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If you're offended by any discussion about religion - even when it's being discussed as a tangential issue - then please click out of this post now because this may offend you, and that is not my intent. Minor **SPOILERS** will follow: --- Last week, I finished reading the biography of the amazing Louis Zamperini, "Unbroken," written by Laura Hillenbrand - one of the best and most thoroughly researched biographies I've ever read. No, it's not perfect, and if you click on the title, you'll see we have the beginnings of a meaningful discussion about the book. This thread, and this post, is about the movie. In the "Unbroken" book thread, I mention a recent discussion I had with a member about "In Cold Blood" (just click and read the first paragraph in Post #11). In essence, she was unable to enjoy the movie because she had read the book first. I'm afraid that with "Unbroken," that may be the case with me: I was recently told that there was no mention of Billy Graham in the film. To my eyes, the book is structured as follows: 1) A medium-sized beginning (childhood, upbringing, college, Olympics) 2) A huge middle (the war) 3) A short ending (PTSD, recovery) For there to be no mention of Zamperini's post-war biography is to essentially clip short his life in his mid-20s. Think about this for a moment: If Billy Graham did not exist, there would be no "Unbroken" because there would have been no Louis Zamperini to write about. Zamperini's recovery (I'm purposefully not calling it a redemption) is such a major factor in his biography that its omission is a literary and journalistic sin. What I can say here is very limited because I haven't seen the film, but based on what I heard, I would urge anyone who has seen the film, and who doesn't want to invest the substantial time involved in reading the entire 406-page book, to borrow a copy, and read only the 18-page Epilogue. At this point, the only reason I want to watch the film is so I can voice this opinion more forcefully, and with some credibility and authority; right now, I cannot. --- For those interested in the enormous power that Billy Graham was able to convey, I encourage them to go to his website, and watch one or more of his "televised classics" (the old, black-and-white ones are directly relevant to the full biography of Zamperini, but even for those completely uninterested in Graham, there is still historical importance in the beautiful alto gospel of Ethel Waters at the 8:30 point in this video). I should also disclose that Graham was a major influence on, and source of enormous comfort to, my beloved mother - his occasional televised crusades were part of my childhood, as I watched my mother watch him, completely mesmerized by the unselfish sovereignty of his oration. I am hardly an evangelist, but have no problem in voicing my opinion that Billy Graham is one of the greatest and most important people ever to live, wielding immense power on a global scale, but never once abusing it for his own personal gain - his rightful place in history is side-by-side with Martin Luther King, Jr., the Dalai Lama, Pope Francis, Mahatma Gandhi, and David Ben-Gurion.
When I was young, I saw a film titled, "Man in the Wilderness" (1971), which I still remember. "The Revenant" is based upon the same story (also titled "The Revenant," but written nearly 30-years after "Man in the Wilderness" was filmed). Of the two, the latter is *way* more spectacular, and - from what I remember - just plain better: a lot, lot, lot better. Leonard DiCaprio's performance won him an Academy Award for Best Actor, and from the other performances I've seen in 2015, it is fully deserved. Both DiCaprio and Supporting Actor Tom Hardy give two of the greatest performances I've ever seen in a single film - off the top of my head, I can't think of one movie with two better performances. "Midnight Cowboy," maybe, or "Rush?" If you enjoy films dealing with the human struggle to survive against all odds (and don't mind a bit, okay, a *lot* of graphic oomph), you'll really like "The Revenant" - it's not condescending at all. It even mentions Pawnee! Is Emmanuel Lubezki the best Cinematographer in the world? Don't be so sure he's not. Unless you've seen the film, you'll have no idea what this is, but it's a clear homage to prehistoric cave art, and just a beautiful shot: How good is "The Revenant?" I'm going to try and find, and watch, "Man in the Wilderness" - right now, knowing full well that I'm going to be disappointed. And there's no way that "Spotlight" - good as it was - should have taken Best Picture honors from "The Revenant." --- ETA - Make sure to watch "Man in the Wilderness" *afterwards*, and don't make the mistake of assuming that "The Bear" scene will be any less troubling.
