kijii

IMDb member since June 2002
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Reviews

Teresa
(1951)

Young man in search of a father figure
This movie launched the feature film debut of four actors that would later go on to reach some success: Pier Angeli, John Ericson, Ralph Meeker, and Rod Steiger. It was also the first of three films for Bill Mauldin, a famous illustrator for "The Stars & Strips" (the military's newspaper during World War II). The only known actors in the movie were Patricia Collinge (The Little Foxes) and Peggy Ann Garner (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn).

The movie begins with Philip Cass (John Ericson) in a session with his VA psychologist, Frank (Rod Steiger), after returning from the war in Italy. He is having trouble fitting in with civilian life.

His story is related to us in flashback— While serving in Italy, Philip is clearly scared and unable to fight the German enemy until Sgt Dobbs (Ralph Meeker) steps in to guide him to fight. During a battle with the Germans, Philip's assignment is to hide in the bushes and let the Germans pass him by and then shoot up a flare for US soldiers to be ready to fight them down steam Unable to do even this, he is sent to a local hospital with battle fatigue. There he learns that Dobbs had been killed in the fight. Filled with guilt and shame, he hides his head in the pillow and cries.

While in Italy, he and a group of US soldiers are assigned to bivouac in an Italian home. There, he meets, dates, and falls in love with a young Italian girl, Teresa (Pier Angeli). They get married and have a honeymoon in Rome. When he ships out for the US, he must leave his war bride behind until she is authorized to join him.

This brings us back to his private battle in the US: He must find a job and make his own home. But, to do this, he must face his possessive mother, Patricia Collinge, and spineless father, Richard Bishop. There are some fine scenes in this movie, especially between, John Ericson and Pier Angeli. However, there is nothing subtle about the story, which "hits us over the head" rather than simply indicating its meaning.

La La Land
(2016)

Basic girl-meets-boy movie with a bittersweet ending
This is up for 14 nominations and is bound to walk away with the lion's share of Oscars. It was a pleasant movie, but did not reach the level of greatness for me that it has for others here. It is a basic girl-meets- boy movie with a bittersweet ending. There is not a song from the movie that I came out humming or singing. If Emma Stone wins for Best Actress in this movie, it would only show me how weak this the category may be this year. (But, I haven't seen Arrival or Elle so I don't know about these movies.)

As I watched this movie, I did think about Les parapluies de Cherbourg (1964), but that movie was a modern opera and La La Land (2016) comes no where near that great Michel Legrand work of yesteryear.

Jackie
(2016)

Jackie striped bare and alone
This movie received 3 Oscar nominations, and I am having a hard time finding another actress who gives us the kind of performance that Natalie Portman does here. I was also very impressed with the movie's score by Mica Levi which really set the grime tone of the story in the movie. What we have here is something that may be unique movie-making. It takes a well-known and well-covered story of the Kennedys and focuses it on Jackie, herself.

As one watches this movie, one realizes that--after 50 years with countless articles, movies, and documentaries about John F. Kennedy, his family, his administration, and his assassination--we still didn't have anything that focused in on Jackie and what she had to suddenly endure in front of the whole world. Here, we see Jackie striped bare and alone. Accented by the dysphoric chords of the movie's score, we see Jackie as a famous person with no one to really lean on. The camera constantly shows Jackie as an isolated, often silly, figure trying hopelessly to make sense of her role in the drama unfolding around her. What should she do? How can she help to make the Kennedy legacy last and be understood in the most positive way?

While Bobby (Peter Sarsgaard), does make an appearance in the movie, he does not seem to always understand what SHE is going through: packing up the belongings of the White House so that the Johnsons can movie in; taking care of the children; and making decisions about the funeral.

This is clearly Natalie Postman's movie, and although you may not like her vocal cadence and tone, you see and hear a person trying to maintain a sense of dignity in a private world of chaos. As Jack Valenti (Max Casella) moves into the White House, Jackie becomes a stranger in a strange world.

The late John Hurt is also featured in this movie as Jackie's priest who tries to help her makes sense of life. Although his part is small, it is important to the story.

Hacksaw Ridge
(2016)

WOW, what a movie!!!
We just saw this yesterday as it was about to leave town. WOW, what a movie and what a story!!! It has been nominated for 6 Oscars and seems a deserving candidate in all of those categories.

Will Mel Gibson finally get his directorial Oscar for this? If so, if wouldn't disappoint me a bit.

I was extremely impressed with Andrew Garfield's performance as Desmond Doss. He comes across as genuine to the character he played. The movie may have a few too much pyrotechnics during that battle scenes. But, on the other hand, I think they were necessary to make this real-life hero's actions come to life. And, the battle scenes are well-balanced with Doss's background story. I can only think of 2 other movies that portray Metal of Honor winners: To Hell and Back and Sergeant York. And, this movie compares favorably to those movies. The story rings true about a real World War II war hero who refused to carry a gun in battle- -ever.

The Founder
(2016)

The story behind my first pay-check job
This is a movie I wanted to see because of my own interest in the story. My first job, for which I received my first pay check, was at my local McDonald's in 1959 when I was 16 years old. As a high school student, I received 80 cents/hour. The McDonald's then was just like the one shown in the movie and I wanted to see how accurate the portrayal in the movie was. As it turns out, it was pretty accurate with buns, burgers. fries, a barrel from which the coke/root bear came, orange drink, and shakes. (The only difference I could find is that we wrapped the burgers in front of the customers and placed them in a warming bin until sold. There was no slide though from the grill to the warming bin as shown in the movie.)

At the time only young boys and men could work there. (That was just the rule back then.) Our uniforms consisted of a paper hat with "Speedy hamburger" logo on the side, a white shirt with the McDonald's logo on the pocket and sleeve and an apron (all of which we could get at work without any cost to us).

Most of us were familiar with the fact that Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) discovered the idea of fast food from the original McDonald's brothers, Nick (Dick Offerman) and his brother Mac (John Carroll Lynch). What I was not familiar with was who Ray Kroc was, what his background was, and the overall story of how he finally "bought out the brothers."

The split was one that didn't happen overnight since Kroc and the McDonald brothers did try to work together for a while. The problem came with the idea of franchising the company all over the country, arguments of how to keep quality control over all the franchises and keeping the drive in the same as the McDonald's originally conceived of it.

All three men were innovative and contributed to the idea, but Ray Kroc was the one who wanted the company—with its Golden Arches as American iconic symbol of America: Why shouldn't the Golden Arches be as popular as the crosses on churches and the American flags on local community buildings? Kroc had been a town-to-town salesman of all sorts of things (from paper cups to multi-spindle milk shake machines) for years before he discovered McDonald's. But, he was a dreamer too. Though he lived he Illinois with his wife, Ethel (Laura Dern), he often spent more time on the road than he did at home.

This is not a essential movie by any means, but it is an interesting biopic about a man from the 1950s who was revolutionary in fast food franchising. He had to learn that franchising dealt not only with the industry itself but also real estate dealing too.

Florence Foster Jenkins
(2016)

The Abuse of Florence Foster Jenkins
This is an unusually sick, sad and true-life story about a bunch of "sick" opportunistic people who took advantage of a mentally and, perhaps, physically sick woman merely because she was wealthy and demented and had no sense of what a fool she had become.

