Movie Review: I Can Only Imagine

I have long been a fan of the band, MercyMe. I own several of their CDs and one of my favorite songs of theirs, called Beautiful, is on my iPhone. I listen to it any time I need a reminder about my worth. I also love the song that launched this group…I Can Only Imagine. Like many other people, I listened to it on repeat when it released in 1999.

I love too that a film released recently that tells the story behind the song, listed as the best selling Christian single of all time. I attended a matinee showing yesterday, with my mom and sister Linda.

Movie Review I Can Only Imagine

I Can Only Imagine stars Dennis Quaid, J. Michael Finley, Brody Rose, Trace Adkins, Madeline Carroll and Cloris Leachman. This family drama based on a true story, directed by Jon and Andrew Erwin, is rated PG for some adult themes, including abuse, and has a run time of 1 hour and 50 minutes.

Young Bart Millard (Rose) may be just a kid who rides his bike and likes to make things from scraps, but he’s already had to learn to cope with difficult things. Life is hard at home, and it becomes even harder after his mom leaves while Bart is away at camp. Bart’s dad, Arthur (Quaid) is an alcoholic who is bitter and angry about the way his own life has unfolded. The career he hoped for in football never materialized. He expresses his frustration by being verbally and physically abusive to his wife and young son.

Movie Review I Can Only Imagine

Bart finds solace in music, drowning out the world by popping on headphones and listening to his favorite cassettes. As a youth, Bart (Finley) attempts to please his father by playing football. But when an injury ends his chances of playing, Bart turns to the high school glee club as an elective class.

His disappointed father sees another football career disappear before it even started, sending him into fits of rage. The only support Bart receives is from his girlfriend Shannon (Carroll) and his Memaw (Leachman).

Bart’s life shifts when his music teacher discovers he can sing. He performs the lead in the school musical and begins to sing regularly at church. As soon as he graduates, Bart leaves home, anxious to be as far from his abusive father as possible.

Movie Review I Can Only Imagine

When he meets some young men looking for a lead singer, Bart joins the group, and even comes up with the name for the new band…MercyMe. Memaw inspired the band’s name. When Bart told her he was joining a band she exclaimed, “Mercy me, get a real job!”

The group travels across the US in a renovated bus, playing any gigs they can get. Life on the road is hard, but the guys work on putting together their own unique sound and catching a break. An opportunity for bigger venues comes when a talent agent, Scott Brickell (Adkins) listens to a performance and offers his help. He encourages the band to find their song by finding their soul.

Movie Review I Can Only Imagine

But the record labels that come to the Nashville show aren’t impressed enough. They see potential but feel the group still has work to do. Bart considers quitting on his dream. He feels he has failed, just as his father predicted he would.

Brickell very wisely sees that the relationship between Bart and his father is preventing the singer/song writer from finding his true voice. Bart makes the difficult decision to return home and settle things with his dad.

Movie Review I Can Only Imagine

Arthur is a changed man, and a dying man. Diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, Arthur asks for forgiveness from his son. Everything that Bart has done before pales in comparison to giving his dad what he requests. Arthur has been reading a Bible, and working on the shabby house. He knows his time is short. Is there time enough to heal the relationship with his son and find peace before he dies? And is Bart willing to forgive?

This was an excellent film. I like movies based on true stories, and I always appreciate learning the story behind a song. At its core, this is a story about forgiveness and redemption and restoration. It teaches that amazing gifts flow from a healed heart, a whole heart, gifts such as the song I Can Only Imagine. Bart was inspired by his father, and words that Memaw spoke at the funeral, when he wrote the lyrics in ten minutes.

If you’ve always wondered how the song came about, or if you want to watch a family oriented movie that features redemption and restoration, catch I Can Only Imagine at the theater. You will be inspired.

Listen to the song HERE

Movie Review I Can Only Imagine

Movie Review: Rampage

My sister Linda and I made use of our Movie Pass cards to take in the new release Rampage this afternoon. This action flick, loosely based on an arcade game by the same name, promised fun entertainment on a cold spring day. We were not disappointed.

Movie Review Rampage

Rampage stars Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Jeffery Dean Morgan, Malin Ackerman and Jake Lacy. Directed by Brad Peyton, this sci-fi adventure is rated PG-13 for intense action sequences, violence, mild language and a few crude hand gestures…by a giant gorilla! The film has a run time of 1 hour and 46 minutes.

Davis Okoye (Johnson) is a primatologist working with primates in an animal park. He feels a much deeper connection to animals than he does to humans, preferring to spend his time with an albino gorilla named George (body work done by Jason Liles), that he rescued from poachers. Davis raised George. They learned to communicate by way of sign language.

When an illegal gene editing experiment goes wrong in space, the orbiting lab and escape pod explodes, sending canisters crashing to the earth like meteorites. One lands in the primate habitat. The pathogens within the canister escape, contaminating George, causing his body to grow rapidly. He also shows strong aggression and has the ability to heal injuries quickly.

Movie Review Rampage

George is not the only animal affected. In Montana a wolf grows to 30 feet in length, while in the Florida Everglades an alligator is transformed as well.

These mutations are the result of the secretive genetic work of brother and sister team Claire (Ackerman) and Brett Wyden (Lacy). With their test results destroyed in space, they need info collected from the monstrous animals. They beam out a signal that irritates the beasts, drawing them to their city of Chicago.

