Saturday, January 30, 2016

You Can Forget All Your Troubles; Forget All Your Cares

Girl, Interrupted
Director: James Mangold
Cast: Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie, Whoopi Goldberg, Brittany Murphy, Elisabeth Moss, Clea DuVall, Vanessa Redgrave, Jared Leto, Jeffery Tambor
Released: December 21, 1999
Viewed in theaters: January 22, 2000

Oscar nominations:

Best Supporting Actress - Angelina Jolie (won)

  
This movie is based on the memoir of the same name written by Susanna Kaysen (portrayed by Winona Ryder) who wrote about her time (a year and a half) at psychiatrist ward called Claymoore in the late '60s. This is a book I've always meant to read because I like the movie, but I can never find it.  

Right after high school, Susanna is sent to Claymoore. Her parents are worried about her because she is depressed and has no desire to go to college. When her counselor asks her what she's going to do, she tells her that she wants to write. She sleeps with a professor who is married and a guy she met at a party (Jared Leto) so she is deemed "promiscuous". After trying to kill herself by taking an entire bottle of aspirin and chasing it down with a bottle of vokda (she says she had a headache), she is sent to the ward that helps young women with mental problems. 

There's Polly, a schizophrenic who has half of her face badly burned. She is played by Elisabeth Moss who of course went on to be in Mad Men, but I've never seen that show, so to me, she will always be Zoe Bartlett from The West Wing. She is nicknamed "Torch" by AJ's character. It's been about ten years since I last saw this movie and I remembered she had a nickname, but I could have sworn it was "Flame". Close enough! Also, I'm not sure if she calls her this because Polly has red hair or because her face has been badly burned. Hopefully not because of the latter because that would be messed up, but with Lisa you never know! 

Susanna's roommate is Georgina (played by Clea DuVall...okay, I always thought her name was pronounced "Clee-ah", but apparently it's "Clay-ah"?) who is a pathological liar. She tells Susanna this after she has told her how Polly burned her face. Her account is that Polly had a dog she was allergic to and got a big rash on her face and put some ointment on her face, then lit a match. So how did Polly really burn her face? It's never brought up. 


Sociopath Lisa is played by Angelina Jolie for which she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. You may remember that being the ceremony where she wore a vial of Billy Bob Thorton's blood (remember when they were married? How long ago that seems!) and made out with her brother. Sometimes I miss the crazy AJ. Did you know that when you look at Angelina's IMDb page, this movie isn't even featured as one of her "known for" titles? I'm sorry, but what kind of bull**** is that? When I think of Angelina Jolie in terms of film roles, Girl, Interrupted is ALWAYS the first movie I think of! It's probably a combination of several things: it was the first movie I saw AJ in, she has a very memorable role, and for a long time it was the only thing I liked her in. Oh, and she did win the Oscar so you think that would have edged out, say, Salt to make the cut! Anyway! I digress!  Let's get back to the review of the movie. Lisa has been at Claymoore for eight years and is the ringleader of the five or so girls who have their own little clique. (This includes Polly and Susanna as well as a anorexic girl named Janet and a mentally disturbed lesbian named Cynthia). She has a captivating, charming personality and draws Susanna into her circle of madness. She is also a bully and manipulative and gets a thrill out of taunting those she does not like. I loved Jolie's performance, but I really hated Lisa. She is an awful person. But I could see how the other girls were drawn to her.
The most interesting, disturbing, and tragic character is Daisy. She is played by Brittany Murphy and I'm gong to say it: I think this was her best role. Now I didn't say most iconic or popular, because that would be Clueless, but I do think this is her best acting. If anyone needs a psych ward, it's her. (I mean, they all need one...but she really needs one). And yet, for some reason, she is released early. She has this weird eating disorder where the only thing she will eat is rotisserie chickens from her father's deli and she keeps the eaten carcasses under her bed. She has a private room because she prefers to keep to herself, oh, and did I mention the most disturbing thing of all: her father has sex with her. :::shudder::: So why she is released, I wasn't really sure. But we'll get back to her later.

Lisa invites Susanna into her little circle. She encourages her to fake take her medication, talk back to the staff (which includes Whoopi Goldberg as Nurse Valerie and Vanessa Redgrave and Jeffrey Tambor as psychiatrists), and sneak out with her and the other girls where they go under the building where there is an old bowling lane. This place has the worst security I have ever seen. They do checks every night, but they always do it at the same time, so of course the girls have beat the system because they just stay in the rooms until the nurses have made sure they're in there, THEN they sneak out. Well, duh, if they had their checks sporadically every night, then they wouldn't know when to sneak out. 

After Susanna and Lisa get in trouble for stealing a guitar from the music room and singing "Downtown" to an upset Polly (this must have been my fourth or fifth time seeing the movie and this was the first time I caught that "Downtown" is played in the car radio on Susanna's drive to Claymoore! I had oddly never noticed that before). I had actually never heard of that song until I saw this movie and I just love it. Music is the one thing that makes her happy and it works, except when the male orderly comes over to shut them up so they don't wake anybody up, Susanna and the orderly  end up kissing (she's taking her "promiscuous" diagnosis to heart!) and are found sleeping with their arms around each other and Nurse Valerie catches them in the morning and writes her up.

This prompts Susanna and Lisa to decide to run away to Disney World which is opening soon where Lisa will be their new Cinderella and Susanna will be Snow White (well, she does have the right haircut for it!) They are able to walk right out the doors after their checks (because they know they are at the same time every night!) I'm sure the doors are locked from the outside, but what kind of place that is home to many mentally unstable people don't lock their docks from the inside? There aren't even any night nurses monitoring the halls! As you can imagine, this makes it quite easy for the girls to escape. Lisa has acquired the address to Daisy's new apartment her father bought for her where she now resides with her gray cat, Ruby. 

There has never been any love lost between Lisa and Daisy and Daisy only lets them in because she thinks it's only Susanna who tells her she has Valium. It is clear Daisy hasn't gotten better because the only thing she has in her fridge is mayonnaise and rotisserie chickens and she is cutting herself. Lisa cruelly taunts her about her dad molesting her and the fact that Daisy likes it. Susanna pleads Lisa to stop, but being cruel to Daisy makes Lisa feel superior. 

In the morning, when Susanna comes back with breakfast, Lisa tells her that Daisy hasn't come down yet and the same song has been playing over and over on a loop. The song is "The End of the World" by Skeeter Davis and because of the lyrics; the fact that Daisy hasn't come down yet; and Daisy's all-around well-being; Susanna, as well as the audience, I'm sure, is a little bit concerned. Not finding Daisy in her room, Susanna fears the worst when she creeps down the hall to the bathroom with the door closed. She opens it to find that Daisy has hung herself. After Susanna starts shrieking and crying, Lisa comes up and calls Daisy an idiot and checks to see if she has any money on her. Susanna says she's going to call an ambulance and Lisa says she should call a hearse. Very little concern that her comments from the night before prompted Daisy to kill herself! I am surprised that she didn't comment that Daisy had a tub after all because the night before she asked if there was a bathtub upstairs and Daisy said no. 

Susanna is so distraught by this that she doesn't want to go anywhere with Lisa anymore and goes brought to  Claymoore. Lisa is also brought back a few days later, although against her will. Susanna has a heart to heart with Nurse Valerie who she was quite awful to before she ran away and starts to make progress with her treatments and is eventually released.

The soundtrack to this movie is great; lots of '60 favorites. I especially love the song, "The Weight."

Here's a Cinematic Sara first for you: you know how at the Oscars the big 8 include Best Picture, Best Director, the four acting categories, and the two writing categories? Well, I reviewed all the movies that won those awards at the 2000 Oscars for the movies that came out in 1999. They include American Beauty (for Best Picture, Director, Actor, and Original Screenplay - that one knocked out half of them!); The Cider House Rules (for Best Supporting Actor and Adapted Screenplay); Boys Don't Cry (for Best Actress);  and now I can add Girl, Interrupted (for Best Supporting Actress) to that list! 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Dalmatian Plantation

101 Dalmatians (1961)
Director(s): Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton S. Luske, and Wolfgang Reitherman
Voice Talent: Rod Taylor, J. Pat O'Malley, Betty Lou Gerson, Marth Wentworth, Ben Wright, Lisa Davis
Released: January 25, 1961



101 Dalmatians (1996)
Director: Stephen Herek
Cast: Glenn Close, Jeff Daniels, Joely Richardson, Joan Plowright, Hugh Laurie, Mark Williams
Released: November 27, 1996


It seems lately that there has been an explosion of live action Disney remakes taken from their animated counterparts. There was Cinderella last year and Maleficent a couple years ago and The Jungle Book out this year and The Little Mermaid coming out soon. But 101 Dalmatians may have been the first to do it since its live action counterpart came out almost twenty years ago. I can't think of any others that were around that time. Let's get one thing straight though: the remake is really bad. Like, really, REALLY bad. There are a couple of good things (mainly Glenn Close), but for the most part it's really bad! The funny thing is, while I remembered there was a live actin remake in the '90s and Glenn Close played Cruella DeVil, I had no recollection of what happened in the movie. I'm pretty sure I saw it (whether in the theaters or on video, I couldn't tell you), but I just couldn't remember anything about it. I couldn't tell you who was in it besides Glenn Close, I couldn't remember what they kept the same or changed from the animated movies, I couldn't remember if the animals talked. It was like I had totally blocked everything about it out of my head! Or maybe I just never saw it...I really have no idea! 
It's been awhile since I've seen the original animated movie, but I still remembered quite a lot. I did have the VHS as a kid and watched it a few times. I had no idea until just recently that it was based on a book by a Dodie Smith that Walt Disney wanted to buy the rights to. (I also didn't know Mary Poppins was based on a book until I saw Saving Mr. Banks.) 


Pongo, the dalmatian patriarch is narrating the story and calls his owner, Roger, his pet. With the remake, you don't get this clever narration since the animals don't talk. (Not saying that would have made the movie any better...it may have made it a lot worse!) Pongo doesn't want Roger, an aspiring musician, to be a bachelor all his life so he decides to set him up with a fine breed of woman. There's a humorous scene where he's checking out women walking their dogs and all the women look like their canine pets. He spots Perdita, who will be the dalmatian matriarch and she is being walked by an attractive woman named Anita who is around Roger's age. Roger and Anita are played by Jeff Daniels and Joely Richardson in the '96 remake. In the original, Pongo has a red collar and Perdita has a blue one, but for some reason, they couldn't remember that in the remake and Perdita has a red collar while Pongo sometimes wears a black collar and sometimes wear a blue one. So unnecessarily confusing! 

If she doesn't scare you,
no evil thing will!
Both dalmatians and humans meet in the park in both movies. I will say it is a little more realistic in the live action one when Anita plays fetch with Perdita rather than sit on a bench with her dog sitting next to her, which is what the animated Anita and Perdita do. The dogs take a liking to each other, as do the humans, but it is just so awkward and unrealistic in the remake. I think we can believe the animated character getting together so quickly because they're, you know ANIMATED! But '96 Roger and Anita decide they should get married since their dogs like each other and they're getting married in the next scene! It's the most ridiculous thing ever! They could have at least had a little montage of them dating and then six months later they get married. Sheesh. But one thing I do like about the '96 version is that they tell us how Anita and Cruella know each other. In the animated movie, Cruella is an "old classmate" of Anita's. Maybe a former teacher I would believe because Cruella has to be at least a decade or two older than Anita. We have no idea why these two are friends. In the movie, Cruella is a fashion designer. She's not the Devil Wears Prada, but rather the DeVil Wears Dalmatians! Anita works for her so that's how they know each other. Anita has had some inspiration from Perdita for some new outfits and Cruella sees a picture of her and asks her if her dog has short or long hair; if it's soft or coarse. In both movies she lives for fur and is very excited about the prospect of having a coat made out of dalmatian fur. To me, this is what makes Cruella DeVil the most evil of all the Disney villains. She wants to kill and skin puppies, for God's sake!

After Perdita has a litter of fifteen puppies (at first they only think it's fourteen, but manage to save the 15th), Cruella comes over to buy the puppies but is dismayed when she discovers they don't have their spots. If I were Roger and Anita, I would have told her that this batch would never get their spots. But they don't know her cruel intentions and tell her that the puppies will get their spots in a few weeks and that they need to be with their mother. They also tell her that the puppies aren't for sale when she offers them a huge sum of money which makes Cruella irate. A few weeks later she has her henchmen, Jasper and Horace, who are like the animated versions of Harry and Marv, kidnap the puppies when Roger and Anita are taking Pongo and Perdita for a walk. (I didn't quite understand why they didn't take the puppies too...wouldn't they need a walk as much as, if not more than the older dogs? But I'm not a dog owner, so what do I know?) Jasper and Horace are played by Hugh Laurie (yes, Dr. House!) and Mark Williams (best known as Mr. Weasley in the Harry Potter films) in the '96 version. This is when we find out that Cruella has kidnapped a total of 99 puppies from pet stores. Now I realize that London is a big city, but I find it hard to believe that there would be 99 dalmatian puppies at one time. I say this because I've always found the dalmatian to be a rare breed! I have no idea if it is or not, but I've only seen one dalmatian in real life in my entire life, so to me they're rare! But maybe they're not that rare.

Jasper and Horace lock Nanny (played by Joan Plowright in the remake) in the closet as they take the the puppies. It's a little Fargo-esque in the live action one and seems a bit rough for a movie with a G-rating! This is around the point in that version where the movie really goes downhill (not that it was that great, but wow, it gets really bad starting here!), so I'll talk mostly about the '61 version for now.

When they discover their puppies are missing, Pongo and Perdita send out the "Twilight Bark" which is a way to signal all the other dogs in the city. I guess it's like morse code. This is kind of a funny scene because you hear a bunch of dogs barking and howling and we see an overview of London and hear a human voice shout, "Shuddup, would ya?" The message is relayed to a barn with a sheepdog named Colonel, a horse named Captain, and a cat named Sergeant Tibbs. Colonel mistakenly hears the message as "fifteen spotted puddles are missing", ha! Sergeant Tibbs is the one who rescues the puppies and gets them out of Hell Hall, the name of the DeVil place where they're being held. Jasper and Horace are in the same room, but are distracted by a TV program. How you can't hear 99 puppies leaving one room is an incredible feat!

