Blog Archives

Far From Heaven (2002)

Oh, Raymond, Mrs. Whitaker sounds so formal! Won’t you please… ask me to dance?

— Cathy Whitaker

Writer/director, Todd Haynes wanted to make an homage of the Douglas Dirk bedroom melodramas of the 1950s. He created Far From Heaven, which garnered Julianne Moore another Oscar nomination for Best Actress. It was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Original Score. This was my favorite film of 2002 and I still stand by it.

This story is about a typical American family on the surface. There is the breadwinner of this Connecticut family, Frank Whitaker (Dennis Quaid) who is one of the sales executives at a company called Magnatech. His wife, Cathy (Moore) is the perfect homemaker that reminds you of Donna Reed. She juggles her wifely duties as mother to David (Ryan Ward) and Janice (Lindsay Andretta). Cathy is assisted by her trusty housekeeper, Sybil (Viola Davis) who watches the kids when has an errand to run or plans a cocktail party with her friend, Eleanor (Patricia Clarkson).

During the night of one of Cathy’s planned soirees, she is pulled from attending when she receives a call to pick up her husband from the police station for an incident earlier in the evening. On the drive home, the audience realizes that there are cracks in the foundation of the Whitaker marriage. Cathy tries her best to be close to her husband, who brushes her off. She concludes that it is just stress from work.

A reporter from the Weekly Gazette, Mrs. Leacock (Bette Henritze) comes by the house to interview Cathy for the couple being named Mr. and Mrs. Magnatech 1957. Cathy’s attention is distracted when a strange man is lurking in her backyard. She goes to see Raymond Deagan (Dennis Haysbert), the son of their old gardener who recently passed away. He is their new gardener and they introduce each other.

Frank pulls himself away from his family by diving head first into a big project that he has to do for work, going to the movies or hanging out in back alley bars. Cathy is jealous that her girlfriends could be intimate with their husbands and hers barely shows her any affection.

During another late night working for Frank, Cathy decides to take his dinner over to his office. When she arrives, she is in for the shock of her life when she sees Frank kissing another man. She is devastated as her seemingly perfect life is crumbling down around her.

Can I say that I love this movie? I love this movie. I’m not familiar with the bedroom melodramas of Sirk’s, but this movie makes me want to visit those movies that inspired this one. Todd Hayes created a fantastic movie with the classic title sequence and end credit, the luscious cinematography, the marvelous score by Elmer Bernstein, Sandy Powell’s costumes, the vibrant colors and the type of film Hayes used. It feels authentic, like it was a lost movie from that time. The subjects addressed in this film would be too taboo for audiences to see.

I want to highlight Haynes words. His original script was very nuanced. No word felt out of place. Being delivered by these wonderful actors is something to marvel. Moore was radiant. She portrayed Cathy as a typical housewife, but she has progressive feelings for the Negroes or women’s rights. With Cathy’s world was crumbling around her, she put on a brave face covering her inner pain. Moore was subdued in her portrayal of Cathy that I was rooting for her to win the Oscar, but she was denied.

A special mention has to go Dennis Quaid who I thought was robbed for a nomination for Best Supporting Actor and I continue to talk about the egregious error to this day. He was so good playing a tortured husband torn between the way society wants him and how he is feeling on the inside.

Judgment: Bravo, Todd Haynes for creating this very skilful work for us to revel in.

Rating: *****

Jarhead (2005)

Every war is different, every war is the same.

— Anthony ‘Swoff’ Swofford

During my subscription of Details magazine circa 2003, I passed by a blurb for Anthony Swofford briefly discussing his memoir about his time in the Persian Gulf War called Jarhead. Sam Mendes directed the big screen adaptation of his story. I loved that the story is not a war movie, but a movie about young soldier’s journey.

Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a Marine recruit that is trying to find himself. He thought that the military was the best decision, but he regrets it. He is introduced to his platoon, Gulf Company. His initial reception does not turn out why the way that he thought. They tried to initiate him with a mock branding of the USMC.

Pretending that he has a stomach virus, he meets Staff Sgt. Sykes (Jaime Foxx) in the crapper. Seeing that Swofford is not as dumb as he thinks he is, Sykes wants Swofford to train as a scout sniper. Swofford jumps at the opportunity. He is teamed up with Troy (Peter Sarsgaard).

As the Iraqis invaded Kuwait, Second Platoon is deployed to the battle zone. The Marines think that they would be there a maximum of two weeks, but things changed. As part of Operation Desert Shield, their orders from their battalion leader Lt. Col. Kazinski (Chris Cooper) are to guard the oil fields that are a constant target of the Iraqi militants.

The platoon has to learn is about to the harsh conditions of the desert, how to survive the insurmountable boredom of non-combat conditions. As the days turn into months, Swofford’s mind begins to unravel as he learns that his girlfriend is cheating and he is not seeing any action.

Everybody knows how much of a “Gyllenhaalic” I am. I remember taking my ex-boyfriend to see this movie in the theaters. I was engrossed in the movie and I looked over to see that he was sleeping. That’s why he became an ex-boyfriend.

Sam Mendes has a way to make a monochromic setting into a thing of beauty. You see sand blackened with soot and ash from fireballs or burning oil wells in the distance. It’s like the screen is inverted.

Judgment: If you are the kind of person that doesn’t like gory war movie, you would enjoy

Rating: ****

%d bloggers like this: