Mercies by Horton Foote
may be the perfect example of a cinematic masterpiece that is simple,
conservative, does not have car chases – although there are a couple of tragic
accidents – and anything that keep the franchises of the Avengers, Transformers,
X Men and so many others going for ever.
By a strange
coincidence – albeit if we make the effort to see great films and avoid the
mass market Avengers and Fast Furious one to twenty five, we are likely to see
films by the same geniuses – this viewer has just seen on Cinemax Breaker
Morant and after two days there comes another spectacular feature helmed by the
same outstanding director: Bruce Beresford.
has won two Oscars and Horton Foote, who has written the screenplay for To Kill
a Mocking Bird, has won the Academy Award for Best Writing, Written Directly
for the Screen.
It is included
on the New York Times’ Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made list:
has the main role, for which he won a very well deserved Academy Award – one of
the seven he was nominated for, this being the artist that has had some of the
best performances ever in iconic films like The Godfather – if not the best,
then one of the five best ever made – Apocalypse Now, the Apostle and sometimes
lesser films like The Judge.
performer has won four Golden Globes, Emmy, BAFTA and another 56 prestigious
master talks in videos you can find on YouTube about the experience of working
with various other legends, Marlon Brando and the manner in which the filmmakers
had to write his lines on the walls, the ceiling and sometimes the other members
of the cast because the titan would not learn his part by heart, at least from
one stage in his career on.
is Mac Sledge, the main character that in the opening scenes seems to be a
drunkard – well, he is for a good part of his life – and the public is thinking
that this might be a personage that will teach us lessons along the lines of
what not to do with our lives.
he is, broke and without perspectives, he walks to the gas station nearby and asks
the owner, Rosa Lee played with grace, skill and charm by Tess Harper, to give
him a job.
Rosa Lee is
a widower, her husband has died as a very young man – they had married when she
was just sixteen – in the Vietnam War, although she does not know how, for when
she asked, she was told that they just found his cadaver in a zone where three
battles where ongoing, he might have died in one of those or he could have been
shot by a sniper while walking.
She has a
son, Sonny, who seems to be about six, who would get along well with Mac
Sledge, although the relationship of the man with his only daughter is not as
good, indeed, he had not seen her in seven years and she is now a beautiful,
grown up woman who will try to re-establish their natural connection.
that the character that seemed to be just an alcoholic was once a star of
country music, admired by many people – once in a while he is stopped and with
humor, one fan asks if he really “was” Mac Sledge – to the fury of his former wife,
Dixie, who upon being told that he was the greatest, she throws whiskey in the
face of the one who had said that – just to spite her, she claims.
sings and is very appreciated as a country musician, but the marriage has ended
up in acrimony – when Sue Anne, their daughter played by the formidable Ellen
Barkin, asks if it is true that her father had once tried to kill her mother,
Mac admits it is true, for when drunk, which he was so often, he lost his
and Rosa Lee become very attached and their love leads to matrimony, with the former
alcoholic gradually getting rid of his awful addiction and eventually writing
again songs, one of which he brings to his ex-spouse that rejects it as lousy
and so does Harry, her manager – only to regret it later.
comes to her estranged father’s new home one day and the reunion is touching,
albeit without any spoiler alerts let us just say the new found warmth does not
last for long.
a band of amateur country musicians – in the sense that they have regular jobs
to be able to put food on the table – comes to pay their respects to the legendary
Sledge and they love his new composition, play it and this attracts the interest
of a record company.
great singer is not sure he wants to try a comeback – perhaps because his
former fame was associated with a dissolution, the violence of his fights with
his former partner – we learn that he had had another, first wife when he was
just seventeen – and he does not want to repeat that – for he has found bliss
and happiness, he is baptized in the local church.
of this fabulous motion picture probably refers to the Tender Mercies as
provided by the Lord – obviously, for those who believe in him, which is not the
case for this viewer, but Rosa Lee uses the term in connection with the church,
where she sings in the choir.
by David Levien
strange reason critics have not appreciated this formidable – if you ask this
cinephile – motion picture, for they gave it a Metascore – an average – rating of
only 54 out of 100.
has been more generous, with a more decent 7.3 out of a maximum of 10.
of the suggestions in the film have made the critics uneasy to approve it, for
indeed, one main message seems to be that you can play poker and win the big
pot, for this is not just a game that relies on luck and it takes much more
skill and psychological insight.
seeming to encourage people to get into card games – where ultimately the cards
you get to play depend on nothing else but luck – this motion picture may be
dismissed as one that could be responsible for addictions and in many places,
there are numerous individuals and families that have lost everything to
that, there is also an excellent point which is made by the main character of
the feature, Mike McDermott aka the super star Matt Damon twenty two years ago,
in 1997, who is certain that it is not a question of good fortune, but on the
contrary, it depends on stamina, courage, self-control, social intelligence and
he has some proofs for that.
start of the film, we see the hero sharing a flat with his girlfriend, Jo aka
Gretchen Mol, and taking thousands of dollars from their hiding places and using
them to play at the private club owned by Teddy KGB aka an iconic John
Malkovich in top form, resplendent with a very credible, amusing and yet so
scary Russian accent and mob manner.
his nickname to his infamous connections with the Russian gangsters and he is perhaps
the most dangerous man in the cards game arena, while Joey Knish aka the grand,
masterful John Turturo is a benign figure, who tries to convince Mark to
renounce his plan to gamble all at the table.
this what he does and KGB takes all his savings, making it impossible for the
law student to pay and continue his studies and furthermore, eventually helping
to destroy his relationship with Jo.
As if this
was not already a traumatic, almost calamitous situation, Worm aka the
tremendous Edward Norton, is released from jail and the former friends get
together and the ex-convict soon attracts the hero into a negative, terrible
spiral, trying to pay the debt he had accumulated and avoid tragedy, death at
the hands of the mobsters that control the loan sharks.
effort to save his friend – although the use of the term appears wrong as soon
as it is placed on the screen, for the definition would not include treachery,
abuse, hurting a mate, which was Worm would do – the protagonist is sucked into
a circle of cheating, gaining and then losing all.
play in a club with apparent amateurs, Mike takes off on a winning streak, but
the reckless, corrupt, vicious Worm still pushes for dirty tricks – reminding one
of the anecdote with the scorpion that talks to the frog about crossing the
pond and when they both reach the middle, the scorpion stings the other animal
and they both sink to the bottom and the frog asks why would he do a thing that
would cause them both to die only to get the reply that the scorpion could not
help it for it is in his nature.
nature of Worm brings about the catastrophe, for the men losing are police officers
in their spare time, they see something is wrong and when they have the proof,
they take all the money and beat the two scoundrels – Mike is not one, but then
the company he keeps is his downfall.
run away and now the hero is left to hear the music, facing death or maiming at
the hands of KGB and his gorillas, for the Russian owns the debt and they take
no prisoners, if the money is not paid in full.
