Red-125

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Great Performances: Dido & Aeneas
(1995)
Episode 4, Season 25

Hampton Court as Carthage
Purcell's opera Dido & Aeneas (1995) was directed by Peter Maniura. It stars Maria Ewing as Dido, and Karl Daymond as Aeneas. Both singers are excellent, and both of them can act.

Purcell's 17th Century style is very different from Donizetti, Verdi, or Puccini. It's wonderful in its own way, but you have to adjust your thinking about how an opera should sound. (Worth the effort--it's great.)

The opera is staged in and around Hampton Court Palace, and there's no end of torches and hunting dogs. Some directors want a stage; director Maniura wanted a castle. Fair enough--Dido was a queen and she would have lived in a castle.

This film is under and hour long, but full of color and excitement. It has a modest IMDb rating of 7.2. I thought that it was better than that, and rated it 9.

Julius Caesar
(1984)

Dame Janet Baker is wonderful
Julius Caesar (1984 TV Movie) was directed by John Michael Phillips. The opera was composed by George Frideric Handel.

The extraordinary Dame Janet Baker portrays Julius Caesar. It's worth watching the opera to see her act and hear her sing. Valerie Masterson's beautiful soprano is perfect for the role of Cleopatra.

The English National Opera orchestra and chorus do an admirable job. This is an opera that's worth seeking out if you enjoy Handel's work. It has a strong IMDb rating of 7.6. I thought it was better than that, and rated it 9.

Note that thelittlesongbird is the only other reviewer for this opera. She knows more about opera than I do. If you want more musical information check out her review. She also gave the film an IMDb rating of 9.

La donna del lago
(1992)

June Anderson is wonderful!
La donna del lago (1992 TV Movie) was directed by Ilio Catani in a live performance at La Scala. The opera is based on Sire Walter Scott's "The Lady of the Lake."

June Anderson is an incomparable soprano, and it's a pleasure to watch her act and hear her sing in the leading role of Elena.

Martine Dupuy, mezzo-soprano, portrays Elena's lover, Malcolm Groeme.

Dupuy is a fine singer, but, together, she and June Anderson don't make a great pairing.

Anderson is tall and she looks strong. Dupuy isn't tall, and she doesn't look strong. (Director Catani can put a thick leather sword belt around her slender waist, and she still doesn't look strong.) Also, she has a costume of a bearskin, with little ears pointing out of it. Very strange.

I enjoyed the film, and I recommend it, despite these reservations. Littlesongbird is a reviewer who I've always admired. She obviously knows more about opera than I do. After you read my review, I suggest you read her review.

La donna del lago has a pretty good 7.3 IMDb rating. I thought it was better than that, and rated it 9.

Walk the Line
(2005)

Don't miss this movie!
Walk the Line (2005) was co-written and directed by James Mangold. The movie is a narrative biography of Johnny Cash. Country singer Johnny Cash lived a life that could have been a successful fictional movie script.

That life--with its many bad turns--is presented vividly in the film. Cash's life was tumultuous, and the movie doesn't gloss over the rough parts. The fact that the depiction is accurate adds to the film's excellence.

However, what really makes the film great is the amazing acting by Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash and Reese Witherspoon as June Carter.

Witherspoon won an Oscar for her performance, and Phoenix was nominated for one. The amazing fact is that both Witherspoon and Phoenix actually sang the songs we heard in the film. I would never have guessed that--it's made clear in the credits.

Walk the line has a very high IMDb rating of 7.8. I thought it was even better than that, and rated it 9.

The Ballad of Shirley Collins
(2017)

Botched documentary about a great folk singer
The Ballad of Shirley Collins (2017) was directed by Rob Curry and Tim Plester. It is a very strange documentary.

Shirley Collins--in her prime--was probably the greatest English folk singer of the 20th century. Between 1969 and 1979 she made album after album of folk music. Some of it was traditional, some of it pushed folk music in new directions. All of the albums were great, and I own several of them.

As another reviewer pointed out, we don't get any sense of that extraordinary period. Instead, the movie keeps circling back to her time (in 1959) when she traveled to the U. S. South with American folklorist Alan Lomax. She and Lomax made field recordings of traditional singers. We hear some of the recordings, and they are great. We also see "16 mm" images of that time. (In the credits we learn that these are re-enactments.)

Shirley Collins "lost her voice" in 1979, due to emotional stress. She dropped out of folk music circles and took low-level jobs until she could retire.

We witness her, as an older woman, again using her voice to make a folk music recording, and that's interesting. However, we never get the chance (in the entire film) to hear her sing one song from beginning to end.

In addition, the directors appear to have thrown stock footage against a wall, and used whatever stuck. Just as one example, Shirley is telling us that she and Lomax once drove 800 miles in a day. We would expect stock footage of a U. S. highway from the late 50's. Instead we get a colorful highway where people are driving on the left.

This could have been a superb documentary about a superb musician. Instead it's a hard-to-follow set of disparate scenes, without much music.

We saw the movie on the small screen, where it worked well enough. The film has a solid IMDb rating of 7.5. I didn't think it was that good, and rated it 7. (I would have rated it lower, but I didn't because of my respect for Shirley Collins as a folk icon.)

Bride & Prejudice
(2004)

Not exactly Austen; Not exactly Bollywood.
Bride & Prejudice (2004) is an Indian film that was co-written and directed by Gurinder Chadha. Aishwarya Rai stars in the role of Lalita Bakshi (Elizabeth Bennet).

Although the movie is full of singing and dancing, Bollywood experts tell us that it's not really Bollywood. For example, Aishwarya Ray is very beautiful, but in a European/US way, rather than an Indian subcontinent way. Another reviewer called the movie "an interesting hybrid"

Gurinder Chadha is very skilled, but she's of Indian descent, not really from India.

It's also a hybrid in the sense that, obviously, although the key plot points are from Austen, all the subtlety of Austen's novel doesn't make it onto the screen.

So, don't see the movie if you want to learn more about Jane Austen or--for that matter--if you want a real Bollywood film. See it to enjoy the singing, dancing, color, and excitement that will captivate you.

This movie would be better on the large screen, but we saw it on the small screen, where it worked well enough. The movie has a terrible IMDb rating of 6.2. I thought it was much better than that, and rated it 8.

Chavez: Inside the Coup
(2003)

You had to be there
Chavez: Inside the Coup (2003) was directed by Kim Bartley and Donnacha O'Briain.

This Irish film team happened to be in Venezuela in 2002 during a coup attempt against President Hugo Chávez. What follows is an hour-to-hour (actually minute-to-minute) slice of history. No one knew what the outcome would be. Eventually, the coup failed.

As you would assume, the U. S. was one of the coup sponsors. We still consider Latin America as our back yard, and we want sovereign nations to yield to our demands. Sometimes the U. S. gets its way. Not this time.

Being the Ricardos
(2021)

This could have been a great movie, but it wasn't
Being the Ricardos (2021) was written and directed by Aaron Sorkin.

It stars Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball, and Javier Bardem as Desi Arnaz. J. K. Simmons co-stars as William Frawley with Nina Arianda as Vivian Vance.

This would have been a difficult movie to make in any case. If a director wants to make a movie about Marie Curie or George Patton, any actor who looks more or less like that person will do. However, Lucy, Desi, Fred, and Ethel are iconic figures even today. None of the actors look much like the persons they are portraying.

Remember, Nicole Kidman is Australian. As an Oscar-winning actor, she can sound like an American. However, she sounds like an American from Brooklyn or the Bronx. Lucille Ball was born in Jamestown, NY, which is Upstate. The accent is totally different.

Much has been made of the many "goofs" in the movie. Do I really care if a poster on the wall shows a movie that was made after that year? No, I don't, although if there's fact-checker malpractice, the fact checker should be sued.

