Hallmark Review: Love’s Complicated (2016, dir. Jerry Ciccoritti)


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Last night at the Oscars we had a comedy bit where black actors were inserted into movies that were nominated for awards. They took somewhat humorous shots at The Martian and Joy. Then The Danish Girl came up. I haven’t seen it yet and I’ve heard it’s god awful. None of that matters. They inserted comedic actor Tracy Morgan into the movie, put him in a dress, then told us to laugh at him because he was a man in a dress who was being the black version of the trans woman from the film. Then for more shits and giggles, they actually had him eat a danish. That was vile and despicable. I have been laughed at for something as simple as wearing tights. I can’t possibly imagine walking outside in a dress right now, and have even less courage to do so after last night’s display of kicking an even smaller minority to the curb while supposedly trying to send a message about having another minority appear more often in films. While I seriously doubt she would have done it, having Laverne Cox of Orange Is The New Black fame, who is both black and trans, do that might have actually sent a positive message. Thank you very much Oscars for making it clear that not only was it worth dragging on the blacks in film thing so long that it started to feel like a joke itself, but for giving all trans women a punch in the face. Much appreciated.

That right there is an example of the central theme of this movie. Not avoiding conflict. That can be for a number of reasons. Not letting other people make decisions that should be yours since it is your life. Not being paralyzed by a fear of conflict when facing it could lead to a much needed reconciliation. Not letting other people treat you like trash, but standing up for yourself instead. It can also be something as simple as saying, “No, you have no right to do that. I want the refund I’m owed.” The book this movie is based on is even called My Life As A Doormat. So how the hell did this movie end up being called Love’s Complicated? I’m guessing Hallmark has a quota to meet of movies with “love” in the title. Honestly, love barely is a part of the movie.

The movie begins by quickly showing us Leah (Holly Marie Combs), who is a writer, at home before cutting to a radio station to introduce us to Cinco (Ben Bass). He isn’t a shock jock or a woman hating radio personality. I think the best way to describe him is as a debater. He is someone who isn’t afraid to express his opinion, but we will get to his fear of conflict issue later. During this opening credit sequence it cuts back and forth between them. We find out one useful piece of information here, and that is that Leah isn’t a big fan of his. We’ll find out later that he didn’t give a favorable review to her last book. And segue!

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We are now with Leah and Catherine Disher from The Good Witch. Hmm…I think there’s an in-joke here. She is told her book needs serious work. Basically spice things up by adding some conflict. The very thing that is the Source of the problems in her life.

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I love that Leah has one of those keyboards similar to the old IBM keyboards. Those things are very satisfying to type on. It makes sense that a writer would have one. I could mention the roommate here, but she’s a minor character. She’s what I call a nudger character in Hallmark movies. A character who isn’t unimportant, but is really there to show up occasionally to nudge the main character in the right direction.

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Now we meet Leah’s boyfriend Edward (Randal Edwards). As you can see, it looks like Leah just wishes she could freeze him in place so she could get up without having to confront him. Anyways, the two of them soon go off to a party where she insists on wearing a red dress that he isn’t so happy with. Now for plot I guess, here’s Cinco just hanging out in the flowers to run into Leah at the party.

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He actually tells her to throw the wine in his face because of his bad review of her book. Of course her being non-confrontational means she doesn’t. Although, I bet she would have liked to make him explode if she could. She’ll come around eventually.

Phew! Three references to Charmed should be enough.

Next for reasons that are beyond me, Leah’s boyfriend gives her a coupon to a conflict management course. I’d say just for plot, but Edward is really odd in this so I buy that he gives this to her, and then doesn’t show up because he meant it to be just for her.

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She goes, and of course for again reasons, Cinco is there. There also are a few other people there including a married couple named Robert (Brad Borbridge) and Glenda (Precious Chong). Sorry, I wasn’t able to avoid that witch reference. It’s in the movie after all. Although, I’m still not sure why Catherine Disher’s character is named J.R. I’m really not sure what a reference to Dallas is doing here, but okay.

Believe it or not, that’s all the setup that’s necessary for this movie. She keeps going back to the group and never tells them Edward is a boyfriend till the end of the film. She does learn to not be afraid of conflict, which was systemic in her case. She helps Cinco in turn to take a chance and visit his father who he hasn’t spoken to in awhile. Instead of fearing a confrontation, he just gives him a hug. In his case it works. At the end of the film, he and his father, who both love to argue, are having a lively debate on the radio. The other people in the class come around too. In the end, she breaks it off with Edward, writes a book called My Life As A Doormat, and winds up with Cinco.

