Welcome to another installment of Movies, Movies, Movies! I have a good batch for you this week.
Starring: Steve Guttenberg, Daniel Stern, Mickey Rourke, Kevin Bacon, Tim Daly, Ellen Barkin, Paul Reiser, Kathryn Dowling, Michael Tucker, Jessica James, Colette Blonigan, and many more.
Director: Barry Levinson
Genres: comedy, drama
Synopsis: Set in 1959 Baltimore, the story focuses on six college-age friends who either have succumbed to the status quo (house, job, car, wife) or are feeling the pressure to do so. Wherever they are in their life paths, the one constant is the diner where they gather to shoot the sh*t. The ones who live out of town come in for the wedding of one of the group, so a lot of the dialogue surrounds the upcoming wedding.
Impressions: The chemistry is good between the characters. The perspectives of the men towards women is probably right for the time it was set in but it feels unhealthy for now in how it objectifies them. Despite their often “caveman” thoughts, the characters are likable. It had been a long time since seeing “Diner” (1982) and the scene with the wife messing with her husband’s record collection still stands out to me. Lots of great old cars in this!
Etc.: from imdb: “Barry Levinson claims that the infamous football quiz that Eddie forces his fiancé to pass is based on something that one of his male cousins did in real life.”
Awards: 3 wins and 6 nominations
Starring: Baard Owe, Espen Skjønberg, Ghita Nørby, Henny Moan, Bjørn Floberg, Kai Remlow, Per Jansen, Bjarte Hjelmeland, Gard B. Eidsvold, Bjørn Jenseg, Morten Rudå, Lars Øyno, Trond-Viggo Torgersen, Terje Alsvik Walløe, Peder Anders Lohne Hamer, and many others.
Director: Bent Hamer
Genres: comedy, drama
Synopsis: Odd (his first name) Horten is retiring after 40 years of being a train engineer. He’s a simple creature of habit that borders on OCD. The film focuses on the retirement celebration and the changing details in Odd’s usually unchanging life. Where the character surprises is that, despite his life being almost painfully simple and boring, Odd is receptive to the idea that things will be different and opens himself up to the rest of life.
Impressions: It’s amazing how much Odd (played by Owe) can convey just through his eyes and a few well-chosen words. The film is a study in minutiae. I found Odd’s character deeply satisfying. I very much enjoyed the characters that he encounters as he wanders.
Etc.: made in Norway, Norwegian language with English subtitles; I was led to this movie after seeing “Factotum” and seeing what else director, Bent Hamer, had done. I’ve also got another one of his movies, “Kitchen Stories,” to watch and review.
Awards: 8 wins and 18 nominations
Crazy Credit from imdb:
To my mother, and all other female ski jumpers
A Fantastic Woman (2017) (Una mujer fantástica – original title)
Starring: Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes, Luis Gnecco, Aline Küppenheim, Nicolás Saavedra, Amparo Noguera, Trinidad González, Néstor Cantillana, Alejandro Goic, Antonia Zegers, Sergio Hernández, and many others.
Director: Sebastián Lelio
Synopsis: Marina (played by Vega,) a young transgender woman is in a relationship with Orlando, an older man (played by Reyes) when tragedy strikes. The rest of the film not only shows how Marina grieves for Orlando but how she, as a transgender woman, is treated by those other loved ones of Orlando left behind. Their general callousness and outright cruelty seems to be intensified because of her gender status. Despite their malicious behavior, Marina never gives them the satisfaction of seeing her rattled by it.
Impressions: I didn’t know much about this film before watching it beyond the fact that main character was a transgender female. Hired first as a consultant for the film, Vega quickly became a natural choice for the title role. She nails the part as someone who simply wants to be left alone to grieve for the man she loved but is badgered and harassed every step of the way. She is a study in courage and grace.
Etc.: Chilean film; filmed in 10 locations in Argentina and Chile; in Spanish language with English subtitles; LGBTQI+ friendly; a few disturbing scenes of mild violence and verbal abuse
Awards: 31 wins and 40 nominations
IMDB trivia: Daniela Vega is the first openly transgender woman to present at the Oscars. First Chilean movie to win an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.
