Guest post by Laura V
I remember seeing the original Overboard movie starring Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn when it was released. I thought it was entertaining but not remarkable enough for a reboot so I was surprised to learn it was remade. This version stars Eugenio Derbez as Leonardo Montenegro and Anna Faris as Kate Sullivan. As far as I remember, it was basically the same plot with reversal of roles, Derbez plays the rich guy and Sullivan plays the poor woman. Eva Longoria plays Kate’s best friend, Theresa, and Mel Rodriguez plays her husband, Bobby.
I recently watched How to be a Latin Lover starring Derbez and was disappointed. There was potential for that movie to make fun of stereotypes and it was squandered at every turn while reinforcing some negative stereotypes along the way. Overboard was better. While it had the predictability that everyone should expect from a remake of an original that wasn’t highbrow cinematography to begin with, it took a huge chance, culturally speaking. To me, that was enough to make it interesting.
We got to see the family to which Derbez’ character belongs speaking Spanish with English subtitles. Yes, they are millionaires who are basically the telenovela (soap opera) portion of the movie, but their over-the-top drama is what makes them absurdly entertaining, just like actual TV telenovelas. They couldn’t have been a more realistic wealthy family because then the story wouldn’t have had the material for the plot. I also enjoyed seeing the more authentic portrayal of Latinos with the banter among the construction workers on Bobby’s job site. The romance felt a bit forced. I felt the daughters developed more of a relationship with Derbez’ character than Faris’ character.
If you’re looking for a lighthearted romp with the courage to include characters of color with their culture still intact, I recommend this movie.
How is the month of September going for you? Are you reading something inspiring/thoughtful/entertaining? If you’re still looking or are short on time, maybe a movie would be a good option. Here are some to consider.
Places in the Heart. Starring Sally Field, John Malkovich and Danny Glover, this film takes a look at surviving the Dust Bowl. Battling prejudice, injustice and devastating weather, the three main characters – a recent widow, a blind man and a black man – form an unlikely alliance.
Cinderella Main starring Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger. No longer able to box after breaking his hand during a fight, James Braddock turns to manual labor. Desperate for money, he agrees to one more fight which, to everyone’s surprise, he wins, returning him to the violent and unpredictable sport. Based on a true story.
The Grapes of Wrath starring Henry Fonda. An American classic, this film takes a hard look at the reality of the struggle to survive during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. Heartbreaking and often difficult to watch it is nevertheless highly recommended.
Water for Elephants starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson is set against the backdrop of a small-time circus operating during the Great Depression. A secret romance threatens to destroy many lives and nearly ends in tragedy.
I don’t like horror movies (or books for that matter). I guess I scare too easily. And I’m pretty strict about this – they simply don’t interest me and I like sleeping without nightmare interruptions. And yet – here I am. Talking about a horror movie. That I actually watched. And, yeah, it’s a good movie. Really good.
A Quiet Place was directed and co-written by John Krasinski and stars himself and his wife Emily Blunt. The movie opens several months after whatever created this dystopian world has already happened as a young couple and their three children search an abandoned store looking for medicine and supplies. They walk home through what seems like an idyllic, autumn countryside but not all is as it seems. Everything is silent – no birds, no animals, no other people. And something horrific is lurking nearby. Because the creatures hunt by sound, you must remain absolutely silent in order to survive. Your introduction to the monsters is shocking and horrific. And terribly sad.
The movie then jumps about a year ahead and we can see the extreme care that the family has taken to be as quiet as possible. Despite the hardships and horror of their current situation, they have carved out a life of love and care – a beautiful if primitive home, lessons for the children, a stockpile of food. When the unthinkable happens and the creatures come for them, they band together to protect and save each other.
The movie is really quite beautiful with superb acting and clever directing. The dialogue, not surprisingly, is minimal, but the emotions and thoughts of each character is clear. It’s astonishing how quickly you come to care for each of them and how easy it is to imagine yourself in their situation and wonder how you would react. It’s also fun to pick out some plot holes (Iowa girl that I am, I kept wondering “How did they plant all that corn silently?” – there are a lot of cornfields and they’re all in perfect, noisy-tractor-made straight lines!) There are other questions that make you wonder, but it never ruins the story or the suspense.
So yeah. I watched a horror movie. No nightmares (so far) I think it helps that, at its core, this movie is about family and people and, while there is some blood and gore, it’s not really the focus of the story. The people are. Highly recommended.
