My takes on…Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Prisoners, Gravity

My takes on…Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Prisoners, Gravity

Lee Daniels’ The Butler is a movie that shows us how history consists of the impact that it has on individuals, not just on countries.

The script by Danny Strong (Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Jonathan Levinson) doesn’t make the mistake of telling us that victims of injustice are necessarily perfect people.

There are some great performances, including Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, and David Oleyowo, all of whom might garner Oscar nominations.

If the movie only involved the core family, it would have been a truly solid work.

Unfortunately, there are performances by famous actors as the Presidents which did feel like stunt casting. Robin Williams was the strongest as Dwight Eisenhower, but John Cusack as Richard Nixon didn’t resonate with me as having the right look, feel, or attitude. The brilliant Alan Rickman was unrecognizable as Ronald Reagan…and again, didn’t seem to capture the President. I would also say that I probably wouldn’t have known he was supposed to be Reagan from his appearance.

Again, the make-up, costuming, and hair for the core family was great: for the Presidents, I didn’t find it as compelling.

I also want to single out James Marsden as turning in a great performance in a very difficult role as JFK. He not only evoked the President, but made him human…no small task.

Overall, the movie was quite good and definitely worth seeing: it was just flawed in its periphery.

The tone in Prisoners was more consistent, and there were some impressive technical elements (it should be nominated for make-up, and there was great sound work).

However, this is a movie I’m not happy that I saw. It has such a downbeat view of the world…I didn’t like any of the characters in it. I’m just not fond of movies that tell me the world is a terrible place. Certainly, there are movies where terrible things happen (Silence of the Lambs comes to mind…or Night of the Living Dead) and there are people who do horrible things, but those people are shown as aberrations, not as the norm.

This is a movie I would actually advise people to skip, although many people will like it.

Gravity is a horse of a different color…and that color is mostly space black.

You can tell the care they put into the science which is portrayed. I would not describe this as science fiction: it’s just a drama that happens to involve an unusual occupation and setting.

We saw it in 3-D, which is unusual for us, but there was nothing that seemed to depend on the 3-D.

I would assess the characters as deliberately shallow. In the real world, many people don’t reveal much of themselves…and that may be particularly true in the space program.

The technical achievements should assure a nomination for special effects. They didn’t evoke the same emotional response in me as, say 2001, but again, I would consider that to be deliberate.

The movie is very coherently directed by Alfonso Cuarón: the strength of the vision is undeniable.

I do recommend the movie, but it appears that many people would rate it much more highly than I would. The feel for me was somewhat like a 1970s disaster movie, minus the fun and Red Buttons. 😉 That certainly would have been fine if the alternative was to care deeply for the characters, but I just didn’t quite get there. While there will be a lot of talk about Oscars for acting in this movie, I’m not convinced that will happen, although I would expect to see some other nominations.

his post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

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