Category Archives: Film

“THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA”— A Miniseries Now on DVD

“The Old Man and the Sea”

A Miniseries Now on DVD

Amos Lassen

 In this second film version of “The Old Man and the Sea” legendary Anthony Quinn plays the title role of the old man that once belonged to Spencer Tracy, Quinn’s performance makes this production far better than it deserves to be. Quinn is of Mexican decent and in his mid-70s, giving an authenticity to the physical appearance of the old man.

There is a lot of creative licensing in this adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s novel. We see that the old man has a daughter and that there is a couple following the saga. The man is a writer though it is never said if he is Hemingway and these scenes feel as if they are tacked on and do nothing to advance the story.

The sole purpose of these two elements is to fill out the time requirements. This is true of a few flashback scenes from the old man’s life which don’t appear in the original novella. There is use of stock footage during the catch and aftermath.  Hemingway’s book was just about this old guy going out every day to catch a fish and not catching it until the end of the book, the TV movie had to be last two hours hence the unneeded additions.

Screenwriter Roger O. Hirson added an unnamed urbane, successful, but writer’s-blocked American novelist and his beautiful but neurotic wife making this very Fitzgerald. The Fitzgerald character is played by Gary Cole, who, wears a silly-looking fake mustache. He spends all his time sitting on a pier, dangling his feet in the water, scribbling in a notebook, and staring at the old man dragging his boat in and out of the sea day after day after day. He has one line and that is to say something like “Eighty-four days without a fish — how do you deal with that?” This is not a bad film and Quinn is superb but I have yet to understand what Patricia Clarkson is doing here.

“PRETENDERS WITH FRIENDS”— Live in Atlantic City

“PRETENDERS WITH FRIENDS”

Live in Atlantic City

Amos Lassen

Grammy Award-winning, multi-platinum selling band The Pretenders featuring the Legendary Chrissy Hynde performs with special guests including Iggy Pop, Shirley Manson of Garbage, Kings of Leon and Incubus, recorded live at the Decades Rock Arena in Atlantic City, NJ. 

Featuring:

Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders
Iggy Pop
Kings of Leon
Incubus
Shirley Manson

Songs include:
Brass in Pocket
Message of Love by Incubus
I’m Only Happy When It Rains by Shirley Manson
Precious; Candy by Iggy Pop and Chrissy Hynde
Talk of the Town; Back on the Chain Gang; Drive by Incubus
Mystery Achievement, Fools Must Die by Iggy Pop
and Middle Of The Road encore performance featuring The Pretenders with Iggy Pop, Incubus, Kings Of Leon and Shirley Manson.

Bonus features include: DVD includes Bonus interviews with Band members, Slide show, Trailers & More! 

Track Listing: 

The Wait
The Losing
Back In The Chain Gang
Talk Of The Town
I’m Only Happy When It Rains With Shirley Manson
Day After Day
The Bucket with Kings Of Leon
Up The Neck
Drive with Incubus
Message Of Love
Precious
Fools Must Die
Candy with Iggy Pop
Mystery Achievement
Brass In Pocket
Middle Of The Road

 

“ROLLING THUNDER REVIEW: A BOB DYLAN STORY”— Scorsese and Dylan On the Road

“Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story”

Scorsese and Dylan on the Road

Amos Lassen

In 1975, Bob Dylan, who had just started touring again after an eight-year break (probably because of his infamous motorcycle accident), decided to put together an unconventional tour and tour group. Instead of simply playing concerts, he’d headline a “revue,” accompanied by a rotating group of fellow musicians (including Joan Baez, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Joni Mitchell, Roger McGuinn, Mick Ronson, etc.), a poet laureate (Allen Ginsberg), a screenwriter (Sam Shepard) for an accompanying film project, and a cameraman (Howard Alk) to shoot material both onstage and behind the scenes. Some of this footage became part of  Dylan’s directorial debut, “Renaldo And Clara” (1978) and was not well received. The rest of it was in a vault for decades, until Martin Scorsese found it and made it into a semi-coherent film. Scorsese also decided to add his own element of his own, one that transforms the film from an historically significant afterthought to something of a  myth.

