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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Friday, July 13, 2018

Grandma Knows Best

Passage, a short film expertly directed by Linda Palmer, reached me on a deep emotional level. Maybe that’s because I have a soft spot for grandmothers. I was lucky enough to have two of them, and I miss them both every day. June -- a grandmother played by Ellen Gerstein -- is at the center of Passage. When Jessie (Julia Parker) -- her homeless unemployed daughter, young granddaughter Paris (Kruiz Mauga), and their elderly cat show up at the doorstep of her trailer home, she tries to help them with advice -- and dreamcatchers.

Unfortunately, June’s daughter is skeptical of any suggestions coming from someone as eccentric as her mom. However, by spending time at the trailer and talking with June, Jessica’s attitude slowly changes. Their conversations about age and priorities are fascinating!

Jessie, June and Paris evoke empathy throughout the film. We see the love they have for each other, and we want everything to work out for them. When an unexpected event forces Jessica and June to work together to help Paris accept it, the way they handle the situation looks absolutely beautiful on screen.

Describing how Passage came to be, director/co-writer Palmer (Our Father) says, “One of my friends, Julia Parker, and I were chatting about pet stories and I shared a personal story that she mentioned would make a great short film. I let her know if she played the mom and helped me produce, I would be interested, and voila...6 months later Passage was born!”
I think that helps to explain why this film comes across as so endearing. Plus, besides wonderful performances, Passage features a sensitive story, realistic dialogue, gorgeous cinematography, and music I want to hear over and over again.

It’s no wonder Passage is already receiving recognition on the 2018 film festival circuit!  For more information about this movie, go to the IMDb website and the film’s Facebook page.

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Sunday, July 01, 2018

Happy Birthday, Olivia de Havilland!

Olivia de Havilland turned 102 today. This legendary actress was born in Tokyo to British parents in 1916 and has appeared in over 50 films during her illustrious career, earning five Oscar nominations and two gold statuettes for Best Actress -- one for To Each His Own (1946) and the other for The Heiress (1949).

To many moviegoers, de Havilland gave her most memorable performance as Melanie Wilkes in Gone with the Wind (1939). “As Melanie, de Havilland is the perfect picture of purity, especially shining when introducing Scarlett O’Hara to the tongue waggers at husband Ashley’s birthday party,” writes Richard Teague in his book, Reel Spirit: A Guide to Movies that Inspire, Explore and Empower. But this talented actress also galvanized attention in roles leaning more to the darker side in films like Dark Mirror (1946) where she portrayed twin sisters -- one a disturbed murderer. 

The list of directors de Havilland has worked with reads like a Filmmaking Who’s Who; it includes such famous names as John Huston, Victor Fleming, Anatole Litvak, Mitchell Leisen, Stanley Kramer and William Wyler. She co-starred with luminaries like Charles Boyer, Richard Burton, Montgomery Clift, Joseph Cotton, Bette Davis, Clark Gable, Ralph Richardson and Errol Flynn. 

Flynn appeared with de Havilland in one of my favorite adventure films, The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). I own the video of that terrific movie and still watch it frequently. The chemistry between Flynn as Robin Hood and de Havilland as Maid Marian simply can’t be matched in terms of good-natured bantering and mutual attraction. That’s probably why these two actors were paired in seven more films. 

Happy Birthday, dear Olivia de Havilland. 

And thanks for your many terrific film performances! 

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