Welcome to another installment of Movies, Movies, Movies!
Ivan’s Childhood (1962) Ivanovo detstvo (original title) Criterion Collection spine #397
Starring: Nikolay Burlyaev, Valentin Zubkov, Evgeniy Zharikov, Stepan Krylov, Nikolay Grinko, Dmitri Milyutenko, Valentina Malyavina, Irina Tarkovskaya, and several others.
Director: Andrei Tarkovsky, Eduard Abalov
Genres: war, drama
Synopsis: blurb comes directly from imdb:
During WWII, Soviet orphan Ivan Bondarev strikes up a friendship with three sympathetic Soviet officers while working as a scout behind the German lines. The adults have tried to send the orphan to children’s homes where war orphans go but he keeps returning to the battlefield because he wants vengeance for the Nazis killing his whole family.
Impressions: Seeing Ivan, this young kid, acting as a soldier in the war, and how the adult soldiers try to provide some semblance of normalcy in the middle of insanity for his sake is both touching and haunting. The noir black and white images, the style of angles, shadows, and dinginess yet vacuous sterility of the environment the soldiers exist within is one not soon forgotten. The use of flashbacks, where Ivan remembers what his life was like before the war, are particularly touching in contrast. There is a lot of symbolism. This is the kind of movie film students and buffs would love to deconstruct bit by bit. The disc came with special features disc with interviews of Tarkovsky scholars and filmmaking crew who worked with him.
Etc.: same director as “Stalker” that Strange Dylan reviewed in Hans movie draft; filmed in the Ukraine; in Russian language with English subtitles; this was director Tarkovsky’s first major film; there are some disturbing war images in this film.
Awards: 2 wins
The Irishman (2019) netflix
Starring: Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, Stephen Graham, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Jack Huston, Kathrine Narducci, and many many more.
Director: Martin Scorcese
Genres: biography, crime
Synopsis: this is the life story of Frank Sheeran, a mobster who was connected with Jimmy Hoffa and told author Charles Brandt so much of his story. See more information about Brandt and his book below.
Impressions: Scorcese took his time (3.5 hours) to tell the story properly. He understood that was the only way to tell it right. They used special double cameras to film the older actors and then edited them somehow to make them look younger to tell the earlier parts of the story. The casting has the best of the best for the roles, with DeNiro as The Irishman (say wha?,) Pacino as Hoffa, and Pesci as crime boss Bufalino.
Etc.: According to Deadline, before accepting the role of Russell Bufalino, Joe Pesci refused multiple times to come out of retirement in order to appear in this film. Some sources say the actual number of refusals was fifty.
Awards: 70 wins and 350 nominations
Trivia from imdb:
Charles Brandt is the author of “I Heard You Paint Houses,” a New York Times best-seller, published in over fourteen countries, and is the definitive work solving the disappearance and murder of Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa. It is the biography of a colorful hit man, Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, the prime suspect in the F.B.I.’s Jimmy Hoffa case. Brandt’s book is based on nearly five years of interviews he recorded on tapes that have since been subpoenaed by the F.B.I. The book forms the basis for Martin Scorsese’s film, having the working title, “The Irishman.”
The Blinding of Isaac Woodard (2021) American Experience TV series S33 E3
Starring: Eliza Briggs, Nathaniel Briggs, Mary James Cottrell, Joseph A. Delaine, Jr., Duke Ellington, Kari Frederickson, Belinda Gergel, Richard Gergel, Andre Holland, Sherrilyn Ifill, Rawn James, Brent Jennings, Gilbert King, Kenneth Mack, Patricia Sullivan, Elizabeth Waring, Laura Williams, Isaac Woodard, Robert Young, Sr., Eleanor Roosevelt, Strom Thurmond, Harry S. Truman (many of the stars are through archival footage.)
Director: Jamila Ephron
Genres: documentary, biography
Synopsis: Extremely well-organized story that begins in 1946 with Sergeant Isaac Woodard riding on a bus full of soldiers returning from World War II when Sgt. Woodard asked the bus driver to stop at the next town to let him get off to use the restroom. When the bus driver stopped at a small South Carolina town he went for the police because he didn’t like Sgt. Woodard’s assertiveness. The police beat Woodard and ground his eyes out with a night stick and threw him in jail. He was permanently blinded. What nobody could have guessed was that this heinous act of viciousness would spark a transformation in perspective that black people were not going to silently take being treated shabbily anymore. The story told goes from Isaac Woodard’s blinding to the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Edu that led to the beginning of the end of segregated schools and all manner of separate but equal Jim Crow laws. There is a lot in this doc about Thurgood Marshall! I was also pleased to see how much courage President Truman had in regards to what happened.
Impressions: There is so much that we have not been taught in schools that needs to taught to every American citizen. Why am I just now learning about Sergeant Isaac Woodard? I would urge anyone who doesn’t know about this sordid chapter in our history to watch this documentary or do some independent research on it.
Awards: too soon
Certain Women (2016) The Criterion Collection spine #893
Starring: Laura Dern, James Le Gros, Jared Harris, Ashlie Atkinson, Gus Boyd, Edelen McWilliams, John Getz, James Jordan, Matt McTighe, Joshua Fonokalafi, Michelle Williams, Sara Rodier, Rene Auberjonois, Lily Gladstone, Stephanie Campbell, Kilty Reidy, Kristen Stewart, and many more.
Director: Kelly Reichardt
Synopsis: 3 vignettes of 3 different women whose lives intersect in a Montana town. Laura Dern is an attorney for a man who is getting screwed over in a disability claim and who ends up taking hostages to get people to notice him; Michelle Williams is a wife who is cracking the whip over a husband and an obnoxious teenaged child to have her dream home built, no matter whose feelings are hurt in the process; Lily Gladstone is a ranch hand who has no social life and randomly drops into a night school class and becomes infatuated with the out-of-town teacher who comes to teach in their berg of a town once a week.
Impressions: These 3 stories are small and intimate and all about face-to-face human interaction. I like it that the main characters are strong women who don’t spend time bragging about it, they just do what needs to be done.
Etc.: same director as “First Cow”
Awards: 11 wins and 49 nominations
Apologies for the darkness of the trailer, this was the best one I could find for it: