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Can't decide what to watch?FollowTheThread.
Each week Elma and I give you 5 opinionated but culturally relevant choices, based on our experience of curating smart sticky stuff for Ovation, Trio, Bravo, A&E, Sundance, Fuse, and others.
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J.K. Rowling, like George Lucas before her, and Tolkien before him, and Mary Shelley before them all, plunged her hand into the dank bog of Jungian archetypes and pulled out a ring of narrative gold.

Harry is the Beowulf of our time – a fact that clicked into place for us last week when in the wake of the Paris attacks, one mother related how she had explained ISIS to her kids as “Voldemort”.

And out of the thousand faces, little Daniel Radcliffe, before he even knew what was happening, was chosen to don the mask of the Hero.  And when that ended, and he was dropped back on earth, a normal mortal walking around with the face of a hero

No wonder he got drunk a lot after the Potter series ended.

Post-Potter, Radcliffe has worked hard to prove that he is more than just lucky.  Maybe a little too hard.


Victor Frankenstein

The critics are roundly savaging this movie – and just as universally praising the yeomanlike efforts of the two stars to save it.  James McAvoy plays Victor and Radcliffe plays a de-humped Igor.

If what they were aiming for was Guignol meets campy romp, evidently they haven’t gotten the alchemy quite right – despite references to the many many predecessors.  The trailer even resorts to the “Fronkenshteen” gag from the Mel Brooks version.

We’ll be among the droves who are staying away from this over the weekend.  Sounds like something to watch with the kids next summer.




My Boy Jack 2
MY BOY JACK (2007)

If there has been any fault in Radcliffe’s efforts to expand his brand, it’s been an excess of earnestness.

In 2007, Radcliffe was 18 and thinking about a post-Potter career.  He’d already done a well-reviewed Equus revival onstage (nude & all).  And he’d played a sex-crazed spoof on himself in Extras.

But then he took two steps backwards.

The first was December Boys, an Australian orphans-coming-of-age movie which Variety notoriously tagged as “Harry Potter Gets Laid”.  The movie was universally savaged – but nobody really panned Radcliffe’s acting.  It was a pattern that would repeat itself.

The second was a TV movie My Boy Jack, an adaptation by David Haig (3 Weddings….) of his stage play about Rudyard Kipling’s son John, who marched off to WWI and ended up… well,  like most of the boys who marched off to that war.

It played in the UK to a moderate audience on Remembrance Day, and premiered over here on the revamped Masterpiece Theater in early 2008.  Much had been maed by PBS of Masterpiece going for a younger demo – loyalists were relieved when, with the exception of the star casting, the piece was pretty much business as usual: period, handsomely shot, and demonstrably serious.

If you’re in the mood, My Boy Jack is moving.  The elder Kipling, a macho patriot, uses his considerable influence to get his (fatally) myopic son a commission.  Haig plays Rudyard, Kim Cattrall plays the mother and a pre-Education Carey Mulligan plays Jack’s sister.

Two things are jarring. Jack’s myopia means he wears wire rim glasses, which means that he looks like Harry Potter with a mustache.  The second is the casting of (and rightly or wrongly, we blame PBS) of Cattrall as the mother.  She straddles an uneasy fence between frumpy and bodacious.  You keep waiting for her to drop her accent and purr something inappropriate in her Sex In The City cougar voice.

Here in the U.S. this one is only available on DVD:

Amazon Netflix DVD


Woman In Black

Radcliffe’s first post-Potter feature is emblematic of our OK/meh dichotomy toward his projects that we’ve seen in the last 3 years: the movie is a good and he puts himself in the service of the movie — to a fault.  His performance is the thoughtful and well-crafted and opposite of a star turn.

By some accounts – and we believe them — he’s the wealthiest young performer in the U.K.  But as the dutiful son of a casting director and a publicist, he never takes anything for granted and staunchly refuses to be one of THOSE young actors.

The problem for us, is that it seems a little unnatural.  Half the time we go to movies looking for a dash of the narcissistic excess that Radcliffe so studiously avoids.  Our grown-up lives are plenty restrained and responsible.  We wouldn’t mind at all seeing a little delicious excess from a young, fabulously wealthy and lucky star.

But maybe that’s just not Radcliffe.  Maybe he is showing us his most authentic self.  But we suspect there’s some little chunk of Dionysian somewhere in his soul.

Is The Woman in Black worth watching?  Yes, as a well-crafted entertainment.  But we found it most fascinating as an episode in the young star’s ongoing personal drama.

Amazon Google Play Vudu iTunes




Alan Ginsberg

The best of the recent-year “Beat” movies, and again, a creditable performance from Radcliffe, who, as a teenage Alan Ginsberg, has to deliver a nebbishy Jewish kid from Jersey who is also gay.

And he pulls it off, even the sex scenes, and ably holds the center of the drama, even though he’s upstaged by the flashier character of Lucien Carr, played by Dane Dehann.  Forgive us, but it felt a little like Harry getting it on with Malfoy.

If you like The Beats at all (and who doesn’t) it’s worth seeing, but will leave you a little hungry.

iTunes Vudu Google Play Amazon


WHAT IF (2014)

This is an abysmally overcute and clichéd film made bearable by a handful of superb performances – including Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Adam Driver and Mackenzie Davis.

