The Age of Innocence (Film Thoughts: the Favourite)

FAVWhatever you think of Yorgos Lanthimos’ films, they certainly are very interesting and they make you pay attention. His latest film, ‘The Favourite’ is certainly both. There is a dangerously deranged quality to the film that is hilarious and makes the actors rise to levels you didn’t think they were capable of. There is some great acting here, starting with Olivilia Coleman who plays a frail queen who mostly leaves her decision making to her trusted Sarah (Rachel Weisz) In comes Abigail (Emma Stone) and we see a lose of a balance in the power structure. And then some. And then mayhem ensues. At first, I thought it was kind of bad that there is no one to root for, until you realize that these people exist in a Lanthimos world that they are all crazed evil – you just go along for the ride and check morality at the door. There is delicious fun when Sarah spars with Robert Harley, played by Nicholas Hoult (he has never been better here)  and there is delicious fun when Abigail tries to weasle her way in the Queen’s circle. There’s a lot going on but it it never feels crowded, and when you get to he cynical finale, you even root for everyone as you root for no one. The title is prophetic – ‘The Favourite’ will end up as one of my favorite films of the year.

Blackballed (Perfume Thoughts: Love In Black, Creed)

375x500.4261I was at my brother’s house over the Holidays and had access to his perfume wardrobe (which is pretty good) and it gave me a chance to sample some scents he has but I don’t own.  I zoomed in on ‘Love In Black,’ by Creed because, well, Michelle Obama has been in the news promoting her book and I thought this was her scent – of course when I googled it, I was mistaken – her signature scent is Love in White by Creed, this perfume’s twin-set match. ‘Love In Black’ still has First Lady pedigree, though, as it is inspired by Jacqueline Kennedy.

It’s classic Creed – you can tell it has good quality, and you can also tell it’s expensive because of that. But again with me and Creed, I found it hopelessly boring. It isn’t unique, and its violet-iris accord smelled just like a lot of other things out there. As time wore on, it became a straight-up iris scent for me – the papery, library kind. It’s nice, but my cheaper Atelier Cologne Vanille Insensee does the same thing, and better. So why pay Creed prices?

The Maid (Film Thoughts: Roma)

ro‘Roma’ is one of those movies that get to you, and as you watch it, and you get so caught in it and the world that it creates that you feel like you aren’t really watching a movie. It feels like I have been usurped inside the screen and became part of the family whose life forms the back bone of the movie. But truly, the beating heart of the film is Cleo, the maid who is serves the family.

  1.  This films reminds me a lot of my childhood. Like their family, we also have maids, and we treat them as part of the family. I can relate to the kid who latches on to Cleo before she sleeps, because I was exactly the same way. I had a nanny who became (and is) almost my second mother. I even joke that she is my ‘real’ mom, and she was the one who really raised me.  I know the film is based on Alfonso Cuaron’s childhood and we probably have similar upbringing.
  2. As Cleo, Yalitzia Aparicio is heartbreak personified here. If this was a perfect world, she would get all the accolades for her performance here, as even now I don’t know if I could separate Aparicio from her character. it feels like it is one and the same. It is very similar to my childhood idol Nora Aunor, who played a similar role in her movie ‘Atsay.’ I feel like I know the characters, because their performances are so lived in.
  3. The film is shot in stunning black and white, and it felt more vivid than a color print. I know Cuaron shot this himself (and edited it) and the film felt so personal because of it. A lot of peopel have commented that it feels like a documentary, and I agree – Cuaron has captured an authenticity here that is unique and fantastic.
  4. Is it my favorite movie of the year? I don’t know, but it probably will end up high on my list. And if it does win the best Picture Oscar, I won’t be mad.

Jingle Jangle John (Music Thoughts: A Legendary Christmas, John Legend)

71puTP+02tL._SY355_For some reason, I don’t know much about John Legend’s music., except for that massive hit, ‘All Of Me,’ which was the song to sing a couple of years ago. For some reason, his music doesn’t really excite me, and I really was not impressed with his ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ performance. So I go into ‘A Legendary Christmas,’ his new album of Holiday music, with tepid energy.

