Friday, March 20, 2020

"Emma" and the Week in Reviews

[I review yet another version of Jane Austen's "Emma" as well as DVDs "Dark Waters" and "Terminator: Dark Fate."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Frederick Wiseman's documentary "High School."]


A young rich girl gets her kicks interfering with the love lives of her family and friends.

Jane Austen's "Emma" has already been made into a movie and mini-series six times and this is the seventh.  Was it necessary?

I'm not sure.

With the popularity of such shows as "Downton Abbey" and "Young Victoria," it seems we can't get enough of British costume dramas.  And most of the time, I am one of those people, except, this time, sitting in the theatre watching this film I couldn't help but feel, in light of the current state of the world, well, kind of silly.  I am not sure how I would have viewed this film in a different climate, at a time when I didn't have to worry about catching the coronavirus from the person sitting next to me or what was going to happen if everything shut down because of it.

Anyway, the film once again tells the story of young Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy), a very rich, very pretty and very vain young woman who lives with her father (Bill Nighy) on a lovely English estate.  She is losing her friend and former governess, Miss Taylor (Gemma Whelan), to marriage to Mr. Weston (Rupert Graves), but she is comforted by the fact that she was the one who introduced them. You see, Emma enjoys matchmaking.  She also prides herself on the fact that she herself is not the least bit interested in getting married. She has all of the money she needs, and since she knows what's best for everyone, she keeps busy meddling in their affairs.

So now on to the next bit of matchmaking - her young friend Harriet Smith (Mia Goth) to Mr. Elton (Josh O'Connor), the local vicar.  But that match is complicated by the fact that Harriet has a crush on Mr. Martin (Connor Swindells), a local farmer, and he likes Harriet too. In fact, he likes her so much, he has asked her to marry him. But Emma will have none of it.  A farmer?  I think not. So Emma talks the young and impressionable Harriet out of marrying Mr. Martin in favor of Mr. Elton, the local vicar. But what Emma doesn't know is that Elton actually wants Emma and has no intention of marrying Harriet, and when Emma rejects Mr. Elton, he leaves town and returns with a snobby wife (Tanya Reynolds). Harriet is very unhappy about all of this.  Not only has she lost Mr. Elton, but she has rejected Mr. Martin and now she has no one and it's all Emma's fault.  Meanwhile, Emma has a rather fractious relationship with her sister's brother-in-law, Mr. Nightly (Johnny Flynn), a childhood friend who lives just across the pasture from Emma and who has no problem telling Emma off when he feels she has gone too far. Those are two very attractive individuals who don't seem to like each other. Gee, I wonder what's going to happen there.

All kinds of complications ensue: Emma has her eye on Frank Churchill (Callum Turner), Mr. Weston's handsome son, as does the accomplished but poor Miss Jane Fairfax (Amber Anderson), who has come to visit her Aunt Miss Bates (Miranda Hart) and her elderly grandmother (Myra McFadyen), and when Mr. Nightly saves Harriet from an encounter with some gypsies, Harriet sets her sights on him. But then, as if we haven't already guessed this would happen, Emma has suddenly started to like Mr. Nightly too. All kinds of meddling for Emma, who thinks she is doing everyone a favor (so let's not talk about her jealousy of Jane Fairfax), but when Emma insults Miss Bates, a chatty but kind airhead, and Nightly calls her to task about it, Emma starts to have an inkling that maybe she isn't a very nice person after all and that her matchmaking is actually hurting people.

Screenwriter Eleanor Catton has faithfully adapted from Austen's novel and wonderfully captures Austen's often used theme - flawed characters who lack self awareness but eventually see the error of their ways and try to make things right - and Autumn de Wilde, in her directorial feature film debut has made a film that is absolutely gorgeous to look at, in part because of the lovely town of Lower Slaughter, where it was filmed.  As I was watching the film, I thought it looked very familiar so as soon as I got home I looked up the production details and yes, there it was - Lower Slaughter, my all-time favorite Cotswold town, where I have been many times, traversing the lovely sheep meadow between Lower Slaughter and Upper Slaughter and pretending I lived there.

The film plays like a beautiful painting with every shot framed to perfection and the screenplay is humorously faithful to Austen, and the actors lovely to look at and quite delightful.

So what's not to like?