However, moving the episodes around to increase the dramatic interest of the film isn't a problem for me. It's not a goof, it's a director's decision. The concept of everything happening in one week's filming of the I Love Lucy show is creative.

This could have been a great movie, but it just didn't work for me. It never came together. I never believed in the dialogue, some of which was repetitive. The subplot of arguing among the writers got tedious.

Many other reviewers agreed with me. The movie received a dismal 6.6 IMDb rating. I thought it was slightly better than that, and rated it 7.

Lucy and Desi: A Home Movie
(1993)

More about Lucie than about Lucy
Lucy and Desi: A Home Movie (1993 TV Movie) starred Lucie Arnaz as "host." From context, Lucie had come across home movies of her mother and father, which gave her the foundation on which to produce this movie. Actually, the home movies aren't that fascinating, but some of the recollections about Lucy and Desi are interesting if you're a Lucy fan.

The film contains interviews with people like Desi Arnaz Jr, Jackie Cooper, Gale Gordon, Bob Hope, Van Johnson and Ann Miller.

Producer Arnaz rounds out the movie with clips from the many talk shows on which Lucy and Desi appeared. (Not together, but separately.)

If you are a true Lucille Ball fan, you should see this movie. If not a true fan, I would pass it up. I'm in the minority about the film, because it has an extremely high 8.4 IMDb rating. I thought it was just OK, and rated it 7.

O slavnosti a hostech
(1966)

A surreal and sobering story
The Czech film O slavnosti a hostech (1966) was shown in the U. S. with the translated title A Report on the Party and the Guests. It was co-written and directed by Jan Nemec.

This movie starts off innocently enough. Several friends are enjoying a picnic in the woods. Suddenly, about a dozen men interrupt the picnic, and, politely, but firmly, escort the group to a new location. One of the picnickers is roughed up, but no one is badly hurt.

Then, another man, who is in charge, invites the picnickers to an outdoor wedding party. The whole situation is threatening, but not terrible. Much is made of one of the picnickers who decides to leave, but the other picnickers decide to stay to enjoy the party.

This film was immediately banned when it was completed. The government knew that it was an implied attack on the authorities who ruled Czechoslovakia with an iron fist. It was released during the Czech Spring period, but then banned again after the Russian tanks rolled into Prague. It wasn't released until Soviet rule ended.

This was a difficult movie to enjoy. After the first few minutes, the plot was very tense. On a more basic level, we saw the film on an old VHS cassette, which was in bad condition, and may have been a duplicate. The subtitles were often white on white, so we missed some of the dialog.

The film has an IMDb rating of 7.1, which is pretty good, all things considered. I rated it 8 for the movie I would have seen if I'd watched it on DVD.

The Bolshoi Ballet: Live From Moscow - La Bayadère
(2014)

Great production of a classic ballet
La Bayadère isn't the one of the better know ballets, but it's definitely worth finding and watching.

It's especially worth finding and watching when danced by the famed Bolshoi Ballet. The cast included prima ballerina Svetlana Zakharova, who is internationally famous. Vladislav Lantratov and Maria Alexandrova are a power couple on and off the stage. All three are superb dancers.

The plot of La Bayadère isn't much, but you don't watch ballet for the plot. The dancing is awesome, and that's what counts. This DVD hasn't been rated yet. I loved the ballet and rated it 9.

Touchez pas au grisbi
(1954)

French directors loved Hollywood gangster films
Touchez pas au grisbi (1954) was co-written and directed by Jacques Becker. (Touchez pas au grisbi was shown in the U. S. as "Honor Among Thieves." The literal translation is gangster slang for don't touch the loot.)

The movie stars Jean Gabin as Max, a successful criminal. He is holding a fortune in gold bars that he stole from Orly Airport. Max is suave and sure of himself. René Dary portrays Riton, Max's longtime friend and partner. He doesn't have Max's abilities, but Max does the work for them both.

Jeanne Moreau , whose career was just beginning, plays Josy, a dancer in a nightclub, and Riton's girl friend. It's really a small role, but a pivotal one.

