Friday, June 14, 2019

"Booksmart" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "Booksmart" as well as DVDs "Happy Death Day 2U" and "Greta."  The Book of the Week is the memoir "When Breath Becomes Air."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Underground."]


A coming of age tale about two noses-to-the grindstone high school seniors who decide they finally need to have some fun.

Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein - and what a cool name is that?) are best friends. They have been best friends since childhood.  Amy and Molly are also very smart and driven young women who are planning to go to good colleges after high school. Molly is student council president and valedictorian and has already been accepted at Yale. I mean, that was the whole point of all of that hard work, right? Amy is an activist who is going to take a gap year and do humanitarian work in Botswana.  These two had their goals in mind early and kept their noses in their books.  The reward?  They felt superior to their fellow students who would never get into good colleges after all of that partying.  

Oh, really? 

Molly's world is rocked when she overhears some kids talking about her in the school restroom.  When she confronts them and calls them partying losers, she discovers that they too have gotten into good schools!  How could that happen? Molly and Amy had eschewed partying to tend to their academics and now find out that maybe they really missed out and could have been partying with their friends after all. So what WAS the point, then, of all of that hard work?

So Molly convinces Amy that they have one last chance to party. 

It's the night before graduation and it's now or never. They decide to have some fun at a big end-of-school party at Nick's (Mason Gooding - the son of Cuba Gooding Jr., by the way) aunt's house.  However, there's one problem.  They don't know where that is.  So as they try to find Nick's party, the film takes on a kind of "Adventures in Babysitting" vibe where all kinds of "adventures" ensue as they try to get to Nick's party. They engage the help of Jared (hilariously played by Skyler Gisondo), a sort of clueless rich kid; drug-crazed Gigi (Billie Lourd, Carrie Fisher's daughter and Billie is hilarious too), who spikes some strawberries she feeds them with drugs resulting in a very funny scene; and their high school principle (Jason Sudeikis) who naturally works as a Lyft driver to make extra money because they don't pay teachers enough.  

At the party, Amy who is gay, crushes on Ryan (yes, it's a girl - Victoria Ruesga) and Molly crushes on Nick but neither relationship pans out and Amy wants to go home, calling "Malala," their code word for needing help, meaning now Molly must do what Amy wants. (And of course, these two superachievers would choose "Malala" as their word).  When Molly refuses they have a huge fight where some secrets are revealed and their friendship tested.

Directed by actress Olivia Wilde in her feature film directorial debut, the strengths of this film are the two lead actresses, Wilde's deft directorial hand that keeps the pace, and the sharp screenplay by Emily Halpern, Susanna Fogel, Sarah Haskins and Katie Silberman, a powerhouse of women writers. 

At first, watching this film, I couldn't believe kids actually talked and acted like this. Did my kids? Some of the stuff these kids in the movie said...  Wow!  Then I was walking through the shopping center near the high school.  School had just gotten out and kids were hanging out at the Subway, talking and carrying on...and yep.  So, yes, this is what kids act like. 

What I also liked, besides the interesting characters, was the the fact that Feldstein/Molly was not the usual little skinny teen actress we have come to accept in these teen films but a curvy young girl and - nothing was made of that.  She wasn't on a diet, the kids didn't taunt her for being overweight, and she didn't think twice about making a play for the hot young jock.  It just was what it was.  And I appreciated that.  In fact, none of the characters were your typical stereotypes often found in teen films.

Moral of the story - love and appreciate your friends and it's OK to have some fun!

Rosy the Reviewer says...a fresh take on the coming of age story that celebrates female friendships starring two wonderful young actresses.

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


Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

Sorority girl Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is back in yet another gruesome Groundhog Day loop, but this time, let's add "Back to the Future!"

Yet another sequel capitalizing on the success of the first film. I really liked the first film - a sort of "Groundhog Day" of murder and horror, but with a sense of humor.  But since the murderer was uncovered in the first film and dispatched with, I couldn't help but wonder what kind of a sequel this would be. 

So now Tree Gelbman is back. Time has passed since that horrible birthday where she would wake up every morning in Carter's (Israel Broussard), her soon-to-be boyfriend's, dorm room on her birthday only to be murdered by the end of it by someone in a baby mask and then having to relive that day over and over.  It wasn't until she took it upon herself to solve her own murder that the loop stopped.  So all is well...


