Friday, January 22, 2016

"The Revenant" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "The Revenant" as well as DVDs "Sicario" and "Testament of Youth."  The Book of the Week is Carly Simon's memoir "The Boys in the Trees." I also bring you up to date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with the 1990 Iranian film "Close-Up." 

And as an extra-added treat: a reprise of Andy Cohen's and Anderson Cooper's "Deep Talk and Shallow Tales" tour in theatres now]

The Revenant

Story based on the true life experiences of frontiersman, Hugh Glass (Leo DiCaprio), who while acting as a scout with his son for a fur trading expedition in 1820 was attacked by a bear and left for dead, but resurrected himself to seek revenge.  Revenge is a mighty potent medicine.

Revenant (noun): a person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead.

Hugh Glass and his son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), a boy Glass had with a Pawnee woman, are acting as guides for fur traders working for an American fort in what is now Montana/North Dakota/Wyoming (though the movie was filmed in Alberta, Canada).

While drying their pelts, the traders are attacked by Native American warriors.  With few men left in their expedition, they head down river to try to get back to the Fort and to salvage what they have left of their pelts.  As they camp for the night, Glass is attacked by a bear. The remaining frontiersmen do what they can for him, but realize they will never make it back to the fort carrying Glass on a makeshift gurney.  So Captain Henry (Domhnal Gleeson), the head of the trapping party, decides they need to split up, offering two men, Fitzgerald  (Tom Hardy) and a much younger Bridger (Will Poulter), more of a share of the pelts if they stay with Glass and his son until they can come back with help. 

Fitzgerald is not a very nice guy and grows tired of waiting and hoping for Glass to die so he tries to smother Glass.  Hawk sees this and yells for Bridger.  Fitzgerald attacks Hawk. He also decides Glass is going to die anyway so buries him alive and swears Bridger to secrecy.  Fitzgerald is a bad, bad guy.

But there is something about revenge.  Despite his wounds, Glass is able to resurrect himself from his shallow grave and after mourning his son, starts his quest to find Fitzgerald and kill him. The rest of the film follows Glass on a harrowing journey where he faces all kinds of frightening entanglements that he must get out of, but "revenge is a dish best served cold."  And as Glass says, "I ain't afraid to die anymore.  I done it already."  He just keeps going. Revenge is like that.  Remember Charles Bronson in "Death Wish?"

When I go to the movies, I want two things:  I want a really well-made, well acted film and I want an enjoyable movie experience.  And that is also how I judge a film. "The Revenant" delivered just one of those for me.  It was a really well made, well acted film, but an enjoyable movie experience?  No. 

And let me clarify - an enjoyable movie experience for me can be anything from a horror film to a romantic comedy.  It doesn't have to be a piece of fluff for me to enjoy a film.  I can watch blood and gore and be dazzled by the story or the movie-making or the acting or all three.  But here, it was just too much, too intense and just too long at over two and a half hours.

I had my hands over my face, peeking through my fingers for most of the film, because it was just one intense, miserable, gruesome experience after another: an Indian attack, a bear attack, murder, being buried alive, trekking through frozen wilderness half alive, being pulled down a river, gutting a dead horse and sleeping inside the carcass, killing and more killing.  Every 15 minutes or so I had to quote Dorothy Parker and wonder, "What fresh hell is this?"  Leo just couldn't catch a break.

I am willing to go on a harrowing journey in a film but there has to be a point.  I have to feel it was for a reason, that the filmmakers were trying to make a huge statement and I just didn't feel that here.  It's just a revenge movie despite the dream sequences and his dead wife floating around.  Director Innaratu seems to like to add a dream quality to his films showing the mind and past of his heroes in spiritual sequences -  he did it in "Birdman" too.  But I didn't really get it.

And speaking of the wife, I found the relationship with his Native American wife confusing. Anyway, I think she was his wife. It was never really explained. Flashback scenes showing Glass wearing a soldier's uniform as he surveys a burned out Indian village after an attack by soldiers that killed his wife and burned his son were confusing.  Was he married to her?  Why was he there during the attack right after the attack?

But that doesn't mean that I did not appreciate the production values and the acting.  Based on a novel about Glass by Michael Punke and directed by Alejandro Inarritu, who won a Best Director Academy Award for "Birdman," the film looked beautiful thanks to cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezski, who also won an Oscar last year for "Birdman" and the year before for "Gravity."  I saw an interview with Leo where he said the entire movie was filmed in natural light and most days that was only about 90 minutes. The actors would rehearse for most of the day and then when the light was right, they would do the takes.  He also said how harsh the conditions were.  I can appreciate all of that.

