Sunday, May 30, 2021

Huge hit! 'Riders of Justice' via 'Fargo'

Rough day? From left: Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Lars Brygmann and Mads Mikkelsen in Riders of Justice

It must be my starvation for action which drove me to Riders of Justice and captured me from the start.

I liked Wrath of Man, too, but Riders has a far better script, better acting and credibility which spells solid entertainment.  

A joy ride through slash and burn hell, but with purpose. Just my kind of film.

Riders is a fantastic thriller, a dark, subtle comedy (of sorts) accompanied by terrific music (by Jeppe Kaas) to complement the austere Danish landscapes of horizontal lines and muted tones where the sun doesn't shine, nobody smiles,  and color (save blood and Christmas sweaters) is absent. 

Anders Thomas Jensen, the director/writer, presents a striking film, sure to excite even the sleeping.  (Wake up, Christine!)

The star (Mads Mikkelsen), is angry, very angry, a man whose rage is palpable, perceived by an audience on edge (we know this is not going to be easy), so close to a man of steel, we are, without patience.

Markus's wife has died in a train accident which injured his teen daughter, now forced to live with her unreasonable, estranged father. 

Was it an accident?  New friends arrive to paint a different picture, and away we go!

The cast includes a nerdy statistician,  
Otto (Nikolaj Lie Kaas); a comedic hacker, Lennart (Lars Brygmann), and the fellow who reminded me of Newman from Seinfeld, Emmenthaler (Nicolas Bro), a tech pro and subtle humorist. 

These guys look like your colleagues, everyday persons you see on the street, with whom you might mingle in a tech warehouse, certainly not the artificial breeds from GQApplause to casting director, Djamila Hansen

I found only one scene which needed more editing, and that was when the "psychologist" counsels Mathilde (Andrea Heick Gadeberg). The "lineup" at the end was a bit too contrived, too.

The irony of this film is its supposed setting, Denmark, ranked by Global Peace Index as the fifth most peaceful country in the world in 2020. (Iceland was #1 and - surprise! - the U.S. doesn't show up in 21 countries listed.) 

Denmark has a low rate of gun deaths, too, as detailed by From 1998 to 2011, Denmark's rate of death by gun was fewer than two people killed for every 100,000 Danish citizens, and by comparison, the United States' rate was just over 10 gun deaths per every 100,000 citizens in 2013. (It might be about double that by now.)

Riders is a great movie for those who are immune to movie violence, like I find myself becoming. 

And Carla, I think Thor will like Riders and if you liked Pulp Fiction and Fargo, you may like it, too, but you've been warned. Adult language, for certain, with English subtitles.

This is the only time I can recall when the critics at Rotten Tomatoes beat the audience (94% to 91%) and got it right.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Picasso sells out at the Frist

The Frist Art Museum, Nashville/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Inside the galleries at the Frist/Photo by Patricia Leslie

The Barefoot Girl,  1895. La Coruna. Loaned by Musée national Picasso-Paris
Picasso was only 13 when he painted this amazing working-class girl which shows his empathy for the subject, according to the label.  It's among the first of many seated women he painted such as the one below he made 37 years later.  Someone said they were birds in a cage.  (Picasso's cage.) 
Reading Woman, 1932. Boisgeloup. Musée national Picasso-Paris. 
This is of Marie-Thérèse Walter, Picasso's lover at the time and featured below in The Sculptor.  Marie was only 17 and almost 30 years younger than Picasso who was married when they met.  A standard line:  "You have an interesting face.  I would love to do a portrait of you," (according to Frist lecturers, Terri Cohen and Peg Werts, who gave one of many fine online sessions the Frist offered at no charge.  Dr. Werts paraphrased Picasso:  "I paint people as I think them, not as I see them.")

Picasso featured Marie-Thérèse Walter in many works, and in 1935, their daughter, Maya, was born.  Four years after Picasso died, Marie committed suicide.

Portrait of Dora Maar, 1937. Paris. 
Musée national Picasso-Paris.
Picasso took up with Dora Maar in 1936 at the time of the outbreak of Spanish Civil War when he was still involved with Marie-Thérèse Walter and married to Olga Khokhlova. Ms. Maar, a photographer, was instrumental in Picasso's development of Guernica.* She challenged him intellectuallyaccording to the Frist online talk given by Ms. Cohen and Ms. Werts.  

Picasso often pictured Ms. Maar crying, easy enough to understand after he shoved aside women when another, more desirable woman crossed his way, such as Francoise Gilot, a Picasso relationship which led to Ms. Maar's breakdown and reclusiveness.

She split with him in 1943, regained strength and began to paint. Right on, sister!

This work was featured on the cover of the booklet at the Frist show. 

