Sunday, April 26, 2015

Living With The Holocaust

Tonight's marathon is designed and structured to explore the Holocaust from a psychological point of view with Bryan Singer's Apt Pupil then going backwards in time to the Wannsee Conference where the idea for Hitler's Final Solution emerged and then witnessing some of the great Holocaust stories along with watching the German side become more sympathetic to the sufferings of those at the hand of the Nazi's. This maraghon lies more on a more personal account of the Holocaust and some of the great stories that hollywood put out on the subject matter. Two major points being made in this marathon is that not only was the Holocaust such a heartbreaking experience to endure, but it also led to some remarkable tales of manipulation, survival, defiance, and guilt. Movies like Apt Pupil show that those involved in the Holocaust and look back on it in our present day either do so with remorse or feel justified in their actions like Ian Mckellens character, and Valkyrie represents that those who defied an empire did not bear the shame and stood for what's right even if it mean't their lives were over. What a great contrast from where the marathon begins and where it ends. For this powerful evening, we have:

Apt Pupil 1998, Conspiracy 2001, Jacob The Liar 1999, Life is Beautiful 1998, The Pianist 2002, and Valkyrie 2008

A marathon about the Holocaust needs to be epic and personal. All sides need to be brought to the table and exposed to better understand how a situation and event like this occurred and witness the fight to survive and the innocence that occurred during such a horrific situation. A good strategy that introduces the theme of the Holocaust is Bryan Singer's film titled Apt Pupil, showing the Holocaust in present day through the eyes of a young boy befriending a Nazi in his neighborhood. What first begins as blackmail into getting the old man to retell his stories about killing Jewish people in the concentration camps ultimately turns into a psychological battle for control, forcing the two people to maintain their silence. What Apt Pupil sets up for this marathon is it gives insight into the mind of a Nazi war criminal through Ian Mckellen's brilliant performance and Bryan Singer's masterful directing. It also shows how a young boy named Todd played by Brad Renfro can become sucked into the presence of evil, and want to know about how something as horrific as the Holocaust can occur through the eyes of someone who helped execute it. The second film in the lineup represents best possible introduction for the Holocaust going backwards in time to show the meeting that took place in January 1942 called the Wannsee conference in which 15 Nazi officials met at a mansion and came up with the idea of The Final Solution. The critically acclaimed HBO film titled Conspiracy deals with that Wannsee Conference meeting in great detail, showing the key players and how the conversation led towards the Nazi Final Solution phase of the Holocaust. Conspiracy utilizes the talents of Kenneth Branagh, Colin Firth, and Stanley Tucci in three key roles that show the constant struggle over this infamous decision. Conspiracy spends it's entire 96 minute duration of the film mostly in one location but holds the audience interest with the information being tossed around to the audience. The third film in the lineup begins the story arc of the Holocaust through the experience of the Jewish community. Robin William's film Jakob The Liar centers around a Jewish shop keeper named Jakob in 1944 Poland who ends up fabricating stories of the Soviets and the allies moving in on the Germans in hopes of keeping up the spirits of those living in the ghettos and preventing further suicies by the Jewish. While claiming he has a radio that gives him information on the status of the war and pretending to be listening to it in private, he befriends a young Jewish girl who looks up to him as a father figure and finds the news fascinating. The Germans soon learn about these false stories being told throughout the ghettos and seek to find the one responsible for such an act. Jakob The Liar relies on humor and wit to get it's heartfelt and inspirational story across while also leading the lineup into a similar story with even more power to it. Life is Beautiful, winner of three academy awards including best actor in a lead performance for Roberto Benigni and best foreign film, the story centers around an open-minded Jewish librarian and his son becoming victims of the Holocaust. Like Robin Williams character in Jakob The Liar, he uses will, humor and imagination to protect his son from the dangers around their camp. Sometimes criticized for dumbing down a serious topic such as the Holocaust to being too humerous, Life as Beautiful is one of the greatest representations of hope in the face of unflinching terror.  Jakob The Liar and Life is Beautiful represent two men who basically seek to shield those they love from the harsh realities that surrounds them. The Pianist, winner of three academy awards including Adrian Brody for his unforgettable performance, centers around a Jewish musician struggling to survive the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto during World War ll. It is here that the theme of survival begins to kick in while also showing a side of Germans that hasn't been unveiled until this film. That side is that not all Germans and Nazis that were loyal to Hitler agreed with his treatment of the Jewish people. Roman Polanski shows this through the subplot of a German soldier befriending and assisting the pianist to safety. The final film in the marathon is the one that brings it all together and is the polar opposite of where everything began with the side of the Nazis revealing that not all of them were like Hitler. Also directed by Bryan Singer who did Apt Pupil and starring Tom Cruise, Valkyrie is a recreation of the July 20th assassination plot by German army officers against Adolf Hitler near the end of World War ll. This film works as a grand finish to the theme of the Holocaust because where Apt Pupil shows Ian Mckellen's character having no sympathy for what happened except total justification, Valkyrie reveals that there were those who stood in the face of evil and ultimately refused to bear the shame.

So what are all the films trying to say? Apt Pupil says that an obsession with evil will ultimately run your entire life. Conspiracy shows that some of the most unimaginable decisions can be decided in a such a calm and unphased state. Jakob The Liar says to sacrifice yourself for the good of others. Life is Beautiful says that love will protect and save you. The Pianist says that we must hold onto hope in order to survive even the most horrific circumstances. Valkyrie says that if you know there is evil brewing, its best to stand against it and not bear the shame. Adolf Hitler was an evil person and that not all Germans believed in his idealogies and chose to stand against him.

Our main characters for this evening:


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Aftermath Of New York-Avengers Night Part lll: The Final Act

Tonight's marathon brings an epic closure to the three part friday saga in which the assembling of the Avengers team was shown with characters such as Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, as well as characters like Hawkeye, Black Cat, and Nick Fury. We also saw the origin story of Peter Parker in The Amazing Spiderman as well as Bruce Banners background story in Ang Lee's 2003 Hulk film. Now that the first Avengers film has been covered, the time has come to show the aftermath of New York, as well as providing a fitting closure to preparing for the release of Age Of Ultron. For tonight's fitting end to the Avengers trio of marathons, we have on the menu:

Iron Man 3 2013, Thor ll The Dark World 2013, Amazing Spiderman 2 2014, and Captain America 2: Winter Soldier

The epic finale to the three week spring of Marvel movies ends here. The fight comes to a fitting end as the newest installment in the Avengers franchise opens a week from now. For what it's worth, it's been a fun ride. We begin the evening with Iron Man 3, the third installment in the trilogy that started Marvels glorious run starring Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man 3 centers around Tony Stark's world being torn apart by an evil terrorist called the Mandarin. He begins an odyssey of rebuilding himself and seeking vengeance for the Mandarins actions, while also fighting to protect the one thing he holds dearly in the world which is his love Pepper played by Gwyneth Paltrow. Nominated for an oscar for best visual effects and going down as the top grossing film of 2013, Iron Man 3 was met with generally positive reviews from critics citing an improvement over the shortcomings of Iron Man 2, however drew further criticism because of controversial decisions made within the film such as a somewhat devastating plot twist about two thirds into the film involving the Mandarin's true identity, and Tony Stark having a vital piece removed from his body questioning where does the character go from here in regards to Avengers: Age Of Ultron. Iron Man 3 has flaws but works effectively as being the first film to take place after the events of New York. The second installment in this evenings lineup is Thor ll starring Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman. Picking up where the first film left off and after the events of New York, the film follows Dr. Jane Foster being cursed with a powerful object, leaving Thor to protect it before an army and its ruthless leader get their hands over it and take over the Earth. While Thor ll may lack some of the heart and wit of the first film, it still manages to entertain and be a worthy addition in the Marvel universe with high stakes action and humor. The third film in the lineup is a throwback to last weeks origin story for Peter Parker/Spiderman with The Amazing Spiderman ll. Starring Andrew Garfield in the lead role, Emma Stone, Sally Field, Chris Cooper and Jamie Foxx, the film focuses on New York being put under siege by Oscorp, making it Spiderman's duty to save the city he swore to protect along with those he loves. Amazing Spiderman ll was met with heavily mixed to negative reviews for repeating some of the same mistakes as Spiderman 3, except with this film it attempts to build up the Sinister Six. The unfortunate downfall to this new series is that Marvel recently acquired the rights to Spiderman, vowing to start fresh with the character so that he can be introduced in future Avengers movies yet leaves this film rather open ended. Whatever the future of Spiderman may be, Amazing Spiderman ll fits nicely in this lineup showing the escalation of events that have occured since the end of the first movie while blending in nicely with the other films. The fourth and final film in the marathon is a fitting end to the Avengers series of marathons. It is not only the best sequel post Avengers but leaves the door open nicely for the next installment in the Avengers franchise. Captain America 2: Winter Soldier has the character of Steve Rogers aka Captain America struggling to embrace his role in todays world compared to being in World War ll. He teams up with another Super Soldier named The Black Widow to battle a new threat from history. That villain becomes known as the Winter Soldier.

