filmmaven's coffee chat

a morning discussion of film and popular culture over coffee


February 2016

Are you watching the Oscars?

My intention was not to watch the OSCAR show……and although I have previously acknowledged that I am not blaming the academy for its all over whiteness…I do think there is a principle involved. Then the universe provided me with the devil of all happy co-inky-dinks– and the Walking Dead is on Sunday nights ….so..the hardship of ignoring the Academy Awards is actually a reward of its own.

If by chance Walkers, biters, lame brains and the occasional squirrel is not your cup of tea, I give you wonderful choices of what to watch instead:

ELIZABETH (1998, dir; Shekhar Kapur) – Nominated for best cinematographer Remi Adefarasin. You don’t have to be a historic buff to love this film; the costume design is only made more magnificent by the cinematography ..its  simply glorious. The performances are wonderful but you will loose your breath to its beauty.

RAY (2004, dir: Taylor Hackford)Nominated for best costume SHAREN DAVIS, who was also nominated for DREAMGIRLS in the same category. This film’s lead, Jamie Fox won the award for Best Actor – his performance is twofold amazing when you don’t see the personality and fame emanate from Fox during the film…he is Ray Charles.

The Last King Of Scotland (2006, dir: Kevin MacDonald) – There are several films I feel warrant Forest Whitaker’s nomination, his performances even in small roles are always outstanding.. …but winning for this portrayal of Adi Amin was all but certain. He moves through the scenes as if on air, but so solid and corporeal as to hold down the very Earth itself. A brilliant performance well deserved of the Academy Award.




Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain, its your Brain …

My little brother is having brain surgery….I am having the most surreal week….like…I’ve fallen to the side and the world looks all askew ……BRAIN SURGERY. That is weird. Meanwhile, they think he is answering the questions to the best of his ability ….I think he is joking with them…with John ..its really really hard to tell…..he has the best dry sense of humor …so since they don’t know him ..they are going to operate.

So this is what I’m thinking about today …..


Memento (2000, dir/writer: Christopher Nolan) — Such a great cast! A guy who can’t remember anything tries to put his world back together through a series of notes and investigations. Its film noir for the brain damaged. Some of the story has bumps and bits that you kinda go ..mmmmm……but over all a great must view film. Joey Pants and Mark Boone gotta love it.

Young Frankenstein (1974 dir: Mel Brooks) — One of my brother’s favorite films….and how many times we have relived the Abby Normal gag …lol…I hope they don’t put a normal brain inside my brother…because he needs to be Abby Normal for us …..Now, if you haven’t seen it you must watch with a group of friends and try to learn the songs for next time. If you have seen it, its time to rewatch because its brilliant gag film making.

Gaslight (1944, dir: George Cukor) – Another film with such a myriad of reasons to watch …from the director George Cukor to the brilliant Ingrid Bergman to the touching story of a woman being driven mad..or is she?


Lawrence Block books into movies – Why can’t they get it right?

This is the day when the Papermaven and the Filmmaven gang up on the attempts to take terrific novelization characters onto film. For Lawrence Block its been a truly epic failure. I must say, that is not his fault. Do people who capture novels for film not read? or at least talk to readers? or the author? I admit – I’m baffled. Its so rare that a beloved book can make the transition but I’m going to be especially hard on Frank Scott

A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014, dir/writer Frank Scott) — At first I was a little put off by the idea of Liam Neeson playing this iconic hard boiled hard drinking Hell’s Kitchen private eye. I do make a few snide comments in general about the number of UK actors taking all the good hero roles that could/should be better played by Americans (Tom Hiddleston is Hank Sr????) What? we don’t have handsome hero types? Coming so close to his TAKEN films, I thought the character development into Matt Scudder would take a hit.

To my surprise Liam is the best thing about the film. He is perfect as the gruff loner driven to sober life by a tragic mistake. His bitter, empathetic, thinking 3 things at once solitary aura is well suited for Matt Scudder and I can see him developing over time as the more evolved mature private eye that comes through out the many, many, many novels as written by Lawrence Block.

