Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is a documentary about Mr. Rogers. He was a pretty cool guy and had a television show that influenced many peoples lives. It is a decent film about Mr. Rogers who seems to be have a big upswing in pop culture right now, with this documentary and upcoming film with Tom Hanks as well as that documentary on PBS with Michael Keaton about the show. It is the 50th anniversary of the show and would have been his 90th birthday. If you watched Mr. Rogers Neighborhood as a kid and enjoyed it this is the film that it seems like you’d want to watch it at least once or pick up one of those other documentaries, like Mister Rogers & Me.

Everything seem to have the same thrust that Mr. Rogers is the balm that we currently need, with the simple ideas of human empathy, caring about one another and kindness. You know that thing called love that seems to have gone away over the past couple of year. It is a fairly straight forward covering his life on television and if you’ve seen or read about his life nothing is really that shocking.  This film will be on PBS some time in Early 2019 so you won’t have to wait long.

 

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Ordet (1955)

Ordet is another one of those films that is on all those list of great film lists it is by Carl Theodor Dreyer who also directed The Passion of Joan of Arc. The film is based on the play of the same name by Lutheran minister, Kaj Munk , it won Bodil Award the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and was honored at the Golden Globes as Best Foreign Language Film in 1955 and it is one of the film on the Vatican list of films. Spoilers to follow.

The film doesn’t really have a plot it is a look at the life of the Borgen’s family farm. Morten, a prominent member of the community has three sons. Mikkel, who has no faith; Johannes, who went insane studying Soren Kierkegaard and believes himself Jesus Christ;  and Anders, who is smitten with the daughter of the tailor who is the leader of another sect. Mikkel is married to Inger who is pious and they have two daughters Inger is also pregnant with another child. Johannes isn’t the best as he wanders off condemning the lack of faith in the town and the world in general. Anders goes off to Peter, the tailor’s house, to ask for his daughter, Anne’s hand in marriage but this request is refused as Anders isn’t the same faith as the Tailor and his family. While this is happening Inger is trying to convince Morten of this engagement, it doesn’t go over well.

Anders returns home with the sad news and Morten changes his mind and he and Anders go to visit Peter and find out why he refused. Peter tries to get Morten and Anders to join his sect. While this is taking place Inger goes into a difficult labor, Mikkel calls informing Anders and Morten about what’s happening and they come rushing home, but not before Peter wishes that Inger die so that Morten will see the error of his ways and join his sect. When Morten and Anders return home they do not get great news the child is dead and Inger isn’t in great shape. Now things turn south here as death returns  and takes Inger, this is the turning point of the film as everyone is affected. Johannes wanders off and on the day of the funeral Peter apologizes to Morten and agrees to the proposal. Johannes returns and says that if the family only had faith and asked God to raise Inger from the dead it would happen. One of Inger and Mikkel’s daughters has the faith to ask for this to happen and Johannes agrees to do so. Inger begins to stir and everyone rejoices at the resurrection and Mikkel claims that he has found his faith.

This film seems like it would be something great to watch during Lent as it deals with faith and features a death and resurrection. It isn’t the most quick paced film but it is a nice change of pace from any modern film. Ordet is the one film from Dreyer that was both a critical and financial success. I would agree with all those talking heads that place it as one of the greatest films ever and if you ever get the chance to watch this to take the two hours and sit with the film and digest it.

Eighth Grade (2018)

Eighth Grade is the debut film from Bo Burnham. This is a great new film which is a coming of age story set today, Spoilers to follow.

in the film we follow Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) in her final week of the eighth grade, she posts motivational videos on YouTube about confidence and self-image, which barely get any views. At school she gets the “Most Quiet” superlative from her classmates and they all get a time capsule they made in their first week of middle school. On her way home she gets invited to a classmate’s party, she the popular girl in class, and her mom invited Kayla. Mark (Josh Hamilton), Kayla’s single father struggles to connect with Kayla as she is constantly on social media and suggest she go to the party to put herself out there. However she just doesn’t fit in, what will happen to her

The film is a nice update on the coming of age stories as teens today live a large portion of their lives on social media of various forms from YouTube to Snapchat and Instagram, the problems are similar to the one we all had back in eighth grade. It is a unique look into the aspect of the world that seems to be overlooked by those in Hollywood, as they are currently rebooting the 90s for better of worse.

