*MOVIE RECAP: THE UNITED STATES VS BILLIE HOLIDAY

At first glance, this movie had the makings of a powerful story — sadly, it did not live up to my expectations. 

The United States vs. Billie Holiday takes its name straight out of the US government’s prosecution case of Billie Holiday, and it is based on the 2012 non-fiction book Chasing the Scream: The First and Last days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari.

Decades have passed since Billie Holiday’s death. Yet, it seems like we still do not have a complete grasp and understanding of how important and influential she was in our culture, not just musically but also on civil rights activism. She died when she was only 44 years old. Suffering indignity after indignity and humiliated by her own government, handcuffed to a hospital bed as she was dying. 

At the center of the story, there is the song Strange Fruit. The song became controversial in the late 30s and 40s for being a protest song to the lynching of Black Americans, and it is considered to be the launching point in the awakening of the civil rights movement. The song drew the attention of the US government, most notably, the attention of a government agent and known racist Harry J. Anslinger (Garrett Hedlund), who was the first US official to declare war on drugs; targeting minorities and artists. Demonizing blacks and Jazz musicians as drug users and bad influences on so-called authentic American culture.

Anslinger was the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and launched what has become known as the original version of the US war on drugs in the early part of the 20th century. One of Anslinger’s initial targets was Billie Holiday. He was obsessed with taking Billie Holiday down, primarily for her activism and defiance — but also as a symbolic gesture to any other potential civil rights activists out there. 

They used every tool at their disposal to destroy her life and career. They tried to censor her in multiple ways, even went as far as to block and deny her a cabaret license, which was crucial for performers; they needed a cabaret permit to perform at live music venues in those days. 

In this movie, we see how Aisnlinger assigns an undercover agent to infiltrate Billie Holiday’s inner circle to report and keep tabs on her. This undercover agent, Jimmy Fletcher (Trevante Rhodes), becomes emotionally and romantically involved with Holiday.

The weird thing is that apart from Johann Hari’s book, there isn’t much verifiable evidence about this love affair between Billie Holiday and Jimmy Fletcher — and there seems to be an evident exaggeration of this story by this movie’s director Lee Daniels.

Andra Day is outstanding here; she Portrays Billie Holiday convincingly. Still, the highlight of this movie for me was the soundtrack along with Andra Day’s performance of Billie Holiday’s music. She actually sings all the songs herself and captures the essence of Billie Holiday’s signature sound.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday is a movie that comes across as messy, cluttered, and all over the place. There is way too much focus on the romance between Fletcher and Holiday. Their love affair gets in the way of the story a bit. I wanted to see more about Holiday and her band members and the relationship dynamics between them. There was a powerful story here to be told. Unfortunately, this movie missed a huge opportunity to convey the core story of Billie Holiday’s life and struggles. And on top of all that, it also wasted away Andra Day’s top-notch performance.

Three out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿

The United States vs. Billie Holiday (2020).

*MOVIE RECAP: COMING 2 AMERICA

Ok, sad to say this but Coming 2 America sucks ass — It is a terrible sequel, and it failed to live up to the greatness of the original Coming to America movie (1988).

First of all, Coming to America is a classic comedy; if it’s on TV when I’m browsing through channels, I always stop and watch it, regardless of how deep in the story the movie might be on. The original was rated R, and this sequel is PG-13, a major red flag right off the get-go.

Our old friend Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) from the fictional African kingdom of Zamunda is now king, and Lisa (Shari Headley) is the Queen; they have three young daughters. The central plot conflict here is that their marriage has not given them a male heir, which tradition dictates that only a male heir can lay claim to the throne of Zamunda.

Warlord General Izzy (Wesley Snipes) from a neighboring nation wants to marry his son with one of Akeem’s daughters to unite both kingdoms, bring peace, and avoid war. Obviously, King Akeem, Queen Lisa, and their daughters are opposed to this idea.

Akeem discovers that he has a son living in New York from a wild one-night stand during Akeem’s first visit to New York City. So now, presented with this new fact, Akeem decides to return to Queens in search of his long-lost son and convince him to take his rightful place as the future ruler of Zamunda.

Returning to NY, Akeem tracks down his illegitimate son Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler) and convinces him to move to Zamunda. But first, Lavelle will need to go through a training and learning process before establishing him as the future heir to the throne.

From this point on, whatever little promise this movie initially showed goes completely over a cliff.

Akeem becomes just another character here. The premise of this sequel entirely undoes Akeem’s journey of self-discovery from the original movie. Prince Akeem discovered something about himself through his 1988 journey while living and working in New York City, which he seemed to utterly forget 33 years later. His trip to America was also fun and hilarious, with the whole fish out of water angle. He was so unaware of the real world, hell-bent on finding his future wife in Queens. King Akeem spends almost no time in Queens or in NYC, which contradicts this sequel’s title. Maybe they should’ve just called this movie “Zamunda” or “Coming to Zamunda” instead of Coming 2 America.

I wanted to see a lot more of Semmi (Arsenio Hall), and we don’t really get much of him this time around. Wesley Snipes is hilarious; there is a level of Pageantry to his performance — I can tell he was having a blast with this role. Plus, the chemistry between Murphy and Snipes is excellent, probably my favorite thing from this movie.

Jermaine Fowler needed more time to develop his Lavelle character, similar to how Akeem was developed in the original film. Also, Leslie Jones and Tracy Morgan are annoying as fuck, especially with what they are given to work within their characters.

This next generation of Zamunda rulers was also poorly developed. And the jokes delivered by the new cast members don’t hit at all and fall flat…. I think I laughed once and chuckled a few times throughout the whole thing.

Nevertheless, the throwbacks to the original film are pretty cool. Watching John Amos, James Earl Jones, and Louie Anderson return was pure nostalgic awesomeness. I wished Eriq La Salle (Darryl) and Allison Dean (Patrice) had returned in some capacity.

It was great seeing the Barbershop guys back, you know, the old characters played by Arsenio Hall and Eddie Murphy. Although, it is hard to believe that those guys could still look the same as they did in ’88 or even be alive 33 years later. But hey, sometimes you have to suspend disbelief and go along for the sake of mindless entertainment.

Now, here is the potentially redeeming storyline if this coming to America franchise continues—so hear me out.

Colin Jost shows up early in this movie, playing Mr. Duke, a direct relative of the Duke Brothers from Eddie Murphy’s first film, Trading Places (1983). The Duke Brothers (Don Ameche & Ralph Bellamy) had an important cameo in Coming to America, which brilliantly ended up linking the Trading Places slash Coming to America universes together. And, if they continue to build upon this connection, therein lies the makings of a potential reboot of those two movie universes. Get Dan Akroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Eddie Murphy on board, and here we go.

Despite taking 33 years to make this sequel, Coming 2 America is a sequel that we did not really need or wanted but expected to be better. It simply does not have the long-lasting comedic effect that the original 1988 movie had. Look, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a shameless exercise of fan service. Hell, I even welcome those types of movies from time to time. However, this movie just did not quite work for me. It is definitely a more family-friendly movie. But still, it comes off as lazy, unfunny, and not as edgy as the original.

One out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿

Coming 2 America (2020).

*TV SERIES RECAP: RUN

RUN was a guilty pleasure watch. The premise and concept of this limited HBO series are somewhat irresistible to me. We have two former lovers, Billy (Domhnall Gleeson), and Ruby (Merritt Wever). They made a pact to each other during their college years, that if either one of them ever texted the word “RUN” to the other, followed by a return text with the same word—then they will both drop whatever they are doing, and meet at Grand Central Station and be there for each other.

Now in their 30s, Ruby is married with kids. Billy is a successful motivational speaker and author. It seems like they have previously texted RUN to each other throughout the years, but this is the first time that the text was actually returned. The ex-lovers meet up and embark on a cross-country Amtrak train ride.

The whole idea of dropping everything in your life and making a wild run has crossed my mind multiple times, and perhaps this is why this show appealed to me from the get-go.

Episodes for the first season are roughly about a half-hour long with 7 episodes. Pretty easy to power through the whole thing in one sitting. It is a fun show, with lots of tension and slow revelations. Layers and layers of information about the characters are slowly revealed, so you have to be patient to see where the story is actually going. The tension keeps on building up with each episode.

