Friday, January 20, 2017

"Live By Night" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Live By Night" as well as the DVD "Sausage Party" and the Golden Globe nominee for Best Motion Picture - Foreign Language -  "Divines," -  now streaming on Netflix.  The Book of the Week is Anthony Bourdain's latest cookbook "Appetites." I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die" with an early Alfred Hitchcock film "Blackmail."]

Live by Night

When Joe Coughlin (Ben Affleck) returned to Boston from the battlegrounds of WW I, he vowed to never take orders from anyone again and to instead become an outlaw.  Little did he know he would become a rum running kingpin in Florida and where the choices he would make would lead him.

Returning from the war, Joe Coughlin decided, that instead of taking orders from someone else, it was a good idea to go into business for himself: some robberies, a gambling house here, a bank there, just some small stuff, nothing major that would disturb the order of things - the order of things being the Irish mafia and the Italian mafia, both of which had taken over Boston.  Joe's Dad was a Boston police captain (Brendan Gleeson) and warned him that a life of crime would come back and bite him one day.  Prescient words.

Joe might have been a small time hood but he had some morals. He was essentially a decent guy and, shaken by all of the killing he had witnessed in the war, he didn't want anything to do with the mob.  But avoiding the mob in Boston was not easy. The Irish mob was run by Albert White (Robert Glenister) and the Italian mob was run by Maso Pescatore (Remo Girone).  Joe was happy to do his little side jobs and was able to avoid getting involved with the mob until he fell in love with Emma Gould (Sienna Miller), who unfortunately happened to be White's mistress.  Thus begins a tale of a man taken down by the love of a woman.

Joe and Emma decide to escape to California, but Pescatore, learning of Joe's and Emma's liaison, tries to blackmail Joe into joining his syndicate and killing Albert White, thus eliminating his competition.  Pescatore threatens Joe with telling White about his relationship with Emma if he doesn't assent. But Joe refuses. Intending to make some money so he and Emma can flee, Joe commits a bank robbery with his partner Dion Bartolo (Chris Messina), and three police officers are killed during the chase. (I have to say that the chase was rather funny, unintentionally so. We are not used to seeing car chases using Model T's, so it was more like watching The Keystone Cops than the tense chase it was supposed to be.  But I digress.  Back to the story).

Anyway, White finds out about Emma and Joe, and he coerces Emma into luring Joe into a trap, whereupon Joe is brutally beaten by White and his men and nearly killed before the police arrive and arrest Joe for the policemen's deaths.

Joe is sent to prison where he discovers that White has killed Emma, so when he gets out of prison, Joe's main goal in life is to seek revenge on Albert White, so now he volunteers his services to Pescatore and is sent to Ybor City, a suburb of Tampa, to protect Pescatore's rum running empire, which is under attack by White.

And that's only the first part of the movie!

There is also the local Sheriff in Ybor City, Irving Figgis (Chris Cooper), who turns a blind eye to the rum running; his brother-in-law, R.D. Pruitt (Matthew Maher), a card-carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan and certifiable nutter; Sheriff Figgis' daughter, Loretta (Elle Fanning), who goes off to Hollywood to become an actress but falls in with the wrong crowd; and a local Cuban businessman of dubious dealings with a beautiful sister (Zoe Saldana).

The story has many characters and many twists and turns (the main twist I figured out early based on my theory about famous actors with small parts), as Joe works to exact his revenge on White and comes to the realization that perhaps his father was right. The decisions he made in his life had many repercussions.

And there is much more. It just goes on and on.  And that is my main criticism of this film.

There is just too much going on in this film.  There is the Italian mob, the Irish mob, the Cuban mob, prohibition, drugs, prostitution, racism, interracial marriage, the Ku Klux Klan, evangelism, double-crossing, revenge, madness.  This might just as well have been called "Scarface" meets "The Godfather" meets the Ku Klux Klan meets Amy Semple McPherson."  There is just too much going on here.

I am a huge Ben Affleck fan and believe he is a fantastically talented guy. He can write, he can act, and he can direct.  When I saw "Argo," I said it was going to win an Oscar for Best Picture even before it was nominated. And it did. But here, as writer (he adapted the screenplay from a Dennis Lehane novel), actor and director, I just think he bit off more than he could chew, and the film just didn't hit the mark. The film lacked the intensity that an epic like this needs to keep the audience interested. And as an actor, though he can play romantic comedy as easily as highly dramatic roles, here he just didn't make me believe he was a gangster, even a conflicted gangster. Somehow, he just doesn't have a gangster-y face. And I am not a fan of voice-over narration as a way to advance the story, either.  I prefer the visual approach.  As a writing/directorial choice, I think that was a mistake.

