Welcome to another installment of Movies, Movies, Movies! There’s an interesting cross-section this week.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020) Netflix
Starring: Frank Langella, Michael Keaton, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Sacha Baron Cohen, Alex Sharp, Jeremy Strong, John Carroll Lynch, Eddie Redmayne, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Mark Rylance, Ben Shenkman, J.C. MacKenzie, and many more
Director: Aaron Sorkin
Genres: historical trial reenactment
Synopsis: Riots took place during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968. Eight individuals, known to be political activists, were arrested and prosecuted by the federal government under a law never used before. The charge was crossing state lines with intent to incite a riot. The film focuses on the highlights of the trial and the events that led up to the actual rioting. The spotlight shines on a few key people, including the judge that presides over it all.
Impressions: Very well-done considering there were only 2 hours to work with and the trial went on for months. Lots of legal jousting going on but put in simple enough language that non-legal people can understand it. Not real thrilled with Redmayne (as Tom Hayden) becoming the central figure in this drama, but not familiar enough to know how central Hayden was to it all. I wish this would have been turned into a mini-series instead of just a movie. Langella (as Judge Julius Hoffman) is great as the bull-headed judge with a god complex. Keaton (as Ramsay Clark) was a joy to watch in action. Not a bad performance in the bunch!
In regards to the film’s timely subject matter in 2020, Aaron Sorkin described the film as being more about modern day than the 1960’s. He explained that, “The script didn’t change to mirror the times. The times changed to mirror the script.”
Awards: too soon
Starring: Rob Lowe, Cynthia Gibb, Patrick Swayze, Ed Lauter, Jim Youngs, Eric Nesterenko, George J. Finn, Fionnula Flanagan, Ken James, Peter Faussett, Walker Boone, Keanu Reeves, and many more
Director: Peter Markle
Genres: drama, romance, hockey
Synopsis: Dean Youngblood, played by Rob Lowe (he was 22, playing 17) is a hotshot young American hockey player from a hockey-playing farm family (his dad is played by real life hockey star, Eric Nesterenko) who crosses the border to tryout for a Canadian Junior League team. The movie focuses on how this young superstar adjusts to the structure, discipline, and style of his new teammates and coach. At the same time romance is afoot for the young player with none other than the coach’ daughter, who is also an American. A very innocent Cynthia Gibb (she was 23, playing high-schooler) does a good job as the romantic interest. Patrick Swayze (he was 34, playing 24 or so) is the competing existing hotshot on the team. Keanu Reeves (he was 24, but played maybe 17 but looked 12) has a small role which imdb (via the filmography list) indicates is his first feature film role.
Impressions: Jen E. Goldie told me about this movie and she is listed in the casting credits. I’m glad she did (thanks Jen!) What a blast to the past to see all of these big-name stars when they were just getting started. Lowe does an admirable job in the film. Ed Lauter as coach played it with just the right amount of gruffness. Dean’s brother, played by Jim Youngs, was one of the better performances, and it was very cool to see Nesterenko give his “son” some excellent advice about how to win on the ice.
Etc.: Canadian film; brief nudity
Keanu Reeves had hockey experience upon being cast, having been MVP and nicknamed “The Wall” for his goal-tending capabilities at De La Salle’s college team in Toronto, Ontario. Patrick Swayze had been trained as a figure skater, but never played hockey, and Rob Lowe had to be taught to ice skate before filming began.
Awards: 1 win
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2001) original title: Tengoku no tobira (animated)
Starring: (listing of English dub voices. Go to imdb to see the Japanese voices) Steve Blum, Beau Billingsley, Wendee Lee, Melissa Fahn, Daran Norris, Jennifer Hale, Nicholas Guest, Dave Wittenberg, Tom Wyner, J. Grant Albrecht, and many more
Director: Shin’ichirô Watanabe, Tensai Okamura, Hiroyuki Okiura, Yoshiyuki Takei
Genres: anime, adventure
Synopsis: Set in the year 2071, the space traveling, bounty hunting crew of Spike Spiegel (handsome, stylish young man, main character,) Jet Black (older ex-cop with a bionic arm,) Faye Valentine (hot young woman with her own vessel that does recon and loves to gamble,) Edward Wong (an androgynous kid who handles all of the nerdy-techy investigation, hacking, etc.,) and a really cute Corgi dog named Ein, that is more than what he first appears (which they cover in the series but not in this movie) get caught up in a plot by a rogue agent that has decided to release a deadly virus into the atmosphere. It’s up to the team to work together and with other interested parties to stop the madman.
Impressions: Anime at its action-packed best. The storytelling is compelling. Each time I watch it I put more of the pieces together. The soundtrack is bebop and excellent in its alignment with the action. If you want the full impact, find the original series and watch it.
Etc.: Japanese film; Younger son got into anime at an early age and I have benefited from his knowledge and recommendations. There were a total of 26 episodes made.
In May 2020, composer Mason Lieberman partnered with Sunrise and Funimation to produce an official Cowboy Bebop charity track for COVID-19 relief. This track was released on vinyl and featured the return of original series composer Yoko Kanno, original recording band The Seatbelts, and a collection of forty other special musical guests.
Awards: 2 nominations
Love on the Spectrum (2019) Netflix series (5 episodes)
Starring: many real people
Director: Cian O’Clery
Genres: reality show, documentary
Synopsis: The series focuses on several young men and women somewhere “on the spectrum,” which is short for Autism Spectrum Disorders. All are functional members of society, but most of them have never been on a date before. Likewise, most of them are longing for a relationship. Each segment interviews the individuals at home so you can see where they live (virtually all live at home with their parents) and meet their families. Each talks about their interests and how they define love and what kind of partner they are hoping to meet. The producers of the show set up trainings, seminars, etc. to help them better prepare for their entry into dating, and then the participants are set up with dates, which the camera crews go on with them. A debrief is done afterwards to see how each person felt it went.
Impressions: I really liked this very brief series and wonder why it ended so suddenly. The last episode seemed to do a rushed ending. My curiosity remains as to how these very interesting people are doing now and if any found lasting romance. I think a lot more education about and for people on the spectrum needs to be done in society. The statistics indicate that many will go their whole lives without finding a romantic partner and that is a very sad thing.
Etc.: Australian series
Angel of Mine (2019)
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Richard Roxburgh, Yvonne Strahovski, Luke Evans, Finn Little, Annika Whitely, Rebecca Bower, and many more
Director: Kim Farrant
Genres: drama, mystery, thriller
Synopsis: Rapace plays a mother of one (there also used to be a daughter, but she died) who has never gotten over grieving. In fact it has disrupted her life to where she’s separated from her husband, her son wants to go live with his dad, her parents are worried sick about her, and she’s coping through psychiatric medications and therapy. The story begins when her son is invited to a party at his friend’s house and the MC sees her son’s friend’s daughter and convinces herself that the girl is her dead daughter. Things go from weird to weirder as the story goes on.
Impressions: Rapace plays the grieving mother on the verge of something extreme very well. As she begins her methodical stalking of the other family, this viewer experienced a mixture of sorrow and dread as the story’s trajectory was headed to some unwanted place. Strahovski (the wife of the wicked leader in The Handmaid’s Tale) plays the mama lion, doing her best to protect her daughter convincingly. Roxburgh (Rake!) plays the kindly father of the little girl who doesn’t want to believe his wife that something sinister is afoot. Luke Evans is good in the small parts he’s in. The little girl in this movie is quite adorable.
Etc.: Australian film
Awards: 2 nominations
In the Mood for Love (2000) original title: Fa yeung nin wah
Starring: Maggie Cheung, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Ping Lam Siu, Tung Cho “Joe” Cheung, Rebecca Pan, Kelly Lai Chen, Man-Lei Chan, Kam Wah-Koo, Szu-Ying Chien, Paulyn Sun, Roy Cheung, and more
Director: Kar-Wei Wong
Genres: drama, romance
Synopsis: Set in Hong Kong 1962, the story begins where two couples move into a crowded building. One couple rents a room with a landlady, and one couple has their own place. The husband of the landlady couple is out of town for business much of the time, and the wife of the separate apartment couple is never home. It becomes clear to the waiting spouses that something fishy is going on and end up seeking emotional support from each other. What propels the plot is how the relationship between the two abandoned spouses develops and the speculation whether or not their feelings will be consummated on a physical level.
Impressions: Very stylish film with wonderful cinematography. Lots of cutaways and flashes that leave spaces for your mind to fill in what isn’t shown. Repetition gives the atmosphere of tedium. I thought Tony (abandoned husband) brought his character to life so very well. I liked Maggie also but the tight grip she kept on her emotions grew increasingly irritating. Not her fault if she was told to play it that way, and it would be accurate in the sense that any hint of inpropriety between her and he would be severely punished in a social way. It seemed so confusing that it was perfectly ok for the absent spouses to do their dirty business but unacceptable for the wronged parties? That is the crux the plot hinges on.
Etc.: Chinese film with English subtitles
The film is included among the “1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die,” edited by Steven Schneider and was ranked #2 in BBC’s “100 Greatest Films of The 21st Century” list, and the highest ranking non-English film.
Awards: 47 wins and 50 nominations
FYI: the song in the trailer (Bryan Ferry’s cover of “I’m in the Mood for Love” is not in the film