GOING TO THE MOVIES IN DECEMBER

At the end of last month I suggested six book-based movies to see before the end of the year. So far, I’ve seen three. Here’s basic data and my brief impressions.

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MOCKING JAY PART I
Director: Francis Lawrence
Writers: Peter Craig and Others
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Awards: Golden Globe nominee for best original Song, Critics Choice Award Nominee for Best Actress in an Action Movie

Given my recollections of Catching Fire, this movie is easily second best. Photography and sound are paramount. Story and character are overshadowed by the noise.

Jennifer Lawrence as our heroine is subdued, performing mostly in one key. Emotions seem to be conveyed by film editing and not by actors. Katniss flounders, and it is painful to watch. Julianne Moore takes center stage; mostly she reads lines with expertise in speaking to large audiences in the underground skyscrapers. Well, they are very tall buildings. I’d best not use the word skyscrapers since they do not touch the sky.

Having said this much, I will say the film held the attention of all my companions, family members of different ages and interests. The film meets that standard. One theater was sold out at 1:00 in the afternoon.

But, even the youngest critic remarked on the slow pacing. I can only agree.

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THE HOMESMAN
Director: Tommy Lee Jones,
Writers: Tommy Lee Jones and others
Actors: Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank, Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter
Awards: Palme d’Or
PFCS Award Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Actress in a Leading role, nominees
And others including nominee for World Soundtrack Award Film composer Marco Beltrami

Disappointing and disjointed best describe this movie for me. It is essentially about a place and about women, but it is titled The Homesman. Tommy Lee Jones, a very capable actor, is the writer and director, but whenever Hilary Swank is not on screen, the movie seems as bland and boring as the scenery. The western plains can be beautiful even as they are dangerous and difficult. I did not see that. Swank gave her character depth, but then, her character surprised viewers and not in a satisfactory way.

The story is strange and surreal, rather than realistic and gritty. It’s not exactly untrue, but stretched and distorted like the mirrors at the carnival. The Tommy Lee Jones character morphs into different personalities at different times. Instead of a realistic gradual change, we think we are seeing, and expecting, at the end he reverts into someone else yet again.

This movie will elicit many different opinions. It’s absence from many award lists testifies to this. Different viewers will see different movies. For me, somehow the excellence of the actors, the beauty of the place and the high interest of the topic, women in the early west, are all lost in the strange incoherence of the story.

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WILD
Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
Writers: Nick Hornby and Cheryl Strayed
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Bay Hoffmann, Michael Huisman and Thomas Sadoski
Awards: Golden Globe nominee for Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama
Critics Choice Award Nominee Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay

This movie scores in many areas: photography, acting, story all come together to make an unforgettable experience for movie-goers. Based on the memoir by Cheryl Strayed, we see her character played in perfect pitch by Reese Witherspoon save herself as she deals with her demons while hiking the Pacific Coast Trail alone.

Laura Dern is excellent in the role of Cheryl’s mother. Other actors do well with their roles. Witherspoon holds us mesmerized in every frame. Clarity is a feature of both acting and story. As we watch we are not confused, but entertained, interested and thoughtful.

For my money, this movie is clearly the best of the ones on the list, I’ve been able to see so far.

I’ll add another movie to my list: Into the Woods. So along with Unbroken, Gone Girl, and Still Alice, I hope to see more movies.

Do tell us what holiday movies you like, whether they are based on a book, or are filmed from an original screenplay. It seems movie genres span a wide range of interests this year. Let us know what you like! Maybe you are off to see The Hobbit, Intersteller, or a biography. Keep the conversation going, in many directions. Thanks.

One thought on “GOING TO THE MOVIES IN DECEMBER

  1. Jan

    I felt exactly the same about the Homesman. I went to see the move because of the excellent actors and still love cowboy movies. Hilary, as usual, lights up the screen and is compelling. Tommy Lee was just….old. I admired the strength of character she portrayed and so was VERY disappointed that her character decided to……exit the way she did.

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