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Entertainer

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I love entertainment...

Sex: Female
Language: English
Relationship Status: In a Relationship
Interested In: Men and Women

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Location: Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

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    Highest Rating

      • 5/5 (2 votes)
      • Pacific Rim Movie Review : Pathetically Grim
        5/5 (2 votes)
        Pacific Rim Movie Review : Pathetically Grim

        Pacific Rim is a Guillermo del Toro film. Let me say that again because it’s little a hard to believe. Pacific Rim is a Guillermo del Toro film. The first time I saw the promo of this film, I said to myself it’s going to be...

      • 5/5 (1 votes)
      • Interstellar
        5/5 (1 votes)
        Interstellar

        Christopher
        Nolan’s "Interstellar," about astronauts traveling to the other end of the galaxy to find a new home to
        replace humanity’s despoiled home-world, is frantically busy and earsplittingly
        loud. It uses booming music to jack...

      • San Andreas
        5/5 (1 votes)
        San Andreas

        In a match between a supremely catastrophic California
        earthquake and the former wrestling star turned movie action hero Dwayne
        Johnson (a.k.a. The Rock, aptly enough here I guess, although he’s not thusly
        credited), who are you going to bet...

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        “I’m not the enemy.”

        “Then who are you?”

        A hypnotic thriller about a law firm’s “fixer” realizing that the agricultural company he’s defending is involved in a murderous conspiracy, Tony Gilroy's “Michael Clayton” used George Clooney’s wounded eyes, Tom Wilkinson’s frenzied soliloquies, and Merritt Wever’s soft-spoken melancholy to wonder how much commercial corruption we could fall victim to, and how much blatant immorality we could tolerate. Lauded at the time for its unrelenting tension, its steady pacing, and its sharp script, “Michael Clayton” was a critical darling, topping numerous critics’ best-of lists and netting seven Academy Award nominations, including a win for Tilda Swinton for Best Supporting Actress.

        In the years since, though, as various other lauded films from 2007 have been reassessed and reconsidered, “Michael Clayton” has faded from memory. It's an undeserved dynamic, given that the film has so much to say about how skewed the relationship between American corporations and the people they’re supposed to serve really is—an imbalance that remains as drastic today as it was back in 2007.

        The corporate world that “Michael Clayton” depicts is flimsily held together by favors and handshakes, rife with insults and threats. The workers trapped within it are beholden to a class structure that discredits and undermines them, overwhelms them with paranoia, and drowns them in debt. “What kind of people are you?” someone asks Clayton, aghast at the backstabbing and the deceit with which Clayton fills his days. How to fight against that, at the sacrifice of human lives for business interests? By playing dirty.

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        It’s not exactly necessary to consider the trifecta in which “Michael Clayton” finds itself, sandwiched between two other legal thrillers that explore how American businesses are killing us, but the context doesn’t hurt. Steven Soderbergh's 2000 film “Erin Brockovich” was a hit with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and won Julia Roberts an Oscar for her role as a beauty queen-turned-investigator who helped build a direct-action lawsuit against Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) for contaminating the groundwater of Hinkley, California, with the chemical chromium. The $333 million that PG&E was ordered to pay to families suffering from higher-than-normal rates of cancer remains the highest payout for a lawsuit of its kind. 

        Nearly two decades later, Todd Haynes’ “Dark Waters” followed lawyer Robert Bilott (Mark Ruffalo) as he took on the massive chemical company DuPont, who for years dumped forever chemicals associated with making Teflon into West Virginia and Ohio. The 2019 film received little attention upon its release, but it’s a horrifyingly gripping expose into how those forever chemicals never leave our bodies because they cannot be naturally broken down, and they too cause cancer. The movie's scariest, most unforgettable scene places us in Bilott’s car as he drives through a West Virginia town where seemingly everything is owned by or named after DuPont, from libraries to baseball diamonds; every street corner holds another sign proclaiming that brand loyalty. Altruism, maybe, or a diversion from how the company was poisoning everyone. In 2017, DuPont was ordered to pay $671 million to settle thousands of cases, but that doesn’t seem like so much money when you realize DuPont’s annual revenue from Teflon products alone is $1 billion.

        And then there’s “Michael Clayton.” Last month, multinational pharmaceutical company Bayer was ordered to pay $10 billion to settle thousand of lawsuits filed over Roundup weedkiller after plaintiffs alleged it caused cancer. It’s difficult to imagine that Gilroy wasn’t somewhat inspired by this story when writing “Michael Clayton”; the carcinogenicity of Roundup has been debated since the 1980s. But by not being tied to a true story, Gilroy has a certain freedom to expand “Michael Clayton” into places you might not expect a narrative like this to go. There’s an overwhelming, noir-like desperation here, captured in Clooney’s increasingly furious energy. How the narrative flirts with a fantasy book series, and with ideas of fate and destiny, adds some whimsy to its otherwise-bleak proceedings. And overall, Gilroy’s direction broods and bruises, cross-cutting often between opposing parties, lingering long on every conversation-cum-negotiation, taking the time to build the titular protagonist as a complicated man with a shady past and questionably ethical antics who, nevertheless, knows venality when he sees it—and cares enough to do something about it.

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        “Michael Clayton” begins with a cascade of plot, waves of story beating down upon us. “Michael. Dear Michael. Of course it’s you. Who else could they send? Who else could be trusted?” we hear in a voiceover from lawyer Arthur Edens (Wilkinson), whom we meet in the middle of a manic episode. What we listen to is confession doubling as manifesto as the senior litigator of the law firm Kenner, Bach & Ledeen announces that he now considers himself the product of “asshole of an organism whose sole function is to excrete the poison, the amyl, the defoliant necessary for other larger more powerful organisms to destroy the miracle of humanity, and that I had been coated in this patina of shit for the best part of my life. The scent of it and the stain of it, will in all likelihood take the rest of my life to undo.”

        It’s a grandiose declaration, and also a pledge: Edens has switched sides. Gilroy fills us in on the details in an effective opening montage, showing us the glossy offices of Kenner, Bach & Ledeen; the desperate meeting being held in one of the firm’s many conference rooms as dozens of lawyers toil to close a settlement for the agricultural company U/North; the U/North general counsel, Karen Crowder (Swinton), hiding in a bathroom, fingering her sweaty armpits; and the one Kenner, Bach & Ledeen lawyer missing from these frantic proceedings: Michael Clayton (Clooney).

