Friday, April 6, 2018

Hope must never be lost ...

'Hope must never be lost. For as dark as the road may seem... there always lies light at the end of it.' ~ © Frank Borsellino™

* Nicole Kidman

Monday, April 2, 2018

Movie Review - 'Begin Again' (2013)

'Headed to the top. The only question as I meet you on my way is if you're coming with me or not.' ~ Iveta Cherneva

A chance encounter between a disgraced music-business executive and a young singer-songwriter, new to Manhattan, turns into a promising collaboration between the two talents. John Carney's low budget romance musical 'Once' (2007) was a breakout hit that foregrounded the emotional complexities of its central lovers with delicate tunes. By contrast, 'Begin Again' (2013) — which originally featured the more revealing title 'Can a Song Save Your Life?' revolves around the exploitation of that very same feeling. The story centers on forlorn aspiring British songwriter Gretta (Keira Knightley 'Colette' (2018)), who's adrift in Manhattan after getting dumped by her philandering rock star boyfriend Dave (Adam Levine - Maroon 5), and being discovered by struggling music producer Dan (Mark Ruffalo 'Thor: Ragnarok' (2017). Eager for fresh talent, Dan pushes Gretta to sign with him and record an ambitious outdoors album across the city. She's initially reticent; songwriting is just something that she does. The film explores this tension with a blithe attitude that foregrounds several enjoyable melodies performed throughout the movie, but it also feels every bit as commercial as the world in its crosshairs.

Executive produced by Judd Apatow, Carney's movie revolves around a familiar set of character types that wouldn't seem out of place in a studio comedy like the ones associated with the Apatow brand. Yet it works significantly better than more mainstream productions thanks to the legitimacy its actors bring to the project. Knightley's sorrowful state plays nicely off Ruffalo's sputtering enthusiasm for show business. His character's own background would strain from contrived ingredients if it weren't endowed with the credibility he brings to it: The actor's relationship with his wife (Catherine Keener 'November Criminals' (2017) is on the rocks following an earlier affair, while his angst-riddled daughter (Hailee Steinfeld 'Pitch Perfect 3' (2017)) copes with her burgeoning womanhood under her parents' close watch. Meanwhile, Dan's longtime producing partner Saul (Yasiin Bey aka Mos Def) wants to kick him out of the venture since he's unwilling to embrace mainstream trends in the industry. The movie's title doesn't lie: Gretta's talent has the potential to give Dan's career meaning again — just as it can rescue her from her sorrows.

'Begin Again' explores this scenario with a light, inoffensive touch. The stakes are nicely established with Knightley's performance of a solemn tune about loneliness during an acoustic set forced on her by friend Steve (James Corden 'The Late Late Show'). Hesitant to share her work with the world, she has zero stage presence. But minutes later we witness the entire scene a second time around from Ruffalo's perspective: Drunk and frustrated with his flagging career, the character perks up when he hears the music and gazes at the performer with a giddy smile. Behind Knightley, the other instruments suddenly come to life on their own, as Dan imagines the potential for Gretta's music in the hands of a good producer and backup musicians. It's the only moment of genuine magical realism that endows the movie's musicality with an innovative edge. Dan's drive to sign Gretta based on this experience gives the premise a fairy tale quality that makes it easy to invest in his mission, since we're experiencing his client's potential along with him.
Following a cheeky cameo by CeeLo Green as the posh musician willing to finance Gretta's album, there's no doubt whether Dan can find the resources he needs to get back on track. After a while, the real star of 'Begin Again' is its original compositions. Performing on rooftops and alleyways while Dan happily watches from the sidelines — and at one point joins in. Gretta delivers a series of tracks with a genial presence that makes the case for her star potential. By foregounding the two main characters' investment in the scenario, Carney makes it relatable. When the story veers into whimsical territory — as when Gretta records a song on her ex-boyfriend's voicemail to announce her frustrations with him, or when she traipses around the city with Dan listening to jazz on his headphones — Carney shares a charming sense for music's cathartic power. A feeling I have experienced many times over. 'We need vision, not gimmicks', Dan professes to his business partner. 'Begin Again' struggles to confront that advice, but finds it on enough occasions to demonstrate its accuracy.


© Frank Borsellino™
* From Where I Sit!
March 30, 2018

* Mark Ruffalo & Keira Knightley




Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Movie Review - 'Limitless' (2011)

'Your only limitations are those you set upon yourself. Believe in your abilities and
your infinite potential. Never let self-doubt hold you captive. You are worthy of all
that you dream of and hope for.' ~ Roy T. Bennett

'Limitless' is a clever, stylish little exercise in drug-fueled paranoia. This film
raises the question, 'If the apple from the tree of knowledge fell right into your lap,
would you take a bite? And then what would you do?' The apple in this case is an illicit
designer drug 'NZT'. Now, it isn't just another quick high, but instead, it makes a lie
of the old saying that we only use 20 percent of our brains and cranks that percentage
up to 100. Can you fathom that! The possibilities are endless in theory and also for
the purpose of this story.

A thirty-something writer Eddie Mora (Bradley Cooper 'Burnt' (2015), is divorced with
a terminal case of writer's block. Here is a guy who was just dumped by his most recent
girlfriend Lindy (Abbie Cornish 'Perfect' (2018), because he's going nowhere at the speed
of light. By circumstance, our slacker finds himself in possession of a stash of the
wonder pill. Suddenly, Eddie -- seducing the worlds of writing, women and Wall Street --
has got massive amounts of game and brains, attracting the attention of both barons of
the boardroom like Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro 'The Wizard of Lies' (2017), bullies on
the street like Russian mobster Gennady (Andrew Howard 'The Brave' (2017), and some
mysterious third guy who keeps giving him the side-eye and chasing him around Manhattan.
And did someone mention side effects? Baby, this apple bites back. This is where Eddie
might be starting to realize that getting really smart really quickly may have been
a dumb thing after all?

Bradley Cooper is great and really plays up both sides of that coin, the intellect and
when the drug wears out, the pauper. I have been a big fan of his since the series 'Alias'
(2001-2006). I always enjoyed him because he stretches and doesn't just skate on his looks.
He tries to be diverse in his choice of roles such as 'Joy' and 'Burnt' (2015), 'American
Sniper' and 'Serena' (2014). In raunchy fare like 'The Hangover' (2009) and plodding rom-coms
('Wedding Crashers' (2005) – didn't you hate him? 'He's Just Not That Into You' (2009) –
again the cad and everyone loved him in 'Valentine's Day' (2010).

'Limitless' is based on the novel 'The Dark Fields' by Alan Glynn and is directed with
a nimble efficiency and sense of visual humor by Neil Burger ('Divergent' (2014). It is
at times reminiscent of the work of Danny Boyle ('T2 Trainspotting' (2017), it never takes
itself too seriously but still manages to be suspenseful and clever. Burger, Cooper and De
Niro opened up what was a much cluttered book and injected it with a jolt of cinematic
electricity. Smart move - smart movie.


© Frank Borsellino™
© From Where I Sit™
writer/blogger/bon vivant
March 27, 2018

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Movie Review - 'In Search of Fellini' (2017)

'You have to live spherically - in many directions. Never lose your childish enthusiasm - and things will come your way.' ~ Federico Fellini

In the movie, Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson on the long-running animated television series, has made her first movie as a screenwriter and producer. 'In Search of Fellini' (2017) reimagines a whirlwind adventure Ms. Cartwright once had to try to meet Federico Fellini… and so with the help of her longtime collaborator and co-writer, Peter Kjenaas, and first-time director Taron Lexton, she creates a Felliniesque fantasy of her own.
In this coming-of-age adventure, Lucy (Ksenia Solo), is a sheltered, small-town girl from Ohio, who discovers the delightfully bizarre films of the legendary Italian filmmaker and sets off on a journey across Italy to find him, a charming drama about the love of movies and youthful passion, which she inherited from her mother (Maria Bello)'s idealistic view of romance and appreciation of feel-good movies. After her mother falls ill, Lucy finds solace at a festival of Fellini films and discovers movies with dark endings and sexual scenes that she had never seen before. She resolves to find the man of her cinematic dreams in Italy.
Lucy, whose wide-eyed naïveté is modeled after Giulietta Masina's character in 'La Strada' (1954), isn't the only reference to Fellini's movies. 'In Search of Fellini' is overflowing with characters, locations and visual cues to the director's classics, like 'Nights of Cabiria' (1957), 'La Dolce Vita' (1960) and '8 ½' (1963). Fans that refer to Fellini as Il Maestro may delight in these references, but several cues and cameos are followed by a scene or poster of the cited movie, so as not to exclude the rest of the audience.
Fellini used nostalgia to point out something about ourselves; Mr. Lexton uses it to remind us of Fellini's films. The movie can shift from effusive love letter to travel lust to sentimental moment, but it doesn't break the fantasy.