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As I hope you can tell, the love part is incidental to the story of overcoming a fear of conflict. I like that the film was clearly done on the cheap, but they told a story that didn’t require more money in order to tell. I appreciate it when a film molds itself to the production constraints rather than feeling like it’s running into money walls. That said, there are several times when it feels like the movie thinks we have spent more time with the characters than we actual have. I would give it a marginal recommendation.

Now since I feel better than when I wrote my last Hallmark review, here are the normal things you’ve come accustomed to seeing in my reviews.

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I actually like this fake computer screen. It’s cartoony sure, but it has the right elements.

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This shot tells us that at least this part was done in Sudbury, Ontario. I believe this is the first Hallmark movie I’ve seen shot there.

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This shot though, is from Minnesota.

However, the movie either doesn’t mention it at all, or makes very little fuss about where it’s supposed to take place. It’s not like so many Hallmark movies that really try to convince you it’s the US when it’s Canada.

Random Musings on Last Night’s Oscars


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Well, the 88th Academy Awards are over. It was a strange show, to be sure…not necessarily good, but strange. I’ve just got a few thoughts in my head I need to get out:

*THE RED CARPET: Overlong and vapid. Seriously, this was just ridiculous. I’m no fashionista, so I don’t care what Miss Anna Rexic is wearing this evening. I know many people do though, so we’ve gotta have the “Pre-Game” show to sell the sponsor’s products, right? Yeah. I just think the time would be better spent on showing something like Gena Rowlands, Debbie Reynolds, and Spike Lee receiving their honorary Oscars.

*CHRIS ROCK: Dude, I thought your opening monologue was hysterical! But there’s an old saying, “Quit beating a dead horse”. The race jokes kept getting lamer and lamer. And that interview with movie patrons on the street sure didn’t help your cause. Oh, and the Girl Scout cookie…

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Artist Profile: Harry Schaare (1922 — 2008)


Born in Jamaica, New York, Harry Schaare was a prolific illustrator who worked for practically every major paperback publisher in New York City.  He also did countless illustrations for different magazines and even painted the design that was used for a Star Wars bedspread.  Schaare attended the New York School of Architecture and the Pratt Institute.  He served as an artist for the U.S. Air Force and over twenty-five of his works are currently included in the United States Air Force collection.

You can see more of his work at http://www.harryschaare.com/

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A Few Final Thoughts On The 88th Academy Awards…


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Well, another Oscar season has come to an end.  I’m going to take one day off from thinking about the Oscars and then, once March begins, it’ll be time to start speculating about what will win next year.

Like the majority of our readers, I just finished watching the 88th Academy Awards.  It was an interesting ceremony.  It was strange.  It was full of moments that made me cringe.  And, at the same time, there were a few moments that left me feeling very inspired.  Clocking in at 3 hours and 30-something minutes, it was neither the worst nor the best Oscar telecast that I’ve ever watched.  (My favorite remains the ceremony that was hosted by James Franco and Anne Hathaway.  It was such a fun disaster.)  On twitter, people seem to think that it was either the greatest or the worst thing ever.  I am one of the few to think that it actually fell somewhere in the middle.

Let’s talk about the awards.  Going into this, I was hoping there would be a few upsets and there were.  Unfortunately, few of them were upsets that I was particularly looking forward to.  For instance, Mark Rylance won best supporting actor for Bridge of Spies and, no offense meant to Rylance, but it was hard not to wish that the award had instead gone to Creed‘s Sylvester Stallone.  Stallone, no matter what you may think of the majority of his films, is a cinematic icon and this was probably his last chance to win an Oscar.  Rylance, meanwhile, seems to be destined to being the actor you call when you can’t get Richard Jenkins.

And then there was Best Original Song.  I, for one, am still stunned that the song from SPECTRE was even nominated.  But then it actually won the Oscar!  And, in doing so, it defeated Lady Gaga’s anthem of survival and strength, Til It Happens To You.  Lady Gaga’s performance of Til It Happens To You was definitely one of the show’s highlights.  Not even the presence of our long-winded, gropey Vice President could diminish the strength and power of that performance.  Just imagine what a great moment it would have been if that performance had been followed by Til It Happens To You actually winning the Oscar.

I got really excited when, early on, Mad Max: Fury Road started to win all of the technical awards.  Oh my God, I thought, what if Mad Max actually wins Best Picture!?  That would be a game changer as far as the future of the Oscars is concerned…

But then Alejandro Inarritu won best director and gave his typical sermon.  And then Leonardo DiCaprio won best actor and used it as an excuse to lecture us all about global warming.  And I started to dread the idea of The Revenant winning best picture and having to sit through another speech from either of these two undeniably talented gentlemen.  But then, after being shut out for most of the night, Spotlight won best picture.  The producers ran up on stage and started to lecture the Vatican…

It’s a strange victory.  Spotlight won a total of two Oscars.  Mad Max won six Oscars.  The Revenant won three.  The Big Short and Room took one.  Though the vote totals are never released, I’m going to guess it was a very close race.