It’s unclear how many of Rolling Thunder’s 57 shows were filmed. Most of the concert footage appears to come from just one and focuses almost entirely on Dylan (sometimes singing with Baez), performing songs from “Desire”, his 1976 album he recorded with the same backing band—as well as blistering rock-and-roll arrangements of some of his folk-era classics like “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” It seems likely that many of the supporting acts just didn’t get filmed. But while the tour’s “revue” aspect largely gets lost, Dylan himself is on fire, as he takes the microphone in the white face paint he wore most nights, apparently as a glam-influenced mask. I was very frustrated that Scorsese repeatedly cuts away mid-song in order to contextualize what we’re seeing with talking-head interviews. The film is strongest when watching the legendary performances, that have been largely unseen for forty years. 

All of the archival footage (most of the movie) was not shot by Scorsese or his team. He invents a tour filmmaker, Stefan van Dorp (Martin von Haselberg), who appears in present-day interviews complaining about the degree to which his contribution is being undervalued. There’s no onscreen indication that Van Dorp is fictional, however.

 

Apparently, the idea behind these fictional interludes is that they represent Dylan’s prankish side—he was known to falsify his personal background, claiming to be from New Mexico rather than Minnesota, and makes a point of noting here, when asked about his face paint, that someone wearing a mask is more inclined to be truthful. This playfulness is a distraction and there is too much authenticity here  so there is no need for creative fiction. There are some wonderful behind the scenes moments involving Joni Mitchell: We see her teaching Dylan and McGuinn the riff to “Coyote” (then a brand-new song) during a casual jam session and joining a large group in an impromptu rendition of “Love Potion No. 9″ on the tour bus.

Ultimately what will stay alive and endure is the footage of Dylan himself. He is this project’s true auteurand it’s fitting that the film concludes with a truly startling rundown of literally every day he’s spent on the road since kicking off the Rolling Thunder Revue—which is to say, over the majority of his adult life. There have been no breaks since.

“FM”— Late-70s US Radio

“FM”

Late-70s US Radio.

Amos Lassen

Jeff Dugan (Michael Brandon) is the ultra-cool program director at Q-SKY Radio, Los Angeles’s number one rock station. He encourages a free-wheeling culture at work and has hired quite a group  of eccentric DJ personalities: Mother (Eileen Brennan), a husky, world-weary ex-hippie; Eric Swan (Martin Mull), a mad-cap romantic looking for love played by Alex Karris, and The Prince of Darkness (Cleavon Little), a cool cat who keeps the night-time airwaves alive. When the station’s future becomes doubtful because corporate bosses are looking to cash-in, the Q-SKY troupe is forced to find a way to keep their jobs.

John A. Alonzo directed this film that brings together hilarious studio happenings epic footage of Linda Ronstadt and Jimmy Buffett in concert. The film’s soundtrack includes songs by Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers, Eagles and Tom Petty (who also cameos). Digitally remastered, FM is released on blu-ray with many exciting new extras.

When the staff goes on strike, crowns form to support their stand against corporate hypocrisy and they are standing up for hipsters everywhere, telling the Establishment where it can get off. The throngs are so fired with admiration that they are on the verge of rioting, when suddenly the much-beloved station manager, Jeff Dugan makes a plea for sanity and brotherhood. The strikers will give up, he says sadly. He promises, “we’ll give you what you want and if we can’t do it here, we’ll do it someplace else. From the crowd, the station owner yells back, “No you won’t!” He is been so moved by his staff’s honesty, integrity and general panache that he is now willing to let them do everything just as they please.

This is a movie about rock that tries to stick it to the man with some of the safest, least revolutionary music ever recorded. When The corporate execs  demand that Q-Sky play less music and air more commercials, including one designed to get mellow Californians to join the Army, the staff strikes and   barricade themselves in the station and lead a protest by playing their music without commercials.

The DJs spent most of their time playing songs by such noted rockers as Jimmy Buffett, Billy Joel, and REO Speedwagon and Q-Sky’s attempts to secretly broadcast a Linda Ronstadt concert that is being sponsored by a rival station.  

Michael Brandon is one of the most uninteresting incarnations of the ’70s anti-hero as the head of QSKY, a rock station that prides itself on non-commerciality. The central, never-addressed mystery of “FM” is that it does so while its DJs play the sounds of the times.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation transferred from original film elements

  Uncompressed stereo 2.0 PCM audio soundtrack

  Mono 1.0 music and effects track

  Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

  No Static at All, a newly filmed interview with Michael Brandon, the star of FM

  Radio Chaos, a newly filmed interview with Ezra Sacks, the writer of FM

  The Spirit of Radio, a newly filmed video appreciation of the era of FM radio and the FM soundtrack by the film and music critic Glenn Kenny

  Extensive gallery of original stills, promotional images and soundtrack sleeves

  Original trailers

  Reversible sleeve featuring two original artwork options

  FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by writer and critic Paul Corupe

“AMERICAN HORROR PROJECT: Volume 2”— 3-Disc Limited Edition

“AMERICAN HORROR PROJECT: Volume 2”

3-Disc Limited Edition

Amos Lassen

I love whiling away time with a good horror film and I really love “American Horror Story: Volume 2” because it gives me three good horror stories.  Volume 2 continues Arrow Films’ “mission to unearth the very best in weird and wonderful horror obscura from the golden age of US independent genre moviemaking”. This second volume in its American Horror Project series was co-curated by author Stephen Thrower (“Nightmare USA: The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents”). 

We start off with a little-seen 1970 film, “Dream No More” from underrated cult auteur John Hayes (“Grave of the Vampire”, “Garden of the Dead”), “Dream No Evil” is a haunting, moving tale of a young woman s desperate quest to be reunited with her long-lost father only to find herself drawn into a fantasyland of homicidal madness. “Dark August” (1976) stars Academy Award-winner Kim Hunter (A Streetcar Named Desire) in a story of a man pursued by a terrifying and deadly curse in the wake of a hit-and-run accident. Harry Novak-produced “The Child” (1977) is horror mayhem in which a young girl raises an army of the dead against the people she holds responsible for her mother s death. 

All three films having been newly remastered from the best surviving film elements and are on Blu ray for the first time,. There is also an abundance of  supplementary material.  “American Horror Project Volume Two” gives us  “another fascinating and blood-chilling foray into the deepest, darkest corners of stars-and-stripes terror.” 

LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS

  Brand new 2K restorations from original film elements 

  High Definition Blu-ray presentation

  Original uncompressed PCM mono audio

  English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

  Reversible sleeves for each film featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by The Twins of Evil

  American Horror Project Journal Vol. II limited edition 60-page booklet featuring new writing on the films by Stephen R. Bissette, Travis Crawford and Amanda Reyes 

DREAM NO EVIL 

  Filmed appreciation by Stephen Thrower

  Brand new audio commentary with Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan 

  Hollywood After Dark: The Early Films of John Hayes, 1959-1971 brand new video essay by Stephen Thrower looking at Hayes’ filmography leading up to Dream No Evil

  Writer Chris Poggiali on the prodigious career of celebrated character actor Edmond O’Brien

  Excerpts from an audio interview with actress Rue McClanahan (The Golden Girls) discussing her many cinematic collaborations with director John Hayes

DARK AUGUST

  Filmed appreciation by Stephen Thrower

  Brand new audio commentary with writer-director Martin Goldman

  Brand new on-camera interview with Martin Goldman

  Brand new on-camera interview with producer Marianne Kanter 

  The Hills Are Alive: Dark August and Vermont Folk Horror author and artist Stephen R. Bissette on Dark August and its context within the wider realm of genre filmmaking out of Vermont

  Original Press Book THE CHILD 1.37:1 and 1.85:1 presentations of the feature Filmed appreciation by Stephen Thrower Brand new audio commentary with director Robert Voskanian and producer Robert Dadashian, moderated by Stephen Thrower Brand new on-camera interviews with Robert Voskanian and Robert Dadashian Original Theatrical Trailer Original Press Book

“MAZE”— A True Story

“MAZE”

A True Story

Amos Lassen

 

Maze is based on the true story of the 1983 mass break-out of 38 prisoners from the HMP Maze high security prison in Northern Ireland. It was nominated for 4 Irish Academy Awards, including Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Screenplay and Best Original Score (IFTA Awards)

Maze” follows how inmate Larry Marley (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) becomes chief architect of the largest prison escape in Europe since World War II – an escape which he plans but does take part in himself. 

He is up against the most state-of-the-art and secure prison in the whole of Europe; in effect, a prison within a prison. While scheming his way towards pulling off this feat, Larry comes into close contact with prison warder Gordon Close (Barry Ward) (Jimmy’s Hall). 

Larry and Gordon’s complex journey begins with cautious. Initially, Gordon holds all the power in the relationship and rejects all of Larry’s attempts at establishing a friendship between them. Bit by bit, Larry wears down Gordon’s defenses, pushing himself into a position of trust. 

As each man begins to engage with the other as an equal, the wall between prisoner and warder becomes broken down. During all this time, however, Larry has been scheming behind Gordon’s back, gaining as much information as he can and working with other prisoners in a separate block, helping to engineer their escape.  When the escape finally occurs, thirty-eight prisoners reach the main gate and nineteen get away. Gordon is stunned by Larry’s betrayal and his own foolishness. Still, both of them have been completely changed by their interaction. Their relationship represents the beginning of dialogue between the two sides, the beginning of the eventual peace process. 

IRA member Larry Marley was shot down in retaliation for the murder of loyalist John Bingham and the Provisionals duly responded by killing loyalist William “Frenchie” Marchant as payback and prison was probably the safest place for him to be, yet he masterminded the IRA’s most notorious prison break. The careful planning and execution of the escape is what we see in “Maze”.

Maze no longer stands, but in the early 1980s, it was a maximum-security prison for both IRA and UVF militants, which often led to some tense confrontations in the corridors. Marley participated in the 1981 hunger strike, but reluctantly ended his fast. Feeling guilty, he struck on the notion of a large-scale escape as a way to boost morale. However, most of the IRA prison leadership initially dismisses the scheme as unrealistic.

Nevertheless, by agreeing to do prison chores (contrary to the hunger strikers’ demands for special privileges), Marley starts to get a comprehensive picture of the Maze’s security systems. By currying favor with Gordon Close, a frazzled warder who recently survived an assassination attempt, Marley picks up on little flaws to exploit. However, he also starts to begrudgingly respect his jailer as a fellow father and human being. There is the suggestion here that the greatest flaw in Maze security were the British guards, who were too humane in their treatment.

“Maze” is an unusually even-handed prison movie and is about as de-politicized as it could be, while still openly inviting us to sympathize with the escape-planners.

“FIND ME GUILTY”— Based on a True Story

“FIND ME GUILTY”

Based on a True Story

Amos Lassen

Sidney Lumet’s “Find Me Guilty” is a very funny testament to bad courtroom behavior. Believe it or not, Vin Diesel gives am excellent performance in the movie that is the  true story of the most remarkable criminal trial in US history. We see that justice has a strange sense of humor!

“When they f— with me,” Jackie DiNorscio (Vin Diesel) says, “they wake a sleeping giant.” DiNorscio is the wild card in the longest trial in American history, a 21-month extravaganza aimed at the Lucchese crime family of New Jersey. There are 20 defendants and they all have defense attorneys except Jackie, who represents himself.

Jackie is already serving a 30-year sentence when the trial begins. He’s offered a deal: to testify against his fellow villains and get a reduction in his sentence. “I don’t rat on my friends,” he says. That’s for sure. He even forgives a cousin who pumps four bullets into him. “I love him” he says. “Live and let live.” When the cops ask him to name the shooter, he intones, “My eyes were shut the whole time.”.

The defendants here are killers, thieves, extortionists, drug dealers, pimps and otherwise ill-behaved criminals. No one doubts they are guilty. But against their predations the movie sets Jackie DiNorscio, who says he is “not a gangster but a gagster,” and aggravates the prosecution, the defense, the judge, and his fellow defendants. Only the jury likes him and he keeps them laughing.

Jackie is loyal to mobsters who ordered him to be whacked. He spends less time defending himself than in offering a running commentary on the judicial system. He cuts through the shady testimony. “

Jackie’s moral position is hard to define. He seems to value friendship and loyalty above all, and to disregard such imperfections as murder. He is loyal to Calabrese even after the mobster tells him, “If you mention my name in this courtroom one more time, I will cut your heart out.” He loves the guy. The movie’s title comes from his closing statement, in which he tells the jury he’s already serving 30 years and has nothing to lose: “Find me guilty,” he says, but let off his friends.

We do not cheer for him but he is the underdog in a system that offends common sense. A defense attorney who needs five days to summarize his argument doesn’t have one. Subtitles remind us how many days the trial has lasted; they climb above 500. A defendant has a heart attack, is brought into court on a bed, falls out of the bed. A mother dies. The chief prosecutor, Sean Kierney (Linus Roache) doesn’t like to be laughed at and retaliates by taking away the prized recliner in Jackie’s jail cell. The judge (Ron Silver) would cut Jackie loose from the case, except that might lead to a mistrial.

This movie is very interesting not because of the trial but because we have a Kafkaesque system that can only work if there are no Jackies to point out its absurdities. We in the audience are left without cheering rights. Since  we do not see the defendants actually seen doing anything evil, we don’t really care about their conviction but surely they cannot be found innocent. The trial comes down to: Can Jackie get away with his act? And if he does, so what? He’s still facing 30 years. Good and evil and we focus on a contest between drones and a wise guy and it is very entertaining.

Sidney Lumet shows us the longest trial in US history from the perspective of the criminal side and it casts a dark shadow on our legal system, the police, and government in general. The movie starts off with Jackie getting shot multiple times by his cousin, ending up in a hospital bed clinging to life but unwilling to cooperate with the police to capture the gunman whom he professes to love. He is set up on drug charges (completely guilty though, in a surprise twist for the director) which is later used as a bargaining chip for his cooperation in testifying against the Lucchese family he has worked for in various capacities. 

The federal authorities obtained over 70 felony indictments against the twenty defendants and wanted someone to strengthen their case with this being a RICO Act case (criminal conspiracies to commit various felonies are more complicated but have the benefit of mandatory sentencing and a relatively easy level of proof in many ways). Having been sentenced to 30 years in prison for the drug charge (largely due to ineffective counsel), Jackie has nothing to lose by cooperating except for years off of his sentence. The prosecutor has never lost a case, has thousands of items of evidence, scores of low level scum willing to testify, and the knowledge that he is fighting the good fight in the name of law & order but doesn’t want to chance anything. Jackie turns him down and is subjected to a harsh beating, deciding to represent himself rather than throw away another bunch of money on the shyster. He is already doing a lengthy sentence and has nothing to lose though the other defendants fear he will weaken their cases and make it clear that he will not live to do so if he messes up. 

Thus began the court case lasting over 600 days back in the 1980’s as shown in the movie and it is great fun.

Bonus Materials

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the main feature 
  • Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Surround
  • English and Spanish Subtitles
  • A Conversation with Director Sidney Lumet featurette (SD, 4:43)
  • Original Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2:27)
  • 3 TV Spots (SD)

“WINTER PASSING”— Looking and Finding

“Winter Passing”

Looking and Finding

Amos Lassen

Struggling New York actress Reese Holden (Zooey Deschanel) is given an offer she can hardly refuse: Lori Lansky (Amy Madigan), a book editor, wants to give her $100,000 for the letters between her Pulitzer Prize winning father, Don Holden (Ed Harris), and her recently deceased, by suicide, mother. She is unsure about what to do and goes back home to find the letters before she Arriving at her father’s house Reese is shocked when is greeted by Corbitt (Will Ferrell), a stranger and an aspiring rock wannabe who has taken up residence in the Holden home. Don, it seems, is more comfortable living in a shed out back. Then Reese meets Shelly (Amelia Warner), a former student of Don’s who also is living there. The film is really about Reese ending her self-imposed estrangement with her father and other familial problems.

We never get to like any of the characters. They are all so self-absorbed – Reese with her anger over being overlooked as a child by her intelligentsia parents; Don over the loss of his wife (something that he was responsible for over the years); Corbitt with his rock star aspirations but has trouble playing music and singing  and, Shelly’s worship of Don.

Zooey Deschanel is so morose as Reese and Ed Harris never arises above being  two-dimensional as the genius father who suffers from the demons of his past, loosing himself in the bottle. I simply was unable to care about him. First-time writer-director Adam Rapp has made a film that feels more like a school project than feature debut.

A feeling of depression hangs over the film making it a glum family drama. It is the familiar story of an embittered child’s homecoming and confrontation with a parent. Reese has not been home in six years and she really comes to get the letters that were part of the estate that her mother left to her. Reese works as a bartender and has a cocaine habit and she has a chip on her shoulder. Ms. Deschanel’s brave, unsympathetic performance is quite boring. Her father, Don Holden was  once a flaming neo-Marxist radical and is a literary legend whose 1960’s novel “People’s Park” became a modern classic. Her mother wrote high-toned literary romances.

Suffering from writer’s block, Don, who is depressed a brooding, stringy-haired eccentric. When Reese arrives in Michigan and has to prove her identity to gain entry to the house, the movie formally begins. There is one scene that is sincerely moving and that is when Reese comes upon her father as he is weeping uncontrollably. We learn that Reese didn’t attend her mother’s funeral for a number of reasons, one of them being “she treated me like a mild curiosity all my life” and another being that she has little desire to see her father.

Reese’s presence seems to awaken him, if only to allow him to let go. Shelly confides in Reese that her father is still writing, but slowly. I realize that in many ways this sounds like a negative review but it is not. This is the kind of film you must be prepared to see because it is depressing yet because it is depressing, it is very real.

Bonus Materials

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the main feature 
  • Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Surround
  • English and Spanish Subtitles
  • Behind the Scenes Featurette
  • Original Theatrical Trailer

“SHORTCUT TO HAPPINESS”— Jabez and the Devil

“SHORTCUT TO HAPPINESS”

Jabez and the Devil

Amos Lassen

Films about the devil are always popular as we have seen again and again. Set in New York’s literary world, “Shortcut To Happiness” is a contemporary re-telling of the classic story ”The Devil and Daniel Webster” featuring an all-star cast. Jabez Stone (Alec Baldwin) is a down on his luck writer, who sells his soul to the devil (Jessica Love-Hewitt) in exchange for fame and fortune. But when things don’t turn out as planned, Stone ultimately decides that he wants his old life again and enlists the help of Daniel Webster (Anthony Hopkins) in order to win his soul back from Satan. What is an interesting plot line disintegrates into one of the strangest films I have ever seen— a train wreck we can’t stop watching. 

In the late ’80s and early ’90s, Baldwin seemed destined for a spot high atop the A-list but something curious happened en route to greatness: He messed everything up. Baldwin’s scuffles with paparazzi, explosive temper, and tumultuous marriage to/divorce from Kim Basinger (and subsequent vicious custody battle) got more press than his films and he developed a reputation for being hard to work with. He alternated between thankless supporting roles in lousy films  and bigger roles in films that either went directly to DVD or barely saw release. Then we have Baldwin’s ill-fated 2001 directorial debut, “Shortcut To Happiness” that  showed the most talented Baldwin’s genius for snatching defeat. On paper, the film looks fantastic. It’s based on beloved, time-tested source material—Stephen Vincent Benét’s classic 1937 short story “The Devil And Daniel Webster,” which in 1941 inspired a minor classic starring Walter Huston as the devil. It boasts a screenplay co-written by Oscar-winner Bill Condon and National Book Award winning novelist/screenwriter Pete Dexter (Paris Trout). It also sports a stunning cast: Baldwin, his Edge co-star Anthony Hopkins, Dan Aykroyd, Amy Poehler, Kim Cattrall, Jason Patric, and Bobby Cannavale. Oh, and Jennifer Love Hewitt as the devil.

However, the film seemed cursed from its inception. After two of its investors were busted for fraud before post-production could be completed, the film ended up in bankruptcy court, where producer Bob Yari purchased it for several million dollars in 2007 and re-edited it so heavily that Baldwin had his directorial credit replaced with the pseudonym “Harry Kirkpatrick.” When filming began in 2001, Baldwin never could have imagined that nine years later, his star-studded take on a classic would be so widely unseen.

The idea of this film is old and there’s nothing new in it, but I strongly recommend you to watch this movie. In our days we judge all things: good and bad. If story is old, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s bad and this is one that  makes us think about the meaning of life, about how to live, about true price of material and spiritual values.  Jabez couldn’t refuse an offer that would give him the success he thinks he’s always wanted and jumps at the deal, but it doesn’t quite work out the way he expects. Now he has all things: women, money, success, respect… He gets super-rich, builds a mansion, and controls the entire town.

