filmmaven's coffee chat

a morning discussion of film and popular culture over coffee


May 2015

Stuff you know will be good by who they pick for supporting roles …….CCH Pounder


I was watching a snippet of “Bagdad Cafe” (1987) on television today and thinking about all the amazing films from the 80’s and 90’s that take place in waste lands ….films that offer great character studies while utilizing a hopeless and relentless landscape. “Gas, Food, Lodging” (1992), “Smoke Signals” (1998), Mad Max (1979), Tank Girl (1995). Yes, it would make an interesting bit of conversation ….and yet, I can’t help but also link to the actors that just fill up the screen or make a show you like into something you must watch. CCH Pounder is an actor that takes whatever she is in to that level.

From Films:

Bagdad Cafe (1987 Directed by Percy Aldon) – beautifully done, a friendship, a love affair, and a desert landscape….plus Jack Palance. Truly entertaining.

Benny & Joon (1993 Directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik) – Watch for Aidan Quinn and Johnny Depp but be amused by moments from CCH Pounder, Oliver Platt and William H. Macy.

End of Days (1999 Directed by Peter Hyams) – Not great, but fun.

On Television:

The Shield (2002 – 2008) – A show that took the changing elements of cop drama to a whole new level. Anti-hero to criminal element you are never sure who is who or what is what but you always want to find out. As Claudette Wyms, Ms. Pounder shows her depth and emotional range as much of her characterization comes from quick glances and thoughtful moments. While much of the focus of the show is on Vic Mackey (played brilliantly by Michael Chiklis), its the honorable intelligence of Wyms relationship with her fellow cops that makes this show stand out.

Sons of Anarchy (Season 6 -7, 2013-14) – For me, no offense Kurt Sutter you are brilliant, the show took a “I’m not in this anymore’ turn with the death of Clay Morrow last of the first nine. It started to feel like it was wrapping up. Which was really a shame since CCH Pounder’s character as the hard hitting attorney could have pulled from the absence of Eli Roosevelt (Rockmund Dunbar) and Tara Knowles (Maggie Siff) as the town of Charming’s moral center. It may seem like a waste to cast her knowing it was the end, but it was actually brilliant. With so many MANY amazing guest actors, who better to throw in this mix than a great character actor able to withstand the onslaught of emotional endings?

NCIS: New Orleans (2015-) ooohhhh The NCIS franchise has missed a golden opportunity here and hopefully it will work things out. While all of the shows have concentrated on good old boy friendships and a archtype leader (male, filled with angst, a dodgy emotional past just waiting to be loved), they have in their cast the perfect opportunity to build on two great actors and a stylized show that could use a twist. Its time to let CCH Pounder be the star as she and Scott Bakula take this otherwise drab program set in an exciting city to a new level. He can still be an equal ‘star’ but lets move a tiny bit from the male driving forensic drama to the character driven long lasting show. There could be a new niche here and Pounder with Bakula could be a team to bring it forward.


Can we talk about Peter Dinklage?

Please ….let me carry on about Peter Dinklage …I will be straight with you…I started watching Game of Thrones because of him and I was right. Sigh…..He is that good.

Living in Oblivion (1995) – The first time I saw him, I watched this film on DVD probably around 2000 ..having a crush on Steven Buscemi makes you watch weird things …but Peter Dinklage was a grumpy splash of WOW in a rather slow yet interesting film. His scene is small and cliche but it was like, mmmm…I bet we will see him in more things.

The Station Agent (2003) – Talk about being blown away. A great film from all aspects. Bobby Cannavale, Patricia Clarkson, Paula Garces all amazing. Terrific story, well paced film, interesting vistas. but yes, Peter Dinklage is like magic on the screen. He is handsome, complex, and has just enough roughness to  fall into the anti-hero hero that works in modern / 21st century filmmaking.

All the other things you should watch him in …”Nip/Tuck” …a good tv show, didn’t wow me but a decent soap opera. “I love You too” (2010) so well done, we will have to talk more about it later….”Death at a Funeral” (2010) — the english version is so so much better.

Game of Thrones (HBO, Sunday 9pm) –  a little something for everyone and more boobs than you need. HBO producers have a fascination with breasts, I won’t even go near the psychological blathering on that topic. Otherwise, a feature film quality soap opera driven dragon fueled fun fest for all!! and Peter Dinklage. They have sent his character Tyrion, (do we blame the writer George R R Martin? or the show?) through some wonderful dramatic events only to ship him aside to float along while we wait for something ….the build up is tension filled and hopefully going to be satisfactory and not end with …another red wedding scene. Tyrion is loveable in love or drunkenly sad and lonely. Standing up to the screen presence of Leana Headey, Charles Dance and Iain Glen shows the depth of Peter’s talents. Can’t wait for more.

Movies with Mothers ….Why we love her …and hate her …

Happy Belated Mother’s day to all!! Mine was wonderful. Of course it makes me wonder about movie moms …and I was thinking who are my favorites? who do I hate? What makes a movie mom stand out for us? I offer you a few quirky takes on MOM………….

DIE Mommy DIE (2003) – starring the “Orange is the new black” star Natasha Lyonne in one of her best roles, along with writer Charles Busch and gasp; Jason Priestley. This campy romp is delightful – a mom you can love and hate at the same time with a ton of complex family dynamics. Watch it for the clothes but love it for the drama. The campy feel is over the the top and makes it cute but just when you are giggling at some silly thing there is true depth in the writing and careful attention to the design of each scene.

Serial Mom (1994) – Okay, I’m going back a bit for this one ..but you can’t pass it up. John Waters does suburbia. Ha. Its sweet, its funny, its almost …Normal? Starring the effervescent Kathleen Turner, straight up Sam Waterston and delightful whatever you want her to be Ricki Lake, this cute film is off beat with clean laundry.

Joy Luck Club (1993) – Don’t worry…we will go back even further on the next film ….This is one of those books you don’t think would work as a film and yet plays out even better visually. The actresses are so incredible and the mother / daughter relationships are so textured that everyone can relate easily to the complexities. So gracefully showing how the love / need / distance / closeness of families carries you through your entire life. Many of these actors will seem familiar, one of my favorite actresses from Soaps, Ming-na Wen is now a hit on “Agents of Shield”, France Nuyen is one of those actors that has been in everything you’ve ever watched along with the great Chao Li Chi, and Lauren Tom, Victor Wong and Tamlyn Tomita also have long long lists of credits that will make you go..oh right.

Mildred Pierce (1945) – There …finally back to the golden age …..One of Joan Crawford’s most impressive roles …she seamlessly creates a character both deeply in love with her children and yet so coldly focused that you almost have sympathy for the wicked selfish daughter. This is one of those films that has such a bastion of talent, sets, clothing and mood that each scene is a play on its own. One of the reasons I have to recommend this is that it needs to be watched more than once. Watch it first for the story and the clothes but then a few months later watch again. Try to catch those small glimmers of non acting acting, pay attention to Joan’s eyebrows, the tilt of her mouth and watch carefully as Eve Arden’s eyes send you to the next portion of the story. Jack Carson seems like that guy who plays the good guy, oh yea..I’ve seen him before …but the second viewing you should be able to see it, the subtle way he gives everything to the other actors. As big man with a voice he could easily take up the room, but he somehow directs your attention to everyone else around him.

Why I hate lists, favorites and reviews

So often in social media one is asked to name their favorite or pick between 2 icons, given a firmly stated best of or even worse offered a ‘review’. I hate them all…and then am guilty of offering up my own lengthy opinion to which, lets be real…I am always right.

I scoff and roll my eyes at lists. The top ten, the most important 100, the worst 5 …are always wrong. Only once in all the years of reading about film has anyone gotten a list right. Someone else’s list is so colored by their own limited viewing. Certainly the writer would have included film I love or hate if only they had actually watched the same ones. Lists are subjective to the whims of the writer….and are even at that, simply lists for a moment. The moment of writing. The minute its published to the reader, it is already irrelevant. I can’t offer a list of my 10 favorite films because between now and the time it takes to type I will have changed my mind or watched another film. So the only thing I can tell you about any list is how very very wrong it is to have written the list.

Favorites. Pick between two well established and beloved items. The choice actually does say a lot about the person choosing. If you are offered Bette Davis and Joan Crawford …I have to double dog dare you to pick. There is no right answer except, BOTH. If you are offered the choice between “Laura” (1944) and “Casablanca” (1942) the answer will tell us all we need to know about you as a film watcher.

There is no way to sincerely choose between Michael Jackson and Prince, Whitney Houston or Mary J. Blige, Elvis or the Beatles. One might pick songs that mean something in their lives but to seriously choose THE BEST between them is not a job for people.

Reviews….Why I hate them? They are not reviews but previews. I don’t read them and ignore all press until after I’ve seen something. I don’t want a synopsis of an entire movie or I would read the book. Didn’t reviewers have opinions? I can’t seem to find any …so often they relay the plot and a few key scenes. Well… I’ve seen the ads Thank you. Just tell me if you liked it.  I sort of take that back about Elvis Mitchell…Some films I will read what he has to say, I respect his style and opinion.

I tip back a bit on using the world hate. I know that is a bit strong. Yet, I do find myself distinctly loosing quality respect for journalist outlets that put out lists, favorites or previews.

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