Take My Nose…Please


Lisa Lampinelli reacts to finding Christmas displays up in March at Wal-Mart.

Lisa Lampinelli reacts to finding Christmas displays up in March at Wal-Mart.

(2016) Documentary (Parvenu Ventures) Emily Askin, Jackie Hoffman, Joan Rivers, Kathy Griffin, Star Jones, Cher, Wanda Sykes, Roseanne Barr, Margaret Cho, Lisa Lampinelli, Judy Gold, Stacey Eisner, Dr. Mark Constantion, Phyllis Diller, Dr. Vail C. Reese, Linda Wells, Rob Fuchs, Steve Smyth, Dr. Sherrell J. Aston, Dr. Paula J. Martin, Julie Halston, Virginia Postrel, Adrianne Tolsch. Directed by Joan Kron

miami-film-festival-2017

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, meaning that the definition of beauty is subjective. That’s not quite true however. Women, particularly those in the entertainment industry, are held up to almost impossible standards of attractiveness – a svelte figure, soft skin, shiny hair, perfectly applied make-up – women spend a ridiculous amount of time “getting ready” and not because they all want to but because it is expected.

In general, women have been made to feel unattractive if they don’t look like a supermodel. They starve themselves to get into a size 2 dress and get surgery to augment their breasts because men like ‘em big. And as far as cosmetic surgery goes, women make up more than 90% of the patients. Some of it is vanity but how much is it really?

Take My Nose…Please follows two comediennes who are considering getting nose jobs. Emily Askin is fairly new to the business but she has been told point blank that in order to find success in the industry a smaller nose is a must. Jackie Hoffman is a veteran comic who believes herself to be ugly but has nonetheless had a pretty decent career. She regrets not getting a nose job when she was offered one early on in her career and has decided that now approaching middle age she wants to get one done now. We do follow them from the initial consultation to the final unveiling. It’s somewhat fascinating just from a “how does the process work” standpoint but it isn’t as interesting at least to me as the other part of the movie.

Kron also spends a lot of time looking at how cosmetic surgery is often not spoken about publicly although comediennes have been unusually open about it; Phyllis Diller was one of the first celebrities to discuss her own cosmetic surgery in interviews and in her own act. These days those women who get work done are not shy about admitting it as far as female stand-ups go but when it comes to mainstream actresses and non-entertainment industry celebrities, cosmetic surgery is often a dirty little secret. In fact, non-celebrity women who have “work done” often don’t tell anyone but close friends and family.

In fact, as much time as is spent with Askin, Hoffman and their surgeons, the real center of the movie is how women self-perceive and how society affects that. One of the things I found refreshing is that Kron doesn’t appear to have a problem with women who have cosmetic surgery; women who think their noses are too big, hook too much or have an unsightly bump just want to improve themselves and there’s nothing wrong with that. A person ought to look the way they want to and if they can afford to have the surgery, good for them. I think that’s a far better attitude than stigmatizing women who have a nip and/or tuck done, or a boob job or a nose job as vain peacocks who are all about surface things. I didn’t get that impression from either Hoffman or Askin. Their goal was to make their lives better but there is the cautionary tale of Totie Fields which the movie does explore.

Fields was one of the funniest women of her time (the 60s into the mid-70s). She went into have some work done and complications from that surgery led to blood clots which led to the amputation of one of her legs. Her career was never the same and two years later she died from more blood clots causing a pulmonary embolism. She discusses her health problems candidly on a talk show, footage of which is shown in the film. Her story is perhaps the most heartbreaking in the movie.

Considering this is a first film, the work here is impressive. There are plenty of interviews which can be fatal to a documentary but Kron makes sure that the interviewees are funny and have something important to add, so the reliance on them isn’t a problem. There are plenty of very funny segments and even a little bit of insight as to what women think of themselves. If there’s any issue I have with the movie it’s just that Kron might be attempting to do a little too much – there are segments that don’t really add much to the movie and detract from the focus. Otherwise this is quite an excellent documentary that takes a subject some might find innocuous and turns it into something marvelous. That’s no easy feat, let me tell you.

REASONS TO GO: The film makes some valid and insightful points about how women are viewed by our society. The comediennes keep things light-hearted and interesting. Although there are a lot of talking heads at least they’re not boring.
REASONS TO STAY: There are some occasional tangents that didn’t need to be there.
FAMILY VALUES: There’s some profanity here.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Kron, who has spent most of her career as a journalist (the last 25 years at Allure) is making her film directing debut at age 89.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 3/4/17: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet. Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Truth About Beauty
FINAL RATING: 8/10
NEXT: Lipstick Under My Burkha

Pick of the Litter – March 2017


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

kong-skull-island

Kong: Skull Island

(Warner Brothers/Legendary) Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly, John Goodman. A joint expedition of military and scientists explore a mysterious and uncharted island in the Pacific, only to discover that it is full of impossible creatures as deadly as they are unknown. Trapped on the island, cut off from any chance of rescue, they must fight their way through a primeval hostile world ruled over by the biggest and baddest of them all – the mighty King Kong. March 10

INDEPENDENT PICKS

contemporary-color

Contemporary Color

(Oscilloscope Laboratories) David Byrne, Mike Hartsock, Nelly Furtado, Adam Horovitz. Color guards have long been staples at football games but of late they have been bursting out into their own scene. Legendary Talking Head and musician David Byrne gathered ten color guard teams and paired them with ten composers, staging all ten of the performances in one incredible night in Brooklyn. This is that show – and the stories leading up to it. March 1

the-freedom-to-marry

The Freedom to Marry

(Argot) Evan Wolfson, Mary Bonauto, April DeBoer, Jayne Rowse. One of the landmark decisions of the Supreme Court in the past decade was the one that struck down the Defense of Marriage act and in effect gave LGBTQ couples the right to get married legally. This wasn’t a fight that occurred overnight; it took decades of hard work and often despair to win this victory. Through it all, the tireless efforts of one man never wavered in the face of insurmountable odds. This is the story of how justice happened. March 3

My Scientology Movie

My Scientology Movie

(Magnolia) Louis Theroux, Paz de la Huerta, Marty Rathbun, Andrew Perez. Documentary filmmaker and gadfly Louis Theroux (who in the interest of transparency is someone I worked with at the Metro back in the 90s) investigates one of the most controversial institutions of our day – the Church of Scientology. Just what is it that makes them so secretive and what is it that scares people about them? Plenty, as it turns out. March 10

the-sense-of-an-endingThe Sense of an Ending

(CBS) Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Matthew Goode, Emily Mortimer. A lonely old man receives news of the passing of an old lover who had willed him one item – her diary. His view of what happened between them which led to a tragic series of events is changed as he reads her point of view which is very different than what he remembers. Suddenly confronted by his past, he begins to rethink his position in life – and whether it isn’t too late to change it. March 10

burning-sands

Burning Sands

(Netflix) Alfre Woodard, Trevor Jackson, DeRon Horton, Octavius J. Johnson. An African-American college freshman seeks to pledge at a prestigious fraternity. As he gets deeper into Hell Week, he is horrified to discover that the hazing is getting progressively more violent and dangerous. He is caught between his code of silence and standing up to the hazing which may just be out of control. March 10

song-to-song

Song to Song

(Broad Green) Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Natalie Portman. Austin, Texas, has long had one of the most dynamic music scenes in the country. Two struggling songwriters, a music mogul and a waitress become entangled in love affairs that are both the potential source of their salvation – or their destruction. This is the latest from Terrence Malick who has over the past six or seven years become prolific. March 17

 bokeh

Bokeh

(Screen Media) Maika Monroe, Matt O’Leary, Arnar Jónsson, Gunnar Helgason. A young couple goes to Iceland on a romantic getaway. At first they love the volcanic hot springs, the food, the culture – everything. One morning however they wake up and everyone on Earth has disappeared. Frantic at first, eventually they begin to revel in absolute freedom – until the realization sets in that there will be no rescue if they get in trouble – nobody to fly them back home to the United States, nobody to talk to except each other. March 24

carrie-pilby

Carrie Pilby

(The Orchard) Bel Powley, Nathan Lane, Gabriel Byrne, Jason Ritter. A prodigal girl who graduated from Harvard at the age of 18 finds life in the real world an enormous challenge by the time another year has passed. Despite her enormous intellect, interpersonal relationships seem a bit beyond her so she finds herself a therapist who might help her join the human race after all. March 31

