Friday, December 30, 2016

"La La Land" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "La La Land" as well as DVDs "Nine Lives" and "9/11."  The Book of the Week is "Superficial," more of Andy Cohen's diaries.  I also bring you up-to-date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Yi Yi: A One and a Two"]

La La Land

A jazz pianist and an aspiring actress fall in love in Los Angeles - but that's just the start of a wonderful fantasy that you will never forget.

When you are stuck in commuter traffic, wouldn't it be nice if you could just get out of your car and sing and dance with your fellow commuters?  Well, anything is possible in the movies, right? - and that is how this movie starts out, setting the tone and letting you know you are in for a magical movie journey.

This film is a love letter to Los Angeles, old Hollywood musicals, jazz, romance and people with dreams.  All of the things we love about the movies is on display: gorgeous cinematography, wonderful choreography, lovely music, an engaging couple and a magical story.

Before the film even starts, the word "Cinemascope" appears and the screen widens, and so do my eyes, remembering movies of the 50's that were filmed in Cinemascope.  That one word always meant the film would be wide-screen and beautiful to look at and this film is no exception.

Ryan Gosling plays Sebastian, a struggling jazz pianist who wants to open his own jazz club.  He is obsessed with and disgusted by the club across the street from his apartment that used to be a famous jazz club but is now a samba/tapas joint. How could that happen? He laments that jazz is dying, no one appreciates it anymore and he yearns to open a club devoted to jazz.

Mia (Emma Stone) is an aspiring actress working as a barista at a coffee house on a movie set.  She has been auditioning in Hollywood unsuccessfully for six years and is feeling the pain and humiliation of trying to follow her dream.

The two meet cute, first passing each other as fellow commuters, with Mia giving Sebastian the finger when he honks at her to get a move on, and then again when she hears the haunting refrain of one of his piano pieces emanating from a club as she walks home late at night from a party.  She goes into the club and wants to tell him how much she loves his music, but he has just been fired and brushes past her.

But they do finally meet and fall in love. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl...well, you know how it goes...or maybe you don't. 

Gosling learned to play the piano for this film and does a good job looking like a pro. That haunting piano refrain that draws Mia into the club is used throughout the movie and reminded me of the theme from Charlie Chaplin's "Limelight."  And I wouldn't be surprised if that was an allusion to Chaplin, as this film is filled with references to old movies and movie musicals.  From the huge movie posters of Ingrid Bergman and other stars from Hollywood's Golden Age plastered all over Mia's apartment and Los Angeles to the dance sequence at the observatory in Griffith Park (remember "Rebel Without a Cause?") to the cinematography awash in color (exquisitely executed by Linus Sandgren and reminiscent of the lovely, colorful musical "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,") to the simple but lovely music by Justin Hurwitz (with lyrics by Pasek and Paul), this film evokes old Hollywood musicals but in a fresh, new way that is unforgettable. 

OK, I can just hear you saying, "I don't like musicals."  And I will  reply, "This isn't just any kind of musical you have seen before.  I promise you, you will love this one."

Though this film pays homage to movies of the past, it is its own special modern movie.

Ryan and Emma have a lovely chemistry and are an appealing couple.  I hate to admit I have never been much of a Ryan Gosling fan.  Not sure why.  Maybe it's all the dark movies he has been in.  He seemed like kind of a grouch.  But here, I have become a fan. When he does his dance numbers in his black and white wingtips,  I couldn't help but think of Gene Kelly.  And Emma Stone, though not your classic beauty, has the "It Factor."  She has that je ne sais qua that makes you love her.  I do love her (and she gets to wear the black and white wingtips too)!

Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, who also wrote and directed the acclaimed "Whiplash," this film is not really all about the script or even about boy meets girl, though the script is wonderful.  Nor does it have much in common with "Whiplash," except the jazz theme and the always gruff J.K. Simmons.  No, this film is even better than "Whiplash," and in fact, is something very, very special indeed.  You know what we say about old movies?  "They don't make 'em like that anymore?"  Well, I guess we still do, because Chazelle has made one of the great films of all time.

Everything from the acting to the directing to the set design (which is sure to win an Oscar) to the cinematography to the editing is all first rate and add up to an unforgettable film experience.

I just have one teensy weensy little complaint and that was early in the film when Sebastian's sister visits him at his apartment.  I know we needed a bit of exposition here so we would know that Sebastian is a bit of a hermit, doesn't want to meet any girls and just wants to concentrate on playing jazz, which makes his meeting Mia even more romantic, but the sister refers to his being ripped off, that he is somehow down and out and licking his wounds because he had a bad business deal or something.  That is never explained and I kept waiting to find out what that was all about.  When Keith (John Legend) appears and Sebastian appears to have a grudge against him, that is never explained either, so I couldn't help but wonder if there was more to the film and it was edited out.

But that is a very minor detail, the kind of thing I notice, but it doesn't mar what comes together as an extraordinary film experience.

There are so many outstanding moments in this film that it doesn't seem enough to point out only a couple, but tears fell when Mia sang a song about dreamers when she was auditioning for her big break, and the dream sequence at the end of the film, which evoked the dream ballet in "An American in Paris," is right up there with the most beautiful of all dream ballets.  (All of the dance numbers were choreographed by Mandy Moore, who has done some of the most memorable choreography on "So You Think You Can Dance.)"

Speaking of the dream ballet, despite the homage to the movies of the past that we loved, we are reminded that, though anything is possible in the movies, life isn't like the movies.

