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A Review of The Personal History of David Copperfield

Before I get to the review — let me first mention the whole experience. I haven’t been to a movie in so long I can’t remember what the last one I saw was? I’ve seen several at home, on demand, streaming, etcetera etcetera etcetera but not at the theater.

They’ve been closed. Boarded up. Not open.

But now they are open again. We ventured out yesterday, Labor Day, and watched The Personal History of David Copperfield. Our party of six were the only ones in the theater, felt like a private screening. We did not buy snacks, and I kept my mask on the whole time.

I was unsure of going because I have been super cautious. Had the theater been crowded I probably would have felt differently, but with just us, there was no real danger at all. Now to the movie:


I loved it. I have to admit some of my love may have been the sheer giddiness of being in a movie theater again, but I think I am able to separate those emotions. I loved the movie.

Hugh Laurie, Dev Patel, and Tilda Swinson–DONKEYS!

David Copperfield is my favorite Dickens book, and I was very afraid they would mess it up. It is a long book filled with marvelous characters that have complicated relationships. The movie compresses a lot of this, for understandable reasons, but it perfectly captures the spirit of the book. Yes, they truncated Clara and really didn’t make Uriah Heep as awful as he was in the novel, but the feel of the book is there. Actually, none of the bad guys are as bad as they are in novel — not his stepfather, not his step-aunt Mrs. Murdstone, and not Steerforth, either. The movie softens all of those a bit. Perhaps that is because Dickens is so brutal.

My favorite part of the novel was the house with David’s Aunt, Mr. Dick, Janet, and the donkeys. I still remember laughing out loud when reading those parts and having Aunt Betsey shout, “What the Deuce?” Janet is reduced to mere ‘servant’ in the movie, but the feeling of that house is spot on. Mr. Dick, portrayed by Hugh Laurie, should be nominated for best supporting actor. He is amazing, as is Peter Capaldi as Mr. Micawber.

A decision was made to cast the movie completely multicultural regardless of part. All of those white British people being played by people of color who have white children or visa versa is refreshing. That is a choice that fits Dickens zeitgeist of social justice and calling into light the problems of the day. I adored Dev Patel’s performance as David. He seemed perfect for that role (as he seemed to be for Saroo in Lion — a movie that didn’t get proper respect, IMHO).

The movie is rated PG and is really safe for the whole family. I would like to see it nominated for best picture.

Lent Pictures–Lent Thoughts

Through the season of Lent I posted over thirty pictures to social media with quotations over the spiritual themes of Lent. It all started by accident. I wrote out in a red marker a quote I was reading from St. Augustine, and then the next day I wrote out another one not he white board and posted, and then a trend set in.

By that first weekend I had an idea of what I wanted to do. I outlined a pattern of Fridays being Bible verses, Saturdays would be song references, Thursdays would be inspiring quotes of Christian content, Tuesdays would be pop culture and literature references and Monday’s would be primarily theological in nature.

My method was to create the quote in an analogy way. Yes, it would be delivered digitally in the photograph, but I wanted it to be real items like paper, chalk, ink, wood. For the most part I succeeded in this. The one exception was to get a typewriter font I used my Mac, but it is actually printed on paper.

There were some quotes I intended to use but never did. For example, I intended to use a Brene Brown quote where she says, ‘Sometimes the bravest and most most important thing you can do is just show up.” I love the quote and have taught my children for yeas that 90% of success is just showing up. However, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis when we are encouraging people to stay home I decided that might send the wrong message and people might misunderstand that I was one of those misinformed and misguided people who think social distancing is a bunch of bunk. By contrast, I am a historian. I know full well the danger of a pandemic.

I also wanted to use a Stephen King quote I like — “Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes they win.” It is a good quote for Lent, but I just never got to it. Another one I wanted to use was “You can’t fight in the war room” from Dr. Strangelove but alas, it didn’t happen. I wanted to put up one day one of my favorite thoughts on Lent — “Why do they call it a fast when it goes so slow?”

Brene Brown, Anne Lamott, and James the Brother of Jesus got the most comments and likes.

I must admit I was surprised most of these didn’t get more attention. But who knows how the FB algorithms work, right? I’ll probably reuse them again next year, with perhaps a few more added in. Until then they are posted here for you to peruse, or if you want swipe them and post them to your page. I don’t care. These were my arts and crafts projects for the spring.

