Most films are either about proving your worth to your dad (or mom or family). …Quick Example: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Or about being the best at ___________. …Quick Example: Ford v Ferrari. In other words family dynamics or ambition. It’s easier to tell a story with these themes because the conflict (i.e. drama) and heroic journey are built-in. …Quick Example: Joseph Campbell.
But recently LnD screened three films that had stories driven by a wholly different theme: Seeking Justice.
Although Little Women telegraphed scenes…Quick Example: A lonely man’s daughter has died. He has a piano nobody plays in his house. There happens to be a little girl in the house next door who plays the piano beautifully…what is going to happen? Exactly. And there is also a bit of navel gazing and outright yawn inducing scenes. Does this mean I don’t think it’s a great film? No, it’s a great film. I actually highly recommend it. It’s about being taken seriously as a women but also as a person. Why even the next day I found myself exclaiming to my wife that, “I am a person with my own ideas!” So, yeah, the film did have an actual impact on me. The fact that Director Greta Gerwig is not up for an Oscar is something that I think should bring true shame to the Academy. Not even with Meryl Streep, who probably uses an Oscar statue as a toothbrush holder, acting in this film could the vote be swayed towards Gerwig. As we learned in this great article, the Directing award is voted on by the Directors section of the Academy. So you can imagine that it skews male a bit. Just a bit. However, Little Women is a cinematic film, it deserves the highest recognition, my above stated objections not withstanding. It’s a powerful film.
Next we saw Bombshell. This film didn’t suffer the pace of Little Women. If you have ever worked even one day in the news world you know the take no prisoners speed and attitude of that work — it was reflected in the storytelling. Bombshell is like what if 9 to 5 with Dolly, Lilly, Jane and Dabney wasn’t funny. Not funny at all. Welcome to Fox News. John Lithgow as Roger Ailes was simply mesmerizing. Full disclosure, he is already one of my favorite actors, so I’m biased. And speaking of Oscars, Charlize Theron is rightfully nominated for Best Actress. And I hope she wins. At first you wonder about her speech and its affectation but then you realize that she is an anchor on and off screen. She breaks only enough to remind her husband, who gives her a hard time after a softball interview with a Presidential candidate who’d personally attacked her, who pays the fucking mortgage and health insurance around here! Pretty great stuff. Now the fact that you find yourself rooting for someone who believes that SPOILER ALERT: a fictional character named Santa Claus belongs to the domain of one race, in this case caucasian, over all the other races, is an issue for me. But overall, the film plays to the complexity of her situation. Reveals the forces working against her and in the end aptly portrays her move towards doing the right thing in the sex scandal that took down the head honchos of the so-called news division of this media empire.
Finally, Just Mercy. I think this film should be required viewing for every American. Actually for anyone. Even more egregiously than Little Women it runs long and the pacing is off. But realize that all these films are carrying a lot of weight. They are trying to encapsulate and explain, in as entertaining a way possible, centuries, even Millenia of injustices. Starting with Jaime Foxx, besides all his awards, including the Oscar, he just lights up the screen with his charisma. Even in a role like this, where he plays a falsely convicted death row inmate, where his character is translated into a simmering frustration, he takes over each scene. Michael B. Jordan is no lightweight and he also carries this film, which plays like a social document, laying out each detail, nailing each twitch of each supporting character down, convincing the audience as the Alabama Supreme Court had to be convinced. Because even with absolute evidence, the law can be tricky dance partner, especially when local politics is playing the tune. And if you don’t think our justice system, especially in regards to the death penalty, needs some fine tuning, here is a list of 166 Americans who were falsely accused of murder and put on death row since 1973. What watching this film gave me — some films leave you with a feeling like you have been robbed of your time, intellect, etc., all of these films give you something in return — was a sense of perspective. When I find myself complaining about what I perceive are the injustices in my life, it’s laughable compared to the injustices exposed in these three great movies.