Tag Archive | movies

The Fabulousness of Forty-something

I just turned two score and six years a few weeks back and lemme tell you, I’m not as upset as most Hollywood-types would have had me believe. In fact, I’m not bothered by it at all. Maybe it’s because I was already braced for it, but I think that bein’ closer to the Big Five-Oh is actually pretty freeing. Maybe it’s because turning thirty was surprisingly satisfying and making it to forty was so fabulous, that any new decade is something to look forward to.

But since I am the protagonist of my own Romantic Comedy called Life, I mostly think it’s because of the wonderful “In Praise of the Older Woman” trend brought to the forefront by the dynamic duo of Ryan Murphy and Jessica Lange. What? You got that right. Ryan Murphy adores Jessica Lange as much as I do. I know, hard to believe. And, fortunately he’s in a prime position, as the current King of the Screen, to do something about it. And, Hollywood is taking notice. Women like Ms. Lange (67), Kathy Bates (68), Angela Bassett (58), and Susan Sarandon (70) — all of whom are being celebrated and showcased in all of their incredible acumen and beauty by Mr. Murphy (who’s on the cusp of 51) — have cured any doubts about becoming a woman … of a certain age. These women are beautiful, powerful, and full of fabulous!

Hollywood’s Most Glamorous Power Couple

 

 

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Feud is due out in 2017

Further Reading on Feud

 

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Mr. Murphy, Ms. Bates, and Ms. Bassett at Paleyfest 2013

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Ms. Bates, Mr. Murphy, and Ms. Lange

Further Reading on AHS (may contain spoilers)

Don’t Breathe Will Leave You Gasping for Air

 

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Took two of my teens to see the new thriller Don’t Breathe today and lemme just tell y’all, it was not what I expected. Even though I tried to go into the movie with zero expectations (all I knew was what I’d seen in the original trailer; I read no reviews and none of my immediate circle had seen it yet), I knew that Sam Raimi was a producer and I didn’t expect him to sign off on a piece of crap. So, while I knew the initial premise — three young adults decide to rob a blind guy in his own home — I went in expecting an average suspense. And then, I got the wind knocked outta me.

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Close quarters make for some very powerful dread.

Formula First

Roughly five minutes of set-up was all it took to make Rocky (very deftly portrayed by the cherub-faced girl-next-door, Jane Levy) the criminal you’re rootin’ for, due to the stock set-up. We’re not lookin’ at deep character development here, Friends, but that’s okay because Levy was aptly supported by her co-star Dylan Minnette who played her platonic, moon-eyed friend Alex. Daniel Zovatto, who played Money, gave us enough spot-on machismo to quickly decipher the fact that “ah, here’s the asshole boyfriend everyone wants to see get it.”

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Minnette and Levy give their most thrilling performances when they don’t have to rely on dialogue.

Going in, I couldn’t quite imagine a hunk like Stephen Lang being too thoroughly icky as The Blind Man. Menacing? Yes. Scary as hell? Yes. But gross? I was surprised what blinding Lang’s baby blues and slathering him with grime and sweat, and costuming him in a blood-stained wife-beater could do. In such close quarters, the viewers could almost smell his grime and rage. Nods to the costuming and lighting departments for the former, but all of the menace and rage should be squarely placed on the shoulders of Lang’s years of theater performances.

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It gets truly intense when Lang’s Blind Man levels the playing field.

Brace Yourself

After 10 Cloverfield Lane, I was a bit skeptical that writer/director Fede Alvarez was going to be able to keep us glued to our seats, but he did it. This gripping twist on the current Home Invasion trend delivers all the nerve-wracking anxiety, claustrophobia, and suspense a thrill seeker could hope for.

As I said, this isn’t a deep character study. This is an action-packed thriller with lots of long silent (and terrifying) silences. The momentum depends almost exclusively on the character’s action — or inaction, if you will. With so few principle characters and the limited space of a single family dwelling, it’s easy to wonder how the action and angst can be sustained. Don’t worry. This home-owner may be blind, but he knows his own home like the back of his hand. It’s believable when he appears everywhere and nowhere at any given moment. And, when he cuts the lights, those poor kids don’t stand a chance. There’s nothin’ as gratifying as a fair fight. Is there?

