Trumbo, from veteran comedy director Jay Roach (Meet the Parents and Austin Powers series), is based on the true story of the blacklisted screenwriter during an era of anti-Communism. In an academy-award nominated performance, Bryan Cranston portrays the eponymous writer throughout the late 1940s and 1950s during a time when the “Red Scare” permeated Hollywood. Though the film feels overlong due to some meandering subplots, and a few of the characters distract from the overall story, this is a solid historical drama. Cranston is undoubtedly the major attraction, but the overall themes of the story remain poignant to this day.
The extra-long February has told all the stories that it ever will, and it is time for the rest of us to move on towards the lion / lamb chimera known as March. That particular proverb is generally reserved for March weather, but I think we might be able to rework it for the slate of March theatrical releases, as we’ve definitely got a couple of lions this month. Along the way, I’ll also go through a brief Oscars recap and talk a little about the things I am planning here on Plot and Theme.
Earlier today, the nominees for the 88th annual Oscars were announced, and this is the first time Plot and Theme has existed during an Oscar season, so I am going spout my nonsense preferences and commentary for all who wish to read. Before we get started, it is important to understand that these are not the films that I think will win the award, but the films that I think deserve to win. It is a slight difference, and if anyone cares about predicting the actual winners, I may do that on the eve of the ceremony (or, I could even live Tweet as the Oscars are happening).
Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight opens with a quick vignette at a Boston police station. Using subtle camera movements and specific acting choices, the subject of the scene becomes clear: a young boy has been molested by a local priest. A green policeman doesn’t seem to understand the protocols, but he watches as the strings get pulled and the wheels get greased, and the offending priest gets whisked away from the police station without consequence. This serves as a preamble to the harrowing story we are about to witness: the rampant sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests, and its systemic cover-up by the Church.
Opportunity is pregnant with possibility, but that does not dissolve the hardship associated with exploring it. John Crowley’s period piece Brooklyn explores this conflict through the eyes of Eilis (Saoirse Ronan; pronounced Seer-sha) as she leaves her small Irish town to start a new life in 1950s Brooklyn. There, she deals with homesickness, depression, and the struggle of starting anew. And though her path towards flourishing in the New World is beset with obstacles, along the way she discovers a joy which is all her own.