Friday, June 16, 2017

"The Keepers" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new Netflix docuseries "The Keepers" as well as DVDs "Billy Lynn's Long Half Time Walk" and the film "Christine," streaming on Amazon.  The Book of the Week is another cookbook that strives to tell you the best way to make some classic recipes: "100 Recipes: The Absolute Best Ways to Make the True Essentials."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with the three and a half hour "Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles"]

The Keepers

Who killed Sister Cathy?

This seven-part Netflix docuseries explores the 1969 murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik, a popular young nun at Archbishop Keough High School (now Seton Keough High School), a Catholic girls' school in Baltimore and the horrific secrets and pain that linger nearly five decades after her death.   

The series begins with the introduction of Gemma Hoskins and Abbie Schaub, two 60-something ex-students of the school who could not let the 45-year-old unsolved murder of Sister Cathy go, and who believed that her murder was related to alleged sexual abuse of students by one or more of the priests at the school.

Through a series of interviews, we meet some of the ex-students who alleged sexual abuse by Father A. Joseph Maskell, a priest at the school who was also the school counselor and chaplain. Over the course of the series, we learn about Father Maskell and the seeming cover-up of his misdeeds by the Baltimore Archdiocese.

We also meet Sister Cathy, described as a person full of vitality and compassion.  Among the priests and nuns at the school, many who could be authoritative and stern, Sister Cathy was approachable, upbeat and happy.

Baltimore in the 1960's is portrayed as a more simplistic place and time, where blue collar Catholics lived for their little daughter's First Communion and dreamed of their sons becoming altar boys.  Archbishop Keough High School was a jewel in the Baltimore Archdiocese, a new school run by the New Sisters of Notre Dame.  It was a prestigious and competitive school that one had to apply to get into.

The centerpiece of the series is Jane Doe (real name: Jeanne Hargadon), who much later in life, after having some recovered memories about the regular sexual abuse she endured at the hands of Father Maskell, came forward with her allegations and, when she did, she discovered that she was not the only girl being abused by Father Maskell. 

In confession, Hargadon had confessed to being sexually abused by her uncle and instead of absolving her of responsibility, Maskell told her it was her fault and she needed to come to his office for "therapy."  That's when the sexual abuse began. Hargadon tells horrific stories of what continued to go on in Father Maskell's office in the guise of "therapy."  Sometimes other men were there as if Maskell was pimping these young girls out. 

It's difficult to believe that a sixteen-year-old girl could be so naïve as to not only allow something like that to happen but to let it happen over time and never tell anyone. Her very detailed descriptions of the abuse can be difficult to listen to at times, but they are necessary for us to realize what she went through and why she was so traumatized and afraid of Maskell that she remained quiet for all of those years.  She says that she blocked it all out as if it had never happened, because that was the only way she was able to deal with what was happening to her and it wasn't until 1994 that those repressed memories came back to her and she decided to do something about Father Maskell.  Riveting. 

Maskell was described as a charismatic man with a soothing, hypnotic voice.  He had a degree in psychology and might have used hypnosis and drugs.  He also targeted girls who had abuse in their lives.  When they would tell him this in confession, he would use it against them. Also these were young sheltered girls who believed all of the Catholic doctrine and who believed that priests were akin to God. Hargadon also relates how she would repress what happened, because that was the only way she could deal with the abuse. Taking all of that into account, these stories become easier to believe.

She later explains that Sister Cathy seemed to have an inkling of inappropriate behavior and asked Hargadon if anything was going on.  When Hargadon was reluctant to answer, Sister Cathy just told her to nod yes or no, which she did.  She nodded yes.  It is this interaction that led Hargadon to believe that Father Maskell had killed Sister Cathy because Sister Cathy was going to blow the whistle on him and possibly others.  

Then she shockingly reveals that Maskell took her to see Sister Cathy's body to show her what would happen to someone who told stories.

"He used her death to keep me quiet."

Did that really happen?

So Hargadon finally comes forward wanting to help solve the mystery of Sister Cathy's murder as well as doing something about Father Maskell.  However, wanting to do something about Maskell and actually being able to do something about him were two different things.

You see, Father Maskell was also the chaplain for the local police, for the State Police and the National Guard.  And his brother was a police office who often took Father Maskell on ride alongs with him.  So he was well connected and almost untouchable. Maskell also personally wielded a lot of power and fear.  He had a "How dare you question me" attitude that intimidated people.

So what finally happened? 

Did Gemma Hoskins and Abbie Schaub solve the mystery of Sister Cathy's murder?  Did Jane Doe - Jeanne Hargadon - get her day in court?  Did Father Maskell pay for what he did?  What happened to all of those girls who said Father Maskell abused them?

Director Ryan White does a good job of pacing the series.  It feels a bit like a British detective series with each episode beginning and ending with a provocative statement or scene and slowly unfolding, red herrings and all.  He also uses very close close-ups when the talking heads are talking which provides a you-are-there feeling, that the person is talking directly to you. There are also dramatizations which can sometimes be cheesy but here they are short and add just enough atmosphere.

This docuseries is similar to the highly popular and well-received "The Making of a Murderer", but comparisons can't help but be made to the film "Spotlight," which won the 2016 Best Picture Oscar, and which highlighted the cover-up of child abuse by priests in Boston.  Both this film and "Spotlight" showed how priests had been able to get away with abusing children for so long in those two predominately Catholic cities.  But unlike "Spotlight," which was more the story of the journalists who exposed the abuse, this story takes place much earlier, in the 1960's, and is much more the story of regular people up against a web of conspiracy and power.       
Rosy the Reviewer says...if you loved "Making of a Murderer," or fancy yourself a would-be detective, this is a binge-worthy series that you won't be able to stop watching.

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

Young Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn) is brought home for a victory tour with his squad after a harrowing and heroic battle in Iraq.  But was that battle really heroic?

In 2004 after a tour of Iraq, William Lynn was awarded a silver star.  He is now on tour with his infantry buddies, doing patriotic half-time stints during football games, and promoter, Albert (Chris Tucker) is capitalizing on their heroism.  The film goes back and forth between this particular half-time walk and Billy's flashbacks of the past. Slowly, through the course of the film, we learn what really happened during that battle in Iraq.

"Kind of weird to be honored for the worst day of your life."

When Billy visits his home, we learn that his Dad is a paraplegic and his sister, Kathryn (Kristen Stewart in a very small role and frankly unnecessary role), has a disfigured face from a car accident.  We learn that one of the reasons that Billy joined the army was because he had beaten up Kathryn's boyfriend for dumping her after she became disfigured.

There is also a flirtation with a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, Faison (Makenzie Leigh), which doesn't really go anywhere.

And that's the problem with this movie. 

It doesn't really go anywhere.  It's a depiction of callow young men sent to fight a war they didn't really have a clue about and who are now being used as patriotic pawns to parade out at half time at a football game like a circus act.  Movies about callow young men being used as pawns of war and feeling guilty about what they have done has been done before.  Despite the heartfelt speeches in close-ups, the film didn't feel very sincere and perhaps that was the fault of young Joe Alwyn, who was very phlegmatic and played Billy with little energy. This was Joe Alwyn's first feature film and an interesting casting choice since Alwyn is British and Billy is from Texas. Steve Martin and Vin Diesel also make appearances.

Based on a novel by Ben Fountain, directed by Ang Lee and with a screenplay by Jean-Christoph Castelli, I found this to be a disappointing film, probably because of what I have come to expect from Ang Lee. 

Ang, Ang, Ang. Why?  After directing such films as "Sense and Sensibility" and "Brokeback Mountain," what drew you to this film project?  It just didn't really have much impact and when I watch your films, I expect to feel something.

Rosy the Reviewer idea that didn't really go anywhere and took too long to not get there.

Christine (2016)

The story of real life newswoman, Christine Chubbuck, who in the 1970's was struggling with depression and personal struggles as she tried to advance her TV career and who made her own headlines when she shot herself in the head on camera.

Not to be confused with the Stephen King book and horror film of the same name about a malevolent car, this film is even more of a horror film because this Christine is Christine Chubbuck, the newswoman who shot herself on air.  Yes, you heard me.

Christine (Rebecca Hall) was toiling at a TV station in Sarasota, Florida in the 1970's, very much like the place where Mary Richards worked on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." But that's where the similarity ends.  Christine was no Mary Richards. 

In the film, Christine lives with her Mom and is having difficulties getting ahead.  The TV station is on the wane and the boss is pushing for higher ratings and juicier stories. But that isn't really her problem.  Christine's real problem is that she doesn't have much in the way of people skills.  She is awkward, depressed and suffering from stomach pains.  She is also feisty and outspoken and that doesn't help her uneasy relationship with her boss. But she also has integrity and wants to do meaningful stories.  There are some allusions to "Boston," where Christine had worked before and where she must have had some kind of meltdown. She is a virgin, always wanted a husband and a family and all of that seems to be eluding her, so early on you get the feeling that Christine is on a downward spiral. 

The owner of the station has arrived to choose someone to work in their new Baltimore station which would be a big step up for Christine, so she does what she can to get noticed and get that job. Though her main job at the station is to do human interest stories, and she is disgusted by the sensationalizing of news stories just to get ratings, she gets a police radio and chases ambulances hoping to get a really big story so she can make a name for herself.

