Showing posts with label How to Grove Up (Book review). Show all posts
Showing posts with label How to Grove Up (Book review). Show all posts

Friday, March 6, 2015

"Whiplash" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "Whiplash" plus the DVDs "Before I Go To Sleep" and "White Bird in a Blizzard." The Book of the Week is "How To Grow Up" and I get you caught up on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project: A couple of silent films, "A Throw of Dice" and "Nosferatu (considered the scariest Dracula of them all)"]

Whiplash (2014)

An ambitious young drummer at a music conservatory encounters a cutthroat teacher.
Miles Teller, who has already made a name for himself in the teen-oriented films "The Spectacular Now," "Divergent," and "Insurgent," stars as Andrew, who lives to play the drums, in this much more adult-oriented effort. 

In his first year at an elite music academy in New York City, Andrew is noticed by Fletcher (J.K. Simmons in his 2015 Oscar winning Best Supporting Actor role), who invites Andrew to join his jazz ensemble, which is the top one at the school.  Turns out Fletcher is sadistic in his methods, pitting drummers against each other, verbally abusing them when they play out of tune and even hurling furniture. He is the Abby Lee Miller of the jazz school world.  But despite that, Andrew will do anything to impress Fletcher.  He practices the drums until his hands bleed.  Who knew that drumming could be so physical and painful? Unfortunately Andrew's single-mindedness starts turning him into Fletcher, mistreating his girlfriend and becoming antisocial.
Fletcher loses his job partly because of Andrew.  When Andrew and he meet again in a jazz club, Fletcher is unapologetic about his teaching methods.  He tells Andrew that to get the next Charlie Parker, he needs to push his students to be the best.  He says there are no two words in the English language more harmful than "Good job."
Fletcher is conducting a professional band in a "Showcase" for music bigwigs and asks Andrew to join him.  Andrew does not realize Fletcher has revenge on his mind, but Fletcher also does not realize who he is dealing with and just how much Andrew wants to make it.
Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, "Whiplash" is an apt title for this dazzling, fresh, and personal  film that is a jazz lover's dream.  It's the title of a jazz piece featured in the film, but it also characterizes Fletcher's "slave driver" approach to teaching and the blood and sweat Andrew subjects himself to as he strives for greatness. And the film asks the question, how far does one have to go to succeed? How much does it take? The film also has the longest drum solo in history, to me anyway.

J.K. Simmons has the craggiest face I have ever seen. He plays a ruthless teacher that one could argue the portrayal is a bit one note, but it's a bravura performance nevertheless. And Miles Teller is no slouch in this either. He is one talented young actor. We will be seeing more and more of him. He has two movies opening soon and three more in the can, as they sayPaul Reiser makes an appearance as Andrew's rumpled and beleaguered Dad, a far cry from his "Mad About You" days. But that's a good thing that he can transition to drama with none of his "Mad" mannerisms in evidence.

If you were surprised that this film beat out "American Sniper" in the Sound Editing category for the Oscar this year, you won't be if you see this film.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a tight, engrossing film with an Oscar-winning performance, Oscar-winning sound editing and cool jazz.  What more could you ask?


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



Because of a traumatic accident, Christine (Nicole Kidman) wakes up every day not remembering the day before or her life.

Every day Christine has to relearn her life only to forget it again each morning.  Her husband, Ben (Colin Firth) leaves notes around the house to help her. Each morning when Ben is at work, Christine gets a phone call from Dr. Nasch (Mark Strong), who each morning explains to her who he is and why he is calling.  Each morning he instructs her to find a box in her closet. 

Flashback to a few weeks before, when we learn that Dr. Nasch has given Christine a camera so she can record herself and tell herself what happened the day before. He tells Christine that her husband had been against him treating her and plants a seed that her husband is lying to her so she keeps the camera and her meetings with Dr. Nasch a secret.  Then, Christine starts having flashes of memory. Slowly we learn that Christine was attacked and left for dead in an industrial area.  Why was she in the industrial area near the airport?  Was she having an affair?  She is determined to find out what happened that night. We also learn that Christine and Ben had a son who died and that Ben divorced her four years ago.

The film started out really well with an interesting premise, but halfway through, it started to crumble a bit and the twist ending is far-fetched.  But if you can get over that, you will like it.

