Friday, October 30, 2015

"Crimson Peak" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Crimson Peak" and the DVDs "Lila & Eve" and "In the Name of My Daughter."  The Book of the Week is  "That's What Fashion Is" by fashionista Joe Zee. I also bring you up to date on my "1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Michelangelo Antonioni's classic "La Notte."]

Crimson Peak

A gothic thriller from the mind of Director Guillermo del Toro.

When you go to see a gothic thriller, it must deliver some or all of the following elements:

  • Creepy, creaky, crumbling mansion
  • Handsome, brooding and sinister leading man
  • Plucky heroine
  • Ghosts that deliver ominous warnings
  • A brother and sister with an unsavory relationship
  • A malevolent female out to get our heroine
  • Beautiful costumes and long hair flowing all over the place
  • A very over-the-top plot

Does "Crimson Peak" deliver?  Check, check, check, check, check, check, check...and CHECK!

Del Toro has taken his creative mind that gave us "Pan's Labyrinth" and turned it toward the gothic thriller.  And as you would expect, the set design and production values are first rate.

The film begins in Buffalo, New York, when our plucky heroine, Edith Cushing is eight.  Her mother has just died and soon after, her ghost scares the living daylights out of Edith by appearing with long scary fingers and an unrecognizable face uttering the words "Beware of Crimson Peak."  Edith has no idea what that means.

Fast forward and Mia Wasikowska as our plucky heroine is now in her twenties and hoping to be a writer. Ironically, she wrote a "ghost story." Her father (Jim Beaver), a wealthy builder, clearly adores her.  When titled but penniless Englishman baronet Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hittleston) approaches her father to invest in his invention for harvesting the red clay that populates his property, there is an instant attraction between Thomas and Edith.  But Thomas does not come without baggage.  That baggage is his sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain).  The two of them seem unnaturally close, if you know what I mean.  Edith's father is not happy about a romance between Thomas and Edith and hires a private detective to find out about him.  He later confronts Thomas with what he discovered and voila!  Edith's father is found dead in the bathroom of his men's club, before he can share the information with Edith. 

But like I said, Edith is plucky and she marries Thomas and off they go to England where Thomas has a mansion called Allerdale Hall that is clearly in decline.  Lucille hovers over Edith like a Mrs. Danvers in Hitchcock's "Rebecca." Winter is approaching and Thomas just offhandedly tells Edith that in winter the estate is known by the locals as "Crimson Peak," because of the red clay on the white snow.


Mia Wasikowska, is, well, Mia Wasikowska: a lovely actress I always get mixed up with Kirsten Dunst.  I can only tell them apart because Mia's teeth are better.   But it's Hittleston and Chastain that mesmerize.  Hittleston is the new Ralph Fiennes, whom I have adored ever since his alleged impromptu tryst with a flight attendant in the plane's bathroom on a transatlantic flight.  Ralph, you are just a regular guy!  I love it!  But Ralph is getting a bit old for the sensitive, brooding Heathcliff type, so Tom can step into that role.   I loved Tom in "Only Lovers Left Alive, which I reviewed favorably, and he does sensitive and brooding so well.  But Jessica.  Ah, Jessica.  Chew some more scenery. She really gets into it as Thomas' euphemistic "sister." It's too much fun.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a lush and creepy ghost story that is gorgeous and delicious good fun!

Lila & Eve (2015)

You might ask how I can give this film a good review and have reservations about the serious and box office hit "The Martian."  Well, this is how I can.

I hold filmmakers to different standards depending on what they are trying to accomplish, the budgets they are working with, the actors, etc..  Was this film supposed to be an Oscar-worthy effort ("Argo")?  Was this a summer blockbuster ("Jurassic World")?  Or was it a small film meant to make you feel or learn something ("Still Alice")?  And did it accomplish what it set out to do?  Though I apply the principles I shared in my post "Reading a Film," to films, in the end, these things and our enjoyment of a film are highly subjective.  The bottom line is the film experience and whether or not it was worth spending 90-120+ minutes watching it.

For me, I like films about strong women.  I like films with an interesting plot, and a twist at the end is an extra bonus (even if I can figure it out ahead of time).  And for this one, I'm a big fan of Jennifer Lopez, I can't lie. I have loved her and followed her ever since "Selena." So already this film has a lot going for it in my book.  Now did it deliver a worthwhile film experience?

