Monday, October 08, 2018

Annette Bening's Big Evening

Hooray for four-time Oscar nominee Annette Bening! At a sold-out fundraiser in San Diego on September 20, she raised $200,000 to help needy students attending San Diego Community College institutions. The event was called “An Evening with Annette Bening.” During this important gala, Annette delivered an inspirational speech about how her experience at San Diego Mesa College helped her achieve her acting goals, especially the Drama Department.

The fundraiser was organized to support a program called San Diego Promise. It pays for books and tuition for first-time full-time students who are “financially struggling.” The district now has an Annette Bening Promise Scholarship that will be given annually on each campus.

Annette’s parents, Grant and Shirley Bening, were in attendance. “It was fun to hear the students who have benefited from the program, as well as dignitaries who spoke,” Mrs. Bening said. “Annette did a good job in her speech," she added. 

Since the event was called "An Evening with Annette Bening,” how could the Benings not be proud parents?

I’m sure Mesa College is also proud of this successful alumna as well as grateful to her for heading up the San Diego Promise project.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Timeless Sisterhood

Universal truths are as important today as they were back in the 1800s. That’s why Louisa May Alcott’s family-oriented classic novel Little Women has maintained its wide appeal for 150 years. This endearing story has been filmed many times before. But this new Little Women, directed and co-written (with Kristi Shimek) by Claire Niederpruem, is a modern retelling for a new generation.

Although I have enjoyed all the previous movie versions -- partially because the old-fashioned costumes and sets take me back in time -- I realize the most important element is the story of the March sisters. Happily, filmmaker Niederpruem has brought them into the 21st century, and I'm happy to report they are still as fascinating as ever!.             

Little Women brings laughs and tears.
A tale of old that’s switched its gears.
The time is now – not in the past.
Four sisters modernized at last.

But Jo is still the forceful one.
Writing’s her life, not just for fun.
Meg, the beauty. Beth, the dreamer.
Youngest Amy, once a schemer.

And Marmee, a dear mom again.
The gang’s all here. Another win.
No period costumes to see.
But look for new technology.

Time means nothing for sisterhood.
No matter when, it’s always good!
This movie helps us understand
why sisterhood is something grand.

(Released by Pinnacle Peak Productions/Pure Fix Entertainment and rated “PG-13” by MPAA.)            

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Thursday, September 20, 2018

An Eye for Beauty

When a brilliant artist and an understanding subject share the same love of beauty, a unique masterpiece can be created. Girl with a Pearl Earring (2004) relates a simple story illustrating that point -- and does so with breathtaking cinematography befitting the life and times of Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. Because of its slow pace, this period costume drama may not be to everyone's liking, but Colin Firth as Vermeer and Scarlett Johansson as the "girl" fascinated me with the depth of their performances here. He's the perfectionist artist; she's the quiet servant who mixes his paints and poses for him, much to his wife's dismay. 

It usually takes time to fully appreciate a great painting. One must view it from different angles, search out its particular shadings and touches of light, its balance of color and form, its emotional impact. The same holds true for this unusual film. Taking time to show viewers the sights and sounds of Delft, Holland, during the mid-1600s, Girl with a Pearl Earring seems like a Vermeer painting come to life. Scenes of inhabitants riding in gondolas on canals, shopping in the open markets, dining by candlelight, and carrying on everyday activities form the backdrop for the intense relationship between Vermeer and his peasant model -- a relationship blooming steadily under the watchful eye of the painter's greedy mother-in-law (played magnificently by the regal Judy Parfitt). 

Like Vermeer, first-time director Peter Webber and veteran cinematographer Eduardo Serra pay painstaking attention to the visual details of their creation. Based on the novel by Tracy Chevalier, Girl with a Pearl Earring may not be a true story, but it emerges as true cinematic art. 

Read my full review by clicking on the link below.

