(a version was first was published in WESTVIEW News 1/01/15)
As I write this column I am still reeling from the saturation of quality films that opened and closed in the last 90 days in NYC and LA in order to qualify in Oscar Season. Some will be back in the next couple of months for all of you to see. We can thank my neighbor Harvey Weinstein for creating this frenzy template of release pattern. Missing was his much anticipated Grace of Monaco,(Nicole Kidman), It had a bumpy debut at Cannes and disappeared almost overnight, Hmmm! I am getting ready to go to Park City Utah for Sundance my favorite Film Festival in the world. And I encourage any of you who are planning a ski vacation in January and love movies to join me in Park City.
LETS GO TO THE MOVIES!
AMERICAN SNIPER vs FURY vs UNBROKEN I paid to see American Sniper No matter who I queried I was not invited to any press screening of American Sniper. Clint Eastwood like his films or not is a master of craft I felt I should see it. MISTAKE! The press people must have know I would hate it. I did.The kind of mixture of blind patriotism and hyper-masculinity is the breeding ground of bullies, tea party politics and the mentality that creates the police code of honor that makes some cops them think they are above the law. Based on a true story, I do not mean to say the "hero" played quite remarkably by a bulked up (30 lbs) Bradley Cooper, was not a good intentioned man. But war destroyed
that part of him that had survived his father's bully training after his 4 tours of Iraq. Again we see Clint 's idea of a women. Despite his casting Sienna Miller, another strong actress, we have a female character that as written and directed is so one dimensional and pregnant.
American Snipper Trailer
It was disturbing to see how Eastwood has dehumanized the Iraq people. 20 minutes into the film and 8 minutes after his after arrival in Iraq, Cooper's character has "taken out " his first two sniper killings: a woman and a boy. And than there is the cinematic tension between the Iraq sniper who has very very long eyelashes and is the enemy and Cooper the hero doing the same kind of killing. Clint sets the tone. How we bring up boys concerns me. I believe boys and girls are different ..their bodies both externally and most importantly internally are different as are their nervous systems and and their hormonal and genetic make up. I am not talking about gender expression.To me Chelsea/Bradley Manning demonstrates a very brave and strong courage I expect in a peacekeeper. I endured the 2 hour + film and was angry when I left the theater.
Ithink FURY is far superior to American Sniper in exploring soldiers and their relationships to each other and their commander who above all else wants to keep his soldiers alive. Values that are not specifically gendered but certainly are the a prime turf of what I call masculine in theJungian definition which can be either male or female expressed. . Neither FURY or American Sniper asked what to me is a very essential question: Why we fight. We know why soldiers went to fight but how has their intention been affected after learning the American public were lied to by its own government coupled with the almost universal rejection of their presence by non-enemy combats in both Iraq and Afghanistan? .
Angeline Jolie's UNBROKEN also based on a real life story is set in the so called “good war” WWII. While it is a little over two hours it seemed to me like six. She has not mastered the art of direction and p particularly the edit perhaps Jolie should sit at the knee of Eastwood before she directs again.
The story is a a quite moving one of an Italian immigrant family with a teenage son on the path to becoming a petty punk when discovers he can run faster than anyone else on his high school track team. This talent saves his life and takes him all the way to Olympic gold along along side Jesse Owen in the infamous Nazi Olympics. His discipline as an athlete prepared him well for a leadership role in the military. We meet him grown up as a Seal bomber flying over Southeast Asia. His plane is downed, He is one of the three survivors adrift on a raft until the Japanese pick them up and take them to a POW camp just out side of Tokyo run by an english speaking sadist. It is not exactly clear why he is singled out for violent abuse but he and we are treated to repeated beatings by the camp leader. UNBROKEN is the feel good, heroic myth as seen through Jolie's female gaze. It drags on and on as if she has the b been infected by the Dennis Hoppers virus.." I can't cut a scene because it ...... " Her director of photography Roger Deakins saves the film in more ways than one with eye popping ariel sequences that sometimes look as if lite by Turner UNBROKEN is sentimental and makes, like Eastwood does, the enemy brutes who get pleasure in hurting.(I call this the Chaney fix) .