As the animals move toward that city, Davis teams up with research geneticist Dr. Kate Caldwell (Harris), a former employee of the Wydens. She doesn’t know how to stop the creatures but she was working on an antidote in the lab in Chicago, before she was fired.

The pair is aided by a government agent, Harvey Russell (Morgan), whose original assignment was to “put out this fire”. He quickly realizes standard procedures won’t work and frees Davis and Dr. Caldwell to fly to Chicago in a military chopper to stop the rampage.Movie Review Rampage

And a rampage it has become. The three beasts converge on the city, driven to rage by the radio signal audible only to them. As they lay waste to downtown Chicago, Davis must make difficult decisions about his primate friend, George.

This monster movie was a wild romp. There weren’t any deeper messages or ahas during the film, although the underlying themes were friendship and loyalty. However, it was a fun action packed movie to watch and enjoy. There were funny scenes and even a few touching scenes. But there was no mistaking the intent of this video game made into a movie. It was all about nature running amok and destroying everything in its path.

The muscular Dwayne Johnson excels in the disaster genre and Jeffrey Dean Morgan is always a joy to watch. The real star of Rampage, though, is George. The CGI work keeps getting better and better in the film industry. I ended up caring about that big gorilla who was an innocent victim of unlawful and unnatural experiments.

My intention was to preview this film for my grandkids, who have expressed an interest in seeing it. For the most part, the violent scenes cut away just before blood and gore are shown. And strong language gets muffled out somewhat. My grandkids would laugh in all the right places and fall in love with George. They would find his occasional rude hand gestures hilarious.

I enjoyed this movie. It reminded me of the many many monster movies I watched as a kid…Godzilla and Mothra and King Kong, swamp monsters and werewolves and a plethora of gigantic creatures. These stories are so far beyond what is possible that they can be appreciated for what they are…entertainment. And I was entertained.

Movie Review Rampage

Movie Review: Coco

I’ve wanted to watch this Disney animated film since seeing clips of it at this year’s Academy Awards. This evening I settled into my chair, ear buds in place, and enjoyed Coco on my laptop via Amazon rentals.

Movie Review: Coco

Coco features the voices of Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Renee Victor and Ana Ofelia Murguia. This animated adventure, directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina, is rated PG and has a run time of 1 hour and 45 minutes. Coco was nominated for two Oscars, Best Original Song “Remember Me” and Best Animated Feature Film. It won in both categories.

Miguel (Gonzalez) is a 12 year boy living in a small Mexican town with his large extended family. He aspires to be a musician, like the legendary performer Ernesto de la Cruz (Bratt), who died tragically while at the height of his career. The only problem is, Miguel’s family has banned music from their household.

Miguel has heard the story often. His great great grandmother, Imelda (Ubach), was left to raise her young daughter Coco (Murguia) alone after her husband left them to offer his music to the world. She vowed that music and singing would never be heard in her family again, as it had cast a curse. To support herself and her daughter Imelda opens a shoe making business, which is passed down each generation, and grows as the family grows.

Movie Review: Coco

Coco is now a very old woman whose memory is fading. She occasionally asks for her papa, even though he has been gone for many many years. On the Day of the Dead, the family is preparing to honor their ancestors by placing their photos on display. The family portrait of Imelda and Coco has had the face of the musician torn away. When the framed photo is knocked over and breaks, Miguel unfolds the rest of the picture and recognizes the guitar of Ernesto de la Cruz, the man he wants most to be like. He realizes Ernesto must be his great great grandfather.

Miguel decides to seize the moment and against his family’s wishes, he leaves to enter a talent contest. His grandmother Elena (Victor) destroyed his homemade guitar, so he must find another. In a daring move, Miguel breaks into Ernesto’s mausoleum in the cemetery and “borrows” the guitar on display. Immediately Miguel becomes invisible to the living and is transported to the Land of the Dead, as a punishment for taking the guitar.

Movie Review: Coco

Miguel meets his family members who have died, including his great great grandmother Imelda. They are horrified that he, a living boy, is among them. And Imelda is outraged that her great great grandson wants to be a musician. She has never forgiven her husband for choosing music over his family. Imelda tries to send Miguel home with a blessing, but she makes a stipulation…the boy must never play music or sing again.

Miguel refuses to accept her condition and escapes from his family. He goes in search of his musical ancestor, Ernesto, feeling certain his blessing will allow him to return home and become a musician. As he searches for Ernesto, Miguel meets the charming trickster Hector (Bernal), and enlists his help. Hector promises to get the boy to Ernesto if he will carry back a photo of him. Hector cannot visit the Land of the Living because no one there displays his picture on the Day of the Dead. If his daughter forgets him, as she appears to be doing, then Hector will fade away. He longs to see his child one more time.

Movie Review: Coco

After many attempts to locate the famous Ernesto, the pair finally tracks him down. He is amazed and delighted to discover he has a great great grandson who wants to be a musician. However, Miguel finds out there are mysteries in his family’s past, and he uncovers a dark secret that changes everything. He has until daybreak to secure his blessing and be sent back home, or he will become a permanent resident in the Land of the Dead.

Movie Review: Coco

This was a well done film that beautifully captures the culture of another country and focuses on the importance of traditions. There are sub stories woven through the movie about following your passion and about discovering the larger story and one’s place in it.