What??? Now the Groundhog Day loop is back and is happening to Ryan (Phi Vu), one of her friends, and then -- dammit! -- to her again!  How can that be?  The killer is dead!

Turns out Ryan and his nerdy friends had invented a sort of time machine and screwed up the dimensions of time and space and now they are all caught in a parallel universe where the killer wasn't killed and might not have been the killer at all, Tree and Carter are not boyfriend and girlfriend, and Tree's mother is not dead (Tree had been mourning her mother's death in the first film).  She must make a decision whether to go back to her former life or stay where her mother is still alive in a very poignant scene between Tree and her mother.

So now we have "Groundhog Day" meets "Back to the Future." 

The Groundhog Day aspect is that in this continuous loop of reliving the same day over and over, everyone except Tree forgets what happened the day before.  Only Tree remembers so she has to be the living record.  She also tries to hurry everything up by actually killing herself each day instead of waiting for the murderer to get to her.  There are some gruesomely funny suicides, if suicide can be funny i.e. she drops a hair dryer in the bathtub that she is in (don't try this at home), drinks Liquid Plumber, throws herself in a wood chipper and jumps out of an airplane without a parachute.

Written and directed by Christopher Landon, these kinds of horror films aren't scary per se and are dependent on the young stars. In this case, the kids, especially Rothe, are engaging and you want to root for them.  However, I always have a problem with the time/space continuum stuff and, as you know, I generally don't like sequels. However, I appreciated that this film recapped the first one early on so you at least had an inkling what was going on in this one. Though this film was fun, I didn't like it as much as the first one so I have to question the need for this sequel. The first film was a cute, original play on a horror film.  Now this one is trying to capitalize on that success when I think we would have been just fine remembering the first one.

Rosy the Reviewer says...not as good as the first one but it's still fun.

Greta (2018)

A perfect reflection of the old adage, "No good deed goes unpunished."

Watching this film, I couldn't help but wonder if "Single White Female" started the whole woman-stalking-woman trope in the movies because this is another one of those.

Frances (Chloe Grace Moretz) is a nice young woman who finds a designer handbag on the subway.  There is money in the purse and all of the information she needs to find the owner so she decides to return it much to her roommate, Erica's (Maika Monroe) dismay. I mean, as Erica points out, what if the person is a nutter or worse?  

Well....  The owner of the purse is Greta (Isabelle Huppert), an older woman who lives alone.  She seems sweet enough and the two embark on a friendship.  Frances had recently lost her mother so Greta filled that void in her life until...Let's just say Greta starts getting a bit needy and clingy.  OK, obsessive.  And then Frances especially regrets returning that purse when she finds Greta's stash of identical purses as in, uh, just how many of us was Greta going after? Frances breaks off the friendship but Greta will not be ignored! See where this is heading?  Well, I kind of did, but there are some twists and turns that I didn't see.

If you are going to do an old-fashioned potboiler like this, put it in the capable hands of a veteran actress like Isabelle Huppert, who does subtly crazy very well.  She is a wonderful actress who has had a hugely successful career ever since the 70's.  As for Chloe, she is very believable and just keeps getting better and better.

Directed by Neil Jordan who directed the stunning "The Crying Game" and other wonderful films back in the 90's, one can't help but wonder why he hasn't been as prolific since (actor Steven Rea makes an appearance here in a sort of homage to those days).   

Rosy the Reviewer says...I saw the M.O. on this one right away but as they say it's all about the journey. It was great fun getting to the end.  This is a good old-fashioned potboiler with great acting and a story that just whizzes along.

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

91 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Underground (1995)

A farcical and satiric allegory about the country formerly known as Yugoslavia from World War II to the postcommunist present.

Beginning in Belgrade in 1941 in the midst of WW II, two anti-Nazi arms dealers, Marko (Predrag 'Miki' Manojlovic) and Blackie (Lazar Ristovski), inadvertently become Communist heroes. These guys have few redeeming qualities, but actually I think Marko was the worst.  He locked people in his grandfather's cellar to escape the war and manufacture arms and actually managed to convince them that the war was still going on well into the 60's. However, Blacky gets to show how bad he is when the Bosnian War rolls around. There's also, Natalija, an actress (Mirjana Jokovic) both men want, a chimp, and all kinds of crazy stuff, showcasing black humor at its highest form.

