Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper (2016)
Mother and son, Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper, share their lives with each other -- and us - in this HBO documentary.
Tolstoy said, "All happy families are alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." And Gloria Vanderbilt certainly had an unusual, unhappy family life growing up.
You may have heard of Gloria Vanderbilt and even worn her jeans (I know I did)! And I know you have heard of Anderson Cooper. But what you may not know is that Vanderbilt is Anderson's mother. And even if you have heard of Gloria Vanderbilt, you might not know that she married conductor Leopold Stakowski (not Anderson's father) when she was 20 and Stokowski was 63 or that Anderson's older brother killed himself by jumping out of a window right in front of his mother.
It's all here and more in this HBO documentary written and directed by Liz Garbus whose last film "What Happened, Miss Simone?" was nominated for Best Documentary Feature last year.
This film is a stunning documentary with Anderson interviewing his mother, who is now 93, so that he will not have any regrets about not asking her about his childhood and her life, so that "nothing is left unsaid."
Gloria was the original "Poor Little Rich Girl." When her father died at 45 of alcoholism, her Aunt Gertrude (his sister) sued for custody of little Gloria, claiming her mother, also named Gloria, was unfit. Gloria's Aunt Gertrude was Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, who gave the world the Whitney Musuem in New York. Gloria's mother didn't stand a chance, especially since Big Gloria's mother was also in favor of Gertrude taking custody of Gloria. It was the Trial of the Century during the Great Depression when regular folks were struggling, so they ate up all of the problems beleaguering these rich people. They couldn't get enough of the lurid details. And there were many: Gloria's mother was accused of debauchery, and, gasp, lesbianism. So Gloria was raised by her Aunt Gertrude and her mother continued her sophisticated lifestyle around the world. She saw little of Gloria.
When Gloria became of age, she visited her mother in California and got the acting bug. She starred in a stage version of "The Swan," and those of us who owned her jeans will remember the swan logo - that's where it came from. However, the critics skewered her and her acting career was short-lived. But she went on to model and build her clothing empire. In the meantime, she dated Errol Flynn, Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando and married four times, most notably to Stokowski and to director Sidney Lumet and finally to Anderson's father, Wyatt Cooper. He also died young, leaving her a relatively young widow and then the worst fate of all, her son Carter killed himself in front of her by jumping off the terrace of their high-rise apartment when he was 23.
Arbus tells Gloria's story through pictures and interviews and some of Anderson's own home movies (he started filming his mother when he was a teenager), but it is the interaction between mother and son that is at the heart of this film. There is true love and affection there and you can tell they genuinely enjoy each other's company. When Gloria reveals she had had a short lesbian affair in college, Anderson is humorously shocked. And when Anderson talks about coming out to his mother, she offers her thoughts at the time. She muses on her life and loves and regrets. The film fittingly waits until the end to talk about Carter's suicide.
Yet the film ends on a positive note as Gloria says that through all of that... she has survived. She said "It's only once you have accepted that life's a tragedy that you start to live."
The story continues with a book that Anderson and she wrote called "The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love and Loss," published this year.
Cooper had started this process with his mother long before this film was made. He had even thought to direct it himself, but he wanted a more objective voice to take the lead and he didn't want this to become a vanity project. He wanted this film to stand the test of time...and it will. It is a poignant portrait of a mother and her child that can't help but move you.
This is a stunning documentary that I predict will get an Oscar nomination or at least an Emmy next year. It's playing now on HBO. See it before it goes away.
Rosy the Reviewer says...every mother and child should see this film and then make sure that "nothing is left unsaid."
***Some Movies You Might Have Missed***
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!
Now Out On DVD
In the Heart of the Sea (2015)
The true story behind "Moby Dick."