I can find no redeeming quality to the movie. It was not enjoyable, enlightening, or educational; it was just SICK! It you want to watch it once, go ahead. But I, for one, didn't like seeing a person being made a clown of simply because her disease made her engage in clownish behavior. If you want to see a freak show, go to the carnival--not the movies.

I have enjoyed Meryl Streep's work for decades and have loved her talent for taking on the roles of people we know and remember well. But, I have never seen her demean a real person as she did in this movie. Here, she portrayed Florence Foster Jenkins in 1944 at the age of 76.

Jenkins was a wealthy person who had contracted syphilis from her first husband, Dr. Frank Thornton Jenkins, at about the age of 18. After finding out she had contacted syphilis from him, she reportedly divorced him and never spoke of him again—although she did (privately) in movie. She did, however, retain his surname.

Her second husband, St Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant), takes advantage of her money and lack of self-knowledge about how terrible her singing ability really was. Later her pianist, Cosme McMoon (Simon Helberg), does the same thing. (Good people don't let their loved ones make fools of themselves, but they did.)

However, it was not just the people closest to her who lived off of her and laughed at her. There were many famous people of the day that were also enjoying her sick foolishness too. These people included Arturo Toscanini (John Kavanagh), Lily Pons, Cole Porter, Tallulah Bankhead, and even Enrico Caruso (not portrayed in the movie). Many of these same people came to Carnegie Hall to hear her make a fool of herself.

According to Wikipedia:

"At the age of 76, Jenkins finally yielded to public demand and booked Carnegie Hall for a general-admission performance on October 25, 1944. Tickets for the event sold out weeks in advance; the demand was such that an estimated 2,000 people were turned away at the door.[20] Numerous celebrities attended, including Porter, Marge Champion, Gian Carlo Menotti, Kitty Carlisle and Lily Pons with her husband, Andre Kostelanetz, who composed a song for the recital. McMoon later recalled an "especially noteworthy" moment: " (When she sang) 'If my silhouette does not convince you yet/My figure surely will' (from Adele's aria in Die Fledermaus), she put her hands righteously to her hips and went into a circular dance that was the most ludicrous thing I have ever seen. And created a pandemonium in the place. One famous actress had to be carried out of her box because she became so hysterical."

Since ticket distribution was out of Jenkins's control for the first time, mockers, scoffers, and critics could no longer be kept at bay. The following morning's newspapers were filled with scathing, sarcastic reviews that devastated Jenkins, according to Bayfield. "(Mrs. Jenkins) has a great voice," wrote the New York Sun critic. "In fact, she can sing everything except notes ... Much of her singing was hopelessly lacking in a semblance of pitch, but the further a note was from its proper elevation the more the audience laughed and applauded." The New York Post was even less charitable: "Lady Florence ... indulged last night in one of the weirdest mass jokes New York has ever seen.

This, to me, is a callous thing to do. I think the movie is callous too. This is not a comedy, it is pathos. Laughing at this movie would be a bit like laughing while watching The Elephant Man.

The Moon Is Down
(1943)

Of Flies and Flypaper
This movie is based on one of John Steinbeck's lesser-known novels. I have a feeling that Steinbeck wrote the novel for much the same reason that the movie was made: Propaganda in support of the War.

Nunnally Johnson wrote the play for the movie, based on Steinbeck's novel, just as he had written the screenplay for Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath (1940). Nunnaly's wife, Dorris Bodon, had an acting role of both of these movies. The movie's director, Irving Pichel, had a small unaccredited role, here, as the Inn Keeper. Natalie Wood made her first screen appearance in this movie and then went on to make her 2nd, 3rd and 4th movie appearances in Irving Pichel-directed movies: Happy Land (1943), Tomorrow Is Forever, (1943), and The Bride Wore Boots (1946).

This movie is not so much star-oriented as it is character–oriented, with great character actors taking on the main roles. Cedric Hardwick plays Col Lanser, the coy and pragmatic Nazi officer who is assigned to take over a small Norwegian mining village for it rich iron mines. After the German victory, the village historian, Dr. Winter (Lee J. Cobb), acerbically jokes with its mayor, Orden (Henry Travers), that the German victory only took 4 hours and the victory was announced before anyone know there was even a battle.

The "victory" takes place as hundreds of German paratroopers are dropped into the small village while its tiny militia is enjoying a picnic and shooting contest in the country. The picnic had been arranged by the local store keeper, George Corell (E.J. Ballantine), with the hope that he will be quickly advanced up the German ranks and sent to Berlin.

When Col Lanser interviews Dr. Winter, the mayor, and his wife, Sarah (Margaret Wycherly), they are outraged by Corell's treachery. When Lanser tells Orden that the miners must work harder to supply iron for Germany, Odren tells him that Germans do not understand the people they conquer--they never have, and they never will. Free people do not take orders from a dictator, they live to be free and their freedom is build around an idea—not an order from a dictator. Just as Odren says, the people of the village are not easily pushed around. It is easier to conquer a country in battle than it is to occupy it by telling its free people what they MUST do to stay alive.

The movie demonstrates this and it also has scenes that demonstrate that soldiers are trained to fight and win territory–not to manage the people they have vanquished. Not only do the Norwegians slow down their work in the mines, they also commit acts of sabotage on those mines, and engage in other acts of resistance against the Germans who occupy them. This only increases as the RAF drops parachuted packets of dynamite to help them with these many "small" acts of resistance such as blowing up bridges and roads and other means of production and distribution of the mined iron that is to be used by Nazis in their war.

In the end, the German soldiers grow tired of being hated by the locals and guarding against their acts of resistance rather than fighting wars. This is demonstrated when one soldier, Lt. Tonder (Peter van Eyck), tries to just enjoy the simple company of one Norwegian woman, Molly Morden (Dorris Bowdon). Though she is lonely and is very hungry— food is being withheld from the families in order to feed the soldiers and iron miners—she remembers that Tonder was responsible for killing her husband. So, she stabs Tonder to death with a pair of scissors then manages to escape to Sweden.

In the end, "the flies conquer the flypaper."

Tomorrow Is Forever
(1946)

"You killed my husband"
The 1946 Oscars were a VERY competitive with great movies including: The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) and It's a Wonderful Live (1946). However, Tomorrow is Forever (1946) is so pitch perfect that, at the very least, Claudette Colbert should have been nominated for Best Actress and Orson Wells for Best Actor. Wells was so great that one waits for everything he does and says in his pregnant and thoughtful performance. Then, there is a wonderful performance by Natalie Woods when she was only 8 years old!!

The story begins in Baltimore where the employees of Hamilton Chemicals Works are celebrating the end of World War I. Elizabeth MacDonald (Claudette Colbert) is working there as a librarian for Lawrence Hamilton (George Brent) and his father.

However, when she goes home that night to prepare for her husband's homecoming, she receives a telegram informing her that he had been killed in the war. This leads to a FLASHBACK of an incident that occurred during her one-year marriage to John Andrew MacDonald (Orson Wells). In the flashback, John shows Elizabeth his new suit (an Army uniform) and tells her that he had received an appointment, at top pay for a 2nd Lt, due to his expertise. He also tells her that he would not be near any battles.

RETURNING TO THE PRESENT: When Elizabeth returns to work the next day, she faints and is carried to the Hamilton's home. There, she is cared for by Larry's Aunt Jessica (Lucile Watson). After Elizabeth has been seen by a doctor, Aunt Jessica informs Larry that Elizabeth is pregnant. The Hamiltons decide that Elizabeth is in no condition to go home to an empty house so soon after John's death. So, they invite her to stay at their family home. When a baby boy is born, Elizabeth names him John Andrew (after her late husband) and calls him "Drew" for short. During her stay with the Hamiltons, Larry becomes very fond of Elizabeth and asks her to marry him.

