Food for Thought and a Feast for the Senses

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The Hurt Locker is without a doubt one of the best war pictures I have ever seen, and I have seen most of them.

The film follows three American soldiers in Iraq who are responsible for defusing bombs.  They often drive along dangerous roads in which bombs, intended to maim and kill American solders, have been planted by Iraqi terrorists.

Staff Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner) is assigned to the unit after his predecessor was killed disarming a bomb.  James is clearly not your normal soldier who just wants to competently perform his duties and return home alive.  He has already disarmed over 700 bombs and seems to care nothing about his own safety.  The second person in the unit, who prefers to operate by the book, is Sgt. J. T. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie).  Sanborn worries that James's actions are endangering the lives of all three men in the unit.  The third soldier, Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), believes that he was wounded because of James' irresponsible behavior and unwillingness to avoid danger.

The United States is now scheduled to remove its troops from Iraq by December 31, 2011.  We should get out of Afghanistan even sooner.  It is not a country that can be saved, nor is it a plot of land worth saving.  Last week, five American soldiers were killed in one day, and casualties will increase with each passing week.  Remaining in Afghanistan is simply a waste of American lives and blood.

The Hurt Locker (I have no idea what the title means) was directed by Kathryn Bigelow.  The script, clearly based on fact, was written by Mark Boal, who was once embedded with a bomb squad in Baghdad.  Don't miss this film, every moment of which is filled with excitement. It is currently playing at the Landmark's Sunshine Cinema on East Houston Street, which has very comfortable, stadium seating.

On a lighter note, Julie & Julia was pure entertainment. The title of this film should be amended to Julie, Julia, & Nora. Nora Ephron's script and direction, along with the performances of Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, add up to one joyous picture.

Ms. Ephron did something unique in basing the movie on the life of Julia Child (Meryl Streep) and the experience of Julie Powell (Amy Adams) who wrote an online blog about her experience cooking all 524 recipes in Julia's cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking (a task she completed within a self-imposed deadline of 365 days).  The film goes back and forth between the lives of the two women, and both actresses are totally convincing in their roles.

The supporting roles of Julia's husband, Paul (Stanley Tucci), and young Julie's husband, Eric (Chris Messina), are also marvelously performed.  One scene, in which Julia and Paul become sensual in bed, may cause some -- accustomed to thinking of Julia as a mother figure -- to avert their eyes, feeling as though they've accidentally violated the privacy of their parents' bedroom.

As many of you know, I recently spent six weeks in the hospital and two weeks recovering at home.  This was the first film I saw in eight weeks, and it was a wonderful choice.