        Clayton is, we see from the beginning, a bit of a wild card. At a poker game hidden away in the basement of a Chinese restaurant—his business cards, Benz key, wallet, Blackberry, and firm ID waiting for him in a plastic bin away from the table—Clayton assesses his hand. He does his best to avoid small talk, but when forced into it, insults the man driving the conversation. He is wary of banter, and he is weary of his life—of the decisions that have led him here, and of the job that interrupts the card game to send him to upstate New York to try and clean up a hit and run committed by one of the firm’s clients. The man (Denis O’Hare, one of many great character actors who pops up throughout Gilroy’s film, along with Maggie Siff and Katherine Waterston) is blustering, defensive, angry. He insults Clayton. He isn’t very pleased by Clayton’s bluntness, by his denial that he’s a “miracle worker” and assertion instead that “I’m a janitor.” Clayton works with what he’s got, and what the man has given him to work with is very little. And there’s a tidy moment of elitist ignorance here when the phone rings, and the client worries he’s been made: “That’s the police, isn’t it?” he snaps at Clayton. Clooney, meanwhile, allows some bemused indifference to slip into Clayton’s “No, they don’t call,” response. He’s been dealing with men like this for years, and they never change.

        The sky has turned from black to inky blue by the time Clayton drives away from that palatial, aged-brick estate tucked deep into the woods, and Gilroy keeps us on Clooney’s face, on the weight that lays there. Bags under his eyes. Stubble on his cheeks. A grimness that radiates off him, that is ironically highlighted by the rising sun—another day, and more crap awaits. But then, an unexpected image as the sky becomes lighter, and as the horizon turns pink. Three horses on the top of a hill, under two sparse, spindly trees. They seem powerful, and wise, and simultaneously ancient and brand-new. As Clayton parks his car and advances upon them, his hands up, they seem to watch him, both his breath and theirs visible in the cold morning air. James Newton Howard’s plaintive score is whisper-quiet, and Gilroy slowly rotates our perspective so our vision aligns with Clayton’s—we too take in the mottled grey horse on the left, the cherrywood auburn one in the middle, and the chestnut brown one on the right, with a stripe of black running down its back. The moment feels almost otherworldly, tinged with a sort of primal understanding—and then, the explosion happens. Clayton’s car goes up in a ball of flames. The horses spin in unison, and gallop away. The rumbling is loud, and the fire is growing, and we follow Clayton as he sprints back toward it, disappearing into the smoke. Whatever drew Clayton to those horses saved him, and whatever that connection was, it gave him a second chance.

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        “Four days earlier,” we’re informed through intertitle, is when all this mess began to happen. When Arthur, one of Clayton’s closest allies and friends at the firm, stopped taking his medication, and experienced a manic episode. When during a deposition for the U/North case in Milwaukee, he stripped naked; declared his love for the young plaintiff Anna (Wever), whose farmer parents were allegedly killed by U/North’s weedkiller, and whose brother is currently dying; and was arrested. When the law firm they both work for sent Clayton out to Milwaukee to get Arthur under control so that the years of work they’ve done for U/North aren’t ruined, Arthur gave his old friend the slip, disappearing into the snowy Milwaukee morning. And when U/North general counsel Karen (the name does hit different in 2020) decided to take matters into her own hands when she realized that Arthur is in possession of a memo that proves U/North knew their weedkiller was carcinogenic years ago, and went ahead producing it anyway. Gilroy magnifies the text in the memo that declares the weedkiller could “cause serious human tissue damage” and have “potentially lethal exposures,” and there is no question about it: Karen’s company purposefully chose to let people die. Just like PG&E’s chromium. Just like DuPont’s forever chemicals. Just like Roundup weedkiller.

        Gilroy flips back and forth between Arthur, Clayton, and Karen, tracking how the actions of the first man spurs the other into action, which then informs the U/North response. He cross-cuts between Karen and Clayton in particular to show us their differences: She is a performer, someone who must practice her words over and over again to find the exact right ones, who knows that the elevation of her position comes with a certain set of expectations—lipstick and pantyhose and sensible heels. When we see a sweat-soaked Karen sprawled out in a bathroom stall, or in her underwear in her bland bedroom, or meeting her hired assassin on a busy Manhattan street corner, a trench coat covering her workout gear and her hair still in a messy ponytail, they’re glimpses behind the curtain of her hoity-toity, sophisticated façade. She cares about appearances and she cares about money, and the syrupy sweet voice she uses to employ those executioners reveals both those details.

        Meanwhile, there are no walls built around Clayton: What you see is what you get. It’s just that certain people see certain things. Arthur pokes at his ego with “Michael, the secret hero, the keeper of the hidden sins.” Karen, hearing that he’s worked at the law firm for over a decade but still hasn’t made partner, is unimpressed: “He goes from criminal prosecution to wills and trusts … This is the guy they send? Who is this guy?” Their different readings aren’t Clayton’s fault, necessarily, but he is always playing an angle, showing a different side of himself for the best benefit. To police, he mentions his brother’s presence on the force and his father’s legacy, as well as his own time spent as an assistant district attorney. To other lawyers, he’s the man trudging into the muck while they sit around their offices; his billable hours are messier. We watch him in his office, fielding phone call after phone call, one case “a total nightmare,” another involving a “motivated stripper,” one involving the Immigration and Naturalization Service. “None of this comes back to me, right?” a panicked voice asks Clayton, and it’s a question he clearly gets a lot. But Clayton is always the one absorbing the damage, and you see it in how he holds his body—the defiance there, and the barely contained disgust.

        As the film progresses, the circle of characters expands. Clayton’s son, Henry (Austin Williams), who is obsessed with a book series and video game called “Realm+Conquest,” in which “it’s just completely, like, everybody for themselves.” “Sounds familiar,” is his father’s perfectly dry response. Clayton’s addict brother Timmy (David Lansbury) squandered Michael’s life savings after they got into business together; Clayton is now $75,000 in debt. Clayton’s other brother Gene (Sean Cullen) is a police detective who followed in their father’s footsteps. Clayton’s boss at the law firm, Marty Bach (Sydney Pollack), is a no-nonsense managing partner who stresses upon him the importance of finding Arthur and making amends with U/North: “We got a lot of groveling to do with these people. Saddle up.” And for U/North’s part, the hit men Karen employs with her boss’ approval, the men who tap Arthur’s phone, who follow Clayton’s movements, who kill the former and try to kill the latter.

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        “Michael Clayton” builds steadily toward the inevitable final showdown between Clayton and Karen. As Gilroy does so, he makes the case for Clayton as the champion we need, the one willing to do what others might not—to lie, to obfuscate, to betray. Why should the corporations that are contaminating us only be allowed to use those methods? If Arthur is the conscience of “Michael Clayton,” then its titular character is truly the janitor that others disparage him as: the man who disposes of the trash.

