duminică, 31 decembrie 2017

King of the Belgians by Peter Brosens, Jessica Woodworth

King of the Belgians by Peter Brosens, Jessica Woodworth  

King of the Belgians is a very entertaining comedy.
And not only that, but it deals with themes that are relevant for politics, mass media, the Balkans and Turkey.

-          Not to mention Belgium itself

The premise is that his Majesty, Nicolas III, Le Roi des Belges is visiting Turkey at the beginning of this very good film.
Turkey is a problem for the European Union- in fact, not just one, but a few:

-          It has a ruler with tyrannical tendencies and Erdogan is already trampling on human rights and sending thousands behind bars
-          On the other hand, The European Union needs Turkey to try and stop the flow of refugees coming from Syria, Iraq and other places

As the king is waiting for this new era sultan that is not named in the motion picture, the host is late and that is already somewhat funny.
A crew was selected by the queen of Belgium to make a documentary about her consort, who is spontaneous…

But there is dramatic news from home:

-          Belgium has just split
-          Wallonia has announced its independence!

Nicolas III wants to go home and he is working on a speech, for most of the rest of the film, addressing the terrible situation.
The hosts however disagree with his plans.
The tough man in charge with the security on the Turkish side is adamant and has other ideas regarding the program of the guest.

With reference to the infamous Icelandic volcano that has perturbed European and international flights years ago, we have new developments.
“Cosmic activity” is preventing airplanes from taking off, so the royal guest has to stay in Turkey, under the “protection” of these “hosts”.

His majesty knows that he has to be in his country, evading this exaggerated hospitality and he uses a disguise:

-          He will escape Turkey with his entourage, all dressed as…Bulgarian folk singers!
-          And the costumes and the result are hilarious

They also do quite a bit of singing and dancing in Bulgaria, as they stop in some villages and picturesque locations.
As the king is driving, they end up in a ditch because he is so moral and kind that he has avoided a turtle and sent his team off the road.

They end up in a village where the mayor uses no shoes, unless he is travelling to Sofia- quite a character.
He has the black belt in karate, has the fourth stage of Shotokan, he is also a diving instructor –or so he claims.

The Turkish squad catches up with the “fugitives” that they want to force to return to Istanbul and so there is a fight.
It is an exaggeration for diplomacy would not allow such an outrageous occurrence, but it serves well the purpose of satirizing aspects of present day politics, from the fragmentation of Belgium and others to the dictatorial turn taken by Turkey.

As they have interesting, intellectual conversations, people around the king are invited to express the negative and positive stereotypes regarding the Walloons and the Flemish communities, with creativity, warm hearts being mentioned.
The party crosses the border into Serbia, where they meet with a former Miss Serbia, demoted and moved at the customs because she was born in Montenegro and that republic chose independence after all the other former parts of the late Yugoslavia.

As they sail with a cheap boat and hope to reach the coast of Italy, the king’s entourage arrives in…Albania.
The authorities there listen to the affirmation that this tall man is…none other than the king of the Belgians and…send the whole lot to jail.

Finally, in an era of fake news and in a free world led by a clown obsessed with himself and willing to take only favorable, laudatory reports about his “superior, magnificent person, the Honest king has a different take:

-          When the palace decides to censor all the documentary covering this extraordinary but compromising trip across the Balkans, the royal person decides otherwise and tells the film maker:
-          You use it whichever way you like…you are free to use everything!
-          What a noble, aristocratic attitude!!

Bed and Board aka Domicile Conjugal

Bed and Board aka Domicile Conjugal

At the start, there is a couple

-              He is waiting for the wife to come
-              They have to get somewhere
-              When she takes too long, he throws the fur and bag down the stairs

Later on, the hero and his wife do the same

-              You see, they really love each other now!!-
-              This is the reaction of the wife that was always late at the start

We learn that Baudelaire

·         Was involved with flowers, just like the hero of Bed and Board
·         Fleurs du Mal

The protagonist of Domicile Conjugal is using color for flowers to obtain a perfect red.
Both Antoine and Christine Doinel smoke a lot and near the baby, but these were the days when so many did that.