However, Sienna Miller was a revelation.  She is one of those beautiful actresses who is also a chameleon and can change her looks in honor of the role.  And not many beautiful actresses can pull that off. Here, I didn't even recognize her as Emma, the Irish gun moll, and for me, from an acting standpoint, that is the sign of a really great actress. But being able to hide behind a role is a blessing and a curse. It shows great acting but one also remembers the character more than the actress. She doesn't have an unusual face like Julia Roberts or Jessica Chastain or the actress-y mannerisms of a Meryl Streep or Jane Fonda, so perhaps that is why Miller has not reached the superstardom of a Julia Roberts - yet. But I have to believe that talent wills out.

Rosy the Reviewer says...All in all, this is not a bad film by any means.  If you like gangster films and old-fashioned story-telling with lots of plot, then you might enjoy it. It's just not the kind of great film I have come to expect from Affleck.


***Some Movies You Might Have Missed***
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!
On DVD and Streaming

Sausage Party (2016)

A sausage goes on a journey to find the meaning of life.

As I sat down to watch this movie, I thought, "Oh, gosh!  Why do I do this to myself?"

We know that Seth Rogan movies are aimed at males between the ages of 18 and 35 who still live in their mother's basements, so why do I subject myself to films that are clearly not the demographic for a mature movie-loving woman who appreciates the finer things in movies?  Well, partially, because I can't stand to NOT be in the know about things.

"What?  You didn't see 'Sausage Party?'  Where have you been?"

I couldn't stand that.

I belong to a Fantasy Movie League.  You know, like a sports fantasy league except for movies.  We bet on the box office returns for movies opening in any given week and whomever guesses the highest return wins.  So I know about everything that comes out that is supposed to be big, and I remember when this one came out. It was a big box office hit. However, I had absolutely no interest in watching an "R" rated cartoon about a sausage trying to find himself.  I mean, the name alone brings up all kinds of mental images that I don't really want to entertain.  So when I sat down to watch this film, I had low expectations.

And then it happened...

I laughed.

Basically, the story revolves around the foods in a supermarket believing that when "the gods," as in the human beings, come into the store and put them into their shopping baskets to take them home, they are going to "The Great Beyond."  Every morning when the store opens, all of the foods sing an Alan Menken song exalting "The Gods" and "The Great Beyond."

Frank (Seth Rogan) is one of the "Fancy Dogs" and Brenda (Kristen Wiig) is one of the "Glamour Buns," and they are all excited because tomorrow is the "Red, White and Blue Day" and they can't wait to be chosen to go to "The Great Beyond," so they can consummate their relationship. It would be wrong to do that before they get to "The Great Beyond."  And let me tell you, the buns alone are, well, you will have to see for yourself.

But one day, a jar of honey mustard - his name is also Honey Mustard (Danny McBride) - is returned by a customer and tells his shelf mates that "The Great Beyond" is a fraud.  It's not their version of heaven at all, but rather a hellish place, and they do NOT want to go there.

But no one believes him, though Frank thinks there might be something to it. Honey Mustard calls on Frank to seek out a bottle of liquor named Firewater, if he doesn't believe him.

However, before Frank can investigate further, Frank and Brenda get chosen by a customer, Camille Toh (see where this is going?) and are happily riding the cart to the check-out counter when Honey Mustard commits suicide by throwing himself off the shelf onto the floor. This creates an accidental cart collision that causes Frank, Brenda, and several groceries to fall out, including a Douche (Nick Kroll) who gets his nozzle bent.  He blames Frank and Brenda for his injury and plots revenge against them.

Now Brenda and Frank are loose on the floor of the store.  They encounter Sammy Bagel Jr. (Edward Norton), who sounds just like Woody Allen and Kareem Abdul Lavash (David Krumholtz), a middle eastern guy who can't wait to go to "The Great Beyond" where he will be smothered in extra virgin olive oil for eternity.  The two trade barbs about the Jews vs. the Palestinians, and Sammy mutters..."First they come for the bagels..." 

So Frank, Brenda, Sammy and Kareem head to the liquor aisle to find Firewater (Bill Hader). Naturally, everyone is partying in the liquor aisle.  Frank finds Firewater in his smokehouse with his cohorts, one of whom is a box of grits.  When introduced he says, "They call me MISTER Grits (Craig Robinson)!"  Frank smokes weed with them, and Firewater tells Frank that he and the other non-perishable foods made up the story of "The Great Beyond" to save the other foods from their fears about being eaten by the shoppers.

Frank, vowing to reveal the truth to the groceries, is encouraged to travel beyond the store's freezer section to find proof, which he does when he finds the kitchen aisle and looks at a cookbook where he encounters the horrors the foods will encounter when they get to that mythical "Great Beyond." 

He and his cohorts are joined by a very wise piece of used chewing gum (Scott Underwood) in a motorized wheelchair who sounds strangely like Stephen Hawking. 

"I am sorbitol, maltitol, xylitol, mannitol, calcium, carbonite, soy lecithin, vegetable, triglyceride and talc. But, for expediency's sake. You can call me... Gum."

And they all try to warn the other foods.

Frank gets onto the supermarket camera and uses the sound system to try to convince the rest of the food that "The Great Beyond" does not exist - "Friends, Ramen, Country Club Lemonade...lend me your ears" - but they won't believe him.

 "We choose the more pleasant thing...What the sausage is saying is just a... a theory!"

Meanwhile, two of Frank's best friends, Carl (Jonah Hill), Barry (Michael Cera), and the rest of the groceries purchased by Camille are horrified when they arrive in her kitchen and realize they are going to be eaten.  A food massacre ensues.  When Camille pops two baby carrots in her mouth, Carl yells, "They are eating children!"

But Barry escapes and makes his way back to the store, while back at the store, Douche has absorbed the contents of liquor bottles to become a wild monster and is still intent on killing Frank and Brenda.

Will Frank and Brenda survive?  Will Barry make it back to the store to warn the other foods that they have been blindly believing in "The Great Beyond?"

As an aside, I have to mention a particularly funny scene where Meat Loaf sings "I would do anything for love...but I won't do that."  Yes, Meat Loaf is a meat loaf.

Directed by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan from a script by Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, there is more going on here than a bunch of animated food stuffs running around a store, talking about sex and swearing, though there is certainly a lot of that.   

"The Great Beyond" is, of course, a metaphor for a belief in religion, God and heaven or the afterlife and the human urge to "choose the more pleasant thing."  But Rogan tackles many other issues of the day, too, with lots of visual and verbal homages to movies and pop culture, as well as bombarding us with sexual innuendo, double entendres and lots and lots of swearing.

So anyway, there is all kinds of very edgy stuff going on in this movie, and I have come to the conclusion that animation can get away with so much more than movies starring real people.

Is it raunchy? Yes. Is it politically incorrect?  Yes. Does it go too far?  Yes.    Should your children see this?  Absolutely NOT!  But more importantly, is it funny?  Yes.

Rosy the Reviewer says...when all is said and done, it's a comedy, I laughed, end of story.

Divines (2016)

An immigrant street kid from an unhappy family learns some tough lessons on the streets of Paris.

Two unlikely Muslim immigrant girls, Dounia (Oulaya Amamra) and her best friend Maimouna (Deborah Lukumuena), are hustlers on the streets of Paris.  They also have major attitude.  Dounia has no problem helping herself to some lipstick in a store and then putting it back in its case or eating food she doesn't pay for while she shops. They shoplift and then sell the items to their school mates. But you can forgive them because they come from a dysfunctional family and live in poor conditions in Roma slums, a banlieue on the outskirts of Paris, and they are also engaging and funny. 

They are befriended by a charismatic female drug dealer, Rebecca, and the girls find a sort of family with her.  When life is rough, we find role models where we can. Rebecca gives the girls odd jobs to do until they win her approval. The girls do well and are able to buy clothes and other things that put them in the realm of the "beautiful people." Then Rebecca ramps things up a bit.  She sets up a scheme to rob Reda, a rich man who she knows keeps a stash of euros in his apartment.

In the meantime, Dounia meets Djigui, a break dancer in a theatre where he is rehearsing for an audition with a dance troupe. She has been spying on him from the catwalk high above the stage where Dounia and Maimouna have been hiding their money, and when Dounia and Djigui eventually meet, he gives her tickets to a show he will be dancing in.  Djigui represents another kind of life that doesn't include stealing and drug dealing. There is a sense that Dounia could be redeemed, and Dounia plans to leave her life in Paris and go on tour with Djigui.

But before she can leave, things go very wrong.

The strength of this film is the relationship between the two girls.  It's a buddy picture of sorts, and the two are fun to watch as they dream of a better life, but it's also a cautionary tale that could be saying, you play with fire, you will get burned.  The ending is odd after everything that has come before, and it's also a bit of a bummer, but we still believe that Dounia will be able to get her life together because she has something special.

The acting is superb and almost improvisational in style. Oulaya, who plays Dounia and Deborah as Maimouna are quite wonderful as is the girl gangster, Rebecca, played by Jisca Kalvanda.

Written and directed by Houda Benyamina in her film debut, the film won the Camera D'or at last year's Cannes Film Festival and was one of the Golden Globe nominees for Best Motion Picture - Foreign Language - (and is now available streaming on Netflix and soon to be released on DVD).

I reviewed the film "American Honey" last week and this could almost be a French version of that.  Disaffected youth seeking a better life.  But I never did figure out what this title meant.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is highly likely to be nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar, so here is your chance to get in early and see it.
(In French with English subtitles)


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

218 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Blackmail (1929)

A young woman gets herself into a bit of a mess, as in killing a guy.  Unfortunately, someone sees her do it and blackmails her.

