Showing posts with label Judy Garland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Judy Garland. Show all posts

Friday, October 4, 2019

"Judy" and the Week in Reviews

[I review the Judy Garland biopic "Judy" as well as DVDs "The Sun is Also a Star" and "The Happy Prince." The Book of the Week is my new favorite cookbook "Half Baked Harvest Cookbook: Recipes From My Barn in the Mountains" by Tieghan Gerard. I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Europa Europa."]


Except for just a few films in recent years, Renee Zellweger has been pretty much out of the public eye since 2010, but now she is back with a vengeance as the tragic superstar Judy Garland during the last year of her life.

For those of you who don't know who Judy Garland was (and that's another tragedy, if you don't), she was an acclaimed actress and singer whose career spanned 45 years. Though she was in over two dozen films at MGM before starring as Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" at the age of 17, and later starred in iconic musicals such as "Meet Me in St. Louis" and "A Star is Born (the second and best one)," Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" is probably the role for which she is most remembered today.  Dorothy had a happy ending, but there was no happy ending for Judy who struggled in later years with finances and drug and alcohol issues and died at the age of 47 of a barbituate overdose.

In the winter of 1968, Garland was alone and lonely having just divorced her fourth husband.  She was also broke and unable to pay her hotel bills or care for her young children, and her abuse of alcohol and drugs had made her an insomniac and a liability to the film industry.  So when she was offered some nightclub dates in London, she reluctantly agreed to take them on despite the fact that she was in such a fragile state it was unclear whether or not she would be able to perform.  When she arrived in London she was assigned a minder, Rosalyn (Jesse Buckley), and it was a good thing too, because it was touch and go for Judy. But when she was able to perform, she was still amazing.  She was the consummate performer who heartbreakingly gave everything she had to the audience.

The film follows Garland as she tries to meet her performance obligations while at the same time struggling with sleep and addiction issues. We also meet her ex-husband, Sid Luft (Rufus Sewell), who perportedly gambled away much of her money, and we also meet her soon-to-be new husband, a much younger, Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock), who appears to also be on the road to using poor Judy, who can never seem to find happiness. 

But Zellweger is able to not only show Garland's demons, but also her vulnerability, charm and sweetness, her endless desire to please, and when it comes to performing, Zellweger channels Garland beautifully.  She has the mannerisms down and does her own singing, which was taking a risk because Garland's voice was big and magnificent, but Zellweger is believable, because even though she doesn't sing exactly like Garland, we can believe that all of that abuse Garland put herself through would have certainly affected her voice. And that's not saying Zellweger is not a good singer.  She is.  But what she does best is replicate the energy and excitement Garland brought to the stage.  

Garland was also a gay icon, partly because the gay community likened her personal struggles to theirs, and the film portrays this in a very poignant scene when a lonely Judy is met at the stage door by a gay couple, Stan (Daniel Cerqueira) and Dan (Andy Nyman), fans who have been at every one of her shows.  So they can't believe their luck when Judy asks them if they want to grab a bite.  Unfortunately it's after midnight and this is London in the 1960's. Nothing is open so they take Judy to their apartment and make a very bad omelet but have some laughs giving them a wonderful memory of a lifetime.  And Judy is happy to be there, happy to be loved and appreciated.

And that was the amazing thing about Judy Garland.  Despite all of her issues and woes, she had a beautiful heart and spirit, and that's the amazing thing, too, about Renee Zellweger in this role.  She not only embodies Garland in looks and talent, but she captures Garland's charm and optimistic spirit.  This is the role of a lifetime for Zellweger and she plays it to perfection.  Never once did I think I was watching Renee Zellweger playing Judy Garland.  I was watching Judy Garland come to life.

So that's the good news.

The bad news is that the film itself is a bit clumsy, especially the way it uses flashbacks to explain to the audience why Judy was such a mess, and it plays a bit fast and loose with the facts.  

