October 22, 2018

Coco, the movie on Netflix

I’m frequently behind in my movie viewing since I wait until films are released on streaming services. I recently caught Coco, an animated film produced by Pixar and released by Disney on Netflix. All I can say is, “Why did I not catch this masterpiece in the movie theater?!”

The art direction is simply stupendous with its riotous colors and images that evoke Hispanic Culture’s Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) came up with the story idea and co-directed the film with Adrian Molina. They get an A+ for allowing non-Latinos and Latinos alike to view Hispanic culture through the eyes of 12-year-old Miguel who is mistakenly sent to the underworld. He meets his musician great great-grandfather who helps him get back to the land of the living.

The music buff in me loves the song “Remember Me” which is artfully woven throughout the movie, but it is the central theme of family and remembrance that really hits the right chord for me.

Anthony Gonzalez is the young Miguel and Gael Garcia Bernal (Mozart in the Jungle) plays his new pal who tricks him into visiting the world below. Most of the excellent voice-over actors are not household names, aside from Benjamin Bratt as Ernesto de la Cruz, Miguel’s musical idol. Edward James Olmos is cast as the forgotten Chicharron who disappears from the Land of the Dead. Even Cheech Marin has a small role as a Corrections Officer.

If Coco shows up at a nostalgia movie theater, run at your earliest opportunity to catch it. Until then, view it on Netflix with those you love. Have your Kleenex at the ready. Happy Dia de los Muertos which starts on October 31st.

Ladybird Movie on Amazon Prime

The streaming services seem to be competing for rights to current popular movies. When I say current, I may mean LAST year’s Oscar contenders. It takes me a year or more to get to some of the box office hits or indie film critical darlings and then figure out where I can watch them.

Currently on Amazon Prime, Ladybird was not only in Time magazine’s top ten movie picks of 2017, but the film garnered $78 million at the box office on a budget of $10 million. It received 5 Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay and Best Director.

Greta Gerwig was the director who wrote and directed this charmer about a Californian teen coming of age in 2002. Hurrah for yet another woman making it into the Oscar Best Director category.

The most priceless scene in the movie is between Saoirse Ronan playing high school senior “Ladybird” McPherson who abruptly ends an argument while her mother, Marion (played by Chicago actress, Laurie Metcalf) is driving her in a car. In fact, there is a major Steppenwolf Theater connection with ensemble regulars Metcalf, Tracy Letts and Lois Smith also appearing in the film, along with Stephen McKinley Henderson, another stellar New York theater actor who is notable for his work in August Wilson plays.

There is a definite independent flavor to “Ladybird” but it strikes many universal chords. We watch this precocious teen try to make sense out of financial and cultural inequity, her own identity versus that of her parents and her desire to spread her wings beyond what her family can conceive for her. Strong on humor, this is the perfect weekend movie to arm twist one’s significant other into watching. And they might just thank you.

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story on Netflix

My mother was movie-mad and one of her favorite actresses was the beautiful Hedy Lamarr. Hedy had an accent but I knew virtually nothing about her background.

A documentary on Netflix, Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story will surprise and enlighten you about this Hollywood star’s vertiginous journey.

Like German-born Marlene Dietrich, Hedy, an Austrian Jew left her Nazi-leaning country for California to pursue a movie career. She became an ardent supporter of the U. S. cause selling millions of dollars worth of war bonds.

Her scientific interest and natural talent at devising inventions was the real shocker. This gorgeous dame was also smart. She shared a patent for frequency hopping with composer George Antheil, a concept that is used in both civilian and military applications in current day. Unfortunately, she earned not one penny from this brilliant invention.

Her beauty was also her curse. Six failed marriages were perhaps a result of men falling in love with the Hollywood image but not the actual woman. As she aged, she became one of the first devotees of plastic surgery in an attempt to hang on to her storied face.
Her last years were spent in seclusion, much like Garbo and Dietrich. Were these beauties unwilling to let the public see them as older versions of their movie images?

If Hedy Lamarr had been born with average looks, would a scientific career have resulted in a more stable life and even more successful inventions?
The documentary allows the viewer to ponder the remarkable life of Hedy Lamarr and draw their own conclusions.