Based loosely on the play, "Spring in January" by Serbian playwright Dusan Kovacevicthe story unfolds in three parts, each linked to a particular period of Yugoslavian history: World War II, the Cold War that followed and the war in Bosnia.  Marko and Blackie spent those years fighting an imaginary Nazi occupation, each in a different way.  Blacky has stayed underground thinking that WW II was still going on while Marko became a sort of hero, hanging around with the likes of Tito and profiting from what his "friends" were doing underground.  

Directed by Emir Kusturica, who is considered the most renowned filmmaker of those Eastern Europeans who experienced the before and after of the Cold War, this almost three hour comedy/drama about Yugoslavia's history won the Golden Palm at Cannes in 1995 and has been in the midst of controversy due to its conceived pro-Serbian stance despite the fact that Kusturica is a Bosnian Muslim.

Why it's a Must See: "However one chooses to take its jaundiced view of history, [this film] is probably the best film to date by [the talented Kusturica]...a triumph of mise-en-scene mated to a comic vision that keeps topping its own hyperbole."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...OK, fine, it had some enjoyable moments and it was vibrantly filmed, but way too long at almost three hours.  I am fundamentally opposed to any movie that is longer than two and a half hours at the most unless it's "Gone With the Wind."

***The Book of the Week***

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi and Abraham Verghese (2016)

At the age of 36, just as Paul Kalanithi was completing his training as a neurosurgeon, he discovered that he had Stage IV lung cancer.  The doctor was now the patient and he was going to die.

What do you do when you know you are going to die?  

In this case, Kalanithi, who had been a biology and a literature major at Stanford before embarking on his medical training, decided to write the story of his journey and his quest to discover what made life worth living by writing this book, which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, listed as one of the best books of 2016 by the New York Times and garnered many more awards.  Sadly, Kalanithi did not live to bask in the acclaim.

He never meant to be a doctor.  He loved literature and wanted to be a writer.  And that's what he planned to do when he went to Stanford, but a chance encounter with a book that made the assumption that the mind was simply the operation of the brain startled him.

"Though we had free will, we were also biological organisms -- the brain was an organ, subject to all the laws of physics, too! Literature provided a rich account of human meaning; the brain, then, was the machinery that somehow enabled it.  It seemed like magic.  That night, in my room, I opened up my red Stanford course catalog, which I had read through dozens of times, and grabbed a highligher.  In addition to all the literature classes I had marked, I began looking in biology and neurosciences as well."

And then a few years later, with most of his degrees in English literature and biology completed, Kalanithi was driven to try to understand what makes human life meaningful?  While "literature provided the best account of the life of the mind...neuroscience laid down the most elegant rules of the brain...Literature not only illuminated another's experience, it provided, I believed, the richest material for moral reflection..." And I was once married to a guy who thought reading fiction was a waste of time!

So thus began Kalanithi's career as a doctor - the kind of doctor we would all wish to have, one who cared about his patients.

"Before operating on a patient's brain, I realized, I must first understand his mind: his identity, his values, what makes his life worth living, and what devastation makes it reasonable to let that life end."

...and the quality of their lives.

"While all doctors treat diseases, neurosurgeons work in the crucible of identity, every operation on the brain, is by necessity, a manipulation of the substance of ourselves, and every conversation with a patient undergoing brain surgery cannot help but confront this fact...the question is not simply whether to live or die but what kind of life is worth living...Because the brain mediates our experience of the world, any neurosurgical problem forces a patient and family, ideally with a doctor as a guide, to answer this question: What makes life meaningful enough to go on living?"

This is the kind of doctor we all would want.  One who is skilled in the medical field but who also understands the human side of it. 

"...the physician's duty is not to stave off death or return patients to their old lives, but to take into our arms a patient and family whose lives have disintegrated and work until they can stand back up and face, and make sense of, their own existence."

Kalanithi only lived to 36. However, we are the better for the book, and his soul will live on through it, because this will surely be the definitive work about the quest for meaning in the face of death and dying. And the book is unique as he wove his love of literature in with all of the science.  It was literature that helped him get through his treatments.

"And so it was literature that brought me back to life during this time...I woke up in pain facing another day -- no project beyond breakfast seemed tenable.  I can't go on, I thought, and immediately, its antiphon responded, completing Samuel Beckett's seven words, words I have learned long ago as an undergraduate: I'll go on.  I got out of bed and took a step forward, repeating the phrase over and over: "I can't go on. I'll go on."

