Category: Biography


Audrey

August 25th, 2021 — 5:25am

Audrey
***

A good biographical film provides an insight into the character of the main subject, shows their life trajectory and highlights their accomplishments. Certainly, this film about Audrey Hepburn does these tasks in spades. We see her childhood brush with World War Two, her early years of dance and then her unsurpassed career in film. We get a great insight into how she approached her acting career by some of her co-stars, directors and producers. We briefly meet her various husbands and get glimpses of her children and one of her sons does provide some of the background narration of her later years. It is in the twilight of her life that we see her character emerge as an empathic humanitarian as she tirelessly traveled and raised funds as a spokesperson for UNICEF

However, what was missing in our opinion, was an insight into her childhood and meaningful relationships. We see how in her later years she sought out the father who had abandoned her when she was a child which was a big disappointment. We learn about her marriage to film icon Mel Ferrer which lasted. 14 years and produced one child, a son. She was then married to an Italian psychiatrist Andrea Dotti for 13 years and she had a second son. She was quoted as saying something to the effect that doctors pay more attention to their patients than their families. She never met her grandchildren who were born after she died in 1993 at the age of 63.

Watching this documentary one can’t help but be reminded of the luminous presence that she was. In the end, her outstanding memorable acting career as an icon during the Golden Years of Hollywood and her dedicated humanitarian work will leave an unforgettable, enduring legacy.

Comment » | 3 Stars, Biography

Swan Song

August 8th, 2021 — 9:00pm

Swan Song

****

We initially meet Pat Pitsenbarger in a senior living facility where he appears to be in the final stages of his life. It appears that this is going to be a character study of this elderly man, but we soon realize that the journey we are about to undertake with the main character is going to be a much more complicated. It provides insight into the struggle of a gay man and the vibrant life of this man in the gay community that existed in the small mid-western town of Sandusky, Ohio. Pat Pitsenbarger was a real person who was a hairdresser in this town and he also performed at the gay night club that existed here. We soon begin to realize how his life touched so many others through his skill as a hairdresser as well as his sensitivity and caring for others. He did not realize it, but he was a role model for many other people.

In a discussion with the filmmaker, Todd Stephens, we are told that the story is based on a real person who lived in the town where the filmmaker grew up. This film is a moving, insightful examination of this character and his lifestyle. It is done extremely well. It will touch your emotions and provide an understanding of this man and his lifestyle, as well as being quite entertaining and enlightening. Many universal themes are on display and explored including love, loyalty, tolerance, understanding and forgiveness. It feels genuine and draws you in. This also adds up to an excellent cinematic experience and a highly recommended film.

Comment » | 4 Stars, Biography, Drama

The Center Will Not Hold

May 18th, 2021 — 1:58am

May 16, 2021
The Center Will Not Hold
***

This is a 2017 biographical film about the story of the iconic writer, Joan Didion. It is directed by her nephew actor, Griffin Dunne, and was produced by her cousin, Annabella Dunne. This probably explains why the filmmakers appeared to have such easy access to the main subject as well as so many personal videos and footage of her life. While we are contemporaries of the main subject and we are familiar with the various cities where she has lived on both coasts, our lives have been quite different. We were in San Francisco at the same time as she was. While one of us was a newly married intern at San Francisco General Hospital and the other was a newly minted social worker, Ms. Didion was at parties with Janis Joplin, Harrison Ford, Brian De Palma, Martin Sarkozy, and Steven Spielberg. The film gives us a very intimate portrait of this amazing talented writer who is married to John Dunne, a very talented writer himself. Whereas some well-matched couples can finish each other sentences, this dyad were able to edit and finish each others manuscripts.

It is clear that Ms. Didion was an extremely talented sought after writer from top magazines such as Vogue and has written some very well received novels. Her personal experiences and her emotional life is clearly captured and reflected in this film and includes the very meaningful relationship that she had with her husband and her adopted daughter who died at the age of 39 shortly after the death of her father and Ms. Didion’s beloved husband.

What makes this movie a meaningful cinematic experience is not only the words and life story of the main subject, but how well personal film and video footage is weaved into the storyline along with contemporary clips reflecting the times and life of this amazing woman.