Becker was highly regarded by the young French critics in the 1950's. They later went on to become the young French New Wave directors, and they freely wrote about their admiration of Becker.

I enjoyed the movie, although it now looks very old-fashioned. My thought is that many movies from the 1950's look old-fashioned. We have to think about what today's movies will look like to viewers in 2091.

Tochez pas au grisbi has a very strong IMDb rating of 7.8. I agreed, and rated it 8.

P. S. If you see the movie on DVD, you'll see an interview with Jacque Becker's son, Jean Becker (himself a movie director). It's worth watching.

Last Chance Harvey
(2008)

Great chemistry between two superb actors
Last Chance Harvey (2008) was written and directed by Joel Hopkins.

It stars Dustin Hoffman as New Yorker Harvey Shine and Emma Thompson as Londoner Kate Walker. Shine is in London to attend his daughter's wedding. He has just lost his job, and he learns that his daughter has bonded to her step father, not to Harvey, her biological father.

Kate has a low-level civil service job, no romantic partners, and a mother who calls her on the cell phone six times a day. (OK--no romantic partners for Dame Emma doesn't make much sense, but how can you have a romantic comedy if one member of the couple is blissfully out of reach?)

As another reviewer wrote, you can see what's coming after watching the movie for 20 minutes. That's true, but I didn't find that a serious flaw.

The trick for me isn't what happens, but how it happens, and how well the actors make us believe that it could happen. Hoffman and Thompson are two of the greatest actors of the late 20th Century and into the 21st Century. They have real chemistry together, and that made the movie work for me.

For reasons I can't understand, this film has a low IMDb rating of 6.6. (When Harry Met Sally has a 7.6.) I enjoyed Last Chance Harvey and I recommend it. I rated it 9.

P. S. Stay for the credits. A sub-plot plays out alongside the names. .

The Song of Lunch
(2010)

A lunch date gone wrong
The Song of Lunch (2010 TV Movie) was written and directed by Niall MacCormick. It's a short film (adapted from a poem) about two former lovers who meet for lunch in London after 15 years.

Alan Rickman works in a publishing house and is angry and misanthropic. Emma Thompson now lives in Paris and is married to a highly successful author.

Rickman looks old and acts angry. Thompson looks young and acts happy. One of the reasons Rickman is unhappy is that he realizes what his life with Thompson could have been, but never will be.

It's an unusual movie, and it's wonderful in it's very sad way. Of course, Rickman was very skilled, and Dame Emma is a so talented that her ability defies description.

It's no surprise that this movie has a strong IMDb rating of 7.5. I thought that it was even better than that, and rated it 9.

Zakazane piosenki
(1947)

Unusual movie about Polish citizen resistance
The Polish movie Zakazane piosenki (1947) was shown in the U. S. with the translated title Forbidden Songs. The film was directed by Leonard Buczkowski.

Remember that the movie was made just two years after WW II ended. Warsaw was still in ruins, and Poland was under Soviet control. The fact that the film was made at all is amazing.

Empires have tried to eliminate Poland as a nation for centuries. The Poles have continued to be a nation through bravery, art, music, and language.

The movie points out that the Polish people resisted the German occupation by singing songs making fun of the German occupiers, and by playing forbidden music. For example, Chopin's music was outlawed by the Germans. However, Poles would gather at "Chopin evenings," which was dangerous.

Because the movie is so old, and the equipment used was so basic, the print we watch is noisy and rough. If you're looking for a crisp, polished film, this isn't it. What you get in this film is a unique view into Polish history by people who had lived through it just a few years earlier.

We saw this movie in Rochester's wonderful Dryden Theatre at The George Eastman Museum. It was presented as part of the Polish Film Festival sponsored by the Skalny Center of the University of Rochester.

Forbidden Songs has a a fairly low IMDb rating of 7.1. I thought that it was better than that, and rated it 8.

