The key elements of a successful biopic, especially one where the subjects are legendary in their own right, are as follows: a compelling narrative and adherence to the facts of the subject’s life to engage both the novice viewer and the viewer who is well versed on the subject’s life.
On Sunday night, PBS aired To Walk Invisible, a biopic of the Brontes. The Reverend Patrick Bronte (Jonathan Pryce) is a widower living with his surviving children, who are all grown and seem to be flailing emotionally. The eldest daughter, Charlotte (Finn Atkins) is passionate and ambitious. Branwell, the only boy (Adam Nagaitis) is the ne’er-do-well dreamer with the growing alcohol addiction. Emily (Chloe Pirrie) is as fiery as she is private. The baby of the family, Anne (Charlie Murphy) is the peace maker.
As the sisters work towards their dream of becoming published authors, Branwell descends rapidly into a haze of grief and addiction that will overtake the entire family.
Anyone who knows me (or has read this blog), knows that I worship the literary ground that the Brontes walk on. Their books are nothing short of genius. Unfortunately, I cannot say that same about this television movie. Granted, it is one shot, 2 hour television movie, so for timing reasons, cannot contain every moment of their lives. That’s not my issue.
My issue is that it went a little too fast and the ending felt very abrupt. Certain facts (which I will not mention here due to the fact that they are a little spoiler-y for novice Bronte fans) were not mentioned. Not only that, but the narrative spent too much time on Branwell and not enough time on his sisters, who are the main characters.
Do I recommend it? As much as I would love to say an enthusiastic yes, I can’t. I have to give a mere maybe.
Filed under Anne Bronte, Books, Character Review, Emily Bronte, Feminism, History, Jane Eyre, Television, TV Review, Writing, Wuthering Heights
Cleopatra is one of those polarizing figures in history. From a certain perspective, one could argue that she was a strong female leader in a world where men normally ruled. On the other hand, her time in power was not scandal free.
In the 1963 film, Cleopatra, Elizabeth Taylor plays the eponymous queen. Rex Harrison is Julius Caesar and Richard Burton is Mark Anthony. The film starts with the initial introduction of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar and ends years later with Cleopatra’s suicide after the death of Mark Anthony.
I have complicated feelings about this film. One hand, it is as historically accurate as films of this nature can be from this period (including the fact that Arab/African characters, including Cleopatra herself, are played by white actors). The other thing is that this film will forever be associated with the Eddie Fisher/Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton scandal. At the time of the making of the film, Elizabeth Taylor was married to Eddie Fisher, who left his first wife, Debbie Reynolds for Elizabeth Taylor. By the time filming was complete, Eddie and Elizabeth’s relationship was at an end and Elizabeth was headed toward her next husband, Richard Burton.
Do I recommend it? Well it is super long and it is, for lack of a better term a spectacle that I am not quite sure is 100% historically accurate. The answer is maybe.
Politics and the entertainment industry make strange bedfellows, at least to the naked eye. On the surface, each seems so different, but it doesn’t take much digging to find out that both have a lot in common.
In the 1997 movie, Wag The Dog, the Presidential election season is nearly at its end. It seems like the sitting President will not be leaving office anytime soon. That is, until a sex scandal is about to hit the press just days before the election. To cover up the scandal, an aide to the President contacts Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman) and Conrad Brean (Robert De Niro). One is a spin doctor, the other is a Hollywood producer. They are tasked with faking a war in Albania and leaking it to the press to ensure that the real scandal is not made public.
What I like about this movie is that it is cynical and calls out the b*llsh*t that happens in both politics and the entertainment industry. It is one of those movies that hits a little too close to home (especially in our current political climate) and reminds us that art can imitate life instead of the other way around.
I recommend it.
For a generation, the 1991 animated adaptation of Beauty and the Beast has defined how modern audiences view fairy tales.
This past weekend, the live action Beauty And The Beast hit theaters. Based off of the original story written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve Belle (Emma Watson) is a young lady living in a small rural town in 18th century France. The odd girl out in her town, she dreams of seeing the world and escaping the attention of Gaston (Luke Evans). Gaston cannot understand why Belle won’t marry him and doggedly pursues her.
When Maurice (Kevin Kline), Belle’s father does not return home from a short trip, she goes searching for him and finds him locked away in dark and scary looking castle. The master of the castle, simply known as Beast (Dan Stevens) is a cursed prince in beastly form. The curse is simple: if he cannot forgo his selfish ways, love another and be loved by them in return, he will forever be a beast. Belle makes a deal with the Beast: she will take her father’s place. The Beast’s servants (who have been cursed into household objects) are overjoyed that Belle has walked into their lives and there is a chance that they all will return to their former human selves. But Belle and the Beast don’t exactly get off on the right foot and it seems like the curse is here to stay.
How do I love this movie? Let me the count the ways: it is brilliant, funny, romantic, human and it reminds me why we all fell in love with the original film 26 years ago. Building upon the affection that we as the audience have for the 1991 film, this film is the definitive Beauty And The Beast for this generation. If I had to choose one quality that made this the best film of 2017 (so far), I would say that the writers smartly filled in the minor gaps in character and narrative that left a few questions open from the 1991 film.