So what are these films trying to say message wise within all the chaos and mayhem. Iron Man 3 says to keep what you love close and safe. Thor ll: The Dark World says that some people are not cut out to be king. Amazing Spiderman ll says to make your own path and that love can be difficult for superheroes. Captain America 2: Winter Soldier ultimately says that power corrupts and creating a new world can ultimately become difficult.

Our characters for this evening:

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Assembling The Avengers Night Part ll

Tonight's marathon is a continuation of where last weeks building towards Avengers night part l left off. From where we finished last time, Tony Stark revealed to the world that he is indeed Iron Man, Capt America is brought to New York in present time and infiltrated by The Shield, Thor went back to Asgard and realizes he's not ready to be king, and Bruce Banner defeats his evil nemesis Blonsky in The Incredible Hulk and goes back into hiding after fleeing New York. Where last Friday's marathon ended is precisely where this evenings lineup picks up at. This time we get a flashback to the true origins of The Hulk from where he began as well as origins for the Marvel iconic character Spiderman, a sequel to Iron Man, and finally the Avengers team uniting to save the world. For tonight's menu we have the following:

                  Hulk 2003, The Amazing Spiderman 2012, Iron Man 2 2010, and The Avengers 2012


Now that the bulk of the origin stories of the Avengers team is out of the way, the second act can focus on answering some questions that the previous marathon inspired such as where did The Hulk come from and how did he get to the point he was at in the previous movie? One felt that the best way to answer that question is to go back and rewatch Ang Lee's 2003 Hulk film as a flashback to the events of The Incredible Hulk. While Incredible Hulk delivered on the notion that Hulk would be smashing things, it never presented a true origin story outside of the opening credits. Ang Lee's film
focuses more on the storyline aspect of Bruce Banner and shows how he transformed and became The Hulk, while making it more of a psychological character study as well as a human drama. The film received heavily mixed reviews from critics and audiences upon it's release in 2003 with the consensus being too much talking and not enough action. Eric Bana's Hulk received criticism for it's
physical appearance in the form of CGI, although the performances were heavily praised. Ang Lee's film may not be among the greatest comic book films ever made, but it provides the backstory needed for the character of The Hulk. In this film Bruce Banner played by Eric Bana is a genetics researcher with a tragic past who suffers an accident causing him to transform into a raging green monster when his stress level goes through the roof. Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliot, and Nick Nolte all play strong supporting roles as the girlfriend, the father of the damsel in distress, and the father/villain of our strong lead male. Any questions that were presented about Hulk's backstory in Edward Nortons 2008 film are answered here. The second film of the lineup is the 2012 reboot titled The Amazing Spiderman starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Dennis Leary, Martin Sheen, and Sally Field. The film centers around a young Peter Parker being bitten by a genetically altered spider and gaining spider-like powers and senses. He ventures out into the night using these powers to solve the mystery of his parents mysterious death. The inclusion of Spiderman in this marathon comes at a perfect time since Marvel just recently obtained the rights to Spiderman, making him apart of the Avengers universe now. While he does not appear in any of the recent Avengers films, there is strong hinting that he will make it to the third film. The third film in the lineup is Iron Man 2 starring Robert Downey Jr. with Don Cheadle replacing Terrence Howard this time, Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, and Mickey Rourke. In this chapter, Tony Stark has finally let the world know about his identity as Iron Man and must contend with his declining health and a vengeful mad man who carries personal ties to his father's legacy. The character of Black Cat played by Scarlett Johanssen is introduced in this film as well as the character of Nick Fury played by Samuel Jackson, making them major players in the Avengers universe. Although the movie wasn't as well received as it's predecessor nor is on the same level in terms of overall quality, the film serves as the perfect intro into the final film of the evening which is Josh Whedon's blockbuster The Avengers. The Avengers brings all the characters of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and Hulk together along with Iron Man 2's Nick Fury and Black Cast on a special mission to save the world. In this epic comic book adaptation, Earth's mightiest heroes must come together and learn how to fight as a team if they want to stop their arch nemesis Loki and his alien army from enslaving humanity. The Avengers is generally considered the landmark Marvel film and is the greatest superhero movie of all time on their front and the only one to match the heights of The Dark Knight in terms of critical acclaim.

