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Tips For Adulthood: Five Oscar-Worthy 2017 Films

Oscars

OscarsI’ve fessed up before on this blog to being a huge Oscars fan. But this year I’ve actually gotten out to see more movies than I’ve been able to manage in past years.

Truth in advertising: I’m a “feel-bad” film fan. Which means that I don’t typically enjoy blockbusters or, indeed, any film that is overly sunny or has a happy ending.

With that caveat in mind, here are five films that I think are Oscar-worthy from 2017:

a. Phantom Thread: I’ve always loved Daniel Day Lewis, but his performance in Phantom Thread is truly breathtaking. While the character he plays is repellent – as are the relationships he gets mired in with women (albeit utterly relevant for this #metoo moment) – the vulnerability he manages to evince even while playing a narcissistic perfectionist is totally compelling. I know that Gary Oldman is tipped to win for Darkest Hour. I like Oldman as an actor and I’m sure that he’s great in this film. (I didn’t see it as I have an allergy to anyone attempting to impersonate Winston Churchill…). But given that Day Lewis is retiring from the acting craft this year, what better send-off than to give him one last Oscar to savor?

b. Loveless:  I really liked Director André Zvyagnitzev’s 2014 feature, Leviathan. If you’re looking for a bleak depiction of a soulless, corrupt, autocratic modern Russia, it’s hard to beat. But Loveless is even better. It’s also a bleak depiction of a soulless, corrupt, autocratic modern Russia…but told through the lens of a bitter divorce. (Hey, what’s not to love?) If you’ve ever wanted to feel completely defeated by – everything – go see this film. (And yes, that is an endorsement, coming from me…)

c. The Florida Project: Loveless makes The Florida Project look like a Rom-Com. Seriously. But this low-budget film depicting the life of  barely-scraping-by Americans living in a motel outside of Disneyland and featuring a completely unknown cast (save Willem Dafoe) is a treasure: inspirational and defeating in equal measure. It reminded me of a similarly low-budget, no-star (save Michael Fassbender) British film with a similarly gritty, realistic feel called Fish Tank.

d. Call Me By Your Name: This is an absolutely beautiful film, both in terms of the cinematography – it is set entirely in a small town in Italy – and in terms of its subject matter. It is a story of young love – and all of the headiness and pain and that go with it. Love, love, love Timothée Chalomet, whom I’d suggest for Best Actor, except that he has many years ahead of him to win it.

e. Films You Can Stream or Rent: Don’t hate me as I liked both of the following films. But I simply didn’t feel that they quite lived up to their hype: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri (over-written) and  The Post (too predictable).

Two movies I’ve not mentioned – but will be seeing this weekend before the Oscars ceremony Sunday night – are I, Tonya and Lady Bird. Based on the previews and what I’ve read so far, I suspect at least one of them would have made it onto this list (and that one is probably I, Tonya.) I’ll let you know what I think.

How about you? Which 2017 film did you love and why? Please feel free to disagree with my assessments! I welcome your input and suggestions…

Image: Oscars by Kalhh via Pixabay

Suffragette: Why All Girls Should See This Film

suffragette

Votes-for-Women_pin-2LONDON – In the full flurry of mid-life  –  between the job and the kids and the husband and the commute – I’m one of those people who rarely ventures out to the movies anymore. But I’ve got a recommendation for all you parents of tween and teenaged girls: take your daughters to see Suffragette.

This is not a brilliant film by any stretch. It’s got some fantastic actors – including Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, and Anne Marie Duff. But there are a few too many heart string moments in the life of one protagonist for my taste. And as someone whose predilections tend to run to films about the Holocaust, family dysfunction or – ideally – both, I tend to be very wary of anything that smacks of Inspiration (capital I).

But Suffragette still merits a viewing, and ideally on the big screen. Here’s why:

Read the rest of this post over on The Broad Side

 

Image: Nawsa Suffrage Votes for Women via galleryhip.com

Getting Married? See ‘Amour’ First

If you’re already married, contemplating marriage or in a long-term, committed relationship and planning to remain there, I have one word for you during this Film Awards season: Amour.

Amour – nominated last week for a Best Picture Oscar – is a movie about an elderly, long-married couple in which the wife is dying. That’s not a spoiler; it’s the film’s premise. And it cuts right to the chase about what it’s like to grow old with someone.

