Welcome to my website!
Have you ever wondered why some critics review films? They don't even seem to like movies that much from what they write. I LOVE movies, and think about them long after the last credits roll across the screen. My reviews are meant to inform, entertain and never have a spoiler.
Enjoy my reviews and please comment and come back frequently! Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Paris Can Wait

I remember watching Diane Lane for the first time in A Little Romance when she was only 13 years old. I’ve been a fan of hers ever since. So it was a no brainer when I noticed that she was starring in Paris Can Wait, and I went to see it in the theater.

It’s a sweet little film set in France. Anne (Diane Lane) and her husband Michael (Alec Baldwin) are in Cannes. Michael is a high-powered movie producer and due to illness, Anne cannot fly with him to Budapest. A business associate, the Frenchman Jacques (Arnaud Viard), offers to drive her to Paris where Michael will meet her later. Paris Can Wait is rated PG for thematic elements, smoking and some language.

So the joy of driving across the countryside of France begins. They cruise in Jacques’ Peugeot, taking their time, seeing the sights, and slowly Anne begins to relax and let down her armor. They eat, they drink, they see things tourists do, and meet up with a couple of old flames of Jacques.

Paris is still waiting, as Jacques is in no hurry to deliver Anne to her flat in Paris. The film moves a bit slowly at first, but as Anne warms to Jacques, and we see him acting the stereotypical flirting Frenchman that they are rumored to be, it is all very intriguing and romantic.

Close quarters have them finally sharing their deepest secrets with one another. Will this lead to a sexual fling for Anne, or will she stay loyal to her flawed husband of 20 years? You’ll have to watch to find out. I found myself gently smiling throughout the entire film. Diane Lane gives a beautifully nuanced performance. You can read her emotions just by looking at her face.

You’ll like this gentle film if you: 1) like Diane Lane; 2) are a Francophile; 3) are a romantic; 4) like good food and wine (You’ll want to go to a French restaurant once you leave this film.); or 5) like character driven films that show the humanity in all of us.

Eleanor Coppola of that famous Coppola family wrote the screenplay and directed the film. If you don’t already know, there is her husband Francis Ford, her daughter Sophia, and the cousin Nicholas Cage, who changed his name to distance himself from the famous clan to make it on his own. Creativity knows no age boundaries, as she was 80 years old directing her first feature film. Bravo!

Diane Lane was in another beautiful film, Under the Tuscan Sun, from 2003. I recommend that film as well as many others she’s been in. She is just a wonderful actress. I found it amusing that in this film she takes a lot of photos, and when she played Dalton Trumbo’s’ wife in Trumbo, she took a lot of photos playing that woman too.

See Paris Can Wait in the theater for the best scenery you’ll likely see all year at the movies.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Blue Bird

The Blue Bird has got to be one of the strangest movies I have ever seen. Starring Shirley Temple, the film was released in 1940. My husband happened upon it one late evening, and intrigued by the couple of segments he saw, asked me to watch it with him in its entirety on YouTube. I consented.

The Wizard of Oz had been released the previous year, and trying to cash in on the genre, Twentieth Century Fox released this fantasy. Mytyl (Shirley Temple) and her younger brother Tyltyl (Johnny Russell) live in an idyllic town with their devoted parents, Mummy and Daddy Tyl (Spring Byington and Russell Hicks), a dog and a cat. (Yes, you read the names correctly.)

The experiences Mytyl and her brother have are somewhat like that in A Christmas Carol, sort of visiting the past, present and future. There’s a bit of magic thrown in by a fairy, who looks a lot like the good witch in The Wizard of Oz. She changes their dog and cat into humans. I especially liked their cat Tylette (Gale Sondergaard), as she is as crafty as a human cat should be. The group together looks for the bluebird of happiness.

The kids visit their grandparents in the land of the past, the lap of luxury in a mansion with a couple of spoiled adults, and then end up in danger in the forest where the trees are alive (clever actually, I liked that part). There are a few scenes that seem too scary for kids, with a serious storm underway and the trees attempting to kill them. Scarier than anything on the way to Oz.