At the beginning of the film, we have L.B. Mayer, the head of MGM, literally walking with Judy on the Yellow Brick Road, reminding Judy that she is lucky to have the role of Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz," as if she was just starting out as an actress.  Yet by the time she was 17, she had already starred in over two dozen MGM films.  He also demeans Judy's looks and threatens her with the idea he can replace her at any time with Shirley Temple if she screws up. That is only partially true. Shirley Temple had already turned down the role, as had Deanna Durbin, another young, hot singer/actress of her day. And yes, Judy was insecure about her looks, especially her weight in a world where glamour was the operative word and yes, the studio supposedly gave her diet pills and kept her on a diet, but one wonders if they were quite as Machiavellian as portrayed in the film. I found those flashbacks to Judy's early life over dramatic and kind of jarring when compared to Zellweger's more finely tuned scenes as the older Judy, despite the fine work by the young actress (Darci Shaw) playing her in the flashbacks.

Adapted by Tom Edge from the stage play "The End of the Rainbow" and directed by Rupert Goold, I would have preferred a montage at the beginning of the film, one of those old-fashioned ones with headlines and photographs that ran us through Garland's life and early success, so those of you who have been living under a rock would know who she was, and then let her explain her early life and what led to the drinking, drugs, divorces and insomnia by way of her talking to her therapist rather than those unwieldy flashbacks.  But that is a minor concern when pitted against Zellweger's performance.  This is a tour de force for Zellweger who is sure to win an Oscar for this performance.  Don't miss it.

Rosy the Reviewer says...ring! ring! Ms. Zellweger, Oscar calling.  We have your statue all ready to go!

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


The Sun is Also a Star (2019)

A star-crossed teen love story.  At least one of them isn't dying!

If you are familiar with Richard Linklater's "Before Trilogy," where Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy walk around beautiful European locations and talk about love and life, then you will have some idea what this film is like.  It's a kind of teen version of that.

Natasha (Yara Shahidi) is a Jamaican girl who is about to be deported.  Like tomorrow.  Despite the fact that Natasha grew up in New York City, her parents did not arrive in the U.S. through the proper channels so her whole family is getting sent back to Jamaica.

But then she meets Daniel (Charles Melton), a young Korean guy whose parents want him to be a doctor. He wants to be a poet. Daniel is getting ready for an interview to get into Dartmouth to start that path to doctorhood, but serendipity brings our young lovers together, two cultures collide and Natasha and Daniel will never be the same again.

In Grand Central Station, Daniel is with a friend.  Daniel is obsessed with "Deus ex machina" which for some reason means to Daniel "Open up your heart to destiny." That's not exactly what I thought that meant.  Anyway, he even has it posted in his room. When he sees Natasha looking up at the constellations painted on the ceiling of Grand Central Station, he is fascinated because he has never, ever seen anyone look up at the ceiling in Grand Central Station.  And then when he sees "Deus ex machina" on the back of Natasha's sweatshirt, that's it.  He sees that as a sign and has to get to know her. He chases after her and eventually sees her on his train, follows her and saves her from getting hit by a car.  You can't get any more "meet cute" than that!

But Natasha is a pragmatist who is fascinated by astronomy, doesn't believe in love, only things she can measure.  And like I said, Daniel is a poet and, of course, he believes in love. Daniel bets Natasha that if she gives him 24 hours, he can make her fall in love with him. With his Darmouth interview postponed to tomorrow and Natasha leaving the country tomorrow, the two embark on a day long odyssey around the city, and it is an odyssey with all kinds of synchronicities, some of which I saw coming a mile away. Are these two destined to be together?

Directed by Ry Russo-Young, the film sports a meager plot and the dialogue could be better, but that's okay.  The poignant ending made up for that, and, hey, I like love stories starring beautiful people - Shahidi and Melton are attractive and engaging young actors - and I like the idea of destiny.  And though Tracy Oliver's screenplay leaves out some of the nuances of the YA book by Nicola Yoon on which this film is based, she does a good job of capturing the two characters as well as making a timely comment on the immigrant experience in the U.S.

