Don’t Miss “Philomena” (Short Review)

Coogan DenchIf you missed Philomena (2013) when it was in theaters, do not make the same mistake now that it is available on video. While the Academy Award Best-Picture nominee may not have garnered the attention of films like American Hustle, 12 Years a Slave, and Gravity, the relatively modest story of a woman searching for her child given up for adoption is one of the best films in recent years.

Philomena is based on the true story of Philomena Lee, played in the movie by Judi Dench, who after becoming pregnant as a young woman in Ireland in the 1950s, is sent to live at an abbey where the nuns give away her child. The movie, based on the book The Lost Child of Philomena by journalist Martin Sixsmith, follows her quest many years later to find out what happened to the child. In the search, she engages the help of Sixsmith, played by Steve Coogan, who also co-wrote the screenplay and co-produced the movie. The movie follows this odd couple and their two different motivations to reach the same goal.

I do not want to tell more about the story in case you have not read about it or have forgotten what you heard when the movie was out. But the movie accomplishes the rare feat of making you laugh, cry, and think. Coogan, who is popular in the UK but a bit of an undiscovered talent in the U.S., has shown his great humor skills in other films (and his talent for imitating Michael Caine). Here, he brings a sense of humor to Philomena, while also maintaining a level of seriousness and respect for the subject.

In addition to the Oscar nomination for Best Picture, the film garnered nominations for Best Actress, Adapted Screenplay, and Original Score. The movie makes some minor dramatic changes from the book, such as making the book’s author one of the main characters, but it does an excellent job of tracing the heart of the true story. For more on the real Philomena, check out this article from The Atlantic.

Conclusion? Philomena is not a blockbuster with a lot of action, but you likely will be delighted by this clever and touching film. Below is the trailer for the movie, although beware that it reveals some additional facts about the story.

What did you think of Philomena? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    History Lesson: The Story of the Movie Trailer

    This new video from FilmmakerIQ explains the history behind movie trailers. The video puts the evolution of the trailer in the context of the history of how we have watched movies through the years.

    The video explains how the concept of promotions on movie theater screens began in 1913 and how film serials contributed to movie marketing. Alfred Hitchock and Stanley Kubrick added their own innovations to the movie trailer too. Check it out.

    What is your favorite movie trailer? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Ruben “Hurricane” Carter “in a Land Where Justice Is a Game”

    Hurricane Ruben “Hurricane” Carter, who had been suffering from prostate cancer, has passed away at the age of 76. Carter was a former boxer who was accused of murder in 1966 and ended up spending 19 years in prison before a court reversed his conviction in 1985 and set him free.

    Carter’s case became a rallying cry for the Civil Rights Movement, and Bob Dylan wrote a song about the wrongful conviction and released “Hurricane” as a single in November 1975. Dylan played what many fans consider his last great protest song during almost every performance of the 1975 Rolling Thunder tour. The song went on to become a top 40 hit, despite its length and level of detail in telling a story.

    Bob Dylan – Hurricane – 1975 Live by movisfree

    In 1999, Denzel Washington portrayed Carter in the movie Hurricane. In this scene near the end of the film, Carter makes a final plea to the court.

    The movie and the song took some dramatic license with the facts of Carter’s life, with some debating how much liberty was taken with the story. For example, many noted that Dylan’s song overstated Carter’s ranking in the boxing world (“He could-a been/ The champion of the world”). Further, some critics argue that the song and movie made Carter too much of a saint and martyr, and even Carter revealed a more complex story in his own autobiography written in prison, The Sixteenth Round: From Number 1 Contender to Number 45472, and later in a 2011 autobiography, Eye of the Hurricane: My Path from Darkness to Freedom.

    Ultimately, the federal judge who reversed Carter’s conviction noted the unjust role of race in the case. And, like all folk songs, the message of Dylan’s song about the failings of the criminal justice system became important on its own, separate from one man’s story and regardless of one man’s imperfections.

    After getting out of prison, Carter devoted his life to helping wrongfully convicted people in prison. From 1993 until 2005, he worked as Executive Director of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted, and he founded a nonprofit organization, Innocence International. RIP.

    Photo of Carter in 1958 via public domain.

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    Springsteen EP “American Beauty”

    American Beauty
    For Record Store Day, Bruce Springsteen has released a four-song EP called American Beauty. Two of the songs — “American Beauty” and “Hurry Up Sundown” — were extra tracks not used on his most recent album, High Hopes (2014). Another song, “Mary Mary,” was recorded at the time of Magic (2007), while “Hey Blue Eyes” was left over from the Working on a Dream (2009) recordings.

    You may listen to the rocking “Hurry Up Sundown” over at NPR. Below is the title track, “American Beauty.”

    The softer “Hey Blue Eyes,” which Tom Morello reportedly plans to cover, is below.

    American Beauty, on sale in vinyl form in record stores today, will be available for people without turntables on April 22. Meanwhile, Blogness on the Edge of Town reports on other Record Store Day releases, including a reissue of Billy Joel’s song “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” recorded by Ronnie Spector and the E Street Band.

    What do you think of the “new” Springsteen tracks? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Wander in My Words: Neil Young Releases Record of Covers

    Neil Young A Letter Home Neil Young is releasing A Letter Home, an album of cover songs from artists like Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Bruce Springsteen, and Gordon Lightfoot. For Record Store Day, Young’s album in vinyl form is already available for order from Third Man Records. The independent record label was founded by musician-singer-songwriter Jack White, who helps out on Young’s new album.

    Rolling Stone reports that the songs on the new album are: 1. “Changes” (Phil Ochs); 2. “Girl From The North Country” (Bob Dylan); 3. “Needle of Death” (Bert Jansch); 4. “Early Morning Rain” (Gordon Lightfoot); 5. “Crazy” (Willie Nelson); 6. “Reason To Believe” (Tim Hardin); 7. “On The Road Again” (Willie Nelson); 8. “If You Could Only Read My Mind” (Gordon Lightfoot); 9. “Since I Met You Baby” (Ivory Joe Hunter); 10. “My Hometown” (Bruce Springsteen); 11. “I Wonder If I Care As Much” (Everly Brothers).

    Young has played several of these songs in concert, but many of them have yet to appear live. One of the songs I am most excited about is Young’s interpretation of “Changes,” by the great Phil Ochs. The classic song is one that Young has performed live, and below is his performance of the song at Farm Aid in 2013 in Saratoga Springs, New York. The video starts at the point Young starts playing the song, but you can back it up a little if you want to hear him talk more about Ochs and then get angry at the audience for trying to rush him.

    Which Neil Young cover do you most want to hear? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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