Eighth Grade is a film that everyone should give a chance especially if you know someone in that age range. It has some Oscar buzz as well so perhaps it’s worth a shot for that reason as well.

The Jeweller’s Shop (1988)

The Jeweller’s Shop is a film based on the play written by Karol Wotyja before he became Pope John Paul II. This is sort of a rough draft or companion piece to Love and Responsibility which eventually  led to Theology of the Body. At least that’s what it seems like I haven’t read either of them. If you have the time I am sure that there are several productions and the film can be found on YouTube

The Jeweler’s Shop was written in 1960 and it is a Meditation on the Sacrament of Matrimony, Passing on Occasion into a Drama. The story follows pairs of couples, each couple in their own story: the first happily planning their wedding, the second long-married and unhappy, the third about to marry but full of doubts. We begin on a hiking trip where Andrew and Teresa along with Stefan and Anna are out with their friend Father Adam. Andrew and Teresa have been friend a long time and for Stefan and Anna it’s love at first sight. Andrew and Teresa stop by a Jeweler’s Shop where Andrew proposes they buy rings, at the shop they meet the Jeweler who is the best character in the film, as he pops us in all three couples stories.  The second part take us a couple of year later and meet up with Stefan and Anna who have moved to Canada to escape World War II they have kids but their life is filled with emptiness and disillusion. They both it seems to have given up on their relationship Anna visits a jeweler to sell her ring, but they say that it’s worthless since her husband is still alive. Anna runs into Father Adam one day in Canada and he reminds Anna about the Parable of the Ten Virgins (five came prepared with extra oil and five didn’t and had their light go out while waiting for the Bridegroom). Anna is reminded that they can still love one another. The last story is sort of intertwined with Anna and Stefan, and the focus is on the Son and Daughter of the couples  Christopher is the son of Andrew and Teresa and Monica is the daughter of Stefan and Anna as they contemplate marriage. Both of these children have ideas of what love is based on their parents, Christopher fears losing love as his father died when he was young and Monica is afraid that her marriage will end up like her parents. They too go to a jeweler’s shop and buy wedding rings.

It’s a decent film and offers some general ideas that we should all reflect upon like what is the worth of mankind. If you want a nice film to watch with the family or with a spouse to reflect on your marriage or a fiance as you prepare for your wedding day. While the film isn’t the best or worst film that I’ve ever seen it the story is the key and it is pretty decent. I wouldn’t recommend everyone picking  us this movie but theme seem to be universal but it does have a bit of Catholicism in there as well since the writer was the Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow.

Au Hasard Balthazar (1966), À bout de souffle (1960) and La Jette (1962)

It’s  been awhile since I’ve posted much of anything. Summer was a bit crazy. Over the summer I was a bit of a French Film kick these first two are often put on list of top film you should see so I got around to watching them and have some opinions. All of these films still hold up today and it is sort of a shame that most of what we get isn’t anything close to the creativity in these films. Spoilers to follow so watch out

Au Hasard Balthazar is a film by Robert Bresson, who many consider the Patron Saint of cinema. This film inspired from a passage from Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot. It follows a donkey and it’s one kind owner Marie (Anne Wiazemsky), a shy farm girl around. Both go from place to place continually taking abuse from all they encounter. Bresson has said that each encounter is like one of the seven deadly sins and that Balthazar is a symbol of Christian faith. Now, when the film came out in America the review were unfavorable however over in Europe they were glowing, Jean-Luc Godard said that “Everyone who sees this film will be absolutely astonished […] because this film is really the world in an hour and a half. These mixed reviews seem all to common with this film. It’s an important film that everyone should see at least one.

 

À bout de souffle or Breathless is a film from Jean-Luc Godard and is considered to be one of the groundbreaking films from the French New Wave. A small time crook, Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo ) he is fascinated with Bogie and steals a car and murders a cop.  He then shacks up in Paris with a former love interest Patricia (Jean Seberg), who work for the New York Herald Tribune Newspaper, she sells papers with aspirations to be a journalist. Patricia doesn’t know Michel killed a cop and willingly hides him and listens to his plan to escape from France. Patricia tells Michel she’s pregnant implying it’s his. After learning that Michel killed a police officer Patricia sort of changes her mind and eventually calls with were Michel can be found. When the police come Michel runs and is shot. It seems like a film that if made today would be a huge hit. This is another important film that should be seen especially if you like crime drama.

Finally is La Jetée or “The Jetty” this is a short film from the French Left Bank a part of the French New Wave, it tells the story of a post-nuclear war experiment in time travel. The film 12 Monkeys was inspired by and borrows several concepts from this film the time travel and the protagonist seeing himself dying at an airport as a child. It is an interesting film if you are a huge fan of 12 Monkeys or just like Science fiction films in general. This is only about a half an hour so it won’t take up too much time.

 

Stalker (1979)

Сталкер or Stalker is another science fiction film from Russian/Soviet Director Andrei Tarkovsky. With this film I’ve watched all the ‘important’ Tarkovsky films. Now this is movie is a bit different from the others, it is based on the novel Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. Scholars have written that this film encapsulates Tarkovsky’s world view “the rift between natural science and belief, the future of mankind in view of current atomic threats; and, ultimately, the dim glimmer of hope still left to man.” One of my favorite stories about the film is that after being told that Stalker should be faster and more dynamic, Tarkovsky replied that “the film needs to be slower and duller at the start so that the viewers who walked into the wrong theatre have time to leave before the main action starts.” This film like Solaris has a Western cousin in Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Spoilers to follow

Stalker is set sometime in the future and there is a “Zone” which is a mysterious place sealed off by the government and inside the Zone is a Room which supposedly has the ability to fulfill a person’s innermost desires. So a Stalker (Alexander Kaidanovsky) offers to guide a pair of gentlemen, a Writer (Anatoly Solonitsyn) and a Professor (Nikolai Grinko), into the Zone and to the Room. They evade the military and get into the Zone and a world of color, as outside the zone the film has a sepia tint. Inside the Zone we learn that it is a very complex maze of traps and that Stalkers are needed to safely navigate through. Some have pointed that the journey to the Room can be seen as a search for knowledge or a pilgrimage of faith. The Writer wants to visit the Room as he has lost his inspiration and The Professor is said to want to write a scientific analysis of the Zone with the hope to win a Noble Prize.  However when they get to the antechamber of the Room a phone rings, and there is confusion about this but here the Professor changes his tune he has been carrying a bomb with him to blow up the room  so no evil man would use it.

One could look at the film as a sort of conversation about the necessity of something greater in your life, there are twists an turns that you can’t explain but with something/one guiding you it get easier. This can come in different shapes and everyone will see it differently I find that that the Room has some sort of confessional or just plain prayerful vibe as that is what people do when they pray ask for things. Sure being made in Soviet Russia according to Tarkovsky the Room and Zone meant nothing.

Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta (1986)

Luputa: Castle in the Sky or Castle in the Sky in the United States is the very first Studio Ghibli film from the mind of Hayao Miyazaki. Now sure there are multiple ways to watch the film in Japanese with subtitle on, or one of the two different English dubbed versions. I tend to prefer watching these films in Japanese with subtitles. Spoilers to follow

This is a real unique story as it is about a world were airships are a thing, we begin on an airship and meet most of the main characters Sheeta, a young girl has been kidnapped/abducted by government agent Muska, they are attacked by Captain Dola and her sons (They are pirates) who want Sheeta’s crystal amulet. During this struggle, Sheeta tries to escape but falls from the airship but she is slowed by a mysterious power within the amulet which floats her down to earth protecting her.  Sheeta is discovered by Pazu who sees girl floating down into the mine where he works. Pazu brings Sheeta inside and when she awakes in the morning looking around his home she sees a picture of Laputa, Pazu explains that it is  floating city in the sky that his father took a picture of. Eventually the government and pirates are on the scene trying to capture Sheeta and her amulet. Panzu and Sheeta escape into town and after being followed out of town via rail. They stumble into a mine and meet up with Panzu’s friend and local eccentric Uncle Pomme, the mine is where the ‘volucite’ (Aetherium) crystal amulet which Sheeta wears we learn that this material is what kept the floating cities floating.

