Eat Your Veggies, Skip the Magic Mushrooms – and More Advice for Sending Your Kid to College

0 Comments 28 August 2014

Buster Keaton Goes to 'College'

Buster Keaton Goes to ‘College’

A week ago Thursday, we drove our son to college six hundred miles south where they serve grits for breakfast in the dining hall. Worried much? As a 55-year-old film critic, I’m not as desperate as the mother of a freshman leaving the nest in the current hit Boyhood, who laments that all she has ahead of her is her own death. While you don’t need to be that fatalistic, if you make the transition correctly, it should be harder on you than it will be on your kid.

Here’s how to ease your separation anxiety:

1. Surrender Your Sex Police Badge: Sure, you can slow down in the CVS condom aisle, but be cool. That ship has probably sailed during high school. If your child has watched Game of Thrones like my son, he knows more about fornication than you did after your honeymoon.

2. Become a Social Network Stalker: Is he dating? Has he grown sideburns, or joined a cult like the cheer squad? Refrain from commenting: It’s not stalking if they don’t see you hovering.

3. Eat your Veggies, Skip the Magic Mushrooms: We all did our share of drinking and toking and tripping in college – at least I did. I’d like my son to do as I say, not as I did – but he already knows what I did. While ‘just say no’ may be too much to expect – replace it with ‘just don’t get caught.’ If you must, experiment with trusted friends, in safe environments.

4. Chuck the Emotional Baggage: This is their leap into the unknown – not yours. I remember pushing my mother out of my Berkeley dorm the second we’d dumped my stuff. That may have been the one time in my entire college career that I refused a free meal. I turned out well and even brought her two grandkids to kvell from.

5. Avoid Wail Watching: Be prepared for tears. Your own. Do not expect to cry it out together. Remember when you left your kid at day care for the first time and wept all the way from the jungle gym to your Brooklyn stoop? Cry on the way home.

6. Disconnect: Don’t expect that daily phone call or text. Let them go. Just like you took your hands off their bicycle years ago and watched them wobble toward the horizon and achieve balance. You can reach out regularly but let them set the pace of their responses – the goal is to build their confidence, not undermine it.

7. Unplug the Pressure Cooker: Don’t start discussing grades before the first day of school. Yes, by their sophomore year you will be nagging your astrophysicist about their report card but now navigating new friends, purchasing razors at the drugstore and surviving a smelly roommate obsessed with techno-pop is enough to keep them busy.

8. Listen, Don’t Preach: If your son or daughter calls home depressed and doubting and overwhelmed, let the kid vent. That’s why he is calling you – and that’s a good thing. Afterwards, he will probably feel comforted. You will be up all night. Shoot a quick “feeling better?” text the next day just to confirm the cloud has passed, then pop a Xanax.

9. Consider the Nest Half Full Not Half Empty: Don’t freak out! Remember you really do like your spouse. That’s why you married him.

10. Catch the Boomerang Babies: Remember that they are not leaving home forever. Given the economy, not only will your offspring be bunking in their old room, but their spouse and kids might one day, too.

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Criticism, Movies

‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ Delivers Eternal Love, Not Teen-Vamp Infatuation

0 Comments 17 August 2014

To bite alone, or jointly....Nosferatu

To bite alone, or jointly….Nosferatu

Jim Jarmusch’s vampire romance about night-owls-in-love Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) plants a stake in the heart of the popular “Twilight” teen-movie fantasy franchise. I can’t be the only moviegoer alive still left irritated by the notion that any being who had seen as much of the world as Robert Pattinson’s twinkly Edward Cullen, born back in 1901, would stick around for pre-calculus, “The Scarlet Letter,” and cafeteria flirtations with twitchy Bella Swan (Kirsten Stewart).

In “Only Lovers Left Alive,” hipster filmmaker Jarmusch (“Down by Law,” “Broken Flowers”) wonders what perfect love would be like if it spanned not years or decades but centuries. Well, first, the couple would be vampires, which makes for an intriguing premise — and not one that needs “Twilight” for inspiration when there’s already “Nosferatu,” “Let the Right One In,” and all that Hammer horror in the vaults.

[RELATED: My Personal Favorite at TIFF13: Jim Jarmusch's 'Only Lovers Left Alive']

And so the nocturnal Jarmusch, 61, who has never seen “Twilight,” delivers a very personal long-distance love story, which could probably be interpreted as a note to his long-time partner, Sara Driver, 58. The pair met at film school at NYU and she produced Jarmusch’s early masterpiece, “Stranger Than Paradise,” in 1984, and they’re still together today. In show business coupling, that’s an eternity.

