Showing posts with label Alice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alice. Show all posts

Friday, September 6, 2019

"David Crosby: Remember My Name" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the documentary "David Crosby: Remember My Name" as well as DVDs "Amazing Grace" and "High Life."  The Book of the Week is "In Paris: 20 Women on Life in the City of Light" by Jeanne Damas and Lauren Bastide.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die" with "Alice" ("Neco z Alenky"), a strange reworking of the "Alice in Wonderland" story]

David Crosby: Remember My Name

David Crosby - then and now, but mostly now.

WARNING - EXPLICIT CONTENT: The word "asshole" will be used prodigiously throughout this review.  If you are faint of heart, better get your fan and your smelling salts ready.

Those of us who came of age in the 1960's and 70's know who David Crosby was and is.  He was famously known as a founding member of The Byrds, the band often credited with starting folk rock, and then when he was kicked out of The Byrds, a chance encounter with Graham Nash, formerly with The Hollies, led to the formation of the iconic trio Crosby, Stills and Nash and then Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, when Neil Young joined the group. 

Crosby was also famously known as an asshole.  

Now, I am not calling names.  He calls himself that.  He said it about himself in a book about the group that I reviewed recently ("Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young" by David Browne), and he calls himself that in this film.  And you might think that is a sign of self awareness - that he knows he is an asshole.  But to announce that he is an asshole, and almost wear that epithet as a badge of honor, clearly shows a certain kind of reverse arrogance and that he really is an asshole.

Crosby grew up in Southern California.  His father was an Academy Award cinematographer and both parents came from prominent families.  Crosby was educated in private schools so this rich kid thing might account for his arrogance.  He was not an academic and started to pursue music instead of school, and in 1964, met Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark and formed the iconic rock band The Byrds.  When he left the Byrds, Crosby met Stephen Stills and the two started jamming together informally until a fateful meeting with Graham Nash at Joni Mitchell's house (Crosby takes us there in the film). Nash sang with them and light bulbs went off all over the place and the supergroup Crosby, Stills and Nash was formed.  Later, Neil Young joined the group for a time.

Crosby was also a famous drug addict, something that may or may not be attributed to the death of his girlfriend, Christine Hinton, in a fatal car crash when she was only 21.  Years later with nine months in jail and a liver transplant under his belt, Crosby is clean but poor and friendless.  He must tour to pay the bills even though he doesn't like leaving home and none of his ex-bandmates now speak to him. Everyone thinks he's an asshole. But neither he nor the film explains why.

Directed by A.J. Eaton, the film is mostly Cameron Crowe asking Crosby questions and Crosby pontificating, with some famous talking heads thrown in.  But with all of Crosby's pontificating, he never digs very deep, and though the film is well done and engrossing, I was left feeling like I still didn't really know the man.  I get that he's an asshole, but why? It's easy to say you are an asshole but takes a bit more work to explain why. Yes, an arrogant know-it-all with an abrasive personality can certainly end up an asshole, but I wanted to know how he got there. Was he always an asshole?

It is amazing that, after the life Crosby has had, his voice is still pure and beautiful. When asked if he had to choose between good health and a happy home life or his music, what he would choose, he said he had to have the music, so that explains some of the asshole stuff, but again, Crosby doesn't appear to have any regrets nor does he seem to care about looking back and assessing what he did wrong. He doesn't seem to mind being an asshole.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a seemingly intimate portrait of a rock icon that left me wanting more.

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


Amazing Grace (2018)

The making of the best-selling gospel record of all time.

"By 1971 Aretha had recorded over 20 pop albums, won 5 Grammys and had 11 consecutive number one pop and R & B singles." 

With all of that accomplished in her young life, in January 1972 Aretha Franklin decided to do something different - to record the music of her youth - gospel music.  

Along with the Rev. James Cleveland and his group, the Southern California Community Choir, Aretha recorded the album in a church with director Sydney Pollack there to document it. Filmed over two nights in the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles in 1972, the film was only just released last year due to technical problems and legal issues (Aretha supposedly didn't want this film released).  After sitting in a film vault for 35 years and with the death of Sydney Pollack in 2008, producer Alan Elliott took up the project.  Aretha died last year and Elliott was able to negotiate with the family and get the film released.

If you are a big Aretha fan, you will love this, because it's all about Aretha, it's all about gospel and it's all about church. There is no narration and not much talking, except the introduction of the songs by Rev. Cleveland and an homage to Aretha at the end by Aretha's father. There are also shots of the audience and lots of "amens," but this film is basically a concert movie rather than a documentary and there is absolutely no insight into Aretha, the woman, at all, except for the fact that she is treated like the diva she is.

At the height of her vocal powers, Aretha sings all of the standards: "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," "Wholly Holy," "Precious Memories," and, of course, "Amazing Grace." There are many close-ups of Aretha as she sings, sweat and all, but we never hear one word from her.  

And that is the weakness of the film experience for me.

Though I acknowledge Aretha as the Queen of Soul, I am probably one of the very few people in the world who was never a huge fan of her voice nor am I a gospel fan, so I found the film a bit boring as Aretha just sang one song after another.  

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like gospel music and enjoy listening to Aretha sing, you will enjoy this, but if you thought you would learn anything about Aretha, you will be disappointed.

High Life (2018)

A father and daughter struggle to survive in deep space.

Here again is one of those space films where everyone on the space ship is killed off one way or another and only one person is left to survive.  Well, in this case, it's one man and a baby.

The film begins with Monte (Robert Pattinson) alone on a space ship with a baby, and it takes forever to figure out why he is all alone and what the deal is with the baby.  In fact, it was a full 30 minutes before we learn anything. Snippets of the past pop up from time to time interspersed with the present in an annoying set of back and forth flashbacks. I kept thinking, "Get on with it.  I want to know what has happened in the past that has left this guy alone in space with a baby who just won't stop crying!  Then I got tired of waiting and started fast forwarding through some of it, which I am known to do when I get bored. This is when I am happy to be home watching a DVD instead of stuck in  a theatre with a film that I wish I could fast forward through!

After much sighing, the story finally reveals itself. Turns out convicts are being sent into space to harnass the power from a black hole. Some aren't exactly convicts.  Though there are murderers on the ship, there are also some people who were just homeless people in an apocolyptic world where the powers that be didn't know what to do about homeless people so recycled them into prisoners which in turn made them candidates for space research.  But as a scientist says in one of the few flashbacks, it's a death sentence because it takes years for their reports to get back to earth and they themselves never will.

So after an agonizing 30 minutes watching Monte and the baby wandering around the ship alone, wondering what the hell was going on, we meet the original members of the space team.  There is the nutty Dr. Dibs (Juliette Binoche), who wants to create a child via artificial insemination; Chandra (Lars Eidinger), the rather useless captain; Nansen (Agata Buzek), the pilot; Tcherny (Andre Benjamin), a family man who tends the ship's greenhouse; and Elektra (Gloria Obianyo) Ettore (Ewen Mitchell), Boyse (Mia Goth) and Mink (Claire Tran) - can't remember what they did or why they were there and don't really care.  

Three years after being in space, they all start going crazy and turning on each other and it doesn't help that Dr. Dibs is wandering around the ship like a lunatic, giving everyone sedatives and trying to find some semen to implant.  Monte is celibate so doesn't cooperate when Dr. Dibs makes a play for him, but she still manages to "rape" him and creates baby Willow from his stolen sperm.  There is lots of deviant sex and masturbation.  Instead of a monster running amok on the space ship, which has been the case in the past, this is a murderous doctor and a bunch of people who can't get along running amok.  I guess if you put a bunch of misfits and murderers together in a confined space, some bad stuff is going to happen.

If you have wondered what happened to Robert Pattinson after the "Twilight" series, well wonder no more.  Here he is. He is a good actor but he looks awful in this. I think I liked him better with fangs.  And if Juliette Binoche is in a film, you know it's going to be weird and you will see her breasts.  It's just a thing.

