Category Archives: Historical Drama

BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (1961) movie review

breakfast-at-tiffanys-237x300Audrey had a way with people. She wooed them. She still does. For instance, audiences everywhere still believe this a sweet film with tender moments. It’s not. It’s odd and torturous, full of shocking secrets, prostitution, escort services, fear of rape, mob connections, and a man-eater gold-digger culture to rival most shows today. It’s also inappropriately racist considering Mickey Rooney’s character.audrey-as-holly-in-sleep-mask_with-cat-on-backSet in the well-sauced sixties, nightlife loving New York model shows a Sunday afternoon side, singing on the fire escapes and befriends a young and beautiful escort George Peppard.tumblr_mq71b4a2iH1r5yygpo1_500Henry Mancini wrote the famous song “Moon River” for this film. Studios weren’t going to let Audrey sing it because of her whispey vocals, but Mancini stood up and said if she didn’t sing it they wouldn’t get to use it.
Yet, there is something about their day of firsts, her voice in his head inspiring him to write, her mysterious backstory, the day trips to SingSing and the public library.
In Funny Face, Audrey tours Paris and transforms from bookish to bombshell.Breakfast-at-Tiffanys_Audrey-Hepburn_black-hat-bandRoman Holiday sweeps is up into Gregory Peck’s arms for a guided tour of Rome taking Hepburn from Princess to tourist in a day.
And Breakfast at Tiffany’s travels NYC in a Pretty Woman story for the ages demanding the exclusivity of love despite all insecurities.
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Perhaps there is a moral to this classic tale.

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MR. HOLMES (2015) movie review

1425493080204Sir Ian McKellen, versatile and vibrant, spins a good yarn. He becomes his characters, or perhaps they become him. No longer the man behind the Magneto mask or the old grey beard of Gandalf, McKellen is an aged Sherlock Holmes.
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In search of a medicinal cure for the aging mind, he has one crime left to solve, and it isn’t the one he’s pursuing. He retires to the seaside along the white cliffs of Dover and finds there a small boy wonder, a fan of Holmes, who may be the key to opening Sherlock’s memory banks and subsequently, his heart.
rs_560x415-150304172941-1024.ian-mckellen-holmesCharming and enchanting. Heartwarming and thought-provoking. It’s a mystery to solve inside the resolve of lovely dear and true friendships.

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SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998) movie review

 The 1998 Best Picture nominee ÒSaving Private RyanÓ will be screened as the next feature in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and SciencesÕ ÒGreat To Be NominatedÓ series on Monday, June 9, at 7:30 p.m. at the AcademyÕs Samuel Goldwyn Theater.   Pictured here: Tom Hanks in a scene from SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, 1998.

To be honest, I was jaded by the bandwagoning over this film. The mob mentality followed flag-waving mutual love for Saving Private Ryan from the moment it exploded onto the big screen. So, I skipped it. Too many older male teachers looked at me and said, “Earn this” as if it meant they’d nearly died to help me get my degree. I’ve seen that last few minutes in clips in so many classes and so many sermons, I assumed that everyone must be romancing the ideals of war somehow. I didn’t see American Sniper for the same reason. I didn’t want to somehow promote war by enjoying it.

I claimed this excuse: films are a passion, an escape, a joy for me. I’d rather rewatch a lovely story on DVD than be shocked or potentially harmed by the vicarious experience of torture. I live the movies I watch. I don’t sleep well for weeks after watching a horror movie. As a young girl, I knew was going to be the next meal of the T-rex after Jurassic Park. And my feet will never forget the sensation of trying on the glass slippers for the first time. I feel invincible after action movies, and so very thoughtful after solved crime dramas. I sob through too many films, even the happy bits. Somehow I feel that movies are made for me, about me. I learn, live by, quote, and internalize the messages of films. Filmmakers are teachers, like it or not. They persuade, preach, and perpetuate ideas that they too believe in. Perhaps I am the type of audience they make movies for. I care.

Spielberg called in the troops for this one. Every face under an Allied helmet seemed notable, famous, yet somehow fitting in this quintessential war flick. The actors vying for these roles must have known that Spielberg was making history…from history. Spielberg manages to give enough pause-to-breathe time as well as changes in scenery to make the journey on the shores and fields of France during WWII manageable, though I admit I had to mute and close my eyes many times just to stomach the horrors of war, even from my living room’s comfy chair.

