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(For Day 27 of NaPoWriMo, the prompt was for a poem inspired by an entry in the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, so I chose the term occhiolism, defined as “the awareness of the smallness of your perspective.”)

We feel very small when we listen to news,
To stories of others who lead separate lives
That warrant inclusion in public archives
While we muddle on to keep paying our dues.

This occhiolism that weakens our worth
Is no different now than in centuries past.
To hear them months later or by simulcast,
The tales are aloof from our spot on the earth.

The world has its leaders, deciders, and threats
That play on a stage we can’t hope to possess.
Our stage may be smaller, but it is not less,
No different than what any everyman gets.

The play is unscripted; the actor must choose
What happens, what follows, and who can partake.
Minute it may be, but a life is at stake,
A personal struggle that dwarfs global news.
_____________________________

MPA rating:  PG-13

I have a confession: unlike a few past years where I’ve watched all the Best Picture nominees leading up to the Oscars, I haven’t seen a single 2020 nominee. I’ll get to those eventually, but I have seen at least two snubbed but deserving films in Soul and this one. News of the World pairs Tom Hanks once again with Captain Phillips director Paul Greengrass in a change of pace for both of them, an understated western based on a 2016 novel.

Honestly, I would watch Tom Hanks in almost anything, so I was probably predisposed to like News of the World, but it’s a high-quality reminder that the western genre need not be dead. Hanks plays Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a former Confederate soldier who now makes a living traveling from town to town in Texas and reading newspapers to anyone willing to listen for a dime. During his travels, he stumbles upon a young girl named Johanna (Helena Zengel) who was kidnapped and raised by the Kiowa tribe and now must be taken to her surviving relatives further south. Their journey becomes a dirt road trip of personal growth and bonding between the two, which is perhaps predictably old-fashioned but no less affecting, especially with such strong acting from the two leads.

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News of the World did at least earn Oscar nominations for its Cinematography, Score, Production Design, and Sound, none of which it won, but I’m a bit flummoxed by how little Hanks was honored throughout the awards season. His young costar Zengel at least got a Golden Globe nod, but I can’t help but feel that Hanks and the film as a whole was largely overlooked. Its deliberately low-key pace may bore some viewers, but it has its moments of action to show the Old West’s cutthroat side and explores elements of the time period that haven’t been depicted much on film, such as Kidd’s unusual news-reading vocation and the Southern resentment of the Reconstruction era, not to mention the sight of Tom Hanks riding a horse.

I’m a bit torn on how to rank News of the World, but it ultimately left me with a satisfied warmth that few films have given me recently, so I’ll bite the bullet and give it my highest rating. It might get knocked down by the end of the year, but News of the World is a showcase of both Hanks’ established talent and Zengel’s newcomer promise, an undoubtedly newsworthy pair.

Best line: (Johanna) “To move forward, you must remember first.”

Rank:  List-Worthy

© 2021 S.G. Liput
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