After Tibbs pushes Rolly, the adorable pudgy dalmatian who's always hungry through the small hole, Jasper and Horace notice all the dogs are gone and know that Cruella will have THEIR hide if they don't find them. By this time Pongo and Perdita have caught up with them and take them to a barn where the cows give all the puppies milk. No surprise to see Rolly is happy about that! They get a good night's sleep in the hay and the next day, after getting help from a labrador and seeing one of his pups gets dirty from soot, Pongo gets the idea for all of them to roll in the soot so they look like labradors. Cruella and her minions are in the same area driving around because they've spotted dog prints. Cruella is suspicious when she sees a  bunch of labrador puppies walking towards a truck and getting on the back of it. When water starts dripping on them and revealing their spots she gets in her fancy-pants car and chases the truck only to get in a horrific car wreck with Jasper and Horace and their truck. I couldn't remember if she died or not, but she is fine. She doesn't even go to jail from what we see.

The reason the live action movie gets really bad at this point is because literally nothing happens and it's so boring! Well, things happen, but very stupid things. It's like an animal-esque Home Alone where animals try to stop Horace and Jasper with stupid hi jinx. A squirrel crosses the wires in their car so that it will start on fire! A woodpecker keeps knocking on the door only to confuse them when they open it to find nobody there! A raccoon puts a rock in the exhaust pipe of their car! A dalmatian puppy pees on a magazine with Cruella on the cover! It's all just very stupid. And it gets really boring fast since the only humans are Jasper and Horace and you're just watching a bunch of animals. Sure, the puppies are cute but watching a bunch of puppies isn't very exciting. At least in the animated version they have personalities and can talk! I got so bored during this time that I started playing with my phone. It felt like it was twenty minutes before we see Cruella again. Glenn Close obviously did her homework because she has the great maniacal laugh; the cool, stiff Cruella posture with the back arched when she laughs; she has her mannerisms down, she calls everyone "You fools, you idiots!" You could tell she was getting into the character and was having fun with it. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Musical Comedy (she lost to MADONNA for Evita?? Are you kidding me? Granted, I have never seen Evita but I know that Glenn Close is a better actress than freakin' Madonna! Now if she had lost to Frances McDormand for Fargo, THAT I would understand!) The movie sucks, but Glenn Close as Cruella DeVil is great and I can see why she was nominated for a Golden Globe.

Cruella gets apprehended by the police (after falling into a vat of molasses...which did not happen in the animated movie) along with Jasper, Horace, and Mr. Skinner who she has hired to skin the puppies. (Haha, get it, he skins animals and his name is Mr. Skinner? Yeah...) I did laugh when she tells them that they won the gold, silver, and bronze in the awards for biggest idiots and Horace asks, "Which one of us won the gold?" and she just goes off on them. That was pretty funny. She does go to jail and all the puppies are okay (as they are in the animated version, but we all knew that).
99 puppies = 99 problems!

In both movies, Roger and Anita take all the puppies in because apparently nobody is claiming any of the other 84 puppies. With Pongo and Perdita, they have 101 dalmatians! They decide to move to a bigger place so they have enough room. Roger tells Anita that they'll have a Dalmatian Plantation! I kept waiting for Jeff Daniels to say "Dalmatian Plantation" in the remake, but he never did! Those words were never uttered! What the heck? Don't get me wrong, puppies are very cute, but I would NOT want 99 puppies. God no! That seems like a nightmare! I don't think I'd even want fifteen! In the '61 version, they are able to buy their Dalmatian Plantation with the money Roger made from his hit song about Cruella DeVil and in the '96 version Roger is a video game designer and used Cruella as his villain and it made lots of money for them to buy a huge mansion in the country.

101 Dalmatians was the highest-grossing movie of 1961!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

What a Way To Make a Living

9 to 5
Director: Colin Higgins
Cast: Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, Dabney Coleman
Released: December 19, 1980

Oscar nominations:
Best Original Song - Dolly Parton for "Nine to Five" (Lost to Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford for "Fame")


I have long been familiar with the snappy song, "Nine to Five" sung by Dolly Parton, but had never seen the movie she had sung it for and starred in until just recently. While I knew it was a workplace comedy, I really never knew what exactly was about and now I think that Horrible Bosses got its inspiration from it...although that movie was a lot darker! 

Violet (Lily Tomlin), Judy (Jane Fonda), and Doralee (Dolly Parton) all work at a place called Consolidated Companies and their boss, Mr. Hart (Dabney Coleman) is, and I quote, "a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot." I'm not really sure what they do at this place, but there's lots of writing of reports and answering of calls and making of copies. 

