Network, the movie

Until Saturday evening, I had never seen the movie “Network” that won four Oscars in 1976.  Turner Classic Movies is probably my favorite TV channel in the US and, as usual, leading up to Oscar Sunday, TCM is showing 31 Days of Oscar…..in alphabetical order!

I don’t know how I missed this movie.  I was recently out of Graduate School, wanted to stay in the Bay Area where jobs were scarce and was probably working around the clock to make ends meet.  I remember the iconic line “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore”.  I also remember that Peter Finch, who starred in the movie and won the Oscar for Best Actor, died before he could pick up his Oscar.  The belief is that his heart was already weak and some of the long impassioned speeches compromised his heart even more and he died of a heart attack months after the release of the movie.

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What was stunning to me as I watched Saturday evening, was how prescient the movie was.  Although supposed to be a “outrageous satire”(Leonard Maltin) , it predicted the news as entertainment and the hero worship of men who express their anger on TV and therefore relate and identify with the supposed mass majority of the American public. The movie opened forty-one years ago and predicted the rise of Donald Trump: a figure that TV made.

In a review that the great Roger Ebert wrote in 1976, he said “we may doubt that a Howard Beale could get on the air, but we have no doubt the idea would be discussed as the movie suggests. And then Chayefsky and the director, Sidney Lumet, edge the backstage network material over into satire, too–but subtly, so that in the final late-night meeting where the executives decide what to do about Howard Beale, we have entered the madhouse without noticing.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the madhouse.

This is indeed a great movie.  I encourage you to read the Ebert review then think about the rise of Donald Trump.

http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-network-1976

Don’t forget to watch the Oscars this coming Sunday 4pm PST and 7pm EST.  There’s always something memorable even if you have to slog through a lot of commercials and boring speeches to get there.

This will be my last post for awhile.  On Thursday morning, I will be having total hip replacement surgery on my right hip.  I’m told that the process has advanced so much that  I could go home the same day.  I asked to spend one night in the hospital.  I have to learn Physical Therapy and be disciplined about doing it three times a day.  My goal and reward is, if everything goes well as is predicted, I have a return flight to Paris on May 2nd.  I miss Paris terribly.  It is something I will hold in front of me as the undisciplined part of me tries to talk me out of doing PT.

A bientôt,

Sara

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La La Land

I’ve always been a fan of escapism: TV, movies, books, it doesn’t matter.  But there is something about going out to the Big Screen that does the trick without making you feel groggy  or hung over.

So while in the midst of my surgery anxieties on Tuesday, I took myself off to see La La Land by Damien Chazelle.  Since this isn’t Paris, I had to choose very carefully the theatre and the roads and availability of parking.  Without too much trouble, I arrived at BayStreet 16 AMC Theatres in Emeryville to see one of the Oscar contenders: La La Land

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As the film started to roll, the screen announced that La La Land was filmed in panavision and therefore Cinemascope, in very large letters, filled the whole screen.  The curtains pulled back just like in my youth.  Coincidently, I saw Mr. Chazelle chatting with  Ben Mankiewicz on TCM classic movies channel last night.  Ben said “You filmed this film all over Los Angeles, yet you’ve tried to make it look like it was filmed on a backlot.  All the old films from the backlot days tried to make it look real”  Mr. Chazelle said he was aiming for something in between: magical!!!

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The two men were introducing The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (go see it asap if you haven’t already seen it.  Go see it again if you have!!!) Mr. Chazelle agreed that this film was one of the biggest influences on La La Land.  I think he said he has seen it 17 times.  That’s close to my record of Singin’ In the Rain.  So even though, I’d seen Umbrellas of Cherbourg, I watched it to see the influences.  I liked it so much better this time around.

 

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I digress.  La La Land pays homage to Singin’ in the Rain (in the beginning and throughout the movie).  Boy and Girl meet the first time while in cars and immediately piss each other off.  Boy runs into girl again and almost knocks her over.  Finally boy and girl meet a third time and the attraction begins.  Neither Emma Stone or Ryan Gosling have great singing voices but that’s part of it’s charm as in Umbrellas of Cherbourg.  On the other hand,, they do seem to be very good dancers and I would have loved to have seen more of them dancing.  Listen to the two of them sing “City of Stars”.  Ryan Gosling is playing the piano and he is GOOD, very good!!!

The story is age old: trying to make it in Hollywood, the ups, the downs.  Everything about the movie is charming: the actors, the singing and dancing, the ordinariness of the characters played by the two stars and, as in many Gene Kelly movies, there is a fantasy number that is beautifully produced and executed.  I want to tell you the ending but you must go find out yourself.

