Category: History


Hacksaw ridge

July 26th, 2019 — 6:58pm

*****

Hacksaw Ridge-rm

I always thought that my favorite World War II action films were Sands of Iwo Jima with John Wayne and Battleground with Van Johnson, both of which I must have seen as a youngster; however, today many years later on an international plane flight, I chose to watch Hacksaw Ridge. This movie certainly had as realistic and action packed World War II battle scenes that I have ever seen. The director was an action movie star himself, Mel Gibson. Interestingly, however, is the fact that the hero of this film is not a combat soldier but a conscientious objector who enlisted to fight in World War II, not with the gun, but as a medic, which he was finally allowed to be after almost being court-martialed for refusing to train with the weapon. The film also included a romantic element as the young man fell in love with his first girlfriend. The most amazing part of this movie is that it is a true story. The hero, Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), the medic solider, was a real person who ultimately was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery. He and some of the soldiers portrayed in this film were shown at the conclusion of the film adding to the outstanding cinematic experience (2016).

 

Comment » | 5 Stars, Action, Drama, History, War

Best of Enemies

April 8th, 2019 — 7:44pm

****

Best of Enemies-rm

This is ultimately a feel good movie, but it is hard to believe whether this is a true story that went down as it is depicted in the film. Truth is stranger than fiction and the movie is based on a  story, which was confirmed at the end of the film by showing us some clips of the real people.

The setting is Durham, North Carolina in the 1970s. The Ku Klux Klan is active and we meet the local Klan leader, C. P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell). We also meet a local black activist, Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson). Both of them are about to clash after a fire makes the black grade school uninhabitable. There is great conflict as the local city council has to decide what to do since the white folks do not seem to want to share their grade school with the black children who have lost their school.

We never heard the term “charrette” before. It refers to a meeting in which the various sides of a conflict get together to resolve the conflict and work out a solution. The local city council brings in a “charrette expert”, Bill Riddick (Babou Ceesay) who sets up a committee to discuss and vote a solution. The “coaches” of the committee were appointed to be the clan chief and the black activist. We get a glimpse of the back story of some of the characters especially the clan leader who has a hospitalized developmentally disabled child. We also meet a local white pharmacist who is the member of the committee and he himself has hired a black Vietnam war buddy to be his assistant manager in his pharmacy. We see that the local clan group likes to practice shooting guns and are prone to intimidate white people who are sympathetic to blacks.

You might say that the story line is somewhat predictable, but it still created a strong emotional impact on us, which was made even more powerful as we learned more about the real people upon whom these characters were based as we saw them speak during the credits.

Director, Robin Bissell certainly knew how to pull our emotional strings and Mr. Rockwell and Ms. Henson may get some award nods for their performances (2019).

 

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Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, History

Bohemian Rhapsody

January 22nd, 2019 — 2:50am

*****

Bohemian Rhapsody-rm

If you or your children were following the contemporary music scene in the 1970s and the 1980s, you had to be familiar with the sound of Queen and must have rocked or swayed to “We Will Rock You”. However, you may not know all the details and the ins and outs behind the scenes of this band especially the story of lead singer, Freddie Mercury.

We also suspect that the making of this film must be a fascinating story in and of itself. Originally, Sacha Baron Cohen was scheduled to play Freddie Mercury, but after he dropped out, Rami Malek was given the part. The original director, Bryan Singer apparently only completed two-thirds of the film before he was replaced by Dexter Fletcher after various conflicts which we don’t understand.

These issues aside, there is no question that Rami Malek was terrific in the lead role. He was given a dental prosthesis which gave him a physical appearance closely resembling the real Freddie Mercury. He also took singing and piano lessons as well as having an accent coach. As indicated in the final credits, a very large technical staff was able to synchronize the actual singing of Mercury,Queen and their music to the actors’ performances which had to be quite an accomplishment. The other band members were played by Ben Hardy, Joe Mazello, Gwilym Lee and Brian May. According to the photos and film clips shown of the real band members at the end of the film, the appearance of the actors were dead ringers for the real band members.

