‘WAR HORSE’ WARNING FOR PARENTS FROM ORSON BEAN
Yesterday Orson emailed me a heads up for parents with respect to Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse,” which hits theatres Sunday. Some vague plot points are given away, so consider this a spoiler warning:
I would urge your readers not to take children to the Spielberg picture “War Horse.” The “horse in peril” stuff is deeply disturbing. At the advance preview my wife and I attended, we couldn’t watch bits of it, and upset people were walking out. I had seen the Broadway production in which the horses are portrayed by life-sized puppets, with four men working each horse puppet. It is one of the best productions I’ve ever seen. Within a few minutes, you don’t notice the people working the puppets. When the horses are caught on barbed wire, it is frightening. But since they are puppets, it is by no means too terrifying to watch, and it is also deeply moving as far as dramatizing the horrors of war.
But in the film, with apparently real horses in agony, it will give kids nightmares for weeks. The movie is being marketed as a family friendly affair, and indeed, the first half of it is reminiscent of “Lassie Come Home.” Then there is a sudden switch, with sections as intense as the opening of “Saving Private Ryan.”
I can’t imagine what Spielberg was thinking of. Anyone who could possibly enjoy the second half, would be turned off like crazy by the first half.
Good to know. Nothing I’ve seen in the promotion, other than the PG-13 rating, even hints at any of this.
THIS JUST IN FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF NO SHIT: ‘HIGH PRICES FOR LOW QUALITY FILMS KEEPING FAMILIES AWAY FROM THEATERS’
Some interesting numbers hidden in the obvious:
In fact movie attendance this year is expected to drop to its lowest in 16 years. …
Domestic movie attendance has plummeted since peaking at 1.6 billion in 2002 to what experts predict will be around 1.3 billion for 2011.
Hollywood might find a little relief this weekend. Thus far, the box office looks like it should at this time of year, though I suspect there will be a couple of high-profile films left without a chair when the music stops.
At least on paper, with “Dragon Tattoo,” “Sherlock Holmes 2,” “Chipmunks 3,” and two(!) Spielberg films, this should be one of the greatest Christmas weeks ever.
“I think that any time you have a new toy, people feel excited about it and then they overuse it. I remain interested in 3D but I’m not exactly convinced yet. What I’m more interested in is really high resolution, and really big screens.
“For me I don’t like the glasses so much, and it’s a little dark. I think people are forgetting about the power of a really sharp bright image on a really big screen.”
Gawd, I hate 3D. Hate the glasses and hate the fact that Hollywood uses the technology as a crutch. Hoping to create an immersive experience, they spend millions on this obnoxious technology instead of telling better stories.
I wouldn’t even consider seeing ‘MI:4’ in theatres if it was in 3D.
Here’s a taste. Read it all:
The film amounts to a celebration thrown by author Jonathan Safran Foer for an unbelievably obnoxious little genius meant to be a sweetly heartbreaking charmer. Instead of being the cause of daily horsewhippings with barbed wire as you would expect (and hope), the kid’s precocity is a source of wonderment to everyone around him (including an assortment of colorful minority peoples who are enchanted by his company as he goes around the city introducing himself, though occasionally white people are rude to him). The Islamofascist attacks of 9/11, which killed the kid’s father (Tom Hanks), are a sort of pickaxe Foer uses for attacking the tear ducts. I hated the kid and his nonstop efforts to convince us of his brilliance from the very beginning of the movie (even though we’re supposed to feel sorry for him) and my opinion of him sharply declined thereafter.
Smith’s colleague Lou Lumenick gives it one-star:
In the end, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” pulls out all the stops trying to put the audience through the emotional wringer. It’s Oscar-mongering of the most blunt and reprehensible sort.
Man, I don’t know what I’m going to do if I end up liking it.
But it’s an impossible role in an impossible movie that has no reason for being other than as another pop-culture palliative for a trauma it can’t bear to face. In truth, “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” isn’t about Sept. 11. It’s about the impulse to drain that day of its specificity and turn it into yet another wellspring of generic emotions: sadness, loneliness, happiness. This is how kitsch works. It exploits familiar images, be they puppies or babies — or, as in the case of this movie, the twin towers — and tries to make us feel good, even virtuous, simply about feeling. And, yes, you may cry, but when tears are milked as they are here, the truer response should be rage.
It’s amazing how television has become so fractured that 3.22 million viewers, or 1% of the overall population, is now considered a roaring success. Twenty years ago, “Cheers” was pulling in 21 million viewers.
When you consider how good so many cable shows are today, even though they pull in only a few million viewers, we should be relieved ratings are now graded on a curve or the cancellations would be legion.
LAST NIGHT’S SCREENING
The Gathering (1977) — A couple of years ago I counted down my top 25 favorite Christmas films and ranked this hard-to-find television movie at number seven. For some reason, the best Christmas film too few people have seen is only available on DVD via the Warner-Archives, which I watched for the first time last night. The print is gorgeous and includes a few moments that were not on my two decade-old VHS tape recorded so many Christmases ago. (You can also watch the complete film on YouTube — one of the best scenes is here.)
I don’t have much to add to my review linked above, but I will say that after many screenings, the film’s emotional punch never diminishes. Because of the circumstances and the skill of all those involved in the production, you dread the end of this moving reconciliation/reunion as much as any one of the characters participating in it.
I was also struck by how religious the story is. Even ten years ago, this isn’t something you would notice, because a film surrounding an openly Christian family was the norm, not a glaring exception. Watching it today within the context of a time when our faith is under assault and even the word “Christmas” itself has become controversial brings home not only how intolerant Hollywood has become, but how the loss of these themes has diminished the quality of modern-day storytelling.
In 1977, the National Education Association gave “The Gathering” a stamp of approval, something they would never do today — not that the film would have a chance of being produced by broadcast networks.
Trust me, this is one you want to own. Included in the package is the sequel, which, trust me again, you don’t want to waste your time on.
SCOTTDS’ EPIC LINKTACULAR
CLASSIC PICK FOR SATURDAY, DECEMBER 24
2:30 PM EST: Holiday Affair (1950) — A young widow is torn between a boring businessman and a romantic ne’er-do-well. Dir: Don Hartman Cast: Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh, Wendell Corey. BW-87 mins, TV-G. CC.
So many excellent holiday titles to choose from, but this underrated 1949 charmer (TCM’s date is wrong) is about as good as a Christmas film can get. At first glance, the love triangle looks fairly boilerplate, but if you look closer you’ll find some very big themes at work. Also, the fact that Wendell Corey (a die-hard conservative Republican, donchaknow) is cast as an uncommonly decent guy who suddenly finds himself in competition with Robert Mitchum for the luscious Janet Leigh, is a very nice touch.
Also, we lost Harry Morgan this year, and his one scene (which he steals completely) as a skeptical police sergeant is a howler.
More on my love affair with “A Holiday Affair” here.
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah, everyone! And I hope you intolerant crybabies offended by any of that have a good weekend.
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