Showing posts with label Life & Beth. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Life & Beth. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

What I Watched While Recovering from Covid - Hits and Misses

[I review "House of Gucci," "Lucy and Desi," "Flee," "The French Dispatch," "Life & Beth," and "The Thing About Pam."]

Yep.  I got it.  After getting vaxed and boosted and being careful, I managed to avoid the dreaded Covid for over two years, and then once I thought the world was doing better, and I let my guard down by traveling to Washington State for a party, I GOT IT!

Yuck.  And it's embarrassing.  Admitting to getting Covid is almost like admitting to doing something wrong.  I feel there is a stigma in there somewhere, so in addition to feeling like crap physically, I have to feel like crap that I got it.  

So 5-10 days of quarantine feeling like crap (cough, cough) is one thing, but the worst part?  The boredom and isolation.  So good thing I had lots of content on my beloved telly.  I was entertained. (And I read some books too!)

So here is what I watched:


House of Gucci (2021)

Family intrigue in the House of Gucci.

I know I am rather late to this party, but there was that little thing called The Pandemic, and I lost interest in going to the theatre, so wasn't able to see this film until it just now showed up for rent on Apple+.  And even though I am late to the party, I wanted to see if this film, along with Lady Gaga and Jared Leto, deserved to be robbed of Oscar nods.  

After all of the buzz around the film and Gaga's and Leto's performances, the film garnered only one Oscar nomination - hair and makeup!  How can that be?  We know Leto will do anything to make his role work.  Who can forget his losing 40 pounds for his Oscar winning role in "The Dallas Buyer's Club?"  And Lady Gaga reportedly kept her Italian accent day and night for nine months while filming this. She was nominated for an Oscar for her first starring role in "A Star is Born." Was that a flash in the pan?

I had to get to the bottom of this!

The film is the true story of the family machinations that brought down the House of Gucci, a powerful fashion brand that dominated the fashion world for much of the mid-20th century. Lady Gaga plays Patrizia Reggiani, a Liz Taylor look-alike, who meets Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) at a party in 1970.  She is beautiful and charming, he rather shy and awkward, but when she heard his name, ka-ching! Patrizia made a point to get herself a date with Maurizio and through sheer force of will, her will, he fell in lover with her.  He didn't have a chance.  Patrizia was a force of nature.  They married but all was not well in the Gucci family.  Maurizio's father, Rodolpho (Jeremy Irons - and no one does bored aristocrat like he does!), did not approve of his only son marrying Patrizia, thinking her a gold digger. Duh. But Patrizia had ambition, more ambition than her husband, and when Rodolpho died, she constantly worked on Maurizio to take out his uncle Aldo (Al Pacino) and cousin Paolo (Leto). Patrizia didn't have much to worry about with Paolo.  He was a sad character.  As his own father, Aldo, says about him, "He's an idiot, but he's my idiot."

Maurizio moves up in the company but his marriage to Patrizia fades and he unceremoniously discards her, even though they have a daughter together.  However, Patrizia is not going down without making Maurizio pay. And with the help of her psychic, Pina (Salma Hayek), she plots her revenge. 

So...after watching all two hours and 38 minutes of this film, I have come up with my conclusion.

Somebody associated with this film pi**ed somebody off, because not only should this film have been nominated (I mean it was directed by Ridley Scott, for god's sake!), but both Gaga and Leto were robbed.  They both should have been nominated because their performances were brilliant.  

The film, with a screenplay by Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna (based on the book "The House of Gucci" by Sara Gay Forden), was beautiful to look at and was engaging, all two hours and 38 minutes of it. It captured the opulence of the very rich.  Leto did what he usually does.  He embraced the role fully from his latex face makeup to his fat suit, all making him unrecognizable.  But makeup and prostheses aside, he brought the role of the sad, incompetent Paolo Gucci to life.  And Lady Gaga.  She was amazing in this.  Never once did I think I was watching the superstar singer.  I was watching the beautiful and charming Patrizia Gucci make waves all over Milan and Lake Como.

