Friday, July 29, 2016

"The Fundamentals of Caring" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new Netflix exclusive movie "The Fundamentals of Caring" as well as DVDs "Race" and "I Saw the Light." The Book of the Week is "Florence! Foster!! Jenkins!!!: The Life of the World's Worst Opera Singer."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Orson Welles' "F for Fake."]

The Fundamentals of Caring

A man suffering from loss becomes a caregiver for a young man with muscular dystrophy. 

  • Care but don't care too much
  • I can't take care of another unless I first take care of myself
  • My needs are equal to the needs of the person I am caring for
  • Caregiving is hard
  • All I can do is do my best and maintain a positive attitude
  • Always remember ALOHA: Ask, Listen, Observe, Help, Ask Again

Those are the fundamentals of caring that Ben Benjamin (Paul Rudd) learned in the six-week class he took on how to be a caregiver. Ben is down and out. He is a failed writer whose young son has died and he has been separated from his wife for two and a half years.  His wife is anxious for a divorce but Ben keeps putting her off, telling her he's not ready so he decides to change his life and become a caregiver.

He finds a client right away, Trevor (Craig Roberts), who is from the U.K. Trevor has a kind of muscular dystrophy that will shorten his life.  Trevor is also a smart ass.

When Ben is asked by Trevor's overprotective mother (Jennifer Ehle) why he became a caregiver, he replies that he likes to help people, but we can see that Ben is clearly suffering himself and needs help.  She warns Ben not to get too close to Trevor because he won't be around forever.

We learn that both Ben and Trevor have had emotional trauma. Trevor's father has been writing to him but Trevor has never forgiven him for leaving when he was three, and Trevor is clearly sad about his father's inattention. Ben can't face the divorce and the loss of his son, so they are both broken people who need each other to heal.

Trevor has a routine that is not supposed to be deviated from but Ben slowly tries to get Trevor out of his routine and out of the house.  Trevor is obsessed with TV, especially a girl who reports from various little known tourist roadside attractions around the country, such as The World's Deepest Pit or Rufus, the World's Biggest Cow.

Ben suggests they go see some of those attractions.  Trevor initially says no, but changes his mind and the two go on a road trip to see some of those sights and, of course, have a series of adventures.

Adventure #1 -they go to see Rufus, the World's Biggest Cow.
Rufus is on the second floor and there is no ADA access so Ben makes a scene and threatens the owner and says if they don't get Trevor up to see Rufus they will sue them. So up and down they drag the wheelchair in a funny scene where, after all of that, Rufus turns out to be a bit of disappointment.

Adventure #2 - they pick up, Dot (Selena Gomez) a young female hitchhiker.  She is a stroppy little thing who asks Trevor all kinds of uncomfortable question such as "Does your penis work?"

Adventure #3 - they help a pregnant girl (Megan Ferguson) who is trying to get to her mother's house before she gives birth.  Her car has broken down and she joins their motley crew.

Adventure #4 - Trevor decides he wants to see his father which turns out about the way you thought it would.

Adventure #5 - someone is following them.  Is it a divorce paper server?  Is it Trevor's over-protective mother?

Adventure #6 - The World's Biggest Pit.

When they all get to the Biggest Pit, we discover who has been following them and all kinds of healing takes place.  Trevor faces the ultimate challenge, gets to pee standing up (Ben asked him what was the main thing he would want to do if cured), Dot leaves them to handle her issues but not before telling Trevor he is handsome and cool and gives him a kiss and Ben finally makes a decision and comes to grips with his life.

This film is very similar to "Me Before You," which I reviewed recently except instead of a young female caregiver taking care of a smart ass Brit, we have a middle-aged guy taking care of a young smart ass Brit.  We know they are smart asses because they both do an imitation of Daniel Day-Lewis in "My Left Foot" to scare and test their caregiver's ability to deal with someone with disabilities.
Both films feature a difficult sarcastic patient, an inexperienced caregiver and a healing road trip.  Each patient also had a mission.  In "Me Before You (let's call it MBY so I don't have to keep typing the full title), Will wanted to kill himself.  In this one, Trevor wants to meet his Dad who had been out of his life.  Like, MBY, this film also involves a road trip and both carer and caregiver learning about themselves.  However, there is no romance in this one, though you could make a case that it's a sort of bromance.

Ben learns that the "Fundamentals of Caring" apply, not just to his caregiving role, but to his life.

There are some "Huh?" moments such as getting a motel room and letting Dot, a total stranger hitchhiker, stay with them in their room.  Hey, these days, even picking up a hitchhiker is difficult to believe.

Writer/director Rob Burnett's film (based on a novel by Jonathan Evison) is sentimental and derivative, and I shouldn't have liked it, but I did, mostly because of Rudd.  Paul Rudd has a charm that exudes from the screen.  Add to that Trevor, with his false bravado, and Dot, with her street wise cockiness, and some original dialogue and situations, and it's an interesting combination that results in a satisfying 90 minutes. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...yes, you have seen inspirational life-affirming stories like this before, but this one has some originality and Rudd adds some charm.

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

Now on DVD

Race (2016)

Dramatization of Jesse Owens' triumphs at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin in the shadow of Hitler and his vision of Aryan supremacy.

The film begins in the fall of 1933 in the midst of the Great Depression as young Jesse Owens (Stephan James) heads to college at Ohio State.  He has a girl at home, Ruth (Shanice Banton), and a baby.  He promises to marry her when he gets home.  When Jesse arrives at college, he meets the track coach, Lawrence Snyder (Jason Sudeikis) who is initially unimpressed, and right away we see the racism black athletes had to endure.  He is pushed around in the locker room by the all-white football players and has to listen to a liberal use of the "N-word."  You see, black guys were not allowed to play football. 

