Friday, September 5, 2014

My Life Story by Mildred Pierce (the dog, not the movie) and The Week in Reviews

[I review the DVDs "The Double" and "A  Promise," the new book about famous Hollywood watering holes, "Of All the Gin Joints," and the revival of "A Chorus Line" plus I weigh in on the pizza at Serious Pie]

But First

It's Millie's birthday!

And here is her story.

My name is Mildred Pierce and today is my birthday.  Today I am six years old.  That's 42 to you humans.

I was rescued six years ago today from a life of drudgery on a ranch where I would have had to herd stuff.

When I was born in Camano Island, Washington, I was one of several and my name was Chanel. 

 
My biological parents, Monet and Joey, wanted a French theme, probably because my mother had a French name.
                   

                    Mom


                        Dad





Me - Chanel


Though I looked like a rat at birth, my parents were handsome so I had hope.
 
 
And sure enough, things started to look up.
 
 

 

 












When my adoptive parents came to get me, I was ready to go!




 



I packed my bags and got out of Podunk.  I was ready to hit the big time!
 
My parents named me Mildred Pierce, after a classic movie.  My Mom thought a dog named Mildred was funny.  I chose to go by Millie.
 
My new parents introduced me to my brother, Frederic.
 
 
He was kind of an odd duck, but hey, it takes all kinds.
 
As I settled into my new life, I learned a few things, such as going to the toilet on the floor inside is a no-no, and though Freddy gets to sleep on the bed, I don't.
 
We were soon joined by my brother, Tarquin, a piano virtuoso (and as it turns out, heavy drinker).
 
 
 
 
 
As I grew, my parents gave me many opportunities. 
 
I graduated from school with high marks in barking at intruders and walking on a leash,
 
 
 
 
but I decided that acting was in my blood. 

I was going to be an actress.
 
However, I needed some income so I thought I could model while also taking acting lessons.
 
 
I practiced my modeling skills and some opportunities came my way.
 
 


I eventually landed some acting roles.
 
 
 
I played Juliet in "Romeo and Juliet,"
 
 
 
Miss Havisham in "Great Expectations."
 
 
 
 
Hester Prynn in "The Scarlet Letter"
 
 
 
 
and the cuckoo in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."
 
 
 
 
I replaced Johnny Depp as Jackie Sparrow in a remake of "The Pirates of the Caribbean," with an all female cast,
 
 
 
and I won awards for my work as Joan Crawford in "Mommie Dearest."
 
 
Who can forget my famous line "NO MORE WIRE HANGERS!!!"

Despite my successes, like many celebrities, I have had to deal with some psychological issues over the years.
 
Thunder and firecrackers were a problem for me.
 
 
 
But after going into rehab and getting some counseling, my parents purchased  a "thunder shirt," and my outlook improved.
 
 
But now at 42, I have retired from acting.  Not many good roles for actresses in their forties these days.

I plan to live out my days looking after my aging parents, exercising my vocal chords, herding and looking after my brothers, Freddy and Tarquin.  They all need looking after.
 
Tarquin has a drinking problem.
 
 
And Freddy...well...Freddy has issues.
 
 
 
 
They all need me and it is my nature to be a caretaker. I spend most of my time these days being on guard and watching over my flock.

 
 
However, don't completely count me out.  You might see me from time to time in a cameo performance.
 

 
Happy Birthday to me!

 
 

Now let's PARTY!

 
 
Want to join me? 

And now on to

The Week in Reviews



***At The Theatre***
 
This is where I usually have "In Theatres Now," where I review a movie that is currently playing in a theatre.  However, to be completely honest, there just isn't a movie playing right now that I haven't already seen and reviewed or that I want to see.  It's that dark time before the fall season when all of the Oscar hopefuls are released. So I am going to review a classic musical I just saw that might be in a theatre near you or coming soon.
 
 A Chorus Line
Now playing at the Fifth Avenue Theatre, Seattle September 3-28

 

This 1975 musical pays homage to the Broadway dancers in the dance chorus of musicals.  Originally conceived, choreographed and directed by the brilliant Michael Bennett, it was only the fifth musical to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
 
The show opens on an empty stage as dancers are put their paces to audition for a Broadway show.  The song "I Hope I Get It" echoes their ambition and need for this job.  As the group is whittled down to 17, the chosen ones line up and tell their stories.  Each has a personal story to tell about how and why they became a dancer.  "At the Ballet" and "Tits and Ass" are stand-out as well as "What I Did For Love" when the dancers are asked what they will do when they can no longer dance. And they aren't talking about lovers. The curtain call contains the famous dance number "One."
 


