Maynard posts his movie notes

Here’s what I saw over the holiday.

First, we have the Coen brothers‘ presentation of True Grit. The Coens are my favorite filmmakers. They aspire to remind us of our American and spiritual heritage. Their movies are entertaining and uplifting.  My favorite Coen films are “Fargo”, “Raising Arizona”, “No Country for Old Men”, and “A Serious Man”. Those are, in my eyes, sublime. “True Grit” was merely excellent. Here are the thoughts of other reviewers.

Then there was The King’s Speech, a historical drama based upon the personal struggle of England’s King George VI, prior to ascending to the throne, to deal with a debilitating stutter. These were in the tense days before the Second World War, when the Empire desperately needed credible leadership; however the then-Duke of York was not ready for the task that fate had assigned to him. This film is very well done, and reviews are glowing. I enjoyed it a lot. The drama is overly manipulative, but this is done with such charm that it must be forgiven. It also calls up Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, which I find an especially powerful bit of music (it’s ironic to find this used in the context of conflict with Germany, considering that Beethoven was German). If anyone is interested, the best rendition (and I think this is the one used in the film) is Leonard Bernstein’s Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 7. The specific track is #6: Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92: 2. Allegretto.

Peggy Noonan wrote some interesting comments about how “The King’s Speech” addressed our quest for adult leaders. See ” The Captain and the King“. Looking into the historicity of this drama, I discovered this Daily Beast post, which warns us: “… viewers should know of the very many glaring and egregious inaccuracies and tired old myths that this otherwise charming film unquestioningly regurgitates.” I’m unsure about the historical details, but filmmakers would generally prefer to tell a good story rather than an accurate one. I do appreciate movies for bringing a framework of history to the public. But you shouldn’t necessarily come out of a movie like this assuming it’s all true.

Moving along…Sofia Coppela describes her film Somewhere as “a Los Angeles tone poem”. It’s a look at a (fictional) celebrity actor caught up in the excessive Hollywood lifestyle. He is struggling with a growing realization that, somewhere along the shining path to celebrity status, he has misplaced his soul.

“Somewhere” is a fundamentally atmospheric work, without moralizing or neat lessons. I found it compelling, but it’s for a targeted audience, and most people would probably go away unsatisfied. Reviews.

I was obligated to see the updated Tron Legacy. As I’m sure you’re all aware, the Love Story book and movie were based on the life of Al Gore (before he invented the Internet). Well, the original Tron movie was likewise based upon my own life. Except that I wasn’t transposed onto The Grid, and the bad guy ended up with the company and the money, not to mention the girl. So of course I had to check out how Hollywood has massacred the continuation of my adventures. And I didn’t much like what I saw. Some nice effects, but the story did not make sense, nor was it particularly involving. Once again, an obvious ripoff of my own life. Reviews

In Tuesdays 3rd hour, Tammy briefly mentioned the movie Caligula. For the record, this is the most vile, disgusting film ever made. I saw it long ago because I thought it was a “real” film. This was an understandable mistake, because it seemed to have real talent behind it. Boy, was I wrong. Caligula was nothing more than the sick, puerile, sadistic fantasies of Bob Guccione (of Penthouse fame). If you want to see an intriguing dramatic take on the Roman Emperor Caligula, dig up the BBC mini-series, “I, Claudius”.

Tammy also spoke highly of Black Swan, and critics agree. Tammy was particularly overwhelmed by the performance of Natalie Portman. Lamentably, Maynard disagrees with Tammy and the critics. I found this film far too heavy-handed to be dramatically interesting. And Natalie Portman’s role didn’t allow for the sort of subtle nuances that would make an Oscar-winning performance achievable. Director Darren Aronofsky has been on my radar as having interesting ideas, but I can’t say his films have paid off for me. But I’ll continue to keep an eye on him.

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tammy Bruce, PalinPromotions. PalinPromotions said: Via @HeyTammyBruce Maynard’s Movie Roundup […]

  2. Slimfemme says:

    I highly recommend The King’s Speech. After reading Noonan’s op-ed, I couldn’t agree more. At least that’s what appealed to me! An adult film where someone takes responsibility. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that since our culture is degraded and low, our movies would be too. In fact, every good movie or television show is being remade. How pathetic. There’s no originality anymore.

    I’m a huge fan of period pieces. This rose my spirits. I’d like to see people triumph over adversity. I found King George VI actual speech on YouTube.
    You all should listen to it; particularly given the context. I’ve had a fascination with Great Britian. It is truly sad to see this country decline. For me their started with te death of Princess Diana. What a total spectacle!! It was truly embarrassing. I cannot imagine that kind of behavior occurring during King George’s time. Or even when Churchill died.

    Overall, TAMs should check this film out. It is well worth it.

  3. Artgal says:

    Agree w/ you totally on the Coen Bros. They rank among my favorites. I have not had the opportunity to see True Grit, but I have heard nothing but wonderful things about it. Thank you for confirming!

    I want to see Black Swan for two reasons: 1) It sounds excellent and 2) I love the work of Darren Aronofsky. I have found his work very visually creative and effective in drawing people into a world – not just merely being a passive observer. I was hooked from Pi on.

    When ‘Requiem For A Dream’ came out in 2000, I was living in Chicago. It was Thanksgiving weekend and a friend was visiting. We took the L train to a theatre on Clark St. with plans to see ‘Requiem…’ and ‘Dancer in the Dark’ back-to-back. ‘Requiem…’ was so powerful – cryptically beautiful in how disturbing it was as well as in execution and imagery; the cinematography, direction, lighting, post effects, soundtrack, editing & casting all merged together perfectly. The acting was powerful (especially Burstyn) and I was pleasantly surprised by Jared Leto’s performance.

