Movie Reviews III- Alteration of the Human Condition

Theme: Youth, Violence Prevention
To Sir, with Love
You rated this movie: 5.0
This classic movie has a feel good quality that is unmatched and gives one a sense of hope…. It is still very timely regarding the problems faced in teaching today – the apathy of some teachers, the problems arising due to poverty and neglect, the sense that with the right approach, all students can be reached. Treat them as young adults, give them responsibility, teach them manners etc. Sidney Poitier portrays the idealist turned realist teacher with a fine supporting cast playing stereotypical roles. You’ll enjoy viewing this movie whether it is a repeat or first time viewing!

Theme: GLBT, Death & Dying

Hannah Free

You rated this movie: 5.0

Hannah Free is a wonderful story told in the present and retrospectively about an off again on again lifelong love affair between two women in an era when lesbianism was closeted. Sharon Gless nails the role of an adventurous…and selfish woman longing for new opportunities and every so often comes home to roost with her lover. In the end they are “together” in a nursing home after her lover experiences a stroke and coma. Family refuses to let Hannah see her love. It is never quite clear what Hannah suffers from to be confined to bed, other than severe crankiness. The great granddaughter saves the day and breaks down some of the family barriers so that Hannah can be with her before the machines are turned off. There are several vignettes regarding the making of the production, cast interviews etc. which thoroughly immerse the viewer. This is a must see done with class and dignity.

Theme: Child Kidnapping
You rated this movie: 4.0
Changeling, based on a true account, is a very fine movie in every respect. The story of a single mother who, due to circumstances beyond her control, suffers untold indignities in order to find her kidnapped son is truly captivating (excuse the pun). The acting, scenery, costuming, direction and dialogue are first rate! It also reveals the complexity of an incompetent police force uncovered by this woman and a kindly priest advocate. In addition, they uncover the largest mass murder of young children ever! Did the mother receive justice in the end? It depends on your definition.
Theme: Youth, Violence Prevention
You rated this movie: 5.0
“Fame” is one of those upbeat feel good movies although there are interwoven stories of pain amid the dancing and personal stories. Even today, the message is current, adequately illustrating expectations, motivation, rejection, goal setting and just plain life in the big bad city. Whatever happened to the powerhouse talent Irene Cara? Watch this film with your teenage kids. They will be impressed!

Themes: Life as a Doctor, Death & Dying
The Doctor
You rated this movie: 5.0
Hello Out There: I had seen this movie years ago and confused the main characters. Somehow I envisioned wonderful actress Christine Lahti as the female cancer patient. But alas, she plays the dutiful wife to William Hurt’s arrogant surgeon character. He just happens to get laryngeal cancer, throwing his preconceived ideas into a tailspin. He internalizes the whole experience and pushes everyone out of his life, except for a feisty fellow patient with brain cancer. His buddy was diagnosed too late due to lack of proper diagnostic testing. Hurt’s character is hurt and scared… His wife waits dutifully for him, but he chooses his female friend instead. A bond is built and they take an adventurous ride to Las Vegas and never quite make the concert. Rather, with the female patient’s hours limited, they dance at sunset. The doctor calls his wife from a phone booth… She is worried and devastated that she cannot “be the chosen one.” Two changes occur which make this a five star movie for me. The doctor’s total change into a caring and compassionate person who now relates to patients on their level and… the pivotal scenes near the end of the movie in which, he desperately reaches out to his wife. As he returns home, it is uncertain how much voice he will regain. His wife gives him a whistle. In the meantime, she lashes out at some workmen. The doc realizes that it is his doing and writes on his blackboard “Yell at me”. There is a heartbreaking give and take between them that is the best performance of the movie! Christine Lahti is magical in her depth of emotion! I watched these scenes three times! This movie should definitely be part of your collection!

Themes: Domestic Abuse, The Incredible Human Spirit
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio
You rated this movie: 5.0
This movie was a joy to watch filled with nostalgia, as I was born in the mid- 1950’s. Again, the preview/narration by writer-director Jane Anderson was superb. She gets every topic and gets it right in how she chooses to capture all modalities (camera work, graphics, costuming, script, choice of actors, music etc.) It seems incredible that this dynamo of a lady can raise 11 children (including her alcoholic immature husband) do all of the household drudgery, carry on an inspiring writing career and be so upbeat!!! How many times can one family be saved from the brink of disaster? If you believe in miracles, this is the movie for you! I will definitely watch every movie written by Jane Anderson from this point on…

Theme: Kidnapping, Corporate Greed
The Clearing
You rated this movie: 5.0
I award this movie five stars for being a non-conventional thriller, for not telling the whole story of a marriage, but just enough to keep it interesting, for no cliché scenes concerning the “other woman”, for superb acting by all. Although there was another woman, it is dealt with understated class by Eileen, Wayne’s wife. You get the feeling that through it all, they truly love each other and were “just getting to know each other again” on another level before the kidnapping. Helen Mirren’s portrayal of her character is understated, warm and wonderful. I especially love the scenes in which Eileen realizes she’s been had by the kidnapper and secondly, with her daughter in bed with a proclamation of love between the couple. Eileen responds yes, she loves Wayne, to which he replies, “Then I have all I need.” Wayne bravely attempts to get into the mind of this psycho kidnapper to save what could be the best years of his life. There is an unexpected ending, but it seems to justify the story. Do see this film at least once!

Themes: Self Discovery, Mental Illness
Losing Chase
You rated this movie: 5.0
What a gem of a movie… Helen Mirren and Kyra Sedgwick are electric in their performances… The themes of coming of age/self-discovery and mental illness are interwoven. Helen’s character is the queen of mean initially, until a wonderful, explosive …and pivotal scene in the garden begins a relationship that changes both females. We love to hate Helen in this movie, or as a raging alcoholic police inspector! A previous reviewer panned it for the “everything has to be gay”. It isn’t really a gay film. It has its elements and that contributes to the growth of who Mrs. Philips really is… However, this will definitely appeal to the LGBT audiences. The scenery of Martha’s Vineyard is captivating and the ultimate goodbyes are touching… Beau Bridges plays his character with understated expertise. A couple of flaws are apparent though. The oldest child of Chase’s has a very tumultuous relationship with her. Fearing her mental illness and wanting to get love and show love to his mother throughout the movie. Neither mother nor son is capable of this. Her eldest son, “little Richard” ultimately sets her fate… and hates her all the more…. Suddenly, inexplicably, Chase is on her own (with a matronly nanny present) and it appears that little Richard is fine with the situation. Maybe, Martha’s Vineyard has a very good PFLAG support group! Mr. Philips apparently cannot fight for his wife and we are left to speculate if there can be another Kyra Sedgwick in the future. All in all, I loved it and watched it twice. I can see why we have to wait so long to take our turn to see it!

Agnes of God
You rated this movie: 4.0
Any theatrical adaptation to film is a challenge…. Something may get lost in the translation. However, I think of this movie as a recipe- one part murder mystery, two part philosophical-religious and another part society’s preparation or lack thereof to conception and the hard realities of life… Despite this recipe, the acting of Anne Bancroft and Jane Fonda was superb. Meg Tilley was good as well, but her craziness-extreme ignorance bordered on the overly dramatic. Jane also appeared her most beautiful in this part. Jane/Dr. Livingston has her own issues as well, despite being a chain-smoking psychiatrist. How refreshing. Scenes between her and Anne Bancroft – righteous indignation were electric. No, we don’t get all of the answers. We also have more questions at its end. Some might say that’s provocative…

Theme: Crime Drama
The Commander: Set 1
You rated this movie: 4.0

‘The Commander” is an engrossing story with fallible characters. Linda LaPlante does it again, although I think Helen Mirren’s “Prime Suspect” cannot be topped. The Commander has paid her dues to earn her position. However, she ultimately cannot resist the considerable charm of the former murderer she once arrested…and then agreed to write the forward to his book, years later. I guess manipulation knows no bounds… and the feminine heart is weak even if you are doing a “man’s job.” Hugh Bonneville is terrific as the murderer/love interest. The subplots are interesting and the male co-workers lecherous. One exception is the retired co-worker and current writer of “Murder Review”, George. On the one hand, he is her good friend and a teddy bear. However, he seems to play both sides so the viewer doesn’t know until the end whose side he is on…. The young female detective is also good as the “eager beaver”. The scene in which the Commander catches the young detective’s fiancé in his birthday suit is priceless… Very enjoyable viewing!

Themes: Self-Discovery, Death & Dying
You rated this movie: 4.0
“Wit” is a sad tale of a woman’s re-examination of her life in the face of terminal illness. It speaks to sacrifices and decisions made. The main character is witty, sassy. However, she realizes that she paid a very high price for her world of academia and uncompromising standards. Through a series of flashbacks, we see her cold heart revealed. She now has no one except a compassionate nurse and one brief visit by her former mentor. The other theme deals with the coldness of medical research, being treated like a specimen. Both the older MD and younger treating MD have absolutely no idea how to talk to a patient or offer real support. “How are you feeling today” becomes the joke of the day. Even when death was staring them in the face, all they cared about was reviving her to achieve a better result! As a viewer with an extensive medical history and one was has seen violent death, I could truly relate… However, it was uncomfortable. I cried. By far, the best, most touching scene of the movie occurs at the end with Vivian and her mentor. As her friend crawls into bed and quietly comforts Vivian by reading a children’s book (rather than high brow poetry,) Vivian dies in her arms. “Wit” has similarities to “Whose Life is this Anyway?”

Themes: War Crimes, GLBT
November Moon
You rated this movie: 4.0
November Moon is a touching love story with huge political consequences. One brief scene brings the viewer up to date on the attraction between the two lovers. November suffers many indignities along the way (i.e. beatings, rape, hiding from the Nazis throughout) in order to survive by the “skin of her teeth” and the kindness of strangers. Her lover makes the ultimate sacrifice and works for the newspaper filled with its hateful propaganda and plays up to German officers. The love scenes are few and far between with a sincerity and tenderness not often seen. Minor complains-the English subtitles often blended into the scenery such that you couldn’t read the narrative. At the end of the movie, a touching love scene between the two is abruptly cut short switching to an office scene. The very end of the movie also, a violent “haircutting scene of the dirty woman” while the bells tolls, signaling the end to the war. This abruptly terminates the movie with no real closure. Admittedly, war does not have a tidy ending. However, it’s as if they suddenly ran out of money and had to edit it together with scotch tape. Gay and straight viewers will like this film.

Themes: Child Molestation, Mental Illness, Courtroom Drama
You rated this movie: 5.0
This movie was based on a play and crafted by Ms. Streisand. As she states in her commentary, it is a search for the truth and an examination of what is meant by “crazy”. The actual crime is a secondary issue, as we learn there is an underlying childhood trauma never before revealed. The actors were meticulously chosen and do a fine job. This includes Maureen Stapleton as her wounded and well meaning mother, Karl Malden as her too good to be true step father, James Whitmore as the trial judge and Richard Dreyfuss as her persevering public defender. The relationship between lawyer and client evolves from that of confrontational to protector and friend. BS skillfully portrays a bright but troubled woman, who is plagued by childhood memories (shown in retrospect). At times the viewer thinks maybe she is nuts…then again, you realize she isn’t. Eli Wallach plays a not so credible psychiatrist from the state prison hospital. This movie is provocative and well done in all respects.


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