I laughed aloud over some of Hector’s antics. And teared up more than once when poignant moments tugged at my heart. Overall, this is a story about family and the ways the members are connected, both among the living and among the dead. I loved the portrayal that those who have passed, or crossed over, are very aware of their family members who still live and come to be among them. Love does not die although over time, memories fade and the stories about those who lived before are no longer told and passed down to younger generations.

Movie Review: Coco

I saw in this movie the power of a vow made in anger and the effects of blessings and curses on a family. I see the same in reality…generations impacted by one family member’s long ago vow, or fearful encounter, or optimistic perspective on life. Families can appear cursed, or blessed, based on an ancestor’s experience.

Watching the movie I felt gratitude for my own ancestors. I have photos, on display, of some of them. I recognized that I am keeping their stories alive and in remembering them, I am preventing them from slipping away. I also realized the importance of hearing stories from my mother and passing those tales on to my children and grandchildren so that for a time, those dear departed ones will live on in our hearts. I need to tell my stories too, and listen to the stories of my family members, so that there are new voices to take up the narratives and fresh hearts to be the keepers of memories.

Coco is a fun film, with much deeper messages to think about, making it one of my favorite types of movies.

Movie Review: Coco

Movie Review: The Circle

I watched this film last Friday evening, for Movie Night during the 7 Day Hygge Challenge. That night the intent of the blog post was to highlight the fun and coziness of the experience. Tonight I share the review for this intriguing film.

Movie Review The Circle

The Circle stars Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, John Boyega, Ellar Coltrane, Glenne Headly, Bill Paxton, Karen Gillan and Patton Oswalt. This sci-fi thriller, directed by James Ponsoldt, is based on the novel by Dave Eggers. The Circle is rated PG-13, for brief strong language, and has a run time of 1 hour and 50 minutes.

Mae (Watson) feels trapped in a dead end job. When her friend Annie (Gillan) calls, telling Mae she got her an interview at The Circle, the future suddenly seems full of promise. The Circle is a powerful, innovation technology company, run by founder Eamon Bailey (Hanks) and chief technology officer, Tom Stenton (Oswalt). Annie is currently one of the influential 40 in the company, with heavy responsibilities that necessitate frequent travels and long hours.

Movie Review The Circle

Mae’s interview goes well. She is hired to work in Customer Experience, an entry level position that requires her to chat with clients on multiple computer screens. Each client then rates their experience. Mae works diligently to reach an approval score of 100%.

After her first week, Mae begins to learn more about the huge company she is part of. The Circle, a cross between Facebook and Google, uses pioneering technology to bring people around the world together, in real time, and allow them to access everything from one app. The sprawling, circular campus houses buildings and dormitories, containing basically everything their employees need.

Movie Review The Circle

Mae learns that she is expected to be on campus, even when she isn’t working, taking part in the many scheduled activities and programs. Mae meets a colleague at a party. He turns to be Ty Lafitte (Boyega), the creator of TrueYou, one of The Circle’s most popular products. Ty is disgruntled with the company, sharing with Mae that TrueYou is being used in ways he did not intend. Fearing The Circle’s future expansion plans, he shows Mae a secret underground chamber, full of computer banks. Soon, he speculates, everything about every politician will be stored there. And will the tracking of individuals end there?

Movie Review The Circle

Mae is unsure though. The Circle is taking care of her parents, Bonnie (Headly) and Vinnie (Paxton). Vinnie has advanced Multiple Sclerosis and can’t get the help he needs until The Circle intercedes for him, providing him and his wife with housing on campus and cutting edge medical care. And Eamon is charismatic as he leads a company meeting about his latest gadget, called SeeChange. These tiny cameras/computers can be mounted anywhere. They not only provide amazingly clear visuals, they also give continuous information and data. Eamon believes transparency results in accountability. He wants the entire world to become transparent.

Mae pledges herself entirely to the company’s ideals and extravagant goals. After an incident in a stolen kayak on rough seas is captured on a SeeChange camera, making possible her rescue, Mae agrees to become the first Circler to go totally transparent. She will wear a small camera/computer during her waking hours, giving the world unlimited access to her work, her friends and family, and every detail of her life.

Movie Review The Circle

Mae becomes a celebrity. She constantly receives feedback, questions and comments from her viewers. But the continual live feed begins to take a toll on her relationships. Her parents can’t handle living so publicly, and leave The Circle. Mae’s off the grid friend, Mercer (Coltrane), is horrified by her decision and comes under personal attack when he takes a stand against what she’s doing.

Is it true that secrets are the same as lies? Is sharing every aspect of life really a form of caring? And is privacy a theft that deprives others of living vicariously through another’s actions? Mae finds herself at the center of vast, far teaching changes that could have massive implications for the whole world.

Movie Review The Circle

This was an interesting story. It was easy to see that our global society is not far from the tech uses and changes that The Circle explores. We are used to receiving streaming information, of all types, in an instant. We chat via facetime and use our phones to record details of our own lives and the lives or our friends, neighbors and total strangers.

I can catch a glimpse of the world The Circle says is coming, simply by logging onto Facebook. The questions raised by this movie made me think. Is complete transparency good or bad? Will there always be people pretending to live openly who are, in fact, those with the darkest secrets to hide? What happens to those who hold out or prefer to live private lives off the grid? And who makes the rules and enforces them?

