PARKLAND – The Fallen Idol

Watching Chappaquiddick last week, with its surprisingly straight retelling of a controversial historical event, brought to mind another excellent historical drama which involved another Kennedy. Though this film is decidedly more sympathetic to the Kennedy at the center of it.

Very few historical events have captured the public imagination as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The 2013 film Parkland attempts to shed some sobering light on this event and does a great job doing it. The film is a very real and intense look at those few hours in Dallas in November of 1963 and removes the veil of legend and purported conspiracy on what was a very tragic event.

With a stellar cast and almost constant tension, Parkland is a great piece of historical cinema and joins Chappaquiddick as another straightforward, unbiased look at a historical event. But I would expect nothing less from producer Tom Hanks and the rest of the group who produced such great historical dramas as Band of Brothers, The Pacific, John Adams, and From the Earth to the Moon.

In the midst of tearing the veil of legend, Parkland also gives the viewer a stark look at just how much the American public idolized John F. Kennedy. All their hopes for the future were placed on his weak and finite shoulders. What the film highlights most is humanity’s propensity for idol worship. Putting one’s faith in a person, especially a politician, is never a wise choice.


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CHAPPAQUIDDICK – A “Character” Study

chap-poster-newThe night of July 18, 1969, is an important date in American politics, yet few Americans today know of its significance. That was the night that Massachusettes Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy was involved in an automobile accident on Chappaquiddick Island that took the life of a young female staffer, Mary Jo Kopechne.

It was an incident that haunted Kennedy and hindered his political career for the rest of his life – torpedoing his chances of ever becoming President of the United States like his brother John did and his other brother Bobby tried to do.

That tragic incident is the subject of the excellent new historical drama, Chappaquiddick – a relatively small movie that probably couldn’t have been made when the senator was still alive, given his lionization by the media and culture. There’s a lot of mystery and innuendo surrounding the incident, but the film thankfully sticks to the facts at hand and presents an unflinchingly fair look at the events of that night and its immediate aftermath. It’s the cold drama of history at its finest.

The story of Chappaquiddick comes to life through some amazing performances and brilliant storytelling. However, the themes of the story were what really got to me. Ted Kennedy’s reactions to the swirl of controversy around him turned the film into an intriguing character study, but not in the way one would initially think.

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READY PLAYER ONE – The Material and the Eternal

RPO PosterWhen Steven Spielberg is on his game, it’s a wonderful thing to watch. And Ready Player One is a wonderful thing to watch. After his effective but pretentious The Post dropped earlier this year, I was hoping that Ready Player One would be a return-to-form for the old master, and I was right.

Ready Player One takes place in a not-so-distant future that is centered around the people who play in a virtual social media/gaming network called the OASIS. The story is great classic Spielberg – with iconic visuals, fun moments, and loads of borderline schmaltzy sentimentality. Yet, it also has a few glaring plot points that I just couldn’t let slide that keeps it from being truly great.

The world of Ready Player One is science-fiction at its best – showing us a possible future shaped by the trends and culture of today. It’s a virtual world of wonders to be sure, but it calls attention to a simple, dark truth about the human heart.


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