Finally, they journey to the future to the most surreal part of the story. They meet children of all ages, waiting to be born and go to earth. A lot of time is spent here talking to a few of the children, who seem to know what will happen to them once they get to earth. Some are scared at their destiny, others thrilled, and a young couple in puppy love despair at ever being able to see each other again.

Mytyl and Tyltyl awaken in the morning from their apparently shared dream experience, with the caged bird they had captured the day before now a bright blue. They have found the bluebird of happiness and Mytyl especially is no longer the ungrateful little girl she started out to be.

Shirley Temple would have been about 12 years old filming this. The setting kind of reminds me of the story Heidi that she starred in just three years earlier. I heard that she was offered the role of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and turned it down. So, quick, make another film! The Blue Bird didn’t do nearly as well as the classic Oz story.

The Blue Bird was actually nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Cinematography and Best Special Effects! If you like Shirley Temple, maybe you’ll appreciate this surrealistic little film.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Wizard of Oz

My husband had never seen the movie Mary Poppins. His favorite movie from childhood is The Wizard of Oz, so we made a deal to watch both of them together (on separate nights). The film was released in 1939 and is rated G.

I was probably a teen the last time I saw Dorothy (Judy Garland, 17 years old at the time the film was made) whirl away from Kansas and land in the magical world of Oz. I was babysitting a little girl, and she became quite frightened. Not enough to turn it off, however.

I enjoyed the sepia tones of the cinematography at the beginning of the movie. The main characters are introduced, including the three hired hands, Dorothy’s dog Toto, Auntie Em (Clara Blandick) and Uncle Henry (Charley Grapewin), and of course the wicked Miss Gulch (Margaret Hamilton, also the Wicked Witch of the West) who rides away on a bicycle with the very scruffy and not at all pretty Toto.

Dorothy never gets dirty on her journey, not one bit, even when she tips over into a pigsty. The crew should have paid more attention to this mistake. The story is cute, and the colorful world of the Munchkins a sight to see. Their world is all quite plastic looking, and magical to Dorothy as is Glinda, Good Witch of the North (Billie Burke). Dorothy sets off on her journey, following the yellow brick road in hopes that the Wizard will be able to get her back to Kansas. Along the way she meets the Scarecrow who needs a brain (Ray Bolger), the Tin Man (Jack Haley) who would like to have a heart, and the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) who just wants some courage.

Her red shoes are really smart. While at the Smithsonian in Washington a few years back, I saw those red shoes, and they do indeed sparkle. The music and singing in the film are superb. This film introduced songs that won’t be forgotten anytime soon. There are many memorable quotes from this film, and many memorable songs. The Wizard of Oz won Best Original Song at the Academy Awards for Over the Rainbow, as well as Best Original Score.

A quote not often repeated, but that I loved is, “A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others,” so speaks The Wizard.

No one interested in film can get away without seeing this movie. Even though it didn’t win Best Picture, it’s a really great film (lost to Gone with the Wind). The story is good, the journey of people on a quest to find the all-powerful wizard, who turns out to be wise, but not exactly the savior they expected.

The film previewed in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin on August 12, 1939 at the Strand Theatre. I like including this as I am originally from Wisconsin. There is a memorial in this small town that commemorates The Wizard of Oz world premiere.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Cafe Society

Café Society is a classic Woody Allen offering. Taking place in the 1930’s in Hollywood and in New York City, he used the old jazz tunes he loves so much as background to this story of love, betrayal, and hope. Woody himself narrates the film.

Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) travels to Hollywood, leaving his somewhat enmeshed family behind in New York, and visits his uncle Phil Stern (Steve Carell) in hopes of obtaining a job. He eventually becomes a sort of errand boy for his wealthy relative, and meets Vonnie (Kristin Stewart) who shows him around Hollywood. Bobby soon falls in love with her, but she is seeing a married man, and is not interested in him. Jesse Eisenberg plays a typical Woody male lead, talking and moving about rapidly, and the rest of the cast talks over each other in typical Allen film format. 

