Sunday, June 30, 2013

"1313: UFO Invasion": quirky story of a young grad student who finds out who he really is, could have been more nuanced

1313: UFO Invasion” (directed by David DeCoteau, Phase 4) appears to be one of a franchise of “1313” sci-fi films with a possibly gay male context, intended for cable or streaming immediately. 
  
The story, in fact, doesn’t explicitly refer to any “relationships”, but certainly is designed to provide “eye candy” for gay men and straight women.

The setup is promising. A young male graduate student, Adam (Aaron Thorton) rents a spa resort near Roswell, MM for himself and apparently some friends as housemates.   The landlady Evelyn Parent) says she will keep an office off to the side on the premises.  Adam’s friends begin to show up, and Adam goes out on a drive to explore some caves near where the 1947 Roswell UFO landing occurred.

Adam says he is getting his Ph.D. in cultural anthropology, and is researching how conquering populations treat indigenous peoples.  Not well, he says.  The logical question is, are we being invaded, and if so, what would the aliens actually do.

The happenings back on the “ranch”, while Adam runs around, let the viewer in on the idea that Evelyn has hideous intentions.  The young men wind up getting drugged and strapped to beds.  There is a problem that some of the characters seem too much alike, and the visual narrative is a little confusing. The film has very long continuous takes for the sake of showing off the men in their skivvies (a few of them have indulged in moderate body shaving, which dilutes and opportunity the film could have explored).

One of the other characters, a slender, nimble wiry blond guy, stands out.  I think this is Matt (Matthew Getz).; maybe it’s Scott (Scott Jordan), Willy (Christian Lake), or Dana (DJ Parker).  He seems to be the social ring leader, and maybe he will hold off Evelyn and save his (more heavily built) friends until Adam gets back.  The actor playing this character has real swagger and charisma and should get more interesting roles in other films.

There is a surprise for us, of course.  Adam may be surprised when he learns who he is, and what power it gives him.  He should lose the shoulder tattoo; it looked out of place.

The film can be rented on YouTube for $1.99.

  
The viewer can compare this film to Paramount’s TV film “Roswell: The UFO Cover-Up” (Arthur Kopit, 1994) and “Six Days in Roswell” (1999), by Minneapolis filmmaker Timothy Johnson, whom I have met. 

I visited Roswell and the UFO Museum there in April, 1998, shortly after I had moved to Miinneapolis (by weekend excursion on American Airlines with rent car).  I took the bus tour to the crash site (30 miles each way).  The family that owns the land had stopped operating tours because of medical issues and then had just resumed them. The scenery in the film (where Adam roams on foot) looks like the real site, except that I don't recall seeing any caves at the site.
 
Wikipedia attribution link for New Mexico scenery, near Las Cruces. 
  

Saturday, June 29, 2013

"The Attack": Breakout film as a Palestinian surgeon working in Israel learns of his wife's ghastly crime

The Attack” (2012), from Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri , is indeed a breakout film willing to present moral ambiguity, dependent on perspective, and leave it unsettled.  It is based on the novel by Yasmina Khadra. 
  
A young Palestinian surgeon Amin Jaafari has a visa to work in Tel Aviv, while maintaining ties to his extended family in Nablus on the West Bank.  He has a satisfying marriage with Siham (Reymond Amsalem).  One night, while sleeping in a hotel in Tel Aviv, he gets a call from the police, When he comes in, the police interrogate him about their suspicion that his wife was the suicide bomber in a restaurant attack the day before that killed 17 people, including children, and maimed many more.  Eventually, they let him go, and Amin goes on a search, including a visit to his home town to explore more deeply his family roots and its ties to a possibly radical Islamic cleric.

Amin is bewildered by the idea that his wife could have been so callous with the lives of others, let along herself. Yet, even in his family, he encounters the idea that the “people” or tribe and the gross injustices vented on it (the Israeli West Bank settlements) outweigh normal Western respect for individual human life. Anyone can be conscripted as an involuntary combatant.  No one is a victim, in this thinking.  We saw the same ideology from two brothers who perpetrated the Boston Marathon attacks, which I feel have a personal aspect that is shocking.