        “It’s years, it’s lives, and the numbers are making me dizzy,” Arthur had said of the time that Kenner, Bach & Ledeen invested in defending U/North, and of the mistruths U/North fed them, and of the people who died in the interim, and when Clayton realizes what U/North is up to—killing his friend to cover up all the other killings they’ve committed—his moral imperative is clear. “I am Shiva, the God of Death!” Arthur had yelled, and this isn’t a totally accurate understanding of the Hindu supreme being; Shiva conquers Yama, the deity of death, and even dances upon Yama’s body, but does not then become that figure. Is this a perversion of the line “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds,” from the Hindu scripture the Bhagavad Gita, which physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer famously uttered after creating the nuclear bomb? Perhaps. Or maybe it’s a combination of both concepts: A proclamation that in destroying death, one can assert life; that in harnessing destruction, one can wield that power for constructive ends. For Arthur, it is a rallying cry, and a promise.

        After fleeing from the car bomb, after leaving behind the horses (the trio, we now realize, remind Clayton of an illustration from the book Realm+Conquest, which his son had ended up recommending to immediate devotee Arthur), after letting the law firm believe he’s dead, Clayton shows up at a U/North board meeting. Karen is recommending that the board take the settlement deal Kenner, Bach & Ledeen had prepared. Sure, they’ll pay out in the hundreds of millions, but it’s far less than the $3 billion class-action lawsuit they’re facing, and in fact, it might even be a tax benefit. “The write-off on this settlement would essentially pay for itself,” Karen reassures her board members. The corporation doesn’t hurt from it. Business goes on as usual. That damning memo stays concealed. Arthur was the salvation those 450 plaintiffs were looking for, and Karen killed him. But now here stands Clayton, revived from the dead. Swinton’s face is in shocked paralysis, the most honest we’ve seen Karen yet, and in that moment, what comes to mind is what Arthur had said about Anna: “Isn’t it what we wait for, to meet someone, they’re like a lens, and suddenly you’re looking through them and everything changes, and nothing can ever be the same again?” Karen sees herself reflected in Clayton in this moment, her greed and her smugness and her avarice, and she is unmoored.

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        Until this altercation, Gilroy has shown us Clayton in half-measures. Handshakes with cops, stern words to associates. Outmatched by Arthur, but unthreatened by the man who committed the hit and run. The first time he spoke with Karen, back in Milwaukee, she refused to give any quarter, cutting off his defense of Arthur’s bizarre behavior with an “Excuse me, we pay for his time.” Everybody has a number in Karen’s mind, and they are worth no deeper consideration than what they will cost her. In this second tête-à-tête, though, we see the full onslaught of Michael Clayton, special counsel, and it is a frightening, livid display. Clooney starts out in Danny Ocean mode, all sly half-smiles and soft eyes, amused with himself as he asks Karen, “How’d it go in there?” And then the steeliness of “Syriana” CIA agent Bob Barnes comes through in Clooney’s clipped delivery, his lean forward as he intrudes on Karen’s personal space, how casually he mocks Karen for how out of her depth she clearly is. “I’m not the guy that you kill, I’m the guy that you buy … Don’t you know who I am? I’m a fixer, I’m a bagman,” Clayton says, leaning into every nasty thing he knows about himself, giving voice to every insult he’s ever weathered. Every line of Clayton’s is an offensive maneuver against Karen, building to the deeply satisfying one-two punch of “Do I look like I’m negotiating?” and “You’re so fucked.” The picture he takes of Karen’s shocked face when she realizes she’s been outplayed is like a souvenir, a memento of the justice exacted for Arthur, and Clayton’s shouted “I’m Shiva, the God of Death!” as he leaves Karen behind is an homage.   

        The final moments of Gilroy’s film are triumphant. First is a carefully constructed mise en scène that captures the totality of “Michael Clayton” in a few seconds: Gilroy dollies his camera backward as Clayton walks away from Karen, leaving her behind. She blurs out of focus as the police detectives who listened in on their conversation, and confirmed Karen’s role in Arthur’s death and the corresponding coverup, progress forward. Although Clayton’s gratified expression is in our foreground, we see Karen fall to her knees in the background, surrounded by a swarm of officials—defeated, and done. Clayton keeps walking, passing his brother Gene, who was part of the police sting, and reaching the escalator, which Gilroy frames horizontally instead of vertically: Clayton is not moving down, but forward. Outside, he gets into a cab, gives $50 to the driver, and says, “Just drive.” Howard’s score returns, signaling the same tentative peace Clayton felt on that hill, with those horses. Gilroy uses a tableau shot to focus on Clooney’s face—on how his ashen mug slowly relaxes and regains some color, on the wrung-out way he stares ahead, on the slight smile that finally turns up the corners of his lips. These minutes are perhaps the film's most intimate (and have been mimicked by others, like Aziz Ansari in his Netflix show “Master of None”), and they center Clayton’s interiority. It is an audaciously quiet ending for such a dialogue-heavy film, and it feels like closure.

        “People are fucking incomprehensible,” Marty had told Clayton when they thought Arthur had killed himself. That resignedness makes a certain amount of sense. How to explain the decision-making processes, at the highest levels of the C-suite, that allow for the poisoning of whole towns, and for widespread illness, and for horrendously painful deaths? Perhaps it’s impossible to understand, or perhaps it’s just business. Perhaps it’s just about the bottom line, about cost-benefit analysis, about all the terms we use in late-stage capitalism to absolve ourselves of guilt and of blame. “We made decisions. This didn’t happen overnight,” Clayton had said to Arthur of their careers and their choices, and there is no reading of “Michael Clayton” in which the character is entirely altruistic. There is also no clue as to where Clayton goes from here, or of what happens to U/North or Kenner, Bach & Ledeen. But at a time when human lives are regularly diminished for corporate gains, the ferocious anger of “Michael Clayton”—the power of one person taking a stand—feels like a miracle.




        Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/features/i-am-shiva-the-god-of-death-on-the-deserved-anger-of-michael-clayton
        By: Roxana Hadadi
        Posted: July 6, 2020, 1:18 pm

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        Roger Ebert once said that Great Movies should feel fresh every time you watch them, but I’ve come to wonder if this phrase applies to the beloved comedies from my early years. When I last sat down to watch “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” once considered the very definition of funny, I couldn’t even make it past the first hour; the same feeling occurred when I revisisted Blake Edwards’ once hilarious “Pink Panther” movies and to his own “The Party” (all starring Peter Sellers). With this predicament in mind I decided to take another look at one of the best examples of the early 1970s, Peter Bogdanovich’s 1972 screwball comedy “What’s Up Doc?”. If there was ever a movie that every kid from that era loved this was it, so there has to be something about it. Or is there?

