I’m not much of a movie watcher, but there are some films which attract my attention. I sat down and watched a few last week – well – two and a bit, really.
The first was Dunkirk. There was so much hype, so many plaudits. An old man who’d been there for the great evacuation said it was realistic. And, of course, the European world war II was very much a part of my studies at university. I’d seen many of the major war movies. The Longest Day (1962) and the Battle of Britain (1969) are stand-outs. So Pete and I sat in our lounge room and played Dunkirk on the big screen.
What a disappointment.
There are three arcs to the movie – the young soldier under fire who makes it through the French lines to the beach. There’s the spitfire pilots doing their best against the German stukas and ME 109s, and there’s an elderly man who takes his boat across the channel to bring the boys back.
We watch the young soldier try everything he can to get off the beach. Gets on a boat which is sunk at its moorings, is shot up in a fishing boat, is strafed and bombed.
For the spitfire pilots, the point was made early on that after they’d crossed the channel, planes could only be over the beaches for about an hour before they had to head back. Well and good. Our pilot shot down some Jerries and ended up having to land his aircraft after running out of fuel. Boy, those spitfires make great gliders.
The man in his boat picked up a shell-shocked man on a sinking boat and kept going to Dunkirk – much against the survivor’s wishes. They also pick up one of the spitfire pilots who was forced to ditch in the sea before they make it to France.
It all sounds good, doesn’t it? I checked later and the film was as authentic as it could be. But for me there were two things: I wasn’t invested in the fate of the individuals (in fact I thought the pilot was an idiot). And I got no scope of the enormity of the achievement. This was a desperate race to get hundreds of thousands of men off that beach, using hundreds (if not thousands) of small craft. That’s the problem when you film vignettes. You’re too up close and personal. I believe that was the director’s intention. Some of my friends loved it, some hated it, some said they enjoyed it regardless. That’s life, I guess. It picked up a swag of Oscars.
Then I watched Hidden Figures, about three black women who worked at NASA during the race to get a man into orbit in the late fifties/early sixties.
Segregation was in full swing, with even nice white people brought up to think of black people as second-class citizens. Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson, all brilliant women, had to prove themselves in a white male world. In total contrast to Dunkirk, I cared about all three. I was so angry for these ladies and the way they were put down and belittled. The movie conveyed the impact of prejudice on their lives in a way somebody like me (who knew it happened but hadn’t seen it) could relate. It was a terrific film.
Lastly, I watched a film given to me some time ago, which won an award as best film at a 2007 festival. Crusade in Jeans is a time-travel movie based on a best-selling Dutch book. The MC is a fifteen-year-old boy who accidentally sends himself back to the year 1212, where he is rescued from a couple of thugs by a bunch of local kids. And that’s about as far as I got.
I’ve never been a fan of time travel, especially going back from our time hundreds of years. I can’t suspend belief sufficiently to accept that a fifteen-year-old boy suddenly appearing in a forest (where he expected to be in a football stadium) would not be a LOT more perplexed than Dolf. In fact, everybody acted as if this weird kid wearing strange clothes suddenly turning up was quite normal. And they could all understand each other. That, in particular, would not happen. Language changes over time. Have you tried reading Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in the original? Apart from that, the changes in food, hygiene and the like would put any modern person at considerable risk.
I wrote a tongue-in-cheek explanation of my stance in the sexy side of time travel.
I’m almost all movied out for now. Although I will take the time to see The Lady in the Van. (I would LOVE for Maggie Smith to play Granny Weatherwax in a Pratchett movie.) I’ll do my best to see the screen adaptation of Good Omens. Apart from that, I haven’t seen The Last Jedi yet. The DVD should be out soon.
Just a final thought – we still call them ‘movies’ and ‘films’. I wonder if young people (as opposed to old farts) still know why those words are used? It’s all digital images, after all.