Speaking of the meaning of life, I couldn't help but wonder why someone like Kalanithi who wanted to do good and live a meaningful life should only live to 37 while Charles Manson, who has come to epitomize evil, lived to 83. Sometimes life is also just so random.

This is a nice companion piece to the wonderful "Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End," which I reviewed last year.  In that book the author, Atul Gawande, another doctor, talks about how doctors are not trained to deal with death and dying but rather keeping people alive at any cost.  He believes that patients have a right to know that their time has come so they can choose how they want to spend their last years and days. I so agree with that. And so does Kalanithi, who struggled with making those kinds of decisions - to continue to try to save the patient?  At what cost?

My cousin and sister both died within the last few years and too soon.  Both had terminal cancer but were still put through horrendous procedures to try to prolong their lives.  If they had really been informed that there was nothing that could be done to save them, don't you think they would have chosen to spend their time at home with loved ones rather than rounds and rounds of doctor's appointments and procedures?

"How little do doctors understand the hells through which we put our patients."

An extraordinary doctor and extraordinary man.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Kalanithi's story is an amazing one.  Keep some hankies nearby.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday




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

as well as

the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See

Before I Die Project" 

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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.

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

Go to, 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, June 7, 2019

"Rocketman" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the Elton John biopic "Rocketman" as well as "The Perfection (now streaming on Netflix) and the DVD "The Nutcracker and the Four Realms."  The Book of the Week is "Duped: Double Lives, False Identities and the Con Man I Almost Married" by Abby Ellin.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "The Cow."]


The rise to fame of the incomparable Elton John.

It's inevitable that comparisons will be made between this film and last year's hugely successful "Bohemian Rhapsody."  Both are biopics about an amazingly talented singer/songwriter/performer with a complicated and tragic personal life, both films included stellar performances, and both films were directed by the same man, Dexter Fletcher, who stepped in to finish "Bohemian Rhapsody" when original director, Bryan Singer, was fired. But that is pretty much where the comparison of the two movies ends. 

"Bohemian Rhapsody" was a fairly straightforward story about Freddy Mercury's life and rise to fame in the legendary rock band, Queen, and the singing was confined to Mercury's on stage performances. Also Mercury's homosexuality was only briefly touch upon. 

"Rocketman" is more of a classic musical in that the songs are not confined to stage performances but rather turn up all over the place with people breaking into song at improbable moments. There is literally dancing in the street and Elton and the audience even levitate during an iconic performance.  Think "La La Land" or even some of the classic musicals of the past.  In some ways, it's a fantasy version of Elton's life. But the fantasy aspects of this film aside, I would call this movie an "autobiopic (I think I just made up a word)," because it's autobiographical.  Elton is one of the producers, and though it's clearly an homage to Elton, it is also brutally honest and raw when it comes to his personal demons and sexuality.  His issues with his sexuality play center stage as do his feelings that he was never loved "properly." When you realize that Elton gave all of this the green light, the film becomes even more poignant and heartfelt.

Elton John (Taron Egerton) was born Reginald Dwight to an indifferent father and a flaky mother. But his grandmother took an interest in him and when he showed musical promise early, he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music.  It wasn't long before he was in a band and started writing music. He didn't think Reggie Dwight was much of a rock singer name so he took the first name of one of his band mates and, when put on the spot by a musical producer for his last name, a picture of John Lennon came into view.  Enter Elton John.  But it wasn't until he met Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) that Elton's career really took off, with Bernie writing the lyrics and Elton setting them to music.  The rest is history.

However, Elton was plagued by insecurity.  He masked his insecurities and shyness with his outrageous stage costumes and wild onstage shenanigans.  He also hid his homosexuality and loneliness with drugs and alcohol and all kinds of other excesses. He was happy for a time with John Reid (Richard Madden) who became his manager and romantic partner.  However, Reid eventually took advantage of him and the two parted and Elton eventually cleaned himself up.  He has been sober for 28 years.

The film begins with Elton leaving a concert in full Elton stage regalia complete with orange sequined jumpsuit and devil horned headdress to head to an AA meeting which is used as a device for him to tell his story.  And the film ends with an epilogue covering the years following the film with pictures of Taren in the film side-by-side with pictures of Elton back in the day.  He really DID wear those clothes and he really did practically levitate off that piano!