I have to admit that I always cringe a little whenever the Oscars get political because celebrities, on the whole, tend to be flaky.  And, often times, they lecture everyone else without bothering to look at or modify any of their own behavior.  Frequently, it leads to a hypocrisy on their part that, over the years, has tarnished some very worthy causes.  It’s not surprising that the 88th Academy Awards were extremely political.  A lot of people said a lot of things but did they actually understand what they were saying or were they just playing another role?  That’s the question I always ask whenever a celeb says to vote this way or that.

I have to admit that I got kind of bored with Chris Rock trying to get people to buy girl scout cookies.  But, let’s give credit where credit is due.  Chris Rock called the film industry out on its own bullshit as far as diversity is concerned.  He told the self-congratulatory Academy audience that they too were capable of being racists and, even watching on TV, you could feel the tension in the room.  This was the epitome of speaking truth to power and good for Chris Rock for going there and, hopefully, making everyone in that audience feel a little bit uncomfortable.

And yet, at the same time, it was hard not to feel that it won’t make much of a difference.  The assembled members of the Academy applauded whenever a presenter or a winner called for diversity but, in the end, are they going to do anything more than applaud?  Watching the show, I imagine that most of the rich white people in the theater were thinking to themselves, “Chris isn’t talking about us.  He’s talking about those other rich white people.”

What’s the solution to the industry’s diversity problem?  Well, the first thing that would have to happen would be for the industry to admit that it has a problem and that’s never going to happen.  The mainstream American film industry is too high on its own rhetoric to ever take an honest look at itself.  Instead, studio execs and producers are always going to put the blame on “those other white people.”

There are so many stories out there waiting to be told.   At some point, the industry is going to have to stop bragging about how they tolerant they are and instead help those unique and interesting stories to be told.  Out there right now, there are people of every race, gender, religion, and political ideology who have a story to tell.  At some point, if the film industry really wants to change, it’s going to have to start seeking out those stories and giving those storytellers a chance.   At some point, those in industry are going to have to stop bragging about how much they donated to which campaign and actually put their rhetoric into action.

Until then, it’s going to take a lot more than merely giving Chris Rock a standing ovation to truly bring diversity to the film industry.

Did anyone else find it weird that the show ended with “Fight the Power” being played over pictures of wealthy white people accepting awards?  I don’t think the show’s producers really considered what that would look like.

Anyway, that concludes this Oscar season!  It was an exciting one and I can hardly wait for a new one to begin!

Here’s A Complete List Of The Oscar Winners!!!!


 

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Best Picture: Spotlight

Best Director: Alejandro G. Inarritu for The Revenant

Best Actor: Leonardo DiCarpio in The Revenant

Best Actress: Brie Larson in Room

Best Supporting Actor: Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies

Best Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl

Best Original Screenplay: Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer. Spotlight

Best Adapted Screenplay: Adam McKay and Charles Randolph.  The Big Short

Best Animated Film: Inside Out

Best Documentary Feature: Amy

Best Foreign Language Film: Son of Saul

Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant

Best Costume Design: Jenny Bevan, Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Editing: Margaret Sixel, Mad Mad: Fury Road

Best Make-up and Hairstyling: Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Original Score: Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight

Best Original Song: “Writing’s On The Wall” from SPECTRE

Best Production Design: Colin Gibson and Lisa Thompson, Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Sound Editing: Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Sound Mixing: Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Visual Effects: Ex Machina

Best Animated Short Film:Bear Story

Best Documentary Short Film: The Girl In The River: The Price of Forgiveness

Best Live Action Short: Stutterer

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Hallmark Review: Signed, Sealed, Delivered: From The Heart (2016, dir. Lynne Stopkewich)


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When I made that ordering of the best Valentine’s Day movies from Hallmark this year on my post for Appetite For Love, I was not aware the new Signed, Sealed, Delivered movie was also going to be part of their Valentine’s Day lineup. To put it bluntly, screw the other five, and watch this. I hope more Hallmark fans are tuning into their Movies & Mysteries Channel movies because the Signed, Sealed, Delivered films are the best ones Hallmark airs. Nothing else really compares. That said, this one needed some trimming. The main plot and a little furthering of the relationship between Norman (Geoff Gustafson) and Rita (Crystal Lowe) was all we really needed. The rest of the plots feel extraneous and just add more to follow without much payoff.

Interestingly, this is the first of the Signed, Sealed, Delivered movies to not be helmed by Kevin Fair. This time around they brought in October Kiss director Lynne Stopkewich. She has had an interesting career so far to say the least. She does a fine job here. I have no complaints about the directing.

