Friday, January 31, 2014

Lifetime Movies: A Baby Boomer's Appreciation and The Week in Reviews

[Where I review "Nebraska" and DVDs "Blue Jasmine," "Fruitvale Station," 20 Feet From Stardom" and "In a World" along with the "Book of the Week" and the Judy Collins concert.]

But first


Lifetime Movies: A Baby Boomer's Appreciation


Over the years, I have been known to dabble in the occasional Lifetime Movie.

OK, dabble isn't quite the right word.  They are actually one of my guilty pleasures (and I have many).

I know what you are thinking.  You have probably written them off as fluff at best and a waste of time at worst, but I am here to disabuse you of that notion.

There is nothing to be guilty about!

Yes, many of the movies are ground out in what I have come to see as a Canadian repertory machine, but there are some real gems amongst them. 

If you like campy, there is campy.  If you like women in jeopardy, you got it.  If you like, "kidnap my daughter, and I will hunt you down," check. "Save me from my addiction?"  Yep.  And there are some good true-life biopics, too.

Here are the reasons why I like them:

1. They feature strong women triumphing over adversity. 
I don't like movies that don't have women in them.
 
Films with strong women characters are under represented in general. Sweden, a most forward thinking country, has just instituted a rating system (The Bechdel test) that tests and rates films as to gender bias, and for a good rating the film must have at least two named women and those women must talk about something other than men. Lifetime movies would pass that test!  The women in Lifetime movies not only do more than talk about men, they are usually kicking their butts!

2. Comforting Titles and Plot Devices.
It's always comforting to know what to expect. 

In the case of Lifetime Movies, if the title begins with the word "Perfect," as in "Perfect Teacher," "Perfect Roommate," or "Perfect Husband," you know they are going to be anything but. 

Likewise, you can bet that the movie will start out with something brutal, alarming or tantalizing and then go to a "Three Years Earlier" or "Three Years Later" plot exposition.  And then it will usually end with the bad guy caught, the ghost debunked or the evil doer dead, and our heroine will drive off unharmed thinking she is rid of the problem... and then the last frame will show something that makes us think...OR IS SHE?
All very comforting stuff.

3. They employ Canadian actors.
I love Canadians, so happy that Canadian actors are getting work.

Almost all of the Lifetime movies these days are filmed in Vancouver or Toronto, Canada, and its environs.  They also seem to use the same actors, so it is sort of a repertory company.  I have come to recognize many of them.  It's fun to see an actor star in one film and then play a supporting role in another.  I watch so many Lifetime movies, they are almost like old friends.

4. It's fun to spot the Canadian locations.
The librarian in me really enjoys busting them for trying to substitute Vancouver, BC for San Francisco or Seattle or Toronto for New York City. They sometimes fluff their continuity issues. 

I mean...really one time when they were supposed to be in San Francisco, I noticed an on-ramp sign pointing to Whistler (B.C)!  When the film was supposed to be set in Salem, Oregon, I was able to see a road sign with an unusual French name, so just for the fun of it, I looked up the name and it was in Kowloon, B.C.  I know, it's nerdy, but it's fun.  And it doesn't take any research to know they are in Canada when a character walks into the local Visions Youth CENTRE. 

Vancouver has become the de facto location for Seattle and San Francisco locations, because I believe it's cheaper and there are incentives to film there.  And as I said, many of the movies are filmed in Canada with Canadian actors and then sold to Lifetime.

5. There is usually a nice healthy moral or lesson to be learned.
The bad guy gets his, the addiction is overcome or we learn Mother was right!

6.  And they can be downright (and sometimes unintentionally) fun!


So let me serve as your personal guide to the best (and, sometimes, most hilarious)
Lifetime Movies.


Here then is a list of some of my favorites from someone who has had a "lifetime" of experience watching this genre:

(NOTE: Titles often vary for different markets).