Suffice it to say that if you thought On Golden Pond was depressing, fasten your seat belts. This is a refreshingly honest, unvarnished and difficult-to-watch film about love and aging.

There aren’t enough about those, if you ask me. Away From Her – a bittersweet 2006 meditation on a man losing his wife (played by an utterly ethereal Julie Christie) to Alzheimer’s Disease – certainly counts. As does – in my book at least – last year’s vastly under-appreciated Iron Lady, in which Meryl Streep depicts Margaret Thatcher in her twilight years not as ruthless and unstinting but as frightened, uncertain, and nostalgic for her dead husband.

In general, however, when we think about films that present us with the dark underbelly of marriage, we conjure up things like Judd Apatow’s new auto-biographic comedy, This is Forty. I haven’t seen that film yet, but I already know that when I do, I’ll be going primarily to share a laugh with my husband (and all of us who’ve grown up in the Age of Apatow) over what it’s like to be married and middle-aged.

Read the rest of this post at The Washington Post’s She The People blog…

 

Image: Old Couple…in Amsterdam Tram by basheem via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Roman Polanski’s Victim Finally Speaks; I Wish She Wouldn’t

Every few years, it seems, we are collectively forced to revisit the cultural maelstrom that is Roman Polanski.

Sometimes it’s because a new film by the European director has come out. Sometimes it’s because Polanski is (once again) fleeing arrest somewhere. And sometimes it’s because we all need to pause and revisit the term rape.

This time, however, our cultural re-connection with Monsieur Polanski comes in the form of news that the then-13-year-old girl whom he drugged and raped in Jack Nicholson’s home all those years ago is publishing a memoir to tell her side of the story.

Samantha Geimer – yes, she has a name – has penned a memoir entitled “The Girl: Emerging From the Shadow of Roman Polanski.” In her own words, “I am more than Sex Victim Girl, a tag the media pinned on me. I offer my story now without rage, but with purpose — to share a tale that in its detail will reclaim my identity…I am not a stick figure. I know what it is like to be a woman and a victim in the realest possible way.”

Read the rest of this post on The Washington Post’s She The People blog

 

Image: 65th Festival de Cannes by PanARMENIAN photo via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Using The Seven Up! Series To Teach Kids About Adulthood

As a parent, it’s sometimes difficult to know which of life’s hard knocks are appropriate for children to know about and when it’s time to introduce them.

I myself came under considerable criticism a few years back when I spoke to my then five year-old daughter about the Holocaust. And I’ve raised more than a few eyebrows (including two of my own) for letting my son read the entire Game of Thrones series when he was ten. (If you want a quick primer on sex, violence and everything short of videotape, do give those books a go…)

But one decision I have not regretted was encouraging our children – now 8 and 11 respectively – to watch the Seven Up! Series with me and my husband.

If you’ve never seen Seven Up!, drop whatever you’re doing right now and go rent it at the library/netflix/love film. You will not be disappointed. Seven Up! began as a documentary about childhood in the class-torn Britain of the 1960s, centered around the famous Jesuit aphorism: “Give me the child until he is seven and I will show you the man .” The Director, Michael Apted (an assistant on the first film), interviewed 14 seven year-olds from strikingly different backgrounds in England and traced their evolution, the hypothesis being that knowing them at seven would give us insight into the “man” (woman) in adulthood. He then went on to make a new film every seven years, the most recent installment  being 56 up!

Across the films you are privy to the remarkable dreams of childhood, the dashed hopes of adulthood, along with the inevitable personal crises, marital difficulties, and economic challenges that invariably accompany the process of growing up.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Sure, there are some pretty depressing stories in here – including one bright-eyed youngster who proudly announces that he’d like to grow up to become an astronaut but ends up homeless and mentally unstable. But there are also real rays of hope: kids who look like they’ll fall into drugs and crime but don’t, tough women who really enjoy their lives despite not having a lot of money, and poor little rich girls who look like they’re destined to remain lonely and miserable but somehow manage to pull it together and lead a happy family life.

My husband and I wanted our kids to see these films because as much as they shine a spot light on some of the gritty truths of adulthood, equally they teach kids that everything isn’t pre-determined at birth, that happiness isn’t just about having money, and perhaps most importantly of all, that life can be full of surprises-some awful and unfortunate, yes, but some exhilarating and inspiring.

