Films that Make, Break, and Wake you into Solace

“O” by Timothy Blake Nelson

Modern day Shakespeare has alway been my favorite.  It is has been ages since I watched and read the plot of Othello, so it is easy to be swept away with a modern version and remember Shakespeare was involved.  Yet, even without remembering details of the plot, Shakespeare leaves his mark; tragedy, conflict, embittered lovers, rivalry, dark secrets, everyone in circles having a secret, (being involved and not at all) – and more – yes, Shakespeare.  Contrasted to the modern version of Romeo & Juliet, and as someone very involved with school, I was left reeling.  Almost dizzy, but it was a comfort to go to sleep to put some of the realistic moments of “O” to rest. Racial tensions, high school and drug elements, and power, the power of position, academics, sorts –  it all becomes unsettling, that worrisome, that realistic.  Kudos to Shakespeare, all characters in “O” fell in line and pulled it off, congrats Timothy Blake Nelson for pulling off the same shock factor that Shakespeare is still capable of.


October Sky by Joe Johnston

One gets a false sense of security throughout, and yet, the feel of The Waltons is always there.  It was magic to see how unsettling moments seeped into the plot, during the threat of the Cold War beginnings, stemming from the race to space, the dependent survival of coal to keep families and whole towns alive, and ultimately, the presence of the realistic moments of how Hodgkin’s disease, the status associated with football versus living a life in the mines – the culture and economy of West Virgina and Pennsylvania hills, and the bonds tat are strained in families with all these elements.  The presence of family and family value is never strayed far from, and that element in itself helps soften these above-mentioned issues as they appear in random sequences.  Yet, the strength and believability, based on the real story, leaves you not wanting to cower under the blankets, not sleep off traces of a nightmare, but look back in a Forrest Gump fashion and make comparisons to your own life as an American growing up through the may representations that come across the screen.  Truly a feel-good film that captures the elements of triumph when it seems all odds are against you.


The Revenant by Alejandro G. Iñárritu.

I immediately thought of an interview, my first teaching position in Lusby, MD, and I was asked, “Who is your favorite author and why?”  Before I reveal the answer I gave, let me share that the next two candidates being interviews that were sitting around me?  – the person that came out and the person that came in? – what are the chances we said the same author?  We did.  I still can’t get over what that must have looked like to the interviewers.  However, Jack London was our choice due to his brutal, realistic, photographic ability to capture every detail that you couldn’t, and possibly cold – imagine, cold included.

The music chills you first.

The Revenant takes Jack London and placed him on a new level not even conceived.  Yes graphic, yes shocking, yes brutal, capturing the recreation of the true story (and some we still wonder) – but believe – of the life of Hugh Glass.  You honestly take Dances with Wolves and To Build a Fire, and elements of the most daring to survive stories like Alive, and take it a little higher, well ALOT higher, and you have The Revenant, (with a scene that Luke Skywalker imitated to stay alive in the middle of a blizzard) – and you know why Leonardo DiCaprio should win an award – when you see how the movie ends – you know without a word being uttered.

Yet, you manage to see the unfolding of these chilling events, at first as a spectator as the tale is being unwound to you, and slowly, without realization, you are in the middle of the story.

The cold seeps into your bones, the violence causes you to look over your shoulder, and when you leave the theatre, you want to stay within your house for days – until the realization of what survival meant in the wild, let alone anything out of the ordinary breaking survival skills acquired – this movie erases everything you thought you knew about the frontier and redefines it with shock – and does it well, BEYOND well, try PERFECTLY.  This gets under your skin and instantly climbs to your memory, to stay.


The Hateful Eight by Quentin Tarantino

There is no doubt that the films Tombstone, Bone Tomahawk, and yes, Pulp Fiction, all had a play in this production.  Jarring music unnerves you from the beginning, and classic Tarantino traits haunt this film as total confusion, mystery, and aspects similar to the game Clue unfold.  the 360 degree, (without cut panning), view from a character’s head as if you are that character, the camera shots as if you had died with the character that is lying on the floor, dead, and the ability to invoke such violence amid a plot that escapes you until the VERY, VERY end, all are here to be witnessed.  Your mind jumps to a hundred conclusions as the class western takes place in all the modern traits of a Tarantino film, as well as repeating scenes as you uncover details you did not know, through the progression of the film.  There is much to be uncovered and much that is able to be kept secret, until Tarantino deems it time to let information be known to the viewer – that alone will have you walk away from this film amazed at how and why the pieces actually did fit all together, and how you were unable to see any of it, until at the cusp of each, single detail.

About Harry Brake

Employee of Woodbridge High School, Library Media Specialist, Media crazy! :)
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