FURY is the best of the 3 because if concentrates on the relationship of the soldiers to each other. UNBROKEN is a feel good movie that asks no tough questions about war or why the US participated in the Nazi Olympics or the difference between what war means in different cultures
SELMA director Ava DuVeray
MUST SEE When a black female director, Ava DuVernay teams with a black female Producer, Oprah Winfrey to tell the story of Martin Luther King at a historical moment at Selma, the story telling is very difference. After 50 years of a male centric version of the Civil Rights movement in the US, women are finally upfront and seen as partners and participants in changing history. Yes Diane Nash is present (ever since Stanley Nelson's excellent doc Freedom Riders I have been trying to learn more about the woman who was the first person to climb back on the bus after the attack and ambush in Birmingham and
role modeled.a respectful no to all the mail civil rights movement leaders who were telling the riders get off the bus and go back home and stop the Freedom Ride). SELMA in no way diminishes the role of black men. But the women's presence acts to humanize what could have been one more mythic iconic moments of history. Martin Luther King was a young adult and that is how he is presented in his interaction both with his wife and with President Lyndon Johnson. Johnson despite his initial reluctance finally gets the deserved credit for being able to move the passage of the Civil Rights Bill despite his attempts to slow down the Freedom Rides and the civil rights actions in the South. The ensemble cast work together to make real for today history in the making. Tom Wilkinson as Lyndon B. Johnson and Tim Roth as George Wallace shine are but the actors who keep this film rooted in a dramatic personal, understandable life are David Oyelowo as Martin and Carmen Ejogo as Coretta. A remarkable script credited to Paul Webb (but it is well know that DuVeray was also hands on ) that moves back and forth and includes all the players all in the context of a human drama that keeps our feet on the ground. The Kings are humanized and this is very important for young people today to see. SELMA is a movie for all of us.
It's appearing at this particular moment is so important for people to understand YES WE CAN
RED ARMY director Gabe Polsky .
A hit at this year's New York Film festival, RED ARMY exposes just what has happened to competitive sports in the US and how the transformation of playing has moved from seamanship to the production of sports superstars. Red Army is about the legendary Russian hockey team of that dominated both Olympic and international hockey.for 30 years in the last half of the 20th century. Since Polsky played center on Yale's hockey team for 3 years, he has an insider understanding of the difference between collectivist and US team playing with its current e emphasis on creating superstars and paying them lavish amounts of money . Set in a time of political change in Russia, we see the game and how collectivity under Communism was crucial to their prowess on ice. A Russian Hockey hero Viacheslav Alexandrovich who made the same amount of money as his fellow team mates while being a member of the unbeatable Russian team worldwide. After Perestroika the Soviet government allowed players to join
US hockey team and many were recruit by US professional hockey scouts. Many were and some soon did and Alexandovich was one . But he quickly grew weary as to how team members were treated differently as opposed the Soviet and he took his family and returned to Russia as did a number of the other star players. He has been a government figure promoting policy and education of athletes since his return. As someone who does not spend a lot of time watching professional sports, I found this a fascinating documentary and it got me thinking about just what is wrong with how all the professional teams are constructed today.It seems that sports agents and their representation of athletes has almost destroyed the communal competitive ethos of athletic competition.
STILL ALICE (Richard Glazer, Wash Westmoreland):
A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT Director Ana Lily Amirpour
This is the the film that caught fire at Sundance 2014 and has justifiably not stopped blazing critically since . Ostensibly a vampire film, it in fact is a subversive punk feminist gaze at misogynists culture that makes women vulnerable when alone to men's machinations, manipulations and assault and role models in mythic recall how to fight back. . None of this is on the surface because while Amirpour lives in Brooklyn, she is of Iranian descent and appears to have studied well the Iranian film masters like Abbas Kiarostami who, like other Iranian film makers, has had because of political and cultural censorship has had to make films where the visual language communicate stronger than the actual spoken word script. It is beautiful in its black and white vampire tone and landscape. It subversive humor threads the film like a silent underground spring.
INHERENT VICE director Paul Thomas Anderson
Anderson has successfully figured out how to take the complex , multi-layered story telling of Thomas Pynchon and make it cinematic... no small task.. And in the process carve out a coherent script that makes real the co-optation of hippie values by the entrepreneurial seduction of “free market” capitalism. You almost have to keep notes to remember who is each character is until, as I did, realized it does not matter. They all have the same attitude of surf bleached,bronzed, stoned California golden children and the criminal elements they play with in commerce. Most memorable is Joaquin Phoenix who seen incapable of not being completely authentic in every frame of every film he appears in. Inherent Vice is a pot smoker's dream flick. Anderson remains in the top tier of American film directors. I found the post screening discussion with my friends as engaging as my actual viewing. As fascinating as Inherent Vice itself is, it is the after affect ...like a good high ...that is seeded ...sort of like how a novel affects people as it lingers in the imagination.
(cc) jim fouratt 12/27/14 firstname.lastname@example.org, jimforuattsreeldeal.blogspot.com