Friday, November 16, 2018

"Can You Ever Forgive Me?" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" as well as DVDs "Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot" and "BlacKkKlansman."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with " Pepe le Moko."]

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

The true story of how writer Lee Israel turned from biographer to forger.

Well, now we know.  Melissa McCarthy is not just a very funny lady with a pretty face.  She can act! Here she sheds the makeup, the coiffed hair and her usually sunny attitude to play Lee Israel, a failing writer living in a dark and dank 1990's NYC.  She has had some successes with some biographies.  I mean, hey, she was on the NY Times Best Seller list for, god's sake, but now she can't even get her agent (Jane Curtin) on the phone.

One has to wonder, is it worse to have made it and then fallen from the heights or to never have made it at all?

Israel  is so down on her luck she doesn't have the money to pay the vet to heal her cat.  Her apartment smells so badly of cat feces that the exterminator won't even enter to solve her fly problem and she is finding it difficult to even get money together for food.  She's an eccentric with a short temper so she doesn't have any friends, either, except for her cat.  But she is working on a biography of Fanny Brice (who?) and while doing research at the library, something happens that changes the course of Lee's life.  She runs across two actual letters from Brice in one of the books.  Knowing that there is a market for celebrity and literary autographs and letters, she smuggles them out of the library and to test the water takes one to a book dealer who specializes in literary letters.  The book seller buys the letter but makes a remark about how much more Lee could get for letters that were more personal or funnier.

An idea is born.

Why not embellish the other letter a bit?  Or better yet, create personal, funny letters and pass them off as written by someone famous? And it seems Lee has a knack for impersonating famous writers on paper by writing witty literary letters.  When she makes more money on a funny P.S. to one of the Brice letters, she branches out to entire letters under the guise of people like Dorothy Parker, Louise Brooks and Noel Coward.  She does so well that this becomes her new vocation. She really gets into it, buying old typewriters and aging paper in the oven. She is able to sell each letter for hundreds of dollars and sells over 300 letters over the course of a few years. She even moves on to stealing letters from libraries and archives. She has a penchant for this.

She also has a penchant for drinking, and while hanging out in her favorite neighborhood bar, runs into the charming and flamboyant Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant), another failing writer.  Or I think he was a writer.  It's unclear what he did but somehow he managed to eke out a life. Right now he is selling cocaine. He remembers Lee from a writer's event and reintroduces himself.  The two spend an evening together (not THAT kind of evening - Jack is gay) where Lee tells him "This was not unpleasant."  That's about the highest praise Lee can muster.  She is a bit of a curmudgeon, unpleasant even, but somehow McCarthy makes us care about her. That's how good she is in this.

Will Lee get away with her crimes?  No. But it's a fascinating journey how it all turns out.

Based on Israel's own telling of this story in her book "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" - a phrase she made up in one of her Dorothy Parker letters where Parker supposedly asks for forgiveness in advance for getting drunk - and adapted by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, this film is a literary maven's paradise with names like Edna Ferber and William Faulkner (it helps if you know who those people were) thrown around willy nilly.  Director Marielle Heller has created an atmospheric New York City that is almost a metaphor for a struggling writer. It's a mesmerizing film, partly because it is a fascinating story but mostly because of the performances of McCarthy and Grant, the two making a sometimes hilarious, sometimes touching odd couple.  Grant made his mark years ago in "Withnail & I (1987)" and his characterization of Hock is a reminder of that watershed role that led to his being a steadily employed character actor ever since.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if there was any question about McCarthy's ability to be a dramatic actress, this movie removes all doubt.  This performance is Oscar worthy.

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


Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot (2018)

True story of John Callahan, who after a life changing car accident and a love affair with drinking, finds meaning as a dark humor cartoonist.