The hero ends up working for what looks like a multinational, with an American boss that has an absurd conversation:

-          We have a problem with transportation
-          It is in July that I like the trees
-          The hero is responding with pre- fabricated answers

They give him the job of maneuvering some small ships, in a small pond near the headquarters of the company.

One day, he meets a group of Japanese who are interested in the project and discuss it near the small lake.
There is one young woman that needs to use the facilities in the building and for some odd reason they send the protagonist.

They establish a connection and they see each other again, confirming somehow the Honeymoon Effect.
After a period of about two years in general, men and women are more interested in someone new than in their partner.

And a Japanese woman is really different.
They have a meal at the apartment shared with another woman, who is supposed to have some problem in the family.

But it certainly looks like she is gone just to allow the two to get intimate with each other- there is a sign on the door:

-          Do not disturb- in Japanese

There is a strange, dark message from the Asian woman:

-          You are the one I would commit suicide with!

After they have this affair for a while, the lover sends some flowers and within them there are love messages.
In the first place, the hero throws them near the house, but a boy brings them to the apartment where they are given to Madame.

-          As they wither, the flowers send the messages down to the table

When the cheating husband comes home, he finds the wife dressed in Japanese attire and crying on the floor.
She has found out about the affair.

They fight and he takes down the mattress from the bed to another room, where he has to sleep away from the wife.
But after a while, the hero is bored by the Japanese woman and starts calling his wife from the places where he is with the lover.

So frequently he does that, establishing a new bond with the wife, that the Japanese leaves the restaurant with a message:

-          Va te faire foutre

Lady Bird by Greta Gerwig

Lady Bird by Greta Gerwig

Lady Bird has been nominated for four Golden Globes, the 2018 ceremony, which is to take place in eleven days:

·         Best Motion Picture- musical or comedy
·         Best Screenplay – Greta Gerwig
·         Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role- Saoirse Ronan
·         Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture – Laurie Metcalf

Greta Gerwig is an exceptional film maker, screenwriter, and actress.
I have appreciated her performances in:

-          Mistress America – for which she has been one of the two screenplay writers and one of the leading actresses
-          Jackie
-          Damsels in Distress
-          To Rome with Love
-          Greenberg

Lady Bird feels a bit too strange at times, at least for this viewer.
Yes, the heroine is a teenager that is trying to find her way, to explore her sexuality and the process can be tedious and outré.

But there were passages when I for one could not connect with the main character.
Her name is actually Christine McPherson.

But she chooses to call herself Lady Bird- hence the title of the motion picture.
Laurie Metcalf portrays the mother, Marion McPherson and she is nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance.

She used to be Sheldon’s mother in The Big Bang Theory.
Two actors have been present in recent, magnificent, acclaimed productions:

-          Lucas Hedges in Manchester by the Sea and
-          Timothee Chalamet in Call Me by Your Name

The latter is also nominated for a Golden Globe, but not for Lady Bird, for the leading role in the homosexual love story.
In Lady Bird, Chalamet plays a character, Kyle Scheible that is interested in Lady Bird and has a relationship with her.

In fact, he is her first sexual partner.
She thinks he had been a virgin too.

When Lady Bird finds out about the fact that Kyle had not been at his first intimate experience, she is upset…

-          I thought I was your first…
-          You will have so many sex experiences that are lame
-          How many partners did you have?
-          I don’t know…
-          What do you mean?
-          What does it matter?
-          You mean six…how many?

These are not quotes, but I hope they come close to what has been said
The relationship with the family is strange, especially with the mother…the father was more supportive …

-          Do you like me?
-          You know I love you
-          I mean you like me with this…

Again, this was an approximation of a dialogue that took place as Lady Bird was trying on some dresses for her prom.

This is a quote though:

-          Christine 'Lady Bird' McPherson: I hate California, I want to go to the east coast. I want to go where culture is like, New York, or Connecticut or New Hampshire.

