Category Archives: Movie Review

An Artist’s Sacrifice: Whitney Houston

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I just saw the new documentary on Whitney Houston simply called Whitney.  At times I cried inside as I soaked up the new footage from her life.  It was done through participatory interviews of those who knew her best such as her mother Cissy Houston, her two brothers, hairstylist, aunt, personal assistants and various record producers.  It focuses more on who she was before she became a star and who she was when the world was not looking.

Nippy, as she was affectionately known, was a young girl from the inner city of Newark, New Jersey.  Her mother was often on the road singing backup for icons such as Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin. Dionne Warwick was her aunt so she had a tall order placed on her shoulders from birth.

The  movie begins with the interviewer speaking to Cissy Houston from a church pew where Whitney got her start. She stated that she taught Nippy to sing from her head, heart and gut.  Well, it worked. She and her brothers hated to see their mother hit the road and they were left behind to stay with other families.  Sometimes they were in good hands and sometimes they were not, as life goes.

This movie shares a well-tucked away secret about Whitney and her good friend Robyn. They met as young teens and became the best of friends and moved in together when Whitney was 18.  Their relationship was questionable and quite unacceptable for the image that others wanted Whitney to portray as a rising star.

Whitney was discovered and though Robyn stayed in her employ, her presence caused the disapproval of her family and her new handlers.  Yet, they were so close that Robyn was the only one who could get Nippy to behave and take off her shoes of rebellion.

Thus, the divided soul began to widen as Nippy had to become Whitney Houston who was this young, innocent fresh talent that was entering upon the world stage.  Nippy, the inner city girl with sass had to be silenced along her inner city jargon.  The new Whitney wore long gowns of grace and elegance and her love for Robyn had to be snuffed out as well.

Then, enters bad boy Bobby Brown on stage left.  As others said in the film, Bobby Brown was more like her than the world realized.  He was also an inner city kid and reminded her of her brothers.  He got to know the real Nippy and he made her laugh. With him, she could please the world and be married to a man with a family on the horizon.

The movie shows footage from her wedding day with Bobby Brown  He was crying because he probably could not believe that he had landed one of the world’s greatest talents.  But what I will not forget is how Robyn looked in her eyes while she was in her wedding gown.  It was as if she was saying, “Okay if this is what you want to do, I wish you the best.”

It was said that Bobby and Robyn would actually fight and vie for Nippy’s attention.  Bobby vowed to kill Robyn and bury her in his backyard.  Hence, the heart and chasm of  Nippy’s heart widened and the drugs poured in to numb the pain of trying to live up to others’ expectations.  Robyn finally left Whitney’s employ around 2000 and it was shortly afterwards when Whitney was seen looking skeletal in 2001.

We know what toil the world tours, the interviews and  the abusive marriage took on her.  But the pressure to maintain this image of someone who was so unlike the real Nippy proved to be too much.   If you look at any of Whitney’s interviews, you can hear the real Nippy from the inner city trying to break free.

There is one really memorable scene where Whitney is having a monologue with herself saying that Nippy cannot find Whitney or that Whitney can find Nippy.  It made me think of  the book called Divided Soul about Marvin GayeI thought of all of the artists who have changed their names and taken on some false persona to satisfy someone else’s  creation.  Think about Marilyn Monroe who was once Norma Jean.

As in all falsity,  it all comes crashing down and those who loved these stars while they were riding high quickly turn and become their worst critics. During this movie, it was revealed that Whitney would go and visit Michael Jackson when she was feeling overwhelmed.  They would sit for hours and not say a word because it was a wordless understanding of the demands of being a megastar.

I looked at her last interview with Oprah after seeing the movie and she said that on some days, she just wanted to put on some jeans and be herself.  But the world would have none of that. Some even referred to her as a national treasure as though she was not an individual with personal dreams and dilemmas.

This documentary delves into the inside of a woman’s soul who fought the good fight as she graciously shared her gift with the world.  Her mother told her in this film that “God had laid His hands on her.”  She gave what she had and I am thankful for Kevin McDonald’s approach to her life.  We know of her accomplishments, but this film shows all that Nippy sacrificed to belt out those iron-clad lungs that gave us all goosebumps.

Push play and listen to one of Whitney’s last songs as she cleaves to her faith and sings I Look to You!

 

 

Lynn M.                                                                            July 7, 2018

 

 

 

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Our Souls at Night: Book to Film

Our Souls at night-bookIsn’t nice when a writer leaves a screenwriter some material that he or she can mold and make come to life?  Well, the late Kent Haruf did just that when he wrote Our Souls at Night.  I happened to pick it up from the New Books Shelf at the public library.

