Showing posts with label Woodstock. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Woodstock. Show all posts

Friday, September 20, 2019

"The Goldfinch" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "The Goldfinch" as well as the DVD "Transit" and the documentary "Woodstock - Three Days That Defined a Generation," now streaming on Netflix.  The Book of the Week is "I Like To Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution" by Emily Nussbaum.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Cloud Capped Star."]




The Goldfinch


After a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, thirteen-year-old Theo Decker helps himself to a painting, an act that will affect his life for the next 20 years.

It's not easy bringing a much-revered 700+ page Pulitzer Prize winning novel to the screen and, though the film is getting mixed reviews, I found it a satisfying film experience.  For one thing, I don't feel that a film version of a book needs to replicate the book completely.  I am not one to say, "The book was better." Literature and films are two different art forms, and should be judged as such. In this case, the film concentrates more on the plot, which is an interesting one, rather than spending much time on the underlying themes of the book: grief and how a life can be determined by trauma, guilt and the consequences of our actions. But that doesn't mean that the film isn't a good one. However, I know there are haters out there who miss the underlying themes.  I am just not one of them, but talk among yourselves.

The plot centers around thirteen-year-old Theo Decker (Oakes Fegley), who with his mother, is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art when a terrorist bomb goes off killing his mother and others.  Before being rescued, Theo encounters a man who gives him a ring and tells him to go find his partner, Hobie (Jeffrey Wright), at their antique shop.  Oh, and one more thing.  Theo helps himself to a small painting called "The Goldfinch."

Theo miraculously survives the bombing, but is now practically an orphan, because his father, who was separated from Theo's mother, is nowhere to be found. So Theo goes to live with his friend, Andy (Ryan Foust) and his family, the Barbours, a rich family overseen by a kind but reserved matriarch (Nicole Kidman). Theo also manages to find the antique store where he meets Hobie and Pippa, a young girl (Aimee Laurence) he remembers seeing at the museum right before the bomb went off.  It was her uncle who gave Theo the ring.

So Theo settles into his life with the Barbours, spending his time with them and at Hobie's antique shop and is happy until his ne'er do well father, Larry (Luke Wilson) and his skanky girlfriend, Xandra (Sarah Paulson), show up and hustle him off to a ghost town of a housing development outside of Las Vegas, where Theo meets Boris (Finn Wolfhard), a young Russian kid, with an abusive dad. Boris introduces Theo to drugs and a rather dark version of life.  All the while, the painting is wrapped in newspaper and hidden under Theo's bed.  He is not sure why he has kept it, but it reminds him of his mother.  He blames himself for her death because they were on their way to his school to talk to the principal about Theo getting caught smoking. If she hadn't had to go to his school, she would still be alive.

Years pass and adult Theo (Ansel Elgort) meets up again with Boris (Aneurin Barnard), and he and the painting lead Theo into a murky world of drugs and art theft.

So that's the gist of the story, but the film actually starts at the end with the adult Theo in a room in Amsterdam, a little worse for wear, and then the film flashes back to young Theo.  Flashbacks are fine, but in addition to the flashbacks, there is all kinds of jumping around, past, present and future, and I found that choppiness to be distracting.  I think writer Peter Straughan was trying to create some drama and mystery with that approach, but I think just telling the story in a linear fashion would have been more enjoyable and less confusing.

As I said, it's not an easy task to shrink 700+ pages into a two and a half hour film so some of the story and depth of the book was bound to be lost.  Theo has always loved Pippa and that storyline was given short shrift as well as Theo's father's storyline but that's what happens when it's a big, complicated book like this one.

Oakes Fegley as the young Theo really carries most of the film and is an awesome young actor.  Elgort, though usually a very good actor, seems stiff here and doesn't make much of the role.  Nicole Kidman is always good and adds class to a film and Jeffrey Wright exuded a believable warmth as Hobie. But Sarah Paulson as a gum-chewing floozy?  That was a stretch. 

But whatever anyone thinks of this film directed by John Crowley, most must agree it's beautiful to look at thanks to Academy Award winner Roger Deakins' cinematography.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I am sure those who loved the book will have much to say about what is wrong with this film, but I enjoyed it as a film experience, and that's all I really require of a film.



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


On DVD




Transit (2018)


As fascism spreads in France, Georg, a German refugee, assumes the identity of a dead writer in order to escape the country.

