I just don’t know about the movies they’re making these days.
It seems that with very few exceptions — and I’ll talk about one of those in a minute — all Hollywood wants to produce are horror movies, superhero movies and kids’ movies. Now I know there’s a reason for that, because those must be the kinds of movies that most folks want to see. Hollywood’s not going to make movies that would result in empty theaters or nobody watching them on streaming.
So I guess I’m in a small minority of people who are not impressed by mega explosions, impossible physical feats, bloody throat-slashings, the destruction of cities and other similar goings-on in today’s flicks. Hollywood does occasionally make what the call romantic comedies, or rom-coms, but I’m not very impressed by most of those either.
Even the war movies, which I would ordinarily like because I love military history, are diminished in my eyes because they rely too much on computerized action scenes, which are pretty obvious. It’s easy to see that a fighter plane dogfight, for example, is like nothing more than a big, sophisticated computer game.
I realize that genuine World War II aircraft are increasingly rare and that their owners may not want to risk them in strenuous maneuvers for a movie. But still.
I am reminded, however, of the movie The Battle of Britain, which came out in the 1960s. In that flick the skies were full of real prop-driven combat aircraft. There were enough British Spitfires still flying to make a realistic presentation, and at that time the Spanish government still flew somewhat updated versions of the German Messerschmidt fighters and Heinkel bombers. While the plot was a little weak, it was a great movie for vintage airplane buffs.
I think the last great war movie was Saving Private Ryan. To me, that movie had everything it needed. Intensely powerful and realistic battle scenes, great character development and a fine depiction of human relationships. The battle scenes pulled no punches. Veterans of the Normandy D-Day landings who saw it (it came out in 1998 when most of them would have been in their 70s or 80s) said that it was the most realistic portrayal of the combat on the beach that they had ever seen.
Of course the star of the movie was the superb Tom Hanks. I think Hanks is one of the all time great movie actors, able to hold his own with any of the Hollywood giants of the past. And from what I understand, he’s just about as nice a guy as he is a skilled actor.
Just think of the many diverse roles he has played, requiring such different acting abilities as portraying the captain in Private Ryan, Forest Gump in the movie of the same name, Capt. Phillips in the movie about the skipper of a ship high-jacked by Somali pirates, and Mr. Rogers in It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. He “crushed it,” as they kids say today, in all of those very different genres.
And it’s Hanks’ latest movie that inspired today’s column. As I said above, there are a few cinematic exceptions to the current Hollywood fare of horror, super heroes and children’s movies. And one of those exceptions, in my eyes, is News of the World, which I just watched on Netflix DVD.
It’s a Western, another genre that Hollywood produces only very rarely these days. In this flick, Tom is a Confederate veteran who makes a modest living by going from town to town reading the latest newspapers to the information-starved folks in poverty-stricken post-war Texas.
He encounters a young German girl who had been captured by Kiowa Indians when she was quite small and who still considers herself a Kiowan. He undertakes to return her to her nearest relatives, who live in south Texas, a distance of about 300 miles.
There are the expected adventures along the way, conflicts with several bad men of various stripes, life-threatening accidents, etc. And the slow bonding of the man and the child are, of course, a main part of the story also. Let me say here that the young actress, Helena Zengel, is absolutely remarkable, one of the best child actors I have ever seen.
She is, in fact from Germany and her talent has already been recognized with acting awards in her native country. As you may know, there were many German settlers in earlyl Texas and I commend the producers for having used a German child in the role, which somehow makes the whole story more realistic.
I won’t be giving away too much to tell you that there is a happy ending. That’s the kind of movie this is. I thought it was great. In some viewers’ reviews online, people found the movie slow and plodding. I disagree. This is about a journey of 300 miles and in 1870, that’s not going to happen quickly. Hanks does his usual wonderful job and is complemented by young Zengel. If you want to see a good, old fashioned movie, I can highly recommend this one. And I can only hope that a few more like News of the World are forthcoming from Holywood.
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