Breaking it down, the bear attack was spectacular.  It was CGI, but I believed every minute of it.  I felt the bear's drool as she stood over Glass, and I felt those claws cutting into him, even with my hands over my eyes.
The acting was also spectacular.  Leo will most certainly get an Oscar, partly because of his wonderful work here, but also partly because it's time.  He has been passed over too many times before. Leo couldn't rely on his looks here, or witty repartee, because for the entire film he was grizzled and bearded and dirty...and silent.  He had little dialogue because for much of the film he was alone, but his eyes, his face told the story.  It was a great acting feat.

 But Tom Hardy.  Tom, Tom, Tom.  You are my new person.  He is the new "Olivier."  He is unrecognizable from "Locke," from "The Drop" from "The Dark Knight Rises" to "Mad Max: Fury Road."  I could go on and on.  He inhabits his roles, creates a character complete with voice and accent and leaves no trace of his last role or his real self.  I bet you didn't even know he was a Brit! He is the most exciting actor around these days.  I give my Oscar vote to him.
I loved seeing Domhnhal Gleason again but found him to be too callow and pretty for the part of the Captain of the fort.  He did a good job but was miscast.  I want to see him in more romantic comedies like "About Time."
It was refreshing to see Poulter in a sensitive, sympathetic role.  His looks often get him cast as the wise-guy, smart-ass kid or a bully, so it's nice to see this other side of him. 
As I always say, I am harder on films that have lofty goals.  This one obviously had lofty goals and is an epic film that could possibly win the Academy Award for Best Picture and another for Inarritu for Best Director. I give it props for what it accomplished, but let's just say, I'm more of a "Spotlight" kind of girl.
Rosy the Reviewer says...of course you must see this film.  But plan to have a drink afterward.  You will need it.

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

Now Out on DVD

Sicario (2015)

Emily Blunt plays Kate Macer, a by-the-book FBI agent, who is enlisted to help a CIA special forces team find a drug cartel hit man.

Kate is an idealistic FBI agent who makes a grim discovery during an FBI raid on a house in Chandler, Arizona. Some of her men are killed, and she and her colleagues discover false walls in the house filled with 42 dead bodies. She is assigned to be a part of an interagency task force to find the kingpin of the drug cartel and is bent on seeking revenge for the death of her men (another revenge movie)!  The group is a mysterious bunch of guys, headed by Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and the mysterious Alejandro (Benicio del Toro), but Kate isn't really sure why she has been assigned to this mission and nothing these guys do is "by the book."

I said I wasn't going to review films I didn't like but this film was on several critics' Best Movie lists in 2015 so I thought I should and give you my take on it.  It's a nasty, gritty little film.  The bad guys are really bad.  They cut peoples' heads off and hang the bodies up like trophies.  And there really aren't any good guys and it all leaves you feeling really depressed.

Directed by Denis Villeneuve, who gave us the taut thriller "Prisoners," here casts his eye on the fertile ground of drug trafficking and the evil that promotes.

Though I like feisty women in action films, Emily Blunt is miscast. I'm guessing she showed her action cred in the Tom Cruise film "Edge of Tomorrow" and this is capitalizing on that, but I'm just not buying it.  I find her too soft-looking and soft-spoken for an action star and, she doesn't do much in this one except look sweaty and scared and actually barely speaks for the first hour of the film.  And though she is the star, Del Toro steals it away from her.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this must be my week for gritty, dark movies. I'm exhausted. There is a message here about how the drug trade permeates so many lives but the message is pretty grim and futile.  If I haven't warned you off, then Del Toro's performance is worth seeing.

Testament of Youth (2014)

Screen adaption of acclaimed British writer Vera Brittain's 1933 memoir of World War I.

The film starts on Armistice Day in England, November 1918. Vera (Alicia Vikander) is amidst the throngs of people celebrating the end of the War.  But Vera is not as happy as those around her.

Flashback four years and we see a young woman and four young men swimming.  It's all young love, poetry and the immortality that young people feel.  But then war comes along.

With a title like "Testament of Youth" and happy-go-lucky youth at a time before the horrors of WW I, you can pretty much figure out what is going to happen.

Vera is an independent young woman who wants to go to Oxford.  However, her father (Dominic West) doesn't approve of education for women.  Vera wants to be a writer in a world where women are supposed to get married and have babies.  Despite her father's protests, Vera gets into Oxford.  But when WW I breaks out, Vera's brother Edward (Taron Egerton), her fiancé, Roland (Kit Harrington) and their two friends Geoffrey (Jonathan Bailey) and Victor (Colin Morgan) all enlist and are sent to the front lines. Ah, youth.  They tell Vera the war will be "short and fast."

Despite how hard it was for Vera to get into Oxford, the War makes her want to do more.  She leaves school to join the war effort and become a military nurse tending to wounded soldiers.  Brittain wrote a memoir about her experiences during the war which became a best-seller in 1933.

