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The documentary "Get Off Your Knees" somehow links my thoughts to one
of Lincoln's character asset 'negative capability' as described in
David Herbert Donald's book "Lincoln" (Preface: page 15, Simon &
Schuster Paperbacks) - 'that is when a man is capable of being in
uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after
fact and reason.' That is the essential spirit to the story of John
Robinson in this WMHT (NY state) Education Communications' 60-minute
film. From his birth and childhood, through interviews/talking heads
with his father, uncle, grandmother, teachers on his growing up period,
school and college years (at Delman, NY), yes, university (at Syracuse,
NY), too, to looking for a professional position, hearing from his
colleagues, friends and to his courtship and marriage to Andrea, his
wife, and father to his children of three.
When we first meet John introducing himself (at age 40) on stage to an audience of teenage youths, we have no clue to his physical condition until he mentioned about his 'multiple-congenital amputee'. He was born without arms and hands, no knees and upper legs. If you miss the PBS showing of this film, go to the official site at "wmht.org/getoffyourknees" - you can watch online the video (whole 60 minutes) and get to appreciate what John went through, his family doubts about his future yet amazed by his relentless tenacity in overcoming his physical shortcomings (pardon the pun) and with creative solutions undeterred by daily challenges. His open attitude in life along with his sense of humor facilitate ease for others interacting with him, including on the golf course. To him, his goal is to lead an 'ordinary life' as everyone else would without being constantly mindful of the limb shortness. As his daughter Ariel simply mentioned that her Dad is just like any other Dad but shorter, and there are certain things he can't reach. That's all.
We are fortunate that WMHT television director (also writer, producer, editor and camera) Dan Swinton delivered this documentary of John Robinson Story accessible to wide audience (PBS and beyond). The online web site provides: Discussion Guide with notes & comments by Robinson and Swinton, a Disabilities Self-Awareness Survey, Facilitator and Question lists; Resources and related community links; preview selections or watch the video itself; Photo Gallery; Media press release synopsis; info on available DVD of the documentary and John Robinson's autobiographical book "Get Off Your Knees: A Story of Faith, Courage and Determination".
Hearkened back to DH Donald's "Lincoln" (same page 15 of Preface), his 'pragmatic approach to problems, a recognition that if one solution was fated not to work another could be tried.' You can see that illustrated in John Robinson's account of how he tackle his daily routines and being 'comfortable with uncertainties.' We can see he truly enjoys the life he leads and family and friends, against all odds. No regrets. Why the title 'Get off your knees'? The anecdote is included in the documentary, and amusing, it is.
There are two other inspiring documentaries caught on PBS which are worth mentioning: "The Way Bobby Sees It" and "Life. Support. Music." The former is about Bobby McMullen, a mountain biker who's determined to take on a challenging downhill course race, even though he's 'legally blind' - a fascinating intense account of fearless human strive by directing team of Jason Watkins and Wendy Todd. The latter is yet another encouraging life-affirming chronicle of the family of Jason Crigler, a talented musician-guitarist-composer, unswervingly stood by Jason in spite of the grim prognosis after his unexpected brain hemorrhage life event, how persistence of a unified force & caring support miraculously pulled him through it all - it is moving at times even suspenseful, comprehensively directed by Eric Daniel Metzgar.
There's no worry that the film would be heavy due to subject matter.
"Hereafter" is a comfortably-paced film experience from veteran
director Clint Eastwood (at wondrous prime age of 80). Peter ("The
Queen") Morgan's screenplay on 'life after close encounter with death'
is seemingly simple yet full of spirited (pardon the pun) ingredients.
There are vignettes depicting different social strata of life
situations: rich and famous in the French television media and European
publishing world as we follow a career-driven female journalist;
quietly solo 'blue-collar worker' shying away from exposure of his
'possessed gift' in San Francisco; struggling addict, London single mom
dealing with custody of her boys and the lone twin attachment to his
lost brother. Morgan skillfully scripted three intersecting story lines
inclusive of contemporary social elements and events: natural disaster,
bomb attack, fatal accident, culinary classes, corporate meetings,
company layoffs, foster care, book fair.
