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Joy’s Favorite Flicks
Part 1 (A-J)

To Part 2, K-Z

I look for movies that have some redeeming value; something more than a simple romance or adventure or who-done-it. I love movies that have metaphysical components, or an unusual twist. I don’t use a rating system because I only review movies that I enjoy. I consider (almost) all of these to be four or five stars. Thanks to NetFlix, we now have access to movies from all eras.

Please do add your Comments through email, and send me your own reviews of movies you love. If I like them I’ll review them and perhaps I’ll add your comments. Use your real name and city, unless you’d rather not.

Come back frequently, because I add new movies, in red, every two or three months.They're listed alphabetically.

 

Agnes Brown

Combine a slice of Ireland with a passionate friendship between two gutsy women, living through thick and thin, and you have the story of Agnes Brown, complete with laughter and joy, a widow with seven kids, and a mean money-lender. It’s a precious movie that will make you laugh and cry. If you’re a woman, see it with your best girlfriend. Angela Huston combines a great performance with fine directing.

All of Me

Personally I think this is one of the funniest, most wonky movies I have ever seen. It features Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin at their absolute best. They were both nominated for Golden Globe awards as best actor and actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical. Steve Martin won the Best Actor award from the National Society of Film Critics and from the New York Film Critics Circle.  Australia Theatrical called it “The funniest movie since Tootsie.”

It’s a loony spoof on New Age spirituality, full of peculiar twists. Jon Carroll’s review says it all:  it has the funniest 10 minutes of screen time since the movies started talking.

And the most unpromising premise. Lily Tomlin is a sickly rich person who wishes her soul to be transferred to someone else's body just at the moment of her death. Richard Libertini is the guru who will make it all happen; Steve Martin is the skeptical lawyer who is working for Tomlin. Complications ensue. Tomlin dies, her soul moves to an odd brass bowl, which is then knocked out a window. The bowl hits Martin on the head, and suddenly Lily Tomlin is inhabiting the body of Steve Martin (with Steve Martin still in it).

A power struggle ensues. The right side (Tomlin) does not wish to cooperate with the left side (Martin). Both personalities are angry, confused, inept. It is an astonishing illusion: Your brain knows that it's only watching Steve Martin hurling his limbs around, but nothing you see on-screen confirms that. His left foot moves bravely outward, intent on getting back to his office; his right foot remains glued to the ground. His right hand clings to a parking meter desperately; his left hand just as desperately tries to pry it off. All the while, he is engaged in a furious argument with himself, by turns sarcastic, seductive, wheedling, raging.
(1984)

Atonement

Briony is a highly precocious adolescent and would-be playright. She has a crush on Peter, the older son of the cook. Her father took Peter under his wing and sent him to Cambridge. Peter has returned to the mansion, perhaps for the summer, where Briony’s older sister tries to avoid him, because he is not of her class.

What I liked best about this movie was the reenactment of sexually-charged scenes, first from the perspective of Briony, who accidentally witnessed them, while drawing her own confused conclusions, and then later from the perspective of the would-be lovers.

This is an extraordinary movie. It has texture, dimension, and many surprises. It has poetry, romance, war, and betrayal. The second half of the movie is entirely different from the first. Based on Ian McEwan’s novel, it captures many radically different scenes, all of them rich in color and texture—you can almost smell some of them. The strongest part of the movie is the cinematography; it is a minor artistic masterpiece.

This is Briony’s story, as told by her. It is about something terrible that she did when she was an adolescent, about how her actions totally ruined people’s lives, and how she attempted to attone for that,

Briony, is played at different ages by three actresses, with the final stellar performance by Vanessa Redgrave (she received the Marion Award as the Best Supporting Actress for this role).  Briony at age 13 is played beautifully by Saoirse Ronan, who was nominated for an oscar as Best Supporting Actress.  James Mcavoy and Keria Knightly were excellent as the lovers. The movie was nominated for Best Motion Picture. This is definitely a film worth seein— if you’re a romantic.

But I must admit that it left me feeling a little flat. The lovers were beautiful to look at, but I never really got to know them well enough to care about them as deeply as the storyline demanded. (2007)

August Rush

How could it get any better? Freddie Highmore plays August Rush, an orphan boy who hears the music of the spheres, and knows that music will somehow lead him to his parents (played by Keri Russell and Jonathan Rhys Meyers). He does not know that his parents are musicians and that his father and mother are still looking for each other. How music brings the three of them back together, after the boy has an amazing interlude with the Wizard, played by Robin Williams, who plays Daddy and John to a bunch of musical street kids, housing them in an abandoned theatre like something out of Bertolt Brecht.             Then another interlude with a black church choir and a wonderfully talented girl singer (played by Jamia Simone Nash) culminates in August Rush’s concert, complete with singing wine glasses and a kind of bull-roarer, and the special way that August and his father play the guitar by banging the strings like a drum. This is delightful fairy tale, love story, and adventure—if you don’t mind being blatantly sentimental. It is one of my favorite movies! (2007)

