Review – Judy

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Let me say that if Renée Zellweger isn’t nominated for a Golden Globe, Oscar, BAFTA and any other award along the way for “Judy”, it’ll be criminal. Zellweger, after a long hiatus from films, showed us why she is one of the best actors of the modern era. I never thought that anyone could out-Judy, Judy Garland, but Zellweger came awfully close. She brought Garland to life, and it was as if we were flies on the wall watching Garland go through all of her highs and lows (unfortunately more lows than highs in this last chapter of her life and career). Out of the performances I’ve seen this year, Zellweger as Garland is one of the best, if not THE best. When Zellweger launches into Garland’s songs, it’s a bravura performance. Zellweger is actually singing all of the songs in the film and I think she’s done Garland proud.

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“Spoiler Alert”

Judy Garland was a victim of a brutal inhumane Hollywood studio system, that was particularly destructive (physically and mentally) for young girls and women. She never experienced a real childhood, LB Mayer was a brutish authoritarian figure in her life and drove her past what anyone, especially a child, should ever endure just to make a film. And we see a lot of this torture and psychological assault in flashback scenes during the time she was cast in the Wizard of Oz. They plied a young Judy Garland with prescription drugs to keep her up (19 hour days were commonplace), they gave her pills to sleep, they deprived her of food because in that era, starlets and full-blown female stars were never small enough for the big screen (not much as changed, though it is a little better now). Garland was mocked because of her looks, and according to the studio bigwigs, she wasn’t a great beauty like Lana Turner, Ava Gardner or Elizabeth Taylor (she attended the studio school with them) and her low self-esteem, insecurity, coupled with her drinking and drug addiction plagued her for the rest of her all too short life.

“Judy” turned a big glaring spotlight on a woman who had a great talent, and made millions of people around the world happy, but could never quite figure out how to actually live, and find the stability she craved and the happiness she wanted in her personal life. She had no support system and was left to her own devices. Garland was ill-equipped to deal with her problems because of how she was raised within the horrific Hollywood machine. “Judy” is both a tragic cautionary tale, and a horror story about how Hollywood can use a person’s talent to make lots of money, suck the life and soul out of them, then throw them out in a world that they’re unfamiliar with, leaving them to fend for themselves, and move on to the next victim.

Yes the film was a little slow, but Zellweger held your attention so astutely, that you simply overlooked a few continuity issues and some dangling subplots that could have been explored a bit more. Another standout in the film was Darci Shaw who played a young Judy. She showed a lot of range, showcasing a young Judy’s fear of LB Mayer and her rebellious streak with just wanting to be a teenager and do the things teenagers do…a very good performance.

Judy Garland died of a barbiturate overdose at only 47 years old after her 5 week engagement in London, which is where the film ends.

“We cast away priceless time in dreams, born of imagination, fed upon illusion, and put to death by reality”. – Judy Garland

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SYDNEY CHANDLER is a Los Angeles based freelance journalist, essayist, screenwriter and producer. Sydney has written and produced documentaries, features, shorts, TV dramas and comedies. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.

Arte Johnson, Emmy-winning star of the 60’s and 70’s comedy sketch show “Laugh-In, Dead at 90

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Arte Johnson, Emmy-winning star of the 60’s and 70’s comedy sketch show “Laugh-In,” died July 3 in Los Angeles of heart failure. He was 90.
Arte Johnson was born on January 20, 1929 in Benton Harbor, Michigan, USA as Arthur Stanton Eric Johnson. He was an actor and writer, known for Love at First Bite (1979), Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In (1967) and The President’s Analyst (1967). His best-remembered characters on Laugh-in were a German soldier with the catchphrase “Verrrry interesting…”, and an old man who habitually propositioned Ruth Buzzi’s spinster character.
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In 1972, Johnson guest-starred in an episode of The Partridge Family as Nicholas Minsky Pushkin in the episode, “My Heart Belongs to a Two Car Garage”. In 1973, Johnson guest-starred in an episode of the situation comedy A Touch of Grace. In 1974, he appeared in the first season of the Detroit-produced children’s show Hot Fudge. He also appeared, for one week, as a celebrity guest panelist on the game show Match Game. In the late 1970s, he was a semi-regular celebrity guest panelist on The Gong Show.

In 1976, he played the animated cartoon character “Misterjaw”, a blue, German-accented shark (with a bow tie and top hat), who liked to leap out of the water and shout “HEEGotcha!” or “Gotcha!” at unsuspecting folks on The Pink Panther Laugh-and-a-Half Hour-and-a-Half Show. He also voiced the character “Rhubarb” on The Houndcats. Also in 1976, he appeared as a guest on Canadian TV show Celebrity Cooks with host Bruno Gerussi and a clip from his episode was featured in the opening credits until the show ended in 1987.

In September 1977, Johnson appeared on an episode of the NBC daytime version of Wheel of Fortune as a substitute letter-turner, both to fill-in for an injured Susan Stafford, and to promote his short-lived NBC game show Knockout, which aired through early 1978. Instead of being introduced by the show’s announcer, he would start the show with a small monologue, then the announcer would introduce the day’s contestants. In 1979, he was cast as “Renfield,” the comic sidekick of George Hamilton’s Dracula in the surprise box office smash, Love At First Bite. The following year he appeared in the all-star television disaster movie Condominium.

In 1985, he voiced “Weerd” in The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, and played a disgruntled employee denied severance pay in an episode of Airwolf. He also voiced several characters, such as: Dr. Ludwig Von Strangebuck and Count Ray on two episodes of Ducktales, Devil Smurf on The Smurfs, Top Cat and Lou on Yo Yogi!, Newt on Animaniacs, and many other shows.

In 1987, Johnson guest-starred in the Murder, She Wrote episode, “No Laughing Murder.” Johnson’s character, Phil Rinker, is a guest at a wedding engagement party of the children of a legendary, but bitterly estranged, comedy team, Mack & Murray (played by Buddy Hackett & Steve Lawrence and based loosely on the genuinely legendary Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis split). After discovering that their on-going dispute is a result of the theft of a video deal’s residuals, Johnson’s character is murdered but the death is made to look like a suicide.

In 1990, Johnson appeared in an episode of Night Court. From 1991 to 1992 Johnson appeared in multiple episodes of General Hospital as Finian O’Toole. In 1996, he played the old laboratory head of a team of scientists working on a serum of youth in Second Chance. He has performed more than 80 audio-book readings, including Gary Shteyngart’s Absurdistan (2006) and Carl Hiaasen’s Bad Monkey. In 2005, he appeared in the Justice League Unlimited episode “The Ties That Bind” as the voice of Virman Vundabar.

He retired from acting in 2006.

Made It To The 2018 Cannes Film Festival

 

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The Cannes Film Festival is one of the most prestigious events within the entertainment industry. Careers are made, others are reignited and all are vying for the adulation of the press and fans, as well as validation from their peers. It’s like the qualifying rounds for the Olympics, except in this case, it’s next year’s Oscars.

One day soon, I’ll be on the other side of the camera because my projects will be contending for a nod from power-players as well as distribution. But at least after years of covering celebs and working in this industry, I know the pressure they’re under and how to handle the press.

But out of all of the premieres, award shows, various industry events, including the Oscars, Golden Globes and other film festivals, the Cannes Film Festival is still my absolute favorite. There’s something about the history and how everything about it, harkens back to that quintessential old Hollywood glam. I can almost see Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner, Dorothy Dandridge, Lana Turner, Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Paul Newman, William Holden, Marilyn Monroe, and the rest of the true old school  Hollywood glitterati, dressed in their finest gowns, dripping in diamonds and wrapped in furs, with the men in their dapper tuxedos, behaving in a manner that us mere mortals would imagine movie stars should…regal, otherworldly and what fantasies and dreams of a film career are made of.

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Famous Stars of the Cannes Film Festival

James Bond at Cannes

Vintage Cannes Film Festival Photos

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Even walking through the corridors of iconic hotels like The Martinez and the Intercontinental Carlton Cannes (formerly just the Carlton Hotel), are filled with history. Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief starring Grace Kelly and Cary Grant has the Carlton  featured prominently. It really is true when people say…if walls could talk.

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Present day

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The Martinez

 

At the Red Carpet Hollywood Premiere of Avengers: Infinity War

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Women’s March LA – 2018

I arrived at the Women’s March VERY early with my staff because it was important to show support for what women, minorities and immigrants are facing in this country. While I was chatting with all of the wonderful men and women who came to march and protest, my god-daughter sent me a text that she and her friends were somewhere in the madness at 20 strong. I was more than proud of her because millennials are the group that will be negatively impacted the most with this administration’s policies. I was also proud of all the women, men, teens and younger kids gathering to make this year’s march a success, as well as to make their voices heard, not just in this country, but around the world.

If my mom were still alive, that first sign above referencing the 1960s, is the one she’d be holding. She believed in equality, was a staunch feminist and would have been at this march, or some march across this country. But she also would have been thoroughly pissed-off that we’re back at square one. But believe this, we’ll make it right mom, one day soon! We cannot and must not continue to allow history to keep repeating itself.

Today women and our allies, came together across this nation and around the world for the Women’s March. Let’s get something done. Rallies and protests are great, but we need to come together as a cohesive unit every single day and not just one day out of the year. I don’t want my nieces, god-daughter or any young girl in and outside of this country, to still be fighting the same fights we’re fighting today, and the fights our ancestors thought would be in my generation’s rearview mirror, against an extremist, patriarchal government who wants to have total control over women, our reproductive rights and how high up the ladder of success we can go. Our gender should NEVER be a deciding factor on any achievement in our lives, and our bodies and what’s inside of them, are our own to govern. The Handmaid’s Tale is a work of fiction and we should never EVER allow something like that to become a life imitating art moment.

As for immigration, everyone should be welcome in this country no matter what race, creed, ethnicity or religious affiliation. The Statue of Liberty says: Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

There’s no caveat in that statement which says you’re only welcome if you’re White. This is only one of a multitude of reasons why we’re marching, protesting, resisting and signing people up to vote. The very heart and soul of this country is dependent upon reclaiming our right to call ourselves decent and moral people. We cannot and will not allow a small group of racist oligarchs and kleptocrats to reverse the progress we’ve made in the US regarding race, religious freedom, immigration and women’s rights just because they long for a bygone era of White Male Supremacy. The buck stops with each and everyone one of us and by now, we should have all had ENOUGH!

Film Review: Proud Mary

I wanted to support Taraji P. Henson in her film “Proud Mary” and I’m glad I did. I know the critics savaged it and Rotten Tomatoes gave it 23%. But I’m veering off the freeway with this film. I think a lot of critics didn’t like it because they didn’t understand it, nor did they pick up on or appreciate the nod it gave to the so-called “blaxploitation” films of the 70’s. Another issue the critics appeared to have with Proud Mary is that it wasn’t filled with a ton of CGI, Special EFX and grandiose stunt sequences with the hero, or in this case, the heroine doing a lot of slow motion acrobatics, while mowing down 100 bad guys trying to kill her.

Proud Mary is a definite throwback to 70’s linear storytelling. It wasn’t filled with a multitude of subplots, random characters popping in and out, with no real connection to the overall narrative, and a bunch of not too subtle societal messages pounding the audience over the head like a sledgehammer. People in the theater also didn’t need a Ph.D in – “I think I’m so damned clever filmmaking”. It was a very easy film to watch and follow. The cinematography was clean, the action was just enough to move the story along and make you go WOW, the acting was good; Taraji P. Henson killed it as a badass hitwoman who can dispatch her targets without a second thought. Jahi Di’Allo Winston, who played the kid she looked after, was great. Danny Glover was also on-point as the crime boss Taraji’s character Mary worked for. Everyone cast in Proud Mary did their jobs well.

Were there some issues, of course. I thought the first half of the film moved a bit slow and there were a few small holes in the storyline, but it wasn’t enough to say Proud Mary is a bad film. The major problem with Proud Mary is that it wasn’t promoted enough, and for those who are addicted to slick, colorful, special EFX-laden films with an abundance of camera angle trickery, you’ll probably find Proud Mary boring and flat. But if you want a film that follows the screenwriter’s go-to, as in Freytag’s Pyramid, then you’ll find a warm place in your heart for Proud Mary.

As a sidenote: There were two films in the same vein as Proud Mary. The 1980 film Gloria with Gena Rowlands and the 1999 remake of Gloria with Sharon Stone. If you ever saw either of those films and liked them, then you’ll probably like Proud Mary.

The Hypocrisy of #WhyWeWearBlack at the Golden Globes

 

 

Today journalists and Hollywood celebs will be at the Golden Globes and the celebs have this “movement” of #WhyWeWearBlack. Everyone is supposed to show up in Black to show support for women (and some men) who have been victims of sexual harassment, assault, rape and gender inequality . But here’s why I call bullsh*t…they all knew this behavior has been going on for decades and sat idly by, and said nothing and did NOTHING while collecting their millions. They watched other women suffer some of the most heinous indignities a woman could suffer. The few brave women who DID speak up, and risked their livelihoods, had their reputations sullied and their careers ruined.

Rose McGowan has been screaming about Harvey Weinstein for well over a decade, but not one of these women in the industry came to her defense. Meryl Streep, who has been in the industry for 40 years, feigned ignorance and guess what, many of us didn’t buy a damned thing she was selling with that Pollyanna routine. But here we are, on the backs of regular brave women and a few non-A listers, celebs such as Eva Longoria, Jessica Chastain, Reese Witherspoon, Kerry Washington, Tracey Ellis Ross, Ashley Judd, Brie Larsen and others, have come up with this idea of wearing all black to the Golden Globes and want other women across the globe to post videos of themselves wearing black to show solidarity. I call even more bullsh*t.

This is just another feel-good cause célèbre. Ordinary women such as Tarana Burke, who started the #MeToo movement, have been fighting the good fight against sexual harassment for decades. But on cue, here comes these celebrities piggy-backing off her hard-work, and had it not been for those on Twitter calling out Melissa Milano for her appropriation, Tarana Burke wouldn’t have gotten her due. As it is, Time didn’t even have the decency to put her on the cover for a movement being honored that she started. Throughout history, it’s never been celebrities who made significant changes to laws and mindsets in this country, it was regular people like us.

It really pisses me off that celebrities attach themselves to important issues like this, and use them as another avenue for publicity…for themselves of course. Yes they have a platform, but they should have been using that platform a long time ago. This has now became nothing more than the latest “Birkin bag” to them. If they truly wanted to send a message to Hollywood and to all of the victims in and outside of the US, then how about not showing up to the award shows this season? Not continuing to contribute to the pomp and ceremony, would have spoken louder than any black gown worth thousands. But realistically speaking, we all know that would never happen because they’re far too addicted to walking red carpets. Some have said they wouldn’t protest or boycott the show entirely because many of their friends and colleagues were nominated. So in essence, they don’t mind throwing some support in the direction of victims, as long as it doesn’t preclude their night of patting each other on the back.

Shonda Rhimes and 300 other prominent women in the entertainment industry are behind the Time’s Up initiative aimed at eradicating abuse, harassment, marginalization and under-representation in the work place, which on the surface appears to be a good thing. But let’s take a wait and see on what it is they really accomplish. Afterall, celebrities start initiatives and foundations all the darn time and some are successful and others are suspect. But in the end, us hardworking regular women are the ones who will ultimately create the environment we want to live and work in, while celebrities are comfortable in their bubbles, only peeping out from behind the gates to see if they can get something out of our hard-work, dedication and determination to end this rape and harassment culture that’s infected our society for way too long.

 

Review: Blade Runner 2049 – Disappointing to Say the Least

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I saw the new Blade Runner 2049 and after waiting and waiting and waiting for this film, I am NOT at all impressed. Growing up, Blade Runner was my film as well as my dad’s. We saw it 3 times at the theater and it was our night when it was on TV. So it literally pains me to say that after viewing this current incarnation, I feel duped and let down.

First, the visuals and production value were spectacular. The professionals behind this visually stunning dystopian world, were at the top of their game. The casting was on-point. Ryan Gosling was perfectly cast as one of the new models of replicants, and can we chat about Robin Wright. Here’s an actress who was all but forgotten, then she landed House of Cards and has gone on to critical acclaim for her role as Claire in HoC, Wonder Woman and here she is as another serious badass in Blade Runner 2049. She’s an older actress who has found her niche; strong and powerful women and her role in Blade Runner 2049 is no exception.

Then of course there’s Harrison Ford…being Harrison Ford. He still has a lot of the spirit he portrayed in the original film as one of the Blade Runners, Rick Deckard. He was feisty, could throw a great punch, gave us some chuckle-worthy digs in his scenes with Gosling, but what I liked the most about his role was that he was allowed to age. Jared Leto appeared out of nowhere in the first half of the film with about 10 minutes of screen time, then you didn’t see him again until the end and this go around, he had about 7 – 8 minutes of screen time, and no one really knows anything about him other than he’s the blind evil genius behind the corporation who manufactures replicants, but Leto delivered, considering what he had to work with. The rest of the cast were amazing as well.

But the storylines…that’s where it went south. They were beyond convoluted and disjointed. This film was in desperate need of better writers. Just when you would try to become emotionally invested in one storyline, they’d jump to another one and leave you dangling. THEN, here comes a subplot inserted into the already dangling plot line and you’re sitting there completely annoyed. Blade Runner 2049 played like the writers and the director just wrote and shot this film on the fly.

With a few exceptions here and there, the dialogue was consistently flat. This film has an abundance of beautiful visuals, I can’t say that enough however, it’s a pity that more wasn’t dedicated to the storyline and the dialogue. It was all over the place. Characters popping in and out with no real backstory to inform the audience of who in the Hell these people were. Then when they feebly tried to give the audience an explanation, it became even more confusing and complex….but not in a good way. This film was filled with eye-rolling pretentiousness; metaphors and symbolism galore. This was a pseudo-psychological journey into a laborious and overwhelming dystopian world that failed to excite your imagination and make you long for more.

Then that ending…no words. Sometimes you simply have to see something for yourself to understand someone else’s disappointment. Oh by the way, the film is LONG…an hour-plus too long! Now chew on that.  #BladeRunner2049

Review: The Dark Tower

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This will be short and sweet. I thought every component was in place for The Dark Tower (based upon a Stephen King novel; come on, how could anyone mess that up) to be an awesome film, but the director and the writers who adapted this screenplay, didn’t know how to pull the story together enough to make the film cohesive or compelling. I do feel that they need to make a sequel and get another director who has an eye and feel for this genre of film, or simply get Ron Howard to direct it instead of just being a producer. Ron Howard is an award-winning auteur; he is among the elite directors in the industry. With Howard, this film would have made better sense. In addition, for the love of all things suspenseful, hire different writers who know how to compose a strong story that will hold your attention and keep the audience on the edge of their seats. The writers did a poor job of weaving all of the storylines together, which resulted in some left dangling or ended with cheap resolutions. Idris Elba was perfect as the Gunslinger. He had just enough of the right nuances to make a disillusioned reluctant hero. Matthew McConaughey was campy, but he made you love to hate him as the Man in Black. Tom Taylor as the psychic kid, has a screen presence that is undeniable. Excellent cast, but bad storytelling and directing.

The Beguiled was Be Damned…

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The coach put me on the bench because I’m batting double OO with movies, the last string of films I viewed…All Eyez on Me, Transformers:The Last Knight and 40 Meters Down, were side-eye inducing without a doubt. But this weekend I saw the new Sofia Coppola film “The Beguiled“, which is based on the 1971 film of the same name starring Clint Eastwood and Geraldine Page. Before I go all IN on the film, here’s a little tidbit about Coppola. She just won the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival in May, and is only the 2nd woman in Cannes history to win in that category. Let that sink in for a minute. Now getting back to this film. Out of the gate, the pacing was extremely slow. So much so, that I actually started looking for which exit I could get to the quickest. But I’m a trooper, so I hung in there.

None of the characters were fleshed out, especially Kirsten Dunst and Nicole Kidman’s caricatures of repressed southern belles. By the way, Kidman, Dunst, Elle Fanning and one other character in this meandering nonsensical film, kept losing their southern accents. I could have understood better if this were their first film (nervousness and all), but Kidman is an Oscar winner, Dunst and Fanning have over the years, gotten critical acclaim for their acting. They simply phoned in their performances and looked as if they couldn’t have cared any less if they tried. Now let’s get to Colin Farrell.

His once promising career really hit an all-time low with this schlock. He hardly had any dialogue and the dialogue he had, was comical and it wasn’t supposed to be. THAT’S how bad this film is. His best scenes were off-screen after Kidman’s character amputated his leg and he found out. Why Coppola chose for the audience to hear his tirade instead of seeing it, was puzzling to say the least. That probably would have been great to see because Farrell is a good actor and he does a lot of his best work when he’s in meltdown on-screen.

Coppola’s choices with how she shot this film left me and I’m sure so many others who’ve already seen it, wondering WHY? But here’s one choice she made I’m in full support of…the choice to NOT put the female slave character in this film that was in the book. The Black actress who would have been cast, dodged a bullet thank goodness. No one needs this incarnation of The Beguiled on their acting resume. The long and short of it is basically…The Beguiled didn’t make any sense at all. It was a story without any substance or direction. How Coppola won in Cannes in the Best Director’s category for THIS film is another mystery. To say The Beguiled wasn’t her best work is an understatement, and it also begs to question the legitimacy of her winning that award.

Coppola has done tons of applause worthy work such as Marie Antoinette, The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation, did the judges in Cannes see the same film as the rest of us? Did they get their eyes dilated that day and couldn’t really see the banality of this film….what happened? As one critic noted about the film “it was so unnecessary” and no truer words could EVER be said about this film. This was a good idea gone horribly wrong and Coppola, the writers who helped her create this puerile piece of tripe and the actors, had no clue how to make this film compelling enough to where it would hold your attention and the audience would become emotionally invested. Instead, it had the audience holding their breath counting the minutes until the agony was over.

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