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Posts tagged ‘Religion’

The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

downloadDirected by Henry Koster

Happy Christmas Eve! I decided that there is no better way to celebrate Christmas Eve than in reviewing an Oscar-nominated movie that ends on Christmas Eve.

The Bishop’s Wife is a Christmas classic that I did not grow up watching, which is actually kind of strange, come to think of it; we watched so many in my family when I was growing up. Anyway, I saw it for the first time a few years ago, and I thought it was kind of creepy. Yes, it has some familiar Christmas movie elements – someone who has forgotten the true meaning of Christmas, an angel sent to help, a moment with a lovely carol – but in a normal Christmas movie, the angel is not trying to seduce the wife of the man he’s sent to help.

So what’s the story? Episcopal bishop Henry Brougham has decided that his purpose in life is to glorify God by building a huge cathedral, but he can’t raise the money. In his obsession to build the cathedral, he has started to neglect his family, his parishioners, and his relationship with God. One night, desperate to get the money for his cathedral, Henry prays for help. Help comes in the form of angel Dudley, but it’s not the kind of help that Henry was expecting.

The Good: Most of the cast are excellent. David Niven makes a fabulously stuffy bishop. Loretta Young does a wonderful job as Julia, the distressed wife who can’t seem to get her husband to see past his plans for his cathedral. James Gleason is delightful as always in his role of Sylvester, the comedic taxi driver. Monty Woolley plays atheist Professor Wutheridge with charm and sympathy. Gladys Cooper in her role of Mrs. Hamilton is the epitome of the wealthy society dame who always gets her way in the end. There is good chemistry among the cast; they just work well together as a team.

Other film elements work together well, also. The music is just right, jolly and Christmassy at times, dramatic and sad when needed. There are some fun editing tricks that showcase Dudley’s angelic powers. The design of the bishop’s house (the rectory? I’m not sure of the right term) – nice, but old-fashioned – contrasts perfectly with Mrs. Hamilton’s fashionable mansion and Professor Wutheridge’s tiny apartment in a poorer part of town. 

The Bad: Whoever decided to cast Cary Grant as an angel had a lapse of judgment. Don’t get me wrong; I love Cary Grant, but this role just doesn’t fit him. His calm angel’s demeanor comes off as smarmy half the time. The “angel knows best” attitude doesn’t work with him. Grant seems supercilious rather than sympathetic.

The Ugly: The story and screenplay make me so uncomfortable. I have no problem with an angel coming to help someone remember what’s truly important in life, but an angel should not make a woman fall in love with him in order to make her husband feel like he has to literally fight for her in order to keep her. It’s underhanded and gross and a little misogynistic. Dudley uses his powers to keep a woman’s husband away so that Dudley can take her on a date? Creepy! The fact that Dudley makes the women around him feel better about life by charming them seems to say that women will be happy as long as they have a little attention from a handsome man. The screenplay is quite funny in places, and the idea of an angel falling for a human woman is fine, but the rest of it is just plain wrong.

Oscar Won: Best sound, recording.

Other Oscar Nominations: Best picture; best director; best film editing; best music, scoring of a dramatic or comedy picture.

Les Misèrables (2012)

Les-miserables-movie-poster1Directed by Tom Hooper

This was one of the posts that I lost when I lost my flash drive. As much as I hate rewriting things that I’ve already written, I won’t have a hard time rewriting this one. I have a lot to say about Les Misèrables in general, the musical and this movie version of it in particular.

