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

Monday, November 8, 2021

The Journey to My New Bionic Shoulder - Part 3: What Got Me Through - TV Series I Watched During Recovery

(Squid Game, Maid, The Morning Show, Ted Lasso, Only Murders in the Building, What We Do in the Shadows, Jeopardy)

It's amazing how time and place can etch things in your memory.  At the beginning of quarantine for the Coronavirus back in 2020, as I sat at home wondering when I would be free to go out again, I turned to two of my favorite pasttimes, TV and movies, and was enthralled with "The Queen's Gambit."  That wonderful series helped me get through that time.  

Now I have been in another kind of quarantine sitting at home for the last six weeks, working on becoming the next incarnation of The Bionic Woman as I recovered from shoulder replacement surgery, unable to drive, not being able to do much (Hubby had to set my hair - take a picture of that in your mind), and when I did try to do something, I had to do it with my left hand while wondering when this fresh hell would be over and I would be free to get my life back. 

So once again, my TV helped me through (you know I am a TV addict, right?), and this time, it was "Squid Game," Netflix's now most popular series ever, that helped me get through the pain and boredom of recovery.  

So let me wax poetic about that and some other highly bingeable shows that have helped me get through these last six weeks. (And you don't need to be in pain or quarantine to enjoy them)!

Squid Game (Netflix)

A group of people hopelessly in debt play children's games to win a big prize.  The downside?  You lose, you die.

Nothing like seeing a bunch of people massacred after losing at Red Light/Green Light to take your mind off your own troubles.  Yes, it's bloody but it's also bloody engrossing and fun. Schadenfreude at its best.

Now if you haven't heard of this series, I don't want to be mean, but you have probably been under a rock, because this show is the most watched Netflix series ever. And there is a reason for that.  It's, pardon the pun, bloody good! 

This South Korean series has been called a sort of "Hunger Games" for adults.  That is true to some extent, but I think that comparison doesn't give credit to just how original this series is and the message it delivers.  Just from an entertainment standpoint, it's great, but it also serves as a metaphor for the disparity between the classes as poor people and people hopelessly in debt play children's games for a big cash prize and the amusement of the very rich. And then there's that whole thing about what happens if they lose. If they lose, they die. Mmm. Which is worse? Being poor or being dead?

Our hero, if you can call him that, is Seong Gi-hun (Lee Jung-jae), a divorced ex-chauffeur and indebted loser due to his penchant for gambling. He has disappointed his young daughter and also lives with his mother and we all know what that means.  He is invited to play a series of children's games for a chance at a huge cash prize as in 45.6 billion South Korean won (that's over 38 million dollars). Since he is being chased by some very bad guys to whom he owes money, he decides he has nothing to lose, so he buys in and is taken to an unknown location where he finds himself among 455 other players who are in his similar situation.  Gi-hun allies with other players including a childhood friend, Cho Sang-woo (Park Hae-soo), who just happens to also be in a difficult situation and they all try to survive. 

The players are all overseen by guards dressed in red jumpsuits and masks and everything is manipulated by the Front Man, who is dressed all in black and also masked and who looks like a low-rent version of Darth Vader. The players soon learn that losing a game results in death with each death adding 100 million South Korean won to the prize.  Yes, death is on the table but the prize is just too big to let get away.  And yes, Gi-hun is a big loser but he grows on you and you don't want him to die. Likewise, the other players are unique individuals and well-drawn, including a young detective who infiltrates the compound looking for his brother.  All of these characters will grow on you too and you will be kept on the edge of your seat as you wonder what the outcome for each of them will be. Who will survive?

There is a Korean Wave taking place with the increase in popularity of South Korean culture.  The movie "Parasite" was a surprise hit and won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2020, the boy band BTS has sold over 20 million albums and now this series has taken over TV. South Korean film-making is huge these days. And the reason?  They are putting out great movies and TV shows. 

Rosy the Reviewer's a bit cartoonish and bloody, but get yourself through the first episode, and I guarantee that you will be hooked.  And, yes, subtitles, but you can do it. If you like dark but original and engrossing, this is for you!

Maid (Netflix)

Young mother, Alex, takes her daughter and leaves an abusive relationship and works as a house cleaner to try to make a better life for them both.