People don't realize today what a terrible war WW I was, and you don't see that many films about it. Eleven million soldiers died in WW I, 117 thousand of them were American soldiers and WW I lasted only a little over four years. Compare that to 58,000 Americans who died in Vietnam; the war in Vietnam lasted 20 years. Plus WW I was a brutal war of hand-to-hand combat and primitive foxholes.  Brittain's book was a feminist story but it also became an anti-war statement as she described the horrors she experienced and, because of that, she remained a life-long pacifist.

The Brits know how to make these historical dramas and director James Kent has mounted a lovely production, with a screen adaptation by Juliette Towhidi.

But this film belongs to Alicia Vikander. Before there was Alicia Vikander in "Ex Machina" (she was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance) and "The Danish Girl (she is nominated for an Oscar for her role and just won "The Critics Choice Award"), there was Alicia Vikander in this coming of age story set against the backdrop of WW I.  It's also nice to see Harrington doing something different from his Jon Snow character in "Game of Thrones."

Rosy the Reviewer anti-war romance about a very terrible war with a lovely performance by Vikander, who has had a very good year.  This was right before it all happened for her. It's always fun to see young actors right at the cusp of hitting it big.

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

264 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Close-Up (1990)

Based on a real incident, this pseudo-documentary explores the story of an Iranian man who is arrested for impersonating a filmmaker.

Pretending to be the famous Iranian filmmaker, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Hossain Sabzian (himself) gains access to a wealthy family by promising them parts in his next film. Though this is a dramatization of a real event, the real people play themselves and actual footage from the trial is used.

The film begins with a reporter coming to a house with some police officers and through a series of flashbacks, the story unfolds. While riding a bus, Hossain Sabzian meets Mrs. Mahrokh Ahankhah.  He has a copy of the novel, "The Cyclist" on his lap and she remarks upon it.  She tells him that she is a big fan of the director, Makhmalbaf, who made a film adaptation of the book.  Hossain, who is also a big fan of Makhmalbaf, tells her he is the director.  When she asks why a famous film director would be riding the bus, he replies that he often does this to get ideas and background information for his films. "Art must spring from life."

Over a period of time, posing as Makhmalbaf, Hossain ingratiates himself with the family, visiting them frequently, accepting money and saying that he wants to use their home for a film location and their sons as actors.  Eventually, after seeing a picture of the real Makhmalbaf, Mr. Ahankhah becomes suspicious and calls a reporter to the home to verify Makhmalbaf's identity.  The reporter recognizes the imposter immediately and the police are called.

What starts out as a small lie on a bus balloons into an exploration of the nature of truth and how easy it is to be hijacked into believing your own lies, especially when you are a man with few resources who gets to feel like "somebody," if even for a short time.  And it's a story of the difference between the classes.

Why it's a Must See:  "Besides being a funny, thought-provoking deconstruction of documentary conventions, [this film] is a tribute both to the power of cinema and to the essential goodness -- and imaginative capabilities -- of ordinary people."
--"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Abbas Kiarostami likes to play with movie conventions and to remind you that you are watching a movie.  He directed this film within a film using crude cinema verite techniques that make you question whether you are watching a movie or real events unfolding and in so doing Kiarostami reminds us of the power of film.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a fascinating recreation of real events using real people playing themselves that examines the nature of truth. 

***Book of the Week***

Boys in the Trees by Carly Simon (2015)

Singer/songwriter Carly Simon shares her story.

Born the third daughter of Richard L. Simon, one of the co-founders of the publishing house, Simon & Schuster, Simon grew up the child of privilege.  But as her story unfolds, we discover that money truly can't buy happiness. 

She grew up surrounded by music and culture.  Celebrities were a constant at her parent's parties, but her childhood and early adolescence were also fraught with secrets and insecurity.  She had a stutter that turned her inward and which made school difficult.  However, she learned that when she sang, the stutter disappeared.  She and her sister Lucy started performing folk songs in Greenwich Village and then had a heady time in Swinging London during the 60's.

As Simon tells her story, she weaves a delicious web that pulls you in and keeps you there, wanting to know more...about her first meeting with Jamie Taylor on Martha's Vineyard when they were both young; about Sean Connery's attentions on a ship crossing the Atlantic; about her love affairs (and she had a LOT of them - Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty, to name just two) before she married James Taylor, the first time she met Mick Jagger and more.  There are lots of celebrity tidbits to satisfy even the most rabid celebrity maven. 

But it's not all celebrity titillation.  She also talks about her horrible stage fright, what women in the music industry must cope with, her career, her marriage to Taylor that ended in divorce, anxiety, depression, it's all here.

Rosy the Reviewer astonishingly candid autobiography that fans of Simon and of celebrity memoirs will love. It's right up there with the best of them.

***At the Theatre***

AC (squared): An Intimate Evening with Anderson Cooper & Andy Cohen - Deep Talk and Shallow Tales.

