Alright I finally have seen Argo. You remember the most recent winner of the Oscar for Best Picture. It is the story of the declassified extradition of the six embassy workers who escaped to the Canadian ambassador’s house after the US embassy was taken over by Iranians in 1979. It was an exciting film and all but I really didn’t think that it was that special. Neither was it the best piece of history in the movies this past year, by pushing the Embassy to the b-story in the movie they neglected the release of 13 hostages by order of the Ayatollah shortly after the Embassy was taken. Sure it was a movie but I wonder what all the feelings about their release might have made the American. It was really cool in the movie how everyone in the movie didn’t have an answering machine, living at a time when it seems like everyone has a phone on them at all times it was really interesting as answering machines are now commonplace and people purposely miss calls. I really liked how the costuming and makeup made the actors look remarkably like their real life counterparts as we see during the end credits, well almost everyone Ben Affleck is a bit too tall to be Tony Mendez.
It would have been cool if the movie was actually Argo, the movie they use as a cover to get the six out of Iran. I wonder how the writer of Lord of Light, the story that the fictional movie Argo was based felt about his story never making it to the screen. If this ever happened today I believe they would have had to actually make the movie with all the film sites on the internet talking up just about every movie. Now there are some out there that say that the only reason Argo won Best Picture was because Hollywood wanting to pat itself on the back and say look at what we do for America, others say it was because Ben Affleck was not nominated as Best Director, I doubt we will ever know the real reason. All in all Argo will end up as one of those Best Pictures that few people remember, it seem like this is a trend with recent Best Picture winners. Sure Ben Affleck again proved that he can direct movies but does he always need to be the star in his movies, although this seems to be a common practice among other actor/directors in Hollywood. Now can we finally forgive him for some horrible acting choices he’s made.
Wild Strawberries (1957) directed by Ingmar Bergmann is a road trip movie. An old Doctor, Isak Borg, goes to the university to receive an honorary degree with his daughter-in-law, Marianne Borg, who doesn’t really like him. While on the road they stop at places from the Doctor’s life and met some fellow travelers. All throughout this Isak is tormented by nightmares of his death. (side note there is a cameo of Max von Sydow in this his second of about ten time working with Bergmann) Can someone who has devoted his life to his career find love in something else? It is often considered by film scholars as on of Bergmann’s best films. Even the Vatican has this movie listed as one of the 45 greatest films of all time, recommended it for its “portrayal of a man’s interior journey from pangs of regret and anxiety to a refreshing sense of peace and reconciliation”. The trouble that Isak has is that he is alone and aloof, Marianne even calls him cold and unfeeling, just like his son. The message here is that anyone can find peace in relationship at any age, even if your advances are rebuffed there is always room and time for love to happen. Both films show that love is something that is difficult and need to be worked on, it is like a garden, you can not just dig holes and plant seeds, you need to care for it weeding and watering it. I hope that someday we all can find a relationship like we see in Sunrise and not be turned cold by misfortune like Isak is in Wild Strawberries. I think that it is remarkable that both films have held up so well over time, and could work even today in the movie theaters. I hope we all can have a wonderful weekend.
February is my favorite time of the movie year, The Oscars and best of all Turner Classic Movie changes up its whole programming for a month so that every film they show is an Oscar film. This gives me a chance to see some of those films from way back in the day, like last year I watched Wings the first film to win Best Picture. This is great since I have compiled a list of movies to see that totals 16 pages single spaced, double columns, 10 point font size, my list started back with the American Film Institute top 100 greatest films, I have added subsequent lists to it as well as other from around the globe and most recently I have added the newest Sight and Sound poll of the top 50 films of all time. This past weekend I watched two films from the list that with all the talk about love recently seems like a good topic. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) and Wild Strawberries (1957) both deal with relationships.
I’ll start with Sunrise and talk about Wild Strawberries tomorrow. Sunrise is directed by FW Munrau who is famous for the vampire movie Nosferatu. Sunrise is one of those movies that few tend to know, it being an early film, however it was a major technological step for movies having a soundtrack of sound effects and music, later on in the year a little film called The Jazz Singer came out and we all know what happened after that. In Sunrise, a city woman comes to the lakeside on holiday, and she lingers to seduce and entrap the man and get him to leave his wife to join her in the city. It give a modern depiction of love that I hadn’t though was depicted on film so early. I think that a movie could release this movie as is for modern consumption and it would make money; sure it would be better if it had dialogue but it feels like a modern movie relationship that we all know. I’ve heard people say that 1927 was a great year in film being the pinnacle of silent film and beginning of talking pictures. If only Hollywood would have a year like this again, that would be amazing. Has anyone else seen this? If not it is available to watch online at anytime. Are there any other classic transition films like this?
Les Miserables came out to movie theatres this Christmas and I’ve seen ads for it in a lot of places. Will this usher in a new age for movie musicals? That is too early to tell but it does look promising with many more stage musicals slated to become movie, among them Wicked and Into the Woods. Now it seems many big name movie stars are all looking to find some musical to be in. Tom Cruise has Rock of Ages, Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables, and there are rumors that Meryl Streep is look to play the Witch in the movie adaptation of Into the Woods. So it looks like we will be seeing these movie musicals for a while now, be it on the big screen or on our television screens.
So how does The Miserable Ones stack up? I’ve seen the stage version two or three times and the 10th and 25th anniversary concerts a bunch as well, and I have even watch some dreadful youtube videos of high school productions. There were some flaws but that’s the course for a movie adaptation, there is always something to complain about. I was taken by surprise that everyone could at least carry a tune. Russell Crowe a singer? was one of the first reactions I had when he was cast as Javert. I had already known that about half the cast Jackman, Hathaway, Seyfried, Baron Cohen, Bonham Carter, Barks, Tveit and not to forget Wilkinson and Ruffelle all have done musicals in their past and I’ve heard sing. So I was at least going to see it, and this was tough since I am not a huge fan of Russell Crowe’s acting. So after seeing it I think that the film is decent. I really like how Hooper had the actors singing live on set so as to get the emotions into each song. Anne Hathaway is heart breaking in her short performance as Fantine, and it looks to have a shot at an Oscar. Sam Barks is a delight as Eponine and I hope that she continues and finds a way to balance acting on stage and on screen. Hugh Jackman does a fine job as Valjean but to me sometime he falls flat. Baron Cohen and Bonham Carter didn’t seem to want to take their role as the Thénardiers anywhere and with an emotional-less performance from Crowe these two things seemed to be the sour note. These might have been directorial choices but I cannot tell.
All in all I would go see the movie again, it is a lot cheaper and easier than waiting for the National Tour to come around again. Now I know there will be those who are adamant that Colm Wilkinson is the best Jean Valjean ever and we should just watch the 10th anniversary concert and be done for the day. I do enjoy the bit at the end with the Jean Valjean’s from around the world come and sing. There might be others that are huge Nick Jonas fans and love the 25th with a similar fervor. It’s not up to me to say which version you can like but it’s worth the ten dollars to go see the film version.