Tag Archives: dog

Stella’s Last Weekend

26 Oct

‘Stella’s Last Weekend’: Home for a dog’s day, but brothers’ love triangle is more interesting


Image result for stella's last weekend

Opening this week exclusively at “bargain deal” Apple Cinemas in Fresh Pond is “Stella’s Last Weekend,” a curio of a movie that, while not exactly fully formed for the big screen, keeps the viewer involved throughout. The “Stella” of the title isn’t anyone as rich as Tennessee Williams’ delusional grand dame, but a furry four-legged beast and perhaps the most regal and kind entity drawing oxygen in the film. Stella’s a squat, salt-and-pepper pit bull mix with a tumor large enough to ensure she won’t make it through the weekend. The growth’s been known about for some time and Stella, as we’re told over and over, has been such an integral part of the family that there’s going to be a weekend passing party for her. That’s why Jack (Nat Wolff) returns home from college. On the way back to Queens he spies a comely young woman across the subway platform (Paulina Singer). They make brief yet intense eye contact – and that’s it, neither acts; only regrets. Until Violet shows up at Jack’s door for a date with his younger brother Oliver (Nat’s real-life bro, Alex).

A love triangle blooms, with Violet seeming attracted to both and conflicted, but that’s the least intriguing aspect of “Stella’s Last Weekend.” What’s more interesting, in a sadistic, train wreck sort of a way, is the lads’ antagonistic relationship with their mom’s live-in beau, Ron (Nick Sandow) making fun of his combover and asking pointed questions about their mom in the “sack.” These testosterone-propelled puppies when in pack mode are hyenas, soliciting random senior women on the street for sex advice and so bold as to drop the B-word at a formal affair. They’re loose, shaggy-headed dudes, and you get their pent-up sexual energy, but in motion they’re class clowns. Thankfully, the script – written and directed by ubiquitous TV actress Polly Draper (“Thirtysomething” and “The Good Wife”), who plays mom and is the Wolff brothers’ mom in real life – imbues the boys with vulnerabilities and injects moments of doubt and reflection. It’s in these moments that the film finds a pulse and Draper, as the slightly progressive, neo-hippie Sally, brings a matronly gel to the all-too male homestead.

Draper and her sons were also all part of Nickelodeon TV show “The Naked Brothers Band” back when Nat and Alex Wolff were tweens. Since then, Alex played Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in “Patriots Day” and an incarnation of the dark prince in “Hereditary.” He’s not given as much to work with emotionally as his brother, but the actors find a nice, brotherly balance when the film’s not playing for sitcom-esque laughs. Singer’s fine too, but like Alex Wolff, her performance feels less finely tuned. Smartly, the film makes nothing of the fact that Violet’s black (and the boys are white). It’s there on the screen, but it’s not. Throughout it all Stella breathes heavily and looks occasionally sad. The five-second cutaways to her heavy weariness carry the most weight, but no one on screen seems to notice. Like Stella, we observe and shake our head at the silly human folly unfolding before our eyes.

Wiener-Dog, Todd Solondz Interview

7 Jul

‘Wiener-Dog’ — A Comedy Of Despair About Mortality And A Dachshund

A still from Todd Solondz's latest film "Wiener-Dog." (Courtesy IFC Films)closemore

Indie auteur Todd Solondz, whose latest dark comedy “Wiener-Dog” opens Friday, has always made films his way — on his own terms — plumbing moral and ethical realms that would make most cringe. If he sounds like something of a maverick or self-starter, on paper he is, but in the flesh he casts a very different image.

To begin with, Solondz, who cites Andy Warhol and John Waters as influences, is a mild reflective sort and willing to collaborate for the sake of art. He’s quite humble too. After eight features he points out, “I am very fortunate I am still able to get films made,” referring to the struggle many directors face trying to garner enough funding to make independent film.  Continue reading

White God

10 Apr

‘White God’: Dogs are fighting for justice on streets (and in the subtext) of Hungary


The Hungarian-Swedish co-production “White God” begins with an absurdist slo-mo sequence of a young girl on a bike pedaling away from a sea of pursuing dogs. None of the canines is ferocious – most are quite cuddly – but still the girl rides on with urgency and fear on her face. Surly this must be a dream sequence, and it’s tucked away as such until later in the film, when it’s realized it was no subconscious imagination. What has taken place is a “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” resurrection by man’s four-legged best friend.

041015i White GodFrom the opener we wind back to a story about a preteen named Lili (Zsófia Psotta) and her dog Hagen, described as a Hungarian street dog – he’s got a German Shepherd’s body, a golden coat, a boxy face, piercing eyes and a curled tail like a Shar-Pei (played by Arizona sibs Luke and Body, trained by Teresa Ann Miller). Problem for Lili, who’s quite talented with a horn, is that her parents are divorced and she has to go stay with pa (Sándor Zsóstár or Zsótér) for an extended period. Pa’s not much for animals. He works in a meat-packing plant, and after Hagen spends the first night in his new digs barking away the night, the pooch is punished and put out. The girl never stops looking for her dog, who becomes the leader of all the city’s stray curs, eluding dogcatchers and stealing scraps here and there until ending up with a noose around his neck and in the pit, fighting other dogs Michael Vick style.

The collective dog wrangling and stunts helmed by Miller, when en masse and on the streets, are spectacular. The scenes of actual dogfights look staged and unreal. The film overall is uneven, gorgeously shot and well intentioned, but overwrought and hyperbolic. The film’s director, Kornél Mundruczó, clearly owes something to Samuel Fuller’s “White Dog,” one of the iconic director’s last works, about a white German Shepard that had been trained to attack black people. It’s not only in play in the title; there is a subtext not so subtly depicting oppression and subjugation in Hungary where Gypsies, likened to street mongrels, have been targeted as a lesser ilk.

Recognized at Cannes and submitted by Hungary as its Foreign Language Film entry for the Academy Awards, “White God” is something bold and experimental. Beautiful and brutal, and even with its shortcomings and derivative leanings, it’s a unique experience. Allegedly the street dogs used on the set were found homes afterward – a tidbit that adds to the film’s collective warmth and resonance.