Thursday, May 28, 2009

SYNECDOCHE NEW YORK (now playing at home where you can watch somebody else's bummer life and be thankful for your own)

In Synecdoche New York (pronounced "sin-ECT-do-kee," it's word play on Schenectady, where some of it's filmed) stage director Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a man so self-obsessed that he builds a replica of New York City inside a gigantic warehouse in Manhattan, populates it with a multitude of actors, and creates an ongoing and all-consuming performance piece about his own life.

The first thing we learn about Cotard is that he and his family have a morbid fascination with their own feces. And since I'm the one interpreting the metaphors here, I'd say that sets the stage for what follows--his life slowly turning to sh*t. Cotard's artist wife, Adele, (Catherine Keener) absconds to Germany with their young daughter, Olive. Finding his child becomes his initial obsession going forward. He develops bizarre psychosomatic symptoms and his health slowly deteriorates. Through another marriage that produces another daughter, Caden's unrequited love for Hazel, (Samantha Morton) the box office girl, never wanes. Reality mixes with magic realism, as at one point Hazel moves into a house that is literally on fire--smoldering slowly throughout the movie--stating that she hopes the house doesn't do her in.

Caden receives a MacArthur grant and suddenly possesses the means to create his self-indulgent "play," which never opens--it just drones on in endless rehearsal. At one point, one of the actors inquires as to when they might get an audience, noting that it's been seventeen years already. His life becomes the theatre piece...the theatre piece is his life. The serpentine plot continually folds in on itself until finally you give up trying to keep track of where Caden's real life ends and the play begins. Screenwriter/director Charlie Kaufman intimates that since we're all the stars of our own stories in real life, (all the world's a stage) there's really no difference between the two.

The real tragedy of Caden Cotard's life is had he thought about anything but his OWN pain--perhaps empathized with someone else's--the whole thing could have turned around for him. (See "Mother Teresa.")

No synopsis can capture the intangibles that must all hang together to make a film a great work of art: soundtrack, dialogue, and cinematography. But most of all, the ability to connect with the audience at the core emotional level of our common humanity.

Despite its heartbreakingly sad tenor, Synecdoche New York is undeniably a DARK COMEDY. Kaufman (who wrote the screenplay for the quirky Being John Malkovich) understands that comedy stems from pain. That's why so many comics have had really screwed-up childhoods. Kaufman once wrote for TV sitcoms, and going for the laugh (bizarre though it may be) is where his instincts lie. Here, he has assembled an accomplished cast to deliver the goods-- including: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michelle Williams, Hope Davis, Emily Watson, and Dianne Wiest. Hoffman delivers the bravura performance.

Synecdoche New York is a comedy in the way that the human drama is a comedy--one day we will wake up and comprehend the cosmic joke. It seems that Charlie Kaufman already gets it. And while Caden Cotard may have ultimately failed at creating the masterpiece he intended...Kaufman did not.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Tom Jones, at age 68, says he's no longer going to attempt the same gyrations that used to drive the ladies wild at his live shows. Thinks it would make him look silly. Well, it hasn't "dampened" the enthuiasm of his female fans (who've grown a little older themselves).

Instead of tossing their panties onstage...they're now throwing adult diapers.