Ayurveda—The Art of Being


This is a remarkable documentary, and well worth the time if you are at all interested in this ancient art of healing. There are several techniques shown that I have never seen before. Even the art of reducing specific stones to ash and taking them internally was mentioned briefly, but unfortunately it was not described in great detail.
Watching this DVD is like going to India and finding some of the old revered teachers and healers and having them talk to you and share their knowledge, and being able to watch them at work, treating patients and harvesting and preparing herbal remedies. Quite fascinating. We are very fortunate that this knowledge is being preserved before it is lost. (1002 minutes, 2002)

The Beach

What if there really was a shangri-la? And suppose it was peopled by a bunch of young, idealistic dope-smoking hippies? How long would it last? What kinds of problems would they encounter amongst themselves, and how would they keep it a secret?
Alex Garland wrote the novel, and then a very young Leonardo DiCaprio starred in this movie made in 2000, which supposedly took place in Thailand. There is some violence.
But it’s believable, and the story holds up, and the acting is good, and it gets you to think about some things.  In fact, the storyline isn’t all that different than The Commune, which is a bona fide documentary (see The Commune).
My only complaint is that everyone kept their clothes on, which would be very improbable in this kind of setting. This is a very intense movie, but it’s a good one. (2000)

Becoming Jane

Becoming Jane is based on the true story of Jane Austen (played by Anne Hathaway). Born in 1775 in Hampshire, England, this unconventional, budding authoress loved to write novels.

Then a rebellious young man, Thomas Le Froy (played by James McAvoy), who was studying to become a lawyer (thanks to a generous allowance from his wealthy but highly controlling and judgmental uncle) was punished for his lack of respect for his elders by being sent to the country.

Here the two young people met and were at first put off by one another. He critiqued her novel, saying it showed no sign of true experience—particularly in relation to lovemaking—then he loaned her a copy of Tom Jones, with all its explicit and delicate sexual descriptions, which she devoured, while pretending not to care for it.

I have not seen another movie that makes the viewer so extremely aware of the subservient position of women during that era, even before women were allowed to be teachers and nurses. Jane’s father, a minister who loved her very much, told his congregation, “If a woman happens to have…a profound mind, it is best kept a profound secret….Wit…is the most treacherous ‘talent’ of all.”
           
It was unheard of for a woman to support herself, and the idea that a woman would marry for love was considered ridiculous. Jane Austen was one of the first truly independent women. Though she followed her father’s advice and wrote anonymously during most of her lifetime, and though her novels were not very successful while she was alive, she did manage to support herself through her pen. Tennyson said of her novels, “Miss Austen understood the smallness of life to perfection. She was a great artist, equal in her small sphere to Shakespeare…”
           
Unlike so many contemporary movies, and more like Jane Austen’s famous novels, great attention is paid to detail as we are given a rich glimpse into the lives of these two young people, so that we come to care about them deeply. Jane Austen never married, and she died at the age of 42, in 1817.
           
Actress Anne Hathaway is an avid fan of Austen’s, having read all her books and thrilled and thrilled to play this role, which she did very well, but I think she was too pretty for the part. Pictures of Austen indicate a woman who was pleasant in appearance, but a bit plump and not particularly sexy. The movie implied that this ravishing beauty was constantly turning away men, but in reality Jane spent only 2 months with Le Froy when she was 20, and later she received just one proposal, which she accepted, and then declined the next day.

Before Sunset

You had one day and night together and it was the best. You intended to meet again, a year later, but one of you didn’t show up. Ever since, you’ve been remembering each other. Why didn’t you exchange phone numbers? You were young. You had no idea how special it was.
           
What if you did meet again? What if you had a second chance?
           
Most of this movie is filmed in real time. What if you only had an hour to decide what to do, before one of you flew back to New York from Paris?
           
Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke are delightful in this movie, which is strangely devoid of bedroom scenes. It is actually a sequel to Before Sunrise (1955), also directed by Richard Linklater. It was filmed in 15 days. (2004).

Being John Malkovich

If you enjoy having your mind twisted, and going through secret portals, and the possibility of literally being inside someone else’s head, you will like this very strange movie. John Malkovich is an actor, actually, and he plays himself, but then, so does everyone else. No need to say anything more. Just sit back and let your mind get bent.

Beloved

Truly one of the most amazing films I have ever seen, this is a gut-wrenching, far too realistic portrayal of life during the middle era of slavery. Oprah Winfrey plays the slave who was sexually abused late in her pregnancy and then escaped, running barefoot from North Dakota to Ohio. She should have received an academy award for her role, and Thandie Newton was amazing as the creature who came out of the water, still wet and barely able to speak or to stand up, like a newborn colt, but dressed in black and strangely distorted. They were all nominated for Image awards.

