Thursday, June 15, 2017


                            Not So Long, Well Drawn Out

                                                 Review by Ken Burke
iPhone 5 photo of Roger Waters show by Nina Kindblad
(Yeah, she knows she needs an upgrade; coming soon.) 
 I’m reviewing just one film this time because my movie-going-options have been a bit limited lately due to several factors, some of them marvelous but others not so much, damn it! My good experiences center on recent events at the local Oakland, CA Oracle Arena (next to the Oakland Coliseum, home of my beloved-but-again-stuck-in-the-cellar Oakland Athletics baseball team—whose error-prone-antics lately remind me of an old joke that I can modify without intending any disrespect to a departed musical giant: “What do the Oakland A’s and Michael Jackson have in common?  They both wear one glove for no apparent reason.”).  First, on Saturday, June 10, my marvelous wife, Nina, and I attended the Roger Waters Pink Floyd “Us + Them” concert at the Arena, a fabulous encounter of thought-provoking, mesmerizing, magnificently-staged music and multi-screen, multi-image projections (involving a vast array of computer-based and photographic images, along with inlays of the performers) worth the price of admission alone.By the following Monday the Arena had been transformed back to its use as a basketball court where my other favorite team, the Golden State Warriors, won their 2nd NBA championship in the last 3 years (beating, once again, the mighty Cleveland Cavaliers—with their force of nature in LeBron James—the same team that won the trophy over the Warriors last year; how much longer this will be the Finals scenario is hard to say, but few other teams can even begin to compete with either of them, the Warriors going 12-0 through the playoffs, the Cavs 12-1), with a grandiose celebration to move through downtown Oakland not long after I get this posted. So, with putting my energy into those 2
events (plus watching the Friday, June 9 Warriors game on TV, which they lost but allowed them to return home to clinch the title—I saw that one on TV as well as the Monday victory; while I was willing to pay $85 per balcony ticket for the huge Waters show [excellent view from up there anyway, no loss of impact given all the stunning projections], the "golden" Warriors options [resale only, of course] were considerably pricier as one report said that someone coughed up $133,000 [including fees of $17,000] for a pair of courtside seats, an NBA record) I sacrificed some cinema-availability during those days but for good causes indeed (unless you're from Cleveland).  However, the not-so-good-reason I’m cutting back this week is a strained-muscle/pinched-nerve problem in my left shoulder and arm, making typing none too pleasant as I’m using various remedies to help the swelling recede which has led to time invested in doctor visits and physical therapy (if you ever dislocate a shoulder, even if it was 11 years ago, please remember that your doctor told you not to push upward on a gym weight machine), so I’ll try to be briefer than usual this time because powering through the pain all night last week (in an especially long posting to boot) gives me little incentive for a repeat performance.  OK, enough of these distractions; on with the regularly-scheduled-program of analytical brilliance.

*You can get info here on other venues for this tour through much of the rest of this year in the U.S. and Canada, which I highly encourage your attendance at, as long as you’re not opposed to Waters’ overt “Trump Is A Pig” denunciations during “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” and “Money,” along with the “Resist” t-shirts worn by the kids accompanying him during “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II”)” and “… (Part III),” assuming the set list will stay the same at upcoming locations, which, given the investment in staging that this massive concert requires, I’m sure will be the case.
                                                          Dean (Demetri Martin)
A young man with some introductory success as a cartoonist is despondent over the loss of his mother, the ending of his engagement, and estrangement from his father so he goes across country from NYC to LA at the invitation of a friend; he finds himself attracted to a woman (just as Dad is with the real estate agent selling the family home) but complications arise.
“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): Dean’s already hit a low point in his young mid-20s life: his mother’s recently died; he allows his engagement to Michelle to terminate (largely through his increasingly-catatonic-attitude even as he insists it’s a mutual deterioration); he’s had moderate success with an initial book of interesting hipster-like cartoons yet has no decent ideas for a follow-up; he’s starting to lose contact with his father, an estrangement made somewhat-hostile because Dad wants to sell the now-much-too-big family home which Dean’s not ready to part with yet even though he lives in his own apartment.  To stall a decision with his father about the house, Dean accepts friend Eric’s offer to visit in LA, where he’ll meet with an upstart ad-agency’s “creatives” interested in his work; as it turns out, he’s not interested in their attitudes, but when attending a party with another friend, Becca, he meets Nicky with whom he has a clumsy beginning even as there’s clearly a spark between them, yet it seems to be going nowhere when he tries to follow up on it.  She finally does contact him, though, just as he’s on a plane to return to Brooklyn, so he stays in CA to see what can develop with her; meanwhile, Dad—tired of waiting for dialogue with Dean—has moved on with the house sale while becoming attracted himself to real-estate-agent Carol.  Of course, complications ensue on all fronts, but this light-hearted-romantic-comedy (set against the personal clouds of Dean’s depression) makes for a pleasant time at the cinema.