As in most of Eastwood directed films, there's never hurriedness or push for emphasis of themes. We are watching and experiencing at comfortable pace the development of the characters as the stories unfold. The characters, we care. Not just the three main ones, but the supporting roles are just as interesting and touching - fine acting all round. Bryce Dallas Howard as Melanie - sensual-sensory moments at the food tasting segment with Damon reminds me of the flavorful w-d Sandra Nettelbeck's 2001 German gem "Bella Martha". Brief appearance by Marthe Keller as reassuring Dr. Rousseau at the Swiss hospice institute reminds me of her 'terminal' role in d Sydney Pollack's 1977 "Bobby Deerfield" opposite Al Pacino. Derek Jacobi as himself fondly reciting Dickens is always a welcoming interlude.
Matt Damon, second time round collaboration with Eastwood (he was fantastic in his South African Rugby team captain role in Eastwood's 2009 "Invictus" opposite Morgan Freeman), once again delivered a subtly convincing and sensitive George Lonegan, the reluctant psychic who felt trapped by his not so hidden gift. Cécile De France as Marie Lelay let us share her anguish and determined pursuit for true understanding, recognition of her near-death experience. Marcus at such a young age, quite pensive and resolute in his search for connection with his brother, is well-portrayed by the McLaren twins.
Besides being director and producer to "Hereafter," Eastwood is also the composer of the film score. I appreciate the palpable energy and loving care contributed to the accompanying music as the scenes reveal and the stories evolve - the guitar strains and the piano rhythm so aptly integrated to the movie experience.
Along with screenwriter Peter Morgan, Steven Spielberg is one of the executive producers and it was said that he actually introduced the original draft to Eastwood, who promptly bought the rights to the book 'Hereafter.' There's an insightful article titled "Eastwood Breaks Another Mold" (by C. McGrath) which provided background notes to how the script and film came to be. Almost as fate plays a hand and the two important players (Eastwood-Morgan) 'intersect', we are fortunate to get to enjoy the remarkable film production of 'Hereafter': a perceptive study of life after death on the sly, dramatically rewarding.
"Le Concert" film title in French suggests French production involved
(with Mélanie Laurent, Miou-Miou and François Berléand - definitely
French et Paris). Core story sets in Russia, began with strains of
"Elvira Madigan" - promise of familiar classical pieces we enjoy.
Abrupt distraction introduced our 'hero' of the story (Andrei Filipov
well-portrayed by Alexei Guskov) and hint of comedic intimations began.
The rounding up of his former orchestral members (80 of them, no small
matter) gave us vignettes of varying walks of Moscow life. The urgency
timing of performance date in 2 weeks, the logistics of flying everyone
to foreign soil of Paris - language interpretations, events-process
travel visa coordination, plus a solid impersonator as the group's
Bolshoi Orchestra spokesman for the journey. 'tis a lot to cohesively
deliver by director Radu Mihaileanu, and he pulled it off. We get to
appreciate a genuinely heart-warming movie and fantastic music played
to our ears.
Plot actually thickens as we're clued into the Parisian-side of things, with the repeated 'no's' of Guylène, underplayed by Miou-Miou as the young lady violinist's guardian and agent, and the retorting 'yes's' of Anne-Marie Jacquet convincingly portrayed by Mélanie Laurent - including her virtual playing-performing on the violin (what a young successful thespian at that, whose remarkable in her role in Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" 2009), plus the comic tempo of François Berléand as Olivier Morne Duplessis, the Parisian contact for the event. Yes, 'dramedy' leads us to unspoken secrets of the past, of artistic struggles and hard times during political differences, and, is Anne-Marie truly an orphan genius with no past?
The story reminds me of similar turn of events for artists in China during Cultural Revolution period, when they, too, had to experience hard labor camps and fatal physical coldness conditions. Chen Gang, co-creator of the "Butterfly Lovers' violin concerto" 1959 at age 24, his famous composer father Chen Gexin of many popular Mandarin songs in '30-'40s (like "Rose, Rose, I Love You") died in 1957 at age 47 and survived by his loving wife who tenaciously brought up their four children, who became successful musicians themselves. In "The Concert" we get a glimpse at such circumstances and how people affected might cope and carry on with their lives.
