Friday, September 8, 2017

"Tulip Fever" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Tulip Fever" as well as DVDs "The Disenchanted" and "Regression."  The Book of the Week is "Jimmy Stewart: The Truth Behind the Legend."  I also bring you-up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die" with "Ordet]

Tulip Fever

A good old-fashioned costume drama complete with illicit love, bodice-ripping, blackmail and mistaken identity, all set against Holland's Tulip Wars.

Who knew that tulips were once a hot commodity?

Tulip mania swept Holland for a short period in the 17th century.  Everyone was taken with the flower.  It was a status symbok and speculation on the value of its bulbs created an economic boom.  The more unusual the coloring, the higher the price.  Buyers met in back rooms of bars and bid with a frenzy, much like Wall Street trading today. A sort of informal futures market was formed and some bulbs changed hands several times a day and prices skyrocketed. However, just as our real estate bubble burst several years ago, so did the tulip trade leaving many participants penniless.

The drama centers around Sophia (Alicia Vikander), a young woman, orphaned at an early age, who is basically sold off to a local spice merchant, Cornelis Sandvoort (Christoph Waltz), by the abbess of the convent (Judi Dench) where Sophia had grown up.  He is a much older widower looking for a wife to produce a son.  The abbess tells Sophia that "marriage is a safe harbor" and off Sophia goes to marry a much older but wealthy man.  Unfortunately, three years later there is no son and Cornelis talks of getting rid of Sophia to find another wife. However, there is a sort of mutual affection between the two.  Cornelis is old and needs a bit of help in the sex department but he avidly tries every night to produce an heir and Sophia does her duty.

Cornelis decides he wants a portrait painted of the two of them, a common practice among the upper classes in Amsterdam, so he hires a young, handsome painter, Jan Van Loos (Dane DeHaan), and you can probably figure out what happens next. Old husband who needs help getting his "little soldier" and who is short on the foreplay; young, handsome guy who is ready to rumble.  You do the math.

Yes, Jan and Sophia have an instant attraction and embark upon an affair.

There is also another love story running parallel to Sophia's and this one is actually a real hot and heavy love story, and that is the story of Sophia's maid, Maria (Holliday Grainger), who narrates the story and who is in love with the local fishmonger, Willem (Jack O'Connell).  When Cornelis grouses about having fish so many nights for dinner, he grumpily proclaims that Maria must be in love with the fishmonger.  Well, yes, Cornelis, she is.

Meanwhile, both Jan and Willem are caught up in the tulip frenzy.  Willem invests in a particular popular bulb and makes some money which he plans to use to marry Maria. However, before he can ask Maria to marry him, both women's love affairs collide when Sophia takes Maria's cloak to meet with Jan and Willem mistakenly believes it is Maria meeting Jan.  Upset, he gets drunk in a brothel, loses his money, gets beaten up and finds himself on a ship sailing to Africa.  Maria, thinking that Willem has left her willingly, discovers that she is pregnant and knowing that is a sure way to get booted out of Cornelis' household blackmails Sophia, telling her that she will tell Cornelis of her affair with Jan if she doesn't help her.  The two concoct an elaborate  plan to pass the baby off as Sophia's - and believe me, it's elaborate.

Meanwhile, penniless painter Jan has also gotten himself immersed in speculating heavily on that same rare bulb in the tulip market and sends his friend, Gerritt (an almost unrecognizable Zach Galifianakis), to secure the bulb so he can pay off his creditors. Unfortunately, Gerritt has a bit of a drinking problem and you can guess how that worked out.

Well, it all kind of goes to hell from there - the baby, the tulip money, the love affair. 

Despite the unfortunate title that makes this film seem like a horror film about a tulip allergy pandemic, this film is actually a lovely-looking, historically- based melodrama that looks like it was painted by the Dutch Masters.  It has an interesting, though sometimes far-fetched plot, good looking actors, romance, sex, heaving bosoms, all with a little history thrown in.  What more could you want?

Alicia Vikander is a gorgeous actress whose luminosity just oozes off the screen.  When Jan was painting her standing in a window, she looked like a Vermeer painting.  As for Waltz, I am usually not a fan because it seems like he always plays the same character.  He fell into the Paul Giamatti category for me - too many mannerisms and too many characters played the same - but here he is toned down and quite poignant. I believed him.

