Our Sabbath was gloriously sunny and we enjoyed our respective mornings, I at church and Mick wielding the vacuum cleaner and duster – our habitual “cleanliness is next to Godliness" tag-team.
In the afternoon and evening, we viewed four films – or rather two and two halves! We first watched a gadget-rich sci-fi film. Its name is Sunshine. The premise was that later in this century, our sun starts to die, so a mission is sent to the sun to drop a bomb into the sun in order to create a sun within the sun which then rejuvenates the whole.
The gadgets are the stars. The director, Danny Boyle, and the producer, Andrew Macdonald, have created a film where the stars are the special effects. They drown the movie in virtual visual splendor. The actors, in a cast headed by Cliff Curtis, Cillian Murphy, Michelle Yeoh, Hiroyuki Sanada and Rose Byrne, have a paper-thin and highly derivative script from which to work. The did a workmanlike job with it. I was glad when it was over, but by virtue of Mick’s falling asleep within minutes of the film’s start, we did watch this one all the way through.
Our second feature was a fine film, The Color of Freedom, which told the tale of Nelson Mandela and his guard, James Gregory. The script is adapted from the book by Gregory, Goodbye Bafana. Dennis Haysbert played Mandela with sober dignity. Joseph Fiennes played his guard and Diane Kruger played Gloria Gregory, James’ ambitious wife. The ensemble was tight and the music in the film was delightful. The film highlighted the apartheid in South Africa and celebrated its eventual ending, and Mandela’s release after 27 years of imprisonment for his activism, as the ending of the film. The direction was a bit stodgy, but then so was the situation being portrayed. It is hard to get a lot of dramatic movement from a man in a cell. They did well with the material.
Our third film was obviously an excellent one. Everything about The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was first-rate. The cinematography was wonderful, every shot beautifully conceived, the lighting most artistic. The direction was transparent, letting situations develop with a natural pace, which is to say, a very slow one. The acting was fine. Brad Pitt made a convincingly amoral thief with a nasty temper and Casey Affleck created a particularly delicious Robert Ford, whose every thought and word was sleazy and whose oily smile covered a million plans for self-aggrandisement.
There was one problem. The film went on and on, for two hours and forty minutes, and the characters were, to a man and occasional woman, utterly ungrateful. There was no one to which to cleave as the sympathetic character. Everybody was a rotten person. While it is fun just to look at Brad Pitt in his Western gear – the costumes were magnificently accurate to the time period – it stops being fun when he pounds yet another hapless yahoo into the ground for no particular reason. After about an hour’s viewing, Mick asked if we could watch something else instead.
Mystic River was playing on the tube and we watched that also for about an hour before Mick tired of the constant drama. I enjoyed what I saw of the film. Sean Penn was excellent as a distraught father and Lawrence Fishburn, Kevin Bacon and Tim Robbins were all equally fine in ensemble in this police drama. Cline Eastwood directed it with panache. This film popped! The emotional pitch remained high throughout, but the pace was such as to sustain the emotion completely.
However Mick faded as the yelling and screaming scenes kept coming up, and we ended our evening with a black screen and conversation. We called Mick’s Mom after the Gaia Meditation, at which Mick offered the closing prayer.