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Hammerle On… 'Noah,' 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'

Robert Hammerle
April 9, 2014
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“Noah”

In the long forgotten movie “Billy Jack” (1971), Buffy Sainte-Marie sings the memorable line, “Do it in the name of heaven, you can justify it in the end.” Religion has been used through the centuries to justify killing, brutality and slavery, and it is no less different in today’s world.

Centering on man’s inhumanity to man, director Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah” is a masterful work of philosophical art. Having the courage to re-imagine the Bible, the film presents a captivating story where Noah is trying to do God’s will. In the process, Mr. Aronofsky focuses on one question, namely, did God intend on the destruction of all human beings after the death of Noah?

Human beings are displayed a few generations after Adam and Eve as sinister, egotistical machines who view killing as a symbol of manhood, rape as an obligation and the eating of animals as the source of strength. If God was disappointed then, he or she must be taking Xanax to fight depression today.noah-rating
As Noah, Russell Crowe has not been this overpowering since his Oscar winning role in “Gladiator” (2000). A vegetarian who is dedicated to protecting life in all of its magnificence, he builds an ark to help create a world that existed before God mistakenly placed Adam and Eve on the Earth.
Jennifer Connelly is Naameh, Noah’s wife and friend. She watches over her three sons and adopted daughter, and must decide what agonizing path to follow when Noah’s interpretation of God’s will could destroy her family.

Ms. Connelly could very well be the most powerful actress of our time. Consistently flying under Hollywood’s radar screen, she has always elected to appear in dark, challenging films like “Mulholland Falls” (1996); “Requiem for a Dream” (2000); “Blood Diamond” (2006); and “Creation” (2009). She is memorable at every turn.

While Anthony Hopkins adds strength to a small role as Methuselah, Noah’s grandfather, Ray Winstone dominates as Tubal-cain, a twisted wreck of a man who could lead any number of countries in the 21st century. As you watch him and his followers randomly kill humans as they eat peaceful animals, there really is no wonder as to how 25 million passenger pigeons living in North America when the English arrived were exterminated by the 20th century. Tubal-cain would have been proud that the same thing almost happened to the buffalo.

Emma Watson is heartbreaking playing Noah’s adopted daughter, Ila, a young woman who simply wants to have the ability to have a child with Shem, Noah’s actual son (Douglas Booth). Her enormous contribution to the Harry Potter series was not accidental, and she must in the end stand face-to-face with Noah to decide whether her newborn twins live or die. You know the answer, but you still hold your breath.

The beauty of “Noah” is that it forces you to look into mankind’s soul. Our Creator has to be disgusted with our lack of progress.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Director Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is not a spectacular movie, but it is spectacularly entertaining. Let me simply say that while “The Grand Budapest Hotel” has plot shortcomings, you really don’t care. There is not a single character who you won’t embrace, and there follows frequent moments of colossal enjoyment.

The film begins in 1968, where the struggling Grand Budapest Hotel’s mysterious owner is telling a poignant history taking everyone back to 1932. F. Murray Abraham captures your heart as he tells his story to a writer (Jude Law), documenting his rise from a lowly lobby boy to the man in charge.noah-rating

What unfolds is a wondrous saga relating to M. Gustave, an eccentric concierge, and his relationship to Zero Moustafa, a young lobby boy. Ralph Fiennes is a gift from the cinematic gods as Mr. Gustave, a man dedicated to running the hotel as he seduces wealthy widows who patronize this exotic establishment. He demands much of everyone, which includes the requirement that all of his aging love interests have blonde hair.

Gustave’s life unravels when he is bequeathed a priceless painting when his most recent darling, played by an unrecognizable Tilda Swinton, suddenly dies and remembers him in her will. Forced to run when Ms. Swinton’s heirs savagely turn on him, his adventures, which include a time in prison, are too priceless to describe.

The charm of this cinematic treat flows from Gustave’s adventures with his lobby boy. Gustave treats the young lad as a member of his family, and there follows some sensationally comic moments. Wait ‘til you hear Gustave address armed soldiers, who are about to take Zero into custody, with the immortal admonition, “Take your hands off my Lobby Boy!”

The stellar cast includes small roles by Adrien Brody, Willem Defoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Edward Norton and Tom Wilkinson. Even during the film’s most serious moments, all of them are sublimely ridiculous at every turn.

I should also mention the moving performance by Saoirse Ronan, playing an important role as our lobby boy’s love interest. Bearing a large tattoo on her right cheek, she simply wants to find a way where they can escape the authorities and live peacefully. Ms. Ronan reminds you of her immense talent as seen in “The Way Back” (2010) and the extraordinary “Hannah” (2011).

While Mr. Anderson’s prior films such as “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” (2004) and “The Darjeeling Limited” (2007) were disappointments, “The Royal Tenenbaums” (2001) is one of the great films of our time. Furthermore, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (2009) and “Moonrise Kingdom” (2012) come very close to that high standard.

All of his principal characters are flawed human beings, which makes them identifiably normal. Dripping with crazy idiosyncrasies that they try to use to their advantage, you end up rooting for them whether they succeed or fail.

The film is not just fun and games, as there are moments that will leave you a bit wistful. See if you leave the theater with a smile on your face and a twinkle in your eye.•

__________

Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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  1. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

  2. JOE CLAYPOOL candidate for Superior Court in Harrison County - Indiana This candidate is misleading voters to think he is a Judge by putting Elect Judge Joe Claypool on his campaign literature. paragraphs 2 and 9 below clearly indicate this injustice to voting public to gain employment. What can we do? Indiana Code - Section 35-43-5-3: Deception (a) A person who: (1) being an officer, manager, or other person participating in the direction of a credit institution, knowingly or intentionally receives or permits the receipt of a deposit or other investment, knowing that the institution is insolvent; (2) knowingly or intentionally makes a false or misleading written statement with intent to obtain property, employment, or an educational opportunity; (3) misapplies entrusted property, property of a governmental entity, or property of a credit institution in a manner that the person knows is unlawful or that the person knows involves substantial risk of loss or detriment to either the owner of the property or to a person for whose benefit the property was entrusted; (4) knowingly or intentionally, in the regular course of business, either: (A) uses or possesses for use a false weight or measure or other device for falsely determining or recording the quality or quantity of any commodity; or (B) sells, offers, or displays for sale or delivers less than the represented quality or quantity of any commodity; (5) with intent to defraud another person furnishing electricity, gas, water, telecommunication, or any other utility service, avoids a lawful charge for that service by scheme or device or by tampering with facilities or equipment of the person furnishing the service; (6) with intent to defraud, misrepresents the identity of the person or another person or the identity or quality of property; (7) with intent to defraud an owner of a coin machine, deposits a slug in that machine; (8) with intent to enable the person or another person to deposit a slug in a coin machine, makes, possesses, or disposes of a slug; (9) disseminates to the public an advertisement that the person knows is false, misleading, or deceptive, with intent to promote the purchase or sale of property or the acceptance of employment;

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