The last film in this list of movies based on a true story comes to us straight from Oprah, it’s “The Great Debaters”. The story takes place in the 1930s and starts out in the town of Marshall, Texas at Wiley college. Professor Melvin Tolson leads the debate team and with great heart and passion they come to have a nearly undefeated season. They end up inviting Harvard to a debate and with that becomes the first students from a white and negro college to challenge Harvard.
This movie was produced by Oprah Winfrey and it was through her show I heard about it. Denzel Washington directed it and stars in it as the passionate professor Tolson. The film is good but not great. I think this comes from focusing on the wrong hero. As an aspiring teacher myself, I don’t mind the teacher being the hero but in this case it seems strange. The debate team does all of their reading and studying themselves and really all of the work it seem. Tolson’s job is mainly to give passionate pep talks and be an activist outside of school. Now, I wouldn’t mind the story being just about him, but then it needs to be just about him and the movie would have ended with the kids going to the debate, not with the actual debate to with Tolson wasn’t present. So maybe the story’s about the student, but not really. We hear tiny bits of three of the debaters life, but not enough to make anyone a lead. And if their the heroes, I sure get a lot of hero shots of Denzel’s face. In short! It’s an inspirational and good story, but the movie lacks a clear focus and so falls a little flat.
In this we follow a man’s entire life. The Life of Alfred Kinsey, who wrote “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” and with that gave the world its first scientific approach to sex. ‘Kinsey’ shows us the upbringing and young life of Kinsey and with that explains to the viewer how sexuality and any kind of sexual activity was seen. The ignorance on the subject drives Kinsey to study the human sexuality in a very scientific matter. He travels the country and talks to men about their sexual tendencies. He publishes his book and everything is fine, until he decides to study the female sexuality, which no one really wants to know about. Through all of this Kinsey explores his own sexuality, namely his more homosexual side.
This is one of those films I love and then I remember how very long it is. The story’s good and the pace of the movie in the first half is very good. I really really like the first half, but as you might be able to deduct from my subtle hinting the second half, not so much. The movie just gets really slow, nothing really interesting seem to happen. It feel like a repeat of a story line you just watched, but this time everything fails and it’s just not pleasant to watch. The first half is, though, so good that I think it deserves a chance. So if you’re interested in sex and sex history, I’d definitely recommend this. You are gonna LOVE the first half, and then just kinda feel ‘meh’ about the second. Sidenote: The acting is great. Liam Neeson is and will always be a boss. Laura Linney and Peter Sarsgaard support him wonderfully and John Lithgow is tremendous as Kinsey’s conservative father.
Sylvia (Ellen Page) and her sister Jennie grows up in a travelling carnival, but are one summer placed in Gertrude’s (Catherine Keener) care as the parents travel along with the circus. Gertrude is a single mother, who already has seven children in the house and the two extra turns out to be too much for her. The movie is ‘An American Story’.
I won’t give too much away even though the back of the DVD says it all. But in short this is a story about torture and what horrible things children are capable of. Both Catherine and Ellen are great in this and the movie gives a good prescription of the escalating horror taking place in a suburban basement in 1965. It’s jusst an awful story. Not much more to say about that.
Basically the story of how Christopher McCandless became Alexander Supertramp. after graduating Christopher leaves everything behind and goes ‘Into the wild’. Along the way he meets people. Simple as that.
With a story this simply it’s hard to explain why I love this movie so much. It’s not the kind of story I thought I would love, but I do. There’s something completely freeing about just leaving everything behind and to watch Chris/Alex do it feels amazing to me. But what really makes this movie isn’t Supertramp alone in world but rather the relations he makes with the people he meets along the way, especially Ron Franz (Hal Holbrook), who is just this loving, kindhearted and lonesome man. I want nothing more, when watching this, than to give that man a hug. This film works as an escape for me. A look into life with everything left behind, going into the wild.
And we go straight from an oscar winner to a TV-movie. ‘Homeless to Harvard’ is the incredible story of Lizzie Murray and how she fought her way out of a hopeless life, and yes, you guessed it, into Harvard. Lizzie grows up with a distant but present father and a mother that uses all their money on drug so the rest of the family starve. She constantly skips school. Only shows up for the weekly test, which she passed due to an encyclopedia found in a dumpster. Her mother takes Lizzie’s older sister to live with their grandfather, who has a history of sexually molesting his own children. Lizzie gets put in the a group home, but eventually ends up on the street. Through all of this, she still takes care of her now blinding and aids-infested mother whenever she can. But Lizzie goes back to school and works incessantly to reach her goal of getting a different life than what she’s known so far.
