Friday, May 31, 2013

Argentina gives as another comedy about professional swingers, "2 + 2", and they're heart surgeons; watch who does your bypass

It seems as though foreign filmmakers like to make comedies about swing and wife-swapping, like the US did in the 70s and 80s.  “2 + 2” (“Dos mas Dos”) is a comedy from Argentina and director Diego Kaplan.
Richard and Diego (Juan Minujin and Adrian Suar) practice cardiology together, and decide to open up their relationships from their wives Betina and Emilia (Carla Peterson and Julieta Diaz)  Pretty soon, they go to a swinger’s party, feel liberated.  The wives get particularly aggressive with the opposing husbands – who may not be completely “safe”.  Is this like square dancing – where you have a partner and a corner?
  
One of the doctors has a tween asthmatic son, whose needs will bring him back to reality – although in a comic way.  Will the two marriages survive? If  they do so, will they become stronger?
  
The official Facebook page is here
  
I had to wonder about the blasé way these surgeons treated their professionals lives, which look as glitzy in Buenos Aries as in the US.  If you have to get up at 4 AM to scrub for coronary bypass surgery and start operating at 6 AM, how can you swing the night before?  (Oh, that's right, David Letterman''s emergency was in the afternoon; his scar was only bigger.)
  
There is a scene where police stop a couple at a DUI checkupoint  for a breathalyzser test.  Neither pass the test. But they don’t get arrested (they should).  They just have to walk home (or call the other couple for a ride).  The legal limit, by the way, is just 0.05. 

One of the wives is a television meteorologist, and she is always predicting big storms, particularly in Patagonia. 


I receive a screening code from Strand to watch on Vimeo. 
  

The DVD will be available from Strand Releasing June 4.  

Thursday, May 30, 2013

"8213: Gacy House": this horror concept doesn't work when you already know the backstory

A “journalism horror movie” can be interesting if the amateur sleuths go into something that I s a real mystery.  This was the case with some late 90s microbudget films like “The Blair Witch Project” and “The Last Broadcast”. 
   
But camping out in a haunted house is, by definition, less suspenseful.  You know the guys and gays are going to “get it”.  And the idea of connecting the house to a notorious serial killer seems a bit tacky at best.
8213: Gacy House” refers to the home rebuilt in 1979 (near Chicago) after the horror house of John Wayne Gacy was demolished.  Gacy would be executed in 1994, and the rebuilt house would be abandoned in 2006. (Take the “c” out of the name when typing; the result is not nice.)
  
So some partygoers decide it would be fun to camp out in the house and see if the ghost of the perpetrator still prevails.   The  script lines calling out to him seem a bit offensive.  The film becomes a mockery of the “Paranormal Activity” movies, with a lot of self-reference (through blurred black-and-white videocams) thrown in. 
  
The film sets up an envelope for itself, with police blotters claiming that the “journalists” all died in the house.  I presume that this is all made up.  Nevertheless, the DVD offers a “feature” and a “documentary” about the “party”.   The documentary claims that at least one of the Gacy victim families has sued the filmmakers for emotional distress.
  
  
The very end is reasonably well done. At least one of the make characters gets it, losing his trousers as he his dragged up into a nethweworld. 

As a screenwriting exercise, imagine the story if the reporters went to a house and didn't know who the resident (even in a previous home) had been, just that it was haunted. 


The film (from The Asylum, 2010) is directed by Anthony Frankhauser.  

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"Into Harm's Way": Documentary gives first-person accounts of Vietnam combat service by officers graduating from West Point in 1967

Howard University Television, a PBS station in Washington DC, aired the documentary “Into Harm’s Way”, by Jordan Kronick, the day after Memorial Day 2013.  This 2011 film (85 minutes) gives first person accounts from officers who graduated from the West Point (United States Military Academy) in 1967 (846  men) and then served in combat in Vietnam within one year. At least thirty of them were lost in combat by the end of 1968, during the maximum buildup under General Westmoreland.  
  
The film attracted my attention because I underwent Army Basic Combat Training in the first part of 1968.  It is conceivable that I could have had members of this class as cade when I was at Fort Jackson, SC.  I did not recognize anyone, however.
  
The film starts with a harrowing tale of an officer living in New York who gets a call to report for duty within one hour.  At the meeting, someone committed suicide.  Nevertheless, they flew immediately on a commercial flight with stewardesses to Oakland and then to Vietnam.  They said that from the air it looked like a paradise, until they say the bombed areas from the air.  Nevertheless, when they landed at Da Nang, there was no evidence of combat up close. 
  ‘
A number of officers give riveting accounts of combat, which are sometimes illustrated by rotoscopic animation. One officer described commanding a chopper and tracking a cyclist.
  
One officer got involved in a protest and was forced out of the Army but given am Honorable Discharge to keep the matter quiet.
  
One man showed the stump from his amputation at mid thigh, and demonstrated putting on a prosthesis.  But he said that in 1969, people with severe war injuries were looked down upon by society as damaged goods.  
  
One officer said his wife divorced him because she could not deal with being intimate with him given his wounds. 
  
In fact, the willingness of people to keep relationships in the face of adversity, especially that imposed by war or terror, sounds today like a moral foundation for sustainability. Another film that dealt with this sensitivity was “Body of War” (review April 7, 2008).   Another such film is “Fighting for Life” (March 29, 2008).
  
  
The official site for the film from the Documentary Group is here.  A major Vimeo video is offered.  
  

It seems to me that the Vietnam era draft, with the moral conundrum created by student deferments and “sheltered MOS” like the I had (“01E20”) would make a good subject for documentary or POV film. 

Pictures: July, 2011, my own visit to West Point

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"Living Goddess": A woman of steel she is not (but some stunning scenery from Nepal)

Netflix Red Envelope offers the 2008 docudrama “Living Goddess”, by Ishbel Whitaker, depicting the lives of three young princesses (ages less than eight) in Nepal, in a hidden valley kingdom where religious customer offers millions of gods.
  
While the girls are spoiled, a political revolution closes in, and the indulgent child rearing is brought to light.  It’s not clear if this is recent history, or a fantasy based on supposed history.
  
The girls, whose early statements show a sense of entitlement, face a life in which they will not be worshipped as “favored childs” as adults. No longer can the remain spoiled.  
  
  
The scenery in the film, showing the poverty of life in rural Nepal, is quite striking. 

The concept of a person’s being superhuman is usually much more constructive, as in the Superman movies or even the “Smallville” television series.
  

Can a person transcend his own mortality and become an angel?  This film hardly tackles that question.  That’s what I had been hoping. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

HBO's "Behind the Candelabra": Liberace and Scott Thorson, up close; Matt Damon becomes a boy again

I had already reviewed a movie about Liberace (“Behind the Music”) from the late 80s  back on May 3, 2011, and I really didn’t think the world needed another one.
   
But Sunday night, Aamy 26, 2013, HBO aired a new film by Stteven Soderbergh, “Behind the Candelabra”, focusing just on the relationship between Liberace (Michael Douglas) and lover Scott Thorson (Matt Damon).  The script had the benefit of a book by Scott Thorson and Alex Thorleifson.
  
