A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: My Review

I saw “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” the other day.  I enjoyed it and I think you will as well.  It’s not exactly what I was expecting but the surprise added to the success of the movie.  I was expecting the movie to simply be a biography of Fred Rogers but that wasn’t quite the case.  The movie didn’t even revolve around Mr. Rogers.

This film is a testament to how great of a show “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” really was.  I learned that the show was filmed in Pittsburgh, PA and Fred Rogers was a long time married man with two sons.  None of this ever crossed my mind.  The production of the show and Mr. Roger’s personal life was not something I ever questioned even as an adult.  I bought into what the show was selling and I accepted that Mr. Rogers was a bachelor that lived a quiet life in the Land of Make Believe.  It wasn’t weird to me at all.

I also learned that the mission of “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” was to teach children how to process emotions.  I watched the show as a child and I never realized I was being taught anything.  I just watched adults talk to puppets while a train milled around and enjoyed it.  How brilliant!  I guess you have to sneak up on children like that.

“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” also revealed that Fred Rogers was real sweetheart.  He was a baby doll that would melt the coldest of hearts if you got too close to him.  Fred Rogers was brave because it takes bravery to extend yourself to a person in love and that’s what he did face to face and through his TV show.

Another great thing about the movie is that it is 109 minutes long.  Over the last twenty years or so it seems that all movies have become very long.  It’s to the point that a film needs to be very special to make me want to invest the time.  But this delightful film didn’t waste time and I appreciate that.

I didn’t love this movie as much as some people.  It’s not even my favorite Tom Hanks work.  That distinction still belongs to “Bosom Buddies”.  But it is a respectable, light hearted film about a very nice person.  This movie is optimistic as opposed to the cynicism that we’ve all grown use to.  If you get a chance take the time to watch it.

Review: Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri

Over the weekend I watched the 2017 release Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri.  It’s a very good film and Frances McDormand does great work in it.  The only other movie I’ve seen Frances McDormand in is Fargo.  The two films have a lot in common.

Both films are centered around a mysterious crime in a small town which is McDormand’s sweet spot from what I can tell.  In Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri.  Frances McDormand plays Mildred Hayes, a single mother of two teenagers.  Her daughter Angela becomes a victim of a rape and murder during a night out.  The local police force doesn’t make any progress in finding the girl’s rapist and murderer.  Months go by with no leads and no contact from the police department.

Mildred decides to buy billboard space on the edge of town.  The three billboards have a bold and confrontational message.  The ask the town police chief played by Woody Harrelson in bold block letters why no arrests have been made in her daughter’s case.

ThreeBillboards

The billboards quickly become controversial because they challenge the town’s sense of righteousness.  The Ebbing police department had been accused of race based police brutality but the billboards which spotlight lackadaisical police work in the murder of a local White girl angered the townsfolk.  I’m sure they like to think of themselves as God fearing, salt of the Earth kind of people.

Mildred becomes the town pariah but I don’t think it mattered much to her.  She doesn’t seem to socialize much and she doesn’t scare easily.  Through a peculiar chain of events the police department is inspired to put more energy into solving the mystery of Angela’s death.

Frances McDormand plays a resilient and stoic woman that pushes back when she is pushed, or ignored.  I was moved to tears watching this imperfect mother fight for her daughter’s honor.  Angela was a bad girl which may be the reason that the town didn’t rally around her mother.  Mildred is a bad girl too and she couldn’t rest while the world went moved on without anyone being brought to justice for killing her daughter.

This is definitely a good movie and worth your time.  It is dark without being too vulgar and there are several interesting plot twists.  The movie pulled at my heart strings.  If you haven’t seen Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri add it to your to see list.

The Little Mermaid 2019

There’s been a lot of discussion about the young actress Halle Bailey playing the part of Ariel in the “The Little Mermaid”.  Most of the conversation has centered around race.  evidently some are upset that a Black woman is playing the character and others are upset that someone is upset.  I don’t have any strong opinions on the matter but I’ve enjoyed the jokes and memes on social media surrounding our new Little Mermaid.

It’s always nice to see Black actors getting opportunities but aside from that I don’t care about this.  I don’t take much interest in anything Disney related.  I had never heard of Halle before.  And I’m not one to take a lot of pride in a Black character being added to an all White cast of a TV show.  It actually bothers me that Hollywood remakes films and they think they are being edgy by making a male character female, a White character Black or by making everybody gay.  Ooooohhhhh.