Andy Cohen and Anderson Cooper are friends and are on tour with a show filled with good-humored banter and lots of inside stories about Bravo shows and each other's lives. 
Andy interviews Anderson and Anderson interviews Andy.  They intersperse it all with some film clips and end the evening with a Q & A from the audience. 
I actually got to ask my question.  It was a deeply felt and important question for Andy that I was sure the world wanted to know: 
"Are you real, every-day friends with any of the housewives?" 
Answer:  Carole Radziwill and Bethenny Frankel, but he has to be careful to not show any favoritism.  There, now the world knows!
Rosy the Reviewer says..If you are a Bravo TV fan or a fan of either of the Andys, you will want to see if this show is playing in a town near you.  It's a fun evening at the theatre.
That's it for this week.

Thanks for Reading!


See You Tuesday for

"The Good Old Days:
Were They Really Good? -
What I Miss and What I Don't"

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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.

Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). 

Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Once there, click on the link that says "Explore More" on the right side of the screen.  Scroll down to External Reviews and when you get to that page, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.
NOTE:  On some entries, this has changed.  If you don't see "Explore More" on the right side of the screen, scroll down just below the description of the film in the middle of the page.  Find where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics." Look for "Rosy the Reviewer" on the list.
Or if you are using a mobile device, look for "Critics Reviews." Click on that and you will find me alphabetically under "Rosy the Reviewer."



Tuesday, January 19, 2016

How Self Aware Are You...Really? (Rosy the Reviewer's "Happiness Trilogy, #1)

No, this isn't one of those quizzes you find on Facebook like "What Kind of a Flower Would You Be?" or "If You Were a Kind of Pasta, What Would You Be ?
(I think I got rigatoni, but not sure). 

No, I am really asking the question.

I reserve my Tuesday blog posts for a rant when I feel one coming on.  And this Tuesday, I feel one coming on.

I blame it all on Oprah. 

This whole self-awareness, living in the present, self-help thing.  I used to poo poo such things, but now I meditate regularly and am taking not one, but two courses by two of her anointed ones: Brene Brown and Brendon Burchard.  I will check back in with you in a couple of months to see if I have achieved "better personhood."

All of that is to achieve more self-awareness.

Why is that important?

Because, in a nutshell, when you are self-aware you will be happier and so will the people around you.

I talk about it a bit in my blog post "A Little Meditation on a Little Meditation by an Unlikely Meditator" that I wrote back in 2014 - how most of us live our lives in a bit of a fog, living our lives, but not really being aware that we are living our lives, you know what I mean?

But there is more to it than that.

Self-awareness can take several forms. 

I have divided the concept into two realms:  one, the realm that includes getting in touch with your true self, that silent observer within, and two, being aware when you are being a dick, pardon my French.  I should have said "dique."
Let's start with the first one.

How often have you suddenly realized you were picking your nose in your car at a stoplight and then wondering if anyone noticed and thinking, "What was I just doing?"  How often have you been at the supermarket and realized you didn't remember putting those two gallons of salted caramel ice cream in your cart?

Because that, my peeps, is how most of us walk around. 

NOT self aware. We walk around with our heads in the clouds, our noses in our phones and our brains on hold.  Once in awhile we "wake up," and realize where we are and we might be present in that one moment when we realize we are picking our noses at a stoplight, but basically we mostly live our lives thinking about the past or the future or whether or not there will be another season of "Keeping up with the Kardashians."

Self-awareness is not the same thing as self-consciousness. 

Self consciousness is when you realize you are wearing jeans to a black tie affair or when a giant zit appears on your nose right before giving an important presentation at work.

Self-awareness is defined as "the capacity for introspection and the ability to recognize oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals," and it happens when you slow down and take the time to be present in the moment.

When you are self-aware you are aware of your inner true self, your thoughts, emotions, and beliefs that govern you as you move through life.

And what is your true self? 

Your true self is that silent observer (some people call it the soul) that looks out through your eyes and notices that you are observing. All of those thoughts that run through your brain do not constitute your true self.  Your true self exists in those spaces between all of those thoughts. That's why meditation can be so helpful in becoming self-aware. When you quiet the thoughts and spend some time with yourself in the stillness, you become more aware of your true self.

But if you don't have time to meditate or it scares you, you can achieve the same thing by stopping yourself periodically during the day and thinking about what you just said, by noticing what is happening right in that moment.  What did I just say?  How did the listener respond? 

You can also spend a few minutes each day noticing sensations as you move around, touch objects or savor your food.  Taking a walk in a park, noticing the rustling leaves and the blue sky (unless you live in Seattle, then it would be gray sky) and the feeling of your feet touching the ground. You can also listen to soothing music or go for a run.  Anything that quiets your mind.

Or you can decide to greet your friends, loved ones and colleagues whole-heartedly, being present with them and giving them your whole attention.

Eventually as you become more aware and mindful, you are not just living your life, you are AWARE that you are living your life, but not in a self-conscious way. You realize that you are conscious, that you are part of the whole and that is where happiness lies.

And that is the whole point.

