Showing posts with label Louisiana Story. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Louisiana Story. Show all posts

Friday, March 22, 2019

"Velvet Buzzsaw" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the Netflix original "Velvet Buzzsaw" as well as DVDs "Boundaries" and "Shoplifters." The Book of the Week is a novel: "Daisy Jones & The Six."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Louisiana Story."]

Velvet Buzzsaw

A dead artist's paintings come to life to exact revenge from those who try to profit from them.

More and more, Netflix is becoming a player in the production and/or distribution of original movies. Good ones.  Does "Roma" ring a bell?  And more and more I am not finding anything out there in the theatres that makes we want to get dressed and go out (hey, I'm retired. I sometimes don't get dressed)!  So it looks like you will see me reviewing new Netflix movies on a regular basis.  And this is one of them, just out this month.

Jake Gyllenhaal is no stranger to strange parts.  Think "Nightcrawler."  Even his character in "Brokeback Mountain" was a bit strange.  The parts he chooses are odd considering he could easily play the handsome lead in a rom-com.  But the pattern seems to be that no matter how handsome or beautiful an actor or actress might be, they want to be taken SERIOUSLY - "I am a serious actor" - so they are drawn to projects where their beauty is not an issue.

So this is yet another strange part for Jake who sports over-sized glasses and a wacky haircut to play Morf Vandawalt, a effete, libertine art critic who goes both ways when it comes to his sexual liaisons and doesn't seem to have many scruples in the art world. His caustic reviews can make or break an artist. 

He embarks on a relationship with Josephina (Zawe Ashton), who just happens to discover her neighbor dead in the hallway of her L.A. apartment building. Whensthe peeks into the open door of his apartment, she also just happens to see a plethora of amazing and haunting art works.  Turns out the old man was an artist and has left a wealth of work behind, a wealth of work that he has instructed must be destroyed upon his death.  Well, Josephina thinks that would just be a waste, so she helps herself to some of them, well, most of them.  When her boss, gallery owner Rhodora (Renee Russo), finds out about the paintings, she wants in and blackmails Josephina, so they concoct a plot that Josephina found the paintings in a dumpster.  Likewise, Morf and his art curator friend, Gretchen (Toni Collette), also get in on it.  The paintings are exhibited and naturally it's a huge success because art aficionados always want to get in on the new big thing.

But not so fast. Turns out the artist was an abused orphan.  When he left the orphanage he disappeared but had been laying out his angst in his paintings, paintings that depicted horror and madness. And no one was supposed to see them or, god forbid, profit from them.  So all of the characters who interact with the paintings suddenly start dying very terrible and over the top deaths. When Rhodora says to Morf, "All art is dangerous, Morf," she doesn't know how true that statement will actually be.

The film is a satire about the art world, how full of crap it is, world where commercial art is in conflict with creativity and personal expression. There is a lot of posturing and pretension. There is one scene when a guy enters the gallery room and sees a pile of garbage in the middle of the room and says something like "That's wonderful" to which artist Piers (John Malcovich) replies, "That's not art," a funny comment on conceptual art. And, yes, this is a horror film (in more ways than one), but it's also funny.  Darkly funny.

I have a similar story, though it's the opposite of my mistaking a pile of garbage for art.

I was in an art museum in Seattle with my husband, daughter and her husband. We walked into one exhibit room, and I saw a cardboard box with styrofoam packing peanuts spilling out of it.  One had made it's way over to the walkway, so I kicked it back over toward the overturned box.  All of a sudden, one of the art docents said, "Don't touch the art installation!"  I was dumbfounded.  Not only was the overturned box with the styrofoam packing peanuts spilling out one of the art installations, but that one little peanut lying in the walkway was also part of the installation and WAS PLACED THERE ON PURPOSE!

Needless to say, I am not a big fan of that kind of art nor performance art such as Yoko Ono playing one note on a piano for an hour.  My son is in my camp as well.  I have fond memories of walking around the Tate Modern in London with him looking at Dali's Lobster Telephone and the tower of radios and him behind me whispering "Mom, Mom, is that art?  Mom, Mom, is that art?" He was annoying but I got it.

So it's kind of funny when the art in this film actually turns on all of those pretentious greedy art lovers.  And it's certainly a strange film. You know a movie will be strange if John Malkovich is in it!  And come to think of it, someone needs to explain to me WHY he is in it.  If you see the film, you will know what I mean. Malcovich doesn't have much of a role.  He just purses his lips a lot.  He does that so you will know he is acting.

Written and directed by Dan Gilroy (who also wrote and directed "Nightcrawler"), the film doesn't always work, but the star-studded cast, which I am happy includes 65-year-old Russo who worked with Jake and Gilroy on "Nightcrawler and looks fabulous, appeared to be having fun with this and I did, too, as the obnoxious, greedy elites got their comeuppance. 

