Friday, January 17, 2020

About THE IRISHMAN

The hit man Robert De Niro plays in Martin Scorsese's THE IRISHMAN says, "You don't know how fast time goes by until you get there." That is so painfully true. Think about it. We're in the first month of 2020. Twenty years ago, we didn't have cell phones and social media. We used rotary phones. We left messages on answering machines. We mailed letters and Christmas cards. We didn't have gay marriage equality. We'd never had a black president of the United States. We purchased newspapers just about every day. Men didn't use their phones to take photos of their own genitalia. That all came into our lives in the last 20 years. Didn't those years pass quickly? I watched THE IRISHMAN last night. The movie runs 3 hours and 30 minutes. Wow. What a movie. Those hours whizzed by like the bullets shot out of the hitman's gun.
It's a crime story. We go back to the 1950s. There are mob hits a plenty. De Niro plays a killer. I know that a few folks on social media remarked, "Gee...gangsters in another crime story. What a stretch for Martin Scorsese." Yes, he has given us crime, murder and men beating the crap out of somebody in TAXI DRIVER, GOODFELLAS, CASINO, GANGS OF NEW YORK and THE DEPARTED. But the crime scene for Scorsese is what the western was for John Ford. It's the genre where his vision and message have taken root and grown more than any other. A few months ago, a buddy of mine commented that actor Joe Pesci, coaxed out of retirement by Scorsese, was terrific in the movie. I second that emotion. Pesci gives his performance sort a cool jazz beat. He plays Russell Bufalino, the crime figure who mentors Frank Sheeran (De Niro) in the world of organized crime. As time and crime go by, Sheeran will become friends with labor leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).
Pesci's performance is master class quality. That's work new actors should watch and study for inspiration.

I wrote that Joe Pesci gives his understated performance sort of a cool jazz beat. If THE IRISHMAN was a record, it would be a jazz blues album. The film takes on a melancholy, a tone of the blues. Aging is not kind. Sometimes the thing that betrays you the most is your own body has it gets older. As you get older, you are forced to consider what your words and deeds have brought into your life -- and what they've taken away.

Director Martin Scorsese's THE IRISHMAN has De Niro, Pesci, Pacino and Harvey Keitel. They are all in top form. There were times when Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa reminded me of Al Pacino as Big Boy Caprice in 1990's comic strip-inspired DICK TRACY.

THE IRISHMAN is on Netflix. It's in the Oscar race for Best Picture and Best Director. Joe Pesci and Al Pacino are both the Best Supporting Actor Oscar category. Yes, it's a long movie -- a long movie that I will definitely be watching again. THE IRISHMAN is already a Scorsese classic.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

About FRUITVALE STATION (2013)

I remember the news stories that covered Bay Area protests over the death of 22-year old Oscar Grant. Grant's story, up to and including his death when he and his girlfriend were on their way to New Year's Eve festivities in San Francisco, is covered in the 2013 independent film, FRUITVALE STATION. I also remember the large movie posters full of rave reviews from top film critics. The movie starred a big screen newcomer named Michael B. Jordan as Oscar Grant and recent Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Octavia Spencer as his mother. Jordan today is a popular new star who'd be sought for comments on a red carpet by entertainment press. He deserves the spotlight. The young man is a very good actor. He's serious about his craft.
Fortunately, the blockbuster domestic and overseas box office success of the 2018 action adventure/fantasy BLACK PANTHER widened awareness of his talents.
For me, experiencing the impact of a film with fellow members of a paid audience have often been as thrilling, as memorable as the film itself. This goes from my nights of sitting in the back seat of the family car when the Rivers Family attended a double-feature at the drive-in during my Los Angeles youth to sitting in a movie theater audience in Hollywood or New York City. I had an experience like that in San Francisco in 2013. I was in San Francisco, apartment-sitting for a friend. I went to see FRUITVALE STATION one afternoon. As I wrote, I was familiar with the news story. I was unfamiliar with Michael B. Jordan. I was drawn to the movie by the excellent reviews.
I was seated in the cineplex theater. In walked a group of five giggling white girls of about college age. In the middle of my quiet prayer that they not sit near me, the sat in the row right in front of me. My revised prayer was that they would not be giggling and chatty during the movie.  At the end of the movie, they were sniffling and crying. I was sniffling and crying. We all looked at each other as we left the theater, moved deeply by the film that held our attention for 90 minutes. There we were, strangers bonded together by the power of good film and bonded by seeing a story that really happened where we were -- in the modern-day Bay Area. Now that Michael B. Jordan is one of our new stars, folks should revisit FRUITVALE STATION. Here's a trailer. Click onto the link:

https://youtu.be/tkDr6RmQnOU.