Killer Reality (2013)



This one is brilliant. 
Imagine "The Bachelor," but the girls get their champagne glass filled instead of a rose, and they also get killed off one by one. It is unintentionally hilarious (I think it's unintentional, anyway) with lines like "You signed a full disclosure giving us carte blanche to subject you to whatever emotional distress we want" and while in Mexico, one of the Mexican cameramen says about the reality show, "You Americans really watch this stuff?  It makes our Mexican novelas look like Shakespeare."

Moral: There are consequences for going on "The Bachelor."





Sexting in Suburbia (AKA Shattered Silence) (2012)


A teen commits suicide after her sexting pics are made public (This one is actually quite good).

Moral:  Keep your nude pics to yourself.





Haunting of Sorority Row (2007)



A former (dead) sorority sister haunts the sorority to take revenge. 

I wonder if Leighton Meester is regretting this one.

Moral:  Maybe pledging a sorority isn't such a good idea.





Road Rage (1999)



The title tells it all.

Moral: You know that sign on the back of some trucks that says, "How's my driving?" and gives you a number to call if the driver isn't doing a good job of driving?  Don't.




Terror in the Family (1996)



A teenage Hilary Swank terrorizes her family - the usual teen stuff.  Every dysfunctional family cliché is here.

Moral:  This is what happens when you try to be your child's friend.




Crimes of Silence: She Woke Up Pregnant  (1996)




The title tells it all.

Moral:  Yet another reason to fear your dentist!




A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story (1992)


Biopic of Betty Broderick who murdered her husband and his mistress.  Meredith Baxter was a fixture on Lifetime movies for awhile.

Moral:  Don't marry a psycho.


All time greatest titles ever!
(some of these are not yet available on DVD but look for them)!

My Stepson, My Lover (1997)
You can figure this one outHuge ick factor.

Deadly Spa (2013)
A mother and daughter go to a spa only to discover they can't leave! 
So much for mother/daughter trips. Geez, I just wanted a facial!

Killer Hair (2009)
Murder in a hair salon. 
Who knew hair could kill?

Honeymoon with Mom (2006)
What happens when you get left at the altar? - - Mom!

I Me Wed (2007)
Tired of being asked when she is going to get married, our heroine decides to marry herself (I can't even make this stuff up)!

Forever 16 (2013
Why forever 16? 
Because she's a vampire, silly.
A teenage vampire has to keep changing schools to keep her true identity hidden.  The scenes of her drinking blood in the girls' restroom between classes is classic!

Coed Call Girl (1996)
Tori Spelling stars as the Coed. 
She looks as much like a coed as I do.
Title is self explanatory. 

Here is a bit of a tease, literally.  Priceless.






And, drum roll please, my all-time favorite Lifetime movie title ever:


Mother May I Sleep With Danger?
Laurel (Tori Spelling again) has an abusive boyfriend and her mother must save her.

If my daughter had asked me that I would have said, "Who?  What? Absolutely not! No, no and no and don't ask me again! And by the way, why are you talking like that?  Sleep with 'danger?'  Who's "Danger?"

So I hope I have shed some light on the Lifetime movie phenomenon and perhaps taken some of the shame away from indulging.  Let us not judge lest we be judged!  Now I have to get back to Lifetime's latest "Lizzie Borden Took an Axe."

(Lifetime movies are now coming out on DVD, available via Amazon Instant Video, on the Lifetime website or sometimes available in full on YouTube).

Share your favorite Lifetime Movie moment --
If you dare!



***In Theatres Now***


Affecting tale of a son taking his elderly Dad on a road trip to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect his imagined winnings from a Publisher's Clearing House-like contest.
Here is another dysfunctional family similar to the family in "August: Osage County," which I reviewed in my Academy Awards blog a few weeks ago, but this is a much sweeter tale. 
In the hands of director Alexander Payne ("The Descendants," "Sideways"), it captures the redemptive power of a son's love.  Children often take their parents at face value and do not know about the experiences that formed them. We may turn into curmudgeons but there is usually a reason why.

