The Orange Bird of Happiness

Movie Review – Green Book(92/100) (#3 for the year)

Mahershala Ali(with the able assistance of some sparkling dialogue) and Viggo Mortensen(and his wonderful Bronx accent) turn in the best matched performances of the year in Peter Farrelly’s Green Book.

Acting Score(30/30) – Both men carve out utterly believable, and utterly captivating, characters.

Script Score(20/20) Ali’s dialogue in particular is a delight to listen to.

Not black enough/white enough/man enough Score(10/10) Ali’s “lonely castle” existence is brought into stark relief and he’s left to scream into the darkness for a solution.

“I’m not going anywhere” Score(20/20) – The highlight of the film. Ali’s quiet desperation meets Mortensen’s matter-of-fact friendship. Perfectly portrayed by both actors.

Birmingham Score(6/10) – This should have been the highlight of the film. Mahershala and Viggo should have put forth a united, dignified front that would leave the bigoted owner speechless. Instead they vacillate back and forth on the correct course of action and leave him a screaming mess.

Orange Bird Score(6/10) This would have been a great place for Ali to pound out his frustrations on the keyboard, the way he had in Macon. And to start with a distance from the band, realize that’s he not “black enough” for this band, and adjust on the fly so that they produce beautiful, cohesive, music. Let us see his genius in action.

The Orange Bird of Happiness

Movie Review – Green Book(92/100) (#3 for the year)

Mahershala Ali(with the able assistance of some sparkling dialogue) and Viggo Mortensen(and his wonderful Bronx accent) turn in the best matched performances of the year in Peter Farrelly’s Green Book.

Acting Score(30/30) – Both men carve out utterly believable, and utterly captivating, characters.

Script Score(20/20) Ali’s dialogue in particular is a delight to listen to.

Not black enough/white enough/man enough Score(10/10) Ali’s “lonely castle” existence is brought into stark relief and he’s left to scream into the darkness for a solution.

“I’m not going anywhere” Score(20/20) – The highlight of the film. Ali’s quiet desperation meets Mortensen’s matter-of-fact friendship. Perfectly portrayed by both actors.

Birmingham Score(6/10) – This should have been the highlight of the film. Mahershala and Viggo should have put forth a united, dignified front that would leave the bigoted owner speechless. Instead they vacillate back and forth on the correct course of action and leave him a screaming mess.

Orange Bird Score(6/10) This would have been a great place for Ali to pound out his frustrations on the keyboard, the way he had in Macon. And to start with a distance from the band, realize that’s he not “black enough” for this band, and adjust on the fly so that they produce beautiful, cohesive, music. Let us see his genius in action.

From Cowboy to Man

The Rider ( 93/100) (#2 for the year)

Director Chloe Zhao has turned in what I believe is the directorial effort of the year. She has taken an untrained cast and created what is, in a year men of behaving badly, the subtlest struggle for mature manhood of any film this year. Brady flirts with the line between immaturity and manhood in an absorbing and heart-wrenching way.

Good Son Score(8/10) – This is Brady’s biggest challenge. His dad does not inspire obedience for most of the film but he’s still his dad.

Good Brother Score(19/20) – This is the emotional heart of the film. We can’t help but root for Brady to take care of himself so he can be around to take care of his sister.

Good Friend Score(19/20) – The co-heart of the film. This is where Brady most faithfully lives out the calling of mature manhood.

Good Trainer Score(19/20) – I loved these scenes in which Brady tries to find his way forward without the option of riding for a living.

Tempting Friends Score(8/10) – This is where the need for subtlety was greatest and the film pulls it off almost perfectly.

Directorial Score(20/20) – Zhao does a fabulous job with an untrained cast. It’s a shame she didn’t at least earn a best director nomination.

 

 

To Be a Man

Happy as Lazarro – Movie Review(95/100)

In a year that featured so many male characters who were either doing a horrible job at being a man(Roma), trying but failing(First Reformed), or working their way close to finding the true man they need to be(The Rider, Green Book) ,Happy as Lazarro’s title character shows the way. We see that simple goodness can conquer the selfishness of others, bring us through difficult times, and even overcome death(shades of Lazarus!)

The-Gospel-Plot-Score(20/20) Not since Holes have a seen a movie that so consistently derives it’s plot from the truths of the gospel.

Unselfishness Score(20/20) We start out thinking that Lazarro is being taken advantage of but eventually we learn that if you don’t resent others for asking a lot of you then your service to them can never be a cause of bitterness.

Your Sin Will Find You Out Score(20/20) Although the false kidnapping plot by the countess’s son seems like a shallow, greedy stunt it becomes the means of liberation for Lazarro’s family(although his mother doesn’t seem to be part of the group(virgin birth?))

Leading by Example Score(20/20) Tancredi’s lunch invitation is as we suspect but Antonia’s generosity shows the same power to overcome bitterness as Lazarro’s earlier helpfulness. Their goodness becomes so powerful it pulls the music right out of the church.

The Wicked Run When No One is Chasing Them Score(15/15) The bank scene just shows again the power of innocent goodness against the world. And the wolf shows, as it runs free, that God’s plan for his image bearers(fill the earth and subdue it) will be carried out as they imitate their Savior.

Kidnapping Score(0/5) Lazarro’s complicity in Tancredi’s kidnapping plot is the only discordant element in the plot.

 

 

 

Oscar and me – 2019

My picks in the Academy Award categories –

Best Picture            My Pick – Happy as Lazarro

Best Nominee – Green Book

Oscar’s Pick – Roma

Best Actor(haven’t seen Bale or Dafoe)

My Pick – Viggo Mortensen

Best Nominee – Viggo Mortensen

Oscar’s Pick – Viggo Mortensen

Best Actress(haven’t seen Close or McCarthy)

My Pick – Yalitza Aparicio

Best Nominee – Yalitza Aparicio

Oscar’s Pick – Olivia Coleman

Best Supporting Actor(haven’t seen Grant or Rockwell)

My Pick – Adam Driver

Best Nominee – Adam Driver

Oscar’s Pick – Mahershala Ali

Best Supporting Actress(haven’t seen Adams)

My Pick – Regina King

Best Nominee – Regina King

Oscar’s Pick – Regina King

Best Director(haven’t seen Pawlikowshi or McKay)

My Pick – Chloe Zhao

Best Nominee – Alfonso Cuaron

Oscar’s Pick – Spike Lee

 

 

 

Finding your voice…and losing it

A Star is Born(70/100)

(Possible spoilers(but not if you’ve seen any of the previous 3 versions)

Acting/Script Score(15/20) Cooper’s finest moment is his final embrace with Gaga, just as March’s goodbye to Gaynor was in the ’37 version. But once you’ve seen an actor pull off that scene do we really need to see it again? And I was tragically unmoved at the end. It seems that 2 minutes of critique from Ally’s manager is all it takes to push Jackson over the edge. The characters who inspire and captivate us are those who find sacrificial strength in love(Joy Newsome in “Room”, Georges Laurent in “Amour”, Frankie Dunn in “Million Dollar Baby.) Jackson seems content with his one attempt to conquer his demons.
Gaga’s finest moment was definitely her first performance at Jackson’s concert but that seems to be more a product of the cinematography than anything else.

Take Your Shot/Find Your Voice Score(40/40) The first concert scene with both Jackson and Ally is definitely the highlight of the film. Well paced(Ally waits just long enough before stepping to the mic), well photographed(Cooper’s penchant for close-ups is best used here) and great musical chemistry between Jackson and Ally.

You’ve got something to say Score(0/20) This is where the movie totally lost me. Both her husband and her manager tell Ally that she now has a platform to say things the world needs to hear. She’s found her voice so what will she say? Well, she says, “Why did you do that, do that. do that, do that, do that to me?” Yeah, I’m out.

Comparison Score(5/10) The vocal performances and lyrics were superior in the ’76 version. Gaga’s finale was superior to Streisand’s failed attempt at rock though.

Kelly Score(10/10) I saw the film with my daughter Kelly and she felt that the story dealt with the question of Ally’s failure to use her platform to say something important. And she found Jackson more sympathetic that I did. Perhaps this is because of the work she’s done with the marginalized in St. Louis. I reconsidered my view and ultimately stuck with my original opinion but this helps me realize it’s just my opinion and many may disagree(certainly most critics who’ve reviewed the film do.)

70/100

[ Rabid, Ranting Kansas Fan Font on] One reason the “Say Something” issue bothered me so much is that my favorite group, Kansas, faced the same pressure as they started in the music business. Their albums featured songs running up to 11 minutes in length that were about such topics as the colonization of America, visions of lost spouses, and themes from Herman Hesse novels. Their record company pressured them to write short love songs but they stuck to their guns. Their breakout hit “Carry on Wayward Son” was nearly 5 minutes long and still dealt with profound themes. Ally chickened out. [Rabid, Ranting Kansas Fan Font off]

Cinematic Therapy

CINEMATIC THERAPY

I had been feeling a bit off emotionally for a few days but found a cure in an unlikely spot.

Martin Scorsese has done a trilogy of movies concerning spiritual themes (The Last Temptation of Christ, Kundun, and Silence.) I happened to find “Silence” on Hulu the other day and decided to watch it. The film deals with 2 Portuguese priests who travel to Japan in the 1630’s seeking their mentor who had been working there and who may have apostatized from the faith. Once they arrive they are subjected to the same persecution that all believers in Japan were suffering at the time. Seeing the persecution of these believers helped to re-center me. It was hard to stay bothered by the concerns that had distracted me when I saw the hardships these Japanese Christians suffered for the sake of their faith.

I was also refocused by some ideas that began bouncing around in my head. The film’s title comes from the complaint by one priest that God is “silent” in the suffering of his people. And it wasn’t so much that I disagreed with this perspective (although I certainly do) it’s that I realized Scorsese could have demonstrated the answer himself in his trilogy’s first film. The Last Temptation of Christ explores an alternate view of the crucifixion in which Jesus abandons the cross to take a wife and raise a family. And while Jesus did face temptation during his incarnation his hesitation in Gethsemane was not because of the temptation to take a wife (he was after all dying for his bride the church) it was because of the coming horror he saw in being bruised by His Father for the sins of His people. Scorsese dealt with a peripheral issue in Last Temptation but missed the big picture. That film failed to see the glorious majesty of Jesus’ mission. However, in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” we see the horror that Jesus saw in Gethsemane. As Gibson drags us through the sickening scourging Jesus underwent we see that God is most definitely not silent in our suffering. He has suffered more than we ever have, more than we ever could. He understands our suffering, and our temptation, because He has gone before us in both areas.

One of the priests, Father Rodrigues, is pressured to recant his faith to stop the torture of the Japanese believers. Even though some of these believers have already recanted their personal faith the Japanese continue to torture them to pressure the priest to recant as well. It’s a pattern I’ve seen in film. Often, we can bear our own pain but we can’t stand to see those we love suffer. Buck Compton in Band of Brothers, Frankie Dunn in Million Dollar Baby, and Father Rodrigues here.

An argument is made in the film that Christianity cannot grow in Japan, that the nation is a swamp that rots the roots of this foreign faith. But as gruesome as Satan’s attacks have been on believers there the gospel has pressed forward. It was such a blessing as I watched the film to know missionaries who are currently doing God’s work in this nation. To know that the former persecution has been overcome and that the gospel is making steady, measured progress. Knowing the ghastly history of the church in Japan makes it’s present, growing state all the more miraculous. Today it is the Land of the Rising Sun. One day it will be the land of the Risen Son.