Alice White (Anny Ondra) quarrels with her boyfriend, Frank (John Longden) and decides she will show him by going off with a lecherous artist, Mr. Crewe (Cyril Richard - remember him?  He went on to be Captain Hook in the TV version of "Peter Pan" that starred Mary Martin).  Crewe uses that old staple and lures Alice up to his apartment to see his etchings, but when he puts the moves on her and she rejects him, he tries to rape her.  A bread knife just happens to be handy, so she stabs him.  She tries to cover up her presence in the apartment, but leaves one of her gloves, and wouldn't you know.  Alice's boyfriend, Frank, just happens to be a policeman, and when the body is discovered and he is investigating the case, he finds her glove in the apartment.

Frank loves Alice and decides to protect her, but once again, wouldn't you know it?  Someone saw Alice go into Crewe's apartment, so he blackmails both of them. Unfortunately for him, though, because he was seen near Crewe's apartment, he becomes a suspect. 

So will Alice have to pay for stabbing Crewe even though it was in self-defense?  Or will the blackmailer win out?

Based on a play by Charles Bennett, and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, this was Hitchcock's first talkie, though it still maintains some elements of a silent film.  The movie was meant to be a silent film, but mid-shoot Hitchcock decided it should be Britain's first talkie, which it was. And you can tell, because the first eight minutes of the film are completely silent even though you can see the actors' lips moving, and then, rather jarringly, you hear the actors start speaking.  However, movies are a visual medium and you realize you don't really need to hear dialogue to understand what is going on. Hitchcock said, "Dialogue should simply be...something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms."  I agree.

Even though this was only Hitchcock's second film, he was already sowing the seeds of brilliance with his camera work, use of shadows and framing, exemplified by a stunning scene where he shot down through a spiral staircase from above and a fantastic chase scene on the top of the British Museum.  Hitchcock also appears briefly on a tube train, the first of what would be recurring cameos he employed in many of his films (you know, don't you, that Hitchcock puts himself into most of the films he has directed, right? The fun for fans is trying to spot him). 

Why it's a Must See:  "...this 1929 pictured sealed [Hitchcock's] reputation and set him on he road to a remarkable career...One of Hitchcock's greatest tricks was to be both avant-garde and commercial at the same time: here he uses newfangled technology in the service of a melodrama that may be psychologically acute but still succeeds in delivering thrills (and titillation)."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...silent and early talkies are difficult for us modern folks, but if you are a Hitchcock fan, you will want to see this early work.

***Book of the Week***

"Appetites, A Cookbook" by Anthony Bourdain (2016)

Tony's latest cookbook!

I have made no secret of my admiration for Tony (he lets me call him Tony) Bourdain.  I have loved him ever since his first book "Kitchen Confidential" outed less than stellar restaurant practices, and I have been a fan of every one of this TV shows ("No Reservations," "A Cook's Tour," "The Layover," "Parts Unknown"). I paid good money to go see him when he came to Seattle and paid even more to actually meet him, which I brag about constantly on this blog.  I also can't resist posting this picture (this is at least the third time I have posted it on one of my blog posts), but, hey, I paid to have my picture taken with Tony and I want my money's worth!

(And for your info, he was very congenial and answered my questions, which I realize now were really stupid).

In addition to being a big fan of Tony's, I am also a big fan of cookbooks. 

I have a large collection and actually like to just read them. So, of course, I wanted to check out Tony's latest cookbook.  And it hits the mark on both counts.  It satisfies the fan in me by being Tony in all of his glory and it is indeed a cookbook you will want to read, because, let's just say, Tony has some interesting comments to make, not just about his dishes, but also food and cooking in general.

As one could tell from his touring show (and this book), Tony adores his daughter, having had a child very late in life (he was 50).  He seemed to really love his wife too, but alas, since I saw him, they have split.  If you follow Tony at all, you know that his TV shows involve his traveling all over the world and his eating all kinds of exotic foods, but this cookbook is all about family and being a Dad and cooking the food that he, Tony, and his family like to cook and eat, so it is a bit bittersweet considering the outcome of his marriage.

"These are the dishes I like to eat and that I like to feed my family and friends.  They are the recipes that 'work,' meaning they've been developed over time and have been informed by repetition and long - and often painful - experience."

And so he shares how to make the perfect scrambled eggs and omelets, tomato soup, chicken pot pie and turkey - all of the classic comfort foods, Tony-style, with a few exotics like laksa and nuoc mam cham (Vietnamese dipping sauce) thrown in. And he's right about the recipes.  They work.

But the fun of this book is in Tony's comments and opinions, of which there are many. They are strong and funny, and he doesn't hold back.

"Home fries almost always suck.  They are a perfunctory add-on to most restaurant brunches only because they are cheap, filling, and take up a lot of room on the plate...Hash browns are a better idea.  But the best idea is no potatoes at all.  In my view, a few well-toasted, heavily buttered slices of bread are the perfect accompaniment to an egg breakfast."


"God does not want you to put chicken in your Caesar."


