Showing posts with label Biographies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Biographies. Show all posts

Friday, April 14, 2017

"Gifted" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Gifted" as well as DVDs "Jackie" and Jim Jarmusch's latest film "Paterson."  The Book of the Week is "Not Pretty Enough: The Unlikely Triumph of Helen Gurley Brown."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Robert Bresson's "Diary of a Country Priest."]



Gifted


Frank (Chris Evans), who is raising his child prodigy niece, Mary (McKenna Grace), after his sister killed herself, finds himself in a child custody battle with his own mother (Lindsay Duncan).

My idea of movie hell is one starring a kid, worse yet, a precocious wise-cracking kid, and from the trailers I had seen, that's what the film seemed to be about.  So it was with trepidation that I found myself in the theatre waiting for this film to begin, but being a Chris Evans fan, I was at least looking forward to seeing Chris Evans out of his Captain America gear and in his wonderful handsomeness.

And, wouldn't you know? My worse fears were partially realized.  We not only had a self-described smart ass seven year old, but the uncle and neighbor were also smart asses and I could go one step further and say that the grandmother could also be accused of that since she got to throw around the odd zinger bon mots as well.  Even the one-eyed cat seemed to have attitude.

There are supposedly only seven plots in the whole world and those plots are reworked and recycled ad infinitum in books and plays.  In the movie universe, I think there are fewer, because I keep seeing the same story over and over.  In any case, we have seen this film before - two people trying to get custody of a child - remember "Kramer vs. Kramer?" - and this film borrows liberally from that one, right down to that scene where little Billy Kramer encounters Ted's one-night-stand naked in the hallway after making whoopee with Ted.  Except here it's little Mary's teacher, Bonnie Stevenson (Jenny Slate), and she's coming out of the bedroom wearing just a towel or a sheet, not sure. But it's actually kind of a funny scene because as Mary and her teacher encounter each other, Mary nonchalantly says, "Good morning, Miss Stevenson," much to Miss Stevenson's chagrin.  I told you the kid is a smart you-know-what.

The custody battle is between Mary's uncle, who has raised her since birth after her mother killed herself, and his own mother, Evelyn.  You see, Mary is a child math prodigy (haven't we done that story before too?) and the grandmother, also a gifted mathematician (Mary's mother was practically Einstein according to this film), doesn't want the child's brain wasted in a public school.

Now here's the thing.  I know I'm supposed to hate the grandmother because she wasn't a very good mother to our guy, Frank, and his sister, but I am thinking that her aim to get this kid a good education is not a bad thing. And to this film's credit, Evelyn is not painted as a villain per se.  However, Frank has some real enmity against his mother for expecting so much from her kids and not being present in their lives, and he doesn't want that to happen to our little Mary.  He wants Mary to go to public school, join the Girl Scouts and have fun as opposed to, oh, let's just say becoming extremely famous, wealthy and winning the Nobel prize.  So on the one hand, Girl Scouts, playgrounds and public school versus extreme success, celebrity and working her brain?  Gee, which should I choose?  I think being a normal kid is highly overrated!

I know, I am making fun of this a little bit, but it is quite far-fetched and aims for you to be rooting for Frank and little Mary, who wants to stay with Frank and the nice neighbor lady, Roberta (Octavia Spencer), who is kind and wise, very wise.  Doesn't Octavia Spencer always play wise, knowing characters?  So there is little Mary who I frankly found to be obnoxious and bratty, Frank, who seems to have no ambition (he used to be a professor) - and Octavia, well she always plays Octavia.  Whereas, the grandmother was for me a more interesting character, and I have always had a soft spot for Lindsay Duncan.  For one thing, she is a British actress, which moves her up in my estimation right there, but she starred in a couple of my favorite British mini-series, "A Year in Provence" and "The Rector's Wife."  Jenny Slate usually plays odd comic characters so her portrayal of the sympathetic teacher is a nice change of pace.

Directed by Marc Webb with a screenplay by Tom Flynn, there was some disconcertingly shaky camera work going on which bothered me no end and the clichéd characters bothered me just as much: Poor but earnest uncle just wants the child prodigy to have a "normal" life," whatever that means; kindly next-door neighbor provides the requisite wise and loving female presence in her life; caring teacher provides some love interest for our handsome leading man (and just in case you didn't know it, Evans and Slate had a romantic relationship in real life too); and then there is the drama of the mean grandmother trying to break the kid and her uncle up.

I am sorry to be so curmudgeonly about this movie.  I don't really want to discourage you from seeing this film if you like these kinds of films, and right now, there are few dramas out there aimed at adults.  It's not a terrible film, just predictable, and I admit my bias against precocious child actors so take what I have said with a grain of salt.  Maybe I was just in a bad mood that day, but it also didn't help that Chris Evans was sporting a beard covering up that handsome face of his. Chris, lose the beard.  I want to see your pretty face. It would have helped.

