Welcome to another installment of Movies, Movies, Movies! A little of this and a little of that this week.
Princess Tam-Tam (1935)
Starring: Josephine Baker, Albert Prejean, Robert Arnoux, Germaine Aussey, Georges Peclet, Viviane Romance, Jean Galland, Teddy Michaud, Henri Richard, Paul Demange, Marion Malville
Director: Edmond T. Greville
Genres: comedy and drama
Synopsis: An upper crust Parisian couple fight like cats and dogs. The husband, an author, decides to teach his wife a lesson by taking off for an adventure in Tunisia and to hope for inspiration for a new novel. He comes across a Tunisian beauty who lives by her wits on the streets and decides to not only write about her but to transform her into a princess, knowing word will get to his wife and she’ll be jealous. The wife has a similar hare-brained scheme to make her husband jealous while he’s gone by consorting with a very handsome sheik who owns a mansion. When the husband brings the “princess” back with him, all mayhem busts loose.
Impressions: Josephine Baker is stunningly beautiful. She’s also quite funny as the princess. Everything and everyone pales in comparison to her screen presence, no pun intended. There are some really ignorant and racist comments made by the white people about the “savage animals” and at least a few of what I would call demeaning scenes for Josephine. Despite those, what’s so subtly sharp about the screenplay is it gets you thinking about who the real savages are.
Etc.: in black & white; French movie with English subtitles; per wikipedia:
Although the film had a premiere in New York City, the Hollywood censors of the Hays Office refused to pass the film, which prevented it from being shown in the most theatres in rest of the country; although it did play independent theatres which catered to African-American audiences.
Available in full on youtube!
Awards: none known.
The World’s End (2013)
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, Rosamund Pike, David Bradley, Thomas Law
Director: Edgar Wright
Genres: comedy; alien invasion
Synopsis: The comedy duo of Pegg and Frost (Hot Fuzz and Shawn of the Dead) team up again in this let’s-relive-our-youth movie. Pegg is the guy from high school who is exactly the same as he was back then who has the bright idea to look up his school buddies, who have all gone on to become mature adults with purposeful lives and convince them to go back to their old home town and do the pub crawl they attempted so many years ago but didn’t complete. What they don’t reckon on finding is that the town has been taken over by blue-blooded aliens.
Impressions: The cast is outstanding and works well together. Pegg seems almost manic in it. Frost is the stable force. The special effects are cheesy, but that’s ok, as CGI gets tedious. It’s light entertainment. I wonder if there isn’t a double meaning to this one connected to the gentrification of old parts of towns that had character but are now more generic and sterile.
Etc.: UK film
Awards: 22 other nominations and 5 other wins
After the Wedding (2019)
Starring: Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, Billy Crudup, Abby Quinn, Will Chase, Eisa Davis, Azhy Robertson, Susan Blackwell, Ron Simons, Rufus Collins
Director: Bart Freundlich
Synopsis: Hard to say much without giving away spoilers. Superexecutive that is considering a request for a donation to an orphanage/school in India requests the presence of the American in charge of the orphanage to fly to New York before she decides whether or not to give the money. Also happening at the same time are preparations for the wedding of the daughter of the superexecutive. It is revealed once the orphanage woman arrives in NYC that there is an important connection between the woman and the superexecutive’s husband.
Impressions: This is an indie drama about relationships, past, present, and future. It’s a sensitive film with emotional intensity. I liked it alright but I felt a couple of the main characters were not a good match for the roles (Williams and Quinn.) Williams was too beautiful and wooden and Quinn just not very likeable. Moore and Crudup have standout performances.
Etc.: Remake of a 2006 Swedish movie of the same name.
Awards: none known
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Susan Kelechi Watson, Chris Cooper, Enrico Colantoni, Maryann Plunkett, Tammy Blanchard, Wendy Makkena, Sakina Jaffrey, Maddie Corman, Noah Harpster, Christine Lahti, Jessica Hecht
Director: Marielle Heller
Genres: drama, fictionalized real life story
Synopsis: A hard-hitting Esquire journalist is assigned to write a 400-word piece on “hero” Fred Rogers. The friendship between the two men develops as Fred takes the journalist on as a “special case” i.e. someone who is perceived as heartless who needs to get softened up. The main focus of the movie is the journalist, his family, and life experiences that have hardened him.
