Showing posts with label Scientology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scientology. Show all posts

Friday, October 5, 2018

"Fahrenheit 11/9" and The Week in Reviews

[I review Michael Moore's new movie "Fahrenheit 11/9" as well as the HBO documentary "Jane Fonda in Five Acts" and the DVD "Bad Samaritan."  The Book of the Week is "Perfectly Clear: Escaping Scientology and Fighting for the Woman I Love."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Senso."]

Fahrenheit 11/9

Michael Moore tries to figure out just how Donald Trump became President.

Most of us who were alive then know exactly where we were when we heard that President Kennedy had been shot.  I was in chemistry class and the idea that our President could be dead was so out of the realm of possibility for me that when the principle made the announcement over the classroom intercom and said our President had been shot, I thought he meant our STUDENT COUNCIL president!  Likewise, most of us Baby Boomers remember where we were and what we felt when we heard that John Lennon had been assassinated because that was another impossibility.  And most recently, liberals and Hillary supporters no doubt remember exactly where they were and what they felt when they learned that Donald Trump had become the 45th President of the United States.

And I do.

I was sitting up watching the returns alone because Hubby was away on business. I, like so many other Americans, was pretty confident that Hillary Clinton would become the first woman President of the United States.  Only two days before, the polls had said that Hillary had an 85% chance of becoming the first woman President. Trump had also been exposed as a womanizing sexual aggressor in that infamous Billy Bush tape.  It seemed like a slam dunk that Hillary would become the 45th President of the United States. I had already posted on Facebook my happiness that my newly born granddaughter would see a woman President in her lifetime.  But as the hours ticked by, euphoria turned to disbelief as it became apparent that Donald Trump was going to be the next President.  As I sat in that chair staring at the TV at 2:30 in the morning of November 9th I thought "How the f**k did that happen?"

And that is exactly the question that writer/producer/director Michael Moore poses and attempts to answer in his new documentary.

First of all, yes, he blames the Russians.  He also blames James Comey.  But most of all he blames...Gwen Stefani!

Gwen Stafani? According to Moore, it seems that Gwen Stafani was paid more for her seat on "The Voice" than Trump was paid for his "Celebrity Apprentice" TV show.  Trump was not happy about that, so he decided to do a bit of grandstanding to call attention to himself so that NBC would give him a raise.  He decided that announcing he was running for President would be the thing.  That's when we saw him grandly rolling down the escalator to make his big announcement.  But it didn't have the effect on NBC that he wanted.  In fact, NBC cancelled his show.  Moore asserts Trump didn't really intend to run for President but he had booked two rallies so he went anyway and during those rallies had a bit of an epiphany.  He liked rallies.  He liked stirring people up.  He liked being the center of attention. Maybe running for President for real wasn't such a bad idea!  And that, my friends, according to Michael Moore, is how it all started.

But just because Trump was running for President didn't mean he would win, right?

Moore was a bit of a Cassandra, Cassandra being the Trojan Princess who uttered prophecies that were true but that no one believed.  No one believed Trump could win ...except Michael Moore.  In fact, pundits unequivocally said before 11/9 that it was impossible but Michael Moore sounded the alarm. He said Trump could win. He is a Michigan boy and knew the unrest that was swirling around the common folk and they were not happy with the status quo.  No one believed Cassandra and no one believed Michael Moore either.

And Michael Moore presents the perfect storm of events that led to that happening.

There was the outrage of the Flint water crisis when Governor Rick Snyder, a businessman with no public service experience, signed an Emergency Management bill that allowed him to oust the mayors, city councils and other officials of four cities in Michigan and replace them with businessmen he appointed to run the cities.  Those cities were Pontiac, Benton Harbor, Detroit...and Flint.  Those cities were also predominantly black and it didn't matter that there was no emergency.  Water for Flint had been supplied from the clean water of Lake Huron but Snyder and his cronies decided to build another pipeline that would use the water from the filthy Flint River which ended up poisoning the locals with lead though of course no one would admit that was happening.  It was all in the name of greed and corruption. And when all of this came to light and President Obama went to Flint, but didn't do anything about it as the inhabitants had hoped, people just gave up on the establishment.  And, then, during Hillary's campaign, she didn't even bother to go to Michigan because she thought it was in the bag.

