Monday, March 31, 2014

Dear Jodie - A is for August: Osage County

For everyone, Jodie and I are doing tandem movie reviews, as we do for our Facebook page Dear Rocky Dear Jodie: The Actor and the Psychologist At the Movies.  We hope you enjoy them, find them provocative.  Whether you agree with us, or disagree please comment!  We welcome all comments.  Thank you, Arlee Bird and everyone who does such a magnificent job with this challenge!!!

Dear Jodie,

I know you know this already, but please let me offer a definition for the word "hilarious."  This comes from Merriam-Webster online.

"Hilarious:  marked by or causing hilarity:  extremely funny. "

Here's one from The Free Dictionary:  "Hilarious:  Characterized by or causing great merriment."

One of the movies I've been wanting to see this award season is "August:  Osage County."  It opened across the US today, but, being a longtime member of the Screen Actor's Guild, I received a screener DVD copy in the mail.  After my writing was done for the day, I put the movie on; wanting it to put a smile on my face, because the very first word I saw on the cover of the DVD screener copy was "Hilarious."  I read a couple of reviews that said the same thing.

The description you will read on the Rotten Tomatoes website begins . . . "AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY tells the dark, hilarious and deeply touching story of the strong-willed women of the Weston family. . ."

The one thing I agree with these critics was that it was an excellent movie.  The performances were amazing.  The movie went right to my heart, because, with variations, it was about my own family.  

A number of critics saw the movie as a "hilarious" comedy.

I did not.

Oh, I laughed in a number of places.  Comedies should always have elements of drama and dramas should always have elements of comedy.

August: Osage County (2013) PosterIt bothered me that New York and LA critics saw the movie as "hilarious" and that the producers chose to put that description on the cover of the screener.

This is a movie about drug addiction, alcoholism, suicide, infidelity, incest, and potential child molestation, and critics and producers alike thought it "hilarious."  That bothers the shit out of me.  These topics to me are not "extremely funny."  These topics do not cause "great merriment."

The movie was amazing.  I'll be thinking about it for a long time.  Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, and others give brilliant performances.  "Hilarious?"   Really?

I'd be willing to bet that had these dysfunctional families been from California or New York, the "hilarious" would have been changed to "poignant" or "profound" or "important."  Maybe "tragic?"  Do critics and producers think these issues are hilarious because they take place in the plains of Oklahoma … the state just north of my home state of Texas?  Or because it takes place in the South?  Or anywhere in "Hicksville" outside of New York or LA?  


I reckon so.  

Sometimes I believe that the New York and LA crowd of critics and movie producers laugh at the rest of the country, particularly those of us south of the Mason/Dixon line.

I have many friends in both areas of the country who in no way subscribe to what I just laid out, or in no way would support such an attitude.  I am only referring to movie critics, producers, and publicity departments.

There are a number of words I would use to describe AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY, many of them in support of a wonderfully creative effort.  "Hilarious" would never be on that list.

Check out Jodie's take here!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Dear Jodie - Gravity

Read Jodie's review of Gravity here.

Dear Jodie,

The space age began October 4, 1957 with the launching of Sputnik by the former Soviet Union.  My birthday came eleven days before on September 23, making me one of the last to be born before humans broke the boundaries of Earth.

I followed the space race growing up in the sixties with an appetite.  From Yuri Gagarin to Alan Shepard and John Glenn (who turns 93 this year).  From Neil Armstrong ("Good luck, Mr. Gorsky," ... I'll tell you later.  LOL) to the space stations currently orbiting the earth.

My first career goal was to work for NASA. Hell, it's only 250 miles south of me in Houston, Texas.  Which brings me to . . .

Gravity! What a pure movie experience.  The movie industry has produced few great directors, but I'm thinking that Alfonso Cuarón may be one.  Cuarón, unlike most, uses the camera as much as the actors, the script, the set, and the lights to tell a story. He also uses complete utter silence to enhance the mood of the movie.

We only see the live faces of two actors, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, yet I sat on the edge of my seat every minute of the thrilling ride.  Though Cuarón uses the camera to great benefit, producing shots of loneliness, despair, cold, and hope, he does not forget about the characters and the story itself, one of survival and the will to live.

