Friday, October 31, 2014

The New Movie "St. Vincent" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "St. Vincent," the DVDs "Lucky Them," and "Chinese Puzzle" and the new book "Elvis and Ginger," as well as keeping you abreast of my progress with my "1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" and that "changing my life thing" I started at my last birthday.  How am I doing?  Read on.]



Is Saint Vincent Really a Saint?
 


A curmudgeon with a messed up life is redeemed by the love of a child.

I have good news and bad news. 

Which do you want first? 

Actually since this is my blog, I am going to choose.  I always like to hear the bad news first since it can only get better after that.
 
The bad news is just what I said...It's the "Curmudgeon with a messed up life  redeemed by the love of a child"  cliché and throw in that other cliché - little kid knocks out his bully oppressor and they become best friends.
 
But here is the good news. 

The acting, writing and directing brings this film out of clichés into refreshing, cathartic territory. 

I loved this movie.
 
When Bill Murray left SNL and first embarked on his dramatic acting career in "The Razor's Edge," I thought he was terrible.  Then he found his niche in comedy films such as "Caddyshack," and "Groundhog Day."  Now here he has refined his skills into comedy-pathos, and it is something to behold.
 
Vincent drinks too much, partakes of the "ladies of the night," has no money, gambles, smokes, is politically incorrect...you name it.  Think Archie Bunker meets Clint "Get off my lawn" Eastwood in "Gran Torino."  Vincent's life is a mess. He doesn't like anybody and nobody likes him.  Enter Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her son, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) who move in next door.  Maggie is in the midst of a divorce and needs child care. Her life isn't so great either. Vincent reluctantly offers his services for a price and then helps Oliver overcome his bullies and learn a thing or two about life such as hanging out in bars and betting at the race track.

So how can Vincent be a saint?
 
Just what is a saint?  That is Oliver's school assignment.  To find sainthood in the every day person.  And we learn all about Vincent along with Oliver as Vincent cares for his wife stricken with Alzheimer's (I detected a bit of "The Notebook" in that), his stint in Vietnam and other details of his life.

We learn that there is so much more to the people we encounter in life than how they appear on the surface. There is a little "Saint" in all of us.  Not just in the heroic acts, but in the little every day acts of kindnesses we perform, especially seen in the eyes of children. Here it took Oliver's young eyes to see Vincent's saintliness.
 
But don't get me wrong.  This is not all about warm and fuzzy.  It's also very edgy and very funny.  Don't think Murray isn't still funny.  He is.  But here he manages to be funny, outrageous, silly and obnoxious and we still care.  It's that vulnerability thing.
 
Melissa McCarthy plays the straight woman in a comedy, believe it or not.  She is majorly toned down.  And, if you read me regularly, you know I am not a fan of precocious kids in movies but this kid is not obnoxious and sets just the right tone.
 
A highlight is Chris O'Dowd, who seems to be everywhere these days ("Cuban Fury," "Thor," "This is 40") as Brother Geraghty in Oliver's private Catholic school.  On Oliver's first day, he asks Oliver to lead the class in prayer at which point Oliver says he thinks he is Jewish.  Brother Geraghty then has all of the kids share their religious bents to show Oliver that the class is filled with kids from different faiths, and it's everything from Buddhist to "I don't know," upon which Brother Geraghty says "The "I don't knows" seem to be winning."  Very funny scene.
 
Naomi Watts does a great job as Daka, the pregnant Russian stripper/"lady of the night," though I couldn't help but wonder if she is now relegated to supporting roles since she starred in that stinker "Diana," about Princess Diana.
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...Bill will definitely get an Oscar nod for this, but don't just see this film for him.  See it for YOU.  It's a charming film. You will feel better.



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


Lucky Them (2013)



A rock & roll journalist wants to find her old boyfriend, a once famous musician who has disappeared.

Toni Colette stars as Ellie Klug, a Seattle rock critic whose boyfriend was Matthew Smith, a rock god who "disappeared" 10 years ago.   Ellie needs the money so takes the assignment from her editor (Oliver Platt) to try to find Matthew, and no one is even certain he is still alive.  Another "sort of" boyfriend (Thomas Haden Church) who is also wealthy goes along for the ride ostensibly to film her search as a documentary.  

Ellie is in her 40's, but hasn't realized that fact yet.  Her life is as chaotic as a twenty-year-old's would be and her search for Matthew is a sort of coming of age metaphor. 

Colette is fine as Ellie, but, geez, can she get any skinnier?  I liked her better as Muriel ("Muriel's Wedding").  Remember, Toni, as you get older you have to choose between saving your butt or your face. Church is his usual quirky self, but his character doesn't seem to fit nor does he really have much to do.

Seattlites will enjoy seeing favorite spots such as the Rob Roy Bar and Snoqualmie Falls, but this film missed the opportunity to show the Pacific Northwest in all of its lush glory.  Likewise, the opportunity to highlight some great indie music was also lost.

Ellie's search is reminiscent of the documentary "Searching for Sugar Man," which won an Oscar for Best Documentary in 2013, but unfortunately isn't as engrossing.

You have to care about Ellie to care about her search and that isn't easy to do because she keeps screwing up.  Fun twist, though, when you see who Matthew turns out to be.

Rosy the Reviewer says...there was a reference to the title somewhere along the line, but I didn't get it.  Didn't get this film either.  Forgettable, just like Matthew Smith wants to be.  See "Sugar Man" instead.



Chinese Puzzle (2013)
 


When the mother of his two children decides to move to New York, Xavier (Romain Duris), a 40-something French father, decides to move there too, so he can see his children.


Wendy (Kelly Reilly) and Xavier are not getting along. So Wendy decides to move to New York from Paris for a temporary job. Xavier is a writer and the book he is working on is called "Chinese Puzzle.  Interesting coincidence because Xavier's life is also like a Chinese puzzle, very difficult and complex. His lesbian friend, Isabelle (Cecile De France) wants a baby with her girlfriend, Ju (Sandrine Holt),and hopes that Xavier will supply the sperm. His old girlfriend, Martine (Audrey Tautou) shows up with her kids and Xavier must navigate the U.S. immigration system so he can get a green card.  His solution?  Find a bride of convenience.

Wendy has already found someone new, Isabelle is cheating on Ju and Martine wants to get romantic again.  Oy.  Lot's of new couplings and lots of opportunities for romantic comedy.

But that doesn't mean Xavier's life was any less complicated in France.

This is the third chapter in Cedric Klapisch's "Spanish Apartment Trilogy," after "The Spanish Apartment in 2002 ("L'Augerge Espanole") and "Russian Dolls" in 2005 and many of the same characters come together once again.  In the first installment, Xavier is a student sharing an apartment in Barcelona with young people from all over Europe, one of whom is Wendy. Martine breaks up with him. In "Russian Dolls," those same characters meet again in Russia for Wendy's brother's wedding at which point Wendy and Xavier get together.

If you are expecting to see Audrey Tautou looking like Amelie, don't.  She doesn't and is pretty much wasted in this last installment.  But Duris is really funny in a very droll, French way.  He is a recognizable face from many French films.

Each part of the trilogy stands alone and is worth seeing, but think about doing a binge weekend and see all three in a row.  It would be a great weekend. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...a rich, complex and fun French comedy.   (subtitles)



"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project"
 
 
304 to go! 
 
 
 
 
 
Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotton) is not the man he appears to be.
 
Charlie (Teresa Wright) is the namesake of her Uncle Charlie and adores him.  She is in a funk and thinks her family needs Uncle Charlie to visit to give them the spark they need and wake up their small town existence.  Unbeknownst to Charlie, Uncle Charlie is already on his way to their small town because he is on the run from the police.
 
