Hard To Watch, But Worth It
There is plenty of light-hearted movie fare for the holidays, but the
great performances are usually to be found in the more serious films.
Here are several that are hard to watch, but worth the effort:
Danny Boyle delivers to the screen a compelling cacophony of modern
Mumbai (formerly Bombay ), seen through the eyes of a little orphaned boy
making his way through the slums. Yes, there’s a
disturbing scene of religious fanatics on the rampage, followed by a
mysterious reference to an obscure deity in the Hindi pantheon. As
if the practice of religion can be as violent as it can be mysterious, and its
diverse meaning manages to elude all explanation. Of
course, we’d all like to think that even our most difficult experiences will
someday work to our benefit. But who would believe that
this slumdog would ever become a millionaire? Ah, but the
reasons he knows the answers to those obscure game show questions are lodged
in his unique experiences as a true survivor. You’ll be
transported to another culture, and you’ll be amazed.
Wrestler”: genteel folks will not instinctively be
attracted to a movie about a beat-up old pro wrestler (Mickey
Rourke) and an aging stripper (Marisa
Tomei). But Director Darren
Aronofsky masterfully intertwines their on-the-edge struggles with
drawing near to the end of their careers with precious little that is precious
to show for it. Yes, our culture is obsessed with youth,
strength, and beauty. But why the popularity of fake
athleticism and fake eroticism? And some true believers
will shudder at the scene in a strip club where she quotes to him from Isaiah.
But all will empathize with the family struggles of someone who has
made mistakes, and tries to rectify, but it’s too little, too late, and now
there’s just a mess, and no amount of remorse can fix it. And
at the end of the day, do we just try to reach for any tenderness we can find?
And do we struggle on in our chosen occupations with diminished skills
and less approbation because we can do no other?
“Frost/Nixon”: Who wants
to go see the re-enactment of a 35-year-old interview? Or who really wants to
wallow in Watergate
again? But Frank
Nixon is eerily spot-on, and Michael
Sheen’s David Frost
is a remarkable counterpoint. Director
Ron Howard builds the suspense through the set-up and the filming of
this remarkable post-exilic interview, in which the disgraced former President
actually becomes candid, much to everyone’s astonishment, perhaps even his
own. And who would have thought that a lightweight British
talk show host would have been the one to finally outmaneuver a cunning and
Boy In The Striped Pajamas”: Who would want to go
see another film on the Holocaust?
Didn’t “Schindler’s List” wring us out enough? But
there’s an air of whimsy in this unlikely tale told from the point of view
of a German boy, whose father was sent to command a camp during the War.
Desperate for a playmate, he meets another little boy, living behind
the barbed war, who was always wearing striped pajamas. Of
course, the story is unlikely, as is their halting friendship. But
maybe we need more reminders than we think. Elitism is but
a small step from racism.
Who would want to go see the heart-rending story of a kidnapped boy,
and his distraught mother who was involuntarily committed? Director
Clint Eastwood brings this 80-year-old story to life with a mesmerizing
performance from Angelina
Jolie, as the mother who wouldn’t give up. And
which of us wouldn’t enjoy seeing the hero as the local Presbyterian
minister (John Malkovich), who tirelessly advocates for the disenfranchised?
Community activism at its best, but hardly even remembered.
“Rachel Getting Married”: Who
wants to go see a beyond-dysfunctional family struggling through a wedding,
when the black sheep
sister shows up from rehab to put everybody on edge, including herself?
But Director Jonathan
Demme coaxes Anne Hathaway, formerly seen only in sweet, sappy roles,
into an edgy, gritty character to be reckoned with, even as she
struggles being who she is, and accepting who she’s been.
All these movies are, in their own way,
difficult to watch. But all will reward the adventurous
viewer with some stellar filmmaking. And there are likely
several Oscar nominations embedded here. Which would be
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace
Presbyterian Church, Greenville