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This movie versus "The Endurance" ...
If you liked this one then get "The Endurance". If you're an adult and have your choice between the two, get "The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition ." If you want to watch it with your 4th grader for "inspiration,", then get "Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure" (SAA).
SAA was shorter than The Endurance by about 57 minutes but those minutes left out a more nuanced account and many unanswered questions. The Endurance answered most of the questions. The only thing that The Endurance left out as opposed to SAA was the fact that before Shackleton proceeded from the last supply depot to Antarctica, he was warned by the whaling ship crews that the ice that year was more hazardous than in anyone's memory. They were heading south into an Antarctic summer, but someone forgot to tell the continent. Just like life is for everyone, the course you take is made one decision at a time.
***Imbedded Spoilers Follow*** Also, the story portrayed by SAA was one of heroism and camaraderie which is both superficial, and according to The Endurance, somewhat inaccurate, but inaccurate enough to misunderstand the story's true meaning. The Endurance reveals that there was a fledgling mutiny quashed, and there was typical backbiting and resentment along with some terribly downcast moments. It wasn't just the weather and conditions Shackleton and his crew endured, it was each other and their situation. That Shackleton could sense, MOST of the time, that these moments could lead to their destruction is evidence of his incredible leadership. He also benefited by having a crew which was accustomed to an Edwardian social hierarchy and to taking orders. The human conflict makes The Endurance more interesting than SAA's portrayal of the expedition.
I watched SAA first and I can't say I felt "engaged" in their ordeal. Again, they were portrayed too superficially to really care. Oddly, I think that dramatically, for me, SAA's failure was in part due to the musical score of all things. It felt like the "Heroic" music was blaring from beginning to end without the buildup of a crescendo. The little victories in between should have been accorded some musical respect but the composer "spent" it all well before the payoff.
Finally, The Endurance doesn't ignore that just as this expedition was fitting up, World War I was beginning. This backdrop certainly didn't affect what followed in terms of what happened to Shackleton and his crew, but it effected how this "expedition" was viewed afterwards. Actually, SPOILERS, I would have thought it would have been a great morale booster, like we English can survive anything, we can endure and prevail in this war, but instead Shackleton and his crew apparently were not viewed as heroes but almost as deserters---so many young men had already died in the trenches of France that people said, so what, you suffered and survived, that's more than my Johnny got. Shackleton and his crew needed a better spin doctor than they had.
The Endurance DVD has lot of extras which I want to watch. I would like to read the book on which The Endurance is based. I still have some answered questions.
Bottom line is that if you want to watch a DVD with your youngsters, SAA is better, but if you want to understand the story in an adult way, get The Endurance.
If this was an IMAX movie viewed in an IMAX theatre I might have enjoyed it more. Since I saw it on my TV via DVD it was just full screen. I'm a big "Ken Burns Presents" fan, and in this genre this was somewhat juvenile.
Hustle & Flow (2005)
LAST 20 MINUTES - *****A real SPOILfest*****
SPOILERS UNTIL END
What's the problem? I thought it worked in every way. And it wasn't a Hollywood "happy ending." It was Memphis happy ending, not to be continued.
The 4th of July party at Arnel's Bar. Skinny Black's annual homecoming, to keep in touch with his roots (more like to remind him why he never wants to come back). This sets up DJay's last big chance, a tiny doorway to crawl out of his hole. His first attempts to get next to Skinny are met with rejection and insults. Frustrated, he keeps coming back and through his well-honed hustling skills, finally gets the cassette into Skinny's hands. What a negotiator. But Skinny's "Everybody gotta have a dream," is just an empty platitude he uses when accepting one of the thousands of cassettes he's handed. At that point, DJay was too pleased with himself to see that Skinny had no intention of listening to it or remembering where he came from.
In the mens room, Terrence Howard pulls off one of the most-gut wrenching performances of a guy's dream being crushed before your eyes. A really shrewed guy would have worked the situation, but he does what a DJay would do, shoots himself in the foot. Crushing a urine-soaked cassette in Skinny's mouth and beating him to a pulp is unlikely to get DJay a meeting. DJay has talent, but look where and how he lives and makes a living? His MO is making bad choices. By the way, he stinks as a pimp. I thought he'd kill Skinny but then he pulls back and expresses not regret but recognition of how he just blew it, and then survival mode kicks in. These guys carry guns but ah, they aren't professionals, and the shootout was stupid and sloppy like real life not like it's usually portrayed. The fact that DJay arrives back home well after the cops and the crowds are there makes it clear that he parked somewhere, thought it through, and said to himself 'I can hustle my way out of this.' He needed Nola at a time when he also sensed she was ready for a different kind of hustle "dressed for success." DJay's criminal notoriety getting him some air time is also no cliché. That's the American way. And Nola's delivering the cassette is the best marketing the music could've had--there are plenty of whores in business. Knowing what a *beep* Skinny was, the Memphis radio guys were probably falling all over themselves to give DJay a chance just for slapping Skinny. What goes around.
So what's the problem with the ending? It wasn't a cliché. Cliché would have been.... -they play the tape at the party and everyone goes wild. -Skinny is sincere -DJay's a big success -Let's put on a show... or -Skinny and everybody give it a listen and laugh. -We are invested in the cassette, and we want it work but a total downer ending would have been a complete dream killer for everyone. So that wouldn't work. Dramatically, narratively and cinematically, this ending works.
WHAT WOULD ALL YOU GENIUSES HAVE DONE? (I posted in the message board too if you want to take a shot).
DJay has his moment but I just can't see his going much further. I'm actually happy for him, that he gets that moment. He'll have to live on it for the rest of his life because, inevitably, he will screw things up again.
At the very end, when DJay says "Everybody gotta have a dream" you feel the sting of his rejection sweetened with the irony of his success. Will he listen to the cassette? He's in prison, I guess he will but at least this time and in this moment, he's the man.
The last 20 minutes were not absolute perfection, but I thought it was real and can't think of a better way to close the piece. And the first 96 minutes were even better. There was some great acting going on in this movie from everyone.
I swear, I really didn't think about this until now, but I just watched a "black" movie without really even thinking about it or judging it that way. Wow. So many movies with predominantly black casts make a white middle-aged woman like me feel like a voyeur. In this one, I was right inside the story.
I gave it a 10 and I will watch this again and again. And I think it'll be a 10 10 years from now. I admit my judgment may be effected by the fact that Terrence Howard is one gorgeous man, but he's a babe that can act. Not unlike a young Paul Newman or Al Pacino, both of whom have had long respectable careers with many memorable performances.
P.S. Great music too. Stax rules. Take on the rest but don't even bother debating that point.