Welcome to another installment of Movies, Movies, Movies! A really good batch this week.
Miss Juneteenth (2020)
Starring: Nicole Beharie, Liz Mikel, Marcus M. Mauldin, Kendrick Sampson, Alexis Chikaeze, Mikayla Rivers, Jaime Matthis, Phyllis Cicero, Lisha Hackney, Lori Hayes, Opal Lee, and many more.
Director and Writer: Channing Godfrey Peoples
Synopsis: The central character is Turquoise, aka Turq (played by Beharie,) former beauty queen and Miss Juneteenth, now a waitress at Wayman’s, a seedy little dive where everyone goes for food, drink, and entertainment. Turq always seems to be working as Mr. Wayman, the boss (played by Mauldin,) isn’t in the best of health. Besides, she has an important upcoming event that needs lots of extra funds: her daughter, Kai’s (played by Chikaeze) Miss Juneteenth pageant. Ronnie (played by Sampson,) Kai’s dad, is a deadbeat with the best of intentions that never seem to pan out, so he’s no help financially. Turq has kicked him out but keeps her wedding rings in a drawer by the bed, always the optimist, hoping that one day he’ll get his act together. Even Turq’s own mother, Charlotte (played by Hayes,) is unwilling to indulge her daughter’s dream. You’ll notice I said this is Turq’s dream, not Kai’s, to compete and win the prestigious contest. Turq’s strong will and Kai’s desire to please her mother has her going through the motions, but Kai’s heart really isn’t in it. Another subplot is Ronnie’s attempts to win Turq back, but his long-time competition, (sorry forgot his name in the movie and couldn’t find him in imdb) a handsome funeral home owner/director that just expanded the business, has intensified his wooing – and this time Turq isn’t outright rejecting him.
Impressions: I loved this movie! Thanks, Liam, for reviewing it so I knew it existed. Beharie is outstanding as Turq, and I want to see her in a lot more movies. She plays the character just right. Chikaeze as Kai is also really good; she plays Kai’s demureness with a strong streak of her mother’s gentle strength just right also. I love the relationship mother and daughter have, which changes over the course of the movie in such a beautiful way. There are a few humorous parts that had me chuckling; there are some irritating parts for the characters as well.
Etc.: from imdb: Opal Lee, who introduces the pageant opening, plays herself as the real person who advocated for this day of recognition.; The Miss Juneteenth is a real contest in Texas. Writer-director Channing Godfrey Peoples attended pageants while growing up in Fort Worth.
per wiki: The first time Juneteenth was celebrated was on June 19, 1866. POTUS Biden signed it into federal law on 6/19/21.
Awards: 9 wins and 34 nominations
The Professor and the Madman (2019) netflix
Starring: Mel Gibson, Sean Penn, Eddie Marson, Natalie Dormer, Jennifer Ehle, Steve Coogan, Stephen Dillane, Ioan Gruffudd, Jeremy Irvine, Laurence Fox, Anthony Andrews, Lars Brygmann, Bryan Murray, and many more.
Director: Farhad Safinia
Genres: biography, drama
Synopsis: James Murray (played by Gibson) is an extremely well-read and educated Scotsman who begs to be given a chance to head a team to create the first ever Oxford dictionary after the team working on it seems to have stalled out on it. He and his family relocate to Oxford when he is given the green light – and struggles mightily at first to make headway. He sends out requests for help. One of his flyers is serendipitously placed in the hands of Dr. William Chester Minor (played by Penn,) a physician and intellectual who struggles with mental illness and who is currently committed to an insane asylum.
Sir James Augustus Henry Murray, FBA (b.2/7/1837–d.7/26/1915)was a Scottish lexicographer and philologist. He was the primary editor of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) from 1879 until his death. It was probably through his correspondence with the London booksellers that William Chester Minor (b. 6/22/1834 – d. 3/26,1920,) heard of the call for volunteers from what was to become the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Minor devoted most of the remainder of his life to that work. Minor became one of the project’s most effective volunteers, reading through his large personal library of antiquarian books and compiling quotations that illustrated the way particular words were used. It was many years before the OED’s editor, Dr. James Murray, learned Minor’s background history, and visited him in January 1891. In 1899, Murray paid compliment to Minor’s enormous contributions to the dictionary, stating, “we could easily illustrate the last four centuries from his quotations alone.”
The rest of the plot revolves around the personal connections of the two men and the political resistance Oxford people had to having Murray, a Scotsman, being in charge of the project.
Impressions: I was randomly netflix surfing when I came across this and am so glad I did. It was good to learn the origin story of one of the best known dictionaries out there. It also goes in-depth on how serious mental illness manifests and creates acute torment in the most brilliant of minds. There are some quite disturbing scenes of attempts to “cure” Minor. I’m trying to think how I would go about creating the first ever comprehensive dictionary of the English language and my brain shivers in anxiety at the thought. Two good performances by Gibson and Penn as well as Dormer, who plays a widow, who through extraordinary circumstances, becomes Dr. Minor’s close friend.