It was fun to see Matt Damon look “young” again.  Thorson became a partner of Liberace at about age 28.  In the film, the process happens quickly, as Thorson moves in.  There’s an early scene where Liberace plays with Thorson’s legs.  Damon’s aren’t quite what they used to be.

And Thorson quickly found out about the lookism and expectations, getting a facelift himself  (Rob Lowe plays the doctor) when it was hardly needed.

The relationship is depicted as stormy and filled with jealousy and catty retorts – but the quarrels and fights don’t come to anything for a long time, as in the next scene it’s always showbiz as normal.

When the relationship starts, Liberace says "I want you to work for me" and then "I can pay a secretary to type..." and then "I want you to be my companion".  That's work?  Liberace says he can "adopt" Scott -- but that's how it worked then. 
  
Toward the end of the film, Thorson gets tossed out by a private investigator, and launches what would be his famous palimony suit.  In those days, an artificial “adoption” substituted for marriage.

The film gives relatively little space to Liberace’s decline and death due to AIDS in 1987, except that the estate tried to cover it up. Liberace does try to reconcile the relationship with Thorson from his deathbed.   Rock Hudson had broken the ice.

The official site is here

  

The earliest scenes do show Liberace’s piano technique.  I recall records of his music as a child, and it always seemed to me his entertainment was so superficial, but “everybody” liked it.  

Sunday, May 26, 2013

"In the House": Ozon makes a comic thriller about a precious teenage writer and "domestic spy", all for family

The new comic French thriller from Fraocois Ozon “In the House” (“Dans la maison”) starts by showing its lead character Claude  (new young German actor Ernst Umhauer, who is quite overwhelming in the role) dressing from prep school, and we know from the body shots that he is probably a teen.  Most of the time afterwards, he is in shirt and tie.  The formality seems ironic given the quasi-erotic nature of the character’s presence “in the house” in the movie.
  
We also see the prep school literature teacher Germain (Fabrice Luchini)  grading papers in front of his wife, who isn’t afraid to be nosey.  Most of the kids can’t write or are dulled by cell phones and pizza.
But not Claude.  Despite coming from a broken home, he is gifted, mannered, and different, and capable of the kind of charisma you see from a character like Will Horton in the soap “Days of our Lives”.  He craves to find out what a real family is life.  So he embarks to tutor another boy in math Rapha (Bastien Ughetto) at home.  He gets into the house, becomes best friends of the boy, and is always around. 
  
And he writes about all the experiences.  At first, his interesting in auto biographical writing (somewhat like mine) scares the teacher, as inappropriate and risky.  Well, no one else will see it?  (The film never mentions social media, but it could have been set a few decades ago.)  But the teacher becomes obsessed with the experiment – and perhaps the student – as the snooping continues. 
  
Complications will set in.  For one thing, at mid point, the teacher calls upon the students to write about their best friends.  Rapha, who has already demonstrated a crush on Claude, is humiliated when his [iece is read – he feels verbally undressed, imagined naked (as in the song from “Modern Family”).   But Claude’s own demonstrative heterosexuality can wreck more than one marriage. Kristen Scott Thomas plays Germain’s wife, and she will be appropriately challenged.   
  
The very end of the film – sad for Germain – has a touch of Hitchcock – like in “Rear Window”.

One thing about the house – it looked rather American.   

  
Cohen Media Group offers a specific site only on Facebook, here.  The film is based on a play by Juan Mayorga.
 
I saw the film Sunday afternoon at the AMC Shirlington in Arlington VA, in a smaller auditorium, before a receptive audience.  The projectionist cut off the credits.  

Ozon has an earlier thriller about authorship, “Swimming Pool” , where a British mystery writer (Charlotte Rampling) visits her publisher’s home in France. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

"Stories We Tell": a meta-movie

Stories We Tell” is a meta-movie: it is as much about the process of making a movie about unearthing family secrets as it is about the family (a Jewish family straddling both Toronto and Montreal) itself. 
  
Sarah Polley sometimes uses actors for the characters, and sometimes intermixes the “stories” with suoer-8 footage from the family members themselves.  The process of setting up the interviews, in a Toronto condo, is shown with some technical detail.  I will have to consider similar efforts when I make my own DADT video soon.
  
The film offers non-stop chatter, as the stories go from one member to the next, much of it about a matriarch who has passed away, and who may or may not have had affairs that resulted in children not being completely sure of their fathers. 
  
I could imagine such a film being contemplated about my late mother’s side of the family,  There is her own story, as to how she came to Washington in 1934 (born on an Ohio farm in 1913 and surviving appendicitis during the WWI years) and met my father while working for and living in the Y (as was he), in days when single people didn’t have their own apartments.  The lineage dies with me, but would culminate in a bizarre or ironic set of events connected to the end of “don’t ask don’t tell”.  How many people know this story of my family?  Some, including a few in Hollywood (at least they’ve read it online).  But one could imagine a film like this about my Mother’s last years, and about my approach to eldercare, and about the different ways people perceived my actions.  It gets into from very sensitive matters that I won’t detail here, but I can imagine what Polley could do with it.
  
I saw this before a small crowd late night at the AMC Shirlington in Arlington VA (still in the largest auditorium).  Some of the audience seemed quite engaged in the details of the story, as if an English teacher could give a video quiz on them!
  
The film, from Roadside Attractions (and Lionsgate?) has link here. The original production company is the National Film Board of Canada. I wonder if my movie would be a good "roadside attraction". The little company has embellished its trademark trailer with more music.  
   


I walked out of the theater “in the moonlight”. Never saw so much detail on our nearest astronomical neighbor with the naked eye as last night.  

Friday, May 24, 2013

"Camp 14: Total Control Zone": harrowing biography of a young man who escapes from the Kaechon gulag in North Korea

Camp 14: Total Control Zone” is one of the most graphic and detailed documentaries about the police state in North Korea ever made.  Released online in 2012 by Netflix, the 100-minute film by Marc Wiese (Germany) doesn’t seem to have a North American distributor.  It seems particularly timely now, given the tension (and threats)  created by North Korea in early 2013.
   
The film presents an autobiography of  Shin Dong-Hyuk, who was born in a North Korean labor camp.  He would eventually escape at age 23 with the help of another prisoner, and escape into China, and then come to South Korea. He would marvel at his own psychological process, noting that in South Korea where people are governed by money, there is more suicide than in the North.  He said that his life was empty in prison, and yet his soul was innocent.  In the South, with freedom, he can become corrupt.

The film uses many techniques for its storytelling. Often Shin, now in his later 20s, talks to the camera.  The conditions in the camp are recreated with rotoscoic animation, often in near black-and-white.  But there are stunning outdoor sequences showing Seoul, northeastern China, and areas near the DMZ.  Given the location at the 38th parallel, one wonders why the climate is so cold.

  
The official site (uses Quick-Time) is here
   
In the early parts of the film, Shin describes the boredom of the camps, and of his desire to pass time without too many thoughts.  During the escape, he was burned on the legs by the electric fence, but able to continue to flee.  He had to break into houses and steal from north Korean or Chinese villages to survive.   He had no concept of what money was at first.  I’ve always wondered if a “moneyless” society could be a good topic for sci-fi. 
  
Near the end of the film, there is a brief sequence where appealing American students at UCLA are shown helping him with a fundraiser. 
  
The Wikipedia article about the Kaechon Internment Camp is here.
  

Wikipedia link for NASA photo of Korea at night, here. It's as if the DPRK immolated itself with an EMP blast, or lived out the NBC show "Revolution".  

Thursday, May 23, 2013

"Exterminating Angels": Filmmakers, be careful of what you wish for, and about who auditions for your movie


The Exterminating Angels”  (“Les anges exterminateurs”, 2006), by  Jean-Claude Brisseau, did generate some buzz at Cannes a few years ago, and in New York when it played at Lincoln Center (probably the Walter Reade). 

This meta film about porn takes place on several levels.  The “hero”, Francoais (Frederic  van den Driessche) auditions several young women to play in his film.

Two of the young women may be “fallen angels”, sent to tempt the filmmaker.  Is this “real”, or just a metaphor?  The audience can decide.  But in time Francois goes down the toilet.  His marriage collapses, and in time the police are after him, and finally so are organized thugs.  The kneecapping at the end is quite brutal (and recalls recent news).

A lot is made of a restaurant scene near the end, where the angels appear, and then an old women, just before the tragedy. 

Wikipedia notes that the film is somewhat autobiographical for the director, who was arrested and prosecuted for "harassment" in France in 2002. Does that observation make the film an exercise in gratuitous self-incrimination? The film has a required disclaimer that all actresses in explicit scenes are 18 or older.
    
The DVD has a 40-minute short “Cinema According to Jean-Claude-Brisseau".  The portly director explains the self-reflection in the final scene, where a badly damaged Francois sees himself rather like the voyager at the end of Kubrick’s 2001. The diirector denies that the film is "New Wave". but it seems like it is, particularly toward the end.  


The film is distributed by The Weinstein Company and IFC, and would normally be views as a “legitimate” NC-17 film, with layers of meaning  intended for adults.  Much of the explicit sex is lesbian (Francois usually prefers to watch than participate).
  
My own screenplay short “The Sub” presents a substitute teacher who is “tempted” in an unusual way by a precocious near-adult student, who could be seen as having supernatural resources.  That screenplay gets embedded as a backstory in my latest feature screenplay (“Do Ask Do Tell: The Manifesto”), in which the subject wakes up in a sort of afterlife world in which he has to decide which of his “captors” are “real” angels who can travel to other planets.  That invites brief but vivid and varied backstories among a variety of characters, flashing by as if in a dream.  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

"War on Whistleblowers": new doc from Robert Greenwald examines how government muzzles the truth


As a result of a posting on my “International Issues” blog (May 14) on warrantless Department of Justice Monitoring of Associated Press reporter phone records, I wound up with a free review copy of the new 65-minute documentary “War on Whistleblowers: Free Press and the National Security State”, by Robert Greenwald, from Brave New Foundation (link). 
  
Greenwald points out that in the Middle Ages, “Whistleblowers” on the Church establishment went to prison but laid the foundation for the modern world – like Galileo.
  
One of the most important concepts in the film is the distinction between leaking and whistleblowing.  The latter does not usually involve the release of classified information.
  
The film interviews many reporters who have investigated the Federal government’s post 9/11 abuses – like David Cain, Bill Keller, Jessica Radack, and Michael Isekoff.
  
The film seems to focus on three or more specific cases.  One was a DOJ lawyer Thomas M. Tann, who actually reported on the agency’s own abuse of warrantless searches.  He resigned, but came home one day in August 2007 to find his wife and family under the control of eighteen federal agents. 
  
A second case is the NSA’s Tom Drake, and another was Lockheed’s Michael DeKort.
  
   
Often the government will threaten to prosecute under the Espionage Act, even when there has been no spying.
   
Bradley Manning’s case (the “friendly fire” killings in Iraq) is mentioned toward the end.  (My review and embed of “Collateral Murder” appears on my “cf” (“Cautionary”) blog, April 7. 2010.
   
The government said it was concerned, in the AP case, about federal employees disclosing classified information. It wasn’t concerned about reporters.  But now reporters find that officials may be afraid to talk to them,
  
The Obama administration is said to be more draconian on "leaks" than even the Bush administration.

What if a blogger accidentally got a hold of classified information and disclosed it? 

Monday, May 20, 2013

"Kon-Tiki": Thor is rather like Pi, with a dream but no tiger


The spectacular Norwegian film, "Kon-Tiki", by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, made the Oscar finals for best foreign language film, but the cut I saw tonight at the AMC Shirlington in Arlington was in English.  I don’t know if it was dubbed. 
  
The film is a fairly straightforward history of the raft voyage of Thor Heyerdal (Pal Sverre-Hagen) from Peru to Polynesia in 1947, proving that South American natives could have settled Oceana a thousand years before, in pre-Inca (perhaps Tiahuanaco) times.  Perhaps the story has some relevance to Van Daniken and “Chariots of the Gods”. 
  
Thor enlists some of his friends (one is a refrigerator salesman), who have to get along almost like a military unit in the close quarters of the primitive raft.  Thor won’t even let the men cheat on technology.
The film has a number of exciting episodes, involving battling sharks and sea rescues.  There is a lovable hermit crab, and a parrot, both characters on board.  But nature gets cruel in some scenes.  There are some night effects with luminescent fish.
  
The film may sound like an echo of “The Life of Pi”, but it seems more mellow, and less compelling.  That is not to deny Thor’s contributions, which even added to the spirit of the space program for men with “The Right Stuff”.   

The script has a description of drowning that recalls a similar passage in Sebastian Junger's "The Perfect Storm" (a movie in 2000).
  
The film ends with some black-and-white footage from the 1951 documentary. Kon-Tiki":  
  
The film is distributed in the US by the Weinstein Company, with Norwegian site here
  
This film was just a little bit soft-spoken.   It was shot 2.35:1, no 3D;  “Pi” was shot in regular aspect ratio, but with 3D.  “Kon-Tiki” was indeed bit, with shooting locations in Malta, Maldives, Thailand, Norway, Sweden, and Bulgaria.  

Sunday, May 19, 2013

"Star Trek Into Darkness": Spock learns compassion, takes us on a roller coaster the last half hour


I can be hard to place yourself in another world and develop a rooting interest (although games designers would certainly dispute this).  I went in to see “Star Trek Into Darkness”  (no colon in the title) somewhat expecting a genre spectacle, and got largely that, although J. J. Abrams gave us some real insight into what it takes for a distant person to become compassionate and human.  That is, of course, the character Spock (Zachary Quinto, made up as usual).  He tells Kirk (Chris Pine) at one point early in the film that he was experienced what it is like to pass (at death) but has refused to really feel.  But Spock is given command of the mission, and finally goes on a solo mission to hunt down (in a devastated 23rd Century San Francisco) the lone-wolf terrorist Khan (an all too handsome British actor Benedict Cumberbatch).Finally, Spock may choose to feel real emotion and compassion.  Is this an exploration of breaking out of Asperger’s or of some schizoid personality. instead of merely an outcome of genetics  (Vulcan, other planets). 
   
