Tuesday, February 27, 2024

What I Learned On My Spring Vacation

Okay, it's not exactly spring and, it wasn't exactly a vacation because, since I am now retired, every day is a kind of vacation, but Hubby and I left town and traveled back East to Richmond, Virginia to visit family, and it was a total of 12 hours in the air round trip.  I am not a fan of flying, especially for that long, so what does one do with that much time on one's hands? 

I binged and I read!

***The Binge***

One Day (2024)

A 14-episode British series that follows Emma and Dexter on the same day for 20 years - from graduation from the University of Edinburgh to...well, you will just have to watch and find out.

Emma (Ambika Mod) is a serious, hard-working, top-of-the-class, but sarcastic young Indian woman who meets Dexter (Leo Woodall, who you might recognize from "The White Lotus"), a privileged, handsome, kind, but rather shallow playboy, who is drop dead gorgeous (that last bit is me talking).  The two "meet cute" on July 15, 1988, right before graduation from the University of Edinburgh and spend the day and night together.  They know that after graduation they will both go their separate ways, which they do, but, despite the fact that they are polar opposites in many ways, they can't forget about each other and their lives entwine as the series checks in on them on that same day - July 15 - for the next 20 years.

Emma dabbles in the theatre, becomes a teacher and struggles to find her way as a writer while Dexter becomes a controversial TV presenter (that's a TV host to us Americans) on a not-very-important TV show (it's a video game review show) and struggles with family issues, unemployment, drinking and other self destructive tendencies. But both find other loves and remain friends and confidants, always coming close to getting together, but the time never seems right. Will the time ever be right? 

Created by Nicole Taylor and based on the novel by David Nichols, this is one of those opposites attract tales where two young people meet and are attracted to each other, but it's never the right time to be in love.  You watch because you want to know if they will ever get together. It reminded me of "Normal People," another series I loved.

The series takes place in various spots around England with some other exotic locales thrown in, the throwback to the 80's and 90's well done, the music is emotionally and pop culturally fitting and the two actors are attractive and engaging, especially Woodall, who is, ahem, did I already say?...rather delightfully handsome.

And if you think you don't need to see this because you saw the 2011 movie version, and especially if you didn't like the movie, give this a chance. This adaptation, the actors and the episodic format works much better to bring this love story to life and let you get to know these characters, and you will enjoy spending time with these characters on every one of those days.

"Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.” - Charles Dickens

Rosy the Reviewer says...a little bit of a Gen X mashup between "Same Time Next Year" and "The Way We Were" that all ages will find charming and a reminder that no matter what happens, value each day.  Have tissues handy. (Netflix)

Love is Blind, Season 6 (2024)

This is a "social experiment" reality show hosted by Nick Lachey and his wife, Vanessa, where men and women "date" each other in "pods," talk to each other through a speaker but not see each other, and fall in love? 

Okay, I know, I know.  You know me as a serious, intellectual who doesn't suffer fools, right? (lol) So what am I doing watching this show? Well, like all of you, I have my weaknesses and dating shows is one of them.  I know you are judging me, and I totally understand because when I was in college, I was totally enamored of a philosophy major who I thought was just the smartest and deepest man I had ever met.  But then he told me that his favorite movie was "The Love Bug," and that was it. I lost all respect for him.  So go ahead and judge me.  I totally understand. BUT, here is what I have learned.  "Judge and ye shall be judged," right?  Because here I am watching this show, my own little "love bug."  And you know what?  I would bet you have one too! 

Anyway, as for "Love is Blind," men and women come and go out of "pods," rooms where they can stretch out, have a cocktail, eat, exercise, and talk to their "dates" on the other side of a wall.  And they talk and talk and talk and eventually they may or may not declare their love for each other, based on the fact that they are so simpatico from all of that talking. "Here is someone who gets me."  If that happens, they become engaged, and they finally get to see each other in person. And that's when the trouble sometimes begins.  Those who hook up go off on a retreat and eventually move in together.  Some stay together and some relationships go to hell because, yes, we were soul mates when talking but now that I see you?  Don't really want to have sex with you. Uh-oh.  Not fun.  But fun for us, right?

I am not the only person who enjoys this show.

This is a popular series around the world.  The American version is now in its sixth series, and there are also Swedish, Japanese and Brazilian versions, all available on Netflix, and all of which I have watched or will watch because, hey, people, it's fun. And I know those of you who stick your noses up at reality TV because you don't believe it's real, you are right to a certain extent.  There is usually a plan about how it should go, but people just can't help themselves or hide who they really are and no matter what is scripted, something interesting, and real, usually transpires.  