I had heard of "Ex Machina," but knew absolutely nothing about it before a couple of nights ago - released in 2015, it won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects - considering it was a relatively low-budget, independent, science-fiction film, it's pretty remarkable that it didn't come across as low-budget (it didn't come across as high-budget either; it fell somewhere in the middle). Made for $15 million, it beat out such films as "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" ($250 million) and "Mad Max: Fury Road" ($150 million) - this alone is remarkable. Writer-Director Alex Garland also received an Academy Award Nomination for Best Original Screenplay, justifiably losing to the fine "Spotlight" - I suspect that, in this category, the crew took a "just happy to be here" attitude. I don't write plot summaries here - my time is too limited, and there are too many other fine websites that handle that task with aplomb; instead, I make whatever observations come to mind, and that I think people may find interesting or relevant. If you read past this point, I'm assuming you've already seen the film (don't forget, this is a discussion website). As a side note, if you've never heard "Deus ex Machina" pronounced before, the words sound like 1) Ama"deus" 2) "x" 3) "Mach" V + "eena," with the accent on Mach. As for Racer X, I did not ask him his opinion. *** SPOILERS FOLLOW *** The setting, in God-knows-what remote part of Alaska, Canada, or Siberia - as well as the role of Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac) - both come across to me as silly. I don't care how smart or rich someone is - they don't own half the world, and have the knowledge to out-think all of humanity by themselves. Isaac played his part poorly, although he was in a no-win situation: Think, for a moment, how inane it is for him to have built a company which handles 94% of all internet searches, *as well as* having the technical intelligence and knowledge to make world-changing breakthroughs (you can be mega-rich, or mega-educated; never are you both, at least not to *this* extent. (Bateman wasn't even very old, yet he made Bill Gates look like a mentally impaired panhandler.) Furthermore, his character was not that far removed from that of a frat boy - I can see this as a satire or farce, but it was intended to be neither, and that's why it falls flat: not short, but flat. I do applaud it for taking a Mickey Mantle-like swing for the fences (that took guts, and I admire it), but it whiffed in a way that could have turbine-powered the entire Bronx on a hot summer day. The computer, Ava - deliciously played by Alicia Vikander, and undoubtedly stoking techno-nerd fantasies they didn't even realize they had - was supposed to pass what's known as a "Turing Test," theorized by tera-genius Alan Turing in 1950, which basically says that if a human interacts with a computer, but thinks they're interacting with another human, then the computer passes the Turing Test. Recall also that Alan Turing, whose work I studied more than any other individual's while in graduate school, was the subject of the fine 2014 biopic, "The Imitation Game" (it just this second popped into my head that "The Imitation Game" also alludes to a gay person staying in the closet, imitating someone who's straight, but that bit of mental numbness is my problem, and can be openly (sorry) discussed in The Imitation Game's thread). I mention the content of the preceding paragraph because at the very end of the film, Ava did indeed pass the Turing Test, as she obviously convinced the helicopter pilot (as well as pedestrians at the intersection) that she was human - I suspect most people are so wigged out by the film's finale that they miss this subtle-but-important point. This was essentially a four-person script, with "test subject" Caleb Smith (played more than adequately by Domhnall Gleeson), and in a lesser role than the other three, the "other" robot, Kyoko (played very well, and with respect for subtlety and nuance, by Sonoya Mizuno). You really need to turn your mind off to enjoy Ex Machina, as the fundamental premise, including the setting and the personality of Bateman, are so improbable that you'll pull your hair out if you question it, so it will help your emotional stability if you accept this in advance - but then again, you aren't supposed to be reading this until you've finished the film. On a related note, a friend of mine gave me a copy of Joseph Heller's "Catch 22" just this afternoon. On an unrelated note, it's somewhat disturbing that "Portnoy's Complaint" just popped into my mind. Admit it: You had the hots for Ava, and you feel somewhat conflicted. Just admit it. Do.
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