Man behind myth explored in ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom—the latest biographical drama from Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl)—is in many ways as thoughtful and imposing as both its subject, the formidable Nelson Mandela, and its impressive star, Idris Elba.
The real-life Mandela passed away this past December, at the age of 95, lauded and eulogized the world over as an icon of peace, humility, forgiveness and cooperation. But Mandela was far more complicated than the stoic, sagacious, grandfatherly peacemaker so beloved by the world in his later years.
Relationship and connection venture into uncharted territory in the powerfully moving tale that is ‘Her’
We live in an era where our interactions and repeated behaviors with our electronic devices suggest a strong sense of devotion to them. More often than not, we hold our smart phones more than we do other people, or we hold our gaze upon computer screens with far more determination and presence than we do if we were sitting across from another person. Two human beings meeting for, say, coffee, might become distracted and eventually find themselves being more committed to making a connection to their electronic device than remaining present in the conversation taking place in front of them. It is no stretch by any means to suggest that most individuals in the 21st century are already having some type of relationship with their electronic pals.
Playwright (and sometimes actor) Tracy Letts garnered a Pulitzer Prize for “August: Osage County,” which first hit Broadway in 2007 with actress Deanna Dunagan in the lead role of Violet, the 65-year-old, boozing, pill-popping, cancer-stricken, sharp-tongued matriarch of the Weston family. Estelle Parsons later morphed into the role on tour and did a superb job with it. On stage, the spectacle unfolded into a brilliant, three-act odyssey of dysfunctional family dynamics and the emotional quicksand from which people struggle to be freed.
Last big movies of 2013 heading our way this month
Most of the big, end-of-the-year "event" movies of 2013 are already playing in Santa Cruz. But there are always a few entries whose parent studios decide to avoid the crush at the end of December and "platform" their films more gradually into release during the month of January—hopefully drumming up business along the way for movies aiming for Academy Award recognition come February.
Which is not to say that all the films heading our way in the next couple of months are bona fide Oscar bait. But the traditional moviehouse doldrums of January look to be livened up by these few random, plucky holdovers from last year coming soon to a local screen near you.
Big and small films to remember from 2013
What is it about these angsty times that’s causing the movies to go all Gloria Gaynor on us? The biggest trend in the films of 2013 was the simple fight for survival—on land (Dallas Buyers Club; 12 Years a Slave), sea (All Is Lost; Captain Phillips), outer space (Gravity), even in the music biz (Inside Llewyn Davis; 20 Feet From Stardom). Some of these were great, but I was mostly drawn to small human stories this movie year. Here are a few of my favorites (including some you might have missed):
‘Saving Mr. Banks’ surpasses expectations and delivers the compelling backstory of bringing ‘Mary Poppins’ to the big screen
Sometimes the backstory to a creative work is more intriguing than the actual finished product. Not all of the time, of course, but chances are the route in which, say, J.M. Barrie took to bring the 1911 novel “Peter Pan” to life holds some sizzle. Others might be surprised with the creative hoops writer Anita Loos may have gone through to lift her beloved book “Gentleman Prefer Blondes” from page to screen in the 1950s—and with Marilyn Monroe on the marquee.
And so it goes. It’s all in the drama that happens to get the drama made.