blockers,” which
poked fun at the spectacle of
hysterical parents trying to
safeguard their teenage
daughters’ chastity, “I Feel
Pretty” will almost certainly
be dismissed by those who
assume it embodies, rather
than examines, a sexist, reductive worldview.
And to be sure, there are
moments when you can’t be
entirely sure if it’s doing one,
the other or both, which
strikes me as indicative of not
the movie’s awfulness, but its
integrity. With a conviction
that can seem by turns foolish and inspired, “I Feel
Pretty” hurls itself into its initially strained, increasingly
wacky premise.
The lessons Renee must
learn are fairly obvious, and
at nearly two leisurely paced
hours, the whole thing could
do with (ahem) a nip and a
tuck. But it’s a sweet, klutzy
charmer, with moments of
wit, insight and, yes, beauty,
some of which it seems to
stumble upon by accident.
There’s nothing accidental of course about the casting of Schumer. Her more
controversial sketches may
have inspired much abuse of
the word “problematic,” but
she turns out to be less this
movie’s problem than its solution. I would gladly watch a
version of “I Feel Pretty” with
a less privileged celebrity in
the lead, but I can’t deny the
sweet-and-salty verve that
Schumer brings to this one.
She plays Renee as an ugly
duckling who’s gotten awfully good, maybe too good,
at letting the water roll off her
There is nothing inherently funny or affecting about
a scene in which, say, Renee
finds herself publicly embarrassed by a Soul Cycle employee (“Saturday Night
Live” veteran Sasheer Zamata), or stands idly by while
a man chats up the model
(Emily Ratajkowski) next to
her. But Schumer registers
these microaggressions, and
macroaggressions, with just the right mix
of indignation, envy and
thick-skinned restraint. She
gets you to laugh, but in between those laughs her character’s woundedness leaves a
sharp little sting.
At first glance, Renee
might suggest one of
Schumer’s regulation girls
gone wild, a screwball screwup who blots out her disappointments with men and
booze. But while Renee has
no problem partaking of
both, her main problem
turns out to be her stunted
belief that being supermodel-gorgeous is the key to
personal happiness. If she
were “undeniably pretty,” as
she puts it, maybe she
wouldn’t be stuck trying out
a group-dating service with
her girlfriends (Busy Philipps and Aidy Bryant), or
languishing with an unhappy
colleague (Adrian Martinez)
in the online division of Lily
LeClaire, the high-end cosmetics giant where she
But after Renee falls off
her Soul Cycle bike and sustains a fateful blow to the
head, beauty is suddenly very
much in the eye of the be-
‘I Feel Pretty’
Rated: PG-13, for sexual
content, some partial
nudity and language
Running time: 1 hour,
50 minutes
Playing: In general release
holder. Crucially, because Renee’s magical makeover
takes place entirely inside her
head, we never see what her
new-and-ostensibly-improved self looks like. (Think
of it as the opposite of the
“Shallow Hal” effect.) That
makes for a few amusing
deadpan sequences as Renee
exults in a newfound hotness
that only she can see,
whether she’s chatting up a
sensitive guy, Ethan (Rory
Scovel), or breezing her way
through a job interview with
her future boss, Avery
LeClaire (Michelle Williams,
hijacking the movie brilliantly).
“I Feel Pretty” doesn’t try
to escape formula. The script
acknowledges its roots in the
comic subgenre of bodily
transformation (at one point,
Renee watches “Big”), and its
executive-suite drama plays
like a thinner, blander version of “Working Girl,” “The
Devil Wears Prada” and
other satires of Manhattan
upward mobility.
The laughs don’t fly as
fast or thick as they did in the
which Schumer wrote, but
they’re also more plentiful
and less assaultive than they
were in her hapless 2017 vehicle, “Snatched.” Even when a
gag doesn’t work, it simply
slips gently to the side rather
than stopping the movie in
its tracks.
But Renee’s brazen displays of confidence are funny
and emotionally revealing,
especially when she leaps
into a dive-bar bikini contest,
turning the whole sorry, demeaning spectacle on its
head. The movie’s conceit
might have quickly turned
tiresome or mean-spirited,
encouraging us to laugh at a
woman obliviously making a
fool of herself — except that
she isn’t doing that at all.
Leaving Renee’s transformation to the imagination
was a small masterstroke:
Our willingness to suspend
disbelief rests entirely on
Schumer’s shoulders, and
she carries it with aplomb.
