What To Watch Next (OCT 2018)?

Colette (now playing in limited release) starring Keira Knightley, Dominic West, & Eleanor Tomlinson

After marrying a successful Parisian writer known commonly as “Willy” (West), Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (Knightley) is transplanted from her childhood home in rural France to the intellectual and artistic splendor of Paris. Soon after, Willy convinces Colette to ghostwrite for him. She pens a semi-autobiographical novel about a witty and brazen country girl named Claudine, sparking a bestseller and a cultural sensation. After its success, Colette and Willy become the talk of Paris and their adventures inspire additional Claudine novels. Colette’s fight over creative ownership and gender roles drives her to overcome societal constraints, revolutionizing literature, fashion and sexual expression. -Summary from Bleecker Street 

First Man (opening OCT 12th) starring Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Jason Clarke, Pablo Schreiber & Ciaran Hinds

This is a biopic of astronaut Neil Armstrong (Gosling), a Midwestern family man and former pilot, and the legendary space mission that led him to become the first man to walk on the moon. Though it’s directed by La La Land’s Damien Chazelle, there are NO songs or dances (no worries- LOL)! Critics are suggesting that you watch this in IMAX (if possible). 

Museo (now playing) starring Gael Garcia Bernal

Two 30-something slacker pals (living w/ parents in Mexico City) decide to pull an art heist. This is based on a true story- WOW! This film has been getting good buzz, and I’m a big fan of GGB.

The Hate U Give (opening OCT 19th) starring Amandla Stenberg, Common, Regina Hall, Issa Rae & Russell Hornsby

This looks to be an unique twist on the coming-of-age story (already being praised highly by critics). It was based on best-selling novel by a young black woman, Angie Thomas. A working-class black teen girl from the inner-city, Starr (attending a mostly white private school), experiences the awakening of her racial consciousness after witnessing the killing of her childhood best friend, a black boy, by a police officer.

Venom (opening OCT 5th) starring Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Woody Harrelson, & Jenny Slate

I learned that Venom was in Spider-Man 3, though this movie is considered to be outside the Marvel universe. Mild-mannered investigative reporter, Eddie Brock (Hardy), uncovers a secret government experiment and eventually merges w/ a symbiote called Venom. I’m curious to see it mainly for Riz Ahmed (who plays villainous scientist Carlton Drake).

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RBG (2018)

People ask me “Don’t you feel uncomfortable being compared to a rapper?” Why would I? We have a lot in common like being born and raised in Brooklyn. -Ruth Bader Ginsburg

If you’re not watching #RBGMovie you are missing one of the great multi layered love stories. Love of the law, love of knowledge, love of equality and above all, love of marriage as a true partnership, bursting with mutual respect. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is an American original. -Tom Harrington (CBC Radio)

The love story between Ruth and Martin Ginsburg is nothing less than awe-inspiring. I love how she tells about her undergraduate years at Cornell where there was a four to one ratio of boys to girls. “Every mother wanted to send their daughter there because, if you couldn’t find a husband there, you were hopeless.” She reveals that during her freshman year, she never dated the same boy twice. That is, until she met Marty, who was the first guy that recognized she had a brain. -Excerpt from IMDB review

He was okay playing second fiddle. In fact, he joked about it… -Nina Totenberg (NPR legal correspondent) on Marty, a very successful tax attorney in NYC, who moved to DC when his wife’s career took off. 

The film traces RBG’s life from her childhood in Brooklyn through her years struggling to be taken seriously as a young female law student  and practicing attorney, and through her tenure on the SCOTUS and emergence as a pop culture icon. The storyline is mostly linear, but includes frequent jumps backward, forward, and even sideways as it examines different aspects of her life, personality, and public image. There’s a mix of historical photos, videos, but the main draw are the interviews. We hear from Ginsburg’s children, childhood friends, colleagues, admirers and a few detractors, as well as fellow feminist icon Gloria Steinem, former Pres. Bill Clinton, and Ginsburg herself.