Jack O'Connell, who burst on the scene in "Unbroken," and who I liked much better in this, is a handsome guy who I am going to keep my eyes on.  Likewise, Holliday Granger is another lovely actress who I believe has a bright future ahead.  The rest of the cast includes Tom Hollander, who I do really like, as the rather sketchy doctor with Douglas Hodge (been a fan of his ever since the British TV series "Capital City"), Matthew Morrison (remember "Glee?"), David Harewood and Cara Delevingne all in small roles.  Delevingne's was especially small.  Not sure what she was doing there considering the big roles she has had lately, but the fact that release of this film had a long delay could explain that. 

I enjoyed this film but I am a sucker for costume films with soap opera plots, romance and good-looking actors.  However, I had one complaint which would be DeHaan, not because he is not a good actor.  He is.  But because he just seemed too young and callow for the role.  He looks very much like a young Leonardo Di Caprio, which is not a bad thing, but for this role, it just didn't work.  He looked like a teenager here, not a savvy guy in 17th century Amsterdam trying to make his way as a painter and tulip trader.

Adapted from her own novel by Deborah Moggach and the venerable playwright Tom Stoppard and directed by Justin Chadwick, this is a satisfying costume drama with an interesting plot and gorgeous cinematography and a welcome relief from some of the summer crap we have been enduring.

If this film interests you, get thee to the theatre now because I don't think it will be around long.  At a 12:10 matinee this week, I was literally the only person in the theatre and that's too bad because this was one of the better films this summer. People must have stayed away because of the title. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...a fun 17th century soap opera with an unfortunate title.

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


La Desenchantee (1990)
(The Disenchanted)


The disenchantment of finding out what the world is really like.

Seventeen year old Beth (Judith Godreche) is just about to graduate from high school. She is bored. She lives in Paris with her invalid mother (Therese Liotard) and brother, Remi (Thomas Salsmann).  Her mother has been a kept woman (that's a polite term for what she really was) by a man the kids call Uncle (Ivan Desny), but it seems "Uncle" now wants to turn his attentions to Beth.  When Beth's boyfriend (Malcoln Conrath), whose character is merely called "the other (probably because he is just an unfortunate blip in Beth's young life)" tells her she needs to have sex with an ugly guy to prove her love for him, this film kind of lost me. Not sure how those two things correlate. 

Anyway, she finds him, the so-called "ugly guy" - Edouard (Francis Mage) - a ginger-haired nerd who could be a younger version of the comedian Carrot Top.  We know he's a nerd because he has a bad haircut, wears khakis with a tucked-in polo shirt and has a computer in his room which would have been actually very cool for 1990.  He takes her to his room and awkwardly attacks her.  She disentangles herself from Edward only to find herself abused by her boyfriend and rescued by a knife-wielding older man, Alphonse (Marcel Bozonnet), who eventually gets Beth to think about the purpose of existence, especially in the face of death.  It's all very existential.

It's also all very French so it's all about sex, 1990 Parisian teen style, and it harks back to the films of the French New Wave.  But it's also about being poor in Paris which must be the pits.  Paris, The City of Light, the City of Love. As tourists in Paris we don't think of the locals scrounging for a living. but as we dine at The Ritz or walk along the Champs Elysee those less fortunate are all around.  If it's expensive to visit Paris, just imagine what it must cost to actually live there!

The title comes from Beth's obsession with the poet Rimbaud, but it also embodies the disenchantment one feels as one goes from the carefree joys of youth to the realities of adulthood and what some have to do to survive, especially as a young person surrounded by tortured and haunted adults. 

Written and directed by Benoit Jacquot, I couldn't figure out how I ended up watching this movie.  I think this is one of those movies I ordered from Netflix because I liked the trailer.  Probably not a good idea to order films based on the trailers. The trailers often show all of the best parts of the film and the film itself never gets any better than the trailer.  So remember, I warned you!  

This is not an easy film to get into as it follows a bored teen around Paris.  She's bored, we're bored.  However, Goodreche is certainly a lovely teen to look at, the film is beautifully shot and it's short (only 78 minutes), but in the end, the film doesn't really have much new to say about coming of age.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Godreche, who was nominated for a Cesar Award for this film and who went on to have a successful acting career, is an appealing screen presence and the best thing about this film.

Regression (2015)

While investigating a molestation, a detective gets caught up in possible satanic cult activities.

Supposedly inspired by real events in Minnesota in 1990 (but really just a conglomeration of the satanic cult hysteria that gripped the nation in the 1990's), a girl, Angela Gray (Emma Watson) accuses her father, John (Bruce Dencik), of molesting her.  Bruce Kenner (Ethan Hawke) is the detective called in to investigate.  John confesses but says he doesn't remember doing it. It is decided that some regression therapy is needed to get the father to remember that he has molested his daughter.  Enter Professor Raines (David Thewlis).