 

 

 

Miami International Film Festival


miami-film-festival-2017The Spring film festival season is well underway and that means busy (but happy) film critics. For the first time, Cinema365 is pleased to present coverage of the Miami International Film Festival in 2017. It has come at a time when the independent publicists that work with us have been upping their output which has made it a doubly hectic time for us but it certainly is preparing us for our own hometown Florida Film Festival next month. The MIFF is the only film festival in the country that centers around a college campus which gives it a bit of a different and younger vibe than other film festivals. It also concentrates heavily on films from Latin America and the Caribbean, reflecting the diverse cultures that make Miami such a vibrant and exciting city. Starting today Cinema365 will be publishing a film review  every day of one of the movies playing the Festival in addition to the other movies both independent and major studio that are backlogged. It’s going to keep us busy around here but we wouldn’t have it any other way. Cinema365 was also honored that one of our own will be sitting on the panel of critics that will be awarding the first ever Rene Rodriguez Critics Award, named for the longtime Miami Herald film critic (and who also sits on the panel). That award will be announced on March 10 at the industry happy hour party and the results will also be posted here. So Viva Miami and enjoy some great films that will hopefully be making their way to a theater, film festival or streaming service near you in the not-too-distant future.

The Freedom to Marry


Two women wishing to marry each other face a daunting obstacle.

Two women wishing to marry each other face a daunting obstacle.

(2016) Documentary (Argot) Evan Wolfson, Mary Bonauto, Marc Solomon, Thalia Zepatos, Jayne Rowse, April DeBoer, Brian Brown, Janice Shaw Crouse, Barbara Rosenstein, Joan Wolfson, Sondie Rieff, Dr. Jerry Wolfson, Carole Stamyar, Matt Foreman, Garry Buseck, Ward Curtin, Tim Gill, Kate Kendell. Directed by Eddie Rosenstein

 

There is no doubt that one of the most important court cases of our time resulted in the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2015. By a 5-4 margin, the Supreme Court invalidated the laws of 13 states that made same-sex marriage illegal. Gay men and lesbians from that day forward had the same freedom to marry whomever they wished as their straight counterparts.

Getting to that point however was no easy task. Evan Wolfson, a Harvard-educated lawyer, started crusading for this freedom starting back in 1983. He had co-founded Freedom to Marry along with Marc Solomon who was a seasoned campaign director. Together, the men started a grassroots organization charged with changing America’s mind. Back then, Americans were overwhelmingly in favor of traditional marriages as being the only recognized ones. Nonetheless, Wolfson and Solomon, along with a handful of volunteers, felt that they needed to fight so that same sex couples got the same rights and privileges as straight couples got, including the right to inherit, the right to make medical decisions for an incapacitated partner and the right to adopt and raise children.

Mary Bonauto felt very much the same way Wolfson and Solomon do. A lawyer working for GLAD, a gay and lesbian organization along the same lines as the NAACP, Bonauto had been waging a battle to represent same sex couples get their unions legally recognized for decades. It was often frustrating heart-wrenching work as again and again gay rights lawyers like Bonauto and Wolfson were denied justice.

The passing of California’s heinous Proposition 8 was particularly galling. Wolfson in particular was devastated but as he began the postmortem of why the initiative had passed he came to a realization that most straight people saw gays as hedonistic deviants who didn’t marry for love but because they wanted the health care benefits of their “spouse.” He realized that the task was not necessarily to ramrod an unpopular law through but to turn the tide of public opinion and make them see LGBTQs as just like everyone else. In short, he needed their stories to be told.