Some of the cases RBG argued before the SCOTUS:

  • Frontiero vs. Richardson (1973): A young newly-married woman from Alabama, Sharron Frontiero, working in the U.S. Air Force, sues for gender discrimination when the housing stipend is denied her (unlike male co-workers).
  • Weinberger vs. Wiesenfeld (1975): A widower and father to baby boy, Simon Wiesenfeld, sues the Social Security Administration for sole-survivor benefits (then called “a mother’s benefit” and only avaiable to women). When the case reached SCOTUS, RBG had Simon come sit w/ the lawyers (putting a masculine face in front of the all-male justices).
  • Califano vs. Goldfarb: Leon Goldfarb, a widower, who applied for survivor’s benefits under the Social Security Act had his application denied (even though his wife Hannah had paid Social Security taxes for 25 years).
  • Edwards vs. Healy: Challenging the Louisiana law that allowed women to opt-out of jury service.

You may remember these (high-profile) cases that RBG presided over:

  • U.S. vs. Virginia Military Institute (1996): VMI boasted a long and proud tradition as Virginia’s only exclusively male public undergraduate higher learning institution. The U.S. brought suit against Virginia and VMI alleging that the school’s male-only admissions policy was unconstitutional insofar as it violated the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.
  • Ledbetter vs. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (2007): Over her 19 yr. career at Goodyear, Lilly Ledbetter was consistently given low rankings in annual performance-and-salary reviews and low raises relative to other employees. Ledbetter sued for gender discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging that the company had given her a low salary because of her gender.

A granddaughter, Clara Spera, who recently graduated from Harvard Law School, explains that this was the first year that the graduating class was 50% male and 50% female (WOW). Jane and James (her adult children) recall how their mother rarely laughed, stressed education and personal responsibility, and was a horrible cook (LOL). Her husband, Marty, worked hard by contacting people from the business and legal communities to get RBG (then aged 61) to the top of the list for Supreme Court justice in 1993. Pres. Clinton was very impressed by her interview. RBG, who even won the admiration of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), was confirmed 96-3 in a quite partisan time. This is a MUST-SEE documentary (for people of ALL ages)!

BlacKkKlansman (2018) starring John David Washington, Adam Driver, & Topher Grace

NOTE: This post contains MILD SPOILERS for the film (now playing widely in theaters).

It’s relevant. It’s not a relic of the past. This is happening today. -Spike Lee re: the racism shown in his latest film

No film has channeled the hateful pulse of our moment… -Variety magazine (@Variety)

I thought it was one of Spike Lee’s most cogent films. I also thought it was the film with the most white gaze ever, and that’s not a complaint. -Monique Jones (@moniqueblognet)

There’s a moment… where Ron Stallworth, the protagonist, says we could never have a President like David Duke. It hits you like a ton of bricks because we now have something even worse: a President who thinks like Duke, only he camouflages it more effectively. -Adam Best (@adamcbest)

I’m a pretty big fan of Spike Lee; he has made some of my favorite (and also arguably, most socially relevant) films of the past three decades. As fans/critics have noted, his films ignore or minimize the “white gaze,” meaning characters behave as themselves, not responding only to “mainstream” American society. Since this is a based-on-real-events movie, his style is more subdued (though there are interesting touches that we’ve come to expect). The music (composed by Terence Blanchard) is very well-suited to the events and tone of the film. It deals w/ quite serious topics, yet has pops of (dark) humor that my audience really enjoyed. 

“We have to support Denzel’s son,” I emailed to my gal pal (a few days before we went to see this movie on opening weekend). John David (who plays Ron Stallworth, the first black policeman in Colorado Springs) speaks and moves like Denzel, yet has the face of  his mother, Pauletta. J.D. (as he is known) is 33 y.o. and a former NFL player who appeared on HBO’s Ballers. There is something fresh, wide-eyed (naive), yet also confident in his performance. He gets some really cool outfits as his “street clothes;” it’s the late ’70s after all. 

Adam Driver (now 35 y.o.) can be a polarizing figure, but after this role- I’m a fan! The lanky former Marine gives a very strong, yet subtle performance as Flip (Ron’s more experienced/skeptical undercover partner). In time, Flip comes to terms w/ his identity. I need to watch more of Driver’s indie films on Netflix. No offense to Star Wars fans, BUT franchises don’t give actors much room to stretch.