Written by Lee Hall, I might be causing controversy here, but I liked this film more than I liked "Bohemian Rhapsody."  In fact, I loved this film.  It is a poignant, raw story of a guy whose life started out rough and who overcame his problems to find a happy ending. And then there are all of those wonderful Elton John/Bernie Taupin songs.

Taron is wonderful and nuanced as Elton especially when you consider he also did his own singing.  He is probably best known for his work in the "Kingsman" movies but here he gets the chance to really show off his acting chops. Jamie Bell is just the right partner for him as Bernie and Bryce Dallas Howard is almost unrecognizable as Elton's indifferent mother, Sheila, and that's a good thing.  She was great.  The veteran actress Gemma Jones who played Elton's grandmother always delivers and the handsome Richard Madden was just right as John Reid.

Rosy the Reviewer I said, I liked this one better than "Bohemian Rhapsody."  Even with the fantasy sequences, it seemed more real while at the same time magical.

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

Now Streaming on Netflix

The Perfection (2018)

Think "Black Swan," except this time with cellos and not as good.

Knowing this was a horror film and Alison Williams, who was in "Get Out" was in it, made me think this was going to be good.  It wasn't.

Charlotte Filmore (Williams) was a star pupil at the Bachoff Academy of music and a brilliant cellist who put her career on hold to care for her ailing mother.  Now her mother is dead and Charlotte has been called upon by her former mentor Anton Bachoff (Steven Weber) and his wife Paloma (Alaina Huffman) to act as a judge for a cello competition in Shanghai.  There she seeks out Elizabeth "Lizzie" Wells (Logan Browning), the new "best thing" in the cello world who is also a judge. Lizzie has had an acclaimed career and appears to be everything Charlotte was unable to achieve. They acknowledge each other's mutual talents and even have a bit of an affair, but it's also clear they are also rivals.

The two decide to go on a "rough and tumble" around China, so Elizabeth/Lizzie can unwind but Lizzie starts to feel sick and then becomes crazed thinking that bugs are crawling underneath her skin. She becomes so crazed that she chops off her hand.  Charlotte just happens to have a butcher knife with her.  I know. That's when they lost me. Then the film literally rewinds so we can see what happened to Lizzie and why she fell ill. I never did find out how Charlotte just happened to have that butcher knife, though. We discover that perhaps Charlotte is not the sweet girl we thought she was.  In fact, nothing is as it seems in this film.

Fast forward three weeks, there is a new wunderkind at the Academy, Charlotte is back in Boston and Lizzy is seeking revenge.  But everything gets turned around when we discover who the real evil person is here and what "The Perfection" is.

Written by Eric C. Charmelo, Richard Shepard and Nicole Snyder and directed by Shepard, the whole film is a series of twists and turns.  Just when you think you know what is going to happen, it doesn't.  Something else does. Part "Black Swan," part "Rosemary's Baby," this film is very homoerotic with touches of witchcraft and child abuse.  And if that's not enough, it's also very kinky, very camp, lots of vomiting, peeing, pooping, all very over the top.  Almost so bad it's good but not good enough for me to recommend it.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I know I say all kinds of good things about Netflix, but sometimes Netflix lets us down.  You don't need to chill with this one.


The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018)

Yet another retelling of the classic Christmas staple - "The Nutcracker."

It's Christmas Eve and Mr. Stahlbaum (Matthew Macfadyen) and his three children are celebrating. Well, as best they can because the mother has died.  But Mr. Stahlbaum gives the children the presents she had meant to give them. Clara (Mackenzie Foy), the youngest child, receives a fancy egg with a note from her mother that says the egg contains all she will ever need, but the egg needs a key to open it, and Clara doesn't have the key. 

The family then attends a party at Mr. Drosselmeyer's (Morgan Freeman).  He is an engineer so Clara asks him if he will help her open the egg.  Drosselmeyer explains that he made the egg for Clara's mother when she was young and her wish was that Clara should have it.  Later, at the party, the children are all given gifts on a string.  They must follow the string to find their gift.  Clara's string leads her into a forest where she sees a mouse -- and the key!  But the mouse scurries away and Clara follows it, much like Alice following the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole except this time instead of Wonderland, Clara finds herself in The Fourth Realm with Captain Phillip Hoffman (Jayden Fowora-Knight), who is in fact the titular Nutcracker.