There is a
small chance, for Mike has an excellent relationship with his professor, Abe
Petrovsky played by yet another legend – the fact that there are so many
formidable actors should place this wondrous film on the must-see list – Martin
is willing to loan what he can – there is a phenomenal scene in which this and
other professor play poker and the master student is able to tell with
extraordinary talent what everyone has, just by looking at the faces and helps
money from this generous, kind man, Mike walks into the KGB domain and he plays
to win and pay back the loan, save his life, or at least physical integrity,
his limbs, although it seems such a terrible risk.
We learn at
one point that the talented psychologist has taken the chance to play against
the World Champion, when he had met him by chance and albeit it seemed like
such a long shot, the amateur has won the game and he is determined to
participate in Las Vegas and try to become the next king of the poker game.
meantime, he has to face the scary KGB and his acolytes that at one stage seem
to be ready to “work” on the young man, although in fairness, the vicious gang
leader prevents them with – shall we call it humor?
It is interesting,
if somewhat confusing to see this phenomenal motion picture – one of the best
100 for this cinephile – again after the recent release of Mary Queen of Scots
and try to make sense of the contrasting views of the two perspectives and
perhaps also think of another sensational success of 2018, The Favorite, where
the queen is something else and the monarch could not be further apart from
This was a
glorious queen, ruling over one of the best periods in British history, with
accomplishments that should have made those who doubt the qualities of women
stop then and there and give them equal rights and make their access to power
and easy journey, albeit there would surely be many more films and books to
come that will emphasize the dark side of the colonial power and depict the
Virgin Sovereign as a symbol of despotism.
film however, the public is astounded by this Wonder Woman, her courage, extraordinary
self-control, wisdom, spirit of self-sacrifice when she gives up her own wellbeing,
suppresses her passion for Lord Robert Dudley aka Joseph Fiennes – this is where
it seems historians will never know the details, although they will keep
speculating – and give her life to her spouse – England.
is portrayed by the outstanding Cate Blanchett – winner of two Oscars and
nominated for one for this role, which has brought her a Golden Globe and other
distinctions – and the rest of the cast is perfect, it could not have been any
better considering names like Geoffrey Rush as Walsingham, Richard Attenborough
as Sir William Cecil, Vincent Cassel in the role of the Duc d’Anjou, John
Gielgud as the Pope, Fanny Ardant as Mary of Guise, Daniel Craig a treacherous priest
– depending on the side you take – and so many other fabulous artists.
time, indeed, we could argue that for most of her rule, the Virgin Queen has
been under tremendous pressure and it looks as if she might be the one who dies
and not Mary Queen of Scots, given that she is in at the start of her reign
more than vulnerable and many attempts on her life are made – in one, Isabel
Knollys aka the wonderful Kelly Macdonald, one of the ladies in waiting, dies
while wearing a dress destined for the queen that had been poisoned with the
intent to dispatch the formidable monarch.
William Cecil is the adviser, the young queen seems to have few opportunities
for ascent, transformation, the glory that she will achieve when Sir Francis
Walsingham becomes perhaps the most important element in this game of power –
there are documentaries we can see that depict him as one of the first,
together with Richelieu, to have thought of and created a proto spy agency that
gave him vital information about the enemies of the state and thus enabled him
to win over and eventually kill them.
The duke of
Norfolk wanted to eliminate Walsingham and that could have made for a different
history, but once the cunning man kills his would be assassin, he is able to
maneuver in such a way as to ensure the success of his sovereign, once in a
crucial vote during which he maintains opponents in a temporary confinement,
then through his network of informers he is able to counteract and catch,
destroy the enemies of the queen.
For a long
time, the idea that Elizabeth needs to marry is maintained, the Duc d’Anjou
comes over with Monsieur de Foix – for the part we have an impressive former
footballer turned actor, Eric Cantona – and he is dashing, rude and impetuous
in his courtship of the monarch, although we can soon see that all he wants
from her is a position as a possible despot, for he seems to have a different
sexual orientation, or anyway he prefers other partners to the sovereign.
to be the world leader while Elizabeth is gaining strength and senior Alvaro de
la Quadra is the envoy that tries to scheme and plot the overthrow of the
legitimate – again, depending on one’s perspective – leader, trying to work to
work with the duke of Norfolk, press him to act when time appears to be running
out, then approaching Lord Robert Dudley when this one looks like losing the
favor of the sovereign and proposing that he acts in the interests of Spain.
The Earl of
Leicester appears to overplay his hand and try to push and benefit from the
feeling of Elizabeth, forgetting that this is a strong, marvelous, determined,
wondrous, bold, passionate, self-controlled woman that rejects him when, during
a dance at the court, following the exposure of the French suitor as a transvestite,
in an age when tolerance was not the order of the day, Robert Dudley pushes and
demands from his monarch the impossible.
the Pope aka the iconic, cinematic legend John Gielgud talks to a catholic
priest, John Ballard aka James Bond Daniel Craig, about the destruction of the
sovereign that they see as anathema, a representative of the devil, given that
she is the enemy of the Catholic church and the head of the Anglican Church and
Ballard appears to be the one who poisons the dress and he is about to kill her
majesty when her courtiers arrive to save her at the last moment.
infiltrating the enemy camp, but when Ballard lands on the English shore, on
his way back from the Vatican, he kills with bestiality one of the most important
spies, an invaluable source of information placed in the entourage of the Duke
of Norfolk, albeit very soon, the duke and the rebel priest are caught,
tortured, beheaded and their heads are put on spikes for all to see.
a classic film, with all that a masterpiece needs to have, illustrious performances,
a fantastic subject, a heroine that is a role model, bigger than life and most importantly
real – even if there would be many that detract, criticize and demolish her
accomplishments as the sovereign of an aggressive, imperial state – with sumptuous
costumes, incredible makeup – winner of the Academy Award – and a story that
brings the audience to another level, makes one feel mesmerized, enchanted and
in awe with a Wonder Woman and spectacular characters.
