Sunday, March 05, 2006

Freak the Mighty and Simon Birch

I want to be sure to write about two fascinating movies I recently viewed. One was "The Mighty" with Sharon Stone and Kieran Culkin, and the other was Simon Birch with Jim Carey, Oliver Platt and the gorgeous Ashley Judd.
Both films are about children who are in some way deformed who are befriended by another child who learns something about life from the handicapped child before he inevitably dies. However, I adored "The Mighty," which was based on the book "Freak the Mighty" and found Simon Birch to be somewhat contrived, though it was based on the John Irving novel, "A Prayer for Owen Meany."
Perhaps it was because the acting was very high caliber in the Mighty, or perhaps because it obviously had a better screenplay, but the movie's pace and characters moved and thrilled me, and I felt changed, as I always do when in the prescence of art. Simon Birch left me feeling that something was missing, and that the suits behind the movie had contrived, in every way possible, to wring a tear from my eye. I felt pandered to, as a movie-goer, where I had no feelings like that when watching the Mighty. I felt a strong connection to the young actor who plays the young chubby kid who helps Culkin by carrying him on his back and defending him from local bullies and thugs. Culkins absorption in the Knights of the Round table and the mythology of that era also rang a bell with me, as I've loved tales of Arthur and Merlin since childhood. The beauty of the ideal the two young men set up, of doing as much good as possible, was refreshing, as it was presented in a way that made the adults seem tawdry and dull by comparison to the honesty of the children. It also has a tremendous theme song sung by one of my favorite rock stars, Sting. I also recently watched a comedy/farce called "The Crew" with Burt Reynolds, who hasn't aged well, and Richard Dreyfus. It was amusing, but silly, and not something I would ever have paid money to see.
I have mixed emotions about the book "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" by Michael Chabon, because, though it held some lovely moments that I savored, by and large it was too intricate and too detailed about the ins and outs of the comic book business at the time. All that information made the plot drag several times. But the prose was beautifully crafted and the characters believable. Simone De Beauvoirs "Night and Day in America" was a disappointment. All she did was kvetch about how course and loud and obnoxious Americans were in 1947, and how they ruined Jazz and nearly everything else they imported from Europe. She liked the optimism of post-WW2 America, but found the Americans too unrefined for her selfish and snotty taste. Halfway through the book I wanted to slap her. Bleck.

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