Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Rosy the Reviewer's Master Review of MasterClass - Part 2: Jon Kabat-Zinn Teaches Mindfulness and Meditation

As I said in a past blog post, "
A Little Meditation on a Little Meditation by an Unlikely Meditator," I am not the kind of person you would necessarily think was into meditation. If you had asked me 50 years ago when I was (mumble) years old, I would have said "No way." I have never been a very New Age type, not really much into most kinds of "woo woo" and I am kind of a bossy, A-Type personality so you would not think I would be into meditation, but you see I realized at some point the importance of self-awareness (that's how I can admit to being bossy), and I learned that you can't become self-aware without mindfulness, and you can't really become mindful without spending some time with yourself in meditation.

So here I am, continuing my journey with MasterClass (after spending a few hours in my first class with Gordon Ramsay), this time wanting to get deeper into meditation and who better to teach me than Kabat-Zinn, one of the foremost experts on mindfulness? He is an American professor emeritus of medicine and a founding member of the Cambridge Zen Center.  He studied with Zen Buddhist teachers which led him to integrate yoga and those teachings with medicine which in turn led to him creating the Stress Reduction Clinic and Center for Mindfulness in Medicine. So I would say this guy knows what he is doing.

Now I know you are all busy, so I thought I would do the heavy-lifting for you.  I have watched 20 videos (some long, some short) and spent over six hours with Zinn, and here it is laid out for you in hopes that you will be intrigued enough to either take this MasterClass or at least do some investigating on your own into the benefits of meditation and mindfulness.  I know it has helped me.  In addition to becoming more aware about myself, I have also become a better listener, I have become less of a know-it-all and I have stopped criticizing Hubby. Well, mostly. That's HUGE, right?

So here is a taste of what I learned:

What is mindfulness?  

Basically, according to Kabat-Zinn, it is an awareness that arises from paying attention on purpose in the present moment without judgment.  It is "to befriend the present moment as it is...and to WAKE UP."  How many of us are just sleeping through our lives, living out our routines with nary a thought to how we are feeling in the given moment?  So this is an invitation to "befriend yourself" and live your fullest life from where you are now. Thoreau went to Walden Pond to live a deliberate life so he wouldn't be on his death bed wishing he had really lived.  Mindfulness helps us live deliberately, to really live.

So to be mindful, Kabat-Zinn says there are certain attitudes we should cultivate:

Non-judging. This doesn't mean you won't judge.  It just reminds us of how judging we are.  Meditation teaches that we don't need to be imprisoned by our own likes and dislikes.

For example, I might judge someone on their clothes or how they dance or whether or not they like sports, but at least I am mindful that I am being judgy. I say to myself, "Rosy, you are being judgy.  Now stop it!"

Patience.  Meditation reminds us of how impatient we are and how we lose the present moment by anticipating some other better present moment. Mindfulness of our impatience throughout the day helps us to become less impatient.

For example, when someone in the car ahead of me holds up traffic to let someone into our lane and ahead of me, and I miss the present moment of getting through the light before it turns red because I am dreading a future present moment sitting at the damn light again, I might give him or her the finger but at least I am aware that my impatience made me do it.

The Beginner's Mind.  Being an expert on everything, thinking we already know the answer keeps us from really knowing.  Maybe we don't know as much as we think and if we keep our minds open - a beginner's mind - we might just learn something.

For example, does "mansplaining" ring a bell? You know who you are. And, you notice there is no female equivalent, right? I learned long ago that I didn't know everything and have learned to keep my mouth shut when I think I do, which in turn has made me a better listener!

Trust. We need to trust our own trustworthiness, that our intentions are authentic.

For example, I may screw up but my intentions are good and I have no problem recognizing when I screw up and trying to make it right!

Non-striving. This can sound like sitting on our butts and doing nothing.  It's almost un-American to not want to be a go-getter, right? -  but what this really means is that there really is no place to go, nothing to do and nothing to attain, and when we adopt those thoughts, the opposite happens, everything becomes attainable.  Yes, it's a paradox but we can attain more and do better work by not striving for the outcome but rather taking care in the journey.

For example, since I have retired, I take great care to sleep late; I can spend an entire day doing nothing; and I can be content going nowhere.  I am now waiting for the paradox to kick in.

Acceptance. This doesn't mean you don't work for change.  It just means you see the reality of the situation, it registers, you recognize it, you accept it and then you ask yourself if you can live with it.  If you can't, you change it.  For us to act, the reality has to register and then we have to accept that reality.  It's a recognition of things as they are, good and bad.

For example, I know that the reality of my life is that I will never be besties with Oprah, that I will never win the lottery and I will never lose that last 20 pounds.  I accept that but that doesn't mean I will give up. Acceptance of my reality allows me to take action, so I will continue to stalk Oprah, buy lottery tickets and wish I could lost 20 pounds.

So once you have some attitudes that are condusive to meditation, the next step is to get your butt on the cushion. 


Well, Kabat-Zinn said "ass," but you get the drift.  And it doesn't need to be on the floor.  You can sit in a chair or lie down but the main message is to do the practice.

