Good movies at this time of year are few and far between. I did see two with relatively high ratings that could not be more different.
Aferim! Is the story of a Romanian constable in 1835 who has been hired by a nobleman to capture a run away Gypsy slave. The constable takes off on horseback with his grown son and travels through mountains, plains, and villages meeting a variety of people along the way including a priest who provides his not so progressive thoughts on Jews and Gypsies. The film is done in Black and White and has subtitles. There is a brutality and starkness to it amidst what many critics describe as dark comedy.
Aferim (meaning “Bravo”) is a good example of a critic’s film. It scores 100% on Rotten Tomatoes (I don’t remember ever seeing a 100% before) but only 76% among audiences. To appreciate this Romanian film, one probably needs to have some knowledge of the Director and Romanian films in general which the critics seem to have. To the regular observer, it is a bit of a struggle. I didn’t really understand the “dark comedy” side of it and found the characters to be pretty unlikeable. The most interesting aspect of the film is the historical context, the costumes and focus on the treatment of the slaves. Compared with the Antebellum South, the homes of even the wealthiest nobles were extremely rustic. I found it fascinating to compare life in the Southern US during the 1830s with life in Romania at the same time – it was far better to live at “Tara”.
Eddie the Eagle is a fictionalized account of Michael “Eddie” Edwards who overcame great obstacles to represent Great Britain at the 1988 Winter Olympics. These Olympics were also famous for the Jamaican Bobsled team whose story was told in “Cool Runnings”. These athletes, including Eddie, represent the true spirit of the Olympics – that it is more important to participate than to win. Eddie the Eagle attempts to pull at all of your heartstrings as we journey along with Eddie while he pursues his lifetime ambition to participate in the Olympics. Hugh Jackman plays a fictional alcoholic ex ski jumper who helps Eddie learn how to jump and in my opinion is a rather cliché character. In the end, it probably isn’t a substantive enough story to sustain a film but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good story as well as an enjoyable movie. I remember Eddie well and these Olympics and was anxious to see the film. It didn’t disappoint (I love the winter Olympics and always watch the ski jumping) and has nice ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. In terms of available movies, this is one of the better ones out there. In terms of caliber of film, it will never be nominated for an Oscar.