The Messenger- 4 stars- I knew to expect an emotional journey with this film, I just didn't expect it to hit me the way that it did. Oren Moverman's first feature is about the war in Iraq except it isn't. It's about the soldiers who fight, except it isn't. It's about love and loss and fear and redemption. Woody Harrelson (with well deserved Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations) and Ben Foster (what can't he do?) are soldiers tasked with notifying families when their loved one has been killed in action. Foster, himself seriously injured in action, is off balance and damaged; trying to find the solace needed to carry out this task. Harrelson, on the other hand, has been doing this a long time and seems un-phased by what goes on around him. The chemistry between these two actors is palpable. They fall into these characters rather than play them. The film has been seen as "anti-war" but I don't see that. It is simply a side of war we don't get to see and would rather not think about. A wonderful documentary with real notification officers and effected families is a real gut wrencher.
Ordinary People- 5 stars- I keep forgetting if I've seen this movie, and always remember about half way through that I have. For me, that's a plus. It's almost impossible for me to re-watch most movies so the fact that I can do so with this one makes me like it even more. Winner for Best Picture, Best Director (Robert Redford) and Best Supporting Actor (then newcomer Timothy Hutton); it is a classic that should be on everyone's must watch list. If you a parent who either wasn't one in 1980 when it came out or had just had a kid, I suggest you watch this movie again. If you have ever been a disaffected youth, watch this movie. If you have ever suffered great loss (and it's been adequate time to recover), watch this movie. The Jarrett clan seems impossibly put together, which of course they are not. The youngest, Hutton, has recently been released from the hospital following a suicide attempt. His mother, Mary Tyler Moore, has no idea how to communicate with anyone especially her wounded son. Donald Sutherland is the father trying to hold the clan together. Sporadic intercuts of the past punctuate the narrative giving us a glimpse into what happened in the past to dishevel this perfect suburban family. The acting and writing are sublime. The direction and cinematography is a bit dated, but not in an obnoxious way. I kept thinking the whole time, "Why did I never have a shrink as awesome as Judd Hirsch?!"