Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Oscar Movie Review: "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940)

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Oscar Movie"The Grapes of Wrath"
Year Nominated: 1941
Director: John Ford
Rating: NR
Running Time: 2 hours, 9 minutes
Did It Win?: No.

After getting paroled from prison Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) returns to his family farm in Oklahoma only to find the dust bowl has has caused the crops to die out and got his family evicted from their farm. Tom then heads to his uncles farm where he is reunited with his family but discovers they are being evicted as well. The whole family decides to load up the trucks and head out to California where they hear there is work available. 

"The Grapes of Wrath" always seems to be one of those books or films that are so classic to the literary or cinematic world that we as students are forced to read or watch it in high school. This was the case for BigJ, as he was forced to read the book and then sit through the movie. I don't know how I evaded reading and seeing this, but I did, so go me! When one is a 15-year-old kid being forced to watch or read something on the great depression, said kid might not exactly be the most receptive to that piece of work. So, when he first saw the film in high school, we wrote it off as boring an uninteresting. Now, fast forward to many years later. As adults, we can at least appreciate the film and understand it better, though even now, it's not the most riveting movie ever made. In fact, it's still quite boring at times. It's about the dust bowl and great depression, so needless to say, it's depressing. It does display the lengths that people will go to in order to simply earn a living and survive. On the flip side, it also shows how many times, those in a position of power are willing to exploit those in need. Some farm owners use their advantageous situation to under pay desperate workers who simply want to feed their families and put a roof over their heads. Many farm owners in this movie use their political ties to oppress those trying to make a difference. One of the few times they are able to get real help in the film is from a government run facility that is set up to help those in need, and the local farm owners want to shut it down. Even the protagonist, Tom Joad, played well by Henry Fonda, is an ex-con, showing that not all criminals are necessarily bad people, but simply victims of their circumstances. The villains in this movie are large, corporate farms and wealthy land owners, as well as the law enforcement they control through manipulation and bribery. There is certainly a political message in this film that rings loud and clear hidden within the struggles this family faces. It's a message that is still pertinent even today. It is interesting to note that the tagline for this film was: "The thousands who have read the book will know why WE WILL NOT SELL ANY CHILDREN TICKETS to see this picture!" In retrospect, this is crazy because there is nothing in this film kids can't see, and with a tagline like that, why are teachers showing it in schools?! It is PG at worst, based on today's standards. Hell, even old Disney cartoons like "Snow White," "Pinocchio" and "Sleeping Beauty" are much more frightening than anything in this film. As a whole, we can identify with what this movie tries to do and share about a time in our country where those who were down in the dumps were forced to stay there by large "corporations" and crooked law enforcement, but really, when looking at it in that framework, almost nothing has changed today.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 100%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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