        “What’s Up Doc?" deals with several identical “plaid overnight cases.” The passionate pursuit of an object of desire by several neurotic characters has been one of the most effective plot devices in comedies, as proven by later greats like “A Fish Called Wanda” (1988) with its stolen diamonds and “There’s Something About Mary” (1999) with the character of Mary herself. In this setting we meet stiff, uptight, rock-loving, musicologist Howard Bannister (Ryan O’Neal), his nagging, bossy, neurotic fiancée Eunice Burns (Madeleine Kahn), and the ever-oblivious, quip-dispensing, know-it-all troublemaker Judy Maxwell (Barbra Streisand). The running joke here is Judy’s non-stop efforts to stop Howard, the apple of her eye, from marrying his unattractive girlfriend by intervening and destroying life as he knows it.

        Watching the movie recently I still found some of the set pieces very funny. I liked the progressive destruction of Howard’s typical 1970s fancy (and simultaneously horrid) hotel room and O’Neal’s heroic efforts trying to summarize the events of the movie in front of a judge. But the film's best and funniest scene by far is that where Howard denies knowing Eunice while having a discussion under a table with all of its occupants, as his fiancée pulls a receptionist through the floor and smashes her purse on everyone that stands in her way (Head Waiter: “What kind of wine are you serving in table one?!"). This sequence alone is worth the price of admission.

        On the down side, the anxiously awaited, climatic chase scene in San Francisco was a bit of a letdown. “What’s Up Doc?” was obviously made in simpler times when we had yet to see a character crashing through a large window pane, when we had never seen a car’s door falling off as the punch line to it being crashed repeatedly, when we hadn’t yet seen dozens of chases in the steep hills of San Francisco, with vehicles at every intersection going on opposite directions to highlight the tension. It was also made at a time when hundreds and hundreds of movie characters were yet to fall into water for no good reason. Maybe it wasn’t this sequence that become uninteresting, it was the audience’s taste that changed through the years.

        “What’s Up Doc?” was clearly designed as a vehicle for Streisand. Like most of her films (regardless of who directs them) this one is also a showcase for her singing. It is filled with loving close ups of her impeccably lit & made-up face. As usual, we never get to see her from her right side (a nuisance that has driven me nuts since Siskel & Ebert pointed it out about three decades ago). At least here she doesn’t take herself as seriously as usual and more importantly, the script provides her with an endless supply of terrific smart-aleck quips, clearly the inspiration of screenwriter Buck Henry

        Still, the most important factor in the picture’s success, one that I didn’t fully appreciate before, is the caliber of Streisand’s foe and victim (“Who is that dangerously unbalanced woman?!”). Eunice’s sole purpose in the script is to provide Streisand with someone to torture hilariously from start to finish. The writers obviously had to make her as obnoxious as possible, or Streisand wouldn’t have come off looking very well. The sequence where Judy calls Eunice and changes the address of a party the latter will be attending to that of a gangster’s liar, is truly a classic. 

        I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Kahn steals the movie from the two leads, but she makes everyone around her much funnier. Anyone who thinks that the picture is built solely on the chemistry between Streisand and O’Neal, clearly hasn’t seen their later reunion in the abysmal “The Main Event” (1979). Kahn makes an obnoxious character truly hysterical, one that simply can’t stop herself from acting un-supportive even in the rare occasions when she doesn’t mean to (“Try not to worry about it Howard but remember, everything depends on it!”). Even though O’Neal and Streisand will obviously end up together, the filmmakers still take the time to convey that in spite of all her imperfections, the appalling Eunice had a particular if unexplainable charm to the opposite sex. She's even provided with a happy ending of her own in the form of another clueless boyfriend that she will be able to nag ’til death do them part.

        I’ve heard claims that older comedies don’t work very well with modern audiences because their pace is slower than some are used to, but I don’t see this applying here. Even if some of this film's once hilarious sequences are now merely amusing, there are other elements I missed on earlier viewings (such as about 90% of the quips) and they make watching it a worthwhile experience. Unlike more recent comedic examples, Bogdanovich’s film never resorts to increasing the level of vulgarities to get a few laughs from the audience. 

        Almost 50 years since its release, “What’s up Doc?” doesn’t feel anymore like the great event that I saw three times in its opening weekend (and several more as it bounced around the old beat movie houses of old). The movie remains pretty good, just not in the same ways that I used to recall. If other big comedies from the period now feel stale and dated, perhaps they just weren’t all that good to begin with. 




        Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/far-flung-correspondents/whats-up-doc
        By: Gerardo Valero
        Posted: July 6, 2020, 1:18 pm

        • Entertainer

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          "I'm convinced my music is not just for films; it has its own life. It can live far away from the images of the movie."

          Any Monday morning would be brightened by the accompaniment of the iconic music of Ennio Morricone, but today it is played in remembrance. The great composer has died in Rome at the age of 91 from injuries sustained after a fall. Born in the city in 1928, Morricone composed music for many mediums, but his most famous works were for film, particularly his scores for the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone that successfully merged rock sensibilities with his favored avant-garde experimentation.

          Morricone studied at Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in the 1940s, taking a particular liking to the trumpet, which he would play in the avant-garde collective Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza in the '50s. His attention then turned to other mediums, initially collaborating on music for radio before going on to write songs for vocalists such as Paul Anka and Helen Merrill. From there his journey to film music was inevitable, and he scored his first picture in 1961, the war thriller "The Fascist."

          Ennio Morricone would go on to compose the scores for over five hundred films and television series, working with celebrated filmmakers such as Brian De Palma ("The Untouchables"), Terrence Malick ("Days of Heaven"), Samuel Fuller ("White Dog"), John Carpenter ("The Thing"), and of course, Quentin Tarantino, who had used Morricone's scores as needle drops in his films before helping the composer win his only competitive Oscar in 2016 with "The Hateful Eight." Morricone was also known for his scores in the Italian Giallo subgenre, working with directors such as Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, and Paolo Cavara on films like "The Bird With the Crystal Plumage," "A Lizard in a Woman's Skin," and "Black Belly of the Tarantula," and also had a successful relationship with Giuseppe Tornatore, beginning with the wonderful "Cinema Paradiso" in 1988. Morricone would go on to score all of Tornatore's pictures, finishing with "The Correspondence" in 2016.

          The Spaghetti Western turned out to be the perfect canvas for the composer to explore the relationship between music and sound effects. His first Western score came in 1963, with the Albert Band picture "Gunfight at Red Sands," but it was the following year that saw him make his mark with his first collaboration with Sergio Leone, "A Fistful of Dollars." Credited as Dan Savio, Morricone was originally asked to come up with something inspired by Dimitri Tiomkin's score to "Rio Bravo," but what the composer created was a fusion of traditional instruments, guitar, a cracking whip, chanting, and a melody whistled by musician Alessandro Alessandroni, who himself became a celebrated film composer.