When I went to study in London about ten years ago, I wasn’t planning on seeing the stage version of Les Misèrables. The touring coming comes to my town often enough, and I wanted to see things I wouldn’t have the chance to see at home. But then I saw a poster of the cast, and the man playing Enjolras was really attractive (I might use the term “super hot” if I weren’t trying to be taken seriously), so I let my friends persuade me to go with them. I knew many people who had seen the musical and thought it was the best thing ever, and I had read an abridged version of the book before I saw the play and seen the movie version from the 1930s and knew that there was fantastic material to work with, so I was expecting really good things. I was really disappointed. I kind of wish I could find the scathing essay I wrote about it. I told my friends that I didn’t really like it, and that got spread around the entire group I had come with, kind of like in the claymation version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer when they find out that Herbie doesn’t like to make toys.  (“Melanie didn’t like Les Misèrables!”) I got a lot of weird looks after that from people in my study abroad group, but I didn’t care. I got that same kind of look when I told people I had no desire to see this movie because I didn’t much care for the musical, kind of a mix of shock and disgust. I was never planning on seeing this movie. Stupid best picture nomination. I wasted three hours of my life to see a subpar version of a subpar play.

So what’s the story? Convict Jean Valjean is released from prison. He steals some silver from a priest, who tells the police that he gave Jean Valjean the silver. The priest then tells Valjean that he has to turn his life around. Valjean does so, changing his name so that the stigma of having been a convict won’t follow him throughout his life. However, Javert, a policeman who worked at the prison, recognizes Jean Valjean for who he was, and Valjean must go on the run, taking the daughter of a factory worker with him.

The Good: Les Misèrables has some truly beautiful music. They may not be all completely memorable, and some are hard to tell from others (when I’m not actively listening to them, I always get “Bring Him Home” and “On My Own” mixed up), but they are beautiful nonetheless. I have never forgotten “Castle on a Cloud,” which I learned over twenty years ago in school, and “Stars,” “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” and “Do You Hear the People Sing” always give me goosebumps.

There was some decent acting. Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe both did fine jobs as Valjean and Javert, respectively. Crowe does especially well as Javert, who is perfectly convinced that the law is always right and simply cannot reconcile justice and mercy. Anne Hathaway and Samantha Barks both gave excellent performances as women torn apart by the way French society works. Aaron Tveit and Eddie Redmayne were very good as young revolutionaries Enjolras and Marius, and although I think they took up too much time in the movie, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen were perfectly cast as the comic relief-bringing Thènardiers.

The costuming, production design, and makeup were all admirable. Early 19th century France was brought to life thanks to those elements. I always like seeing a historical movie that doesn’t only involve wealthy people. It always makes me happy to have people acknowledge that a)poor people existed, and b)that poor people had different hairstyles, homes, and clothes than wealthy people.

The Bad: I don’t whose idea it was to have the actors sing live instead of lip-synching and putting in the songs later, but it was a bad idea. This movie would have been so much easier to watch if there hadn’t been so many cringe-worthy notes. I think the only person who pulled off all her singing with no problems was Samantha Barks, who played Èponine.

I have never understood the ending. It makes no sense to me to have all the people who have died throughout the movie/Jean Valjean’s life would be together in one place singing about the same thing. All those various people weren’t fighting for the same future, exactly. Also, if Heaven is a barricade as the finale hints, I don’t really want to go to Heaven.

The Ugly: Amanda Seyfried should never have been cast in this movie. Her singing is terrible to the point of distraction. She does have the right look, but I’m sure there are other innocent-looking blondes who could have sung the part much, much better.

Most of the other reasons I didn’t like the movie have to do with the weaknesses of the musical itself. Way too much time is spent on the Thènardiers at the expense of other things from the novel that would have made things make more sense. I wish a bit more time had been spent on the bishop, for example; that felt kind of glossed over. I hated that Javert didn’t recognize Valjean because of his face, but because he was strong. I can understand that people change after twenty years, but I’m sure that Javert had met other strong men in prison before. There was nothing really special for Javert to recognize him. (In the novel, in case you’re wondering, Valjean acts like a human jack to get carts off of men. That’s not something you see often, and makes a lot more sense. Not sure why that was changed.) I was annoyed by Marius and Cosette’s literal love at first sight. They did nothing except see each other, and suddenly life wasn’t worth living without each other? There are other little bits and pieces like that throughout the movie that just add up to me being annoyed with the whole thing.

