The Man, the Myth, the Legend

Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story explores the man behind the legend. After watching Bruce Lee’s entire filmography, I figured the next logical step was to watch a biopic. Dragon has Linda Lee Cadwell’s seal of approval and even some input from Brandon Lee before his untimely death. Although Brandon was considered for the role of his father, up-and-coming actor Jason Scott Lee was chosen instead. Since Bruce Lee is so iconic, it’s impossible to see anyone else in the part, but Jason Scott does an admirable job. Dragon follows Bruce Lee as he grows up in Hong Kong and receives martial arts training from Ip Man himself.

Most of it is rushed since the primary focus is Lee’s life in America. How Lee worked as a humble dishwasher and faced prejudice as a Chinese American. The most effective depiction being how Bruce reacted to yellowface in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. At its heart, Dragon is a love story between Bruce and his future wife Linda. Lauren Holly is just as effective in depicting their forbidden love, hardships, and eventual triumphs. The Randy Edelman theme enhances every moment. We see them writing his book Tao of Jeet Kune Do and the birth of their children Brandon and Shannon. Although Rob Cohen could’ve made a straightforward biopic, he filled it with mysticism and exaggerated fights.

Lee’s inner demons are literally depicted with samurai and the fights are meant to represent actual Bruce Lee movies. Bruce trains people of all races, defends his honor on multiple occasions, and is eventually discovered by producers. We see him as Kato on The Green Hornet, how he lost the role in Kung Fu, and how he won success back in Hong Kong. Only The Big Boss and Enter the Dragon are depicted since they represent his strained home life the best. Dragon ends on a triumphant note without having to show Bruce Lee’s tragic death. Although some see it as hero worship, Dragon: The Bruce Lee is an honest portrayal through a Hollywood lens.

Dragon A Bruce Lee Story

Bruce Lee on the set of Enter the Dragon

Painter’s Feet

My Left Foot put its best foot forward. Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the greatest actors of all time, but I really hadn’t seen much from his limited filmography. My mother suggested My Left Foot as it was the first film where Day-Lewis won an Academy Award for Best Actor. My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown is the true story of an Irishman with cerebral palsy who beat the odds to become a painter and author of his own autobiography.

Christy is seen as a burden by his proud working class father, but his strong and patient mother has always believed in him. It’s not until Christy writes “Mother” with his left foot that his father starts to come around. We see all of Christy’s life from being wheeled around in a cart to learning to improve his speech with a cerebral palsy coach. It’s a powerful journey with many highs and lows, but Christy is able to find love and appreciation by the end. Daniel Day-Lewis is a pure wonder to behold as he contorts his body throughout the film. As a method actor, his dedication shows in every scene.

Day-Lewis was more than deserving of the Best Actor Oscar, but child actor Hugh O’Conor should’ve won as well. O’Conor is scary good at matching his older co-stars facial features and body movements. Brenda Fricker won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress as well. Since a loved one experiencing someone else’s struggle can be just as effective. Some would argue My Left Foot should’ve won Best Picture over Driving Miss Daisy, but I think they’re equally strong contenders. My Left Foot is an inspiring lesson in never giving up on the physically disabled.

My Left Foot

Christy’s mother pushes her son

Powell & Child

Julie & Julia brings together 2 of my favorite things; food and blogging. Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Like everyone else on Earth, I absolutely love to eat. So I thought I’d dine into a movie all about food. Other than my knowledge of famed French cook Julia Child, I didn’t know much about Nora Ephron’s final film. Julie Powell is a blogger who cooked every recipe from Child’s cookbook. Making this the very first major movie about blogging. Both are true stories and both deserve equal attention.

Julia Child, 1950’s – Like every other role she tackles, Meryl Streep is Julia Child. She matches her great height and unusually high voice. Child is American, but she puts on a proper accent that I’ve always confused for French. Everything I know about Julia Child came from my mother who enjoys cooking shows. I’d say Streep is deserving of her Oscar nod. Child’s story chronicles her life in Paris with her loving husband Paul. Child was a true pioneer who professionally pursued cooking as a woman in the 50’s. From learning at Le Cordon Bleu to publishing her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cuisine. Streep is as fun to watch as Child was during her eventual TV show…

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Julia Child cooks

Julie Powell, 2002 – What I thought would be the weak link of the movie, ended up being just as enjoyable. As a blogger, it’s fun to watch something with such a focus on blogging. Julie & Julia is technically the story of New York writer Julie Powell. She works at a call center post-9/11 and shares a tiny apartment with her cat and loving husband Eric. In order to find purpose in her life, Julie blogs about her love of cooking. She admires Julia Child and decides to take on the task of cooking all 524 recipes from her cookbook for an entire year. There are problems of course, but she cooks her way through it. It helps that Amy Adams is so endearing in the role.

In conclusion, Julie & Julia makes me hungry for fine French cuisine. As well as give me hope that blogging can lead to great opportunities. Nora Ephron was great with female friendly stories and this is two for the price of one. Stars like Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci, Amy Adams, and Chris Messina make it work. With food, love, and aspiration to offer, Julie & Julia is worth the time to dine, Bon Appétit.