Meanwhile, radio shock jocks have been working the locals up about satanic worship sweeping the country, and it isn't long before the therapist blatantly plants this suggestion to John and suddenly John remembers.  The devil made him do it!  Likewise, as Kenner investigates, more and more people undergo the regression therapy and conjure up visions of satanic rituals and people in masks. Remember those child care scandals several years ago that all turned out to be false accusations? Or the whole "Paradise Lost" mess where three young men were falsely accused of killing some little boys in a satanic ritual just because they were potheads and goth?  The 1990's was the age of devil worship hysteria, and this film capitalizes on that.

As the story unfolds, Kenner is caught up in claims of satanic worship throughout the small town and begins to experience visions and nightmares himself.  Was Angela really molested by her father?  Is the town rife with satanic cults?

Though the film is supposed to be taking place in Minnesota, I was distracted by the fact that this is obviously not filmed in the U.S.   How do I know this?

  • The cops are all wearing sweaters with epaulets.  No American cops wear attire like that.  I have only ever seen it on cops in the U.K.
  • David Thewlis and Emma Watson are in it. David Thewlis is in practically every British film ever made when they need an odd, smarmy character, and, well, Emma Watson is British too.
  • People watching TV in a bar are obviously in a pub, not an American bar. Two totally different animals because I have frequented many an American bar and English pub (ahem) in my time. I know these things!

OK, upon looking into the filming locations, it's Canada, but I was close because Canada definitely has English influences, and it certainly wasn't Minnesota, so yay me!

Written and directed by Alejandro Amenabar, the film has film noir qualities, a stylish atmosphere, lots of star power (the actors did the best with what they had to work with) and an interesting premise, but the film got so convoluted with side plots that it never went anywhere and the very over the top conclusion defies believability.  What was the point?  Were we just remembering that time when everyone was accusing everyone else of being a devil worshiper?

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are into devil worshipping, you might enjoy this, but the film doesn't really add anything new to that discussion and if you can keep track of all of the twists and turns, I tip my devil mask to you.

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

187 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Ordet (1955)

Winner of the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film in 1955, this Danish film is the story of the Borgen family and their struggles with their religious beliefs.

Morten Borgen (Henrik Malberg) raises hackles in his religious town in Denmark because he is a quiet believer, not a fundamentalist.  He has three sons: Mikkel (Emil Hass), the eldest who has no faith but is married to the pious, Inger, who is pregnant; Anders (Cay Kristiansen), a romantic who wants to marry Anne (Gerda Nielsen) despite his father's disapproval; and Johannes (Preben Lerdorff Rye), a religious fanatic who wanders around the house like the second coming of Christ, because, well actually he believes he is the second coming of Christ. 

Johannes is prone to wandering in a daze out to the nearby cliff and preaching to the town.  Everyone is very worried about him and they should be.  He is loony and really kind of a pain.  Imagine living with someone who looks like a zombie and wanders into the room without warning, makes a religious pronouncement and then retreats to his room.  I would call him the family nutter, the nutty brother everyone wants to keep hidden.

Mikkel wants to marry Anne but her father, the local tailor, won't let her marry Mikkel unless Morten and Anders convert to his fundamentalist religious sect. Morten is not thrilled either because he is not a fundamentalist.  But when a tragedy strikes, a miracle occurs and the two families are reconciled.

Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer, this film is all about faith and asks whether it's possible to be a good person without faith or faithful but not a good person. Think of the Ku Klux Klan.  Many of them consider themselves Christians but how can they justify hating people of other colors and beliefs? But despite this film's serious subject matter - religion and the power of faith - I found this film rather boring at times.  

The cinematography is what is called "gorgeous black and white."  We modern folks can't seem to handle black and white anymore, but back then, that was the standard, and the cinematography was just as colorful as color with all the various gradations of black and gray.

And don't be fooled by the movie poster (see above).  The poster is a catfish!  It makes the film look like there is a sex scene in it WHICH THERE IS NOT!