Best of all were the sermons by the Negro Matriarch, the Grandmother (Beah Richards) who told her people, “They won’t love your flesh. So you have to love it. Love your flesh. Love your hands. Kiss your hands.” The movie is based on a novel by Toni Morrison, by the same name, which received a  Pulitzer Prize in 1987. It is directed by Jonathan Demme and produced by Oprah Winfrey.

This movie is frightening, and I would not recommend it for children under 16, There is a lot of violence, but it is historic fact and not entertainment. It is a heavy movie, brilliantly executed in every way, including the haunting songs that could be Appalachian. Based on what I have heard from people I trust, it could be true. In some aspects, it is like a newer version of The Exorcist, which also could have been true, but the acting and special effects were greatly distorted. In this case, Thandie Newton’s performance was unbelievably believable.  (1998).

Casanova

For a silly romp with lots of laughs and a darn good time, this movie is a winner. I still can’t figure out how they managed to make the topic of female oppression and the inquisition into something funny! Heath Ledger plays Casanova, and Sienna Miller plays the one woman who scorns the man whom even the nuns adore and protect. It takes place in lush 18th century Venice, as Casanova falls in love and attempts to pursue the woman who tries to avoid him.

4 Charing Cross Road

 

I am so impressed with Anne Bancroft!  She was 54 when she made this movie, and she died at 74. I’ve been looking for a movie star version of a natural older woman, and I’ve finally found her.  This woman is stunning, without trying to be. Her inner beauty shines through. The character she plays in this movie has that same quality. You can’t help but fall in love with Helen Hanff, a Jewish woman writer who is, by turns, witty, outspoken, charming and outrageous.
It’s not surprising that the reserved and highly cultured, dignified, clearly brilliant, good-hearted and married, Frank Doel (played impeccably by Anthony Hopkins), who had an important position at a London bookshop specializing in rare books and prints, fell in love with her, long distance, through over twenty years of exchanging letters that were rarely private, and shared with many others, including his wife and daughters, and yet . . . .
She said he was the one person who truly understood her. She always dreamed of going from New York to London. This was during the fifties and into the sixties.  Even his wife gets into the spirit and writes to Helen. Eeryone in the bookstore writes to her, thanking her for the ittle care packages of tinned meat that she sends on special occasions, since meat is strictly rationed during wartime in England.
He so hoped that she would come. It is such a simple movie. It is amazing that it works so well. And though I loved Anne Bancroft, she was not a convincing Jew! The movie is based on the true correspondence between Helen Hanff and Frank Doel, in her 1970 book of the same title. Anne Bancroft won the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Anthony Hopkins was named Best Actor at the Moscow International Film Festival, (1986)

Children of Heaven

 

This movie is a masterpiece from Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi. The whole story centers around the shoes that the older brother lost that belonged to his younger sister. They dare not tell their father, because he will be furious and he cannot afford to buy another pair. So they go to incredible lengths to figure out how to share the brother’s pair of shoes, making it just barely possible for each of them them to attend school, given that the boy’s school begins when the girl’s school is over.

But the movie isn’t really about the shoes. It’s about the expressions on the children’s faces when they are watching soap bubbles. It’s about the shoemaker’s hands as he stitches the shoes, in movements that are thousands of years old. It’s about innocence and simplicity and little tragedies and poverty, as seen through the eyes of children.

It is an incredibly beautiful, artistic movie. The acting, the filming, the directing are all consummate poetry. A great pleasure to watch. And a rare opportunity to go inside of Iranian culture, to experience it firsthand. (1999)

 

 

 

The Color of Paradise (Rang-e khoda)

           
What a surprise—that this movie (which I expected to be sad) turned out to be so triumphantly exquisite, so delicate, taking us into the sacred blind spaces of touch and feeling and sound. This is the journey of a blind Iranian boy whose mother died when he was young, whose father resents his existence, and whose two adorable sisters and his precious grandmother love him to pieces. The story unfolds in the most verdant landscapes, so artistically filmed, taking the viewer into this simple life that is ancient and deeply satisfying.            
This is the land of Persia (now Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan), and this film perfectly invokes the poetry of its greatest bard, Rumi. Exquisitely written and directed by Majid Majidi it has been nominated for and has won 18 international awards for best film, best foreign language film, best director, best screenplay and best cinematography. In the role of the father,  Hossein Mahjoub won an award for best actor. I would have chosen the son, Moshel Ramezani for his amazing performance. The film is in Persian, with subtitles. Apparently Persian or Iranian cinema is becoming quite popular and winning much recognition worldwide. The true translation of the title would be The Color of God. (1999)

 

Commune

If you’re interested in communal living, this may be the most fascinating documentary you will ever see. Starting in 1968, a bunch of hippies in their twenties and early thirties got some movie stars and rock stars to put up money so they could buy 80 acres of beautiful land, about 40 miles on a dirt road into the wilds. They left San Francisco and moved to the forested mountains of Northern California, with the slogan “Free Land for Free People.”
           