P. S. What you can't see in the movie is the fact that Russia had invaded Poland from the east when Germany invaded it from the west. The reason there were Germans occupying Warsaw was because the Germans pushed the Russians out. It's true that at the end of the war the Russians pushed out the Germans, but they themselves were brutal occupiers. Poland has a very long and unhappy history, but it has managed to survive.

Lovely & Amazing
(2001)

Lots of vignettes, but not much development
Lovely & Amazing (2001) was written and directed by Nicole Holofcener.

It stars Emily Mortimer as Elizabeth Marks and Catherine Keener as her sister, Michelle Marks. Brenda Blethyn portrays their mother, Jane Marks. Raven Goodwin plays their stepsister, Annie Marks. (Annie's biological mother was a crack addict, as Annie tells everyone. She was adopted by Jane.)

Both sisters have rotten partners. Annie is overweight. Elizabeth is an actor, but "she's insecure." Michelle is an artist who makes art objects that no one wants. She ends up working in a photo shop, where she gets into a strange involvement. Jane undergoes liposuction and has a crush on her physician.

There's a very unusual post-coital scene where Emily Mortimer undresses fully and asks a successful actor to discuss her body. He's reluctant to do this, but she insists. So we have a long, long scene of Mortimer turning this way and that while he professionally and minutely describes her anatomy. Of course, she's absolutely gorgeous, but by Hollywood standards she's not perfect.

This movie should have and could have been better. All the actors--including Goodwin--are excellent. Each character is quirky and interesting. The problem is that the plot has many interesting scenes, but nothing comes of them.

After all these events occur, no one changes. At the end of the movie they are all right back where they started, except that Jane has lost ten pounds of fat.

Lovely & Amazing has an anemic IMDb rating of 6.8. I agreed, and rated it 7.

The Red Shoes
(1948)

Not an actor who dances, but a dancer who acts
The Red Shoes (1948) was co-written and co-directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. It's based on a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. (I've read the fairy tale, and the plot of the movie does follow it, more or less.)

Anton Walbrook stars as Boris Lermontov, the director of a world-famous dance company. Julian Craster, a young composer, is portrayed by Marius Goring.

Of course, no one remembers these actors. The actor we all remember is Moira Shearer as ballet dancer Victoria Page. Shearer was a ballerina with the Sadler Wells company. She dances superbly, and her dancing is set off by her elegant beauty and her flaming red hair. (Did the producers pick a dancer with red hair to match the red shoes, or was that just a wonderful coincidence?)

This movie is almost 75 years old, and it shows its age. (However, it has been professionally restored.) Still, Shearer dancing in a ballet called The Red Shoes is a cinematic moment you can't forget.

The Red Shoes is a movie that everyone sort of thinks they've seen. However, I hadn't seen it, and now I'm really glad that I did. It has a very strong IMDb rating of 8.1. I thought that it was even better than that, and rated it 9.

Grand Hotel
(1932)

Garbo, Barrymore x2, Crawford!
Grand Hotel (1932) was directed by Edmund Goulding. Question: How can you go wrong with a movie starring Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, and Lionel Barrymore? Answer: You can't!

The entire movie is set within the Grand Hotel, the most luxurious hotel in Berlin. Greta Garbo stars as Grusinskaya, the great ballerina who is fading from view. John Barrymore portrays Baron Felix von Geigern, a true gentleman who needs money very badly. Joan Crawford is Flaemmchen, a stenographer who is reluctantly also an escort. Wallace Beery stars as General Director Preysing, a brutal businessman.

Lionel Barrymore is Otto Kringelein, a poor clerk who works for Preysing, He is spending his savings madly because he is near death.

The plot intertwines the lives of these people, in interesting and surprising ways. Garbo is miscast--at age 27 she is too young to be a fading ballerina. (She wasn't about to let the makeup artists age her artificially.) My favorite was Crawford, as a woman who knows who she is and what she has to do to earn her daily bread.

Of course, the movie is 90 years old, and it looks and feels that old. However, the talent shines through. The plot, although melodramatic, holds your attention.

