December 1st, 2014

Life in the Old West was hard.  It was especially hard for women.   Full stop.  Roll credits.

These two statements could sum up what took Tommy Lee Jones two hours to explore and state in the movie The Homesman.   For all he has claimed to have learned from working with Clint Eastwood on other films (like Unforgiven and Space Cowboys) may I state categorically, and borrowing heavily from Ronald Reagan, “Mr Lee Jones, you are no Clint Eastwood…”  Stick to acting, and stay away from screenwriting especially.

This is a dark, slow and tiresome story that enlightens somewhat in showing the Old West for what it probably really was moreso than the Hollywood glamourization of it in other films.    Yet, oh man, it is painful to watch.

Here we have a small town (and town is being generous) in rural Nebraska.   For various reasons three of the local women folk have lost their minds.   “Somebody” has to take them to a place in Iowa, so they can seek help.   Turns out, the only somebody who has the cajones to ante up is a single woman.  Played by double Oscar winner, Hillary Swank, she is a straight laced, practical and no nonsense woman.  Single. “Bossy”.  Living and working a farm that could be a ‘family farm’ but that is not clear.    My main objection about her is the premise, since as a woman in the 1800s, she did not have any legal standing and could certainly not own land.   She seeks a husband and looks for any bloke that breathes to fill that role but she is unsuccessful.   She volunteers to assist these women who need a driver.

Off she goes in a paddy wagon and gets the women.   Then she adds, by happenstance, Tommy Lee Jones, who is a little wacky himself but he would be the Homesman who assists with horses, directions and keeping the women in line.  There is a journey.  Long and hard.   Tough weather.   For days, and days.   Not much happens.   And then a little more doesn’t happen.    Then the plot turns and ultimately the destination is reached.   There is an interesting side story with Lee Jones finding himself some food with a side order of revenge with an innkeeper but otherwise that is it.

Even as a character story and not about the plot, I am not engaged.    I care about and have some sympathy for the Swank character.    I have sympathy for ANYONE who lived in that time, and in that place.   I certainly could not live then or there.   Yet, I don’t really feel the need to experience it for more than ten minutes.   Nor spend two hours with these people, who are in one form or another a little crazy.

I do not understand the 3 ½ star review from ebert.com.    And even though I saw this rather than Horrible Bosses, I really wish I had seen Birdman or Foxcatcher instead.   I struggle with the buzz over this film and it would be a great surprise to me to have any of these fine actors nominated for what was a forgettable film for me.  Meryl I have to expect you took on this role to give your daughter (one of the three crazy women) another role.

Incidentally, I also rented Sin City: Dame to Kill For and it was (generally) pretty to look at but also more of a pointless exercise.   This is a loose sequel to the previous film, which was better and you see Bruce Willis more in dream sequences.  Talent like Rosario Dawson is mostly wasted while Powers Boothe is likely the best.  Others like Joseph Gordon Levitt is wasted and Mickey Rourke.   I cannot in good conscience say anything negative about Eva Green as she is for the most part topless in her time on screen – but she plays a highly manipulative women who deserves all that she gets.   In the end it was FREE, as it was a Thursday promo event at RedBox….free movie every Thursday.   So I was only out my time.

I also watched Maleficent and enjoyed this more than I expected to;  expectations can be a marvelous thing.   I had heard that the CGI was excellent but the story only so-so.   I agree with the CGI, especially in the fairy world.   As for the story, I liked the take that they spun here and the journey is goes on.   The actress who plays the princess to me was a little wrong for it – but she interacted well with Angie.   I cared about the people.   Funny that buddy from District 9, where he was a hero is playing a baddie now (like with Elysium with Maaaaaatt Daaaamon).   I always found the animation and the story surrounding Disney’s Sleeping Beauty was weak.  Here gives it more colour and more context to better understand the motivations of the characters.    In all, a much more enjoyable evening in front of the TV than Sin City.
Finally I decided to re-watch 2001: A Space Odyssey given my recent experience with Interstellar.   I can see where Nolan borrowed heavily from the look and feel of 2001 with the music and ballet around the moving spacecraft.   2001 leaves far more to the imagination and leaves you more puzzled.   There is less closure and more interpretation as to what it all really means.   Still it is an iconic film and still holds the test of time (remarkable in this day and age of CGI) and there are some stunning scenes.  I am glad that I own this film so that it can be re-visited time and again.
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