Roma

November 15th, 2018 — 8:28am

***

Roma

When this veteran filmmaker decided he would tell a very personal story, he made sure to take on major roles in the aspect of making this movie. Alfonso Cuaron was not only the director and screenwriter, but he also was the cinematographer and editor. Afterall, it was a story about Cleo who was his maid/servant had helped to raise him in his upper-class home which was probably in Mexico City in the 1980s.

After a slow start (be prepared for lots of water and a viewing of what seem to be every credit for this film at the beginning of the movie). The movie then drills down to an in-depth sensitive portrait of this obviously beloved woman who played a significant role in raising Mr. Cuaron. It is interesting and probably revealing that the director/screenwriter bypassed his choice of many experienced actresses and chose an unknown, non-actress school teacher from his hometown to ultimately play the starring role in this movie. Yalitza Aparicio, no doubt with the assistance of the director, did an excellent job of conveying the genuine, sensitive caring of her character. In contrast, the other co-star was a veteran actress, Marina De Tavira who also turned in an outstanding performance as the mother of the four children and the wife who is realizing the true state of her marriage.

In many ways this movie, although it is a man’s tale of his childhood, he really is providing insight into the feelings and emotions only of the women. Men are not portrayed as very nice people. Notably also, there is a small piece of gratuitous nudity that really isn’t necessary for the story and it is a scene of a naked man approaching his sexual partner in the bed. There also is a notable undercurrent of the human rights and civic action which occurred in the 1970s in Mexico City which is depicted very realistically in this movie.

This is a very well-done film that will resonate well with many moviegoers. (2018)

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

Trial By Fire

November 6th, 2018 — 9:12pm

****

Trial by Fire 

We see the theme of this movie played out on television all the time on shows such as Dateline or 20/20 and others. A person is accused or convicted of a murder but in many cases he or she did not do it. We recall at least two outstanding books which dealt with this subject, Just Mercy and The Ghost of the Innocent Man. We also recall an excellent film we saw several years ago on this subject titled Conviction. We know about the innocence project and the work of Barry Scheck in many states throughout the country and how scientific advances such as DNA testing have made an important impact on criminal prosecution. So, when director Edward Zwick and screenwriter Jeffrey Fletcher decided to take a prize-winning article in New Yorker Magazine by David Grann to the screen, they were not the first to put a searchlight on this important defect in our criminal justice system. Despite the fact also that we usually find any film over two hours a tad too long, they did an outstanding job which riveted us to our seats and allowed us to explore the characters involved and the message of the movie.

Jack O’Connell deserves Oscar consideration for his depiction of the nasty husband who frequently abused his wife and was home alone with his three children when a fire broke out and the kids were all killed. He claims he did not start the fire but the police, neighbors, fire inspector, a snitch who was briefly his cellmate, the district attorney, eventually his wife and the jury all say that he did it.

What follows is his nine years in jail and an insight into life in prison with much of it being in solitary confinement and then his time on death row. We also get an insight into this man’s character and how his understanding of life evolved. Another very important character is a woman played magnificently by Laura Dern who was recruited to write a letter to a prisoner in jail but ultimately meets him and becomes an advocate for him. We also get an eye-opening view of the criminal justice system in this particular state. In fact, we see that the checks and balances that are supposed to be in place are quite questionable all the way up to the office of the Governor. Did we mention that this took place in Texas? However, the injustices here are found throughout the country

When we saw this film and met the director, Edward Zwick, the film makers were having some difficulty in setting up distribution and a release date. You may have to catch this movie on TV. However, it should be seen and the message and the illumination it provides are incredibly important. (2018)

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 4 Stars, Crime, Drama, Uncategorized

A Private War

October 31st, 2018 — 5:08am

***

A Private War

The film opens in war torn Sri Lanka with rebel soldiers walking through an area infected with potential enemies everywhere. An IUD explodes killing and maiming soldiers. There is gunfire, which frequently erupts. Among the tattered troops walking through this dangerous war zone is a woman without a helmet holding only a pad and pen. This is Marie Colvin, a war correspondent from England. Another explosive device goes off causing this woman to be injured and to lose an eye. For the rest of the film, we see her with a patch over one eye.