The black and white photography captures the bleakness of some Midwestern small towns that have been abandoned by the young and the bleakness of aging.  The film is nominated for a Best Picture Oscar as are Bruce Dern and June Squib, an 80+ actress who is finally getting the recognition she deserves, who play the aging husband and wife.  Nominated for Best Original Screenplay is our own local screenwriter, Bob Nelson, who was one of the original cast members of Seattle's late night TV show, "Almost Live," Seattle's version of Saturday Night Live which played from 1984-1999.
Rosy the Reviewer says...Beautiful little film that might be depressing to those of us who see a nursing home in our future.  Go on a road trip with your kids first!




***DVDS***
You Might Have Missed
And Some You Should Be Glad You Did
(I see the bad ones so you don't have to)
Blue Jasmine (2013)
A story reminiscent of the Bernie Madoff scandal, a once wealthy and snobby woman must seek help with her blue collar sister. 
Cate Blanchett gives a stunning and funny performance as a woman grappling with loss and mental illness.
Rosy  the Reviewer says...No matter what you think of Woody Allen's personal life, you can't fault his brilliance as a writer and director.
Cate gives a great performance, but I am still rooting for Meryl ("August: Osage County") to win Best Actress.
A day in the life of Oscar Grant, the day before he was gunned down in an infamous true incident on a BART station platform in Oakland, CA, New Year's Day, 2009.
Michael B. Jordan gives a stunning performance made all of the more poignant as we know he is living out Grant's last day on earth.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Absolutely gut-wrenching, but a must-see.




20 Feet from Stardom (2013)




Documentary about our most famous back-up singers and the road they traveled, featuring Darlene Love and Merry Clayton.

Ever wonder who those singers are doing the "oooh" and "la la la" parts behind your favorite bands?  Well, here they are telling us what it's like to be super talented, but forever upstaged by singers luckier than they were.  Darlene Love fronted The Blossoms who toured with the Beatles when I saw them in 1964.  She was exploited by Phil Spector.  Merry Clayton is the voice singing with Mick Jagger on "Gimme Shelter" and many, many other songs. Well deserved nomination in the Best Documentary category for an Academy Award.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you love music, you will love this. 





In a World (2013)



A glimpse into the male dominated world of movie trailer voice overs.

Can our heroine break into this male dominated world?  Lake Bell wrote, directed and stars.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a fun glimpse into a world most of us know little about.  Lake Bell is someone to watch!



***In Concert***


Judy Collins


We had the pleasure of seeing Judy Collins perform at the Edmonds Center for the Arts

I have been a lifelong fan, and it was wonderful seeing her in this small venue.  She came out all in white - white gown, white hair and sang like an angel.  She paid tribute to Pete Seeger, who was a huge influence on her (we all sang "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?) and who recently died (she was at his bedside).

During the course of the evening, Judy shared career and family anecdotes (she grew up in a musical family with a blind father).  She was warm and carried herself with the ease of someone who has mastered her craft.

Only disappointment was that she didn't sing "Who Knows Where the Time Goes" and "Send in the Clowns."

Rosy the Reviewer says...A beautiful, shining evening.  Upcoming concerts will be in Arizona and Wisconsin.  See her if you can.  You won't be disappointed.






***Book of the Week***


Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson by Jeff Guinn (2013)


Detailed biography of an evil master mind.

I read biographies and true crime, because I am interested in how people get to where they get.  In Manson's case, his unhealthy home life doesn't really explain him. His need to be somebody and lack of empathy for others screams sociopath or worse and led him into an early life of crime culminating in the horrific Manson Murders.  

This picture that appeared in the newspaper upon his capture scared the crap out of the entire country.





I moved to California in 1970 and was already scared of the Zodiac killer and earthquakes so then this. It was a crazy time.

Guinn sets Manson's story in the context of the times.  An unsettling subject,  but wonderfully written.

Rosy the Reviewer says...absolutely riveting look into, not only the mind of a killer, but into the times in which he was able to perpetrate his evil.

That's it for this week. 
See you Tuesday.
Thanks for reading!
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Check your local library for DVDs and book mentioned.



Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Word a Day Project

In my ever burgeoning quest to conquer the lurking demons of retirement (boredom, social isolation, time wasting, getting fat, etc.), I have added improving my vocabulary to the list of other projects and activities I have begun, such as getting the wine-guzzling poodle into rehab, learning how to twerk, not wearing my pajamas all day and early happy hours.

