Showing posts with label Fat Girl Walking (Book Review). Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fat Girl Walking (Book Review). Show all posts

Friday, November 6, 2015

"Meadowland" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Meadowland" and DVDs "To Take a Wife"  and "Tim's Vermeer." The Book of the Week is "Fat Girl Walking (If you have body image issues, you need to read this book!).I also bring you up to date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with the classic "In the Realm of the Senses"]


A couple's marriage unravels after experiencing an unimaginable loss.

More and more, movies are being distributed in unique ways, ways that accommodate those who don't want to get up and go out to the movies.  A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed "Beasts of No Nation," a Netflix film that opened in theatres and was available to stream on Netflix simultaneously.

That's a similar case with "Meadowland," which opened in limited theatres last week and was available On Demand on the same day.

Olivia Wilde and Luke Wilson star as parents Sarah and Phil.  She is a teacher and he is a cop, and the movie begins as they take a road trip with their young son, Jesse.  They stop at a gas station and Jesse goes to use the restroom.  After he is in there for a long time, they become worried and ask the attendant to unlock the door and they discover that there was another entrance to the restroom and their son is missing.  After a frantic search around the area, they must face the inevitable.  Jesse is gone.

Fade to black and fast forward a year since the disappearance, and we learn what Sarah's and Phil's lives have been like since Jesse's disappearance.  Sarah is on lithium and drinking and walks the streets at night looking for Jesse.  She wakes up in the middle of the night with ideas where Jesse might be and checks under the seat of the car to find remnants of him.  She is consumed by loss. Her husband is just shut down and handles his grief by looking at pictures of his son on the computer and attending a support group. But never once do they share their mutual grief.  There is a scene where Sarah is sleeping and Phil, watching her, reaches out to touch her, something he can't seem to do either physically or spiritually, when she is awake.

(I couldn't help but note: finally a movie set in New York where middle class people live in the only kind of apartment middle class people can afford - a crappy one). 

By day Sarah is a teacher. There is an unsettling scene when, Adam (Ty Simpkins), another young boy, is introduced.  He is being harangued by the school librarian who is, what else?  A shrew. (Does the negative librarian stereotype never end?  Why couldn't the person haranguing the kid be the janitor or the gym teacher)?

Anyway, Sarah takes an interest in the boy when she looks up his records and discovers he is a foster child with Asberger's with an uncaring foster Mom.  She sees the mother bringing him his lunch and follows her to a gas station, where it looks like she is meeting men in the gas station bathroom for sex.  A very strange role for Elizabeth Moss.  Sarah, herself, starts indulging in unhealthy behavior.  When she discovers one of her students is cutting herself, she tries it too.  She also listens to death metal and does drugs with her brother-in-law. She is trying to do whatever she can to dull her mental anguish.

Sarah also follows Adam's foster father to a bar and they talk about Adam.  And then they have sex.  And then the film lost me a bit.  But who am I to judge what someone might do when mourning the loss of a child?

The couple go about their lives while the investigation into Jesse's disappearance continues and the issue of child porn raises its ugly head.  Sara won't even entertain that thought.  Instead, she has decided that Jesse was kidnapped by another family and is being cared for by them. Each tries to connect but each time it's the wrong time for the other.  He chooses counseling; she unravels.  And then the cops find Jesse's shirt.

There is a reason why the loss of a child breaks up marriages more than it brings married couples closer.  Because humans tend to work things out alone in their own way and when something tragic occurs, it drives a wedge between partners.  And then blame sets in.

Luke is a cop and goes on a noise call where he encounters Juno Temple, a major actress in a tiny, seemingly irrelevant role, and at the support group Luke meets Pete played by John Leguizamo.  Luke talks about "Meadowland," his childhood growing up world and share that he keeps seeing Jesse there.  He has created a happy place to think of his son in, just as Sarah chooses to think he is being cared for by a family. 

In addition to Wilson and Wilde, there is an all-star cast, all in very small roles:  in addition to Elizabeth Moss, John Leguizamo and Juno Temple, we also have Giovanni Ribisi, Phil's drug-addicted pseudo-intellectual brother.

Which brings me to a bit of a rant.