The plot is unique where a widow knocks on her neighbor’s door who is a widower and asks him to do something quite unusual.  She, Addie Moore, asks him to come over and spend the nights with her. She admits that the nights are the hardest for her and she simply wants to talk.

Louis Waters, a former high school teacher, is taken aback and quietly contemplates her offer.  They both have been alone for years and ultimately each feels that there is little to lose. So, on the next night, he travels through the alley with his pajamas and a toothbrush in a paperback. He knocks on her back door and thus, the story unfolds.

In the small town where they live, tongues start wagging but they are in their seventies and they are quite oblivious to what others think about their actions. They proceed and share many intimate details of their lives.

She talks about the tragic loss of her young daughter who was hit by a car.  Both her husband and son basically shut down and their marriage suffered along with the loss of any intimacy.  He, on the other hand, had an affair with a school teacher which almost ruined his marriage and did indeed destroy the other woman’s marriage.

Both Addie and Louis continue their new routine and at one point, they decide to make a public showing.  As others gawk, they walk down a main street arm in arm.  Just as they are reveling in their new-found friendship, the unthinkable happens.

Addie’s son calls and says that his wife has abandoned the family and that his finances are in shambles.  He asks her to take in her seven-year old grandson Jamie for the summer. This leaves Louis wondering how and if he will fit into the new scenario.

Fortunately, Jamie is in need of a lot of comfort, so the three of them have a number of experiences that help them bond.  He accepts and gets used to Louis coming over at night; they play catch ball; they go on a hike in the mountains and Louis gets him a dog as a reassuring companion.

And then, crash.  Gene, Addie’s son comes to her house outraged that she is allowing Louis to stay over around his son and things get pretty salty.  It was a prime example of how some people cannot run their own lives, but they still feel the need to control others.

As I was reading the book, I met a woman who saw the cover and told me that Our Souls at Night had been made into a movie.  To my astonishment, not only was it a movie, it starred Jane Fonda and Robert Redford.  Who knew?  I was excited and knew that I had to compare the two after finishing the book.

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Afterwards, I was able to see a blurred version of the 2017 movie on You Tube which I observed closely. The script pretty much followed the book with a few exceptions.  In the book, Louis used a family of mice to entertain little Jamie but the movie chose an electric train set instead.  Also, the movie added a scene which included Louis’ adult daughter Holly.  And most importantly, it minimized the son’s aversion to their union and this made for a much lighter ending.

When I finished the book, I was a bit disturbed because Addie was so vulnerable and was being victimized by her controlling son.  He made her leave her house after she experienced a fall.  She was subjected to him and his yelling wife who had returned home.  Addie had to sneak and call Louis to talk and it made me think of Romeo and Juliet’s tragic ending.

However, the movie’s ending was more tolerable and it left me feeling hopeful.  Yes, she did move in with her son and grandson after having a fall, but in the movie, the wife did not return home. It seemed like a more peaceful living arrangement for the three of them.  And yes, she does call Louis but she does not sneak and it signals a happy continuation of their relationship.

Thank goodness for great writers and thank goodness for optimistic screenwriters who know the importance of leaving their viewers with a good feeling!

Lynn M.                                                         June 9, 2018

The Life of the Party: A Movie Review

Mother and Daughter

The Life of the Party starring Melissa McCarthy was a little wild and even a tad risqué but enjoyable.  In the movie, Deanna (Melissa McCarthy) returns to college to finish out her last year some twenty years after leaving to get married.  Her husband abruptly asks for a divorce and she is blindsided.  But after brooding, she decides to join her daughter on the campus of her alma mater.

Her daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) isn’t thrilled with the idea but after she gives her mom a makeover, Deanna begins to blend in and even becomes a valued part of the younger set.  Through a host of adventures such as partying, drinking, joining a sorority and even making out with a fraternity brother, she soon forgets her woes as she moves ahead to complete her Archaeology degree.

There were quite a few laughs and there were even some great scenes of revenge when Deanna encounters her ex-husband and his intended.  It was a good way to escape into another world and as I was driving home and reflecting on the movie, it dawned on me that there were quite a few similarities to my own life.

At the end of the film, I recalled that my mother and I had also attended college together.  She was a senior and I was a freshman.  I used to say, “Hi, Ma,” in the hallway.  And later, we taught on two of the same college campuses and marched as faculty together.

So, when Deanna and daughter were clothed in their graduation regalia, I was reminded of how fortunate I was to have had such an amazing experience.   During this month of honoring our mothers, I pause and recall the lines from a famous gospel song that say, “Precious memories.  Oh how they linger!”