But the quest for self-awareness can also be all about the self, which is not necessarily a good thing and leads me to "Self-Awareness #2, which is really all about being self-aware of your actions and how they affect other people.

How often have you heard someone say..."I am self aware enough to realize..." That has become a catch-phrase for "I know what I am doing" or "I have it all together."

When I hear that I want to say, "Really?  Are you self aware enough to know that you are often not a very good friend?  Are you self-aware enough to know that you were just condescending to that waiter?  Are you self-aware enough to know that you were insensitive to your spouse when he shared something with you?  We should change that to "I am self aware enough to know that if I say I am self aware I am probably not."

This form of self-awareness, or lack thereof, falls more into the consideration and courtesy realm, but I realize that it takes self-awareness to know when you are pissing other people off, which hopefully would lead you to stop doing that.  Now you could say that you don't care and if that's the case, I hope you are self-aware enough to know that you are that kind of person, someone who doesn't care what your fellow humans have to endure when you are around.

Here are some things that show a lack of this kind of self-awareness:

  • Talking on your cell phone at the gym

---When you do that, are you aware that everyone in the gym can hear you arguing with your mother or begging your parole officer for another chance -- and that it is very annoying?

I'm not even going to get into talking on the cell phone in your car because I think that's a lost cause.  But I want to know...who are these people you are talking to that you can't wait until you see them?  I hardly ever get any calls that are important, and when I need to make a call, I can certainly wait until I get home.  I don't have to let the entire gym know about my new outfit or what a chump my husband is (not you, Hubby, I'm just using that as an example).  And why do people talk so loudly when they are talking on a cell phone?  It's like I am back in the 50's listening to my mother talking long distance.

  • In a very crowded parking lot, you get in your car, your brake lights are on and it takes you forever to pull out.

---When you do that, are you aware that people are waiting for your parking space?

What are you doing in there? Talking on your cell phone? Fiddling with your seat belt?  Picking your nose?  Just get in your car and get the heck out of that space so someone else can have it.

  • Always being late

---When you do that, are you aware that you are basically sending a message to other people that your time is valuable but theirs is not?

  • Driving slowly in the left lane

---When you do that, are you aware that you are not only holding up traffic but being indifferent to other drivers?

My mother didn't learn to drive until she was 65 and that's a whole different story.  But I remember her saying during a discussion about how awful it was when someone got into the left lane and stayed there even though it was slowing traffic.  My mother responded, "I don't care.  I'm there and I am going to stay there."  My mother was not very self-aware.

  • Riding your bike on the sidewalk

---When you do that, are you aware that in most states this is against the law (yes, in most states it is.  It's the equivalent of driving your car up over the curb and onto the sidewalk - now you wouldn't do that would you)? 

But it is also annoying as hell when I am out for a walk and have to hop off the sidewalk as a bike comes barreling past.  Little kids I understand, but it seems to be a common practice for adults these days too.

  • Putting your coat/purse/shopping bag/whatever in the seat next to you at a crowded Happy Hour bar/seat on a bus/anywhere where someone might need a seat.
---When you do that, are you aware that others might want that seat and that if they do, they must say to you, "Is someone sitting here?" at which point you will reply, "Oh, do you want to sit here?" which might prompt a person to say, "Yes, bitch, why do you think I am asking you if someone is sitting there?"  So don't risk it. 

Now it's your turn.  Fill in the blanks...I might as well let you in on this rant too.

What actions by other people leave you shaking your head and wondering how someone could be so unaware of how their actions affect others?



And then I guess we have to ask ourselves, are we guilty of those things too?

Because we can't change others.  Oh, I like to think that my little blog might have an impact on people and they will be called to action and that's why I write it.  I write it to express myself and to hopefully make people think about some things.  But in the end, we can only change ourselves and the more self-aware we become about our own actions, the more likely we will be to change our behavior, which in turn will make us happier and in turn those we come in contact with. Self-awareness starts at home.

How often do you hear someone say "I am self aware enough to know I can sometimes be a jerk?" 

Now that person is self aware.

The bottom line is that self-awareness will lead to happiness: yours and those around you.

Thanks for indulging me in my little Tuesday rant.  Must be the holiday let-down, the cloudy days and the fact that the Seahawks lost in the play-offs last weekend.  I will try to be more cheerful next week.

However, I am self-aware enough to know that I can't promise.


Thanks for Reading!


See you Friday


for my review of the new movie


"The Revenant"


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

Friday, January 15, 2016

"Carol" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Carol" as well as DVDS "Dark Places" and "Best of Enemies."  The Book of the Week is Giada De Laurentiis' new cookbook. I also bring you up-to-date on My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Buffalo '66"]

Before I start on this week's reviews, I do want to follow up on how I did with my Oscar Nomination Predictions from last Tuesday.  