Okay, now I get to talk about how the book compares to the movie. Since seeing the musical ten years ago, I have read the unabridged version. It’s not perfect. Victor Hugo needed a friend to tell him that when your characters are racing through the sewers in a life-and-death situation, you don’t need to cut from the action to give an entire history of the sewers of Paris. But one amazing, amazing thing that Hugo did do was give everyone a history. The first fifty to one hundred pages are not about Jean Valjean at all, but about the bishop, who, we learn, has given up all of his privileges and only keeps enough of his salary to keep himself fed. The rest he gives to the poor. The only thing he kept was his silver, so when he not only allows Jean Valjean to keep the plate, but also gives him the candlesticks, it’s a huge deal. The students all have back stories, so we care a lot more when they die so uselessly. The Thènardiers are not funny at all. They show the corruption and evil that can happen in poorer classes. They are menacing and horrible. Also, they are the parents of Gavroche, which gets skipped over in the movie completely. There are more connections which make everything that happens much more meaningful. I realize that not everything from a 1500 page book can make it into a three-hour movie, but that’s why making  Les Misèrables into a musical was just a bad idea to begin with. My final advice? If you haven’t seen the movie already, skip it and read the unabridged book. If you have seen the movie already, read the unabridged book. You will be amazed at the depth of feeling.

Oscars Won: Best performance by an actress in a supporting role (Anne Hathaway); best achievement in makeup and hairstyling; best achievement in sound mixing.

Other Oscar Nominations: Best motion picture of the year; best performance by an actor in a leading role (Hugh Jackman); best achievement in costume design; best achievement in music written for motion pictures, original song (“Suddenly”); best achievement in production design.

Life of Pi (2012)

Life_of_Pi_2012_PosterDirected by Ang Lee

Just as there are movies that I’m watching for this blog that I have been wanting to see for a long time, there are movies for that I’m watching for this blog that I have never had any intention of seeing. These are not the movies that I haven’t heard of before or ones that I think are violent, but movies that for some reason or other I really, really don’t want to see. Life of Pi was one of those movies. I read the book about ten years ago, and I loved it – until the part where Pi comes to the mysterious island. After that happened, I lost my ability to suspend my disbelief. Because of this, I developed an antipathy towards the book, and I really didn’t care to see the movie. But since I make sacrifices to fulfill my goals, I watched Life of Pi.

So what’s the story? Teenager Pi’s family, along with their literal zoo full of animals, is moving from India to Canada. Before they make it to their new home, there is a shipwreck, and Pi ends up as the only human survivor on a lifeboat with four of the animals, including a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

The Good: Life of Pi is based on a rather complex book. It’s not just the story of a boy on a lifeboat with a tiger. His unusual name is explained, as is his conversion to three different religions. I was impressed at how well the book was adapted as a screenplay. The writer, David Magee, managed to fit in the frame story as well as the flashbacks to great effect.

I didn’t see the 3D version of Life of Pi, so I can’t judge that aspect of the cinematography, but what I would call the “regular” cinematography was fabulous. The shots were so beautiful and so carefully set up; it was almost like watching a living painting.

The acting was very good. Pi was played by several different people, young and old, and all were good. Pi’s mother Gita and father Santosh were played by Tabu and Adil Hussain respectively. They made a good couple did a wonderful job playing off each other, the mother trying to protect her son by keeping him safe from the world, the father trying to protect his son by showing him harsh realities of life.

The Bad: I don’t know if it was because I had already knew the book and therefore knew what was going to happen, but I found Life of Pi to be rather tedious. I loved the first hour or so; in fact, it made me wish that I had been born in a zoo in India. But not long after the shipwreck happened, I realized that I was no longer mentally involved in the movie. I’m not sure exactly why I stopped caring about Pi, but I just wanted it all to be over.

