Friday, March 07, 2008

Kathleen Goes To the Movies

Oh, no! It's my day! And I'm late, late, late!

Fortunately, I've been thinking and chatting with a friend about my next blog, so when I opened up today to RWTTD ready to sink my teeth into something delicious from another Rider and saw Helen's announcement, and I knew, I KNEW I should have checked the schedule, well, all was not lost. My brain was not totally blank. See, I had a book released just this week, and that event has a way of mushing up the gray matter. The book is MYSTIC HORSEMAN, and everything you might want to know about it can be found on my web site. And we've got our own little bookshop right here in the convertible, in case you feel like ordering.

But I've been to the movies lately, and I have two flicks to throw out for discussion. You know how much I love the big, sweeping costume saga. I've been devouring the Tudor period recently, so daughter Elizabeth and I took in "The Other Boleyn Girl." Nice costumes, pretty landscapes, lavish and moody interiors. But I do like a bit of history with my sagas. I know this was based on a piece of historical fiction, and they call it fiction for a reason, but come on. There was a lot more to Henry than skirt chasing and a lot more to Anne than sibling rivalry. There was big stuff going on, and most of it had to do with lining up a male heir. You can't get away with reducing the Boleyn story to soapsuds. Sorry. Jonathan Rys Myers ("The Tudors") makes a better Henry than Eric Bana(?) (shown here) but neither compares to Richard Burton. (Don't laugh, kids. Burton was young once, too.) I'm fascinated by this period of history, and I insist that any story we create about it now should speak at least a tiny bit about what was behind all the intrigue--the concern for transition of power after generations of civil war, the beginnings of separation of Church and State, little stuff like that. It doesn't have to be a big history lesson, but don't play dumb. The Tudor saga can't be set in Dallas--Anne ain't Sue Ellen, and Henry's no JR. (Don't laugh, kids. I know the reference is so 20th century, but I'm in a hurry. Update for me. Give me another show.)

On to "Goya's Ghosts," new on DVD. Yes, Natalie Portman again. And, yes, that's the fabulous and now famous Javier Bardem. He's terrific in this one, too. Oddly, Goya is played by a Swedish actor and Randy Quaid plays the king of Spain. But it works. Trust me. The film got mixed reviews--mostly on the down side--but I found it interesting. Interesting period--last gasp of the Inquisition, a bit of slop-over from the French Revolution, topped with a visit from Napoleon and his brother. The whole thing plays out through Goya's viewpoint. He's just trying to make a living here. Portman is an innocent merchant's daughter who models for Goya. Bardem is a monk who gets himself appointed Grand Inquisitor and has Portman's character arrested. Goya is pivotal because he knows all the principles. He's the best portrait artist in Spain--has connections in court. But he's sensitive to the issues of the day and the plight of the common people, as his charcoal sketches--sold in shops all over Europe--clearly show. I suspect there were historical liberties taken in this one, too, but the commentary on torture is surely timely. (No, you don't have to suffer too much pain. Just enough to get the idea.)

Whatever liberties might have been taken in the name of art on this one, this climactic scene from the film (left) certainly mirrors the mood in Goya's sketch (right).

Are you a historical movie fan? Have you seen any good (or bad) ones lately? What do you expect from them? Are there some actors who really shine in historical roles and some who just don't work? (No, kidding, Randy Quaid will surprise you.)


Michele Hauf said...

I love historical movies, though haven't seen many lately. The Goya movie has been on my 'must see' list, so I'll have to search it out in the video store. Haven't seen the Other Boleyn, for the reason that I loved The Tudors, and don't think I want that version of the history spoiled by the movie version.

Anyway, the last best historical I saw was Molierre. Just bought the DVD, it was that good. Set in 17th France (of course) and mirrors Molierre's Tartuffe through most of the movie. Excellent stuff, and some great laughs. For a fun romantic movie (with subtitles) I'd recommend it.

Betina Krahn said...

Kathy, I love historical movies. . . at least ones that are WWII or earlier. Any era with long dresses will do. I really cringed at There Will Be Blood-- so dark and so focused on one man's descent into madness and greed. But fascinating DDLewis performance, he probably deserved the Oscar. But they should have given Tommy Lee or Johnny Depp one for playing the role of a human being.

I confess, I liked NO COUNTRY-- and Javier Bardem creeped me out royally. But then I saw him in an interview and at the Oscars and Zowie! He's not only an extraordinarily talented actor he's mega-hot. He said he hated playing such a violent character, that he's a really peaceable, laid back guy. He must have tapped into some free-floating rage somewhere, because he was stone cold murderous in the movie.

And the Boleyn girls. . . what can I say. I had such hopes. Great acting in places, great costumes, lush scenery. But I'm with you Kathy-- the thing was just about a half hour too short. . . they needed to put in more history and more of Mary's viewpoint toward the end. They just shifted to Anne and left it at that. Also, didn't Mary have 2 children by Henry? And they didn't explain that within a couple of months after being sent from court, her husband caught a lung illness or something and died. Convenient, eh? And it would have been nice to see some of the relationship between Mary and her eventual husband develop. After all, the movie was supposed to be about her.

I haven't seen Goya's Ghost, but with your recommendation, I'll go rent it. And you know, nothing Randy Quaid does would surprise me. He's a greatly underrated actor! I love me a Quaid boy. It's really good to see his brother back on the big screen.

Liza said...

I do like historical movies. My brother always screens movies for me first so I know if I can wait for the dvd. He told me that he liked "The Other Boleyn Girl", but it would be just as good to wait to see on dvd. I hadn't heard about "Goya's Ghosts", but will look for it at the video store.