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In America is a beautiful film, a semi-autobiographical story from the heart. It's beautifully acted and powerfully moving.

Now there are four films that I would be perfectly happy to call "movie of the year"--Finding Nemo, Stevie, Lost in Translation, and In America--and if any of them come out on top in our PFCC awards this year, I'll be pleased.

But could this one be a dark horse for the Oscar this year? I haven't seen anything this year that I think the Academy will prefer to Return of the King (And who knows ... that could turn out to be a real disappointment.) The pessimist in me grumbles that Mystic River could take the grand prize, but I really think it's too much of a downer for the Academy. This one is heavy, full of grief, but also full of genuine uplift, and it earns all of its emotions. Sheridan has scored points with the Academy before with My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father. But without any big stars (unless you count Samantha Morton), this one's going to have a lot of work to do just to GET SEEN.

So GO SEE IT on opening weekend. You'll love it. It's a beauty. Spread the word.

Wow... I'm wrapping this up, and I haven't given you a SINGLE SPOILER!

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I am bummed. I wanted to see this on the weekend, but i believe it was here and gone before i could even sneeze. Some fellow i've never met, who lives about eight blocks from me, had a review on Yahoo that said he saw it in Chicago on Tuesday... But every possible search for it brings a total blank. sad.gif

-s.

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Stef, Landmark is running In America later this month, it should be around for at least two weeks then. Your buddy must have caught a pre-screening somewhere.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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I was just gonna ask last night if anyone had seen In America because the a) the trailer looked really good, cool.gif Jim Sheridan is a good director and c) Samantha Morton is one of the best actresses out there right now. Glad to hear it's good. Can't wait to go see it, though it may be a while before it plays in Saskatoon.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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Attention Chicagoland cinephiles:

opening on November 26 at: Chicago IL Pipers Alley

opening on December 12 at: Chicago IL River East 21

opening on December 19 at:

Addison IL Marcus Cinema

Gurnee IL Gurnee Cinema

Lincolnshire IL City Park 20

Skokie IL Crown Village Crossing 18

South Barrington IL South Barrington

Vernon Hills IL River Tree 8

Warrenville IL Cantera

(these dates supplies by Dan, the fellow i've never met who says he saw a recent Sun Times sneak preview.)

-s.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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So, um, what happens in the first 5-10 minutes of this film? The projectionist at the press screening this morning screwed up in a few ways, the first of which was to have the top half of the image projected onto the ceiling and not onto the screen; apparently, to fix this, (s)he had to shut the projector off altogether, and when it came back on, the sound we got was NOT the film's audio track, but rather, the faux radio station that the theatre pipes into the screening rooms between movies. The timing of it all was rather uncanny, actually; just as the country tune began to wind down, the film cut to a wide shot of the car pulling out of the customs booth, and then it cut to an even wider shot of the car heading down the road while the camera pans up to a night-time New York City skyline -- the perfect music-video ending. I half-expected the song title, artist, and label to appear in the corner of the screen. It was shortly AFTER this that the projectionist finally fixed the sound ... just in time for us to see the people in the car fiddle with the radio knob, and then drive through the neon-lit streets of NYC while 'Do You Believe in Magic?' played on the soundtrack. We were well, well into the film before I finally heard anything resembling substantial dialogue, and it took me a little while to figure out who this "Frankie" was that everyone was referring to. Somehow I expect there was some expository narration or something on this point in the film's first few minutes.

Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:

: In America is a beautiful film, a semi-autobiographical story from the

: heart. It's beautifully acted and powerfully moving.

Yes, for the most part. Though I'm a wee bit worried by the positive way the film goes about the whole business of lying to children. (And gosh, what incredibly cute kids! And very natural, too -- even if one of them has a line that sounds just a wee bit too much like those too-too-smart lines that adult writers sometimes give to children.)

FWIW, I found the frequent references to E.T. kind of interesting, given that Samantha Morton and Djimon Hounsou have both appeared in Spielberg films (Minority Report and Amistad, respectively). At first I thought maybe this film was taking place during the film's re-release in early 2002, but then I read that the film actually takes place in the early 1980s ... which, come to think of it, sheds an entirely new light on, um, That Un-named Disease That That One Person Has.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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In the first few minutes, you get some voiceover narration about Christy's three wishes, about the loss of Frankie, about their decision to move to the States. We get a bit about the significance of the camcorder. There is a tense but amusing check-in scene with some suspicious guards. And then we're launched into New York.

I have the screenplay somewhere... I'll go find it and report back tomorrow. Time to pack up and go feast. Happy U.S. Thanksgiving!

