Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
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Let me say that if Renée Zellweger isn't nominated for a Golden Globe, Oscar, BAFTA and any other award along the way for "Judy", it'll be criminal. Zellweger, after a long hiatus from films, showed us why she is one of the best actors of the modern era. I never thought that anyone could out-Judy, Judy Garland, but Zellweger came awfully close. She brought Garland to life, and it was as if we were flies on the wall watching Garland go through all of her highs and lows (unfortunately more lows than highs in this last chapter of her life and career). Out of the performances I've seen this year, Zellweger as Garland is one of the best, if not THE best. When Zellweger launches into Garland's songs, it's a bravura performance. Zellweger is actually singing all of the songs in the film and I think she's done Garland proud.
Judy Garland was a victim of a brutal inhumane Hollywood studio system, that was particularly destructive (physically and mentally) for young girls and women. She never experienced a real childhood, LB Mayer was a brutish authoritarian figure in her life and drove her past what anyone, especially a child, should ever endure just to make a film. And we see a lot of this torture and psychological assault in flashback scenes during the time she was cast in the Wizard of Oz. They plied a young Judy Garland with prescription drugs to keep her up (19 hour days were commonplace), they gave her pills to sleep, they deprived her of food because in that era, starlets and full-blown female stars were never small enough for the big screen (not much as changed, though it is a little better now). Garland was mocked because of her looks, and according to the studio bigwigs, she wasn't a great beauty like Lana Turner, Ava Gardner or Elizabeth Taylor (she attended the studio school with them) and her low self-esteem, insecurity, coupled with her drinking and drug addiction plagued her for the rest of her all too short life.
"Judy" turned a big glaring spotlight on a woman who had a great talent, and made millions of people around the world happy, but could never quite figure out how to actually live, and find the stability she craved and the happiness she wanted in her personal life. She had no support system and was left to her own devices. Garland was ill-equipped to deal with her problems because of how she was raised within the horrific Hollywood machine. "Judy" is both a tragic cautionary tale, and a horror story about how Hollywood can use a person's talent to make lots of money, suck the life and soul out of them, then throw them out in a world that they're unfamiliar with, and move on to the next victim, leaving them to fend for themselves.
Yes the film was a little slow, but Zellweger held your attention so astutely, that you simply overlooked a few continuity issues and some dangling subplots that could have been explored a bit more. Another standout in the film was Darci Shaw who played a young Judy. She showed a lot of range, showcasing a young Judy's fear of LB Mayer and her rebellious streak with just wanting to be a teenager and do the things teenagers do...a very good performance.
Judy Garland died of a barbiturate overdose at only 47 years old after her 5 week engagement in London, which is where the film ends.
Downton Abbey is a glorious confection of superb writing, outstanding acting, magnificent set design, marvelously elegant costume design and gorgeous cinematography. And I couldn't get enough of Dame Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess and her biting zingers. She was always my favorite character in the series. Downton Abbey was the best and most enjoyably entertaining two hours I've spent watching a film in ages. What a sublime ending to a stellar series.
I hesitantly went to see Hustlers because I knew that this film was way over-hyped, and I was correct. Hustlers is based on New York magazine's 2015 article "The Hustlers at Scores" by Jessica Pressler. The plot follows a team of strippers in New York City who begin to steal money by drugging stock traders and CEOs who visit their club after the financial crisis.The film stars Constance Wu (Crazy Rich Asians), Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Lizzo, and Cardi B.
Though there were a few funny moments in the film, Hustlers was shot like one long boring continuous scene. The dialogue was amateurish, and the supposed "female empowerment" message doesn't fly at all. All during the film Constance Wu's character Destiny kept saying that she wants to be independent and not have to depend on someone else. The same with Lopez' character Ramona. But excuse me if I missed something, but nothing says independence like stripping, drugging and stealing money from men for your shopping sprees and livelihood, even if they are Wall Street ballers. There's always college you know and two wrongs definitely don't make a right.
Hustlers was a cautionary tale on what not to do if you truly want to be your own person. All most of these women aspired to do was to be able to shop until they drop in the best boutiques and expensive stores, with the exception of Destiny, who wanted to take care of her grandmother, and later after having a baby, her daughter. Yet, she still succumbed to the lifestyle that all of the money they were raking in, afforded her. Ramona was also caught up in the money and her justifications for being a criminal were eye-rolling. But at least she made no excuses for wanting to be wealthy and live well. And those of you who are Cardi B fans, if you blink, you'll miss her. Even though she was probably the funniest and brightest, yet all too brief moment in this dreadful film. And Lizzo was an even smaller blip on the big screen. She was just a tad bit more than a background player. Keke Palmer and Lili Reinhart are more prevalent in the 2nd half of the film, though both of their roles are small and underwhelming.
This film reminds me of 1998's The Players Club, another stripper film that was equally trite and uneven. I know Hustlers is certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, a lot of critics love it, and people are throwing Lopez' name out for an Oscar nod, but nowhere in this film is there even remotely an Oscar caliber performance. However, there are plenty of performances that can be nominated for a Razzie Award. The acting was cringy, lacked depth, maudlin and laughable. Hustlers is a literal goldmine for The Golden Raspberry foundation to choose this year's winner.