Lynn M.                                                                                May 19, 2018

Chappaquiddick: A Movie Review

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I am so glad that I didn’t listen to the one of the film critics who gave the new movie Chappaquiddick a “D.”  As in most cases in life, we have to experience things for ourselves and then make a judgment call.  So, I followed my first mind and went on to see this movie.

Most of the people in the audience looked like they were baby boomers like me and were probably there to revisit their feelings about this indelible incident.  The year of 1969 was a highly sensitive time in our country after several assassinations of political figures and it was at the height of an unpopular war.  So, to my recollection, emotions were already running at an all-time high on so many levels and fronts.

When this story involving Ted Kennedy emerged, many did not know what to think.  This new movie, Chappaquiddick, reopens old wounds and yet it is done tastefully and handled with an air of sensitivity.  He was, after all, the youngest of the famous brothers and people wanted to hear what he had to say and give him a fair shake.

The highly polished and believable cast includes Jason Clark as Ted Kennedy; Ed Helms as Cousin Joe Gargan and Bruce Dern as Patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy.  We are allowed to take a walk back down memory lane hoping to get greater insight into one of the bigger political mysteries. We will never fully know what happened on that unfortunate night in July of 1969 so we can only speculate.  We certainly should thank Director John Curran and writers Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan for doing a fine job of recreating a grave and dark time in our history.

What we do know is, for whatever reason, Ted Kennedy’s life was spared. He went on to live a full life – something that fate did not afford his tragic brothers.  Obviously, his mission was not complete in July of 1969 and he went on to become one of the longest serving US senators in American history. He was able to push through many legislative bills.

We are all flawed in some way and though it is easy to pass judgment, it is difficult to continually stay the course and forge ahead.  As someone in the movie said, “Only history will decide.” I personally think that he proved his father to be wrong.  He survived the hurt, the shame and the embarrassment as he went on to accomplish many great things!

Lynn M.                                                              April 7, 2018

A Gift for Black History Month!

black panther

Black Panther is a movie that captures the times of today.  Though it encompasses much, its powerful message circles around what happens to families when they break apart due to deeply buried truths.  Warring relatives both vie for power and rightful positions as this tale unfolds.  It is based on a Marvel Comics series written by a variety of writers.

T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) has been newly installed as King of Wakanda after his father’s death and after successfully battling  a neighboring contender. He rules and protects his kingdom as his father did while remaining quite oblivious to the woes of the outside world.

That is until an angry and long, lost cousin Erik (Michael B. Jordan) shows up on the African land to take the throne.  He is filled with hate and rage because his father had been executed by the T’Challa’s father, though they were brothers.  He is stronger than T’Challa and takes the throne for a while after they fight a ferocious battle.  He plans on destroying many factions of the world to get revenge for his many years of suffering because of the world’s injustices.

There is so much to this star-studded cast and the best thing to do is just go and see it. Here are a few major actors:  Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Lupita Nyong’o and Sterling K. Brown along with some great, new talent.  The acting is top-notched; the costumes are unforgettable and it is extremely high-tech.  What a fun experience!

When it ended, I turned around and everybody was basically still in their seats. No one wanted it to end. So I also lingered and sure enough, after the credits rolled there were two or three more sneak peaks and additions to the script.  One woman said, “I am going to see it again.”  As I think about it, I will too.  What a gift!

Lynn M.                                                                              February 18, 2018

The Darkest Hour

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Reading Clementine Churchill by Sonia Purnell a couple of years ago sparked an interest in seeing the new movie called Darkest Hour.  Purnell gave a well-researched and intimate look at this loving couple though it focused on Clementine’s role in her famous husband’s life.  It further proved that there is usually a woman behind every great man.  The book offered details of their daily lives so when I viewed the movie, I quietly agreed that Kristin Scott Thomas captured Clemmie’s essence.

But more importantly, this movie showed the inner tickings of Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) as he wrestled with his new responsibility as Prime Ministet at the height of the German invasions under Hitler.  Churchill’s war cabinet wanted to negotiate with Germany in the face of terror, fear and the loss of many young soldiers.

Most of the movie pinpoints a few days in the month of May when he painstakingly weighed his options.  Will he lead the country into eternal servitude to a greater power?  Will he buckle under the pressure because few believe in him or his rationale?

Clemmie soothes and reassures him and tells him that he has what it takes. King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn) finally lets Churchill know that he has his full support though other key members of Parliament doubt his judgment.  And then, he decides to ask the people.  There is a memorable scene of Churchill getting on the subway and actually talking with the everyday working people.  Though shocked to see him,  he opens up a conversation and they all vow that they should never surrender.