I have never been a big Joaquin Phoenix fan.  Not sure why.  Perhaps it's his penchant for choosing really edgy roles in really edgy films.  Gus Van Zant is also a director of edgy, sometimes difficult films.  I loved "Good Will Hunting" and "Elephant," but found "My Own Private Idaho" unwatchable.  So I started to watch this film with a certain trepidation but am happy to report that I absolutely loved this movie. I loved Van Sant's direction and I loved Phoenix's portrayal of cartoonist John Callahan.  He exuded a warmth here that I don't remember from any of his other films.

The film begins with Callahan in a wheelchair giving a presentation and that frames the story as it moves to flashback with Callahan as a young man in Portland who likes to drink.  He has yet to find his niche as a cartoonist and is just mainly living a less than purposeful life. In fact, Callahan is always drunk and eventually and fatefully hooks up with Dexter, another drunk. One night after a drunken binge, the two are heading home in the car with Dexter driving. Dexter falls asleep and the car crashes leaving Callahan paralyzed.  Dexter ironically walks away from the accident.

Also ironically, Callahan continues to drink and curse the gods for being in a wheelchair and blames his mother for abandoning him (he was adopted), but he eventually finds AA and Donnie (an almost unrecognizable Jonah Hill), a rich hippie who runs a support group.  And I have to tell you.  I have new respect for Jonah Hill.  He was on screen for many scenes before I realized it was he.  I whispered to Hubby "That's Jonah Hill" and he couldn't believe it. His weight loss helps but he really didn't display any Jonah mannerisms at all.  He completely inhabited the part of Donnie as he helps Callahan work through AA's Twelve Steps.

Callahan eventually learns what he is good at - cartooning of the very dark variety.

And we learn that even when something devastating happens, the human spirit prevails and we can still find purpose and meaning.  But don't think this is a boring lecture on the evils of drink.  It's not.  It's also dark, funny and not  the least bit sentimental.

Phoenix is  surprisingly calm here, joyful even, as his Callahan not only learns how to live without alcohol but how to actually have fun despite being in a wheelchair. There is a particularly poignant scene when Callahan works AA's Ninth Step - Asking forgiveness.  Phoenix does it justice.  

Unlike some of Van Sant's films, this film is hopeful and even joyful. Also adapted by him from Callahan's book of the same name, Van Sant employs some of Callahan's animated cartoons to help drive the story which is fanciful and fun, but he also employs some strange cinematic practices. You know how sometimes when you are taking a picture, you can see your finger over the lens?  I swear to god that there were some scenes where it looked like that's what Van Sant was doing or that he was filming over someone's shoulder with the shoulder in the frame. Not sure what that was about, but overall, Van Sant has delivered an uplifting and enjoyable film.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Phoenix and Hill as you have never seen them in a wonderful film!

BlacKkKlansman (2018)

Ron Stallworth, an African American cop in 1970's Colorado Springs, amazingly manages to infiltrate the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan with the help of his Jewish colleague.

From that old "Truth is stranger than fiction" saw comes this film based on a true story.  How can an African American and a Jewish guy infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan?

Well, first of all, we have to get our hero, Ron (John David Washington), into the Colorado Springs police force, which isn't easy in what director Spike Lee paints as a pretty racist town.  Stallworth was the first African American police officer in Colorado Springs and at first is relegated to working in the records office pulling files for other cops.  He begs his boss to let him become a detective and eventually is allowed to go undercover but for a Black Panther rally for Stokely Carmichael who has just come back from Africa with his neew African name - Kwami Ture.  It's there that Ron first meets activist Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier).

Back at the office, Stallworth sees a recruitment ad for the KKK and on a whim calls the number that is listed.  He is shocked to get the head guy on the phone and is immediately recruited. So now what does he do?  He can't show up as himself.  So he gets one of his fellow detectives, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), to impersonate him and so goes the story with Ron talking on the phone to the KKK people (much is made about sounding"white," something that is also explored in "Sorry to Bother You"), including Grand Wizard David Duke himself, and advancing the investigation that way while Flip attends the meetings and eventually becomes head of the local chapter.

