2019 MOVIES IN REVIEW – Marilyn Armstrong

We’ve been catching up with the movies we never got to see in 2019. Many — maybe most — of them have been available on Netflix, Hulu, or Prime for a while, but we never got around to viewing them. A few more we got as gifts. So this is what we’ve seen of this year’s movies.

The first movie we watched was “Little Women.” I’ve read the book who knows how many times and visited Orchard House many times. I’ve also seen all the productions of the movie, my favorite being the 1994 version with Winona Ryder as Jo March. It’s still my favorite version. This one was weirdly disjointed.

I understand what the director was trying to do, but I didn’t think it worked. If I hadn’t read the book many times and seen all the other versions of it, I wouldn’t have had any idea what was going on. It’s not terrible, but it’s not exceptional in any way. With a cast of such great stars, it should have been better. A lot better.

Our next movie was “Harriet,” the story of Harriet Tubman. Garry has an issue watching movies about slavery in the same way I have an issue watching stuff about the Holocaust. We were both over-exposed to our collective history in early childhood.

I pointed out that “Harriet” actually had — as much as any movie of its kind can have — a “happy” ending. She was a historical figure, so we knew how it worked out. It wasn’t just all your ancestors lining up naked to be gassed en masse. He agreed to watch it. I don’t carry the weight of slavery as my personal history, but it turns out you don’t have to be Black to hate slavery and slave owners on southern plantations.

By the end of the movie, when Harriet rides off with a rifle on a white horse, I was cheering. Garry thought it might make a good television series. Harriet could rescue slaves every week and maybe blow away a slave owner or two.

We were so encouraged that the next movie we watched — or tried to watch — was “A Marriage Story.” I don’t care how many Oscars it won. By about an hour into it, neither one of us could watch any more of it. It’s available on Netflix, by the way, so if you are in the mood to watch a couple tearing each other to pieces while getting a divorce, feel free to watch it. How interesting that this movie won Oscars, but “Harriet” didn’t. Make of this what you like, but Harriet was by far the better movie with better action and acting top to bottom.

Even after turning it off, “Marriage Story” left a bad taste in our mouths. Garry suggested “The Two Popes,” a movie I had marked for viewing a few weeks ago. We hadn’t gotten to it.

It was about the papacy of Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins) and the 2013 election of Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce). Two great actors dominating the movie and I thought it was excellent. I don’t know how accurate it is, but it was gripping and often quite funny. It’s also playing on Netflix, so if you can, it is definitely worth seeing.

We took a pass on “The Irishman,” also on Netflix.

We also saw “1917.” Garry liked it more than I did. The pointlessness (futility?) of war and all that. I thought it was a good movie but not a great one. Garry may differ on this one.

And this is as far as we’ve gotten with last year’s movies. I’m not sure there are any more in which we are interested.

And having run out of new movies, we settled happily last night into a rerun of “The Mask of Zorro.” Give me a handsome dude in a mask, riding a glorious horse and I’m a happy camper.

Categories: Marilyn Armstrong, Movies

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26 replies

  1. We have a new series called “Life”. It’s about a black fellow, unjustly in prison for killing someone. He refused to plea bargain and admit to doing something that he didn’t do – that’s why it’s called “Life”. He becomes a lawyer while in prison. He then defends his fellow prisoners who are innocent of their charges. It’s a pilot at the moment but I hope it does well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think we have it too on Netflix. I haven’t made my mind up about watching it. I need happy endings. Life has been so brutal, something has to be happy or I start to lose it.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Leslie, a familiar plot but we’ll give it a shot. I’m burned out on death row movies right now. During my working days, I did a lengthy interview with several death row inmates wrongfully prosecuted /sentenced(?). They sat down for the interview after serving extensive time on death row before exoneration. It was a memorable experience for me. I wound up mostly listening to these men. It became abundantly clear they had more to tell me than I had questions to ask. So I just shut up and let them talk. It was raw, honest and gripping. More intensive than any drama I might watch. I’ll still look for the show, Leslie, when my mind is in a better place.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Garry I have a great deal of respect for this fellow in the series. I want to see how they proceed with the idea.