Why it's a Must See:  "...Hitchcock referred to [this] as his favorite film...Tellingly, it's also one of his least flashy works, a quiety character study set in the heart of suburbia...Hitchcock emphasizes traditional suspense beats over intricate set pieces, stocking the story with just as much uneasy humor as tension...[the] script, written by Thornton Wilder...takes perverse glee in destroying preconceived notions of quiet, small-town life.  The film is also peppered with numerous references to twins and the duality of good and evil, paralleling the trustful and innocent Charlie with her dangerous and deceitful uncle."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die."
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...Hey, it's Hitchcock.  I want to see all of his films, but, sadly, the melodramatic performances don't hold up today
(b & w).  I prefer later Hitchcock as in "Strangers on a Train," "Vertigo," "The Birds" and "Psycho."
 
 
 
 
Swedish silent film retelling of the legend of the "Phantom Carriage" - if you are a sinner and the last to die on New Year's Eve, you will have to drive the Phantom Carriage for the whole year, picking up the souls of the dead.
 
David Holm is a bad guy who dies at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve.  We see in this film how he turns into a bad guy so, as per the legend, he is doomed to drive the Phantom Carriage unless he sees the evil of his ways.
 
Here's the thing about silent films. 
 
In this day and age, we can barely stand black and white films let alone silent films and then there are those darned subtitles we have to read.  But remember the old adage, "A picture is worth a thousand words?"  Well, that was what was going on in the early days of movie-making.  You had a picture and then it MOVED! Audiences were happy to read the subtitles.  But there actually were not that many subtitles because the thing about silent films - the moving pictures spoke for themselves.  In silent films, you will find that the subtitles are few and far between because the filmmakers knew that their audience could figure out what was happening just by watching the story played out via images - they trusted their intelligence (unlike today in some cases when dialogue is shoved down our throats).  
 
So don't dismiss silent films. 
 
Yes, they can be a bit overdramatic, because the acting styles were different in those days (the actors had to exaggerate a bit to convey the story and meaning without words).  You can't judge silent films made in the early 1920's by today's standards.  But there is a reason why people fought the advent of "talkies."  They knew they were witnessing an art form that would be forever lost.  This film illustrates that.  And when you think that this film was made almost 100 years ago, it's astonishing.
 
And influences?   I think there is a bit of "The Shining" in this thing and major Bergman elements, as in "The Seventh Seal."  I also saw a bit of "A Christmas Carol," though, duh, I know Dickens came way before this film.
He came way before film in general.
 
Why it's a Must See:  "[This film] had a well-documented, artistic influence on many great directors and producers...The scene in which the protagonist - the hateful and self-destructive alcoholic David Holm - wakes up at the chime of midnight on New Year's Eve only to stare at his own corpse knowing that he is condemned to hell, is one of the most quoted scenes in cinema history."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die."
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...I concur.  A "Must See" for the serious movie fan and just in time for Halloween, because it is creepy as hell.
(b & w silent film with subtitles)
 
 
 
***Book of the Week***
 
 
 
We know who Elvis is, but who is Ginger?  She was his girlfriend when he died and she discovered his body.
 
I know what you are thinking.  Well, you already knew I had this guilty pleasure side, but remember what Buddha said.  "Judgment is the road to suffering."

I was an Elvis fan and his death was as shocking to me as John Lennon, Michael Jackson and all of those other superstars who died too young.  So I wanted to learn about his final days from someone who had yet to weigh in.

This is one of those tell-alls where everyone else has weighed in and Ginger says she wants to set the record straight.  I will give her credit for not jumping on the bandwagon with a book right after his death, though she admits to having cashed in on some tabloid money early on, but, hey, she was only 20.
 
However, what I learned was that she was 20, he was 40 something and was not looking so good or taking very good care of himself. I also learned how boring it would be to be the girlfriend of a huge star like Elvis.  If you want to be the girlfriend of a superstar (probably works the same way for boyfriends too), you need to keep your mouth shut, be malleable (she used the word "flexible"), do what he tells you and put up with your boyfriend shooting up the TV when something comes on that he doesn't like.  She definitely captured the boring part with this book.
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...already knew all of this stuff about Elvis.  Was hoping for something new.  Didn't happen. 
 
 

***My A-Ha Moment of the Week,

or

How am I doing on that Changing

My Life Thing?***
 
On my 66th birthday and one year into retirement, I decided I was already in a rut so I decided to spice things up a bit and make one change to my life every month.
 
I talked about it in my birthday blog post.
 
In July I was supposed to order something from Starbucks besides a Skinny Vanilla Latte.  Check.  Except I have since lapsed into a Tall Skinny Vanilla Latte, please. 

In August, I was supposed to moisturize.  Oops. 

In September I was supposed to ride my bike every day that the sun shone.  Wouldn't you know the sun was out almost every day?  Oy.

So in October, I was supposed to walk 10,000 steps every day.  Well, it didn't happen every day, but it probably happened more days than I rode my bike in September.
 
But here is the A-Ha moment.  I'm not very good at changing my life.  Even with the little things.
 
For November, I said I would take my little poodle Tarquin for a walk every day.  At the rate I've been going, good luck on that, Tarquin.

 
(Don't ask!) 
 
 
Thanks for Reading!
 

See you Tuesday

 

for


"My Un-Bucket List"



      
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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."
 



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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."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

"My Son"

Today is my son's 34th birthday.

I look at birthdays as a good time for memories, because when your children are adults and they live far away, your memories are mostly what you have.

These are mine.

 


On the left, I am posing at my baby shower at work toward the end of my pregnancy.

First of all, try not to focus on the ensemble.  I am not responsible for that.  There were not a lot of fashion choices for pregnant women in the 80's.  However, I will have to take total responsibility for the glasses and the hair.

I don't mind how I look in the picture (above) with my son because I swear, I lost 30 pounds right after he was born.



The day of my son's birth, I worked a full eight hour day.  I had to.  My husband was in school, didn't have a job and I was the sole source of income and we had just bought a house.  I can remember worrying every time I went to the doctor that something would be wrong, and he would say I had to stay home.  I had worked out my vacation and sick leave to the day, so that I had just enough to allow me to take off six weeks but that meant I had to go all the way to my due date.  That's the way it was then. Employers did not make allowances for career-minded pregnant women. 

So there I was on my due date standing at the card catalog in the library (remember those?) filing away and at 5pm off I went home and that night, off I went into labor.  I was 32.

Despite being married more than once, I was able to avoid having a child.  I had decided I didn't want children.  I masked it in not wanting to bring more children into the world, but it was really that I was terrified of giving birth.  When I was 12, I used to babysit for a doctor, and I was a nosy little 12-year-old.  They had books with pictures of actual births.  Ew.  And then when I was  even younger, my older brother used to torment me by calling me into his room to show me pictures of mammary glands in his biology book - "Hey, Rosy, guess what THIS is!  Hahahaha!"  He also told my young impressionable self that giving birth was like taking your lower lip and pulling it up over your head.  How he knew this, I am not sure.

However, when I was ready to give birth I was happy about it.  I had come to grips with my childhood fears.

I was just coming out of the 70's, so naturally I read all of the books about birthing in a bathtub, having a midwife, being hypnotized...so I wanted to have a natural birth in a birthing room.  Today those are commonplace, but back then, the only birthing room available was at the county hospital with a resident in attendance (full-fledged doctors supposedly didn't want to invest the time needed to attend a natural birth at a birthing center).  Today there are hospital beds that turn into birthing beds. Back then, for me, it was a room with a real double bed.  And a boom box playing music.  All the comforts of home. But wouldn't you know, during the worst part of the birth, I distinctly remember hearing Diana Ross singing, "Upside Down," which has lyrics like:

Inside out
And round and round
Upside down
Boy, you turn me

Inside out
And round and round


and I thought, my god, my brother was right. 

 
 
At six weeks, I had to go back to work and take my baby boy to daycare. 
 