    Aronofsky took this storyline one step further by taking the characters, their environments, circumstances and addictions and making us more than viewers: he drew us into their dark underword where one could actually experience the madness through brilliant visual manipulations & enhanced audio. It became more than just watching these characters; it was being able to feel the elation of the highs and the depths of their hells. It also led one to consider (in my opinion anyway) that all four characters are succombing to their addictions and losing grasp of their dreams – yet, there is one character most sympathetic to viewers though we are challenged on that sympathy because her ultimate problem is the same as the others. Sarah Goldfarb, played by Ellen Burstyn, could be anyone’s parent or grandparent. Who can deny a lonely widow at home – whose son takes advantage of her, steals from her in the beginning and his infrequent visits – wouldn’t grab your heart and evoke sympathy for her situation? Yet, she too, becomes part of an underworld – even if it is an underworld existing only in her mind – and not fueled by illegal drugs, but prescribed ones – until it is painfully apparent she is completely detached from reality. The entire theme revolved around what would one do to achieve their dream – what would you sacrifice for that one thing? It became one addiction in pursuit of another.

    The ending was eerie: each character having come to their breaking point and fading out, curling into a fetal position – sort of that biological inclination to be somewhere safe and to return to a state of innocense.

    After the movie, my friend and I walked outside the theatre in total silence. It was cold, gray, drizzling with snow piled down the sidewalk – a typical dreary Chicago winter. This was in my smoking days, so we each pulled out a cigarette just standing there unable to talk – only smoke; yes, the movie was that thought-provoking and all-consuming in it’s genius delivery. When we finally could speak, we decided to ditch ‘Dancer In The Dark’ and go have a drink at The Green Mill. Seeing ‘Dancer…’ some time later, I felt it was a good decision not to have seen it right after ‘Requiem…’ – that would have pushed even the most stable person over the edge.

    I also love ‘High Art’ directed by Lisa Cholodenko. Again, another beautiful example of a movie that was artfully cast, directed and executed. Ally Sheedy & Patricia Clarkson – what can I say? Two masterful performances. This movie’s soundtrack just fit beautifully with the look and feel of the movie – it totally enhanced the environment with such mood-inducing, brooding music and colors (forgive me – I associate sounds with colors and direction – something called synaesthesia). I loved the interaction between the characters, the setting based in the art-world presenting the conflict between commercial art and simply possessing an artist’s soul – it brought up the pretentious nature in that field (in a subtle manner as it was not THE focus) but was also highlighted in Lucy Berliner’s (Sheedy) personal relationships: the pretentious nature of one relationship and the grounded, heartfelt nature of another. Lucy’s interaction with Syd (Radha Mitchell) would also force Syd to examine her own life & motives in her career and relationships.

    Obviously, I’m going back in time on these two movies I particularly like. These were not the last movies I ever saw by any stretch, but they made a huge impression on me.

    So True Grit & Black Swan, I am finding, are must sees. Thanks for the recommendations & commentary, Maynard!

    • Maynard says:

      I’ve seen the other Aronofsky films, including Requiem. He works with the sort of material that interests me, and I’m not knocking him, but it’s not quite on my wavelength. He favors the linear tragedy that doesn’t hook me. From his opening scene, you can pretty much anticipate the entirety of the plot. Some accuse him of being a one-trick pony, in that his films pretty much stick to the same plot. In fact, as I recall, The Fountain had 3 different plot lines, and the gimmick was they were all the same. This works for some people, who are drawn in by the characters and their situations, which are skillfully portrayed. Not quite enough for me. But there’s no accounting for taste, especially mine. Anyway, if you liked Requiem, you’ll certainly want to see Black Swan.

  4. jimmer says:

    You might think this weird and, if you wanna know, I am. 😉 I just don’t watch movies. The last movie I saw in a theatre was ‘The X-Files’ in ’98? (I was a huge fan of the show) I’m pretty sure before that was ‘Gettysburg’ in ’93. Movies always disappoint me. Books I LOVE. Can use my imagination. Movies you rely on somebody else’s imagination. Too restricting and they always disappoint. I almost went to see ‘Inception’ last summer but procrastinated and then it was gone. The Narnia movies tempted me but…
    Now a documentary, that is another animal. I can watch a documentary on just about any topic, especially historical. My favorite tv show when I was a kid was ‘The World at War’. Hey I said I was weird. 🙂 The most recent documentary I saw (although made in 2003) was ‘Prisoner of Paradise’ about Theresienstadt. It was a fascinating yet shocking documentary reinforcing how truly evil the Nazi’s were.

    And ok, I did see ‘True Grit’ as a kid. I want to remember John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn. Yup, no need to see another interpretation. 😉

  5. thierry says:

    i do not recall the last time i was in a movie theatre- years, maybe a decade. i do remember seeing “Caligula” on a date when it came out- (what the hell were we thinking? we were the only couple in the theatre. art school just ruins you- all i can salvage from it is that at least it wasn’t my idea to go.)

    this is a movie that needs to be revived. only seems to be available in errol flynn dvd sets though and VHS: “Edge of Darkness “(1943) about a norwegian village revolting against the Nazi occupiers. chicks with guns. ministers with guns. old ladies with guns.heaps of dead nazis. a young ruth gordon. fun for the whole family.

    film critique on the “Edge of Darkness” that’s interesting:

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