© Frank Borsellino™
© From Where I Sit™
March 25, 2018

* Paolo Bernardini & Ksenia Solo - 'In Search of Fellini' (2017)

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Underdog

'I have always sided with the underdog... the vanguard in search of a vision…his vision... his passion. The moment you realize that you can have everything you want in life. However, it takes timing, the right heart, the right actions, the right passion and a willingness to risk it all. If it is not yours it is because you really didn't want it.' ~ © Frank Borsellino™

* Nathan Filion & Morena Baccarin - 'Firefly' (2002-2003)

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

'Genevieve' by Pininfarina

'This is your world, shape it or someone else will.' ~ Gary Lew

My first passion was driving... I could not wait to have my own car, not any car
but rather a vehicle that defined me. I believed that an automobile was an extension
of oneself, the key to being free, to exploring and discovering. The beginning of
any adventure was the moment you got behind the wheel and turned the key in the
ignition... and the machine came to life. As a preteen nothing compared to that
sensation.

As was customary, within my circle of peers, at eighteen, a boy is driven to
a business associate of the father, who owns an automobile dealership and is
allowed to choose his first car. Being that we just stepped-off of the seventies,
muscle cars were still in vogue, most notably Pontiacs and Camaros, more specifically
Trans-Ams and Z/28s. Having just seen the movie 'American Gigolo' (1980), I wanted
a European ragtop, not some hunk of steel, so diametric to my dad's wishes; I put
the word out among auto enthusiasts.

Late one summer evening I receive a call from one such enthusiast, who had a
connection with the sole, at that time, auto dealer in Montreal who dealt in Italian
automobiles 'Luciani Motors'. That same night, after-hours, like some cloak and
dagger mission, we arrive at the showroom. Following introductions we are lead to
an underground storage facility. As I adjusted my focus, in the back of this large
backdrop of concrete and steel, I see the most beautiful, exotic jewel, a black
Fiat Spider with a tan interior and ragtop. The same color as Julian in 'American
Gigolo'.

FIAT (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili di Torino) was founded in Turin, Northern
Italy, in the year 1899, at the dawn of the Italian industrialization. Now the
FIAT group is a financial and industrial conglomerate that initially manufactured
aircrafts.
In the year 1979, the FIAT 124 Spider came to be known as the Spyder 2000. The
1980 Spyder 2000 came equipped with a bigger and more powerful engine that provided
good acceleration. It had a wide rectangular mesh grille and a badge on the bonnet.
It was a classic, in the sense of Austin Healeys, TRs' and MGB Roadsters from
British Leyland of the late sixties. It had these incredible power bulges over
each wheel rim. The aerodynamic body of the vehicle was designed to minimize drag.

I was in Heaven, an instant bond between man and machine. I turned to Mr. Luciani
and said, "That's the one!"

My father was not a happy man and so he let it be known that it was my responsibility
financially, of course, I had to come up with the funds, but I didn't care, she was
worth it.

"I like you Frank so I'll arrange for the car loan to be approved. Just don't let
me down, young man," said Mr. Luciani once he heard our exchange.

Imagine what that felt like to an eighteen year old? Like, in 1492 when Christopher
Columbus first saw land in the horizon. Two days go by and I get a call from Mr.
Luciani's secretary,

"Mr.Borsellino, Mr. Luciani wanted to let you know your car is ready."

I must have jumped 3 feet in the air, all the while trying to maintain civil dialogue
with the lady on the other end.

"Come in to sign some papers and you can drive her home," she concluded.

Suffice to say... that night I got no sleep and the following day at work I was useless.
Right from work, without even showering, got a ride to the dealer and skipped up those
stairs to the office, signed some documents and got my first set of keys.

To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., "Freedom at last! Freedom at last! Thank God
Almighty, Freedom at last!"

You were now allowed to go anywhere, anytime and with anyone, day or night, regardless.
I don't think I had ever or since felt such an invigorating sensation down to the depths
of my being. 'The world was my oyster'.

I crossed the lot and I saw her, she had been washed and was a shiny black beacon amidst
a sea of colour. Luciani had many cars in that lot but only my little diamond shone as
black as Egypt's night. The smile on my face was so pronounced it was going to slice my
cheek - through and through. I stopped to take a breath and allow the moment to encapsulate
me fully. This kind of excitement may be only a handful of momentous life-altering milestones
in the life of any young man or woman... your first car. I couldn't believe this was my car.

Mr. Luciani says to me, "Adesso ragazzo, fai attenzione. Unlike a hardtop... if you rollover
in a convertible you can be crushed."

As he began to show me the temperature cage, the lever that opens the bonnet, the hidden
key slot for the trunk, etc. I interrupt him and say, "I don't care; I'll eventually read
the manual and figure those things out."

"I understand, son."

"All I want to know is ­ how to put down the top?"

He went through the motions pointing to the lever to unhook the ragtop, while I'm settling
in comfortably. I turn the key ... and Freedom roared! The engine came to life and it was
like music to my ears. The purring sound of that little Italian 'macchina' was what the
hymning from Angels must sound like.

The first stop was one my oldest friends who lived across the river. Crossing that bridge,
with the wind in my hair, was intoxicating. Being on an open road was a profound freeing of
the spirit. Her dad is an avid car collector, mostly antiques though, but one look at that
little gem and he loved me for the following 25 years. Every time I went to pick her up,
he'd take it for a spin with his wife, like they were reliving their teenage years... while
my friend and I sat around the house waiting. Marie had the soul of an Italian, but was part
French-Canadian and so christened her 'Genevieve' and the name stuck for the next several years.


© Frank Borsellino™
© From Where I Sit™
writer/blogger/bon vivant
February 5, 2017

* '1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider by Pininfarina


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

'Stranger in Heels' by © Frank Borsellino™

As I perused the bar I saw her sitting at an alcove, slightly above the fray. It was at my eye level, legs and heels. She was enveloped in a lovely Pashmina of such a beautifully, vibrant shade of pink, Picasso would have been envious. Just as I gazed upon those spectacular limbs, like some burlesque show, she stood up. Let me give you a visual, shoulder length dirty blonde hair in quasi-curls, the soft skin glowing from exuberance, and especially the long, soft limbs that went to Heaven and back.

The legs ended at a little black Versace cocktail dress with a ruffled, feathered crown right above the knees. The arch from her buttocks flowed, seamlessly, to her muscular calves, to the curvature of her limbs and finished at her sexy black pumps. Auguste Rodin would have loved to mould that into eternity.

Throughout the evening she kept twisting and turning. She had attitude, was a little aggressive, a little flirty and hopped like a bunny. Then a funny thing happened on my way to the men's room, I saw her on the cusp of the ladies' room. She looked like she had stepped off a fashion shoot and you could smell her fragrance from a distance, and it was exquisite. She was sobbing, very faintly, of which there is no sadder sight than a beautiful woman in tears.

Earlier that day, she had been to Holt Renfrew to pick up that beautiful dress she had on lay-away, for the better part of the summer. The store had it so long they were knocking off 10% just for tenacity. On this day she was feeling beautiful again, like she use to before her life started spiralling out of control.

She originally hailed from Belgium, by way of Paris, which guaranteed a free spirit, and had an enchanting accent, a little sprinkle, nothing heavy, which made all those bookers giddy. She had been discovered at a high school fashion show, and catapulted to fashion houses all over Paris. Because of her youth, a chaperon was required, and of course her mother jumped on that train. The mother relished the chance to hob-knob with the rich and famous.

The glitterati of the fashion world were a strong aphrodisiac for grounded individuals, but for her mother, it was destructive. Through the years the tumultuous relationship, to say the least, of the Mother-Daughter team had turned into something of a joke within the industry. In fact, it had become too hard for her agent to book any more runway shows or photo shoots. So… when she turned 25 and because she was an ingénue anymore had become something of a pariah.

That night, after her mother saw the beautiful new dress, demanded money, and when none was forthcoming, an exchange of malicious words ensued. She stormed out of that little five-story walk-up on Cathcart St., and regretted that fateful day, when asked by her agent / manager to choose between her mother and her career.