Awards: 1 nomination
The making of the film led to a legal battle between star Mel Gibson and Voltage Pictures, because the latter wouldn’t allow Gibson and original director Farhad Safinia to film scenes on location in Oxford, England. Because the film was already over budget and behind schedule, Voltage forced them to use Trinity College in Ireland as a substitute. Gibson and Safinia eventually left the project, with a new director and a new screenwriter (Todd Komarnicki) taking over. Gibson and his production company Icon Productions went to court to prevent the movie from being released, claiming that they were not allowed to finish the movie, but were unsuccessful. Gibson refused to promote the film afterwards.
Wildlife (2018) (Criterion Collection)
Starring: Ed Oxenbould, Jake Gyllenhaal, Carey Mulligan, Bill Camp, Zoe Margaret Colletti, and many more.
Director: Paul Dano
Synopsis: Set in 1950’s Montana, the Brinson Family, Joe (Oxenbould,) Jerry (Gyllenhaal,) and Jeanette (Mulligan,) seem to move from town to town more than any of them would like. The story begins where they’ve just moved into a new town. Jerry (dad) has a job at a golf course, which he almost immediately loses for being “too friendly” and Jeanette has managed to finagle a job giving swimming lessons at the “Y” a couple of days a week. Jerry keeps hearing about paid volunteers being needed to fight a raging forest fire some distance away and signs up without consulting his wife. The calm, reasonable Jeanette falls apart when her “unstable” husband leaves.
Impressions: Paul Dano does a great job directing this understated gem of a movie. One brilliant choice was to have it told from the perspective of Joe, who is stuck in the middle of the disintegration of his parents’ marriage and his family. I connected with Joe’s feelings of anxiety, confusion, and abandonment by both of his parents; his father’s physical and mother’s emotional. Oxenbould breathes his character to life. Bill Camp as Warren Miller, the interloper, is another standout performance!
Etc.: Paul Dano’s directorial debut.
Awards: 6 wins and 25 nominations
White Mane (1953) Le cheval sauvage (original title) Criterion Collection
Starring: Alain Emery, Laurent Roche, Pascal Lamorisse, Francois Perie, Charles Guillaume, and some others.
Director: Albert Lamorisse
Synopsis: Set in France in the 1950’s, Folco (played by Emery) lives with his elderly blind grandfather (played by Roche) and his little toddler brother in a very small hut set on the sea near extensive grasslands and marshland (an estuary maybe?) Grandpa mends nets and Folco uses a small boat to pole around in to set fish traps to feed the family. Also living in the area are herds of gorgeous white horses that run free. Three ranchers in the area want to tame the top stallion in the herd, affectionately named White Mane by Folco, and spend a lot of time trying to capture him in various ways. Folco and White Mane become friends, which antagonizes the ranchers even more which results in their efforts to capture and tame White Mane’s free spirit even more.
Impressions: Some sources regard this as a family film, but my anxiety level went sky high as I watched these idiots with their tactics try to capture the horse. I wouldn’t want my young child to watch this movie or even an older child. The kids in the film are adorable and so innocent. The movie is more an art study than anything, black and white film, with beautiful shots of the surrounding terrain.
Etc.: French language film with English subtitles; filmed in Camargue, Bouches-du-Rhône, France. Only 47 minutes long. Nominated for the Best Documentary BAFTA Award (1954.)
Awards: 2 wins and 2 nominations
NO TRAILER AVAILABLE. There is a short trailer that is half about this movie and half about The Red Balloon, which is also directed by this director out on youtube if you want to see it.
Time Bandits (1981)
Starring: Craig Warnock, David Rappaport, John Cleese, Sean Connery, Shelley Duvall, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Michael Palin, Ralph Richardson, Peter Vaughn, David Warner, Kenny Baker, Malcolm Dixon, Mike Edmonds, Jack Purvis, Tiny Ross, David Daker, Sheila Fearn, Jim Broadbent, John Young, and many others.
Director: Terry Gilliam
Genres: adventure, comedy
Synopsis: Kevin (played by Warnock) is an ordinary little boy living an ordinary life in England with his distracted parents – when his world is turned topsy-turvy by six renegade, time-traveling thieves who materialize in his bedroom one night and end up dragging him along for the ride. Randall (played by Rappaport) is the leader of crew. Kevin learns that these six are employees of the Supreme Being and have acted on a hare-brained scheme to steal the map from the Supreme Being (played by Richardson) and jump through wormholes in time and space with the intent of stealing riches as they go, while avoiding being captured by him. Of course the fumbling fools find more trouble than riches wherever they go. Characters they encounter along the way include Napolean Bonaparte, Agamemnon, Robin Hood, a cranky ogre and his chef wife, and many others. What they don’t realize is that they are being watched by the Supreme Darkness (played by Warner) who wants to get his grimy paws on that map.
Impressions: I used to have this on VHS tape and have seen it many times. This is Gilliam at his most imaginative. So many great cast members, costumes, locations, lines, and special effects. It’s a fairly dark movie in actual, thematic, and humorous senses. It shows the worst attributes of people (and creatures,) often pushed right up against the silliness of the situations. What stands out for me is that there is another, magical, realm that exists that most people are too distracted to notice.
Etc.: No studio wanted to make this movie, so executive producers George Harrison and Denis O’Brien mortgaged their office building in Cadogan Square to raise the $5 million to make it. “Dream Away” is an uncredited George Harrison song in the movie.Lots of trivia at imdb!
Awards: 1 win and 8 nominations