Monuments Men— on DVD

Monuments Men film posterA friend mentioned that she had seen and liked Monuments Men when it was in theaters, but I didn’t get around to seeing it then. However, it is out on DVD so hubby put it in the Netflix que, and we saw it recently. The cast is, perhaps, the best part of this effort. Lots of big name stars have roles, including Matt Damon, George Clooney, John Goodman, and Cate Blanchett. Essentially, this is the story of the men tasked with finding and protecting the art which was stolen by the Germans during World War II.

The script is good, but not especially memorable. In this film, however, the dialogue takes a back seat to action and suspense. And, there is certainly an element of education in the film. In order for the suspense to work, the audience must come to care about the historical artifacts and those who worked so hard to restore them to their rightful places. As my friend said when she recommended it, the movie isn’t great, but it is good, and it helps modern viewers appreciate the risks and hard work of those who went to war to help preserve these works.

Oddly, there are few people now who care enough to publish accounts of the destruction of art, as is happening in the middle east, much less go to war over it.

Happy Birthday, Will (iam Shakespeare)

Yes, it is Shakespeare’s birthday. At least, this is the day scholars believe is likely his birthday. He was christened three days hence, and in his time, it was typical to have that ceremony three days after the birth. Alas, however, many students and therefore many people in our country have studied very little of the Bard’s works.

My daughter got a good background in Shakespeare, because she took honors English with the absolutely fabulous Janet Schwartz. Alas, my son was not a well-liked or accomplished student, so he was in a different sort of class in high school. His ninth grade teacher began Romeo and Juliet, but abandoned the effort during Act III. When I found out, my husband and I took him to see R & J at the Shakespeare Tavern, in Atlanta. Later, he studied Julius Caesar, but I don’t remember that he actually read MacBeth, but we did see that at the Tavern, too. I’ve enjoyed most everything I saw at the Shakespeare Tavern, although they do like to emphasize the baudy aspects.

As a student at Piedmont College, I took Shakespearian Tragedy with Dr. Greene, and it was sometimes difficult, but I am so very glad I took it. That course covered the typical plays: Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Othello, and King Lear. Apparently, many colleges are abandoning the Bard. I know I’m old school, but Mr. Shakespeare’s works are among the finest in western world literature, so invest some time in reading a play or a sonnet or watching some Shakespeare!

War Horse— review and commentary

War Horse imageMy sister offered me tickets to a play a while back, War Horse. Since I didn’t get a chance to make the show, I decided to put the film version in my queue at Netflix. Okay, historical films are not my usual genre, but this is one heck of an impressive story. The main character is indeed a horse, a half thoroughbred named Joey, born somewhere in the UK. The story begins with his birth and follows him through his adventures, from being sold at auction to a poor drunkard who couldn’t afford him, to his training by that man’s son, young Albert, to his forced sale to an army officer, who is about to embark on a journey to Europe at the beginning of World War I. Although the horse is the primary focus, the audience learns that Albert joins the army in hopes of finding Joey, and the action switches back and forth a few times, as the characters come closer together during the fighting in France. This war is depicted in detail at times, yet there is an almost surreal look to the filmography. If a war can be pretty, there are times when this one is. But, there are times when it is heart wrenchingly terrible, too. From a strictly historical viewpoint, I had no idea the role that horses played in WWI, and that millions of them not only fought, but died in service.

Joey’s fate is the suspense in this film, for most everyone knows who won that conflict. The script is excellent, the actors are really good, as is the direction, but perhaps the most striking thing in this wonderful film is the performance of the horse(s) that portray Joey. There are times that he seems supremely intelligent, and getting a horse to “perform” as an actor is quite an accomplishment.

War Horse, a Steven Spielberg film, is available on DVD. It is worth an evening of your time, especially if you are a history buff.