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Harrison's Flowers (2000)
A Journey into the Journalist's Personal Hell
Harrison's Flowers is a journey into a journalist's personal hell. While some may feel that the premise of the story is rather lame and confabulated, it serves a purpose. To show the human side of the photo journalists who bring the horrors of the world to those of us who, as they noted in the movie, are just worried about getting a parking ticket.
Too often when we non-journalists see photos of war zones we are horrified and, at the same time, we are dumbfounded as to how someone could be so inhuman and unfeeling as to photograph such graphic examples of man's inhumanity to man. Harrison's Flowers is excellent at showing us that just as a reader we can't stop looking at the horror even though we are revolted, the journalist cannot stop photographing and documenting it even though the human side of them is revolted as well.
As for Andie MacDowell's so-called wooden performance, one must remember that in this film she is seeing her husband's and his colleagues' world through their eyes for the first time. How quickly would any of us be able to break out of our shock-like trance and be totally outraged or emotional if this were the first time we were seeing it? Even the veteran photo journalist portrayed by Brendan Gleeson was paralyzed with shock more than once in the film. Andie MacDowell's character came from such an insulated world that seemingly emotionless shock was the perfect way to portray Sarah, who simply cannot fathom what she sees unfolding around her.
Harrison's Flowers is an excellent portrayal of the Serbo-Croatian hell that descended upon that part of Europe and irreparably tore apart the life of anyone in its path.
Powerful study of Iranian Womens' Lives
"The Circle" is a powerful study of the lives of Iranian women. Another user commented that this film had weak points and might bore some viewers. Part of its atmosphere is conveyed through it's slower-than-Hollywood, well-paced shots which allow the viewer to soak in the feeling of desperation of the women in the film. As the director said in his interview on the DVD version of this film, he does not shoot a film so that it pleases an audience. He is there to shoot a film and make a statement, which he does very well in this film. This is a thought-provoking, very well thought out study of a circle or chain of women who all have something in common, they have committed the crime of being female in Iran. Note how a driver late in the movie gets off scot free and the woman still goes to jail. This is a must-watch if you want a good example of the oppression of many women in that part of the world, not just Iran.
Space Cowboys (2000)
The "Ripe" Stuff is the Right Stuff
Yes, there's implausible stuff all throughout this film. Just the fact that these guys, who've been out of the space program for 40 years, were able to pass the physical without any special training is enough to stretch the credibility factor. But, that's not what this movie is about and if you're looking for plausibility, you're missing the point. It's about the value older folks have in our society that us younger folks are too often willing to dismiss. About the best advice I can give for any watching this film who isn't over 35 or 40 is, if you live long enough, you get old enough to identify with lots of stuff in the first half of the film and you can really appreciate it. Watching Tommy Lee, Clint, James and Donald play them out on the screen so gracefully and hilariously is a joy to watch!
The Thin Red Line (1998)
Possibly the best movie about the Pacific Theater during WWII
The Thin Red Line is possibly the best movie anyone has made yet which shows what World War II in the Pacific Theater was like for those who actually fought there. Having recently read the book "With The Old Breed...at Peleliu and Okinawa," by E.B. Sledge, I wanted to watch TRL. However, I put off watching it because I heard from someone that it should have been named The Thin Red Plot Line. With The Old Breed told of some pretty disturbing scenes and battles in that portion of WWII. Watching TRL, I saw many of the elements noted in WTOB. I really feel that reading this book helped me to understand TRL better. Those who saw the movie and "don't get it" might want to read WTOB (or even the book which TRL is based on) to get a better understanding of this movie. The incredible scenery shots of plants, birds, etc, in the movie serve to remind the viewer that this beautiful view of life could be noted even in the midst of the madness of a battlefield and also that a soldier might not see it again at any moment. The fact that the movie does not seem to have a plot line from beginning to end is most likely due to the fact that this is actually what fighting a war was really like. Nothing made sense, nothing seemed in order and all seemed senseless. Hence the milieu feeling of this movie. War is like that.
My grandfather fought at Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Okinawa, and other areas throughout the Pacific and he knows well what it was like to be there. He would be the first to agree that TRL shows what this portion of WWII was like and how realistic it's hectic milieu feeling is portrayed. If someone were to ask me to recommend one movie that portrays WWII in the Pacific Theater in the most realistic, true-to-life manner, I would recommend TRL without a doubt.