As for tears, you know what it means when I cry at the end of the movie, right?  Right.

This is a ground-breaking musical right up there with its predecessors that were also ground-breaking: "Oklahoma!" with its dark storyline and complete integration of plot, song, lyrics, and dance by Agnes DeMille, which for the first time were integral to the story rather than diversions; and then "West Side Story," with Leonard Bernstein's incredible music, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim (his first musical) and choreography by Jerome Robbins.  No previous musical had included so much dance or used it so dramatically and inventively to tell the story and reveal the characters.

And now we have "La La Land" - a movie musical that pays homage to what has come before but sets a bar for the future by making its own mark and bringing movie musicals into the modern world. 
"Please, Sir, I want some more."

Chazelle is amazingly only 31, so I can't wait to see what else he will do!
Rosy the Reviewer says...see you at the Oscars!

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


Nine Lives (2016)

A ruthless businessman is turned into a cat to teach him a lesson about life.

This movie was on more "Worst Movies of 2016" lists than I care to count, so I expected to hate this movie.  But I didn't.  I mean, who can't get a chuckle out of a real life cat trying to write with a fountain pen or make himself a drink?

Kevin Spacey plays Tom Brand, a balls-to-the-wall New York City businessman who also just happens to be arrogant, selfish and mean.  Did I say mean?  He is bent on building the tallest tower in North America to glorify himself (remind you of anyone so far)? His wife, Lara (played by Jennifer Garner), introduces him to a crowd as "a real pussycat" and later when his daughter asks for a cat for her birthday, he says "I hate cats."  Uh oh.

So with that little bit of foreshadowing...when Tom goes to a pet shop, well, actually a pet shop that only sells cats, run by Felix Perkins (AKA as Felix "Purr"kins and played by the usually strange and creepy Christopher Walken), to buy a cat for his daughter's birthday, Perkins, who we learn has special powers, decides it's time that Tom Brand gets a lesson in life.  What better way than to turn him into a cat?  I couldn't have thought of a better plan myself.

Through some strange alchemy never explained, on the way home with the cat, Tom goes up on the roof of a tall building, is struck by lightning, falls off the building and somehow Tom and the cat change places, though Tom's human body never shows up anywhere acting like a cat.  He is just in a coma.  Too bad.  That might have been funny...Kevin Spacey as Tom running around meowing, scratching himself and licking his...  Well, you know.  But Spacey gets a pass in this movie and doesn't have to do anything except lie comatose in bed and lend his voice to the cat who does all of the work.

While Tom is lying in a coma, his arch nemesis, Ian Cox (Mark Consuelos) is plotting to take over Tom's company.  He was also there when Tom was struck by lightning and fell off the roof.  He could have saved him but didn't, so he's not a very nice guy either.

So now Tom's body is in a coma and his mind is inside the cat and if that wasn't bad enough, his cat name is Mister Fuzzy Pants! Oh, the humiliation! Lara takes him home and their daughter, Rebecca (Melina Weissman) loves Mister Fuzzy Pants, which is great, but while Tom is doing his best to be a good Mister Fuzzy Pants for Rebecca, he is also doing everything he can to try to get through to his wife that he is in there. There is a drunk cat sequence, a scene where Tom can't stand the thought of eating cat food and when he faces the prospect of being "fixed." There are lots and lots of jokes about cat scans, using a mouse, even that iconic 70's poster of the kitten hanging from a tightrope that said "Hang in there, baby" makes an appearance.

Perkins makes it clear to Tom that if he doesn't want to remain a cat for the rest of his life, he had better clean up his act, so the film becomes a sort of "redemption by cat" tail, I mean tale. And speaking of the cat, this is one talented cat, considering how uncooperative cats seem to be.  With the help of CGI, Mister Fuzzy Pants does some spectacular stunts that at times are actually quite funny. 

Kevin Spacey plays the put-upon-man-turned-into-a-cat role well. Anyway, his voice does.  However, I don't quite buy Jennifer Garner in broad comedy like this.  She was trying too hard to be funny.  It didn't work.

However, the problem here is this.  Who is this film aimed at?  Kids might find the talking cat funny, but they won't really understand the backstory or Tom's need to become a better human.  Adults will understand the backstory and the moral, but might find the jokes...a joke. Let's just say the cat-inspired quips and the broad, slapstick humor gets tiring.

So, yes, this film has its issues, but I have to say it's hardly the worst film of the year. It was way better than "Zoolander 2" or "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2,"  so if you liked those movies and are prone to watching cat videos when you are bored at work, you will LOVE this one.

And this film has a good message. 

Tom gets a wake-up call.  Get it?  He's in a coma and needs a WAKE UP CALL?  Ok, anyway. 

Here is the message: Don't act like a dick or you will get turned into a cat, an especially horrible fate if you hate cats!

Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, I found this film funny at times despite the fact that I hated those two aforementioned films and never watch cat videos, but then I have always had an interest in animals playing humans and vice versa...

Rosy the Reviewer says...a sometimes amusing little film if you like to see cats with hangovers or see bad people get their comeuppance.

9/11 (2002)

A you-are-there look at the events that took place on that terrible day.

What are the odds? 

French filmmakers - Gedeon and Jules Naudet - were working with firefighter and filmmaker James Hanlon to make a film about what it was like for a rookie New York City fireman as he went through the nine-month probationary period to become a full-fledged fireman and ended up filming the only eyewitness account of what happened inside Tower 1 of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.  Unwittingly their film became a documentary about a documentary and captured some of the most chilling images ever seen.

