Showing posts with label Grace Jones. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Grace Jones. Show all posts

Friday, October 23, 2015

"Beasts of No Nation" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Beasts of No Nation" and DVDs "After Words" and "The Runner."  I also bring you up to date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Luchino Visconti's classic film "Rocco and his Brothers."  The Book of the Week is Grace Jones' memoir, "I'll Never Write My Memoirs."]

Beasts of No Nation

A young boy is kidnapped and forced to be a rebel soldier. 
When the film begins, we hear children playing and we meet Agu (Abraham Attah in his first movie role) and his friends.  They live in a village in an unnamed African country.  They are trying to amuse themselves with the frame of a TV, sticking their heads through the place where the TV should be and calling it "Imagination TV."  They are running around the village, because there is no school. Their country is at war, but the boys appear oblivious to that fact and are playing and trying to raise some money from the soldiers protecting their village from the marauding rebels.  The presence of these soldiers is the only indication that there is a war going on. 
Agu is a good, innocent kid.  He lives with his parents and three siblings.
But as the rebels approach their village, the women and children are sent to the City and the men stay behind to fight.  Agu is separated from his mother and two younger siblings and when the fighting comes to his village, his father, older brother and friends are mistakenly killed by government forces who think they are spies. 
Agu runs into the jungle where he is captured by some boy soldiers and taken to their Commandant (Idris Elba) who is running a military rebel organization called NDF.  The Commandant says he will make him a warrior and uses a combination of threats, psychological abuse and manipulative fatherly concern to turn Agu into a loyal boy soldier. These people are not Agu's family. There is one scene where Agu must prove his loyalty to the Commandant by killing a man - and he does, in grisly fashion.  Through fear and a sense of survival, Agu becomes indoctrinated into the rebel faction.  We see Agu, the fun-loving innocent kid with few cares, turn into an unfeeling killer.
Young Attah in his first movie role is just mesmerizing as Agu.  This film is all about him and he carries it like a veteran.  However, Idris Elba is also amazing.  He runs through a gamut of complex characterizations: at once the kindly father, then the understanding friend and then the cruel soldier. Though I have gone on record to say I don't believe in Oscar nominations for child actors, Attah was extraordinary so both performances deserve Oscar nominations.
Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (who directed the first season of "True Detective") and also adapted by Fukunaga from the book by Uzodinma Iweala, the film shows the horror that these boy soldiers go through, but leaves us with hope that our basic humanity wills out in the end.  Also gorgeously photographed in Ghana by Fukunaga, he captures its beauty which is in sharp contrast to the horrors of war that we and Agu witness.
This film had a limited release into movie theatres last Friday, October 16th, but also was available to stream on Netflix on that same day.  One wonders if the film and the actors will get noticed with this unconventional theatrical release, but Elba and Attah both deserve a nomination.
Rosy the Reviewer says...a mesmerizing and riveting tale of lost innocence and the horrors of civil war that will stay with you.  Whether you see it in a theatre or at home on Netflix, see it!  It's a must see!
Some Movies You Might Have Missed
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!
***Now Out on DVD***


After Words (2015)
A middle-aged and lonely librarian (Marcia Gay Harden), who has just lost her job, travels to Costa Rica to have one last shot at life before ending it all.

Jane is literally a plain Jane, a librarian who has never married (and I will get to the librarian stereotypes later) and she has given up on life.  So she decides to give herself one last fling by traveling to Costa Rica.
Jane is a reference librarian in a public library, but the only question she seems to get is "Where is the bathroom?"  C'mon, Jane.  You knew the Internet was coming.  You need to learn to market yourself. But she didn't, so the library didn't have the money to keep her branch open and she was fired (which, if this film knew anything about how public libraries are funded, would know that even if a branch closes the staff would not automatically be fired).
Anyway, Jane hightails it to Costa Rica. There she meets Juan (Oscar Jaenada), a young lothario, or perhaps I should say gigolo, who makes a living as a "tour guide," a euphemism for romancing single women on vacation in Costa Rica.  But there is some morality to his immorality.  He is trying to make enough money to keep his young daughter in a private school.
He literally interrupts Jane as she is taking a handful of pills.  He shows up at her door and asks to be her personal guide every day so he can make enough money for the school (he is behind on his payments).  Jane offers him the needed $500 just to get rid of him, but he persists and she relents.
He aggressively gets Jane to hire him as her tour guide and his infectious love of Costa Rica and of life helps Jane to heal especially when he asks her to recommend a book.  That's all she needed to hear.  We librarians are like that. Ask us to recommend a book and our ears perk up! Juan and Jane also smoke some weed together which doesn't hurt and which is NOT necessarily a librarian thing. And I have to say that as Juan takes Jane around his favorite haunts, this film could also be a travel ad for Costa Rica.  The film highlights Costa Rica's beauty.

