Showing posts with label Let Him Go. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Let Him Go. Show all posts

Monday, March 8, 2021

What I Enjoyed Watching While Waiting for Vaccine #2

[The United States vs. Billie Holiday, Judas and the Black Messiah, Pieces of a Woman, Nomadland, Let Him Go and The Little Things]

I have to say it was a big relief to get my first shot of the vaccine. We had to drive 75 miles to get it but we got it. But one shot does not make me want to go out and mingle, so I am still on a kind of self-imposed lockdown until shot #2, though I do venture out upon occasion to sit, drink a glass of wine (or two) outside and listen to music.

But despite those few forays out into the world which provides a modicum of normalcy, it's still the old TV that keeps me company these days and thank goodness there are some great movies available out there to get me through.

A little known side of singer Billie Holiday's life.

Diana Ross introduced audiences to singer Billie Holiday back in 1972 in "Lady Sings the Blues" and showed theatre goers she could act. She was awarded a Golden Globe as "Best Newcomer" and a Best Actress Academy Award for her performance. Now almost 50 years later yet another generation is being introduced to Holiday, this time starring singer Andra Day.

One can't help but make comparisons between this new biopic and "Lady Sings the Blues." Both films explored Holiday's tumultous life that included a horrific childhood and later an adulthood rife with drug abuse; both showed Holiday was hounded by the FBI for her drug abuse; both films starred singers in their first acting roles; and both actresses won awards for their performances (Andra Day won this year's Golden Globe for Best Actress).

But what sets this film apart from the first one is the premise that the real reason the FBI hounded Holiday was not as much about her drug use as her song "Strange Fruit," which metaphorically dramatized the horrors of the lynching of black people.

When the film begins, Holiday's career is in full swing and so is her drug use. FBI head J. Edgar Hoover and Head Narc, Harry Anslinger (Garrett Hedlund) are bent on bringing Billie down, seeing the song as un-American, a call for civil rights that would stir people up and a threat to the status quo, the status quo being white supremacy. Ainslinger also had a vendetta against jazz! So they recruit Jimmy Fletcher (Trevante Rhodes), a black agent, who wants to make something of himself, to go undercover and befriend Holiday, "befriend" being a euphemism for some very steamy sex scenes. This film is almost as much about Fletcher as Holiday as he was one of few black agents in a segregated agency. Anslinger and the FBI harassed her to the end of her life at 44, even when she lay in a hospital dying her feet were handcuffed to the hospital bed.

Day is a compelling Holiday and I couldn't help but remember that Billie Holiday was also called "Lady Day," so Day starring as Holiday is an interesting coincidence, though she gave herself that stage name in honor of Holiday. And her performance is not just interesting, but raw, compelling, riveting and wonderful, and her Golden Globe win for Best Actress is well deserved, which brings me to one of my pet peeves that I rant about from time to time. Okay, I rant about it a LOT.

I have not liked it when first timers like Day and Ross won the big awards over veteran actors who have paid their dues. For example, Day beat Frances McDormand for this one, and I was not happy when the award was announced, because I thought that McDormand was flawless in "Nomadland (see review below)." However, that little hissy fit was before I saw this film, and after seeing it, I have decided that I will no longer have this bias about first-timers getting awards over old-timers. Day was phenomenal as an actress and a singer, bringing Billie Holiday to life for modern audiences. Her rendition of "Strange Fruit" is beyond moving.

So from now on, I will take it case-by-case, or should I say performance by performance (In future, I will have to come up with something new to rant about. And you know I will)!

Anyway, based on the book "Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs" by Johann Hari (adapted for the screen by Suzan-Lori Parks) and directed by Lee Daniels, this film is a grim and harrowing account of Holiday's later years and what she went through trying to speak her truth.  It resonates today because people of color are still being harassed for not only speaking their truth, but just living their lives.

Oh, and by the way, the film begins with a written opening sequence that reads:

"In 1937 a bill was introduced to ban lynching."
"It didn't pass."

And the film ends with this epilogue:

"The Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act was brought back in 2020 and has yet to pass."

Do you believe that? We can't even get a bill passed TODAY that says it's not okay to lynch someone!

Rosy the Reviewer says...a tough movie to watch but a profound and satisfying film experience that brings Billie Holiday and her music to life for a new generation. Day does Lady Day proud.

A docudrama about Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) and the undercover FBI informant who brought him down.

