The Last Movie: The Last Movie Star

The closing choice to end the Palm Springs International Film Festival was a movie about faded fame and growing old.It was also a movie about a small town film festival awarding a lifetime achievement award to an over-the-hill beloved ex movie star.

An overall great character study with an ageing Burt Reynolds in the starring role and a precociously under dressed, depressed, complex young woman perfectly played by Ariel Winter (Modern Family).  An almost unrecognizable Chevy Chase plays Sonny, friend to Vic Edwards (Reynolds character) who urges him to go to Knoxville, Tennessee to collect his award.

I loved this movie by Adam Rifkin (in attendance) who said that Burt Reynolds was his childhood idol.  He wrote the movie specifically for Burt and sent the script to his agent saying that if he decided not to do it, he would not make it period.  He got a call the very next day from Burt Reynolds.  Reynolds said that if the script was sent to him ten years ago the answer would be “no” but at this stage in his life he was ready.  I loved that he spliced film clips from Reynolds old movies like Deliverance & Smoky and the Bandit alongside what he looks like now.  It’s quite bittersweet to witness the differences between now and then.

And it’s a movie that makes you think about life in general.  Not just that of an ex-famous movie star.  It has all the necessary elements for audience appeal.  Humor, feel-good, sadness, regret, choices.  Some of the scenes brought tears to my eyes.  It was completely human and utterly charming.

What woman did not fall for the charms of Burt Reynolds in his glory days?  What a hunk he was with personality to top it all off.  Handsome, funny, talented with substance.  I mean just look at the women he used to date from Sally Field (the one who got away) to Dinah Shore.  How time flies.

I found this film to be a refreshing and honest look at life.  I highly recommend seeing it when it comes to a theatre near you sometime this year.  Especially if you like (or used to like) Burt Reynolds.

Then. It was a centrefold from Cosmopolitan Magazine. Yes, I had it!

Tomorrow: Best of Fest.  If you’re in the Palm Springs area you will want to check this out:  https://www.psfilmfest.org/2018-ps-film-festival/films/best-of-the-fest

 

 

 

Documentary: Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood

As you may know I’m in Palm Springs where the International Film Festival (PSIFF) is still in full swing until it ends on the 15th.

Scotty Bower then

As you may also know I very unfortunately had to miss a whole bunch of great story telling due to some kind of awful virus I picked up.  So for my second movie only since arriving here on December 31st, just beginning to feel myself again, I chose a documentary. Documentaries are some of my favorite story telling because of the truth involved.

Also, this one was directed by Matt Tyrnauer who directed the phenomenal documentary feature Valentino: The Last Emperor (2009), which was short listed for an Oscar Nomination in 2010.  He’s also a special correspondent for Vanity Fair Magazine.  He was in attendance as was his subject, Scotty Bowers, a now 94 year old man with a carefree attitude and great smile.  And one amazing story.  Oh do tell…

Scotty and the Gang

After returning from Marine Corps combat during World War II, this handsome young man arrived in Los Angeles and started pumping gas and pimping (for lack of a better word although he’d prefer to say he ran an introduction service) at 5777 Hollywood Blvd. The gas station is no longer, but the memories are.

As Bowers tells it, an overture from a seemingly unlikely customer, the tweedy gentlemanly actor Walter Pidgeon, led to Hollywood connections with some of the biggest names at the time.  Names I won’t repeat here (you’ll have to see it yourself). Scotty got some of his pals into the act and pretty soon the Richfield station was flooded with customers looking for a quick trick.  The town pump.

Well this is old Hollywood news, is it not? I mean Hollywood has a history and we’ve heard the stories before (yawn, yawn).  Well….not exactly…like this Trust me when I tell you there’ll  be some new and eye raising reveals.  Really!

And then you’ve got to ask yourself “why am I here?”  I mean in the sense of being in a sold-out audience room full of voyeurs like yourself finding out personal information on people you’ve only heard about going back years before your time.  With a little bit of embarrassment for being party to it.  But then relishing the wicked information told through Scotty’s adventures.

As the story delves into his tortured past we can’t help but wonder if Scotty was making his own escape from reality.

The story is told extremely well, it flowed perfectly with just the right amount of interviews, humor involved and naughty intrigue.  A perfect afternoon escape with a man who makes no apologies for his choices – having been the discreet pleasure pleaser of the past to both sexes. Until aids came around to claim the life of Rock Hudson and he decided to shut it down.  As he put it “I enjoyed helping others.

Scotty and his wife Lois Now

And in the manufactured Hollywood of yesteryear there was definitely a time and place for Scotty’s services and that of his posse.  Full Service indeed and Full Steam Ahead!