Rotten Tomatoes calls La La Land Chazelle’s love letter to a by-gone era.  Yes! A wonderful era full of singing and dancing and the opportunity to escape and forget the present with it’s anxieties and powerlessness.  It worked for me!!!

A bientôt,

Sara

 

 

I, Daniel Blake

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If you have ever walked by a homeless person and thought “There but for the Grace of God, go I”, go see I, Daniel Blake.

If you have ever listened to some of our well known politicians talk with utter contempt about the people using state systems to nefarious ends, go see I, Daniel Blake.

If you have ever felt complete powerlessness and building rage listening to Donald Trump talking about ‘those thieves and ingrates’ taking food out of his mouth, go see I, Daniel Blake.

Go see I, Daniel Blake

When I lived in the Bay Area, at Christmas time, I would get about thirty dollars in one dollar bills and give them out to homeless people until I ran out.  I stopped doing it here in Paris.  I was warned that many kids, big and small, were run by Russians and Slave gangs and it was all a con.  Many of the homeless are very aggressive and can be scary.  Many seem to have their “spots” where they sit every day.  These spots are won by the strongest and the fittest.  There is a man with a german shepherd who sits in front of the Monoprix every day unless it is pouring rain.  I rationalized my lack of compassion by saying that I saw an SDF (Sans Domicile Fixe) pull out an expensive iPhone.  I didn’t stop to ask myself if I, even with my iPhone, would ever sit on the sidewalk all day, summer and winter, hoping that some kind soul would put money in my paper cup.

 

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There is a moment in the film when Dave Johns, who plays Daniel Blake, says “all I want is my self-respect”

Ken Loach, the director, is 80 years old.  I, Daniel Blake won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival this past summer.  It was his second Palme d’Or.  It is a film that will touch your soul.  Daniel Blake is a 59 year old carpenter who cannot work as he is healing from a heart attack.  He is fighting to keep his benefits.  He is treated like a dog by state agencies and the  people who work for them.  He is uneducated and never had the need to learn to use a computer.  He is told over and over that he can find the information he needs on the Internet.  He befriends a young woman (Haley Squires) whom he tries to help in one of these state agencies.  The friendship of two souls trying to work within the system, starving and slowly being humiliated is touching and real.  Everyone in the movie could be someone we know.  There is no flash, no extremes.

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This is political filming at its best.  I challenge you to leave the theatre with dry eyes and unaffected.

Go see I, Daniel Blake

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/oct/25/i-daniel-blake-ken-loach-uk-box-office-trolls-top-spot2318.jpg

 

Going to the movies

Living in Paris is movie heaven! The Parisians LOVE movies. Shows start as early as 9am and the last show will often be at 10:45/11pm.  A matinée is a morning movie.  I made the mistake of asking for a matinée ticket for a specific movie at a Festival:                                       “Je suis desolé, Madame.  On n’a pas une matinée pour ce film”                                                              I pointed at the time and, quite nicely, he told me:                                                                               “Mais Madame, ce film montrera l’après-midi.  Il n’y a pas une matinée”                                         Lesson learned.

From my building front door, there are at least 50 screens within 10 minutes walking or 5 min by metro.  Some are current first-run movies, some are Indies and quite a few are old classics on the big screen.  Two of the companies, UGC and Mk2, have a Carte Illimitée.  For 21euros a month, I can go to any film at any hour at those two Theatres anywhere in France!!

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There are no dubbed movies.  That would be sacrilege.  A movie that has VF (Version Français) below the title is in French. One that says VO (Version Originale) or VOSTF (Version Originale sous-titres français) is in the original language with French sub-titles.  Children’s movies are dubbed until 5:30pm.  After that, original language with sub-titles.  Maybe they think, if you are old enough to go to the movies after 5:30pm, you are old enough to read.!

If I tell a french friend s/he should see a certain film, I won’t be asked who is starring in it. They want to know who directed it.  Even information on the TV about American shows gives the director of each episode.

This week, I saw Captain Fantastic with Viggo Mortenson–you see how American I am!  Name of movie plus the star!!!  The French would tell you “J’ai vue Captain Fantastic realisé par Matt Ross”  Ross’ name will be above actor credits.   I also saw Brooklyn Village.  The movie had started rolling the credits when I realized the English language name was Little Men.  After the movie was over, I thought it was too bad they changed the name as it had a double meaning for me.  So I asked a French friend if Little Men translated would have a similar meaning.  Les Petits Hommes means short men–far from the meaning for this film.  Un grand homme, however, can mean a tall man OR a very important man.  I now could understand the name change.

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Tomorrow morning, I will hop on M4, go 5 minutes to Les Halles where there are 30 screens and see another film.

 

 

 

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A bientôt,

Sara