Comment » | 3 Stars, Biography, Documentary

Mank

March 11th, 2021 — 6:26am

Mank
***

To fully appreciate this film, you probably need to be a Hollywood insider and know the history of the real characters. It is the story of Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) who apparently had been a successful playwright and is now working on a script for the movie Citizen Kane, which is the story of William Randolph Hearst. Mankiewicz who had been recognized as a terrific writer is now an alcoholic and recently broke his leg in an accident. He is working with a younger Orson Welles who would be the director of the Citizen Kane movie. Mank is directed by David Fincher, which is based on a screenplay by his late father Joseph Fincher. Although it was interesting and certainly well acted, we did not feel that we appreciated the subtleties of this movie by apparently not really knowing the story behind many of the characters.

Comment » | 3 Stars, Biography

Frida

December 15th, 2020 — 4:47am

Frida- ( Netflix)
****

This is moving romantic biography about the Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo. It begins with a bus accident which severely injured her legs, in which she made a good functional recovery. She was able to pursue her artistic inclinations as a painter and then met one of Mexico’s most famous and revered artist, Diego Rivera. Much of the story is based on their tumultuous romantic relationship, which included a phase where they took in a Russian revolutionist by the name of Leon Trotsky who had fled to Mexico after Stalin was out to destroy him and his ideas.

This film, which was released in 2002, is based on a 1983 book by Hayden Herrera. The movie was directed by Julie Taymor and stars Selma Hayek who was nominated for an Academy Award for best actress in a leading role in this film. It also features Alfred Molina as Diego Rivera as well as costars Ashley Judd, Edward Norton, and Antonio Banderas. The film blended the passion of Mexican music with a sexual romantic storyline based on real well-known people. It is a worthwhile cinematic experience.

Comment » | 4 Stars, Biography, Drama, Romance

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

November 15th, 2019 — 6:33am

****

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood-sp

For a generation that grew up with Mr. Rogers as their friend, comforter, and beacon of honesty and truth, it must be very gratifying to see Tom Hanks embody their childhood hero. This movie has been 10 years in the making by screenwriters, Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster, who worked very closely with producer Youree Henley and his associates and ultimately involved Marielle Heller as the director of the movie. They approached the story by focusing on a reporter, in reality Tom Junod, who is named Lloyd Vogel in the film and played by Matthew Rhys, who wrote an article for Esquire Magazine built around his interviews with Mr. Rogers. The reporter brought to the table his own personal story of alienation from his father, which came up during his interactions with Mr. Rogers. They developed a personal relationship, which was very meaningful to the reporter and literally changed his life. In a sense, the story is a parable for a successful psychotherapy where insight and change ultimately happen. However, in this case, it was Rogers’ sensitivity and empathy for his interviewer over a period of time which made a big difference in the life of this reporter. This movie is very well done using the background and TV set where the actual Mr. Rogers’ show took place in Pittsburgh. However, the real success of the movie is Tom Hanks, who not only captured the style and mannerisms of Fred Rogers but also radiated his warmth and empathy. (2019).

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Biography, Drama

Judy

September 28th, 2019 — 7:43pm

****

Judy-rm

Do not expect this film to be filled with scenes of Judy Garland at the top of her game throughout her illustrious career. Rather, the movie focuses on the last year of her life where she went to England to try to rejuvenate her career, which was fading in the United States. There are some flashbacks to her childhood and early years, but it is mostly about the final curtain calls. The brightest part of this movie experience directed by Rupert Gooke, based on a play by Peter Quilter, is the outstanding performance of Renee Zellweger who plays Judy Garland. She has figured out the mannerisms and is pretty close to her voice as we remember it (maybe not quite the energy). Zellweger is superb and we would bet on her receiving some awards for this performance. We strongly recommend this movie to be seen and enjoyed. (2019)

Any comments are welcome below

Comment » | 4 Stars, Biography, Drama, Musical

Where’s My Roy Cohn?

September 28th, 2019 — 7:32pm

***

Where’s My Roy Cohn?-rm

Roy Cohn was an attorney who died more than 30 years ago and yet his memory is kept alive not only by this documentary  film but by the title of it which was recently uttered by President Donald Trump who was one of Cohn’s many famous clients. Cohn was one of two of Trump’s personal attorneys to be disbarred for misconduct as a lawyer. The other one was Michael Cohen who is currently in prison.

Roy Cohn first came to public attention as the chief attorney for Senator Joseph McCarthy during the famous McCarthy hearings which occurred in the 1950s as McCarthy was trying to root out communists in government. Cohn was also in that position as McCarthy’s committee was investigating supposed communists infiltrating the Army Signal Corps. Subsequently, the army accused McCarthy and his staff for seeking special treatment for Private David Schine who was the close friend of Cohn’s and who had been drafted into the army. This film suggests that Cohn was secretly a homosexual and may have had a relationship with Schine. Cohn never admitted he was gay and he vehemently denied that he had AIDS although it was documented that he had been hospitalized in an AIDS treatment center and eventually died of this disease.

We found this film which was directed by Matt Tyrnauer to be somewhat repetitious. It became clear that Cohn  was a brilliant although a vengeful and dishonest man. It is hard to believe that the President of the United States would wish that he had an attorney like him. On second thought, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. (2019)

 

Your comments are welcome below

Comment » | 3 Stars, Biography

Rocketman

June 5th, 2019 — 4:23am

*****

Rocketman

The recent movie, Bohemian Rhapsody, is turning out to be one of the most popular films of last year and we expect that this film will achieve equal acclaim. Although the current movie is a different kind of musical, the director, Dexter Fletcher, also worked on last year’s great hit. In Rocketman, the story of Elton John is told in a fashion of great film musicals with a wonderful ensemble dancing and singing. Elton John is inhabited by Taron Egerton who does all of Elton John’s singing in great voice, which captures the energy and beauty of Rocketman himself.

The story of course is true to life as it traces the great singer’s life from his talent appearing in early childhood, his painful interaction with his parents and his emergence on the musical scene. The story pulls back the curtain and helps the viewer understand how John struggled with his sexuality and with alcohol and drugs, which nearly destroyed him. Particularly poignant is the meaningful relationship he had with his friend and lyricist, Bernie Taupin, magnificently played by Jaimie Bell. Through it all, the main character emerges and can say and gloriously sing, “I’m still standing.” The movie and story feels real and authentic. It is not surprising that the real Elton John is the film’s executive producer. This movie has to be added to your Do Not Miss List. (2019)

 

Comment » | 5 Stars, Biography, Musical

Saint Judy

February 20th, 2019 — 4:03pm

*****

Saint Judy-sp

This is a great story. We meet Judy Wood (Michelle Monaghan), a young idealistic attorney who wants to specialize in immigration law. She is overwhelmed being assigned numerous cases by her new boss (Alfred Molina) but she still makes an all-out effort with each of her cases. At the same time, she is a single mom, recently divorced, trying to participate as much as possible in the raising of her young son (Gabriel Bateman). We see her getting fired for not bringing in the big bucks for her law firm. We follow her as she opens a storefront law office as the only attorney with a young intern as her assistant. The story then focuses on one young Afghan woman client, Asefa Ashwari (Leem Lubany) who is seeking asylum in the United States. She had rebelled against the poor treatment of young girls and women in her country by defiantly setting up a school for girls who were not allowed to have an education. She was arrested and received the most horrendous treatment imaginable in jail. She was able to escape to the United States where her plea for asylum is now being considered. If she is denied this request, she will be returned to her native country where she almost certainly will be murdered by her family for her defiant actions.

The realistic courtroom scenes, some of which are held in a small trailer in the prison where she is being detained are absolutely chilling and riveting. The logic of the U.S. law is very clear but heartbreaking.

Tremendous credit must be given to the screenwriter, Dmitry Portnoy, and director and producer, Sean Hanish, who worked hand in hand to get this film made. In fact, it was just about an impossible task to get the financial support for the film until President Trump was elected and this country became aware of the real meaning of the immigration crisis.

But the most amazing thing about this story is that it isn’t a story at all. Judy Wood is actually a real-life person whom the movie so realistically portrays. In fact, we met her at a preview screening along with the director and screenwriter.

This movie has drama, tension, emotion, surprise, great acting that may bring a tear to your eye, and perhaps inspire a young man or woman to decide to become a lawyer. The highest compliment that we can give to it, is to say that it reminded us a little bit of the classic film “To Kill a Mockingbird.” (2019)

Any thoughts or opinions are welcome in the comment section below.

1 comment » | 5 Stars, Biography, Crime, Drama

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