This amazing story is a well-documented true account with a screenplay by Arash Amel who we met at the conclusion of the screening of this movie. This film, while an apparently true representation of this amazing woman, in our opinion, was somewhat disjointed. While we jump around from place to place, we did learn about her need to send back the story, the true story, behind the wars that she covered. This included a face-to-face interview with Muammar Gaddafi, as well as heart-wrenching interviews with the victims of war including refugees who were mostly women and children. We also see the impact on Marie Colvin herself, which included alcohol, affairs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress. In one dramatic moment in very arduous circumstances, we see this war correspondent switch from print reporting to making a live broadcast back to CNN in the U.S., during which we get a glimpse of her desire to make a difference in the tragic and dangerous events in which she embedded herself. Perhaps what was missing however, was that we never came to understand how she got to be the way she was and where her motivation came from.

The movie was mostly filmed in Jordan although it was representing the wars in Syria and Iraq. Rosamund Pike deserves kudos for her depiction of the real-life Marie Colvin. There were also good supporting performances by Jamie Dornan, Tom Hollander, and Stanley Tucci. Also, director Matthew Heineman deserves praise as does the behind the scenes staff, who created the terrible war environment and the depiction of many injured and frightened people struggling through it. (2018)

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, War

55 Steps

October 24th, 2018 — 12:37am

****

55 STEPS

This film which is based on a true story, features two outstanding performances by well-known actresses who are on the screen together, probably more than 90% of the movie. Helena Bonham Carter plays Eleanor Riese, a young woman with a mental illness who is depicted as receiving potentially dangerous psychiatric medications against her will in a mental hospital. Hilary Swank plays Colette Hughes, the diligent attorney, two-year out of law school, who along with Mort Cohen, a law professor, played by Jeffrey Tambor, takes on Reise’s case and changes California State Law so that involuntary injection of medication is not allowed under certain circumstances. In the course of this moving story, the attorney and the patient become friends.

Unfortunately, one of us (MB) could not allow himself to simply enjoy this moving story and ultimate important legal battle. The reason being that I am a psychiatrist who has seen the evolution of the treatment of involuntary hospitalized patients and the role that anti-psychotic drugs have played in their care. I had to consider the context of the history of the treatment of the mentally ill in this country. Prior to the 1960s and 1907s, there were mental hospitals all over the country with more than half a million patients who were hospitalized against their will because of severe psychosis (being out of touch with reality often with hallucinations and delusions). In the 1950s, a drug named Thorazine was developed, which could put psychosis into remission. Although this drug could have significant side effects, this medication made a tremendous difference in hundreds of thousands of peoples’ lives. Between 1955 and 1994, 487,000 patients were discharged, leaving about 70,000 patients in state mental hospitals. In fact, most state mental hospitals were eventually closed. When I first stepped onto a psychiatric unit as a psychiatry resident in 1966, the newest antipsychotic drugs had not yet been developed and the drugs of choice was still Thorazine and similar medications. It would not be for another 20 years that much safer antipsychotic drugs were developed and put into use. However, the treatment with these medications was effective enough that in the 1970s, with the help of President Jimmy Carter outpatient clinics replaced most of the hospitalized psychiatric treatment in this country. With the development of new antipsychotic medications in the 1990s, there also were much safer medication treatment with many fewer side effects.

