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December 2011
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Political Briefs

My Week with Marilyn

4 stars out of 5
Because of the Oscar nomination, we to see My Week with Marilyn. We're glad we did, and  bet you will be too. Neal Vitale gave it 4.5 stars here in his year-end roundup. There's not a gnat's crochet of difference in our feelings about the film. The IMDB summary: "Colin Clark, an employee of Sir Laurence Olivier's, documents the tense interaction between Olivier and Marilyn Monroe during production of The Prince and the Showgirl."
The movie is based on Clark's memoir of the most exciting job of his life, turned into a screenplay by Adrian Hodges and director Simon Curtis. It's just so darned cute.. Michelle Williams is no Meryl Streep, but she does doe a pretty good Marilyn Monroe. Eddie Redmayne is sweet and wholesome as Clark, and Kenney Branagh brings Laurence Olivier back from the dead. There's some remarkable makeup done to create a physical resemblance. In fact, we rented The Prince and the Showgirl when we got home, which renders the performances even spookier. Looking at them side by side is enlightening, if you can stand the garish over-saturated 50s colors and the hammy acting. A Showgirl made with Willians and Branagh would be a much better movie.

Tyler's grandchildren, Shuttle Cockpit, Animated Map, Dan Grobstein File

Kevin Mostyn notes: Former President John Tyler's (1790-1862) grandchildren still alive.
A friend notes: this is the cockpit of the last space shuttle after it was decommisioned. It is sad to see how many dials and mecahnical switches there are, and how few computer screens. Another friend recommends this animated map of middle east empires.

Dan Grobstein File

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Every year, I am the MC at a Christmas Carol singing party held by my good friend and fellow teacher, Mrs. S.  do a little commentary on each carol. Another good friend and teacher (ret.), Kent Peterman, has slipped me the real inside dope on Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.

We went to see Richard Glazier in concert last night and he does a great show about music from the old time eras. (Gershwin, Arlen, etc.)

One of the things he said was that the original lyrics for Have Yourself etc. were much darker and he sang some of them. He said Judy, Judy, Judy said she wouldn't sing it to Margaret O'Brien with those lyrics because people would think her a monster. I thought that you might want to work it in to your background...or not.
Herewith the original lyrics:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
It may be your last
Next year we may all be living in the past
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Pop that champagne cork
Next year we may all be living in New York
No good times like the olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who were dear to us
Will be near to us no more
But at least we all will be together
If the Lord allows
From now on, we'll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now

 One can readily see Judy's reluctance. The Glazier show was wonderful. Highly recommend. Especially for people like us who love the back stories. He's been on PBS and will be again soon. He's also at but it's not a great website.


Starting Another War To Maintain A State Of War

Starting Another "War" To Maintain A State Of "War"
Given that many Republicans, Tea Party adherents, and Justices Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Roberts, and Kennedy maintain their decisions are because of their strict construction of the Constitution and adherence to the intent of the Founders, this comment from James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, is appropriate: "Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended . . . The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals, engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare. Those truths are well established."


2 stars out of 5
This film is based on the stage play God of Carnage, written by the frightfully clever playwright Yasmina "Art" Reza, who cowrote the screen play. Controversial director Roman Polanski directed this film, which seems to be in New York but was actually shot (except for some establishing shots) in Paris (the guy who peers out of his apartment at the ruckus is Polanski, in a cameo).  The talent on display is amazing: Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz. But the downside of letting a playwright adapt her own work is that she's so in love with the words she won't really open it up. If you didn't know this was based on a play, you'd know it was based on a play. It is claustrophobic. Also, although Winslet said in an interview she was thankful the movie was funny because otherwise it would be hard to watch, she was half right: it is hard to watch. My reviewing partner Neal Vitale skipped this movie because he disliked the play. Maybe I should have followed his lead.

Iron Lady

4 stars out of 5
It isn't really a biopic of Margaret Thatcher, more a picaresque down memory lane with an old woman who has dementia. Meryl Streep inhabits the role in an almost spooky way, and Jim Broadbent is impressive (as always) as her late husband Denis, who is her constant hallucinatory companion. Thatcher's supporters in Great Britain hate the film; they want more of the young  Maggie and none of the old, and they resent the implication that she regretted neglecting her family as she rose to the top, and that Denis and her twins Mark and Carol resented her absence. It isn't for me to say, but the parts of the story I already knew are presented with some fidelity, and I do think the mood is captured in an impressionistic way. The director was Phyllida "Mamma Mia" Lloyd, reunited with her star, and the writer was Abi Morgan, who has written a bunch of British television, including six episodes of the BBC series The Hour. Baroness Thatcher isn't the goddess here she was in her homeland, making it easier to sell this version of her here. So, just say to yourself, "It's only a movie..."

Neal Vitale Reviews: We Need To Talk About Kevin

4 stars out of 5

British filmmaker Lynne Ramsey (Ratcatcher) has made a strong movie that is often difficult to watch but also chilling and provocative. We Need To Talk About Kevin tells the story of a young family where the oldest child is a sociopath; the film is sometimes confusingly non-linear, flashing forward and back, and often quite beautiful in a cool, intense fashion. Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton) is the mother, and the awkwardness, reluctance, and frustrations of her character are palpable and disquieting. It is an impressive if opaque performance, and it suffuses the film with an edginess that is riveting.

Neal Vitale Reviews: Pariah

3.5 stars out of 5    

Pariah is Dee Rees' first feature film, profiling a teenager in Brooklyn as she comes of age and begins to explore her sexual identity in a restrictive household. Adepero Oduye (also in her first starring role) is the young girl, and she gives a powerful, commanding performance that is the core of the film. The storyline - focused on girl-to-girl relationships - is actually a much broader narrative, speaking to the conflicting emotions and conflicts of growing up. A nice, small film.

[A note about the internet - don't believe everything you read, even when it is something seemingly "factual" like movie times. I wound up seeing Pariah  because I had gone to see The Muppets - yes, The Muppets - based on search results online. When I got to the theatre, the film had started 45 minutes earlier than what was shown in a Google search. The theatre was unapologetic.]