And why do I watch?

I know I was making fun earlier, but the human condition, especially when it comes to love and, er, sex, is very interesting to me. I am just fascinated by how people react to each other, how they say one thing about what they want and then, when the reality sets in, not so much.  Also, I find it interesting what people are willing to expose on camera. To me, these kinds of shows say a lot about the human condition, that whether you are in Sweden or Japan or Brazil, the same issues crop up.  We are all more the same than we are different when it comes to human interaction, and I find that fascinating...and like I said, fun!  

And truth be told, I have to admit, sometimes I just want to watch TV shows that don't require a lot of thinking from me! Don't you?

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you enjoy reality dating shows, this is a fun and interesting one. It's kind of like "Married at First Sight (which I also enjoy)" but less sight.  (Netflix).

So now that you are over the shock that I watch reality dating shows, we can get back to my more serious, intellectual side.  I also read books!

***The Read***

Outofshapeworthlessloser: A Memoir of Figure Skating, F*cking Up and Figuring it Out by Gracie Gold (2024)

The subtitle tells it all as Gracie Gold2014 Olympic Team bronze medalist, the 2014 NHK champion, the 2015 Trophee Eric Bompard champion, and a two-time U.S. National champion (2014, 2016), shares her experiences as a world class figure skater. And it's not pretty.

Gold, with her cute little blonde hair bun, was likened to Grace Kelly and was the face of women's figure skating in the mid-2000's.  She had it all - the looks, the body, the skill. She had great success as a figure skater, but there was darkness behind the scenes. Gold reveals in this candid memoir that she was three people.  She was Grace Elizabeth, the young tomboy who had great athleticism and as a young girl wanted to play hockey; she was Gracie Gold, "America's Sweetheart" of figure skating; and she was also Outofshapeworthlessloser, the perfectionist, who had an eating disorder and suffered from anxiety and suicidal thoughts. 

Yes, there were highs like winning medals, being written up in magazines and baking cookies with Taylor Swift.  But the lows were very low as she faced pressure from her coaches and the powers-that-be within the figure skating community to excel and, as injuries and an eating disorder threatened to derail her, her family was falling apart and her self-destructive inner voice kept calling her an "outofshapeworthless loser."  

Gold goes deep in sharing her story but she also reveals the dark side of figure skating, where young girls are expected to wear skimpy costumes and a smile no matter what. She exposes some stereotypes e.g. all male figure skaters are gay (not true) and the female are straight (also not true - she shares that she is bisexual).  She was also not so happy with commentators Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir whose comments were often less than helpful when she was struggling.

As many of you probably know I am a huge figure skating fan and Gold was always a favorite of mine.  I feel bad for giving up on her when her career took a turn but I am glad she has taken control of her life, come to grips with her demons and pulled back the curtain to reveal a disturbing world behind the scenes of figure skating.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are a figure skating fan, you will definitely want to read this, but those of you who also like raw, revealing memoirs, this is one of those. (Check your local library)

***So, what did I learn?***

I learned that when confronted with a long plane ride or even hanging out in a motel room, it is essential to plan ahead and stock up on preferred TV and movie content and reading material before I leave home. I was able to watch those shows and read that book on the plane, because I had downloaded them all onto my trusty IPad, so I had content that needed no wi-fi. You can do that with your phone as well. Highly recommended. Movies and shows are easily downloaded from all of the main streaming services, and you can purchase and download reading material from Apple Books or other sources and/or download books for free through services provided by most libraries.

Oh, and here is something else I learned. I learned that budget airlines have lots and lots of kids on board! 

Thanks for reading!

See you next time!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites; email it to your friends and/or follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer 

And 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 IMDB.com, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Getting Ready for the 2024 Oscars, Part 2: "American Fiction" and "Poor Things"

[I review the last two movies I needed to see to be Oscar Ready: "American Fiction" and "Poor Things"]

American Fiction (2023)

An African American professor/novelist whose books haven't sold and who is fed up with best sellers that stereotype the black experience as one filled with drug dealers, rappers and poor single moms, changes course, and under a pen name, decides to write his own book - filled with black drug dealers, rappers and poor single moms. But, hey, it's a joke! But, much to his chagrin, it turns into a best seller!

This is a smart movie on several different levels. 

