EXCUSE ME IF THERE ARE TYPOS within this Oscar telecast review; I did not get much sleep due to the extra long telecast last night. It was a good thing I added extra recording time on my DVR for the show. After finishing up the weekend’s chores earlier in the day, I had everything out and ready to sit back and relax while checking off my predictions. Overall, most of my predictions were correct; the biggest surprise was the best picture category. The reason for my surprise was not that Parasite was chosen; it was that the academy actually voted it the best. I thought by them giving the award for best international film (I am glad they changed the title of this category from best foreign film) to Parasite, the academy would not also give the movie the best picture award. None of the other picks shocked me. LAST YEAR I TOLD YOU HOW I did not miss having a host; it turns out that may have been a fluke, because this telecast had an uneven flow without a host. I thought the show started out with a big bang by having Janelle Monae opening the night to get the crowd into the mood. Sadly, her precise and lively performance only made Steve Martin’s and Chris Rock’s banter stilted when they came out next. Some of their jokes were humorous, but it appeared they needed more rehearsal time; or, they might have been confused on why they were there if the show was not going to have a host. It became apparent to me as the show lumbered along that a host might have kept things connected and flowing. Having people come out to introduce celebrities who were then going to introduce the nominees seemed redundant to me. As for the acceptance speeches; some were short and delightful, while others rambled on. As you know I rate movies based on their entertainment value; I want the same thing for award shows—to be entertained. I do not want to hear celebrities lecture or preach about a cause unless they actually are involved with it. Just to hear someone’s opinion on a subject, I do not feel an awards show should be the avenue for a celebrity to tell me what I should do. And another thing about the presenters; maybe the academy should vet them a little better. There were a few actors/actresses who rambled on without making much sense. They took valuable viewing time and wasted it. THERE WERE A FEW SEGMENTS THAT I found baffling. Why did we need someone to give us a recap of what we had seen so far in a rap? Why did we need to hear Eminem sing his Oscar winning song without an introduction or explanation? And speaking of introductions, why were some of the nominated songs performed without letting the viewers know who and what was being sung? Some of the decisions that were made for this telecast were wasteful and frustrating to me, especially since I could tell the telecast was going to go past its allotted time slot. Now I do not want to be Mr. Gloom and Doom here; there were some lovely and touching moments. Seeing the winning director of Parasite pay his respects to Martin Scorsese was sweet as was Laura Dern’s acceptance speech. I admit it takes a lot for me to be disappointed with the Oscars telecast since it is something I have been watching ever since I was a young child. The memories I have of past shows have stayed with me all these years as will the new memories I get from current telecasts. For yesterday’s show, though I still enjoyed watching it, there certainly was room there for improvement. I hope everyone had fun this past Oscar year as I go right into our next year of movies, looking for that perfect 4-star film. Thank you for your comments and support throughout the past year; I appreciate it deeply.
THERE WAS NOTHING UNUSUAL ABOUT the couple standing in the middle of the crowd. They each had their arm wrapped around the back of the other; one had their head resting on the other’s shoulder. The music the band was playing up on stage had everyone moving to the beats. The couple was right in synch with the rhythm, moving their hips in unison. The two of them looked good together; one had a dark complexion while the other had a fair complexion with a twinge of redness. Similar in height they appeared to fit well together. Directly in front of them stood a young Millennial; she had been there for only a short time. At some point between songs she started to look around at the other fans. When she spotted the couple behind her she stopped and a smile began to grow on her face. When the couple made eye contact with her the Millennial gushed, “You two make the cutest couple. How long have you 2 been together?” The couple looked at each other with warm smiles and a chuckle. Looking back at the young girl they told her they have only been a couple for a little over one year. The Millennial was shocked and told them she could not believe it; she thought they had been a couple for at least 20 years. HAVE YOU NOTICED HOW THE younger generations treat the older ones? If that couple was in their 20’s, I doubt anyone would gush over them and call them cute. But because they were elderly and showing signs of affection for each other, they now are just too cute. I have experienced this phenomenon at weddings where an elderly couple go out onto the dance floor. Suddenly they grab all the attention as people start to watch that old couple moving to the music; saying things like, “Look at them move” and “Can you believe them?” Seriously, it is not like they are one step away from a fall; they happen to be active and enjoy dancing to music. Just because they are old suddenly people assume the couple cannot do the same activities of someone years younger. With me teaching fitness I have experienced people becoming shocked that I am an instructor. I cannot say I am insulted, but I find it curious that there are some who have these pre-conceived notions of what an instructor should be. Just because a person looks older doesn’t mean they stop living and having fun; in fact, there are examples of what I have been saying right here in this comedy film. FOUR LONG-TERM FRIENDS’ LIVES were sent reeling when a racy, bestselling book was introduced into their book club. The women did not even know where to begin. The main reason to see this film was the cast; without them this movie would have fallen into the discount bin. With Diane Keaton (The Family Stone, Something’s Gotta Give) as Diane, Jane Fonda (Monster-in-Law, Klute) as Vivian, Candice Bergen (Bride Wars, Murphy Brown-TV) as Sharon, Mary Steenburgen (Last Vegas, Time After Time) as Carol and Andy Garcia (City Island, The Lost City) as Mitchell; it was enjoyable to watch actors take on the life of their characters. The script was nothing special; honestly, I felt it could have thrown much more at the cast to make this a truly funny story. Instead there were more chuckles and close to syrupy cuteness coming from the scenes. It was pretty easy for me to figure out the conclusions to each story line; like I said, the director and writers played it too safe in my opinion. Despite these issues it was good to see these long careered (you thought I was going to say old, didn’t you?) actors do what they do best, who I believe feel the same way I do: age is just a number.
2 ¼ stars
It never occurred to me but the two attributes really do sit opposing each other on the scales of justice. On one side sits youth, ah youth the golden period where one feels invincible, has less fears, can survive on little sleep and has an indestructible skin that quickly removes any cuts or bruises. Settled on the other side is wisdom; now this one can be a bit elusive for some folk. Wisdom has a better understanding of one’s emotions; years of experience has ripened wisdom, allowing a majority of one’s decisions to become rational. I am sure like me you have heard a variety of ways people talk about aging, such as “youth is wasted on the young” or “growing old is not for the weak.” In my younger years I laughed at these outlooks, now I understand. Getting together with friends and family now includes conversations about medical issues. We compare drug prices or what new drugs we are taking, how many times we get up in the middle of the night, our new physical limitations; all such things are becoming constant companions to us. I am not saying I am smart by any means, but with the wisdom I have gained in my life I sure wish I still had a youthful body holding it. Not that I want to sit and wish I were younger, but it would be nice to have youth and wisdom share more time together instead of a fleeting moment as the scales of justice pass each other while slowly traveling to opposite sides. LIFETIME friends Fred and Mick, played by Michael Caine (Harry Brown, Inception) and Harvey Keitel (The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Piano), spend every year at their favorite resort in the Swiss Alps. While Fred is a retired conductor and Mick is always working on a new screenplay, the two friends were never too old to learn something new. This film festival winning drama had a wise cast of actors. Including Rachel Weisz (Oz the Great and Powerful, The Fountain) as Lena Ballinger and Jane Fonda (Nine to Five, Georgia Rule) as Brenda Morel, the acting was terrific in this pretty looking movie. Some of the outdoor scenes were breathtaking, where I wanted to go visit the place. Luckily this was a big plus for me because I did not care for the script. I not only found myself getting bored during several scenes, but some parts of the story seemed out of place to me. The story did not flow, it staggered along. I certainly appreciated the concept and idea of aging friends, but I was not feeling any deep connection between the characters. I have to tell you I was conflicted here. The wonderful acting, scenery and story sounded great but together it did not work. I have seen enough movies in my life to know the difference between an entertaining one or not and this one did not make it for me.
