Archive for September, 2015

THE HURT LOCKER (2009)

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2015 by cdascher

HLposterUSA2I have no firsthand experience of what it is like to be at war. However, like many other people, my life has been touched by the military. My father served in the Navy – first active duty, including in Vietnam, and then the reserves for many years. My grandfather, a German immigrant, fought with the U.S Army in World War II – I can’t even imagine what that was like.

I also worked for two years for an organization that served veterans and service members. While there, I met many incredible people who had been in a host of difficult situations in their service. In particular, I learned about explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) from a co-worker – the only woman in her company in the army who was awarded the prestigious silver star for her dangerous work essentially dismantling bombs.

It was with this in mind that I watched our newest film – The Hurt Locker. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, this film won the Oscar for Best Picture for 2009 even though it was released in 2008 (a technicality because it was not released in the United States in 2009). It’s of note that Kathryn Bigelow is the first woman in history to win Best Director. I found it shocking that a woman had never received this distinction before 2009. The film tells the story of a three-man EOD squad in the Iraq War. It’s shot in a roughshod way in some parts, with poetic slow-motion angles in others. The film tells the story of three men – James, Sanborn, and Eldridge – and their trials and tribulations in both their work and personal lives. A quote displayed at the very beginning of the film sets the stage for the entire experience – “The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug.” (The line is from War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, a best-selling 2002 book by Chris Hedges, a New York Times war correspondent and journalist.) This rush and this addiction are central themes throughout the story.

This is the most recent Best Picture we’ve drawn, just a few years before we started this project. Nevertheless, I was surprised by how far removed I’ve come to feel from that time. Continue reading

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HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (1941)

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 1, 2015 by cdascher

howgreenIn 1941, Orson Welles, multi-talented enfant terrible from stage and radio, made the leap to film, bringing many of his Mercury Theater associates with him. For his debut effort he was both star and director and despite having no experience in filmmaking, he somehow secured final cut privileges. Somehow, it all went horribly right- artistically speaking – and the end result was a movie that appears at or near the top of every “best ever” list you will come across, the feature often labeled the the Greatest Movie Ever Made: Citizen Kane. Which, you will notice, is not the title of this entry.

Followers of this blog know that our purpose, aside from the opportunity to watch and rewatch some good movies, is to evaluate past winners and losers; to play the “should have won” game. So in this case we elected to do something slightly unorthodox and watch one of the losers first and viewed Kane, as I hadn’t seen it in many years, then doubled back to see our current Best Picture. How better to experience the movie that beat the “best movie ever”?

How Green Was My Valley depicts several years in the life of the Morgan family in a Welsh mining community in the late 19th century, as told by the youngest member, adolescent Huw. In the episodes depicted, the Morgan men experience the danger and increasing dehumanization of large industry and the family grows close to local clergyman Gruffydd, especially Huw’s sister Angharad.

This is the story of a large coal mining family in a small, rural community. One aspect of the film that is both a strength and a weakness is that it follows several disparate storylines at once, all connected loosely by the relationship to the Morgan family. Perhaps if this film had been written in the era of more television programming, it could have made an excellent serialized show. I found it somewhat distracting the way the story jumped from character to character, but I suppose that was consistent in keeping with the Llewellyn novel on which it was based. Continue reading