Lila (Viola Daviswas a single mother raising her son, Stephon (Aml Ameen), in Atlanta.  One night on his way home, Stephon is killed in the crossfire of a drive-by shooting. Lila's world crumbles.  She meets Eve (Jennifer Lopez) at a murdered child support group.  Lila shares that she is frustrated with the efforts the police have made to find her son's killer.  Eve, who has lost her daughter, encourages Lila to find the killer herself.  Lila is hopeful; Eve has given up.  They become a sort of yin and yang of each other and set out on a "Thelma & Louise" odyssey to find Stephon's killer, working their way through the underworld to uncover what happened to Stephon.  Eve is not above blowing someone away who tries to stop them and the bodies start piling up.  Now they are getting the attention of the police and the bad guys are after them too.

Viola Davis is always good.  She has a face that just reeks of pathos which serves her well here as a grieving mother.  No one can imagine the grief one would feel if one's child was murdered.  And as I said earlier, I love Jennifer Lopez, anyway, but here her sort of street smart, smart ass "Jenny from the block" way of delivering lines gives a nice counterpoint to Viola's character.  However, I am starting to worry about Jennifer a little bit.  This was her last feature film, which did not get wide release and the one before that was "The Boy Next Door," which I likened to a glorified Lifetime Movie.  Jennifer hardly falls into the aging actress category yet, despite Hollywood shunning women over 40.  She is still very hot and young looking, so one wonders why she isn't offered more romantic comedies, which made her career for so many years, especially now that more and more of them are aimed at an older crowd.

This is a vengeance film that did not get widespread release, which is too bad because how often do we get to see women in that role?  And when you compare this one to the egregious "Taken 3," which did get the big movie treatment, that's a shame.

Rosy the Reviewer says...think "Thelma and Louise" and "The Sixth Sense," with a touch of "Death Wish." If that appeals, you will like this movie.

In the Name of My Daughter (2014)

Agnes, a young woman, returns home to her mother after her failed marriage, falls in love with her mother's lawyer...and then disappears.

The still luminous Catherine Denueuve plays a Nice casino manager, Renee Le Roux, in this film based on a true story.  Her daughter, Agnes (Adele Haenel) has returned home after a failed marriage.  The two have an uneasy relationship partly because Agnes wants her inheritance.  Renee balks but sets her daughter up with a shop instead. When Renee discovers that five million euros have been lost to a professional gambling ring and a rival casino owner with connections to the mob, Jean-Dominque Fratoni (Jean Corso), is seeking control of the casino, Renee risks losing her management position. 

Maurice Agnelet (Guillaume Canet) is Madame Le Roux's lawyer and right hand man.  He is ambitious and Renee finds him pushy.   When Renee passes Maurice up for the casino manager position, he is not happy. He woos Agnes and they embark on an affair, despite the fact that Maurice is married.  Renee does not approve and Maurice works to alienate mother and daughter. When Renee's management of the casino is brought into question by the board, Agnes votes against her mother and Agnelet helps Fratoni acquire the casino.  Agnes benefits financially from the takeover and naively gives Maurice access to it, and as soon as she does, he stops seeing her.  Agnes becomes desperate and attempts suicide.  There is a brief reconciliation and then...

Agnes goes missing.  Renee does everything she can to find her daughter, but, you know what? If my daughter had treated me the way Agnes treated Renee, I wouldn't have bothered. 

Moral of the story:  No matter how badly your daughter treats you she is still your beloved daughter who you would do anything for.

Renee is certain that Agnelet killed her daughter, but thirty years and three trials later, where is Agnes and who done it?

Canet is appropriately slimy as Maurice, and I couldn't tell if Haenel wanted her Agnes to be so annoying on purpose, but she was.  Deneuve, of course, is always elegant and beautiful.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a bit of a soap opera but compelling. Voila! Even the French can do Lifetime Movies.
(In French with English subtitles)


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


274 to go!
Have YOU seen this one?
La Notte  (1961)

Twenty four hours in a troubled marriage.

It's a minimal plot where a husband and wife, Giovanni and Lidia (He is a successful novelist and she is his frustrated wife), visit a dying friend in the hospital and over the course of 24 hours he has sex with a nymphomaniac in the hospital, they attend a decadent party and she wanders around Milan amidst a bunch of symbolism which we all loved back in the 60's, but which today makes us go "Huh?"

