“The Disaster Artist”

Seeing moviegoers take selfies in front of James Franco’s cardboard image of Tommy Wiseau was a tad surprising, but understandable once one experiences the paen to the writer, director, producer, and star of one of the worst movies ever made. A cult film this is, and it is fun to be a part of it.

“The Disaster Artist” lovingly mocks the making of “ The Room”, a love triangle roiling in sex scenes and the ultimate suicide. Like “ The Rocky, Horror Picture Show”, repeat viewings and participation comes with the territory. While I will not see it again, I know the four men who sat behind us will. And I am curious to see the “The Room” from the frame by frame comparison shown as out-takes.

“The Disaster Artist” is a spoof on making a bad movie that has themes of loyalty, friendship, and compassion for dream-seekers. James Franco won a Golden Globe for best actor.

Wiseau is famous for being bad at movie-making, and for spending over six million dollars 15 years ago to create a betrayal film based on his own life. Wiseau advertises his film “ The Room” by renting a huge billboard for five years. The display includes his visage and his telephone number. Initially, some people thought it was a cult.

In San Francisco, June 13th , 1998 we see a group of student actors attempt to take Jean Shelton’s (Melanie Griffin) charge “to reveal themselves”. Tommy ( James Franco)  does an imitation of Brando’s “ On The Waterfront” ’s: “Stella! Don’t ever leave me, baby.” Fellow promising actor Greg Sestero ( Dave Franco) follows him out of class and asks to practice  a scene with him. Greg calls Tommy “fucking fearless”! After a hilarious diner scene, Tommy and Greg bound further and decide to move to L.A. and support each other’s dreams.

Watching this loving mockudrama makes me think of how much fun real bros James and Dave Franco must have had making this movie. It is not for everyone, but I appreciated the loyal friend tale and the mysterious Polish immigrant dream of making it in the movie business. “Everyone want to be star”, Tommy states in his unusual syntax.. Greg shares how “Home Alone” changed his life, because he was home alone, too. Tommy confides that he wants his own planet. They give “pinkie swears” and  yell, “Road Trip”. It is such adolescent indulgence for a nineteen -year- old, and crazy for Tommy, who may be pushing 50.

Megan Mulhally plays a cameo as Mrs. Sestero, Greg’s mom. Protective and suspicious of Greg’s new friend Tommy’s intentions, and fearful of her son leaving town, she quizzes Wiseau on his age. “How old are you?” A great comedic moment ensues.

Seth Rogen is the deadpan script advisor. His slow motion energy is a good foil to the frenetic cast. Questions which are really statements hold court: “Are you on my planet?”

Tommy is often late to the set. He is jealous of Amber, Greg’s new girl friend. When Greg wants to move in with Amber ( Alison Brie) ,  Tommy feels glum and betrayed. Greg has a chance to play a bit part in Brian Cranston’s “ Malcolm in the Middle” tv show. He needs one day off and his beard to stay. Tommy denies him both: “I will not give favor. “Shoot day 58 of the scheduled 49 goes on as Tommy wishes.

Writers Scott Neustadter and  Michael Weber have used Greg Sestero’s book on the filming of “The Room” as source material. The script is both poignant and silly, and says very little about the creative process. Wiseau is seen as a sensitive goof. Sequences where Tommy asks,  “ What’s the line?” will remind you of  “Whose on first?”

The soundtrack makes good use of “ Never Gonna Give Up”, “It Takes Two”, “Good Vibrations” and “What You Want”.

Enjoy the many film references: “Ready To Rumble”, “Shakespeare  In Love”, “The Birds”, “Giant”, “Rebel Without A Cause” and “East of Eden”. “Oh, Hi, Mark.” will stay with you, if no other high marks are met in this production of a production! Stay for the out-takes, and watch the Golden Globes 2018 as Tommy Wiseau tries to take the microphone from a laughing James Franco. Enough said.

“Steve Jobs”

Screenwriter Alan Sorkin has given us a verbally fast-paced wonder that highlights the need for a balance of personal intellectual and emotional intelligence. Themes of regret, cruelty and love are shown at a frenetic pace with the added dizzying use of the memory flashbacks of Michael Fassbender playing Steve Jobs. The historical accuracy of actual arguments,motivations or relationships is not a point to be debated. Andy Hertzfeld,the key programmer for the Apple team says it best,”the film deviates from reality,but explores deeper truths”. See “Steve Jobs” as a psychological study of why people hurt one another,and why others forgive. Director Danny Boyle and his cast of stunning actors have delivered an almost Shakespearean tale of a flawed icon of success. We need to be reminded that to be a successful human being the “whole brain” has to work.

