Friday, September 27, 2019

"Downton Abbey" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie version of "Downton Abbey" as well as the DVD "The Last Black Man in San Francisco" and "Hello, Privilege. It's Me Chelsea," a documentary now streaming on Netflix. The Book of the Week is rocker Roger Daltry's memoir, "Thanks a Lot Mr. Kibblewhite." I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die" with "The Asthenic Syndrome."]

Downton Abbey

"Downton Abbey" - the story continues!

"Downton Abbey" fans rejoice! It's back.  And this time the popular TV show returns as a feature film with all of your favorite characters: The Crawleys AKA The Earl (Hugh Bonneville) and Countess of Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern), Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), Tom Branson (Allen Leech), Lady Merton (Penelope Wilton), and, of course, the Dowager Countess, Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith), all living upstairs while Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan), Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle) and his wife, Anna (Joanne Froggatt), Mrs. Padmore, Daisy (Sophie McShera), Andy (Michael Fox) and Barrow (Robert James-Collier) hold forth downstairs.  Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael), who has married and moved away, arrives; Molesley (Kevin Doyle) makes an appearance; and even Carson (Jim Carter), who had retired, is called back.

It's 1927 and everyone at Downton Abbey is all aflutter.  The King and Queen are coming to spend the night.

At first I thought this was going to be silly and a bust.  I was a huge "Downton Abbey" fan, but my experience with feature films trying to capitalize on the popularity of a beloved television series was not good.  So I didn't go to the theatre with optimism.  I mean, c'mon, a whole movie about getting ready for a visit from the King and Queen?  I wondered how a slight plot like that could sustain a 122 minute film.

But my fears were unfounded.

That little plot line led to all kinds of other juicy storylines: There's a plot to kill the King, a love interest for widower Tom, a new member of the family emerges, Barrow comes out (sort of), and Violet makes a statement about the fate of Downton. There are also a couple of other minor plots involving Princess Mary (Kate Phillips) and her cold husband, Lord Grantham's cousin, Lady Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton), and her will, Daisy's relationship with Andy, some missing household items, and Edith's husband, Lord Hexam (Harry Hadden-Paton) going away on some business for the King at a time very inconvenient for Edith. Those stories could have been fleshed out a bit more, but trying to give all of those characters a lot of screen time would have made this film an epic (epic: usually means a really, really long movie), but all of the characters had a chance to shine, if some only briefly.

But the major story is the visit from the King and Queen and how that affects the household.

Lord Grantham and Lady Cora are honored to have King George (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) come to stay.  There will be a dinner and they will spend the night, so the household is full of activity as everyone prepares for their arrival. Mary asks Carson to come out of retirement this once to help run the house, much to Barrow's displeasure, who has been in charge since Carson retired.  And Barrow does not hide his displeasure much to Lord Grantham's irritation. Moseley has come back begging to be allowed to serve the king (he's a huge fan!) and when he is given the go ahead, he can't believe his luck. 

However, when the Royal staff arrive, it becomes clear that the household staff will have little do.  In fact, Mr. Wilson (David Haig), the Royal Page of the Backstairs, with his over-the-top title and arrogant attitude, who has come in to handle everything, tells the staff to make themselves scarce and go read a book because they won't be needed.  Well, we will see about that.

Meanwhile, a Major Chetwode (Stephen Campbell Moore) arrives in town and seeks out Tom, who suspects that Chetwode is a royal detective sent to make sure Tom doesn't cause any trouble because of his sympathies for the Irish Republicans. Well, we will see about that too.

Directed by Michael Engler and written by Julian Fellowes, who wrote and produced the TV series and also produced this film, every single character from the TV series is back.  The TV series ended in 2015 after 52 episodes and there were those who felt that some of the storylines were left hanging.  Well, fear not, fans. It all comes together nicely, everything wrapped up in a tidy little Christmas cracker (and if you don't know what a Christmas cracker is, you can't call yourself an Anglophile)!

