Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Quick and Dirties: Joel, Dell, and Movies About Women - Girl Week 2016


It's still Day 4 of Girl Week 2016. We're getting close to the end of this little journey, but we're not done, yet. Let's get down to today's business. I couldn't go the whole week without having The Quick and Dirties make an appearance. That's where I write short reviews for a number of movies revolving around some theme or unifying factor. Since it's Girl Week, we're just going to stick with what we've been doing - movies with female leads. As we've done all week, Joel is tag-teaming this thing with me. We've got a lot to cover, so let's get this show on the road.


Janis: Little Girl Blue
(2015)
This documentary tells the story of iconic rocker, and possibly the first female rock star, Janis Joplin. On the surface, her tale is typical. She found she had a knack for singing at a young age, fell in with a band, became a superstar, did lots of drugs, and died at the age of 27. What this doc does is dig a bit deeper and try to get at why these things happened. To that end, we get interviews with the singer's sister, bandmates, lovers, and admirers. Along with diving into her personal life, there is also an exploration of her work, particularly how she continuously developed that powerful voice, even up to her passing. There are also lots of clips from old interviews of Janis, herself. Though it's ultimately sad, it's still a must-see for fans of Joplin, or those who can appreciate music history. - Dell

Sicario
(2015)
Kate Mercer (Emily Blunt) is an FBI Agent who, along with her partner Reggie (Daniel Kaluuya), lead a raid on a potential safe house for a Mexican cartel. Instead of drugs, they discover dozens of dead bodies. Following this, Mercer is asked to join a special task-force intent on bringing down Manuel Diaz, one of the cartel big dogs. She finds herself plopped into the middle of an active war between shady criminals, and just as shady good guys who employ highly questionable methods. Mercer, along with us, trying to figure out who's who and what's what ensues in this action/crime/thriller hybrid. The tension is nearly unbearable and never lets up. The story is confusing, but in the best way possible. The action on display is brutal. It's another win for director Denis Villenueve, who is fast becoming one of my favorites. Blunt is fantastic. Lastly, I know this is girl week, but Josh Brolin is great, and Benicio del Toro steals the show. - Dell


Gloria
(1980)
One time gangster’s moll and all around tough dame Gloria Swenson (Gena Rowlands) lives by herself in a Bronx apartment building and likes it. When her accountant neighbor (Buck Henry) and his family are targeted by the mob for planning to turn state’s evidence he begs Gloria, who does not like kids, to hide his young son Phil. She reluctantly agrees and when the entire family is wiped out it becomes Gloria’s mission to protect the guarded and defensive boy and the incriminating notebooks he’s been left with from the hoodlums out to get him. If that means she has to kill a few guys in the process, so be it. John Cassavetes directed drama filmed on the streets of New York gets a real sense of the grittiness of the city before it was gentrified. While the film is involving it lives and breathes because of the inimitable Rowlands, who was Oscar nominated, she could not possibly be flintier as the title character. Remade, dreadfully, by Sharon Stone in the late 90’s. - Joel


Diary of a Teenage Girl
(2015)
Minnie (Bel Powley) is a fifteen year old aspring cartoonist, living in San Francisco during the mid-1970s. We open the movie with her announcement to her audio diary that she's just had sex for the very first time. As if that weren't hard enough to hear, she also lets us know that it was with her mother's boyfriend Monroe (Alexander Skarsård). The two begin an affair he treats as strictly sexual while she is busy falling in love. She also begins partying, doing drugs, and generally being out of control. Her mother Charlotte (Kristen Wiig) is a hard partyer, herself, and ill-equipped to deal with any of this. As a dad of teenage girls, this is a tough, tough watch, but one that might be necessary. The writing is excellent and the performance by Powley is outstanding. In a very different role than what we're accustomed to seeing her in, Kristen Wiig is equally excellent as the coke-snorting Charlotte. - Dell


The Boss
(2016)
Michelle Darnell (Melissa McCarthy) is a ridiculously rich and famous businesswoman. Her world ends when she is sent to prison for insider trading. When she comes out, with nowhere to go, she shows up at the home of her former assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) who takes pity on her old boss and lets her move in. Shortly, thereafter, Michelle is trying to rebuild her empire with the help of Claire's daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson) and the Girl Scout troupe she belongs. Yes, it's McCarthy being loud, rude, and crude. She's also dressed in the most ridiculous turtlenecks I've ever seen in my life. Peter Dinklage is our de facto villain, and tears up the screen, as he usually does. I know, lots of you can't get with McCarthy, at all, but hey, I laughed quite a bit. - Dell


The Major and the Minor
(1942)
Transplanted New Yorker Susan Applegate (Ginger Rogers) after a series of awful jobs is fed up with big city life and decides to head back to her rural hometown. Problem is she’s nearly penniless and in an effort to save money passes herself off as a Su-Su Applegate a 12 year old child to get half fare on the train. The conductor is suspicious but can’t be sure until he catches her outside a railroad car sneaking a smoke. Running away from him she dives into a compartment occupied by a naive officer (Ray Milland) with bad vision who takes her at her word and lets her stay in his room until they reach the military academy where he teaches. When it turns out the track ahead is flooded Su-Su is stuck at the all boy school staying with the major’s controlling girlfriend Pamela (Rita Johnson) and her younger sister Lucy (Diana Lynn) who sees through the disguise instantly but goes along because she senses that Susan’s presence will shake things up. Falling for the handsome, if clueless, major and learning that Pamela is planning to block an appointment he wants to keep him close Su-Su goes into action all the while being pursued by all the frisky cadets who average about 13 years old! But there’s rough water ahead! Breezy comedy was the great Billy Wilder’s first directing effort, he also co-wrote the script, and what in lesser hands could have been tasteless and uncouth is a instead a charming, if somewhat incredible, fable. - Joel

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14 comments:

  1. Looks great Dell but I'm going to have to read in depth later. Thanksgiving demands intrude!

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    1. I've read a bio of Janis Joplin but have not seen this doc. It will be interesting to see the people I've read about but considering the way Janis carried on it's incredible she lived as long as she did. I've heard raves about Sicario but haven't gotten to it yet but I am planning on it. I got a big kick out of The Boss but then I'm a fan of Melissa McCarthy though I haven't loved all her films. And yes those turtlenecks were bizarrely distracting. I still prefer Spy but this was a fun one.

      Love both pictures you found for mine. The one from Gloria encapsulates the thrust of the story perfectly-and Gena Rowlands bad-ass attitude. Great that you could find one of Ginger in her kiddie getup but with a cigarette in her hand!

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    2. The Janis doc is very interesting. If you have Netflix, they are streaming it now. I would love to hear what you think of Sicario. Glad to see someone else appreciate The Boss.

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  2. Diary of a Teenage Girl and Gloria are films I definitely like a lot as they're just awesome. I definitely want to see Sicario as I just saw Arrival earlier today as I want to check out more of Denis Villeneuve's work.

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    1. I still need to see Gloria, myself. Thanks to Joel for making me aware of it. Villenueve had proven to be excellent, so far. I think you will like Sicario.

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  3. Ugghhh-I still have to see Gloria which I wanted to see way back then in the movie theatre! Love Gena Rowlands and knew enough that the Sharon Stone remake would be awful. I think I saw the documentary on PBS and if it is the same one-it is excellent. So many from that era died young and at 27...weird. I have not seen this Diary movie but i recall so many Diary of a teenage girl, stripper, hooker...you name it. They were fun to watch especially since one starred Jan Brady (Eve Plumb). Love Melissa in just about anything she does and this was fun to watch. Those turtleneck bows were wacky. Great review Joel of The Major and the Minor. Ray Milland's character is just a bit blind but handled perfectly by the skill of Wilder. I love the young sister as well. The one who played ginger's mother in the film was actually Ginger's mom, Lela

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    1. Not sure if it's the same Joplin doc, but it is most certainly an excellent one. Glad to hear The Boss getting some love.

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  4. It's interesting what you say about Diary of a Teenage Girl - I thought it was good over all but a few part annoyed me. I don't think my dad would ever see it but I wonder if he would feel the same way. Obviously with films like this - I would approach as 'well I used to be a teenage girl lets see how this goes' or 'its a film with a female lead lets watch this' so its great to hear other reactions to films I would unfortunately not bat an eyelid to.

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    1. I can see how you would take it much more in stride. For me, it was like being repeatedly stabbed in the heart. Nonetheless, it was really good.

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  5. I've only seen two of the films mentioned (Sicario and The Boss) but I'm certainly interested in the rest. I really don't know much about Janis Joplin, so that seems like an ideal place to start.

    I'm definitely waiting on Diary of a Teenage Girl, as I really don't need anything else to worry about when it comes to my daughter, uh, even if she's a decade out from being a teenager.

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    1. Yeah, skipping that one might be a good idea.

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