Impressions: Many look at Mr. Rogers as a softy who appealed to the kinder gentler nature of children and taught them it’s ok to feel, cry, and be who you are. This movie applies those principals to an adult, with very touching results. I loved the movie. Tom Hanks channels Mr. Rogers in this movie. It would be a wonderful film to use for therapy techniques. Not easy to watch in places but worth making the effort. Chris Cooper has a standout performance here.
Etc.: based on the true story of a real-life friendship between Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod.
Awards: Nominated for 1 Academy Award; 58 other nominations and 4 other wins
Birth of a Movement (2017)
Starring: Bob Bellinger, David Blight, Vincent Brown, Dolita Cathcart, William Jelani Cobb, Iva Gallen, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Danny Glover, D.W. Griffith, Reginald Hudlin, Walter Huston, Spike Lee, Dick Lehr, Charles Musser, Sam Pollard
Director: Bestor Cram, Susan Gray
Genres: documentary; American history; early cinema and racism
Synopsis: PBS Independent Lens TV series (1999– ) S18 E7 The story of William Monroe Trotter, a Bostonian editor of a newspaper, who rallied forces that tried to stop “Birth of a Nation” from showing in his town. Trotter, a wealthy and highly educated man, was a black leader of the time who started a non-violent protest in the streets to reject the blatant radically racist 1915 movie first named “The Clansman” but later changed to “Birth of a Nation,” that was produced near the 50th anniversary of the freeing of slaves. It was more or less a recruiting film for the Ku Klux Klan, who are depicted as heroic figures saving townsfolk from depraved savages. Regretfully politics stepped in, and the effort to stop the film was unsuccessful; however it did set the stage for more organized protests in later years.
Impressions: The documentary was very well-done in pulling the facts together. Lots of news reels, photographs, interviews with scholars that do a good job of showing context. Narrated by Danny Glover.
Etc.: A little more than 100 years have passed since the movie was made. How much progress do you think we’ve made?
Awards: 1 other win and 1 other nomination
Radiohead: Meeting People is Easy (1998)
Starring: Radiohead, Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Ed O’Brien, Colin Greenwood, Phil Selway, Michael Stipe
Director: Grant Gee
Genres: concert tour documentary
Synopsis: 90 minutes of watching Radiohead members go from town to town, interview to interview, live performances, odd cinematic sequences, distorted images, very little linear camera work. General ideas being pushed is that touring is tedious between the performances and sometimes the audience can be less than enchanting.
Impressions: no surprise that a documentary about Radiohead would be spaced-out; very difficult to see the camera stop moving. I didn’t like it much because the person on the camera wasn’t very good in a traditional sense. Too many disjointed images that bred discomfort, disorientation, which, knowing the concept for OK Computer is probably the effect they wanted to give. If you fast-forward through everything but the performances it might work.
Awards: 1 other nomination
Beware of Mr. Baker (2012)
Starring: Ginger Baker, John Lydon, Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Charlie Watts, Chad Smith, Steve Winwood, Carlos Santana, Max Weinberg, Marky Ramone
Director: Jay Bulger
Genres: musician documentary
Synopsis: Starts with Ginger as a child and comes up to current (2012) where documentary filmmaker Jay Bulger goes and lives with Ginger at his fortified compound in South Africa. Jay puts the story into an animated format between the interview clips and the footage from actual performances and interview with the several people who give their impressions of Ginger from their perspectives, including his ex-wives and children.
Impressions: I’m seriously impressed by all that Ginger Baker accomplished in his life, the music he made, the places he lived, the influences he absorbed from, and his uncompromising lust for life. I’m also quite saddened by the toll a traumatic childhood and addiction to various mind-altering substances took on his personal life and on his ability to sustain working relationships with many bands and musicians over the years. The filmmaker did an excellent job on this one. Must see for any Ginger Baker/Cream fans.
Etc.: Ginger Baker passed away October 6, 2019. May he rest in peace.
Awards: 4 other wins, 3 other nominations