As I said earlier, these are terrible times and watching a bunch of beautiful rich people whose only concerns were who was going to marry whom just didn't cut it for me.  I think I need to see this again when I don't have to worry about catching something or the state of the world.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a beautifully produced period film.  If you enjoyed "Downton Abbey" or other Jane Austen films, you will probably enjoy this, but considering the state of things, you will have to wait for it on DVD.
(Or get it On Demand for $19.95.  Due to the coronavirus, many first-run movies are available On Demand, for a price, of course)

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


Dark Waters (2019)

Mark Ruffalo plays Robert Bilott, a Cincinnatti attorney, who reluctantly takes on the chemical behemoth, Dupont, in this true story of man vs. corporation.

It's 1998 and Robb Bilott has just been made partner at Taft Stettinius & Hollister, considered Cincinnati's most prestigious law firm, when Wilbur Tennant (Bill Camp, who employs an effective but almost unintelligible Appalachian accent), when a farmer from Parkersburg, West Virginia, shows up at his office wanting to see him.  He has some VHS tapes he wants him to see, because he is sure that the Dupont company, which operates in Parkersburg, has been poisoning his land and killing his cows.  Bilott doesn't want to help until Tennant invokes Bilott's grandmother's name who lives in Parkersburg, so Bilott reluctantly heads to West Virginia to see what is happening for himself.  When he arrives he learns that 190 of Tennant's cows have died with strange medical conditions: bloated organs, blackened teeth and tumors.

Ironically, Bilott files a small lawsuit on Tennant's behalf.  It's ironic because his law firm represents big corporations and one of those big corporations is Dupont.  But Bilott wants to do Tennant a favor and thinks he will "get in and get out"and that will be that, but what he doesn't know is that in so doing he will set off a string of events that will obsess him and culminate in years of lawsuits against Dupont.

Dupont sends Bilott hundreds of boxes of discovery documents in hopes of burying the lawsuit, but they don't know who they are dealing with.  Bilott methodically goes through those boxes and eventually discovers numerous references to something called PFOA, which turns out to be perfluorooctanoic acid which was being used to manufacture Teflon.  You know, those nonstick pans we love so much?  Turns out in addition to keeping our food from sticking to our pans, the PFOA used to manufacture Teflon also caused cancer and birth defects.  Dupont knew this but never let it be known.  They also dumped hundreds of gallons of toxic sludge near Tennant's farm.  PFOA is a forever chemical, meaning that once in our blood stream it never leaves and even slowly accumulates.

To make matters worse, Parkersburg, West Virginia, was a company town, a Dupont company town, so the townsfolk are not happy with Tennant for suing their biggest employer but he perseveres because he wants justice.  Bilott also  manages to get medical monitoring for all residents in a large class action suit, having no idea that seven years will pass before he gets the evidence that he needs to take on Dupont.

This film, directed by Todd Haynes, seems like a departure for him.  He is best known for stylish films like "Far from Heaven" and "Carol," films reminiscent of the glamorous Douglas Sirk meodramas of the 1950's, where Haynes exposed the secrets his seemingly upright characters were hiding.  This  is one of those whistleblower films in the tradition of "Silkwood" and "Erin Brokovich," but he exposes secrets here, too, the secrets that Dupont kept from the public as it went about polluting the environment. Adapted from Nathaniel Rich's New York Times magazine article "The Lawyer Who Became Dupont's Worst Nightmare" by screenwriters Mario Correa and Matthew Michael Carnahan, this is a traditional whistleblower film that went on a bit too long and had a few holes, but it is still an engrossing and important film. Ruffalo does a good job playing a man caught up in circumstance.  I was never a big fan of Ruffalo, thinking he was just too laid back of an actor for me, but here he shows his acting chops and visually takes on the character of a little man fighting the big corporate machine.

Oh, and in case you are wondering, PFOA is no longer used to make Teflon.  Teflon has been PFOA free since 2013.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like whistleblower films where big corporations get what's coming to them, you will enjoy this.

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)

A rehash of the first "Terminator," except this time we have liquid terminators and more than one badass woman!

There have been four sequels to the Terminator franchise since the first one in 1984, which made Arnold Schwarzenegger a star, not to mention the phrase "I'll be back" entering the American lexicon, but don't worry.  You don't have to remember what happened in all of them to get this one.  This one totally forgets sequels #3, #4 and #5 and basically does a remake of the first one starting up where sequel #2 - "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" left off.  But it would help if you remembered the first two.

I am starting to get irritated at these sequels and remakes that take 30 years to get made.  Who can remember what happened 30 years ago? I can't. I remember seeing the first film and don't think I saw the second one, so I either have to go back and remind myself or be totally confused.  Since I didn't go back and remind myself, I was totally confused.  But this sequel is basically a rehash of the first Terminator: a bad robot has come from the future to kill a woman who will eventually become a resistance leader and someone else has come from the future to try to save her.

