Friday, December 24, 2021


When approaching the end of a year, folks even peripherally associated with show business, tend to break out their best of the year list of TV and motion pictures. What follows is my attempt to keep up with the true professionals who make a living off such lists and, with that disclaimer, let me also disclose that this “list” of mine is still very much one in progress, and not near to being complete.

The why of that is simply stated: 2021 has been a hectic one in the Rosenzweig/Gless household, as any follower of these notes must know. Simon & Schuster has released Sharon’s memoir to Amazon and the nations bookstores, resulting in very good-to-great reviews. A terrific publicity campaign followed (People Magazine, National Public Radio, CBS Sunday Morning, The NY Times, the TODAY Show on NBC, and… coming up next month, The View). And those are only the ones that come immediately to mind. She has been busy, and I have had my role in support.

Still, when I can, I have tried to keep up with what is new in filmland. Here is what I have observed so far, along with a quick comment or two:

The Power of the Dog: If you have even a slight case of ADD do not watch this film. Too often you will find yourself wondering “is this a flashback?” And “who is that?” And “what is going on?” To be fair to the picture makers, the film is beautiful to look at and the performances are sterling. It is a good movie… perhaps even close to being a great movie… but it does make demands of its audience… patience being only one of them. The movie is slow, and the payoff is less than satisfying. But if you are serious about the movies (and judging by this and last year’s crop) at least the people who make them are, then you MUST see this film. It is directed by the woman who years ago helmed The Piano, and it is a worthy successor to that award winning film. One addendum: as I wrote “serious about movies” I kept wanting to ask the question if during these pandemic days the folks green-lighting these films (particularly at Netflix) are being TOO serious. Hello? Does anyone remember Fred and Ginger, and the idea of escapist entertainment?

The Eyes of Tammy Faye: I really wanted to see this, and now, having done so, I cannot think of even one reason why. Pretty much a waste of time in that it not only isn’t good, but it also isn’t a train wreck, or anything deliciously bad. It isn’t even crummy enough to be camp; it is simply a non-event. Even the usually very good Jessica Chastain is ho-hum.

Dune: I have previously written a praise-filled paragraph or three about this very well done, not for everyone, film. At the end of my comments, I wrote something about hoping it would be successful enough in its theatrical release to have the sequel green-lighted to production. It was, and it has been.

Belfast: (Netflix)This could take home the lion’s share of the prizes come award season. It is a sweet and touching recount of “the troubles” of the 1960s in Northern Ireland. And there is a kid in it (Jude Hill) who will steal your heart and warm you up all over. Director Kenneth Branagh does a nice job with this newcomer as well as with this homage to his own childhood.

The Unforgivable: I like almost any movie with Sandra Bullock, and this is no exception. The Unforgivable is, however, forgettable. It is just a sort of well spent couple of hours, with a true Hollywood star, giving a very nice performance. Try it. You will (I would bet) like it. (Netflix).

Finch: (Apple TV) Tom Hanks, who is arguably THE Hollywood star, carries this movie all by himself (unless you want to credit a not particularly interesting dog or a pleasant enough robot). There are not many in the history of the motion picture who can do this. Hanks has now done it twice (remember that thing he did as a Fed Ex delivery man turned Robinson Crusoe?). The guy is sort of incredible… at the very least the 21st century version of Jimmy Stewart… and more. I enjoyed the movie but not as much as I did Hanks’ star-turn in last year’s Greyhound.

I’m Your Man: A German language film that comes closest to making the Artificial Intelligence thing work for a human audience as any I have ever seen. I admired the pic for any number of reasons and commend it to you for your viewing pleasure. Nice performances by the two leads in a thoughtful and smart little motion picture.

Last Night In Soho: A high end psychological thriller starring Anya Taylor-Joy (she of the big eyes in Queen’s Gambit) and Thomasin McKenzie (Jojo Rabbit) and featuring the late Diana Rigg and Terence Stamp. It is meticulously designed by its director and cinematographer as well as being beautifully edited. The two young stars are top-drawer, but the movie suffers from being excessively long and (after a time) having a sense of redundancy. Still, it is an entertaining film, but one that (outside of some possible awards for film craft) does not really belong on anyone’s “Best” list. It’s okay, sometimes a movie is just a movie. This is one of those and it is a good one.

Black Widow, No Time to Die, In The Heights: All previously reviewed, none worthy of award season. The Bond movie is a long slog and a bit pretentious, but if you love the franchise (as I do), it is a fun night at the cinema. Scarlett Johansson has the title role in the Marvel movie, Black Widow, and she makes just about any film worth watching. This may not be one of the best of its genre, but there is plenty there to satisfy any fan of the Avenger idiom. In the Heights almost brings one to the point of thinking that maybe Hamilton was a fluke… that’s how bad this Lin-Manuel Miranda musical is. The first time I saw it on stage I blamed the vast auditorium of the Miami Theatre in which it played after its Broadway run. This time, despite some fine direction from Jon M. Chu, the piece still stinks up the screen. A definite pass.

There are many films yet unseen and even though one has yet to emerge as the clear favorite I am grateful that the tone of these and other films of the year are, although often glum, not as depressing as last season’s crop. Remember those? The Trials of the Chicago 7 was almost a situation comedy in the grouping of Nomadland, The Father, Sound of Metal, Minari and Judas and the Black Messiah.

I have not had time to see them yet, but I am hopeful that such films as C’mon, C’mon, Tick, Tick Boom, Being the Ricardos, Spencer, Don’t Look Up, King Richard, House of Gucci, Coda, West Side Story, The Lost Daughter, Titane… hell, even The Tragedy of Macbeth… might lighten things up compared to last year.

Here’s hoping 2022 brings less Covid and more Fred & Ginger.

Barney Rosenzweig

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