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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. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  2. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  3. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  4. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  5. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

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