Dani (Natalia Reyes) is happily living her life in Mexico City until she meets Grace (Mackenzie Davis), an "enhanced" human who has literally fallen from the sky from the year 2042 to save her from an advanced terminator, a Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna), who is out to kill her because she is a threat to the machines in the future. Sound familiar?  In the meantime, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) has lost her son, John, who she saved in the first film, and is a terminator hunter.  She has been getting strange messages about the locations of arriving terminators, all with the message "For John."  Have I lost you yet?  I was totally lost for most of the film and you will be, too, if you haven't seen the first film. But fortunately about 40 minutes in, Sarah recaps it - a terminator was sent to kill her to stop her from giving birth to her son who would eventually grow up to lead the human resistance against Skynet, the AI's that were supposed to wipe out humans. She was able to fight off the terminator and save the world. But now she is older, and I would add, a bit bitter. Here she went to all of that trouble, saved billions of people and now, she laments, she if forced to hunt terminators and drinks until she blacks out.  Sarah is not a happy camper.

Anyway, for the first 30 minutes of confusion, at least there was carnage and a car chase involving a big garbage truck and going the wrong way on the freeway and the robot getting blasted and then morphing into all kinds of things. So ther was lots of action, and it also became apparent during those first 30 minutes that it's difficult to fight off a robot whose sole purpose in life is to kill you.  

But I don't like movies that make me wait 30+ minutes to discover what the hell is going on. Since Arnold's picture is on the movie poster, I couldn't stop wondering when Arnold was going to show up.  And speaking of Arnold, there is a certain amount of homage to the first film.  When Sarah shows up and lays waste, she, wait, let's all say it together..."I'll be back." And speaking of Sarah - I can't really remember if I thought Linda Hamilton was a good actress or not when I saw the first film.  But here she says her lines like she is in a cartoon.  Is she a bad actress or should I blame the dialogue?  Not sure.  But she actually is in a cartoon, so I guess it's not her fault.

Finally, an hour and fifteen minutes in, Arnold shows up.  He is now "Carl," - Carl? -  and he gets to say, "I won't be back." And I think he forgot his acting lesson, too. Geez, can this thing get any worse?

Based on James Cameron's (he directed the first two) and others' original story and reworked by David S. Goyer, Justin Rhodes and Billy Ray (Goyer and Rhodes both worked on the original story) and directed by Tim Miller, all I could think of watching this is that people must sometimes go to movies just for the action - to see car chases and things getting blown up - because this film, despite the fact that it stars some badass women, is really all action and very, very little substance.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you were dying to see Sarah Connor again and wondered what happened to Arnold as the original Terminator, you might like this but otherwise, it's a no.

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

38 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

High School (1968)

A look inside a Philadephia high school in 1968.

Director Frederick Wiseman is a documentarian who has filmed over 40 documentaries in the last 50+ years. He concentrates mostly on America's institutions.  In 2017, critic A.O. Scott of the New York Times considered him "one of the most important and original filmmakers working today."  I am a huge fan of documentaries, so I found that interesting considering I hated his most recent film, "Monrovia, Indiana."  Even more interesting is the fact that I rather liked this one, which was only his second film.

Wiseman employs the documentary technique of cinema verite, where the filmmaker uses no narration and the camera captures the reality, leaving the viewer to make his or her own judgments. 

This is a day-in-the-life of Northeast High School, a predominantly white high school in Philadelphia in 1968.  Wiseman films a Spanish class, band, a French class, English class where I swear the teacher read the entire poem "Casey at the Bat (was that really necessary to read the whole thing?)," choir, a cooking class for boys and a fashion show for the girls, where the director has no problem telling a young girl her legs are too fat for the short dress she is wearing.  The sex ed classes are cringe-worthy, especially the one for the boys where a male gynecologist makes some comments about girls and sex that would certainly not play in any high school today.  We also see the vice principal dealing with two boys who had a fight, one who didn't want to put on his gym clothes, a girl who had the audacity to wear a short dress to Prom, and a counseling session with parents and their daughter.

It's all very banal and, despite the lack of narration, it's not difficult to draw the conclusion that Wiseman does not approve of the education that these kids are getting and that the teachers and administrators are not fostering any self-expression or critical thinking. It's also an interesting look at gender roles - the boys study rocket science, the girls do a fashion show. But it's also very voyeuristic. I couldn't get over how Wiseman used extreme close-ups on faces, as in right up peoples' noses, but also on the crotches and butts of the young girls dancing around in their gym class, something that seemed unnecessary and was quite distracting. 