Carl Sagan said, "We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it's forever." But sometimes a single perfect day is enough.

Like I said, the film is reminiscent of Linklater's "Before Sunrise" trilogy but aimed at the teen market.  Head to head, it doesn't measure up to those films, so if you are over the age of 20 and you haven't yet seen them, get thee to Netflix immediately! But if you are a teen or the parent of a teen, you can start with this one.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a sweet story that reminds us that sometimes one perfect day can be enough.

The Happy Prince (2018)

Another biopic about the sad last years of a famous person - this time it's Oscar Wilde.

And he was not a happy prince.

This film depicts Wilde's last three years of life.  It's difficult to believe there was a time when being homosexual was a crime.  In 1895 Oscar Wilde (Rupert Everett) was the most famous man in London but by 1900 he was a pariah.  When his lover's father accused him of being a sodomite and Wilde sued him for libel, it was Wilde who ended up in prison for "gross indecency."

It helps to know something about Wilde's life before seeing this, because the film skips all around, which I decided while watching "The Goldfinch," that I didn't like. Wilde's life is presented here in a confusing way. Though the film concentrates on Wilde's life post-prison, it gives glimpses of his earlier life in flashbacks.  I would have preferred a more linear approach - Oscar's early, successful life, his affairs, his trial, his imprisonment and then death.  But Everett, who also wrote and directed, must have decided that was too boring.  But though I didn't like the screenplay, the acting can't be faulted.  Like Renee Zellweger in "Judy (see review above)," this is a tour de force for Everett.

Now out of prison, Wilde is broke and lonely, living in Paris under an alias and abusing absinthe and cocaine.  He has lost everything except his sarcastic wit which he was known for.  But it's a sordid story and about as far from "happy" as one can get. Wilde never recovered from his stint in prison and it was all downhill for him after that.

Emily Watson also stars as Wilde's estranged wife and Colin Firth as Wilde's friend, Reggie.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a sad and depressing tale and a reminder of what homosexuals have had to endure.

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

60 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Europa Europa (1990)

The true story of how a young Jewish boy survived the Holocaust by posing as an Aryan German.

Salomon Perel (Marco Hofschneider) was born in Germany to a Polish-Jewish family and was a teenager when the Nazis came to power. He and his family fled Germany to Poland, only to have Hitler invade Poland, so Salomon, called Sally, and his brother, Isaak (Rene Hofschneider), were sent away but the brothers were separated and Sally found himself alone.  He ended up in a Russian orphanage where he was on his way to becoming a good Communist, when Hitler attacked Russia, leaving Sally a refugee once again.  

When he is captured by the Germans and they discover he can speak Russian and can be useful to them, he avoids discovery as a Jew.  Now he is a German soldier and he's only 16.  A German officer takes a liking to Sally and wants to adopt him so he sends Sally to an elite military school for Hitler Youth where he meets the anti-Semitic Leni (Julie Delpy in an early role) and falls in love with her.  All seems to be working out for our hero.

But here is the problem. 

Circumcision is the custom in the Jewish religion but not so for other men in Europe.  So the Nazis would make prisoners undress so they could inspect their penises.  Circumcision marked the prisoner as Jewish so for the entire span of Sally's odyssey during the war, from 1938 to 1945, Sally is tortured trying to keep his penis to himself, so to speak.  

When Sally is befriended by a Nazi soldier who was once an actor, Sally asks him, "Isn't it hard being someone else?" to which the actor replies, "It's harder to play yourself."  Quite the irony since Sally has become someone else in real life. He bends his persona to every situation he finds himself in. He is willing to deny who he really is to survive, and being a young teen he also is desperate to fit in. And through a series of lucky and sometimes absurd circumstances, Sally is able to fit in and survive. No matter what comes his way, he is able to blend in, but in so doing, he denies who he really is. 

And then there is that troublesome penis.  If anyone sees it, his true identity will be discovered, his penis a symbol of the fact that we can never really escape who we truly are.  But as director Agnieszka Holland said to film critic Amy Taubin in an interview in 1991, "His penis saved his soul. Otherwise, he might have become a total Nazi."