This is one
of the best motion pictures ever.
J. Edgar by
Dustin Lance Black
republican, Clint Eastwood is an outlier in Hollywood and in the present, he
seems to belong to a party that has lost its marbles – for someone who has had
the misfortune to live in a communist dictatorship – and with Ceausescu at the
helm it was one of the worst – being on the right of the political spectrum
makes sense, but not for the organization led by a fool, crook and liar like
marvelous book Intellectuals, Paul Johnson exposes the excesses, despotism,
cruelty of some of the world’s greatest minds, from Jean Jacques Rousseau to Leo
Tolstoy, from Henrik Ibsen to Hemingway and many others.
we should not concern ourselves with the grave mistakes made by Eastwood the political
man and concentrate on the magic that the filmmaker delivers.
would be thrilled to watch the films of a director, actor and producer that
speaks at the Republican conventions to promote the image of their presidential
front men, but for someone like this viewer, unconsciously there would be a tendency
to look with a very critical eye to the works of the one who delivered some of
the most famous lines in cinematic history…
to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”
J. Edgar is
also about the importance of the law, different from Dirty Harry, but with a
number of similarities, given that the Inspector Callahan was a determined,
action figure dedicated to fighting crime by all means – sometimes shooting
dead criminals, even if that meant breaking the law – and J. Edgar Hoover was
another, arguably more important character in the fight against crime, with an ambiguous
who needs no introduction plays the leading role, of a man that seems to have
been a repressed homosexual, complicated figure that played a paramount part in
creating, building up the Federal Bureau of Investigation that is so much
attacked in an era of a leader that speaks about witch hunts, detests the
agents working there and for people like this viewer he is clearly a Russian
asset – it may be without his knowledge, for stupid, corrupt and vicious as he is,
he could well look for profits above all else, without caring or understanding
that he promotes the interests of Putin and undermines his country by saying he
believes a tyrant over his own intelligence agencies.
early on with Helen Gandy aka Naomi Watts, a young woman that he proposes to,
but she refuses stating that she is concerned with her career at that stage and
anyway, they had only just met – they would remain very close, for she would
become his private assistant and as such it seems that she had the key to
special files that the head of the FBI kept on various – perhaps all – important
public figures, wives of presidents and presidents themselves.
In one scene,
Hoover meets with Robert Kennedy, the then head of the department of justice,
the Attorney General who supervises the FBI, and he talks about his obsession
with the communist threat – with hindsight, considering the Russian interference
in the American elections, the victory that they may have delivered for the idiot
candidate, with hacking of the democratic emails and more, the collusion of
most of the Trump team, the late head of the agency seems to have been correct
and the old cold war enemies are even in the present actively undermining the
Edgar meets Clyde Tolson aka the impressive, great Armie Hammer, he appears to
be enamored – at least in this perspective of events proposed by this film – he
wants to have him work for the Bureau, albeit there are elements in his file
that would have prevented his employment were it not for a personal, emotional
interest in the man who saw the FBI as a temporary step to be followed by a
career in the private sector, where he would open an office.
between the two is described as a passionate love affair – that could have been
platonic, we do not know for sure – with long periods of serenity and possible
bliss, interrupted by scenes, such as the moments after a congressional hearing
in which the head of the Bureau is exposed as a man who takes all the credit
for the caught gangsters, but he has never arrested any of them in person,
which was a rather lame accusation given the fact that we cannot expect the CEO
or leader of a big organization, the head of an army to be asked to get in the
line of fire and thus do great harm to his outfit.
friends, perhaps lovers, have other scenes of fighting, Clyde talks about the
lies that J. Edgar had told, the exaggerations to which he was given, the
spiteful manner of his attacks and demands for the firing of special agents
involved in high profile arrests, such as the one of Dillinger, envious and
spiteful, describing to the public the way Charles Lindbergh came to greet and
shake hands with him when the abduction of his child was investigated – whereas
the truth was that the Nazi sympathizer, yet marvelous aviator refused to see
the one he called a little man.
Hoover was a complicated man and this makes for a more intriguing saga, where
the merits of the one that has built the bureau from scratch, creating a
scientific laboratory in what used to be the smoking parlor, facing a shortage
of funds, powerful gangsters and enemies are balanced by his intrigues, illegal
taping of criminals and innocent people with power that he could blackmail if
it served his mean, personal purposes.
is a noble purpose, but exaggerating and labeling ordinary people for no reason
is already a jump in the other camp, that of the scoundrels and mobsters that
the FBI has been investigating and apprehending for so long – as to its future,
we have to see what the Orange Clown and his acolytes will do, given that the
Bureau has indicted so many of the allies of the Russian Asset and they are mad
about this, calling it a fake inquiry when in fact the documents, proofs,
witnesses, even the public statements made by the president show a horrid stand
for the enemy and not his own camp…the wish to abandon NATO, the allies, the
support given to the likes of Putin, Duterte, Kim and other despicable despots.
In a way,
we could wish for J. Edgar to be in charge of the Bureau he has created today,
to be able to take out the files he would have collected on this monster and
show how he works for Russia – “Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able
to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” – in more than those public
statements that should have been enough for any sensible person to see the fool
for what he is.
based on the play by Kenneth Ross
is one of the best motions pictures ever written, even if there is a very small
chance that you have heard about it – well, there is an infinitesimal chance
that you read this anyway.
It has won
the Best Supporting Actor and was nominated for the most important cinematic prize,
the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival of 1980, with two other prestigious nominations
on the list:
Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium and the Golden
Globe for Best Foreign Film.
aspect of this drama is the complexity of the characters, for it is hard –
maybe impossible – to find personages that cover almost all the range from hero
to the other extreme, of monstrous killers.
there is not just one man who has all this under the same skin, but two, out of
the three charged with murder and court martialed during the Boer War by the
is phenomenal in the title role of Lieutenant Harry Harbord ‘Breaker’ Morant
and the same is true about the other members of the cast:
winner of the Cannes Festival Award, as Major J.F. Thomas, Bryan Brown as
Lieutenant Peter Handcock and all the other wondrous actors.
are charged with murder and the accusation is gruesome considering that the
crimes they are supposed to have committed refer to executing helpless
This is as
despicable as a crime could be and the extraordinary thing is that the men appear
from the start of the trial to admit to this and thus make the rest of the
feature seem pointless on the surface.
be just looking at the surface, albeit it has been stated from the start that
this constitutes one of the main attractions of the motion picture, the fact
that the protagonists are at the same time monstrous – except perhaps for the
youngest of them – and at the same time victims, scape goats and pieces of a
puzzle which the British commanders manipulate and sacrifice of their chess
board to end a war that is unwinnable.