But, the film had a hypnotic quality, and I felt that Wiseman had captured a moment in time, a time when earning $9000 a year made for a semi-comfortable life (and most people didn't even make that much), and kids had not yet become embroiled in the revolution that was to come.  

Interestingly, Wiseman had also captured a moment in time that I lived.  I graduated in 1966 so this brought back many memories of my own high school experience and, thank goodness, I did have a good education there that did foster self-expression and critical thinking, though gender roles were still very defined. I also remember some teachers who did things that teachers would certainly not get away with today. One very popular English teacher had a name plate on his desk that said "God."

It's funny that everyone thinks that the 1960's was the age of hippies and revolution.  Actually, most of the 1960's consisted of the Beach Boys, mini-skirts and boys just starting to grow their hair long. So this film was interesting as it documents those last moments before riots, hippies, free love and drugs seemed to take over. Here, there are hints of what is to come but mostly these kids are just trying to get through high school.

Watching this film, I had an epiphany about the films included in the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book.  I complain a lot about many of them and question their inclusion, but I have come to realize that I need to view these films in the context of the time in which they were produced. e.g. how audacious was this film for the time it was made?  And how influential did it become? In this case, Wiseman, in only his second film, was an early adapter of cinema verite, letting his audience be a fly on the wall as a 1960's high school went about its business. That was something new for its day. So I can appreciate a film when I think about it that way. But I still wish I had been spared some of those avante-garde and experimental films I have endured!

Why it's a Must See: "Frederick Wiseman's second film is one of the most horrifying and ambiguous of his institutional studies...[But]...The portrait isn't entirely negative...Above all, Wiseman's filmmaking, sensitive to how his subjects reveal themselves, respects the humanity of even the most reprehensible among them."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...a fascinating look back in time.
(In b & w)

Thanks for reading!

See you Tuesday


"What To Watch While You Are Sheltering In Place" 
(Coronavirus 2020)


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, March 13, 2020

"The Way Back" and the Week in Reviews

[I review the new Ben Affleck movie "The Way Back" as well as DVDs "Queen & Slim" and "Married Life." The Book of the Week is a novel: "The Turn of the Key" by Ruth Ware.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Heaven and Earth Magic."]

The Way Back

An alcoholic ex-high school basketball star who walked away from the game is asked to come back to his alma mater and coach the team.

Jack Cummingham (Ben Affleck) was a high school basketball star, leading his team at Bishop Hayes catholic high school to the championships four years in a row.  But he walked away from the game, turning away from a college scholarship, and now works construction...and drinks...A LOT!  So much that he keeps a beer in his shower. Jack is an unhappy man whose life has taken a bad turn. So when he is asked to come back to his high school and coach the struggling basketball team, Jack has a chance at redemption.  Will he rise to the occasion?

Bishop Hayes is a small Catholic high school with a small losing basketball team. The team consists of quiet but talented Brandon Durrett (Brandon Wilson), who has an unhappy home life; Kenny Dawes (Will Ropp), the school lothario who tells every girl he is thinking of her when he shoots baskets; cocky Marcus (Melvin Gregg), who has a chip on his shoulder; Chubbs Hendricks (Charles Lott Jr.), so named because, he's well chubby; handsome Bobby Freeze (Ben Irving); and team captain, Sam Garcia (Fernando Luis Vega).  None of them has much discipline or game, but when Jack takes over the team, he slowly but surely teaches them that it's the small things, doing the small things well every time that will lead to victory.  So Jack is a good coach but he has a problem keeping his anger and swearing in check, something that doesn't go over well with the team chaplain. I mean, it's a Catholic high school, after all. But despite Jack's edginess, slowly but surely the team starts coming back. And Jack has an impact on each of these boys' lives.

In the meantime, though, Jack has to deal with his alcoholism. We learn that he has demons in his past that are tormenting him. He is a damaged guy but a good guy. He helps each of the boys, but can't seem to help himself. Watching this film I was reminded how we so often have no idea the impact we are having on others through small acts of kindess, and despite how much Jack is suffering, his humanity and empathy wills out.

Written by Brad Ingelsby and directed by Gavin O'Connor, one can't help but compare this film to "Hoosiers," or many other sports films.  A flawed coach with a dark past, small school with an underdog basketball team, the team overcoming odds, the winning point at the buzzer, etc. But despite the sports film tropes we have all come to expect, this film rises above them. O'Connor's direction of the basketball games gives the viewer a you-are-there feeling.  They are real and exciting.  I was all in and I don't even really like sports!