"If it bleeds, it leads."

However, when she finds out that several other team members, people she considers beneath her, are headed to Baltimore without her, that seems to be the nail in her coffin, literally.

No one can ever know what has gone on in the mind of someone who commits suicide, and this film doesn't really give us answers as to why Christine did what she did.  But this film does a good job of showing a fragile personality feeling desperately unsuccessful in life and what that desperate person might see as a final successful act.

 On July 15, 1974, Christine Chubbuck began her live broadcast:

"In keeping with Channel 40's policy of bringing you the latest in 'blood and guts', and in living color, you are going to see another first —attempted suicide."

And then she shot herself in the head.

The word "attempted" made me wonder if she just wanted to do something really shocking and not actually kill herself, but we will never know.

Rebecca Hall is a wonderful actress and I keep waiting for her to break out and make it big. She is a wonderful British actress who has played so many Americans that when I see her doing herself on talk shows or in British films and hear her British accent I am always surprised.  She can play anything and anyone and perhaps that is the problem.  She inhabits her characters so well that you forget the real woman. 

Here she is on screen for the entire two hours and her performance is why you keep watching despite the fact that it's on record how it ends. Hall must have done her homework about the real Christine because I found her unrecognizable and her voice to be very irritating, which must have been how the real Christine sounded.  She is a wonderful actress who I am still hoping will break out as a superstar. I wrote about her back in 2014 in my post "15 Really, Really Good Actors You Have Never Heard Of," so you can see I've been a fan for a long time and have been waiting for her to make it big.  However, unfortunately, it's not going to be this movie that will tip the scales.  Not because it's not a good film.  It is, but because I had a terrible time even finding it.  It played in the theatres for about a day, and I had to watch it on Amazon.

Directed by Antonio Campos with a screenplay by Craig Shilowich and with a great 70's soundtrack, the film does a good job of showing what it's like behind the scenes at a TV station, the day-to-day drudgery, the dog-eat-dog competition and the insecurities and stresses that could lead a fragile personality to a very desperate act.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a dark character study brought to life by the wonderful performance by Hall.

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

198 to go!
Have YOU seen this classic film?

A lonely widow goes about her day, taking care of her son and her home and turning the occasional trick.

Jeanne Dielman (Delphine Seyrig) is a buttoned-up housewife who would seem to be the last person you would suspect of entertaining gentlemen for money in the afternoon.  But I guess it's those quiet types you need to look out for.

This is one of those slice of life films, except this slice of life is a long one - three and a half hours - and a slice of life where practically everything is in real time e.g. we see Jeanne cooking and, in the time that the camera is on her, she cooks an entire meal.  We watch her striking the match, lighting the gas. The doorbell rings, she wipes her hands, takes off her apron, walks down the hall, answers the door, greets the gentleman, takes his coat and hat, on and on like that for three and a half hours - in real time.

Now if that sounds interesting to you, then you might like this film.  I found it very tedious. I mean when she takes a bath, do we really need to see her not only cleaning her ears but then after watching the entire bath, cleaning the tub?

There is a bit of a pay off and that is that our bored housewife is also a prostitute.  There is also some nudity because this is a European film after all.  But even with that, it's all very slow and tedious. So a guy comes to the door, Jeanne takes care of the gentleman and then it's back to the stove. Zzzzzzz.

It goes on like that for three hours and 15 minutes and then in the last 15 minutes we see Jeanne's constrained life unraveling - big time - in yet another dark character study.  But I just can't justify that first three hours and 15 minutes for that pay off.  And even that last "shocking" scene was really not that shocking - just a shocking scene done in a boring way.

Though I can appreciate this film from a sort of cinema verite perspective, this is one of those films you could fast-forward through and get just as much out of it, almost like watching a fast moving silent film.  So that's what I did. This film reminded me of one of those Andy Warhol films where he filmed people sleeping.

How did this film make it into the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die?"

Well, let's see:

Why it's a Must See: "One of the key works of feminist filmmaking...Belgian director Chantal Akerman's minimalist admittedly demanding viewing...Although the film is taxing, its rewards are great...For one, Akerman's feminist thesis is conveyed with a cogent urgency as a result of her decision to depict Jeanne's life in such unsparing detail.  It isn't enough for Akerman to suggest the tedium of her protagonist's selfless existence, but rather, by explicitly presenting the drab banality of her routine in real time, Akerman expertly conveys the stifling emptiness that ultimately drives Jeanne to her tragic final act...It may be the kind of picture that's better to contemplate in theory rather than as a vehicle for viewing pleasure, but for the spectator attuned to Akerman's austere approach, her film remains, in many respects, an unforgettable achievement."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

OK, I guess I am not attuned to her "austere approach" and would rather have contemplated this in theory.  Did I mention that I am not really a fan of movies that use real time?

