Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Ricki And The Flash

I know I've said this before, but, is there anything Meryl Streep can't do? She is my age, and is still challenging herself. I love this woman! She is an inspiration. I read that Neil Young taught her to play guitar for this movie, and his name was first on the special credit list. She made playing look easy! Sometimes her voice sounded pure, and at other times raw. I think her voice was stronger in Mama Mia. But she was great in this movie of an aged rock star who left Indiana for Los Angeles; abandoned her husband, played by the so good Kevin Kline, and their three children to pursue her dream of becoming that rock star. "I'm a musician. That's what I am," Ricki declared at her son's wedding to the audience as part of her toast.

This movie touched me in several ways. Ricki declares to the bar audience where her band plays regularly (in a weak moment) that men can follow their dream, screw anybody they want, leave their children, do drugs, and they still sell hit songs. If a woman does that, she's a monster. I agree! There is a double standard. Do I agree that women should abandon their families? No. But this movie also made a good point. What does a woman do? Ricki's husband married Maureen, played by the beautiful and ever understated, Audra McDonald. I loved her in Private Practice. I would also like to see her play a gutsier role sometime. She is so talented. The other thing I was impressed with is that Meryl doesn't seem to get "work" done on herself. Her face showed the wrinkles of a woman in her middle-sixties, and so did her legs. Her legs were big and I noticed what looked like a vericose vein on the shin of one of them. She wore a knee-length dress bought at Goodwill for the wedding. I loved that!

My favorite character of this movie was the bartender. I think he was secretly in love with Ricki, very young, and had a wonderfully infectious personality. The soundtrack is really good and fun. I rocked in my seat much of the movie. The story is touching, disturbing, raw, and provides redemption. It made me feel like no matter what mistakes I made as a mother, my son will still love me. Ricki's children held no punches when they got their chance, but in the end all may not have been forgiven, but the path was certainly laid for forgiveness to grow.

I loved the chemistry between Ricki and her boyfriend, Greg, played by the still gorgeous Rick Springfield. What a face! I don't remember seeing him in a lot of roles, but he was good in this. I also loved watching Meryl's real-life daughter, Mamie Gummer, act with her mother. Their chemistry was fabulous. I bet they worked out of lot of crap in this movie too. I also loved that the suicidal (after her husband of less than a year dumped her for another woman) Julie looked like crap for much of the first part of the movie! I just loved that! It was so real.

I enjoyed this movie very much. I left the theater smiling. I encourage you to go see it...for so many reasons. I admit the flow of the entire story wasn't as clean as I've seen, but I didn't care. I liked it, and I think you will two.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Calling All Dreamers!

Dreamers haven't given up yet. Everyone else has given in to the idea that the world is going to end. Herein lies the premise of this very entertaining movie of hope and promise, Tomorrowland. My "inner child" lives and used to be more optimistic than it has become. This fun movie rebirthed the Dreamer in me; just a little.

Frank Walker, played by the wonderful George Clooney, used to be a Dreamer. In his current state of mind, he has become a paranoid, angry recluse. Casey Newton is a beautiful, young Dreamer, who believes in a promising future. Her father, Eddie Newton, played by the ever-surprising Tim McGraw (who is developing a very nice acting career as well as a successful, on-going singing career), is a NASA engineer on his way out. The father has become discouraged; his daughter has become a bit of an anarchist. As a result, she is arrested for getting caught, once again, sabotaging the dismantling of the space rocket launching site in Cape Canaveral. She has been observed by a mysterious female who leaves an old pin in her motorcycle helmet.

Eddie bails out his daughter, but when she collects her belongings upon release, she claims the pin included there is not hers. When she touches the pin, she is instantly transported to a wonderful place. Hilariously, she continues walking into walls while in this place, because really she is still in her reality. When she is observed doing this, people either laugh or get angry with her. Consequently, she rides her bike, after her motorcycle is taken away, to a huge field to continue her explorations with the pin. But, she turns it over to notice a digital clock counting down. Eventually, the clock runs out, and her adventure begins.

