Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: We are all a garden

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight is the movie, “This Beautiful Fantastic” (2017):

I had seen the trailer for this movie some time ago. Can’t remember when. I wasn’t sure I would like this one. But I was having a downer of an evening. It was a little over a week after Hurricane Harvey. And there was Irma barreling toward Florida. So I took a chance with the hope that this one would pull me out of my low spirits.

I gotta say it did. Did so much I wanted to turn around and watch it a second time.

Director Simon Aboud has created a film about community and friendship and how much they can change a person. Bella Brown (Jessica Brown Findlay) isn’t an outgoing sort of person. She has a new flat and a new job. And she is terribly terribly organized. There isn’t anything out of kilter in her new flat. The can goods are in their proper place, very much like “a food prison”. Her clothes hang just so in the closet. Her meal is laid out on her plate. And her new job is working in a library,of course.

Unfortunately, at least for a terribly organized person, she keeps arriving at her job late. It isn’t her fault. Her neighbor, Alfie Stephenson (Tom Wilkinson), is a crocketdy old man, and he keeps yelling that it is her responsibility to take care of the space behind her flat. After all, he is her neighbor and he likes gardens. The space is a mess.

Alfie is such a complainer he loses his cook, Vernon (Andrew Scott). Even though she can’t pay him, he goes to work for Bella just to spite Alfie.

In the meantime, Bella meets an inventor, Billy (Jeremy Irvine), in the library. Seeing each other day after day at the library, they begin a friendship. It helps that her boss, Bramble (Anna Chancelor), keeps shushing Billy and bringing out Bella’s sympathy for him.

Alfie reports Bella to the landlord. The landlord insists she has one month to change the mess outside her house into a lovely garden. Bella doesn’t even like plants, and here she has to create a garden. It’s not going to be easy. Especially with Alfie brow beating her over her inability to make a garden.

But hearts do change. Especially in fairy tales. Whether there will be a happily ever after in this one is anybody’s guess. Just as Bella has her garden going, a storm comes in and blows everything every whichaway. Just as Bella is falling for the inventor, she sees him with another woman. Just as she masters her job at the library, she is fired for being late.

And there is a flying mechanical bird named Luna. She may just save Bella’s day.

This is Simon About’s second film. Let’s hope he gives us many more.


Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: A Ghost Story

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. To celebrate the upcoming Scary Day of Halloween, there’s no better way than seeing a scary movie. This week’s Spotlight Movie is “Ghost Story” (1981). This one is not for the kids and please do not see it alone:

Seems all the ghosts have been run out of Dodge these days what with all the zombie movies and tv shows. It’s enough to make a person want to die and haunt a house just to bring the spectres back. Course there were the “Poltergeist” and “Ghostbusters” remakes. But those don’t count. They are remakes.

No. What we need is a real live ghost movie to make us shiver in our booties. But don’t worry. Uncle Bardie is up to the job. He has found a ghost story and it’s a good’un. It’s adapted from a novel by Stephen King’s bud, Peter Straub. And, of course, it’s appropriately named “Ghost Story” (1979).

Did you do something long ago that you deeply regret? Was it a terrible terrible something? Well, four old men in small town of Milburn, New York (Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, John Houseman, Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) have a secret of Something from their young-men days they deeply regret. A dark Something.

To assuage their guilt, they meet once a week and swap stories. They call themselves the Chowder Society. Then one of the men die. And the three left alive start having dreams. Bad dreams. Really bad dreams. In fact, they are nightmares.

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: Little Boy Lost

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Movie is “Lion” (2016):

Trailer for the movie “Lion”.

What if you had gotten separated from your family when you were five years old? That is what happened to Saroo, the hero of “Lion”. Saroo lived in  Khandwa, India with his mother, Kamla Munshi; his older brother, Giddu; and his younger sister, Shekila. They are poor. His mother, abandoned by her husband, works construction to support her three children. Saroo and Giddu steal coal off the trains for extra money for milk and food.

Giddu has work that will take him away from the family for several days. Saroo insists that he be taken to work too. Finally Giddu agrees. The two catch a train to a different town. It is night and Saroo is sleepy. So Giddu leaves him at the station, saying he will return soon. He does not return.

Saroo spends the next few years, wandering, until one day he ends up in an orphanage in Calcutta. He is adopted by an Australian couple, living on the Island of Tasmania.

Twenty-one years later, Saroo has flashbacks of his mother, his brother, his sister. The loss of his family drives him to find them again. Until he finds them, he will continue to be a little boy lost.