I also felt that Pi’s conversion to Islam was glossed over. His first introduction to Hinduism was fully covered, as were the beginnings of his interest in Christianity, but we don’t really know how he became interested in Islam. Since all his religions were important to him, I feel like they all should have been given equal weight.

I was a little annoyed at how small Gerard Depardieu’s role was. He’s an amazing actor, and his part was little more than a cameo. I seem to remember the cook having a larger role in the book, and I wish they had taken advantage of the great actor they had hired and let him do more.

The Ugly: Three years ago, this movie won the Academy Award for best visual effects. Today, it looks fake. This is why I am so against CGI; it just doesn’t hold up well. ET, made over thirty years ago with puppets and green screens, looks more real today than Life of Pi. During many of the ocean scenes, I couldn’t help but think of The Truman Show (1998), where Truman believes himself to be sailing on the ocean but is in reality in an artificial pool of water that is nowhere near as deep as the ocean. The animals were sometimes obviously, disappointingly fake, too. It niggled at my mind and kept me from enjoying the movie as fully as I wanted to.

Oscars Won: Best achievement in directing; best achievement in cinematography; best achievement in music written for motion pictures, original score; best achievement in visual effects.

Other Oscar Nominations: Best motion picture of the year; best writing, adapted screenplay; best achievement in film editing; best achievement in sound mixing; best achievement in sound editing; best achievement in music written for motion pictures, original song (“Pi’s Lullaby”); best achievement in production design.

Gandhi (1982)

gandhi-movie-poster-1982-1020195902Directed by Richard Attenborough

I always worry when I’m watching a movie about a culture that isn’t my own, especially when it’s made by someone also outside that culture. I worry that I will “learn” something inaccurate or get the wrong idea about that culture. I had seen Gandhi before, but I was probably fourteen or fifteen and impressionable, so I was worried about how Indians view the movie and whether I could watch it comfortably as an American. But the day I picked it up from the library, an Indian coworker of mine said, “Oh, you are going to watch that movie? It is such an excellent movie. So well done.” Later that night, a British friend of mine whose parents are from India and Pakistan asked me what I was doing. I told him I was watching Gandhi. His response? “I love that movie.” So while there might be historical inaccuracies or only part of the story told, I at least know that Indians do not find this movie offensive, which does make me glad.

So what’s the story? Mohandas Gandhi, a young Indian lawyer educated in London, experiences racial prejudice in South Africa and decides that it is unacceptable for anyone to be treated that way. He begins a protest of the way Indians in South Africa are treated. His activism doesn’t stop there, however. He goes back to India and becomes the leader of the long struggle against British rule.

The Good: Ben Kingsley makes an excellent Gandhi, both young and old. He takes us on the same journey that Gandhi made, from rash young man to wise old leader, full of patience and kindness. It is an excellent performance.

I’m not going to name all of the people who did a good job of acting, because in a three-hour movie with lots of small roles filled by famous or soon-to-be-famous people (including Daniel Day-Lewis!), there is lots of good acting. I will mention Rohini Hattangadi, though. She played Ba, Gandhi’s wife, going from a young woman unsure if her husband is doing the right thing or if he has gone crazy to a woman who believes fully in what he does and supports him completely. She was impressive.

I loved the cinematography. There are times when it shows the grandeur of India, the huge scale of that country, and other times when it is intimate, showing how one man was able to make such a difference in such a large, diverse country. If I hadn’t already wanted to visit India someday, the cinematography of this movie would have made me want to go.

The makeup people did an excellent job of making Gandhi and Ba look older as time passed. I might have thought that the old and young were played by different people, especially as Ben Kingsley looks less like himself and more like Gandhi as he “aged”.

The Bad: Those same makeup people who did such a good job on Gandhi did a less-than-stellar job on Gandhi’s associates Nehru, Jinnah, and Patel. They didn’t age at all until the very end, even though they had been working for independence for thirty years. If this was done on purpose to show how much more quickly people age when they are living a lifestyle of poverty, than I suppose it was okay. But even if you are wealthy, you age over time, not all at once.

