Showing posts with label Bergman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bergman. Show all posts

Friday, January 10, 2020

"Bombshell" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "Bombshell" as well as the DVDs "Hustlers" and "Red Joan."  The Book of the Week is "Still Here," a biography of Broadway actress Elaine Stritch.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Ingmar Bergman's "Hour of the Wolf."]


An expose of the toxic atmosphere that prevailed at Fox News under the leadship of Roger Ailes.

"Bombshell" is an apt title for this film about Roger Ailes, the head of Fox News from 1996-2016, and the "bombshell effect," his preference for blondes wearing short sheath dresses and showing lots of leg.  But it also refers to the bombshell Gretchen Carlson dropped when she sued him for sexual harassment and other women followed suit, leading to his resignation.

Fox News has become the leading television station for conservative news and is a favorite of our current President. Owner and arch conservative Rupert Murdoch hired Roger Ailes to head the Fox News channel in 1996 where he ruled with an iron hand and fulfilled his penchant for pretty blondes. Former Miss America, Gretchen Carlson, fit that bill as did Megyn Kelly, both of whom were Fox News anchors.

As this film begins, anchor Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) is at the top of her game and getting ready to co-moderate the 2016 Republican Presidential Candidates Debate. Even though she is advised against it, she asks Donald Trump about his previous comments about women, something he did not appreciate.  After the debate, he sends out tweets trying to hurt her reputation and she becomes the story, which upsets her.

The film also focuses on Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie), a young religious conservative, a character who is an amalgam of the many young blonde women who populated Fox News.  She is a new hire, hired to work with Gretchen Carlson, but Kayla is also ambitious so when she gets a chance to work on Bill O'Reilly's show, one of the most watched shows on Fox News, she jumps at the chance.  Wanting to get ahead, she finagles a meeting with Roger Ailes (John Lithgow), who takes an interest in her, an unsavory interest, and it's not long before he asks her to twirl and then, later, to pull up her dress so he can see her legs in a particularly unpleasant scene.  As time goes by, her career advances, but her cheerful demeanor changes.

Meanwhile, Gretchen Carlson is demoted by Ailes from co-anchor on the highly rated "Fox & Friends" to an afternoon show (the dead zone for TV news), because she was getting a bit too political and dare I say, feminist?  When she does a show for National Girls Day wearing no makeup to show little girls they can be themselves, Ailes warns her about her content and eventually fires her.  And that's when Carlson decided it was time to expose Ailes for the sexual harasser that he was.  His predilections were well-known and Carlson felt she would have no problem getting other women to come forward.  Little did she know how difficult that would be.

Directed by Jay Roach, this film is all about the acting, especially Theron.  Watching her play Megyn Kelly, I thought I was actually watching Megyn Kelly.  Not only was her make-up spot on, but her voice and mannerisms were Kelly's.  Likewise, Kidman was good as Carlson and Robbie was believable as a young, innocent, who wanting to get ahead, was driven to acts she would never have dreamed of doing before meeting Ailes.  There is one particular cringe-worthy scene where Ailes asks her to show him some leg - more, more, more... That one scene captured the kind of horrible experiences young women have endured at the hands of powerful men.

And speaking of powerful men, John Lithgow as Ailes, is just amazing.  I didn't think he could outdo himself as Winston Churchill in "The Crown," but he does here, capturing the unctuousness of a lecher and the drama and meanness of a man in power who doesn't care if anyone likes him or not.  He will get his way or else.

I also have to give a big shout-out to Kate McKinnon, who plays a lesbian producer who doesn't buy the Fox News politics but needs to make a living.  McKinnon plays it straight here, no mugging or other mannerisms we have come to associate with her comedy, and she was really, really good.  I enjoyed seeing her shed those comic crutches and try something new.

But the other big stars in this film are the makeup team led by Vivian Baker and Colleen Atwood's costumes. If you were to put pictures of the actors up next to pictures of the real-life people they were portraying, you would see just how uncanny the transformations are.  From Megyn Kelly to Ailes to Murdoch (Malcolm McDowell), all just picture perfect.

So with all of that said, did I like the film as a whole?  

Yes and no.  Yes, because the acting is spot on and the film is an important reminder of what women have often had to go through in order to get ahead. Written by Charles Randolph, the film reminded me a bit of "The Big Short."  Well, no wonder, Randolph co-wrote "The Big Short," with Adam McKay. I loved "The Big Short," but this one, er, fell a bit short.  It just wasn't as sharp and stylish, nor, despite the subject matter, did it seem to have much depth. The film didn't really anger or inspire me as I felt it should.  In fact, it left me with more of an "ick factor" feeling.  Maybe that was the point, but it didn't really feel I had a satisfying film experience.  And despite the fact the film is not flattering to Fox News - it's not "fair and balanced," nor was it meant to be - I don't think it's going to stop people from watching Fox News or that much will change there.

Speaking of which, I just saw a blurb from "Fox & Friends (and no, my peeps, I don't watch Fox News, I saw it on "Late Night with Seth Myers" which I do watch) and one of the women anchors... wait for it now...was a blonde, wearing a tight sheath dress and showing lots of leg!  So, Ailes is gone but have things really changed?

Rosy the Reviewer says...all in all, worth seeing because it highlights something that was a precursor to the #MeToo Movement and the performances and the makeup are extraordinary.

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


Hustlers (2019)

Some former strippers band together to turn the tables on their wealthy Wall Street clients.

Unlike the women at Fox News (see review above), here is another way to get back at men who abuse you.  Don't sue them, fleece them.

Adapted by director Lorene Scafaria from a 2015 New York Magazine article, this is the story of two strippers who come up with a plan to deal with their own financial crisis of 2008.  The film begins in 2014 with ex-stripper, Destiny (Constance Wu), being interviewed for a magazine article by writer Elizabeth (Julia Stiles).  Flashback to 2007 when Destiny was working at the strip club, Moves, barely making a living, where she meets older, wiser and flashier stripper, Ramona (Jennifer Lopez).  Ramona takes Destiny under her wing and shows her all of her moves, a crash course in working the pole (I've asked for one for my birthday), and the two form a team and make lots and lots of money - "more money than a brain surgeon."  

But when the 2008 financial crisis hits, fewer men have the cash for lap dances and private strip shows, so Destiny, who is supporting her grandmother and now also has a baby, finds herself short of cash so she reunites with Ramona who has come up with a new scheme.  With two other strippers, Annabelle (Lili Reinhart) and Mercedes (Keke Palmer), Ramona and Destiny target rich men at bars, drug them, take them to a strip club also in on the con and max out their credit cards, justifying what they are doing by saying that the men are hustlers too and nobody gets ahead playing by the rules. It's their way of making those Wall Street guys who caused the crash to pay!

Ramona says, "This whole city, this whole country, is a strip club.  You've got people tossing the money and people doing the dance."

Here is how it works.  One of the women lures a man in a bar and then her "sisters" show up.  None of the women drink.  They just pretend to while at the same time putting drugs in the man's drink.  Then they take him to a club, one they are "promoting," get the guy's credit card and run it up to the limit.

And all goes well doesn't.  Ramona starts to get a bit reckless and hires some girls who are sloppy, namely Dawn (Madeline Brewer) and the whole con comes tumbling down.

Yes, these ladies are conning men, but you root for them because the men who like to prey upon women, leer at them taking off their clothes and pay for sex, are horrible, not to mention those Wall Street types who caused the crash and never had to pay the price. They were conning people too.  Writer/director Scafaria, whose style here has been compared to Scorsese, doesn't judge these women.  It is what it is. But in addition to the con angle, this film is also about female friendship and comradery which also makes you root for them.

This film just reinforced how much I love Jennifer Lopez, and at fifty years old, sheesh, what a specimen of womanhood.  She certainly has the stripper moves on the pole down. I mean, what can't this woman do?  But her beauty aside, this film is also a reminder of what a good actress Lopez is.  This performance is one of the best of her career.  Frances Wu is also really good in a role that is a far cry from her roles in the movie "Crazy Rich Asians" and the TV show "Fresh Off the Boat."  Lopez and Wu together have great chemistry and form a believable partnership, and even better, a believable friendship.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a lot of fun!

Red Joan (2018)

Fictionalized true story of Melita Norwood, who as an old woman, was exposed as the KGB's longest-serving British spy.

Joan Stanley (Judi Dench) is a fictionalized version of Norwood, and, when the film begins, it is the year 2000, and she is an ex-librarian and suburban pensioner (that's Brit speak for a retired person), who has been discovered to have been a spy for the Russians.  How did that happen?

Well, flashback to her early days at Cambridge in the 1930's where Joan (Sophie Cookson) is a studious young girl, a physics major.  She meets Sonya (Tereza Srbova), a "fast" girl who climbs in through Joan's dorm window one night after being out after hours partying.  Sonya introduces Joan to her cousin, Leo (Tom Hughes), a Jewish German boy who is also a Communist.  Turns out both Leo and Sonia are Communists, something that really wasn't that unusual back in the 30's and 40's, and you know what can happen when a young woman falls for a guy.  Joan isn't the first young woman to have her political leanings swayed because of love and, when Joan starts working at a top secret atomic bomb research facility, Leo eventually gets her into sharing her research with the Russians, though it turns out Joan had her own reasons for doing it. Sonia is in on it, too, telling Joan that no one will suspect them because they are women. Right. The film goes back and forth from old Joan being interrogated by MI5 and her youthful self as she is pulled into handing over secrets about Britain's atomic bomb project to the Russians. 