The intrigue of romance and unrequited love commences, and the twists and turns we see happening are not yet evident to the players. My husband and I both noticed that the cinematography is sometimes tinted a yellowish hue, and I am suspecting that it has something to do with the relationship between Bobby and Vonnie. The cinematographer was Vittorio Storaro, who has won three Academy Awards for his craft, for Apocalypse Now, Reds and The Last Emperor. He did beautiful work in this film as well.

How many people fall in love and never get together for various reasons, and yet hold some tenderness in their hearts for one another? There is some philosophical discourse in this film, so typical for Woody, who constantly questions the meaning of life and death in his art.

I think that must have been where Woody was coming from in writing this screenplay. It also helps to illuminate people’s similar behavior currently, as a film in the 1930’s has enough distance from today to seem quaint and glamorous, and yet the emotions depicted between the family and lovers is just the same as any love triangle might experience today.

It also seems to be both a fond reminiscence of these two great cities in that era, when film was new and exciting, and stars held the commoners in awe of them, as well as a scathing look at the mob in New York and the vapid social climbing of those with wealth and notoriety.

Woody’s films always begin the same way with simple credits, actors listed alphabetically by main roles, and secondary roles. It is kind of comforting to see that each time, like he’s letting us into his innermost thoughts that get put down first as the screenplay and then becomes a fully developed movie, when something of Woody’s vision appears on the screen.

The film is rated PG-13 for some violence, a drug reference, suggestive material and smoking. Café Society was released in 2016. And there is a great deal of smoking. People just don’t smoke as much anymore, but it is culturally accurate for the times.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Cezanne et Moi

The French film Cezanne et Moi recalls the friendship of artist Paul Cezanne, and writer Emile Zola. The film is rated R for language, sexual references and nudity. I saw it at my local art cinema this last month. It should still be playing in that type of theater. The film has English subtitles.

The frenetic pace of the film in the beginning showcases the two friends meeting as boys at school, and then continues back and forth over the years of their volatile relationship in the late 1800’s. The frenetic pace settles down after a bit into the story, but I still did not appreciate so much back and forth through time, although labeled quite clearly on screen. Less bouncing around would have helped the story feel less disjointed.

Cezanne (Guillaume Gallienne) is every bit the tortured artist, throwing temper tantrums when his painting doesn’t live up to his high standards, often kicking a foot through the canvas. Zola (Guillaume Canet), once he attains success and fame as a writer, is a bit more stable. If you go to see this film expecting to see much of Cezanne’s finished works, or learn more about what Zola wrote and published, you will not.

It is very much a character driven film about two brilliant men, and their deep devotion to each other that at times brings a distance between them. Their relations with women are troubled to say the least, and Cezanne resents the easy life he perceives Zola to have achieved in his palatial home on the outskirts of Paris.

Cezanne is one of the first plein air artists (to paint outdoors). This is a thriving pastime in the US and elsewhere that I know about since my husband, a studio oil painter of landscapes, also paints plein air. It is not an easy vocation, or avocation for that matter. The elements and changing light make it difficult to finish a work in one sitting; at most only a couple of hours at a time can be used effectively.

Emile Zola is well regarded by the French, and some of his works were about the trials of the working class. He was the subject of an early Academy Award winning black and white film, The Life of Emile Zola, starring Paul Muni, a film I regret I have not seen as yet.

Watching Cezanne et Moi may inspire you to learn more about the men who influenced art and literature so completely that their names are recognized a full century plus after their deaths. I appreciated the way the scenery was filmed in the beautiful countryside of Provence, and the costuming of the actors.

At the end, we see a photo of a mountain frequently painted, with different artists' takes on the subject. What makes art so interesting is that even when artists are trained similarly, when they paint the same subject, it is always unique. Just as there will never be another Cezanne, no two artists' works are alike.