This film is hard to watch because the brilliant Steve Jobs had very little emotional intelligence. You find yourself catching your breath at his disregard for people and what they value. Viewers tense up as Jobs micro-manages details and demands instant gratification in results. In one scene, Jobs has a colleague search the building for any man with his frame wearing a white, pocketed shirt that would hold the apple disc. He needs this shirt to be stripped off him,now. Steve wants a room’s “Exit” sign lights blackened;he will pay the fine. He wants his way; he alienates people.Snipes and threats thunder through the Apple story arc. Hysteria is the tone. As Apple rolls out banners,your stomach is roiling; yet,it is one of the best films of the season. It will remind you of last year’s “Whiplash”. Is anything okay in the name of progress?!

Apple product launches in 1984,1986 and 1998 form the film’s structure. We see Jobs with his co-founder, Steve Wozniak(Seth Rogen);with his programmer,Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg);with his chief marketer,Johanna Hoffman (Kate Winset); and with his CEO John Scully ( Jeff Daniels). Add Chrisann, Job’s ex-high school girlfriend played by Katherine Waterson, and Lisa, his daughter played by Makenzie Moss at 5 years of age,Ripley Sobo at 9 years and Perla Hanley-Jardine at 19, and we have the superb cast.

Enjoy the Irish Fassbender’s “Zen elevator ride”,his driven demeanor,his blustery but brilliant language. Like Michelangelo searching for the perfect veined marble or Leonardo Da Vinci doing it all, Jobs ironically opens a New Renaissance of connectivity,as he breaks down his own personal connections. Kate Winslet as the “Steve Whisperer” and “office wife” is compassionate,brave and really good at her job. Though Winslet’s on-and-off-again Eastern European accent seemed to get heavier the longer she lives in the States,her “fix it,or I quit” ultimatum shows that she cared enough for daughter and father to forcefully adjust Job’s distorted reality field.

Seth Rogen delivers some of the most memorable lines as Apple’s co-founder who is fixated on Jobs acknowledging the Apple 2 Team. Mind games begin with “why do you want people to dislike you?” to Woz’s own admission that “I am tired of being Ringo when I know I am John.” And as Steve Wozniak, Rogen is great in his soft “Just acknowledge that something went on that was good and you were not in the room”. It reminded me of Wiily Loman and “attention must be paid.” The feeling left was pure “Death Of A Salesman” demoralization.Finally, Woz’s “It is not binary. You can be decent and gifted at the same time.” All of this hints at Greek tragedy. What is the capacity to be wrong when one thinks one is right? How do our perceptions of our personal history push us to be spiteful or  push us to be loving ?

Jeff Daniels is wonderful as Apple CEO, John Scully. He visually changes in the fourteen year span. His whole demeanor looks like the regret of the sigh, “The things we could have done.” Michael Stuhlbarg,as the talented programmer Andy Hertzfeld, is marvelous,too. We see a man pushed to the limit worrying about ethics. “Done without malice” seems to be his mantra in constrast  to Jobs. The voice recognition guy, the hardware engineer has found his voice for the “out of control” who needs control. While Jobs is insulting,hurtful and arrogant-acting, Andy H. is suggesting a therapist for Job’s daughter,Lisa, and writing a check for her next semester at Harvard. Stating that Lisa needed a strong, male role model did nothing for the man,who wanted to put music in her pocket. Sorkin’s “scorch a second” culminates in the 19 -year -old Lisa deriding the I-Mac as looking like a Judy Jetson Easy- Bake oven.

“Steve Jobs”is not a bio-pic any more than the novel “Euphoria” is the true Margaret Mead. Lily King’s fiction is fiction and Alan Sorkin’s “Steve Jobs” is, too. Based on Walter Isaacson’s authorized Steve Jobs’ biography, Sorkin’s film adaptation soars to a mesmerizing level. “Time” magazine’s “Man Of The Year” doesn’t make mistakes even on a personal level is proven tragically wrong. His statement that “28 percent of men in the U.S. could be Lisa’s father” is excruciatingly callous. His giving a “lifetime free pass” to the other Steve is condescending. Yet, Steve Jobs seems to be the “revenge machine”. Chrisann tells the mythologized father of her child that “things don’t become so because you say so.” At the film’s end, the strobe lights keep flashing, and we are reminded to keep listening as we push for what we think we want to see. Fassbender deserves the Oscar for his operatic performance and Alan Sorkin deserves ranking with Arthur Miller for his screenplay.