What happened to Gandhi’s sons? They are shown at the beginning of the movie in South Africa, but then we never see them again. There was nothing about the sons to make them a huge plot point, but I really did have to wonder if they all died, since they don’t seem to be anywhere around Gandhi and his wife for the rest of his life. Leaving them out altogether would have been one thing, but to show them once and then never again is bad storytelling.

The Ugly: I’m not disputing that Gandhi was a great man. He truly was. It takes an amazing kind of person to struggle for independence without fighting and to inspire an entire nation to do the same. His story is an incredible one. But except for one scene where he is angry at his wife, he is shown as having no weaknesses. He is made out to be a saint. I’m not trying to insult anyone or tear Gandhi down, but no one is that perfect, which made me feel like the movie was only semi-factual. I may be wrong; I know very little about the Mahatma. He may have been perfect. But because I was feeling that throughout the movie, I couldn’t immerse myself completely in the experience, so I’m going to stand firm in my belief that it was a weakness for this movie.

Oscars Won: Best picture; best actor in a leading role (Ben Kingsley); best director; best writing, screenplay written directly for the screen; best cinematography; best art direction-set decoration; best costume design; best film editing.

Other Oscar Nominations: Best sound; best music, original score; best makeup.

Ivanhoe (1952)

Ivanhoe (1952)_01

Directed by Richard Thorpe

I read Sir Walter Scott’s novel Ivanhoe when I was fourteen or fifteen, and I thought it was fabulous. It has all the necessary elements for an excellent swashbuckling story: adventure, romance, chivalry, and jousting. I had high hopes for the movie, too, but sadly, they were dashed. The elements were all still there, but something was missing. It didn’t feel alive somehow.

So what’s the story? Saxon knight Ivanhoe, who has been to fight in the Crusades, refuses to believe that King Richard is dead. As he makes his way back to England, he rides past every castle he can find, hoping that his English singing will attract the attention of a captive king. This long and slightly foolish plan works; King Richard throws him a letter explaining that he is being held for random. Prince John knows about the ransom, but refuses to pay it so that he can be king instead of his brother. When Ivanhoe reaches England, he not only has to raise the ransom, but right many wrongs and rescue damsels in distress.

The Good: The music is beautiful. It’s scored by Miklos Rozsa, who would go on to score Ben-Hur several years later. The music is very rich and full. The adjective I want to use is “orchestral,” but I’m not sure that would mean anything to anyone else. Hmm. How to put it? He uses the full orchestra to great effect. That makes it sound really boring, but it’s not. It’s really quite stirring.

The best actors in Ivanhoe were not the main characters. The person whose acting stood out to me the most was George Sanders as the villainous Norman knight De Bois-Guilbert. Even though his character was not the most chivalrous, his emotions rang true and he managed to take his flat character and make viewers pity him. It was impressive.

Other people with smaller parts were also able to make the most of their parts. Emlyn Williams as Ivanhoe’s slave-turned-page, Wamba, provided some welcome comic relief. Cedric, Ivanhoe’s bitter Saxon father, was played excellently by Finlay Currie. And Guy Rolfe was the vilest and scariest Prince John I have ever seen.

Although I read the book several years ago, I remember thinking that Rowena was terribly disappointing for a Saxon princess. She was just so blah. (That impression may have been wrong; like I said, it was a while ago.) But in this version, she has spirit and is a lot more awesome. Joan Fontaine did a very good job of showing her strength, her pride, and her jealousy, even if I thought she was a little old for the part. (Side note – this is the first time I’ve seen Joan Fontaine and thought, “Oh, yeah. She and Olivia de Havilland are totally sisters.” The resemblance really shines in this movie.)

