I Saw That!

One woman's opinions about popular entertainment.

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Amateur boxing coach, Christian (but not so heavenly-minded that I'm no earthly good) singer, writer, self-defense advocate, childfree. feminist www.smartwomenboxingtraining.org

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Hidden Figures (2016)

Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) were three women, brilliant mathematicians who worked for NASA.  They helped America be a force in the space race.  Why we never heard of them until recently?  Unfortunately, because not only they were female, they were also African-American. Subjected to segregation, racism, and sexism in the early 1960's, the women still made their mark regardless of the roadblocks.  They were known as "human computers" who helped formulate the calculations that sent astronauts into space.

This movie did something that none of my grade school teachers, high school teachers, nor college professors could do -- it presented math as interesting.

All of the main actresses were good.  I was really impressed with Ms. Monae, who is primarily known as a singer.  The supporting cast was on point, too: Kevin Costner, playing another stand-up guy at a crucial time in history; Jim Parsons ("The Big Bang Theory") and Kirsten Dunst as two of many people at NASA who kept throwing roadblocks in the way of the ladies; and Marshershala Ali as a military vet who takes a liking to Ms. Henson's character.

One of my favorite moments was when there was a question of whether calculations were correct before a flight could take place.  John Glenn (Glen Powell), the astronaut who was going to take the flight, asked that "the girl, the smart one" (Henson's character) check the figures before he took off.  As in most movies based on true stories, liberties are taken with events.  But I understand that Mr. Glenn actually requested that Mrs. Johnson look at the numbers.

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Saturday, January 28, 2017

La La Land (2016)

There were many scenes in this movie that were gorgeous.  Just stunning.  The way they were lit were great.  This movie made Los Angeles look like a magical city.

However, I wasn't overly impressed.  The story line involved Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a struggling jazz musician, and Mia (Emma Stone), a struggling actress, following their dreams of stardom.  When they first meet, she flips him the bird during a traffic jam.  They keep running into each other after that, and a relationship begins.  Cue the music.  Gosling and Stone have great chemistry together, and they have passable singing voices.  But I didn't leave the movie theater humming any of the tunes.

A few days before I saw this movie, I overheard a guy telling everyone nearby how happy the movie had made him.  The guy looked younger than I, so I figured he didn't grow up during a time when movie musicals were made on a regular basis.  I grew up during the tail end of Hollywood producing movie musicals.  I could only guess that the guy was impressed by this movie because the concept of movie musicals is very new to his generation.  Interesting film, but I wasn't overly impressed with it.

J.K. Simmons and John Legend do fine in their small roles.

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Monday, January 02, 2017

"The Joey Bishop Show" (1961-1965; NBC, CBS)

When I go on YouTube, it's easy for me to find video on Rat Pack members Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, and Peter Lawford.  But I never find much on comedian Joey Bishop, who was also part of that famed group.  Recently, Antenna TV ran a marathon of Bishop's early 1960's sitcom.

The first season of the show had Bishop playing Joey Barnes, an assistant to a press agent.  His family assumed he had access to celebrities, and Barnes often was in trouble for misrepresenting his job status.  When the second season came along, the show was revamped completely.  Barnes' mom (Madge Blake), brother (Warren Berlinger), two sisters (Marlo Thomas, Virginia Vincent), and brother-in-law (Joe Flynn) were gone.  Barnes had a new job as a New York-based talk show host, he had married Ellie (Abby Dalton), and they lived in a posh apartment building taken care of by Mr. Jillson (Joe Besser).  The plots focused on Barnes' domestic life and his showbiz career.

Bishop had a deadpan, sarcastic way about him.  It worked especially during exchanges between the Barnes' character and his writers, his manager Larry (Corbett Monica), and Hilda (Mary Treen), who was initially hired as a baby nurse when Ellie became pregnant.  She stayed on as the maid after Joey Jr. (Michael David Smith) was born.  The talk show host premise also allowed for plenty of guest stars (Jerry Lewis, Buddy Hackett, Jan Murray, The Andrews Sisters, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Bobby Rydell, etc.) to appear on the sitcom.

NBC canceled the show after the 1963-1964 season and CBS picked up the last season.  The first season was in black and white, then NBC switched to color broadcasts.  But CBS hadn't quite gotten on the bandwagon, so the last season was broadcast in black and white.

The sitcom isn't knock down funny to me, but it is amusing, and Bishop's barbs went a long way.

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Fences (2016)

Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) is a garbage man.  He's been married to Rose (Viola Davis) for close to two decades. He has an adult son, Lyons (Russell Hornsby), from a previous relationship.  Another son, Cory (Jovan Adepo) is a teenager who lives at home.  Troy's brother, Gabe (Mykelti Williamson), is mentally ill, due to an injury he suffered during World War II. Troy's best buddy, Bono (Stephen McKinley Henderson), is a co-worker.

Troy once played in the Negro Baseball League, but he was not allowed to move up in the professional sports career due to the race politics of the time.  He sneers at guys like Jackie Robinson (the film is set during the mid-1950s) who were allowed to play on predominately white teams.  When Cory is given a chance at a college football scholarship, Troy dismisses the notion, telling his son that white people aren't going to let him do much with that.  Rose tries to diffuse the tension between father and son, but without much success.  In addition to deferred dreams, Troy deals with guilt over Gabe's fate in life, and an affair that he's been hiding from Rose.

The performances are good in this film, which is based on a play written by the late August Wilson.  As I watched the film, however, I couldn't get past the "stagy" feel of it.  Most of the action takes place in one spot, and it doesn't open itself to other locations.  There are long stretches of dialogue that probably played very well on stage, but unfortunately, can appear slow on film.

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