Before the crew of hopeful home invaders decide to execute their plan, Alex wonders whether or not robbing a blind man might be a skeevy move. Well, in hindsight I would advise, “Hey, you prolly shouldn’t disturb this guy. He’s disturbed enough.”

 

You’re a Daisy if You Do

 

For as long as I can remember, daisies have always been my favorite flowers. Symbols of love, purity, and innocence, they’re such sweet, homey, and cheerful flowers. Daisies always bring me sweet memories of my childhood. They remind me of the whimsical little effeuiller la marguerite [pluck the daisy] game that I used to play — only my translation was “He loves me, he loves me lots” so I would always have a happy outcome. Daisies also remind me of the song, “Daisy Bell” that my grandmother sang to me when I was a little girl.

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When we were dating, my future spice was impressed and pleased to learn that Shasta daisies were my favorite because, as he said, “They’re cheap.” He’s such a romantic. Actually, he is … he surprised me with an arrangement of daisies on our wedding day to serve as my wedding bouquet.

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July 6, 1993

Of course, as a self-proclaimed cinephile, I’m always pleasantly surprised by daisy references in cinema, especially obscure ones. I only have a few references that I know of which I’ll share here.  If you know of any others, please share them with me in the comments below.

Movies with Daisy(ies) in the title:

Daisy Kenyon (1947)

Pull My Daisy (1959 short film)

Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1960)

Daisies (Sedmikrásky original title, 1966)

Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

Daisy (Deiji, original title 2006)

 

Joan Crawford in Daisy Kenyon

Joan Crawford in Daisy Kenyon

 

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Still from the Czech cult classic Sedmikrasky

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Publicity still from Please Don’t Eat the Daisies

Bonus Daisy Trivia:

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My favorite photo of early-Hollywood icon Buster Keaton.

 

Val Kilmer’s character Doc Holliday uses the line “You’re a daisy if you do” in the 1993 film Tombstone. Kilmer’s incredible performance, coupled with shrewd dialogue consisting mostly of witty one-liners, gave the archaic phrase a solid come-back for modern audiences.

 

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Arthur C. Clarke, then visiting friend and colleague John Pierce at the Bell Labs Murray Hill facility, witnessed John L. Kelly’s vocoder synthesizer recreate the song “Daisy Bell: Bicycle Built for Two,” using an IBM 704 computer in 1962. Inspired by this spectacular event, Clarke later created a similar event in the climactic scene of his novel and screenplay for “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Clarke’s fictitious HAL9000 computer sings a haunting rendition of “Daisy Bell” as he is disassembled by astronaut Dave Bowman.

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Drew Barrymore

Drew Barrymore is my favorite modern flower child. She has been quoted as confirming that she loves all kinds of flowers but that daisies are indeed her favorite.

 

 

 

***Fierce Female Reblog*** Thoughts on… The Craft (1996) — FILM GRIMOIRE

This film is responsible for a generation of girls from the 90s experimenting with witchcraft and forming their own covens in order to levitate each other during sleepover parties. The Craft (1996, dir. Andrew Fleming) is one of those films that is so 1990s that it almost works as a time travelling device back to […]

via Thoughts on… The Craft (1996) — FILM GRIMOIRE

THE VVITCH: A Deadly Descent into Paranoia

The Witch has been number one on my must-see list for some time, so of course I insisted on seeing it on opening day before my viewing could be influenced by critics’ reviews. Basically, I went in to Robert Eggers’ debut feature knowing only that it had garnered quite  bit of attention at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, that it was promoted as a horror film (a genre I gleefully admire), and that it was basically about a 17th-century New England family that had been ostracized from it’s village, banished to fend for themselves in the deep dark unknown.