Can you imagine turning that little guy over to virtual strangers?
 
We did not have the money for nannies or babysitters who came to the house.  In those days, you found licensed day care people who would take infants and finding good daycare then was as difficult as it is now, if not more difficult. But my husband (not to be confused with Hubby) didn't have a job, and I was putting him through college. That was the deal we struck, one where I didn't really understand the ramifications.  As it turned out, not a good deal for me as my then husband was cheating on me with a fellow student, 19 (I was 32), and it all turned out very badly. When it all came to light, I remember saying I didn't wait until I was 32 to have a child to raise him by myself, but we don't have control over these things, do we?
 
But I didn't know that yet so in spite of having to work 40 hours per week, I could still enjoy my little guy enjoying his Jolly Jumper (which as with many things was banned later, I think) and when he was done...
 
 
 

 
 
 
 And his other little antics.
 
 
 
 
 
 
We celebrated his first birthday and then it all starting going to hell.  The husband ran off with the coed and baby and I were on our own.  I didn't handle it well.
 
 

Long story short, and it's a godawful long godawful story, I set about making a life alone with my little boy.

It was not a happy time.



I found a place to live and things started to mellow out. 

I always loved this picture as he as fascinated with the construction across the street from our apartment. 

And people! Chill out. I was right there.  He was not in the street!


 

But here are the kinds of things that happen with divorce. 

Right after this picture was taken, my little boy went for his weekend with his Dad and his grandmother took him for his FIRST HAIRCUT!  No one asked me what I thought and I wasn't there and they cut off all of that beautiful hair without my permission.  I have the locks from MY first haircut but not from my own son's.

He also had his life disrupted with the back and forth to his Dad's, such as being whisked away Christmas morning just after he was starting to enjoy his presents from Santa and for long summers.


But things improved. 
 
I had decided he and I would be fine.  I felt positive about my future and isn't that the way it often happens?  When you aren't looking, your future appears.  Hubby-to-be came along when I wasn't looking and when I was contemplating a future on my own with my boy.  And when I discovered he loved my boy as much as he loved me, well, it seemed like fate. 

 
We went to visit Grammy and Granddaddy in Michigan.  Here he is four.  Things are feeling better.

 

 
 
Just as I had to endure, so did my children. 
 
I am talking about that "first day of school picture."
 
Just as it was with me, every first day of school is recorded for MY children. 
 
Here is the first day of his first grade.
 
(Wave to Mommy!)
 
 
 
 
 
Then all of a sudden it was 3rd Grade.
 
And everything started going so fast.
 
 
 
 
 
 
And all of this happened. 
 
Well the sports thing was happening before third grade but...
 
 
 
Middle school - let's not talk about that. 


 
High School
 
 
 
 
 
 
Senior Year
 
 
 
That letter jacket.  OMG.  He couldn't have cared less, but his proud Mama did. 
 
I wore it to all of his games and I made sure all of his accomplishments were on that jacket:  ASB President, MVP, Central Coast Champs, various honors from all four years of three different sports and academics, all of it and when they made a mistake once on the jacket, I paid to have them rip out the writing and do it over!
 
Some day he will thank me.
 
 
 
He graduated from high school with honors, from college with honors and then
 
 
 
My son the Dahk-tah. 
 
Doctor of Jurisprudence that is.  
 
 
 
 

And then he found the love of his life. 

(As in Oz, don't look behind the curtain or rather at the bridesmaid with the beer bottle no longer wearing heels. That's his sister.  Weddings can be exhausting).

 
 
His parents are delighted. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Because it's all about happiness. 
 
What more can you wish for your children?
 
 
That said, despite the fact that our adult children want us to acknowledge them as adults, and we do, we really do, we really try to do, OK sometimes we don't, there is always that part that will think, and he's not going to like this:
 
He will always be my baby boy.
 
 
 
Happy Birthday, my baby boy!


 
Thanks for Reading.
 

See you Friday for my review of

"St. Vincent"

and The Week in Reviews

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer