Register for Blues School 2020!

Posted on 12 December 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Given that Deerfield Beach Percy White Library had successfully hosted “Blues School: Ragtime Migration with Kris Nicholson,” “Blues School 2020” became inevitable.

Sponsored by the Friends of the Percy White Library Inc., Nicholson will ring the school bell on Saturday, Jan. 4 at 2 p.m. This first program features “Music from Martin Luther King’s time 1929-1968.” This Honky Tonk piano player will create an uplifting celebration of Doctor King’s life in the 20th Century. Expect a lot of familiar songs from the eras of Harold Arlen to Otis Redding.

The Saturday before the Superbowl – Feb. 1 – Florida Blues Legend Joey Gilmore will add some authenticity to the “Blues School 2020” series. Gilmore has shared the stage with James Brown, Etta James, Bobby Bland, Little Milton and Robert “HiHat” Carter. A crowd favorite at festivals and on the road, Joey Gilmore earned the coveted IBC for his contribution to Blues culture and education.

Saturday, March 14 features America’s Music: From Plymouth Rock to Rock ‘n’ Roll hosted by scholar Matthew Sabatella. Part musical concert and part historical lecture, Sabatella’s programs always have people tapping their feet and feeling enlightened by our unique American heritage.  

Cinema of the Blues will be seen Thursday, Jan. 30, Saturday, Feb. 15 and Thursday, March 5. Due to licensing agreements, the titles cannot be revealed, but flyers and titles are available by visiting Deerfield Beach Percy White Library. (Hints: The January movie stars Ralph Macchio, Joe Seneca and Steve Vai. The February movie won the Best Picture Oscar, and the March screening stars Elwood Blues without his partner Joliet Jake.)

“Blues School 2020” graduation with Senior Moments: “The Unforgettable Band” happens Saturday, March 28. This final program is the culmination of the series and features the Big Band Swing aspect of the Blues.

As an American art form, the Blues provides an entertaining escape. The Blues acknowledges hardship, sorrow and loss, but the music allows one a vehicle to escape to the garden of happiness and perseverance. The best thing about “Blues School 2020” is that it is free and open to our community. How cool is that?

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Remember December 7?

Posted on 05 December 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” Translated quote attributed to Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (though not factually verified)

This Saturday, Dec. 7 marks the 78th Anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Does this sentence hold any significance for you? For some of my readers, the bombing of Pearl Horror was a horror story that they first heard about on Broadcast Radio or that their parents lived through. It was a life changing day for millions of people.

The Japanese Imperial Navy waged a surprise attack on the territory of Hawaii, which was the most western naval base of the United States of America. (On Dec. 8, 1941, Congress declared war on Japan.) A shocked nation responded months later with a bombing mission over Tokyo, which lead to the Battle of Midway, Iwo Jima, Bataan and the eventual dropping of two Atomic Bombs on Japan. Thus, in one compound sentence, explains the Pacific Campaign of World War II.

As a child and teen growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, World War II was very much a topic of conversation, since many relatives and neighbors served in the conflict. Television shows like Hogan’s Heroes found humor about prisoners of war. Afternoon movies featuring John Wayne, Cary Grant and Errol Flynn presented patriotic stories with stock war footage filmed by legendary movie directors like John Huston, John Ford and Italian Immigrant Frank Capra. 

When war concludes, a soldier returns home in the hopes of finding peace. The highest ranking actor in military history, a Brigadier General in the United States Air Force Reserve, James Stewart made a movie with Frank Capra that bombed — It’s a Wonderful Life. It wasn’t until the early 1980s with contemporary, hot film director Steven Spielberg that The Searchers and It’s a Wonderful Life were two of the most influential movies. 

As Greek philosopher Socrates proclaimed over 5,000 years ago, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”  As Sept. 11, 2001 has revealed, each generation faces the challenge of evil and how one responds to that challenge defines a generation.

This Monday, Dec. 9, Broward County Library Director Kelvin Watson will be visiting Deerfield Beach Percy White Library to do a book talk on Thank You For Your Service by David Finkel.  As a follow up to his book, The Good Soldiers, Finkel focuses on the returning soldiers from the “War on Terror” and how they are trying to adjust to civilian life.

This Saturday, Dec. 7, at 2 p.m., Deerfield Beach Percy White Library will present a John Wayne movie released in January 1944. (Title cannot be revealed due to licensing agreements.) While young people might scoff at how dated this film will look, this film is a time capsule about the culture of world war. One will cringe at the cigarettes being smoked in this movie, yet one will appreciate the sincerity of domestic sacrifice. While John Wayne did not serve in World War II, his movies where respected by the American soldier. I should know. My Dad served in World War II at the time of this movie’s release.

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The Diane Baker story

Posted on 27 November 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Prolific actress Diane Baker and Cinema Dave.
Photo by Rachel Galvin.

It should have been easy. We scheduled my interview with Diane Baker to avoid traffic on the Veteran’s Day holiday.  Despite leaving with plenty of time to spare, I sat on I-95 for 45 minutes, trapped between the exits of Cypress Creek and Commercial Boulevards.  When I finally arrived, I expected this movie star to turn diva on me. Instead, she shared her strawberries with me. Diane Baker is an optimistic individual who radiates positive energy. 

So it was with a sense of irony that she would conduct FLIFF post screening interviews of Strait-Jacket and Marnie, a horror and suspense movie, respectively. After seeing Marnie, after not seeing it for many years, her first words were “That was disturbing.”

A sensitive soul, she did tear up when she discussed Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s treatment of her and Tippi Hedren on the set of the film.

One does not survive six decades in show business by being a victim. Baker worked steadily on television in classic shows like Route 66, Wagon Train and Dr. Kildare.  She appeared in the first episode of The Invaders and the last episode of The Fugitive starring David Janssen. Of her costar Janssen, Diane said, “No one knew how smart he was.” She rates Janssen’s intelligence with that of Paul Newman, Gregory Peck, Robert Osborne, Vincent Price and her mentor, Melvyn Douglas.

Television provided a variety of acting opportunities for Baker. She considered playing the mother on Little House on the Prairie, but had doubts about committing to performing the same role for seven years. Instead, she chose the pilot for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which was not picked up.  As recent as 2012, Baker portrayed Nicole Kidman’s mother in the Emmy Award winning Hemingway & Gellhorn, a good experience that involved two days of work.

As Senator Ruth Martin, Baker worked one day on The Silence of the Lambs, another good experience, thanks to Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme and Oscar-winning actor Anthony Hopkins.

Demme wanted Baker for this small, but important role as the victim’s mother.  Both actors were prepared. Hopkins and Baker performed an emotional first take of the scene.  Demme complimented the actors but asked for another take, to make it simpler and play it more internally.  Demme’s instincts paid off. The chilling scene between the masked Hannibal Lecter and the senator remains tense drama nearly 30 years after it was filmed.

Like It Happened One Night and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Silence of the Lambs earned Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Actor.  Despite scary protests at the 1992 ceremony, Baker attended at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion with her boyfriend Michael Lerner, who was nominated for his work on Barton Fink. Like being on a winning sports team, Baker shared the joy as Demme, Hopkins and Jodie Foster collected their golden idols. 

Given that her first film was The Diary of Anne Frank, Baker is used to creating quality.  She has been an acting teacher for the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and served as the executive director for the School of Motion Pictures &Television, and the Academy of Art University School of Acting.  Her interests are broad, and she is an advocate of Norman Cousins, who believed in healing through laughter.  

Baker and I laughed together. We share mutual birthdays, and we sang “Happy Birthday to Us” when she departed for home.

As a teacher and mentor, I asked her what advice she would pass on to a new generation, to which, she answered, “Young people should learn to meditate… Get to know thyself and calm yourself.”

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17 Days of FLIFF 2019

Posted on 21 November 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

An epic tale can be told in 17 days. That is the major lesson that was learned in the 2 ½ weeks of the 34th Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival (FLIFF), which featured a strong beginning, middle and a grand finale.  There were heroes and villains, featuring close calls and thrilling escapes. There was also an acknowledgement that regardless of race, color or creed, there is a community of individuals who love stories told on the big screen.

Winner of the best ensemble award,Working Man, is a film that symbolizes the themes of FLIFF 2019. Ten years in preparation, Robert Jury molded his script into a 1 hour and 49 minute drama that touches upon all the elements of Aristotelian drama: sadness, penance, comedy and redemption. Yet, for all of the academic touch points, Working Man is a contemporary movie that taps into modern sensibilities. The production values of this film reflect upon a little independent film that costar Talia Shire was involved in 43 years ago — Rocky.