The film starts in June 2001 and follows Tony Benatotas as he is introduced to his duties at Engine 7, Battalion 1 Company by Chief Joseph Pfeiffer. It was supposed to be "a day in the life" of a rookie fireman (called a "probie" because he is on probation) as he waits for his first fire.  The filmmakers just happened to be downtown with Chief Pfeifer and some other firefighters investigating a gas leak...and then it happened.

As the Battalion 1 firefighters examined the supposed gas leak, American Airlines Flight 11 flew overhead. Turning the camera to follow the plane, filmmaker Jules Naudet taped one of only three known recordings of the first plane hitting Tower 1 of the World Trade Center. Chief Pfeifer and other firefighters were the first responders and Jules was allowed to follow the rescue operation. They were all inside the lobby of Tower 1 when Tower 2 was hit by the second aircraft and when Tower 2 eventually collapsed.  Gideon was back at the firehouse, filming the reactions of Tony and the rest of the firefighters.

As his fellow firemen race to the scene having no idea what they are dealing with, Tony is left behind to tend to the firehouse.  When the firemen arrive at Tower 1, there are no elevators because flaming jet fuel had run right down the elevator shaft so they had to walk up.  As they are determining what to do, the second plane hits and is captured on film.  It was clear that no one knew what to do. 

The filmmakers were filming the entire time, sometimes through a lense covered in dirt and debris. What they captured was the first plane hitting the North Tower, footage from inside the lobby of the Twin Towers as they burned, and the faces of the doomed firefighters as they raced to save people’s lives inside a pair of iconic buildings that would soon collapse into what could only be described as hell...and brace yourselves.  Plane parts are strewn over the street, and you can also hear the bodies of the people who jumped hitting the ground.

First airing on TV, this was supposed to be a documentary about a boy becoming a man over his nine month probationary period but turned out to be a story about a boy forced to  become a man in six hours.

"Did it make me a man?  What's a man...?"  Tony says, shaken, at the end of the film. 

He also says that the "New guys will never know what it was like to be a fireman before September 11."  And the same goes for our nation.  Since that day, we can hardly remember what it was like before and we have never been the same.

The film ends with all of the pictures of the many firemen who died that day and I had no idea there had been so many. Sadly, Chief Pfeifer's own brother, another firefighter, died during the rescue attempt.

My son told me about this film and since we have never been the same country since that awful day, I am still interested in what took place in a probably futile desire and need to understand it. I had to see this. I have never gotten over the film "United 93," which dramatized what might have happened on that plane that went down in Pennsylvania, and I won't get over this one, either.  

This film, fourteen years later, is still a powerful reminder that though we may never understand what happened, we must never forget it. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...a chilling documentation of a terrible day but one we must never forget and a fitting memorial to those who died doing their duty.


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

221 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Yi Yi: A One and a Two (2000)

This film follows three generations of a middle-class Taipei family from a wedding to a funeral.

"Yi Yi" is the story of the Jian family seen through the eyes of three different characters who represent three different generations: that of the father NJ (Wu Nien-jen), the young son Yang-Yang (Jonathan Chang), and the teenage daughter, Ting-Ting (Kelly Lee). This three-hour film starts with a wedding, concludes with a funeral and bored the hell out of me in between.

I don't know what it is, but unless the movie is "Gone With the Wind" or "Dr. Zhivago," I just can't tolerate movies that run to three hours, especially if there isn't much going on.

Anyway, NJ's computer company is failing and he is hoping to align himself with a Japanese computer game company. He is also unhappy with his career in general, because he finds that his partners are all only concerned with making money and his honesty is unappreciated.  His wife is having a midlife crisis and has left to go to a Buddhist retreat, so when NJ's old girlfriend, Sherry (Su-Yun Ko), comes back into his life, he is tempted.

Meanwhile NJ's youngest son, Yang Yang, is having difficulty at school and his daughter, Ting Ting, is having the usual boyfriend troubles.  At the same time, NJ's mother-in-law has had a stroke and is in a coma.  There are a host of other family members who also complicate matters.

Director Edward Yang wrote and directed this epic film (are three hour movies always called epics?) about the everyday lives of an ordinary family and how we all silently deal with our human struggles. Everyone makes decisions and deals with their problems in their own way but despite their efforts, no one seems to get anywhere.  In life there are no easy or definitive answers.  We just go along and do the best we can. 

Another theme is time as the film progresses through the stages of life - birth, marriage, midlife crisis and death - and the characters react and feel the urgency of time speeding by.

Why it's a Must See:  " of the richest family portraits in modern cinema."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Yang won the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival for this film in 2000 and the film garnered scores of other awards.  Most of the leading critics of the day also jumped on the bandwagon to proclaim it the best film of the year.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Yawn. Sorry, I couldn't jump on this bandwagon.
(In Mandarin with English subtitles)


***Book of the Week***

Superficial: More Adventures from the Andy Cohen Diaries by Andy Cohen (2016)

Andy Cohen shares his diary entries from September 2014 through June of 2016.

I love Andy Cohen. 

For those of you who don't have premium cable and can't get Bravo, Andy was head of development for Bravo for 10 years and was responsible for all of those "Real Housewives" shows some of us love so much (and many others hate and blame for all that is bad in the world).

Andy is also the host of the talk show "Watch What Happens Live (AKA as WWHL).  He resigned from Bravo in 2013, but continues to be the Executive Producer for the "Real Housewives" and to host his talk show.  He is the first openly gay host of an American late-night talk show, and that is relevant here, because he talks about life as a gay man in this latest edition of his diaries.

