The Homesman sp Life was not easy on the Nebraska frontier in the 1850s, especially for women. It took Hilary Swank to show us how difficult it could be with some help from Tommy Lee Jones who co-starred with her, directed the movie and was a co-writer of the screenplay. The story is based on a novel by Glendon Swarthout . It presents us with three women who have had nervous breakdowns due to the hardships of frontier life including losing three young children to diphtheria and being sexually abused. These three are all acting in a somewhat stereotyped manner where they never speak, roll their eyes and at least one acts like an animal. Swank’s character Mary Bee Cuddy agrees to take them back east across the bleak frontier land in a rickety horse and wagon since their men won’t do it. Her dedication, determination, frontier skills and compassion make her an unforgettable if not a somewhat tragic figure. She coerces George Brigg (Tommy Lee Jones), a claim jumper who was about to be hanged until she saved him, to accompany her on this mission to return the “out of it” women to a minister in Iowa. Except perhaps for the mental patients everything and everybody seemed quite authentic from “ Indians” encountered along the way, Ms. Swanks weather beaten face and her plowing the field for her crops, the desert, Mr. Jones weather beaten face, the inn that wouldn’t let them stay there for the night and what subsequently happened to it . The two stars were outstanding as were brief character roles by James Spader, John Lithgow and Meryl Streep whose daughter Grace Gummer did a very good job as one of the silent mentally ill women. The message of the film was clear and well done but we are not sure it was worth the two hours. (2014)
Tag: Tommy Lee Jones
Emperor –sp If you are a student or a fan of WW II history or are old enough to have some memories of the first 20 or so post war years, you may have wondered why the Japanese Emperor Hirohito wasn’t punished for war crimes? Well, he wasn’t and in fact was allowed to continue to be the revered reigning monarch until his death in 1989 while his war time prime minister Tojo and other military leaders were executed by the victorious Americans. This is the main focus of this movie, directed by Peter Webber, starring Matthew Fox as Bonner Fellers the American Brigadier General tasked with deciding whether to put Hirohito on trial and perhaps hang him and Tommy Lee Jones as his boss, General Douglas Mac Arthur, along with some of today’s leading Japanese actors. The script by David Klass and Vera Blasi has taken some known historical facts and also weaved and constructed a love story between General Fellers and a young Japanese woman he met in college in the U.S. before the war, effectively using flashback techniques. The result is a fascinating if not gripping story, which might color our view of this piece of WWII history. We see a Japanese leader remind General Fellers that history is filled with terrible deeds during war including those done by the British or even the Americans although he acknowledges the Japanese “ lost their humanity in WW II. ” Through the tender love story and empathy that General Fellers has for the Japanese people we are led to consider that the Japanese at this point in history were not as bad as they have been depicted to most of us. Perhaps Hirohito didn’t really favor the war in the first place and didn’t know about all the atrocities . Also, apparently it was his request to the Japanese people, despite the resistance of his military leaders, that led to a peaceful surrender (after the dropping of the atomic bomb) which saved 100,000s of American lives which would have been lost if we had to invade the Japanese islands. We disagreed on whether this was an overtly sympathetic point of view (of a culture that still doesn’t teach the history of WW II to school children) or it was simply shinning a light on a piece of little known history. We do agree it was an outstanding film, worth seeing. (2013)
The problem with any movie that gets a lot of hype because it is about two giants in in their respective spheres of influence, Lincoln and Spielberg, is that you expect to be blown away, enthralled , introduced to new ideas that you never thought about before etc. etc. What we have here is a good movie, a really good movie that provides insight into one of the greatest American Presidents, as well as a lesson in political history that brought about one of the most important pieces of our constitutional history, the 13th Amendment that prohibits slavery. However, in order to appreciate this movie, you have to do more than sit back and enjoy, you really have to concentrate and think about what is going on before you. You are skillfully helped in this task by the screenplay by Tony Kushner based in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book “ Team of Rivals”, superb acting especially by Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln , Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln and, of course, the brilliant directing of Steven Spielberg.
The portrayal of Lincoln is distinctive and consistent. We have no way of knowing how on the mark it was, but his thoughtful, intense caring persona yet with a sense of humor makes him appear to be a person we would like to think that he was. He also was shown to be struggling with a parental dilemma with which we can easily identify. Imagine if you had a son that wanted to enlist in the military where young soldiers were dying by the thousands. Would you do everything you could to stop him ( and what if you could, since you were the Commander in Chief?). Or, if you understood how he could never forgive himself if he didn’t enlist would you allow him to choose his destiny (despite the protests of your wife). This was just a small side theme of this movie.
Thaddeus Stevens, one of the Republican leaders in the House of Representatives, appears to be a fascinating person, as dedicated as Lincoln to their common cause but quite feisty with a sharp tongue that he wasn’t afraid to use. One of us was moved to read a little bit more about this man who was shown in the film as having a secret that was actually true to life.