The supporting characters are essentially the main obstacles in this love story. Billy’s assistant Fiona (Archie Panjabi), is stalking and blackmailing Billy — she is holding some dark and compromising secrets regarding Billy.

Ruby’s husband, Laurence (Rich Sommer), seems to be aware that his wife has run off to be with someone and is willing to forgive her if she returns home to her family. All the supporting characters added along the way add a very compelling dynamic that worked well for me. Most notably, the inclusion of the character Laurel (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), A taxidermist, who collects roadkill, and gets involved in the plot.

There is this exciting sub-plot between Laurel and police officer Babe Cloud (Tamara Podemski) that develops midway through the first season,

Merritt Wever and Domhnall Gleeson have solid chemistry together. I was all-in on the idea that these two were once lovers. The sexual tension was believable. Wever’s performance is pretty intense and remarkable. She has this uncanny ability to deliver lines in a very deliberate manner. The character flaws between both characters are worth exploring further…. if there is a second season, which I hope there is.

Three out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿

RUN (2020). Streaming on HBO MAX

*TV SERIES RECAP: HOLLYWOOD

The whole concept of this series is to essentially reimagine and reinvent Post-World War II Hollywood as an alternative history of the golden age of American cinema; Where real-life Hollywood figures are mixed in with a bunch of fictional characters.

At the center of the story, we have a group of aspiring actors, writers, and directors attempting to challenge the bigotry, sexism, and homophobia of the Hollywood studio system. Created by Ryan Murphy, Nip/tuck (2003-2010) Feud (2017), there are 7 episodes, each running roughly about one hour long.

There are many things that work well with this show, and there are a bunch of things that do not work well. To me, the real-life characters were much more complex and a lot more interesting than the fictional characters.

Jim Parsons sheds his Sheldon Cooper persona brilliantly playing real-life Hollywood agent Henry Wilson who was Rock Hudson’s real-life agent. Wilson was a highly controversial figure in Hollywood’s golden age, known for developing a unique and specific “look” from his young male clients. Henry Wilson comes across as this awful person, but he is probably the most compelling character in the whole show. I could not wait to see more of this character. Rock Hudson (Jake Picking) is excellent as a young version of Hudson, who has recently arrived in Hollywood and is signing on with this nasty piece of work, Henry Wilson as his talent agent.

There are plenty of well-written scenes, and the costumes are excellent. The show is beautifully shot, capturing the glitz and glamour of the era. But on top of all that, my other favorite thing from this show was Dylan McDermott (Ernie), based on real-life Hollywood pimp Scotty Bowers. Ernie operates a male gigolo prostitution racket out of a gas station, where rich men and women would pick up young men from the station to have sexual encounters with. It was also well-known that closeted older rich gay men will often use this system to meet young men.

Many legendary and infamous Hollywood real-life stories are depicted throughout the show, like the notorious “Hollywood Orgy” parties organized by George Cukor. The show explores the predatory and abusive level of exploitation of young stars by people in positions of power and influence, which resonates deeply with the current MeToo movement.

And, of all the fictional characters, Mira Sorvino (Jeanne Crandall) has some of the best scenes, mostly relating to the abuse of power and the level of exploitation by powerful men. Her character is super compelling, considering Sorvino went through similar issues with Harvey Weinstein.

Queen Latifah (Hattie McDaniel) is terrific here, completely owning her scenes. Noel Coward (Billy Boyd), making a brief appearance, was a nice addition. Anna May Wong (Michelle Krusiec), Vivien Leigh (Katie McGuinness), Tallulah Bankhead (Paget Brewster): All of them portraying real-life figures are exceptional.

However, to me, the show became less and less interesting as the fantasy and alternate history element took over. Discerning what was real and what was not became murky and confusing at times. I sense that the main point here was to expose the level of prejudice, racism, and sexism that existed in Hollywood in that era — and how complicit Hollywood studios were in elevating certain stereotypes. Still, this show would have been much more effective in delivering their intended message by minimizing this parallel reality within the real-life storylines and remaining a lot closer to the truth. Nevertheless, HOLLYWOOD is a hyper surreal and compelling show to watch.

Three out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿

HOLLYWOOD (2020). Streaming on Netflix

*MOVIE RECAP: THE SOUND OF METAL

Some movies need time to settle in your mind to fully digest and reflect on what you have seen… maybe even watching them a couple of times is required. For me, Sound of Metal is one of those movies.

Ruben (Riz Ahmed) and Lou (Olivia Cooke) are rock musicians touring the United States — they live and drive from show to show in an RV. It seems like their whole life is in their RV.

Pretty soon into the story, Ruben notices that his hearing is weakening, and all of the sounds around him are beginning to sound muffled. He hides this fact from Lou and continues with concert gigs, hoping things will return to normal at some point.

Ruben consults with a doctor who breaks the bad news that his hearing is deteriorating rapidly — the doctor tells him that his first responsibility is to protect the hearing he has left. Ruben completely disregards this advice and continues playing another concert gig.

During their next concert, his hearing deteriorates to the point where Ruben can no longer keep up with the show and rushes off the stage. He now has no choice but to come clean to Lou and explain the situation regarding his hearing loss.

Ruben’s life and his entire sense of self are completely changed almost overnight. He has to face some complex decisions moving forward. Playing the drums and continuing with the rest of the concert dates are no longer an option. Ruben believes he can still manage and work around his deafness; however, Lou disagrees and urges Ruben to get some professional help.

Here is where Joe (Paul Raci) enters Ruben’s life. Joe is a Vietnam War vet who runs a community home for deaf people. In this community, they do not see deafness as a disability or as something to be fixed. They see deafness as a concept of empowerment.

Joe has very strict rules for joining his community home. Ruben has to move in, learn ASL and begin the process of learning how to live with his new reality. Ruben also has to give up the keys to his RV, his cell phone and be completely away from Lou during his time in the program.

Ruben’s whole life is turned upside down; his music, lifestyle, and relationship have all fallen apart. He is now forced to look deep within himself in the wake of this trauma. He is holding on to the hope of regaining his hearing. The prospect of receiving implants through surgery is his last hope for things to go back to normal. And he is willing to risk it all for the return of his old way of life.

Riz Ahmed is exceptional here, delivering a soulful performance. He conveys so many emotions with his eyes and face — through his eyes, you can see this tortured, wounded soul. Riz Ahmed brilliantly portrays the rage and bewilderment of Ruben losing his livelihood. I heard that Ahmed actually learned to play drums and learned American sign language preparing for this role.

Paul Raci is outstanding here, delivering an authentic and human performance. Joe provides tough love and raw honesty to Ruben in every scene they are in together. A well-deserved Academy Award nomination for best-supporting actor. I am excited to see where the success of this performance takes Paul Raci next.

This movie is a fascinating exploration about a person attempting to put his life back together after losing his reason for living. The film takes you inside the central character’s experience while crafting a world where the details are as accurate as possible. The subtle things done with the sound effects are remarkable. The specific details of the deaf community are well executed.

The Sound of Metal is essentially a story about identity and loss. One of the most thoughtful, well-made movies of the year. An extraordinary achievement by Director Darius Marder, showing us what cinema can still do when passionate, creative filmmakers are allowed to put forth their vision.

Four out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿

The Sound of Metal (2020).

*MOVIE RECAP: JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH

Here is another socially and culturally relevant film that shines a spotlight on a recent time in our history that we all should be aware of.

Judas and the Black Messiah is the true story of a disciple’s betrayal; in this case, Judas is William “Bill” O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield), and the Messiah is Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya).

Fred Hampton was the Chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers and one of the most notorious figures in the civil rights movement of the late ‘60s. He was a leader in the fight for Human rights and a prolific community organizer, attempting to make life better for Black Americans, minorities, and poor people. Fred Hampton believed that uniting with other race groups was crucial for the movement to succeed. He also started things still instituted today, like the Free Breakfast program. Feeding the poor earned him a Folk hero status in the community. This film, however, only covers a short period of his life, focusing primarily on Fred Hampton’s last days alive.

Bill O’Neal was a petty criminal caught by the police for impersonating an FBI agent. He was coerced into helping the FBI to keep tabs on Fred Hampton’s activities and to infiltrate the Black Panthers as an informer for the government. O’Neal eventually becomes close to Fred Hampton and has to choose between his freedom and betraying his friend.

FBI director J. Edgar Hoover believed that Fred Hampton could unite a coalition of oppressed minorities into working together towards one unified goal. Hoover saw this potential union as an inherent threat to the National Security of the United States; thus, declaring war on the Black Panthers and stopping Hampton at all costs became one of the top priorities for the FBI under Hoover.

The performances alone make this movie a must-watch. Daniel Kaluuya transforms completely into Fred Hampton; he delivers a powerful performance. He captures the complexities and magnitude of this real-life character convincingly. We get to see how charismatic Hampton was in public and how reserved and measured he seemed in private life.

However, the narrative centers mostly around William O’Neill. And how he was equally a victim of the system. We see how he was coerced into becoming a reluctant informant. This character’s inner conflict and the constant struggle between opposing allegiances are at the center of this story. O’Neill is pulled in many different directions, which is the central idea of all undercover stories; A character that goes into a world, and then the character becomes a part of said world. Lakeith Stanfield is excellent here — He establishes a strong physical performance, where the facial gestures anchor most of the core emotions of Bill O’Neill.

The relationship between Fred Hampton and his girlfriend, Deborah Johnson (Dominique Fishback), is exceptionally depicted. Their love story was complex, and it was superbly dramatized. Dominique Fishback has been on my radar ever since I saw her in the outstanding HBO series the Deuce. She is fantastic here.

Kudos to director Shaka King. I dig everything about this film — how it was shot, the dialogue, and the acting. The shootout and the raid scene were pretty intense and well-executed. My only issue is that we don’t get a real sense of how young Fred Hampton was when he was murdered. Fred Hampton was just a kid, barely 21, and Bill O’Neill was 17 when all of this went down in 1969. I feel that the movie needed to emphasize this fact better.

Nevertheless, Judas and the Black Messiah is a bold and thought-provoking film. It is not one of those movies that romanticize the FBI as the good guys vs. the bad guys while completely ignoring their dark history and shady tactics, especially during its early years under Hoover. The fact is that Fred Hampton was murdered by his own government, executed in his own home. There is solid historical value here — We get to see how the FBI used shady and perverse tactics to hold people like O’Neill under their control in their ruthless pursuit of Black Panthers, minority revolutionaries, and anyone who displayed any progressive or radical ideologies. This film unapologetically exposes the dark history of the FBI brilliantly.

There is a direct connection between Judas and the Black Messiah and The Trial of the Chicago 7. Both films have been nominated for Academy Awards, and both movies tackled similar and relevant issues. Both stories parallel each other, and both stories are centered around government oppression, corruption, Police brutality, freedom, human rights, and social-economic issues. Their significance cannot be understated.

Four out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿

Judas and the Black Messiah (2020).

*Project 11: Alex Smith

Man, was I moved by this ESPN documentary-style piece on Alex Smith. I had no idea how close he came to losing his leg and how a flesh-eating bacteria almost took his life.

I remember how excited I was for the 2018 season with Alex Smith as our starting Quarterback, and how well the team was playing with him during the first half of the season; The Redskins were on top of their division — The team seemed to be flowing well, and on their way to make a playoff run….. things looked extremely promising.

Then, Alex Smith suffered what appeared to be a career-ending injury, eerily similar to Joe Theismann’s career-ending leg injury back in 1985, which occurred on the same date as Smith’s injury (November 18). 

From that point on, everything fell apart for the 2018 Washington Redskins football team. However, most importantly than football, it almost ended the life of Alex Smith.

It was an incredibly revelatory experience watching this Project 11 piece. Learning how Smith’s unique predicament took the doctors by complete surprise. How unfamiliar they were with this infection, plus there wasn’t anyone with a similar experience that they could use as a reference point to lean into, especially an infection like this within the sports world.