I found this movie fun and very entertaining. There is adventure, action and humor. The special effects are very good, and it is a fun ride. It felt just a little long in the middle, though. I'm not sure what could have been done to change this feeling, but overall, I really enjoyed it. It is a refreshing change from the doom and gloom futuristic movies of late. Oh, by the way, Hugh Laurie of TV's "House" fame is the villain, Nix. An apropos name for a villain, no?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Age of Adeline

Larry declared this a "chick flick" with a good story. I agree the story is engaging, romantic, improbable, but entertaining. It left me feeling good, and feeling satisfied. Is it perfect? Not really. There are choppy rhythms in the flow of the movie, but overall, I liked it.

Blake Lively is just stunning. Not only does she carry her character, Adeline Bowman, with grace and regality, her performance is elegantly reigned in. Playing a subdued character cannot be easy. But, Blake does it beautifully. I believed her as the Mom of seventy plus-year-old Flemming, played by the wonderful, Ellen Burstyn. Adeline was loving, patient and wise. And, Adeline was tormented by the fate that caused her curious condition of agelessness. I felt her pain.

Flemming convinces her mother to stop running when she meets a perfect love interest, Ellis Jones, played by the gorgeous Michiel Huisman (most recently seen as a warrior on Game of Thrones), her pain was real. Michiel's father played by Harrison Ford was her first love. She ran from him, and now she finds herself coming full circle. No longer haunted by her past where she is an enigma, hunted by the government for study (because as Flemming said, "They're all dead now."), her daughter convinces her there is no need to keep running away. But, Adeline's life has only been about escaping, and she doesn't know how to stay put.

I will warn viewers, who are dog lovers, that there is a scene that will tear your heart out. I sobbed, and so did Larry. But the movie has a happy ending that is satisfying and will make you smile.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

"Remember us"

is the only thing Maria Bloch-Bauer Altmann's father asked of her on the last day she hugged them goodbye before leaving Vienna forever for Cologne on her way to a forced new life in America with her young husband, Fredrick "Fritz" Altmann at the beginning of the Nazi occupation of that city. I was so touched by that scene in the movie, I cried right along with Maria, excellently played by the great Helen Mirren. She was held by her attorney nephew, Randol Schoenberg, played very well by Ryan Reynolds, after he won their case against the Austrian government to regain ownership of the famous Klimt portraits of her aunt, Adele Bloch Bauer. This movie is a powerful portrait of love, loss and remembrance.

The Bloch-Bauer family were well-to-do aristocrats living in a beautiful home in Vienna. They supported and entertained many famous artists, including Gustav Klimt. After a modest beginning there and working hard, they amassed a small fortune in beautiful things. When the Nazis occupied Vienna and began persecuting the Jews there, Maria's father, Gustav, an accomplished cellist, tried to pretend life remained normal. He soon regretted ignoring the warning of his brother, Ferdinand, who fled Vienna with his wife, Adele, a week after Maria's wedding to Fritz seeing the figurative writing on the wall of impending Nazi occupation. Denial is truly a powerful thing. The two brothers and their families shared the home in Vienna until that time. Aunt Adele was like a second mother to Maria, who was a timid child that Aunt Adele tried to encourage to be more assertive. "I wonder what being a woman will be like when you are older," she said. "Will you also be required to entertain yourself with trivialities?" (I am paraphrasing this last line.) In the movie, we are led to believe Aunt Adele was not a happy woman even with all her wealth.

Maria, now living in a small apartment in Los Angeles and running a small clothing shop of her own, inherits letters from her sister, Adele, along with the remainder of her belongings. "I must keep the memories alive," she said. These letters led her to believe that she could once again reclaim the Klimt portraits hanging in the Austrian State Gallery (Bellevue Museum in the movie) in Vienna. In fact, we were told that "Woman In Gold" was the Mona Lisa of Austria, and authorities would never give it back. But, in 1998, the Austrian Green Party passed a law for art restitution of works taken from Jewish families by the Nazis. Holding the government to the word of law proved daunting, however, as Maria and Randol discovered.

This movie touched me at a time when I am spending many hours researching my family's history; that of my husband and my son on I have been living in the past all week, and then the line was spoken by Gustav Bloch-Bauer to his daughter on the day of her departure from his life, "Remember us." In that moment, I realized I have been wrestling with this idea of living in the past versus the present. So many of us are driven by our past. I have avoided this dilemma because I became "enlightened" and strive to live in "the Now". The past is the past, right?