Though Judi Dench is the seeming star of this film, her role is much smaller than Sophie Cookson's, who plays the young Joan and is the focus of most of the film. But props to Judy for looking her age. I am sick of 80-year-old women who look like they are 50 (do you hear me, Jane?). And Tom Hughes as Leo made me go gaga. Ahem.  I'm just sayin...

The Brits know how to make compelling historical dramas and this film written by Lindsay Shapero and directed by Trevor Nunn is no exception. This film reminded me of one of my all-time favorite films about spies - "Pack of Lies," a TV movie about a friendship between two couples who are neighbors and the devastation felt by one of the couples when they learn the other had been spies the whole time (coincidently "Pack of Lies," before being made into a TV movie, was first a play starring Judi Dench)! This whole issue of seemingly ordinary people living secret lives is certainly a compelling one and this film does that story justice.  A reminder that perhaps we don't really know our neighbors or our friends, or even our own mother, as well as we think we do.

Speaking of which, my only criticism is a swipe at librarians when Joan's son finds out his mother was a spy and says, "I thought you were over-educated for a librarian."  Sheesh.

Rosy the Reviewer intelligent and compelling historical film for adults about love and idealism.

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

47 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Hour of the Wolf (1968)

A gothic tale about an artist who has an emotional breakdown and disappears.

The film, directed by Ingmar Bergman, begins with Alma Borg (Liv Ullmann, a Bergman favorite) talking directly to the screen, saying her husband, Johan (Max von Sydow, another Bergman favorite), is missing but she knows why because she has his diary. From the diary, the film pieces together what happened to Borg.  

Johan was an artist and he and his pregnant wife, Alma, had moved to an isolated island and at first seemed happy.  But as time went by, Borg became obsessed with images of demons, his nightmares, and his own repressed urges. He also struggled with sleeplessness.

"The old ones called it 'the hour of the wolf.'  It is the hour when the most people die, and the most are born.  At this time, nighmares come to us.  And when we awake, we are afraid."

Johan and Alma discover they have a neighbor, Baron von Merken (Erland Josephson, yet another familiar face in a Bergman film), who by the way looks eerily like Bela Lugosi in this, and considering what happens next, I guess that was the point. The Baron lives in a castle with a bunch of strange folks.  He invites Johan and Alma to dinner, one that starts out well enough but soon turns ugly. Johan is preyed upon by the guests and eventually humiliated as he finds himself in full clown drag and teased by his mistress (where did she come from)?  After all of the macabre shenanigans, we are left to wonder if it was all in Johan's imagination or he was having one great big nightmare.

And yes, in fact, it's a nightmare, not just in content, but in the fact that I didn't know what the hell was going on most of the time.  But even so, I never once fast forwarded because whether I get it or not, Bergman makes a compelling film.  I couldn't take my eyes off of it.

And, hey, it's Bergman. You're not supposed to get it!

Why it's a Must See: "...yet another variation of Bergman's recurring motif concerning the predatory relationship between the artist and his audience."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

That's what it's about?

Rosy the Reviewer says...I didn't get it but, hey, it's Bergman.
(Available on Youtube - In Swedish with English subtitles)

***The Book of the Week***

Still Here: The Madcap, Nervy, Singular Life of Elaine Stritch by Alexandra Jacobs (2019)

Biography of Broadway star, Elaine Stritch.

Unless you are a Broadway maven, I would guess that most of you reading this post will not have heard of Stritch.  Somehow, despite her fame on Broadway, she never made it big in films. However, she was the consummate performer. When I lived in San Francisco, I had the pleasure of seeing her perform "The Ladies Who Lunch," her signature song in the Broadway touring company of "Company."  With her cocky persona and smoky voice, it was something to see.

Born into a Catholic middle class family in Detroit and growing up during the Depression, Stritch made her way to New York City in 1943, an exciting time for theatre.  She hung out with the likes of Brando, Tennessee Williams, Bea Arthur, Harry Belafonte, Noel Coward and others (Coward known for his witty repartee - such as how to make the perfect martini, filling a glass with gin and "waving it in the general direction of Italy") and, she became the darling of the gossip columnists.  She was a virgin until she was 30, but once she got started she had highly publicized romantic relationships with actors Ben Gazzara and Gig Young (who famously shot his wife and himself in a murder suicide - good thing Elaine dodged that bullet, pardon the pun. I am capable of witty repartee too)!  She was also a hard-drinker and bon vivant, who made a name for herself on Broadway with show-stopping numbers in musicals and some TV shows, but then she hit a low point until Hal Prince cast her in Stephen Sondheim's "Company," where she put her stamp on the song "The Ladies Who Lunch," which also became her signature song.

Stritch later married, lived in London, went on and off the wagon and gained a reputation for being difficult and entitled, but when she starred in her own one-woman show "Elaine Stritch - At Liberty," she was hailed an icon and at 77 won her first Tony Award, Broadway's highest honor.  She died in 2014 at the age of 89.

Rosy the Reviewer is your chance to find out about Stritch.  You need to know who she was.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


"Little Women"


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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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.