First of all, what some fail to realize is that the so-called "black experience" runs the gamut.  Yes, there are rappers, drug dealers and people living in poverty, but there are also many African American upper middle class people who are doctors and lawyers and know little about rappers, drug dealers and poverty.  And that is the world that Thelonious "Monk" Ellison (Jeffrey Wright) grew up in.  

Monk is a professor in Los Angeles whose novels have been awarded praise but none have been best sellers, and recently he can't even get published because his books are not "black enough."  And to add insult to injury, he is given a temporary leave of absence from his job because he is upsetting his students over racial issues. So he heads home to Boston to spend some time with his family and to take part in a literary seminar where, after low attendance at his panel, he discovers Sintara Golden (Issa Rae), whose new best-selling book about poor, black single mothers - "We's Lives in Da Ghetto" - has drawn huge attendance to her book reading. Ironically, like Monk, Golden, even though her book is about poor, single mothers, grew up middle class and privileged.

Disgusted, Monk pens a send-up, to show what black writers are burdened with, having to write about the "black experience" as one filled with bad English, violence, and drugs. He names the book "My Pafology" and uses the pen name Stagg R. Leigh and gives this new persona a criminal record. It was a joke!  But wouldn't you know, he is offered a $750,000 advance and a movie deal.  Again, disgusted, he demands that the title be changed to "F**k."  Surely that will scupper the deal.  Nope.  

Now we are on to level number two - family, where we are reminded that no matter what your color, there is drama and Monk's family is no exception.  His mother, Agnes (Leslie Uggams), is showing signs of dementia; his brother, Cliff (Sterling K. Brown), who is a plastic surgeon, is divorced and has come out as gay, now abusing drugs and alcohol; and his sister, Lisa (Tracee Ellis Ross), also a doctor, has issues. Neither sibling can help Monk care for their mother, so with Monk on his own, facing the financial responsibility of finding their mother a care facility, the book and movie deals for his so-called joke of a book are very tempting.

Now, buttoned-up and professorial, Monk, is stuck with impersonating a thug with a criminal history, and to make matters worse, his book is submitted for a literary award and he is one of the judges, so now he has to judge his own book!

And then we have level three - this film is also a commentary on what is being published these days, the junk so many of us read, especially books that pander to white people stereotypes of life in the "hood." I know, it's judgy, but there is some merit to that.  Monk has written intellectual books to appeal to smart people, regardless of color, but his books don't sell because the public wants something easy and fast, something they can relate to even if it reinforces stereotypes, which in turn, forces black writers to write what sells.

Needless to say, this is a satire and very funny, but not without lots to think about.  

Jeffrey Wright is wonderful as Monk and deserving of his 2024 Best Actor Oscar nomination. Sterling K. Brown was a surprise and has earned my respect.  His uptight character in "This is Us" irritated the hell out of me, so I am glad I am able to give him another chance as he plays against that character as the "out of the closet," drug-using, "I don't give a damn," Cliff.  He, too, has been rewarded with an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Erika Alexander as Monk's love interest and Myra Lucretia Taylor as Lorraine, the family's loyal housekeeper, add to this engaging ensemble. And good to see Leslie Uggams, who looks wonderful. Hard to believe she is old enough to be playing Monk's mother, a woman struggling with dementia.  

Fun fact: Speaking of Leslie Uggams, when accepting an award from her at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, Wright couldn't help but reveal his longtime crush on her - “I've had a crush on you since the first day I saw you, mother. Who did not?”  Awww...

Adapted by Cord Jefferson from the novel "Erasure" by Percival Everett (Jefferson's adaption also has an Oscar nomination) and directed by Jefferson, this film forces us all to face our stereotyping, shines a light on the roadblocks that black people in the creative community often must navigate and reminds us that no matter what our race, we all share many commonalities.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a smart, grown-up film for smart, grown-up people. (In theatres - streaming soon on Apple+) 

Poor Things (2023)

A new take on the Frankenstein's monster story.

I am going to warn you right now.  If you loved this movie, you will not like my review because I decidedly did NOT love this movie, nor did I even like it, so if my criticisms of the film will make you mad, best to stop reading now.

But, anyway, before I get into all of that, here is some background.