The couple’s on-screen alter-egos, Adam and Eve, give each other emotional space – that key ingredient to lasting love — by living worlds apart. Adam resides in “Omega Man” seclusion in Detroit; Eve lives in the literary Tangier romanticized by Paul Bowles. Still, through the wonders of 21st century technology, Adam and Eve can keep in touch – and when Eve senses her man’s emotional distress, she grabs her blood stash and hops the redeye for a reunion.

[RELATED: TIFF13 Q&A: Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska Open Up]

Once together, Adam and Eve fall into well-worn patterns. She nurses back his will to create — because for Jarmusch, creativity is life — and gets Adam out of the house for a change. Back at his place, they listen to music and entwine around each other like beautifully decadent figures in a Klimt painting. Together they weather the arrival of her disruptive and destructive sister (Mia Wasikowska) — what couple hasn’t handled the trials of unwanted in-law houseguests, even if they don’t all bite the help?

Deep into the night, the pair takes a long moonlit drive through the urban ruins of Detroit. They are like Sunday drivers sharing a day out together in tandem peace. Adam and Eve have achieved that calm after the storm. They have long passed the early throes of passion, the distractions of jealousy and infidelity that animates “Twilight” and keeps Bella’s human heart fluttering like hummingbird wings.

And, when the couple’s blood supply dwindles, Eve whisks Adam to Morocco. In the movie’s climax — no spoilers here — we see what long-term couples know. That the efforts to shield one’s partner from danger can inspire superhuman actions. To protect the beloved’s existence, one also ensures one’s own survival.

Now that’s a marriage lesson for you.

THR’s Critic Todd McCarthy archly, and aptly, described the movie as “‘The Thin Man’ with blood cocktails.” He’s comparing Adam and Eve to Nick and Nora Charles. While this supernatural pair is edgier than Nick and Nora, those icons of boozy wedded bliss, they’re no less engaging — or well-matched.

In “Only Lovers Left Alive,” Jarmusch’s moody hero depends on a more-grounded spouse. She offers a mirror for his soul when he casts no reflection. Eve sees Adam for who he really is, warts, fangs and all, and still loves him.

It’s a vision developed not over a semester but over centuries.

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Celebrity, Movies

RIP Lauren Bacall: One Hell of a Dame

0 Comments 13 August 2014

Dames of New York

Dames of New York

She was an icon. And she was real. The night I was the Chair of the New York Film Critics Circle I asked her to give the NYFCC Award to Pedro Almodovar — because she liked his work and he adored her. I was warned that she would be tough. She wasn’t. She was just real. Me and Lauren Bacall, NYFCC 2005 And although there was a lot of star power in that ballroom at the Roosevelt Hotel including Clint Eastwood and Clive Owen, she brought a level of class, of gravitas, of where we’d been and where we could always return to — the movies. Me and Lauren Bacall, NYFCC 2005 Full-length

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Movies, Oscar Race

On the Oscar Trailer: ‘The Homesman’

0 Comments 31 July 2014

Tommy Lee Jones has directed a Western so profound that you may need to see it twice. While he plays a claim jumper that makes beef jerky look soft, the movie really focuses on Hilary Swank’s frontier spinster and the fate of women in the West. It’s more feminist than Kelly Reichardt’s poky Meek’s Cutoff, and definitely more about real women than Clint Eastwood’s hooker-heavy Unforgiven. We are so far away from telling all the stores of women in the West — and this is a great one. Also, Jones has learned a few things since his brilliant and trying Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada: keep the movie at two hours and give it a pronounceable title.

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Criticism, Movies

Must-Stream: Snag Films’ troubling doc ‘Lost for Life’

0 Comments 28 July 2014

Whatever you think about life without parole for minors who murder — and you may not have even considered the issue — Joshua Rofe’s engaging documentary Lost For Life will challenge your preconceptions. If first met the director at the Middleburg Film Festival last October.

Immediately after watching the film last October I wrote: “One notable nonfiction feature was Snag Films’ “Lost for Life.” Director Joshua Rofé has created a tight, extremely well-researched documentary that addresses juvenile offenders with a record of heinous crimes sentenced to life without parole — hence they are lost, for life. The movie allows the audience to have an internal debate about the justice of this irrevocable sentence for juvenile offenders. But its power lies in the director’s ability to get up close and pull the truth from his subjects, like one man now in his twenties who killed a fellow high school student with almost no motive and no previous indications of violent behavior. The result is a movie that is both shocking and revealing about the American justice system and the children in our midst.”

Currently available via iTunes, here’s the most recent trailer released by Snag Films:

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