joi, 31 octombrie 2019

Luce by J.C. Lee, based on his play - Nine out of 10

Luce by J.C. Lee, based on his play
Nine out of 10

Luce benefits from a very smart, intriguing, if bewildering for this viewer who was at a loss to see what was really going on through successive stages of the development of the plot, and an outstanding cast, with Naomi Watts as Amy Edgar, Tim Roth playing her husband, Peter Edgar, the superb Octavia Spencer in the complicated role of Harriet Wilson and last but not least, the promising, talented Kelvin Harrison Jr. in the title role of a teenager who seems to be the hero, only to flip and then appear as the ultimate, cruel, devious antihero, responsible for ruining a life.

A disclaimer might be in order though, for to this cinephile it was not clear to the end – hence the liberty to mention the finale, for there is a feeling that yes, this is what happened, but as to why, is there a serious caveat, an immense exculpating circumstance though? – what is the exact responsibility of the villain and to what extent is he ready to take his revenge, need to affirm his belief and convictions…
This is a very articulate, so bright as to be nearly suspicious young man, a star of his class and high school, embarrassed at one point not by the harm he has done, but by the fact that his example is so much emphasized, he is mentioned as a role model to the point where he attracts the wrath of others and especially and individual who is ejected as a result of his misbehavior and the drugs they found on him and who challenges the protagonist and asks or invites him…’would you trade places with me?’

Luce Edgar has come all the way from Eritrea and has been adopted by white folks who live under the impression that their son is an absolute star, destined for immense success, encouraged as they are by the reports from school, his behavior, the fact that they say he has overcome, after duress, many – not many, but a multitude – of hours of therapy to put behind the years of psychological and perhaps physical torture he had suffered in his childhood in Eritrea.
However, alarm bells are sounded by one of his teachers, Harriet Wilson aka the sensational, balanced, subtle Octavia Spencer, who talks with the mother, Amy Edgar aka Naomi Watts, about a disturbing paper, an essay written by her son, in which he took the role of a fundamentalist, a man whose belief is that enemies must be crushed, literally in a bloodbath, a troublesome, gruesome perspective that the young star pupil appeared to embrace, if only for the purposes of the theme which the class had been given, but worrying, if not terrifying nevertheless…

In the climate that they have in America – where they have chosen, albeit with three million less votes in the popular count, a giant fool a massive idiot for whom republicans are still ready to vote, except for a meager 5 or 6 percent – with shootings and mass murders in high schools and elsewhere, teachers have to be very careful and notice any sign of disturbance, inclination to violence in any of their students and thus Harriet Wilson was justified in following this particular lead.
When she searched the locker of the boy who wrote about killing people and destroying adversaries, she found some illegal and very dangerous fireworks, which, if fired, could have the effect of a shotgun, could penetrate a door – or was it a wall? – and cause great damage, with the potential to injure others or even worse and she entrusts the parent with this information, without alerting the principal or anyone else, with the demand that the mother talks to the boy and resolves this disturbing issue.

The result is that the hero or antihero speaks about behavior that incriminates – for him and soon for his family – the teacher, who seems to have placed someone else on the spot…Stephanie Kim would enter the frame and her story, shared with Amy Edgar, would cause the audience to be ever more confused as to the role of the star- student in all of this, seeing as the girl has been – what would be the word they use in America for this now? – harassed, abused, manhandled by three of the boys, until Luce shows up and then he tells her to keep this a secret…but is it to cover this up for his friends or to save the girl from more torment?
He would use her with ruthlessness – unless of course, the teacher is not mischievous and hostile, as the antihero keeps claiming…indeed, this viewer kept waiting for a Reversal of Fortune, a twist in the plot which would henceforth show Ms. Wilson in her ‘true colors’, and we find that the boy had been innocent all along and the machinations of the adult and of the clever plot just played games with us…only it does not happen.

When Stephanie comes to see the same teacher, we wait for an incredible revelation and she talks to the professor about the rape and a testimony is prepared, with the principal waiting for a major breakthrough in the case, in front of the parents gathered to learn about the latest, abhorrent developments, only to see that the girl has disappeared and it was all yet another scheme of the main character whose brilliant mind seems to be used from one point on only to pay imagined affronts, in a personal vendetta that knows no bounds, appears to involve even the deranged sister of the teacher and everything else surrounding the woman that has become a mortal enemy of a…devil.

Yes, the boy has had to go through so much in Eritrea and that is the explanation for what happens, together with an extraordinary mind that is used alas for ghastly mind games, abuse, insults, destruction…just as stated in the essay that he has presented in class, by the presence of the fireworks and then by the fire started at one point to incriminate somebody else…
This is a formidable motion picture.

miercuri, 30 octombrie 2019

The Nightingale, written and directed by Jennifer Kent - Nine out of 10

The Nightingale, written and directed by Jennifer Kent
Nine out of 10

There are fabulous passages in the Nightingale, which have surely mesmerized audiences, the juries of various cinematic competitions, including the prestigious Venice Film Festival, where this motion picture has received the Special Jury Prize, awarded to the writer – director of the feature.

The Nightingale is Clare aka the fantastic Aisling Franciosi, an Irish woman who has been deported to Tasmania, a few years before 1825, when the story takes place, where she lives in squalor with her husband and their child, victim of the abuse of the monstrous lieutenant Hawkins, who has the power to prolong her detention and furthermore, to make her family suffer and to use this privilege to rape the poor woman.
Indeed, Clare’s husband confronts the lieutenant, without knowing the whole truth, the abominable acts committed by this disgusting creature against her, but then the antihero comes with his equally repellent and abhorrent sergeant, Ruse, and the soldier Ruse to the house of the heroine to cause a calamity, vicious and despicable scum that they are.

