February 18th, 2019 (Family Day)

The Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, Shoplifters, explores the nature of the family, and what the needs of its various members are from a unique perspective.   This particular group of people are in Japan, and as we find them they are living in squalor, with an elderly woman as Grandma.  There are also an older man, a couple women, and then a young boy.   They early on in the film come upon a very young little girl who has been left outside on a bitter night by her parents.    Each member contributes in their own way, with the older man showing the boy how to be able to shoplift effectively.   Other members have stories which reveal themselves over time, and there are some surprising twists.  The viewers collective experience will colour how we view these people from the beginning and then the assumptions will be challenged.  For me, I was assuming a tight knit family but it is put into question early as the boy interacts with the older man.   Something happens later in the film and puts all of the stories into question as you examine the individual histories more carefully.  It pieces together effectively and once again that age old question of “nature vs nurture” is involved.   Are you really a “Mother” because you have given birth to another human being?   Or is it more than that?   Of course it is – there are so many things that make it up, including being present, showing affection or as billboard says I past just today, “children need roots and wings”.   I agree.    People who should know better do things that they know that they shouldn’t.   But maybe this is really what they feel they can offer, but the truth is that they offer a lot more than that without actually knowing what they are offering and doing.    This was good and I enjoyed it.   Certainly I liked this more than Roma, but that isn’t really a high bar for me.

On Netflix, I won’t ever get back the hours spent watching The Sinner with Jessica Biel.   Bill Pullman as mentioned earlier is a detective who was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance.   Each of the characters have their own issues.   Many are hidden, and the viewing shouldn’t even try to guess.  Early on there is a horrific attack by the Beal character who has already shown that she has issues.   Detective Pullman is trying to figure out the puzzle.   May I state that the puzzle is contrived and ridiculous as it unravels.  And from one silly turn to another until ultimately I had to throw up my hands and shake my head at where it all went.   It is ridiculous and contrived, and may I say that I am hard pressed to say I can think of another story which revolves so much around wallpaper.   And maybe a dedicated and concerned detective might actually spend the time to put this mess altogether, but really……not really.   So I can say emphatically that this is something to pass on.

Also on Netflix there is the Two Killings of Sam Cooke.   This documentary explores the bizarre and controversial killing of mega-star and singer Sam Cooke.   The man who had the unique and melodic voice with such hits as “What A Wonderful World”, “Chain Gang”, “You Send Me” among others.   He was an icon and a worldwide superstar at the same height as Elvis.   He was also very cognizant of his people, and the inequality throughout the US, and especially in the South.   This is not unlike the background from Green Book.  This was a man who was killed at the age of 33, at the top of his game.   He had embarked on owning his own label and supporting other black artists.    He was threatening the current establishment in the record industry.   He was also close friends with Jim Brown, Cassius Clay (and they actually performed a song together) and Malcolm X.   Months after they met together in a hotel room, two of them were dead.    There was no investigation by the LAPD.   The small little hotel where Cooke lay crumpled on the floor shot, was concluded by the LAPD to be justifiable homicide because Cooke was forcefully trying to get into another room after money was taken from him.   Turns out the woman he was with, was a known call girl for the mob.   Now had this happened to Frank Sinatra or Elvis or another top music icon, then there would have been thorough investigations.   In the end you can draw your own conclusions.   But this is a worthwhile re-visit into a period of history where times were indeed changing.   Authority was being questioned.   A war was being protested.   And the status quo was being challenged on all fronts.

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January 28th, 2019

I re-watched an old friend this past week with When Harry Met Sally… the 1989 romantic comedy that explores the wonders of relationships, as well is being a first rate homage to New York City (which acts as another character).   This was my first time ever watching the Featurettes as part of the Extras in the DVD.   They were added in 2008.  There are interviews with Rob Reiner (director), Nora Ephron (writer), Billy Crystal and others.   Meg Ryan was noticeably absent.

The film is a classic.   The story behind it too is interesting as Rob Reiner speaks about it being really his story as a single guy for 10 years after his divorce from Penny Marshall.  He talked with Nora Ephron, and they began an ongoing dialogue about men and women’s attitudes towards relationships.   This became various scenes within the film.   Billy Crystal, a good friend of Reiner’s, was not initially cast by the Director but came along later.   Neither Crystal nor Ryan were headline stars before this film, and so it was a chance taken to given them the roles.   Crystal incidentally was crucial for many improv bits added to the existing screenplay.   He added the line “I’ll have what she is having” after the scene in Katz’s deli which was delivered by Reiner’s Mom.  He also ad libbed the Central American voice in the Metropolitan Museum below

It is a very funny scene, and you see Meg look over to Reiner after he says “pecan pie” and he is motioning her just to go with it, and she does.

I can watch this film over and over and laugh at it each time.  The proclaimed attitude from Crystal early on about men and women never being able to be friends is an interesting one.  The film takes places over many years, from a first meeting leaving Chicago to drive to NYC, to further chance meetings at airports, book stores etc. until a final New Years Eve scene.    You get to see both the male and female perspectives, which is more unique, and really hadn’t been done until that point.   The supporting cast is uniformly excellent, and it is sad to see and note from the added features that Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia herself), high-pitched voice Bruno Kirby (many films including The Godfather Part II) and Nora Ephron are all gone now.   Gone way too soon.   This is a movie I have in my DVD collection and I thoroughly enjoy it every time I see it.

On Netflix, I have been watching a number of series, some based on Golden Globes and others just to check out what they have done.   Generally speaking I have to say that there is just an overwhelming amount of content out there.  Far too much for anyone to see that is not a professional viewer.   Perhaps I can save some of you some time if you only have limited time or desire.

Based upon the Golden Globe nomination of Michael Douglas, I watched the entire The Kaminsky Method.  Douglas won for his portrayal of an Actor and more recently an acting coach who’s best friend is his crusty agent, played by Alan Arkin.   In many ways I feel as though this series was a vehicle to get much older and unemployed actors some work.   We have in various episodes Nancy Travis (who I haven’t seen memorably since So I Married an Axe Murderer), Ann Margret (who since Grumpy Old Men has been quiet), Elliot Gould (who I think of in the original M*A*S*H movie and that’s about it), Danny Devito and musical personality Eddie Money who is just scary.   But the story is alright, with the best speech being that delivered by Arkin late in episode 2, which speaks about what I think relationships can be all about.   Beyond that, there are far too many jokes and references to peeing and prostate.   There isn’t enough new and interesting material.    So despite having maybe two or three episodes worth of material, it goes on for six.   I cannot recommend and I wonder about the wisdom of the Hollywood Writers who reward these performances.

Watership Down is a bunny series.  I read this in grade school back in the days when they handed out books to read.   It is animated and reflects accurately from what I can recall about the story of survival for these rabbits in a warren.    They live on an chunk of land that is on the verge of being developed.   There are rabbits of different skills, like fighting, digging and storytelling etc as well as does (female rabbits).   The rabbits are well drawn, and move well.   The story is told effectively as you can see the human attributes of hierarchy and also deception as the animals interact with the human world (and other animals as well).   They seem to fight amongst themselves more than they likely should given all of the real dangers that surround them.   Do you need to go seek it out?   No.   But if you like animals, and if you recall this story from your youth then you may want to check it out.   It was alright.

The Sinner is a Jessica Biel series, also produced by her, that is taking on an initial surprising event which isn’t fully explained, and then has Bill Pullman acting as a detective, trying to piece together what was occurred and why.  One learns more as he pieces things together.   Pullman was nominated for a SAG award.   He didn’t win.   I have only gotten through a couple of the episodes, but I am feeling as though I have seen this before, or at least I have seen enough films that I think I know where this is going.  Maybe it will surprise me, but I doubt it.

Finally, the Oscar nominations came out this week.  I  guess I can’t be all that surprised in the fact that I wasn’t surprised.   I thought that the Academy would be opening up some nominations to those I felt were deserving.   It was not to be.   So sadly, there wasn’t any recognition for Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place for Supporting Actress (even though she won the SAG Award for it).  No love for WidowsFirst ManBurning or Ethan Hawke (First Reformed), and altogether too much love for Roma, previously address last week.  The awards are at the end of February, and as always I will send out an email for a No Cost, Fun Only officepools contest to pick the winners.  Alison is our resident two-time champion at the picks.

Oh, and I watched yet again Arrival on Netflix.   Everytime I watch this film, I pick out something different.  Like Alison has said, it is better and better with each viewing.   For me, who I rolled my eyes when the time travel aspect reared its head, it’s nowhere near as offensive than it was at the time sitting in a movie theatre in La Jolla CA.