Why it's a Must See: "An extraordinary work, and arguably the finest achievement of this great manages to persuade the viewer that a miracle can happen...[and]even if [this film] fails to convert us to religious belief, we have, at least, witnessed cinematic art of the highest order."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...despite my appreciation of the cinematic techniques, this is an earnest film that doesn't really hold up today and reminded me of why I no longer go to church.
(In Danish with English subtitles)

***The Book of the Week***

Jimmy Stewart: The Truth Behind the Legend by Michael Munn (2016)

A biography of a film star from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Ah, the Golden Age of Hollywood.  I'm talking the 30's and 40's when the film studios ruled Hollywood as well as their actors and actresses.  There was no Internet, no Twitter, not even the National Inquirer to spread gossip about the private lives of these golden gods of the movies, and if anything bad did get out about them, the studios made sure whatever it was was quickly squelched.

Though it was an unrealistic time and many of the movies from that era painted too rosy a picture of life, I miss those movies, and I miss those actors and feel sad that young people today don't know or appreciate who Clark Gable was or Vivien Leigh or even Elizabeth Taylor.  In recent years, Carrie Fisher was more famous than her mother Debbie Reynolds, who was a superstar of her day, far more famous than Carrie ever was.  So I was thrilled to watch the TV mini-series "Feud," not just because it was a wonderful series and will no doubt win many Emmy's next week, but because it was about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, two superstars of that era who have mostly been forgotten today.

I wasn't born until the late 1940's, so I missed those times too, but I was able to see all of those movies as I stayed up and watched the late late show with my Dad.  Back in the 50's when there were only a couple of TV channels and no first-run movies, every afternoon and every night the stations would show the old movies and my Dad and I wallowed in them.  He had actually seen most of them in the theaters and loved to regale me with tidbits about the actors. From him, I learned to read the credits and look for names of actors in small roles who later became famous or to look for their real names - Tony Curtis was billed as Bernard Schwartz until the studio made him change his name and Joan Crawford's real name was Lucille Le Seur (I actually think her real name was much more a movie star name than Joan Crawford, don't you)?  I miss those days with my Dad, I miss those old movies and I am sad all of those once famous glittering personalities have mostly been totally forgotten.

Author Michael Munn also laments the fact that young people today are not familiar with the "great movie stars" of the past, and he hopes to correct that with this biography of Jimmy Stewart, one of those legends of Hollywood I was talking about.  With his laconic delivery and natural acting style, Stewart achieved stardom (after 19 earlier films) in 1939 with "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and then went on to star in such classics as "It's a Wonderful Life," "Philadelphia Story," and "Vertigo." 

Born into a conservative family in Indiana in 1908, Stewart attended Princeton, where his accordion playing led to spots in plays, which in turn led him to summer stock and then Broadway where Hollywood came calling. The "truth" referred to in the title is about Stewart's extracurricular activities: undercover work for the FBI, his heroism in WW II and possible racism. Though many other biographies have been written about Stewart, Munn's friendship with Stewart and his wife, Gloria, gave him rare access and this biography sheds new light on the actor.

Rosy the Reviewer says...treat yourself to a well-written biography that is a foray back in time when actors were golden.

Thanks for reading!

See you TUESDAY 

for a Rosy the Reviewer special edition  

"Fashion Inspiration for a Woman of a Certain Age (and Size)"  


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

Friday, September 1, 2017

"Ingrid Goes West" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Ingrid Goes West" as well as the DVD "A Quiet Passion" and the short film "The Story of 90 Coins (available online)."  The Book of the Week is the novel "If you Only Knew."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die" with "Moolaade."]

Ingrid Goes West

"Single White Female" for the social media era.

Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) is a young woman who is obsessed with social media.  Aren't most millennials?  But what sets Ingrid apart from others her age is that Ingrid doesn't appear to have anything going on in her life except social media.

And it becomes clear early on that Ingrid has gone over the edge.

She has been following Charlotte on Instagram, and Charlotte is a young woman who seems to have a perfect life and, of course, as she prepares for her wedding, she shares all of the details on Instagram.  But then we see Ingrid angrily interrupting Charlotte's  wedding reception - in real life - and spraying Charlotte with mace.  Turns out that Ingrid was mad because she wasn't invited to the wedding!  She thought Charlotte was her friend.  However, this was news to Charlotte. Ingrid started to follow Charlotte because Charlotte commented on one of Ingrid's posts, and because of that, Ingrid assumed they were friends in real life, but this so-called friendship was entirely one-sided - on Ingrid's part, in her mind.  Let's just say that Ingrid has some mental problems and after this little incident, she ended up in a psych ward.

But then when she gets out, Ingrid is right back onto social media looking for a new best friend.

Ingrid is a young woman with "issues," and that's putting it mildly.  Her mother has just died and she is lonely. She doesn't have anything going on in her own life so she seeks solace on Instagram where she compulsively likes every post and waits for someone to respond to her.  She is never without her phone - not when she is driving, not when she goes to sleep, not even when she is on the toilet.