And the actors don't disappoint either.  Naturally, Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess Violet gets all of the best and funniest lines.  But we expected that and would have been disappointed had she not. We love her and Lady Merton duking it out with their snarky comments to each other.  Lady Mary is just as haughty, but vulnerable as ever, as she worries about the fate of Downton in a world where it is becoming more and more difficult to maintain a manor house. Tom is handsome and lonely - will he find love? - and then there's Carson, a favorite.  We all love Carson and it's fun seeing Imelda Staunton in this, as she is married to Jim Carter in real life.

So now here is my bit of pesonal stuff (wouldn't be a Rosy the Reviewer review without that, now, would it)?

As I said in my post "Why Movies Matter," movies create memories.  After watching this film, I want to go one step further and add that movies also revive memories.  As I was watching, I was taken back to one of my favorite trips to England.  We were staying with some friends in May and were told that Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey was filmed and which is usually only open for touring in July and August, was also open in May on two holiday weekends.  Well, folks, we were there for one of those weekends!  And because it wasn't the height of the summer vacation season, we practically had "Downton Abbey" to ourselves.  I touched everything in that drawing room, stood at the window pretending to be Lady Mary, walked through Lady Edith's bedroom, stood in the great hall looking up at the balcony above and wandered the grounds. It was a dream come true. And watching the film, I remembered standing right outside the front door where Lord and Lady Grantham, the family and the staff stood to greet the King and Queen (pictures inside the house not allowed). 

So the film was a double whammy for me.  It was a fun and satisfying film experience, but it also brought back so many happy memories.  That's why movies are important. They have the power to evoke so much in us.

So why was and is Downton Abbey so popular with us Yanks? 

It's difficult for me to be objective, because I am an unabashed Anglophile, but I think we love these costume dramas about rich people in England because they evoke a time gone by that perhaps we fantasize was a better time (it wasn't - way more poor people), but I think Downton Abbey is probably most popular because it's just plain good storytelling with engaging characters we can relate to.  Even the rich folk have money worries and tragedy.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you were a Downton Abbey fan, you won't be disappointed, and even if you weren't a fan, this film stands alone nicely as a wonderful example of a British costume film, something the Brits do so well (but you might want to bone up on the characters because the character relationships - and there are a lot of them - might be confusing to you if you have never seen the TV show).

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


The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019)

A powerful film about the gentrification of cities and how that leaves so many people behind.

Jimmy Fails
(who plays himself) is a young African American man living in San Francisco with his friend, Montgomery (Jonathan Majors), and Mont's grandfather (Danny Glover).  Jimmy skateboards around a very changed San Francisco and often visits a Victorian in the Fillmore District, a house where his family once lived and that he believes his grandfather had built.  The house is now owned by a white couple who Jimmy thinks are not taking care of the house properly.  Likewise, they are not too happy about the fact that Jimmy comes over and works on their house without their permission.

One day, Jimmy arrives and finds that the couple is moving.  The woman's mother has died and she is fighting with her sister, so in the meantime, with the house empty, Jimmy moves in and invites Mont to join him.  Jimmy also gets furnishings from the house that his Aunt Wanda had in storage and basically Jimmy and Mont are squatters.  Will Jimmy regain the house which represents his past?

This film was written by Fails and director Joe Talbot, who also directs in his directorial debut, and based in part on their own lives.  Fails and Talbot grew up together in San Francisco and planned to make a movie like this since they were teens.  They eventually started a Kickstarter campaign which raised more than they had hoped and got them the notice they needed to make this film.

The actors are wonderful and the film almost feels like an improvisation - it's that real.  But what is most real is San Francisco and the many changes that have taken place there. Talbot's direction captures San Francisco in its vivid beauty but also the changes that have displaced its long-time residents.

As Jimmy wanders around the many neighborhoods of San Francisco, one can't help but see the changes, especially if one has lived there.  And I did during the early 70's. It was a diverse city and an affordable city then.  Today, the only people who can afford to live there are young techies.  It's a city where landlords burn down rent-controlled buildings so they can rebuild and jack up the rent. It's a city where African Americans have been disenfranchised, their neighborhoods taken over by young rich white folks.  It's a San Francisco that many of us who lived there in the past no longer recognize. Alexandra Pelosi (Nancy's daughter) made a documentary about this issue of gentrification and disenfranchisement back in 2015 called "San Francisco 2.0" which showed the intellectual side of this issue.  This film shows the emotional side.

