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Category: Movies Page 1 of 19

Pachyderms Surviving: The Doc

“The Elephant Whisperers” (2022), on Netflix, won an Oscar for best documentary short (sometimes the best kind of documentary), and indeed it is a beautiful little film about the caretaking of two orphaned elephants in South India. Director Kartiki Gonsalves observes precisely the goings-on of animals and humans in an appealing, not unpleasant rural area. Elephants enrich the landscape; nothing upstages them. The orphans here have a nobility that somehow leaves us unsurprised that they manage to thrive after being released into the wild.

The Old Folks’ Marriage: “45 Years”

Forty-five years, in Andrew Haigh‘s 45 Years (2015), is how long Geoff and Kate Mercer, of the U.K., have been married. Tom Courtenay plays Geoff, an aging retiree and liberal fool who begins to distress his wife. Courtenay overdoes Geoff’s doddering and uncertainty, while Charlotte Rampling is true and likable as Kate.

This is a small but meaningful film which presents marriage as a sad cheat. An hour and thirty minutes long, it ends before running out of steam. I said Rampling is likable—so is the film, even if the elderly couple’s lovemaking in bed is rather hard to watch.

“Idiots First” And A Desperate Old Man

Mendel, an old man in Bernard Malamud‘s story “Idiots First,” is about to die. But he must find the entire sum of money with which to send his adult son Isaac, who today would be considered “mentally challenged,” to live with Isaac’s elderly uncle before Mendel does die. The money is infernally difficult to obtain.

In this last period of his life, Mendel’s burden is not really Isaac but Ginzburg, the grim reaper and a creature of “awful wrath.” To this supernatural follower-of-a-cosmic-law Mendel must succumb. The letter kills. But Ginzburg can be cast to the side. And, not a mere “idiot,” Isaac can be rescued for a time.

Malamud’s tale is a provocative jewel wherein a hard life is, alas, followed by desperation. And the tale is edifying.

An Animated Movie About Cambodia: “Funan”

At first, with its relatively simple animation, the French-made Funan (2018) may seem to be a children’s film. But it isn’t. It is a pronouncedly dark adult picture about life in Cambodia beginning in 1975, the action revolving around a middle-class family of four.

The communist Angkar—or the Khmer Rouge—has taken over the country, and Mom and Dad must persistently think hard about how to survive. And how to find their little son who, along with his grandmother, is taken away by the commies.

Funan spares us very little from this time period. Angkar is disgustingly cruel, wholly vile. Cambodians are overworked in the fields and begin to die from hunger; an exploited woman kills herself. There is no sensationalism, though, just as there are no strong characterizations except, maybe, for that of Sok. The film, at any rate—directed and co-written by Denis Do—is venerable.

Reportedly more than a third of millennials support communism. If they want what is shown in this movie, they can have it.

(In French with English subtitles. Available on Netflix.)

One Of The Few Good Movies From The ’80s: “Say Anything”

Cover of "Say Anything"

Cover of Say Anything

A love story, Say Anything (1989) has the distinction of focusing on a teenaged boyfriend (John Cusack’s Lloyd Dobler) who is a Great Guy, however unambitious.  The main proof that he’s a Great Guy is his romantic—or chivalrous—prowess—not aimed at just anyone but at the very pretty class valedictorian, Diane Court (Ione Skye).  “I’m good at it,” Lloyd says of his companionship with Diane, but the girl’s father (John Mahoney) deems Lloyd a nice mediocrity and dislikes the relationship.  Ironically, this is despite the detractor’s being in prison for accruing ill-gotten gain off a nursing home.  (How naughty some of these middle-agers are!)

The girls in the film are close to being paragons of virtue, but . . . there’s also Lloyd.  Over and above, SA is a good-hearted picture with inventive story elements and a fun, discerning cast.  A middlebrow worthy.

Written and directed by Cameron Crowe.

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