All About Eve

We have this one in our movie jar, but since it was playing in the theaters as a special event, we decided to sneak it in before we get around to The Searchers and The Pianist. I am so glad we saw this on the big screen because it was gorgeous! This might be my first actual Bette Davis movie, and oh my! Such a fabulous movie! I must see everything Ms. Davis ever did, because she is incredible! Such fire, such venom, such wit! I am almost without words, so I will just leave this here…

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This movie presented in cooperation with “Booze and Cigarettes!” Enjoy some “Booze and Cigarettes” today!

The plot is told from many perspectives, and it is so juicy! I am going to assume that you haven’t seen it, and I don’t want to ruin any of the electric moments by over-explaining. Bette Davis plays Margo Channing, a star of the stage who longs to play meatier, more age-appropriate roles. She doesn’t appear old,  but she is more than aware that cramming her into 20 year old ingenue roles is becoming an embarrassment. I should mention, she has recently hit the advanced age of 40. Her boyfriend, and director, is 32.

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It occurs to me that referring to anyone having an affair with the fabulously vibrant Bette Davis as a “boyfriend” is a perfect example of why there needs to be a better word for adults who are having a sexual, committed relationship that does not include the words “boy” or “girl.” What an awful term to use in relation to Bette Davis.

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Marilyn Monroe had a small part in this film. She isn’t the devious Eve. She is a sexy, mostly untalented showgirl, trying to sleep her way into the world of acting. She was allowed to play much smarter about how things work than she often was in later roles.

A young woman enters the story, presented as the ultimate stage-door super-fan to Margo, after meeting Margo’s best friend, Karen. Karen is simply amazing. Her best friend is a heavy drinker with a venomous tongue, but she has known her long enough to see the softer side. Through this introduction, the young Eve ingratiates herself into the lives of Margo, and her friends.

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Eve is not as innocent as she initially appears, nor are her motives as pure. She has youth and beauty, but the movie leaves you guessing until the end if her sweetness can successfully snuff out the booze and cigarette soaked fire that Margo keeps so easily stoked in her relationships.

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Whew! Almost had a scene where there wasn’t at least one lit cigarette! That was a close one!

Everyone is brilliant, and witty. There are countless little clever comments that are meant to cut to the bone. I don’t really agree with the poster that this movie was “about women… and their men!” It felt much more to me a movie about comfortably aging, knowing who to trust, trusting your own judgement, and allowing people to see your weakness and fear as a source of great personal strength.

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It’s also about drinking vast quantities of booze, and leaving cigarettes all over the house in convenient, cunning little boxes. It’s about smoking while wearing white gloves, smoking in cars with all of the windows rolled up, smoking in airports, and smoking in dressing rooms. Smoking in bed. Smoking over dinner. Smoking over cocktails. Smoking on stairways. Smoking in meetings. Smoking on stage. Smoking whenever they were not in the process of swallowing booze.

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“WHY AREN’T WE SMOKING? There are four of us standing here, and not one of us is smoking! Someone get us a carton of Chesterfield’s and some matches! This is a cigarette emergency!”

 

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The Hurt Locker

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False Advertising. So typical.

There was only one locker shown in this entire movie, and it was just sort of standing in the corner, not hurting anyone. We kept asking, “Is the locker hurt? Did the locker hurt someone? Is that the Hurt Locker?” Sadly, no answers came.

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A literal “hurt locker.” This was not the hurt locker from the movie, but I am trying to do recon on the title without actually researching the title. 

Apparently, this movie won all the awards in 2010. It was a huge hit. IMDB tells me that director Kathryn Bigelow was the first female to ever win the Academy Award for Best Director. It also won Best Picture, and Best Screenplay, among other awards.

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Ouch! That hurts! 

I am still trying to figure out why. Clearly, we are smack-dab in the middle of a big “America, HELL, YEAH!” point in our history. We rabidly celebrate any movie that shows us fighting against people with brown skin who may or may not be insurgents. We love seeing people who may be Islamic getting blown up. We love the big-dick-swinging, rah-rah John Wayne, American Hero, militarized invasion images. We eat that pro-war crap up! That’s the only explanation I can come up with.

Besides the lack of lockers being hurt, or lockers hurting others, there was so much wrong with this movie.

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Are you the hurt locker? You look hurt. At the very least, you look in need of some serious repairs. I would not feel safe keeping my lunch inside of this locker.

First, our “hero” is an Explosive Ordnance Disposal tech (EOD) who has no regard for his team. He took a lot of foolish chances in his job. His team considers fragging him during his first week on the job. That’s not a good performance review. The EOD (I didn’t know anything about him, didn’t care about him as a person, so I never bothered to learn his name) was either an adrenaline junkie, suicidal, or just overcompensating for being a crappy human by taking increasingly stupid risks. We are never given any information about his true motivations. He never shares this with the team who he puts in danger, over and over again. He doesn’t share it with his wife. We don’t know why he reenlists for more danger, other than choosing cereal is not exciting, and babies are boring as hell.

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Why would anyone want to hurt these lockers?

The two men the EOD works with fare little better. They are at least wise enough to be terrified of his unnecessary risk-taking. But these are three men who signed up, volunteered, to be part of this war, and we never get a single sliver of their motivation. How do they feel about the war they are fighting?

There was no plot, merely a countdown of days left on the mission. The characters do not develop any depth. There is no movement forward. Maybe that is the whole point? War is pointless, and drives men mad?

I am at a loss. I didn’t like this movie at all. I will definitely forget I ever saw it. I already feel like it might have just been a first-person shooter video game that I saw someone playing.

Again, there were no lockers. I can’t forgive this blatant lie.

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Yikes! So much hurt in this locker!

 

Dances with Wolves

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“I had never really known who John Dunbar was. Perhaps because the name itself had no meaning. But as I heard my Sioux name being called over and over, I knew for the first time who I really was.”

I really love this movie. I saw it in the theater several times when it came out, and I am glad that Brian finally had to watch it with me. Whatever your thoughts about Kevin Costner’s acting ability, it’s incredible to see a movie about American Indians that portrays them as three dimensional characters, with the encroaching, genocidal whites invading their lands and destroying their culture, as the evil force we are/always have been.

Before I get to the movie itself, I have to say, I am not generally a fan of Westerns. I hate the idea that a “White Savior” is going to show up and save the day. In Western’s, white people are almost always portrayed as above the American Indian’s, looking down on their “simple” and “backward” ways. I hate movies clump all American Indians into one group, disregarding their vast experiences. So, I was primed to like a movie that showed the Westward-expanding whites as the murderous, destructive, evil force they have always been in the Native story of America.

So, Dances with Wolves. As the movie poster indicates, it won 7 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. And I believe they were well-earned. I read the book, which I also really enjoyed. It stayed fairly close to source material, but it was really amazing to see the vastness of this land and it’s people brought to life.

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Kevin Coster plays a Union Army lieutenant, John Dunbar, fresh from the battlefield. He requests a Western posting, wishing to “see the frontier, before it’s gone.” At his remote posting, he is watched, then cautiously met, and then brought into the lives of the Sioux tribe that has been observing him. He discovers a true love of the land, including the titular wolf who becomes his friend. The Sioux people teach Dunbar how to communicate, and they slowly begin learning about each other. Dunbar is aware of the need to stay true to “his” country, while realizing that the harmony, love, humor, and closeness he is developing with his new friends is where he truly belongs.

The first hour of the movie is told in many voice-overs, as John Dunbar writes in his journal. As he learns the ways of the Sioux people he comes to love, his life becomes less insular. As changes from an Army soldier to a Sioux husband, friend, and confidant, he learns their language, and leaves his solitary journey behind. But he knows what is coming. He knows the white men and their selfishness, their treachery, their lies and murderous ways. He and his new wife, a white woman who was taken in by the Sioux as a young child, realize they must leave their life behind to keep their Sioux family safe.

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Apparently, Neil Young provided a lot of these buffalo from his own ranch.

Truly, it is a beautiful movie. The buffalo hunting scene, actually, so many scenes, were just breathtaking. Even if you find Kevin Costner’s monotone voice distracting, watch this for Graham Greene’s portrayal of Kicking Bird, Rodney Grant as Wind in His Hair, and Floyd Red Crow Westerman as Ten Bears. Beautiful acting. This was also the first time many of us had seen Mary McDonnel, and it was unusual to see such an untouched woman on screen. She is amazing, and I loved how she showed so many emotions, so close to the surface.

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I am sure there are countless essays about what is incorrect and wrong about Dances with Wolves. I am quite certain that as a white person with no personal lens to view the genocide of the Native people on their own land, I am mistaking many scenes in this scene as good and right when they are offensive and incorrect toward the people they are supposed to be representing. I can see that. Native activist, Russell Means, reports that the language was all wrong, written in the  Lakota  female-gendered dialect, with all the male actors using the incorrect language. The “White Savior” narrative criticism is totally valid. But it is really the only Western I have ever seen that shows different tribes with different values. It showed their daily life, carrying water, tending to hides,teaching their children, being married. No stony-faced Natives, intent on scalping any white intruder on their land. Well….there were a few, but it was well placed within the story.

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Near the end of the movie, Ten Bears, the Chief of this tribe, said to Dunbar, “The white man the soldiers are looking for no longer exists. Now there is only a Sioux named Dances with Wolves.”

I think that Kevin Costner and this film deserved all of the accolades his movie received. He told a story that no one in Hollywood had ever tried to make. I doubt it could be made today. We have lost any desire to understand ourselves and the crimes perpetrated against non-whites. The crimes committed against the rightful owners of this land we call America reverberate today. There are no reparations we can make for the slaughter of an entire people. I see this movie as a small service to showing that although nearly all is lost, all is not forgotten.

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The titular scene. Literally Dancing with a Wolf.