Jane starts to perk up in general.
Do you see a makeover coming?  I couldn't help but think of Bette Davis in "Now, Voyager."
This is a small film that doesn't appear to have gotten much distribution, but I couldn't resist a movie about a librarian to see just how many stereotypes there would be.  So let's see:
Jane describes herself and other librarians as "not known for their tans" and usually being pasty white.  Speak for yourself, Jane.  Well, I am pasty white but that's not because I am a librarian.
  • She also has a cat
  • She has tons of books
  • She wears glasses that hang from a chain around her neck
  • She wears no make-up and her hair is a mess
  • She is unmarried
  • She is shy and retiring
  • She has been replaced by the Internet
Well, that about covers it as far as the librarian stereotype goes.  But what this movie doesn't seem to know is that Jane would not get a job in a modern public library these days, because shy and retiring types are exactly the kinds of people the vibrant libraries of today do NOT want.

This story could have worked just fine without making Jane a stereotypical librarian.  Since becoming a librarian in the 1970's and constantly hearing people say, "You don't look like a librarian," while at the same time trying to shush me, I am on the watch for negative stereotypes, especially since no one who is a librarian looks like a librarian these days, because what does a librarian look like?  He or she looks like anyone else in any profession. The other thing that bugged me was Juan's little girl called the library a "libeary," but I will forgive her because English is not her first language
But I digress.
Directed by Juan Feldman with a script by Joel Silverman (based on Feldman's story), one wonders how much of this could be true of Feldman's life. Was HE the real life Juan?  Mmmm.
Harden's character, Jane, gets a bit annoying at times. I mean, Jane, look in the mirror and at least fix your hair.  But I guess when one gives up on life, one doesn't really care about one's hair anymore.  Harden is fine as Jane but the real star is Jaenada.  He is handsome and his character's enthusiasm for life is infectious, which I guess was the whole point of this movie.  He is someone to watch.
For all of my bitching about the librarian stuff, you would think I didn't like this movie, but I found it sweet and romanticAnd the views of Costa Rica were lovely.  In addition to "Now, Voyager" mentioned earlier, this film also reminded me of  "How Stella Got Her Groove Back." 
Rosy the Reviewer says... If you liked "Now, Voyager," or "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" or movies featuring charming leading men and a make-over, you will like this film.

The Runner (2015)

 An oil spill.  A sex scandal.  Nicolas Cage.

That's about all I need to say to describe this film.

Based on the 2010 BP oil spill, Cage is Congressman Colin Pryce from Louisiana who has been a proponent of the common man, especially for the shrimpers and the fishermen.  Now with the oil spill they are all out of work.

Until the spill, Rep. Pryce was heretofore unknown except to his constituents, but he comes to media attention when he makes an impassioned speech to Congress about the impact of the spill on his State and the United States as a whole.  So that is the oil spill part.

Pryce is passionate about politics, but he is also passionate about the ladies.  He is married to a high powered lawyer who doesn't seem to like him much.  But I wouldn't like him either if he cheated on me, because you see he has a mistress.  Lucy is his mistress. There is footage of them having sex in an elevator.  So that's the sex scandal part.

The sex scandal makes it rather difficult to handle an oil spill effectively, so Pryce wants to resign.  However, Pryce's power hungry wife tells him she will divorce him if he resigns.  Maybe that's what he was waiting for.  He resigns and wallows in prostitutes and booze, but he also manages to come up for air long enough to start a foundation to help the fishermen - The Louisiana Coastal Foundation. But even that is struggling and he is an alcoholic who continues to drink.  When he hits bottom will he get himself together?

Pryce is also a runner as in he likes to run around D.C (and I guess he could also be called a "runner" because he runs for Congress). Running also becomes a symbol for his sobriety and success and hope for the future. That's where the title comes in. 

The first half of the film was quite compelling to see how our Nick was going to get himself out of this hole he was in, but the film let him down a bit in the second half.  But the overall message here seems to be that there is no room for idealism in politics.

And the Nicolas Cage part?  Well, with Cage you either love him or hate him.  He has more acting mannerisms than a silent film star, but I have gotten used to his acting style and find his talking between gritted teeth in a monotone with occasional bursts of drama endearing. Cage's Louisiana accent came and went, but I think it actually helped him avoid his usual mannerisms and made him act. He also does tortured really well. But there is something compelling about Cage which is probably why he has endured.  I mean, he actually has an Academy Award.

And then there's Peter Fonda playing Pryce's Dad.  I gasped. Where has HE been?

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like Nicolas Cage, you will like this film.


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

275 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film? 

Rocco and His Brothers (1960)

Luchino Visconti's classic family drama of the trials and tribulations of Rocco and his four brothers, Vincenzo, Simone, Ciro, and Luca when they move to the Big City (Milan) from the country (Sicily).
Rocco (Alain Delon), his widowed mother and his three brothers arrive in Milan from "the south" trying to escape the agricultural depression that has occurred there.  They have come to see the eldest son, Vincenzo, who has already established himself in Milan.  In fact, he is engaged and they find Vincenzo celebrating his engagement at his in-laws.  Unfortunately, the in-laws take an instant dislike to Vincenzo's mother and kick her and Vincenzo's brothers out of their house. 
Vincenzo (Spiros Focas) out of loyalty to his family breaks up with this bride-to-be (played by Claudia Cardinale in the early part of her career before she made it big on the International stage as a sexpot) and tries to help his family find a place to live.  They can't afford decent housing, but he is told that if he rents an apartment, not to pay the rent. Then they will be evicted, thus becoming eligible for public housing (which would not be available to homeless people). He follows that advice and soon they find themselves in a nice apartment paid for by the Socialist city government.

