Tuesday, May 30, 2023


Arts and Leisure

Library Cancels In-Person Programming

“According to CDC guidelines, we are being extra vigilant about disinfecting all surfaces and encourage you to use the hand sanitizers placed throughout the building,” he said.

“We ask that patrons be considerate of others and please stay at home if you are not feeling well.

“Finally, we hope that patrons will continue to take advantage of the Library’s extensive downloadable and streaming digital resources.  eAudiobooks, eBooks, eMagazines, music, movies, and many other entertaining and educational resources are available to all cardholders.

“Please call the Library if you need assistance at 203.291.4800.

“The Library is continuing to assess the situation and will keep you apprised of any further developments.”

Granger at the Movies: ‘Onward,’ ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire,’ ‘Dark Waters’

So they pile into Barley’s beat-up van, named Guinevere — with a winged Pegasus decal on its side — to embark on a ticking-clock mission to find another Phoenix gem to complete what they started.

Their chaotic adventure begins with a visit to a medieval tavern-turned-theme restaurant run by the Manticore (voiced by Octavia Spencer), who describes herself as “a winged lion scorpion lady.” From her, they acquire the map that leads them to a mysterious cavern with indicative runes, shifting stone floors and a deadly gelatinous cube.

While the brothers’ perseverance and courage are being tested, their road trip is monitored by worried Laurel and her boyfriend, Officer Colt Bronc (voiced by Mel Rodriguez), a centaur cop.

Superficially scripted by director Dan Scanlon (“Monsters University”) with Jason Headley and Keith Bunin, it’s less inventive and more blandly generic than previous Pixar films like “Toy Story,” “WALL-E,” “Ratatouille,” “Up” and “Coco.”

Because of the mourning death/loss theme and some violent scenes, it’s PG and recommended for children ages 8 and up.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Onward” is a bittersweet, emotionally satisfying 7, combining silly slapstick with the supernatural.

Celine Sciamma’s sensuous 18th century romantic drama “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” revolves around two women reacting to the pressures society places on them insofar as perceiving marriage as a form of security in exchange for lifelong servitude.

In Brittany near the Atlantic coast, Marianne (Noemioe Merlant) arrives at the seaside château of young noblewoman, Heloise (Adele Haenel), to paint her portrait which will be immediately dispatched to a potential suitor in Milan. (Since there was no photography back then, portraits were exchanged for marital matchmaking purposes.)

Working as an apprentice to her well-known painter father, Marianne often travels to paint subjects on commission. But defiant Heloise, who previously spurned a male artist who tried to paint her, has little interest in posing, which is why her widowed Countess mother (Valeria Golino) asks Marianne to base the portrait on casual observations.

The film’s title has multiple meanings. Obviously, it’s about the painting. It also refers to how Heloise’s flowing frock literally goes up in flames, as if their forbidden carnality makes her gown spontaneously combust.

And there’s a subtle subplot involving the maid Sophie (Luana Bajrami), whose artistic outlet is her embroidery hoop; she introduces Marianne and Heloise into a group of welcoming women.

According to director/screenwriter Sciamma (“Girlhood”), the reason why there’s no score, aside from two musical interludes, is because she wanted to emphasize the rhythms in the body movements through cinematographer Claire Mathon’s camera. In the festival scene, the women chant “non possunt fugere,” which is Latin for “they cannot escape.”

Off-screen, Sciamma and Adele Haenel are ex-lovers who split amicably before filming. “Celine and I are interested in the same thing,” Haenel explains. “We are fighting for ideas and looking for beauty, but we are also playing all the time.”

And Marianne’s portraiture is actually the artwork of Helene Delmaire.

In French with English subtitles, on the Granger Gauge, “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” is an erotic 8, an exquisitely articulated lesbian love story.

Now that the Trump Administration has rolled back federal clean water protection, the legal drama “Dark Waters,” inspired by true events, has immediate relevance. Too bad it gets bogged down in dull procedural trivia.

Back in 1998, Cincinnati corporate environmental defense attorney Robert Bilott (Mark Ruffalo) was approached by a desperate West Virginia farmer, Wilbur Tennant (Bill Camp), who told him that toxic waste from DuPont was either causing disastrous birth defects and/or killing his cows.