Bella Baxter (Emma Stone) lives with Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe).  She calls him God and you soon find out the reason why, a rather obvious film nod to his skills of bringing back the dead. Bella, before she was Bella, when she was a sad and heavily pregnant other women, had jumped off a bridge and killed herself but was saved by Baxter when he transplanted the brain of her still alive unborn baby into her. Now Bella is a full-grown woman with the brain of a baby. You learn Baxter likes to do those kinds of experiments when you notice the chicken with the pig's head, the goose with a bulldog head, and the goat with a duck head wandering around the house. Yes, there are some laughs to be had in this film. A few.

And if Dr. Baxter's face is any indication, he appears to have come by this penchant naturally as his father also liked to experiment.  He has the face of Frankenstein's monster, all scarred and stitched up. Baxter hires Max McCandles (Ramy Youssef), a young doctor, to work with Bella and observe her because in the end she is an experiment. God wants to know how her brain will progress. God keeps Bella close and even suggests that Max marry Bella, though he must agree to stay with him in the house forever.  Max agrees because he has feelings for Bella.

But then, Bella meets Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo), an arrogant rake, who whisks her off on an adventure.  Oh, I forgot to mention that Bella is already addicted to masturbation and sex (she calls it "furious jumping") and Duncan is not averse to having sex several times a day, so it's a good match until Bella finds her way and matures and he loses control of her.  His frail masculinity is wounded. So Bella continues to mature and find herself until the movie finally ends (thank god) with a derivative ending reminiscent of the movie "Freaks."

So a case could be made for this film having a feminist message. Based on the novel by Alasdair Gray and adapted by Tony McNamara, it's about loss of innocence, how a woman goes from a child to embarking on a journey to find herself and eventually shedding herself from male dominance and control and becoming her true self.  I usually like movies like that, but sadly how it was presented overshadowed any deep message.  The film was too much in my face all of the time - masturbation, sex, full nudity, body parts being removed, blood and guts. I know it was supposed to be funny and surreal, but sitting in the theatre, I felt like I was in a Dali painting and I was the melting watch!

I can appreciate originality, good acting, beautiful production design and great cinematography (though the switching from black and white to color and back again was confusing as was the views from a fish eye lens and just seemed a bit indulgent).  I also like films with a message, which this film has, but it all has to add up to an enjoyable movie experience for me, and sadly, it was not. All of those good things I mentioned were overshadowed by overindulgence, shock value and just plain nuttiness.  I am sick of nutty movies. Don't get me started on "Everything, Everywhere All At Once."

And to continue my rant, I would like to comment on Emma Stone's Best Actress Oscar nomination for this (she has already won a Best Actress Golden Globe) and Margot Robbie's Oscar snub for "Barbie."  Emma basically played a two-year old for the first half of the movie and Margot played a doll come to life. Similar mental states, I would say.  Though Emma is an excellent actress, I just did not believe her in this role.  Her performance screamed of "Look at me, I'm a two year old!" She walked around stiff-legged, masturbated with an apple, talked funny and took a pee on the floor, all things I guess a two-year-old would do, but I didn't buy it.  I don't like it when I can tell an actor is acting. It did get better as her character matured, but I was already over it.  As for Margot as Barbie.  I believed and enjoyed every minute of her performance. Yet Emma received an Oscar nod and Margot did not. End of rant.

On the other hand, lest you think I can't find anything good here, Mark Ruffalo was quite wonderful and played against the usual brooding dark souls he plays.  His Duncan was a dark soul but a funny one. Dafoe and Youssef were also good. And the film is worthy of its Oscar nods for makeup and costume.

Speaking of Oscar nods, I know this film has been nominated for 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director (Yorgos Lanthimos, who was also nominated for a Best Director Oscar for "The Favourite" in 2019), and more, so I guess perhaps I am not the best judge of nutty movies. I mean, look what happened with "Everything, Everywhere All at Once." I really disliked that one, too, and said so, yet it went on to win seven Oscars including Best Picture.  I think I was the only person who didn't like that movie, and it looks like I am the only person who didn't like this one.  So does that mean my bad review of this one clinches a Best Picture win for it?  I hope not, but even if it does win, that changes nothing for me. Didn't like "Everything, Everywhere All at Once," and I really didn't like this one.

Rosy the Reviewer says..."Frankenstein" meets "Freaks" kind of sums it up for me.  Not an enjoyable experience. (In theatres)

There you have it.  I have now seen all of the movies nominated for Best Picture that I could find in the theatres or streaming.  As we get closer to Oscar Night - March 10 - more films might become available.  I will keep you posted.  Until then...

Thanks for reading!

See you next time!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites; email it to your friends and/or follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer 

And 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 IMDB.com, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!