It’s a Goodreads for movies: you can keep an archive of the movies that you have seen and review them if you want. You fill in 1-5 stars, and write a review if you want.
AND NOW, for the best part: you can be a model citizen and include a warning that there are spoilers! Simply check a box at the end of the form and consider us warned.
This site has my utmost respect. How could it not? It truly appreciates the movie-going experience.
There is such a large movie data base that there are some very bizarre entries. Take, for example a list of “Nunsploitation Films.” Who would have thought that such a fine genre actually exists! (Looks like lots of murderous nuns, with some kinky ones in the mix.)
Here’s a cult movie I found–check out the description, which was in a review:
“Kate is a well-to-do housewife who gets kidnapped by a clan of conservatively dressed vampires who imprison her on their futuristic human cattle farm somewhere in Australia, but they don’t want to drain her [because] Kate is the descendant of an especially regal bloodsucker and the clan wants her to join them, and perhaps even lead them.”
Go on over and create an account. I need some friends to join me!
Most of us know the story: In 2009, US Airways Captain Chesley Sullenberger–“Sully”–made an emergency landing on the Hudson River six minutes after taking off from LaGuardia airport in NYC. The plane lost complete power when a large number of birds crashed into it. The media was all over the story and we learned every last detail. Then we learned all about the ensuing investigation–the media was all over that too. At issue: was the emergency landing in accord with emergency protocol, or did Sully take an unnecessary risk because he wanted to show some swag?
What was it like to lose all control of a commercial flight, heroically save said flight and everyone on it, and then be challenged for your judgment? Sully wrote a book about it called Highest Duty. Now, Clint Eastwood has taken that book and made it into a movie, Sully, starring Tom Hanks.
Here’s a review of a review by Carrie Rickey, the critic I used to rely on for my movie-going decisions when I lived in Philadelphia a long time ago.
(website motto is “drilling beneath the headlines.” )
Spoilers skimmable? Absolutely. I’m not sure there are any!
Bottom line: It’s an excellent Eastwood movie:
Watching the characters modulate their answers while being accused of showboating creates the same degree of tension as watching them land a plane without working engines.
Her Analysis: I love what she has to say about the movies that Clint Eastwood directs–they’re great because they never give black-and-white answers.
She explains that this movie explores the nuances of:
personal responsibility, masculinity, the threat of untimely death and the kind of courage mistakenly referred to as heroism.
The many shades of Clint: She further says that Eastwood the man fits into as much of a gray area as do most of his movies: “Here is a guy who publicly inveighs against political correctness,” she points out. She explains that he then goes on to make two consecutive movies about the same battle in WW II–one film from the perspective of the American soldiers (Flags of Our Fathers); the other from that of the Japanese (Letters from Iwo Jima), which is completely in the Japanese.
Our due respect: Carrie Rickey is a critic who respects her audience by engaging us with intelligent critique and enlightening content.
9/11: Rickey observes that the movie’s timing, opening on the eve of 9/11’s 15th anniversary, is apt because it is uplifting–it tells the story of how everyone on board came together to make a dangerous situation turn out well.
Southside with you is up 60 points in the polls. With an 80% approval rating, director Richard Tanne can be sure that someone out there will see his movie.Months before the end of the President’s second term, this movie is an ode to the coupling of the Obamas. It is a dramatization of their first date. They walk around the Southside of Chicago, talking a lot.
At issue is the validity of a movie that shows a sitting president to be God-like. Is this, in fact hagiography? If it is, should it be shown before the beloved leaves office? We posed this question to a group of 12 critics whose numbers have been manipulated to represent a cross-section of the American public.*
We supplied those polled with dictionary.com’s definition of “hagiography”:
noun (pl) -phies
any biography that idealizes or idolizes its subject Derived forms: hagiographic, hagiographical, adjective
We then showed them a YouTube video on how to pronounce Hagiography. Hint: the g is pronounced like the both g’s in “GOOD GOD.”
LET THE HAGIOGRAPHY BEGIN
Bring it on! The New York Times critic Manohla Dargis dryly challenges, in so many words. Declaring the movie hagiography, she points out that it is based on Obama’s recounting of his first date with his future wife in his book, The Audacity of Hope. In a clever twist of words, the review is entitled,In an Obama Biopic, The Audacity of Hagiography? Surely, someone chuckled.
Could it have been critic Armond White of The National Review? In an unusual turn of events, the ultra-conservative The National Review and liberal The New York Times align on the hagiography issue. White believes that at the center of the controversy are racial and political undertones. Here’s a mouthful:
...Southside with You is a projection of deracinated black characters, manipulated to support race- and class-based delusions by which the mainstream media and the political elite continue to misunderstand the black condition. Southside with You glorifies political totems who all but walk on water.
