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Posts Tagged ‘Meryl Streep’

Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence.  And when the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.
   —  Meryl Streep
Accepting an achievement award at the Golden Globe Awards
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On This Day In:
2016 Wants
2015 Let Us Join
2014 Feeling Kept?
Chillin’
2013 The Lucky Few
2012 A Post-Valentine’s Day Message
2011 Risk, Lyrics, Starting Over, And My Trip To The ER
Lucky Choice

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Today’s three movie reviews are for “Doubt“, “Atlas Shrugged” and “Captain America: The First Avenger“.  The first two are new and the last is a second(/third) opinion.
Doubt” is the story of a new nun/teacher who may or may not be right for the job, an older nun/principal who may or may not be acting in good faith to protect her charges and punish evil, and a priest who may or may not be molesting a child (or children).  First off, did he or didn’t he?  The movie is not meant to provide any resolution.  If that’s your cup of tea, fine; most of the time, it is not mine – so that’s a minus to me.  (I’m simple and I like resolution…  Even if I have to think to get there.)  My bet is he did not.  Second, can you commit sin if it is for a higher (“a good”) cause?  Well, this assumes the intent was to reach the higher goal.  In this case, I “doubt” it was (pun intended).  Third, can a new person (trained to be obedient/subservient) be led astray by a superior?  In this case, easily.
Meryl Streep plays the sister superior / principal and she does it with a cold steel many people seem to remember fondly.  I don’t.  I attended a Catholic grammar school and the principals I had there were every bit as kind and loving as the other nuns and lay teachers.  Was the portrayal then, accurate?  I have no doubt, that for many, it was.  Just not for me.  In any case, Streep plays the part well and definitely deserved the nod of the Oscar nomination.  Without spoiling the ending, I found the final scene between the two nuns, completely unbelievable.
Amy Adams plays the new sister / teacher.  This new nun is very much the way I remember most of my younger nun teachers.  Was she (the nun) believable in her faith, love for her students and desire to teach?  I believed her (in the role), so I would say yes.  Was she (the actress) great in the role?  No, but she played her part well.  Adams also appeared in “Julie, Julia” and in “Leap Year“, and I liked her very much in those roles too.  Three very different roles for Adams who seems to be defying type-casting (at least for now).
Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays the priest.  I haven’t seen Hoffman in much so it’s hard to make much of him in this role.  I loved him in most of it and then he fell off the cliff for me.  He spends most of the movie as a kind pastor and pleasant man.  He then has a few tense moments which demonstrate strength and commitment to his ordination.  However, in the final confrontation, while admitting nothing, he completely surrenders to the sister superior.  While it could happen that way, it just didn’t strike me as believable.  He did whatever he did (in the past) and there is no explanation of it (let alone a description of his sins).  I just didn’t buy the scene and therefore the movie fell flat for me from then on.
Finally, much was made of Viola Davis’ role as the mother of the child who may or may not have been molested.  Her scene was powerful and moving.  The only problem was that it really was nothing but a side issue to the main purpose of the movie.  Was the movie about the child or the relationship between the three main characters.  I believe the latter, so this scene, while powerful, was nothing but a distraction.
All in all, as well shot as the film was, as well acted as it was by the main characters (and Davis), I find it difficult to recommend the movie whole-heartedly.  Like a murder-mystery with a “surprise clue” unknown to all but the brilliant detective at the end, the movie was ultimately unsatisfying for my taste.
The second movie I watched was one I was looking forward to seeing at the theater, but then never got around to going to see: “Atlas Shrugged“.  The movie is based on the novel by the same name and kind of – but not really – purports to defend capitalism from the scourge of socialism.  The book is over 1,000 pages and has the time to develop the arguments in much greater detail than does the movie – even though the movie is promised (“threatened”?) to be a three-part opus.  Despite part-one being a commercial and theatrical failure, part two is under development and is scheduled to be released in late summer before the 2012 presidential elections.  I haven’t heard any word if part-three is seriously being considered.  I suppose that will depend on if the “devil-socialist” President Obama gets re-elected or not.  But I digress…
I read the book (in fact, almost all of Ayn Rand’s major works) back when I was in my early 20’s and full of myself.  I was convinced a dedicated, hard-working person (like me for instance) could change the world and make money doing it (not necessarily in that order).  If we could only get rid of all the socialists and deadwood.  Over time, I realized this attitude is symptomatic of mostly young folks with more potential than a real history of accomplishment.