As we learn
about the circumstances of the fighting, we see that the heroes that are also
antiheroes have received orders from their superiors to the effect that they
are to take no prisoners and all the captives are to be shot and killed, albeit
the audience must be thinking that heinous orders must be disobeyed,
constituting what we would call today crimes against humanity.
is more complicated, for as Breaker Morant explains at times, they are fighting
a guerilla war, wherein their opponents use men, women and children, without
respecting any rules and making us think of the IS and other terrorist
organizations that are ruthless, albeit consulting historical books we would
surely find many differences – this is where on Bill Maher joke comes to mind…
“Islam is a
religion of peace…there is a piece of you here…a piece of you there…”
seems to be – and perhaps would end up as it looked from the start – a kangaroo
trial, for the army leaders state in private that they want to finish the war
and the execution of the three would send a message that they punish their own
and the two parties can negotiate in a better climate, as a result of this
the defendants that are in the beginning destined to be murdered have an
unexpected luck when the man selected to defend them proves to be a formidable
fighter, in spite of his total lack of experience, for he had never been to
court for a case and worked on land titles.
puts such a formidable defense that he has a tremendous impact – albeit he may
not be able to change the fate of the trial – that he calls the general commanding
the troops, to the outrage of the officer in charge of the proceedings, who has
to give in though, when the rights of the defendants are read from the manual
that dictates the proceedings.
the general does not show up in court and sends a subordinate with the mission
to deny that they gave orders for the Boers to be shot when taken prisoners,
even the opposite is true.
The film is
marvelous in that it has fighting – even as they are in jail, the rebellious Boers
attack and the prisoners defend with courage and brilliance and their counselor
indicates that according to tradition this must be pardoned for their acts of
valor, only to be refused by the puppet court – a splendid court drama,
combined with a spectacular psychological and historical side.
has killed, among others, a German priest who has travelled though their camp
and talked to Boer prisoners who in their turn are executed, albeit Germany was
not a part in that conflict – yes, they were supportive of the rebels and with
hindsight, we know that they would engage the British in two World Wars, but
the situation is as complex, intriguing, thought provoking as it is possible.
point, it is suggested – and this can be a description of the drama in just a
few words – that the firing squad should be brought in for trial and when the defense
demands that, the court retorts that they were only following orders…
this is what the accused have done…executing the orders given by the High
is for many good reasons – and it is on my Best 100 list – on the New York Times’
Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made List:
12 Years a
Slave, based on the book by Solomon Northup
the horror, the torture included in this motion picture, this viewer has been
reluctant to engage with it and look at the terrible scenes of whipping, the
awful beatings and the sufferings depicted in the Winner of the Academy Awards
for Best Motion Picture, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Actress
and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay.
of Solomon Northup, portrayed by the extraordinary, Academy Award Nominated for
the leading role Chiwetel Ejiofor, is so compelling as to be hard to watch, as
he is taken into 12 Years of Slavery – as the title makes clear – a tragedy
made worse by his initial status of free man.
He lives with
his wife and children in New York, where he is an appreciated musician, very
good at playing his violin, when two men make an offer for a tour, in which he will
make very good money and he would be able to provide for his family upon his
return from his travels.
hero is trapped, probably drugged when they celebrate the supposedly successful
enterprise and when he wakes up, he finds that he is handcuffed, his legs are
in chains and he cannot move and when a man walks into the room where he is a
prisoner, his demands to be freed are met with extreme violence and beatings,
which would unfortunately be repeated later.
African Americans – called using the “n” word throughout the film and indeed
with other, much worse insults – he is taken on a boat to the south – on board,
one of them is killed by a white man and thrown over board – and they are left
ashore where Freeman aka Paul Giamatti takes them into custody.
despicable Freeman – not that he is an exception, this more of a rule for white
men, owners of slaves – sells men, women and children and he makes a boy who
seems to be only about seven jump, lift his feet to demonstrate his prowess and
the qualities for which a future master should pay a big sum.
Ford is a slave
owner played by Benedict Cumberbatch and he is interested in the mother of two
children, but his attempted negotiation with Freeman fails on the issue of the
keeping mother and children together and the vicious seller insists he will
make an important profit and this is all he is interested in.
Ford is a
little more complicated, for he is not the Absolute Devil – this position seems
to be reserved for Edwin Epps aka Michael Fassbender – and at times he shows
some kindness and understanding, albeit he is still a slave owner and as such,
he is indifferent to the suffering of the African Americans.
Lupita Nyong’o – winner of the Academy award for Best Performance of an Actress
in a Supporting role – says as much when she talks to the hero and emphasizes
that as a white man, their master would never do anything if Solomon mentions
his real status as a free man.
is abused and attacked by the bestial Tibeats and when a fight ensues, the
white overseer brings two others to help him and they are ready to hang the
helpless slave that is saved at the last moment, but it is still somewhat inexplicably
left hanging by a thread, for what seems like an eternity.
him to Edwin Epps and if we felt that there is nothing worse that can happen,
we were mistaken, because this is the Ultimate Monster, a man so ferocious and
stupid as to punish his “property” when for one day the quantity of cotton thy
have picked is diminished – even if they have performed excellently – this brute
was obviously unaware of the Regression to the Mean.
