Posts Tagged ‘movies’

can you ever forgive meWhat is extraordinary about Can You Ever Forgive Me?, which my wife and I saw at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany recently, is how one manages to care about the protagonist, very much in spite of herself. This is based on a true story, generated from Lee Israel’s 2008 memoir.

Lee (Melissa McCarthy) was a biographer in the 1970s and 1980s of actress Tallulah Bankhead, journalist and game show panelist Dorothy Kilgallen, and cosmetics tycoon Estée Lauder. The Kilgallen book appeared on The New York Times Best Sellers List, but the Lauder book was a disaster.

By the early 1990s, her work had dried up, her agent (Jane Curtin) ducked her calls, and she was having difficulty making ends meet. The veterinarian wouldn’t even treat her cat. Moreover, her personality, fueled in part by alcohol consumption, tended to be abrasive.

Lee sold a couple genuine letters of famous people to Anna (Dolly Wells), a sweet young woman who inherited her bookstore owner and was interested in Israel’s talent and persona. For the money, Lee starts to forge letters of deceased writers and actors and selling them to Anna and other dealers. She also started to steal actual letters of famous persons from archives and libraries, replacing them with forgeries.

Israel coincidentally runs into an old acquaintance Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant) at a local bar. To her surprise, they become not just drinking buddies but actual friends. It’s the core relationship in the movie. Can You Ever Forgive Me? is not a fast-paced story or overwrought drama but a too-believable tale of what one will do to survive.

Julianne Moore was initially attached to the role of Lee Israel, but Melissa McCarthy, mostly known for her comic portrayals, was excellent in the role. It is unsurprising that the film received 98% positive reviews from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, but only about 83% from audiences.

Samuel L Jackson

There’s a 2012 article in the New York Times which tries to explain How Samuel L Jackson Became His Own Genre:

“Jules was the moral center of Pulp Fiction because he carried himself like a professional. Before Jules, my characters were just ‘The Negro’ who died on Page 30.” Look at his early credits in IMDB, he’s not wrong.

“After Jules, I became the coolest [expletive] on the planet. Why? I have no clue. I’m not like Jules. It’s called being an actor.” However, it was Spike Lee’s movie Jungle Fever that broke him, “well before Pulp Fiction made him a household name. His role as a crackhead son of a minister came literally weeks after his own rehab, and changed everything.”

Maybe, as some speculate, it’s his bald head and youthful demeanor that allows him a chameleon-like quality. Regardless, he’s now EVERYWHERE. In credit card commercials on TV. As Nick Fury, agent of SHIELD, in a slew of movies in the Marvel Universe. He’s in two other franchises, Star Wars, and the animated Incredibles; he’s also appeared in a number of Quentin Tarantino’s other films.

From the Wikipedia: Samuel Leroy Jackson “grew up as an only child in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His father lived away from the family in Kansas City, Missouri, and later died from alcoholism. Jackson was raised by his mother, who was a factory worker… and by his maternal grandparents and extended family.

“Between the third and 12th grades, he played the French horn and trumpet in the school orchestra. Jackson also played the flute and piccolo.

“Initially intent on pursuing a degree in marine biology, he attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. After joining a local acting group to earn extra points in a class, Jackson found an interest in acting and switched his major.

“In 1969, Jackson and several other students held members of the Morehouse College board of trustees hostage on the campus, demanding reform in the school’s curriculum and governance. The college eventually agreed to change its policy, but Jackson was charged with and eventually convicted of unlawful confinement, a second-degree felony.

“Jackson was then suspended for two years for his criminal record and his actions. He would later return to the college to earn his Bachelor of Arts in Drama in 1972.” To make ends meet, he sold hot dogs, burgers and fries at Atlanta Falcons’ football games.

“In 1980, Jackson married actress and sports channel producer LaTanya Richardson, whom he met while attending Morehouse College. The couple has a daughter, Zoe (born 1982).”

Samuel L Jackson has been such a diverse array of films that, according to Rotten Tomatoes, he’s been in movies lauded by all the critics – Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson (2004) and by none of them – Kite (2014).

Jackson “has achieved critical and commercial acclaim, surpassing Frank Welker as the actor with the highest-grossing film total of all time in October 2011.” Also, “he enjoys collecting the action figures of the characters he portrays in his films, including Jules Winnfield, Shaft, Mace Windu, and Frozone.”

Penny Marshall

The first regular gig Penny Marshall got on television was as Myrna, the secretary of Oscar Madison (Jack Klugman) on The Odd Couple (1972-1974), a program I watched religiously. The late Garry K. Marshall, Penny’s brother, adapted the Neil Simon play for the small screen and cast Tony Randall as Felix Ungar.

I loved Myrna. Penny Marshall explains how she got the role and that distinctive laugh. Rob Reiner, her husband at the time, who played Mike “Meathead” Stivic on All in the Family, was a guest star in this 1974 episode (sound quality so-so).

Then she appeared in Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers (1974-1975), a TV show that only about 14 people, including me, even remember.

Penny shows up in a couple episodes (1975-1976) of the immensely popular Happy Days as Laverne DeFazio, a date for the Fonz. Garry created, produced, directed and scripted that show, and then Laverne and Shirley, a successful spinoff also starring Cindy Williams as Shirley. “During the late ’50s and early ’60s they worked as bottlecappers for Shotz Brewery in Milwaukee.” By the time their characters moved to Hollywood, I had stopped watching.

L and S was a family affair. Ronny Hallin, their sister, served as the show’s casting director, and Anthony Marshall, their father, produced as well. Penny Marshall directed four episodes of the series (1979-1981).

She went on to direct a string of movies. I’ve never seen Jumpin’ Jack Flash (1986) with Whoopi Goldberg. But I watched Big (1986) with Tom Hanks; Awakenings (1990) with Robert De Niro and Robin Williams; and A League of Their Own (1992) with Hanks, Geena Davis, and Madonna, all originally in the movie theater.

Two films, in particular, contain iconic scenes. Big features Hanks and the late Robert Loggia playing piano in FAO Schwarz. And A League of Their Own, which revealed to America a piece of its own hidden history, There’s No Crying in Baseball, with Hanks and Betty Schram.

I also watched 1996’s The Preacher’s Wife, with Whitney Houston, on TV at some point.

Schram said that Penny Marshall “broke barriers as one of the first great women directors/ She really had a knack for picking material, finding the right talent and making a hit. Her instincts were impeccable. She was a true pioneer for women.”

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.

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