Like Mata Hari, which I recently reviewed, this is a vintage movie that is worth finding and watching. It has an IMDb rating of 7.4. I thought that it was better than that, and rated it 9.

Greyhound
(2020)

Solid WWII movie
Greyhound (2020) was directed by Aaron Schneider. Tom Hanks wrote the screenplay and starred in the movie.

Tom Hanks is Captain Krause, who commands a destroyer named Greyhound, and is also responsible for three other fighting ships. They are protecting a convoy of merchant ships trying to get across the Atlantic to England.

Apparently you can't have a Hollywood movie without at least one beautiful woman in it. That woman is Elisabeth Shue. She appears as the movie opens, and Hanks thinks of her as the movie progresses.

Rob Morgan portrays Messman Cleveland. Much is made of Hanks' bonding with Morgan. Unfortunately, the movie never makes clear that Black sailors were almost always messmen, cooks, or stewards in the segregated Navy.

The plot contains non-stop action, as a German U-Boat pack attacks the convoy. The movie handled these scenes very well--the bravery, the fear, and the constant anxiety of everyone on the ship are well portrayed.

Two things didn't make sense to me. One--I learned--was pure fiction. That was a German U-Boat commander being able to communicate with the Greyhound's PA system to issue boastful, fear-inducing statements. According to what I read, that just couldn't happen.

Also, would a destroyer on convoy duty stop to have a long, slow funeral service for three dead sailors? That was a powerful scene, but I assume it was pure movie fiction.

Other than those two lapses, I believe the movie was well executed and very compelling. It worked well on the small screen. Greyhound has a relatively low IMDb rating of 7.0. I thought that it was better than that, and rated it 9.

Mata Hari
(1931)

They just don't make them like this anymore
Mata Hari (1931) was directed by George Fitzmaurice. It stars Greta Garbo as Mata Hari and Ramon Novarro as Russian Lt. Alexis Rosanoff.

Lionel Barrymore portrays Russian General Shubin. Lewis Stone is the spymaster Andriani. Stone has an important role. He speaks the unforgettable line, "A spy in love is a tool that has outlived its usefulness."

Greta Garbo was the greatest star in Hollywood in the 1920's and 1930's. Some people now say that she overacted, but a century later, tastes have changed. She was the definitive actress in late silent films, and made a successful transition to talkies. She acted the way actors were supposed to act in her era, and we should judge her by those standards.

The plot is a perfect vehicle for Garbo. She's a spy who meets Ramon Navarro. He's a brave officer who truly loves her. The question is, Does she love him in return?

This movie has an inexplicably--to me--low IMDb rating of 6.6. I loved it, and rated it 10.

P. S. Mata Hari was a real historical figure. She probably was a spy, but not an important source of information for the enemy.

The Sleeping Beauty
(2007)

The definitive Sleeping Beauty
The Sleeping Beauty (2007) was directed by Ross MacGibbon. It's performed by The Royal Ballet at Covent Garden. That tells you that the corps, the orchestra, and the production values will be at the highest level.

All three of the main roles are performed by principal dances of The Royal Ballet. Federico Bonelli is a superb Prince Florimund. The great Romanian ballerina Alina Cojocaru is a wonderful Princess Aurora.

The incomparable Marianela Nuñez portrays the Lilac Fairy, and she represents perfection, as she always does.

If you love ballet, this movie is a must-see. If you don't love ballet, or if you're not certain, this movie will make you a fan. If you hate ballet, then you will hate this movie, because it's the quintessential, definitive ballet.

Sleeping Beauty has a strong IMDb rating of 7.6. I thought it was much better than that, and rated it 10.

Coco
(2017)

Overlong, overrated movie
Coco (2017) was co-written and co-directed by Lee Unkrich. The other co-writer and co-director was Adrian Molina.

This is a Disney Pixar movie that has an extremely high IMDb rating of 8.4. With thousands of rating and reviews, in a way it's foolish of me to cast a dissenting vote, but that's what I'm doing.