2 3/4 stars
There was a time when family members lived close to each other because they wanted to, not out of necessity. I had an aunt & uncle who lived in the same apartment building where I lived and my grandmother lived a couple of blocks away. It was nothing to come home and have visiting relatives sitting around the house. The world may have been big and the neighborhoods small back then; however, times seem to be different now where the world has become small and the neighborhoods have gotten bigger. Children can live on a different continent than their parents, relatives can be scattered across a country like confetti on a windy day. With distance comes the possibility of less shared experiences. It may not seem like a big deal at first but before you know it there could be long stretches of time where unfamiliarity rises up and devours a niece’s first soccer game or a cousin’s 1st place winning high school science project. When the younger generation begins creating the next generation it can stretch the weeks of absence into months, eventually years. It is sad to say that families wind up getting together only at a happy or sad occasion; what I refer to as a wedding or funeral event. DEATH was what brought the Altman family back together. When Hillary Altman’s, played by Jane Fonda (Coming Home, Monster-in-Law), husband passed away she insisted her children stay in the house and sit shiva with her for 7 days. Judd, Wendy, Paul and Phillip Altman; played by Jason Bateman (Bad Words, Horrible Bosses), Tina Fey (Muppets Most Wanted, Admission), Corey Stoll (Midnight in Paris, Non-Stop) and Adam Driver (Frances Ha, Inside Llewyn Davis); would soon discover it was not as easy to live together again like they did when they were kids. The first thing that stood out in this comedic drama was the amount of star power in the cast. Jason Bateman with his impeccable comedic timing and quick change ability to become sincere was in top form for this film. Tina and Jane easily kept up with him. Now what made this film harder to watch was having this talented group of actors try to bring life to such a poorly constructed script. I could not believe how bored I was during parts of this movie; the script was dull and lifeless. In my opinion the script hindered the actors from creating chemistry among themselves. Watching this picture felt like being trapped with a distant relative who would not stop talking about their children.
If you really want to learn something about the area you are in then talk to a local person. I discovered many hidden treasures this way when I traveled to new places. This is one of the reasons why I use public transportation when visiting a new city. With advice from local residents, I was able to experience the best pecan pie in Charleston, South Carolina and a wonderful BBQ meal in Dallas, Texas. In case you were wondering if I am only concerned about food when I travel, I do ask local residents about places that a guide book may not cover. One of my best trips took place in Minneapolis, Minnesota simply because of a woman who was standing next to me at a bus stop. She gave me some wonderful tidbits about local spots. When a story is being told by the person who lived through it, it allows us to relate to it on a personal level. This was a wonderful device that was used impressively in this dramatic film, inspired by a true story. Forest Whitaker (Phone Booth, Repo Men) played Cecil Gaines, a White House butler who served through eight different presidents’ terms of office. The viewer was a witness to numerous historical events, told through Cecil’s eyes. Aware the script took creative license with facts; this review is based on the movie’s entertainment value. Forest was outstanding as the stoic, quiet butler who took to heart the advice given to him on his first day of employment: The White House was not a place for politics. Oprah Winfrey (The Color Purple, Beloved) as Cecil’s wife Gloria, showed us she can be known as an actress who has a talk show. I was impressed with David Oyelowo (The King of Scotland, Lincoln) as Cecil’s increasingly militant son, Louis. The actors used to play the various presidents came across more like a stunt to me; the only convincing one was John Cusack (Martian Child, High Fidelity) as Richard Nixon. For their brief scenes I felt Vanessa Redgrave (Howard’s End, Blow-Up) as Annabeth Westfall and Jane Fonda (Nine to Five, Coming Home) as Nancy Reagan were the only ones who stood out. I thought the story’s flow was well done, despite several scenes being too syrupy for me. Strictly speaking on the entertainment factor, this movie provided a glimpse into historical events, using both drama and humor to tell the story. And what a story it told; my interest never waned. There were a couple of scenes where blood was shown.
3 1/4 stars
The bond between a mother and daughter can be a beautiful and loving connection. That was not the case in this comedy. After her husband declared he was divorcing her; high strung Diane, played by Catherine Keener (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Into the Wild), left with the children and reluctantly went to visit her aged, hippie of a mother. It had been 20 years since mother and daughter had last seen each other. Jane Fonda (Monster-in-Law, Agnes of God) was the pot smoking, laid back, free loving mother Grace–a total opposite from her tightly wound, uptight daughter. All staying under one roof; Grace, Diane and the grandchildren needed time not only to adjust to each other, but to heal issues from the past before they could go forward. The bright spot for me in this clunker of a movie was Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Silent House) playing the granddaughter Zoe. I have been so impressed with Elizabeth’s brief career in acting so far; she really has a gift for it. There were parts of the story that interested me; however, what turned me off was Jane Fonda’s character. It was so over the top stereotypical, I was annoyed by it. I would be curious to know why Jane took this role. With no surprises in this movie, it was not long before I started glancing down at my watch–never a good sign. Though Elizabeth and Catherine were good, it was not enough to save this lame movie.
1 3/4 stars