Friday, July 18, 2014

Bob Hoskins--Leaving Us "The Long Good Friday as His Legacy"

Bob Hoskins, the star of this film, died this past week, in his 70s of Parkinson's Disease. It seems a fitting time to review his very best film, The Long Good Friday. He made a lot of great films, seemingly effortlessly, but he never surpassed this one. He is Harold a gangster in London who has done very well for himself. He has a casino, a yacht, fancy car, Helen Mirren as his long term girlfriend....what more could any guy wish for if he was lower class and wanted to vault into the monied class? Well, nothing material but Harold has a big problem develop nonetheless. Someone is suddenly very interested in eliminating Harold and everyone he knows for seemingly no reason whatsoever. Harold has done nothing different from his usual "accepted" criminal endeavors so what in the heck is going on?

Part of the answer is to be found in a minor character in the film. None other than Pierce Brosnan in a very early role before anyone knew who he was. You can't miss him because at this young age Brosnan is the most gorgeous male most people have ever set eyes on. If you thought he was good looking later on, wait until you see him here. Surprisingly, Brosnan is one of the bad guys!

This film put both Helen Mirren and Bob Hoskins on the map in the film world. They would work non stop from this film forward. I don't think Brosnan ever had a lapse either.  But the primary moving force of the film is Hoskins, the exposition of his character. Whatever you might feel about Harold all through the movie, there is a long scene in a taxi cab near the end where you have to give him his due for sheer guts and unflinching indomitability. That taxi scene is a classic of the cinema which no film fan can ever forget.

P.S. I did watch it again this weekend and it was wonderful. Here is the young Pierce Brosnan from that movie again, above. (But the acting might was all Hoskins.) Interestingly, I've noticed the tabloids take swipes at Brosnan's wives because they were/are very plain compared to him. I frankly am not surprised someone who was just given this much in beauty from day one of his existence does not prize it as the top quality in a mate. He has been widowed once, remarried again, and is still married to his second wife at age 61. His first wife died of cancer at a relatively young age.

TV: Tyrant (by way of Hatufim and Homeland)
all three created by Gideon Raff 

Most Americans fell in love with the mole terrorist thriller "Homeland". What most of them do not realize is that this series was originally created for Israeli tv by Gideon Raff and called "Hatufim" (Prisoners of War) and then adapted to American tv as "Homeland". Raff is obviously a very talented guy and he now is debuting a third show, Tyrant, on FX channel. 

This time he has set the show in the Middle East, not America, but the central character is an American doctor who is the son of the tyrant who runs the country. This forces everyone into speaking English which will please those who hate reading subtitles. 

I can tell this is Raff's work as there is a lot of similarity among his series. In this one, a tyrant in an Arabian country gets his son to return because his nephew is getting married. However, the son does not want to be there as his father, as an oppressor, is against everything in which he believes. He ran away when he was 16 years old and is now an American doctor, a pediatrician. 

The only "off" part is his extremely annoying American family, his wife and two teenagers, who are with him. They are complete stereotypes of Americans as is the American ambassador.  I frankly wonder if Raff's planning to kill some or all of them off since he has made them so annoying.

Raff's strength in this series is in portraying the people of the Middle East, not Americans. The doctor's brother is the heir to taking over the country. He embodies all of the worst characteristics of everyone in the family. He is as bad a tyrant as his father but he has no strength of character and doesn't think things through. The father does not have these faults. The brother acts before he thinks and it is always the wrong move. The father realizes the wrong son is slated to take over but short of killing the heir, there is no way to derail his ascendancy. Meanwhile, there are many other people in this country who do not want the son as leader and they are growing in number and revolutionary acts.

I admire all of Gideon Raff's work. I have seen all of these series. Tyrant is playing now on FX and I am up to date on the episodes. I recommend you watch all of these series. 

Novel: White Oleander by Janet Fitch; 
audio version narrated by Oprah Winfrey

I experienced this book three ways. I read it in print. I listened to Oprah Winfrey read an abridged version. Finally, I saw the movie. Of these versions, the unabridged print version is the best, closely followed by Winfrey's reading it (if Winfrey had read the entire book, the two versions would be equal). The movie is good but doesn't quite capture these two central characters the way the book does. Michelle Pfeiffer played the mother in the movie and she just isn't as dark inside as this mother needs to be. 

The book is told from the point of view of the teenage daughter of an artistic, beautiful mother who sacrifices the daughter when her boyfriend spurns her. Specifically, when the mother sees the former boyfriend with a new girlfriend, she cuts down the poisonous white oleander which grows all over her California neighborhood. She makes the cuttings into a paste of sorts, coats things in his house with it and he is poisoned and dies. The poison passes right through his skin when he touches door knobs and other things. This all happens within the first opening pages of the book so it is not a spoiler. This is not a murder mystery.

This catapults the daughter into foster care and even though the mother is in prison for the killing, she still does her best to undercut her daughter at every turn. 

This is an absolutely riveting portrait of trying to live a life as a young girl when a brilliant, beautiful, obsessive and incredibly manipulative mother is acting at cross purposes to your best interests growing up. No one she meets in California foster care is quite as deadly and dangerous as her own mother. Incredibly, the daughter is quite a survivor despite being burdened with such a parent. 

Music: Off the Wall by Michael Jackson

This was Michael Jackson's album before Thriller. It was released in 1979-1980 with his photo on it showing him as he looked then, like a young black man. It was his big solo release which was supposed to launch him as a solo artist. It did that but if only it had stayed at that. Unfortunately, what followed it, Thriller, set a whole other path in front of him which dynamited the artistic thrust of this venture. 

Artistically this album was right there. Albert Brooks used the song on it "You're Out of My Life" in his film "Modern Romance" which was released shortly thereafter. The singles male skater at the Olympics used his song "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" in his gold medal winning routine. One by one artists in other media used virtually the whole darn album in their own artistic endeavors and, of course, Jackson got paid.

It is impossible nowadays to even find this album with the correct pictures on it. The pictures have been changed on its rerelease so that they look like he did after he changed his appearance post Thriller

If you want to experience the singing career that should have been, if Thriller had never happened, this is the album for you.

Everything reviewed above is carried by Amazon, iTunes, Audible, the Overdrive app for your public library and most other outlets both online and in the real world. These are taken from my five star reviews at Amazon where I am a Top Reviewer.

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