Rosy the Reviewer original and sad statement about what is happening in many of our cities to their long time residents.

Streaming on Netflix

Hello, Privilage. It's Me, Chelsea (2019)

Is "White Privilege" real?  Chelsea Handler takes that question on.

Whatever you may think of Chelsea Handler, you have to give her credit for taking on this issue.  She has had an epiphany - about all of the advantages she has had because she is white.  But this film is mostly not about her. In this documentary she steps out of the spotlight to interview people and shine a light on this issue.

Though she uncharacteristically steps away from the spotlight, the film does begin with some footage of her stand-up act where she talks about being a poor Jewish girl and how hard she had to hustle to make it.  She made it but she also realized she was the beneficiary of "white privilege."  So now she wants to be a "better white person."

So she starts the film interviewing fellow comics Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish.  Did she, Chelsea, have a better chance of getting ahead as a comic because she was white?  In a nutshell...duh.  Tiffany talks about having had to do over 500 bar mitzvahs before she made it.  

Chelsea also attends a white privilege meet-up consisting of mostly African Americans and she gets attacked by the attendees.  One woman says that Chelsea even attending the meeting was the biggest example of white privilege you can make. And here's what I admired about Chelsea.  No matter what someone said to her, she said not a word in her own defense. She really wanted to understand.  And I thought, can't we all learn from that in our own lives?  When people point out something about you that they don't like, what do you do?  Do you argue?  Or do you listen and really want to know why someone has a problem with you? You can change and you can be a better person, but to do that, it's necessary to listen non-defensively and that's what Chelsea does in this film.  It's admirable.

Handler also interviews Carol Anderson, a historian at Emory College, who talks about voter suppression; she attends an Oktoberfest celebration in Georgia where no one seemed to think white privilege was a thing; she interviews three white women from Orange County and none thought white privilege existed but when Chelsea asked "Do you notice being white?"  Crickets.

I especially loved the title.  It's a play on the title of her book "Are You There, Vodka, It's Me, Chelsea," one of her humor books so the title of the film is even more ironic because this film is not humorous at all. In turn, the title of her book was also a play on words from Judy Blume's young adult book called "Are You There, God, It's Me, Margaret," a controversial book that is still banned from some school libraries. 

Sadly, I think this film will also be controversial.

Toward the end of the film, we learn that Chelsea had had a black boyfriend when she was in high school.  She was a bit of a bad girl and when the two would get stopped for drugs she would always be let go while her boyfriend was arrested. It never occurred to her that she was let go because she was white. She goes to see him in a particularly poignant segment.  He was just out of prison and the contrast of those two lives made me cry. Very clear how our system has created opportunities and resources for some while leaving others behind. It's a society of winners and losers.

Someone says in the film, "Racism is not a feeling," which to me was brilliant.  No wonder white people don't "feel" like they are racists.

So is white privilege a thing?  Duh.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this movie should upset everyone especially white people and that's a good thing.  We need to be upset. Where we are after 100's of years is abominable.  We need to do better.  So Hello, Chelsea, it's me Rosy.  Thank you.

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

61 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

The Asthenic Syndrome (1989)

Two stories:  one about a woman doctor who can't get over the death of her husband and responds to everyone aggressively and the other about a teacher who is so passive he can't stay awake.

The title alludes to a form of weakness that encompasses both the aggression and the passivity that the filmmaker, Kira Muratova, has dubbed "The Asthenic Syndrome." After seeing this film, I dub the condition as "Who cares?"

Natalia (Olga Antonova) has just lost her husband, a man who looks surprisingly like Stalin, and she is not only grieving him, she is downright angry about his death.  She is so angry in fact that she literally pushes people away from her as she walks down the street and pummels anyone who gets in her way. That's about it.  She is unhappy and we watch 45 minutes of her being unhappy. 

The first 45 minutes are in a sort of sepia black and white and then the film changes to color, and we realize that this is a movie within a movie.  We and people in an auditorium have been watching a movie about Natalia.  When the film goes to color, we are in "real life," with Nicolai (Sergei Popov) and his issues with narcolepsy.  He can't stay awake.  He had fallen asleep in the theatre and even falls asleep on the floor of the subway. Nicolai is a teacher and failed novelist and never seems to get anywhere and his real life is even more strange and surreal than the "movie" we just saw.

Why it's a Must See: "A great movie about the contemporary world, but far from an easy one...the 'only masterpiece of glasnost'...Though this epic has plenty to say about postcommunist Russia, it is also one of the few recent masterpieces that deal more generally with the demons loose in today's world."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

But of couse when a movie is "far from easy," we know it must be deep so both of those stories are supposedly metaphors for glastnost, post Communist Russia, and seem to be saying that whether people are aggressive or passive, nothing seems to change their circumstances. We are slaves to the lethargy produced by mass media, religion and politics. 

All in all, I have no idea what this film was really about and one wonders if the director even knows.  When Muratova was asked what the film meant she said, "Every time I am asked what the film is about, I reply quite honestly, 'It's about everything."

Rosy the Reviewer says...well, whatever. I never really knew what was going on and it sounds like the director didn't know either!
(In Russian with English subtitles - available on YouTube)

***The Book of the Week***

Thanks a Lot Mr. Kibblewhite: My Story by Roger Daltrey (2018)

Roger Daltrey of The Who shares his life story.

If you read my blog, it should be no surprise that I like biographies about and autobiographies by rock stars.  But some biographies and memoirs are better than others, and I am happy to report that this one is definitely one of the better ones.  Daltrey has a very conversational writing style that is engaging, self-deprecating and fun.  

Daltry thanks Mr. Kibblewhite in his title because Mr. Kibblewhite was a teacher who told Daltrey he would never amount to anything.  We know where Roger ended up.  One wonders about Mr. Kibblewhite.

Daltry grew up in West London with his Mom, Dad and two siblings.  He was a good student but school wasn't his thing. He was expelled from school for smoking and then music became his obsession.  He made his first guitar himself out of a block of wood. Though he played in a few other bands, it wasn't long before he met up with Pete Townshend and John Entwhistle and they formed a skiffle band called The Detours but when they discovered there was another band with that name they became The Who.

Daltrey tells his story with all of the rock and roll gory details as well as covering his growing up years, his first marriage, meeting the love of his life, the making of the movie "Tommy" and all of those iconic records and the untimely death of Keith Moon.  There are some surprises too. Who knew that Daltrey would be the stable family man and that Townsend dabbled with heroin?

Speaking of Keith Moon...One thing I could not fathom while reading this book was how the band members put up with him. I know he was considered one of the greatest drummers of all time, but, my god.  What a pain in the arse. He was a drunk and drug addict who manifested his addictions by impossibly crazy antics like driving a Cadillac into a swimming pool or putting super glue on everything in his hotel room. The Who was banned from more hotels than one can count and Moon often cost them as much as they made performing because they had to pay for all of that damage. And that's not counting the times he passed out on stage with his face in the snare drum! Yes, he was a good drummer but it's unbelievable that they put up with all of his shenanigans.  And was he repentent?  No! 

I had the pleasure of seeing The Who in 2016.  It was supposed to be in 2015, but Daltrey came down with meningitis so the tour was canceled so we had to wait a year, but it was worth the wait.  These guys are senior citizens but they can still rock!  But see them and those other "elderly" rock bands while you can!  They won't be around forever!

"In the end when you come to think of it, when we're all gone and dust, the music will live on.  And I hope people will say about us that we held it to the end.  And that will do for me.  I've been lucky.  I've had a lucky life.  Thank you very much, Mr. Kibblewhite."

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like rock & roll autobiographies, you will love this one!

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday




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

as well as

the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See

Before I Die Project" 

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 

Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.

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

Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.

Friday, September 20, 2019

"The Goldfinch" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "The Goldfinch" as well as the DVD "Transit" and the documentary "Woodstock - Three Days That Defined a Generation," now streaming on Netflix.  The Book of the Week is "I Like To Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution" by Emily Nussbaum.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Cloud Capped Star."]

The Goldfinch

After a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, thirteen-year-old Theo Decker helps himself to a painting, an act that will affect his life for the next 20 years.

