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Well it should have been interesting and Alicia and I were both really looking forward to it.  The subject matter was perfect, Thatcher is a fascinating character, and honestly I think you have to work pretty hard to make a bad movie with Meryl Streep in the lead.  But it was just very poorly executed.  The director simply didn't go deep enough with any aspect of Thatcher's life and so the results are very superficial.  At times it felt like she was going to really delve into the psychological and emotional aspects of her character and explore what made her tick as well as how she is handling the early stages of dementia/alzheimer's.  Then at other times it felt like she was going to do a "straight history" and just focus on the events of her (very eventful) life.  Then finally at times I thought (or maybe hoped) that she was going to get into some of the details of her politics and really explore the ideological tensions between herself and her political rivals.  Alas, she did none of those things.  

Instead she gave a nod to the emotional aspects through brief glimpses executed via a very awkward continual back and forth flashback scheme (imagine the first scene of Titanic with the flashback from the elderly Rose recurring over and over throughout the movie while contributing very little to the plot).  The dementia aspects while sad were mostly a distraction, and we saw only the barest glimpses of the emotional life of they younger Thatcher and her family.

She gave a nod to the "straight history" element as well, but again, it was so chopped up by the returns to the present, and so sparse on detail that the results were very superficial.  You could learn significantly more about Thatcher's life by reading the Wikipedia entry.  

Finally, the political element of her life was perhaps the most poorly and insultingly treated.  The director seems to have thought it sufficient to note that she was very controversial, imply that she was single-handedly responsible for everything from a decade of mass riots to winning a war, and then fill in all the gaps with emotional filler about how hard it was to be the first female head of party and Prime Minister.  Granted that is a significant matter and worth being treated, but it wasn't treated so much as exploited to make up for a very thin story otherwise.  

The whole thing was just trite and relatively boring.  There was no forward momentum (the flashback mechanism saw to that) and there was no substantive character development.  In a comic book movie that's a faux pas.  In a biopic it's a fatal flaw, a failure.  It's sad to say, but I think that despite great plot material and a great cast (particularly Streep of course) the movie is just a flop due to poor execution and lack of skill and imagination on the director's part.  (I note that she was also at least minimally involved in an ABBA concert film.  That probably explains a lot.)

 
 
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I just watched the film, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers.  It's a profoundly disturbing but moving film narrated by Ellsberg himself that chronicles his slow transformation from bright young leading light in the war movement to dissenter and ultimately whistleblower.  I would highly recommend it, along with The Panama Deception as a powerful antidote to the idea that U.S. foreign policy has functioned benevolently or even humanely over the past decades.

One of the things that struck me most about the film, besides of course the level of dishonesty and the fact that said dishonesty extended across five presidencies and thousands of state employees, was the reminder of what a wicked, calculating, cruel man Richard Nixon was.  There is no question in my mind that he was a criminal of the rankest kind and should have been prosecuted as such.  Below are just a couple of the quotes played from the Nixon tapes in the course of the film. 

 [Caution: Strong Language]


Nixon: The only place where you and I disagree ... is with regard to the bombing. You're so goddamned concerned about civilians and I don't give a damn. I don't care.
Kissinger: I'm concerned about the civilians because I don't want the world to be mobilized against you as a butcher.


Nixon: I still think we ought to take the North Vietnamese dikes out now. Will that drown people?
Kissinger: About two hundred thousand people.
Nixon: No, no, no, I'd rather use the nuclear bomb. Have you got that, Henry?
Kissinger: That, I think, would just be too much.
Nixon: The nuclear bomb, does that bother you?...I just want you to think big, Henry, for Christsakes.

Nixon: Now listen here: Printing top secret information... I don't care how they feel about the war. Whether they're for or against it. They can't and should not do this and attack the integrity of government and by God, I'm gonna fight that son of a bitching paper. They don't know what's gonna hit them now.

 
 
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In basically chronological order (spoiler alert):

1.  Wow, Robin Williams looks like a real dork with that haircut and outfit.

2. Why is he walking his bride down the aisle?

3. And here we go with the old gnostic tropes about the body being a prison-house, you are what you think, etc., etc., etc.

4.  This cinematography is really pretty stunning.  The whole business of making it look like he's in a painting is done really well, especially for 1998.

5.  Strong overtones of C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce with this idea of heaven as a sort of hyper-real place.

5. I really just don't like Cuba Gooding Jr. much as an actor.  He reminds me of Lamar Burton-- not in a good way.

6. I really like this actress that plays Annie.  What's her name again?

7. Maybe my "gnosticism" concern is overblown.  Maybe that's not the point.  The mind-control of surroundings seems to be more of a plot device than anything.

8. Oh wow, this was already heavy, but the suicide really introduces a new seriousness to the film.  And it's interesting that it is being taken so seriously by the characters.  No easy universalism here.

9. Wow a journey into hell.  Strong evocation of the Orpheus and Eurydice legend.  I'm really appreciating the nods to classic literature.

10. And now he's walking through a field of people buried up to their necks.  Dante would be proud.  This is really smart film.

11. Got me all three times.  After I realized the Asian woman was his daughter I was on the lookout.  Then Cuba Gooding Jr. as his son (which made me almost not mind Cuba Gooding Jr.) really put me on the lookout.  But I confess I hadn't even thought of the old German tracker as Albert Lewis.  Clever.  And not just for cleverness sake.  There were good reasons for each person being who they were; both for Chris' sake and for their own sakes.

12. The scene in the house is brilliantly done.  The flashbacks are really important.  I find the emotions expressed and interactions between grieving spouses/parents very compelling.  The point about "being strong" as a way of hiding is well taken.  Sometimes when you win you lose.  I thought these two quotes especially poignant:

"That's when I (Chris) realized I was part of the problem.  Not because I remind you, but because I couldn't join you.  So I left you alone..."

"He (Chris) was a coward.  Not giving up; that was just his place to hide.  He pushed away the pain so hard, he disconnected himself from the person he loved the most.  Sometimes when you win you lose."

13. Man this woman playing Annie is really good.

14. What a beautiful picture of marriage, and hence of Christ and the Church.  The only way he was able to save her was to become like her, and to ultimately lay his life down for her.  He came down from heaven and was 'incarnate.'  He resigned himself to the death she had brought upon herself, and in so doing brought about resurrection not only for himself but for his bride, and indeed for their world.  The film ends with a new heavens and a new earth full of innocence, life beauty and glory.

15. Getting hung up on the "gnostic" and/or re-incarnation elements is a good way to miss the fundamentally Christian shape of this film.  Imagining afterlife requires a certain amount of creativity and artistic license.  It would be like getting hung up on the fact that in Lewis' classic you have folks traveling from purgatory/hell to heaven.  One could easily object on theological grounds that such does not happen or, for that matter, on ecological grounds that even if it didn't it almost certainly wouldn't happen via bus.  But that would be to miss the point.  Likewise here.  The point is about love, and about someone who spends himself for the sake of another and brings about new life in so doing.  That's the right story to tell.