If we are going to have 10 movie nominations (something I don't agree with, by the way), this one totally deserved to be in that group.  It certainly could have replaced "Drive My Car," which in my opinion did not deserve to be in the Best Picture category.  Likewise, when I compare Best Supporting Actor nominee Jesse Plemons performance in "The Power of the Dog" to Leto's, though a good performance, no comparison.  Likewise, much as I enjoyed J.K. Simmons as William Frawley in "Being the Ricardos," his part was so small, again, no comparison, and much as I like Ciaran Hinds as an actor, I hardly remember him in "Belfast."  In my mind, Leto could have taken one of those places.  

As for Lady Gaga, she should have been nominated for Best Actress instead of Kristin Stewart.  If you read my review of "Spencer," you know I hated that film.  It made a mockery of Princess Diana, and though Stewart's performance was okay, she mimicked Diana's mannerisms but there was no there there.  And then she had the gall to wear shorts to the Oscars!

As for the other actors, Al Pacino was quite wonderful as Aldo Gucci, Maurizio's uncle.  He was uncharacteristically toned down, well, as toned down as Al can get.  Jeremy Irons?  What can't he do? And Adam Driver as Maurizio.  His role was less flashy than the others, but crucial to the film and he was great.  Though he has consistently been nominated for awards, I still feel he is an underrated actor.  You don't hear his name come up in "greatest actors" conversations, but he is right up there.

And as for the film itself, though I am not a fan of movies that run two hours and 38 minutes, this one didn't feel that long.  My gauge on such things is whether or not Hubby stays awake, and he was awake for the entire film!  And the film did move along. It's a fabulous, real life soap opera.  My only other criticism is that I wish there had been more time spent on the ending of Patrizia's and Maurizio's marriage and why she chose to do what she did.

Rosy the Reviewer enjoyable and satisfying film experience that deserved more than one Oscar nomination!

Lucy and Desi (2022)

The rise of Lucy and Desi and how "I Love Lucy" changed Hollywood.

"Being the Ricardos" was a fine dramatization of a time in Lucille Ball's and Desi Arnaz's marriage but this is the real thing.  Directed by Amy Poehler and with the help of Lucy and Desi's daughter, Lucie Arnaz Luckinbill, who also narrates, this film gives insight into not just Lucy and Desi's marriage but Lucy and Desi themselves.  Lucie shares her mother's tapes and videos, never-before-heard or seen, and from them we see the personal side of Lucy and Desi.

Written by Mark Monroe, the film covers each of their careers - Lucy as a young girl growing up in Jamestown, New York but leaving home early, heading for New York where she modeled and was a chorus girl on Broadway. She was discovered by Hollywood and went under contract with RKO.  She was happy for the work, did what she was told but never really made it past the "B" movies to stardom.

Desi started out in Cuba in a rich family but when the Cuban Revolution of 1933 occurred, Desi's father lost everything and the family fled to Miami.  Desi had musical talent, formed a band, and was discovered by Xavier Cugat which in turn led to him starting his own band, The Desi Arnaz Orchestra, where he played the conga drum and sang.  He was credited with introducing the concept of conga line dancing.

Desi had appeared on Broadway in "Too Many Girls" and when he was called to Hollywood for the movie version, he met Lucy.  They fell in love and married. However, his touring schedule and her work kept them apart for much of their early marriage which led them to think of what they could do together.  And "I Love Lucy" was born.  They did the TV show so they could be together.

In "Being the Ricardos," Nicole Kidman did a good job of portraying some of Lucy's famous comic moments on the show, but there is nothing like seeing the real thing.  This documentary has many of Lucy's funniest moments, reminding us what a gift she had for physical comedy. The irony was that Lucy was not a funny person.  In fact, she was a very serious person who took the work of being funny very seriously. But she was an actress.  She knew how to get a laugh. And more importantly, she was not afraid to look silly or unattractive in order to get that laugh. She put in hours and hours of rehearsal so it would all work.

Though Desi was often overshadowed by Lucy, he was the glue that held it all together, and he turned out to be a good producer. Because the quality of the film that played on the East Coast wasn't very good, he came up with the idea of filming the show live with an audience using three cameras, an innovative concept at the time. He also invented "re-runs." Desi and Lucy formed Desilu Productions and eventually bought RKO Pictures, the very studio where Lucy had been under contract and where they had met. Desilu was responsible for such TV shows as "Star Trek," "The Untouchables," "Mission Impossible," and so many more. 

But over time, it all became too much for Desi. He just didn't enjoy it, and the marriage suffered. Lucy and Desi divorced, married others, but always maintained a close relationship until Desi's death.

Like "Being the Ricardos," the documentary also deals with Lucy being called before the House Un-American Activities Committee for registering as a Communist but doesn't dwell there as much as the dramatization did.

Seeing this old footage from the "I Love Lucy" show brought back so many memories.

I was five years old when we got our first TV, so I guess I must have started watching Season 2 (the show started in 1951).  Funny how I remembered every bit of the footage shown and it's still so funny. And it was groundbreaking as well.  Never had a pregnancy been a focal point of a TV show before.

Bette Midler, Carol Burnett, and Norman Lear all weigh in about the influence Lucy had on television and on them. Lucy was dedicated to helping other women come up and Carol and Bette share their experiences and friendship with Lucy.

Those of you who grew up with Lucy and Desi will love this and so will those of you who didn't.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a fitting tribute to television icons (Amazon Prime).

Flee (2021)

An animated documentary about a man forced to flee Afghanistan as a boy and the secret he had to live with.

Despite the fact that this film had three Oscar nominations this year – Best International Feature Film, Best Documentary Feature and Best Animated Feature Film – you might not know about it, but now you will. And that’s a good thing because this is one of the best films of 2021 and you don’t want to miss it.

This Danish film, written and directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen, is the true and harrowing story of Amin Nawabi (not his real name), an Afghan refugee who shares his story about fleeing Afghanistan as a young refugee. Amin had fled Afghanistan after the Mujahideen took control in the 1990’s and arrived in Copenhagen alone. Rasmussen and Nawabi met as teens and became friends with Rasmussen eventually becoming a film director and Amin becoming an academic. As adults, they reconnect for this documentary so that Amin can tell his story.

The story begins with the adult Amin lying on a couch looking straight ahead telling his story for the first time, beginning with his childhood in Afghanistan, a happy one until his father was taken away by the communists in the 1980’s. When the Mujahideen gained power, the family – Amin’s mother, two sisters and brother - escaped to Russia where, overstaying their visas, they lived a fearful life, until Amin’s other older brother in Sweden was able to help. Several harrowing attempts to escape with traffickers ended badly – imagine being in a container on a container ship with inadequate food, water or air. Finally, Amin is chosen to make his way alone, and when he surrenders himself to Danish officials, asking for refugee status, he must tell a lie that haunts him into his adulthood and is the reason he needs anonymity for this film.

And then there is the side story. Amin knew he was gay from a very young age but there wasn’t even a word for homosexual in Afghanistan. He felt it was something that would bring shame on his family so he kept it to himself and now as an adult he is having trouble committing to marriage to his partner, Kasper.

Though this is a documentary, it is mostly animated, an unusual device for a documentary, but it works, and it provides anonymity for the characters. And considering what is going on in the Ukraine right now, and the on-going refugee crisis around the world, it’s very timely. The film shows the horrors of what so many of our fellow humans have gone through and are going through to escape persecution and find a place of freedom and safety in this world, things many of us take for granted. This film is a compelling and poignant plea for compassion for refugees that ends on a note of hope. Keep some tissues handy.

I always think I don’t like animated movies anymore. Been there, done that (thank you, Mr. Disney). I’m all grown up now. I don’t do animated films, but then I take the plunge, surprise myself, and in so doing, discover some wonderful films like this one.

Rosy the Reviewer says…a chilling yet poignant reminder of the plight of refugees. Refugees are not immigrants. Most immigrants have time. Refugees must flee! A must see film!
(Hulu and on DVD)

Wes Anderson's homage to journalists.

For some, writer/director Wes Anderson is an acquired taste…and it’s a taste I have acquired! I have loved his movies. From “Rushmoreto “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” to The Isle of Dogs,you can count on Anderson to bring original, funny, and yes, sometimes weird, movies to the screen. And obviously actors galore have acquired the taste as well. Everyone seems to want to work with him and this film is no exception.