This is explained
by the most influential psychologist of the present, the Nobel Prize winner and
astounding scientist Daniel Kahneman in his fabulous Thinking Fast and Slow, in
the chapter where he talks about the performance of Israeli pilots in the
Israeli Defense Force, who had a tendency to do something out of the ordinary
and the return to a more normal performance, in the same manner that others
made mistakes and then performed much better -
a tendency we have to come to an average, after performing out of the
Patsey is so
overwhelmed by the torture suffered at the hands of the slave owner that she
demands that Solomon takes her to the river, puts her head under water until
she is dead, for she cannot take it any longer – the master uses her in the
field to pick cotton, but he also rapes, beats the poor woman that is also
attacked and insulted by the wife of Epps, who is called to decide.
and the slave he owns, he says that he would rather keep Patsey, but this is because
he surely has this derangement, sadistic character and he wants a victim for
his mad atrocities – the most gruesome scene of the motion picture – which otherwise
is not lacking in horrid moments – has the young woman whipped by…Solomon, who is
told that if he does not use his whole strength, the crazy brute would kill all
black people he sees and he looks like meaning it.
after all this madness, Bass aka Brad Pitt enters the scene and he is an
abolitionist that argues with the vile, monstrous Edwin Epps over the unjust treatment
of the slaves, human beings like all the others that the slave owner sees only
as property and as such something he can abuse.
They are my
property and a man is free to do what he wants with his property – says the
repulsive, loathsome man.
Solomon is very
careful when talking with Bass, for although he sees a rare chance, he had
tried before to have a white man send a letter for him, only to have that
scoundrel report it to Edwin Epps.
picture is outstanding and historical in its importance as a document, an
educational work that would remain as one of the most important, classic motion
written and directed by Sean Anders
very good moments, we have the inevitable lachrymose, perhaps unavoidable
scenes in a film that aspires to commercial success that subtract from the
pleasure of seeing Instant Family.
“There is nothing
either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” Hamlet
If we are
to look at the educational, generous, kind, loving, humane side of the motion
picture, we should be able to forgive – Insha’Allah – some of the clichés, less
is Pete, Rose Byrne is Ellie, his wife, and they decide to try to become foster
parents and enroll in a program that would eventually give them the chance to
be with three children.
One of them
is already a teenager, Lizzy, and thus would represent a challenge, taking selfies
in the bathroom to the despair of her parents, who see a “dick pic” from an
first place, they do not know the real identity of the sender, thinking it is a
rather innocent colleague that the aggravated parents attack on the school
campus with abusive language.
leave the other two, smaller children, Lita who seems to be about four and Juan
who could be seven, in the car – somewhat surprisingly, but probably
explainable as an ad placement, this is a Hyundai.
red haired pupil explains that he does not shave his intimate parts, they are
not big as the parents claim and anyway, he is not the one who has sent the offensive
see who it is, the situation is even worse for the janitor is a twenty five
year old individual and this is a crime and Pete punches him in the face and
Ellie would kick him in the groin.
economy of the film though, this is a moment which shows how attached the
foster parents have become to the teenager, going to extremes to defend her
privacy and emotions.
the situation in the process, for they have forgotten the younger ones in the Hyundai,
the police that also take into custody the criminal janitor arrest them.
It is conceivable
that the humor of the creators of the film would have been ever more rewarding,
if commercial, rating and other considerations were not to play a major role.
For there is
play with boundaries and suggestions, as in the case of the would be foster
mother who wants a teenager, African American and an athlete that plays basketball.
This woman is
single and her requirements are so outré, perhaps outrageous as to make the
others laugh at her when she keeps stating that she has had no success in her attempts.
she is right and funny when she retorts to all this laughter:
You are the
exact opposite of a support group!
the two women that guide the families through this process – Sharon aka Tig
Notaro and Karen aka the excellent, amusing Octavia Spencer – are also mirthful.
the single woman who wanted an African American teenage athlete has the chance
to offer support to someone who seems the opposite, red haired and not into
There is one
ceremony where they cheer foster parenting and adoptions – the film advertises
the site where people can get involved and there are real pictures of people
who are active with that:
event, there is a hint that the single mother may want something else, or more
from the red haired boy that looks puzzled at his foster parent and this is not
hilarious, but suggests we could have had a better time.
As it is,
Instant Family serves more than the purpose of delivering a few laughs and
brings to the attention of the public that there is something we can all do for
those who have been abandoned.
based on the novel by Guillaume Musso
If you love
Romain Duris and John Malkovich, as the under signed does, then you will
probably be tolerant of the shortcomings of this motion picture that was
rejected by critics.
have not been more generous, since the rating on IMDB stands at 5.9 on a scale
from one to ten, and this is somewhat surprising given that four in ten Americans
believe in psychics.
lands, that percentage is surely higher.
legendary John Malkovich plays Doctor Kay – though not so god like when he
takes on roles in films like RED and then decides to participate in the sequel
He is not a
psychic per se, for he does not talk to the dead and does not propose the usual
phantasmagoria, has limits in what concerns the future and insists that we do
not know how we die.
does know who is going to die!
this is a premise that would antagonize many, if not most viewers, including
this one, who, upon seeing that the main theme has a rather preposterous idea
at the core did not engage with the film.
other hand, who knows…maybe we will have the chance to see a white halo and
then become aware that this is associated with someone who will die soon and
There is nothing
that Doctor Kay can do for the dying, except be there and help them somehow in
the final moments of their death, which is pre-established as he insists in the
There is nothing
one can do about the hour of death!
one of the best actors in the world, plays Nathan, a successful lawyer that
meets with Doctor Kay and dismisses the preposterous claims that the other
He is shaken
though when he sees in the subway a man that the doctor has pointed out to him
and predicted that he will die very soon use a gun to blow his brains out in
front of him.
lawyer sees that there might be some truth in what the apparently strange Kay
says, he is worried about Anna, a woman that he thinks might be in danger and
thus he tries to protect.
instance, when he inadvertently arrives at a party, he tries to prevent her
from working with the fuses for the lights that have just went off, only to
have her father die in her place.
conclusion drawn here is that the doctor is so wrong and Anna is surely in no
danger, but something happens quite soon, as a mad shooter starts firing his
gun and then kills her.
can now see that Doctor Kay is a Chosen man somehow and the two travel to see
Claire and their daughter, with another episode of clairvoyance at the airport.
The doctor –
and with him the audience – can see that one man has a halo, a bright white
light that emanates from him and in some later scene we can see him dead on the
side of the road.
stage, Nathan himself gains this power, like in other films, where one does not
become an X – Man right from the start – or does he…for one who is not looking
for this genre, it is hard to tell.
attractive, captivating side of this bizarre film is the serenity that
dominates the scenes in the later chapters.
blissful and gave an impulse for carpe diem.
it is not the best opportunity that either John Malkovich or Romain Duris have
had to shine.
written and directed by Ali Soozandeh
cineastes are among the best in the world – we could mention here Asghar
Farhadi and his brilliant About Elly, A Separation, The Past and the most recent
Salesman, or the glorious Children of Heaven by Majid Majidi
is another Iranian cinematic genius, with her Blackboards or At Five in the
gives the audience a glimpse at a theological tyranny, the Iranian Theocracy is
a repellent regime, albeit Trump is wrong, as always, in not respecting the accord
signed over the nuclear technology.
first few scenes, the ordeal, tragedy of life in an oppressive regime is clear,
when a prostitute has to drive with a judge and offer him sex, while her boy
sits in the back seat.