Rosy the Reviewer says...pure schmaltz and usually I like schmaltz but unfortunately this film just left me cold.  


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

On DVD





Jackie (2016)



After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, despite grief and trauma, First Lady Jackie Kennedy works to create a legacy for her husband.

The film begins in Hyannis Port in 1963. An unnamed journalist (Billy Crudup) is interviewing Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) one week after the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy.  This is based on a real life interview that Jackie gave to Theodore White for Life Magazine a week after the assassination and which led to many of the myths surrounding the Kennedy legacy. Through a series of flashbacks and flash forwards, Jackie's life in the White House is revealed, most notably the famous 1962 televised tour of the White House that she gave for CBS, the assassination itself, which is recreated, and the televised funeral.

However, this film is less a biopic and more about how Jackie, wanting JFK to be remembered as she thought he should, orchestrated and invented much of his legacy, most notably the funeral procession modeled after Lincoln's and the idea that Kennedy's time in office was like Camelot.

In a scene where Jackie is in a limousine, she asks the driver if he remembered anything about Presidents McKinley or Garfield, both of whom were assassinated while in office.  The driver says no.  Then she asks him what he remembers about Lincoln and he does know what Lincoln did.  That was Jackie's impetus to make sure that JFK was remembered and the inspiration for the funeral procession: the riderless horse, walking behind the casket in the cortege and burying Kennedy at Arlington rather than in the family plot.  Jackie wanted JFK, like Lincoln, to be remembered.

All of us Baby Boomers remember exactly where we were when we heard that President Kennedy had been shot.  I was in my 10th grade chemistry class when the principal came onto the intercom and said our President had been shot.  That was so out of the realm of possibility for me that I thought he meant our STUDENT COUNCIL President. It was a defining moment for all of us.
 
Jackie did such a good job with the Camelot story that I actually thought Kennedy's term had always been characterized as such, even before his death.  I had no idea it was a calculation and was made up after the assassination by Jackie and perpetrated by the media to shape JFK's legacy. "Camelot" was a big Broadway hit at the time and supposedly JFK's favorite show. She fed that idea to the journalist who was interviewing her and it became true.  She herself says early in the film "You know what I think of history?  When something is written down, does that make it true?"  Well, once the journalist wrote his piece likening Kennedy's tenure as President to Camelot, it became true.

Natalie Portman was nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award. Did Portman deserve a Best Actress nomination?

At first, I found her an odd choice to play Jackie Kennedy, especially when her accent and voice sounded more like Marilyn Monroe at times than Jackie, which knowing JFK's womanizing history would be a cruel irony, but once I settled into the film, I got used to the voice and the accent and, yes, Portman was amazing, and deserved the nomination.

Should Madeline Fontaine, the costume designer, have won an Oscar for Best Achievement in Costume Design (she did win a BAFTA)?  She was the favorite going into the awards, but she lost to Colleen Atwood ("Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them"). Jackie's clothes were iconic and that point was made at the end of the film where we see some deliverymen unloading a truck filled with manikins wearing copies of Jackie's suits.  A nearby storefront window is filled with her clothes.  Atwood did a brilliant job recreating Jackie's style.

Funny that both Greta Gerwig and Billy Crudup are in this, when I just recently reviewed "20th Century Women," in which both also starred.  Again Crudup doesn't have much of a part nor does Gerwig, though her part is notable for the fact that she plays it entirely straight as Jackie's assistant.  There is nary a bit of her usual quirky mannerisms, which is a sign of her acting abilities.

Director Pablo Larrain did a good job of melding actual footage of the assassination and the aftermath with the film, and the script by Noah Oppenheim, using a journalist's interview with Jackie to move the story forward, makes us feel like we are seeing inside the woman, a woman who always seemed aloof and unknowable. There were also some nice visual touches such as Jackie walking through the newly renovated White House which had been done up all in white wearing her blood-stained shocking pink suit.  My one complaint about this film is the score.  It was very jarring and discordant and seemed more appropriate for a Hitchcock film than an historical biopic.  I actually would have liked some pop music from the time that would have been a foreshadowing of the times that were ahead.

There was a touching moment when Robert Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard) laments what might have been had JFK lived. What would he have done with civil rights, the space program, Vietnam...we will never know.

"Don't let it be forgot that for one shining moment there was...Camelot."

Jackie created the Kennedy myth of Camelot. The question is: Did Jackie create Camelot for Jack or for Jackie?

Rosy the Reviewer says...this film puts a human face on a defining moment that all of us Baby Boomers experienced.  A wonderful film.