"The Concert" is a heart-warming movie, with its delights, humorous situations, poignant disclosures to the unfolding story, and as one would expect (so the film poster and trailer both suggest) the climatic central concert piece where we see Laurent impressively plays the violin concerto (of Tchaikovsky's). A satisfying experience all in all, encouraging want of enduring friendships not easy to come by and that we'd dearly cherish and revere.
There's an ease and naturalness that actress Patricia Clarkson exudes,
especially befitting in the role of Miss Juliette in w-d Ruba Nadda's
"Cairo Time." An elegant performance, with such grace and polished
refinement - subtle, unassuming, in leisurely harmonious simplicity.
Composer Niall Byrne's aptly complementing rhythm and piano notes
reminded me of Michael Nyman's score in Jane Campion's "The Piano"
1993. It's about unwarned tremors of the heart - two hearts, to be
exact, here in "Cairo Time" on borrowed time - heavenly moments on
Guilty pleasure? There's such an innocence about the 'meetings of two remarkable hearts', guilt is not admissible here. The relationship between Miss Juliette and Tareq, a friend of Juliette's husband, Mark, and at Mark's request, to accompany Juliette and facilitate what she might need while Mark's unavailable for the time being. Not complicated at all. Hence it's easy to be unrestrained in their exploration of each other, given the time and circumstance they happened to be in. It's fate - as Tareq pointed out, it's what people believe in Cairo - happenstance per chance.
Platonic is hardly the word - inadequate in describing the romantic moments in Cairo Time. Its emotional depth may not be obvious, yet not as simple as it might seem. The trailer provided clues to the framework of this relationship, including that unwary peck on the lips which Clarkson's instinctive 'oh' we detect. Savoring the memorable instance, we see her smiling to herself as she relaxes lying down. We, too, relish in every movement, moment, the joy of being in each other's company. Ah, the train ride, the casual exchange, the one-word response of Tareq's, "stay." Why he does mean it and wanted her to - stay. Why she does contemplate on opening a women's only café - hm, to match his men's only café, indeed. The flow of the relationship ever so natural, unforced - we can feel it's blossoming along.
Just as the growing mutual admiration caught unaware to the two hearts, they were caught unaware also when the brief encounter stops short by Mark calling out Juliette's name. The heavenly moments on borrowed time abruptly yanked away from them, was so close yet out of reach. She touches the pendant next to her heart. Quivering thoughts fade. Is Mark here or not really here? Yearning once freed now fluttered within, restrained. Take a deep breath. There's the pyramids, Mark by her side.
My sense is that CAIRO TIME could be genuinely appreciated more by women, women friends enjoying the film together, rather than seeing it with husband or male companion. (Too mature for a date movie.*) Why? This is the sort of fantasy dream situation that a husband or partner can be wary of. Really? Affairs of the heart are certainly not elaborately exaggerated by Shakespeare.
In a way likened to Woody Allen's "Purple Rose of Cairo" 1985, the couple within the movie and us the audience outside of the film, both are caught unaware of the extent of quivering hearts, where they may lead us. "Cairo Time" is an inviting journey, leisurely pleasurable just by watching Patricia Clarkson's exquisitely natural portrayal of Miss Juliette and her match of a beau - tall, dark & handsome Alexander Siddig as Tareq, equally mature, intelligent, and cultured. Together we spend some Cairo Time, and forget the rest of the world - let us suspend in time, in what w-d Ruba Nadda and her excellent filmmaking collaborators had created for us to enjoy.
Clarkson crystallizes as THE screen goddess, exceeding her super versatile self as in "The Station Agent" "Married Life" "Lars and the Real Girl" "High Art" and so many others. "Cairo Time" is shot entirely on location in Cairo, Egypt with an endearing tagline: "Sometimes you need to forget the rules and remember your heart." Check out the official website "www.cairotime.ca" where you can view the trailer, learn about the 'history of Cairo Time' behind the scenes production notes, cast and crew, photo gallery, more review articles. Cinematographer is Luc Montpellier who has worked with director Nadda on her previous feature "Sabah" 2005.