There is a trend these days to see small films populated with big name stars playing bit or small supporting parts.  One wonders the reason. Why would actors who have starred or had large roles in films choose to be in a movie where their screen time is only a few minutes? Is it to work with that particular director or star?  A favor for a friend making the film?  Not very many acting jobs these days?  Not sure, but I find it distracting sometimes.  I mean Elizabeth Moss as a slutty, prostitute mother having random sex in dirty gas station restrooms?  Juno Temple in a part that actually has no relevance to the film and she says about five lines?  The same thing happened in "The Martian" and "Everest" with many A-list actors in small roles, such as Jessica Chastain and Jake Gyllenhaal respectively.  But then as I think back, Judy Dench won a Best Supporting Academy Award for about five minutes in "Shakespeare in Love," so go figure.  But I still find it distracting.

Luke Wilson is excellent here, as is Olivia.  Funny how Luke's brother Owen has become such a big star, but superstardom has eluded Luke.  Owen mostly went the comedy route (he bombed in his recent attempt at drama in "No Escape" so probably a good thing) whereas Luke has gone the dramatic route in small indie films and is actually the more sensitive (and should I add, handsome?) of the two.  Olivia was excellent here too and joins Charlize and Halle as a beautiful actress who shunned makeup so we would take her acting more seriously.  No need, Olivia. You are a wonderful actress with or without makeup. Your performance here is subtle and heartbreaking.  It's only a matter of time before you break out as a major star.

Directed by cinematographer Reed Morano in her directorial debut with a script by Chris Rossi, this is Olivia Wilde's baby as she is one of the producers. Morano and Rossi avoid the platitudes and clichés of the grief such a tragic event would evoke and likewise the actors do too.  Morano also does the cinematography and some scenes have light and colors that resemble Maxfield Parrish paintings, moments of beauty and respite from the pain and grief.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a small, moving and unsparing film about loss that needs to be seen.

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

***Now Out on DVD***

To Take a Wife  (2004)
A woman living in Haifa in 1979 tries to free herself from the confines of her marriage.

I absolutely adored the film "Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem," and when I found out it was part of a trilogy by the amazing writers and filmmakers Ronit Elkabetz and her brother Shlomi, I had to see the others.  Unfortunatly I was not able to find the second in the trilogy, but this is the first one (and note:  It is not necessary to see both to enjoy either of them).

The character is the same as in "Gett."  Viviane, played by Ronit, is trying to raise three children, work from home and keep the strict Jewish Moroccan traditions her husband insists on.  But she really wants out.

The film begins with Viviane being harangued and upbraided by her brothers to stay in the marriage.  "If only you knew how other people live, you’d kneel down every day and kiss his hands and feet." They tell her this because her husband does not beat her or cheat.  But Viviane no longer loves her husband and wants to leave.  Unfortunately, for devout Jewish households in Israel, falling out of love is not grounds for a divorce and to leave her husband without a sanctioned divorce would be tantamount to living as a wanton woman.

"You must learn how to give up," they tell her. She is eventually beaten down and she and her husband, Eliahou (Simon Abkarian), go back to an uneasy relationship where he is critical of her and there is simmering hostility between them.  It also doesn't help that they live with his mother.

There is a scene that beautifully illustrates their marriage:  They are sleeping.  Music comes on the radio.  He gets up and turns it off.  She stays in bed and turns it back on.  He turns it off again.  When he comes back into the bedroom to say goodbye, the music is back on.  Once again he turns it off.

In flashbacks we see that Viviane has an admirer, Albert, someone who appreciates her and who she was going to run off with.  But he flaked on her though he is still hovering in the wings, a symbol of her desire to escape her current life.  Albert and Viviane had a 12-year affair and in the flashbacks of their meetings, she is shown radiant and beautiful and smiling. In her life with Eliahou, she is sad, plain and frowning.  “Just go and look at yourself in the mirror. You used to be beautiful, now you are in the dumps.” 

And it's no wonder. Eliahou is a stick in the mud, entitled and spoiled.  He looks like Gene Simmons and is just as annoying. He is unrelenting about his beliefs, kosher to a "T."  He is unwavering in his sense of right and wrong, even if it means fighting with his wife and disappointing his children. Even though Viviane is unhappy, she tries to please him but he is continually critical, and likewise, his sad attempts to make contact with her are rejected. They both complain to their kids about each other and neither one of them is very understanding or considerate.  He feels disrespected and she feels overworked. This is a very unhappy household.  The marriage is over and Viviane is just biding her time until the kids leave.  But until then for Viviane, it's a slow death. She only has some small rebellions to enjoy: her bright red nails, smoking and a car that she is eventually able to get. 

The treatment of women here is evident.  Even her own son is disrespectful and acts like a little prince whereas the daughter is seen dutifully getting up and quietly getting herself ready for school.

The final film in this trilogy - "Gett" - follows Viviane as she tries to divorce Eliahou in a country that does not recognize civil marriage and divorce.  A woman cannot divorce her husband unless he has cheated or beaten her, neither of which Eliahou has done.  However, the mental abuse is more than Viviane can bear.  She eventually has a sort of breakdown.  Eliahou doesn't have a clue what to do.  He is such a self righteous, unyielding, unfeeling jerk that he makes me crazy and I'm just watching him in a movie. Imagine being married to him!  But I guess that's called great acting! 

Ronit's face is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in an actress.  It's beauty is in its expressiveness.  It tells so much.  She is just gorgeous and mesmerizing to watch. The movies that her brother and she have written and directed are wonderful and should be seen.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Don't miss this one or its followup "Gett."  Both are mesmerizing films and Ronit is an extraordinary actress. 
(In French and Hebrew with English subtitles)

Tim's Vermeer (2013)

Inventor Tim Jenison can't believe that Vermeer painted the way he did without some "help."

Tim Jenison is a rich inventor who made a bunch of money in computer graphics. He is also an engineer and art enthusiast who became obsessed with how the artist Johannes Vermeer was able to paint the images he did so photo realistically and create that light that so characterizes his paintings 150 years before the invention of photography.  Did he use a camera obscura to trace his images?

There is no documentation of Vermeer's artistic schooling so Jenison made it his mission to contact experts and travel around the world to discover if his idea was right. He believed that Vermeer painted the way a camera sees and he couldn't have done it without optics.

Artist David Hockney had the same inkling and wrote about it, so Jenison traveled to the UK to meet with Hockney and thus begins this art detective story.  How was Vermeer able to paint such photo realistic paintings in the 17th century?

Jenison believed that Vermeer created his paintings by mechanical means.

Tim was not a painter and had no real artistic talent, but he believed that HE could paint a Vermeer by using the technique he believed Vermeer used - a box camera obscura but with the addition of a mirror.

He chose Vermeer's "The Music Lesson" and constructed a room to look exactly as depicted in the painting.  He also recreated Vermeer's working conditions and only used paints that Vermeer would have used, which meant he ground his own paints.  He also traveled to Delft and immersed himself in Vermeer's world.  He learned Dutch and he set about to recreate the painting while telling his progress in his "Vermeer Project Blog."
This is the kind of thing you can do when you have loads of money

The documentary follows him through seven months of painstakingly recreating Vermeer's painting as Vermeer himself might have done it.

Written by magicians Penn and Teller, narrated by Penn and directed by Teller (hey, how could he do that?  He doesn't speak!), it's a natural fit as Penn and Teller are friends with Jenison and their illusions are about as inventive, artistic and intellectual as they get. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...whether you believe Tim actually painted a Vermeer or not, this is still a fascinating detective story for artists and scientists alike and a testament to what can happen when you have too much money and too much time.


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

273 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film? 

A story of obsessive passion - with lots and lots and lots of sex.

It's 1936 and a young prostitute, Sada (Elko Matsuda) begins an affair with Kichi (Tatsuya Fuji), the husband of the brothel madam.  They constantly have sex and play kinky sex games, often with others watching.  Eventually Sada becomes jealous of Kichi's wife and their asphyxiation games take a tragic turn.

This film was considered one of the most controversial films of all time and is still censored in its own country.  And after seeing this film (if you dare), you will understand why.  There is a fine line between erotica and pornography and this film pushes the boundaries.  Let's just say it shows EVERYTHING AND CLOSE-UP!  Lots of genitals and body parts, old guys masturbating, nudity, sex games and none of it appears to be simulated.

The 1970's was not just a time of political revolution but also a sexual revolution.  There were many more controversial films then, where sex and nudity abounded, but this one puts all others to shame.  I don't consider myself a prude by any means, but I found myself saying "Yikes" and "What the hell?"out loud many times, shaking my head and laughing because the sex scenes were so graphic and kinky. I wasn't sure what made this film any different from popular porn films like "The Devil and Miss Jones" and "Behind the Green Door," films that I actually liked.

