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Archive for the ‘Blogfinger Movie Review’ Category

By Paul Goldfinger,  Editor @Blogfinger

This is a wonderful movie.  Green Book just opened.  It is about a sophisticated black concert pianist who hires a blue collar Italian Bronx bouncer to drive him on a concert tour through the deep south.   They are an odd couple, but as you might expect, they share happy, funny, and worrisome moments in the film and eventually bond in friendship.

Viggo Mortensen plays Tony, the warm hearted overweight tough guy, while Mahershala Ali plays Dr. Don Shirley, the elegant and polished musician.  The film is about their two month road trip together, and, as you can predict, they run into racism.  Reviewers acknowledge that audiences love this film but they are critical  (that’s their job) of the predictable events along the way.

In one scene in Alabama, Dr. Shirley  is to play a Christmas party in a fancy country club, but they won’t let him in to have dinner with the whites in his party.  Shirley refuses the gig, and he and Tony wind up in a smoky black bar where there is close dancing, laughter, live music, and fun. Sure enough, Don gets to play piano with the house band, and he does just fine with the boogie-woogie music, even though he is one black man who has never eaten fried chicken.

Eileen and I loved this movie.  The cinematography is beautiful as they travel through snow storms, driving rain and then visit scenic areas including a field where blacks are working picking cotton.  The local southern color and people are as foreign to Tony as they are to Don.

The music is of great interest since it is difficult to pigeonhole .  The formally trained pianist is primarily a jazz player, but he builds his compositions on a classical sensibility.  I enjoyed his playing very much.

I wanted to make my review out of still photos taken off the screen. The result is a bit blurry, but I like it, and I will try it again.

The Green Book title refers to the special book which tells visitors travelling through the South where black people may stay, eat, etc. The National Board of Review named Green Book “best picture,” and this film will be in the running at the Academy Awards.   Go see it–most of you will like it.   And here are some of my photos–true screen shots:

Tony watches his “boss” perform in a smoky black bar in Birmingham.

Tony and Don become friends despite inevitable friction at times.

Don Shirley off the concert stage and into the hearts of down-home folks in a place where he learns quickly to feel comfortable.

Tony makes it home in time for Christmas eve in the Bronx. Does Don join him there?

Christmas eve in the Bronx.

This music is from the fine soundtrack:

BOBBY PAGE AND THE RIFF-RAFFS:  “I Love my Baby.”

DON SHIRLEY    “The Lonesome Road.”

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I haven’t seen it yet, but just watch this video and listen to the only musical  selection now available :  It’s called “Shallow” and features both stars:

 

“Shallow” with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper:

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By Paul Goldfinger, Movie Reviewer @Blogfinger.net

Some people who hear the name of this movie are automatically turned off, thinking it is another exotic artsy flick. Others are repulsed when they hear that the heroine has sex with a sea monster.   Some have considered this film to be a sort of fairy tale and there are those who see it as akin to Beauty and the Beast.

Then there are the critics, such as Rex Reed who called the movie a “loopy, lunk-headed, load of drivel.”  But most critics praised the film as did the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences which gave it 4 Oscars.

Some critics  consider The Shape of Water to be sort of a social commentary because the two lead characters are outsiders who have the deck stacked against them in our society.

Anyone who plans to see this movie should realize that the creature needs to be appreciated for his human-like traits such as intelligence and compassion. In fact some of his characteristics are super-human.  The Asset is no different in that regard than other non-humans we have enjoyed meeting in beloved movies such as Star Wars  where there was a cuddly robot (R2-D2,) Chewbacca, and other strange characters.

The Shape of Water is actually a highly original and enjoyable film crafted with all the best that Hollywood has to offer, and it deserves to be seen. I’m not sure it was the best film in 2017  because by that standard I thought the Darkest Hour was, overall,  superior, and so was Three Billboards, but others on the list, I missed.

The film takes place in Baltimore during the Cold War in the early 1960’s.  To complete the setting there are some Russian spies trying to kill the monster.

Elisa, the heroine (“The Princess Without Voice,”)  is a young woman— a mute.  She can hear, but she can’t speak.  Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is very sexy even though she is no “glamor puss.”  She lives with an older gay man, and they help each other.

Her girlfriend is Zelda, a black woman, who together clean toilets and mop floors in a a military research facility where the creature (“the Asset”) is housed in an oppressive secure environment.  Michael Stuhlbarg was terrific as a compassionate scientist.  I remember him as a gangster in Boardwalk Empire.

The Asset looks somewhat like a man, but it is covered with a reptilian skin and has webbed feet and hands along with lizard eyes.  He was brought back from the Amazon by a crazed and cruel military officer, played wonderfully by Michael Shannon.

The water “monster” forms a relationship with Elisa while she sneaks hard boiled eggs into the facility for him to enjoy.  Unless you are willing to appreciate the Asset for his human-like qualities, the greater the chance that you will dislike this movie.

Eventually Elisa and her friends spirit the Asset out by hiding him, and he winds up living in her bathtub, because he needs water to survive.

A romantic relationship does develop, but the sex scenes, which are brief are done in a very abstract way including a sort of ballet under water. Evidently this lizard is anatomically suitable.

The ending has been described as “chaotic,” but I thought it was amazing.

The director and writer is Guillermo del Toro, a Mexican filmmaker, who got an Oscar for Best Director  The film’s original music score won an Oscar  for Alexandre Desplat.

The music was carefully chosen to support the romance depicted in the film  –“You’ll Never Know”  sung by opera star Renee Fleming  (below) is used to great advantage towards the end of the movie.  And the Glenn Miller song featured on Blogfinger  (a few posts below with a photo of Central Park) is also sympathetic to the romance.

RENEE FLEMING  from the movie soundtrack, “You’ll Never Know.”—– The Shape of Water.  Movie score by Alexandre Desplat.

 

 

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Vincent Van Gogh. “The Starry Night.”

 

 

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

There is a movie playing at the Showroom in Asbury Park on Cookman Avenue about Vincent Van Gogh and the events surrounding his death. Loving Vincent is  a fascinating mystery story, but the most impressive thing about it is that it is an animated film made by over 100 artists over 7 years who painted in the Van Gogh style.   They used well known actors, and the animation was made by painting over their film images.  The plot is controversial because most experts don’t agree with the film’s conclusion.

The film is so unique, and for those who are interested in art, this will be a special experience.  Loving Vincent  is being “held over” in Asbury. Our main criticism is that it is too long.

LIANNE LA HOVAS:  “Starry Starry Night” from the soundtrack of Loving Vincent.

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Michelle Williams in a scene from “My Week With Marilyn.”  Re-posted from 2012 on Blogfinger.

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

Marilyn Monroe, the voluptuous pin-up girl of the 1950’s and the star of every boy’s dreams, is the subject of the movie “My Week With Marilyn.” The film depicts a slice of her life when, at the peak of her fame, she goes to England to make a movie with Sir Laurence Olivier. She is depicted wonderfully by the gorgeous Michelle Williams, who re-creates all the Marilyn moves complete with shimmies, winks, bouncing curves and breathy voice.

She is depicted as she was: part vulnerable woman and part petulant child. Huge success and tragedy accompany her. In the film she is on her honeymoon with Arthur Miller, but he leaves for a week, and she gets to spend time with the 23 year old “third director” who becomes her pal. The story is taken from a book published in 2000.

Michelle Williams with her usual hairstyle

Michelle Williams, age 31, received an Academy Award nomination for her acting. If you are a Marilyn fan, you will love this movie. It has just been released on “pay per view.”

There’s a fine soundtrack which includes the pianist Lang Lang. Also, Nat King Cole, from the same era as Marilyn, performs one song, but it is perfect as a musical background for Marilyn Monroe as we like to remember her.

