Tuesday, October 13, 2020
It was 1:30 in the morning and there I was, belly laughing at moments in a new comedy film on Netflix. With THE 40-YEAR OLD VERSION, Rahda Blank has served up a smart, sharp comedy that is one of the best films I have seen this year. She's the lead character. She wrote the screenplay. The film marks her directorial debut. I would put Rahda Blank's film on a double bill with the 1950 classic, ALL ABOUT EVE, in a heartbeat. In both films, we see talented women of 40 in New York City whose artistry is in the theatre world. Both women need to recharge, reinvent themselves to remain relevant for Broadway. Both women are the romantic interest of a younger man who is also creative and also in the arts. Rahda, years ago highlighted as a talent to watch in the theatre scene, is still a playwright -- but she's a struggling playwright. She's trying to keep the rent paid in Harlem. She teaches playwriting to high schoolers. She's gracefully survived the humiliation of one student Googling her to find that the teacher's once promising career has been sluggish for a few years. Which is why she's teaching. There were several times while watching THE 40-YEAR-OLD VERSION when I said out loud "Girl, I know how you feel. I have been there." You like Rahda as soon as you meet her.
Saturday, October 10, 2020
Don't you just love seeing the natural elegance of actress Patricia Clarkson onscreen? I know I do. She's a darling of those with a taste for independent films. If Patricia Clarkson was a clerk in a mom & pop store in your working class community, she would treat you like you were a favored customer in a high-tone store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. That's the quality she radiates.
Friday, October 9, 2020
Mexican-American actor Michael Peña should be a much bigger star than he is. Whether in a serious drama or a goofy comedy, he consistently proves his skill and versatility. He's got a career achievement that, if he was a Caucasian actor, would get mentioned by network morning news show hosts before they interviewed him in the studio. Michael Peña has had significant roles in five films that were Best Picture Oscar nominees: MILLION DOLLAR BABY (2004), CRASH (2005), BABEL (2006), AMERICAN HUSTLE (2013) and THE MARTIAN (2015). MILLION DOLLAR BABY and CRASH won the Oscars. I guess you can tell that I'm in his fan club. Well, I am. Aside from always being impressed with and totally entertained by his talent, he reminds me of every cool Chicano dude I had classes with and served on the altar with when I attended Catholic schools in my South Central L.A. youth. (Yes, I was an altar boy.) It's Hispanic Heritage Month. When I was a high schooler in Watts, our teachers discussed with us the importance of Cesar Chavez and his social activism. In Los Angeles at that time, Chavez was reguarly in the TV, radio and newspaper headlines. It did not get a lot of attention from press when it opened, but Michael Peña starred in a pretty good biopic about the activist. I feel it's worth seeing especially during Hispanic Heritage Month. Here's a clip about the 2014 biopic, CESAR CHAVEZ. The movie was directed by actor Diego Luna. Director Diego Luna, also Mexican, had a supporting role opposite Sean Penn in the Oscar-winning biopic, MILK. Penn played the late San Francisco gay rights politician and activist, Harvey Milk. He won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance. Luna was excellent with close friend, Gael Garcia Bernal, in Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN. Here's more about CESAR CHAVEZ. Again, this is some recommended viewing for Hispanic Heritage Month. The movie was overlooked when it came out -- but, I feel it's worth a look and it's packed with a talented cast headed by Michael Peña.
Thursday, October 8, 2020
He passed away this week in Santa Monica, California. He was 90 and I read that he passed away peacefully after having read lots of fan letters letting him know that his work was loved. That made me smile. He was the extraordinary dancer, singer and actor Tommy Rall.
Sunday, October 4, 2020
If you grew up Catholic, as I did, and attended Catholic school, I bet you're aware of the legend of Saint Bernadette. In life, Bernadette Soubirous was the peasant teen in France who saw visions of the Virgin Mother in Lourdes. The first vision occurred On February 11th in 1858. During one vision in the grotto, Bernadette was instructed by the Virgin Mother to dig in the ground. Eventually, a spring appeared. For some faithful followers, the water of the spring had healing powers. All of this is covered in the 1943 biographical film, THE SONG OF BERNADETTE, based on a best-selling book of the same name. Jennifer Jones played Bernadette and took home the Oscar for Best Actress. Does this connect to actor Zac Efron? Yes, it does. Efron has a documentary travel series on Netflix called DOWN TO EARTH with ZAC EFRON. The reviews I saw on social media for the series were pretty good. However, the main reviews seemed to be about his looks. Especially from publications aimed at gay men. On Twitter, INSTINCT MAGAZINE wrote "Zac Efron Remains a Beardy & Totally Sexy Daddy in the Making."
Friday, September 25, 2020
I'm not blogging as frequently as I have because the format was changed and I cannot stand it. The legacy format, which made postings much simpler, is no longer accessible and cries for its return seem to have fallen upon deaf ears and unseeing eyes in the Help & Feeback office. However, today I rewatched one of my favorite Meryl Streep performances. She played the famous chef/author/TV instructor Julia Child in JULIE & JULIA written and directed by Nora Ephron. I love this movie.
Sunday, September 20, 2020
Back in 2006, I was the weekly film critic entertainment contibutor on Whoopi Goldberg's national weekday early morning radio show. It was a live broadcast out of New York City. During that time, I saw a movie that got a little bitty amount of publicity. You know how John Travolta has gained an amount of fame for making clunker movies that are so bad, instead of saying they were released, you want to say they escaped? Well, this movie seemed to be dropkicked into that category. In New York City, it played for two weeks at an arthouse theater down in the Village. The movie has a film noir flavor. Overall, is this film as fully delicious as DOUBLE INDEMNITY or BODY HEAT? No. Still, what grabbed me by the collar and held my attention was the feverishly sexy, lethal beauty performance delivered by Salma Hayek.
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