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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My review is up.

Peter:

It begins with voiceover:

"There are some things you should wish for... and some things you shouldn't. That's what my little brother Frankie told me. He told me I only had three wishes. And I looked in his eyes... and I don't know why I believed him."

This is heard while we see a bright image of sunlight coming through an American flag. Then, the family is at U.S. Customs, crossing over from Canada, claiming they're on holiday. They talk their way through a tense crossing, and then they're on into Manhattan, drinking in the sights and sounds of it. That's about where you came in, I think.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:

: " . . . He told me I only had three wishes. . . . "

What was the first one, then? I believe the second one was the one at the amusement park. (And y'know, I can't even remember what the third one was, right now.)

: This is heard while we see a bright image of sunlight coming through an

: American flag. Then, the family is at U.S. Customs, crossing over from

: Canada, claiming they're on holiday.

Ah, so they are ILLEGAL immigrants, then? Interesting. (And yeah, I had wondered why a family from Ireland was DRIVING across the border into the United States.)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Last night Asher, MikeH, JRobert, mdsteves and i made it down to Piper's Alley for In America.

I can't speak for everyone because our after-film discussion quickly ascended into a post-modern theological and cultural critique, but i can speak for myself when i say that the film was in many ways endearing, touching the heart, mind and eyes. And it hits on a variety of emotional levels, something i admire in high quality films. Like Jeffrey i would recommend it for anyone that can get to it, as soon as possible.

[sidenote: The news that this is a great picture makes things a little harder for me, because now

i might have to bump something from my current Top 10 list... And the films are getting better and better as December rolls in...]

The film

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stef wrote:

: : I'm a wee bit worried by the positive way the film goes about the whole

: : business of lying to children.

:

: Man, i don't know what you're talking about unless it's the whole "look at

: the moon" thing, which i don't consider lying at all.

I'm thinking more of the scene in which Mom tries to pretend that the pregnancy is going really well and she can tell because she felt the baby kick, and the Dad refuses to play along and says that he did NOT feel the baby kick, and the Mom then chastises him privately and says that his inability to lie (or whatever word she uses) is what makes him a bad actor, etc.

: If you're going to call that lying to children, then you have to turn off any

: PBS children's shows with puppets and we've got to ditch Santa Clause

: altogether.

Funny you should mention that, since -- as I already mentioned on the Elf thread -- one of the things I have always been rather grateful to my parents for is the fact that they never once tried to get me to believe that Santa Claus really existed; they were always very clear about the fact that we were just playing a game. My father said he stopped believing in God around the same time that he found out Santa Claus wasn't real, and he didn't want me to go through that same sort of doubt, thinking he had lied to me. Ditto the Tooth Fairy, etc. -- these were all games I played with my parents, KNOWING that they were games.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Games, knowing they are games... sounds good. I need to form an opinion on this before next year's Christmas. This year, Genesis is still too young, and i don't have to have it all figured out yet. But we need to know how we're going to approach this one by this time, next year.

Oh, and i'm not reading the Elf thread. Trying to avoid spoilers. grin.gif

-s.

Edited by stef

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Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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I'm a wee bit worried by the positive way the film goes about the whole business of lying to children.

Man, i don't know what you're talking about unless it's the whole "look at the moon" thing, which i don't consider lying at all. It's called using a child's own imagination in letting them learn the beginning of healing, of recovery. It's a mending of their own wounds, which in that scene, the little girl had to be helped thru. If you're going to call that lying to children, then you have to turn off any PBS children's shows with puppets and we've got to ditch Santa Clause altogether.-s.

Peter, I had this very same thought while watching the movie. The way death and heaven, or the life after, is explained to children is sad and deceptive. This is more revealing of the way the adults think or rationalize death in order to grapple with the loss. It brings to mind more about the lack of understanding or belief that the parents have. The whole idea that their loved ones, like ET, have

...the kind of film criticism we do. We are talking about life, and more than that the possibility of abundant life." -M.Leary

"Dad, how does she move in mysterious ways?"" -- Jude (my 5-year-old, after listening to Mysterious Ways)

[once upon a time known here as asher]

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Games, knowing they are games... sounds good.  I need to form an opinion on this before next year's Christmas.  This year, Genesis is still too young, and i don't have to have it all figured out yet.  But we need to know how we're going to approach this one by this time, next year.

-s.

This could be a whole separate thread.

We have been talking about this since before we had our little guy. We have yet to come to a conclusion as to how we are going to approach the subject of Santa. The tooth fairy and Easter bunny are a great deal easier to address, at least in my mind. Fortunately, his birthdate (1st B-day this month) affords us a bit more time to think about this subject.