MEANWHILE, in a German hospital, a parallel story has been emerging: John MacDonald had been taken from a battlefield with no identification except a letter, found in his coat, from Elizabeth. John is badly disfigured, with most of his right foot missing and his face torn away. He wants to die. but his doctor persists in telling John to live, even with only one foot. He also reminds John that his face can be replaced by plastic surgery. When John asks why, the doctor tells him that he must live for mankind.

The story then abruptly moves forward 20 years (from 1919 to 1939). Elizabeth and Larry still live in Baltimore with their two sons: Drew (John's biological son) and his younger brother, Brian (Larry's biological son). Drew is in college but wants quite and join the RAF after hearing that the Nazis had invaded Poland. His mother is terrified by Drew's determination to join the RAF. (It would be like losing John twice.)

At about this time, John returns to Baltimore to work as a chemist at Hamilton Chemical Works. John (now Erik Kessler) comes from Austria with his little daughter, Margaret (Natalie Wood). Margaret is scared of the new country and knows only a little English. Her father, now known as Erik Kessler, cannot be recognized as John, due to his facial plastic surgery and the 20 years that have passed since he had left Baltimore. John first goes to his old Baltimore home only to find that on one has lived there for years.

When John (Kessler) and Margaret are invited to the Hamiltons for dinner, he knows Elizabeth, but she does not recognize him. (Remember, even though the movie doesn't show it—John's face is TOTALLY changed due to the needed plastic surgery of 20 years before.)

The rest of the movie basically presents a debate between Elizabeth and Drew about his desire to join the RAF and fight with the allies. John (Kessler) is, at first, welcomed into the Hamilton home, but his very presence, at times, seems an impediment to the debate between Elizabeth and Drew. When Drew talks to John (Kessler) about the war in Europe, John (Kessler) passively agrees him. However, one can tell that his heart is not totally into the agreement; he, like Elizabeth, has seen enough death from war.

Elizabeth vacillates between wondering if John (Kessler) is HER John and seeing him as the enemy. At one point she says, "You killed my husband." John's (Kessler's) response is measured.

When she insists that he IS John, he tells her that she should not want give up her full and happy life with Larry and her children and that wishing for different past is futile when hers has been so happy and fulfilling. Nor should she want John (Kessler) to be Drew's father when Larry has been such a good father to both boys.

When Drew tries to escape and meet his friends to join the RAF, John (Kessler) prevents him from leaving, telling him that he is not yet 21, and can't make that decision without his parent's consent. When John (Kessler) brings Drew home, Drew is very angry with his interference into things that don't involve him. However, John's (Kessler's) decision to interfere and bring Drew home is not to necessarily to change the outcome of Drew's decision; it is to make the decision right with Drew's family. (It is as though John was acting as Drew's father in this ONE very important moment in Drew's life.)

Orson Wells' performance in this movie is like discovering a hidden gem. What is so remarkable about it is how he is able to calmly navigate conversations while arriving at difficult personal questions. His answers are always true but never quite completely what Elizabeth (or the audience) might expect them to be.

Lizzie
(1957)

The Three Faces of Beth
It's interesting that The Three Faces of Eve (1957) and Lizzie (1957) were made the same year. Both of them introduce the subject of a woman with Multiple Personality Disorder. Although the story of Eve White--for which Joanne Woodward won a Best Actress Oscar--was based on a real-life woman, it would be hard to say that that movie was really any better than this one reviewed here, based on Shirley Jackson's novel, "The Bird's Nest."

Lizzie (1957) is the story of the mousy Elizabeth Richmond (Eleanor Parker) who lives with her constantly drunk aunt, Morgan James (Joan Blondell) and works as a secretary in a museum. Elizabeth seems to have no real social life and only one real true friend at work, Ruth Seaton (Marion Ross, who later played Ron Howard's mother on TV's Happy Days). Elizabeth is serious and scholarly but has no real self confidence during her daytime job, in spite of encouragement from her friend and co-worker, Ruth. She finds anonymous scribbled out death threats, in her purse or on her desk. These slips of paper, are always signed-- Lizzie. When she shows them to Ruth, Ruth just tells her they are not serious and should be forgotten.

When Elizabeth comes home each night, she is greeted by her lovable, but always soused, Aunt Morgan. Elizabeth goes to her room and transforms herself into a cheap-looking, but beautiful and seductive, alter ego. She becomes "Lizzie" and goes to a bar to beguile men into buying her drinks. (Johnny Mathis makes his first movie appearance, here, as the singer at the piano bar.) When Elizabeth awakes the next morning, she has strange unexplained headaches. At times her aunt notices that her gin bottles have been finished off by someone other than herself, but who can it be but Elizabeth? When Morgan confronts Elizabeth about this, she honestly has no memory or knowledge of drinking any alcohol.

Morgan and Elizabeth have an understanding neighbor, Walter (Hugo Hass--the movie's director), who works at home as a writer. When Morgan confronts Walter about Elizabeth, he suggests that she see a doctor. He knows a good doctor, Dr. Wright (Richard Boone), who he uses from time to time when he has writer's block.

Elizabeth finally goes to see Dr. Wright, complaining of headaches and troubled sleeping. He tells her that he would like to put her into deep hypnosis to explore her childhood background. During a series of sessions, Dr. Wright discovers that Elizabeth has two more personalities--Beth and Lizzie. However, to fully understand the "whys" of Elizabeth three personalities, he goes to her house on her birthday. Something had happened to her on her 13th birthday. But, what was it and how could it have caused her Multiple Personality Disorder?

As with The Three Faces of Eve (1957), the strong central personality, Beth, must understand the other two personalities in order to let go of them and become the one integrated person.

Fences
(2016)

Fences to keep the bad things out
It is interesting to go to a movie not knowing what to expect except that a movie directed and produced by Denzel Washington, written by the late August Wilson, and starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis should be seen. Such was the case with us when we went to the see August Wilson's Pulitzer-prize winning play (adapted for film) today. In this day and age, of movie going, it would be a little like expecting to see a "regular" movie and ending up by seeing Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh instead—a lot of conversation with little action or even different scene locations.

The main setting for this movie takes place in the backyard of a colored man's house in 1950s Pittsburgh—that of Troy Maxon (Denzel Washington). The movie actually begins on the back of a garbage truck with two old friends and work mates:Troy and his lifelong friend, Bono (Stephen Henderson)--working together and wishing they could drive the truck rather than picking up the garbage cans from home to home.

After work one payday Friday, the friends continue their conversation in Troy's backyard as Troy starts to build his fence. They are joined by Troy's wife Rose (Viola Davis) as she goes in and out of the backyard from the back porch. Tory's 34-year-old-son, Lyons (Russell Hornsby), stops by his dad's house to borrow $10 from his dad. Lyons gets no money or sympathy from his dad who gives him a lecture about the value of money and life in general. As we watch the interactions, we notice that Lyons calls Troy "dad" and Rose by her first name, indicating that she is not his mother.