Violet has been at the company for eleven years. She has by far the most experience out of anyone else and knows everything there is to know about the company. She is expecting to be rewarded with the big promotion Mr. Hart will be giving to someone soon. Judy is the new woman at the company and Violet shows her around and introduces her to everyone and warns her about Mr. Hart and tells her to watch out for Roz, the office snitch who goes and tattles on Mr. Hart anytime she hears a piece of gossip. Doralee is Mr. Hart's secretary and everyone hates her because they think she's sleeping with the boss. He sexually harasses her and when she tells him that she's a married woman, his reply is that he's married too and that's what makes it perfect for them to have an affair. 

Violet is beyond furious when she learns that the promotion has gone to a man who has been at the company five years less than her. Mr. Hart explains to her that he got the job because people would rather deal with a man than a woman in that particular situation (whichever that might be...I'm not sure what the promotion was for!) Judy is furious at Mr. Hart when a woman gets fired for being overheard by Roz that they are getting unfair wages. Doralee is furious when she learns that Mr. Hart has been spreading rumors that they are having an affair. The three woman get a drink, then later smoke a joint and share their fantasies about getting even with their jerk boss. Judy's fantasy is to hunt him down and mount his head as a trophy kill on his office wall (where he keeps his other trophy kills like deer). I would have thought this would be more apt to Doralee's fantasy because she's the one who keeps a gun in her purse! (She is from Texas, after all!) She threatens Mr. Hall that if he continues to tell people they are having an affair, she'll take her gun and change him from a rooster to a hen with one shot! Doralee's fantasy is that she wants to turn the tables on Mr. Hart and give him "a taste of his own medicine" and be the one to sexually harass him and oogle his body. This seems like a lame fantasy. I would imagine somebody in her position would rather call out their harasser as being the pig they are. Although at the end of her fantasy, she's roasting him over a fire like a pig. Violet's fantasy is that she's like Snow White (dressed in a similar costume) and Mr. Hart is akin to the Evil Queen and she poisons his morning coffee. There are animated animals in her fantasy which I'm impressed they could do way back in 1980. I didn't think being able to mix live action and animation was achieved until 1988 with Who Framed Roger Rabbit? 

The next day, Mr. Hart is rushed to the hospital right after Violet gives him his coffee. She freaks out and thinks she's poisoned him when she realizes she's accidentally put rat poison in his coffee instead of the sweet and low. You see, the rat poison and sweet and low are both kept in boxes of the same color and size and are kept in the same cabinet on the same shelf...wtf? I don't know if this is just a plot device or if people were really that stupid in the early '80s and kept food and poison in the same cabinet! I'm hoping and guessing it's the former! What really happened is that Mr. Hart fell out of his chair and hit his head. He had been having trouble with his office chair in prior scenes. He spilled his coffee and never drank it, but Violet has no idea and she and Judy rush to the hospital where Doralee took him.

Mr. Hart is fine and walks out and in the same room he was in, they bring in a man they're trying to revive, but he dies. The women arrive when the doctor talks to a police officer telling him the man in the room has died and he thinks it was poisoning. This mistaken identity reminded me of the scene in Adventures in Baby-Sitting when the doctor tells Elisabeth Shue that the young man with the stab room died, but he was actually talking about another person and not Brad. Violet is sure this means jail time for her and wants to get rid of the body before they can do an autopsy on it and confirm that it was indeed poisoning. When no one's looking, she takes the body on the gurney and wheels it to her car and puts it in the trunk. They find out the body isn't Mr. Hart, and confused, sneak it back to the hospital. 

The next day all the women are confused, but relieved when Mr. Hart comes to work, quite alive. They discuss the matter in the bathroom and are glad to get on with their lives. They had checked under the stalls and nobody was in any of them, but when they leave we see Roz the snitch had been there the whole time with her feet up on the toilet taking notes with toilet paper! OMG, is this woman for real? I would hate to work with someone like her! She, of course, snitches to Mr. Hart and he confronts the women and threatens to have them all prosecuted for attempting to kill him and will only forget about it if Doralee sleeps with him. 

During this time, Mr. Hart's wife is on a cruise so the women decide to kidnap him in his own house. They keep him tied up (though he is free to move around in the bedroom) and bring him his meals and always have somebody at the house to watch him. They find a way to blackmail him when Violet discovers he's been embezzling money and want to keep him tied up until they have evidence to prove it. Their only obstacle is Roz because after a few days she starts to get suspicious on where Mr. Hart is since she sees him every day. They finally send her to Paris when they tell her Mr. Hart wants her to go there to learn French. (I don't know why you would have to go all the way there just to learn the language...haven't these people ever heard of Rosetta Stone? Haha!) 

While Mr. Hart is "away", the three women pretty much run the place and make up new rules and even give the office a new makeover. The women who was fired unfairly is given her job back and a daycare center is put in. When Mr. Hart is finally released after the women know he will not snitch on them, he gives the Chairman of the Board a tour of the places and all its new amenities even though Violet has to explain everything since Mr. Hart has no idea about any of it. The Chairman is so impressed by what Mr. Hart did that he sends him to Brazil to oversee their operation. Everyone is happy except for Roz who never got to say goodbye to him.

When this movie came out, Dolly Parton was 34, Lily Tomlin was 41, and Jane Fonda was 43. With the huge Granny glasses and the awful old lady hair cut she has, I would have guessed Jane Fonda to be closer to the age she is now - which is nearly 80! I don't know why people dressed so horribly and had terrible hair cuts in the early '80s...why would you want to look two decades older than what you actually are? Don't get me wrong, I love the '80s, but I'm kind of glad I was a baby/little kid during it! 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A Man and His Cat

Harry and Tonto
Director: Paul Mazursky
Cast: Art Carney, Ellen Burstyn, Larry Hagman, Geraldine Fitzgerald
Released: August 12, 1974

Oscar nominations:
Best Actor - Art Carney (won)
Best Original Screenplay - Paul Mazursky and Josh Greenfield (lost to Robert Towne for Chinatown)


I discovered this movie through a podcast I listen to called Battleship Pretension where two hosts in their early thirties discuss a topic involving movies. They both went to film school so they seem to be reputable in discussing film...much more than I am, anyway. On this particular episode, they were discussing movies with animals as the main focal point. As you can imagine, there were many movies with dogs brought up, but only a few with cats and Harry and Tonto was one of them. They both praised the movie so I typed it down on my "Notes" section of my iPod Touch under a list of movies to watch. (Otherwise if I didn't, I would probably forget about it!)

The movie is about a seventy something man, Harry (Art Carney) who travels from New York to Los Angeles with his cat, an orange tabby named Tonto. His building is being torn down so he is forced to move. At first he stays with his oldest son, but decides to travel cross country. At first, he plans to fly but when he learns that Tonto will have to be separated from him on the flight, he refuses and takes a taxi to a bus stop and will travel that way. But after he realizes that Tonto needs to use the bathroom (and won't use the toilet when Harry holds him over it...pretty sure NOBODY likes being touched when they need to use the restroom!) and asks the driver to pull over so his cat can relieve himself. Tonto ends up running away and Harry tells the bus driver to go on without him and the driver tells him he has to go so he won't be late to the next destination. He tells Harry there's another bus coming in another hour. Tonto does come back to Harry, but instead of getting on the next bus, he rents a car. Keep in mind this is 1974 and his license expired in 1958, haha!

Along the way, as you do while on a roadtrip, he meets new people and reconnects with some familiar ones. His daughter, Shirley (Ellen Burstyn) lives in Chicago and he finds out his old girlfriend, Jessie (Geraldine Fitzgerald) who he dated long before he married his wife is still alive and living in an assisted care facility with Alzheimer's. He picks up two hitchhikers, which is never a good idea, but it seems even worse considering it's the '70s! There were some shady people in the '70s! He picked up a teenaged girl and a guy in his twenties. The guy kept sprouting off verses from the Bible. He was a little freaky. I've no doubt Harry was relieved when the Bible-thumper said he was going to get a ride with someone else who was heading his way. Harry thought the girl, Ginger, was going with him but she told him they had just met on the car before his. Harry doesn't seemed concerned that a sixteen year old (and later we actually learned she's fifteen!) is running away and they stay in a hotel together and she's standing around in her underwear in front of him! I don't think she was trying to seduce him; I think she was just clueless. She later meets Harry's grandson and they seem to hit it off. 

Harry also meets a hooker on the way. He tells her she's too beautiful to be a hooker and she says she's a high-price one. She also says she's been with men older than him! I think it was implied that they had sex...I'm not sure though. Maybe this was why the movie was rated R even though we don't see anything. There is no nudity or violence and maybe there was a couple of curse words, but I don't really recall. There was some sex talk, so maybe that's why it was rated R? I feel like if this movie was made today, it would be rated PG. Speaking of the time it came out in, everything must have been cheap in the '70s...I know about inflation, but there's a scene where a homeless man asks Harry for thirty five cents so he can buy a coat. What the what? Did coats seriously costs 35 cents in the NINETEEN seventies? That cannot be right! 