Nominations were announced yesterday and I did pretty well with my predictions, though there were some surprises. Other than Cate Blanchett's performance, "Carol" was shut out from Best Picture and Best Director, which was quite shocking considering Director Todd Haynes and the film were nominated for Golden Globes and his 2003 movie "Far From Heaven" was nominated for four Oscars and won one.

I called the Best Actor category. For Best Actress, Charlotte Rampling was chosen instead of Alicia Vikander in that category and Helen Mirren was shut out for Best supporting actress in favor of Rachel McAdams for "Spotlight," which is a crime. Vikander was nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category which is silly because her role was a lead role. Christian Bale got the nom for Best Supporting Actor instead of Idris Elba, making this the "whitest" Academy Award year as predicted. 

Since there were only 8 Best Picture nominations, I got those all right but somehow left off "The Martian," which I didn't mean to do - must have been subconscious since I didn't really like it.

And I missed two out of the 5 Best Directors. Lenny Abramson for "Room" was a surprise, especially since Ridley Scott was shut out for "The Martian." So as I said, there are always some surprises despite what happens at the Golden Globes.

See you at the Oscars!

Now on to The Week in Reviews!


In 1950's New York City, a young aspiring photographer falls for an older woman.

Ah, the 1950's, when men and women wore hats, smoked anywhere they liked and had creamed spinach, poached eggs and a martini for lunch.  Women wore gloves and, unashamedly, mink coats. There were tea dances and everyone minded their manners.  We look back at the 1950's with nostalgia as a simpler time when our children could play safely out of our sight, women could go out alone at night and everyone was doing what they were supposed to do.  Problems were few and if there were any, heaven forbid, you didn't talk about them.

But, of course, now we know that was key.  Just because we didn't talk about problems, it didn't mean there weren't any.  Of course, there was divorce in the 1950's and child abductions and murders and rapes and, homosexuality, but we didn't talk about all of that like we do today on social media.  Today, nothing is a secret, but in the buttoned-up 1950's, there were many secrets behind the prim and proper facade.

Director Todd Haynes is a master at capturing the look and feel of period pieces, especially the 1950's, and the secrets, repressed sexuality and forbidden love that was simmering below the surface in lush films that themselves hark back to the lush melodramas of Douglas Sirk ("Imitation of Life," "Magnificent Obsession").

Here Haynes directs an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel "The Price of Salt," a classic in LGBT literature (adapted for the screen by Phyllis Nagy). Like his "Far from Heaven (which was nominated for several Academy Awards in 2003), this is a story about forbidden love set in the 1950's, though this time instead of interracial love, it is love between two women.

Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) is a socialite in the midst of a divorce from her wealthy husband,  Harge (Kyle Chandler).  While in a department store looking for a gift for her five-year-old daughter, Carol meets Therese (pronounced "Teress") Belivet (Rooney Mara), a salesgirl at the store.  Therese is struck by Carol's style and beauty.  Carol accidentally leaves her gloves on the counter, and when Therese mails them back to her, Carol calls her and asks her to lunch to thank her.

As the film unfolds, we learn that Carol's husband does not want a divorce and that he suspects Carol's preference for women.  Likewise, Therese, though engaged to Richard (Jake Lacy), is struggling with her confusion about her sexuality. Carol's husband informs her he is going to take her daughter away from her if she doesn't come back to him, so Carol and Therese leave it all behind and embark on a road trip together, not realizing how they will have to pay for this bit of rebellion.  In the 1950's, you always had to pay for breaching the social mores.

Blanchett is wonderful in this film.  She doesn't exhibit any of her sometimes over the top, Joan Crawford-like mannerisms.  She is luminous and sympathetic.  Likewise, Mara is channeling a young Audrey Hepburn, eyebrows and all.  The two are believable lovers.  There is irony in the title of this film because the movie is more about Therese and her coming to grips with her lesbianism than it is about Carol herself, who though closeted, has already accepted her sexual preference.

Though beautifully photographed by Edward Lachman (nominated this year for an Oscar), who also worked with Haynes on "Far from Heaven," with art direction by Jesse Rosenthall, set design by Heather Loeffler and costumes by Academy Award Costumer Designer Sandy Powell (who is also nominated for an Oscar this year), this film is not as beautiful and dreamy as "Heaven."  And though an engrossing, important story, well acted by Blanchett and Mara, it also is somehow, not as compelling.

Rosy the Reviewer says...See it to be transported back to another time and for two great performances.

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

Now Out on DVD

Dark Places (2015)

Libby Day's mother and sisters were murdered in their Kansas farmhouse when she was eight and she was the only witness. She said her brother did it.  But did he? 

It's 30 years later and Libby (Charlize Theron) is not doing very well.  She doesn't have a job and has been living off of donations from sympathetic strangers that came in starting when she was an eight-year-old orphan.  Her brother, Ben (Corey Stoll), is in jail for killing her family.  Libby is now a tough woman with no prospects. 

