Upon hearing the initial accounts of the recent murder of three people at a Jewish community center and retirement home in a Kansas City suburb, I was shocked and saddened. But senselessly violent acts are such a constant part of our world these days, and so I really should not have been surprised.
Since last month, big-screen viewing has been a mix of awesome and disappointing. The two films I most was looking forward to were Wes Anderson’s THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL and Darren Aronofky’s NOAH. Both were outstanding visually but in need of script doctoring.
How does one reconcile the past when that past is crammed with the worst kind of memories? One way would be to write a memoir. Another would be to make a film. Both approaches apply to THE RAILWAY MAN, a newly-released film that is a screen adaptation of a book by Eric Lomax.
Cesar Chavez is one of American history's legendary union organizers and workers' rights activists. Back in the 1960s, he was at the forefront of the effort to unionize California farmworkers. CESAR CHAVEZ also is the name of a new biopic: a simple, sincere chronicle of a decade in the life of Chavez (who is played by Michael Peña).
Jared Leto was, for sure, the hands-down pick to win the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his memorable presence in DALLAS BUYERS CLUB. But what is intriguing is the state of his screen career prior to DALLAS BUYERS CLUB. Before copping his Oscar, Leto had not made a film in five years and, furthermore, his previous effort was no small affair. It was an ambitious mega-budgeted sci-fi fantasy that, thematically-speaking, is reminiscent of such films as THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON and CLOUD ATLAS. Its title is MR. NOBODY and its director is Jaco Van Dormael, the esteemed Belgian filmmaker.
Countless films have featured couples who, upon first meeting, are like water and oil. In other words, for one reason or another, they simply do not like each other. But as the story develops, they bond and, at the finale, wedding bells are ringing. This is the storyline found in celluloid romances from decades ago, and this remains the formula today.
The works of British producer, writer, director Richard Curtis express feelings about love and the human condition in a unique way. Curtis is a topnotch student of life on our complicated planet. At times his take is so bittersweet and yet so comedic that he seems to have Charlie Chaplin whispering in his ear. But it’s not the Chaplin of the 1920s; Curtis knows modern life.
A constant refrain that I’ve been hearing from movie lovers for years is: How come Hollywood does not produce more high-quality films-- films that are script and character-driven, and that are not overloaded with generally mindless content? This is a fair question. And it is one with a simple answer. That answer is a one-word answer. That one word is: money.