Showing posts with label Maid. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Maid. Show all posts

Friday, March 1, 2019

"Cold War" and The Week in Reviews

[I review one of the Oscar nominated Best Foreign Films "Cold War" as well as DVDs "The Front Runner" and "Mid90s."  The Book of the Week is "Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother's Will to Survive."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Wayne Wang's "Smoke."]

Cold War

In Poland during the Cold War, a man and a woman fight a romantic cold war of their own.

Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) and Irena (Agata Kulesza) are traveling the Polish countryside in 1949 seeking talent for talent a musical company to preserve Polish folk music.

Enter Zula. We learn early that Zula (Joanna Kulig) is a bit of a con.  She worms her way into an audition for the company where she catches the eye of Wiktor, the musical director.  She makes it into the company, quickly becomes a star, and despite the fact that Zula and Wiktor are clearly mismatched, they become lovers and a star-crossed love affair ensues.  

As Wiktor becomes increasingly unhappy with his lot in Communist Poland and with the company that has become a propaganda machine for Stalin, when the company arrives in pre-wall East Berlin, Wiktor asks Zula to escape with him to Paris. She agrees,  but when the agreed upon times arrives and she doesn't show, Wiktor makes his escape by himself.

Years pass, and when the company tours Paris, Zula and Wiktor are reunited.  Wiktor has been playing piano in a jazz club and lives a rather bohemian life in a Parisian garret. The two find each other again and as time progresses there is a push-pull in the relationship.  Their love affair is fraught and ultimately self-destructive.

This is an epic love story that never really sizzles.  Neither Wiktor or Zulu is a particularly likable character, Zula particularly, who seems more self-serving than self-sacrificing when it comes to love especially as the life of an expat.  

Music plays a big role so if you like Polish folk music you will be in heaven.  But even if that is not your thing, as time passes (the film goes from 1949 to 1964), the music changes with the times and includes jazz, pop tunes and rock.

This is a classic wartime romance that, with its small screen ratio, harks back to the black and white films of the 40's and 50's.  It was one of this year's nominees for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and, despite being a great film, could not hold off the juggernaut that was "Roma."  The two were both in black and white and in the race for the Oscar, the critics called them "The War of the Black and Whites," but as we know "Roma" took home that prize.

Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski and co-written with Janusz Glowacki and Piotr Borkowski, the film is loosely based on Pawlikowski's parents, which if you see the film you will find very interesting.  More than I would ever want to know about my parents.

Rosy the Reviewer says...though this is a classic wartime love story, the film ironically lacks passion.  This couple's relationship is as cold as the Cold War itself.

(b & w, in Polish with English subtitltes)

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


The Front Runner (2018)

Does anyone remember Gary Hart?  Does anyone care?

Well, there are some parallels to be drawn from this story to where we are now.  For example, front runner in the 1988 election Gary Hart was brought down by one sexual indiscretion.  Let's see, sexual indiscretions.  Who in politics currently comes to mind?

Gary Hart (played by Hugh Jackman) was only 46 when he decided to run for President.  He was full of progressive ideas: he believed we needed to ward off climate change, take care of the underprivileged, military reform and "enlightened" foreign policy.  He was a popular candidate and could very well have won the Presidency, but shortly before the election there were rumors of a sex scandal.  It didn't help that Hart and his wife, Lee (Vera Farmiga), had already separated once. The media got wind of the rumors, and shortly before the election, Hart was out due to the media attention even though the rumors were never proven.

This film is not so much the story of Gary Hart's life or even his life at that time.  It's more the story of how the tabloids started to zero in on the private lives of politicians and the implied aftermath in where we are now.

It is my belief that most people who, whatever their agendas, run for office because they want to be of service to their country (except maybe one person who shall remain nameless). But this is a sad reminder that if they do, there had better not be any skeletons in their closets.  Since most of us have some, sad to think of all of the great people who decide NOT to run because they smoked marijuana once (and inhaled!) or did something that would come back and bite them.  The press protected Kennedy and his womanizing.  Was Hart the turning point, when the press decided that political shenanigans were as fascinating as those of celebrities?  Is this when politicos became fair game for the paparazzi?      

"In a democracy people get the leaders they deserve (Joseph de Maistre - often mis-attributed to Abraham Lincoln)."

Mmmm.  Well, the point here, I think, was that Hart had one indiscretion and no one could tolerate the thought of their Presidential candidate having extra-marital dalliances.  Within weeks of its disclosure, a sex scandal erupted and Hart was gone, despite the fact he tried to spin it.  

Now let's fast forward 30 years to the 2016 election.  Why did we care back then and we don't seem to care now?

How is it possible that this one unproven story about Hart lost him his Presidential bid and yet we now have an elected President who not only had many, many complaints and rumors of that nature swirling around him during the election - many of them proven - but who not only won the election but still governs amid controversy and allegations of sexual misconduct and racism?

And had Hart run and won, would there have been no George W. Bush and everything else that followed?  We will never know.