Forty-three years ago, the biggest star on the set of Rocky was Burgess Meredith, an actor who was known to one generation as Batman’s nemesis “The Penguin,” to another generation he was “George” to Lon Chaney Jr.’s “Lennie” in John Steinbeck’s adaption Of Mice and Men.  The production values of Rocky were far more depressed than the previous mentioned Burgess Meredith productions. In fact, the actor’s dressing room was a shared van on the streets of Philadelphia.

Instead of missing the glory of salad days gone by, Talia Shire saw him (in his Long Johns, in the dressing room) proclaiming, “Isn’t this great?” Meredith garnered an Oscar nomination for Rocky and steady work in the industry for another 30 years. This is a lesson that the then 29 year-old Talia Shire embraced.

Being trained in theater with the gravitas that “the show must go on,” Shire flew into Ft. Lauderdale on a red eye jet, later than expected, despite an injured index finger and waves of throbbing pain. She would have made Burgess Meredith proud. 

Shire provided expert analysis of Working Man (Videos will be downloaded on my blog — https://cinemadave.livejournal.com this weekend.)  She was generous with the press, signing autographs and posing with fans for photographs.  Shire is a movie star, but she prefers to be known as a character actress.

As an Italian child from Long Island, the film From the Vine helped me recapture moments of my youth.  Starring Joe Pantoliano in a rare leading role, this filmis the story of an overworked executive who discovers the bucolic joy of making wine. 

In 17 days, the climate changed from tropic heat to November chill.  As a double feature, Working Man and From the Vine were great Sunday afternoon matinee fun.

FLIFF 2019 has closed. Many of the backstage angels and class acts are limping home from a job well done.  In fact, 17 days is a great benchmark in the motion picture industry. For Working Man and Rocky were filmed within a similar time period.   Hmm … Cinema Dave has an idea for a film project in 2020 Anno Domini …

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The Warrior Queen of Jhansi opens as FLIFF closes this weekend

Posted on 14 November 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Based on a true story, The Warrior Queen of Jhansi opens this weekend and deals with the 1857 Indian Rebellion against the British Empire.  If you remember the historical epics that starred Errol Flynn, Charlton Heston and David Niven, The Warrior Queen of Jhansi presents an alternative perspective from the losing side of history.  Like the Alamo, the seeds of victory were planted in this rebellion that was led by a warrior woman, Rhani of Jhansi (Devika Bhise).

Clocking in under two hours, this film is an entertaining piece of history. The film provides costume drama with conflict between the Rhani and Queen Victoria (Jodhi May), but also presents the outdoor beauty of India. The battle scenes are epic, but lack the bloody intensity of current events provided on the big screen and the small screen these days.

It is with a sense of melancholia that The 34th Annual Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival closes this Sunday evening with From the Vine starring Joe Pantoliano.  Pantoliano stars as a damaged individual who returns to rural Italy in an attempt to resurrect a wine vineyard. 

Written and directed by Daniel Cohen, A Stone in the Water will play this weekend. Bonnie Bedelia portrays a grief-stricken mother who projects her worst fears upon a pregnant survivor of a car crash. Sunday evening will wrap up the festival with Working Man, which features Talia Shire’s return to the festival.

Prolific actress, Diane Baker has graced the festival with her warmth and humanity. A voting member of the Academy Awards who serves with the Actor’s Branch, Baker  credits acting to opening her world to adventures in Greece and Israel.  She has witnessed firsthand a government dictatorship, while acknowledging the common wishes and desires of worldwide humanity.  She credits much of her education to her mentor, Melvyn Douglas, a MGM contract player who won two Oscars for Best Supporting Actor in Hud and Being There, respectively.     

Douglas helped Baker deal with Joan Crawford, an actress who could be very demanding. Baker and Crawford made three films together: The Best of Everything, Della and Strait-Jacket. Perhaps because Crawford portrayed Baker’s mother in two of the three films, the fine line between fantasy and reality seemed to be crossed. This weekend, I will be presenting the videos of Diane Baker’s interview with Professor Foster Hirsch on my blog — www.cinemadave.livejournal.com, which will detail how Baker dealt with her conflict with Joan Crawford.

