Showing posts with label Eat Joy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eat Joy. Show all posts

Friday, January 3, 2020

"63 Up" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "63 Up," the latest installment in Michael Apted's "Up" series as well as DVDs "The Farewell" and "47 Meters Down - Uncaged."  The Book of the Week is "Eat Joy: Stories & Comfort Food from 31 Celebrated Writers."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Deseret"]

63 Up

The latest installment in the "Up" series, a series of films that have followed 14 British children since they were seven.  Now they are 63.

 "Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man."
(attributed to both Aristotle and the Jesuits)

That is the premise of this series of films that has followed 14 British children since they were seven.  Starting in 1964, director Michael Apted has filmed each participant every seven years over the course of 56 years.  The series began as a television program directed by Paul Almond, a Canadian, who wanted to make a film about what it was like to be seven.  His helper was Apted, who acted as a researcher and who went on to make eight more films, filming the children every seven years as they grew into adults.

Apted has said, " It was Paul's film...but he was more interested in making a beautiful film about being seven, whereas I wanted to make a nasty piece of work about these kids who have it all, and these other kids who have nothing."

And that is what Apted has done in the subsequent eight films.  Some of the children were poor kids living in Council flats, some were privileged kids going to public schools (aka private).  The class differences were apparent even at the age of seven.  Are the children already formed at seven and on a destined path based on their class and accident of birth?

Much has been made of Richard Linklater's commitment to the 2015 film "Boyhood (including by me)," where he followed a boy from the age of six to 18, but that is nothing compared to Apted's commitment, meeting with and filming these children every seven years since 1964.  It is and was a monumental undertaking. Apted has said he wants to be around to make "77 Up" when he will be 92!

In the very first film, the children were filmed at the London Zoo where they all met each other for the very first time. They were Bruce Balden, Jackie Bassett, Symon Basterfield, Andrew Brackfield, John Brisby, Peter Davies, Susan Davis, Charles Furneaux, Nicholas Hitchon, Neil Hughes, Lynn Johnson, Paul Kligeman, Suzanne Lusk and Tony Walker

Andrew, Charles and John were chosen from a prep school in Kensington, a wealthy part of London. When asked what newspapers they read, Andrew said he reads the "Financial Times" and all three boys could say which colleges they would attend (Oxford or Cambridge for all three).  John said he would become a lawyer. Likewise, Bruce came from a prestigious boarding school and Suzy from a wealthy family.

Jackie, Lynn and Sue were all from a local primary school and Paul and Simon were from a charity-based boarding school. Nick grew up on a farm, Tony was from the poorer part of London, the East End, and wanted to be a jockey, while Neil and Peter were from middle class suburbs. Neil and Peter were full of hope and wanted to be astronauts.

Was Aristotle right?  Are we fully formed at seven by the accident of our birth and privilege? Does the condition we are born into predict our future?

Does John become a lawyer?  Do Neil and Peter become astronauts? Did Tony become a jockey? What have their lives been like over the last 56 years? What events have they had to overcome? 

If you watch "63 Up," you will find out.  

And even though there are eight earlier films, you don't have to see those to get to know these participants or understand what has transpired in the past, because Apted does a masterful job of editing footage from the earlier films. The film is especially poignant when he cuts between shots from earlier films, showing the subject at various ages doing the same thing, walking the same way, running the same way.  However, if you can watch them all, I highly recommend it. As masterful as Apted is, he can't pack 9+ hours into two and a half, so this entire series is binge worthy. You can immerse yourself in the entire experiences of these 14 people.  If you can binge on "Breaking Bad" or "The Crown," you can binge on this!

I first discovered this series in the 1980's.  I saw the first one, "Seven Up" on PBS and was hooked.  I sought out "14 Up," "21 Up," and "28 Up" and then saw the rest as they were released every seven years. Miraculously, most of the subjects are still participating all of these 56 years later, though one or two have dropped out over the years and then returned, one dropped out early altogether, one has died and one decided not to be a part of this latest film.  

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is just the most fascinating film series I have ever watched.  And...the greatest documentary ever made. There I said it!