Cory (Jovan Adepo) is Troy and Rose's high school-aged son who lives with them. Cory and Troy argue over Cory's job and his wanting to play football for the school team. Soon, Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson) enters the picture as Troy's mentally handicapped younger brother. He talks and behaves as the "fool" of the play, but he is no bother to anyone who knows him except that he needs to be watched. Troy tells Bono that without Gabriel's sacrifice during the war (he now has a metal plate in his head), he and Rose would not have been able to own the house. (Gabriel's government checks paid for most of the mortgage payments.)

Troy's past is plagued with problems. He hates his father and still wonders if he is alive somewhere. He had also served time in prison. Before prison, Troy had been a great baseball player—in the Negro Leagues before blacks players were accepted in the majors. Now at 53, he resents this and says that there were better Negro players than Jackie Robinson; they were just never given a chance to play in the majors. (The baseball metaphor is used throughout the play, and talking about baseball is both a continuous topic of conversation with Bono and as an object lessons to teach Cory about life—"That's Strike one" (as if to say, 'you have two more strikes before you're out of here'). In fathering Cory, Troy seems as doomed to be hated by his son as Troy was to hate his own father. But, unlike his dad, Troy has "stuck it out" with his family rather than running away. In exchange, he wants people to respect him and HIS house more.

This leads us back into the building of FENCES: Fences to keep the bad things out of his house (and to perhaps separate Troy from his own past?: Troy challenges Death to come and get him after he builds a fence).

But, as Bono has known for some time, Troy has been keeping a secret from Rose: He has been seeing another woman, and now she is expecting his baby. When Troy finally has to confront Rose with his problem, this leads them to their biggest confrontation. The baby and what to do about it..... When the baby's mother dies in childbirth, he is left alone with the baby to confront the world alone, again......

One last scene takes place in the Maxon's backyard 6 years later.

This movie that starts with idol and disconnected conversations, remembrances, and arguments, builds into an extended family saga.

As we watched this movie in a fairly crowded theater on a holiday weekend, we noticed that the audience was clearly griped by the movie. One could tell by their silent attention and timely gasps.

Brooklyn
(2015)

Brooklyn viewed through the eyes of an Irish girl
Brooklyn was nominated for three Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actress (Saoirse Ronan) and Best Writing for an adapted Screen Play (Nick Hornb).

This is a good movie which relates a fairly simple story about a young Irish girl, Eilis (Saoirse Ronan), who chooses to come to America (circa 1950). After traveling to America by boat, she gets a job in a department store while staying in a boarding house with other young Irish immigrant girls. During dinnertime, they all tell each other stories about how they view America; the stories are often funny and entertaining. Mrs. Kehoe (Julie Walters) is the head of the house that boards the Irish immigrant girls.

Through writing to her sister in Ireland, Eilis keeps up with what is happening there while, at the same time, telling her sister about her life in Brooklyn. Eilis is courted by, and secretly marries, a nice Italian boy Tony (Emory Cohen) in Brooklyn just before she is forced to return to Ireland to attend a funeral.

Her dilemma arises when her family in Ireland wants her to stay there rather than return to America. While the movie shows differences between Ireland and America, it presents both places positively while making the characters (in each country) interested in learning about the opposite country. Also, all the men from, both places, are truly nice guys with sincere motives. This, in itself, makes the movie refreshingly different to me.

The Light Between Oceans
(2016)

Lucy-Grace is both Light and Grace
The following is a quote about the novel upon which the movie is based. I can find no movie synopsis yet. I don't see any spoilers in this quote, so I post it here:

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"The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (Goodreads Author)

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day's journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby's cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom's judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is 2 years old, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

M. L. Stedman's mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel's decision to keep this "gift from God." And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another's tragic loss. The greater part of this movie moves at a glacial pace. Words and conversations are held to a minimum in order to take in the vast and isolated seascape that surrounds the world of the isolated lighthouse. Often when the characters speak, their whispering voices can barely be heard above the crashing sea and moving film score."

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The story builds slowly—but surely--as more and more is unveiled about a baby girl and a dead man who are washed ashore (in a small lifeboat) and their connections to characters on the mainland. These connections present ethical dilemmas for Tom (Michael Fassbender), Isabel (Alicia Vikander) and Hannah (Rachel Weisz).

In watching this movie, I think there is more to the backstory, and its meaning, than can be presented on the screen. For example, I believe it is important to understand that Michael Fassbender's character and the dead man (with the baby girl) on the small boat have something in common that may bind them invisibly to each other. They have both come to Australia to find peace after the brutal war they have just been fighting in. The story begins in 1918. The dead man in the boat is a German who had fought against the allies during WW I, and he had not been well received by the townspeople of the small Australian town where he courted and married Rachel Weisz's character. Does the book stress this in any way or elicit the reader to make any connections about their common experiences and their reaction to them? The movie sort of hints at it without directing us to it.

Also, I can't help but feel that the little girl, Lucy-Grace, may signify a connection to the two families who end up raising her; she might represent both light and grace.

The Great Ziegfeld
(1936)

"You Never Looked So Beautiful"
I first saw this 3-hour movie on the big screen in the late 70s, and was happy to see it on a large screen. It won three impressive Oscars in 1936: Best Picture, Best Actress (Luise Rainer), and Best Dance Direction. It was also nominated for three more Oscars: Best Director (Robert Z Leonard), Best Writing (Original Story), Best Art Direction, and Best Film Editing. Luise Rainer won her first of two consecutive Oscars here and was the first performer ever to do this: her second Oscar was for The Good Earth (1937).

Here, MGM paired William Powell with Myrna Loy in part of the 13 movies they made together in the 30s and 40s: Manhattan Melodrama (1934); The Thin Man (1934); Evelyn Prenice (1934); The Great Ziegfeld (1936); Libeled Lady (1936); After the Thin Man (1936); Double Wedding (1937); Another Thin Man (1939); I Love You Again (1940); Love Crazy (1941); Shadow of the Thin Man (1941); The Thin Man Goes Home (1945); and Song of the Thin Man (1947).

Although The Great Ziegfeld is only a fairly routine biopic of Flo Ziegfeld from the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 until his death in 1932, the movie is spectacular for his sets, decoration and starring cast, including appearances by some of his own stars: Fanny Brice, Harriet Hoctor, and Ray Bolger. One wonders why Eddie Cantor (played by Buddy Doyle) did not appear as himself in this movie. Will Rodgers (played by A.A. Trimble) had died in that small plane crash in 1935 before this movie was made.

To our great fortune, this movie was made fairly soon after Ziegfeld's death when there were people who could still remember the Ziegfeld Follies with their lavish stairs, songs, and above all, his beautiful girls!! This movie is in black and white, but one can get an idea of what it might have been like in color from watching Funny Girl (1968).

The movie opens with Flo Ziegfeld (William Powell) and his friend/rival Jack Billings (Frank Morgan) competing with each for attention to their respective attractions at the Chicago World's Fair of 1893. Ziegie's big attraction is Sandow the Strongman (Nat Pendleton) while Billings was a belly dancer, Little Egypt.

Later, while in Europe, Ziegfeld bests Billings out of signing the French singer Anna Held (Luise Rainer) to a contract and then marries her. Later, after starting the Follies and having trouble with one of its stars, Audrey Dane (Virginia Bruce), Anna oversees the troublesome Audry kissing Flo while drunk and mistakes her drunken kiss for a real kiss. Anna then files for divorce. Flo's second wife is Billie Burke (played by Myrna Loy) to whom he is married for the rest of his life. Zeigfeld goes on to produce and promote several shows and reviews on Broadway, often with other people's money.