Directed by Spike Lee, this is a fascinating story, but Spike has thrown so much into this film it's difficult to tell exactly where he was headed.  Adapted from Stallworth's own book and co-written by Spike with Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott, it's part comedy, part drama, part Blaxploitation film homage, and part metaphor for what is going on today with our current President and national divide. It's A LOT and often way over the top, in our face and it sometimes stumbles, but one thing I know for sure.  You can always count on Spike to present something memorable and that we will talk about it.  His KKK people are so racist and disgusting and overboard it's almost laughable. He beats us over the head with it but maybe we need to be beaten over the head with it. Maybe it all needs to be over the top for us to get it, because this story, with all of its racism and police brutality, took place almost 50 years ago.  Why are we still going through it?  

And in case we miss that point, Spike ends the film cutting back and forth between Harry Belafonte talking about racism and Black Power and the KKK talking racism and White Power and then some stunning footage from that infamous Charlottesville rally with those idiot white guys marching, carrying tiki lamps, and chanting "We will not be replaced." 

Washington is Denzel's son and I want to thank you, Denzel.  I have loved you ever since "Glory." You were a gift.  And now you have given us the gift of your talented son.  I see you in his talent but also in his walk.  You have a sort of sideways walk.  He doesn't have your smile, but in the film, he has the sleekest, most perfect afro I have ever seen.  Wow. It could star in its own movie all by itself.

Rosy the Reviewer says...even if Spike stumbles a bit his films are always more meaningful and powerful than most we are presented with today.

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

119 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Pepe le Moko (1937)

Pepe rules the Casbah but he's also stuck there, because he is wanted by the police.  But will love lure him to his fate?

See how dramatic I can get?  These early films are also very over-the-top dramatic and sometimes ludicrously so. But what sets this one apart? Terrific black and white cinematography and Jean Gabin.

With his smoldering looks, Gabin is considered one of the greatest of all French actors and he cut quite a swath romantically too.  Though married four times, he was also famous for his long time love affair with Marlene Dietrich.

Directed by Julien Duvivier, this film is the one that brought Gabin to stardom, playing Pepe de Moko, a French gangster and lothario living in Algiers. He's a cool operator.  Pepe says of his conquests: "I give them my body but I keep my head." Though he reigns supreme over the Casbah and enjoys the power, he yearns to return to Paris. However, he can't leave because he is wanted by the police, especially one particular cop, Slimane (Lucas Gridoux), who lies in wait for Pepe to make a wrong move.  

And wouldn't you know.  Into the Casbah walks trouble, Gaby (Mireille Balin), a beautiful French tourist who represents all that Pepe desires, French or otherwise. Pepe already has a live-in girlfriend, Inex (Line Noro), but Gaby reminds him of everything he misses in Paris. So now he has a reason to risk leaving. And when Pepe finds out that Slimane has told Gaby that Pepe has been killed and she is leaving Algiers for good, Pepe decides he will make his move and go with her.  He manages to escape the Casbah but Ines betrays him to Slimane (she tells him that he is down at the dock waiting to board the ship to France), and he is captured.  It gets worse.  Things don't end well for our Pepe. 

As I said, these early films are often overly dramatic.  They are also often politically incorrect, e.g. when a character says to a woman in the Casbah, "He beats you," she replies, "Yes, it relaxes him." But these early black and white films also have juicy romantic close-ups, riveting story lines and great camerawork and this one is no exception.

Why it's a Must See: "Borrowing motifs from the classic gangster movies but seasoning them with doomy Gallic romanticism, [this film] prefigures film noir."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

This film was the inspiration for the American remake, "Algiers." I kept waiting for Pepe to say "Come weeth me to ze Casbah" but he never did (see "Algiers" if you don't get my allusion. It's one of the most oft repeated classic lines in film that was never actually said in the film itself.  Only the trailer)!