Kabat-Zinn then goes into the practical basics of meditation practice, both formal and informal, how to breathe and how to deal with all of those thoughts running through your mind (you just let them come and go) followed by some guided meditations that will help you practice.  And the more you practice, the more the practice of meditation will become a rich part of your life. You will realize the importance of BEING over DOING. It's an act of love for yourself.

Kabat-Zinn also tackles dealing with pain and suffering (make friends with it), starting your morning with some hatha yoga (he shares his morning routine but he lost me at getting down on the floor!), the science behind meditation and how it positively affects our bodies. Meditation is an act of loving kindness to ourselves. 

He then ends the course with how mindfulness can heal the world! The world heals when we step out of our small-minded, self-interested personas and see the world as more than just our own tribe. Small shifts in our own attitudes can have huge effects. The present moment is all we have and we want to be present. Meditation and mindfulness helps us to do that.

When I talk about meditation, many people say "I would like to try it, but I just can't control my thoughts" or "I'm just not good at it."  Kabat-Zinn reminds us that there is no need to strive for perfection in meditation (or anything else for that matter) because we are already whole, we are already perfect just as we are.

So, was it worth it?

Yes!  Who doesn't want to be awake for one's own life? My only criticism would be that the course is long, but if you have been interested in getting started with meditation and mindfulness or you just want a refresher, this is a worthwhile and inspiring course. The guided meditations alone will help you.

Meditation has made me a better listener and a more compassionate and caring person. And after taking this course, I feel that the even better, more improved, non-judging, patient, open, trusting, non-striving, accepting and just plain groovy Rosy is right around the corner! After that, I'm going to help heal the world!

Now on to MasterClass #3 -  Tan France Teaching Style for Everyone!  You knew I would have to get into fashion at some point, right?

Thanks for reading!

See you soon!

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 

And next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). Go to IMDB.com, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Rosy the Reviewer's Master Review of MasterClass - Part 1: Gordon Ramsay - Teaches Cooking 1

To begin with, I don't know about you, but I am a bit of a celebrity watcher.  In my youth, I had aspirations to be an actress and have always been fascinated by the lives of the rich and famous.  Let's just say, I always thought that Oprah and I would have been great friends.

So when a friend of mine asked if I would be interested in a "special" that MasterClass was offering - a two-for-one kind of deal - I decided, yes, I wouldn't mind spending some time cooking with Gordon Ramsay or getting writing tips from Roxane Gay.

So, first of all, just what is Master Class?

In a nutshell, MasterClass is a subscription online education program where experts (and yes, celebrities) give pre-recorded tutorials and lectures. Topics range from music to cooking to writing to sports to business to government - you name it.  But the fun part is - you get to hang out with a celebrity or an expert on a topic and learn something at the same time.

I decided to start with some cooking classes with Gordon Ramsay, because as you know I love to cook (I have written about my own cooking adventures in "Rosy's Test Kitchen #1,#2, #3, #4 and #5).  Next I want to try Mindfulness and Meditation with John Kabat-Zinn because I want to be mindful and improve my meditation practice, then on to writing tips from Roxanne Gay because as you know I love to write and then style tips from Tan France (the style guy on the new version of "Queer Eye") because you know I love fashion. 

So...here I am reviewing my very first MasterClass! 

Gordon Ramsay - Teaches Cooking 1

I have always been a Gordon Ramsay fan from "Hells Kitchen" to his latest "Uncharted" adventures.  I figured out early that despite his sometimes raging, angry television persona, he is really a pussy cat.  And, after seeing this first Masterclass, I am not only convinced of that, but also see why he is considered a chef at the top of his game.

His Masterclass consists of 20 videos, each ranging from 6 minutes to 25 for a total of almost four hours. It begins with a four minute intro with arty shots of Gordon's hands and some vegetables, which you can skip, but after that it's a riveting display of Gordon Ramsay's skills as a chef with so many good tips for us amateurs that my head is whirling (good thing there is a downloadable workbook available). 

The series begins with Gordon explaining how he became a chef. I feel I can now call him Gordon after spending almost four hours with him just him and me.  He was a rugby star but at 16 snapped his leg so that was out.  So his parents made him take a foundation course in catering and the rest is history.  He is very candid, unscripted and talks off the cuff - all very Gordon but nary a "f**k me" to be heard!  Well, I know.  That would be asking too much so there are a few. Okay a lot, but you will hardly notice. He actually mostly says "beautiful!" when describing him own cooking!

So then with video #3, we get into the nitty gritty of cooking with him giving me a tour of his kitchen and explaining the importance of a good kitchen layout and the basic essentials of a good kitchen - great pots and pans, good knives, not sure about the blow torch and the smoking gun, though. That video is followed by mastering vegetables and herbs, knife skills, poaching the perfect egg, elevating scrambled eggs, breaking down a chicken, how to cook fish and meat, making pasta dough and ending with some "Advice for Life."  In the meantime, he unlocks the secrets to his iconic Beef Wellington as well as demonstrating how to cook some dishes - Salmon with Shellfish Minestrone, Lobster Ravioli, and Chicken Supreme with Root Vegetables.

Some of this might be overwhelming for the amateur cook.  Will I be making my own pasta or breaking down a whole chicken or a whole fish that is as big as my arm any time soon?