I absolutely recommend it.
Before I end this review, I have to bring up the gay rumors. The moments that are getting some up in arms are so quick that it’s really nothing with nothing. I could go on, but I will let Randy Rainbow speak further about this topic.
Beauty And The Beast is presently in theaters.
Life is often a role of the dice. We don’t know where the dice will land, but we often follow the path anyway.
In the 2014 novel, The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street, by Susan Jane Gilman, Malka Treynovsky, arrives in New York City in 1913. A young girl of Jewish descent, Malka and her family have escaped the harsh life they lived in Russia. Their plans were originally to go elsewhere, but Malka tricks her family to emigrate to New York.
Soon after they arrive in America, Malka is not only permanently disabled from an accident, but she is also abandoned by her family. Taken in by the Dinellos, another immigrant family of Italian Catholic descent, she grows up to become Lillian Dunkle, “The Ice Cream Queen”. The book starts just as Malka and her family are about to leave Europe and ends decades later when Lillian is about to lose everything she has worked her whole life for.
What I liked about this book is that Malka/Lillian is a fully formed character, warts and all. Even nowadays, it is hard to find a character as human as Malka/Lillian is. The problem is that while the book is engaging, I was not completely caught up in it.
Do I recommend it? Maybe.
On Saturday, the world lost an icon of modern music. Chuck Berry died at the age of 90.
Chuck Berry was more than a mere musician. He changed the music industry as we know it to be today. Blending a bit of country music with the blues music that was part of the African-American culture in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, he created a whole new genre of music. He paved the way for artists such as Elvis Presley, Ritchie Valens,James Brown, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, etc.
Beloved for generations, his music appeals to everyone. There is nothing so appealing as a song with lyrics that anyone can sing along with and a melodie that anyone can dance to. That was Chuck Berry’s music.
RIP Chuck. You are gone, but never forgotten.
Filed under History, Music
Harry Houdini was without a doubt, one of the most iconic magicians in our modern age. He revolutionized the magic act as we know it to be today.
The 1953 movie, Houdini, starred then IRL couple Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh as Harry and Bess Houdini. The film follows the life and career of Houdini as he becomes known for doing what seems to be the impossible.
The best way I can describe this film is that it is the average biopic. In addition, it was made during the height of the power of the studio system and Hays code, which means that some of the narrative of the real couple that inspired this movie maybe more fiction than fact.
Do I recommend it? Maybe.
When we are teenagers, we think that we have the world at our feet. We think we know everything that we need to know, that our dreams will come true.
Then we grow up.
In the 2001 film, Riding In Cars With Boys, Beverly (Drew Barrymore) is a 15-year-old girl in 1965. Her one goal in life is to be a writer. Then she meets Ray (Steve Zahn), one thing leads to another and Beverly finds herself pregnant well before she graduates high school. Ray and Beverly try to make a go of it for their son, but Prince Charming or father of the year, Ray is not. It will be up to Beverly to not only raise her son, but to achieve the goals she had before she became pregnant.
The thing that I like about this film is how realistic it is. Beverly starts out as an idealistic teenager, but quickly learns that she must grow up for her son’s sake. Parenthood is never easy, but it is much harder when you are still growing up yourself.
I recommend it.
One of the best anecdotes about writing that I’ve heard is that a writer has to fully live to be able to create compelling narratives and characters.
The late Carrie Fisher lived more in her 60 years than many of us do in half that time.
Her 2011 memoir, Shockaholic, is a followup to her hit 2009 memoir, Wishful Drinking.
As she did in Wishful Drinking, Ms. Fisher does not leave any stone un-turned. No topic is off-limits. Her family, her past drug abuse,her mental health issues, her career and so much more are all touched on with a fresh, in your face and funny point of view as only Carrie Fisher can create.
I recommend it.
There is nothing so interesting as a fish out of water story.
Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the release of My Cousin Vinny (1992).
Two young men from New York City, Stan (Mitchell Whitfield) and Bill (Ralph Macchio) are traveling through small town Alabama on their way to the west coast for college. Accused of murder, they call the best lawyer they can afford, Bill’s cousin, Vinny (Joe Pesci). Accompanying Vinny is his very frustrated fiance, Mona Lisa (Marisa Tomei). The problem is that Vinny is not exactly on the up and up regarding his standing as a lawyer, in addition to standing out like a sore thumb in the court room. The judge presiding over the case, Judge Haller (Fred Gwynne) is not impressed with Vinny’s courtroom manner.
The comedy in this film comes out from Vinny and his clear lack of experience in the court room. An additional layer of comedy comes from the fact that Mona Lisa is the smarter one of the two of them and actually helps her fiance when he is floundering in the courtroom.
And course, the best scene in the movie is the one above.
I absolutely recommend it.
This movie is 25 years old and is just as funny as it was in 1992.