I left the theater feeling that Octavia Spencer deserved a second Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. To me, she was even better as the mother in FRUITVALE STATION than she was as a maid in THE HELP. In the opening scene of the film, there's visual information that tells you the basic thing you need to know about Oscar Grant's character. Look at the way he treats a needy animal. Grant has done time. He's now determined to turn his life towards the light, be a better son, a better dad and a better partner to his girlfriend, Sophina. Click onto the link to see a clip. There's strong language in it:

https://youtu.be/A6ZOCb2gaqs.

In a flashback scene, we see incarcerated Oscar Grant get a visit from his mother.  Click onto the link to see the clip featuring Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer:

https://youtu.be/QRACf_ehgis.

FRUITVALE STATION and BLACK PANTHER were both directed by Ryan Coogler. FRUITVALE STATION was hailed at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival and highly praised by American film critics. However, come Oscar nomination time, it was totally -- and surprisingly -- overlooked. I believe the Academy's lack of attention to FRUITVALE STATION was an element that sparked the discussion of diversity in Oscars consideration. The movie is worth a look.
African American filmmaker Ryan Coogler (left) directed and wrote FRUITVALE STATION. His 2018 movie, BLACK PANTHER, was a multi-million dollar box office powerhouse that made Hollywood history. 2013's FRUITVALE STATION was his directorial debut. Dig it.



Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Zellweger & Davis as JUDY

As expected, Renée Zellweger is in the Best Actress Oscar race for portraying the latter-day Judy Garland in JUDY. She does her own singing as Judy Garland. She plays the performer during what were the last six months of her life. She was 46, newly married again, and had been booked to perform dates at a posh nightclub in London. She needed the money. The year was 1969. I know that critics raved about Zellweger's performance. Recently, she won a Golden Globe in the Best Actress category for her biopic work. However, to me -- and I don't mean this harshly -- she looked more like a 1950s Polly Bergen in CAPE FEAR: THE MUSICAL.
 Zellweger did give it her all. She worked her trademark squint for all its worth.

Now, I just want you to see something else. Back in the 1990s, I interviewed Judy Garland's daughter, Lorna Luft, on live TV. Lorna had written a good biography about her youth with her famous mother and famous father, Sid Luft. Luft was the executive producer of Garland's sensational Hollywood comeback film, the 1954 musical remake of A STAR IS BORN. She was the favorite to win the Best Actress Oscar for it. She lost to Grace Kelly for THE COUNTRY GIRL, a now legendary Oscar upset. Sid Luft managed her through some of her best major concert dates here and abroad. He was the third of her five husbands. At the time I interviewed Lorna, it was announced that she'd produce a miniseries biopic based on her book for ABC TV.
The big question was -- who would play her mom? She found the right person -- actress Judy Davis. Davis played Garland from her meeting with director Vincente Minnelli (future 2nd husband and father of Liza) to discuss MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS through to her 4th marriage in the 1960s. The reviews were more like love letters. I was a guest on a local morning radio show the day after it aired. Davis was so phenomenal that the straight guys who hosted the show were talking about her. They'd watched it too.

After a now-historic concert success at Carnegie Hall and an Oscar nomination for her dramatic role in JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG, Garland signed a big money contract with CBS in Hollywood for her own Sunday night weekly variety show. Among her many fans was President John F. "Jack" Kennedy. She'd visited him at the White House. Norman Jewison was on the production team. Years later, the director highly praised her talent, saying that she was whip-smart and took a keen interest in every aspect of the production. However, the network guys never treated her with the respect she deserved. Plus, the two men who were her managers embezzled millions from her contract and paid her what should have been their commission. One of them, David Begelman, would go on to make entertainment news headlines with an embezzlement and check forging scandal in the 1970s. Judy Garland was an international show biz legend dealing with the male executive branch at CBS. Here's an example of why I feel that Judy Davis' Emmy-winning 2001 performance is still the topper:

That's from one of the best TV biopics I've ever seen. Garland was played by two actresses. Tammy Blanchard played teen Judy, a new contract player at MGM. (Blanchard's resemblance was uncanny). Then Davis entered as young adult Judy, now a top star on the MGM lot. If you've never seen LIFE WITH JUDY GARLAND: ME AND MY SHADOWS, find it and give it a look. Here's a color photo of Garland at a gala event with President Kennedy and a black and white photo of her next to President Kennedy at the White House with Carol Burnett and Danny Kaye.