As much as I love partying and reconnecting with friends and colleagues, it is these special moments with people like Diane Baker that elevates a film festival like FLIFF.  As much as the industry has changed, it is great to listen to a professional of her caliber who believes in good stories, human values and the importance of laughter.

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Freedom & fun are the focus of FLIFF

Posted on 07 November 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave
http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Behemoth ! Colossal !! Gigantic ! ! ! These are just some of the adjectives describing the opening night of The 34th International Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival (FLIFF34) at the Museum of Discovery and Science.

Cuba, the 45 minute documentary on the six story IMAX theater, created ambiance to set up a unique party. How unique? The magnitude of party goers danced to Tito Puente Jr.’s Mambo tunes on a dance floor situated between a Megalodon Shark and Terry the Otter’s water pool.

Besides rocking it out on the dance floor, Karen Allen and Peter Reigert proved to be generous celebrities. Karen Allen’s drama Colewell and Peter Reigert’s short subject, Extra Innings, are reminders about the importance of storytelling in the movies. For this film columnist, it is such a welcome relief to see professionals like Allen and Reigert express such genuine love for cinema and storytelling.

With echoes of Frank Capra’s Oscar winning classic, It Happened One Night, the French film, Our Happy Holiday, screened with director Patrick Cassir and actress Camille Chamoux too. A romantic comedy with modern charm, this film had people laughing all the way up to the end credits.

This international party continues this Friday, Nov. 8 with Duck Pond from Sweden. Director Robert Andersson will present his film and host the Merry Meatballs party after the 6 p.m. screening. Even Executive Director Michelle Filipi’s success with organizing parties this season, expect this Duck Pond/Merry Meatballs party to be a unique and fun event. 

On Veteran’s Day — Monday, Nov. 11, actress Diane Baker will attend the screening of her cult classic, Strait-Jacket, costarring Lee Majors and Joan Crawford. Professor Foster Hirsch will conduct an onstage interview with this prolific actress with a long resume. Besides appearing in Oscar winning films like The Diary of Anne Frank and The Silence of the Lambs, Diane Baker has starred in many cult classics like Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Cable Guy and A Mighty Wind.

Baker will attend a special evening screening of Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie at the Savor on Tuesday evening, Nov. 12.

Earlier in the day, Florida Film Legend William Grefe will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award before the screening of the 1985 film Cease Fire. This moviewas one of the first movies to tackle the subject of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on the big screen. Starring Don Johnson,this filmfeatures an appearance from Vietnam Veteran’s advocate Chris Noel.

With Justin Long and Radha Mitchell arriving in town to screen their movies and party with our neighbors, it is silly not to join the fun. For ticket prices and updates, visit the website — www.fliff.com. Also — don’t forget to thank a Veteran this special weekend!

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Keep the Halloween Party alive with FLIFF

Posted on 31 October 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Even though Halloween winds down this evening, this weekend will keep the party going with Day of the Dead festivities, especially in Ft. Lauderdale. The 10thannual tons of fun Florida Day of the Dead Skeleton Processional in downtown Ft. Lauderdale begins at 6 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 2.This rowdy processional will snake through downtown Ft. Lauderdale with many touch points that will involve the 34th Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival (FLIFF).

FLIFF runs Nov. 1 to 17. Savor Cinema will kick things off Friday, Nov. 1 with a special movie, Scream, Queen, which is a documentary about featured guest Mark Patton. An avuncular fixture at horror movie conventions, this gay actor has served on Scream, Queen panels with certified Scream Queens like Linnea Quigley, P.J. Soles and Barbara Crampton. While there is safety at a horror convention, this new documentary will present Patton’s struggles in the motion picture industry after A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge was released in 1985. Freddy’s Revenge will screen after Scream, Queen.

This Saturday evening, Nov. 2, at Cinema Paradiso-Hollywood and Sunday evening, Nov. 3, at Savor Cinema, Gamble Rogers: Down at the Terminal Tavern will screen. A documentary about singer, songwriter and raconteur, this documentary will present the life and times of a unique artist. Special guests Bill and Melissa Shepard Sykes will be in attendance at a special party Sunday evening at Savor Cinema. The couple is expected to walk the red carpet this Friday evening, Nov. 1, at the Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science Gala Party.

