Hacksaw Ridge— great film for Veteran’s Day

HacksawposterAmericans are prone to labeling lots of events as “horrible” or “tragic” or as a “crisis.” But most of those same events pale in comparison with the battles of the last really big war, World War II. Perhaps no aspect of that war was more horrible, tragic, or terrifying than what happened in the Pacific theatre. While most of the folks who survived those days are no longer alive, so their stories might soon disappear, it is important to know what happened there. However, many are reluctant to talk about it. One of my uncles, now deceased, fought at Okinawa. He never spoke of it. Never.

Hacksaw Ridge is a film that depicts the horror of that engagement, one of many battles that are far beyond anything that current Americans can imagine. This movie is based on the real life heroics of Desmond Doss, a man who would not touch a gun. His motives for joining the army, and for not wanting to touch a weapon, form the exposition of the film.


There is quite a bit of suspense in this film, even before Doss goes to war, because his unconventional beliefs baffled the officers who had to deal with those during basic training. However, Doss is victorious in his struggle to serve as a combat medic. Then the film skips his service in the Philippines and Guam (where he earned the Bronze Star) but the movie makers do depict his service on the Island of Okinawa. Doss was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for saving the lives of 75 soldiers during the battle on Hacksaw Ridge.

The story is important for a variety of reasons, but in a nation that is in danger of losing its cultural identity, remembering the bravery and sacrifices of the veterans who fought for American ideals in past wars is perhaps the most important reason to view this movie. It is also, however, a story of personal conviction. The sub plot of Doss’s courtship of his wife provides some romance, too. This movie, although very violent, is a worthy one to watch.

Other great movies for Veteran’s Day might include Patton, which stars George C. Scott as the legendary WWII general, or Saving Private Ryan, which does a great job of showing the carnage of D-Day.

Regardless, Americans need to immerse themselves in the history of our nation so that the service of veterans can be fully appreciated. Only then can we put our current “horror” and “tragedy” and “crisis” moments into proper perspective.


Beauty and the Beast— on DVD

Perhaps you are like me—I was interested in the latest Disney cartoon classic to live action reboot, but not enough to plunk down the money to see it in the movie cinema. So, you waited, or might still be waiting. Worth seeing? Yes or no?

Maybe. Sorry, but that is my best answer, having rented Beauty and the Beast (2017)  recently. I remember watching the animated one (on VHS!) with family members, and I thought then that it was state of the art for that style of animation. It still is, I would think. But, Pixar type technologies have, for the most part, left traditional animation of feature films in the dust of entertainment history. So, to bring this film to a new generation, Disney decided to do a combination of live action and modern CGI for the beast.

This film is very, very true to the original. Fans of the music will have no gripes, and the sets are simply amazing. The live action part of the new movie is darned good, but it is so faithful to the previous effort that it seems just a bit too “cartoony” if that makes any sense. For instance, I enjoyed the CGI teapot much more than the live actress. The same is true for most of the characters. The CGI beast, however, was just a bit to phony looking, so I liked the prince better.

If any actors stand out in the new film, my picks are Luke Evans who plays Gaston to the hilt, even if he isn’t really “as big as a barge” as the lyrics state, and Kevin Kline as Maurice, who makes the father seem eccentric enough to need his daughter to take up for him. Emma Watson does a very good job as Belle, although I don’t think she looks the part. If the credits didn’t name Ewan McGregor as Lumière, then I don’t think I would have known him, although I’ve always admired his work. Those who have stated that Disney only made this film to make money are correct, but Disney is a corporation whose main mission is to make money for its share holders, so that is not exactly a valid criticism.

So, back to the original question. Should you see it? Sure, why not? But, I must say, if I wanted to share it with children, I’d go for the original, which is still available: Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary Edition.

Hidden Figures— review and commentary

I’m not much of a numbers person, but I know those who are, and I do admire “nerds.” The film (now on DVD) based on the book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race is about space exploration, history, race relations in America, and math. I’m glad the filmmakers concentrated on the first three, because I got lost pretty quickly with the equation solved in the exposition.

I’ve always been a fan of clever titles. (I wrote Once Upon a Dirtball, you know.) Hidden Figures is a perfect title, because it conveys that this is a film about math and mathematicians, some of whom were “colored” and therefore not to be taken seriously by society, but, the script makes it plain that these brilliant minds were critical to NASA’s success.

