They Built A Zoo (Film Thoughts: The Zookeeper’s Wife)

large_zookeepers_wife‘The Zookeeper’s Wife,’ directed by Nick Caro from Diane Ackerman’s non-fiction book. It’s the story of Jan and Antonina Zabinski, who hid Jewish ‘guests’ at their zoo during the war. They had more than three hundred guests during the time and all but two survived.

The film is gorgeous to look at, which makes the difficult scenes depicting the horrors of war more vivid and true.  The scene with Antonina and her animals may be a bit too cutesy, but it helps send the message across. Jessica Chastain is good, but I felt some ofd the scenes were too Oscar bait-y, as if she is begging for some kind of recognition. I found Daniel Bruhl more effective – eerily sexy and at the same time scary, as the Nazi zookeeper from Berlin. There were some confusing parts in the middle here, but the latter parts was poignant and wraps up the film effectively. I wish it had just a little bit more passion – at times it feels very tempered and tame. I find myself still contemplating, after all these years, all the damages the Second World War brought to a lot of people.

Buczek Fenced (Music Thoughts: Ella Lives, Vivian Buczek)

405224-350x350In case you were wondering why there have been a lot of Ella Fitzgerald tributes lately, it’s because this year would have been her 100th birthday. Swedish jazz singer has released a new album called ‘Ella Lives’ wherein she sings ten songs associated with the Queen of Jazz. Buczek, to be honest, is mostly unknown to me, but I am not on the up and up on Swedish jazz singers anyway. She has a nice reedy voice, but her style is definitely more rigid than Ella’s. I like her most when she has room to sing within the arrangements. Martin Sjöstedt apparently did the arrangements here, and some are too mannered for my taste, trying too much to be jazz than tuneful. But in songs like ‘Tenderly,’ and ‘The Very Thought Of You,’ for example, Buczek gets to exercise her appealing vocals.  And even in others like ‘Misty,’ she soars. Although she doesn’t sing this particular Cole Porter song here, I wanna tell her musicians: Don’t Fence Her In.

Breaking Bread (Movie Thoughts: The Dinner)

dinner_ver2_xlgDirected by Owen Moverman, ‘The Dinner’ is an overlong and exasperating film.  I found myself so bored by it, never connected with any of its characters – loathed almost all of them, actually – and couldn’t wait for it to end. Even the food in the film (most of the time a saving grace) was annoying/ I really can’t find anything too mice to say about this. And that is weird considering I like most of the cast – Richard Gere, the luminescent Laura Linney, Rebecca Hall and Steve Coogan. Centered around a family breaking bread discussing a tragic event involving their kids, it takes too long for us to understand what is really going on – everyone keeps on avoiding the issue – so we are left feeling frustrated and, in the end, no longer caring. Plus, the movie clocks in at 120 minutes, and those feel like long long minutes. Rarely do I feel like my time is truly wasted watching a film, and this is one of those instances.

The Glamorous Band-Aid (Perfume Thoughts, Guilty Absolute, Gucci)

nd.43040I sometimes forget that the Gucci house makes good performances (well, sometimes)  and I also forgot you can get some great perfumes at the men’s department store counter. Put those two sentences together and I am delighted to write that Gucci’s newest men’s scent, Gucci Guilty Absolute is a complete knockout. It’s quirky and unique, and I think very accessible, though I have read that it has incited polarizing reactions.

It’s a very woods-centric fragrances – as it starts with very dry woods – a dark resinous forest with hints of a hospital ward tainted with a hot of whiskey. And then some vetiver comes in, but the dark moody kind – inky and dank. But it all comes together in a surprisingly light way. Here I am right now, with three digit temperatures, but it never feels overwhelming. It’s heady but not headache inducing. Alberto Morillo signed this fragrance with Gucci Creative Director Alessandro Michele and I bet this doesn’t stay long out there. It’s not mainstream enough and some people have even described it as something that smells like Band-Aid. But it has gotten almost unanimous raves from perfumistas everywhere, and I am scared that that would seal its doom. I haven’t kept track of every single release this year, but Gucci Guilty Absolute would be tough to beat as the year’s best men’s department store fragrance.  This is the perfect scent to pick up at Duty Free, and I am traveling soon so it would be safe to assume a bottle would be mine soon. Very soon.