2020 Best Picture Nominees

The pressure has been real this year. The Oscars are two weeks earlier than normal, which means I had two fewer weeks to watch them all. But I did it. I watched all the best picture nominees. Here is my rundown of the nominees and a brief review and then I’ll give you my picks for the major categories.

1917

This is great film, but not for the feint of heart. As a historian, I found it captured much of the idiocy of World War I. Troops fighting endless offensives and defensives to secure eighteen inches of territory all the while starving to death as their feet rot off. The only thing missing was nerve gas. It was a stupid war fought in a stupid way, and the movie captures that desperate senselessness. There are a lot of symbolic moments, but what will stay with you is the editing — the long uncut scenes — which give you a powerful sense of being in the middle of the action.

When I left the theater I wanted to drink a glass of milk and cry.

Ford v Ferrari

The sound of this movie is still in my ears. I’m not a car person, and car racing is even more of a foreign concept, but this movie made me want to buy a new fast car and then watch racing nonstop. The performances were spectacular, and the second greatest travesty of the Oscar season was Christian Bale did not get nominated for best actor.

Joker

I didn’t like this movie as much as most people. In its effort to be fresh and original, I think it muddied the waters on a familiar narrative. For example, If I’m seeing it right, The Joker is way older than Batman, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. There are other problems for me, including one that seems cliche but to mention it would be a great spoiler so I’ll leave it there.

As an aside, I think this movie does harm to the view of mental illness. Mentally ill people are not homicidal or violent. Yes, there are violent people in this world who do horrible, terrible things but this movie draws too thick of a line between violent rages and mental illness. The best thing this film does, however, is capture the icky feeling of the late 70s and early 80s.

Once Upon A Time in Hollywood

This movie should not have been nominated and it is not worthy of mentioning along with these other outstanding films. Is it funny? At times. Is it interesting? At times. Is the acting good? At times. The only reason, though, this film has any mentions is because Quentin Tarantino made it AND Leo and Brad are in it AND it is about Hollywood. Hollywood is completely infatuated with itself.

When I left the theater back in the summer when it came out, I was mumbling to myself, “You can do that once, QT, but you can’t do it again.”

Parasite

My baseline review of this movie: It starts out as Korean Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Finishes as Helter Skelter. The performances were outstanding and the story was well told. There are some editing issues and pacing problems, but the brilliance of the way the story uses issues like smell and social expectations make up for those problems.

This movie is social commentary through and through and by the end you will ask yourself who is the parasite and who is really violent. I also asked myself what was real in the movie. It is this year’s “Get Out”.

The Irishman

I hated this movie. It is three hours of self-indulgent cliche. It is a crime against storytelling this movie was nominated.

Little Women

The best scene in this movie is when the old rich neighbor (Chris Cooper) sits on the stairs and listens to Beth play the piano. That scene alone earns this movie a spot on the nominees list, and if it doesn’t melt your heart then you need to check and make sure you have one. The acting, with the exception of Emma Watson, is so very good. Saoirse Ronan is quite simply one of the finest actresses of all time.

Jojo Rabbit

I was not expecting to like this movie because the premise sounded absurd. However, I was wrong. This movie was at times delightful and laugh-out-loud funny and then it turns and kicks you in the gut. The plot is not really great, but it is a stunning character piece. And Sam Rockwell. Sam Rockwell is a national treasure.

Marriage Story

There are times when I loved this movie and times when I hated it. It does a great job of eliciting emotions, and the acting is impeccable. What I wish was something less formulaic and less done than a divorce and custody battle for Scarlett and Adam (notice how I feel like I know them so well I can just use their first names) to work with. Those two make the movie, and I don’t begrudge them their nominations in acting categories. However, overall I think the movie is uneven and, as I said, the theme is overdone. I liked this movie the first time I saw it when it as called Kramer vs Kramer.


Predictions

Best picture: The most likely winner is 1917. From start to finish it is the best movie with the highest overall quality. However, I think Ford v Ferrari has a punchers chance. The outside long shot is Jojo Rabbit.