Sure, I’d love to shield my kids from evil and sorrow. But they will confront them. And I want them to be ready.

How about you? What books/plays/music/films have you shown your kids that offered a glimpse into the realities of being a grown up?

 

Image: OB/FM 12 by Slinky789 via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

‘Rebekah Brooks: The Movie’: Can She Play Herself?

Britain’s phone hacking scandal truly is the gift that keeps on giving. On Sunday, news broke from the Cannes Film Festival that “Rebekah Brooks: The Movie”will be coming soon to a theater near you.

Most people know Rebekah Brooks as Rupert Murdoch’s erstwhile girl Friday in the British arm of his media empire, News Corp. Until July of last year, she served as chief executive at the London-based News International, before abruptly resigning over her alleged role in the phone-hacking scandal.

Brooks was charged last week on three separate counts of obstruction of justice, including conspiring to remove boxes of archive records from Murdoch’s London headquarters, concealing material from detectives, and hiding documents, computers and other electronic equipment from the police. The charge carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, although the average term served is 10 months.

There’s no question that Brooks is the perfect subject for a film. With her flowing, auburn ringlets and mysteriously cool — almost detached — demeanor, she looks like she stepped out of a Botticelli portrait.

Read the rest of this post at The Washington Post’s She The People blog

 

Image: News International’s Rebekah Brooks Under Fire by ssoosay via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

 

Tips For Adulthood: Five Oscar 2012 Moments Worth Remembering

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

We all have our guilty pleasures. Some of us read trashy novels. Others play children’s video games when no one’s looking. One of my friends still enjoys eating pop tarts as a grown up.

Me? I watch the Oscars. And when I saw watch, I mean consume, absorb and otherwise tune out the world.

So even when it’s a year – like this one when, let’s face it – the Academy Awards were kind of meh, I still derive tons of pleasure from watching them.

This year had its own collection of classic moments. And so if, like me, you couldn’t watch the Oscars live, here are five things worth remembering:

1.Unforgettable Past Oscar Moments. Before we even hit the red carpet on Sunday, my eyes were glued to this fabulous montage of Oscar Fails over on Slate V. Narrated by someone pretending to be that omniscient voice that tells you the winner’s past Oscar history as s/he approaches the stage, this clip includes some of the greatest Oscar moments of all time, including David Niven’s terrific ad lib all those years ago.

2. Sasha Baron Cohen Drops His Ashes.  And speaking of the red carpet, if you haven’t yet seen Sasha Baron Cohen’s hilarious Oscar stunt before the ceremony got underway, it’s a must-view. To me, what’s particularly noteworthy about this video is not Baron Cohen, who is always larger than life and outrageous. It’s the two incredibly dimwitted E! commentators reacting to Ryan Seacrest. It’s times like these that it really hurts to be an American.

3. Angelina’s right leg. Much has been made of Angelina Jolie’s right leg, which made a prominent appearance at the awards ceremony, jutting out as it did – in all its slenderness – from her Versace dress.  But did you know that this leg also inspired a Twitter account? Yes, that’s right. Tweets from @AngiesRightLeg soared on Sunday night, especially following this reaction to Jolie’s limb from the Oscar-winning writers from The Descendants.

4. JLo’s NipSlip. Not to be out done, Jennifer Lopez’ wardrobe malfunction also inspired its own Twitter feed, @jlosnipple. But I’m with Big Little Wolf on this one: whatever we saw, J Lo looked fantastic – full-bodied and owning it –  unlike Angelina who – once full-bodied herself – has gotten painfully thin.

5. Jimmy Kimmel’s Movie: The Movie. For the past few years, late night host Jimmy Kimmel has had a great time spoofing the Oscars. This year, he made an 8-minute long fake movie trailer for his forthcoming hit: Movie: The Movie, starring everyone from Meryl Streep to Tom Hanks to Samuel L. Jackson to Tom Hanks (as a robot). Laugh out loud funny. The joke is always on us.

What am I missing?

 

Image: Oscar by lincolnblues via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

 

Why The Iron Lady Is Worth Seeing

Most of my British friends won’t see The Iron Lady on principle. “Her again?” is their feeling — not about its star, Meryl Streep, but its title character, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

As middle-aged, generally left-leaning types who came of age in the 1980s, when Thatcher ruled supreme, they loathe “Maggie” and everything she stood for. In their minds, she ruined the British public education system, decimated trade unions and privatized the nation.

