I wasn’t able to get to as many movies as I would have liked to this week. The reason? My job. Now, I can’t tell you what my I do (CIA agent), but I was called away on important business (following hot women from a safe and legal distance) and so I was only able to squeeze in a few movies. So without further ado…
Over the course of a week I watch a lot movies and neglect my responsibilities and personal hygiene, all for your benefit. Here is the list of movies I have seen this past week. Try to keep up:
How Green Was My Valley – I would liken watching this to doing homework while at the dentist office and being forced to eat vegetables in the waiting room, but at least you get some benefits from those three things. A more accurate analogy would be this was like eating black licorice. You would think that eating candy would be fun, but then you bite in and the black licorice taste coats your tongue and you sit there disappointed, with a bad taste in your mouth. That is exactly what this movie was. I went into it expecting a lot because, well, in 1941 it beat out Citizen Kane (the perennial number one in AFI’s top movie list) for Best Picture. What I got was far less. I was thinking of ways to possibly ruin this movie for you by telling you how different story lines play out, but the thing is, the movie never goes into any sort of depth. Every time an interesting story is brought up, that is it, it is just brought up. There is a moment where the possibility of unionizing labor is brought up. A family dispute happens, the sons leave for America. End. No more union talk. The youngest son, Huw Morgan (played by the creepiest kid with eyes so vacant and black you can feel them sucking your soul through the TV screen), falls in love with his brothers wife, the brother dies, she was apparently pregnant (although never seen as pregnant in the film, it was just all of a sudden: hey, I’m giving birth to a baby! But really, who has time to explain plot points like that when there is so much singing to be done for no reason?), so Huw decides to move in with her and take care of her. He’s 10, right? She’s in her 20? This isn’t creeping anyone else out? The father has the sniffles, I assume we are going to get back to the union stuff and abuse of labor and dig into this story, nope. He just has a cold. It goes away. At the end of the day the movie was about this mining town and the people being taken advantage of by the mine owners who create a troublesome and unsafe working environment. The problem for me was that this was all surface level and just stated. I did not care for any of the characters and was annoyed by the lack of story development. It was too broad and unfocused. John Ford has put together good movies, this just wasn’t one of them. I am at a loss for how this beat out Citizen Kane for Best Picture. Unfortunately for Orson Welles, the 1941 Academy really likes black licorice. I, however, do not.
Tell Them Who You Are – This documentary centers on Haskell Wexler, one of Hollywood’s greatest cinematographers, and was directed/written by his son, Mark. What easily could have been a fluff piece about Haskel’s amazing career or the drama surrounding the sets he worked on, was quickly ushered out the door. We even see it being ushered out in a moment where the film stops and all of the footage of Mark talking to actors about his father is shoved aside. That film would have been too easy. It would have been a good tribute to him for an award show, but it would not have been an interesting documentary. What replaces this is far more interesting and far more important. We get a scrutinizing and sometimes uncomfortable look at the hidden side of Haskel, the side he kept hidden behind the camera, and his complex relationship with his son. Both struggle to understand the other, both have set hard lines on who they are, both have created themselves even further as a reaction to one another, but both still seek the others love and approval. And it is this dynamic that is being battled out before us. We see a hard and mean Haskel, critique Mark throughout the piece. We see Mark fight back by not wanting to take his advice, a defiant, “I know what I am doing, don’t tell me what to do,” reminiscent of so many scenes played out in households across America. We see Mark defined by his father (though in the complete opposite image his father would have liked), by rejecting almost everything his father stood for. Even their fondness for filmmaking puts them at odds and is a battle. The one moment we see them hold together is in their love for Mark’s mother. She restores balance to them and brings them together. They realize their common ground and for the first moments in this movie, see each other through something other than the camera lens.