Wednesday, March 15, 2023


A little over a month ago, I wrote “the slam dunk winner for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, even Best Actress and (while I am on a roll) maybe Best Supporting Actor and Actress as well… are the folks from Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

In that same article I wrote “Michelle Yeoh is pretty much a shoo-in to pick up the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress on the Academy’s big night.” And a month before all that I picked Brendan Fraser’s performance in The Whale to win the Oscar over a very talented field of leading actors.

Pardon the toot on my own horn here, but it is not often I guess right about the Academy Awards and now that I have, it is a pleasure to remind y’all of the accomplishment.

Oscar night was replete with Covid references and comments about getting folks back in the theatres. It all sounded to me more like wishful thinking than a proven statistic.

Theatres all over the country have closed and many may never re-open. Production of films and television has been severely curtailed, and of those getting made… many were heavily influenced by the experience of the world-wide pandemic.

Enter the era of post-apocalyptic films and mini-series: most recent among them being HBO’s, The Last of Us.

HBO does these miniseries dramas as well or better than all the rest and The Last of Us is not an exception to that statement. Good stuff here and worthy of your attention, provided you are into this sort of thing. It is replete with plenty of chaos and violence of the man’s inhumanity to man variety, coupled with “the fact” of there being a fungus among us that is more than any society could hope to withstand. It makes COVID look like a minor summer cold.

Bella Ramsey, one of the youngsters from Game of Thrones, along with Pedro Pascal, who has serious leading man chops, take us through the drama with important but all too brief appearances by Nick Offerman, Anna Torv, and Murray Bartlett. Ms. Torv is a great favorite of mine dating back to her leading role in the J.J. Abrams series, Fringe. Mr. Offerman has an eclectic array of credits, many of which you have likely seen, while Bartlett most recently shined as a totally different persona in White Lotus.

As of this writing I have screened all but the last two of the nine proposed episodes and want to particularly single out hour number three (SPOILER ALERT: skip to the next paragraph if you have not yet seen the show but intend to). This one particular episode is just possibly the most honest and sympathetic gay love story I have ever seen on any American screen. It is an almost stand-alone mini movie featuring the aforementioned Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett as the end of days version of The Odd Couple. Great stuff.

The diminishing of the pandemic has finally allowed a sold-out crowd to assemble for a Chris Rock Special. I do not understand how HBO let this one get away, but Chris is now the rock star of Netflix, and his latest special is right up there with his best. I will allow as to it all being too long by 15-20 minutes, and he makes a false step or two I wish he hadn’t (the bit on abortion went way too far out there for my tastes) but overall, this standup comedian is the rock on which we can all build our homage to comedy. And was the Will Smith slapping incident dealt with? OMG. Must see TV.

EUPHORIA on HBO has enough pedigree to make it worth anyone’s attention. I just cannot recommend it. I have grandchildren the age of these teenage and twentysomething leads, and I found these kids and their culture… as depicted in this miniseries… simply too distressing and depressing to sit through more than one episode. Grownups: watch at your peril. Kids: if this is anything close to an accurate portrayal of your reality, I am sorry for you… “lost generation” hardly covers it.

WEDNESDAY is the latest Addams Family incantation, and it is on Netflix. If you like this kind of macabre outlook as comedy then this series delivers. Personally not my thing, explaining the shortness of this review.

I came late to the series FAUDA primarily because I had to wait for my wife to go out of town. Sharon doesn’t seem to like shows that take place in desert climes and this one certainly has a sparsity of greenery. Good as  it is, I have mixed feelings about it. The Netflix series from Israel is well done, and the subject matter and atmosphere are all too current, but somehow I found it distressing that repeatedly this elite unit of the Israeli defense forces is portrayed as the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. It’s not simply that I subjectively was taking sides (I will cop to that… as I believe the picture makers will as well), it is just that the multiple stupid decisions made by the show’s various characters had me yelling at my television screen. I was not surprised to learn that the word fauda translates to chaos.

PERRY MASON has come back for a second season on HBO. It looks good but it is sloooow to develop. I was not knocked out with season one and… so far… there is little reason for me to believe I will be overwhelmed by this revival. A very modest cast does nothing much to enhance the piece.

Finally, a word about Oscar night itself. I enjoyed the nearly four hours in front of my television screen, despite being more than a little aware that Steven Spielberg aside, most of the faces I recognized at the event were in the In Memoriam part of the program.

As award shows go, this one was about as well produced as any I have seen. It is no one’s fault at ABC, or even at the Academy, that most of the movies this year were as modest as they obviously were. And somewhere down the line, we should all admit that Oscar night was never supposed to be (and rarely was) a good television show. It helped, back in the day, when those in the audience recognized all the glitterati on the screen, but that was years ago and even then it did not make for great TV.

