Archive | June, 2016

De Palma

23 Jun
Brian De Palma has directed over 25 films in his career, including Scarface, the cult classic starring Al Pacino

Brian De Palma’s career has been a veritable roller coaster of highs and lows. Carrie was a blockbuster, Bonfire of the Vanitieswas a bomb. Mission: Impossible kickstarted a long-running franchise, Life on Mars crashed and burned. More curious perhaps is how some of De Palma’s less successful films are now warmly embraced many years later, with some even ascending to cult status, Blow Out, Scarface, and Body Double to name a few.

Fellow filmmakers and De Palma acolytes, Noah Baumbach (Squid and the Whale and Frances Ha) and Jake Paltrow (Gwyneth’s bro) have crafted a fond rewind of the storied director’s life with their documentary De Palma. In the doc, Baumbach and Paltrow go through each of the director’s films in chronological order and get the suspense-thriller auteur’s perspective on the politics of makings of those movies and the fine line between a masterpiece and disaster.

If you’ve never been a fan of De Palma and his blood-covered output, you’ll at least walk away with respect for the director who, in the documentary, comes across as an amiable raconteur with a huge heart for the filmmaking process as he warmly takes you behind the scenes to show you the tricks of the trade and the taxing challenges of working with mega egos. Continue reading

Bad Cycle

5 Jun
bike lane with trash can blockage
Installing bike lanes isn’t a cure-all for bicycling infrastructure, and they have problems of their own. (Photo: Marino Pascal)

May was Bike Month, the month we celebrate all who crank through the urban landscape reducing traffic, helping save the environment and promoting a healthy lifestyle. But besides some flag waving, what do Bike Months really accomplish? Do more people saddle up the steel steed, do motorists become more sympathetic and aware of cyclists, are the roads somehow suddenly safer? Unfortunately no – it merely underscores the lip service municipalities and agencies put forth when they could better serve the biking community and public safety by putting real dollars into infrastructure, policy and traffic law changes.

Opinion boxFor me, the month began with great optimism. I sent letters to transportation heads in Boston and Cambridge outlining 10 unnecessary hazards to bikers in each city where immediate improvement could be had. I ride a 15-mile round trip every day from Porter Square to the very end of the Seaport, and had hoped that, given the month, documenting these persistent areas of peril (unclassifiable on the wonderful, but limitedSeeClickFix app) might garner some attention and thought from those with the power to enact change.

What happened was fairly emblematic of bureaucracy, and embosses the truth that we don’t value cycling as much as we say we do. From Boston I got a cricket concerto (though the canyons of potholes I flagged by South Station did get filled within days). Separately, a call toBoston Bikes – a municipal department opened in 2007 – to ask about bike rack policies and safe passage around or through Boston Common turned out to be a frustrating do-nothing back-and-forth. At no time during the conversation did the young rep mention Boston Bikes doing something, anything; she just directed me to take up issues elsewhere at City Hall, or to use an app. It was disappointingly clear that she cared little about cycling and wasn’t in touch with the state of the roads or traffic conditions, let alone the community she served.  Continue reading

Maggie’s Plan

5 Jun

Rebecca Miller, who’s always been able to woo a talented cast (being the daughter of “Death of a Salesman” playwright Arthur and wife of Daniel Day-Lewis can have that effect), wades into Woody Allen territory with this acerbic, yet not quite fully formed, rom-com that could easily be a sequel to “Frances Ha” or the next chapter in Richard Linklater’s “Before” series. Part of that has to do with the fact it stars Ms. Ha herself, Greta Gerwig, and longtime Linklater collaborator Ethan Hawke, but more to the point, there’s ceaseless banter from quirky personas kvetching about their fragile self-esteem and station in life (which happens to be far better than the vast majority of their fellow Americans).

060316i Maggie's PlanThe basis of the film is an unpublished novel by Karen Rinaldi, who must be a friend of Miller’s. Or perhaps the project began as a fragile conversation at a cocktail party and took root once the financial backing got the green light. After sitting through the visual adaptation, I can only imagine that the final pieces of Rinaldi’s complicated love triangle among intellects never quite got cemented – thus its in-limbo status. Miller, who adapted the story as well as directs, is clearly all in and seems more comfortable behind the camera than with earlier efforts “Personal Velocity” (2002) and “The Ballad of Jack and Rose” (2005).  Continue reading