It's not easy bringing a much-revered 700+ page Pulitzer Prize winning novel to the screen and, though the film is getting mixed reviews, I found it a satisfying film experience.  For one thing, I don't feel that a film version of a book needs to replicate the book completely.  I am not one to say, "The book was better." Literature and films are two different art forms, and should be judged as such. In this case, the film concentrates more on the plot, which is an interesting one, rather than spending much time on the underlying themes of the book: grief and how a life can be determined by trauma, guilt and the consequences of our actions. But that doesn't mean that the film isn't a good one. However, I know there are haters out there who miss the underlying themes.  I am just not one of them, but talk among yourselves.

The plot centers around thirteen-year-old Theo Decker (Oakes Fegley), who with his mother, is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art when a terrorist bomb goes off killing his mother and others.  Before being rescued, Theo encounters a man who gives him a ring and tells him to go find his partner, Hobie (Jeffrey Wright), at their antique shop.  Oh, and one more thing.  Theo helps himself to a small painting called "The Goldfinch."

Theo miraculously survives the bombing, but is now practically an orphan, because his father, who was separated from Theo's mother, is nowhere to be found. So Theo goes to live with his friend, Andy (Ryan Foust) and his family, the Barbours, a rich family overseen by a kind but reserved matriarch (Nicole Kidman). Theo also manages to find the antique store where he meets Hobie and Pippa, a young girl (Aimee Laurence) he remembers seeing at the museum right before the bomb went off.  It was her uncle who gave Theo the ring.

So Theo settles into his life with the Barbours, spending his time with them and at Hobie's antique shop and is happy until his ne'er do well father, Larry (Luke Wilson) and his skanky girlfriend, Xandra (Sarah Paulson), show up and hustle him off to a ghost town of a housing development outside of Las Vegas, where Theo meets Boris (Finn Wolfhard), a young Russian kid, with an abusive dad. Boris introduces Theo to drugs and a rather dark version of life.  All the while, the painting is wrapped in newspaper and hidden under Theo's bed.  He is not sure why he has kept it, but it reminds him of his mother.  He blames himself for her death because they were on their way to his school to talk to the principal about Theo getting caught smoking. If she hadn't had to go to his school, she would still be alive.

Years pass and adult Theo (Ansel Elgort) meets up again with Boris (Aneurin Barnard), and he and the painting lead Theo into a murky world of drugs and art theft.

So that's the gist of the story, but the film actually starts at the end with the adult Theo in a room in Amsterdam, a little worse for wear, and then the film flashes back to young Theo.  Flashbacks are fine, but in addition to the flashbacks, there is all kinds of jumping around, past, present and future, and I found that choppiness to be distracting.  I think writer Peter Straughan was trying to create some drama and mystery with that approach, but I think just telling the story in a linear fashion would have been more enjoyable and less confusing.

As I said, it's not an easy task to shrink 700+ pages into a two and a half hour film so some of the story and depth of the book was bound to be lost.  Theo has always loved Pippa and that storyline was given short shrift as well as Theo's father's storyline but that's what happens when it's a big, complicated book like this one.

Oakes Fegley as the young Theo really carries most of the film and is an awesome young actor.  Elgort, though usually a very good actor, seems stiff here and doesn't make much of the role.  Nicole Kidman is always good and adds class to a film and Jeffrey Wright exuded a believable warmth as Hobie. But Sarah Paulson as a gum-chewing floozy?  That was a stretch. 

But whatever anyone thinks of this film directed by John Crowley, most must agree it's beautiful to look at thanks to Academy Award winner Roger Deakins' cinematography.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I am sure those who loved the book will have much to say about what is wrong with this film, but I enjoyed it as a film experience, and that's all I really require of a film.

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


Transit (2018)

As fascism spreads in France, Georg, a German refugee, assumes the identity of a dead writer in order to escape the country.

Georg (Franz Rogowski) as been given some transit papers to take to Weidel, a writer, but when he arrives to deliver the papers he discovers that Weidel has killed himself. So he takes Weidel's personal effects and assumes Weidel's identity.  He reads the letters from Weidel's wife, Marie, who was urging her husband to come to Marseilles so they could get back together. He decides to go to Marseilles and use the transit papers to get on a boat to Mexico, but when he meets the writer's wife (Paula Beer), who doesn't know her husband is dead, things get complicated.