The critics were not particularly kind to this film, but I liked it even though I pretty much had it figured out six minutes in, but it's fast-moving and slickly produced.  It's part "Gaslight," part Lifetime movie.  I liked "Gaslight" and Lifetime Movies are a guilty pleasure, so I'm in.

Nicole Kidman does an admirable job but her hair looks awful in this movie so try not to let that distract you.  Though it's Nicole's movie, Colin Firth puts in a great performance of vulnerability and sensitivity.

Rosy the Reviewer's the Lifetime Movie "Woman in Danger" formula, but, hey, I like Lifetime Movies and this one does it very well. 

White Bird in a Blizzard (2014)

A teen-aged girl's mother disappears without a trace.

It's 1988 and Katrina's (Shailene Woodley) mother has disappeared.  Katrina comes home from school to learn from her father (Christopher Meloni) that her mother is gone. Though she remembers her mother as loving and fun when she was little, now that Katrina is a teen, she hasn't been getting along with her mother so she seems unconcerned about her mother's disappearance.  She hangs with her friends Beth (Gabourey Sidibe) and Mickey (Mark Indelicato), has sex with her neighbor Phil (Shiloh Fernandez) and the creepy detective (Thomas Jane) looking into mother's disappearance. In flashbacks, we see that Katrina's mother, Eve (played by the beautiful Eva Green) was miserable in her marriage. She drinks, flirts with Phil, wears inappropriate clothing and treats her husband like crap.

Phil isn't very smart.  He massacres the English language with his malapropisms ("cut me some slacks," "vicious circus").  But Katrina likes it that Phil is simple and not very smart. Kat doesn't like to have to think about much except sex and getting high. Kat's Dad is a bit of a schmoe.

Shailene Woodley was in four films in 2014, two of which were block busters ("Divergent," "The Fault in Our Stars").  She's the hot young thing.  So one wonders when she had the time to film this one and why it wasn't promoted more, because this is as good as some of the other films Woodley has done. The acting was great, especially Woodley as you have never seen her (as in nude) and Green.

Angela Bassett competently plays Katrina's shrink in a small role, making me sad that more and more black actresses are relegated to supporting roles as co-workers, mentors, (Viola Davis in "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby"), madams (Octavia Spencer in "Get on Up") mothers (Viola Davis in "Get on Up"), sidekicks and shrinks.  What's the deal, Hollywood?  Give these wonderful actresses some leading roles!

The whodunit is predictable.  Think "Dateline."  When the detective tells Katrina he thinks her Dad killed her mother, Katrina asks, then what did her Dad do with the body? The detective replies, "That's the big mystery."  DUH!  For one thing, GET A SEARCH WARRANT, DUDE! I had that figured out hours ago. But there is also a twist at the end that you will not see coming and which is really out there.

Based on the novel by Laura Kasischke and adapted and directed by Gregg Araki, despite some implausibilities, I liked this film. 

Even with its flaws, this film is an interesting study of growing up, how we view our parents and how, though they are the people we know the longest in our lives, we never really know them.

Rosy the Reviewer's like a fictionalized version of "Dateline," but, hey, I LOVE Dateline!  So if you are a Dateline fan or if you are a Shailene Woodley fan, you will like this.
(Available streaming on Netflix or check your local public library).

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

273 to go!
A couple of classic silent films this week.
Have YOU seen these?
Two rival kings, Ranjit and Sohan, are addicted to gambling and the same woman, Sunita.
Ranjit and Sohan are in love with Sunita, so Sohan plays dirty and frames Ranjit for the murder of Sunita's father.  Sohan also wants to take over Ranjit's kingdom so he rigs the dice in his favor and Ranjit loses his kingdom and becomes Sohan's slave in this 1920's silent film.
If you don't like subtitles, you probably won't like silent films, but silent films are always a good reminder to movie lovers, why there was a contingent who did NOT want the talkies.  There is a certain simplicity and suspension of disbelief in silent films that talkies can't rival, not to mention the "colorful" black and white.
Why it's a Must See: "One of [this film's) most striking elements is the naturalism of the performances, particularly compared with the declamatory style of much Western acting at that time.  Also noteworthy...cinematographer Emil Schunemann's stunning visuals...and an atmospheric score by Nitin now ranks as one of the pinnacles of early cinema."
---"1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die"
Proves true the old adage, "A picture is worth a thousand words."
Rosy the Reviewer says...a lovely little 76 minutes.
(Available streaming on Netflix or check your local public library).
The Bram Stoker novel of "Dracula" brought to the screen in 1922.
Estate agent Hutter is sent to Count Orlok's (Max Schreck) castle to help him buy a house in the village. While there, he realizes Count Orlok is more than just a Count, he is a demonic creature with his sights set on Hutter's wife, Ellen.  When a strange person with sharp teeth admires a picture of your wife and says, "What a lovely long neck," beware.
Why it's a Must See:  "[The reason this version of the Dracula story]...stands apart from most Dracula the striking presence of star Max Schreck, whose surname translates to 'fear.' Schreck plays the eponymous vampire with an almost savage simplicity...[director F.W.] Murnau created some of cinema's most lasting and haunting imagery...He also introduced several vampire myths that fill not just other Dracula films but permeate popular culture as well."
---"1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die"
The film is restored in sepia and other colorful tones that belie the black and white we are used to in silent films and the subtitles are in color, giving the viewer the feeling one is watching a color film. The score is lush (it's like watching an opera) and despite the declamatory style of the acting so prevalent in those days, the film is quite mesmerizing.
Some have said this is the scariest of all of the Dracula films.  I am not sure about that. But Roger Ebert once said that it's all relative, so I would guess this film scared the pants off viewers in the 1920's.  Today?  Not so sure, but it's definitely creepy thanks to Schreck.  
Rosy the Reviewer says...ooooh, scary.
(Available streaming on Netflix or check your local public library).

***Book of the Week***

How To Grow Up: A Memoir by Michelle Tea (2015)

Tea shares her self-described "awkward stumble" towards the life of a real Grown-Up in this memoir that touches on everything from dating to alcoholism to Buddhism to IVF.
As an aspiring writer in San Francisco, at almost 40, Tea is still sharing a house with some twenty-somethings and a refrigerator that is a hazmat zone.  She is starting to question herself. Growing up poor, she never had much and didn't expect to have much until her writing took off and all of a sudden she had some much - as in money.  Should she treat herself to a real apartment for her 40th birthday?  Can a poor woman also love Barney's?

Tea defines an adult as "a person who can take care of herself, who comports herself with dignity, who has self-respect and respect for others, who is capable of dealing with reality and has managed to figure out, at least a little, how people do things -- like pay taxes and return phone calls."

She has a rocky road to adulthood and she humorously shares her ups and downs as she struggles with dating (she finally realized part of being grown up was not to date depressed people anymore), alcohol and drugs, no money and bad choices.

In a chapter on breaking up, she offers red flags that let you know when it's time to break up:

  • When you ask if he really wants to be with you and the answer is "I don't know. "
       (According to Tea, there are only two answers to that question. Yes and no.
       "I don't know" gets filed under "no.")
  • When one of you brings up having an open relationship
  • When you fight all of the time
  • When you are walking on eggshells most of the time

After a breakup, she says, "...go to Paris.  If you can't do that, go somewhere...  Find a place that reminds you that the world is so much bigger than your heart and whoever broke it this time around...take a drink if you can stand it. You're alive. That relationship was but one chapter in your long, long story, one little scene in your epic."

Along the way she also discovers Buddhism and meditation, which I loved because I have too.  It's quite astonishing when you realize that you are not your thoughts.  What?  I'm not?

"We love our minds so much in this opinions are super important and also witty and smart -- I think I will broadcast them all over the Internet! Our minds are everything. Our thoughts define us...But the more you sit back and experience how little control you have over your mind's rambling, [you realize it's] putting out sentiments that were harmful to me.  They were harmful because I believed them.  If I think it, it must be true, right?  But maybe I didn't have to believe in the things my mind insisted upon.  Maybe I'd be a little bit happier if I didn't... Sitting in meditation, you get to understand the nature of the mind...[that it is] more like a rambunctious toddler who wants everything and likes to pout and throw fits...[with] the tone and timbre, and validity of an Internet comment board, and [so in meditation] I treat them accordingly -- delete; ignore; I'll pray for you, you sad, angry person."

She also talks about becoming a "gym rat", her foray into the world of IVF and the importance of moisturizing.

Rosy the Reviewer says...She indeed has grown up and even those of us in the later parts of our lives can take something away from this.  And it's funny as hell.


Thanks for Reading!

That's it for this week.

See you Tuesday for

"Thank You Notes to My Dad"


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