Movie Review The Circle

I thought The Circle was a fascinating look at what could be our near future. Did it raise alarms? It did, for me. I appreciate all that technology has to offer and I make use of it. I don’t want to be watched during all of my waking hours. However, when do we cross the point of no return? And will we realize we’ve gone too far, before it’s too late?

I thought I knew how this movie was going to end. And right up until the end, I thought I was right. Oh, how I do love a clever twist, in a thought provoking movie!

Movie Review The Circle

Movie Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

This was the day for the final movie in the Best Picture category. And, I did it…seven movies in seven days, plus two of the nominated films before this week, equals NINE movies. I’ve never seen all of the Best Picture nominated films ahead of the Academy Awards before. And I realize now what a difference it makes. I will be watching the Oscars differently this year, thanks to this fun experience.

Movie Review Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri stars Woody Harrelson, Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Lucas Hedges, Sandy Martin, Peter Dinklage and John Hawkes. This crime drama, written and directed by Martin McDonagh, is rated R for language and adult themes, and has a run time of 1 hour and 55 minutes.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Musical Score, Best Actress in a Leading Role (McDormand), and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Harrelson and Rockwell both were nominated).

Mildred Hayes (McDormand) has experienced the unthinkable. Her daughter Angela was raped and murdered seven months ago, and the case appears to have gone cold. In the grieving process, Mildred is stuck in the rage stage. No arrests have been made, and in her opinion, Ebbing Police Chief Willoughby (Harrelson) is not doing enough to find the killer.

She takes matters into her own hands and rents three billboards just outside the city limits. The billboards express her frustration by calling out Chief Willoughby and asking, Why?

The Chief is a well liked man, respected by his men and the community. He explains to Mildred, with sincere sympathy, that although they have DNA evidence from the crime scene, there isn’t a match, not locally, not in Missouri, not anywhere in the US. They have no leads and the investigation seems to have hit a dead end. He reveals to Mildred that he is dying from pancreatic cancer. He doesn’t want emotions stirred up and the town in an uproar because of her billboards.

But Willoughby’s request to take down the messages is met with anger and a determination to keep the public aware of her daughter’s unsolved murder. Mildred’s wrath spills over on everyone, including her surviving child, a son named Robbie (Hedges), and her ex-husband Charlie (Hawkes), who blames Mildred for their daughter’s death. A somewhat rebellious teenager, Angela and her mother fought so frequently that the girl asked to live with her father. The dad told her to stay with her mom. Although there was a great deal of tension between mother and daughter, Charlie convinced Angela that her mom really did love her. A week later, Angela was dead.

The person who most resents Mildred and her signs is Officer Dixon (Rockwell). He is a complex person. Tough, with a bullying demeanor and a smart mouth, inwardly he doubts his abilities and feels unable to become the man he really wants to be. He lives with his controlling mother (Martin), looks to Chief Willoughby as a father figure, and has a very difficult time controlling his temper, which makes him a less than ideal police officer.

The whole town gets riled up by Mildred’s billboards, and her oft times unreasonable expectations. Underneath all her gruffness and sharp words though is a woman living in excruciating pain and guilt. Deep down, she blames herself also for Angela’s death. Rage is so much easier to keep honed and focused than grief and sorrow. But will anger fuel her determination long enough to find the person responsible and bring him to justice? And who decides what justice to mete out?

Pain is the word I would use to describe this movie. Everyone is in so much pain. For Mildred, the lack of closure creates a pain of loss that is unending and time is moving too slowly. For Chief Willoughby, the pain of cancer is literally eating him away and destroying the life he loves, and time is moving too quickly. The son hurts every minute of every day, because of his sister’s brutal death. And Dixon covers the pain he feels over his inadequacies and thwarted ambitions by hurting others.

There is humor sprinkled throughout the film, primarily through Dixon’s childish outbursts or his mother’s crude remarks, but this is a dark story. James (Dinklage) lightens the tone of the film in the scenes he appears in, until he feels rebuffed by Mildred on their one and only date. And then his pain rises to the surface as well.

I have to say that I was relieved to learn that this is not a true story, but loosely inspired by an event that happened twenty years ago in Texas. Ebbing, Missouri is a fictional town.

The acting is incredible in this film and all three actors deserve the nominations they have received. For me, however, this was a depressing story with no redemption or transformation for anyone. The characters are in pain, and they stay there. Chief Willoughby is the most likable of the major characters, a good hearted man with a wife and two young daughters, but his impending death drives him to choose the time of his demise.

Dixon has an opportunity to shift and grow and for a moment, it appears that he will become the man he really wants to be. But disappointing results from his attempt to do a heroic deed dump him back into reactionary mode. And Mildred…heartbroken, guilt ridden, furious with life and the world Mildred…well, she at last decides to take the law into her own hands and act. Or will she? As the movie screen fades to black, I saw just a hint of softening, and the tiniest release of long held tension.

Nine amazing films, and a host of incredible performances. It must have been difficult to choose which movie wins the Oscar. I’m still considering in what order I would rank the movies. How grateful I am for the privilege of watching so many fine films this week. And I am grateful to Regal for presenting the opportunity through their Best Picture Film Festival, and I am thankful I have a Movie Pass card.

I’ll be watching the winners Sunday night, at the 90th Academy Awards. Watch for my review of the evening!

