Don’t see this movie unless you’re willing to spend most of the time sitting at the edge of your seat. I felt as if I had been in Afghanistan and experienced both the joys of the culture and the absolute horror of the Taliban. This is more than I really wanted to know about how it feels to be torn apart by the ravages of war. But the kites! The intensity of the children’s faces as they fly the kites! And the loyalty of two boys for each other. And the betrayal. And the redemption. Ah, it’s all there.
What a rich tapestry. An incredible movie. The movie is based on a best-selling novel by Khaled Hosseini, about an Afghan refugee who barely escapes to America, and then returns on a mission. Kite-flying was a fine art in Kabul, where battles were waged in the high skies, and one kite would cut down another until only one remained. Then kite-flying was banned by the Taliban. Seeing Kabul before and after the Russians—and then the Taliban—took over was very sad. But I hear that kite-flying and kite wars are becoming very popular once again, and you’ll see why when you watch this movie.
The New York Times and Herald Tribune gave awful reviews of this movie. I think they’re snobs. They questioned its authenticity. Well, most men like high-adventure, thrill movies, and they don’t worry too much about authenticity. This movie was based on a novel, not a documentary. It’s scary and it’s thrilling and it has big slices of reality that make it pretty interesting. That’s good enough for me.
The New York Times also said, “The two lead child actors, both nonprofessionals, are predictably appealing, but only because they’re children. . . . Mr. Forster never makes you believe in these children or their woes.” Well, he certainly wasn’t speaking for me! (2007)
It seems odd to build a funny comedy around a woman who is supposed to die in three weeks. But if anyone can pull it off, Queen Latifah does. This is definitely a feel-good movie, with improbable scenes, and a great supporting cast including LL Cool J as her would-be boyfriend, and Gerard Depardieu as a famous French chef.
When Georgia finds out she is going to die, it totally changes her life. She comes out of her box. She talks real to people. She doesn’t mess around. She inspires everyone who comes in contact with her. And she has a totally good time that is completely infectious, so that politicians, bureaucrats, and up-tight women have a chance to get real for a change. It is refreshing.
This is an update of a 1950s comedy with British comedian Alec Guiness, based on a cynical and droll screenplay by Beardsley, rewritten for a woman. The current version (2006) was twenty-six years in the (re-) making.
I loved this movie. It took place in the early fifties in a small town in Texas. I grew up in the late fifties in a small neighborhood of San Diego. God, it was familiar! All the right songs, all the right expressions, all kinds of subtle details that were perfect. Even the movie theater that closed down. The movie was done in black and white, which was totally appropriate, and the camera work was stark and perfect.
The script was based on a book by the same name, written by Larry McMurtry, and the producer, Peter Bogdanovich, brought him on board to help write the script. It was based on the true story of the author (played by Timothy Bottoms), and was actually shot in the same town he grew up in—much to the chagrin of the locals, since it brought out everybody’s biggest secrets.
The story unfolds during the senior year of the kids in the high school. The acting was stunning. It was amazing to see all these young actors in 1971, some of them acting in their first movie: Cybill Shepherd, Jeff Bridges, Ellen Burstyn, Cloris Leachman, Ben Jonson. Every single performance was stellar—including the locals.
Newsweek Magazine said “The Last Picture Show is the most important film by a young American director since Citizen Kane.” It received 8 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture.
The Special Feature: “The Last Picture Show: A Look Back” Documentary (produced in 1999) on the DVD is well worth watching, though Timothy Bottoms, the main character, was barely mentioned. It’s interesting to see the characters and the producer, 28 years later. Bogdanovich discovered Sybil Shepherd who was a model for Glamour Magazine, and they fell in love during the filming. (Could it be that in real life Bogdanovich was jealous of Bottoms, who got to “feel up” Sybil and clearly got into it during the movie? This was, after all, the early seventies.) (1971)
Myths make a people. Myths grow out of the extraordinary faith, or bravery, of single individuals who then serve as archetypes, to be honored by their community.
One of our own biblical myths centers around Abraham, who is told by God to sacrifice the only son that his beloved Sarah bore to him, miraculously, in her old age. Abraham's faith, and his willingness to pursue this totally senseless task, is heralded by our culture as exemplary.
Yet who in this modern ago could imagine making such a sacrifice?
In The Rain Warriors, we see a myth in the making. We see the sacrifices that a group of young warriors are willing to make, believing that their actions will bring rain, and that the rain will save everyone in their village from certain death.
We see the making of a myth among a people who feel, to our eyes, like humanity's ancient history. Yet the young actors in this movie are not ancient; they are contemporary Masai. Those huge loops in their earlobes are not manufactured in Hollywood. We are witnessing some kind of reality.
That is what Director Pascal Plisson, raised in France and in Kenya, and committed to naturalism, wants us to feel. (He achieved this in a previous film, Himalaya.) Plisson does not spare us the slow pace of life on the African savannah of Kenya. We are there with the young warriors. We are suffering with them, frustrated with them, and celebrating with them. They speak their own language, and we read the subtitles.
Sometimes it is boring, sometimes inspiring, but it is definitely worth watching (if you like that kind of thing). And it is certainly mythic.
Like Water for Chocolate
Beloved by so many, this is the film of a love that would not die, that would not be crushed, despite so many hardships. Through it all is woven the love of food, as it was handed down from grandmother to niece to her daughter, the profound understanding of how to use perfect spices and perfect foods to enhance any occasion and any emotion. Passions run strong for these Spaniards, as they dance and fight the revolution, and try to control one another, and fail and succeed in the complications of their loves. The sensuality of food and texture run through this movie, together with ghosts and curses and celebrations. It is a joy to enjoy.