Inspired to keep a diary by the "Andy Warhol Diaries," Andy reports on his book tour and renovating his apartment as well as everything from his nightly talk show to his run-ins with the rich and famous to his daily workouts and ablutions, which leads me to tell you what I loved about this book and what I didn't.

What I loved about this book:

  • Andy is unabashedly and unapologetically in love with celebrities and the gossip they generate and so am I!
  • He is very honest about his dating life and relationships and at times poignant about his quest to find true love
  • His observations about the rich and famous are hilarious and no-holds-barred but never mean even when he is snubbed by Taylor Swift
  • You don't need to have read his first book of diary entries, "Most Talkative," to enjoy this one
  • He loves his Mom and he quotes from her extensively
  • The enjoyment of life that he exudes on his show comes out in his book

What I didn't love so much:

  • I know Andy loves his dog Wacha, but after awhile hearing about all of Wacha's issues wore thin (though I should talk. I am awash in dogs and talk about them all of the time).
  • He overshares about peeing and pooping, and I'm not talking about his dog's
  • Sometimes I didn't know who he was talking about. Most of the people he talks about are obvious.  I mean, I know Mariah and Cher and Bette, but he has a posse of friends who play significant roles, and he only uses their first names, so sometimes I didn't know who he was talking about. 
  • The details of his day were sometimes, well, too detailed. Did I really need to know about all of his workouts with "the Ninja" or his many naps or the hot window washers? This book works best in small doses. A nice book to have in the bathroom, and fitting, considering.

If you watch Bravo and like the "Real Housewives," there is all kinds of juicy stuff in here about them.  But since Andy also hosts a talk show and celebrities pass through every night, he also comments on all of the shows he did and people he interviewed over the two years (Sting and his wife Trudy Styler - she told Andy that Sting has a gay alter ego named Rene. Kelly Clarkson - "really nice, open, funny, boozy, and game.").

Andy also likes to go out and he is running into celebrities all of the time, so you get to follow him on his adventures and hang out with John Mayer (they are good friends - no, Mayer is not gay) and SJP (that's Sarah Jessica Parker to you and me - she is also a good friend of Andy's).

As I said, I love Andy and I am a faithful follower of WWHL  I even went to see Anderson Cooper (another good friend) and him when the two were on tour together and came to Seattle.  I was able to get up and ask Andy a question so, of course, I had to ask him if he was actually personal friends with any of the Housewives (Yes, Bethenny and Carole from the RHONY - you have to get used to these initialisms - and that made me sad because those two are not my faves).

Rosy the Reviewer says...Andy is living the good life and loving it and you can too, well, vicariously, reading this book.


Thanks for reading!

See you Tuesday 

for my list of

"The Best and Worst Movies of 2016"

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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.  Once there, click on the link that says "Explore More" on the right side of the screen.  Scroll down to External Reviews and when you get to that page, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.

NOTE:  On some entries, this has changed.  If you don't see "Explore More" on the right side of the screen, scroll down just below the description of the film in the middle of the page. Click where it says "Critics." Look for "Rosy the Reviewer" on the list.

Or if you are using a mobile device, look for "Critics Reviews." Click on that and you will find me alphabetically under "Rosy the Reviewer."

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

My New Year's UN - Resolutions

[I wrote this a couple of years ago on the eve of the New Year and, with a little updating, I think it bears repeating - Happy New Year, everyone!]

I think there was only one year that I didn't resolve to lose weight and that was the year I lost 50 pounds.  But I started in October, so that doesn't count.  That was almost eight years ago, and let's just say, I haven't gained it all back, but I've gained back enough to make me want to diet all of the time.

But no!

I am not going to set this trap for myself again.  When I lost that weight, I started in October, for god's sake, so obviously resolving to make huge changes in your life starting January 1st is a bargain with the devil.

I have done it every year, made New Year's Resolutions and set myself up to fail - lose weight, exercise every day, watch less TV and be nicer to Hubby only to find myself on January 2, lying on the bed all day watching TV and ordering Hubby to bring me a root beer float!

So this year, I am going to decide what I am NOT going to do in the New Year.

Welcome to my New Year's UN-Resolutions!


1. I am NOT going to gain any more weight.

I am thinking using reverse psychology might work, but whether I lose weight or not, I am not going to gain any more and I am not going to stress about it.  It's not like I am trolling for men (well, not lately anyway), and Hubby doesn't seem to mind a little extra something. 

I have tried every diet under the sun and almost all of them require that you give up a major food group.  Do I really want to live the rest of my life never having Thai food again or eating a piece of bread?  I think not. I know that moderation is the key and that's what I will shoot for, not just with food but with my life in general. 

What this is going to do is make we appreciate what I already have.  I already have a body that seems to be working, has gotten me this far and allows me to still carry on a bit of style, so I am going to be happy with that and give it some respect. 

If, during the course of the year, some of that fat falls off, all the better, but in the meantime, I am going to remind myself of Catherine Deneuve's famous delicate words: "After 40 a woman has to choose between her face or her ass."  Since I don't want to be an ass, I choose my face.

2. I am NOT going to add any more bad habits to my life.

That's the best I can do. 

I like to drink wine, I like to stay up late, I like to sleep late, I like to eat sweets, I like to watch too much TV, I like gossip magazines and I like French fries.  Those are all things that many would consider bad habits.  But since I don't think people really can change that much, the best I can do is not add anything new from the bad habit category into my life and try to add some good ones as they come along. 