Hawkins rapes The Nightingale again, this time in front of the spouse who asks forgiveness and shouts at him to stop, hoping in vain that the subhuman would somehow find within him a spark of humanity, then invites Ruse to commit the same atrocity – he had expressed this desire before – and finally shoots the man dead.
Since their baby kept crying throughout the gruesome abuse suffered by his mother, the lieutenant shouts at Jago to stop him, the latter takes the boy in his arms, without any effect, shakes him and finally, swings the innocent infant and smashes his head against the wall.

They hit the mother with the butt of a rifle and abandon her, concerned as they are to reach another unit of the British Army, where the brute is looking for a different, better posting, which is located rather far, needing a tortuous journey through the Tasmanian forests, for which they need a native guide, people from the Aboriginal community, tortured, discriminated against and killed by the invaders.
Hawkins and all the other whites for that matter call the Aboriginal people ‘boy’, even when they are much older, as is the case of the native who takes them through the forest, to reach for the other side, as a sign of their contempt, racism and cruel injustice.

The Nightingale tries to get help and make the others bring the murderers to justice, but this is in vain, for it seems that the British Army – for which the undersigned has respect – has failed dismally in this instance, they allow killers to go free, up to the point where the vengeful mother and widow might get to the killers.
She has problems in enlisting Billy aka formidable Baykali Ganambarr as a guide, to allow her to catch up with the lieutenant and his party, following in their tracks, and hoping with vivid determination to pay back the tremendous suffering inflicted upon her.

If in the beginning the Aboriginal guide is hostile, for he has, together with his people, the owners of the land stolen by the damn whites, a long history of torture and killing at the hands of the Europeans that have traveled so far to take away everything that others kept for millennia, gradually, a bond is created between the Irish woman – she explains she is not English, on the contrary, she hates them too – and the native man.
On their journey into the forest, the English party makes yet more victims, for they catch a mother with her child, rape and kidnap her, only to kill their victim once they are surrounded by her native tribe, a moment when they shoot another member of the tribe and run.

Jago is wounded and Clare catches up with him, using her rifle to wound the killer of her baby in the leg, then fighting hand to hand with him, until she can use the knife and commit a fearsome, if justified to a great extent murder – on the one hand, this type of execution, albeit as a result of a fight, might be construed as murder, but on the other, this soldier had smashed the head of a baby against a wall…
Yes, he keeps crying that he did not want it, he is sorry, he tried to make him stop…but what else could he say?

For all the tension, the excitement and the horror of many of the scenes – including the one just mentioned in which the knife falls down repeatedly and then the rifle is used to make a masala of the head of the enemy, with blood sputtering over the head of the heroine, her dress, hands and all around – there are some segments which seem somewhat absurd, and the fact that the film goes on for more than two hours does not seem to add, but rather subtract from its value.

Nevertheless, The Nightingale is a memorable achievement and the story of this gritty, brave, determined, strong woman will remain with the public.

marți, 29 octombrie 2019

Parkland, based on the book by Vincent Bugliosi - Nine out of 10

Parkland, based on the book by Vincent Bugliosi
Nine out of 10

Unfortunately, this film has been under the radar and the critics that have looked at it are divided, with Variety dismissing it and rating it with a paltry 30 out of 100, while The Hollywood Reporter may be closer to the mark, in the sense that this viewer shares the views of the latter, rather than the former and considers this motion picture as remarkable, with excellent performances, delivered by a stellar cast and revealing aspects of the aftermath of the assassination of the American president that were unknown…surely, many, if not most of those watching this movie would be surprised to find some intriguing aspects.

Evidently, much of what happened is well known – although there are major productions that, instead of underlining the truth, engage in conspiracy theories that, engaging though they are, distort the reality and promote other culprits instead of the man who has acted alone, Lee Harvey Oswald…the CIA, working in cahoots with Cuban exiles, the Mafia and other outfits – but this feature is special in that it looks at the experience of individuals that are hidden in the background, trying to save John Fitzgerald Kennedy, once he is shot, have filmed the assassination, have been involved in the investigation of the weird, surely deranged Oswald…
It seems extraordinary that there was so much confusion in the Parkland hospital where the shot president is taken – admittedly, we have the benefit of hindsight and then things have improved so much in ER and generally in hospitals in the meantime – and they do not even know the blood type of the victim, whereas surely today, every unit on the way has advanced knowledge and furthermore, they must have the means to help a potentially wounded or sick commander in chief in the limousines or Air force One in this age.

However, in 1963, the doctors were not ready to receive the patient – not in the sense they would be today – and the operators received a code in communication, but they were not aware it was the wounded Kennedy on the way to their Parkland hospital, where they tried all that they could, in fact doctor Charles Carrico aka Zac Efron tries and pushes the chest of the man without a pulse or any signs of life, well after the others are insisting that there is no use and he should stop – indeed, although his efforts seems and were in vain, his insistence looked like the proper thing to do, for after all, there have been so many cases of patients that have been ‘resurrected’ after many minutes of resuscitation, that is surely makes sense to keep applying all there is to the commander in chief…

Unless of course we would be talking of Donald trump…in which case, seeing as he is ‘the best, smartest, and most wonderful’ he should be able to defeat any disease, enemy…superman that he is (in his sick, disgusting mind)