The film is interesting, but less effective than Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri or Loveless, also nominated for the Golden Globes 2018…

sâmbătă, 30 decembrie 2017

Call Me By Your Name, screenplay by James Ivory, based on novel by Andre Aciman

Call Me By Your Name, screenplay by James Ivory, based on novel by Andre Aciman

Call Me by Your Name is an very good film, nominated for three Golden Globes and has won 31 awards and has 85 nominations so far:

-          It is nominated in the category of Best Motion Picture Drama- Golden Globes
-          Timothee Chalamet is nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture- Drama
-          Armie Hammer is nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture- Drama

The setting is formidable, in the Northern part of Italy, with orchards in the background and splendid squares and buildings.
Adding to the charm of the narrative, Characters in the story are intriguing, sophisticated, charming and also complex.

The hero is only seventeen, but Elio Perlman is transcribing and playing classical music, reading good books, which alas is not want ordinary teenagers do these days.
Mister and Missis Perlman are otherworldly parents, who understand, support, encourage and love their child.

They move easily from Italian to French, then to English and at times, the mother is reading from German…
Mr. Perlman is an appreciated professor who is involved in archeological excavations and has a different research assistant every year.

This year, the assistant is an American, Oliver, who is charming, good looking, educated and very much liked by everyone.
He is so good at Greco- Roman culture that he even disputes his professor on the issue of the origin of some words.

To begin with, Elio is teasing this guest, who can appear somewhat superior, perhaps even arrogant with his:

-          Later…this is his formula for departure

In the early part of the narrative, Elio is experiencing and getting very attracted and it seems involved with Marzia.
The two of them explore their bodies, with the innocence of virgins and the passion of young men and women.

They make love and they see each other very often, using the attic of the house and other places for intimate relations.
So I wondered about the sexuality of the hero, who appeared to be heterosexual, then homosexual and finally…

-          Which is it?
-          Is he a homosexual, maybe bisexual?
-          I guess he is also trying to find out

Anyway when Oliver becomes more interested or just more present and starts communicating with Elio, the latter loses interest in Marzia.

The two young men start kissing, touching, caressing each other and I must admit that this is not my favorite part.
Indeed, it is something of a turn off, probably also on account of the scene wherein a peach is used for masturbation and more…

I should learn from the speech given by Mr. Perlman who becomes the most interesting character of this film.
Because we have seen gay lovers in films, from Brokeback Mountain to The Talented Mr. Ripley and although different, the protagonists of Call Me by Your Name are not really from another world, in my view.
But Mr. Perlman is.

Because if parents are learning to accept the sexual orientation of their children and are less obtuse these days, this personage goes way beyond that.
Mr. Perlman is not only tolerant of the homosexual relationship his son had with his assistant, but laudatory.

This wise man talks about the fact that Oliver is an outstanding human being and this experience is to be cherished and treasured.
Even when it has ended and it involves pain and suffering, the father is very determined that the son is blessed to have had this unique opportunity.

-          I thought this is a tremendous speech and the man is
-          Fantastic!

Million Dollar Baby, Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman

Million Dollar Baby, Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman

This film has won four Academy Awards and two Golden Globes at the ceremonies of 2005, together with:

-          Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role- Oscar and Golden globe
-          Best Director- both Academy Award and Golden Globe
-          Best Motion Picture- AA
-          Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role- AA

The trio involved in the production of the movie is formidable.
And the story is haunting and thought provoking.

Maggie Fitzgerald is a waitress, coming from a poor background, a family with some serious issues that become clear in the film.
When Maggie is in a hospital, the “family” is only visiting because they are concerned about the money, not the health of the woman who has given them so much and when she did, they were again concerned that the government might take social benefits away…

The heroine wants to become a good boxer.
For that purpose, she is trying hard to convince boxing coach Frankie Dunn to take her as a student of…boxing

-          Boxing could be seen as a strange calling
-          Especially when the boxer is a woman
-          And she is already past thirty to boot
-          But, she is determined, has resilience
-          Maggie likes boxing, has strength and is passionate about it

Nevertheless, Frankie Dunn aka Clint Eastwood is not interested, even if he could be nudged by his assistant.
That would be Morgan Freeman as Eddie Scrap-Iron Dupris, a former champion who made it to the top, or very near it.
-          Maggie Fitzgerald becomes a role model
-          She works as hard as possible- indeed, even harder than it is commonly endurable, with long hours at the gym

Frankie Dunn says that he feels pity for the girl and finally starts trying to improve her training sessions.

-          Do not contradict me, always listen to me
-          Move first with this leg, hit and then move again
-          Always protect yourself
-          Yes, boss!...words to that effect

Maggie keeps calling the coach boss, but a strong relationship develops between the two partners, who may in the end be in love with each other.
Whether that is just paternal and filial love respectively, I am not sure.

But the trainer wanted to keep as much of a distance as possible to begin with, by having someone else as manager.
Seeing though that the results were not wonderful, Frankie Dunn becomes more and more involved with his boxer.

Maggie gets better and better, but the fights are vicious, she takes blows at the head, the bleeding is terrible.
But she does have a few excellent punches and manages to throw down opponents with astonishing speed.

Her ascension is fantastic and she earns enough money to buy a house, which she gives to her mother and relatives.
Only that woman is evil and not just ungrateful, but critical of this gift and admonishing her daughter for her occupation:

-          Why did you buy the house??!
-          I wanted you to have it
-          Where is the fridge?
-          It will come
-          You know, when they find out, they will cut the social benefits!!
-          You know what, sell it if you don’t want it and take the money!!

After this, Maggie has a shot at the World Championship Title, but she meets in the final a boxer with no ethics and no respect for any rules.
That woman is so vicious and the referee and officials so useless that even though she is inferior to Maggie, she manages to hit her in instances when the game is stopped, whenever it is not permitted and against the rules.

Until finally, during a moment when Maggie is not careful, knowing though that the fight is interrupted, that killer manages, yet again, to throw an illegal punch and sent Maggie into a chair, with an injury that paralyzes the heroine.

-          It now becomes a story about euthanasia

-          Is it worth living in a bed for the rest of her life? 

vineri, 29 decembrie 2017

The Color of Money based on novel by Walter Tevis

The Color of Money based on novel by Walter Tevis, directed by Martin Scorsese, with Paul Newman, Tom Cruise, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
Resilience, talent, money and values

Paul Newman has won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in this excellent motion picture
He was not only a mesmerizing actor, but a wonderful man, as we learn from a classic about the movie industry:

-          Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman, winner of two Oscars for his scripts: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All the President’s Men

Paul Newman is Eddie Nelson, a role he has played before, in the movie called The Hustler, and for which he was also nominated for an Academy Award.
In The Color of Money, Eddie Nelson is retired, he is not so young any more, but still interested in the pool game.

He discovers Vincent Lauria, a talented young man portrayed by the very good Tom Cruise, who is full of energy and zest.
Fast Eddie Nelson has a proposition for Vincent:

-          You come with your girlfriend and play for money on the road
-          Why would I do that?
-          She is bored and will leave you if you stay around here…
-          I don’t think so… words to that effect

Carmen aka Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio sees things pretty much the way Fast Eddie has suggested and helps him along the way.
Vincent is really good at playing pool, but not so keen on following the advice of his older partner, who becomes frustrated:

-          “You gotta have two things to win. You gotta have brains and you gotta have balls. Now, you got too much of one and not enough of the other.”
Vincent is acting like a prima donna and he is interested in putting a show, getting the attention and validation of the others.

Nathaniel Branden, the ultimate expert on self –esteem would say that he lacks confidence and this is why he is so exuberant.
I think…

On the other hand, Vincent might have the right values, at least for some time, while he is interested in winning.
His role is to play the fool, pretend not to know much about the game and then win the trust of the opponent to win his money:

-          The Hustler that his partner used to be some decades ago

One night, Vincent takes the Balabushka- a trophy for great players- and challenges a very good adversary.
The reaction of the audience can be one of annoyance and frustration with this rebel who is upsetting Eddie.

-          But it could be a case of finding the Calling
-          When one does something he or she is very good at, likes a lot and has meaning, the money become less important
-          Just like for Vincent in his early stages

Watching his partner and student play has created a spark within Fast Eddie Elson, who wants to play again.
And he does, against a man played by Forest Whitaker, who talks about being the subject of psychological experiments…

-          But he is a Hustler playing against…another former Hustler
-          And he wins

This is causing a lot of pain fore Eddie, who is very upset for falling prey, when he is in the game of hunting for weak adversaries…

-          How could I fall for that?
-          The booze, all the signs were there and I still did not see it…not an exact quote

After this, he parts ways with Vincent and Carmen, giving them two thousand dollars for the road to Atlantic City.
That is where the best of the best, the crème de la crème of this game meet to establish who the best is.

-          Eddie and his former partner have to play against each other for a place in the competition and there are surprises there
-          But the ending is simply fabulous:
-          I am back in the game!

Excellent ending 

I, Tonya screenplay by Steven Rogers

I, Tonya screenplay by Steven Rogers

Dark humor, competition, obsession, failure

I, Tonya is nominated for three Golden Globes, in the 2018 competition.
Margot Robbie is nominated for her portrayal of the ice skater Tonya Harding, Allison Janey for the supporting role of Harding’s mother, LaVona Golden, and the motion picture for the category of best musical or comedy…

This is an excellent comedy, with quite a lot of drama in it.
Most of the characters are both obnoxious and competitive, if the latter in some sick, twisted manner.

LaVona Golden is the one who wants her daughter to become a very good ice skater, in fact nothing less than a champion will do.
She is pushing her daughter to extremes and what she does is more than child abuse, it amounts to torture.

-          That childhood abuse could and probably does explain a lot of Tonya’s behavior

In one early scene, LaVona takes her three or four year old daughter to get ice skating lessons from an expert.
She smokes when talking to this trainer who is not willing to accept a child that is so young for training:

-          You know, you cannot smoke on the ice rink
-          Oh…I will smoke quietly then

If the humor is mostly dark and often involves violence and aggressivity, it is because the characters are brutal.
The mother beats the daughter, who marries a man that does the same and she in turn throws things at him…

-          “LaVona Golden: You call a clean slate, for Christ's sake?
-          Skater Mom: Do not swear in front of the kids.
-          LaVona Golden: I didn't swear, you cunt…”

In another scene, the violent mother does not limit herself to cursing and kicking, she even throws a …knife!
And the knife is stuck in the hand of the ice skater!!

It is an extraordinary achievement to be able to compete at the highest level of ice skating under these circumstances.

-          And not just that, but Tonya Harding was the first American woman to do a triple axel
-          So her story is a complicated one
-          On the one hand, there were so many mistakes, failures and even criminal acts
-          On the other, this is also about resilience, grit, overcoming immense obstacles

She has had a very bad relationship with referees and people around her, because she was ill tempered and quick to explode.
It might also be the fact that judges were biased and quite often not fair to the competitor who was good on the ice, if often evil off it.

-          Sometimes one has to separate the artist, the performer, athlete from his private life
-          But if we think Weinstein, Spacey, Bill Cosby and so many others, then the conclusion is that what happens in private does matter…

So Tonya Harding had to pay for the image she projected and which was not favorable and affected her athletic achievements.
Furthermore, a nadir is reached when her bodyguard and ex-husband plot against one of her competitors.

If the husband seems to have been interested in psychological pressure only, the bodyguard took this further.

Another ice skater, Nancy Kerrigan is viciously attacked by a man hired by the bodyguard, with perhaps the knowledge of the husband.
This horrible act, resulting in a knee injury, lead to an investigation and then prosecution of those involved.

Tony Harding was sentenced and then moved to a different career, that of…professional fighter in the boxing ring…
This is a fabulous motion picture that portrays the life of a champion that worked and accomplished so much, only to blow it all away with vileness and viciousness…

They Drive by Night with Humphrey Bogart

They Drive by Night with Humphrey Bogart

The presence of Humphrey Bogart in this film made me expect a lot from it…

-          Lower your expectations is one rule of happiness

If not a failure, this is no Casablanca.
And Bogart only has a supporting role.

Ann Sheridan is great as Cassie, but I did not appreciate Ida Lupino that much.
Humphrey Bogart plays Paul, brother of Joe Fabrini, the real hero of this film.

The brothers Drive by Night, as truckers.
They have a hard life, having to sleep only little, trying to get their load in time to be sold in the market.

The boss and owner of the operation is abusing his position and does not pay the money he owes these two drivers.
Furthermore, they have to pay money they owed for the truck and the lender is trying to confiscate their truck.

At one of the stops along the trucking routes, they meet the extremely beautiful Cassie and a love affair starts.
I was expecting Bogart to be the knight in shining armor.