Ironically, Bilot had just been promoted to partner in a conservative law firm that represented chemical companies, and he was not only familiar with Parkersburg, where DuPont was the biggest employer, but also his grandmother lived nearby.

Fortunately for Bilot, his supervising partner at the law firm, Tom Terp (Tim Robbins), was sympathetic, allowing Bilot to spend, literally, years investigating.  What Bilot discovered involved a nearly 50 year-old synthetic polymer called PFOA, used in making Teflon products, which DuPont had been dumping onto the local landfill.

Meanwhile, as his career is in jeopardy and family funds dwindle as a result of four pay cuts, Bilot’s wife, Sarah (Anne Hathaway), a former lawyer who gave up her career to raise their family, is running out of patience.

Eventually, DuPont was forced to pay the largest fine in EPA’s history: $16.5 million and an additional $671 million to the 3,535 innocent West Virginians who filed personal injury lawsuits.

Based on Nathaniel Rich’s 2016 New York Times Magazine article, “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare,” it’s painstakingly adapted by Mario Correa and Matt Carnahan and methodically directed by Todd Haynes (“Safe,” “Far From Heaven,” “Carol”).

FYI: DuPont and other American companies have phased out using PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), as the EPA is working on legal standards for its use.  But PFOA and other compounds are called “forever chemicals” because it could take hundreds or thousands of years for them to breakdown.

On the Granger Gauge, “Dark Waters” is an all-too-conventional 6, revolving around a sincere social activist. It’s now available on DVD, Blu-ray and streaming.

WestportNow.com Image

(Editor’s Note: Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See her reviews at www.susangranger.com.)

Celebrating Beethoven’s 250th Birthday

WestportNow.com Image
The Westport Library tonight hosted an innovative musical celebration of the 250th birthday of Beethoven.  The event, a collaboration of the Lundberg Family Foundation’s inaugural Masters Series, Beechwood Arts & Innovation led by curator Frederic Chiu, and the Library combined for an evening of classical entertainment. Chiu, internationally renowned pianist, performed Beethoven Symphony VII (transcribed by Liszt for solo piano) on a high technology Yamaha piano that sent signals to another Yamaha piano located at the Yamaha Studios in New York where an on site audience joined the Library attendees in observing the Beethoven celebration concert. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Granger at the Movies: ‘The Invisible Man,’ ‘The Assistant,’ ‘Seberg’

But as her possessions mysteriously disappear and a kitchen fire erupts, neither the assurance of Adrian’s death nor the deposit of his money in her bank account can convince increasingly distraught Cecilia that Adrian is no longer around.

Indeed, at the risk of being declared insane, she’s firmly convinced he’s still stalking her and fully capable of wreaking havoc in her life. An atmosphere of dread prevails.

The Emmy-winning veteran of TV’s “The West Wing,” “Mad Men,” and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” resourceful actress Elisabeth Moss has come to embody female suffering.

Working within strict budgetary restrictions, Leigh Whannell changes the story’s focus from the crazed scientist to his victim. He cleverly intensifies the specificity of the tension, often utilizing jump scares, aided by cinematographer Stefan Duscio, production designer Alex Holmes and costumer Emily Seresin.

But Benjamin Wallfisch’s score is so loud that it becomes a distraction, rather than an enhancement.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Invisible Man” is a scary 7, placing an updated feminist spin on the unnervingly real mystery/horror concept.

Made all-the-more timely given the verdict in the sexual misconduct trial of disgraced Miramax mogul Harvey Weinstein, Kitty Green’s workplace drama “The Assistant”profiles how power enforces silence about sexual coercion and harassment.

Unfolding over one, long exploitative workday, it focuses on Jane (Julia Garner), who is beginning her second month as a lowly assistant to an unseen/anonymous Manhattan-based movie producer.

When it’s still dark outside, Jane dutifully leaves her apartment in Queens, becoming the first to arrive at the company’s Tribeca office. She quietly prepares the morning coffee, lines up the individual water bottles and cleans stains off the cushions on the couch.

Since her boss is scheduled to fly to Los Angeles at 11 p.m. with two additional passengers, Jane must confirm that, along with his reservation at the Peninsula, field phone calls from his suspicious wife and usher a beautiful blonde in for a meeting.