The potential pertinence of this film to our modern day political issues was quite apparent. We know that there is a great deal of wheeling and dealing behind the scenes and the cynical among us would say that most politicians can bought if you find the right price. But what if in the end, the goal in this case a constitutional amendment, was actually priceless in human terms. What do you bargain away to get it? It left much to think about regarding compromise and it’s many layers, as well as stopping ”perfect from being the enemy of the good.”
Then there is the “Rocky Factor”. Whenever there is a situation where a good guy has an uphill battle, can the movie send a chill up your spine at the right time. This one did. (2012)
Hope Springs- sp. This is the kind of movie that in addition to being quite entertaining, might very well stimulate discussion in married couples about what may have lost in their marriage over the years. Early in the movie we meet Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) from Omaha, Nebraska who have been married 31 years, have grown children out of the house and now sleep in separate bedrooms. Kay is not happy with this situation and she books a week of intensive couples therapy with the famous author and therapist in Maine Dr. Feld (Steve Carrell). Then the fun begins or perhaps the pain, depending how you experience this well done movie directed by David Frankel based on script by Vanessa Taylor. Producer Todd Black who spoke to the audience we were in at the UCLA Extension Course at the Screen Writers Guild theater, noted that varying groups previewing this movie had different reactions. The younger audiences apparently are rolling in their seats with laughter so you can’t even hear some of the lines. The older audiences laugh a lot but in different places and seem to have a different appreciation of the film. No doubt this is an entertaining movie but sometimes laughter is a cover up for anxiety that can occur when some hidden truths are exposed. Meryl Streep, we are told was one of driving forces wanting to make this movie and send a message to middle aged couples who might need some motivation to examine a marriage that has lost it’s spark. She as usual is terrific. She found a way to look and act like every woman and yet have that special desire and also show it. Tommy Lee Jones was not a bad choice for the husband that most guys wouldn’t mind identifying with as he goes about his everyday business pretending that he doesn’t miss the early days of his marriage. He comes off a little too stereotypical in this role but it works. Steve Carrell has that same bland look and tone that he conveys in the Office but his hint of a smile and his persona makes us believe that he really cares as the doctor therapist. Much of the movie is about what happens to sex in marriage. There is some practice with bananas and at least one orgasm but everybody pretty much keeps their clothes on and the movie did get a PG 13 rating. If the star power of the movie works and the hype doesn’t scare off the guys, this should be a successful film. All the adults should be in for an enjoyable movie with the possibility of some good repercussions for many.(2012)
The Company Men rm – This movie puts a face on the wide spread and often tragic unemployment that has been occurring in the US during the past few years. It mainly follows three men who unexpectedly lose their jobs because of the economy downturn and because their shipbuilding company is no longer producing many ships. However, these guys are not your assembly line grunts. Writer/Director John Wells who is known for his involvement in the politically oriented West Wing TV series has chosen to show us how the upper middle class and above are impacted by unemployment. Bobby Walker ( Ben Affleck) drives a sporty convertible and lives in a lovely house in the suburbs before he loses his job. He is the lowest end of the food chain of the three newly unemployed guys which includes characters played by Chris Cooper and Tommy Lee Jones . The latter plays a man with millions of dollars in stock options who was long time buddy of the owner and founder (Craig Nelson) of the entire company. The owner fired him while he himself receives a gigantic salary, options and even sells the company. Those formerly under him are scraping to make ends meet while they hang around for months and months in an office of an outplacement company. This situation alone, might stir you up as it did us since we have been railing for awhile why there isn’t a law preventing CEOs from getting outrageous salaries and payoffs without stockholders approval while their company goes down the tubes (see my article in the Huffington Post). This film captures the personal travail that in this case a few men go through as well as how it affects their wives and children. It can even drive a person to suicide. Kevin Costner has a relatively small role in the movie as the one person who works with his hands as a carpenter, home- fixer up guy who is able to barely keep working in contrast to brother in law realistically played by Affleck. The movie doesn’t have any real big surprises. Everyone knows the stories and even the poignant moments are more or less expected and maybe even a little stereotyped. Everyone is glum and down in the dumps and it is contagious watching it for 104 minutes but the movie did tell it like it is and will stand as a fictional documentary of the hard times for many people.(2011)
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In the Valley of Elah – nf – This is a story based on an incident, which actually happened during the current Iraq war. It follows the story of the grieving father played extremely well by Tommy Lee Jones as he seeks to find out what really happened to his soldier son. You might say this is an excellent detective story but it is also an expose of the morality of the war and the psychological damage that it has inflicted on so many soldiers. There were wonderful supporting roles by Charliez Theron and Susan Sarandon. Several of the young actors who played soldiers were actually combat veterans, which added to the depicted realism. 2007