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


The Farewell (2019)

When a Chinese family discovers that their matriarch has cancer and only a short time to live, they decide not to tell her.

As I watched this film, I couldn't help but wonder if this was realistic.  Would a doctor really not tell someone that they were going to die, but tell a family member instead?  But that's just me dealing with some cultural differences, I guess. According to this film, that is Chinese custom.  Cancer is so feared that  it is believed that the fear of the cancer will kill you before the cancer does. As one of the characters in this film says, it's the family's emotional burden to bear.

And that is the premise of this film.

Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhao), mother to Hayan (Tzi Ma) and grandmother to Billi (Awkwafina), has cancer and not long to live.  Nai Nai's sister has been told, but Nai Nai has not. The family, many of whom have moved away from Nai Nai, decides to gather back home in Changchun, China to say goodbye to Nai Nai. To keep Nai Nai from knowing why the family has gathered, they have put together a hurried wedding for Billi's cousin and his Japanese bride, a plan that also gives Nai Nai something to work on and look forward to.  It's a lie, of course, but as explained in the film, it's "a good lie."  Billi has lived with her mother, Jian (Diana Lin), and father, Hayan, in New York City since she was young but has maintained a close and loving relationship with Nai Nai. When Jian and Hayan decide to travel to China to be with Nai Nai they tell Billi not to go because they don't trust that Billi will be able to maintain the lie. But she does and it's a a life-changing homecoming for Billi.

The revelation here is Awkwafina, who is more known for her comedy act and funny turns in films like "Ocean's Eight," and "Crazy Rich Asians" not dramatic roles, but she shows her acting chops as Billi, a very Westernized young woman who goes back to China and discovers her roots. And Zhao as Nai Nai makes you want her for your grandmother!

Written and directed by Lulu Wang (it's based on her true story), there is a whole China vs. America vibe here as well as a generation gap, as Billi gets a bit of culture shock but the film as a whole shows that no matter what our culture, no matter what our generation, we have more in common than not.  We love our families (well, most of us do), we carry emotional burdens, we may move away from our family but still maintain our love and bonds and Wang shows all of that without a bit of over sentimentality or judgment.  She loves these characters and it shows.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a beautiful film.  Now call your loved ones and tell them you love them before it's too late!

47 Meters Down - Uncaged (2019)

More underwater shenanigans with sharks.

Again, you know how I feel about sequels...but I must be getting old.  Because, lately I have been liking sequels.  But this one isn't actually a sequel per se.  It's really just another thriller about people being terrorized by sharks by the same writer and director of "47 Meters Down, which was a surprise hit when it came out in 2017, so hoping to cash in once again by using the same title. I actually liked the first one, which saw Mandy Moore and Claire Holt, two sisters, trapped in a shark cage at the bottom of the ocean with little oxygen and sharks circling.

I this new one, once again we have two sisters, but whereas the first film starred more mature women stuck in a shark cage, this time, the film is aimed at the teen market with young girls deciding to explore some underwater caves and, you guessed it, they get trapped and sharks circle.  Same premise as the first one, but different venue. "Uncaged," get it?

This film uses some of the famous "Jaws" tropes, like filming the actors, half and half, with their upper bodies visible above the water, and their legs dangling enticingly under the water with a vicious shark just about to nip (see movie poster above).  That is scary.

Written by Joannes Roberts and Ernest Riera and directed by Roberts, the story swirls around two step-sisters, Mia (Sophie Nelisse) and Sasha (Corinne Foxx, and yes, she's Jamie's daughter).  Sasha is popular, Mia is not, though it's never really explained why all of the girls hate her so much. In fact, a mean girl actually pushes Mia into the pool and Sasha stands by doing nothing. So clearly the two girls aren't bonding, so Dad (John Corbett) - he's Mia's Dad and Sasha's step-dad - who runs a diving company in Mexico and is working on the archaelogy of some underwater caves, arranges for the girls to go on a trip on a glass-bottomed boat to see Great White Sharks feed in hopes the girls will bond. However, when they arrive at the boat and discover that the mean girls are also there, they bail from the trip with a couple of other friends and decide to go to a "secret place," a lagoon that leads into the underwater caves. Thus begins a scene of attractive young girls frolicking in wet bathing suits.  Then one of them gets the idea of exploring the caves. Don't go in there, girls!  But they do.  And guess what?  There are sharks in there!  And will young, misunderstood Mia get to show her mettle?  Duh.