The pretext for Khan’s “cause” didn’t mean a lot in our frame of reference.  So it was a bit hard to get into it. Nevertheless, the last thirty minutes of the film are a real roller coaster (that means, a Griffon).
  
I saw it Sunday night in the Imax auditorium at the AMC Tysons, and the large hall was three-fourths full.  The Imax did something alittle disconcerting. For the scenes inside the Enterprise, the screen was cropped vertically to simulate normal Cinemascoe, at 2.35:1.  But the “outdoor” scenes (in outer space, and on other planets, such as among the red-shifted vegetation and ancient pyramid in the opening shot of the film) are shot with the screen full (1.85:1).  I don’t know how the non-Imax was handled.  But changing aspect ratios to correspond to different levels of reality is problematic, because different theaters have other was of handling full anamorphic wide screen.
   
I wondered about the “geography” of the confederation. One of the planets had to be light years away, but the space station seemed to be near Jupiter (as in “2001”).  Was the nearby moon Europa?
   
The end credits, while offering two full concert overtures based on the Star Trek music, offer a real “planet show”. 
  
Paramount’s official site is here



  
Bill Maher interviews Zachary Quinto in the above clip, and Quinto also discusses “coming out”.  Maher talks about the idea that a “Christian” thinks he has the right to automatic victory in any argument.  (Remember his film “Religulous”?)

Picture: Model of the universe at Green Bank Radio Telescope museum, W Va.  

Friday, May 17, 2013

"Gayby": the feature takes a different track from the short


Sometimes short films morph into interesting features, sometimes not.  I had seen the short “Gayby” at DC Shorts (reviewed Sept. 12, 2010),  and the feature, also by Jonathan Lisecki, does take on a different emphasis.  (I had a more positive experience with "The House of Adam", reviewed March 26, 2012).  
  
In the short, yoga teacher Jenn (Jenn Harris) needs to have a biological baby to get money from an estate. The feature doesn’t seem to develop that interesting problem (there have been other movies where getting an inheritance depends on marrying and having children, like “The Bachelor’). Instead, tie comedy focuses on the distractions that other characters – on both sides, can provide. It seems like people feel free to come and go into the lives of others.  Maybe New York is too expensive a place for privacy.  
  
In the beginning, we have the setup as previous college friend and  gay man Matt (Matthew Wilkas) agrees to her wish to do it the old fashioned way. “I’m a guy. I can put it anywhere.” 
     
Matt works in a library-bookstore (“It’s free”, sometimes) and meets a parade of men, such as bear Nelson (Lisecki himself), and a divorced bisexual with kids.  Jenn encounters a spectacular (straight) painter and interior designer (Louis Cancelmi), whom she trusts with the keys to her apartment.  Eventually, it won’t be clear who the father is.
  
Moralists can question the idea of having babies and not intending to raise them with the same mother and father in a marriage relationship. But in this story, there’s a real chance that Matt will learn fathering after all.

The feature is from Wolfe Video (link).
  

For a short film, you can look up “Honeypot”  from Live Chat Films (6 minutes).  It’s a sting, all right.  Back to the days of the 50s.  

Picture: Redhook, Brooklyn NY (my visit, Feb. 2013).  

Thursday, May 16, 2013

"The Adonis Factor": Lookism in the gay male community


Netflix offers the 2010 documentary by Christopher Hines about lookism in the male gay community, “The Adonis Factor”.
  
The 69-minute film, comprising interviews of men in San Francisco, Palm Springs, West Hollywood, and Atlanta, seems to ramble around a bit, with a narrative style (with hip background music) that sounds like it came from a contestant for an “Apprentice” episode.
  
One problem with the experience of watching the film is practical.  Seeing a lot of men, shirtless, over tanned and often tattooed, with chest hair removed or often cropped, doesn’t do anything at all.  It’s much more interesting to look at images in Details or GQ where the men are clothed, with something left to the imagination following on what is shown.  Or, it’s interesting to watch a video or film made my and with someone you know, clothed most of the time, where you know what he does and what he is about.  But mere images after a while get tiresome.
  
The men are frank in their assessment of gay male “body fascism” – it can get quite “catty” when men who don’t look good enough are “turned away”.   (That happens to me once in a while, maybe once a year.) There is this fixation on an idea of worthiness for some particular station in life.  But we’ve fought wars over that.
  
There’s some discussion, toward the end, of cosmetic surgery and various products that hide aging, or perhaps sometimes reverse the effects of anti-HIV drugs, which don’t have the side effects now that they used to. 

There is some brief coverage of circuit parties, particularly the White Party in Palm Springs. (I discussed a more detailed documentary on circuit parties on Sept. 26, 2011 from TLA.  I wonder if the Black Party from the Saint in NYC is going to release {on Amazon or Netflix} a documentary about its events; I hope so, since cell phones and photography are prohibited at this expensive event -- and there are free mimic parties nearby when it is  held in March.)   
  
I once was shocked by the appearance of a friend, known to me from fighting “don’t ask don’t tell” in the Navy, at the 1999 gay pride festival in Washington DC. He had been trim, but no longer; his appearance shocked me.  Perhaps his  physical changes had been related to early protease inhibitors (they no longer have the side effects that they used to).  I lost my cool in the SLDN booth and said so. Later that summer he emailed me that he was not pleased at what I had said. The gay community was too infected with lookism, he wrote. 
  
  
The film is distributed by “Rogue Culture”.  I don’t know if this is related to “I am Rogue” pictures (associated with Universal and Relativity Media for some independent  (“Catflish”)and sci-fii or action film).  

Picture: No, I took that one, in Baltimore, of the Man of Steel (a wannabe Clark Kent).  I must say, that when "Smallville" ran, Tom Welling was "my type".  Lookism, again.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

"The Great Gatsby": You'll love it or you'll hate it, but I think the ending means something


When I  subbed a few years ago, practically every ninth grade read F. Scott FitzGerald’s “The Great Gatsby”.  That came back as a lavish period (almost comic-book) 3-D film from Australia (Village Roadshow Pictures and Warner Brothers) from Baz Luhrmann this week.  I do recall the 1974 film, a Francis Ford Coppola production by Jack Clayton, with Robert Redford as Gatsby and Sam Waterston as the scribe Nick Carraway.  This was the definitive, relatively “real” film, which I saw in New Jersey about the time that I “came out”, and it was very popular then in the gay community.
  
Tobey Maguire, the soft-spoken “Peter Parker” fills the bill for “Nickie” in the new film. It’s 1922, and the Nick wants to be a writer but really has to make a real choice in these pre-tech days and becomes a bond trader.  He is lucky enough that the cottage he rents on Long Island is next to the Gatsby mansion.  
  
