The Dig: Back in 1939, in Suffolk Britain, northeast of London, the country was preparing for war. A well to do woman (played by Carey Mulligan) and her young son have an estate where they would like to do some excavating to explore mounds on their property. Mom decides to enlist the services of an accomplished digger to do the job. In this true story, what they find changes the perception of Anglo-Saxons forever. It was called one of the most important archeological finds in the UK. There is a boat uncovered and also a burial find. It is a simple story, with the elder digger dealing with the elements, limited resources and pressure to engage in a more well known site. The digger is played by Ralph Fiennes and he is very effective. It was interesting to note that the British Museum tries to take over the project and some legal decisions are undertaken (as to who owns the find) and who is in charge of the dig itself. There is some drama amongst workers which isn’t entirely surprising. In the end, I was glad to have watched and learned about this patch of history. I generally am not a big Carey Mulligan fan, and I am not entirely sure why (maybe it was The Great Gatsby) but she wasn’t overly distracting. She is in Promising Young Woman that is on my list of films to check out.
In a year when it has been pretty lean, with very few memorable films and performances I can say that The Father, was a memorable one. Based on a play, it stars Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman. Both Oscar winners. Both making this memorable. Beyond A Beautiful Mind, I am hard pressed to think of another movie that gives you insight into the mind of the principal character. In this case, Hopkins plays an aging engineer in London, who is struggling. His daughter, Colman, is struggling with him and doing her best to try and care for him as he becomes more challenging. He of course thinks that he is capable of taking care of himself. Meanwhile there are different moments in time that jump around, swirling in his mind and before him. This isn’t easy to watch. But then again, aging and getting older isn’t for the feint of heart. Rather it is grueling and painful. Frustrating and maddening. Where once you are independent with full faculties, to slowly becoming dependent and forgetting as much as you remember. Hopkins should win the Oscar for this performance. He manages to personify all of the emotions. You sympathize for him, and share in his pain. You better understand his anger and cringe at some of the things that he says. Worth watching. One of the better films of the year. Anyone who is aging, like me, and has older parents can relate to the struggles. Even simple stories of the everyday carry emotional impacts. Needless to say, this movie was before Covid-19, but the same story could be told now with the lens of having to deal with isolation, fear of death from exposure to others etc.
Dead Poets Society: I spoke about Ethan Hawke last week in his film Stockholm, and how he has taken on all these varied roles in the more recent past. In 1989, this was one of his first roles. The now 50 yo actor then was only 19, but he looked younger. This is a really good movie, directed by Peter Weir. Weir has also done Witness, Master and Commander, The Truman Show and Green Card. I have seen them all. It was really good to see Robin Williams again. He plays a young English teacher at an American boys prep school, and he is looking to expand his students’ minds and have them think more critically. He also wants them to recognize that English (stories and plays) are about feelings and emotions; the things that make life worth living. Accounting and engineering are good for professions, but these stories are about human interaction. He wants them to “seize the day”. The boys have varying ambitions and take to the lessons in different ways. Each of these are interesting to see as they play out. Williams’ teaching style is very different than those of the more established colleagues. Stories play themselves out, and you can see the boys spreading their wings. For Hawke, he had to overcome being painfully shy and speaking publicly. This is a movie that can show the value of a good teacher and how the lives of young people can be shaped. These days students would long for the classroom as shown in the movie, and teaching has become more of an online activity. It doesn’t take away from the importance of what is being done, and how new views can shape actions for the next generation.