Thursday, May 26, 2016

Catching Hell - Documentary Review

Greetings Pups,

I hate sports. I have mentioned this often. And I have my reasons, including but not limited to the fact that I am not good at them. Still, I think what I more have an issue with are sports fans and the behavior that they sometimes engage in. Now I know that my opinion of sports is just that, an opinion, and I know for certain that most fans are good people who just want to have some fun. But, then, every so often, some of them do things that make me question if I am of the same species as these people. I was reminded of one of those times when I saw the film, Catching Hell.

Catching Hell is a 2011 documentary directed by Alex Gibney. It chronicles the incident that occurred at a 2003 Cubs game wherein a single fan, Steve Bartman, was accused of interfering and ultimately costing them the game and, eventually in the minds of the fans, the World Series, though this was not even yet the World Series. I say "accused" because, first of all, he thought he was simply going for a foul ball, as you do, and second of all, he was one of about eight people who did the same thing. How he ended up getting blamed is something I still wonder and something that this film questions, as well. After focusing on the actual incident itself, we also go further into what happened to that man after the fact, how his life was affected and how the fans treated him. Spoilers: They didn't treat him very nicely. In some cases, I might even be inclined to use the word "barbaric". Look, I get it. You're upset that your team...sorry, "your" team lost. Because it's not yours. Because you're not a part of it. But, perhaps, some life perspective might do you some good. And by the way, another thing the film explores that people tend to forget is that many things went wrong and led to the Cubs' loss that day. However, some find it better to place all the blame onto one person rather than to accept the fact that, sometimes, crappy stuff just happens. Go figure.

Now don't think for a minute that this thing is one-note or one story. In fact, they used the tale of what happened at this game to juxtapose something that happened at another game 17 years earlier. That would be the infamous Red Sox game where Bill Buckner made an error. Yeah, these two stories definitely line up. One person makes a mistake and he is demonized for it, despite the fact that others made mistakes as well. Oh, and the fact that both of these games happened during Game #6 out of 7, which means both teams had one more chance and both teams blew it. They all could have bounced back, teams and fans alike, but they let themselves be defeated, in more ways than one. But, again, too easy to accept that. We need a scapegoat, which is something else discussed in the film, in a very masterful way.

An interesting aspect of this film is that the aforementioned director is a big sports fan. One would think it might make him biased in favor of the teams. But no. Gibney decided to show this story in a fair and honest way. You know, that thing that all documentary directors are supposed to do but so often fall at. And in the end, we get a fascinating story about blame, responsibility, priorities and the nature of human beings when they feel they have been wronged. Even when it comes to something as trivial as baseball.

At its core, this film serves to put a mirror in front of so many people in order for them to see the insanity of their behavior. A person's life is not less important than a game. Having respect for others, even if you're mad at them, justified or not, should be the default setting for humanity. It's not a lot of the time. And frankly, that's just sad to me. In fact, there were many parts of this movie that kind of broke my heart. It was rather a disgrace the way that both Bartman and Buckner were treated. It's not how we should be. Hopefully, this film has made and will make some people change.

So, to wrap things up, check out Catching Hell. Even if you're not a sports fan, as I am not, you will still find this entertaining, interesting, thought provoking and perhaps, even mind changing.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Friday, May 20, 2016

Tumbledown - Music Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

Though I've never written it down officially, I have a list of movies in my head that I really wish I could be in. Not as an actress, but rather as a character. Some films create worlds that make people want to be a part of them. As I'm not one for fighting dragons or going into space, my choices tend to be more realistic. Happily, I have found another film I can add to that list, Tumbledown.

Tumbledown tells the story of Hannah, played by the wonderful Rebecca Hall, sans her British accent, as the widow of Hunter Miles, a musician who made one album that become a cult classic. She's living alone in a house in her home state of Maine, the one she was supposed to share with her husband for the rest of their lives, and trying to deal with her loss. She is also trying to write a biography of Hunter's life as not much was known about him by his fans, and she is the one with all the information, especially that which is extremely personal. However, she soon discovers that someone else is in town with hopes of also pulling together a biography, a writer from New York named Andrew McCabe, played by Jason Sudeikis. Reluctantly, Hannah agrees that, since Andrew actually knows the technical aspects of doing a book and she clearly does not, it might be a good idea for them to work together. Of course, things are rocky at first for many reasons, as wounds are still healing and Hannah is overwhelmingly protective of the legacy of the man she loves, but eventually they come to an understanding, both where their work and their lives are concerned.

I don't want to give away too much about the exact plot, because this is one of those films that doesn't exactly lead up to some Ka-Boom moment. It more so makes you want to follow along on the journey and gently slide your way into its conclusion. I like those kinds of movies, so I like this one. Thus, since I won't be giving a boatload of spoilers away, what else can I talk about? Well, I can't possibly get by without mentioning the phenomenal supporting cast, so let's start there.