The name Fred Hampton is probably not a name that most of you remember today, but in the late 60’s he was the Illinois Chairman of the Black Panther Party and Deputy Chairman of the National Black Panther Party, and it was a name that J. Edgar Hoover knew well. You see, Hoover wasn't too thrilled with the Black Panthers and he was particularly concerned when Fred founded the Rainbow Coalition, a political organization, that not only included the Black Panthers, but also the Young Lords and other street gangs, an alliance that was meant to stop the infighting among the various groups so they would all work together for social change. J. Edgar Hoover felt threatened by that and didn’t want that to happen so he planted an informant, Bill O'Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) in Fred’s midst which eventually led to Fred’s assassination (and planting informants seems to have been one of Hoover's things. See review of "The United States vs. Billie Holiday" above).
I remember the name Fred Hampton well because I was living in Michigan at the time, I was a young woman also interested in social change (you may not know this, but the SDS started in Michigan) and because how Fred died was so shocking. He was only 21.
How it all got to that point is explored in this powerful docudrama starring Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield who both bring in incredible performances. Kaluuya won this year's Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor, which was well-deserved, but I was surprised that Stanfield was overlooked because this film is really about him and what happens when you make a deal with the devil. With a screenplay by Shaka King and Will Berson and directed by King, the film is also a reminder of how hard the struggle for justice and equality has been for people of color. And a reminder that the struggle continues still.
Rosy the Reviewer says…lots of buzz around this movie of the Oscar variety. Don’t miss out. And when you watch, don’t miss the epilogue. It will choke you up and make you go “Whaaat???” as you wipe away the tears. (Now streaming on HBO Max)

The repercussions of a tragic home birth.

You fans of “The Crown” will recognize Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret from the first two seasons. She was wonderful in that, but the character she plays here is about as far from Princess Margaret as she could get. But she is still wonderful.
Here she plays Martha, a woman grieving the loss of her baby after a tragic home birth. And the birth itself takes up the first 20+ minutes of the film and it’s pretty real and raw made worse by the fact that the baby doesn't make it.
The crux of the film written by Kata Weber and directed by Kornel Mundruczo asks the question: How does one pick up the pieces and go on after giving birth and then having no baby as life goes on around you? There is grief, guilt, isolation and shame. And then anger and blame. Whose fault was this? It must be someone’s fault. Martha wonders did she do something wrong while pregnant? Was it the midwife’s fault? Anyone who has lost a baby would be able to relate to this. But anyone who has gone through any kind of loss can also relate because the film is about mourning, how the sadness from loss affects entire families and how one learns to go on.
Kirby puts in a profound performance that pulls no punches. Her performance won her a Best Actress Golden Globe nomination, and I would guess an Oscar nomination is also in the offing. Ellen Burstyn has a small role as Martha’s mother and shows that at 88 she can still bring it (she has several award nominations for this performance) and Martha’s husband is played by Shia LeBeouf, who always puts in great performances in films but can’t seem to put in very good performances in real life. But I digress.
This is all about Kirby’s performance. However, sadly, as a completely satisfying film experience, it kind of fell apart.
Rosy the Reviewer says…I can’t whole heartedly recommend this film. It isn’t for everyone, but if you are into great acting, it’s worth seeing for Kirby’s performance. (Now streaming on Netflix)


After losing her job and her husband, a woman starts her life over as a modern day nomad.

It seems that every film that Frances McDormand stars in results in not only an award for her but for the film as well. And her latest film is no exception. Her performance won a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress and the film won Best Picture along with a nomination for Best Screenplay and a win for director Chloe Zao, one of three women directors nominated this year and the first Asian woman winner ever for Best Director (she wrote the screenplay too).
And these wins and nominations are well-deserved because this is an extraordinary film with an extraordinary performance by McDormand. You can expect that there will be Oscar nominations as well.

Based on the nonfiction book, “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century” by Jessica Bruder, this is the fictionalized story of Fern, a victim of the Great Recession of the late 2000’s. In 2011, the US Gypsum plant where she worked closed down after 88 years, turning the town of Empire, Nevada into a ghost town. You know things are bad when a town’s zip code is discontinued. And then her husband died leaving her alone.
So Fern hits the road in her van she dubs “Vanguard” and becomes part of the Nomad culture, people who move from place to place, following job opportunities. We see Fern working in an Amazon warehouse, a rock quarry and a beet farm and along the way forming relationships with other nomads.
But this is not a story of despair. As Fern explains, she is not homeless, she is just “houseless” and it seems she prefers it that way. Yes, some living the nomad culture are there by circumstance but others have chosen this life. Many are older Americans who love the freedom of living on the open road, explaining that it’s a last chance to really live, to do the things they want to do before it’s too late. “Don’t die with your sailboat in the driveway.”
Though Fern makes connections with others on the road, we see that she is ultimately alone, living a life of solitude, but you don’t feel sorry for her because there is a quiet resignation, dignity and humanity about her. But one also can’t help but draw some comparisons to the uncertainty of today and think, “There but for fortune…”
This is a quiet film where not much happens as we follow Fern on her journey, but the beauty of the landscapes and the short scenes keep the pace brisk and I guarantee that you will be mesmerized.
And much of that is because of McDormand. She does a lot of listening and reacting in this film, listening and reacting to her fellow nomads, many of whom are not actors but actual nomads living the lifestyle. Hers is the quiet performance of an accomplished actress at the top of her game. She has an amazing ability to express herself without speaking. She can act with her eyes.
You know how I judge a movie? If it makes my eyes well up at the end. And I’m not talking about a sad movie. The film can be a drama, a comedy, a thriller, whatever, but if my eyes well up when it’s over (I also might chuckle, too), it’s because I just had a very, very special and wonderful movie experience.
Rosy the Reviewer says…my eyes welled up. (Now streaming on HBO Max)

After the death of their only son, a retired sheriff and his wife set out to find their only grandson.

Kevin Costner plays George Blackledge, a retired Montana sheriff. When we meet him, he is living on his ranch with his wife Margaret (Diane Lane), his son, James (Ryan Bruce), James’ wife, Lorna (Kayli Carter), and their newborn baby son, Jimmy. All is happy families until James dies in an accident, and a couple of years later, Lorna remarries Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain), and Margaret observes Donnie abusing Jimmy and Lorna.
And then one day Donnie, Lorna and Jimmy are gone.

So Margaret decides that she and George need to go find them and bring Jimmy back to live with them. And that’s not an easy task, because they don’t know where they went nor much about Donnie and it’s the 60’s as in no Internet, no cell phones, nothing but good old-fashioned sleuthing. They do find them but get much more than they bargained for because the Weboys turn out to be one nasty family, thanks to Blanche (an almost unrecognizable Lesley Manville), the matriarch.
Halfway into the film it looks like George and Margaret will be reunited with their grandson, but when there is still an hour to go, you know there is time for everything to go terribly wrong and it does.
Leslie Manville as Blanche is one mean mother. Manville is a British actress you have probably seen a million times and recognize but have never known her name. However, here, playing a tough and ornery North Dakota farm woman, she was unrecognizable to me at first which says something about what a great actress she is.
Now, let me wax poetic for a moment about Kevin Costner.

Okay, it’s not exactly poetic. I am just going to slobber a bit over him. I just think he is one handsome, sexy guy and at 66 he is still one handsome, sexy guy. I have never gotten over the sex scene in the back of the car in “No Way Out” and seeing him here once in person playing at the Pebble Beach A T & T Pro-Am dripping in Armani, well, let’s just say going into this film I was already a fan. Oh, and did I mention he is a really good actor too?
But this is really Diane Lane’s movie. She is one of those actresses who puts in subtle performances that exude light. No actressy mannerisms for her. Her Margaret is a grandmother with quiet determination who can’t be stopped when it comes to saving her family. And you believe her.

Written and directed by Thomas Bezucha and based on the novel by Larry Watson, this is a compelling story that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Rosy the Reviewer says…really liked this one. And the moral of the story? Don’t mess with us grandmas!

(Available on DVD from Netflix and to rent on Amazon Prime. By the way, I would say Kevin has a thing about Montana. We are currently working on Season 1 of “Yellowstone,” now available on Amazon Prime).

A Deputy Sheriff from Bakersfield becomes embroiled in a search for a serial killer in L.A.

Denzel Washington plays Joe “Deke” Deacon, a Bakersfield Deputy Sheriff, who is sent to Los Angeles to retrieve some evidence and finds himself involved in a search for a serial killer. He teams up with local detective, Jim Baxter, played by Rami Malek, and the two hone in on Albert Sparma (Jared Leto) who pulls them into a cat and mouse game.
This will pull you in, too, with a harrowing “woman in danger” opening scene and, from there, it’s a fast-moving crime drama – almost too fast for me because sometimes I didn’t know what was going on. But that’s okay. It’s all very noir and compelling and the last 20 minute sequence is a nail biter.
Denzel may be getting older but he’s still got it as a disgraced and tormented cop (that’s how he ended up in Bakersfield – Deke, not Denzel); Rami Malek is fine but a strange choice for this – I guess I can’t forget him as Freddie Mercury; but it’s Jared Leto who almost steals the show. I say almost because nobody steals the show from Denzel. But Leto is chilling and creepy. Do you notice that most of the characters he plays these days are odd or extremely strange? When did he change from that handsome teen idol from “My So-Called Life” to Rayon in “The Dallas Buyers Club” or The Joker in “Suicide Squad?” Anyway, I guess it works for him. He was nominated for a Golden Globe Best Supporting Actor nomination for this latest strange, but riveting, performance.

Rosy the Reviewer says…an old-fashioned who-done-it crime drama with some modern twists and some great performances.
(Now available On Demand)

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And 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.