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My highest praise for the film, aside from the claustrophobic and unnerving cinematography and brilliant period portrayals, is the fact that Eggers turns the modern horror formula on its head. Instead of having a long-drawn-out suspenseful build-up to observing the “monster,” we are very deliberately treated (if that’s the word) to seeing the title character in the first ten minutes or so of the film. What genius! It’s as if Eggers grabs his audience and warns, Make no mistake, this is what waits in the woods! Oh yes, we viewers know exactly what this unfortunate family is up against right from the get-go, and it’s creepy and disconcerting as hell.

What exactly is so disturbing about meeting our antagonist? Actually, what the viewer is not allowed to see. How’s that for a slap to the psyche?  Like Hitchcock, Eggers leaves just enough to the imagination that your own inventiveness immediately becomes your most horrifying assailant. For the first time in my 40-odd years of cinephilia, I actually thought I might have to walk out of a movie. As the film progressed, I was grateful I didn’t.

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Anya Taylor-Joy is outstanding as the sympathetically angst-ridden teen, Thomasin.

 

Overall, I found The Witch to be both cerebral and ironic. Cerebral because this is most definitely a film that begs deep philosophical and theological thought and debate, even long after the screen fades to black. And ironic, because the answers to said thought and debate are clearly antithetical.

As more and more misfortune plagues the deeply religious family, their paranoia understandably grows. As a modern audience, it’s easy to dismiss such archaic and zealous notions. But even as the paranoia reaches brutally relentless levels, we discover that arrogantly dismissing these religious notions may not entirely be the answer to what ails our pitiable family.

Superb dialogue, costuming, and setting aside, it is the masterful portrayals of our desperate family members by Ralph Ineson (father), Kate Dickie (mother), Anya Taylor-Joy (eldest daughter) and young Harvey Scrimshaw (eldest son) that deftly entice us to identify so strongly with this godforsaken family. Their fear is palpable. Their paranoia contagious; thus, their convincing performances serve to underscore Eggers’ talent for immersing us so thoroughly in the disturbing world of his “folktale.”

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The Witch’s paranoia is profoundly contagious. 

More than once I found myself thinking, No wonder it was so easy for early settlers to vilify their neighbors and loved ones. Their brutal and desperate reality, mixed with their deeply ingrained religious paranoia and shame, practically made it mandatory to persecute “others” as witches. Were my loved ones facing the same situations, I may have been the first to volunteer to strike a match.

The Witch is considered a  horror film, which in today’s industry usually equals shameful jump scares and gratuitous gore. I’m tempted to argue that this film would be best described as a visceral thriller. But because the primal fear The Witch elicits is both horrifying and supernatural — the kind of fear that twists its way under your skin and into your belly, perhaps horror it is.

In the final analysis, the real question we’re left to ponder is this: to our family’s way of thinking, the Devil is clearly to blame; but who, exactly, is the devil we’re dealing with?

 

Words o’ Wisdom Wednesday

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Isn’t it the sad truth for book lovers that whenever the powers that be decide to take one of your favorite books and run it through the celluloid engine, they inevitably skrimp on substance? As both a self-proclaimed bibliophile and avid cinephile, this fact is one of the most heart-wrending banes of my existence. There are two happy exceptions. Harper Lee’s magnum opus and Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill A Mockingbird and Stephen King’s short story “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.”

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Horton Foote’s screenplay of the 1962 Universal production of To Kill a Mockingbird, starring Gregory Peck and Mary Badham, was able to deftly carry all of the familial love and political turmoil of racial tension in the South from page to screen. This miraculous leap even garnered the film 3 Academy Awards.

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Frank Darabont both wrote the screenplay for and directed The Shawshank Redemption, which he adapted from Stephen King’s short story “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption,” originally published in King’s 1982 collection entitled Different Seasons. The film, starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, was nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning none. Even though the movie was essentially snubbed at both the box office and by Oscar voters, thanks to movie lovers it has become an American classic.

Feel free to share your exceptions in the comments below.