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: White Hats and Black Hats

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight movie is “Tombstone” (1993)

When I was a kid, it was the dream of every American boy to be either Mickey Mantle or The Ringo Kid. This was in the days before we discovered girls. Once we discovered girls, we wanted to be James Dean or Elvis. Elvis was preferred but we would settle for James Dean. Both made the girls swoon and there was nothing we would rather have than a girl swooning over us.

In our pre-girl days, our Saturday mornings were spent baseballing and our Saturday afternoons at the matinee watching the latest horse opera. Since I discovered early on I was no darn good at throwing or catching a baseball, I chose The Ringo Kid.

Ringo was the guy in the white hat. It might be John Wayne or Randolph Scott or Alan Ladd, Gene Autry or Roy Rogers. It didn’t matter whether they were playing Wild Bill Hickok or Wyatt Earp or Shane, they were always The Ringo Kid to me. So when I played my share of white hat and black hat, I was Ringo, the baddest good guy in the west.

And I always had Black Bart for a nemesis. While The Kid wore a smile, and said Yes ma’am and No ma’am, Black Bart wore a sneer and pushed around widows and orphans. He was mean. Real mean. Little did I realize he would grow up and become Jason or Freddy Kruger, the stuff of nightmares.

For some reason, Hollywood in the sixties forgot how to make the westerns I loved. John Wayne quit being quite the John Wayne he had been. Oh, sure there was “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”. Instead westerns went Italian and the cowboys now ate spaghetti. Either that or the good guys didn’t want to be good guys any longer. Instead they wanted to ride with Bonnie and Clyde or the Wild Bunch and create mayhem and chaos.

In the seventies we got a new kind of western. It was “Star Wars”. Luke Skywalker wore the white hat and Darth Vader wore the black one. It, and others like it, were space operas. But they didn’t take the place of the westerns I loved as a kid when my hero was Ringo. He knew right from wrong and believed in justice and defending the weak and the helpless.

Now I am not saying that all the westerns treated non-whites fairly. Often, too often, the Indians were the Black Barts. But every so often a movie like “Broken Arrow” or “Cheyenne Autumn” came along and gave a looksee at a different side of things. And there were no African Americans in those movies. Sadly so because African Americans made a contribution to the taming of the west just like a lot of other folks.

As I have grown older, I have come to appreciate some of the subtler exploration of the American West mythology. Films like “The Searchers” showed the ugly side of things and that was not always easy to handle. Mexicans gave their lives for freedom at the Alamo alongside Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and Col. Travis as shown in John Wayne’s “The Alamo” and a more recent version.

Movies like “Dancing With Wolves” and books like “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” revealed the great injustices the white man did to the indigenous peoples. And African Americans began to take their rightful place in such films as “Posse”, “Buffalo Soldiers”, “Silverado” and “Hateful Eight” which have attempted to rectify that injustice. And my hero, The Ringo Kid, I discovered, was a lot more complex than I thought. Often his hat was gray and sometimes just as black as Black Bart’s. Sometimes he could even be Black Bart.

Two movies and a television series come to mind when I think about the recent exploration of the American West Mythology. The television series is “Lonesome Dove”. “Silverado” is one of the two films and it is a lot of darn fun to watch. Not great but fun to watch.

The second movie is “Tombstone”. Kurt Russell does the best Wyatt Earp ever and Val Kilmer makes a great Doc Holliday. The cast is filled out with wonderful performances by Sam Elliott as Virgil Earp, Bill Paxton as Morgan Earp and Dana Delany as Josephine Marcus. Powers Boothe as Curly Bill Brocius makes Black Bart look like a tenderfoot. Michael Biehn is Johnny Ringo and he never wore a white hat. Thomas Haden Church has his Billy Clanton down.

But it is Kurt Russell who gives us the great film that “Tombstone” is. His Wyatt Earp is as complex and conflicted as a Wyatt Earp can be. His is a Wyatt Earp with a different colored hat.


Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: Wit

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Movie is the film adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize winning play, “Wit” (2001):

Written by American playwright Margaret Edson, “Wit” is about facing death. Cruel, cruel death at his worst. An ovarian cancer kind of death. Facing it alone as we all must do. And facing it with humor, intellect and courage. If you think this is a morbid film, think again.

Vivian Bearing, Ph.D. (Emma Thompson) has sealed herself away from life by hiding in that ivory tower called academia. She is a John Donne scholar which means she knows John Donne forwards, backwards and sideways. She finds out she has cancer. Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she faces her adversary with the kind of courage I doubt I would have.

There are so few performances we see on the screen that rise to greatness. Emma Thompson gives us one of those. Directed by the late Mike Nichols, Emma Thompson gives a tour de force performance.

I have to credit my friend, Kelly Fagan, for discovering this film. She played Vivian Bearing in a local production of the play. Unfortunately I missed her performance and I am sorry I did. Thank you, Kelly.