Trivia: Alison Pill played young Lorna Luft in the biopic. She and Judy Davis would play daughter and mother again in the 2012 Woody Allen comedy, TO ROME WITH LOVE.  Here's Judy Garland singing "The Man That Got Away" in 1954's A STAR IS BORN. She and the song brought Oscar nominations to the film.



Monday, January 13, 2020

GMA Needs Oscar Talk Color

I have watched GOOD MORNING AMERICA for a long, long time. I watched when the Oscar nominations were announced and GMA's weekly film critic, Joel Siegel, was in studio live to do post-nomination analysis. In those days, each network -- ABC, NBC and CBS -- had a weekly film critic on its weekday morning news program. We also had syndicated weekend film review shows with two critics doing reviews. This goes back to the 80s/90s and there was no racial diversity in the line-up of critics. They were all white dudes. Society and times have changed. Now, diversity is an issue that deserves attention. So here's the thing -- and I write this as someone who has rarely seen a reflection of himself on national TV in the area of film critics: Again, I watched a white entertainment news journalist on GOOD MORNING AMERICA bring up the lack of racial diversity in the list of Oscar nominated actors. yet there was no Black/Latinx entertainment news contributor as a guest in that segment. And I do not mean to slam today's guests, ABC Entertainment News anchor Chris Connelly and VARIETY's Elizabeth Wagmeister. She's the journalist who said "...not a ton of diversity" referring to our Oscar-nominated actors. But can't GOOD MORNING AMERICA book a Black/Latinx entertainment news veteran to be in place for the Oscar nominations discussion and add a different outlook with some history? Can't GMA have a person of color as a guest when Chris Connelly brings up the Hollywood diversity issue?
The morning Viola Davis was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in FENCES, Chris Connelly and fellow Caucasian entertainment news journalist, Jess Cagle, were live on GMA for the Oscar nominations. "Oscars So White" was mentioned. Both gentlemen gushed over the umpteenth Oscar nomination Meryl Streep received. NO ONE mentioned that Viola Davis had just become the most Oscar-nominated Black actress in Hollywood history by receiving her 3rd nomination which came for her performance in 2016's FENCES. I cheered in my living room when I heard Viola's name announced that morning. For 20 years, the most Oscar-nominated Black actress had been Whoopi Goldberg with her Best Actress Oscar nomination for THE COLOR PURPLE and her Best Supporting Actress Oscar win for 1990's GHOST. Both Whoopi Goldberg and Viola Davis are stars -- on ABC programs (THE VIEW and HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER).

Today's actor nominations show that Oscar Loves Biopics. Check out the Best Actress category. Cynthia Erivo, Charlize Theron and Renee Zellweger got nominated for playing real-life characters. Jonathan Pryce, Best Actor nominee, and Best Supporting Actor nominees Tom Hanks and Anthony Hopkins also played real-life characters.

Think of actors who've won an Oscar for playing a real life character. There's Nicole Kidman for THE HOURS, Philip Seymour Hoffman in CAPOTE, Sean Penn in MILK, Julia Roberts in ERIN BROCKOVICH, Jamie Foxx in RAY, Forest Whitaker in THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND, Cate Blanchett in THE AVIATOR, Marion Cotillard in LA VIE EN ROSE, Christian Bale in THE FIGHTER, Mahershala Ali in GREEN BOOK , Meryl Streel in THE IRON LADY and Rami Malek in BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY. (There are others.)
For HARRIET, Cythia Erivo becomes the 3rd actor directed by a Black woman to an Oscar nomination. Euzhan Palcy directed Marlon Brando to a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for 1989's A DRY WHITE SEASON, Dee Rees directed Mary J. Blige to a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for 2017's MUDBOUND. Female African American director Kasi Lemmons directed HARRIET. Previously an actress, Lemmons played the FBI cadet training best friend to Jodie Foster's character in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.

