The Best Spielberg Movie you may never have heard of.

Shortlisted are the movies which I actually enjoy seeing more than once. I’ve become such a crab around movies that my family sometimes doesn’t like to go to the cinema with me. Maybe it’s just me, but if a production house is spending tens of millions of dollars to produce a piece of entertainment, why not put a plausible, gripping story with it.

Enough complaining about Hollywood because I actually want to highlight one of my favorite movies which I have watched many times and never seem to tire of it. It even brings me to tears every time I watch it if I was man enough to admit it. It’s the Steven Spielberg 1997 movie “Amistad”. How it did not win an Oscar for best picture I do not know.

“Amistad” tells the real-life story of a group of African slaves who in 1839 leave Cuba on the boat Amistad, only to overthrow the crew in a bloody insurrection and end up in court in Connecticut for murder and rebellion.

The seemingly small matter takes on great significance during the re-election campaign of Martin Van Buren when southern political pressure makes it obvious that they do not want the Africans to go free. The stakes are high for everyone, but none more so for the Africans themselves, seeing how they were not slaves to begin with and were illegally captured from their African homes and brought to Cuba by Spanish slave ship.

Matthew McConnaughay plays the Africans’ attorney, Roger Baldwin, and Morgan Freeman plays Henry Joadson, the freed abolitionist who tries to recruit former president John Quincy Adams (the amazing Anthony Hopkins) to help try the case when it reaches the Supreme Court.

The courtroom drama is riveting, the acting is mesmerizing, Spielberg’s vision of America in 1839 is gripping. But at the heart, this is a touching story about people wanting what everyone does: their freedom.

If you haven’t seen “Amistad” don’t wait any longer.

Film Review: Magic of Belle Isle – Predictability not always bad!

I watched the Morgan Freeman 2012 film “The Magic of Belle Isle” the other day and a few things stuck out to me. Freeman is not nearly the crotchety old man that Clint Eastwood is, (see Gran Torino for a most exemplary display of crotchetyness) but that’s not a bad thing.

Freeman plays an aged, disabled writer with bouts of alcoholism as well as bouts with the past he can’t attain – a wife whom he has lost and, with that heartbreak, his inspiration to write.

When his nephew sets him up to house and dog-sit a cottage on the summer resort mecca of Belle Isle hoping that he’ll be able to find the inspiration he needs, he begrudgingly befriends a single mom and her three kids who are still coping with the recent loss of their husband/dad through a messy divorce.

The middle daughter buys writing lessons off the famous writer, and in return, he starts to view his world in a new light, eventually finding the writing touch again.

The screen play is written with a steady and careful hand. There’s nothing twisting or turning or earth-shattering here, but that’s the point. It’s a beautiful human drama full of touching scenes and an over-arching desire to show how kindness and respect can make the world a better place.  And I’m all for that.

The screen writer could have taken the script in different, more dark, and trying directions, but I see that wasn’t his purpose, and that’s OK! Many critics panned it for being bland and predictable – perhaps it was – just like the predictable backlash many critics have for anything with a heart.

I enjoyed the movie; one I could watch with the whole family.