Georg (Franz Rogowski) as been given some transit papers to take to Weidel, a writer, but when he arrives to deliver the papers he discovers that Weidel has killed himself. So he takes Weidel's personal effects and assumes Weidel's identity.  He reads the letters from Weidel's wife, Marie, who was urging her husband to come to Marseilles so they could get back together. He decides to go to Marseilles and use the transit papers to get on a boat to Mexico, but when he meets the writer's wife (Paula Beer), who doesn't know her husband is dead, things get complicated.

Adapted and directed by Christian Petzold, there are several side stories as Georg interacts with others who are either oppressed or stuck, trying to get out of the country. He becomes a father figure to a boy who has a deaf mother; he befriends a doctor; and then of course, he meets Marie, the dead writer's wife.

Though based on a 1942 novel by Anna Seghers about life in Nazi Germany, here the film doesn't go into detail about what has happened in France, who the Fascists are and why it's being occupied.  It's a dystopian tale that reminded me of where we could be headed today. It's a bit of film noir, a bit of existentialism and also wonderful, which is why it was on many Best Films of 2018 lists.

Rogowski looks like a young Joaquin Phoenix and his is a tour de force performance as he is in every scene. The film revolves around Georg as he experiences a world where he never quite belongs.

Rosy the Reviewer says...riveting and timely.
(In German with English subtitles)



Woodstock (2019)
("Three Days That Defined a Generation")


With never-before-seen footage, a different perspective on that iconic music festival.

Not to be confused with THAT Woodstock movie, the iconic concert film made in 1970, this one is not really a concert film.  It goes into more depth about how and why the concert happened, what went into putting the concert together, and how it affected those who attended.  It also addresses the issues of the day - Vietnam, the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the sexual revolution, drugs. The time was right for a revolution and we all took solace in the music. The time was right for Woodstock.

Why and how did a concert like Woodstock come about?  How could half a million young people come together on a farm in upstate New York and create all of that peace and love despite torrential rain, no food and lots and lots of drugs?

Directed by Barak Goodman and Jamila Ephron and written by Goodman and Don Kleszy, this film brings a new perspective to the event.

It's a misconception that hippies put the Woodstock festival together.  The promoters may have had long hair and wore fringed jackets but Michael Lang and his cohorts were young entrpreneurs who wanted to make money.  And that iconic performance of "Freedom" by Richie Havens?  He made that song up on the spot because none of the other artists had arrived yet and he needed to fill up the time!  One of the kids in the crowd interviewed as an adult said that song influenced and was the basis for the whole rest of her life. 

And that's what makes this film a nice addition to the Woodstock oeuvre of films.  It has some new information and new insight from a 49 years on perspective since that first film. It also brings a really personal feel to the event as some of the now grown members of the audience relate how the festival affected their lives.

I watched this film at night on my own and the memories of those times came flooding back.  I didn't go to Woodstock and didn't even know about it until it was over (I was kind of a sheltered midwestern girl), but I was definitely a child of those times. I was fully immersed in the bell bottoms, the granny dresses, the long hair, the music, the politics and experimentation of all kinds.  




I also had a personal perspective on the issues of the day. I got married in 1967 while I was in college (not recommended) and six months later my husband was drafted and sent to Vietnam.  I didn't see him again for two years. Needless to say, that marriage didn't make it.




But Hubby, who I didn't yet know, was at Woodstock, but even though he can say he was there, he never got down close enough to the stage to really hear any of the music.  But he experienced the crowd and all of the "activities," if you know what I mean.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a wonderful remembrance of times long gone that Baby Boomers and their children will enjoy.




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


61 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?




Cloud-Capped Star (1960)
("Meghe Dhaka Tara")


A young woman sacrifices her own life for her family.

A family, uprooted from East Pakistan by the Partition of India, are now refugees living on the outskirts of Calcutta.  Nita (Supriya Choudhury), a beautiful young girl, has taken on the responsibility for the family as her older brother, Shankar (Anil Chatterjee) has abandoned the family for the life of a singer. He spends his days singing rather than working. The father is a teacher, but makes only a pittance. Nita is trying to go to school while also teaching local children, but when her father is injured she becomes the sole support of the family.  She faithfully works and slaves for her unappreciative family and never complains.  

