Brief comments on film by Amy.
Some old, some new. Domestic films and foreign too.
Hacksaw Ridge — Jim and I made the unfortunate decision to watch this movie as part of a double date with friends. The company was excellent. The movie powerful. Just not exactly a fun night out on the town given the graphic nature of the violence portrayed. Hacksaw Ridge is the compelling and awe-inspiring story of Private Desmond T. Doss, played convincingly by Andrew Garfield. It’s one of those movies that you immediately start fact checking as soon as you leave the theater. In this case, Doss’ story of courage and commitment to his religious convictions is as impressive if not more so than what is portrayed on screen. The onscreen violence of WWII is extremely graphic, but it serves only to highlight Doss’ bravery and that of the men with whom he served. Vince Vaughn seemed out of place particularly in the battle scenes as Sergeant Howell, but Garfield’s performance was impressive especially as a Brit given that Doss’ was southern. The highlight of the movie for me was the last few minutes which featured the actual men involved. True heroes whose story should inspire us all.
Take Shelter — Watching this film was my attempt to wean myself off binge-watching episodes of House Hunters International and Agatha Christie’s Poirot and get back to more serious films. It was also an opportunity to watch an independent film with the kids and strengthen their critical thinking skills regarding film. Despite Sam and Bailey opting out and Andrew falling asleep halfway through, I think the attempt was fairly successful. Curtis LaForce and his apocalyptic visions of impending doom reminded me just how good non-Hollywood movies can be and had us all, except those of us who were snoring, on the edge of our seat, half-fearing, half-hoping Curtis wasn’t crazy for stocking up on gas masks and canned foods. In a movie full of good performances, my hat goes off especially to Jessica Chastain for participating in a non-blockbuster film which I am sure entailed a significant drop in her usual paycheck. She blended in with the lesser known actors flawlessly and delivered a heartfelt and perfectly under-stated performance.
Split — Anticipation is a funny emotion in that is rather more of fruit salad of emotion than one pure feeling; a not entirely enjoyable combination of excitement and dread, hope and fear, like a pleasant mixture of berries with the occasional piece of mushy cantaloupe mixed in. Ever since the dreadful disappointments of The Happening and The Last Airbender, looking forward to the release of an M. Knight Shyamalan film has filled me with that fruit salad feeling. I don’t want to get too excited for fear of being let down, but I also want to continue to have faith in and support one of my favorite directors. Having enjoyed The Visit, I hoped Split wouldn’t disappoint and it most certainly did not. Terrifying, heart-breaking, and filled with a powerful message about good and evil, Split is Shyamalan all grown up. The film does mark a departure from Shyamalan’s usual Hitchcockian technique of allowing the viewers’ imaginations to fill in the gaps of his restrained depictions of violence and is not for the faint at heart when it comes to very brief, but disturbing nonetheless, moments of horror. James McAvoy was brilliant and if I met him in person I would tell him so…over my shoulder as I ran away in fright. The ending, no spoilers, left me panting for more.
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 — Time for another confession: it only took a preview featuring a talking space raccoon for me to say “no thanks” to Guardians of the Galaxy. So when GG2 came out, I took little notice. But when your 17 year old son asks, begs and pleads to go to see a movie as a family, you’ve got to do it…even if it features a sarcastic, weapon toting trash panda. And in this case, I was rewarded with not only a fun familial night, but also an entertaining flick with a killer soundtrack. In the tradition of Star Wars, GG2 didn’t try to get overly complicated with it’s storyline, focusing more on character development than complex plots and made up scientific jargon. Zoe Saldana is not one of my favorite actresses, but the always charming Chris Pratt more than makes up for her rather stiff and snooty performance. Not a must see, but if you find yourself looking for a good chuckle with the kids this summer, this is a good chuckle inducing flick to choose.
Handmaid’s Tale: At the recommendation of a feminist leaning friend, I read the Margaret Atwood book on which this series is based several years ago. While not in agreement with the author’s perspective, I did find the book to be well-written and thought provoking. Not sure I can say the same for the Hulu produced series. After watching several episodes, I decided that I had seen enough. I admire Elizabeth Moss who plays the main character Offred, a “handmaid” in a country controlled by an elite but barren class who force the few remaining fertile women to bear children for them. The makers of this series clearly have a message to convey regarding our current political and social climate. I found many articles linking the show to protests against attempts to limit access to abortion and even an instance in Texas where women dressed as handmaids in order to protest pro-life legislation. I entirely endorse the message that freedom of speech is essential and that those who seek to control language and impose their narrow beliefs onto others should be thwarted. But tragically, the writers of Handmaid’s Tale and those who identify its totalitarian regime with our present administration seem oblivious to their own intolerance. One article I read claimed that we are living in a pre-Gilead state and I can’t say I disagree though I fear this type of show attempts to silence the opposition rather than promote public discourse.
Anne with an “E”: The best thing I can say about this Netflix produced series is that it inspired me to finally read Anne of Green Gables which I am thoroughly enjoying. I appreciate the attempt to bring a little more reality to the story of orphan Anne Shirley and her adoption by spinster Marilla and her bachelor brother Matthew, but something is lost in the addition of realism. I have struggled to put my finger on exactly what that loss is. Perhaps in making the circumstances more real, the writers have made the characters less so. They feel much more like caricatures than the original production starring Megan Follows and entirely lack the warmth or complexity of the book. In attempting to give context to Anne as an orphan and outsider, Anne with an “E” misplaces much of Anne as a person. Disappointing for sure but not enough so that I didn’t watch the whole series.
Father Brown: Speaking of disappointing series that still had me watching every episode . . . G.K. Chesterton was a genius and one of the most quotable Christian writers of the 20th century. I am pretty sure he is not just spinning but doing cartwheels in his grave at the use of his beloved Father Brown as the mouthpiece of all things politically correct in this apologetic for relativism. Quirky characters and lots of murder plots to unravel can’t make up for the jarring anachronisms as Father Brown, a Catholic priest, repeatedly mistakes complacency for compassion. It should be illegal to appropriate the works of such a devout person of faith like Chesterton and twist their characters for your own devices. Go find your own characters to speak for you and leave those who would surely oppose your viewpoint alone.