Showing posts with label Princess Margaret. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Princess Margaret. Show all posts

Friday, October 12, 2018

"A Star is Born" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the latest version of "A Star is Born" as well as DVDs "Deadpool 2" and "Summer 1993."  The Book of the Week is "Ninety Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die" with "Cria Cuervos."]

A Star is Born

An established country rocker helps a young singer with her career only to find as her star ascends, his declines.

How many times have they rolled this old chestnut out?  

Mmm, let's see. FOUR TIMES. And I've seen them all.  But I have to say that it's a classic and memorable story that never gets old. 

The first one with a screenplay by Dorothy Parker and other notables and starring Janet Gaynor won a Best Picture Oscar in 1937 and wasn't even a musical.  It was about two actors. The second one turned the story into a musical and was memorable because it starred Judy Garland when her career needed a boost which it got because both she and James Mason were nominated for Best Actor Oscars and both won Best Actor Golden Globes. I have never forgotten the end of the film when Norman Maine (Mason) walked off into the ocean. Then in 1976 Barbra Streisand wanted to star in it and turned it into a story where both people were singers but what was mostly memorable about that version was her hair.  I know.  That's mean. But I can't help it.  That's what I remember most about that version. And now we have this one.  On the same wavelength (pardon the pun) as the Streisand film - two singers - but better.

Jackson "Jack" Maine (Bradley Cooper) is a country rocker who likes to drink.  He likes to drink so much that he does it all of the time and often passes out and needs to be put to bed by his brother, Bobby (Sam Elliott), Jackson's road manager and de facto mess-cleaner-upper.  Bobby is also a failed singer who resents his younger brother's success, but this is a side story that didn't really go anywhere, though it gave Sam Elliott a chance to emote a bit. 

One night after a show, Jack is looking for a bar and a drink and since any one will do, ends up in a drag bar where aspiring but yet unknown singer Ally (Lady Gaga) is performing. (She is the only female who gets to perform there because they all think she is so good).  She sings Edith Piaf's signature song "La Vie En Rose," and blows Jack away.  He goes backstage to compliment her and they stay up all night together talking about singing and songwriting. Their attraction is immediate and believable and Jack invites her to go on tour with him but she declines because she has a job as a waitress. What?  You say no to going on tour with a megastar to go back to your waitressing job where you are habitually disrespected? Am I missing something here?  It takes her awhile, but when Ally gets back to work and gets disrespected once again by the manager, she chucks the job and heads out to meet Jack. Thank you! Because on tour, Jack gets her to sing with him and she finds instant success. But then every silver lining has a cloud (I just made that up). She also finds out just how bad off Jack is as she spirals up and he spirals down.

Now I am going to rant a little bit.

Actors want to be singers, singers want to be actors.  Comedians want to be dramatic actors and dramatic actors want to be...well, not sure how many dramatic actors want to be comedians but there is a truism about doing comedy. "Dying is easy.  Comedy is hard." Maybe that's why so many dramatic actors who have tried comedy have failed. I am not going to mention any names (If you really care and want to know who I am thinking about, email me). 

So anyway, going into the theatre I was already mentally writing my review and was prepared to tell singer Lady Gaga to not quit her day job.  And not being a Bradley Cooper fan (I always thought he looked a bit dorky) I was ready to skewer him too.  Likewise, I was planning to bitch about YET ANOTHER VERSION OF THIS?  

But I am prepared to eat crow. 

Lady Gaga can act! And is sans makeup throughout.  Bradley is far from dorky in this so now I'm a fan! Might be the beard and hair and his speaking voice, which is DEEP and effective and sounds quite a bit like Kris Kristofferson who starred with Streisand in ASIB #3, but I also have to say, Bradley, you can sing! Who knew?  He also gives one of the best performances of his career.  And remember what I said about comedians wanting to be actors? What a surprise to see Andrew Dice Clay as Ally's father.  I didn't even recognize him and that's a good thing.

And as for bitching about a fourth version of this film?  

I realized while watching it that there is a reason this film gets made over and over.  It's a compelling story that we can all relate to. It spans all of our human emotions.  One person helps another with his or her career and then that person eclipses the other. There is love, jealousy, drugs, drink, sex, all of those things good and bad that make us human. And it's a tearjerker story about stepping aside to save the one you love.  For me the Judy Garland version was always the standard, but I have to say that if any comparisons are to be made, this film has that same 1950's "Big Hollywood" feeling like the Garland version (the opening title sequence got me), except maybe for the drag queens and the liberal use of the F-word. That would NOT have flown in "Old Hollywood." Homage is also given to the first two versions with Bradley's character retaining the last name of Maine.  Not sure why they changed that in the Streisand version.