Starring: Taylor John Smith, Michael Shannon, Carla Gugino, Zazie Beetz, Chris Bauer, Jake Choi, Wayne Duvall, John Douglas Thompson, and many others.
Director and Writer: Bart Freundlich
Genres: drama, sports
Synopsis: Set in a bigger city (never named) Tony (played by Smith) is a senior star of his private school basketball team. He’s got coaches from Cornell coming to his games. He seems to have everything going for him – until he goes home at the end of the day. His dad (played by Shannon,) a college professor and struggling writer, has drinking and gambling addictions. His mother (played by Gugino,) is an enabler who is forced to work more and more hours to make ends meet. There is a solid support system wrapped around this kid, including his girlfriend (played by Beetz,) his uncle (played by Bauer,) and a street ball coach who used to be in the big show (played by Thompson,) and of course his school coach and teammates. Will his support system help him overcome the mighty barriers he faces from his home life?
Impressions: First time seeing Smith in a movie and I was impressed with how well a young kid like him played the part. I didn’t like seeing Shannon play such a weak person but he does it well. Gugino as the loving mother and long-suffering wife is excellent in this. The rest of the cast is good. The story itself is compelling but the editing – maybe the direction? — felt a little off; some parts were skimmed over that shouldn’t have been, and some that weren’t should have been.
Etc.: I actually thought this movie had wolves in it when I chose it. Silly me. The Wolves are the name of the basketball team!
Awards: none known
The Chorus (2004) (Les choristes — original title)
Starring: Gérard Jugnot, François Berléand, Kad Merad, Jean-Paul Bonnaire, Marie Bunel, Jean-Baptiste Maunier, Maxence Perrin, Grégory Gatignol, Thomas Blumenthal, Cyril Bernicot, Simon Fargeot, Théodule Carré-Cassaigne, Philippe du Janerand, Carole Weiss and many more.
Director: Christophe Barratier
Genres: drama, music
Synopsis: Fond de l’Etang is a boarding school for orphans and troubled boys that is run by a cold principal whose mantra is “action – reaction” which translates as lots of punishment for the kids. In 1949, Mr. Mathieu (played by Jugnot,) a musician by training but who will now be the new “child care supervisor” shows up who doesn’t know what he’s in for. He isn’t sure what’s right but he sees what’s wrong about the draconian principal’s ways and decides to try something different – start a boy’s choir. The film shows how something that many would see as insignificant can have far-reaching ripples, especially for kids that the world has locked away, unseen and unheard. At the same time, the music teacher who has bounced from job to job finds himself transformed as well.
Impressions: I enjoyed, “The Chorus” immensely. It shows not only the warm fuzzy side with the story of the kids and their mentor but it shows the cold, hard truth about any residential institution that keeps “troubled” children locked up. The kids are at the mercy of the adults who run the place and many times even the kids with parents don’t see them as they can’t afford to make the trip. Those without parents have it the worst as there is no oversight. In this case there were some caring staff that made all of the difference. The singing is celestial!
Etc.: French film, set at Château de Ravel, Puy-de-Dôme; French language with English subtitles; warning – one scene of physical violence on a student
Awards: 12 wins and 24 nominations
Actor, co-producer Gérard Jugnot mortgaged his Paris apartment to help finance the film. The bet paid off, and he ended up making over 5 million euros for ‘Les Choristes’ as actor and co-producer. He earned the title of the highest-paid French actor in 2004, overtaking Jean Reno and Gérard Depardieu.
And…… in case you didn’t see it yesterday, I did an in-depth review of “Being There” for Hanspostcard’s Movie Draft. You can read it here.
Finally, and most excited to announce that I have recorded a podcast of this week’s episode! I saw a WP post for Anchor, which is part of Spotify, yesterday and decided to give it a try. I tried to listen to it and couldn’t hear it. If you can, please let me know what you think.
Anchor podcast of today’s episode is here.