The film starts in 1850 Nantucket. Writer Herman Melville (Ben Wishaw) has come to interview Tom Nickerson (Brendon Gleeson), who is the last living crew member from the sailing ship Essex that went down leaving only a few survivors. Nickerson was a cabin boy then, but is now a depressed alcoholic. The official cause of the wreck of the Essex was that it ran aground, but Melville has heard a rumor that it was a giant whale that scuttled the Essex and he wants to interview Nickerson so he can write a book. He needs a "bestseller." So far Melville feels his writing career is overshadowed by that darn Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Nickerson doesn't want to talk, but his wife, (Michelle Fairley) urges him to unburden himself knowing that her husband is burdened by the memories of the Essex. So what happened out there?
Through a series of flashbacks, the story unfolds beginning with the story of Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) who is called in by the shipping company and offered a job as First Mate on the next outing of the Essex to get whale oil. Chase is not happy. He expected that his next gig would be as Captain, but the politics of whaling and the money from a rich family has given the job of Captain to George Pollard (Benjamin Walker). So the company men promise that if Chase brings back 200 pounds of oil this time around, next time he will be Captain. Here is an aside from a woman who usually doesn't like films like this. Hemsworth and Walker are hunks. If there aren't going to be any women in this movie, then at least I have two hunky guys to watch. I know, I'm shallow.
You see, this is not the kind of film I am usually drawn to, even with Ron Howard as director. I like movies with women and a love story. Not so keen on dirty whaling ships and sweaty men yelling things like "Thar she blows" and other sailing jargon. But I love Chris Hemsworth and I have to say, besides his usual gorgeous hunkiness, he puts in a good dramatic performance with a passable Nantucket accent.
But I am getting ahead of myself here. Let's get back to the story.
So we have the tension between Chase and Pollard. Chase is experienced and believes he deserved the Captain job. Pollard is inexperienced and got the job on the basis of his family's wealth and he knows that Chase knows. So of course he needs to throw his weight around a bit. All goes well until they encounter a big ass whale that gives them and the boat as ass kicking.
Here is another aside: After seeing them kill a whale earlier and harvest it's oil, I started rooting for the whales. How barbaric. I couldn't help but think, yeah, these days we are dependent on oil, and it's not good to be so dependent on oil and rape and pollute the earth for it, but before they found oil in the ground, we were getting our oil from whales which is even more barbaric.
Anyway, the Essex goes down because of the Great White Whale and the rest of the film is a survival film where the surviving crew has to indulge in some other rather barbaric acts to survive. I will save that for you when you see the film.
Based on Nathaniel Philbrick's nonfiction book of the same title, script by Charles Leavitt and directed by Ron Howard, this film did not do well at the box office. However, it is definitely worth seeing, though I couldn't help but think how much better it probably would have been on a big screen or even in 3-D. The special effects are awesome.
There is a satisfying ending, especially for the whales.
When Melville leaves Nickerson he says, oh by the way, he had just heard that someone in Pennsylvania had dug a hole and found oil in the ground. Oil in the ground! Imagine that! I think the whales said, "Thank god!"
Rosy the Reviewer says...an exciting tale of survival and you get to spend two hours with Chris Hemsworth.
When the Ellis sisters find out their parents are going to sell the family home, they decide they need to throw one last big party - for old times sake.
Maura (Amy Poehler) and Kate (Tina Fey) are close sisters whose lives have taken them in different directions. Maura has always been a soft-hearted person wanting to help others. She took a boy with spina bifida to prom and a deaf girl to a Sheila E. concert so she could feel the beat. When she left home she became a nurse. She rescues dogs, feeds homeless people and is learning to make cheese but is also sad about her divorce (all of that is supposed to be funny).
Kate on the other hand is a bit of a hothead and that has landed her jobless and homeless. She is estranged from her daughter and let's face it, her life is a mess. So when Maura calls and tells her to come and meet her at their parents' house in Orlando, Kate sees an opportunity to have a place to live and to reunite with her daughter. What she doesn't know is that Maura is inviting her to their parents' house to tell her that their parents are selling the family home.
When they arrive at the almost empty house, Maura and Kate go to the bedroom they used to share and start looking through their stuff, which is just a vehicle for Tina and Amy to do some silly shtick. They read from their diaries - Kate's is full of daring stuff she did in high school, Maura's is boring and nerdy. Predictable. When the new owners - predictably uptight yuppies - come by the house, Maura and Kate try to ruin the deal by telling them there had been a murder in the house.
So after getting over the fact that their parents (Dianne Wiest and James Brolin) are downsizing to a condo and selling the family home, the sisters decide it's time to have one last big party there. They invite all of their old high school friends and, though the party starts out boring with the 40-somethings talking about their jobs and their kids, Tina gives an impassioned speech about how important it is to party like Vikings "because we could die tomorrow." The party naturally gets out of hand and the house is ruined. This film reminded me a bit of "Neighbors," where Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne have to deal with a fraternity next door. That one was funnier.
The film gave us a set-up early on. One sister's life is a mess and she is estranged from her daughter. The other sister is a do-gooder who is lonely and sad about her divorce. But instead of SNL writer and scriptwriter Paula Pell exploring the differences between the sisters, which would have made for a more interesting film, the film devolves into an "Animal House" type of comedy which is strange, because there was no indication earlier in the film that these two sisters were the type of girls/women to enjoy an over-the-top, anything goes kind of party.
The movie is really just a series of scenes that allow Amy and Tina to act silly: trying on outfits for the party (Tina puts hers on backwards), getting a pedicure and going through a too long routine with the Korean manicurist on how to pronounce her name (it's not a funny bit to begin with and goes on to the point of stupid), Maura's new love getting a music box stuck up his... Well, you get the idea...and none of it is particularly funny.
Directed by Jason Moore, who directed "Pitch Perfect," lots of SNL alums make appearances - Rachel Dratch, Maya Rudolph, Bobby Moynihan, Kate McKinnon and Chris Parnell - along with some from other comedy shows: Ike Barinholtz (who got his start on "Mad TV"), Samantha Bee ("The Daily Show") and then there's John Leguizamo, who shows up in practically every comedy these days as some sort of edgy character. I wonder when he is going to get his own gig.
I have to say that I am starting to get a complex about comedies. Is it me or are comedies these days NOT funny and becoming more and more reliant on raunchy or physical humor to get laughs? Last week I ranted about the new Melissa McCarthy comedy "The Boss" and then I saw this and thought this film made "The Boss" look like a Woody Allen movie (and, just so you know, I think Woody Allen movies are smart and funny). This stuff was really lowbrow humor, even for Hubby. And he told me to write that.
Poehler and Fey are like sisters in real life (both play prominent roles in each others' memoirs). One senses a real affection for each other when they are together and they are very funny when they host awards shows. But I couldn't help but think while watching this, aren't these two ladies a bit old for a movie like this? They are smart women who should be able to write their own smart, funny movies - like Woody Allen did. They deserve better than this.
Rosy the Reviewer says...if 40-somethings acting out of control and trashing a house is your idea of funny, then you might enjoy this. Otherwise, remember I warned you.
***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***
252 to go!
Have YOU seen this classic film?
Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962)
Cleo, a young and beautiful French pop singer, is waiting for some medical results that she is sure will say she has terminal cancer.
Agnes Varda is one of the few women auteurs out there and the only one who made a name for herself in the French New Wave. Originally a photojournalist, her films highlight feminist themes using location shoots and non-conventional actors.
Cleo (Corinne Marchand) is sure that she is dying. It's 5pm and she will be getting her diagnosis at 7pm - in two hours. The film takes us along with Cleo in real time (well amost - the film is 30 minutes shy of two hours) as she travels around Paris waiting to find out her fate. Cleo is worried that she is dying but when she looks in the mirror she says to herself, "As long as you are beautiful you are alive." Cleo fears death but she fears being ugly more.
The film is divided into a series of chapters, each with a time as the two hours count down.
She meets her personal assistant who fusses over her and they go to a hat shop and try on hats. Cleo may be dying but she is also a narcissist who can't resist a new hat.
As they ride around town in a taxi, the news of the day is on the radio which is an interesting counterpoint to Cleo's predicament because it was a time in France when they were embroiled in the Algerian conflict, student demonstrations, and the Cold War. As she worries about herself, the bigger world is going on all around her.
They go to her flat where an older lover appears, then two musicians show up who clown around and play her a song (the piano player is a young Michel Legrand). But before she leaves her apartment, she takes off her elaborate hairpiece and goes off alone and here, in this second half of the film, we start to see the real woman behind the beautiful face.
She wanders into a park where she meets a soldier who will be going off to fight in the Algerian War. They walk around together talking, much like Richard Linklater's "Before Trilogy." They take a bus ride to her doctor's appointment where she finds out her fate and she walks him to the train station where he is headed to whatever fate awaits him.
But as the film unfolds, we see Cleo turn from a spoiled immature girl to a more fully realized woman who can finally feel empathy for others.
Corinne Marchand is a combination of Bridget Bardot and Debbie Harry, but it is Paris itself that stars in this film. Varda's photojournalism roots are apparent as Cleo walks around 1960's Paris.
This was one of Varda's first feature films and you can always tell an auteur's early films. She pulled out all of the stops with arty camera shots, close ups of doorknobs, framing shots into mirrors, 360 degree camera work but all of that led to what is considered her masterpiece, "Vagabond," which gave her international status.
Why it's a Must See: "The casualness of the narrative allows fiction to merge with documentary as the young woman wanders through the left bank of Paris...To a certain extent, [this film] reflects the sociopolitical tensions of its time, with Cleo witnessing the aftermath of an attack in a bar and encountering a soldier on leave who is just about to go back to Algeria -- in a way, he too can be seen as condemned."
--"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"
Film critic Molly Haskell said, "Through an arresting use of Paris as both visual centerpiece and reflection of a woman's inner journey, Varda paints an enduring portrait of a woman's evolution from a shallow and superstitious child-woman to a person who can feel and express shock and anguish and finally empathy. In the process, the director adroitly uses the camera's addiction to beautiful female faces to subtly question the consequences of that fascination -- on us, on them."
Rosy the Reviewer says...if you love Paris and New Wave French films, you will like this film.
(In French with English subtitles)
***Book of the Week***
Born With Teeth: A Memoir by Kate Mulgrew (2016)
Actress Kate Mulgrew shares her early life and her path to becoming an actress.
Growing up a large Irish-Catholic family, Mulgrew, who started out as Mary Ryan on the soap "Ryan's Hope," and then later as Captain Janeway on "Star Trek: Voyager" and recently as Red on "Orange is the New Black," knew early that she wanted to be an actress. At 18 she left Dubuque, Iowa for New York City, where she studied with the legendary Stella Adler.
She had early success in the theatre but at 22 an unwanted pregnancy stood in her way. She was a good Catholic girl so an abortion was out-of-the question but so was raising a child alone. So she decided to have the baby and put her up for adoption. One of the perks of starring on a soap opera is the ability of the writer to write your real life into the story and that's what they did. Mulgrew's acting career was full of such largesse. She had the baby, the baby was put up for adoption but Mulgrew was haunted by that baby and what happened to her. She was told by the Catholic agency that placed her daughter that she would never be given information about the child, but Mulgrew made it a priority in her life - to find her daughter. But she went on with her life, having success in the theatre, in films and on TV and her share of love affairs.
Mulgrew is a good writer and she is candid about her life, her affairs, her foibles. The book doesn't appear to include many details about her later life and her successful TV career or her life now so I think it's ripe for a sequel.
Rosy the Reviewer says...you don't need to be a fan or to know much about Mulgrew to enjoy this autobiography because it's a tale of courage and redemption.
That's it for this week!
Thanks for reading!
See you Tuesday for
"Playing Devil's Advocate - Don't!"
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