Sunday, April 26, 2015

Gold Standard

I've fallen a bit behind here with UnfetteredBrilliance and I apologize. However, that doesn't mean I haven't been busy with blog-stuff, so let me update you on the latest!

First - and probably most exciting- Meet Me at the Movies, the weekly movie show I do with Ensley, is finally available as a streamed broadcast! There are several ways to access the show - you can click on the C19 TV link on the home page of Cleveland Community College and then choose Meet Me at the Movies from the available shows, you can just click here, or you can subscribe to the Livestream channel on your Roku device and search for the show through that channel. I've embedding the most recent show (a preview of summer 2015 movies) here in this post and please - spread the word!

In other news, we've seen three movies since I've last posted here. One of them, the recent horror release Unfriended, is a solid "C" and I don't mean that badly. Unfriended does something fresh with the horror genre by having everything take place through screens. The premise is as old as Carrie (and probably goes back further than that) - a high school girl is humiliated and seeks revenge on her tormentors. In Unfriended, the humiliation comes through an embarrassing video that was posted and went viral. The girl at the center of the video kills herself and, on the anniversary of her suicide, takes over her old social media accounts (oh, the product placement!) to torment confessions out of her so-called friends and drive them to suicide. The R rating is mostly for language - the violence is generally seen in very quick smash cuts and is brief. It's more "jump scare" than gore. Interesting for its comments about how much of our lives we live online and how online mistakes can live forever. (By the way, the ABC show Modern Family had an episode ["Connection Lost"] in February that took place entirely through Claire's laptop screen - maybe this is the new thing.)

We also saw It Follows, which is garnering reviews calling it groundbreaking, fresh, and original. I think these critics saw a different movie from the one I saw. I'm not sure exactly *what* "it follows," but it sure isn't any generally-accepted-as-effective guideline for storytelling. Seriously - It Follows doesn't know when it takes place, what time of year it takes place, and isn't too sure about how its own "Big Bad" is supposed to operate. The film's pacing is best described as "lumbering," the cliches are knee-deep, and the score isn't retro as much as it's "we can afford a guy with a synthesizer." Just. Awful. The three-first-named director has a deal to develop a spooky TV show and maybe he'll do better there.

But the bright spot - Woman in Gold. Please, please, please go see this movie! Not only are Dame Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds dazzling in their roles, it's a true story that needs to be told. For you see, the Nazis were art collectors and they certainly weren't going to care about such legal niceties as ownership. The full count of the artwork that was stolen over the course of WW2 will never by known - many pieces were destroyed outright as being "degenerate," while other pieces were carefully transported to private homes of Nazi elites and their lapdogs. In the late 1990s, in an effort to reform its world image after electing Kurt Waldheim (a man with a Nazi past who was implicated in the mass deportation of Jews) to lead the country, Austria changed its laws to make art reparations easier.

Easier. Not easy.

Gustav's Klimt's portrait of an upper-class woman wearing a diamond choker and wringing her hands, titled Woman in Gold was considered one of Austria's greatest artistic treasures. To Maria Altmann, who had fled her home in Vienna as the Nazis tightened their loathsome grip, it was the portrait of her Aunt Adele that had been taken off the walls of her family home and it was high time Adele was reunited with her true family.

Trust me, this is an exciting, taut drama, drawing on themes of family, sacrifice, identity, moving beyond the past, and the hold the past has on us. Both Mirren and Reynolds do magnificent jobs making their characters true people, complete with sharp edges, rather than two-dimensional saints who have no flaws. Also of note are Tatiana Maslany, who plays the young Maria Altmann (you know Maslany from her incredible work on Orphan Black) and Daniel Bruhl who plays Hubertus Czerin, a resident of current-day Vienna who is an ally of Maria's in her seemingly-impossible quest.

Summer movie madness hits next week - I already have my tickets for Avengers: Age of Ultron. How about you?

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