Based on the novel by Laura Esquivel, who also wrote the screenplay. Directed by Alfonsa Arau. (1992)
Love in the Time of Cholera
What does love have to do with cholera? Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote a novel with this title, and both the novel and the movie capture a period in time, in Europe, that is romantic, charming, and old-fashioned. A time when some few people still believe in one enduring true love, especially Florentino (played remarkably by Javier Bardem), and the undying object of that love was Fermina (Biovanna Mezzogiorno). As childhood sweethearts, she fully returned his adorations, but when her possessive and wealthy father found out, he took her to the country to escape the young man. And the father eventually saw his daughter wed her to the local handsome doctor.
But Florentino did not forget, despite the 600-some women he occupied his time with while waiting for Feremina’s husband to die. 50 years of waiting. 2 hrs. and 19 minutes of waiting. The photography is lush and the theme is charming, and needless to say, though they are both in the their seventies, Florentino does eventually get his woman. (2007)
This is a fascinating story that is partially based on the life and work of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. But the story behind that is Hubbard’s (or Lancaster Dodd’s played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) mysterious attraction to a drunkard named Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), whom he tries to “save” through the techniques that he has developed, though he often ends up drinking moonshine (laced with turpentine) with him. In the end, Dodd finds out that he had a powerful past life connection with Quell.
I enjoyed the scene toward the end, where Quell is having deep conversation with a woman (who is not skinny) while they are making love. The camera angle is taken from the perspective of her prominent nipple and when they laugh he accidentally slips out and tells her to put him back in again, and then the camera pans to a huge sand woman that he built on the beach who had the same kind of nipples.
This movie received three academy aware nominations in 2012: Best Actor (Joaquin Phoenix), Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress (Amy Adams). I wasn’t that impressed with Adams, but Joaquin Phoenix was phenomenal, and Hoffman was excellent. I would have nominated it for best movie of the year, because it has such an interesting story (interweaving Hubbard’s life with aspects of Jason Robard’s drinking days in the navy, and the life story of John Steinbeck), I loved the occasional digressions into deep psychological work and past life work.
The Mistress of Spices
The Mistress of Spices (Aishwarya Rai) presides elegantly over the large and sumptuous Spice Bazaar in San Francisco, a shop filled with barrels of red chili peppers, oceans of white sesame seeds, huge glass vials of golden oils, and grand containers of mysterious herbs and spices. This sensuous young woman, always dressed in colorful flowing saris, glides through the shop where she alone works and lives, compassionately and lovingly advising her many customers about how to use these luscious condiments in order to improve their love life, make friends, and influence people. There is no problem, large or small, that she cannot help or heal.
Through flashbacks we see that while Tilo lived in India, she was taken in by an elderly woman, who trained a group of adolescent girls in the sacred use of spices. When the training was complete, they were sent all over the world, with the admonition that they must follow the laws, or else the spices would abandon them: you must not touch skin, you must always remain with the spices, you must never use them for your own ends.
We see her moving through the store, speaking to her beloved spices, stroking them with her long fingers, thanking them for their precious gifts. As each customer comes for help, she walks among the jars and barrels, beseeching them to speak to her, to show her how best to help each one. And speak they do! She is always guided to the perfect solution for the problem. “Sandalwood to dispel painful memories; black cumin seed to protect against evil eye, plenty of garlic to feed your passions through the night."
She is also clairvoyant, so with each customer she sees flashes of their past or their future, which help her to guide them appropriately. She combines the skills of an herbalist, healer, fortune teller, confidante, and chef.
All goes well until she looks out her window one day and sees a handsome man (Dylan McDermott). Their eyes meet, but he goes off on his motorcyle. Then one day he crashes outside her store. Tilo tends to his injuries, while trying to ignore their mutual attraction. Her life changes when he touches her and they begin to fall in love. This man, Doug, is an American and an architect.
But the spices are jealous, and things soon start to go sour in her relationships with her other customers. The spices seem to abandon her. They no longer whisper in her ear. And the plants in the back of the store begin to wilt and die.
The rest of the movie deals with her conflict in her loyalties and how she handles this powerful attraction while trying to remain true to her first love, the spices. It is a rich movie for anyone who loves herbs and spices and love stories.
It is made in India and in England, by Paul Mayeda Berges, and based upon the novel The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. (2005)
This is a true story. If it wasn’t true, it would be very hard to believe. How in the world could this good Christian mother of three lovely children, who spends her time in the prison, trying to save those poor boys, get hoodwinked into helping those Biddle Brothers make their escape? The Biddle Brothers who got away with 99 robberies, without any murders, until there was finally one murder, and both young men were soon to be hung, in Pittsburgh, in 1901.
But handsome Ed Biddle (played so perfectly by the young and irresistible Mel Gibson) gets under her skin. He is a sinner who needs to be saved. Mrs. Soffel (played by the young and absolutely adorable Diane Keaton) is a woman whose husband is the warden of the jail, and she no longer cares to share his bed. But Ed Biddle writes exquisite poetry. His eyes are deep. He needs her. And when he reaches out to her, through the bars of his cell, she struggles against him, but in the end, it is she who kisses him.
The rest you must see for yourself. The simplicity of the plot, and the starkness of the scenery puts the focus so profoundly upon the actors that it could not have been carried off if it weren’t for their absolutely brilliant portrayals of these very unique human beings. This has become one of my favorite love stories. (1984)
I must admit I haven’t been a great fan of Shakespeare, but after seeing Shakespeare in Love, I thought I’d give it a try. I thoroughly enjoyed Much Ado About Nothing, and Shakespeare is certainly a clever fellow. The story is a delightful commentary on love and the various ways it can be denied, confused, betrayed, and celebrated.