How is your month of Edwardian reading going? Have you found something that has grabbed your interest? If you’re still looking, maybe a movie would be the ticket – there are some gorgeous films set during this time period. Here are a few to consider:
A Room With a View – From the famous production team of Merchant and Ivory, this gorgeous film of love and romance stars Helen Bonham-Carter and Daniel Day-Lewis and is set in the idyllic Italian countryside.
Howard’s End – Another beautiful Merchant and Ivory production, starring Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins, brings the rigid rules of Edwardian society into sharp focus.
Edwardian Farm – Find out how the other half lives when two archaeologists and a historian recreate farm life for a full year using practices from 1906 England. Fascinating!
The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady – So beautiful! Filmed on location in England and Scotland, this drama follows artist Edith Holden through the changing seasons.
Murdoch Mysteries – Follow Detective William Murdoch as he solves murder mysteries in Edwardian Toronto using the latest scientific methods.
Parade’s End – From the end of the Edwardian era through World War I, this epic story of romance and betrayal stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall.
Mary Poppins – For something much lighter and happier, you can’t go wrong with Mary Poppins. It’s magical and fun and surprisingly thoughtful. Don’t miss it.
Miss Potter – The charming story of Beatrix Potter’s efforts to publish her first books and gain some measure of independence as a single woman in Edwardian England. Lovely and heartbreaking. Starring Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor.
Guest post by Laura V.
After watching Bombshell: the Hedy Lamarr Story, I’m left to wonder what Hedy Lamarr would have become had she been born 50 or 75 years later. Instead of being valued solely for her appearance, would she have been given the opportunity to use her genius to its full capacity? What could the world now be like with a compassionate and caring woman at the engineering helm of invention? Could she have been another Einstein or Edison? Her intellect seems to have been squandered and that’s a shame.
Along with an unearthed tape-recorded phone interview with Lamarr, the filmmakers interview her children, a friend, Hollywood notables, and her granddaughter to compile a portrait of this complex woman. Lamarr was an Austrian Jew with an inquisitive, mechanical-engineering mind from an early age. She was impacted indirectly by the rise of Adolph Hitler before making her way to the United States via London. Even on the strategically-booked boat ride to the US, she leveraged her captivating presence to land a Hollywood contract with MGM’s Louis B. Mayer and showed her fortitude by negotiating for higher pay.
In a time still under the slowly-loosening grip of the Victorian era, a film she made while a teen in Austria, and that was scandalous for its time, Ecstasy, continued to haunt her most of her career. It appears she was rarely given roles she was capable of and was even cast in demeaning roles because of her “reputation.” Early on she was a devoted mother, but like so many other women who were treated as commodities by Hollywood moguls, she was given drugs for various reasons. This lead to her becoming moody and abusive.
Lamarr seemed to have a complicated relationship with her image. She certainly used it to her advantage but was also resentful about not getting the recognition she thought she deserved for her intellect also because of her image. She and musician George Antheil invented and patented “frequency hopping,” now called spread-spectrum technology and used in Bluetooth, GPS, and military applications but never saw a dime for her efforts. She seemed to ultimately buy into the world’s superficial perception of her, of her value only as the glamorous Hollywood bombshell, with her many plastic surgeries and refusal to appear in public at the end of her life.
Howdy Readers! How’s your Westward Expansion reading experience going this month?
I am working away at reading Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage which recounts the journey of Lewis and Clark. It has been a bit of a slog so far – interesting but maybe too detailed – but I haven’t gotten to the actual journey yet. Things should pick up then.
If you’re still searching for a book to read be sure to stop by any of the Davenport Library locations and check our displays which have a variety of interesting titles. Or reach for a DVD – we have a wide range to choose from. You can go classic/nostalgic and check out a television Western which used to be so popular – Rawhide, Gunsmoke, Little House on the Prairie, Bonanza or The Virginian. We also have a huge collection of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood westerns.
If you’d like to look beyond the stereotypes, there are some excellent documentaries that are well worth watching. Lewis and Clark: the Journey of the Corps of Discovery and The West, both produced by Ken Burns, are beautifully done.
For a modern, often violent look at the Old West try There Will Be Blood or The Revenant or the remake of True Grit.
Lovely, fascinating, mesmerizing are all excellent ways to describe the short film Loving Vincent. Unique also works – it is unlikely you’ve ever watched anything quite like this movie.
Loving Vincent takes place one year after the apparent suicide of Vincent Van Gogh in the French town of Arles. A postmaster insists that his son deliver Vincent’s last letter to Theo Van Gogh, his brother. The son is reluctant but soon becomes invested in discovering more about Vincent’s last days. Vincent was a social misfit and suffered from mental illness, but the mounting evidence indicates that he had been feeling much better and was not suicidal (in fact, he had just ordered more paint and canvases the day before he was shot) The people of Arles are divided on how they feel about the situation – some hated Vincent, some tolerated him and others truly appreciated him. Was it suicide? An accident? Or was it murder?