* For a date movie, w-d Edgar Wright's "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" 2010 is outward fun dealings with affairs of the hearts (multiple hearts and teens, alright, with Michael Cera), or substantial lessons from Marc Webb's "(500) Days of Summer" 2009 with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, for developing-maturing young couples.
"Leave Her To Heaven" is director John M. Stahl's 1945 unabashed
glamorous soap with Gene Tierney as the irresistible beauty, Ellen
Berent (out of this worldly on the surface), seemingly innocent of the
dark vampiric seed of jealousy wedged beneath. In this script by Jo
Swerling, based on Ben Ames Williams' novel, Tierney duly earned her
ultimate queen of femme fatales that would succeed in her evil goal
pursuit at all costs, even if it means her own demise to ruin all
humanity (oh yes, really). Ellen is one determined woman with undying
love for the man she chose to own all by herself. (Almost sounds like
William Wyler's "The Collector" 1965 - seeing Terence Stamp's hold on
Samantha Eggar). Well, she would if she could lock up her husband's
heart. This is a soap opera, so other players are involved unawaringly
crossing her grand scheme of things. Though she managed to act upon her
uncontrollable instincts while murderous dismissals accidentally occur.
Heartless? Does she have one? Single-mindedly she loves novelist
Richard Harland (played by Cornell Wilde), and 'till death do us part'
deadly serious, she is.
Others include talented Jean Crain as Ruth Berent, a live-in cousin, who's much more kind-hearted and likable a person yet definitely an uneasy competition from Ellen's perspective. Mary Philips is Mrs. Berent, a recent widow (so Ellen lost her beloved father she's very close to) who's aware but not fully understand why her daughter Ellen 'loves too much'. Vincent Price is Russell Quinton who cannot forget he once wanted to marry Ellen, when she dumped him for Richard, but able to survive the rejection and became a barrister (a conveniently useful occupation in Ellen's mind). Darryl Hickman as Danny Harland, Richard's young brother, enthusiastically fighting for recovery of his physically disabled state, yet viewed as a hindrance to Ellen competing for Richard's attention by the minute.
That's just the general structure and character map of the high drama tale. To skip to the appreciation of Leon Chamroy's cinematography mastery, it is also out of this worldly exquisite in this Technicolor vivid movie. The thoughtful application of shadows and lighting directions-angles jump out at me - I marvel at the shadow patterns on the walls, framing of set decorations, and what the camera insightfully captured on screen that enhanced the movie's mood and pacing. At one point, to my surprise while revisiting the film, my eyes caught the shadowy shape on the wall thrown off from Ellen who's standing in front of the fireplace - the figure was likened somehow to a witch with a tall pointy hat - how very clever of Chamroy! She's a witch alright as she was pleading her innocence to the 'mishap' and sorrow that Richard experienced over Danny. Oh, she's only thinking of Richard, she shamelessly professed.
Is that half the story yet? Soaps can be long and breath-suspending. Still, plot after plot, the comfortable flowing performances by the cast can arrest your attention and emotional investment. It's a mighty pleasing to look at Hollywood movie (from the Twentieth Century Fox studio), with music score by veteran composer Alfred Newman. The lush production design (by Maurice Ransford, Lyle Wheeler) and richly detailed set design (by Ernest Lansing, Thomas K. Little) with capable editing (by James B. Clark) rendered "Leave Her To Heaven" a definitive soap classic, up in the ranks with Douglas Sirk's "Magnificent Obsession" 1954, the love-wrought dramatic pair of Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson (from Universal Pictures).
Gene Tierney's diabolical jealousy-consumed character reminds me of Robert Montgomery's devilish role, similar jealousy and love you to death storyline in director W S Van Dyke's "Rage In Heaven" 1941 (in stark B/W), where Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders are the equivalent in reverse to Cornel Wilde and Jean Crain's pairing, including the involvement of courtroom drama and murderous accusations. It's actually a taut film noir. Robert Montgomery is spectacular as the unsuspecting psychotic one, and Bergman (young at 26) and Sanders' performances match his brilliance just as fine. Stepping back, I rather like this rare gem delivered in 85 minutes with love story and suspenseful last-minute ending, too. I was lucky to catch it on TCM cable.
