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Archive for February, 2015

Soldier's Girl

Troy Garrity as Barry Winchell and Lee Pace as Calpernia Adams in Soldier’s Girl.

Soldier’s Girl is based on the true story of Barry Winchell, a 22-year-old soldier who was bludgeoned to death in his sleep by another member of his unit over his relationship with a transgendered nightclub performer, Calpernia Adams. The movie handles both the sex and violence of the story in a very tasteful and intelligent manner. Calpernia and Barry come off as a nice girl and a nice guy trying to find love in a world of haters. Pace’s turn as Calpernia became a breakout role for him.

Most interesting to me was the portrayal of Justin Fisher (Shaun Hatosy), Winchell’s manic, homophobic, and manipulative roommate. The implication of the movie was that Fisher’s latent homosexuality and his jealousy of Winchell’s relationship with Calpernia lead him to arrange Winchell’s murder. You do have to speculate about Fisher’s motives in the course of the story. It’s Fisher, after all, who first takes Winchell and a bunch of his unit buddies to the gay nightclub where Calpernia performs. Is this some kind of backhanded come-on to Winchell or is Fisher looking for some evidence of homosexual attraction among his peeps that he can use to blackmail them with?

The question of what qualities define a man is a subtle, underlying theme through the film.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Frances McDormand as Guinevere Pettigrew and Ciaran Hinds as Joe Bloomfield in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.

If Soldier’s Girl is a man’s story, then Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is definitely a woman’s story. This charming little flick is a homage to the screwball comedies of the 1930s-40s.

Miss Pettigrew (Frances Dormand) is a middle-aged, out of work governess whose employers have found her “too difficult”. Desperate for employment, she poses as a social secretary from the temp agency and shows up on the doorstep of flighty nightclub singer, Delysia LaFosse (Amy Adams). Delysia badly needs a social secretary as she is currently juggling three men: Nick Colderelli (Mark Strong in another bad guy role) as the thuggish owner of the nightclub where she works, Phil Goldman (newcomer Tom Payne), a rich boy impressario whose producing a new musical that Delysia hopes will be her big break, and Michael Pardue (Lee Pace), her poor, but decent accompanist who is in love with her and wants to marry her. In the space of twenty-four hours, Miss Pettigrew helps her new employer find true love and, in the process, finds a new lease on life herself.

The costumes are great and the sets are spectacular. I confess that I covet Delysia’s silver bedroom.

 

 

 

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Here’s a great little Pushing Daisies music video. The song is “I Can’t Decide” by the Scissor Sisters. I’ve decided that Lee Pace bears a striking resemblance to Jimmy Stewart.

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Pushing Daisies Cast

“I bake pies and raise the dead. I lead a sheltered life.”–Ned, Pushing Daisies

The real question about the quirky comedy/romance/fantasy/mystery series, Pushing Daisies, isn’t why ABC cancelled it back in 2009, but how the heck it ever got on network TV to begin with. In many ways, Pushing Daisies was simply ahead of its time. Its twisted fairytale storyline, occasional musical numbers, and Technicolor sets would have made it a major hit if it was airing today on HBO or Netflix. As it is, however, this delightful show ran for only 22 episodes.

If you’ve never seen it, the show revolves around Ned (Lee Pace), a pie maker with the gift of raising the dead. One touch from him and dead things revive, but only for 60 seconds. A second touch from Ned and the revived dead things go back to being dead permanently. If Ned allows the dead to live longer than 60 seconds, then something–or someone else–must die to even things out.

When private detective, Emerson Cod (Chi McBride) finds out about Ned’s gift, he makes Ned a deal: Ned will revive murder victims just long enough to for them to name their killers, Emerson solves the case, and he and Ned split the reward money. The scheme works fine until one of the murder victims turns out to be Charlotte “Chuck” Charles (Anna Friel), Ned’s childhood sweetheart. Unwilling to see her die again, Ned lets Chuck live, but although the two are deeply in love, they are cannot touch each other since a second touch would kill Chuck permanently. Kristin Chenoweth co-stars as Ned’s waitress, Olive Snook, who carries a torch for her boss and forms the third leg of this love triangle. Rounding out the cast are Swoosie Kurtz and Ellen Greene as Chuck’s eccentric aunts, Lily and Vivian.

Although the subject matter sounds morbid, the storylines are handled with a light touch, a lot of fast paced dialogue, and fun wordplay. The sets are colorful and the fashions retro.  Sharp-eyed viewers will notice a number of well-known character actors making guest star appearances. As with any good comedy, the show has real emotion at its core and the stories frequently revolve around the themes of love, loss, and loneliness. While Ned reanimates Chuck, it’s the optimistic, outgoing Chuck who, in many ways, brings Ned himself back to life. Ned, abandoned by his father after his mother’s death and shunned by his classmates for his strange ways, leads a shy and solitary existence as an adult.  Chuck, determined not to waste her second chance at life, coaxes Ned out of his shell (no pie pun intended) and encourages him to really live.

I hear via the Internet that series creator Bryan Fuller would like to bring the series back as a movie or a musical and I hope both get made.  In the meantime, go forth and buy or rent this series on DVD. A warning: after several episodes, you will begin craving pie. Just saying.

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The Fall

Alexandria (Cantica Untaru) and Roy (Lee Pace) in a scene from The Fall.

The Fall deserves all the outstanding reviews it has gotten. Like Only Lovers Left Alive, it is a difficult film to describe without giving away too much of the plot. Set in 1920s Los Angeles, the film follows two patients at a local hospital–Alexandria, a seven-year-old migrant farm worker who has broken her arm while picking oranges and Roy, a stunt man paralyzed from the waist down after a fall on a movie set. Bored, Alexandria wanders the hospital during the day, squirreling away little treasures in her treasure box. She and the equally bored Roy strike up an acquaintance and he begins to spin a fantastic fairy tale for her about five bandits and their quest for revenge on the wicked Governor Odious.

Because the film is told from a child’s perspective–snatches of overheard adult conversation, strange tableaus–part of the viewer’s job is to decipher (from an adult perspective) what the heck is really going on at the hospital. The film is artsy, but well-paced and the fantasy sequences are beautifully done. Bring your hanky because you’ll definitely shed tears. The ending, however, is ultimately life-affirming.

 

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