Saturday, November 24, 2007


AUGUST RUSH is a fairy tale of a movie. I loved it. Listen to this dialogue with the guy robbing you at the refreshment stand.
"Did you see this movie?"
"Yes and loved it."
"The critics panned it."
"Well, the problem with the critics is they take themselves too seriously and many times have lost any sense of imagination."

So, there you have it and there's not much left to say. My wife and I loved it. Our daughter had already told us the basic story and she and the granddaughters were gushing about it. The movie is incredibly implausible on so many levels but what the hay. We want to believe and so we do. Plus, if there's a more winsome human being than Keri Russell in movies today, I surely don't know who she is. She will always be Felicity--so impassioned that you want to hold her and say, "now, now." The expressions on her face convey mountains of emotions. I loved her in The Waitress too. I just love her.

And, all the supporting cast was good. Robin Williams plays himself, other than funny one liners, they were simply one liners but he played and looked the part. And, Rhys Meyers, what is it with these guys with two last names. He was good, however; Irish to the max. Freddie Highmore, the youngster, lost for eleven years but never really lost by Keri Russell's character (can't tell you anymore, you have to see the movie). The implausible part of it was mostly the music. How could an eleven year old play and create such music. Well, I've seen a few prodigies on programs like 60 Minutes who defy logic. So...

It will be interesting to see how well it does at the box office. I surveyed a few folks coming out of the movie and every single one liked it. I'm thinking we all love a fairly tale.

I might have ended it differently but it was relatively satisfying and in a sense, the story allowed you to create your own ending. And, in this case, mine would be, "And, they lived happily ever after."

Friday, November 23, 2007


There are few movies I've seen so hyped to be so unsatisfying. When I go to a movie, I want to come out feeling that there's at least a smidgen of redemptive purpose. I have my own definition for this, mainly teaching a life lesson. The critics all loved it, that should have given me a hint. When they like something immensely, I can pretty much be assured I won't. I think most critics are a little jaded or cynical or even maybe arrogant.

No Country For Old Men is a great title but I can't figure how it relates. Usually, I don't pay attention to movie directors. In this case, it was the Coan brothers and apparently, they have a certain style. If this movie is an example, I don't like it.

The story is built around Josh Brolin's character who finds a big stash of money from a drug deal gone bad. In an odd sort of way, Brolin is a winsome guy, the best of the movie. Tommy Lee Jones is somewhat of a wise sheriff but the movie doesn't portray him as doing much. And, Javier Bardem is the bad guy who is a mean, evil, maxed out psychopath.

The best line in the movie comes from Brolin to Woody Harrelson who plays a kind of hit man fixer who finds Brolin and tells him the nature of the psychopath chasing him. In trying to establish rapport with Brolin who is a Vietnam veteran, he relates that he also is a Nam vet. Brolin says something like, "And, that is suppose to make us friends."

The critics loved this movie. Go figure.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Do You Believe? Conversations on God and Religion sounds really good (only read a review). The author, an Italian, Antonio Monta, asked 18 well known people, questions like: Do you believe in God? What will happen to you at death? Do you pray? Do you think religious believers are deluded.

Now, talk about a conversation he could have had with the "girlfriends," this is one. One interviewee was particular interesting to me, Grace Paley. I've loved her short stories over the years. She was especially adept at dealing with social issues of war, greed, and racism in telling stories.

Monta interviewed her two years before she succumbed to breast cancer. At the time, she wondered why he wanted to talk about religion and her views on it. Answer: I think it's the most important subject of our time. "Are you serious?" obviously thinking he was not.

The author interviewed celebs like Jane Fonda and several that I didn't know but were celebrities to someone, I guess. I did recognize Arthur Schlesinger and Martin Scorsese who didn't know much about God but believed in his Catholicism. Hillary Clinton and Condi Rice turned him down for an interview.

When he asked Ms. Paley, Do you think that life after death exists?
She replied, "Obviously no" but added, and an 83 old is telling you this, aware that she doesn't have much time to live. And then, turning the tables on Mr. Monda, she asked, "And what is there for you after death? He replied, "The true life"--she came back with, What is the life that we're living at this moment? He answered, "a passage and a gift." Now you see, she concluded, this is an idea that interests me because it's very different from what I believe in.

When Nathan Englander was asked if he believed in God, he whimsical said, "I'd be inclined to say no if I didn't fear God's wrath."

Some common themes: fundamentalism is bad, religions often gives people license to do bad things. Writing, film making, etc is a quasi religious calling. (Say what?) Jesus was a great thinker, rather than redeemer. As for organized religion--none of the interviewees had a good word for it. The author admits that he is a committed Catholic

I think that after reading the above comments, I am sticking to the New Testament. Power in the Blood. Thank you Jesus.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Healthy Religion

Or, maybe, what I ought to say is emotionally healthy religion. I think about this often. As a Christian, I debate constantly with my "girlfriends" what it all means. In our little group, we have atheists, lapsed Catholics, and a smattering of other Protestant types. And, the discussions are always lively, especially as relates to how prominent religion seems to play in world politics--From the reported 5 million radical Muslim extremists of the 9-11 philosophy to their moderate Muslims brothers to the right wing Christian zealots embodied in the late Jerry Falwell and Focus on the Family guru James Dobson.

