Fall Movie Review: The Laureate

This weekend I watched “The Laureate”. It was a little dry at times because I don’t care for films in this setting but it was an interesting story. “The Laureate” is about an English writer named Robert Graves who suffered from PTSD after fighting in WWI. At the start of the film he was a married man with a young daughter. His career and family life was respectable but he wasn’t satisfied.

Robert and his wife Nancy allow an American poet named Laura to move into their home and act as a tutor for their daughter. Laura is manipulative and a user. She also has mental delusions. Laura says she likes to challenge societal conventions but she is really just a selfish social climber. Her ambitions are more important than morals or family.

Laura thought she could position herself near Robert in order to achieve greater success for herself. Robert was in the flop era of his career. Nancy use to be cool but now she was a mousy housewife with a young daughter.

Nancy is a sucker who wants to be edgy so she opened her home and slowly her marriage to Laura who wreaked havoc on her life and ultimately destroyed her family. However, Laura was an effective muse and Robert’s career took off after meeting Laura. He is a writer of influential works from the WWI era.

The draw back of ” The Laureate” is that I don’t care for stories that take place in England around the 1920’s. Shows and movies like “Downton Abbey” and “Atonement” are very boring dark, quiet and dry to me. “The King’s Speech” would be an exception.

There was a point in this film that remind me of “The Color Purple” due to the exotic and exciting woman that moves into a married couples house. Both films take place around the same time period but the parallels end there. “The Laureate” is a good film. It’s interesting and it could start some good conversations. I recommend it.

Fall Movie Review: “Umma”

I watched “Umma” starring Sandra Oh over the weekend. This is a great movie and I highly recommend it. “Umma” is a psychological thriller with many layers. This film touches on matters of family dynamics, particularly the mother/daughter relationship, ethnic identity, spirituality and paranormal activity. It would be a great film to watch with a friend or group because it could initiate interesting conversations.

SPOILER ALERT

Amanda and her daughter Chris live in isolation in what seems to be rural California. They raise bees for a living on a farm. Chris grows up believing her mother is allergic to electricity. This is a great setting and set of circumstance for an eerie film.

Chris grew up without modern conveniences and technology which makes her a social outcast among her peers. She is home schooled and her only companion is her mother. Chris later finds out with the help of a visitor to the town she befriends that her mother’s allergy is a lie. It’s unclear if the lie is deliberate or a figment of Amanda’s imagination.

Amanda had a tense relationship with her domineering Korean mother. In an effort to be different from her she distanced herself from her mother, extended family. In the process she rejects society as a whole. Amanda never married. She had her daughter with a White man who played little to no part in Amanda and Chris’ lives. She didn’t teach her daughter anything about her Korean heritage.

Amanda’s attempts to not be like her mother failed. She was similar to her mother in some ways and had a complicated and controlling relationship with Chris. She also had old world expectations of her daughter who was born and raised in California.

I hadn’t heard of this film at all before running across it at the library. This is a great film that I think you will enjoy. It is creepy and has scary moments so it’s suitable for this time of year. It’s also an interesting commentary about family relationships especially the ones we have with our mothers. I highly recommend it.

Fall Review: The Northman

This will be short. This movie is terrible. I don’t have much to say because I can’t really tell you what happened in the movie. It was about Vikings doing Viking stuff but I don’t know why they were doing it.

I thought I would enjoy this film because I enjoyed the TV series “Vikings” but this isn’t that. The movie had an impressive cast with well known actors. They couldn’t help. It was terrible and a waste of time.

Summer Movie Review: American Gospel

I watched the film “American Gospel” over the weekend. I would recommend the film but wouldn’t describe it as good or enjoyable. The film is sad and disappointing but it is informative and eye opening. “American Gospel” is worth the watch.

“American Gospel” does a good job of presenting the gospel. Then it goes into the way the gospel is shared by well known American pastors. There are sharp differences. America’s most well known pastors are sharing a false gospel and their message gets shared around the world.

This movie shows clips from celebrity preacher sermons. The sermons can be described as blasphemous. They can also be described as scams. There are testimonials from people that have followed the teachings of mega church pastors and their regrets. A nephew of so called faith healer, Benny Hinn, who worked in his uncle’s ministry also tells his story in hindsight.

I don’t follow the ministries of celebrity pastors but for the most part I’ve given them the benefit of the doubt and hope that some good comes from their ministry. The exception is Benny Hinn who is obviously a long time charlatan. The revelations by his nephew are worse than I imagined. They are heart breaking.

There were people in “American Gospel” who shared their experiences following mega church teachings. One woman ruined her career and financial standing. I don’t think she worked for the church but she followed the teachings of a popular preacher and quit her job believing she would be miraculously provided for. She wasn’t.

The bottom line of the film is that the popular American Gospel isn’t following scripture at all. They preach a message that is designed to sell books, get clicks and views and garnish donations, not teach the Bible and save souls.

The film also includes the testimony of a family where the wife is terminally ill and their faith and studies of the Bible. Their story isn’t miraculous and wouldn’t make anyone feel like a special snow flake. But they share what God’s word did for them and their family.

I would recommend watching “American Gospel”. It’s well researched and presented. I think it is fair. I think that viewers can learn a lot about the gospel and the difference between what the Bible says and the message being shared by popular preachers.

Summer Movie Review: Spencer

COURTESY SPOILER ALERT

One of my rules for spoiler are that if a book or film is based on a historical event there is no spoiler. This is a courtesy spoiler alert if you don’t want your expectations of “Spencer” influenced by my opinion.

“Spencer” is the 2021 film about Diana (Spencer), Princess of Wales. The film takes place during Christmas season 1991. The film illustrates the burden Diana carried as the wife and mother of the future kings of England. The movie takes some patience but I enjoyed it overall.

Spencer was a bit slow moving in parts. It used symbolism which I don’t enjoy in books and movies. The musical score was also very dramatic and kind of loud. It was a symphony and it was overbearing in some scenes. The director was very artsy fartsy and indulgent at times. It made the story move like molasses.

You will be rewarded if you stick with it. The story comes together and begins to make sense midway through. “Spencer” is filmed like it’s a psychological thriller. The look is similar to that of “The Shining”, “Get Out” or even the “Friday the 13th Series”. It’s dark and hazy.

The film makes the claim that Diana was on the verge of or perhaps already having a nervous breakdown in late 1991. She had been in her royal position for over a decade. She was lonely and isolated. Diana was constantly surveilled and controlled.

At thirty years old all of her choices were made for her including where she lived and her clothes. She had little control over parenting her boys. Diana was treated well and respectfully but it was a matter of protocol. Everyone around her was loyal to tradition, patriotism and The Crown. There wasn’t much interest in Diana as a person.

Her only genuine interactions were with her sons. The scenes with the young mother and her two boys were charming and gave the film warmth. Her older son William was also loyal to royal protocol and tried to keep his mother on the straight and narrow. The boys were protective and seemed to see their mom as mentally fragile.

Diana’s relationship with her husband Charles was a matter of royal business. In one scene Charles justified his affair with Camilla by saying he needed two women because there were two of him; one public and one private. Charles was basically Diana’s boss and she was his employee.

The people around her including the queen played subtle psychological tricks on her. The queen made decisions to quietly let Diana know she was in charge and Diana was a political prisoner of sorts. Diana was the focus of intense media attention and she was not protected or sympathized with by her husband or anyone else except her sons. They were the only people who saw her humanity. It’s easy to believe that someone would lose their mind in that situation.

Kristen Stewart did a nice job as the princess. The casting was great and all the actors performed well. The 80s and 90s costumes were great. Diana was known for her short hairdo so the wig Kristen wore could have been better. It didn’t look bad but I could tell it was a wig. The stylist probably should have tried a weave cut into a short style so the hair would have more movement.

Overall, I recommend the movie despite it moving slowly in some parts. I don’t know if the movies claims are verifiable but they are believable. I like that the film maker was on Diana’s side and told her story.

Film Review: White Hot, the Rise and Fall of Abercrombie and Fitch

White Hot, the Rise and Fall of Abercrombie and Fitch is a documentary running on Netflix that tells the story about the retailer whose popularity peaked in the early 2000s. I would recommend this film if you are interested in fashion, marketing, pop culture, labor and civil rights or late nineties and early 2000s nostalgia. It covers all of that. It’s fairly short and I thought it was an interesting movie.

A & F was a very successful retailer that was a staple in every American shopping mall in the 2000s. I was aware of A & F but I was never impressed by their style. If my memory serves correctly they sold jeans, tees and button downs. Nothing special. I also recall that they were known for the clothes running very small. A & F didn’t really pull my trigger.

The company was notorious for being racist so there was no love loss between me and Abercrombie and Fitch. I’ve been in an A & F store one time. I browsed around one of their stores in the Kansas City area that has closed. I bought a pair of skinny jeans on clearance for about $10. There was nothing noteworthy or memorable about the experience.

White Hot discusses the marketing strategy of the company that made them very successful. The ads featured young, White, fit, natural looking men and women. Youth culture of today criticize A & F for promoting a specific beauty standard.

A & F was sued by some of their former store employees and some of them were interviewed for the documentary. I have worked several retail jobs. The practices described in the documentary are typical of retail companies. Retail is a very racist industry. The discrimination is evident if you’re familiar with the retail industry.

The difference between Abercrombie and other retailers is that they were very direct and brazen about their practices. A & F had manuals about who they saw fit to hire. They didn’t hire and recruit based on experience. They based on looks and were not customer service oriented at all.

They didn’t say they only wanted to hire White people but they discriminated against employees that didn’t fit their standard of attractiveness which is clearly White. Non White employees were written off the schedule or only allowed to work in the stock room if they were hired at all. Abercrombie and Fitch settled with former employees that sued them but the company never admitted wrong doing.

White Hot, the Rise and Fall of Abercrombie and Fitch is OK. You might enjoy it if you’re interested in the subject matter it covered. The film follows in the Netflix tradition of making documentaries of pop culture trends of the early 2000s. They have the benefit of hindsight and people who were directly involved have the opportunity to tell their story. I think they’re pretty fun but it’s not ground breaking film making.

“Discarded Things”: A Review

Discarded Things is a part of the genre that I will call Christian movies. I enjoy Christian movies. They are the English language equivalent of Mexican soap operas. Christian movies are a bit campy, dramatic, kind of over the top with a limited budget. Yet the are quite entertaining. They always have an inspirational message. God always prevails after all.

I’m going to avoid spoilers because this film has an ending that will knock your socks off. I’ll keep this brief. I enjoyed this movie. It was a bit corny but I enjoyed the acting and it was a good story. The lead actress is named Karen Abercrombrie. She plays Grace Wyatt who is a teacher for trouble children. She’s fifty eight and a real fox. She was foxy in the movie and they styled her down. Check out her IMDB. Karen is fire.

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1620433/

Cameron Arnett plays a pastor named Solomon Grant and the father of Grace. He was in the film briefly but his performance was memorable. He did a great job in this film and played a great villain. I hated him with passion. Cameron did his job. I think he deserves an Oscar.

My criticism of the film is that Grace is a teacher for troubled youth but the youngsters are super sweet and squeaky clean. They aren’t believable as juvenile delinquents. The other criticism is that the film almost feels like it’s two distinct films. I wish the first act that involved Grace’s childhood could have lasted longer. The middle dragged a bit until it picked up at the end.

Check it out if you get the chance. Regardless of your beliefs explore Christian films. They are wholesome albeit a bit corny. They are family friendly and always have an inspirational ending.

Over the Limit

Over the weekend I watched the documentary “Over the Limit” about gold medal winning Olympic rhythmic gymnast Margarita Mamun. This is a good sports movie and I recommend it. It is in Russian with no subtitles or voice overs. The film is an hour and fourteen minutes long and I didn’t understand a word except for a scene where Rita’s family sang “Happy Birthday”. The film was engaging and easy to understand despite the language barrier. I think not understanding what anyone is saying may have made the film more intense.

