Why can’t great people be good people? – Hyde Park on Hudson

Hyde Park on Hudson - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Hyde Park on Hudson – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Hyde Park on Hudson (2012)

Director: Roger Michell
Writer: Richard Nelson
Stars: Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivia Williams

Power corrupts. The thing about seeing an American film about an American president is that it will always try and show them in a good light, at least a little bit, even if they were awful leaders. It’s the kind of patriotism I just haven’t grown up with. However, when growing up with American popular culture filtering in through the Australian television stations, music, films, etc etc., it’s hard not to understand what it means to be patriotic and to see the appeal of powerfully positioned men.

Hyde Park on Hudson is about Franklin D. Roosevelt and the weekend when the Queen and King of England came to visit. FDR (Bill Murray) is a president who made an impression. Married to one of the most outspoken and influential women in the 1940s-1950s, Eleanor Roosevelt (Olivia Williams), FDR was not the best of husbands. He had a string of lovers on the side, including his secretary Missy (Elizabeth Marvel) and his fifth cousin Daisy (Laura Linney). The film centres on Daisy’s arrival into FDR’s world and the start of their friendship and their hidden love affair.

Linney is perfect in this film. Her portrayal of naive yet strong Daisy is powerfully moving. Her performance is what lifts this film out from the screen and into your mind. The politics, the power of situation, the tensions, the controversies all leave the moment Linney appears and you remember that this is a film about people, just people. It is about their fears, their lies, their love, their hardships, their sadness, their passions, and the power of people’s love and forgiveness.

There is however the little issue of the whole adultery thing, and the many mistresses FDR keeps. The film portrays FDR as a nice man to begin with, then slowly as you learn of the indiscretions of FDR. It turns him from being a nice man and a good president into a cruel lover and a manipulator of position. Bill Murray’s character development in the film is flawless as he holds FDR’s character intact from beginning to end never allowing you to second guess him. It makes it both hard and easy to despise him for cheating on a great woman. And I suppose that is what you are meant to feel, just as Daisy would have. It’s just that he manipulates all these women and then expects them to accept him and his “habits”. And so I hate him for that. But the movie is compelling towards FDR as a character and the women in his life are empowered in their own ways through his position and power.

A history lesson of a different sort, this film left me feeling like no great and powerful men are good and nice people. It’s disheartening and pessimistic I know but it’s the feeling I was left with even with the feeling of sadness for the state of the world.

3.5/5

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Murphy’s Law Embodied in Film – Argo

Argo - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Argo – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Argo (2012)

Director: Ben Affleck
Writers: Chris Terrio (screenplay), Joshuah Bearman (article)
Stars: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston and John Goodman

As I sit in my comfortable bedroom feeling safe and warm, I write with a heaviness of heart for the parts of the world that live in true terror, not knowing if their streets will be safe tomorrow. I have become desensitized to war, crime, death, riots. I do not know what it is like to fear for my life. And yet I surround myself with entertainment that reveals these terrors to me; that engage and entertain me; that help me escape from my mundane and uneventful life. Argo is a film that has shocked the reality and terror of war and military resistance back into my heart and mind.

Based on a declassified true story set in 1979 Iran. The U.S. Embassy has been stormed and hostages are held for 444 days. Six American embassy workers escape and find refuge in the Canadian embassy. The rest of the film unfolds as the adventure of how they get out of Iran without being found and executed for being spies for the U.S. Affleck has composed a film that builds slowly and steadily the tension and stress of these people as the CIA tries to get them out as a Canadian film crew. With parts verging on the ridiculous side of tense, the film plays out Murphy’s Law in every way possible. It is a movie that you have to buy popcorn, because you will stress eat the entire way through the final third of this film.

What really made this film brilliant for me was the reactions of my friends sitting either side of me. It made me realise how unfeeling and desensitized to violence and war that I’ve become. This film captures the way fear and anxiety can play in war and uprising, and how innocent people can get trapped in the middle of military and government games. It’s the horrible truth of war and our world that people who have not called war upon themselves are thrust into the horrific arena of government power plays. You take the side of the Americans naturally throughout the ordeal of the film without considering much of what the Iranians were uprising against, and without wanting the American government to do what the Iranians want. I want to sit and question this position because I don’t know where I stand on this. Is it right for a country to play in the affairs of another country if it demands the people of that country to rise up against their authority because of oppression? Should they be held accountable for their part in the mess? What part does diplomacy play? I don’t have answers for these questions but I’m glad Argo has made me think about it.

All in all this is a brilliant and dramatic film with moments of both terror and humour. Affleck has brought to life a fantastic epic and has created a film that will be nominated for awards and will (in my mind) hopefully win a few. It is gritty and deals with a point in history that we don’t look at much. If you like action, drama, humour, hollywood, history, documentary or war themed films, go and see this. It’ll be a great adventure for you and will make the journey back to reality a great relief.

Competition is Cruel – Party Animals

Party Animals - Poster

Party Animals – Poster

Party Animals (2007)

Creators: Robert Jones, Ben Richards
Stars: Andrew Buchan, Shelley Conn, Andrea Riseborough and Matt Smith

There is something wonderfully foreign yet altogether too familiar about seeing the behind the scenes of political parties. I mean we kind of see it on the news every night. Someone has offended someone else which then makes their policy look better and so on and so forth. And with the familiarity of most of the western world with The West Wing and it’s glorious success, there wasn’t really much going for Party Animals. But I didn’t really know anything about it going into it. All I knew was that it had Matt Smith in it before he went and became the eleventh Doctor on Doctor Who.

Party Animals is a British TV show that ran for only 8 episodes. With it’s main characters based in politics it has a West Wing-esque feel but with a British swing. With main characters Scott Foster (Andrew Buchan), lobbyist, his brother Danny (Matt Smith), researcher for a Labor MP, and Ashika Chandirimani (Shelley Conn) the head researcher for the Tory MP opposition to Danny. Their story intertwines in real and dramatic ways as they all go up against one another professionally whilst trying to work out how to succeed in work and love. With big themes of friendship, loyalty, politics, love and grief, it has a dramatic core with an ever-shifting outer coating of political intrigue and romance. Each character throughout the season is faced with heavy moral and ethical questions which provides us viewers with a real insight into what politicians and lobbyists must have to deal with to be successful.

I really enjoyed the series and was left with a hole in heart for the characters. All the actors are brilliant in their portrayal of their characters and the production of the series is done with a British grittiness and lightness that reminds me of Skins and Spooks. It is both enjoyable and painful to watch as it brings the characters lives alive on your screen. You really end up caring deeply for Scott and Danny’s relationship and the future of Ashika as she deals with the fall out of her life choices and losses. It throws into light the darkness of high powered and pressured occupations and how they take their toll on everyone differently.

I really recommend getting your hands on this brilliant yet short series. It’ll give you a new perspective on politics and the difficulties that come with the job of all involved, especially the women.