The boy may
be only about eight and at school, they refuse his admission without the
preposterous papers demanded by the vicious, corrupt, Kafkaesque bureaucracy of
a vile system.
other theocracies – Saudi Arabia for instance – women are abused and they have
to show everywhere that a male guardian – who can be much younger than them, has
authorized almost anything they do.
Guards – that is one example of a name that is supposed to mean something
positive, when in fact it represents the exact opposite, a reactionary,
fundamentalist, primitive force – have power over everyone.
couples that walk in the park, one of the protagonists as he travels with his
car and when they find a magazine with nudes, they take it away, jail him temporarily
and release him after a bribe is paid.
in the feature is as loathsome as almost all the officials that keep the
mullahs in power – there may be a few exceptions of people that try to help and
save men and women.
executions are public and as characters drive around, we can see corpses
hanging from cranes, many paying with their life for the opposition to a system
that is as despicable as one can be.
is trying to get the papers demanded by the school to admit her son and maybe
the main reason why she has sex with the judge – apart from getting money to
survive – is to use his influence.
have coitus only within the established frame of matrimony – they are chased and
tortured by the Revolutionary Guards – their rights are limited and they are in
a class inferior to men.
personage loses her virginity, it is paramount for her to restore it – indeed,
at a later stage, her partner would confront and send her packing upon
suspicion that something could have happened.
needs papers to perform an operation and that would mean a statement from the
family that confirms their agreement and this refers to accidents and a rape –
otherwise the religious Taliban would not have it.
costs money, for false documents could be procured – even for the bank loans actually
– and many people are desperate to get passports to get away from this hell,
which is described as heaven.
There is much
we recognize in this narrative, those of us who have lived in dictatorships –
be they communist as in the case of this viewer – for they all tell their subjects
that they experience paradise, when they know it is Hades in reality.
The system is
so absurd as to make it hard to believe that such retrograde, barbaric rules
and laws still exist in the 21st century, but for those who have
experienced these surrealist tyrannies it is all so real.
There is no
difference though between the dictatorship in Iran and that in North Korea,
although an idiot like Trump decides to talk about a love affair with Kim,
while accusing the ayatollah.
A sane mind
would condemn both, for the starvation in North Korea is worse than what
happens in Venezuela – if we come to comparing devastation, murder and the oppression
of one or another people.
as the other marvel, Persepolis, before it, is not just a great motion picture,
it serves an educational purpose as well, for those who have no idea how lucky
they are to live free, can see what it means to have to look over the shoulder
for the murderous Guards of the Iranian or another regime.
of Scots based on the book by John Guy
The Favourite, nominated for an astounding ten Academy Awards – albeit it seems
not a Favorite in the most important categories at the bookies that are good at
predicting what happens tomorrow night – we speak on Saturday 23rd –
it is difficult to know how accurate Mary of the Scots is in historical terms.
a motion picture is not a documentary and therefore artistic license is supposed
to change things, create dialogues and scenes that may have never taken place
expect in the imagination of the scriptwriters, but for this cinephile it is most
often important, at least for a historical drama to have a sense that it is not
all a phantasmagoria, unless we are speaking of History of the World, where Mel
Brooks can have stereo speakers blasting near the Roman Senate, sometime before
horrifying end of Mary Queen of Scots is enough to feel pity – if that is the
right word, for Milan Kundera mentions in The Unbearable Lightness of being the
fact that pity refers to somebody who is somewhat lower than we are, while
compassion implies a rather equal status – for her.
if there is one thing that we get from this new look at the famous martyr, it
would be that she was extraordinarily proud, brave, majestic, a mantra that is printed
on the poster of the film:
One of the
other main themes of the narrative seems a bit harder to process, for at least
for this viewer it seems to suggest – if not affirm with conviction, for the
book on which the script is based is titled Queen of Scots: The True Life of
Mary Stuart – which obviously means that the author and makers of the
production strongly believe in this rendering of the historical chapter.
idea, which is also on the poster, with the two Academy Award Nominees – for other,
different motion pictures – Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie photographed
together- presents a very strong bond between the two Queens, the English and
version of events, the two great leaders clash, but there is another, maybe
more important truth behind the scenes, which would be that Elizabeth I aka the
marvelous Margot Robbie was very often in awe with her relative and the
courtiers, advisers were the ones who pushed for a conflict and finally a
rupture, a separation between the two heroines.
appears as the stronger leader for much of the film – there is no spoiler alert
when the ending is well known to everyone with the downfall and the ultimate
success of the Queen of England is mentioned – although her circumstances are
less favorable to say the least.
France at the age of fifteen, he marries and becomes a widow only three years
later, when upon returning to Scotland she finds her half-brother James
Stewart, Earl of Moray as leader – a man with whom she has a tumultuous,
conflicting relationship that would usurp – if that is correct- it certainly is
from the point of view of some Scottish nationalists, if not all – her power.
while, the two are getting along, but then events would change that – some occurrences
are baffling and probably based on documents, letters but it is surely
impossible to say for sure – we can wonder what the estimations would be…40%
chances that this really happened? – that there were gay courtiers, one of them
had an affair with Henry Stuart Lord Darnley and then was killed with multiple knife
stabbings under the eyes of his queen.
of Elizabeth I, William Cecil aka Guy Pearce and Lord Randolph aka Adrian
Lester, are always concerned about Mary of the Scots and when she wants to
marry a second time – allowed in theory because she was told she could marry,
but to an English noble – Lord Darnley they oppose this strategic move, because
they think the two of them would have more of a claim to the English throne and
therefore scheme to have the Scottish queen defeated.
