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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dark Movies

Although there have been some very good movies coming out of Hollywood (and elsewhere), things have taken a turn for the dark and foreboding, having an almost tragic tone at times. Whether this pessimism mirrors the mood of the country, or is just coincidental is debatable. But when one considers the popularity and critical acclaim that films like "No Country For Old Men", "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford", "Into the Wild", and "There Will Be Blood" have received, it is undeniable that some of our finest and most successful recent movies are also our most somber.

"No Country For Old Men" tells the story of an old lawman (Tommy Lee Jones) who witnesses a moral decay in his country he can't seem to wrap his mind around. There not only is no longer a "code among thieves", there is a new brand of criminality in which there is no rhyme or reason to the unspeakable and mindless acts of deadly violence which are being committed. "Into the Wild", directed by Sean Penn, is based on the true story of a young man who is so disheartened and despondent about life in early 1990's America, that he chooses to attempt to withdraw from society completely, forgoing what seems like a bright future. "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" tells the also true tale of how the criminal and murderer Jesse James was made a legend and a hero, and the man who ended his life, named Robert Ford, was relegated to obscurity as a coward and a villain for killing the murderer.

The Coen brothers describe "No Country For Old Men" as the story of a good man, a bad man, and a man who was in between. Which I thought about a lot when I saw "There Will Be Blood." Was this a story of two bad men (Eli and Plainview)? Was it the story of two men who were "in between" who had both bad and good in them, but bad won out? Well, I won't give away too much if you haven't seen it yet. However, I will say that all of these films seem to show how hard it is to be a good person in a bad world. Is being a good person even possible when human life is so difficult? Perhaps someone will come along and make an even greater movie that will answer that question.


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