Afternoon of a Faun

April 12th, 2014 — 10:44pm

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Afternoon of the Faun : Tanaquil Le Clercq rm- If you love ballet and are familiar with the great artists and choreographers  as well as the history of ballet you probably will very much enjoy this documentary film It is about a young girl who at age 14 was a talented student studying at a school run by the great Balanchine . Four years later she not only was dancing with him but soon after was married to him, although he was nearly 25 years her senior. Tanquil Le Clercq, known as “Tanny” had a long , lovely and distinctive physique. Her dancing not only inspired Balanchine but she was also said to be a muse for Jerome Robbins who created his famous Afternoon of a Faun for Tanny. She was one of the most famous dancers of her time until at the age of 27 she was struck down by polio, which was the plague of its time. This was a disease that unexpectedly would make its appearance and would especially  paralyze children and young adults. It could even be fatal. Salk’s amazing vaccine came on the scene a short time later. Tanny was forced to be in an “iron lung” which would help her breathe and then over several years graduated to a wheel chair from which she became a teacher of ballet. The film consists mostly of beautiful film clips of Tanny dancing with Balanchine and others. There are clips of people talking about this unusual woman and her life. Not only is there Balanchine and  Jerome Robbins, who was very close to her, but others such as Jacque D’Ambroise, Arthur Mitchell and a women who for many years was Balanchine’s secretary and assistant. Her insights, particularly into the thinking of her boss, captured some of the conflict that he must have had for loving and caring about Tanny, but pursuing his own career as he worked with other ballerinas, eventually leaving Tanny to marry another dancer. It is unfortunate that we never hear a meaningful interview with the main star of this film We come to care about her through the old movies of her performing her magnificent dancing and the glimpses of her beauty even in the later years. We also learn about her strength, intelligence and humor from excerpts of letters she wrote, which were read by an unseen actress in the film..  This all takes place  with the rich and melodic music of the ballet, which accompanies not only the dancing but also this moving story. If you don’t have a special relationship to ballet and dance this documentary film will probably not move you very much. But if you do, be prepared to be swept off your feet and be caught up in the true tale  of this beautiful and tragic person.(2014)

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

The Galapagos Affair

April 11th, 2014 — 6:07am

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The Galapagos Affair- sp- This documentary film takes place on the Galapagos Islands which are a group of 19 small islands in the Pacific Ocean about 600 miles from the coast of Ecuador. In the early 1930s a handful of people decided they wanted to get away from civilization and live on one of most deserted and smaller islands of this group named Floreana Island. The first couple to settle there was a young physician from Berlin, Friedrick Ritter who was a student of the writings of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. He was accompanied by his girlfriend Dore Strauch who had multiple sclerosis but seemed quite fit as they both worked the land. They were joined on the island by Margaret and Heinz Wittmer who raised a family there. The other important people  that we see on the island are the so-called Baroness Eloise von Wagner who is flamboyant woman who settles there with her two lovers with the plan to build a hotel. All of the inhabitants are mostly off to themselves but occasionally interact as for example when Dr. Ritter delivers one of the Wittmer’s children. There are occasional brief visits by various ships, which included scientists and naturalists who studied the beautiful natural vegetation and wildlife on the island. Although not discussed in the film one of these visitors was Captain Alan Hancock, a wealthy philanthropist who financed research expeditions to the Galapagos Islands. He also was an early user of 8mm movie film and he photographed the inhabitants of the island doing various activities over a period of a few years. He also photographed a fictionalized short silent film starring the Baroness titled the Empress of Floreana. It was the availability of these archived movie footage that allowed filmmakers Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine  to put together this documentary film. They chose to present this film as an unsolved mystery since there were two unexplained disappearances and one death under unusual circumstances. It appeared that most of the people on the island were writers of sorts and many recorded their day-to-day observations and feelings Therefore the screenplay written by Geller and Goldfine included dialogue written by the various inhabitants. This was read by actors and actress while we mostly watched the old movies that have been dug out from the archives and skillfully weaved to match the dialogue or vice versa. This included the voices of   Cate Blanchett as Dore Strauch, Thomas Kretschmann as Dr. Ritter, Sebastain Koch as Mr. Wittmer, Diane Kruger as Margret Wittmer and Connie Nielsen as the Baroness. Josh Radnor and Gustav Skarsgard were the voices of the two men in the Baroness’ life. There were too many details put out for us to digest and not enough focus on the individual characters for us to care very much about them. There were also too many additional contemporary interviews with the children and relatives as well as with some surviving main characters. We never got a good feel for the murder mystery, which they were trying to unfold.  This was despite taking two hours to play out the movie. Perhaps this is a film that you might want to see prior to a tourist trip to these islands but it is not one we can recommend for your movie entertainment. (2014)

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 2 Stars, Documentary, Mystery

The Grand Budapest Hotel

April 5th, 2014 — 6:25am

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The Grand Budapest Hotel- rm-  This movie is a mixture of a fairytale, a romp with the keystone cops and a sophisticated mystery.  We are introduced to the Grand Budapest Hotel somewhere in Europe in modern times during an off-season. It is clear that the hotel has an interesting history, as does the one of main characters who we meet. That is an older Mr. Mustafa (F. Murray Abraham) now the owner of this Grand Lady of a Hotel that still is magnificent.  He takes us back to what are probably the 1930;s when he was a young lobby boy of the hotel known as Zero (Tony Revolori). He became a protégé of Mr. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) the legendary concierge of the hotel with whom he is about embark upon a great adventure.  Gustave is the perfect gentleman who befriends the wealthy men and women who come to hotel. One in particular Madame D. (Tilda Swinton) leaves a valuable painting to him, which he discovers when he travels to pay his respects after she is murdered. His young faithful companion accompanies him. Their adventure leads to confrontation with police, soldiers, and time in jail with an escape, a bad villain and a fanciful tale. It all probably should viewed as an allegory for the good times of pre World War II in Europe that were turned into death and destruction with precious memories by those who survived. The director and screen writer Wes Anderson is known for bringing imaginative story lines to the screen such as Moonrise Kingdom, The Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore and many others. In this case he based the story on writings of Stephen Zweig. The dialogue is fitting the upper crust that is being served by the likes of Gustave and his lobby boy but then periodically breaks down into paradoxical comments that bring out a good laugh and reminds you that there is satire going on here. The setting is old Europe and it was filmed in Germany where Anderson and his crew found or created not only the Grand Hotel but also magnificent castle like mansions, prisons and even escape tunnels. The cast was excellent which included Jude Law, Bill Murray, Ed Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Owen Wilson, Jason Swartzman, William DeFoe, Adrian Brody, Bob Balahan and others. Some had very small parts but all were on the mark to give a realistic performance in a fantasy movie. (2014)

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

Breathe In

March 28th, 2014 — 3:53am

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Breathe In – sp We come away from this movie believing that all four of the main characters really need therapy. Keith Reynolds (Guy Pearce) is not so happily married, with a soon to be 18 year old daughter. He is a musician who is stuck teaching high school music classes, substituting as cello player in the symphony orchestra, wishing that he never moved out to the New York suburbs and had instead followed his creative dreams. His wife Megan (Amy Ryan) is living a life of denial, collecting cookie jars, refusing to recognize her husband’s unhappiness or her daughter’s tumultuous teenage life. Lauren (Mackenzie Davis) the daughter drives and drinks too much and becomes terribly traumatized by what is to come. What is to come is an eighteen-year-old British exchange student (Felicity Jones) who is to live in the Reynolds household for one semester. Her mother died at an early age and her father couldn’t handle taking care of her so he gave her up to an uncle who pushed her to learn how to play the piano at an early age. So now she is fantastic pianist but is not certain that is what really makes her happy. Lo and behold, there is a simpatico between this attractive girl and the frustrated father. She represents where he was 18 years ago. With the build up of tension, sexual and otherwise and a musical score led by a simple piano theme  (music by Dustin O’Halloran) we become caught up with what is going to happen. Director and co-screenwriter Drake Doremus is short on dialogue but he allows us to think we know what is going on in each character’s head. Although in a post screening discussion that we attended not everyone seemed to agree. We can’t say that we liked any one of these characters but we certainly cared about what was happening to them. (2014)

 

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

Face of Love

March 26th, 2014 — 8:23pm

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Face of Love- rm- This movie stands out because of it’s very unique storyline. Niki’s  (Annette Bening) deeply loved husband (Ed Harris) drowns while they are celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary in a lovely resort in Mexico.  5 years later the long grieving wife sees a man, Tom (also Ed Harris of course) who looks exactly like her husband and manages to meet him and develop a relationship. To her, it is reuniting with her deceased husband but to him it is an opportunity to fall in love which he has not felt since his wife left him 10 years before. The mood of this film written by Matthew McDuffie and Director Arie Posin  hovers between a spooky supernatural tale and a story of crazed woman holding on to her fantasy. Bening does a magnificent job of the conflicted wife torn apart by her struggle with reality. The potential of art and painting to convey emotion and the symbolic nature of water as being deadly but also eternal are the backdrops of the plot. Will the widowed neighbor (Robin Williams) who has a crush on the widow next door recognize the appearance of her new boyfriend ? What will happen when the daughter returns from college and confronts the spitting image of her deceased father? A haunting musical score by Marcelo Zarvos carries the film and has the potential to bring out those primitive emotions in the audience as we try to imagine the resolution of the story. (2014)

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

Rob The Mob

March 20th, 2014 — 8:07pm

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Rob the Mob- sp- Are you ready for another good  movie about “The Mafia”? But this time it is the “wise guys” meet Bonnie and Clyde. On top of this it is vintage New York 1990s and it is all based on a true story.  Tommy is a young hoodlum who with his girl friend Rosie get caught robbing a flower shop. After he gets out of prison Tommy gets the bright idea that he should get an Uzi machine gun to hold up a bunch of  small  clubs where the gangsters hang out, since he heard they aren’t allowed to have their guns there. She will drive the getaway car. He even makes these mob guys strip down to their underwear. If you think this duo isn’t too bright, you aren’t far from the truth. But they are in love and are both funny and charming. Michael Pitt a 32 year old actor with some good movie and TV experience who  comes across as a tough but naïve Clyde, alias Tommy. His Bonnie, or should we say Rosie, is inhabited by someone who reminds us of Barbara Streisand without the voice and is perfectly played by Nina Arianda who has already established herself on Broadway as well as in film. There are a bunch of very familiar looking gangsters including one played by Burt Young, who you remember as Paulie in Stallone’s Rocky and actually was in all six of those films. Ray Ramono continues to demonstrate his versatility as an actor playing the sympathetic NY Post reporter Jerry Cardoza. If there is poignancy in this film it is in the character of Big Al, the honcho of the mob, who is on the verge of being brought down by these two bumbling bandits. He is played very well with dignity by Andy Garcia, who actually makes us feel sad that the FBI is about to bag him due to unbelievable but true circumstances, which are part of this story. Credit for the success of this film in great part goes to director Raymond De Felitta who ran with the screenplay by Jonathan Fernandez and worked very closely during the editing phase with Stephen Endelman who did the music which always sets the tone in this kind of a film. Unless there is word of mouth, this independent film might not take off on the first trip around but it is worth seeing. (2014)

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

Bad Words

March 13th, 2014 — 6:37pm

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Bad Words-sp  This is  Jason Bateman’s directorial debut starring Jason Bateman. It can be described as a mean or subversive comedy. The main character says and does cruel things to other people including a bunch of preteen kids which although they are “funny” they are not very nice.We meet Guy Trilby (Bateman) as a 40 year old guy who is entering the national spelling bee contest which he is determined to win and claims the right to be in it since he meets the criteria of never completing the 8th grade.He is accompanied by a reporter (Kathryn Hahn)  doing a story about his endeavor for a web site. He overcomes the objections of Dr. Bernice Deagan  (Allison Janney), one of the administrators, and confronts the founder of the contest, Dr. Bowman(Phillip Baker Hall), who are both furious at him, as are all the parents of the young other contestants. Trilby plays distracting mean tricks on some of the kids to get them eliminated from the competition. He does befriend one of the kids, 10 year old Indian boy Chaitanya Chopra with whom there is a hint that he identifies with him. We see terrific chemistry between the two and a great acting job by a young boy by the name of Rohan Chand. And now for an announcement SPOILER ALERT which is necessary although we probably knew the secret for 1/5 of the film and still enjoyed it. The question, of course, is why would a 40 year old man undertake this mission? The answer has something to do with the fact that we learn that the founder of the contest, Dr. Bowman, actually once as a traveling salesman met Philby’s  mother and became his biological father but never stayed around and of course does not know this fact. Philby had found this out recently just before  his mother died and now is on the mission to screw up the good doctor’s prestigious spelling contest. In the end this makes for an interesting, funny and ultimately a feel good movie that many people will enjoy seeing.  But his film fascinated once of us (MB)  because we have observed some variation of this theme is numerous movies played out in different ways, as well as having seen it in several real life situations. But in each case the motivation and the actions of the person searching for his or her biological parent or child is different. It certainly is not always vindictive as in this story and sometimes it is to establish a meaningful connection. Here are some films and our reviews where this was the main theme:

Philomena -Elderly British woman who had child out of wedlock in convent goes to US to find out what happened to him. Stars Oscar nominated Judy Dench

The Kids Are All Right- Two lesbian parents are raising two teenage kids who decide to search out their sperm donor biological dad. Annette Bening, Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo

People Like Us – A man and woman never realized they were from the same parent Elizabeth Banks , Chris Pine and Michelle Pfeiffer

Stories We Tell – Documentary by a woman  who uncovers secrets of her family and that she was not her father’s child. Sarah Polley

Admission- Assistant Dean of Admissions realizes an applicant is her child given up at birth- Tina Fey, Lily Tomlin and Pail Rudd

Mother and Child   Mother child relationships . Children given up for adoption and fantasies of children who want  to reunite with their mother. Annette Bening and Noemi Watts

I have also written about three cases from real life in my PsychiatryTalk.com blog  (http://www.psychiatrytalk.com/2012/07/discussion-of-the-phenomena-of-unknown-family-members/)       (2014)

 

 

 

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

Inequality For All

March 11th, 2014 — 7:12am

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Inequality For All- nf  This is an amazing documentary that is all about Robert Reich who presents as clear an explanation of the economy- where it has been and where it is going, as we have ever seen. He makes it clear why there is big disparity between the 1% and the 99% in the U.S. and what that should really mean to all of us. Reich was Secretary of Labor and a key advisor to Bill Clinton. He started in polities in the Carter administration and more recently teaches at University of California at Berkley. In fact, a good part of this film is directly from his class lecture at that school. His discussion, his graphs, his examples and his logic come across crystal clear, as does his sincerity. He makes the point, with very easy to understand facts and figures, that this country has thrived when there was less disparity between the wealthy and the middle class and how when the middle class earnings flattened out and the very wealthy began to make more money than ever, the economy of the US took a nose dive (i.e. in 1929 and 2008). Reich not only spoke with articulate people in the middle class who have seen their savings erode but he also spoke with a multimillionaire who acknowledges that he and others like him invest most of their money abroad in hedge funds (not in creating new jobs in this country). We also get the views of Warren Buffet who ridicules the tax structure in this country where he pays less percentage of his income on taxes than does his secretary(13% vs 36%). Mitt Romney paid 11%.  We see how in the 1980s, women entering the job market saved the middle class by providing a second  income for middle class families, but now as globalization takes the jobs out of the US and automation limits employment, that won’t save the economy anymore. The middle class has to have disposable income to buy products in order for our economy to thrive. The rich people can only buy so many cars, pillowcases or other products. The shrinking middle class income is putting the economy of this country into deep trouble. Trickle down economics clearly doesn’t work.  On top of all this the recent Supreme Court “ Citizens United “ case now supports the wealthy to basically put unlimited funds into political campaigns which makes it even more difficult to make any change. Obviously this is heavy stuff. Perhaps the most uplifting part about this depressing picture is the commitment of Reich to tell the story and his optimism that the next generation will make the changes that are necessary. No matter what part of the political spectrum you come from you should see this film. Whether you think you agree or disagree with this guy, you will be enriched by the insight into these complicated economic issues. The movie, directed by Jacob Kornbluth is well done, with illustrative archival clips, good close-up views into the character of many of the people who appear in the film and appropriate music that moves this film along. As all good documentaries should do, it also leaves you with a good website,  Inequalityforall.com which shows you how you can get involved. (2013)

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

Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me

March 6th, 2014 — 8:06pm

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Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me- If you love Elaine Stritch, dramatic actress, singer, musical comedy star and Broadway legend you will want to see this documentary. If you want to meet a remarkable 87 year old star who speaks her mind and is not afraid to tell you she that still needs the love of her audiences, you will want to see this documentary. While one might think that the filmmaker Chiemi Karasawa had always been an avid fan of the subject of this film, you will be surprised to learn that this was not the case. In fact, her interest was stimulated by their mutual hairdresser, who suggested that Stritch would be the ideal subject for a documentary. Karasawa then unearthed everything she could about this woman and ultimately convinced Ms. Stritch to let her do the film. Stritch, who never does anything half way granted the filmmaker full access to her life and embraced the project with the intensity and humor, which is so much a part of her character. The film is not a retrospective review of this amazing person, although it certainly gives you ample glimpses of her star-studded career. But rather it is the story of an elderly woman facing the challenges of life with concerns about her health and memory who nevertheless is still up for another show, another concert, another rehearsal, another review, all with energy and, yes, with great vitality. And this woman can still sing! It is exciting to see her rehearse with her music director as she prepares for her latest cabaret performance at the famed Café Carlyle as she lives in her suite at that same hotel. You can almost hear Frank Sinatra singing New York New York as she hustles down a Manhattan street. All of this is quite real as is her hospitalization at Mount Sinai Hospital for hypoglycemia related to her diabetes. The camera doesn’t miss a beat nor does Ms. Stritch. Two unforgettable moments are the look on a young Stephen Sondheim’s face as a young Elaine Stritch nails one of his songs and another moment when an older Stritch marvels how Sondheim’s words so often captured her own feelings. We come away from this film with a picture of the legend, who once turned down JFK’ s offer to join her at her apartment one evening. A woman who could never find a love to replace her 10 year marriage to John Bay actor and playwright who died in 1982 of a brain tumor and every year still send English Muffins from her husband’s family muffin business to hundreds of her friends. A woman who has been nominated for multiple Tony’s, Emmys and what have you and a woman who is now sure to be unforgettable to new and old fans thanks to this film.  (2014)

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

In Secret

February 20th, 2014 — 9:02pm

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In Secret-sp Emile Zola is a great French writer known for the Naturalism Literary School which depicts realism, human experience and morality or the lack of it. This film is closely based on one of his classic  novels of this genre Therese Raquin.  Charlie Stratton as Executive Producer, screen writer and director certainly achieved a realistic 19th century Paris setting (although filmed in Budapest) as well as a dramatic film noir atmosphere. But it was the character portrayals, which riveted the audience and allows Zola’s captivating storyline to hold them spellbound. Therese (Elizabeth Olsen) is a beautiful sex starved and obsessed young woman who is forced into a loveless marriage with her nerdy cousin Camille (Tom Felton) after her mother dies and left her in the care of her aunt, magnificently played by Jessica Lange. Laurent LeClaire (Oscar Isaac) an old artist friend of Camille appears on the scene and there is immediately intense chemistry between him and Therese, which is secretly acted out. It would not be a Zola story if jealousy and passion does not lead to murder! Things cannot be expected to be simple even at this point as there is intense grief, all kinds of strong emotional feelings, delayed gratification and tremendous guilt which seems to be on verge of destroying of what was an intense all-encompassing relationship. The movie will grip you and hold your attention as well as any great TV show but the subtle, complexities and all the dark shadows as well as the absolutely great acting and directing remind you that you have seen a first rate movie. (2014)

 

 

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

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