Rosy the Reviewer says...this one was a lot of fun in a film noir kind of way!
(B & w, in French with English subtitles)

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 




The Week in Reviews
(What To See and What To Avoid)


the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See

Before I Die Project" 

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to copy and paste or click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at

Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.

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

Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.

Friday, November 9, 2018

"Bohemian Rhapsody" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the biopic "Bohemian Rhapsody" as well as DVDs "Sorry to Bother You" and "Eighth Grade." The Book of the Week is "Small Fry," a memoir by Steve Jobs' daughter. I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "The Ascent." ]

Bohemian Rhapsody

Biopic on the ascent to fame and personal struggles of singer Freddie Mercury.

Biopics are not easy to make.  Well, good ones, that is.  An actor must walk a fine line between characterization and caricature and for the first half of this film I was thinking Rami Malek's Freddie was a bit much.  I think it was the teeth, which is funny because Malek looks so much like Freddie anyway with or without the fake teeth.  The teeth were a distraction because Malek was forever running his tongue over them.  But as the film progressed, he grew on me.  And with the final performance at Live Aid, he had me.  Teeth or no teeth, Malek had Freddie's performances down.

Freddie Mercury (Malek) was an unlikely rock star.  Born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar to Parsis parents who practiced the Zoroastrian religion, he spent most of his young life in India.  At age 17, he and his parents fled to Britain during the Zanzibar Revolution.  Freddie had already been a part of rock bands when he was in school but the film doesn't cover any of that.  

The film begins with a teenage Freddie hanging out at rock clubs in London in 1970 where he met guitarist Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) who were part of a band called Smile.  When Freddie learned that their lead singer had just quit Freddie asked to join. With his buck teeth and unruly hair, May and Taylor were skeptical but then Freddie, never shy, belted out a song. He was in. Bassist John Deacon (Joe Mazzello) was brought in, Queen was born and the rest is history.

Though Freddie met Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton), lived with her for several years and called her "the love of my life," Mercury was gay, and eventually succumbed to aids.

Written by Anthony McCarten and Peter Morgan and directed by Bryan Singer (who was actually fired for bad behavior and the film was finished by Dexter Fletcher), I had a difficult time thinking a film could be PG-13 and truthfully tell the story of Freddie Mercury.  His life was hardly PG -13. And how do you boil a life like Freddie Mercury's down into a two hour film? But even though the film was largely superficial and I had my misgivings, it grew on me, just like those teeth. 

Despite the teeth, Rami Malek really does manage to transcend caricature and creates real poignancy, especially at the end of the film when Mercury's career was waning and he triumphed at Live Aid. If you are not a fan of the TV series "Mr. Robot (for which Malek won many awards)," you might not be familiar with Malek, who has had roles in feature films but is not a household name.  This film will probably solve that problem.

Lucy Boynton is the epitome of the English Rose (she and Malek are an item in real life), but her role is small considering what a huge role Mary Austin played in Mercury's life. Likewise, I have to say that, though appearance wise Lee, Hardy and Mazzello channel their real life counterparts of May, Taylor and Deacon, they don't really have much to do except perform as members of the band, despite the fact that Brian May is the driving force behind this film.  On a talk show recently, Lee reported that when May saw him in costume, wig and full rock star regalia, he was silent for a full three minutes before saying that he was seeing himself from 40 years ago. 

Mike Myers also makes a cameo appearance as a record executive who doesn't get "Bohemian Rhapsody," and says who would want to head bang to that?  A funny homage to his "Wayne's World" head banging scene to that song. 

Strangely, I actually have a personal connection to Freddie Mercury. 

Well, not personal personal - I never met the guy nor saw the band perform - but he plays an important part in my memories.  Hubby, two kids, two dogs and I were headed back from Texas from what could only be called the trip from hell (and I am not even going to get into our smuggling the dogs into a hotel room, their barking and scratching alerting the hotel manager who found us in the dining room, asked us to remove the dogs, and our putting them in the car where one of them chewed through one of the seat belts in our brand new car.  Like I said, I am not even going to get into that). 

We had traveled to Hubby's parents house over Easter break to pick up a classic car from his Dad.  Caravanning back, the classic car had not one flat tire, but two, one of which was in a Texas thunderstorm so scary and massive that while Hubby was outside in the storm changing the tire, from the back seat our young son cried "We're all going to die here!"  But we didn't and on we trekked until the car blew up somewhere in Arizona and we had to leave it there for repair.  Now we only had one day to get home from Arizona to Central California (Hubby and I had to work and the kids had school), and on that last day as we pressed on and on, we heard that Freddie Mercury had died.  Now you have to imagine life without the Internet.  There was no Twitter or Facebook in 1991 and cell phones were not common so we had no idea that Freddie Mercury was dying.  So that was a shock.  It was also a shock to the world so the radio played nothing but Queen songs that entire day. 

So as we headed home on that grueling drive, we had Freddie with us.  Sad to lose him but there was almost comfort and joy in that. It was comforting to know what a great legacy he left behind and those Queen songs were so damn joyful. You couldn't help but feel good when you listened to that music. As for that car, we never did drive it!

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is probably not the definitive biopic of Queen or Mercury, but Malek's performance (in spite of the teeth) and that great Queen music makes this a must see.

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


Sorry to Bother You (2018)

African American telemarketer Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) figures out the key to success - talk like a white man on the phone.

Set in present day Oakland, but a sort of stranger version of Oakland, Cassius Green certainly needs a job. He is so down and out he lives with this girlfriend, Detroit (Tessa Thompson), in his uncle's garage, for heaven's sake. He talks his way into a telemarketing job at RegalView and is really happy to get it. I guess if you live in a garage, a telemarketing job looks good.  At RegalView, he starts out selling encyclopedias and is told to "stick to the script" and if he does he can become a Power Caller.  Those are the people who get to hang out on the upper floors and who make the big money. Cassius doesn't do that well until Langston (Danny Glover), an older telemarketer, gives him a tip.  Make yourself sound white.  

What's a white voice?  According to Langston, a white voice sounds like you don't have a care in the world.  It's breezy, worry free.  Cassius eventually makes it to Power Caller, discovers his job "up there" is to to sell the "Worry Free" lifestyle of food and shelter in exchange for being sold into slavery to foreign countries and discovers that he has literally sold himself into slavery.  This is a modern day Faustian tale but it's funny and original.

Funny, yes, but dark. This is a dark comedy that reminded me of "Downsizing," about people who are willing to go to great lengths to make their lives better, but this one is much darker and much funnier. And there is a lot going on in this film. Stanfield does a good job of portraying a guy who so desperately wants to make it that he sells his soul to the devil, and the film, written and directed by Boots Riley, is an original satire and I was all in and enjoying it until the Equisapiens showed up.  These are part-human-part-horse-people and I can't say too much about them or I will ruin the twist but let's just say when they turned up the film lost me.

Rosy the Reviewer original and subversive idea that got lost in a too over-the-top ending. I don't like saying "Huh?" after investing almost two hours in a film.

Eighth Grade (2018)

The trials and tribulations of eighth grade.

Here is another one of those movies where I have to ask myself, "What the hell am I doing here?" What's a woman of a certain age doing watching a film about being in eighth grade?  Well, believe it or not, I was there once and I can say from this vantage point, after seeing this film, nothing much has changed.

Ah, eighth grade.  Ah, middle school.  Two words that for many of us is synonymous with hell.  Eighth grade is that last grade before high school and they don't call it middle school for nothing.  Middle school is that time when we are literally in the middle with one foot into full blown teenagedom but another foot still in childhood.  When you are 13 you are halfway between Disney Princess and Spin the Bottle. I remember getting my first Barbie Doll when I was 12 but also wanting my crush of the moment to kiss me "like in the movies!"  It's also a time when rebellion starts. That's when my son started saying "So?" and "Fine!" on a daily basis and pretty much was his main interaction with me.