You see, Moore isn't placing all of the blame on the Republicans.  The Democrats clearly dropped the ball.  In fact, he contends there was some hanky panky on the part of the Democrats when several states gave the Democratic nomination to Hillary when Bernie had won more votes.  But there is plenty of blame to go around. Moore also blames the Electoral College - I mean in the last 16 years, two Presidents were elected who lost the popular vote. How does that happen?

And it wouldn't be a Michael Moore movie if he didn't throw in gun violence, sexual harassment, low teachers' pay and a host of other issues that he believed helped create the Trump Presidency. He also asserts that we all knew what Trump was. He was doing everything he did in plain sight.  He talked about grabbing women's private parts, he was a known womanizer, he hung out with the Russians and even said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any voters. And no one cared. Moore even throws himself under the bus.  

And yes, he does "go there." He compares Trump's ascendancy to Hitler's and there are some potent similarities.  When Hitler came to power, Germany was the most educated, cultured and well-read country in the world.  Most towns had several newspapers.  The people were informed and involved, so how did someone like Hitler take over the country?  Little by little.  As Mussolini once said "If you pluck a chicken one feather at a time, no one notices."  And that is how fascism takes over.

So there is the usual Michael Moore controversial stuff here. But most would agree Moore is right on point when he blames the media who couldn't get enough of Trump and basically gave him free publicity and an apathetic populace who had given up on the establishment and just didn't vote. 

But this film is much more than a diatribe on the Trump Presidency.  It is also a call to arms. 

Moore shows how our freedoms are already in jeopardy and if we give up and don't vote because we think our votes don't matter, don't be surprised if all of a sudden we wake up one day and we are no longer free. Democracy isn't something that we are entitled to.  It's something we have to keep alive. We need to care about all of the issues that Moore brings up in this film and we need to speak up about them.

The film ends with those Parkland teens using their freedom of speech to agitate over gun violence and school shootings and it's clear that Moore thinks it is the young people who can save us.  I hope so.

Rosy the Reviewer says...whether you agree with Moore or not, you can always count on him to make a compelling film. This is a powerful film about the state of American politics and has much food for thought, and it made me cry.

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


Jane Fonda in Five Acts (2018)

Another controversial figure.  Eighty-year-old Jane Fonda and her life and times.

Divided into five chapters, four of which are named after the men in Jane's life, it is an effective way to tell her story because Jane herself admits she didn't know herself very well and was often defined by men.

Act One - "Henry."

Jane was the daughter of Henry Fonda, an acting icon who epitomized solid American Midwestern values.  Growing up, Jane felt she had to be a certain kind of girl, a good girl, because she was his daughter.  But Henry was also a difficult man who cheated on Jane's mother with a younger woman which led Jane's mother to kill herself.  Of course no one told Jane and her brother, Peter, that.  It was swept under the carpet and it wasn't until she went to boarding school and someone showed her a story on her mother that she learned the truth.  That's not something that is easy to get over.

Jane grew up a Daddy pleaser and was still living at home when she was 21.  Her new stepmother told her she needed to move out and that's when she met acting teacher Lee Strasberg who took her into his class and encouraged her.  She came alive.  Her career took off on Broadway and eventually in film where she specialized in ingenues. But despite her success, she still needed to get out from behind her father's shadow so she went to France.  And that's when she met Vadim.

Act Two - "Vadim"

Roger Vadim had been married to Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve (who I quote all of the time because she said "At a certain age, you have to choose between your face and your ass."  No truer words spoken) and was also a charismatic French director.  When Jane met him she allowed him to mold her which is how she ended up as Barbarella.  In France she also became politicized. She married Vadim, they had a daughter together, and Jane started engaging in more serious film projects.  Up until then she had mostly played ingenues but when she starred in "They Shoot Horses, Don't They" followed by "Klute," and she won and Oscar, everything changed. She started to be taken seriously as an actress. She also left Vadim and became an activist.

Act Three - "Tom"

She met political activist and one of the Chicago Seven, Tom Hayden, and married him.  He didn't approve of the Hollywood lifestyle so she pared down, lived in reduced circumstances, did her own shopping and cooking, didn't have a washing machine or dishwasher and helped Tom in "The Movement."  But The Movement needed money and that's how Jane came to do the Workout tapes.  She was into fitness and figured that was what she could do to contribute to the Revolution.  I would guess all of those women who bought her tapes didn't realize they were helping her leftist politics!  It was during this time that Jane started to do films with a message - "The China Syndrome (1979)," which actually foreshadowed what happened at Three Mile Island and "9 to 5 (1980)," which called attention to the sexual harassment of women office workers well before the #Metoo Movement.

Act Four - "Ted"

Tom Hayden was a controlling husband so Jane moved on to Ted Turner.  He called her the day after her divorce from Tom.  They fell in love, she gave up her career, and they had ten years together but she felt that to be with him she had to hide a part of herself. He never wanted to be alone and Jane's feminism was taking shape.

So as we move on to Act Five - what do you think that one will be called?  I remember saying to Hubby, I would imagine it will be called "Jane."  And I was right.

Act Five - "Jane"

Now at 80, Jane can look back and see that her life was defined by men.  But no more.  She always adopted the lives of the men she was with but finally realized that she didn't need a man and now at 80 her career is still going strong with the Netflix series "Grace and Frankie," reuniting with Robert Redford in "Our Souls at Night" and starring in the popular "Book Club."  She also looks great.  I want the name of her plastic surgeon.

Director Susan Lacy interviews Jane throughout the film and uses never-before-seen footage and interviews with friends and co-workers.  But it's Jane herself who makes this film so extraordinary.  She is open, candid and vulnerable. It's not all "Look at me, I'm Jane Fonda and I've had a great life!"  She has been a controversial figure and she knows it.  She has regrets.  She regrets going to North Vietnam and being used as propaganda (something many Americans still haven't forgiven her for); she regrets not being a better mother; and she regrets that she needed to have plastic surgery and "wasn't brave enough" to let herself age naturally, but in the end she says, "I am what I am," and is happy to have found herself.

Rosy the Reviewer Jane worth a two hour and twenty minute movie?  Yes, hers has been a life well-lived and she shows us that it's never too late to find ourselves.

Bad Samaritan (2018)

What do you do when you are a petty burglar and while robbing a home discover a woman being held captive there?

That's what happens to young Sean Falco (Robert Sheehan) who has figured out that being a valet in Portland is a good way to rob houses.  While people dine, he takes their car, and rather than parking it, heads to their house and robs them.  I remember saying to Hubby while watching this film that I must not have a criminal mind because it never occurred to me that a valet might do that.  Now I don't trust them!

However, when Sean arrives at arrogant and surly Cale Erendreich's (David Tennant) house he gets more than he bargained for.  He discovers a woman named Katie (Kerry Condon), chained and gagged and a very scary torture room in the garage.  What should he do?  He may be a thief but he's not a bad person, not really.  But how does he explain being in that house?  So he places an anonymous call to the police but Cale is one step ahead of him. Written by Brandon Boyce and directed by Dean Devlin, the film turns into a cat and mouse game as Sean tries to save the girl with Cale getting demonic delight by not only trying to ruin Sean's life but his family's and friends' lives as well.  Oh, yeah, Cale is also trying to kill everyone in his path too.

Doctor Who and "Broadchurch" fans will not recognize their hero, David Tennant.  He is one creepy guy in this film and he hams it up big time, but it's enjoyable (in a creepy way) seeing him have so much fun  The film plays like a Lifetime Movie, but, hey, I like Lifetime Movies and all in all it's a good little thriller with an engaging young leading man and a woman FBI agent who eventually gets the job done.

And let me just say, the moral of the story is - If you want the job done right, get a woman to do it!

Rosy the Reviewer says...far-fetched and a bit sleazy but a surprisingly good thriller.

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

124 to go!

Have YOU see this classic film?

Senso (1954)
("The Wanton Countess")

An Italian countess gives up everything for love. Yes, it's one of those kinds of movies.

But I love them!

Set in Venice and Verona during the Italian-Austrian War of Unification right before Giuseppe Garibaldi expelled Austrians and helped unite Venice with the rest of Italy, this is the story of a bored Italian Countess who meets and falls in love with a dashing Austrian soldier.  Sadly, the soldier is a cad. It's a romantic melodrama and this is the kind of movie I love.

The film begins during a performance of the opera "Il Trovatore," which is no surprise since director Luchino Visconti was one of Italy's most renowned directors of opera. The opera is interrupted by a demonstration by Italian Nationalists against the occupying Austrian troops who were attending the opera. And the film itself is a kind of opera as we watch Countess Livia Septieri (Alida Valli) embark on a self-destructive love affair.  She is a Garibaldi supporter who intercedes on her beloved cousin's behalf when he impulsively challenges an Austrian officer to a duel. She meets Franz Mahler, a young Austrian officer (Farley Granger), and is immediately attracted to him.  Though he is "the enemy," Livia throws caution to the wind and embarks on a love affair with Franz.  He is also a cad who uses Livia to get money to bribe a doctor to say he is unfit for battle.  When he disappears and then writes her a letter thanking her for the money, she travels to see him only to discover him drunk and with a prostitute.  He humiliates Livia by rubbing her nose in her own humiliation by making her sit at a table and dine with the prostitute. It's all very Anna Karenina except in this case "Don't mess with a woman scorned."

Valli is wonderfully dramatic as the lovelorn Livia and Granger is appropriately charming and handsome.  Visconti had originally wanted Ingrid Bergman for the part of Livia but Bergman was married to director Roberto Rossellini at the time and he didn't want her working for other directors.  And Brando?  Hard for me to imagine him mumbling around in the role of the dashing Mahler. And believe it or not, Granger was a more popular actor at the time.  Does anyone remember him now?

Why it's a Must See: "With screenplay credit for both Tennessee Williams and Paul Bowles -- among six writers in total - [this film] is a distinctly high-class melodrama."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...just my kind of film!  I love the old-fashioned costume melodramas that end tragically.  I'm weird that way.
(In Italian and German with English subtitles)

***The Book of the Week***

Perfectly Clear: Escaping Scientology and Fighting for the Woman I Love by Michelle LeClair (2018)

Yet another book on the evils of Scientology.

Don't get me wrong.  I am not making fun of this book, but this is certainly not the first book by someone wanting to break free from Scientology, most famously Leah Remini's book "Troublemaker" and "Ruthless," written by David Miscavige's own father, Miscavige being the head of the church. You would think with all of these books written about the evils of Scientology and what they do to you if you go against them, something significant would happen such as arrests or the Church going bankrupt.  Leah Remini has made calling Scientology out a lifelong mission and even had a regular TV show interviewing about the aftermath of a life in Scientology.  But even with that, nothing seems to happen.  Scientology just keeps chugging along. Like, why aren't we hearing from Kirstie Alley or John Travolta?

I have always been fascinated by cults and what draws people in.  I recently reviewed Catherine Oxenberg's book, "Captive," about her daughter's involvement with Nxivum and her efforts to save her.  What strikes me about that book and this one is that in both cases it was the mothers who introduced their daughters to the cults - Catherine was first interested in Nxivum and got her daughter involved.  However, when she became disenchanted with the group she left but her daughter didn't. In this book, LeClair's mother was a lifelong seeker and brought her daughter in.  Both books show how vulnerable young people are to this sort of thing especially when their own parents seem to give them the seal of approval.

If you have done any reading about Scientology at all you will already know what she reveals about the Church - the auditing with the E-Meter, the Sea Org, how the Church keeps people in line, nothing really new with that, but LeClair puts a new spin on the group as she sheds life on their intolerance toward homosexuality, which she experienced first hand.

LeClair was the former President of Scientology's international humanitarian organization and gave the group millions of her own dollars.  All of her life she had struggled with her feelings about other women and tried to live a conventional heterosexual life but an abusive marriage led her to find love elsewhere and to eventually find the love of her life - a woman.  Over the years she had tried to reconcile her sexual orientation with the anti-gay ideology of Scientology, but when she met her wife she eventually left the church not realizing what a price she would pay.  The police raided her home, her husband sued her for custody of their children and she lost her business, all, according to her, as part of the Church's plan to destroy her as they try to do with any who go against them.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a harrowing story. If you are interested in the inner workings of Scientology or in cults and how people get pulled in, this is a compelling story.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 


"A Star is Born"


 The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)

and the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before 

I Die Project." 

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to copy and paste or 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.

Friday, June 24, 2016

"Finding Dory" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new Disney movie "Finding Dory" as well as DVDs "Frozen (no, not THAT "Frozen") and "East Side Sushi."  The Book of the Week is "Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige and Me."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Charlie Chaplin's "Monsieur Verdoux."]

Finding Dory

This time Nemo has to help find Dory.

You might find it strange that I am reviewing a kid's movie, but this is not the time of year for the kinds of movies I usually enjoy. I know I am not going to get a "Spotlight" or a "...Big Short" in the Summer Blockbuster Season.  But I am a big Kevin Hart fan, so I was going to go see "Central Intelligence," Kevin Hart's new movie, but after watching "Ride Along 2" over the weekend (see review next week), I decided against it.

Though I am not known to go see many animated films, I did love "Inside/Out," and I fondly remember "Finding Nemo," for which "Dory" is the sequel, so after a process of elimination, I found myself in a theatre full of little children and their parents and grandparents.  And I have to say, as I waited for the movie to begin, I was drawn back to my own childhood, sitting in the darkened theatre waiting for the magic that was Disney to begin, and when the Disney theme music ("When You Wish Upon a Star") played and Sleeping Beauty's castle appeared on the screen, I felt a little rush of excitement.

And "Finding Dory" does not disappoint.

As you know I am not a fan of sequels or prequels, one of the reasons being that it's difficult to remember what happened in the earlier films and many of them don't do much to remind you what happened in the earlier films.  "The Hunger Games" movies are perfect examples.  "Finding Dory" is the sequel/prequel to "Finding Nemo," and it's been 13 years since that film.  But "Finding Dory" has done a great job of reminding us of what happened in the first film and bringing back beloved characters like Nemo and his Dad Marlin.

As you may remember from "Finding Nemo," Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) was the little Blue Tang fish with short-term memory loss, who helped find Nemo.  In that film, she didn't know anything about where she came from, so this film explores Dory's life before she met Nemo.

It begins with Dory as a little girl fish living with her loving parents, Charlie and Jenny (Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton providing the voices).  She gets separated from them, but we are not really sure how.  Fast forward to the present, which is just after Nemo was found.  Dory is living with Nemo and his over-protective, Dad, Marlin (Albert Brooks), but Dory keeps getting flashbacks about her parents and decides to try to find them.  She has a memory of the "Gem of Morro Bay" (which is actually the Marine Life Institute, an aquarium and nature preserve), and she talks Marlin and Nemo into helping her get there to find her parents.  But, wouldn't you know, when they get close, Dory becomes separated from Nemo and Marlin. Dory is "captured" and tagged by the nature preserve.  The tag marks her for deportation to a Cleveland aquarium. Now Nemo and Marlin must find Dory before she gets sent away. 

At the Institute, Dory meets, Hank (Ed O'Neill), an octopus who is scheduled to be released back into the ocean. However, he doesn't want that. He is an anti-social type who has bad memories of life in the ocean, so he just wants to go to Cleveland, to be put in an aquarium and left alone.  So he makes a deal with Dory. If he helps her find her parents, she will give him the tag and they will in essence switch places.

All kinds of adventures ensue  as Hank and Dory make their way around the Institute to find her parents.  It's quite enlightening to find out how fish and mollusks feel about those "touching pools" at aquariums where children can touch the wildlife. It's a literal horror story for those inside.  We also meet some funny seals, a nutty seagull, a near-sighted whale shark named Destiny and Bailey, a Beluga whale who is convinced he has lost his sonar ability.

Disney films always have messages and this film is no exception. The messages here are about the importance of friends and family and the power we all have to figure things out for ourselves and make our way in the world. 

As expected, this is a sweet film that will pull up a tear or two, but what's more important, it's a very funny film.  Written and directed by Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane (with additional material from Victoria Strouse and Bob Peterson), it is wonderfully funny with all kinds of antics and excitement that the little ones will enjoy, and, as usual, there are enough double entendres and puns to delight the adults in the audience ("Holy carp!") as well.  Ellen DeGeneres as Dory lends her hilarious deadpan delivery to Dory, which adds to the smart screenplay.  The other voices, most notably Hank, are all first-rate.

And don't leave before the credits roll as our friend Hank, the octopus, puts on a bit of a show.

Because it's Disney, there is a cartoon that precedes the film.  It's called "Piper" and wordlessly follows a baby sandpiper as it learns to spread its wings.  It is one of the cutest things you will probably see this summer, especially if you are a fan of cute kitties and puppies on the Internet.  Even if you are an old grump, you will not be able to defend yourself from the cuteness that is this little film. 

Rosy the Reviewer says..."Dory" is one of the funniest comedy films of the year in a year where few comedies have been funny.  Don't miss it, even if you don't have a little kid to take with you!

