I like Edward Norton, always have from the moment he burst onto the scene in his breakout performance in 1996 with Richard Gere in Primal Fear. It earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee. Now at 50yo, he has had some hits and misses. I wish he would work more. He has decided in 2019 to write, direct and star in Motherless Brooklyn. Set in the 50s, it begins with Bruce Willis portraying a private detective who is looking for backup in an upcoming business meeting. The backup are his two underlings in his detective agency, one played by Norton, who has an excellent memory for detail but also a version of Tourette Syndrome. Now Norton has played a character with a challenge before, notably in the excellent and underviewed The Score with Robert De Niro. Here Norton has this affliction, which he can’t control. It adds some humour every now and then (like with the waitress at a bar) but generally becomes a distraction as it pops up randomly. The plot deals with corruption at a municipal level with New York City. Alec Baldwin plays the head of the Bridge Authority who is head of Parks and Bridges, but also given a new appointment as the cleaner of “slums”. You must pay attention to the plot, but it is also predictable with some characters, like Willis’ wife. In the end, this is longer than it should be (about 20 minutes). Other characters like Willem Dafoe add some intrigue, as well as the presence of the female lead looking into the “relocation” aspects but there are various other tangents. Have we seen other stories about corruption in a city? Absolutely. Baldwin plays the bad guy well as he usually does. He has a group of cronies around him strong arming those who put up a battle against his plans. There is a speech late by Baldwin where you hear about the building of Central Park back in the day. He translates this into the activities that he is currently taking. I can’t recommend this, even though I like the cast (save Willis).
I also watched Harriet, and this stars the ever-rising Cynthia Erivo (who excelled in The Outsider.) Harriet Tubman was one of the few women involved in the freedom of slaves from the South to the North, like she had freed herself earlier. With assistance, she managed to walk from her home in South Carolina. The fact that she decided to turn around and make run after run getting hundreds out. The true story is compelling and an extraordinary tale of someone committed to freedom. Her freedom, and the lives of others like her. This movie resonates more now than it did at the time of its initial release (2019). Everything really has changed (in truth to be determined), and the hope is that the country which regards itself as the home of freedom (even though it allowed slavery to continue in its Declaration of Independence in 1776, written by slave owner Thomas Jefferson) can find ways to make strides towards true “equal treatment under the law”. But disregarding the wider big picture for the moment in present day, the movie is a quality performance from an actress who garnered an Oscar nomination for this role. Sadly Renee Zellwegger won the award, but this is a worthy performance. Erivo is English, and that may have raised some eyebrows, but it shouldn’t. She provided an excellent performance of the woman who deserves to have more recognition and notoriety. People like her, I think, would applaud the efforts now 150 years later to find that freedom the founding fathers were seeking to begin with.
I have begun watching the Starz series Manhattan (2014) which dramatizes the race to build the atomic bomb. Manhattan refers to the Manhattan Project led by Dr Oppenheimer. The bombs created and dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan to end the war in the Pacific. The bombs themselves were nicknamed “Fat Man” and “Little Boy”. I had not realized that these were two different types of bombs; one was an implosion bomb, the other was uranium gun-type bomb. The two types were created by different teams within the Manhattan campus. There is plenty of drama surrounding the people within this campus. Think of it like The Imitation Game with much personal drama and relationships along with the challenges of creating new under the veil of secrecy. Rachel Brosnahan stars (before her memorable time in House of Cards, and then The Marvelous Mrs Maisel) and she is really good in all the roles that I have seen her. Also starring a much older looking Daniel Stern (from Home Alone, and voiceover in Wonder Years). It is longer than it should be at times (I am on episode 11 of season 1) and there is more to come. They haven’t even made a bomb yet, as they are still trying to figure out how implosion works. Issues like being gay, lesbianism, espionage, Jewish etc are all covered. I will continue to watch. It’s not as good as The Imitation Game but then again not many things really are.