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May 20, 2018 at 10:10 pm #1202550859
The Shape of Water
Guillermo del Toro’s best film since Pan’s Labyrinth, which was one of the very best films of 2006. I am glad and heartened that AMPAS is trending to recognizing and honoring unusual, high-quality genre pictures, although Shape of Water transcends genre and resonates on many different levels. I have hope that the Academy will never again make the same kind of mistake as when it failed to award best picture to Wizard of Oz.
Grade: AMay 21, 2018 at 2:50 am #1202550948
“Darkest Hour” Great performance from Gary Oldman, in an otherwise mediocre movie.May 21, 2018 at 8:26 am #1202551073
God bless Candice Bergen. She may be the lone Oscar-less star of Book Club’s quartet of acting queens but, with an irresistibly dry comic delivery and penchant for stealing scenes with remarkable ease, she manages to emerge something of an MVP.
That isn’t to say Bergen runs away with the show – how could she, after all, with the comparably sparkling Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton and Mary Steenburgen sharing the screen? Book Club may be a glorified sitcom but it emerges a must-see for these four star turns alone.
No doubt, you’ve seen the previews and know what’s coming – this foursome of fabulousness reads the notorious Fifty Shades of Grey as their latest book club selection. The sordid trilogy, as expected, will have an impact on their respective lives that opens their eyes and results in loads of laughs. Indeed, there may not be many surprises on the horizon in Book Club but that isn’t say the proceedings aren’t, for the most part, an absolute pleasure from start to finish.
Fonda’s Vivian is the most colorful and carefree of the bunch, unabashedly enjoying the company of men with no strings attached – that is, until a beau from the past (Don Johnson) comes strolling into town wanting something more meaningful than a one-night fling. Keaton’s Diane (could they not change the name?) remains uneasy about getting back into the dating game, having a year back lost her husband of 40 years. The dashing pilot Mitchell (Andy Garcia, a romcom natural) enters her life and immediately begins courting her but Diane is slow to reciprocate.
Then, there’s Bergen’s Sharon, a distinguished federal judge who hasn’t had romance on the brain in ages and whose ex (Ed Begley, Jr.) is now shacking up with a blonde bombshell about a third his age. Sharon makes the leap into online dating, where, among her matches, is the kind accountant George (Richard Dreyfuss). Finally, Steenburgen’s Carol has been antsy for months over her stale marriage to Bruce (Craig T. Nelson). Reading Fifty Shades makes her more determined than ever to spice things up.
Among this sea of subplots, Bergen has the funniest moments and Keaton and Garcia have the sweetest. Fonda’s a hoot, basically doing a slight variation on her turn from Grace and Frankie, but her scenes opposite Johnson lack the tenderness of the Keaton-Garcia ones. Steenburgen, I’m afraid, draws the short straw. Her dynamic opposite Nelson is a bland imitation of Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones in Hope Springs.
Writer/director Bill Holderman and co-writer Erin Simms lean heavily on their cast to do the heavy lifting – thankfully, they’ve been graced with an ensemble that’s plenty game to lift the ordinary into the almost-extraordinary.
Book Club is certain to satisfy film buffs (like myself) who crave at least one Nancy Meyersesque picture a year.
THE OSCAR 100 (#75-71): Agnes Moorehead, Piper Laurie, Sissy Spacek, Barbara Stanwyck and Jean HagenMay 21, 2018 at 7:33 pm #1202551439
Given its absolutely horrendous trailer and ludicrous premise (using a book that condones abusive relationships to reawaken sexual desires), Book Club’s acting was way better than it had any right to be. However, that does not give this movie a pass. It’s still extremely predictable; I pretty much knew exactly what would happen right before it actually did, and keep in mind, I went into the film without looking up spoilers. The dialogue was also pretty pedestrian, and in some scenes, downright cringeworthy. Also, some of the characters, particularly Diane Keaton’s daughters, were downright insufferable. Their treatment of their mother was so appalling I wanted to stick my head through the screen and yell to them “Leave your mother alone!! She’s a grown woman, not a toddler!!” I would never, EVER treat my parents the way these daughters treated their mother. Ultimately, if you want the best example of elderly women exploring their sexuality, just watch any episode of The Golden Girls. At least the comedic dialogue in that show still holds up 30 years later. I give this a 5 out of 10, or a C+ for letter grades.May 26, 2018 at 3:56 am #1202554124
The new romantic comedy Book Club starring some beloved icons of film has a true sweetness that I found quite endearing.
The notion that in a contemporary film four senior citizens still meet in the afternoon for libations with actual copies of the book, not loaded on a smart phone but clutched in liver spotted hands, is charming. I quickly found myself rooting for Diane, Vivian, Sharon and Carol.
The novelty of these ladies salivating over Christian Grey does not make the movie a crass wink at S&M in the geriatric crowd. Rather, we see four confident, funny people who are a bit battle scarred. The book club selection serves to remind them, and us, that romance demands the willingness to once again be vulnerable. The joy of the two hour chick flick is watching four incredible actresses shed their armor and reveal the desire to love and be loved in return.
Of course, each actress does this with great skill and humor. Jane Fonda probably fares the worst. The 80 year old fitness queen who good naturedly acknowledges to the audience (but not Megyn Kelly) her nips and tucks has somehow evolved into a modern day Mae West. Her plastic surgeons do good work, but the facade seems just a tad unnatural for an octogenarian. Her ribald escapades are so reminiscent of West that I expected Vivian to stand on her private boutique hotel roof top terrace and invite a surprisingly effective Don Johnson to come up and see her some time.
Candice Bergen has added a few pounds to her still quite handsome frame. They do not hinder her exquisite comedic timing and the ability to land her one liners with aplomb. She reminded me of Thelma Ritter, the self sufficient and wise one, who acidly comments on the action before discovering her own needs are important as well.
I well remember Mary Steenburgen. She still is girlish and as exuberant as she was tap dancing on the imaginary TV game show Easy Street in her Oscar winning performance in Melvin and Howard. Here Steenburgen stands alone on a stage and taps with abandon, not unlike Ann Miller’s last act on Broadway in Sugar Babies. The scene which flirts with a snarky response captured my heart with such a glorious moment of vanity-free vulnerability.
The star of the film is the queen of romantic comedy, Diane Keaton. The woman has gravitas. She is 72. Her age is evident in her hair and skin. As Woody Allen stated at her lifetime achievement award celebration recently, she is “uncompromising” on the issues of plastic surgery and “prefers to look old.” For devoted fans there is a nostalgia in a sequence where she accompanies her romantic interest, Andy Garcia, who played her daughter’s lover in The Godfather Part III, on a small craft plane ride through the beauty of the Arizona desert. The scene is scored with music from Paul Simon who played Tony Lacey, Annie Hall’s lover once things went south with Alvy Singer. And I’ll be damned if her final kiss at the door at the end of the film isn’t just a bit steamy. The actress remains the mistress of creating sexual tension on screen.
The emotional risks taken by the four women ultimately pay off and we are left with the gentle reminder that vulnerability is a quality that does not age.May 26, 2018 at 4:10 am #1202554127
^I’d be offended if I was Mary Steenburgen. Fonda is 80, Bergen & Keaton are 72, and Steenburgen is 65, that’s a difference, and she is obviously too hot for this film as well.May 27, 2018 at 11:46 am #1202554557
The Private Affairs of Bel Ami (1947)
Albert Lewin is my favorite underrated director. This film, a witty and intelligent adaptation of a story by Guy de Maupassant, features a theme similar to Lewin’s version of The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945). Every exquisite frame in both films is a marvel to behold. The cinematography is by Russell Metty (Spartacus; Touch of Evil). Grade: A+
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