However, the success and brilliance of this movie aside from the projection of the original music was a telling of the sensitive and complicated story of Freddie Mercury. Born to Pakistani parents, he had the confidence in his music ability to become the lead singer in the band which he joined as a young man and led them to their meteoric rise. Of course, there were conflicts with managers, record companies and among themselves. However, the biggest conflict was the turmoil within Mercury himself. Engaged to his beautiful girlfriend, Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton), he reluctantly had to confront the fact that he was gay (and of course this is in the age of AIDS).

The film concludes with the focus on the famous 1985 Live Aid concert for famine relief in Africa. All of the top singers in the world were there and many people felt that Queen stole the show. Their performance was recreated in a magnificent cinematic accomplishment. The actual Live Aid concert raised $125 million in famine relief for Africa. Incidentally thus far (prior to the Oscars in which this movie is likely to be a contender) this film has grossed $743 million which is five times more than the money raised in the 1985 Live Aid concert.(2019)

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Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, History, Musical

Vice

January 20th, 2019 — 9:59pm

***

VICE-rm

If you remember Dick Cheney, you will have to agree that Christian Bale is a dead ringer for President George W. Bush’s vice-president in appearance, speech and mannerisms despite the fact that in real life Bale looks nothing like him. This is a great tribute to the actor and the film makers.

Depending on your political point of view, you will probably decide if the depiction of Cheney is true to life. He certainly is shown to be a power-hungry, manipulative, opportunist. Sam Rockwell does an excellent impersonation of President GW Bush who is shown to be somewhat weak and under the spell of his vice-president. Steve Carell plays Donald Rumsfeld who was a person involved in Cheney’s career early on as well as in his later years but we could not forget that it was Carell and we were expecting him to breakout into some comedy lines.

The movie highlights the importance of the influence of Cheneys’s wife, Lynne (Amy Adams) in his life. Perhaps the most moving and sympathetic moment in the film in regard to Cheney, was how he was able to accept his daughter’s coming out as gay whereas his wife seemed not to be able to do so. Otherwise, there is not much sympathy for this character who was shown to have led the country into the Iraq War as well as many other questionable decisions including favoring Halliburton, the company for which he had previously worked.

As realistic as the depiction of the main character was in this film, there were some distractions with flashbacks and other cinematic effects. Although well-done, we thought they took away from the flow of the movie. Also, you may recall that there was an incident where Cheney accidentally shot someone with a rifle. This event was briefly shown but there was no explanation of how it came about or who was the victim.

The movie was directed by Adam McKay who is known for the Big Short, Anchorman I and II and more recently Holmes & Watson. The producer team included Brad Pitt as well as Will Ferrell and there was a whopping 40 million dollar budget for it. One more thing, don’t leave the theater whenever you begin to see the credits come on the screen. Each time there is more to come. (2019)

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Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, History, Politics

Green Book

January 19th, 2019 — 5:39am

*****

Green Book-rm

This is a fresh original look at the unbridled racial prejudice that was still present in the South in the early 1960s. It is directed by Peter Farrelly, who co-wrote the movie with Nick Vallelonga and Brian Currie. It is based on the true experience of a well-known black musician known as Dr. Don Shirley (who is played by Mahershala Ali). Shirley is invited to go on tour in the South and play in various theaters and at the homes of wealthy people although he could make more money performing in the NY area. He agrees to take this tour knowing well and perhaps because of an event that happened in the mid-1950s when famed black singer Nat King Cole was racially attacked on stage during one of his tours in the South. Shirley is about to take his tour into the South with his trio and he engages a tough guy known as Leo the Lip, (played by Viggo Mortensen), a guy, with an Italian background who was on a hiatus from his job, as a bouncer at the famed New York Copacabana Nightclub to be his driver.

