Mid-August Lunch

Continuing our cinematic travels in a westerly direction which began on March 8th with a visit to Hong Kong for A Simple Life, then on March 10th, we stopped off in Mumbai, India, for Talaash, which brings us to today, where we have a holiday in Rome, Italy, for the 2008 film – Mid-August Lunch. Gianni Di Gregorio wrote, directed, and starred in the film.

Last May, I reviewed Di Gregorio’s The Salt of Life. That film was the second in this series of films. This film, Mid-August Lunch, is the first. In Salt of Life, Gianni played a man, about 60, who discovers because the marital passion has dimmed considerably, that in pursuit of a bella ragazza (beautiful girl), most of the ones that he finds breathtaking, don’t even notice him. In his mind, he’s become invisible to women.

In Mid-August Lunch, Gianni is a bit younger, there’s no mention of any wife, and there’s plenty of women. The only problem is that each of them has long since passed the expiration date of being called a bella ragazza. Gianni is ensconced in his mother’s condo in Trastavere. He has no job, and he spends his days cooking, cleaning, and shopping. Money seems a bit low so he’s taken to running tabs at the all the local alimentaria (shops).


“Bottoglia di acqua tonic per Mamma, and two bottle of Chablis for me….and kindly add it to my bill. Grazie.”

He’s also not paid the utility bill in 5 months, nor the condo association fees in 3 months.

The condo manager comes by one day, but Gianni’s Mamma doesn’t open the door. Poor Gianni runs in to the condo guy on the steps. A deal is worked out. In exchange for making the late condo fees disappear, Gianni will put up the condo manager’s mother for the weekend, as he must go out-of-town, and he doesn’t want her to be left alone.

With cash being short – Gianni accepts.

Later that same day, Gianni, feels some stress, so he consults with the family doctor Marcello, Gianni is still cash-less, and wouldn’t you know it – this guy is also in dire straits. He too needs to stash his Mother for the weekend. A second and similar deal is struck.

So there’s your set up – Gianni will have to watch over, cook for, provide for, and entertain two elderly women guests and his own Mamma for the long and hot mid August weekend.

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 The story of Talaash begins with an auto crashing into the sea on a lonely stretch of Seaface Road. It had the appearance of an accident, but Mumbai Police Inspector Shekhawat (played by Aamir Khan) has some questions. First of all, the deceased was a young and popular movie star, Armaan Kapoor, who had no reason to be on this road at four in the morning.

We learn early on that the star gave his driver and his spotboy the rest of the night off after finishing his work on a movie at 2:20 AM.

Not too far from the scene of the accident was a red-light district with the standard assortment of lowlife criminals, drug peddlers, prostitutes, and thugs, or goons that keep things ‘orderly’. This red-light district, and Seaface Road were not in the direction Kapoor would have to take to get to his home.

When the car was winched out of the sea, the victim was still in the driver’s seat behind the wheel and wearing his seat belt.

Using that as a starting point, along with the reports from some homeless people in the area that said ‘That was the only car on the road. There was absolutely nothing on the road’. Shekhawat’s first question was – why was Kapoor in this area?

So the search for answers begins. In fact, ‘search’ or ‘quest’ is the meaning of the Hindi word ‘talaash‘.

Talaash has been called a psychological-suspense thriller, and it has been described as a neo-noir film. A noir film is most commonly called a film with dark interpretations of reality. Usually the setting is the criminal underworld, the characters are cynical, and the time frame is usually set in the 1940’s or early 1950’s. The whole point of a noir, is that it won’t be a pleasant walk in the park. A neo noir would be a film with the same characteristics but set in the contemporary era.

Bollywood A-Lister Aamir Khan as Inspector Shekhawat

Bollywood A-Lister Aamir Khan as Inspector Shekhawat

Khan’s Shekhawat is a troubled man. He and his wife Roshni, played by Rani Mukerji, are both having quite a difficult time coming to terms with the death of their son, an 8 year old boy. Shekhawat has become a workaholic. He cannot sleep, and he blames himself for the boy’s death. He says, It was not an accident, but rather it was negligence – on my part.

The boy’s death has not only put a strain on the marriage, but also the health of both husband and wife.

Director Reema Kagti, along with her screenwriter Zoya Akhtar have put together an intriguing film. The story proceeds slowly and we meet other characters like Shashi, a pimp, Tehmur who works as his go-for, and Rosie, a party-girl/prostitute played marvelously by Kareena Kapoor.

The review I did prior to this one, A Simple Life was a film directed by a woman.This film from India was not only directed by a woman but was also written by a woman. Okay, I’m not going to be ladling on heaps of praise for the film simply because women were at the helm, but I do find it interesting that Aamir Khan, known in Bollywood film circles as a perfectionist, not only starred in the film, but he also produced it. Meaning he had a strong say in the hiring of Reema Kagti, and just as likely, Khan bought Akhtar’s script.

Rani Mukerji as Roshni

Rani Mukerji as Roshni

However the film was far from perfect. Many of the characters are too one dimensional including the star himself. Khan’s role as Inspector Shekhawat called for him to be a tough cop, and a husband and parent who is still grieving over the loss of his son. But Shekhawat’s sole expression was to scowl and look intense. On very few occasions does he allow a smile to cross his face. And that’s all compounded by the size and darkness of his moustache which dominated his face.

Another problem I had was that while the mystery of the film is indeed a puzzle, the fates of some of the characters were so very predictable.

Finally, the film has too many coincidences. You won’t notice them at first, but then you do.

Kagti and Akhtar will toss some surprises at you, and while the puzzle and mystery of the accident is eventually resolved, you won’t be expecting how Shekhawat got his answers. The film’s tagline is The Answer Lies Within which has a good deal to do with everything we see and experience in life, as well as this film.

Kareena Kapoor as Rosie

Kareena Kapoor as Rosie

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A Simple Life

Directed by Ann Hui and written by Susan Chan and Yan-lam Lee, who also produced the film, this film was Hong Kong’s official entry for the 2012 Oscars. The title in English is A Simple Life.

The story is similarly quite basic – Deannie Yip , a fine veteran Hong Kong actress, plays Ah Tao, who has been in the service of one family for about sixty years (and four generations) as a nanny/maid/cook/housekeeper. While most of the family has emigrated to the West, the oldest son Roger, played by Andy Lau, has remained in HK. Roger is a very successful film producer. He’s always on the run scouting out locations in China, or taking meetings with directors and actors, he is away from home about as often as he’s in town.

Ah Tao handles the laundry, keeps the apartment clean, cooks, and shops for Roger. She’s well-known in the neighborhood, and the merchants play tricks on her but with affection. We understand that she cares for Roger’s well-being when she chastises him for eating ox-tongue:

You want more angioplasty? Forget about it.

But Ah Tao maintains her place. She wouldn’t think of sitting at the dining table with Roger, or eating with him in the living room while he’s watching tv. She will eat standing up in the kitchen instead. They work well together – when she hears Roger getting ready to leave for a trip, she makes her inquiry simply.

Ah Tao: How long this time?
Roger: Just two days

Roger in his way appreciates all Ah Tao does for him. But Ah Tao suffers a stroke. She becomes impaired, and in the aftermath walks with a quad-cane. But her mind is sharp. She tells Roger that she doesn’t want to be a burden for him. She will live in a nursing home in the area. And pay for it herself.

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Smash: Sn02 Ep05 – The Read Through – Let’s Crunch Some Numbers


Do the numbers tell the story for Smash Episode 5 – The Read Through? And no, I’m not talking about the ratings. Let me count the ways.

We have two read-throughs. One for Hit List, which will have a two-week run at the Fringe Festival, and one for Bombshell. Liaisons doesn’t have a read through; instead they have a walk through. In fact, the walk through had two separate segments.


We have two producers for Bombshell. And we have two scripts.The de facto and legal producer is Jerry. Only he doesn’t want to produce Julia’s latest script. He wants to produce the old Bombshell script. Siding with Jerry is Tom. In favor of the new script are Derek and Julia. Derek liked it so much that he was struck silent. When he was asked, he replied – It was that good! So that makes the vote two and two. They agree to let Eileen, who is the shadow producer, break the tie. And just as Eileen is supposed to cast the deciding vote, the episode ends.

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Nashville: Sn 01 – Ep 14 – Dear Brother

nashvilleABC’s Nashville, Episode 14, called Dear Brother, aired a couple of nights ago. With this one, we’ve had 14 episodes aired – so the next episode will be the Season One finale. Personally, I’m glad the series is approaching a conclusion, but I wonder what your feelings are.

I’ve been dutifully recapping Nashville, and I mean fully recapping. There are no short cuts, scenes skipped, or stuff that is simply mentioned – but I’m tired of it. It is a lot of work, and quite likely boring to read. Only a die-hard Nashville fan would want to re-live the episodes by reading. I think that seeing how easy it is to watch the episodes again and again, as well as whenever you want, that the full recaps aren’t necessary.

So it is See-ya to the full recaps. We are heading toward something different. So where do we go from here? How about more opinions, more guess-work and speculation, and to season the stew, how about some criticisms when warranted? Let’s not forget analysis, and, in that way, maybe we can head toward something of a digest aka light recaps. The possibilities are myriad.

I think a better title for this Episode than Dear Brother might have been Dark Clouds Gather.

Keep Peggy away from the girls

Keep Peggy away from the girls

The news of Rayna and Teddy washing ashore in Splitsville seemed to hit the tabloids rather quickly didn’t they? Teddy filed in Sumner County, a neighboring county to Nashville. Was it an enterprising county clerk who called the tabloids, or did they call Lamar?

Juliette decides to throw a birthday bash for Deacon. All and sundry know that Deacon detests parties, and especially surprise parties for HIS birthday. But never mind. It seemed a good way to attract some well-known country music artists to the show, and to give said artists a bit of exposure between sets, in the broadest of terms.

At Chez Scarlett, the hidden handgun had to come to light. Once we saw it we knew it was a dark cloud looming. But before we saw it, we had to endure the brothers, Gunnar and Jason,  sing us through the We Pack Your Sack Doo-Wah ditty. Yeah, we know, as brothers – once upon a time, they were thisclose. 

We meet a new character, Jolene’s addiction counselor, Dante. I haven’t figured out if his purpose is to serve as a listener so Juliette can discuss her problematic childhood, or if there’s something else afoot. As for actually counseling between he and Jolene – we’ve seen nada.

By now, the tabloids are on the shelves at the supermarket. Rayna’s daughters see it, as do the finger-pointing, tongue-wagging, talk-behind-your-hand shoppers. Rayna is about to become tabloid front page fodder for the short-term (she hopes) as well as a downstream target, rich in photo opportunities, for the paparazzi.

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Smash: Sn 2 Ep 4 – The Song – Recap

Sometimes things do change.

Jimmy Collins goes from being a heel, and someone we have detested through the first three episodes to some one about to commence a hot romance with Karen Cartwright. And, his song will become the highlight of Veronica Moore’s concert.

Which is why we have Episode 4 of Smash entitled The Song.

Derek Wills caves. His tactics in dealing with Veronica Moore in rehearsals, were heavy-handed and brutal. He’s challenged by Cynthia Moore (Sheryl Lee Ralph) Veronica’s mother. He’ll later say that he didn’t cave, rather he came around.

Julia goes from hurling verbal brickbats at Peter Gilman, while totally deriding his opinions, to collaborating with him on a rewrite of the Bombshell book. She’s also about to go away with him to his home in the Berkshires for a ‘working’ weekend.