Perel eventually emigrated to Israel and never denied his Jewish heritage again, but he didn't tell his story until 40 years later.

Why It's a Must See: "[Director] Holland refrains from passing judgment on her chameleon-like protagonist as she represents unspeakable psychological tortures and miraculous escapes from a matter-of-fact distance, not dwelling on agony or bloodbath.  This is waht renders his incredible story so shockingly believable and separates it from other films about the Holocaust."

---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

The film won a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film and an Oscar for Holland for best screenwriting. Germany did not submit the film for consideration for a Best Foreign Language Oscar, because the film was not well received in Germany and was controversial on all sides, some thinking that Holland was mocking the Holocaust, others that she made a mockery of European nationalism of both the left and the right... and then there is that whole penis thing. Well, I guess it was just too much!

Rosy the Reviewer says...a fascinating take on identity and an original take on the Holocaust, that horrible part of human history.

***The Book of the Week***

Half Baked Harvest Cookbook: Recipes from My Barn in the Mountains by Tieghan Gerard

My new favorite cookbook!

One of seven children, Tieghan Gerard grew up in Ohio but moved to a Colorado mountain with her family when she was in high school.  At age 15 she started doing the cooking and found freedom, creativity and a haven from the chaos of her big family.  She began a blog called "Half Baked Harvest" where she shared her fresh takes on classic recipes and her blog took off, with millions of people taking her cooking advice.

This beautifully produced cookbook will charm even the fussiest cookbook connoisseur and her recipes are out of this world.  I mean, putting a poached egg in soup?  I'm there!

Gerard shares her and her family's story in the first pages of the book, and we find out how she came to write the cookbook.  And then she shares her recipes for breakfast dishes, appetizers, pasta and grains, meat, poultry and seafood dishes as well as some vegetarian options and, of course, dessert. Each recipe is accompanied by a paragraph by Gerard explaining how and why the recipe came about as well as some cooking tips, such as how to clean a leek or a possible ingredient substitution.

In addition to "Dad's One-Pan Friday Night Pasta" - I love anything I can make in just one pan - and a "30-Minute Healthier Chicken Parmesan: - what makes it healthier?  It uses zucchini noodles - here are my two current favorites:

"Spring Chicken Soup with Ravioli & Poached Eggs"


"Dad's Simple Pasta Salad."

I mean, c'mon, a chicken soup with plump raviolis and a poached egg floating in it?  Yum!  And though I wouldn't say the salad is particularly easy, because it has 14 different ingredients, many of which need to be chopped, it is absolutely delicious tossed with a basil pesto and full of sun-dried tomatoes, pickled pepperoncinis and pepperoni, ingredients not usually found in pasta salads. It even has some nectarines!

I have tried both of those recipes and they are winners!

I am intrigued by Gerard's use of interesting tastes such as miso paste, sun-dried tomatoes and other unusual ingredients.  Can't wait to try more!

Now on to the "Thai Butternut Squash and Peanut Soup" and the "Braised Pork Tamale Burrito Bowls!"

Rosy the Reviewer says...Gerard's story is an interesting one, her recipes are unusual and delicious and her tips are enlightening!  Bon appetit!

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


"Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice"


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.

Friday, October 16, 2015

"Everest" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Everest" and DVDs "I'll See You in My Dreams" and "The Wrecking Crew." The Book of the Week is "Judy & Liza & Robert & Freddie & David & Sue & Me," a memoir of Judy Garland's last years.  I also bring you up to date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with the blacklisted film "Salt of the Earth."]


Movie version of the 1996 Mount Everest Disaster.

In 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa Tenzing Norgay were the first climbers to ever scale the summit of Mt. Everest.  Since then, other experienced climbers have attempted this feat, some made it, some did not.  But over the years, taking climbers up Mt. Everest has become a business and Everest has become a mountain version of a traffic jam despite the huge (upwards of $65,000) price tag clients must pay to go up to the top.