Friday, May 22, 2009


The Illuminati (originally called the "Bavarian Illuminati") was a secret society that first appeared in 1776. It was an aggregation of free-thinkers, at odds with the Catholic church and its dogma. They were accused of, among other things, plotting to overthrow the pope and being bent upon world domination (you couldn't fault them for setting their sights too low!) Many believe the Illuminati--in one form or another--exists today, and is the guiding hand behind numerous conspiracies.
In Angels and Demons, the screenplay adapted from Dan Brown's bestselling novel, the Illuminati has apparently resurfaced--in the wake of the current pope's death--and plans to wreak havoc in the Vatican by executing four prominent cardinals--and, for an encore, blow the whole area to kingdom come with some stolen anti-matter. (Look up how anti-matter works...I ain't explaining all that physics razmatazz here!)
Tom Hanks reprises his role (from The Da Vinci Code) as symbologist Robert Langdon, who's summoned by the Vatican to intrepret what the evil-doers next moves are in hopes of preventing a calamity of monumental proportions. Vittoria Vetra, (Ayelet Zurer) a physicist who was experimenting with the anti-matter before it was hijacked, serves as a sidekick--of sorts--to Langdon as he furiously tries to keep pace in a battle of wits with the dastardly dude who is carrying out some decidedly dirty deeds.
Angels and Demons is totally plot driven--nonstop balls-to-the-wall with no real character development, save for that of Langdon. We get some insight into his ambivalence about faith and religion--reflecting the film's ethos as well, as it tries to be even-handed in pointing out the shortcomings of both science and organized religion. But the mystery/thriller genre IS typically plot centered, which isn't all bad as it keeps you on your toes trying to comprehend the significance and meaning of each new development and how it fits into the puzzle, which is an intricate one indeed.
Having said that, I was disappointed that there wasn't ONE scene where Langdon and the comely Vittoria take a breather, reflect on what's happening, and maybe do some subtle flirting with each other. But it ain't happening. She's just window dressing for the plot--a totally wasted and undeveloped character, (in the FILM, at least) inserted only because they had to have a female presence SOMEWHERE in this movie (other than crowd shots, she's the only woman who even APPEARS in this two hour and then some production...and steel yourselves, you lechers, cuz she ain't showing any skin ).
Oft-times the true villain is the one you least suspect. But then, when it's not the one you NOW suspect--formerly the one you DIDN'T suspect--and turns out to be ANOTHER one you didn't suspect, it gives you a giddy feeling of having been ticklishly hoodwinked--even though you realize you're not that smart because you didn't figure it out on your own.
Angels and Demons stretches taut the bounds of believability, but so what else is new? I think the only flick I've seen in recent months that didn't was Last Chance Harvey (see review under the March archive).

Saturday, May 16, 2009


And welcome to my abode. If you're new to The Noodle, may I suggest you begin with "Introduction To Timmy's Noodle," which you'll find in the archive for the month of March. It won't take long to read, and it will give you an idea of how I got from there (little kid in small body) to here (big kid in larger body).

Then, check out "Timmy's Top Ten Of All Time," a list of films that will always be near and dear to my heart. You'll find them in the archive for April. If there's a common thread running through these cinematic gems, (many of which you may not be familiar with) it answers to the word "ROMANTIC." Webster's definition #1: Heroic, adventurous, or mysterious. Definition #2: Marked by expressions of love or affection. You'll find some element of either or both definitions in each of these films. Check them out and discover something new (to you) and wonderful.

And, of course, you'll find passionate reviews of the top movies playing in theatres right now (often part review, part rant--at no extra charge!)

If you leave a comment, I'll check out your site and likely leave a comment there in response...maybe link to your blog...MAYBE put you on my blogroll. Well, let's not get ahead of thing at a time! Become one of my FOLLOWERS and discover that we may not always know where we're going, but we'll have a fun time getting there.

And so, with that...I give you TIMMY'S NOODLE.

Friday, May 15, 2009


I'll confess up front that I'm not a Trekkie. I followed the TV series in a casual way, but then I also watched Pee Wee Herman--and the only thing I know about him has to do with his taste in movies. So why did I see this film? Hell if I know.

There's about ten minutes total in this movie where somebody isn't getting bashed repeatedly in the face or worse. It's the same old eye-for-an-eye stuff that one would hope the HUMAN race, at least, (don't know about Vulcans or Romulans) would have grown beyond in the distant future of interplanetary space travel.

There's a young James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) who I didn't like that much because he's an arrogant little sh*t. There's a young Spock (Zachary Quinto) who I liked even less cuz he's just so anal. There's the villain, a Romulan named Nero, (Eric Bana) who's nasty looking and has tattoos. (Villains always have tattoos in these films...I think all the NICE people who have tattoos should mount a protest against such stereotyping.)