The wondrous Paul Giamatti plays Abraham Zapruder, the man who happened to be waiting for the motorcade, just as it approached the fatidic portion of the itinerary and used his camera to record what would be the only document of the assassination of one of the greatest presidents America has had – for all his flaws, revealed later, the multitude of affairs, the fact that he was a philanderer and had to use drugs to counterbalance the afflictions he suffered from, this heroic man was the real thing, not a conflated buffoon who whines and boasts on twitter about invented achievements…if we put Kennedy in contrast with the orange puppet in charge today, it makes the difference even more ludicrous.
Ron Livingston has the role of James Hosty, the FBI agent who would have to bear on his conscience the fact that he had been looking at the case of Lee Oswald , before he took the gun and pointed it at the leader of the free world, had tried to talk to him a few times, for the character was on the radar, he had been to Russia, married a Russian woman, but on the other hand, he seems to be useless, his threats pointless, although the head of the unit would accuse Hosty and say that they could have and should have arrested Oswald, who had threatened to blow up the bureau, because an agent had tried to talk with his wife and he disagreed…these threats were common, they had too few agents to deal with every idiot who makes a claim.

Billy Bob Thornton is as usual impressive in the role of Forrest Sorrels, the Secret Service man who was in charge of protecting ‘his man’ and then he is the one who takes some charge of the investigation – there would be some disputes though, the local police wants to look at it as a murder, the coroner arrives at one stage and says he cannot allow the corpse to leave the premises without an autopsy – Texas laws, but this viewer would say that it votes with Trump alas – and there is a confrontation over the subject and in the end, the body of the late president is allowed to travel to the plane, where they have to use tools to take out chairs, because the personnel rightly felt they must not allow this once glorious man to go out with the luggage…but there was no place for a coffin inside, without throwing away chairs…
There were other moments of confusion and absurdity…Jackie was considered an outsider by some personnel for indeed, she was  no longer the first lady and she was related to nobody in an official capacity anymore…although they changed that and the former vice president, now the Commander in chief stated that she has to travel with him.

The absurdity is provided by what happened, evidently, but also by some characters that are taken to the center of the stage by this film, such as the mother of the assassin, Marguerite Oswald aka the stupendous Jackie Weaver, who maintained that her son was working for the American government, he has always been an agent and then she wanted all sorts of outré things, money, protection and kept acting in a provocative, crazy way…asking for her son, once he is shot dead in his turn, to be buried with…JFK, at Arlington!

luni, 28 octombrie 2019

Dolomite Is My Name, written by Scott Alexander - 9 out of 10

Dolomite Is My Name, written by Scott Alexander
9 out of 10

This comedy seems to be making a sensation, perhaps a comeback for the star performer, Eddie Murphy, who plays Rudy Ray Moore, the actor that in his turn went on the big screen to utter the line that would become famous:

'Dolomite Is My Name'

Variety calls this ' a total motherf-kin' blast...(with) pleasurable funky verve'

They are probably right, although at times, some may find it hard to follow and understand the many slang words, curses and perhaps get into the flow of the movie, carried away indeed by an Eddie Murphy that is evidently in his element, complex in the change of tune, singing and dancing, doing even Kung fu, combining in his character an ingenuity, an ignorance that is overcome with zest, talent, drive and determination.
In some ways, this is an educational feature, the life story of a man with little, if any serious education, that rises through his skills and grit, from poverty, using a low paid job in a shop to sell his own label and then, without knowing anything about motion pictures, deciding to make one and enduring all the vicissitudes, selling all his record rights, present and future, to see the work accomplished.

A real hero in that he does not abandon his team - well, he tells his friends that they have to pay for their motherfucking breakfast, strawberries and all that shit, when he is angry that he is broke, the film they make has depleted all his resources and the loans he has taken on - and he is dedicated to his work, the plan they had made and the completion of the movie.

In one scene, the public is so eager to see his work that they come in big numbers and many are left outside and Rudy Ray Moore aka Dolomite decides to forget the glamour, the acclaim and offers his audience a spectacle...outside the premises, loyal in manner unknown to most celebrities, keen as they are on the triumph, the money and the fame, but not too fond of the regular man or woman who adore them.
The are echoes from the Disaster Artist, at least for this cinephile, in the sense that the critics destroy the film, rating it as worthless or worse, and on some level, they are right...there was charm, enthusiasm and energy, but we could look at the original productions and think that we would never enjoy something like that, except under certain circumstances.

Dolomite and his exploits became very popular, but in an unsophisticated, should we say brutal way, without any pretense of intellectual ambitions, with lines like...

'Are you for real and I give you twenty four hours to leave town and twenty three is already gone man' words to that effect...

As it is, some Golden Globe nominations might be expected for a comedy that has an incredible cast.

sâmbătă, 26 octombrie 2019

Joker, based on work by Bob Kane, bill Finger and others - Eight out of 10

Joker, based on work by Bob Kane, bill Finger and others
Eight out of 10

There are so many levels to talk about in and about Joker, which seems to be a favorite already for the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role – and indeed, Joaquin Phoenix is mesmerizing, spectacular, overwhelming as The Joker aka Arthur Fleck.

On the basic level, this cinephile and some publications have been less than exultant about the complete motion picture – leaving aside the aforementioned rare, ebullient, marvelous and so complex Joaquin Phoenix one man show – and some would be ready to dismiss it altogether as Much Ado About Little – let us not say nothing.
But even if one is tempted to look only at the surface and simplistically say there is not much substance, apart from the troubles of a lunatic that becomes a dangerous killer and the long quest for revenge, an outpouring of violence – hence the R rating – which does not seem all that different from and superior to other movies.

