#291- Lone Star

Quick recap: Everyone has daddy issues- a deputy, the owner of an historic bar, an officer in the Army. Practically the whole town could use some counseling.

daddy issues, both of them.

daddy issues, both of them.

Fun (?) fact: The movie playing when young Sam and Pilar are making out is Black Mama White Mama, a nod to Pilar’s secret heritage.

It's Bailey from Grey's Anatomy! She probably has daddy issues also, although it's never stated outright

It’s Bailey from Grey’s Anatomy! She probably has daddy issues also, although it’s never stated outright

My thoughts: SPOILERS AHEAD. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED. 

I watched this movie almost a week ago and, except for the DVD skipping at the end, had a pretty uneventful time. I started writing my review the next night, as I am wont to do and as I looked up trivia, I noticed people discussing the ending and debating what happened. It was very obvious to me that the two main characters ended up together and everything was nicely tied up so what’s the controversy? That’s when I realized that the DVD skipped the exact moment Sam revealed that he and his lover Pilar were Luke and Leia-ing it up as half brother and sister. And in the end decided ‘screw it!’ and stayed together. The lesson of this tale is that maybe it’s time for the DVD to die out. It makes me wonder how many critical scenes I have missed in the past due to a scratched disc.

So, weird French Film twist ending aside the movie was just ‘meh’ for me. The bulk of Lone Star is about Sam coming to terms with who his father, a police officer, really was. The town saw him as a saint but Sam only knew him as a person he clashed with in his teenage years and didn’t feel close to. There is one scene when young Sam and Pilar are at a drive-in and the police break into the car and separate the two of them. Grownup Sam uses this scene as a way to show how strict his father was, but knowing the ending that they are actually siblings, totally makes sense why he wouldn’t want them together. And then there’s this mystery about an evil, racist deputy that goes missing and Sam thinks his father may have killed him, which would prove he wasn’t such a good guy after all. But really, that proves nothing because the deputy in question murdered a lot of innocent people and needed to be stopped.

There were all these other characters in the town that had their own issues with family and everyone is of course connected somehow in the end. Most of the time I felt like I was watching a television season than a movie. Maybe that would’ve been a better format for this story because it just dragged on and on at times. There were a few revelations that I would label shocking, but I could see them rolled out as a season finale or something, not all thrown into one heap.

Final review: 2/5

Up next: The Graduate

 

 

#290- Glengarry Glen Ross

Quick recap: Real estate agents race to close on deals anyway they can. First prize is a car, second prize is a set of steak knives and third prize is you’re fired.

Y'all got anymore of those good leads?

Y’all got anymore of those good leads?

Fun (?) fact: From IMDb, ‘Every since its release, this film has been used to train real life salesmen how to sell and how not to sell.’

I have a new appreciation for Gil now

I have a new appreciation for Gil now

My thoughts: From the millions of career choices out there, I think sales sounds like the absolute worst. You may say, ‘But, Mary, what about the person who has to clean out septic tanks?’ Yes, that job is gross, but it wouldn’t send me into a panic like sales. I worked at an H-E-B back in college and just offering the sale item as people checked out was enough for me to have a panic attack. Another point, when I worked at a pizza place I was always encouraged to ‘upsell’ by offering a large for just a few cents more. Did I do even that most simple task? Nope. Sales is the worst. Case closed.

That’s why I loved watching a movie about salespeople because they are so drastically different than my life. Every character in Glengarry Glen Ross is the worst. There is literally no one to root for by the end of the movie. They spend the entire film out-slimballing each other and it is so fascinating to watch. It also helps that the cast is phenomenal- Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris and my favorite-Alec Baldwin, who I thought would be the villain, but who turned out to be a perfect motivational speaker. I’ve sat through sales pitches before and as frustrating as they are, now I can imagine the hoops they must be jumping through to get me to commit and what glorious prizes await if I just say yes (coffee’s for closers, you know).

I think what I loved most about the movie was that I kept thinking someone would snap and it just never happened. ‘Surely this will be the straw that broke the camel’s back,’ I said over and over again, but the race to the bottom of the barrel continued. And the best part is knowing that this was just one slice of a day for these real estate salespeople. How many times have they had these arguments? How many times have they conspired to steal leads? How many cars have been given away as incentives? It’s this perspective on the American Dream I can’t stop thinking about. It seems such a miserable existence and yet these guys live on it, thrive on it. And I’m so grateful I don’t have to do that for a living.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: Lone Star

#289- Forbidden Games

Quick recap: Two children cope with the horrors of war by creating a pet cemetery (but not the Stephen King kind).

What a lovely romp this movie was!

What a lovely romp this movie was!

Fun (?) fact: The movie was originally shot as a short but was then changed to feature length. By that time the actress who played Paulette had lost her baby teeth so for many scenes she wears false ones.