As intriguing as the story is, it is its presentation that will really grab your attention. More than 100 artists hand painted each scene, bringing Van Gogh’s paintings to life. Created in Van Gogh’s distinctive style and color palette, it is mesmerizing to watch one famous painting after another become animated. The story flows naturally, the paintings serving the story and adding depth and emotion to Van Gogh’s world. It is a journey well worth taking.
I love taking a peek behind the scenes of anything creative – movies, fashion, art, crafts. I love to see how the magic is made, the skill and passion and focus that goes into creating something special. If you feel the same be sure to check out The Paris Opera on DVD.
The Paris Opera follows new director Stephane Lissner as he navigates through his first season at the world famous art institution. The Paris Opera actually comprises two major venues, the opulent Palais Garnier and the more modern Opera Bastille as well as schools and training centers for both opera and ballet plus extensive craft workshops. Ballets, operas and concerts are regular events at both locations and require intense coordination on multiple levels. Amidst this controlled chaos, Lissner must negotiate politics, strike threats, wage disputes, replacing key personnel at critical times and, after a massive bull is hired to appear in an opera, calm the fears of the chorus who will be on stage with him.
The film focuses on what goes on backstage, long before and after a show is presented. The rigorous training the ballet dancers undergo, the auditioning of a new, young opera singer, the hammering out of new choreography, the building of sets and sewing of costumes. The Paris Opera relies heavily on new technology – lights run by computers, for instance, but also the more traditional skills – wig making, costumes, makeup. You see very little of any performances, just glimpses and usually from the wings of the stage – the utter exhaustion of a ballet dancer after she has finished her solo, the opera singer soaked with perspiration trying to make herself presentable before taking her bows, the lighting director singing along with the singers on stage, the maids who clean, the chorus practicing just before going on stage, the cleaning and ironing of the costumes. It is an endless cycle of creation and recreation and while talent plays a part, it is mostly possible through hard work and dedication.
Darkest Hour follows Winston Churchill’s early days as England’s Prime Minister, as he battles doubts (his own, those of the politicians and even the King) and leads England into it’s great trial yet.
Europe has fallen to the Nazi invasion, nearly the entirety of the British Army is trapped at Dunkirk and America remains neutral. England stands alone. Should Churchill sue for peace and try to come to terms with Hitler, or fight what seems an impossible war? The politicians around him want to negotiate, feeling that they are in a better position now than if England falls. To fight German will come at great cost – is Churchill willing to shoulder that burden?
Gary Oldman, as Churchill, is masterful. He delivers some of Churchill’s best lines (“We will fight on the beaches. We will fight on the landing grounds….We shall never surrender.” and “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”) with assurance and drama that matches the serious situations. Physically, Oldman does not particularly look like Churchilll, but he captures his quirks, gestures, mannerisms and voice unerringly.
The film does take a few liberties, and fudges a couple of dates, but the overall atmosphere – of England united against a great evil – feels very real. A great choice for fans of World War II history.
Set in 1954 London, Phantom Thread is about the couture fashion of the House of Woodcock. Led by master dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock, they dress royalty, movie stars and heiresses and rub shoulders with glittering high society.
I’m not sure what to say about this movie – after a promising start, it left me confused and a bit uncomfortable. There’s a abrupt change of focus about halfway through that completely altered the tone of the movie.
The start is lovely – exquisite dresses, beautiful music, a very 1950s vibe set in a fine London townhouse. It’s a fascinating peek behind the scenes of a fashion house – the draping of fabric, the sewing with antique lace and luscious satin, the fittings with wealthy women. It’s quickly obvious that Reynolds (played by Daniel Day-Lewis) is both talented and a tyrant whose fussy demands are met by his sister and his employees without question. All that changes when Woodcock brings home Alma, a young waitress and the woman that becomes his muse and his lover.
This is when the movie starts to veer into strange. Alma appears to be quiet and docile but this calm exterior hides an iron will. She begins to clash with Reynolds and when she realizes her place in the house may not be secure, she takes things into her own hands.
I’m not sure I’d recommend this movie. As I said before, the first half is lovely and interesting and Daniel Day-Lewis (which he claims is his last movie and is now retired) is as riveting as always, but the second half of the movie mostly left me puzzled. Have you seen this movie? And if so, what did you think?