(Are the characters deracinated? Save that for someone else’s blog.)
DC or Pyongyang?
Political analysis continues with Britain’s Guardian.com. Critic Jordan Hoffman draws a parallel to North Korea:
Films glorifying sitting leaders is a little more North Korea’s bag. It is, without question, pure hagiography. That said, by all accounts Barack and Michelle Obama are warm, caring people.
(Can’t help but like that little addendum.)
Obama or JFK?
Thrillist.com’s Matt Patches provides another analogy that hits closer to home:
It’s hagiography, the JFK-ing out of Obama from leader to celebrity.
OH NO IT’S NOT
Many of those who believe that Southside with You is not hagiography concede that it comes close, but does not cross the line.
“The movie steers clear of any hagiographical temptations,” opines critic Luca Selada at goldenglobes.com. “In a way the first stepping stone to the Obama legacy–it now includes a love story on film.”
I know, badly put, right?
(Yes, a website devoted to the Golden Globes actually has movie reviews.)
It’s NOT hagiography, agree people across America–namely critics of Slate.com, New York Post, Northjersey.com, Kansascity.com, and Nola.com (We conjecture that 99% of the nation has never heard of that last one, but it does represent a segment of society.)
Res Ipsa Loquitur
The most compelling argument is from Vulture.com and Collider.com: It cannot be hagiography. Obama smokes practically nonstop in the movie, and a smoker is no angel, let alone a god.
A Real Opinion
Says David Edelstein of Vulture.com: “Southside With You is awkward and unsure, but it wins you over.”
Many critics compared this movie to Richard Linklater’s trilogy that started with Before Sunrise, where Ethan Hawke and Julia Delpy walk all over Paris, talking to each other. The verdict? Michelle and Barack’s conversation is not nearly as in-depth as that of Ethan and Julia.
Ever hear of the “Competitive Endurance Tickling Match” in L.A? Not many people had until the the movie Tickled came out.
Jane O’Brien Media hosts the competition, which takes place in L.A.–send them a photo and you have a 12/1000 chance of getting chosen to be a contestant. Then they will fly you to LA, put you up in a swanky hotel, so that you can compete at their studio. Note: contestants must be male.
The concept’s rather simple: you’re tied to a table while some hunks work on you–ie tickle you–and you try not to laugh. Whoever holds out the longest lasts. Need to see it to believe it? Jane O’Brien Media video tapes each contestant as he embraces the challenge.
Here is a review of a review of Tickled from playbackstl.com (no typo)–And below that is a review of an article about a lawsuit against the directors of the film.
Topic: By happenstance, New Zealand journalist and film co-director David Farrier landed upon the website of Jane O’Brien Media, at JaneOBrienMedia.com. Go ahead and hit the link. It’s still there. The competition is labelled as “Salaried Reality TV/Movie Projects.”
Farrier was curious. Could there be a story worth reporting? He emailed Jane O’Brien media, asking to speak to them. They replied that they refuse to be interviewed by a gay reporter. Nice. That didn’t stop him from doing the research. Together with his friend Dylan Reeve, he not only researched the competition and Jane O’Brien Media, but also he and Reeve wrote a blog about their findings. Thousands of people around the world read it.
The nastiness continued. Jane O’Brien media sent Farrier emails, first notifying him that they were suing him for defamation and then letting out a torrent of anti-gay, anti-Semitic slurs.
HA! That intrigued Farrier EVEN MORE! If a company was that threatened, there definitely was a story. He asked Reeve to co-direct a documentary with him, and off they flew to L.A. to investigate the “subculture” up close. Initially, they could not find a contestant who would agree to an interview. But gradually some men came out of the woodwork. Turns out the tickling competition is not something that is followed up with pillow fights.There is more than meets the eye to Jane O’Brien media, and it ain’t pretty.
The film takes us along as the co-directors get deeper into their investigation.
Spoilers skimmable? No. What you really need to know is in the last paragraph, which does not have spoilers. Only by then it is too late.
Bottom line: It’s excellent– “an attractive and well constructed film…an example of investigative journalism at its finest.”
Boslaugh opines that the structure of the movie–where we learn the info as the co-directors learn it–is perfect because it makes the story credible. The more common construction of documentaries would not have worked:
The traditional style of documentaries: “If it were presented in traditional talking heads and voice of God narration you probably wouldn’t believe it anyway.”
No need for spoilers!!! The review is only three paragraphs long. Yet all that was needed was a little bit of summary from the first paragraph and all of the author’s opinion in the last one.
Her last paragraph is short, but rich with a solid, clear recommendation and the basis for it. And it’s interesting.
