Saturday, November 24, 2012


I really disliked the movie Anna Karenina. Now I know why the Top Critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 53%. It is a self-conscious, schizophrenic film that wants to be many things - true to the book, but also a stylized CONTEMPORARY work of "art" which cannot make up its mind.

Artifice, parody and Tolstoy do not work for me. The great romance between Anna Karenina and Vronsky is reduced to some "hot" clutching and lingering glances between a hungry yet anorexic looking Anna (Keira Knightly) and her puerile Shirley Temple curly-haired lover Vronsky.

The theatricality of the film was literally constructed through stage sets. Except for the naturalism of the outdoor landscapes in the sub-plot scenes dealing with the idealistic love affair between Levin (Tolstoy's alter ego) and his future wife Kitty, the rest of this movie had ladders and stage hands distracting us at critical moments moving throughout the set. I know a point is being made but I found it to be perplexing and disconcerting or just too obvious: "all the world's a stage...."

The movie does attempt to show the inequalities in the way women are treated, as opposed to men when they commit infidelity or break "God's law of marriage" - eventual banishment and social ostracism. Without a man's protection, they are helpless. Actually not so different from the way women are treated today in many cultures.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

LINCOLN 11/18/12

Spielberg's LINCOLN is a film that is part history lesson - the machinations to get the 13th Amendment prohibiting Slavery through the House of Representatives, and part polishing the myth of the 16th President of the USA.
What was most interesting and novel to me was the forestalling of peace negotiations with the Confederacy -peace talks held hostage so that the Amendment would be voted on by a Congress that did NOT include the secessionist Confederate states which would have voted against it. More lives were lost due to the delay BUT an Amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery was now "the law of the land."

Daniel Day-Lewis is wonderful as Abraham Lincoln - looks just like him with his lean stooped body reflecting the moral decisions and political maneuverings the job of leading a nation entails. He can be boring and long-winded and at the same time incredibly wise and human.

In this film, Mary Lincoln played by Sally Fields - finally a great part for her (the best since Norma Rae} seems to have a larger influence on the President's decision making than I was ever aware of. The wife of a President - one who is prone to deep depressions triggered by the loss of their 12 year old son William from Typhoid is a tedious job and Sally Field makes the most of it.

Tommy Lee Jones is terrific as the powerful Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Representative Thaddeus Stevens, an abolitionist Senator whose "radical" views on the full equality of blacks - including voting rights, etc. must be pragmatically held in check in order fot the Legislation to pass.

There is comic relief furnished by James Spader and John Fawkes complete with prat-falls portraying latter-day Lobbyists arm-twisting and financial "give-aways" in order to get the needed votes.

This film is very contemporary in the way leaders and elected Representatives have to wrestle with their own ethical beliefs, and at the same time vote for issues that might be anathema to them. Yes -a good history lesson.