I couldn't help but be reminded of the movie "Crawl," where our heroine was trapped in a basement full of water with some angry alligators and she and her Dad had to save the day.  This is the same thing with Mia and her Dad trying to save the day, except this time the girls are trapped in underwater caves with some angry sharks. Nothing like a little father-daughter bonding while trying to escape alligators and sharks!  But I liked "Crawl," and this one was just so-so.  It has the usual "gotcha" moments that will make you jump, those dangling legs, pretty teenage girls in jeopardy who get picked off one by one, lots of screaming, and a final grisly scene, all the usual shark film tropes, but what gets in the way of you caring very much is that everything takes place underwater with the girls wearing scuba gear, so visually it's a problem.  It's a bit difficult to care about a character getting eaten by a shark if you can't tell who's who.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this film might have been scarier and more impressive in the big theatre, but it's still worth a look if you are into shark films and don't have anything else to do.

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

48 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Deseret (1995)

Static landscape shots of Utah accompanied by a narration using excerpts from the New York Times chronicling its history.

Director James Benning recorded images of Utah at different times of the year over 18 months, cut them down to 92 and then organized them around a prerecorded soundtrack of New York Times excerpts about Utah published from 1852-1991.  Deseret was the name that the Mormons proposed for the name of the territory they were settling when they applied for statehood, that state ultimately being named Utah. So there is a bit of Mormon history along with a history of Utah up to 1991 that covers everything from Indian Wars to the death of Joe Hill to Japanese internment to Gary Gilmore.

Benning seems to be making the point that Utah, a Western State was almost discriminated against through the lens of an Eastern newspaper reporting on it, especially when reporting on the Mormons.  Ironically, though, despite the fact that the Mormons had been discriminated against, once they took a stand against polygamy, they became staunch conservatives and, then, in turn, let the state down by allowing the Federal Government to exploit its resources.  But, then again, I might be completely wrong about what this was about because it's one of those experimental films that I don't like.

Why it's a Must See: "The better-known work of experimental/structuralist filmmaker James Benning...Never have Benning's images been so beautiful, so starkly composed, and so sad."

Rosy the Reviewer says...when a filmmaker is called an "experimental/structuralist," you know you are in trouble!  Zzzzz

***The Book of the Week***

Eat Joy: Stories & Comfort Food from 31 Celebrated Writers by Natalie Eve Garrett

A collection of essays by celebrated authors that show how food can comfort us during tough times.

Garrett describes her project by saying:

"Reaching out to celebrated authors, I asked them to chronicle the hard times...and the foods that helped them make it through...The unconventional collection of intimate, in-depth essays with recipes celebrating the foods we eat to get through the dark times in our lives."

Writer Laura Ven Den Berg talks about the eating disorder she eventually overcame, learning to make and enjoy eggs and the satisfaction she received from serving eggs to her sick mother.  She shares her Spinach and Feta Frittata recipe (which I made, and it was yummy except I just threw in some leftover onions and peppers instead of the spinach), as well as her joy of cooking that for her mother.

Likewise, author Claire Messud laments her mother's failed attempt to become a lawyer and live a full live, only to be followed by dementia but she also celebrates her mother's enjoyment of the little things, one of which was her special recipe for brownies, something that Messud savors now in midlife as well as her better understanding of her mother.

From frittatas to brownies to a pork shoulder to a bowl of white rice, each essay is redolent with memories that these writers share.  It's a cozy but inspiring book.  It will inspire you to not only try the recipes, but to be inspired to remember what foods have given you comfort in your life.

Rosy the Reviewer says...inspiration with recipes!  What more could you ask?  What foods inspire comforting memories for you?

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday




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

as well as

the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See

Before I Die Project"

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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.