Film Review: SCOTTY AND THE SECRET HISTORY OF HOLLYWOOD (USA 2018) ***

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Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood Poster
Trailer

2:30 | Trailer
A portrait of unsung Hollywood legend Scotty Bowers, whose bestselling memoir chronicled his decades spent as sexual procurer to the stars.

Director:

Matt Tyrnauer

 

Many have not heard of Scotty Bowers.  Who is this man and why is it that important for a whole documentary be devoted to him?

Director Matt Tyrnauer’s (VALENTINO: THE LAST EMPEROR) begins his doc with a grand introduction of Scotty Bowers.  He is celebrating his 90th birthday.  His rise to fame is attributed to the gas station he operated that served escorts to a host of Hollywood stars.  Everyone loves a scandal.  Stephen Fry interviewed admits:  “Scotty only made these Hollywood stars real by giving them what they want.”  But then a more valid argument is whether Scotty had the right to out anyone gay in Hollywood.  The doc then flashes dozens of gay stars on the screen to whet audiences appetite on the secret history of Hollywood.  Randolph Scott had an affair with Cary Grant and the list goes on….

It is fortunate that Scotty Bowers is till alive at the time of making the doc as he appears in most of the film, talking about himself and about what he has done as well as life in the old days.  The film contains a lot of black and white archive footage, especially of the area whee the infamous gas station stood.  When footage is unavailable, re-enactments are done, often without  faces but with the images of bodies.  For instance, when an escort is ivied from the gas station to bathe his beautiful body in the star’s swimming pool, the audience sees a nude body (no face) swimming in the pool.  In a way, the image looks even more erotic.

The goings-on, the audience are told are well planned and orchestrated.  In the business world, Scotty could have been the C.E.O.of General Motors, says a close friend.  The goings-on are indeed shocking, like a hill drilled in a wall in the nearby motel so that voyeurs can peep at the sex happening in the next room.  It all feels like a dirty red-light district given a make-over for the Hollywood stars.

Just when you think that the film will run out of material, something saucier comes around.  More famous star names are revealed, more intimate details of the sex parties revealed or secrets in the closet uncovered.  The restricted era of 1950’s is also highlighted in the film – a time where cops witched hunted gays in parks and bars.  And there is Scotty’s life that in itself is quite interesting.  Returning home from WWII as a pretty boy, he was gay before settling down into marriage with Lois, who hereof is interviewed in the film.  Their family home is also on display.  Scotty is revealed as a hoarder.  His house contains piles and piles of junk, such as every issue of Playboy Magazine

Scott claims to be the perfect host.  He says he provided an introduction service not a pimp service, emphasizing the fact that he never took any money for the  introductions.  The only money he made was at the parties as a bartender.

The film emphasizes that Scott’s philosophy on life was to make people happy as there is already so much unhappiness in the world.  But director Tyrnauer includes some sadness in Scotty’s life – the lost of his daughter, his friend Beach, his pet dog and the arrival of A.I.D.s.

Tyrnauer always inserts enough of the details to keep his film interesting – like the truth on Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.  His film ends up a good mix of the life of Scotty, his contribution to the secret History of Hollywood and revealing ‘Enquirer’ type material.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qn6HxTJp0k

 

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1997 Movie Review: WILDE, 1997 – Starring: Stephen Fry, Jude Law

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WILDEWILDE, 1997
Movie Reviews

Directed by Brian Gilbert

Cast: Stephen Fry, Jude Law, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael Sheen, Tom Wilkinson, Gemma Jones, Jennifer Ehle, Judy Parfit
Review by Stefan Leverton

SYNOPSIS:

The story of Oscar Wilde, genius, poet, playwright and the First Modern Man. The self-realisation of his homosexuality caused Wilde enormous torment as he juggled marriage, fatherhood and responsibility with his obsessive love for Lord Alfred Douglas, nicknamed Bosie. After legal action instigated by Bosie’s father, the mad Marquess of Queensberry, Wilde refused to flee the country and was sentenced to two years at hard labour by the courts of an intolerant Victorian society.

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REVIEW:

Wilde is the biopic telling the infamous story of Oscar Wilde, one of Ireland’s and the Victorian era’s greatest playwright and poet. Above that he represented the rise in the appreciation for all things aesthetic, fashion and style as well as being one of the wittiest historical figures that I can think of. His life wasn’t all plaudits though, and he courted controversy to the full.

The film begins with Wilde returning from America, marrying Constance Wilde and having two boys, Cyril and Vyvyan. Then it begins, not wanting to over-state anything, his rise and fall. Taking the theatre world by storm, Wilde’s plays illuminate the west end and he becomes the toast of the town. With an invigorated zeal for socialising, Wilde acquaints himself with all the lavishness his success affords him.