BUT HOW IS THE MOVIE???  Well, both good and bad.  First, the bad — the good-guys are mostly good-looking, hard working, dedicated folks who also happen to be moderately to filthy rich and flit from party to dinner to social engagement.  The bad-guys are oily, weaselly, short, plump (males) or tall, slender and frigid (females).  Not that anybody is type-casting or anything…  How’s the acting?  See type-casting above…  Does the movie explain Rand’s main points?  Well, no.  That probably would have slowed down an already crawling pace.  Not only does the movie not try to explain the bad-guys reasons for doing anything (blame it on corporate greed and management laziness, or social programs which only benefit the lazy), it doesn’t really explain why those who can (the good-guys), do.  We’re left with “for the money”, but when offered a chance at monopolistic wealth, one of the main good-guys passes on the chance because he wants to “earn it” his way (more precisely: “own it, because I created it”).
Was there anything good about the movie?  Surprisingly (given the above comments) yes, quite a bit.  I liked the special effects, even if they were cheesy at times.  There is an extended scene of a high-speed train racing across the country which I really enjoyed (but I am a train enthusiast).  The two main characters: Taylor Schilling who plays Dagny Taggart of Taggart Transcontinental (a train company) and Grant Bowler who plays Henry Rearden of Rearden Steel are typical young and beautiful unknown actors who have a certain amount of chemistry together up until consummation.  After that, it’s like four different people (the two actors and the two characters).  Schilling is acceptable in the role of Taggart because the movie goes out of the way to mention hers is inherited wealth.  Bowler is less so, because the movie gives the impression his character (Rearden) is self-made, but he appears to be far too young for this to be the case (maybe just poor casting).  Interestingly, Rebecca Wisocky who plays Lillian Rearden (Henry’s wife) is refreshing in her role as a rapier wit, frigid wife.  But, for me, the “best” thing about the movie was the visual contrast between the futuristic “art-deco” world of the rich in stark contrast with the “Blade Runner” desolation of the slums for the rest of us.
Final answer: recommend.  It’s not a great movie and I don’t really believe it even makes the attempt to convey Rand’s arguments/philosophy, but at the end, you are still left asking:  “Who is John Galt?” — and that’s probably the whole point.
A final comment:  I do think there is a “great American movie” out there, but it will be about “corporate socialism” versus “regulated capitalism” and not capitalism versus government sponsored socialism/mediocrity.
The third movie I watched this week was “Captain America”, which I watched with my daughter, Sarah.  It was her first time viewing the movie.  I saw the movie twice last summer – first in 2D and then in 3D.  Again, this is a very patriotic, “rah-rah” America movie, but to expect anything less is naive.  I didn’t notice it before, but there were a number of points in the movie which were shown in slow-motion and which were obviously intended to be shown in 3D.  Sarah pointed this out.  She was not overly enamoured with the film.  The main character is played by Chris Evans who does a good job in this role.  He’s big and buffed, square jawed and blond, and he suits both sides of the role – the wimpy kid and the super-hero patriot.  The movie is a serious attempt to move the comic to the big screen and it works.  It also has a surprising amount of comedic one-liners in it, which help to lighten the movie enough to make it “fun”.  I will say, it wasn’t as good seeing it the third time as I remember it.  The jokes were funnier (or still funny), but the action wasn’t quite as good.  Still, I recommend this movie as being one of the better comic-book class adaptations.  It’s also a good primer for the Avengers movie due out soon.
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Last Thursday, I had my 1,000th workout at the gym in the building where I work.  Friday was off, Saturday was Christmas and yesterday was Boxing Day.  Today, it was back to work.
