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Finally a Real MOVIE!
Sometimes I get the feeling filmmakers have lost their way. Formulas work and make the basics irrelevant so we get carbon copy blockbusters appealing to the masses clearly showing a reckless disregard for what filmmaking is all about: visually telling a story. And then a film like Philomena comes along and reminds us of the magic that can happen when a true craftsman and artist skillfully blends the basic ingredients of story, character, camera, and music into an exhilarating and powerful work of art. This film is satisfying at every level and gives me hope that some people still know what they are doing when they take the money and do their job effectively. The folks on this one should be extremely proud of their efforts.
A Death in the Family (2002)
Near perfect gem
A simply beautiful, powerful, exquisite gem of a film superbly acted and directed by Gil Cates. Ordinary events of turn of the century life spawn deeply felt emotion as a family struggles to right itself when one member is killed in a car wreck. The acting has you believing these are not superbly drawn characters from the Agee masterpiece but real people coping with the injustice of mortality. Watching the ensemble interact was like being in a family living room over a hundred years ago and going through the gut-wrenching reality of life at its most complex turning point. I have no idea why it received such a low rating from viewers. There are only a handful of movies ever made that combine the elements of storytelling so perfectly as this one and have you saying at the end that it was perfect. This is one of them. I'm reminded of the first time I viewed Paths of Glory or To Kill a Mockingbird among others where every piece of the puzzle fit. Give this one a look and you will not be disappointed.
The Duchess of Duke Street (1976)
Top Quality British TV
Who wouldn't fall in love with the plucky Gemma Jones as she puts a quite contemporary spin on her 1900's "Duchess"? I'm happy to report with my 50" plasma Samsung set to the wide fit screen size the photographic quality is superb even though the colors at times look a little excessive. Fiddle with your settings and I'm sure you'll be pleased. I especially liked the special feature that listed a full staff for one of the English great houses of the period. By my rough estimate it looks like such a house had over two hundred employees to keep every thing up to snuff. When you realize the kitchen staff worked an average of 12- 15 hours daily and seems to spend a great deal of that time doing food processing tasks we take for granted today, you realize how lucky we are to spend so little time on meal preparations.
More to the Darkness Than the Eye Can See
As a result of having Netflix streaming I am now able to see many more films some of which I cannot imagine seeing otherwise. This is one of them. It is true that some of the shots are quite dark and it is the film's most glaring weakness, but let me assure you it has equally compelling strengths. There is a stark reality to the overall product as if the audience has been transported in time to a place where tribal tyrants set into motion one of humanities most shameful chapters. I do not apologize for the depravity of whites in need of free labor out of their own greed for money, power, status or whatever, but in all fairness it makes one wonder how different things would have been if more of a unified and organized resistance could have been made by Africans seeing the immorality of slavery within their own communities. I am not blaming Aficans either. In my opinion they are 100% the victims here but at the same time I must chastise one and all involved in the trade including a culture thousands of years older than ours which condoned it as custom and tradition. Many tribes even rationalized that taking slaves was the human option when compared to ignominious death at the hands of your conquerors. The film despite it's flaws was a true learning experience. Naka, the runaway daughter, was horribly frightening in her make-up and exuding that psychotic killer energy while being a good slave catcher. She may be one of the most terrifying females in filmdom and so few will ever get to see her.
Dexter: The Getaway (2009)
I have been bummed out all day and even yelled at my wife for no reason five minutes after I saw the ending. I keep putting myself in the place of his wife and imagining what her end of life experience was like. It's very hard for me to shake the deep despair I feel for her. I had no idea I would be so susceptible to the machinations of the superb artists who have so skillfully taken me to such a bleak emotional space. What a fantastic job. Thank you and I hate you, too. I can hardly wait for next season. I also cannot believe the great skill by one and all throughout the season to prepare me ever so subtly for the reality of the nightmare scenario Rita faced when she came back to get her cell. Edgar Allan Poe would be proud and you should be too.