As is usually the case with these kinds of films, the coach doesn't know anything much about Jesse, he takes him for granted, and the coach has his own problems, so that we can all enjoy the big reveal when the coach times Jesse for the first time and Jesse blows him away. 

At track meets, the black athletes were booed and sometimes screwed out of their record breaking times by white time keepers. Owens had to not only be good, he had to not only be better, he had to be so far ahead of everyone else that there could be no question that he broke the record, because at that time, if the white world couldn't stand for black athletes to compete, they certainly couldn't stand for them to break records set by whites. 

But success and stardom appears to break the color barrier. Where once Jesse was booed and was a parish, when he starts winning everything, everyone wants to hug him.  So I guess winning has no color - and I also have to add, not sure about that message.

Like "The Natural," a woman screws Jesse up a bit (we women always get the blame), and when Ruth finds out, she breaks up with Jesse but he sees the error of his ways and tries to get Ruth back in a cute scene where he woos her in the beauty shop with all of the ladies looking on.

The film is centered around the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.  Members of the Olympic Committee argued about whether they should go or not in light of "rumors" of what the Nazis were up to.  They decide to compete, but Jesse is pressured by the NAACP not to compete because of Hitler.  What a horrible dilemma. To be held up as the symbol of your whole race and have to make a decision about giving up your dream.

"On the track when I run, I'm free.  In those ten seconds, there's no black or white only fast and slow."

Jesse decides not to go.  He doesn't want to be an example for black people and endure the pressure of standing up for a whole race.  An hour and ten minutes into the film, I was sure there was going to be a little black kid who would look up at Jesse and say something that would inspire him to change his mind and go, but it was actually his rival Eulace Peacock (Shamier Anderson) who gives him a pep talk. 

Jesse tells Ruth, "If I lose, it means those Nazis were right," to which Ruth replies, "Don't think so much, Jesse.  It's not what you're good at."  The wisdom of women.  Let us do the thinking.

He decides to go and we all know how that turned out.  He kicked those Nazi asses and history was made.

Stephan James does a good job as Owens. It's taken me awhile to believe Jason Sudeikis as a dramatic actor because some of his funny bits on SNL are implanted in my brain but he is believable here.

There is a little side plot with Leni Reifenstahl, played by Carice Van Houten, who "Game of Thrones" fans will recognize as The Red Woman, at odds with Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's Minister of Propaganda. Riefenstahl was Hitler's personal filmmaker who he hired to glorify The Third Reich (and I think there was a little hanky-panky going on as well). She famously filmed the propaganda film "Triumph of the Will," and naturally he wanted her to film the games to also glorify Germany (some of her actual footage is included in the film). 

Even though you may be familiar with Jesse Owens' story and you know how it all turns out, you will keep watching this film, because you want to see Jesse prove the Nazis wrong at the Olympics. You also get to have a taste of what it might have felt like for a young kid from Ohio finding himself with the weight of the black community on his shoulders, representing them in front of the world.  And when Jesse befriends a Jewish athlete, he gets a taste of what they were going through too in some nice cinematic moments.

The title is a good one when you think about the levels this film is exploring: Race - running; Race - Jesse pressured to represent the black race; Race - Hitler's vision of a master race.

A good biopic depends on accuracy, but also it needs to show us something new and make us feel something about the subject, or the film might as well be a documentary, and director Stephen Hopkins and writers Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse succeeded.  I not only learned about Jesse Owens, I felt for him, rooted for him throughout the film and felt uplifted by his story of courage against great odds. 

However, his winning at the Berlin Olympics didn't really change that much for Owens at home in regards to racial inequality.  A final scene shows Owens and Ruth attending a banquet at a hotel where he is the guest of honor -- and they are told they must enter by the service entrance.

Rosy the Reviewer says...good family fare but also a good sports film with an inspirational message about a sad time in human history and a reminder that we still have miles to go.

I Saw the Light (2015)

Biopic of country legend Hank Williams.

Hank Williams was one of the biggest stars ever in country music and wrote some of the most iconic songs when he was only in his twenties ("Jambalaya" "Hey Good Lookin," "(I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle," "Your Cheatin' Heart," "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," "Cold Cold Heart," "(I Can't Help It If I'm" Still in Love With You," and many more).

Written and directed by Marc Abraham (based on a biography by Colin Escott), the film begins with young Hank (Tom Hiddleston) marrying his first wife, Audrey (Elizabeth Olsen) in an auto repair shop by a justice of the peace.  Audrey and Hank are a singing duo, though calling what Audrey does singing is stretching it a bit.  Hank is only in his early 20's and has a 6:30am singing radio show but his drinking and carousing are already causing problems with his career and his marriage so he goes to rehab.

Hank finally wins his dream and makes it to the Grand Ole Opry, the holy grail of every country singer. He is a big hit, but sadly he starts drinking again and the film becomes a tale of the excesses of success and the pressures placed on him to perform, even though he wasn't well. He was born with a mild form of spina bifida and took pain pills for that but exaserbated his condition with prolific drinking and drug taking. Williams died in the back seat of his car on his way to a concert at the age of 29.

