Are You Not Entertained?

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I was. Here continues a monthly series featuring the music, the books, and the movies that occupied my time.  

MUSIC

Bach’s six Brandenburg Concertos epitomized the Baroque period. Introduced to them twenty years ago, and despite my leaning toward the passionate Russian romantics, I learned to appreciate the symmetrical beauty of Bach’s piano works. In the 1950s and 60s, no one denied Glenn Gould the title of genius when performing them. A quirky man in a world of his own, humming on his own recordings, I highly recommend the unusual, artistic film of 32 vignettes by Director François Girard (The Red Violin) and Colm Feore starring as Gould.

And then, for a musical treat, I got a kick out watching an old television program which featured some fabulous icons–Leonard Bernstein, Glenn Gould, and Russian composer, Igor Stravinsky. You can watch Glenn Gould play around the 18:00-minute mark.

BOOKS 

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It’s been all about Steve McQueen in my house this past month. For the winter project, I’ve immersed myself in Marshall Terrill’s biography. As a cultural icon of the 1960s and 70s, I was reminded how free-flowing the sex, drugs, fast cars, and fashion mattered. McQueen loved it all and was an international star, commanding at his zenith almost a million dollars a film. In 1980, he died at the age of 50 of Mesothelioma from his days as a Marine, scraping asbestos off the walls of a ship. Did I like Steve McQueen after reading all about him? Not particularly, but he was cool to watch on the screen, and the biography was fast and fun, just like the man. 4/5.

MOVIES (TV)

st-vinyl-vol-1-front-cover_3000Stranger Things, the Netflix series starred a shrilled, hyperventilating Winona Rider, an ensemble of geeky pre-teens, stereotypical high schoolers, and two actors whose characters were interesting: Chief Hopper (David Harbour) and the fantastic Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) who reminded me of a young Natalie Portman. Nostalgic, dripping with Steven Spielberg tricks, it is my new guilty pleasure. 4/5

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Controversial director, Roman Polanski, has a gift for making beautiful films, and this political thriller is no exception. You may think you are on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, but not so. The sand dunes, bulbous gray clouds, and windy spray was located on the North Sea island of Sylt. The Ghost Writer matched style with substance. Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan lead a fine ensemble cast with enough twists and turns to keep you engaged. And that closing shot is one of the best I’ve seen in a while.   4/5.

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Quiz Show(1994). Directed by Robert Redford. Stars Ralph Fiennes, John Turturro, Rob Morrow, and Paul Scofield. It’s funny. It’s smart. Based on true events, Ralph Fiennes plays Charlie Van Dorena WASP, a professor of literature, whose ivy-league-Brahmin-of-a-father has basked in fame and respect for decades and junior sets out to make a name for himself. Unfortunately, his moral dilemma piques the journalistic interest of a brilliant investigative reporter played by Rob Morrow. The acting is outstanding and Paul Attanasio‘s adapted screenplay is an English major’s dream. Who wouldn’t want to sit at the family picnic table with academian greats and listen to them recite Hawthorne and Shakespeare while munching on corn on the cob? Okay, well, I would. Robert Redford warns us of television’s manipulative power, run by executives, who will do anything for ratings. Sound familiar?  Mark Van Doren: Cheating on a quiz show? That’s sort of like plagiarizing a comic strip.”  4.5/5. 

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For the Love of Spock (2016). Even if you aren’t a Star Trek fan, I forgive you; everyone should watch this outstanding documentary for the cultural-historical relevance (breaking television boundaries with interracial mixing and science fiction influencing the leading scientists of today) and insight as to why Star Trek fans are a loyal bunch. On Netflix, it’s perfect entertainment during a work week evening when you are loafing on the couch with not much going on. Nimoy’s son chronicles his father’s life with balance and grace. I vividly remember as a girl lying on the floor in front of the TV mesmerized during all 79 episodes. Then came the movies. That’s a lot of emotional bonding and why creator Gene Roddenberry and Leonard Nimoy are tops in my book. 4.5/5 

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The Innocents (2016). At first, I wondered if this was a remake of the 1961 Jack Clayton film with the same title starring Deborah Kerr during Victorian England. Looks great! However, this is not the case. This French film directed by Anna Fontaine is about a young French Red Cross doctor (Lou de Laâge) who is sent in 1945 Poland to assist the survivors of the German camps and discovers several nuns in advanced states of pregnancy during a visit to a nearby convent. It is a fantastic based-on-true-events effort by Fontaine.  My only criticism is the space between the doctor and the nuns. The nuns remain “others” and in spite of the intimacy of delivering baby after baby; the nuns remain foreign entities other than a couple of brief conversations. On the plus side, I thought it a good call in the script to avoid flashbacks of the rapes. 4/5.

 A Man Called Ove (2016) This Swedish gem directed by Hannes Holms and his screenplay adapted from Fredrik Backman‘s novel of the same name was a surprise treat. This dark comedy affected me to tears which I wasn’t expecting. The grumpy old man, Ove, (Rolf Lassgård) who can’t come to terms with his wife’s death, discovers there’s still meaning in life. He seems like the dull model of mediocrity, but his love story told through flashbacks about his beautiful wife Sonja (Ida Engvoll) provides depth and surprises. The grumpy old man stereotype turns into a complex character when the people in his present like the Middle Eastern young wife (Bahar Pars) who helps him realize that life has a purpose even when you think you’re done with it. Touching and beautiful. 4.5/5.

 

48 thoughts on “Are You Not Entertained?

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  1. Thanks Cindy for another neat post, might have to check out A Man Called Ove. Coincidentally I just watched Strange Things too. I kind of zoned out on my phone through various episodes but agree that David Harbour and Eleven were the more interesting characters. Modine too had an air of mystery and the kids were nicely done. Alright maybe it’s just Winona. Man this is the girl from Heathers, Natalie Portman for Gen X! I want her to be great in a great project. Anyway I liked the look, I enjoyed some twists but there was something missing for me. Too much padding maybe because when it grabbed me it really grabbed me. Oh well starting Fargo now.

    1. Hi Lloyd. Oh, yes with the padding. But I still had fun getting caught up in the Goonies kind of atmosphere. For a Sunday afternoon when I was bored, I enjoyed it. Much more so than “OA”.
      I haven’t watched Fargo yet; let me know if you like it!

      1. The second series of Fargo was just wonderful. The real spirit of the Cohen Brothers came through this time, and Kirsten Dunst is a revelation. The first series with Martin Freeman was so-so, but this second one was a cracker! I can recommend it unreservedly. 🙂

  2. Great post again, Cindy. Nice month of entertainment for you. Hope you found time to work on your novel. The music brought me back to those years when I worked the Minnesota Orchestra rehearsals in the mornings. The movie Quiz Show brought me back to that time when I was shocked when it actually happened, even though at the time I liked the $64,000 Question better. Haven’t seen the documentary FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK yet; but I can assure you that if you ever got to know Nimoy in person, he would be still be tops in your book.

    1. Welcome, Don. I remember your post about Nimoy’s passing. He seemed authentic to me and the documentary shows that he was. He had his personal issues like us all and he was estranged with his son for several years, but they seemed to work out their differences. Nimoy was a workaholic which got in the way of family life, as one might expect, but I do sense he had a lot of fine qualities like honesty and loyalty. My book. Thank you for asking. I had some structural issues with it, grand plans, and it didn’t work for me. I had set it aside just to let it breathe on its own for a while. It has talked to me finally and I know my new course of action (boy, that sounds dorky) is to simplify the POV and choose to tell the right character’s story. I’m about to back off a little from the blogging and schedule in more creative writing. Whenever I say I’m gonna do that, I miss the instant gratification that comes from interacting with my blogging buddies. Too many avocations, too little time!

      1. Just finished watching the Spock documentary. Enjoyed it very much. When I began working with Leonard Nimoy back in 79, I had never really watched any Star Trek. Even now I may watch an occasional episode on retro tv. Not familiar with Spock gave me an insight as Leonard, an actor, and very shortly as Leonard a friend. Adam did a good job in this tribute to his dad. Thanks Cindy for the heads up on this film.

        1. I really enjoyed when they were talking about Leonard’s acting days before Spock as a young father making ends meet. There’s some deep stuff there too about family and the legacies we hope to leave behind. Fathers and sons.

  3. My first awareness of Bach came in the final scenes of Phaedra (1962) with Anthony Perkins driving his Aston-Martin into oblivion. For me, the best time to listen to Bach is while watching snow fall.

  4. Nice that you have only just caught up with ‘Quiz Show’, which was an unexpected treat for me in the 90s.You can see it from a fresh angle. ‘The Ghost Writer’ was better than I anticipated, but then it was from a Robert Harris book, and they are normally quite good. I generally like Brosnan too, when he is not just being James Bond. (The Tailor of Panama and The Matador are both worth a watch.)

    Thanks for an unusual mix, Cindy, and a comprehensive roundup as always.

    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. Pete, I’m glad we agree. I thought of you when I watched ‘A Man Called Ove’. That’s one worthy of renting. The film blossomed open like a flower. Ove was utterly charming and full of depth.

  5. I believe that in the 1970s they put Glenn Gould and Bach on that capsule that was sent out to wander space and meet the aliens. I first heard of him in 36 Short Films which I found just an amazing creation.

  6. Fantastic roundup Cindy! Maybe at some stage I will check out the McQueen biography. Stranger Things really is good, looking forward to more of it. For The Love Of Spock looks well worth a look see, too.

  7. Some really, really good movies Cindy. Obviously you know my love for The Innocents and Ove. So glad to see you bringing them to people’s attention. I also really, really like The Ghost Writer. Been meaning to see it again.

      1. I think it may have an outside chance. It will be tough though. I think it surprised a lot of people just being nominated. I know I’ll be rooting for it.

  8. Very interesting rundown. Now I have a few more movies to add to my must-watch list, like A Man Called Ove. I like how you described the Elliot Gould movie and music too. I need to see that again. Ghost Writer was a nice surprise gem and Stranger Things was one of the few shows I ‘binge-watched’. It was like an 80s Amblin version of X-Files filtered through Stephen King. Looking forward to the next Are You Not Entertained!

  9. This is a wonderful, eclectic mix of cultural consumption. How do you find time? I was also moved by The Innocents and will publish on it soon. Your comment about the distance between the doctor and the nuns intriques me. Its a deliberate distancing of course, but not between humans I think, rather between science and faith. Its a perplexed awe as well as incompatible world views, a chasm that continues into modern times.

    1. Yes, science and faith, and the space between is wide. I was aching to get to know the nuns more. How do I find the time? I don’t know. I should back off and work on my second manuscript. After dinner we usually sit down and watch a movie a few days a week. They add up after awhile. Thanks, Richard, for commenting.

  10. Wow…you’ve seen so many interesting movies. I’ve read so much on “Quiz Show”, how underseen and intelligent it is, and I love Ralph Fiennes, but I never got around to seeing it. I will now. I love Polanski as well and the only reason why I haven’t seen “The Ghost Writer” yet is maybe because I do not really like either Ewan McGregor or Pierce Brosnan. Perhaps, it is time for me to overcome my dislike and see the film.

    1. Hi! Well, the film might not change your mind about either actor, but I enjoyed the cinematography and the ending shot. I did care for Ewan’s character by the time it was all over. Hope you get a chance to see both!

  11. I remember watching an interesting documentary on Glenn Gould, which delved into his quirkiness. You may have heard of it Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould (2009)

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