While wasting time on You Tube the other day I ran across a few videos featuring Halle Bailey and her sister.  I was instantly charmed.  Halle Bailey is perfect.  All of these people that are debating and making think pieces on this matter have sold Halle short because I didn’t hear any of them describe her as perfect until I saw this.  Please watch.

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/video/chloe-x-halle-perform-america-beautiful-at-super-bowl-watch-1182246

 

 

Halle is the one in the red jogging suit.  She is young, innocent, pure and sweet as pie.  She sings like a bird and has a face like a baby doll.  Disney could not have done better if they grew this girl in a lab and raised her themselves to star in their film.  She was born for this and she is going to kill it.  I think this will be legendary.

Her sister is lovely as well so Disney might as well put her in the film too since Ariel had a bunch of sisters.  Are there more Bailey sisters?  We need more!  Tell me about their dad.  Is he a singer?  Cast him.  He’s a good man and he deserves it.

ariel's family

Unfortunately race is a big issue in the world but I bet Disney casting agents didn’t even think of race when considering Halle for this role.  I’ll bet it was an afterthought;  like “oh yeah do we care that she’s Black and the cartoon isn’t?  Nah me neither.”

I have a hard time imaging that there are many more young women out there who can fit the bill as well as Halle.  I had no intention of seeing this movie but now that I’ve seen how talented this young star I’m actually interested.  My big question is how are they going to make a live action movie about sea people?  That should be the real conversation.

NW

Over the weekend I watched a film called “NW”.  It is based on a book by the same name by Zadie Smith.  NW stands for north west, no it’s not about Kanye West’s daughter.  I hope that doesn’t disappoint you.  NW refers to the British postal code of north west London where the principle characters of the film grew up together in a housing project.  The film circles around two girlhood friends Natalie and Leah who are now in their thirties with families and careers.

I thought this was a great story and a very well made, meticulously cast movie.  It kind of reminds me of the 2005 movie “Crash”.  “Crash” took place in Los Angeles and had a large cast of ethnically diverse characters with different lots in life.  The people in the story seemed to have nothing in common other than living in the megapolis of LA but their lives are all intertwined through a series of events.

“NW” operates in a similar fashion.  The characters range in social status and experiences.  People that you wouldn’t expect to cross paths do.  There are two other characters in the film that grew up in northwest London.  And just like in real life it’s interesting to see how people with similar starting points take different paths and end up in very different places in life years later.

“NW” is a story and commentary on race, class, femininity, masculinity, identity and how it all intersects.  The mainstreamed, straight laced people make questionable moral decisions and have unrighteous motivations.  You will loathe some of the respectable characters for their deceit and arrogance while some of the edgy ones display honesty, decency and even honor and chivalry.

I don’t believe that Hollywood would or could have made this film.  I don’t think they would have made the right casting decisions.  The casting choices were very important to the telling of the story.  I can tell that the actors were chosen deliberately and the film makers did a great job of choosing personnel.

It took a lot of sensitivity and cultural awareness to be able to choose actors and to understand the cultural nuances involved in being Black, mixed an immigrant and White.  Kudos to them.  I have a hard time picturing Hollywood placing Nikki Amuka-Bird in the role of a trophy wife.  But traditional Hollywood would have seen Zoe Kravitz or Zendaya more suitable for the part of a wealthy man’s wife not a woman so…Black.  She nailed it though.

nikki amuka-bird

 

O.T. Fagbenle gave a great performance in “NW”.  I was reading about the cast after watching it and the article mentioned one of the actors is in “The Handmaid’s Tale”.  I was confused because I’ve been watching “Handmaid’s Tale” and I wasn’t making the connection.  Fagbenle plays June’s husband Luke in “Handmaid’s Tale” and Felix in “NW”.  He is one heck of an actor because his appearance was not drastically different from one part to the other but he was completely unrecognizable to me.  He even appeared about ten years younger in “NW” even though the movie aired on BBC in 2016.

OT fagbenle

There is a lot that can be said about this film but I actually don’t want to spoil it for anyone that hasn’t seen it and may want to watch.  It’s a mature and thought provoking movie with no real heroes and no easy answers.  I would recommend it if you are looking for something to watch.

Here is a link to the film if you can tolerate sparkly stars framing your movies.  Enjoy.  I just got a copy from my local library.