Paterson (2016)


A character study of a young bus driver named Paterson who just coincidentally lives and drives his bus in Paterson, New Jersey.

Adam Driver plays Paterson, a bus driver living in Paterson, N.J. who also happens to be an amateur poet. The film follows Paterson over the course of a week, from Monday to the next Monday.  Each day we see him and his wife, Laura, lying in bed. Each day he hits the alarm, gets up, has his bowl of cereal and goes off to work.  As he drives his bus, Paterson is a silent presence, observing and overhearing his passengers, thinking his deep thoughts and composing his poetry as people come and go.  Sometimes he interacts with them, sometimes not. We hear what goes on in Paterson's mind as he composes his poems while driving his bus, and we see the words on the screen like subtitles as he writes them down in his ever present notebook on his lunch hour. 

His wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) is a bit of an airhead who stays at home coming up with various schemes.  She aspires to be a country singer but also wants her cupcakes to be a success at the local farmers' market.  She spends time painting the walls of their house in black and white shapes (even the shower curtain), seems to wear only black and white clothes and makes up dinners that are barely edible. The two seem like an odd couple, but she is infinitely supportive and encouraging to Paterson about his poetry and whatever it is that they have, it seems to work.  

After work, Paterson walks home, and in the evening, though he seems to have a contentious relationship with his English bulldog, Marvin (played by Nellie, a girl), Paterson takes him for a walk which is actually a euphemism for hitting the local bar.  He ties Marvin up outside and has a beer at the bar and interacts with the bartender and the locals. There is the bartender who is playing chess with himself, the man and woman who keep breaking up with each other and a set of brothers named Sam and Dave, named after the famous singing duo who were also from Paterson. 

There is much talk in the bar about the famous people from Paterson.  In addition to Sam and Dave, Lou Costello was from there as were poets Allen Ginsberg and William Carlos Williams. Later when Paterson meets a Japanese tourist, he and the tourist talk about William Carlos Williams, who, of course, is a hero of Paterson's and just happened to have written a poem called "Paterson."   

And that's what this movie is as well.  It's a kind of poem. It's a movie about real life and about hope, and there is a certain kind of poetry in the simplicity of routine and real life, where nothing much happens, which in turn means nothing bad happens.  For most of us, our lives consist of routines.  Our body gets up and goes to work and does what we need it to do, but our mind is our own. And no matter what our lives consist of, no matter the daily routine, each day we get up and it's a new day.  Who knows what the day will bring? There is always hope.

We take for granted the people we encounter in our daily lives: the bus driver, the cable guy, the bagger at the supermarket.  Who knows what deep thoughts they are thinking while they go about their day?  Who knows what they do when they go home at night?

I have to say that some of Paterson's poems sounded like some of Jack Handey's Deep Thoughts that were a staple in early "Saturday Night Live" shows.  Remember those?  But it doesn't really matter what you think of the poetry.  The whole film is a poem.

Driver is a hot commodity these days after having emerged from his TV role on "Girls."  He has been in some high profile films since like the Coen Brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis," "While We're Young" with Ben Stiller and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." He currently has three movies in post-production (one is the latest "Star Wars" installment) and is currently filming another.  And I find it interesting that he is an unlikely leading man with his gangly physique and unconventional looks.  He looks more like a hipster on his way to his favorite coffee house than one of our hottest actors. But he is very good in this and the film's success depends on our believing who he is.  And I did.  Paterson is unassuming and real.

Directed by Jim Jarmusch, this is a moody and mesmerizing character piece.  Whenever I watch a Jim Jarmusch film - and I have been a big fan ever since "Stranger than Paradise" - I have to ask myself, "Why isn't director Jim Jarmusch a household name?"  Possibly because of films like this and that is by no means a negative.  But he makes small pictures that are more character study than plot or action filled.  He's not exactly indie, but he isn't really mainstream either.  He is somewhere in between, and I guess he is an acquired taste because his films are slow moving and character driven, but they are infinitely interesting. He celebrates real life and the lives of everyday people. And why shouldn't he?  We are all an interesting bunch of everyday people.  He deserves a wider audience. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...a film about the beauty and poetry of everyday life and the film is a poetic beauty.


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


206 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?






Diary of a Country Priest (1951)


A young priest takes over his first parish where the parishioners are less than friendly.

The verdict is still out on director Robert Bresson for me.  Oh, I know he is part of the French New Wave, but I had a hard time with "Pickpocket" and "A Man Escaped," two films that were also ones I was supposed to see before I died.  However, I have to say, this one grew on me, and it was due to Claude Leydu, the actor who played the young priest.  He looked like a combination of a young Martin Sheen and Eraserhead and was such a sad sack that I couldn't help but root for him.