Margaret Qualley stars as Alex, a young woman living with her husband, Sean (Nick Robinson), and young daughter, Maddy (Rylea Nevaeh Whittet), in a trailer in the Pacific Northwest. It's not a happy arrangement as her husband is a drunk and abusive so she leaves.  But what does a young woman with no education or job experience do? Her mother, Paula (Andie MacDowell), is an aging hippie living in an RV with her much younger husband and Alex doesn't want anything to do with her Dad.  So with no safe place to land, she finds a job as a maid and struggles to find daycare for her daughter and a place to live.  It's not a happy life with one stumbling block presenting itself in every episode. She just can't seem to catch a break.  But she is determined to have her own life and to make her way as a writer.

Created by Molly Smith Metzler and based on Stephanie Land's memoir, "Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother's Will to Survive," this is an interesting, though often dark and difficult story of how hard it is to survive in this world, especially for women without resources trying to escape abusive situations, but, though it's not an easy road to get it, there is help out there.  And there is hope.

Qualley made a big splash with a small role as one of Manson's girls in "Once Upon a Hollywood." But now she carries an entire series, and her performance here is wonderful and real, and I predict it will be her big break out. Expect awards.  

And did you know that Qualley is Andie MacDowell's real life daughter? Qualley and McDowell make an intriguing mother and daughter acting duo with MacDowell playing against type so much that in her appearances on several talk shows she has wanted to make sure that people don't think this character is anything like her real self.  Let's hope not.  Paula is not only a flibbertigibbet, she is selfish, mean and probably bi-polar and MacDowell sells it (even though she assures us none of that is really her).  

The rest of the cast are first-rate, and though at times you might say "Sheesh," as yet another catastrophe hits Alex, you will stay-tuned to see how she fares, because you are rooting for her. Oh, and by the way. You know how I usually dislike overly precocious child actors?  Little Rylea as little Maddy not only didn't bother me, I thought she was adorable (I must be getting soft)!

Rosy the Reviewer says...I predict a long and exciting career for Qualley.  Here is your chance to say you knew her when. If you like shows with well-drawn, strong characters and an engrossing story, this is for you.

The Morning Show - Season Two (Apple +)

A dramatization of the emotional and political life backstage at a TV morning show where the male anchor has been fired for sexual harassment - sound familiar?

Season One (which I reviewed back in February) was a juicy hit that won many awards.  Now we are in Season two --- and it's even better and juicier.

Created by Jay Carson and Kerry Ehrin, Season Two picks up where we left off in Season One, after Morning Show anchor Alex Levy's (Jennifer Aniston) on-air meltdown that exposed the toxic culture at the UBA Network still stinging.  She has left the network and is working on a memoir and wondering what her future holds. Alex's on-air partner, Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) is settling in as the main anchor on The Morning Show with help from Laura Peters (Julianna Margulies) and Daniel Henderson (Desean Terry), who as the only black anchor is unhappy about the lack of diversity.  Meanwhile, Network executives Stella Bak (Greta Lee) and Cory Ellison (Billy Crudup) are still trying to get past Mitch Kessler's (Steve Carell) sexual transgressions and the unfortunate aftermath. Meanwhile, Mitch is hiding out in Italy and meets a local documentarian and they embark on a relationship of sorts with tragic consequences.  

And all the while some strange virus is creeping up on the world.

There is lots going on, but it's great fun and Jennifer Anniston and Billy Crudup are outstanding, she running the gamut from caring friend to her colleagues to bitter rival, he a smarmy, winking schemer who you don't want to turn your back on. The entire ensemble is first rate, and you won't be able to wait for the next installment.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you enjoy behind the scene exposes of television productions anchored by great performances, you will enjoy this (new episodes every Friday).

Ted Lasso (Apple +)

An American college football coach with no experience with soccer is recruited to run AFC Richmond, a London soccer team.  Huh?  Well, you will just have to trust me and run with that. It's good!

Created by Jason Sudeikas, Brendan Hunt, Joe Kelly and Bill Lawrence, even though the premise of this didn't appeal to me, when I saw it cleaned up at this year's Emmys, I had to check it out.  I must admit, it took me a couple of episodes to get into, because Ted Lasso (Sudeikas, who also stars) is just so, irritating, er, well, nice. He's one of those guys who tries to put a positive spin on everything. But I got hooked partly because it's in England, my favorite country, and also because the characters are all well-drawn and interesting.  It also turns out that Ted isn't everything he appears to be.  He has some demons and there is drama. I will get to that.