"Who invented the club sandwich, anyway?  America's enemies, for sure.  The club predates Al Qaeda -- but it fits that group's MO.  Mission:  Destroy America.  Method: Sap the will to live of ordinary Americans -- by repeatedly f**king up their lunch."

See what I mean? 

And he goes on like that throughout  the book.  So, yes, the recipes, are tasty and easy to prepare, but the fun of this book is Tony himself.

Rosy the Reviewer says...reading what Tony dishes out is too much fun to miss...oh, and the recipes are good too!

Thanks for reading!

I am back on Tuesday 


"Why I Love Canada"

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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. Click where it says "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."

Friday, January 13, 2017

"Hidden Figures" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Hidden Figures" as well as the DVDs "American Honey" and "Morgan."  The Book of the Week is the novel "Nine Women, One Dress."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die" with Jean Luc Godard's "Contempt" where Brigitte Bardot's butt plays a major role]

Hidden Figures

A biopic about three little known African American women who played key roles in America's space race during the early 1960's.

When this film was first advertised and the posters started appearing in the theatres, I had little interest in the film.  For one thing, it was about women mathematicians working on America's space program.  I am not really that interested in movies about the space program and I hate math.  I also thought this movie was going to be just another old-fashioned film about women struggling to triumph in a man's world.

Yes, the movie is about the space program and math and it is about women struggling to make it in what was viewed as a man's profession.  But the film is so much more than that.  It is also a movie about racism, discrimination against women, strong female friendships, and Kevin Costner is in it, all things I AM interested in.  And yes, it's an old-fashioned film but that's a good thing because there is nothing wrong with good old-fashioned compelling storytelling.

This movie is a gem.

The film, based on the book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly, highlights three African American women - Katherine Goble (later Katherine Johnson) played by Taraji P. Henson, Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) - who, despite the racism and discrimination still so rampant in the 1960s's, played key roles in the United States' Space Program in Langley, Virginia. 

In the early 1960's, the United States was in a "space race," with Russia.  Russia had already put a man in space and we Americans don't like to be second. It was also the height of the Cold War, when we didn't like Russia very much, unlike what it seems like today.  

Goble/Johnson, Jackson and Vaughan started out at NASA as "human computers." That's what they called people who computed before computers came along. These workers, many of them female, checked the calculations of the male scientists and engineers, but even at NASA, working for the United States Government, in the early 1960's, African Americans were segregated at work, and those three women worked in the "Colored Computers" room together. All three were educated, extremely smart women who were ambitious. Mary, the smart talking scrappy one, wanted to be an engineer. Dorothy, who ostensibly was the supervisor of the computing room, wanted to be recognized as the supervisor with the title and pay.

But the film is mostly about Katherine, who was recognized early as a mathematical genius, and who is called to work directly on the Alan Shepard and John Glenn launches with Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) and the other male scientists and engineers in The Space Task Group, because she is the only one who knows analytical geometry.

All three women must create their own paths to be recognized and reach their goals despite the racism and misogyny of the time.

The film is a buddy picture of sorts as the women travel to work together and share their struggles to get ahead.  But the film is also a sad reminder of the discrimination that African Americans suffered as recently as only 50 years ago.
We are reminded that African Americans could not use the same restrooms or drink out of the same drinking fountains as whites, even at work. In the 1960's, they were still riding in the back of the bus, and the public library even had a "colored" and a "whites only" section. Horrible.  And despite Brown vs. The Board of Education, a 1954 Supreme Court decision that declared segregated schools unconstitutional, in some states African Americans still couldn't go to white schools, as we see when Mary wants to take some night classes to become an engineer and the only classes are at an all-white school.

So racism and discrimination against African Americans was still rampant in the 1960's. Add African American women into that equation (pardon the pun) and the discrimination is doubled.  Could an African American man become an engineer?  Maybe.  An African American woman?  Absurd!  Should a woman be allowed in a briefing room?  Absolutely not. Should her name go on the report that she wrote? No. In fact, at NASA the African American women doing the computing were practically invisible, hidden, that is, when they weren't being looked down upon by their white superiors. We are reminded that people of color, and women especially, had to work harder and better than their white counterparts if they wanted to have the same opportunities.

There is a telling thread in the film that begins when Katherine is promoted to The Space Task Group to work with Al Harrison and his people who were working on the space launches and who were all white. There was covert hostility when she showed up for work that became overt when someone labeled a separate coffee pot on the break table "colored."  And no one gave any thought to where Katherine might use the restroom.  There were no "colored" restrooms in that wing, so rain or shine, she was forced to run a half mile back to her old office to use the "colored restroom."  It makes for some humor, especially with Pharrell Williams' song "Runnin" in the background, but it's a humor clouded in darkness and brings its point home. Katherine suffered in silence until, finally, when Harrison wonders where Katherine has been and calls her on the carpet in front of everyone, Katherine gives an impassioned speech about the inequities she has had to endure. 

