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Monday, July 30, 2012


Never in a million years would I have expected to enjoy a documentary about the staging of an Opera! You should know that I am definitely not an opera fan. Far from it! GOK what Wagner was thinking when he wrote "The Ring," in 1876, including scenes that were impossible to stage with the technology available in that century.  He wrote of gods and mortals in combat, and performers underwater and flying through the air, with arias that have challenged the greatest of the great singers for over 200 years!  The "Ring" is a  4 part 16 hour tour de force that has stymied some of the most determined directors and stage managers.  I found "Wagner's Dream" to be one of the best, most  fascinating and compelling films I've ever seen.  Directed by Susan Fromke it revealed the envisioning, intricate planning, and creating of what I can only call a monumental  architectural achievement of engineering that manifests (as best we can tell) not only the spirit, but the vision on stage, with real singers ( and some stunt doubles) of Wagner's opera.  Performed at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York this year, this masterful work was total  fascinating to watch.  The interviews with the principals were wonderful and I was surprised to find myself not only appreciating, but actually enjoying the few selections they sang!   With a computer and human stage-hand controlled "Machine" (as they called it), the moving and movable stage itself was comprised of about a dozen wooden planks that undulated, rose and fell as appropriate to the situation in the music.  This film is fabulous!  (I would think that people who actually like opera would swoon over it!)  

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Too much bloodshed, violence, noise and confusion to be "entertaining."  It certainly showed the  tragedy of revenge, despite the nobility (if you can call it that) of sacrificing one's own baby to save the royal heir.  I do not recommend this Japanese film, despite its subtitles, and credible acting. Fine cinematography.  I was eager for it to end. 

Friday, July 27, 2012


Written by Zoe Kazan, co-starring her with her real life love, Paul Dano, this unique plot falls short  of its potential.  Dano as "Calvin" plays an author suffering from writers' block for the past ten years since his breakout marvelous first novel, at age 19, won him fame and fortune. (Best acting I've ever seen Dano do.) At the suggestion of his therapist, perfectly played by Elliot Gould, the now 29 year old "Calvin" starts to write two pages -- and in doing so creates (literally!) the girl of his dreams, "Ruby Sparks" (Kazan). She manifests in the flesh in his kitchen.  Whatever he writes about her, she does. Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris the film under utilizes Annette Bening as his mother, and Antonio Bendaras (whom I usually adore- but this role makes him kind of goofy.) as Mom's live-in companion.  There are some wonderful scenes, as well as some rather bland ones. I hope Kazan continues to write, but gets a harsher editor to oversee her next effort.   It's worth seeing, but don't go with too high expectations based on all the hype there's been about the film.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Unfortunately, I had not read the famous Victorian novel by Thomas Hardy, "Tess of the D'Ubervilles," upon which this disgusting film was patterned.  Taking place in India, with all the authentic noise, color, confusion, and dizzying rickshaw rides through hordes of people, animals and buses that characterize the experience of the big cities, as well as the bleak and dismal small villages accurately portrayed (as I recall), Director Michael Winterbottom has liberally included a plethora (great word!) of  graphic sex scenes throughout, starting with those of mutual passion and desire to those of dissolute exploitation and  cruelty.   SPOILER ALERT:    I was hoping that Trishna would kill "Jay, "her employer and torturer (that's why I didn't walk out of the theater) and was delighted when she finally did.  And then, of course (?) at the end, she commits suicide.   Ghastly film.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Apparently the current movie going generation (read "demographic"), known as the "millennium" generation ( according to an article I read), don't like "old" movies (those released more than five years ago), because they are too slow moving.  Goodby interesting character and plot development, hello 4D.  Good Grief!   Anyway,  FYI, I suffered through the verbal battles between two sisters, played by Mira Sorvino - obviously totally neurotic -- and Tammy Blanchard who screamed (really loud) at each other practically the whole time.  Directed (GOK what she had in mind ) by Nancy Sovaca. Congratulations to the actors, who were splendid at their craft.  There is a kind of a plot, the story of the family that they belong to, that is revealed, but jeeze-louise, it was painful to sit through. Was this supposed to be a comedy?   I did like the nice cute  dog that was in the film. I'm really not always so grouchy, or maybe I am.....