Blythe Danner serves as, what I consider, the most prestigious member of the cast, playing Hannah's mother, who is desperately wanting her daughter to move on with her life after Hunter, though it is obvious that she is also wounded by the loss of someone she considered a son. We have a great character actor, Richard Massur, who many may recall by his face, if not his name, playing Hannah's father. Diana Agron pops up as Andrew's girlfriend, a character who the audience may be unsure of whether or not they are supposed to like. Joe Manganiello plays a local guy who shows up when Hannah needs him for...reasons. Make your own predictions on that one. Finally, Griffin Dunne serves as Hannah's most understanding and supportive friend in town. And everyone seems to be cast rather perfectly for their roles. That's always a good thing.

And now for a trip behind the scenes. The director of this film is Sean Mewshaw, who came up with the story along with his wife, Desi Van Til, who wrote the screenplay. And I certainly hope the info I got about them being married is correct or this would be awkward. Kidding aside, I love what they created together with this film. I am such a great admirer of character driven stories, wherein you can follow them emotionally and root for them to get to where they need to be. This is absolutely one of those, as I found myself getting tugs at my heart in the best way when seeing Hannah in her most quiet and personal moments, something that can also be attributed to the subtle brilliance of Ms. Hall's acting. Of course, I feel an actor is at their best when given a great story. Mission accomplished. And what I mentioned at the start of this post about the world creating? Well, hats off in a big way to the director for showing us a place that feels like home to people who have never even been there. These two superb artists made a world where everyone is so protective of everyone else and the very place itself, so much so that it makes each audience member long to be a part of that kind of community. And it makes us realize why the unseen character of Hunter Miles fell in love with the town as much as he fell in love with Hannah.

One more thing to discuss: the music. As I just said, we don't really get to see Hunter Miles, aside from a brief flash of a photo or two, but where we truly get to know him is through his songs. These songs are provided by an artist I had never come across, but I'm glad I finally have, whose name is Damien Jurado. He was tasked with constructing a person who, in a way, did not exist anymore, but who we had to believe still did. He was, after all, still alive in the hearts of those who loved him, those who knew him and those who didn't. Yes, I know that sounds sappy, but it doesn't make it untrue. Well, Jurado did this flawlessly, to the point where, if someone had described the character of Hunter Miles to you, this is exactly the kind of music you would predict him to make. And while we are the subject of music, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Daniel Hart, who did the beautiful score. This is one of those cases where, when I refer to a movie as a "Music Movie", I put great emphasis on the music part.

So, in closing, in case you haven't figured it out yet, I am highly recommending Tumbledown. Does it have flaws? Of course. Are there moments that may seem predictable for a story such as this? Yeah, I suppose. But when everything else is so good and heartfelt, where you can feel the soul of the people who created this film in every part of it, I can overlook a few faux pas and just tell you to watch it.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Mommie Dearest - Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

Yes, I know that Mother's Day was a week ago, and a much more appropriate day to do this. I had, in fact, intended to do this thing last Sunday, but reasons, as usual, interfered. Still, it seemed like a good way to get back into doing reviews here on the blog. Talking about something that is completely underrated, unappreciated and something in which no one can see the brilliance. Just like me! Anyway, Mommie Dearest.

Mommie Dearest is a 1981 film that tells the story of Joan Crawford by way of the 1978 book of the same name written by her adopted daughter, Christina Crawford. Now this is not exactly a biopic, as we don't follow Joan throughout her entire life, but rather it covers the alleged abuse that Christina and her brother, Christopher, suffered at the hands of their mother. That's right. This film, which has become a cult classic, is considered "camp" and was once re-marketed as a dark comedy, is all about child abuse. Hilarious! But more on that, and some specific scenes, later.

Seriously, this film gets a really bad rap, even getting the Razzie Award for Worst Film of the Decade. It was not! I certainly don't know why it gets all this hate, and I absolutely don't know why the lovely and talented Faye Dunaway, who portrays Joan Crawford, gets the brunt of it. In my humble opinion, I thought she was phenomenal. It actually might be her greatest acting job ever. But, of course, some people often refer to the performance as over the top, as though it's a bad or inaccurate thing. I mean, do they know anything about Joan Crawford? She was over the top. Oh, and what's with all the jokes they make about Ms. Dunaway's physical appearance in the film? THAT is how Joan Crawford looked. These criticisms are akin to someone saying that Jamie Foxx played Ray Charles too much like a blind guy.

Look, I could spend a long time raving about this performance, but I would remiss if I didn't mention everything else. This was a well-written, well-acted, and overall well-made movie. Everyone in the cast did a fine job, but I must speak specifically about Mara Hobel and Diana Scarwid who play child Christina and adult Christina, respectively. First, Mara Hobel did one of the best kid acting jobs I've ever seen, and I've seen some bad ones. She really held her own against a pro like Faye Dunaway, as did Diana Scarwid. On to her performance, while much of it was understated, certainly by comparison, when it came time to let the emotions go full speed ahead, she pulled it off quite nicely. Really, this story is about these two women and their relationship, and they conveyed that to the audience very well.

Oh, and speaking of the cast, we get a little "What's up?" from Xander Berkeley as adult Christopher at the end, and also an appearance by Belita Moreno. You may know her as George's mother on The George Lopez Show. If you've seen her on that show and if you've seen this movie, you'll get the irony of this.

