Friday, February 21, 2020

"Jojo Rabbit" and "The Week in Reviews

[I review the Oscar nominated movie "Jojo Rabbit" as well as DVDs "Motherless Brooklyn" and "Harriet."  The Book of the Week is "If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood" by Gregg Olsen.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "The Ear (Ucho)."]

Jojo Rabbit

A young boy growing up in WW II Germany loves Hitler and believes the Nazi party line, so is confused when he discovers that his mother is hiding a young Jewish girl in their home.

This was the last film I needed to see in order to have seen all of the films nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, and though I didn't love it as much as a couple of other nominated films, it was certainly deserving because of its originality, humor and charm. And yes, it's also controversial.  I mean, can you make a funny, charming film about Hitler?

Ten-year-old Johannes, AKA, Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) is a little Nazi who lives with his mother, Rosie (Scarlett Johansson).  He has been totally indoctrinated into the anti-Jewish world of National Socialism, believing that Jews have horns and eat babies and all kinds of other Nazi nonsense.  However, Jojo doesn't quite have enough of a bloodthirsty side as demonstrated at a Nazi youth camp where he is instructed to break a rabbit's neck. When he can't do it, he is made fun of and the older boys give him a nickname: Jojo Rabbit.

Arriving home one day, Jojo discovers a young girl hiding in the wall.  His mother has taken her in and is hiding her.  "You do what you can."  So there's Jojo trying to toe the party line and his mother is working with the Resistance. He eventually befriends the young girl, Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie), and his prejudice is eventually dashed as he gets to know her, which is the main anti-hate message in the film. We see inside the mind of a ten-year-old boy whose indoctrination of hatred is challenged and changed.

Now here is the controversial part of this film. 

Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi, who also adapted the screenplay from the book "Caging Skies" by Christine Leunen and directed the film) is Jojo's imaginary friend.  He is always there being understanding and supportive. And zany. And funny. Hitler, zany? Hitler, funny? But thankfully he is also portrayed as a jerkish moron as are the other Nazis. One scene where they all sieg heil each other over and over is very funny. I mean if someone says sieg heil, you have to say it back right?  And then say it back and then say it back... It's absurdist, dark humor of the highest order.  The film is funny and absurd... and then it's not. And that's where the film falters a bit at times. When the film takes some dramatic turns after all of the absurdity, it is jarring.

But young Davis is about as cute as a kid can get, but better than that, he is not obnoxious.  Kids in films are often portrayed as precocious little smart asses with sassy lines, but that is not the case here.  Writer/director/actor Waititi doesn't go that route with the easy laughs.  He makes you care about the soul of young Jojo.  And speaking of Waititi, his over-the-top version of Hitler is fun to watch, and if you like that kind of humor, and you haven't seen his 2014 vampire film "What We Do in the Shadows," it's a must see.  It's one of the funniest movies I have ever a dark and absurd way, of course.

However, not sure what Rebel Wilson was doing in this.  Glad to see her not doing any fat jokes or pratfalls followed by skidding across the floor, which she has turned into a comic signature, because I'm not a fan, but sadly she has little to do here. And Sam Rockwell was almost unrecognizable as a drunken Nazi officer. In a good way.  But Scarlett Johansson?  This has certainly been her year.  She received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for "Marriage Story (on my list of Best Films of 2019)" AND a Best Supporting Actress nomination for this, both well-deserved and both showing her acting range.

Rosy the Reviewer Oscar winning coming-of-age story like no other.

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


Motherless Brooklyn (2019)

In 1950's New York, a private detective with Tourette's Syndrome and OCD tries to solve the murder of his mentor and best friend.

Edward Norton adapted, directed and stars in this very original take on film noir.  I mean a PI with Tourette Syndrome and OCD?  Loosely based on the novel by Jonathan Lethem (Norton has change the time frame from the 80's to the 1950's), this is the story of Lionel Essrog (Norton), a guy who grew up in an orphanage, but who, along with Gilbert (Ethan Suplee), Danny (Dallas Roberts) and Tony (Bobby Cannavale), was rescued from there by Frank Mina (Bruce Willis, in what amounts to a cameo), a private investigator.  Now they all work for Frank. But when Frank is murdered, Lionel vows to find out why.  His investigation leads him on a long and winding road of racial discrimination, city corruption and evil.

