5/29/12: Midnight in Paris

“It is a good film because it is an honest film. The prose is clean and honest.”

Woody Allen wrote & directed Midnight in Paris, an intellectual comedy starring Owen Wilson as Gil Pender (in the role Woody would have played himself as a younger man), a self-described “Hollywood hack” writer finalizing his first novel. He’s on vacation in Paris with his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams from amongst other things The Notebook). Gil is an uber-liberal who wants to take a cut in pay & live the simpler life of a novelist in Paris once his book is published. Whether in the rain or shine, Paris is to him the most beautiful city in the world. And it’s pre-Depression luster and hotbed for the literati of the time – Hemingway, F.Scott Fitgerald, Gertrude Stein, Dali, T.S. Eliot, Picasso, Cole Porter, etc. – is the pinnacle in human achievement.

The couple is traveling with Inez’ parents. Her father (played wonderfully by Kurt Fuller) is a staunch Tea Party member who’s managed to instill the GOP’s “success is measured by money” mantra in his daughter. And her constant belittling of Gil make her very unlikable, especially when juxtaposed to her loveable, knowledge-thirsty fiancé. She thinks he’s childish for wanting to follow his muse and move from L.A. to Paris. They soon run into Paul & his wife. He’s one of Inez’ college professors for whom she still has the hots. Paul is characterized brilliantly by Michael Sheen (best known for his great performance as Tony Blair in The Queen) as a condescending, pseudo-intellectual expert on everything, and the mechanism for some predictable plot twists is in place. But don’t be discouraged: Woody’s story follows an unprecedentedly unique literary labyrinth. So it won’t hurt to have a laptop or smart phone around to help defog some of the more abstruse references.

The film received four nominations at 84th Oscars in 2012: Art Direction (watch for the yellow color scheming throughout the movie), Director, and Best Picture; and Woody Allen took home the prize for Original Screenplay. The script is fantastic and in 2012, one of the finest Oscar years ever, Woody’s third Original Screenplay Oscar (Annie Hall and Hannah & Her Sisters) is very well deserved indeed! He won one more Academy Award – Best Director for Annie Hall. He has never accepted an Oscar in person. Co-writer Marshall Brickman accepted for Annie Hall in 1978 at the Golden Anniversary Ceremony, and each of the other 3 were accepted by the presenter, including Angelina Jolie for Midnight in Paris. He’s also been nominated for an unbelievable 19 additional Academy Awards. Owen Wilson was nominated for one Oscar: Original Screenplay for The Royal Tenenbaums.

The music in Paris is simply fantastic. That the score wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award is a tragic error. The Artist won the Oscar and, though the music in that film is great and paramount given its verbal silence, it compares as favorably as the local guitar & violin accompanists for The Gold Rush would have to Django Reinhardt & Stéphane Grappelli themselves. The soundtrack is woven together by a theme piece – quickly recognizable as one of Django’s classic gypsy jazz tunes. But hold on & get out that Android! It’s not Reinhardt at all: It’s the film’s composer Stephane Wrembel’s Bistro Fada – a fabulous tribute to the great master. The non-original music in the soundtrack is wonderful as well, and includes works by Porter, Glenn Miller, Django, The Duke, Josesphine Baker, and on & on (http://www.allobo.com/en/soundtrack-midnight-in-paris-2352.html).

Midnight in Paris, one of ten feature films nominated for Oscars in 2012 with a French connection, is the first Woody Allen movie to gross $100 million internationally, believe it or not. And though it’s ripe with cameos, the most interesting to me is Carla Bruni, the then First Lady of France in her acting debut, who plays a curator at Paris’ Rodin Museum. Her only other movie role is as herself in the 1998 comedy Paparazzi. Bruni is the third wife of Nicolas Sarkozy who was the French President through May 15, 2012.

Midnight is a wonderful, high-brow comedy about discovering true love for life, art & your soulmate. It questions the validity of romanticizing other places & settings by romanticizing them and, ironically, showing just how romantic & elevated they are by comparison to today’s idly idolatristic American Idol America. And in the end, Woody leaves it to the viewer to decide if there is anything to be gained by living your life vicariously through the art of days gone by. And he seems to say that maybe it’s not the time or place but your lover that enriches your life romantically, spiritually & intellectually. And with that person, you’ll find peace & balance and love & happiness. And I couldn’t agree with that sentiment more. Perhaps he was so satisfied with his most recent piece – one of the best of his illustrious career – that looking back on his earlier work and the art & literature of days of yore seems nostalgic & pointless. Of course, that’s easy for him to say: He was on the Annie Hall media circuit during the Grateful Dead’s historic Spring East Coast ’77 Tour!

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5/23/12: Sideways

“If anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am NOT drinking any fucking Merlot!”

Alexander Payne co-wrote & directed Sideways, an offbeat romantic comedy about the week leading up to Jack’s (Thomas Haden Church) wedding day. His best friend, freshman college roommate, wine enthusiast & main character, Miles (Paul Giamatti), drives the two of them from southern California– Miles is a San Diego English teacher & failed novelist, and Jack an actor in L.A. – north to vacation in Santa Barbara Wine Country. The two men are approaching middle-age & Miles has a plan in place to attend tastings, tour vineyards, dine well & play golf with his best friend. Jack, however, has other ideas. After an overnight birthday visit to see his mother, Miles drives to The Windmill Inn, his favorite in the area & within walking distance of his favorite local restaurant, The Hitching Post, where Maya (Virginia Madsen) has worked for about a year and a half. At one of the local wineries, they meet Stephanie (Sandra Oh), a pourer there, and the nucleus of the cast is complete & the hilarious Act II complications commence.

Sideways was nominated for five of the major Oscars in 2005 at the 77th Academy Awards – Church & Madsen for the Supporting Awards, Director, Picture, and Payne & Jim Taylor won for Adapted Screenplay. As co-writer, Payne won his second Adapted Screenplay Oscar this year for The Descendants, a film for which he was also nominated for Director and Best Picture as co-producer (with Taylor & Jim Burke). Payne also directed About Schmidt and co-wrote the adapted screenplay for it w/ Taylor. Amazingly, Giamatti has yet to win an Oscar but was nominated in ’06 for Cinderella Man.

Miles loves Pinot Noir and in the best scene in the film, he & wine expert Maya discuss the varietal alone on a sofa in Stephanie’s house after the four of them went to dinner. Maya is making it obvious that she’s romantically interested in him as he waxes eloquently about his love for Pinot because “it’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early” and is “not a survivor like Cabernet”. When she asks him what he has in his collection, Miles tells her that doesn’t have a true wine collection – he’s a buy ‘em & drink ‘em connoisseur – but he does have one prized bottle of 1961 Château Cheval Blanc. Lightly touching his hand, Maya suggests he drink it soon since it’s at its peak now and will soon begin its slow decline, a metaphor for her sexuality. Miles, still grieving 2 years after an ugly divorce, is too emotionally immaturely to handle the situation and fizzles out like an opened bottle of champagne left out all day in the Santa Barbara sun – excusing himself to go splash water on his face in the bathroom. When he returns, of course, the moment has passed and Maya decides to go home.

Miles is extremely critical of Merlot and this review opens with his attack on it – the most memorable quote from the movie. He’s also critical of Cabernet Franc. When he meets Stephanie, he says, “I’ve learned never to expect greatness from a Cab Franc, and this is no exception,”. Sideways was first released to limited theaters in America on October 22, 2004 and produced what’s called The Sideways Effect on wines during the holiday season: Merlot sales dropped; and Pinot Noir sales increased by more than 20%. I don’t know if the film had any impact on sales of Cab Franc, but I assume that there was none on 1961 Château Cheval Blanc. At the time, a bottle sold for almost $6000 and, although it’s now 7 years past its prime, still averages 98 points & goes for $2000 – $3000. Miles decides to drink his bottle surreptitiously out of a Styrofoam cup in a fast food restaurant with his burger near the end of the film before heading north to try to kindle the spark he doused in Stephanie’s bathroom. In a very cleverly masked irony, Cheval Blanc is a blend of 2/3 Cabernet Franc & 1/3 Merlot.

Sideways is a fantastic movie about deception & middle-age & marriage & divorce & sex & love and the simultaneous interplay of them all. But why, Everyman asks, is it called Sideways: Perhaps because the poster for the film has an animated empty bottle of wine, Pinot I suppose, tipped on its side holding Miles & Jack like a message washed ashore & waiting to be found; or because, on their excursion, they wind up drunk so often it’s their normal posture; or because Miles teaches Jack to hold a glass of wine tipped to determine its relative age & clarity; but I think it’s a metaphor for how Jack is approaching his impending nuptials. It’s not to be missed by any fan of wine or movies. But if you love both, go to your local Blockbuster and rent up a copy. And on the way home, pick up a bottle or two of your favorite red. Just make sure it’s NOT a fucking Merlot!

5/22/12: A Cry in the Dark

“The dingo’s got my baby!”

Fred Schepisi’s A Cry in the Dark is the fictionalized account of the true story of Michael & Lindy Chamberlain, a Seventh-Day Adventist preacher & his wife, whose 10-week old baby, Azaria, was taken from their unzipped & otherwise unattended tent by a dingo on August 17, 1980 while they were on a camping vacation at Ayers Rock in the Northern Territory Outback of Australia. Baby Azaria was never found. An initial inquest was held and the couple was exonerated & the local police criticized for their handling of the case. But the Northern Territory authorities believed there were inconsistencies in their story and re-opened the case: Lindy was charged with her daughter’s murder & her husband an accessory after the fact. The Chamberlain’s are portrayed brilliantly by Meryl Streep & Sam Neill.

The case, the first in which Australia’s beloved wild dog and a symbol of The Outback was accused of hunting humans, polarized the country. As soon as the news broke, the Chamberlain’s orthodox Christian beliefs were the target of vicious prejudice & innuendo. Amongst the accusations: Azaria means “Sacrifice in the wilderness”; Azaria was always dressed in black; Lindy is a witch!! The couple tried to use the media to debunk the unfounded statements but instead they were manipulated like marionettes as the lies were instead propagated to sell papers & advertisements.

A Cry in the Dark and Six Degrees of Separation are the most well-known of Schepisi’s 17 directorial features. Not coincidentally, they are the only two which received Oscar Nominations, both for Best Actress: Stockard Channing in 1994 lost to Holly Hunter as Ada McGrath in The Piano at the 66th Academy Awards; and Streep received the 8th of her now far & away record 17 Academy Award Nominations, but lost to Jodie Foster for her brilliant portrayal of gang rape victim, Sarah Tobias, in The Accused at the 61st Oscars.

Meryl Streep has won 3 Oscars – Best Actress twice for Sophie’s Choice in ’83 and The Iron Lady at this year’s Ceremony, and Supporting Actress for Kramer vs. Kramer in 1980. Only Katharine Hepburn has won more acting Oscars with 4, all Best Actress Awards (Morning Glory, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Lion in Winter, and On Golden Pond); the only other actress with 3 wins is The Greatest Ingrid Bergman, who Streep mirrors with one Supporting and two Bests (Gaslight, Anastasia, and Supporting for Murder on the Orient Express). Jack Nicholson, the most Oscar Nominated actor with 12, also has 2 Best Actor and a Supporting Actor Academy Awards (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Supporting for Terms of Endearment, and As Good As It Gets); as does Walter Brennan, all Supporting (Come & Get It, Kentucky, and The Westerner).

A Cry in the Dark, ranked the #9 Courtroom Drama by the American Film Institute in June 2008, is a fantastic motion picture about the dangers of the mob mentality and Rumor – That Wingless Flyer. It paints a dark picture of intolerance towards & disrespect for others’ religious beliefs, irrespective of how ultra-conservative they may be – a pitfall of which I am sometimes guilty. And it comes down harshly on sensationalism and the advancement of polarization by the news corps in the interest of politics & capitalism – a lesson that cannot be overstated in today’s Fox News/blogosphere/MSNBC/New York Post world.

So, yes: I will try to be more accepting of the intolerant, Christian conservative, family values, anti-Muslim movement that is so prevalent & increasingly more powerful here in post-9/11/01 America beginning just as soon as this Blog is published. And I’ll bet you a bag of fire & brimstone that if you rent it, you will too! “Why are you so confident?”, you might ask: Because just like an obedient & proper Seventh-Day Adventist’s wife, this is a film which does not suck, (http://en.allexperts.com/q/Seventh-Day-Adventists-2318/2011/10/oral-sex-marriage.htm).

5/13/12: Hugo

“My friends, I address you all tonight as you truly are: Wizards, mermaids, travelers, adventurers, magicians! Come and dream with me.”

Amidst all the accolades for the admittedly fantastic film The Artist last year – including taking home Best Picture, Director and Actor amongst its five Oscars at the 84th Academy Awards – another film also won five Oscars, albeit less important ones. That film was, of course, Hugo, Martin Scorsese’s fantastic homage to seemingly everything he loves: Charles Dickens; Georges Méliès; the early 30’s Paris; Django Reinhardt; trains; clocks; magicians; the history of film-making; dreams; silent movies; toys; and oh, did I mention Dickens? As I watched the film the first time, I was struck by how much it seemed that the film was adapted from a work by the great master. If memory serves (and good luck with that!), there are references to both A Tale of Two Cities and David Copperfield in the film. But more importantly, the main character, Hugo Cabret, portrayed brilliantly by then 14 year old Asa Butterfield (the main character, Bruno, in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) is under constant threats & attempts at banishment to The Orphanage from the Station Inspector (Sasha Baron Cohen at his best!), whose partial disability seems a metaphor for his slightly evil spirit. Station Inspector is by no means Madame Defarge, but he is not her husband either.

The film follows a short but very eventful period in Hugo’s life. He is the son in the business Cabret et Fils – Horlogers. His single father is a master clockmaker whose pastime is fixing an automaton – a sort of a clock meets music box meets robot – that he found abandoned in the attic of a museum where he once worked. This particular automaton writes, but it’s in disrepair and, more importantly, requires a heart-shaped key that seems lost to history in order to function. An unfortunate accident takes Hugo’s Dad’s (Jude Law) life early on in the film and he becomes the ward of his lazy, filthy, drunken & abusive Uncle Claude – the minor role is played marvelously by Ray Winston. He moves Hugo in with him to the apartment within the walls of the train station where he is to quit going to school and assist Uncle Claude in the maintenance of the clocks. His life is instantly transformed from a happy child, the curious son & apprentice of a craftsman, to one of misery: He’s always starving & he’s not well-cared for, and has to steal food to vanquish the pangs. But there is one good thing about the new digs: The train station has a toy shop owned & guarded by a late middle-aged, bald gentlemen (stunningly portrayed by Ben Kingsley) who sleeps a lot. This convenience affords Hugo the opportunity to steal parts for the one vestige of his happy life with his father, the automaton, which he is certain will reveal a message from his dead Dad once he gets it working.

Hugo’s puppy love interest, albeit so innocent that they are more brother & sister, is the toy store owner’s god-daughter, Isabelle. Isabelle, whose parent are also deceased, is played by Chloë Grace Moretz. Chloë’s characterization is wonderful: She’s exuberant & her eyes are wide open to all the different adventures that happen to her as a result of meeting her new friend Hugo. To Isabelle, life is an adventure. When Hugo takes her to a movie – they sneak in and Isabelle declares that “They could get into trouble”, to which Hugo replies “That’s how you know it’s an adventure” – their friendship is sealed. Papa Georges & his wife Mama Jeanne had always strictly forbade her from ever seeing a movie, but Hugo takes care of that. Once he has a true friend, Hugo is free to “find his way”.

This is the first non-documentary feature film which didn’t star Leonardo DiCaprio that Scorsese has made in 12 years . And his first in 18 years that was Rated PG. Although he was Nominated for the Best Director Oscar four times, and Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay once each, he has only won a single Academy Award: Best Director for The Departed in 2007 at the 79th Academy Awards. Kingsley is a four-time nominee & won the Best Actor Oscar in ’83 for Ghandi at the 55th Awards ceremony. The Adapted Screenplay is fantastic & John Logan received his only such Nomination for it, although he was also nominated for Original Screenplay for both Gladiator & Scorsese’s The Aviator.

There are just too many incredible performance, too much brilliant history, too many clips of silent masterpieces, too many scholarly references – too much of everything, which is just enough!! – to get to them all. But suffice it to say that this was the best film from all of the last Oscar year in my opinion – and what it year it was for films!! I think with time, the novelty will wear off along with some of the luster for the (and I reiterate, great piece) The Artist, and Hugo will be remembered more fondly in years to come. You love them both if you’ve seen them both. If you haven’t & you have just $1, however, and there’s a Red Box nearby and you go – Hugo!!!

5/11/12: The Gay Divorcee

“Chance is the fool’s name for fate!”

Thursday was the 113th anniversary of Fred Astaire’s birth – the leading man in Mark Sandrich’s 1934 musical, The Gay Divorcee. It was Fred & Ginger’s second of ten collaborations. The film is an adaptation of the Broadway musical, A Gay Divorce, and is very much a Broadway musical.

It’s the story of Guy Holden, a famous American dancer, initially on vacation in Paris with his inept lawyer friend, Egbert played by Edward Horton, but early on they head to London via ship. While onboard, Guy meets and falls for Mimi Glossop, played by Ginger Rogers, a beautiful wealthy blond traveling with her ditzy Aunt Hortense (Alice Brady). He accidentally rips her dress & gives her his overcoat to cover up. She finds him annoying & won’t return the coat in person, but agrees to send it to him when they get to London. When it arrives without a note, he becomes obsessed with looking all over London until he finds her. He finally sees her in her Dusenberg and the chase is on – literally & figuratively. Like all good romantic comedies, there’s plenty of confusion, mistakes of identity & relationship complications.

The music is fantastic in the film. And the dancing, of course. Notably, Let’s K-nock K-nees, sung & danced by an 18 year old & still unheralded Betty Grable, soon to be the girl with the million dollar legs; and The Continental, at the time the longest & still the second longest dance sequence in movie history at just under 17 minutes. Only the ballet at the end of An American in Paris at just over 17 minutes is longer. It resulted in the first Best Song Oscar for Con Conrad (music) & Herb Magidson (lyrics) at the 7th Academy Awards. The film received 4 other nominations, including Best Picture and Score.

Fred Astaire never won a performance Oscar but was nominated for Supporting Actor in The Towering Inferno of all things, and was given an Honorary Award in 1950 at the 22nd Oscars. Ginger took home the Best Actress Oscar for & as Kitty Foyle in 1941 at the 13th Academy Awards. Alice Brady is awesome as Aunt Hortense, the film’s main foil. She won the Supporting Actress Oscar three years later as In Old Chicago’s Molly O’Leary. She wasn’t present at the ceremony and, believe it or not, the Oscar was stolen by an impostor accepting on her behalf. To this day, it hasn’t been recovered nor the thief located. And unfortunately, she died of cancer at just 46 years old before the Academy could issue her a copy.

The Gay Divorcee is my favorite of the nine films I’ve seen so far this month. If you haven’t seen it, I’m sure you’ll love it. If you have, you already do! Either way, it’s worth the rent.

5/3/12: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

“There once was a very lovely, very frightened girl. She lived alone except for a nameless cat.”

Today would have been Audrey Hepburn’s 83rd birthday – the star of Blake Edwards’ Breakfast at Tiffany’s – had she not been taken from us at the much to young age of 63 on January 20, 1993. I consider this Audrey’s best performance, and she did receive one of her 5 Best Actress Oscar Nominations as Holly Golightly – an early 60’s, liberated, sexy, New York hipster who just loves having Breakfast at Tiffany’s – or is she? Although she’s brilliant as Holly, Hepburn didn’t win the Oscar in 1962 at the 34th Academy Awards Ceremony. It went to Sophia Loren as Cesira in Two Women. Her other Nominations were for Wait Until Dark, The Nun’s Story, and Sabrina; and she won the Oscar in 1954 at the 26th Academy Awards for her role as Princess Anne in Roman Holiday. She was also voted the recipient Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Academy Award 8 days before she died. Her son, Sean Ferrer, accepted for her posthumously at the 65th Oscars.

The film is based on Truman Capote’s novel, and the screenplay adaptation by George Axelrod afforded him an Oscar Nomination. Tiffany’s also received an Oscar Nomination for Color Art Direction, and won two Oscars, both for the amazing music in the film: Score for a Drama or Comedy – Henry Mancini; and Song – Moon River, Henry Mancini (music) & Johnny Mercer (lyrics). The two men won 3 other Oscars, including another Best Song collaboration the following year for The Days of Wine & Roses. The late Blake Edwards, who directed 39 movies including The Days of Wine of Roses, is fabulous in directing this moving film. Although he never received an Oscar Nomination as a director – only for Adapted Screenplay 21 years later for Victor Victoria – he received an Honorary Oscar for his body of work in ’04 at the 76th Academy Awards.

There are many great performances in this movie about love for pets, self-exploration, the sexual revolution, insecurity, personal history, and mainly…romantic love. Mickey Rooney plays Mr. Yunioshi, a stereotypical Japanese photographer. George Peppard is wonderful as Paul Varjak, Holly’s love interest. And Buddy Epsen is great in his small role as Doc. Patricia Neal, who won the Best Actress Oscar two years later as Alma Brown in Hud, is remarkable as 2E, a creepy cougar decades before that meaning was coined. She was a frequent visitor to Connecticut and was buried at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, where her good friend Dolores Hart is Reverend Mother. Watch for her Cruella de Vil outfit towards the end of the film. The animated Disney classic came out 10 months earlier than Tiffany’s.

For those of you in the Greater Waterbury area, Blake Edwards’ Breakfast at Tiffany’s is being shown on the big screen at the Rave Southington on Monday May 7 at 3:00 for just $3. And that includes a small popcorn & a small soft drink!!

4/25/12: Fires(Incendies)

“Jeanne, this envelope is for your father. Find him, and give it to him. Simon, this envelope is for your brother. Find him, and give him the envelope. When the envelopes have been delivered, the Notary will give the two of you a letter. The silence will be broken, a promise kept!”

My modus operandi, whenever a foreign language film is involved, is to call it by its English name. Hence, Incendies will be referred to as Fires. I’ve not seen this done anywhere else. The film is routinely called Incendies. On first blush, the title is mysterious. But the title, like everything else in this, my favorite foreign language film ever, is perfect! Amazingly, this 83rd Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film Nominee did not receive the Oscar on February 27, 2011. It lost to a fine motion picture, In a Better World, but this is as blatant a mistake, if not as memorable, as when How Green Was My Valley won Best Picture at the 14th Oscars over an instantly legendary Citizen Kane. In fact, none of the protagonists in this amazing film have ever won an Academy Award.

Since Fires is a foreign language film, it was nominated for no other Oscars. It certainly should have been one of the 10 Best Picture Nominees and possibly taken the Oscar. I love The King’s Speech, but it didn’t get my vote in our annual Oscars Party Ballot Pool – I voted for True Grit. I always end up near the dregs of the voting, opting to use my ballot to document my selections and lose the $1, rather than whore out and prognosticate what the Academy will do. Remember: It’s that same exact group of people who thought In a Better World was a better foreign language film than Fires. And the same association said, “Citizen Kane. Bah!!! Not nearly as Green as My Valley.”. In a better world, Fires wins the 83rd Best Foreign Language Film Oscar; and gets a Nomination and heavy consideration for Best Picture, perhaps even breaking a barrier ala The Artist, winning the coup de grâce. And certainly supplants the overrated The Social Network – almost as overrated as the sappy, web support system for mediocrity & the bourgeoisie on which the film is based – for the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar.

The film’s premise is well laid out in the opening sequence. Adult twins, a brother & sister, Jeanne & Simon Marwan, are in the office of Canadian Notary, Jean Lebel. It’s immediately obvious that notaries have expanded responsibilities in Canada by comparison to the USA. He is the executor of the will of their recently deceased mother, Nawal, who is originally from Lebanon and a former employee of Lebel’s. He hands the twins two envelopes, one to each, to be delivered to their father & brother respectively. The request is met with incredible surprise & curiosity by the brilliant and stoic Jeanne, a mathematician. They’d always thought their father was dead for many, many years. Simon’s reaction is one of bitter disdain. He wants no part of any of this. He thinks his mother was crazy before she passed, and he is irate – especially when he hears that he is to find and deliver the envelope to a brother they never knew existed! He finds it altogether too painful to deal with – his Mom seemingly lost her mind one day while relaxing with Jeanne at a public pool, then died relatively soon thereafter. Simon’s response to all of this is anger!

The film is a mystery, a treasure hunt, a tragedy, a love story, a tale of corruption & abuse & war: A masterpiece! Its themes are numerous. Mainly, the unconditional love of a mother. Perhaps no film so disturbingly demonstrates that love as Fires. The recurring theme of hatred & prejudice permeates the motion picture. Respect for elders & varying cultures; the search for knowledge & the reward of its gain; sibling love; abuse of power; the hell brought on by war. And, oh yes, FIRES! The destructive, annihilating, consuming force: Man’s greatest discovery and worst nightmare.

The plot is relatively complicated. Not on an Inception scale, but you must pay attention, but don’t worry: You’ll be compelled to. If you have yet to see this fantastic, 4-star drama, rent it! I couldn’t locate it quickly on Netflix, though I expect it’s available there. I recently watched it again, for the third time, on Blockbuster by Mail. My first two viewings were on the big screen. If you see Fires playing at a second run theater or a library, do not pass up that inexpensive opportunity. Then you can rent In a Better World, and re-watch The King’s Speech and The Social Network so you can decide for yourself whether it deserved the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar and at least two additional Nominations.