Perhaps Boslaugh felt that readers would not be interested if the review was fully devoid of spoilers. Au contraire, Ms. Boslaugh! Get rid of the spoilers and the review becomes even more intriguing.
MORE INFO from Indiewire:
I did some research of my own–
Here is an interesting article from Indiewire, written in conjunction with the film’s showing at the Yes/No Fest. Yes/No is held annually in Columbia, MO, and presents the art of nonfiction, as well as whatever is “between fiction and nonfiction.” It’s all very esoteric (completely unclear). I can’t make heads or tails out of its mission. (Maybe I’m just tired.)
‘Tickled’: Why The Online Fetish Doc Was Hit With A Defamation Lawsuit
Plot: In the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, far from any signs of civilization, a couple brings up their six kids, strictly enforcing their rules. When the movie opens, the mother is sick and in the hospital, and the father is in the woods with the kids. To visit the mother, the father takes his kids out of the wilderness and into civilization. The movie is a drama, and Viggo Mortensen plays the father.
Spoiler’s skimmable? Yes! This is a good review.
Bottom line: Joey Magidson loves it–a must-see!
Magidson says that this film provides the ultimate movie experience: the acting is phenomenal, and you leave thinking about the issues: is secreting six children away in the wilderness and imposing your own strict rules on them child abuse? good parenting? The film offers no clear answer, according to Magidson:
“When you get right down to it, what we have in Captain Fantastic is really just a fascinating lifestyle character study (if that makes sense).” [his parenthetical, not mine.]
Viggo Mortensen plays the father in a “career best turn.”
I must stop here and say that Viggo is damn good in every role he plays. So if this is a game changer for him, he must be stunningly perfect in the film. (I use the term stunning as a pun.)
You’ll never guess who wrote and directed it! (Unless you don’t know the TV shows or movies the actor/director has been in. Then you will truly never guess.)
It’s what’s his name–the guy who always plays nasty characters, some that are funny.
His name is Matt Ross and he plays a weird animal-loving antagonist on HBO’s Silicon Valley. (The character likes to impress the Board of his company by bringing in a different animal for each meeting–he brought in an elephant in the episode I saw.)
Magidson says that Ross has played roles in vehicles that range from the film American Psycho (with Christian Bale) to HBO’s comedy, Silicon Valley.
Excuse me? There’s one major role in between those two that is not even mentioned here, which is downright wrong: the weird, evil son of Roman on HBO’s Big Love.
Here he is:
He’s the latest “It guy” in Hollywood. This film instantaneously became a critic’s darling.
My daughter, on a quick visit from the East Coast, wanted all of us to see Finding Dory on its opening day. I jumped at the chance to be with her and her BF. We’re going in two hours. But before I go, I want to know how low to set my expectations. (Pleasant surprises are always the best experiences.)
Without further ado, here is a review of a movie review of Finding Dory.
Plot: Dory is missing or she doesn’t know where she is. No one needs to know. I forget.
Help! I can’t contain myself and not review the reviews of The New York Times! But I think this one is kind of interesting.
Spoilers skimmable: Yes! The spoilers are aplenty, don’t get me wrong. But you know the Golden Rule of the NY Times Guidelines: Pretension begets spoilers. Thankfully the sentences and paragraphs begin with plenty of hints.
Example: A paragraph starts like this: “Instead of the open seas, Dory conducts her search….” WARNING WILL ROBINSON! It’s obvious that the very next word is the gateway to spoiler village.
Ladies and Gents, I may have perfected the art of the skim!
Bottom Line: It’s good, but not as good as Finding Nemo.
A.O., pro forma, starts his review with superfluous context–he pulls off reviewing a movie within a review of another movie:
Finding Nemo is “Pixar’s 2003 masterpiece”: A.O. extolled F.N. as brilliant in its technical innovation, resulting in “beautiful” visuals.
OK, I think that it’s interesting that Finding Nemo was a revelation in technology and filming, but was it a masterpiece for any other reason?
He continues his thought: “The movie,” he says, is “a visual revelation, was also a welcome defense of risk-taking in an era of anxiety, and something of a cautionary tale about the downsides of helicopter parenting.”
Really? Era of Anxiety? Story with a moral? The father was neurotic and overbearing. But did that cause the son get lost? Seriously.Did it? I forget.
A.O.’s disrespect for fish with disabilities: A.O. Scott calls Dory “absent minded.” Really? Swim with her and suddenly she forgets what transpired in the last few minutes; that’s not simply absent minded–it’s some sort of cross-wiring in the brain, and it’s endearing.
Oh A.O. Scott and The New York Times, thank you for so much fodder for this blog, but next post, I must move on.