Leydu plays the young priest who doesn't appear to have an actual name.  He arrives in the village of Abricourt where everyone is quite hostile to him.  It doesn't help that he has few social skills, never smiles and swans around town wearing a large cape.  He also has a stomach ailment and eats nothing but bread and wine.  He is admonished by an old priest who comes to check up on him, and basically the old priest tells him to get some balls, take charge of the religious community and stop being so sensitive.  Like anything else, a priest's job is basically marketing, marketing himself and marketing God and our young priest just isn't very good at it.  He needs to schmooze.  

But it doesn't help that he is the butt of pranks by the local children headed by Seraphita, a young girl who would be a good candidate to play "The Bad Seed." As he visits the locals, he meets the Countess, who is grieving for her dead young son and the Count, who is having an affair with the governess.  What is it with men and the nannies?  Ben Affleck, Jude Law, Robin Williams...all fell victim to the charms of their nannies and ruined their marriages in the meantime.  Moral of the story ladies:  Do not hire hot nannies!

Based on the book of the same name by Georges Bernanos, the plot is carried forward via the young priest's diary entries as he records his experiences, and everything is brought to a head when the young priest's stomach ailment is diagnosed.

Bresson's films start off really well with interesting stories and characters but then he takes so long to get to the point that I lose interest about halfway through.  Bresson's films are marked by a less is more philosophy.  He didn't even really want his actors to act.  They were merely props to forward the story and often symbolized how life pushes us all around against our will.  Very existential but I have found his filmmaking style to be quite cold.  Less might be more, and I keep wanting more, but in this case, the character of the young priest is so enigmatic that I was drawn in.

Why it's a Must See: "Cinema is the concrete and communal accomplishment of the Mystery of Incarntion.  Bresson's film demonstrates that everything can become possible: joking with death, writing on the screen, playing with desire, watching the insights of the psyche, generating fascination for life in rural France in the mid-twentieth century, and confronting religious questions."

Rosy the Reviewer says...a grim story of a crisis of faith, defeat and failure.  I never said this was going to be a fun one, but it's a good one.
(in French with English subtitles, b & w)

 
 
***Book of the Week***




Not Pretty Enough: The Unlikely Triumph of Helen Gurley Brown by Gerri Hirshey

 
 




A detailed biography of Helen Gurley Brown, who was Editor-in-Chief of "Cosmopolitan" magazine for 32 years and who turned it from a flagging publication written by men to a women's magazine that was an integral part of the sexual revolution and which today reaches over 68 million readers.

Much like the movie "20th Century Women," which told the story of three different women, all of whom grew up in the 20th century but all of whom had very different experiences (I reviewed it last Friday), here is another 20th Century woman who, despite becoming a forerunner in the sexual revolution of the 1960's and 70's still had one foot in the 50's. Helen Gurley Brown embraced the sexual revolution but made feminists wince with her advice on how to find a husband and keep him happy.


Today few remember Brown, but in the 60's, she shocked the world with her book, "Sex and the Single Girl," where she unashamedly declared it was OK for single women to have sex.  She took a failing "Cosmopolitan" magazine and brought it out of the doldrums to a huge circulation by aiming it at the single woman.  But just as "Cosmo" was hitting its stride, so was feminism, and her brand of flirtation and guile when it came to finding a man and keeping him happy did not sit well with the feminists, who considered her a traitor and literally invaded her office to take her to task. 

Growing up poor in rural Arkansas, HGB, as she was known, never thought she was pretty enough.  Her mother didn't help.  She also told Helen to use what she had, implying what she had wasn't enough.  So Helen applied herself, worked hard in many office jobs (which provided the fodder for her "Sex and the Single Girl" book), reinvented herself and looked for a rich man.  She enjoyed sex (and reported that she could have an orgasm just from kissing - if only!), didn't discriminate against married men and eventually married in her 30's to David Brown, a writer and film producer.  They were married for over 40 years.  She also was not against plastic surgery (she had plenty of it), barely ate so as to maintain her wraith thin physique and believed in psychotherapy.  No matter what her financial situation was, she always made sure she had enough to see a shrink.  But she was well-liked.  She was a good storyteller, embellished her life stories with each retelling and was so good at it that she was a regular on late night talk shows in the 60's and 70's.

"Helen's public retellings were generally breezy and comedic, with the eager Miss Gurley depicted as somewhere between the fifties TV ditz My Little Margie and Irma La Douce.  Throughout her writing career, Helen's published confessions and Single Girl vignettes were wrought with the illusory skills of a fan dancer - Sally Rand caliber - giving us versions of herself and her lovers.  Their pseudonyms and their peccadilloes flicker and morph with each telling."