Denzel Washington made a great prince. The cast was excellent, and the setting in Florence, Italy, was sumptuous. My only complaint is that the dancing felt a bit corny to me, with too much forced giddiness. (1993)
If you’ve ever had the thought that you could get more done if you could clone yourself, this movie will get you over that idea quickly. It’s very funny, and not very believable, and yet it makes perfect sense. Little problems crop up, like who’s gonna sleep with your wife? This causes a lot of bedlam, especially when one of your clones turns out to be seriously retarded and completely zany.
Michael Keaton plays the (five) overworked contractor(s), and Andie MacDowell is his (one) wife. (1996)
Based on the true story of Christy Brown, this is an amazing movie. A child with cerebral palsy who can barely talk and is believed to be stupid begins to write words by holding a piece of chalk with his left foot. Eventually he becomes an artist, and a caring woman doctor teaches him how to talk. This is his own story, and it is touching, funny, heroic, outrageous, inspiring, and brilliant. Not least of which is the utterly believable acting by method actor Daniel Day-Lewis, who reportedly stayed in a wheelchair and did not come out of character the whole time the movie was being filmed. He was given the Oscar for best actor. He is a dual citizen of Ireland and England. Brenda Fricker, who played his mother, was given the Oscar for best actress. The boy who played the young Christy, whose name I do not know, was also remarkable. (1989)
On the face of it, it looks like a sit-com about the life and times of a teenage girl in High School in the 90s. It’s a television series. But it’s profound and it’s honest. The acting is sometimes amazing. The photography is well done. Winnie Holzman, the writer of this TV miniseries, has a remarkable memory for what it’s like to be a teenage girl. The excitement, the disappointments, the tragedy, and the insights. The subplot that involves her parents is equally as poignant. These are Real people, and I find it easy to care about them.
This time of life, the passage from being a teenage girl to becoming an adult, is so fraught with drama—for the girl, and for her parents. This is the first time I’ve ever seen it told with such honesty from the girl’s perspective.
It’s daring. It speaks honestly about sex and drugs and an unemployed father. There’s no hypocrisy, no Leave It To Beaver! Which is probably why it had a short run on ABC from August 94 to May 95. There were only 19 episodes, but all 5 discs are on NetFlix, and they are all delightful.
The lead role of Angela is played by Claire Danes, who won a Golden Globe for her part. The boyfriend is played by Jared Leto. This short series launched both of their careers.
Sometimes we hear Angela speculating to herself, as she ponders about life. For example, “People always tell you you should be yourself. Like yourself is a thing. Like a toaster or something. . . .” (1994)
I had to watch this movie because a good friend recommended it, and it won the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. I hated it. It was a horror film. But it was very well done. Frankly I would have nominated Javier Bardom for best actor, because he was so damn scary; I’ve never seen anything quite like it. But don’t go see it unless you like blood.
Well, okay, the end was a little better, and the extra materials were kind of interesting. And there are some slants on it that I haven’t heard anybody mention. Like, what’s the metaphor here? Isn’t this killer dude an awful lot like George W. Bush? Aren’t we having a daily confrontation with a man who actually believes that he has a moral code, and even convinces a lot of other people that he does, but in reality heis absolutely insane?
In fact, isn’t Bush even a lot worse than this dude? Isn’t the utterly senseless destruction of our young men—and other countries’ young men—and the whole damn environment, and innocent civilians, for virtually no reason whatsoever, exactly what we’re living with? And aren’t our young people utterly aghast at this insane world that they’ve been born into? And doesn’t a movie like this at least give some kind of echo to what these kids are experiencing? Does that explain why it’s so popular? (2007)
This is my all-time favorite TV series, and many people share that feeling. It is so real that I feel as if I’m stepping into my hometown in Alaska. The two guys who wrote the script were locals, so there’s nothing phony about it. The folks in the town feel like family to me. The Native Alaskan people are neither romanticized nor trivialized; they are like themselves.
This was one of those series where you just don’t want to it to come to an end. I love the variety of themes, and the different ways they were handled. There were dream sequences that were profound. There were flashbacks into the past, played by all of the same actors as in the present. Every single actor in this series did an amazing job.
The one who stands out most for me is Chris, the guy who runs the daily radio show, “Chris in the Morning.” He sets the tone for everyone’s morning as he gossips freely and comments philosophically on anything that comes into his crazy mind. Above all he has the ability to morph from a hippy-type sexy guy with long hair, into a swell-looking dude in a suit with short-clipped hair, into a former prison convict with alcoholic parents who’s ready to rough-and-tumble with the locals, into a would-be scientist commentating learnedly on the quantum nature of reality.
The worst perpetrators of child abuse—priests of the Catholic Church—and the whole cover-up that went all the way to the Archbishop of Boston (Christopher Plummer), with the threat of suing the Cardinal—are portrayed in this movie. A gutsy Boston lawyer was willing to take on this Goliath, even when there was no clear financial gain for him. He defended two brothers who dared to speak openly about the shameful things that were done to them. 86 lawsuits were brought against one priest.
The story is based on the book by Newsweek reporter David France, Our Fathers: The Secret Life of the Catholic Church in an Age of Scandal. Documents released in 2002 showed a pattern in which priests would be reprimanded by their supervisors and then moved to a different church, without any supervision. The lasting psychological impact on prepubescent and young teenage boys who were told that their priests were Christ on earth caused for these boys, as grown men, to turn to alcoholism, drug abuse, depression and suicide.