Movie Review Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Movie Review: Get Out

Down to the last two movies as I watch all of the Best Picture nominated films this week, today I saw Get Out. I purposefully avoid reading about the movies before I see them, so that I can watch without others’ opinions clouding my perspectives. I therefore knew nothing about Get Out. And now…I can’t stop thinking about it.

Movie Review Get Out

Get Out stars Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, Caleb Landry Jones, Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel, Lakeith Stanfield, Stephen Root and LilRey Howery. This psychological thriller, written and directed by Jordan Peele, is rated R for language and violence, and has a run time of 1 hour and 44 minutes.

Get Out is nominated for four Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Kaluuya) and Best Original Screenplay.

Chris (Kaluuya) is headed out for the weekend with his girlfriend of five months, Rose (Williams), to meet her parents. It’s often a nerve wracking experience, to meet the parents for the first time. Chris feels even more apprehensive when he realizes Rose has not told her mom and dad that he is black. She assures him that her parents are not racist and they will welcome him with open arms.

Rose appears to be correct. Dean (Whitford) and Missy (Keener) Armitage embrace Chris, figuratively and literally, claiming to be huggers, and also make it known that they admire and respect former President Obama. “I would have voted for him a third term!” Dean says with a laugh. Missy is a psychiatrist who specializes in hypnosis and Dean is a neurosurgeon. They live on a beautiful estate in a remote location.

However, as Dean shows Chris around the property, he begins to wonder if all is as it seems. A black couple, Walter (Henderson) and Georgina (Gabriel), works for the Armitages, as a grounds keeper and cook, respectively. Although they seem friendly enough, always smiling, Chris notices there is something “off” about the pair. His attempts to have conversations with them are unsettling.

And Rose’s younger brother Jeremy (Jones) walks a fine line between being welcoming and making disparaging remarks, couched in obnoxious humor. Worst of all, there is a huge party scheduled for the next day, and friends of the family will show up. Chris, who is an excellent photographer, had hoped to spend a quiet day capturing nature photos.

Later that night, after a strange encounter outside with Walter, Chris feels forced into a hypnotic session with Missy, who wants to help him quit smoking. He finds the experience disturbing, and although he now dislikes cigarettes, he has strange dreams about being in a sunken place, paralyzed by fear.

The next day, the Armitages’ wealthy friends arrive. They fawn over Chris, trying to relate with comments about Tiger Woods, or by saying that black is in, but they also make inappropriate remarks as well. Chris grows increasingly uncomfortable, although he remains polite and somewhat detached. He meets a blind art gallery owner (Root) who envies Chris’ photographic eye, and another black man, who is about his age. This man, Logan (Stanfield), looks vaguely familiar, but he is awkward in his conversation and manner, just like Walter and Georgina. When Chris takes his picture, the flash causes Logan to snap. He screams at Chris, “Get out! Get out!”

Chris’ best friend Rob (Howery) becomes extremely concerned when he hears about the weekend over the phone. He begs his friend to leave. Chris sends him the photo he snapped of Logan, and Rob, who works as a TSA at the airport, uses his detection skills to uncover that Logan is really a jazz musician named André, and he was reported missing six months ago.

Convinced he needs to leave, Chris finds it may be impossible, after all, to get out. And, he at last discovers the horrifying truth behind all the odd behavior at the Armitage Estate.

As thrillers go, this one is well done, reminiscent of the 1975 film, Stepford Wives. I jumped more than once, and some of the scenes, coupled with the music and the timing, were genuinely creepy. Humor is interspersed throughout the movie, provided primarily by Chris’ friend Rob, breaking the tension when it needs to be broken. And Chris is a genuinely nice guy, devoted to his lady, so much so that he strives to rise above the remarks that get tossed his way.

The actors portraying the Armitages and their hired help do an excellent job of playing people who are more than they appear to be. There are frightening moments captured perfectly through their odd behavior or dead pan expressions.

I enjoyed the film. And yet, I confess that at first, I couldn’t understand why it was nominated for Best Picture. This genre normally isn’t. As I thought about the film, and discussed it with Greg, I realized its proper category is social satire. Satire is defined as “the use of humor, irony, exaggeration or ridicule to expose stupidity or vices, especially in the context of contemporary politics or other topical issues.”

As a satire, the perspective on this movie shifts dramatically. Get Out brilliantly exposes our current social situations in regards to race, by examining the wealthy liberal white and how some put out an appearance of not being racist, while yet attempting to exert control over minorities. This is a deep, and complex subject, that needs to be discussed more openly. Without revealing the ending of this shocking film, I can attest to the fact that it certainly caused me to think and feel and question.

It could be agued that racism goes in multiple directions, and that is true. However, Jordan Peele makes a heartfelt statement that needs to be heard, and in doing so creates in me a desire to listen…really listen. That’s the mark of a great movie, and an invitation for social change.

Satire comes from the Latin word satura, literally meaning poetic medley. Get Out is that, indeed…a poetic story that brings a variety of elements together to offer truth, if we will have the ears to hear.

Movie Review Get Out

Movie Review: Darkest Hour

Another Best Picture nominated film and a Netflix TV series prepared me for this movie about British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. Season One of The Crown, a series about England’s royal family, gives a glimpse into Churchill’s final years as prime minister. And the film Dunkirk dovetails perfectly with Darkest Hour. Together those two movies cover a historical event from two perspectives, creating a bigger picture.

Movie Review Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour stars Gary Oldham, Lily James, Kristen Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn, Samuel West, Ronald Pickup and Stephen Dillane. This historical drama, directed by Joe Wright, carries a PG-13 rating, for adult themes, and has a run time of 2 hours and 5 minutes.

Darkest Hour is nominated for six Oscars including Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Oldham), Best Makeup & Hairstyling and Best Cinematography.

In the early months of WWII, Hiltler’s armies are advancing across Europe. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Pickup) is forced to step down. He appoints Winston Churchill (Oldham) as his replacement. This story gives an account of Churchill’s first 30 days in office.

And what a dark time indeed to become prime minister. England faces the prospect of invasion as countries fall to Germany. As Churchill gets his feet under him and formulates a plan of action, he encounters resistance and opposition, from King George VI (Mendelsohn) and Chamberlain and his own newly appointed war council.

Supporting him are his loving wife, Clemmie (Thomas), Sir Anthony Eden (West), whom Churchill grooms as a future prime minister, and Miss Elizabeth Layton (James), Winston’s new personal secretary.

As battles rage in nearby France, Lord Halifax (Dillane) pressures Churchill to seek peace. He makes arrangements for Italy to host negotiations between England and Germany, as the British and French troops are forced onto Dunkirk Beach, with little hope of rescue. Although Churchill feels strongly that they should fight to the end and defend themselves against “that man”, as he called Hitler, he begins to doubt himself.

King George comes to Churchill privately, after much reflection, and offers his support. The turning points, for Churchill, come after he launches a campaign that sends 860 private boats across the channel to rescue trapped troops, and when he loses himself among the British citizens and asks for their honest feelings and opinions.

In one accord, England’s people declare their desire to fight against invasion and protect their homeland and their families. They would rather die, they vow, than surrender to a mad man. With renewed strength and confidence, buoyed by the fierce courage of Londoners and the looming successes at Dunkirk, Churchill addresses Parliament, giving a hastily prepared speech that secures his place as Prime Minister, and in history.

I sincerely enjoyed this film. I love historical dramas, and this one was incredibly well done. Gary Oldham was convincing as Churchill. I appreciated the humor and complexities he imbued this towering figure of a man with. I’ve seen many portrayals of Winston Churchill, and this one is my favorite. Gary became Churchill.

I learned new things from this movie as well. I had no idea Churchill had such opposition as he assumed the role of prime minister. It makes what happened in his first thirty days all the more extraordinary. And, I didn’t know how close we came to seeing a different outcome early in WWII, that could have changed the world as we know it. So much hung in the balance. What a tremendous weight on this man’s shoulders and heart.

Most of the time, I propose peace, and I endeavor to live at peace with myself and my fellow humans. But sometimes, we must fight for what we believe in and fight for what we hold dear. By the end of this story, I felt deep gratitude for the man who fought, who stood against opposition and against Hitler, and ultimately ensured freedom and peace, not only for England, but for the rest of the world.

Movie Review Darkest Hour

Movie Review: The Post

Today the movie adventure shifted into “based on a true story” genre as I experienced The Post. In fact, the next couple of movies fall into this category. In creating a schedule, I inadvertently grouped most of the historical dramas together.

Movie Review The Post

The Post stars Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood and Matthew Rhys. This historical drama, directed by Steven Spielberg, carries a PG-13 rating, for language, and has a run time of 1 hour and 56 minutes.

The Post is nominated for two Oscars, Best Picture and Best Actress in a Leading Role (Streep).

Set in Washington DC in 1971, this story follows the Vietnam War cover up that involved four presidents: Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. War analyst Daniel Ellsberg (Rhys) hands over copies of top secret documents, detailing the depth of involvement and deception, to the New York Times.

Scooped by the Times, the Washington Post’s editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks) sends his reporters out to find Ellsberg and any other info they can, to get a major headline out as well. Meanwhile, the Times receives a federal restraining order, preventing them from posting further.

This presents a window of opportunity for the Post to get a story out. Journalist Ben Bagdikian (Odenkirk) meets with Ellsberg himself, securing 4000 pages of the security documents, known as the Pentagon Papers. The Post now has a decision to make.

Movie Review The Post

Kay Graham (Streep) is the owner of the newspaper. Her father created the company and passed it on to Kay’s husband. Upon his death, Kay became the sole owner. She has a board, all men, who advise her and oversee decisions, such as taking the company public. In particular, board member Arthur Parsons (Whitford) has a difficult time working with a female owner. Kay seeks support from her friend and ally, Fritz Beebe (Letts).

As the journalists sort through the papers at Bradlee’s house, and begin crafting a breaking story for tomorrow’s newspaper, Kay is faced with the huge task of deciding whether to actually print it or not. She is friends with Bob McNamara (Greenwood), former Secretary of State. He urges her to hold on to the story, as do her legal counsel and the board.

Under threats from President Nixon, Kay and Ben face imprisonment if they publish. More than that, Kay could lose the newspaper company her family has built. Should she back down, to protect her company and her family? Or publish and fight for the freedom of the press?

I calculated that I was 13 years old when this historical event was taking place. Which means I was oblivious to it and the significance it held. When I became more aware of the war in Vietnam, it was winding down. I was fascinated by this movie and the story as I watched it unfold.

The 70s don’t seem so remote to me. I was therefore surprised by the notion held then that a woman couldn’t competently run a company. I enjoyed watching Kay gain confidence in her decision making abilities and her surety that she was doing the right thing. One of my favorite scenes occurred when Kay turned to her doubting board member and declared, “This isn’t my father’s company. This isn’t my husband’s company. This is MY company.” She had to believe that first, before anyone else could.

The real Kay Graham and Ben Bradlee.

I enjoyed The Post. It was well acted and moved at a fast pace, so much so that it was strangely tense as the story unfolded. And at the satisfying conclusion, my fellow movie attendees and I clapped and cheered. I loved that shared moment between us.

I realized that I recognized several in the theater audience. They appear to be doing what I am doing…watching all of the Best Picture nominated films…and they happen to be tracking with me, appearing at the same movies at the same times. I so appreciate that Regal Theaters opted to create the Best Picture Film Festival this year. They had a poster up today. There was even a special price for the series, although I used my Movie Pass card. What a great idea, though, and no wonder others are taking advantage of this fun opportunity.

As I shared previously, I had no prior knowledge that this festival was coming. I just expressed a desire to see all of the best picture nominated movies before the Oscars aired…and voila!

I sincerely hope this is a yearly event!

Movie Review The Post

Movie Review: Call Me By Your Name

Who would guess that at 4:00 on a Monday afternoon, I would have the privilege of watching one of the most moving films I have ever seen. With a small group of 20 or so people, I sat quietly watching a love story unfold, while a host of emotions swirled around my heart. Today was Best Picture nominated film number five, Call Me By Your Name.

Movie Review Call Me By Your Name

Call Me By Your Name stars Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar and Esther Garrel. This romantic drama, directed by Luca Guadagnino, is rated R for adult themes and sexuality, and has a run time of 2 hours and 12 minutes.

Call Me By Your Name is nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Song “Mystery of Love” and Best Actor in a Leading Role (Chalamet).

In 1980s Italy, seventeen year old Elio Perlman (Chalamet) is spending the summer with his parents (Stuhlbarg and Casar) in their gorgeous 17th century villa in the northern part of the country. Elio is a gifted musician, an avid book reader and well versed in a variety of subjects. Elio has been raised in a culturally rich home, well loved by his father, who is a professor specializing in Greco-Roman art, and his mother, a learned woman who is a translator. Their idyllic estate is surrounded by fruit orchards.

Twenty four year old Oliver (Hammer) arrives from the US to work with Mr. Perlman over the summer as an intern. Handsome, charismatic and good hearted, Oliver attracts a great deal of attention from the local community. Elio finds him arrogant, and turns his attention toward the young woman he has been flirting with all summer, Marzia (Garrel).

However, as they get to know each other better, feelings shift, and a romance begins between Oliver and Elio. Over the long months of that beautiful summer Elio learns the joys and heartbreaks of falling in love. In the process, he ultimately discovers who he is.

Movie Review Call Me By Your Name

This was an incredibly well done film. The backdrop of Italy was especially poignant for me, as it is such a stunning country. Timothée Chalamet, whom I just watched in a minor role in Lady Bird, delivers an outstanding performance. If he wins the Oscar he will be the youngest, at age 22, to ever take home the golden statue for Best Actor.

This coming of age story focuses on several relationships…that of Elio and Marzia, Elio and his parents, and Elio and Oliver. And you know what? A love story is a love story. I appreciated that no one in this film was labeled in any specific way. Elio was Elio. He loved. He experienced joy. He experienced pain.

Armie Hammer, who portrayed Oliver wonderfully, said in an interview: “Anybody, regardless of your orientation or identification or age or race or whatever, you can watch this film and you can remember the first time you felt infatuated with somebody. Or the first time you felt comfortable enough to sort of present the open and honest, raw, unguarded version of yourself to somebody else and to have it received and appreciated and then reciprocated.”

How beautiful it is to experience such love. And how much it hurts when the relationship ends, or the love isn’t reciprocated, or the feelings simply fade away. We can all identify with the challenges of intimate relationships.

Which made the speech that comes near the end of the movie all the more powerful. Elio’s father sits with his heartbroken son, and offers these words with a quiet strength and complete compassion. It’s lengthy. But it’s too important, too crucial, to edit it.

Look, you had a beautiful friendship. Maybe more than a friendship. And I envy you. In my place, most parents would hope the whole thing goes away, or pray that their sons land on their feet soon enough. But I am not such a parent. In your place, if there is pain, nurse it, and if there is a flame, don’t snuff it out, don’t be brutal with it. Withdrawal can be a terrible thing when it keeps us awake at night, and watching others forget us sooner than we’d want to be forgotten is no better. We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything – what a waste!

I may have come close, but I never had what you two have. Something always held me back or stood in the way. How you live your life is your business, just remember, our hearts and our bodies are given to us only once. And before you know it, your heart is worn out, and, as for your body, there comes a point when no one looks at it, much less wants to come near it. Right now, there’s sorrow, pain. Don’t kill it, and with it, the joy you’ve felt.

Movie Review Call Me By Your Name

It has been amazing this week to watch these films on the big screen, as they were meant to be experienced. And to watch with an audience creates an energetic intimacy, as we share in the story. After that speech, the theater erupted with sobs and sniffles. Two older gentlemen sat near me, crying into their hands. Why? Because those are the words we all want to hear. That love can be both beautiful and painful. But it’s real. The pain makes us want to tear away huge chunks of who we are, so we won’t feel any more, so it won’t hurt. But don’t, Elio’s wise father says. Don’t. Stay in it. Feel. Feel the joy and the sorrow.

I choked up during that speech. A single tear coursed down my cheek as my heart thudded in my chest. I want to spend some time thinking and free writing my thoughts around those words. I’ve still got a lump of raw emotion caught in my throat. Writing and reflection will help me to process it.

I am undone by Call Me By Your Name. And that’s a good thing, I believe.

Movie Review Call Me By Your Name

Movie Review: Phantom Thread

Today I viewed movie four of nine, on the Best Picture nominated film list. Up today was the 1950s period piece, Phantom Thread. As is my custom, I don’t look up any info about these films before viewing. I’ve seen a couple of movie trailers, so I knew the fashion industry was central to this story. That’s all the knowledge I had as I took my seat in the darkened theater.

Movie Review Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps and Lesley Manville. The romantic drama, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, carries an R rating, for language, and has a run time of 2 hours and 14 minutes. Phantom Thread is nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Music Score, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Day-Lewis) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Manville).

In 1950s post war London, Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis) and his sister Cyril (Manville) are at the center of the fashion industry. Reynolds caters to the rich and famous as women order dresses from the gifted and fastidious man. Cyril manages their large London house and oversees the details of her brother’s life, including the team of women who painstakingly sew the garments he sketches.

Movie Review Phantom Thread

A man of many moods and routines, Reynolds nevertheless attracts a steady stream of women as lovers. He quickly becomes bored with each one, or finds them tiresome and a distraction from his creativity. Until he meets the charming Alma at a restaurant near his country home.

Alma is young, soft spoken and yet strong willed. Reynolds is enchanted, and inspired by her natural beauty. He immediately takes her measurements and his creativity ignites. Reynolds finds her body to be perfect for displaying his creations.

Movie Review Phantom Thread

Alma is charmed as well, by the handsome older man who creates such magnificent dresses. She discovers that Reynolds learned to sew from his mother, who died while he was a young man. To honor his mother, Reynolds sews messages or small items into his garments. He carries a lock of her hair within his jacket lining, so that he has his mother near him always. He feels that the dead continue to watch over the living, and he hopes his mother is pleased with him.

Reynolds moves Alma into his house, where she continues to inspire him artistically. The young woman is thrilled to be there, at first, and seeks to fit into Reynolds’ schedule and routines, which she defines as “fussy”. While she finds the man she loves difficult to get close to, Alma and Cyril become good friends.

Movie Review Phantom Thread

As is his pattern, Reynolds soon loses interest in his latest muse. He begins to find her habits annoying and her desire for attention frustrating. When he reaches this stage in a relationship, he typically has his sister remove the woman, gifting her with a Woodcock original dress as a parting “gift”.

However, Alma, while quiet, is much more resourceful than that and will not be cast aside like a worn dress. She loves Reynolds best when, exhausted and vulnerable after spending himself in his latest creation, he must retire for a few days to recover. Alma learns to create that situation at will, moving Reynolds into the space of needing her to care for him until he covers, both physically and artistically. Although totally unconventional, their unique relationship not only works for them, Reynolds, who is aware of her wiles, marries Alma and they look forward to spending the rest of their lives together.

Movie Review Phantom Thread

This was an exquisite film, visually, with all the beauty and grandeur of the British fashion culture mid century. I appreciated Reynolds’ artistic gifts and his love affair with both the female body and the clothing he created to enhance it. He spoke with such eloquence and passion about fashion. It made me want to dress up, and to experience the wonder of having a garment custom made.

Reynolds was not as gracious when it came to relationships. A confirmed bachelor, he claimed he was too set in his ways to change, nor did he want to. When he was in artistic mode, everything else became a distraction, which caused his mood to sour.

He met his match, however, in Alma. While she enjoyed being Reynolds’ muse, she longed for the chance to get to know the brilliant man in her own way. She constantly challenged him, something he came to dislike. I was cheering for Alma, right up until she decided to manipulate him and circumstances, for her own gain. The unexpected twist in the story has a dark undercurrent to it, and while it worked in their relationship, I found it unsettling.

Movie Review Phantom Thread

One of the signs of a good movie, for me, is that it makes me think…not just about what I saw, but about my own life as it connects to the story or characters. I thought about Phantom Thread as I drove home.

What I realized is that in relationships, all types including romantic ones, when we get bored or stuck in a rut or overly challenged by it, we tend to disrupt it somehow. We pick a fight, or withdraw from each other, or try something new. Consciously or unconsciously, we create change by creating disruption, often doing anything that will move us into a different space. Granted, it’s not the ideal way to strengthen a relationship. Such tactics can ultimately create more harm than good. But I understand how it can happen and even why it does.

Peering into my own relationships I can certainly see that while I have never attempted anything as drastic as Alma does, I have disrupted and manipulated in an attempt to dislodge old habits or create a fresh start. I am grateful that I have grown past the need to do such things. It was good today to be reminded of old behaviors and to go inward for a reality check.

Watch Phantom Thread if you enjoy gorgeous dresses, appreciate creativity, or want to witness an outstanding performance by Daniel Day-Lewis, who says he is retiring after this film. Watch this movie as well if you feel a bit stuck in life, and want a different perspective. And be prepared for a surprising…and unsettling…little twist!

Movie Review Phantom Thread