There is also the idea that Joker is not much more than an amalgam made from two Martin Scorsese classics, The King of Comedy and Taxi Driver, and the writer – director Todd Philips (director, producer of The Hangover) accepts the influence, but appears to suggest that ‘it was a specific era of cinema that inspired his take on the classic villain’.
The descent into Hades does not come in a flash, but we expect – we are also aware in advance, from the rating and the tremendous the buzz surrounding the film – that things would go downhill quickly, even if at the start, poor Arthur is a victim.

Actually, on another level – and as mentioned before, there are some different perspectives, angles from which we could look at the saga of Arthur Fleck – we can see the antihero as a victim, given that he discovers (and the audience with him) that he had been abused in childhood and moreover, his mother had been a bystander, with hindsight, it she could be seen as an accomplice, when the boy was subject to violence, physical and psychological.
As a myriad of studies demonstrate, those who have been abused in their tender age, become more than likely to inflict pain and suffering on others, once they become adults – which raises the question of how to look at them, at the issue and more importantly, what to do about it, how to prevent calamities and be reasonable, delicate and cautious…all at the same time

In the opening scenes, the joker is attacked; some teenagers steal a sign he was pushing, in his costume – by the way, the makeup and the look of the main character are extraordinary and help the exuberant, fantastic actor project such a troubling, Haunting Image – and he makes the mistake of chasing after them, only to be kicked and hurt terribly.
Seeing that he is so bruised, Randall, one of the colleagues at the outfit where the antihero works, offers him a gun – one of the parts that seem bizarre (but then, when dealing with a psychopath, all his demeanor must look outré by definition) is the attack on this individual, which seems unmotivated, unless the undersigned has missed so much – and later on, Arthur takes it to a children’s party

The relationship that Arthur has with his mother – up to the moment when he discovers that the past is not what he thought it was – reminds the viewer of the unforgettable, miraculous Rupert Pupkin – who shouted when he was reviewing his comedy act…’it’s impossible, it’s impossible!’- but when the aspiring comedian is recorded trying on his peculiar, tense, scary, strenuous, outlandish laugh and the humor in a hall, it reaches the show of Murray Franklin aka divine Robert De Niro.

The talk show host mocks Arthur and his performance, calling it a Joker, and he would pay dearly for this contempt, later on, when the antihero is invited on the air – which is yet another similarity with Pupkin, who wants to be presented on the show of Jerry Langford aka dark, hostile and impressive Jerry Lewis.
When three men start harassing a woman who is travelling in the train, in the subway, the Joker seems to be the only other passenger around and he starts with his by now familiar, grating, haunting, strange, signature laugh, which annoys the attackers to the point where they come to the protagonist and start kicking and hitting him, up to the point where he takes the gun out and starts using it with fervor and apparently gusto.

This is one of the scenes where we can perhaps have a hint of the value of the film, the fact that it is more complex than usual, average features, for although the comedian is cornered, it looks like self-defense and indeed, he would be immediately celebrated a s a hero by the public – just as Trump is such a great guy for so many fools – it is still appalling to see him enjoy the violence, immensely…

The joker has just broken a record, it has become the highest – grossing R- rated movie (and already at number 13 (!) on the top Rated Movies list, as ranked by the public) with a total of $ 788.1 million at the box office and maybe on the way to at least one Oscar…

miercuri, 23 octombrie 2019

Ladies in Black, based on the novel by Madeleine St. John - Nine out of 10

Ladies in Black, based on the novel by Madeleine St. John
Nine out of 10

Angourie Rice is the driving force, the charming, candid, refreshing, with probable ‘reality distortion field ‘capabilities actress that stars in the leading role in this amusing, interesting comedy drama that takes place in Sydney, in 1959, centered around a large department store – was it Goode?

Lisa is actually called Leslie, but she does not like the sound of a name that she thinks is more appropriate for a man and thus she changes it, mystifying her rather conservative, if amiable father, who is not inclined to allow his daughter a progressive evolution, indeed, it looks like he would not allow much of anything in the early stages, although that could change.
Even if she is only sixteen, the heroine takes a position in the department store, as temporary help, where she meets with Fay and Patty first and later on with Magda aka Julia Ormond, a Lady in black who has emigrated from Slovenia – and is thus called a ‘reffo’ by the other employees, who are aggravated by her airs, the fact that she mentions some past experience with tailoring in Paris and does seem more sophisticated than the native Australians…

Magda does appear arrogant in some conversations where the education of the Australians, their lack of depth and the shallow culture are exposed, she mentions to her friend, Rudi, who is looking for a girlfriend or lover, that all the merit worthy natives are in Britain.
The public learns a few things about Fay, who has been trying to find a suitable companion, but she is disappointed always by the men that are presented to her, with their obsession with ‘just one thing’ – albeit her friend, Patty, married to Frank, protests and states that not all are so bent on that thing, because her spouse is keeping away from her.

In fact, she visits a doctor that has to look and see why she does not have children and observes that there is nothing wrong with the woman, asks her to bring the husband for a checkup, but she affirms that he would never do that…when the physician is interested in their intimacy, it becomes clear that they do not have coitus often and the conclusion is that this where the problem is.
This relationship seems destined to end, for the man simply disappears one day, after there is a climax, a zenith and hope for the future, when Patty brings home some sexy lingerie, tries it in front of the mirror and Frank comes in and therefore they have an intercourse like at no other time and after such a lengthy interval to boot…

Meanwhile, Lisa would like to become a poet…or maybe an actress, perhaps a novelist or all three and her gifts and skills would be soon evident, when she would have a chance to be tested, although she has to catch her father at the right moment, to make him sign admission papers, which he is rather against, while he is watching television and a very tight horse race and when he is pressed, he signs without knowing what for exactly.
Magda takes Lisa to her department, of Model Gowns, where the exhibits are quite expensive – a dress that the main character loves is 150 guineas, much more than she could afford, albeit the kind Slovenian would arrange it so that she may have it for as little as 30 – and the two women become very good friends.

Lisa meets Stefan aka the excellent Vincent Perez (seen in so many excellent French movies, such as Cyrano de Bergerac, Le Bossu), the educated, modern, polite Hungarian husband, who cooks and arranges the setting for a party – Magda is proud that ‘she has arranged that he arranged’ the table, wine and everything else.
Fay meets with Rudi at this shindig, at the idea of the inventive Lisa, and it is in Tinder parlance ‘a match’, albeit there are major differences between the two would be lovers…

When Lisa talks about her plans with Fay and Patty, she mentions her dreams for a future career as an actress and when the others mention vaudevilles, she says that she actually intends to be a stage artist, in serious productions:

-          “You know, Shakespeare, Ibsen, Moliere…
-          Molly who?” asks Fay

In other words, Fay has a very limited horizon and it is a great chance for her to have an idea of what great literature is when she reads Anna Karenina and she is indeed awed, but would confess to the educated, erudite, cosmopolite, sophisticated Rudi that she has not read major books, but he is sure that he can teach her about art and high culture.

Ladies in Black is not a spectacular motion picture, but the young and extremely talented Angourie Rice nevertheless pushes it forward.

luni, 21 octombrie 2019

Wildlife, based on a book by Richard Ford - 9 out of 10

Wildlife, based on a book by Richard Ford
9 out of 10

For the viewer that is not just familiar with, but enchanted by the mesmerizing works of Richard Ford (let us just mention The Sportswriter and Independence Day, notes on which you can find at the atmosphere, complexity, peculiarity, depth of Wildlife will come as little surprise, given that the motion picture is based on the narrative by the Pulitzer Prize winning author.

Ed Oxenbould is outstanding, even if so young, in the title role of Joe Brinson, the fifteen years old son of Jerry aka Jake Gyllenhaal and Jeanette aka Carey Mulligan.
To begin with, the parents seem to be still infatuated, attracted to each other, although if this is a question of love is a different matter...the genius Thomas Mann has written a short story in which one character is appalled by the frequency with which people use

I love you so much, there are no words to express it, or
Our friendship is too big for small words...

On the contrary, that character argued and I agree with him, these are words that have an all encompassing meaning and in the opinion of the literary personage, we don't find love or true friends, except in art, literature.
In reality, the argument was, when the significance of the word is tested, we find that such fantastic friends that we have abandon us, at the first real hardship.

The bizarre Jerry works on a golf course, as a caddy and one day, the manager of the club happens to be present when clients mention a bet that they have had with the employee, in good fun, and because this is against the policy of the establishment, the father is fired - it makes sense to this viewer, who is appalled at the many infractions at the club where he goes, where some staff do not know that they must say hello.
The parent, who talks to his son about this is outraged nevertheless and furthermore, when he is invited to come to work again, some time later, he refuses with vivid, determined hostility.

Jeanette tries to buy some groceries, when the check bounces and it is clear that they would face a financial challenge soon, albeit she protests when for the first time the issue of working as a teacher is mentioned, but very soon she has to try to find a job, only to be refused repeatedly, until finally, when a woman learns that the spouse is also unemployed asks...

Do you know how to swim?

Thus, the mother becomes a swimming instructor and meanwhile, Joe gets a position as an assistant for a professional photographer, in an age when people had no mobile phones, with spectacular cameras.
Jerry is restless in spirit it seems, but inert, immobile in his lack of action, for he does not get a job, refuses to contemplate one in a store...

I will not be bagging groceries, like a teenager!

Indeed, when his wife brings up the idea of their son earning money and learning something from it, as opposed to spending time with the football team, the father is opposed to the plan, only to be resigned to it in the next moment.
Jerry decides to join the firefighters and this causes an uproar, clashes that may end up in separation, for his wife is enraged by this idea, a dangerous action and one that pays only one dollar an hour...even in the fifties and sixties, when the story takes place, this was a menial job.

One of the people that take swimming lessons from Jeanette is Warren Miller, perhaps more than fifteen years older, a war veteran and a successful businessman.
He first comes to the house to borrow a book on poetry, although this might not be his priority.

When mother and son go his house for dinner, with Jerry out fighting the fires, or, as he says, watching the forest disappear, Warren has an interesting, Zen story to tell...
He mentions flying and invites Joe to join him, if he wants to.

Once, as he was alone in his airplane, a flock of wild geese came flying by.
This was a sublime, State of Grace moment.

The pilot did not care for anything at that time.
He was in what a classic of psychology would call Flow.

Warren was above it all.

duminică, 20 octombrie 2019

The Laundromat, based on the book by Jake Bernstein - Nine out of 10

The Laundromat, based on the book by Jake Bernstein
Nine out of 10

This comedy drama – listed only as drama for some obscure reason, contrary to the tone, the shades adopted by Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas right from the opening scenes, surely with the director, the brilliant Steven Soderbegh determined to expose the financial scandal, but also reveal the preposterous, grotesque dimensions of the money market arrangements, which are still in place in so many states and territories (such as Delaware, where we are told that the director has registered five companies and the writer one) – would be touching a raw nerve in so many countries, where corruption is rampant and rulers, dictators and Trump like clowns park their money outside threatening jurisdictions.

In our land, the former gangster ruler has been jailed a few months ago, but only after he had plundered, abused the system, finances, judicial norms and may have sent money to Nevis, a fiscal paradise at the center of the plot of The Laundromat, where so many companies and shady thugs have established shell aka empty concoctions where registered, without any activity, employees or sense, other than to protect the ‘privacy’ of the owners, that used these unscrupulous territories and tiny states – albeit Nevada, Delaware, Jersey, Luxembourg are not in the Caribbean and the Irish lax tax norms have encouraged Apple, among others, to use the country in order to pay minimal dues, if anything of what should be given to tax authorities in more demanding venues – to Launder money…hence the title of this film.
To begin with, Gary Oldman aka Jürgen Mossack and Antonio Banderas aka Ramon Fonseca, explain with alacrity – and perhaps with too much enthusiasm for the rocambolesque, extravagant side of those dubious, ultimately vicious in fact personages – the significance of money, how we used to trade bananas for cows and they have some props in the form of primitive humans to exemplify the idea, and what the disadvantages were, in that bananas would ripe and then get spoiled and the cows…well, they could run away.

Therefore the need for something more solid, unperishable, to be traded with better effect, more diligently, and we arrive in this day and age, to the scandal known as The Panama Papers, following which the prime minister of Iceland, reputedly a Nordic, clean country – as a side note, the famous Danish have a bank, Danske, involved in a huge operation that looks pretty much like the plot of this film –has resigned, together with other world and business leaders and which we follow with great interest, especially from the moment when the glorious Meryl Streep enters the frame, as Ellen Martin, the woman who becomes a widow when the vacation she is on takes a turn for the horrid and the insurance company that should have provided adequate reparations proves to be involved in a massive fraud.

As the retired woman follows the money, she comes across Malchus Irvin Boncamper aka Jeffrey Wright, in the unlikely setting of Nevis, where she is looking for the address of this re-insurance company, which is actually hiding one of the many frauds masquerading as legitimate businesses, for which this bigamous man serves as cover, between his games of solitaire, and she happens to ask exactly the right person, only Malchus declines to admit he is the one to answer questions and pretends to be unacquainted with Boncamper, only to be arrested in Miami, in front of his second wife, who wants to kick him as soon as she finds out he has another spouse, in Nevis.
The segment involving Charles, Astrid, Simone and Miranda feels like a small disappointment in what is otherwise a wonderful entertainment, because it is much more soap opera – granted, this was a real scandal, but it plays like one of the South American telenovelas that were so popular in our parts and elsewhere – notwithstanding the fact that it does expose the abhorrence of those transactions, how even within a family, one member could cheat the others out of promised riches, in this particular case, companies worth in excess of $ 20 million, which are emptied and then valued at only 34 or 100 dollars.

The China chapter makes for some gruesome viewing, no jocularity here, as it should be for we are talking about a vicious tyranny, and the personage Bo Xilai is as real as can be, seen as a potential competitor for the present dictator, in charge for life (!), and thus eliminated for what was surely serious, flaunting, ghastly corruption, but persecuted more as a political symbol- do not rise against the emperor, because the result will be devastating for the family and all those near, we see how they take organs – heart, kidneys, cornea – and not from a corpse, but from…a living human being!
Free Hong Kong would be the message, but also pay attention there, for if these bastards catch you, there is no limit to what they would do to you.

When Ellen Martin first approaches a media outlet with the information she has gathered, the story of over twenty fatalities on a vacation boat, on a lake, not the high seas, and the fraud that underlines the insurance and re-insurance of the companies involved, they are not overexcited, on the contrary, it seems to them as such an exotic, complicated narrative, with little or no impact locally – the journalist even says that this looks like a foreign based shindig…she did not use the last word though) and when they reach the location…Panama, the already diminishing interest appears to vanish.

Nonetheless, the big scandal eventually hits the news and it makes the headlines worldwide, provoking aforementioned resignations and disgrace, and the couple of extremely wealthy comics, Mossack and Fonseca – both in possession of some resplendent, best houses in the world type – panic and see that they have to close down many of the multitude of offices they had all over the world, following the hacking of their system and the publication of the incredible list of clients, some of them still enjoying ill gained riches to this day…

vineri, 18 octombrie 2019

Sometimes Always Never by Frank Cottrell Boyce - Nine out of 10

Sometimes Always Never by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Nine out of 10

Although this is a subdued, perhaps somewhat unglamorous, without the loud bangs that are the recipe of comic books based motion pictures that flood the theaters these days, film, Sometimes Always Never has a subtlety, undercurrents, splendid moments, maybe perfect acting – especially the legendary Bill Nighy – that make this a great movie.

The hero of the narrative is Alan aka reserved, minimalist and marvelously efficient Bill Nighy, a tailor with aristocratic manners, who has made mistakes in his past – perhaps also the present in which he can miscommunicate with his son, Peter, come across as aloof, indifferent at times, unable to understand better the feelings of others.
Alan is also brave, we learn from his talks with Peter that he has been a single parent, when they argue over the fact that the father used substitutes, surrogates, cheap replicas of games – they had not played the authentic scrabble, but something which was ersatz scrabble, maybe because they were in financial straits, or as an alternative, the parent was just spend thrift – the father replies at one point that the two brothers had to make do with a mother surrogate in his own person…he had to play the mother as well.

The protagonist tries to find his missing son, Michael, and in the beginning, he is on the beach, talking to his other son, Alan, on the mobile phone, and then he arrives at a van that sells ice-cream and appreciates the pastel colors, that are so…pastel and then thinks it might be Alan who has done the work, for it is something he does, generally.
The humor in this and many other scenes is minimalist, for there is no reaction from the man in the van, the one who sells ice-cream, but may not provide this peculiar customer with the coffee he wants, and yet, the mannerisms, attitude, presence and charm of Alan aka Bill Nighy offer such a good show, albeit not a noisy, exuberant, or exaggerated one as in some flawed comedies …say I Feel Pretty (destroyed here:

Alan and Peter drive to a morgue, to see if a body they have there belongs to the missing Michael, and they meet at the motel where they spend the night, in spite of the initial protestation of Peter, a couple that is there for the same reason, to look at the corpse in the mortuary.