The cast is outstanding, if a bit too good looking for the fifties and early sixties. The script is even better. Some of the lines in the film are no doubt fictionalized, but the prickly encounters between Katherine Goble, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson and their white co-workers probably did happen. One of my favorite parts in the film is when John Glenn refuses to fly until Katherine checks over the calculations necessary for bringing his capsule back safely. However, in reading about Katherine Goble Johnson’s contributions to NASA, she calls it all “team work.”

When doing a “based on real events” known to the audience, such as we all know John Glenn made it back to earth safely, maintaining suspense can be tricky. By telling the story behind the scenes, those problems are mostly eliminated. Even the climactic scenes are handled with skill as the nation pauses to watch what happens with the flight of Freedom 7.

Whether or not you are a fan of science, technology, engineering or math, I think you’ll find Hidden Figures a great way to spend an evening. As of this post, the film got 93% fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes. And, I don’t always agree with that site, I certainly enjoyed this film. Rent it or buy it!

Valentine’s Day films

popcorn in a boxOkay, maybe this idea isn’t all that romantic, but the weather is rather chilly here in northern Georgia, so cuddling up inside with Netflix on the television, a big fire in the hearth, and a bowl of popcorn sounds like a pretty good plan.

But, what to watch? Nowadays, comedy = a very foul mouth and romance = sex. So, maybe romantics should choose something that has been out for a while. There are lots of such lists, but here’s mine:

Grease— released in 1978, but with a late 50’s vibe, very good performances, and a really amazing musical score

Sleepless In Seattle— released in 1993, with some very good actors and an even better script

Bewitched— (the 2005 film) is an odd twist to the 60s classic tv sit-com

Shakespeare in Love— released in 1998 has one of the very best performances of Romeo and Juliet on film, and it is very clever all around

Singin’ in the Rain— 1952, a light-hearted classic, from the era when musicals were all the rage

Breakfast At Tiffany’s— 1961, based on Truman Capote’s classic story, and most people remember Audrey Hepburn’s role

His Girl Friday— 1940, the oldest film on the list, but from an era when comedy meant being funny, with a strong cast

Pop some corn and get started on your romantic weekend!



Gone Girl— the novel and the film

Film Version

Once, when I was in college, I got behind in a lit class and did what lots of people do— instead of reading the book, I watched the film. (Bronte’s Jane Eyre if you are wondering.) And, the film was sufficient for me to not fail the assignment, so I guess that was a good plan. But, I knew I was missing some things. Recently, I did it again—I began a book and ended up watching the film to finish up, but this was life and not a class.

I checked out Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn from the local library. A good friend gave it her highest recommendation, and she is seldom wrong. I began the digital version of the novel, then I got busy and abandoned it. Soon after, we had some rainy days here in Georgia, so I picked it up again. Although it takes a bit to get into it, Gone Girl is amazing. And, that was part of the problem. There are so many gems of modern Americana in this book that I would finish a chapter and quite literally cogitate on it before going back for more. So… I ended up renewing the book, but then my digital lease on Gone Girl expired. I thought about buying the novel (and I might yet) but I wanted to finish it in a timely manner, so I got the DVD via Netflix. Hubby and I sat down to watch it, and he was entranced. The film also takes a while to set things up, but not as long as the book does, and the plotline just twists and turns and keeps the audience guessing until the end.

When we’d finished with the film version, hubby was saying “wow” in several different phrases, but that’s what he meant. And, it really is an amazing film. The cast is very good,  and the plot is true to the novel. Some of the details, the nuances of the first person prose, are lost, of course, but either version is worth your time.

The Novel

20 Feet from Stardom

Like many Americans, I love music, and I tend to like a lot of oldies. Back in the 60s and 70s, many stars used back up singers to fill out their arrangements and fill the stage with interesting people for the audience to see. Background singers have often been the difference between hits and misses. Yet, most of us never know their names.

20 Feet from Stardom is a documentary, but it certainly isn’t boring. While it is a bit historical, it also keeps the viewer focused upon what is happening with these artists now, as well as where they were years ago. Each singer profiled speaks about her craft, and several stars, including Bruce Springsteen, Bette Middler, and Stevie Wonder comment on their talent.

Sometimes it is personality, sometimes it is politics, and sometimes it is a bit of “type casting” but in each case, these background singers are not held back by a lack of talent. There is much to learn in viewing 20 Feet from Stardom, and there is a toe tapping soundtrack to enjoy as well. I saw it on Netflix streaming, but it is also available on DVD, Blu Ray, and for sale on various sites.