Will I use sea urchin to elevate my scrambled eggs?  Probably not.  I don't even know where I would find a sea urchin, but at least now I know how to break down a chicken and a fish, if I wanted to, and make killer scrambled eggs!  

But whether or not you can see yourself following through with some of these recipes or techniques, watching Gordon do his thing is fascinating.  He has such a reverence for the ingredients.  When he breaks down the chicken, he handles each piece so gently and places it so beautifully on the counter. Even if you don't believe in eating meat or fowl, at least Gordon gives those ingredients respect.  And when he plates the chicken for his Chicken Supreme, I was in awe of all of the details he used to make it perfect.

So, here are some of my main takeaways:

  • Do not chop herbs.  Drop them whole onto the dish at the end.  Chopping them destroys the flavor.
  • Don't peel carrots.  "Brush them."  And the worst thing you can do to a baby carrot is dice it.
  • Don't be scared by "ugly" vegetables such as celery root and fennel.

  • When using aluminum foil in your baking, always have the shiny side up.
  • Use olive oil for most things but grapeseed oil for chicken and meat.  Olive oil can't stand up to a lot of heat.
  • To scramble the perfect eggs, don't whisk them  Put the eggs in a sauce pan and gently stir and stir and stir.
  • Always cook salmon skin side down (it protects the fish) and score the skin to keep the salmon from buckling, but serve it skin side up. Oh, and never cook fish cold from the fridge.  Let it "relax" to room temperature.
  • Scallops have a top and a bottom - the bigger, fattier part is the top.  Store them top up and you are half way to cooking a perfect scallop (and do NOT store them in water)!
  • Chicken stock actually works well with fish dishes because it gives the recipe body.
  • Roll your lemons and limes before cutting and squeezing them.  That makes them juicier and easier to squeeze. Also to avoid squeezing the pips into your recipe, cut around the center rather than cutting them in half.
  • A cast iron pan will become your best friend in the kitchen.

And it wouldn't be Gordon if he didn't end it all with some "Advice for Life."  If you have seen his "Kitchen Nightmares," you know he is part disciplinarian and part psychologist.

So here is his advice: 

Finding your passion in life is the most important thing you can do.  Once you find that, everything else will fall into place.  Be vulnerable, take chances, be determined.  Now" go and f**kin cook!"


There you have it - the summary of my very first MasterClass.

So...Was it worth it?  

Yes!  What cook wouldn't want to hang out with Gordon Ramsay and learn how to do what he does? And he really cares about giving out great cooking tips.  No way did he mail this in. It's candid, unscripted and inspiring. I love him even more now!

MasterClass offers us regular folks a chance to spend some one-on-one time with, well, dare I say it?  The Masters. And at the same time, we can absorb what they know. The MasterClass website is a bit difficult to navigate, but that is a minor complaint in what has turned out to be a fun and educational adventure!  Join me!

Now on to Masterclass #2! Mindfulness and Meditation with Jon Kabat-Zinn!  See you there!

Thanks for reading!

See you soon!

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 

And next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). Go to IMDB.com, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Academy Awards 2021: Which of These Films Will Take Home the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature?

I am a huge fan of documentaries.  I think it's something about real life being stranger than fiction. In 2014,  I "documented" my favorites with "15 Must See Documentaries," but since then I have seen others that should make that list and one of them has been nominated for an Oscar this year.

And speaking of the Oscars, the ceremony is this Sunday, April 25th, so I have been busily watching all of the nominated documentary features (those are the long ones, not to be confused with the Documentary Shorts category) in preparation for the annual family competition and to help you out, too, if you are attending an Oscar party or participating in a competition.  It's these categories of often little-seen films that can make or break it for you.  No need to thank me, I consider it my duty to help you out, and as I said, I love documentaries.

So let's get on with it!

My Octopus Teacher

A filmmaker forms an unlikely friendship with an octopus in a South African kelp forest.

I have to admit at the outset: I am not a huge fan of nature films.  I remember as a little girl, when I would watch "The Wonderful World of Disney," I would cry if they showed one of their nature films rather than animation. And as an adult, I don't like that whole Circle of Life thing, where the lion chases the gazelle, catches it and then tears it apart. I don't need to see that.

So I was surpised when I fell madly in love with this movie.  Well, with a little octopus.

South African filmmaker, Craig Foster, was going through a rough patch in his life so he decided that he would just jump in the water and explore, as one does.  He had filmed trackers in the Kalahari so he knews something about filming wildlife and observing their habits.  So he decided to use that experience to go into the water and do some underwater tracking. He went in with no wetsuite so it was cold, cold, cold, but he soon became accustomed to the cold, and as he continued to dive, he came upon an octopus and her den and after daily forays into the water, over time trust was developed.  He would go in the water every day and an unlikely friendship developed between man and octopus, and, people, you are not going to believe what you will see.  The octopus touches him with her tentacles, lets him hold her and she follows him around.  It's uncanny.

Foster likens an octopus to a snail without a shell but a very intelligent one.  Who knew?  The octopus doesn't have many defenses against its predators so must be smart to deceive them and this little octopus comes up with some amazing defenses. When those mean old sharks come around, you root for her to evade them.  You will learn everything there is to know about octopuses (it's not octopi, I looked it up).  For example, did you know they only live for a year?  They give birth and then die.  We women always get a raw deal!

