Tuesday, November 30, 2010

8 1/2 and 9: Fellini set to music!

There it was- in the mailbox.  My reckoning. 
This meant that I finally had to sit down and watch Fellini's 8 1/2.  
Why, you ask?
Because the musical 9 is based on Fellini's movie. 
Taking the easy way out, I watched 9 first.  Of course.
I have now watched 8 1/2.  
Black and white, subtitles (well, I learned French, not Italian).  Quite the art house vibe about it.  When you see it, you'll understand.  Gorgeous, beautiful images with lots and lots of the main character working out his problem. 

The Problem:  He hasn't written the next film.  This did not need a spoiler alert.
It does go much deeper than that.  It is said (on wikipedia) that the film is autobiographical and about the women Fellini has loved and lost.  It also chronicles a director's "mental block".  Of course, this is a bit silly, since the director directs, the producer produces and the writer writes.  The director does not need to write.  Of course, the writer has an interesting, narrative role.  Marcello Mastroianni is Guido the director, Anouk Aimee is his wife.  Talk about gorgeous.  Sigh.

Now to 9.  What a spectacular looking film.  Gorgeous in a completely different way.  Color and Women Everywhere.  This is a much more "light" version of Fellini's film.  In this version, the director has much more control (or it appears that way, a la Christopher Nolan).  The main character, the director Guido, is still suffering from writer's block.  In this film, women are assigned a more defined role:  Mother, Wife, Mistress, Muse, Producer, Whore.  And the actresses chosen to play them:  Sophia Loren, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Stacy Ferguson.  Yeah, that's Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas.  Did a great job in a small role, but memorable.  Which is saying something considering the company she is keeping.  This one is a musical so all the various players have to sing and dance.  I have to say that I never thought of Dame Judi as a singer but she manages.  (She's better as "M" in the Bond movies, though.)  Who realized Kate Hudson could sing and dance that well?  And Marion Cotillard is a delight, as always, wonderful in everything she does.  I am not slighting anyone else, I just want to finish.

Oh, and Daniel Day-Lewis plays Guido.  Did I forget to mention that?  Excellent as always.

If you have the time, see Fellini's movie first.  Then see 9. 
I liked them both immensely for what the filmmakers wanted to offer.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Seeing RED: Retired Extremely Dangerous

It's Saturday morning, my extra-special, reserved, don't bother me, don't call me, leave me alone time.  My day to sleep in.  AAARRRRGGGGHHHH.  Somebody has torn down the house across the street from me (a cute little cape cod) and is building a four bedroom colonial with a two car garage.  To add insult to injury, not only does this new house loom over our little piece of the neighborhood's landscape and take up most of the lot, this #*%#@!*&%$ builder is having the crew work on Saturdays.  Starting at 7 AM.  So, I've been up since 7 AM.  And  SEEING RED.  What is a reasonable person to do?  Well, I don't know about you, but I checked the movie listings and RED was playing at 10:20 (the $6 admission, sweet!) so I went to see RED. 

I've been looking forward to seeing this movie.  This is a movie that the Ladies would usually gather for, have brunch then go see together.  Alas, this didn't happen.  We all sort of made different plans for this one.  Oh well, at least I had a nice back-up for the early morning disruption of my day to sleep in.  (I wonder if I can sue that builder for ruining my "pursuit of happiness"?)  But I've digressed again.  Back to movie.

This is the blurb on IMDB about the plot:  When his idyllic life is threatened by a high-tech assassin, former black-ops agent Frank Moses reassembles his old team in a last ditch effort to survive.  Frank Moses is played by Bruce Willis.  So now you can see where this is going.  If not, go back to previous blog posts and read up on Bruce Willis.  Then come back here.  That's okay, we'll wait for you.  Okay, good.  Next to show up in this movie, a bit of surprise, is Mary-Louise Parker.  I like her, just the right amount of normal with lots of quirkiness.  Loved her on the West Wing.  Really great in Weeds (note to self- finish watching that.)  Then Morgan Freeman joins in, we pick up the incomparable John Malkovich and oh, look, it's Helen Mirren!  That's quite a gang.  Of course, not only does the gang need to stay alive and keep fighting off the killers, they need to find out why they are being shot at in the first place and who ordered this.  Now it's time for the bad guys (masquerading as good guys of course). 

For the bad guys we have Rebecca Pidgeon (stiff, but then she doesn't really have to do much but give orders and fade into the background), Karl Urban as William Cooper, the operative given the main task to take care of Frank Moses.  Now this is an interesting role.  And an interesting actor.  And there it is on IMDB- William Cooper was Eomer in LOTR.  Now I can see it.  He was also in a lot of other things, most recently the new Star Trek and played Bones.  I like this guy.  I think we'll be seeing more of him.  (Hint: the powers that be are making a sequel to Star Trek.)  But there I go again, getting off track.  Next up on the list of bad guys:  the evil business man played by none other than Richard Dreyfuss.  He makes a great evil business man.  The stature, the voice, everything about him fits perfectly into this role.  And can he work it.  Let's see, who's left.  Oh, the guy who plays the Vice President of the USA.  He looked very familiar so another trip to IMDB which revealed his regular appearance on Nip/Tuck, hence his familiarity.  No, I don't watch N/T, just see commercials with his face from time to time.  He also played Victor Von Doom/Dr. Doom in the Fantastic Four.

