March 1, 2021

Norma Rae: Back in late 1970s, Sally Field had been the Flying Nun (1967-1970) and then in the popular Smokey & the Bandit but nothing really of substance. Then the 32yo actress played Norma Rae in which a small town single Mom, from North Carolina, deals with her life and those of her community in a textile town. The textile mill is about the only industry, and the company has good control over the citizens. Norma’s Mom and Dad both work at the mill. Into this town arrives Reuben (played by Ron Leibman) who is a union organizer who has been tasked with recruiting new businesses in the southern US. It seems that the industry isn’t very well organized, under labour laws, and the northern union bosses would like to expand representation. Reuben a Jewish man from NYC, is entirely unfamiliar with the Southern way of life. He sticks out like a sore thumb. He manages to have casual conversations with Norma and he piques her interest. The union activities begin. For me, it is the union organizer and his performance that were crucial to allow Field to shine. She won her first Best Actress Oscar as a result. But he enables her, and without getting into romantic territory, these two build a bond over time. The territory of a cut throat company, exploiting their workers has been covered before, but this one is memorable in the people. You care about them. Norma gets married quickly to Beau Bridges character and has an instantly larger family. She puts in long days trying to not only work and be a Mom, but also organize her friends and neighbours. Together these two work towards a common goal, and despite the significant challenges are able to make a difference. In a time with limited new releases, for me it is good to re-visit these movies that show really good performances.

Phil Spector: Al Pacino and Helen Mirren play the principal roles in this 2013 TV based drama which addresses a fictionalized version of events leading up to the Phil Spector’s trial for murder. Mirren plays a high priced attorney asked to defend Spector on the murder charges. Seems at his house late one night a 40yo aspiring B-actress was playing with one of many handguns has it go off and she is killed. He leaves his house mumbling something like “…I think I just killed someone…” which his Mexican driver overhears. He is charged with murder. Phil Spector is a musician and producer who was involved with some of the biggest acts in music. His “wall of sound” was used by John Lennon, The Beatles, George Harrison, The Rondettes, The Righteous Brothers and Ike & Tina Turner. The case of murder largely hinges on the testimony of the driver. The rest of the evidence doesn’t really support the accusation; like the proximity of Spector to the victim, and the condition of his shirt. There were plenty of other aspects which are suspicious. Spector was an eccentric, no question about it. He was awkward and weird and if Pacino’s portrayal is even anywhere close then he would have been someone to see. I wouldn’t want to have shared dinner with him, but maybe really creative people are just outside societal norms. In the end it doesn’t give much away to say that he was convicted. But the journey to get him there was an interesting one where sometimes pre-conceived ideas of who somebody is colours the facts as they are presented. What Spector actually said with his defense counsel is known by these people and maybe just a couple others. This movie tries to fill in some of the blanks. Ironically Phil Spector died in prison in January 2021 from Covid. He becomes one of the few celebrity faces of this terrible pandemic.

My So Called Life: Claire Danes, Jared Leto star in this ABC series from 1994. Danes plays a 15yo high school girl who is in love with the Leto character. She has a Mom and Dad and younger sister. She is trying to fit in and be cool. High school is filled with people for whom she feels differently. I have always heard good things about this series, and I do think that Danes is very good (generally and in other roles that she has played like in Homeland, or Starlight or Temple Grandin). Leto almost looks unrecognizable from his long straight haired persona now. This is available through Disney + and their new Star streaming system. They are now charging $11.99 a month now with more programming.

On question answered this week which was why would any A-list actor get involved in a project like Wanda Vision. I watched two episodes and couldn’t finish the second. Not one but two A-actors (Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany) were roped in. But seeing this article below where the Olsen character will be in a sequel to Doctor Strange.


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