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Saturday, September 01, 2018

Guy Pearce Update

The first time Larry and I saw Guy Pearce was back in 1997 when he visited San Diego for a personal appearance in connection with L.A. Confidential. During our interview with him, Pearce  looked nothing like the prim detective from that acclaimed film. With his spiked hair and leather jacket, the diminutive actor resembled a rock star instead. 

Larry whispered to me, “I think they’ve brought in a ringer.” 

But I disagreed.  Why? Looking closer at the Australian-born Pearce, I spotted those penetrating blue eyes and high cheekbones that make him so photogenic in such movies as Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Rules of Engagement,  Memento, and The Time Machine.  

Fortunately, this year Pearce’s fans (like me!) can look forward to the upcoming Mary Queen Scots movie and “The Innocents” series now available on Netflix.

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Monday, August 27, 2018

Creativity in Motion

Before watching the unusual documentary Songwriter, I knew very little about Ed Sheeran. Now I am an avid fan! Maybe it’s because one of my granddaughters is a singer/songwriter too -- and yet I’ve never had the pleasure of being present during one of her songwriting sessions. However, seeing the home videos of Sheeran and his musical collaborators as they create his third studio album “Divide,” I have some inkling of what’s involved in this particular creative process.

Creativity. Who has that?
To Ed Sheeran I tip my hat.
“Songwriter” shows the song process
that’s led to his immense success.

Happiness while doing his thing
is clear even when bells don’t ring.
Sounds, rhythms and melodies
are tried by Ed for fans to please.

This documentary reveals
the depth of care Ed really feels
about his album and each song.
And that’s why he did not go wrong.

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Thursday, August 02, 2018

Rave Review for Mamma Mia 2!

Attention, fans of Mamma Mia! Forget your worries about the questionable quality of a sequel to the wonderful film released ten years ago. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again should make you very happy. In fact, this second outing might be even better than the first. As an avid Mamma Mia fan, I’m not being sacrilegious. 

Both films are terrific, but Here We Go Again includes some delightful surprises, one of which has changed my opinion about the use of flashbacks in film storytelling. I’ve usually found that annoying. However, Mamma Mia 2 meshes them seamlessly and artistically into what’s happening on screen. 

Another surprise involves an actor named Hugh Skinner, who portrays Colin Firth’s character (Harry) as a young man. His musical comedy talent wowed me in the rousing “Waterloo” number and made me yearn for days of yore when we could look forward to many musicals each year.

Sequel or prequel, it’s okay.
Cheer MAMMA MIA all the way.
Great ABBA songs performed with flair.
Movies like this are so darn rare.

Location shots pleasure our eyes.
Romantic scenes evoke soft sighs.
A sense of fun takes us away
from cares we face most every day.

Here we go again, that’s sure true.
We see, enjoy and don’t feel blue.
So full of love and life and song,
MAMMA MIA 2 can’t go wrong.

(Released by Universal Pictures and rated “PG-13” for some suggestive material.) 

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Monday, July 16, 2018

Endearing and Heart-Wrenching Fiilm

Thanks to filmmaker Vohn Regensburger for this wonderful e-mail message about CAKE: A Love Story, an award-winning short film based on It Had To Be Us, the romantic memoir my husband and I wrote under the pen names of Harry and Elizabeth Lawrence. This film is now available on Amazon Prime.

A producer friend of mine and I watched your short movie, CAKE: A Love Story depicting your romantic life story and we just loved it! The story was very endearing and heart-wrenching as it unfolded.

The two lead actors, Debra Lord Cooke and Richard Vernon were marvelous playing you two and were so relatable, funny and heart-felt in their roles. I just thought all along, “Isn’t this just like love: blue sunny skies and summertime… until it isn’t!”

I felt by the end of the film I was good friends with you as a couple and had known you both forever. I believe that piece is so hard to accomplish in a film, let alone a short. I’m so glad you stayed with it and were able to get this released and shared with the world.

Please let directors Misha and Vera Zubarev know a job well-done, as well!

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