NAT KING COLE:

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An early scene in Stardust Memories from the PBS documentary about Woody Allen

By Paul Goldfinger

“Stardust Memories” (1980) was Woody Allen’s 10th film in which he acted and directed. It came after his biggest hit, “Manhattan” (1979), a gorgeous film which had won four Academy Awards. “Stardust Memories” is about a famous filmmaker who comes to a seashore retreat to celebrate his work. The movie is a serious effort that examines themes such as life, death, relationships and religion. It was shot in black and white by Gordon Willis, the famed cinematographer who also filmed “The Godfather.” Woody says that “Stardust Memories” is one of his favorite movies, but it bombed at the box office. The film was discussed during part I of the Woody Allen Documentary on PBS Sunday night.

Woody as Sandy Bates in Stardust Memories

The Great Auditorium exterior was used to represent the Stardust Hotel. Some other exteriors in OG and Asbury were also used, but other locations and studio venues participated. I think the Casino was used as a train station. Evidently, the electified cross was taken down since it needed repairs, and Woody paid for a new one after filming.

In the documentary, they showed some scenes from the film, and I managed to grab a few shots from the TV including two showing the GA.

Some of the peculiar characters in the film. The GA hotel in the background

So while we are on the subject of movies where local towns are mentioned, here is a favorite of mine, and the above article explains it all.  It was last posted on Blogfinger in November, 2011.

MUSIC: From the Stardust Memories soundtrack. Louis Armstrong (recorded 1931) plays “Stardust.” The movie title is derived from the Stardust recording sessions (1931) where Louis, in an alternate take, said “Oh, memories” three times in succession. Woody liked the latter version for the movie title, but the version below was chosen for the soundtrack. (Do you care? Some aficionados actually do.)  PG

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“Spotlight” is a movie about a sickness that unfortunately arises too often whenever there is an inequality of power. The victim doesn’t know what to do. The perpetrator tries to justify his actions as being not truly evil. But, what about those that become aware of the transgressions and do nothing?

 

There hasn’t been a movie extolling the virtues of non-biased investigatory reporting since “All the President’s Men”—that is until now. 

A group of reporters for the Boston Globe truly put the Spotlight on the Boston Diocese’s failure to address a systemic problem among many of its priests, to wit: the abuse of children, both male and female by an inordinate number of priests during the 70’s and 80’s. Their actions were truly an abuse of power. More devastating was the institutional cover up permitted and/or facilitated by Cardinal Law.

 

The investigation does not begin for years after complaints were filed. The new editor of the Boston Globe, upon being apprised of one man’s anger that no one believes him, orders an investigation. That one claim leads to 3 more victims, then 13, the ultimately to 85. Priests accused of these improprieties received some counseling, were transferred from church to church, and frequently violated their oaths again and again.

 

The acting ensemble leaves you breathless. The casting is perfect, be it reporter, priest or lay person. You will recognize many of the actors from TV, but their familiarity does not distract. You are pulled into the horrific dilemma facing the reporters and their drive to penetrate the wall of silence.

 

This is not a movie bashing the Catholic Church. The institution is protected and separated from the evil of these predators. However, like many well intentioned people, the desire to protect the institution allowed them to close their eyes and not face reality.

 

Ultimately, you ask yourself, did these acts occur in such large numbers? Was it an exaggeration? Were people making false claims in order to receive compensation? It is a type of claim reluctantly made by the victim. Once made, it is a claim harder to prove and one which will forever scar an innocent man.

 

At the end of the movie, unlike another recent play and movie, you will have no “Doubt”. No doubt that during that time and place, these inappropriate acts did occur, and good and decent people did not want to believe. As a result, innocent children suffered and were so scarred that no amount of time could ever heal their wounds.

JOHN BARRY.  Movie music. “Somewhere in Time”

ROSS R. ANZALDI is a retired New Jersey Superior Court Judge who writes movie reviews exclusively for Blogfinger.