I am amazed that Taraji B. Henson was not nominated for a Golden Globe. Her portrayal of Katherine Goble/Johnson is a sensitive, quiet performance, but a very strong one with a bit of humor as she is prone to pushing her glasses up her nose, nerd style.  There is not a smidgeon of Cookie ("Empire") in sight.  I hope the Oscars recognize this wonderful performance. Octavia Spencer was her usual self.  She always brings in solid, sensitive performances, but I didn't see a stretch in this performance, so her Golden Globe nomination was surprising when there wasn't one for Henson.

Kevin Costner is my main Hollywood crush so he can do no wrong in my eyes, and here he gets to be the tough but reasonable boss who recognizes Katherine's worth. Jim Parsons as Katherine's supervisor and arch nemesis, Jim Stafford, is surprisingly good, playing against type.  Likewise, Kirsten Dunst gets the dubious pleasure of a job well-done playing a condescending supervisor holding Dorothy back from her desire to become a supervisor.  The rest of the cast, which includes Janelle Monae and Mahershala Ali, both of whom were in "Moonlight" together, are all first-rate.

Katherine (Goble) Johnson came up with the "hidden figures" needed for a successful launch of John Glenn into space, but Katherine, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughn were themselves "hidden figures" in American history until they were celebrated by Spetterling in her book.  Her subtitle tells it all: "The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race."  I am so glad she told their story and that director Theodore Melfi (who also adapted the script with Allison Schroeder) did them justice in this film.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a beautifully written and acted inspirational movie that is also an important reminder of what American people of color and, especially women, had to struggle against to be seen and heard. Also an important reminder to and inspiration for girls that they can be good at math!  A must-see for the whole family.

BTW, I cried...and you know what that means!

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

American Honey (2016)

A teenage girl joins a group of young people who travel the country selling magazine subscriptions door-to-door. 

You know those kids who were so rampant in the 90's - they went door to door selling magazines and giving us sob stories?  I fell for it a couple of times, especially when one overweight girl said she was having a panic attack and could she come in and sit down.  I felt sorry for her and bought several subscriptions.  And then we all found out that those supposed sad teens with the sad stories were really part of a huge shadowy operation where the kids were bused into neighborhoods and sent out all day to sell those magazines. They would say or do whatever they needed to to sell.  One kid told me he was at Stanford and his aunt lived around the block from me.  Did I ask his aunt's name or her address?  No.  I've always been a sucker for charming and handsome young men.

Anyway, that's what this movie is about - those kids, here a disaffected, hard-partying motley crew, seemingly lost souls who travel from town to town in a van, let loose in affluent areas and hoping to tell a story that the person who answers the door will buy - "I am in a contest and if I sell enough magazine subscriptions I will get a free semester of college" or "I was in trouble but am now trying to turn my life around" - none of which were true.

Sasha Lane plays Star, a young girl with attitude from a poor, rough background who is not particularly likable.  She meets Jake (Shia LaBeouf, the only big name star in this film, if you can call him a big name star), a guy who is part of a travelling group of young people who go from town to town selling magazine subscriptions.  They embark on a romance but the film is mostly about Star and her trying to figure out life. 

When Krystal (Riley Keough, Elvis Presley's granddaughter), the "boss," interviews Star, she asks her where she is from.  Star answers "Texas," to which Crystal replies, "You're a southern girl, a real American Honey, like me ("American Honey" is also a song by Lady Antebellum)."

However, Krystal isn't really the boss.  She is just another cog in the wheel of what is most likely a pyramid scheme in a much larger corporate entity. As these kids travel from town to town pursuing their own version of the American Dream, selling in affluent tree-lined neighborhoods and then spending the night in gritty neighborhoods and seedy motels, the divide between America's rich and poor is laid out before us.

Written and directed by Andrea Arnold, in her first movie filmed outside the U.K, the movie has a documentary feel with its shaky hand-held camera work and its small screen (no widescreen here).  Most of the actors are non-professionals who Arnold recruited for the film.  Even Lane, the star of the film, was discovered by Arnold on a beach and had never acted before. All of that adds up to an engrossing piece of reality that is part character study and part road trip.  The screenplay is interesting and original and the cinematography beautiful, but I have to question the length of this film.  Two-and-a-half hours seems a bit indulgent.  I think the point could have been made in 90 minutes.

Shia LaBeouf is actually a very good actor, but the antics in his personal life have overshadowed his work, which is too bad, because here he creates a character that is at times brash and insensitive, other times tender and caring.

Sasha Lane had never acted before, which is amazing.  She is believable as Star, the girl who has nothing to lose, leaves her town and goes off on what appears to be a big adventure in hopes of finding something better.  Star has major attitude but also has a soft spot for children and animals.  It's a coming of age tale that would give parents the shudders.

Oh, and those magazine subscriptions I bought?  They were over-priced, but I actually DID get the magazines.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a fascinating look into a world few of us have ever been privy to...and we are lucky we haven't. 