In Season One, Ted is recruited by owner, Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddington), to run her soccer team, AFC Richmond, despite the fact that he has absolutely no experience running a soccer team. But that's the point.  She hires him because she wants the team to lose.  You see, the team is her husband's pride and joy, because he's a cheating cad and she knows how much it would hurt him to have a losing team. So that's the plan. So Ted shows up with his sidekick, the deadpan Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt), both fish out of water in Jolly Old England, and, of course, things don't go as planned for any of them.

The team is made up of an assortment of interesting characters, most notably: 

  • Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster), an egotistical striker, who is dating top model Keeley Jones (Juno Temple). Jamie doesn't think much of Ted.
  • Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein), the aging and irritable captain of the team who is now on the downside of his career and who also doesn't think much of Ted.
  • Sam Obisanya (Toheeb Jimoh), a young Nigerian who is fighting homesickness and very much wants to make his Dad proud. 
  • Dani Rojas (Cristo Fernandez), a young, talented and enthusiastic forward from Mexico who comes on board later in the season and makes Jamie feel threatened that he will be replaced as the team's star. 

But in Season Two, things change.  Rebecca has come around and is no longer the villain and has an unlikely romance.  Likewise, other characters who started out as villains turn good and there is even a psychologist to help everyone with their game and personal lives. And that's what I found to be a bit of a problem with Season Two.  Everyone was just too nice and good and there was no real drama until well into it, but I still enjoyed hanging out with these characters and was rewarded with a final episode which caught me by surprise and made me wanting more.

But don't let any of that deter you. This series is not just endearing, but also engrossing, and Jason Sudekis has created an interesting, though sometimes obnoxious character in Ted, a guy so talkative and positive you can't seem to get him to shut up long enough to really get to know him. But as time goes by, we learn he is more complex than he first appeared to be and there is a reason for all of that yacking that he does.

This series is original, it's fun and, though the series falters a bit in Season Two, it leaves you with a cliff hanger that will have you anxious to see what will happen in Season Three. And yes, there is sure to be a Season Three.

Rosy the Reviewer says... If you like soccer, fish out of water stories and some positivity in this time of so much negativity, this is for you!

Only Murders in the Building (Hulu)

When Tim Kono is found dead in his New York City apartment, three neighbors team up to solve the murder and what better way to solve a murder than to start a podcast?

Charles Haden-Savage (Steven Martin) is an aging actor who had success with a TV detective show; Oliver Putnam (Martin Short) is an aging Broadway director with money problems; and Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez) is a young woman renovating her aunt's apartment.  All three live in the Anconia apartment building but are strangers until they discover a mutual love of true crime after the murder of their neighbor, Tim Kono.  The three also love true crime podcasts and decide to start their own (with Oliver directing, of course) in order to solve the murder.  

Created by Steve Martin and John Hoffman, the series makes use of the usual murder mystery tropes and red herrings but what's not to like about Martin Short and Steve Martin teaming up?  You know it will be funny and this is. Yes, Marty mugs like mad, that's expected, and Steve does his usual delivery of straight-faced zingers, but it's all tempered by the presence of young Selena Gomez, with her deadpan expression and delivery and her oddly deep voice.  She gives the threesome an odd couple vibe that is very appealing.

The rest of the cast is also first-rate: Amy Ryan as Jan, a bassoonist living in the bulding who becomes a love interest for Charles; Tina Fey as a competing podcaster; Jane Lynch as Sazz Pataki, Charles' former stunt double; and Nathan Lane as Teddy Dimas, an old friend of Oliver's who owns a deli chain and offers to sponsor the podcast.  There are many character actors coming and going - you know, those actors you recognize but don't know their names - and even Sting and Jimmy Fallon make appearances.  It's all very evocative of old New York and old-timey murder mysteries.  Oh, and did I say it's funny? With Short and Martin and Lane, would you expect anything less? And might I also add: the opening credits and music over them just sets the stage for the charm and humor that will ensue.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a charming and funny murder mystery series reminiscent of classic movies from the 1930's. If you like old-fashioned whodunnits, this is for you.