One day Ingrid sees a post from Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), a beautiful young blonde with thousands of followers living what looks to Ingrid as a perfect life.  Everything for Taylor is #thebest! as she posts pictures of food, clothes and her cute dog, Rothko.  Ingrid comments on one of Taylor's posts about a restaurant that she likes, and Taylor replies that Ingrid should try it if she is ever in L.A.  Well, that is all Ingrid needs to hear.  Her mother has left her over $60,000 so she withdraws all of the money from the bank in cash, puts it in a bag and off she goes to L.A. and of course has to chronicle her journey on Instagram #Ingridgoeswest.

Once in L.A. she rents a small apartment near Taylor from Dan Pinto (O'Shea Jackson Jr.), a young man who is obsessed with Batman and pot.  He is clearly attracted to Ingrid, but Ingrid has only one thing on her mind - finding Taylor and somehow insinuating herself into her life.  She does this by kidnapping Taylor's dog, Rothko, and then, when Taylor puts out flyers asking for help finding her missing dog, Ingrid calls Taylor to let her know she has found her dog and that she is happy to bring him to Taylor's house. #perfect

Taylor is so grateful to Ingrid for finding Rothko that she invites her to join her and her husband, Ezra (Wyatt Russell) for dinner, so Ingrid gets her wish and becomes friends with Taylor.  It is clear that Taylor is not only a stereotypical L.A. millennial - everything is #perfect #thebest #obsessed - but, in fact, Taylor is also insipid and shallow and her life is not quite as perfect as she portrays it on social media.  However, Ingrid is oblivious and does her best to fit in to Taylor's seemingly sunny #noworries lifestyle.  She buys a purse like Taylor's, colors her hair like Taylor's and even takes pictures of Taylor's bathroom including what's in her medicine cabinet. #ingridwantstobetaylor

But we know this friendship with Taylor can't last because remember what I said?  Ingrid has issues, and one of those issues is jealousy, so when Taylor appears to move on to some other friends, Ingrid starts to implode.  Oh, and then, there is Taylor's brother, Nicky (Billy Magnusson), probably one of the most #obnoxious #nasty #amoral #annoying characters I have ever encountered in a movie, which I guess says a lot about Magnusson's ability as an actor.  Nicky doesn't like Ingrid and not only keeps calling her Olga, he hijacks Ingrid's phone, discovers Ingrid's obsession with Taylor and threatens to tell Taylor if Ingrid doesn't give him some money, so at this point, Ingrid plots to get rid of Nicky and the movie turns dark. #dontcallmeolga

Aubrey Plaza is brilliant here as the strangely obsessed Ingrid.  What those issues really are or where they came from are never explained but that doesn't detract from enjoying this film and Plaza's acting.  I first became aware of her in "Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates," a silly film that was mostly funny because of her.  She is one of those actors, like Will Ferrell and Jonathan Winters, who is not afraid "to go there," go full out and over the top and take all kinds of risks for a role.  Here she runs the gamut of emotions.  She is funny, she is dark, she is sad, she is pathetic...I could go on and on. #iloveaubreyplaza

The rest of the cast are also spot on. 

Elizabeth Olsen is on a roll with two films in the theatres now - this one and "Wind River," a film I reviewed last week where she plays a character that is the antithesis of Taylor. Seeing these two films back to back brings home what a versatile actress Olsen is.  Jackson looks amazingly like a young Ice Cube and that makes sense because he is Ice Cube's son and played Ice Cube in the wonderful film "Straight Outta Compton." He shows a softer side here as the Batman obsessed Dan, and he and Plaza share a very funny sex scene where Ingrid dresses up as Cat Woman and gives Dan a thrill.  And Wyatt Russell is the son of power couple Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell and, like Olsen, shows his versatility by playing a more dramatic character than the one he played in "Table 19."  He is going to have a great career. 

Written by Matt Spicer and David Branson Smith with Spicer directing, this film skewers our obsession with social media. 

We may not be as obsessed as Ingrid, but believe me, we are obsessed.  How many times have you run into someone on the sidewalk because your head was in your phone or vice versa?  How often have you done something crazy or silly to get more followers?  I read once that there are many of us out there whose moods are dependent on whether or not someone likes our posts on Facebook or Instagram.  If someone pushes the like button we are happy; if no one does, we are depressed.  Ingrid is way past that.  Ingrid thinks that when someone responds to her post that they really are her friends. #doyoulikeme?