Near the end of the movie, while overhearing four men in a barbershop saying that "Zeigfeld is all washed up," he promises to make four Broadway successes within a year and have them all playing at the same time. After making good on his bet, he hires private investigators to find the four original men and gives them all box ticket seats to all of his four plays. The four musical successes all played on Broadway at the same time—The Three Musketeers, Showboat, Rio Rita, and Whopee!

Primrose Path
(1940)

We live as we must
This movie was made the year after Ginger Rogers decided to make movies without being Fred Astaire's dancing partner. In the interim, she had made two other movies: the romantic comedies Bachelor Mother (1939) with David Niven and Fifth Avenue Girl (1939). As with the later, the present movie was directed by Gregory La Cava. The story and setting has some of the feeling of Steinbeck's Cannery Row.

Primerose Hill--for that is what it was called in the movie—is a poor shanty town on the northern coast of California near San Francisco. Ellie May Adams (Ginger Rogers), her little sister, Honeybell (Joan Carroll), her Grandma (Queenie Vassar) and her father, "Homer" (Miles Manders) are all living from day to day with no visible means of support much like other families on Primerose Hill. "Homer" is a Greek scholar, with a college degree and everything. His "vocation "is translating works from Greek to English. But, something must have gone wrong along the way since he is now a hopeless, sad drunk with no ambition or market for his work.

So, the whole Adams family has to be supported by Ellie May's mother, Mamie (Marjorie Rambeau), who shows up, from time to time, with gifts and money after being away for days at a time. Mamie gets her money from rich men who want to be entertained by local women while they are away from their homes on business trips. But, Mamie is no different than many of her friends on Primerose Hill who support their families the same way, by "swells" who are generally named, Mr. Smith.

One day, Ellie May ties her hair up in pigtails and goes to the beach to catch some fresh crabs for the family. As she walks down the road towards the beach, Gramps (Henry Travers) offers her a ride. When she gets to gas station and Hamburger cafe owned by Graps,she meets she meets Ed Wallace (Joel McCrea) working as a chief cook there who serves his meals with humorous repartee (wisecracks about the food).

Ed takes Ellie May to the beach to crab. He shows her how to catch crabs by throwing a huge rock down on the sand to make the crabs come to the surface.

Ed rides around on a loud motor cycle with a sidecar and frequents the local bar, where he has many Portuguese friends. These "Port-ta-gee" are not rich, but they are hard-working fishermen who like to hang out at the bar called "The Bluebell."

Ellie May works at the cafe with Ed and Gramps and soon picks up the art of repartee, that is served up with meals to make eating there more fun.

Ed and Ellie May eventually get married, but she keeps her secret—that she had run away from home rather than being chased out. One day, she finally has Ed come to her home to meet her family. When he meets them, he leaves her in disgust, since she had lied to him.

Fate ultimately steps in when Ellie May's father accidentally shoots her mother.... This puts Ellie May back home where she is forced to to dress up and go to town to pick up a man...like her mother does (stopping first at the The Bluebell to try to make Ed jealous)...

...........................

Marjorie Rambeau received an Oscar nomination for this movie as Best Supporting Actress in 1940, but lost to Jane Darwell (The Grapes of Wrath).

The Window
(1949)

Someday I want people to say, "There goes Tommy Woodry's father."
This is a surprisingly suspenseful thriller with a very good cast.

The story takes place in a NYC walk up apartment building where a 9 year-old boy, Tommy Woodry (Bobby Driscoll), lives with his mom (Barbara Hale) and dad (Arthur Kennedy). Tommy's dad has to work nights. Since Tommy is always making up stories about himself and others, his parents are concerned about his false story-telling problem. Is this just a phase or should they get some kind of professional help for Tommy?

One hot summer night, Tommy asks his mother if he can sleep on the fire escape to cool down while he sleeps. She agrees. However, during the night on the fire escape, Tommy witnesses what he believes to be a murder. He witnesses this though a thin opening in a window shade from the upstairs apartment. When Tommy tells his mother what he witnessed, she tells him that he was just dreaming and should go back to sleep. Concerned, his mother tells his father and he, too, is concerned after questioning Tommy's story.

With no one believing his story, Tommy reports it to the police. Fearing that the upstairs neighbors—the Kellersons (Paul Steward and Ruth Roman)--will kill him, Tommy asks the police not to identify him as the person reporting the murder. So, when a police officer goes to the Kellerson's apartment, he poses as a building inspector to check any potential "crime scene" that may be real. He finds nothing that the Kellersons cannot explain and proceeds to assume that Tommy's story was JUST a story. However, the Kellersons now know that they have to get rid of Tommy before he talks too much. To do this, they send a telegram to Tommy's mother to visit her sick sister. This leaves Tommy alone the following night which, in turn, leads to a terrifying cat-and-mouse game between Tommy and the Kellersons.....

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison
(1957)

John Huston's genius as a director
This movie is not at all what I expected. One might imagine that a the movie, Directed by John Huston, about a US Marine and Catholic nun marooned together on a South Pacific Island during World War II, to be quite different. Yet, any preconceived notions about a hardened man being schooled and converted by a strong-willed religious nun are soon laid aside as these two people slowly reveal themselves to each other as the movie progresses. Nor is this a Robinson Crusoe-type movie of discoveries and survival techniques. However, there are some modern similarities, with Japanese troops landing on the island, making survival even more challenging for the pair.

The pairing in this basically two-person movie, with Robert Mitchum (as Mr. Allison) and Deborah Kerr as the nun (Sister Angela), must have seemed as unusual as the pairing of the prim and proper Katherine Hepburn character, (Rose Sayer) with the uncouth African stream boat captain, Humphrey Bogart (Charlie Allnut), were in The African Queen (1951). Yet, these unlikely pairings were part of John Huston's genius as a director. While thinking of these two John Huston movies, there ARE some comparisons to be made: 1) and handy man; 2) a war setting; and an unlikely couple thrown into an unusual situation.

In this movie, Allison is washed ashore in an inflatable life raft, whereas Sister Angela had been left behind as the sole survivor of a remote island mission. Kerr's performance is also unusual in that she is so shy that she barely talks, yet she is obedient and cooperative with Mr. Allison's knowledge about survival. Mr. Allison is a polite and gentle Marine with an unusual background of being orphaned as a child and adopting the Marine Corp as the only family he had ever known. He is as uneducated about women as he is about the Catholic Church (or any religion for that matter). He gradually falls in love with Sister Angela and asks her to marry him, not realizing that, as a nun, she was already married to the church.

Another thing I like about the movie is the chance to see Japanese soldiers viewed as actual people (joking and laughing with each other, drinking, eating, and playing card games), as Mitchum and Kerr watch them from a safe location while figuring out what they should do.

Kerr received her 4th of 6 Oscar nominations for the movie. Mitchum and Kerr would later co-star in two more movies: The Sundowners (1960) and The Grass Is Greener (1960).

Loving
(2016)

If you want to see high drama, this is not the movie for you
For anyone planning to see this movie, thinking that you will be seeing high drama and/or great dialogue, please be warned: This is not the movie for you. Richard and Mildred Loving were simple working-class people. They didn't seek attention or fame. They just loved each other and had a "pigmentation problem."

The dialogue is sparse; the law enforcement officers in Virginia are not that mean towards the Lovings; and the Loving couple only show their loving through their constant love for each other and their family over all the years that it took this case to finally reach it to the US Supreme Court. The court decision was monumental for thousands of interracial couples in the US (mainly in the Southern states). However, the emotion will not be seen on the screen.