Jonathan Berman produced this film in cooperation with the people who lived at Black Bear Ranch, making great use of actual film clips (in black-and-white, and often nude or quasi-nude) taken during the seventies, when Black Bear Ranch was in full swing. After ten years of noble effort, most of the original people left. The movie has fascinating interviews with most of these folks, now in their sixties and early seventies, including a memorial service for one of the original founders, and interviews with some of the children who grew up at Black Bear. As the older members are interviewed (and some have become quite successful in their chosen fields—including Peter Coyote, who also narrates the film), you see flashbacks of them in their younger years.
           
Real stories are told. There is great honesty among the members of the community, with no attempt to hide the problems, the failures, and the successes of this ten-year experiment that still continues, in subdued tones, on the land that was put into trust for 60 years.  You can go to RottenTomatoes.com for a list of places to buy the film cheap, or get it from Netflix. (2006)

 

Core

           
For a great adventure and sci fi movie that is completely believable, combining 1960s style sci fi movie with great acting in a character-centered movie with awesome visual effects. The theme is the gradual diminishing of the earth’s electromagnetic field that protects us from solar winds and the rays of the sun. Without that protection, the protagonist in the movie speculates, microwave radiation will literally cook our planet, and that is what starts to happen when high altitude static discharges make dramatic patterns in the sky, and pigeons drop out of the air.

The one fly in the ointment, from my perspective, is that the diminishing of the electromagnetic field has happened fourteen times before, and when this occurs, the fluid next to the earth’s core just starts spinning in the opposite direction, sometimes causing the polarities of the poles to switch direction.
           
The question to explore is what will happen to all the life forms on this planet if and when this occurs? Will the lack of magnetism actually erase our memories the way that a big magnet can wipe tapes clean? Will people go crazy? Will people die? How can we prepare ourselves for such an event? Is this what the Mayan calendar speaks about happening in 2012? Is this what actually happened to Atlantis?
           
Unfortunately, none of these questions are examined. Instead, in true American fashion, our heroes (including Hilary Swank at the helm) make their way to the core of the earth, with the mission of detonating a nuclear reactor that will supposedly prevent the liquid surrounding the core from changing directions. Do they get there on time? And does it work? And do they get back? Those are the questions that keep you at the edge of your seat. (2003)

Dancing at Lughnasa

 

It’s a sad movie, but it’s also joyful. It’s a slice of life in Ireland in the 1930s. We look in at the lives of five sisters and their elder brother, all single, living together, trying to keep the family together and to survive under difficult circumstances.  It’s the time of the first “wireless;” a radio that brings Irish music to these people who, despite such hard times, cannot resist an opportunity to sing and to dance. The acting is completely believable, and Meryl Streep shines as the eldest sister who tries to stay in control but fails miserably.

The story is told by the young and only son of one of the sisters, whose father came back when he was about eight, before leaving again to fight in the Spanish Civil War. The brightest time for this group came one evening, after the radio had been on the blink for a long time, and the boy’s father managed to fix it, and the music came pouring back into their lives, lifting one sister after another—despite every effort to stay prim and proper—into the most glorious riotous reveling dance. The boy tells us,  “When I think of that summer, I think of it as dancing—dancing as if language had surrendered to movement—dancing as if language no longer existed, because words were no longer necessary.”(1998)

Definitely, Maybe

This is a complex story of love, from the perspective of Maya (Abigail Breslin), a pre-adolescent girl who has just had her first sex education class, and wants her father (Ryan Reynolds) —who has just received his divorce papers—to tell her what really happened when her mother and father got together. As she pushes past her father’s resistance, she gets considerably more than she bargained for!
Since her father as a young man was involved in Bill Clinton’s campaign, we get flashbacks into the political scene of the nineties in New York City. Since Dad fell in love with three different women (played by Rachel Weiss, Isla Fisher, and Elizabeth Banks), the movie has lots of nice twists, some good smiles, and it’s all held together neatly by young  Abigail Breslin. A fun romance, and a nice family movie for teenagers. Written and directed by Adam Brooks. (2008)

Emmanuel’s Gift

This is a true story about a man from Ghana who was born without a tibia, so he has one very short leg. Ten percent of the people in Ghana are disabled, and they aren’t allowed to work; they’re expected to become beggars—and they actually earn more than most people who have regular jobs. Having a disabled child is considered a curse upon the parents; a punishment for past-life sins. The parents are expected to kill these children. Emmanuel’s father abandoned the family after his son was born.

