BESSIE

June 29, 2015

Chad and Mary decided to have a conversation about the HBO original film Bessie to post to their respective media blogs. So, here goes…

Mary: Did you know that when I was an undergraduate student at Wake Forest I worked as an announcer at WFDD and had a weekly jazz show on Friday nights? I closed my set each week with Bessie Smith’s classic song “Empty Bed Blues.” I don’t know a lot about jazz actually — knew more back then than now — but I’ve always had a penchant for the blues, and, after all, Bessie Smith is The Empress of the Blues.

Chad: No, you never told me that story! The Empress of the Blues–she certainly had a lot of emotion to pull from when she performed, and that intensity certainly came out in her life and her struggles. I found myself saying to myself that the film shows a story that is not at all atypical in biopics of not only musicians, but of people from all professions/walks of life. But the reason it is so “typical” is because these types of life struggles are so common. That is not to say that this film is not unique or that the performances were not spectacular because they were. But as for the story itself, what stood out to you the most?

Mary: I was excited that the film was finally made (there’s been a lot of talk about a Bessie Smith biopic over the years), and I thought Queen Latifah was wonderful (I could probably watch her read the phone book, as the saying goes), but I was not enamored with the film overall. I read the Chris Albertson biography about Bessie some years ago, and was taken with the story. While some events recounted fit what I remembered, the ending was a real disappointment. Her untimely death was as dramatic as her life.

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GEMMA BOVERY

June 18, 2015

It’s been a long time since I read Madame Bovary, so I can’t say for sure if any of the parallels between Gustave Flaubert’s classic novel are elegantly rendered into Gemma Bovery, but perhaps it doesn’t matter so much.

Fabrice Luchini plays Martin Joubert, a former editor (and lover of great literature) who has returned to Normandy from Paris to take over his father’s bakery. When Londoners move next door – Gemma Bovery (Gemma Arterton) and her husband Charlie (Jason Flemyng) – Jobert’s imagination runs wild as he becomes infatuated with the beautiful, young woman he cannot help but see as an incarnation of the tragic, literary heroine Emma Bovary.

This is a slight, sexy comedy that is more fun than I expected it to be but not terribly memorable after consumed. Let’s just say, it’s not as hearty as the bread baked by our leading character, but it will keep you from going hungry. It’s a pretty film to watch because of the locations, too.

Gemma Bovery


I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS

June 18, 2015

For a couple of weeks my mother had been asking me when the movie with Blythe Danner and Sam Elliott was going to open.

Saturday morning, I took her to see it.

Each year at her birthday and again at Mother’s Day I give her three coupons for a free movie and snacks – she doesn’t think it’s really going to the movies unless popcorn and a soda are part of the package – and she cashed one of her recent stash of coupons in to see I’ll See You In My Dreams.

I like intimate dramas, little slice of life pictures, and I like seeing a cast of older actors I’ve enjoyed for years get a little screen time (in addition to Danner and Elliott, add June Squibb, Rhea Perlman, and Mary Kay Place).

But, this film did not capture my imagination consistently.

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JURASSIC WORLD

June 18, 2015

Yesterday afternoon I decided to go see Jurassic World. I didn’t really have much interest but felt a bit of professional obligation due to the recent box office record nabbed – it holds the title for biggest domestic opening weekend of all time.

But, what was I thinking about? Dinosaurs? Adventure? No. Grandchildren.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think my son is ready for that for awhile – and I guess I’m not either – but movies like this will make more sense to me when little people give me some big reasons to watch. Okay, maybe not big reasons…but some reasons anyway!

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ALOHA

June 9, 2015

I meant to write about Aloha last week, but I kept forgetting. In some ways that could be the extent of this post – it is quite telling – but I owe Cameron Crowe more than that even though this particular film manages to be both flat and muddled at the same time.

Why do I still have such a soft spot for Crowe?

That’s like asking why I still have a crush on Lloyd Dobler (played by John Cusack) that dates back to 1989 after seeing his character in Say Anything, the first film Crowe directed and one of the first he wrote after Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

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FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD

May 29, 2015

Before discussing the 2015 version of Far From The Madding Crowd currently playing, let me provide a little context.

I’ve never read the Thomas Hardy novel featuring Bathsheba Everdene as a passionate and fiercely independent English woman who inherits a farm and encounters three men who each want to partner with her for vastly different motives.

Seeing the John Schlesinger film (1967) on television as a young girl, I was drawn in by Bathsheba’s proto-feminism long before I could have identified the concept and was swept away by the heartbreak sparked by the dynamics of the various relationships she juggles.

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SLOW WEST

May 28, 2015

All I wanted from my son for Mother’s Day was for him to go with me to the movies, something we used to do all the time but that is now an infrequent treat.

Instead, we ended up moving more of his things into his first apartment. At first I thought that Mother’s Day weekend was rough timing for such a transition, but upon reflection, it seems rather fitting.

I still got my trip to the cinema, eventually, and chose a movie I thought we’d both like, Slow West.

It’s a winner all around.

Clocking in at a lean and mean 84-minutes, my son and I were both riveted to the lush images and surprising (but not too surprising) plot twists that make the film seem fresh.

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