At the exhibition, my son, William, asked me how Picasso was able to attract so many women:  "It was not looks!" I exclaimed. Women are attracted to fame, power, and money, all Picasso possessions, I told him, which explains why ugly men have beautiful wives. For a while, anyway.
Man with a Guitar, 1911-1913. Paris. 
Musée national Picasso-Paris
Can you find the man's moustache, the wall molding, and the rosette on the mandolin?  Good!  You may become an art historian!  The label said this "is characteristic of analytical cubism, which aimed to restore the three-dimensionality of a subject on a single surface by translating it into geometric facets." (?)  Translate that and you may become an author, too!

Both online sessions at the Frist which I attended featured this work.  Despite its connection to surrealism, the painter denied he was a surrealist.
Mother and Child, 1907, Paris. Musée national Picasso-Paris
The label said this rendering reflects the artist's fascination with Iberian, African, and Oceanian sculpture and was probably inspired by a Romanesque Virgin and Child Picasso would have seen in Gosol where he stayed in 1906.
Inside the galleries at the Frist, visitors watch a film of Picasso in motion/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Woman with a Ruffle, 1926. Juan-les-Pins. Musée national Picasso-Paris.
The Sculptor, 1931. Paris. 
Musée national Picasso-Paris.
The label noted the artist's early 1930s were marked by sculpture. Here a bearded man meditates at a statue of Picasso's lover at the time, Marie- Thérèse Walter. Mingling figures characterized much of  Picasso's 1920s output, which carried over into the next decade.
The Bathers, 1918. Biarritz. 
Musée national Picasso-Paris
Picasso painted this while honeymooning with the Russian ballerina, Olga Khokhlova, whom he had met the previous year and to whom he was married, despite many affairs, until she died in 1955, according to the online presentation at the Frist by Teri Cohen and Peg Werts.  (In an earlier online Frist talk, Amy Von Lintel and Leonard Folgarait also featured this work.)

The Bathers is modeled after Jean Auguste-Dominique Ingres' Turkish Bath.  Dr. Folgarait noted that although the figures are touching themselves, they look away from the viewer.
Head of a Bearded Man, 1938. Musée national Picasso-Paris.
Man with a Straw Hat and Ice Cream Cone, 1938. Mougins. Musée national Picasso-Paris.
Child with Doves, 1943.  
Musée national Picasso-Paris.
Although labeled a "degenerate artist" by the Nazis, Picasso remained in Paris during the war years of Nazi occupation, 1940 to 1944 when he painted this large, malformed child holding a rattle, with two doves nearby, all enclosed in a somber setting, perhaps underground, perhaps inside a tomb.

Picasso, his art and his public, 1968. Mougins. Musée national Picasso-Paris.
Woman Reading, 1935, Paris. 
Musée national Picasso-Paris.

The Kiss, 1931. Musee national Picasso-Paris. Made in Paris, loaned by Paris, It must be a French kiss...oooohhhhh. The better to bite you, Madam.  This man resembles a cow and the mark of Zorro connects the two in the sheets. Note how the man's eyes are open; the woman's, closed.  Remember what I said about ugly men?  Who would want to see this monstrosity anyway and she is kissing him! Yeech!
In the Picasso galleries at the Frist/
Photo by Patricia Leslie
Woman with a Baby Carriage, 1950, bronze. 
Musée national Picasso-Paris.
Picasso began recycling objects he found on the street long before collecting discarded objects for art became popular. 

Using abandoned objects he found in Vallauris, France where he was living, the sculptor combined them with a baby carriage, a frying pan, and plaster molds he made into the woman's arms and head/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Sunday, 1971. Mougins. Musée national Picasso-Paris.
Musician, 1972. Mougins. Musée national Picasso-Paris.
The Family, 1970, Mougins.  
Musée national Picasso-Paris.
The label copy noted this was characteristic of the artist's "final period" with its "deceptively naive handling of the figures," suggesting the influences of the 17th century (?).
At the back of the Frist Art Museum/
Photo by Patricia Leslie
If you missed Picasso Figures at the Frist Art Museum, here are many of the most intriguing works I found at the only venue for this exhibition in the U.S.

Several of these were featured by guest lecturers speaking at free online sessions hosted by the Frist whom I heard before I saw the show.

The 75 or so pieces on display included paintings, sculptures, works on paper, including a film of him at work, loaned to the Frist by the
 Musée national Picasso-Paris,  the beneficiary of donations by his family who battled each other for years over his estate.  He left no will but just about 45,000 works, not only his own, but paintings by other notable artists.

The Picasso-Paris claims to hold the largest collection of Picassos in the world.

The value of his estate today is estimated between $530 million and $1.3 billion.

Before Picasso Figures moved on to Quebec, the Frist extended it for a week, until Mother's Day. The timed-entry tickets quickly sold out.