It’s that golden time of year: when the daylight lingers past 9:30 PM, and SIFF is here! SIFF: Seattle International Film Festival. The largest film fest on this continent–that no one has ever heard of. There are many, many films in this fest, both good and bad. The decision as to what movies to see has racked me with angst. What if I miss a unique opportunity to ask a director a Q? What if the movie will never wash ashore on our continent again?
Luckily there are critics to help me decide what to see. Many of the films have already opened in other countries and played in previous international fests, like those of Toronto and Venice.
My first decision and the review that I found. Shall I watch this movie?
Plot: A newlywed Palestinian woman picks up a hitchhiker who later turns out to be involved in a terrorist bombing. Although she had no idea what the boy was about to do, she is jailed for being complicit in the crime. She is pregnant and the baby is born in jail. The movie takes place during a turbulent era in that region (as if there are non-turbulent times), the 1980s.
Of interest: Movie is based on interviews of Palestinian women about Israeli jails, conducted by Mai Masri, the Palestinian director.
Palestinian actors play all of the characters, both Israeli and Palestinian. Syrian refugees were extras in the movie–playing prisoners.
The movie was filmed in an old Jordanian prison; most actors had been in jail themselves, or are connected to someone who was. It was painful for them to film and sounds painfully sad for the audience to watch.
What is the Middle East Eye?
It is an online news source that professes to tell unbiased news from the Middle East.
Fascinating: I found a list of five movies on this site that “will help you understand the Modern Arab World.”
An intimate view of the Syrian Uprising. One such film is Silvered Water, which you can find on youtube. It is comprised solely of videos that eyewitnesses filmed with their cell phones and anonymously uploaded to social media, some with narration.
Defiance in Art. The article points out that Silvered Water is a “video archive” as well as “a form of defiance–searching for cinematic beauty in blurry mobile phone images as a resistance to tyranny and death.”
BREAKING NEWS: JULIA ROBERTS' LOST WIG TURNS UP IN NEW FILM, MOTHER'S DAY
Nearly twenty years after mysterious disappearance, Julia Roberts’ wig resurfaces
After 17 years, a mystery that could only happen in Hollywood has resurfaced, and we are closer than ever to the truth.
In the movie Mother’s Day, which opened last week, Julia Roberts wears the same wig that she wore in the 1999 hit, Notting Hill. After the filming of Notting Hill wrapped up, the wig vanished. At the time, our investigative reporter wrote an exclusive about the ensuing search for the wig: grips, costume designers, makeup artists, and eventually the L.A. Police searched for almost for a year. No clues were found.
Notting Hill was hugely popular. In one of a series of roles in the 1990’s that were stretches for Julia Roberts, she plays a famous movie star who is filming on location in London. Her love interest is played by Hugh Grant, who reprises his role as the cute, clever and amusing romantic lead. (Grant’s roles were alongside a revolving door of co-stars in rom coms throughout the 90’s.)
In Notting Hill, the wig is in a seminal, albeit short, scene. It functions as a character-development vehicle–Julia Roberts’ character wears it while she is filming a space movie.
Seventeen years later, the conglomerate of production companies behind Mother’s Day has been using the reappearance of the wig in their marketing campaign. In interviews, Roberts claims that she took the wig out of her closet.
But speculation about the wig’s disappearance persists. We found out that police are following two leads:
“The wig was handmade–it’s one of a kind,” Alexa Baggs, costume designer, tells us. “Wigs have been machine made since then. The details on the wig that Julia wore in both movies require an artistry you just don’t see today.”
Baggs adds that bangs require an especially challenging, intricate process:”Bangs were hand-shaped into a horizontal plane with uniform length.”
Baggs tells us in a hushed voice, “the true measure of the quality of this particular wig is its effect on the famous Julia Roberts smile. It can not, in any way, overshadow that smile, worth its weight in gold.”
Mark Mincer, one of the costume designers for 2012’s Wrath of the Titans, talked to our investigators about the wig’s monetary value.
“Wigs like this are rare. This particular wig must be worth a small fortune, at least one million.”
Mincer adds what could be the missing clue in this case. “Artists took a bizarre pride in their work,” he says. “They would not give up their handmade wigs easily.”
The police conjecture that the wig was stolen by its creator, who waited for a chance to sell it back to a production company. That chance never came–until now.
L.A. Police are also looking into the authenticity of the wig in Mother’s Day. They are performing tests in their forensic labs to determine whether it was handmade, like the original wig.
“Mother’s Day was bound to be a dud,” says one of the producers of the film on the condition of anonymity.” We needed a marketing campaign that could overcome that.”
And so the story about Julia Roberts’ wig was born.
Our analysts look into how Mother’s Day became a flop, and whether the wig contributed to the universal panning by critics. They found that movies with big-named actors who are in separate vignettes, either are great, like Love Actually, or awful.
