January 24th, 2022

Fanny: The Right to Rock: Crave has this documentary that was recently released. It starts with three mostly grey-haired women in a convertible 60s era car and singing as they drive. We learn that these women were part of an all-woman rock band in the 60s. They were eventually called Fanny, with a drummer, two guitarists and a keyboard player. They were good players, notably with the bass and guitar player who were the front people for the band. They were on TV and released six albums. But fame and success was elusive.

Or this:

Hey Bulldog

The headwinds for this group was that they were ahead of their time. They had lesbians playing in the group. They were full on feminists at a time when Women Power was just emerging. The times were very different in the late 60s and early 70s. Despite having well known celebrities like David Bowie endorse them (and also date one of them), it was just not enough. Tours basically paid their expenses and lifestyle. But they didn’t get rich, even if some felt that they were the female Beatles. That was an overstatement according to history, but they didn’t have any hot pop songs. It’s one of the things about the music business that you don’t hear about very often. This band saw a glimpse of success, but it was fleeting and things just petered out. Now as these women enter their sixties, they are looking to recapture the magic, and gain back some notoriety. History has been more kind to them, and they want to see about ‘getting the band back together’. Things happen. It was a warm story and showed another side of the creative process. They wrote plenty of music. It can be catchy. I enjoyed this, and I was cheering for these women, despite the challenges that they faced previously and face today. Well worth your time.

Judy: A year later, I have finally taken the time to watch this movie about Judy Garland and some of her later performances. I am not a Renee Zellwegger fan. I have mentioned it before, and she won the Oscar for Best Actress for this performance. Other nominees included:

  • Cynthia Erivo. Harriet.
  • Scarlett Johansson. Marriage Story.
  • Saoirse Ronan. Little Women.
  • Charlize Theron. Bombshell.

Is this deserved? Not in my opinion. Cynthia Erivo was robbed really. But standing on its own, the performance is the best aspect of this tiring movie. It is slow. It treads along familiar ground with the aging child star, who is an addict, had a number of failed marriages and doesn’t really take care of her kids. Then it points the finger at Hollywood itself, and how they treated talent, but especially young female talent in the late 1930s. One wonders where the parents for young Judy would have been. A film exec/producer berates young Judy on the set of Wizard of Oz. The implication is that they are all to blame for how she has turned out. Part of this may be true, but where does individual responsibility come into play? I think of Judy Garland as “older” when she passed away, but in truth she died at the age of 47. That’s young. We are shown that she could be difficult, late, unreliable and unable to curtail her drinking even for a show. Very sad for a young darling of the silver screen. I can appreciate a performance even though I don’t necessarily like the actor. I am also on the side of believing that doing a biopic in many ways is easier than creating a character out of thin air and a script. There was footage of Judy Garland. One can mimic the way she spoke. Make up and dress can be the same. So much of the heavy lifting can be done. I cannot recommend.

The Crown: I re-watched The Crown recently and marveled at a number of things upon second viewing. I think universally the acting, sets and writing are excellent. Absolutely first rate. Clare Foy initially and Olivia Colman are both excellent portrayals of Queen Elizabeth herself. Matt Smith and Tobias Menzies playing Prince Phillip were excellent too. I feel that Season 3 showed much sympathy for Prince Charles. Played incredibly by Josh O’Connor. You see the young Prince as someone who has very little say in his life. Much of his goodwill however is lost in his relationship with Lady Diana Spencer. Diana was far younger than the Prince, and as Ann explains to the Queen in the show, Diana was more immature than her years and Charles was far beyond his biological age. Charles is a spoiled, self-centred young man, who feels slighted and bemoans his station because the powers that be deemed that Camilla was not worthy of being his wife. So they arranged for her to be married off. Add some political intrigue as Margaret Thatcher enters office as PM, played brilliantly by Gillian Anderson. In her performance we see who the real talent in the X-Files really was. But I digress. Events happen like the Falklands War with Argentina. And the avalanche in which Charles was caught in Switzerland. Not everything is entirely accurate, and it doesn’t pretend to be historically accurate. It is entertainment and it is very entertaining. I think we gain insight into the Royals, whether you like them or not. But they are well crafted stories and certainly are worthy of watching, even more than once.

February 3rd, Bonus Alison Oscar post

The Oscar’s are coming!  The Oscar’s are coming!  Each year I try to watch all the best film nominees along with each of the best actor nominees.  I’ve Bombshell, Richard Jewel and Harriet left.  Our annual trek to TIFF Bell Lightbox for the shorts did not happen this year but that’s ok.

Someone had to watch Judy so I took one for the team and sat through it.  I recall as a “yoot” (thanks My Cousin Vinny and every Jamaican) going to the Capital Theatre to go see Mommie Dearest.  Looking back, it seemed an odd choice for a bunch of giggly teens but Judy put me in mind of this film as both are the story of broken starlets from the glamorous days of Hollywood attempting to stay relevant and raise a family.  I use the term raise somewhat generously.  Anyway, Judy tells the story of Judy Garland, a has been middle aged divorcee mother of two trying to stay drunk and eek out a living to keep a roof over the heads of her children. The movie opens with their eviction from a hotel for non-payment forcing Judy to leave the kids with her ex and begrudgingly accept a singing gig in London where she still has some popularity.  It would be some of her last times on stage.  Renee Zellweger, I think, gives the performance of her career here to the point where I wondered if Judy was truly such a twitchy odd little thing worthy of my pity.  Now, don’t mistake my praise as endorsement of this yawn fest but if you go into it solely to observe Zellweger dazzle and sing, one can get through. The movie uses flashbacks to Judy’s childhood in Hollywood where she was quickly given uppers to keep her on set for eighteen hours a day, introduced to bulimia and denied any normalcy of relationships with adults.  Perhaps this explains the Beebs.  Renee gets my vote for best actor in a female lead this year but the movie should have gone straight to video.
For Sama is nominated for best documentary.  For Sama tells the story of a Syrian family as they endure the war raging in their country.  This film was profoundly moving for me as it was not some glitzy highly edited piece.  It’s shot as a diary with a handheld by a young mother for her new baby Sama, so she could understand what took place in her homeland and how it effected her family.  A young university student, Waad, married a young doctor and they moved into a modest apartment to begin their lives together.  Then the bombs came.  And then the gas.  Their home destroyed and the neighbourhood abandoned they moved into the safety of the hospital where her husband worked. Then they started bombing the hospitals. In the middle of this chaos Sama was born and with her, hope and determination.  The footage of their lives is raw and compelling and comes without the warning for the tiny glimpses shown here on our local news.  Frontline aired For Sama on PBS where it is still available for viewing at www.pbs.org.  I promise that if you start it you won’t be able to look away and perhaps it will help to bring us all a bit closer together as human beings.