Lionel has to deal with his Tourette's and his OCD as he goes from one pitfall to another to try to solve Frank's murder. However, he also has the uncanny ability to listen and remember everything he hears.  

As he works on the crime, Lionel wears Frank's coat and hat and finds a matchbook in the hat, a matchbook from an African American jazz club.  There he encounters a beautiful African American woman, Laura Rose (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who is fighting urban renewal and who somehow figures in the murder.  Lionel has to find out how, so he befriends her. Yes, befriends her, because our Lionel has not had much experience with women.  But there is a bit of romance ahead.  

Likewise, Lionel unearths the corruption in the city under the leadership of Moses Randolph (Alec Baldwin), a character who is certainly modeled after the real life NYC developer, Robert Moses.  Randolph gets away with everything, even though publicly he is only the commissioner of several city agencies, but he seems to control the Burrough Authority, which appears to be the governing body of the city, and his hands are in the money pot and he who controls the money has the power. He is also a proponent of urban renewal, buying up property in poor areas and forcing the residents out.  Lionel meets Paul, an architect and engineer, who is in a sort of war with his brother and his brother is - wait for it - Moses Randolph. But why would Randolph want Frank Mina killed?  What did Frank know?

All of these plotlines and characters come together in a twist at the end in this stylish and mesmerizing film that is very reminiscent of Roman Polanski's "Chinatown."

Edward Norton is one of those actors who is easy to take for granted.  He is a handsome guy but he's no Brad Pitt.  He is a wonderful actor but he's not flashy like a Daniel Day-Lewis or a Christian Bale who go to great lengths to inhabit their roles.  It would have been very easy for Norton to overdo it with the Tourette's part of his character, but he doesn't.  It's very much there but it does not overshadow the character and his mission. I think Norton should have had a Best Actor Oscar nod for this film.  He deserved a nomination because it was a two and a half hour film (and you know how I feel about overlong films), he was in practically every scene, and I couldn't take my eyes off of him.

That actually leads me to my only criticism.  As I said, Norton was in almost every scene, giving the film a first person feel.  We are experiencing the film from Essrog's point of view.  But then there are just a couple of scenes where he isn't there, and we see things from another character's point of view, and because there were only a couple of those thrown in, it was distracting, going from a first person point of view to an omniscient one (you can tell I learned my literary stuff in school).

But that's a minor criticism of a film that is certainly fresh and original.

A private eye with Tourette's Syndrome is an intriguing character.  What might he blurt out at a crucial time in his investigation?  Believe it or not, I actually think about Tourette's from time to time, especially when I am thinking bad thoughts (yes, I do occasionally have bad thoughts, I must admit). What if I couldn't control what I said and said everything I thought, like "What an ugly sweater" or "Geez, who did your hair? Medusa?"  So, I am quite empathetic about the challenges that having Tourette's must pose for someone, not only the physical challenge, but the huge psychological one as well, constantly having to worry about saying something wrong or insulting.  Lionel is continually apologizing for his outbursts, and let me tell you, they are nothing like what I imagine a person could say.  What a terrible burden to carry.  But the film does a good job of showing us someone who is able to operate with Tourette's without turning the character into a stereotype or a joke. Oh, and in Lionel's case, it turns out a certain amount of booze and weed seems to help!

The film also does a good job of showing how the poor are taken advantage of in the interests of "the greater good," the "greater good" being rich white people, something that doesn't seem to have improved much since the 50's.  Perhaps that is part of the message and a metaphor for the Trump era.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like film noir, not to be missed!

Harriet  (2019)

Harriet Tubman's escape from slavery and her transformation into one of America's greatest heroes.

Going into this film, I was thinking this was going to be one of those earnest, do-gooder biopics about an American hero that I thought I already knew everything about and to say anything bad about the film would be...well, bad.  

But I was wrong. Yes, this film is earnest, but it's also exciting and inspiring, because it sheds light on one of the most important women in United States history, and, shockingly, this is the first major film about her.  We have all heard of Harriet Tubman, but few of us know all of what she managed to accomplish. In addition to participating in the Underground Railroad and making 13 missions to rescue slaves, she was also a scout and spy for the Union Army during the Civil War, and after the war, was an activist for women's suffrage. She lived to be 91 and was quite a woman and this film does her justice.