However, to this day, patients who are considered to be a danger to themselves or others (which will often include being out of touch with reality by responding to imaginary voices or to delusional ideas) can still be hospitalized against their will. We saw in this movie that the Eleanor Riese case brought about a change in the California law as the State Supreme Court ruled unanimously that patients who are involuntarily committed to health facilities for short-term crisis may refuse to take antipsychotic medication. There is an exception that allows for involuntary medication if the patient is deemed “incompetent to make such a decision by the courts.” There was also the exception for emergency medications, meaning medication that is used for patients who are “considered an eminent danger to themselves or others either physically or psychologically and refuse to take the medication freely.” Of course, you can also be hospitalized against your will on the same grounds for people who are suicidal. All this only pertains to the State of California. Other states may have slightly different laws. I apologize for the technical psychiatric details, but I know that many of the readers of this blog are related to the mental health field and would want these things clarified. There should be one more detail concerning the real character portrayed in the movie. The young woman may not have had schizophrenia. It was mentioned that when she was younger, she had a brain infection related to a shunt put in her brain and she subsequently had some intellectual deficiencies. This may have been the cause of her depicted mental abnormalities.

Returning to the film, which was done very well and was quite moving. The viewers developed a feeling of understanding and empathy as well as admiration for both of the main characters. There also is a very interesting back story about the making of the film, which we learned about in a post-film discussion with the author and producer, Mark Bruce Rosin. He originally came up with the script 25 years ago when he heard a radio program about Ms. Riese and her lawyer who was fighting for her rights to refuse medication. The movie was almost made by two different studios, but it was ultimately dropped until it eventually came to be made with the director Billie August and now will be released nationwide in the next few weeks. Despite some of unaddressed complexity of issues raided in the film, it was one that will grab you and cause to think and is well worth seeing. (2018)

 

 

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, History

Boy Erased

October 19th, 2018 — 5:21am

*****

Boy Erased – sp

Conversion Therapy is a pseudoscientific practice of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation from homosexuality or bisexuality to heterosexuality using psychological or spiritual interventions. There are 14 states and the district of Columbia that have banned Conversion Therapy for minors. There are also scattered counties and communities throughout the country where there is no state ban which have made laws against this practice (see map). This essentially means that in most of the United States, parents can mandate their children to stay in such a program. Since the medical and psychiatric communities have clearly established that sexual identity and orientation (straight, gay or bisexual) is determined at birth, any attempts at re-orientation are doomed to fail and have the potential to create more conflict and emotional turmoil.

This movie is based on a memoir by Garrard Conley which told his story of being the son of a Baptist pastor who is outed by his parents and then forced to attend a church conversion program with the purpose of “curing his homosexuality”. The experience that he goes through in this program is quite gripping and heart wrenching. The audience not only suffers through seeing things through his eyes but also sees the torment that some of the other attendees are going through which includes one young woman.

The three lead actors are outstanding. Lucas Hedges plays the young man. Nicole Kidman is his mother and Russell Crowe (who appears to have put on considerable weight for this role) does an excellent job as the minister who is the boy’s father. The film is directed by Joel Edgerton, who was also the screenwriter and played the role of Victor Sykes, the harsh and heavy-handed leader of the oppressive conversion program. The conflicts, psychological pain, turmoil and anger of the young man were very clear. At the same time, we saw the loving feelings, misguided but good intentions, that the father had for his son. The father-son love for each other despite their major life conflicts was depicted quite well as was the mother’s love and ultimate insight into the situation.

At the conclusion of the film, we had the opportunity to meet with Kerry Roberts, one of the producers of the film who brought the book to her production company and who told us about how the real-life family followed the story of it being brought to life. It should be very interesting to see how this film plays in most of the Unites States and the reaction and places where such so called “treatment” is allowed and can impact the lives of many young people. (2018)

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, Uncategorized

Beautiful Boy

October 15th, 2018 — 7:54pm

***

Beautiful Boy-rm

This movie has the potential to help educate the public about the terrible opioid epidemic in this country and to particularly highlight the devastating impact that methamphetamine is causing on so many young people. The story is based on the true life experiences of a young man by the name of Nic Sheff and that of his father, David Sheff, both of whom wrote books upon which the screen play by Luke Davis and by the film director, Felix Van Groeningen was written

We have not read the above books and do not know if there were any significant psychological determinants described for the teenage boy’s drug behavior shown in the books as they did not seem to be present in the film. This young man was played by Timothée Chalamet who was nominated for an Oscar last year for his performance in “Call Me By Your Name.” The father, David Sheff was played by comedian and veteran actor, Steve Carrell who certainly depicted the pain that his character felt upon seeing his son relapse multiple times and realizing that his love and care for his son could not save him from drugs

Toward the end of the film, we are confronted with the bold statement to the effect that methamphetamine is perhaps the most addictive and deadly of all the drugs being abused today. As a psychiatrist, one of us has been told by many different patients who abused drugs, that they know on average 10 to 20 people who have died of overdoses. The deadly toll in this film was actually mild compared to the reality that users know exists.

If you have encountered the scourge and deadliness of this epidemic, you may able to identify with the pain of the characters in this film. If this is new to you, we are not sure that the movie will affect you as it should. (2018)

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

The Hate U Give

October 10th, 2018 — 6:15am

*****

The Hate U Give

We both read the outstanding book by Angie Thomas upon which this movie was based, and did not expect a film to make a strong impact on us especially since we were anticipating all the dramatic moments. Much to our surprise, we were totally engrossed in the film and had a meaningful emotional experience as the two hours and twelve minutes running time flew by.

The story opens with a father giving his children “the talk” which is well known to most black families. We then see their worst nightmare unfold as Starr (Amandla Stenberg) and Khalil (Algee Smith), two black teenagers who have known each other since childhood, are driving in a car when they are pulled over by a white policeman. The teenage boy who was driving was asked to get out of the car and wants to know why he is being pulled over and is quite irritated. A minute later there were gunshots. The boy is dead and the girl is about to go through a life changing experience. The audience steps into her shoes, or should we say sneakers, and identifies with her through the wonderful screenplay adaptation of Angie Thomas’ novel by Audrey Wells who unfortunately passed away shortly before the release of this movie.

The movie was directed by George Tillman Jr., an African-American film producer, screenwriter, and director, who previously directed Soul Food and Man of Honor. Stenberg is stunning as the beautiful young woman who displays a wide range of emotion and an ability to relate to the people around her as well as to the tumultuous experience that she was going through. Russell Hornsby (who we understand is an accomplished Shakespearian actor) was excellent as her father. The supporting cast, which included two siblings played by Lamar Johnson and T.J.Wright were on target as was Issa Rae who plays an activist attorney. The rest of the cast was superb as was the realistic setting that was created. We were moved to anxiety and tears. This certainly was one of the best films that we have seen this year. (2018)

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama

Brampton’s Own

October 2nd, 2018 — 7:01pm

***

 Brampton’s Own – sp 

In this movie, baseball becomes a metaphor for a grandiose goal in life that may not be obtainable. Dustin (Alex Russell) is a catcher for a triple A minor league baseball team who is one step away from being elevated to a major league baseball team which would be the pinnacle of success for him. He has been hoping and trying to reach his goal in life for almost 10 years during the course of which, he has lost close touch with his friends, family and girlfriend (Rose McIver) who was the love of his life. If he is ready to abandon his dreams and come off the road should his friends, family and his old girlfriend who is about to be married come back into his life? There are perhaps two ways to view this main character. According to his mother (Jean Smart) he has to learn to enjoy and appreciate the journey, on the way to his life goal even if the goal is not obtainable. Or perhaps he is just a narcissistic, self-centered person that only cares about himself? Both may be true.

Writer-director Michael Doneger put together a skillful production team led by producer Mark DiCristofaro which filmed the story in an amazing 15 days. Kudos also goes to the young actor Carter Hastings who played Cody, a kid interested in baseball who is trying to learn about the “game.” This movie is not a “Field of Dreams” but it should stimulate some thoughts and discussion about life. (2018)

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Sport

The Godfather

September 30th, 2018 — 6:02pm

*****

The Godfather

Recently my son, grandson and I got together for an evening of pizza and watching the original Godfather movie, which won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1973. It also won the Oscar for Marlon Brando as Best Actor in a Leading Role and Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola won an Oscar for Best Screenplay. Coppola (who was a high school classmate of mine) was nominated for the Oscar for Best Director as were James Caan, Robert Duvall, Al Pacino for Best Supporting Actor. Also in the film were Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, Ali MacGraw, Robert De Niro, Jill Clayburgh, the singer Al Martino and many other excellent actors and actresses. The movie also won the “75 years of Golden Globes Best Picture”.

The storyline, if you don’t know, is about an organized crime family in the 1950s led by Don Corleone (Marlon Brando) referred to as the “Godfather” and how they confronted the appearance of narcotics on the New York City crime scene. It is also about how the Godfather is transferring his power to his youngest son, Michael Corleone, a decorated United States Marine just returning from the war (Al Pacino). The movie depicts the lifestyle of this crime family with grandiose lovely wedding celebrations, as well as brutal murder scenes.

The fact that our viewing team of three did not notice nor mind the about three hours of running time of the film attest to the well-deserved success of the movie. In fact, it was my impression that the classic depiction of the Godfather by Marlon Brando appeared to be a much shorter role than I remembered it (although no one questioned his well-deserved acclaim). It was also interesting that his mumbled speech and the Italian accent of some of the characters led to the youngest member of our viewing team to turn on the English subtitle feature, which I didn’t even know was possible. Another feature of this movie was the recurring, haunting and memorable music theme, which was voted Best Grammy Score of a Motion Picture for that year.

If you are interested in re-experiencing a “blast from the past,” taking another pass at this great movie is highly recommended. Keep in mind  that there are two sequels also available. (1972)

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 5 Stars, Crime, Drama

Fahrenheit 11/9

September 24th, 2018 — 12:41am

****

Fahrenheit 11/9- rm

This is a documentary movie by filmmaker, Michael Moore. So, if you know anything about him, you can expect a strong political statement reflecting his views. However, we found that he took us some places we did not anticipate and we were emotionally moved by several points that were being made.

While the title (One Day After Trump’s Election) and introduction zoomed in immediately on the election of Donald Trump, which surprised most everyone, probably including Trump and his supporters. Moore did not let us forget that there was a clear majority of voters supporting Clinton and of course, the Electoral College, which allowed Trump to be elected president, is a remnant of a compromise made to appease the slave states.

As we settled in to see a further dissection of Trumpism in this country, the movie took us on a somewhat different journey than we expected. We ended up in Moore’s homeland of Flint, Michigan where we were told the story of one of the most horrendous acts of deception ever played upon American citizens. The water supply of the city was changed and then came from a new river source, which was polluted with lead and other substances that were an irreversible poison to the residents of that city, especially impacting children. The governor of Michigan, Jim Snyder, even when he knew about the facts, hid the truth from the people in order to protect corporate interests who were benefiting by the status quo. He did make some changes, so a General Motors plant would have clean water so as not to damage the cars that were being made. Apparently, even President Obama did not understand the true gravity of the situation as we see him speaking in Flint, Michigan minimizing the seriousness of this issue.

This movie also took us to West Virginia, where we met poorly-paid teachers who defied their own union and were going on strike for a 5% raise in salary for themselves, school bus drivers and kitchen workers in the schools. We saw how their brave acts of defiance were then copied by teachers in other states, giving a picture of how people can rise up for their rights.

Seen through the eyes of this documentary filmmaker, the human elements of such events can be very well conveyed. However, nothing was more moving than the depiction of the well-known story of the children of Parkland, Florida who rose up to capture the hearts of the entire country as they exposed the self-centered actions of the gun lobby in this country who have resisted changes in gun control despite the massacre of the Parkland children by a crazed killer with an assault rifle.

The ending of this film brought us back to Trump with Michael Moore’s eye-opening clear comparison of the rise of Donald Trump and the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazism as seen in Germany. This documentary film pulls no punches and it will hit you in the gut, bring tears to your eyes and give you a great deal to think about. (2018)

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Politics

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