Hours pass. Jane returns the gold bracelet that an Asian woman inadvertently left in the boss’s office. Ambitious male assistants (Jon Orsini, Noah Robbins) come and go, each having been assured that compliance will assure advancement.

Eventually, distressed Jane realizes exactly how her lascivious boss is manipulating and abusing aspiring actresses, ingénues who naively believe that their acquiescence will somehow propel them to film stardom — like the young waitress he flew in from Idaho and ensconced in a hotel.

But whom can Jane tell? Who will care? And will there ever be any consequences to her boss’s predatory behavior?

When Jane timidly approaches a Human Resources representative (Matthew Macfadyen) to report what she’s seen and heard, the tension is palpable. His reaction is to laughingly assure her: “You’re not his type.”

“Almost everything that’s in the movie has been recorded already in the news,” Australian writer/director Kitty Green acknowledges. “But what I wanted was some kind of emotional insight.”

On the Granger Gauge, “The Assistant” is a restrained, sensitive 6, chronicling an all-too-prevalent misogynistic culture of complicity.

Inspired by the life of French New Wave star Jean Seberg, best known for Jean-Luc Godard’s “Breathless,” “Seberg” is a tepid political thriller, set in the late 1960s when she was targeted by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI because of her romantic involvement with civil rights activist Hakim Jamal.

Born in Marshalltown, Iowa, in 1938, Jean Seberg (Kristen Stewart) rose to stardom in 1957, when director Otto Preminger literally set her on fire while making “Saint Joan.”

But screenwriters Anna Waterhouse and Joe Shrapnel, along with Australian director Benedict Andrews, aren’t concerned with Seberg’s early life and formative years.

Instead, they focus on 1968-1971, when she left her husband, novelist Romain Gary (Yvan Attal), in Paris and met seductive Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie), a cousin of Malcom X, on a trans-Atlantic flight.

When they disembark in Los Angeles, impulsive Seberg joins Jamal in giving the Black Power salute to the assembled press corps. Obviously smitten, she takes to heart his assertion: “If you can change one mind, you can change the world.”

Seberg passionately supports radical Jamal financially and emotionally, much to distress of his wife, Dorothy (Zazie Beetz), who refers to her as “a tourist” in the social justice movement.

Determined to embarrass Seberg when she became pregnant by Mexican student Carlos Navarra, the FBI planted a gossip column rumor that a Black Panther was the father. Two days later, when her baby died, Seberg asks for an open casket so mourners could verify that the infant was Caucasian.

The primary FBI agent assigned to spy on Seberg is conflicted, conscience-stricken Jack Solomon (Jack O’Connell), along with his overtly racist partner, Carl Kowalski (Vince Vaughn).

Victimized Jean Seberg died of an apparent suicide in 1979 at age 40.

While Kristen Stewart delivers a solid simulation of androgynous Seberg, complete with cropped blonde pixie cut, her twitchy, persecuted performance is undermined by the stumbling superficiality of the script.

On the Granger Gauge, “Seberg” is a fervent, yet fictionalized 5. Lacking insight, it becomes bana. l

WestportNow.com Image

(Editor’s Note: Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See her reviews at www.susangranger.com.)

Westport Author Attracts Large Crowd

WestportNow.com Image
Longtime Westport resident Lauren Tarshis, author of numerous New York Times best-seller children’s books, attracted a huge audience of children and adults at the Westport Library today. Tarshis is the author of 20 books in her “I Survived…” series based on terrifying and thrilling stories from history, through the eyes of a child who lived to tell the tale. Tarshis told the audience her Westport parents, Barry, a writer, and Karen, a teacher, were the influence for her merging of both disciplines, history and writing. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Comings & Goings: Organic Krush to Post Road East

WestportNow.com Image
Organic Krush lifestyle eatery, will open this summer at 376 Post Road East in the Compo Acres shopping center. According to its website, the concept, inspired by founders Fran Paniccia and Michelle Walrath, is a local one-stop-shop offering healthy lunch, organic coffee and a family dinner. The couple opened their first location in Woodbury, New York and now have eight storefronts. The Westport location will be one of two in the state. The space was previously occupied by Chipotle from June 2015 to December 2018. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com