A trusted friend recommended the documentary and pointed out these words quoted by Lamar towards the end of the movie. An internet search indicates that the quote was erroneously attributed to Mother Teresa. The full quote was actually written by college student Kent M. Keith in 1968. Here are all ten of the inspiring ideas:

1: People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
2: If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
3: If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
4: The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
5: Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
6: The biggest men with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
7: People favor underdogs, but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
8: What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
9: People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.
10: Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.

The Big Sick movie streaming on Amazon

I recently wrote about the podcast, Stay Tuned With Preet which featured an interview with writer/actor/comedian Kumail Nanjiani who was unfamiliar to me.

Amazon is currently streaming The Big Sick, with a script co-written by Nanjiani and his wife, Emily V. Gordon. The film definitely covers all the bases of a romantic comedy, but it also examines a Pakistani Muslim family’s belief in arranged marriage, the challenging life of a stand-up comedian and the travails of our medical system when one is faced with a serious and unknown malady.

The film is based on how Kumail and Emily met before their marriage. Emily’s medically-induced coma ultimately brings the couple together as Kumail holds vigil with Emily’s out-of-town mother and father. Ray Romano and Holly Hunter turn in winning performances as Emily’s open-minded but very white parents.

Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon (Zoe Kazan is cast as Gordon in the movie; Nanjiani plays himself.)

You may find yourself laughing at the comedic dialogue yet getting a little teary at some of the touching scenes about life, death and love.

Kumail Nanjiani’s acting and writing credits for tv, movies and video games indicate that he not only got the girl, but he’s done pretty well for himself. He and his wife have turned their rocky courtship in Chicago into an intelligent yet hilarious movie. The Big Sick was indeed a diverting film to view on a cold winter’s night at home.

The Shape of Water by filmmaker Guillermo del Toro

Mexican film director, Guillermo del Toro has created another dark fantasy world, this time set in 1962 Baltimore in his most recent film, The Shape of Water.

Sally Hawkins is cast as Elisa Esposito, a mute janitor in a secret government science facility. Along with her fellow cleaner, Zelda Fuller (the inimitable Octavia Spenser), they watch a creature from South America being violently transferred to a tank in their place of employment. Michael Shannon as Colonel Richard Strickland is the cruel handler of this living asset.

Elisa and the amphibious man develop a connection, shall we say. She recruits her neighbor Giles, a closeted gay artist played by Richard Jenkins, along with friend Zelda to kidnap her aqueous paramour. Did I mention that the Russians are also interested in the fate of this seemingly sentient water being?

The Cold War, racial segregation, cruelty to living creatures and the subjugation of women all figure into the film’s setting. Despite the heavy references, this movie should satisfy the horror and romance date crowd, as well as serious film buffs.

If you enjoyed del Toro’s 2006 film, Pan’s Labryinth, you will love The Shape of Water. You may not see much sun or anything sunny in this dark work, but there is beauty, humor and emotion nonetheless.

Get Out, a movie on HBO GO

Twenty-somethings at a recent party were all raving about a strange and engrossing movie called Get Out. Written and directed by Jordan Peele (of the comedy team Keegan and Peele), a bi-racial couple, Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose Armitage (Allisonn Williams) visit her white and very strange parents who live in a bucolic and privileged enclave.

The Armitage family employ black servants who act like automatons. Things get even weirder as people show up for an annual party on the estate. Catherine Keener plays the therapist mother who may have hypnotized boyfriend Chris. Her husband is actor Bradley Whitford playing the forceful and phony suburbanite Dean Armitage.

My favorite character is TSA agent, Rod Williams (actor Lil Rel Hower) who is Chris’ friend and phone advisor as he encounters these unsettling events.

You will find yourself laughing and pulled along by the off-beat storyline, but make no mistake, the movie is exploring some brutally honest and horrifying concepts in our history and culture.

We still need Peele to be funny as a comedian, but here’s hoping that this is the first of his many films that allow him to visit the dark side. Pun intended. We will all be challenged and wiser for it.

If you don’t have HBO GO, you can purchase the movie at iTunes, Amazon Instant Video or YouTube.