Children of the Century 1999 137 minutes I went for Juliet Binoche again on Instant View and regretted it. This is George Sand’s affair with a much younger man, the poet Alfred de Musset. It takes place in the early 1830s just after Sand has fled her husband and as she began her pre-feminist behavior which would help make her a famous literary figure. The costumes are nice, and I learned that at this point, at least, she didn’t always dress as a man and that she seems to have been a workaholic. Musset is such a scumbag and the affair is so sordid as to be just plain boring.
The Descendants 2011 115 minutes Workaholic Hawaiian lawyer George Clooney has to repair his relations with his two daughters after his wife is injured in a boating accident and lies in a coma in the hospital. Meanwhile he, as the trustee, must make the final decision on whether or not to sell the massive family estate on Kauai. The cousins want to sell because each will receive millions, but in the end Clooney turns down all offers. His motivations seem to be a mix of environmental consciousness and Hawaiian history and his resentment of the real estate agent who would have gotten a huge commission from the sale. The agent was having an affair with Clooney’s wife until the accident, so there is also an unanswered question about his motivations. Shailene Woodley is great as Clooney’s older daughter. Clooney should never have allowed himself to be filmed running down a road in flip flops. There is no way to do it without looking like a doofus.
Ichi 2008 119 minutes To appreciate this you probably have to be a fan of the series about Zatoichi, the blind Japanese swordsman. Ichi was born blind and later helped by Zatoichi, who taught her his techniques. As an adult she goes in search of her father. From there on it is a story similar to Yojimbo; she saves a village from a group of bandits and then moves on. It was disconcerting to watch a samurai movie dubbed in colloquial English.
The Ides of March 2011 101 minutes When you can bring in Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti as supporting actors, you’re gonna have a movie. Ryan Gosling is the young, ambitious campaign aide and George Clooney is the governor running for a presidential nomination. Why do these guys always have to sleep with the young women volunteers? There are lots of dirty tricks (not the sex) and cynical power plays. The Netflix write up says the film was inspired by the real-life experiences of an aide who worked on Howard Dean’s failed 2004 campaign. It makes you wonder.
Moneyball 2011 133 minutes Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, a failed player turned General Manager, who uses unconventional methods to put together winning teams for the Oakland A’s, a major league club without a major league budget. He almost goes all the way and his methods are picked up by other teams, including the Boston Red Sox who finally won a World Series after adopting Beane’s methods. It’s a true story and one I liked a lot.
War Horse 2011 146 minutes If you want to see it done right, look for Stephen Spielburg. This is a great story, beautifully filmed despite so much of it being the horror of WW I battlefields. A Devon farmer buys a thoroughbred when he should have bought a plow horse, and financial disaster looms for the family. Against all expectations, his son is able to train the horse, whom he names Joey, to accept a collar and plow. When WW I breaks out, the father sells the horse to a British cavalry officer. The officer is killed in a cavalry charge and Joey is eventually captured by the Germans and assigned to pull large guns. Other thoroughbreds die in harness, but Joey’s training to the plow helps him survive. Joey escapes to the British lines and is eventually restored to the boy from Devon who recognizes Joey from his cot in a field hospital. The really telling scenes are the cavalry charge and later the Germans’ use of horses to pull their big guns, with the animals sharing the same horrible conditions as the foot soldiers.