I just really like this film. The acting is a bit inconsistent, but Lizzie is played perfectly by Thora Birch. The way the story is told just makes me happy. Lizzie doesn’t seem to ever really complain, she never feels sorry for herself and I love that. I also love that she fights her way to the top, contrary to ‘The blind Side’, no rich woman comes to help Lizzie out. She gets herself out of her situation and seems to feel no bitterness about the fact that she has to fight her way out of a hole she didn’t create. And fun fact: Ellen Page has a small role as the young version of Lizzie older sister.
As the poster says “the extraordinary true story” of Michael Oher and how he came to be an All American football player. It is of course the 2009 hit ‘The Blind Side’. Michael Oher starts out as ‘Big Mike’ a boy growing up in the project, with no idea of who his father is and with a drugaddict for a mother. He has close to no education and finds himself homeless. Leigh Anne Tuohy (oscar winning Sandra Bullock) and her family takes him in and gives him a home. They then help him to get his grades up and gets him onto the football team and interest is quickly giving to him by colleges. He gets his grades up, besomes a great football player and gets a family.
this is just a heartwarming story. The thought of taking a stranger into your own home frightens most of us, not to mention only few of us would have the financial freedom to do so. But to see someone actually do it and with that kindness change a life is just downright lovely. Sure some things are probably changed from what actually happened, things have been made a little bit nicer. I for one find it incredibly hard to believe that someone exists as awesome as Leigh Ann Touhy, played brilliantly by Sandra Bullock. But God, how I love the idea of that kind of kindness and God how I love this movie.
In this forth installment of based-on-a-true-story we say hi to Chalize Theron again in her possibly best acted part in ‘Monster’. It’s the story of Aileen ‘Lee’, an aging prostitute, who falls in love with younger Shelby (played by Christina Ricci). Lee is willing to do anything for Shelby and they move into a hotel together. Lee continues to work the highway, until she one day is attacked and beaten by a client, who she kills in self defense. This leads Aileen to attempt a legal life, which turns out to be harder that expected. With no job and money, she is forced back on the highway, but things aren’t the same. Lee begins to shot her clients dead and steal their money and cars. She is eventually captured by police and sentenced to death.
Chalize is amazing and incredibly unrecognizable in this film, which isn’t an easy thing to do, when you’re a household name. I love this film for showing a soft and loving side to what could easily be the least appealing character ever. She’s a prostitute, a murderer and not entirely a beaut. However, you end up really feeling for her and hoping that she can turn her life around. And the pure and almost childishly naive love she has for Shelby is adorable. It’s a cute story within a real life horror.
Next up on the based-on-a-true-story-list i ‘North Country’. Yet another film set in a mining setting. (What can I say, I love a good mine movie). Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron) works in the iron mines of Minnesota, in a mainly male environment. She is treated harshly, to say the least, and this leads to the first collective lawsuit on sexual harassment.
First off, the acting in this is just phenomenal and earned the film an Oscar nomination for best female lead and best female supporting character. Also Richard Jenkins is just boss in everything he does and his quiet struggle in this, being a man working in the mine but also Josey father, is captivating. The harsh treatment of the ladies in this film makes my usually very quiet feminist side come out and roar messages of equality and fairness. The dilemma of whether to shut up and take it or fight and probably be beaten down harder, this time with no support is really real in this film. You feel the conflict and and the struggle to keep hold on what you believe to be fair and not give up. I just really like this film, but I’m also a lady. I think it’s in my job to love this stuff =P
So, here’s a thing I haven’t mentioned: I love movies. And so I tend to watch an insane amount of them. What I’ve never attempted to do though, is to categorize them. However, I will try and do this now. Kinda. The first attempt at this will be to go through some of my favorite Based-on-a-true-story-films. Starting with ‘October Sky’, since I re-watched that, this evening.
Set in the 1950s, ‘October Sky’ is story about Homer Hickam (Played by Jake Gyllenhaal) and the Rocket Boys. They’re teenagers born and raised in Coalwood, a town build around a coalmine. Everyone who is born in Coalwood, end up working in the mine (except for the fortunate few, who get out on a football scholarship). But after having seen Spuknik in orbit, Homer gets inspired to build his own rocket. And that’s basicly it, with some trouble along the way and a happy ending. ( Not really a spoiler. Why would they make a movie about the rocket boys from nowhere that ended up failing everything?)
Now I really like these kind of films. Sure they’re not going to win for best cinematography or get all of the awards anytime soon, but every once in a while you bum into a very interesting story and I think this is one of them. It’s a decent film for an afternoon with a cup of tea and some time to relax. The only really bad thing I have to say about is the teacher, miss Riley (played by Laura Dern) has a habit of looking very interested in young Homer, which seems a bit inappropriate.