Invictus

Going to see Invictus made me realize that the onslaught of  big Oscar players had begun. Know this upfront, I am a big Clint Eastwood fan and in general consider his work absolutely great. Of course how can you not with a track record of Mystic River, Unforgiven, Letters From Iwo Jima, and last years Gran Torino just to name a few.

This film begins just as eventual South African President Nelson Mandela is elected. The first portion of the movie deals with the taking of office and setting the stage explaining and understanding the problems of South Africa. The Nations Rugby team isn’t playing all that well, and viewed by the nations black population as a sign of apartheid. So literally the home team was being booed every time out. Mandela decides to use the Rugby team and it’s entrance into the world cup to begin to heal the racial hatred that exists in his country, and everything culminates in the finals match against an unbeatable New Zealand team.

Well, what was my take on the movie? Well, let me say, this is a very entertaining film, and I was never bored with it, but to my disappointment I can’t say that I think this is a Best Picture caliber film. It almost seemed that there was a struggle of what type of film this was, whether it is a political film or an inspiring sports film. With not having a true direction, neither sports or political story were told in enough detail or depth. At times I was wanting more from the political side, but during the second half when the Springbok Rugby team was in the forefront, I felt like I had missed out on character development and the sport of rugby. The only character that was developed at all, was of course the Matt Damon (Bourne Supremacy, Good Will Hunting) Francois Pienaar. I am a big sports fan and know some basic rules about rugby, but when it came to the final match against New Zealand, I wanted to know more details about how the game is played, and extra character development would have helped in in caring and cheering for them that much more in the end. I really wanted Best Picture material from this film and it didn’t quite get that high.

As far as performances, Nelson Mandela is played by Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption, Million Dollar Baby, Unforgiven). Of course he does a good job playing the character and does everything necessary for the film, but having such high standards for him, this isn’t the best performance by him. Matt Damon also, is adequate for the role, but doesn’t really bring much to the table. Don’t get me wrong, they are not terrible at all, just nothing that si jumping off the screen screaming Oscar.

I normally wouldn’t make to much of a comment about music unless it moved me one way or another. I think Mr. Eastwood as a director should keep more of an open mind when it comes to the score of a film, and realize that his Malpaso piano “interludes” and solo horns don’t work for every film or in the same way it worked for Unforgiven and Gran Torino. You would think that a film about South Africa, you wouldn’t have music that was poignant and soft. Although there were poignant and touching spots in the film, overall I don’t think his music worked well at all. The only point where you hear anything bold was when the Springbok team goes for the 6am run. I definitely would have prefered a soundtrack a bit more primal or native sounding.

Ok, back on a good note. Would I recommend this film to friends, yes, absolutely. It really is an enjoyable film, especially the last 45 minutes when the main focus seems to shift from politics to the Springbok rugby team. It is a feel good, uplifting film that can be enjoyed by all.

Advertisements

Gran Torino

Gran Torino

Walt Kowalski’s wife has just passed away, and he is the lone white person in a neighborhood of Asian people. Walt, having served in the Korean war, you can imagine some of the racist feelings he has. While defending his property, he is viewed by the families in the neighborhood as saving Thao’s life. Living next door to Thao, Walt has the services of Thao for a week as Thao works for him as a favor. Friendships and relationships grow from there, and Walt in the end has some interesting choices to make. (Not giving too much away here…..you need to see it yourself!)

Walt Kowaslki is played marvelously by Clint Eastwood (Bridges of Madison County, Unforgiven). In fact I was rather disappointed that he did not receive a Best Actor nomination for this his role. Eastwood playing a hard nosed war veteran, and lets the racial cliches and slang fly like it is everyday conversation, believe it or not, adds a touch of humor in the role. You begin to realize he actually has a good heart , and the way he talks…is well…just that, the way he talks. The few that get to know him, don’t seem to mind the talk and it really works for the film when they role with it, especially with Su next Door. “Get me another beer, Dragon Lady! This one’s running on empty.”

I just can’t say enough good things about this film. In fact, in my eyes, this was the Best Picture of 2008, and a shame it didn’t even get nominated. It is a wonderful story and a great piece of film making. Seeing the trailer for the first time, I was unsure of the film, since it looked like an aged Dirty Harry movie. Don’t let that stop you from seeing it. This film will make you laugh, cry, and think. It offers so much on every front. This one is a must see for sure!!!

The Aviator

21790

The Aviator, deservedly nominated for Best Picture, and in my opinion, a much better film than the winner that year, Million Dollar Baby.  This is a film about Howard Hughes and in particular his love for aviation. The film begins in Hughes “directing” era when he is making Hells Angels. While in production of his film Hughes is constantly pushing the boundaries of aviation and eventually buys TWA and challenges Pan Am’s monopoly on international flights. Of course the Hercules…more commonly known as the Spruce Goose…is included in the film as well as the congressional hearings and Hughes eventual demise due to his obsessive compulsive disorder.

This movie has a stellar cast highlighted by Leonardo DiCaprio’s (Titanic, Gangs of New York) portrayal of Mr. Hughes. DiCaprio is wonderful at having an attitude about not caring about money, when ever there is a problem, his solution is to “buy” it or hire someone to fix it. For example hiring Professor Fitz, played by Ian Holm (Lord of the Rings), to monitor clouds for in teh background in the movie  Hells Angels. DiCaprio is also great in slowly introducing the obsessive compulsive side of Howard Hughes. From being paranoid about washing his hands to the extreme side when he has locked himself in a room, totally naked, trying to avoid any type of germ. Personally, I thought Leonardo DiCaprio could have won an Oscar for this role. I though both he and Don Cheadle (nominated for Hotel Rwanda) were better than Jamie Foxx in Ray, but we all have our opinions.

The other outstanding performance, which did result in an Oscar, was Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth) playing Katherine Hepburn. She was incredible with her accent and the way she carried herself in general. As I mentioned this film has a great cast, and many very nice performances…..Alan Alda (MASH) was nominated as best supporting actor for his role as Senator Brewster, Alec Baldwin (Beetlejuice) as Juan Trippe, and even a small role for Jude Law (The Talented Mr Ripley) playing actor Errol Flynn.

Behind the camera is Martin Scorsese (Best Director The Departed), and usually what ever he is involved with turns out nothing less than great. Again, another Oscar could have been won here as I thought for directing, he did a much better job and took more risks than Clint Eastwood for Million Dollar Baby. (Although I never mind seeing Clint Eastwood win anything, he has become an American icon.) For instance, look at the first hour of the Aviator, there are no greens in the movie to reflect a look and tone of the time. No your TV does not need adjusting, even the green peas on the plate are blue. The Aviator with it’s grand scale and top notch cast needed a great director like Martin Scorsese, as where I believe there are a handful of directors that could have done Million Dollar Baby.

As much as I have mentioned the word Oscar here, it did take home 5 Oscars and deservedly so. If you have not seen this film, this is really a great movie and worth watching. It will give you an appreciation of what Howard Hughes did for the field of aviation and the airline industry. At least see this once.

High Plains Drifter

Clint Eastwood Western Icon Collection

Take into account that this was Clint Eastwood’s second movie he directed, and it is made in 1973 may help explain things. This movie is a bit on the rough side and definitely not a political correct one. Within the first quarter of the film Clint Eastwood’s character, which appropriately has no name,  kills three men and rapes a woman, and keep in mind this is the good guy. Some of these situations may turn a few of it’s women viewers off. But hey, some women still enjoy a violent, brutal western…like my wife, who’s favorite film is The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

Back to the movie at hand. Clint Eastwood plays his standard western character that I am sure everyone has seen before. And he cast some that in the future are Clint Eastwood regulars, like Geoffrey Lewis. There is a bit of supernatural to the movie as the drifter is haunted by visions of a former sheriff beaten to death. Whether he is just seeing this vision in his dreams, had a similar experience, or the choice I like to believe, is he is the ghost of that very sheriff Jim Duncan coming back to repay the town of Lago for what they have done. After all the town was renamed HELL by the drifter, and for him, that town was Hell.

This is still a very entertaining western and is one of the movies I remember growing up to, staying up late at night catching this on the late show. This movie may not be for all, but if you are any remote fan of a good western, this one will not bore you at all. Very good western!!!!!