A Funny War (Movie Thoughts: Jojo Rabbit)

jjrSo I have not seen any of the Thor movies (sue me) so I do not really know how much of a big deal the director Taika Waititi can be. But he apparently is a major major force amd he got ‘Jojo Rabbit’ made, which he bills as an ‘anti-hate satire.’  It’s a weird kind of movie, to be sure, a Nazi comedy that I thought it promised to something similar to what Mel Brooks used to do, but it doesn’t really fulfill it. There are some good things in the film, and I wish I was fully satisfied, but my hunger was satiated enough for me to give it a marginal thumbs up.

First of all, Scarlet Johansson. I have soured on her lately, and I wasn’t ever really a big fan of her acting, but she is great here, playing Jojo’s mother, who is quietly doing ‘resistance.’  She tries to hide a young girl in the attic, and when Jojo finds out, is surprised. Aren’t Jews supposed to be devilish monsters, then why is he enamored by this sweet and intelligent young woman? Roman Griffin Davis, who plays Jojo is a great young actor who is able to give ‘wide eyed innocence’ whether he is dealing with two ‘imaginary’ friends – his idol Adolf Hitler and the young girl in the attic. He is able to balance the sweet and the sour effectively.

The film’s tonal changes makes the film weak. at times, I felt like it was trying to abandon ‘satire’ mode and going for melodrama. Just as I was settling in and was into black comedy groove, we see through Jojo’s eyes the sad reality of what war does – when he experiences a major loss, I couldn’t help but be touched by it. All it all, its unevenness can be unnerving, but there’s enough here to admire.

Strike A Fosse (Television Thoughts: Fosse Version Episodes 1 and 2)

Americans S4 Transit Shelter.inddDo we really need ‘Fosse/Verdon’ in our lives? Should this television series exist? We already have the film ‘All That Jazz’ and Fosse himself envisioned that film to be the representation of his legacy.  But I knew I was going to watch this show anyway, and I will be excited about it, because I am a show queen, and this is what show queens live for.

And the first two episodes are certainly rewarding. On the first, we get to see intricacies in how Fosse shot ‘Hey Big Spender’ in the film version of ‘Sweet Charity.’ And on the second episode, we see how they got to create ‘Who’s Got The Pain’ from ‘Damn Yankees.’ And the one thing that is constant in those two scenes – Gwen Verdon. We get to see that she is just as responsible for Fosse’s artistry as he is. He has his own vision, of course, but she helped make it come to life.

And Michele Williams is fantastic as Gwen Verdon. For some reason, she nails her, without making it look like she is cartooning her. We get the essence of the woman so authentically I sometimes forget that this is a woman playing her character. I had to get used to Sam Rockwell as Fosse, though, and that’s probably because Roy Scheider’s performance in the film is so ingrained in my brain. By the second episode, I warmed up to Rockwell, and I am pretty sure as the series goes on, I will be on board.