 Martin’s film has been compared by some to Woody Allen’s work, which is a viable observation, but Dean doesn’t feel in any way derivative of whatever parallels you might find in Allen’s films (especially in mild resemblances to aspects of Annie Hall [1977]).  I highly recommend Dean, but, as with other rather-obscure-films I’ve supported lately, you may have trouble finding it as it’s currently playing in only 32 domestic (U.S.-Canada) theaters where its slight income is also falling off fast.  Once again, viewing on video might be the most reasonable choice where this one’s concerned.
So, curious readers, if you can abide plot spoilers in order to learn much more about the particular cinematic offering under examination this week please feel free to read on for more of the traditional Two Guys in-depth-explorations in our brilliant (!)-but-lengthy review format.
What Happens: Dean (Demetri Martin) is a young guy in Brooklyn who should have a rather bright future awaiting him given he’s already successfully published a book of his sparse, eccentric cartoons and is engaged to attractive, vivacious Michelle (Christine Woods).  However, his mother’s died recently with Dean still in a deep stage of grief about it; he’s floundering, trying to find ideas for a follow-up cartoon book, so in his depression he uncouples from Michelle (which doesn’t please her—even though he tries to claim the moribund, “eroding” relationship is a mutual problem), further alienating her by suggesting she keep the ring as something she could use on a charm bracelet.  Finally, he’s getting even further estranged from his father, Robert (Kevin Kline), whom he accuses of simply ignoring his own grief with a series of distractions (because he’s an engineer focused on fixing things), with their problems coming to a climax when Dad wants to sell his now-too-big-home, bringing stunned refusal from Dean only in an attempt to protect his needed-stability-memories.  (I understand why he wants to get out of a place bringing him immediate memories of remorse, just as my mother years ago needed to move to a new assisted-living-site after my father died [they’d been married 63 years; by that time all their closest relatives were dead also]; she never said it was because she was haunted by the memories in that place, but Nina was quick to know it, calling it to my obtuse attention, helping me better appreciate my mother's needs.)

 As a means of trying to bring Dean out of his ongoing-morbid-mood, his friend Brett (Reid Scott) suggests he reconsider the non-engagement with Michelle which Dean hopes to do at Brett’s wedding (where he’s 1 of 2 best men, in a clear indication of the oddities this quirky film easily takes for granted), but once there he realizes she’s already connected to another guy; to make matters worse, he gives an honest toast the newlyweds are willing to accept but macho-other-best-man Kevin (Barry Rothbart) takes offense, creating yet more havoc as Dean must avoid an all-out-brawl.