The story is portrayed with sensitivity, as the lives of these men unfold. The acting is remarkable, including Ellen Burstyn's portrayal of the mother whose nine sons were all molested by the same priest. And yes, she did complain, and it was her letter that went all the way to the Cardinal (who assured her it would be taken care of). The review with author David France on the DVD is also excellent. (2004)
When you combine Somerset Maugham’s brilliant writing with the direction of John Curran and the exquisite filming of incredible landscapes of mainland China, you have an epic film with complex characters and odd turns of fate, combined with a feast for the eyes. This is a memorable film that is sad, romantic, and inspiring at turns. When Kitty Fane’s (Naomi Watts) husband (Edward Norton) drags her from a sheltered life in Britain to a land that is rife with cholera, all kinds of unexpected adventures unfold. Sad to say, this is a timely movie, given the current outbreak of cholera in Zimbabwe.
Extremely intense and scary movie. Hardly a movie for childen! But perhaps Spanish-speaking children are more accustomed to blood and gore. In any case, it was awfully good and held my attention. A masterpiece that was written, produced and directed by Guillermo Del Toro, the movie is in (Castillian) Spanish, with English subtitles. Young Ofelia is played beautifully by Ivana Baquero. It rightfully won academy awards for Best Cinematography, Art Direction, and Makeup.
It’s a brilliant juxtaposition of events during the Spanish Civil War of 1944, with a fairy tale in which the King’s daughter, who was once lost and died, is predicted to return to the castle. Is Ofelia a reincarnation of the king’s daughter, and will she be able to rejoin her immortal father? Pan appears to Ofelia, and the stick mantis turns into a fairy, who guides Ofelia through the labyrinth after she tries to pass three tests of bravery and morality. One German commentary on Shakespeare’s Ophelia states that “she embodies female suffering caused not by love, but by larger sociopolitical forces.” It all sounds improbable, but amazingly, it works as a whole and is very well done. (2006)
I have seen plenty of movies about the Nazis, and about the Warsaw Ghetto (1939-45), but this one is truly extraordinary. It is especially poignant for me because my grandparents, who were Jewish, died in a concentration camp in Poland at this time.
It never occurred to me before to think about details of their lives such as food, and music, nor to think about the fact that all this was going on just as I was being born into the world, and to wonder how it was for my mother to know that her parents had died in such a brutal way, and how that affected her during her pregnancy and my birth (for which my father was not present, because he was in boot-camp). We never spoke of this in my home. It was simply a terrible fact that my grandparents and two of my aunts and an uncle by marriage and a niece and nephew died in a concentration camp.
There is something so very human about this movie; seeing these events so intimately through the eyes of one very sensitive musician. The movie is based on the memoirs of the famous Polish concert pianist, Wladyslaw Szpilman. It was written just after the war, while the details were still fresh in his mind. It is truly a triumph of the human spirit that he miraculously survived, through his music, with the help of compassionate Polish people, and ironically, through the assistance of a high German officer who loved music.
It is a terribly tense movie, with hardly any let-up. I strongly recommend taking a break in the middle (it’s two and a half hours long). But do see it, if you can handle the tension. The acting (Adrien Brody) and directing (Roman Polanski) and the piano-playing (by famous Polish pianist, Janusz Olejnikzak) are incredible. I’ve never heard Chopin played with such an exquisite combination of delicacy and strength, and the hands of this pianist are a sheer delight to witness. Polanski won the Academy Award for directing this movie and Brody won Best Actor, and Donald Harwood won Best Adapted Screenplay. At the Cannes Film Festival, the movie took the Best Film prize for 2002. This is Polanski’s greatest triumph because he, too, survived the war in a ghetto in Poland, and he, too, lived a life devoted to his art.
A gorgeous blonde falls in love with a cute guy who is 14 years younger than she is. She reluctantly confides in her Jewish shrink, an open-minded but slightly up-tight lady, played by Meryl Streep. Then there’s a hilarious twist that makes for good laughs, nice romance, and a few good insights. I definitely enjoyed this movie, and Streep was good as always as an up-tight shrink, but simply not convincing as a conservative Jew.
With Anthony Hopkins as the brilliant professor who is sometimes ghost and sometimes appears in the flashbacks of his adoring daughter who cared for him when he went crazy, and she seems to have gone a bit weird herself. The young man who was his student continues to search through his teacher’s meaningless journals in the attic while interacting with the daughter, which turns into a nice romance, and then the controlling and annoying sister comes to wrap things up and sell the house and something unexpected happens. It makes a nice view, with a little romance, and some pretty good acting.
What a beautiful and unusual film! At first Andy Goldsworthy (the artist who is featured in this film) seems like a peculiar eccentric who dabbles in creating “ephemeral sculptures” that are rapidly destroyed by the forces of nature. Why on earth does he deliberately create them in places like tidepools? And why does he bothers chewing on that little piece of ice, exposing his hands to the freezing cold, in order to create an arc of ice that he seems to take so seriously!
But THEN, when the first morning light hits that ebbing and flowing arc of ice, even he is amazed!!
Though it lasts but minutes before the very force that illuminates it becomes the force that destroys it, it is precisely that poignant moment of ecstatic creativity poised precariousy (as we all are) between birth and death that is the whole point of Goldsworthy’s creations.
By the time we reach the end of this 90-minute film (which is the perfect medium for recording this unusual art form) our artist cum philosopher is making a lot of sense, and his artwork has sculpted itself upon the landscape of our minds with a sweet mixture of joy and sorrow.
This is my absolutely favorite flick. It’s in Spanish with English subtitles, and I never even heard of it until I saw it. Produced and directed by ____, it is a rare masterpiece. While each scene appears simple, it is a rich portrait. The face, the hands and the expressions of each actor are utterly authentic. Elisabeth Margoni could not be more perfect in her role as the town saint, Dolores, whose husband leaves her because she is too good. Even the town priest is disgusted because Dolores keeps coming to confession, but she never sins.