And of course, that meant back to the gym – for workout 1,001.  When you say you’ve done something one thousand times, it sounds like such an achievement.  When you say you’ve done it a thousand and one, you put it back into perspective.  To me, it’s not: “Did you win the race?”  It’s: “When did you run again?”  Or as some would say: it’s not the goal, it’s the path.
Today was my last day for a while.  I’m going on a detail for work back to Baltimore, Maryland.  The detail is 120 days.  I’ll be leaving in January and back in May.  I’ll be documenting it (the trip) on this blog.  I’m not sure what to expect.  With the exception of Saudi, most of my trips away from my family have only been for a week at most and I’ve usually stayed in a hotel room.  I’m told I’ll be in some kind of longer-term accommodation.  I’m not sure what that means exactly.  I think it means a hotel room with a small kitchen.  We’ll see…
I’ll be taking some books with me, but mostly I’m planning to work, workout and blog.  Again, we’ll see…
I don’t know how many times I’m going to  get opportunities to visit the east coast, so I’m hoping a bit to get a chance to visit some of the Civil War battlefields – Gettysburg, Antietam and Manassas are the one’s which come to mind.  Gettysburg is a must.  The other two are names which have always struck me when I’ve heard them, but not being a “true” Civil War buff, I don’t currently know much about them.  Again, I’m not sure what I’ll find when I go looking, but I hear their names calling to me across the haze of history through the fog of bitter conflict.
Reading
Last Friday (X-mas eve), I finished reading “Shit My Dad Says” by Justin Halpern (2008©).  This is one seriously funny book!  More than once, I laughed until I cried.  It is just sooo hilarious.  I highly recommend it!
Movie Reviews
Yesterday, I went to see “Tron: Legacy” with my son James.  It’s a sequel of TRON, a movie which came out way back in 1982.  The funny thing is I remember seeing the original, but it could not have been before 1987, because I didn’t start programming until late 1986, so the movie would not have meant anything to me before that.  As it was, I felt I was inside a little club of folks who knew something about a world that most people didn’t.  I knew about TRace ON (TRON) and TRace OFF (TROFF), CPUs, bits, bytes and the whole speed of light, MHz cycles (light-cycles), etc…
Anyway, this version is not nearly so enthralling.  The animation / special effects are superb, and the story is fairly deep, but it just wasn’t entertaining enough for me.  Pleasant, but not enjoyable.  Reminiscent, but not inspiring.  I’m not sure how to describe a movie you expect to touch you one way, which does mean something, but just doesn’t quite reach you there.  I’m glad I saw it.  It’s worth the $7.25; but, I’m glad I didn’t pay full price and definitely glad I didn’t splurge for the 3D version.
After I got home from TRON, I had dinner and watched a terrific movie with my Hil: “Julie and Julia“.   It’s a movie about a woman who decides to write a blog about cooking her way through a cookbook written by Julia Childs.  Meryl Streep plays Julia Childs and she is fantastic.  The movie is wonderful on many, many levels: a story of newly-weds starting out, a woman finding herself, a new blogger, a new writer, a woman deeply in love with her husband and with living life, cooking (of course), and food.  Some of the levels are Julie.  Some of them are Julia.  And, some of them are both ladies (and all of us as viewers).  I would say this though, it was an intimate movie which I enjoyed watching at home (with just my wife).  I’m not sure it would have been as enjoyable on a big screen and with a crowd of strangers.   Just an observation.
And one final movie review: “Miracle On 34th Street“.  This is simply my favorite Christmas movie of all time.  If you haven’t seen it recently, you need to see the original (in black and white).  It is incredible “Americana” at it’s best.  The details are everywhere.  You really can see history in movies which are meant to be contemporary when you view them 60 to 70 years later.
Art is supposed to speak to us individually.
Enjoy all three – then drop me a comment and let me know if they spoke to you, too.
Oh, yeah.  1,002 may not be for a while, but tomorrow I start jogging at home – after work…  I guess that will be 1.
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