Category: History


Red Joan

July 13th, 2021 — 7:06am

RED JOAN

***

Can you imagine if you are sitting with your elderly grandmother and there were a knock on the door and the FBI entered and arrested her for the high crime of being an international spy? That is exactly what happened to an old British woman who is arrested in front of her family and accused of being a World War II spy for the Russians who passed on secret information how to make the atomic bomb. This film was released in 2018 and stars Judi Dench. It is based on the true story, although there were some changes made in the actual circumstances. The story reminds us that during the time period that the film is depicting, the Russians were allies of the United States fighting against the Nazis. The deep dive of this film is intended not only to show how this woman was a successful spy, but why she did it. What was our thinking and what was the mindset of many people at this particular time in history. This film will keep your interest and will be particularly meaningful to history buffs who try to understand the thinking of this time in history.

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, History, Politics

Nowhere In Africa

June 19th, 2021 — 4:00am

Nowhere in Africa
****

This is a 2001 German film which was written and directed by Caroline Link. It is based on an autobiographical novel by Stefanie Zweig.

We thought that we had seen every aspect of Holocaust books and films, yet this subtle, touching, thoughtful story tells a poignant tale that reflects the deep-seated impact as much as the classic well known literary and cinematic productions have done on this subject. It tells the story of a German Jewish family; father, mother, and young daughter, who fled Germany “to the middle of nowhere in Africa” which is actually in Kenya.

Perhaps this story is best reflected through the eyes of a young girl as she grows into early adolescence during what must have been a seven or eight year period. She is accepted into the native culture. Her parents have their struggles and conflicts. Their pain in missing their relatives and learning of their fate is a well-known part of history. The viewers must put themselves into the shoes of this threesome as they ultimately must decide whether to stay or leave and where to go once the war is over.

The skill of the filmmaker is reflected in the fact that we forget that we are seeing a foreign film with subtitles. The setting is quite real as are the characters and their in-depth portrayal.

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign, History

Steal A Pencil For Me

May 22nd, 2021 — 1:00am

Steal A Pencil For Me-nf
****

As have so many stories about the holocaust, this film produced by Michel Ohayon has touched our hearts. It tells a true story about a man Jac Polak and woman Ina Soepwho met in Holland shortly before the Nazis took over. He was infatuated with her although he was married to someone else. When their time came and they were deported to a concentration camp, they kept in touch with each other through clandestine letters and notes (hence the movie title). Through this continued relationship (along with film clips of various cattle cars whisking the Jews away and pictures and clips of the horrors that went on during those terrible years), we ultimately learned that this unusual couple never lost hope that they might reunite. Sure enough after liberation, they found each other and have had more than 60 years of marriage. It is no surprise that this is a moving story that not only tells about enduring love, but reminds us about history that we must never forget.

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, History, Romance

Juddas and the Black Messiah

February 21st, 2021 — 8:43am

Judas and the Black Messiah – HBOMAX
****
This is a very powerful film, which examined the rise of the Black Panthers in Chicago and the underlying story of a double agent black man who is recruited as an informant for the FBI after he was caught committing a crime and chose being “Judas” rather than going to jail. The story provides insights into the men and women who developed and coalesced into the Black Panthers mostly from several black groups centering in Chicago. LaKeith Stanfield plays the Judas and there are outstanding performances by many of the stars, but of particular note was Daniel Kaluuya who played Fred Hampton, the Black Panther leader, and his girlfriend Deborah Johnson played by Dominque Fishback. Of note also was the performance of Martin Sheen who plays J. Edgar Hoover in a relatively small but quite effective role.

There is violence, suspense, and murder throughout the film. The movie captures the anger and revolutionary nature of a coalescing black power movement. The storyline reminds us that it was not a single black group that demanded the equality which they deserved, but several rival groups and gangs, the Crowns, Young Lords, and the Patriots that all came together in an uneasy truce to face the violent oppression, which they encountered daily.

The film showed the work of the Black Panther organization as being mostly about self-help for the community. They created breakfast programs as well as working to set up a medical clinic. Most important to the group was bringing together all the varied factions within the community who had felt unheard, discriminated against and marginalized. The film showed how important it was for the Panthers to be able to defend themselves from the constant, unprovoked assaults by the police and the ongoing attempts to crush them completely by J. Edgar Hoover and the F.B.I.

The plot was intriguing and the historical truth was revealing. The acting was great and the directing by Shaka King and the outstanding production was deserving of the many awards that are now being discussed for this movie. (2021).

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, History

One Night in Miami

February 1st, 2021 — 10:29pm

One Night in Miami (Amazon)
****

This imaginative story of the fictional meeting of four black icons caught us by surprise. The film is supposed to have taken place in 1964 when we were in our 20s and while very much aware of the civil rights movement but we were not intimately cognizant of the role that each of these well-known persons were playing at that time.

Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), the great heavy weight boxer, had just become the world heavy weight champion by knocking out Sonny Liston. He was probably the youngest man in the foursome and was about to become a follower of the Nation of Islam and become a follower of its leader Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir). However, Malcolm X was about part ways with this organization and make a pilgrimage to Mecca. Jim Brown (Adis Hodge) was a great football player who seemed to be the least developed character in this film. We most enjoyed the character of Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom, Jr.). We had a fond memory of his feel good music and the change that was developing and black awareness in this character as well as in the entire country was reflected in his interchanges with Malcolm X.

The film was directed by Regina King with the screenplay by Kemp Powers based on his book.