          Morricone would score the next two installments of the "Dollars" trilogy, 1965's "For A Few Dollars More" and 1966's "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," with the latter defining the composer's career—its main theme quickly became pop culture shorthand for any kind of standoff while its bizarre vocal intonations still feel fresh today. The score is still a huge influence. For decades, California metal band Metallica have opened their live shows with the cue "The Ecstasy of Gold," and as such you can often hear their fans loudly singing what might possibly be il Maestro's greatest composition, reverberating around the arena. Morricone also collaborated with other directors in the genre, such as Sergio Sollima (1966's "The Big Gundown") and Sergio Corbucci (1968's "The Great Silence"), as well as scoring two other Westerns for Leone—"Once Upon A Time in the West" and "A Fistful of Dynamite"—as well as his 1984 gangster epic "Once Upon A Time in America".

          Morricone was fiercely protective of his music and had recently won a long-standing legal battle that saw him reclaim the rights to several of his scores. Across his career, he won a cavalcade of awards. A lifetime achievement Oscar was awarded in 2007, and he also received several Golden Globes, Grammies, BAFTAs, Silver Ribbons, a Golden Lion, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His soundtrack records have sold countless millions, and in 2017 he became a Knight of the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.

          He is survived by his wife Maria, whom he married in 1956, and their four children Marco, Alessandra, Giovanni, and Andrea, who himself is a composer and collaborated with his father on "Cinema Paradiso."

          It's still hard to find the words to describe such a magnificent career. However, when words are scarce, his music certainly speaks for him. Perhaps a line from "Cinema Paradiso" best describes Ennio Morricone's philosophy and career, something that always shined through the composer's music, wherever it came from.

          "Whatever you end up doing, love it."




          Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/tributes/ennio-morricone-1928-2020
          By: Charlie Brigden
          Posted: July 6, 2020, 1:28 pm

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          I think when we look back on this period in our history, we will find that the coronavirus pandemic and the awakening of global consciousness about race and humanity and equality are inextricably linked in ways we don't currently understand. On July 4th, "Independence Day," I had many conversations with younger family members and older friends about what the Fourth of July means to us this year when a virus turned our whole world upside down. Then the killing of George Floyd woke up that same world to a brutal racism that we could no longer afford to turn away from. Some of the younger members of my family wanted to distance themselves from the holiday, and as someone who marched and fought for civil rights over fifty years ago, I understand that. I still have the same fire in my belly for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These are our inalienable rights, rights that were trampled and made a sham during slavery, the Reconstruction, Jim Crowism and evenas we saw with Emmett Till, George Floyd, Sandra Bland, Laquan McDonald, Trayvon Marin, Breonna Taylor and so many others too numerous to mention—continue in one form or another today. 

          Today, however, I refuse to let the Fourth of July be hijacked by false patriots, starting with the people in the White House. I Am An American, one of African descent, of which I am proud. My ancestors may have come here in the holds of slave ships, but they literally slaved for the rights and freedoms that we hold dear. Though documents declared us 3/5ths of a person, we always knew we were whole. Systemic racism could not take away our other 2/5ths, no matter how persistently it tried. My ancestors worked this land and contributed to the industrial revolution, education, science, civics and every other aspect of what makes this nation great. This land is mine, it is my ancestors and my descendants, and as much ours as anybody else's #EnoughisEnough, it is time to acknowledge that Black Lives Matter. Time to face the truth, admit wrongs, listen and understand so that we can have a full accounting and reconciliation. My mission today is what I call the FECK Principles: Forgiveness, Empathy, Compassion and Kindness. But they don't happen in a vacuum. They take work. Work I hope we are all finally willing to undertake together. 

          Today I return the platform back to iconic social reformer, Frederick Douglasswho became a national leader of the abolitionist movement after escaping from slavery. The speech below was delivered by Douglass on July 5th, 1852, as a keynote address at an Independence Day celebration commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, held at Corinthian Hall in Rochester, New York.—Chaz Ebert



          FELLOW CITIZENS,


           I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men, too great enough to give frame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory....

          ...Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? And am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

          Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions! Then would my task be light, and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold, that a nation's sympathy could not warm him? Who so obdurate and dead to the claims of gratitude, that would not thankfully acknowledge such priceless benefits? Who so stolid and selfish, that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation's jubilee, when the chains of servitude had been torn from his limbs? I am not that man. In a case like that, the dumb might eloquently speak, and the "lame man leap as an hart."

          But such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrevocable ruin! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!

          "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yea! we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there, they that carried us away captive, required of us a song; and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth."

          Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, "may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!" To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then, fellow-citizens, is American slavery. I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave's point of view. Standing there identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery, the great sin and shame of America! "I will not equivocate; I will not excuse"; I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just.

          But I fancy I hear some one of my audience say, "It is just in this circumstance that you and your brother abolitionists fail to make a favorable impression on the public mind. Would you argue more, and denounce less; would you persuade more, and rebuke less; your cause would be much more likely to succeed." But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the anti-slavery creed would you have me argue? On what branch of the subject do the people of this country need light? Must I undertake to prove that the slave is a man? That point is conceded already. Nobody doubts it. The slaveholders themselves acknowledge it in the enactment of laws for their government. They acknowledge it when they punish disobedience on the part of the slave. There are seventy-two crimes in the State of Virginia which, if committed by a black man (no matter how ignorant he be), subject him to the punishment of death; while only two of the same crimes will subject a white man to the like punishment. What is this but the acknowledgment that the slave is a moral, intellectual, and responsible being? The manhood of the slave is conceded. It is admitted in the fact that Southern statute books are covered with enactments forbidding, under severe fines and penalties, the teaching of the slave to read or to write. When you can point to any such laws in reference to the beasts of the field, then I may consent to argue the manhood of the slave. When the dogs in your streets, when the fowls of the air, when the cattle on your hills, when the fish of the sea, and the reptiles that crawl, shall be unable to distinguish the slave from a brute, then will I argue with you that the slave is a man!

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          For the present, it is enough to affirm the equal manhood of the Negro race. Is it not astonishing that, while we are ploughing, planting, and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses, constructing bridges, building ships, working in metals of brass, iron, copper, silver and gold; that, while we are reading, writing and ciphering, acting as clerks, merchants and secretaries, having among us lawyers, doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators and teachers; that, while we are engaged in all manner of enterprises common to other men, digging gold in California, capturing the whale in the Pacific, feeding sheep and cattle on the hill-side, living, moving, acting, thinking, planning, living in families as husbands, wives and children, and, above all, confessing and worshipping the Christian's God, and looking hopefully for life and immortality beyond the grave, we are called upon to prove that we are men!

          Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? that he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? Is that a question for Republicans? Is it to be settled by the rules of logic and argumentation, as a matter beset with great difficulty, involving a doubtful application of the principle of justice, hard to be understood? How should I look to-day, in the presence of Americans, dividing, and subdividing a discourse, to show that men have a natural right to freedom? speaking of it relatively and positively, negatively and affirmatively. To do so, would be to make myself ridiculous, and to offer an insult to your understanding. There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.

          What, am I to argue that it is wrong to make men brutes, to rob them of their liberty, to work them without wages, to keep them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their limbs with irons, to hunt them with dogs, to sell them at auction, to sunder their families, to knock out their teeth, to burn their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their masters? Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood, and stained with pollution, is wrong? No! I will not. I have better employment for my time and strength than such arguments would imply.

          What, then, remains to be argued? Is it that slavery is not divine; that God did not establish it; that our doctors of divinity are mistaken? There is blasphemy in the thought. That which is inhuman, cannot be divine! Who can reason on such a proposition? They that can, may; I cannot. The time for such argument is passed.

          At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could reach the nation's ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.

          What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy -- a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

          Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival....

          ...Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented, of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. "The arm of the Lord is not shortened," and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from "the Declaration of Independence," the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age. Nations do not now stand in the same relation to each other that they did ages ago. No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world and trot round in the same old path of its fathers without interference. The time was when such could be done. Long established customs of hurtful character could formerly fence themselves in, and do their evil work with social impunity. Knowledge was then confined and enjoyed by the privileged few, and the multitude walked on in mental darkness. But a change has now come over the affairs of mankind. Walled cities and empires have become unfashionable. The arm of commerce has borne away the gates of the strong city. Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe. It makes its pathway over and under the sea, as well as on the earth. Wind, steam, and lightning are its chartered agents. Oceans no longer divide, but link nations together. From Boston to London is now a holiday excursion. Space is comparatively annihilated. -- Thoughts expressed on one side of the Atlantic are distinctly heard on the other.

          The far off and almost fabulous Pacific rolls in grandeur at our feet. The Celestial Empire, the mystery of ages, is being solved. The fiat of the Almighty, "Let there be Light," has not yet spent its force. No abuse, no outrage whether in taste, sport or avarice, can now hide itself from the all-pervading light. The iron shoe, and crippled foot of China must be seen in contrast with nature. Africa must rise and put on her yet unwoven garment. 'Ethiopia shall stretch out her hand unto God." In the fervent aspirations of William Lloyd Garrison, I say, and let every heart join in saying it:

          God speed the year of jubilee
          The wide world o'er!
          When from their galling chains set free,
          Th' oppress'd shall vilely bend the knee,
          And wear the yoke of tyranny
          Like brutes no more.
          That year will come, and freedom's reign,
          To man his plundered rights again
          Restore.

          God speed the day when human blood
          Shall cease to flow!
          In every clime be understood,
          The claims of human brotherhood,
          And each return for evil, good,
          Not blow for blow;
          That day will come all feuds to end,
          And change into a faithful friend
          Each foe.

          God speed the hour, the glorious hour,
          When none on earth
          Shall exercise a lordly power,
          Nor in a tyrant's presence cower;
          But to all manhood's stature tower,
          By equal birth!
          That hour will come, to each, to all,
          And from his Prison-house, to thrall
          Go forth.

          Until that year, day, hour, arrive,
          With head, and heart, and hand I'll strive,
          To break the rod, and rend the gyve,
          The spoiler of his prey deprive --
          So witness Heaven!
          And never from my chosen post,
          Whate'er the peril or the cost,
          Be driven.




          Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/chazs-blog/frederick-douglass-reminds-us-why-black-lives-matter-on-the-fourth-of-july
          By: Chaz Ebert
          Posted: July 5, 2020, 3:21 pm

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          Ebert Fellow, Carlos Aguilar, recently penned a wonderful article for Variety in which he discussed how President Obama's DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program and his immigrant experience shaped his perspective as a film critic. When the Trump Administration rescinded DACA, thus removing temporary protections offered to roughly a million undocumented youth, Aguilar decided to publicly reveal that he was one of the program's recipients who would be directly impacted by its termination. In his latest essay, Aguilar details his lingering fear of "losing DACA and being forced back into shadows," while being "repeatedly reminded" of his condition as an undocumented person via the things in which  he cannot partake.

          "Part of a professional film critic’s job entails attending international festivals, something that’s virtually out of the question for me without real risks," wrote Aguilar. "In the grand scheme of injustices, not being able to travel abroad is minuscule, but for the field I’m now a part of, it’s truly limiting. I’ve yet to attend such renowned festivals as Toronto or Cannes, and there’s no certainty that I’d be able to in the new future. Fortunately, thanks to multiple initiatives like those established by Rotten Tomatoes and Chaz Ebert [thank you Carlos for the mention, you were a hardworking delightful addition to the program] that aim to include diverse critics at major events through financial assistance, I’ve experienced the Sundance Film Festival and a variety of regional festivals across the country that have served as platforms to network, land assignments and grow within this segment of the film world."

          Aguilar's impassioned endorsement of DACA, which the Supreme Court rescued last month from Trump's efforts to end it, are echoed in "To Carry On: An Anthem of the American Immigrant Experience," a new song launched today to accompany America's July 4th festivities. Produced by New York-based iconic actor and teacher Mark Ethan Toporek, the song is performed by 12 young immigrants--some of them DACA recipients--as well as first-generation Americans. The video is dedicated to the more than 27,000 "Dreamers" who have been frontline healthcare workers during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The nine singers and three musicians live in California, Texas, Georgia, and New York, and hail from countries including Mexico, China, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Haiti. 

          Mark Toporek, the son of Holocaust survivors, contacted organizations that connect and protect DACA recipients, seeking young immigrant singers. Mr. Toporek selected a dozen artists. Working from a musical arrangement by Mario Gullo, the performers recorded their parts in their homes, and Adam Grannick edited them into the video. He was assisted by two primary groups:

          1. Nosotros is the oldest Latinx arts advocacy organization in the U.S., founded in 1970 by Hollywood legend Ricardo Montalbán. It gives rising talent the platform and tools necessary to succeed in the entertainment industry while enhancing the image of the Latinx community in media. 

          2. Define American humanizes the conversation on immigration, and fights anti-immigrant hate and racism through storytelling. Using entertainment media consulting, original content, news media advocacy, activism, and the arts, Define American works to transcend politics, and shift the conversation about immigrants, identity, and citizenship in a changing America.

