Movies: Secretariat, Cedar Rapids, and True Grit

I avoided watching Secretariat for a long time, even after it became available for free on my Netflix Watch Instantly. The previews made it look completely cheesy, and it is a Disney movie. I finally broke down and watched it last weekend, because I just needed a distraction from some current stress in my life, and sometimes Disney movies are useful for triggering a good cry. Okay, it is completely cheesy, but it was so enjoyable. I love horse movies — I’ve seen Seabiscuit countless times. I think this is because it reminds me of how excited my mom gets on Triple Crown race days. She used to show and ride horses when she was young, and she knows all the small details to point out before, during, and after the races that make watching it a lot of fun for people who don’t know that much about the sport.

Secretariat is a great underdog movie, like a lot of Disney movies tend to be. Overcoming obstacles, staying true to your convictions, strength in the face of adversity. As cliched as it might be, these are still things that inspire me, and things I need reminders about sometimes. I was a little perplexed at first by the casting of John Malkovich as the trainer, but he turned out to be great and more lovable than just about any other character he’s ever played. I would have appreciated it if Diane Lane’s character (the horse’s owner) had been a little less one-dimensional. She was portrayed like the greatest saint who ever lived, who could do no wrong. I would have sympathized with her character’s difficulties more if she had come off like more of an actual human. And this is what you would expect from a Disney movie, and one of the reasons I had avoided it. But I was actually really moved by the race segments of the movie, when Secretariat came from last place and won by distances so great that no other race horse has ever come close to touching his records. He is, to this day, THE GREATEST RACE HORSE THAT EVER LIVED. During the race scenes, I was yelling from the couch and freaking out my dog, and when he won, I cried. Even though I knew the story, and I knew he was going to win. I admit it; I still cried. And you know what? I would totally watch it again.

Cedar Rapids…meh. I love Ed Helms, and I thought he was great in it, but it wasn’t quite as funny as I had hoped. Yes, it was quirky, but the characters were all a little silly. The plot was not that interesting when it came down to it. I liked the outcome/ending, and I was smiling when it was over, but it felt like a long time of waiting for that to happen in the last ten minutes. Also, Anne Heche? She’s still alive? Really? She should go back into hiding.

Oh, True Grit. I’m really not into Westerns, but I try to watch the Best Picture Oscar nominees every year. I love Jeff Bridges. But Matt Damon as a Texas Ranger…weird. The little girl was annoying as hell. I could not get into the plot at all. Again, the last fifteen minutes of the movie were good, but leading up to that it felt extremely slow. Maybe it would have helped if I had seen the original. Maybe not. It had pretty cinematography, and the costumes and sets were pretty amazing. And maybe it’s a testament to my adult ADD that I have trouble sitting through a movie anymore, but this one was just not for me. I was still holding out hope for liking it until they shot a horse. Can’t handle it!

 

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Film Fest Friday: Burn After Reading

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The latest film from the celebrated directorial duo of Joel and Ethan Cohen got great reviews, but I thought the previews looked awful. Then, Coocatchoo and Bee Cee saw it in the theater and came home completely bummed when they did not “get it.” So I didn’t go into this viewing with high hopes. Well, I did in that Fargo and The Big Lebowski are two of my all-time favorite films, and I wanted the Cohen Brothers to wow me again. But I was not going to be too surprised if it didn’t happen.

While watching, I could totally understand why you might be confused and think you were not understanding why everyone else was laughing, when the characters are all either being murdered and/or leading desperately sad lives. But it’s a farce, and it’s hysterical when you stop to ponder just how ridiculous the whole thing is. And so is each and every thing that happens along the way.

I’m typically not a huge fan of Brad Pitt and George Clooney’s choices of movies. I was pleasantly surprised at both of their performances here. I might say, though, playing an airhead seemed to be just a little too easy for Brad. Maybe it’s just that even mediocre actors can be made to shine when surrounded by an outstanding supporting cast that includes greats like Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, and Tilda Swinton.

This is a must-see! If you find yourself wondering why it’s supposed to be so great, just remember — it’s meant to be funny.