It’s a pleasure to see her come
to life as Renee, turning misunderstandings into happy
accidents and, just when we
think we may be overestimating her, surprising us
with how wrong we are.
There’s something curiously intuitive at work here,
and also something sneakily
profound. On the simplest
level, Schumer’s performance asks: What if the source
of your deepest self-doubts
were suddenly gone, but you
were the only one who knew
it? What if you were so oblivious to the perceptions of
those around you that it
really and truly didn’t matter
what everyone else thought?
It’s a question borne out
by the movie’s generosity
toward nearly all its characters, especially Ethan, who
shyly punctures Renee’s assumptions that men are single-minded horndogs, and
playing terrifically against
type, gives the kind of vocal
inflections that suggest an
anemic Betty Boop. She
makes this haughty peripheral figure a sweetly touching
reminder that our worst insecurities are always more than
FR I DAY , A P R I L 2 0 , 2 018
L AT I M E S . C O M / CA L E N DA R
Comic books bolster Bradford’s art
[Bradford, from E1]
feet in the circular galleries of
the Hirshhorn Museum in
Washington, D.C., reflecting
on a decisive battle in the U.S.
Civil War: Pickett’s Charge at
Gettysburg in 1863.
And earlier this month he
was in London, installing a
32-panel painting in the new
U.S. Embassy there. For
those pieces, Bradford immersed himself in the U.S.
Constitution — incorporating the entire text into the
“It’s definitely been stadium tours,” Bradford said of
his busy year. “Now I want to
play small clubs.”
Though how small, given
Bradford’s stature, is anybody’s guess. Bradford was
about to open an exhibition of
new paintings at Hauser &
Wirth — his first solo commercial gallery show in L.A.
since a 2002 exhibition at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects — and already
major collectors were taking
an interest. During our interview, Interscope Records cofounder Jimmy Iovine and
Guess co-founder Maurice
Marciano of the Marciano Art
Foundation museum and
board co-chair at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los
through the galleries for a VIP
preview of Bradford’s latest
“Love it, love it, love it,”
said Marciano, nodding at
Bradford as he passed by.
The new paintings still
employ Bradford’s familiar
technique of painting, collaging, scraping and cutting —
for abstracted canvases that
are worn rather than painted
into existence. But the new
series feels more explosively
visceral, with a more lurid color palette. Some of that is the
result of using pages from
hundreds of old comic books
in the layering process.
“I wanted to immerse myself in a vocabulary that was
familiar to me,” Bradford said
of his interest in comics.
Part of that meant frequently getting distracted by
his source material.
“I’d find myself sitting
Kirk McKoy Los Angeles Times
“BIRD OF PARADISE” by Mark Bradford, among his works at Hauser & Wirth.
there for two hours reading,”
he added with a laugh. “That
got to be a problem. I had to
say, ‘Stop, Mark. Stop.’ ”
In this lightly edited chat,
Bradford talks about what’s
changed about making art
under President Trump, the
mentor he recently lost and
why comics couldn’t be more
relevant to the current political moment.
When you were making the
installation for the Venice
Biennale, you said that
working in the U.S. under
Trump was like making art
“in a house that was burning.” Where do you think
that house stands now?
Definitely, in my own
emotional landscape, I’ve
put out the biggest flames.
This could be frightening or
not frightening to say — but
things are not as shocking. I
think you have to believe
that everything changes and
everything is living. When I
was putting up the piece in
the embassy, I focused on
the larger idea: that the
Constitution will outlive one
party or another.
When the Constitution
was first written, women
were in some ways property
of the landed gentry. And
certainly African American
women and African American people were property.
Clear property. But the
people pushed back, and we
amended that. And even
though progress is slow and
we can’t see it day to day,
things change.
I remember the early days
of the AIDS epidemic. In the
beginning, it was all epic, a
romanticism, almost. There
were these heaven and hell
narratives. But we banded
together, we did things, and
people found strengths they
didn’t know they had.
For the paintings at Hauser
& Wirth, you used a lot of
comic books. What about
comics appeals to you at
this moment?
I read comics as a kid.
Marvel. Archie. Superman.
Batman. Wonder Woman.
The classics. All the movies
you see now. Comic books are
always about the meta. The
archetype of this or the
archetype of that. It’s civilization on steroids — and so it
kind of fit with this moment.
Everything is exaggerated.
That’s what we’re living.
That’s why “Wonder Woman”
is a hit at the box office.
Plus, the colors in comic
books are pow, kabow!
They’re more in-your-face.
They are these epic landscapes that you fall into, but
they are also a grid. It’s just
boxes. And they are these
grids and grids and bubbles.
If you abstract it, it’s like a
Mondrian. It’s this art historical grid that goes back to
Euclid — you know, back in
the day.
In the new show, you have a
work dedicated to abstract
painter Jack Whitten, who
recently passed away. How
did you meet him, and why
was he important to you?
I met Jack’s work through
the pages of very obscure art
journals and through a few
artist catalogs here and
there. I was trying to find
other African American
abstract painters besides
Norman Lewis. I saw Jack as
this kind of incredible statesman. He was always so sure.
He never doubted. Jack had
a 50-year-career, and he was
always sure. He’d say, “Mark,
it’s about the work.” He
would always go to the studio
and make work. He was
uneven like every good artist.
But what I saw was a man
who was completely interested in the journey and the
process of making abstract
I got to know him when he
came to Hauser & Wirth. It
was comforting because I
could look at a lineage. There
stood a man who was African
American and an abstract
painter. I was working on
that painting [“Moody Blues
for Jack Whitten”] when I got
the text that he had died. I
just got real blue, and it was
this gentler feeling. I was
thinking about him while I
made it. I knew Jack would
say, “Now, Mr. Bradford, you
finish this painting and you
make it the best it can be.”
Your installation at the
Hirshhorn Museum is directly inspired by French
artist Paul Philippoteaux’s
1883 cyclorama “The Battle
of Gettysburg,” depicting
the Union victory after
Pickett’s Charge, the assault
named after a Confederate
general. How did you arrive
at the idea of the cyclorama
and that story?
First, it was like, “Oh, my
God, how can I do anything
in the Hirshhorn? What am I
gonna do?” It felt like a Panopticon. Then I came across
the cyclorama — big in
France and big here at the
turn of the last century. They
were these huge propaganda
machines to support these
grand narratives: the burning of Paris, the Battle of
So I started doing research on Gettysburg, and
Pickett’s Charge was a watershed moment of the Civil
War. But in the history books,
there was this nostalgia for it.
And at the cyclorama in
Gettysburg, this somber
music comes on, like, “Oh,
no, he didn’t make it. Pickett
didn’t make it.” And I was
like, “Hallelujah!” It was
really this sentiment of
people that really romanticize the Old South. It was
interesting and uncomfortable.
Because the cyclorama
had no copyright on it, I
could reproduce it. So I
reproduced all eight panels
and then blew it up up into
billboards, into this pixilation. Then I really started
working, doing my thing:
layering and pulling and
cutting. It took me a year.
The last couple of years
have brought a lot of stories
in the media about links
between art and gentrification. You co-founded Art +
Practice in Leimert Park,
where there have also been
such concerns. How do you
manage this?
For me, transformation is
different than gentrification.
Since I was a long-term
resident and merchant in
Leimert Park, I feel very
connected to the community. I haven’t left the community. Maybe I’ve moved
things around, but it’s the
same house for me.
We knew we didn’t want
to do a gallery. That’s commerce. We wanted to focus
on art, arts education and
museum collaboration. Our
first collaboration was with
the Hammer Museum, and
as a result, the community
started having connections
with the Hammer because
they became introduced to
them through us. It demystifies. And in doing research,
we found that a lot of [transitional age youth] were hanging out in the park. So we
asked, how can we make the
lives of foster youth better? I
didn’t just want this to be
art. It needed to address
access and need.
But the way I see it, there
are a multiplicity of visions
going on. I’m just one vision.
F R I DAY , A P R I L 2 0 , 2 018
L AT I M E S . C O M / CA L E N DA R
Salvaging the
beauty from
the ugliness
Labor-intensive works
by Mark Bradford are
an intense revelation.
By David Pagel
Long before homelessness became the issue it is
today, the critic Clement
Greenberg coined the term
“homeless representation”
to put down paintings that
were not abstract enough.
The champion of Abstract Expressionism (and
Post-painterly Abstraction)
looked down on art that
made viewers feel as if they
were in the presence of a
world that did not exist —
except in the mind’s eye. To
Greenberg (1909-1994), that
was the stuff of science fiction; it had no place in painting.
At Hauser & Wirth in
downtown Los Angeles,
Works” turns Greenberg’s
idea of homeless representation inside out. Rather than
being a pitfall to painting,
the imaginative leaps that
triggers give Bradford’s art
its kick and resonance.
