One-day film festival with Oscar nominees

Last weekend I went to another one-day film festival at one of the large Pathé cinemas here in the Netherlands. The PAC (Pathé Alternative Cinema) festival is held twice a year and I try to get to at least one of these each year. My friend and I went last Sunday. The line-up was as follows (and as of yesterday, 4 of the 5 movies here have garnered Oscar nominations!):

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I’m not going to go into detailed descriptions and criticisms of each movie, just giving quick impressions of what these movies did for me. I can tell you straight off that I liked all of them (yes, even Green Book!) but that I think my fave of all these 5 movies was the first one called Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is the true story of an author who has fallen on hard times and by chance discovers that faking letters from famous authors can earn her a lot of money.

canyoueverforgiveme-catI loved the story and I loved the character of Lee Israel; Melissa McCarthy portrayed her beautifully. I loved seeing a character in a lead role who isn’t all skinny and pretty (although I do find, and have always found, Melissa McCarthy to be pretty and cute), someone who seems dowdy, caustic and even unlikable. She is someone who is pretty much invisible to the world around her and yet, she is so rich on the inside and yes, despite her flaws and sarcasm, she is lovable, maybe because of the very real struggles she is facing. Also, anyone who loves their cat as Lee Israel does has something good in them, regardless. 😉 Richard E. Grant plays Jack Hock, someone who is down on his luck as well and becomes her best friend and he too plays this role beautifully. What I liked most of all was that these characters are layered, they aren’t all good or all bad, they are all only human. What seems drab and maybe even evil on the outside isn’t necessarily all that on the inside.

canyoueverforgivemeI was tickled pink to discover that both Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant have been nominated for Oscars for their roles. They so deserve it!

Next up was the movie If Beale Street Could Talk. It’s about a young African-American couple who are in love. After Tish’s (Kiki Layne) fiancé Fonny (Stephen James) is unjustly arrested, she looks back on their relationship and does everything in her power to get him released. The two young lead actors beautifully portrayed their characters. They were so gentle and sweet, very poetic in a way. I loved Tish, such a sweet, open and innocent face, starting out grown up life in such difficult circumstances…

beale street… and I loved Regina King who plays Tish’s mom. She almost stole the movie for me. She too has been deservedly nominated for an Oscar.

The film was almost other-worldly, dreamlike, and felt very poetic. That also made it quite a slow movie, almost too slow. My friend even nodded off for a bit there. I loved the feeling of goodness trying to overcome evil and prejudice in this film and I liked that the ending wasn’t glossed over happy, but the movie was too slow in parts and so for that, I can’t give it the highest marks. It did feel very topical and gives food for thought, though, which is always excellent.

The next movie we saw was Vice. It’s a comedy-drama film, dripping with sarcasm, about Dick Cheney who was the former vice-president under George W. Bush. Cheney is played by Christian Bale whom you hardly recognize as Bale. He is excellent in the role…

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… as is Amy Adams in her role as his wife Lynne.

vice01While I was very aware of George W. Bush as president (and truly hated his presidency), I only recalled Dick Cheney by name. I knew virtually nothing about the man, other than that he had been vice-president and that he had been Secretary of Defense under papa Bush, where he pushed for a war on Iraq on what I recall as flimsy or even false evidence. The film is very polarizing, I can imagine Democrats in the US loving this and Republicans hating this and after seeing this I still don’t know what’s really true or not. I tend to believe he must have been a sleaze, as I also truly hated the George W. Bush presidency and from the beginning felt the war on Iraq was more about oil than about Al Qaeda or Saddam Hussein, but I don’t know if this movie does justice to Cheney or not. The movie clearly does state that they are not sure everything played out as they show it, and even have someone during the end credits claim the movie is liberal bullshit, which I thought was a very nice touch. Regardless of how polarized it is, the sarcasm made me laugh at times and I especially loved the scene between Dick and Lynne in their bedroom, doing a Shakespearean dialogue. That alone is Oscar-worthy. And yes, these two actors have also been nominated for Oscars! So, yes, I did like the movie, even though I was very aware of it being a one-sided, liberal stand-up show which also had some surprising twists and turns. My friend isn’t so much into politics, especially not US politics, and didn’t like it so much. Some of it went over her head, I think, as I think it did to a lot of the Dutch audience. I was laughing in places where I noticed no one else around me laughing… So, I’m thinking this movie works best in the US and for people who are interested in politics.

After this came Green Book, which I was very curious about after having read Servetus’s criticism of it. I really like both Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali and the story interested me too. Mahershala Ali plays classical pianist Dr. Don Shirley, who is doing a tour in the Deep South of the US in the early 1960s and hires Italian Tony “Lip” Vallelonga to be his driver.

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I get the criticism of the film, and especially the fried chicken running joke felt off, and for a while there the idea of Tony ‘educating’ Don on what black people should like felt off as well. But I also saw this movie as a story mostly about Tony who has to face his prejudice against African-Americans and through actually becoming friends with an African-American, learns the error of his ways. This movie is mostly aimed at a white audience, I think, but is it really so bad to address this from a white point of view? To me African-American Don felt in no way inferior to Italian-American Tony and it was nice seeing the African-American character as the eclectic, more-cultured and learned man. He was the main educator to me, rather than the white man. Yeah, Tony tried to ‘teach’ Don about African-American music and about letting other people in, but in the end the lessons Tony learned from Don where more profound than the other way around. Not only the lesson of racism but also the lesson of learning to express yourself more eloquently, the importance of dignity and learning that not all African-Americans love the same things. Don didn’t need to change so much, except for maybe letting people in a little bit more, Tony did need to change and this was mostly Tony’s story. I’m sure there was stereotyping of African-Americans in this, but I have a feeling there was Italian-American stereotyping as well. Maybe I’m missing nuances here but from an outsider’s point of view on racism in the US, this to me didn’t feel so very biased against African-Americans. It was not a very surprising movie, however, and did feel a bit like a story that has been told before. It also never really dug deep into the psyche of these two men, it remained a little shallow overall. So, in that sense, this wasn’t the best movie of the day for me. It was pretty enough but lacked depth. Viggo and Mahershala have both also been Oscar nominated for this and while I thought Viggo did really well (and I would be happy for him to win, though maybe not for this role), I liked Mahershala even more. He’s up in the same category as Richard E. Grant for the Oscars, it’ll be a tough call. Although, in hindsight, maybe it isn’t so tough, as I think the depth of Richard’s character was more developed than the depth of Mahershala’s.

The final film of the evening was Arctic starring Mads Mikkelsen, he of Hannibal fame to Richard Armitage fans.

It’s a movie about a man surviving on his own after his plane crashes in the Arctic. You don’t see the crash, you just have this story of this one man trying to survive. At first he stays put but when he rescues an unconscious woman from a helicopter crash (a team of pilots who tried to save him had crash landed) he decides he needs to move and find safetly with her in tow, pretty much unconscious for the whole movie. Not much dialogue and a lot of hardships are endured and yet it still was a good watch. Again, like Green Book, it wasn’t the most surprising movie, especially not after having seen The Mountain Between Us a year or so ago with Kate Winslet and Idris Elba also trying to survive such a freezer climate together (although Kate is not unconscious for too long). Still, it was never dull, the story moved along nicely and my friend, although it was the last movie of the day, never once dropped off to sleep. 🙂

All in all, I enjoyed all the films and some more than others. If I had to put it in order from fave to least fave of the day, the list would be:

  1. Can You Ever Forgive Me?  – Everything was right in this movie – story, characters, depth and the way it all looked and felt.
  2. Vice – The storytelling in this movie surprised me several times, different from any other movie I know, I really liked that. Also, I can really appreciate sarcasm.
  3. If Beale Street Could Talk – The most sympathetic characters in this one, with a dreamlike quality and food for thought. However, also a little slow.
  4. Green Book – Mainly liked it for the two main actors in this and it looked good. The movie overall didn’t have that much depth, though, and didn’t feel very new.
  5. Arctic – well-acted by Mads but I felt like I’d seen it all before.
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To all the Catholic priests I’ve known before…