The boy called this owl 'The Mayor' and now I want to change my cat's name

The boy called this owl ‘The Mayor’ and now I want to change my cat’s name

My thoughts: Picture it: A board room, somewhere in France. Let’s go with a board room in the Eiffel Tower because that’s about the only landmark I know. In walks René Clément, director of Forbidden Games and the writer for the screenplay, Jean Aurenche.

René: Alright, I like the plot of the film, but I feel like it should be more sad. Children growing up in World War II is depressing, but we can do better.

Jean: What if we kill off the girl’s parents?

René: It’s a start. I like where you are going with this, but let’s dig deeper.

Pierre, the custodian, who has apparently been standing in the corner of the room this whole time: Kill a puppy.

René and Jean stare at Pierre for a moment, stunned.

Pierre: And then have an old lady throw the dead puppy in the river as the little girl watches. The little girl will fish the dead puppy out of the water and then carry it around for awhile while crying.

René: Break out the champagne, Jean! We have a hit on our hands!

 

As this totally accurate scene shows, Forbidden Games is another depressing war film. It’s sweet how the boy, Michel, takes care of the little girl Paulette, but there’s just so much that is sad.And then you add in all the dead animals and I could barely watch many scenes. There’s a particularly sad exchange between the two children as Michel explains to Paulette that her parents are dead and have been buried in a mass grave. She reasons it is because they are cold and need a spot to warm up and that’s where the idea of a cemetery is born. It was heartbreaking to watch that and it doesn’t help that those two kids are just about the cutest I’ve ever seen. For now, though, let’s turn back to that board room in France as René and Jean try to write an ending to their movie.

René: I think we’ve hammered home the point that war is hell with all those death scenes. How about a happy ending to give the audience a break?

Pierre, who still hasn’t left his corner, spits on the ground in disgust.

Jean (stammering): Paulette has to leave Michel’s family and is reunited with a distant Aunt?

Pierre walks over to Jean and slaps him in the face with all his might. Jean, holding back tears, stands up.

Jean: How about Michel is about to be beaten within an inch of his life and Paulette is taken away to live in an orphanage? She waits at the train station and sees all these reunions around her. Someone yells the name, ‘Michel’, which causes her to run away from the nun, in search of the only person alive who cared for her.

Everyone in the room high fives and opens another bottle of champagne. Pierre nods ever so slightly and leaves the room, his job done.

He returns seconds later to gather the trash from the bin, remembering his real job, nods again, and walks out.

Final review: 4/5. Depressing as hell, but an interesting perspective at least

Up next: Glengarry Glen Ross

 

#288- The Night of the Shooting Stars

Quick recap: Told through the perspective of a little girl, a group of Italian villagers flee their town from Nazis. Along the way to find Americans to liberate them, they decide that they are going to fight back however they can.

Fighting the Germans. What could go wrong?

Fighting the Germans. What could go wrong?

Fun (?) fact: The scene where the Germans bombed the church filled with villagers was based on real events. After some research years later, it was discovered that it was the Americans who were behind the accidental bombing. Oops.

My thoughts: Let me tell you, there is nothing that brings in the Christmas spirit more than a war film, featuring children, no less. I’m not much of  a ‘Christmas’ person to begin with, so it didn’t have much effect on my near non-existent cheer. Not that it would anyway, because out of the bunch of films I have watched so far featuring World War II, this one can almost be described as optimistic.

Almost. Mind you, there is still a lot of death happening to a lot of people you get attached to. But most of the death comes from fighting the Nazis and Fascists, which, by the way, really sucks that Italy had to fight two evil powers during the war. Everyone had it bad back then, but from what I’ve seen, Italian war films are generally the most depressing because it’s so difficult to grasp the amount of suffering the villagers went through. Night of the Shooting Stars further drives this point home as I watched the journey of these families as they fleed their town and homes. It made me wander where all that courage came from. I have no idea the first thing I would do if war came to my town. I’d like to say that I could muster up something deep inside to fight and keep going, but I don’t know. And these villagers didn’t know either, until it happened to them. The scenes where the people ran through the wheat fields to escape the fighting were the most heartbreaking for me. Here were these old women, impeccably dressed , crawling on their hands and knees, just trying to survive. It was almost too much at times.

But as I said before, this film is not just blood and gore and sadness. I think by putting this through the eyes of a 6 year old girl, the audience can see the optimism and hope. During the final battle scene, the little girl imagines her neighbors as Roman soldiers, defending their people. In reality, these are a bunch of people with weapons that barely work and little to no experience fighting. But to the little girl, they are heroes and they save the day. The Night of the Shooting Stars is based of Italian lore that once a year in August, shooting stars streak across the sky and if you make a wish, everything will come true. It was enough to keep her going and something for me to think about when times are rough.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Forbidden Games