It’s impossible to watch it without being annoyed by the innumerable opportunities the director missed to make this better.  With a little skill and perspective it could have been a solid rom-com.

And it’s equally impossible to watch it without being charmed to no small degree by Radcliffe, Kazan, et al.

We include it here, because this is the only one of Radcliffe’s post-Potter performances (we haven’t seen him on the stage) that really kind of delighted us.  Unburdened of the weight of being serious in any way, Daniel was freed to just be a charming and witty version of himself, which turns out to be remarkably likeable and real.

Should you bother to watch it?  If you liked 100 Days of Summer and are in the mood for an extended-form sitcom, the answer might just be yeah, why not?

Amazon iTunes Vudu Google Play


HORNS (2014)

A not-exactly-horror metaphysical mess dotted with interesting bits.  And like What If, Radcliffe manages to make it much more cohesive than it would have been otherwise.

So two interesting things here.  First — a core DR phenomenon: the worse the film, the better he looks. The better the film, the more he disappears into the fabric of the movie.  Is he taking more risks as time goes by…? Or that he’s getting offered worse roles…?

Second, this is a seriously weird film, with a wide, dark, almost literally Dionysian streak.  It’s like Radcliffe (who is still only 26, for God’s sakes) is looking for a genre piece to work out the deeper mythiness of his cultural archetype.  As an actor, as a person, as a cultural figure, he’s saddled with a heroic darkness that he can’t quite own, but can’t ignore either.

Anyhow, this one is worth watching as the kind of audacious mess that is successful in going places others haven’t.

Google Play Vudu iTunes Amazon



Here at The Thread, we always try not to burden our readers with the latterday curse of too much choice.  But since it’s a long weekend, two more quickies:

david copperfield In David Copperfield (1999), you get to see the ineffably cute little Daniel who would soon score one of the plummiest child star roles ever created. With Bob Hoskins, Emilia Fox, Maggie Smith and Ian McKellan.

Amazon iTunes Vudu

Young Doctor's Notebook And A Young Doctor’s Notebook (2012) is a somewhat shaggy low-budget TV piece that features Radcliffe and John Hamm in an adaptation of a lesser-known work by the cult Russian author Bulgakov.  Again, the uneasy mixture of darkness and humor that has become the hallmark of this stage of his career.  Can this mean that somewhere in the world a Master and Margarita is in the works?

AmazoniTunesGoogle PlayVudu






Watch it!


Can't decide what to watch?FollowTheThread.
Each week Elma and I give you 5 opinionated but culturally relevant choices, based on our experience of curating smart sticky stuff for Ovation, Trio, Bravo, A&E, Sundance, Fuse, and others.
Watch it!

Latest posts by Kris (see all)


9 out of 10 kids’ movies have a common theme: “Just be yourself”.

But what do you tell your kid to do if her truest self is a racist anti-Semite; a flag-waving expatriate bisexual with misogynistic tendencies who friends describe as “mean, hard, cruel, unlovable, unloving”?

We’re talking here about Patricia Highsmith, author of Strangers on a Train, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and The Price of Salt – source of Todd Haynes’ new drama Carol.

We admire her immensely: for her ability to ignore what other people thought; for drinking like a fish; for sleeping with people of at least 3 distinct sexual persuasions; and for once attending a swank dinner party with a large handbag full of cabbage and snails.

You’ve gotta admit — the bitch had balls.  And even though it’s not a life we ourselves would want to live (or dare to) – she was very much herself in a world and time that was pointedly unfriendly to that.

Which, come to think of it, has been a consistent thread through Haynes’ movies – amazing he didn’t get to her earlier.



Carol two-shot
CAROL (2015)

Here at The Thread we’re always drawn to the outsider POV as a stiff tonic against complacency — and over the years Todd Haynes has been a reliable source.

There’s a fascinating piece about A Grain of Salt in the NYTimes this week.  As Highsmith started the book, she wrote in her diary “Oh, I shall be myself then!”

Unsurprisingly, that was far, far from what happened.  Telling this thinly veiled personal story didn’t “fix” Highsmith’s profound predicament.

But if there is a God in heaven (doubtful, as she was an atheist too, natch) we hope that she’s looking down and taking solace in the fact that her story of a lesbian affair that ends well has finally made it to the screen.  With no less than Cate Blanchett playing the wealthy older woman and Rooney Mara as the Highsmith stand-in in the shopgirl role.




Safe hospital
SAFE (1995)

Julianne Moore is not quite Haynes’ muse, but she was the star this, his first non-gay-themed film; his biggest mainstream success (Far From Heaven); and it was announced this week that she will work with him again on an upcoming adaptation of a children’s book Wonderstruck (from The Invention of Hugo Cabret author Brian Selznick).

Connections, both intentional and happenstance, abound.  Safe was Haynes’ first film about what would become a thematic obsession – the housewife trapped in a brutally consumeristic and judgmental suburban milieu.  And, icing on the cupcake, the character is also named Carol.

