The Michelle Williams Tribute "Blue Valentine"

Film #3
"Blue Valentine"

Michelle Williams received her first Best Actress Academy Award nomination for her role as Cindy, a young wife, and mother in the 2010 film "Blue Valentine".  She stars opposite Ryan Gosling (Dean) who together portray one of the most realistic and heartbreaking relationship stories in years.  Directed by Derek Cianfrance, the film was rated NC-17 by the outdated and out of touch morality police who call themselves the MPAA. Once again they argue that human sexuality that is frank and honest is worse than any brutal and bloody torture violence.  After an appeal, the film was later downgraded to an "R" rating.

This film is both emotionally painful, but also heartfelt and endearing.  It jumps back and forth between the beginning of Cindy and Dean's courtship, marriage, the birth of their daughter Frankie, then there bitter destructive end.  Cindy is a hardworking and dedicated nurse while Dean is a house painter.  We flashback to see Dean as a happy go lucky guy who meets an pursues Cindy.  He is kind, caring and optimistic.  We then flash forward to the present and he looks angry, frustrated, and trapped.  Cindy tries to keep the family together but always seems to be at odds with him.  When Dean suggests they use a long-ignored gift certificate to stay at a romantic fantasy themed hotel things hit a boiling point.

Cindy and Dean's stay in the very appropriately themed future room.  The room is pretty sleazy looking with a cold sterile feel and lots of silvers and blues.  They get drunk and dance to their song and sort of reconnect but with the issues they've been dealing with will one night save their marriage?  As the night goes on the room starts to feel like a prison and they are only left with their problems.  We continue to flash back to them as they fall in love, then go through an unplanned pregnancy.  Cindy's father has never liked Dean but ultimately wants his daughter so happy.  Early the next morning Cindy leaves the hotel room and heads to work. Dean has a breakdown and makes a number of bad decisions leading to the end of the film. This film is pretty heartbreaking and offers no easy answers, it prides itself in being as true to life as possible. 

The "Blue Valentine" DVD and Blu-Ray's has a good commentary track as well as deleted scenes and more.  Director Derek Cianfrance has also re-teamed with Ryan Gosling in the movie "A Place Beyond the Pines" due out later this year. 

The Michelle Williams Tribute "Meek's Cutoff"

Film #2
"Meek's Cutoff"

Like "Wendy and Lucy" this movie is also directed by Kelly Reichardt and is filled with strong characters, subtle drama and a methodical pace.  "Meeks Cutoff" is set along the Oregon Trail in 1845 and is not based on the old computer game in case your wondering.  Michelle Williams is part of an ensemble cast that also includes Bruce Greenwood, Paul Dano, and Zoe Kazan.  All very talented actors who should also be recognized more often.

This film is not plot driven per se but follows this group of settlers as they try to survive the wilderness, the Natives, and each other.  There are three women, all of whom wear the clothes of the period, full-length dresses and bonnets each of a different color.  They are really identified by their dress color.  Each has their own unique voice and personality as their physical features are usually covered.  They are all married and are dutiful wives.  Michelle Williams plays Emily Tetherow the strongest willed of the women.  She can handle a musket and isn't afraid to use it.  The other women are also strong but in a more subdued way.  The men lead this convoy on their never-ending search for fresh water.  It's never really clear where they're going, but they are always moving forward.

While out scouting for water Meek and another man capture a native and interrogate him.  Demanding that he lead them to water.  Unable to bridge the communication gap they take him as a prisoner.  Always under the threat of an ambush, the group is extremely suspicious of him.  When they contemplate killing him Emily steps in and saves his native ass.  This film is about the human spirit and the will to survive under tough circumstances.  It's also a complex drama about people having to work together to achieve a bigger goal, all while being set in early American life  The ending is rather abrupt and offers no easy answers.  This movie didn't get a wide theatrical release and played mostly at a film festivals and art house theatres, but now with the power of Netflix you can watch it instantly or buy the DVD released by Oscilloscope.