  2. I might take in “1917” and “The Two Popes”, but the only one that really interests me of the lot is “Harriet”. Is aw 2 minutes of “Marriage Story”. Hey, isn’t that the bad guy in the new Star Wars films? Oh well, he was more interesting a long time time ago, far, far away…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really disliked “Marriage Story.” It reminded me of all the really ugly stuff about divorce. I never had a divorce anything like that, but I know a lot of people who have. “Harriet” was really excellent. Tense, taut, well-acted. Okay, everyone was a lot better looking in the movies than they were in “real” life, but isn’t that always the way movies go? And it really WOULD make a great TV show. Rescue slaves, kill a slave owner, Tune in next week for more rescued slaves and more blown away slave owners. Go HARRIET!

      The two popes is one of those rare two-great-actors locked into a script. I don’t know if the show was originally done on stage, but it had a “stagey” feel to it and Anthony Hopkins just gets better with each year. David Pryce was also brilliant. And of course, it didn’t win Oscars either.

      I think our Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is more than a little bit out of touch. But so it everything else!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Trent, “Harriet” was my favorite. The slavery sections, obviously, difficult for me. But, overall, an inspiring story of a woman too long neglected by Hollywood and mainstream history curriculums. Hopefully, this changes things. Hey, Harriet on horseback — great TV series. Rescue of slaves every week, outwitting slave owners and hunters — exciting stuff. Yes??

      Liked by 1 person

      • She was a fascinating woman. Maybe it was the time and place I grew up (shores of Lake Erie where there were many stories of the Underground Railroad, particularly on the lake and in Oberland) and the 70s when people naively believed racism was in its last days, but we studied her in several grades in school. She was a huge figure in our studies. So not totally forgotten everywhere, but surely forgotten in Hollywood where she should have been a superhero years ago. I agree, it would make a great TV show.

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        • Trent, GREAT for your schools. We didn’t have much on Harriet Tubman in New York/Long Island public schools in the 40’s and 50’s. I learned about Harriet Tubman through my own love and interest in history. Ms. Tubman was a figure of interest during Black History month while I was a TV newsie. I was fascinated by her story as I dug for info for my TV pieces. I actually experienced admiration and elation as I wrote my various Tubman stories over the years. The movie is icing on the cake for me. I still think”Harriet” would be a great TV series. You can dress it up as action/adventure based on real life to get it greenlighted.

          Liked by 1 person

          • As I said, it might have been time and place, but I’m glad our schools taught a little broader version of history and included figures like Ms. Tubman. I still want to see her face on the 20 dollar bill! It is designed and ready to go, but the current administration stopped it… And a TV show would be great.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. Smart move to take a pass on The Irishman. I understand that it had three great actors in it……but I lost interest after the first 45 minutes. It was so slow and so long. My husband took two more days to watch the entire show. I liked The Two Popes (not entirely a true story) and want to watch A Marriage Story, but your review doesn’t make it sound too promising. So much hype for so many movies…

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    • Marriage story was written for masochists or if you’ve never been through a really ugly divorce, here’s your chance to catch up. I never know if any “history-based” film is even remotely accurate. They at least brush the edges of accuracy in this decade to a much great extent than they did when I was a kid.

      “The Two Popes” reminded me a little of “The Lion in Winter,” the good one with Katherine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole which had zero connection with “real” history, but what a fantastic play. It didn’t give you history, but it gave you the sense of who the characters really were — and it was so well done, if it had been entirely fiction, it would still have been fantastic.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Lois, more and more, “The Irishman” sounds like a homage to Scorcese by Marty. I appreciate Marty’s support of classic films and his due diligence to preservation of films – but his seeming overindulgence with “The Irishman” smacks of “enough, already”. Sorry, DeNiro and company.

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