So what is pornography?  I guess it's whatever your visual sexual limits are.  Once those limits are crossed, it's pornography.  Some would say "Playboy" was porn, some would say any film with nudity was pornography, some would say depicting the sex act would be crossing the line.  Is this NOT porn because it's a "foreign film" with a plot, beautiful cinematography and some redeeming social commentary?  It doesn't really matter.  At my age, watching people have sex is not my thing but you will have to decide -- if you dare.

"[Nagisa] Oshima's film achieves an extraordinary level of erotic intimacy for the physical frankness...But Oshima also manages to convince us that this story of crazy a true manifestation of passion, taken to the ultimate extreme.  The elegance of the director's mise en scene is a cool counterpoint to the sexual frenzy of the lovers."
---"1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die"

This film was beautifully photographed despite most of the scenes being pictures of body parts doing things to other body parts, the characters were attractive and the story was strangely compelling.  I am glad I saw it, but I might still be in shock.  But this film reminded me of my youth - not the sex part, but the 70's part, when there was an openness and rebelliousness that spawned movies like this. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...In the realm of the senses?  I thought I was in the realm of The Mitchell Brothers, but with better production values.  Not for the sexually shy.
(In Japanese with English subtitles)



***Book of the Week***

Fat Girl Walking: Sex, Food, Love, and Being Comfortable in Your Skin...Every Inch of it by Brittany Gibbons (2015)

Brittany Gibbons, a blogger and body image advocate, shares her memories of growing up fat and how she learned to love her body (and she didn't lose weight to do that). 
Gibbons is here to set the record straight:  fat girls have sex, they find love and get married, they are not losers and they can have a sense of humor about it all.
But she didn't always think that way.
Growing up in a chaotic household with a brain-damaged hippie Dad and a mother who didn't seem to care that much about her looks, Gibbons didn't realize she was different from anyone else until she was weighed in third grade and realized she was heavier than everyone else.
From there she endured the usual fat girl jokes, disapproving looks from the popular girls, tried to be bulimic, and had sex with boys who wouldn't be seen in public with her.  She also found a niche as an actress, had a breakdown in college, married her high school sweetheart, Andy, had kids, went bankrupt and started a blog. 
And much of that might seem like a sad story, but this book is hilarious.
Gibbons started a blog in 2007 as a way to make some extra money when Andy's and her finances went into the toilet.  She fancied herself a writer anyway.  Her first blogs were about food but as she says in her book,
"There were a few problems with this plan.  The first was that the only restaurants close to my house were a McDonald's, a drive-through Subway and a seafood restaurant, and it's really hard to critique shellfish in a landlocked state.  Second, none of my recipes were healthy and 2007 was the beginning of the world domination for the vegan-gluten-palio folk.  And third, it was just a really sucky blog."
So you get the idea.  Gibbons is very self-deprecating and very, very funny.
When that blog idea went south, she decided to add some humor and started to talk about babies and marriage and suddenly she had a readership.  She touched a chord talking about how hard marriage and motherhood could be, a nice counterpoint to all of those other women online who were living flawless lives with great clothes, clean houses and beautiful children. 
"I was crude and sloppy, entwining four-letter words with detailed exploits of my sex life and my periods.  By the end of 2009 I had a monthly readership of over 100,000..."
Geez, lucky you, Brittany.  Maybe I had better up the game on my blog about my sexual exploits.  And then, again, maybe not.
But after being "outed" on the Internet as a fat girl she realized she was tired of being ashamed of being fat and launched a new website called where she decided:  "I was going to own my body and the words about it from that point forward."
And then she took off her clothes and posted a picture of her size 18 self in a bikini and became a media darling, eventually standing in Times Square outside of "Good Morning America" in a swimsuit, stripping down during her TEDX Talk and becoming an advocate for curvy women.

"Feeling good in your skin is 80 percent mental.  All right, I don't have the actual math on that, but 80 percent feels accurate, the other 20 percent being kick-ass shapewear and wine.  The point is, you provide the narrative for how others perceive you.  People treat me like a sexy and confident curvy woman because I act like a sexy and confident curvy woman; my behavior doesn't given them any other options."
Rosy the Reviewer says...Every woman, no matter what her size, who has had body image issues, will enjoy this book and feel like a sexy, confident woman afterwards - laughing all the way.

Thanks for Reading!


That's it for this week.


See you Tuesday for

"Why is Feminist Such a Dirty Word?"


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