Eileen Rand gets Bombshell out of the investigative financial purgatory and back on Broadway. The cost? She is no longer at the helm as producer. I can hear you asking ‘Who is going to produce the show?’  The answer is her ex-husband Jerry.

The above may be considered the highlights – so let’s take a closer look.

At the jump, Veronica Moore is singing I Got Love as we watch in montage style as Karen, Derek, Tom, Julia, and Eileen make their way to the theater. BTW, they’ll repeat this later on in the show – the musical vice overage montage with a Billy Joel song. But coming back to business, this is Moore’s One Woman One Night Only show in rehearsals. Derek is not all that impressed. He says, How many loves was that?

“You can never have enough love. You of all people ought to know that.” That was Cynthia Moore, Veronica’s mother. Linda, the stage manager will say in an aside to Tom Leavitt, Isn’t she [Veronica] a little old to have a ‘Momager’. Whatever – but we know instantly that she will be problematic for Derek.

Derek makes a bit more noise – a dancer hasn’t shown up, he’s unhappy with Tom, who is the musical director of the show, because Tom hasn’t provided the one song, that special raw and adult song, that Derek is looking for that will change Ronny’s image.

Julia calls Tom to announce that she is at NYU. She says, that Peter has invited her to talk to his acting class today.

Jimmy and Kyle are still trying to find a gig and still coming up short. Jimmy’s downbeat because Derek’s ‘help’ was more of encouragement and advice rather than something that would bring them money right then and there. Kyle is much more forward-looking and he tries to convey that Derek has really helped them by providing advice and encouragement. Just then Karen calls and says, How fast can you get into Manhattan?

At Eileen’s office, Jerry arrives. Jerry’s there to tell Eileen that to get the show out from under, she has to play the victim. Jerry suggests that she say that ‘She was vulnerable, and fell under the influence of Nick, and that she had no idea as to Nick’s criminal ties and no idea where that money came from.‘ In short, to throw Nick under the bus. Jerry suggests that if she wants Bombshell back in business – this is the only way. Eileen says, I’ll let you know how it goes.

At NYU, Julia arrives for Peter Gilman’s class. She gets the bad news. She’s not been invited there to give a lecture, or share experiences, or impart wisdom to the students.

Peter: I’m sorry, I think there’s been a misunderstanding. You’re not here to speak. You’re here to watch.
Julia: Watch what?
Peter: Your play –

Julia turns and sees a group of college students with scripts

Julia: You kidding?
Peter: It’s important that you hear it out loud.
Julia: You are not going to humiliate me in front of a bunch of 12 year olds!

But Peter makes the point that the script has been altered for this exercise. That Julia will not be known as the writer, and that the students won’t know it is a play about Marilyn Monroe. Peter reminds Julia that the script rewrites have to be turned in to Eileen in 10 days.

Peter: Do you want to go in blind, or do you want to find what works and what doesn’t?

Julia has no choice. Peter signals and the reading of the script commences.

At the Veronica Moore show rehearsal, Derek is putting the dancers and Veronica through the paces of a particular dance sequence. Ivy arrives. She’s going to fill in for the one dancer that was a no-show. Naturally, Veronica and Ivy are old buddies, and this also provides a method for Veronica to talk about how she feels to some one we know (Ivy) rather than someone we don’t know – like her Mom. Not a bad idea technically.

Jimmy and Kyle show up after racing in following Karen’s call. Tom wonders why they are there. We heard you needed a song. Just then, Cynthia Moore arrives with the news. Bravo TV has (after some contract wrangling) agreed to film then broadcast the concert.

Tom says he approves the music, and Derek tells Jimmy and Kyle that they have six hours to come up with a song. The upshot is that instead of a thousand or so people attending the concert at the live concert, it will be seen by millions on TV. Now that gets everyone’s attention, especially Jimmy’s.

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