This time Benicio Del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Henry Winkler, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Timothee Chalamet and Owen Wilson star along with too many others to list. Okay, I will list some more: Elizabeth Moss, Willem Defoe, Liv Schreiber. Did I miss anyone? I actually did. There are more.
This is Anderson’s homage to journalists, specifically those who worked for “The New Yorker,” a distinguished cast of journalists, but here the magazine is called “The French Dispatch,” published out of a little French town called Ennui-sur-Blasé, which is quite funny all by itself. The film plays out as a series of articles from the magazine where the viewer literally steps into the articles – an obituary, a travel guide and three feature articles
In the first of the feature articles, Benicio del Toro plays Moses Rosenthaler, an imprisoned murderer who also paints. His female prison guard (Lea Seydoux - gee, I forgot to mention her) acts as his nude model when she’s not putting him back into his strait jacket and “guarding” him. His abstract painting of her becomes famous with the help of the Cadazio Uncles and Nephews Gallery led by Adrien Brody.

In the second segment, Anderson pays homage to the French student movement of the 60’s as writer Frances McDormand gets romantically involved with Zeffirelli (Chalamet), one of the leaders of the youth movement, thus losing her objectivity for her story.

And finally, Jeffrey Wright (sheesh, someone else I forgot to mention!) plays food writer, Roebuck Wright, a James Baldwin-esque writer, who while interviewing the special police chief, whose job is to provide special food for the police, gets involved in a kidnapping.

Written by Anderson, Roman Coppola, and Hugo Guinness, the film is a sort of anthology with each segment able to stand on its own. There are all kinds of literary allusions and insider jokes relating to the New Yorker and its writers and the art and culture of New York and Paris during the mid 20th century, and it can be fun to try to catch those, not to mention recognizing all of the actors who come and go. It's all very French and satiric, and Anderson uses absurdist humor in parts 1 and 2 respectively to comment on "What is art?" and youth protests. Not sure what the third one was doing, but props to Anderson for paying homage to journalists of that era, journalists who wrote beautifully and took risks. It is a good reminder of a time when print media was king. Sadly, that has mostly been replaced by the “anything goes” Internet.

It's all unmistakably a Wes Anderson film, a dizzying array of madcap antics and beautiful images, something you can count on from Anderson, but it's not one of my favorite Anderson films. Points for ambition, but I think he just tried to do too much. There is a lot going on at all times and some of it is incomprehensible. It has the feel of “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” but, for me, not as much fun. I was scratching my head too much.

Rosy the Reviewer says…if you are an Anderson fan, this might be a disappointment. It was for me.


Life & Beth (2022)

Beth is 40, unmarried, and childless and wondering how she got there and where she is headed.

I know that Amy Schumer can be polarizing, because she is not afraid to "go there."  Some of the things that come out of that innocent face of hers...but women comics have had a difficult road. Women often aren't considered funny.  John Belushi famously said his female counterparts on SNL were not funny, Jerry Lewis said female comedians weren't funny and author/journalist Christopher Hitchens said women in general were just inherently not funny.  But what did they know?  Belushi didn't live a very smart life, Lewis didn't respect women and was supposedly an abuser and Hitchens was just a grouch.

I admit up front I am an Amy fan.  And she proved her worth at the Oscars when she came out after the slap heard round the world and said, "Did I miss anything?" Brilliant. Even before that she and Wanda and Regina were killing it as hosts. And they were funny! 

But whether you are an Amy fan or not, this series shows a very different side of her.  Yes, it's funny and she still goes there, but she is toned down. She almost plays straight woman to a cast of odd characters. You see, Beth (Schumer) is not a particularly happy women.  She is a wine cellar rep who feels the clock is ticking on her life.  She is almost 40, unmarried, childless and then her mother dies and her mother's death shakes up her life. 

So Beth moves out of Manhattan, back to her childhood town and home on Long Island, where she has to confront many painful childhood memories and try to rekindle her relationship with her sister, Ann (Susannah Flood). In flashbacks, between Beth's middle school years and her adulthood, we see where Beth's angst came from: middle school bullying, her parents' divorce, her mother's affair with her best friend's father, the constant stream of new men coming and going in her mother's life, a boating accident that ruined her high school volleyball career and her dealing with all of that by pulling her hair out.

But she also meets John (Michael Cera), a local farmer who doesn't seem to have a filter.  He's a nice guy but very flat and socially awkward and just too darn honest.  Perhaps Beth needs that. But underneath that flat exterior he also has a sense of humor, though an odd one.  He thinks it's fun to read out loud the items for sale for less than $100 in his local paper.  And, actually, you know what?  It was quite funny.  I need to do that.