Julie and Julia

Julie Powell cooks

The Horrors of the Holocaust

Schindler’s List is the definitive take on one of the most horrifying periods in human history. The Holocaust would be a difficult subject for any filmmaker, but it was deeply personal for Steven Spielberg. As a jewish man himself, he wasn’t even sure he was mature enough to properly tell the story. He didn’t even accept a paycheck. Schindler’s List focuses on events surrounding German industrialist Oskar Schindler. A member of the Nazi party who saved the lives of over a thousand Jews. It took a lot of mental preparation for me to finally decide to watch Schindler’s List. Although I had watched a small chunk of the 3 hour movie in school.

Schindler’s List is almost entirely black & white, because there is no color in a period like this. Matched by a more somber score from John Williams. My heart raced anytime the Nazis carelessly executed innocent Jews, whenever they were forced into labor, forced to hide, and especially during the Kraków ghetto liquidation. My heart sank the most as soon as Auschwitz appeared on screen. Although it’s impossible not to be depressed, Spielberg finds a way to bring humanity to the surface. In a way that made it easier to get through than I expected. Jews are given time to breath and ultimately given hope. Liam Neeson does the impossible by giving an understandable nature to someone like Schindler.

Employing Jews to work in his factory is just business at first, but his Jewish accountant played by Ben Kingsley gives him a different perspective. What truly pushes him towards redemption is a symbolic little girl in red representing innocences. Ralph Fiennes similarly gives three dimensions to an evil Nazi who could have just been a two dimensional monster. Schindler does save the Jews in the end, but he still breaks down at the thought of saving more. Ending with a humbling sequence of the real life survives paying their respects to their deceased hero. Schindler’s List was the most fitting movie by Spielberg to win Best Picture. Schindler’s List is mandatory viewing for people who need to learn from the horrors of the Holocaust.

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A girl in red walks through the Kraków ghetto

East Meets West

Heaven & Earth details the seldom talked about Vietnamese perspective of the Vietnam war. After closely following the war in Platoon and its life changing aftermath in Born on the Fourth of July, Heaven & Earth was the final piece of Oliver Stone’s Vietnam war trilogy. Although it’s not as acclaimed or talked about half as much as the first two. I guarantee I’d probably never have seen it if not for the trilogy.

Heaven & Earth is based on Le Ly Hayslip’s personal experience during the Vietnam war. Painting a picture of how much Vietnamese villagers dealt with their place in the middle of conflict. Even dealing with the brutality of the Viet Cong before Americans even entered the war. The late Hiep Thi Le was chosen among many Vietnamese actresses. Although she had no acting experience, she’s natural enough to carry the film as Le Ly. Hiep’s performance, Stone’s filming techniques (especially in the gorgeous Vietnam fields), and less traumatizing aspects of the war itself are about all I got out of Heaven & Earth.

Le Ly’s narration dominates too much of the film. To the point important details of her life don’t have time to set in. Same with the out of place black & white flashbacks. Le Ly goes through a lot of personal trauma before meeting her American soldier husband. Tommy Lee Jones doesn’t appear until about an hour in. Le Ly becomes more Americanized, but everyone in Vietnam speaks English, so it’s not a big change. It’s depressing, but most of her American life was changed to increase tragedy. Heaven & Earth is a good perspective change that should’ve had a better presentation.

3. Heaven and Earth

Le Ly sits with Steve

Wounded Warrior

Born on the Fourth of July isn’t an easy film to discuss, but I’ll try my best to stay impartial. Happy 4th of July everyone! Born on the Fourth of July is the second film in what would turn out to be Oliver Stone’s Vietnam war trilogy. The only similarity is Willem Dafoe and Tom Berenger. Since Stone has experience as a Vietnam veteran, he became the top choice to direct Ron Kovic’s autobiography. Kovic was an all-American Catholic youth so patriotic he was born on the 4th of July. So he severed by enlisting in the Vietnam war.

Reality sets in when a misfire results in the loss of innocent villagers and the accidental shooting of one of his fellow soldiers. The loss of his legs is what changes him forever. Maintaining his patriotism, but slowly losing faith when people turn their back on him. When fleeing to Mexico doesn’t work, Kovic returns to speak out against the war. Compared to Platoon, there’s actually very little war featured in the 2 hour & 25 minute movie. There’s just enough to take in the harshness of the war from someone else’s perspective.

Born on the Fourth of July was a major breakthrough for Tom Cruise. Earning him his first Oscar nomination and first chance in a dramatic leading role. Since before he was just the young heartthrob type. Cruise takes Kovic to every extreme he experienced. Spending nearly the entire movie in a wheelchair. Suffering through his post-war experience with genuine realism. It helped that the real Rob Kovic co-wrote the script. I don’t agree with everything, but Born on the Fourth of July is just another reminder of the folly of the Vietnam war.

2. Born on the Fourth of July

Ron Kovic protests the war

We Rob Banks

Bonnie and Clyde is one of the earliest movies from the villain’s point of view. It was also one of the first to bring the New Hollywood movement to life. Since Bonnie and Clyde deals with sex and violence in a frank manner. Something late 60’s films continued to do more and more. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were the original criminal couple. Between 1932 and 1934, Bonnie and Clyde went on a series of crime sprees that would sometimes end in murder. They were named “Public Enemy” during the Great Depression.