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

Now Out on DVD

Frozen (2010)

WARNING!  Disney's "Frozen" this is NOT!  There is no one singing "Let it go...let it go!" except maybe in a character's mind when her frostbitten hand gets stuck on the chairlift guard.   This one is all about the horror of possibly freezing to death on a ski lift that is stuck high up in the air with no one around to help get you down.

Freezing to death on a stuck ski lift? How could that happen?

College buds Dan (Kevin Zegers) and Joe (Shawn Ashmore) prepare for their annual snowboarding vacation at a New England ski resort, except this time Dan's girlfriend, Parker (Emma Bell), is coming along, thus making Joe feel like the third wheel, something he is not happy about.  Dan is a bit of a scammer.  He gets Parker to use her girlish wiles to get the three a free trip up the ski lift. There is a harbinger of doom as the ski lift stalls on their way up, but it's day time and the lift quickly starts up again.  As night falls and a blizzard is imminent, the ski lift is shutting down for the weekend, but the three talk their way into one last run.  Unfortunately for them, the guy who let them go up didn't tell his replacement that there are three more people on the lift.  So he shuts down the ski lift, turns out the lights and leaves for the weekend.

Now our kids are stranded up on a ski lift at night in freezing temperatures with a blizzard on the way...and when you are all alone, stranded on a ski lift, will anyone hear you scream?

This is one of those "what if" horror stories.  What if a ski lift jams and strands you high up over a mountain?  And what if no one knows you are up there and, it's Sunday and everyone has left the resort until next Friday? What if you weren't dressed properly to withstand an overnight blizzard?  What if there really are hungry, blood-thirsty wolves in New England?

That's our premise.  It's a simple one, but it's scary as hell, especially if you are afraid of heights and of freezing to death. It's almost a real time exercise in what it would be like to face a death like this.  What would you talk about?  When would the horror of your situation kick in? What would you do? What kinds of risks would you take, especially is there is a salivating wolf standing under you?

It's all very scary and plausible, except for one thing: 
none of these kids had their cell phones. What millennials go anywhere without their cell phones?  But of course, if they had their phones, we wouldn't have a horror film, now would we?

Well, and wolves in New England.  Not sure about that (the film was shot in Utah).

Written and directed by Adam Green and starring relatively unknown actors, this low-budget film plays out with just our three characters, a blizzard and a bunch of hungry, angry wolves. 

Will they make it?

Sometimes, there is nothing like a good horror film to get your juices flowing!

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you ski, this could give you the willies, and if you like your characters in horror films to be stranded in scary situations, this is for you.  It's tense.

East Side Sushi (2014)

A hard-working Latino single Mom wants to become a sushi chef.

The film begins as Juana (Diana Elizabeth Torres) wakes her sleeping daughter and carries her out into the early morning East Oakland darkness to buy fruit to sell at her fruit cart. When she is robbed and beaten, she decides she needs to do something else. Good call! She gets a job cleaning a gym where her boss demeans her, but she keeps plugging away until one day she sees a Help Wanted sign on the window of Osaka, a Japanese restaurant. 

Though Juana has never worked in a Japanese restaurant before, she is a skilled cook and goes in for an interview.  However, the owner is skeptical. Osaka appears to only employ men. Juana manages to talk her way into a job in the back washing dishes and busing tables, but she wants more to do.  She wants to learn to make the sushi.

Let the culture clash begin!

Juana has never had sushi before so there is some humor in her lack of chopstick skills and her suspicions about the sushi, but once she tries the food, she is amazed.  Slowly, she becomes immersed in the food and, Aki (Yutaka Takeuchi), the handsome sushi chef, befriends her, letting her do some food prep behind the scenes.

We have already seen Juana at home cooking for her family and friends, so we know she is a good cook with impressive knife skills.  She impresses Aki, too, with her knife skills and slowly she gets more to do.  At home, she practices her chopstick skills, then masters making sticky rice and finally she works on the sushi, practicing on her family at home for a year. She shows Aki what she can do and begs to be allowed to work in the restaurant making sushi, but the owner says no.  Juana is not Japanese and she is not a man.  So, no.

The owner says, "What would you do if you walked into a taqueria and Asians were making the food?"

So Juana quits and ends up working in a car wash.