The good news is that the animation is excellent, as expected. Also, that it teaches Anglo kids about the Day of the Dead, which is an important holiday in Mexico and for Mexican-Americans.

The bad news is that it's stereotypic, violent, and far too long. (Disney has plenty of money, and owns Pixar, so why not throw in an extra 15 or 20 minutes?)

I think the subject would be frightening to children, and the violence--even animated violence--would also be frightening.

So, at the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, and of receiving many non-useful ratings of my review, I'm going to rate it 7. (I would rate it lower, but it is useful for kids to know about Day of the Dead, even at the risk of learning about it from a bad movie.)

P. S. The theme song, "Remember," doesn't strike me as a winner.

Coco
(2017)

Overlong, overrated movie
Coco (2017) was co-written and co-directed by Lee Unkrich. The other co-writer and co-director was Adrian Molina.

This is a Disney Pixar movie that has an extremely high IMDb rating of 8.4. With thousands of rating and reviews, in a way it's foolish of me to cast a dissenting vote, but that's what I'm doing.

The good news is that the animation is excellent, as expected. Also, that it teaches Anglo kids about the Day of the Dead, which is an important holiday in Mexico and for Mexican-Americans.

The bad news is that it's stereotypic, violent, and far too long. (Disney has plenty of money, and owns Pixar, so why not throw in an extra 15 or 20 minutes?)

I think the subject would be frightening to children, and the violence--even animated violence--would also be frightening.

So, at the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, and of receiving many non-useful ratings of my review, I'm going to rate it 7. (I would rate it lower, but it is useful for kids to know about Day of the Dead, even at the risk of learning about it from a bad movie.)

P. S. The theme song, "Remember," doesn't strike me as a winner.

Las mejores familias
(2020)

A movie with gays but not about gays
The Peruvian film Las mejores familias was shown in the U. S. with the translated title The Best Families (2020). It was written and directed by Javier Fuentes-León.

As the title suggests, the movie is about wealthy families. The two families live on their adjoining large urban estates. They're basically friendly, although, as would be expected, there are some hidden animosities.

This film is--I think--the first movie I've seen where a gay couple is part of the family, but their gayness isn't a key plot element. Another member of the family is a gay man, but he's fallen in love with a woman. The families think that this is unusual but, again, it's accepted.

The main plot elements involve three other characters and the fact that two opposing factions are holding large, angry marches at the same time and in the same place.

We saw this movie virtually from ImageOut, the excellent Rochester LGBT Film Festival. The Best Families has a weak IMDb rating of 6.9. I thought that it was better than that and rated it 8.

Letters from Iwo Jima
(2006)

Powerful drama about war as seen by the Japanese soldiers
Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) was directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Iris Yamashita. From context, two Japanese authors wrote a book about letters found in Iwo Jima years after the battle was over. Their book was turned into a screenplay and then a movie.

The U. S. victory on Iwo Jima was certain from the start. The Marines had naval firepower, air firepower, and an overwhelming number of troops. However, the reason Iwo Jima is so memorable to us, after all this time, is the immense number of dead and wounded sustained by the Marines.

The reason for these heavy losses is that the Japanese soldiers were not permitted to surrender. As shown in the movie--with apparent historical truth--the Japanese soldiers were told that it was their duty to die for the Emperor. The records demonstrate this. The number of Japanese deaths surpassed that of the Marines, but there were very few wounded or captured Japanese. They were ordered to die, and that's what they did.

By focusing on a few characters--from generals to privates--Eastwood shows us the war from each of their viewpoints. None of them wants to die, but even suicide is better than surrendering.

The movie doesn't depict anything noble or honorable about war. Every aspect of it is horrible. Japanese soldiers have been trained to dehumanize the enemy, just as our soldiers were--and are--trained.

The letters home are heartbreaking. I don't know if they were actual letters, or composites, but they are very moving.

Letters from Iwo Jima has a very strong IMDb rating of 7.9. I thought that it was even better than that, and rated it 9.

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