What We Do in the Shadows (Hulu)

Centuries-old vampires living in modern day Staten Island.  That alone is funny.  

This comedy series, now in it's third season, follows three centuries-old vampires of the blood-sucking variety who are all living together in a mansion on Staten Island - Nandor the Relentless (Kayvan Novak), an Iranian warrior who was once a part of the Ottoman Empire; Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), a Greek Romani vampire; and Laszlo (Matt Berry), an English nobleman vampire who was turned by Nadja and who is now married to her.  Oh, and he was once a porn actor so sex is on his mind a lot.  There is also Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch), an energy vampire.  He doesn't suck blood, he sucks the energy out of people.  You know the type.  The geeky mansplainer who thinks he is an expert on everything and comes by your cubicle at the office and bends your ear endlessly on every innocuous topic under the sun.  And then there is Guillermo (Harvey Guillen), Nandor's familiar, who keeps the household running but ironically discovers he is a descendant of Abraham Van Helsing, the famous vampire killer, which puts him in some decidedly awkward situations. 

This is your classic "fish out of water" story except our "fishes" are vampires and they know nothing of the modern world.  Remember?  They are from centuries ago.  So, many laughs ensue. Oh, and there is a film crew filming them for a documentary about what? Vampires living in Staten Island. Anyway, think "Big Brother" for vampires.

Every short episode (less than 30 minutes) stands on its own, but I encourage you to binge and then binge some more.  It's not a good night if Hubby and I don't end it with an episode. 

Based on the 2014 mocumentary comedy horror film of the same name that was written and directed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi (they are behind this series too and Waititi went on to win an Oscar for his screenplay for "Jojo Rabbit"), the humor is reminiscent of "This is Spinal Tap," a similarly very dry humor character-driven mockumentary. And you don't need to be a horror or vampire fan to enjoy the exploits of our vampires (There are currently three seasons of short episodes to binge to your hearts content).

Rosy the Reviewer says...perhaps this is an acquired taste, but I know it's mine! Loved and laughed every minute of it! If you loved "This is Spinal Tap," you will enjoy this (and it helps if you love vampires)!

And finally, if you will forgive me, I am compelled to add this semi-unrelated show but because it really was a high point for me while stuck at home I hope you will bear with me.


I know you know all about "Jeopardy," but I have to say that the Matt Amodio winning-streak was just what I needed during my recovery.

This long-running quiz show (since 1964) has had a difficult time finding its way since the death of longtime beloved host, Alex Trebek. A series of hosts of varying abilities have come and gone, but then Matt Amodio came along.  No, he wasn't one of the rotating hosts. But he had the second longest-running winning streak of all players behind only Ken Jennings who had an incredible 74 wins (Matt had 38). Watching Matt plough through all contenders was so much fun.  Even though in practically every show, by the end of the show, he was so far ahead that no one could catch him in Final Jeopardy, and even though I knew he would win every time, I still looked forward to the contest.  

And then...he lost and rather ignominiously. 

On his last show, he uncharacteristically faltered and left room for his challengers to catch him in Final Jeopardy and then when Final Jeopardy came around, everyone else knew the answer but Matt including ME! I still think he got bored and threw that last show.  I mean, maybe he was happy with now being second after Ken Jennings for most wins but he robbed me of seeing him compete while Ken Jennings hosted (which he began this week).  Now that would have been something - Ken officiating while Matt broke his record.  But it wasn't to be.  

Still, loved Matt and loved watching his success. Didn't like the guy who beat him - Jonathan Fisher - who went on to win more games than I thought he deserved.  Let's just say, I looked forward to seeing Matt win and watched the show after that to see Fisher lose - which he eventually did. I know, I'm bad. But Matt was a humble winner.  In my opinion, the new guy was smurking and smug. But maybe I was still mourning the loss of Matt.

Rosy the Reviewer says...still love the show but miss Alex and wish they would find a permanent replacement.  Didn't like Mayim Bialak who dressed like the stereotypical librarian caricature which I think is the look they were going for (made her look smart? Which she is by the way), but which offended my librarian self, who would have rather died than dress like that!  

Thanks for reading!

See you soon for some movies you might not know about that also helped me get through!

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 

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)!

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.