But she hasn't given up on wanting to make sushi. She sees a flyer about a competition - "Champions of Sushi" - think "Iron Chef, the original one" - and sends in her audition tape, showing only her hands because she knows the world of sushi is a man's world.  When she wins a place in the competition and shows up to compete, the organizers almost don't let her in because she is a woman, but a little arm twisting ensues.  When Aki finds out she is in the competition, he respects her so much that he wants her  to have his knife of carbon steel, but he tells her that he cannot give her the knife as a present because giving a knife as a present represents a severed relationship so he sells it to her for a penny.

Later Juana takes Aki to a Mexican food truck and she schools him about Mexican food.  A little romance is brewing, but no clichés here.

Juana has been practicing making sushi at home so much that she has come up with her own version, a Mexican sushi that she prepares in the competition.

Will she win?

I learned some things about sushi in this movie:

  • Did you know that the sushi chefs don't talk while they are preparing the sushi because they don't want to spit on the food? 
  • Did you know the secret ingredient in sticky rice is vinegar?
  • Did you know that the prevailing "wisdom" is that women can't be sushi chefs because their hands are too warm and their perfume affects the food? 
  • Did you know that if you sit up at the sushi bar,you are supposed to order sake for the chef?
  • And did you know that in most good restaurants, Latinos are behind the scenes prepping the food and making everyone look good? 

Written and directed by Anthony Lucero, you can't help but like this film.  Torres is likable and real.  You root for her.  It's a small film but it has a big heart.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you love sushi, hell, if you love food, you will love this very sweet film that brought tears to my eyes.

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

247 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Monsieur Verdoux (1947)

After 30 years, a bank clerk finds himself out of a job in Depression Era France and figures that seducing, marrying and then killing rich women is the best way to support his invalid wife and small son.

When Monsieur Verdoux (Charlie Chaplin) was fired from his job in a bank after 30 years, he decided to become a lothario, romance rich women, marry them, get their money and then kill them.  The movie begins at the family home of, Velma, one of his prey. Her family hasn't heard from her, and they know she withdrew all of her money from her bank account.  They alert the police, but since Monsieur Verdoux uses false names, they can't find him.

The police are aware of 12 women who have disappeared, all married to the "same type of man."

Verdoux has dispatched Velma and another wife, Lydia, and when he returns to Paris, one of his friends from the bank runs into him and sees how prosperous he looks.  "You must have made a killing!" he exclaims.  Yuk.  Yuk. 

Verdoux has been successful so far divesting his victims of their money and is investing that money in the stock market so he can provide for his invalid wife and young son. He would probably be able to continue this ruse if it weren't for his latest conquest, Annabella (Martha Raye).  Annabella has won the lottery.  She's not smart smart but she continually outsmarts him.  In a very funny scene on a boat, Verdoux tries to put a noose around her neck from behind, but every time he approaches her, she turns around and he jumps back down looking innocent in one of those comic bits for which Chaplin is famous. After several attempts, naturally he ends up falling off the boat. Chaplin was immensely good at physical humor, even in his later years. 

Verdoux meets a homeless woman and uncharacteristically he helps her.  Later, when Verdoux has lost all of his investments in The Crash and his scam is no longer working, he runs into her again. Now she is a prosperous woman and wants to help him, but it's too late.

Chaplin has taken the Bluebeard story and departs from his "Little Tramp" persona.  Here he adopts a more sophisticated persona, though the "Little Tramp" is still in evidence in Chaplin's comic timing and some of his gags.  Chaplin has also given the story some social significance.  When Verdoux is finally caught, he gives a speech and asks why private murders are condemned, but public killing, as in wars, makes heroes.  These sentiments were not popular in postwar America, and he was branded a Communist and became the target of right wing witch hunts, leading to his leaving the United States in 1953, never to return until 1972, when he was awarded an Honorary Oscar.

Chaplin directed this film and also composed the score, the theme of which is very similar to "Smile," the song he would later write for his film "Limelight" in 1952.

Why it's a Must See:  "The tight economies of the postwar period obliged Chaplin to work more quickly and with much more planning than on previous films.  The result is one of his most tightly constructed narratives, which he unselfconsciously considered 'the cleverest and most brilliant film of my career."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer enjoyable and well-told black comedy, uncharacteristic of the usually sentimental Chaplin.

***The Book of the Week***

Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige and Me by Ron Miscavige (2016)

Every father's nightmare.

I have always had a fascination about cults and strange religious groups ever since the Manson Murders.  I moved to California right after the murders and it scared me to death.  Reading about "The Family" and all of those young men and women who fell under Charles Manson's spell, I couldn't understand how that could happen. Then more and more groups came to light.  Later, there was Jim Jones, David Koresh, those Heaven's Gate people who under the leadership of Marshall Applewhite all committed suicide... I could go on and on.  I continue to wonder how people, many of them smart and well-educated, can fall under the spell of one person and believe in that person so strongly that they will commit murder or suicide to show their allegiance.  I keep reading, and I still don't understand it.

So that interest has included Scientology, a religion that appears to use some strange tactics to keep its believers believing. Though Scientology is not as extreme as the groups I have just mentioned, some of their religious practices have come under scrutiny and those who have left the religion report being harassed and shunned by their own families.  There are many books out there about the so-called horrors of Scientology but not any written by the father of the most powerful man in the organization, David Miscavige -- until now.

In the 1970's, Ron Miscavige had a wife and family, but he wasn't happy.  His marriage was a nightmare, and he was looking for something fulfilling.  He was drawn to Scientology because he believed its followers wanted to help people and make the world a better place.  It wasn't long before he embraced the religion and involved his entire family in it, even moving them to England on two different occasions to become immersed in the religion.

When his younger son David showed a real interest to the point of asking his parents to let him quit school at 16 and move to England to work for the group full-time, they relented and David quickly moved up in the ranks.  Ron eventually divorced his wife and also went to work for the religion full-time, using his musical skills in a band (he played trumpet) and working to write songs for Scientology videos.

But as David's power within the organization grew and when founder and leader L. Ron Hubbard died, David took control, and according to Ron, David was no longer the son he knew.  According to Ron, David became a dictator. Worse yet, he hints that David is a sociopath, which is a pretty strong statement from a father about his own son and when Ron finally left Scientology, he reports his son going after him in a vicious way.

Ron says he wrote this book because:

"Much as I cherish my anonymity today, I must do something, because the Scientology movement under David has morphed into a money-grubbing organization...Rather than concentrating on the substance of Scientology, the church today is focused merely on appearances...The Church of Scientology as it presently operates does not help anyone, as far as I can see."

I think it is no coincidence that the cover of this book looks like one of those pictures we have seen of third world people holding up pictures of their missing family members who were "disappeared."  Ron Miscavige's son, David Miscavige, has, according to his dad, Ron, in essence, gone from a fun-loving, caring son and disappeared into this organization to become its "ruthless" leader.

There is a certain irony here that it was the elder Miscavige who got the ball rolling in what turned out to be his sad story by joining Scientology in its early years.  Like many, he was looking for something, wanting to do good in the world.  And according to Ron, that's what Scientology was in the beginning before his son took over.

But the other irony lies in the question he asks toward the end of the book:

"...How did it come to this? How did a young boy who was an affectionate, happy, bright kid with a great sense of humor and a desire to help others grow into a man who surrounds himself only with people who suck up to him and lives a lavish lifestyle while those who work for him live no better than medieval serfs?  What is the catalyst for such an unfortunate transformation?"

Well, Ron, I have to say that your letting your 16-year-old son quit high school and run off to England all by himself to work for Scientology is probably the reason.  And unbelievably, Ron never addresses this particular aspect.  He goes into a lot of nature vs. nurture stuff and beats his head against the wall about how this could happen when it's plain to me that an uneducated 16-year-old, whose parents, for all intents and purposes, gave up their parental rights to let their teenage son spend his teens and early twenties in a regimented religious organization that some would call a cult could possibly get a taste of power and not have the education or values to be particularly careful with it.

There is a subtext here where Ron seems to absolve himself from any blame in how this all turned out.  He spent most of his life in Scientology and worked for years with his son in a position of power, and it wasn't until his 70's that he left, and it's unclear why he put up with things for so long, and for that reason, the book is a bit of a turn-off.

Though he gives insight into the structure of Scientology and the day-to-day operations and some of the "ruthless" ways things are carried out, particularly when people are "disconnected," it's nothing that hasn't already been explored in other books of this kind, though the irony of the father/son story is interesting.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are interested in Scientology, a better book is "Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & the Prison of Belief" by Lawrence Wright.

That's it for this week!

Thanks for reading!


See you Tuesday for

  What I Have Learned from

"The Game of Thones"

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