Lines run every which
way. Some form networks
that resemble a drone view
of streets and buildings —
before, during and after missile attacks. Other patterns
recall the visual glitches of
old-fashioned TVs, their antennas intermittently picking up signals and their
screens appearing to be possessed by shape-shifting
Think of his work as
homeless abstraction, a
kind of painting all about
displacement and the seismic shifts society is undergoing.
Violence ripples across
the scarred surfaces of Bradford’s 10 canvases, all made
in 2018. Each weighty slab
New Works’
Where: Hauser & Wirth Los
Angeles, 901 E. 3rd St.
When: Tuesdays to
Sundays through May 20
Kirk McKoy Los Angeles Times
“I HEARD You Got Arrested Today,” among the 10 new works by Mark Bradford.
has the presence of a battledamaged wall or a chunk of
terrain that has been subjected to the scorched-earth
tactics of warring armies.
Brushstrokes are nowhere to be found. Yet colors
collide, making sparks fly.
Ghostly imagery nearly con-
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geals into recognizable
shapes and forms, but before you can put your finger
on the identity of anything it
disintegrates into a blur.
To make each painting,
Bradford glues layer upon
layer of printed imagery —
from comic books, news-
papers, magazines, posters
and billboards — on large
canvases. He also slathers
and dumps big jars of paint
atop, forming thick, sedimentary-style layers. Eventually he cuts into his paintings with woodworking
blades, sometimes tearing
off scab-like sections and at
other times slashing vigorously.
Jacques Villeglé’s torn poster collages from the 1950s
and ’60s as well as Alberto
Burri’s burlap, wood and
plastic pieces from the 1940s,
’50s and ’60s, which he often
burned to a crisp.
But the way Bradford
cuts into his works is all his
own: a painstaking process
of rooting through ugliness
to make something beautiful. The lacy delicacy of his
incised lines is all the more
poignant for the in-thestreet scrappiness of the detritus in which it is embedded.
Beauty doesn’t come out
of nowhere; it gets clawed
out of what Bradford has
found in the trash: printed
forms of communication.
That may be tragic, but it’s
also realistic, a matter not
for science fiction but for
FR I DAY , A P R I L 2 0 , 2 018
L AT I M E S . C O M / CA L E N DA R
By Frank Stewart
Duplicate tournament
bridge, as enjoyed by the
American Contract Bridge
League’s 168,000 members,
can improve your game. The
ACBL rewards achievement
with master points.
At matchpoint duplicate,
the same deals are played at
many tables, and the pairs
who do the best with their
cards win. In today’s deal,
South plays at four hearts.
This is a normal contract
that every North-South will
reach. If South takes 10
tricks when everyone else
takes 11, he will get a bottom.
South should win the
first diamond with the king
and lead a spade: three, jack,
queen. He wins the next diamond, takes the ace of clubs,
ruffs a club, leads a spade to
dummy’s 10, discards his last
diamond on the ace and
loses a trump to the ace.
Making five.
At party bridge, where
the goal is to make your bid,
South would never play that
way; he might lose a cold
game. But at duplicate, he
takes a calculated risk for an
See for info on
clubs and tournaments in
your area.
Question: You hold: ♠ 4 2
♥ Q J 10 9 8 6 4 ♦ K 9 2 ♣ 2. Neither side vulnerable. You
deal and open three hearts.
The next player bids three
spades, your partner doubles and the player at your
right passes. Now what?
Answer: Don’t even look
at your hand. Pass. Captaincy is a vital concept.
Your preempt described
your hand, more or less, and
partner is captain. He says
he can beat three spades,
and for all you know, he can
beat it by several tricks.
South dealer
Neither side vulnerable
♠ A J 10 5
♦ Q J 10 8
♣ K Q 10 9 5
♥ Q J 10 9 8 6 4
All Pass
Opening lead — ♦ Q
Tribune Media Services
Stuck in a big marital slog
By Holiday Mathis
Aries (March 21-April 19):
You’re somehow involved in
a game of chicken. The winner will be the one who needs
to be right more than they
need to be smart.
Taurus (April 20-May
20): Someone believes that
he or she is contributing to
your happiness. Is that
really the case, though? It’s
time to communicate your
wants more clearly.
Gemini (May 21-June 21):
You are so empathetic today
that you will echo the feelings of those around you
with your own heart.
