Showing posts with label Truth & Lies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Truth & Lies. Show all posts

Saturday, July 23, 2022

"Where the Crawdads Sing" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new film "Where the Crawdads Sing" as well as the foreign film "The Worst Person in the World," and the documentaries "Truth & Lies - Jonestown, Paradise Lost" and "The Hall: Honoring the Greats of Stand-Up," now streaming on various platforms. The Book of the Week is "Fame-ish: My Life on the Edge of Stardom" by Mary Lynn Rajskub]

Where the Crawdads Sing (2022)

Did "The Marsh Girl" kill Chase Andrews?

Part love story, part murder mystery, the film begins with the death of Chase Andrews, a local rich kid. His body is found in a North Carolina marsh. He had fallen from a fire service observation deck.  Was it an accident or was he pushed?  For some reason, everyone thinks "The Marsh Girl" killed him so she goes on trial for his murder. Kindly, retired attorney Tom Milton (David Strathairn) takes on the case, and as he tries to unravel the mystery, the film becomes a flashback to Kya's life interspersed with the present day trial.

Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is a young woman whose family left her deep in the marshes of North Carolina near the fictional town of Barkley Cove.  First her mother left because she was being abused by her husband, then Kya's siblings left and finally her father also left.  But Kya stayed and made her way there alone with the help of Jumpin' (Sterling Macer Jr.), the local grocer and his wife, Mabel (Michael Hyatt).  Kya tried to go to school but was laughed at, so she just stayed in the family home in the marsh, selling mussels to Jumpin'.  She was a mysterious figure to the locals who called her "The Marsh Girl."

Kya eventually meets Tate Walker (Taylor John Smith), a handsome young boy who teaches her to read and write and, eventually, the two fall in love but when Tate leaves for college and doesn't return, he breaks her heart. But then Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinsonarrives, a rich kid who takes a liking to Kya and she has hope once again for love.  But is Chase's heart in the right place? And was his death an accident?

After seeing the previews, I was really excited about seeing this film.  I had not read the bestselling book on which the film was based so went in with an open mind.  Sadly, I was disappointed, at least with the first half of the film. I found it far-fetched that a little girl would be left to fend for herself in the marsh, and the dialogue and some of the characters were just over-done. The exposition about Kya's childhood felt hurried and the characters over-dramatic and hollow which makes sense because her childhood in the book comprised several chapters whereas the film compressed those many chapters into less than a half hour. Even the young Kya (Jojo Regina) was over-acting just a teeny bit, but I will give her a break because it could also be the screenplay, written by Lucy Alibar, which didn't help her.  The dialogue was unnatural and overblown.

But the film, directed by Olivia Newman, eventually grew on me when Daisy Edgar-Jones became the centerpiece.

I loved her in "Normal People," I loved her in "Under the Banner of Heaven" and I loved her here. I just wish I had loved the film. However, I did really also love the handsome Taylor John Smith, whom I am really surprised I haven't encountered before. The love story between him and Kya was quite lovely, though a bit cliched.

But here is the big question: Do crawdads actually sing?  No, it's one of those colorful southern metaphors. It's about being deep, deep in nature communing with the critters but here it also represents Kya's innocence and her life far from people and their everyday concerns. And I have to say, the cinematography is beautiful and atmospheric as it follows Kya around in her marshy world.

If you read the book, the twist ending will come as no surprise, but I didn't read the book and still saw the twist coming from miles away, from as far away as where the crawdads sing.

Interesting side note: author Delia Owens is now embroiled in a real life possible murder case. Before becoming a best-selling author, Owens was a wildlife conservationist. She and her then husband were living in Africa when her husband killed a poacher.  Turns out, killing poachers is not an approved way of dealing with them. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you loved the book, you might want to see this, though you may be disappointed but Daisy Edgar-Jones gives a beautiful performance and the handsome Taylor John Smith and the cinematography are beautiful to look at. (In theatres)


The Worst Person in the World (2021)

(Verdens Verste Menneske) 

Four years in the life of thirty something Julie (Renate Reinsve), a millenial who is struggling with her love life and her career.

Written by Joachim Trier and Eskil Vogt and directed by Trier, this Norwegian film was one of the nominees last year for Best International Feature Film and Best Original Screenplay.  Divided into 12 chapters as well as a prologue and an epilogue, it begins with Julie as a student in medical school.  However, that doesn't last long.  Soon she is more interested in psychology, then photography.  Do you get the sense that Julie is drifting a bit?

Julie also has a penchant for getting involved with every guy she meets.  When she meets Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie), a comic book artist, she takes up writing.  He is 15 years older than she and wants kids.  She doesn't.  Then she crashes a wedding and meets Eivind (Herbert Nordrum).  Julie is still with Aksel and Eivind has a girlfriend, but they are attracted to each other and want to know how far they can go before it's considered cheating. So they decide it's okay to smell each other's sweat and go to the bathroom together.  Ew. Anyway, even after that intimacy, they both go their separate ways, but meet again later when Julie is working in a bookstore.  Yes, yet another career path. They eventually get together and Julie becomes pregnant but then they separate while Julie decides whether to keep the baby or not. 

I won't reveal the rest but trust me, it's more of the same which seems to be an homage to millennial angst and the difficulty of commitment and facing adulthood. It's a coming of age tale except our heroine is 30!

I am usually a fan of foreign films and I have no issues with the acting (Reinsve won the Best Actress award at Canne last year) or production values. This was just not a satisfying movie experience for me. Maybe I just don't get Millennials.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Despite its many accolades, I didn't get it. But give it a try, maybe you will, especially if you are a Millennial. (In Norwegian with English subtitles -Streaming on Hulu, and also available on DVD and to rent on most platforms)


Truth and Lies: Jonestown, Paradise Lost (2018)

A documentary marking the 40th anniversary of the largest murder-suicide in American history.

As I have said countless times when reviewing movies and books about cults, they fascinate me.  I just can't understand people giving their lives over to one person and doing whatever that person tells them to do.  In this case, the charismatic Jim Jones, who  started out as someone who appeared to help the poor and lonely, turned into a megolomaniac, as one does when given supreme power.

Jones started out as a Methodist minister in Indiana and sought to put socialism into practice via his People's Temple church. He eventually ended up in San Francisco where he was a mover and shaker until an article about him and his church appeared in New West Magazine that exposed some shady practices. Jones fled to Guyana to build a town - Jonestown - and eventually got all of his parishoners to follow him there. 

Though it appeared that people were happy in Jonestown, family members alerted California Congressman Leo Ryan that some wanted out so Ryan made a trip to Jonestown to see what was what. Though Jones put on a show for Ryan, several of Jones' followers wanted to leave with Ryan and that started a chain of horrific events.  Jones ordered his minions to fire on the plane as Ryan and his entourage tried to leave.  Ryan was killed and that's when Jones ordered everyone to drink cyanide. Jones had become increasingly paranoid in Jonestown so would periodically have drills in the middle of the night where he would wake everyone up and make them do trial runs of drinking poison.  Who knows if everyone at first thought this was just another drill?  But that night it was the real thing. Nine hundred members of the People's Church in Jonestown died drinking cyanide, a horrible and painful way to die.  Jones, the coward that he was, shot himself.

Originally an ABC News special, the tragedy is documented through interviews with Jones' two surviving sons, rare video, archival footage, audiotapes and FBI documents and tries to answer the lingering question of why?  Why did a man who cared so much about social justice become so evil?

Such a sad story of people who only wanted something to belong to, coming to such a horrible end.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a cautionary tale about the dangers of giving up your free will. (Apple+)

The Hall: Honoring the Greats of Stand-Up (2022)

Celebrating "The All-Time Greats" of Comedy!

"The Hall" appears to be a sort of Hall of Fame thought up for this TV special, and George Carlin, Robin Williams, Joan Rivers and Richard Pryor are the inductees, each introduced by a current comedian followed by footage of those four greats performing.  And you know what struck me right away?  The greats really were great.  They were really funny.  And the current comedians? Not so much. 

Pete Davidson opened the show followed by Jon Stewart's introduction of George Carlin.

George Carlin's career started in 1959 as a comedy team with Jack Burns, but when the two parted ways, Carlin went on alone and became a fixture on late night talk shows.  His looks and routine mirrored many others of the era but as time went on Carlin's image changed and so did his routines.  He was influenced by Lenny Bruce and was angered by his treatment.  Carlin eventually became almost as controversial as Bruce with his "seven dirty words routine."  Today Carlin is considered one of the most important and influential stand-up comics of our time.  He commented on everything from politics to the English language.  As he aged, he became more and more angry about the state of the world and much of what he predicted ten years ago has come true. 

What do you think he would have to say about where we are now?

"The reason they call it the American Dream is because you have to be asleep to believe it."

Robin Williams was introduced by John Mulaney.

Robin Williams became so famous as an actor, first on TV in "Mork and Mindy" and later as a film actor (he won the Academy Award for his performance in "Good Will Hunting" and was nominated three other times), that it is easy to forget that he started as a stand-up comic.  As Mulaney pointed out in his introduction, Robin never phoned it in.  His stream of consciousness humor was manic but very, very funny. He brought joy to everyone who saw him.  Sadly, he ended his own life.  A poignant moment in the show was Mulaney reading a note from Robin's daughter, Zelda, who was in the audience.

"In my eyes, so much of what Dad wanted to do was to brighten people's lives. Especially those he thought may need it the most. In that way, I think his drive had much less to do with his own sadness, and much more to do with lifting the world's."

Next came Chelsea Handler's homage to Joan Rivers.

"Can we talk?" Whether or not you enjoyed Joan Rivers' blunt, self-deprecating humor, she gets the credit for opening doors for so many female comics.  The world of stand-up is definitely a man's world, but she thrived and helped other women. She was famous for all of the plastic surgery she had done but had no problem making fun of herself for it. Johnny Carson loved Joan but when she was offered a late-night talk show, making her the first woman to host a late-night talk show on a major network, he ended the friendship.  She was another comedian who died too early.  She died during a botched minor surgical procedure.  And no, it wasn't plastic surgery.

 "I wish I had a twin, so I could know what I'd look like without plastic surgery."

Finally, Dave Chapelle inducted Richard Pryor.

Richard Pryor had a hard life growing up in a brothel run by his grandmother in Peoria, Illinois, but after a stint in the Army, he moved to New York and started doing stand-up.  Inspired by Bill Cosby, he did middle of the road comedy but in 1967 he had an "epiphany" and his comedy turned more edgy and profane. Like Robin Williams, Pryor also made a name for himself as a comic actor. He also famously set himself on fire while smoking crack cocaine but he managed to turn that terrible event into one of his most famous comedy specials - "Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip." Today Pryor is considered one of our greatest comics for his wry observations, storytelling and self-deprecation.

"Listen to me, of all the people you ever heard of freebasin', have you ever heard of anybody blowin' up? Why me? Ten million motherf***ers freebase, I got to blow up."

Rosy the Reviewer says...just a reminder of how much we miss these really smart and funny comics.  I so wish I could hear what they would have to say about what is happening in our world today. (Netflix)

***The Book of the Week***

Fame-sh: My Life at the Edge of Stardom by Mary Lynn Rajskub (2022)

What it's like to be sort of famous.

You might never have heard of Rajskub.  She is one of those "faces," an actor you recognize but don't know her name.  She is an American actress and comedian best known for her roles as Chloe O’Brian on the TV series “24” and Gail the Snail on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” 

Through a series of self-deprecating humorous essays, Rajskub uses her comic talent to share her life and what it’s like to be an almost famous actress, a reminder that not all actors enjoy lives of glitz and glam.  Raiskub shops at Ross and does her own laundry.  Her essays range from her stint at Denny’s (waitressing is good training for actors because they will be doing a lot of it as they wait for their big break) to starting out in stand-up with Jack Black, Will Farrell and Sarah Silverman to tips on auditioning (don’t go drunk)!  She has accidentally kissed Rush Limbaugh in front of paparazzi, made out with Tom Cruise for 45 minutes on a couch in the film "Magnolia" only to have it cut from the film and received an acting lesson from Gary Shandling

The question she gets most?  What was it like working with Kiefer Sutherland?  Answer: He intimidated her.  

Celebrity watchers will enjoy this because she humorously dishes on everyone she has encountered and she also gives advice to young actors. "Perform as much as possible."

Rosy the Reviewer says... fans of celebrity memoirs and especially fans of “24” will enjoy this comedic romp as will aspiring actors. (Check it out at your local library)

Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!

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