Also comes to mind is 'Amelie' Audrey Tautou in director Laetitia Colombani's "He loves me he loves me not" 2002 French film, in which Tautou plays a female stalker, home wrecker, sly-lying-unsuspecting troubling young woman, pretty to look at yet psychotic deep down. And British director Roger Michell gave us "Enduring Love" 2004, with Rhys Ifan being the stalker extreme to the couple played by Daniel Craig and Samantha Morton - Ifan is a 'new' friend, unwanted and unable to get rid of.
"Cross Creek" the 1983 Martin Ritt film tells the story of feisty
author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, how she came to be attached to Cross
Creek in Alachua County, Florida. The script by Dalene Young, based on
Rawlings' own memoirs, along with engaging music by Leonard Rosenman,
do at times seem like a Hallmark TV movie, yet a Martin Ritt film is
never without poignancy, contrasting elements of conflicts and choice
decisions. Thought-provoking drama, emotional highs and lows, not
forgetting dashes of humor (be it in brief exchanges between key
characters, or bemused scenes that'd elicit a smile from you) and
jolting dark moments that's part of living - it's a Ritt movie,
What a talented cast assembled: the Alfre Woodard's Geechie scenes opposite Miss Rawlings, played by Mary Steenburgen, gave us the exceptional camaraderie rare at such time and place of the '40s; the confrontational yet congenial Rip Torn's Marsh Turner encounters could be heart-wrenching at times and whimsical at another; the tender and vulnerable segments with Dana Hill's portrayal of 14-year old Ellie Turner facing her Pa (Rip Torn) over the keeping of the fawn (the yearling) are memorable; the simultaneously comfortable and contradictory feelings when Marjorie and Peter Coyote's Norton Baskin meet at their varying circumstantial moments - what a treat to watch their facial expressions and sensitive performances. The nuance acting did not stop with the four key roles, as the supporting cast that included Paul (Ike Eisenmann), Mrs. Turner (Joanna Miles), Tim's wife (Toni Hudson - the scene of Marjorie visiting her and the new baby did momentarily remind me of the 1979 w-d Victor Nunez' small gem of the film "Gal Young 'Un"), the Turner children, however small the role may be, had made "Cross Creek" whole.
The opening credits included a frame thanking Mr. Norton Baskin (Rawling's second husband who survived Marjorie by 44 years till 1997) for his assistance in the preparation and production of the film. In the 17-minute featurette "Cross Creek: A Look Back with Mary Steenburgen" on the DVD (distributed 2002 by Anchor Bay Entertainment and Studio Canal), when asked if the film was true in depicting Rawlings at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival, Baskin responded favorably, "it's as close as you can get." We see the various moods and aspects of Marjorie, be it tempestuous, headstrong, or sheer charming, especially when the subject is food and cooking.
And it is absolutely true, "Cross Creek" the film wouldn't have been (existed) if not for cinematographer John A. Alonzo's supremely enchanting camera-work. The bayou marsh vegetation scenes, the trees and reflections in the waters, the sky and clouds mirrored in the river surface, the natural nature scenes that are very much Cross Creek's own in the rain, wind and sun - we are blessed by Alonzo's cinematic artistry and craftsmanship. Excerpt quoting of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings': "Who owns Cross Creek? The earth may be borrowed, not bought; may be used, not owned; it gives itself in response to love and tenderness, offers its seasonal flowering and fruiting."
This is a guarantee of worthwhile viewing, indeed. As Mary Steenburgen pointed out in her featurette on the DVD, "Cross Creek" the film included a 'bonus' 20-second cameo appearance of Norton Baskin in person at the beginning (about 7 minutes into the film) - catch it if you can.