Morgan (2016)

An artificially created humanoid begins to come unhinged.

Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy, who I recognized as the star of another recent horror film "The Witch," which I reviewed last year) is a corporate experiment in creating a hybrid biological organism and injecting it with emotions and intellect.  (It was never really explained why we needed more humans). A team of people live in a remote, scary gothic house working with Morgan (why are these things always done in remote scary places)? The team consists of Amy (Rose Leslie), the behaviorist, Skip, the nutritionist (Boyd Holbrook), Kathy, one of the caregivers (Jennifer Jason Leigh in probably the smallest role she has ever had), Dr. Ziegler (Toby Jones), doctors Darren (Chris Sullivan) and Brenda Finch (Vinette Robinson), Dr. Cheng (Michelle Yeoh) and Ted (Michael Yare).  I never figured out what Ted's job was. 

Everything has been going swimmingly - Morgan is now five years old, though she is very definitely a teenager in looks and intellect - until there is an unfortunate incident where Morgan attacks Kathy. Morgan appears to have a bit of an anger problem, so now corporate has sent a risk management consultant, Lee Weathers (Kate Mara), to sort out what needs to be done. If Morgan is out of control, then she/he/it needs to be terminated.  But when Lee arrives, she sees that almost all of the team has formed an emotional bond with Morgan and are treating her as a human.  Amy, particularly, has crossed the boundaries and taken Morgan out of her enclosure and into the woods and to a lake to experience nature.  

As Dr. Cheng points out,  "Do you know the cruelest thing you can do to someone you've locked in a room? Press their face to the window."

Dr. Shapiro (Paul Giamatti) has also been sent by corporate to do an evaluation of Morgan and when he arrives to give Morgan a psychological evaluation, he makes her mad...and all hell breaks loose.

This scifi thriller with some gothic tinges was written by Seth W. Owen and directed by Luke Scott (son of Ridley). It seems to be a very similar plot to "Ex Machina," which I listed as one of the best films of 2015.  An outsider travels to a remote location to discover some strange human experimentation going on, finds a humanoid who is very human and gets caught up in the drama.  We are then required to ask ourselves, "What does it mean to be human? However, in this one, naturally, there is a twist on that theme, which naturally, I saw coming a mile away.  

But that aside, let's be frank.  This is a Lifetime Movie with A-list actors, but hey, I love Lifetime movies and this was a fun ride.

Mara does a good job as the unfeeling Lee Weathers who has come to do a job.  The rest of the cast is also fine - you will recognize Rose Leslie as Amy who was Jon Snow's love interest in "Game of Thrones" and Chris Sullivan from the hot new TV show "This is Us," one of the TV shows I listed recently as one of my favorite TV shows.

Then there is Paul Giamatti. You know how I feel about Paul Giamatti.  I have ranted about him ad infinitum.  He usually plays some kind of pompous ass and talks too loud.  He yells his lines. But actually, here, when he first arrived on screen, I hardly recognized him because his performance was so low key, but then he reverted to type and went over the top which not only caused Morgan to get angry, thus getting the ball rolling in the bloodshed that was to ensue, but made me give up on him entirely.

Rosy the Reviewer says...yet another entry in the film genre that could be called "How-To-Create-Humans-Other-Than-The-Natural-Way: A Cautionary Tale." But an entertaining movie, nevertheless, that reminds us: Don't mess with Mother Nature!

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

219 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Contempt (1963)

A marriage disintegrates during the making of a film.

Based on the novel "A Ghost at Noon" by Albert Moravia, the film opens with a long shot of Bridget Bardot's lovely naked backside.  In fact this entire film seems to be a love letter to Bardot's body.  She wasn't a major sex symbol for nothing.

Screenwriter Paul Javal (Michel Piccoli, who looked very much like Clive Owen - back then anyway) is working with producer Jeremy Prokosch (Jack Palance, on a screenplay, a version of Homer's "Odyssey," but he is at odds with Prokosch and director Fritz Lang (played by the real Lang). 

Prokosch is filming on the Isle of Capri and Javal and his wife Camille (Bardot) are also there. Their marriage is in trouble and Camille blames the troubles on Javal hanging out with movie people.  However, I blame the troubles in their marriage to Javal being a controlling type who is not averse to knocking his wife around and shopping her out to Prokosch who lusts after her so that he can get his movie made.  This film seems to be saying that selling one's soul to the devil seems to be a necessity in the movie business. It also seems to be saying that Bardot taking off her clothes at every opportunity is also a necessity.

Director Jean-Luc Godard uses the story of Odysseus and his wife Penelope as a theme for Paul and Camille's marriage as their marriage plays out against the backdrop of making a movie on the Isle of Capri amidst a plethora of Greek art and statues. 