Rosy the Reviewer says.... A strange and original little slasher flick that is darkly funny and actually trying to say something.  A fun one for a Netflix and Chill night (and I DO know what "Netflix and chill" means)! 

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


Boundaries (2018)

Laura (Vera Farmiga) and her son, Henry (Lewis MacDougall) unwillingly go on a road trip with her Dad, Jack (Christopher Plummer) after he is kicked out of his nursing home for selling pot.

Don't be fooled by the movie poster.  This is NOT a happy road trip!

Everyone is crossing boundaries in this film.

Jack is a curmudgeon, inappropriate in his assisted living facility (growing pot is a no-no); Laura, Jack's daughter, is an overwhelmed single mother with no boundaries when it comes to her son, Henry (oversharing with a young kid and asking his advice is a no-no); and Henry, well, Henry is one of those precocious kids who is also a delinquent. He hit a teacher.  Oh, and he also has this penchant for imagining people in the nude and then drawing them saying that he is drawing their souls. That's also a no-no.

Laura is clearly an unhappy woman.  She is obsessed with rescuing animals when she probably needs to rescue herself (Jack calls her "The Pied Piper of Mange"). And she needs to rescue Henry, who is being kicked out of school for hitting a teacher.  She wants to get him into a special school but can't afford it, so, even though Laura is estranged from her Dad, she decides to get in touch with him.  Unfortunately, when she arrives, she discovers that Jack has been kicked out of his assisted living facility for dealing pot.  Laura clearly doesn't approve of her Dad and won't let him live with her, but he makes her a deal. If she will drive him to L.A. (from Seattle) so he can go live with Laura's sister, Jojo (Kristen Schaal), he will give her the money for Henry's new school.  But what Laura doesn't know is that Jack plans to do some "business" on that trip.

So let the dysfunctional family road trip commence with several interesting pit stops along the way as Jack sells his wares to a series of quirky characters: the nutty and naked Stanley (played by the usually nutty Christopher Lloyd), rich guy, Joey (Peter Fonda) and an especially funny scene when Jack arrives at a Buddhist retreat to supply some Buddhist monks.

Written and directed by Shana Feste, this is yet another road trip where our characters don't seem to know that there are freeways out there that will get them to their destination quickly.  Highway 5 is a clear shot from Seattle to L.A. but noooo - these folks have to take the scenic route. Also not sure why they keep calling this a cross-country trip.  Seattle to L.A. is hardly cross-country. But that's OK because it's a quirky and enjoyable trip for the audience.

Vera Farmiga can usually be counted on to put in a powerful performance but this is a departure for her.  Her Laura is flustered and funny as she deals with her impossible father, Jack.  And, well, what can I say about 89-year-old Christopher Plummer?  He is a National Treasure.  We can't exactly claim him but Canada can.  He is always good.

Not sure why I didn't know anything about this film.  I watched it based on the preview which is usually a no-no but for once it worked.   

What did I learn from this film?  People's lives are messy but this film treats those messes in a kind and benevolent way.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a charming film that you shouldn't miss.

Shoplifters (2018)

A family of small-time crooks kidnap an abused little girl.

This film won the Palm D'Or at Cannes and was one of the films nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language film and it is more than deserving.

When we first meet Osamu (Lily Franky) and Shota (Jiyo Kairi), they are casing out a small grocery store.  After a signal from Osamu, Shota sticks some food into his jacket and they exit the store. They clearly have this down. On their way back home, Samu and Shota see a little girl who has been locked out of her house.  It's cold so they take her with them.

Like Fagin and his boys, Osamu and Shota are part of a band of misfits living in Tokyo, getting by as best they can. Shoplifting is not the only game. They do what they have to do. There is also Nobuyo (Sakura Ando), who works in a laundry sweat shop; Aki (Mayu Matsuoka), who works in a sex club; and Hatsue (Kirin Kiki), the grandmother who is supporting everyone as best she can with her widow's pension. The relationships of these characters is not clear at first but becomes clear as the film evolves and there is a twist when we find out each character's history.

Later, when Osamu and Shota try to take the little girl (Miyu Sasaki), who tells them her name is Yuri, back home, they hear Yuri's parents fighting over her, saying they never wanted her in the first place.  So they return home with Yuri. The crux of the film is what to do about Yuri, especially when it is reported that Yuri is missing.  It's been two months and the parents never reported her missing and are now under suspicion for killing her.  And her name is actually Juri.  But she doesn't want to go home.

So...what do you do when you find an abused child, rescue her but then find out that her parents are being accused of killing her?  

Save the parents by returning the child but putting her in harm's way and also possibly be accused of kidnapping?  Or keep her safe and let the chips fall where they may? They choose the latter, so they attempt to disguise little Juri by cutting her hair and changing her name to Lin.