The visual artistry combines with perfectly chosen music and sound effects. The timing of every event is impeccable. It is visually artistic and hysterically funny—in a quixotic sort of way.
The storyline is completely original and unexpected. In desperation, this good woman is looking for a worthy sin, so that she can save her marriage. While sitting in her best friend’s bar, she overhears two men lamenting that their poor friend has been betrayed and that the worst sin against a man is when his wife commits adultery.
Their friend staggers into the bar, and when Dolores turns a sympathetic ear, he bemoans that while he has never slept with anyone else, his wife has taken up with another man and now his life is in ruins. Can he ever forgive her?
Dear Dolores sees with perfect clarity that he, too, must sleep with another woman so that he can understand his wife, and thereby forgive her. She takes the man under her wing and into her modest bedroom (somewhat reminiscent of a manger), in order to save his marriage.
When he emerges, he is a new man! Reborn! News travels quickly about the loving gifts of the generously buxomed Dolores (who changes her name to Lolita). In essence, as she loves each man, she helps him to see the best in himself, so he can return to his woman renewed. All the women love her for it. Her good works transform the town that had been dead into a place of life and color, joy and love.
Then her husband returns. The story goes through more permutations and gets even more ludicrous as the husband and the town try to figure out whether Lolita is a whore or a saint. In fact, the whole movie is a spoof on the church, and on morality as the characters are forced to ask themselves: what is really important—a person’s actions, or their intentions?
The women of the town come to Lolita’s rescue in a totally unexpected twist. This film will appeal to both women and men—especially if you have an appreciation for the peculiar and the whimsically ridiculous.
I rarely see a movie more than once, but I gladly watched this one the following day, and I was just as spellbound. The second time I was able to appreciate so many subtleties that went unnoticed at first, including the amazing soundtrack, and the Priest’s excellent performance. (2002)
This is an extraordinary movie (won the Academy Award for Best Picture) that combines the writing and enactment of Romeo and Juliet with the supposed story behind the drama, of a young Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) falling madly in love with a perfect damsel (Gwyneth Paltrow won the Academy Award for Best Actress), who returns his ardor with great passion, though she is a noblewoman, engaged to be married to a nasty Lord Wessex, and Shakespeare is actually still married to a wife in another town. Add to that, the damsel has a great desire to be an actress, and so dresses up like a man and captures the role of Romeo, even though it is strictly against the law and considered indecent for women to appear on stage. Replete with fencing scenes and passionate lovemaking, and Shakespearean Theatre scenes and marketplace and cobblestones, it is a very rich and moving movie, extremely well done, with John Madden winning the Academy Award as the Best Director. Highly recommended. (1998)
Having spent a month with the Hopi Indians in the late sixties, I have known the bittersweet feeling of being privileged to be accepted among these people, while at the same time feeling huge sadness tinged with anger that these cultures are being wiped out by well-meaning missionaries. In this beautiful documentary by Willem Malten, a group of Shipibo Konibo people return to their native culture after living in the city, on a 20-hour boat trip into the heart of the Peruvian rain forest. They had the insight to realize that their culture was dying out, and it would be valuable to record it before it was gone. The Aneshiati ritual had not been performed for 40 years “because of lack of money and pressure from the missionaries.” Only the oldest members of the tribe remembered it, and they would instruct the younger ones on how to perform it one last time.
The ritual is accompanied by the consumption of ayahuasca, a hallucinatory plant of the jungle, as well as manioc, mixed with saliva for fermentation. This ritual takes weeks of preparation. It begins with the building of a lodge, and the building and painting of huge pots, and the carving and painting of a huge drum, and the weaving of special robes and skirts for every member of the community. The designs that are interwoven throughout are exquisitely beautiful, reminiscent of fractals and of Australian Aboriginal art.
Apparently the longer the film-makers stayed, the more they earned the trust and good humor of the Shipibo people.
The movie is full of the Icaros, the songs of the shamans, with a few translations. One of them has a surprising message:
The Great Canoe of the Wind is coming
From the Ends of the Cosmos
It comes like This:
All kinds of Mystical Healers
From Strange Space Cities
…they will come in it …
These Doctors and Sublime Beings
Bring Strong Medicine
And Wisdom to this Earth
Another is less surprising, when one knows that those who use ayahuasca are known to have a deep personal communion with the plants, and a visceral sense of the connectedness with all life:
And the visions rose
Out of the darkening voice
Out of the night voice, the secret voice,
the rain voice, the root voice.
Through his chant he saw his blood in the
veins of trees.
It appeared in the green of his eyes.
He felt the snake that was his skin
and the monkeys of his hands,
He saw his faces in all the leaves
and could recognize
those that were poison
and those that could save.
This is a profound documentary. I am grateful to those who had the foresight to create it.
A strange movie. Not much plot. A sex therapist (“I prefer to be called a relationship counselor”) is counseling a gay couple, loses her cool, and punches one of them. While she apologizes for her unacceptable behavior, then breaks down and admits (as if it’s an excuse for her behavior), “I’ve never had an orgasm!”
They take her under their wing and send her to the Shortbus, where every possible sexual variation is available, so she can work on her problem. It sounds kind of shallow, but it’s surprisingly well done and believable. The movie was co-created by the producer with the actors, with the intent to show explicit sex outside of the porn movie context, and to show sex as being funny.
There was something refreshing about it. I enjoyed it. (2006)
If you like in-depth character sketches and momentous acting, Snowflake is a stunning movie. Signourny Weaver should get an academy award for her extraordinary role as an autistic woman who has lost her daughter, and Alan Rickman is brilliant as an extremely withdrawn man who slowly opens up to three different women. In the end, it is the autistic woman who receives his most heartfelt thanks because she is the one person with whom he can truly be himself.