The movie ends with a note that Malcolm X would be assassinated shortly after this story was to have taken place reminding us that this was just beginning of the ongoing Civil Rights and Black Lives Matter movement. It is rare that such a totally imaginative interchange between relative contemporary figures can capture the essence of their historical significance. It is also painful to know that over fifty years later, the fight for equality and justice needs to continue to be waged. (2020).

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, History, Politics

Ma Rainy’s Black Bottom

December 29th, 2020 — 3:13am

Ma Rainy’s Black Bottom (Netflix)
****
This film is Based on the play of the same name by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright August Wilson. The setting is the 1920s and a Black Jazz Group is preparing for a recording session. The film takes a deep dive into a couple of the characters. The main focus is on Levee, a black trumpet player who wants to play things his way and dreams of forming his own band rather than playing back-up to a great black singer. He is played by Chadwick Boseman in his final performance as he passed away shortly after the filming this movie. His character embodied the frustration of black men, especially talented ones who were held back by prejudices of the time. The other star of this film was Viola Davis who lived within Ma Rainey, a black superstar singer who is going to take everything her talent deserved although she clearly had to stand up and make her righteous demands. The storyline, great acting by the entire cast, directed by George C. Wolfe, provided a wonderful insight into the oppression and prejudices which emerged in this time period. The senior producer for this excellent film was Denzel Washington.

Our biggest disappointment with the film was that it ended when it did. We so much wanted to see a light at the end of the tunnel that we hoped could be there. Instead, we were shown the endless frustration and pain that has been the plight of so many black people. (2020).

Comment » | 4 Stars, History, Musical

Loving

November 29th, 2020 — 12:15am

***

Loving ( Prime Video, VUDU,

This 2016 film is a re-creation of a story behind a very important Supreme Court case, which struck down a Virginia Law forbidding inter-racial marriage and conception of children between an inter-racial couple and by doing so established nationwide precedents. The historical significance of this event makes this movie a riveting cinematic experience. Jeff Nicolas who wrote the screenplay was also the director. Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton were the co-stars as Mildred and Richard Loving. The movie was nominated for various awards.

We both felt that weakness of the film was the passiveness of Mr. Loving. We can easily understand the tremendous fears that anyone in his situation would have as his loving marriage was threatened as was the potential damage to his three children if the parents had to go to jail, but we missed the inner turmoil and conflict that he must have had, which we could see to some degree in his wife. While we understand the immense historical significance of this case, we also believe that there was room for a dramatic exposition of its importance in our society, which could have been explained by historical film clips about this important historical event. Thus while the film should be seen for its historical and social value, it had much to be desired from a cinematic point of view. (2020)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, History

The Red Violin

October 15th, 2020 — 5:27am

***
The Red Violin (Amazon Prime, Netflix)

This is a unique story directed by François Girard. It has an outstanding cast which includes Samuel L. Jackson, Gretta Scacchi, Monique Mercure, and Don McKella. With lush cinematography, “The Red Violin” provides much to think about. We are brought along with the story of the creation in the 17th century of a particularly well crafted violin and how the instrument is used, abused, and yet survives until the present day. The violin maker is crafting the special instrument for the son that his wife is soon to bear. However, she dies in childbirth and he is so distraught that he uses her blood mixed into the varnish on the violin (hence the “red” violin). The film skips to a child prodigy orphan who is then given the violin, but meets tragedy as well when he dies and is buried with the violin. A group of gypsies rob the grave and one of the women plays it beautifully until she is noticed by a wealthy land owner/concert musician who makes a deal with her and her group, in which they are given land on which to live while he takes the ownership of the violin. After some time of his playing in concerts and receiving wide acclaim, he meets a tragic end. The violin is taken by his Chinese servant to China. There, it is lovingly cared for and played until the Cultural Revolution causes instruments of Europe to be banned and their musicians ostracized. Ultimately, the violin finds its way to present day Montreal where it is part of a large shipment of instruments purchased from China. The film intersperses scenes of the present with experts doing research on the origin of instruments with the scenes of the rich history and adds an extra layer of intrigue as the instruments are being readied to be auctioned to aficionados willing to spend huge amounts of money. While the most interesting depiction of time, place, and history, the up and back nature of the film is often jarring and confusing; however, seeing phases of history through the story of a particular instrument is thought provoking and the modern day drama somewhat intriguing as well.(1998)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, History

Mucho Mucho Armor – The Legend of Walter Mercado

October 15th, 2020 — 4:51am

***
Mucho Mucho Amor – The Legend of Walter Mercado nf

This is a documentary film that takes place over several decades about someone who is apparently one of the most well-known Latin stars in the world. He was born in modest circumstances in Puerto Rico and from an early age had been seen as having “something special,” to which people gravitated. He was an actor who became interested in astrology and due to a various circumstances he appeared in various short television segments telling fortunes according to the astrological stars. At one point, he had 120 million viewers. People all over Latin America became enthralled with his pronouncement and his performance and he became loved and sought after celebrity. He dressed in extravagant costumes with magnificent capes that became an essential part of his shows. He spent a lifetime as someone who loved to look glamorous in his feminine/masculine attire and who only wanted to spread love and good feelings. The documentary allows the viewer to see into his rise as well as the betrayal by his manager, which almost destroyed him. Yet, he lived to see better days and to enjoy once again his status as a unique icon within the Spanish speaking community. Seeing the film, you are left with the feeling of having witnessed someone totally unique and full of love (2020).

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary, History

Da Five Bloods

July 8th, 2020 — 6:27am

*****
Da Five Bloods Continue reading »

1 comment » | 5 Stars, Action, Drama, History, War

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