Even though Tonto is with Harry throughout the movie, I wish there was more of him. Half the time, he feels just like a background character. I was wondering if we were ever going to get the story behind the name and we do when Harry is arrested for peeing in a potted plant on a street in L.A. (and in front of a window so I'm sure the people inside the building got a pleasant view!) His cell mate is a Native American man and he explains that Tonto is named after the character from The Lone Ranger, the radio show. I knew I was familiar with that name and when he said that I realized I knew it from the Johnny Depp remake (never saw it though, looked awful!) Interesting that it was a Native American man he told it to. Makes me wonder if he had a cat named Schindler, would his cell mate have been a Jewish man? I also wish we had gotten backstory on how Harry acquired Tonto. The one scene where Tonto is really a focal point is the one I mentioned earlier when Harry takes him off the bus to relieve himself and he gets lost and Harry is really worried that his cat has ran away. 

Harry walks Tonto on a leash and if you know anything about cats, they do NOT like to be on leashes. I know because I've had experience with a cat and a leash before. Let's just say he did not want to be led around by me and wanted to do his own thing and explore the shrubs and pounce on bugs. When he didn't have Tonto on a leash, Harry was carrying him around in the most awkward way: one hand under the front legs of the cat with his back legs dangling down. I felt bad for the cat cuz it didn't look too comfortable. I did love it when Tonto would curl up on the dashboard when Harry was driving his car...totally something a cat would do, though it seems dangerous to let a cat roam a car since they might get down by the gas and brake pedals. I also love the scene where Harry is on the bus next to a fat man eating a sandwich. He is holding Tonto and you can tell he's trying to hold him back because that cat wants that sandwich! He ain't acting! It cracked me up when he took his paw and swatted at the sandwich. That's something my own cat, Milo would do. 

At the end of the movie, as you would expect, Tonto dies of "old age". I put that in quotes because Tonto, according to Harry in a voiceover, was eleven years old when he died. What the what? Since when is eleven old for a cat? That's more "mature", but not "senior". Unless, like people who are living longer these days than forty years ago, maybe that's true for animals too? Then he says in the voiceover that Tonto was 77 in people years. That is so wrong! Because I had a cat, McKenzie (the one who hated the leash....he was a very independent cat! (Well, that's all cats!)), who died when he was 18 and on the cat conversion chart I looked at, said he was 80 something in human years. Obviously, Harry must have been going by the dog chart where you multiply the age by 7. I don't even know if that dog conversion is even accurate anymore, but it most certainly isn't for a cat! McKenzie would have been 126 years old when he died if we went by his cat conversion chart. I checked a cat age conversion chart and it said an eleven year old cat is 61. My cat, at age 18, was 89! A little more believable than 126! Milo is 49 going on 54...poor thing! They age so fast. 

I do wish there was more backstory and interaction with Tonto, but I do understand that the latter probably wasn't alway the easiest. There's a scene where Harry puts down some water for Tonto after they come back from their walk and you know the director wants the cat to drink the water, but he just sniffs it and walks away. Ha! This is the reason there are tons more movies with dogs...you can train a dog, you can't train a cat. They're gonna do what they wanna do! 

Art Carney won Best Actor for this movie, which is a bit surprising considering he was against Jack Nicholson for Chinatown and Al Pacino for The Godfather Part II. I hoped at least he thanked the cat! Or cats, I should say since I read they had two playing Tonto. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Ode to 'Joy'

Joy
Director: David O. Russell
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, Bradley Cooper, Virginia Madsen, Diane Ladd, Isabella Rossellini, Elisabeth Rohm
Released: December 25, 2015
Viewed in theaters: December 29, 2015


I saw this movie with my friend Cameron. He has joined me for a couple of video reviews you've all had the pleasure to watch. (All fifteen of you, haha!) You may remember our video reviews of the last two Twilight movies. We were originally going to see Sisters, but it was already sold out for the evening shows, so we decided to see this one instead. (And before you ask, we didn't even consider seeing Star Wars: A New Hope and Force Awakens or whatever it's called!) In a way, I think it worked out for the best because I probably wouldn't have seen this movie until it was released on DVD and I'm glad I saw it in the theater because I really enjoyed it. I had no idea what this movie was about going in. I just assumed it was a Christmas movie since it opened on Christmas Day and was called Joy, but, spoiler alert....it's not! (Although there is a scene that takes place at Christmas). We joked that it was the sequel to Silver Linings Playbook since it had the same director and Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, and Bradley Cooper were in it.

The "Joy" in question is the name of our main character (Jennifer Lawrence). This movie is based on the true story of a woman named Joy Mangano (never heard of her!) She's struggling with her finances and being a young, single mother of two while living with her grandmother (Diane Ladd), her mother (Virginia Madsen), and her ex-husband, who she's still friendly with, lives in the basement. At first, I thought her mother was sick and bedridden because all she did was stay in her room and watch soap operas, but later in the movie, she's walking around with no problem. There seemed to be something off mentally with her mother.

