“I’ll See You In My Dreams”

Time Magazine recently published its list of their best 2015 movies. There was one I hadn’t heard of at all. Released in May, it starred Blythe Danner and Sam Elliott. How had I missed this?

We meet Carol, watching TV at bedtime with her dog Hazel on the bed. Hazel’s not doing well at all, and soon we see that Carol has to put him down. (Yes, him.) Oh, is this movie going to be a downer?

We then see Carol with her bridge-playing friends (an inspired acting group consisting of Rhea Perlman, Mary Kay Place, and June Squibb, covering the 60s, 70s, and 80s). Director and co-writer Brett Haley said there was not enough attention given to older actors, these were anything but little old ladies, and he was fortunate that everyone he dreamed up for casting said yes.

Carol’s friends want her to get out there – after all, her husband died twenty years ago – but she likes things the way they are. They drag her to speed dating, which is disastrous for her but hilarious for the audience. Carol happens to see a man looking her way, a man who complimented her in a store recently, who’s far more interesting than the pathetic speed daters. Why not, he’s Sam Elliott!

At 72, Blythe Danner is absolutely gorgeous (her daughter Gwyneth Paltrow will never be as beautiful as her mother), and Sam Elliott remains that silver-haired, mustachioed, wickedly smiling rascal who has never stopped winning us over.

The first words she hears from him are “I want to have lunch with you. What’s your name?” That’s a new one. His name is Bill. So was her husband’s.

But another strange thing is happening in Carol’s ordinary life. She has a new pool man, Lloyd (Martin Starr). He discovers her sleeping out on the patio because she discovered a rat in the house. He looks everywhere as a favor to her, then hangs out for a while drinking wine and talking about her past singing career. An unlikely duo, they hit a karaoke bar a few nights later, when she brings down the house with “Cry Me A River.” Lloyd looks awestruck. He sings too. Badly.

More changes are occurring to Carol, as if in small helpings. Her daughter is visiting and trying to be close to her. A tragedy occurs. There’s just a lot to handle.

“I’ll See You In My Dreams” opened at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and was released by Bleecker Street in May in a limited release. (Why?) Oh, that’s how I missed it.

Spotlight

In Irish Catholic Boston, priests were molesting young boys. It was going on for a long time, and it was ignored. Then four people who worked for The Boston Globe did something about it.

In 2001, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) joined The Boston Globe as a new editor. He discovered a small mention about a pedophile priest, John Geoghan, and a lawyer who said that the Archbishop of Boston, ironically named Cardinal Law, knew the priest was sexually abusing boys and doing nothing about it.

Baron met with Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton), in charge of the “Spotlight” team, investigative reporters, along with him a total of four: Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and researcher Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James). This was a story for the team.

But they were cautious. This looked like taking on the Boston Archdiocese. Their deputy managing editor Ben Bradlee Jr. (John Slattery) also was skeptical. (His father, Ben Bradlee, had gone pretty far out on a limb at the Washington Post on the Watergate coverage.)

Starting out following one priest who moved from parish to parish, the team discovered sexual abuse of children by priests in Massachusetts and a Boston cover-up. The search grew to thirteen priests. Then ninety. They continued researching, finding people who would actually talk, and came up with a list of 87 names. Then September 11, 2001 happened. The story lost priority.

They later found documents that proved Cardinal Law (Len Cariou) knew about the growing situation and ignored it. They began to publish the story in early 2002.

When a story was printed with a telephone number requesting victims to come forward, phone calls flooded in.

The series of stories won a Pulitzer Prize for civil service. The film ends with a list of cities all over the world where sexual abuse was made public.

Cardinal Bernard Law was reassigned to a senior position of honor in Rome.

The Golden Globe Awards

Award season is improving already. The Golden Globes are a step above the People’s Choice Awards. Then we have the Screen Actors Guild, Grammys … all leading up to the Academy Awards. They’re the ones that count.

Ricky Gervais hosted the Golden Globes. He had done a series of “be very afraid” commercials. He arrived at the podium with a glass of beer, saying “I’m going to do this monologue and then go into hiding, OK. Not even Sean Penn will find me … (sip) … snitch.” He reappeared occasionally, once with a great introduction for America Ferrera and Eva Longoria: “two people who your future president, Donald Trump, can’t wait to deport.”

Matt Damon won as Best Actor in a Comedy for Martian. Comedy? (Will this lead to an Oscar? It wasn’t an Oscar performance.)

Sylvester Stallone brought down the house when he won a Best Supporting Actor award for Creed, 40 years after Rocky was an unexpected Oscar winner. It even had some critical pans. Along with his family, Stallone thanked his imaginary friend, Rocky Balboa, for being the best friend he ever had.

lady gaga gown golden globes 2016Lady Gaga accepted an award for American Horror Story – Hotel on TV. She thanked everyone but her fiancé, Taylor Kinney. There’s no more Fashion Police, but Lady Gaga was the best dressed woman at the Golden Globes, wearing black velvet Versace and covering all her tattoos.

Denzel Washington won the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award, introduced with several film clips by Tom Hanks. He brought up his family and forgot his glasses, so his speech was short. Keep making movies, Denzel.

The Revenant, a movie that was hard to make and looks as if it’s hard to watch, won a Best Actor award for Leonardo DiCaprio and Best Director for Alejandro G. Inarritu (who’s also the writer and producer), as well as Best motion picture drama.

Brie Larson won Best Actress for The Room, also not a walk in the park.

Jennifer Lawrence won Best Actress in a motion picture comedy for Joy.

Then The Martian won for best comedy. Again, comedy?

Taraji P. Henson won Best Actress in a TV drama series. When she reached the stage she growled, “Get off my train.” When music started to play her off she said “I’ve waited 20 years for this!” Maybe playing Cookie on Empire isn’t too much of a stretch?

Here’s a list of the nominees and winners. More awards and award shows to come. I have to go to the movies.

 

The People’s Choice Awards

The 2016 award season starts from the bottom up. We sit through countless winners repeating the phrase “living my dream!” We find there’s a reason the awards are not given to the best, but to the “favorite.” And they’re oh, so important, because they’re voted on by the people. Well, the people often miss the mark.

THE GOOD

It’s seldom that we see Johnny Depp on award shows. He won favorite male dramatic actor and said he was very appreciative “that you’ve stuck with me.” He showed guts being bald in Black Mass.

The best part of the evening was a presentation to Ellen DeGeneres of Favorite Humanitarian. (This, of course, is where the favorite designation gets ridiculous.) She’s given millions for causes including children, the environment, animal causes and health issues. All she wanted was to make people laugh and get very, very rich.

THE BAD

Jane Lynch was a great choice for host, but her humor was wasted on bad writing, and her costumes were not flattering. They were only a step above the track suits she used to wear on Glee.

Favorite network TV drama – Grey’s Anatomy, which long ago outlived its usefulness. Over How To Get Away With Murder? Even worse, over Scandal, arguably the best show on TV? (As the cast goes to the stage, it’s announced that Ellen Pompeo won favorite dramatic TV actress. They save one speech.)

Favorite network TV comedy – The Big Bang Theory, over Modern Family? They’re both great; they’re neck and neck. But Modern Family should still win. Once again, we’re spared one speech. Jim Parsons also won favorite comedic TV actor.

THE UGLY

 It becomes the worst moment of the night when an award is given for a mediocre performance in an uninspired movie based on a truly awful book. Dakota Johnson won favorite dramatic movie actress for Fifty Shades of Grey, based on the book written by E.L. James, who would have gotten an F in Mrs. Feeney’s 11th grade creative writing class. (But it was a smash!! Because of the people!)

Here are all the nominees and winners. Don’t worry. Award season will get better.

 

Code Black

It’s not too often an Academy Award-winning actress goes from movies to TV. Marcia Gay Harden did, and she’s the strength of the hospital drama Code Black.

The show opens with a fairly cheesy comparison of most hospitals to the fictional Angels Memorial Hospital in Los Angeles. Angels has hundreds more Code Blacks every year – a staggering influx of patients with emergent situations facing limited resources in the hospital. As a result, we’re watching chaos at almost all times.

The pilot was too heavy-handed and claustrophobic, with surgeries taking place in hallways, as well as introducing several major characters at once. The intensity became easier to handle in subsequent episodes.

Like most medical shows, there’s a heavy dose of the staff’s lives and problems. Harden portrays Dr. Leanne Rorish, Residency Director, who brings four first year residents to the program. Christa is the slightly older resident who joined to make a difference in the world, Mario is arrogant but hiding insecurities, Angus is unsure about his skills but shows sincerity and promise, and Malaya is the doctor who’s good but isn’t given an adequate chance.

Kevin Dunn, as head of the ER, is seen as the voice of reason and often practicality from an earlier generation. Leanne, too, has seen it all and knows some unorthodox ways to get things done. Also in the ER is Raza Jaffrey as Dr. Neal Hudson. Leanne’s backstory has to do with family loss that has her pushing people away, including a younger doctor who’s interested in her and fairly persistent.

Leanne’s closest confidant is Nurse Jesse, played by Luis Guzman (a fantastic character actor – my favorite portrayal of his was in The Count of Monte Cristo). Jesse is the go-to guy, and pretty much herds the new residents.

Inexplicably, Nurse Jesse is known as “Momma,” and Dr. Leanne Rorish is “Daddy.” Everybody knows it – nobody questions it. And nobody dares question Momma.

Code Black should continue to balance character development with emergency room action. At the same time, it has to avoid soap opera drama. And don’t waste Marcia Gay Harden.

Trumbo

In 1940s Hollywood, Dalton Trumbo was a rich, sought-after screenwriter. A veteran of World War II, he had joined the Communist party in 1943, when the US and the USSR were allies. As far as we saw in the film, he had no activity with the party at all. But in 1947, when the House Un-American Activities Committee was scouring Hollywood for communists and handing out subpoenas to writers, producers, directors – anyone – suspected of planting propaganda in films, Trumbo was called before the committee. As a result, he became part of the “Hollywood Ten,” blacklisted for communist associations.

Trumbo is convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to testify – and name names of other communists – and goes to prison for a year. His family stands by him, but Movieland sure doesn’t. He sees his friend Eddie (the actor Edward G. Robinson) name him among three or four other people as the committee sweated him out. Everywhere he looks there’s John Wayne, loud, right-wing and finding communists everywhere. And the daily paper publishes the acid pen of gossip queen Hedda Hopper, who shows up everywhere (the delicious Helen Mirren with such delicious hats).

Trumbo is forced to make up names and write for two D-movie producers, hilariously played by John Goodman and Stephen Root. At the same time, he’s writing “real” work, but he has to have friends put their names on it. (This practice was the subject of Woody Allen’s 1976 “The Front,” which included a director, screenwriter, and three actors – all previously blacklisted.) These scripts are “Roman Holiday” and “The Brave One.” The family whoops with joy, years apart, as these films win writing Oscars. Just one thing: they don’t have his name on them.

There’s some humor in seeing the habits of cranky Trumbo. He does a lot of writing in the bathtub. The telephone’s behind him, and the typewriter’s on a wooden shelf in front of him, with his ashtray, glass, and whiskey bottle. He pounds the keys with the ever-present cigarette hanging out of his mouth, and pauses only to swill another sip. (This photo of the real Trumbo is from the 2007 documentary.)

There are two people who are as sick of the blacklist as Dalton Trumbo is: Kirk Douglas and Otto Preminger. Douglas wants him to write “Spartacus,” and Preminger wants him to adapt the best-seller “Exodus.” And the name on both works will be Dalton Trumbo.

Finally.

This movie isn’t a history lesson and doesn’t try to be. It’s about one man and his family in a situation that split up other families and even led to suicides. Bryan Cranston was superb, as he always is, in every minute of the film. The supporting cast was excellent, made up of a lot of people you already know, happily taking relatively small roles. It’s a movie for people who like movies. That’s why the theater was so crowded.

The Crazy History of “Fashion Police”

Fashion Police fell apart when we lost Joan Rivers. Two weeks after Joan died in September 2014, it was announced that the show would continue without her. It returned in December with love-her-or-hate-her Kathy Griffin as host. Kathy had adored Joan and had been a protégé of sorts, even if she alone made herself one.

But let’s back up. Starting in 2002, Fashion Police appeared on the air the day after red carpet events, to skewer – uh, critique – the fashions appearing at the events. Thanks to Joan, it was deliciously frank. Joan said what she wanted to say, and she was freely bleeped, because of the way she said them … not permitted on basic cable.

In September 2010, Fashion Police became a weekly show, and it expanded from 30 minutes to 60 minutes in March 2012. Joan was accompanied by panelists Giuliana Rancic and Kelly Osbourne from E! and George Kotsiopoulos, a Hollywood stylist.

Joan Rivers’ death was sudden and shocking. Melissa Rivers was not just Joan’s daughter, but also the producer of the show, and she was the person who announced the continuation.

Kathy Griffin relaunched the show following the January 2015 Golden Globes, accompanied by Giuliana, Kelly and stylist Brad Goreski, replacing George Kotsiopoulos, with an audience of 912,000. The episode following the 21st Screen Actors Guild Awards on January 26, 2015, had 686,000 viewers. Whoops.

In February, Giuliana made one joke about singer Zendaya, that her hair smelled of “patchouli oil and weed” at the Academy Awards. Kelly took great offense at that and announced her decision to leave the show, after having tweeted “you guys do realize that @Zendaya is my friend right?”

Subsequently, Rancic profusely apologized. Groveled. Sorry. So so so sorry.

Please. Joan regularly got away with things that would land other people in court.

But this wasn’t the end of the troubles. In March Kathy Griffin announced she was leaving the show after filming only seven episodes, because her style of humor “did not fit well” with the series’ creative direction. The network then put the series on hiatus until September. It returned in August for six episodes with Melissa Rivers hosting, along with Rancic and Goreski, searching for a fourth panelist. And now – finally – it returned on Monday, November 23 to rip up – uh, critique – the American Music Awards.

Melissa Rivers is a pro. She’s produced the show, and she’s no lightweight with humor. Just watch. She’s not Joan, but she has the gene. Hollywood? Watch out.