 

 

 

Crazy Rich Asians

I’ve been on a movie kick lately.  I recently watched “Crazy Rich Asians”.  It was great.  I’m not much of a cry baby so I love any movie, book, commercial, sporting event that brings tears to my eyes.  “Crazy Rich Asians” did that.

WARNING:  This brief review contains spoilers!

It’s a very sweet movie and an old fashioned romance.  I love a good romance but Hollywood doesn’t make many of those anymore.  There’s not much to say about the plot because it really is working from Hollywood’s formula for romances.  Honestly, you’ve probably seen a movie like this before.

Man and woman are in love.  Everything is great.  There’s a conflict which threatens to destroy the relationship.  It does.  The woman leaves.  The man realizes he doesn’t want to live without the woman.  He pursues her and stops her before the plane, train, bus takes off.  She looks into his eyes with longing and realizes she doesn’t want to live without him either.  She gets off of the bus, train or plane and runs into his arms.

The end.

There’s not much more to it than that.  If you’ve seen this type of film before and enjoyed it watch “Crazy Rich Asians” if you haven’t already.  Have tissue paper handy.

Victoria and Abdul

A few days ago I watched the 2017 release “Victoria and Abdul”.  It was OK.  It was watchable to me because I enjoy period, historical dramas and the British royal family is interesting to me.  The actors in the film did as good of a job as I think anyone could with the material they were given.  This film could have been a complete disaster in the hands of the wrong film makers.

If you plan on watching this movie and you don’t like spoilers do not proceed.  I don’t feel guilty about the spoilers in this movie because it isn’t a current release and it’s based on historical facts.  Consider yourself warned.

So Abdul is a young man from India that worked in some sort of clerical position for a government office in colonial India.  He was selected and ordered to travel to India to present the Queen Victoria with a coin that was being given to her as a gift from the people of India.  When I say Abdul was selected to travel to India I mean he was ordered along with another government worker named Mohammed.

Once Abdul and Mohammed arrive in England they have to present the Queen with the coin that bears her likeness.  They are ceremonial colored people.  The pair are instructed not to make eye contact with the Queen and once she has been presented her coin on silver platter they are to back away.  Abdul makes eye contact with Victoria while making his exit.  The Queen remarks that she thinks that he is handsome.

Abdul and Mohammed are required to serve Queen Victoria at a different dinner.  At this event after serving the Queen her dessert Abdul shockingly drops to his knees and kisses her feet.  I’m unsure of why he did that but the Queen took a liking to him after that.  He becomes her confidante, tutor and spiritual advisor.  Much to the consternation of Mohammed their stay in England is prolonged.

Abdul irritated me throughout 90% of this movie.  This grown, married man who had achieved some level of education was forced to travel to gloomy England and serve the Queen that stole their country and oppressed his people.  Yet he was infatuated with her.  I don’t understand it.

I really don’t understand the nature of Abdul’s feelings towards Victoria.  She is the queen of the nation that colonized his country.  Any healthy person would harbor resentment.  I couldn’t tell if he admired her position of power, looked to her as a mother figure or if he had an attraction to her.  Perhaps it was all three.

I can accept a platonic friendship or a loving surrogate mother/son relationship.  But I felt at times that the film was hinting at romance and trying to create sexual tension.  Victoria was a mother of nine and she was eighty one years old in the film.  She had a long list of health problems.  She was a woman well past her prime.  I was hoping Abdul wasn’t so intrigued by the idea of having the attention of a White woman that he saw past all this.  I was watching this movie like “Have some pride for goodness sakes Abdul she’s dying!”.

Particularly since he had a good Muslim, young, attractive, Indian wife back home.  During a conversation between Victoria and Abdul his wife came up.  The Queen was a bit disappointed and dismayed by the news and she felt betrayed that she had not been told about her.  Then The Queen requested that Abdul’s wife be brought to England.  Once again, this was an order not a request or suggestion.

The most interesting and relatable character in the movie was Mohammed who traveled to England with Abdul.  He was a man with pride and looked at the world in a practical and realistic way. He resented having to travel to England, he hated England, he was upset with Abdul for prolonging their stay and he saw the British as settlers that oppressed the people of India.

mohammed

Nonetheless, he was employed by their government in his homeland.  I’m sure he saw his employment opportunity as the best deal that was being offered.  I’ve learned that taken the best deal that is offered to you is a lot of what life is about.  As a Black woman in America I strongly identify with Mohammed.