On Tuesday, Nov. 5, at 7 p.m., local resident Chris Noel will be visiting the Retro Pool Party at the Conrad Ft. Lauderdale Beach, 6th Floor, Spinnaker Pool Deck. Cast in the movie, Noel will be the Special Guest at the screening of Girl Happy, starring Elvis Presley. Filmed in Ft. Lauderdale circa 1965, Noel was cast as an “Elvis Girl.” While visiting Vietnam on a promotional junket, Noel became an advocate for Vietnam Veterans and worked for the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service. As a guest of the motorcycle posse, Rolling Thunder, she rode her chopper to Washington D.C. for many Veteran’s Day ceremonies.

On Saturday, Nov. 9 at 3:30 p.m. at Savor Cinema, Australian actress Radha Mitchell will receive the FLIFF2019 Career Achievement Award. With appearances in films like Olympus has Fallen, Silent Hill and Man on Fire (co-starring Denzel Washington); Mitchell will attend the screening of her new movie, Celeste. Celeste is a family drama that was filmed in North Queensland, Australia.

On Saturday, Nov. 9, Justin Long will attend the Centerpiece Party at Savor Cinema. The actor, producer and podcaster will present his new film, Safe Spaces at 8:30 p.m., and will receive the FLIFF 2019 Career Achievement Award.

To close out the evening, Popcorn Frights will screen the Sam Raimi scary flick, Drag Me to Hell, co-starring Alison Lohman and Justin Long.

Over 100 FLIFF Catalogs have been given away at Deerfield Beach Percy White Library since last Saturday. While the catalogs are likely to be gone at the time of this column’s publication, pocket schedules will still likely to be available.

Keep the party going, but have a safe and Happy Halloween.

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MODS hosts FLIFF & Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Posted on 24 October 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

[After witnessing couples of all types shedding tears during climactic portions of the film], this jaded film columnist feels that Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is a reminder about the power of movies to transform and inspire. The film opens with village people raiding the forest and abducting miniature mushroom men. As the forest fairies retaliate, one thug manages to sneak a mushroom man into the waiting hands of the mad scientist midget Lickspittle (Warwick Davis), who may be a distant relative of Jedi Master Yoda. The titles are announced and we see Sleeping Beauty, alias Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning), in the forest preparing to meet the village Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson). Despite their cultural differences, the prince proposes to the princess and the unification of the kingdoms is underway.

With marriages comes the conflicts with the in-laws, most notably Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), who have a bitter unsaid history with one another. Their first dinner party goes badly. A war breaks out between the village and the forest people. With spectacular battle scenes involving pink fairy bombs, it is the diva duel between Angelina Jolie and Michelle Pfeiffer that drives the emotional core of the film.

The gala opening of the 34th Annual Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival (FLIFF) will be held at the Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science (MODS) on next Friday night, Nov.1. Actors Karen Allen and Peter Riegert [who were in Animal House together], are scheduled to walk the red carpet that night. The evening will include a screening of the movie Cuba. The Tito Puente Latin Jazz Ensemble will provide the musical ambiance (sponsored by local resident Cyndi Boyar in honor of her late father, Jerry, and mother, June). For tickets and membership information, contact 954-525-FILM.

There is no denying that Halloween is in the air in our neighborhood, with the City of Deerfield Halloween festivities at Oveta McKeithen Recreational Complex this Friday night and the Halloween Hoe-Down at the Villages of Hillsboro Park on Saturday night. Not to be left out of the fun, Deerfield Beach Percy White Library will be contributing with a special screening of a Frankenstein movie at 2 p.m. on Saturday. (The movie title cannot be announced due to licensing agreement.) Lacking the special effects of Maleficent, this black & white 1943 classic is currently being honored at Universal Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando. The screening is free and will include comic book giveaways while supplies last. 

Stop by the library, check out a scary book for the scary season and enjoy the display created by Andrea Rubin, Latasha Garrett and Joy Smith.

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Oct. 11 was El Camino day!

Posted on 16 October 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave
http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

As late as Monday morning, Oct. 7, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie was supposed to open exclusively in Miami. Perhaps some studio executive read this column a few weeks ago because last Friday night, the film also opened locally, as close as the IPIC Boca Raton theater in Mizner Park. The first screening was packed and the ticket buyers were intimately aware of every nuance of this Breaking Bad history, while embracing some of the characters from Better Call Saul, a spin off.  This is noteworthy because El Camino also debuted on Netflix the same day — Friday, Oct. 11.

