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Ford vs. Ferrari

This is an example of finding it difficult to see the forest for the trees. The exhilaration of being in the driver’s seat through half of the movie tends to distract from the excellent work of the actors. I’m not a racing aficionado/a, but like many, do admire flashy cars and good acting. Plenty of both in this film, but the thrill of the driver’s side view of the racing experience does divert from the craft of the actors. Most car flicks focus on the action to the exclusion of what is involved in the skill needed to survive the race itself. Both the skill and the cars are honored here.

Little things snag my attention, such as the way Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby held his black hat in a meeting with Ford. There is a unique way in which a freshly blocked or cherished hat is held, the respectful three-fingered grasp of the crown. I recall that I read somewhere that one of Shelby’s hats was used in this movie. It’s subtle finesse that lifts a performance from competent to masterful.

Christian Bale as Ken Miles is his usual brilliant self. Caitriona Balfe is mesmerizing. She can steal a scene with intensity, which she condenses into finer focus in comparison to the often overwrought Claire in Outlander. I appreciate more director James Mangold’s respect for Mollie Miles. The sixties era made the minimization and “slutifiying” of women into an art form. Mangold eschewed that by showing how Mollie supported her husband, knowing full well the extraordinary dangers involved in striving to achieve his dream. Bale enhanced and elevated this in his devotion to Mollie and the sanctity of their relationship. He does so with an easy grace and gentlemanly gift for ensemble. The standout for me was Noah Jupe as Peter Miles, Ken’s son. For a young actor, he is what is sometimes called a natural. It’s exciting to imagine what he has in store for us in the future.

In contrast, there is nothing subtle about corporate America. All of the fawning, attention greedy, viciously envious, childishly entitled, penile-challenged vulgarity was perfectly illustrated in the Ford upper echelon. Having had the unfortunate experience of meeting and interacted this type, I can attest that the depictions in this film are not over the top. The only thing missing was the underlying cruelty of this sort of male. I will not call them men, because they are not.

With nerve-wrenching pacing soothed by interesting introspection and spectacular filming, this is a not-to-be-missed experience. Good performances require a sturdy platform, and the true star of this movie is the innovation and genius of the creation of a dream, bringing an invention to its greatest form—to a level of perfection. Mangold and his team did just that with this movie. 

Harriet

During the summer, if not in the swimming pool, the library was my go-to place as a girl. I’m not sure how a biography of Harriet Tubman got in the stack of books I lugged home every two weeks, but once I started reading about her, I couldn’t stop. Her courage, unbreakable spirit and dignity in strife haunted my thoughts and made her heroic in a way no other could be. (Maybe with the exception of my sister.) So when I heard about this film, and read that it was a respectful rendering, I couldn’t wait to see it. So not disappointed. Just loved the whole thing, especially the costuming. Attention was paid to historical accuracy with the exception of Gideon Brodess, who was made into a baddie, which is not substantiated, but his mother, Eliza, was a documented horror.

There was some silly talk about using Cynthia Erivo, a British actress, as Tubman. What is that all about? Did anybody gripe about Helen Mirren (British) as Sarah Winchester? There are dozens more examples but that is the only one that comes to mind at the moment. Erivo did a superb job and that was why she was chosen. Perhaps also because she looks a bit like Tubman and is petite.

When I heard that Tubman was to be on the $20 bill, I rejoiced. The face of a murderous, amoral person like Jackson has no place on our currency. He demolished the Seven Nations, stealing their homes and businesses, the same way present day energy companies are doing, confiscating reservations and privately owned farmlands for fracking and building pipelines for oil to be sold to other countries. If Harriet was alive, she’ d be standing in front of the earthmoving machines, like the young man who stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square.

Racists now infest the White House. Trump, specifically, has blocked the change of the $20, but some have found a way around it. There is a stamp of Harriet that can cover the face of Jackson, who had welcomed the help of the Cherokee in the battle of New Orleans, then stole their lands and businesses.

I don’t think Harriet wants the recognition, but she would relish the fight. It’s her face that needs to join Washington, Lincoln, Hamilton and Grant. I’m going online to find that dang stamp and slap it on every $20 I come  across. Every time I do it, I’ll think about her courage, her strength and faith, her determination to do what was right and honorable.

See the film. Watch her run for her life, risk everything for others, and exemplify what true heroism is.

M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)

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