I have always enjoyed using the English language properly and improving my vocabulary.  I also have particular pet peeves about grammar and the use of certain words, for example "lay" and "lie."  You LAY an object down, you LIE yourself down.  For example, you LAY an egg on the counter, but you do NOT go lay down (yourself).  So you would not teach your dog to LAY down, you teach your dog to LIE down.  Anyway, I could rant about that forever, but I won't.

Let's get to the vocabulary issue.

To get myself started, I bought one of those little desk calendars with a word for each day. 



Every day, I go to my desk and rip off the page from the day before to behold my new word.  Once I have beheld it and digested it, I then try to form a sentence using the new word, applying it to my current life, because what is the point of this if I am not actually going to use the word to amaze my friends with my incredible vocabulary? 

What is really cool about this little calendar is the additional information about the origins of the word provided on the back of each sheet e.g. I knew what the word "cobalt" meant, but I didn't know it drew its name from German folklore and denoted a usually helpful household elf, which made me think of Hubby. 

Anyway, later it was applied to a variety of less helpful goblins inhabiting the fields and mountains which in turn was applied by German miners to the ores containing cobalt which they considered worthless thinking the mountain goblins had spoiled the silver ores.  TMI?

I must brag that I knew many of the daily words already, but here are some of the ones I have learned since the beginning of the year with an accompanying sentence I have devised in order to help me use the new word.

Vulnerary
   def: used for or useful in healing wounds.

"Wine is a vulnerary."  (You can have mental wounds!)



Thole
   def: endure
  
"I was tholing the baseball game so as to not spoil Hubby's fun (a little vulnerary wine helped)."



Vituperate
   def: to abuse or censure severely or abusively; to use harsh condemnatory language.

"I had to vituperate the wine-guzzling poodle when he staggered down the stairs and became drunkenly abusive."

 
 


Galley-west
   def: into destruction or confusion

"I was knocked galley-west when my Macy's bill arrived."
(I shouldn't have bought those gold high top platform sneakers).





Habiliment
   def: Clothes; the dress characteristics of an occupation or occasion

"I came dressed to the nines in the habiliment of a rock star, but they still didn't believe I was Paul McCartney's back-up singer when I tried to get backstage.  Why?"

 

 


Hibernaculum
   def: a shelter occupied during the winter by a dormant animal (or an insect or reptile)

"Or a hibernaculum could be a good place for a passed out drunken poodle. He looks dormant to me."






Catchpole
  def: a sheriff's deputy; especially one who makes arrests for failure to pay debt
  
Fun fact:  derives from a word that literally means "chicken chaser," because chasing down someone who owes you money is as difficult as catching a chicken running around a barnyard. Ain't that the truth (pardon my bad grammar)?

"When I took a hard look at our finances upon my retirement, I not only let out a big scream but was seeing a catchpole in my future."



Foozle
   def: to manage or play awkwardly; bungle

"Sometimes I think I am foozling my retirement."




Hendiadys
   def: a figure of speech in which two words connected by a conjunction are used to express a single notion that would normally be expressed by an adjective and a substantive, such as grace and favor instead of gracious favor.

"If I am not careful I will be shopping for clothes in the big and fat section of  the store, which is a hendiadys for big fatty."



Tantara
   def: the blare of a trumpet or horn

"When Hubby lets  the dogs out in the morning,  it sounds like a tantara downstairs when I am trying to sleep (and it's only 9:30am...or later)!"
Having to get up early to be somewhere has become a distant memory.


I have to say that I probably won't use very many of those words, but I will at least know what they mean if I run across them. 

Just one more step in my goal of self-improvement.



Since we are talking about words, in addition to sharing these new words with you, I would also like to share some

Words I hate.

moist

turd

snot

panties

smear

brassiere

dude (especially when applied to a female and especially "old dude," if applied to me)

Those words are not allowed to be spoken in my presence (I have my reasons).

Thank you.



Learned any new words lately? 

If so, share them in a sentence.
 