Is it possible for three people to be in love? Yes, it is. But in order to get film space in America it has to be portrayed as a silly, zany, sexy movie. But it works! If you like to laugh, this is a sweet, funny movie; just sad enough to feel real, but just bizarre enough to feel like a spoof. Johnathon Schaech and Matt Keeslar cozy up to Kathleen Robertson. (1999)
Ellen Burstyn is one of my favorite actresses, and she was awesome in the role of Hannah, the crotchety owner of a dying restaurant in the deep woods of Maine. Alison Elliot was totally convincing and engaging in her role as Percy, a gal who just got released from prison, and took it in her head that Gillead, Maine would be a beautiful place to live. But she didn’t account for the fears and suspicions that small-town folks have toward newcomers.
As the movie unravels, we discover why Percy was in prison, and why Hannah is so bitter, and why she surrepticiously leaves out food in a burlap bag by the woodpile every night. Percy comes up with a brilliant idea for selling the Spitfire Grill, and the movie unfolds in a fairly predictable fashion. I enjoyed it thoroughly, though the ending felt rather anticlimactic. (1996)
In 2002 Steven Spielberg colluded with the nearly new SciFi Channel to produce twenty hours of a TV miniseries called Taken. The whole miniseries is now available on six DVDs. In this context Spielberg was able to tell the stories of many generations of three American families who reputedly had experiences of being abducted by aliens, including the 1947 Roswell crash, in which a space craft was reputedly found, and bodies, including one live alien. This and the story of the military cover-up is told in graphic detail.
This is not the feel-good kind of story that we got from Spielberg’s famous and loveable ET. These are abductions by the “Grays,” and they aren’t pretty. The implication is that there are beings from outer space who take people up into their ships and then probe their bodies in various unpleasant ways. As disturbing as this seems, I find it highly believable, because I have had at least a dozen clients who have described similar experiences, and none of them had ever heard of such a thing happening. Their stories were so similar to each other, and so similar to the stories told in Taken that I find it difficult not to believe them.
I do want to emphasize that I know far more people who have had positive encounters with aliens, and even in Taken, one of the ETs seems quite loveable. My friends who claim to be in contact with the ETs tell me that the Grays are just one group, and they aren’t doing that kind of thing anymore. What a relief!
Meanwhile, I think it behooves us to hear the stories of people who have had encounters with ETs. The people who have had these experiences and who dared to talk about them have been subjected to ridicule and have had their careers and/or their family life ruined. Two of my clients had their children taken away because their husbands thought they were insane. This ridicule has prevented the American public from hearing the true stories. Spielberg and the SciFi Channel have had the courage to tell these stories. If you’d like to learn more about this, check out www.disclosureproject.com and watch the 2001 National Press Club Press Conference Video.
One of the participants in the Disclosure Project was Daniel M. Salter, a 73-year-old retired former counter-intelligence agent and a member of the original Blue Book Project. His expertise was radar and electronics, and his field of investigation was UFOs, aliens, and particalization. He describes the Disclosure Project for Nancy Redstar in her book, Truth or Consequences: “This was a historic event for witness testimony for 20-25 military, intelligence, government and corporate individuals who were involved with UFO projects over the last 50 years. Select witnesses met with congress and staff on Capital Hill, as well as institute leaders, White House, and pentagon staff and officials….
“As we testify before congress, representing a military group, we are freed of the secrecy oaths. There is no need to be secret anymore. Who is our enemy? Not Russia—not even China. We want to drop the veil of secrecy, because the public has the right to know. We are losing out on many advanced technologies with respect to energy and the continued pollution of this earth. By keeping the secrecy and using the old internal combustion engines, we continue to destroy our planet. We don’t have to do this. We could convert to electromagnetic propulsion systems, which pollutes nothing and uses no fuel. Electromagnetism is a free source of energy, not only throughout our planet, but throughout the universe.
“We are now at a technology crisis, and a global emergency with respect to our natural resources, which we are burning up. Electromagnetic propulsion uses nothing, pollutes nothing. Once we put this energy system into motion, it will remain forever. We must drop the veil of secrecy about UFOs and their advanced technologies, thus creating a renewed global perspective, a renewed mindset for the entire planet. We have not got time to waste. We can’t wait anymore. We have to do it now.”
The people who testified at the National Press Club anticipated that their impressive credentials combined with their convincing testimonies would lead to Congressional Hearings. Unfortunately, this has not happened.
(2002 – The first two DVDs of Taken had two parts each and were more than a total of 2-1/2 hours long.: By the time I got through the second DVD I decided that I’d had enough. It was very interesting and well done, and it might even be true, but it was just too creepy for me.)
For the last couple of years I have been yearning for a movie that goes beyond the cliché themes of most modern movies. My own life experience as a Vibrational Healer has given me constant exposure to true life stories that involve past lives and disembodied spirits as well as amazing synchronicities and telepathic connections.
This 3-hour movie satisfied all those needs. It portrays the true and amazing life of James Van Praagh, who has had the gift of being able to see and speak to the spirits of the dead from an early age. It shows, with great honesty, the despair he experienced both as a child and as an adult, trying to come to terms with this gift that was considered a curse by his family and church
Interwoven with this theme is a compelling and often quite frightening (yet absolutely real) mystery story that involves the deaths of seven young boys, which Van Pragh (Ted Danson) eventually solved by working closely with a determined woman detective (Mary Steenburgen). This movie is based on Van Pragh’s book, Talking to Heavebn: A Medium’s Message of Life After Death, which became a New York Times bestseller. Queen Latifah and Jack Palance also play winning roles. (2001)
What a deliciously ridiculously funny movie! It’s a Japanese spoof. It’s about noodles, but that’s not all! What’s it about? How does it hang together? What is the point in all this?
