Lucy & Desi: Together Again

Home Movie

DATELINE: Being the Ricardos 

  With the recent controversy over the casting of a new biographical movie about Lucy and Desi, it seemed like a good time to reconsider daughter Lucie Arnaz’s 1993 documentary about her parents, Lucy & Desi: A Home Movie.

Lucie Arnaz is defending the casting of Nicole Kidman as Lucy and Javier Bardem as Desi. Indeed, we think it is most interesting to see them play the real people during one dramatic week that the couple played the Ricardos.

They are not remaking I Love Lucy.

Back in 1993, Lucie Arnaz directed and produced, interviewed people, collected film clips, and put together a fairly honest and direct look at her famous parents, warts and all. She never received the full commendation she deserved. As she said, her mother was a “pack-rat” and kept all kinds of home movies that Lucie never saw. They were from the decade before the TV show and before the kids arrived.

What can you say about two people who were always “on.” They were the epitome of show biz, but alas, when home, their love story didn’t have a script they could embrace.

Lucy was the Queen of Comedy and pratfall on screen, and she loved being a performer and working. Off-screen she might have given Mommie Dearest, Joan Crawford,  a run for the roses.

 Desi was a talented man of show biz, and even more talented with business acumen, but never came out of the shadows. He loved Lucy too much. Their cultural differences, cute and remarkable, were also their downfall.

Desi’s Latino view of philandering infuriated Lucille Ball, but he was the love of her life. When two titans fall in love and clash, you have a big production called DesiLu, and you have shambles that make for great theater.

The home movies their daughter puts together are stunning and insightful. We suspect the movie docudrama of their lives by Aaron Sorkin will be even more stunning with brilliant actors playing the first great TV stars. We are, of course, most interested in who will play Fred and Ethel in Being the Ricardos. No word yet.

 

 

 

 

The Invasion Continues with More Pod People

DATELINE: Sequel 25 Years Later (Again)

Kidman & Craig

Twenty-odd years after the second Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a sequel to a sequel shows up. This one is The Invasion and features Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig (young and James Bondy but strictly a bauble here, highly decorative).

We enjoy the notion that every generation presents its own paranoid outburst: invaders from space take over human bodies by replication. Whether another sequel will appear in twenty-five years is doubtful, or at least we won’t know about it.

As in the 1979 film, Kevin McCarthy of the first, original film made an appearance to tie it to the previous. This time, Veronica Cartwright makes an appearance to claim the man she is married to is not her husband (a common complaint in these films).

We love that connection. Here, however, the paranoia is less threatening. The looks from by-passers is not quite as disturbing and malevolence is not around every corner.

Make no mistake, though: The Invasion is cut from the same outer space spore. Alas, this one seems to have a ‘happy’ ending. Paranoia is dispatched.

The horror builds slowly, methodically, as we already know what’s going on, now set in Washington, D.C., where the federal government is as inept as ever. Indeed, high-ranking officials are clearly pod people.

The film from 2008 also features Jeffrey Wright (of Westworld) as an assistant to Craig in his laboratory. Suspense veteran Josef Sommer also appears as some kind of Washington bigwig.

Kids are not immune in this film, and Kidman’s kid is central to her energy to fight the spores that want to turn us all into automatons without emotion. It seems that it is a good turn to save the human race from its own violent rages. You may turn into a pod person by means of projectile vomit, which is certainly cinematic.

Fortunately for us, no good deed by space monsters goes unpunished.

 

 

 

Little Boy Lost in Lion

DATELINE:  Real Life Spiritual Journey

 Kidman and Sunny

Kidman with adorable Sunny Pawar

This international production called Lion may tap into the wide audience of movie fans in Australia and India with a true story that is reminiscent of classics like The Search with Monty Clift.

This time the lost boy, separated from his desperate and loving mother, is five years old and lost in a mass of humanity from New Delhi to Calcutta. After some brutal travails that are reminiscent of 19th century Dickens, he is adopted by acouplefrom Tasmania.

However, happy ever after is not in the script.

This also marks an interesting first for Nicole Kidman who adopts the little boy (Sunny Pawar)—and before she knows it, he is 25 and she is playing her first matron.

It happened to Mary Astor and Bette Davis with grace, and just a few short years after playing some of her most sensual roles, Kidman is into motherhood. There may be no looking back. She is, above all else, an excellent actress.

The trauma of the young boy seems to come back to haunt him as an adult. You can thank Google Earth for allowing him to conduct an armchair search of his geographical roots.

Because the story is all true, Saroo is a compelling figure both as a child and as Dev Patel in adulthood when his torment about his lost family becomes something that allows him to take charge of destiny.

The actual footage of in the post-script of the movie shows that Kidman’s role is not far afield of the adopting mother in the story. It will surely tug at your feelings as the young Indian’s spiritual journey is truly difficult emotionally.

When it comes to true stories, you can’t go wrong here. Since there are no lions in the story, you have to stick around for the closing to learn the reasoning behind the film title.

Secret Storm for Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman

DATELINE: Who Done What?

Despite a terrible title, Secrets in Their Eyes can hold the attention of any mystery fan with its top-drawer star performances.

Aging gracefully for female movie stars is never easy—and to play yourself today and 13 years earlier requires a particular strength of acting. Both Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts are impressive here as a rising district attorney and an anti-terrorist cop.

Kidman remains more glamorous in her public job—and Roberts can go more to seed in her less public job as servants to society. At one point, a character looks at Roberts and notes she looks “a million years old.”  It’s a good estimate.

If you don’t pay close attention to the details of their aging process, you may not know when the flashback scene has begun.

We also liked this movie because it kept violence and sex to the barest minimum and put emphasis on character. In this well-constructed mystery, character is fate—as you might expect.

The unpronounceable Chitwel Ejiofor plays the male lead—an FBI man who returns to the scene of the crime over a decade before –around the frightening times after 9/11. His relationship to the two women becomes intriguing and underplayed.

As an ensemble, the cast provides the chemistry you’d expect from a tightknit group of workers ripped asunder by a hideous crime.

In some ways the solution seems simple, but the forest is always blocking your trees. We almost decided, based on the book cover, that this film was a women’s weeper, but how wrong and sexist we were.