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Whiplash is particularly attractive if you have a background in music, especially if you have ever taken music lessons. But anyone can be engrossed by this story of a brilliant percussion student, Andrew Neyman (played by Miles Teller), who enrolls in a prestigious Manhattan college-level music school to study under a famous and notorious teacher, Terence Fletcher (played by J.K. Simmons.)

For most of us who ever played a musical instrument, we were exposed to teachers who tended to be soft spoken and artistic, introducing us to Mozart, Glenn Miller, Sousa and Vaughn Williams. But at this music school, the students enter as freshman already outfitted with great musical understanding and abilities. They are poised to move up to pre-professional levels of education.

Andrew got into the school because he is a musical talent who could read the most complex charts and play the most difficult pieces. But his goal is to get to the top where his role models are way above the rock and roll drummers that high school kids often admire.

Andrew is looking for inspiration from not only jazz drummers Jo Jo Jones and Buddy Rich, but he also admires the great be-bop alto sax super star Charlie Parker. The freshman immediately sets his goal on being the number-one drummer in the number-one jazz band among college ensembles.

But to do so, he has to impress Fletcher, who has unusual methods of teaching and motivating students. Fletcher is a sadistic, intimidating, fearful and unforgiving professor who drives Andrew into a state of hopeful despair bordering on insanity, even as his abilities become super-charged.

J.K. Simmons won an Oscar last month as best supporting actor. Although you might not know his name, most of you will recognize him because he is a character actor who has taken on a huge variety of roles over the years. His character is so abusive, that it is hard to believe that he could have kept his job at any college, and especially one that receives the finest young talent in the country.

Interestingly, Simmons’ father was Director of the School of Music at the University of Montana where J.K graduated with a degree in music. Simmons plays a beautiful piano solo in one scene in the film

Miles Teller is a young actor/musician with tremendous range in the role of Andrew. He plays a character that most of us will never meet unless we attend school at Juilliard. Miles is 28 years old and has appeared in quite a few films before Whiplash. Then name “Whiplash” refers to a challenging jazz orchestra arrangement which Andrew and his fellow student musicians need to master. The name also references the dynamics of Andrew’s relationship with his teacher.

Surprisingly, the film comes across as a suspenseful thriller. The jazz soundtrack is glorious, and even though Whiplash is about musicians, the film will keep you at the edge of your seat with its driving energy fueled by the music.

You don’t have to be a musician to appreciate the universal themes which include the quest for the greatest success in the arts and in life, the relationship between student and teacher, and the price that artists may have to pay to be the very best.

I give Whiplash 4 of 5 Blogfingers, and you should see it in a cinema with a superb sound system.  What a waste to rent or stream it and play it on your puny TV speakers.

JOHN WASSON  (from the movie score of Whiplash)  “Caravan”

—Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

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Robert Downey Jr. produces and stars in The Judge.  He portrays a true legal shark.  Circling his prey and taking large bites out of his adversary and the system.  Never in the name of justice.  As his character says, “Everyone wants Atticus Finch, until they find a dead hooker in the bathroom.” “Innocent people can’t afford him.”

Then there is a death in the family.  The son, Robert Downey, Jr. comes home.  The Judge, Robert Duval, his father, and he have barely have spoken to each other for many years.  The son then has to defend his father for murder.

So many times Hollywood glamorizes the legal profession and the trials depicted.  It’s all about show business with little contact with reality. Not so with The Judge.  Reality truly is depicted in this movie.  A trial does take place and results in a believable outcome.  Realism carries throughout the film, even as the Judge himself slowly is eaten away by his illness.  His post chemotherapy physical reactions are the most graphic depicted on the screen.

Ultimately  this movie is about a family.  What mistakes they make.  The silences that are deafening.  The wounds that fester.  The love that still remains.

Review by Ross R. Anzaldi, New Jersey Superior Court Judge (Ret.)

L’ORCHESTRA CINEMATIQUE.  “Hills to Climb.” From The Judge trailer.