   
Bennett was himself a dancer who started out playing Baby John in "West Side Story" when he was only a teenager.  After two seasons as a dancer on "Hullabaloo" his opportunity to choreograph two Broadway shows came along.  Though they were not successful, he met Marvin Hamlisch, who eventually wrote the music for "A Chorus Line."  As his career grew, Bennett had longed to do a musical about dancers and the difficult and often humiliating road they have to travel to get professional work.  He invited a number of dancers to some late-night talk sessions where they opened up about their lives and careers.  Bennett recorded hours and hours of these talks and from those "A Chorus Line" was born.  It was a smash hit on Broadway and by the time it closed, was the longest-running musical in New York theater history.  Bennett went on to have another hit with "Dreamgirls," but died in 1987 from AIDS-related lymphoma at the age of 44.

It's clear why it took so long for the movie version of this musical to get made and why the movie failed.  This show requires the intimacy that a live audience brings.  It's just each character answering the questions from a voice coming out of a dark theatre, each telling his or her story.  No glitz, no glamour, just those characters talking to you out there in the audience.  It's brilliant theatre.

My only criticism of the show would be that there are so many references that meant something in 1975, but perhaps not to show-goers these days.  It pains me to say it, but I don't think modern audiences remember Gwen Verdon and Cyd Charisse anymore (icons in the history of dance and cinema).  I don't see that updating some of the references to dates and movie stars and dancers of the past would hurt the show and bring it up into the 21st century. (But if you do remember them and lament that the greats of the Golden Age of Hollywood have been forgotten, catch my blog post next Friday). 

That said, this is a classic show that still holds up today, because no matter what century we are in, the difficult life of a dancer remains the same.  Dancers must do things the body is not meant to do. 

Look at this - the winner of Australia's "So You Think You Can Dance."  Mind-blowing.





"A Chorus Line" captures what many of the dancers on "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Dance Moms" want.  A Broadway show.  Do they really know what they are getting into?  Do they have what it takes?  I guess it doesn't matter because they are doing it for the "love" of dance.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Even if you have seen the film, if this show comes to a theatre near you, it's a must see.
 
 
 

***DVDS***
You Might Have Missed
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)
 

A Promise (2013)
 
 
A story of repressed love in 1917 Germany. 
 
Herr Hoffmeister (Alan Rickman), a German steel tycoon, hires young Friedrich (Richard Madden, who you may recognize from "Game of Thrones") as his assistant and Friedrich soon becomes invaluable to him.  So much so, that when Herr Hoffmeister takes ill, he asks Friedrich to move into his mansion.  Lotte (Rebecca Hall) is Herr Hoffmeister's much younger wife and you know what that means. When Friedrich is sent to Mexico to start operations there, they promise to meet again, neither knowing how long that might be.

This film is a journey of restrained sexuality, and it's a journey not everyone might want to take with these characters.  But the cinematography is gorgeous and the mood is sensuous.

This is the first English-language film for French director, Patrice Leconte ("Monsieur Hire," "Ridicule," "Man on a Train").

As you probably have noticed from past reviews, I am a huge Rebecca Hall fan, and now I am also a huge fan of the nape of her neck which plays a huge role here as Friedrich moons over Lotte.  He also acts out in other creepy ways, such as sniffing the piano keys after Lotte has played the piano.  Rickman is always fun to watch, but Madden is a bit stiff, though a handsome suitor for Lotte's affections.

There is a slow mo sensuality about this film that will get to you (for good or ill), and there is a "promise" of a big finish. If you can hang on, you will get it.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I can't promise you will like this film (most of the critics did not).  I did, but maybe that's because now that I am retired, I like things that are in slow mo.



The Double (2013)
 
 
A timid, insecure, nebishy clerk in a unenviable job in a Kafka-esque world gets a shock when a new co-worker arrives who is not only his exact physical double but also everything he isn't- loud, confident and charismatic.
 
Simon James (Jesse Eisenberg) lives in a drab, nightmarish world that could be the past (his ill-fitting suit looks like what David Byrne wore when he was with the Talking Heads and the technology in the office is retro) or the future (post-apocalyptic?).  He is so unmemorable his boss (Wallace Shawn) doesn't remember his name and the security guard at the company where he works never recognizes him.  But those are small things until his "double" appears, James Simon, and everyone loves James. No one seems to notice that they both look exactly alike. When James starts taking over Simon's life, Simon fights to reclaim his identity.

Mia Wasikowska plays Hannah, the object of both Simon's affections.
 
This film explores the duality of the human spirit:  who we are to the world and who we are inside and want to be.  When you are a cog in a wheel, you can be replaced by anyone - "doubled." Or something like that.  This film is not an easy one.
 