News this morning (yesterday morning by the time I publish this) is that Richard Armitage has a new role coming up…

… and I really like the sound of this. Finally an Armitage project for me to get excited about! He’s going to be playing a Catholic priest, “handsome Father Quart”, who solves mysteries. I know nothing of this story or this character but I am curious and I am quite partial to priests. In fact, priests have been on my mind recently, ever since Herba blogged about “The Thorn Birds syndrome” on her blog last week. It’s as if she felt some priest-announcement in the air. 😉

Due to my father’s work, we were friends with a lot of religious people. We grew up around nuns, we were friends with rabbis and priests. One of our favourite people was a Dutch Melkite (Greek Catholic order) priest who lived on top of a mountain in the Lower Galilee in Israel. Father Jacob, but we called him Uncle Jacob, was like a granddad to us and we visited him and his tiny community regularly. He had this beautiful little chapel hewn into the rock which I think still may be my favourite chapel ever…

Until we saw The Thorn Birds in the early 1980s I had never thought of priests as sexy, but then Richard Chamberlain was on the screen as Father Ralph de Bricassart and we loved it. I think my mum even had a bit of a crush on Father Ralph, I had the same crush. Can you blame us? Just look!

Now that’s a handsome and sexy priest. Will Richard be anything like that as Father Quart? I wouldn’t mind! By the way, not only Richard Chamberlain was sexy in this, I quite liked Christopher Plummer as a cardinal as well.

And my fave actor during my teens, Gregory Peck, has also played priests. It’s been ages since I’ve seen him in Keys of the Kingdom from 1944, one of his first starring roles, where he plays a priest that starts a mission in China. Even though he ages to an old man in the movie, he really is baby-Gregory as a priest. Very cute. 🙂

In the 1980s I also saw him in The Scarlet and the Black, a TV miniseries where he plays a Monsignor at the Vatican who hides POW’s during WWII. That too I haven’t seen in ages… In that one Christopher Plummer was a Nazi Commander, by the way.

Another priest I remember seeing in a movie was Bing Crosby in The Bells of St. Mary’s. I never was much of a Bing Crosby fan, I saw this movie for Ingrid Bergman, whom I do love. In the last picture of this group, they’re petting a kitten. Awww!

There was some comedy in St Mary’s and another movie about a priest (and a rabbi) that had some light-heartedness to it was a faith and romantic comedy called Keeping the Faith, starring Edward Norton, Ben Stiller and Jenna Elfman. I actually saw Keeping the Faith again recently and yeah, I still like it. Edward Norton looks very nice in a collar.

From comedy to darkness and Max von Sydow as a priest in The Exorcist. I have only ever seen that movie once (not my genre) and also barely remember it, but I do remember thinking that Von Sydow was good.

Another priest I liked was Jeremy Irons in The Mission, which I saw in the cinema in the 1980s, but also haven’t seen since, I don’t think. In class, in high school, we had to write a poem about a picture and I even wrote a poem about this one from that movie…

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I wonder if I still have that poem somewhere, I remember writing it before I had even seen the movie, I just liked the image so much. That movie also starred Robert DeNiro and Liam Neeson as priests…

… and Liam Neeson as priest reminded me of a movie called Silence that I saw two years ago, which impressed me. Besides Neeson, it mostly starred Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield and also briefly Ciaran Hinds. Ciaran looks very dashing as a priest, I have to say.

