Tag Archives: Angela Bassett

Otherhood

Three mothers, originally friends because their sons were friends, have stayed in each other’s lives even after their sons have all moved away. We meet them at a mother’s day brunch they’ve thrown themselves because their lousy sons always forget (if any one of them had a daughter, or even a daughter-in-law, this movie wouldn’t exist; daughters are not allowed to forget). Not content to just sit around bitching and whining about their lives, they decide to inflict their neuroses on their grown sons, uninvited. So they pack themselves into the world’s most hostile road trip and storm New York City to make their problems someone else’s.

You likely know a mother or two just like this, and if it’s your own mother, well, god bless you. This kind of mother wants it both ways: she decides she MUST become a mother because her life is incomplete, but then she spends her kid’s life telling him or her that it was a completely selfless act that requires a well of gratitude whose depth cannot be measured as it is bottomless and unending and nothing will ever be enough. And when the child is grown, the mother is lost and without purpose because motherhood was everything and now she is nothing. And improbably, all three female characters in this film are suffering from this affliction.

Personally, I know tonnes of mothers who have managed to maintain a balance between forging a career, having their own life, nurturing friendships, and being better mothers because of it. I don’t imagine that’s easy, but it’s life, and the last time I checked, motherhood IS optional. But these women are acting like life is over because their grown sons don’t immediately reply to their inane and constant texting.

It must have been difficult for Netflix to promote this movie since one of the three women is Felicity Huffman and she’s not exactly winning any motherhood prizes right now (if you’re just poking your head out from underneath a rock, she’s one of the parents accused of believing that her kids are such profound idiots that they could only get into college with the help of large, illegal bribes, and that they still deserved to be there, perhaps taking the place of your own kids, who would have otherwise merited the position, because their mother is rich and famous and quite possibly she just wanted them out of the damn house). Leaving her aside, Netflix managed to convince both Patricia Arquette and Angela Bassett to join the ranks of the pitiful. And frankly, Arquette does nothing to dispel the pity party. She’s gotten a little too comfortably playing the kooky, offbeat, perpetually single mother. When she breaks into her son’s apartment to bake for him, it’s uncomfortably believable. When she fails to learn a lesson about meddling and instead declares that the only problem was that she didn’t meddle soon enough, you believe that too.

Bassett, on the other hand, is an asset. Her character has certainly invested too much of herself into living for the men in her life (her husband and her son), especially when those men haven’t deserved it, don’t return it, and don’t even want it. But because it’s Basset, her character doesn’t feel pathetic. She holds her head high. She clearly has strength. And she DOES learn her lesson, and earns herself a better life; in the end, she’s the only one we’re really rooting for.

I think a lot of women, and perhaps parents generally, struggle with the transition from parenting a child to parenting an adult. But the truth is, that role is always changing. A newborn baby is a round-the-clock, soul-sucking (and hopefully soul-nourishing) job; a two year old is a battle of wills; a twelve year old is an exercise in diplomacy; a fifteen year old is a test of nerves. You never stop being someone’s mother, but mothering stops being invasive and starts being supportive at some point – if you’ve done it right. Not everyone gets it right, and that’s okay too, because we’re all human and we’re all learning on the job. You might even have to be someone’s kid while also being someone else’s parent. But neither of those things should subsume your entire identity.

Otherhood isn’t a great movie but it’s possibly worth watching just because there isn’t enough Angela Bassett in the world as it is. Stories about women are worth telling. We don’t always get them right. We’re all fumbling around trying to figure shit out. And if you haven’t recently been federally indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit fraud, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, you’re probably doing okay.

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Mission: Impossible -Fallout

lead_720_405Aside from the awkward colon in the title, the most annoying thing about the Mission: Impossible series has always been Tom Cruise’s massive over-reliance on rubber masks (yes, even moreso than his ridiculous excessive arm-pumping while running). While Mission: Impossible – Fallout doesn’t totally avoid the rubber mask cliché, it tweaks it enough to feel fresh. And every once in a while, despite how familiar the M:I formula has become after six attempts, the movie will sneak one by you, winking as it does.

In Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team (Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg) are tasked with saving the world (again) by recovering a bunch of stolen plutonium before a terrorist group can use it in nuclear weapons. The stakes are high so Ethan and his crew need to be at the top of their game, and doubly so when we’ve seen them in action so many times already.

M:I-F is up to the challenge in all respects. This is the best entry in the franchise so far. Not because it does anything surprising or anything we haven’t seen before, but because it delivers exactly what it promises and because it’s flawlessly executed, without a single misstep.

Action-packed and entertaining from start to finish, M:I-F is better than I expected, better than it has any right to be, and better than it ever needed to be.  This is 2018’s best summer blockbuster, hands down.

Strange Days

What do you get when you cross Ralph Fiennes and Angela Bassett with Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron?  A Blade Runner wanna-be that doesn’t get over the hump but is not even close to the worst thing you can find on Netflix, as long as you can get past how dated the movie feels.

Given that Strange Days was co-written by James Cameron, it’s very odd that the
technology central to the movie feels so old-fashioned.  Even if the effects don’t hold up, Cameron’s near-future technology usually does, from Terminator to Aliens to the Abyss.  Not here.  I shuddered every time a character waved around a mini-CD containing a clip of someone’s memories (literally a first-person-view replay of whatever the person experienced).  Because I’m so over CDs; I’m a vinyl guy.  That means I shuddered a lot while watching Strange Days, because the plot of the movie revolves around those little plastic relics – they’re everywhere!

While it may be silly to criticize a movie set in the year 2000 for using CDs, that sort of logic is not going to stop me even for a second.  Any world that has the technology to record and replay memories in the year 2000 must also have invented storage technology that is far better than CDs, right?  Who’s with me?

The acting is dated as well – it’s from the silent era.  Watching these characters experience other people’s memories is entertaining for all the wrong reasons.  The facial expressions, the moaning, the anguish, it’s all way, way, WAY too much.  I didn’t need to see those reactions even once but just like the omnipresent CDs, we get at least one shot of each main character overacting when they plug into a SQUID (which, unfortunately, is what the memory recorder and player is called).

In particular, Ralph Fiennes’ off-the-charts overacting and general greasiness in the film makes it surprising that he ever found work again.  I think in order to enjoy Fiennes’ catalog from now on, I will have to pretend that the star of Strange Days was actually Bradley Cooper.  Which probably won’t be that hard since they may be the same person.

So if you’re a fan of the English Patient, you should probably skip this one.  On the other hand, if you are a more a fan of cheeseball 90s sci-fi than cheeseball 90s romances, then Strange Days will be right up your alley.

Strange Days gets a score of five unrealistic Y2K parties out of ten.