Ahhh, Invictus (the First Review of the 2009 Oscar Season)

December 11, 2009 at 10:05 pm (Movies and TV)

So commences my annual exercise of seeing as many Oscar movies as I can, and reviewing them for anyone who cares in time for Oscar Night.  I thought Invictus was a pretty safe first choice. This one has a stew of things going for it: 1) Morgan Freeman, 2) playing Nelson Mandela, 3) in a Clint Eastwood movie, 4) in a year when we just elected our first black President. I’m sure the Oscar engraver is standing by. Invictus has already won  Best Director from the National Board of Review, as well as a tie in the Best Actor category for Freeman, and The Clooney in Up in the Air (voted Best Picture). At Oscar Nom time, we may see these: Best Actor for Freeman, Best Director for Eastwood, Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Song, “Colorblind” by Overtone.

Invictus will NOT be seeing any awards for Best Editing however, as it’s the choppiest, worst-edited “Awards Season Movie” I’ve seen in a long time. The continuity people screwed up repeatedly, and that was annoying.  There will be a drinking game invented out of Invictus. Every time Morgan Freeman’s hair changes from grey-streaked to all grey, or back to grey-streaked again when it would be completely out of sequence, take a drink. Every time Matt Damon’s accent slips, take a drink. Every time Morgan Freeman’s teeth morph back and forth between perfect cosmetic dentistry and “old guy teeth,” take a drink. Every time Matt Damon’s voice says a different word on the rugby field while his mouth is clearly saying the F word, take a drink. These are the kinds of things that Hollywood will probably forgive the beloved Clint Eastwood for, but because he made Letters from Iwo Jima and Unforgiven, two films perfect in every sense…I can’t forgive it. Which is sad when one of the messages of the movie is forgiveness. Ah, well…

I don’t like most sports. I don’t like most sports movies. We know there are certain inherent rules about sports movies: it all must come down to the last play during overtime with a tied score, and the scene must be in slow motion to choir or opera music. That is given. However, I found myself appreciating the movie anyway because Eastwood is a master of story through simplicity and subtlety, and how anyone could not emerge afterward without more affection and respect for Nelson Mandela, I don’t know. If you are someone worried about overwrought Obama parallels…you needn’t be. I do hope President Obama sees Invictus and is challenged and inspired. I want to look up how many of the portrayed events actually happened, because this is the kind of film strung together by events that, if they’re real, are better material than most writers could invent.

In September of 2001, my husband and I went to New Zealand on our honeymoon and bought an All-Blacks jersey, a book about how to do The Haka, and a copy of the All-Blacks fight song by the Finn Brothers, “Can You Hear Us.” A few years later, when our son was born, he received a baby-sized All-Blacks onesie as a gift. So it was with reluctance that I had to accept the All-Blacks as “the villain team” here; especially since if you’ve ever met a New Zealander they’re about as far from grumpy and intimidating as you can get. Another thing that happened in September of 2001 is that our views of airplanes changed forever, and Eastwood unexpectedly uses that in a way that forces us to catch ourselves in the same manner that the characters are learning to open their own minds. This isn’t just a story about a big game, or even about Nelson Mandela. It is about compromise, healing and the personal journey that each person must make on the way to true tolerance for others.

I recommend the movie wholeheartedly, not in the least because Eastwood’s sense of timing never ceases to amaze me. He released Million Dollar Baby while the Terry Schiavo case was going on, right when we needed to have those conversations. His alternating views with Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima arrived as America began asking tougher questions about the War in Iraq. Here Eastwood delivers another eerily prescient narrative, at a time when our country is more politically divided than ever, and are looking to our own first black leader for the same ilk of leadership.  I hope Invictus continues Eastwood’s fine tradition of starting conversations and challenging our thought processes.

As added entertainment, I challenge you die-hard Filmies to a game of “Spot Clint,” which is kind of like a cinematic version of “Where’s Waldo.” I’m not even sure why I caught it, but my mom and I laughed when it happened because the fact that I had caught it at all was a fluke.


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