When he visits his roots in Nablus, he is challenged by townspeople who fear that Shin Bet will follow him, leading to a major Israeli attack and seizure of their homes.  Perhaps that is a real practical threat in a world of enemies. 
Some observers have explained the suicide attacks from Palestinians as a consequence of the idea that shame is an unacceptable emotion, and the taking of Palestinian property without compensation evokes that emotion. (See review of “5 Broken Cameras” on June 5, and notes about activist George Meek.) 


The film, shot in full wide screen, has a lot of close-ups (which work better in standard aspect), and tends to blur the Middle Eastern urban landscapes in Tel Aviv and Nablus, which look quite interesting.  We want to see the details.  Visiting a place like Nablus on the West Bank is not practical for most people,  so a movie is an opportunity to show it. 
  
The official site from Cohen Media Group is here. The film is in Hebrew and Arabic, with subtitles. 
  
Wikipedia attribution link for Jacob’s Well in Nablus, 1912. Second picture comes from George Meek. 

I saw the film at the AMC Shirlington late Friday before a small crowd. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

"Red Hook": slasher thriller about a treasure hunt in NYC doesn't do justice to the Brooklyn neighborhood

Red Hook”, as the name of an independent thriller film, caught my eye because Red Hook is also the name of the business area in lower Brooklyn that was heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy.  I thought I would find a film heavily about the culture of the borough (maybe even a mention of old Ebbets Field), but Elizabeth Lucas gives us is a rather jaded view of the dark places in the Big Apple (a lot of it is Manhattan), in a rather stereotyped slasher thriller in which the heroine is a young woman Jenny (Crhistina Brucato) with agoraphobia, having survived a horrible childhood incident (the pre-credits opening) where she witnesses a babysitter being murdered by an intruder posing as a cop.

It takes the almost a third of the length of the 86 minute film to get to the main course, a “scavenger hunt” arranged by one of the (apparent) students at the “University of New York City” (the film couldn’t mention NYU or CCNY).  Each team (a boy and girl) have to find the clue, make and transmit a cell phone photo of the trophy, and receive the next clue by text.  “Get a text message, follow the clues.” (That sort of plot was used on the Howdy Doody show in the 1950’s.)  It’s not hard to imagine that the “treasures” are, well, anti-social to say the least. When Jenny has to find a used condom in the Rambles  in Central Park (the film makes a tasteless joke about it being an area for gays), there’s an obvious way to make the condom in her purse “used”.  Her boy friend is attractive but so artificially smooth.

Other teams do not fare too well, and wind up dispatched in various gory ways.  Not many will survive the treasure hunt.
  
  
The official site (Phase 4) is here
  
There’s one scene in a Village bar, which I did not recognize.  


Pictures:  Red Hook area, my own, from visit on Feb. 23, 2013, early Saturday evening.  Most damage appeared to be repaired. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

"Much Ado About Nothing": Shakespeare, southern California, black-and-white, and gay-looking men playing straight

The new take on William Shakespeare’s comedy “Much Ado About Nothing”, by Joss Whedon, was the film to see on the day that the Supreme Court effectively obliterated DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act.  For it is a comedy that has fun with the social value of traditional marriage.
   
The plot, centered around multi-duchy Italy in the middle of the last millennium, seems odd when transported to modern Los Angeles, apparently around the Bel-Air area, especially neutral when filmed in crisp (digitally projected)  black-and-white.  (The end credits mention Technicolor, almost as if put there by a nitwit). 
Although the story is about manipulated heterosexual romances (with a lot of domestic spying, maybe like that in soap operas, leading here to physical situation comedy), the male cast is filled with beauties, rather like the modern idea of gay men, often dressed in shirt and tie, even when they wrestle.  But the camera dawdles on some of them, especially Claudio (Fran Kranz), making a lot of exposed hairy chest.  Reed Diamond looks like Gabriel Mann (Nolan Ross in “Revenge”) playing Don Pedro, and Spencer Treat Ckark and Sean Maher delight the eye.
  
