Monday, February 16, 2009

Mad Rush of Movies

Every year, we make a mad dash to get ready to watch the Academy Awards. As long as the NFL has games on Saturdays and Sundays, we tend not to go to the movies. So, we miss out on the movies that are being released in the second half of the year. These are the movies that usually garner the Oscar nominations.

We started this mad dash by going to see Milk. This movie tells the story of the political radicalization of Harvey Milk, in San Francisco in the 1970s, culminating with his death in 1978 (along with Mayor Moscone) at the hands of disgruntled former City Councilman Dan White, played by Josh Brolin. Sean Penn is simply stunning in his morphing into the personna of Harvey Milk. The story is well-told, alternately humorous, touching, and deeply saddening.

We next saw Slumdog Millionnaire. This is clearly the feel good movie of the season. The story covers about two decades of the life of a young Muslim boy in Mumbai, India. He is a desperately poor boy who gets a chance to go on the show "Who Wants to Be a Millionnaire." As he successfully answers each question, the movie shows in flashback how he came to know information that one would not expect a "slumdog" to know. There is no deep meaning to the movie--but in the uncertain economic times in which we live, it will have deep appeal to many viewers.

More recently, we saw Doubt--the vehicle for tour de force performances by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep. They play, respectively, a friendly Irish priest, and a stern, tight-lipped nun named Sister Aloysius. A young nun, played sweetly by Amy Adams, sees something potentially comprising that the priest does. She eventually reports it to Sister Aloysius who is the principal of a Catholic school. Sister Aloysius begins a campaign to oust the priest, based on her firm conviction that he is a child molester. The two are locked in battle that dominates the movie--but at the end of the story, the viewer is still in doubt as to the truth.

Today, we saw The Reader. Kate Winslett plays a former Nazi SS prison guard named Hannah Schmitz. There is no question here as to why someone good would become involved in the Nazi madness in Germany during World War II. The movie really revolves around another mystery. Saying much more about the movie would give away some of the essential plot elements, but I will say that the inability of one character to read functions as a metaphor for the inability of some people to come to terms with the horror of the slaughter of millions of Jews during the Holocaust. This message alone is timely, given the current controversy of the Pope's having reinstated Bishop Williamson, who persists in denying the Holocaust.

I am not sure if we will be seeing The Wrestler. While I understand this is Mickey Rourke's comeback role, I have heard that the movie is particularly violent, and that's not my favorite topic. How ironic--since last year's top 2 movies in contention for best picture were No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood.

And the Oscar goes to. . .


NCmountainwoman said...

We rarely go to the movies...we wait for the DVD. I can't wait to see Sean Penn in "Harvey Milk." The trailer makes him look exactly like Milk. I remember the events so well.

I no longer like violent movies in general. Of course, I still watch "The Godfather" every now and then.

mon@rch said...

Love Netflex but this sounds like a few movies!

Ruth said...

Interesting reviews. I went to one show this year, and that was the James Bond movie with one of my daughters (not my choice). It is very seldom that we enjoy the same movies in our family.

Laurie Cutter said...

I definitely to see "The Reader" after reading your synopsis. Guess I'd better start my own little movie marathon to get caught up!

Anvilcloud said...

Another year gone, eh? I remember you doing this last year. I wasn't able to catch up then, and the same applies this year. But we will watch the awards for some reason.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

Thanks for the quick heads up on the movies. I live too far from a theater to go and see one so I will have to wait for the video releases.

I avoid all movies with violence in them. Usually, advertised with some guy holding a gun. Have you noticed they are usually "Made in the USA". I love Australian movies which seem to focus on characterization. Even Canada, makes good movies although American domination of distribution keeps them out of Canadian theaters. Europe makes less violent movies and then there are Bollywood movies, which have become popular in Canada in the urban areas.

I guess, eventually I will see these films. Although I still cannot bring myself to watch the violent Vietnam theme movies. They illicit too much pain and emotion for me, who invest so much in protesting that war.

GranBecks said...

Hi I just found your blog by searching for the expression, "Hearse pulling a U-haul". I left you a comment, so please check it out!
As for your marathon movie efforts--kudos. We never seem to go to the movies that are nominated. We did see "Tropic Thunder"--long story, but I did not think Robert Downey, Jr. deserves a supporting actor nom for this--we did LOVE him in "Iron Man" however.
We saw "Gran Torino" before the nominations and I was certain Clint would sweep many awards to this. Turns out he got zip? It's a great flick if you get a chance to see, in fact I think one of my favs of ALL TIME.
I am not big on violence but I love Marissa Torme and wanted to see "The Wrestler" for that reason. Now that I hear about the violence, not so sure. Probably a Red Box or Netflix pick.
Your mumblings are inspiring me, KGMom!

RuthieJ said...

Hi Donna,
Thanks for the movie reviews.
I would like to see "Milk" and "Slumdog Millionaire" is on my Netflix queue, but I haven't been to a theater to see a movie in years (the last time was to see Winged Migration--was it 2003 when that movie came out??)

Beverly said...

A group of us go to the movies almost every Saturday if there is not something else going on. With diverse tastes, it is sometimes hard to agree on a film, and often we see something very innocuous. I did go to see Slumdog Millionaire on my own. Quite a movie...I do not plan to see Sean Penn in anything. I do want to see The Reader and Doubt, however.

GranBecks said...

Beverly, why do u not like Sean Penn? I do not like him either, but I am not sure why! I just do not like looking at him. I just read a novel called 'The Unquiet' by John Connolly. There was a picture of S. Penn on the back cover, so they must have made or are making a movie from this book. The book was disturbing because it involved a mystery where children had been abused, so between not wanting to see his picture on the back of the book and trying to deal with the subject matter in the book...I can't believe I finished it.