Movie Recommendations – Volume I

‘Good Kill’ (2014)

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Good Kill is an excellent drama/thriller film that highlights the ethics and the cost involving drone warfare and how it can affect the servicemen and women who have to pull the trigger and live with the consequences. Starring Ethan Hawke, this film is a deep and probing look at how warfare conducted from thousands of miles away can still leave a lasting imprint on those who have a role in it even when they are not anywhere near the battlefield.

The film highlights correctly how while drone strikes may carry less collateral damage to civilian lives, there will always be the chance for the loss of innocent life and families being destroyed. Whether that’s an errant missile crashing into a wedding party or a group of children running by a targeted building within seconds of a missile being launched and getting caught in the crossfire, death from the skies will not only affect terrorists, but women and children too. Because drone strikes are less costly to governments and militaries, the rules of engagement can sometimes be abused to focus too often on low-level targets, who pose some actionable threat, but who could also be captured for intelligence purposes. A lack of international norms and standards regarding drone warfare leads to serious consequences in terms of possible abuse by governments who overuse it on secondary targets.

Airmen and women such as Ethan Hawke’s character and his colleagues, who conduct drone strikes, are shown to suffer from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder because they get to know their targets, see how they live, and struggle with having the power of death over them. High-resolution surveillance makes the act of killing personal despite the fact that these servicemen are thousands of miles away. When a drone strike goes wrong and innocent civilians are killed, it leaves a long-lasting psychological effect on the military personnel involved.

They may not see their victims when they are flying an F-16, but they are aware of what collateral damage is when they see the dead bodies of women, children being shown on the high definition screen. Military service members do not last long as drone pilots due to the immense mental strain placed on them especially when they did not sign-up for conducting warfare with a joystick. Alcoholism, depression, and family problems have occurred due to pilots being asked to conduct drone strikes in the name of national security. All of these issues are highlighted in Good Kill making it more than just your average film about war, but also about an excellent look on how the human condition is affected from holding life or death decisions over those who never see it coming.

‘Roma’ (2018)

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Roma is more than just your average film about a family. It is excellent in its scope and ambition in covering a tumultuous period in Mexican history and for highlighting the issues of family, race, and class within the larger society. What I enjoyed most about this film was that it felt personal and it is based off of the childhood of the director Alfonso Cuaron. The way the story unfolds feels as if it has been lived out before.

Cuaron’s work and that of his film crew that was done with the cinematography, film editing, and screenplay is extremely impressive and goes to show the audience just how film is another form of human artwork that can display beauty, meaning, and pure emotion.

Amidst the story of this family are real-life events in Mexican history that overlap with the film without overwhelming the intimacy of the story being told. For example, The Corpus Christi Massacre or “El Halconazo” in 1971 are intertwined with Cleo’s search for a crib for his newborn baby to be.

Nobody in this film is perfect and true human error of both behavior and character are laid bare. Amongst the flawed characters in this film are redemptive qualities about them and how they fight and struggle to overcome betrayal, disappointments, and tragedy. The film is gripping in that it is about real life and there is no sugarcoating. In Roma, no one is immune from setbacks and struggles, and that is what makes the audience invests in the story being told even more.

Compared to many other films that I have seen, few have touched me more on an emotional level than Roma. The realistic dialogue, the set pieces, the chain of events, and the character development all lend to its longevity as one of the best films of the decade. If you have a Netflix subscription, do yourself a favor and watch Roma. You won’t regret the chance to view this pure work of art and I would not be surprised if it sweeps the awards at the Oscars. It is that good of a film and a noteworthy achievement by director Alfonso Cuaron.

‘A Private War’ (2018)

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This is a biographical film without feeling overwhelming or too much tied up in the protagonist. This film does a good job in covering the life of the deceased war correspondent, Marie Colvin, who reported from multiple war zones over two decades including Sri Lanka, Iraq, Libya, Syria. Marie was a fearless and bold reporter who did the under-appreciated work of reporting the facts on the ground when it came to what was going on in these war zones.

The film portrays her as someone who battled the terrible things that she witnessed and the horrors that she could not avoid. She struggled with her dependency on alcohol, cigarettes, was divorced twice and also had her bouts with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as many war correspondents deal with when they return home from a war zone. Rosamund Pike, the lead actress in A Private War does an incredible job in accurately portraying who Marie Colvin was in how she mimics both her mannerisms and her speaking style throughout the film’s entirety.

Despite losing an eye, suffering from PTSD, and struggling with maintaining her friendships and relationships away from the battlefield, Mrs. Colvin dedicated her life to reporting the truth and the facts from war zones around the world so that everyone would else would know the costs of war.

While she was afraid and while she was fearful, she had the courage to press on and do her duty in informing the public on what was going on. While she was killed during the siege of Homs, Syria, her memory lives on with this film and the work that she did for two decades in holding the powerful accountable for the wars that they started. In an era where journalists are being denigrated and dismissed with increasing impunity, it’s refreshing to see a film that pays tribute to a war correspondent who gave her life to the cause of reporting the facts so that people would be more informed on what was going on and to also care about why it was happening.  

The Decline of News Reporting in the Age of Social Media

"Famous news anchor Walter Kronkite didn't have Twitter or Facebook back then but that didn't stop him from becoming 'America's Most Trusted Man.'"
“Famous news anchor Walter Kronkite didn’t have Twitter or Facebook back then but that didn’t stop him from becoming ‘America’s Most Trusted Man.'”

The online “blogosphere” and social media has significantly weakened news reporting and political discourse in the United States. There are many reasons for this phenomenon emerging and it does not seem to be getting any better soon as technology continues to develop and advance at a rapid pace. Today, the main problems are the fact that serious journalists and reporters care more about ‘breaking the story’ first on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook before other competing news outlets instead of getting the story correct along with all of the facts.

In addition, there are many ‘talking heads’ and bloggers’ out there reporting and analyzing the news so that it makes it even more difficult than ever to know which person to listen to and who actually has the expertise and background knowledge to be really reporting the news without any inherent bias or slanted opinions. Lastly, since the early 2000’s, many news networks and websites have emerged with the support of major corporations whom have been created with the sole purpose of advocating for the ‘liberal’ or conservative’ side of any political or social issue.

These three problems have caused the political conversation in the United States to become more and more divided. The two major political parties continue to be highly partisan and refuse to work with each other to improve the functioning of the U.S. government and its ability to help and aid its citizens. There have been many instances in the past five to ten years where news reporters on social media have made ilogicial conclusions and given their audience false facts and assumptions based on the information they were getting when a news story first breaks. For example, the terrible Boston Marathon bombings that occurred a few years ago were first fraught with a lot of inaccuracies and falsehoods when the news reports would come in just after the terrorist attack has occurred.

Most recently, during the early moments of the tragic mass shooting that happened in Roseburg, Oregon, numerous media outlets scrambled immediately to report the correct amount of dead and/or injured people on social media. Many of the news outlets reported false numbers at first because they refused to wait for local law enforcement officials to give them the official numbers. If you follow news organizations on social media, you often have to take the initial reporting of a major news event or crisis with a huge grain of salt. Initial reports from different news outlets can be false or exaggerated.

Many different news outlets rushed to Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere on social media to be the first with the details of this terrible event but instead of verifying and fact-checking these breaking events and waiting to be sure that they were right about the news, many online websites would publish the information they received as quickly as possible in order to have the distinction of being the ‘first’ to report the news even if it wasn’t true.

More than ever, major news networks are relying on ‘talking heads’ and ‘political commentators’ to talk about heated issues in the American political sphere instead of putting reporters and journalists on the ground to gather facts and report about the big issues. Instead, many news networks, newspapers, and websites have grown their opinion (op-ed) article section and have taken money and resources away from those reporters and journalists who would like to report the news instead of just ‘interpreting’ and ‘analyzing’ it to death.

The proliferation of ‘bloggers’ and ‘social media commentators’ has distracted the average American from getting the main facts of a news story. It has caused most citizens to be unable to tell the difference between an actual journalist who does his or her research and checks the facts of the story and those bloggers who don’t actually report the news that happens. It is growing trend among mass media outlets to slant it to their own viewpoint and that of their audience without taking into account the actual story and the idea that there may be more than one side to a news issue or topic. I fear that some of the mainstays of good journalism such as thorough fact-checking, and fair and honest reporting from the mass media will continue to decline in the future due to the rise of social media.

Disclaimer: These views and/or opinions are inherently mine alone and do not reflect those of any other unaffiliated outside party, organization, and/or company.