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Common Ground (2000)
Maturity in a microcosm
More than just 3 gay vignettes based in a small, patriotic New England town, Common Ground is a look at the maturing of America. Our country didn't start out instantly perfect; it's a struggle that's still ongoing. Common Ground starts its tale in the middle of the last century, where appearances are everything and even the hint of an impropriety is enough to destroy a person. This fact is poignantly made when the heroine of the first story is asked if she is a Lesbian, and she answers honestly that she doesn't know. Story two takes place in the seventies, a time when doubt and fear were very high in our society. JTT's character is attacked moreso because he is different, something that cannot be tolerated in an era of unrest, riots, and legally-sanctioned deceit. Finally, a gay marriage is to occur in the last story, but one of the gay partners wants to back out at the last moment. While the talk between that gay partner and his father (played superbly by Ed Asner) touches on many social themes and issues, it highlights the fact that individuals have more in common with others than differences.
Ironically, there's a major theme in the first two stories that, while present in the last one, is shown to be dying out. It's strange that in a country ostensibly founded on Christian principles, one of the main principles is not only to be ignored, but denied: Tell The Truth. Being gay (or perceived as such) is less than a problem than being honest about it. In stories one and two the message is given that probably any problems at all would have existed if the main characters had exerted great effort at living the life of a lie, denying the truth or any possibility of it. Even in story three we see that if the truth had only been kept hidden, problems might have been avoided. Would life have been easier? Obviously not. But these stories show that honesty and respect are less important than deceit.
(note: the following paragraph discusses the movie's ending) That this movie centers around a war memorial is especially important to me. Through the centuries, countless Americans have deemed it necessary to fight (and die) to protect freedom. They struggled to preserve a freedom that we are still struggling to ensure to all Americans. I was glad that the movie didn't insult those efforts with a "life is perfect now and will be happily ever after" ending. Yes, the ending was pleasant, but it was also honest.
The Last Debate (2000)
Could this happen? Could the press hijack and election?
The basic premise of four journalists discarding the rules of a presidential debate to instead "attack" one of the candidates is not far-fetched, but raises the question, "Could something like this happen?" Despite the rhetoric that journalists "have a responsibility" and it's the "voters who will decide" the election, the fact remains that media drives public opinion. James Garner does an excellent job as an aging journalist who truly believes what he does is right. I wish that the conservative journalist's private life storyline had either been developed or left out; the teaser was annoying and useless. The ending is surprising, not for what it is, but that it was allowed to happen. Regardless your political inclinations or your attitude about the media, this movie is worth watching.
Staying Together (1989)
Good premise that needed more development
The security that three brothers had with their family and their father's business is shattered without warning when the business is sold. Each brother deals in his own way: one growing up quickly, one capping his anger until he explodes, and the youngest, who is seemingly unaffected, actually being the glue that holds everything together. It's a great idea that with another 30 minutes could have been developed into a wonderful film; unfortunately, in about 90 minutes all that was done was done shallowly. Except for the acting: all the actors, particularly those playing the brothers, were great, and tried very hard to make the film three-dimensional. An OK "feel-good" movie, worth seeing.