The jousting scenes were pretty cool, even if some of the men’s colours were not manly looking. That was a seriously impressive sport, although I’m glad it’s not a big thing anymore because it also looks incredibly dangerous.

 The Bad: Robert Taylor is terribly miscast as Ivanhoe. He doesn’t even bother to try an English accent, which is a little jarring when everyone around him has one. He’s too old to convincingly be a young, dashing knight, and he’s much too solemn.

There is a scene where Ivanhoe has been taken captive, along with Rowena, Rebecca, Cedric, and Wamba. Robin of Locksley (yes, THAT Robin of Locksley) comes with his men to free them. There’s a huge battle with falling rocks and longbows and battering rams and swordfights, and it should be awesome. But it’s not. Watching people fire arrows at each other gets really boring after a while, and the swordplay is not well-choreographed. It may be the most disappointing medieval battle scene in a movie ever.

The Ugly: Elizabeth Taylor is so wooden as the Jewess Rebecca. She is extremely beautiful, but a damsel in distress should show some actual distress once in a while, instead of just looking pretty and putting her hand to her mouth. When she spoke, she sounded like she was reading lines, not speaking from her heart.

The worst thing about this movie was that it was so stiff. There was no sense of fun. There was no swash to the buckle, so to speak. Everything was taken so seriously. I wanted to say, “Hey! People! You’re in a castle! You’re fighting baddies! You’ve got awesome clothes! Smile once in a while. Look like you’re having fun!” No one ever did. Most of the separate elements were fine, but it just didn’t meld in a good way. A movie like this, set in the same time period and with so many of the same elements as The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), is going to get compared to that movie. It needed to distinguish itself in some way, and sadly, it didn’t.

Oscars Won: None.

Oscar Nominations: Best picture; best cinematography, color; best music, scoring of a dramatic or comedy picture.

The Ten Commandments (1956)

ten_commandments_ver2Directed by Cecil B. DeMille

I was brought up in a religious family, and when I was growing up, TV and movies were not allowed on Sunday. The only exception was religious movies. I am from a family that loves movies, so I have seen The Ten Commandments a ridiculous amount of times. (Well, I’ve seen the first couple hours many times; I was usually sent to bed before the very end, so I’ve only seen the end probably five times.) My sisters and I can do entire scenes from memory, and we each have our favorite lines (“To me you’re a lily, and I want water!”). So the only way I could watch The Ten Commandments this time was in my parents’ basement with my family. We had two big bowls of popcorn and a solemn oath that we wouldn’t quote the lines before they happened because my brother-in-law had never seen it before. That was a hard promise to keep. Man, I love this movie.

So what’s the story? This epic (and epically long) movie tells the story of Moses from his birth to his death. It tells of his young manhood in Pharaoh’s palace, his banishment to the desert, his marriage to a shepherd girl and subsequent return to Egypt to free the Hebrew slaves. And yes, in the end he receives the Ten Commandments.

The Good: I think I will always marvel that epic movies with casts of thousands were made at all. For a movie this scale to work, so many people have to be involved. And The Ten Commandments takes this a step further. I felt like Cecil B. DeMille wanted everything to be as authentic as possible, so many things were meticulously researched. As I watched the opening credits, I was impressed not just by the number of experts that were consulted, but also their caliber. DeMille didn’t just make stuff up or go for a vaguely Egyptian feel. He found people who knew what they were talking about so that things would be authentic. This leads to amazing production design and great costumes.

Elmer Berstein’s score is amazing. It is at times melodramatic (Nefretiri’s theme, anyone?), but that is the nature of the film. The score manages to be dramatic and sweeping, but also reverent when it deals with religious things. That’s an impressive thing to do. Also, I have apparently seen this movie so many times that I can listen to the soundtrack and know what lines are being said. But that means that although the music has themes, Bernstein doesn’t repeat himself too much.