However, the heart of this film is Ben Affleck, and I would think this film is a bit of redemption for him, too, as he has famously struggled with an addiction of his own. He pulls no punches when it comes to Jack's alcoholism.  But I was also reminded what a good actor Affleck is.  It's his ability to show vulnerability and realness that elevates this film above other sports films. I think it's one of the best performances of his career.

Rosy the Reviewer says...predictable sports film but Gavin O'Connor's direction and Ben's performance make it one of the best.

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


Queen & Slim (2019)

A Tinder date gone very wrong.

Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) is a young attorney who has just lost a case and her client got the death penalty.  So what do you do when you are depressed?  Why, you go on Tinder and find a date.  Queen finds Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) and when we meet them they are on their first date at a diner.  Queen isn't that impressed with Slim, especially since he prays before he eats and makes noise when he chews.  She is indeed a Queen and acts like one. These two are not well-suited to each other and will probably never see each other again.

But then...on their way home, Slim is stopped by a racist police officer.  Slim complies to all of his orders, but Queen is not having it.  When the cop opens the trunk to search it, Queen asks him if he has a warrant, and when Slim asks the cop to hurry up because he is cold, that really pisses the cop off and he pulls out his gun. Queen demands his badge number and when she reaches for her cell phone to film the incident, the cop shoots her in the leg. Slim and the cop skuffle and one thing leads to another, with Slim grabbing the cop's gun and shooting him.  And there you have it.  The misery of driving while black in the United States of America. And knowing what their fate will probably be - living while black in America - Queend and Slim, two young people who have just met, take off and go on the run, knowing they can now never turn back.

Quite a first date. Quite a way to get to know someone.

The two head to New Orleans to Queen's Uncle's house.  Not a good feeling about this.  We have two good kids caught in a bad situation exacerbated by one bad decision after another.  This is one of those frustrating films that you know is not going to end well with each bad decision leading to another bad situation to yet another bad decision and on and on.  It's one of those films where you want to yell at the screen, "No, no, no!"

  • First they run out of gas and are picked up by an off duty sheriff.   No-o-o.
  • When the sheriff figures out who they are, they kidnap the sheriff. No-o-o.
  • They accidentally hit a guy and take him to the hospital.               No-o-o.
  • They stop at a bar.  Slim doesn't drink but then he does.              No-o-o.
  • They decide to go to Cuba and trust a guy to get them there.       No-o-o.

Queen and Slim are on the run with a $500,000 reward on their heads but as they make their way from Cleveland to New Orleans to Florida, and eventually, they hope, to Cuba, the dash cam video of the cop altercation is made public and their story hits a chord with the public.  They become folk heroes, a modern version of Bonnie and Clyde.

Kaluuya made a big splash in "Get Out" and has proven to be a reliable actor. Turner-Smith is a newcomer to feature films, having spent the last couple of years on TV, but this film has made her a star.  The two have screen chemistry and incredible presence.

Directed by Melina Matsoukas and written by Lena Waithe, the current darling of the screenwriting world, this is clearly an indictment of not just driving while black in America but being black in America.

Rosy the Reviewer intense, special film about race in the United States that is also a reminder to stay away from Tinder.

Married Life (2007)

Who knew that "married life" involved lying, affairs and plotting your wife's murder?

Writer/director Ira Sachs apparently thinks that's how it works in this stylish, 1940's noir look at a married man, his love for his mistress, and his plot to murder his wife to save her from the humiliation and suffering of divorce. Now that's a good one!  (Sachs, with Oren Moverman, has adapted the story from John Bingham's 1955 novel "Five Roundabouts to Heaven.")

Harry (Chris Cooper) and Pat (Patricia Clarkson) have been married for a long time, but as happens in longtime marriages, they have parted ways emotionally.  Pat thinks sex is the most important thing in a marriage; Harry wants more emotion and connection.  So Harry has found Kay (Rachel McAdams), who fulfills those needs (it doesn't hurt that she is much younger than Pat), and he wants out of his marriage so he can marry Kay.  But divorce doesn't seem to be an option.  Killing Pat seems to be the best option.  Seems like an episode of "Dateline!" So Harry sets about poisoning Pat.

