Welcome to the 558th Edition of my series. I am finding it a struggle this year to find a paid fantasy football league. Not much else happening at the moment so on the the selections.
The Piano Teacher (2001): This is part four of my four part Michael Haneke series. Isabelle Huppert stars as Erika who as the title might indicate is a piano teacher but there is a lot more to her. On the side she visits a sex shop and watches dvds there. She also lives with a rather domineering mother. A student named Walter, played by Benoit Magimel, decides to audition for her class knowing her masochistic ways and tries to pursue her. I will say this is probably my least favorite of the four Haneke films I have featured but this still has some good moments. Huppert is great as Erika and works very well with Magimel up to the climax at the end. If there is anything I learned about Haneke, it is that he does not make it easy for the viewers.
Summer of '63 (1972): This is my short film for the week. This is one of those Sid Davis social guidance films. This deals with STDs where it starts with Dr. Monk Monahan talking about how he was a irresponsible high school senior and the events that made him want to be a doctor. This mainly is to be a message on STDs. It is always good to visit some Sid Davis shorts every once in a while.
Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940): John Cromwell directed this adaptation on our 16th president. This starts from his younger days in Kentucky up until he becomes president. He is portrayed as a humble and hard-working southern man who wins over the the town in Illinois he is living in slowing going into politics after running a store and becoming the postmaster. Ruth Gordon co-stars as his wife Mary Todd and is portrayed as very conniving which I have heard is quite accurate. Gene Lockhart co-stars as Stephen Douglas, the man Lincoln would have very legendary debates with politically. Howard Da Silva also co-stars in this film. Massey's portrayal of Lincoln is my favorite that I have seen so far and would go onto play the part on stage. This was a pretty good and inspirational look the former president. I also like that it goes a little into his fighting and in real life he was known to do carnival wrestling where people would challenge him but never win.
Lady Gaga Presents: The Monster Ball Tour at Madison Square Garden (2011): This is my concert film for the week and I am not ashamed to say I am a Lady Gaga fan. This was an HBO special and performing songs like POKER FACE, YOU AND I, BAD ROMANCE, and many others. I have been known to sing BAD ROMANCE on karaoke from time to time and had the honor of being able to video record my dear friend Ashley singing YOU AND I in my home. She also talks some autobiographically and does some very quick changes to transition to other songs. I know some referred to her as a Madonna rip-off but I feel she has her own image and has come very far even since this. One thing I did not understand is that since this was an HBO special, why they bleeped out profanity but I'll let that go. I'm glad to call myself a freak.
The Petrified Forest (1936): This is my film noir for the week which was directed by Archie Mayo. Bette Davis stars as small town girl Gabrielle who works at the family restaurant but wants nothing more than to get away. Leslie Howard co-stars as Alan Squier who is a broke man who stumbles into town. Humphrey Bogart plays escaped convict Duke Mantee who also ends up in the restaurant and holds the place hostage where tensions come to a halt. Genevieve Tobin, Dick Foran, Porter Hall, Charley Grapevine, and many others co-star in this film. This was a film that where every character had a lot interest and is great to see how things will unfold. This is quite a classic film and maybe Bogart's best performance at least in this era of his career before he would become more of a leading man. This is also a breakthrough film for him that Howard helped him get.
Gravity (2013): Alfonso Cuaron directed and co-wrote this sci-fi film. Sandra Bullock stars as medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone who is on her first mission. George Clooney stars as veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski who is on his last mission before his retirement. They are the survivors of a shuttle disaster which was destroyed leaving Ryan and Matt alone in space to fend for themselves. Ed Harris also has a voice cameo in this sci-fi thriller. Bullock and Clooney give good performances and carry this space movie quite well in my opinion. I know some did not like this film but I thought this was a very good story on fighting for survival. It also had some really good cinematography. In some ways I wonder if it is more drama than sci-fi with a story that could be realistic. This was on Blu-Ray and what I had from the library can be watched in 3D if you have that kind of tv and this would probably be a good one to watch in that way.
Godzilla Raids Again (1955): This is the second film to feature the infamous Godzilla who would become quite an icon in the years to come. In this one, Godzilla is found feuding with another monster named Anguirus while both destroying Osaka, Japan in the process. Do I really need to say much about this one? It did not top the 1954 classic GODZILLA by any means but was still pretty fun to watch. Anguirus is the first creature that Godzilla fought but would later bury the hatchet and sometimes helped Godzilla in battle like against Mechagodzilla. I recorded this from El Rey where I can always turn to the if I need something.
Fire in Babylon (2010): This is my documentary for the week. This documentary takes a look at the sport of Cricket and a team in the West Indies in the 70s and 80s. It shows how they started out struggling to make it, then becoming a huge success. I believe they were also the team helped break the color barrier in this sport. This has interviews with many of the players that were involved. I will say that I really know nothing about cricket and this documentary did not really make me learn anything about it. I can see it is more violent than I thought. As far as I know, it has never been an American game, at least not one that had any success like other parts internationally. It is still a pretty informative documentary that focuses on a team and very interesting to watch.
Charlotte's Web (1973): This is a childrens film based on the book by E.B. White that takes place on a farm where we have a pig named Wilbur, voiced by Henry Gibson, who is very scared knowing that his owner will likely butcher him. He soon makes friends with an aging spider of the title character who does what she can to keep him alive which turns the pig into a local celebrity. This movie deals a lot with friendship, loyalty, acceptance, and just life in general. Just about any of us can relate to Wilbur or some other animal in the movie. Debbie Reynolds does the voice of Charlotte and worked for free due to her love for the book. Paul Lynde lends a lot of comic relief as Templeton the Rat. Danny Bonaduce even does a voice in the movie for Avery, the brother of Fern who seems to understand the animals. One thing that was mind blowing was knowing that the voice of Wilbur would years later be a recurring judge on BOSTON LEGAL who hated "jibber jabber". This is absolutely something that the kids can watch and understand which can teach a lot of life lessons.
Joy (2015): This is part two of a two-part Isabella Rossellini series where she is essentially the reluctant benefactor for Joy. I am also making this part one of a two-part Jennifer Lawrence series. David O. Russell directed this film which reunites SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK actors Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro. Lawrence stars as the real life Joy Mangano who would become a very successful inventor but had to struggle first as a single mother trying to make it. De Niro stars as her father and in SLP was the father of Cooper while Cooper co-stars stars the head of QVC who is trying to help Joy push her miracle mop invention. Edgar Ramirez, Virginia Madsen, Rossellini, Susan Lucci, Laura Wright, Diane Ladd, Maurice Benard, Donna Mills, Ken Howard, Melissa Rivers, and many others co-star in the film. Lucci, Wright, Benard, and Mills are soap opera icons ironically in a soap opera that Joy's mother Terry, played by Madsen, is obsessed over. Rivers portrays her own mother Joan Rivers in this film. This did get some mixed opinions and while I don't feel it tops SLP, I still really liked it and the struggle it shows of not giving up, especially in the rather cutthroat world of inventing. Russell took some of the events of the true story but still spun it some to make it his own film like added characters. I did like how it portrayed a pretty dysfunctional and complicated family but still very loving, even with the ex husband staying in the lives of the family.
Well, that is it for this week. Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Rachel McAdams, Robert Forster, Bill Paxton, Anne Hathaway, Natalie Wood, Jennifer Lawrence, and many others.