So Hirshey attempts to set the record straight on HGB, interviewing friends of Helen's who are still alive and doing extensive research and what she has come up with is a detailed and enjoyable read about a woman who, despite views and actions that today many women would probably find to be politically incorrect, was an iconic 20th century woman: one of the first women to head a magazine, she campaigned for women's reproductive rights (we have forgotten that single women were not even allowed to get the pill in many states until the 1970's); and was an early feminist in her own way as she encouraged women to have jobs and be the best they could be and that included lots of sex and lots of plastic surgery.

When she died in 2012, her obituary appeared on the front page of The New York Times.  It not only noted that though she died at the age of ninety, "parts of her were considerably younger."

Endnote:  Funny that a recent Cosmo article should be trending on the eve of my publishing this book review.  Helen was anorectic but I don't think she would have approved of this!

Rosy the Reviewer says...an enjoyable biography about an important and enjoyable 20th century woman.



Thanks for reading!
 
See you next Friday 

 
for my review of



"Colossal"


and


The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)


 and the latest on



"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before 

 I Die Project." 





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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.  Once there, click on the link that says "Explore More" on the right side of the screen.  Scroll down to External Reviews and when you get to that page, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.

NOTE:  On some entries, this has changed.  If you don't see "Explore More" on the right side of the screen, scroll down just below the description of the film in the middle of the page. Click where it says "Critics." Look for "Rosy the Reviewer" on the list.

Or if you are using a mobile device, look for "Critics Reviews." Click on that and you will find me alphabetically under "Rosy the Reviewer."

Friday, March 10, 2017

" I Don't Feel At Home in this World Anymore" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new Netflix original movie "I Don't Feel At Home in this World Anymore" as well as DVDs "The Light Between Oceans" and "Allied."  The Book of the Week is a biography of Paul Simon called "Homeward Bound."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Jean Renoir's "The Golden Coach."]




I Don't Feel At Home in this World Anymore

 

A depressed woman is burglarized, which makes her even more depressed, but when the cops won't help her get her stuff back, she decides to find the bad guys herself. She is joined by her quirky neighbor and they both get more than they bargained for.

Ruth (Melanie Lynsky) is a depressed nursing assistant who isn't having a very good day.  First, a patient she is looking after dies, but not after uttering a profane racist diatribe.  On her way home in her car, Ruth sits behind one of those huge trucks spewing exhaust fumes all over everyone. Then when she returns home, her neighbor's dog has defecated on her lawn once again and worst of all, she has been burgled.  The thieves stole her laptop, her grandmother's sterling silver flatware and her anti-depressants. When you are depressed and your anti-depressants get stolen, you know you are having a bad day. You know that children's book "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day?"   Well, that's how Ruth's day is shaping up.

To make matters worse, when the police arrive, and it is discovered that perhaps Ruth just might have left her back door unlocked, instead of taking the matter seriously, Detective Bendix (Gary Anthony Williams) condescendingly lectures Ruth on the importance of keeping her doors locked.  Realizing that she isn't going to get much help from the police, Ruth goes door-to-door to find out if her neighbors saw anything.  When she gets to Tony's (Elijah Wood) house, she realizes he is the one whose dog poops on her lawn and she confronts him.  He apologizes and when he finds out she has been robbed he becomes enraged that one of his neighbors could be violated in that way.  You see, Tony is a rather odd duck who is a wannabe martial arts guy with a penchant for nun-chucks and throwing stars.

Later, when Ruth's "Find Ruth's Laptop" app tells her where her laptop is, she once again asks the police for help, telling the 911 operator that she has the actual address where her stolen laptop is, and can they please send someone there to get her laptop, but the 911 operator tells her there is nothing they can do.  And let me digress for a moment.  This is so frustratingly true to life.  Here in Seattle one of the journalists for the local paper wrote a piece about his daughter's phone being stolen out of their car, and they actually tracked the phone to a van in a parking lot and sat looking at it while they called the police.  The police wouldn't do a thing.  So if your stuff gets stolen, don't bother to call the police, I guess.  Now I'm depressed.

Anyway, getting no help from the police, Ruth rails at the violation of her home and her life, and rants about how badly people treat each other. She wonders about the point of living when no matter what good you do in life you will end up as carbon anyway.  

"Everyone is an asshole."

Ruth is a bit of a Debbie Downer.

With everything that has happened to her, Ruth is so mad that she decides she is going to find these people herself and enlists Tony to help her get her stuff back. They embark on a black comedy vigilante odyssey of originality and depressing realism filled with strange characters that ends with one of the craziest blood baths I have ever encountered in a film, and it's actually kind of funny in a funny blood bath kind of way. 

The film focuses on Ruth trying to right a wrong and get justice in a world where nothing seems fair to her, but the film is bigger than that.  You can substitute her world for the bigger world that we all live in now where we often deal with a lack of connection to others, shocking violence, intolerance and general indifference.  We have all had very, very bad days where the last straw just could be that bit of dog poop on our lawns. 

From time to time, I like to review new films that are not in wide release or are available only on Netflix or Amazon or some other streaming vehicle. It takes a village to make, release and distribute films these days, especially small independent films, so there are a plethora of really good films out there that you will never see in the theatres.  They either get very limited release or can't find a distributor. So I am grateful to companies like Netflix and Amazon who have taken up the gauntlet and made some of these small films available to us.  This film, now streaming exclusively on Netflix, won The Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this year, so I am glad that Netflix has released it.

The film, written and directed by Macon Blair, stars Elijah Wood and Melanie Lynsky, who have both been working in smaller independent films since their acting careers first broke out, Wood as Frodo in the "Lord of the Rings" series and Lynsky, whose first film was "Heavenly Creatures" with Kate Winslet in 1994 (it was Winslet's first film as well) - and one of my favorite films.  Woods and Lynsky have proven themselves to be distinctive actors who can take on a wealth of different kinds of roles. Linsky's "everywoman" looks makes her easy to identify with. However, for that very reason, you may not recognize her, despite the fact that she has been working regularly since her debut in 1994.  She is one of those actors who disappears into her roles.  She also projects a particular vulnerability which belies Ruth's ability to get herself out of sticky situations. She has created an unlikely feminist figure.  Wood, in particular, has been choosing quirky roles, probably to distance himself from Frodo, and here he is a good foil for Linsky. In addition to Lynsky and Woods, Williams as Det. Bendix, is a standout as the gruff cop who breaks down in front of Ruth, telling her he is being divorced.

These days, like Ruth, many of us probably don't feel at home in the world anymore either. The world can sometimes be a difficult place to feel at home in. I think we have all had days where we wanted to just take the law into our own hands and DO something about all of the crap that is happening. Fortunately, we don't have to.  We can let Ruth do it!

Rosy the Reviewer says...some vicarious adventures for the overworked, underestimated and overlooked.  To see really good movies, sometimes you just need to stay at home.  Don't miss this one.

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

On DVD




The Light Between Oceans (2016)


A lighthouse keeper and his wife, rescue a baby from a boat that washes up on the shore, and raise the child as their own.

My father and I used to watch many movies together, and one of the things he enjoyed was watching movies in which the actors had met and fallen in love in real life. He liked to see if he could tell they were falling in love. This is one such movie, since Michael Fassbinder and Alicia Vikander are now an item.  And it's no wonder, as this is an intense and romantic film.

Tom Sherbourne (Fassbinder) is an ex-soldier recovering from the ravages of World War I.  He wants nothing more than to go off onto an island off the western coast of Australia, 100 miles from everything, be the lighthouse keeper and be left alone to heal his wounds. However, the reason this job is available is because the last lighthouse keeper had gone mad from cabin fever and isolation, and Tom is warned about that, but he is numb and welcomes the isolation. But he is also lonely, and when he meets Isabel Graysmark (Vikander), they fall in love.  Since he is the only eligible man for 100 miles, I would say that was part of the attraction for Isabel, considering she would have to move to a deserted island with no one to keep her company except Tom and a lighthouse. 

The two move to Janus Island to watch over the lighthouse and all is well when Isabel gets pregnant, and they anticipate having a family.  But she miscarriages, and when she gets pregnant again and the baby dies at birth. Isabel falls into a deep depression... until one day, a miracle happens.  A dingy washes up on shore and inside is a dead man and a baby who is very much alive.  Tom wants to immediately inform the authorities but Isabel wants to keep the baby.  Who will know?  They will say she gave birth to the baby.  Since they live an isolated life and only travel to the mainland every few months, no one will know.  So the two make a pact and keep the baby. 

However, at the baby's christening, Tom encounters a woman in the graveyard (Rachel Weisz), and she is clearly the mother of the baby.  So now Tom has a crisis of conscience. Time passes, but there is a mother out there, the baby's real mother, who is suffering and has not given up on finding her child, which leaves a cloud over Tom's and Isabel's lives, and when it is discovered that the baby might still be alive, Tom and Isabel must make a decision.  Betrayal, guilt and tragedy follow.

Based on the bestseller by M.L. Stedman and directed by Derek Cianfrance (he also adapted the screenplay), the light from the lighthouse guides ships between oceans from the northern hemisphere, but that light can also be the love that can bring people together who otherwise would be oceans apart. Tom is numb and falls in love with Isabel's energy. Isabel is lonely and wants a change in her life.  Marriage is a strange institution.  We often marry people we shouldn't because we think what that person has will rub off on us.  Tom marries Isabel for her zest for life hoping she will heal him.  She marries him because she is bored and wants a change in her life.  Both learn that they cannot save each other as their decisions take their toll and the light of love fades.

