Movies: A Man Called Ove, Birth of a Nation and USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage

 

A Man Called Ove

This really nice little film from Sweden has a number of things going for it but it is not particularly unique nor will it be a foreign film Oscar contender. It is the story of Ove, an old curmudgeon who lives by himself and is the self appointed policeman for his Swedish neighborhood. He is fired from his job after 43 years, seemingly has no friends and it quickly becomes clear that he is a widow who is trying to commit suicide in order to join his  beloved wife. Things are not going well for Ove and even his suicide attempts fail.

A new family moves in next door and slowly Ove becomes friends with the extroverted Persian wife played by Bahar Pars. He teaches her to drive and is slowly integrated into her family. Ove (Rolf Lassgard) and Pars are the stars of the movie. Their back and forth dialogue and meaningful glances to each other are great and ultimately culminate in a sequence where Ove actually laughs. It takes a bit of time to get into this movie but flashbacks fill in the gaps of Ove’s life including his marriage to Sonja as well as his childhood as we gain an understanding of the events that make Ove the man he is.

In a predictable ending, Ove is loved and admired by many and a few tissues will be needed for the last scenes. The book has been a staple of many a book club and the movie hits a soft spot for all. It is well done, has some nice moments of humor despite the generally dark satire nature of the film and should be a hit with US audiences despite the sub titles. 

Birth of a Nation

When Birth of a Nation premiered at Sundance last February, it immediately generated Oscar buzz as well as being advertised as the answer to the “Oscar so White “controversy. There was so much hype it sold for an extraordinary $17.5M and then the roof fell in this spring, as decades old rape charge against the Director/Actor/Writer Nate Parker became widely known. The director has addressed charges that he and Jean McGianni Celestin, who share a “story by” credit with Parker, sexually assaulted a classmate in 1999, when all three were students at Penn State University. Parker was acquitted while Celestin spent time in jail before his conviction was overturned. The accuser took her own life in 2012.

Birth of a Nation was likely a bit overhyped as Sundance winners often are. Without the controversy surrounding the Director, it probably would have faded as an Oscar contender over the course of year as the general consensus is that this is a very good albeit not great film. There are many questionable decisions by the director – especially where historical records are involved. The Nat Turner that was projected in the film seems strangely laid back. This doesn’t jive with other historical representations of a fiery preacher. There are other flaws with it which should be expected with a first time Director including transitions, a bizarre angel and slaves hanging from trees in what was likely meant to be an “art” shot.   In short, it isn’t 12 Years a Slave but it is hard to expect that level with a first movie.

Despite these issues, the film represents a period of history that people should be aware of. I doubt many viewers out there are familiar with William Styron’s the Confessions of Nat Turner written over 40 years ago so they may well not be knowledgeable of the violent rebellion led by Nat Turner. There is plenty of brutality in this film and a disturbing couple of rape scenes that were used as plot devices to help change Nat from a mild mannered preacher to a revengeful mass murderer. Much has been written lately about using rape as such a device in numerous TV shows and the questionable need for it. I’m not sure the use of violence against the female characters worked effectively in this film and was particularly uncomfortable due to the rape allegations against Parker.

This film won’t be for everyone as the subject matter is tough and the violence difficult to watch but it is a well-done movie that is a promising start for Nate Parker.  

USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage

I have been waiting for this movie to come out for a while. It is about the Indianapolis, the ship that delivered a portion of the Atomic Bomb to Tinian during WWII and then on its way home was sunk by a Japanese sub. You may remember the story being told by Quint to Brody in Jaws. The Indianapolis is very important to our family as my husband’s uncle died in the tragedy and it has been a source of many a school report by my son. The men in our family have read every book on the sinking of the Indianapolis.

The movie, starring Nicholas Cage, was supposed to be released on Memorial Day but was postponed even though it was done. All of a sudden, it showed up on VOD so we rented it. It still might be distributed to theaters this fall with a rumored premier on Veteran’s Day. Even though it is never a good sign that a movie goes straight to VOD, I was hopeful that it wasn’t that horrible. My husband bailed after 15 minutes, cursing it out. I stuck through the 130 minutes despite the fact that it is really dreadful. After all, I paid $10 on ITunes for this travesty so was determined to see it through to the end.

The movie starts out with a special effect sequence that looks like a teenager on his IPhone could have filmed it. There couldn’t have been any kind of a budget for the film. And don’t even get me started on the sharks. I would have thought that they be able to do better than what was in Jaws forty years ago but I could have been watching a Sharknado movie. But even worse is the screenplay. There is a ridiculous love story, contrived racial issues, sailors spitting into their captain’s food for no reason and just a bunch of gibberish that makes no sense. And that’s in the first 25 minutes. It was even hard to tell that the Japanese soldiers were in a cramped sub rather than a spacious hotel. In addition to the special effects and the screenplay, the acting is pretty bad as well. Nicholas Cage is dreadful. Did we ever think he could act?

The men of the Indianapolis and their families deserve a lot better than this. Do not waste your time or money if it comes to a theater near you and certainly don’t shell out $9.99 to see it on demand.

 

 

 

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