I came close to death when I was two years old from a lung ailment thought at the time to be severe bronchitis, but later diagnosed as histoplasmosis, that cost me half of my body weight, but I don't remember any of that.  Only my mother's fear.  My parents told me I fought like hell. I just don't remember.  But maybe it stays in my subconscious, because I so LOVE stories of survival, especially when they end happily.

I love yours.

Though Cate Blanchett won the Best Female Actor in a Leading Role Oscar, Sandra Bullock damn sure deserved the nomination.  From an acting point of view, she carried the movie, but not without the help of an amazing director, one who deservedly won the Oscar.

Those who have not yet seen Gravity should.  It's a helluva ride.

I give it 9 1/2 out of 10.

Now, Jodie, for my Neil Armstrong and Mr. Gorsky tale.  For those of our readers who don't know of Neil Armstrong, he was the first person to walk on the moon.

This story may well be urban legend, but I sure hope it's true.

Apparently one of Neil Armstrong's early quotes while on the moon was "Good luck, Mr. Gorsky."

For years and years, reporters and interviewers asked what he meant by that, and he would smile, shake his head and not answer.

Finally one interviewer asked and he laughed and said, "Since the Gorsky's have passed on now, I can tell this story.  When I was a little boy, we were playing baseball in the back yard.  As will happen, the ball went over the fence into the neighbor's yard, The Gorsky's.  Since I was the smallest, they elected me to climb the fence and get the ball.

It landed under the Gorsky's bedroom window, and I overheard Mrs. Gorsky yelling, 'Oral sex!  You want oral sex!?  I'll give you oral sex when the kid next door walks on the moon!!!'  So, I wished Mr. Gorsky luck."

It's probably urban legend, but it's a good story!  But maybe it's true!  :-)

That's my take on Gravity, Jodie!  I can't wait to read yours!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Dear Jodie - American Psycho

Americanpsychoposter.jpgDear Jodie,

I must be shallow.  I watched America Psycho and shrugged my shoulders.  I didn't get it. 

Well, I did. 

Here is a movie that satirizes the excesses of American capitalism.  The movie takes it to such an the extreme that one man in New York City manages to wipeout eight, ten people including four police officers and no one walked down the street to see.  No one opened their windows to look out at two police cars bursting into flames and Christian Bale's Patrick Bateman standing sixty feet away staring at his handiwork, half thrilled, half frightened?


Oh, and how about this one.  He's chasing a woman down the stairs of a high rise apartment complex, both of them screaming, chainsaw on full throttle, and no one came out to see what the hell was going on?

One critic theorized that Patrick Bateman fantasized the murders he commits, and that was the movie's brilliance, and the reason that no one in a crowded city saw anything untoward.

I sure as hell missed that.  Went over my bald head like a 747.

To me, that's like milking a cow and hoping to get Chardonnay.  Milk's great!  And with a good piece of fudge or chocolate cake, I prefer it to Chardonnay!  But it ain't Chardonnay!

At the end of the day, after much murder and mayhem and materialism and misogyny, American Psycho is a movie about men's vanity, highlighted in the person of one sociopathic narcissist.

You'll have to tell me if "sociopathic narcissist" is an accurate psychological description.

As far as the movie goes . . .


The movie, to my mind, was well acted.  My issue was with the story itself.  I can name a number of movies that present better examples of American greed and male vanity, not the least of which was The Wolf of Wall Street.

Or how about another movie the Welsh actor Christian Bale appears in, American Hustle?  Only in American Hustle he is not quite so ripped, gotta pot belly.

I have no doubt that Christian Bale had a wonderful time making American Psycho. Roles like that where you get to chew up the scenery (or, in this case, hack it up with a chainsaw), are a blast for everyone.

What's your take on American Psycho, Jodie?  I really am curious. 

Maybe my first thought is the best.

I'm just shallow.

I give the movie 5 out of 10.