Written and directed by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed, the photography is amazing and the filmmakers created an environment where you will feel a part of the place, not just a visitor.

You have to hand it to awards shows for highlighting films like this, documentaries and foreign language films, for example, movies we would never know about were it not for them, so thank you, Academy Awards, I just saw a movie that touched my heart, and I am adding to my list as a favorite documentary.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a delight.  And I will never eat octopus again!
(Now streaming on Netflix)


A woman, whose husband is serving a 60-year sentence for a bank robbery, documents her fight to get him released from prison.

Using home movies, hand-held cameras and cinema verite, this film tells the story of Fox Rich's marriage and what happened when she and her husband were down on their luck and decided the best course of action was to rob a bank.  For that, they both went to prison: she took a plea deal and received 12 years and was out in three and a half, but Rich's husband, Rob, didn't take a plea deal and was sentenced to 60 years with no chance of parole.

Directed by Garrett Bradley, I understand what he was trying to do here, but I had a difficult time with the execution. It is certainly an indictment of the criminal justice system in the United States, humanizing those who must suffer in prison with outrageous sentences often handed down to people of color and telling the story of those left behind.  It is presented in a series of vignettes and home movies that Fox (real name Sibil) has shot over the years, showing time passing as she gets her life together, raises their six boys, matures and continues to fight to bring Rob home. She is a compelling subject. All of that is good. However, the film jumps around in time with little context or narration, so it is often difficult to follow.

Time: the time spent in prison but more importantly, the time that is lost and what you missed while you are away.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I liked the content, just didn't like the presentation.  It was not a satisfying film experience for me.
(Available on Amazon Prime)

A private investigator in Chile hires an old man to go undercover for his client who suspects her mother is being abused in a nursing home. 

The daughter of a woman in a nursing home in Chile worries that her mother might be experiencing elder abuse so she hires a private detective who in turn hires a mole to go undercover, live in the nursing home for three months and to try to discover anything bad that might be going on.  The mole is 83-year-old Sergio Chamy.

There is plenty of humor here: from the P.I. interviewing men aged 80-90+ who don't understand technology to Sergio's popularity with the ladies in the nursing home. It wasn't lost on me that the number of women in the nursing home far outweigh the number of men.  But there is also a serious theme:  our old people are being warehoused and it's happening all over the world. When people age, they lose relevancy and it's just easy for family members to put them somewhere where they don't need to be reminded of them, even when they are still lucid and lively. One of the women running the nursing home said it made her sad when family members brought their aging relatives there when they could stay in their own homes. No sadder words spoken. One woman in the nursing home had been there for 25 years! You can't help but wonder if the client cared so much about what was going on with her mother, why wasn't she visiting her and finding out for herself?

After watching this film, you can't help but become an advocate for our elders being autonomous as long as possible. And the people we meet who are living in the nursing home are charming and lovely...and lonely. They deserve something better. You can tell this all makes me mad. I talked about my own mother's experience in my review of "The Father," which deals with similar issues. And yes, I am mad. What we are doing to our old people is a crime. We tuck them away out of sight and leave them there just waiting to die. You can imagine what I have told my own kids about that!

But there is hope. 

Here, in this film, written and directed by Maite AlberdiSergio finds purpose in his "investigation," and you will be surprised by what he discovers. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...an interesting investigation into one resident's condition that turns into an advocacy for many.  But let me tell you, watch this with "The Father," and if you are a person of a certain age, you will say "Lord, take me now!"
(In Spanish with English subtitles, available on Amazon Prime)

A team of newspaper journalists investigate health care fraud in Romania.

After a horrific fire in a nightclub where many people were killed, it comes to light that 12 days after the fire, more died in the hospital recovering from their burns and an indictment of the entire health care system ensues.  There are protests and a full-blown investigation is undertaken by writers at the Sports Gazette, an unlike newspaper to take on such a task, and it is discovered that there is hospital-wide fraud and incompetence, most particularly disinfectant that has been diluted and a government cover-up.

The newspaper publishes an investigative report about how the hospitals are using diluted disinfectants and it was killing people, and because of the expose, some government officials were forced to resign. If that fire had never happened, none of this would have come to light.  But then it all becomes a much bigger issue of corruption in the hospital system: neglect(think maggots crawling around in open wounds); inacurate blood transfusions; fake invoices; and it is discovered that schools are being bribed to issue hospital management degrees to just anyone, so a new, young Minister of Health tries to right the wrongs.  His name is Vlad and I couldn't help but think of Vlad the Impaler, but then I thought, no, he is going to be Vlad the Healer. I had high hopes for him.

The film shows how far Romania has come since its dictatorship - I mean, a newspaper exposing this scandal is a big deal - but, sadly, this film shows that the political scene is still corrupt, hospitals have been politicized, and there is only so much our Vlad can do.

Written by Alexander Nanau and Antoaneta Opris and directed by Nanu, this was a serious and interesting story about the power of the press and what an unfathomable maze political corruption can create.  It all unfolds in real time - no narration or talking heads - and this story is one that we can easily extrapolate to our own country, but, for me, it was too long.

Rosy the Reviewer says...an interesting foray into Romanian corruption that reminds us of our own issues. 
(In Romanian with English subtitles, now streaming on Hulu or available from Netflix on DVD)

A camp for teens with disabilities transforms their lives.

Camp Jened was a summer camp for disabled kids that started in the 1950's and became a springboard for the disability rights movement as many of the kids who attended went on to become activists, probably because the camp was an unusual one.

Just down the road from Woodstock, New York, in the 1960's and 1970's, Jened was itself a kind of Woodstock for disabled kids. The camp was heavily influenced by the hippie counterculture, which was a good thing. It became a sort of Utopia for the campers, where their disabilities were secondary to their personal freedom. Able bodied people sometimes forget that handicapped people want to be treated like everyone else, want everything everyone else wants and to do everything that everyone else does and the camp recognized that. Even if kids were in wheelchairs, they could play baseball, swim, and, yes, make out!

"There was a romance in the air if you wanted to experience it.  I never dated outside of camp.  But at Jened, you could have make-out sessions behind the bunks and different places like that." - Judith Heumann 

The camp was also a place where the kids were encouraged to express their feelings and many discussions about what it meant to be handicapped and how that affected them in the real world ensued and from that many activists emerged from the camp, kids who went on to work for social change for the disabled.  The camp empowered the kids to express their feelings about life as a disabled person which led them to take action as adults. It's a perfect example of how good and empowering childhood experiences can shape someone's future.

Written and directed by James Lebrecht and Nicole Newnham (Barack and Michelle Obama were executive producers), the film is a combination of grainy, black and white footage of the kids at the camp and talking head interviews with them as adults where they reminisce about their time there and how being at the camp affected their adult lives. The film also follows several of the campers, such as Judith Heumann, as they make a name for themselves in the journey for disability rights.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a well-meaning and important film, inspiring even, but not one of my favorite documentaries.  

So which film should win Best Documentary Feature?

VERDICT: "My Octopus Teacher" should win, but "Time" was the darling of the 2020 Sundance Festival and the critics love it so that film could spoil it for my little octopus!

See you this Sunday at the Oscars!

Good luck and thanks for reading!

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 

And next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). Go to IMDB.com, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Academy Awards 2021: Which Movie Will Take Home the Oscar for Best Picture?

And the nominees are.. "Minari," "The Father," "Sound of Metal," "Promising Young Woman," "Mank," Judas and the Black Messiah," Nomadland," and "The Trial of the Chicago 7."

It's that time again - the Oscars - the Superbowl for movie lovers, so it's time to bone up for those Academy Award parties you may be invited to, either in person (if you have your vaccinations) or via Zoom. I am here to help you win those competitions!

In this post, I will be reviewing "Minari," "The Father," "Sound of Metal," Promising Young Woman," and "Mank." (You can find reviews for all of the other nominees in previous posts by clicking on the red linked titles above). There are eight nominees in all.

Speaking of which, before I share my reviews, here's a question: 

You may not even remember this, but in the not too distant past, there were only five nominees for an Academy Award for Best Picture. On June 24, 2009, it was announced that the number of films to be nominated in the Best Picture award category would increase from five to up to ten, starting with the 82nd Academy Awards (2009).  As you can see, this year there are eight nominees.

What do you think of that?

There are those who feel it's a bit of waffling, not being able to hone in on the best five, thus nominating some films that are not deserving. There is also the cynical side, that some films are nominated based on their popularity and box office.  And an Oscar nomination does help at the box office, so studios would certainly want to to have a nomination for their films, right? So for them, the more the merrier.  But all of that aside, this is an interesting year.  With most theatres closed due to Covid, popularity and box office are both moot points, so it's kind of a pure year for these nominations, despite what you think about sticking with the five vs. opening it up to ten.  I think that any film that is an exceptional film experience is deserving of a nomination, but with that said, there are certainly ones this year that were good, but not exceptional, and I can tell you right now those are not going to win, even though I may have enjoyed them. 

So now on with the reviews!


During the 1980's, a Korean family moves from Los Angeles to Arkansas to start a farm.

With six Academy Award nominations (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director and Best Original Score), this film is a contender for a Best Picture Oscar, because it has already won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film, though that was a rather odd category since it's an American film, but I guess because the dialogue is mostly in Korean, that qualifies it as a "foreign film?"  Mmmm. Like I said, odd.

Anyway, what I thought was going to be a film about immigrants and racism was actually a film about chasing the American Dream, a marriage struggling with changes and a touching generational relationship between a little boy and his grandmother...themes we can all relate to.

Jacob (Steven Yeun, who actually went to my alma mater, Kalamazoo College - small college, small world), Monica (Yeri Han) and their two children, Anne (Noel Cho) and David (Alan S. Kim), have moved to a farm in Arkansas so that Jacob can grow Korean vegetables. They had been living in L.A. where Jacob had a job as a chicken sexer at a hatchery - checking the sex of chicks - (I am not going to tell you animal lovers what happens to the male chicks.  Let's just say there is a chimney involved), but Jacob had bigger dreams than trying to figure out whether a chick was a male or a female.  

However, when they arrive at their farm, it is not difficult to see Monica's disappointment at the trailer they will be living in and the ruptures in their marriage over this big move. And added to the work on the farm, they now both have to also work as chicken sexers again to pay the water bill because the farm's well has run dry. Monica is definitely not all in with this. For one thing, she is a city girl, and it doesn't help that they are in the middle of nowhere with no friends.  They are isolated and alone except for the evangelical Paul (veteran actor, Will Patton), who Jacob hired to help on the farm and who spends his Sundays carrying a cross up the road Jesus-style. Not particularly easy for them to relate to!

The kids are struggling too. Anne is a serious teenager having a difficult time finding her place in all of this and little David has a heart problem that worries Monica because they are so far from a hospital. Then Monica's mother, Soonja (Yuh-Jung Youn) comes from Korea to live with them and to care for the children while Jacob and Monica work. She is not your conventional grandmother.  She likes to curse and watch professional wrestling on TV and drink that "sweet mountain water (you can probably guess what that is)" she has taken a liking to.  But young David doesn't take a liking to his grandmother saying she "smells like Korea," nor does he take a liking to sharing his bedroom with her, though you can figure out where that will go.  Grandma also brings her love of minari, a Korean herb, and she finds just the spot to plant it.

This is an immigrant story and, yes, there is some culture clash and family drama, but it's also an intimate, human story that everyone can relate to.  A man is doing his best to provide for his family and his wife is as supportive as she can be, but just as most married couples do, they also have some loud arguments about it all. One touching scene features the kids shooting some paper airplanes at them with "Stop arguing!" written on them. Couples arguing over the direction of their lives and their children worried about their arguing crosses all cultures.

The actors are real and relatable.  I usually dislike child actors but little David is hilarious.  But it's Yuh-Jung Youn, who plays the grandmother, who will tear at your heart strings. For this performance, she has already won the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, has countless other awards and nominations for this performance and is nominated for an Oscar as well.  She is a legendary actress in Korean films and just might add an Oscar to her many other accolades, but she is up against Glenn Close for "Hillbilly Elegy" and Olivia Colman for "The Father (see review below)," in my opinion, her only real competition but stiff competition, indeed.  

You can tell this is a love project and it is.  It's a semi-autobiographical account of writer/director Lee Isaac Chung's own life. It's an examination of human nature that is real and that will resonate about life in all cultures, and it's also humorous, just like life. Chung manages to tell his story with no sentimentality or melodrama, despite some setbacks that the family experiences. No easy answers are provided, but the film ends on a note of hope, signified by that Korean herb, minari.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a quiet film that everyone will be able to relate to. It could win the Best Picture Oscar because I think it's a sentimental favorite, but compared to some of the other films, I don't think it deserves it.  (In English and Korean, with English subtitles - Available on Amazon Prime)


The Father

A man struggles with his dementia and so does his daughter.
After watching this film, I can't help but think Anthony Hopkins should win a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of a man suffering from dementia. It's a bravura performance in a film that is a horror story about what can happen as we age and the effect it can have on families and caregivers.

Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) is suffering from dementia and the story is told from his point of view as he tries to remember things and make sense of what is happening around him. We are flies on the wall as he confuses people's faces and where he is living, so the film can also sometimes be confusing for the viewer as we live through his experience with him.

This is a sad story about what happens to our old people and could be seen as a plea for more services so people can age in place. But this film is not just sad, it's actually a horror story: the horror of getting old; the horror of realizing you are losing it; the horror of the isolation of being lost in one's own mind; and the horror of ending up in an institution or a nursing home and ending one's life alone among strangers. It's also a horror story for those who love and care for them. In this film, Anthony's daughter, played by Olivia Colman in an Oscar nominated performance, struggles with caring for Anthony while also trying to live her own life.

Since my mother went through this, needless to say, this film resonated with me. I remember the first time I realized my mother was suffering from dementia. She was good at hiding it, mostly, I guess, because I lived far away and only talked to her on the phone, but when she asked me if I had children, I knew it was over. She adored my kids. My mother ended up dying alone in a nursing home, and I have never gotten over that. I could write my own horror film called "The Mother," and I am sure I am not alone in that.

Hopkins is an amazing actor. He doesn't need to say a word. His face can tell the whole story. He should definitely win an Oscar for his performance, but I fear that Chadwick Boseman will win, which is not a bad thing because it, too, was a wonderful performance. Boseman put in a great performance in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" despite the fact he only had months to live, but after seeing this film, I just feel Hopkins deserves his second Best Actor Oscar.

Screenwriters Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton (Zeller also directed) were able to put the viewer inside the mind of somone struggling with dementia. A heartwrenching film that had me weeping at the end. I cried for Anthony, I cried for my mother and I cried for myself.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Hopkins should win for Best Actor, but the film itself could also pull a "Parasite" and take home the trophy for Best Picture. It's that good and everyone with aging parents needs to see this! But if you are worried about your own memory loss, maybe not!
(available to rent on Amazon Prime and in theatres)

The Sound of Metal

A drummer in a heavy metal punk bank must deal with the loss of his hearing.