The Lovings could have attended the Supreme Court Hearings, but Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton) declined the invitation to attend them, and therefore, his wife, Mildred (Ruth Negga) chose not to attend them either. When Mildred received the news of the Court's decision, she was mild in her joy but appreciative to the ACLU for taking on the case and seeing it through.

This was a landmark case in the US Supreme Court, but don't expect it to yield a landmark movie in terms of on-screen drama. It doesn't. It is more about a long and abiding love between a man and his wife as well as love for their children (not to be considered bastards by the state of Virginia).

Raising Arizona
(1987)

Tale of the recidivistic store robber & his barren cop wife
This is tall tale comedy about a recidivistic convenience store robber, H.I. McDonnough (Nicolas Cage), who marries a barren cop, Ed (Holly Hunter) whom he had met on several occasion while being booked into the Maricopa County Maximum Security System. Ed feels that they desperately need a baby to make their family life complete. But, since she can't have a baby and they can't adopt one (due to H.I's long criminal record), he decides to steal one of the locally well-known Arizona quintuples made famous by their father, Nathan Arizona. Arizona is an unpainted furniture tycoon and TV commercial celebrity. The kidnapping of the Arizona baby leads Nathan Arizona to "hire" a biker bounty hunter from Hell to find his baby. Added to this, H.I, has other problems such as a visit from two of his old penal inmates, who break out of jail and won't leave his family unit alone. Another of H.I.'s problems is the fact that his boss, Glen, and his wife, Dot, are "swingers" in the sense that they are into spouse swapping and want H.I and Ed to swap partners with them some time. They also want a child young enough to cuddle and seem to have their eyes on the Arizona baby. All this leads to some hilarious high-speed chases through the Arizona desert. This was the first Coen brothers movie that I ever saw in a movie theater. I wasn't ready for it then, but now it just fits in perfectly with all of their other great movies.

XXY
(2007)

Alex's coming-of-age story
One can see the possibilities for conflict in a story about an adolescent hermaphrodite (intersexual). Conflict is often a trait of a good drama: one that draws you to watch it in the first place. This coming-of-age movie is not disappointing in the sense that it DOES have conflicts, at several levels, not the least of which is the hormonal conflict going on within Alex's body.

The story takes place in a remote coastal village in Uruguay where 15- year-old Alex (Ines Efron), lives with her father, Kraken (Ricardo Darin), and mother, Suli (Valeria Bertuccelli). Her father works there as a marine zoologist who studies the migratory patterns of sea turtles.

Suli invites a family of old friends from Buenos Aires to stay with them for a while. The couple, Ramiro (German Palacios), and Erika (Carolina Pelleritti), have a teenage son, Alvaro (Martin Piroyansky), who comes with them. The two families had not seen each other for about ten years, but Suli is hopeful that Ramiro—a plastic surgeon---can help Alex make a decision about where she should go with her life now that she is in puberty. (It seems that Suli is fairly committed to more surgery for Alex, whereas Kraken wants Alex to make her own decision.)

From the time that the two families are thrown together there is a palpable tension in the air. The two men barely talk to each other and the two women converse only in a cursory way. This is evidenced when the two families meet at the dinner table. Here we learn that Ramiro does most of the speaking for his shy and awkward son, Alvaro; Alvaro is a vegetarian, very picky about what he eats. When wine is offered at the table, Ramiro encourages Alvaro to drink, even after Alvaro had turned the wine down. Kraken sees this as bullying and declares that that is one of the main reasons they came to this place: to get away from such bullying. At the dinner table, we also learn that Alex had recently been expelled from school for fighting with her best friend, Vando (Luciano Nóbile), and breaking his nose. When Suli suggests that they need to apologize to Vando and his parents, Kraken—always defensive and protective of Alex--snaps back that THEY should be apologizing to her.

Alex and Alvaro first met each other on the beach. Alvaro is just sitting there, drawing, when Alex plops down beside him and tells him she knows that he has just jacked off before coming to the beach. When asked how she knew, she says that she heard him and she knows. He tells HER to go jack off. She responds that she/he DOES--every day. This brings an incredulous look to Alvaro's face. Later in the same conversation, she tells him that she has never f—ked anyone and asks him if he would f —k her. He says no. When she asks why, he says that she is too young and that they don't know each other well enough. She retorts that that is a great reason for him to be her first f—k. On a later occasion on the beach, he calls her a freak. He doesn't know why (or at least how to express it)—it is just the way people always stare at her.

Alex then runs away from Alvaro and into the loft of a nearby garage to cry. Alvarvo follows Alex which leads to their first sexual encounter-- together (with Alex acting as the "pitcher" while having anal sex with Alvaro, as Alex's "catcher"). Kraken oversees this encounter and describes it to his wife. After witnessing the encounter--as well as knowing that Alex has recently stopped taking her masculine-preventing corticoids---Kraken is moved to seek out a man in a nearby city. He knows about the man from an old, highly-publicized newspaper story. (The old newspaper story had covered the transsexual journey of an intersexual child, raised as a girl, who had becomes a man.)

The movie later shows how Alex is bullied on the beach by a group of local boys who want to see her pubic area. Though the group is led by her former friend Vando, he is the one who intercedes to protect her from the group taking it too far. Interestingly, though Alex's parents know that she was almost raped, they fail to make any official complaint or take Alex to the clinic to be examined.

Though Kraken loves Alex unconditionally, he continues to insist that these decisions should be left up to Alex. (Here, we see how totally conflicted the parents are about how to handle their 15-year-old daughter/son. This is due to past problems that they have had with officials about what sex Alex is and whether to expose her--or themselves--to more public scrutiny.)

One can agree or disagree with the parents' decisions about Alex. For example, I think that she should have had the benefit of regular, non- judgmental, and long-term psychological counseling LONG before puberty. In other words, a trained, non-biased person could have picked up clues about what Alex thought (or believed) about her sexuality over a long period of time and long before puberty made the decision necessary.

All clues presented in the movie point towards the fact that Alex had no use for those bothersome "monthly visits" that come from her vagina, and Alex seems to totally enjoy her penis. However, sexuality may involve more than just enjoyment of the genitalia.

To me, the movie points more towards a masculine than a feminine temperament and behavior for Alex. However, the fact that one even CARES about the two parents' approaches to the problem argues in favor of the fact that this is a good movie. It draws you into the problem and elicits you to get involved and care.

Fargo
(1996)

Let's make a deal
This movie was nominated for several Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (William H. Macy). It won Oscars for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Frances McDormand) and Best Writing (the Coen Brothers).

Fargo is certainly one of the Coen's finest and most famous movies. It claims to faithfully relate a true story that occurred between Fargo, North Dakota and Minnesota's Twin Cities in the late 1960s. The real story is anything but funny. But, this movie has its share of both humor and of black humor.

The movie begins in Fargo as Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) is making contact with two "professional" thugs to arrange for his own wife's kidnapping. Jerry, a car dealer from Minneapolis, with big personal money problems, wants his wife kidnapped because he knows his father-in-law is very wealthy and will pay the ransom for his own daughter.

The idea is that once his father-in-law pays off the thugs and his wife is released, and he can split the ransom with the thugs. HOWEVER, once the deal is made and Jerry gives them one of the cars off of the lot, things start to go downhill when the quitter of the two thugs kills a policeman for stopping them to ask why the car has no tags. The killing of the policeman leads to two other passersby being killed.

After this triple homicide, Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand), a pregnant cop is called into the case. As the movie develops—and the kidnapping scheme unravels—we are entertained by both the stories and characterizations of Marge's friends and family as well as Jerry Lundegaard's constantly frustrating and deteriorating predicament(s).

Doubt
(2008)

Powerfully dramatic battle of wills between a nun and her parish priest
The movie was Nominated for five Oscars: Best Actress (Meryl Streep), Best Actor Supporting Actor, (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Best Supporting Actress (Amy Adams), Best Supporting Actress (Viola Davis), and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay (John Patrick Shanley).

The movie captures your attention almost from the very beginning. My wife and I went to a local jam-packed Cineplex to see this the day after Christmas. It was so engrossing that the entire audience was totally quiet throughout the movie. In fact, at times, I almost forgot the audience was there--they were all as engrossed as we were.

The plot takes place in a Catholic Church and school in the Bronx in 1964, shortly after John Kennedy was assassinated. There is a strong suspicion that the new priest, Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman), is abusing a black alter boy, Donald Miller—though the words are never used —as they would NOT have been then. The suspicion begins with the school's Principal, a very tough task master, Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep). She advises her fellow nuns to be on the lookout for anything that may seem strange…or wrong in the parish. When a young nun, Sister James (Amy Adams), thinks she sees evidence of an inappropriate protective nature that Father Flynn has towards Donald—together with smelling alcohol on the boy's breath--Sister James reports it to Sister Aloysius.

This sets in motion a powerfully dramatic battle of wills between Sister Aloysius and Father Flynn. The audience can hardly help from getting involved, being drawn into the situation and feeling strongly for one side or the other...

Another idea that one thinks about upon leaving the theater--in silent awe from the movie--is that back at that time, priests had great power over the nuns—as well as the parishioners: the 'good ol' boys network.'

Milk
(2008)

Encouraging people to come out of the closet
This is a biopic about Harvey Milk, a person I only remember through a news item---when he was killed along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone (Victor Garber). Their assassin, Dan White (Josh Brolin), will probably be best remembered for the 1979 trial in which his attorney tried to use something that would later be known as the "Twinkie defense." As the movie begins, Harvey Milk (Sean Penn), is on the verge of his 40th birthday and feels that he has done nothing with his life. He meets his partner and soon-to-be campaign manager, Scott Smith (James Franco), in a NYC subway station. They move to San Francisco and open a camera shop in the predominately gay district called the Castro. Harvey becomes a gay-rights activist and attempts to run for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. After three attempts, and much work to politically organize his district, he is elected as the first openly gay candidate ever to be elected in America (in 1977). During his political career, he encourages a large number of people to come out of the closet and declare their gayness openly.

After seeing this movie, I put the 1984 documentary, The Times of Harvey Milk, at the top of my Netflix queue since I wanted to see more about Milk and see how well Penn portrays him in this movie. The only thing that I don't look forward to is Harvey Fierstein's narration: I don't like his grading voice. In any case, Sean Penn gives a natural, and convincing performance.

Le chiavi di casa
(2004)

Step by step acquaintance
Based on Giuseppe Pontiggia's novel and Gianni Amelio's screenplay, this film won several awards at the 2004 Venice Film Festival. As with most great films, this one deserves several viewings since new and subtle nuances are revealed each time that one sees it.

As the film opens, two men are meeting in a coffee shop and talking about a boy named Paolo. Gianni (Kim Rossi Stuart) asks Alberto (Pierfrancesco Favino) if Paolo looks like him now. Alberto tells him that, according to his wife, he only looks like his mother (her sister). Gianni says, 'Your wife must hate me.' Alberto then explains that, for her, he (Gianni) died with her sister.

As the two continue their conversation, Alberto tells how they learned that Paolo was failing to develop properly as he grew up. In spite of 'filling the house' with footballs, he crawled on the floor like a puppy, never learning to walk until after he was six. Gianni asks him why the decision was made to have him meet Paolo now.

Alberto explains that it was the doctor's idea: sometimes when physically-challenged people meet their fathers for the first time, a miracle happens. Gianni then asks Alberto if Paolo knows who he is, and he says 'of course.' 'You don't deserve him'...(there is a pregnant pause as if Alberto made the statement in a judgmental way)...

The two sleep together in the same train compartment, but when Gianni wakes up the next morning he finds Paolo's bed empty. Searching the train, he finds Paolo (Andrea Rossi) in the dinning car, playing with his game boy. After Gianni and Paolo eat breakfast together and getting to know each other a bit, they return to their compartment. As they return, Gianni sees Paolo's physical disability for the first time. Paolo has muscular dystrophy; he walks with a cane for balance; his upper torso is bent forward; his arms and hands are stiffly bent; and his gait is awkward as he moves from side to side rather than in a straight line. Gianni's first tendency is to assist Paolo back to their compartment. However, the teenager's natural tendency is to be independent and NOT to be helped. For example, even though Paolo can walk, he can't dress and undress himself because of his rigidly bent arms and hands; Gianni has to learn which shirtsleeve—left or right--to put on first and which to put on second; when undressing him, the left- right procedure is reversed.

The train trip takes the two from Milan to Berlin. In Berlin, Paolo is taken to a very good children's orthopedic center. Here, Paolo will undergo a battery of tests. Once in Berlin, Gianni must deal with Paolo's strange behavior which includes bothering strangers without compunction. When Paolo talks to the taxi driver and takes off his hat, the driver is understanding and patient. However, it still embarrasses Gianni. There is also a language barrier with the cab driver--and later, with the clinicians at the hospital--only being able to speak German and Gianni and Paolo only knowing Italian.

After the two check into the hotel, Paolo begins his battery of clinical tests. Gianni feels that he has to be with Paolo during the tests. But the 15-year-old first asks him to leave and then finally has to order him to leave while he spends the night in his hospital, hooked up to electrodes and wires for an EEG. The next day, Paolo goes into Nadine's room down the hall. Nadine (Alla Faerovich) is a severely retarded 20- year old woman. Her mother, Nicole (Charlotte Rampling), greets him warmly, as he curiously looks at Nadine. It is through this overture that Nicole gets to know Gianni; they are fellow parents of challenged youngsters. Nicole and Nadine are from Lyon France, but Nicole had once studied in Italy and knows fluent Italian.

The next day, Gianni looks on as Paolo is being clinically observed while walking back and fourth along a line, covered with sensing electrodes and a box-like device attached to his hip to monitor the kinetic movements of his hip joints, muscles, and ligaments.

As Paolo is ordered to march back and fourth, almost to exhaustion, Gianni can take no more of it and runs to him, stopping the test. When Giannia and Nichole later see each other, she tells him that he has caused a problem. She says that the doctor is very angry with him: 'The problem with some children isn't the disease. It's the parents.'

Gianni and Nicole later see each other at a hospital wheelchair basketball game, As Nicole is talking to Gianni, Paolo watches the game alone from the sideline and then disappears into the city. Nicole helps Gianni find Paolo and then assists him at the police station. Throughout the film, Gianni and Nicole share their real feelings about their roles as parents of challenged children. (Nicole's experience had lasted 20 years and Gianni's had lasted only three days.) As the two open up to each other, their roles gradually evolve from judge and accused.