And now… in the tradition of all the award shows you have ever seen, I would like to thank my parents, my wife, my children, Ms. Lafreeda, Ms. Stewart, Ms. Goodstone, and all “little people” who make these columns possible. And a special tip of the envelope to all you wonderful people out there in the internet ether who read this stuff… with a singular thanks to…. well, I would go on, but the Academy orchestra is playing my song...


Barney Rosenzweig

Tuesday, March 7, 2023




According to the NY Times reports of polls taken by the British film magazine, Sight and Sound, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo supplanted Citizen Kane as the greatest movie of all time.

That was in 2012. Ten years later, in 2022, Vertigo came in second and, unbelievably, Citizen Kane was relegated to third place. A 1975 French feminist film, Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles was named number one.

I have an ex-wife who used to say, “Barney’s not a feminist, but he ‘gets it’.” I will cop to that… but I cannot say I “get” the thing about the French film directed by Chantal Akerman. I mean, to begin with, if it is worthy of supplanting Citizen Kane, what took it nearly half a century to catch on?

The question must be raised… are the Brits putting us on?  I will concede they are not alone regarding the Hitchcock flick. One of my most discerning friends keeps hyping me about Vertigo despite my persistent disinterest. It took Sight and Sound …by way of the New York Times… to capture my attention.

I laid out the $3.99 plus tax to Amazon Prime and streamed the Master of Suspense’s 1958 feature film, seeing it for the first time since my undergraduate days at USC. I did not love it then and, believe me, it has not aged well. All except for Kim Novak. She is still as gloriously beautiful on screen in this psychological thriller as you may remember. Also starring is James Stewart (not his finest moment by a long shot) along with Barbara Bel Geddes, whose character in this threesome is the one who really needs her head examined.

That Vertigo should top anyone’s list … or even be catalogued as a top film in any such compilation of any reasonable length… is comparable to the French film industry’s fascination with the so-called auteur American filmmaker, Jerry Lewis (of one-time Martin & Lewis fame). In other words: a perverse joke.

Vertigo is not even the best film ever made by Hitchcock. Psycho, The 39 Steps, and North by Northwest come quickly to mind as movies that are much more innovative and entertaining than this overcooked “masterpiece” which has the contributors to the Sight and Sound poll as the ones who have really lost their balance.

Prior to the Sight and Sound poll, I had never seen Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. A quick bit of Google search corrected that, taking me to HBO MAX where I learned I was in for a nearly three-and-one-half-hour “experience.” To set the mood, and to properly prepare, I returned to Google to find if Chantal Akerman’s film had received an Oscar nomination in 1975 and what competition her motion picture faced that year. Turns out there was no such nomination; small wonder, given the nominees that year included Chinatown, Godfather Part II, and The Conversation.

Now to the movie: you can Google all the rave reviews by major cinephiles and top New York critics if you want, but seeing the motion picture for yourself is revelatory. It brings new meaning to the term “straight forward.” In every scene the camera is set in one position and the “action” (such as it is) takes place within the composition of that one shot. No camera moves, no editing to show reaction shots, no closeups, and the camera set so low that occasionally the tops of the actor’s heads are out of frame. (Another Google search revealed that director Akerman was barely five feet tall, most likely explaining the below normal camera position.)

For over 200 minutes the film shows in considerable detail the main character washing dishes, making beds, bathing, preparing dinners, and doing some shopping. Day… after day… after day and taking plenty of time to do each of these chores. It is a bore… and deliberately so. It is the point of the movie and why it stands as such a provocative feminist screed. The film is powerful in many ways, but what it is not, is a good movie. That the film is on anyone’s best 100 list, let alone at the top of the heap, is ludicrous.

Let me move on to something more current and clean up some cinematic loose ends in the process. My Academy screener of Argentina, 1985 was damaged and so I watched a dubbed version of the film by Santiago Mitre on Amazon Prime. Too bad.

The dubbing of movies from one language to another has been going on since the advent of sound, nearly a century ago. Then World War I changed the landscape of cinema in more ways than one.

In those days of the early 20th century, Germany and France were the centers of the world of cinema; the French language… the language of diplomacy… was pretty much acknowledged as the primary international language as well.

The “language” of war was explosives. To make those, one needed nitrate… a primary component necessary to the manufacture of motion picture raw stock.

The priorities of the capitals of Europe switched from art and science to the very serious business of war-making. In the process, filmmaking was essentially left to the isolationist Americans. Almost overnight, Hollywood became the film capital of the world. The dominance of the English language for motion pictures was the result; the world of diplomacy, commerce, and just about everything else, quickly followed.