But it is his brother Joe that becomes deeply involved with the attractive waitress, who moves with him.
At the same time, Lana Carlsen is very interested in this ladies ‘man, who rejects her, because she is married to his friend.
Ed Carlsen owns a trucking business and loves his wife, for whom he is not sophisticated and interesting enough.

She wants Joe.
This intrepid man tries to start his own business and buys a load of lemons to sell for a better price and use the money to get going.

It works very well.
In the first couple of stages.

Joe and Paul make a tremendous profit of more than 100% on the lemons and they pay what they owe for the truck.
Alas, on the way back they have an accident.

As a result, Paul loses his right arm.
Paradoxically, his wife welcomes the injury, because she says that now that he cannot drive anymore, he will be at home.

-          They Drive By Night means that they are also away from home for a long time
-          Nights and days

Seeing as she cannot get close to Joe, who refuses to call her anything but Mrs. Carlsen and keeps the distance, Lana has a diabolic plan
She kills her husband.

As Joe is now important in the business owned by the late husband, the widow proposes that they become partners.
Business partners.

She even makes the proposal sound very reasonable by explaining that she knows nothing about the trucks.
-          Besides, Ed would have wanted it
-          I guess it is true

The partnership works well, up to the moment when Lana Carlsen finds out about the love between Joe and Cassie.
She then tells him that she had actually killed her husband and she has no intention of letting Joe go after such an act.

And seeing as she is not winning any ground with this confession, she goes to the police to tell them that Joe has forced her to kill her husband.
What happens next?

Well, it is interesting, if not the end of Casablanca…

joi, 28 decembrie 2017

The Man on the Train with Jean Rochefort and Johnny Hallyday - A film about Calling

The Man on the Train with Jean Rochefort and Johnny Hallyday
A film about Calling

This is a terrific film about calling.
The glorieuse Jean Rochefort plays Monsieur Manesquier.

Johnny Hallyday, the regretted, recently departed singer is Milan.
Monsieur Manesquier is a teacher in a small town.

Milan is the opposite.
He has been a criminal, robbing banks and running from the law all his life, carrying with him three pistols.

They meet in a pharmacy.
Monsieur Manesquier invites the stranger to stay over at his house, when the small hotel in the village has no vacancies.

The teacher is the talkative one, while Milan is reserved, probably a side effect of his profession which must involve discretion…

-          Absolute discretion if possible

The criminal meets with a couple of colleagues, one of them explaining the plan of hitting the local bank…

-          Piece of cake
-          You can choke on a piece of cake

Even less outspoken than Milan, the third man is so quiet that he becomes funny, with his habit of pronouncing a sentence per day.

-          What is his story
-          Oh, he only talks at 10 a.m.
-          Is he crazy?
-          His wife left him…
-          When
-          Seven years ago

A strong bond develops between Monsieur Manesquier and his guest, with both looking at the other’s occupation.
In the manner of the infamous Taxi Driver Travis, the host talks to himself in the mirror, using different lines:

-          My name is Wyatt Earp
-          There is a new sheriff in town
-          I am the only one with the guns…
-          Bam, bam…or words to that effect

It is obvious that the two men wish they had the life of the other, one longing for tranquility and the other for action.
This is a clear case of:

-          Missing one’s calling or at the very least
-          Getting tired and bored with the activity or lack of action respectively

Milan is wondering about the tranquility, the peace and equanimity offered by the life of a teacher in a small town.
At the same time, the professor is attracted by the three guns he found in the room of the adventurous guest.

As a favor, he wants to try and fire them and they get to an isolated, ruined house where he can shoot at empty cans.
Milan is trying on the slippers, which he receives as a gift from his host, who wants to take part in the robbery.

When the teacher is out, one of his private students comes at the house where he is received by the would-be professor, Milan:

-          I take the place of your teacher
-          Yes
-          What did you have to study?
-          Eugenie Grandet
-          Tell me about it
-          She waits for her lover
-          How long?
-          Until the end
-          What if Eugenie Grandet had a phone? Think about that

The ending invites the audience to think of the two characters and their different lives- one taking the place of the other, a switch suggested by the poster of the film as well…