          According to Toporek, "Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, I began to assemble a multicultural group debut of To Carry On for a July 4th celebration. But in light of the pandemic, I switched to the idea of an online video, partly to heighten awareness of the plight of 'Dreamers' in our current immigration limbo. I see To Carry On as both a prayer and a protest song--a synthesis of Born In The USA and We Are The World: a person who aspires to become an American is already on the road to being 'Reborn in the USA'. This song's healing vision unites immigration with patriotism, a sustaining message to be heard above the daily news cycle. The aim of the video is to change the narrative disseminated by the current administration--not from the defensive to the offensive, but to the inclusive. It is a song for all Americans."

          As I listened to and watched the performances of the artists, I could envision Mark composing a musical of the various experiences of the immigrants, similar to a "Hamilton" play. But I imagine that since Lin-Manuel Miranda's brilliant masterpiece, many have had similar visions. And I know it is much more difficult than it seems. But I also know Mark personally, so I have no doubt he would be up to the task. 

          For more details on the song, visit the song's official site. You can read Aguilar's full Variety essay here.




          Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/chazs-blog/carlos-aguilar-joins-chorus-of-immigrants-praising-daca
          By: Chaz Ebert
          Posted: July 4, 2020, 2:06 pm

          • Entertainer

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            “David Foster: Off the Record” is a tribute to the multi-Grammy winning songwriter and producer, as curated by the man himself, David Foster. Most people are celebrated by a documentary like this after they've stepped away from the spotlight; at the very least, these types of projects aren't usually made with the subject in the room. But from the get-go, Foster informs the documentary crew, and us, that "I'm going to be over your shoulder the whole f**king way." For a collaborator who is revealed to be a control freak in the studio, this is meant to be a joking character detail. But it’s more of a warning sign, that the upcoming tales of songwriting magic are about catering to Foster first and foremost, and that Foster might as well have been behind the camera anytime someone talks about how great he is. 

            This is a project about upholding and documenting legacy, of compiling Foster's greatest hits in one film, to show off the wonder of Foster's perfect pitch and musical intuition. In that way, director Barry Avrich is successful—it’s educational if you didn’t already associate the Canadian-born songwriter with producing Whitney Houston’s cover of “I Will Always Love You,” or credit him with helping to launch the careers of Michael Buble, Josh Groban, or Celine Dion. The film has some in-studio footage that might amuse fans of any of those particular names, though they zip by quickly as the documentary covers a lot of ground. In a testament to his talents, Foster's time writing for Earth, Wind & Fire (Foster wrote the chorus hook to "After the Love Has Gone") is simply summed up as "a three-album tear" before moving on. 

            It's a fact that Foster's chart-toppers have made more of an impact than most people in pop music, in a way that would be hard to calculate. To the point that when he says that Toni Braxton’s “Un-Break My Heart” (which he produced) is one of the greatest records of all time, you have to pause and seriously consider it. But in the first half of the movie especially, it's a lot of Foster talking about his own victories, like recording the 1981 Dreamgirls album with Jennifer Holliday, or the time he hit someone with his car, and it ended up saving the victim from an aneurysm. For all the incredible stories, there's something nearly disingenuous about the context—even if President Obama also had as many Grammy wins as Foster does, you would get weary of hearing simply flattering stories from the guy himself. 

            Foster has had an extraordinary career, and yet this documentary is far from that level. Its generic style doesn’t suggest awe or reverence, even if this cast has more star power than a lot of other ones about underrated musical forces (this week also saw the release of "Suzi Q.") The crew has to give Foster good lighting, which is really no different than what Michael Buble or Barbra Streisand were clearly set to do with their interviews of only unwavering praise. Every collaborator always brings their own stories of being pushed in the studio to the truth—eventually, Foster's insistence on multiple takes during strenuous sessions led to a hit. Yet while the doc might prove that his approach worked, it’s progressively tedious to revisit these hits through such a thick air of self-affirmation. 

            The only people who truly challenge Foster, who make his self-proclaimed status as an egomaniac and control freak a complex trait, are Chicago. Foster saved the band by giving them new ballads to play, a change that turned horn players into synthesizer musicians, and made Foster a co-writer on their songs. His redirection for Chicago lead to new hits, but also songs that weren’t true to their original sound. You can sense a tension when a few members of Chicago talk about it, and it provides a messiness that’s far more honest than stories behind the Grammy trophies on Foster's grand piano. There are far too many chosen moments that sound like miracles from a movie (a metaphor that Foster uses twice, to describe hearing Celine Dion and then Josh Groban for the first time), and not enough that play like they've been pulled from the messiness of making art with others. 

            Midway through the movie, Avrich takes long detours to topics about Foster's personal life, related to his complicated history with his multiple wives and his supportive daughters, or mentioning how these family dynamics were then put on-camera with trashy reality shows “The Princes of Malibu” and later “The Real Housewives of Los Angeles.” As some syrupy, minor-key piano plays in the background, these passages are a banal, abrupt departure from the previous music history. Foster is also so closed-off, while the documentary nonetheless collects compliments about him as a father and husband, that these moments have little depth and purpose. 

            It all becomes obvious toward the movie's end, in which Foster says that he doesn’t want to go to therapy, for fear of what will be uncovered. Stating that very trepidation is exactly when someone should leap into the wonders of therapy, but it's an obvious statement coming from Foster, who then says he prefers to let his emotions out on the piano. Foster's revelation here also says the quiet part of this documentary loud—instead of a therapist, he has a documentary crew who lets him recount the past, without the threat of challenging him. Foster has a golden gut when it comes to hits in music, but I think it'll be better for him when he realizes why this narrow documentary about his life is a big miss. 

            Now streaming on Netflix.




            Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/david-foster-off-the-record-movie-review-2020
            By: Nick Allen
            Posted: July 3, 2020, 12:11 pm

            • Entertainer
              Entertainer published a blog post Money Machine

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              Director Ramsey Denison clearly cares a great deal about his home city of Las Vegas. His film “Money Machine” seeks to expose inept leadership that at least exacerbated the pain following the worst mass shooting in the history of the country, arguably rushed to cover up what happened with a Sin City sheen, and maybe even hid evidence that the public wasn’t told the entire story. However, intentions only go so far, and Denison’s documentary about the October 1st shooting at Mandalay Bay in 2017 is frustratingly unfocused and surprisingly thin on facts or even conclusions. After the horror that Stephen Paddock inflicted on people attending a concert outside of the casino, officials like the Governor of Nevada and Chief of Police worked to make people feel safe enough to return to the city. Doesn’t this happen after every major tragedy? People were encouraged to go to NYC shortly after 9/11. People can’t stop themselves from going outside in Summer 2020. The idea that life goes on too quickly after a national tragedy is an intriguing one, but that's not this movie. “Money Machine” is laser-focused on this specific case, and the notion that the Nevada Powers That Be wanted people to feel safe in the city that drives their economy strikes me as a particularly thin concept for a documentary.