Leonardo Di Caprio is somewhat the extension of the plantation owner in “Django”.  Once he tells story of his poor background, we of course know that all this money came from Prohibition-era bootlegging (and Ken Burns’s film on the topic is mentioned in the credits).   
  
Nick is the one friend that Gatsby has, as the unfortunate web of betrayals and mistresses around him revolves.  After the ending, nobody cares enough to come to the funeral.  I think there are times when there should be no memorial service at all, and that we can learn from that.

The visual portrayal of the "Valley of Ashes" on Long Island gives the environment a kind of "other planet" look, almost characteristic of David Lynch.  I don't think the Long Island Railroad had steam trains then. 
   
Ezra Klein (Washington Post columnist) wrote a piece critical of the ending of the book and movie.  I had somehow misconstrued his piece and tweeted that the movie changed the book, but it seems that the ending is the same, at least in areas that matter.  I’m not sure that I agree with Klein that it is all coincidence and accident.  The piece is here. I suppose a lot of English themes get written about this ending (or it shows up on a lot of quizzes). 
   
I do remember that a teacher for whom I subbed asked the kids to write a piece about Nick’s quote “I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known”.  Here's a link for quotes from the book. 
  
  
The official site is here

The opening of the movie shows the corporate trademarks in “1930s style” and the 3-D and color develop gradually.  I saw this film in a small auditorium (digital) at Regal in Arlington.  They don’t always “Go Big” but we don’t “go home”.  I wish the theater would announce on its website which shows are in large auditoriums.
  
The other novel that everybody reads in ninth grade is “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding, an MGM film in 1990 by Henry Hook. I saw plenty of reading quizzes on this book. 

Picture: Far Rockaway after Sandy, my picture

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

"9 Songs": A scientist from Antarctica plays hard back at home in London


The film “9 Songs”, which has some solitary awesome shots of young glaciologist Matt (Kiieran O’Brien) alone on the Antarctic polar cap, and it mentions that the glaciers are receding. This little film was shot about a year before Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”.
  
The rest of the film, however, would seem to justify the late Roger Ebert’s claim that NC-17 should be a legitimate rating for mature films for adults.  Technically, the film (by Michael Winterbottom) is not rated.  The story of his relationship with college student Lisa (Margo Stilley) is told quite explicitly, even with a little bit of SM.  The third layer of the film is the projection of all this (into nine specific musical numbers) into rock band music, from the Vlack Rebel Motorcycle Cliub, Von Bondies, Elbow, Primal Scream, The Dandy Warhols, Super Furry Animals, Franz Ferdinand, and Michael Nyman.
  
Physically, Matt seems to come out of all of this amazingly unscathed physically.  Wouldn’t he get frostbite in the Antarctic?  It hasn’t warmed that much.  Winterbottom says he researched the living conditions of scientists in close-quarter tents or Quonsets  before making the film. (Sound familiar? No privacy?)
The intimate scenes, as shown, though, are accompanied usually by modern classical piano music, usually Bartok or Satie.
  
  
The movie (from Revolution Films, Palisades Pictures and Tartan) still has a site in France, link
  
The director says that many actors would not be OK with telling a story in this manner.  Actors often don’t know what will be expected in a  “legitimate porn” film like this.  He also says that the nine songs were chosen from among 150.  

Monday, May 13, 2013

"Do Ask, Do Tell: The Movie": documentary about the now repealed military DADT policy; and 3 short comic films about "Reid-ing"


I found a 52-minute documentary film on YouTube by “Ali Sue” titled “Do Ask Do Tell: The Movie”, apparently posted in early 2012. 

The film comprises a large number of short interview clips by servicemembers affected by the now repealed (as of Sept, 20, 2011) “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy regarding homosexuals in the military. There is also some mention of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) and Proposition 8 in California, but the majority of the film deals with the military gay ban.
  
The opening of the film, which seems to have been made by members of GLOBE, a group of gay federal employees, has a disclaimer that it does not represent DOD views.  Then it goes into the idea that “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and DOMA are both forms of “legalized hate crime”.
  
There is a long list of speakers.  These include the following list: Vicki Wagmer. Kaiden. Montanta from GLOBE, Kris Longacher, Dan Choi, Ben Gomez, Joseph Roca, Dr. Madison Shockley, Fred Karger, Will Rodriquez Kennedy, Evnlyn Thomas,  and retired USMC General Brahms. 
  
Some of the individual stories are harrowing. Vicki Wagner enlisted in the Air Force in 1989, when the military formally “asked”, and was investigated after being seen “kissing” a woman. She had held one of the highest top secret security clearances in the nation, as was threatened with five years in prison because she had the clearance.  (This sounds legally wrong, even then).  Dan Choi, a West Point graduate, was known for his White House protest.  Evelyn Thomas speaks of being “asked” (this may have been before 1993), and signing an oath at enlistment that she was not homosexual or lesbian.  Roca spoke of being harassed on ship for having been seen in gay bars (maybe by the Shore Patrol – they used to be “off limits” in many coastal communities) and possessing gay literature. Kaiden Montana says that he is the cousin of Allen Schindler, the sailor who was murdered by his own unit in 1992 in Japan, an event which became the subject of the TV movie “Any Mother’s Son”.
  
The very end of the film takes place on the official day of repeal of DADT, when Gen. Brahms speaks.

Much of the interviewing seems to be filmed in San Diego.  The stereo effect of the wind in the outdoor speech scenes is remarkable when played back on a large laptop. I attended the Outserve-SLDN (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network) party in Washington DC on K Street, Sept. 20, 2011 (an hour wait to get in), but this film seems to be shot at a similar party in San Diego or Los Angeles.  

  
The notes on YouTube give a link to President Clinton’s Executive Order protecting gay federal employees.
   
I don’t see this film on Netflix.  The film certain hits hard (particularly the interviews in the middle of the film). I think it ought to have a commercial presence, and be shown in a festival and available on Netflix. I would have paid a rental (like $3.99) to watch it on YouTube had it not been free.
  
Let me say, for anyone who doesn’t know me and finds this review, that I am the author of the two “Do Ask Do Tell” books on iUniverse (check Amazon, or the Books blog June 5, 2010).  They are subtitled "A Gay Conservative Lashes Back" and "When Liberty Is Stressed".  The first book gives my own history with the military, actually starting with my expulsion from a civilian college in 1961 (William and Mary) but getting myself drafted and serving in the military anyway in 1968-1970. 
  
I am planning to make a documentary film video about these materials (about one hour).  And I have several “narrative screenplay” manuscripts based on this material.  The most important presents three layers of  “reality” in “Inception-like” fashion.  Details are for another time, but I do want to point out that I may use the title “Do Ask Do Tell” in the films, just as in the books.

Let me add that, as far as I know, as a legal matter, it is not a problem for the same films (or the same books) to have the same or similar names;  it happens on imdb all the time.  (The only time it is a problem occurs when there is a trademarked franchise, like “Star Wars”). 