Cooper and Gaga had a lot of chemistry and were very natural together, so natural, in fact, that the film had an improvisational quality and made me feel I was eavesdropping on these two meeting, falling in love and then moving apart, and that's down to Cooper who is making his directorial debut here (he also produced and co-wrote the screenplay with Eric Roth and Will Fetters).  Cooper also does a great job of recreating the touring musician's life and his use of close-ups is also effective and evocative of Old Hollywood. And the music?  It's really good too.

Even if you have seen the others, it's worth seeing again.  This is a wonderful film.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper as you have never seen them, giving the performances of their lives in a powerful classic film that never gets old.

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


Deadpool 2 (2018)

Smart mouthed superhero Wade Wilson (AKA Deadpool) is called upon to save a young boy who shall I say this?  A way with fire?

I guess I am not your usual demographic for this movie.  I think I told my story about that when I reviewed the first "Deadpool."  I went up to the young man at the movie theatre and said "One senior ticket for "Deadpool," please and his reply was "I sure haven't hear that before!"  Not sure why this movie wouldn't appeal to us senior citizens.  Because it's raunchy?  Because it's a tat gory?  Because Deadpool is a smart ass?  Who says senior citizens don't like raunchy and a bit of gore?  But, yes, I don't like smart asses.  But in the end, senior citizen or not, all this cinephile cares about is whether or not a film is any good and if it's supposed to be funny, is it funny?  And you know what?  The first one was good and funny, and dare I say it, because this is a sequel? This one is even better and funnier! 

This time Deadpool, our very unlikely superhero (Ryan Reynolds), is called upon to do some time traveling to take on sex traffickers and fight Cable (Josh Brolin), a mutant from the future.

Deadpool has been working as a mercenary but right when he and his girlfriend, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), decide to start a family, one of his targets kills Vanessa.  Deadpool falls into a depression and tries to kill himself by blowing himself up. Well, he doesn't actually TRY to blow himself up.  He actually DOES blow himself up.  But Colossus (voice of Stefan Kapicic) manages to put him back together and Deadpool is brought to the X-Mansion to recover where he is convinced to join the X-Men as part of his healing process.

Meanwhile, Russell Collins (AKA as Firefist (Julian Dennison) - everyone seems to have a superhero name) is a young boy whose hands can produce fire at his whim.  He is at an orphanage that is also known as a Mutant Reeducation Center and is being abused by the headmaster at his school.  Cable has come from the future to kill Russell because a grown up Russell had killed his family.  He warns that if Russell kills the sadistic headmaster he will get a taste for killing and won't stop until he eventually kills Cable's family and Cable can't have that.  I mean, he has come all of the way from the future to prevent that. However, Deadpool has developed a soft spot for Collins and forms the X-Force to try to save him, a group of now exactly Superheroes which includes Colossus, Domino (Zazie Beetz), a woman whose super power is luck, and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand).  Meanwhile, Russell has joined forces with Juggernaut and heads out to kill the headmaster.

Ryan Reynolds started out as a romantic leading man and he was good at that, but he really comes into his own as the often annoying but always funny Deadpool.

Directed by David Leitch and a screenplay by Reynolds, Rhett Reese, and Paul Wernick, this film is a lot of fun. I usually don't like smartasses but here it works! You don't want to miss the opening credits which are very funny e.g. "Cinematography by Blind Al," and like the film an homage to pop culture.

Rosy the Reviewer says...dammit, I may not be the demographic for this film but I loved it!

Summer 1993 (2017)

When six-year-old Frida's (Laia Artigas) mother dies, Frida is sent to the country to live with relatives but has trouble adjusting.

And that's about it.  

Sometimes I start watching a DVD and midway through I start thinking, WTH?  Where did this one come from?  What was I thinking?

Young Frida is having trouble adjusting to a new life in the country with her relatives after her mother dies. She is sent from Barcelona to live with her Uncle Esteve (David Verdaguer) and Aunt Marga (Bruna Cusi) and their three-year-old little girl in the country.  They are very nice to her and Frida enjoys playing with the little girl. But no one talks to Frida about her loss and does nothing to help her adjust either.  The camera focuses almost entirely on Frida's face throughout the film as she watches everyone around her. Everything is from little Frida's point of view meaning that we are not privy to what is really going on.  Like children navigating around adults, much goes over their heads.  But slowly we become aware that Frida's parents died of some AIDS-related disease and there is the worry that she too may be infected.  But nothing is said and no one talks to Frida about anything much nor does anything much happen.

And that's the problem with this autobiographical film by writer/director Carla Simon.  I get what she was trying to do and it's an interesting directorial slant - to show everything from the child's view meaning not much is spelled out.  But there is a risk with that also meaning basically this film is a slow-moving slice of life, a peek into a family's world where nothing much happens.  It's beautiful to look at and the acting is fine but it was ultimately boring.