Lang is German, Palance American and Javal and Camille French so there is a female interpreter present for most of the film interpreting dialogue for the characters, and I found it extremely annoying.  Perhaps it was a device to show the lack of communication amongst the characters, but it was annoying nevertheless.

Godard turns a caustic eye to the conflict between art and business and has created a cynical take on making movies and asks the question, "What is art?"  He literally beats you over the head with that question as he juxtaposes Greek sculpture into the film every 15 minutes or so. He also asks, "What is real life and what is make believe?  How much of what we see in the movies mirrors real life?"

As I make my way through the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die," I have come to realize that there was a lot of navel-gazing in some of the movies from the 50's and 60's, especially the French films.  Back then I must have enjoyed navel-gazing, because I and my friends were all agog at anything French and incomprehensible.  We didn't understand it?  It must have been deep.  But nowadays, I see that the emperor isn't wearing any clothes and those same films do not have the same impact on me now that they had on my young mind back then.  Now some of them make me..yawn.

Interestingly, the movie is filled with references to films and adorned with movie posters.  That was a similar device in "La La Land," which has currently taken the film world by storm, but that was the only similarity between the two films.  Where "La La Land" is a love letter to the movies, this film is mostly a love letter to Bridget Bardot's body and a poison pen letter to the movies. 

This is a beautiful film to look at and the story centers around a crumbling marriage played out on a gorgeous Mediterranean island.  It reminded me of "By the Sea (and we know how that marriage played out in real life)," but much of the movie was incomprehensible and the music was strangely out of sync to what was happening on screen.  Bardot also dons a short black wig from time to time which I am sure is symbolic of something but I never figured that out either.  But in general, in addition to the what is art stuff and the conflict between art and commerciality, I think this film is also how love can turn to contempt, which is a bit obvious, considering the title of the film.

I found it ironic that Godard is critical of the commercial side of art/movie-making but has no problem using Bardot's nudity in a gratuitous way at every turn - but then, maybe he was doing that to make a point.. Mmmm, deep.

Why it's a Must See: "A clever, elegant film with a shocking ending."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Roger Ebert said: "Contempt'' is not one of the great Godard films...It is interesting to see, and has moments of brilliance...but its real importance is as a failed experiment. 'Contempt' taught Godard he could not make films like this, and so he included himself out, and went on to make the films he could make."

Rosy the Reviewer says...I agree with Roger, so why is this one of the "1001 Movies" I must see before I die?  But I will say, if you want to see Bardot sans vetements in all of her glory, then it might be worth it to you.

***The Book of the Week***

Nine Women, One Dress: A Novel by Jane L. Rosen

Who knew a LBD (Little Black Dress) could have such impact on peoples' lives?

"For seventy-five years I have made ladies' dresses.  That means that for seventy-five years I have made women happy...Because the right dress does that.  It makes an ordinary woman feel extraordinary...A beautiful dress holds a little bit of magic in it."

So says Morris Siegel, a 90-year-old pattern maker in New York City's garment center, who made "The Dress."  The dress in question was Morris's last dress before he retired, and it instantly became the "must-have" dress of the season. We meet him at the beginning of the book and at the end, after his dress has made its way to nine different women with nine different stories.

First there is Natalie, a Bloomingdale's salesgirl, who is having trouble getting over a nasty break-up and is called upon to wear the dress to a movie premiere with a movie star who is trying to show he isn't gay (he isn't but she thinks he is).  Then there is a Felicia, a 50-something secretary who has been in love with her boss for years but after his wife died, he has taken up with a much younger woman...until he sees Felicia in "the dress."  And then we meet Andie, a private investigator, who is hired to catch a woman's husband cheating...until she falls for the husband. 

Those are the three main storylines.

But the dress also makes its way to a young model fresh from the South who makes a splash in New York because everyone falls in love with her accent (think Margaux Hemingway); a not-very-nice Hollywood diva making her debut on Broadway; a recent Brown graduate who is embarrassed that she can't find a job so fakes a #fabulouslife online; a sheltered young Muslim girl yearning to wear clothes like in the magazines instead of a burqa; a woman who ends up dead in a sinkhole after leaving Bloomies; and Samantha, whose boyfriend works in a funeral home and who ends up in the ER with a rash from formaldehyde.  I will let you figure that one out.  The dress has a part in each of these lives.

And ladies, don't you have a favorite item that makes you feel fantastic and that can tell a story?  Whether we like it or not, what we wear defines us in many ways and clothes have the power to make our story wonderful or lousy.

I know. 

This isn't Tolstoy or Dostoevsky. This is a quick read and chick lit of the highest order, but there is nothing wrong with spending a dreary, cold afternoon with some interesting characters, some romantic stories and the perfect little black dress.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this would make a great movie in the tradition of "The Yellow Rolls Royce," except it's an LBD (Little Black Dress) that gets passed around instead of a BYRR (Big Yellow Rolls Royce).

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of

"Live By Night"


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." 

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