When their friend dies, his death brings up all kinds of recriminations and regret.  "The Notte" represents an actual night that Giovanni wrote about where Giovanni's and Lidia's love burned bright but he worried about the marriage boredom that could set in once habit took over. 

Michelangelo Antonioni was the cinematic darling of the 60's. I know I felt all arty and intellectual when I went to his films, never admitting I wasn't quite sure what they were about.  One thing I know for sure.  He did not make happy films.  This one is part of a trilogy beginning with "L'avventura" and ending with "L'eclisse," and here he continues his themes of the ennui, the jaded lives of the rich and emotional isolation. The black and white cinematography is modern and abstract as he frames the actors against the stark angles of the modern architecture. 
The wonderful and mesmerizing Jeanne Moreau plays Lidia, the wife.  I have always thought that she doesn't have a resting bitch face per se, but she has always had a resting sad face with her ever downturned mouth.  Marcello Mastroianni is at his handsomest here, but his character is a cad.  Marcello can really do cad.

Back when Antonioni and Bergman were very much in vogue and their characters agonized over their despair, lived lives of disconnection, cheated (and agonized over that too) and wandered around thinking deep thoughts, we thought the deep thoughts too, but now this film especially seems self-indulgent and over-long even for me, and I have a high tolerance of self-indulgent, slow-moving films.  When one of the characters says, "You two have really worn me out tonight," it would have been laughable if this film wasn't so dark.

"...this feature comes from what is widely and justifiably considered to be Antonioni's richest period, and evidence of his stunning mastery is readily apparent throughout."
---1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Rosy the Reviewer says...Yes, but must we make a boring film to show bored people?  See this to see where Antonioni was before he blew up with "Blow Up." 

***Book of the Week***

That's What Fashion Is : Lessons and Stories from My Nonstop, Mostly Glamorous Life in Style by Joe Zee 

 Fashionista Joe Zee shares his life and fashion sense.
I had never heard of Joe Zee until I started watching Tyra's new daytime show "FabLife (of course, I'm watching it.  I love Tyra)!  Joe is the fashion expert on FabLife and, in real life, Fashion Editor-in-Chief for Yahoo Style and former Creative Director for Elle Magazine. 
Starting out as a stylist for photographer Annie Leibovitz's shoots for "Vanity Fair," styling celebs for Elle Magazine and reporting from the Red Carpet, Joe shares insider information on what working in the fashion industry and styling celebrities like Cameron Diaz and Scarlett Johansson is really like. He also shares fashion tips so us regular folks can all look like them too (I wish)! 
So this is part autobiography and part fashion advice. 

In addition to his life story (he loved Boy George) and how he got into the fashion business, he tells us how to dress like a model, how to take a selfie, how to maximize shopping on EBay and where he hangs out in Paris. It's a frenetic mish/mash.  Kind of like Joe.  And it's a lotta fun.  We get to be a fashionista vicariously.
Rosy the Reviewer says...Joe is a likable guy whose book makes the world of fashion accessible and fun.

Thanks for Reading!


That's it for this week.

See you Tuesday for

"Bossy People"


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Note:  Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). 



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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Life Lessons: What I Have Learned (Inspired by Kim Kardashian)

Kim Kardashian just turned 35 last Wednesday and shared with People Magazine the 35 things she has learned in her 35 years.

Here are some highlights:

"Family first - always."
OK, I can go with that.

"Mom is usually right."
Yes!  She is right on with that one!

"Let people know how much you care about them because tomorrow is never promised."

"Remember where you came from."

"Never forget how blessed you are."
Well, those of us who are not worth millions of dollars might forget from time to time when the mortgage is due and our kids forget where they came from and that family comes first.

"Wake up early; get the most out of your day."
Forget that one.

"Health is an invaluable gift -- take care of yourself."
She should have made sure her brother-in-law got that message.

I know, I'm bad. 

So those are all good life lessons.

But then she gets into some scary territory.

"A perfectly centered part takes time but it's worth it."
It took her 35 years to figure that out and it's worth sharing? I tried it on Fred, and yes, it takes time, hair products and, no, it's not worth it.

"Airplane bathrooms have the best lighting for selfies."
What? I don't know what airplane bathrooms Kim is taking her selfies in, but the bathrooms I have been in are terrible.  Oh, right, airplane bathrooms in PRIVATE JETS!!!  I get it.

"When in doubt, wear black."
Millie concurs.

