Are You Not Entertained? Four Films

Here are a few recommendations for you. There seemed to be an unconscious theme going on with my viewing when first I watched actor Charlie Plummer in the messy All the Money in the World (The book was better.) and then went to the cinema to find him again in a major role that grabbed my heart and squeezed. British Andrew Haigh directed that tale set in Portland, Oregon and the wilderness landscape of Idaho. Days before by happenstance, I rented his 2015 romantic drama, 45 Years.    

Director Andrew Haigh‘s film adaptation Lean on Pete(2018) from the novel by Willy Vlautin is a heartfelt coming of age story featuring teenager  Charley Thompson (Charlie Plummer). Enduring shaky parenting and the dire need for money, Charley finds a job at a racetrack and is heartbroken when the horse Pete is destined for slaughter. They run away in search of a home and his trek to find a distant relative becomes a tale of survival. Thank God for the satisfying ending because the audience must endure Charley’s misfortunes and it’s heavy. During the trek, Pete walks with his horse instead of rides him, and his monologues with Pete soften the film and balance out the harsher episodes of his life. Soulful and tender, Charlie Plummer gives an outstanding performance with solid performances given by the rest of the cast: Travis Fimmel, Steve Buscemi, and Chloë Sevigny. 4/5

45 Years (2015) It was great to see Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courteney on the screen together as the featured couple. This Andrew Haigh film is utterly different than Lean on Pete. Kate and Geoff Mercer are about to celebrate their 45th anniversary in a week. Geoff receives a mysterious letter regarding an old flame before his marriage to Kate. Vacationing in the Alps in the 1960s, the lover had died. Kate Mercer’s curiosity about their relationship creates a foreboding anticipation as she learns to her dismay that the love of her husband’s life was not her. A long marriage carries with it layers and secrets of the heart and emotional triumphs and pain. As the days creep toward the anniversary party, the fracture in the foundation spreads. Watch how music plays an effective role in the storyline. It’s a quiet film that unfolds gently. 4/5.

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story documentary was a captivating revelation of the stunning Hollywood star, Hedy Lamarr. I didn’t know anything about her. A popular theme for me is the concept of beauty and how women respond to that power for better or worse. Place that theme in the 1920-1940s, and I’m a sucker for the story. What was extraordinary about Hedy was her mind. Few knew she was a keen inventor who aided the allies in World War II with her invention. (And she didn’t get paid for it.)  It was the basis of what we take for granted today–WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth. Learning something new gives my rating for the documentary high marks. I was riveted. 4.5/5.

Dark City (1998) film by Alex Proyas is a science fiction mind bender. A man wakes up with his memory gone but next to a murdered body. The police inspector (William Hurt) and the kooky psychiatrist (Kiefer Sutherland) try their best to capture him (Rufus Sewell). His estranged wife (Jennifer Connelly) can’t decide if she should help him figure out his personal mystery. Meanwhile, menacing bald men in long black coats have special powers and try to kill him. The production design borrows heavily from MetropolisIn the Director’s Cut, Proyas admits he was additionally inspired by the film noir The Maltese Falconand The Twilight Zone. Add to the shadows, buildings that grow and shift (Inception took this and ran with it), a Truman Show-esque punch through reality’s wall, and the Nosferatu baldies, who collectively click their teeth to communicate. I couldn’t help but feel the movie borrowed from so many places there wasn’t anything original about “the masterpiece”. If I had seen it in 1998, I would have loved it. The set pieces, I learned, were sold to the producers and used in The Matrix a year later. Did it wow you back in 1998? 4/5. 

49 thoughts on “Are You Not Entertained? Four Films

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  1. Ah, Dark City, a real favourite of mine. I own it on DVD, and regard it as greatly underrated.
    45 Years I have also seen. Two famous actors at the top of their game, and filmed not far from where I live too.
    I haven’t seen the others, but have heard of them, and had read about Hedy being an inventor.
    Best wishes as always, Pete. x

    1. So you liked, Dark City. When the aliens chatter collectively, my skin crawled. Did you like Keifer Sutherland’s gasping intake of air performance? There was only a couple of times he forgot to gasp, otherwise, I liked how he said his lines.

      1. It wasn’t a ‘landmark’ film, but I did enjoy the atmosphere, Rufus Sewell, and the overall feel. That said, it remains a favourite because it doesn’t feel all that mainstream. I suppose it was a long time ago, and we have to allow for that, in fairness. :)x

          1. Maybe I need to re-watch it. Years ago when The Matrix came out a mate said you’ve got to see Dark City. I loved The Matrix and have enjoyed other Alex Proyas films but this did not blow up my skirt I’m afraid. The other films sound very interesting too.

  2. Some great selections here, Cindy. I loved “Dark City” back then and want to re-visit, maybe on Blu-Ray. I’ll let you know how it holds up! The Heddy Lamar doc was on PBS recently and unfortunately I missed it. Hope to see it soon.

    1. I rented it on Amazon. It was outstanding. Dark City holds up and in retrospect, you see how it grabs a lot of Sci-fi and throws it into the mix. I think that’s a weakness, but I enjoyed the film nonetheless. There was one scene when the ship breaks a hole and they all stood around like standing on a porch. The best parts for me were the men. Loved that tint of green splashed on their faces toward the end of the film.

  3. Not sure I’ve seen Dark City, it rings bells but doesn’t fill out the memory. The rest I definitely haven’t, but would love to see Lean on Pete and the Hedy Lamar documentary. I do know about her inventing and stuff, but would like to see it anyway.

    1. There were these lost interview tapes that were found and so Hedy tells her story. I was fascinated. Knowing your love for super hero movies, you would like the Gothic tale, Dark City.

  4. I’ve seen two of the films you mention and agree with your comments on one but not the other. I would not have described All the Money in the World as “messy”; rather a tense and intricate character portrait of unbounded wealth. 45 years is a gem of a film; slow moving, as time can be, but with rich depth and nuance.

    1. Hi Richard! Oh, good, we disagree…
      I read the book first which had a chronology to it that made sense. It focused more on Getty Sr. and his motivations–his relationship with his parents greatly affected him–and I found it interesting how he amassed such a fortune. It then dived into his relationships with his sons (3 or 4?). How he affected their lives was fascinating and only slightly hinted at in the movie. The movie chose to focus on the wife of one of the sons, Michelle Williams, whose son was kidnapped. The benevolence of the kidnapper was suggested in both book and film, and I liked that. More would have been better. Mark Wahlberg’s role was non-existent in the book. It didn’t bother me, but it slightly hinted an attraction or mutual respect. Functioning as a bridge between Getty Sr. and the wife, who ends up inheriting the shebang, that was misleading. That amazing trust saw to it that no one could spend it. Well, the long-winded point is that I guess influenced by the book, I didn’t care for the back and forth narration of time in the film. Thanks for commenting! Glad to see you!

      1. Its a trap that many fall into Cindy: read the book then be disappointed with the film. Books are unbounded spaces for the imagination and film can rarely compete with the story you already hold in your head from the book. Its always lovely catching up with you.

        1. I have had many discussions regarding whether the book and the movie version are two separate texts or should the film reflect the book. I’ve always advocated they are two entities. Still, with the film on it’s own, I didn’t like how cold it was. For instance, there’s a scene where Michelle’s character and her husband, the son of Getty Sr. and their little kids are happy. Then, the next scene the husband is doped up and there’s an impending divorce and the son has grown up and now he’s kidnapped. I guess I thought it was too harsh a time shift. Also, while Mr. Plummer is a fine actor, he was way too old for the role. My goal is not to convince you it was a “bad” movie, so let’s happily agree to disagree. Thanks for stopping by!

          1. We do however agree on the key notion that film and book are separate artistic texts. Where a film aims to be a literal adaptation thay can be judged on the extent of their fidelity to the source. But most adaptations are “inspired” by a book and take wide creative privileges in interpreting the source. It they all aimed for fidelity, how boring would film be?

  5. I loved 45 Years! Charlotte Rampling’s last close-up is a stunning piece of acting (she deserved the Oscar!). I’m also a huge fan of Alex Proyas’s Dark City, one of the best sci-fi movies of the 1990s. I haven’t seen Lean on Pete, but it sounds good. 🙂

    1. Howdy, Eric. Oh, good. I loved that last expression of Charlotte, too. The climax at the very end–don’t see that too often anymore. The song! Who knew that song, one we’ve all heard 100 times, would have special meaning to the characters in the film. Very clever.
      I couldn’t believe how totally different both films by Haigh were. Lean on Me is finely acted. You wouldn’t waste your time. Just have a box of tissues with you. 🙂

  6. 45 Years is one of the best films of this decade, and the ending one of the most quietly shattering sequences since the masterpieces of Antonioni. Regarding movels into film. I recently read Grapes of Wrath after seeing the movie a few dozen times. I thought the adaptation was terrific, although only Ma, Tom, and the Preacher had any depth. The book was possible the finest example I have ever read regarding description of people place, and period. Little of Steinbecks exquisite detail made it to the screen, but Fords film never compromised or f a brilliant book.owent contrary to the temes of the book. The film ended long before the book did, and those last chapters were remarkable, with an ending that stays with you and becomes more horrifying with each thought. but it would have been a lousy movie ending. Most of the audience would have responded with one big What? It was smart to end the movie with the scene between Ma and Tom, even though it was somewhat sentimental and unjustifiably optimistic. It was still a brilliant ending to a brilliant movie of a masterpiece of a novel., But you arent going to get 1/50th of what Steinbeck pured into his novel by seeing the movie. So read the book too.

      1. im readinf east of eden now. i adapted, directed, and acted in a stage version of of mice and men. he was a terrible playwrite, but a superb novelist. in my second nocel, i had a junkyard scene similar to the one in grapes of wrath. i thought mine was pretty good until i read steinbecks, that ia the glory of reading superior authors. they show you how far you short you hav fallen in your own work. my god, the lyaers and layers he puts in there. i wish i had gone deeper.

        1. He is so adept at describing the scenery, the scene. He is my favorites of the Big 4 from the modern era of American Literature. So much better than Fitzgerald…Yes–to be a better writer, read a great novel. I always learn from novelists. When I went to Goddard for my MFA, that was their approach. No textbooks. Analyze the better writers and discover what they do that makes them superior. It was an interesting approach.

          1. with steinbeck it is his extensive knowledge and observational skills, his sense of humor and tragedy and abiltiy to juggle both in the same scene.. his multiple perspectives that are the result of detailed characterizations….who are your top four modern american novelists? mine are james jones, john steinbeck, norman mailer, john dos passos

          2. Edith Wharton, Flannery O’Connor, John Steinbeck and love the Naturalists, Stephen Crane and Jack London. Slipping into the 50s, I dig John Cheever and John Updike. Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest is probably my favorite novel of the 20th Century. I took a course once on 19th Century Russian Literature and thoroughly enjoyed the works of Dostoyevski and Chekov. “The Kiss” was so delicate and beautiful. For the Germans, I really like Herman Hesse and the questions he raises. Another favorite novel of mine is by J.M. Coetzee, “Waiting for the Barbarians”.

          3. hesse was a favorite of mine as a teen. junk books for precocious artistic youth. always loved o conner., the short stories especially, my favorite being the artificial nigger. huston had one of his best films with wise blood. i appreciate nest for the upgrade to mental institutions it provoked. didnt like the movie, as it promoted stereotypes of the inmates. nver got into updike or cheever, finding them. too limited in their world views like crane and london. i wrote a paprt on the poetry and prose of crane as a student, and the teacher accusd me of reading the poetry but nt the prose. she was right. some favorite authors who i would not put in a pantheon are chandler, fante, burroughs, emily bronte, chester himes, mickey spillane, nathaniel west, oscar wilde, willa cather, robert graves, whose novels i enjoyed but whose poetry was the biggest influence on my own attempts at poetry, …and my hero od literary criticism, harold bloom. i know and love chekhov inside and out, as i spet three years working with a theatre group devoted to his work..but i would not place him with the prose writers although he wrote many stories. he belongs with shakespeare, ibsen, and the greeks. favorite modern plays are whose afraid of virginoa woolf and marat sade. and the early influence there are williams, o neill, gibson, and odets,

          4. I like short stories frequently more than novels. It takes a lot of talent to convey so much in a little space. Poetry I feel inadequate writing and I find I can’t sit still long enough to savor the words and images. Odd. I’m going to the bookstore today because I have a gift certificate. I’d like to find a volume of short stories to read. I was thinking about diving into Philip K. Dick. I can’t hardly remember anything about Electric Sheep since I read it I was a young teenager.

          5. for short stories i prefer the pulpy genre stuff. cant stand literary short stories, with some exceptions. for short fiction i prefer the novella. dostoevskys notes from the underground, tolstoi s. kreutzer sonata, manns death n venice, watched half of gringo, found it, and all the acting, ridiculous. am watching lean on pete. it is better than the average portland movie, but falls short of van sants work. the screenplay is so template based that the events are dull and predictable. when the soman ex husband is mentioned, you know the father will be beaten up by him. when the boy returns to the hospital, you know the father is already dead. il watch th rest of it later, but will not be surprised at what happens to the horse, its owner, and the jockey. the actor is inoffensive but uninteresting. the character could be memorable if given some depth, as it stands, he is pretty much a cipher.

          6. Mann’s Death in Venice is on my bookshelf. The first half of Lean on Pete is predictable, yes. Maybe you will warm up to the second half. Or not. As far as predictability is concerned, didn’t we already know when watching The Wizard of Oz that Dorothy would find her way back home?

          7. the second half got even worse, with the unbelievable truck and foot trip to wyoming. the scene in the restuarnt really finished it for me. by the way, how much did the guy expect to get for his horse in mexico? thats 1000 miles away from portland, at best….transporting cost would be quite a bit. i think they usually sell them in lots, th dont drive the individually in a trailer for 1000 iles/ maybe im wrong, but it would have made more sense to me hd he sold the horse to the boy and taken the payments from his wages. the only reaosn for the story to unfold as it does is so as to have the story. and such prefabricated tales dong ove me. with dorothy, the return home was a typca ending, but the unfolding of the tale came from anl originl mind. it was not beginners screenpay template followed to the letter. ill return to see the last half hour of pete later, but so far it is a severe disappointm
            ent from the director of 45 years.

          8. I doubt, if you don’t like it by now, you will enjoy the ending. I liked his release as if he’d been holding his breath the duration of the film.

          9. i really liked the final half hour. i wuld have perferred it had they dropped the business with the horse, and made a film about the adventures of a teen boy as he evades the childrens services police and searches for his aunt after his father is murdered. incidentally, there are two prominent and unavoidable mountain ranges between portland oregon and lansing wyoming, but i didnt see anything but plains and some green hills in the movie. whats up with that?

          10. I agree here with you. The horse was unnecessary except as a tool for Charley to reveal himself as a character. I did wonder about the mountains missing. He seemed to stay in the foothills and flat valleys. I liked the story because of Charley raised himself and persevered despite hardships. His neglect and boredom did not stop him from getting a job and working. He was a survivor, self-reliant. He moved through his life with grace and without maudlin whoa-is-me attitude. He never thought he was homeless, just trying to solve his predicament. I saw quiet strength. And I liked him.

          11. i liked him too, and thought there were other reasons for the horse. the first may seem bscure, but i expected charlie to get hit by a car in the first scene, because of the way he was filmed running out into the road and running. and sure enough, the horse, obviously symbolic of charlies soul …and mark this . i despise symbolis,. i believe it is only appropriate when the real object cannot be named, a substitute for the unknown. if a dog crosses the street, say the dog crossed the street,…anyway as you know the horse is killed on the road, and at that point charlie loses his soul, and becmes a person capable of murder, just like the slob who killed his dad. until the redemptive ending, of course, but the film ends with him in the middle of the road……the second purpose of the horse story is the neccessity of having two famous indie actors in the cast for box ffice draw and investment security. all in all , i agree with you. it was a movie worth seeing, although think the script needed a major rewrite.

          12. I don’t have strict feelings for symbols. I think symbols are fun and I am glad to see them–same for motifs and imagery–however, while it adds a layer to the story, I prefer the rhetorical devices to be well done. I am trying to imagine what you’ve got against using them, and I suspect it’s about throwing them in gratuitously without pulling the thread all the way through the story or maybe it makes the story seem juvenile? Off the top of my head, I’ll go to Shyamalan’s “Sixth Sense” where he uses the color red as a motif/symbol as a clue that Bruce Willis’s character is really a ghost instead of a man. Everyone at the time thought it was marvelous stuff before the giant fall of his reputation as a good director in the 2000’s.
            But I like the insight about Charley and that the horse is his symbolic soul, and the road and his ability to kill, etc. I also liked how the film ends with him standing in the middle of the road looking around in circles as if his shitty childhood has ended and a new beginning is about to start. I would have liked to see him walking casually at that point, no need to run away from the past, as the last shot to emphasize the coming-of-age ending.

          13. synbols are too often used to cover up a stupid idea, rather than lead one toward the understand of the incomprehensible. since nobody has seen the face of god, it can be symbolized as a burning bus, and that works. then there are the classical representational symbpls, in a scene in which a man is proposing marriage to a woman, if she is wearing a lilac, an educated audience will know this person will never marry. in hamlet, when ophelia hands out the herbs and flowers, each ne reveals her feelings about the charaacter to whom it is handed. these are all fair symo

          14. it is my contention that the poetic devices such as meter, ryme, and symbol were devised to make the poem more accessible, not less so. the rhythm brought the listener of the epic poem into its puse, making it move along quickly, like a stephen king novel,,and the rhyme was there for anticipation, keeping the listener engaged by haveing a clue as to how the line would end, and symbpls, metaphors and such had the effect of lifting the listener out of their ordinary world into one more challenging and mysterious. you didnt see a falling star, you saw a charit in the sky with burning wheels. but a horse is sufficient to be a horse, it is not neccesary for it to represent the heart or sould of a lonely, doomd teenage boy. unless, f course, the boy has not concrete qualities of his own and it is neccessary to borrow them from a horse. at least the movie did not end with a freee frame ala the 500 blows..but i predicted the last shot when it appeared. but that was nothing new. final shots hve become so transparently final shots, that it would be difficult not to know when you were looking at one. rgarding the sisth sense, i knew the guy was a ghost from the get go. i idint need color coding to clue me in on that one. but i do love color schemes, especially the color red in hitchcocks marnie. the dfference is that the red in marnie was had an emotionally contextualized, so there was some feeling behind its use.

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