              Denison opens “Money Machine” with harrowing footage of the Route 91 concert that turned into a nightmare. With cell phone video shot as the mass shooting was underway, “Money Machine” doesn’t shy away from showing and detailing the brutality of what happened on a night when Stephen Paddock fired so many bullets from his hotel room window that killed over 50 people and injured hundreds more. Concert goers who barely escaped with their lives are interviewed (in bizarre extreme close-up) and share terrifying stories, including one who speaks about falling into a victim who had just been shot and having her finger enter his head “like a pumpkin.”

              Despite the strange choice of angle in the interviews, “Money Machine” could have worked if it had focused on the people there that day, but Denison loses focus almost immediately. Even as he’s essentially recreating the shooting through footage, he’s starting to toss some conspiracy theories into the mix, including a famous one spawned by a cab driver who happened to be recording that day and seems to pick up multiple shooters. At first, the shots sound very distant, but the next round seems to come from much closer. To his credit, Denison does eventually get around to debunking most of the conspiracy theories about a second shooter, even having a forensics audio expert examine the footage for evidence of shots being fired at the same time by two or more people, but he allows them to hang in the air for most of the movie.

              From the beginning of "Money Machine," Denison is all over the place in terms of subject focus. He jumps from survivors to a commentary on the structure of Vegas to a suggestion that Paddock acted out because of the way he had been treated. Once a high roller, Paddock had suffered serious losses recently, and his brother suggests that the casinos that once treated him like a King had tossed him aside. The implication is that Paddock killed dozens of people to get back at Vegas, knowing the horror of that night would impact the bottom line of the casinos that had betrayed him.

              “Money Machine” points out how much that didn’t happen but it does so with an angry, one-sided slam piece that accuses the Governor of turning the event into a political opportunity and the Sheriff into just wishing it would go away. Over a shot of Joe Lombardo crying and the Governor placing a caring hand on his shoulder, Denison adopts a “how dare they” tone and “Money Machine” loses any remaining focus it had. Yes, the casinos and power structure could have acted more empathetically and been more transparent about mistakes that were made that night. But none of this is weighty enough for a documentary. It feels like Denison went digging for evidence of evil and unchecked corruption, but he didn’t come up with enough, and so the lack of depth forced him into a scattershot approach, hoping something would stick. It’s like listening to someone at a bar who’s had a few too many and can’t maintain a train of thought to reach a conclusion. And that bar is definitely in Vegas. 

              Now available on digital platforms.




              Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/money-machine-movie-review-2020
              By: Brian Tallerico
              Posted: July 3, 2020, 12:11 pm

              • Entertainer
                Entertainer published a blog post Desperados

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                Remember the accidental email sequence in Nancy Meyers’ wonderful “The Intern”? To refresh your memory: Anne Hathaway’s overworked executive erroneously sends a cruel email to her mother and authorizes a group of her employees to break into her mom’s house and delete the message before it’s read. Now imagine that basic idea stretched to its seams to become the premise of an entire film—the whole 105 minutes of something that wishes it had clever and entertaining insights into contemporary courtships and friendships. That is more or less the gist of director LP’s agonizing, blandly shot “Desperados,” which is among the most abysmal romantic comedies that came out of this century.

                The disastrous email in question is sent by neurotic Los Angeles dweller Wesley (Nasim Pedrad, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “Saturday Night Live”), an out-of-work, motor-mouth guidance counselor in desperate rush to land a job and launch into a relationship with an ideal guy. Living in the trendy Echo Park neighborhood with seemingly unlimited resources (as evidenced by her well-appointed apartment) like her two best friends Kaylie (Sarah Burns) and Brooke (Anna Camp), the thirty-something Wesley goes from blind date to dead-end blind date, collects information about freezing her eggs, mourns over her dead birds and takes pride in being different. She defines herself as “an acquired taste,” except in reality, she just can’t be bothered to think situations through and say the right thing at the right time. 

                Take, for instance, her unsuccessful job interview at the start of the film which introduces us to Wesley with a generous side of weapons-grade cringe. In an effort to sell her credentials to a well-meaning nun about why she would be the right fit to guide their young Catholic School students, Wesley brags about her lack of experience in the field and talks about masturbation in great detail because … well, she is such a Samantha and that’s just one of her adorable quirks, to sabotage a job interview with small talk on self-pleasure. Thanks to her reliably off-putting lack of filter, Wesley also messes up a date soon enough with Lamorne Morris’ charming Sean; a bit of a mansplainer, yet still, pretty much the only character in the film that resembles a real human being. Understandably yet curtly, he cuts their rendezvous short.

                Enter Jared (Robbie Amell), Wesley’s next romantic interest and enthusiastic bedfellow around whom our hopeless un-dateable decides to become an entirely different person (e.g. act like a grown-up who doesn’t always say the first thing that comes to her mind). But after not hearing from Jared for days on the heels of a great date and even better sex, Wesley, along with Kaylie and Brooke, decides to take matters into her own hands. She sends a humiliating, certifiably crazy email to Jared, only to find out moments later that he had been in an accident and stuck in a hospital in Mexico, somehow without access to his electronic devices. Already dreaming of a future of being happily married to Jared, what else could Wesley do if not travel to Cabo, break into his resort suite, and delete the email?

                While comparable films of this decade such as “Bridesmaids” (a contemporary comedy classic) and the big-hearted “Girls Trip” successfully brought to life the complex individuals of their central female squads with all their chaotic ups and downs, “Desperados” shows no interest to the women’s inner worlds and relatable struggles, even though it clearly aims to capture the spirit of the above-mentioned films. We don’t get to understand, for example, why Kaylie and Brooke turn against Wesley during a trip they volunteer for by themselves, and accuse their friend of being selfish later when the self-serving reasons of the journey have always been clear. And because class and financial privilege is a glaring blind spot in Ellen Rapoport’s screenplay—a theme consistently and aptly present in both “Bridesmaids” and “Girls Trip”—the film expects us to shrug it off when the trio checks in to a swanky resort where they run into Sean and go with the flow of things when a new romance between him and Wesley flourishes.

                And maybe going with the flow would have been possible had “Desperados” reserved a pair of successful laughs under its belt. But this is a film that seems to think a cat looking like Hitler, a dolphin’s penis brushing a woman’s face (yes, you read that correctly), underage sexual infatuation and a concerned mother yelling, “Stay away whorebag or I will pop you like a balloon” is sophisticated humor. Yes, this critic always craves stories centered on females in meaty roles being unapologetically messy and problematic like Wesley—a fun luxury often afforded to men exclusively. But maybe there is a way to not make it look and feel this much like an insult to women.

                Now streaming on Netflix.




                Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/desperados-movie-review-2020
                By: Tomris Laffly
                Posted: July 3, 2020, 12:11 pm

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