From Tokyo to Berlin to Rome to Paris to Beijing, throughout Latin America and more, the art of dubbing motion pictures (mostly from English to [pick ‘em] Japanese, German, Italian, French, Chinese, Hindi, and Spanish) rose to the level of high art.

There are voice actors all over Europe who have celebrity status as the voices of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Often a film’s release abroad will be delayed until the local actor associated with the voice of Tom Cruise, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey, Jr., or Samuel L. Jackson can be made available to dub in the proper sound performance.

There is no such equivalency in the USA. Dubbing of voices into English is done on the cheap in almost any American town with a microphone and a tape recorder. The quality of voiceover acting has little tradition and therefore is one of minimal accomplishment. You view a dubbed foreign film at the movie’s (if not your own) peril.

That was certainly the case with Argentina, 1985… and I proved it to myself (once again) by re-screening a good portion of the over two-hour long film once my Academy screener system was finally up and running.

That Mitre’s political saga still basically worked in the dubbed version is a major tribute to both him and his film. That said, I would be remiss not to point out that an apology is owed to the original cast whose performances were all but butchered in the English language incarnation of the film.  

See this based-on-fact political courtroom drama in its original form if you can. Trust me, the subtitles are accurate enough to understand what it is you are seeing… and they do not destroy the performances in the process.

I am reminded that this also applies to Babylon Berlin, the German television series which completed its fourth season last fall. I loved the first season which Netflix initially released in the original language. For presumed commercial reasons, the decision was made to switch over to the dubbed (English language) version.

They lost me as a viewer. I now wait in hope for the series to make a comeback in German with subtitles.

Meanwhile, Causeway stars Jennifer Lawrence, the world’s highest paid actress in 2015 and 2016, but it is her co-star, Brian Tyree Henry, who got nominated by the Academy for his performance. It is a tiny movie in a year of better tiny movies, but it is not as bad as my wife thinks it is. Quiet Girl is another tiny movie which has a nomination for best foreign flick. It won’t win, but it is a worthy nominee. Please see it in the non-dubbed version.

The not-so-tiny Black Panther: Wakanda Forever got some attention at the box office and a few nods of nomination from the Academy. Not my thing. I simply could not get through the whole film on my screener but did watch the last parts I had missed over the shoulder of my seatmate on a recent cross-country flight. I had not unpacked my headphones and discovered I liked the thing better as a silent movie… I know, I know… perverse… but not nearly as nutty as the Brit’s list of all-time greats in Sight and Sound magazine.

Barney Rosenzweig

Sunday, February 12, 2023



I spent just under two-and one-half hours watching Triangle of Sadness, the recipient of three Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay.

As the lights came on, I turned to my only nephew with what must have been a quizzical look. Before either of us could bat an eye he opined: “White Lotus Meets Lord of the Flies.”

“That’s good,” I said to the young Mr. Rosenzweig, but not satisfied, I decided to look up what others had said about this opus of class warfare that had won the triple crown of nominations.

The New York Times: in effect a shaggy-dog art-house reboot of Gilligan's Island…” Roger Ebert. Com: “an allegory so obvious and overcooked that I was praying for everybody on the yacht to be drowned.” The Guardian: “overlong”… Datebook: “One of 2022’s best films…” The Independent UK: “All a bit pointless…”

Y’know something? They are all right… all, that is, except Datebook and the Motion Picture Academy.

Triangle of Sadness is a lot of things but a best picture for this… or any other year… it ain’t. As to the film’s director, he is clearly skilled but in this case too undisciplined to trim out at least 45 minutes of this overblown social comment comedy. And best screenplay?… Thank goodness Aaron Sorkin and Tom Stoppard are still among the living… otherwise they would be turning in their respective graves.

Blonde is another movie that clocks in as way too long at just under three hours. Unlike Triangle of Sadness, there are no Academy accolades for the picture, the director, or the screenplay. And that, in my opinion, is worthy of some comment.

At the outset, let me get this out of the way…Ana de Armas has the film’s only nomination (for Best Performance by an Actress) and it is well deserved. Cate Blanchett (TAR) finally has reason to look over her shoulder… even though history tells us that the Academy will never give its Oscar to someone starring in a film that has received such mediocre notices as has Blonde.

What burns my bottom are those self-same notices. Blonde is not the best picture of the year, but it is a hellofa lot closer to that accolade than Triangle of Sadness, Women Talking, or Top Gun: Maverick.

Blonde strives to be great but loses sight of that goal in its overindulgences… not the least of which is its running time. Even worse than the film’s nearly three-hour length are Director Andrew Dominik’s sybaritic camera shots, which by their very nature call attention to themselves, distracting the movie’s audience to the detriment of the scene, the actor’s performance, and the motion picture itself.

These are important mistakes for any director, but they are very nearly overcome by the filmmaker’s successes in other areas, the performance of Ms. Ana de Armas, the very excellent work by the cinematographer, the production designer, the costumer… and some very special work by the supporting players… particularly Adrien Brody and Julianne Nicholson.

Somewhere in the arts we should acknowledge what Robert Browning tried to communicate…  that heaven is all about our reach attempting to exceed our grasp. Blonde may not be a great movie, but it at least aspired to be one… something that too many of the Academy’s choices did not.

To Leslie features Andrea Riseborough, a very good actress who somehow got nominated for this film. That fact is really the only reason anyone could possibly be motivated to see this sorry little movie. Ms. Riseborough is good, but not good enough for this kind of accolade… OR for Cate Blanchett or any of the other nominees in this category to be looking over their respective shoulders… OR for any of you to rush out to see this piece of work. I could go on about the holes in the screenplay and the wholesale/often gratuitous character transitions that take place in this dreary piece. Please, let the above suffice.

Moving on to the fanciful idea of Frankenstein happening in modern day Wales rather than 19th century Transylvania… and that instead of using human cadavers, the “monster” would be created out of stuff in the garage, including an old washing machine… and you have the foundation for the charming and whimsical world of Brian and Charles.

The gentlemen who play the title characters in this delicious little movie are really quite wonderful, as is everyone else in the finite cast of supporting players. Not surprisingly, this tiny movie was passed over by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it at least as much as the majority of films that did get nominated. It sort of depends on your penchant for whimsy.

Next comes The Banshees of Inisherin. Another beautiful little movie about a small fictional Island community off the coast of Ireland. I saw the film all by my lonesome on my ninety-inch monitor here on my own Island just off the coast of Miami Beach. Ironically, the movie features a curmudgeon who prefers his own company to that of any others.  You got a problem with that?

I was laughing out loud… truly having the best time of maybe the entire Academy season when director/writer Martin McDonagh took a serious left turn and the picture became kinda dark. It works. I just did not like it as much at the finish as I did at the start.

I looked at the  credits of those behind the scenes: McDonagh, Broadbent, Flynn, McKeown, O’Sullivan, Kelly, Devine, Fitzgerald, Brady, Brannigan, Byrne, Nolan, Kennedy, O’Shea, and I thought, “y’know, if there had been a Jew on this film it might have stayed funny.” Just a thought.

Back on the Emerald Isle: the setting is very rural, very isolated and in the first half of the 20th century in the time of “the troubles.” The location is beautiful, and the cast is magnificent… particularly the four leads: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, and Barry Keoghan.

See it. Wear something green and try to remember… nobody does self-deprecation better than the Irish.

There are still one or two films from the Academy left to be seen by me, but I now feel confident… albeit somewhat premature… about predicting the slam dunk winner for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, even Best Actress and (while I am on a roll) maybe Best Supporting Actor and Actress as well. The sheer number of these nominees might tip you off but just in case (and notice, no envelope needed) the winners are the folks from Everything Everywhere All at Once.

This most imaginative, well thought out, brilliantly brought off homage to several classic motion pictures… not the least of which are The Matrix and 2001: A Space Odyssey… is not only a top-notch piece of entertainment, it is also a poignant mother/daughter yarn as well as a strong feminist document, all while delivering some terrific over-the-top action sequences.

In my view, Ms. Cate Blanchett and the aforementioned Ana de Armas will have to be content with just their nominations. Michelle Yeoh is pretty much a shoo-in to pick up the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress on the Academy’s big night.

One small caveat… Everything Everywhere All at Once is just that. An awful lot comes at you, awfully fast. So, buckle your seat belts… it may be bumpy, but it is a fabulous ride.


Barney Rosenzweig






Monday, January 30, 2023


One of the components that goes into my reviews of individual feature films is a kind of conceit… a self-serving sort of satisfaction that flows from a thought process stemming from the premise that I know what I am talking about and that I have a history of my own in the film and television industry that backs that up.

All of that is true… as far as it goes. There are, you are about to learn, exceptions. For instance: while I may be a child of Hollywood, I know diddly squat about Bollywood; and that matters when viewing, let alone attempting to review, a motion picture such as RRR.