The thing I appreciate most about “Over the Limit” is that the subjects of the film had no discernible awareness of the camera. The audience observes Rita, her coaches and other people in her life as if we are flies on the wall. Watching Rita’s dedication to her sport takes the audience through a range of emotions. Throughout the film we admire Margarita and at times we felt bad for her. Her coaches are very stern and stoic. It’s hard to judge the coaches since I am not of the Russian culture or an athlete but at times they seem borderline abusive.

Margarita is surrounded by coaches, team mates, fans, a seemingly loving family and a dreamboat boyfriend who is an Olympic swimmer yet her journey was lonely. The visuals or the film are stark. It takes place in Moscow. Rita spends all of her time in the film in small apartments and gyms.

She competes in a solitary sport and she spends much of her time outside of the gym alone in her quiet apartment preparing her props for practice and competition. At times Rita seemed distant from her coaches while having conversations with them and looking into their eyes. The most warmth in the film comes from her relationship with her boyfriend who is now her husband.

If you get the opportunity check out “Over the Limit”. It’s a good sports movie. It’s fairly quick, interesting and enjoyable even if you are not a Russian speaker.

Pandemic Summer Review: Malice at the Palace on Netflix

The Malice at the Palace is the infamous brawl that took place at the Palace of Auburn Hills in 2004 between players from the Indiana Pacers, players from the Detroit Pistons and Pistons fans. Netflix made a documentary about the melee by the same name. I enjoyed the film. I think NBA fans and students of human psychology will like it. Malice at the Palace is fairly short. It gets to the point and doesn’t waste time so it’s not a big investment if you don’t care for it.

I remember the night of the Malice at the Palace otherwise known as the Basketbrawl but I still learned some new things. The film about the history making fight has interviews from the players, fans and police involved in the incident. It was pretty interesting hearing the perspective of fans, some of whom were arrested and one left the Palace on a stretcher and law enforcement.

My impression of the Basketbrawl is that everyone over thought it and got too emotional about the incident. The only difference between the Malice at the Palace and other sports fights is the fan involvement. It’s not rare for baseball to have a bench clearing brawl after a pitcher intentionally hits a batter with a ball. Hockey is notorious for fights. I think we’ve all heard the joke that they watched a fight on TV and a hockey game broke out. Pro sports is pretty much a celebration of toxic masculinity anyway and I thought that’s why we all watched.

There was a lot of media focus surrounding The Malice at the Palace. The media talked about if for weeks and the players were vilified and labeled as thugs. The NBA is made up of mostly Black players. In the early 2000s many of them were tattooed with braided hair. The public thought of them as thugs anyway so the Basketbrawl fit the narrative that already existed in the minds of many.

The fight happened at the beginning of the season. Key players were suspended for nearly half the season. The Pacers players that were interviewed thought the punishment was too harsh. I agree. The movie pointed out that the Pacers had a great team that year and had a great chance to go to the NBA Finals and winning.

The Pacers players lament a missed once in a lifetime opportunity. We’ll never know if the Pacers would have made it to the ’05 Finals and become NBA Champions. At the end of the season the championship hopeful Pacers team was disbanded. Ron Artest went to the Lakers and Reggie Miller retired.

It has long been my observation that the NBA favors large market teams and cheats smaller market ones. I’ve noticed bad officiating in The Playoffs over the years in favor of teams with larger markets and bankable stars. The 2004 NBA Finals Champions were the Detroit Pistons who essentially were a bunch of midwestern unknowns that beat the LA Lakers during Lakers era. I suspect that the commissioner at the time, David Stern didn’t want a different group of midwestern, small market players having a Cinderella season. That is my theory for the harsh punishments for the fight aside from publicly flogging Black men for American audiences.

Check out The Malice at the Palace if you’re an NBA fan, someone who enjoys drama or if you’re nostalgic about the early 2000s. I think you’ll enjoy it. If you don’t at least it’s short and fast paced.