The relationship between Victoria and Abdul deepens and one day the monarch dies.  The queens family and household staff resented Abdul and the attention he had from the queen.  Once the queen passed away Abdul and his wife and mother in law were sent back to India.  The queen’s son, Bertie Prince of Wales destroyed evidence of his influence over the royal palace.

A statue was erected near the Taj Mahal.  Abdul lived nearby and visited the statue in the last scene of “Victoria & Abdul”.  He was visibly aged and he kissed the feet of the statue and looked at it with adulation.  Abdul had years to reflect on his banishment from the place that he grew to love and call home, the disrespect and poor treatment he received from everyone but the queen and the attempt the queen’s son made to completely erase his presence at the palace.

Abdul buried Mohammed, who proved himself to be a loyal friend, in England.  Mohammed never wanted to come there and was anxious to return to India.  Mohammed died in the royal palace as a prisoner to Queen Victoria.

He never came to realize that he and the queen were never on a level playing field and she pulled rank in the relationship on several occasions.  The Queen Victoria loved, enjoyed, admired and in some ways respected Abdul.  But she still looked upon him the way one views a pet.  She didn’t really see him as a man.

I was frustrated with Abdul throughout this film.  I think the director wanted to create a “Driving Miss Daisy” vibe but it didn’t happen in this film.  I haven’t seen that film in years but if I recollect correctly Hoke put Miss Daisy in her place once or twice.  There was mutual respect between the two of them even if they weren’t seen as peers outside of their relationship.  Queen Victoria complained of having a long life as a queen but she never let Abdul know that she was queen and he was her subject.

I didn’t really like the film for personal reasons.  But it’s actually OK.  It runs for about two hours and the story sails along.  I never look at a clock to figure out how much longer it was going to last.  The setting and costumes were fun.  I always like learning something new about history.  And the actors were quite good.  I don’t think you will hate it if you watch.

 

 

 

This Review is Going to be Pretty Short: Bird Box

I learned of about the movie “Bird Box” because of Twitter.  I was minding my business scrolling through tweets and I read all the buzz about “Bird Box”.  In the following days I saw “Bird Box” memes all over social media.  The movie was a sensation.  I bought into the nonsense.

I don’t use Netflix so the movie is not available to me so I got a copy of the book when I saw it at the library.  I finished reading “Bird Box” by Josh Malerman over the weekend.  The book is pretty short but it took me a long time to get through it because it was boring.

I was waiting for the plot to build and live up to the social media hype but it never delivered.  Perhaps this is one of those anomalies where the movie is better than the book (like “Divergent”).  I’ll never know because I’ll never spend my time watching “Bird Box”.  I don’t even know how to describe this film; suspense, horror, mystery, science fiction, family drama.  I don’t know because nothing happens.  Seriously nothing happens.

The story is flat the entire time.  The book blindly meanders to an anti climatic ending that just added to the confusion.  I rushed through the ending of the book because I was sick of it but I was tempted to reread it because I couldn’t quite figure out what happened.

It seems like the writer was trying to leave things open ended so he can write a sequel.  However the sequel to watching grass grow would be watching paint dry.  I promise you that no matter where you live you will be more entertained by putting a chair in front of a window at your house and looking outside.

The premise is ridiculous.   I don’t understand what Twitter got so excited about.  I only saw three bad reviews of “Bird Box” one of which came from Cardi B.  Cardi was as confused as I was by the story.  I’m glad I wasn’t alone.

Warning:  This clip contains expletives, racial slurs and general vulgarity.  But she’s not wrong.

 

I’m mad a Twitter too for getting me to read that.  This is the third time that the media has sold me on a book and it was garbage.  Actually, probably more than that but I digress: 1. “The Host” by Stephenie Meyer.  (It was an unoriginal snoozefest.)  2.  “50 Shades of Grey” by E.L. James (The protagonist made women look stupid because that relationship should have ended very soon after she met Christian.  And the sex scenes in the book are over hyped.  Harlequin romances are kinkier than “50 Shades of Grey” and I was reading those in middle school) and now this.

I wish I could say I’ll never fall for this type of media hype again but I take book and movie recommendations seriously.  What can I say?  I like to stay on top of the trends.  This won’t be the last time I have egg on my face due to buying into hype.  It’s just how I live.