What words do you hate?


See you Friday for
"Lifetime Movies:  An Assessment"
(I had been warning you I was going to do this)

and The Week in Reviews
 
Thanks for reading!
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Friday, January 24, 2014

Ten Movies You Should See by the Age of 14 and The Week in Reviews

[ I review the movies "Her," "Lee Daniels' The Butler," "Bless Me, Ultima," "Gangster Squad" and "Sunlight Jr.]

But first
 


Ten Movies You Should See by the Age of 14


In 2005, the British Film Institute (BFI) put out a list of the 50 films kids should see before the age of 14 in order to inspire parents and educators to take films as seriously as books and other kinds of art. 

The list was put together by 70 film producers, authors and critics, and the top ten were the films that received the most votes. 


Here are the top ten.


How many of these have you seen?



Spirited Away (2001)


This film registered the most votes and won a Best Animated Film Oscar in 2002.





Bicycle Thieves (1948)


Vittorio De Sica's classic Italian film about a man and his son searching for his stolen bicycle which he needs to earn a living.





E T The Extraterrestrial (1982)




E.T. Call home!





Kes (1969)


First Ken Loach film about a young working class British boy who spends his time training his pet falcon.  I am a big Ken Loach fan and can't believe I haven't seen this one, but it's now on my list.





Night of the Hunter (1955)





Charles Laughton's only directorial effort, Robert Mitchum plays a bad guy (what else?) who marries a gullible widow to  get his hands on her husband's money and in the meantime terrorizes her children.  A classic American thriller that would probably scare the pants off young kids.





400 Blows (1959)


Francois Truffaut's French New Wave film about a misunderstood young boy entering into a life of crime.




Show Me Love (1998)


Swedish film whose original Swedish title caused a bit of a stir about two young girls embarking on a romantic relationship.






Toy Story (1995)


Who doesn't love this film? 

I especially loved Toy Story 3, which might have been on this list if it had been made when this list was compiled.





Where is the Friend's Home (1987)


An Iranian film that tells the simple account of a conscientious schoolboy's quest to return his friend's notebook so the friend will not get in trouble.  The film has been seen as a metaphor for civil duty, loyalty and everyday heroics.





The Wizard of Oz (1939)




Who hasn't seen this classic film?




So what do you think? 
Did they get it right? 
What other films do you think belong in the top 10 of films kids should see by the age of 14?

I cannot find a similar list put out by the American Film Institute (AFI), but if they had, I wonder if their list would include as many "foreign" films as are on this list or as many with what I might call a "cosmopolitan" bent.

Also I am struck by the limited number of Disney animation films.

And what the hell?  Where is "Mary Poppins?"

Here is the complete list of all 50.

(All films in the top 10 are on DVD so check your local library.  They are also available through Netflix except "Where is the Friend's House?" which can be found at Amazon.com)

There are three on this list that I have not seen so I have requested them through my local library and added others to my Netflix queue.



***In Theatres Now***



Her


Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) is grieving the breakup of his marriage and embarks on a "relationship" with his computer's artificially intelligent operating system (OS).

From the looks of this film, everyone in the immediate future will look like a nerd.  I have never seen so many buttoned up shirts and high-waisted trousers on men since the 1950's.

This is a touching and funny (didn't expect the funny part) look at human relationships and how technology can isolate us so much that we can fall in love with the voice on our computer (Think Hal from "2001, A Space Odyssey," but female and not sinister)

Then we don't have to deal with the failings of humans, right? Theodore's operating system becomes his best friend, confidant, girlfriend and yes, lover. But what do you do if your computer crashes?

Makes me look at my computer in a whole new way.

Joaquin Phoenix should have gotten an Academy Award Best Actor nomination for this performance.  In most scenes,  he is acting alone to the sound of Scarlett Johansson's voice (she is also very good).  It is not an easy feat to act without another actor who is physically there and from whom you can draw energy.  And this is not the usual type of role for him either, nor does it indicate that crazy persona he took on a few years back.

Here's a little challenge:  The film is set in L.A. 
See if you can catch the other city that sometimes stands in for L.A. 
(I realized right away it wasn't L.A. I was close, but didn't get it right).