Captain Hoffman introduces Clara to the rulers of the Four Realms - The Sugar Plum Fairy (Keira Knightley) who rules the Land of the Sweets; Shivers (Richard E. Grant), who rules the Land of the Snowflakes; and Hawthorne (Eugenio Derbez), who rules the Land of the Flowers.  They are all at war with The Land of Amusements which is ruled by Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren, and what she is doing in this thing god only knows)!  Clara also learns that her mother, Marie, had created this world where she was the Queen making Clara Princess and Clara is now called upon to stay and create harmony among the Four Realms.  

OK, as if all of that wasn't complicated enough, it all gets even more complicated and clumsy.

Clara's mother had also created a machine that could turn toys into real live people.  The Sugar Plum Fairy tells Clara that she needs a key to the machine so she can defend against Mother Ginger.  Clara discovers that the key to the machine is the same one she needs to open her egg, but when the key is found and Clara opens the egg she discovers that her egg is just a music box. But of course there is more and a female empowerment message.  All kinds of shenanigans ensue and it is a surprise who is evil and who isn't.

If you are familiar with the story of the Nutcracker and the ballet, this is a reworking of that story, sort of, and the first half hour was promising but then it bogged down into nonsense.

The actors were fine.  The film just had too much going on but not in a good way.  In a dull way.

The high point of the movie was Tchaikovsky's music and Misty Copeland's dancing which is used as exposition for how Clara's mother discovered the Four Realms.  The Nutcracker ballet is also used at the end of the film over the credits.  Sadly, those are the best parts of the film.  I wish the entire film had been the music and the dancing.

Written by Ashleigh Powell and directed by Lasse Hallstrom, though Joe Johnston mysteriously did reshoots and received co-directing credit, the film has a steampunk feel (is that still a thing?), but all in all, not a very engaging story.  Despite the great costumes by award-winner Jenny Beavan and the makeup (loved Keira's cotton candy hair), beautiful cinematography by Linus Sandgren, that lush Tchaikovsky score and colorful set decoration (Lisa Chugg), I don't think this will be a Christmas classic. It was kind of a dud. Go see the ballet instead.

And let me rant for a moment.  I haven't done that lately and feel the need. 

With the most recent Disney live action remake, "Aladdin," in theatres now, with "Cinderella (2015)," "Beauty and the Beast (2017)" and "Dumbo (2019)" behind us, and "The Lion King" on the horizon, Disney clearly wants to cash in on its cash cows by remaking those animated classics into live action.  Sadly, some are successful and some aren't.  And when they aren't, I feel that my childhood favorite movies are somehow tarnished.  My message to Disney:  Stop it!

Rosy the Reviewer says...this film is one reason I just wish Disney would stop remaking classic stories.

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

92 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

The Cow (1969)

This is what happens when you fall in love with a cow!

Well, maybe not in love exactly, but let's just say that Hassan (Ezzatolah Entezami) has a "very special relationship" with his cow.  He lovingly bathes her in the river, talking to her endearingly, plays with her in the barn and sleeps with her at night. His poor wife.  He calls her "woman" and would rather sleep with the cow. 

However, Hassan's love idyl with the cow comes to an end when he goes off for the day and the cow dies.  His wife and the villagers don't know what to do.  They know the loss of the cow will be a huge blow to Hassan.  His cow is the only cow in the poor village and Hassan's whole persona and sense of privilege is tied up with that cow, so they concoct a plan to tell him the cow ran away. They bury the cow and wait for Hassan to return.

When Hassan returns he doesn't believe that his beloved cow would run away and is so distraught, he goes mad and becomes the cow!

As strange as this movie sounds, I really understand Hassan's love for his cow.  That's how I feel about my little Tarquin. 

And speaking of the cow...I have to give kudos to the cow, the real one.  If she wasn't really dead, she sure played dead very well.  I mean, how do you get a cow to act?

Written and directed by Dariush Mehrjui, this is an odd little film that smacks of Italian Neorealism. It won acclaim at the Venice Film Festival in 1971.  It was also twice voted the best Iranian film ever made by a survey of Iranian film critics.  However, I have to wonder just how many Iranian film critics are there?

Why it's a Must See: "Rumor has it that after seeing [this film], the Ayatollah Khomeini opined that perhaps there might be a place for filmmaking in the Islamic Republic...[This was] the first Iranian feature film to attract international attention."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...despite the implausibility and strangeness, surprisingly poignant and effective.