Its the secondary story development that dives right into blah, yuk, why is this even here? I stopped watching Law & Order several years ago for this very reason- the murder, rape and kidnapping of women is not entertainment. Using shock value is one thing, glorifying and sexualizing the terror and torture is not okay. Its just NOT OKAY. As a matter of fact ..its gross, demoralizing for the viewer. Taking a seductive camera gaze over a woman being tortured and raped is not good film-making. Its not even lower level student style film-making -oh I misstepped the attempt to make it horrifying. Mr. Frank Scott, I think you know better- and if you don’t I’m sorry this was a way to a hard learned lesson. I’m offended and disgusted. There is really almost no way to take this from the page and do it right.

For readers of Lawrence Block novels NYC is the second character. Hell’s Kitchen is like family to Scudder. In a scene on the roof top, a suspect cares for his pigeons and talks about his life, giving Scudder vital clues to solve the mystery. This scene comes the closest to being taken directly from the novel to the screen. It has mood, visually and characterization develops Block’s style off the page into life. If only the entire piece could have done as much. Scudder’s reaction and the follow up scenes build on that character and say so much more by really not saying anything.

As papermaven, I highly recommend all things Block….as a film maven – we are not feeling so generous:

BURGLAR (1987, dir; Hugh Wilson) — Making Bernie a woman was a great idea and Whoopi Goldberg is pretty good on film…so why didn’t this click? I can’t say for sure – I enjoyed the film but I didn’t make that connection to Bernie Rhodenbarr and wish for more…and really any film that features Bernie should have done just that ….again, Lawrence Block created a character that is likable, amusing, always getting into trouble and set for a terrific franchise. Yet, this film falls very short of giving Bernie the delightful turn that he deserved. I think that is where this film fell short, it need to develop the character of Bernie and then tell us the story. Maybe there is hope? it would make a great weekly series, sort of the Laura Diamond of crime?



Tid Bits and other Filmmaven Rants

SAG Awards, Idris Elba and Happy Birthday Mr. Clark Gable or aka The Filmmaven’s rant number 235,450 about some stuff that happened and a few TV shows……

SAG Awards — is about working actors & crew members who united to provide creative protection for its members or you could say a good old American WORKER”S UNION. Its history, if you follow the link…is an incredible story in itself.

The awards (Aired on Jan 30, 2016 on TNT & TBS) gave acknowledgement to a widely diverse membership that I felt more connected to over all. There is work to be done to feature wide and even more diverse options but give credit to the SAG for their inclusion. Special KUDOS to the cast of Orange is the New Black who won for best assemble cast in the medium of Television. A show that not only features a large scope of diversity but acknowledges color and ethnic diversity in its story lines and dialogue. A WHOO HOO note to Idris Elba who won for both LUTHER and BEASTS OF NO NATION. He always gives a stunning performance and well deserves both awards.

Happy Birthday on February 1 (1901) to Mr. Clark Gable. So lovely on the screen. If you are in the mood for laughter try:

It Happened One Night (1934, dir; Frank Capra) — A rom com that most of today’s rom com’s wish they could be ….Claudette Colbert more than holds her own against manly force of nature that is Clark Gable.

Magambo (1953, dir John Ford) — First watch the film, then find all the gossip surrounding the cast..its Hollywood ….daha dunna nnaaaaa………on location. Not a great script but with this hopeful and talented director the story does take shape and is not horrible.

and back to television: Its hard to resist anything with Ray Liotta. He is always entertaining and manages to be some really interesting characters. So I’m a little curious how he ended up in “Shades of Blue” (NBC, Thursdays 9pm). Its not bad. Its not great, but certainly worth a look. Liotta is perfect as the gritty good guy / bad guy leader of a terrific cast of not so good cops. Drea De Maetto, Vincent Laresca, Santino Fontana, Dayo Okeniyi and the other team members are terrific actors. Yet, the show itself manages to jump the shark at least twice in every episode and am I the only one seriously bothered by the fact that no one from the seasoned detectives to the FBI uses gloves on a crime scene or especially when secretly searching a suspects private space?  Jennifer Lopez and Ray Liotta are a good draw and their scenes are extremely well done. Its just not possible for them to be the zing that lets some of the major flaws go by.

Mr. Robot (USA Network) – Great concept, intense scripts and amazing performances by Rami Malek and Christian Slater. Stunning moments from Gloria Rubens (ER, Deep in My Heart, Lincoln). and yet……I’m just not sure I care about whatever secret we haven’t been told. Its sort of hovering around the edges. Really terrific performances and a great concept, oh did I say that? yeah..I’m hopeful season 2 will pull me in….Can someone please pet Flipper? Flipper






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