This ignites a spark within Wilde, especially after becoming familiar with Robbie Ross. After their meeting Wilde’s ‘outs’ himself amongst the homosexual community, and in doing so becomes the person he may’ve always known he was. Then the shift moves from his work to his personal life. An intense affair rises between Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas, nicknamed Bosie. Bosie is drawn to the artful and wise Wilde, while Wilde is drawn to the youthful pretty Bosie.

Their relationship has its ups and downs, mainly due to Bosie’s impetuousness, but ultimately has its dramatic anchor in the film as in Wilde’s life by being the scandal that brought shame upon Wilde’s family and indeed his professional reputation. Bosie’s father, the Mad Marquess of Queensberry, files a lawsuit against Wilde and his lewd illegal behaviour.

The ensuing court case, is widely publicised and the witch hunt that surrounds it sees the steadfast Wilde prosecuted for his actions and sentenced to four years hard labour after refusing to take exile. Then we witness Wilde’s decline, removed of his style in gaol. Even on his release when he takes refuge in Europe his healthy withers and Wilde dies resolute but very much alone in Paris, 1900.

As a fan of Wilde’s work, I feel this film does tremendous justice to the man, played with sheer perfection by Stephen Fry. Fry said of the role that it was the one he was born to play, and he is in no way over stating that fact. And the filmmakers have done a wonderful job of adding to the creation by giving Fry just the right appearance as a young-twenty-something but also as the broken-aged-man Wilde becomes during his incarceration. And special mention should go to Jude law who, aside from looking good in the role, acts as a great folly to Wilde, being that they are at different stages of their lives.

The only criticism of the film is that those who aren’t familiar with Wilde may struggle to be enraptured by the drama of the film which never really peaks. I think that to be slightly mis-guided as Wilde himself fully understood what was going on, there was no outrage from him, though he did stand resolutely and argued his case to spite all that, though sadly without success. What stands is the memory of such outrageous persecution from the justice system and society to persecute someone, when today that wouldn’t even enter the consciousness.

WILDE, 1997

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Happy Birthday: Stephen Fry

stephenfry.jpgStephen Fry

Born: August 24, 1957 in Hampstead, London, England, UK

I’ve always believed Americans have one huge, ready-made gift when it comes to acting in front of a camera – the ability to relax. Take the supreme relaxed authenticity of a James Stewart or a George Clooney compared with the brittle contrivances of a Laurence Olivier or a Kenneth Branagh, marvelous as they are.

MOVIE POSTERSHERLOCK HOLMES A GAME OF SHADOWS
dir. Guy Ritchie
Stars:
Robert Downey Jr.
Jude Law
WILDEWilde
1997
dir. Brian Gilbert
Cast
Stephen Fry
Jude Law
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2013
dir. Michael Winterbottom
Stars:
Steve Coogan
Matt Lucas
V FOR VENDETTAV for Vendetta
2005
dir. James McTeigue
starring
Portman
Hugo Weaving
TV POSTER24: LIVE ANOTHER DAY
Stars:
Kiefer Sutherland
Yvonne Strahovski

 

Movie Review: THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY (UK 2015) ***

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the_man_who_knew_infinity.jpgTHE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY (UK 2015) ***
Directed by Matthew Brown

Starring: Dev Patel, Jeremy Irons, Malcolm Sinclair, Stephen Fry

Review by Gilbert Seah

THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY is the bio pic of Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan (Dev Patel) based on the 1991 book of the same name by Robert Kanigel. Growing up poor in Madras, Nujan (as he is fondly called in the film) earns admittance to Cambridge University under the mentorship of professor G.J. Hardy (Jeremy Irons). Initially upset at Nujan for his pride and refusal to work out proofs for his mathematical theories, Hardy eventually relents and lets the horse run loose. Together, they achieve milestones in mathematics, cracking the almost impossible task of formulating formulae for partitions.

The first 30 minutes of the film is boring while the the film is set up. Nujan is just married, shown to love and excel in mathematics before fate forces him to leave Madras and serve his true calling. For a biopic of this kind, one expects him to face hardship and prejudice in his new country while finally proving himself to the nonbelievers while uniting with his family at the end. The film felt headed that way and one would almost walk out of the film if it had not changed course.

The typical story is altered by the First World War that creeps into the story. The second is the illness (T.B. or Tuberculosis) that Nujan falls prey to. The rest is pretty predictable stuff with the usual ‘stuffy’ English dialogue put in so that the film feels put up on a high pedestal since it is supposed to have a Cambridge university setting.