Cancer (June 22-July 22):
You are very important to all
of this. So don’t waste another minute doubting your relevance. Jump in and contribute.
Leo (July 23-Aug. 22): It’s
said that it’s not the having
or the getting that bring
happiness, but the giving.
This proves true for you to-
Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22):
The light is different in each
different place, in each moment, and so you’ll see
things differently.
Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 23):
There’s a flow to all you do
today. Don’t stop to analyze
whether this comes from
within or moves you from the
outside. Just enjoy it.
Scorpio (Oct. 24-Nov. 21):
The easy way is actually the
hard way. Push past the fear
that makes you want to back
down from the action.
Sagittarius (Nov. 22Dec. 21): Beware of what
looks cool but can’t deliver
on its promise. If it doesn’t
work, it doesn’t work.
Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan.
19): The more baggage you
have, the more it weighs and
the more you pay.
Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb.
18): Following the path of
least resistance is a way to
get moving, but once you’re
moving, you’ll want to take
charge of where you’re going.
Pisces (Feb. 19-March
20): There are no improvements that happen without
difficulty. You pay with work
or sweat. You pay with money you earned or someone
earned. Today you’re deciding what’s worth it.
Today’s birthday (April
20): It’s like you can grow
things with your eyes. You
see the good in people, and
they will become better because of it. Also, you’ll focus
on the part of your financial
life that’s working the best,
and you’ll wind up making
what you need to move forward with a venture with the
potential to free your time
and your mind. Pisces and
Libra adore you. Your lucky
numbers are: 20, 1, 11, 28 and
Holiday Mathis writes her
column for Creators
Syndicate Inc. The
horoscope should be read
for entertainment. Previous
forecasts are at
Dear Amy: I’m a 42-yearold man who has been married to my wife for 14 years.
We started out fairly well,
but over the years, more and
more arguments emerged.
Now we have three young
kids and have devolved into
the Odd Couple. She is a
downright slob (really bad,
even by her own admission)
and I’m more of a normal
I can’t keep cleaning the
house all by myself, and it
gets so disgusting that I’m
embarrassed by it.
We do have some great
times, but I just feel like I
love her as a friend and can’t
stand living with her.
The other day our oldest
— a 6-year-old girl — told the
story of our meeting and
marriage at an extended
family dinner. She concluded with: “then they
found out they didn’t like
each other. The End.”
I know that if I announce
divorce, it would be devastating to her. She still loves
me very much.
I feel that if I stay I won’t
be happy, and it’s not healthy for the kids to hear us arguing, but I also feel that a
“broken” home could be
equally devastating.
Stay or Go?
Dear Stay or Go: You say
that you can’t keep cleaning
the house all by yourself.
Why not? It sounds as if you
are probably much better at
it than your wife is. You care
more about this than she
You have three children
under the age of 6. If she
agrees to handle the majority of the daily childcare and
manages to get meals on the
table, can you be in charge of
cleaning? Can you hire
someone to clean for a few
hours a week, to lighten the
load for everyone? If you can
financially afford to leave
your marriage, then you can
also afford to pay for some of
the help you need right now.
Some of what you two are
dealing with is what most
couples in the shank of their
marriage and parenting
have to cope with — that feeling that life is passing by in a
blur, while spouses become
detached from the relationship, and, in a way, from their
own lives.
Yes, arguing in front of
the children is not good for
your household, but you two
can learn how to communicate differently.
Therapy is ideal for getting unstuck from entrenched thought patterns.
You should commit to trying
to change things at home before you decide to pack it in.
Dear Amy: I have been di-
vorced for nine years, and
my ex-wife has been married
for the last eight years. We
have a 15-year-old daughter
and 13-year-old triplets.
I have never missed a visitation, activity or doctors’
My oldest and I had an argument and she decided she
did not want to see me.
Two of the triplets then
decided they did not want to
visit, either.
My third girl comes all of
the time. I am now fighting
legally to get them to adhere
to visitation.
Their mother does not
want me in the picture. She
is always planning things to
do when it is my time with
the girls. Some people say to
just let them go. But I love
them and think I am a good
influence on them.
Lost Daddy
Dear Lost: One way that
angry exes have of alienating
children from a parent is to
interfere by planning things
during the parent’s visitation. It is unconscionable,
destructive and ultimately
hurts the children.
I agree that you should
continue to fight for access
to your children.
Send questions for Amy
Dickinson to askamy@
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April 20, 2018
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