What Happened Miss Simone?

November 29th, 2020 — 12:52am

We also reviewed this film a few years ago when it came out. We suggest that you also look at that review ( What Happened, Miss Simone? )which also has a link to one her outstanding performances.

****
What Happened, Miss Simone?

This 2015 documentary film was directed by Liz Garbus and is nominated for best documentary film at the 88th Academy Awards. Nina Simone is a little girl who appeared to be destined to become a child prodigy classical pianist. Her natural talents as a pianist as well as a singer diverted her into performing as a jazz artist. Being a young black woman, she used her musical talent to be an important voice in the Civil Rights Movement in the late 1960s. She would often be singing in a musical manner what the black leaders were saying in so many ways, especially as she came forth and performed her classic song, Mississippi Goddamn! Ms. Simone’s personal life was complicated as the man whom she married and became her manager also physically abused her.

The editing of this film was magnificent as there were clips of her performing and talking as well as segments of observation by people who knew her including her husband and most important, her daughter. These were all blended together with wonderful clips of performances by this great artist.

Sadly, it turns out that Ms. Simone appeared to have had an underlying depression, which dominated her later years. She died at the age of 70, but her music will never be forgotten.

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

Loving

November 29th, 2020 — 12:15am

***

Loving

This 2016 film is a re-creation of a story behind a very important Supreme Court case, which struck down a Virginia Law forbidding inter-racial marriage and conception of children between an inter-racial couple and by doing so established nationwide precedents. The historical significance of this event makes this movie a riveting cinematic experience. Jeff Nicolas who wrote the screenplay was also the director. Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton were the co-stars as Mildred and Richard Loving. The movie was nominated for various awards.

We both felt that weakness of the film was the passiveness of Mr. Loving. We can easily understand the tremendous fears that anyone in his situation would have as his loving marriage was threatened as was the potential damage to his three children if the parents had to go to jail, but we missed the inner turmoil and conflict that he must have had, which we could see to some degree in his wife. While we understand the immense historical significance of this case, we also believe that there was room for a dramatic exposition of its importance in our society, which could have been explained by historical film clips about this important historical event. Thus while the film should be seen for its historical and social value, it had much to be desired from a cinematic point of view. (2020)

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

Love, Guaranteed

October 15th, 2020 — 5:30am

***
Love, Guaranteed nf

This Rom Com is a total cliché and “too cute by half.” However, during these dark Coronavirus times, there is something rejuvenating about watching good things happening to good people. Susan (Rachael Leigh Cook) is a caring workaholic attorney who takes on cases to actually help people. Nick (Damon Wayans, Jr.) comes into her life as he wants her to take on a dating company that guarantees findings love. Since he has gone out on thousand dates through the service and not found his special someone, he wants to sue the company and is ready and able to pay whatever it takes. It is true that you know from the first moment exactly what will happen in the end, yet the characters are endearing, the confection sweet, and you end up wanting to go along for the ride (2020).

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

The Red Violin

October 15th, 2020 — 5:27am

***
The Red Violin Amazon Prime

This is a unique story directed by François Girard. It has an outstanding cast which includes Samuel L. Jackson, Gretta Scacchi, Monique Mercure, and Don McKella. With lush cinematography, “The Red Violin” provides much to think about. We are brought along with the story of the creation in the 17th century of a particularly well crafted violin and how the instrument is used, abused, and yet survives until the present day. The violin maker is crafting the special instrument for the son that his wife is soon to bear. However, she dies in childbirth and he is so distraught that he uses her blood mixed into the varnish on the violin (hence the “red” violin). The film skips to a child prodigy orphan who is then given the violin, but meets tragedy as well when he dies and is buried with the violin. A group of gypsies rob the grave and one of the women plays it beautifully until she is noticed by a wealthy land owner/concert musician who makes a deal with her and her group, in which they are given land on which to live while he takes the ownership of the violin. After some time of his playing in concerts and receiving wide acclaim, he meets a tragic end. The violin is taken by his Chinese servant to China. There, it is lovingly cared for and played until the Cultural Revolution causes instruments of Europe to be banned and their musicians ostracized. Ultimately, the violin finds its way to present day Montreal where it is part of a large shipment of instruments purchased from China. The film intersperses scenes of the present with experts doing research on the origin of instruments with the scenes of the rich history and adds an extra layer of intrigue as the instruments are being readied to be auctioned to aficionados willing to spend huge amounts of money. While the most interesting depiction of time, place, and history, the up and back nature of the film is often jarring and confusing; however, seeing phases of history through the story of a particular instrument is thought provoking and the modern day drama somewhat intriguing as well.(1998)

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

My Octopus Teacher

October 15th, 2020 — 5:24am

***
My Octopus Teacher nf

This is a documentary film directed by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed. It stars Craig Foster who also produced the film. He appears to be a marine biologist who spends close to a year following a single octopus for most of her life living under water in a South African kelp forest.