She gets a letter from Lyle Wirth (Nicholas Hoult), asking her to make a public appearance at a club he belongs to - "The Kill Club."  The club is a bunch of people who like true crimes and mysteries and they are obsessed with the murder of her family.  She doesn't want to do it but needs the money and negotiates a $700 fee to go to the meeting and let the club members "pick her brain" about the crime.

As Libby prepares for this meeting, in a series of flashbacks, her mind shifts back and forth between events leading up to the murders, trying to remember what she has tried to forget.

When Libby arrives at the meeting, it becomes apparent that the members do not think her brother, Ben, killed her mother and sisters.  So they have really lured Libby to the meeting so she will recant her testimony that fingered Ben. They are passionate that Ben is innocent and as the window for appeals is soon going to close, they want Libby to help them free Ben.

Now Libby is haunted even more by the events of that night and as she forces herself to go back to that place, she begins to question herself, and what really happened that night begins to reveal itself.

The family lived a hardscrabble life on the family farm, and Libby's mother (Christina Hendricks) was about to lose the farm.  This figures later in one of the most bizarre plot twists ever.

As a teen, Ben had a goth look and hung around with unsavory types, so naturally, it being the 80's when young, disaffected youth with piercings and Doc Martens were suspected of worshiping the devil, Ben was arrested.  
(There is a parallel here with the documentary "Paradise Lost," about the three innocent young men convicted of killing some young boy scouts mostly because they were town outcasts who looked goth and were perceived as being devil worshipers). 

Ben's girlfriend, Diondra (Chloe Grace Moretz) is a rich girl with a dark side.  There is an unsettling scene where she and her brother, Trey, get Ben to help them kill a bunch of cows in some kind of drug-induced frenzy.

Based on the novel by Gillian Flynn, whose "Gone Girl" was such a hit, this plays like a gothic melodrama - but a good one, despite many red herrings and some implausible plot twists, but hey, life can be like that.  Directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner (he also adapted the screenplay), it's like a Dateline version of "In Cold Blood," and I love Dateline mysteries and I loved "In Cold Blood." 

On the negative side, there is a far-fetched, bizarre conclusion to the mystery, but despite that, the film does draw you in and you really want to find out what happened that night.   

It's strange that this film got buried with all of the star power in it and with a book by Gillian Flynn.  Charlize, though the star, doesn't really have that much to do except act tough and try to look plain with no make-up, but with those cheek bones, she still looks like a beautiful actress trying not to look beautiful.

Rosy the Reviewer's not "Gone Girl, but if you like "Dateline," you will enjoy this.

Best of Enemies (2015)


A documentary about the series of debates between arch conservative William F. Buckley Jr. and very liberal Gore Vidal during the 1968 Presidential Conventions.

We had confidence in TV news in the 1960's - remember Huntley and Brinkley and Walter Cronkite?  People gathered in front of their TVs together to get the latest news from these trusted newscasters. 

Also remember when there were only three networks? 

In 1968 ABC was relatively new and was considered the 3rd station after CBS and NBC.  In those days, TV covered the Democratic and Republican Presidential Conventions 24/7, and ABC needed something to compete, so they got this "brilliant" idea to pair Buckley and Vidal together in a series of debates during the conventions. Debates is using the word loosely.  In actuality, they were more like a series of insults and one upmanships.  And it changed television news forever.

The two were as opposite politically as you could get - and already hated each other.

William F. Buckley was a well-known conservative who had started the "National Review," hosted the TV show "Firing Line" and was also was a fixture on late night talk shows.  Likewise, Vidal was a best-selling author (his "Myra Breckinridge" had just been published) and outspoken liberal with ties to Jackie Kennedy.  They were both bluebloods with no compunction whatsoever about insulting each other personally. So as they "debated," the argument became more about who was the better person, not politics, culminating in Vidal calling Buckley a "crypto-Nazi" and Buckley hurling a gay epithet and threatening to punch Vidal in the face.  Great TV!

It is also not lost on the viewer of this documentary that the reason people watched these two "debate," was not necessarily for anything newsworthy, but because it was so showbiz. More than discussing real issues, they insulted each other and called each other names, their rage simmering below the surface.  Not too different from the talking heads we see every day on Fox News.

It is fascinating and hilarious to see these two go at it and what the issues of the day were. Sadly, not much different from today.  When Vidal said that 5% of the people had the most wealth and 5% were in the lowest bracket, it is upsetting to think that it is WORSE today!

Buckley represented someone who wanted to hang on to the wealthy social order; Vidal, though wealthy himself, was a socialist, and they were both intellectuals.  Despite the insults, television rarely has these kinds of programs where intellectuals sit around and talk. I miss that.

