I've pretty much given up on all television; it's become a tsunami of commercials randomly interrupted by a plethora of stupidity. I've watched a lot movies lately however, and can't help but notice that the people who review films for a living have become about as reliable as the women on The View when it comes to expressing their opinions. The universally enthusiastic reviews of movie Joy Ride made this unavoidably clear. That movie was one of the worst movies I've ever seen (I've only walked out of about three movies in my whole life), but the professional critics loved it, and I can't understand why. No respectable human being should ever use a phrase like "raunchy but sweet" and expect to have any credibility ever again. Yet, it was like AI wrote all the reviews by simply using a thesaurus to expound on that one simple phrase.
Christopher Nolan's epic biography Oppenheimer is getting the same royal treatment pretty much, and it's bit of a problem for me, but for a different reason. It's a spectacularly well made movie. Yet, if I were to state what the purpose of the movie was, other than making a profit, I would have to say it's to push the idea that the United Nations is capable of solving all the world's problems and to absolve Oppenheimer of all the baggage of his communist associations. The pre and post World War II periods were politically confusing and complex times, and many people, mostly intellectuals, who flirted with communism back then were being driven by the social effects of the depression and their great fear of Hitler and the Nazis. Yet, to leave out the equably sinister and deadly accomplishments of the Soviet Union and Communist China and their communist leaders, is to not tell more than half of the story. Nothing in this movie gives the audience any idea of how evil, murderous and cunning Joseph Stalin was. It's all very well and good to talk about the threat to civilization that Hitler represented, but Stalin's absence is very telling considering the influential role he played in the history of the times and the events portrayed in this movie
Cillian Murphy should win an AcademyAward hands down for his portrayal of the troubled physicist, yet the accuracy of the characterization is very much open to debate. One of Oppenheimer's biographers was known to have written that for all intents and purposes, Oppenheimer was a communist. Oppenheimer's insistence on turning over nuclear secrets to the two greatest mass murderers in history ( Stalin and Mao) seems a remarkably naive assessment of the problems of dealing with the threat of a Nuclear arms race. Robert Downey Jr. was also stunning in the role of the allegedly evil and manipulative Lewis Strauss who becomes the antagonist of the movie. Strauss was known to be staunchly conservative and deeply religious, and there is more than enough room to question how deserving Strauss was of being characterized in such fashion.
It's a well made, well written, and well acted movie though. The best I've seen this year by far. It is however about twenty minutes too long. It goes overboard in trying to prove Oppenheimer's innocence and stress Strauss's culpability in the scientist's fall from grace. I think that Robert Downey Jr. was given just about twenty minutes too much screen time in the effort to get him an Oscar nomination. Some will say that time was needed in order for to complete the characterization of Strauss, but it's obvious that they had already done that in spades during the scenes at the hearing. It uses a lot of assumptions (behind the door scenes) about the motives of Strauss, yet casually dismisses a lot of what was well known about Oppenheimer. That time could have been more honestly used to place a disclaimer of sorts, and maybe to alert the audience to how the huge, ghostly, evil presence of Joseph Stalin complicated American political thought in those dark days, and continues to baffle our politics today. The decision not to do that, makes this seemingly flawless movie a great deal less than perfect.