Ruben Stone (Riz Ahmed) is a drummer in a heavy metal punk duo named “Blackgammon” with his girlfriend, Lou (Olivia Cooke). They are traveling around the country to their gigs in their Airstream RV. He’s an ex-heroin junkie and she has some issues, too, but things are going well until Ruben starts to have hearing issues. Can you imagine? A musician who can’t hear? He sees a doctor, has a hearing test and the news is not good. He can only hear 20-30% of sounds and his hearing is deteriorating rapidly. The doctor mentions cochlear implants as a possible solution but they are very expensive so he advices Ruben to eliminate exposure to noise and wait for further testing.
Lou is worried that Ruben will relapse, so she contacts Ruben’s Narcotics Anonymous sponsor who is able to get Ruben into a rural deaf community for ex-addicts run by a man named Joe (Paul Raci), who lost his hearing while fighting in the Vietnam War. While there, Ruben goes through all of the stages of grief as he wrestles with his deafness and his addiction. He just wants to get the implants so he can get back to “normal,” but…
Joe tells him that “If you want to be here, [you need to] understand we are looking for a solution to this (he point to his forehead), not this (he points to his ears).”
So Ruben needs to learn how to be deaf.

He resists Joe at first, but after a time, he warms to the community and Joe asks him to become a permanent part of it, but Ruben is bent on getting the cochlear implants and getting back to his musical career, so he sells his gear and his Airstream and gets the surgery, only to discover how true that old saying is…”Be careful what you wish for.”
The film does an excellent job of letting us into Ruben’s head thanks to a stellar and Academy Award nominated sound design. We hear what he doesn’t hear. When he arrives at the deaf community, he doesn’t understand sign language so we don’t either and no subtitles are provided. We feel his isolation. We have to make our way through it just as Ruben does. But as he learns how to communicate, then we understand more too.
The film also explores the issue of cochlear implants, one that is controversial in the deaf community. When offered that opportunity, it turns out that many deaf people believe that deafness is not something that needs to be fixed or cured. They embrace the stillness of the deaf world.
Directed by Darius Marder with a screenplay by Darius and his brother, Abraham, this is a small film with six big Oscar nominations: a Best Actor nod for Riz Ahmed’s amazing performance as Ruben; a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Paul Raci, who plays Joe, as well as nominations for Best Editing, Best Screenplay and Best Sound.
Rosy the Reviewer says…what could have been a sappy melodrama full of cliches is a quiet study in hearing loss and addiction and an insight into the world of the deaf. This film's Best Picture nomination was a surprise and despite the fact that it's a good film, I predict it will not win.
(Now streaming on Amazon Prime)

Promising Young Woman

A promising young woman devotes her life to taking revenge for what happened to her friend.

Carey Mulligan has a well-deserved Best Actress Oscar nomination for her performance in this Oscar nominated rape revenge film which is a perfect addition to the Me Too Movement. And I loved every minute of it!

Early on we learn that Cassie (Mulligan) hangs out in bars, pretending to be drunk, so as to lure seemingly nice guys into taking advantage of her so she can teach them a lesson. The cold opening is great and made me laugh. But later, the film takes a more dramatic turn when we learn why Cassie does this. We learn that Cassie was a rising star in medical school, but dropped out after her friend and fellow student, Nina, experienced a traumatic event. Cassie was a promising young woman, but what happened to her friend so disturbed her that she couldn’t continue, so now Cassie lives with her parents, works at a coffee shop by day, and hangs out in bars at night, on a mission to teach these so-called nice guys some hard lessons. Cassie is right and truly pissed off and also takes on an old classmate and the college Dean who did not protect Nina.

But then Cassie meets really nice guy Ryan (Bo Burnham) and lets her guard down and everything looks like it’s going to turn out alright for her. There is a love montage and everything – you know, that collection of scenes where the two lovebirds are doing goofy things together and laughing and kissing and singing along to a bad song? How is this going to turn out? Well, I figured some of it out beforehand, but did not see the ending coming. The film has twists and turns that keep you guessing.

Every woman who has ever encountered misogynistic scumbags disguised as nice guys will be able to relate to this. And you nice guys out there? This is also a cautionary tale for you. Take advantage of a drunk girl in a bar and you just might meet a Cassie. This is also a story about the “bro culture,” where nice guys in a group can do some terrible things and excuse their bad behavior because they were drunk, or blame the girl because she was drunk or give themselves a pass because they were “just kids.” Sound familiar?

Directed by Emerald Fennell, the creator of “Killing Eve,” (she is nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay), this is a dark and stylish film that exposes rape culture and the promising young nice guy who couldn’t possibly have done such a thing. Except he did. One can’t help but make the leap to current events and the institutions that are still protecting these “nice guys.”
Rosy the Reviewer says…I don’t predict that this will win the Oscar for Best Picture, but it has five Oscar noms, and it’s a mesmerizing tale for today that is not just relevant but a really great film experience.
(Available On Demand and on DVD from Netflix)

A look at 1930's Hollywood and the writing of "Citizen Kane."

I like to pat myself on my own back and say that I am rarely wrong about films.  Fans of my reviews can back me up.  I mean, c'mon, I have won the family Academy Awards competition many times! But for this film, I may have dropped the filmic ball. It has ten Academy Award nominations, but when I first tried to watch it, I could barely get through the first hour and then gave up. So you can imagine my surprise when it was awarded those ten Academy Award nominations, most notably a Best Picture nod, so with a deep sigh I decided to give it another chance. Maybe I missed something.

