Daily Archives: April 21st, 2017

"Norman" Everybody knows one

April 21st, 2017 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on “"Norman" Everybody knows one”


Richard Gere shows us he’s still in the game with his unusual lead role in the film “Norman.” This Israeli-American film by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Joseph Cedar is a uniquely funny and charming drama with an all-star cast.  Norman (Gere) is a small-time business man who, although he tries, is always on the outermost circle of the high-powered, successful corporate heads.  That never deters him from trying to connect people and make things happen, though.  His life changes one day when he meets and buys a pair of designer shoes for the man who would, three years in the future, become the next Israeli Prime Minister (Lior Ashkenazi).


We meet Norman and immediately understand that he’s “a little off”—his hair needs to be cut as it sticks out over his ears, his clothes are slightly unkempt, and his slouched posture indicates that he just isn’t quite cut out to play with “the big boys.”  Undeterred, Norman pushes ahead, trying to make that next (and perhaps only) big deal happen.  He’s awkNORMAN-POSTERward in his interactions and just doesn’t seem to pick up on social cues, making the scene just that much more uncomfortable.  But there’s a certain sweetness and charm about him conveying a sense of harmlessness.  We see Norman who appears to be stalking Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi), a lower level Israeli politician at the time,  befriend him.  Not wanting to lose this “connection,” Norman buys Eshel an expensive pair of shoes that will likely break his personal bank.  Three years pass and Eshel, now the Prime Minister, returns to NYC and remembers his shoe-buying friend.  Norman’s life will never be the same again, but neither would anyone else’s!

The story starts off with a slow pace, carefully setting up all of the background that we need to piece this engaging puzzle together.  Set in New York City, we get a glimpse into the superficiality of high-powered companies.  The story progresses using acts of a play as Norman’s life unfolds before our eyes.  While this is a drama filled with a certain amount of sad irony, it is also light-hearted and at times even whimsical.  The situations are frequently uncomfortable, but the music accompanying the scene is cheerful, almost playful, eliciting a completely opposing feeling.


By the second act, we are fully invested in Norman’s success, but always cringing because we know he will do something “a little off.”  He makes promises he can’t quite keep, but is always working people to make things happen—it’s a dominoes effect of decision-making.  Norman is involved in the local synagogue lead by Rabbi Blumenthal (Steve Buscemi) which needs money to survive.  His nephew, who wants no outward connection to his uncle, needs to be married by a rabbi.  The string theory of Norman’s life becomes increasingly tangled, keeping you on the edge of your seat in Act III.

The writing and directing of this film has a certain unique characteristic to it.  Cedar is known for incorporating symbolism into his films and “Norman” is no exception to the rule.  While I am not Jewish, I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with a woman who is qualified in this area—she will remain anonymous.  She explained that the concept of anonymity within the Jewish religion is for charity’s sake, to truly help someone, attaching no shame in acceptance.  The film’s central theme incorporates this concept, but there are blurred lines of the definition.  She also shared with me the legend of 36 just men who are responsible for preserving the world.  Could Norman be one of these men?  The symbolism runs deep, and as producer Miranda Bailey shared with me, “Joseph Cedar’s work is filled with symbolism and innuendo that even I—-  having made the film—am still discovering.  One thing that I love is that I discover something new re-watching every scene.”

Cedar showcases a unique style within the film, creating a split screen to show the characters located in different places talking to one another.  Initially, this is surprising, but then it becomes quite visually entertaining as it allows us to experience the conversation and emotions more fully.  Blending symbolism, unique filming style, and unexpected musical accompaniment gives viewers a refreshing and truly new film.

Gere portrays Norman with genius skill.  We see him as a nobody who wants to be a somebody.  With careful attention to the detail of mannerisms and body language, Gere conveys just the right level of awkwardness to give this character credibility.  He finds a way to capture your heart while we are always questioning his motives.  As he interacts with the characters who are at a higher social status than he, Gere’s delivery of his lines, while absolutely hilarious and completely exaggerated, are believable.  We all know at least one or two people just like Norman.

The entire cast simply shines in “Norman.”  Ashkenazi’s confident and big-hearted performance as Eshel is the perfect balance to Gere’s awkward and unassuming one.  Sheen, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Dan Stevens, and Buscemi create more than a well-rounded cast—they create characters that tell a beautiful story about life, its ups and downs, the coincidences that occur, and the true heart of humanity.  This could not have happened without the deft direction of Cedar.  He brings this charming drama to life for us all to enjoy.