"Sometimes you just have to let North wear her Minnie Mouse outfit to bed."

And sometimes you just have to let Millie wear her Pilgrim outfit with the scarlet letter.

"You can't go wrong with a nude nail."
Uh, I'm sure if I had a nude nail, something COULD go wrong.

OK, Kim, well that's great.  Some good advice there.

I know she is Kim Kardashian and has many fans, but is her advice going to resonate with those of us who are just ordinary folks?

If anyone had asked me what I had learned by my 35th birthday I would have said, "Men are scum" and "life sucks."  But that's because I was going through a horrible divorce at the time, had a two-year-old son, and obviously wasn't as highly evolved at 35 as Kim Kardashian seems to be.  I'm just saying.

But I can't help but wonder why we care what a 35-year-old privileged celebrity thinks.  If we are going to listen to "life lessons" from a celebrity why aren't we asking 98-year-old Kirk Douglas or even 70 year-old Helen Mirren.  He survived a stroke and is still going strong and she must be doing something right because she looks fantastic.  I wonder how they feel about airplane bathroom lighting for taking selfies and a nude nail.

And that's my point. The point is Kim Kardashian is THIRTY FIVE.  Douglas and Mirren are 98 and 70 respectively. Why aren't the magazines asking THEM? 

Or what about me?  I am SIXTY SEVEN and no one has asked ME what I have learned, not even my kids.

In China and other countries being old means something.  It means you may be all wrinkly and bald, but you have wisdom.  And wisdom is worth something.  The children take care of their elders and heed their life lessons.

In this country, the old are practically invisible and often warehoused away in old folks homes.  And the sad thing is, it's not always the children who make that decision because in this country we also don't like to ask for help.  We parents don't want to be a burden. 

And life lessons? Heaven forbid, our kids should ask us for some life lessons.

Remember what Mark Twain supposedly said?  “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

So guess what?  This is my blog and I am going to share what I've learned, my life lessons...from the mature viewpoint.

Now I am not going to go all Kim Kardashian on you.  She was turning 35 so she had 35.   I am 67, but I am not going to give you 67. 

I am going to give you three...and here they are.

"It's fine to wear white after Labor Day."

"Dogs in costumes always get laughs."

"No one cares what your life lessons are."

Thanks for listening.

Thanks for Reading!
See you Friday
for my review of the new movie 
"Crimson Peak" 
The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)

and the latest on
My 1001 Movies I Must See Before
 I Die Project."

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Friday, October 23, 2015

"Beasts of No Nation" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Beasts of No Nation" and DVDs "After Words" and "The Runner."  I also bring you up to date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Luchino Visconti's classic film "Rocco and his Brothers."  The Book of the Week is Grace Jones' memoir, "I'll Never Write My Memoirs."]

Beasts of No Nation

A young boy is kidnapped and forced to be a rebel soldier. 
When the film begins, we hear children playing and we meet Agu (Abraham Attah in his first movie role) and his friends.  They live in a village in an unnamed African country.  They are trying to amuse themselves with the frame of a TV, sticking their heads through the place where the TV should be and calling it "Imagination TV."  They are running around the village, because there is no school. Their country is at war, but the boys appear oblivious to that fact and are playing and trying to raise some money from the soldiers protecting their village from the marauding rebels.  The presence of these soldiers is the only indication that there is a war going on. 
Agu is a good, innocent kid.  He lives with his parents and three siblings.
But as the rebels approach their village, the women and children are sent to the City and the men stay behind to fight.  Agu is separated from his mother and two younger siblings and when the fighting comes to his village, his father, older brother and friends are mistakenly killed by government forces who think they are spies. 
Agu runs into the jungle where he is captured by some boy soldiers and taken to their Commandant (Idris Elba) who is running a military rebel organization called NDF.  The Commandant says he will make him a warrior and uses a combination of threats, psychological abuse and manipulative fatherly concern to turn Agu into a loyal boy soldier. These people are not Agu's family. There is one scene where Agu must prove his loyalty to the Commandant by killing a man - and he does, in grisly fashion.  Through fear and a sense of survival, Agu becomes indoctrinated into the rebel faction.  We see Agu, the fun-loving innocent kid with few cares, turn into an unfeeling killer.
Young Attah in his first movie role is just mesmerizing as Agu.  This film is all about him and he carries it like a veteran.  However, Idris Elba is also amazing.  He runs through a gamut of complex characterizations: at once the kindly father, then the understanding friend and then the cruel soldier. Though I have gone on record to say I don't believe in Oscar nominations for child actors, Attah was extraordinary so both performances deserve Oscar nominations.
Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (who directed the first season of "True Detective") and also adapted by Fukunaga from the book by Uzodinma Iweala, the film shows the horror that these boy soldiers go through, but leaves us with hope that our basic humanity wills out in the end.  Also gorgeously photographed in Ghana by Fukunaga, he captures its beauty which is in sharp contrast to the horrors of war that we and Agu witness.
This film had a limited release into movie theatres last Friday, October 16th, but also was available to stream on Netflix on that same day.  One wonders if the film and the actors will get noticed with this unconventional theatrical release, but Elba and Attah both deserve a nomination.
Rosy the Reviewer says...a mesmerizing and riveting tale of lost innocence and the horrors of civil war that will stay with you.  Whether you see it in a theatre or at home on Netflix, see it!  It's a must see!
Some Movies You Might Have Missed
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!
***Now Out on DVD***