Patel was the second option to play the main role as the filmmakers wanted an actor internationally known to carry the film. Patel, who has proven himself apt in comedy as in SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE and the BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL films, demonstrates here that he is also capable of carrying a more dramatic role, one that needs to show suffering from illness as well as desperation and despair. Irons looks convincing as the pipe puffing professor who ends up sympathetic towards Nujan’s course. Stephen Fry is remarkable in being able to make a lasting impression from a performance than lasts only a few minutes. The role of Bertrand Russell, the British philosopher and mathematician undertaken by Jeremy Northam is underwritten and exists only to make a few criticisms on Hardy’s character.

World War 1 is dealt with in terms of both prejudice and its futility. The former issue is demonstrated very effectively in a scene in which Nujan is beaten up by white English soldiers for being a freeloader in a country where the rest have to go fight and die for their country. It is anger that has its point and one almost impossible to resolve. Hardy organizes antiwar rallies dealing with the other war issue.

Associate producers Manjul Bhargava and Ken Ono are distinguished mathematicians who also served as the film’s math consultants. The math is shown only briefly but the message on the intricacies of infinite series and partitions comes across clear enough.

THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY make its case more of one of cultural acceptance than (one) in the development of new mathematical theories. Brown brings the film to an end all too quickly, wrapping everything up with Nujan’s eventual failure to survive from Tuberculosis.

 

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Movie Review: LOVE & FRIENDSHIP (Ireland/France/Netherlands 2015) ***1/2

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love_and_friendship.jpgLOVE & FRIENDSHIP (Ireland/France/Netherlands 2015) ***1/2
Directed by Whit Stillman

Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Chloë Sevigny, Xavier Samuel, Emma Greenwell, Justin Edwards, Stephen Fry

Review by Gilbert Seah

Whit Stillman is a Harvard educated American writer/director famous for his trilogy METROPOLITAN (this one winning him an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay), BARCELONA and THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO. LOVE & FRIENDSHIP is his fifth film after DAMSELS IN DISTRESS, his favourite (and mine too). All films share the common theme of young adults embroiled in a social class structure. DISCO and DAMSELS featured female protagonists, the former with stars Kate Beckinsale and Chloë Sevigny. Stillman uses them again in LOVE & FRIENDSHIP.

LOVE & FRIENDSHIP is based on the Jane Austen epistolary (a series of documents such as letters, diary entries, and newspaper clippings) novel “Lady Susan”. So, most of film’s dialogue, really funny and written in the English spoken in the Austen novels is written by Stillman himself. He moulded the main character of Lady Susan with his star Beckinsale in mind, often writing into the early hours of the morning to suit the different actors in their roles.

Set in the 1790s, the widowed Lady Susan Vernon (Beckinsale) seeks refuge with her in-laws as rumours about her private life circulate through society. While staying at the estate in Churchill, Lady Susan decides to find herself and her daughter, Frederica (Morfydd Clark), a husband. As Lady Susan embarks on a controversial relationship with a married man, seduction, deception, broken hearts, and gossip all ensue. She also pursues a romance with handsome Reginald DeCourcy (Xavier Samuel) while pushing her daughter to marry the wealthy and extremely talkative Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett, stealing every scene he is in). Frederica is opposed as Sir Martin is (as in the words of the script) a bit of a rattle.

Stillman’s Lady Susan is a likeable one. Stillman does not judge her deeds but lets her manipulate those around her in a comedic fashion. Her victims are looked upon as weaker characters whose existence in life is primarily to be taken advantaged of. Even her pregnancy and husband stealing is given a light look, given the period of the story. The result is a light film which stresses a comedy of manners rather than a tale of morality.

The film contains a large number of characters, related, married or related by marriage They hold titles. To familiarize the audience quickly, each character is introduced, at the start of the film with a picture portrait followed by cute titles below such as: “he’s a bit of a rattle”, or “wealthy but not well liked”. The tactic works, and the audience is soon familiarized with all the story’s characters and their relations, though it requires a bit of attention.

As the film is an Austen period piece, the costumes, props and sets are important in setting the mood and atmosphere of the film. The film was stunningly shot in Ireland by Dutch cinematographer Richard Van Oosterhout. The costumes were designed by Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh in which her massive use of green (for example in the footmen uniforms) explains her Irish heritage. Lady Susan’s dresses can be seen morphing from black to purple to red as she changes moods from mourning her late husband to finding a new suitor.

LOVE & FRIENDSHIP will definitely delight Jane Austen fans who have seen their favourite Austen adaptations like PERSUASION, SENSE & SENSIBILITY, EMMA etc on the screen. LOVE & FRIENDSHIP is Austen with a naughtier, more mischievous female character, not a prim and proper one as in her famous novels, with the additional bonus of a Whit Stillman’s imprint.

 

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