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Showing posts from April, 2017

The Hollywood Daughter by Kate Alcott (♦♦♦)

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Tween Jessica "Jesse" Malloy is the only daughter of Hollywood publicist Gabriel Malloy. Gabriel is the man in charge of promoting a relatively unknown Swedish cinematic beauty named Ingrid Bergman. As a Hollywood daughter, Jesse carpools to school with the children of other celebrities, soon getting acquainted with the somewhat reclusive Ingrid Bergman. As years pass by and Bergman’s fame grows, Jesse comes to idolize her, but Bergman’s fall from grace with the American public in 1950—when she falls in love with Italian film director Roberto Rossellini—causes Jesse to question her hero, and the religious faith she has been brought in.
In A Touch of Stardust, Kate Alcott conjured movie magic, but reading The Hollywood Daughter feels like a chore. It is an uninspired family drama played out against the heady times of Hollywood in the 1940s and 1950s.
Rather than historical fiction, this is a coming of age story about a girl disappointed by the choices that Ingrid Bergman, her c…

Snapshots - #16

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Bridget Jones's Baby (♦♦♦♦½): Forty- three year-old Bridget is single again after having broken up with Mark Darcy. Mark is now married but things aren't going well in his marriage. A friend of Bridget convinces her to go together to a country festival where she, accidentally, spends the night with a stranger. Within the same month, she has a tryst with Mark Darcy, who confesses he is not over her. Now Bridget is pregnant and she doesn't know which one is the father.
Bridget Jones is my favorite singleton, and she gets it exactly right. Bridget Jones's Baby is hysterical in the tradition of Bridget Jones's Diary. As always, Bridget's antics and care free attitude make for great comedic moments, and Renee Zellweger is still brilliant as Bridget, now a forty-something singleton still trying to figure things out. Both leading men, Colin Firth as a much older Mark, and Patrick Dempsey as Jack, have great chemistry with Zellweger. Catchy music and new adventures hope…

Elle (♦♦♦♦♦)

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Michéle is a divorced, alpha female who lives alone. She heads a successful video game company, and apparently still carries a torch for her ex. While at home one afternoon, an intruder sexually attacks her.
Michéle has a complicated past, a bloody mystery lurking that makes her distrustful of the police, so this attack, she deals with on her own. Before long, she starts receiving tantalizing texts that appear to be from the attacker. When she discovers his identity, however, they get caught in a game in which there are no winners.
Here I was thinking that, for me at least, Nocturnal Animals had been the best movie I had seen among the crop competing at the Oscars in the major categories in 2016, and then Elle came from behind and gave me quite a surprise.
Directed by Paul Verhoeven, who delivered an astounding winner for me with Black Book, Elle is a movie to watch once, get immersed in it—no distractions, low lights and all—, and never watch it again, because you are not likely going t…

Moonlight (♦♦♦♦)

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Chiron is a black boy growing up in a tough neighborhood in Miami. His mother (Naomi Harris) kicks him out of their house often to do drugs. Accidentally, he befriends Juan (Mahershala Ali), a man with a good heart and a nice girlfriend, both of whom, open their home to Chiron and give him food and money, possibly to atone for the fact that Juan controls the drug selling in the neighborhood.
Chiron is a sensitive boy. Most boys pick on him and call him names. He knows how to fight back but most times chooses not to. Kevin is his only friend, or at least the only boy who doesn't care how he is. Over the course of the years, Chiron will struggle with his identity (sexual and otherwise), his sense of direction, the lack of love he has received from his biological mother, and the cycle of poverty, violence, and drugs in his neighborhood.
Moonlight, like most movies that competed at the Oscars this year, is powerful in an understated way. It is a meditation on race, identity, the search …

West of Sunset by Stewart O'Nan (♦♦♦)

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After his stunning success as a writer chronicling the glittering Jazz Age, Francis Scott Fitzgerald squandered his well-earned fortune partying and traveling the world in style beside his wife Zelda. Eventually, they fell on hard times, with Zelda having to be treated for mental illness in clinics in Switzerland and the States.
Meanwhile, after calling a few favors, Scott had a—not quite successful—second stint in Hollywood, towards the beginning of WWII, as a screenwriter for several movies that were never made. With his few royalty earnings and a dwindling salary, he had to pay for Zelda’s clinic, Scotty’s private schools, and his ever more constrained lifestyle.
I had a mixed experience with this book. The first 100-150 pages were solidly four stars, and read like Fitzgerald’s novel The Beautiful and Damned, which is no coincidence considering that that novel was mostly autobiographical. The first half of West of Sunsethad the feel” of a Fitzgerald novel, not so much for the lyric…

Snapshots - #15

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The movies...
The Birth of A Nation (♦♦♦♦): Young Nat Turner is the preacher of his small community of slaves. Due to an arrangement with the priest, Sam Turner, Nat's owner, accompanied by Nat, travels to other farms in the county so he can charge money in exchange for Nat's services as preacher for other slave owners. What Sam doesn't realize is that a slave rebellion is brewing, and Nat, from experiencing so many injustices first hand, will become its leader.
Written, directed, and wonderfully acted by Nate Parker in the leading role, The Birth of A Nation is not only a movie that makes you think, but it is also one that will stay with you long after the credits roll. It is not an easy watch; there is plenty of violence in all forms, but it is far from gratuitous, and it justifies the choices that Nat Turner makes in the end.
It is such a shame that this movie and its filmmakers were marred by controversy, because it is the type of movie that does well at the Oscars. In a …