The acting is good all around. Charlton Heston does a good job playing a man trying to figure out who he is and what his place is in the world. Yul Brynner plays another man in authority, but Rameses is a totally different king than the one in The King and I, even though both men think Moses is a fool. I think that displays how good an actor Brynner really was. Anne Baxter schemes most convincingly, playing woman who is not necessarily bad, but willing to do whatever it takes to get what she wants (did she get this role because she was typecast after All About Eve?). Yvonne de Carlo as Sephora, Moses’s wife, Nina Foch as Bithiah, Cedric Hardwicke as Sethi –everyone is so good in this movie. I would name everyone, but again, there is a huge cast.

The special effects were amazing for their time. Some haven’t held up, of course, because The Ten Commandments was made almost sixty years ago. But some have held up surprisingly well. The hail that turns to fire still looks believable. That’s incredible to me.

The Bad: As much as I love this movie, I will be the first to admit that the screenplay is not the best. There are many, many cheesy lines.  These lines make the movie really fun to watch, but they are not an example of fabulous writing.

The Ugly: I didn’t find anything ugly in this movie. I enjoyed watching it as much this last time as I did when I was a kid. That’s not always the case for me.

Oscar Won: Best effects, special effects.

Other Oscar Nominations: Best picture; best cinematography, color; best art direction-set direction, color; best costume design, color; best sound, recording; best film editing.

Chariots of Fire (1981)

ChariotsDirected by Hugh Hudson

This is another movie I grew up watching. My family must have an eclectic taste in movies, but I’ve never really realized that until now. Anyway, it’s always interesting to really pay attention to a movie you’ve seen a dozen times before. I noticed things and understood things differently than I ever had before. That might also have to do with the fact that I’m older and so see life a little bit differently than I did. But whatever the reason, watching Chariots of Fire again and trying to be impartial while doing so was a really good experience. And I think I will always be a little bit in love with Lord Lindsay.

So what’s the story? Harold Abrahams is an Englishman who goes to Cambridge and loves Gilbert and Sullivan. He’s also a Jew, which means that to some, he will never be entirely English. He runs to prove to everyone, not least himself, that he is as good as everyone else. Eric Liddell is a missionary who was born and grew up in China, but he also plays rugby for Scotland. He runs for the glory of God. These two men show their dedication in the 1924 Olympic games.

The Good: This movie has great acting. I’m honestly surprised that Ben Cross wasn’t nominated for a best actor Oscar for his portrayal of Harold Abrahams. Ian Charleston is just as good as Eric Liddell. The supporting actors are good as well. I noticed when I watched the famous running on the beach sequence that the four main runners (Harold, Eric, Aubrey Montague, Lord Lindsay) show their characters’ personalities in the few seconds that the camera is focused on them. It was all very well done.

This is the third movie that took place in a historical time this week, and this is the third one where the designer actually paid attention to what people were wearing at the time. Hooray for more correct historical costuming! Thank you, 1981!

I was impressed by the screenplay this time around. It’s based on a true story, but of course things are compressed or changed in time to make for a more streamlined story. All of the characters are distinct people with strong personalities. The story is inspiring, but it could have become overwhelmingly cheesy if the writers weren’t careful. The writers did an excellent job.

The Bad: I feel terrible saying this, but the music is bad. The themes are beautiful, and when the theme song is played on a piano or by an orchestra, I love it. However, the music in the movie is played on a synthesizer, and it just doesn’t work. It’s so very 1980s. It might have been fine if the movie took place in the 1980s, but it’s not okay in the 1920s. (And before anyone jumps down my throat for insulting the music, go and watch the movie. If you disagree with me after that…well, we will just have a difference of opinion. But it will be an informed difference of opinion.)

The Ugly: There is no ugly in this movie. It’s not perfect, but it’s really good.

Oscars Won: Best picture; best writing, screenplay written directly for the screen; best costume design; best music, original score.

Other Oscar Nominations: Best actor in a supporting role (Ian Holm); best director; best film editing.