Emmanuel had a vision to become a whole person, and to make it possible for other disabled people to be treated with respect. He persuaded an organization in the United States to donate a bicycle which he rode it across Ghana, gathering support along the way. It’s a beautiful, touching, and inspiring story, narrated by Oprah Winfrey. (2006) Note: This 80-minute DVD is available through Stephen Simon’s Spiritual Cinema Circle, and it is also with Netflix.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Joel (Jim Carey) lives a meaningless existence. “I go to work and come home from work. My journal is empty. Nothing ever happens to me.” One day Clementine, a gorgeous, wild woman (Kate Winslet) comes into his life, complete with blue hair. She picks him up on the subway—or did they meet at a party on the beach? In any case, within a year it’s obvious their lifestyles aren’t meshing, especially when she crashes his car and comes home drunk at 3 am, and he accuses her of “making friends by sleeping with them.”
When Clementine marches out of Joel’s life, she makes an impulsive decision to wipe him out of her mind, with the help of an experimental medical procedure. When Joel finds her the next day at her job, she literally doesn’t recognize him—and she has a new boyfriend.  Joel is absolutely devastated and makes the decision to wipe her out of his mind.
But the procedure goes a bit haywire. Memories get jammed and wires get mixed and we see scenes of the relationship that are supposed to be getting erased from his mind intermixed with events occurring amongst the people who are working the equipment. And we see Joel’s ambivalence about losing all these memories.
Surely this gives us time to reflect upon our own desires to wipe certain experiences from our minds. This is a rich movie, brilliantly acted, and ingeniously written by Charlie Kaufman. Be sure to catch the Bonus Materials on the DVD for a much deeper appreciation of the true magic that French Director Michel Gondry works with the cinematography.
I rarely see movies twice, but when I saw this one the second time, a few years later, I liked it even more. The first time it was pretty tense; the second time I could relax and enjoy it. Both Carey and Winslet make huge strides out of their usual roles, giving amazing depth to their characters, and Director Gondry gives them plenty of space to improvise and make the script their own.  This is an extraordinary movie: funny, scary, romantic, sad, creative, bizarre, and whacko. (2004)

Far from Heaven

This movie begins in the fifties in Connecticut. I grew up during the fifties in San Diego and in Los Angeles. Other movies that depict this era feel to me like a vague facsimile. This movie made me feel like I’d been dropped down into my old  neighborhood; I couldn’t believe how real it was.
The family has an unreal feeling to it, but that was exactly how that middle class families lived their lives; they were totally unreal with each other.
This movie is about what happens to an unreal family when reality rears its ugly head. It’s about the impact of homosexuality and racism on the lives of these people.
It’s a sad movie, and I don’t recommend it for entertainment. But I am grateful that someone bothered to create an emotionally and historically accurate depiction of exactly how it felt to be in a cross-racial relationship in that era. I can’t speak to how it felt to be gay at that time, though I find it hard to believe that a successful business executive would leave his wife and move in with his male lover in that era (or even now!).
The main part of the movie takes place in 1958. In 1959 I was 15, a senior in a Jewish high school in Los Angeles, and I had a black boyfriend at Los Angeles City College. I met him at a house with Freedom Riders; black and white young people who went to the South to ride busses and deliberately violate the law that said that blacks had to ride in the back of the bus. These were courageous young people; passive resisters who frequently were beaten up and thrown in jail.
On the weekends we picketed Woolworth’s, to protest segregation at lunch counters in the South.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, there were just a few places where Richard and I could hang out and feel comfortable. I never took him to my house, and he never took me to his.
Once we borrowed a friend’s car and took a drive to the country. It seemed that almost every car we passed stared at us. We were violating a strong taboo.
I realize now that our willingness to violate that taboo was just one step that helped pave the way to making interracial relationships less frightening to people.
This is indeed a movie about a time and place that is Far from Heaven.
Julianne Moore played the wife and mother impeccably, and she was nominated as Best Actress in the Academy Awards. (2002)

Fur

The title refers to the hairy man (Downey Jr.) that the girl (Nicole Kidman—stunning performance) falls in love with. The movie is a surreal portrait inspired by the life of a highly unusual woman photographer who was fascinated by the strange and the unusual (including dwarfs, midgets, sexual deviants, and nudists). At first she is repressed, frightened, obedient and timid. But soon she finds the courage to follow her inner truth and to love—passionately and unconditionally—both the man and her own unique work as a photographer.

Kidman portrays these changes completely convincingly, transmuting through several completely different personalities impeccably.

This movie challenges the viewer to stretch his or her perceptions—to witness a world that most people are repulsed by. Yet there is a fascination behind the repulsion, and photographer Diane Butus conveyed that world by fully entering it, much as Toulouse Lautrec entered the brothels of his day.

The camerawork for the film acts as a reflecting mirror for the actors and the scenes that are portrayed in a continuously surreal format.

This is a haunting, inspiring, and throught-provoking film that I highly recommended for those who like getting their minds blown.  (2006)

Ghost Whisperer

This TV miniseries has gone through 82 episodes and 4 seasons, between 2005 and 2009. It was created by John Gray, produced by and starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, with famous Spirit Communicator, James Van Pragh, as one of the executive producers. This is what drew me to the series, because I have great respect for Van Pragh. It is also based the work of Mary Ann Winkowski, another Spirit Communicator. So I expected to see some accurate, informative and educational episodes.

