Welcome to another installment of Movies, Movies, Movies! Another eclectic mix this week.
Almost Famous (2000)
Starring: Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson, Jason Lee, Patrick Fugit, Zooey Deschanel, Michael Angarano, Anna Paquin, Fairuza Balk, Noah Taylor, John Fedevich, Mark Kozelek, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Liz Stauber, Jimmy Fallon, and many more.
Director and Writer: Cameron Crowe
Genres: adventure, comedy, music
Synopsis: Set in the early 1970’s, William (played by Fugit) is a high school teenager who is also a journalist who reviews musicians and their music. He is somehow able to convince Rolling Stone to hire him to do an in-depth write-up on Stillwater, a musical group headed by Russell (Crudup) and Jeff (Lee) on the verge of breaking through while they tour cross-country. Even more importantly he is able to convince his mother to let him ride along with the band on their bus. William is taken under the wing of Penny Lane (Hudson,) who is Russell’s more-than-a-groupie (sorry, they have a term for it in the movie but I forgot what it was) during the tour, showing him the ropes and getting him connected. The bulk of the film shows the band on stage, on the bus, and in hotel rooms, but there are some fun cutaway adventures as well. There are also priceless scenes between William and Lester Bangs (Hoffman) where Lester imparts his wisdom to the greenhorn journalist. Oh, and I can’t forget William’s mom (McDormand) and how she keeps tabs on her young son along the way.
Impressions: I loved this movie, as it really pulled me into the action. William’s coming-of-age was joyful to watch. In the special features disk, it talked about the actor search for William and how Fugit really was a greenhorn to acting, which made it all the better. Hudson is frickin’ fantastic as Penny Lane. I love how Rolling Stone Magazine was depicted. Even though the band is fictitious, the music is not – and it rocks! See the soundtrack playlist and other information about it here. Crudup and Lee are believable as the prima dona rock stars.
Etc.: from imdb: The film is director Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical account of life as a young Rolling Stone reporter. The actual group Crowe first toured with was The Allman Brothers Band. Gregg Allman distrusted him, and kept asking if he was a narc. Crowe was in a near-fatal plane crash while traveling with The Who. The character of Russell Hammond is partially based on Glenn Frey of The Eagles.; Stillwater’s songs were written by Peter Frampton (who also had a small part in the film), Cameron Crowe, and his ex-wife Nancy Wilson of the rock band Heart. The music acknowledgments credit Russell Hammond and Stillwater as if they were real authors and performers.
Awards: 53 wins and 103 nominations
more etc. from imdb:
When Cameron Crowe’s mother appeared on the set for a cameo, Crowe made every effort to keep her away from Frances McDormand, who was playing a character based on her, so McDormand’s interpretation of the part wouldn’t be swayed. When he left the set for a few minutes on the first day of shooting, he returned to find McDormand and his mother having lunch together.
Sword of Trust (2019)
Starring: Marc Maron, Jon Bass, Michaela Watkins, Jillian Bell, Toby Huss, Dan Bakkedahl, Tim Paul, Whitmer Thomas, Michael Patrick O’Brien, Al Elliott, Lynn Shelton, Scotty Lee, Robert Longstreet, Elise Mayfield, Prasanna Avadhanula, Tilcia Furman, and many more.
Director: Lynn Shelton
Genres: indie, comedy, drama
Synopsis: Mel (Maron) owns and runs a pawn shop with his loyal employee Nathaniel (Bass.) When Cynthia (Bell) and Mary (Watkins) show up to pawn a sword that has documentation proving that the South won The Civil War, a mostly funny and occasionally disturbing chain of events unfolds. There’s a minor sub-plot of Mel’s junkie ex-girlfriend, Deidre (Shelton) still being in the picture.
Impressions: This is a low budget indie so don’t expect much glitz. For fans of Marc Maron (the guy is a comedic genius imo) you’ll be sure to enjoy it. The dialogue is clever. It’s good to see lesbians portrayed as just ordinary people in it. The subplot with Deidre has some poignant moments.
Etc.: LGBTQIA+ friendly;
Awards: 4 wins and 4 nominations
Those Who Wish Me Dead (2021)
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Finn Little, Jon Bernthal, Aiden Gillen, Nicholas Hoult, Jake Weber, Medina Senghore, Tyler Perry, Boots Southerland, Tory Kittles, James Jordan, Lora Martinez-Cunningham, Howard Ferguson Jr., Ryan Jason Cook, Laura Niemi, and many others.
Director: Taylor Sheridan (creator of Yellowstone)
Genres: action, fire fighting, crime
Synopsis: Set in the Montana wilderness, Hannah (Jolie) is a fire fighter who has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after seeing 2 kids die in a forest fire after she, as the team leader, made a bad call. Ethan (Bernthal) is Hannah’s old flame (no pun intended) who is now married to the very pregnant Allison (Senghore.) In addition to fighting fires Ethan and Allison teach a survivalist course. The story begins when Ethan’s brother, Owen (Weber) and his son (Little) are being chased by two hitmen (Gillen and Hoult) because of information Owen has about some real bad guys, the worst of whom is Arthur (Perry.) The story alternates between how Jolie processes her trauma when faced with a mega forest fire that triggers the previous tragedy’s feelings and the hitmen doing their best to follow orders. There’s also the side plot of Ethan and Allison which intersects with the other story lines.
Impressions: I expected something better than this with Taylor Sheridan at the helm as he does such a good job with Yellowstone. The best thing that can be said about the film is the gigantic roaring fire, which is the real star. I liked seeing empowered females, even though one of them is hamstrung with PTSD, but even the fire and the females couldn’t redeem this one. Most of the cast is introduced and then blatantly ignored for the rest of film. It’s a mediocre movie that is more like a made-for-TV than anything else.
Etc.: imdb trivia: Taylor Sheridan was initially brought on to rewrite the script, but when another filmmaker dropped out of directing the film, he called the studio with an offer. “If I can get Angie to do this with me, I’ll direct it for you,” he said. The studio said, “Great. You’ll never get Angie.”
Awards: too soon?
American Dharma (2018)
Starring: (some through archival footage) Errol Morris, Steve Bann*n, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Drumpf.
Director: Errol Morris
Synopsis: The format is a conversation/interview between Errol and Steve Bann*n, who has been described as a, “controversial political strategist and former Donald Tr*mp advisor.” A lot of territory is covered, including strategies used during the 2016 US Presidential campaign, how the Breitb*rt website became Bann*n’s political soapbox, and how easy it was to manipulate the masses during the campaign. Further, it explores biographical beginnings of Bann*n as well as his political ideologies.
Impressions: Bann*n is not a stupid man. He is well-educated and a shrewd strategist. He was interviewing Morris as much as Morris was interviewing him. How he responded to some pointed questions about his thoughts on events that have transpired that would align him with the violent far-right, was more than a little concerning. I would encourage anyone who wants to know more about how this person thinks without having to go to a radical propaganda website and wade through the muck, to watch this 95-minute documentary.
Awards: 2 nominations
Another Round (2020)
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang, Lars Ranthe, Maria Bonnevie, Helene Reingaard Neumann, Susse Wold, Magnus Sjorup, Silas Cornelius Van, Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt, Martin Greis-Rosenthal, Frederik Winther Rasmussen, and many others.
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Genres: drama, (imdb says comedy but I don’t see it)
Synopsis: Four high school teachers who are also good friends and drinking buddies decide to do an experiment with alcohol based on a theory that one of them read that says the human body is lacking a certain amount of alcohol that it needs to function at optimum. Their experiment, which takes place both at home and while they are on the job teaching, generates results they hadn’t foreseen. The movie also shows how young people are indoctrinated into a culture saturated with alcohol consumption.
Impressions: I thought it was eerily authentic when I compared it to direct experiences with drinking alcohol and with my interactions with those who are heavy drinkers – with some pointed exceptions. What it doesn’t show is any violent behavior by any of the drinkers directly, which may be what it’s like in Denmark, but in the US, alcohol and violence go hand in hand for many. There was also a glaring lack of any police presence, which so often a consequence of alcoholic behavior in the US.
Etc.: filmed in Denmark with Danish-Swedish language with English subtitles.
Awards: 44 wins and 56 nominations
Warning: May be triggering for recovering alcoholics or family members of alcoholics.
More imdb trivia:
Denmark has some of the highest rates of teenage drinking in the world; a World Health Organization report released earlier in 2020 found that Danish 15-year-olds consumed alcohol at nearly double the European average. Recent efforts to raise the minimum age for purchasing alcohol to 18 from 16 have met with resistance, in part because older adults recall their own youthful intoxications so fondly.