J. Edgar

by CosmicTwin3

2011, Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Judi Dench, Naomi Watts. Directed by Clint Eastwood. Written by Dustin Lance Black.

J. Edgar Hoover is a name most everyone recognizes, even if they are too young to know what he was best known for.  What do most people know about him? He was the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for just about forever and there were nasty rumors about his personal life. The truth is, he built the foundation for the FBI to become the outstanding and respected law enforcement agency it is today, while at the same time keeping his personal life so secretive it would be easy to conclude that he had no life outside the FBI.

I’ve never been all that interested in J. Edgar Hoover, but I do appreciate a good Clint Eastwood movie. Mr. Eastwood has a great talent for highlighting the place and time of his movies in a way that helps the viewer understand the context and historical significance of the setting which leads to a greater understanding of the characters. The Changeling, another real-life story Eastwood brought to the big screen, was superb in that regard.

To begin to understand why J. Edgar Hoover did what he did and why he did it, one must first understand what the United States was like and how politics impacted him as a young man. Eastwood deftly interweaves historical events into the narrative, focusing on incidents like the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, giving us J. Edgar’s own, somewhat distorted, version of the story and then clarifying what the actual truth was. You see, Mr. Hoover’s recollection of major events often did not dovetail very smoothly with actual facts. He was fond of taking credit for high-profile arrests of criminals and enjoyed the spotlight of publicity for his role as the head of the FBI.

There is no doubt that Hoover was instrumental in organizing and creating a modern, efficient law enforcement agency that would use the latest scientific advancements to track criminals, fight crime, and prosecute offenders. There is also no doubt that he was a paranoid, egotistical, spiteful, fussy, manipulative, secretive, “mama’s boy” who was probably gay and may have had trouble admitting it even to himself. The longer he was at the FBI, the more files he accumulated on politicians and influential people that contained damaging personal information. Hoover routinely used this information as a form of blackmail against those who might challenge his authority until he met his match in Richard M. Nixon, the president who was even more paranoid than Hoover.

Leondardo DiCaprio in the title role demonstrates once again that he is one of the greatest actors of his generation. Even under the heavy makeup that was necessary to create the illusion of growing older, DiCaprio embodies his character so completely it is easy to despise and pity him at the same time. Armie Hammer was great as the life-long inseparable “best friend” who seemed to know Hoover even better than Hoover knew himself.

Eastwood’s movie must just skim the surface of such a complex and mystifying personality as J. Edgar Hoover, but I left the theater feeling like I know a lot more about both twentieth century American history and the man whose name is inscribed on the FBI Headquarters building in Washington, D.C. It’s an absorbing biopic that both enlightens and entertains..

A full bucket of popcorn!Cosmic Twins rating: Full Bucket

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Dream House

By CosmicTwin3

2011 Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Naomi Watts. Directed by Jim Sheridan.

Anyone who has the slightest interest in basic psychology or dream interpretation probably knows the significance of a house – the family’s home – as a symbol for something else: the “self.” Upper floors in the house represent the higher consciousness while the basement represents the basic, primal, hidden aspects of the personality, and sometimes even the darker, negative desires. In other words, the condition of the house reflects the subject’s state of mind.

Dream House opens with Daniel Craig’s character choosing to leave a lucrative, successful job in the city to move to a suburban home with his wife (Rachel Weisz) and two little girls, where he will be a full-time writer. This is the house of their dreams where they spend their days painting and decorating, basking in their good fortune and the love they share.

It isn’t too long, though, before something sinister disturbs the tranquility of their idyllic existence. Strange and frightening figures lurk in the darkness outside, scaring the children as well as Mom and Dad. One night Dad is awakened by a strange noise and searches the house to find a group of teenage goths partying in the basement.

Dream House Movie Poster

In search of a reason for these happenings and protection for his family, Dad starts making inquiries and discovers that their “dream house” was the scene of a grisly murder five years before – a mother and two daughters were shot to death by their husband/father who was unable to stand trial for the murders due to his impaired mental state. He spent five years in a mental facility and has just been released. Could this be the man seen lurking in the shadows, watching the family who now occupy the house? Is he a danger to them? The one sympathetic neighbor (Naomi Watts) who talks to Daniel Craig also seems to be hiding something. Does she know something about the house or the murders that she isn’t willing to disclose?

Piecing together the puzzle of what’s going on takes Daniel Craig into some very dark corners of his own mind; the truth he discovers threatens not only his sanity but the very existence of his family. Before long the beautiful house of his dreams takes on the appearance of a deserted, dilapidated house of horrors. But how much is real – and how much is only in his mind?

Jim Sheridan has infused an otherwise run-of-the-mill suspense film with believable scenarios, relying not on shock and gore as so-called “entertainment,” choosing instead to thoroughly develop sympathetic and likable characters. Even when what you might think is the “big reveal” occurs sooner than expected, the story has you hooked and demands full attention through to the end. Daniel Craig’s excellent performance as a man driven to madness trying desperately to protect his family elevates it from a somewhat predictable thriller to an absorbing character study. A demonstration of his exceptional acting skills is provided while watching him come to the inevitable realization of the actual truth. And the one or two scenes giving us a satisfying look at those ripped abs doesn’t hurt a bit.

Two boxes of popcorn

Cosmic Twins rating: Double Serving