I found that the basic portrayal of ghosts, and why they stick around, and how to communicate with them and with their relatives who donít believe in them, and how to help these disembodied spirits go into the Light, makes this a valuable and fascinating series, especially for anybody who has an inclination to help those who have passed over.

In the first half of the first series, most of the information was in alignment with what I personally have experienced in working with earthbound spirits. I was pleased to see a portrayal that felt basically accurate, and I hoped that it would help the public to be more open-minded about this aspect of reality that is too often shut away in dark closets.

I was disappointed to see the series take on more and more Hollywoodish exaggerations and unnecessarily ghoulish scenes. I realized that this was what would keep up their ratings, and I resigned myself to this part of it, while still enjoying the excellent stories and all of the good information.

As part of the CD with the second series, there is an interview with John Gray, and we learn that as a child he loved horror films, and he thinks that scary movies are funny. In fact, the whole erroneous idea that the wall between the worlds is getting thinner, and the dead are increasingly able to manipulate things in the material world, was an idea that he came up with in order to make the program increasingly exciting. I believe it is a huge disservice to people who are struggling to understand the truth of earthbound spirits to have it mixed into their subconscious minds along with a bunch of scary garbage. (2005-2009)

The Girl in the Café

What a movie! It combines an awkward but touching romance with a powerful political message. When one young woman comes out and fearlessly states her truth, that we are committing genocide when we ignore the fact that every two seconds a child dies of starvation. This powerful movie shows how young people who are full of passion can inject a sense of humanity into an environment that is otherwise frozen into rigid corporate facts and figures that are devoid of humanity.
It is great credit to the actors and the director that a movie with such an intense message is delivered as a loveable romantic encounter between an older man who is obsessed with his work and has no social graces, and a young woman who has nothing better to do than to accept his extremely awkward invitations to have lunch, and then dinner, and then to accompany him to a world conference in  Iceland (and please forgive me that there is only one bed, it was a terrible mistake, oh, this is so embarrassing).
Bill Nighy and Kelly Macdonald, the lead players, were nominated for Golden Globe Awards as best Actor and Actress. Kelly won an Emmy as Outstanding Supporting Actress, and David Yates as Outstanding Director. (1995)

The Graduate

A young Dustin Hoffman (age 30, but a convincing 21) brilliantly portrays Benjamin, a mixed-up rich college graduate, contemplating his future, feeling paralyzed, hoping for some kind of wisdom from his elders, but instead being told: “Here’s my advice to you, Son. Plastics. It’s the wave of the future.”
In the middle of an onslaught of phony upper middle class dribble, “the best-looking of my parent’s friends,” Mrs. Robinson (nominated for Best Actress), walks into his room and refuses to leave. We never even learn her first name, but she is played unforgettably by Anne Bancroft, an elegant alcoholic woman who is impeccably controlling and determined to get her way. “Are you trying to seduce me, Mrs. Robinson?”
It all seems to be going fairly well until her lovely daughter, Elaine, comes home from college for vacation, and despite the mother’s threats, Benjamin falls head-over-tails in love with Elaine, and thanks to Mrs. Robinson, he has mastered the skills of seduction.
Now he has to deal with a ferociously jealous lover, and her husband (his father’s business partner.  On the outside, it is a zany love story. But there are many layers, and this is an existential commentary on the painful emptiness of upper middle class existence. It ends with a senseless but exhilarating declaration of freedom from the expectations of a deadening culture. This was the movie that made Dustin Hoffman famous (nominated for Best Actor). It was directed by Mike Nichols (who won the Oscar for Best Director), with the famous musical score by Simon & Garfunkel. (1967)

Guru

The Guru is actually the Guru of Sex who is actually a dance teacher who admires John Travolta and travels to America to follow his heart and live his dreams. In pursuit of an acting career he inadvertently ends up on the set of a porn flick and befriends the leading lady. She turns out to be spiritually oriented, and he puts himself under her tutelage so that he can learn the wisdom that he then teaches under the guise of the Guru. This is a clever and funny movie. (2003)

Happy Feet

Using the basic information conveyed in March of the Penguins, a beautiful movie about the remarkable mating and breeding behaviors during a year in lives of the Emperor penguins of the Antarctic, Happy Feet looks, at first, like a simple cartoon and children’s version of the same story, with a slightly different slant. It tells the age-old tale of the Ugly Duckling; in this case, Mumble, the one Emperor Penguin who cannot sing, and thus cannot attract a proper mate. But he has a different gift, though at first it is shunned and he is shamed for having it; he can dance.
And along with that, he has a mission: he is determined to find the Aliens who are stealing the fish that are the life-blood of his community. His commitment is to find a way to communicate with that which is good in them, and to persuade them to change their ways. The heartwarming (and possibly even believable) ending is reminiscent of what might happen if the Indigo Children and the Crystal Children (those with higher consciousness and not much karma to burn) merged with the growing community of adults who have a sense of morality and caring for the creatures of the planet.
The sound track was great, and Robin Williams and Nicole Kidman, among others, added their voices to the stunning animation.
Warning: for young and highly sensitive children, this movie does have some scary parts. (2007)