A highly dramatic story, but for the drama that was Hank Williams's life, the film is strangely flat and took an hour to get going.  Though it's easy for a story like this to fall into soap opera, I would have liked a bit more drama and a bit more exploration of why Williams couldn't pull it together. We didn't really learn anything new.  And there should have been more singing.  I'm not sure, but it seemed like Hiddleston never sang a whole song all the way through.

Some of you Baby Boomers out there might remember an early film about Williams - "Your Cheatin' Heart (1964)," starring George Hamilton.  Though his playing Williams seems almost laughable today, I remember him as actually being quite good and I liked the film, though grain of salt time, I was 16 and had probably not yet honed my incredible movie critiquing skills. 

Hiddleston also might seem to be a strange choice to play Williams since he is a Brit and is right now probably more famous with Americans for being Taylor Swift's main squeeze than the excellent actor he is, but he pulled it off albeit he looked way too old to be a 20 something and was a bit phlegmatic. But he did his own singing and he was credible.  Elizabeth Olson is one of our more underrated actresses.  She was believable as the ambitious but talentless Audrey.

One of Williams's last songs was "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive," and he never did.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a nice depiction of the times but I wish the story had been a bit more dramatic and that there had been more Hank Williams music.

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

242 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

F is for Fake (1973)

A free-form documentary or film essay about trickery, magic and deceit by movie genius Orson Welles that focuses on the famous Clifford Irving - Howard Hughes hoax of the 1970's.

You can't beat a film with Orson Welles narrating.  That voice.  I don't care what the film is about or whether I understand what is going on or not, I can't resist that voice.

This is loosely a documentary about the famous hoax perpetrated by Clifford Irving, where he tried to sell a fake biography about Howard Hughes.  This was back when Hughes was a recluse and no one had heard from him in years, so an authorized biography about him was a huge deal back in the 70's.   Unfortunately, it was a fake.

If you didn't know about the Clifford Irving/Howard Hughes hoax, you might be confused about this film because it goes all over the place.  Irving had come to fame when he wrote a book called "Fake," about one of the most famous art forgers in the world, Elmyr de Hory.  It was a bestseller, and it exposed art experts who couldn't tell the difference between a real Modligliana and one that Elmyr had painted.  With the nod of a head, a so-called art expert can make a painting worth thoursands or millions so it was a milestone book where Irving punctured the pomposity of the art world.  There was also an implication that everyone in the art world was complicit and in the end, no one really cared whether a painting was fake or not.  Quite an idea! 

Welles starts the film wearing a huge cape (he was already having weight issues) and a jaunty hat and doing magic tricks for children.  Welles himself had always had a fascination for magic.  He assures us at the beginning of the film that everything he is going to tell us during the next hour will be true.  It's all very free form and Welles is clearly having fun with this.

He starts with a portrait of Elmyr and his story.  Elmyr was the consummate art forger.  His fakes were so good that some probably hang in museums today.  The art world was duped by him and now his fakes are also valuable. He had wandered Europe until settling in Ibiza and that's where we find him in this film.

As depicted in this film, Elmyr is quite proud of his work and implies that his paintings are as good as the originals. That may be true in what the painting looks like, but the difference between the forger and the original artist is that the original artist CREATED the painting, had the idea and created it.  The forger merely RE-created it.  Big difference, in my mind.  But you have to have quite an ego to have a career as an art forger.

So now back to Clifford Irving.  With that credential, his bestseller about Emyr, Irving set out to sell a book that was supposedly an autobiography written by Howard Hughes that Irving had supposedly written for Hughes through personal interviews.  Well, this was the time when Hughes was famously ensconced in Las Vegas overseen by Mormon bodyguards.  No one had seen him for years so Irving probably thought no one could refute it's authenticity but Hughes came out of hiding via a telephone conversation and refuted the book. Irving had created a whole scenario around this scheme with fake names and money being transferred hither and yon. So he had to confess to the hoax and was sentenced to prison where he spent 17 months.  But as these go, he later wrote and published a book called "The Hoax (1981)," so in the end he not only became famous but rich.

So basically, here we have a movie about a guy who wrote a book about a faker who was himself a fake. 

This was Welles' last completed feature film before his death. Welles doesn't just narrate the film in his mellifluous voice, but swans around in his cape, hat and cane. He not only chews the scenery, he gnaws a big hole in it.  But he is always fun to watch, no matter what he is doing. 

And since this film is about fakery, we can't not talk about Welles' own bit of fakery when he made that infamous radio broadcast "War of the Worlds," where it was announced Martians had landed.  Though there was a disclaimer at the beginning of the broadcast, many did not hear that and believed that Martians really had landed and started to panic.  Just imagine - no TV, no Internet, no Twitter, just your radio telling you that the Martians had landed.  You would probably be scared too.

One can't help but wonder if this film has really passed the test of time.  People today probably don't know anything about the hoax, about Irving or even Howard Hughes, for that matter, so if not, this film probably won't make much sense. 

At the end of the film, Welles reminds us that he said he would tell the truth for an hour, but since the film lasts for 88 minutes, when did he stop telling the truth?

Picasso said, "Art is a lie, a lie that makes us realize the truth."

Is Welles saying that movies are also lies and fakes?

So we not only have a movie about a guy who wrote a book about a faker who was himself a fake.   We also have a movie by a faker making a statement about fakery.

Why it's a Must See:  "[This] has been called 'Welles's happiest film.' Yet it's possible to detect in it that undertow of melancholy that tinges all of his work...Yet the ultimate message is one of affirmation.  In the long run, says, Welles, 'Our songs will all be silenced.  But what of it?  Go on singing."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...Orson Welles was a genius who made movies that made us think.  He only had a small body of work so anything he did should be seen and relished. As long as we continue to watch his films his song will not be silenced and he can go on singing!