For tickets (while available):

https://www.psfilmfest.org/2018-ps-film-festival

 

 

Art/Culture/History: “The Post”

OPENING NIGHT – Palm Springs International Film Festival 2018 (PSIFF)

Clip from the film

There is a saying about relationships in Washington: If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog. – Katharine Graham

The feature film began with a panel discussion with the key players on the stage of Palm Springs High School.

Streep, Hanks & Spielberg

Katharine Graham for those of you unfamiliar, was America’s first female Fortune 500 CEO. As the renowned publisher of ‘The Washington Post,’ she guided the newspaper to national prominence, most notably when it published The Pentagon Papers and reported on the Watergate scandal.

Meryl Streep stars as Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham and Tom Hanks as editor Ben Bradlee in Steven Spielberg’s gripping true life drama behind the publication of the Pentagon Papers in Nixon’s White House. This history making movie at the time of an incensed, vindictive president meant risking careers and the future of the newspaper.

A cover-up that spanned four U.S. Presidents pushed the country’s first female newspaper publisher and a hard-driving editor to join an unprecedented battle between journalist and government.

Decades of government lies which led the U.S. into the mire of the Vietnam War were lifted from top secret files. The risk of publishing them was greater than great.

Spielberg, Streep, Hanks

Words to live by:

It’s hard to remake decisions and even harder to rethink nondecisions. Sometimes you don’t really decide, you just move forward, and that is what I did—moved forward blindly and mindlessly into a new and unknown life.

A long time ago I had to decide whether to be a lady who lunched or a women who worked. – Katharine Graham, Personal History

The festival runs until January 15th.  Check out the film and events lineup here:

https://www.psfilmfest.org/2018-ps-film-festival

 

Art/Culture/Film – Palm Springs International Film Festival 2018

Movie Magic 2018

Can you keep a secret?

The Palm Springs International Film Festival tradition of the Secret Screening continues, sharing a brand-new, yet-to-premiere film with only the most discreet of discerning filmgoers. You won’t know the title of the film until you see it on the screen, and once you’re in on the secret you can’t spill the beans. No talking, texting or tweeting before, during or after. While we can’t disclose specifics, we can tell you that this classified title features one of this year’s Film Awards honorees alongside one from 2017. It’s a story that may be familiar, but we promise you’ve never seen it like this before. Ohhhh….

Alongside Films and Documentaries from…

Pop Eye

The heartwarming journey of a man and his elephantThailand

To

Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood

A fascinating, dishy documentary about the life and times of Scotty Bowers, who, after serving in the Marines in WWII stumbled into a career satisfying the sexual desires of some of the most famous people in Hollywood, both male and female.

And Everything in BetweenAs a member of the PSIFF media to cover screenings and events, I look forward to sharing some stimulating stories with you.

Perhaps with a touch of stimulating Pinot

HAPPY NEW YEAR

VIFF: Borg Vs McEnroe

The Perfect Match

The game of Tennis is somewhat compared to the game of Life

When you commit a fault, you are given another chance to get it right.

If you make the same mistake again (double fault) you pay for it.

When you have an advantage, it’s up to you to make use of it. If you don’t, someone else will.

Any point in the match can be a turning point.

Every new game begins with “love all

All of us make our own unforced errors (we all have our imperfections). That doesn’t stop us from trying.

We always want to ace it.  This movie did.

I’m normally not so into sports movies but this one is about one of, if not the, greatest tennis match of all time. The 1980 Wimbledon Men’s Finals between cool Swede Björn Borg and hot tempered New Yorker John McEnroe. It was a stimulating battle of opposite personalities.

Borg was the top tennis player in the world, dominating the sport both on and off the court.  He had already won four Wimbledon championships in a row and this would be a record-breaking fifth.

McEnroe, considered among the greatest in the history of the sport, was famous for his shot-making skills, as well as his confrontational on-court behaviour.

The players are incredibly acted out by Shia LaBeouf (McEnroe) and Sverrir Gudnason (Borg).  It delves in and out of how they first started out in the game and the enormous pressures put upon them.  You realize they have more in common than what is initially perceived.

In the end I found myself rooting for both of them.

The real deal

Last two days for screenings.  Get your tickets here: https://www.viff.org/

 

 

 

VIFF: The Florida Project

Two things drew me to this film: 1) Willem Dafoe is in it 2) it shows the gritty side of living near a place where dreams come true.

That place is Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

On the other side of the tracks, just outside the magic kingdom lies a bunch of rundown motels originally built for the overflowing tourist trade looking to save a buck but still be close enough to get fairy dusted.

But this is not an enchanting story. It revolves around a specific motel The Magic Castle. A mother/daughter relationship, a place where tough talking families live, barely able to make ends meet, scraping by just to make the monthly rent as the housing crises rises. The inwardly frustrated although patient motel manager, is played outstandingly by Dafoe. But the real stars of this movie are the motel kids who live in a world all their own.  You feel sorry for them, and you also cannot stand them as they go about their precociously uncaring antics. They are, after all, a product of their upbringing.

It is another world to many of us, but too familiar for many others.  A despairing time and place in America; all too real, right now.

It’s a fascinating look from a safe distance into a chaotic world of what is the opposite of enchantment, mostly seen from the eyes of the kids.

Directed by Sean Baker (Tangerine)

One more week left. Check it out @ https://www.viff.org/

 

 

 

VIFF: The Nile Hilton Incident

My reasoning for choosing this feature from the many contemporary world cinema selections were the words “Nile Hilton.”

That’s because I stayed there for almost a month in 1999 (now it’s called the Ramses Hilton) in a beautiful 2-bedroom suite on an executive floor as my husband had business in Cairo.  I would take my coffee on the balcony overlooking the River Nile and enjoy all-day refreshments in the lounge.  It was very decadent at that time and I got to know the staff while Don was working, hung out at the pool and walked a short distance to the Egyptian museum to check out the mummies…more than once.  I got to know a lot of shopkeepers too.  I bought gold jewelry, perfume, leather bags, a silk carpet and a belly-dancing outfit.  I had a lot of time on my hands.  I had my own little incident at the hotel which got resolved quickly with the help of a burly bouncer who came to my rescue, but there were no casualties that I was aware of.

Well that was my first reason. My second was that the movie blurb appeared to be intriguingly film noirish.  It turned out to be better than I had hoped for.  It was a gripping crime mystery filmed on the streets of Cairo; seedy and corrupt. All the elements of a good detective story. It won the grand jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival. This was the Canadian Premiere and the line was loooong.  I sauntered in thinking I had plenty of time to spare but it was already sold out.  I stood in the standby line even with my media pass (“but you don’t understand…I lived at that hotel”).  Just managed to make it, along with my medium bag of $9 popcorn.

An innocent young maid is witness to the murder of a beautiful singer in one of the hotel rooms.  Noredin, The cop who gets involved, (played by Fares Fares, that’s his name) meets resistance at every step of his investigation and you begin to realize that many people are at play here and politics are involved.  Always, right?

The movie is set in a Cairo on the edge of revolution. On January 25, 2011, all across Egypt, millions of protestors from a range of socio-economic and religious backgrounds demanded the overthrow of Egyption President Hosni Mubarak.  As the engrossing story enfolds, it keeps you on the edge of your seat.

To check out more great cinema at VIFF please visit: https://www.viff.org/

 

 

VIFF: A Fantastic Woman & The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Una Mujer Fantástica – A Fantastic Woman (subtitled)

If I didn’t know any better I would swear this movie was directed by Spanish film director Pedro Almodóvar (Volver, All About my Mother). But it was not. Instead it was Chilean director Sebastián Lelio (who made the smash hit Gloria in 2013).

This is a timely film.  Because it is about time that people are more compassionate and at the very least, more tolerant of those who are different than what those of us less broad minded deem to be “the norm” in society.  But guess what?  This is the new normal.

I found this film to be beautiful, disturbing, touching and frustratingly maddening.  It makes you want to fight for equality.

The main character is played triumphantly by Daniela Vega, an actual trans performer.  As Marina, a nightclub singer living with Orlando, her much older heterosexual lover (played by Francisco Reyes) who suddenly dies, you see her struggle in dealing with non-acceptance and disrespect from all angles. From the police who suspect her to be a factor in Orlando’s death, to the ex-wife who doesn’t want her to come anywhere near the funeral because she will only upset the family….she is humiliated constantly. 

Even so, she faces it all with dignity and a strength most of us would envy.  A powerful movie.  A Fantastic Movie!  I give it a score of 5/5.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a whole other animal.

Here is a perfect example of two top-notch performers: Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell being cast in a perfectly flat out psychological disaster of a movie.  Sorry; but that’s just my opinion.  I’m not saying the performances were not good (the characters were supposed to be flat, joyless and strange I’m guessing) but overall it was so disjointed with no explanation given to……too many situations.  But the music was anything but flat.  It was over the top (again; meaning to be) outlandish.  I never saw the film “The Lobster” but apparently it was a pretty good twisted movie, directed by the same person – Yorgos Lanthimos.

In a NUTshell Farrell plays Andrew, a surgeon who’s patient dies while undergoing an operation.  The patient’s son Martin (played by Barry Keoghan) is a total screwball looking to get back at Andrew.  He keeps showing up in oddball places while I keep wondering (trying to make sense of course) why Andrew keeps allowing him access.  Well it is a movie after all so just don’t question the bad sensibility of the surgeon who invites this boy into his home and brings harm to his once happy family.  And it just goes (and goes, and goes on) from there.  And it gets even weirder.  And there’s spoiler alert: NO happy ending.  My final words are:  I’m just not that into this one!

