Sunday, January 26, 2020

1917 (2019)

I'm so glad I got to see this film on the big screen.  It was really good, though not for the faint of heart.  The camera movement is silky smooth as it does its astoundingly edited one continuous shot throughout.  The editing is flawless.  Don't know how they did it, but the result is magical.  I got teary twice, not from anything sad, but just from the power of the visuals coupled with the score by Thomas Newman.

The scene that goes with "The Night Window" cue... holy smokes.  I would go see this movie again, just to experience that moment again alone.  The soaring music is one of best cues I've heard in years.  It's got some Ralph Vaughn Williams influence, but even more, it's got some exquisite Alan Hovhaness-ish going on, but given that those are two of my favorite classical composers, I was in heaven.  I purchased the score within 5 minutes of getting home from the movie.  I have not needed a score so badly in years.  How I've missed real powerfully emotional music that makes me want to listen to it in headphones and disappear into the notes, but "The Night Window" does that and then some.

I loved the simplicity of this movie.  Our heroes must deliver a message within twenty-four hours to the front line to stop the troops from walking into an ambush.  That's it.  The journey to achieve that goal is at turns violent and beautiful, brutal and gentle.  There are friends; there are enemy.  The way the movie is filmed, you become a third soldier, accompanying them on their mission.

This movie is a fantastic follow-up to Peter Jackson's documentary, They Shall Not Grow Old, which I saw twice in the theater (once when it came out, and once last December when it was re-released in 3D).  Everything the documentary showed and the soldiers talked about is here in 1917.  The documentary added a sense of depth and knowledge to the fictional film that just made it even more moving. 

I saw this film with my mom and brother-in-law, and we all felt wrung out, but... rewarded. 

I'm avoiding spoilers and the like, but I just have to say, the opening few minutes where we simply watch the characters walk from a field into the trench, but looking back at them, not actually seeing where we're going, but watching backwards, seeing the walls grow higher and higher on either side as we descend -- wow.  It was one of my favorite moments.  The choices made of where to put the camera, when to look ahead, when to look behind... it's masterful.  This is a powerful and extremely well done movie.  Kudos to everyone involved.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Happy New Year - year in review - movies

Happy New Year to everyone!  Hard to believe it's 2020.

This last year has not been a stellar blogging year for me.  I really made no attempt to maintain this.  I had no energy at the end of the day to blog, and nothing I felt compelled to share.  We'll see what 2020 brings!

Let's take a look back at 2019.  I actually went to the movie theater 36 times.  That's quite a lot!  This was a mix of new movies, Classic TCM big screen movies, operas, documentaries, and repeat viewings.

Let's take a look at my entertainment takeaways from 2019.

There were three movies in 2019 that I went and saw multiple times in the theater, and all three of them are favorites:

1.  Avengers: Endgame
2.  Midway
3.  Captain Marvel

All three were fantastic.  Endgame wrapped things up in just the right way, showing how powerful an ending can be when it's earned. I loved it.  I also loved Captain Marvel. Midway I managed to review a couple weeks ago, but I failed to review the other two at all.  Sigh.  Captain Marvel had a fantastic cast, a fun story, and a great ending.  It's everything I want out of a superhero movie, and it led so nicely into Endgame. It jumped right into my top five Marvel movies.

I have two other favorite movies from 2019, ones seen on Amazon Prime and Netflix, respectively that make my top five favorite movies of 2019.

4.  April 9

5.  The Highwaymen

April 9 was discovered almost by accident.  After Midway came out, after I watched a couple of the WWII documentaries on Netflix, I was looking for more WWII movies, and, in scanning what Amazon Prime had to offer, I found a movie I'd never heard of, a Danish film about Germany's invasion of Denmark, on April 9, 1940.  As I'm still studying the Danish language daily on duolingo, I decided to see what this movie was all about.  And I discovered a fantastic little gem of a movie.  This movie is so well done it instantly jumped into my favorites of the year, and it is also jumped into my top ten favorite movies about WWII.

It follows a bicycle squad (!) through the day of invasion. I love this movie for many reasons, but one of them is that you only see things from their perspective, never the German side.  This is one of the first movies that really gave me a sense of what it would be like on the ground, fighting for your country, not knowing what you're up against, just following orders the best you can.  I love the cast and cared about the soldiers we followed.  The movie ends with some short interviews with Danish veterans who lived through it.

This movie was so good, I promptly showed it to my family, and they loved it as well.  My nephew still talks about it.

I also found my grasp of the Danish language is decent... except that despite all the vocabulary I've learned, there are still so many words I don't know.  If I hear something I've studied, I can translate, but in a war movie, there were simply so many words duolingo hasn't taught me.  But that's what the subtitles are for.  If you're not put off by foreign films and subtitles, I highly recommend this movie for a slightly different look at WWII.

The other movie I loved was Netflix's The Highwaymen, with Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson.  This one's about the hunt for Bonnie and Clyde and was really well done.  I love Costner, of course, but what surprised me was just how much I loved Harrelson in this movie.  He was fantastic, and my favorite scene was when a couple of hoods tried to jump his character.  Hah!  The dynamic between Costner and Harrelson was great, and this movie was one I immediately wanted to watch a second time.