That movie was a little grimy and gritty, just like Pilgrimage was, in which Richard killed priests instead of being one…

At least he could already practice with taking Communion…

pilgrimage communion

These are all the Catholic priests that sprung to my mind (I’m sure there must be more but they didn’t pop-up in my head) when I read about Richard’s new role. He’ll be joining this nice line-up of actors before him and  I can hardly wait to see him dressed and act as a priest. He already looks good in a collar (of sorts) after all…

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… he’ll be a knock-out in a priest’s robes.

I think I’m going to see if I can track down the book somewhere, my curiosity has been awakened! It feels good to be excited about an Armitage project again. 🙂

Fangirling again

I have a little more time again to fangirl now. Yay! 🙂

Saw this yesterday on my Instagram feed and it made me smile very widely.

Pierce Brosnan (whom I once briefly met) and Hugh Jackman (whom I will see live on stage in Amsterdam in May) bumping into each other in an airport lounge! Kinda funny too, as Amanda Seyfried (in the middle) played Pierce’s (probably) daughter in Mamma Mia and played Hugh’s adopted daughter in Les Miserables. Hugh says “Our daughter” underneath the same picture he posted to his Instagram. Awww. 🙂

Another picture I’ve been taking some extra time now to fangirl over, is Richard’s picture on top of another mountain from a few days ago…

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Dare I say, with even only a little bit of his face visible, he looks happy and relaxed? I wonder which mountain this is? Does he always go back to the same spots or does he pick something new every time? I hope he’s had/is having fun and I am still wondering what that exciting role he talked about a little while back will be… I’m done with Berlin Station, I quit watching after season 3 episode 2, so I’m really hoping for something new from him. By the way, Hugh was also on top of a mountain a few days ago. Spot the differences…

Moving on to fangirling over True Love in TV Series. The second half of Suits season 8 will air from next week. Will Donna and Harvey ever get together? Doesn’t look like it in season 8b, as Donna gets a new boyfriend…

I’m so done with this will they/won’t they situation, the Donna and Harvey (im)possibility has already been milked for what it’s worth, it’s obvious to me they finally SHOULD! On a side note, Louis looks on fine and funny form for season 8b…

And finally, Silent Witness is apparently still going strong on the BBC. I used to love watching the show, not only for the cases but also for the team dynamic of pathologists Nikki, Harry and Leo. Harry disappeared at the end of season 15 but when they killed off Leo at the end of season 16, I officially couldn’t watch anymore. They are up to season 22 now, I have caught bits of episodes here and there in recent years but it just doesn’t have the same magic for me anymore. And now, in a glimpse I saw last night (or was it the night before?) on the BBC, it looks like Nikki could be pregnant? How can she be pregnant and Harry not be the father? Yes, I still mourn the demise of that almost relationship. It seems she did have a love interest last season…

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Now I guess I need to watch those episodes and the next episode to see what’s what, because I am curious. I hope I can bear it… 😊

Pumpkins

“Mach was mit Kürbissen” (“Do something with pumpkins”) was the latest Herba and Pö challenge and yeah, I got nuthin’! I don’t cook or bake or paint, I don’t know of any pumpkin patches here like they seem to have everywhere in the US, Halloween isn’t a big deal here and I couldn’t think of any pumpkin songs, movies or books… unless it’s Cinderella and her pumpkin that transforms into a carriage, like here in my fave Cinderella movie ever, The Slipper and the Rose. In this movie the fairy godmother (played by brilliant Annette Crosbie) has a little dog who rounds up the pumpkin… Be aware, that this is a 42-year-old pumpkin!

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Cinderella (Gemma Craven) gets to sit in the pumpkin that has been transformed magically into a beautiful carriage, with the fairy godmother looking on in delight…

Slipper & Rose pumpkin carriage

… and then she goes to the ball, where the prince (Richard Chamberlain) falls in love with her (and she with him) at first sight…

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… and then they dance in one of the most magical movie dances…

Sorry, getting carried away here… Back to pumpkins. Or rather, the lack of pumpkins. I searched for inspiration and took pictures of pumpkins I saw in my supermarket…

I saw these a week later…

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When I visited Suzy from the Silverblueling blog a few weeks ago in and around Düsseldorf, she made a delicious pumpkin soup…

I hope she blogs the recipe for all of you to enjoy as well, it was really good!

