It (was) Friday, Friday!

Slavery by Another Name – There were a lot of components of this film that bothered me and unfortunately, I don’t think that Slavery by Another Name did justice to the subject of legal and economic slavery following the Civil War.  This could have been a nice follow-up chapter to Ken Burns’s Civil War (indeed, it set itself up as such by using some recognizable music from the latter), but fell so, so short in my opinion.

I found it difficult to keep track of the individual stories chronicled and don’t think that they were the best selections for illustrating the legal and social timeline that was supposedly documented.  It was quite jumbled (but in the film’s defense, my exhaustion may have contributed to this impression.)

One interviewee acknowledged that this period was brutal socially but made perfect economic sense.  This was one of the more interesting moments in the film because this conflict between social justice/opportunity/etc. and economic interests continues today.  Many parallels can be drawn between the “threat” freed blacks posed to whites – both the poor competing for jobs and the powerful rich – after the Civil War and hispanic immigrants today.

But there were some little annoyances, like the mismatched fonts used for quotes versus names of speakers.  And I thought the reenactments were hokey.  And the ending seemed abrupt; while it wasn’t entirely neglected, I think I expected to hear more about how current social norms descend from this time period.  I’m pretty sure this has been my least favorite film this year.  But maybe it will still be effective for a high school history class.  [ETA: apparently this got a standing ovation in Park City. Hm.]

The Surrogate – I was initially planning to pointedly avoid this film because the subject matter seemed so not up my alley.  A physically disabled man hiring a sex surrogate?  Um…

After hearing the buzz surrounding The Surrogate, directed by Ben Lewin, though, I decided to give it a try and was pleasantly surprised.  Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes) confronts life with humor and hard work but does have his own demons that the sex surrogate, Cheryl (Helen Hunt), recognizes and helps to fight off.  This film is both a testament to all of the people, women in particular, who love and support Mark and the richness of spirit that he shares with others.  One of my favorite moments was when Mark’s priest and friend, played by William Macy (love!), tells him to “go for it” (doing the deed, that is) during a confession of sorts in the church.

The Surrogate displayed, like many other films I have seen this year, a skilled balance of humor and poignancy, but with the addition of a liberal dose of nudity.  The cast is fabulous.  John Hawkes shows his mastery in yet again – I’ve yet to be disappointed by one of his Sundance performances.  If you’re interested, here‘s an interview with him in the Wall Street Journal.  The Surrogate may not in my top 3, but is definitely recommended.

The Raid – This was badass, no mincing words about it.  I don’t usually watch action films like this, but the story line didn’t seem half bad either, following the annihilation of a SWAT team on a off-the-grid mission to take down a drug lord.  There’s even some police corruption and familial strife squeezed in – on one hand, absolutely essential to giving the audience a breather of sorts, but on the other hand, impressive (and impressively well integrated) for a film so jam-packed.

But really, the action was the reason why the theater was absolutely packed at midnight (I even met a group of guys who flew in from San Diego just to see this movie!) and it did not disappoint.  The director (Gareth Evans), the actors, whoever the designed these epic fight scenes, all contributed to make what has been termed “the best action movie in years.”  The hand-to-hand combat was insane.

This movie will be released in March in the US and I definitely recommend getting to see the original before a remake is done.  And if you want to see more, I’ve embedded the trailer below and here’s a link to the director’s blog.

The Raid Trailer v.2 from Merantau Films on Vimeo.

I’ll be back later with updates from the previous few days!  I’ve been slacking!

~Nan

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