Tuesday, November 30, 2010
"Iron Jawed Angels" from HBO shows the sacrifice it takes for political and social progress (women's suffrage)
President Woodrow Wilson (Bob Gunton) did not appreciate the effort (remember he had people who challenged or criticized the war draft for sedition). The women (Hilary Swank, Margo Martindale, Anjelica Huston, Frances O’Connor) came to understand the hypocrisy of the “Democratic Party” in power of the time.
But the women also engage in moral and even existential debates. When they demonstrate, they are arrested and charged with “obstructing traffic” and refuse to pay the fines, and go to jail, where they protest bed-down orders and go on hunger strikes, being force-fed.
There’s a great quote “she’s not a radical, she’s a Quaker.” Very early, an African American woman expresses concern that everything will be done to keep her from voting even if "white women" win the right. It was for a long time (poll taxes, etc).
The jailhouse interview with Alice Paul (Hilary Swank) seems like a clash of belief systems. The psychiatrist believes one cannot challenge established authority that holds society together, and says she is willing to starve to death to further her cause (Patrick Henry’s quote) but that she is not mentally ill. She will be force-fed to break the movement, liquid scrambled eggs, through a stomach tube. Eventually 30 women are on the hunger strike. Yet at one point the women are compared to “draft dodgers.” That hardly makes sense, when these women were ready for sacrifice; they were not kibitzing dilletantes.
Wilson eventually changes his mind, and sees that women's suffrage would help with the War.
The following video on women’s rights was a high school AP project.
Here is the UMKC law page on the 19th Amendment, passed in 1920.
Monday, November 29, 2010
Lisa Vidal plays photographer Deborah Martin, who, when house hunting near the Cascades with husband Jim (David Chisum), says “I’ll take it” to a realtor when she notices a curious mirror in the house. Funny games happen when she takes pictures of it, and she starts losing it, including her job. (Eventually it doesn’t bode well for her own husband.) But she’s being stalked by a neighbor and stranger, and pretty soon an old diary (not a blog) shows that something bad happened with a couple that lived there before. The mirror is said to have the ability to trap spirits between the layers of glass.
This sort of story works better, maybe, in docudrama fashion (that’s why movies like “Paranormal” and “The Last Broadcast” work so well).
As the movie built on the “subplot” involving the paintings and drawings, I thought of Oscar Wilde’s novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, which I actually read for a book report as a senior in high school (the male English teacher didn’t mind the subject matter). There are many film versions, but I’ve seen on the 1945 MGM “glorious black and white” one by Albert Lewin with Hurd Hatfield.
But the wandering nature of this movie reminded also of the 2000 thriller “What Lies Beneath” (Dreamworks, Robert Zemeckis), where there are a lot of dead ends and false leads.
For ninth grade French class, I wrote a story (in French) where someone goes into “La vielle maison” (“The Old House”) and enters an alternate reality that takes him to Mars. It’s around somewhere in handwritten copy. I wonder if it would make a film.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
The four guys (Benedict Cumberbatch, Kayvan Novak, Riz Ahmed, Nigel Lindsay) tease one another and plot in a Midlands city with a great view (maybe Birmingham). There’s an emptiheadedness and nihilism in all of them, as they make their plans to go up in smoke in order to fit in to the “gang”. In time, one by one, all of them do (leaving few “pieces”), as the British police (not bobbies, but well-armed tactical squads) close in, particularly to protect the London Marathon. I think I stayed on the street shown in the climax of the film when I visited London in May 2001; the restaurant looks familiar.
The post climax (at the credits), going inside a US hangar, and then an Egyptian sarcophagus, is just plain weird, put fitting.
I trust that the “real raven” shown in the poster of the film was not harmed.
I guess these "men" really needed women to tame them. There's a curious early scene at a panel discussion of moderation within Islam.
The website for the film is here.
Friday, November 26, 2010
So it is with “Love and Other Drugs”, the new “romantic comedy” from director Edward Zwick and 20th Century Fox (without Cinemascope). Jake Gyllenhaal, at 29, has the absolutely perfect manly body (compare to how he looked in “Donnie Darko” at age 20), so after 30, it’s a downhill ride. Jake is usually a more sensitive character in most of his movies, but here, after being fired from a job like “Chuck’s” in some sort of “Buy More” store, he takes on pharmaceutical sales for Pfizer. Driven by quotas, he takes on the most manipulative techniques to get past doctors’ office receptionists and take competitors’ samples to the dumpsters. His career skyrockets when the company introduces Viagra, which can lead to some pretty obvious R-rated comedy. Then he meets an artist Maggie (Anne Hathaway), whom he soon learns has progressive Parkinson’s. (I believe I have it, but for me it is non-progressive and very mild; I didn’t know that the prognosis is often as grim as it is.) He takes her around the country seeking new clinical trials, when she threatens to break up with him because he can’t love her “as she is”.
So, what a roller coaster ride this movie is, about “character”. I simply could not compete in a sales world driven by manipulating people. It’s a good thing I didn’t try to become a life insurance agent in 2005.
The movie is made is Pittsburgh (like “The Next Three Days”), with a scene on the PA turnpike, and also in Chicago.
Love And Other Drugs Trailer
Thursday, November 25, 2010
And we had the “neighborhoods”, too. After a film left downtown (having been there a few weeks – “The Caine Mutiny” was a the Keiths for about four months), it would rotate among each of the neighborboods for 2-4 day runs at each. In northern Virginia, we had the Glebe (no longer there), the Jefferson (the first to have Cinemascope, where “The Robe” showed in 1953), the State, the Buckingham (now a post office; it had an unusual central aisle), and the Arlington (now a drafthouse -- I saw "Gone with the Wind" there in th 50s). The Byrd played foreign films. In those days, many films were under 100 minutes, and a typical "show" comprised a newsreel, cartoon, short, and previews before "the Feature".
Let’s go back downtown. There were a couple places where “those” naughty movies were shown: the Pix, and the Art. I recall a title called “Burlesque in Harlem”, probably a grainy black-and-white affair, and another called “Um-boy”. I remember my mother’s explaining what “burlesque” is.
Sony Screen Gems, known for genre pictures, got a big exposure here with its new “musical” from director Steve Antin, yes, “Burlesque”, with clothes kept on enough to stay within PG-13. It’s still a musical for grownups, with a dazzling, metallic, reddish look, even in sharp Digital Cinemascope prints. (It compares well to Fox's Australian production of "Moulin Rouge" a few years ago.) It looks more like something you would expect from the Weinstein Company or TWC’s old partner, Miramax. (Or why didn’t Sony just use its regular brand, Columbia Pictures? Did it roll the die on which brand to use?)
And the story is surprisingly sharp, even if it has a plot twist toward the end that would be suitable for a Donald Trump “Apprentice” episode. Christina Aguilera plays Ali, a small town girl (in fact, “Small Town Girl” was an MGM comedy in 1953, but with a different plot) who quits her diner job and moves to LA, sometime in the 90s. (Then call the movie “Burlesque in LA”). She goes to work at the Burlesque, a night club run by Tess (Cher), and claws her way into singing on stage, by selling herself aggressively (lesson for job hunters and future Apprentices). She earns the jealousy of other show girls because she didn’t “pay her dues” (we know what that means). But Tess becomes convinced that her talent can save her club.
Here there are a couple of subplots. She crashes with a nice guy Jack, a songwriter and bartender (Cam Gigandet – and “thmooth”). Jack has a fiancée – so here I run into a movie with “my problem” with my own script, as explained in yesterday’s post. Ali may win that battle, and she reassures him “you are not gay.” But, some (maybe all) of the other men hanging round the nightclub definitely are – and Tess has to respect their sensibilities as she fights to save her business (from their “Boardroom”). And indeed, it’s how hard she fights that earns her a chance to become her own “Apprentice.”
The digital presentation at AMC Tysons Corner VA (AMC Independent?) on Thanksgiving afternoon had a fair crowd, about 1/3 full in a large auditorium.
The site for the film is here.
Visitors may enjoy a Wordpress site "Top 25 Best Burlesque websites" here.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
We all know that marriage means “till death do us part”, and the obligation of a husband to suspend his own moral integrity as an individual for his family takes on an existential claim. Here, English literature professor John Brennan (Russell Crowe) never questions his diabetic wife Lara (Elizabeth Banks), and the omniscient flashbacks, largely in black and white, are a bit ambiguous as to whether she really did it (or hired someone), to get rid of a bad boss. We know from the first restaurant scene (this is no Victor Victoria) that she can be jealous.
The film teases us with time spans (“the last three years”, etc), and even that seems artificial; it’s obvious supposed to confer the screenwriter’s mandatory sense of urgency, that Brennan just has to get his wife out during a medical transfer from jail. So, we are to believe that a gentle father like Brennan really can learn the ropes of the meth underworld. I didn’t buy it. But the buzz insists that Brennan has 72 hours to save everything he lives for.
I have a screenplay script (“Titanium”) that starts with a young male journalist’s learning that his pregnant fiancée of some months “went up”. But in a screenwriting class it was criticized for a lack of “urgency” – the (bisexual) protagonist didn’t act like he really cared about his bride-to-be. Instead, he had a second girl friend, and a boy friend, and seems more interested in the intellectual opportunities of UFO abduction than his relationship with the fiancée. (He’s no Prince William.) Instead of compelling characters, I wind up with a film that makes it credible that a UFO public abduction event really could occur (a lot more convincing than “Skyline”). So Haggis goes the other way with Crowe’s character: husband-and-dad is everything to him (the heterosexual world); he’ll kill to play out his life’s role. There is one scene where he is teaching his freshman English class and says that Don Quixote is about the dead end and despair that living one’s life by intellectually driven moral logic can drive one toward. (Actually, I think intellectually-driven characters can be compelling; the irony here is that a college professor is so “conventional”.)
The film does make use of the Pittsburgh scenery ("the Denver of the East"), especially the hills and tunnels.
The official site from Lionsgate is here.
Rialto’s trailer for “Anything for Her”
I need to say something else about the "anything for her" mentality. I don't experience interpersonal emotion that way. I understand that this kind of emotion is expected not only within marriage, but sometimes among other family members as set up by parents. But if I were to express that kind of emotion for a non-spouse, I would have to get married and have children first myself and have my own "domain", or else my station in life would be mere subservience. That means that during adolescence and young adulthood I have to be "competitive" enough according to gender. Sorry that I have to say this but it is honest. The converse is not necessarily true. One can be married and have a family and be faithful and still maintain a separate personshood, and one's own separate respect for the law and the rest of society. (In one scene, a corrections officer warns John Brennan he should think about who will raise his son if he goes to prison, too.)
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Along the way they meet and document the lives of indigenous peoples, some of whom are permanently nomadic. At one point they encounter a boy alone, who has waited two days for his parents to find water.
A major element of the story is getting permission to transit Libya. Charlie, as the “leader” has a driving ego, insisting that all members of his support team understand that this is an “expedition” and that every one want to be there for the entire experience.
If there were a small film that needs Imax, this would be it, to see the subtle variations in scenery. From Timbuktu, which they gave themselves little time to see, they encountered almost no towns until they got all the way to Cairo.
The website for the film, from Nehst Out, is here. The international charity that the film has started is “H2O Africa”, link here. The well known production company was Live Planet. The film is directed by James Moll, but I wondered what Danny Boyle (“127 Hours”) would have done with this.
The DVD has many extras. There is a 45-minute featurette "Beyond the Expedition", in which Charlie talks, especially about the importance of experiencing "suffering" on an expedition. The filmmakers picked up a tool called the "Russian Arm" in Niger; and the short shows their visit to the city of Agadez.
There are four briefer short subjects:
"Dirty Water" from the Central African Republic;
"A Glimmer of Hope Foundation" by Turk Pipkin, showing the building of schools in Ethiopia and Eritrea, where today schools are built of thorns. Link. The short makes the point that oldest sons often cannot go to school because they have to support ill parents and younger siblings. They have no choice.
Tidene Valley NGO: "Wells of the Desert";
"Living Water International", by Kendall Payne
Monday, November 22, 2010
I really don’t mean to spoil cold water on it; the film has a lot of interesting stuff, and leaves us dangling as Part I ends, abruptly. The look of the film is more like “Lord of the Rings” than any of the predecessors (the elf reminds me of the golem in LOTR), without so many massed battle scenes or towering peaks (Scotland, after all, can only take you to a bit over 4000 feet). In fact, the countryside looks like an amalgamation of all the settings you study in English Literature 201, particularly Thomas Hardy, with some throwbacks to the Elizabethean look down to theaters with proscenium doors. And the newspapers that perform as Apple Ipads. It seems to me that HP's Britain very much exists in a parallel universe, maybe even a "weakless" one (which could not have nuclear weapons).
There are enough summaries of the story around, and this is no place for spoilers (after all, it’s just Part I), but the idea of interchangeable bodies and identities crops up, near the beginning (where Harry is disguised by replicants, as if this were Blade Runner), and again toward the end as he is taken to the hallows, his face distorted by special effects but still recognizably him. Now, in my own screenplays, I experiment with trading consciousness: in general, an “angel’ can experience(in a dream or trance) the “consciousness” of a person contracted into the angel (by a virus, or sometimes at rituals that I call “nighthikes – and there is a “nighthike” toward the end of this film – Part I, that is). The contracted person experiences the ultimate high of upward affiliation but loses himself otherwise. Now, I haven’t read Rowling’s books and I don’t know if this is her idea, but it “bloody well” could be from what I saw in the movie – especially in the wonderful monochrome animated segment where the “death angel” offers three ways out (the “Dealthy Hallows”), all of which eventually fail (even the “Cloak of Invisibility”, as if to slam “don’t ask don’t tell” politically), as well as the Elder Wand and Invisibility Cloak. (Kids: you;ll have to name the three Hallows on your next English lit. exam; remember the scene with the literature professor in "Blood of Dracula" (1960)?) There is also an effect with a lake and an island that reminds me of a similar location in the Third Dominion in the middle of Clive Barker’s “Imajica”. I also have a concept of the "death angel" as stopping your consciousness at the ritual, leaving you to spend eternity in remembrance of the past (sort of what the mountaineer endured in the film that I reviewd yesterdat).
We’ve grown up with Harry and Daniel Radcliffe; the real actor is 21, and the movie script tells us that Harry is about to turn 17. But immediately we see a homonynonous pun on Harry’s first name; shall we say, that at 5 feet 8, Harry looks very much like a grown man when shirtless (although now he looks conspicuously shorter than most of the other characters). And he can dive and swim in ice water, too.
Radcliffe, Rupert Grint (who, as Ron, provides the nerd Harry with some military style male bonding) and Emma Watson (who now provides Harry the first signs of heterosexual romance) have all passed into their twenties, so I don’t know who Britain’s wealthiest teens are now. In the US, so has Zac Efron, leaving me to wonder if Taylor Lautner is America’s wealthiest teen.
Here is Warner Brothers’s HP7 site. (WB Casablanca music missing from intro, so here it is, again. I love piano concertos. By the way, in the soundtrack [by Alexandre Desplat and John Williams], my ear picked up a couple of themes from the symphonies of Estonian composer Eduard Tubin, and they work.
Wikipedia attribution link for HP locomotive picture
Sunday, November 21, 2010
When I went to see “Unstoppable” (“disaster movies” blog, Nov. 13), a family sitting behind me said it did not relish watching an appealing man have to cut his own arm off. So that is the subject matter of Danny Boyle’s new adventure drama for Fox Searchlight, “127 Hours”, with James Franco playing mountaineer Aron Ralston, who became trapped in the narrow Blue John Canyon by a boulder in April 2003.
The film appears to be shot in digital video, in regular aspect ratio (in order to have close-ups on Franco), despite the breathtaking aerial scenery of Canyonlands, which shows Ralston’s Canyon as a narrow line in the red rocky plateau. The film really stresses the Martian look of the place, almost as if Ralston were lost on another planet.
In fact, the trailers give one the impression that most of the movie will be about the rest of Ralston’s autobiography (“Between a Rock and a Hard Place”) and not make us agonize for the 5 day ordeal. Indeed, there’s an opening sequence where he gets some co-eds to skinny dip in a cave lake, and it’s taking a “short cut” that will get him into trouble.
In fact, his accident happens about twenty minutes into the film. But what makes the film work, to a point, is that Ralson, as played by Franco (with the same individual touch he gave Ginsberg in “Howl”) is such a great person. He is rather like Clark Kent without powers. Franco had to be good with all the knots and gear to play the part so well. Very few men could have survived this at all, although very few would have played daredevil enough to get into the situation to begin with. Ralston obviously would have been capable of serving in Army Special Forces, Navy Seals, or similar military rescue units. (He could still teach the skills, even with a prosthesis; I wonder if he has worked in training military in mountaineering.) Yup, in a country consumed with obesity and physical inactivity, he makes a great role model.
Boyle creates some backstory in the film with flashbacks from the canyon. The cloudburst sequence may have saved Ralston’s life, as it gave him a lot more water (almost drowning him). In a way, Boyle faces the same storytelling issues as did Robert Zemeckis ten years ago with “Cast Away” (with “everyman” Tom Hanks), also from Fox (and Dreamworks). Remember “Wilson”? There’s nothing wrong with talking to yourself.
The site for the Boyle film is here. The film was produced by Pathe and Everest Entertainment.
Wikipedia attribution link for Canyonlands National Park, Utah picture
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Seth Carlson (Gabriel Mann aka Gabriel Mick) is a (white) twenty year old would-be painter living with his (racist) Dad and younger sister; Dad resents his desire to go to NYC for college on a scholarship because that would imply Dad couldn’t support his family. You get the idea.
Seth has a gril friend Kristen (Heather Gottlieb), who is puzzled by his rejecting her advances. He works as a waiter at a nearby greasy spoon, and is often late for the main meal, breakfast. One day, an escaped con (African American) tries to rob him as he is closing up. But the guy “Knowledge” (Laurence Mason) is wounded himself and ill. Seth takes him back to a family cabin and nurses him back to health, and they develop an emotional bond, and a “relationship” of sorts. (There is a scene two-thirds into the film that would work if Seth’s shirt had buttons.) But the sheriff (Murphy Guyer) is on to all this, and pretty soon there is an escape, with tragic results. I’m not sure I really buy the relationship.
The screenwriting does up the ante toward the end and make you wonder what will really "happen", but what "should" happen? Too bad, I'd have liked to see Seth become a painter.
Wikipedia attribution link for view from Whiteface Mountain
Friday, November 19, 2010
"Tibet in Song": Chinese suppression of Tibetan music and culture, by Choephel, who was imprisoned for 7 years
The history of Chinese sovereignty of Tibet is somewhat lengthy, and sometimes controversial as there certainly existed feudal and slave-like abuses in Tibetan society before Communism. Nevertheless, over the decades the Chinese have gradually overwhelmed Tibetan towns with broadcasts of Chinese music and culture and often arrested those who continued to practice Tibetan culture as “enemies of the people.”
Others imprisoned by the Chinese give horrific accounts of treatment in prison, with electric prods that left some people unable to speak. People were tortured for refusing to sing the Chinese national anthem.
The film does cover Chinese Communist ideology (as with the Maoist Cultural Revolution) with some force, mentioning Mao’s objection to “art for art’s sake.”
The film has a lot of black and white footage of Chinese military operations in Lhasa in the 1950s, with the Potala often in the background.
The Tibetan music may not sound so different from Chinese to Western ears, used to diatonic tonality; both sound highly modal, although Chinese propaganda songs are indeed highly patronizing. Still, night clubs exist around Tibet where the folk music may be heard.
The website (Gude Films) is here I saw it at the Friday afternoon show at the E Street Cinema in Washington, lightly attended. But Landmark says “Director and former Tibetan political prisoner Ngawang Choephel will appear In Person Friday, November 19 for Q&As after the 5:30pm and 7:45pm shows.”
Wikipedia attribution link for Tibet map.
There is also a film "Missing in Tibet" mentioned in Wikipedia, about the director.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
The part about wanting to get away from “The City” is interesting. I lived in New York myself from 1974-1978, and sometimes I had those feelings, as did others (I remember this coming up at a particular brunch at the Ninth Circle in November of 1974, just after I had moved into the City).
Strand offers this trailer on YouTube.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
The film is pretty blunt as to its point: Spitzer had been hot on the trail of all of Wall Street’s ponzi schemes, so, six months before the Crash of 2008, “they” decided to take him out. To make it legal, the fibbies had to put somebody in jail, so the gal who helped run the Emperor’s Club got six months. A libertarian would wonder why this wasn’t left as Spitzer’s own business.
This film is not as visual as “Inside Job” even though it deals with some of the same stuff. It males a Monopoly board look interesting. A lot of the film consists of Spitzer himself talking, and “taking responsibility.” There is a Freudian point made when witnesses claim that Spitzer wore calf-length stockings to his trysts (we’ve already seen him in shorts playing tennis). Spitzer is 51 now. (The film also documents that the call ring allows customers to specify depilation preferences over the Internet.)
Magnolia Pictures offers this official site. A&E Indie (associated with the Cable channel) produced the film, whiich will probably appear on cable very soon.
AP has a YouTube trailer for the film.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
The setup is satire and then almost slapstick comedy. Dr. Dwayne (Darrell Hammond), an obvious caricature of Dr. Phil, publicly humiliates Joel (Fran Kranz) on his shoe, wondering how a college graduate could do so poorly. (The economy, stupid – a good point, potentially.) Joel doesn’t look so bad in that scene physically.
But soon he teams up with pals Wyatt (Kenan Thompson) and Ben (Zachary Levi) to make a cross country road trip in Wyatt’s Wiener Wagon (I thought of Ayn Rand’s “Wyatt’s Torch”) to LA to storm on to the Dr. Dwayne set and “beat him up.” The Wiener Wagon is cute to look at, maybe a bit phallic; the guys try to give away the hot dogs, until they get pickppcketed, and then they have to sell the wieners like they were Trump Apprentice candidates. (But there's no one to fire them.)
Joel starts looking a bit unkempt during the trip, but it’s Ben who spices things up. Most of us know Zachary Levi as the clumsy, gentle and shy giant (and macho-looking) nerdy “Chuck” in the NBC comedy series (enlisted as a spy because of an unusual ability and incident in college, and usually wearing a dress white shirt not tucked in). But here, well, yes, he dances in one bar scene on the trip, and unfortunately, he’s “thmooth”. He must have been rendered for this movie. He just looks wrong. There is a sequence where he writes on the belly of another guy, which makes Joel “suspicious.” It’s only in the end credits that we learn that Ben is officially gay. (Chuck is straight, but the NBC series would work even better if he were gay.)
Chris Pratt (who played "Bright" alongside Gregory Smith in "Everwood") has a brief role in this film. Pratt and Smith both appeared at the King of Prussia Mall near Philadelphia in August 2005.
This film (93 min, R) was shot in Utah, although the Hollywood sign and Capitol Records appear at the end.
Sony Screen Gems (or "Junior Columbia") is one of Sony’s companies for independent film (particularly small genre films), and has three facilities, in New York, Atlanta, and North Carolina, website here.
Monday, November 15, 2010
|From Bill's Movie News and Reviews|
The setup is that, among some high school dropouts, Bobby (Texas reared Nick Stahl) constant torments his “best friend” Marty (Brad Renfro), who isn’t too smart. Marty’s girl friend gets together some friends and hires a “hit man” (Leo Fitzpatrick, who describes the character as a petty gang leader) along with a baby hit man Donny (Michael Pitt, later to have a similar role in “Funny Games”). The trouble all along is that none of the kids are likeable; their behavior is gratuitous and graphic, their language foul, their character all spoiled. Their chain smoking is depressing! Who cares about them? They are "white trash". And seriously, who would beat up his "best friend" for sport? That didn't happen in my high school days, even 1961. I didn't believe it. Yet, this movie is basd on true events.
Nick Stahl plays the dubious young anti-hero (here, just starting to look like a grownup man). One of Nick's former characters gets whacked in another film, “In the Bedroom”, but in that movie he is lovable and his loss is a source of grief. Not here. The kids’ values are circular, and give little real insight into the problem of bullying as we know it today.
The “hit” scene is horrific (2/3 into the film, climaxing the “middle”), not subtle (no “Blood Simple” here), as Bobby comes to the realization that he is being attacked –executed – and will not survive so many kids ganging up on him for revenge.
Toward the end, the kids will turn on one another (I’m a bit reminded of “Under Suspicion”). Marty gets treated the roughest by the law; the scene where the sheriff’s deputies comes to his home and draw gun is quite graphic. The kids are not at all like the plotters of “Julius Caesar” although maybe there is a faint comparison.
Sometimes the script has some funny lines, like one about how you learn alibis in driver’s ed. And here, Hollywood is in Florida, not California.
The DVD contains various interviews, and the director notes how difficult it is to cast characters in their late teens and early twenties today. That sounds surprising. I agree that Michael Pitt, as an actor, is particularly effective in understanding how “kids” are sometimes. In another DVD interview, the actors joke that they “slept with the director” [gay and straight] for the parts (yes, just joking). “Third time’s a charm.”
Note: The new films “Unstoppable” and “Sykline” are reviewed Nov. 13 and 14 on my “Films on major challenges to freedom” blog.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
The film indeed makes Lomborg look charismatic: he would have been about 43 when the film was made, but he looks more like a very fit 30. He’s very much the star of the film. The only details about his personal life are that a very loving mother is in a facility (apparently in Denmark) with mild dementia.
The film also globetrots, showing him riding his bike around Copenhagen (and I believe Amsterdam), as well as teaching at Danish universities and sometimes as a guest in California. His vegetarianism (which may account for biological youthfulness – plant food is better for you) is mentioned in the film, not that that he is gay (in Wikipedia). But the absence of spouse rather stands out (even if logically irrelevant).
The historical controversy concerns accusations (“scientific dishonesty”) made against him after his 2001 book “The Skeptical Environmentalist”.
Nevertheless, it seems that the scare talk that followed Al Gore’s 2005 film “An Inconvenient Truth” (Paramount Vantage) seemed to help him restore his credibility. He generally talks in terms of cost-benefit-analysis. Carbon caps generally won’t result in much reduction in global warming for the buck, partly because they work so slowly. But many other practical measures would, including making roofs and pavement white (reflective), and relatively inexpensive schemes to pump reflectants into the stratosphere, maybe.
Roadside’s website for the film is this.
Friday, November 12, 2010
The pressure on Roshel is especially awful. The mother blames her for her father’s high blood pressure and harm to her sister. She’s being “selfish” by resisting. She’s supposed to be responsible for people she did not procreate.
Imagine, also, what it would feel like to be a man being vetted (behind your back) as a future “husband” The most important and intimate experience of your life is manipulated to serve the needs of other family members.
Originally, the principal, who is a bit of a radical feminist after all, tries to intervene.
The film is directed by Diane Crespo and Stefan C. Schaefer.
At the very end, both friends has a kid, and they share reflections on a park bench.
The “Making Of” featurette notes the challenges of filming in the Orthodox community, including kosher observance.
The website for the film is here.
“The Raft” (“Das Floss”) is included as a 2004 short on the DVD. Directed by Jan Thuring, the animated film depicts two men isolated on a raft at sea, making amends and then fighting, sending one overboard. A seagull visits, teasing them with a dropped fish, and there is some justice at the end. It reminds me of the opera “The Raft of the Medusa” by Henze. The site is here.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
The film might seem loosely like “Howl”, which is structured around a Ginsberg poem (in a courtroom drama), but here the multiplicity of poems translates into individualized characters whose stories intersect much as in a Robert Altman film. The story seems to take place in New York, but the indoor scenes were shot in Atlanta.
Some of the script does sound like poetry (in a few scenes near the beginning and end, on a dance floor, it is almost read), and in the middle there is an opera-like performance of a Broadway play I didn’t know.
Perhaps the centerpiece of the story concerns a woman (Thandie Newton) who raises two kids with an abusive boyfriend, attracting the concerns of a social worker. The domestic situation gradually leads to a horrific tragedy, with behavior that is pretty much unspeakable. Her boss (Kimberly Elise), while tending to brush people off while running her magazine (rather like Meryl Streep’s Prada character) must witness the tragedy, learning to connect to people, and then deal with her own challenges in the way of an HIV-infected husband (Omari Hardwick) who admits he is gay except in name. Whoopi Goldberg (“White”) plays the religious mother almost driven by a Christian burqa.
This is a long and intense – and sometimes wordy – film, at 134 minutes.
The website is this.
Lionsgate provided YouTube with its own embeddable trailer.
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Then we see Jacques (Brian Cox, from “L.I.E.”), alone in his flat, grabs his left side as he has his (we learn soon) fifth heart attack. Then we vaguely see Lucas cutting himself.
Pretty soon Jacques and Lucas are neighbors in the hospital. The nurses wonder why Jacques doesn’t just die. Lucas talks about his inability to be one of the fittest, but the hospital staff talks about the safety net that keeps him surviving. Lucas wants to pay back with his organs. Note well -- foreshadowing.
Soon, Jacques is taking Lucas in, and giving him a job tending bar, so he doesn’t have to close it. It has this player piano that can render Liszt’s La Campenella (G# minor). But Jacques has his crazy ideas, curiously anti-gay, and he won’t allow new customers at his bar. (Who ever heard of that?) And “a bar is no place for women.” In the mean time, Lucas is always talking about helping people, which Lucas did for him.
The film has a chiseled look, with its sepia colors and dingy sets. It moves quickly from scenes after making its points.
Finally the doctor talks to Jacques about what being on a waiting list for a heart transplant entails. “Someone else dies so that he can live.” Oh, yes, give up all smoking and drinking. Being able to follow crazy rules is a good thing.