Actually, speaking of myself, which I know I do often, I didn't get to experience being the top dog at my middle school.  You see, when I went to school in the dark ages, middle school was called junior high and it was 7th, 8th and 9th grades. I remember looking at the 9th graders and thinking they were so mature.  They were the top dogs.  But I never got to be a top dog 9th grader because, wouldn't you know, the year I went into 9th grade was the year some idiot decided the high school was now going to be 9-12 instead of 10-12 and so instead of being a top dog 9th grader in my junior high I went from a nobody 8th grader in junior high to an even bigger nobody as a freshman in high school.

OK, so enough about me.  I guess I should start talking about the movie!

Kayla (Elsie Fisher) is an introverted girl who lives with her single Dad (Josh Hamilton) who is kind and trying to understand her but basically clueless which is just how our parents seem when we are in middle school.  It's funny that her father doesn't remember eighth grade because he would then realize trying to understand what is going on with an eighth grader is futile because even she doesn't know. When it comes to her interactions with the cool kids at school, Kayla is awkward and unsure of herself.  But when she is alone, she films a vlog and gives advice to whomever might be watching and young Kayla is surprisingly wise.  She talks about the importance of "putting yourself out there" and having confidence ("Act 'as if.' You can't be brave without being scared.")  Kayla's vlog is her confident self, the person she wants to be and belies her everyday self in middle school.  The film follows Kayla in her last days at school in eighth grade before she heads off to high school.

So I might briefly ask myself again "What the hell am I doing watching a film about a 13-year-old girl?" but realize I am watching a film that we can all relate to because we were all 13 once.  And from my story that I bored you with earlier, I could actually relate to this film more than some of my other contemporaries because I went from eighth grade directly over to the high school just as young Kayla is going to do.  However, I know that the road to adulthood has become more treacherous for kids than it was in my day.  

This film taps into all of those primal feelings and need for acceptance that most kids go through and that we experience throughout life - the need to be seen and validated. The film, written and directed by Bo Burnham, brilliantly brings back all of the anxieties and awkwardness of those years before we learned to deal with that stuff.  I can't say any boy asked me if I knew how to give a blowjob as the boy in the film asks Kayla, but like I said, times have changed. The scene where Kayla looks up on the Internet how to do it and then starts to practice on a banana when her dad walks into the kitchen is classic.

Elsie Fisher is a triumph in this film. She brings Kayla to life and makes her so real that no matter what your age (and I think teenage girls should see this film), you will see yourself in this film. But Burnham also deserves props for a real life script that captures the day-to-day reality of today's middle schoolers and reminds us that some things never change - middle school is hell but hang in there, it gets better. And don't ask me how a guy can tap into the mind and life of a young girl because it doesn't matter.  He just does. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...I may not want to relive eighth grade in real life but I would relive this film over and over.  It's that good.  No matter what your age, don't miss it.

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

120 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

The Ascent (1977)

During WW II two Soviet partisans leave their compatriots to find food.  When they are captured by the Nazis their loyalties are tested.

Russian partisans Sotnikov (Boris Plotnikov) and Rybak (Vladimir Gostyukhin) leave their troops to find food but are spotted by a German patrol.  After a gunfight in the snow, the two men get away but Sotnikov is shot in the leg.  Rybak takes Sotnikov to a nearby house where Demchikha (Lyudmila Polyakova) and her three children live.  But the Germans find them there and take them prisoner along with Demchikha.