Rob Hall, an experienced New Zealander climber who had scaled Mt. Everest four times (this expedition would be his 5th), was one of the first and most successful to start one of these guided climbs businesses. He and his partner, Gary Ball had completed The Seven Summits which meant they had climbed the highest mountains of each of the seven continents. Summiting all of them is regarded as THE mountaineering challenge and they had done all seven in seven months. Hall and Ball started Adventure Consultants in 1991 and had mounted many successful climbs and by 1996 Rob Hall had led 39 clients to the top of Mount Everest.

In 1996, Hall and two other guides took eight clients up the mountain.  Among those in the party was author Jon Krakauer, who at that time was working for "Outside Magazine," and was going to do a piece about the growing interest in commercial expeditions to Everest, and in turn, "Outside Magazine" would publicize Hall's business. Little did Krakauer know that he would be a key player in one of the greatest mountain climbing tragedies up until that time.

Though Hall had guided several successful treks up the mountain, this particular attempt encountered many delays, especially due to some 33 other climbers all wanting to summit at the same time and on the same day - by 2pm on May 10.  A literal traffic jam occurred at the Hillary Step, thus causing more dangerous delays which would keep climbers from going back down by 2pm, the last safe time to summit that would still allow them all to get back to camp by nightfall.  Then they were hit with a monster storm and some of them would not come down the mountain alive...or ever.

Jon Krakauer brilliantly wrote about what happened in his book "Into Thin Air."  However, the film is not based on his book and Krakauer has distanced himself from the film, saying how he was depicted was fictional.  Most probably because in the film there is a scene when some of their party are stranded on the mountain and he and some others have made it back to camp.  When Boukreev asks them to go back with him to try to save the others, Krakauer is depicted as saying that he can't go back to help the other climbers because he has snow blindness. That was not particularly flattering considering some of those climbers died.

However, Krakauer's own version of events came under attack by Anatoli Boukreev (played by Ingvar Eggert Sigurosson in the film), who was also there, and who gave his version in his book "The Climb." The filmmakers state that the screenplay by William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy, was an original one based on original research and not Krakauer's book.

It doesn't really matter which version you believe or which facts are true.  What happened, happened and, this film stands on its own as a mesmerizing, heartbreaking experience. 

Director Baltasar Kormakur oversaw gorgeous cinematography (Salvatore Totino), crisp editing by Mick Audsley, actual Everest locations and the wonderful acting, which all worked together to provide a brilliant film that makes you feel you are right there with the climbers.  This film will stay with you for a long time.

Jason Clarke, who until now was probably best known for "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" was a revelation here as Hall.  His performance should be rewarded with an Oscar nod.  He portrayed Hall as tender and loving to his wife, strong, caring and rational with his clients and tough and brave to the end. But Josh Brolin as Beck Weathers, a doctor from Texas; Jake Gyllenhaall, the Seattle-based tour guide, Scott Fischer, from rival tour company Mountain Madness; Emily Watson as Adventure Consultants' base camp manager; Sam Worthington as Rob's colleague Guy Cotter; Michael Kelly as Krakauer; John Hawkes as Doug Hansen, whose attempt last year was aborted and who desperately wanted to summit this time; Keira Knightly as Rob's wife, Jan; an almost unrecognizable Robin Wright as Beck's wife, Peach; and the other actors, all played a role in making this a moving, realistic experience.

In his book, Krakauer talks about the idea that it's not just getting up the mountain that is so hard.  It's getting up the mountain and then getting back down again.  Hall says something similar, feeling very responsible for getting everyone back down safely, which is why it was so important that they keep to their time table and head back down by 2pm.  In the film, there is one dramatic moment of sentimental and bad judgment that would prove fateful.

Why anyone would want to do something like this, climb the tallest mountain, is beyond me. When they say in the film that they will be climbing heights that 747's fly at, I shuddered.  When asked that "why question," renowned mountaineer George Mallory uttered the famous words, "Because it's there."  Unfortunately, Mallory's quest to scale Mt. Everest ended with his death there.  In the film, Krakauer asks the climbers that same question - Why? - and they humorously echo Mallory's words, but then go on to give some insights into why people would attempt such a dangerous and, as they admit, painful excursion. Some had very personal reasons. Weathers did it to alleviate his depression; Hanson as a role model for some school children. But for many it just boiled down to bragging be one of the few to do something few have done.  I still shake my head at the dangerous things people do willingly, no matter what the reason.

You can't help but get from this film the inherent dangers associated with the commercialization of climbing Mount Everest, which has led to people attempting the climb who probably shouldn't be up there and experienced tour guides making fatal decisions to make their paying customers happy. But that still doesn't detract from how heartbreaking this film is.

When you compare this film to "The Martian," which I reviewed last week, we have another film about trying to overcome nature in an unforgiving landscape, in that case Mars.  But when comparing these two films, one can't help but think that mountain climbing seems more scary, dramatic and exciting then space exploration.  Where "The Martian" lacked drama, this film was exciting from the first frame to the end credits.  And the homage at the end of the film paid to the real life people who perished on the mountain was particularly poignant.  I cried.

Though not a requisite for enjoying the film, see it in 3-D if you can. It just adds to the awesome cinematography.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Ring, ring.  It's the Academy calling.  Oscar wants you to know you have been nominated for Best Picture and Jason, you too.
Some Movies You Might Have Missed
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!
***Now Out on DVD***

Finding love is possible at any age.
Carol (Blythe Danner) is a widow of a certain age, retired and living alone.  She is lonely.  We know this because there are numerous shots of her doing solitary activities. Then her dog dies. 
(What is it with getting old and the dog dying?  It happened in "Five Flights Up" and in Erica Jong's recent novel "Fear of Dying."  That seems to be a recurrent theme in movies and books about getting old.  All us old folks have left in the end is our dog.  And then he dies too!).
After Carol puts her dog down, she returns home alone and has a big glass of wine.  That's my girl!  But then a huge rat runs across the floor. Not a good day for Carol.
As she is napping by her pool, the pool boy arrives and thinks she is dead.  "What, you thought I was dead because I am old?"  When it is clear she is indeed not dead, Carol offers the pool boy, Lloyd (Martin Starr) a glass of wine.  He accepts and they spend some time together drinking wine and discovering that they both love music.  In fact, they both used to sing in a band.  Lloyd invites Carol to go sing karaoke with him sometime.
OK, Danner looks great for her age. I am not a fan of women letting their hair go gray, but I have to say it looks good on Danner. In fact, she looks damn good in general, not just for a 72-year-old.  She either has really good genes or her plastic surgeon did a fantastic job. But when young Lloyd asked her out, they lost me.  Even if I had a pool, which I don't, not only would I not offer the pool boy a glass of wine, but I am sure he wouldn't ask me out either. 'Course I don't look as good as Danner, so who knows?
But then when Carol calls Lloyd about the karaoke, he has forgotten all about it and doesn't seem that keen.  Carol may have looked better to him with a couple of glasses of wine under his belt.  However, they make a date and Carol wows everyone with her great voice (Danner can really sing).  Lloyd is impressed.  Carol invites Lloyd in for coffee and they talk about life.  Lloyd is a bit of a loser.  He doesn't have any plans for his life and lives with his mother.  He spends the night (No, not like that - they would have really lost me if that had happened). He falls asleep on the couch.  Naturally the next morning one of her girlfriends comes over early and when she sees Lloyd there, she thinks all kinds of things.
Speaking of girlfriends, Carol meets regularly with her girlfriends to play cards (Rhea Perlman, Mary Kay Place who looks eerily like Hillary Clinton here, and June Squibb).  The girls are all living in a retirement complex and are trying to get Carol to pack up and move there too. Carol is not quite ready for that, but she agrees to go speed dating with them in a scene that fluctuates between humorous and cringe worthy.  So that doesn't really cut it for Carol, but then she meets Bill (Sam Elliott). They meet cute - yes, old folks can meet cute too.  She is shopping for vitamins and he comes up to her and says, "You don't need that.  You're all right the way you are."  See?  That's meeting cute.  And it doesn't hurt that Sam Elliott is still damn cute too.  And that voice of his.  He's the steak guy ("Beef.  It's what's for dinner").  You hear that voice of his all over TV in voice overs.
This is an enjoyable romantic comedy featuring mature adults.
But I could have down without the requisite sex talk among the old gals.  I have to ask: Why is it considered funny when senior citizens talk about sex?  Someone must think it is, because every time there is a film featuring senior citizens, the old folks do nothing but talk about sex or have it, the joke being, "Oh look, old wrinkly people in a retirement home still want to have sex."  Ew." I find that unfunny. Likewise, it seems we like to see senior citizens getting stoned, which Carol and her girlfriends do. They haul out the medical marijuana and then get the munchies and go buy out the store. And on the way home get pulled over by the cutest cop I have ever seen (Reid Scott, so now that I think of it, maybe I didn't mind that scene so much after all).  But add Carol's rat infestation which is a running gag here, and we've got old folks smoking marijuana, dreaming of sex but living alone with the rats?  And that's supposed to be funny?
But that was just a small part of the film and that aside, the script avoids most of the clichés about growing older. Danner's Carol is treated with respect as she maneuvers life alone, and Danner and Elliott are an appealing couple.  They are acting pros and create a world that we want to share with them.  I was drawn in.
Directed by Brett Haley, who also wrote the script with Marc Basch, the film examines what the present is might be like for senior women and what the future might look like, especially as we women outlive our husbands.  We can look back on what we did but what is our present? The ending is poignant and unexpected and it's refreshing to see a movie where things are not wrapped up neatly.
Possible spoiler alert.  In the end, it's all about dogs.
Rosy the Reviewer says...I absolutely loved this movie.  It's a charming gem that mature viewers will really enjoy.  We need more movies like this!
A documentary that celebrates the talented session players called "The Wrecking Crew," who provided the instrumentals on most of our favorite songs from the 60's.
Most of the riffs Baby Boomers have come to identify with didn't actually come from the artists credited with the song but by the session players, an elite group of studio musicians, who were called in again and again to provide the music.
Artists such as Cher, Herb Alpert, Mickey Dolenz of The Monkees (who I will always remember as "Circus Boy," one of my favorite Saturday morning shows growing up) and Jimmy Webb give testimonials to the talents of "The Wrecking Crew," of which Glenn Campbell and Leon Russell were a part until they made it as solo artists.
Denny Tedesco who directed this documentary was the son of one of these guys: guitarist Tommy Tedesco.  Others were Al Casey (guitar), Earl Palmer (drums), Hal Blaine (drums), Plas Johnson (sax), Joe Osborn (bass), Don Randi (keyboard) and most interestingly, Carol Kaye, who was not one of the guys, she was a woman who played bass, something that was most unusual for the 50's and 60's. These musicians could play more than one instrument and play any style and often contributed ideas on how the song should go. Kaye is credited with the familiar riffs on "Good Vibrations."

This is Tedesco's labor of love and he spent years trying to get the permissions he needed to feature the songs that are intermingled with archival footage and interviews.
Like the Academy Award-winning documentary "Twenty Feet from Stardom," this film highlights the talents that were overshadowed by the big name stars.
Rosy the Reviewer says...a fascinating look inside the L.A. music scene during the 60's and a long overdue nod to the unsung musical heroes who gave us some of the greatest songs of our time.


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

276 to go! 

This blacklisted film tells the fictional story of striking Mexican American workers at a zinc mine in New Mexico in the 1950's.

The workers at the San Marcos mine in Zinctown, New Mexico are sick of the discrimination they are experiencing so they call a general strike.  The men want better wages but the women want sanitation.  The women are told, "You're a woman, you don't know what it's like up there." 

The Mexican workers want equality but their wives want decent living conditions.  The men are chauvinists but eventually they figure out that they need to organize the women too.  When the company takes out an injunction against the men forbidding them to picket, the women take their places on the picket line and when the scabs come in, the women fight them off but are arrested.  When the women are locked up, the men find out what it's like to try to run a household without sanitation and the women are not about to go back home and be subservient to the men.  You go, ladies!

There is solidarity for the men and the women.

Directed by Herbert J. Biberman (one of The Hollywood Ten) and with a script based on a true event, this film was banned for over a decade, probably because it questioned racial and gender equality, but in 1992 the film was selected for inclusion in The National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. The rudimentary acting (some of the cast were not actors) and spare production values makes this feel more like an industrial film, except this is pro-union, pro-feminist and shows the anti-Mexican sentiment at work during that time.

"This rarely screened classic is the only major American independent feature made by communists...[The film] was informed by feminist attitudes that are quite uncharacteristic of the period [and] was inspired by the blacklisting of director Herbert Biberman, screenwriter Michael Wilson, producer and former screenwriter Paul Jarrico, and composer Sol Kaplan...because they'd been drummed out of Hollywood for being subversives, they'd commit a 'crime to fit the punishment' by making a subversive film. The resuls are leftist propaganda of a high order, powerful and intelligent..."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...not an especially easy filmic experience, but an important piece of film history nevertheless.

***Book of the Week***


Hollywood agent Phillips' no holds barred memoir of her career representing some big name talents, especially Judy Garland in her final years.

The Judy in the title is Judy Garland and Liza is Liza Minnelli.  The others are Robert Redford, Freddie Fields, David Begelman and Sue Mengers.  Fields and Begelman were the founders of CMA (Creative Management Associates now ICM), at one time, one of the most powerful talent agencies in Hollywood.  Sue Mengers was a powerful agent and one of Phillips' colleagues and closest friends.

When Phillips was in her twenties and just starting out working at CMA, she was called upon to be Garland's "minder" of sorts, so she saw first hand Garland's self-destruction.  Likewise, later in life, when she represented Liza Minnelli, Garland's daughter, she watched her unravel as well. At the end of the book, Phillips credits her time with Judy and later Liza as an awakening of sorts, to drug addiction and her own co-dependency.

It's difficult for me to believe that anyone, except Hollywood's Old Guard, would care very much anymore about Freddie Fields, David Begelman or Sue Mengers.  Or even Phillips herself for that matter, despite an interesting career working with some of Hollywood's greats.

People drawn to this book are no doubt interested in dish about Garland and that's mostly what we have here.  There is not much about Redford or even her friend, Sue Mengers.  As for Garland, I have a bit of a problem with books that are all about the declining years of an icon.  And Garland's declining years were not pretty, but they have already been well-documented.  I say let her rest in peace and let us remember her as she was in her movies. 

But this is also Phillips' story. Phillips was making her way as a talent agent back when women were more likely to be taking shorthand and getting coffee.  So she had to have been one smart and tough cookie to make it big in that industry. But it took its toll.  Now 78, and with three failed marriages, Phillips, despite being a feminist, doesn't believe women can have it all or do it all. In addition to her time with Garland, Phillips was Liza Minnelli's first agent and helped her get her start, and was rewarded by Liza's betrayal, which it took Phillips almost ten years to get over.  She points out that loyalty in Hollywood is not in great supply. 

She eventually reinvented herself as a Broadway producer, finding great success with the stage version of "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas."  She disavows the movie version, which I am glad to hear because it was the only movie I have ever walked out of half-way through. Her insights on what it takes to produce a Broadway show would be of interest to theatre folks.

Rosy the Reviewer says...If you like insider Hollywood anecdotes or are interested in what it took to be a woman talent agent in Hollywood in the 60's, you might enjoy this book, but Garland fans might not want to know all of these gory details about her.

Thanks for Reading!


That's it for this week.


See you Tuesday for

"Retirement Brain"


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