 When Robert insists they discuss selling the house, Dean opts out of the pressure by taking up friend Eric’s (Rory Scovel) offer to come out to LA for awhile, where he can put his stagnant East Coast buddy in contact with some young, oh-so-hip West Coast guys at an ad-agency (they prefer to refer to themselves as "creatives") interested in using his drawings in a new campaign until his meeting with them results in a quick exit as Dean has no interest in their attitudes nor marketing strategies (no sweat for them; they’ll just use another artist to copy his style).  Before returning home, though, Dean goes along to a party with his self-absorbed-old-friend Becca (Briga Heelan) where he once again makes a fool of himself but attracts the attention of Nicky (Gillian Jacobs), which, unfortunately for him, seems to lead nowhere, that is until he’s on a plane back to NYC when he gets a text message from her to meet him at the beach that day.  He does (dragging his suitcase across the sand), has some further encounters with her, is clearly infatuated, then arranges to go on a drive up to San Francisco with Nicky, her friend Jill (Ginger Gonzaga), and Eric.  When they arrive, Eric gets a text that his precious cat’s been injured in an accident caused by roommate Toby (Luka Jones) so he flies home in a panic, with Dean going to a hotel, the ladies to Jill’s parents’ home.  Later that night Nikki comes calling, they 
have sex, but she’s gone when he wakes up in the morning, leaving a note about how she’s actually married but separated from her husband, at this point needs to figure out her life, hopes they might reconnect someday.  Back in Brooklyn, Robert’s also in process of becoming attracted, in his case to looking-for-love Carol (Mary Steenburgen), the real-estate-agent who sells his house, accepting his interests in her in the process of the transactions.

 Dad’s also not destined to finalize a new relationship at this point, though, as he’s still sorting out his feelings about his lost partner of many years so he declines Carol’s invitation for coffee at her place following one of their dates, although in the closing scenes we see them happily bump into each other again while walking in a park.  Dean’s back home, accepting the house sale and Robert’s move to an apartment, closing out this slim, oddball plot with encouragement to Eric he’ll eventually get over the grief about his cat who didn’t survive the accident after all, even as Dean finds inspiration to finish his next cartoon book, this one about not succumbing to the fear of death, as we finish with some old home movie footage of Dean as a boy with Mom Karen (Florence Marcisak).

So What? In some reviews I’ve seen there are comparisons of what Martin’s doing in this film to Woody Allen’s well-established body of work, especially what I see as some mild parallels to aspects of Annie Hall (the contrasting milieus  of the NYC-LA settings; the male lead’s breakup with a woman he’d seemingly found a heart-connection with, especially because she’s as goofy as he is in many ways; the nebbish-persona manifested by awkward Dean, like that of Allen's Alvy Singer character who’s also not comfortable with media fame [becomes nauseous at the idea of appearing on an LA talk show just as Dean can’t find an inspiration for his next book, so the young man keeps listening to a recording on his phone, words of encouragement from his departed Mom]; even Woody’s tactic of split-screen-imagery which he occasionally used for comic comparison whereas Martin uses variations of diptychs and triptychs at times purely for graphic diversity on screen, along with his frequent insertion of his low-key-caustic-cartoons [also drawn by Martin, a true auteur in his command of so many areas of this film] either to comment on plot events or just to continue to help us understand Dean's psyche), but that's really not the focus here (unless you want to greatly stretch the concept by also making comparisons between Martin’s appearance and that of Jason Schwartzman—with their similar [at times] mid-‘60s Beatle haircuts [not as specific on the latter, I admit, plus he’s often wearing a beard, but I still see facial resemblance, maybe because of aspects of their respective Greek and Italian heritages], prominent noses, and embodiment of laconic characters [a good many for Schwartzman, too early for me to know yet about Martin]); further, it undermines what Martin’s creatively brought to a story where finding stability doesn’t always mean being successful in a relationship nor even in a clear career path but instead depends on a resolved sense of self-acceptance embracing the present, not maintaining a hold on the past.

 Dean’s not any fantastic cinematic breakthrough, but it’s consistently unique and entertaining, well worth watching (easily done in 93 min.), indicative of ongoing-onscreen-pleasures to come from this emerging writer-director-actor-artist.  (He’s also a comedian [particularly with TV’s Comedy Central] and a musician [as is Schwartzman, for another apt comparison], but you didn’t really expect me to be all that well-informed on these young punks, did you? Although I should have remembered Martin from starring in Taking Woodstock [Ang Lee, 2009], yet another pleasant, offbeat comedy.)

To give you an idea about how difficult it was to find useful images
of this film to illustrate the review, I had to use these next 2 just
to have something to accompany these final paragraphs. 
And Now, The Long-Awaited Bottom Line:
Once again I’ve come up with an obscure filmic option for you to be aware of, simply because I was curious to see it, although it might not be that easy for most of you because after 2 weeks in release it’s playing in only 32 theaters throughout the domestic market, taking in a paltry gross of about $123,000 so far; therefore, if there should be anything you might hear/read about this film (including here) which intrigues you, possibly a later access in some form of video might be your best actual route to seeing it for yourself.  I'll further note that overall critical response has been more restrained than my 3½ of 5 stars, with a tally of 61% positive reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, an average score of 58% at Metacritic (more details in the links farther below—a rare situation of such close numbers from these sites, with the MC results usually notably lower than the RT ones [the only time they’ve been in unison this year for a film I’ve critiqued is for The Zookeeper’s Wife {Niki Caro; review in our April 6, 2017 posting}, but their agreement was at only the 58% level whereas I was touched enough by that film to give it 4 of 5 stars]).  Critics’ responses to Dean seem to be restrained by a frequent consensus that the concept Martin’s concocted here isn’t supported well enough by the plot structure nor the dialogue, but for me it’s a quite enjoyable experience (especially on a lazy Sunday afternoon at bargain-matinee-prices, in case such further limitation-parameters will help prod your interest to blossom into attendance [or, at least, a rental]).

This one really shows how desperate I
was to find photos for this review; PR
options for these small, independent
films are often terribly limited in scope.
 In choosing my usual Musical Metaphor, to conclude this review from the viewpoint of another artform, I’m going with the Eagles’ “Desperado” (from their 1973 album of the same name)—even though I’ve used it twice before (for those of you at home keeping score), so I hesitated about a 3rd time but I couldn’t think of anything more appropriate for Dean—at bkFoqmIRq8o (sadly, an imageless-video but I couldn’t find a live performance version that was worth watching) despite its ranch-hand-related-imagery (reminding me of the Willie Nelson-Waylon Jennings version of Ed and Patsy Bruce’s “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys”*)—which can still be understood as not having to be just about loners in the wide-open-spaces of the west but also about confused cartoonists in NYC—because its lyrics speak of a guy who’s a “hard one [… even though] I know that you’ve got your reasons” being given advice that “the queen of hearts is always your best bet” even though where his happiness is concerned the case seems to be “you only want the ones that you can’t get [… resulting in a situation where] Your prison is walking through this world all alone.”  It’s clear that writer/director Martin is saying to alter-ego Dean (hard to know just how autobiographical all this is, but the circumstances imply a lot of self-direction here) “You better let somebody love you before it’s too late,” advice that we could all benefit from.

*On their 1978 Waylon & Willie album; take a listen if you like (this video's a Highwaymen performance so you also get Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson on the choruses).  Given this song’s overtly about cowboys, specifically their idiocentric personalities and temperaments, it’d be harder to rationalize it for a Dean Musical Metaphor except for this one aspect of the lyrics: “He ain’t wrong, he’s just different but his pride won’t let him Do things to make you think he’s right.”
SHORT TAKES (spoilers also appear here)
 Considering the usual round of new openings this weekend I can’t tell yet if I’ll ever work in seeing My Cousin Rachel (Roger Michell), based on the Daphne du Maurier novel (1951), detailing a 19th-century genre-mix of romance clouded by mystery about a young Englishman named Philip Ashley, whose cousin, Ambrose Ashley, served as a guardian for him during his boyhood, then Ambrose marries another of their cousins, Rachel, in Italy, afterwards writing letters to Philip implying Rachel is poisoning him; after Ambrose's death under these mysterious circumstances, we find that Philip inherits the family estate.  Rachel (a couple of decades older than him) comes to visit as he’s prepared to despise her but falls in love instead, even as the plot allows us to question whether she may be slowly poisoning Philip until she meets her own accidental demise by means of a collapsing bridge.  A 1952 cinematic adaptation starred Richard Burton and Olivia de Havilland as Philip and Rachel, with Sam Claflin and the marvelous Rachel Weisz in those same lead roles now.  I’m not really a big fan of such stories but Nina is if we can work it in so maybe I’ll be reporting on it in the near future; if not, however, my long-time reader/contributor Richard Parker offered me these comments on both film versions (paraphrased because I know he didn’t intend for his email to be published verbatim): You might be able to find the older version on Turner Classic Movies (I’ll note that’s likely your best option as it’s not available on Netflix*), but regarding the novel’s last line there’s an implication Philip’s accused of murdering Rachel (he didn’t warn her about the condition of the faulty bridge); however, in this new version the end has Philip at a later time married to neighbor Louise with 2 children, an addition to the book leaving us even more to speculate about.

*You can get a vague sense of the 1952 movie at this site, but the audio’s almost inaudible (unless your computer's hooked up to a very strong amplifier), while the imagery’s of poor quality at best.

 If you’d like to know more about … Rachel, the RT support is at 74%, MC’s score is 64%, the official website's here (wouldn’t fully open on Safari but did on Chrome, at least for me), and here’s the trailer (you can also visit here to get to the 4 parts of a [well-produced, I'm sure] 1993 BBC adaptation, starring Geraldine Chaplin and Christopher Guard, if you’d like to take that route) so check it out if you care to, even if I never get around to ... Rachel.  Something else—totally unrelated—that you might be interested in is this discussion by New York Times film critics Manohia Dargis and A.O. Scott about their Top 25 films of the 21st century (so far); at the end of this article is a link to a similar package of pickings from a group of 6 directors: Antoine Fuqua, Sofia Coppola, Paul Feig, Denis Villeneuve, Brett Ratner, and Alex Gibney, or you can go directly to it here.  One other option for you to consider is something I did find on Netflix (at Nina’s suggestion after she watched director Joseph Cedar’s comments linked to my review of Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer [May 18, 2017]) is Richard Gere in Time Out of Mind (Oren Moverman, 2014) in which he plays a desperate, alcoholic, homeless man in NYC, making an interesting spectrum of a significant actor in a variety of roles as he goes up the ladder from the streets in Time … to 2 current releases in which he’s a barely-getting-by-attempted-mover-and-shaker in Norman ... to being a Congressman running for Governor (keeping a secret about an atrocity committed by his son and nephew) in The Dinne(Moverman; review in our May 11, 2017 posting).  Something from all that should keep you busy until next we meet, with hopes that I’ve regained a good bit more left-arm-strength by then.
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
We encourage you to visit the summary of Two Guys reviews for our past posts.*  Overall notations for this blog—including Internet formatting craziness beyond our control—may be found at our Two Guys in the Dark homepage If you’d like to Like us on Facebook please visit our Facebook page. We appreciate your support whenever and however you can offer it!

*We’re sorry to say that a Google software glitch causes every Two Guys in the Dark posting prior to August 26, 2016 to have an inaccurate (dead) link to the Summary page, but there are just too many to go back and fix them all.  From 8/26/16 forward this link is accurate, with hopefully not too much confusion caused by this latest stupid snafu from the Alphabet overlords’ programming problems.

Here’s more information about Dean:

Here are some clips from the film:  
(1:46, father and son discuss selling the house, Dad struggles with his smartphone) (1:32, Dean screws up at the party); (:57, after the party screw-up); (1:39, Dean and Nikki at the art gallery).  
Along with (1:20, director Martin talks 
about his intentions with the drawings in the film).

Please note that to Post a Comment below about our reviews you need to have either a Google account (which you can easily get at if you need to sign up) or other sign-in identification from the pull-down menu below before you preview or post.

If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my new email at  Thanks.

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile. Ken*

*Please note that YouTube keeps taking down various versions of this majestic Eagles performance at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame so I have to keep putting in newer links (of the same damn material) to retrieve it; this “Hotel California” link was active when I did this posting but the song won’t be available in all of our previous ones done before 4/12/2017.  Sorry, but there are too many postings to go back and re-link every one.  The corporate overlords triumph again.

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.
Finally, for the data-oriented among you, Google stats say over the past month (which they seem to measure from right now back 30 days) the total unique hits at this site were 35,028; below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from within the previous week (with once again 5 of my 6 hoped-for-continents represented—welcome back China, Brazil, and Colombia; I hadn't heard from you folks for awhile):

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