Tag Archive: Clint Eastwood


 

Family Movie Night

by Karyn Bowman

With Memorial Day weekend quickly approaching, I know many people have thoughts about picnics or backyard cook outs.

Old CemeterySome will hang flags from their porches or display small flags in their yards. Others will remember to visit cemeteries to visit with loved one or attend small town ceremonies.

I always think about my grandmother, Ruth Day Weinhold, and wish I could get myself together enough to visit her grave site in Wheatland Township in Will County. Not too far away is the old Methodist graveyard where my great-grandmother, Susan Grill Weinhold, is buried.

However, Memorial Day was not meant originally for visiting our dead but to remember the military members who fell through various various wars. The holiday was first approved in 1868 by Gen. John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic as a way to honor those killed in the Civil War. But as the years passed and other wars took more young men, the holiday’ meaning was expanded. Red poppy flowers are now sold so we do remember them.

And we should. No matter what you may think of these various war, the rightness or the wrongness of it all, we should remember the veterans and help out in whatever way we can. Some were drafted; in the last thirty years it has been voluntary service. That does not matter. What should matter is that these men and women get the support they need for medical services, to find work after their service is done, and to live as all of us want to do.

Flags of Our FathersI thought about movies this week that was fitting for this topic. What I kept going back to time and again was a double feature by Clint Eastwood. Flags of My Father and Letters from Iwo Jima show the Pacific theater from WWII from two points of view.

The former tells the story of the men who raised the flag on Iwo Jima that is shown in the iconic photograph. It delves into the stories of three of those men, how they came back to do war bond tours only to have to return to the Pacific. We find out how each man’s life ended as well.

The second movie tells the Japanese side from the viewpoint of a general who visited America in the 20s and a young soldier who wants to stay alive so he can return to his wife. The General writes beautiful letters to his family but the heartbreak is there. He knows he will not be returning. The young man works to stay alive and eventually finds himself with the General.

Letters From Iwo JimaNeither movie shies away from the difficulties of war, neither is afraid to show how a man might loses his bearings and turn to alcohol to numb the pain or commit atrocious acts out of stressful frustration. Eastwood imbues each movie with a certain amount of grace and truth that stands up to repeat viewings. That is the sign of a brilliant director in my mind.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

 

Family Movie Night

 

By Karyn Bowman

 

While we are dealing with crazy weather, there is one constant that makes winter less bleak for me.

 

Baseball.

 

In mid-February, I do not know any sweeter words than “pitchers and catchers report.”

 

Bring on sub-zero temperatures, ice storms, and big thaws all in the same week. Bring on snow and rain and sleet because soon, very soon, the players will take the field in that spring ritual that leads us into a summertime of hope.

 

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball.”

 

Image by D. Harder

Image by D. Harder

James Earl Jones states this while telling Kevin Costner that people will pay money to come to his farm in the middle of Iowa and sit on the bleachers to watch a field. Perhaps they see the players, perhaps they don’t. But what Field of Dreams, the best baseball movie ever, seemed to understand is that baseball is the undercurrent of our lives. It connects us to other people whether we are a participant or observer.

 

Bull Durham is the absolute best baseball movie because while the game might be the setting, it is dreams that are found or lost that drives the plot.

 

Another baseball movie that usually makes the list is Major League with Charlie Sheen and Tom Berenger. The driving force to this baseball movie is the desire to stick it to an unfeeling owner determined to have a losing season so she can easily move the team to a different city.

 

The latest baseball movie to come to the home theater market is Trouble With The Curve starring Clint Eastwood as an aging baseball scout. He is having issues with his eyes which is not good for a man who watches baseball games to find the next best player.

 

Trouble with the curveBut he has other problems as well. He does not believe in computers as a way of predicting players. That makes some in management leery of depending on a guy who will not adapt to new technology. It makes his boss wonder what is going on and leads him to call Clint’s daughter, played by Amy Adams.

 

She became a lawyer to please him, except she has bitterness that has to do with the death of her mother and his abandonment of her as a child. But at this critical time in her career when she is being considered for partnership, she feels the need to take a few days to go with her father on a scouting trip.

 

I enjoyed the movie because there are some great moments between Adams and Eastwood. Justin Timberlake, John Goodman and Matthew Lillard provide good support as well.  But sports movies are built on clichés and this one has too many that are easy and pat. New technology being bested by the ‘old way.’ A trite conflict that ends a relationship at its start. A discovery of a player hinted at throughout the movie. A prospect who is demanding and arrogant in the worst ways.

 

Most baseball movies are really meant for adults, the language and/or context is saltier or deeper than most kids under the age of 10 are interested in hearing. That is true with Trouble With The Curve as a parent and his adult child try to reconcile what happened with the here and now.

 

If there was ever a great movie about baseball for kids, it has to be The Sandlot. This film came out in 1993 and did not seem like a big deal. It is about a bunch of kids who played ball in an empty sandlot everyday. When a new kid moves into the neighborhood, he lies about knowing how to play. But soon he is taken under the wing of the best player and that summer becomes memorable for many reasons.

 

Like many movies that seem like they are about nothing, this one brings back childhood memories that are sweet and horrible and the shaping forces of our life with baseball as the background.

 

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

 

 

 

The Red Sun Empire

Family Movie Night

I have been watching the tragedy taking place in Japan since the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear plant disasters.

I am horrified at the destruction, saddened by the loss of life, encouraged by the rare rescue stories. But I am also aware of the reality that only fifty years ago, this nation was considered suspicious by our own.

Times have changed. Their nation was rebuilt but their economy has gone through rough times lately. Japan is a country of incredible spectacle in its big cities and incredible grace in the countryside. There is a mix of the modern and traditional like none other I have seen.

And they have some great movie makers.

Poster for Ran, Image from IMDb.com

One of the best known Japanese movies in our country might be Ran by Akira Kurosawa. The story is based on the Shakespearian play King Lear, telling the tale of a warrior king who wishes to divide his kingdom between his three sons. He wishes to retain a title and stay with each son for a part of the year as an honored guest.

The youngest son, of course, warns him of the treachery of the other two. But the old man refuses to listen, refuses to hear. He makes sad discoveries too late and finds he must do other than what he had planned. This movie graced the screen in 1985. It won an Oscar for Best Costume design but was also nominated for Best Director. For those who love movies, love foreign movies and may not object to a sub-titled version, this movie is for you.

Hayao Miyazaki, Picture from IMDb.com

 I have long talked about Hayao Miyazaki, the chief animator and director at Studio Ghibli. His movies capture something we do not really have in America – folktales. Tales of incredible creatures that live in the forest or in sooty basements. His movies explore the feelings of children with sensitivity and humor while creating animation that is still hand-drawn. 

If you have not seen any Miyazaki movie, I would suggest

Scene from Ponyo, Picture from IMDb.com

starting with Ponyo or My Neighbor Totoro. Both movies are firmly in the land of folktales and the absence of a parent. Next I would look for Princess Mononoke and Howl’s Moving Castle. The storylines are for tween or pre-teen and are fascinating. Move on to Spirited Away which I think is his most beautifully drawn and most emotionally complex movie. This last one is a masterpiece.

These are movies from Japanese makers. Letters From takes the famous battle scene from the point of view of the Japanese but the director is Clint Eastwood. I suggest it because this is a fantastic movie coming from the point of view of the ‘enemy.’ I felt sorry for the Japanese after seeing this movie. Heartsick for what they had to endure.

Ken Wanatabe in "Letters From Iwo Jima," Picture from IMDb.com

Iwo Jima

Another American made movie that shows the WWII Japanese with less prejudice than usual is Empire of the Sun by Steven Speilberg and starring a young Christian Bale.

Poster, Image from IMDb.com

It is the story of this boy who is separated from his parents when the Japanese invade Shanghai in 1941. This is hes story of physical survival as well as spiritual survival.

While times have changed and we are no longer enemies with the nation, disaster never changes. People are struck, many die but then others will re-build. It is what we humans do.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

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