It was a large presentation, spread over several galleries, almost encompassing the Frist's entire first floor of exhibition space. Although the number of viewers attending was enormous, there was plenty of elbow room in the large rooms, and overcrowding was never a problem.

(When I spy an empty space in front of any work at a popular show, I rush up to it, to have it all to myself, at least for a few seconds, until someone else joins me and enters my space. At least, I've "had it" all by myself for a few moments and eventually, I get to the most popular works where solitary looking is seldom experienced.)

I was lucky to be able to attend two of the museum's online sessions about the show, excellent in every respect. (Contract stipulations prohibited recordings of these events.) 

I wondered if Picasso's misogyny would be mentioned, and Terri Cohen and Peg Werts did not disappoint, especially in this time of "Me Too," Ms. Cohen said.  

"He was cruel and abusive to women throughout his life.  His behavior cannot be excused." She said some Frist members were unhappy the museum presented the show, and I wonder if his maltreatment of women played a role in other museums in the U.S. shunning the show, if they did. Was the fact that the show was only presented at one museum in the U.S. venue related to covid-19 or funding? 

What was the reason?

Can it be that after a while, the renderings became rather boring and repetitive? The crazy, disjointed, ugly figures? Maybe with the attention to women's rights and the increasing acceptance of us as equals, Picasso will fall from favor or perhaps the descent has already begun. One can hope!

When in Nashville, visit the Frist, housed on Broadway in the former home of Nashville's main U.S. Post Office building, an art deco gorgeous structure, with or without art on display.

*Guernica was not part of this show, Ms. Cohen and Ms. Werts said. B
eginning in 1937,  it was kept on and off at the Museum of Modern Art for safekeeping, to tour the world before MOMA returned it reluctantly to Spain in 1981. 
It is one of the most recognizable pieces of art in the world.


Monday, May 10, 2021

'Wrath of Man' explodes on the screen

Dear Carla,

A movie for Thor! But, maybe not for you.

Sigh: It's hard to please everyone all of the time.

Because the Wrath of Man had a Rotten Tomatoes audience rating of 91% and a critics' rating of 67%, I knew it was likely to be good since the critics get them wrong about 98% of the time.

It was either this or Billy Crystal's new film, Here Today (audience rating, 93%; critics, 46%) which looked so predictable (old man meets younger woman, you know the score, ho hum, yawn) so I opted for Wrath and I am glad I did!
Jason Statham (left) and Josh Hartnett in Guy Ritchie's Wrath of Man

Yowsers, Christine!  (You won't like it; stay home)

When I entered the theatre, I wondered if I would have to leave midway through the show since the future is not known, I'm not a big fan of violence, but I do like the motion more than what you get from rocking chairs, especially after wasting time and money on the dull and lifeless (no puns intended) No Man's Land and Holy Moly.

I was the only woman in the moviehouse.  Which turned out to be OK. 

Ladies, this is not for the squeamish. This is a guy flick; not chick lit.

From the get-go, it was heave ho! And away we go. No time to catch a breath or doze a spell (see above). It was great to see a 21st century flick, guns ablazing, without... (hold your breath)female nudity. 

Thank you, producers and director!

And no sex (to speak of). Not, the porno kind.  Which just goes to show you, gratuitous sex is unnecessary for a really good show!

Plenty of bad words though, not sprinkled in the show, but flooding throughout, natch, which I was able to quickly ignore once I set my gears on "speed."

A "taut thriller" whose rage is transferred to the moviegoer.  You can almost feel the walls vibrate with his anger.  Something's up. 

It takes eight minutes for the SWAT team to arrive?

The time sequences go back and forth a bit too much, out of order, but that doesn't slow things down. Who needs time when your heart is beating nonstop?

The music by Christopher Benstead was initially terrific before it quickly became monotonous, the same repetitive sequences with the boom! boom! boom of the bass and drums. (No need to take your hearing aids. Matter of fact, you may need some after the show.)

The Washington Post reviewer suggested Ritchie and the star, Jason Statham
(shades of Bruce Willis) were a mite too old, almost "has-beens," to be bringing all this mad action to the screen, to which I retort: Bring it on, fellows! I'll have some more of that (this).

Although the acting by most of the cast was not as sharp as I think it could have been, who cares when the story line was far better than most of the ones I've seen this year?

You don't need a description, do you? Let's just say, I'll never glance at money trucks the same way again.

This was my first Ritchie/Statham  film, and should I be embarrassed that I liked it? Violence and all? Moviegoers, it is solid entertainment! That's all we want at the movie house, right?

Now, who is the bad guy(s)? Give 'em H!
Some of the guys in Guy Ritchie's Wrath of Man