Most of us have various views, often not very objective ones on the power of religion or even how prevalent it is. In our American society, religion surely gets prominent lip service. No wonder religion often gets very confusing to the average person. Recently, when I ran across this wonderful little film, Eve and the Firehorse, on Sundance Channel, I was absolutely fascinated. The little film embodied almost every issue that we face as to religion and a healthy way to look at faith. Eve and Karena, two young Chinese sisters, maybe nine and eleven, living in Canada, are determined to reverse the string of tragedies that have shadowed their working-class family ever since their mother cut down the backyard apple tree. How they go about attempting to reverse these bad fortunes is by becoming good.

In this little family, there's the grandmother, dutifully pouring three cups of tea for the Buddha every single day with a faithfulness that is beyond Eve, the younger of the sisters, who remarks that apparently Buddha isn't thirsty. At some point, Grandma dies but continues to appear to Eve in various visions or apparitions that only Eve can see.

Karena, the older sister, is somewhat sullen and matter of fact in the beginning as the two sisters face the various rigors of the cruelty of kids at their school. The Mother has a miscarriage in rather dramatic fashion, then goes into a deep depression while the kids fend mostly for themselves. The hardworking and committed father has to go back to China to bury the grandmother.

All of Eve and Karena's goodness must be paying off because the father wins a new Cadillac in the lottery and his luck seems to change. The mother comes out of the "ether" and resumes her role with the family. Karena, the older of the two girls embraces Catholicism, trying to live the life of a saint. Eve kind of goes along while the mother adopts a view that the Buddha and Jesus can surely live together and this must be healthy. Eve, in the meantime, constantly has these apparitions where she sees what might be, i. e., Buddha and Jesus dancing and getting along rather famously. Plus, on occasion, Eve throws in a not too saintly angel who joins Jesus and Buddha in their dance. And, occasionally even the Grandma pops up. The movie's rather wry and delicately observed views about faith in particular and religion in general are absolutely delightful.

There are so many precious moments in this movie for those of us who are people of faith. Two notable ones: Karena has become somewhat obsessed with Catholicism and the Nun playing the part could use a little objectivity but her attitude plays well with the story. At one point, Karena gets the idea that in order for Eve to really shape up, i. e., Eve is constantly making up stories and if she gets baptized, she can do better. To the viewer, momentarily this becomes scary as somehow Karena views how long Eve stays under water determines how successful is her baptism. The viewer is left with the idea that here is a potential tragedy. In the next scene, we are transported to the Church where the Priest is baptizing Karena. She is arrayed in white. A voice over tells us that Eve died for a second maybe and that there was a white light that she remembers, along with the Fire Horses. Eve is the voice over and the philosophy of life is real and rich. The movie ends with one of Eve's apparitions as she looks at Karena embracing her faith and dressed all in white watches as Karena floats toward the ceiling.

What makes this such an important little movie is that this is the way religion is suppose to be; mystery, tolerance, embraced with a childlike faith. Amazingly, at least to me, a movie and a director's imagination conveys the real truths of faith, much more so than Churches, Synagogues, Mosques, adinitum.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Michael Clayton

If someone were to asked me, What Can Americans Do Better Than Anyone? I think I would say, "make movies." George Clooney in Michael Clayton, is a good example. Clooney is a lawyer; playing a kind of typical George Clooney character, much like he played in Syriana without being overweight. And, although George walked around with, as us NC types say, the "hang dog" look the entire movie--very effective.

My daughter says that most movies have a middle, meaning some boring aspects that move slowly. No middle in MC. And, the basic story of the lengths that some in the corporate world will go to in protecting profits and in pursuit of their own ambitions--No new news here and "no middle in it."

The villain, a female, almost stole the show. Her vulnerability with the sweating scenes and the practicing of her speeches showed an intensity that kind of made the movie. And, Tom Wilkerson is probably the best character actor around. The guy can pull off believability that is right on target. There were some issues that could have been a little more fully explored like the Wilkerson character's bipolar condition but then there might have been a middle. Good movie. Two parachutes.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Martian Child

One of the ways that I always judge how much I enjoy a movie or better still, the experience of a movie, is how long it stays with me. The Martian Child is still with me. And, overall, I think that here is a movie that shows how much movie critics should be ignored. If those attending when I did were any representative sample, the critics were too effective in panning the movie. I saw it with my two granddaughters and almost had the theater to ourselves. A shame.

A very poignant movie and one that any parent should want a child to see: lots of teaching points. Don't look down on someone just because they are different. Don't worry about being different yourself, be who you are, walk your own way, sing your own song. What parent wouldn't want their kid to be their own person.

The basic story line has all the elements that probably critics hate; death, sadness, successful writer, winsome guy (Cusack), great sister, his literal sister, Joan; and, an almost unreal reaching out to a troubled youngster who has created his own world. Only the movies can create such a story but for me and my granddaughters, by their admission, they were pulling for some sort of healing, even if they didn't know exactly what it meant.

To hell with the critics, good movie and highly recommend it. 3 parachutes.