"The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" introduced us to Lisbeth Salander,
the heroine focused in Swedish author Stieg Larsson's Millennium
trilogy. It is said that Larsson was impressed by childhood heroine
"Pippi Longstocking" (from the pen of Swedish children's author Astrid
Lindgren) who is known to be a brave, independent girl with exceptional
stamina and courage. So Lisbeth's character was modeled after Pippi, in
a way. A modern Pippi, Lisbeth sure is: fearless, intelligent,
uninhibited, and very much in control of herself at the prime age of
24, a loner with a mysterious background.
This whodunit is without the involvement of police-detective or inspector (so it's not quite like Poirot or Sherlock Holmes) - we are following two consummate investigative brains, one is that of the ever-revolving, daring Lisbeth Salander's, the other is Millennium journalist Mikael Blomkvist's which is just as bold if not reservedly so. Hence the cognitive, methodical unraveling of the Vander family mystery at hand that Blomkvist was given, by fate if you will, linked up with Salander (reluctantly or not) - together they're on the trail to decode a 'forty year old' murderous secret. The nature of the investigation somehow was very close to Lisbeth's heart and being. The original Swedish title "Men Who Hate Women" might provide inklings to the topic, then again, is that all there is? Danish director Niels Arden Oplev elegantly delivered the characters and storyline without over-the-top gratuitous action, chase, or gore. Yes, there are certain scenes that are 'unapologetically' frank, physical, sexual or otherwise - but they were crucial to the core of the story and the decoding process of the dark history in stored for our protagonists. (It may not be as grand as the Vatican exposure in "Angels and Demons", but the suggestion of the Third Reich connection is no small matter, either.)
It's been 4 months 12 days since I last saw "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and the detail deductions, investigative discovery steps by the two leads were still vivid in my mind when I recall the film. That's kudos to the impressive portrayals of Lisbeth by Noomi Rapace and Blomkvist by Michael Nyqvist. Together they have played off each other, one fiery and one more reticent, one more venturous and the other cautious, under the thoughtful direction from Oplev, and thanks to a competent production crew of two screenwriters, cinematographer, two editors, composer, production, costume and sound designers, makeup, and talented supporting cast, "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" is an entertaining suspenseful thriller, even when you have to read the subtitles, the tension and high drama, you will appreciate, from beginning to end.
Whether you'll see all three films in the "Millennium" trilogy or not, this first installment is worthy of your time if you like movies.
This follow-up installment by director Daniel Alfredson is a decent
mystery thriller with expected action scenes and a string of plot
points to keep your interest going. It provides more background
information about our tenacious heroine Lisbeth's childhood and her
legal guardians, mysterious police reports, and her couple of
singularly close friends (Miriam and Paolo, both happened to also know
kick-boxing and boxing). Of course, there is Millennium key journalist,
Micke Blomkvist and his fellow investigative reporters, and most of the
storyline we're following thread after thread, hoping (as everyone in
the movie does) to get closer to Lisbeth. From the audience point of
view, we get to see her, alright, tagging along with her varying guises
to avert danger too close for comfort. She, too, wanted to get to the
bottom of the alleged murders that were conveniently linked to her
name. The whole movie feels like an expanded "Wallender" episode from
the Swedish police-detective TV mystery series.*
"The Girl Who Played With Fire" gave us seemingly straightforward 'facts' as the multiple characters uncover - likened to a 'treasure hunt' (or musical chairs, if you so inclined from the number game of the targets by the villains) vs. providing dramatic highs and penetrating clues, suspenseful and emotional exciting turns as in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," when we followed Lisbeth and Micke on their investigative furtive trails and cerebral deductions. What Danish director Niels Arden Oplev gave us in the first installment can very well stand on its own as a suspense dramatic thriller (which was true to the original Swedish title "Men Who Hate Women"). It's an excellent whodunit - quality entertainment, moving and satisfying wrap-up to the point of tear-jerker, in spite of some plot-required gritty (raw, not for the squeamish) scenes, which were actual arcs for the next two installments to lean on and refer to. Yes, I recall those particular cited scenes in "The Girl Who Played With Fire" when replayed and enhanced our empathy with Lisbeth's character. What this second installment did give us is preparing for the next and final movie in pursuit of Lisbeth's truth along with Micke staunchly standing up for her - so I kinda read the reviews already on IMDb for "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest". Truly anticipate for the wide release of the 'Part 2' of the second installment and getting to the nitty-gritty rhyme and reason of our heroine Lisbeth and hope for the very best for her.