...the kind of film criticism we do. We are talking about life, and more than that the possibility of abundant life." -M.Leary

"Dad, how does she move in mysterious ways?"" -- Jude (my 5-year-old, after listening to Mysterious Ways)

[once upon a time known here as asher]

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The Grinch weighs in.

I really wanted to love this movie. I could actually hear myself telling myself during the opening scenes, "I love this family, I am so ready to invest myself in their struggles for the next ninety minutes." And they had me, I think, all the way through the heroic dragging the air conditioner through the streets of NYC scene.

But then began to accumulate what I perceived as a few false notes, occasional corny lines, and some stock ideas and/or treatment, including

The Dying Magical Black Man Who Teaches Us to Love Life to the point that my enthusiasm at the end of the film did not match my expectations of the beginning. There were moments when the corniness spoiled what could have been quite amazing. For example, there's a lovely montage of getting settled in America as a school choir sings the Star Spangled Banner in the background, which I think would have been quite moving if I wasn't wincing from the unconvincing and hackneyed "Jose, can you see?" joke at the top of the sequence. Maybe the kids actually had this real conversation in real life, so that's why it was left in. Which is why I was also left thinking that the story needed to move a few more degrees from deeply-felt autobiographical memories to art: there is a filtering and shaping process that happens before memories become art, and the loosy-goosy feel of this one seemed at times less stylistic than a matter of artistic coherence.

I was also a little confused about the time period. If ET was in the theaters, than we're talking the re-release, which was 2002 or so. But I'd heard the events actually took place in the early 80s. If that's the case, that camcorder the girl wields through the film was truly ahead of its time. If, on the other hand, the story did take place in 2002, then I would think that the central reality of being "In America" and in New York at that moment of history would have been 9-11, and recovering from that loss. I guess it can be argued that 9-11 is indeed a subtext here, but if so, it wasn't focussed enough to engage me.

Perhaps I need to see the film again, but it left me a little disappointed.

(The company, however, a quorum of CFS, was splendid, as usual. Though I missed the coffee-and-chat-until-the-wee-hours which we had to skip because of early wakup call times for some. Maybe let's see an early show next time, gents. And congratulations, (M)Leary on your election -- in absentia -- as president of our local chapter here. Let us know when and where you're planning to host the CFS Christmas soiree.)

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It brings to mind more about the lack of understanding or belief that the parents have.  The whole idea that their loved ones, like ET, have

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

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I was also a little confused about the time period.
Edited by stef

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asher wrote:

: The whole idea that their loved ones, like ET, have "gone home" is a

: deceptive analogy of the after life.

Oh, that reminds me of the OTHER lie that gets told to these kids -- the scene where the one dude tells the girl that he is an "alien".

I can totally handle the concept of adults playing games and make-believe with children, be it at Christmas or Halloween or whenever, but it is not at all clear to me that the little girl knows that this "alien" business is make-believe, the way that she presumably knows it is make-believe when her father puts on a blindfold and pretends to be a monster. (Then again, given the seemingly genuine look of fright on her face, maybe she DOESN'T know that her dad is just playing make-believe.) And the recurring theme I got throughout the film was that we need to lie to ourselves, and to each other, in order to deal with our losses and experience genuine human emotion or something -- that is why the dude on death's door tells the girl he is an "alien", that is why Mom can chew out Dad for failing to tell the girls a pretty lie about her pregnancy, and that is why the film finds its resolution in the scene where Dad points to the Moon and tells his daughter that he can see something that isn't actually there.

: Christy also sees through this explanational hypocrisy when her dad

: responds to her question about having Mateo disease by saying, "God

: would let that happen to you." Christy says, "You don’t believe in God."

Exactly -- God is just another one of those comforting lies that parents tell their children, and the problem here may be not that the father does not believe, per se, but that he is not a convincing enough liar (a problem that is apparently resolved with that Moon bit at the end).

Of course, CHRISTY believes in something -- she believes in the soul of her dead brother, and in his ability to grant her wishes. But are we in the audience supposed to believe in that too?

mike_h wrote:

: For example, there's a lovely montage of getting settled in America as a

: school choir sings the Star Spangled Banner in the background, which I

: think would have been quite moving if I wasn't wincing from the unconvincing

: and hackneyed "Jose, can you see?" joke at the top of the sequence.