Like Rob Zombie’s 3 from Hell, Vince Gilligan’s El Camino is redefining the business model for a motion picture release. Neither film rivals the box office revenue of a Joker or The Addams Family, but both 3 from Hell and El Camino are relatively low budget productions, so the return of investment can be substantially larger, whereas a successful big budgeted studio production with many movie stars may never see a profit for many years after release.  Kudos to the independent streaks of Rob Zombie and Vince Gilligan for lighting the way for the creative part of the motion picture industry.

Despite being part of the Breaking Bad universe, El Camino is a standalone movie. One does not need to see the previous 62 episodes of the television series, but one will likely want to watch them now. The El Camino Jessie Pinkman (Aaron Paul) character is the gestalt of television version of Breaking Bad. Jessie, the boy, has become a man and is the whole of the sum of his 62 parts.    

El Camino opens  moments after the grand “Felina” of Breaking Bad. Jessie has escaped his captivity and is on the run from the police and sadistic criminal scumbags. After reuniting with his old buddies Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) and Badger (Matt Jones), Jessie seeks the services of Ed (the late Robert Forster), a man who runs his own private industry witness protection program.  

Given writer/director Vince Gilligan’s love of words, El Camino is a double entendre. While there is a Chevrolet car in the movie and the locations are set in New Mexico, El Camino is a Spanish word for “a path, a road or a journey.”

How Jessie goes from “Point A” to “Point B” is an entertaining story, yet this is a meditative story about potential redemption.  Throughout the film, various Breaking Bad characters appear in flashbacks. Each provide kernels of wisdom for Jessie’s journey to enlightenment.  

Sadly, the Oct. 11 release also marks the passing of Robert Forster. An actor with 50 years of motion picture experience, Forster provides a fine swan song performance as “Ed the Disappearer.” Suffering from Brain Cancer at the time of filming, Forster’s performance rings sincere and true. 

There are some great violent visuals to El Camino, but the quiet moments with Aaron Paul and Robert Forster will be the cinematic moments to savor. 

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“Sympathy for the devil” begins with Joker

Posted on 10 October 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Joker is probably the most ambiguous movie to open with such strong box office revenue. It helps to have a comic book character with almost 80 years of villainy. Mix that with almost 50 years of movies featuring urban alienation, and it is little wonder why Joker became a box office monster last weekend.  

“Sympathy for the devil” begins with an unreliable narrator. Understanding this concept will enhance your viewing pleasure of this film if being seated next to a madman on a roller coaster ride is your idea of pleasure.

The film opens with Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) putting on his clown make-up and preparing for his temp job as a sign carrier for a failed business.  After being mugged on the street by a bunch of callow boys, Arthur loses his job because his sign is destroyed.

Defeated, Arthur returns to his one room apartment that he shares with his delusional mother.  The two find pleasure in watching Murray Franklin’s (Robert DeNiro) celebrity night time television show. Beyond that, many things happen and Arthur is right in the middle of these wild situations. Sometimes, Arthur is the agent of chaos; sometimes, he is the victim of chaos. Regardless of the circumstance, Arthur laughs at jokes that only he understands.  

Through the cloak of ambiguity, this film manages to raise social messages.  From a subway shooting that echoes Bernard Goetz’s 1984 headlines, Arthur inspires a mass protest to “Kill the Rich” by people wearing clown make-up, which echoes the 2014 Ferguson Missouri riots. 

Batman’s Father, Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen) is a self-made billionaire, who commits to the political ambition to become Mayor of Gotham City, which echoes Donald F. Trump’s Presidency.

Much like Renee Zellweger’s performance in Judy, Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as Joker is likely to be Oscar-nominated. The actor runs the gamut of human emotions.  One feels sorry for Arthur, but the seduction of evil is real and an unsuspecting individual could easily become the Joker’s prey.

Though clowns have been part of the entertainment industry since the Roman Circus, recently clowns have been front and center during recent Halloweens. Sid Haig’s Captain Spaulding and Pennywise the Dancing Clown from Stephen King’s It books and movies have been trick or treat favorites and horror movie convention winners.  Like Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger, Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker fits right into this Rogues Gallery Circus.

For those who want to don greasepaint beyond Halloween, the Kazoo and Drum Corps for the “Day of the Dead” is seeking volunteers for the parade in Downtown Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday, Nov. 2.  (Visit the website at www.dayofthedeadflorida.com.)

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