***Book of the Week***

Florence! Foster!! Jenkins!!!: The Life of the World's Worst Opera Singer by Darryl W. Bullock

When you have enough money and charm, you can buy yourself a singing career -- even if you can't sing!

Florence Foster Jenkins was a turn-of-the twentieth century socialite and wannabe opera singer.  She had the money to back up her socialite status but not the talent to back up her singing career. She couldn't even really carry a tune. However, that did not stop her. She funded her own recordings and concerts and at the age of 76 performed at Carnegie Hall.  Despite her lack of talent, her concerts were routinely sold out. 

How bad was she?  She was so bad that she was good. Her "caterwauling" and over-the-top costumes (a favorite was "The Angel of Inspiration complete with wings and tiara) drew crowds because, as one of her accompanists remarked,

"As usual she was slightly off-key and substituted shrieks for some of the high notes...Everyone wanted to get invited to [her concerts] because it was such fun to try and keep from laughing."

A 1943 Time Magazine article read:

"The audience, as Mrs. Jenkins' audiences invariably do, behaved badly.  In the back of the hall men and women in full evening dress made no attempt to control their laughter.  Dignified gentlemen sat with handkerchiefs stuffed in their mouths and tears of mirth streaming down their cheeks. But Mrs. Jenkins went bravely on."

However, because Mrs. Jenkins was so well-liked and well-connected, no one had the heart to really crucify her in print, though after her Carnegie Hall recital, Richard S. Davis wrote in the "Milwaukee Journal:" 

"The mere appearance of the singer provoked a prolonged wave of titters. She was wearing a pale peach gown that was nothing short of a masterpiece.  Bright gems glittered at her bosom, around her throat and on her fingers, but the sensation of her costume was an immense fan of orange and white feathers.  She waved it coyly at the multitude and laid it on the piano. And then she sang, or whatever..."

Despite the fact that few of her recordings exist today, celebrities such as Barbra Streisand and the late David Bowie were big fans.

See what you think.

It appears that Meryl Streep is also a fan because a movie about Jenkins starring Streep will be released August 12.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is a slight but well researched biography that will be a quick read before you see the film!

That's it for this week!

Thanks for reading!

See you Tuesday for

 "Why a Woman of a Certain Age Hates Summer"

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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.

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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.
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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, July 26, 2016

The Key to a Happy Retirement: Yes, I Have Found the Key!

Yes, that's right.  I have found the key to a happy retirement, and I am going to share it with you.

You know how all of the books on retirement warn you that the most difficult thing about retirement won't be a financial one, but an emotional and mental one?  Where once your job was your identity and gave you a sense of purpose, in retirement it is now important to find another sense of purpose so you won't go out on the golf course and drop dead because you have no sense of self worth anymore?  All those years that you worked, you had a purpose.  Your job defined you to a certain extent so if you wanted to make the transition to a happy retirement, you needed to find purpose.

When I retired, that really scared me.

When I first retired, I felt guilty leaving a job I could have kept doing, but I was 65 and I wanted to leave on a high point.  As Barbara Walters said when she retired from "The View," she wanted to leave when people would say, "Why are you leaving?" rather than wait for them to say, "Why don't you leave?"  That's how I felt too.  I had done what I meant to do, felt good about my career and the people who had crossed my path over the years, but it was time to go.  But I worried about this purpose thing I had heard about.  I had worked since I was 14 and when I married and had children, I worked and then came home to be with my family.  I didn't really have hobbies other than happy hour and going out to eat once in awhile.

So what was I going to do with all of that free time I was going to have when I retired?  How was I going to find purpose in my life?

So like the good little librarian that I was, I started to do some research.

Here are some books I read:

"The Joy of Not Working: A Book for the Retired, the Unemployed and the Overworked" by Ernie Zelinski (2003)

He recommended creating a "Get-a-Life Tree," a sort of chart where you list all of the things that you ever wanted to do.  "Get-a-Life" Tree right away signaled that maybe I didn't have a life, which was kind of depressing.  Anyway, I think he was trying to get me to realize I had more interests than I thought, but by the time I listed winning an Oscar and losing 50 pounds, it depressed me even more because it all seemed like so much work. Wasn't I retiring so I didn't have to work anymore?

"How to Enjoy Your Retirement: Activities from A-Z" by Tricia Wagner and Barbara Day (2006)

I know they were trying to be helpful, but their list of activities I might enjoy, such as learning to use an abacus or getting a face lift didn't seem like that would give me a sense of purpose.

"Retire with a Mission: Planning and Purpose for the Second Half of Life" by Richard G. Wendel (2008)

I was really hopeful with this book, because the people on the cover looked so happy and young!  But when the author said, "A negative countenance and chronic complaining have always been and will always be the pathway to isolation," I could see that I was going to have to become a completely different person to find purpose and enjoy my retirement, and I didn't see how that was going to happen.  Not this late in the game, anyway.

"How to Retire without Retreating: Getting Your Ducks in a Row for a Meaningful Retirement" by Johnnie Godwin (2004)

"As your formal career winds down, be sure to plan for the ten, twenty, or more years of retirement that await you."  Too late.  I'm already retired.  Plus, she wanted me to go to church.

So though some of the ideas in those books were helpful, they didn't really spark me to make that many changes or to embark on a new way of life.  In fact, they just made me feel pressured to fill my days with meaningful activities which reminded me of having a job again.