Arthur aka the very good Tim McInnerny (appreciated by this cinephile recently in Agatha and the Truth of Murder - ) is challenged to a scrabble duel by Alan, but this turns out to be something of a hustle, for Alan is so good as to be the equivalent of a black belt in martial arts looking for sparring partners in a small hotel in middle England…
Arthur and his wife, Margaret, meet with father and son at the morgue, where they all wait for the terrible identification, where it is revealed that the game took place and furthermore, Alan has won two hundred pounds, making the wife angry with this stupid act and then rather satisfied, stating that if the husband has been such a fool, then it is splendid that he had to pay for it.

Alan is then invited to stay over by Sue, his daughter in the law, although her husband, Peter, is not very keen on this, perhaps unwilling to have this guest and he says that they have no bed for him, except for a bunk in their son’s room and the grandfather is quick to say …’that will do’.
Hence, he is inside the room of his grandson, who is playing a game on his computer, which is so slow that Alan offers to play with the settings to improve graphics and what not…

As aforementioned, we do not have in this film Avengers clashing with giants, creatures from other dimensions, X-Men travelling thorough time and nay of the paraphernalia of the fashionable, blockbusters that alas, we see in such huge numbers today – well, they are on offer, we could avoid them actually
However, Sometimes Always Never is a charming motion picture…almost Always.

joi, 17 octombrie 2019

X-Men: Days of Future Past, based on works by Stan Lee - Eight out of 10

X-Men: Days of Future Past, based on works by Stan Lee
Eight out of 10

For funs of the genre this is probably as good as it gets, but the undersigned is not overwhelmed by X-Men, Spider men and other spectacular, but otherworldly creatures, which might be interesting, perhaps in some small doses, taken far and between, only as the landscape looks now, the cinemas are invaded by Avengers, Captains of Destiny, all laudable for what they might inspire in teenagers, but much too similar to cartoon characters to be a serious, exclusive nourishment for the intellectual mind.

As it is, Days of Future Past offers a festival, a banquet of delights, with guests like Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Jennifer Lawrence and the list is so long and prestigious as to become a futile endeavor to just write all these fantastic names here…albeit, the other side of this is that so many talented artists gather to generate a lot of fuss, but for the uninterested, casual cinephile this may lead to the old adage…

“Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus.”

Having said that, one must admit that once inside the narrative, it can be quite entertaining, notwithstanding the lack of food for the soul, intellectual or other challenges, but if one is there just for the joy ride, observing without much expectation the galactic travails of Logan, who travels back in time to convince Charles Xavier to help him to try and prevent Erik Lehnsherr to abandon his bloodthirsty quest for revenge of the mutants, killed by nefarious, abhorrent humans – one of the absolute villains is the scientist Bolivar Trask.
Raven aka Mystique aka the beautiful Jennifer Lawrence is also one of the key figures of the plot, humans are trying to get to her DNA and design a weapon that would identify the mutants and then destroy them, therefore Erik tries to kill her in Paris, where she took the shape and form of a Vietnamese general – she can do that – who was part of the delegation discussing the peace terms at the end of the infamous Vietnam War, and Beast aka Hank tries to stop the killing, all in view of the terrified population.

When Richard Nixon announces that America has the means to protect its citizens of those of the world, the same Erik seems to be able to exact vengeance, for he takes control of the gathering, shooting into the crowds by means of controlling the new weapons designed by Bolivar Trask and his team.

Charles Xavier and Logan try to convince Erik and Beast to stop their mad journey – although they have some good reasons to be furious, for mankind had been horrid to their own, as it has a tendency to do…look what the idiot in the White house has just done to the Kurds who had fought for so many years against IS, only to be betrayed and abandoned with a tween from the cretin who is the leader of the free world…some progress we have made there! – And see that the eternal conflict would be good for no one.
There are plenty of stupefying special effects…one may argue that they are the real protagonists, super stars of the show, for they generate the bling, the chase through the clouds, exists from one age and into another, the showdown between bad colossus and the good characters, overwhelming ray guns – or whatever they are called – impressive, huge robots and all the other paraphernalia that comes with this territory.

As aforementioned, this viewer is not exactly inclined to enjoy such clashes, aweing, fabulous as they may look for other cinemagoers.

marți, 15 octombrie 2019

The King’s Speech by David Seidler - 10 out of 10

The King’s Speech by David Seidler
10 out of 10

Definitely one of the best motion pictures of the last year, indeed winner of four Academy Awards, including for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Best Achievement in directing, Best Writing, Original Screenplay, The King’s Speech seems so traditional and yet refreshing.

For another version, look at this narrative, there is a note on A King’s Speech by Mark Burgess, available here:
The narrative of the Man Who Would Be King is fantastic and makes for transcendent viewing, because we have a very complex, sometimes charming, often infuriating, incapacitated by a speech impediment, but brave enough to face it, tortured by a nurse that preferred the brother who would become the pompous, vicious King Edward VIII aka always excellent Guy Pearce and hence pinched and cruelly harmed the younger sibling, psychologically and maybe otherwise tormented by his own father, King George V aka excellent Michael Gambon.