Adapted and directed by Christian Petzold, there are several side stories as Georg interacts with others who are either oppressed or stuck, trying to get out of the country. He becomes a father figure to a boy who has a deaf mother; he befriends a doctor; and then of course, he meets Marie, the dead writer's wife.

Though based on a 1942 novel by Anna Seghers about life in Nazi Germany, here the film doesn't go into detail about what has happened in France, who the Fascists are and why it's being occupied.  It's a dystopian tale that reminded me of where we could be headed today. It's a bit of film noir, a bit of existentialism and also wonderful, which is why it was on many Best Films of 2018 lists.

Rogowski looks like a young Joaquin Phoenix and his is a tour de force performance as he is in every scene. The film revolves around Georg as he experiences a world where he never quite belongs.

Rosy the Reviewer says...riveting and timely.
(In German with English subtitles)

Woodstock (2019)
("Three Days That Defined a Generation")

With never-before-seen footage, a different perspective on that iconic music festival.

Not to be confused with THAT Woodstock movie, the iconic concert film made in 1970, this one is not really a concert film.  It goes into more depth about how and why the concert happened, what went into putting the concert together, and how it affected those who attended.  It also addresses the issues of the day - Vietnam, the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the sexual revolution, drugs. The time was right for a revolution and we all took solace in the music. The time was right for Woodstock.

Why and how did a concert like Woodstock come about?  How could half a million young people come together on a farm in upstate New York and create all of that peace and love despite torrential rain, no food and lots and lots of drugs?

Directed by Barak Goodman and Jamila Ephron and written by Goodman and Don Kleszy, this film brings a new perspective to the event.

It's a misconception that hippies put the Woodstock festival together.  The promoters may have had long hair and wore fringed jackets but Michael Lang and his cohorts were young entrpreneurs who wanted to make money.  And that iconic performance of "Freedom" by Richie Havens?  He made that song up on the spot because none of the other artists had arrived yet and he needed to fill up the time!  One of the kids in the crowd interviewed as an adult said that song influenced and was the basis for the whole rest of her life. 

And that's what makes this film a nice addition to the Woodstock oeuvre of films.  It has some new information and new insight from a 49 years on perspective since that first film. It also brings a really personal feel to the event as some of the now grown members of the audience relate how the festival affected their lives.

I watched this film at night on my own and the memories of those times came flooding back.  I didn't go to Woodstock and didn't even know about it until it was over (I was kind of a sheltered midwestern girl), but I was definitely a child of those times. I was fully immersed in the bell bottoms, the granny dresses, the long hair, the music, the politics and experimentation of all kinds.  

I also had a personal perspective on the issues of the day. I got married in 1967 while I was in college (not recommended) and six months later my husband was drafted and sent to Vietnam.  I didn't see him again for two years. Needless to say, that marriage didn't make it.

But Hubby, who I didn't yet know, was at Woodstock, but even though he can say he was there, he never got down close enough to the stage to really hear any of the music.  But he experienced the crowd and all of the "activities," if you know what I mean.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a wonderful remembrance of times long gone that Baby Boomers and their children will enjoy.

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

61 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Cloud-Capped Star (1960)
("Meghe Dhaka Tara")

A young woman sacrifices her own life for her family.

A family, uprooted from East Pakistan by the Partition of India, are now refugees living on the outskirts of Calcutta.  Nita (Supriya Choudhury), a beautiful young girl, has taken on the responsibility for the family as her older brother, Shankar (Anil Chatterjee) has abandoned the family for the life of a singer. He spends his days singing rather than working. The father is a teacher, but makes only a pittance. Nita is trying to go to school while also teaching local children, but when her father is injured she becomes the sole support of the family.  She faithfully works and slaves for her unappreciative family and never complains.  

I wanted to scream at the screen and tell Nita to stand up to her family and seek some happiness for herself.  But that's what women did and do, sacrificed themselves, especially in patriarchal societies. Nita also has a fiance, Sanat (Niranjan Ray), but when Nita's mother (Gita Dey) fears Nita will marry Sanat and they will no longer have her as a meal ticket, she plots to get Sanat and Nita's sister, Gita (Gita Ghatak), together instead.  So finally, Neeta, alone and ill, laments her life. A life unfulfilled.