Hitch

I thought it was just a cool, funny, clever movie, and believe me, I really laughed a lot! I was glad it was a DVD, because I would have embarrassed myself by laughing that much at the theater!
But then it turned into something else. It started getting profoud. There were some pretty deep, almost Shakespearean insights, and it was pretty darn beautiful.
Hitch (Will Smith) is the Date Doctor. He calls himself a Consultant. His job is to teach guys how to get the girl of their dreams within the first three dates. He says that any guy can get any girl. But he draws the line when he meets a guy who is just trying to “get a bang.”
When Albert, one of his overweight clients apparently loses his girlfriend, he tells Hitch, “I want to throw myself off of every building in New York. I, I see a cab and I just wanna dive in front of it because then I'll stop thinking about her,” Hitch starts counseling him about how to be cool and not let it get to him. But Albert is outraged and tells Hitch he doesn’t know anything about love. He’d rather suffer and have all his feelings. “I've waited my whole life to feel this miserable. I mean, and if this is the only way I can stay connected with her, then... well, this is who I have to be.”
This is exactly when Hitch realizes that he has fallen madly in love with the beautiful, professional and utterly aloof gossip reporter (Eva Mendes), and they are completely estranged, so he goes to her and totally loses his cool, blurting out,
“I just know that I want to be …. miserable!
Like, really miserable!
Because, if that’s what it takes ….
For me to be happy….
That didn’t come out right!”
It’s a good movie. Kevin Bisch did a great job as the writer. This may be the closest that Hollywood came to an ordinary love story between a black man and a white woman, but they side-stepped it, because Eva Mendes is actually Cuban. (2005)

A Home at the End of the World

 

His mother died. He’s six years old. It’s 1973. His brother, who is like a Dad to him, turns him on to acid and then walks through a glass door and dies. Bobby becomes friends with Jonathan, and turns him on to grass and hangs out at his house and gets ‘adopted’ by his mother (Sissy Spacek). The two guys become sexual. One day Jonathan’s Mom walks in while they’re smoking grass, and Bobby turns her on. Bobby’s father dies and he moves in with Jonathan’s family.
Jonathan goes off to Philly to college. Bobby stays with Jonathan’s parents, but then they move to Phoenix. So he goes to the city to join Jonathan, who is living with Clare, and they talk about having a baby. but Jonathan is gay, However Bobby (who is still a virgin) gets seduced by Clare and they fall in love and have a baby. Jonathan stays around and the three of them move to Woodstock.
It’s a very eighties movie. There’s a lot about sex and drugs, but this is not a movie about sex and drugs. It’s about people struggling to find meaning and love in their lives. Really well done. It’s very touching. Sweet and sad and authentic.
It’s based on a popular novel by Michael Cunnington (published in 1990) who also wrote the screenplay. Cunningham is also the author of The Hours. (2004)

House of Sand

The filming of desert scenes is pure poetry, as this movie, brilliantly directed by Andrucha Waddington, tracks the lives of a mother and daughter through several generations as they move from the city to the desert (to get out of debt) where they literally become trapped by the dunes and are forced to make alliance with a band of men who are descendants of runaway slaves, who do not believe that the slaves have been freed.
It reminds me of Woman in the Dunes, an old favorite of mine. These are not happy stories, but they stand as brilliant reminders of the fortitude of the human soul.
There are tricks in the handling of time that produce surprises that are quite fascinating in this unique and original screenplay
If I was giving out Academy Awards, and if this was an American rather than a Brazilian film, I would want Fernanda Torres to receive the award for best actress, and I would want Fernanda Montenegro (who initially plays her mother and is in reality her mother) to get nominated as best supporting actress, and I would nominate this film as one of the best films and screenplays of the year. Stunning! (2007)

Housesitter

Every now and then a really funny movie comes along, and this one certainly qualifies. Goldie Hawn plays a cute babe (Gwen) who lies through her teeth and weasels herself into the most improbable circumstances with an architect she sleeps with once (Newt, played by Steve Martin) who has built an exquisite house for his hoped-for bride-to-be who turned him down flat.  The story of how Gwen moves into the house he built, in a small town where he once lived, and befriends his parents, his neighbors, and even his ex-girlfriend and boss, convincing them all that she is his wife before he gets a chance to protest makes for a hilarious story—particularly when Gwen’s clever lies engage his boss so that he is ready to give Newt a coveted promotion, and his old girlfriend starts to think he’s pretty desirable after all. (1992)