They are all taken to German headquarters where Sotnikov is interrogated by Portnov (Anatoli Solonitsyn), a local collaborator and former Soviet children's choirmaster who is now the head of the local police loyal to the Germans. When Sotnikov refuses to answer Portnov's questions, he is brutally tortured but gives up no information. However, Rybak declares he wants to live and tells as much as he thinks the police already know, hoping to live so he can escape later but to no avail. The next morning, all are led out to be hanged but at the last minute Rybak persuades Portnov and the Germans to let him join the police. He does, and Sotnikov and the others are executed.  But it's a lonely and sad victory for Rybak.  He saved himself but what kind of a life does a coward live?  He will forever be a prisoner in his own mind.
Where Sotnikov stood strong to the end, Rybak is now left to face the ridicule and contempt of the villagers as well as his own cowardice.
Directed by Lariso Shepitko, one of few Russian women directors (sadly, she was killed in a car accident at the age of 40 leaving only four films behind), this film is one of those grueling films where nothing good happens and everything goes from bad to worse. It's all about winter and starving and snow and torture and brutality.  Sheesh.  But it's also a stark morality play about bravery, cowardice, betrayal and guilt, and in case you didn't get it from the title, martyrdom and Christianity.

Why it's a Must See: "[This film] is one of the most powerful of all films that have war as their background."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...Powerful but grim.

Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs (2018)

If you thought it would have been cool to have been Steve Jobs' kid, you would be wrong.

Lisa's parents - Steve Jobs and Chrisann Brennan - were childhood sweethearts.  They never married and Jobs even disavowed his daughter early in her life and of and on as she grew. When her parents broke up, Lisa's mother lived a hardscrabble life (Jobs didn't help her until much later) and Lisa rarely saw her father.  But as she grew older, Jobs took more of an interest in her and started helping her and her mother and Lisa's life became a strange combination of mansions, vacations and private schools coupled with her mother's less than rich lifestyle and her father's cold unpredictable behavior.

"There was a thin line between civility and cruelty in him, between what did and did not set him off."

Lisa yearned for her father's approval.

"He did not want to be our protector, but he dabbled in it.  The more he approached and pulled away, the more I wanted him to spread a vast, fine net below us."

This is not a biography of Steve Jobs.  

It's Lisa's story, but it's also a story that anyone can relate to who has felt rejected by one's parent. It's also a story of being outside looking in, wanting to be loved by her father and to be a part of his family but never feeling like she was, being poor when her father was one of the richest men in the world. 

Brennan-Jobs tells a poignant story of dealing with her feelings of illegitimacy and sadness as she tried to be what her father wanted her to be.  However, despite the ups and downs of having a father who was socially awkward and who didn't parent in a giving way, a mother who was not happy with her life and Lisa's own less than stellar school years, Lisa went to Harvard and appears to have made a happy life for herself and has found some clarity and peace about her Dad.

There is a poignancy and irony to the title of the book.  Jobs was a mercurial man who turned his attention and affection for Lisa off and on. "Small fry" comes from his nickname for her when his attention and affection was on.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Brennan-Jobs is a good writer with an interesting story to tell.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 


"Can You Ever Forgive Me?"


The Week in Reviews
(What To See and What To Avoid)

the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See

Before I Die Project" 

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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.

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Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.

Friday, November 2, 2018


[I first published this blog post in March of 2015 in honor of my sister's birthday.  At that time I had no idea that just a few years later she would be gone. I am sad to say that my sister died on October 25th (2018) so as what would have been her 80th birthday approaches, I wanted to republish this post to honor her once again.  She was a remarkable woman who is sorely missed]

Think about it. For good or ill, your parents and your older siblings have known you longer than anyone else in the world. 

Whether you had a good experience or a bad experience growing up, your family members were major players in your life. I was fortunate to have a wonderful family. 

Growing up, I didn't appreciate them at the time, of course.  I complained about them when I didn't get my way or "they didn't understand me." But deep down I was proud of them too.  And woe to anyone who said anything bad about anyone in my family.  I could complain about them, but you as hell better not. 

Few of us, though, appreciate what we have when we have it. But looking back and in relation to what I know now, I had a great family.

For those of you who have been reading my blog for the last couple of years, you know that I use birthdays as a springboard to remember. 

And I like to share pictures because they help me to remember.  It's fun going through the albums looking for appropriate photographs.  I always think of my Dad and how much he enjoyed taking our pictures.  He always had the latest camera and when I look at these pictures, I see what a good photographer he was, posing us just so.  Don't think I didn't hate it at the time, but I am so glad I have these photos now.