So what are these movies trying to say within all their carnage and action. The Hulk 2003's message says that the damage of an emotional wound can be far harder to heal than physical damage. Amazing Spiderman says that talents can sometimes come with the responsibility to use them in helping others. Iron Man 2 says that almost anything is achievable with technology. Avengers ultimately says that every world needs heroes and if everyone works together as a team, they can defeat evil.

Our heroes for this evening:


Sunday, April 12, 2015

When Good Men Have A Heart

Edmund Burke once said "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

That line perfectly sums up the moral issue behind tonight's profoundly powerful marathon. It is because of that quote that the films being played tonight were selected to parallel that type of logic. This evenings marathon packs an emotional punch and shows us several heroic figures who not only stood against the forces of evil in the cause of doing what's right, but also through their own personal journeys, find their own redemptions. Through their change of heart, their humanity is given back to them and are eventually washed away of their past sins and viewed as heroes and saviors. What this lineup represents is that true heroes do exist and can emerge from the darkest moments in human history. They don't need high tech gadgets or superhero outfits to perform great deeds. Heroes exist in our world and live in the now. Tonight's marathon is a celebration of what's best in the human spirit. We have on our menu for this evening:

     Tears of the Sun 2002, Blood Diamond 2006, Hotel Rwanda 2004, and Schindlers List 1993

Each one of these movies has the same kind of theme playing throughout each of them where the lead character is forced into a situation he has no control of, forcing him to make an ethical decision and question where his humanity lies. Our four key players for this evening are Lieutenant A.K. Waters in Tears of the Sun played by Bruce Willis, Danny Archer from Blood Diamond played by Leonardo Dicaprio, Paul Rusesabagina from Hotel Rwanda played by Don Cheadle, and Oskar Schindler from Schindlers List played by Liam Neeson. Here lies four men who stood against the odds in the face of evil and did what no one else dared to do. Through horrible atrocities such as genocides in Africa and the Holocaust, we have men who looked into their own hearts and asked a personal question of what is the right thing to do and if so, is it too late? The answer this marathon presents at the end is simply that it's never too late to do the right thing. The evening begins with Antoine Fuqua's Tears of the Sun where a Special-Ops commander played by Bruce Willis leads his team into the Nigerian jungle in order to rescue a doctor who will only agree to go with them if they save her 70 refugees as well from an act of genocide by the rebel forces. Tears of the Sun introduces the strong masculine hero who has no intention at first of disobeying his orders but realizes that sometimes you have to break the rules and do what your heart tells you for the greater good. Only when he see's first hand the dangers of leaving the refugees behind does he begin to have a conscience and fight for what's right. The second film of the lineup is Edward Zwick's epic Blood Diamond starring Leonardo Dicaprio, Djimon Hounsou, and Jennifer Connelly. Nominated for 5 academy awards, the film centers around a fisherman, a smuggler, and a syndicate of businessmen who end up matching wits over the possession of a priceless diamond. One wants it for their own personal gain and the other for the freedom of his family. Dicaprio's character Danny Archer is the second heroic figure that starts off being greedy and selfish but begins to grow a conscience as time goes on and sympathize with the fisherman in his quest to find his son and free his family. Amazing performances and great cinematography power this emotionally charged drama about two unlikely men who are forced to work together and find a common interest in their quest to do what is right.The third film in the lineup is Hotel Rwanda starring Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo, and Nick Nolte. Nominated for three academy awards, the film is based on the true story of Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager who did the unthinkable and housed over a thousand Tutsi refugees during their struggle against the Hutu militia in Rwanda. The story of Hotel Rwanda holds many similarities to that of Oskar Schindlers and presents a modern day scenario which services as a great prelude into the main event of the evening. Don Cheadle received a very well deserved Oscar nomination for his triumphant performance as an ordinary man forced into making a decision that would become his defining moment and a symbolof hope in the face of utter chaos. The fourth and final film of the evening is the one that the entire marathon has been building up for the whole day. This final movie is not only the finest hour of Steven Spielberg's career but one of the greatest movies ever made and one of the most powerful. Starring Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley and Embeth Davitz, Schindlers List is the ultimate story of a good man making a change that saved more than a thousand Jewish people from the death camps. The film is set in Poland during World War ll where Oskar Schindler, a war profiteer and businessman becomes increasingly concerned for his Jewish workforce after witnessing their persecution by the Nazis. Much like Paul from Hotel Rwanda, Schindler begins using all of his resources towards protecting his workers from the brutality of the Nazis such as being executed in the death camps and persecuted. Schindlers List won a total of 7 academy awards and consistently shows up on every greatest movies of all time list. There is no perfect ending to this arc of movies than the story of the most unusual man turned into one of the greatest heroes in human history.

