The New Year is happy so far: I am beginning it with no hangover. Last night we ushered out the old year by watching a lightly-attended showing of War Horse. Later at home we viewed brief snippets of the movies Charade and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. We opened a bottle of cheap bubbly but only sipped at it. Outside, the rattle of semiautomatic weapons started around 10 and continued long past midnight.
The intensity of gunfire came as kind of a surprise. When I was a kid we’d occasionally shoot off a .30-06 to mark midnight, but that was a bolt-action rifle on a ranch surrounded by a thousand empty acres. Not sure what people are thinking when they empty whole clips into a city sky. That those bullets just keep on flying out to the solar system? My understanding of gravity and ballistics is that all lead shot skyward returns to earth somewhere down-range, at high enough velocity to do some damage. Here’s hoping all those bullets missed you and yours.
About War Horse: It is beautifully photographed and competently directed, as you’d expect from Steven Spielberg. But it’s also mawkish in a way that makes you feel like you’re watching an overlong episode of My Friend Flicka. In the early scenes, everything’s too pat, predictable and good-looking. The harrowing scenes that come later seem like part of a different movie — one about the horror of the machine gun and the epic waste that was The Great War. I don’t automatically dislike sentimental movies — unless the movie is Marley and Me — but in this case too much sugar spoils what might have been a classic. If you’re looking for a movie about World War I, All Quiet on the Western Front remains your best bet.