Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ones to Watch - August

Breaking Bad has kept me busy lately - between working on the book draft and drinking in the new episodes (and rest assured that there will be much more about this week's episode, "Dead Freight," on "Walter White Wednesday" - I mean, holy cow! Did you see that??), I haven't been very good about posting with comments on new releases or DVD gems.  So let me take care of that with three to watch - a new release worth checking out, a somber and shocking documentary, and a swashbuckling Technicolor comedy.

First, go check out Hope Springs if you're ready for a movie that'll stick to your ribs after a summer of cinematic junk food.  Hope Springs is a optimistic drama about a couple who have been together for decades and who have built a comfortable life, but have also drifted so far apart that they might meet each other coming from the other way.  It's been said that acting is the one art that has no prodigies - a talented nine-year-old can memorize Hamlet, but you're never going to believe you're watching anyone who's gone through what Hamlet is supposed to be experiencing.  With that in mind, casting Meryl Streep (age 63) and Tommy Lee Jones (age 65) is genius.  Watching, we believe that these two have been together long enough to fall into a deep rut or routine and it's wonderful to watch these two magnificent actors explore being older in a committed relationship.  Hope Springs asks some of the big questions like "Do we really get older than 25 in our hearts, even when the body changes?" and "What's intimacy like after 30-plus years with the same person?" and "Why's it so damned hard to just talk to each other?"  Like life, Hope Springs is funny, sad, anger-inducing, and uplifting, all in turns.

Second, the 2007 documentary Nanking is worth a look.  It's a hard look, but don't look away.  This film uses the device of having actual survivors of the notorious Rape of Nanking tell their stories, intercut with interviews with some Japanese soldiers who were willing to talk about the atrocities, and further intercut with modern actors reading the letters and other communications of the very few brave souls who set up the Safety Zone in the former Chinese capital city, the formation of which is credited with saving a quarter-million people.  The sack of Nanking by the Japanese and the subsequent lack of law or decency is not talked about much in the United States stories of World War 2 - Nanking happened before we got involved in the war and hey, China's a long way away.  The stories are brutal, but they ought to be told.  And we ought to have the courage to serve as witnesses from the comfort of our living room couches.

Last for this installment of "Ones to Watch" is the 1952 Technicolor romp Scaramouche, which features the backdrop of the French Revolution (elaborate costumes and powdered wigs), bastards, traveling actors, true love, and swordfights.  Lots of swordfights. It's a silly plot, but great fun - and don't be fooled by the still shot on the right.  Scaramouche is in glorious Technicolor and I always enjoy the not-quite-right colors associated with that process.

That wraps up my grab-bag of Ones to Watch for this installment - but I have plenty more on my viewing queue, so I expect to come back with more!

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