Often we get the title card of a Hallmark movie almost immediately, but not this time. A fair amount of setup occurs before that happens.

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The movie begins back in 1835 with a woman making a Valentine for someone in America. We will eventually be told who the Valentine was meant for, which is kind of neat, but not really. It winds up in Norman’s hands, and it does serve a purpose for a scene with him near the end, but he didn’t need the letter for his lines to work just as well. This is a part that really could have been trimmed in my opinion. The movie already had enough plots going that it didn’t need this one thrown in as well.

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Then matching on the action of the 1835 handmade Valentine, we jump to present day and see Oliver (Eric Mabius) making his own Valentine for Shane (Kristin Booth). He then hands it off to be mailed to her instead of just giving it to her…for reasons? This is another part that could have been snipped. The letter will take the entire film to end up in Shane’s hands. It ends up in a box she doesn’t know has anything but Valentine decorations in it.

Now you’d think that title card might pop up now, but nope.

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The dead letter comes in, and Oliver instantly takes it to run off to a restaurant.

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We now go back 15 years to find a kid mailing that letter before asking a police officer where he needs to go to turn himself in.

Now we get the title card and title track of the series. It took awhile. I was wondering if it would ever show up. By the way, that 15 years earlier thing is the main plot of the film. Unlike previous Signed, Sealed, Delivered movies, this one does act more like a procedural rather than having the letter lead to a major revelation about the characters that moves them forward for the next film. I liked that. I’ve always wanted the tracking down the letter to truly be the center of attention instead of say Oliver discovering the truth about his father. There is a little bit of a blast from the past, literally, but it’s minor compared to previous installments.

Another plot is that Rita will get called in to be Miss Special Delivery because the people above her were disqualified in some manner. This goes nowhere really. It goes viral that Rita and Norman are an item and for no real reason she denies it during a press conference. Of course she ends up coming around in the end. I’m really not sure of any good reason for this plot to happen. Maybe a little reinforcement of their relationship since she certainly hurt Norman in the process. She must have been a little uncertain on her end. Otherwise, it just leads to some lines about how people share things today. Blah, blah, blah. People have been doing that sort of thing for a long time. Even as far back as the 1930’s, if not earlier. I’ve read stupid old newspaper stories telling us someone is leaving to go on vacation. I wouldn’t say this should have been snipped, but they could have found a better way to forward the Norman and Rita thing. Oh, and this happens to Norman at one point in the film.

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It’s the funniest part of the movie, and since I don’t intend to do this movie blow by blow, I had to stick it somewhere. After picking up two baby doll arms in a dumpster, Norman says, “You wake up in the morning, and you never really know how your day is going to end.”

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Here is the literal blast from the past. Back when Oliver was Cliff Clavin, he was going to pick up the mail from the mailbox where the kid dropped off the now dead letter. He decided to wait a little bit before he was supposed to pick up the letters because of a police officer who would be in the area that he liked. Since he waited a little bit, an actual clown showed up, and after a little accident with helium…KABOOM! Since Oliver really does take things seriously USPS wise, he never really forgave himself. As a result, he really wants to get this letter that was involved in the accident to its intended recipient.

You got all that? We have an 1835 Valentine that winds up in Norman’s hands that we don’t know who it’s for at first. We have Oliver’s Valentine for Shane going everywhere but her hands. We have the policewoman that Oliver likes. Oh yeah, that actually is a really tiny little plot in this too. We also have Rita and Norman needed to mend fences after she denies publicly that she is seeing him. Then finally, we have the main plot of the movie. All of these plots are affairs of the heart, which ties into the title, and the main plot, but it was a bit much.

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These two are the main plot. That’s Ryan (Nick Purcha) and Maddie (Mackenzie Cardwell) 15 years earlier. They meet because they are both on the debate team. She isn’t very charismatic, but is good with research. He is the opposite. He’s charismatic, but usually doesn’t have that much substance to back what he is saying. Their plot is the best part of the movie. It leads to tragedy, which is why he turned himself into the police at the beginning of the film. A little spoiler: he killed somebody. It will also jump the 15 year gap when the letter finds it’s way to the two of them when they are adults.

I know I normally take you through the whole film, but not this time. I haven’t felt well lately. Also, that would have me trying to juggle all these plot lines or try to tell each one separately. This isn’t a Godfrey Ho movie where telling the plot lines separate makes the film more coherent. This is like the first two Godfather films where you lose something by rearranging events into chronological order. There is a reason these plots are woven together the way they are.

Like I said at the start, forget the other Hallmark Valentine’s Day movies this year, and watch this one instead.