Each day, it seems, a new film critics group or other such organization announces its Best Film and Best Actor and Best Actress choices for the just-concluded year. Then we have the Golden Globe awards which, let’s face it, is the equivalent of a Triple-A championship baseball game. Now we have the Academy Awards which, as Ed Sullivan used to say, is the “Really Big Show” that is the motion picture industry’s equivalent of the World Series or Super Bowl.
One film that is drawing attention at award nomination ceremonies is PHILOMENA, the story of a real-life Irish-Catholic woman named Philomena Lee. The film relates the story a teenager in the 1950s, who met a young man one evening at a fair and wound up having a one-night sexual encounter with him—her first time having sex. She never saw him again.
For decades, the behind-the-scenes lives of the famous have been fodder for celluloid “exposes.” In recent years in particular, filmmakers have been attracted to tales of illicit romances during times in which strict codes of social conduct were supposed to be adhered to. The latest example is THE INVISIBLE WOMAN, which is directed by Ralph Fiennes. THE INVISIBLE WOMAN charts the evolving relationship between an older Charles Dickens, who also is played by Fiennes, and a young woman named Nelly Ternan.
Usually, at the end of each year, a handful of high-quality Oscar-caliber films arrive in movie theaters. But this was not the case in 2013. Rather, a wealth of films that for one reason or another have been deserved acclaimed have opened theatrically. PHILOMENA, DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, NEBRASKA, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, AMERICAN HUSTLE, MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, HER, and AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY have followed PRISONERS, GRAVITY, ALL IS LOST, and 12 YEARS A SLAVE into movie houses.
While soaking in the coverage on CNN of the death of Nelson Mandela, I was not surprised to hear the deservedly respectful quotes from diverse political figures. Certainly, Barack Obama’s declaration that Mandela “no longer belongs to us. He belongs to the ages” is ever-so appropriate.
The silent film era from the start of the 20th Century through the end of the 1920s was a rich time in American entertainment. Rich, poor, immigrants new to our nation—they all sought out the new and wondrous moving shadows which looked so clearly like real life. By the mid-teens, the Hollywood studio system and movie companies in Chicago, New York, and parts of New Jersey, as well as Florida and Maine, were churning out thousands of short films and feature-length entertainments for mass consumption.
These days, we are long-past the time in which cineastes would excitedly queue up to check out the latest work of art from a filmmaker who is not American: an Ingmar Bergman, say, or a Federico Fellini, an Akira Kurosawa, a Francois Truffaut. Today, with pitifully few exceptions, films with subtitles simply are not widely seen in the U.S. And with few exceptions-- two that come to mind are Michael Haneke and Pedro Almodovar-- there are no foreign filmmakers whose careers match the length and depth of Bergman, Fellini, Kurosawa, Truffaut, and so many others.
Until recently, to my way of thinking, the term “bullying” referred to groups of grade school, high school, or college-age kids who singled out and picked on a solitary young person who was viewed as being weak and vulnerable. But one current media item has been much on my mind. This is coverage of the alleged harassment of Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin by one or more of his teammates. So the questions here become: Are insecure children the only victims of bullying? In fact, can a 300-pound professional football player also be bullied? Is there a difference between good-natured locker room ribbing and the kind of provocation that apparently was experienced by Jonathan Martin?
When German director Margarethe von Trotta makes a film, I rush to see it. Her previous works include powerful portrayals of strong-minded women who come up against the Establishment and boldly act to change society as they see it. She is a fine director, writer, and actress whose films go back to New German Cinema.
Back in September, a new film titled PARKLAND very quickly made the rounds of the film festival circuit, screening at Venice, Toronto, and elsewhere. Then in October, PARKLAND opened theatrically. Even before coming to movie houses, its November 5 DVD release date was announced. From a marketing standpoint, all of this makes perfect sense. That is because PARKLAND is an ensemble piece which recounts the chaos that occurred in Dallas, Texas, five decades ago this month, upon the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.