Actor In A Leading Role: I would like for it to be Tom Hanks, but he wasn’t nominated. My second pick wold be Christian Bale, but he wasn’t nominated either. My third pick would be Jonathan Pryce because The Two Popes was soooooo gooooooood. However, the winner will be Joaquin Phoenix.

Actor In A Supporting Role: The winner is Tom Hanks. I would have liked for Chris Cooper to have gotten a nomination and maybe even Alan Alda but all the slots had to go to mobsters and Hollywood.

Actress In A Leading Role: Renee Zellwegger will win for her outstanding performance in Judy. However, we all know the wrong person won this last year so you never know. If Cynthia Erivo wins that will be fine with me. Harriet was a great movie.

Actress In A Supporting Role: This is a toss up for me. I have not seen Bombshell or Richard Jewell, and apparently neither have many other people, so my pick here is limited. I feel like Scarlett fatigue might keep her from winning, so I lean toward Laura Dern. Yeah, I’m picking Laura Dern. But the winner should be Ana de Armas from Knives Out. Her snubbing is a tragedy.

Animated Feature Film: I never pick the right one, but How To Train Your Dragon made me and Mrs. Greenbean both cry. So there.

Directing: Sam Mendes is a lock.

Original Score: I’ve listened to them all and . . no bias here . . . the best music is Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker. It should win.

Original Song: Stand Up from Harriet.

Original Screenplay: I’d like for Knives Out to win, but it will be Parasite.


Before I leave, a word about Mr. Rogers. Oscar must hate Mr. Rogers. Last year it snubbed the outstanding documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” and this year the film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” should have been nominated for best picture and director (Marielle Heller) and Hanks should have gotten a best actor nod. But no. Oscar hates Mr. Rogers.

Frozen Ferrari Fred Whodunit

Other than the fact “Ferrari Fred” sounds like the name of a character in a bad Stephen King novel, what am I talking about with this crazy blog title? I WENT TO THE MOVIES, that is what I’m talking about.

Over the long Thanksgiving weekend we saw the four hot movies out right now, and they were all wonderful in their own way. No, they are not all for everyone, but they are all wonderful. I will take them in the order I saw them.

Ford v Ferrari

Everything about this movie was near perfection. The story was tight, the dialogue was crisp and memorable, the imagery was iconic, and the sound and sights of those beautiful cars was spectacular. Even if you don’t like cars, you’ll like the movie and if you like cars, you’ll love the movie. Christian Bale will get a best actor nomination and the movie will get a best picture nomination. It has some language in it, so you might want to keep the kiddos away, but there is no violence or pornographic material.

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Movies usually entertain. Sometimes they inspire. Sometimes they mesmerize. This movie affirms humanity and the possibilities for making the world a better place. Shot in the same style as the old Mr. Rogers Neighborhood television show, it usher you into a different world from the very beginning. Yet this movie is not really about Mr. Rogers as much as it is the journalist covering him, but at the same time it really is. The main character, Lloyd, is changed by Mr. Rogers. Tom Hanks will get a nod for best actor and the movie should be a top contender for best picture.

As an aside, I also recommend you watch the outstanding documentary about Mr. Rogers. Click here to read what I wrote about that.

Frozen II

All four of us enjoyed it and so can your entire family. The music is very good, but the emotions are what steal the show. There is one particular moment when Anna is everyone of us — fighting to keep up hope in a lonely and dark world. I liked this movie more than the first one, probably because of the heavy Tolkien influence on the story. I’m serious. If Olaf is viewed as a happy shiny Gollum, Elsa as Gandalf, Anna as Frodo/Aragorn, Sven and Kristoff become hobbits then the journey parallels nicely.

Aside from this, it is easy to see the motif of the movie — a needed restoration and reconciliation between indigenous peoples and those who exploited and took from them. It’s a good message.

Knives Out

This one surprised me. I didn’t expect to like it so much, but man was it fun. Nothing will be nominated from this movie, and there will be no awards for it but it is fun. Here was my take away on this movie: Knives Out is the Thanksgiving movie America needed but didn’t know it needed. Besides, it’s got Captain America, James Bond, half of Miami Vice, and Captain Von Trapp, and Halloween! There is a lot of star power here, but Ana de Armas steals the show as Marta.

There is a lot of language and one particular violent moment, but no nudie bits. Perfect for adults who want to slurp soda and enjoy themselves.