Rosy the Reviewer says...I guess I am not the sophisticated movie goer I thought I was.  This was a snooze fest!
(In French with English subtitles)

***Book of the Week***

100 Recipes: The Absolute Best Way to Make the True Essentials by the Editors of America's Test Kitchen (2017)

Not just the "best way" to make some classic recipes, the ABSOLUTE best way.

America's Test Kitchen?  Did they steal that name from "Rosy's Test Kitchen?"  No not really.  I think they were there first.  Actually, I know they were there first, but we both have the same idea.  Test things and then report what we have learned, giving tips, secrets and insights and that is what this cookbook does.

"This book has been tested, written, and edited by the folks at America's Test Kitchen, a very real 2,500-square-foot kitchen located just outside of Boston.  It is the home of Cook's Illustrated magazine and Cook's Country magazine and is the Monday-through-Friday destination for more than four dozen test cooks, editors, food scientists, tasters, and cookware speicalists.  Our mission is to test recipes over and over again until we understand how and why they work and until we arrive at the "best" version."

In the preface by Christopher Kimball, the founder and Editor of "Cook's Illustrated" and "Cook's Country," he says

"Here's how I would use this book: Pick the 10 recipes that you are most likely to make time and time again.  Make them until you don't need to look at the recipe instructions (nobody remembers ingredients lists!).  Now you have become a real cook -- you can cook without a recipe and you understand the core principles.  Then take another 10 recipes...If you can cook 20 of the recipes in this book without referring to the instructions then you have become a serious cook and more accomplished than 99 percent of your friends and neighbors.  It's really that simple."

Simple?  I wouldn't go that far but I get it.  Whenever I watch TV cooking shows like "Masterchef" and "Top Chef," I am always amazed how the contestants can come up with recipes out of thin air, not knowing what the mystery ingredients are going to be.  I am sure they have a repertoire and anticipate some of it, but it's certainly a skill I would like to acquire.  I am still tied to most of my recipes except the ground beef stroganoff that I have been making since I was first married at 19 (to someone else, not to Hubby). I can do that one by heart.

The cookbook is broken into three main chapters:

"The Absolute Essentials: Classic Recipes that Really Matter"

This sort of thing:

Scrambled eggs
Fried eggs
Rice Pilaf
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Grilled Cheese

"The Surprising Essentials: Innovative Recipes You Didn't Know You Needed:"


Spaghetti with Pecorino and Pepper
Tomato Soup
Apple Pie

and then

"The Global Essentials: Exciting Recipes that Bring the World to Your Kitchen:"

Here you will find classic recipes from around the world from simple rice and beans to potstickers to Tinga.  I need to look up what Tinga is.

So I have decided to take up Mr. Kimball's challenge and choose ten recipes to learn by heart so I can call myself a serious cook.

And here are the ten recipes I am going to start with:

  • Vinaigrette
  • Spaghetti with Garlic and Oil
  • Pancakes and bacon
  • Pan Seared Chicken Breasts
  • Stir-Fried Beef and broccoli 
  • Roast Chicken
  • Chicken Soup
  • Biscuits
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Brownies

I chose those because I think I should be able to make pancakes and biscuits without looking at a recipe and since I haven't met a chicken breast I haven't over-cooked, I think it's time I got some tips.

I will report back on an up-coming "Rosy's Test Kitchen," so stay-tuned to find out how well I do.

One complaint I used to have about the "Test Kitchen" cookbooks was the lack of color pictures.  Looks like they have remedied that problem somewhat as there are many more color photographs than I remember from other cookbooks.

What I really Liked: Each recipe includes a tutorial called "Why this recipe works" where the recipe is broken down into its componants with tips e.g. for the spaghetti and meatballs, there is a discussion about the best meat for the meatballs (they came to the conclusion that a 2:1 ratio with beef and pork gave them a richer, meatier taste).  Likewise adding a little prosciutto enhanced the flavor and using panko rather than fresh bread crumbs was more convenient and actually did a better job of holding the balls together.  I did not know that!

Those are the kinds of tips I enjoy.  As I have said in the past, I actually like reading cookbooks.  Yes, I like to cook and I love to eat, but I enjoy reading about food too and this cookbook gives you the best of both worlds.  Great recipes and you get to read all about them.

Rosy the Reviewer says...A perfect addition to "Rosy's Test Kitchen!"  Stay-tuned!

Thanks for reading!

 See you next Friday 

for my review of  

"Wonder Woman"


 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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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."

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