Airplane fare is pretty lame, be it food or film
warning- what follows is an attempt at a movie review.
On the flight over, I gave in and watched part of a movie. I say “gave in” because most airplane movies are lame and very woke, and Delta seems to be a super-woke airline. I like scrolling through the options, however. I almost attempted suffering through one of these two:
Come Away. Angelina Jolie, David Oyelowo, Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Peter and Alice seek to save their parents from despair until they are forced to choose between home and imagination.
I know, how could I pass up a feature film with Gugu Mbatha-Raw? I never miss her (his?) work.
The other film I almost watched:
Todd discovers a girl named Viola. She has crash-landed on his planet, where the women have disappeared and then are afflicted by 'The Noise'.
That sounded enticing, but instead I opted for Belfast, a film about an urban, working-class neighborhood of North Ireland during the times of trouble. Written and directed by Kenneth Branaugh! It must be gwuud!
It's probably unfair to review a movie you only watched parts of. And doubly unfair if you watch it without sound; all I had were the cheapo, free headphones and with the airplane noise you have to crank the sound to full volume to begin to understand what they're saying. I just put the subtitles on. Though I took a few naps in between viewing, I think I watched enough of to give it a rating of SF, as in schlock fest, not science fiction. It was a sentimental period-piece, cliche-ridden snoozer. Black and white with lots of poignant, slow thoughtful moments with Frank Capraesque light and shadow.
Centered on a glamorous working-class family and their young son's childhood, as they get caught in the mayhem of Belfast's troublesome times.
Yes, because glamorous working-class families with tall, slim, gorgeous mums and dads with GQ-cover-model looks abounded in the rough streets of Belfast, circa '69. In the opening scene, said super-model mum has to run into the street to rescue young Billie, who finds himself smack in the middle of the street war. She has a great figure in her tight, low-cut dress. She runs through the streets, slow motion, with Billy in one arm and a garbage can lid in the other, as car gas tanks and molotovs explode around her. She saves Billy from injury or death as rocks careen off her makeshift shield, all in slow motion.
The mother and father may have been about as unlikely as could be for that period and time, but everyone else had the authentic look of urban north Irish working class, including Judi Dench, who plays the fretting grandma and whose best lines were long, wordless freeze frames of consternation as heartfelt Van Morrison songs supplied the soundtrack (I knew this because the subtitles told you what song was playing).
Early on, there was something about “Religion is the cause of all this trouble,” and from what I could tell by the occasional clips I paid attention to, that was mainly what Branaugh was trying to convey with this film. The local Protestant pastor was a scowling, sweating fatty who preached fire and brimstone, scaring the hell out of little Billy and his brother.
The other message in the film was “We can all get along, no matter who we are.” It was 1969 Northern Ireland variation on Michael Jackson's “It don't matter if you're black or white”. It don't matter if you're Protestant or Catholic. Branaugh took it a wee bit further, though, with this scene:
Hero of the story, young blonde son of the unlikely picture-perfect parents, gets up his nerve and approaches his love interest, a taller, even blonder girl next door type and gives her flowers. Dad watches from across the street.
After he says “Cheerio,” and she answers, “Cheerio,” we see little Billy return to his father, from a camera angle behind the girl, who has positioned herself to get a better view of Billy as he walks away.
With the street-front display of a television and portable-radio store behind them, Billy asks, “Daddy, do you think me and that wee girl have a future?” (“Me and that wee girl,”? can I have a lmao?)
The boy has a plaintive, worried expression.
“Well, why the heck not?” says dad with a smile, charmed by this priceless puppy love.
“You know she's a practicing Roman Catholic,” answers Billy, with a look of deep concern.
Slow it down now, Kenneth. Let us see how dad's mug goes from light and fun to deep understanding and consideration. Unfocus the nostalgic radios and TVs behind dad and zoom in on his furrowed-brow expression, the pinnacle of thoughtfulness.
“Oh,” says papa. He frowns a little more, purses his lips, and stares at Billy. He gets closer, kneels down and looks up at his dear son. If there was a chair he would have turned it backward before sitting on it.
Then the kumbaya line that embodies the essence of the movie:
That wee girl can be a Catholic or a Hindu,
or a Southern Baptist or a vegetarian antichrist.
But if she's kind and she is fair, and you two respect each other,
she and her people are welcome in our house any day of the week.
Southern Baptist and Vegetarian antichrist? Right. Belfast working class regularly talked this way to their children, or over pints at the Cock and Crow, on the way home from the factory.
The boy smiles as if to say, “Then it's true papa! It makes no difference that she's different from us!”
Then the comedic shared moment. Dad says, “Mind you, does that mean we two have to start going to confession?”
“Probably,” answers Billy, half in jest.
Dad says, “that's us two in trouble then,” and father and son are off, hand in hand.
Is this what you call cloying, treacly, saccharine, or camp?
My wild guess is that Belfast is pretty much like any city in Western Europe or North America these days: a Kenneth Branaugh dream vision of Hindus and Vegetarian antichrists, not to mention Muslims, Sikhs, Antifa thugs, wokesters and rainbow flags, the new, not-just-protestant-and-catholic normal. A great mishmash of cultures adding up to no culture, unless Starbucks and Nike-town are your idea of culture.
With a strong, independent working-class woman in the lead role, woke themes and a heavily anti-religious bent, reviewers dare not give it anything but 5 stars. It was a smashing success among the preferred reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. One mainstream reviewer, Simran Hans, got it right, however. Her (his?) review appeared in the Observer and the Guardian. For once I agree with the Guardian!
As (insert Guardian-appropriate pronoun for Simran) put it, “A 30-year conflict that started with civil rights protests is boiled down to a vague problem of ‘bloody religion’”.
Yep, the whole movie seemed vaguely, I don't know, tedious. But less so than Love Actually, so I'll give it one star instead of the antipathy dot.
End of Movie review.
I'll get to my Los Angeles experience soon.
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