Posts Tagged ‘movies’

A Star Is BornI saw A Star Is Born (2018) without a lot of preconceptions. I never saw the 1976 version with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. And I’d all but forgotten the existence of the 1954 iteration with Judy Garland and James Mason. Both were mentioned in the credits. According to the IMBD, the 1937 take with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, which I was totally unfamiliar with, is NOT credited.

The current film was really solid from the beginning when we first meet Ally (Lady Gaga). She is a shy performer who lives with her loving, though blowhard, father Lorenzo (Andrew Dice Clay).

By chance, she meets Jackson (Bradley Cooper), a superstar singer and guitar player. The movie, from the beginning until when Ally finally goes on the big stage, I love.

After that, A Star Is Born is pretty solid, though there are probably a couple scenes the director (Bradley Cooper) or one of the writers (including Cooper) might have trimmed. Still, not bad for a first-time director. Lady Gaga is excellent; expect an Oscar nod. Cooper is a very good singer in the country-rock genre.

They weren’t the first stars attached to this project over the years.

Clay, a comedian I didn’t like in the day, I thought was quite fine. And Sam Elliot is always great; here he plays Jack’s protective older brother Bobby.

But a technical glitch at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany diminished the experience. It wasn’t the quality of the filmmaking, it was the quality of the film. It stuttered – think of a compact disc that is stuck – at least six times during the previews.

It happened at least five times during the movie itself, usually not in critical points, although there was an important scene near the end which was negatively affected.

It stuttered so often during the closing credits that I, a huge credits fan, left after the 12th interruption. I know others had already complained, but we went to the concession stand to add our voices. We were told the theater thought it was only on the preview section, not the film itself.

Also, they didn’t want to disappoint viewers by canceling the showing. Guess what: We WERE disappointed that they DIDN’T cancel. I also went online to complain, and to the Landmark Theatre’s credit, they mailed me coupons good for two movie tickets and two small bags of popcorn.

Fahrenheit 11 9.The family saw Fahrenheit 11/9 at the Spectrum Theater this month. I knew it was going to be heavily about the guy currently running the regime, but it was a lot more than that.

In fact, what filmmaker Michael Moore said about him early on was, as Moore noted, known or at least knowable. OK, there was one thing I was not aware of, involved Gwen Stefani. The filmmaker did confirm what I suspected about the motivation for the candidate’s campaign run.

Moore showed Michigan governor Rick Snyder, a Republican elected in 2010, as a prototype for the former Apprentice star. The agendas were similar: reduce democracy, big tax breaks for the rich, “remove services from the people, especially from the poor. There’s a racial element to it” as well, as seen painfully in the Flint water crisis that his administration created.

One of the members of my church who saw Fahrenheit 11/9 before I did, complained that Barack Obama came to Flint and did nothing. I disagree; he deflated people’s hopes, and in an unnecessary manner.

Even though I noted it in this blog at the time, listening to now-former CBS head honcho Les Moonves tout the great ratings the reality show guy was creating for the network was really revolting. Likewise that interview Matt Lauer did of the party’s presidential candidates in the summer of 2016; he was unrelenting about Hillary’s emails but offered up softballs to the Republican. Ditto Charlie Rose’s coverage. All three, not so incidentally, were ousted from their positions as sexual predators.

The news outlets, as my friend Dan noted, presented “him nonstop as an entertaining TV personality full of outrageous antics while suppressing mention of other candidates… that is, besides a coordinated campaign of negatives about Ms. Clinton as a sideshow.” The reality show host was able to “normalize” some outrageous behavior.

“Also, [Moore] convincingly demonstrates that Bernie Sanders actually won more than half a dozen other states in the Primary election, but” the use of the superdelegates undermined the will of the electorate. “For example, Mr. Sanders won all 55 counties in the West Virginia Primary…”

Can we stop this “calculated slide into fascism and chaos”? A stream of often young, frequently female candidates, give hope, though the pushback from establishment Democrats, embodied here by House party whip Steny Hoyer, makes one wonder.

I’ve seen a lot of Michael Moore films over the years. This one is less optimistic than most, but perhaps that’s the nature of the situation. If you like Moore’s work, you’ll probably appreciate – enjoy isn’t the right word – Fahrenheit 11/9. If you hate his documentaries, you’ll likely despise this movie.

My wife and I are probably the perfect demographic, a teacher and a librarian, for a movie such as The Bookshop. And note the protagonist’s surname. The story takes place in 1959 England, where a determined widow Florence Green (Emily Mortimer) decides to open a bookstore in a coastal town.

She does this with little help, save for a schoolgirl named Christine (Honor Kneafsey), and in spite of the keen opposition of Violet Gamart (Patricia Clarkson), wife of a general (Reg Wilson). But she has a fan in Edmund Brundish, a reclusive book-loving widower (Bill Nighy), to whom she introduces the works of Ray Bradbury and Vladimir Nabokov.

There is also a slick, morally unmoored character Mr. Keble (Hunter Tremayne), who slithers in and out of scenes.

The Bookshop is based on Penelope Fitzgerald’s novel and directed by Isabel Coixet (Learning to Drive). I think my wife enjoyed the film as “an elegant yet incisive rendering of personal resolve, tested in the battle for the soul of a community.”

Alas, I found it rather bland and often lugubrious. Some critics believe it hewed too closely to the source material, which we had not read.

Moreover, the business librarian in me couldn’t understand why Florence was so determined to have a bookstore at all. “Is there a place for a bookshop in a town that may not want one?” Know your market, any business adviser would recommend. Nor could I really discern why Violet was so gung-ho for a community center in the venue instead.

That said, the film was a moderately interesting study of power dynamics, and how the system can be manipulated. And speaking of power, I always loved it when Nighy’s Edmund was on screen; he had a presence.

I can’t really recommend The Bookshop, but my wife would. As usual, we saw it at the Spectrum 8 in Albany.

Marie-SeverinNeil Simon was a writer whose work I appreciated in several media: He penned the screenplays of movies such as The Sunshine Boys, The Goodbye Girl, and California Suite I saw in the 1970s. His plays such as Brighton Beach Memoirs and Biloxi Blues in the 1980s I watched on local stages.

But it was the TV adaptation of the play Odd Couple (1970-1975), starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman, that was my introduction to Simon. I only caught the 1968 movie considerably later. I even watched the short-lived 1982 TV remake with Ron Glass as Felix Unger and Demond Wilson as Oscar Madison.

Of course, the career of Neil Simon goes back to the early days of television. Simon’s hits on stage and screen made him the most commercially successfully playwright of the 20th century — and perhaps of all time.
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Marie Severin was a name I first knew as the main colorist at Marvel Comics in the 1960s while also doing the occasional penciling job. But she started as a colorist back in the late 1940s “when her older brother, comic book artist John Severin (1922-2012), asked her to color one of his stories for EC Comics.”

As a penciler, she also worked on Marvel’s parody comic book series, Not Brand Echh. And she co-created Spider-Woman in 1976, designing her iconic costume. Plus, everyone agreed that Marie Severin was one of the most delightful, funny and talented people who ever worked in comics.
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Russ Heath was one of the great comic book illustrators of the field. “Because he veered away from super-heroes and more ‘commercial’ genres, he often did not get the respect he deserved.”

Most people – my wife, for instance – know who Roy Lichtenstein was. Most folks who aren’t comic book fans don’t know Russ Heath. This This piece explains part of my loathing for Lichtenstein:

“One day in 1962, Lichtenstein walked down to the corner newsstand near his studio and bought a copy of DC Comics’ All-American Men at War #89, took it back to the studio, threw it on the overhead projector, and cranked out about a half-dozen paintings based on (swiped from) panels in that comic book, which he then sold for millions of dollars each.” Heath got nada.
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Gary Friedrich, best known as the co-creator of the motorcycle-riding Ghost Rider character for Marvel, died at the age of 75. He had been suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. He had a legal tussle with Marvel that was only partially satisfactory.
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Kofi Annan is dead at 80. He came to embody the United Nations’ deepest aspirations and most ingrained flaws.

For some reason, keeping track of UN Secretaries-General – there aren’t that many – has long fascinated me. And I wanted the first one from sub-Saharan Africa (Ghana) to do well, a subject of much debate, despite his Nobel Peace Prize.
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Every time I see that an older person of note dies, I read comments such as “Was he still alive?” They always seem astonished. For me, it’s totally the opposite. If I discover that a noteworthy person, in the realm of my interests, passed away in 2010, and I somehow missed it, THAT would surprise me.

blackkklansmanAfter BlacKkKlansman, which the three of us saw at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany, my daughter wanted to be held by her parents. I’m still not sure it was as a result of seeing the main story or it in combination with the coda. You may have already read about it, but I’m not sharing that.

The film starts off with a George Rockwell-like character (Alec Baldwin) setting the stage for the main, true story.

Ron Stallworth (John David Washington, Denzel’s son) becomes the first black police officer in the Colorado Springs Police Department. Initially, he’s stuck in the records room, where he’s harassed by his colleagues. He’s then assigned to check out a speech by Kwame Ture, ne Stokely Carmichael (Corey Hawkins). He seemingly befriends the head of the black student union, Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier), who doesn’t know Ron’s real profession.

Ron then discovers the phone number of a local branch of the Ku Klux Klan, er, The Organization. For the face-to-face meetings, Stallworth recruits his Jewish coworker, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), who meets Walter (Ryan Eggold) and the somewhat unhinged Felix Kendrickson (Jasper Pääkkönen). Stallworth calls Klan headquarters in Louisiana to expedite his membership and speaks with David Duke (Topher Grace), the Grand Wizard, with whom he begins regular conversations on the phone.

The story tracks along at a pace, but I start feeling nervous when the story bounces back and forth between a Klan initiation rite and Jerome Turner (Harry Belafonte) telling painful stories of American history.

Director Spike Lee responded to criticism of BlacKkKlansman by Sorry to Bother You director Boots Riley. Riley took issue with Lee’s film, co-written by Kevin Willmott, David Rabinowitz, and Charlie Wachtel, for making a cop a hero against racism. Lee noted, correctly, “Black people are not a monolithic group.” I also noted in the movie Ron’s ambivalence when he was undercover investigating the black student union’s activities.

The funniest thing surrounding BlacKkKlansman is real Ron Stallworth telling Lester Holt of NBC News that the real David Duke called him to find out if Spike Lee’s Cannes-winning film was going to be fair to Duke. Highly recommended.

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