I wanted to scream at the screen and tell Nita to stand up to her family and seek some happiness for herself.  But that's what women did and do, sacrificed themselves, especially in patriarchal societies. Nita also has a fiance, Sanat (Niranjan Ray), but when Nita's mother (Gita Dey) fears Nita will marry Sanat and they will no longer have her as a meal ticket, she plots to get Sanat and Nita's sister, Gita (Gita Ghatak), together instead.  So finally, Neeta, alone and ill, laments her life. A life unfulfilled.

It's a sad tale of a young, selfless woman taking on the responsibility of a family that doesn't appreciate her.  The film also shows traditional Indian and Bengali life and is director Ritwik Ghatak's response to the despair and psychological damage caused by the Partition. Nita's family had been happily middle class when they lived in Pakistan and now had fallen into poverty as refugees, and while they were moaning about their lot in life, Nita was sacrificing herself for them.

Actress Supriya Choudhury is gorgeous and wonderful in this.  However, though this film is a powerful melodrama, the other characters almost seemed like cartoon figures compared to her so, for me, that was a bit of a disconnect.

Ghatak was considered one of India's greatest and most influential directors, though he made only eight films, but almost all of his films illustrate the upheaval caused by the Partition, something that caused him great despair and which probably led to his dying an alcoholic.

Why it's a Must See: "[This film] is a searing piece of work, resonant and beautifully composed -- and it proved a rare commercial success for its director in India...See it for the grace of Ghatak's mise-en-scene, his Expressionist sound design, and the enormous sense of loss."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...see it also for the beautiful and talented Supriya Choudhury and the gorgeous black and white cinematography.
(In Bengali with English subtitles)




***The Book of the Week***


I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution by Emily Nussbaum (2019)


An argument for television.

I am a child of television.  




We got our first TV when I was five, but before that, I remember standing on a neighbor's porch watching their TV through their front window.  I was already hooked and we didn't even have a TV yet!  My Dad loved TV too, especially watching the old movies that would come on late at night. He and I bonded over those.


I wrote about my love of TV back in 2013 - "Confessions of a TV Addict." In that, I talk about how in the old days people used to bond over their favorite TV shows. We liked to watch and were not afraid to admit it.

So when did we become such snobs about TV?  When did we start calling it the idiot box and shaming our friends for watching?

I don't have much patience for people who look down their noses at those of us who like to watch a bit of TV.  OK, a lot of TV, but for one thing, saying snarky things to those of us who watch is not very nice. I hear people say in a demeaning way, "I don't watch TV."  Mmmm.  Well, don't think I haven't noticed that many of you who say that know way more about what's on TV than you should if you don't watch.  Give me a break.  And what do you care what people do? If we want to watch "The Bachelor," it's none of your beeswax.

So thank you, Emily Nussbaum, for being a very smart Pulitzer Prize winning author who unashamedly watches TV. She started out as one of those TV snobs, but it was Buffy the Vampire Slayer who got her hooked. She only watched it on a whim when one of her friends recommended it.

"...what really got me was the show's peculiar originality, the ways in which it felt stealthily experimental beneath its conventional surfaces, which were low-budget and, aesthetically, nothing special.  As he would often explain in interviews, [writer Joss] Whedon had taken the bimbo victim of every exploitation film...and let her spin around and become the avenger. Thrillingly, Buffy treated this one girl's story not as something trivial, but as a grand, oceanic metaphor."

As I said, Nussbaum is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and was a TV critic and editor for New York Magazine.  In this series of essays, she smartly comments on "Sex and the City," "House of Cards," "Scandal," "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," "Lost" and other popular shows, as well as reality TV, the legacies of Joan Rivers and Norman Lear, and how Ryan Murphy became the most powerful man on TV.  And don't think that "Game of Thrones" doesn't show up here and there.  It does.


"This book is an account of the two-decade-long argument about television, in the form of the reviews and profiles I've written...[and] what unites these essays and profiles is my struggle -- and over time, my growing frustration -- with that hidden ladder of status, the unspoken, invisible biases that hobbled TV even as it became culturally dominant."  

But more importantly, Nussbaum
beats down the whole idea that one kind of culture is better than another.  She makes it OK to confess to liking to watch, because there are a lot of reasons to watch. 


Rosy the Reviewer says...My name is Rosy and I like to watch.  There I said it.  Now mind your own business!



Thanks for reading!



See you next Friday

for 

"Downton Abbey"


and


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 IMDB.com, 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.