Watching him in the hospital fighting for his life. How incoherent he seemed after the infection took over. The gruesome images of his leg, and then, 17 surgeries later attempting to reclaim his life. It was such a catastrophic ordeal for him and his family. 

His recovery has been remarkable, to say the least.

I was always an Alex Smith fan, and after watching this documentary piece, it is beyond evident that we should not count him out, and we definitely have not heard the last from him.

 I am rooting like hell for Alex Smith. 

*RIP PAU DONES: JARABE DE PALO — Tragas O Escupes (Album Recap)

I was bummed beyond belief to hear about the recent passing of Pau Dones, the leader and frontman of Jarabe de Palo.

I first discovered Jarabe de Palo in the summer of 1999; I was dating a girl who at the time was much more knowledgable about emerging Rock en Español bands than me. She gave me a list of bands to look out for, and Jarabe de Palo was on the list. Our relationship didn’t last long, but I think the incredible music she exposed me to was the highlight of our relationship.

In those days, right after receiving my weekly paycheck from my minimum wage job, I would go on an obsessive-compulsive music buying spree. Every single week, I would make pit stops at multiple music stores throughout my city and end up spending a big chunk of my paycheck on music….. I can still clearly remember like it was yesterday when I purchased my first Jarabe de Palo CD, way back in the summer of 1999 — it was the album “DEPENDE” (1998), and it feels somewhat ironic that this past summer of 2019 marked 20 years since I bought their first album.

It quickly became one of my favorite albums of that year, and still today, it is one of my favorite Rock en Español albums ever. The whole album is pure magic, and it even includes a duet with Celia Cruz on the final track. Pau’s music was a fusion of rock, pop, flamenco-rock, and all the great Latin sounds that make Rock en Español such a fantastic genre. DEPENDE has aged nicely over the years, and it still sounds relevant today as much as it did 20 years ago — I would put DEPENDE in my top 20 Rock en Español albums of all time for sure.

Tragas o Escupes was released at the end of May on all streaming platforms, which caught me by complete surprise because I heard that the album was supposed to drop in September of this year. But it came out nearly 4 months ahead of schedule, and along with the album, Pau attached a press release thanking all of his fans and people who have supported him throughout his career. Sadly, Pau Dones passed away 12 days after the release of Tragas o Escupes; his final studio album.

Now, it makes complete sense to me why the album was released a few months earlier and why Pau’s letter was also attached to the album’s release. The whole thing reminds me of David Bowie’s Darkstar album being released a few days before his passing.

When news of Pau’s cancer diagnosis became public, there was an overwhelming outpouring of love that humbled Pau. As I read the letter he wrote to his fans, it becomes clear to me that perhaps he wanted to take this final opportunity to acknowledge and thank all those strangers who, in a way, were never really strangers to him…. Jarabe de Palo’s music brought us close to Pau and will continue to bring us closer….. Even long after he is gone from our physical realm.

The promotional first single, “Eso Que Tu Me Das,” sounds like a direct farewell to all his fans and loved ones — A farewell in the typical Jarabe de Palo manner.

With this album, Pau manages to turn the sad energy of his passing into a positive one — as you listen to the whole album, you cannot help but realize how at peace with his life he truly was. His musical approach was always about positivity and joy. The type of music that found the light within all the darkness.

I am glad that I had the chance to watch him perform live at the Howard Theatre in Washington DC, back in 2015. It was an excellent experience that I will cherish forever.

Jarabe De Palo – Live at the Howard Theatre (Washington DC, 2015)

As I listened to this TRAGAS O ESCUPES album in its entirety, it becomes such a unique and surreal listening experience to me; all the lyrics have profound meaning. It is like you are listening to a manifesto of a life that was lived fully, and now it seemed ready to come to an end — especially as I listen to the whole album within the context of his passing embedded in my consciousness.

Buen Viaje Pau….Thanks for the music.

*MOVIE RECAP: ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD

One of the strange benefits of this lockdown is that I finally have time to catch up with a bunch of movies that I missed in theaters and didn’t have time to watch once they became available to stream.

It’s really nice not having to do anything but work on my screenwriting and catch up on movies and TV shows.

Having said that, All The Money In The World has been on my “To Watch List” for over two years….. I can’t believe it took me this long to watch it.

I am a huge fan and admirer of Ridley Scott as a filmmaker — He has made some of the most fascinating and brilliant films of the last 45 years. And I always get excited whenever I see his name involved in a project.

About a month away from this movie’s release date, Ridley Scott announced that he would recast Kevin Spacey’s role and reshoot all of his scenes entirely with Christopher Plummer as his replacement. It was a bold but necessary move by Scott.

Christopher Plummer is formidable in all his scenes, which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. You have to pay close attention to notice any signs of adjustments to the original Spacey scenes.

Plummer plays the infamous J. Paul Getty, founder of the Getty Oil Company. From around the 1950s through his eventual death in 1976, Getty was considered to be the wealthiest man in the world.

This film is set in 1973 and centered around the kidnapping of Getty’s teenage grandson in Italy and the initial $17 million ransom demanded by the kidnappers.

Getty refuses to pay the kidnappers, insisting that if he paid for the ransom, then his other 14 grandkids could also be kidnapped and held for ransom. The kid’s mother, Gail (Michelle Williams), who at the time of the kidnapping is already divorced from John Paul Getty Jr. (Andrew Buchan). Gail is trying to raise the ransom money on her own — and the only thing J. Paul Getty can offer as help is to appoint his personal fixer Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg), to negotiate with the kidnappers.

Based on the 1995 book by John PearsonPainfully Rich: the Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty. And even though the film is based on actual events, many liberties are being taken here, especially on a shootout scene between the mobsters involved in the kidnapping and the Italian police, which never took place.

There are a couple of scenes that further exemplify how blatantly cheap J. Paul Getty was, but one particular scene stands out, which showed how he had a payphone installed in his mansion for visitors to make phone calls, while his butler is ready to provide loose change in case someone needs coins to make a call.

All the Money in the World is an entertaining film, with outstanding performances by Plummer and Williams, whose combative relationship is at the very center of this story. I am curious whether there will be a director’s cut available at some point — I would love to watch it.

Three out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿

All the Money in the World (2017).

*Mayo Siempre es Duro

Este confinamiento me pone mucho mas reflexivo que antes…. Me paso este mes reflexionando sobre esta crisis global por la que estamos viviendo, y no puedo evitar sentir cierto alivio que mamá no este pasando por estos momentos de tanta incertidumbre. Me imagino la ansiedad que ella estuviera sintiendo en estos momentos, y en cierta forma me alegra que no este sufriendo ni pasando por esta experiencia con aires apocalípticos por la que estamos viviendo.

Pero al mismo tiempo, extraño mucho a mi madre, y daría cualquier cosa por escuchar su voz una vez mas — Escuchar en el tono de su voz esa preocupación por mi bienestar que yo solía sentir al escuchar su voz cuando me llamaba. Especialmente en estos meses que me he sentido un poco down, no sintiéndome muy bien. 

Pero ahora ya me encuentro razonablemente mejor. Volviendo a sentirme mas normal. 

El mes de Mayo siempre es duro… es el mes de las madres. Ya han pasado cuatro largo y miserables años desde que mamá se fue. 

Digo que han sido miserables por la falta que ella me hace, y no por la calidad de vida que llevo, la cual es mucho mejor que antes. Mas bien me refiero al luto que llevo conmigo permanentemente. 

Y no puedo evitar sentirme solo…. pensar que la única persona que estaba dispuesta a dar su vida por mi, ya no existe.

Aunque se muy bien que no estoy solo — que tengo gente cerca que me aprecia y disfruta mi compañía. Mi soledad esta centrada en una nostalgia de algo y alguien que ya no existe. Entiendo muy bien la naturaleza de la vida….pero eso no quiere decir que la acepte. 

Vivir es una experiencia solitaria — Todo lo que sentimos y todas nuestras experiencias como seres humanos son experiencias solitarias. Nacemos, vivimos y morimos solos…sin importar cuantas personas tengamos a nuestro alrededor. Cargamos con todo el peso de nuestra humanidad solos.

Mi única familia inmediata por 24 años fueron solamente mi madre, mi hermana y nadie mas. Fuimos una familia de tres y ahora quedamos dos. Recogiendo los pedazos y empezando de nuevo lentamente…. día por día, semana tras semana, mes por mes, año tras año. 

Ahora mi madre ya no existe, y mi hermana vive en otra ciudad lejos de aquí. 

Vivo lejos de todo lo que por 24 años fue nuestro hogar. Lejos de aquellas calles, edificios, restaurantes, y lugares que siempre me recordaran a mamá. Tenia que alejarme de todo aquello que me traiga recuerdos de momentos vividos, las alegrías, las tristezas y todas aquellas experiencias compartidas.

El exilio era mi única opción — y quizás por eso es que me siento tan solo….  

Mi soledad es triste, pero es justa. Es lo que yo quería, es lo que yo busque, es lo que yo necesitaba.

Yo todavía era un niño cuando mamá tomo la audaz decision en dejar toda una vida atrás — dejar a su familia y emigrar a Virginia. Se enfrento a la realidad de un mundo desconocido e incierto completamente sola — Y lo hizo con huevos de hierro. 

Todavía recuerdo esa noche oscura y tibia, cuando nos despedimos de la familia en el aeropuerto. 

Esa noche en al aeropuerto parecía que aquellas despedidas eran solamente algo provisional, y no adios un para siempre. 

En esa noche oscura y tibia de Febrero, mamá abrazo y sintió el calor de su familia por ultima vez —Después de esa noche, mamá nunca mas volvió a ver a su familia.

Dia de las Madres (Mayo, 2007)

Pero al mismo tiempo, se muy bien que ella estaba feliz con su vida en Estados Unidos…. con su estilo de vida, y con su rutina. Estaba resignada a vivir acá con sus dos hijos — Muchas veces me confeso sus deseos de vivir el resto de sus días cerca de nosotros. Me hablo tantas veces de lo que teníamos enfrente por lograr los tres. Ella quería que volvamos los tres a vivir bajo el mismo techo…. quizás para mi hubiera sido un poco difícil, por que yo ya tenia planes de mudarme a New York City—su muerte, acelero mi cambio de ciudad. Pero al mismo tiempo, estoy completamente seguro que mi hermana y ella hubieran vuelto a vivir juntas eventualmente, de eso no tengo la menor duda. 

En estos momentos de tanta incertidumbre, me imagino a mamá sentada sublimemente en el balcón de su apartamento — en ese apartamento donde ella vivió sus últimos años sola, la imagino un poco triste, con su mente envuelta en pensamientos de nostalgia y soledad. Me imagino a mamá recordando esa noche oscura y tibia de Febrero, cuando abrazo y sintió el calor de su familia por ultima vez. 

Mis intensas y personales conversaciones con mamá durante tantos años viven permanentemente en mi conciencia. Es allí donde ella sigue existiendo. Es allí donde nos volvemos a encontrar… donde volvemos a conversar intensamente.

Eso es lo mágico de la perdurabilidad de su memoria — Es precisamente allí donde, a mi parecer, reside eternamente el verdadero amor.

Quizás por eso es que me he puesto a pensar últimamente en la nostalgia y soledad que mamá debió haber sentido en todos esos 24 años lejos de su familia. Puedo entender muy bien lo que ella debió haber sentido. Tal vez por que ella y yo compartimos muchas cosas en común — una sensibilidad profunda por el pasado, por ejemplo.

Siempre fuimos nostálgicos por naturaleza.

Admiro su fortaleza por haber dejado una vida atrás y empezar de nuevo con garra y tenacidad. Admiro su incansable búsqueda por ser feliz, y por una mejor vida — Para mi, todo eso es como una fusion nuclear de inspiración para seguir viviendo. Las promesas incumplidas ahora están envueltas en nostalgias. 

Emigrar a este país fue algo que me toco tiempo entender bien, y dejarme acá solo, fue como un regalo que estoy recién aprendiendo a apreciar. Y ahora mas que nunca…entiendo mas claramente a mi madre. 

¿Pero cómo no voy a entenderte mamá?…..Si tu y yo compartimos esa misma nostalgia y soledad.

Dia de las Madres (Mayo, 2011)