My very favourite movie would be Lion. On the surface this is the story of an innocent, lost child, but of course it’s more than that. The theme is epic, recalling Odysseus, and tapping in to the universal theme of seeking home. The story is told chronologically (a rare thing nowadays), starting with the circumstances leading to little Saroo being inadvertently sent from one side of India to the other aboard a decommissioned train. I think I shall remember forever the scene where he yells his brother’s name as the train pulls out of the station: “Guddu! Guddu!” Two days later Saroo arrives in Calcutta, where he doesn’t even speak the language. Somehow he navigates through the dangers of the big city and finds his way to an orphanage. From there he is adopted by a family in Tasmania. His new mother is played by Nicole Kidman. How wonderful to see her doing an age-appropriate role, speaking in her native accent, and playing the mother to an adult son. She does an outstanding job. I watched with intense interest the complex dynamics of family life with adopted children which Nicole so expertly portrayed.
Only at he very end of the movie do we learn why it is called “Lion”. This is sweet icing on the cake.
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Hidden Figures is another movie which I enjoyed very much. Being a “space-nut” I would be predisposed to approve of such a movie from the outset. Here is another story about persistence and talent overcoming obstacles—both the technological obstacle of putting an American into space and the all too current obstacle of overcoming racial prejudice. Now, more than ever, it is good to be reminded of a time when Americans were united in a single peaceful endeavour, good to be reminded that science is a great contributor to the common good, and how inspired leadership can make us achieve things we might have thought impossible. The acting in this movie was good across the board, the story compelling, the mood light and hopeful. I left the theatre smiling—always a good thing. Now let’s get ready to send people to Mars (women included!)
Arrival is a thoughtful science fiction movie and nobody is more grateful to see a thoughtful sci-fi movie than me. They are few and far in between (although with last year’s The Martian maybe we are seeing the start of a trend. One can only hope.) If giving Arrival an Oscar will encourage the making of more such films, then it has my vote.
I can find nothing to fault with Arrival. The acting is good; so is the cinematography; the basic story has much to recommend it. How can you quarrel with a storyline that has language decipherment as a central tenet--wonderful and yet . . . somehow I left the theatre just a little disappointed. To this day I’m not quite sure why. Was the rendering of the aliens a little off? Did I find their motivation for making contact unconvincing? Maybe it was the presence of so many military personnel which I always find so off-putting in sci-fi movies—I’m not sure what it was. I had very high expectations for this movie—it didn’t quite live up to them—it could be my fault more than the movie’s.
If it were not for Lion, I think La La Land would be my choice for best movie. In what way does it not measure up? I think simply in its scope: it’s a smaller story, and I’m surely a fan of the big story—the story with epic themes and far-flung vistas. My favourite movies include Ghandi, Lawrence of Arabia, 2010, Avatar--you get the idea. Making it in Hollywood is just a little too much on navel-gazing selfie-taking spectrum for me to give it a final thumbs-up. But a very good movie, beautifully crafted.
Fences is yet another fine movie, with great performances, especially from Viola Davis whom I hope will get the award for best supporting actress (though Nicole Kidman definitely deserves consideration). This movie is based on a play so the viewer should expect the dialogue to be crisp and riveting and so it is. The viewer hardly gets a breather while watching this emotionally charged film. Nonetheless, for me at least, the story is just a little too insular—speaks too much of a particular family for me to make universal references with it. Great movie, but not the year’s best.
Hell or High Water: A neo-western crime thriller. Well, I did like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Bonnie & Clyde had a certain charm but . . . I’m just not into guns. I can understand how this story might appeal to the rage many people have in America about how poorly they’ve been treated of late but . . . sorry. I want my movies to be uplifting in some fashion. Part of a solution. A way forward. Not just a reflection of how bad things are.
Hacksaw Ridge: No matter how well done, my taste for war time movies has been exhausted. Not sure I’ll even bother to track this movie down. I don’t doubt the talent of the makers of this work, but such movies are just not for me.
Manchester By the Sea: I’ve heard many great things about this movie, especially the acting. . . but . . . I’ve also heard that it’s very depressing. All I can say about that is many things are very depressing right now. In politics especially, and my cups overflows. Sorry.