The score by Alexandre Desplat is hauntingly beautiful as is the cinematography by Adam Arkapaw.  And the acting is first rate. Fassbinder is one of the great brooders, so he is perfect for this role, and Vikander's Isabel artfully goes from hopeful to hopeless as the decision the two made comes to haunt them. Rachel Weitz is also wonderful as the grieving mother who must decide on whether she can forgive.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a good old-fashioned tearjerker with great acting and production values, the kind of film that we don't see much anymore.  Highly recommended.





Allied (2016)


A Canadian intelligence officer and a French resistance fighter meet in North Africa during WW II and fall in love.  But not everything is as it seems.

Did they or didn't they?

This is the week for real life love stories between the stars of the movies (see the review of "The Light Between Oceans" above). 

Stars Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard were rumored to have had an affair during the making of this film, but Pitt and Cotillard denied any hanky panky despite a pretty hot movie sex scene in a car during a Moroccan sandstorm.  However, it's just a teeny tiny coincidence that the break-up of the Pitt-Jolie marriage coincided with this film, and rumors abounded about a relationship between Pitt and Cotillard as the catalyst.  It's too bad, because all of that press about a real life affair overshadowed what was actually a compelling film.  And here is the irony about all of that.  I didn't really detect a lot of chemistry between Pitt and Cotillard, that sex scene in the car notwithstanding.  Nothing like the heat you could feel coming off the screen when Pitt and Jolie did "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" together, so I am thinking not much was going on between the two and that was just an excuse for Jolie to end the marriage.

So let's forget about all of that and get on with the film.

Royal Canadian Air Force intelligence agent Max Vetan (Pitt) and French Resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard) are thrown together in 1942 to act as husband and wife in a plot to kill a German official in Casablanca. Marianne has already ensconced herself in Casablanca and knows everyone.  When she and Max first meet, she attributes her successful cover to the fact that she does really like the people she is fooling.

"It works because the feelings are real."

Before the mission, the two hook-up (yes, that kind of hook-up), but you can tell that something is going to go wrong.  And it does. 

However, they make it back to London and Max proposes to Marianne.  They marry, they live a conventional life in the London suburbs and she gets pregnant.  All seems hunky dory until Max is told that Marianne is under suspicion as a spy for the wrong side, and if it is discovered that she is indeed a spy, he must kill her. Max must set a trap for her.  But he also wants to prove her innocence so he goes behind enemy lines to find out the truth.  Will he be able to live with the outcome?

Directed by veteran director Robert Zemeckis with a script by Steven Knight, this is good old-fashioned storytelling with war, love, betrayal and sacrifice, all the stuff that makes up a story that is easy to lose yourself in. With so few dramas out there aimed at adults who like adult stories, this film is a welcome relief. The title of the film has a double meaning: Max and Marianne are supposedly working for the allies during the war but as husband and wife, they are also allies in life and those two personas come into conflict. 

Pitt and Cotillard are certainly actors who are lovely to look at and both are also wonderful actors.  I feel sorry for Brad a bit because I think his handsomeness has held him back from some of the kinds of roles that win Academy Awards, the kinds of roles that go to the more chameleon actors like Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch.  But you can always count on Brad to put in a good performance.  As for Cotillard, she has that face, one that not only exudes beauty, but a deep poignancy. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you liked the WW II spy film/love stories of the 40's, this is an updated version that you will enjoy.


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


211 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?





The Golden Coach (1952)


A troupe of commedia dell'arte actors, led by the vivacious Camilla, arrive in 18th century Peru from Italy on the same day that the Viceroy's golden coach arrives.

A Viceroy (Duncan Lamont) in the New World buys a golden coach, but when he encounters the vivacious and tempestuous Camilla (Anna Magnani), star of a traveling group of actors, he becomes enamored of her.  When he shows her his coach she tells him she was on the same boat as the coach and slept in it during the voyage.  That makes the Viceroy laugh, and he is so enchanted with her that he impetuously gives her the coach, much to the annoyance of the other aristocrats, whose money was used to pay for the coach.  They demand that the Viceroy make Camilla return the coach.

The Viceroy is not the only man in love with Camilla.  Her colleague, Felipe (Paul Campbell) and the famous local toreador, Ramon (Riccardo Rioli), whose snood absolutely fascinated me (I had never seen a snood on a man before!) are also in love with Camilla.  What's a girl to do, especially a girl who now owns a magnificent golden coach?  And she ain't giving it back!  Farcical situations arise and the film becomes almost a play within a play as the three men vie for Camilla's affections and the coach causes a scandal that threatens everyone's lives.