Directed by Sarah Polley and starring Michelle Williams (whose acting is brilliant); Seth Rogan (surprisingly excellent portraying her loving husband!); ;Sarah Silverman and Aaron Abrams (both equally fine performances, I can't fault it for the fact that I'm too old to appreciate full frontal nudity, logical in the shower, though seemingly making the story more "natural,"  as just a part of life, spoiled it for me.  And, also, there's having to figure out which of the scenes really happened, or which represent Williams fantasies about the guy (handsome Abrams) who is not her husband, whom she accidentally meets on a vacation only to discover upon arriving home, that he lives just a couple of doors away from her.   (BTW, this film was rated PG.  No comment.)

Sunday, July 8, 2012


1)  "BRAVE" had pros and cons:  Excellent animation (endowing nonhuman characters with palpable feelings & emotions)  Other than the beautiful Queen (mother) and the courageous if foolhardy daughter, the Brave Princess, all other characters were quite ugly.  I grant you there's a story, but it was way over the top in violence, and the Previews gave no hint or indication of the awful fighting that made up most of the film.  Not recommended.  2) "MAGIC  of BELLE ISLE" is pleasantly predictable, but, so what? I love Morgan Freeman, (doesn't everyone? ) who is always marvelous.  (He plays a wheelchair bound writer, who has become a drunk, and isn't currently writing, and the movie revolves around his influence on people on Belle Island. I enjoyed it.  Virginia Madsen was excellent as the divorcee with three little girls. They live next door to him. Of course, they have an influence on him.  The little girls were perfectly cast.  Dialogue interesting and plausible all around.  Directed by Rob Reiner. Good mild Family Film. (And there's a dog, too.)
3) "NEVER STAND STILL" is a documentary featuring interesting interviews with many well known dance companies and famous teachers, focusing on the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, and what a unique place and training ground that has become.  Dance is a whole world of its own.  Although I'm not part of that world,  I have always loved to watch dance, so this was OK, but  I would have liked longer sequences of dance, instead of so many snippets of performances.  Probably will be a big hit with professional dancers who see it.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


"Arik"is the teenage protagonist in this cleverly plotted drama that takes place in Haifa in 1968,  "Arik" reads a lot of detective novels, and because of a prank that he and his friends play on the title character, "The Matchmaker,"  the latter hires him  (appreciating the kid's gift for 'story-telling" i.e. lying!) to be his "spy" to investigate, and authenticate (or not)  potential mates the Matchmaker is planning to recommend to his clients.  He tells the clients he will find, not the one they want, but the one they "need" (should have)!  He mentors "Arik" about life and relationships.  In Hebrew with English sub-titles, and a wonderful cast, directed by Avi Nesher who also wrote the screenplay, this is a heart-centered film that I thoroughly enjoyed. There are many aspects to the story, including dwarves (victims, it is suggested, of the the Holocaust experiments by the infamous Dr. Mendele); unrequited love; betrayal; the value of reading lots of detective novels; and youthful romance. (Oh, and I found it interesting that in Israel in 1968 gambling (playing cards for money) was illegal.)

Monday, July 2, 2012

BERNIE (again!)

Second time around, "Bernie" proved to be just as funny, in fact, I may have appreciated its cleverness -- and Jack Black's fabulous performance (as a dedicated Funeral Director) even more this time I saw it.  I hope he, or the film itself gets some kind of award!  Directed by Robert Linklater co-starring Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey (playing the Assistant DA) with the hilarious Black -- whose very walk seen from the rear is enough to make you giggle, the plot is amazingly based on real people and real events in the  small town of Carthage Texas.    It is quirky, black humor at its best.  My kind of entertainment!