After Words (2015)
A middle-aged and lonely librarian (Marcia Gay Harden), who has just lost her job, travels to Costa Rica to have one last shot at life before ending it all.

Jane is literally a plain Jane, a librarian who has never married (and I will get to the librarian stereotypes later) and she has given up on life.  So she decides to give herself one last fling by traveling to Costa Rica.
Jane is a reference librarian in a public library, but the only question she seems to get is "Where is the bathroom?"  C'mon, Jane.  You knew the Internet was coming.  You need to learn to market yourself. But she didn't, so the library didn't have the money to keep her branch open and she was fired (which, if this film knew anything about how public libraries are funded, would know that even if a branch closes the staff would not automatically be fired).
Anyway, Jane hightails it to Costa Rica. There she meets Juan (Oscar Jaenada), a young lothario, or perhaps I should say gigolo, who makes a living as a "tour guide," a euphemism for romancing single women on vacation in Costa Rica.  But there is some morality to his immorality.  He is trying to make enough money to keep his young daughter in a private school.
He literally interrupts Jane as she is taking a handful of pills.  He shows up at her door and asks to be her personal guide every day so he can make enough money for the school (he is behind on his payments).  Jane offers him the needed $500 just to get rid of him, but he persists and she relents.
He aggressively gets Jane to hire him as her tour guide and his infectious love of Costa Rica and of life helps Jane to heal especially when he asks her to recommend a book.  That's all she needed to hear.  We librarians are like that. Ask us to recommend a book and our ears perk up! Juan and Jane also smoke some weed together which doesn't hurt and which is NOT necessarily a librarian thing. And I have to say that as Juan takes Jane around his favorite haunts, this film could also be a travel ad for Costa Rica.  The film highlights Costa Rica's beauty.

Jane starts to perk up in general.
Do you see a makeover coming?  I couldn't help but think of Bette Davis in "Now, Voyager."
This is a small film that doesn't appear to have gotten much distribution, but I couldn't resist a movie about a librarian to see just how many stereotypes there would be.  So let's see:
Jane describes herself and other librarians as "not known for their tans" and usually being pasty white.  Speak for yourself, Jane.  Well, I am pasty white but that's not because I am a librarian.
  • She also has a cat
  • She has tons of books
  • She wears glasses that hang from a chain around her neck
  • She wears no make-up and her hair is a mess
  • She is unmarried
  • She is shy and retiring
  • She has been replaced by the Internet
Well, that about covers it as far as the librarian stereotype goes.  But what this movie doesn't seem to know is that Jane would not get a job in a modern public library these days, because shy and retiring types are exactly the kinds of people the vibrant libraries of today do NOT want.

This story could have worked just fine without making Jane a stereotypical librarian.  Since becoming a librarian in the 1970's and constantly hearing people say, "You don't look like a librarian," while at the same time trying to shush me, I am on the watch for negative stereotypes, especially since no one who is a librarian looks like a librarian these days, because what does a librarian look like?  He or she looks like anyone else in any profession. The other thing that bugged me was Juan's little girl called the library a "libeary," but I will forgive her because English is not her first language
But I digress.
Directed by Juan Feldman with a script by Joel Silverman (based on Feldman's story), one wonders how much of this could be true of Feldman's life. Was HE the real life Juan?  Mmmm.
Harden's character, Jane, gets a bit annoying at times. I mean, Jane, look in the mirror and at least fix your hair.  But I guess when one gives up on life, one doesn't really care about one's hair anymore.  Harden is fine as Jane but the real star is Jaenada.  He is handsome and his character's enthusiasm for life is infectious, which I guess was the whole point of this movie.  He is someone to watch.
For all of my bitching about the librarian stuff, you would think I didn't like this movie, but I found it sweet and romanticAnd the views of Costa Rica were lovely.  In addition to "Now, Voyager" mentioned earlier, this film also reminded me of  "How Stella Got Her Groove Back." 
Rosy the Reviewer says... If you liked "Now, Voyager," or "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" or movies featuring charming leading men and a make-over, you will like this film.

The Runner (2015)

 An oil spill.  A sex scandal.  Nicolas Cage.

That's about all I need to say to describe this film.

Based on the 2010 BP oil spill, Cage is Congressman Colin Pryce from Louisiana who has been a proponent of the common man, especially for the shrimpers and the fishermen.  Now with the oil spill they are all out of work.

Until the spill, Rep. Pryce was heretofore unknown except to his constituents, but he comes to media attention when he makes an impassioned speech to Congress about the impact of the spill on his State and the United States as a whole.  So that is the oil spill part.

Pryce is passionate about politics, but he is also passionate about the ladies.  He is married to a high powered lawyer who doesn't seem to like him much.  But I wouldn't like him either if he cheated on me, because you see he has a mistress.  Lucy is his mistress. There is footage of them having sex in an elevator.  So that's the sex scandal part.

The sex scandal makes it rather difficult to handle an oil spill effectively, so Pryce wants to resign.  However, Pryce's power hungry wife tells him she will divorce him if he resigns.  Maybe that's what he was waiting for.  He resigns and wallows in prostitutes and booze, but he also manages to come up for air long enough to start a foundation to help the fishermen - The Louisiana Coastal Foundation. But even that is struggling and he is an alcoholic who continues to drink.  When he hits bottom will he get himself together?

Pryce is also a runner as in he likes to run around D.C (and I guess he could also be called a "runner" because he runs for Congress). Running also becomes a symbol for his sobriety and success and hope for the future. That's where the title comes in. 

The first half of the film was quite compelling to see how our Nick was going to get himself out of this hole he was in, but the film let him down a bit in the second half.  But the overall message here seems to be that there is no room for idealism in politics.

And the Nicolas Cage part?  Well, with Cage you either love him or hate him.  He has more acting mannerisms than a silent film star, but I have gotten used to his acting style and find his talking between gritted teeth in a monotone with occasional bursts of drama endearing. Cage's Louisiana accent came and went, but I think it actually helped him avoid his usual mannerisms and made him act. He also does tortured really well. But there is something compelling about Cage which is probably why he has endured.  I mean, he actually has an Academy Award.

And then there's Peter Fonda playing Pryce's Dad.  I gasped. Where has HE been?

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like Nicolas Cage, you will like this film.


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

275 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film? 

Rocco and His Brothers (1960)

Luchino Visconti's classic family drama of the trials and tribulations of Rocco and his four brothers, Vincenzo, Simone, Ciro, and Luca when they move to the Big City (Milan) from the country (Sicily).
Rocco (Alain Delon), his widowed mother and his three brothers arrive in Milan from "the south" trying to escape the agricultural depression that has occurred there.  They have come to see the eldest son, Vincenzo, who has already established himself in Milan.  In fact, he is engaged and they find Vincenzo celebrating his engagement at his in-laws.  Unfortunately, the in-laws take an instant dislike to Vincenzo's mother and kick her and Vincenzo's brothers out of their house. 
Vincenzo (Spiros Focas) out of loyalty to his family breaks up with this bride-to-be (played by Claudia Cardinale in the early part of her career before she made it big on the International stage as a sexpot) and tries to help his family find a place to live.  They can't afford decent housing, but he is told that if he rents an apartment, not to pay the rent. Then they will be evicted, thus becoming eligible for public housing (which would not be available to homeless people). He follows that advice and soon they find themselves in a nice apartment paid for by the Socialist city government.

As the brothers make their way in the City, the movie is divided into segments to tell each brother's story but the movie belongs to Rocco and Simone.
Simone (Renato Salvatori) shows promise as a boxer but is a troublemaker and loser and eventually loses that prospect as well as his girlfriend, Nadia  (Annie Girardot).

When Rocco is called upon to help train Simone, he shows promise as a boxer too, and later becomes involved with Nadia as well. 

So what's the one thing that can break brothers up?  Right.  A woman.
Even though two years have passed since Simone and Nadia were together, when Simone catches Rocco with Nadia, he and his cronies beat Rocco up and rape Nadia in a horrific scene.  Even though Simone was no longer with Nadia, I guess it's a guy thing.  Rocco, thinking that Simone needs Nadia, breaks up with her and tells her to go back to Simone.  She does.  So much for respect for women here.  You see, Nadia was a prostitute so I guess that makes it OK to treat her like dirt.

Things rapidly go downhill for both Simone and Nadia.

Ciro (Max Cartier), who has been working for Alpha Romeo, but after all of the hardships the family has encountered, dreams of returning to the country.  No matter how bad it was there, it now seems better than what his family has gone through in the City, and he exhorts Little Luca (Rocco Vidolazzi), the youngest brother, to go back home, which is what the film seems to be saying: that nothing good can come from going to the city, the modern world.  Visconti mourns the old ways.

To make that point loud and clear, there is a premeditated murder at the end that was so brutal and graphic that the film was banned in Milan.  This is an epic film of operatic proportions.  For one thing, it's 177 minutes long and neorealism at its most emotional.  In fact, I could have sworn I heard "Tosca" playing in the background. 

Despite the human drama which is universal and timeless, the film shows its age. For me it was all about gazing upon the handsomeness that is Alain Delon. The young Delon was already showing his acting chops and the beauty here that would catapult him to international stardom. Young Alain Delon is incredibly swoon worthy, especially when he stares into the camera in an extreme close-up. The camera loves him so much you get the feeling Visconti did as well.


However, Visconti was a big influence on modern film, especially Coppola and Scorsese, and you can see the seeds of "The Godfather" here.
Why it's a Must See:  "A key transitional film in ...Visconti's shift away from his initial adherence to the principles of Neorealism...toward the decoratively operative excesses of much of his later work, [this] remains one of his best."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"
Rosy the Reviewer ladies might hate men after seeing this one, but it's worth it for the beautiful Alain Delon.  And film buffs should see it for its influences on today's filmmakers.
(In Italian with English subtitles)

***Book of the Week***

"I'll Never Write My Memoirs"  by Grace Jones (2015)

I guess she lied.  Jones DID write her memoirs and this is it.
Grace who? you might ask.  But there was a time when she was very hot and very strange.  She could be counted on to always do something outrageous.  She was the Lady Gaga of her time.

Legendary performer Jones offers a candid account of the ups and downs of her career and turbulent life and how she formed the "character" that became Grace Jones.

Born in Jamaica into a strict, religious family, she escaped those strictures to became a model in the 1970's.  Her unconventional androgynous looks and extreme style set her apart and she was a darling of the Studio 54 set.  During the 80's, she emerged as a disco singer with the songs "I Need a Man” and “La Vie en Rose,” and she was a regular on the late night talk show circuit. She was "hailed as a disco queen, gay icon, and gender defying iconoclast" and has influenced everyone from Rhianna to Nicki Minaj to Annie Lennox.

She later added "actress" to her performing resume and she shares details of her roles in the films "Conan the Destroyer" with a young Arnold Schwarzenegger and the James Bond movie "A View to a Kill" with Roger Moore.

Now at age 67, she is a grandmother, and she is still recording and working on other projects and not about to give up on living a fabulous life.

She includes her rider, an artist's request for what they want in their dressing rooms when they are performing:

In addition to the usual things like sparkling water, fresh fruit and flowers, she also lists 6 bottles of Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne, 3 bottles each of vintage red and white wines and 2 dozen Findeclare or Colchester oysters on ice.

You can't get much more fabulous than that!

She also continues to reinvent herself.

She ends the book with:

"I think of myself as someone who is always adding to what they do, as part of a never-ending story, and the latest chapter is as vital as anything else.  I am always becoming something.  I am always turning into something else.  That's how I started, and that's how I want it to be now."

That about says it all about Grace Jones.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a fun and crazy read from a fun and crazy lady - crazy in a good way!

Thanks for Reading!


That's it for this week.


See you Tuesday for

Life Lessons: What I Have Learned
(Inspired by Kim Kardashian)


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