But let me take a moment to get back to that elephant in the room. Anyone who has ever, well, been alive most likely has seen some kind of parody of the infamous "No wire hangers ever!" scene. I won't judge you for laughing; I may have done it myself. However, let's think about that. These jokes spring from a very unsettling scene of a child being beaten. What is wrong with us? And how about some other scenes in the film? The all out, mother-daughter brawl, complete with the smashing of a glass table or the crazy chopping down of the tree with an ax, which are often taken out of context and if you see what led to them, you can see them in the correct light. Still, how can anyone miss the quieter scenes of the movie, like the ones where Joan and Tina legitimately behave like two people who seem to care about each other or, perhaps, what I consider the greatest scene, where Joan laments losing her contract and the way she is being treated in Hollywood. Three words: Bravo, Faye Dunaway.

Speaking of which, let me say, once again, that I love Faye Dunaway in this movie. I've heard that, due to all the negativity surrounding it, she doesn't like to talk about Mommie Dearest. It's kind of a shame. Not that I think she'll ever see this, but if she does, I hope she knows that those of us who can recognize brilliance when we see it, recognize it in her and this performance.

Bottom line, if you haven't seen Mommie Dearest, please do so. And go in without the blinders or preconceived notions of what you've heard about it. It does not get the respect it deserves. Some people call it ridiculous; it's not. It's actually very good. Find out for yourself.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Theatre in the Theater

Greetings Pups,

When I hear someone come up with a good idea that I agree with, I can't help but share it. I recently found a video on the YouTubes and, for the life of me, I cannot remember who made it. Sadly, I can't give credit for said idea to the actual person. I will, however, correct this mistake should I ever find it. But I digress. The point is the idea and, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, the idea is theatre in the theater. Allow me to explain.

There are a boatload of theatre loving people in the world, like full on "people on the stage only getting one take" theatre. And what better place to find that than Broadway. Sadly, though, many fans will never be able to go to NYC to check out a classic, long-running show, and even more can't head there every month or so to catch the latest productions. So, is there any remedy for this so those who can't see this great shows due to finances or personal reasons or any reasons, really? Perhaps.

As I mentioned, this was not my idea, but what about showing live theatre in movie theaters? Yes, I know they do this occasionally with Fathom Events and whatnot, but they don't do it nearly enough. Also, the shows they present, in my opinion, aren't usually ones that can drum up much interest. But I am talking about doing events where shows currently running on Broadway are recorded and shown in movie theaters around the country. Not eight times a week, of course, like they're done in NYC. Just once or twice per production, so the actual, live shows won't lose a crap ton of money. Just for the people who really won't ever get the chance to go to the city see them. Actually, if you factor in that, they might even make more money. And despite what some people may believe, I don't think this will stop anyone from going to Broadway all together, as when they do they, it tends to be for the entire NYC experience, not only theatre.

Now, look, I can admit that I know zero about the logistics of doing something like this, but I'm sure someone does. And I get it. Maybe my believing that this could happen is insane. Maybe this is something that really could never happen. But for everyone who sits at home only ever being able to hear the news of the wonderful shows on Broadway, or have a singular performance at the Tony awards as the best they'll ever get from them, I certainly hope it does.

And my apologies to the YouTuber whose name I can't recall. I do know it was a guy, though. Does that narrow it down?

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Sunday, May 1, 2016

What I Know For Sure

Greetings Pups,

What I know for sure is that the truth will set you free. We've all heard that so many times, I know. Perhaps, there is a reason for that. Perhaps, it is correct. Of course, like any road to freedom, one can expect to come across one or two or a million obstacles along the way. Whatever a person's amount of trials may be, though, I believe it is the first step which is both the easiest and the most difficult. It's the initial act of opening that door to where the truth resides, to where that potential monster we call "The Unknown" has lived forever. Believe it or not, the full concepts of veracity and authenticity in their purest forms are extremely strange to many of us.

To clarify, taking the first step is easy, but it is the moments leading up to it that make it difficult, thus, making the entirety of the act one that can leave us in a state of confusion and extreme emotion. And that emotion which overtakes us can fill our hearts with one of the greatest fears humankind can ever possess. What could possibly be more terrifying to a world that tends to be content while swaddled in a blanket of fantasy than dealing with the sting of reality? Not to say that all of us are living in a perpetual dreamland, but no one can deny that we may feel a sense of comfort when we close our eyes to the world in which we live.

Still, there is also a comfort in developing a close relationship with the absolution known as truth and in making the choice to have the fortitude to stare at it, unflinchingly, straight in the face. The crushing anticipation of something unimaginable is gone, and, while we may discover some frightening things in the harsh light of what is, at the very least, we know that they are no longer lingering and hiding in the shadows. We can be prepared for them. We can handle them. Every time we choose not to know, every lie we cling to like a life preserver, they are the chains that keep us in place. And often, it is a place we should not and would not want to be if we really opened our eyes. It is the truth, shocking and scary as it may be at times, that will lead us to being free. And a long rest with deception will give you far less peace than traveling a hundred miles with an honest view of your life. It is only the truth that will make you complete.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer