Thursday, March 15, 2012

A night at the movies

The Oscars have come and gone again. I realize they are a pretty big deal for some folks. After all, a win--or even a nomination--in Hollywood's annual glitz-fest goes a long way towards guaranteeing that the chosen film makers will get to be gazillionaires this year, rather than poor, impoverished billionaires or (gasp) millionaires. For others, like son Colin, who studies and makes films of his own, it's an opportunity to see what's selling and who's working in an industry that's gotta be one of the toughest ever to break into.
And then there's the rest of us.
Now, I didn't actually see the awards show, due to our halcyon, TV-less existence here on the beach. But I did, indeed, check the list of winners (and losers) after the fact, which, in itself, is a relatively rare occurrence. The reason for my sudden interest was simple. This year, unlike most years, we actually saw several of the nominated pictures, including War Horse, The Descendants, The Help, Moneyball, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Midnight in Paris. This heretofore unheard of spate of movie-going was partly due to a combination of rainy days both here and back in Illinois, and mostly because of the fact that we are now happy members of the ranks of the mostly-retired, with time to take advantage of weekday matinees and special admission prices for those of a certain age.
Now if they could just do something about that five dollar popcorn and the twelve-gallon sodas that cost more than my car...
I have to admit that I was a little startled that a black-and-white, silent picture would dominate many of the important categories, but I'm almost always surprised at what other people like, whether it's movies, TV shows, food, automobiles, books, clothing, soda pop or the really important stuff, like cookies, pop music and acoustic guitars.
Our sudden surge of movie mania has been further enhanced by the installation of a Red Box machine just a couple of miles past the bridge that connects our island to the mainland. While most vending machines just confuse or irritate me, there's something about the ability to quietly spend a buck or so on a film that might be "kinda cute" or "sorta interesting" that fits both my sense of curiosity and ultimate cheapness.
So here's the deal.
While you have no--repeat, no--reason to take my advice on movies or virtually anything else, here are a trio of take-home flicks that, in my opinion, might be worth popping into your DVD or Blu-Ray machine on some rainy night.

• The Way
This film actually premiered in Spain in 2010, but was released to the US market in 2011. Directed by Emilio Estevez and starring his dad, Martin Sheen, it's the story of a father, who, out of a sense of grief and guilt, decides to walk the Camino de Santiago, a Catholic pilgrimage route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain, for his estranged son, who had died while on the journey. Sheen's character meets and interacts with several other travelers along the way, and gradually transforms from a mostly grumpy old man who doesn't really know why he's on the trip to a man of faith who most certainly does. The film was shot along the actual Camino route, with a number of those seen on-screen real pilgrims from all over the world, including a group of actual Romani (gypsy) people. from Burgos in northern Spain.
It was, for us, a real-life view of a spiritual adventure that's been taken by several of our friends, and something we dream of doing someday. A good choice for adults and mature teens, who might understand and enjoy the sense of spiritual transformation.

• Seven Days in Utopia
O.K., it's a touch bland. And ultimately predictable, except for the ending. But this "golf meets God" film features an Oscar-quality cast, beautiful cinematography and some cool golf scenes, including one of the most epic tournament meltdowns imaginable. Don't read the reviews, as they were mostly negative. Instead, sit back and enjoy Duval's Cowboy/Yoda character as he teaches a struggling young professional golfer the value of seeing, feeling and trusting in golf and life alike. And wonder, with the rest of us, "did he make the putt?"
A fun, happy one for golfers, Christians and wannabes from both camps. An interesting, positive lesson for young athletes, as well.

• 50/50
Though this film received positive reviews, I suppose it's not surprising that some viewers and award mavens shied away from a movie billed as "a comedy about cancer." But as a survivor myself, I can tell you that amidst the fear, pain and overall angst surrounding a not-so-hot diagnosis and prognosis, there are more truly funny moments along the way than you might imagine. A great cast and many plot turns that range from absolutely heartrending to outrageously funny.
"I bet the guy who wrote this had cancer," I said to my wife as the credits rolled.
I was right.
My favorite of the year, but possibly a little intense for some.
Then again, so is cancer.

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