The brilliance of Spielberg’s Private Ryan is that it seeks to tell the story from the inside and refuses the omniscient narration of wide angles. It’s a human interest story in POV, point of view. The audience is as surprised as the soldiers are when under fire. We suffer as they do. I watched it today for my friend Dan who served in Iraq. Dan is one of the kindest, most peaceful men I know. He loves his Bible and his wife, and he has always been a good friend to me. He has never talked about war, but it felt like he was there in this film. We were there together in the fox holes and behind barricades.2762_5

Just as the opening hook of the film “The Hurt Locker” shows a likable Guy Pierce calmly discussing basic human desires like food and sex, so Spielberg set audiences up to  care about and relate to characters. We invest in them and in the film. If they want to live, we don’t want them to die. If the characters are cruel or insensitive, unrelatable or cold, audiences will often feel nothing. Heroes in film can also be too perfect to be likable, but it’s not the case with Hanks’s Captain character who is far from Christ-like. He makes bad calls and gut decisions. In front of the men, he seems callous, task-driven, even unfriendly at times. He refuses to offer personal information and keeps a kill count. But, something in him is reluctant, sorrowful, duty-bound. He leads, but from within as a do-er, a comrade, a man who misses home. Yet, we all know that he is willing to lay his life down for the mission. He is almost thrown by the concept in the line (and poster’s tagline) “This mission is a man.” In this way, he becomes the everyman. We know that we are flawed. We make bad calls and worry about the mission and the people we may bring down with us. We are Miller. We are Ryan. We were there on the battlefield with the men who died for us.

So today as I write this, on Memorial Day, when we who did not have to fight for freedom are called upon to remember those who did, I watched this film and thought it was beautiful.  Gut wrenching, devastating, tragic, and awful, but true and real and necessary.

Admittedly moved, I left the movie on as it replayed.

The scene I may have liked most is the moment before the climax battle when Hanks finds a coffee machine and tries to make a cup while the men lounge in the sun listening to an Edith Piaf record. The interpreter tells the men what she is singing, calling the lyrics quite melancholy as they speak of a love she’ll never have.

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I was reminded of a line from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet after Romeo finds out of a battle that his cousin fought that morning:

Oh me, what fray was here? Why then o brawling love, o loving hate, o anything of nothing first create, o heavy lightness, serious vanity, misshapen chaos of well seeming forms. Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, still waking sleep, that is not what this is!”

Shakespeare’s Romeo, like Piaf, discusses the oxymoronic nature of love that hurts, of love unrequited. But I would apply this speech to war in that it too dwells in both realms. They fought and died for love, killed for love. For love of life, of freedom, of family, of a world unbroken by tyranny. And for that they died. None of us can earn that. Earn life, love, freedom. That’s the beauty and irony of the Cross of Christ as well. He died to give life. He earned it so we wouldn’t have to.

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WOMAN IN GOLD (2015) movie review

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Who is the woman in gold? She is an emblem. She was a woman who loved. She bears a powerful curse and a blessing. Untouchable and coveted.

Gustav Klimt, known as a symbolist painter, studied in Vienna and employed gold leaf in many of his famous paintings and two of my favorites: The Kiss and The Woman in Gold.cn_image_3.size.gustav-kimlt-helen-mirren-woman-in-gold-movie-02

Gustav Klimt’s 1907 Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I. Rights reserved: Neue Galerie New York.

This film, however, is not about the painter Klimt at all. The story moves effortlessly into the dramatic story of the niece of the woman who posed for Klimt’s painting. Her wealthy Austrian family fell prey with the millions of Jews who were stripped of all possessions and forced to flee or fall during the Nazi overthrow in World War II.

This true story allowed the voice of the spunky niece Maria, played perfectly by Helen Mirren, to reluctantly revisit her homeland. The haunts of her lush childhood interlaced with the memories leading up to her wedding and eventually her escape. Her one connection to the aunt who helped to raise her was the painting that once hung in her childhood home.

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This film, however, is not necessarily about Maria. Nor is it truly about the painting. Ryan Reynolds plays a young lawyer who took a risk on a start-up and lost. We meet him, downtrodden, looking for work. Maria hires him to help retrieve the beloved painting of her aunt. We, in the audience, need to know that he was willing to take a risk. Despite his growing family, despite impossible odds, he must do this. The film is so much about him. It’s about his personal journey, connecting with his own past, mourning lost loved ones, mourning the holocaust. He fights as so few would, without real financial backing, against an entire country that wants to leave the past behind, forgiven, forgotten. Randol, the lawyer, seeks to prove Maria’s ownership of the painting, and for most of the film, he seems to fight for the wrong reasons. Then he changes. All that Midas touched turned to gold until he lost the only one he loved. Every hero has a tragic flaw, usually hubris. But when they sacrifice themselves for the greater good, they rise up and become what they never could have: a hero.