All of this is observed by Richard, Harry's best friend (Pierce Brosnan), a long-time bachelor and lothario. But wouldn't you know, Richard has a hankering for Kay too, so he wants to make sure Pat and Harry stay married, and while Kay languishes in her safe house, only seeing Harry when he can get away from Pat, Richard moves in on her.  Meanwhile, it seems Pat is doing a little dilly dallying of her own!  Such is married life!

Not sure how I missed this film the first time around, since this is the kind of story I enjoy.  I especially enjoy Pierce Brosnan, who just seems to be getting more handsome and suave as he gets older. Despite the fact that I don't approve of smoking, he certainly looks sexy with a ciggie hanging out of his mouth.  Speaking of which, I haven't seen this much smoking in a film since Bogart was still around.  This film also highlights Chris Cooper as a leading man, which is a rarity.  He has practically cornered the market as a tortured character actor. Rachel McAdams' career took off after "The Notebook," but has slowed down a bit in recent years and that's too bad, because she is a lovely actress.  And Patricia Clarkson?  I don't know what it is, but she seems to be a source of controversy.  She is one of those actors that people either really like or just detest. Not sure why. But the four form a great ensemble in a film that is a cross between film noir and those great romantic potboilers of the 1950's.

Pat says something interesting in the film. You marry a man and make him into the kind of husband you want which makes it even harder when he runs off with another woman.  Now that woman gets to enjoy the man you created.  I had that feeling once.  Long story.

Last week, I reviewed "Frankie," Sach's latest film, which couldn't be more different from this one.  Where "Frankie" had little in the way of plot, lots and lots of walking and talking, and (sorry) frankly lumbered along and was quite boring, this one moves along at a fast pace, has an interesting plot and a sense of humor.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a rather jaundiced view of marriage but a sweet film at the same time.

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

39 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Heaven and Earth Magic (1962)

Described on IMDB as "A series of surreal cutout animation imagery, largely without a discernable narrative."

Oh, geez. Not another avante-garde film! 

Director Harry Smith, who died in 1991, was a visual artist, experimental filmmaker, record collector, bohemian and mystic.  He was an important figure in the Beat Generation in NYC and is credited with anticipating some aspects of the Hippie movement.  In addition to his experimental films, he is also known for his influential "Anthology of American Folk Music," which was drawn from his extensive collection of out-of-print commercial 78 rpm recordings.

This is one of his most famous film efforts and consists of a series of abstract animated cutouts that reminded me of some aspects of Monty Python and a really irritating soundtrack.  My favorite kind of film.  NOT!  After enduring 60 minutes of this, I couldn't understand why someone would make such a film or why anyone would want to watch it, though it is visually interesting...if you are on acid!

But after seeing a picture of Smith, I maybe have a better idea of why the film was made. 

Why it's a Must See: "Harry Smith is perhaps the least known major figure of American avant-garde cinema.  His films reflect a fascination with alchemy and the occult...[He] attempted to short-circuit the processes of logic and explicit linearity, entering into the realm of the subconscious, automatic, and symbolic."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

If that's the best they can do to explain why this film is one I need to see before I die...

Rosy the Reviewer says...

(Available on YouTube, but you don't need to see this.  Trust me)

***The Book of the Week***

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware (2019)

A young woman takes a nanny job in the Scottish Highlands only to end up in prison for murder.  How did that happen?

Rowan Caine is in prison writing a very long letter to a lawyer, hoping he can help her.  She is charged with killing a child and claims she is innocent.

It all started when she stumbled across an ad for a nanny in the Scottish Highlands.  The salary and benefits seemed too good to be true but Rowan's life wasn't really going anywhere in London so she took a chance and applied -- and got the job!  So there she was in the beautiful Scottish Highlands in a beautiful house with a beautiful family.  What could go wrong?


So as she writes to the lawyer from prison, the story unfolds.  All kinds of strange things happen in that house and the children are hardly perfect.  Left alone for weeks at a time in the strange house with Jack, the strange handyman, what seemed to be a perfect job has turned into a perfect nightmare.

I am clearly a fan of Ware.  I have reviewed her earlier books "The Lying Game," "The Death of Mrs. Westaway," and "The Woman in Cabin 10," and enjoyed them all, though some more than others.  She is a Brit who writes page-turners that would all make great movies. Her characters are well-drawn, the dialogue is believable and there are twists and turns you won't see coming. 

This is one of those stories in a long line of stories featuring young women brought into a spooky household and terrorized. Think of Henry James' "The Turn of the Screw," which just had a recent film remake with the  "The Turning," which I reviewed last January, but this one has some surprises. And it will make a great movie!

Rosy the Reviewer Ware's other books, a page-turner!

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.