Oh, right. Then again, if this film DOES take place in the early '80s, then it must be taking place around the time that I first heard that joke m'self. smile.gif

: I was also a little confused about the time period. If ET was in the

: theaters, than we're talking the re-release, which was 2002 or so. But I'd

: heard the events actually took place in the early 80s. If that's the case,

: that camcorder the girl wields through the film was truly ahead of its time.

Oh, good point -- wonder how I missed that, as I know the video camera we had at that time was a heck of a lot bigger (and a completely separate component from the VCR, which hung from our shoulders).

: If, on the other hand, the story did take place in 2002, then I would think

: that the central reality of being "In America" and in New York at that

: moment of history would have been 9-11, and recovering from that loss.

: I guess it can be argued that 9-11 is indeed a subtext here, but if so, it

: wasn't focussed enough to engage me.

No, now that you mention it, if this film DOES take place in early 2002, then I don't think we could have all this talk of death and stuff WITHOUT some explicit acknowledgement of September 11. And wouldn't crossing the border have been a bit more of a pain than it was here?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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It brings to mind more about the lack of understanding or belief that the parents have. The whole idea that their loved ones, like ET, have

...the kind of film criticism we do. We are talking about life, and more than that the possibility of abundant life." -M.Leary

"Dad, how does she move in mysterious ways?"" -- Jude (my 5-year-old, after listening to Mysterious Ways)

[once upon a time known here as asher]

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I can totally handle the concept of adults playing games and make-believe with children, be it at Christmas or Halloween or whenever, but it is not at all clear to me that the little girl knows that this "alien" business is make-believe, the way that she presumably knows it is make-believe when her father puts on a blindfold and pretends to be a monster.  (Then again, given the seemingly genuine look of fright on her face, maybe she DOESN'T know that her dad is just playing make-believe.)  And the recurring theme I got throughout the film was that we need to lie to ourselves, and to each other, in order to deal with our losses and experience genuine human emotion or something -- that is why the dude on death's door tells the girl he is an "alien", that is why Mom can chew out Dad for failing to tell the girls a pretty lie about her pregnancy, and that is why the film finds its resolution in the scene where Dad points to the Moon and tells his daughter that he can see something that isn't actually there.

Or they are genuine portrayals of how some adults interact with their children. The film isn't making a statement in these things, and to say it is is a rather cheap shot. It's just showing the very real way parents relate to their kids, which statements like this are not:

"I don't know where Frankie is, I only hope he is well." or something of that nature.

It should be pointed out that this film made me genuinely want to have another little girl. Like, a friend for my little girl. I've been thinking about this all day long.

-s.

Edited by stef

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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asher wrote:

: This is not the only place this circular life/death transference is implied.

: The scene where the mother and Father are "playing" alone it cut back

: and forth between the love making, moment of conception and Mateo's

: anguish and struggle with the life he is losing.

Oh, brilliant! Good point.

stef wrote:

: The film isn't making a statement in these things, and to say it is is a

: rather cheap shot.

I don't think it is a cheap shot at all to point how a film emphasizes a certain theme or a certain kind of action through repetition, and to try to interpret WHY the film emphasizes and repeats those things. And given the transference-of-life stuff that asher and others have pointed out, methinks your suggestion that the film is merely showing life-as-it-is falls apart once we look at not merely what happens WITHIN a shot, but what happens BETWEEN the shots -- that is, once we look not just at what is contained within the footage, but how this footage is edited together.

: It should be pointed out that this film made me genuinely want to have

: another little girl. Like, a friend for my little girl.

I frankly have no idea what sort of composition I would want my own offspring to have, but the film DID make me think about a friend of mine who has two young daughters, aged 5 and 3, and how much fun it was to see them play together the last time he visited here.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I suppose it's already been pointed out somewhere that ET involved a life transfer to reverse a near-death experience, too.

I thought about that but forgot to make a visable note of it...

Thanks Mike!!

It is an interesting correlation...I suppose they could have went to see Poltergeist or Raiders...

...the kind of film criticism we do. We are talking about life, and more than that the possibility of abundant life." -M.Leary

"Dad, how does she move in mysterious ways?"" -- Jude (my 5-year-old, after listening to Mysterious Ways)

[once upon a time known here as asher]

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Doesn't the film itself point out that E.T., too, got sick? At any rate, I do remember making that connection between E.T. and the dying dude way back when. But not with regard to this "transference" business. In fact, come to think of it, I don't recall any life getting "transferred" at all in that film -- when E.T. is sick, Eliot and the flower are sick, and when E.T. is well, the flower is well (though apparently Eliot's connection to E.T. is cut off when E.T. dies). At the moment, I don't recall anyone in that film getting sick when E.T. gets well or vice versa.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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