As matters develop, I would be interested in helping the filmmaker screen this video in festival or commercial settings, as I am able given my time and resources.  (Check my blogger profile for contact, or the “doaskdotell.com” contact page, or email at “JBoushka at aol dot com” or handle JBoushka on Twitter or “John W. Boushka” on Facebook or Linkedin.).
  
As if all this were not enough for today, I have a trio of “short films” to recommend today, easily found on YouTube.  They're "free", and that matters.  These items are the three “Reid.ing” films (“01”, “etc) about "free-ness" by Reid Ewing (who plays “Dylan” on “Modern Family”), each about seven minutes.  Film "01” is called “It’s Free”; he visits a public library in order to make fun of the need for people to get free stuff (remember, Hollywood is sensitive about piracy, so it’s a good subject for satire and fun – but It’s also a money issue for young actors and filmmakers and songwriters).  I particularly like the metaphor he makes from the children's book "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie," leveraging the content to make a comment about why some low income kids are exposed to violence from parents.  In “02” called “Free Fish”  (it reminds me of the Miami Marlins MLB baseball team)  he visits an aquarium (and makes some funny remarks about coelenterates and sea horses, among other critters), and in “03” (“I’m Free”) he visits and LA Superior Courthouse, presumably for a traffic fine, and shows what happens when people get tickets.  I don’t know how he got cameras into the courthouse to film, but maybe the county wanted the public to know how the system works.  All three videos are presented in “moockumentary” style familiar to fans of “Modern Family”.  I wonder it this acting style would work if Reid got to host SNL or some late night show,  He has other funny music videos (beside the famous “In the Moonlight”, like “Traffic Jam” (on the 405 or maybe the 210, see his own comments here)  and even “Imagine Me Naked”(where the egotism really works -- when you're only 23 -- imagine this song on Karaoke in bars, but I don't see any of Reid's work listed on Karaoke).  (For "Inner Child", see Oct. 8, 2012, near end of post.) All are “satirical”, particularly about being a young adult, just out of the nest, living "free" in LA.  Is this "libertarian"? .He calls his production company “Igigistudios” and his own persona character “Reid Rainbow”.  Oh, by the way, "cuddle" and "cuttlefish" (film "02") make a  "wild card: rhyme if you notice the spelling. (Note also -- "Traffic Jam" seems prescient given GOP NJ  Gov. Chris Christie's traffic jam scandal in 2013. Art cam sink politicians.)

                                                                                                                                                 
Is the third film ("I'm Free") self-defamation"? No one would react to it that way, but that's how one my own screenplays ("The Sub") was perceived by a school district where I did sub because the character in the screenplay resembled me too much (same nickname) and gives in to temptation.  Details are on my main blog, July 27, 2007.  The possibility of enticement or imitation may be more relevant in my case, no matter how remote.  An example of this issue in a commercial feature is Todd Verow's 1999 film "Frisk" from Strand.


Note (July, 2013): the videos appear to have been moved to the "Igigi" site (now no longer available -- still checking into this). There are some new short films at this site which would deserve attention in a future review post.  I think he lives pretty close to Strand Releasing's offices (not far from where I stayed myself last time in LA, on the notorious 405).  I hope these two parties meet.   

Note: (Feb. 27, 2014): In announcing his "My Brother's Keeper" initiative, President Obama seemed to almost quote Reid's comment near the end of the first film that "upper class kids don't have parents around to hit them like lower class kids do."

Update: Nov. 21, 2015:  Reid had an article about his personal experience as a teen with dysmorphia published in the Huffington Post Nov. 19, 2015, link here
   
Pictures:  December, 2007 Outserve-SLDN presentation on the Washington DC Mall;  LA 405 Freeway from the Angelino Hotel bar (near the Bel Air area), my  own visit, May 2012.  I ran into lots of traffic jams that week; the 405 was undergoing a lot of work.  

"A Teacher": a view of inappropriate behavior that takes itself for granted


I expected, when I went to see a festival screening (at the Maryland Film Festival)  of “A Teacher”, to see a story where a teacher engages a student with some truly ambiguous behavior, gets reported, and then gets fired, arrested, and taken through the criminal justice system, maybe even “treatment”.  That actually is necessary and interesting, as there are many issues to explore.
    
But, instead, the film takes for granted that passionate affairs, especially between female teachers and hormone-driven teenage boys, happen naturally.  As the film opens, 30-ish English teacher Dianna Watts (Lindsay Burge) is giving a quiz to her AP English class for seniors, and the kids act a little bratty.  Now, I’ve subbed before (in northern Virginia) and you just don’t encounter this in AP or Honors.  Soon, we’re seeing the relationship with Eric Tull (Will Brittain).
  
This all happens in and around Austin, TX, around Thanksgiving time, when the weather is still mild in central Texas.  Eric lives in an upper middle class home, and his Dad owns a Hill Country ranch, which Eric, at something like 17 or 18, already knows how to supervise.  So he is more like an adult already.  Dianna is more attached to the relationship than Eric, and when it unravels, so does she.  But this 80 minute film (looking quite grand in 2.35:1) shows us only the barest glimpse of the “justice” she will face.
  
In Texas, the age of consent is 17, but most states make it a crime for a public school teacher to have intimate relations with a student. 
   
I made the comment from the audience that the film was over the top, and that the justice issues could have been interesting if explored (as they would be by a journalist like, say, Chris Hansen), but the film director (Hannah Fidell) disagreed with me.  The audience (very full) seemed to “side” with her. 

I would have been interested in seeing how the relationship got started, not just asked to take it for granted. 
   
   
Fiddel’s site is here but is under development.
  
The picture is already distributed by Oscilloscope, which apparently took over distribution of films that used to be distributed by Warner Independent Pictures.
   
Visitors can read about my own experience tangential to this issue on my main blog (“BillBoushka”), entry July 27, 2007.  My own screenplay short is called "The Sub" and is now embebbed as a layer in a larger screenplay which I call "Do Ask Do Tell: A Manifesto".  
  
Also, compare to the Lifetime film “Student Seduction” (2003), reviewed here May 4, 2010.  

First picture: QA at festival;  third picture -- ranch country west of Austin, TX (mine, 2011 visit); fourth: West Potomac High School in northern VA;  minor incident occurred in 2005 when I was subbibg there.  

Sunday, May 12, 2013

"Downloaded": the story of Shawn Fanning, Naptster, and "P2P 101".


Downloaded”, directed by Alex Winter, is a documentary about the story of the first incarnation of Napster, the notorious peer-to-peer (P2P)  music file sharing system originally invented by Shawn Fanning in 1999. 
   
It played to an almost full house Saturday evening May 11 at the Maryland Film Festival, with writeup here
  
The director told the audience that this story was much better told with the real people than as a narrative with actors (as “The Social Network” was),  Shawn Fanning appears, usually with his buzz cut, at various ages; you can see gradual physical maturation from age 19 to today.  One of the most important aspects of Shawn’s view as his service should have become something that the music industry could use constructively, to promote artists and monetize them. He never saw it as a tool for “piracy”. 