It's a sad tale of a young, selfless woman taking on the responsibility of a family that doesn't appreciate her.  The film also shows traditional Indian and Bengali life and is director Ritwik Ghatak's response to the despair and psychological damage caused by the Partition. Nita's family had been happily middle class when they lived in Pakistan and now had fallen into poverty as refugees, and while they were moaning about their lot in life, Nita was sacrificing herself for them.

Actress Supriya Choudhury is gorgeous and wonderful in this.  However, though this film is a powerful melodrama, the other characters almost seemed like cartoon figures compared to her so, for me, that was a bit of a disconnect.

Ghatak was considered one of India's greatest and most influential directors, though he made only eight films, but almost all of his films illustrate the upheaval caused by the Partition, something that caused him great despair and which probably led to his dying an alcoholic.

Why it's a Must See: "[This film] is a searing piece of work, resonant and beautifully composed -- and it proved a rare commercial success for its director in India...See it for the grace of Ghatak's mise-en-scene, his Expressionist sound design, and the enormous sense of loss."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...see it also for the beautiful and talented Supriya Choudhury and the gorgeous black and white cinematography.
(In Bengali with English subtitles)

***The Book of the Week***

I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution by Emily Nussbaum (2019)

An argument for television.

I am a child of television.  

We got our first TV when I was five, but before that, I remember standing on a neighbor's porch watching their TV through their front window.  I was already hooked and we didn't even have a TV yet!  My Dad loved TV too, especially watching the old movies that would come on late at night. He and I bonded over those.

I wrote about my love of TV back in 2013 - "Confessions of a TV Addict." In that, I talk about how in the old days people used to bond over their favorite TV shows. We liked to watch and were not afraid to admit it.

So when did we become such snobs about TV?  When did we start calling it the idiot box and shaming our friends for watching?

I don't have much patience for people who look down their noses at those of us who like to watch a bit of TV.  OK, a lot of TV, but for one thing, saying snarky things to those of us who watch is not very nice. I hear people say in a demeaning way, "I don't watch TV."  Mmmm.  Well, don't think I haven't noticed that many of you who say that know way more about what's on TV than you should if you don't watch.  Give me a break.  And what do you care what people do? If we want to watch "The Bachelor," it's none of your beeswax.

So thank you, Emily Nussbaum, for being a very smart Pulitzer Prize winning author who unashamedly watches TV. She started out as one of those TV snobs, but it was Buffy the Vampire Slayer who got her hooked. She only watched it on a whim when one of her friends recommended it.

"...what really got me was the show's peculiar originality, the ways in which it felt stealthily experimental beneath its conventional surfaces, which were low-budget and, aesthetically, nothing special.  As he would often explain in interviews, [writer Joss] Whedon had taken the bimbo victim of every exploitation film...and let her spin around and become the avenger. Thrillingly, Buffy treated this one girl's story not as something trivial, but as a grand, oceanic metaphor."

As I said, Nussbaum is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and was a TV critic and editor for New York Magazine.  In this series of essays, she smartly comments on "Sex and the City," "House of Cards," "Scandal," "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," "Lost" and other popular shows, as well as reality TV, the legacies of Joan Rivers and Norman Lear, and how Ryan Murphy became the most powerful man on TV.  And don't think that "Game of Thrones" doesn't show up here and there.  It does.

"This book is an account of the two-decade-long argument about television, in the form of the reviews and profiles I've written...[and] what unites these essays and profiles is my struggle -- and over time, my growing frustration -- with that hidden ladder of status, the unspoken, invisible biases that hobbled TV even as it became culturally dominant."  

But more importantly, Nussbaum
beats down the whole idea that one kind of culture is better than another.  She makes it OK to confess to liking to watch, because there are a lot of reasons to watch. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...My name is Rosy and I like to watch.  There I said it.  Now mind your own business!

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


"Downton Abbey"


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

as well as

the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See

Before I Die Project" 

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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.

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

Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.