However, he says that he has NEVER been happy during 10 years at the same time having all he asked for. All he has is nothing, it is a dust. But he has success. Women love not him. His books sell well not because of his talent, but because of his success. He is respectable person, but because of his success.  He realizes his mistake too late and there’s no one who can help him. He has exchanged fellowship for imaginary success, his books are terrible and he is not satisfied of his life at all. 

“MICHELIN STARS: TALES FROM THE KITCHEN”— Winning and Keeping the Star

“Michelin Stars: Tales From The Kitchen”

Winning and Keeping the Star

Amos Lassen

If you have ever wondered how chefs get and keep a Michelin Star or what the criteria are for earning one, this is the film you need to see. In this globe-trotting documentary, we meet the world’s leading chefs as they share the impact of the little red book as well as Jean-Dominique Senard, the president of the Michelin Guide whose team of anonymous food critics have the power to make and to break the celebrities of the food world. Can you answer these questions: What defines great cooking? The cleanliness of a plate scraped clean? The price of a plate? The ratio of second helpings to one? A healthy burp?

Director Rasmus Dinesen explores these and others in “Michelin Stars: Tales from the Kitchen”, a film that film features top chefs from around the world who dish on the pros and cons of the controversial rating system. The Michelin Stars are an odd scheme, as is any arbitrary classification model for assigning stars and ratings in the arts, and they have enormous influence. The system awards one to three stars for excellence in culinary delights. People travel the globe to eat at top tier Michelin restaurants. Only 113 kitchens worldwide have the coveted three star distinction, but there are surely more great satisfying eateries than that number. The definition of greatness is based on taste.

The cooks here offer a consensus that good cuisine has several consistencies from kitchen to kitchen. Fresh ingredients, proper cooking times, and a hint of character that adds the chef’s personality are all essential in the recipe for greatness. Beyond those vague unifiers, however, good cooking is something else. One chef says that we cannot compare one can’t the buttery cuisine of a Parisian bistro to the noodles of a small soba bar in Tokyo. A single star system can’t account for region, culture, and the rich history in which beloved dishes steep with memories and traditions. 

The chefs who have attained Michelin Star status agree on quality. René Redzepi, for example, the master chef behind the Danish restaurant Noma shares that the  “World’s Best Restaurants” deemed Noma the best restaurant in the world four times between 2010 and 2014, yet Michelin only grant him two stars. The chefs explain the painstaking detail of revising menus, whipping up culinary identities, and exploring new ways of blending tradition with contemporary flavors. Baking is a science and cooking is an art, and there are simply too many variables that make for good eating.

These stars are also the source of nervous breakdowns and cause toxic work cultures. A troubling sequence on the drive for perfection notes the pervasive abuse one encounters in kitchens. These stories are popping up in the wake of the #MeToo conversations and “Michelin Stars” adds more tales to the kitchen. Toxic masculinity goes beyond the casting couch and there are costs to the haute cuisine that satisfies the world. Very few of the interviewees are women and Dinesen finds conflicting values within the discussions. The chefs often talk about food bringing people together or reminding them of their heritage, only to note that receiving a Michelin’s Star was the proudest moment of their lives—”until they remember the births of their kids, or their wedding days, and correct their statements.” 

However, the perverse star system works. The documentary shows how Michelin Stars are a chef’s honor but finds the arbitrary merits of their origin and assessment part of their appeal. These stars, after all, are a marketing tool and the film notes reminds us that Michelin is a tire company that devised the system to encourage destination dining. Citing a restaurant as worthy of a trip inspires people to drive more and, in turn, buy more tires. If this business of assigning value to the arts is all a marketing ploy, it cheapens the appeal. “Michelin is better suited for McDonald’s and drive-thru “cooking.””

The doc  defines the chefs by their philosophies and recipes that Michelin aims to spotlight. We get an international cornucopia of dishes and perspectives to illustrate the broad range of culinary practices both included and omitted by the rating. Every chef and every diner has his or her own delight. Warm cinematography highlights the drive for perfections that goes into each dish the chefs prepare.