The film shows Foster mostly by himself swimming deep in the water without an oxygen tank following the life of this one octopus. We learned about the life cycle of this creature and how it hides from sharks, appears to feel comfortable with the film marker, and ultimately reproduces and dies. The impression that the film is trying to make is that Foster felt an emotional connection with the octopus and he felt that likewise it felt a connection with him. While we understand the two-way connection, we cannot help being aware that there always had to be another person nearby (the always present cameraman). The film also briefly shows Foster teaching his son the secrets of connecting with the creatures below. This is a unique and unusual movie.(2020)

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

Mucho Mucho Armor – The Legend of Walter Mercado

October 15th, 2020 — 4:51am

***
Mucho Mucho Amor – The Legend of Walter Mercado nf

This is a documentary film that takes place over several decades about someone who is apparently one of the most well-known Latin stars in the world. He was born in modest circumstances in Puerto Rico and from an early age had been seen as having “something special,” to which people gravitated. He was an actor who became interested in astrology and due to a various circumstances he appeared in various short television segments telling fortunes according to the astrological stars. At one point, he had 120 million viewers. People all over Latin America became enthralled with his pronouncement and his performance and he became loved and sought after celebrity. He dressed in extravagant costumes with magnificent capes that became an essential part of his shows. He spent a lifetime as someone who loved to look glamorous in his feminine/masculine attire and who only wanted to spread love and good feelings. The documentary allows the viewer to see into his rise as well as the betrayal by his manager, which almost destroyed him. Yet, he lived to see better days and to enjoy once again his status as a unique icon within the Spanish speaking community. Seeing the film, you are left with the feeling of having witnessed someone totally unique and full of love (2020).

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

The Great Hack

September 18th, 2020 — 10:56pm

The Great Hack
*****

As the internet and Facebook have become a part of our everyday life, most of us have no idea how much information about each of us is being saved and potentially available. It happens that a political consulting company based in England named Cambridge Analytica whose CEO is Alexander Nix has been accumulating such data. This information was used to influence BREXIT (the vote allowing Great Britain to leave the European Union).

It turns out that Cambridge Analytica was also providing data to influence the US elections. They apparently have 5000 points of data on every American voter. Initially, they were using this information to target voters and support the reelection of United States Senator Ted Cruz of Florida. Subsequently, this information was put to use to influence the 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump.

Various journalists discovered these activities and began to report on them. Special note was the work of Carole Cadwalladr who reported for The Guardian and The Observer. Some of the other heroes featured in this film include Professor David Carroll who tried to legally obtain the data that Cambridge Analytica had about him. There are also whistleblowers Christopher Wylie and Brittany Kaiser, a former director at Cambridge Analytica. These people and others cooperated with the filmmakers in this very well done documentary as they followed them around all over the world including their testimony before the US Congress. There is also a piece showing Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook founder) testifying in front of a special Congressional Committee.

This documentary film was put together by directors Karim Amer, Jehane Noujaim and they produced and wrote it along with Geralyn White Dreyfous, Judy Korin, and Pedro Kos. This movie was released in the United States in July 2019 and has been nominated for an Emmy to be announced next week (September 20).

This is a very engrossing documentary film, which deserves the attention of every American. As the documentary unfolds, you have the feeling that you are watching the reveal of a very important event.The Great Hack!(2020)

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

Rising Phoenix

September 15th, 2020 — 1:50am

Rising Phoenix – nf
*****

This is a truly amazing documentary film about a group of remarkable athletes who have participated in the Paralympic Games. In it we meet athletes some without legs or arms and some without both. We get a chance to learn about their personal stories. Some were born without limbs or suffered the loss as children. We see how each person faced his or handicap with the support of parents, sometimes adopted parents, their coaches and eventually with the support of a stadium filled with screaming fans. This was a beautifully done documentary which grips both the viewer’s mind and heart.

This Netflix documentary film was directed by Ian Bonhote and Peter Ettedgui. Included among the featured athletes was Tatyana McFadden who spent the first six years of her life in a Russian orphanage with not even a wheelchair. She was paralyzed from the waist down and with no other way to move. She learned to walk with her hands to keep up with other children. Subsequently, competing in a wheelchair, she has won 17 Paralympic medals in multiple Summer Paralympic Games. There was Jonnie Peacock who at the age of 5 contracted meningitis resulting in the disease killing tissues in his right leg, which was then amputated just below the knee. He eventually received a prosthetic leg and won gold medals at the 2012 and 2016 Summer Paralympic Games representing Great Britain. There was also Bebe Maria Vio who at the age of 11 contracted a severe form of meningitis, which caused her the loss of both arms and legs and severe facial and body scars. After months of intense rehab treatment and thanks to a special prosthesis, she could return to the love of her life, which was fencing, a discipline that she had been practicing since she was five years old. She won a gold medal at the 2016 Paralympic Games.These athletes and others narrated much of this film, which also included a narration by Prince Harry of Great Britain, which added authenticity as well as his warmth.

The film also takes us into the history of the Paralympic Games and how they have come to occur in the same year as the regular Olympic Games and in the same city with one exception. In 1980, we learned that when a Soviet official was asked whether or not the Paralympic Games would occur in his country, he said “There are no invalids in the USSR.” That attitude has changed considerably in modern times as athletes from that country have actively participated in the Paralympics.

The authors particularly appreciated this film since it happens that during the summer after we were married, we were camp counselors at Camp Oakhurst, a camp for orthopedically handicapped youngsters and young adults and we came to appreciate how the love of sports can transcend physical handicaps. We also over the years have had the opportunity to attend five summer Olympic Games throughout the world, although none were the Paralympic Games, which we now are inspired to consider visiting in the future.

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

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

August 27th, 2020 — 4:27am

MOVIE REVIEW

***
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (nf)

Guernsey is a small island, which is part of the Channel Islands off the coast of England. It was the only British territory that the Germans invaded and occupied during World War II.

This movie is directed by Mike Newell and written by Don Roos and Tom Bezucha based on a novel by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. It stars Lily James, Michiel Huisman, Glen Powell, Jessica Findlay, Katherine Parkinson, Tom Courtenay, Matthew Goode, and Penelope Wilton.

The film takes place in post war World War II in 1946. Juliet who is an author receives a letter from a Guerney man who is interested in a book that she has written. They begin to correspond and she learns that there is a book discussion group on Guernsey called the “Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.” She decides that she would like to learn more about this group who write about it. Her boyfriend accompanies her to the dock, where she will take the ferry to Guernsey and he proposes to her at that time. She goes on her mission and surprisingly Juliet becomes involved in the “Society,” particularly interested in the fate of one of the founding members, Elizabeth, who left the island during the war. There is intrigue, romance, and an insight into the German occupation of the island during World War II.

While our own book discussion groups or even our film discussion groups do not have the danger and intrigue found in the story, it does give us a chance to experience a well done book and movie (2020).

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

Echo In The Canyon

August 4th, 2020 — 12:13am

Echo In The Canyon (nf)
****

Being relative newcomers to Los Angeles and not having grown up here, we had no idea how the lovely mountain and valley area northwest of downtown Los Angeles is actually the birth place of the “California Sound.” The musicians who were drawn to this area in the early 1960s included well known groups such as The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, and The Mamas & the Papas as well as many other groups. They transformed folk music into the all familiar electric guitar sound that still resonates today. The film was directed by Andrew Slater and features Jakob Dylan, a very talented musician himself who also happens to be the son of Bob Dylan. He interviewed several of the featured musicians who were now in their senior years including Stephen Stills, Michelle Phillips, David Crosby, Graham Nash, and even Ringo Starr. Jakob Dylan is also shown performing a good deal of the time. Many of these interviews appeared to be made just for this film and there were also many archival clips. Many parts of this film were made in the famous Los Angeles recording studios.

What was it about Laurel Canyon that attracted these musicians and allowed it to be the birthplace of this beloved sound? In part, it was the presence of recording companies including the iconic MGM building that resembles a stack of records. Also, most likely, the proximity to the movie studios and the lifestyle of the rich and famous. While not highlighted in the film, this also was the time of psychedelic drugs such as LSD that were often associated with rock and roll. Whatever the attraction, it was a magical time that gave birth to the unforgettable music and the musicians that created it. This movie, whether it is a trip down memory lane or an introductory education about the music of the 60s, is a worthwhile cinematic and music experience. (2020)

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

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