The last two films I have seen have both been rather sad for this joyful season. Yet, one inspires while the other disgusts. One is about hard decision- making and self -sacrifice that succeed for mankind, while the other is about self- serving image -making that fails for all. Both are based on true stories. “The Foxcatcher” works as acting platforms for Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo,Channing Tatum and Vanessa Redgrave. All are extremely good. Carell ,as the silver-spooned John E. du Pont with mommy problems, builds tension as he hopes to “stun the world” & “see this country soar”! Carell looks like du Pont here for he never smiles. He is pompous,delusional and well—murderous. Seeking maternal approval is his obsession. In one scene,he frees her beloved horses ,a spiteful attempt to get back at her for the love that was withheld him. He is drug addled and vindictive. “Foxcatcher” is a “downer” emotionally.
Mark Ruffalo does his own wrestling as the Olympic Gold Medal winner,Dave Shultz. He
portrays a depth of character that while showing blood & spit on the mat,oozes familial warmth
and devotion in his priorities. “I’m your bother. I love you.” He tries to “game” the du Pont dynasty, while letting his unhappy brother leave.Channing Tatum as the younger Mark Shultz, has a simian walk that plays well. He butts mirrors, smashes lamps,cries & slobbers and hits himself. A sexual tension Is hinted, but the reasons for the gorging, self-abuse is not well understood.
Du Pont tells him “I want your brother Dave,you ungrateful ape!” But sibling rivalry hardly seems reason enough for Mark’s drug use & breakdown. “I don’t need your help. I’m doing this on my own.” has been heard by many an older sibling. Du Pont ‘s voice is the one we hear, “little brother living in your brother’s shadow.” It is the “Golden Eagle” who taunts Mark to distance himself. (Yet any homosexual encounters were denied off film by Mark.) Vanessa Redgrave rolls in in a wheelchair and John pontificates. She tells him his sport is “low”! Wrestling beneathe him. She is the great spoiler.Redgrave can steal a scene like no other.
If you like oiled muscles,crazed philanthropists and cocaine snorters who write their own press releases this may be fun to see. The fact that this is a true tale of almost Greek proportions hits the hardest.
“The Imitation Game” is a perfect movie, choreographed like a harrowing ballet. It is emotionally satisfying and cinematically beautiful, easing into close-ups & fading backdrops. This film,too, is a bi-op, but Alan Mathison Turing’s story brings tears to one’s eyes for another reason. Sure the ego is all present,but this code breaker shortened World War Two and saved millions of lives instead of snuffing out one. Unlike “The Foxcatcher”, ruthless private power is not portrayed. Stellar Cambridge intelligence work powers the overthrow of Hitler,instead.
The film begins with Sir Stewart Menzies, Britain’s spy chief, heading up MI6 & hiring the clever, rude and humorless Turing. Benedict Cumberbatch is impeccable ,and I predict will win an Oscar for this performance. As a marathon runner, as a “pouff”, as a genius crypto-analyst..he hits above the mark with each eye glance and facial twinge.
Seeing this film may help right an injustice,heal the suffering thrown on homosexuals, and support the underdog with the inspirational refrain:”Sometimes, it is the people no one imagines anything of ,who do the things that no one imagines.”
Norwegian director Morten Tyldum takes us through the 1930’s & 1940’s with just the right details to evoke the times, the schools, and Manchester, England. Alexandre Desplat’s score is redolent & memorable. I may have to buy the sound track. Kiera Knightley amidst The Bletchley Park environs is feminism for the ages. I loved her in this supporting role.
The naming of the “the Turning Machine” ,Christopher, was one of the saddest commentaries on the persecution of alternate life styles. When the young Alan is called to the headmaster’s office and is told of his only friend’s death, his “I don’t understand” means the opposite. I don’t wish to believe that Alan Turing himself committed suicide or that hormone therapy was once seen as a cure,or that one enigma solved kept him imprisoned in another. Yet, this masterful movie makes one deal with all that is personal and communal. Saboteurs and Russian espionage are dealt with in the history of the times. Cairncross and Churchill, secrets and treason,and the long view are here to be understood and celebrated. Self- sacrifice & intelligence is rewarded finally by the awe the audience showed as the credits rolled by. Exquisite.