Here are three great films for your holiday viewing

The Secretary of Health and Human Services at our house and I aren’t big movie goers, but we try to take in two or three films a year.

Last summer, we didn’t go, however. It seemed as if every movie offered at the time was for the 12-25-year-old crowd. We’re not into vampires, violence or superheroes.

The movie studios release their best shows in early summer and during the holidays, so we hadn’t been for a while. Then, I took the week of Thanksgiving off, and we ended up seeing three sensational movies that I would recommend to anyone over age 12.

In two of the movies, viewers already know the outcome because they are based on historical fact, but in all three, it doesn’t really matter that you know how it turns out. The stories are that well told.

The first movie was “Argo.” When the U.S. embassy was overrun in Teheran in 1979, 52 Americans were taken hostage for 444 days. However, what the Iranians didn’t know is that when the Islamic protesters broke through the embassy’s front gate, six Americans simultaneously escaped out the back door.

“Argo” is the story of how the CIA attempted to spirit them out of the country. Ben Affleck should earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor and John Goodman and Alan Arkin both deserve nominations for Best Supporting Actor.

The bottom line is that we were on the edge of our seats from start to finish.

The next movie we saw was “Lincoln.” The promos said that the movie was based on historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book on Abraham Lincoln, “Team of Rivals,” which focused on the fact Lincoln filled his Cabinet with many of his political enemies.

However, it wasn’t about Cabinet conspiracies. It was more about the passage of the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery.

We think of slavery today as an abhorrent practice. What was interesting about the movie is that it took us right back to 1865 to hear all of the arguments and nuances that were needed to pass the amendment.

It was not so different than the political deals made today. Some half-truths were told, some arms twisted, some votes were bought. Many members of Congress put ending the war ahead of ending slavery.

Over the years, some revisionist historians have criticized Lincoln for not ending slavery immediately upon taking office. However, politics is also known sometimes as practicing the art of the possible. Had Lincoln moved too quickly, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri may well have joined the secessionist movement, and the war’s outcome and our world today would have been very different.

Stephen Spielberg directed this movie, so we knew going in that it would be done right. Except for a couple of odd scenes, he was on his game.

I will be surprised if Daniel Day-Lewis does not win the Oscar for Best Actor. As another reviewer wrote, I walked away from the movie not thinking that I knew Lincoln, but that I knew what it was like to be around him.

Sally Field, as Mary Todd Lincoln, gave a passable performance, but was far overshadowed by Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones as Pennsylvania Congressman Thaddeus Stevens and David Strathairn as Secretary of State William Seward.

The final movie we saw, “Life of Pi,” was the first time we have ever seen a movie in 3-D. The only reason we went 3-D is because I had misread the movie schedule.

“Life of Pi” is about a boy who floats across the Pacific in a lifeboat — with an adult Bengal tiger.

We got used to the 3-D quickly, although a couple of times I wondered if the people in the front rows were going to complain about getting doused with salt water because some of the splashes seemed to jump right off of the screen.

“Life of Pi” is based on the novel by Yann Martel. Many in the movie industry had said that, although it was an entertaining book, it would be impossible to make a movie about it. I agreed with that assessment (a lifeboat on the open seas gives little opportunity for set building), and that’s why I think Ang Lee is going to edge Spielberg for the Oscar for Best Director.

At the end of “Life of Pi” the boy, many years later as an adult, retells the story in a different way, and then asks, “Which version did you like better?”

We loved the version Yann Martel wrote and Ang Lee transferred to the silver screen, and we’d be willing to see another movie in 3-D given the opportunity.

It is said that other good movies will be out in the next few weeks, but I guarantee you will get your money’s worth with any of these three films.

Tom West is the general manager of the Peach. He may be reached at (320) 352-6569 or e-mail tom.west@ecm-inc.com.

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