The three plus hours of brightly colored filmmaking sent me to the Encyclopedia Britannica where (and I quote): At the turn of the 21st century, the Indian film industry—of which Bollywood remained the largest component—was producing as many as 1,000 feature films annually in all of India’s major languages and in a variety of cities, and international audiences began to develop among South Asians in the United Kingdom and in the United States. Standard features of Bollywood films continued to be formulaic story lines, expertly choreographed fight scenes, spectacular song-and-dance routines, emotion charged melodrama, and larger-than-life heroes.

RRR has it… all the above… in SPADES. It is hard to know what to make of it. Is it entertaining/engaging? Yeah… at least for the most part. Are the fight scenes expertly choreographed? Yes… and graphic… and, at the same time, only believable in the way one accepts the action in a Marvel movie.

What about the song-and-dance routines? Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly would applaud, but what are they doing in the middle of this action/semi-historical melodrama? One can only wonder. And are the heroes larger-than-life? No question. The whole thing is wildly overdone, garish, fanciful, sometimes silly, too long, totally over the top… and yet… underneath all the above is a painful representation of colonialism and the brutality of the abject racism perpetrated by the English on the people of India in a way that had me trying to think of something comparable in American film making and the black experience of slavery.

My mind culled through titles, from Birth of a Nation to Roots, to 12 Years a Slave. Mississippi Burning came to mind, Gone With the Wind, Home of the Brave, The Defiant Ones, Imitation of Life, A Raisin in the Sun, To Kill a Mockingbird, Black Like Me, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Great White Hope, The Landlord, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Ragtime, The Color Purple, Get Out, Do the Right Thing, Crash.

Graphic as these films are… powerful though they may be… the ugliness of racism in those presentations is not delivered as overwhelmingly pervasive as that which is represented in this hokey, Bollywood thing to which I became riveted. This is not your daddy’s Gandhi. Revolution is in the air… and on that screen. And I question if you have ever seen the totality of this kind of disdain and hatred from one race to another, anywhere that is more prevalent than it is in this film.

Underneath all that glitter, those outlandish musical numbers, the bigger than life action sequences, and the melodrama… that message is what director S. S. Rajamouli put out there, and that is what I came away with. I think you will too.

I had heard mostly good things about a minor filmic effort called Pale Blue Eye starring the almost always interesting Christian Bale. What really sold it for me was a pal of mine from New York (who shall, for now, remain nameless). My big city friend is more cerebral than I, but still a guy whose analysis is one I almost always find compatible with my own.

What can I say? I regret seeing this movie more than my simple words can convey. I feel as though two hours have been taken from the precious few I have left. I found the acting horrific, and the casting even worse. The script had more holes than any mystery should ever be allowed, and when the movie was not being just embarrassingly bad, it was downright silly. See this at your own risk. I mean, there are people who like it… and what is two hours in the grand scheme of things? Most of you, I am sure, can afford the time, but only assuming you are considerably younger than me.

All Quiet on the Western Front is another battle ground all together. It is brilliantly executed and, as it has been in the past, a story worth the re-telling. In this case it is done expertly with a group of actors and extras who seem devoted to this re-creation of one of the greatest anti-war message films of all time. There is nothing new here. It is simply phenomenally well done by the film maker, his cast and crew. I highly recommend it. So, incidentally, does the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. This film has received nine Oscar nominations.

The other side of the spectrum is She Said… an overlooked (by the Academy) but still very strong social drama of the true-to-life story of the two reporters from the NY Times who broke the Harvey Weinstein scandal and were at the forefront of the MeToo movement. Maria Schrader, who directed the award-winning series Unorthodox has scored once again with this motion picture.

People I respect, publications I admire, even the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, have singled out Women Talking for an inordinate amount of praise… not just the kind that respects the effort, even though the “patient” died, but authentic praise, including a nomination for an Oscar for best adaptation of a screenplay.

I counter with a resounding BS. The film is a yawn, despite its illustrious cast and good intentions. The script is not a screenplay but rather a (at best) modest vehicle for a small theatre way off Broadway. Everything and anything that might be of cinematic value takes place off-stage. The title of Women Talking says it all.

Producer Frances McDormand has done for the oppressed females of rural anywhere what she previously did for rootless Americans in Nomadland… which, let’s face it, is not very much. Ms. McDormand may be married to the very brilliant producer/director Joel Coen, but she seems to have learned little from that association.

Finally, I owe an apology to Margot Robbie to whom I gave short shrift in last week’s review of Babylon, saying something to the effect that I had yet to become a fan of hers. Not true. My oldest daughter chimed in to remind me that Ms. Robbie essayed the role of Tanya Harding in the motion picture I, Tonya. I had forgotten that… more accurately, I did not remember that it was Margot Robbie who so expertly played that title role. So, I guess I might be described as an erstwhile fan who just was not impressed by her latest effort. In other words, as to fandom and Ms. Robbie, I come on board, but with something less than a resounding me too.