(b & w, in Farsi with English subtitles) 

***The Book of the Week***

Duped: Double Lives, False Identities and the Con Man I Almost Married by Abby Ellin (2019)

Yet another woman "duped" by a man pretending to be someone he isn't.

Ellin tells her story of meeting the Commander, being caught in his spell and falling in love.  He told her he was a military hero, involved in international espionage and all kinds of other tall tales, but as his story fell apart, Ellin was able to disentangle herself and share her story.  It was then that she discovered she was not alone, that there have been many people deceived by their loved ones - gaslighting is a real thing - which led to Ellin doing research on the psychology behind the great imposters: why people lie, how they lie and how common this kind of thing really is.

And it is. I can't tell you how many times as a librarian I was asked by customers to verify that someone had won the Medal of Honor.  There really are people out there walking around bragging about being war heroes.

In addition to her own story, Ellin shares the stories of some of the most famous and notorious of the imposters and those who lived double lives: Kim Philby, the British spy who was also working for the Russians and was so good at playing his role that when it was uncovered, his friends and neighbors were flabberghasted; Ferdinand Wado Demara Jr. AKA "The Great Imposter," who took on other people's identities, passing himself off as a monk, a doctor on a naval ship, a professor and even a cancer researcher; and Frank Abagnale, who inspired the book and movie "Catch Me If You Can." Then there  were those who faked their own deaths: Peter Young, who faked his own death to escape prison and John Darwin, a British ex-prison officer who "disappeared" to escape his mountains of debt.

But it's Ellin's own story which is a fascinating one, especially the great lengths the Commander went to pull the wool over her eyes. And to Ellin's credit and amazing ability to put herself on the line in this book, she admits that IT HAPPENED TO HER AGAIN!  Not long after breaking up with the Commander, she met another guy who bamboozled her but to her credit not for long. 

This is not just Ellin's personal story but the stories of many who have been caught up in a web of lies by a duplicitous partner, people who were smart and self-aware and could never believe they could be deceived.  She shares how and why this happens to smart people, how gullible we can be and how it's OK to be a little skeptical. It just might save your life. 

So how does this happen?  How come we are so gullible?

Well, in many cases, it's in our DNA to believe people.  But more importantly, we just don't pay attention. There are holes in our perception.  Take for example, the many tests people are given to pay attention to one action while something else enters the picture - and no one notices.  An example is "The Case of the Invisible Gorilla."  Six people, three in white shirts, three in black are filmed playing basketball.  Observers are told to count the number of passes the people in the white shirts make.  All of a sudden a person in a gorilla suit saunters into view and thumps his chest.  Would you notice the gorilla?  Of course you would.  But in fact, half of the people told to watch the basketball players in the white shirts did NOT notice the gorilla.  The researchers concluded that we miss much of what goes on around us and, worse, we have no idea what we are missing.

So what do we do?

Well, for one, pay attention!  But as Ellin says, it's OK to be a bit paranoid.  Also there are scientific studies and even classes where you can learn how to detect lying. You look for nonverbal clues, clusters of actions that all add up, watching for qualifying words, non-answer statements and asking follow up questions.  But even with that, science also shows that it's very difficult to tell when someone is lying.  Lie detectors are not even 100%. So the bottom line is, you may be smart, you may be aware, but you can still be gaslit.

So next time you watch Dr. Phil (I already confessed to watching the occasional Dr. Phil so stop your tut-tutting) where some poor old lady has given all of her money to a Nigerian scammer because she thought he was the hot military guy who approached her on Facebook or "Catfish (one of my favorite shows), where a young girl living on a farm near Dubuque thinks the model in NYC who she had never met was going to marry her, have a little compassion. Instead of thinking what losers these people are and laughing at them, just remember it could happen to you.

"No one really gets it unless they've been duped themselves.  They don't understand what it's like to believe in someone and be utterly, completely mistaken.  To discover that the person closest to you is actively working against you.  One of the main reasons to be in a relationship is to have someone who's got your back...There's scant support for people who've been hoodwinked, little to reassure them -- us -- that they're not the only fool walking the earth."

Rosy the Reviewer says...So bottom line, be skeptical and watch your own back!

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday




The Week in Reviews

(What To See and What To Avoid)

as well as

the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See

Before I Die Project" 

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