to fight a civil war, saying that if it is not happening in Scotland it would
be in England, they support a faction led by the Earl of Moray that would
confront the supporters of Mary and alas, there are others scheming to get the
power, one of them being the father of Henry Stuart, who makes his own son sign
a document which may be the prove that he was a traitor – in this telling of
history, Mary is determined to have a heir to the throne – given that Elizabeth
has not married and it is obvious, due to her age, that she would never have a
son, James, would become the king of both England and Scotland and the first to
have the two realms under his rule, but his conception seems to have been a
hard fought battle – if we believe the perspective of this film – wherein Mary is
practically fighting her – bisexual or gay - husband to have a coitus that he
does not want and when he rejects her, looks away, she tells him to close his
eyes and think of his gay lover, then beats his chest and in the consequent
struggle – perhaps Lord Darnley was also a sadist – he slaps her hard and then
gets more interested to see this as a struggle and does his duty so to say.
of Scots is a formidable film, more than worth watching, in the opinion of this
cinephile it is better than Oscar contenders – the Academy awards for Best
Leading Actress seems to be going to Glenn Close but Saoirse Ronan is just as
good, if not better and the whole film is superior to both Black Panther and A
star is Born – if you ask this viewer.
As for the
historical facts, you could read this article:
the Golden Age aka Amintiri din Epoca de Aur, written by Cristian Mungiu, one
episode directed by him
as well received as 4 Luni, 3 Saptamani si 2 zile – winner of the most
important cinematic award, the Palme d’Or and included by TIME Magazine or some
other prestigious newspaper on its list of best 100 films – Dupa Dealuri or
Bacalaureat, Tales from the Golden Age demonstrates the creative genius of one
of the best film makers in the world, Cristian Mungiu.
think that I used to have the honor of seeing at the Lycee Francais, where he
has one or more children and my daughter used to be a student…
of the Golden Age – communists love these tremendous lies, in the same manner
as Trump boasts about being the most intelligent, a stable genius, working hardest
and being the best president ever, the disastrous, murderous regime proclaimed
that we live in Epoca de Aur.
was the opposite – just as Trump is a calamity and a shameful leader – and it is
exposed by this joke, which is not in the collection of episodes, but it is appropriate
and explains the situation, through questions and answers from Radio Yerevan –
for some reason, it was not the National Radio
it true that Mr. Ionescu has been given a white Dacia? – the local, defective
model which had its own set of ironies – why do we have heating on a rear window
of a Dacia? To keep our hands warm when we push
it is not a car, it is a bicycle, it is not white, it is black and it was not
given to him, it was taken away from him…
words, whatever the officials said, it had to be read in reverse, just like in
The Animal Farm, all animals were not equal and the pigs, supported by their vicious
dogs – aka the Secret Police – took control and used the rotten system – it is not
just human error, the concept is a calamity itself – to live in luxury and
opulence while others starved and died.
One of the segments
has The Official Visit name and the party official sent to organize it is one
of those who kept the machinery going and alas, is very likely to be one of the
beneficiaries of the change of regime, most likely a member or supporter of the
Red Plague Party that rules today and wants to change the laws so that stealing
by the leaders of this vicious, corrupt mafia group could rob the country blind
with impunity – recently they have taken the absurdity of their misrule and
debauchery to the level where they call on trial leaders of the European Union institutions
just because they dare criticize the PSD crimes and they think they can do
anything they bloody well want.
activist is in control in the countryside, where the Supreme Dear – read it
most loathed – Leader is supposed to visit the next day and the party cadres
are there to see that he has the best welcome, with children cheering, best
possible imagery that must cover the grim reality – in some instances, in order
to have the Trump-like-fool think that the harvesting was over, they just sent
machinery in the fields to bury the crops, since there was no time to collect
it, before the madman would fly over in a helicopter, thinking the job is well
usual paraphernalia, the “wooden tongue” as it was called of formal speeches
and “precious indications” that cows must not be brought to the itinerary, this
and that needs to be changed, there is an evening of heavy drinking and the
whole gig is taken to a park at the exit of the village, where all the
notabilities and the apparatchik visitors jump on the merry go round and spin
around for hours on end, on to the next day, because they were so stupid – to compare
with the present, in the same manner that Trump has selected the “best people”:
Cohen, Flynn, Manafort, Stone and all the other vicious, stupid Goodfellas that
have been or will be sent to jail.
of the Party Photographer refers to the manner in which the communist party manipulated,
used the propaganda, brain washing machine in the way the Chinese, North Koreans
and others do today, eliminating all possible negative connotations, hints and
promoting a false – “fake news” in the parlance of the present – image of the
Perfect Superman Wonder Leader, who cannot have any blemish, any spot to his
figure, since he is Mult Iubitul, Stimatul aka the Very Loved, Esteemed Genius
of the Carpathians.
official visit, as he was welcoming a foreign head of state, the villainous, murderous,
tyrannical, diabolical Ceausescu was photographed by the Official press
representative, only the censors were not happy with the result which did not
show the needed resplendent, divine, god-like figure that the tyranny needed
and hence they decided they need to work on the picture, without the digital
advances of this age, the Photo Shop and other means we all have now.
make the Hero of World Peace, Ctitorul Romaniei Moderne, the Beloved, Brilliant
Superman look the part of those many superheroes that have invaded cinematic screens
in the past decades, they worked on the photograph, but looking too much at the
face and not concerned with other details it seems, for when the picture was
printed on the front page of the Scanteia aka the Spark – the equivalent of the
Soviet Pravda and just as mean and false – the dictator had two hats in his
hands and thus made plain the fakeness of this and by consequence other photos
and “news” printed by the official paper.
hunt for all the copies has been instated and police units everywhere waited
for the trains to arrive at stations to confiscate all the papers before they
could have arrived at “avid readers” – they obviously could not care less for
what they knew to be total crap, except of course for the same scoundrels and
monsters that are in charge today and continue their sacred mission of telling
their deplorable voters – similar to the Trump fans – that stealing by them is just
good and if the former cadres are enriching themselves while keeping the
population in relative poverty that is just as things should be…
are comical, especially for someone who watches without having experienced the
reality behind the stories – for those of us who have had to live in The Golden
Age, the Tales have a very depressing background, because albeit ridiculous and
laughable, the figures of the Party Activist, the Greedy Policeman and all the
other Inglorious Bastards have affected our lives – one such policeman has
handcuffed me to a radiator and then we had to face their callousness in the
days of the 1989 revolution – I am proud to say I am quoted in Newsweek over
what happened in those days…
the Golden Age is an excellent film, as is to be expected from the glorious
Lavender, based on story by William Locke, written and directed by Charles Dance
Judy Dench and Maggie Smith leading the cast as the Ladies in Lavender, this
film could not be an unfortunate experience.