Topher Grace, who plays a young David Duke, wasn’t my favorite part of the film. He said that he had a tough time getting into the mindset of such a hateful man. The important thing to remember re: Duke is that he sought to change the image of the KKK- make it more mainstream. He was polite, well-spoken, usually wore suits and- eventually- reached a high level of politics. The other members of “The Organization” were a mixed bag, ranging from a low IQ hillbilly to gun nut, and a relaxed/friendly guy (who wants to grow local membership). One man’s wife yearns to play a bigger role to support the cause, so white women aren’t solely victims in this movie.

Corey Hawkins, an up and coming actor from this (DC) area, has a great speech near the start of the film. I’m excited also to see what he does next! Ron’s love interest, President of the Black Student Union at a local university, Patrice (Laura Harrier), also did a fine job. Some critics of Lee have (rightly) commented on his not-so-fully developed women characters in the past. He has addressed the (touchy, yet serious) topic, explaining how having matured (nearly 30 yrs in film-making)  and becoming a husband and father have helped w/ this issue. 

Fans of TV cop dramas will be in for an extra treat. Robert John Burke (Law & Order: SVU) plays the head of the Intelligence Division. Frederick Weller (In Plain Sight) plays a patrolman. Nicholas Turturro (NYPD Blue) has a brief, yet crucial role; his older brother (John) is a mainstay in many Spike Lee films. There are more surprises in this film- don’t want to give too much away.

Orange is the New Black (Season 4)

NOTE: This post contains SPOILERS for the latest season of the Netflix original series.

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The promo poster for Season 4

What Piper does is try on identities. -Taylor Schilling 

In Season 3, Piper (sometimes dubbed “a clueless white girl”) was using the Whispers work assignment to her advantage; she got a big ego (as we see at the start of THIS season). Well, Maria is NOT going to put up w/ that attitude! Also, the Dominican (who was disowned by her gang leader dad for falling in love w/ a Mexican man) has plans of her own to profit HER girls, the latinas. The numbers work in her advantage, as the prison (now managed by MCC, a private corp.) gets an addition of MOSTLY latina women. 

It’s all grounded in the reality that they DO love each other… -Laura Prepon (Alex) on the (love-hate; complicated; manipulative) relationship between her character and Piper

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Maria (who starts running drugs) gets in Piper’s face in the Season premiere.
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The latinas hold down Piper before Maria brands her with a swastika.

What did YOU think of Piper’s comeuppance (for joining w/ the White Power women)? Yes, she needed allies, BUT (as she often does) Piper didn’t realize the consequences of such an (unholy) alliance! 

When you know something [drug addiction] firsthand, there’s a sort of responsibility, which (for me) can often feel like… you know… too much pressure. -Natasha Lyonne (Nicky)

The relationship between Red and Nicky has been fraught w/ tension b/c of Nicky’s reluctance to get (and stay) sober. As we know from real-life statistics, MANY women (and men) are in jail b/c of drug-related issues; others get into drugs while imprisoned. 

I have my “daughters.” That is my way of surviving w/ my morality- and what I hope to consider- my integrity- intact. The tough side is, there’s a line. If you cross it, you are out. And that costs me as much as it costs them, but there has to be a moral compass. And I adhere to it very strongly. -Kate Mulgrew on the maternal and tough sides of her character (Red)

Red has been one of my favorites from the start; she doesn’t have much to do until later in the season. She’s back in charge of the kitchen- good to see. Mr. Healy seems to have fallen in love w/ her (yeah, we saw that coming); she sternly tells him that “no relationship between a prisoner and a guard is consensual”).

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Pennsatucky/Doggett and Big Boo have one of the most interesting friendships on the show.

Season four has some of the most explicit and complex discussions of consent I’ve ever seen on television. And in a time when there is still so much confusion surrounding consent and anger when it’s violated.

It’s significant that OITNB doesn’t just show Pennsatucky’s reaction to her rape. Instead, it forces Coates to reconsider everything he thought was true, to confront the ugliness inside him and surrounding him that pushed him to a place where he could ignore a woman’s needs for his own basic pleasure. He didn’t think he was raping her, but that doesn’t matter.

And now he knows it.

-Caroline Famke, Vox 

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Lolly and Alex in the greenhouse
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Lolly and Mr. Healy have a talk in the yard.

We see what Alex is capable of when she kills the man (disguised as a new guard) in the greenhouse. Lolly (who becomes more and more unhinged in S4) and Frida (a convicted murderer) knows about this crime; they handle it in VERY different ways. Frida helps Alex bury the dead body in the garden. Alex has trouble sleeping, goes to hang out w/ Piper, and (in time)- they are a couple again. 