Barney Rosenzweig


Monday, January 23, 2023


In the Rosenzweig/Gless household, the movies (primarily the submissions by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) have had to take a back seat to the on-going saga of “Laird” Fraser and his fabulous spouse in Outlander.

We were late arrivals to this incredibly well produced series but have now caught up… having seen all six seasons (on Netflix as well as Amazon Prime). Next is the eagerly anticipated season seven which is currently in production and scheduled for release later this year.

Rather than mourn this temporary loss, my wife and I have turned our attention to this year’s motion pictures… some of which may (or may not) be Oscar worthy. Here is a sample:

I had heard nothing but negative things about Babylon… its excesses, both in story and presentation… and, while conceding that the movie is a bit flabby and overinflated, I commend it to you. There are some delicious moments in this film, both visually and emotionally, and they are enough to make this extravaganza worth seeing.

I do not think Babylon is going to get many awards… and the voting members of the Academy would undoubtedly be correct to withhold them, but La La Land director Damien Chazelle has certainly book-ended his image of Hollywood with these two films, albeit in reverse order---beginning with the present in La La Land and ending with the beginning of it all in Babylon.

As to the cast: I thought Brad Pitt was terrific (as usual) and I have yet to become a Margot Robbie fan.

What, one might ask, have the The Whale and Elvis got in common? No, it is not that both have lead characters who late-in-life gain a lot of weight. The common denominator between the two references is the toss-up as to which leading man in those two films will get the Oscar. I am going to bet on Brendan Fraser in The Whale… but, if I were you, I would not bet against Austin Butler as Elvis Presley in the movie that bears his character’s given name. As to the builders of the “fat suits”… give that prize to Fraser’s team in The Whale over the dudes who blew up Tom Hanks, as Colonel Parker, in Elvis.

Oh yeah… their respective movies: I liked Elvis a whole lot more than The Whale even while admiring the skill sets it took to make the latter. Good as it is… The Whale is still a stage play more than a movie, while Elvis soars on the screen, as films directed by Baz Luhrmann are wont to do.

Genuine disappointments were The Menu and The Fabelmans. Personally, I liked Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None with Barry Fitzgerald and Walter Huston, a whole lot better than this modern-day approach in The Menu. I concede I was only seven and a half years old in 1945 when the Rene Clair version of this thriller was released, but I still remember it fondly. I saw The Menu last week and cannot think of anything memorable about it at all. Were I a bigger foodie, I might speculate as to the influence of this film on the decision to shutter Noma… a Danish eatery generally conceded to be the best in the world. Dunno. Not my table.

The Fabelmans was okay… but just okay. We are all entitled to expect more from Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner. I can tell you without qualification that I certainly do. This sorta autobiography could have been… should have been… so much more clever than it turns out to be.

There is a decent mini-moment or two in the early going of Fabelmans with the Greatest Show on Earth sequence. There is the ending, featuring the movie’s lead, barely out of his teens, with the iconic director, John Ford (a wonderful cameo performance by David Lynch). In between all of that is something like two hours plus of chuffa. Tony Award winning playwright Kushner should have studied Tom Stoppard’s Shakespeare in Love as a model for how to present a fictionalized biography of a renowned artist.

On the subject of artists, we have Cate Blanchett essaying the title role in TAR which is not a movie for everyone, but a movie some folks will want to see more than once. The picture is smart and compelling but not always entertaining or… for that matter… even satisfying. What is the other word I was looking for to characterize the entire piece? Oh yes, I remember now: pretentious. All that aside, Ms. Blanchett nails it (as she so often does) resulting in her being the odds-on favorite to take home the Oscar.

There are some awfully good movie/movies that I have written about in previous Island notes (Batman and Top Gun: Maverick come readily to mind), but perhaps the best motion picture I have seen so far this season is one no one is talking about. It is not only entertaining… it is a testimony to the craft and art of the motion picture. It is Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio.

This adaptation of this story almost everybody knows, highlights the movie maker’s skills first brought to my attention in his previous productions such as Pan’s Labyrinth and The Shape of Water. All the craft that was on display in those films is advanced and enhanced in Pinocchio.

The movie is totally engaging, still it stretches credulity well beyond Pinocchio’s dream of becoming a “real boy” to think the Academy would ever give its best picture award to this film. If I am right, it is the Academy’s loss, for with this interpretation of Carlo Collodi’s 19th century novel for children, Guillermo del Toro has created his masterwork.