Magnolia's website for the film is here. The film is directed by Dagur Kari and the indoor scenes were filmed in Iceland, Denmark and France, even though the setting is NYC (maybe in a parallel universe). The bar reminds me of Mendel's in Soho.
Dano’s acting and role reminds me of his more recent film, “The Extra Man” (Aug. 22, 2010 here). He always comes across as gentle and vulnerable (even as a preacher in “There Will Be Blood”). In this film, you see him grow and become assertive – until a tragic and ironic end generating the title. I actually don’t “like” the end. Jacques doesn’t “deserve” it.
Monday, November 08, 2010
The documentary traces four people who risk their social standing and family safety to create a grassroots movement for peace and non-violence between Israel and Palestine. The characters are an Israeli settler , a Palestinian ex-prisoner (with a wounded teen brothr), an Israeli mother and another wounded Palestinian.
Early, the film shows a forum center in Tel Aviv.
The film shows a lot of the cityscapes and countryside in both Israel and Palestine, sometimes in unusual rainy weather.
The film does explain that land has been expropriated from Palestinians, creating a sense of personal shame that leads sometimes to ideology that endorses suicide. But Israel, a woman says, must be determined in protecting its security because otherwise, given its history, it will not survive.
The older Israeli settler says that at one time the English, French and Germans hated each other as much as the Israelis and Palestinians.
In one encounter, Palestinians are asked how they feel about individual Israelis living in the West Bank settlements.
In one meeting, an attractive young Israeli discusses the draft, and how he went to jail avoiding it as a conscientious objector, based on non-violence. Others try to dodge the draft in Israel with “psychiatric” problems (but Israeli does allow and require gays to serve in the military).
“People on the Left or Right see things clearly. But, if like me, what you see takes a full page, how can you make a bumper sticker?”
The chamber music score is by Kareem Rouston.
The official website is here. The distributor is Typecast, which appears to be related to Balcony and Strand (all the companies have the same trade dress and release mostly politically controversial films.)
The DVD has substantial extras, including a group meeting, and six short segments on some of the people, including Yousef, Shlomo, Bat-Chen, Roni Hirshenson, Sarah Karajeh, and Riyad Faraj. Hirshenson makes an interesting comment about draft evasion, even for conscientious reasons. He says that societies have to have rules and impose obligations on people so that they can survive as a group. That way of thinking goes over less well in the US than in Israel, but is common in most conservative religious doctrine in any faith.
Sunday, November 07, 2010
The village was threatened with isolation from much of the West Bank and with expropriation of its olive tree groves and other property for Israel’s Security Fence, which was routed over their property, encircling them (I don’t know why, that isn’t explained) rather than staying in the Green Zone.
A Palestinian man brings together Fatah, Hamas, and some Israeli’s to get the fence moved and save the town, but not without some confrontations and jail time (without charge) for some. The man has seven children, but its his teenage daughter who finally makes the difference.
The film has interviews with Israeli soldiers, including a woman who talks about being drafted but wanting border duty. There are a few confrontations with gunfire and tear gas, which die down.
There is an interview with a teacher at a boys’ school in Budrus, which gives some feel for the familial socialization of people who have to live in the midst of apparent enemies.
The tagline for the film is “It takes a village to unite the most divided peoples on Earth.”
The distributor is Balcony Releasing and the production company is Just Voices, with this official website.
Saturday, November 06, 2010
The film uses about four narrative techniques. The core of the film is the “courtroom drama”. But Franco also talks ad lib, and animation illustrates his poetry, and black-and-white footage shows him with various male partners.
The trial has “experts” (college professors) testifying on valid literature, and yet the definition of “obscenity” was based on how it affects the “average person”. Literature must create its own form, one witness said. ("Howl" made a derivative form from Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass", which we all do read in high school.) There was discussion about the “bad words” and whether the poet needed to use euphemisms. But it’s clear that the main issue was that the poetry was about homosexual experience. In fact, in one of his monologues, Ginsberg simply states “I am a homosexual”.
Ginsberg also talks about the psychiatric “treatment” and “reparative therapy” of the 1950s, including shock treatments, which he got out of by promising to be straight.
The official site from Oscilloscope Laboratories.
The film is showing at the West End Cinema in Washington DC.
Friday, November 05, 2010
We know the story. Valerie’s employment was outed (or leaked to the press) by a rogue Bush administration aide after her husband Joe Wilson (Sean Penn) wrote a New York op-ed piece about not finding yellowcake in Niger when he was sent there (link ).
Also, Joe Wilson should not be confused with Charlie Wilson, a congressman who was the subject of a similarly spirited film from Mike Nichols and Universal in 2007, “Charlie Wilson’s War”.
The film’s many scenarios and little subplots, in Kuala Lumpur (opening), Amman, and Baghdad, points out what I guess a CIA operative really is supposed to do – offer “duck and cover” protection to moles and witnesses. Valeries was tough enough for the job on her own, and so it seemed hard to believe that the Bush administration would play the nepotism game and send her husband out on a similarly motivated mission. It sounds too obvious, and risky, to be believed. I have a novel manuscript where two men (a college-age gay man and a 30-ish straight family man) become a “tag team” of “brothers” drawn into an intelligence plot (regarding bioterror, of sorts), and one of the problems in writing the novel is figuring out what each partner really would have found out because of his own special wits. But in the movie, the CIA ops seem gratuitous, thrown at operatives by the Bush administration willing to see what charges against Saddam Hussein would stick. In real life, intelligence sometimes flows in unexpected little bits, sometimes to ordinary people (bloggers) without clearances. I've gotten my share of tips volunteered to me.
There’s a scene at Wilson’s house, a dinner party, where the grownups talk about “work” – improbably in real life. The kids must be in bed for a sleepover. By then, Wilson has turned more than a bit Leftist. Earlier, he has called Saddam a monster who will let average people die to protect royalty. He also gives a speech to college students at the end where he says that democracy doesn't come free, and searching for and speaking the truth is the responsibility of every citizen. It sounds good for bloggers.
The film, directed by Doug Liman, looks sharp in full 2.35:1 (it played to almost a full house at Landmark E Street large auditorium tonight, with applause). Summit Entertainment distributed the film produced by Participant and Riverroad, and again Summit is to be commended to sponsoring or picking up dramatic films about important events and issues. (Summit’s trademark needs a musical signature.) Summit embedded its official site without a special link, here.
The film has some embedded footage of the “Shock and Awe” over Baghdad, which I watched live at the Bryant Lake Bowl in Minneapolis on March 19, 2003.
Thursday, November 04, 2010
Only gradually in the film does Rabe have to come to terms with the significance of Nazi ideology and Hitler’s plans, as one companion, related to Beethoven, talks about discrimination because of his partially Jewish background.
The film, in 2.35:1, is striking in the big scale attack scenes and has much black and white footage from 1937 of the original siege.
The film cost $20 million to make, and is distributed in the US by Strand Releasing, generally known for its LGBT films, but it also distributes other films likely to have an “unpopular” social or political context. The DVD also shows the 20th Century Fox banner, which distributes the DVD in Germany. The production companies (several) are from Germany but the film was made largely on location in China.
Strand's link for the film is here.
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
Juliet teFontaine (Kristin Scott Thomas) has gotten out of prison after fifteen years and is taken back to the country family home by her loving younger sister Lea (Elsa Zylberstein). We learn she was a doctor and had been imprisoned for killing her six year old son. Frankly, it seems to show more integrity to let the audience in on the obvious: the son had a fatal cancer, and she ended his life, she though, out of love, not fear (she was no Susan Smith, but is sometimes treated that way). She gets a probationary (three weeks trial) appointment in medical records at a nursing home – she can’t mention she had been a doctor, but her boss cajoles her about being more “open” and the need for “unity” in the office (a lecture that is a bit offensive).
Later both sisters visit their mother in the nursing home. The mother doesn’t appear that ill, and rejects the younger sister’s posturing. (“Don’t call me Mom! [As if to say, who ever heard of a child not wanting to care for her parents?] Then she tries to embrace Juliette, who also resists, in a scene with demonstrable awkwardness of body language.
Sony’s site for the film is here.
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
The movie plays on his influence on others, such as the kid who walks for the first time. Early, it makes a lot of his overeating; it’s unusual for such a great athlete to have his pot belly. There’s a line where he takes a pot shot at cigarette smoking, surprising for a 1948 film. The movie has a few great shots of the old ballparks, particularly a game at the old Yankee Stadium (“The House that Ruth Built”, but not since 1974) recreating a season ending game with the Washington Senators (who actually were good in the 1920s) where he hits #60 on a 3-0 count. The movie takes some liberties with fact, such as his “resignation”, and it premiered just before he died in 1948 of an unusual throat cancer when he had agreed to try a new (for the time) chemotherapy for the benefit of others. Medically, chemotherapy would not become commonplace until the early 1960s.
Since San Francisco Giants’s Cy Young award and World Series pitching hero Tim Lincecum is slender and much cuter than Babe Ruth, I’ll give a YouTube of Tim and a high school friend playing in “Wicked”.
Monday, November 01, 2010
The story, reaching for ideas, supposes that a self-help guru among the survivors, Bobby (Sean Patrick Flannery) continues the mayhem, and this time the story is also recursive. (You’ll see.) That seems more like a trick than genuine plotting. The opening of the film seems like a recreation of ABC’s “What would you do?” Not much, it seems. Bobby likes to talk about his pecs and they’re getting damaged; thankfully, his chest is already completely hairless. Immaturity sells in Hollywood.
Needless to say, Jigsaw lives on, and Tobin Bell makes parenthetical appearances.
The lesson from all this is, maybe, for movie entrepreneurs, horror is just plain fun. (Look at “Blair Witch” and even “The Last Broadcast”.) But big business, even from “medium sized” studios like Lionsgate, can ruin the party.
AMC is giving away T-shirts with the 3D tickets. On a Sunday Halloween night at Arlington VA’s Courthouse, the crowd was sparse.
Here’s the official site.
Here’s an interview with the (“Saw 1”) originator, Australian Leigh Whannel