He writes a speech with the help of his dutiful typist Elizabeth Layton (Lily James) and the movie ends with him giving a major speech.  The rest, they say, is history.

I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes by Winston Churchill.  “If you are going through hell, keep going.”  He kept going and I think that Gary Oldman could possibly be taking home a little gold statue called Oscar!

Lynn M.                                                         January 27, 2018

An Unbeatable Combination!

The post

When I entered the theatre to see the premiere showing of The Post, it was almost filled to capacity.  I had to sit closer to the screen than I like, but I knew that I was in for a real treat.  With Steven Spielberg at the helm and Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks as the lead actors, I knew that this was an unbeatable combination; yet I was unsure of the exact story line.

This movie takes place in 1971, at the height of the Vietnam War.  Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) has to decide whether to publish parts of the Pentagon Papers  which revealed  classified information about past presidential involvement.  Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) is  the executive editor and they have to see if they want to face a possible legal battle with the courts.  Their competitor, The New York Times, has already faced a court injunction for a similar story and The Post has to carefully weigh its options.

Katharine Graham has been left in charge of the paper after her husband’s demise and many on the Board are afraid that they could possibly face jail time. So much is at stake for all of the staff workers along with their families and The Post’s investors. What will she decide to do?

The actual production of the news story has started.  Writers have written copies on antiquated typewriters; copy editors have edited the text for errors; blueprints have been drawn and the intricate task of setting type by the lithographers has taken place.

But then, Mrs. Graham gets a knock on the door after they discover that one of their sources may have also colluded with The New York Times.  Many are sorely afraid of the consequences and they try to change her mind and halt the publication of the story.  Yet, with a short span of hesitation, she reminds them that she is the boss and says it is a go.

The huge newspaper presses are fired up and they roll.  A few key players grab a savored copy while it is hot off of the press with the smell of fresh ink.  Everybody involved had to work to the beat of a ticking clock to meet that deadline.

Then workers are seen bundling the papers, tying them in stacks and loading them onto trucks which will put them into newspaper boxes. Young paperboys will be getting up in the wee hours of the morning to pitch those copies onto the lawns of subscribers.

The Washington Post shared what they had discovered, won in the courts and went on to become a respected and well-known paper that still exists today.  It was a nostalgic look at a marked time in our history that led to even greater ground-breaking reporting!  This is a must-see movie for the baby boomers and those coming behind who want to witness journalism at its best!

Lynn M.                                                                                      January 6, 2018

For the Love of Money!

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Roman J. Israel Esq., Denzel Washington, is a savant of sorts who is also a civil rights lawyer that seems lost in the era of the 60’s and 70’s.  He still wears a large Afro hairdo, listens to LP records of former artists like Gil Scott Heron and has posters of revolutionaries like Angela Davis on the wall of his apartment.

For a moment, we are not sure if the movie is set in the late 60’s as we watch him eat peanut and butter jelly sandwiches until we are awakened to the real time zone.  We say, “Wait.  He has a cell phone.”  There are definitely some discrepancies.

Roman’s law partner suffers a heart attack, and when we meet his replacement, George Pierce (Colin Farrell) who is dressed as sharp as a tack, we know that Roman Israel is in fact stuck in a time capsule.  He still keeps all of his notes on index cards and has been comfortable being the backbone of the firm who works in isolation until everything changes.

Roman is forced to move into the fashionable offices of the new law firm and he soon realizes that he does not fit into the current scene.  But more importantly, he discovers that his former partner had been taking kickbacks and his faith in the purity of any operation is called into play.

He continually works diligently for his clients until the inevitable happens.  He finds that there is a chance for him to collect $100,000 of reward money if he shares the whereabouts of a shooter in a robbery and murder.  He has the information of the fugitive’s whereabouts and makes good on getting a conviction but at severe costs.

Roman gets a brief taste of the good life as he buys some new suits and enjoys a few special outings before his guilt overtakes him and he begins to spiral into paranoia.  The jailed shooter threatens his life and others in the firm discover what he has done.  His descent down his temporary mountain of living the high life begins and his wholesome conscience gets the best of him.

This movie is quite different in myriad ways.  It would make a great conversation piece at holiday dinner tables and parties because it can be discussed from so many points of view.  Go see Roman J. Israel, Esq. and see how things turn out for him.  Of course, Denzel Washington is superb and Colin Farrell is great as they portray these highly believable characters!

Lynn M.                                                                                     November 25, 2017