Rosy the Reviewer says...A strange, but original script (I always give props to originality), beautifully executed by writer/director Spike Jonze, who is nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (the movie is nominated for Best Picture). 


                          

***DVDS***
You Might Have Missed
And Some You Should Be Glad You Did
(I see the bad ones so you don't have to)
White House butler Cecil Gaines serves eight Presidents and is a witness to history.
Though I eagerly anticipated this film because of it's interesting concept, I was ultimately disappointed.  The production values bugged me and the whole thing was too earnest and heavy handed.  Though I loved Oprah.  I always love Oprah.
Lee Daniels directed "Precious." 
Rosy the Reviewer says...Ambitious film that is ultimately a disappointment. 


Based on the Rodolfo Anaya novel which blends Catholocism and mysticism to tell a coming of age story set in the rural New Mexico of the 1940's.
The book is considered a classic of Chicano literature and has won many awards.  It has also been one of the most challenged books in the U.S due to scenes of violence and sexual references.  Christy Walton, one of the Walton heirs, set up a production company with the sole purpose of getting this film made.
Rosy the Reviewer says...family fare.  This is what I think of most family fare:  Zzzzzzz
It's 1949 and mobster Mickey Cohen is terrorizing L.A.
I didn't think I was going to like this film, but it's snappy dialogue, film noir production values (the blood and gore notwithstanding), and Sean Penn chewing up the scenery like mad, it was a lot of fun.  Nick Nolte appears to be improvising the part of a refrigerator.
Rosy the Reviewer says...if you don't take this one too seriously, you will enjoy it.  Think those old pulp fiction novels.





Sunlight Jr. (2013)

A convenience store (Sunlight Jr.) clerk and her paraplegic boyfriend, living hand to mouth in a motel, fall onto even harder times.

Here is the poster child for raising the minimum wage.  Crap happens when you are poor and crap is compounded upon crap.

Naomi Watts is known for "getting her kit off," a British term for taking off her clothes and this is no exception.

Rosy the Reviewer says...why Matt Dillon and Watts signed up for this thing, I am not sure, but there is no sunlight shining hereFor hardcore Matt Dillon and/or Naomi Watts fans only.

***Book of the Week***



Her (2013) by Christa Parravani

Not to be confused with the film of the same name, this is the true story of the close relationship between two twin sisters until one of them dies tragically

When her sister dies from a life of depression and excess, Christa tries to become her to her own detriment.

This is one of those memoirs that has so much bad stuff happen that it's almost unbelievable.

Rosy the Reviewer says...depressing and probably better understood by another twin.




***Musical Theatre***







Ladies, it's all here:  the hot flashes, the mood swings, the incontinence, the insomnia, the antidepressants, the weight gain, the anger, the Mom issues, memory loss, wrinkles and yes, vibrators...all set to the tunes we grew up with sung by four women who meet by chance in Bloomingdales.

Here is a taste:

(To the tune of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight").

Weeeee.. We um baum baum away
Weeeee.. We um baum baum away
(Shes a witch, shes a witch,
shes a bitch, shes a bitch
Shes a witch, shes a witch,
shes a bitch, shes a bitch
Shes a witch, shes a witch,
shes a bitch, shes a bitch
Shes a witch, shes a witch,
shes a bitch, shes a bitch)

In the guestroom or on the sofa,
my husband sleeps at night;
In the guestroom or on the sofa
my husband sleeps at night...
(it goes on)

Other songs include:

"Puff, My God I'm Draggin" and "My Thighs (think "My Guy)."

And we got up on the stage and danced with the stars at the end.  I am always amazed at the talented people out there in the world we have never heard of. This is a first rate show.  See it if it comes your way.

Rosy the Reviewer says...to every husband and family member who was wondering what has come over their wife and mother, you need to see this so you can understand the "Change, Change, Change."



That's it for this week. 


See you Tuesday

for my

"Word a Day Project" 

 

Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to share it and/or email it to your friends.



Check your local library for DVDs and book mentioned.