Sunday, January 9, 2011

"THE FIGHTER" -- Sunday, January 10 -- ****

'The Fighter" is a good movie about the need for a boxer "Irish" Micky Ward (played by Mark Wahlburg) from Lowell, Massachusetts to break free from the destructive relationship with his brother Dick Eklund (played by Christian Bale) once the "Pride of Lowell" (now beset by self-destructive habits including drug addiction),  his family and his own lack of confidence.  It is well-acted and well-written -- and for me, a bit hard to watch.  Not because of the fighting violence, but also because of the family dysfunction that plagues the mild-souled fighter and from which he is loathe to break free.  But break free he finally does -- though not quite in the way I might expect.  His love interest (Amy Adams) is a truth-teller and spit-fire and helps him see the light, but in the end, it is on his terms -- and unexpected ones, at that.  The story is woven around a documentary and is well told and well filmed and directed by David Russell.  Four stars from me.

"The King's Speech" -- January 10th, 2010

Fantastic movie.  Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are wonderful and the film is extremely well made.  The core of the film is the relationship between the soon-to-be George VI of England in the 1930's and his speech therapist -- without whom it seems the stuttering Windsor prince (who is to be king by default) is unable to connect to his soon-to-be subjects.  The title of the movie refers both to the king's actual ability to speak and to the particular speech he needed to make in order to rally the English to war in 1939.  The delivery of this speech is the culmination of the movie -- and a wonderfully climactic one.

Although the mode of connection between the two men is speech, it is at base a therapeutic relationship.  The speech therapist, Lionel Logue (whose journals have evidently just been discovered) is an Australian -- a lower-middle-class-professional Australian, at that.  Logue insists on working with his secret royal client on a first-name basis -- calling him "Bertie" -- and tries to break through the painful walls of formality, sterility and cruelty surrounding his famous client.

The result is an honest and vulnerable human relationship that allows for the flowering of the man who really wants, despite his trepidations, to fulfill his responsibility to family and country (as opposed to his famously abdicating brother, the Prince of Wales, who leaves the throne to be with "the woman he loves"). 

Fantastic, as I said.  Five stars, Marie's Movies.

Friday, December 31, 2010


Just saw True Grit -- it's wonderful.  Highly recommended on Marie's Movies list.  It has incredible cinematography with unforgettable images of high contrast -- dark hoop skirts and long wool coats of the era set against a wash of iconic western Arkansas frontier town or landscape.  Far from a romantic take on the time or place.

Death and danger -- though comically portrayed -- are never far from the surface.   Mattie spends her first night in town in a coffin.

The language is elaborate -- almost Dickensian.  Rarely is there a contraction -- it's always "I do not" or "He cannot" instead of "don't" or "can't".... the only exception to this highly elevated language is Rooster Cogburn -- who is as basic as the dusty earth itself.

Jeff Bridges is fantastic -- what a wonderful second chance after his last great role last year in Crazy Heart -- and the little girl is formidable --  both as character and actress.  I can't help but think that part of the story's theme (the book was written in the 60's) is an examination of the limitations set on strong female characters -- and the end of the story may bear this out.

Although completely different from the 60's version of the movie (also wonderful), this movie is challenging to listen to, beautiful to watch, and sheer delight in its uniqueness and charm.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

December 15, 2010

Over the past week I have continued my journeying around southwestern Wisconsin for Woodland Indian effigy mounds (build between 600-1000 AD). I have been tracking them on a personal quest since August -- to see them in summer and now in early winter, I feel lucky.

 Today I climbed a huge hill north of a little town on the Wisconsin River called Muscoda.  There was snow up to my hips -- I plowed through, sans snow-shoes... I-phone in hand taking photos and videos.... Finally,  there at the top were some wildly snowy mounds.  There was a sign that said "Frank's Hill" -- along with a tree with some ribbons of various colors tattered from the wind... and then the sign stating that these were American Indian burial grounds from ancient times and nothing should be disturbed.  It was corroboration that I was there!  There is this wonderful effigy mound map printed up with all the directions and descriptions indicated ... I had found them. From that high point, I could see all the really big wooded hills  round about... the Wisconsin River in the distance and the high ridge on the other side that dominates the riverscape. Gorgeous.  And as the sun had set and the light waning, all was bluish darkening winter light. 

I had forgotten how gorgeous winter is.  AS LONG AS YOU'RE DRESSED RIGHT  (a mother's mantra).

Last week I explored the mounds at Devil's Lake -- a gorgeous Thunderbird near the South Shore, a bear (earth spirit), some conical and linear mounds on the North Shore... too beautiful.  The snow was just fresh and slight, so as a result I could see the outlines of the mound, sometimes the still-green grass showing through, defining the edges, sometimes a delicate drifting of the snow accentuated the shapes of those wonderful creations.

Last but not least, I got to see the famous Man-Mound in Man-Mound Park on Man Mound Road, near Baraboo -- the only human-shaped mound  extant in the state.  It is enormous and stunning -- long, long, long arms, and torso... as if walking... head with horns (buffalo shaman headdress or god indicators, not known)... and upper legs, sadly, cut half off by the county highway.  Done long ago, the vandalism tells the tale of the literal cutting off at the knees of one culture by the other.  So sad.

Back to Milwaukee tomorrow -- movies to come!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

December 7, 2010

The snow has fallen in Southwestern Wisconsin and I am dying to go and visit the intaglio Indian effigy Mound in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.  In the winter, with snow fallen, you can see the outline of an intaglio mound (actually the inverse of a mound, dug into the earth)... I originally heard of this from my friend Karen Estrada (whose husband is an archaeologist from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee working on this very special spot).  It is one of the few in the world.  But it is too far and too late today. The sun sets at three, it seems these days.  But around me, based here in Spring Green, are so many other effigy mounds... in Devil's Lake, Madison (many, many -- saw the ones on the shores of Monona last week -- wind-swept and weedy, quite haunting), Sauk City(tried to visit some back in the woods there last week, but it was deer-hunting season and I was advised it!), Muscoda (beautiful and beautifully tended), and more... They are incredible -- one of the great wonders of the world and they wrap the surface of our landscape here in southern Wisconsin from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River.

I saw Robert Birmingham on the educational station in the Madison area on Sunday doing a special television program on them.  Fantastic!  He is the archaeologist at the Wisconsin Historical Society in charge of the Burial Sites Preservation Program.  His book INDIAN MOUNDS OF WISCONSIN -- co-written with Leslie Eisenberg -- is just eye-openingly fantastic.  Highly recommended (on Marie's List!)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

First entry.

My first entry on my first blog.  Amy Mills helped me create something I've been dreaming about for a long long time.  I used to be a stringer film critic for the Milwaukee Sentinel... I love movies and want to talk about them.  I love history and the landscape and special features of Wisconsin... and of course there's theater and more... therefore the omni-inclusive sub-title.  We will see....

I want to write about movies movies movies and all the effigy mounds I am exploring recently.  There are so many around Spring Green and Madison and the Wisconsin River... all the way to the Mississippi.  A virtual hot-bed!  I'm sure I can find a way to tie this into film...