If you don’t know how to make a good soup by the time you finish, well who cares? Tampopo, by the way, is the name of the widow who is trying to support herself and her young son (despite the gangsters who hang out at her noodle house, scaring away the customers, because their leader wants her to be his moll). But that’s just a little piece of the pie.
Food sex, the old woman who squeezes and ruins the fruits and cheeses, all kinds of themes weave in and out and somehow miraculously hold together in what could be a string cheese of different stories but isn’t.
It is, by the way, in Japanese. It’s best that way. You should know that noodle soup (ramen) is a tradition in Japan, with every location featuring its own variation of this simple soup, with noodles in a meat-based broth, topped with pork, green onions, and seaweed.
The main theme begins when a truck driver tells his cohort about an old man who taught him how to eat noodle soup. The camera pans to the scene with our hero as a youth eagerly slurping his ramen, while the older and wiser man sits contemplating his. “What are you doing?” asks the younger fellow. The older man describes the aroma of the broth, the light glistening on the pork, the fat globules floating in the broth.
Then he clicks open his disposable chopsticks and brushes the top of the soup, touching everything. “What are you doing?” asks the young man.
“I am expressing my affection,” explains the old man.
Do you know how much the Japanese love food? Well, if you didn’t know before, you will know after you see this movie! Having spent a month in Japan, in a Zen monastery, I have a certain appreciation for the topic. While I was there I watched as 1000 people stood and then sat in line, at the monastery, for no less than three hours, waiting to experience the Japanese Tea Ceremony. In Japan, the tea ceremony is a religious experience. The Master of Tea is considered on a par with other spiritual teachers.
In the movie, when the truck driver tells Tampopo that her noodles aren’t good, this is a major insult. When the widow chases after the huge truck to beg the truck driver to come back and be her noodle teacher, this is funny, and yet it is also plausible!
Written and directed by Juzo Itami, it has been called a Japanese noodle Western. In the sub-themes, I kept thinking I was watching various parodies on Western cowboy movies (which are very popular in Japan). Wikipedia says, “The main storyline has been compared by some to that of the Western movie Shane, and also to the movie Seven Samurai and the Western based on it, The Magnificent Seven.”
In the end, it’s all about slurping. There’s a funny scene in which a man goes to a fancy restaurant. Up in the balcony you can see a group of young women with their teacher, who appears to be teaching them about Italian food. Now she is instructing them about how to use a spoon and fork to properly twist the noodles before silently placing them in the mouth.
Meanwhile, the Japanese man downstairs is loudly slurping his soup, which is considered perfectly polite in Japanese society. The girls are trying to imitate their teacher, but finally they all give up and succumb to a raucous slurping fest.
The final scene is simply a woman nursing. The camera slowly moves closer and closer to the infant and the breast. Lovely, but what does this have to do with food, you ask yourself. . . . (1985)
This is an incredible movie. At first I could hardly believe my eyes. People walk around stark naked (except for little decorative strings that don’t really hide anything). It was like looking at a moving National Geographic Magazine from when I was a kid. But these were aborigines who were speaking their own language, and making their own bawdy jokes. It was like stepping back in time, to the 1930s, before contact with the white men. These people didn’t look or act like actors; they looked and moved their bodies and behaved absolutely authentically.
I was in Arnhem Land just a few years ago, teaching children in the school in a settlement near Alice Springs. The kids wanted to learn about the American Indians. I lived with the Hopi for awhile, so my friend got me a position teaching for a week. My friend was a school bus driver and I rode with him where most white people were not allowed to go.
I know how “primitive” these people still are. They sleep outside and the small children run naked, and it’s hard to get the kids to wear shoes to school, and the tooth-brushing happens in the classrooms because it won’t happen at home They don’t live by clocks. They live in government homes, on government subsidies, but if they get cold, they’re liable to throw a door or a table in the fire. My friend would drive up and down the roads honking his horn to wake up the kids, and then come back later to pick them up. He went there every year for a few months, to capture wild camels and take them back to Sydney.
But the people don’t go around naked! How did this filmmaker persuade these people to do this? The story gradually unraveled, through the Interviews on the DVD, and on the Internet.
Director and filmmaker Rolf de Heer was invited by David, one of the aborigines, to come and make the film. They decided to recapture the old ways by accessing the library of 30,000 photos taken in the 1930’s by Donald Thomason, an anthropologist. The man and his photos are revered by the aborigines, because they are a link to the old ways. “He walked next to my naked grandfather.”
One of the photos shows a group of aborigines in ten hand-made canoes, and that photo was the first inspiration for the film.
The movie has a narrator, David Gulpilil, who tells the story, in English, of a young man, Dayindi, who lusts after his older brother’s youngest wife, wondering why his brother gets to have three wives and he has none. While the men are on a hunting trip, the elder brother takes the opportunity to tell Davindi an ancient story about another young man who lusted after his brother’s young wife, and the terrible things that happened to the whole tribe as a result of that.
As the present-day story is enacted in color, and the ancient story is enacted in black-and-white, all of the actors in both stories speak their own aboriginal language, with subtitles. In the ancient story, trouble begins when a stranger approaches the camp. The stranger is wearing a loincloth over his genitals. The realism and the aboriginal humor come out in moments like this when the men speak amongst themselves, “Why does he cover his prick?” “Maybe he’s got a small prick.” “Never trust a man with a small prick.”
It is the first full-length film made entirely in an indigenous Australian language. Ten Canoes was Australia's official entry into the Best Foreign Language Film category for the 2007 Academy Awards. It was nominated for seven Australian Film Institute awards, and it won six, as well as three awards from the Film Critics Circle of Australia.
