I love the movies particularly those that look at people and history in retrospect. During the break between Christmas and 2015 New Year holiday, I was in the audience for three stunning examples of the truth being stranger than fiction. Unbroken, Big Eyes, and Foxcatcher each tell a story beginning with historic context: Unbroken (in the 40s), Big Eyes (in the 50s-60s) and Foxcatcher (in the late 80s).
Unbroken - After a near-fatal plane crash in WWII, Olympian Louis Zamperini spends a harrowing 47 days in a raft with two fellow crewmen before he's caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp. Directed by Angelina Jolie with screenplay written by Joel and Ethan Coen. Big Eyes - In the late 1950s and early '60s, artist Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz) achieves unbelievable fame and success with portraits of saucer-eyed waifs. However, no one realizes that his wife, Margaret (Amy Adams), is the real painter behind the brush. It isn't until the Keanes' marriage comes to an end and a lawsuit follows that the truth finally comes to light. Foxcatcher - Led by multimillionaire sponsor John E. du Pont (played by Steve Carell), the greatest Olympic Wrestling Champion brother team – Mark and Dave Schultz (played by Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo) join Foxcatcher to train for the 1988 games in Seoul.
You can’t help loving Zamperini. He died in 2014 and is among the last of that Greatest Generation engaged in the world at war. Surely Angelina has made a good career move toward directing. You can’t help wondering about the evolution of sexism and complex relationships of marketing and pop culture challenges to traditions of fine art. Finally, you can’t help wondering about the motivations and demons of a mentally ill paranoid schizophrenic who believes people close to him are part of some kind of international conspiracy. Even with time, the truth may or may not come into clear focus through the lenses of moviemakers. At best, the truth well-told sheds light on issues and circumstances and allows for further thought. These three films are thought provoking indeed.