So, we've rounded out the cast on both sides.  Now, why would anyone want to interrupt the retirement of Frank Moses (Willis) who is trying to woo, long distance Mary-Louise Parker's character?  And why?  Oh, and a Russian gets involved, was involved a long time ago, does a favor, something like that.  You really should see the movie. 

Overall, I give the movie an A-.  It was just a bit slower than the usual action packed adventures, but then, they retired, right?

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Social Network (or How Facebook Came to Be)

Yesterday, being a weekend day and a lovely one to have brunch with a friend then wander off to a movie since we hadn't had time to see each other in quite awhile, we decided to take in The Social Network.  First, let me say that the Brunch at Papa Razzi is always wonderful.  This is a "chain" sort of.  I think there are a few restaurants in New England and maybe a couple in New York or maybe one in Paramus, NJ.  If you are so lucky, go have brunch.  Or lunch or dinner, for that matter.  I just adore their risotto but the Tuscan Eggs Benedict calls to me.  Why on earth would I think of making hollandaise sauce or consider poaching an egg when they will do it for me AND serve it with a mimosa?  I am a practical woman.  Give me brunch and I will then go to a movie.  So we did.

We were so smart having brunch, we went to the matinee and paid the frugal price at the theatre!  I just love doing that.  And we learned all about how Facebook was originally "The Facebook" and before that it really should have been "Harvard Connection" because apparently Mark Zuckerberg was hired to set up a program for three seniors as a business.  But these seniors weren't as perspicacious as Zuckerberg (not that he was at first, either), but he was smart enough to keep it all to himself.  The screenplay is written by Aaron Sorkin (whom I just love, he wrote Sports Night, West Wing and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip for television) based on the book by Ben Mezrich.  Jesse Eisenberg (Mark Zuckerberg), Andrew Garfield (Eduardo Saverin- co-founder of Facebook) and Justin Timberlake (Sean Parker) were all very believable in their roles.  It was a film that kept my interest all the way through, I didn't find myself wondering what time it was or thinking of anything else.  Though I must say I wanted to smack those Winklevoss twins in the head once or twice.  Real nitwits.  Or perhaps that's just how the parts were written.  Sorry boys.

Overall, I give the movie a B+.  I would think to see a nomination for best screenplay for Aaron Sorkin.  Perhaps Best Supporting Actor for Andrew Garfield or Justin Timberlake.  Depends what the rest of the competition brings in the next 45 days.  It's time to think about these things.  I think Andrew Garfield would probably get a nomination for his work in Never Let Me Go, which was more powerful than here, perhaps.  But combining his performances in both movies, he is bound to get a nomination.


The Aristocrats: No, not the Disney movie, this is the one kids CAN'T watch

Finally, The Aristocrats made it to the top of my Netflix Queue.  I know, isn't it amazing when a movie finally gets there all on its own?  I am usually re-arranging the Q, putting some up to first place and putting some further down, depending on my mood, how I'm feeling, did I get around to reading that book yet, etc.  Anyway, the movie made it to the top and I really did want to see it.  For those who don't know, The Aristocrats should definitely not be confused with the Disney movie.  In fact, the beginning of this movie deals with just that problem.


This is a comedy/documentary that discusses the origin, the anatomy, the analysis, the style (comparing and contrasting) of delivery, of a joke that is called The Aristocrats.  By the way, that is the punchline.  Paul Provenzano and Penn Jillette (of Penn and Teller) gather together 100 of their friends and fellow comedians to work on this small project.  You will probably recognize many of the participants.  I recognized quite a few.  Some have passed on (the movie came out in 2005) ...... George Carlin and Richard Jeni come to mind.  Most are still with us.  Phyllis Diller takes part though does not give us a version of the joke.  The joke itself is legend among  comedians and no one, it appears, quite knows where it started.  However, it has a certain structure.  It begins with:

A family walks into a talent agent's office.  What happens next is.....
From there is up to the imagination of the story teller.  Or rather joke teller.  It can go on as long as one wants to.  The point is tell the most sick, vile, depraved, disgusting, unspeakably obscene, gross, crude story one can.  Then the talent agent will ask...... "And what do you call yourselves?"  And we all know the answer.....
"The Aristocrats".
The movie was putting me off for the first fifteen minutes or so, but then I became quite intrigued.  There were fascinating side points such as hand gestures (Drew Carey had the best, I thought).  And, I didn't want to miss Bob Saget's telling of the joke which had been much bally-hoo'd as the ultimate.  After a time, I think I developed a numbness and just was curious to see what each person said and was interested more in the creative process.  I was more impressed with those who were less obscene and came up with more interesting stories.  But that's just me.  Though I did like Bob Saget's because he kept adding more, and more in a "but wait, did I tell you...." style.  And he has that "All American" look that let's him get away with it. 
The movie itself is only 1.5 hours long (a selling point for one of my friends) but the extra features are quite the bonus.  There are additional scenes that continue the movie, essentially.  Then there are the featured comedians telling other jokes (my favorite!). 
My overall recommendation:  If you can handle the obscenity and the horrible, unspeakable degradation of human beings and move forward from there, it is a very entertaining movie.  I liked it a lot, but like the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Altar Servers, better be prepared.