The plot of this film parallels another earlier but recent film, "The Enemy," starring Jake Gyllanhaal, but "The Double" has more humor.  However, since this is based on a Dostoevsky story, I would venture "The Enemy" borrowed more from this than the other way around.
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...Not really my cup of tea, but if you liked movies like "The Trial," Terry Gilliam films or you just like weird movies that make you think, then you might like this.
 
 

***Book of the Week***
 
 

"Of All the Gin Joints" - Stumbling Through Hollywood History by Mark Bailey (2014)
 
 
Anecdotes, history and quotes galore about the hotels and drinking establishments of Hollywood.

This is a unique travel memoir - a tour of the famous restaurants and watering holes of Hollywood with recipes for the cocktails they inspired sprinkled with anecdotes about the famous drunks who drank them from the silent era to the 1960's. We tour Musso & Frank (famous for its bone dry martini - stirred, not shaken), The Brown Derby (where the Cobb Salad was invented), Trader Vic's (said to be the birthplace of the Mai Tai and if you haven't had their Scorpion Bowl, you haven't lived) and John Wayne was supposedly one of the first drinkers to try a Margarita.  The stories accompanying the recipes range from the well known such as Elizabeth Taylor loved the chili at Chasen's so much that she had it flown over to Italy while she was filming "Cleopatra. "
 
But there are many lesser known stories:  The Zombie was invented at Don the Beachcomber and was so potent the restaurant imposed a two-Zombie limit. 
 
"The Missionary's Downfall" was also invented there.
 
1 oz. light rum                                 1/4 c diced pineapple
1/2 oz. Peach brandy                        1/4 c mint leaves
1 oz. Honey Mix*                              1/4 c crushed ice
1/2 oz. fresh lime juice                      1 mint sprig
 
Put all of the ingredients in a blender and blend at highest speed for 15-30 seconds.  Pour into a goblet or a Collins glass.
 
*Honey mix:  same as simple syrup with 1 part honey to 1 part water 
 
John Travolta, at the height of his "Saturday Night Fever" fame went to Dan Tana's restaurant without a reservation.  When told it would be two hours before he could be accommodated, he said, "Don't you know who I am?" to which the maître d' allegedly replied, "Well, for you, Mr. Travolta, it will be three."        
 
Another story involves the currently immensely popular Moscow Mule. The bartender at the Cock 'n Bull Pub found himself saddled with too much vodka and ginger beer that would go bad if he didn't use it so he put the two together and the Moscow Mule was born.
 
Ava Gardner didn't like the taste of alcohol, but that didn't stop her because she DID enjoy being drunk.  She wanted to get there as fast as possible so she came up with "Mommy's Little Mixture."  "Dump every type of liquor you can find into a jug or pitcher or punch bowl and suck it down."
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...If you enjoy food, drink, humorous celebrity anecdotes and Hollywood history , you will love this book.
(this is an early review. Publication date:  September 30th)


 
***Restaurant of the Week***


Serious Pie


If you love interesting, thin crust craft pizzas, this is for you.

I have now tried all of Tom Douglas' Seattle restaurants and like the others, this one did not disappoint.

Though I didn't enjoy my Yukon Gold potato with rosemary pizza as much as I had hoped, the fennel sausage pizza was to die for.  Also enjoyed the marinated lacinato kale salad with calabrian chilis and pine nuts.  Other pizza choices include Buffalo Mozzarella with red sauce and basil and the famous Penn Cove Clam with pancetta pizza, which I will try next time.

Word to the wise, the Virginia location (316 Virginia, next to the Dahlia Lounge) is small and always crowded.  No reservations so be prepared to wait unless you get there at an unfashionable time for lunch such as after 2:30 (but beware of weekday Happy Hour from 3-5pm) or late at night (Serious Pie is open 11am-11pm).  There is also a South Lake Union location that is bigger but you would have to fight off the Amazon folks, so it's probably a toss up).

Rosy the  Reviewer says...Pizza worth waiting for.
 
 

That's it for this week!



Thanks for reading!

 See you Tuesday


for


"What's Good About the End of Summer"





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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.



Note:  Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). 

Here is a quick link to get to all of them.  Choose the film you are interested in and then scroll down the list of reviewers to find "Rosy the Reviewer."
 

Or you can go directly to IMDB.  

Find the page for the movie, click on "Explore More" on the right side panel and then scroll down to "External Reviews."  Look for "Rosy the Reviewer" on the list. Or if you are using a mobile device, look for "Critics Reviews." Click on that and you will find me alphabetically under "Rosy the Reviewer."

 



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