P. S. Whooo, Jodie!  Did you cut loose on it!  LOL!

Check out Jodie's chain sawing here.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Dear Jodie - An Oscar Recap

Dear Jodie,
Here is a recap of the nominees and winners in all categories.  Overall, I loved them!  The highlight for me was Pink singing the tribute to The Wizard of Oz!  Brilliant!

Did you see John Travolta introduce Idina Menzel as "Adele Dazeem."  Funny, that Adele Dazeem not has over 11,000 Twitter followers.  Watch the butchery here 

Check out Jodie's fashion report right here.

Now for the nominees and winners!

Best picture
"12 Years a Slave" -- WINNER
"American Hustle"
"Captain Phillips"
"Dallas Buyers Club"
"The Wolf of Wall Street"

Actor in a leading role
Christian Bale - "American Hustle"
Bruce Dern - "Nebraska"
Leonardo DiCaprio - "The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor - "12 Years a Slave"
Matthew McConaughey - "Dallas Buyers Club" – WINNER

Actor in a supporting role
Barkhad Abdi - "Captain Phillips"
Bradley Cooper - "American Hustle"
Michael Fassbender - "12 Years a Slave"
Jonah Hill - "The Wolf of Wall Street"
Jared Leto - "Dallas Buyers Club" – WINNER

Actress in a leading role
Amy Adams - "American Hustle"
Cate Blanchett - "Blue Jasmine" -- WINNER
Sandra Bullock - "Gravity"
Judi Dench - "Philomena"
Meryl Streep - "August: Osage County"

Actress in a supporting role
Sally Hawkins - "Blue Jasmine"
Jennifer Lawrence - "American Hustle"
Lupita Nyong'o - "12 Years a Slave" -- WINNER
Julia Roberts - "August: Osage County"
June Squibb - "Nebraska"

Alfonso Cuaron - "Gravity" -- WINNER
Steve McQueen - "12 Years a Slave"
Alexander Payne - "Nebraska"
David O. Russell - "American Hustle"
Martin Scorsese - "The Wolf of Wall Street"

Writing (adapted screenplay)
"12 Years A Slave" - John Ridley -- WINNER
"Before Midnight" - Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke
"Captain Phillips" - Billy Ray
"Philomena" - Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
"The Wolf of Wall Street" - Terence Winter

Writing (original screenplay)
"American Hustle" - Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
"Blue Jasmine" - Woody Allen
"Dallas Buyers Club" - Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack
"Her" - Spike Jonze -- WINNER
"Nebraska" - Bob Nelson

Animated feature film
"The Croods"
"Despicable Me 2"
"Ernest & Celestine"
"Frozen" -- WINNER
"The Wind Rises"

Documentary (feature)
"The Act of Killing"
"Cutie and the Boxer"
"Dirty Wars"
"The Square"
"20 Feet From Stardom" – WINNER

Music (original song)
"Happy" - "Despicable Me 2" - Pharrell Williams
"Let it Go" - "Frozen" - Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez -- WINNER
"Ordinary Love" - "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" - U2, lyrics by Paul Hewson, aka Bono
"The Moon Song" - "Her" - music by Karen O, lyrics by Karen O and Spike Jonze

Music (original score)
"The Book Thief" - John Williams
"Gravity" Steven Price -- WINNER
"Her" - William Butler and Owen Pallett
"Philomena" - Alexandre Desplat
"Saving Mr. Banks" - Thomas Newman

Visual effects
"Gravity" -- WINNER
"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug"
"Iron Man 3"
"The Lone Ranger"
"Star Trek Into Darkness"

"The Grandmaster"
"Gravity" -- WINNER
"Inside Llewyn Davis"

Costume design
"12 Years a Slave"
"American Hustle"
"The Grandmaster"
"The Great Gatsby" -- WINNER
"The Invisible Woman"

Makeup and hairstyling
"Dallas Buyers Club" -- WINNER
"Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa"
"The Lone Ranger"

Film editing
"12 Years a Slave"
"American Hustle"
"Captain Phillips"
"Dallas Buyers Club"
"Gravity" – WINNER

Documentary (short subject)
"Facing Fear"
"Karama Has No Walls"
"The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life" -- WINNER
"Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall"

Foreign language film
"The Broken Circle Breakdown" - Belgium
"The Great Beauty" - Italy -- WINNER
"The Hunt" - Denmark
"The Missing Picture" - Cambodia
"Omar" – Palestine

Short film (live action)
"Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn't Me)"
"Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything)"
"Helium" -- WINNER
"Pitaako Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)"
"The Voorman Problem"

Short film (animated)
"Get a Horse!"
"Mr. Hublot" -- WINNER
"Room on the Broom"

Production design
"12 Years a Slave"
"American Hustle"
"The Great Gatsby" -- WINNER

Sound editing
"All Is Lost"
"Captain Phillips"
"Gravity" -- WINNER
"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug"
"Lone Survivor"

Sound mixing
"Captain Phillips"
"Gravity" -- WINNER
"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug"
"Inside Llewyn Davis"
"Lone Survivor"

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Dear Jodie - The End of Eve

Cover of The End of EveCheck out Jodie's review and cast selections here!

Dear Jodie,

I, too, just finished reading an advanced copy of The End of Eve: a Memoir by Ariel Gore, and could not put it down.  It reached out and grabbed me and pulled me into the pages.

Ariel Gore can say more in one sentence than most writers can say in a paragraph. 

That's what led me to her online class, back in 2009.  In her book called How to Become a Famous Writer Before You're Dead. Wow, has it been that long? It has, indeed, because I was one of Ariel's students while many of the events recounted in The End of Eve took place.

Like you, the stars aligned in my favor when, after a couple of glasses of wine, I emailed Ariel about the possibility of taking her class.  She replied within a day, and I immediately signed up.

Through the quirks and eccentricities and madness, this is poetic human story, a journey through the death of a loved one and a breakup and a struggle to emerge on the other side intact.  As you mention, Jodie, this is a story of two people who love each other, but are rarely on the same page.

This is a story full of emotion from rage to tenderness, and full of the human condition from total confusion to rueful self-awareness.

Ariel's tight, expressive writing allows the reader to hang on each moment, and highlights, as you mention, the human need for love, Ariel's and Eve's most of all.

The End of Eve is a beautiful story.

Though it surrounds a death, it is not without humor.  An old adage of storytelling holds that the best of drama contains comedy, and Ariel has certainly delivered.  My favorites are those special gems that show Ariel's unique view of the world, of her world.

When I read a story I look for four things:  make me laugh, make me cry, excite me, make me think.  Accomplish any two, and I'm a fan of the story.  The End of Eve accomplished all four.

How, you might ask, can such a tightly told tale of humanity excite me?  Because it offered perspectives I had never seen, had not envisioned, yet so very human and so very relatable.

I highly recommend The End of Eve.  I've never read a published memoir that took hold of me like this one did.

Now, like you, I believe The End of Eve will make a great movie.  Without further ado, here are my casting choices.  I'm afraid I ripped off two of yours because they were so doggone perfect.  Actually, all of yours were inspired, but I couldn't just rip off everything.  :-)

Ariel Gore                 -           Julia Roberts - I think she has matured enough as an actor to                                                 play introverted well.
Eve                              -          Meryl Streep

I know, I know, this looks like a rehash of August: Osage County one of our reviews, but I think the two will find the subtleties necessary to make The End of Eve sing.

Maia                           -           Emmy Rossum

Maxito                        -           Blake Garrett Rosenthal (this is my first theft)

Sol                              -           Michelle Rodriguez (my second theft, but she can bring                                                 that edge that the role of Sol requires)

The Chef                   -           Anna Kendrick

Ronald/Ronaldo        -           Dustin Hoffman (in a cameo)

Leslie                         -           Elizabeth Perkins (though she might be a little old for the                                                     role).  She does have that whiskey sour voice associated                                                  with smokers.

Well, Jodie, this is my review, and these are my casting choices.  Ariel has taught me so much about writing and storytelling over the years, not only in her critique of my work, but by allowing me the honor of reading hers.

10 out of 10

I love your review and casting, Jodie!