Mr. Healy tries to help Lolly, who starts spouting paranoid stories. We learn more re: his backstory; his mother had mental problems when he was a young boy, then was put in a psychiatric hospital. THAT gets to the root of WHY Mr. Healy want to help troubled women. He falls short (of course)!

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Three of the new guards: Dixon, Humphrey, and Capt. Pescatella
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Bayley and his high school friend in jail (flashback)- talk about white privilege.

The new guards (former war vets) are NOT only working at Litchfield, they’re also living in the (built by prison labor) cabins on the property. They have issues and secrets of their own! Humphrey  forced Maritza, at gunpoint, to swallow a live baby mouse and pushed Crazy Eyes/Suzanne into a bloody brawl with Kukudio.

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Poussey (RIP) assists Judy King, her TV idol, during a cooking class.

When I heard that Judy was a cooking show celebrity and she was going to prison for some financial mischief, you think of Martha Stewart right away. [In the book on which it’s based, author Piper Kerman said Stewart was almost sent to Danbury, the inspiration for Litchfield.] She’s Paula Deen-like, because she’s Southern, but Judy King is another entity altogether. It’s just that those two are the ones that spring to mind.” -Blair Brown, Hollywood Reporter

We see how Judy King (veteran actress Blair Brown) is treated better, given her own room, etc. (being a rich and powerful celeb). I esp. liked her friendships w/ Poussey and Cindy. Do YOU think that these were real friendships? 

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Alison (a Muslim) and Cindy (a Jew) are roommates.

Alison (who is Cindy’s bunk mate) wears a hijab (black scarf in this case) as a sign of modesty, due to her being Muslim. She also uses her hijab to hide a cell, which she uses to secretly communicate with her child via text. Cindy (a convert to Judaism) is suspicious of Alison at first, BUT in time, they get to know each other and become allies.

Speaking of unlikely allies… Figueroa dropped a sly bomb on Caputo when she asked him if he knew re: more inmates coming to his prison when he visited her house. Caputo, my the middle of the season, knows that his girlfriend (Linda) does NOT want the best for his inmates. Were YOU a bit shocked to learn that Linda had NEVER even visited Litchfield (though she worked for MCC)? 

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Daya points a gun at Humphrey while the other inmates look on (some cheering).

It’s war. Taystee has nothing to lose; she’s lost everything that she cared so deeply about. It’s time to fight. I think that’s where we will see Taystee go. -Danielle Brooks on what she sees next for her character

The season four finale of Netflix’s prison dramedy OITNB capped a season that explored the Black Lives Matter movement and the injustice that exists in the prison system. 

The final moments of the season see Daya picking up CO Humphrey’s loose gun and aiming it back at him during a prison-wide riot, Attica-style. …After being abandoned by fiance Bennett, losing her daughter and seeing her mom released from prison, Daya has so much pent-up anger and frustration, she might just shoot.  -Jackie Strause, The Hollywood Reporter

Short/petite Poussey is killed by baby-faced guard, Bayley- VERY unexpected/shocking scene! Taystee, who was probably her closest friend, is heartbroken. Soso tries to drink away some of her sadness. Judy King has the star power to right at least some of the wrongs she witnessed in prison. Will she tell the truth about Poussey’s murder?

 

Shots Fired (FOX): Starting March 22, 8PM EST

This 10-part series examines the aftermath of racially charged shootings in a small North Carolina town. It was produced by the successful/critically-acclaimed husband-wife team of Gina Prince-Bythewood (Beyond the Lights, The Secret Life of Bees, Love & Basketball) and Reggie Rock Bythewood (Beyond the Lights, Notorious). Aside from the timely/controversial topic, the supporting cast could be a big draw (incl. Oscar winners Richard Dreyfuss and Helen Hunt, as well as Law and Order‘s Jill Hennessey). The leads are two black actors- film veteran Sanaa Lathan (who plays investigator Ashe Akino) and up-and-comer Stephan James (federal prosecutor Preston Terry). James hails from Canada and notably played the young John Lewis in Selma. 

First Look: A Murder Myster (FOX)

 

Actors Sanaa Lathan and Mack Wilds on The View (ABC)