As the brothers make their way in the City, the movie is divided into segments to tell each brother's story but the movie belongs to Rocco and Simone.
Simone (Renato Salvatori) shows promise as a boxer but is a troublemaker and loser and eventually loses that prospect as well as his girlfriend, Nadia  (Annie Girardot).

When Rocco is called upon to help train Simone, he shows promise as a boxer too, and later becomes involved with Nadia as well. 

So what's the one thing that can break brothers up?  Right.  A woman.
Even though two years have passed since Simone and Nadia were together, when Simone catches Rocco with Nadia, he and his cronies beat Rocco up and rape Nadia in a horrific scene.  Even though Simone was no longer with Nadia, I guess it's a guy thing.  Rocco, thinking that Simone needs Nadia, breaks up with her and tells her to go back to Simone.  She does.  So much for respect for women here.  You see, Nadia was a prostitute so I guess that makes it OK to treat her like dirt.

Things rapidly go downhill for both Simone and Nadia.

Ciro (Max Cartier), who has been working for Alpha Romeo, but after all of the hardships the family has encountered, dreams of returning to the country.  No matter how bad it was there, it now seems better than what his family has gone through in the City, and he exhorts Little Luca (Rocco Vidolazzi), the youngest brother, to go back home, which is what the film seems to be saying: that nothing good can come from going to the city, the modern world.  Visconti mourns the old ways.

To make that point loud and clear, there is a premeditated murder at the end that was so brutal and graphic that the film was banned in Milan.  This is an epic film of operatic proportions.  For one thing, it's 177 minutes long and neorealism at its most emotional.  In fact, I could have sworn I heard "Tosca" playing in the background. 

Despite the human drama which is universal and timeless, the film shows its age. For me it was all about gazing upon the handsomeness that is Alain Delon. The young Delon was already showing his acting chops and the beauty here that would catapult him to international stardom. Young Alain Delon is incredibly swoon worthy, especially when he stares into the camera in an extreme close-up. The camera loves him so much you get the feeling Visconti did as well.


However, Visconti was a big influence on modern film, especially Coppola and Scorsese, and you can see the seeds of "The Godfather" here.
Why it's a Must See:  "A key transitional film in ...Visconti's shift away from his initial adherence to the principles of Neorealism...toward the decoratively operative excesses of much of his later work, [this] remains one of his best."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"
Rosy the Reviewer ladies might hate men after seeing this one, but it's worth it for the beautiful Alain Delon.  And film buffs should see it for its influences on today's filmmakers.
(In Italian with English subtitles)

***Book of the Week***

"I'll Never Write My Memoirs"  by Grace Jones (2015)

I guess she lied.  Jones DID write her memoirs and this is it.
Grace who? you might ask.  But there was a time when she was very hot and very strange.  She could be counted on to always do something outrageous.  She was the Lady Gaga of her time.

Legendary performer Jones offers a candid account of the ups and downs of her career and turbulent life and how she formed the "character" that became Grace Jones.

Born in Jamaica into a strict, religious family, she escaped those strictures to became a model in the 1970's.  Her unconventional androgynous looks and extreme style set her apart and she was a darling of the Studio 54 set.  During the 80's, she emerged as a disco singer with the songs "I Need a Man” and “La Vie en Rose,” and she was a regular on the late night talk show circuit. She was "hailed as a disco queen, gay icon, and gender defying iconoclast" and has influenced everyone from Rhianna to Nicki Minaj to Annie Lennox.

She later added "actress" to her performing resume and she shares details of her roles in the films "Conan the Destroyer" with a young Arnold Schwarzenegger and the James Bond movie "A View to a Kill" with Roger Moore.

Now at age 67, she is a grandmother, and she is still recording and working on other projects and not about to give up on living a fabulous life.

She includes her rider, an artist's request for what they want in their dressing rooms when they are performing:

In addition to the usual things like sparkling water, fresh fruit and flowers, she also lists 6 bottles of Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne, 3 bottles each of vintage red and white wines and 2 dozen Findeclare or Colchester oysters on ice.

You can't get much more fabulous than that!

She also continues to reinvent herself.

She ends the book with:

"I think of myself as someone who is always adding to what they do, as part of a never-ending story, and the latest chapter is as vital as anything else.  I am always becoming something.  I am always turning into something else.  That's how I started, and that's how I want it to be now."

That about says it all about Grace Jones.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a fun and crazy read from a fun and crazy lady - crazy in a good way!

Thanks for Reading!


That's it for this week.


See you Tuesday for

Life Lessons: What I Have Learned
(Inspired by Kim Kardashian)


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