Do see "The Girl With Dragon Tattoo" if you haven't experience it yet. Yes, mind you, there are NFE (not for everyone) scenes, but they are necessary to the understanding of the heroine, Lisbeth Salander, and set up for the next two movies that follow in this worthwhile mystery trilogy from Sweden. Subtitles in English.
* "Wallender" is a popular Swedish detective mystery TV series I was lucky to catch now and then on KCSM (in Bay Area, California) on their 'International Mystery Monday nights' at 10 PM. They are usually intense, violent crime scenes without apology, political story lines, tons of threads (or red-herrings) that compel you to stay through till the end of the 90-minute episode. There's also a British "Wallender" mystery series based on the same Swedish police-detective Kurt Wallender, played by Kenneth Branagh (who's an executive producer for the program).
If you have a chance to catch the German-Austrian production of "Tatort: Crime Scene" - that's a favorite international mystery I highly recommend. Every TV episode is intelligently written and delivered, with crime scenes usually suggestive or chilling effects off-screen, and simply loved the pair of investigators Max Ballauf and Freddy Schenk (detective partners brilliantly played by Klaus J. Behrendt and Dietmar Bär - one's kinda skinny, the other's kindly plump). If good old-fashioned mystery style is your cup of tea, try "Maigret" the French, pipe piping burly of an endearing Parisian Inspector, impeccably portrayed by Bruno Crémer, who solves murderous puzzles ever so facile. Great sets, costumes and befitting music as we accompany Maigret, unhurriedly sauntering on police business, visiting the rural provinces of French locales.
w-d Chris Columbus' 1991 "Only the Lonely" does seem like an updated
version of 'Marty', but there is much fun and humor (and in color, too)
from the 'Home Alone' neighborhood of filmmaker John Hughes. (A Hughes
Entertainment production presented by Twentieth Century Fox). It's a
lively cast, with unsuspecting action-oriented scenes (stunts) for
screen siren Maureen O'Hara, coming out of retirement for this
Watching John Candy playing the romantic leading man, Danny, is absolute fun - catch those phrasing and selective wording he delivers with such ease. It's comfortable following him and James Belushi, his cop partner Sal, on their beat, eavesdropping on his banters with the neighbors at the bistro, and how he 'good-naturedly' puts up with his mom, Maureen O'Hara, with her constant cautionary instructions. Then we see him meeting Theresa, intuitively played by Ally Sheedy. 'tis diverting co-incidence that she works as a mortician at her father's funeral parlor. The contrasting shyness (hesitant 'introvert' demeanor) and the occasional boldness (mustered energy in 'standing up for herself') she skillfully demonstrated. It was almost like god-send pairing between Candy and Sheedy, the way they play off each other, the genuine gentle fondness for the other in this seemingly unlikely romance we dearly root for them both, against all odds. Well, the one monumental obstacle being his mother, Rose.
Director Columbus incorporated his 'Home Alone' prankster elements into brief dream segments, letting us in on Danny's gnawing frustration and ever-worrying about his mom's well-being. He is still very much his mama's boy, and O'Hara's Rose wouldn't let him lose that focus. So we have the Nemesis well-established and how will Danny and Theresa overcome this and be married happily ever after? "Only the Lonely" is most enjoyable. The supporting cast included Anthony Quinn as Nick, the Greek neighbor who yearns for Rose. Kevin Dunn is Danny's lawyer brother with family (there's a glimpse of the Culkin brothers, Macaulay and Kieran, running in the yard) and scheming at a Florida move for Danny and Mom. There are plot twists, alright, and in-family strives, and relationship doubts and angst. There's also the wonderful moments of courtship, with music by Maurice Jarre (seasoned composer at romance: "Dr. Zhivago" 1965, "Ryan's Daughter" 1970, "A Walk in the Clouds" 1995), and of course, Roy Obison's song "Only the Lonely" we get to hear and 'dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah' along with. A charming romantic comedy and John Candy movie, highly recommended.