Joy works at an airport but has to quit when they change her hours and she can't work those because of her kids. She and her older half-sister, Peggy (Elisabeth Rohm who I didn't recognize at all because she had dark hair) help out at their dad's (Robert DeNiro) auto-repair shop. Rudy, their dad, who has been married twice and is all about being in love, has joined a dating service. At first, I was so confused by this scene because he would call a number and leave a four digit number and a voice would give him a four digit number of a potential match and he would call that number and talk to the woman. It seemed very complicated. I was wondering, Why doesn't he just join eHarmony or Match.com? Then I remembered that this being based on a true story, it probably isn't "current" day! (I don't remember if it gives us a date, but I'm guessing it started out in the late '80s/early '90s). He meets Trudy (Isabella Rossellini) and they are just having a laugh over their rhyming names. Trudy is a widow of a wealthy businessman and she and Rudy hit it off quite well that she invites Rudy and his family to spend the day on her yacht. She tells him to bring the wine, but not red wine because it will stain the teakwood floors. Joy's ex, Anthony, who is well-meaning, brings a bottle of red wine. It ends up spilling (who didn't see that coming?) and Joy mops the deck, but when she wrings out the mop with her hands she gets lots of nasty cuts with the glass shards. This inspires her to come up with an idea for a mop where one doesn't have to wring it out with their hands and the mop head is detectable and can be thrown in the washing machine. The year is 1995 when the finished product is ready. I can tell I have never mopped until the 21st century. I have never in my life even known of a mop that you had to wring out with your own hands. Never mind glass shards, who would want to touch that nasty mop head with the dirty water? Ewww! 

She patents the design and has some prototypes made with some money she asked Trudy to invest in (Trudy agreed after Joy passed the test she gave her). Unfortunately, when she tries to take it to stores and sell them, her product gets declined. One man tells her that he doesn't want to sell a mop for twenty dollars to his customers that will last a lifetime when he can sell five or ten dollar mops that will need replacing every few years and that way the customers will have to keep coming back. Joy and her friend Jackie try to sell the mop outside a K-Mart by Jackie being the salesperson and Joy being someone who is being sold the mop. They get a crowd of curious onlookers who seem to like the mop, but are quickly caught by the police and the mop is confiscated. 

It kept bugging me whenever I saw Jackie because the actress looked so familiar and I knew that I knew her from somewhere, but I just couldn't place it! When I looked her up, I realized it was Daya from Orange is the New Black. She has such a distinct accent and distinct facial features, but I guess she's unrecognizable to me if she's not in her prison garbs or pregnant, haha! 

Joy arranges to meet with Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper), an executive at QVC. When he sees and hears about the mop, he tells Joy to have twenty thousand of them made and Joy has to take out a second mortgage on her house. She still owes Trudy money and Trudy does not want to invest any more until she knows the mop will make money. Neil takes Joy on a tour of the set and tells her they only have celebrities hawking the products. The only celebrity I recognized was Joan Rivers. She is played by Melissa Rivers who looks EXACTLY like her mother (perfect casting, right?), but I don't think she has her mother's voice down...she tried, but Joan had a very distinct sound to her voice. 

There's a big scene at Joy's house where everyone is gathered in the living room to watch the big debut of Joy's mop and I just knew something bad was going to happen. And it did! The guy promoting it had no idea how to use it! They get no calls or questions for the mop and they go straight to the next product (the most hideous evening gowns I've ever seen!) The whole segment is less than twenty seconds! Did they not give the guy a tutorial on how the mop is used? Not surprisingly, Joy is pissed. At first I thought Neil was trying to sabotage Joy, but that doesn't make any sense because they want their products to sell. I watch Shark Tank; I know how it works! Joy goes to the QVC office and demand the she be the one to sell it on TV. She does and they sell like hot cakes. 

This, however, is not the end of Joy's troubles. She still has a rack of debt to pay and she finds out that the manufacturing company is taking credit for her designs. There's a bunch of legal battles she's fighting. She goes through one obstacle after another. There are several times when she just wants to give up, but by the end she fights for what is hers and emerges victorious. We see her in the future, in her forties, helping others patent their ideas. (Why is this woman not on Shark Tank?) I got a very Cate Blachett-like vibe from an older made-up Jennifer Lawrence. 

Cameron and I both agreed that this was our favorite Jennifer Lawrence performance. I have not seen the last two Hunger Games movies, but I hated the last book so I'm willing to bet that's not going to change my mind. 

During the movie, somebody behind us started snoring! Really loudly! It was quite distracting. And then all of his friends were giggling so that made it even more annoying. This movie was not boring at all so I don't know what his problem was. I guess that was bound to happen at a theater where you can recline all the way back in the seats. They even have a commercial for the theaters of some old guy in his pajamas telling his son he's ready to see the movie. Like, are they trying to encourage people to fall asleep and snore and annoy people who are trying to watch the movie? Great marketing! (That was sarcasm in case you could't tell!)