Although I knew the basics of their story, parts of the movie still surprised me. Like I didn’t realize they committed their first crime mere moments after meeting. Clyde was fresh out of prison and Bonnie was simply bored. They’re so nonchalant about their criminal activities that they don’t even hesitant to tell people they rob banks. I knew they eventually had a getaway driver. So C.W. Moss didn’t come as a surprise. It’s Clyde’s criminal brother Buck and timid wife Blanche that I wasn’t aware of. Despite all the laws that they break, Bonnie and Clyde were practically hailed as folk heroes. Due to how glamourized they were by the media. Bonnie was especially glamourized as a gun-toting cigar smoker.

Whether exaggerated or not, Bonnie and Clyde’s deaths were all too real. Just when it seems like they were ready to put their crimes behind them, the couple was struck down by a hail of bullets. I know their actions were inexcusable, but it’s still shocking to see the stars of the movie killed in such a graphic way. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway play their parts perfectly. I’m not surprised that pretty much the entire cast was nominated (with Estelle Parsons winning the only Oscar). Along with a win for Best Cinematography and a nomination for Best Picture. Bonnie and Clyde broke all the rules.

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Bonnie and Clyde rob a bank

I’m Lovin’ it🍔🍟

The Founder takes us back to the high stakes world of fast food. McDonald’s is the single most successful fast food burger franchise on Earth. I doubt there’s a person alive who hasn’t eaten at McDonald’s. From the Big Mac to the french fry, you can never go wrong with the cheap, simple, and extremely easy to find option. It was my favorite fast food place growing up. By this point I’ve tried everything on the menu at least once. I even made a Happy Meal box in my Senior art class.

So I was very intrigued to see a movie about how McDonald’s became what we all know today. Before the playplace and even before Ronald McDonald, McDonald’s was just a humble burger stand. In 1954, milkshake salesman Ray Kroc happened upon the opportunity of a lifetime. McDonald’s stood out for its speedy service, on the go option, and friendly clientele. Back when the menu only consisted of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries, Coke, and shakes. The cost ranged from 10-20¢.

Michael Keaton is burgerman. I never knew just how underhanded the formation of McDonald’s was. Ray Kroc can certainly come off as a greedy jerk. Especially for his treatment of the original McDonald brothers. Yet he was such a good businessman. He personally ensured every franchise stuck to the menu. Persistence was key. The result is the tastefully done McMovie The Founder. Ba Da Ba Ba Bah, I’m Lovin’ It!

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Ray Kroc opens another McDonald’s

On Ice

Miracle depicts one of the greatest moments in sports history. The 1980 Winter Olympics “Miracle on Ice.” When an American hockey team beat the more favored Soviet Union. Of all the sports I’ve mentioned before, hockey is probably the one I know the least about. I had fun playing a mock version of the game in school, but I’ve never played the genuine version on ice. I only know that you play with a puck, the rules are similar to soccer, and fights often break out. But since I was in the midst of watching a sports movie marathon (including football, baseball, basketball, and soccer), I knew I needed to see a hockey movie. So I settled for Miracle.

A movie I guarantee I wouldn’t have seen if not for this marathon. Even though its Disney and my teacher started showing some of it in class once. Kurt Russell gives it his all for Coach Herb Brooks. As he breaks down his young ameutur team with hours worth of suicide drills and builds them up with inspirational speeches. When you invest 2 hours into a sport, you’ll pick up on the rules. So I was definitely chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A!” when America was victorious. I watched a hockey movie and a Miracle broke out.

'Miracle"

Herb Brooks roots for his team

This Ain’t My First Rodeo

Dallas Buyers Club made us reexamine Matthew McConaughey as an actor. Before he was merely that dazed and confused stoner guy with a southern drawl. Now he’s a serious Oscar contender. So how did that happen exactly? Well Dallas Buyers Club played through McConaughey’s strengths. He portrays the real life Texas cowboy Ron Woodroof. A man so macho that it comes as a complete shock to him that he’s just been diagnosed with AIDS.

This was back when nobody knew anything about HIV. So anyone who had it was treated like a leper with a death sentence. The AIDS epidemic is another point in history I was fortunate to have avoided. Upon learning his diagnosis, Ron is in complete denial. Until he ends up losing everything and his health begins to deteriorate. With the help of his lovely doctor, Ron begins to seek treatment from outside sources. Leading to the smuggling of unapproved drugs from other countries. Realizing he can profit off it, Ron establishes the titular Dallas Buyers Club.

In the process Ron partners up with polar opposite Rayon. A trans individual who helps Ron find more AIDS patients. Their performances couldn’t be more different, but Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto both ended up winning Oscars for Best Performance. What they do have in common is all the weight they had to lose for their roles. Looking like very convincing sick people. In the end, Dallas Buyers Club is all about the well being of its patients. Regardless of who they may be on the outside.

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Ron Woodroof (right) and Rayon (left) sit on a bench