Shawn indeed dropped out of Northeastern University in Boston and holed up in a storefront in the beach community of Hull, MA and coded his dream, at 19, making the cover of Time.  In time, he got support, especially from Sean Parker (the real one, not Justin Timberlake’s impersonation -- note the spelling) , who also undergoes some physical evolution in the film. 
  
The legal storms came, of course, from the RIAA. The film traces he history of the litigation, and the attempt rescue by Bertelsmann.  The company attempted to convert itself to a subscription service that could screen for copyrights.  But, in the evolution of the litigation, they didn’t do that well enough. Eventually the company went under, and its brand and trademarks were acquired by others. 
  
The film also traces the history of the music industry.  It had adopted to technology before, with the LP record and CD and had made money off of these innovations.  Record stores had been common, and people collected records and CD’s (as I did with classical music), and later even VHS tapes and then DVD’s.  (Remember the litigation over Betamax in 1984).   Indeed, in that world, people could share and borrow records and CD’s, and probably copy them with taperecorders “illegally” without causing a ruckus if they bought enough original material. (I used to have those discussions with friends in the 1960s).  But the music industry simply stumbled completely over the suddenness of the change that P2P could enforce on it. 
   
Eventually, the record companies wound up suing individual downloaders, whom it could track tto IP addresses through P2P.  Parents would get phone calls from record companies, shaking them down for settlements for what their kids had done.  Even roommates got sued.

Fanning’s innovation , of P2P, might have been viewed an extension of a broader idea: free entry into self-publishing and gaining recognition, through search engines, competing with established news organizations. 
   
The entire Internet revolution was in large part facilitated by legislation that limited downstream liability, both in the libel area (Section 230), and Copyright, the DMCA Safe Harbor (of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act),   The film points out the possibility that Napster might have been able to claim DMCA Safe Harbor, and I mentioned this from the audience afterward in the QA.  One complication might have been that Napster didn’t handle the content at all; it just pointed to it.  Another might have been that Napster’s “business model” seemed to be predicated on copyright infringement at the root – which did not prevent it from attracting venture capital in the beginning.  That point would come up in 2005 when the Supreme Court would settle MGM v. Grokster, not mentioned in the film.

  
Winter told the audience that he is against “thievery”, but that piracy is an ambiguous word. You should pay for content when you can.  (I do order books, CD's, DVD's, even mp3 downloads from Amazon, I do buy hardcopy newspapers and magazines, sometimes. I do subscribe to a couple of paywalls.)  ITunes does have a good idea.   

The Festival offered some free symposia on movie funding (Kickstarter, etc), and the panelists seemed to think that the whole model for how movies are experienced in theaters -- as a feature -- is up for grabs. But it's Regal that says "Go big or go home."  

Saturday, May 11, 2013

"Computer Chess": a comedy about the early days of the PC revolution (it's not so much about chess theory)

 
The little comedy “Computer Chess” by Andrew Bujalski was a hit at the Maryland Film Festival in Baltimore, nearly filling the large (non-staidium) Auditorium #1 at the Charles Street center for the 5 PM showing.

It’s in the style of a little black-abd-white movie, even with old-fashioned aspect (4:3), set in a hotel in the 1980s, where for the first time man plays machine in a chess tournament.
  
But the computers look like Atari’s, with command prompts and unconvincing icons for chess pieces. Maybe it’s a Commodore, but it certainly isn’t an Osborne—nor a TRS-80 either.
  
The story follows a soft-skinned geeky character named Peter, who gets drawn into all kinds of weird New Age sessions, and gradually gets invited into sexual situations with older couples.  The very end has a touch of horror, but he remains unscathed.
  
There is one five-minute color interlude in the middle of the film with granny.
  
  
Now, I think a documentary tracing how well computers can play chess would be interesting, but that isn’t what this film does.  In his recent book on openings describes how computers score chess positions today and can even play Monte Carlo simulations from positions (Books blog, July 6, 2012). 

The official site (Koch Lorber) is here
  
The film was shot in Austin, TX but uses New York license plates. 
  
The film is indeed “off the wall”.  It reminds me of a 1998 BW film made in Minneapolis “Cut Glass”, about a woman who stages accidents to get people to care for her. 

GI Film Festival shorts block: "Do Tell", "War Bride", "Home from War", and "Choice" all shine


On Friday, May 10, 2013, I did attend one session ("block") of short films (“After Dark”) for the GI Film Festival for 2013, called GIFF13, about members of the US Armed Forces.  The link is here.  The screening took place at the AMC Shirlington Theater in Arlington VA, and was about one-third full in a large auditorium. “GI”, remember, stands for “government tissue”. 
   
  
The first film, “Choice”, directed by Michael Chan, is the longest at 27 min.  A 17-year-old  high school senior, having been arrested for fighting, decides to reinvent himself and enlist in the Marine Corps.  He faces some hurdles, first of all, his parents. “We don’t take applications; we take commitment”.  The boy’s motivation is set in motion when he and some other kids see the 9/11 attacks from across the river in New Jersey. 

When I was going through the draft during the Vietnam era, there was a slogan “Choice, not chance,  in today’s action Army.”  That referred to the idea that you could choose your MOS if you enlisted for three years.  If you got drafted, there was a “95% chance”, according to one recruiter, that you would get infantry.  I pulled a trick and “enlisted” for two years just before the draft date, and got a safe assignment because of my degrees anyway.
  
I’ll cover the last film next. It was “Do Tell”, directed by Noah DeBomis (20 min).  A number of airmen stationed at Misawa Air Base in northern Japan talk about their experience under the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy, and trace the history through the final repeal, officially on Sept. 20, 2011.  The film opens with an excerpt from Bill Clinton’s July 19, 1993 speech at Fr. McNair (Washington DC) where the president says “an open statement by a member of the Armed Forces that he or she is a homosexual will create a rebuttable presumption that he or she actually engages in prohibited conduct.”  I’m having trouble finding the original text; it used to be on Stanford’s site but seems to have been removed. Maybe it will be at the Clinton library in Arkansas.  The closest I can find right now is on the Human Rights Watch site here
  
The third film, the lighthearted “Best of Both Worlds” (13 min), by Michael Dunker, presents a military veteran or soldier with a girl friend who changes into a male (as after a sex-change) sporadically, and then changes back.  So two of the six films dealt with LGBT issues in the military.
  
The fifth film, “War Bride” (16 min), by Angela Liu, presents a solder, suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) returning to his wife, and having difficulties with the most intimate aspects of his marriage.  He encounters both impotence and an urge to violence.  It seems, when you put all this together, that much of the “military gay ban” was indirectly about the ability of straight soldiers to protect not only their unit cohesion (which is a lot more than privacy), but also their continued ability to perform heterosexually after sacrifice.  This was an offering to maintain heterosexual passion.
  
