Heath Ledger belongs to an elite group of performers. His drive and talent were obvious from the earliest days of his career. His career was flying high when he passed away in 2008. While he may be gone, his movies and his legacy will live on.
In Casanova (2005) Ledger plays the legendary lover. Francesca (Sienna Miller) is the daughter of a noblewoman who is engaged to a much older man. She is also the writer of a feminist pamphlet, using the pen name of Guardi to protect her identity. Casanova is in love with Francesca, while engaged to another woman. Adding to the list of complications is the church who are all too eager to root out heretics.
I like this movie. The balance of feminism, history, myth and romance makes for a good film.
That same year, Ledger starred with Matt Damon in The Brothers Grimm. Wilhelm Grimm (Ledger) and Jacob Grimm (Matt Damon) are con artists who pretend to have access to potions and spells to keep out dark magic. Then they encounter a village where the magic, the curses and the mythical creatures are real. Now Will and Jacob must use real courage to defeat the curse and free the town.
I like this movie. Fairy tales, myth and special effects that help, not overpower the story, I couldn’t ask for more in a film.
Four years earlier, Ledger starred in A Knights Tale. William Thatcher (Ledger) is an young squire whose master has recently passed. Seeking glory, William, with the help of his companions takes on the image of a knight. While he finds the glory, the wealth and the fame, his attempt to pass as a knight might be curtailed by Count Adhemar (Rufus Sewell), who is seething with jealousy as William attracts the attention of Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon).
I wouldn’t say that this movie is historically accurate. But it is fun and sometimes, that’s what we want in a movie.
The 1950’s were a conservative time, when many people just followed the spoken and unspoken rules of society.
Katherine Ann Watson (Julia Roberts) is not one of these people. In Mona Lisa Smile (2003), Katherine has just started her first semester teaching at Wellesley College. While her students are some of the brightest young women in the country, their focus seems to be more about marriage than a college degree. Betty (Kirsten Dunst), Joan (Julia Stiles), Giselle (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and Connie (Ginnifer Goodwin) think they can walk all over their new art professor. But they will soon learn that Miss Watson has more to teach them than what they learn inside the walls of the classroom.
I like this movie. The message of finding your voice and staying with that voice, even when it goes against what is considered to be acceptable is potent.
At the time of their births, The Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia Romanov were considered to be four of the luckiest young women in the world. They were enormously wealthy, intelligent, capable and the daughters of the Czar and Czarina of Russia. But none of them would live to see 25. They were killed in 1918 with their parents, their brother and several members of the royal entourage when the Communist revolution began to take over Russia.
Helen Rappaport’s new book,The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra focuses on the lives of Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia Romanov. She starts by tracing the lineage of their mother, Alexandra who was of the many granddaughters of Queen Victoria and their father, Nicholas. She follows the Romanov family as it grows to four girls and one boy, Alexey, the treasured and sick heir to the throne.
The book is not a quick read. But that is not a bad thing. The time that the author took to research her subjects is obvious. Despite the fact the subjects of the book were killed nearly 100 years ago, they return to life in full color.
Sometimes, the best stories come out of the greatest tragedies. World War II is no exception.
In the early 1990’s, two movies exemplified this idea.
In For The Boys (1991), Dixie Leonard (Bette Midler) and Eddie Sparks (James Caan) are entertaining the boys overseas during World War II. After the war, they become America’s favorite on screen couple, until the Red Scare forces them apart.
I like this movie. World War II movies usually focus on the men fighting, they seldom focus on the entertainers who put their lives on the line to entertain the troops.
Come See the Paradise (1990) is about the dark side of America during World War II. In 1936 Jack McGurn (Dennis Quaid), takes a job in a movie theater in Los Angeles neighborhood of Little Tokyo. He falls in love with Lily (Tamlyn Tomita), who is the boss’s daughter. Lily’s father does not approve of the relationship and they must escape to Seattle. But then war breaks out and Lily and their daughter are forced into the concentration camps with the rest of the Japanese American citizens.
I also like this movie. The subject of the forced internment of the Japanese-American population during World War II seems to be over looked most of the time. This movie is absolutely beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.