A Parisian Summer (Film Thoughts: Paris Can Wait)

large_paris_can_waitI am happy that in your local Cineplex between all the summer movies of superheroes and action sequences, there exists a film like ‘Paris Can Wait.’  This film, directed by Eleanor Copolla (Francis Ford’s wife) is, like your average summer movie, a whole lot of nothing. But with its French scenery, French food, and French suitor in the way of Aurnaud Viard, it just seems a lot more sophisticated and worldly. And in the summer heat feels like a great reftreshing creme brulee.

Diane Lane frames the whole film as Anne, a housewife of a movie producer (Alec Baldwin, barely here) who spends her time in his shadow. While at Cannes Film Festival, she develops an earache which prevents her from flying to Budapest with her husband. Instead one of his associated, Jacques (Viard) drives her to Paris. The film then becomes a glamorous road movie, as the normally day trip stretched to two, and along the way, they both explore the French regions, from Aix en Provence to Lyon, weaving through restaurants and museums and Roman aqueducts.  To me it’s all interesting, with the shots of fresh lavender fields, and mouth-watering food. I was very much enchanted by all of it, as we see all this through Anne’s eyes. Is Jacques an opportunist French man or is he just plain French?  The film will not let you spoil its romantic premise, but then why would you want it to? This is a film of moonlights and slow dances, and sometimes on a Summer afternoon it’s as much as an escape as a space battle. Maybe even better.

Divas Of The Day (Television Thoughts: Daytime Divas, VH1)

0f79fa150e83ecfddfd6c9a3213b44b6I love the premise of ‘Daytime Divas,’ as it explores those daily women’s chatfest shows, and this show was even created by Amy and Wendy Endelberg from the book by  Star Jones, who herself was one of the co-hosts of the ABC Daytime talk show ‘The View.’  But three episodes in, I am a little confused as what the show really is. There’s a little bit of comedy, a whole lot of melodrama, and there really isn’t a character to root for – these ladies seem to all hate each other, and for me, anyway, there’s already too much hate in the world that I don’t know if I want to watch more on my television shows.  Vanessa Williams tries a lot to put humanity in her Maxine (who is sort of like the Barbara Walters figure in here) but she’s still thinly written, and is forced to engage in scenes that are implausible. And the other ladies blend with each other, except perhaps for Mo (played by Tichina Robinson) whose character is toxic and unlikeable that in any other situation, would have been fired instantly. Still, it’s summer, and this is fluffy enough for no-frills watching. I am going on holiday soon, so I wonder if I will pick this up after.

The Heart of The Heartland (Movie Thoughts: Heartland)

DVD_Amaray_Template.qxdThere have been so many films about gay people wherein they have to hide their love, and I am always a sucker for them, even if sometimes the film isn’t so good.  Maura Anderson’s film, ‘Heartland’ isn’t bad but it really does not offer anything new. Lauren took care of her ailing partner, and because of this, has to live back in the house of her homophobic mother.  This is Oklahoma, so we don’t even realize this is the case because there’s a prevailing sense that all of this would be kept under the rug. Enter her brother and his wife (Aaron Leddick and Beth Grant) who come into town to start a wine marketed towards a midwest market. And Lauren, after hanging out twice with Carrie (the wife) begin to develop feelings. I don’t know if I was really convinced about that transition, but sure why not. And you can already imagine what comes next after the two women kiss. Yes, I couldn’t help but get touched when the love that could not speak its name really couldn’t, but maybe that’s just from automatic reactions when I see love repressed. I don’t know if anyone else will have the same reaction. Anderson’s film has a low-key vibe that may turn off some viewers but it was just fine for me.