Sunday, 18 April 2010

Judgment at Nuremberg

Even if you find Stanley Kramer's film ponderous, overlong and frankly a little distasteful in its simplistic view of the events it portrays there is no denying that it's an acting tour-de-force and really rather gripping as a courtroom melodrama and in the end you can't help but be moved by it. (Never mind that it deals with the Nazi war trials and the Holocaust; films that sincerely attempt to show that good people can do terrible and evil things do tend to move one on a fairly basic level and this is no exception). On the other hand, Kramer and writer Abby Mann do tend to aim for what be considered cheap sentiment rather than for any real, visceral emotional connection with the material as if the events themselves are too over-whelming to be treated in anything but the most conventional terms. In other words, it is a film that suffers a tad from 'Hollywooditess'.
Still, at least it is a film of ideas and arguments. When Mann won the Oscar for his screenplay he accepted the award, not just for himself, but for 'intellectuals everywhere'. Today that may sound condescending but you can see where he was coming from. Here was a film that dealt with grave matters soberly, even sombrely and ultimately sincerely and like any good court-room drama it does try to present both sides of what many will contest is a one-sided argument. How do you defend the indefensible, (and the insertion of newsreel footage of the concentration camps actually doesn't feel exploitative and the cutaways to the actors works).
It is also superbly filmed. Kramer wasn't just a polemicist but a superb craftsman, something for which he was never given his due. He was also a great actor's director and here a number of well-known players do what may well be their best work. Tracy is, as ever, beautifully understated; no actor could do gravitas like him, as is Dietrich, indeed as is Lancaster as the principal defendent, silent for most of the film and splendid in his great speech at the end. As two of the witnesses Montgomery Clift and Judy Garland are simply magnificent. Both were nominated for the supporting Oscar and it is hard to believe they lost to George Chakiris and Rita Moreno in "West Side Story". On the other hand, it was very much to the Academy's credit that they gave the Oscar for best actor to Maxamillian Schell as the brilliant and arrogant young defence attorney Rolf. This just wasn't Schell's finest hour but one of the great performances by any actor in an English language movie.
You could, of course, argue that it might have been even more effective with a cast of unknowns, that unknowns might have made it feel more 'truthful' but I doubt it. Great actors bring their own truth to proceedings and Kramer populated his film with some of the best for that very purpose. Revered at the time both the film and Kramer have both fallen out of favour but it shouldn't be overlooked. We need films like "Judgment at Nuremberg" ' 'lest we forget'.' That phrase may be a cliche but then what cliches but ultimate truths.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Easter Sunday

Earlier today I read the blog of Jamian Edward Bailey. I've never met Jamian and I know him only through Facebook. He is a young American from Richmond, Virginia,; a teacher who is currently teaching in Korea. Before I read his blog I didn't know very much, (nothing in fact), as to why he left America and went to Korea. To be honest, I wasn't interested enough to ask. One day he announced on Facebook that he was leaving America and moving to Korea to teach and I wished him luck, as one does. You see, to me Jamian was just another young man I had made friends with out of a mutual interest in movies; someone to talk to online about films. His other passion is sport, basketball it would appear, something I know nothing of and have less interest in.

But after reading Jamian's blog today I feel humbled and not a little ashamed I didn't take the time to find out more about him before. I had always felt here was a genuinely nice young man with a passion for life but I suppose, to me, he was just one of many. Now, thanks to the miracle of blogging, (and I find all this intercommunication provided by the internet 'miraculous'), I can say in all sincerity that Jamian isn't just any nice young man but someone whom I feel honoured to call 'friend'. Korea is pretty far away from Ireland and I certainly have no plans to visit there anytime soon. (I have no plans to visit Richmond, Virginia, either!). However, I do feel that thanks to the web etc the world is fast turning into a global village and who knows, one day I may actually shake Jamian's hand and tell him face to face just how 'knowing' him has made me feel somehow a better person, if only for now. And if you ever read this Jamian, take heed that the sentiments expressed are genuine and go on exploring this great adventure we call life for many years to come.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

How the hell does this thing work

Michael O'Sullivan has a lot to answer for! He may be in blog heaven, blogging away about Monica and Sophia and Julie etc to his heart's content but I am a technophobe who hasn't a clue about this or that and while, one of these days, I hope to have a blog as big and as beautiful as Michael's - as big and as beautiful as Michael, himself? - this doesn't appear to be the time. It's now 10.10 of the pm, late for me in the middle of the week, and I have just watched "Blade Runner - the final cut", (very impressive after all these years, and makes me want to watch the other versions of this great movie that are out there). Now the point of this rant is that I would love to have a nice big photo or two from "Blade Runner" on here; the only problem is how the fuck do I get one on! (Indeed, in life, how the fuck do I get one on, which is probably why I have called this blog 'Life's a Bitch').

Today, on the other hand, was good despite the vicissitudes that life throws at us. Being on strike, (following my Union blindly on this one), I had hoped for a nice day catching up on my dvds only to remember that the electricity was turned off so there was nothing else for it but to head to the movies. At least there was one decent movie on, "I love you, Phillip Morris", and more than decent it turned out to be. Tasteless to be sure, (but then it was written and directed by the guys who wrote "Bad Santa"), but also laugh-out-loud funny and finally quite sad with terrific performances from both Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor, it also turned out to be a much better 'gay' movie than, say, "A Single Man" (too prissy) or "Milk" (too earnest). This, at least, was in-your-face and ballsy.

Then it was home for a decent spaghetti meal and half a bottle of a good Sicilian wine and the aforementioned "Blade Runner", so I suppose my day didn't turn out so badly afterall. Life's a Bitch I agree but I guess I wouldn't have it any other way.