What emerges is a magnificent character study of both men as they go on this journey into the segregated South that clearly existed in the United States in the mid-20th century. Through their eyes and their feelings, the movie viewer gets an insight into the prejudicial society that they were encountering. While the performance of Ali as a skilled pianist was excellent, it was Mortensen’s performance and his ability to show the subtle insights that his character developed, that made this an outstanding film

Although it is no longer necessary to have a “Green Book” to find a hotel that will accept people of color, we know that prejudice towards people who are different still exists. Therefore, it is a movie such as this one that is always helpful in making us takes take stock of our own values and the bigotry around us. (2019)

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Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, History

Mary Queen of Scots

December 5th, 2018 — 6:02am

**

Mary Queen of Scots

Unless you are an Anglophile, and deeply understand British history, do not even think about this movie. Even if you do think you know enough to be interested in the story, we doubt you will be able to follow it. It did appear that Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie were really into their roles as Mary Stuart and Elizabeth I, but we could not distinguish the mostly bearded men who were around them, nor figure out exactly what was their point of view. The intense confrontation scene towards the end of the film between the two women monarchs is probably the highlight of the film, although apparently some historians say they never actually met in person and thus it is poetic license, which is acceptable but in our opinion does not save the movie (2018).

Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama, History

On The Basis of Sex

November 29th, 2018 — 6:46am

****

On the Basis Of Sex

This film follows on the heels of “RBG”, a very well-received documentary film about the iconic Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg. However, this movie is a dramatization of the early life of Judge Ginsburg starting with her entry into Harvard Law School and following her as she married her lawyer husband Martin, had her two children, battled prejudice and discrimination as she tried to get her first job and then ultimately took on a game-changing case in which she established the modern legal basis for equal rights for women and foiled attempts at discrimination based on sex.

Felicity Jones is excellent as RBG as is Armie Hammer as her husband and Justin Theroux as Mel Wolf, head of the ACLU. Mimi Leder, a veteran TV director, returns to film directing which she did earlier in her career. This movie not only provides superb entertainment and an opportunity for discussion but it also gives us insight into relevant contemporary social issues. (2018)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, History, Politics

55 Steps

October 24th, 2018 — 12:37am

****

55 STEPS

This film which is based on a true story, features two outstanding performances by well-known actresses who are on the screen together, probably more than 90% of the movie. Helena Bonham Carter plays Eleanor Riese, a young woman with a mental illness who is depicted as receiving potentially dangerous psychiatric medications against her will in a mental hospital. Hilary Swank plays Colette Hughes, the diligent attorney, two-year out of law school, who along with Mort Cohen, a law professor, played by Jeffrey Tambor, takes on Reise’s case and changes California State Law so that involuntary injection of medication is not allowed under certain circumstances. In the course of this moving story, the attorney and the patient become friends.

Unfortunately, one of us (MB) could not allow himself to simply enjoy this moving story and ultimate important legal battle. The reason being that I am a psychiatrist who has seen the evolution of the treatment of involuntary hospitalized patients and the role that anti-psychotic drugs have played in their care. I had to consider the context of the history of the treatment of the mentally ill in this country. Prior to the 1960s and 1970s, there were mental hospitals all over the country with more than half a million patients who were hospitalized against their will because of severe psychosis (being out of touch with reality often with hallucinations and delusions). In the 1950s, a drug named Thorazine was developed, which could put psychosis into remission. Although this drug could have significant side effects, this medication made a tremendous difference in hundreds of thousands of peoples’ lives. Between 1955 and 1994, 487,000 patients were discharged, leaving about 70,000 patients in state mental hospitals. In fact, most state mental hospitals were eventually closed. When I first stepped onto a psychiatric unit as a psychiatry resident in 1966, the newest antipsychotic drugs had not yet been developed and the drugs of choice was still Thorazine and similar medications. It would not be for another 20 years that much safer antipsychotic drugs were developed and put into use. However, the treatment with these medications was effective enough that in the 1970s, with the help of President Jimmy Carter outpatient clinics replaced most of the hospitalized psychiatric treatment in this country. With the development of new antipsychotic medications in the 1990s, there also were much safer medication treatment with many fewer side effects.