3. I am NOT going to be an enabler for Tarquin, my wine-guzzling poodle, any longer.

Little Tarquin and I like to watch "The View" together. 

I like to also have a drink (now don't go there. I know "The View" is on in the morning but, people, remember I have TIVO.  I can watch programs anytime so I am talking about during the cocktail hour or after).  Tarquin likes to curl up on my lap whilst I watch and that gives me great comfort. Unfortunately, Tarquin also likes to lick the wine off of my lips, and he makes me give him a slug or two.  I really try not to.  But he forces me.  He nudges my glass and keeps nudging it until I relent.  I guess he likes full participation.

  I know, I know it's wrong because invariably he either passes out

or gets mean and starts a fight with one of the other dogs over a chewed up toy. 

There's nothing worse than a toy poodle with a chip on his shoulder.  I will have to try to find a way to sneak off with my glass of wine so he doesn't know I am watching "The View."  But I will miss him.


4. I am NOT going to buy any clothes that I do not try on.

I like to shop for clothes.  I like to buy clothes.  I have three closets full and I am unapologetic.  However, what I DON'T like to do is try them on. 

I do mall walks for exercise sometimes, but I am also keeping my eye on items I like and when they go on sale, I swoop.  So I like to swoop, but I don't like to have to go in the dressing room, take off my clothes and shoes, try the thing on and then get dressed again.  However, swooping and buying doesn't work that well.  When I get it home and finally do try the thing on, somehow it doesn't look as good on me as I imagined (I think I am always imagining my 35 year old self), so in those closets reside some clothes with store tags still on them, because I either was too lazy to take the items back or have some idea that some day they will fit me.  I know, famous last words.  Those items will probably have cobwebs on them by the time they ever fit me again.

Note: This Un-Resolution was Hubby's favorite, because he thinks this means I will stop buying clothes online.  Uh-uh.  Nope.  What he doesn't realize is there are clothes out there I have already bought, which means I have tried them on so should I want more of those items, I am not breaking my Un-Resolution. So there.  Sorry, Hubby.

5.  I am NOT going to stop watching TV.

I have decided when someone who looks down on TV and snootily says something like, "I don't watch TV," I am going to reply, "No need to apologize."  I have learned to be unapologetic about this vice.

I have come to realize that TV and I go way back. 

I remember when one of our neighbors got a TV. 

It was 1954.  I was so transfixed I would sneak over to their house and stand on their porch and peer into their window to get a glimpse of "Lassie" or "I Love Lucy."  My grandparents lived a few blocks away and they had a TV before we did.  I remember going over there on a Friday night to watch the Friday Night Fights.  I didn't like that much, but we also went over to watch "The Wizard of Oz" or other special programs. It was a big deal. When we finally got our own TV a year later, we had TV trays and everything. I spent many a night watching television with my Dad. I soon realized my father was an addict. My mother must not have had the gene because she rarely watched. But TV addiction runs in my family.  There is nothing I can do about it.

6.  I am NOT going to keep trying to get Oprah to discover my blog.

I would be happy with 500 page views per day.  I put my blog out on Twitter hoping a Kardashian might see it and retweet it, thus basically turning the whole world onto my blog. I send some to Oprah that I think she would like (she loves libraries and dogs) in hopes that she would share it with her legion of Twitter fans thus making my blog go viral.  But I know that is probably futile.

But you know what?

Regardless of whether or not my blog is discovered by the masses, I enjoy writing it and communicating.  I think communicating is one of my life's purposes, and I plan to communicate the heck out of the New Year whether or not my readership keeps going up!

But it wouldn't hurt if you shared it, though.  Not that I'm hinting or anything.

7. I am NOT going to order Hubby around (he ordered me to put that in).

8.  I am NOT going to bitch about my life, or the state of the world or some of the idiots who inhabit it.

Bitching about one's life only makes you and everyone around you feel worse.  A bit of gratitude makes the world a better place and we all have things to be grateful for, right?

As for the state of the world, if I care that much, I am not going to bitch about it, I am going to do something about it. 

As for the idiots, not my problem.


9. I am NOT going to stress about the fact that I only have eight UN-Resolutions.

I am the sort who likes things to add up to ten.

10. I am NOT going to beat myself up if I can't live up to my UN-Resolutions.

Oh, I guess that makes 10.  Sweet!

So my friends, there you have it. 

A new and UN - stressful way to come into the New Year.

But however you do it, I wish you a wonderful entrance into the New year and may this New Year be your best yet.

And I hope we will meet here regularly on my blog!

Thanks for reading.

See you Friday 
for my review of the movie
"La La Land"

as well as some
movies you might have missed
(and some you will be glad you did),


The Book of the Week
and my progress on
"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project."

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

Friday, December 23, 2016

"Manchester by the Sea" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Manchester by the Sea" as well as DVDs "Central Intelligence" and "Captain Fantastic."  The Book of the Week is a gorgeous celebration of Audrey Hepburn's career during the 1950's.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Gus Van Sant's "Elephant."]

Manchester by the Sea

When his older brother dies, a man is charged with the guardianship of his teenage nephew, and he is not happy about it because he has major problems of his own.

First of all, I want to say, this is not a happy movie.  In fact it's very, very sad.  And I am not giving anything away by saying that.  Star Casey Affleck hosted "Saturday Night Live" last Saturday and he himself said the same thing.  I am just warning you.  But that doesn't mean I didn't like this film.  In fact, I liked it very much.

