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Cutie and the Boxer (2013)
The Art of Life
A lonely trip to save their house, thankful wife with cat no mouse, ring the bell and thank the stars, so many arguments so many scars, a giant calls to whisper fame, but gives them nothing no money no gain, son appears to see the fuss, can't drive a car must take the bus, he chugs the wine no women no song, his mama frets what has gone wrong, she paints and writes their lives her muse, the canvas their altar no cross no pews, then he sees her for what she is, healer and savior of all that is his, through it all they laugh and love more, they've seen it all and know the score, fifteen rounds they pound and pound, champions of love lost then found, art as life or life as art, cutie and boxer chose the best part.
Beauty Is Embarrassing (2012)
Raw Honesty Screws Artistic Genius
This movie is a phenomenal experience for anyone interested in art of any kind. I saw it at the new Sundance Sunset in West Hollywood, a wonderful place, and rarely do we get such a blatantly honest lookinside the mind and life history of an artistic genius as well the worlds he currently lives and works in.
I say worlds plural because Wayne has traversed many of them in his long and highly successful career, including three Emmys, and inhabits several of them still. If Wayne wasn't so scrupulously honest about his emotions he might be a wealthier man but that he always sticks to his guns is what makes him a great artist and a better person. No doubt his fellow genius wife had a lot to do with that. Thus my title, get it?
As a writer I enjoyed it immensely and found his rebirth as a rock star painter/poet to be uniquely inspiring. Watching the critics say "where the hell did this guy come from?" was priceless for anyone languishing to create something great while getting little recognition for it. Meeting him after the showing proved to be as funny and heartwarming as seeing him on the big screen. Do what you love well, have fun, make beauty, and never quit and the rest of it will work out!! Thanks again Wayne!
Searching for Sugar Man (2012)
West LA Loves Sixto Rodriguez
The Landmark Theatre in West LA is a tough crowd but they were laughing and crying and when it was over they were applauding. This is what movie magic is all about. I wandered in and was blown away. Where can I get the soundtrack?? Holy! Crap!!
Sixto is what Dylan could have been. That's right he's better than Bob. Better writer, better vocalist by tenfold. Unlike The Jester this guy never sold out and walked the talk until the bitter end.
I've always believed the world's best talent goes unrecognized most of the time but the story of Sixto Rodriguez puts that theory into the "true" category once and for all and I will never doubt it again. Please recognize this man's work! Hopefully his daughters will continue to work toward that end both in the USA and South Africa.
Bombay Beach (2011)
Magical Desert Mystery Tour
If you have a creative bone in your body then see this film. I took a chance and was astounded at how good this work of art is. Everything Gummo was not this beauty is. The subjects are interesting enough on their own but the subject matter and characters are not the center piece but how she creates astounding scenes using the subjects in creative ways to weave a larger story just blew me away. A little boy struggling with the effects of multiple behavioral medications suddenly falls into a dreamlike trance and becomes a fireman riding a giant fire truck. A little boy and girl act out going on a date before dumping water all over each other in hilarious laughter. Two teenagers in love suddenly put on theatrical masks and dance together in slow and sensual synchronization. One minute an old man is comatose and near death on a gurney in the ER and the next he is racing in the desert on his ATV, which I think actually happened. It is the juxtaposition of the stark reality of their poverty and problems with their dreams that so pleasantly surprises. As great as the writing and editing is the sum total of the parts work together to create a film that takes you on a magical mystery tour through this desert community near the Salton Sea. Simply phenomenal and hopefully the first of many.
Crime After Crime (2011)
The Hurricane? More Riveting Period.
The Hurricane (1999 with Denzel Washington) ain't got nothing on this. I've never seen a score so out of line with reality. 5.6 is way to low for this gem. The young male viewership buried the score for the usual reason, lack of action. Women rated it a 9.6 overall a much better barometer. A riveting story, a compelling theme, and a truly remarkable lead. I just don't get it. I saw it in Hollywood and the tough crowd loved it erupting in cheers at the end. As I told the male attorney who was in the cast this film is a no brainer for a feature length drama. It has everything any producer could want. Not only is the story arc filled with roller coaster hairpins and drops with great editing but even the natural timing of what happened to Debbie defies description. I can understand the youth not having the patience for all the set up that was artfully done but the payoff is there in the end and is overwhelming. I am convinced someday this story will get its just rewards.
Up the Yangtze (2007)
Twain And Dylan Would Be Proud
Mr. Chang and crew took me on an unforgettable journey down the foggy ruins of time......and then it hit me. Mark Twain, the River King, would be very proud.
The timing of the Olympics peaked my interest in this magical and misty movie. I whistled, I wept, on the edge of my seat I sat laughing.
I cannot do it justice with a full review but instead will quote here maybe the greatest lyrics ever written about change, memory, sorrow, and finally, hope.
Chang is the Tambourine Man for China in this most critical moment in their modern times. This is merely the end of the beginning. Bravo! Encore!!
"Then take me disappearing' through the smoke rings of my mind down the foggy ruins of time,
far past the frozen leaves, the haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach,
far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow.
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free,
silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands,
with all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves,
let me forget about today until tomorrow.
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to Hey ! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me In the jingle jangle morning I'll come following' you." - Dylan
Friday Night Lights (2004)
Best High School Sports Movie Ever Made
I've seen just about every sports movie ever made in America and FNL was better than any other high school movie, by far. I'm sure it is not as good as the book (they never are), but after seeing it three times, its power grew on me each and every time. Some of the scenes were as powerful as any I have ever seen in ANY movie and the acting was outstanding across the board.