“Each vignette needs to be compelling,” our film critic Al tells us. “That is far from the case in Mother’s Day.”
Fashionistas claim that the wig story is a fabrication because it is completely unrealistic. “It’s crazy that they actually matched the second wig to look like the first one. That one was bad enough,” fashion editor Edith Stanton says as she bristles.
In Mother’s Day, Roberts plays a TV host who interviews Jennifer Aniston’s character. Experts uniformly agree that a TV personality with as bad a hairstyle as that of Julia Roberts in Mother’s Day would be fired.
Warner Brothers, Julia Roberts and the L.A. Police declined to be be interviewed for this article.
Story compiled by Richard LaCroix, his cousin Sally and her sister Monica.
Just binged on Wentworth, an Australian TV show that not many Americans know about. It came out in 2013 and has had three seasons. The fourth one starts next month. Here’s my review of a review of the show from Vulture.com–
Plot: The premise of this Australian TV show is similar to that of Orange is the New Black: Accused of trying to murder her husband, Bea gets locked up in Wentworth Prison amidst women who have committed violent crimes. The plot includes a storyline about the prison guards and staff.
It’s also about power struggles among the prisoners, among the staff, and between the staff and the prisoners.
Spoilers skimmable? Yes! There aren’t many at all AND it’s a long review! A feat!
Bottom Line: An excellent show, although very violent. Normally Lyons would not like a show with so much violence, but here the characters are compelling. Each of its three seasons poses a mystery that “pays off” in the end.
Can’t put it better than this: People exert power by what they know about each other. Here’s what she says about it:
“There’s no shiv as powerful as ‘having’ something on someone, nothing so potent as a carefully deployed ‘I know something you wish I didn’t.'”
I love how Lyons describes this as an “information economy.”
In short: “This is a corrupt ecosystem that prizes information and permits violence, and that infects every interaction, even between alleged allies.”
Full disclosure #1: this is the second post in a row where I review reviews about a movie I saw and liked–a lot. So last time it was 10 Cloverfield Lane. Now?-Eye in the Sky.
This week, let’s be political and go to the state that had its primaries last Tuesday: Wisconsin, specifically, The Cap Times (the formal name being The Capital Times)–coming at you from Madison, Wisconsin.
Is firing a drone like playing a video game? Aaron Paul (yo bitches, from Breaking Bad), plays a pilot who is responsible for pushing the button that will drop a drone on a single point in Nairobi–yet he is sitting in a trailer in Las Vegas!
How do we balance the impact on the innocents against the value of taking out the terrorists? This must be decided by British politicians and military officers, as well as American military officers, all spread across the world.
The answer: We see the deliberations in real time.
Spoilersskimmable? LOL. Not at all.
Rob aptly states that “Eye in the Sky finds suspense on every link of the chain.” Unfortunately he proceeds to define every link–one by one–in one short paragraph.
Thanks man. We plebians in the audience couldn’t have figured that out on our own. We’d be lost without your spoilers.
(Good ‘ol NY sarcasm.)
Bottom line: 3/5 stars. “What’s so impressive about Gavin Hood’s film is that it deals with those issues in a complex and even-handed way while being an absolute nail-biter of a thriller that plays out in real time.”
The acting is terrific, says Rob; he gives shout outs to:
Helen Mirren as a colonel who has been following the British and American extremists for years.
Alan Rickman, in his last role, as a general in the military meeting with members of Britain’s cabinet.
Barkhad Abdi (from Captain Phillips) , who plays a Nairobi spy on the ground, closest to the action.
Interesting: Helen Mirren is in a role originally written for a man.
Somebody stop me! I’m not kidding. Somebody stop me from trashing one of my favorite targets, The New York Times.
Full disclosure #2: I subscribe to The New York Times online. I read it for its well-written, informative news stories and editorials. (Hmm, where have we heard that before?)
But I certainly do NOT read it for its reviews. Oy.
Let’s analyze this review in reverse, shall we?
Bottom Line: Right off the bat, in the first sentence, Stephen Holden calls Eye in the Sky a farce! Is there any reason to go on? So he thinks it’s unrealistic. OK, fine. The guy is entitled to his opinions.
Spoilers skimmable? HA!
Thanks Man: Far be it for us to understand what Holden means by plot points being absurd. He spells it out for us. And so those spoilers keep tumbling down–after all, everything in the movie is a fallacy.
Thanks Steve! He knows just how we all hate to make our own judgements.
‘10 Cloverfield Lane’: A Potential Game-Changer for Hollywood, by Robert Yaniz Jr
According to this glorious article, the marketing campaign for 10 Cloverfield Lane could change our universe. It could restore the movie-going experience to its very core, nay, its very nature in all of its full glory.