Colin Firth deserved the Oscar for his outstanding performance in a very complicated role, with its human frailty aspects, the bravery required to step up to the challenge and speak in a public, even when one is not equipped for it – as Seinfeld puts it in his comedy series, quoting accurate statistics, at a funeral, one would rather be in the casket than speak to the audience, for people are more afraid of the latter than they are of death – and then the younger brother has to cope with the crisis in the royal family, caused by his reckless sibling.
Some have been, indeed still are, in awe with King George VIII, because seemingly he has chosen ‘love’ over power and all the accoutrements brought by the role of monarch, albeit a constitutional not an absolute one, only if we look at his case, we find a lot that is repelling and it is this side that is brought to the big screen in this marvelous movie, where this figure is presented as vain, pompous, self-centered- it is not so much a sacrifice he makes for love as another proof of his preoccupation with himself and all that pleasures him, an unwillingness to accept any restraint on his hedonistic inclinations (alas, the original followers of the doctrine were not wrong, and the modern acceptance of the word is negative, albeit hedonistic was quite fantastic originally).

Once he abdicates, the ex-king would still pester the royal family with demands, and his initial (perhaps eternal) embrace of the fuhrer and its abominable doctrine and ghastly politics would be followed by other disgraceful attitudes and even acts, some of them described in the series The Queen and others presented in the glorious Any human Heart by the genius William Boyd.
Because Prince albert has a speech impediment, his wife, the future Queen mother, Elizabeth, talks to the amateur actor and speech therapist Lionel Logue aka phenomenal Geoffrey Rush and the latter would become essential in the evolution of the prince, a transformation rather, from a man unable to enunciate – due in large part to the overbearing, overwhelming presence of a father, who, authoritarian and bullying, would always press the child and infuriated would order: ‘go on! Go on with it!’- to a decent, if not world class, communicator.

There are tense and amusing moments, from the moment when the two meet and the therapist awaits for the royal prince to talk, mentioning that this is what one probably does in the presence of a ‘highness’, only to have the price state that this may take weeks – he is aware, frustrated with his impediment, but he has a sense of humor – and then we see the two of them jump up and down and force the limits of the body, in order to work the muscles and be able to speak.
Prince Albert had been to other so called specialists, one of them presenting his royal highness with quite a few…stones, which he wanted the poor talker to insert in his mouth and then use what is the famous Demosthenes method, to which Princess Elizabeth protests that a long time has passed since and, anyway, Albert is nearly chocked by the many – perhaps there were ten or more in all – pebbles which he had to insert in his mouth.

The future King George VI is very loyal and proud and has a heated exchange with Lionel Logue – well, they have quite a few, but this seems to be one of the important, intense ones – when the Australian speculates one what would happen with the monarchy, given that Prince Edward would not give up his relationship with Mrs. Wallis Simpson, a woman who seemed to have two husbands, at the same time, ignoring the advice of those who said that he could keep the affair, hide it and not flaunt it and still be the monarch of Great Britain and, at that time, of the British Empire, which extended more or less over nearly a quarter of the world.

When King George V dies, his successor is so revolting as to…complain that his parent has died to complicate things for his son, who has a party where Mrs. Wallis Simpson is at the center stage, embarrassing those who know the etiquette, what must be done and what is forbidden – albeit, if we consider that today, the Prince of Wales has married with a divorcee and he is in line to ascend on the throne and rules have changed so much, we could wonder about all the fuss – and eventually, King George VIII abdicates to do what he likes, without the constraints of the rules guiding the monarchy.

luni, 14 octombrie 2019

El Camino, written and directed by Vince Gilligan - 9 out of 10

El Camino, written and directed by Vince Gilligan
9 out of 10

Just as this very good motion picture was released, we have learned that one of the bets actors, member of the cast of El Camino, has died...Robert Foster has been nominated for an Academy Award for his tremendous work on Jackie Brown.

Aaron Paul is now in the leading role, alone, although Bryan Cranston, as the infamous drug lord Walter White, does make a short comeback, from the depths of the memory of Jesse Pinkman.
The latter is try to find the strength to put his life together after the dramatic trauma of the imprisonment, torture by the monsters that used him to cook methamphetamines and to play sick, cruel games with a chained human being.

One of them, the vicious, if so calm and restrained in appearance, uses Jesse to cover up the murder of his gentle, honest, efficient Mexican housekeeper, an unfortunate woman who stumbled upon the money hidden by the beast within rows of Encyclopedia books, carved up and filled with in excess of million dollars.
This is when we see that the hero of El Camino is so devastated psychologically that he seems to have no energy, will to live differently left, given that he finds a gun in the glove compartment, could use it to gain his freedom by shooting the bastard, contemptible jerk, or at least to threaten him that he would do that and escape, but he has no more spirit for that.

In a classic of psychology by the genius Viktor Frankl, the author describes his experience as a prisoner in the Nazi World War II camps, where he could easily identify those who would die soon, when they gave up the cigarettes used as an alternative currency, a sign that they no longer had a Will to Live.
Jesse however is lucky to break free as a result of the thunderous finale of Breaking Bad, in which the inventive Walter White disposes of all his beastly enemies.

The protagonist of El Camino is now a suspect and the police, FBI and other agencies are all looking for him and when he sees two in official looking jackets, he thinks they are the real thing...albeit they are just pretending.
Pinkman is looking for the mountain of cash that Todd has hidden somewhere else in his huge apartment, once it had been found by the maid who has paid with her life for the mistake and the honesty of mentioning the discovery, but in scenes recalling the end of the glorious The Conversation, by the iconic Francis Ford Coppola and with the equally legendary Gene Hackman, the walls are stripped and nothing is found...not the money anyway.

El Camino is an entertaining follow up to the immensely popular series, even if it might not have the same success.