I could not help but break down while watching one of the young men come to grips with losing everything he had ever worked for or dreamed about in his life, only to become one of the main inspirations for his team's achievements, through all of the adversity they had faced together. It also serves as a stark reminder to all young athletes of the value of an education when the big dreams don't come through.
Most inspirational of all to me was the relationship between Coach Gaines (Thornton) and one of his troubled team leaders. In two conversations with the introverted young man, both off school grounds, the coach not only helped him to see his own personal problem clearly... "My mind's not right", but then gave him the solution to it that was well within the players grasp...."If you can get by that one thing, you're going to seriously fly son!" and "Ain't no curses". Coaching and mentoring doesn't get better than that and it should serve as a great example to coaches and mentors everywhere.
Lastly, I didn't realize it until the third time I saw it, that the movie chronicled a huge change in the coach's philosophy as well. He started out just as gung ho as the local townfolk, as the fired-up new coach, and did not realize what their "win at all costs" attitude was doing to him, his family, and to his players. He decided during the conversation with the sheriff/main booster that they all needed to change the way they defined success and achievement. The look on the sheriff's face when he called his bluff was priceless. Then he led them through it by example. The motivational half-time speech given by him was one that so affected me in my current life that I'm sure I will never forget it and will pass it on whenever I can...."Be perfect.....in your heart!". You couldn't take a teenager or young adult to a better movie. They should give it away to every school.
The Jetsons (1962)
Vulcan Mind Meld - The Past (1962) and the Future (2262) in One
I bought the new Jetsons original series DVD set for a friend's kid and ended up watching it with her and was blown away. I used to watch re-runs as a kid and had forgotten how much I used to love them. It's a very high quality cartoon series that put me in sort of Vulcan mind meld with the past and the future all at the same time. That is because when you watch it you are seeing a 1962 version of the 23rd century (or so). It is fascinating to see this in action. The wife stays home and goes shopping while the husband goes off to the exploitive factory to work for a demeaning boss. I really enjoyed looking at all of the gadgets they had and seeing which ones came true in the future, like flat screen TVs and wristwatch phones everywhere, and which ones never did. Maybe some of the creators ideas are right around the corner! The funny thing was my friend's daughter enjoyed it as much as I did because of the funny story lines. I can highly recommend the new DVD set with all 24 episodes from 1962. There are commentaries from some of the characters and other added features that made this a great buy.
The Watershed (2004)
Powerfully Moving Family Drama!
I saw The Watershed at the Arizona Film Festival in Tuscon last weekend and was very moved by it. A multi-year effort by a husband and wife team to chronicle the disintegration of her middle-class childhood family in the 1970's due to alcoholism and other obvious pyschological forces. Drawn from a plethora of old home movies and up close interviews with her mother, father, aunt, uncle, and six siblings this docu-drama seeks to find the truth behind the what and why of her parents break-up and the tragic aftermath. Before the rift, the seven kids were considered to be perfect children, all dressed exactly alike. As adults, the Trunks again come across as charming, intelligent, and well adjusted people who have jointly survived a tragic childhood and emerged in one piece at various levels of enlightenment as expected. The Aunt and Uncle who took them all in for a year, and then did not want to give them up, were particularly inspiring. My favorite moment...when the uncle, who had three kids of his own, and ten altogether with the Trunks, says something to the effect of "really, it was no trouble at all once we figured out a system, they were great kids", then covers his face with his hands and weeps thirty years after the fact. Mind you, he had no blood relation to them. Another, when one sister explains that she has moved on and forgiven both of her parents, that she owns her own life now, and then, when the camera is thought to stop rolling, says "Wow!!" smiles and then breaks down. It was like she had really just accepted it, finally, RIGHT THERE. My favorite image at the end was a picture of the mother, smiling broadly, surrounded by her well-dressed brood, a picture of courage, resilience, and love. Reminded me so much of my own mother. Pure therapy. Brilliant work!! I GAVE IT AN 8/10. Thank you Mary Trunk and Paul Sanchez.
The Last Samurai (2003)
Let's Roll - Don't Walk, Run To See This Movie
Rarely will you ever see a movie more inspiring than this epic treatise on the nature of good and evil. In this new millenium "Braveheart" it is the greedy, self-absorbed corporate charlatans versus the selfless tribal warriors, who, knowing they are fighting a losing battle, decide to fight on with the utmost honor and bravery imaginable. You will want to stand up and cheer just like the dozens of people I saw voicing their thanks for this rousing story. It portrays America as many unfortunately see it in the rest of the world today, as an untrustworthy and greedy bully using its superior technology to stamp down the downtrodden and line its own pockets. Yet it is an American Civil War hero (Cruise) who redeems his terrible crimes against humanity in the Indian Wars and teaches the brave Asian warriors what it takes to win against a far superior enemy.... not just honor, courage, integrity, and passion.... but faith, hope, and an undying will to see the good triumph over evil, no matter what the odds or the price. The battle scenes are fantastic, characters sympathetic, sub plots engrossing, and you will wish as I did that the movie would not end. I walked away a better man, the snickering cynics be damned. You will too! I doubt any of them have ever fought valiantly in a battle to the death, even when they knew they would probably lose. Remember 9/11? If only we modern day Americans could live every day like the last samurai, like it was our last fight, and understand that ours is mostly a battle between good and evil within the mind. Our words are our swords and to die in battle is a "good" death. "Every man dies, but not every man really lives." (Braveheart) Let's Roll!!!