Perfect casting for the young Beth (Violet Young) and was that David Byrne playing Beth's doctor? Michael Rappaport plays Beth's ne'er do well father, Leonard, the kind of Dad who thinks it's funny when his daughters are entering the kitchen to pretend he is going to put their poodle in the microwave. Now he is practically homeless and losing his memory. In flashbacks, we meet Beth's mother, Jane (Laura Benanti) as Beth relives their sometimes unhappy relationship. Excellent casting all around.

What I love about Amy is that she is unafraid to say just about anything.  She pushes the envelope.  Her bits don't always work, but I appreciate what she does. Her comedy is all about shattered expectations and awkward situations - life! - and she is always all in. She has no problem making fun of herself and she's not a skinny bitch.  She's a real girl. She makes me smile. 

Created by Amy and written by Amy and a team of co-writers (she also directed four episodes), this is taken from her own life and she tackles the age old issue of confronting our parents' weaknesses and faults, realizing how those have influenced us, forgiving them and then moving on. This is a raw, more poignant Amy Schumer, and, yes, she still goes there, but there is a sweetness to where she goes.

Rosy the Reviewer's all very droll but its a side of Amy you have never seen and a satisfying little series about grief, forgiveness, empowerment and hope. (Hulu)

The Thing About Pam (2022)

Who really killed Betsy Faria?

It’s difficult to know whether to take this seriously or not, though it’s a very serious subject. As Keith Morrison would say, it’s all about mu-u-u-r-der. And speaking of Keith Morrison, he actually narrates this dramatization of the Betsy Faria murder case that has been all over the news lately making us think that we are watching a “Dateline” re-enactment. And we kind of are, because "Dateline" was the first to blow the whistle on Pam Hupp, the "star" of this story, and they don't want you to forget that. But it’s actually a drama series starring Renee Zellwegger in a fat suit as Pam Hupp, the woman at the center of this murder case.

You see, Betsy’s husband, Russ (Glenn Fleshler), was actually convicted of killing his wife, Betsy, and went to jail. He was basically railroaded by an overzealous D.A. (Judy Greer), an incompetent judge and the testimony of Betsy's "friend," Pam Hupp, who testified that Russ was an abusive husband. Nevermind that Betsy had made Pam the beneficiary of her life insurance. Never mind that Russ had an alibi. If it wasn’t for Joel Schwartz (Josh Duhamel), Russ's very zealous lawyer who believed in his innocence, Pam’s husband would still be rotting in prison. And it was Schwartz who believed it was really Pam who murdered Betsy. And Pam went on to commit more crimes to cover her deed.

But why? Why would Pam, who seemed like such a nice Middle American woman, kill her best friend and frame her husband?

The first couple of episodes seem rather silly and odd considering the subject matter and may put you off, but stick with it. It gets better and I think the whole point of the style of this series is to show that seemingly nice, ordinary people, like your next door neighbor, can turn out to be killers. Because, you see, the thing about Pam? She was just so...nice. And, oh, yeah, she turned out to be a killer. Life is a tragicomedy sometimes, right?

Renee is behind this series along with Jason Blum of the Blumhouse horror movie factory, behind such films as the Purge series and "Paranormal Activity." But Blumhouse also does lighter, almost comic horror, like "Happy Death Day" and "The Hunt," and this would fall into that category.

Along with the mystery of who killed Betsy Faria, there is also the mystery of why Renee would want to play Pam Hupp considering the fat suit and all of the makeup she would have had to endure and Pam certainly is not a sympathetic character. But obviously this story was a fascination for her, and if you have seen live footage of Pam, you can see that Renee does an excellent job of capturing her. I actually forgot at times that I was watching Renee Zellwegger.

True crime purists might quibble over the quirky style of this series but, hey, we true crime lovers also have a sense of humor, right?

Rosy the Reviewer says…the thing about this series? It's love it or hate it. I grew to love it. I mean, Keith Morrison narrating? Renee in a fat suit? I enjoyed the ride because I love true crime, I love Keith and I am fascinated by fat suits! And Renee was clearly having a blast!
(Hulu, Peacock, Apple+)

Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!

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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 over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!

(NOTE:  If you are looking for a particular movie or series, check out this cool site: JustWatch.  It tells you where you can access all TV series and movies)