The film also comments on modern relationships. 

Our "friends" and followers on Facebook and Instagram, are they really our friends?  And why are they following us?  Why do we follow others?  Perhaps we are voyeurs, living vicariously through the lives of others, but are their lives real?  Or are they manufactured online?  We don't have the TV show "Catfish" for nothing. #myfavoriteshow  Our relationships online are ephemeral and this movie makes me wonder if perhaps our relationships in the real world might be just as ephemeral. #arewereallyfriends?

The film is funny, it's modern and it's dark. I saw the ending coming (#ishouldwritescreenplays), but it ended as it should.  When we worship social media, when we think those who friend or follow us online are our real friends and when we aspire to have thousands of followers on social media because that would mean we are validated human beings, we shouldn't be shocked when some out there go too far for that attention and validation to the point of committing suicide on line, torturing someone online, murdering far will it go and where does it end? #socialmediacanbescary 

Rosy the Reviewer says...a quirky entertaining little film with a big message and a brilliant performance by Aubrey Plaza. #lovedit

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


A Quiet Passion (2016)

A biopic about poet Emily Dickinson.

Emily Dickinson didn't start out as a recluse.  In fact, she was quite a feisty schoolgirl (Emma Bell) who had no problem telling the head mistress of her religious school that she wasn't a believer.  How do I know this?  That is how this film begins.

Young Emily considered herself a "rational."  The headmistress of her school labeled her a "no hoper," so her father (Keith Carradine), sister and brother arrive to take her back home.  Emily's father is a male chauvinist (he doesn't approve of women on the stage, even opera singers), but then what man wasn't a male chauvinist in those days?  But though Emily is feisty, she is also a dutiful daughter and devoted to her father.  When she decides that she needs to write through the night when it is quiet, she seeks her father's permission to stay up all night.  Surpisingly, he says yes.  Surprisingly because women shouldn't write either.

But he probably couldn't have stopped her even if he had wanted to because Emily needs to write.

"Poems are my solace for the eternity that surrounds us all."

Even at a young age this was one deep and serious girl, and as the story progresses, we learn that Emily was against slavery and an early feminist, she was devoted to her family and suffered from an unrequited love for a married minister who encouraged her writing.  She also suffered from some mysterious pains, was eventually diagnosed with Bright's Disease, and her father's death seemed to be the catalyst that made her take to her room for the rest of her life, though it wasn't really clear how that happened.

In the film, Emily writes poetry, talks earnestly, wittily and intelligently to her friends and family, yearns for a man she can't have and eventually decides she is happiest hanging out alone in her room.  And then she dies.  That's about it.

But to give writer and director Terence Davies credit, it's not easy to make a plot driven film based on the life of a woman who rarely left home and whose life was mostly spent in solitary mental pursuits.

Cynthia Nixon plays the mature Emily and narrates the film through the use of Emily's poetry. Everyone is very earnest and serious and the language throughout the film is stilted almost as if they are all talking in adages and aphorisms such as:

"Going to church is like going to Boston - you only enjoy it after you've gone home."

That can be witty and enjoyable in small doses but gets annoying when everyone talks like that all of the time! Likewise, the change of scenery is minimal as in not much happens cinematically either. 

Nixon was a good choice for the part of Emily as she resembles her, and in case we don't notice that, at the end of the film, Nixon's face morph's into the famous photograph of the real Emily. That cinematic technique is also used earlier in the film to show the passing of time as the younger versions of the characters morph into the older characters and Bell morphs into Nixon.  
Keith Carradine does a good job as Emily's father - such a good job that I didn't even recognize him with those mutton chops. I also enjoyed Jennifer Ehle, as Emily's sister, Vinnie.  I first saw Ehle in the early 1990's in "The Camomile Lawn," a British TV mini-series.  That was her first major role, and I thought her interesting looks and wonderful acting would make her a big star, but it never happened.  She is one of those actresses who works a lot and you recognize her face but can never remember her name.

The film is well-meant and a tour de force for Nixon who is a long way from her "Sex and the City" days, but sadly, it's also bloodless.  If you are a fan of costume dramas and love the poetry of Emily Dickinson, you might enjoy this, but it felt more like a play than a film, and when I watch a film, I want to see a film, not a play.

Rosy the Reviewer says...the passion was so quiet that I....zzzzzzzz.

The Story of 90 Coins (2015)

A short film - a very short film - about having to make a choice between keeping a promise and following one's dream.