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By Paul and Eileen Goldfinger, editors @Blogfinger.

Italian Vacation is a hilarious and gorgeous  film with wall to wall laughs, delicious foods and beautiful scenics of Italy, along the Amalfi and Liguria coasts.  Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are two English comedians who embark on a high class Italian road trip, following in the footsteps of poet Lord Byron and his buddy Shelly who once took a grand tour of Italy in the early 19th century.  The two friends, Rob and Steve, get to stay at the best hotels and go to the finest restaurants, all paid for by the newspaper that sent them on a foodie travel  assignment.

We take the tour with Steve and Rob as they joke their way across Italy in a mini-Cooper.  The banter between these two comics, who improvised the entire film, left us in stitches as they did impressions of many famous and not-so famous stars such as Michael Caine, Hugh Grant, Richard Burton, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman,  and so many others. They also took some shots at singers Michael Bublé and Alanis Morissette.

Even if you missed some of the lines, as we did, due to their British accents and comedic references that were unfamiliar to us, you will find this very original buddy movie to be hysterical. But you have to like wordplays, one-liners and movie references.  These two are so on the same wave length that they are capable of anticipating the next line in the conversation, so the dialogues tend to be rapid-fire.  Rotten Tomatoes referred to it as “crackling chemistry.”

I especially enjoyed the portrayal of how 21st century middle-aged men view the world and themselves.  There are serious moments as they discuss women, family and work. It is about male companionship which is always somewhat competitive. One complained ruefully that when he catches the eye of a beautiful young woman, she usually offers a smile “like you would give a benevolent uncle.” But despite that sort of remark, these two are good looking guys who enjoy the fine meals, the wines, the conversations, and, yes, the exchanges with women along the way.  They say that women like men who are funny, so I suspect that Steve and Rob will have no problems in that area, even as they get much older. Getting older is a theme for these guys who worry about their mortality.

The foods, mostly scrumptious looking seafood dishes with pasta, are photographed beautifully, but Eileen complained that they shortchanged the preparation of these spectacular dishes. I agree. We would have enjoyed some scenes in the kitchen as we saw in “The Hundred Foot Journey” which we recently reviewed.

The movie made us hungry for Italian food, so after the show, as we attended a late afternoon screening,  we went straight to our favorite Italian restaurant around here—Jimmy’s in Asbury Park on Asbury Avenue.  This restaurant is consistently good with authentic cuisine. They have been around for ages and they attract a knowing and appreciative crowd. It feels very old fashioned to us, reminiscent of places we visited in the past in Big Italy and Little Italy.

Bar at Jimmy's during the week. Tables for dining are to the right.  Two large dining rooms are in the back.

Bar at Jimmy’s during the week. Tables for dining are to the right. Two large dining rooms are in the back. That’s our waitress. (the one on the right)  Blogfinger photo ©

We chose a booth out by the bar—-it felt homey, warm and relaxed.  We’re not Italian, but Eileen cooks like one, and I play one on Blogfinger, so we fit right in at Jimmy’s.  We shared a “Jimmy’s salad” with the dressing on it—not on the side.  Then we split an order of lobster fra diavlo over linguine. The premium house wines were excellent—we had a Tuscan Antinori wine and a Ruffino Ducale chianti (by the glass).  An essential component of such a meal is the  Italian bread and olive oil  which I enjoyed before, during and after dinner, some pieces with butter, but Eileen amazingly avoided it totally.    By then we had to skip dessert because we were stuffed. The dinner was excellent and was the perfect finale to our Italian movie and dinner-date.

We saw this movie at the Bow Tie Middlebrook Cinema on Route 35 in Ocean. It is a sequel to Steve and Rob’s  first such film called  “The Trip” which began as a mini-series for the BBC and is now available on Netflix.   Adio!

ALANIS MORISSETE  Her album Jagged Little Pill  is featured in this movie.  But, this particular song by this Canadian singer is from the movie “De-Lovely” about Cole Porter.

 

 

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