What they accomplished was nothing short of miraculous. Starting with polls and focus groups, they began recruiting operatives – LGBTQ couples and their parents – to begin talking openly about their hopes and dreams, about the love they share for their partner and about their concerns for their children. In almost no time at all, public opinion began to shift. State laws began to change.

Wolfson felt the time was right to go for broke – a ruling from the Supreme Court itself that would once and for all make same-sex marriage legal throughout the land. Freedom to Marry and other advocacy groups chose four lawsuits that had made their way through the courts to challenge the Defense of Marriage Act as well as Proposition 8. One of those cases was committed couple Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer from Michigan.

Rowse and DeBoer are both medical care professionals who had a longstanding relationship. They had adopted four special needs children but they realized that due to Michigan’s laws, they could not adopt as a couple because they were lesbians; they had to adopt two of the children individually. Therefore if something happened to one of them, their adopted children would not stay automatically with the other partner but would be taken away and placed in a foster care home. To both these ladies this simply could not stand and they brought suit against the State of Michigan which went all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court where once again they were unsuccessful. This paved the way for history.

Rosenstein follows the triumvirate of Wolfson, Solomon and Bonauto in the months leading up to the landmark decision. Bonauto had been legal counsel on the Rowse-DeBoer lawsuit and was a welcome addition to the team that would be presenting arguments in front of the United States Supreme Court. Bonauto, who had never done so before, was understandably nervous. Rosenstein gives us background on all three of these major players (and to a lesser degree to the plaintiffs De Boer and Rowse, the only plaintiffs profiled at any length in the film) going back to childhood.

Some of the material, particularly when they’re discussing things like Amicus Briefs and legal strategies, is a bit dry. Bone-dry, as a matter of fact but don’t let that put you off; this is a film that even though you know how the decision is going to turn out still manages to build a certain amount of suspense and tension. The relief is absolutely cathartic and I was taken back to when I heard about the decision just a couple of years ago and the euphoria I felt. Finally, my gay friends had the same freedoms and privileges that my wife and I had and I couldn’t have been happier for them.

Rosenstein does present some opposing viewpoints – that of Bryan Brown and Janice Shaw Crouse – as well as protesters from the right including people who appear to be part of the Westboro Baptist Church. Brown sounds relatively reasoned at times but both he and Crouse come off as intolerant bigots whose Christian justification has more to do with fear than love. Evangelical Christianity does not come off well in this documentary and some might find that hurtful.

However, perhaps if more Christians stood up for love (and many do) rather than exclusion, perhaps they might not be judged so harshly. Certainly the anti-gay protesters will be on the wrong side of history when all is said and done. Regardless, this is a documentary that shows an amazing journey of how a relatively small activist group won the hearts and minds of the American people against all odds and helped make history in a positive way. To my mind this is an important and potentially Oscar-worthy documentary although having a relatively unknown distributor might work against it in that sense but were this being distributed by an outfit with more clout there would be no question that it would be getting consideration further down the line.

REASONS TO GO: A behind-the-scenes chronicle of one of the most important court cases of our time. Even though the outcome is well-known still manages to make an uplifting ending. Fast-paced editing keeps the audience’s interest. Evan Wolfson is a genuine hero.
REASONS TO STAY: Sometimes the subject matter can be a little dry.
FAMILY VALUES: Adult thematic content as well as some mild profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Following their success making same sex marriage legal all over the land, Freedom to Marry shut its doors in December 2015 and Wolfson continues to consult for LGBTQ activist organizations.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 3/4/17: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet. Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Case Against 8
FINAL RATING: 9/10
NEXT: Take My Nose…Please

CORRECTIONS: Marc Solomon was originally described as “an expert fundraiser” which should have read “seasoned campaign director.” Also, Mary Bonauto was a lawyer for GLAD, not GLAAD. The former was an error on the part of the reviewer, the latter a typo. Cinema365 regrets any confusion that may have been caused by our errors.