The fourth film, “Home from War” (15 min), bu Johnathan Dillon, two female amputees, returning home, meet at the Army hospital in Landsthul, Germany.  They converse with their loved ones in the US, and realize the enormity of getting their husbands or loved ones to accept them physically. The end of the film mentions suicide by veterans for this reason. Somehow, this film reminded me of Josh Groban's two passionate songs, "The War at Home" and more recently "Brave".  
   
The second film, “Towing” (14 min), by Wenhaw Ts’ao,  has a female soldier encountering a district attorney who has struck a dog while driving recklessly, leading to a moral confrontation.  

There was a QA after the screening (which started at 10 PM).
   
There is a one hour documentary “Do Ask Do Tell” (April 2012)  on YouTube by Ali Sue, which is a “series of video clips” about the “don’t ask don’t’ tell” policy and its history. I will watch this soon and review it in a separate posting.  I appears that it will also deal with DOMA and Prop 8, but I’ll have to check.


I could not find “Do Tell” on YouTube, but I recommend that viewers keep looking (or check Logo). 
   
Check also the documentary “Tell” (a feature), Jan. 30, 2009 on this blog.  And check all the films under the Blogger label “DADT”.  

Friday, May 10, 2013

"Midnight's Children": Salman Rushdie's 1981 historical novel about India and Pakistan becomes a sweeping epic


Why do some people insist that word really can hurt them, to the point that they will target authors for “blasphemy”?  That was the case with Salman Rushdie, the British-Indian author, after his fourth novel, “Satanic Verses”, said to be based on the life of Mohammed.  The second novel, “Midnight’s Children”, becomes a  most moving and epic film directed by Deepa Mehta, running 145 minutes. (No company has tried to film Rushdie's fourth novel, yet.)

The novel and movie track a group of children born around midnight when India gained independence from Britain in August, 1947. The film focuses particularly on the life of one young man, Saleem  Sanai, played as an adult by a most charismatic and attractive Satya Bhabha. 
  
The film starts with a prologue going back to 1917 relating to his natural father, and then moves to the night of the births.  A nurse, infused with the Marxist idea that “the rich shall become poor and the poor shall become rich” performs a “revolutionary act”, and switches two of the babies.
    
Saleem winds up being raised by a wealthy Muslim family (although it’s not so clear that his biological family is that poor), and is raised in Pakistan, “The Land of the Pure”, by an autocratic father. His appearance – he is a bit whiter than usual and quite hairy, even at 16, may have been a cue. When his “adoptive” father finds out, he tries to disown him, but the mother stands by him. 

Nevertheless, things happen to Saleem  not of his choice.  He gets drafted into a couple of wars, one of which splits Paksitan off from Bangladesh.  Another crisis occurs with Indira Ghandi’s “emergency” in India in 1975. 

Saleem becomes a “conduit” for telepathic communication among the “children”, and exploring various gifts, that seem to relate to how close to midnight they were born. The film plays down the "sci-fi" aspects of the story, preferring allegory. Eventually, Saleem’s “partner” catches up with him during the Ghandi crisis, and for a while wants payback.

Saleem is force into two operations physically, once to restore his natural dad’s “nose” (which makes little difference), and another to sterilize him.  Nevertheless, he may have progeny after all.

The film is quite sweeping, filmed 2.35:1.  It was sponsored in part by Telefilm Canada and indoor scenes were shot in Toronto.  The film is distributed by Paladin, E-One, and Film Nation, which I believe is “Film Movement”, which tends to distribute international films with heavy political content.

There are occasionally some lines of obvious political subtext, as when the 16-year old Saleem invites hostility from peers by saying that life is about being and not about "having things."  
  
The official site is here


I saw this in a small auditorium, but nearly full, Thursday night at Landmark E Street downtown. Bu tit is definitely a “West End” type of film. 

Thursday, May 09, 2013

"Iron Man 3": I saw this more to experience the new Loudoun Alamo Drafthouse


Well, “Iron Man 3” (directed by Shane Black) is essentially a comic book more than a real movie, even in 3-D.  It looks, from my records, that I saw the first “Iron Man” in 2008 (reviewed only on my old “doaskdotell” site), and skipped the second one. 
  
Last night, I drove out to the new Alamo Drafthouse at the new Loudoun Downtown in Asburn, VA.  I had heard about the properties in Texas, and about the puritanical “no talking and no texting” policies.  I was quite impressed with the spaciousness of the auditoriums, the tables, and waitered service.  I went late on a weekday night because storms earlier in the evening made me leery of tempting the traffic.  There’s a bar on the premises, and a lot of movie paraphernalia.
  
The theater also makes an animated short subject of its conduct policies – the testimony of a Texas gal who got kicked out and had her money taken – and it also offered a couple animated Iron Man cartoons as shorts.
  
Here’s the website for Alamo’s Loudoun property, link. There’s one in Winchester, VA (70 miles away) too. 
 
 
The company has many locations, but stresses Texas (including Dallas-Richardson, Austin. San Antonio (of course),  El Paso, and New Braunfels.  I’ll bear that in mind if I get to Dallas again soon.

Drafthouse cinemas have in the past been associated with repertory cinema.  The old Arlington Theater on Columbia Pike in Arlington VA (where I once saw "Gone with the Wind" as a boy) became a drafthouse, and is quite informal. In Minneapolis, there used to be (and maybe still is) a Suburban draft house a couple blocks down from the Landmark Uptown on Hennepin -- it was popular for festivals.  (I saw "Okie Noodling" there in 2001.)  

 
As for the ("Iron Man III") movie, well, we know the concept.  It seems as though Robert Downey Jr.’s character Tony Stark  wears an armored suit that can put itself on – and maybe it’s manufactured by a 3D printer.  He can fly like superman, sometimes.  This time, the archenemy is the terrorist Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), who isn’t above kidnapping people and making them look like him.  There’s the accomplice Aldrich (Guy Pearce).  Don Cheadle plays Col. Rhdoes, and Savin (James Badge Dale) looks like a caricature of NJ Gov. Chris Christie (after bariatric surgery).
  
Tony Stark has a beautiful home (3-D printed, to be sure) on the cliffs at Malibu, which gets invaded and destroyed by choppers.  (It had survived all the wildfires, and housed displaced homeowners).  He  visits Rise Hill, TN in December and encounters southern snow, as well as sidekick Harley (Ty Simpkins),  Then later he engineers a skydiving rescue from Air Force One, over Miami Beach,  Hint: you already have to be a good swimmer to get rescued (I’m not).
  
You have to sacrifice some of your own bod, you own external trappings of a man, to become iron man.  IT takes some chest work to get fitted, as we see only at the end,.  Downey is already past peak.
   
The link for the film site (Marvel and Paramount Pictures) is here

  
Alamo started the feature without making it clear that the previews had ended.  The feature starts with a Marvel (rather than Paramount) mark and shows some immediate footage, which makes it look like another preview at first.
  
The 3-D was reasonably well done (and not gimmicky).
  
I guess Alamo is a pretty popular name for many business lines to trademark. I used to rent cars from Alamo (Car rental) all the time in the 1980s.