Rosy the Reviewer says...yawn.
(In Spanish with English subtitles)

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

123 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Cria Cuervos (1976)

Three orphaned sisters must adjust to life with a strict aunt and handicapped grandmother.

Two Spanish films about orphaned children in one week?  What's going on here?

Again, another one of those films about a young girl, Ana (Ana Torrent), adjusting to her new life after the death of her mother (Geraldine Chaplin).  And again, the camera is almost completely focused on the child which catches her reactions to those around her, except this time she witnesses her widowed father having a heart attack while having sex. Ana blames herself for his death, because she had wished her father dead because of his cheating on her mother.  She even went so far as to try to poison him. After his death, Ana and her two sisters are sent to live with their Aunt Paulina (Monica Randall) and grandmother (Josefina Diaz) and must figure out how to grow up and find freedom.

The film is a psychological study but also a political one.  Shot in the summer of 1975 at the end of fascist dictator Francisco Franco's reign over Spain, director Carlos Saura, who had been a Franco critic and was plagued by state censors, crafted this film that acts as a metaphor of life under Franco's fascist government. Young Ana is trying to find her way out of her restrictive life and grow into an adult, and the adult Ana shows that no matter how difficult our childhoods might be, we still grow up and have lives. Fascism can be overcome. Thank you, God. Good to know.

Geraldine Chaplin, daughter of Charlie, was a very hot commodity in the 70's. She was also director Carlos Saura's muse. Here she plays a dual role of Ana's mother and the adult Ana, but though she is compelling, this film is really all about young Ana Torrent's performance.

Why it's a Must See: "Made literally as Franco lay dying, the film follows the metaphor of life under fascism as a kind of stunted childhood...yet handles it with a refreshing sensibility and grace."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

The film was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film and won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival along with several other awards but again I found it slow and dare I say it?  Zzzzzz.

Rosy the Reviewer must be my prejudice against child actors.  I found this one boring too.

***The Book of the Week***

Ninety-Nine Glimpes of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown (2018)

Princess Margaret as you have never seen her.

And it's a hoot.

Well, if you had known her, this might not have been a surprise.

You fans of "The Crown (and I am one of them)" will probably agree with me that The Queen played by Claire Foy is wonderful but the most interesting character was definitely Princess Margaret (portrayed by Vanessa Kirby).

And this book explains it all.

But this book is actually difficult to explain.  It's part biography, part parody, part essay, part memoir and even part fantasy. For example, Pablo Picasso supposedly had a lust thing after Princess Margaret and Brown writes a little fantasy piece on what might have happened had they gotten married. Likewise, what would have happened if Margaret had not had to give up Group Captain Townsend and married him instead?  Remember, Margaret was not able to marry the man she loved because he was divorced. My how things have changed.  If she had, she supposedly would have had to give up her royal title - the HRH - and her stipend, which, in the end, she couldn't do.

Brown must also have read every celebrity diary and autobiography from the 50's to the 80's from Noel Coward to Andy Warhol to discover that practically everyone had something to say about an encounter with Princess Margaret.

"In 1970 the producer of Love Story, Robert Evans, and its star, his wife Ali McGraw, flew to London to attend the Royal Command Performance in the presence of HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and HRH the Princess Margaret.  'All of us stood in the receiving line as Lord Somebody introduced us, one by one, to Her Majesty and her younger daughter.  It was a hell of a thrill, abruptly ending when the lovely princess shook my hand [and said].  'Tony [the Princess' husband] saw Love Story in New York.  Hated it.'

"When the model Twiggy and her then boyfriend...were invited to dinner...The Princess ignored Twiggy -- at that time one of the most famous women in Britain - until the very last moment.  She then turned and asked her what her name was. 'Lesley, Ma'am.  But my friends call me Twiggy.' 'How unfortunate,' replied the Princess..."

'We were playing Trivial Pursuit, and the question was the name of a curried soup.  [The Princess] said, 'It's just called curried soup.  There isn't any other name for it.  It's curried soup!'  Our host said, 'No Ma'am -- the answer is Mulligatawny.'  And she said, 'No -- it's curried soup!' And she got so furious that she tossed the whole board in the air, sending all the pieces flying everywhere.'

Rumor has it that Parliament used to say "Long live the Queen" mostly because they couldn't bear to think that Princess Margaret was the alternative!

And that's the fun of this book.  

Princess Margaret made no bones about being Princess Margaret. Princess Margaret may have been in her prime in Swinging London (the 60's) and made the most of it, hanging out with the Beatles and the campiest and swingingest that London had to offer.  But at the same time, she was still a Princess and made no bones about pulling rank if she felt she wasn't getting the attention or respect she felt she deserved.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are a Royal Watcher, you don't want to miss this one!

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 




The Week in Reviews
(What To See and What To Avoid)


the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See

Before I Die Project" 

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