Written by Claire Denis and others and directed by her, this film was kind of a mess.  I know it was supposed to be deep and symbolic but a film doesn't get very far with deep and symbolic if it's boring. And it was, even with all of that sex and Binoche's breasts.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I found this film mostly unwatchable. If you want some deep, symbolic but good science fiction, watch "2001: A Space Odyssey."

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

63  to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Alice ( Neco z Alenky) 1988

"Alice in Wonderland" on acid.

Not that I've ever done acid.  OK, twice, but that didn't prepare me for this version of Alice. I thought I was having a flashback.

Alice is in her playroom and bored when she spies a strange little rabbit putting on gloves and a coat and hat.  So being the curious girl that she is - and bored - Alice follows him as he disappears into a table drawer (somehow she manages to get herself into the drawer too)!  And the adventure begins.

This version of "Alice" has the usual Alice stuff - she eats a tart and gets small, except this time she turns into a porcelain doll which is very strange and creepy (Seems like director Jan Svankmajer thought of Annabelle before the Conjuring people cooked her up). She also eats another tart and gets big, has tea with a very odd Mad Hatter and meets the Queen and King of Hearts.

There is little dialogue, just many strange creatures animated in stop motion, all pre-CGI.  And, trust me.  This one is not for kids. At the beginning of the film, Alice even says this may or may not be a tale for children.  I say not.  It would scare the crap out of them! There is a piece of meat roaming around, a mouse prince dead in a trap and some horrifying sock creatures, all very symbolic, I'm sure but disturbing. I thought I was caught in a Dali painting.

As you know, I am not a fan of remakes.  I can't figure out what possesses a person to take a perfectly good classic story that has been made into some perfectly good film versions and then create a per-version.  This is Svankmajer's revision of the story and it is quite dark and disturbing.

Why it's a Must See: "In his characteristically bizarre and hyperimaginative manner, Czech filmmaker, animator, and puppet maker extraordinaire Jan Svankmajer captures the feel of Lewis Carroll's children's tale Alice in Wonderland while still managing to convey several 'adult' and culturally celebrated themes."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Turns out it's all a dream or should I say nightmare.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I can appreciate the creativity but have to ask "Why?"
(Available on YouTube)

***The Book of the Week***

In Paris: 20 Women on Life in the City of Light by Jeanne Damas and Lauren Bastide (2018)

Two Parisian women showcase the real lives of 20 women living in Paris.

Even though summer has just ended, I am still on a sort of travel kick, thinking of my trips to Paris.  I reviewed a book on Paris a couple of weeks ago and here I am again.  This time we get to know 20 different Parisian women, smashing the stereotype of one sort of Parisian woman. You know the one.  The slim, stylish, sophisticated woman with red lipstick who trots over cobblestones in high heels, wearing a trench coat and a chic scarf and carrying an expensive handbag without a care in the world. 

Yes, Parisian women are usually chic and that is very much the look, but according to Damas and Bastide, the Parisian woman is so much more than that. 

"This book was born of a desire to go out and meet authentic Parisiennes from different backgrounds and walks of life.  We wanted to discover their many different qualities and create an impressionist portrait of the Parisian woman...we wanted to bring the myth to life by interviewing twenty women on the way they choose to live in Paris and their relationship to the city."

Here we have shopkeepers, singers, writers, activists and more, aged from 14 to 70, living in all sorts of situations from tiny apartments to houseboats, and they share their tips for living the good life in Paris from how to decorate like a Parisian to beauty secrets (remember that red lipstick?) to secret hideaways, to best vintage clothes shops, best bars, cafes and boulangeries (that's bakeries to us Americans).  Sprinkled with beautiful color photographs, this book is a sort of a book of collected biographies cum travel guide that will make you want to move to Paris!

Rosy the Reviewer says...Vive le Paris!

C'est Moi!

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


"It Chapter Two"


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.