Cynthia Erivo plays Harriet, and likewise, even though Erivo's performance as Harriet earned her a Best Actress Oscar nomination, you probably don't know much about her either.  I know I didn't.  But now she seems to be everywhere. She made a big splash at the Academy Awards on the Red Carpet and sang the nominated song "Stand Up (from this film)," which she wrote, and I am currently watching her on the HBO series "The Outsider," playing a role decidedly different from Harriet.  She is a British actress, singer and songwriter, best known for her performance as Celie in the Broadway revival of "The Color Purple" for which she won a Tony.  She also has an Emmy and a Grammy, so she is three-quarters of the way to being an EGOT!  So like Harriet Tubman, she is quite a woman and like the film she did Harriet justice!

As for the film itself, it's a straight forward linear depiction starting with Tubman's escape to freedom, an exciting early part of the film when she jumps off a bridge into a raging river and then goes on a perilous 100 mile journey, helped along the way by a Quaker and others, and by talking to God, and eventually making it to Philadelphia where she meets abolishionist William Still (Leslie Odom Jr.) and the prosperous free black woman, Marie Buchanan (Janelle Monae), who gives Harriet a place to stay in her boarding house. Once free, Harriet feels a responsibility for those left behind, not just her husband, sister and parents, but also others, so she becomes a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad.

Every time I watch a movie like this, I get angrier and angrier contemplating how it is possible for humans to enslave other humans and feel superior to them based on the color of their skin, or in the case of the Holocaust, their religion.  Slavery is sick, sick, sick and a terrible stain on American history.  Sadly, racism and white privilege still exists today so a movie like this is am important reminder of what can happen.

Yes, the film written by Gregory Allen Howard and Kasi Lemmons and directed by Lemmons, is earnest and reverential and the ending is overdramatic and, I dare say, some poetic license was at play there, but that aside, the film is also scary and exciting and inspiring. Harriet Tubman gets the tribute here that she deserves. 

When Harriet Tubman died at the age of 91, her last words were "I go to prepare a place for you."  Even in death, she still wanted to save people.

Rosy the Reviewer appropriate and exciting homage to an inspiring American woman hero. 

***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***

42 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

The Ear (1970 but not released until 1990)

A Czech official must deal with not only his political problems but the turmoil in his marriage.

Ludvik (Radoslav Brzobohaty) is a senior official in Prague's ruling Communist Party.  Anna (Jirina Bohdalova) is his alcoholic wife.  They have a young son and live a comfortable life, but it becomes clear early on that these two are not happy together, nor are they particularly happy living in a world where they are listened to, as in bugged, and spied upon. 

The film takes place over one long evening where the two encounter some strange occurrences - a gate left open, keys missing, a power outage, dead phone lines - and they start to wonder if they are under surveillance and in danger of arrest.  As Ludvik tries to cover his tracks and burn any evidence that could incriminate him, Anna is ragging him about their relationship until at dawn the two realize that Ludvik may be taken away and just what they mean to each other. 

It's not difficult to be paranoid in a totalitarian government where it's taken for granted that rooms are bugged and you are being spied upon. Anna and Ludvik even make love in the kitchen so "the ear" won't hear them. The film was produced in 1970 but banned in Czechoslovakia and not released until 1989. As someone once said, "Even paranoids have enemies." And nothing like a bit of paranoia to bring a couple together!

Why it's a Must See: "Although [this film's] direct criticism of the rule of right-wing party leader Gustav Husak distinguishes [director Karel] Kachyna from other former New Wave Czech directors, the film's back-to-basics look and hardwon insights into the no-so-private life of a passionate yet embittered married couple are the two main reasons for its enduring interest."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...a sort of Czech Communist version of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf." And just as compelling.
(B & W and in Czech with English subtitles)

***The Book of the Week***

If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood by Gregg Olsen (2019)

We never know what is going on behind closed doors in our neighbors' homes. Sometimes there is some crazy, evil stuff going on.

I consider myself a bit of a true crime aficionado.  I love reading true crime books and never miss an episode of Dateline, you know, the TV show where the killer is almost always the husband!  I am fascinated by the evil that men and women do and want to understand why.  