“Norman” is a gem not often found in filmmaking today.  It creates an unusually unique and entertaining story with flare that is universal to all.  In addition, there are deeper levels of symbolism allowing you to discover something new.  You can’t ask for more than that in a film.

To read the interview with Bailey, go to FF2MEDIA.COM


The 2017 Tribeca Film Festival highlights short doc FOR FLINT

April 21st, 2017 Posted by Film Festivals, Review 0 thoughts on “The 2017 Tribeca Film Festival highlights short doc FOR FLINT”

FOR FLINT w type font

Brian Schulz tackles the Flint, Michigan water crisis in a decidedly new and uplifting way.  We all remember hearing of this preventable atrocity affecting the area’s population, particularly the elderly and the young, in 2016.”For Flint” brings us into the heart of the city, seeing that through crisis comes a sense of community—much dflintwatereeper and more important than ever thought possible.


Schulz paints a vivid picture of where Flint is as we look through the broken windows of a factory and the view the abandoned warehouses and the sign above a water fountain “Drink at your own risk.”  Not a word needs to be spoken to understand the devastation this town has undergone.  But then Schulz counteracts this depressing scenario by introducing us to  several “ordinary” citizens of Flint who are determined to make a positive difference in the future of their town.  From ex-cons to musicians and artists, the members of the community are reaching out to the younger generation and those who remained to reclaim their city.  Their powerful statements about how this tragedy came about are equalled by their strength in moving forward, armed with the empowerment of the arts and kindness.  As one young man explained, “We’ve hit the bottom.  [There’s] nowhere else to go but to the top.”

This statement is the underlying current of a new generation of hope.  Although the once vibrant neighborhoods filled with children’s voices are now hushed and vacant accompanied by a surge in crime, there are those banding together to rise above it all.  We see a variety of groups coordinating efforts to educate and stimulate the area, accentuating the positives of Flint and the people within it.  Leon, once a part of the crime and drug problem, is now a part of the solution as he reaches out to schools to educate children and encourage others like him to make a positive difference in the future.  Valorie finds the art of pottery making directly analogous to Flint.  It’s all what you make out of it and through her art and involvement, it will be positive.  And finally, Schulz introduces us to Ryan Gregory, an artist of reclaimed Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 7.17.34 PMobjects.  He’s also a social organizer, bringing together neighbors and neighborhoods through Thursday night social bike rides and “Living Room Show And Tell” painting projects.  Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 11.58.03 AM

“For Flint” beautifully portrays the meaning of community.  While the city has been hit hard, these determined and kind citizens are banding together to not just support one another, but to bring the virtues of this fine city back to the forefront.  It’s an uplifting and inspirational story as you root for this town to recover.  While it’s true that the water was poisoned and could have been prevented, this film’s focus is on the virtues of its citizens.  It’s true that their lives will never be the same again, but their resilience is unmistakable.  They are strong and they will come back…together.

I had the opportunity to talk with Schulz about making this short documentary.  Surprisingly, he had never been to Flint and had only learned of Flint’s water crisis less than a year and a half ago from then MSNBC’s news reporter Tony Dokoupil.   After hearing the report, Schulz said, “I was mad!  How could this happen?”  He decided to use his skills as a cinematographer to make a difference. He reached out to Dokoupil to begin his research and make connections in the community who opened their welcoming arms to him.  Describing himself as a “garrulous Brooklynite,” Schulz found the subjects he needed to convey the story of positivity in Flint.

Schulz’ voice was filled with optimism as he described the town, the unknown gem of the Flint Institute of the Arts, and the beauty even in the dead of winter.  He knew he could give a positive voice to the town, creating a more positive perception of Flint.  He did so much more than that.  We see the true definition of the word “community.”

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 12.00.22 PMSchulz’ film premieres on Earth Day, April 22, at the Tribeca Film Festival.  Beneath the media’s political coverage, lies on-going problems like Flint’s water and recovery that cannot be forgotten.

For more information about seeing this film at Tribeca Film Festival, go to TribecaFilmGuidetribecafilt



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