Jackman does a creditable job as Hart.  I mean, is there anything Hugh Jackman can't do?  He can sing, he can dance, he can wear long fingernails and be a superhero, he can do drama, comedy and now we know he can play an arrogant politician and wear a very bad wig (Hart was known for his nice head of hair but I think they could have done better with that 1980's wig).  Though his Aussie accent could be heard at times, Jackman gives it his all.  Farmiga is also always good, though she doesn't have much to do here, and J.K. Simmons also shows up, a perennial favorite whenever a movie needs a no-nonsense hard ass.

Directed by Jason Reitman with a screenplay by Reitman, Matt Bai (based on his book) and Jay Carson, sadly, this film is very one note.  Hart's story isn't really enough to carry a 113 minute film and, in fac,t we didn't really learn that much about Hart, the man.  Nothing much happened in the first 30 minutes (Hubby fell asleep), and when things did start falling apart for Hart, there wasn't much intensity or emotion. Though a similar story of political scandal, "Chappaquidick" was also a one note story, but it had intensity and emotion.  This one didn't.

Rosy the Reviewer says...despite some relevancy to today, the film is as dry and lacking of emotion as Hart himself seemed to be.  I just wished the film had had more heart.  Sorry.  Couldn't resist.

Mid90s (2018)

A troubled 13-year-old in 1990's LA finds his niche with some kids at a skate shop.

Millennials can relive the years when mix tapes and beepers abounded and most kids knew who the Wu-Tang Clan was.  So what's a woman of a certain age doing watching this film?

Stevie (Sunny Sulijic) is a sweet middle-schooler who has an abusive older brother, Ian (Lucas Hedges), and I mean abusive, as in he beats the crap out of him regularly (a strange role for Hedges. We are not used to him playing unsympathetic characters).  And Stevie's single mother is useless.  She is needy as hell and distracted.  So when Stevie meets some skaters at a skate shop, he feels he has found his family.  He practices his skateboarding skills and basically gets adopted by the foul-mouthed skater kids, all with nicknames, some unprintable, and we see first hand how good kids go wrong.  Stevie starts stealing from Mom, starts smoking pot, drinking and also self harms himself.  The film explains much of why kids end up in gangs. Stevie and his friends get up to all kinds of things parents would not approve of and we wonder, will Stevie remain the sweet kid we first got to know or will he go off the rails?

Written and directed by Jonah Hill, one can't help but wonder if this was the story of his childhood. The film feels very improvisational and almost a documentary as in the 1984 documentary "Streetwise," about street kids growing up on the streets of Portland.

Parents probably shouldn't see movies like this.  I don't think we really want to know what our kids get up to when we are not around. But when kids don't feel a part of a family and there is abuse and neglect they find a sense of family elsewhere...and for good or ill, grow up.  

Rosy the Reviewer says...millenials will be able to relate and if you like good films, you will too (and that's what this woman of a certain age was doing watching this film)!

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

105 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Smoke (1995)

A Brooklyn smoke shop in the 1990's is the backdrop for several vignettes about the store's owner and habitues.

This is the story of Auggie Wren (Harvey Keitel), the owner of a Brooklyn cigar shop and the various lives of those who come together there. Auggie loves people, so locals come in to hang out and talk.  And boy, do these people talk!

There's Paul Benjamin (William Hurt), a writer with writer's block; Rashid (Harold Perrineau), a damaged kid who ends up saving Paul's life but is also running for his own life; and Ruby (Stockard Channing), Auggie's ex, who turns up to tell him they have a daughter together and the daughter is now drug-addicted and she needs his help.  All of these stories play out and intertwine in and out of the smoke shop.

Auggie owns the local smoke shop in Brooklyn, and added to that is his "life's work," which is standing across the street and taking photos of his corner - 3rd Street and 8th Avenue -  every day at 8 a.m. 

"A record of my little spot." 

He has 4000 photos of that same corner at that same time. When Auggie shows his photo album to Paul, Paul doesn't understand because all of the photos are the same.  Auggie replies that they are all the same, but also different at which point Paul spots his wife in one of the photos, his pregnant wife who had been shot and killed outside the store.  Now Paul understands the differences in the photos. It's all about details. The big and small details in people's lives, may of which have played out in front of Auggie's store.

Paul, a widower, was a best-selling writer but, now, after the death of his wife, is now struggling to write.  He absent-mindedly almost walks into an oncoming bus but is saved by Rashid, a teenager who doesn't seem to have any place to live so Paul invites him to stay with him if he needs to.  Rashid takes him up on his offer, but after a few days Paul kicks him out.  When Rashid's aunt comes looking for him (not sure how she found Paul), we learn that Rashid is not his real name (it's Thomas), nor that much else he has told Paul is true.  He is basically an orphan.  His mother died and his father left.  Later we learn that Rashid witnessed a robbery and found the bag of money the bad guys dropped during their getaway so now they are after him.  So Rashid hits the road to find his Dad (Forest Whitaker), which he does, though when he does, he doesn't let on who he first.

Meanwhile, Ruby, Auggie's ex, shows up wanting him to help their "daughter," though Auggie doesn't really believe Ruby and he had ever had a daughter together, but the two go see Felicity (Ashley Judd in one of her early performances, though not much more than a cameo) who seems beyond help.

Directed by Wayne Wang and Paul Auster and written by Auster, the film has an improvisational feel but also the stiffness of a stage play because the dialogue seems very stilted at times. Probably because Auster was a novelist before becoming a film director.

Most of these actors were staples in films of the 90's. 

Hurt was a big thing in the 80's but when he made this film he was no longer the new big thing, though he has maintained his cred as a good actor.  Keitel is an actor who usually plays edgy and unsympathetic characters (if you don't believe me, see "Bad Lieutenant"), so it's refreshing to see him play a sympathetic, kind character, though there is always that edge in evidence. Stockard Channing is her usual twitchy self; Ashley Judd is there for about a minute; and this is an early feature film role for Whitaker.  Perrineau was a newcomer, though really strange that he was 32 when he played the 17 year old Rashid.  But put all of these actors together, and you have a stellar ensemble and a story full of serendipity with characters trying to connect and eventually intersecting.

Why it's a Must See: "...while the fabric of society may for better or worse be in constant flux or full of gaps, Wang and Auster optimistically imply that it's the inherent goodness of man which keeps it all from unraveling."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

If you watch the film, don't miss the credits where Auggie's "Christmas Story" is played out, a story that Auster wrote for the New York Times and what drew Wang to this collaboration.

Rosy the Reviewer says...though the film has a great cast with early film roles for several of them and some good things going for it, I just don't see this as one of the greatest films that I must see before I die.

***The Book of the Week***

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother's Will to Survive by Stephanie Land (2019)

A young woman alone with her baby finds it difficult to survive.

Stephanie Land, growing up in the Pacific Northwest, planned to go to college and become a writer.  All of that changed when a summer fling led to her becoming pregnant. When her boyfriend learned of her pregnancy, he became hostile and wanted nothing to do with her, leaving her to fend for herself.  She took whatever jobs she could to survive, mostly housekeeping jobs, cleaning up other peoples' messes.  But she took online classes and began to write, telling the stories of overworked and underpaid Americans who were forced to accept food stamps and help from the government to survive. 

This book documents her struggle as well as the struggles of so many other poor Americans and the stigma attached to being poor. Land talks about her humiliation when the store clerk makes it clear to everyone in line that Land is using food stamps and often people in line have no compunction making her feel like a leach on society.  The book also explores what it's like to work as a maid for rich people who treated her like "a nameless ghost," not being able to tell her from any other cleaner.

But she gets them back by exposing how sad so many of their lives are.  We may not "see" those who clean up after us, but they see plenty about us.  And I mean plenty.  Don't think your maids and cleaners don't think things when they see what you thrown away or leave around.  They do...and they judge you.

"I became a witness. Even odder was my invisibility and anonymity, though I spent several hours a month in their homes.  My job was to wipe away dust and dirt and make lines in carpets to remain invisible.  I almost felt like I had the opportunity to get to know my clients better than any of their relatives did.  I'd learn what they are for breakfast, what shows they watched, if they'd been sick and for how long.  I'd see them, even if they weren't home, by the imprints left in their beds and tissues on their nightstand.  I'd know them in a way few people did or maybe ever would."

But this is also a book about hope and the power of the human spirit because Land overcame her circumstance and become a journalist and published this book.

I have a bit of a personal connection to this story (don't I always)?

Though I never struggled like Land or had to work menial jobs to survive, I did work as a maid one summer.  My mother wasn't having a daughter home from college partying every night and sleeping until noon everyday so she got me a job as a maid at the local Holiday Inn so even though I only did that for a couple of months,  I have some insight into what it's like to clean up other people's crap and to be treated as a faceless person. 

When I worked at the Holiday Inn, I was welcomed into the world of the other maids, or so I thought.  I believed them when they told me I had to give them any tips I received because they belonged to the person I was filling in for, something I know now was not true.  I was 19, a college student, only there for the summer, and very naive and they worked me.  They also liked to shock my little middle class ass. For example, at one break, they pulled some sex toys out of a bag they had found in one of the rooms.  I had no idea what those things were and raucous laughter followed my reaction.  But at the time, I also didn't realize this was these women's lives, maybe forever.  I got to go back to college and the privileged life I led.

And there's more, of the personal connection thing.  Land's story all played out not too far from where I had been living for the last 14 years so I could relate to her locations and stories.  She even talked about The Barefoot Bandit and his shenanigans, which was big news when I lived there.  Geez, I hope she wasn't one of the cleaners who cleaned my house!

Though I know I have never really lived on the edge like Land, I too, have had hard times, and I sometimes have trouble with memoirs where things go from bad to worse to worse and there is little relief - endless stories of disappointment and hardship. But then, like I said, I have never really been there and this is a good reminder to us all that there are hard-working people out there who barely make enough money to survive and who deserve some help.

Rosy the Reviewer will never look at your house cleaner(s) the same again (Now I'm going to go tidy up and empty my own waste baskets before the cleaners get here)!

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


the Netflix Original



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.