Category Archives: Films

The notebook

The Notebook was an interesting film. As I recall it, a few days after seeing it, my memory is filled with those haunting images of the twin boys staring dispassionately into the camera.

The film itself is about a pair of twin boys (names are never given, they most commonly are referred to as “bastards”, and are named “Twins” in the closing credits) who are left with their maternal grandmother as the mother and father each depart in preparation for WWII.

The grandmother is a tough one, and is the adversary for most of the film. Under her regime of hard chores, the boys toughen themselves mentally and physically. They are able to handle this load, while becoming friends to Hairlip and the shoemaker and becoming enemies with the deacon and maid. All in all, it’s an interesting story carried out very well by two boys who are very good in creeping out the audience with their calm, thoughtful, passively menacing stares.

Favorite quote? The German officer observes the boys taking turns beating the crap of each other with a belt, to the point of falling to the ground. Later on he asks them why they did it, and they respond “to conquer pain” and “they want to conquer pain, hunger, and cold”. Favorite scene? I choose the scene where the boys are brought before the German officer and his aide, but I could also choose the scene where the boys are given a bath by the maid. Favorite emotional moment? I think the heart strings are quickly pulled in the beginning of the film, when the mother drops them off. But compassion for the parents is lost over the course of the film, and your heart is steered towards the boys and even the grandmother by the time its through.

Kill the messenger

Jeremy Renner stars in Kill The Messenger, which is a crime drama about American journalist Gary Webb.  He was good in American Hustle, he was serviceable in The Immigrant, but he’s really quite good as the lead in Kill The Messenger.  I think he’s got great control of his facial features, he can use this control to convey emotion and successfully sell his role.

I hadn’t heard the story before, and I can’t really recall details of Reagan’s Iran-Contra affair.  But the story didn’t really surprise me.  It isn’t hard to guess the nature of the policy our government agencies – deny and discredit.  But it’s a story where you’re really rooting for the journalist (really there aren’t any other options) – you want to believe that the truth is going to be told, that he’s going to be the one who gets it done.

A little side bonus for me was the appearance of Paz Vega, who plays a small role early on.  She is better known for her leading actress role in Spanglish as “Flor”, where she starred across from Adam Sandler.  I love her facial features, they are the epitome of Spanish beauty for me.  Robert Patrick is present, we get his great voice, but we also get his belly courtesy of an open shirt.  (Come on Agent Doggett, too many jellybeans since The X-Files.)

Favorite quote?  “You get attracted to the power, you get addicted to the power, you get devoured by the power.”  (Or something very similar to that.)  Favorite scene?  Where Webb visits the drug lord in prison – there is so much going on in the background as Webb and the drug lord are talking, it’s interesting to watch.  Favorite emotional content?  The exchange between Webb and his son (regarding Cleveland), although it felt a little out of place to me.

On being a sole survivor

Sole Survivor is a documentary feature with an interesting premise.  There are very few people (14, to be exact) who have had the experience of being the only survivor of a commercial airline plane crash.  That’s not an experience to consider lightly: the more angles you consider that idea from, you realize there are severe immediate and severe long-lasting effects of being a person in that situation.  This film follows the lives of four of these “sole survivors” and tells their stories to the world.

I’ll admit, that when I’m sitting in a plane seat, I often imagine what it would be like to be in a plane crash.  How much notice would we have?  How would the people react?  What does impact feel like, and how much chance would there be to escape the wreckage?  I think of a crash on land, perhaps among a thick forest of trees, versus a crash into the waves of the open sea.

George is the main “survivor” in the film, as it’s his journey that is most closely followed.  Imagine what it might be like to feel like the families of the deceased might feel toward you.  Or imagine the self-imposed guilt you might have on being the only survivor of a terrible accident like that.  George felt these things, in conscious thought and in dreams…haunted day and night.  Would you feel like you’d been saved for a purpose?  Could you change your life to try and live up to whatever that purpose might be?  It’s difficult to measure the accomplishment of one’s life under any circumstances.  It seems like any attempt to measure up to a divine purpose would inevitably fall short.

This was a great film and I’m glad I had the opportunity to see it.  A tearjerker, to be sure.  And not just me, I could see hands going up to eyes, and hear the sounds of sniffling throughout the theater.

Stuck

The first film I saw at the Yes Film Fest in Columbus Indiana was a documentary called Stuck.  It’s about the process of international adoption, and probably more specifically about the sorry state that it’s in right now.

Some of the interesting facts up front: it takes about 3 years and about $28,000 USD to successfully make it through the international adoption process as a US citizen.  And that process is going to be strenuous.  In the last 6 years, adoption into the USA has fallen by 60%.  That’s pretty amazing…I always think of the USA as being the country most likely to adopt into.  We have so many people who are willing to bring a baby or a child into a family here, and we have so many people who have better-than-average conditions at home to be able to pull that off.

I don’t think it comes as a surprise to anyone that there is a high level of bureaucracy that results in lengthy delay; you have the government of the country with the child to be adopted, you have the government of the country with the adopting family, you have the orphanage agencies, you have lawyers at every step of the process, etc.  What was eye-opening for me was the effects that living in an orphanage has for children: the studies show that it’s very detrimental to the child’s development, and ultimately life.  While there’s no question that orphanage life is better than having nowhere to be, the orphanage must be seen as a very short-term solution.

This film looked at the stories of people who have gone through this process with Ethiopia, Haiti, and Vietnam.  (As a small bonus for me, the narrator was Mariska Hargitay, one of my favorite women.)  I think all of the stories were interesting, quite revealing, and usually heartbreaking.  The film won a great deal of sympathy from this particular audience.  And in all honesty, seeing this film has rekindled my interest in volunteering overseas to help take care of orphaned children.