Gregg Olsen lives in the Pacific Northwest and is one of our premiere writers of true crime stories, mostly which take place in the Pacific Northwest. He has written about Susan Powell ("If I Can't Have You"), missing for many years and whose husband, the prime suspect, ended up killing himself and their two sons; Mary Kay Letourneau ("If Loving You is Wrong"), the teacher who fell in love and eventually married one of her very young students; Munchausen by Proxy mom Tanya Reid ("Cruel Deception"), and more - and here he tells the engrossing story of Shelley Knotek and her long-time abuse of her three daughters and murder of two of her friends.

Shelley was one of those people who just didn't seem to have a conscience.  Borderline Personality at the least, Narcissism most likely, or both, but her particular penchant was torturing people.  If you crossed her, even if you didn't even know what you had, you paid the price. She also had a penchant for lying and had to have control at all times. You can blame it on her upbringing if you want - she was abandoned by her drug-using mother and raised by a grandmother who was also a "my way or the highway" kind of person, but there had to be more than that, because she was also raised by a family member who was kind and tried to show her the right path. 

So what turned Shelley into this monster who seemed to derive pleasure in making her children work outside in their underwear or, worse, naked, or lock them outside in the cold for hours or make them "wallow" in the mud while turning a cold hose on them?  We may never find out. Perhaps some people are just evil. But what we do find out is what happens to her and her children. 

Will she get what's coming to her? What happened to her three daughters after a life of unimaginable abuse? What happened to her two friends who disappeared under suspicious circumstances?

Some of the torture I have described is only a sampling of the kind of abuse Shelly rained on her three daughters, Nikki, Sami and Tori, who helped Olsen with this book. Despite their horrible and traumatic childhoods, where their mother tried to break them apart, they were able to band together and appear to be living relatively happy, normal lives. But do you ever really get over a childhood of unimaginable abuse? 

Olsen's book celebrates the bond of sisterhood and the resiliance of the human spirit.  But this book is not for the faint of heart. The torture Shelley Knotek put her children and friends through was disgusting and relentless and the book recounts it all in torturous detail.  But Olsen's writing is powerful and engrossing.  It's not melodramatic and it's not dry.  It reads like a well-written novel, except sadly, it's all true.  

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are into true crime and have a strong stomach, you will like this book that is one of the best pieces of true crime nonfiction of 2019.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


"Fantasy Island"


The Week in Reviews
(What To See and What To Avoid)

as well as

the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See

Before I Die Project"

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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.

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, 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.

Friday, February 14, 2020

"1917" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "1917" as well as "Countdown" and "Gemini Man."  The Book of the Week is another cookbook, "Nothing Fancy: Unfussy Food for Having People Over" by Alison Roman.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "The Saragossa Manuscript."]


Two WW I British soldiers must traverse No Man's Land to stop a planned British attack on the Germans, an attack that is a German trap.

Winner of a Golden Globe and BAFTA for Best Picture and a Best Director award for director Sam Mendes, as well as over 100 more awards, this film was poised to win the Oscar for Best Picture and a Best Director Oscar for Sam Mendes, but victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat by director Bong Joon Ho and his film "Parasite," which had been gaining momentum over the last few weeks leading up to the Oscars. (I actually predicted this happening in my review of "Parasite.")

But Best Picture Oscar or not, this film is extraordinary. And it and director Sam Mendes were both deserving of the nominations.

First, let me say that I am not a fan of war movies, but this isn't just any war movie.  This is also a horror film that expertly, economically, beautifully and poignantly (I can't use enough adjectives) shows the horror of war as it follows two young British soldiers - Lance Corporals Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) - who are sent on what could be a death mission to try to stop an offensive by another British battalion, the Second Devons, who are planning an attack on the Germans.  However, they have bad information and it's actually a trap set by the Germans and all 1600 British troops are bound to be killed, Blake's brother among them. There is no communication - the radio lines are down - so Schofield and Blake must run across enemy lines in Northern France into trenches they hope have been abandoned by the Germans and make their way to the Second Devons alone.  

It's a war film with an airplane dog fight, a sniper, a raging river, bombs, lots and lots of dead bodies and an aura of the bitterness and stress of war. But it's also a film about saving lives, courage, loyalty, love, and friendship.

In addition to eight other Oscar nominations, the film did garner three wins: for visual effects, sound mixing and cinematography, and it is the cinematography that also sets this film apart from all other war films.  The film looks like it was shot in one two hour take. However, that is not really the case. It was actually filmed in a series of uncut takes that were seamlessly connected to make it seem as if we were watching these two young men on their perilous mission in real time.  And that choice makes for a very tense and mesmerizing film, indeed.  Kudos to Roger Deakins who won the Oscar for Best Cinematography, but also to director Mendes, whose choices led to this - and I can't use this word enough - this extraordinary film.  And the film was a personal journey for Mendes, who at the end of the film, dedicates it to a family member.

The film was also nominated for Best Production Design and, though "Once Upon a Hollywood" won for its amazing depiction of 1960's L.A, this film certainly also deserved that nomination.  The endless trenches, the battlefield dotted with dead bodies both human and animal, and the bombed out town were just breathtakingly and sadly beautiful.

Though the look and feel of this film takes center stage, the actors were also wonderful. I can't believe that McKay was not nominated for a Best Actor Oscar.  He, too, was extraordinary and was pretty much the very heart of this film. We care about Corporal Scofield, we want him to make it, we don't want him to be a casualty of the horrors of war.

All wars are terrible but WW I was particularly terrible with men in muddy trenches or in hand-to-hand combat, only to gain an inch of land, and Mendes does not glamorize this war.  General Sherman said "War is hell."  And there is no better description than that nor a better film to illustrate it.

Rosy the Reviewer extraordinary feat of movie making that made me cry for the sheer beauty of it.

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


Countdown (2019)

If there was an app that could tell you when you were going to die, would you want to know?  Me neither.

But that's not the case with a bunch of millennials who come across an app that says it will predict when you die.  Should they do it?  "It's just an app." At first it's fun when several download the app and discover that they have years and years ahead of them. But poor Courtney (Anne Winters).  The app says she only has three hours to live. Geez.  Okay, it's just an app.  When Courtney's boyfriend (Dillon Lane) gets drunk, Courtney decides to walk the dark...alone.  Don't do it, girl!  Then her phone buzzes and says, "User agreement broken." Next she is being followed by a big hairy guy, but it's not the hairy guy she needs to worry about.  She gets home and dies in a supernatural way in her own bathroom. Turns out her drunk boyfriend had a car accident too, so either way, she was going to die.

So who's next?

Meet Quinn (Elizabeth Lail).  She is a nurse and meets the drunk boyfriend who crashed his car.  He ended up in the hospital and is about to go into surgery. He is sure that he is going to die. He tells her about the app and she downloads it.  Not good.  Quinn finds out she only has two days left.  At first she doesn't take it seriously, but when the drunk boyfriend does actually die in surgery...Okay, time to delete the app.  Nooooo.  It won't delete and time is ticking away.  It doesn't help that Quinn notices a shadowy figure following her around.  The Grim Reaper?  She has to figure out a way to save herself before time runs out.  Tick...tick...tick...It's a race against time.

Turns out this is yet another instance of the importance of reading an app's user agreement (see my review of "Jexi").

Quinn goes to a phone store to get help and talks to Derek (Tom Sergura),  a smart ass phone sales person (what is it with smart ass phone sales people? - see also "Jexi" for that too) and buys a new phone, thinking she can start over.  Oops.  The app automatically installs itself on her new phone.  Tick. Tick. Tick. She also meets Matt (Jordan Calloway), who has the same problem she does, not much time left, and he can't stop the countdown on his phone, either.  Better read that damn user agreement. So they do. It states that the user agreement is broken if the user tries to change his or her fate.

They are referred to Father John (P.J. Byrne), a priest who still believes in demons and the devil.  I mean, when in doubt blame it on the devil.   With the help of the priest, it is determined that the app is a curse from the devil and the only way to beat the curse is to prove the devil wrong (he doesn't like that) by either dying before the countdown ends or live at least one second past.  Well, the former is not an option so Quinn and Jordan need to figure out how to live past their death deadline. Will they?

In the meantime, Quinn is being sexually harassed by a doctor (Peter Facinelli) at the hospital, a sort of #MeToo Movement side-story that does little to help either the movement or the movie.

Written and directed by Justin Dec, I have to ask myself why I end up watching all of these films aimed at millennials.  I guess part of the reason is that as I get older the stars of movies get younger.  And I actually like these thriller cum horror films.  I don't like the really gross ones like "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" or the "Hostel" and "Saw" series, but a nice little thriller, more along the lines of "Happy Death Day"  with just the right abount of gotcha moments is good for the heart once in awhile, and I liked the premise of this film. And it's actually funny at times, though not sure if it was supposed to be.  It's not going to win any awards but it's an amusing 90 minutes in a "Final Destination" kind of way.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like middle of the road horror, you might like this.

Gemini Man (2019)

An aging hit man can't figure out how a man coming after him knows his every move...until he discovers the other hitman is a clone of himself!

We once again see the age regression magic that was used in "The Irishman," except this time it is used on Will Smith who plays himself as well as a younger version of himself.  

Will plays assassin/sharp shooter, Henry Brogan, who works for the DIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, a thinly veiled version of the CIA.  Despite 72 kills, he is actually a good guy.  When he isn't killing people, he lives a sort of Zen life in Georgia.  After a botched hit, he decides to retire and heads to his home in Georgia, but as Michael Corleone said in "The Godfather," "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!" 

Henry meets Danny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who is at the dock renting boats, but who is in fact an agent sent to keep tabs on Henry.  And for some reason that is never made clear, Henry has now become the prey instead of the hunter as Clay Varris (Clive Owen), head of a black ops unit Code Name "Gemini," wants him dead. As I said, it's unclear why Varris wants Henry dead, something about the government screwing up and Henry killing the wrong guy, but all kind of far-fetched.  But not as far-fetched as the fact that Varris just happens to have a son named Junior who also just happens to be a clone of Henry.  So now Henry must try to outsmart himself in order to stay alive. Danny turns out to be on Henry's side and the two go on the run to try to find out why Varris wants Henry dead while at the same time trying to stay alive.

Written by David Benioff, Billy Ray, and Darren Lemke, it's all very complicated and convoluted as these kinds of thrillers often are, but Will Smith has that "X" factor, that something special that compels you to watch him, and with this added feature of playing against a younger version of himself, it can be fun to watch at times, though this is one of those movies where the trailer makes you think one thing and the movie turns out to be completely different.

There are the usual motorcycle chases, bombs, lasers and gun fights, though the way they are portrayed look more like a video game than a film.  Something in the way director Ang Lee filmed this movie - higher frame rates - makes it look exactly like a video game and that actually makes the film kind of annoying and exhausting.

This is an odd film to be directed by Ang Lee, who is most known for more serious, high-brow films like "Sense and Sensibility," "The Ice Storm" and "Brokeback Mountain," but I don't fault him for wanting to do something different.  I just wish the film had been better and not presented as a video game.  The premise is kind of weak too:  we have to believe that if someone is a clone of you, the clone would know what you are thinking and be able to predict your every move.  It's an interesting concept but kind of a stretch and in the end kind of a yawn.

Will does a good job playing himself and his younger self, but there is little in the way of character deveopment. Mary Elizabeth Winstead looks like a young Signourney Weaver and poor Clive Owen doesn't really have much to do.  All in all, disappointing.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like watching video games, you might enjoy this.

***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***

43 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

The Saragossa Manuscript (1965)

An officer finds a book and he lives out some of the fantasies in the book.

During a Napoleonic Wars battle in the town of Saragossa, Alfonse van Worden (Zbigniew Cybulski), a Belgian officer, finds a large book on the second floor of an inn and becomes engrossed in it.  Alfonse then finds himself living out the stories in the book in a kind of Arabian Nights fantasia. He finds an inn where he meets two Moorish princesses, Emina (Iga Cembrzynska) and Zibelda (Joanna Jedryka), sisters who tell Alfonse they are his cousins, and, as the last of the Gomelez line, he must marry both of them.  After drinking out of a skull goblet, Alfonse finds himself in a desolate countryside where he meets a hermit priest who is trying to cure a possessed man who tells his story, which also features some sisters.

The next morning, Alfonse leaves the inn but is captured by members of the Spanish Inquisition and then rescued by - you guessed it - those two sisters (I am seeing a pattern here) who seduced him earlier. He then meets a caballist and goes to his castle.

End of Part I.

Sigh.  There's a Part II?

This part is a series of stories told by the leader of a band of gypsies and the stories are not only tales-within-a-tale but tales-within-a-tale-within-a-tale and there is a coming together of sorts at the end of the film, if you make it that far (the film is three hours long!) and can figure out what the hell is going on. 

Directed by Wojciech Has, there is all kinds of mysticism, symbolism and the supernatural at work here, and it is difficult to tell what is fantasy and what is reality. It has been recommended that you watch this several times to understand everything that is going on. You know what I think when someone tells me that about a movie? I lose all desire to see it. I don't want to have to work that hard to enjoy a film. Why can't a movie make sense the first time?  In this case, watching it once was enough.

Why it's a Must See: "Jerry Garcia proclaimed this 1965 Polish feature his favorite movie..."

Garcia supposedly saw an abbreviated version of this film in the 60's when it first came out and loved it so much he worked with Martin Scorsese and Frances Ford Coppola to restore the film to its original three hour length, which they did in 1999. So we have Jerry Garcia to thank for this three hour version!  I am being sarcastic. I wish he hadn't done it. Not sure why he loved it so much, but remember it was the 60's.  There were a lot of strange movies produced in that decade, and, uh, Jerry was not averse to taking a puff or two and doing a hit of acid, which might explain why he liked this mess.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Is the fact that this film was Jerry Garcia's favorite movie reason enough to see this film before you die?  No.
(In Polish with English subtitles)

***The Book of the Week***

Nothing Fancy: Unfussy Food for Having People Over by Alison Roman (2019)

Entertaining doesn't need to be stressful!

You may have noticed, people don't seem to get together to play cards or bowl or invite people over like they used to back in the "old days."  If you haven't noticed, and you don't believe me, read "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community" by Robert Putnam, which he wrote all the way back in 2001. He thought then that people had stopped inviting people over, stopped joining groups as in bowling leagues, hence the title, a metaphor for the fact that we have all stopped interracting with our fellow humans. Back in 2001, Putnam blamed it on television, women working and people having to commute to and from their jobs, leaving little time for bridge groups, bowling leagues and dinner parties. And now, in 2020, things are even worse.  We still have television, women still work, and we are still commuting except now we also have technology and social media which cuts us off from human interaction even more.

Well, Alison Roman wants to fix that in her own little way - with food.  She has made it easier for us all to get together in this fun book about entertaining.  Well, sorry, she actually points out that "This is not a book about entertaining."  It's about love.

"Using your time and resources to feed people you care about is the ultimate expression of love.  And love is about expressing joy, not producing anxiety, so the other thing I want you to get out of it is: You can do this."

So she has written a cookbook that makes it easy for you to have people over for a meal and the cookbook is also fun to read (you know I like to do that)!

Roman starts the book with "Three helpful things:"

1.  Ask for help - have your guests participate
2.  Pick your battles - don't strive for perfection and everything does not have  to be piping hot when it hits the table.
3. Never apologize - "Embrace the quirky imperfections that make dinner at your house special and different."

On that note, Roman goes on to give advice on shopping, what ingredients and equipment to have on hand and then the recipes: snacks, salads, sides, mains and desserts.  Each section contains an introduction with her cooking philosophy e.g. the salad section begins with "These days, a salad can be anything you want it to be" and for her lengthy section on "Sides" she says:

'Side Dish' is a very misleading term.  It implies something that exists only to serve as an accompaniment to something else.  No disrespect to a great chicken or an expensive steak, but it's no secret that sides are often the most delicious things on the table.  In fact, I make a meal of  'just sides' all the time and don't see anything wrong with your doing that either. Side dishes deserve our unrestrained love and utmost respect! Thank you for coming to my TED Talk."

Oh, did I say she also has a sense of humor?

Yes, what really sets this cookbook apart from others is not only the stories Roman tells about each recipe but her sense of humor and no-nonsense approach.  She knows we are all busy, but she wants you to enjoy cooking for those you care about. She takes you by the hand and walks you through every recipe so you never need to feel insecure about having people over again!  She also uses unique ingredients. She inspired me to buy some anchovy paste.  It's one of her favorite ingredients!  I am intrigued.

Roman's love of stress-free cooking could prove Putnam and his "bowling alone" theory wrong and could get us off our phones and out from in front of our computers and TVs and get us socializing again with real live humans. So from a lovely shrimp cocktail to a salad with celery, fennel, walnuts and blue cheese to Wine-Roasted Artichokes (did I say she LOVES sides?) to Citrus Chicken Rested in Herbs to Crushed Blackberry and Cornmeal Cake, I am ready to turn off the TV and have some people over.

Rosy the Reviewer come on down!

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


"JoJo Rabbit"


The Week in Reviews
(What To See and What To Avoid)

as well as

the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See

Before I Die Project"

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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.

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, 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.