In the last scene of the film with Nichole, we hear her truthfully telling Gianni that she is jealous of other parents when she hears that their children get better. She warns him not to get too close to Paolo and to be prepared to be hurt in the future...

Brideshead Revisited
(2008)

Brideshead Revisited as I see it--based on the movie
The movie starts in the present (Spring of 1943) when, as a British Army officer, Charles Ryder (Mathew Goode), actually 'revisits Brideshead,' and reflects on different points in his past at Brideshead (a huge palatial estate in England). So, there are several flashbacks to various points in Charles's reflective story.

The story begins 20 years earlier when Charles leaves Paddington to study history at Oxford. Since he is from a middle-class background and feels as though he might be out of place at Oxford, he has his cousin show him how to fit in at Oxford. He soon takes up with a group of effete snobs, and through them, becomes good friends with Lord Sebastian Flyte (Ben Whishaw) (the Boy-Man, Sebastian personifies the adjective "effete fop" to a tee).

When Sebastian takes Charles to see his family's estate at Brideshead, Charles is awestruck with its beauty and vastness. After he leaves Brideshead and returns to his home in Paddington, he receives a telegram that Sebastian is seriously injured and needs his presence at Brideshead. When he arrives, he is picked up at the train station by Sebastian's sister, Julia (Haley Atwell). On the way back to the mansion, Julie tells him that Sebastian's injury, sustained while playing cricket, is a small crack in his foot bone.

Charles's return to Brideshead begins the a long hedonistic summer of bliss, sans parents, for Charles and Sebastian--drinking, lovemaking, and swimming. This bliss comes to an end when Sebastian's mother, Lady Marchmain (Emma Thompson) returns with Sebastian's older brother, Bridey (Ed Stoppard) and younger sister, Cordelia (Felicity Jones). At this point, Charles--a self-proclaimed atheist--learns how deeply this aristocratic family is influenced by the strict Catholicism, imposed on the family by Lady Marchamain: After her arrival, Sebastian and Julia cower in childlike obedience to their strong-willed mother. Unlike Sebastian and Julia, Bridey and Cordelia neither question nor fight their mother's strong religiosity. Thus, the need to scold them never seems to be necessary.

The Brideshead location of the story is temporality broken when Sebastian and Julia are invited to spend time in Venice with their father, Lord Marchmain (Michael Gambon), and his mistress, Cara (Greta Scacchi). Lady Marchmain, fearful of Sebastian's need for alcoholic escapism, asks Charles to accompany him to Venice to look after him.

Although Venice is not the paradise that Brideshead is for Charles, it is a demi-paradise: Charles is impressed by being in Venice and seeing its art and architecture, and feeling its ambiance.

The Venice break in the story supplies us with a contrast as to how Charles sees Sebastian and Julia in different places and under different parents. In one scene, as Lord Marchmain is seated on a large couch between his children with his arms around both of them, he says to Charles "You must think of us as a family of monsters." Later, Charles watches Julia and Sebastian as they play like children on the beach-- free of any guilt. As the 'children' play on the beach, Charles has a chance to talk privately to Cara. She basically tells him how Lady Marchmain had suffocated the children under Catholicism. He then says to her, "But surely YOU are Catholic too." She then explains, "Yes, but, here here, people are not so much bothered by guilt as they are in England: Here, people just live their lives and go to confession for absolution from their sins." She then goes on to warn Charles that, although his affair with Sebastian is just a phase, it is far more serious to Sebastian.

Although Venice is a place of freedom, it is also a place of mystery, full of twists, turns, dark corners, and cul-de-sacs. It is a place where one who is not used to dealing with freedom can easily become lost. In one scene, the family goes to a gay night street carnival. At this carnival of Venice, the music is loud, percussive, and rhythmic, and the people are costumed and masked. At one point, Julia gets lost in this pushing crowd and is diverted off into a wet tunnel—lost and confused. Charles follows her and kisses her while Sebastian looks on at a distance—realizing that Charles's love for him is no longer singular. (The idyllic relationship between Charles and Sebastian is broken and can never be the same again.)

When they return to Brideshead, Lady Marchmain notices that Sebastian is not the same and wonders what had happened to make this change. She also warns Charles not to be misled about Julia: her future is already fixed, and marriage outside of the Faith is out of the question.

Lady Marchmain has Sebastian followed at Oxford since his drinking is becoming worse. She also tries to have Charles watch him and cuts off his money to prevent him from drinking. When Charles gives Sebastian money to buy alcohol and he turns up drunk at Julia's Coming Out Gala—-an evening at which Lady Marchamain announces Julia's engagement to Rex Mattram (Jonathan Cake)—Sebastian embarrasses himself. Lady Marchmain then pulls Charles aside and tells him to leave Brideshead. At this point, Charles loses contact with Brideshead and Sebastian until sometime later when Lady Marchamain contacts Charles in Paddington and asks him to find Sebastian in Morocco and bring him back home. Charles tries to do this and fails.

Charles gets married, has children, and enjoys a successful painting career with his jungle paintings after traveling to South American for two years. All of this period is a bit murky in the movie until he meets Julia again on a passenger ship. Since both of their marriages are shams by this time, they both decide to divorce and marry each other. However, fate (or God) steps in to prevent this "sinful union" to take place....

Frost/Nixon
(2008)

Ron Howard introduces us to a new type of "courtroom drama"
If you're going to this movie thinking you are just going to see another movie about Watergate, you will have to quickly adjust your thinking. I know, because that is what happened to me. This is a riveting and gut- wrenching movie about two men locked in a personal battle to use each other in order to change their public images. Neither is totally prepared for the contest that will be played out on the world TV stage. To be sure, this is a "no holds barred" showdown. But both Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) and David Frost (Michael Sheen who played Tony Blair in The Queen (2006) underestimate each other's public skills.

To Nixon, David Frost is seen as just a second-rate British talk show host. To David Frost, the Nixon interviews are his ticket to do something that no other TV talk show host or reporter had managed to do: to get Nixon on record admitting something about himself that he had not heretofore publicly done.

Frost, pushed by his fellow producers, wants Nixon to publicly take responsibility for the Watergate cover-up and for his own personal complicity in the final aspects of the Viet Nam War. As you watch this movie, you find yourself, at first, empathizing with David Frost who is in something big--but WAY over his head. Later, as you see the preparation for the interviews (on both sides), you feel empathy—yes, empathy--for Richard Nixon!!

Both Oliver Stone, in Nixon (1995), and Ron Howard, in this movie, seem to have taped Richard Nixon as a figure of the high tragedy akin to a figure from a Greek tragedy or one of the "big four tragedies" of Shakespeare: Hamlet, Macbeth, Lear, and Othello. In each of these Shakespearian tragedies, the title character has an innate tragic flaw in their character that brings them down from great and powerful heights. While it may have been JEALOUSY with Othello or LUST FOR POWER with Macbeth, with Nixon it seems to always be the need for REVENGE on his enemies (real or imagined): those people that look down on him as socially or intellectually unworthy to hold power.

With this movie, Ron Howard has expertly introduced us to a new type of "courtroom drama." But, this "courtroom" takes the form of a series of TV interviews. The parties present their own arguments, and we are the jury.

Howard effectively uses extreme close up shots to tighten the space and heighten the interpersonal drama. With his skill, Howard draws us into the drama and barely gives time to blink. Both my wife and I left the movie emotionally drained but dramatically fulfilled.

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