And after a spin or two, I can say it is a well-crafted album, well-produced, with just the right amount of commercial appeal to make it a hit. And I bet it does, since it hits all the right notes. There’s a funky, soulful feel to it, evidenced in tracks like ‘What Christmas Means To Me,’ (with Stevie Wonder, natch) and ‘Merry Christmas Baby.’ And his originals really aren’t bad – I bet a couple of plays will help them catch on. I like his duet of ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ with Esperanza Spaulding, and in some of the more traditional tracks, he sounds just a bit King Cole-ish.

All in all, ti still left me a bit cold. It seems like a product, not something from heart and soul. I am sure I will hear these tracks at Target and enjoy them during those moments, but I doubt if I will pull these tracks out to listen to specifically.

Modern Family (Film Thoughts: Shoplifters)

4154894A lot of times, when we don’t have blood-related family (or when we have problems with them) we build our own families through friends. In Director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s ‘Shoplifters,’ he gives he definition of family a very different spin. There are a lot of people in this family, and in the beginning, we think they are all related by blood, and then slowly we see, like an onion being peeled, that there is more layers to how this family become one, even as they add a new member to it. At first, I had a little bit of problem with the film, as I really do not like films that show poverty porn, especially in Asian countries (although, admittedly, they are not many from Japan) Ultimately, this film is much more than what it shows, and it has a big beating heart in the middle of it.  I know this film won the Palm d’Or at Cannes this year, and I do think that this is one of those films that would probably benefit from repeated viewings – it is subtle and there’s skin under its skin. I don’t know, honestly, if I got them all in one viewing, and there are times when I felt it was just a bit more self-indulgent that I could take. But I found myself thinking about the film more as I was walking home from seeing it. I found myself asking, ‘what did I just see,’ and then trying to search for answers.

Not Easy Bring Green (Film Thoughts: Green Book)

gbI know some critics have disparaged ‘Green Book,’ saying the film treats 60s race relations in a Polyanna manner, but I thought it was great, and I can even easily say that it is one of my favorite films of the season (if not the year) I just connected to it, and I found myself crying after seeing it. The most touching aspect about it for me? It shows how some people experience loneliness, and how they find solace to it in the most unexpected places. In this case, an unlikely friendship forms between gifted musician Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and Tony,the driver he hires for his concert tour (played by Viggo Mortensen) And sure, I do acknowledge that most of this is formula, and you can see what happens a mile away, and really, you can tell how these characters are going to develop. But there is such strength in the performances that you really don’t care, and you just go along for the ride. I am not going to pretend and say that the race relations part was handled effectively – the film simplifies it – but I think there was such genuine human emotional interaction between the two characters and you felt it on screen that I was able to overlook that. When a film touches me – and nowadays that’s getting more and more rare – I tend to latch on to it. That’s what I got most from the film – this emotional bond that resonated with me. I have felt that loneliness myself, and the emotion I got from here filled a void. I really do like this film, despite its fault, and hope people don’t dismiss it because of them.

The Ingrid Season (Music Thoughts: Song Of the Season, Ingrid Michaelson)

81P8uIW8ArL._SY355_I know New York-based Ingrid Michaelson has enjoyed success as a singer-songwriter on the adult contemporary field, but I don’t know much about her music.  I do love teh cover of her new Holiday-themed album, ‘Songs For The Season,’ and it is what attracted me to listen to it. And I am glad I did, because this is a wonderful class-c-sounding album. She was obviously inspired by the classic arrangements of these songs, and they all sound wonderful here. We hear full orchestra arrangement of these songs (whether they were recorded as such) and it was a very pleasant musical trip. And, I feel like I can listen to this record again and find new things about it. I like her duet with Broadway actor Will Chase on ‘I’ll Be Home  For Christmas,’ and her other duet with Leslie Odom Jr in ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You,’ the Mariah Carey massive Holiday hit. Surprisingly, the song worked in their slowed-down arrangement without sounding gimmicky. She does fine with the rest of the songs, and I must say I even liked her one original, ‘Happy Happy Christmas.’ Above all, her album evokes a mood – not entirely melancholy, but it is very specific.