Back in the last 1970s, I attended the University of New Mexico. In my freshman year, I took a class in Philosophy 101. In it, we learned that the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria believes that nobody dies until the last person who remembers them dies. I'm sure there are many cultural philosophies that believe in this prospect. "Remember us" reminded me that in exploring the history of my family, I am remembering those who came before. Those who came before share genes with me, my husband and my son, and contribute to who we are today. I am remembering them by learning about them, even if it is for the first time. In so doing, I am also honoring them and their memory because my research is causing me to explore facts about events and fashion of each era I discover. And, I think about my own sixty-five years of history.

When Maria Altmann chose to stand toe-to-toe with her ghosts living in Vienna by agreeing to return with Randol to meet with those in charge of her portraits, she was in some way speaking to me to face my own ghosts. I have begun my memoir a hundred times over the past four decades, and each time I face such pain, I quit. This move made me cry partly because maybe it is time for me to stand firm in the face of my own painful memories and put them to rest once and for all.

This move is a must see for everyone. It is a period of WWII, like the movie, The Monuments Men, that introduced me to events I was ignorant about. Instead of all the art and precious memories stolen from all the Jews by Adolph Hitler and his army, this movie focuses on one family's losses and the pain of their personal experience during the war. There was a victory won in this story, that helps heal a small bit of that horrendous time in our human history.

But in my mind, any victory; any justice received is a step towards healing the pain inflicted on us all through the atrocities inflicted on one particular group of our human family. This movie takes one more step towards personalizing one family's painful experience, so that we all can experience a sense of justice and healing at some level. At least, that's what this person took away from this powerful movie.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

This bittersweet sequel tells as charming a story as the first movie. All the characters returned with the addition of Guy Chambers, played by Richard Gere. He plays a character with a mysterious reason for coming to the hotel. Sonny, played by Dev Patel, claims to have "a nose that knows". His intuition is telling him that Guy is "the guy" being sent by the San Diego-based company Sonny and Muriel (Maggie Smith) solicited for funding to expand their business with a second hotel. Their partnership is much more than a business relationship. They genuinely care for one another, and the chemistry between them is very sweet.

Sonny has big dreams of success, but continues to be threatened by his perceived nemisis, Kushal (Shazad Latif). He sees the ever-charming Kushal as much more charismatic and successful, and when Kushal tries to interject himself into Sonny's dreams and plans, Sonny becomes threatened. He also sees Kushal as someone who can threaten his impending marriage to Sunaina (Tina Desai).

Evelyn (Judi Dench) continues to grow and thrive in Jaipur as the temporary buyer for a fabric company. She is so successful at it, in fact, that she is offered a permanent job with the company, which includes travel. "But I'm seventy-nine years old", she exclaims when offered the position. "We don't care if you don't", is the employer's reply. Not something we would hear in America I think. Her continuing (non)relationship with Douglas (Bill Nighy) is comfortable as is for her, but Douglas has a different perception of it. He sees them as a couple, and genuinely wants their relationship to move forward. He wants her to meet his daughter, for example, but she always finds reasons to avoid commitment with him.

Guy becomes interested in Sonny's mother (Lillete Dubey), and thereby creates a different threat to Sonny's comfort zone of family. He claims to be at the hotel because his wife left him and he decided to write a book about an aging man heading towards the abyss of old age and loneliness. His interest in Mrs. Kapoor also sparks the strong matriarch to question her own life plan, and softens her heart to new possibilities never before considered.

One thing this movie does, as does its predecessor, is demonstrate that getting older provides opportunities for new chapters and beginnings, not endings and the inevitable finale. Getting older breathes new life into lives that if they had not chosen an adventure in India, would certainly have ended in loneliness and misery before death took its grip on each one. It is a sweet story, with rich characters, wonderful acting, and great music. It is not a fast-paced adventure, but a slow and steady portrait of living live to the fullest at any age.

Larry and I gave it "two thumbs up". I hope you see it and enjoy it as much as we did.