Rold de Heer wisely employed Peter Ojigger as a co-director. In the Interview with Peter, he speaks English with difficulty, but his reason for wanting to make this film is very clear: ”All the white men come more and more and we can’t stay in our laws …. White man is just trying to destroy us …. But if we’re gonna do this film, then they can recognize us. ‘Ah, these people still have culture and all those systems.’ If we can’t do this movie, all these white people can just come and come … they’re just putting us down, because we’ll be at the bottom and at the top will be white man.
“But you people came here to help lift our futures. So when we’re gonna die, maybe the new generation can see that picture, where we’re going and where they started from. That’s what I want to see. To teach them. Because we don’t want to lose our culture.”
When I was in Arnhem Land I made friends with the principal of the school. He told me about some of the old ways. But then he said he could not answer any more of my questions, because the men kept these things secret, and if he shared with a woman, it would be against their laws. He would be in danger of death, because that is how the laws are enforced.
This was what Peter meant when he said, “All the white men come more and more and we can’t stay in our laws…” Many of the laws are enforced by death, but the whites have taken away their method of enforcing their own laws. We think we’re more “civilized,” but I wonder if that’s true?
In the ancient story in Ten Canoes, a man from another tribe was accidentally shot. At that point, the two tribes could go to war, or the first tribe could agree to sacrifice one of their men to the other tribe. An elder chose the later, and the matter was resolved.
This was such a mature decision that one might well consider if these so-called “primitive” people, who managed to live in harmony with the land and with each other for hundreds of thousands of years, might have something to teach us about peace and warfare (to say nothing of ecology)?
I wanted to support them in honoring the old ways, and yet I realized that in the old ways women were oppressed, and among today’s aborigines, women are often treated badly. I wonder if we could teach them something about honoring women, and they could teach us about honoring life and the land? (2007)
Henry (Eric Bana) had no control over where or when he traveled. There was supposed to be a genetic anomoly. But the time traveling was a phenonenon that started when he was six years old, in a car wreck with his mother. At that moment, he was flung back in time to an event that happened two weeks previously He was disoeiented. Then his grown-up self came to comfort him and reassure him that he was okay.
But his mother was dead. Later he fell in love with six-year-old Clare (Rachel McAdams plays the grown-up Clare). But he was a man at the time. He knew that she would be his wife. So it goes back and forth like that, with him popping in-and-out of Clare's life, and we never know how old he will be or how old she will be. And should they have a child or not, and will that child be cursed with the same gene?
It's a good movie--especially if you like a good romance with a twist. It's directed by Robert Schwentke and based on the best-selling novel by Audrey Niffenegger. An interesting piece of trivia is that Jennifer Aniston and Bradd Pitt bought up the movie rights before the book was released. Brad Pitt shows up in the credits as one of the producers. (2009)
Johnny Cash is a legend, especially since he died in 2006. He seems to have had a strong influence on Bob Dylan, among others. Girls swooned over him. His story is classic; why is it so compelling? The rise to fame; the falling apart of his marriage; losing himself in drugs.
Then there’s June. The one who sang with him, and loved him unconditionally. When he hit bottom, she (and her parents—who had been in the music business) watched over him while he suffered through withdrawal.
Then came his rebirth, and finally his marriage to June, and 35 years together until he died, and then she died just four months later. It’s a classic love story: sad, inspiring, scary, torturous, and ultimately affirming of life and love. Just what we all need. Brilliantly enacted. It is a gem. (2006)
It’s hard to believe that in India, even today in many places, women are considered half dead when their husbands die. They are exiled in ashrams and fed only one meal a day, and the young and pretty ones are hired out as prostitutes, to make money to feed the others. It is considered sinful for widows to remarry.
Their plight is made even more poignant when the widow is an eight-year-old girl (played beautifully by Sarala Kariyawasam)—she should have been an oscar nominee). It’s not surprising that when this third movie in a trilogy, written and directed by Canadian-East Indian, Deepa Mehta, was to be filmed in India, it was met with major protest and they had to finish filming in Sri Lanka.
The first movie, Fire (1996) was about traditional Indian women being lovers with each other. The second, Earth (1998) was about the partition between India and Pakistan. The third, Water, is a sad movie, but there are moments of joy and beauty and even a fleeting romance (the would-be lovers played by Lisa Ray and John Abraham). Set in the thirties, we get a glimpse of what it was like for inhabitants of India to hear word of this man named Gandhi, and how his teachings changed their world. I am grateful that we have women producers and directors who can tell the real stories of women. It is a beautiful movie. It was rightfully an Oscar nominee. (2005)
This film brings documentary film-making to a peak. Bob Cilman, a brilliant middle-aged musician works tirelessly with a group of senior citizens, all of whom are over 73, living around Florence, Mass., They all love music, though preferably classical. But he manages to get them enrolled in trying out some outrageous and difficult rock songs, like Schizophrenia.
At first they’re resistant, grimacing and even covering their ears. Whether they’re bent over with painful arthritis, or breathing through a tube, these are highly spirited people who seem to be up for trying anything. With the constant urging of their inspired director, they keep rising to the occasion, until they give stellar performances, including a jail and a tour in Europe. Audiences are thrilled and moved to tears. These elderly people exude enthusiasm for life and they are utterly inspiring. Even as two or three of them pass on while the film is being made, they make it perfectly clear that “The Show Must Go On!”
"These gyrating geriatrics travel around the world belting out rock classics and garnering rave reviews" —Time Magazine, June 2005.
Directed by Walker George, this documentary has been nominated for a Critic's Choice Award. It cannot be nominated for an Academy Award because it was originally made for British TV. (2008)
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