Directed by Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville, who gave us the Academy Award-winning documentary "20 Feet From Stardom," the film employs voice-overs from Kelsey Grammer and John Lithgow as Buckley and Vidal respectively who read from their writings to give some perspective on how they later felt about the debates.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a funny but sad harbinger of what was to come regarding TV news and a reminder that we don't talk the same language anymore (and this should have been nominated for a Best Documentary Oscar, but sadly was not).

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

265 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Buffalo '66 (1998)

Billy Brown has just gotten out of jail but wants his parents to believe he has been away working for the government.  On his way to visit his parents in Buffalo, he kidnaps a young girl and gets her to pretend to be his wife.

Vincent Gallo wrote, directed and starred in this very indie black comedy about Billy Brown, a loser of a guy from Buffalo whose mother (Angelic Huston) is obsessed with the Buffalo Bills and whose Dad (Ben Gazzara) is a bit of a perv. 

The film starts out with a funny sequence with Billy getting out of jail and there is no one to pick him up.  He waits and waits and finally has to go to the toilet so badly that he goes back to the prison to ask if he can use the restroom.  Nope.  Once you are out, you're out!  A bus ride later and the toilet in the bus station is closed, no restaurant will let him use theirs and he eventually ends up in a dance studio where he meets Layla (Christina Ricci).  I guess having to go to the toilet really bad can make you really mean.  He kidnaps her and forces her to accompany him to his parents' house to pretend she is his wife and "make him look good."  How he does this with no weapon was the first thing that made me question this film.

Why had Billy been in jail?  He had placed a $10,000 bet on the Buffalo Bills with money he didn't have. The bookie (Mickey Rourke) will forgive the loan if Billy will take a rap for someone else and serve his time in prison.  He does that but when he gets out of prison Billy is determined to take revenge, not on the bookie, but on the Buffalo Bills' placekicker who lost the game!

The film uses a series of split screens for flashbacks and to show the inner life of the characters, which was kind of interesting.  And in addition to Gazzara, Rourke, and Huston, Rosanna Arquette, Jan Michael-Vincent also make appearances.  Gallo called this his "masterpiece," which is kind of strange since his body of work isn't that vast or well-known.  He also says the film was autobiographical and typified his awful family life growing up.

Why it's a Must See:  "Wonderfully quirky stuff, this low-budget bizarre romance boasts suitably eccentric performances...Gallo, meanwhile, multitasks superbly (he even wrote the film's music and used his parents' Buffalo home as the main location), delivering an ironic look at relationships and disillusionment with a variety of visual styles and images."
---"1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die"

I think the operative words here are "quirky," "bizarre," "eccentric" and let me add "I didn't get it."  It's one thing to be quirky, but it's another thing when none of the characters are sympathetic.  Billy is morose and mean, his parents are awful and Layla is an idiot.  What's to like?

Rosy the Reviewer says...I could have missed this one.

***Book of the Week***

Happy Cooking: Make Every Meal Count...Without Stressing Out by Giada De Laurentiis (2015)

Healthy, easy-to-prepare, stress-free food from one of the Food Network's biggest stars.

Thank goodness for cookbooks! Reviewing a cookbook is also a way for me to not stress out about my blog, so thank you, Giada!

I actually enjoy "reading" cookbooks and this one has not only recipes but all kinds of tips to make your cooking experience more enjoyable.

But yet another cookbook by Giada? Isn't Giada rich enough by now?  But this actually is quite a good one.

Here she gives us 200 more recipes but along with the usual ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner, she also adds some advice on hosting a pot luck, cool things to pack for lunch, a chapter on "eating clean," and some menus and recipes for special holidays.

One of my favorites was her "Overnight Oats."  No cooking involved, you just put all of the ingredients together the night before and wake up to some tasty oatmeal you can grab and go!

1 c. rolled oats
1 T chia seeds
1 1/4 unsweetened almond mil
1/2 t pure vanilla extract
1/4 t ground cinnamon
1 T pure maple syrup

Then when you get up the morning, throw in the berries or stone fruit and some chopped or slivered raw almonds.  Yum!

Other winners are her "Better Wedge Salad" where she substitutes radicchio and romaine for iceberg lettuce and smoked almonds for bacon (though since when can almonds take the place of bacon?) and her "Bottom of the Box" pasta.  You know when recipes call for 12 ounces of pasta and most pasta comes in 16 ounce packages?  Then you have all of these little bags of 4 ounces or less of pasta sitting in your pantry?  Well, she says, just boil them all up together for a pasta dish with all kinds of little shapes.  The kids will love it!

There are also several vegetarian options like her "Slow Cooker Lentil, Kale, and Mushroom Soup" and her "Dairy-Free Risotto with Mushroom and Peas."

As always, this cookbook is slick with wonderful pictures of the food (and Giada too, of course, with her big toothy smile)!

Rosy the Reviewer says...a nice addition to your cookbook collection (or get it from your local library)!

That's it for this week.

Thanks for Reading!

See You Tuesday for

"How Self Aware Are You...Really?"
(A bit of a rant)

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