I myself nearly gave the movie a pass, though not for political reasons. Other than Streep – whom everyone agrees gives an amazing performance – most people, whether reviewers or friends – seemed to feel pretty “meh” about the film itself. So I figured that I could just wait and rent it once it came out on DVD.

It was my 80 year-old mother, herself a former actress, who set me straight and motivated me to go see “The Iron Lady” in a theatre. And I’m so glad that she did.

 

Read the rest of this post at The Washington Post’s She The People blog

 

Image: Margaret Thatcher Waxwork by soulmate02 via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Wanted: Another ‘Iron Lady’ To Take Britain In Hand

Britain has had quite a time of it over the past few months. Between sluggish growth and persistent unemployment, riots, strikes and the Euro crisis, many are wondering aloud whether what this country really needs is another Margaret Thatcher-style leader who would restore order and stability.

With Meryl Streep’s face plastered all over bus and tube stations advertising the new film “The Iron Lady,” it almost feels like Baroness
Thatcher herself has returned to save the day.

Many of us remember Mrs. Thatcher for her lengthy and dramatic stint on Downing Street in the 1980s, during which time she privatized state-owned industries, crushed trade unions and went to war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands.

But there’s another way in which Mrs. Thatcher made herself a household name the world over: she exemplified an unapologetic model for how to be a prominent woman in public life.

Read the rest of this article on The Washington Post’s She The People Blog

 

Image: Baroness Thatcher portrait by Downing Street via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Why I Envy Atheists

Every so often you read a book or watch a film that you need to put down or look away from because it cuts too close to the bone.

So it was for me the other night when my husband and I finally finished watching the 1981 British television adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel, Brideshead Revisited, an 11 episode meditation on privilege, family, religion and sexuality, all set in England between the Wars.

Most people – even those who haven’t read the book or seen the series – use  “Brideshead” as shorthand for the flamboyant excesses of the British aristocracy on its last legs. And make no mistake, there’s no shortage of champagne flutes, dinner jackets and preposterously polite banter. In short, it’s the kind of thing that Americans tend to lap up. (See: Upstairs, Downstairs, Gosford Park and most recently, Downton Abbey.)

The actors are to die for. The series launched Jeremy Irons’ career and also features outstanding performances by Diana Quick, Anthony Andrews, Lawrence Olivier and more. Plus, any film that dwells on extensive bouts of family conflict, alcoholism and unspoken homo-eroticism? I’m there.

So that was all well and good. But as the series wore on, it became increasingly clear that this wasn’t just another voyeuristic journey into the heart of Oxbridge-bred England. Rather, it was essentially a protracted tale of one family’s inexorable, inter-generational and self-destructive struggle with Catholicism.

I’ve written before about my own personal struggles with my family’s faith. How my husband and I have tried, through the years, to reconcile my religious Catholic upbringing with his cultural Jewish identity. And how that has led me to become, begrudgingly, over time, a sort of reluctant secularist.

What Brideshead Revisited added to that equation was the pain and guilt that goes along with that decision. I wanted desperately, as I watched, to identify with Charles Ryder, the protagonist of the story. He is the stoic, eternally rational hero who can’t quite fathom why this otherwise well-educated and cultured family in which he has become enmeshed – The Flytes – is so hopelessly caught up in their Roman Catholic faith.

Instead, I ended up identifying with Julia, his beloved, who tries her very best to leave her religion (and thus, to some extent, her family) by embracing Charles (and divorce and modernity) and the skepticism it implies. In the end, however, it’s too much for her and she can’t quite bring herself to do it. It breaks her heart, but she chooses the Church over her true love. It is her destiny.

I won’t do that. I left the church long ago and save a few masses here and there and the occasional compunction to pray on airplanes, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to Catholicism. Or any other religion, for that matter.  Even Judaism.

But I experience that as a loss. And it’s a painful one.

And that’s why I envy all the atheists I know, who make up about 90% of the people around me, including my husband. They don’t share this anguish. It doesn’t keep them awake at night.

I would love to have that peace of mind.

But I don’t.

And that, my friends, is one price of adulthood. At least mine.

 

Image: IMG_2994 by Franie Frou Frou via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.