Barney Rosenzweig


Tuesday, January 17, 2023


It is award season, and not just for the movies with their Golden Globes and Oscar fetes. It is also the time for the Grammys… a time when everyone in my generation yawns, says “who cares,” and changes the TV channel to something they might recognize.

It was not always thus. Music once brought us together. Now I bow out of any bar mitzvah party, and always hope for a table far from the bandstand at any after-the-wedding celebration.

Growing up in the 1940s and 1950s, our music was the same as that enjoyed by our moms and dads. What we danced to, what we heard at the movies, what we listened to on the radio, was the same as it was during the years when the people who would become our parents had just started dating.

Like the generation that preceded us, our record players at home mostly played Frank Sinatra, Buddy Rich, and the big bands featuring Jimmy or Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, Benny Goodman, and Artie Shaw.

Once we were out of the house… some of us could be found hanging out at certain record stores where Rhythm and Blues (R&B) held sway. We went to those stores because, even in cities such as Los Angeles and New York, the radio stations rarely (if ever) played the music of these Black musicians. And Black is what they all were. This was before Elvis and Rock ‘n Roll (a Rhythm and Blues euphemism for the sex act).

In 1951, “Sixty-Minute Man,” written by Billy Ward and Rose Marks and performed by The Dominoes, made the cross over to those of us in the teenage white world. There was no mistaking what was meant by the title, or the lyric, and we were all more than titillated at the suggestive story therein: “If your old man ain’t treating you right, come up and see old Dan… I rock ‘em, roll ‘em, all night long, I’m a sixty-minute man…”

“Lovin’ Machine,” “Hey Mrs. Jones,” and “Sh-Boom” all arrived shortly thereafter… but, in white America, it took Elvis and “Hound Dog” to make Black songs and their style universally popular in the late 1950s.

By then, I had moved on to the University of Southern California and given up “childish things.” I was married for the first time in 1959 and was hard at work building a career and trying to support my growing family in the 1960s when the Beatles came along. I had no time for them either.

The seventies brought about a divorce, a major career lull, and its accompanying struggle; then the eighties came along with my life-long dream of producing a major hit fulfilled by the television series Cagney & Lacey. 18-hour days, seven days a week, did not allow for indulgences in something as non-related to my show as the (to me) very frivolous music scene of Rock n’ Roll.

I fell in love in the late eighties… head over heels… with the leading lady of that hit TV series. She was deeply into the music of the 1970s, and by 1990 I was there as well. Better late than never. To this day, my Bentley’s CD player is chock full of Billy Joel, Melanie, Leonard Cohen, Randy Newman, and a plethora of love tunes from that time… all with a melody, and many written by a guy named Barry Manilow.

So it was, with hardly any resistance at all, that I recently went along with my leading lady and her best friend to see Mr. Manilow… in person… at an arena in Sunrise, Florida (about an hour and a half in heavy Friday night traffic from my Island paradise just off the coast of Miami Beach).

Barry Manilow is now seventy-nine. His audience is just a wee bit older. Ninety minutes into the show these geriatrics were still on their feet (where they had been for nearly the entire show), singing along with Barry, some of the greatest hits of the 1970s.

What a fabulous, wondrously magical, show this is. What an amazing display of the talent and perseverance of this individual artist.

Fred Astaire, Barry is not. He is no Sinatra either. Still, the litany of songs he has composed is beyond impressive, and the way they come ‘atcha, in what turns out to be precisely the right order, is all but flawless. Better than all of that is Barry’s self-effacing presentation, his candor, and his honest representation of each and every song. All that, along with our own memory of just where we were… and with whom we were making love… when we first heard those tunes, wafted over the close to 20,000 souls filling that Sawgrass arena.

A Jewish kid who grew up in Brooklyn in the forties and fifties, now… over seventy years later… takes time to salute the old man who believed his grandson had some sort of musical sense, and so took him every week to Manhattan… putting a quarter in the record store’s recording machine… while urging young Barry to sing “Happy Birthday”…. or whatever he wanted… to someone in the family or the neighborhood. It was only one of the stories that brought a tear to my eye.

And it wasn’t just the artist’s memories, it wasn’t only the music, or even the duet the octogenarian Barry sang on stage to a video of his twentysomething self. It was the incredible gift of talent that was on display on that stage every minute Barry Manilow occupied that space. What more can I say? It simply gets you where you live.

A national treasure? Why not? Astaire and Sinatra are gone. Long may Barry wave.