After leaving the mine Sheeta tells Panzu her name Lucita Toel Ul Laputa, they are captured by Muska and brought to a fortress where they have a giant robot that had fallen from Lupita and is broken, Muska threatens Panzu’s life for Sheeta to help Muska, Muska offers money to Panzu to leave and forget about Luputa. Panzu returns home and is greeted by Dola and her sons.  Sheeta activates the amulet it awakens the robot and points toward Luputa. Eventually they all end up on Luputa and we all learn that Muska is actually Romuska Palo Ul Laputa another in line for the throne of Luputa. Muska want to use it for violence. However the whole film can be summerized with just one line in the confrontation scene Sheet remembering a song from her home that explains why they left Luputa “Take root in the ground, live in harmony with the wind, plant your seeds in the winter, and rejoice with the birds in the coming of spring.” No matter how many weapons you have, no matter how great your technology might be, the world cannot live without love.”

This is the key to everything in life let us not forget this the World cannot live without love. It was a great movie and should be watch by everyone at least once. The message is short and sweet it offers some complex ideas as well and human nature and how we should live. It seems like all of Studio Ghibli films are great as well as those by the great Hayao Miyazaki so pick anyone up and continue exploring Japanese animation.

I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story (2015)

I Am Big Bird is a documentary about Caroll Spinney, it came out after Being Elmo and is somewhat similar in scope as it allows us to learn a bit more about the man behind the character. I’ve watched both film and find the Big Bird one to be a whole lot better. Although that could just be my impression of Elmo compared to Big Bird.  This doesn’t really seem like a film where spoilers are possible.

The film begins with a brief overview of Caroll’s life before working with Jim Henson and Sesame Street. He was in the Air Force and after that it was in the early 60s and he was on the Bozo Show in Boston. At a puppeteering festival he met Jim Henson and Henson asked if he’d like to talk about the Muppets, in ’69 at another puppeteering festival Henson was there and saw Caroll once again Henson was impressed and asked if he’d like to talk about the Muppets. This time Caroll agreed and he joined Jim Henson working on Henson’s new show Sesame Street. Caroll was given the role of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. Throughout the first season things just weren’t working out and Caroll was about to quit, but Kermit Love convinced him to stay. Big Bird evolved and became an integral part of the show. Sure Big Bird’s role has changed over the years with the introduction of Elmo and the younger viewers the show was geared to them, not sure how it is now since I haven’t watched Sesame Street since it has sort of moved to HBO.

If you watched any Sesame Street in your life this is a great film to watch. It had me in tears at times. This film is best for the older set as well, I wouldn’t recommend watching it with anyone under the age of like ten as it does go into some more mature material.

Solaris (1972)

Solaris or Солярис is the 1972 film by Andrei Tarkovsky which is adapted from the novel Solaris by Stanisław Lem, this was remade by Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney in 2002. Tarkovky’s film is often considered to be one of the greatest science fiction films ever made and is considered to be one of few sci-fi films that doesn’t seem anachronistic today.  Many critics point to this film being the like the 2001: A Space Odyssey in the Soviet bloc nations. Tarkovsky is/was a director from Russia I’ve watched a couple of his other films Mirror and Andrei Rublev and these along with Stalker are are all considered as some of the greatest films ever made. Solaris is also one of those film that many current directors are influenced by. To begin my biggest problem with the film is the pacing, it is a slow moving film, although this is nod to the novel which itself is complex and slow paced. Spoilers to follow.

The film begins with Kris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis) visiting his parents before going up to the space station orbiting Solaris, an ocean planet. While at his parent’s his Dad’s friend Henri Berton (Vladislav Dvorzhetsky) a disgraced pilot who was on the station before he was removed after he claimed he saw a four-meter-tall child on the surface of the planet, this was though of as hallucination. However as the years have passed the other scientist began seeing things as well and Kris, a psychologist, is being sent up to bring everyone back home. The station only has a skeleton crew of three members however before Kris can arrive his friend Dr. Gibarian (Sos Sargsyan) kills himself, when Kris arrives there is not welcoming committee but he stumbles upon Dr. Snaut (Jüri Järvet)and Dr. Sartorius (Anatoli Solonitsyn). They don’t want to tell him much of anything telling him to rest the night and return afterwards. Yet Kris seems to be seeing other people on board the station in the corner of his eyes as well . While in Dr. Gibarian’s room Kris finds a message from the doctor which warns him about the station.  Kris is still confused and retires for the evening upon waking Kris finds his wife, Hari (Natalya Bondarchuk), in his room with him having no idea how she got there or where here is, this is troubling as Kris’s wife we learn died a decade ago. This first visitor Kris tricks into a escape pod and jettisons it out. Snaut is ready to talk and tells Kris that the visitors have been coming after they sent a strong X-ray beam onto the surface in a vain attempt to try to learn about the planet.

That evening Hari returns and Kris welcomes her with open arms. Hari starts to “feel more human” Snaut proposes that they beam Kris’s brainwave pattern to Solaris in hopes that it will understand the humans. The film has a wonderful philosophical debate/discussion on humankind. I find this to be the core of the film. Here is where the bulk of my favorite quotes come from. Dr. Snaut say “We don’t want to conquer space at all. We want to expand Earth endlessly. We don’t want other worlds; we want a mirror. We seek contact and will never achieve it. We are in the foolish position of a man striving for a goal he fears and doesn’t want. Man needs man! ” Another piece of dialogue that sticks out is when Dr. Snaut says ‘We’ve wasted time arguing. We’re losing our dignity and human character.” and Hari responds with “No. You’re human, each in your own way. That’s why you argue.” Finally, there is one when Kris says “The salvation of humanity is in its shame!”

Will shooting the planet with Kris Kelvin’s brainwaves do anything or could this film be a circle, you’ve got to take some time and watch the film to find out what all happens at the end. What makes us human. Now the film is available quite easily today so I would recommend that everyone check it out. Tarkovsky is one of those directors that everyone needs to watch at least once in their life. Sure, take a look at this science fiction film from Tarkovsky but I might change my mind after watching Stalker

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Solo is the latest in the Star Wars Story anthology series of films it is about Han Solo and answers all the questions that we all needed to have answered is out. Now we know how all about the Kessel Run and how Han got the Falcon. One of the biggest questions that people have is when is this taking place, it is roughly 10 before the Battle of Yavin and 6 before the latest Animated series Rebels as well as 9 after Episode III (although the prologue scene of Solo is set 3 years before the events of the movie). Spoilers to follow.

The film beings on Corellia, Han (Alden Ehrenreich) is an orphan who has to scavenge for everything for Lady Proxima who runs the White Worms, she had Han go out to deliver some Space Fuel which is a real important thing in this movie but ditches after being double crossed he steals a speeder and with Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) his ‘girl friend’ they decide to run off and escape their life. it turns out that only Han get away before Qi’ra is caught. Han joins the Imperial Navy and hope to become the best pilot and come back for Qi’ra. Three Years later Han is in the Infantry after being expelled from Flight school for insubordination, he runs into a gang of criminals run by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson). Han tries to join this crew but Tobias has him arrested for dissertation and thrown into a pit with a monster who hasn’t eaten for days. It’s Chewbacca! finally a sort of familiar face. They escape the pit and join Beckett’s crew for a big heist they are going to steal a bunch of Space fuel (coaxium). This doesn’t go well Beckett’s crew is killed he’s only got Han and Chewie now, but a big problem he’s got to steal some more coaxium for Crimson Dawn and Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) or they will die, either from the raw coaxium from Kessel or from Vos himself.

They need a ship so they get the help of Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) who owns the Millennium Falcon, he agrees to join the crew. It’s Beckett, Han, Chewie, Qi’ra, and Lando with his robot L3. At Kessel they get the coaxium and on the way back Han makes the Kessel Run in 12 or so parsecs. See that’s something everyone wanted to see. So they make it to the refinery and make the coaxium usable, Vos shows up and things get interesting. The movie then end with scene where Han wins the Falcon from Lando in a game of Sabacc before they leave for Tatooine to hear about a gangster who needs a crew.

The movie is decent it does get a bit long at some points but that just seems to be all movies nowadays. The acting is decent with a few high points (Glover, Bettany) but there really wasn’t  major threat in the film we know Han and Lando make it to the Original Trilogy so they can’t die and neither one really has an arc to speak of things happen to them but they don’t change.  If this was due to the concerns that the Lord/Miller film that wasn’t fixed who knows. There are lots of places where it looks like they want to continue on with the story like what happens with Qi’ra , Han and Jabba meeting on friendly terms and perhaps even a Lando movie. There are plans to make a Boba Fett movie, hopefully a post ROTJ film with Temuera Morrison and rumor is still an Obi-Wan film with Ewan McGregor will hopefully see the light of day along with two more trilogies of films and perhaps an official sequel to Solo.  There are a lot of Star Wars films to come. This one might not be the best but it’s decent but the biggest problem is that it was released so soon after the last film.