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EXODUS (2015) movie review

exodus-gods-and-kings-movie-poster-1Exodus has moments of beauty and potential greatness, thoughtful on so many levels. But Bale is no Charlton Heston. Exodus: Gods and Kings lacks the pizzaz and joy of the original Ten Commandments. Prince of Egypt may not have had a doe-eyed Aaron Paul but at least it never diminished the miracles by making Moses the God-whisperer and attempting to explain the plagues scientifically: alligators, so blood, so frogs, so flies, etc.

False beliefs prevail in Biblical films of late. The heroes must be A-listers, never mind the fluctuating accents, as long as they can wield a blade and train the peasants to retaliate. Why would God bother to intervene when Christian Bale or Russell Crowe can lead an army?exodus-gods-and-kings-3

I shouldn’t be surprised that so many renowned directors, like the brilliant, detail-driven Ridley Scott would look to the Greatest Stories Ever Told in the Bible for great screen fodder. To grasp the immortal seems the quest for most Hollywood greats. The gods of myth thought that eternal life is for those who live on in legend. Stories live on, so they must work as conduits…flux capacitors for a new age of inventors who visualize and create widescreen and digital IMAX.

Some also sadly believe that special effects will cover any sub-par plot points or dialogue, or anything that the filmmaker thought too potentially religious. Visual accuracy over biblical. The Pharaoh can look like he grew up in Texas as long as he cuddles with Cobras and paints a mean eyeline.

Egypt is sepia toned, to color the Caucasian cast. And the wilderness a Prometheus blue. The burning bush burst into a less than stunning blue flame.D0ObgKhviA

I’m sorry to say, it’s not the biblical inaccuracies that tanked the multi-million dollar project. It was…boring. Slow and unsteadily paced. It lags so desperately that in the end you almost hope the Red Sea will take them all. But they cross…waist-deep, then the armies drown in a tidal wave.

Many Christians cry and run from theaters over these kinds of oversights. If only the same crowd of movie goers would cry over poorly made films in the B-genre known as Christian films and seek to correct the problem with excellent filmmaking. The Bible will continue to provide a wellspring of stories. The era of Bible-based movies will continue.

So many filmmakers and viewers alike continue the search in a bottomless grave looking for a frozen Savior who they hoped would come to save the world. They have yet to find that He is risen. He is risen indeed.Exodus1

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THE IMITATION GAME (2014) movie review

the-imitation-game-benedict-cumberbatch1-600x399I’ve been impressed lately with films that exercise power over time. Jumping time zones, they show scenes during the war and jump seamlessly into post-war scenarios; scrub the screen black and pop right into the past. We follow without a hitch. Perhaps we can thank shows like Lost for allowing our minds the freedom to flash back or flash forward.

This Interstellar loop in a film’s string theory feels effortlessly achieved in Imitation Game.The-imitation-game-film-movie-desktop-wallpaper-benedict-cumberbatch-keira-knightley-matthew-goode-morten-tyldum-uk-alan-turing-british-films-best-picture-academy-awards-predictions-best-director-best-actor-726x400This effect was the film’s greatest achievement…aside from casting half of Downton, reconciling women’s rights issues, causing universal disgust over Britain’s punishment of homosexual behaviors, positing the potential effects of education on children within the autism spectrum, creating the first computer, decrypting Hitler’s Enigma machine, and winning the 2nd World War with math.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira KnightleyNeedless to say, it forced a few too many plot lines. Benedict Cumberbatch could have simply saved the world with his math skills. That plot would have sufficed.

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MONUMENTS MEN (2014) movie review

Learn your  A B C’s:the-monuments-men-uk-quad-posterA lways trust George Clooney.

B elieve in Bill Murray.

C ast Matt Damon in anything.

D on’t forget Cate Blanchett.

E njoy Bob Balaban as much in this as in Guffman or Moonrise Kingdom.

F eel the weight of loss when you realize that Hitler stole everything from people when he took their lives.

G reet Goodman, as ever, a force and a friend, like a grandfather you fear but can’t wait to see.

H ugh Bonneville, Downton’s Lord Grantham, stayed true to form in his stately address and attire.

I nnocuous as art may seem, when paired with the destruction of so much of Europe, its loss must have felt like insult to the injuries caused by war.

J oin ever sweet Jean Dujardin and the team in rescuing stolen art with their suave personalities and winning smiles.the-monuments-men_wide-5c74020332c43e14e25bfc06079da41ee6d50dc5-s6-c30

K eep
L ooking though you
M ay
N ever clear the
O bstacles
P ervading your
Q uest.
R emember that your
S oul is
T he art of the
U niverse’s Creator who
V alues you, knowing you are
W orth treasuring, as
eX tingushable as
Y ou may feel.

NaZ i soldiers obeyed orders, feeling they were right, but Clooney’s troop of Monuments Men sought to remind all why we fight.2013-mostanticipated-monumentsmen-full

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