5 males who directed a Best Picture nominee were nominated for Best Director today. Greta Gerwig, who directed a Best Picture nominee, was not nominated for Best Director. This puts her in a category with trailblazing director Kathryn Bigelow. Bigelow was a Best Director nominee (and won) for THE HURT LOCKER, which was also nominated for Best Picture (and won). Her following film, ZERO DARK THIRTY, was nominated for Best Picture. But it did not bring her a second Oscar nomination for Best Director.

Greta Gerwig's LADY BIRD was a nominee for Best Picture and she was nominated for Best Director of 2017. Today, her LITTLE WOMEN was nominated for Best Picture. She, however, did not get a second Oscar nomination for Best Director.

Mel Gibson directed two Best Picture Oscar nominees -- BRAVEHEART and HACKSAW RIDGE. Each brought him an Oscar nomination for Best Director.

2019 was a landmark year of solid work from female directors: Lorene Scafaria: HUSTLERS, Lulu Wang: THE FAREWELL, Greta Gerwig: LITTLE WOMEN, Olivia Wilde: BOOKSMART, Kasi Lemmons: HARRIET, Melina Matsoukas: QUEEN & SLIM, and Marielle Heller: A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD.

But the Academy didn't seen to notice.

Those are some points that I, a person of color, would've mentioned had I been a guest on GMA for the Oscars talk. Full disclosure: I was hired by ABC News to be the weekly entertainment editor on an ABC News weekday live hour-long show called LIFETIME LIVE. The ABC production aired on Lifetime in 2000. I did film reviews and gave film history with an accent on accomplishments of women in film. The show lasted only one year. I was very interested in doing entertainment news contributor work on GOOD MORNING AMERICA. I made a pitch -- but the interest was not mutual.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Thank You, Brad Pitt

This is something that has caught my eye for about five years now. It always makes me smile when I'm sitting in a movie theater and reading a film's credits. I never hear entertainment news reporters address this, but I certainly would if I had the opportunity to interview the actor. Are you aware of how many times Brad Pitt has been a top producer on a project that puts a light on marginalized people -- especially people of color? Thank you, thank you, thank you, Brad Pitt. Before I get to listing some of those projects, let me tell that I recently saw Quentin Tarantino's ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD. I resisted seeing it when it first opened. I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I was a child of the 60s whose favorite pastime was going to the movies. A big thrill for me was when I could get on the bus, use my RTD transfers and see movies on Hollywood Boulevard during summer vacation. I vividly recall listening to the radio the day the news bulletin broke about a celebrity death. The DJ said there'd been a Hollywood death and I listened, assuming an elder entertainer, a star from the 1930s or 40s, had passed away. Then the radio show cut to a reporter. You could hear in the timbre of the radio reporter's voice that he'd been horrified. He broke in with the news bulletin that there had been a gruesome Hollywood murder. It was the Manson Clan evil and one murder victim was rising star, the very pregnant Sharon Tate. I remember the shock wave that sent an immediate, cold jolt through the Pacific Coast, open door policy in some Southern California life. I did not want to see those Hollywood murders revisited and recreated in a big new movie. Well, they weren't. For me, personally, that was a relief. About Brad Pitt's performance in ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD, if he gets an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, he absolutely deserves it. He slams across a solid character performance as a Hollywood stuntman/caretaker of the 1950s/60s era. I've been watching his movies since his man-candy cowboy role in 1991's THELMA & LOUISE. Pitt is in peak performance in this 1960s Hollywood tale.
He captures the character. He captures the tone of the era. Every guy should have a buddy like Cliff Booth in ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD. Click on the link to see a trailer:

https://youtu.be/ELeMaP8EPAA.

In the Spike Lee film, BLACKkKLANSMAN, based on a true story, black undercover police officer Ron Stallworth says "With the right white man, we can do anything." That line broke me up laughing because it's often so damn true. In a very good way for some filmmakers, Brad Pitt has been the right white man.

On Netflix, there's a Chelsea Handler special called HELLO PRIVILEGE. IT'S ME, CHELSEA. In this documentary special, the comedian travels to various locations to see if white privilege does indeed keep black folks from moving quickly up the social and economic ladder. If you watch just the first 10 minutes, you will see her interview two fellow comedians -- Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish. Those two tell Chelsea something that has been a constant through most of my TV career. When they were watching their white show biz buddies get agents and great audition opportunities, they were not getting the same representation attention and audition opportunities. They asked their white friends for recommendations on agents. In my broadcast TV and radio career, I did the same thing from when I had my own primetime celebrity talk show on VH1 in the late 80s to 2002 when I booked myself a job hosting a Food Network show that was so popular it aired weekly for six years.

In other words, the playing field has never been level and any help received from a white buddy with some pull is greatly appreciated.

Brad Pitt was a top producer on these films:

12 YEARS A SLAVE (2013)

SELMA (2014)
  
MOONLIGHT (2016)

IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK (2018)

THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO (2019).

If you saw and loved PARASITE, I recommend you see THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO. That Bay Area independent film shows something that I've experienced. It shows that gentrification is like a cultural and emotional rape that displaces working class people of color. THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO is one of the truly golden, unsung indie films of last year that boasts wonderful new Black talent (Jonathan Majors and Jimmie Falls) and has beloved, veteran Black talent (Danny Glover). Here's a trailer.

Yeah. One more time, I just want to say "Thank you, Brad Pitt. Thanks for the attention and thanks for the help."



Saturday, January 11, 2020

I'm Pulling for Lupita

The Oscar nominations will be revealed this coming Monday morning. I am pulling for a previous Oscar winner to be invited to Hollywood Prom Night once again. That gorgeous ebony goddess, Lupita Nyong'o, won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her gripping work as an enslaved woman in director Steve McQueen's 2013 drama, 12 YEARS A SLAVE.
Did you see US, the modern-day horror thriller written and directed by Jordan Peele? Lord, have mercy. He wore me out with GET OUT. He did it again with US. Lupita plays a wife and mom in Southern California. The family of four -- Mom, Dad and the two sweet kids -- are on a vacation and spending time at the beach. They're staying in a very nice, roomy and comfortable house. Then, one night, four people show up in the driveway. The four stand in the shadow and we cannot see their faces. It's a most eerie scene. Dad goes out to make them leave the property while Mom gets on phone to call the cops. Things get freaky. I will not spoil it. However, I will tell you that Jordan Peele's love of classic films like INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS and THE STEPFORD WIVES is reflected in this story. Combined with that is some social commentary to make you think. There is one class on top of another class. The story is called US because the four invaders, out to do harm, are exact replicas of the four family members in the house.

Lupita Nyong'o has a dual role. She plays both the protective mother and the invader. She's awesome in this film, giving a distinct voice and personality to each character. The mother, Adelaide, experienced some childhood trauma at a seaside amusement park. In her adult years, that experience remains a small dark cloud in the back of her mind and impacts the tight attention she gives to her kids. Has that trauma come to live again in the invaders?

This movie plays with your mind like a cat playing with a squeak toy. Honestly, you may not totally get the plot. But you cannot deny that Lupita Nyong'o delivers a powerful performance. If she gets a nomination for Best Actress on Monday, she will be the third Black actress in Hollywood history to have a Best Supporting Actress and a Best Actress nomination in her credits. First there was Whoopi Goldberg -- Best Actress Oscar nominee for THE COLOR PURPLE and Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner for GHOST. Then there was Viola Davis -- Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee for DOUBT, Best Actress Oscar nominee for THE HELP and Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner for FENCES.

Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer are the most Oscar-nominated Black actresses in Hollywood history with three nominations each. Now we wait for early Monday morning when the nominations are announced.

Friday, January 10, 2020

About Gerwig's LITTLE WOMEN

Have you the new LITTLE WOMEN written and directed by Greta Gerwig? Several times have I seen the 1933 adaptation directed by George Cukor and starring Katharine Hepburn as Jo March. I've seen the deluxe 1949 MGM studio remake directed by Mervyn LeRoy a number of times. I've enjoyed the 1994 remake directed by Gillian Armstrong from a screenplay adaptation by Robin Swicord. I admit it. I love the LITTLE WOMEN story. Ailing Beth's goodbye to Jo, Jo getting her hair cut and selling it to get money to help their mother, Jo telling Professor Bhaer that his empty hands are "Not empty now" -- those scenes touch my heart in all those three productions. This new adaptation is worth seeing. It's alive and fresh. It's unexpectedly different. If I had not seen the older versions, I may not have been able to follow the story as well as I did. That's not a criticism of Gerwig's version. She gives a marked modenity to the aged narrative.
Greta Gerwig not only honors what we have loved about those previous big screen versions, she has rearranged the story's molecular structure in order to introduce new information about author Louisa May Alcott that makes the entire film feel like it's based on a contemporary novel. It is so vibrant and complicated and relevant to today. Gerwig takes well-known scenes beloved from the earlier adaptations and gives them a new interpretation. To me, Gerwig's version celebrates women's independence, creative spirit and their need to distinguish themselves in areas other than marriage -- marriage as expected by society. The remarkable Saoirse Ronan stars as Jo March, the determined aspiring writer of the family. Meryl Streep also stars in the film as rich and crotchety Aunt March.
The opening shot. We see a publishing office. The glass door is closed. A woman stands before it, her head bowed as if she's going to charge and ram the door open. She enters the publication office and we see that she is the only woman in it. The office is full of men, all working. To them, she's pretty much invisible. No one stands to welcome her or offer her a seat. The woman is Jo March and she's there to negotiate with the editor, Mr. Dashwood. He wants extensive edits to be made in her story, but he will publish it. She disagrees with his philosophy that "morals don't sell nowadays" in reference to the kind of fiction readers like. She especially disagrees with his editor philosophy that a main female character must be "married by the end. Or dead" in order for the story to sell.

This scene, set in post-Civil War times, is just like Meryl Streep's opening scene in the Steven Spielberg journalism drama, THE POST, set in 1970s Washington, D.C. Streep plays Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham. She has a restaurant breakfast meeting with her male editor, played by Tom Hanks. She's the only woman in the fully-occupied restaurant area. No man stands to greet or help her when she drops some of the paperwork she's carrying. To them, she's pretty much invisible. Katherine will be treated by men as though she's invisible as the story progresses. Her opinion never seems to matter as much to the businessmen around her concerned about the fate of the newspaper. This will change when she finds her voice as groundbreaking female boss battling the Nixon administration.

Gerwig's scene of Jo March in the male-dominated publication office is new. We didn't see that in the 1933, the 1949 or the 1994 versions. Greta Gerwig's LITTLE WOMEN gives the story a kinship to Spielberg's THE POST and Craig Brewer's DOLEMITE IS MY NAME starring Eddie Murphy. Her film is about when who have been told by society that they're not good enough, that their opinion don't matter as much, women who have been treated as though their invisible. Think of Lady Reed, the full-figured black woman in the hilarious and touching DOLEMITE IS MY NAME. She's played beautifully by Da'Vine Joy Randolph. When the crew of misfits led by Rudy Ray Moore (Murphy) actually gets their movie made and booked for a theater premiere, Lady Reed says to Moore: "I'm so grateful for what you did for me, cause I'd never seen nobody that looks like me up there on that big screen." Gerwig honors the marginalized. She lets them raise their voices.

Laura Dern is a wonderful Marmee, the mother. You feel that she and Saorise Ronan are truly related. When you see this Marmee's social activism in her community, when you hear her admit to having angers in a society that treats women as second class citizens and sold Black people like chattel, you see that Jo is most definitely her mother's daughter.

We're in New England in post-Civil War times. However, Gerwig's version presents the March sisters like they're the offspring of liberal, responsible parents in the San Francisco area in the post-hippie era. Here's a trailer.

I wrote posts last November and December about the late British screenwriter and movie director, Muriel Box. She won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (THE SEVENTH VEIL, 1945). She went behind the camera and directed entertaining films in the 1950s. Unfortunately, critics were dismissive to her trailblazing 1950s films mainly because she was a woman. Muriel Box's favorite theme to focus on in her films was "the female experience." Greta Gerwig is doing that today in a way that would make Muriel proud. Look at her Oscar-nominated LADY BIRD, also starring Saoirse Ronan, and now LITTLE WOMEN. As Amy, Florence Pugh is excellent. Timothee Chalamet, Chris Cooper and Bob Odenkirk co-star.

Robin Swicord, screenwriter of the 1994 LITTLE WOMEN remake, is a producer of this Greta Gerwig version. Robin Swicord also directed a  film. She directed a very smart and entertaining one that deserved more attention than it got. It's the funny and romantic 2007 film, THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB with fine performances from Emily Blunt, Maria Bello, Lynn Redgrave, Jimmy Smits and Hugh Dancy. Swicord also wrote the screenplay based on a novel of the same name. Check out that movie sometime. Check out LITTLE WOMEN. Let's support women directors.





About THE IRISHMAN

The hit man Robert De Niro plays in Martin Scorsese 's THE IRISHMAN says, "You don't know how fast time goes by until you ...