Category: History


The Red Violin

October 15th, 2020 — 5:27am

***
The Red Violin Amazon Prime

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

Crip Camp

March 28th, 2020 — 11:00pm

****

Crip Camp-nf

This film was recommended to us by someone who knew that we spent the summer after our wedding working in a camp for orthopedically handicapped adults and children. It is produced by  the production company formed by former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama in association with Netflix. The opening scene of this documentary film, although taking place several years later showed Camp Jened very much resembling our own unforgettable summer experience. The focus was mostly on teenagers, many in wheelchairs, some with severe speech impediments and others limping around, but all with the energy and joy as they clearly felt liberated and were having the time of their lives. Many spoke of how for the first time they did not feel different. Others spoke of the joy of swimming and playing baseball even if it was from a wheelchair. There was the first teenage sexual attraction and overall a most meaningful summer.

However, this documentary film was much more than the story of a wonderful great summer camp experience. The producers and editors put together the story of the historic civil rights movement of people with disabilities. It also became obvious that some of the participants in this and leaders of this movement had met each other during their glorious summer camp experiences. Now many of them were young adults and were emerging as the leader of this most important movement.

A group of them had landed in San Francisco where they began to demonstrate against Joseph Califano who was the Secretary of Health Education and Welfare and was not carrying out Federal Law section 504 and therefore not supporting equal opportunities for the handicapped. Curb cuts, so wheelchairs and their occupants could travel freely, elevators in all structures as well as other architectural accommodations to allow people with disabilities to lead a more normal life were their demands and expectations. The Black Panthers who originated in nearby Oakland, California, supported and joined them in their protests. This movement then reached a crescendo when the growing group of protesters arrived in Washington, D.C. and held sit-down demonstrations in front of Secretary Califano’s office outside the building and inside. This went on for a couple of weeks before finally Califano recognized the rights of the handicapped.

To think that much of this movement started in the early relationships of many young people who met at the remarkable summer camp a decade earlier. The filmmaker obviously dug up early footage from Camp Jened and focused on several people who became leaders in this most important movement. The viewers of the film were able to follow them as they emerged into adulthood and made the remarkable contributions to the civil rights of the disabled in this country. (2020)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, History, Politics

Burden

February 19th, 2020 — 1:40am

****

Burden

This story, set in the 1990s, is based on real events and real people. It takes us into the Deep South where a group of Ku Klux Klansmen are converting an old movie theater into a KKK Museum. As we meet our main character, Mike Burden (Garrett Hedlund), he is one of the Klansmen. We see his life is about to change as he meets a poor, lovely white young woman (Andrea Riseborough) with a small son who has a different background and values than he does as she and her son are friends with black families and her kid is best friends with a black child. They fall in love and she says that he will have to choose between her and the Klan as she could not tolerate the brutality of the KKK. This unlikely threesome shortly finds that they have no place to live and they are befriended by a black congregation led by Rev. Kennedy (Forest Whitaker).

The film clearly captures the hate and brutality towards black people by the white people who identify with the prejudices and hate symbolized and characterized by the KKK. It also reminds us of the potential for change when human beings fall in love and feel very close to each other, allowing them to open up and become more empathic. Self worth can rise and insecure anger can be reduced. There is also a wonderful depiction of a black church group whose faith sustains them through a very difficult time and how important was their beliefs and the leadership of them by their spiritual leader, were in their lives.

