Sunday, February 21, 2016

There is a tight cluster of excellent and serious films this year many of which are based upon true stories. They are directed, written and star actors working at top form. However, trying to insert 3-minute clips of each film into a bloated and overproduced industry TV commercial trivializes excellence. It’s like ordering a savory pastrami sandwich and then slathering it with mayonnaise to make it easier to digest!

In addition, important issues such as the lack of diversity within the white male dominated industry are starting to be heard loud and clear In truth my appetite for the upcoming show is starting to pale. Therefore I’m writing short blurbs about 3 top contenders in hopes of encouraging you to see each film in its entirety. Here’s the deal: turn off the telecast and see one of these films on a full screen as each was meant to be viewed. Make up your own mind and then let me know your thoughts. I’ll enjoy hearing from you.

Survival nurtured by revenge (hence the title from the French, “ to come back”) drives this allegedly true story of fur trader Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) in the 1820’s as he struggles to endure a raging winter blizzard with his traders as they head west. They fight deadly attacks from indians convinced the traders have kidnapped their chief’s daughter. Freezing storms threaten life and limb. Then Glass is impaled when an enraged bear attacks him to protect her cubs. The mauling Glass receives is difficult to watch. Yet he is cruelly abandoned as an unnecessary burden and left for dead. Can it get any worse? Director Alejandro Inarritu delivers brilliantly as he inspires his accomplished cast and crew to keep pushing forward. Here is a stunning film that is best appreciated on the big screen.

Another true story, this one about the endlessly suppressed evidence concerning the sexual abuse of trusting boys and teens at the hands of ordained Catholic priests in Boston. It took the determination of the Boston Globe to do an investigative series of articles that finally illuminated this troubling and scandalous issue. A Pulitzer was awarded the Globe and financial settlements were given to some of the victims. But only a small percentage, now adults, wanted to revisit their pain. While not mentioned in the film nearly $3 billion in claims have been paid by the U.S. church but it doesn’t seem to have sufficiently addressed the problem. The new editor of the Globe, Marty Baron (played by Live Schreiber) a Jew, galvanizesd his Spotlight team to get this painful story right. What a great affirmation for old fashioned journalistic integrity.

Director Tom McCarthy, who also co-wrote the detailed script, deserves enormous credit along with his extraordinary cast and crew This intense detective story deserves viewing on a big screen.

This is the must see film of the year. Director Adam McKay plunges us into the financial crisis of 2008 with gusto. He regales us with credit default swaps (what??) and collateralized debt obligations (come again???) with laser sharp precision that reveal the cynical calculations not only of the U.S banking industry but also the indifference of the federal government. OUR federal government. The diverse cast of characters, essentially driven by greed. is a mind-numbing cross section of financial experts. And these are real people - names changed. Are penalties paid as schemes unravel? No, only by American homeowners and investors — big time. Yet the culprits lived life to the fullest, marinating in booze and toasting their favorite hooker.

Are we being seduced into watching a wild farce or a real and tragic fleecing of the American public? Co-authored by director McKay and best selling writer Michael Lewis, the film spews forth facts with lightening speed. Has finance ever seemed more fun? Or more deadly? There are no ‘a-ha, moments which suggest this disaster can never happen again. Nor do I recall ever leaving a film feeling so completely unresolved, But I was thoroughly entertained. What a haunting seduction with  which to be left.


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