It is not
the best motion picture in which the iconic actresses have been, but it is a
notable, emotional, romantic story.
plays the part of Ursula, while Maggie Smith has the role of Janet and they are
sisters living in a village on the shore of Cornwall.
the beach one day, Ursula sees a shadow near the beach and her sister thinks it
is a man.
brought ashore by the storm of the previous night, a castaway is just barely
bring him to their cottage and helped by Doctor Francis Mead, they nurse and
help him recover.
He does not
speak English and that would be cause for concern and then suspicion in the
This is the
period just before the war, the Nazis were becoming ever more belligerent, and
some think the stranger might be a spy.
Mead is prejudiced and determined to eliminate a rival when he talks to the
constable about the dangers posed by the foreigner.
the sisters teach the young man English, with labels attached to the door,
curtains and other objects in his room to begin with.
They also are
attached to him, especially Ursula, who is rather advanced in age, when
compared with the recovering castaway.
dialogue is established, they find that his name is Andrea – the excellent
Daniel Bruhl portrays him.
He is not
German and in no way an agent of the Third Reich as presumed by paranoid
In fact, he
is Polish and very gifted and talented as they would discover when they bring
in a neighbor with his violin.
to a good, if not exceptional performance, Andrea asks for the musical instrument.
addition, the outstanding genius with which he delivers a sophisticated small
concert overwhelms us all.
A Russian woman
is holidaying in the village and she happens to hear at a later stage how
gifted the young man is.
She is Olga
Daniloff and the wonderful Natascha McElhone plays the part with brilliance and
Olga is extremely
beautiful and the doctor is soon infatuated and tries to court and seduce her.
are in vain, albeit his insistence turns to spying, when he is rejected and he
soon tries to harm Andrea.
Ursula is also
jealous when a letter is sent, mentioning that Olga, who is a painter, has a
He is a
world famous violinist and given his position in the artistic world, he could
help the career of Andrea.
willing to keep Andrea for herself so to say, Ursula does not say a word about
this wondrous opportunity.
also fond of the young man, albeit not in the same rather exaggerated and inappropriate
manner as her sister, Janet burns the letter from Olga.
the violinist finds about it, he is very upset with the Ladies in Lavender and ready
to take his chance.
takes initiative and determination on the part of Olga to make him act before
he is stopped.
decides that they must act quickly and see her acclaimed brother as soon as
in the role of Dorcas and Toby Jones as Hedley are only two of the other
brilliant actors present in this very good motion picture.
written by Robert Rodat and directed by Thomas Vinterberg
There is much
to celebrate in a drama that tells the story of the submarine disaster that
took place in 2000 and in which the Russian leadership showed its ugly, mean,
reading this note, I would suggest that you access Variety and look at the
excellent review posted there, albeit it would make you avoid the film, given
that it is quite critical of it.
The saga of
the submarine made the headlines around the world and the callousness, cruelty
of those who lead Russia became once again evident for those who have eyes and
a minimal understanding of events.
leftist, guerilla fighters, people like Corbyn, Maduro, Trump would agree with
anything Putin says and does, including sentencing sailors to die because they
are inept and refuse aid from the West.
is the incredible Thomas Vinterberg, famous for the astonishing Festen and the
acclaimed Jagten, but the critic from Variety is right to point out the
shortcomings of this mega production.
could not include more iconic figures:
Max von Sydow
– if only for his presence in the masterpieces signed by Ingmar Bergman and he
has a place in the history of cinema, along with some other major gods – has the
role of a vile character – Vladimir Petrenko.
As one of
the leaders of the Russian Navy, he boasts and manifest a criminal arrogance after
the calamity is produced, refusing to accept the international offers of help
It must be
noted though that in spite of the fact that this is surely a villain and the
orphans are right in refusing to shake his hand when the funeral and religious
service is organized, he is one of the less relevant ones.
Monster is missing from this picture, alas!
was the ultimate commander in chief and the one who would not agree to a loss
of face, the saving of his subjects with foreign vessels, an intervention that
would highlight the precarious, disastrous state of equipment, the economy,
vessels, technology – everything in other words – and would mean a humiliating
sailors die, rather than admit to the truth – in the meantime, fueled by
revenues form gas, oil and other natural resources, the Russian army has seen
its budget increase and important sums of money have been spent for better
equipment, although that economy is still smaller than Italy’s and much of the noise
made is just an effort to punch above its weight.
an accident takes place on board the submarine Kursk and the officials use their
usual propaganda and lies to pretend that it was in fact a collision with a
foreign vessel and not the decrepitude of that – others were in the same
condition – warship which caused the catastrophe.
They try to
use the only resource they have for such an emergency, but it does not do the
job and the British and others offer immediate support – Colin firth is majestic
as Commodore David Russell.
is another fabulous, sensational, phenomenal actor who has mesmerized, ravished
audiences with the recent, resplendent, one of the best films ever made – Toni Erdman.
He has the
role of Admiral Vyacheslav Grudzinky, who is in command of the fleet and the
submarine and when the disaster strikes, he is engaged in the effort to save
that the Russian fleet has becomes useless – which it looks like it was to
begin with – he talks with Commodore Russell – the two had met each other
before the calamity.
his acceptance of the British support is not tolerated by his superiors who
demote him, stall the British when the loathsome Petrenko leads the talks and
they are concerned with their image and the idea that adversaries would steal
secrets from their ancient vessel.
of the Russians - Putin in fact, for he is the Supreme Leader, the Tyrant who
gives the orders - is consistent, they have no qualms about using polonium on
one of their own – the late Litvinenko – or novichok, as in the recent
Salisbury attack, invade the Ukraine, meddle in elections in America – albeit their
puppet there, The stupid Donald denies it, for he believes the dictator and not
his own agencies – and elsewhere.
What are a
few sailors in this equation, where the Great Vladimir and his acolytes are
concerned with the Glory of Mother Russia?
There is no
spoiler alert, for the end of this saga is known and it does detract from the
pleasure of trying to find what happens, although the details of the loathsome,
barbaric stand of those who should stand by their service men – there were no
women and there are none on their submarines, we can be sure of that, even if
it might be a state secret – and instead sentence them to die with monstrous