Sunday, June 03, 2012

My Week of Movie Watching

Boomerang – Mainly true story by Elia Kazan about how a straight-arrow attorney (Dana Andrews) tries the case of a man (Arthur Kennedy) accused of murdering a popular priest. Boomerang is promising for a good portion of its running time, as the film lays out the drama about the townspeople pressuring the authorities to find someone – ANYONE – to pin the murder on. However, when the action settles down into the courtroom, things peeter out, because we get all the same cinematic courtroom tricks that we’ve seen a hundred times. Thus, I can’t quite recommend it.  Lee J Cobb has a good little role as a hard-bitten police captain, and Karl Malden has an uncredited turn as a detective.

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner – Another “Angry young man” film from Britain, this one from Tony Richardson.  Tom Courtenay stars as a youth confined to a tough reform school who finds a salve for his damaged life in cross-country running. The film shuffles scenes of life in the school with flashbacks to life on the outside for Courtenay’s Colin, and we see how his father’s illness and suspicious death and his mother’s taking up with a new man drive him into a poor decision. Colin is a filmic cousin of Albert Finneys’ Arthur from Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (which was set in Nottingham, like this movie)

Contact – When Roger Ebert wrote about Contact in his Great Movies series, he stated that it took place at the intersection of science, politics, and faith. That assessment is accurate, but it also points up the weak points of what is a pretty good movie. I really liked how the films story of a scientist (Jodie Foster) who receives a signal from another plant evolves into an examination about where God fits into the scientific equation. Fosters Elly is an atheist who lost both parents at a young age. Matthew McConaughey plays a religious writer who falls in love with her, even as they lock horns, and their scenes together are the strength of the film. There is one exchange where he stops her in her tracks with an argument that neither she nor us can see coming. The film sort of alludes to the possibility that Elly really does hope to find a heaven in the hopes of finding peace for her dead parents, and the climatic exchange with the alien race looks as much like heaven as anyone could hope to imagine. That is not lost on Elly, either. The film has faults, notably a supercilious US government official played by James Woods, who is taken directly from the handbook of evil movie bureaucrats. Still, I recommend it, because it tackles subject matter that Hollywood usually won’t touch with a ten foot pole.

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