And yet with all these pumpkins, I still had no inspiration to create anything pumpkin related myself, except for this rambling pumpkin blog post. The theme however did inspire me to buy this at the flower shop around the corner here…

It has been gracing my living room for the past two weeks now and it looks like it will hold a few more days till Halloween. So, even if I didn’t create much myself for this Mach-was-challenge, thank you for inspiring me to buy this lovely decoration, Pö! 🎃 🎃 🎃

Jackie

No, not this one…

… or this one (I love that song!)…

… but this one, the existence of which I only discovered two days ago!

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Jackie is a Dutch movie from 2012 starring real-life sisters Carice van Houten (left, known to some through Game of Thrones), Jelka van Houten (on the right) and Holly Hunter.

I was flipping through channels the other day (which I hardly ever do anymore as Dutch TV has so little to offer that interests me) and stumbled on the beginning of this movie called Jackie. For some reason I was instantly drawn in. I think it was the no-nonsense approach, the swift set up of the story and then I saw Holly Hunter, whom I like as an actress, and I became even more curious. Of course, 15 or so minutes into the movie there was a commercial break and as I can’t stand commercial breaks during movies, I decided to not finish watching it that evening. I watched it yesterday evening instead, with no commercials breaking the magic of the story unfolding.

Jackie is about twin sisters, Sofie (Carice van Houten) and Danielle, Daan for short (Jelka van Houten), who were born through a surrogate mother and grew up in Amsterdam with their dads. Sofie is a career woman, Daan is married and trying to have a baby with her husband. At a dinner with their dads Sofie tells the family that she received an unexpected call from America where she was told that their birth mother is in a hospital with a complicated broken leg and needs transport to a rehab facility.

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Curious to find out who the woman is that gave birth to them, the girls decide to fly to New Mexico to meet her. They find a dishevelled, intense woman who doesn’t speak much and seems hostile towards them and life in general.

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As they can’t fly to the rehab facility due to Jackie’s medical issues, they give in to travelling in Jackie’s beat up old RV instead. What ensues is this road trip, with the necessary obstacles thrown in, where both sisters try to deal with what’s thrown at them and also deal with long-distance controlling situations at home while they try to forge some sort of relationship with this woman who gave birth to them. Meanwhile, Jackie is bewildered by her two daughters but is also slowly drawn to them.

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I don’t quite understand why this movie struck such a chord with me. I was reading some reviews after I watched it where it said that this was pretty cliché road movie fare, that the twist at the end should have happened sooner, that it was annoying that Jackie never explained anything about herself, that the women were all flat and devoid of feeling (what? I really didn’t get that criticism) and yet… I loved everything about this movie! The mix of Dutch and English was really fun to hear, it’s how I speak at home as well, I loved the dynamic between the two sisters, I loved the intensity of Holly Hunter, I loved the three leads in their roles. I even loved that there was not much explaining, these women just are as they are, no explanations necessary. The story really is a snapshot of a certain time in these three women’s lives and how this road trip brings each one closer to their own true selves and each other. At the end, each woman is able to move forward in their own unique way. There was serious stuff going on, but there were funny and light-hearted moments as well. The part that made me smile most was when the two sisters were in the front singing along with the radio to this fun, upbeat song and Jackie was enjoying herself in the back…

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I also felt that the New Mexico backdrop fit the story very well. The landscape is not only empty and stark, it also has some beautiful hidden treasures, which I thought somehow mirrored these women as well. Yep, I loved this movie, I think I even dreamt of it last night, I have been re-watching bits and pieces this morning and now I’m blogging about it. I tend to not love most Dutch movies so much, but this one really did it for me. Here’s a trailer…

It’s available on Dutch Netflix, so maybe also on Netflix where you are, should this have made you curious…