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) has left Manchester to escape a tragedy in his own life. He lives in Boston as a janitor/handyman for several apartment buildings, making minimum wage and living in a gloomy basement apartment.  He is not a happy guy, and it is established early that he doesn't talk much and isn't very friendly. His idea of a good time is getting drunk at the local dive bar and then punching people in the face if they look at him funny.  Lee is not a happy camper.

When his older brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler), dies and Lee finds out that he has been given guardianship of his brother's teen-aged son, Patrick (Lucas Hedges), Lee is also not happy.  He likes the kid but there is no way he wants to go back to Manchester and live.  We learn why in a series of flashbacks where we learn about a tragedy in Lee's life and what happened to Lee's marriage to Randi (Michelle Williams).

But Lee does go back to Manchester to try to persuade Patrick to move to Boston with him.  But Patrick has no desire to leave.  He has not one, but two girlfriends, he is on the hockey team and he is in a band.  Patrick has a life in Manchester and has no intention of leaving.  The two have an uneasy relationship as they try to figure out what to do next.

Neither Lee nor Patrick are easy characters to like.  Lee is nonverbal, closed up and angry, and Patrick is selfish, closed up and angry, and yet, because of the great performances by Affleck and Hedges, we care about what happens to these characters.

Little brother Casey Affleck's acting chops can certainly stand up to big brother, Ben's, in this portrayal of a man who has shut down emotionally.  Ben's character in "The Accountant" was similar, but I think Casey has the edge here and will not only be nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award but could run away with it. Casey definitely has the Affleck acting gene.

Michelle Williams has a small but memorable role as Lee's wife.  She is an acting chameleon.  She can play Marilyn Monroe or here, a Boston working class young woman, accents and portrayals always right on, and in another interesting acting turn, she is currently in production to play Janis Joplin.

And then there is Lucas Hedges.  He is amazing as a sixteen-year-old having to deal with the death of his Dad and the prospect of moving away from everything he knows.  And he's not a very likable kid, but then, who is at 16?

Written and directed by playwright Kenneth Lonergan, this is a study in grief and guilt, and the script is brilliant in showing the lack of communication that stands in the way of helping others with their guilt and grief. The dialogue overlaps as the actors talk over and into each other and never quite connecting. Guilt and grief is a toxic affliction far worse than being addicted to alcohol or drugs. Patrick's mother (Gretchen Mol) is seen in before and after scenes, the before as an addict and then later a recovering addict with the help of religion and her religious husband (Matthew Broderick, in a very small role).  People can recover from drugs and alcohol with treatment, and even through religion, but for guilt and grief over tragedy, there is often no cure. 

Film is a visual medium and for me, the signs of a great movie are visuals replacing exposition or dialogue - one of the most famous examples is the marriage montage in "Citizen Kane" where the beginning and end of a marriage is shown in less than three minutes.  Here Lonergan uses every chance he can to tell the story visually.  A close up of a Massachusetts license plate is all we need to see to know we are in Massachusetts. Lush music playing over a series of montages moves the story forward without words.  Beautiful. 

Also the gorgeous and languid cinematography by Jody Lee Lipes that captures the tranquility of the quaint and quiet New England towns and countryside belies the turmoil inside almost all of the characters. It's a sad movie but a human and, even, hopeful one.

Rosy the Reviewer Academy Award Best Picture and Best Actor nomination for sure.


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


Central Intelligence (2016)

In high school, Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart) was popular and voted "Most Likely to Succeed" but grows up to be a rather ordinary accountant until he reconnects with Robbie Wierdicht, an awkward and bullied school mate now going by the name of Bob Stone (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson). This film asks the question "Is there life after high school?"

We all remember the most popular kids in high school, those voted "Most Popular," or "Most Likely to Succeed," right?  What became of them?  Did they succeed?  In the entertaining book "Is There Life after High School," President Gerald Ford supposedly remarked in a speech that he still had regrets that he had never been able to achieve Student Council offices in high school and yet he became President. The fact that as President he still remembered the slights of high school tells us how much the high school experience affects us.

Here Calvin Joyner is a star athlete and the most popular guy in high school. Robbie Wierdicht, on the other hand, is an overweight geeky kid, bullied by the popular kids.  He is attacked while taking a shower in the locker room and thrown naked right into the middle of a high school pep rally.  Calvin takes pity on the kid and covers him with his varsity jacket, and Robbie runs out of the gym, humiliated, never to be heard from again.

Or so we think...

Fast forward 20 years, Calvin is now a soft-spoken, mild-mannered accountant, who is getting flack from his co-workers and boss, and his wife, Maggie (Danielle Nicolet), his childhood sweetheart from high school, is unhappy in their marriage and wants to go to counseling, a far cry from his glory days in high school.  He gets a Facebook request from a Bob Stone who eventually lets Calvin know he was Robbie Wierdicht.  He wants to meet Calvin, and though Bob still acts a bit nerdy, we discover that our awkward, overweight, homely high schooler has turned into the buff and handsome Bob Stone (but we know he's really "The Rock), and despite his still nerdy ways, he is also a rogue CIA agent.  Remembering that Calvin was the only person who was nice to him in high school, Bob pulls him into his current intrigue.

At the same time, the CIA finds out about Bob contacting Calvin and Agent Pamela Harris (Amy Ryan) approaches him to help them bring Stone in. She tells him that Stone is a rogue agent who is trying to steal satellite codes to sell to the highest bidder.  But when Stone kidnaps Calvin, he tells him that he is after The Black Badger who is the real bad guy trying to sell the codes.  Stone needs Calvin to help him get the coordinates to find the Black Badger.  Now Calvin doesn't know who to believe.  He doesn't know if Bob is a good guy or a bad guy, but decides to help him anyway.

The first half of the film is the big set-up for the relationship and what is to follow and is quite funny, but the second half deteriorates a bit into the usual action stuff and convoluted plot so prevalent in action films today. But still, this is a sweet buddy film with a certain charm and, of course, a message:  Be careful who you bully.  He might grow up to be "The Rock" and beat the crap out of you, which Bob gets to do when he once again faces the main bully from high school, Trevor Olson, as an adult (Jason Bateman).

Kevin Hart is one of those comedians who makes me laugh just to look at him.  His reactions and double takes are hilarious and his main persona is the fast-talking guy whose fast-talking turns into gibberish when frightened.  "The Rock," though not really an actor, has made a name for himself as an action hero and does a good job here of making fun of himself.

Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber with a script by Thurber, David Stassen and Ike Barinholtz (who you might remember from "Mad TV"), this is a comedy action film that is actually quite funny. The film made a ton of money at the box office so I am sure we can expect a sequel...(and you know how I feel about sequels).  But Hart and Johnson are an engaging duo so, who knows, maybe I won't mind so much. I mean, pigs fly, right?

Rosy the Reviewer says...a fun action film with a great message.

Captain Fantastic (2016)

Shunning the amenities of civilization such as running water and electricity, Ben Cash is raising his six children in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with questionable parenting techniques.  But when his wife dies unexpectedly, he is forced back into civilization and to question his hard line philosophy.

Viggo Mortenson plays Ben Cash, a back to the earth type and Marxist, who, with his wife, Leslie (Trin Miller, who is only seen in dream sequences) has been raising their six children - Bodevan (George McKay), Kielyr, Vespyr, Rellian, Zaja and Nai - off the grid in the backwoods of Washington (filmed in my home county)!  Ben believes that most of Western society is fascist and has passed his beliefs onto his children.  He also believes in survivalism and puts his kids through rigorous (some might call dangerous) activities and does not allow any whining should anyone get hurt.  Animal lovers will not like the opening scene where a deer is killed as part of a ritual of manhood when Bo must eat the deer's raw heart. Ugh. All of the children know survivalist techniques, first aid, how to forage for food and basically take care of themselves which Ben believes is essential in a cruel world that won't take care of you. Ben home schools the kids, they meditate, practice martial arts and sit around the fire at night reading the classics and playing music on handmade instruments. Of course Ben plays bagpipes and drives an old school bus but I will try not to judge.

It's all very idyllic if you like that kind of thing (I prefer hot baths and TV), but we soon learn that Leslie has been in the hospital near her sister and parents because Leslie has been struggling with a bi-polar disorder, and when she somehow manages to kill herself, Ben is forced to go back to civilization and face Leslie's parents, who blame Ben for her illness and death. They tell him not to come to the funeral, but, of course, they all do.

Ben and the kids pack up the old school bus and we get to experience the old fish out of water scenario.  The kids have read a lot, but despite Leslie and Ben's insistence on their learning critical thinking, these kids have never experienced anything except their lives in the woods, and let's just say that Bo is of an age when he gets that old tingly feeling when he sees pretty girls. 

Ben makes no bones about explaining sex and answering all of his kids' questions in the most clinical of ways.  In fact, this guy exudes no warmth whatsoever and when his five-year-old asks what sexual intercourse is, he buys her a copy of "The Joy of Sex." Let's just say these kids might have read Tolstoy and Marx, but they were not prepared for malls, traffic and sex.  Of course our teenager Bo gets derailed by a pretty girl because no matter how politically committed you are or how much you hate the establishment, you can't deny biology.

And this is where I rant a bit.

I know I said I would try not to judge, but I am not a fan of people forcing their beliefs and lifestyles on their children to the point that they shelter them from everything that might impinge on those beliefs.  If you, as an adult, want to go out and live in the woods and have nothing to do with other people, that's fine.  You have lived your life, experienced what life had to offer and rejected it. But children who are raised that way from birth are not given the choice to reject anything.  They have never had the option because they have only lived the life you have shown them. Growing up in the 60's and 70's, I knew so many people like this and they irritated me then and they irritate me now so I don't like Ben much.  And Ben may think of himself as a free-thinking liberal, but he treats his kids in a way that belies his core beliefs and acts more like a dictator. He doesn't even let his kids eat hamburgers.

End of rant.

Despite all of their reading and Dad's explanations, when they all arrive at Grandma and Grandpa's in Sacramento, it's a culture shock. Since the children have had rare contact with the outside world, they are not prepared for it. They say that in every family there is one person who is sensitive to the family dynamic and one child sees the cracks and wants to stay in civilization living with his grandparents. I guess Sacramento can look really good to a kid who has only experienced campfires and hunting. Bo also finally cracks and tells his Dad that he knows he is a freak, that he doesn't know anything unless it comes out of a book. 

"I don't know anything about anything!"

Finally when Vesper is injured, Ben finally has an epiphany that perhaps he has been too much of a hardass and maybe he doesn't know everything after all.  But despite the desires the children have to experience more of life, when Leslie's parents (Leslie's father is played by Frank Langella) threaten to take custody of the children, we learn that no matter what the hardships and dysfunction, family is family. Family is what you know and what you will always choose.

Viggo is great in this film because he did irritate me so much. It's a testament to his acting ability that I was drawn into his world and believed who he was.  But is it me or could Viggo Mortensen and Aaron Eckhart be twins?  I always get them mixed up especially since they are both excellent actors.  I always have to remind myself that Viggo is the one with dimples on his cheeks and chin who looks eerily like a young Kirk Douglas, and Aaron is the one with just a chin dimple who was in that egregious movie about women "In the Company of Men."

I also really enjoyed the kids.  I know, you can't believe I just said that, can you?  You know how I feel about child actors, but these kids were not annoying and were really believable as children raised like wolves.

Written and directed by Matt Ross, I really loved the first three quarters of this film but the "rescue Mom" part was far-fetched and had a certain ick factor, but then it won me back with a moving and satisfying ending.

My one question is about the title - not sure where the title came from - but this film is an interesting counterpoint to "Manchester by the Sea (see review above)" in how each film deals with death and grief. Somehow this film didn't get wide release and came and went in the theatres. Too bad, because it's a good one.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a mostly fantastic film that deserves to be seen.

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

222 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Elephant (2003)

You know the saying, "The elephant in the room?"  Well, here it is applied to a Columbine- like event.

It's an ordinary day at a high school.  The camera follows several high schoolers - John (John Robinson), whose father (Timothy Bottoms) is a drunk; Elias, an aspiring photographer; Nathan and Carrie (Carrie Finklea), a popular couple; Michelle, a homely, shy type who refuses to wear gym shorts in gym; and Brittany, Jordan and Nicole who eat lunch and then go throw it all up in the bathroom together - as their typical day unfolds.  We see them wandering the halls, in class, gossiping, eating lunch, doing the mundane things that teens do at school - until Alex (Alex Frost in his first feature film role) and Eric arrive.  And then it's no longer an ordinary day.

Directed and written by Gus Van Sant, this is a short but powerful film that takes you into the seemingly mundane world of a high school on the verge of a massacre. Van Sant is probably best known for "Good Will Hunting," but he is also known for edgy films like "Drugstore Cowboy" and "My Own Private Idaho." This film won the Palme d'Or at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival, it's highest honor, and Van Sant also won the Best Director award that year, joining only one other director to ever win both in one year (Joel Coen) .

The film has an improvisational feel that makes it seem like a you-are-there documentary and the "elephant" is the question:  "Why?  How did this happen and no one saw it coming?" 

 "Have fun, man," one of the killers says to the other before they head off to shoot up the school.

Van Sant doesn't really offer any answers  which makes the film even more chilling, though he adds a homosexual component that I feel the film could have done without. It felt like an afterthought and was a jarring, out-of-context moment.  The film was powerful enough without that but that is one of Van Sant's common themes.

The camera work in the film is hypnotic as it follows students from behind as they go about their day.  The camera is almost like one of the students following others around or even the killers following their prey and planning their act.

The stars are all young actors who were newcomers, a few who have gone on to more movie roles or local kids who haven't done much since.  The only veteran actor was Timothy Bottoms, as John's Dad in a very small part.  Bottoms has certainly aged well, but I couldn't help but wonder what happened to his career?  He was a hot commodity in the 70's when he starred in "The Last Picture Show" and "The Paper Chase," but though he has been a working actor all along, he never achieved the superstardom it seemed he was headed for. I wonder why.

Why it's a Must See:  "...Elephant [is] one of the key American films of the last decade -- a coruscating appraisal of the numbing effect of modern life upon a younger generation."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...hypnotic and brilliant.

***Book of the Week***

Audrey: the 50's by David Wills (2016)

A beautiful coffee table book celebrating the life and career of Audrey Hepburn.
Though she has been dead for over 20 years, Audrey Hepburn remains the epitome of beauty and style, and this book celebrates the decade that solidified her place as one of the world’s greatest stars in film and fashion.  Though it gives the basic facts of Hepburn's life: her birth to a Dutch-born baroness, the hardships she endured during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam in WW II and her eventual discovery in England while modeling and studying ballet which led to an acting career that lasted for over 40 years, this book is not so much about the facts of Hepburn's life as it is a celebration through photographs of her career and her iconic screen roles during the 1950's. 
Here is a taste:
We see her posing in front of her "name in lights" on Broadway for her first big role as "Gigi" in 1951.
 We see her with Gregory Peck in "Roman Holiday (1953),"

 and with Humphrey Bogart in"Sabrina (1954),"
in "Funny Face (1957)" with Fred Astaire,
as well as her other films, culminating with her last film in the 1950's, "A Nun's Story" in 1959. 
Hepburn went on to make many more successful movies in the 1960's as well, which photographic preservationist David Wills also celebrates in his book, "Audrey - The 60's (2012)." 

All of the photos include quotes from Audrey and those she knew - photographers, directors, and costars, including William Holden, who also starred with her in "Sabrina," Peck, Astaire, directors Billy Wilder, King Vidor, William Wyler, costumer designer Edith Head, and more - and "candid" shots of her personal life are interspersed.
Wills has carefully selected this collection of two hundred museum-quality photos, some never seen before, that show why Audrey was such an iconic star. The photos are breathtaking and remind us of the gamine who turned into a legend and still today represents the epitome of grace and casual elegance.

I know it's late but you might still be able to get this for a Christmas or Hannukah gfit for the Audrey fan in your life.  It would be a great gift.
Rosy the Reviewer says.. this is a Hepburn fan's delight but if you long for the Golden Days of Hollywood you will also enjoy it. 

Thanks for reading!


See you Tuesday 


"My New Year's Un-Resolutions" 


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