Nero has a long standing beef with the OLDER Spock, (there's time travelling involved here) and Leonard Nimoy gracing this picture in that role is the only thing that gives it an air of authenticity. The plot isn't that inventive, but it moves at warp speed, with everyone running around in full scale crisis mode most of the time.

Star Trek begins with a flashback, where James Kirk's father, George, has taken over a ship that's in--you guessed it--full scale crisis mode and about to go POOF. On board is George's wife, Winona, who's about to give birth to their son, James Tiberius Kirk. She escapes in the nick of time before the craft is destroyed by those damned Romulans.

Here's where I'm departing from the plot to do my rant. What the hell is a PREGNANT woman doing on board a spacecraft that's involved in dangerous missions? This is what chaps my ass about our real life space program. Remember the Challenger that went KA-PLOOEY in the mid 80s? Some of those astronauts had young children. Remember the Columbia that went KA-BLAM in 2003? Same thing.

If you're single, or have grown children, do whatever you want. But it is the height of IRRESPONSIBILITY for a parent with kids at home to choose, or continue to be involved in what is arguably the most DANGEROUS job in the world--knowing full well there's a real chance that their kids will grow up without a mother or a father. Astronauts are drunk on bravado and the romance of "boldly going where none have gone before." It's high time they take a sober look at what their priorities are in life.

Now, where was I? Oh yeah, the special effects in Star Trek are astounding, and really the only thing that kept me from nodding off.


TIMMY'S TIDBITS: Chris Pine's nickname is "Pine Sol." Aptly named, since a lot of guys wiped the floor with him in Star Trek.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

PASSENGERS (now playing at home where your kid just dumped a bowl of oatmeal over his head)

I wanted to see Passengers because it was touted as a film about people who disappear. I often think it would be great if about half the world's population would disappear--you and me excepted, of course. I wouldn't want to kill them off--just transfer them to a different dimension where they'd probably have more fun anyway.

That's because all of the world's MAJOR PROBLEMS can be traced back to overpopulation: POLLUTION (too many cars, factories, and cows farting--injecting their gases into the atmosphere). DISEASE (too many people spreading it around). THE ECONOMY(too many people, not enough jobs) and so on. But I digress.

And NOW, back to our story!

Anne Hathaway stars as Claire Summers, a psychologist who is called in to counsel a handful of survivors from a major plane crash. Eric (Patrick Wilson) is the one that she's drawn to, and the individual who presents the most perplexing challenge for her. Claire tries all the tricks of her trade to get him to open up to her along the lines of the standard patient-therapist relationship. But Eric wants to relate to her on a more personal level. He wants her to see him (and herself, in the process) as a real person. Claire wants to keep her professional distance, and the awkwardness she displays in attempting to do so reveals HER as the one who needs to learn a thing or three about being an authentic human being. If there's any substantive message in this movie--and it's a good one for those in the counseling profession--there it is. But I digress again.

NOW...back to our story again!

There's a guy with the airline who seems to be trying to hide something about the real cause of the plane crash.

There's a strange guy who starts hanging around Claire (she sees him through the window, but he doesn't have binoculars, so he's not just a perv).

There's a strange dog who starts shadowing Eric, barking like he's trying to tell the guy something (other than FEED ME).

And some of the survivors begin to disappear.

There's another wildly popular movie from a few years back that is ripped off by this film--but I can't tell you the name of it...or even who starred in it...somebody STOP me...I WANT to, but I just CAN'T...because if you knew the film I'm talking about you'd catch on to the surprise ending of Passengers. So just see this flick, then let me know that you've figured out the title of the other film and I'll give you a gold star!

Rip-off aside, Passengers is an entrancing love story set inside a mystery (with a great soundtrack by Edward Shearmur) that will hold you in its grip until the end.


Monday, May 11, 2009



Wednesday, May 6, 2009


In a modern day spoof of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," Matthew Mconaughey portrays Connor Mead, a rakish professional photographer who--unlike Ebenezer Scrooge--spreads the wealth (of himself) around to his legion of adoring female fans.

He's phobic about anything that smacks of commitment, and why shouldn't he be when he has a bevy of young lovelies to choose from--most of them portrayed as sex-starved
and brainless? Except for Jenny Peroti, (Jennifer Garner) the girl he's known since childhood--"the one that got away."

Connor meets up with Jenny again on the eve of his younger brother Paul's wedding, and the old hidden away feelings they still harbor for one another begin to stir. Then the ghost of Connor's "Uncle Wayne," (Michael Douglas) who taught him all he knows about women, appears to him in a bathroom. (I, for one, don't like to be approached by ANYONE in a restroom--let alone a ghost.)

Uncle Wayne tells Connor he's got to change his ways, and that he'll be visited by 3 other ghosts (all women) who'll take him on a journey of enlightenment through his past, present, and future.
At this point, we can see what's coming. Just as Scrooge was shown the error of his ways, Connor must be made to see that all that womanizing will, in time, leave him a lost and lonely man, (ahh---but the MEMORIES) and that Jenny is the one he's been carrying a torch for all this time.

But will they be together in the end?

Mconaughey and Garner are a far cry from Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, but their on-screen chemistry works okay.

Lacey Chabert, as younger brother Paul's MERCURIAL BRIDEZILLA, Sandra, is a RIOT--and nearly steals the entire movie. Maybe that's why they toned her down in the second half of the film.

Anne Archer has a cameo as an older gal who's been around the block too many times to fall for any of Connor's shenanigans.

The soundtrack should bring you smiles, with good old nostalgic stuff like "I'll Keep Holding On" by Simply Red and "Burning Love" by Elvis.

For all of its IMPLIED casual sex (it's a PG-13 flick, remember) Ghost Of Girlfriends Past is selling the old-fashioned tenet that love conquers all--and there's enough sweet sentimentality here to bring a little tear to the eye of even the most jaded lothario who thinks he's having too much fun (and probably is).


Monday, May 4, 2009


Yes Man is a formulaic romantic comedy--but the formula, which is to turn Jim Carrey loose for all of the pratfalls and spasmodic creativity he's noted for--works splendidly in a script where just about anything goes.

Carrey is Carl Allen, a man mired in negativity. He's reeling from his recent divorce, and his career is going nowhere. He avoids socializing with his friends--he'd rather hang out at the video store.(I can identify with that!) Then he finds himself at a seminar run by a fanatical guru named Terrence (Terence Stamp) who exhorts his followers to say YES to every possibility. Carl drinks the Kool-Aid, and his personality is transformed.

This is where the laughs get rolling.

Because he can't say no, Carl gives a ride to a homeless guy. (I won't reveal what happens, but it's one of the quirky/funnier scenes in the movie.) Carl ends up out of gas and stranded. We'd all view that as being a bummer, but that's when he meets Allison, (Zooey Deschanel) a free-spirit who writes off-beat lyrics and sings with a band. On Allison's motorbike, the two of them embark on a series of adventures and misadventures that will test the limits of Carl's new philosophy and his fledgling romance with Allison.

Deschanel is right for this part--she's just so darn wholesome looking and cute that I am hereby declaring that ZOOEY DESCHANEL IS THE NEW MEG RYAN! (The OLD Meg Ryan still has plenty left in the tank, but she'll have to be replaced eventually.)

There are some interesting philosophical issues in play here. In line with Buddhist thinking is the idea that what may initially be interpreted as an unfortunate occurrence may, in time, turn out to be just the opposite. And something we're going ape-shit with ecstacy over (like Tom Cruise on Oprah's couch) might come back to bite us on the butt, because all of the future ramifications have yet to be revealed.

Brainwashing of any sort--whether it stems from religious dogma or military-style indoctrination that induces one to follow orders blindly and disregard one's own moral or ethical compass--denies the existential responsibility of making up your own mind in compliance with that little thing called your conscience. Saying yes to everything would undoubtedly open up a whole new world of possibilities--but, as Carl soon learns, it also exposes him to those who would take unfair advantage.

Who woulda thunk that a Jim Carrey movie would be this deep?