Ever wonder what those Live Action Shorts are on the list of Academy Award nominations?  Those are usually the films you have absolutely no idea about and will likely be one of the categories that will ruin your dream of winning the Oscar pool that year.  Some of you might be too young to remember this, but there was a time when we went to the movies and, before the feature began, there was a always a cartoon and along with the cartoon there was also a short live action film. 

This film brought back good memories of that time and made me wish that we could still see those kinds of films when we go to the movies.

New filmmakers often start out making a short film like this, and when I say short, this film is only nine minutes long, but you will be amazed at how much story and emotion can be packed into nine minutes.

Wang Yuyang (Donjung Han) and Chen Wen (Zhuang Zhiqi) are in love.  He wants to get married, but she is unsure so Wang asks her to promise to wait 90 days and spend that time with him.  After each day, he will give her a coin in an envelope, and if after that 90 days, she changes her mind, they can use the money to buy a marriage certificate.  But if she still doesn't want to marry him, they will use the money to buy drinks in the bar where they met and say goodbye. 

Each day Wang gives her the envelope and each day their relationship grows. All is romantic and lovely until life gets in the way. Chen meets Andre (Jose Acosta), someone who can help her realize her dream of becoming a fashion designer, but if she wants to pursue her dream she must move to Paris.  Wang and Chen have a misunderstanding, and she decides to go, but as she is getting ready to make the move, she opens the envelopes with the coins and is reminded of their love affair and the promise they both made to each other.

Did she make a mistake?

All of that in nine minutes. See?  I told you this was a jam-packed nine minutes!

Written by Bai Xuedan and directed by Michael Wong, this is a touching and atmospheric story of young love, loss and regret.  Actors Han and Zhiqi are engaging and lovely to look at and both beautifully capture the essence of romance.  The film is also lovely to look at and the editing is powerful.  It would have to be to get this much into nine minutes!

From time to time, filmmakers will get in touch with me and ask that I review their films.  Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't.  In this case, I am very glad I did.  This is a lovely little gem of a film that I hope gets seen.

And you are in luck.  You can watch it right now.  Here is the link for

"The Story of 90 Coins."

Mr. Wong was born in Malaysia and currently lives in China.  He spent 16 years as an ad agency art director and creative director and has now embarked on a career as an independent filmmaker.  This is his first film which has been recognized at 30 international film festivals.

When I asked Mr. Wong what he was hoping for in regards to this film he replied:

 "I hope one day some studio will take note of it and help me remake it into a feature length film as I think there's so much potential in expanding it into little stories."

I hope so too.

So spread the word - share this with your friends, especially if you know any filmmakers - and hopefully Mr. Wong will get his wish.  You can also check out his Facebook page here.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if Mr. Wong can do this much with nine minutes, I can't wait to see what he can do with 90.
(In Chinese and English with Chinese and English subtitles)

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

188 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Moolaade (2004)

A village woman provides protection ("moolaade") to a group of young girls who are about to undergo ritual female circumcision.

I never thought a movie about female circumcision would be on my list of must see movies, but then I never thought I was going to become a blogging film critic either, but here we are.

As detestable as female circumcision is to most of us living in the Western world, female genital mutilation is not uncommon in some countries in the world.  Some men just can't stand the idea that women might enjoy sex, I guess.  I can't imagine anything more barbaric and dominating than mutilating a young girl's genitals so that as a woman she is required to have sex with her husband but is not allowed to enjoy it.

Mother Colle (Fatoumata Coulibaly) is a bit of a rebel in a Senegalese village.  She herself did not have her daughter circumcised, or cut, so when four little girls escape the cutting ceremony and run to her hut for protection, she sets up a barrier, a piece of string, across her doorway, thus invoking moolaade.  The law says that once moolaade is invoked, no one can enter, and as long as the little girls stay inside Mother Colle's house, they will be safe. Mother Colle eventually mobilizes the other village women, who at first are against her, because despite the barbarism of the ritual, it is considered "purification" and the women themselves believe that if it is not performed on a girl, no man will want her. So what's a mother to do?  She wants her daughter to find a husband. Sometimes women are their own worst enemies. 

The moolaade is respected but the village men are not happy about it, especially Colle's husband who loses status in the village because he can't control his wife.  But when another of his wives supports Colle, he is overruled. 

