I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A frigid but really good week

Dame Judi Dench and Steve Coogan
Since we last visited, I've seen two wonderful movies, both of which have AIDS figuring into them in one way or another. Philomena is a movie about a woman who had a child out of wedlock when she was very young and was taken in by nuns, who gave her three-year-old son away, without her being able to do anything about it. Judi Dench plays Philomena Lee, a real-life person who has become her friend.

Warning: Spoilers ahead!

I am one of those people who will go to any movie Dench is in, because I know she's going to be magnificent. In this one, she plays a rather frumpy older woman who is given a chance to find her long-lost son by a journalist, Martin Sixsmith (played by Steve Coogan). He learns that many of the children at that convent were adopted by Americans, and they fly off to America to find him. When they learn that he died in 1995, she is devastated, but Sixsmith continues to dig, finding out that her son was gay and died of AIDS. He had gone to Ireland looking for her, and she finds he is buried at the convent in her home town, where she lived all those years ago.

In many ways, you feel pretty awful for the way she was treated, the arbitrary manner that people were treated by the nuns, but throughout, Philomena is never angry or bitter; instead, her faith carries her through. In Ireland, there has been quite a kerfuffle over the movie, with the New York Post branding the movie as anti-Catholic and "a sugary slice of arsenic cake." Philomena Lee responded with a letter that was printed in the New York Times, USA Today, and the LA Times, saying, "Just as I forgave the church for what happened with my son, I forgive you for not taking the time to understand my story."

When I see a movie I really enjoy, I always get on the internet to research it, not just what other people think of it, but when it is based on real life, I want to know how much they altered the facts to make it into a movie. I'll know more when I read the book written by Martin Sixsmith, called "The Lost Child of Philomena Lee." I found an article in the LA Times that interviewed 80-year-old Philomena Lee about how she feels about the movie. It's quite touching, so I linked it for you to enjoy if you wish, too. Before I move on, just one more link, this time to an interview with Judi Dench about the movie, where she talks about what it's like to be such a sought-after actress at 78. She says she feels "like a tall willowy blond of 43 with long legs." What a role model!

The other movie I saw was the Dallas Buyers Club, with Matthew McConaughey playing another real-life role, that of Ron Woodroof, a hard-living rodeo cowboy in Texas who finds out he has AIDS and is given only 30 days to live. McConaughey lost 50 pounds to play this role, and at the end he is so gaunt he doesn't look like himself at all. I read an article that explained how he lost the weight, trying to make sure he didn't injure his body in order to portray a man dying of AIDS. His co-star Jared Leto also lost 30 pounds; I saw him interviewed on the Daily Show last week where he explained that he just stopped eating for a few weeks in order to lose weight.

I never warmed up to the Ron Woodroof character, although the movie portrays a homophobic man without a conscience who morphs into someone who becomes friends with many of his fellow AIDS sufferers and who manages to make a difference in many of their lives. The name of the movie comes from a club he created in Dallas where AIDS patients could buy a membership and be given drugs he smuggled in from all over the world. Back in the mid-eighties, the FDA didn't allow any of the drugs that other countries had found effective against the virus to be sold, and these buyers clubs began to form all over the country. Woodroof lived for another seven years before finally succumbing to the virus. McConaughey's performance is worthy of an Oscar, for sure, and I hope he will get the recognition he deserves. I highly recommend the movie, but I left the theater with sadness for all the suffering caused by corporate interests.

It reminded me of my friend Robert who died of AIDS in July 1990. I wonder if he had belonged to one of these clubs if he would have lived longer. He was only 47 when he died, and he took AZT, which I've learned did not help people when given in large doses, but it was the only FDA-approved drug available at the time. It doesn't do any good to look back and wish things were different, does it? But I wonder.

All the while that I was going off to movies with my friend Judy, it has been incredibly cold and windy for our part of the country. The low temperature last night was 12 deg F. Although I didn't curtail my outdoor activities by much, I am actually beginning to look forward to the change from freezing temperatures and sunshine to relatively warm, cloudy, and wet. It's been hard to stay warm, but in the process of being out and about, I've learned how to keep my fingers and toes warm, so that's a plus. The forecast says that we have endured the worst of it for now, and my next Thursday's hike might even have some rain. Right now it would be snow.

If you get a chance to see either one of those movies, please let me know what you think of them. I'm hoping that we all stay warm and cozy until next week. I do have some readers who live in the Southern Hemisphere, so I can also wish some of you cool breezes, until we meet again.


Anonymous said...

I don't watch movies very often, but when I do, I prefer Broadway musicals, like the Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, West Side Story, Phantom of the Opera, etc. I like them because they are uplifting and make me happy.

Rian said...

I too like Judi Dench very much and would probably want to see anything she was in. But we don't go out to movies much... rather wait and watch them on DVD. I will read the article and interview. Thanks for sharing it.

And please try to stay warm!!

Olga said...

I did see Philomena and I did really enjoy it. It did show the Catholic church as represented by the "Religious" (nuns and priests) as flawed. On the other hand, Philomena's faith was unshakeable and strong. I would think it would be held up as an example of what faith should look like. My faith is far more on a par with the reporter.

Linda Myers said...

When I was 20 I took a summer course called Theatre in England. I saw Judi Dench in a Shakespeare play. I thought back then, "Man, she is really GOOD." She still is.

I have added Philomena to my Netflix list.

Gigi said...

Both of those sound very good but the odds of me getting either of these guys to go would be slim to none. I may have to get one of my girl friends to go with me.

Red said...

You really like the heavies! the topic in these movies is controversial and was more so many years ago as you point out. As you said there are many things that make you think about the unfairness in our world. Keep warm. when you get warmer weather it will circulate our way. I'm still blogging but some feeds are not picking me up.

Friko said...

Philomena’s story has been big on this side of the Atlantic, but I hadn’t heard of the other movie.

Dench is good whatever she does, I really admire her work. Coogan is mainly a comedian, I can’t imagine what he’s made of the Sixsmith role.

Stay cosy; we’ve been promised less harsh conditions for next week. But winter is definitely here for now.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, thanks for your reviews/comments for these two movies. Both of them have been on my "to-see" list. The friend with whom I go to movies will be gone much of the month of December. I could go by myself, but being with someone is always so much more enjoyable because she and I go out to a restaurant afterward and discuss the movie while enjoying the food.

I do have another friend--Deborah, a friend since 1954 when we attended college together. We both entered the convent, but she stayed!--she's coming to visit after Christmas so I'm hoping that we can get in maybe three good movies then! Peace.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, I forgot to thank you for the links to the two articles about Philomena and Judi Dench. Both were engrossing. Peace.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Glad you enjoyed your time out to the movies:)

Linda Reeder said...

I like how your research your movie picks.
From your descriptions I would be more likely to go see the Judi Dench movie. I too love watching her.

troutbirder said...

I had a cousin who died of aids in San Francisco many years ago. Since the loss of our eldest son to bi polar sad subjects particularly in movies are largely beyond my .....

Rita said...

I had both movies already in my Netflix queue. They aren't available yet. I am the same--will watch anything whatsoever with Dame Judi. Love her! :)

Deb Shucka said...

Both movies are on my list for the break. I'll let you know what I think. I loved reading your reviews. We saw The Book Thief last weekend. It was engaging, but so pale compared to the book.

Mel said...

Both those movies look interesting to me, thanks for the reviews. It has been unseasonably cold here too, which has curtailed my walks with the dog. Hope you stay warm.