What the Little Women Read

Posted on January 17, 2020 at 10:55 pm

I first read Little Women when I was in 4th grade. It became and remains one of my favorite books ever and I re-read it every few years since, most recently after seeing the new Greta Gerwig movie, which I loved.

It also gave me a gift. Over the years, I would come across other books and recognize them from references in Little Women. So I really enjoyed Trix Wilkins’ article about the books the March girls read, from Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (which the March girls not only refer to but act out) to the dull essays by Belsham Jo has to read aloud to Aunt March to Dickens’ Pickwick Papers, whose characters inspired the names of the March girls’ club members and Boswell’s Life of Johnson, which Jo borrows from Mr. Lawrence.

In re-reading the book, I noticed a reference Wilkins did not mention. I happened to hear for the first time recently about an author named E.D.E.N. Southworth. According to a recent article:

Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Southworth was one of the most successful American writers—male or female—of the mid-19th century, outselling contemporaries like Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne. She was a mainstay of Washington’s early literary scene: She hosted Friday night salons at her Georgetown cottage, attended Lincoln’s second inaugural ball, and is even credited with encouraging Harriet Beecher Stowe to write the anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

In Little Women, Jo refers to a popular author of lurid melodramas named “Mrs. S.L.A.N.G. Northbury,” clearly a reference to Southworth. Now I want to read one of her books! By the way, you can read the Southworth-ian stories Louisa May Alcott wrote, the ones Professor Bhaer scolds her about in Behind a Mask.

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Books

Dolittle

Posted on January 16, 2020 at 5:30 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some action, rude humor and brief language
Profanity: Some schoolyard langage
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Attempted murder by poison, action/animal related peril, sad offscreen death
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: January 18, 2020

Copyright Universal 2019
“Dolittle” is mildly entertaining, silly and more than a little strange. It is loosely based on the original books, which also inspired the musical with Rex Harrison, featuring a two-headed llama-like creature called a pushmi-pullyu and an Oscar-winning song, and the modern-day-set remakes with Eddie Murphy. But mostly it’s a “we can do anything with CGI now, so let’s make a movie about a man who can understand animal language.” And that’s where the entertaining part comes in. It’s also where the odd and silly parts come in. For example, Robert Downey, Jr., who produced and plays the title character, speaks in a husky, oddly accented (Welsh?) voice for no particular reason. A significant extended scene involves giving an enema to a gigantic animal.

This version, set once again in the Victorian era, begins with Dolittle a recluse in the animal sanctuary given to him by the young queen in appreciation for his special gifts. Devastated by the death of his wife, a fearless explorer lost at sea, Dolittle is a mess, almost more of an animal than the creatures living with him, until the arrival of two young people. A boy named Tommy (Harry Collett) who refuses to hunt with his father accidentally wounds a squirrel and brings it to Dr. Dolittle for treatment. And Lady Rose (Carmel Laniado) arrives with an urgent request. The queen is critically ill and wants to see him.

Dolittle operates on the squirrel but refuses Lady Rose’s request until he learns that if the queen dies he will lose his home, an unnecessarily sour and distracting detail. And so the animals shave his beard, trim his hair, make him bathe, and accompany him to the palace. There, after consulting a small squid in the queen’s aquarium, he learns that she has been poisoned by one of her courtiers (Jim Broadbent), with the help of the court physician, Dr. Blair Müdfly (Michael Sheen). The only antidote is on a legendary — and uncharted — island, the very same one Lily Dolittle was seeking.

Dolittle, Tommy, and the animals take off to find it. So does Müdfly, who is determined to stop them and to get the antidote for himself. They have various adventures along the way, including a stop at an island ruled by the semi-barbaric King Rassouli (Antonio Banderas), who immediately throws Dolittle in prison because they have a history.

The movie never finds the right balance between comedy, adventure, and heart, probably reflecting the reported extensive reshoots following disappointing early screenings. But it is still watchable due to the sumptuous and imaginative production design by Dominic Watkins and the stellar voice talent for the CGI animal characters, especially Emma Thompson as Poly the wise and sympathetic parrot. Also fine are the bickering polar bear (John Cena) and ostrich (Kumail Nanjiani), who find a way to become friends. Frances de la Tour provides the suitably imperious voice for a dragon and Ralph Feinnes is a surprisingly vulnerable lion. But my favorite was Jason Mantzoukas as the dragonfly.

Too much of the animals’ dialog is just silly (“You answer the door because you’re the only one with arms.” “That’s coming from the guy (dog) who loves the smell of butts”). Hugh Lofting, who created the character knew that it would always be fun to have a story about a person who could talk to the animals. But the various versions of the story sometimes forget that it is important to give them something worth saying.

Parents should know that this film includes action/animal-related peril, attempted murder by poison, chases, crotch hits, a sad offscreen death, schoolyard language, and potty humor.

Family discussion: What did we learn about the characters when they talked about their parents? How did listening to the dragon make a difference? What should people do when they cannot stop feeling sad or being afraid of being hurt?

If you like this, try; “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and the musical “Doctor Dolittle”

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Action/Adventure Based on a book Comedy Fantasy movie review Movies Movies Remake Scene After the Credits

Bad Boys for Life

Posted on January 15, 2020 at 2:01 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong bloody violence, language throughout, sexual references and brief drug use
Profanity: Very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Brief drug use
Violence/ Scariness: Extended and very graphic peril and violence, disturbing images, characters injured and killed, chases, explosions, guns, grenades, bazookas
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: January 16, 2020

Copyright Columbia 2019
There’s a lot that’s hard to believe in “Bad Boys for Life” (not that we’re expected to), but the one I want to bring to your attention is the repeated assertion that this is one last time. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are back as the lovably bickering, impetuously rule-breaking buddy cops from the original Bad Boys movie 25 years ago and the sequel eight years later, and it is clear that they are not done yet.

Smith and Lawrence have the same immensely likable screen chemistry they did in the first film, though it is clear that Smith has much more range as an actor. We hardly have time to notice, however, as in the first five minutes of the movie we get to see a Porsche racing through the streets of Miami, some quippy brio (“We’re not just black. We’re cops, too. We’ll pull ourselves over later”), some skimpy bathing suits, a new baby, a prison break featuring a shootout and a witch’s curse.

That baby is the first grandchild for Marcus (Lawrence), the devoted family man, who is so moved by his becoming Pop-Pop that he decides to retire from the police force. Mike (Smith), the player with an upscale apartment no cop could afford (see above re believability) is furious. When Mike is shot by an assassin who is going after everyone involved in a criminal conviction from the past, Marcus stays by his side, and promises God that if Mike lives he will never be violent again. Once Mike recovers, however (with Marcus listed in his phone as Quitter), Mike persuades him to come back — say it with me — for one last time.

That will involve AMMO, a new high-tech police operation with the kind of high-tech surveillance and firepower that you might find in the Pentagon, run by Rita (Paola Nuñez), an officer with whom Mike has history. Mike wants to find the mysterious black-clad person on a black motorcycle who shot him. This is a challenge because, as a character says, “Who doesn’t want to kill him?” The Pepto-Bismal-chugging captain (Joe Pantoliano, also returning from the earlier films) tries to stop him, but the thing about Bad Boys is that they don’t follow the rules. Whatcha gonna do? Soon Mike is trading insults with the upstarts at AMMO, including Vanessa Hudgens and “The Sun is Also a Star’s” Charles Melton.

I’d estimate it is about one-third banter (we get some insults about getting older now) and two-thirds action, much of it very intense and very, very violent, with lots of blood, explosions, and heavy artillery. “I know ‘thou shalt not kill’ but these were bad guys” describes their view of law enforcement plus “We ride together. We die together. Bad boys for life.” (Someone does point out that they should think of themselves as bad men. Which may be why there’s also more crying than you normally see in this kind of movie. It’s dumb, and the action/comedy mix is not entirely successful given the carelessness about collateral damage and the outright carnage. But the charm is there and it is watchable, a summer movie in January. By the end, if you stay for that post-credit scene, you might just be ready to see what they do next.

Parents should know that this film includes intense and extended action, peril, and violence with very graphic and disturbing images, chases, explosions, fire, very strong and crude language, sexual references, and brief drug use.

Family discussion: What made Mike and Marcus good partners? How have the movies changed since the first one? If you and your friend had a go-to motto, what would it be?

If you like this, try: the earlier “Bad Boys” movies and the “Fast and Furious” series

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Action/Adventure Crime movie review Movies Movies Scene After the Credits Series/Sequel

AWFJ Awards 2020

Posted on January 11, 2020 at 10:25 pm

I am proud to be a member of the alliance of Women Film Journalists and delighted to announce our awards.

Best Film

PARASITE

Best Director

Bong Joon-ho, PARASITE

Best Screenplay, Original

PARASITE, Bong Joon-ho

Best Screenplay, Adapted

LITTLE WOMEN, Greta Gerwig

Best Documentary

APOLLO 11

Best Animated Film

I LOST MY BODY

Best Actress

Lupita Nyong’o, US

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Florence Pugh, LITTLE WOMEN

Best Actor

Adam Driver, MARRIAGE STORY

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Brad Pitt, ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD

Best Ensemble Cast – Casting Director

LITTLE WOMEN, Kathy Driscoll and Francine Maisler

Best Cinematography

1917, Roger Deakins

Best Editing

THE IRISHMAN, Thelma Schoonmaker

Best Non-English-Language Film

PARASITE

EDA FEMALE FOCUS AWARDS
These awards honor WOMEN only.

Best Woman Director

Celine Sciamma, PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE

Best Woman Screenwriter

Greta Gerwig, LITTLE WOMEN

Best Animated Female

Bo Peep, Annie Potts in TOY STORY 4

Best Breakthrough Performance

Florence Pugh, MIDSOMMAR, LITTLE WOMEN and FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY

Outstanding Achievement by A Woman in The Film Industry

Ava DuVernay for creating ARRAY and championing women in film

EDA SPECIAL MENTION AWARDS

Actress Defying Age and Ageism

Zhao Shuzhen, THE FAREWELL

Bravest Performance

Aisling Franciosi, THE NIGHTINGALE

Actress Most in Need Of A New Agent

Anne Hathaway, THE HUSTLER and SERENITY

Most Egregious Lovers’ Age Difference Award

THE PUBLIC: Emilio Estevez (57) and Taylor Schilling (35)

Remake or Sequel That Shouldn’t Have Been Made

CHARLIE’S ANGELS

AWFJ Hall of Shame Award

HFPA for excluding women nominees in major Golden Globe categories.

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Awards

Sunday Night: Critics Choice Awards!

Posted on January 10, 2020 at 12:34 pm

Copyright 2017 Fremulon
I won’t be there this year, but that means I’ll have an even better view of the Critics Choice Awards because like all of you I’ll be watching it on the CW.

The just-announced presenters joining returning host Taye Diggs for the 25th anniversary awards presentation (statistically the best predictor of the Oscars for all of you participating in an office betting pool): Keegan-Michael Key will be on hand to recognize Eddie Murphy with the Critics’ Choice Lifetime Achievement Award and Ted Danson will present Kristen Bell with the #SeeHer Award. Additional stars from some of this year’s favorite films and television shows who will present throughout the evening include Kate Beckinsale, Alison Brie, Kelly Clarkson, Brian Cox, Adam Devine, Sara Gilbert, Walton Goggins, Lucy Hale, Chris Hardwick, Anne Hathaway, Sam Heughan, Nick Kroll, Eugene Levy, John Lithgow, Sebastian Maniscalco, Caleb McLaughlin, Kennedy McMann, Seth Meyers, Ashleigh Murray, Niecy Nash, Desus Nice and The Kid Mero, Lupita Nyong’o, Catherine O’Hara, Edi Patterson, Tom Payne, Michael Sheen, JB Smoove, Bradley Whitford, and Scott Wolf.

The Critics’ Choice Awards will be broadcast live on The CW Network on Sunday, January 12th, from 7 – 10 p.m. ET (delayed PT).

Nominations:

BEST PICTURE
1917
Ford v Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
Marriage Story
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Parasite
Uncut Gems

BEST ACTOR
Antonio Banderas – Pain and Glory
Robert De Niro – The Irishman
Leonardo DiCaprio – Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Adam Driver – Marriage Story
Eddie Murphy – Dolemite Is My Name
Joaquin Phoenix – Joker
Adam Sandler – Uncut Gems

BEST ACTRESS
Awkwafina – The Farewell
Cynthia Erivo – Harriet
Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story
Lupita Nyong’o – Us
Saoirse Ronan – Little Women
Charlize Theron – Bombshell
Renée Zellweger – Judy

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Willem Dafoe – The Lighthouse
Tom Hanks – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Anthony Hopkins – The Two Popes
Al Pacino – The Irishman
Joe Pesci – The Irishman
Brad Pitt – Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Laura Dern – Marriage Story
Scarlett Johansson – Jojo Rabbit
Jennifer Lopez – Hustlers
Florence Pugh – Little Women
Margot Robbie – Bombshell
Zhao Shuzhen – The Farewell

BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS
Julia Butters – Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Roman Griffin Davis – Jojo Rabbit
Noah Jupe – Honey Boy
Thomasin McKenzie – Jojo Rabbit
Shahadi Wright Joseph – Us
Archie Yates – Jojo Rabbit

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE
Bombshell
The Irishman
Knives Out
Little Women
Marriage Story
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Parasite

BEST DIRECTOR
Noah Baumbach – Marriage Story
Greta Gerwig – Little Women
Bong Joon Ho – Parasite
Sam Mendes – 1917
Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie – Uncut Gems
Martin Scorsese – The Irishman
Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Noah Baumbach – Marriage Story
Rian Johnson – Knives Out
Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won – Parasite
Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Lulu Wang – The Farewell

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Greta Gerwig – Little Women
Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Anthony McCarten – The Two Popes
Todd Phillips & Scott Silver – Joker
Taika Waititi – Jojo Rabbit
Steven Zaillian – The Irishman

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Jarin Blaschke – The Lighthouse
Roger Deakins – 1917
Phedon Papamichael – Ford v Ferrari
Rodrigo Prieto – The Irishman
Robert Richardson – Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Lawrence Sher – Joker

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Mark Friedberg, Kris Moran – Joker
Dennis Gassner, Lee Sandales – 1917
Jess Gonchor, Claire Kaufman – Little Women
Lee Ha Jun – Parasite
Barbara Ling, Nancy Haigh – Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Bob Shaw, Regina Graves – The Irishman
Donal Woods, Gina Cromwell – Downton Abbey

BEST EDITING
Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie – Uncut Gems
Andrew Buckland, Michael McCusker – Ford v Ferrari
Yang Jinmo – Parasite
Fred Raskin – Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Thelma Schoonmaker – The Irishman
Lee Smith – 1917

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Ruth E. Carter – Dolemite Is My Name
Julian Day – Rocketman
Jacqueline Durran – Little Women
Arianne Phillips – Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Sandy Powell, Christopher Peterson – The Irishman
Anna Robbins – Downton Abbey

BEST HAIR AND MAKEUP
Bombshell
Dolemite Is My Name
The Irishman
Joker
Judy
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Rocketman

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
1917
Ad Astra
The Aeronauts
Avengers: Endgame
Ford v Ferrari
The Irishman
The Lion King

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Abominable
Frozen II
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
I Lost My Body
Missing Link
Toy Story 4

BEST ACTION MOVIE
1917
Avengers: Endgame
Ford v Ferrari
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
Spider-Man: Far From Home

BEST COMEDY
Booksmart
Dolemite Is My Name
The Farewell
Jojo Rabbit
Knives Out

BEST SCI-FI OR HORROR MOVIE
Ad Astra
Avengers: Endgame
Midsommar
Us

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Atlantics
Les Misérables
Pain and Glory
Parasite
Portrait of a Lady on Fire

BEST SONG
Glasgow (No Place Like Home) – Wild Rose
(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again – Rocketman
I’m Standing With You – Breakthrough
Into the Unknown – Frozen II
Speechless – Aladdin
Spirit – The Lion King
Stand Up – Harriet

BEST SCORE
Michael Abels – Us
Alexandre Desplat – Little Women
Hildur Guðnadóttir – Joker
Randy Newman – Marriage Story
Thomas Newman – 1917
Robbie Robertson – The Irishman

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Awards
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