This film is ostensibly about how the screenplay for the acclaimed film “Citizen Kane” came to be, but it ends up being much more than that.

When Orson Welles came to Hollywood in 1940 at the age of 24, he was a “wunderkind (and count how many times he is called that in this film!).  In his twenties, he had already directed high profile plays in New York and formed the Mercury Theatre, a repertory company that presented productions on Broadway, but by the time he came to Hollywood he was probably best known for his “War of the Worlds” broadcast, a radio show about space aliens invading earth that was so real it caused worldwide panic.

So Hollywood came calling and Welles was given complete artistic control and could work with whomever he wished and make whatever movie he wished.  He chose writer Herman Mankiewicz and the movie was "Citizen Kane.”

Mankiewicz, known as “Mank,” was already an established Hollywood screenwriter since the 20’s, having come from a career in New York as a journalist and drama critic for "The New Yorker." He was known as a screenplay “fixer,” a writer called upon to fix up a screenplay that needed some work.  He was known for his satiric wit and snappy dialogue which came to typify many of the films of the 1930’s.  And by the time Welles called upon Mank to help him with the screenplay for “Citizen Kane,” Mank was also bit of a drunk. Well, not exactly a bit of a drunk.  A very big drunk.

When the film begins, it’s 1940 and Mank (Gary Oldman) is drying out in a motel in the California desert after a car accident and expected to finish the screenplay for “Citizen Kane.”  A young stenographer, Rita (Lily Collins), whose husband is fighting overseas, is helping him, and his minder is John Houseman (Sam Troughton), Welles’ friend and partner, who checks up on him periodically.  Through a series of flashbacks, we discover how Mank ended up in the seedy motel in the middle of nowhere, writing the screenplay for “Citizen Kane” and fighting his raging alcoholism.

As you probably know, “Citizen Kane” was a thinly veiled and unflattering story of William Randolph Hearst, the premiere newspaper magnate of the day who had built his castle, San Simeon (aka Hearst Castle), on the Central Coast and lived the life of an American king.  He wielded great power and has been credited with the creation of Yellow Journalism, sensationalism over fact, the kind of reporting we often see today. Hearst has also been accused of fanning the flames of fervor with his propaganda that resulted in the Spanish-American War.  In addition to all of that, he also had aspirations to make movies, mostly to help his mistress, actress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried).  Needless to say, when Hearst found out about “Citizen Kane,” he was not amused.

So the film focuses on Herman Mankiewicz’s contribution to “Citizen Kane,” considered one of the greatest films of all time (and I concur), but it also attempts to be much more than that: a look behind the scenes of a 1930’s and 1940’s Hollywood, the cutthroat politics of the Hollywood movie machine and the politics in general of the very rich which draws strong parallels to the Trump Era.

Directed by David Fincher, with a screenplay by his father, Jack Fincher, this is also a very intellectual, literary film, very talky with lots of snappy dialogue, just like Mank’s films, and very insider, even for fans of the Golden Age of Hollywood. The film assumes you will recognize the names that are thrown around.  I mean, do you know who Wallace Beery was?  John Houseman? Irving Thalberg? Upton Sinclair?  If you don’t, you could be lost at times and little context is given.

It’s all very 1940's film noir – black and white, lots of shadows, unusual camera angles (Welles invented many of them in “Citizen Kane”), a bleak scenario and three-piece suits and fedoras.

Gary Oldman, who plays Mank, is nominated for a Best Actor Oscar and that is well-deserved. It's good to see him get a meaty role that he can sink his teeth into and he does. He chews the scenery big time, in a good way. But Amanda Seyfried, who plays Marion Davies is nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, and I don't see it because she really doesn’t have much to do. And Lily Collins has absolutely nothing to do, her character really being unnecessary, but at least she didn't get an Oscar nom which would really have made me mad.

There is a risk in making a movie about a narrow subject (the writing of “Citizen Kane”) and an even greater risk throwing names around and populating the film with real-life characters few people remember. The screenplay for “Citizen Kane” was brilliant.  I wish I could say the same for this one (Interestingly, no nomination for this screenplay, which says a lot. Can a film really win Best Picture without a nominated screenplay?).  And to make matters worse, it’s in black and white, which will turn off many movie watchers at the get go. I am being a bit tongue in cheek with that last comment. There are times when black and white is appropriate and this is one of them, and to prove the point, there is an Oscar nomination for the cinematography.

Despite what the filmmakers were trying to achieve with this film, it just didn't work and, sadly, the cinematography was the only thing I liked about this film.

Rosy the Reviewer says…so it turns out, much as I love movies about the movies, and despite it’s ten Oscar nominations, I didn't miss anything the first time around. This film just didn’t do it for me, and I am sad to say I found it boring. I predict it will not win the Best Picture Oscar, either, despite having the most nominations of any of the films. If it does, I will eat Hubby’s fedora!

Thanks for reading!

See you at the Oscars on April 25!

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 

And next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). Go to IMDB.com, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.