Innocence

This is such a beautiful, touching movie. Forty years ago a young man and woman fell in love, and then she had to leave, and they went their separate ways. Each of them married, had children, and lived reasonably good lives. Or did they? Twenty years ago the woman’s husband had an affair, and though she forgave him, they stopped being lovers. Her life has been fairly empty since then, and she hardly knew what she was missing until this old lover showed up in her life, and swept her off her feet again. At the age of nearly seventy.
What tender love scenes; interweaving memories from their youth with loving moments in the present. Juxtaposed with the shock of her husband and his inability to believe and then to accept that his wife is having an affair at her age!
How tastefully Paul Cox has written and directed this movie about love. It is a song, a poem, a watercolor painting, a bit of philosophy, a spiritual commentary. Filmed in Australia, it is refreshing, sweet, tender, sad, delightful, and extremely honest. It firmly puts an end to the myth that older people don’t have sex. As the movie so aptly portrays, some do and some don’t.
The music is wonderful. As are the stunning performances by the beautiful Julia Blake, who won the Film Critics Circle of Australia Award for Best Female Actress, and Charles Tingwell, who plays her lover, a retired organist. Paul Cox was nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay in 2001. At the Montreal World Film Festival, Innocence won the Grand prix des Ameriques Awarrd and the People’s Choice Award. American film critic Roger Ebert praised it as his favorite film.  (2000)

Jeremiah Johnson

This is a classic film about a Mountain Man, a trapper, played by a young Robert Redford, with some of it filmed on his own ranch in Utah.  The land itself plays a major role in the film. Redford personally took Art Director Edward Haworth over 26,000 miles in search of the perfect locations to shoot. Almost 100 different locations were used, and a complete village was built in a remote mountain location. Sydney Pollack, the Director, went to great pains to make this film as authentic as possible, filming high in the mountains, in 25 below zero weather.
Redford was absolutely convincing as a mountain man, and Delle Bolton was equally as good as his squaw. 200 Native American women were auditioned for her role, and then Bolton tried out and she was exactly right. Native Americans were used to play the roles of the Shoshone, Crow and Flathead Indians that were sometimes friendly and often hostile to the invaders of their territory.
While I was caught up in the film I barely noticed that Redford, the main and sometimes the only character in the film, spoke barely 30 lines, and several of them were in Flathead. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, although the story-line on the last section was weak. It’s a beautiful experience to watch this film, and it could be enjoyed over and over again.
The Special Features part of the DVD is well worth watching, especially the Featurette: The Sage of Jeremiah Johnson, which shows the actual filming, which is as fascinating as the film itself.  (1972)

Jesus Christ Superstar

I don’t normally care for operas or operettas, and especially not in English. This is a rock opera, and it began as an opera score in 1970, written by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber (who also wrote the score for Evita, which also preceded that movie). Then Norman Jewison came on board as an incredible director, and this film adaptation was released in 1973. It was the eighth highest-grossing film of that year.
The movie begins with a red-and-white school bus traveling down a dusty road in the desert of Israel. The bus comes to a grinding halt and dozens of actors pile out and instantly begin to unload the bus, climbing onto the top, shaking out the dust-covered tarp, and throwing the props to the actors below, then finally lowering the huge cross.
The stage is a temple ruin in the middle of the desert with an additional scaffolding. This could easily have been the inspiration for Burning Man’s location in the Nevada desert in 1990.
It’s hard to believe that there is no spoken text in this movie. Everything is delivered in song, and yet it is always easy to understand each word and it rarely feels stilted or artificial. In fact, the voices in song are totally appropriate because they carry the emotional impact so powerfully, especially with the soul-searching performances by Ted Neeley (as Jesus) and Carl Anderson, now deceased(as the black Judas).Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson were both nominated for 1974 Golden Globe Awards.
This is written as Judas’s story of what happened to Jesus (and to himself). In this rendition, Judas’s main objection to Jesus is that he allowed people to believe that he was the son of God, and therefore not human, and so no one could hope to become like him.
My understanding is that this belief did not come from Jesus, but was a direct result of a decree by Emperor Justinian in 545 AD, which led to the doctrine that Jesus was the only son of God. But even in John 17:20-21, Jesus is quoted as saying, "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”
The reason for making Jesus the exclusive son of God is explained very succinctly at http://reluctant-messenger.com/reincarnation-pope.htm, where you can also read about why the concept of reincarnation was removed from Christian theology for similar reasons:
     A powerful group of . . . . Cardinals convinced the Emperor that if people realized they were the children of God they might begin to believe they no longer needed an Emperor, or to pay taxes, or to obey the Holy Church. But since they reasoned that only Christ had come from God but God made brand new souls at the time of conception and only the Holy Church could bring these souls to God. Without the protection of the Empire or the guidance of the church, all people would be doomed to be forever cut off from God in Hell. This doctrine was very acceptable to the Emperor.
           
The extra material on the DVD is well worth watching, including an interview in current time with Norman Jewison and Ted Neeley. I had a hard time opening the interview; I had to open “Languages” and choose “English” before it would click open. I strongly recommend this movie; it is an all-time great. (1973)

 

To Part 2, K-Z

 

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