And then I had an epiphany that changed everything.

Yes, my job gave me purpose.  As a librarian in a public library, I was able to help many people find information that helped them make sense of the world they lived in.  I taught computer classes to help people find jobs, and I arranged for citizenship and ESL classes to be held at the library to help newcomers to the United States.  All of that made me feel purposeful. 
But I also realized that when I was working, every day I had to do a lot of things I didn't want to do.

Even if you loved your job, think of all of the things you really didn't want to do.

Think about it.

Every day you were confronted with activities and responsibilities you probably didn't enjoy very much and didn't really want to do.

  • In my case, I not only had to show up at work, I had to show up on time, and you know I am not a morning person.
  • I was only allowed a certain number of days off and sometimes when I wanted time off, it was denied.
  • I had no maternity leave (I went back to work when my babies were only six weeks old), and if I had to leave to take care of a sick child, it could be a problem.
  • I was a manager so I often had to address employee issues that I really didn't want to address.
  • Library customers could be demanding and I had to listen to their complaints.
  • I had to attend meetings that could be boring.
  • I had to deal with traffic getting to and from work.
I could go on, but I think I've made my point, and I am sure you could make your own list of things you don't really like to do at work.

So as I have been wrestling with this whole issue of finding purpose in my retirement, here is what I have discovered.
Are you ready for it? 

Do you need to find new purpose to enjoy your retirement?


Screw purpose.

And that's the key to a happy retirement.

You don't have to find purpose, you don't have to do anything you don't want to do any more.  You are free of all of that.

The freedom of retirement is in and of itself your purpose: to be free of the constraints of a job and the realization that you don't have to do anything you don't want to do any more is purpose enough.

If you feel pressure to find a new purpose, that's like looking for a job.  And when you find your new purpose, that's like HAVING a new job, which could lead to a whole new set of things you don't really want to do.
Hell, your existence is purpose enough.
Now does that mean I sit around all day watching TV?  Sometimes, if that's what I want to do.  But, no, I don't.  I have gotten involved in a few things such as volunteering as a senior peer counselor, which I really enjoy because I still have that "I like to help people gene" in me.  I exercise regularly and write this blog, and I have tried some new things like meditation and playing with tarot cards.  But I don't have to keep doing any of those things.  I can stop doing them whenever I want to.  I don't have a boss telling me I have to do something.  I am now my own boss.

I have also tried some things that I didn't like, such as Zumba and bird watching (just kidding about the bird watching - inside joke).  The main problem with Zumba was that it was at 10am and I don't like to have to be anywhere that early if I don't have to be and since I am retired I don't have to be. 

The main point is I have tried some things, didn't like them so I stopped doing them, because I can.  I don't have to get myself into anything I can't get myself out of anymore... 

So if you are getting ready to retire or have retired and are at loose ends about what you should do with yourself, just remember this:

You don't need to spend your retirement looking for your purpose or make elaborate plans before you retire. YOU are your purpose.  Your existence is purpose enough. You are now free to do whatever you want and you are also free to NOT do anything you don't want to do any more.  You are free!

When you free yourself of the "shoulds" in your life, your mind is free to discover what you really enjoy, and if that's solving the problems of the world, fine.  But if it's sitting in a chair every day with a good book or watching "The View," that's also fine.

And for those of you out there whose identity is so tied to your job or career that you are worried about what you will say when someone asks you what you do (and this seems to be more of an issue for men), just say:

"I am enjoying my life and my freedom."

Now go out there and enjoy your life and your freedom.
I'm going to go watch "The View."

Thanks for reading!
See you Friday

for my review of

"The Fundamentals of Caring"
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, July 22, 2016

"Ghostbusters" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new all-female remake of "Ghostbusters" as well as DVDs "By the Sea" and "The Water Diviner." The Book of the Week is "Wilde Lake: A Novel" by Laura Lippmann.  Yes, people, you heard me.  A novel, which shows that I have heard my fans who like fiction.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Luis Bunuel's "Viridiana."]


Four female Ghostbusters band together to save Manhattan from otherworldly creatures in this update of the classic 1984 film.

Kristen Wiig is Erin Gilbert, a professor at Columbia University who is up for tenure.  It's not a sure thing and she doesn't want to rock the boat, so she is shocked when she discovers an old book of hers on Amazon.  It's a book about the paranormal that she wrote years ago with her friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy).  However, since nothing came of the book (they never proved the existence of ghosts), and Erin is now a physics professor, she doesn't want anyone to know she had anything to do with that book, which would hardly be called scholarly by her colleagues.

She goes to see Abby to tell her to stop promoting their book only to discover that Abby is still deeply immersed in the study of the paranormal, this time with fellow scientist Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), who puts a whole new spin on the term "mad scientist."  When they investigate a haunting at a local historic mansion, they all see a ghost and Erin is convinced and pulled into starting a ghost hunting business with Abby and Jillian.  Later transit worker and NYC historian Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) joins forces with them after being attacked by a ghost down in the subway.  Turns out there is an evil hotel janitor (Neil Casey) seeking revenge on the world for the bullying he endured as a youth who is responsible for unleashing all of the ghosts lurking about.  He also has an even more diabolical plan and our ladies must take him down before he takes them down.

It's all silly stuff but not any sillier than the first "Ghostbusters."  I mean, remember the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man? I love that this remake stars women and these women are very funny.

Which leads me to go on a bit of a rant.

