Featuring the films:
The Look of Silence (2015) ****
Pride (2014) **½
Foxcatcher (2014) ****
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1931) ****
Shake! Otis at Monterey (1986) ****
Wow! This was a very interesting week of movies for me. Only five this time as I continue to fall further behind on the DLM Challenge, but what a great collection of films they were.
First was this year’s Oscar nominated documentary “The Look of Silence”, a companion piece to Joshua Oppenheimer’s other Oscar nominated doc “The Act of Killing”, about the men behind the Indonesian death squads responsible for the genocide of their own people. The new doc looks at a family of one of their victims. A man who lost a brother is given the opportunity to confront his brother’s killers. There is no Hollywood revenge plot here, but what does unfold is a fascinating look at human nature and the way people react to genuine evil.
“Pride” is one of those British films that gives you a group of eccentrics and tells a true tale that you wouldn’t otherwise know about. Like most of these types of films, “Pride” provides the audience with many charming characters to tell a seemingly small, but important story of human perseverance. In this case, we learn about a Gay Pride organization of activists that decided to support a mining strike in a small town during the Thatcher administration. It’s an important story of tolerance and the importance of civic disobedience for a cause. It has a great cast with good supporting performances by Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really give the gay activists enough of their own stories. While the story is true, it’s as if these people are willing to endure bigotry at the hands of those they’re helping merely to create the plot of a feel good movie.
“Foxcatcher” made a pretty big splash on the awards circuit, mostly for Steve Carell’s transformative performance as Jon Du Pont, who used his influence and power to buy himself a prominent coaching position for the U.S. Olympic wrestling team for the 1988 Olympic Summer Games in Seoul. The movie greatly compresses the true-life events that surrounded Du Pont and his relationships with Mark Schultz and Dave Schultz, brothers who each won Olympic Gold in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Du Pont eventually murdered Dave on his Foxcatcher ranch residence. What the film does so well is deeply look into these men’s psyches. These are not men whose psyches are open for examination, so instead of constructing an accurate time line, director Bennett Miller takes his time peeling these men open. All the leads provide amazing performances. Channing Tatum taking the true lead of Mark Schulz, with Mark Ruffalo providing another Oscar nominated performance as the doomed Dave Schulz.
1931’s “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” was Paramount’s attempt to ride the wave of B-movie monsters that Universal was creating across town, except that they didn’t make a B-movie. Robert Louis Stevenson’s story about man’s dual nature made for the basis of a thoughtful study on the folly of science in the hands of ambition ahead of morality. Fredric March won the Best Actor in a Leading Role Oscar for his work here as the titular characters, mostly likely because of the dramatic differences between his performances of each side of the Jekyll/Hyde personality. Like Universal’s monster movies, this one takes pains to highlight its visual and make up effects, but its strength is in its emotional depth.
Finally, I took steps to complete the Monterey Pop experience I started a couple of weeks ago by watching the short film “Shake! Otis at Monterey”. Filmed a few months before he would write his biggest hit, “Sitting On the Dock of the Bay”, and a little less than a year before his death, “Shake” captures the essence of Otis Redding. It rectifies the brevity of the performances featured in “Monterey Pop” by showing Redding’s entire set, from it’s titular opening number to his rollicking rendition of the Stones’ “Satisfaction” to the moving ballad “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” to its dramatic closer “Try a Little Tenderness”. Redding was a one of a kind musician who, like so many before and after, was taken from us too soon. I’ll soon complete my Monterey experience with “Jimi Plays Monterey”, featuring the entire set by The Jimi Hendrix Experience”, their American debut.
Before that, my next collection of reviews and tweets will deal with the films featured at the 18th Annual Roger Ebert Film Festival this past weekend. I watched 9 of the 13 films (only missing the films just recently or not yet released in theaters); and like all the selections at Ebertfest, they were cinematic magic.
Now, the tweets.
#TheLookofSilence is an astonishing companion doc to #TheActofKilling. It's more focused, just as horrific. #DLMChallenge No. 90
#Pride2014 depicts an important event in the British LGBT movement, but never quite takes off cinematically. #DLMChallenge No. 91
#Foxcatcher deserves the attention it got for its performances and then some. Some crazy stories in this world. #DLMChallenge No. 92
Paramount made something deeper and more coherent than the Universal horror flicks with Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1931). #DLMChallenge No. 93
4/11Shake! Otis at Monterey makes you wonder why such talent can be taken away at such a young age. #DLMChallenge No. 94