With Vivaldi music playing throughout, Director Jean Renoir (yes, the son of THAT Renoir, the painter) has mounted the film as a play.  When the film begins, we are in a theatre looking down on a stage with a proscenium arch and then the camera pans in and the arch and the stage disappear, and we are in the film.  Beautiful costumes and sumptuous color cinematography and, just in case during the film we forget this is really a play, at the end the camera pans back out, we see the stage and the proscenium arch once again, and it ends with yet another play, an homage to actors and the theatre..

This is a showcase for Magnani, whose face is one of those ugly/beautiful - beautiful/ugly faces but she fills the screen with her personality.  Camilla is a social climber who eventually realizes that success isn't everything.  Magnani can do farce but she also exudes a warmth, all of it playing out on her magnificent face.

With sumptuous color cinematography provided by Claude Renoir, Jean's brother, the film is a farce but it is not without its socially redeeming qualities.  It's a tale that shows the brutality and dishonesty of the so-called civilized society in contrast to the simpler, more pure lives of the Peruvian indians. It also shows the hypocrisy of political power and how the tides shift depending on what is right for whoever is in power.

I also was taken by the statement:

"Nobility has never paid taxes in any country of the world."

Mmm.

Renoir made more than 40 films from the silent ere through the 1960's and his "La Grande Illusion" and "The Rules of the Game," are often cited as two of the greatest films every made.  Though he was a French director, this version that I saw was in English, and that was Renoir's favorite version of the film.

Film critic Andrew Sarris wrote for "The Criterion Collection:"

"In its own time, however, The Golden Coach was an international failure in all three language versions with both the critics and the public. (Produced at Cinecittà in Rome, it was premiered in its French version in Paris in February 1953. Renoir repeatedly preferred the English version presented in this release to the Italian version.) The fifties were not a time for subtextual analysis of movies. Yet even Bosley Crowther, the powerful no-nonsense critic of the New York Times, was compelled to acknowledge the sensuous texture of the color photography as he dismissed the film’s apparently naïve plot and its supposedly 'beauteous' and 'ravishing' star. 'But what we see in Miss Magnani,” the captious Crowther cackled, 'is a bar refinement of a female guttersnipe, a lusty and lumpish termagant with more raucous vitality than charm.”

Why it's a Must See:  "The movie's surface frivolity and farcical plotting camouflage a mature, even melancholy film about the fraught relations between love, art, and life.  Francois Truffaut called it 'the noblest and most refined film ever made..."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer...a frothy romp with a message in gorgeous color with beautiful Vivaldi music and the incomparable Magnani.



***Book of the Week***





Homeward Bound: The Life of Paul Simon by Peter Ames Carlin (2016)

 
The life of singer/songwriter Paul Simon.
 
Written in a very readable style, rock biographer Peter Ames Carlin tells the story of Paul Simon, a boy from Queens who had his first hit as a teenager as part of the group Tom and Jerry ("Hey, Schoolgirl").  Paul was Jerry and yes, Art Garfunkel was the other half, even then.  However, after that first hit, nothing much happened for the two until "The Sounds of Silence," and they reformed as Simon and Garfunkel. The two were friends since childhood, but over the years, it was a rocky friendship, and Simon eventually went off on his own, where he had a string of hits in the 1970's and ground-breaking albums like "Graceland."  In the 80's he reunited with Garfunkel for a special concert in Central Park that drew half a million people.

And at 75, he is still going strong.  I saw him perform in a small venue last spring and he killed it!


 

The grandchild of Jewish emigrants from Galicia in the Austro-Hungarian empire, the 75-year-old singer-songwriter has not only sold more than 100 million records, won 15 Grammy awards and been installed into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame twice, he wrote many of the songs that were anthems for Baby Boomers:  "I Am a Rock," "The Boxer," "Mrs. Robinson," "Still Crazy After All These Years."

Carlin does a good job of avoiding a puff piece - in fact Simon comes off as a bit of an arrogant smarty pants - but it's a well-rounded view of not only Simon, the singer/somgwriter, but Simon the man.  Carlin covers Simon's marriages to Carrie Fisher and Edie Brickell, drugs, depression, the whole gamut of the man and doesn't pull any punches. There are some facts about him that you might not know:  he was a popular frat guy in college, he and Carrie got divorced but then lived together for awhile after that, and he wrote and produced a Broadway play. There's more, and Carlin tells Simon's story with a vibrant writing style that will keep your interest. 

All geniuses have their issues and Simon is no exception.  But what is not at issue here is his brilliant music, which formed a backdrop for the lives of many of us Baby Boomers. 
  
Rosy the Reviewer says...a must-read for those of us who grew up with Simon's music.



Thanks for reading!


 
See you next Friday 

 
for my review of



"A United Kingdom"

and

The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)


 and the latest on



"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before 

 I Die Project." 


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