Sadly, sexism is still alive and well. The movie hadn't even been released yet and there was grumbling about why remake this classic film?  Well, you know from my post last Tuesday that I usually hate remakes (and sequels), but I have to say that this was every bit as good as the first one, and I think the grumbling came from the same people who don't think women are funny.  It's a three letter word that starts with "m" and ends with an "n." Sexism, sexism, sexism is alive and well...still.  Sigh.

These four women are four of the funniest comic actors working today.  And you notice I didn't say WOMEN comic actors.  Women are every bit as funny as men, if not more so. This whole notion that women can't be funny is ridiculous.  Comedian Jerry Lewis started it all and professional curmudgeon Christopher Hitchens added fuel to the fire with his article in "Vanity Fair" - "Why Women Aren't Funny."  But the only people who think Jerry Lewis is funny anymore are the French and Hitchens is dead, so there you have it.

McCarthy is adept at physical comedy, Wiig at nuanced funny expressions and double takes and Kate McKinnon is over the top. She always goes all out for the sake of a laugh. She is shameless, shamelessly funny.

But for me, I enjoyed Leslie Jones the most.  At 48, she is the oldest member of SNL ever hired for the cast, and, in my opinion, one of the funniest. So glad she is making it.  AND YET, the Internet trolls aren't happy unless they are bringing someone down. This week she was attacked on Twitter and called racist names I don't intend to repeat here.  It has gotten so bad for her that she was forced to close her Twitter account. What is wrong with people?  Any loser can sit in his mother's basement and print all kinds of trash about people.  So sexism is not only alive and well, sadly so is racism. But Leslie, YOU get the last laugh, because YOU are a star and the racist trolls are not.  I hope to see much more of her, because she is one of the funniest people in show business today.

On a less heavy note, another revelation here is Chris Hemsworth.  I have made no secret of my love for the hunky Hemsworth, but who knew he was funny?  Here he pokes fun at his handsomeness and the dumb blonde stereotype by playing the handsome but clueless receptionist, Kevin, hired by the ladies, partly because he is such great eye candy, but also because they didn't have any other applicants.  He is so dumb he doesn't have lenses in his glasses because then he won't have to clean them and when he hears a loud noise he covers his eyes.

Paul Feig directs this reboot of the 1984 film (he also wrote the script with Katie Dippold), and it's just as funny as the original.  And note:  Feig also directed some other funny films with Melissa McCarthy - "Bridesmaids," "The Heat" and "Spy." If you like Melissa McCarthy, see her in Paul Feig films, not the ones she does with her husband, Ben Falcone.  Just remember this.  Paul Feig movies funny.  Ben Falcone movies not funny. 

Homage is paid to the first film with heavy usage of the jaunty theme music we have come to associate with the film and cameos by Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Ernie Hudson and Sigourney Weaver.  I kept waiting to see Rick Moranis pop up, but he never did and, sadly, Harold Ramis, who was also one of the original "Ghostbusters" and who co-wrote the 1984 film with Dan Aykroyd, died in 2014.

Be sure to see this one. You will have a rollicking good time. Oh, and don't get up and leave when the credits roll.  There is more comedy, not to mention more of Chris Hemsworth strutting his delicious self.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is a testament to female friendship and one of the few comedies this year that is actually funny.  I laughed.


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

Now on DVD

By the Sea (2015)

Roland (Brad Pitt) and Vanessa (Angelina Jolie Pitt), a 1970's married couple, head to a seaside resort hoping to save their crumbling marriage.  When they befriend a couple of passionate newlyweds, they are confronted by the lack of passion in their own marriage.

What do you do when your 14-year marriage is in trouble?  Why you go on a "dirty weekend," of course.  That's what the Brits call a weekend away where sex is on your mind.  But actually the shrinks say that is the worst thing you can do when things are not going well in a marriage.  I guess all of that alone time together actually exacerbates the problems and that's just what happens to Roland and Vanessa.

The two have a lovely hotel room with a view of the sea in the South of France, but Roland is a writer who is having trouble writing so he goes off to the local café to try to write but mostly hangs out with the owner and bartender, Michel (Niels Arestrup).  Vanessa is a troubled ex-dancer.  We know she is troubled because she looks sad all of the time and looks longingly out to sea.  She is also left alone for long periods of time with nothing to do, so she is bored. You know what they say about the devil and idle hands...or something.

Vanessa discovers a peephole in the wall into the next door bedroom. When you are so bored that you notice little peepholes down by the baseboard of your hotel room, you are really bored. But lucky for Vanessa, what's going on in the room next door is NOT boring.  It's the room where a couple of newlyweds, Lea (Melanie Laurent) and Francois (Melvil Poupaud), are staying.  Being newlyweds, you can imagine how they spend THEIR day.  When Roland discovers the peephole too, watching the newlyweds becomes a shared activity complete with wine and food. Roland and Vanessa have finally found something to do together. Eventually, it becomes very erotic.

Roland and Vanessa strike up a friendship with the newlyweds and some jealousy ensues.  Vanessa is not easy to like.  She accuses Roland of wanting to have sex with Lea, and there is some foreshadowing of trouble ahead and eventually we discover why Vanessa is not happy and why she and Roland are struggling.

Brad and Angelina are indeed a gorgeous pair and the French seaside is also gorgeous, making for a movie that is gorgeous to look at.

However, I have a hard time thinking of Brad as a Roland and the mustache he sports here makes him look like Homer Simpson's neighbor, Ned Flanders, but an extremely handsome Ned Flanders.  But that's just a minor thing.

Written and directed by Angelina, I was prepared to dislike this film because the trailers were awful.  All kinds of existential moping and looking out the window, lots of anguish and crying, sitting in a corner in the fetal position etc.  The film started with about 15 minutes of close-ups of Angelina crying and Brad hanging out in the bar and looking out to sea, so I wasn't hopeful, but after that, things picked up and this film was really good and gorgeously produced and photographed. I think that's the fourth time I have used the word gorgeous, but it truly describes the look of this film. 

As the director, Angelina has done a wonderful job framing the shots and creating atmosphere.  I feel that Angelina is a brave old soul and you can tell this was a labor of love for her. I have a great deal of respect for Jolie.  She has directed some wonderful films ("In the Land of Blood and Honey" and "Unbroken") and has not gotten the credit she deserves, something women directors have to endure.  Filmmaking is still very much a man's world.  It's nice to see Brad supporting her here, though, since Angelina also wrote this film, one can't help but wonder if this is a comment on Brad's and Angelina's own marriage.

On a more frivolous note, which I sometimes fall victim to, Vanessa wears a series of big hats.  I couldn't help but wonder how she packed so many hats for a short vacation.  However, after thinking that, it dawned on me that perhaps the hats were symbolic.  The white hat when things were going well, the black hat when not so much?  Deep, Angelina, deep.

Also every day Vanessa and Roland see a fisherman taking his boat out of the harbor and every day he appears to return with no fish.  Why does he keep going out?  Like marriage, you are sometimes pulled by the tides and you just have to go with it...until one day you catch a fish?   Again, deep.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a stylish, poetic film where you can wallow, not only in the beauty of the French seaside, but the beauty that is Brangelina. 

The Water Diviner (2014)

An Australian farmer travels to Turkey to try to find his missing sons who fought at Gallipoli.

Inspired by true events, the film begins with the WW I battle of Gallipoli, December 20, 1915, where the Turks beat back Australian and New Zealander troops to win the bloody campaign.

Russell Crowe plays Connor, a farmer who is adept at finding water using divining rods.  When the film opens, we see him dousing, finding the water and triumphantly digging the well.  But when he returns home, his wife, Eliza (Jacqueline McKenzie), is talking about their sons as if they are still young boys living with them. Though we see flashbacks of happy times when the boys were little, it is clear the boys are no longer with them.  They fought at Gallipoli and never returned home so they are presumed dead.  She is clearly a bit off her rocker and rails at Connor that he can find water but he can't find their sons.  She drowns herself in the pond, so without anything to live for, Connor decides to go to Turkey to find his sons' bodies and bring them home.

It's been four years since Gallipoli and despite that one victory, the Turks have lost the war and the Australians are in charge.  However, there is a truce of sorts and the Aussies have asked the Turks to help them find their dead so they can bury them.  Meanwhile, Connor can't get to Gallipoli.  Civilians are not allowed there.  However, he is determined to find his sons so he can bury them next to their mother, and where there is a will there is a way, especially in the movies.

In flashbacks we see the brothers fighting and presumably dying together on the battlefield in a heart-breaking scene, but there is a twist.

There is also a side plot with the widow at the hotel where Connor stays.  Her brother-in-law wants to marry her but she is more interested in Connor, which adds a bit of culture clash and schmaltz to the film.

Here is another film I put off seeing because #1, it starred Russell Crowe and I was not particularly a fan.  It has something to do with "Noah" and "Les Miserables," but also I always thought he was a bit of a grump.  Secondly, I am not a huge fan of war movies.  But again, I was wrong.  This is not a war movie but rather the story of a father's mission, Crowe was very poignant, and it was a really excellent film written (with Andrew Knight and Andrew Anastasios) and directed by Crowe in his directorial debut.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Russell, because I liked this film, I have forgiven you for your singing in "Les Miserables."  I won't mention it again.

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

243 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Viridiana (1961)

Viridiana, a young nun about to take her vows, visits her rich uncle and finds her piety challenged.

Viridiana (Sylvia Pinal)  lives in a convent and is about to take her vows to become a nun.  Her rich reclusive uncle, Don Jaime (Fernando Rey), invites her to visit, but Viridiana is reluctant.  Though her uncle has been supporting her, she hardly knows him.  However, the Mother Superior urges her to go.  When she arrives, it is clear that Don Jaime is very taken with Viridiana because she looks so much like his dead wife, who he is still obsessed by, so much in fact that we see him trying on his dead wife's high heels and her corset, pretty shocking stuff for 1961.  Don Jaime  is also obsessed with Viridiana and wants to marry her.  The night she is to leave, Don Jaime persuades Viridiana to put on his dead wife's wedding dress.  His maid, Ramona, drugs her drink and Don Jaime carries Viridiana to bed with the intention of raping her.  However, he doesn't.  The next day, when Viridiana is bent on leaving, Don Jaime tells her he has taken her virginity so she can't leave and go back to the convent. She is no longer pure.  Viridiana still plans to leave so he confesses he didn't actually do it.  As Viridiana is ready to board the bus, the local authorities find her and take her back to the estate.  Don Jaime has hanged himself.

Viridiana was made co-heir of the estate and decides to stay on at the estate, but when Don Jaime's son, Jorge, arrives with his girlfriend, it is clear he too lusts after Viridiana. Though not following through with taking her vows, Viridiana still wants to do good, so she gathers together a motley crew of beggars and installs them all in an out building on the estate with the intent of feeding them and educating them.  But they are an unruly bunch and when Viridiana and Jorge leave for a couple of days, the beggars break into the main house and help themselves to food and drink and drunkenly wreck the place.  When one of the beggars wants to take a picture, they all pose on one side of the table in a strange depiction of "The Last Supper." When Viridiana and Jorge return, the beggars attack Jorge and Viridiana, and Viridiana is ultimately forced to confront the limits of her idealism.

Luis Bunuel was a Spanish filmmaker who made films in Spain, Mexico and France.  With his film "Un Chien Andelou," he was a leader in avante-garde surrealism, though his career spanned over 50 years and he made films in every genre. Fifteen of his films appear in "They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?" which lists the 1000 greatest films ever made (he tied with John Ford for the second most).

"Viridiana" was the first film Bunuel made in Spain since he left for Mexico in 1939.  He was much criticized for his return because fascist dictator Francisco Franco was in power and Bunuel was considered a protester and loyalist.  Up until this time, though Spanish, most of Bunuel's films had been made in France and Mexico, one of which was "The Exterminating Angel," which is also one of the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" and which I reviewed back in 2015. 

Though Bunuel made some great films, it wasn't until he made "Viridiana," that he had international success.  The film won the Palme d'or at the 1961 Cannes Film Festival but was banned in Spain and denounced by the Vatican. His exploration of religious belief and do gooders versus the march of progress and the appetitites and violence of human nature was considered blasphemy.

Why it's a Must See:  "Full of moments of surreal observation, the film remains one of Bunuel's most perfect expositions of the irredeemable follies of human nature and the irrepressible comedy of life."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

I find I am more susceptible to well-made classic soap operas than films trying to make statements about film like Bresson's minimalism. Here Bunuel makes his statement about human nature by telling a good story with lush production values.  Where Bresson shunned music almost completely, Bunuel used religious music throughout the film until the end, when the music changed to pop, symbolizing Viridinana facing her own human foibles. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...a riveting film where one could surmise that Bunuel wants us to remember the old adage:  "No good deed goes unpunished" and that we humans are, well, human.
(In Spanish with English subtitles, b & w)

***Book of the Week***

Wilde Lake: A Novel by Laura Lippman (2016)

Newly elected state's attorney, Luisa Brant, thinks she remembers the details of what happened at Wilde Lake when she was 10 and her brother was involved in the death of a young man at a high school graduation party.  He was cleared of any responsibility, but some new facts come to light and now she is not so sure.

Luisa “Lu” Brant is the newly elected state’s attorney - the first female - representing Howard County in suburban Maryland, a job her widowed father also held.  Lu grew up in the 1980's in Columbia, a planned community situated on Wilde Lake, a community meant to be a modern utopia of racial and economic equality.  She may be the state's attorney with all of the administrative duties that are a part of that job, but Lu is ambitious and competitive and she doesn't plan on giving up trying cases.

Her first case after taking office is a murder case.  A drifter is accused of breaking into a woman's apartment and bludgeoning her to death.  But as she prepares for trial, some events from the past haunt her.  While at a graduation party at the lake, her older brother (by eight years), AJ, saved his best friend, Davey, an African American, from an attack by some brothers who accused Davey of raping their sister.  Davey was stabbed and as AJ chased one of the brothers, the brother fell on his own knife and died.  AJ was cleared of any charges by a grand jury, but now some facts and people have come to light that make Lu question her memories of that time. After all, she was only a little girl.  Was justice done?

Lippman has woven a crime story that moves back and forth between Lu's first person memories of her childhood where she grew up with her widowed father (her mother died soon after her birth) and a brother eight years her senior and a third person point of view as she takes on her new role as state's attorney and gets ready for a murder trial. Lu herself is a widow raising her two small twins on her own.  Her husband died unexpectedly while on a business trip and he wasn't "alone" if you know what I mean.

Lippman tells a good story (she also wrote "Every Secret Thing."  I liked the movie version and reviewed it a few months ago), and she is a good writer.

"It is one of those January days that feels like a hangover."

That's good writing.  She also builds suspense so that you want to keep reading to find out where she is heading.

Lippman is also good at capturing family relationships we can all relate to, such as the older brother/younger sister dynamic she so vividly portrays.  A young teenaged AJ is given the responsibility to watch over the house and his sister while their father goes away for a night or two.  "No parties."  "Of course, Dad."  "Bye, AJ." "Bye, Dad." 

LET'S PARTAY!!!  AJ tells Lu to stay in her room and only come out if she has to use the toilet.  When she does come out, she tries to shield her eyes from what is going on around her.  I have a daughter who can totally relate, right darling?

You know that I am not a regular fiction reader, but I have fans who are, so I feel it's Rosy the Reviewer's duty to throw in some fiction recommendations from time to time, and I have to say that I am enjoying my quest to be inclusive.  I enjoyed this book and spent a whole Saturday afternoon reading it, because I wanted to find out what had really happened back at that lake.  There were some twists I saw coming and some I didn't, and, you know me, movies are always on my mind.  I think this book would make a pretty good film. I am casting it in my mind right now.  Let's see, Julia Roberts for Lu? Tom Cruise for AJ? Cuba Gooding Jr. for Davey?

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are a fan of Thomas Cook or Louise Doughty or you like intricately plotted modern mysteries with some psychological elements, you will enjoy this book.


That's it for this week!
Thanks for reading!

See you Tuesday for

 "The Key to a Happy Retirement:
Yes, I Have Found the Key!"

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