This is very much a propaganda film meant to draw attention to this barbaric ritual, but it doesn't feel like propaganda nor does it offer easy answers as to why men would want this.  The film is also about African village life and the fear of westernization and modernity.  One such luxury that the women enjoy is the radio, so when the all-male village council meets to talk about what to do about Colle and the moolaade, they ban the radios, blaming them for the women's rebellion.  Gee, did it not occur to them that maybe the women weren't being influenced by the West but just didn't want their genitals mutilated?  When the radios are all confiscated and burned in a big pile, it creates a powerful image of how dictators, in this case, men, destroy what they consider their opposition.

Lest you think this film is a dark and boring political piece, you would be wrong. The film is less about the female genital mutilation issue and more about old customs versus new, male versus female and East versus West.
When a young, very Westernized, businessman returns from Paris to his village to find a wife, he wants a wife who has been cut. Of course he does.

The villagers still participate in the old ways such as female circumcision, but they also listen to the radio, drive trucks, send their children off to school in Paris and, though the men seem to run things, when the women ban together the men don't have a prayer. Director Ousemane Sembene portrays the village people with affection, dignity and humor, as three dimensional human beings, not stereotypes.

Why it's a Must See: "Sembene's films are subtle and ambivalent, acknowledging the value of traditions and regretting their erosion while still exposing the system of oppression and injustice they often upheld...The opening of [this film] shows [Sembene's] affectionare, intimate view of African village life at its warmest, offering a useful connective to Western ideas of Africa as a starved, helpless continent, devoid of dignity and self-sufficiency."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer important story about a topic we westerners know little about.

***Book of the Week***

If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins (2016)

Two sisters, two marriages, infidelity, divorce, sex, all the stuff of great chick lit!

Jenny Tate is a divorced wedding dress designer (a certain irony there) and despite the divorce, she is still friends with her ex.  He has remarried and, wouldn't you know, his new wife wants to be Jenny's best friend. Her ex is perfect, his new wife is perfect and their new baby is perfect. Needing closure, Jenny moves back to her hometown up the Hudson River to the suburbs of New York City to start her own business and be closer to her sister, Rachel, who also seems to have a perfect family life. Jenny meets Leo, the caretaker of her apartment complex, and is interested in him, though she can't figure him out because he blows hot and cold.

However, Rachel's idyllic marriage implodes after she discovers that her husband is cheating on her with a sexy lawyer at his law firm, and this is particularly upsetting to Rachel since she wanted to have the same perfect marriage as her parents. 

But Jenny knows something that Rachel doesn't.  Their parents' marriage was not the perfect marriage that Rachel is trying to emulate, and now Jenny has to decide if she should reveal this family secret or not.

As you know, I am working my way back to reading fiction again. 

When I read a review of a recommended novel, I put it on my list.  That's the only way I can figure out how I ended up reading this book.  It's subtitle is "A Woman's Fiction Novel," and horrors of horrors, it's published by Harlequin, a publishing house known for its romance novels and romance paperback series.  Now for those of you who do not know what that means, this librarian will explain it all to you.

Harlequin novels have been the nemesis of librarians since the 1970's when they descended upon us and took over the fantasy lives of many overworked and under-loved women.  Why? Because there were so many of them - many different series by many different authors - we just couldn't keep up with the ravenous demand.  If women read "Lucy Finds Romance at the Supermarket (#1 in The Romantic Supermarket series), then they wanted to read all 30 of them.  I'm kidding about the title but you get the idea.  They were tame formula romantic stories written off by us intellectual types as romantic pap, devoid of sex or anything that might offend. They were also paperback books which many libraries deemed not worth spending the money on to catalog considering they didn't last very long - when I say catalog, I mean creating a record of at least an author and title so we could find the damn things in the library.  So because they weren't cataloged and with women requesting specific titles so they could read every single one of the paperbacks in the series by a particular author, it was a nightmare trying to find the needed title. I can remember many a lonely night manually checking paperback rack after paperback rack for these things.

But since my librarian days, something strange has happened. 

Harlequin has moved into the 21st century.  This book may be published by Harlequin but it doesn't resemble those old paperbacks at all.  This book is not only funny with engaging, well-rounded, strong women characters and an interesting story, there is sex and, more horror of horrors, the F-bomb is dropped, more than once!  I couldn't believe it.  Harlequin, welcome to the real world!

The book changes back and forth between Jenny's and Rachel's points of view as the story unfolds and their observations are not only spot on but very funny thanks to Higgins' great writing.  Yes, this is Chick Lit but it's Chick Lit of the highest order.  If you enjoy that genre and you aren't afraid of a few swear words and lots of sex, you will enjoy this.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I am still in shock that this is a Harlequin book and that I enjoyed it so much!

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 
for my review of  

"Tulip Fever"  


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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