But I also share these pictures here, because I hope that they will spark something in you, too, to remember happy times with your family and to remind you that in the end we are all the same, we all want to be a part of something, we are all part of something, we are all one.  And that as the cycle of life unwinds, when we come to the end of the tether, we have our memories.

So now I celebrate my sister's birthday which is at the end of this week. 

She was my only sister and my older sister - nine years older.  So can you imagine, there she was the only girl and actually the only child for five years until my brother came along.  But then nine years later, there I was -- another girl, her sister.

Being the oldest has its benefits but also its negatives. 

Like I said, she had our parents all to herself for five years and even when my brother was born, she was the only girl.  Being the oldest allows you a certain amount of authority and I think the first child remains the favorite. 

But in our house, there were some indignities to endure such as having  to share her room with a baby (me).  For as long as my sister lived at home, she had to share her bedroom with me. Think of a 16 year old having to share a bedroom with a seven year old.

I can remember nights when she came home from a date and I was sleeping peacefully and she would switch on the light to get ready for bed and I would howl with indignity.  So on the one hand, she could have been a bit more considerate of the little sleeping angel (me), but I also didn't need to make such a fuss (the devil in me).  A bit of passive aggression in there, wouldn't you say?

She also had to babysit, put up with me hanging around when she brought boyfriends home and listen to me whine about stuff, as little ones often do.

I was a bit of a scamp!

But the best thing about being the oldest, I think, is the prestige and the awe that is felt by the younger ones, especially when the oldest is nine years older. I see my little four year old grandson being followed around by his two year old brother, the two year old wanting to do everything that the four year old is doing.  I was in awe of my sister and very proud of her.

She was popular in school.  Was invited into the exclusive sorority-like club at the high school,

played in the orchestra (she played the violin and the viola)

and since you can't play the string instruments in the band, she was the flag bearer in the marching band. 

She was also an athlete and excelled in tennis.

My Dad started playing with her, but soon she was better than he was and went on to play in tournaments.  There is a story in the family that she went to the local public tennis courts, she was told she couldn't practice because there was a tournament going on.  She went right home that day and told our Dad that she would go back and win that tournament.  And she did.  She went on to a college that specialized in tennis.  She went to the Nationals and today is a tennis professional and is in the college's hall of fame.

My sister went off to college when I was only 8 and basically I rarely saw her again. Well, you know, she never lived at home again. When she did come home, I remember her regaling me about college and telling me that if you just did what you were supposed to do, you got a C. If you wanted a B or an A, you had to do way more than expected.  Scared me to death.

Because my sister was into sports, I realized I wasn't (and psychologically I probably didn't want to have to compete with her in that area), so I veered off into acting.  But I ended up going to the same college and let's just say that when I took tennis it was embarrassing as hell to be reminded by the coach, who remembered my sister, that I couldn't hit the ball to save my life.

My sister got married right out of college and I was in the wedding party.  I was 12 and demanded a tiara, which I got (I was the baby after all, which also has its perks!).

I remember crying after the wedding when her husband and she left, moving far away. 

I finally left home too.

Long story short, I ended up on one coast, she on another. 

As the years went by, she had children and grandchildren, 

as did I.

and as the vagaries of life took hold, she lived on her own. 

But she visited me,

took care of our mother,

taught tennis as a Master Professional and became a Miata enthusiast.

We traveled together (we shared one of my favorite vacations of all time on a narrow boat in England),

and she battled and survived cancer. 

Life has a way of coming between relationships.  They take a backseat to life's demands.

But despite the years, despite the age difference, despite the miles, one thing I know for sure.  My sister is just a phone call away and she will be there for me, because she is my older sister.

I have known her longer than anyone alive.

"A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost." - Unknown

Take a Little Time to Remember.

Thanks for Reading!

See you Friday


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