Klavan On The Culture

3 Movie Recommendations for the Holidays

Been doing some end of the year movie watching. Here’s a quick report.

1. American Sniper

See this as soon as you can. It’s getting an indie-style release — a limited release Christmas Day to put it in the Oscar running, then wide open January 16th — but that’s just nuts to me. In any sane America, this would be the hit of the year. It’s riveting, affecting, true, beautifully acted, moving — just terrific.

Bradley Cooper delivers on his promise to the late, great Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in American history, to get it right. The movie is patriotic without being jingoistic, lauds military courage and honor without being militaristic, and shows the brutal Islamist enemy as it is without bigotry towards persons.

My guess: The only reason this is being treated as an indie project is because the leftist elite will slam it. To hell with them. This is a wonderful American motion picture about a great American hero.

2. Foxcatcher

Also a terrific film, but upsetting and dark. The story of how a moral dwarf used his fantastic wealth to turn his fantasy world into a spider web, luring better men than himself into his weird mental life, then destroying them. While Steve Carrell and Channing Tatum deserve full marks for their off-beat performances, it’s Mark Ruffalo who stole the show for me. Ruffalo can be mannered at times, but he lays that aside here and creates a true-to-life, three-dimensional character who feels like he could walk off the screen.

Interesting thing: in both this and American Sniper, the Whole Man is depicted not as a strutting player, but as a person of integrity, husband, father, provider, protector — which is to say the Whole Man is depicted as the Whole Man. This is a true story and its unflinching depiction of evil made it hard to watch, so be warned. But it’s an excellent movie.

3. Into The Woods

To be fair, though a Stephen Sondheim fan in general, I don’t like this musical one bit. It has a decent first act then spirals into post-modern analysis-as-story, which I just find so, so dull (I dozed off, also just being fair). That said, this is as good a movie version of the stage musical as you’re going to get, with a blockbuster cast and excellent direction by the very talented Rob Marshall. It’s the source material I don’t like.

Also, I should mention: I don’t care how they market this, it’s not for kids. It’s not a family show. It’s a dark, sexualized reimagining of fairy tales. Break out the old Disney DVDs for the good old good stuff.