So what are the messages behind all the films presented here. Tears of the Sun says that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Blood Diamond says to boycott conflict diamonds, and that there is alot more to Africa than just greed. Hotel Rwanda says in the face of the most unspeakable atrocities, we can muster the courage to help those around us. Schindlers List final message is that one who saves a life saves the world entire. It is never too late to do the right thing or to help others that are suffering around you. 

Our unforgettable characters for this evening:

Friday, April 10, 2015

Assembling The Avengers Part l

Tonight's marathon is the beginning of a three night buildup towards the release of The Avengers: Age Of Ultron. The lineup for this evening centers around the multiple story arcs of several key players on the Avengers team namely Tony Stark/Iron Man, Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk, Steve Rogers/Captain America, and a powerful but arrogant God named Thor. The purpose of the first evening is to show the origin stories of these great superheroes and how they slowly come together to save the world when the time requires them to in the first Avengers movie, while also diving into the aftermath of the incident in New York with the later parts of the evening. For this evening we have the following films to begin our journey towards Age of Ultron:

               Iron Man 2008, Captain America 2011, Thor 2011, and The Incredible Hulk 2008

This feels like the ideal starting point for building up the sequence of events that lead us into the first Avengers movie before tackling the aftermath. We begin the evening with the first movie that began the trend of assembling the Avengers team which is Jon Favreau's 2008 blockbuster Iron Man. Nominated for a total of two academy awards including best visual effects, Iron Man centers around an industrialist named Tony Stark who ends up being held captive in an Afghan cave. While being held as a prisoner, he creates a unique weaponized suit of armor to fight against the forces of evil. The end result of building that suit and his return into the public limelight leads to a conflict he has within his own company. Starring Robert Downey Jr. in the role he as born for, he's supported by a strong cast that includes Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, and Shaun Toub. Iron Man was not only a huge success both financially and critically, it gave birth to Marvel and began their four year plan of setting up the Avengers. The second film in the lineup is Captain America starring Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci, Samuel Jackson, and Hayley Atwell. The plot for this film centers around a man named Steve Rogers, a rejected military soldier who transforms himself into Captain America after taking a dose of a serum called "Super-soldier." While the serum does great favors for Rogers, he also learns that being Captain America can come at a price as he attempts to take down a war monger as well as a terrorist organization. Even though Captain America is presumed to be the first Avenger, Iron Man works better as the first film in the marathon, and Captain America is a great follow up. It also shows that the storyline jumps back and forth from past to present. The third film of the lineup is Kenneth Branagh's Thor. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Stellen Skarsgard, Kat Dennings, Colm Feore, Idris Elba, and Rene Russo, the film focuses on a powerful but arrogant god named Thor whose cast out of the Asgard to live among the humans on Earth. Little does he know that he eventually ends up becoming one of their greatest defenders. Thor puts a fun spin on the whole lineup by showing the fight between good vs evil happening outside of planet Earth, with the war being brought down from the heavens into our court. The fourth and final film of the evening is Edward Norton's semi successful reboot of Ang Lee's 2003 film The Hulk with a direct connection towards the Marvel timeline now. The Incredible Hulk which utilizes the acting talents of Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, William Hurt, and Tim Roth focuses on Bruce Banner after the events of Hulk 2003. Banner is a scientist on the run from the U.S Government who must find a cure for the monster he transforms into whenever he loses his temper. However, Banner soon realizes that he must fight a soldier who unleashes himself as a threat far greater than he is. The Incredible Hulk did not receive the critical acclaim that the first three installments in the Marvel timeline received, but it was successful enough to the point where it reestablished the character as being likeable and placing the story on the path towards the inevitable teaming up of the group. Whereas Ang Lee's film relied heavily on story and character development, The Incredible Hulk is faster paced and more action packed.

So what are the hidden messages behind these films? Iron Man says that it's never too late to look back on your life and change it. What can mean success can also be devoid of true meaning. Captain America says that a true soldier will fight for what's right even after the war is over. Thor says that betrayal and jealously are things that people need to confront and face. The Incredible Hulk ultimately says that power can be misused with disastrous results.

Here are our heroes for this evening: