Day 353 & Day 354 & Day 355 – The Grapes of Wrath & Princess Mononoke & Inside Out

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Movie Title: The Grapes of Wrath

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 2 hr. 9 min.

Rated: Passed

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

The Grapes of Wrath is the cinematic incarnation of John Steinbeck’s classic novel of the same name. It stars Henry Fonda in the role of Tom Joad who stars in a story highly modified by screen writer Nunnally Johnson and directed by John Ford. The Grapes of Wrath is set during the Great Depression beginning in Oklahoma and ending in a California scarcely better than their home state.

Tom Joad is fresh out of prison on a manslaughter charge, so he returns to the family homestead. He finds it bereft. His family are sharecroppers and they are being forced off the land by a nebulous bank back east. They quickly find themselves starving and hit the road for California where they hear rumors of plentiful work and good living conditions. They face many hardships on their journey ranging from simple mechanical problems, financial problems, prejudice, all the way to outright violence. The trip is hard, but it gets harder when they reach California and discover it also has no opportunity for remedying their poverty.

Henry Fonda is terrific as Joad, but the real show stealer is Jane Darwell as Ma Joad. She won an Oscar for her performance and it was well deserved. While the movie changes quite a lot it is faithful to the spirit of the novel. It loses the novels breast feeding ending, but maintains Steinbeck’s dabbles with socialism. The Grapes of Wrath is noteworthy because it made in 1940 on the very heels of the depression and it doesn’t pull any punches.

Verdict:

The Grapes of Wrath is a noteworthy movie on many levels and is still as relevant today as ever. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Princess Mononoke (1997)

 

Movie Title: Princess Mononoke

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 2 hr. 14 min.

Rated: PG-13

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Princess Mononoke is the story of one man’s quest to seek balance between humans and nature. Ashitaka (Billy Crudup) is a local prince. When an enormous boar possessed by a demon attacks his village he answers the call, but is not left unscathed in the battle. His wound is a mark from the beast that will eventually result in his death. The local wise woman removes a hunk of iron from the creatures flank. She tells Ashitaka to find the source of the iron and to try and do good with what remains of his life.

Ashitaka descends into a world of nature gods being corrupted by humans and turned into demons. The gods are ancient creatures that protect the forest, but the forest is being cleared to fuel an iron foundry by Lady Eboshi. Lady Eboshi (Minnie Driver) couldn’t care less about the forest. She forges a pact with Jigo (Billy Bob Thornton) to ill the nature god that inhabits the forest and protects it. The nature god has various forces at its disposal, but so too does Lady Eboshi. The two forces battle as Ashitaka tries to strike balance between the two.

Ultimately, no one wins. The movie has deep messages about the impermanence of mankind’s desires and achievements and the cyclical nature of life. It is a masterpiece. The English adaptation by Neil Gaiman is quite good and the voice acting is top notch featuring Keith David, Gillian Anderson, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Claire Danes among others. Not to mention the movie contains a touching story about a man and his loyal elk.

Verdict:

Princess Mononoke is a great movie. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Inside Out (2015)

 

Movie Title: Inside Out

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.

Rated: PG

Who did I watch with?: 6 Orange

Where did I watch it?: Work

Review:

Inside Out is a great story about dealing with early adolescence and the tumultuous emotions that come with it. Riley lives with her parents in Minnesota. Life is great. She loves hockey, has friends, and likes going to school. Suddenly, her entire life is uprooted and moved to San Francisco. Her internal emotions Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger are forced to deal with the changes.

It seems manageable until Joy and Sadness are lost in the recesses of Riley’s mind. The structure of the mind is great and perfect for talking about regulating emotions. At Riley’s core is a set of core memories. These are linked by her emotions to islands that are important to her such as family island, hockey island, etc. But, different emotions can color those memories in different ways and break the connections to the islands. There is also short term memory, abstract thinking, and various other components of actual human memory that help drive the story.

The voice work is great featuring Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith in the two main roles, but with plenty of support from Richard Kind, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, and others. It is also very funny and has a great reference to the 1974 Chinatown that you know is just in there for nerds.

Verdict:

Inside Out is a funny, poignant, well structured movie. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: Black Mass (2015)

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