It is easy to see how one might view this story as just a fairytale but the characters and story ring true. This belief was further reinforced when during the closing credits we were able to view the real people about whom this story was based. (2020)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, History

The Two Popes

November 7th, 2019 — 6:28am

*****

The Two Popes-sp

At our preview screening of this movie, we had the pleasure of hearing the screenwriter Anthony McCarten describe how he created his vision of the relationship between these two Popes. Mr. McCarten who also wrote the screenplays for The Darkest Hour (Winston Churchill), “Theory Of Everything” (Steven Hawking) and “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Freddie Mercury and his band Queen) built the story based on little known facts about the interactions between the current liberal Pope Francis and the previous conservative Pope Benedict. The story imagines a meeting between the two of them prior to the resignation of Pope Benedict, which may have actually taken place. Through the use of flashbacks in time, we learn about Pope Francis as a young priest in Argentina and how he dealt with the influence of Peron in his native country. During the imagined meeting between the two Popes, prior to the time that Pope Benedict steps aside, there is a suggestion that both of them have regrets in their lives. Although it is not mentioned directly, the older Pope is said to have been a member of the Hitler Youth Group in his native Germany. Certainly, both men come across as very empathic servants of God who care greatly about people and are deeply religious.

Aside from the fascinating interaction between these two historic figures, the scenes inside the Vatican, which has been recreated (no actual filming is allowed inside) are magnificent. The acting by the two great actors Jonathan Pryce (Pope Francis) and Anthony Hopkins (Pope Benedict) are quite masterful. The direction of the movie and photography led by Fernando Meirelles is outstanding. This film definitely deserves your attention.

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Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, History

Harriet

November 5th, 2019 — 7:27am

*****

Harriet-rm

If you know anything about the story of Harriet Tubman, you will be expecting an exciting adventure about a woman slave who escapes to freedom and then goes on to rescue many others through the famed Underground Railroad. You will not be disappointed as British actress Cynthia Erivo does a remarkable job of inhabiting the famed heroine. The movie was directed by Kasi Lemmons, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Gregory Allen Howard.

The story begins as our heroine, who is then known as Minty, decides to escape from her owner’s son who is supposed to have freed her. She actually runs 100 miles, much of it being chased and hunted, until she reaches Philadelphia where slavery does not exist. She meets an abolitionist, (Leslie Odom, Jr.) and others. She takes on her freedom name of Harriet Tubman and returns to the South in order to rescue her family and many others. This becomes her life calling as she is active in the Underground Railroad. We experience her dangerous adventures and confrontations and see how she becomes one of the great American heroines for these actions as well as her exploits during the Civil War. The movie is highlighted by a moving musical score by Terence Blanchard.

Ms. Tubman lived to the age of 93 and we cannot help but be reminded that Harriet Tubman’s image was scheduled to replace that of Andrew Jackson on the United States $20 bill. However, it was recently announced by President Trump and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, that this plan was being delayed for several years for “technical reasons.” We wonder why?

Despite this “delay” in establishing the well-deserved honor, the film is playing now and provides a strong and moving account of a true American heroine.(2019)

 

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Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, History

The Current War: Director’s Cut

October 17th, 2019 — 7:09am

***

The Current War: Director’s Cut- sp

No, this is not about the current fighting between Turkey, Syria, and the Kurds. It is actually a very American story where “current” means “electricity” and the main characters in the movie are Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch), George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) and Nikola Tesla (Nicholas Hoult).

This 2016 film got lost in movieland politics involved with Harvey Weinstein. However, its director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon was able to hold on to the film and bring back some of the stars and redo parts of the movie. The result is a very interesting story that we assume most of us knew very little about and that is that there was a historical battle about which kind of electricity would win the right to light up the Chicago World’s Fair and ultimately, win the race to light up the United States. Would it be direct current (DC) favored by Thomas Edison or alternating current (AC) championed by George Westinghouse? We also get some insight into the private lives of these men and their wives played by Katherine Waterston and Tuppence Middleton.

This is not a documentary film and not exactly a docudrama. However, it is a fascinating story about very interesting people. The main characters are household names not only associated with electricity but in the case of Edison, he is known for bringing us recorded sound and he essentially invented motion pictures.

While this movie might not have provided the deep insight that the director was striving for, it certainly personified these men and told the fascinating tale of the historical contributions to the world that they made.(2019)

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1 comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, 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

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