Welcome to another installment of Movies, Movies, Movies!
The White Crow (2019)
Starring: Oleg Ivenko, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Ralph Fiennes, Louis Hofmann, Chulpan Khamatova, Alexey Morozov, Raphaël Personnaz, Olivier Rabourdin, Ravshana Kurkova, Sergei Polunin, Maksimilian Grigoriyev, Zach Avery, Mar Sodupe, Jovo Maksic, Pavle Cemerikic, Andrey Urgant, Jonathan Zaccaï
Director: Ralph Fiennes
Genres: biopic, ballet
Synopsis: The story of Russian ballet dancer, Nureyev, starting when he came to the big city after his childhood teaching in a small berg. There are several flashbacks that give insight into what drives Nureyev to ever greater heights in dance and what eventually culminates in his seeking asylum in another country. His looks, his drive, and his imperious attitude skirt the edge of danger as his Soviet keepers/watchers are logging everything in their little books. Only his greatness seems to save him time and again from an unsavory end.
Impressions: Ivenko excels in his role as Nureyev. Fiennes as both actor and director also excel. The support cast is decent and appropriate to the plot as there can be only one star. It’s a large movie, with a European continent as its stage.
Etc.: Made in the UK, France, and Serbia; languages spoke Russian, English, French, Spanish, with English subtitles
Awards: 1 other win, 2 other nominations
Trivia: Ralph Fiennes originally did not want to be in the movie, knowing from experience how difficult it could be to both direct and act. But as he tried to get financing for the film he kept being asked if he was going to be in it, and when he said no, “I could see the light fading behind their eyes,” because there were no other major names in it, “so finally I folded.”
Starring: The crew (not all for the whole race) were Tracy Edwards (skipper), Mandi Swan (Amanda Swan Neal), Mikaela Von Koskull, Claire Warren, Michele Paret, Tanja Visser, Sally Creaser, Dawn Riley, Nancy Hill, Jeni Mundy, Jo Gooding (from Leg 2), Sarah Davies (reserve), Kristin Harris (Leg 1) and Angela Farrell.
Director: Alex Holmes
Synopsis: blurb from netflix/dvd.com:
In 1989, an all-female crew captained by 27-year-old Tracy Edwards entered the Whitbread Round the World Race on the yacht “Maiden.” By finishing second, the distaff sailors permanently transformed the all-male province of deep-water yacht racing.
Impressions: A real life tale of will and courage. It boggles the mind that anyone would undertake this challenge. Tracy, who had never captained a boat and who only worked as the galley cook of big yachts up to this point, wouldn’t let reason stop her. It took years in the making to see her dream become reality. The film was very well-done. It highlights the insidious ways the man’s world tries to keep women down. It’s one of those movies that will be remembered when inspiration is needed in seemingly impossible situations.
Grade: 7 for film. 10 for Tracy and Crew
Etc.: The total miles sailed in the race is 33,000 nautical miles (27,000 regular miles)
Awards: 1 BAFTA award, 7 other wins, 11 other nominations
Trivia: In 2014 Tracy Edwards learned that her boat, “Maiden,” was rotting on the rocks in The Seychelles, a small group of islands in the Indian Ocean off East Africa, where it had been abandoned by its owner two years before. She crowdfunded the money to repurchase the wreck in 2016, and took another year to restore it at Southampton, where she and her crew had rebuilt it the first time in 1989. As of 2019, it is on a three-year world tour to raise money and awareness for girls’ access to education in poorer nations. Her project is called “The Maiden Factor.”
The Family (2013)
Starring: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones, Dianna Agron, John D’Leo, Domenick Lombardozzi, Jimmy Palumbo, Vincent Pastore, Jon Freda
Director: Luc Besson
Genres: crime family, dark comedy
Synopsis: A mobster who has turned evidence against his “family” is put into the witness protection program. He and his family have trouble adjusting to places and so move often. The movie starts where they’ve just been relocated to Normandy, France. The family members, which include DeNiro as the dad, Pfeiffer as the mom, Agron as the daughter and eldest child, and D’Leo as the street hustling son and youngest child, try to adapt. You can take the mobster out of the hood but you can’t take the hood out of the mobster.
Impressions: I thought this was going to be more slapstick comedy but instead it is more dark humor. There are high moments but more it just chugs along with a tired formula.
Etc.: After beating up the plumber, Robert De Niro’s character quotes a line by Al Capone: “You can get further with a kind word and a gun, than you can with just a kind word.” This same line is said by De Niro when he played Al Capone in The Untouchables (1987).
Awards: 1 other nomination
Floating Weeds (1959)
Starring: Ganjiro Nakamura, Machiko Kyô, Ayako Wakao, Hiroshi Kawaguchi, Haruko Sugimura
Director: Yasujiro Ozu
Synopsis: The now-aging leader of a two-bit traveling Kabuki troupe has brought them to the town where one of his love interests (one in every town sort of thing) is raising his son, who is about ready to leave home and go to university. The young man calls him Uncle. What complicates things is when one of the troupe, who is also the lover of the leader, finds out about the woman and son and starts to meddle out of jealousy.
Impressions: High quality drama; slow-paced; decent acting; interesting plot.
Etc.: Japanese film, English subtitles; this is a (color) remake of the director’s 1934 masterpiece
Awards: 1 other nomination
Pain & Glory (2019)
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Asier Etxeandía, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Nora Navas, Julieta Serrano, Penélope Cruz, Raúl Arévalo , Cecilia Roth, Susi Sánchez, Pedro Casablanc, Agustin Almodóvar
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Genres: drama, memoir
Synopsis: This may be an autobiographical memoir of the director (no confirmation, just a guess) as an aging single man with many health issues (hypochondriac?) who has stepped away from directing, writing, etc. for awhile. There is a feeling of no spark in his world as it begins. Enter a circumstance, a chance to do a retrospective of one of his masterpiece films, and the dominoes begin to fall that pull him back into his passion for making movies. There are liberal flashbacks that illuminate who he is.
Impressions: This very well could be Banderas’ best role of his career. It was sheer joy watching him in it, as I always knew he had it in him. The support cast is superior. Cruz plays his mother in the flashbacks, Etxeandia is an actor he mends old wounds with. The sets are exquisite. The direction couldn’t be any better.
Etc.: Spanish movie, English subtitles, LGBTQI+ themes
Awards: Nominated for 2 Oscars. 65 other wins, 156 other nominations.
Frontline TV Series (1983- ): Flint’s Deadly Water(2019) S37, E22
Director: Abby Ellis
Genres: documentary; investigative journalism
Synopsis: blurb from imdb.com:
FRONTLINE’s two-year investigation traces how a public health disaster that’s become known for the lead poisoning of thousands of children also spawned one of the largest outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease in U.S. history.
Impressions: Takeaway from this is that coroners marked cause of death on hundreds? Thousands? of death certificates as pneumonia when it was really Legionnaires (has not been charged or prosecuted as such, but that is the implication.) All of the “players” knew it was death/damage to citizens once they switched over to the contaminated water source without treating the water with what could have stopped lead from leaching into the pipes when hospitals started seeing unprecedented numbers of Legionnaires but did nothing. The chief operator of the half-century-old mothballed treatment facility that was reactivated to begin treating the Flint River water screamed bloody murder that it would kill people – and he mysteriously died. Only when it couldn’t be hidden any longer did they speak out – in doublespeak. Consideration of charges are still churning through the court system. They did a good job with the show in the limited time they had.
Etc.: Former Governor Rick Snyder remains a free man.
All is True (2018)
Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Kathryn Wilder, Lydia Wilson, Jack Colgrave Hirst, Hadley Fraser, Sam Ellis, John Dagleish, Gerard Horan
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Genres: historical drama
Synopsis: It is 1613 and William Shakespeare’s theater has burned down. He returns back home to his wife, who is quite a few years older than him and his two adult daughters. The plot revolves around his adjustment from being in the whirlwind of writing and being in center of theater life in the big city to not much happening. He is with his family, who are more or less strangers to him now. He patiently bears the brunt of their resentments and other intense emotions at first but after awhile it takes its toll. A lot is processed with the death of their young son that happened while he was gone.
Impressions: One of the best movies I’ve seen this year. Branagh both stars and directs. With the trifecta of Branagh, Dench, and McKellen how could it not be. The sets and landscapes are beautiful. The way they depict Shakespeare and his family really pulled me in as it had an authenticity to it. I didn’t recognize Branagh with the make-up, as he looks so much like Ben Kingsley with it.
Etc.: In one of his scenes with Judi Dench, Sir Kenneth Branagh was supposed to directly cite lines from William Shakespeare’s work, but he got it slightly wrong, so Dench started to laugh at the mistake. In retort, Branagh quipped “You can probably finish it!”, which she promptly did. All of this was obviously not scripted, but nonetheless kept for the finished film. LGBTQI+ themes.
Awards: 1 other win, 3 other nominations