Other worthwhile romantic comedies come to mind: "Return to Me" (2000) director-screenwriter & story Bonnie Hunt (also acted with David Duchovny, Minnie Driver and James Belushi); "Keeping the Faith" (2000) director-producer Edward Norton (also acted with Ben Stiller, Jenna Elfman, and Anne Bancroft, Eli Wallach). Also recall a 'small' sweet movie caught on cable TV, "I Don't Buy Kisses Anymore" (1992) - Jason Alexander turned in an impressive performance as Bernie, who met Theresa, played by Nia Peeples, directed by Robert Marcarelli, and Lainie Kazan, Eileen Brennan included in the cast. All are available on DVD.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It was sheer unexpected chance that I caught the last segment of "The
Blue Butterfly" one Tueday late afternoon in June on cable Encore
channel. It's 'based on a true story.' Quite an encouraging factor. And
I was lucky enough to again catch this little known William Hurt movie
(a 2004 Canadian-made film) when Encore repeated its showing. What a
treat. Tear-jerker, in a way, with the story about this terminally ill
young boy determined to pursue the Blue Butterfly with his ideal
collaborator - an entomologist he adored and believed in, for the
mythical quest of a journey deep into the jungles of Costa Rica! Yes,
sounds like a Disney adventure and family drama, as the boy's
single-mother also went along to provide moral if not physical support
to her son's dying wish, literally.
If you try to dissect the film or compare it with other movies, you're doing yourself a disfavor. Just go along with the trio: our young hero Pete in his wheel-chair (well-portrayed with such simple ease by Canada's popular seasoned young actor, Marc Donato), his French-accent attractive Mom who stands by his wishes (she looks familiar - it's Pascale Bussières in w-d Patricia Rozema's "When Night Is Falling" 1995 Canadian production), and the passionate nature man Mr. Osborne, who does care inside though ill-at-ease on the surface with the resolute boy (another William Hurt never-disappoint performance).
And what's not to like: location shooting takes you into the rain forest of Costa Rica - it does feel like going through a National Geographics sojourn - remarkable close-ups of insects, fascinating nature captures and lush landscape scenes. Capable cinematography by Pierre Mignot and skillful editing by Michel Archand. Comparable screenplay by Pete McCormack, based on true events, with dramatic elements infused for film-goers' sake. Decent direction by Léa Pool (of "Lost and Delirious" - a controversial subject film which may not be for everyone, with intense performance by 'Coyote Ugly' talented Piper Perabo), who kept the dramatic tones non-sappy, and the adventure segments, the core relationship between the entomologist father-figure and the singularly-minded boy comfortable to follow. The ending notation - which is no spoiler - letting the viewers know what became of the terminally ill young boy, is definitely uplifting and life affirming. Yes, miracles do occur. (I have Lani Hall's song from her 'Sweet Bird' album, 'That's When Miracles Occur' singing in my head. "Love you're giving you must give away" and " Make sure you risk everything" - the lyrics sure ring true in this film.) Unobtrusive music (integral native rhythms, too) by Stephen Endelman, exquisite (nature) sound design by Ivan Sharrock and visual effects supervised by Gunnar Hansen all enhance the film experience.
"The Blue Butterfly" is a movie worth watching. Glad that Encore encores its showings on cable. It's also available on DVD, which included fascinating bonus features (from 10 to 18 minutes variety): there's interview with the real life 'Pete' - David Marenger, story about young David and the real 'Osborne' - French entomologist Georges Brossard of 'Fondateur Insectarium De Montreal'. See "Mariposa Azul: A True Story" with executive producer Francine Allaire, "The True Inspiration" and "About A Butterfly Garden" with David, and "The Actors' Experience" with Bussières, Donato, Hurt (he explained why he liked the dream sequence idea, and his observations of Georges) on their portrayals and on set anecdotes, including venturous Georges (who showed and told us about the 'big' bugs!), of course.
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