Special mention: Okja

AND here I thought the special presentation of “Okja” was strange………….  although that one had amazing computer-generated imagery (CGI), and Tilda Swinton who did an excellent job (as always) playing the big boss-lady of a huge company manufacturing genetically modified super pigs.  Also, a surprisingly zany Jake Gyllenhall.  It had everything….humor, violence, glamour, scenery, car chases, crazy people, animal rights activists, capitalists, consumers and mostly, an innocent animal friend. I found it very schizophrenic but with outstanding direction from Bong Joon Ho.  Very Hollywood.  Now streaming on NefFlix.

If I lived up in the mountains of South Korea with only my grandfather for companionship, I’d love to have Okja for a pet.

More reviews to follow

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the films playing until October 13th @  https://www.viff.org/

 

 

 

 

ART/FILM/VIFF: Loving Vincent

I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process.

This anticipated animated film about Vincent Van Gogh was a real story telling treat.  What’s so amazing about this film is that it is entirely hand painted with Van Gogh’s paintings serving as the backdrop for each frame.  In fact, it is the very first fully painted feature which took seven years to complete.  It’s visually astonishing!

The story takes place in the French village of Arles (a place I visited with my husband where we sat in the famous Terrasse du café le soir.  Yes; that one!

The son of a local postmaster goes around hunting for clues as to why the painter took his own life. There were conflicting reports as to whether he actually committed suicide. The question is really why Vincent went from a complacent quiet man to someone who would take his own life in a matter of weeks.  A look into a complicated, talented but tortured soul.  Sad that in his lifetime he sold only one of his fine works.  Can you imagine?

He saw beauty in the tiniest of objects and in things that most people would deem insignificant.  A man of true genius.

I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest corners. And my mind is driven towards these things with an irresistible momentum.”

I dream of painting and then I paint my dream – Vincent Van Gogh

Your dream came true, it’s just too bad that you were not around to realize it. 

How people all around the world admire your work and can only dream of owning a piece of you!

Please visit: https://www.viff.org to find out more and how to purchase tickets.  The Film Fest runs until October 13th

 

 

 

 

VIFF: BREATHE & MEDITATION Park

Funny thing about timing that the first two movies I’ve chosen to see at the Vancouver International Film Festival would have the words “Breathe” and “Meditation” – two things that I’m trying to better accomplish.  But enough about me.

Meditation Park

How to make choices?

The first thing I look for when going through the movie listings are the film titles, then to find out who the actors are.  It doesn’t go to prove that actors who are well known will make a better movie, but if I’m familiar with and like the actor’s previous work, I’m more likely to want to see another film they’re in.  But since this is an International Film Festival, you must keep in mind that you will NOT likely be familiar with the talented actors and worthwhile great story telling from a host of other countries.

Then of course the overall synopsis.  But I don’t like to know too too much about the movie because it ruins the element of surprise (which can work out good or bad, depending.) I try to keep it diversified mixing drama, comedy, documentary and thriller. Well done animation is good too  The great overall thing about going to a film fest is that you get to see films firsthand.  And that in itself is exciting enough.  So having said that, here are two simplified reviews to begin:

BREATHE

Oh; and the film clip photos in the booklet attract me.  The romantic, dreamy looking picture has two actors whom I admire: Claire Foy (she played Queen Elizabeth II in the Netflix series “The Crown” which I became addicted to) and Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge, The Amazing Spiderman). Suffice to day that was enough of a decision for me to say YES.  Bonus: Hugh Bonneville (Lord Grantham in Downton Abbey – watched ALL episodes as it was one of my favourite series).

Breathe is an inspiringly beautiful but tragic story.  In a debut directorial role, Andy Serkis directs the true story of the parents of his best friend and producing partner, Jonathan Cavendish.

It’s about how a couple, Robin and Diana Cavendish refuse to give up their fight when Robin is struck down by polio at only 26 years old, and just before he is about to become a father.  It’s about how people face challenges and overcome hardship in the face of adversity and with a debilitating disease. It is heartwarmingly sad and uplifting at the same time.

MEDITATION PARK

This film was chosen for the Opening Gala.  Directed by Mina Shum, it’s filmed entirely on Vancouver’s East Side & Chinatown.  While I’m familiar with incredible actors Sandra Oh and Don McKellar, the real star of this film is Cheng Pei Pei (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) who plays Maria.  A  traditional  first generation immigrant Chinese wife, Maria turns a blind eye to her husband’s (played by Tzi Ma) infidelity at first, but when she decides to break from convention, take charge of her life and become more independent, all hell breaks loose.  It is charmingly funny in part and because I live in Vancouver, partly familiar.

The only common denominator between the two films is that they are family dramas.

VIFF is on until October 13, 2017. For information and to purchase tickets please visit: 

https://www.viff.org