Barney Rosenzweig

Thursday, December 15, 2022


This comes to you from the frozen north of the San Fernando Valley in what used to be known as sunny Southern California. I have been out here since the first week in November and there has yet to be a day where gloves, a wool hat, and multiple cashmere sweaters were not de rigueur.

I have made it through Thanksgiving, LA traffic, an overcrowded resort in the desert in what I remembered as a fabulous oasis of my past, survived a major USC football loss (costing my team the Pac-12 championship and a chance to compete with the best of the best) and none of it comes even close to the discomfort I have felt at being this cold for this long.

There is, despite the cold, a sense of gratitude… knowing I am only weeks away from a return to my warm island is number one on my list. The second is NOT getting the one gift I had been eager to acquire for my wife and me… a one-month rental of a California beach house.

As a former Malibu resident, I had many memories of beautiful fall days at the beaches of Southern California. Recollections of Octobers having some of the warmest days of the year, of my teenage December birthdays being celebrated on the shores of Balboa and Huntington Beach. Most out of state renters pay hefty prices for these homes in May and June, not knowing those are the “fog months;” few have the insight to pick up these rentals during the “off-season.” Or so I thought.

Turns out, the prices for these “beach beauties” nowadays are astronomical… even in November and December. I continued to hope. After all, I reasoned, it is the season for prayers to be answered. True… but sometimes, the answer to these appeals is “no.”

Thank you to the deity. Had I taken the bait… bit the bullet… and rented one of these costly domiciles … only to find myself huddled indoors under an electric blanket for a month… well, even though disappointment at this time of year is not unknown to me (the curse of having one’s birthday falling within hours of Christmas day, for example), this very likely still would have been much more than I could have handled.

The good news is that I did not have to deal with that… only this miserable weather and an unwelcome trip to the dentist where… at least… the office was warm.

What with family and the reconnoitering with friends from the old days, there has been precious little time for streaming, let alone reviewing much of what is being presented either with or without holiday wrappings. Mercifully, White Lotus is over… a truly guilty pleasure if ever there was one. I am not a huge fan of the series, but this latest incarnation (season two) is a great improvement over the initial offering.

Season One was all about money and greed, this second season is all about sex. Sex is better. It also takes place in a posh resort in Italy which, let’s face it, is way superior to anything Hawaii has to offer. If you are one of the few who has yet to see this HBO offering, go ahead and watch. You may hate yourself afterward, but it is (in truth) not all that bad.

Sharon and I are now into season five of Outlander and still enjoying it. Every time I find myself thinking they have finally worn out the fundamental premise of the thing, the producers find a way to rope me back into this lushly produced and beautifully cast historical drama. It continues to keep us from watching much of anything else.

Having failed to keep up with the latest in motion picture and television offerings, let me at least attempt to ease the burden of last-minute Christmas shopping. Under the heading of “be careful what you wish for” here are some things you might want to take off your Christmas lists:

The Mont Blanc pen: Quite simply, it leaks… all the time… especially on planes. As a status symbol (I have several) they are best left in your top drawer… not for use, but to remind you of what it is to be rich and foolish.

Vilebrequin Swimming Trunks: This could well be the cruelest joke of all. Not only do they average $250 more per suit than a better product anyone can buy on-line from Land’s End, they also don’t fit… anyone. They don’t dry any faster, the interior lining is binding to the point where it is often removed by customers who buy labels rather than quality. By the way, they don’t last any longer than the much cheaper versions and often fade quicker.

Rolex Watches: They don’t tell time as well as my Huawei, while costing over 10 times as much. It doesn’t give nearly as much information as my on-line wristwatch which was purchased for comparative chump change via Amazon, and (face it) the Rolex can only be counted on for accuracy twice a day… and then only when it has stopped running.

Vintage Bentley convertibles: Monuments to style over substance. Beautiful to look at but as is the case with too many beautiful women… these are designed to break your heart. As for the new ones… well, VW makes all the moving parts work better, but they still leave it to the English to design and build the bodywork. You will better understand the meaning of that when you find it necessary to have a headlight replaced. How many men does it take to change a light bulb? On a Bentley it is about four thousand George Washingtons. Seems it is necessary to dismantle a great deal of the front end of the car to get the job done.

One final thought for those of you nearing retirement:

Staff: Underappreciated while you are working and missed terribly once you have left the workforce. If you are rich enough to buy Mont Blanc pens, Vilebrequin swimming trunks, Rolex Watches, and the like, then you might want to consider eschewing those things and, with the money you save, keep the staff on the payroll. A true bargain in retirement and one you richer folks will truly miss once they are gone.

Retired or not, I hope you have a Merry Christmas and to all this fervent wish: stay well and stay warm… anyway you can.


Barney Rosenzweig