This film is all about finding family, love and acceptance where you can. These people may be shoplifters and grifters but they are good people.  Being poor often makes people do certain things to survive but that doesn't mean they don't have feelings and emotional morals.  Shota takes on the role of big brother to little Juri/Lin and in one important scene he sees little Lin copying him and shoplifting.  The shopkeeper notices (has probably known all along) and gives Shota a head's up, a look that says "Don't let that little girl go down that path." Shota gets it.

The cinematography is brilliant, especially using closeups effectively.  Written and directed by Hirokazu Koreeda, it's a character driven film and you begin to really care about these characters and what will happen to them.  Despite a hard life, they find joy - the warmth of the grandmother, a game of tag with Dad, a day at the beach, and though it could have gone there, there is nothing sentimental or cloying here. Though not a lot happens in the first part of the film, the film is surprisingly affecting from the first scenes. The film moves slowly but it is mesmerizing until the final scenes where secrets are revealed.

This film lets you be a fly on the wall into another culture, another life and that's why films matter and also why foreign language films are so important.  We see people's lives around the world.  We hear them speaking differently, doing things differently but dealing with the same things that all humans deal with - making their way in the world as best they can - dealing with loss and sadness and wanting to find and show love. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is the kind of film that celebrates what it means to be human and brings us all together. I loved this film and I feel a better person for having seen it.
(In Japanese with English subtitles)

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

102 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Louisiana Story (1948)

An oil well disrupts the tranquil life of a young Cajun boy and his pet raccoon.

The film begins with a leisurely exploration of the Louisiana swamp where the boy (Joseph Boudreaux) lives. The first half of the film is like a nature film showing the bayou as a magical place with little alligators and all kinds of other critters frolicking around, all accompanied by Virgil Thomson's music played by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy.  And when I use the word leisurely, that usually means slow. And it is.

The boy paddles around, plays with his pet raccoon (which is a bit of an anomaly if you know how vicious raccoons can be)! And then after what seems like an eternity, the oil men arrive and the oil drilling begins. 

At first the boy and his family are not happy but eventually these happy-go-lucky oil men win our Cajun folks over and everything is hunky dory.

This was documentarian Robert J. Flaherty's last film and he directed the film under the sponsorship of the Standard Oil Company to show how oil derricks and people can coexist.  The funding supposedly came without strings, but c'mon.  This film makes the oil company look like the Second Coming or, at the very least, a benevolent benefactor doing no spoiling of the unspoiled wilderness. There is minimal dialogue which is probably a good thing since Flaherty worked with local people, not actors, so it plays a bit like a silent film which seems like an anachronism considering how many sophisticated films had been made by 1948.  But then when there was dialogue, the Cajun dialect was so strong the film actually needed subtitles. 

Why it's a Must See: "...Flaherty relies mainly on his charged, lyrical images and Virgil Thomson's score to carry the narrative.  Thomson's music, drawing ingeniously on original Cajun themes, was awarded a Pulitzer Prize -- the first film score to win this in all his finest work, Flaherty celebrates the beauty, danger, and fascination of the wild places of the earth."

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

If you were to happen upon this film without any background on it, you would wonder what the heck you had wandered into.  And even knowing how and why this film got made, I certainly do NOT understand how this film made it into the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book, the beautiful score notwithstanding.  I am going to have to have a word with Mr. Philip Kemp, who wrote the review on this one.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are into raccoons and oil wells, you might like this, but trust me.  You really won't.

***The Book of the Week***

Daisy Jones & the Fix: A Novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid (2019)

Why did Daisy Jones & The Six split up at the height of their success?  Nobody knew.  Now we do.

As described in this novel, which is also an oral history of a 1970's rock band, Daisy Jones was about as beautiful as a young girl could get.  She was not only beautiful but confident, quirky and talented. She could really sing.  She also did drugs and didn't care what people thought. Her parents were rich and didn't really care what she did, so Daisy hung out in the clubs on the Sunset Strip.  By the time she turned 20, she was getting noticed.

Billy Dunne was the lead singer for The Six and he and his band were also getting noticed, and when Daisy and Billy crossed paths, it was magic musically, though they loathed each other at first.  Well, you know where that is heading, but it actually doesn't go exactly as you would think.

Using an oral history approach, this novel chronicles the making of a legendary band in the crazy seventies with all of the drugs, drinking, band hook-ups and break-ups and personality clashes. Think Fleetwood Mac during the "Rumours" album or The Eagles documentary when Glenn Frey said to Don Felder, "Only three more songs until I kick your ass, Pal!"  Author Reid is able to capture the time and place and Baby Boomers can bask in it and the younger generation can get a taste of what they missed.

I found the oral history concept fascinating as that is my favorite way to read biographies, but does it work for a novel?  It's works very well for character development.  You really get to know all of the band members, wives and managers and they are so well drawn through their recollections, you will have no problem picturing them.  However, this literary concept might not work for those of you who only like very plot heavy novels.  There is a plot but it's slow to develop.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Baby Boomers who loved rock and roll will love this book!

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


"Captain Marvel"


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" 

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at

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.