That marketing campaign? Nothing. That’s right, nothing, like Jerry and Georges’ plot for their show within a show on Seinfeld. No big buildup–no interviews, no previews for weeks on end, no gossip about the doings on set.
The movie slipped onto our radars only two weeks before its opening, when the spoiler-free preview came out.
The article concludes on this note:
[I]t could mark the beginnings of a counter-response to the spoiler-filled marketing campaigns perpetuated by studios…and lead to something of a revolution with regards to preserving the awe of seeing a story’s twists play out upon first viewing. After all, that’s what the magic of the movies is all about.
Be still my heart: can this really lead to a revolution? Oh please, let it be.
But doesn’t that article sound well-written, interesting and intelligent? Surprising for a website with inane lists. I went on over to Cheat Sheet’s movie review.
’10 Cloverfield Lane’: A Gloriously Stressful Non-Sequel, by Nick Cannata-Bowman
Great title, right? But it’s unsafe to continue reading–
Plot: the movie is a suspenseful sci-fi about a girl who is kidnapped by John Goodman.
Spoilers skimmable? LOL. As if! This is a spoiler-laden review of a suspenseful movie.
Bottom line: it’s good fun. John Goodman is fantastic.
OH THE HYPOCRISY:
Ten movies ruined by bad endings.
This is the name of a list advertized on the SAME PAGE as the article about a world without spoilers. I kid you not. Once again you have to click on the ad to get to another link on the same site.
Don’t read this list unless you have seen the movies! Of course how can you tell if you’ve seen them if you don’t read the list? I can’t help you. I naively thought that they were just going to list the movies with some photos, like the usual lists, but they do not. They dive right in. After each movie title, you get a complete rundown of the movie’s end.
I give up.
I shall stay away from lists that ooze oil forever more.
Unless I see lists that I really care about, such as:
17 movies with dogs played by cats
28 stars whose hunched backs were straightened by Special Effects.
12 movies that changed the way that we look at Stonehenge.
I was resolved to keep this post short. But then I became interested in the subject. And I researched and researched and researched.
Here’s a podcast coming at you, straight outa Hollywood:
This podcast is from KPCC, Southern California’s Public Radio Station.Here is the description of the podcast, from KPCC’s website:
Reviews of the week’s new movies, interviews with filmmakers, and discussion. Hosted by Larry Mantle.
In the episode I listened to, Larry Mantle talks to KPCC film critics Wade Major and Lael Loewenstein. This is the link to the podcast. (I could tell who was speaking because Lael Loewenstein is a woman and Wade Major is not.)
Plot: A biopic about Jesse Owens, who was able to compete in the 1936 Olympics in Hitler’s Germany despite being black. At the Berlin Olympics, Owens won four trophies in the track division of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin: in one race he met the world’s record at the time; in the other three races, he set new world records.
Spoilers skimmable? No. They tell you so much it really is impossible to tease out the spoilers from the discussion.
Bottom Line: It’s just OK. Very formulaic. The director missed a chance to tell an inspiring story, laments Loewenstein, who blames the script. Major agrees and points out that the director’s last movie was2000’s Lost in Space, so he had to catch up with the times because he is still filming like it was the 1990s.
Snob alert! They had to chuckle to that last bit.Ugh. Was that really necessary?
Jason Sudeikis: Major and Lowenstein agree that he is excellent. But Major observes that “comics like Sudeikis and Will Ferrell have to overcome their’funny faces'” in dramatic roles. Sudeikis plays Owens’ coach.
I don’t know if he meant all comics have to overcome what we have come to expect from them. Probably.
History Lesson? The beginning of the movie dwells too much on Owens’ feelings about competing in the Olympics; both critics agree on that. Major noted that the film did not show the tragic way that Owens was treated when he returned from the US and that he also was penniless, and ended up pumping gas for a living.
Oh man, I felt so sorry for Jesse Owens. Did he really end up penniless?
I headed over to the my go-to website to find out:
History vs. Hollywood (historyvshollywood.com)
Why I like this website: it’s clear, concise and user friendly. For each movie, there are two parts:
First are two columns of photos–a headshot of an actor next to that of the person who he/she portrays. Like this:
Stephan James Born: December 16, 1993 Birthplace:
Jesse Owens Born: September 12, 1913 Birthplace: Oakville, Alabama, USA Death: March 31, 1980, Tucson, Arizona, USA (lung cancer)
Jason Sudeikis Born: September 18, 1975 Birthplace:
Fairfax, Virginia, USA
Larry Snyder Born: August 9, 1896 Birthplace: Canton, Ohio, USA Death: September
The second section is the meat of the comparison, done in Q & A format. The answers are short and sweet, and they usually end with a cite to the source of the info. The Q’s ask whether a specific incident took place or issues that the movie raises like this:
“What happened after the 1936 Olympics?”
My corollary: Did Owens “end up pumping gas,” as Wade Major asserts? I guess it depends on the meaning of “ends up.” It certainly would seem to indicate that he dies penniless. But maybe it refers to just after he returns, for a couple of years.
History vs. Film gives a summary of Owens’ life after the Olympics, and his life definitely did NOT end up “tragically.”
I had to dive more deeply into what happened to him after the Olympics because I think it’s interesting.
Major was was right that in 1936, Jesse Owens returned to America that was too racist to recognize his feats. Franklin Delano Roosevelt didn’t bother to see Owens in person and shake his hand in congratulations, as he had with the other athletes. Owens was not offered endorsement deals like his fellow athletes.
And he was penniless, as Major asserts, and did take a few jobs, including pumping gas, as Major also claims. To make ends meet, he would race against non-humans–horses, cars and trains. To beat the horses, he told the guy who announced the start of the race to stand up next to one of the horse’s ears. Then the guy shot a gun in the air to start the race and the horses got spooked!
It is a little confusing, but I think he went penniless again in the 1950’s or 60’s and pumped gas, once again. But then he got back on his feet. Owens was outgoing and comfortable in front of the camera. Ford Motor Co. and the US Olympics Committee (I kid you not) hired him to give speaking engagements across the country about the virtues of hard work, loyalty and religion.
Owens opened up his own PR firm in 1949 and went all over the US with speaking engagements for his own company; his speeches included the importance of establishing an amatuer sports league, a passion of his since he returned from the Olympics.
He worked with nonprofits through most of his post-Olympics life, especially with kids, he wrote his memoir, with questionable politics, but then recanted….
FDR may have shunned him, but three presidents did not:
1955: President Dwight D. Eisenhower appoints Owens as Sports Ambassador for the US and sends him to the Olympics in Australia.
1976: Gerald Ford gives him a Medal of Honor, the highest medal awarded to a civilian.
1979: Jimmy Carter invites Owens to the White House when he was awarded a Living Legends Award by the National Caucus on the Black Aged.
Amatuer Athlete Leagues: upon his return from the Olympics Jesse began to advocate establishing an amatuer sports league. A few years before he died, he received the International Trophy for amateur athletes.
In sum: No, Jesse Owens does not “end up” penniless and pumping gas.
PS. Back to Filmweek:
Remember the start of this post, when I reviewed Filmweek’s review of Race?
I continued to listen to the podcast after they reviewed Race. They went on to review Witch.
Plot: A father of a family of three is haunted by the woods that surround their isolated house. It takes place in 17th Century New England and the father is a devout Puritan.
Spoilers: They let out a torrent of spoilers in the first three minutes. I promptly turned the podcast off and took it off my favorites list–right after I had placed it there.
Breaking News:The NY Times isn’t always pretentious! On NPR, A.O. Scott, critic extraordinaire of The NY Times, talks about three movies –WITH NO SPOILERS!!!!
Come to think of it, it also LACKED PRETENSION, endemic in his reviews, which are akin to in-depth scholarly analyses supported by examples–ie, SPOILERS.
A.O. Scott shames the Academy for not recognizing comedies as well as smaller, “quiet” indie films. He gives provocative advice as to how the Academy could improve its nomination process, which I include verbatim after the list, below.
Well done A.O. Scott, well done.
The radio show on NPR is called Dinner Party. This is its first annual non-Academy Awards edition. With Lucy on my lap (she’s a dog) looking out the window, I caught the full input by A.O. Scott on the 5-minute drive home from the Park. This is the link to the story.
Here is A.O. Scott’s list of nominations that the Academy missed–(and some of the winners he would have chosen):
Best Actress: Melissa McCarthy, Spy. A.O. says that the Academy rarely recognizes comedies, yet actors in comedies can be as skilled as those in dramas. McCarthy has the “level of inventiveness, physical and verbal”that is so challenging to actors in comedies. She plays an administrative assistant turned spy, who goes to Europe to save her kidnapped boss.
Bests Movie Nomination:Spy. This movie should replace The Martian in the nominations.
Best Actress Nomination:Lily Tomlin, Grandma. Tomlin plays a woman who helps her teenage granddaughter get enough money for an abortion. She asks her ex-boyfriends for the money. This is another type of movie that the Academy rarely recognizes. It is a “low-key” (also called “quiet”) independent movie.
Best Foreign Film nomination:The Kindergarten Teacher, a poignant Israeli drama about a teacher who becomes obsessed with a gifted five-year-old student who writes beautiful poetry. She desperately tries to get him and his poetry recognized. This might be considered part of Scott’s usual pretension, but I appreciate this analysis: he states that the movie is a condemnation of Israel’s forsaking its art and culture for more superficial, materialistic art. This movie did not get nominated because there is a “one-film-per-country-rule.” (Apparently another Israeli movie was nominated.)
A.O. Scott’s advice to the Academy:
If I were to give the Oscars advice, first thing I would say is: just lighten up. You know, there’s a lot of really great movies that are funny. And I don’t even wanna get started on the Foreign Language Film category, which is such a mess. The one-film-per-country-rule… Just find the movies from all over the world that are most exciting and most original and find a way to give those some prizes.
Plot: Puritan New England, 1630. In a lone house on a field surrounded by evil, dark woods, lives a family with a couple of kids. The father makes sure that his family lives by strict Puritan doctrine: we enter life as sinners, and if we live a righteous life, we will enter heaven when we die. So there will be no sinning in the father’s house–and whatever you do, he says, you are not to go in the woods because evil lurks there. (You know what’s coming!) One fine day, the woods snatches up the infant. The family goes into the woods to find the baby. That’s when all hell breaks loose. Yadayadayada, the oldest girl is accused of being a witch.
Spoilers skimmable? Yes. I don’t know the connection between the dark woods’ abduction of the baby and the girl’s being declared a witch, but I don’t need to know–and neither do you.
Bottom line: 3.5/4 stars. Andersen thinks this movie is damn good:
Eggers’ depiction of the family’s psychological decay and his relentless piling up of deeply disturbing imagery make “The Witch” an unnerving and fresh-feeling horror masterwork. (Robert Eggers is the director.)
Furthermore, the actor who plays the father has a perfect voice and timbre–deep and stern.
Authentic cinematography:There is virtually no sign of obvious studio artifice in the picture, other than in a limited number of very effectively frightful CG images.
EEK: It sounds really cool, but I need the comfort of my home if I see this one.
Plot: Directed by Andrew Horn, this film is a documentary about Twisted Sister (TS), a glam rock band from Long Island (where all good things come from). It tells the story of the band’s beginning, in 1972, up until its rise to fame, in the early 1980s.
Spoilers’s skimmable? Yes! He does a great job of holding them back.
Bottom Line: 3.5/4 stars. Albertson claims that the anecdotes are super “juicy” and fascinating.
Of note:Horn’s use of raw early footage proves that Twisted Sister was able to draw thousands of die-hard fans to its raucous and over-the-top shows in the Long Island and New Jersey area. The highlight of this period was a sold-out gig at New York’s 3,000-capacity Palladium — all without a recording contract or radio airplay.
For rock fans everywhere? Albertson is surprised that the movie does not include TS’ videos for their hit songs, which received high play on MTV. “That may be a drawback for casual fans, but the juicy details about the band’s early days make up for it.”
Here’s an official TS video. There are full two-minutes of acting before the music starts, so you may want to skip the intro.
But what about the non-fans, or the anti-fans, as it were? Would I be interested in it?
Warning: not enough spoilers! I need to know why the tidbits are so interesting before spending my time on this movie. I can’t tell from the review.
Glam rock? Albertsondescribes TS’ music as “’80s glam metal with outrageous videos and fist-pumping anthems.”
OCD begets website begets website begets website begets knowledge: I had to look up what exactly glam rock was. I found a definition plus more than a modicum amount of pretension on this British site:
It is my great honor to disentangle Allmusic’s pretense for you. The following is what I learned.
Definition: Glam rock is about showmanship. Musicians are usually in drag, androgynous attire or just plain meshugena costumes.
Not in America? It was mostly popular in the first half of the the 1970s in England. Not in America until the 80s because Americans were homophobic.
Two schools of Glam rock (yes, the term “school” is used):
“Intentionally disposable trashiness”: what you see is what you get–just a couple of good ol’ musicians playing so-so music in weird costumes that don’t necessarily have anything to do with the lyrics. This is the more prevalent school. Twisted Sister falls in here.
The “Arty School”: ahh, the opposite. Music and fashion combine to form “the overall artistic statement” Musicians can transform their identities, and explore “the darkness lurking under the music’s stylish, glitzy surface.”
which school are they in:
What about this guy–
David Bowie, in the 70s was the epitome of the arty school–In his Ziggy Stardust, Diamond Dogs etc era. He wove together theater and rock by making concept albums–where the songs surround a persona he inhabited, starting with Ziggy Stardust.
Click on here to see one of his performances on SNL in 1979 when he wore a stewardess suit. Then again, this next video is super interesting–
Click here to see another performance in the same SNL episode. He was forbidden from saying a line–about boys wanting boys from –and then he did them one better: he walked out in a green suit with a male puppet and at the end of the song he whips out the puppet’s wiener. The proportions are out of whack.–it def didn’t come with the puppet.