However, to this day, patients who are considered to be a danger to themselves or others (which will often include being out of touch with reality by responding to imaginary voices or to delusional ideas) can still be hospitalized against their will. We saw in this movie that the Eleanor Riese case brought about a change in the California law as the State Supreme Court ruled unanimously that patients who are involuntarily committed to health facilities for short-term crisis may refuse to take antipsychotic medication. There is an exception that allows for involuntary medication if the patient is deemed “incompetent to make such a decision by the courts.” There was also the exception for emergency medications, meaning medication that is used for patients who are “considered an eminent danger to themselves or others either physically or psychologically and refuse to take the medication freely.” Of course, you can also be hospitalized against your will on the same grounds for people who are suicidal. All this only pertains to the State of California. Other states may have slightly different laws. I apologize for the technical psychiatric details, but I know that many of the readers of this blog are related to the mental health field and would want these things clarified. There should be one more detail concerning the real character portrayed in the movie. The young woman may not have had schizophrenia. It was mentioned that when she was younger, she had a brain infection related to a shunt put in her brain and she subsequently had some intellectual deficiencies. This may have been the cause of her depicted mental abnormalities.

Returning to the film, which was done very well and was quite moving. The viewers developed a feeling of understanding and empathy as well as admiration for both of the main characters. There also is a very interesting back story about the making of the film, which we learned about in a post-film discussion with the author and producer, Mark Bruce Rosin. He originally came up with the script 25 years ago when he heard a radio program about Ms. Riese and her lawyer who was fighting for her rights to refuse medication. The movie was almost made by two different studios, but it was ultimately dropped until it eventually came to be made with the director Billie August and now will be released nationwide in the next few weeks. Despite some of unaddressed complexity of issues raised in the film, it was one that will grab you and cause to think and is well worth seeing. (2018)

 

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, History

The Captain

August 8th, 2018 — 7:10am

***

The Captain-sp

This film by veteran writer director, Robert Schwentke, which features a young German actor Max Hubacher, is a very powerful movie which shows the violence and cruelty of the German people during World War II through the depiction and actions of the German soldiers during the last two months of the war. However, it is somewhat unique in that the violence in this case is not directed towards the Jews or the allied enemy soldiers. Rather it is shown by the mass murder of German soldiers who may have been deserting at the end of the war and trying to survive by stealing food.

The story line is based on a true incident where a young German soldier isolated from his unit and being chased by other German soldiers as a deserter and a thief came upon the uniform of a German Captain and then took on the role of this officer. The story unfolds from there as this “Captain” becomes  cruel, sadistic and as murderous as anyone in the German army.

The film was shot in black and white, which according to the director, was to minimize the blood and gore of which there was plenty. The violence and murder shown in the film was strong enough to lead to a steady flow to the exit during this film from our preview audience. In the end, we are left with a very well done, all be it, uncomfortable movie which is quite provocative and no doubt will be unforgettable.

The film was in German with subtitles. (2018)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, History, War

Detroit

June 26th, 2018 — 10:47pm

****

Detroit-rm

One of our all time favorite films is The Hurt Locker, which was directed by Kathryn Bigelow for which she became the first woman director to win an Oscar. She certainly has not lost her touch. This film grabs the viewer and transports us into Detroit in 1967. Racial tensions were high and the National Guard and state police were called into the city as the riots exploded. There was an incident at a small hotel in the inner city where a several black men and two white women were held at gun point by four or five white Detroit Police Officers who believed that there was a sniper who shot at the policemen from the hotel. The prejudice and hate from the white police and how it was transformed into violence was quite dramatic and palpable. It did seem strange that there were no ranking police officers (Sergeants, Lieutenant or Captain), who were called to the scene. But this aspect he did not diminish the realistic and almost documentary feeling, which this movie conveyed. This slice of American history is very well presented with the raw emotion, which was part of it. While we hope that we have come a long way from this event, which occurred a half century ago, we obviously still are not free from prejudice that shows up in various manifestations in our society today. This is why such a film deserves our attention and should hold an important place in our memory.

This film also played homage to the Detroit Motown sound in the storyline as well as in the soundtrack. The actors were outstanding as was the setting, special effects, and editing which included film footage from Detroit in 1967. (2017)

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, History

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