With classic bone structure and revolutionary spirit, outward fragility and inner oak, Moore is a perfect heroine for Haynes.  Safe is a house of mirrors – trapped in a suffocating world, Carol becomes increasingly allergic to her environment; but we never know for sure whether her allergy is literal or metaphorical, biological or psychosomatic.  Are her doctors blocked by their own dogma, or right in thinking that her condition is a modern form of female hysteria?

Either way, they are unable to help her, and she escapes to an austere desert cult, safeguarded from modern pathogens but even more rigidly controlled than the suburban world she left behind.

NOTE: Safe seems to be one of those movies that is oddly absent from streaming services, at least for the moment.  You can only get it on DVD, by buying or subscribing to Netflix DVD.
Why did we list it, then?  Well, for better or worse, we make our picks before we research availability.

Amazon Criterion Collection Netflix DVD


Heavenly Creatures

While Todd Haynes was incubating his assault on suburbia in New York, in New Zealand screenwriter Fran Walsh and her splatter-film-director husband, Peter Jackson were racing to bring the story of the notorious Parker-Hulme murders to the screen.

Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme were teenage friends who forty years earlier had murdered Parker’s mother when their parents tried to separate them.  Rather than focusing on the more lurid details of the case, Walsh and Jackson decided to tell the story of the two outcast girls’ friendship, including the fantasy worlds that they created and inhabited together, and drawing heavily from Pauline’s diaries.  The screenplay they wrote would be nominated for an Oscar.

Heavenly Creatures was a huge departure for the two, who had previously made horror comedies.  But within the fantasy sequences were seeds of their later magnum opus, the Tolkien cycle.

The fantasy sequences were essential to the film, but what sticks for us is the friendship between the girls.  Before it goes so brutally wrong, their connection allows them to become fully alive in a way that neither could have on her own.

The casting is brilliant – Juliet was British, so Jackson cast in London, discovering 18-year-old Kate Winslet.  Who, years later, would play Mildred Pierce in Todd Haynes HBO remake.  For Pauline, Jackson searched schools across New Zealand for a Pauline look-alike who could also act, before finally discovering 16-year-old Melanie Lynskey.

Google Play  Amazon iTunes  Vudu



Ripley -- Damon, Law, Paltrow

 And what do you tell your kid if he’s a psychopath?  Could tell him/her to become a CEO, as per Jon Ronson’s amusing and enlightening TED Talk.

Or you could suggest the route of Patricia Highsmith’s most famous creation, portrayed by Matt Damon in Anthony Minghella’s film.  Re: Damon, we’ll quote Mark Monahan from The Telegraph: “borderline handsome, sexually ambiguous, nerdy, troubled, charming, plausible, quick-thinking and horribly well-scrubbed.” Right on.

You find yourself rooting for him, despite yourself.  In his shoes, you’d kill the guy too.  (Ooops, did we say that?  Highsmith must be rubbing off on us.)

At the time it was released, reviewers were violently split over this one, some booing, some oohing.  We weren’t completely sold ourselves, but it’s as gorgeous as a Bond film, and the rest of the cast is spot on (Paltrow, Law, Hoffman, Blanchett).  It’s time to revisit it – we’re thinking this time it’ll be thumb firmly up.

Vudu Amazon Google Play iTunes




Delon Ripley

What a kitsch-ily overthetop title.  Aka Full Sun, Blazing SunLust for Evil and Talented Mr. Ripley.  We prefer the original French: Plein Soleil.

This is one of the reasons critics were so split over the Minghella version: a goodly chunk of them preferred this one and saw the 1999 film as a flaccid imitation.  Alain Delon plays Tom Ripley – his first big role.  By all accounts, he’s a ripping Ripley – and a rippling one too.  They say it’s Delon at his most gorgeous.

On the downside, French eminence René Clément wimped out on the ending — the police are on their way to get Ripley, who gets away scot-free in the book.  Even Highsmith herself, who liked most of the film, called him on it.

We haven’t seen it yet, but there’s a Criterion Collection restored version.  Maybe we’ll make it a Saturday night double feature with the 1999 version.

Amazon iTunes Google Play hulu


The Kids Are All Right

With the exception of Julianne Moore, this warm-hearted comedy drama may seem like a disconnect here – and it is, and it’s intentional.

With her unique combination of genes and upbringing, Patricia Highsmith probably would have been a messed-up creative type in any era.

But being a sexual rhombus in a square hole era certainly didn’t help.  How different would Highsmith’s life have been if her Carol hadn’t fled aghast when A Grain of Salt came out?

Yes, we doubt that even if Highsmith had lived today she would have turned out as eminently well-adjusted as any of the characters in The Kids Are Alright.  If you actually know anybody who is, please contact us immediately.  Nobody we know is.

But could this world — with two major Hollywood actresses playing the heads of an eminently normal family – be something like what she imagined when she wrote that line in her diary, “Oh, I shall be myself then!”?

We know, we know — it’s still Hollywood, and we’re not there yet.  But maybe instead of back-to-back sociopaths this weekend, we’ll treat ourselves to a mental vacation in a sparkling imaginary world where the kids are all right.   Amazon YouTube iTunes Google Play Vudu