Even the script pays heed to male attractiveness, as with a lone where Beatrice (Amy Acker) makes a comment that men without beards (did she really mean chest hair?) really aren’t men. 
  
The visual effects are indeed interesting in spots, like with Claudio’s diving suit, or the “candlelight” evening procession at the end.
   
The official site (Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate) is here.
  
I saw this in the mid-evening show at the Angelika Mosaic, before a fair weeknight crowd, which found the movie funny.
   
The New York Times interviews Joss Whedon:

  
Some quotes: “Lord, I could not endure a husband with a beard on his face; I had rather lie in the woolen” (Beatrice).
  
“Away to St, Peter for the heavens; he shows me where the bachelors sit, and there live we as merry as the day is long” (Beatrice)
   

“Silence is the perfectest herald of joy; I were but a little happy, if could say how much” (Claudio). 

Picture: That's my own father, in the late 1920's, in California.  

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"Molly's Theory of Relativity": a stage play in a NYC apartment, just a bit adult

The title “Molly’s Theory of Relativity” reminds me of the name “Smilla’s Sense of Snow” (1997), and the subject matter – involving a young female professional with social skills issues and probable Asperger’s, reminds me of “Adam” (Aug. 9, 2009).  Molly (Sophia Takal) is an astronomer who has gotten canned from a job partly because of lack of social judgment.  But she has had  a satisfying relationship with active husband Zak (Lawrence Michael Levine) for several years, as neither has as problem with his underemployment (a courtesy van driver and fast food worker).  At least he can work "in a real job".
  
The film is essentially like a stage play, set in the couple’s Queens apartment.  On Halloween, Zak has a confrontation with his father (Birney) for making him an executor in his will and not being in a position to leave him enough money.  Why would Zak have a right to depend on his parents and his wife?
  
The early part of the film has a lot of explicit sex between husband and wife, right out of the Sing of Solomon.  Conservatives might rejoice in this as supporting marriage.  The camera angles play on the physical attributes of both Molly and Zak, playing games even with details like body hair (starting with legs).  For a whil,e it seems as though the film (officially not rated) will become an example of what an NC-17 film ought to be, a meditation on intimacy for adults.
  
A variety of other characters come to the Halloween party, family members, and maybe some of them are deceased or imaginary.  There is a little girl playing Einstein, to whom Molly will speak about the advantages of being female after all.  Men want us, men need us.  Well, maybe not always.
  
Molly imagines she might get a job in Princeton, but contemplates making a risky move, to go to Norway with Zak on an adventure.  The opening credits (after the prologue) show the couple in Norway in a reduced aspect ratio (the film itself is a conventional 1.85:1), but he fjord and mountain scenery is quite compelling, compared to the apartment, which constricts the movie as a set piece.
  
Molly talks about her astrophysics only occasionally, as when she describes a strange binary star system a few hundred light years away.  More astronomy or physics could have been interesting.
  
  
The official site is here
     

I saw this at Angelika Mosaic in Merrifield VA last night, and the showing seemed to be just for me.  It’s pretty silly to have assigned seating under such circumstances.  

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

"The Bling Ring": Thou Shalt Not Covet

The Bling Ring”, directed by Sofia Coppola (and from American Zeotrope and the Francis Ford Coppola legacy) has gotten a lot of attention for its supposedly farce-like treatment of celebrity wealth.  Perhaps it does make further fun of the income inequality in America.
   
It also pokes fun at the teen mind.  A group of teenagers in an alternative high school in Los Angeles hit upon the idea of “going to celebrity homes” (especially Paris Hilton and Linsday Lohan) when they announce they aren’t home on Facebook.  The original ring leader seems to be Rebecca (Katie Chang) or perhaps Nicki (Emma Watson), but the enlist a troubled teen boy Marc (Israel Broussard) to lead the effort.  Now Marc has problems about his own rather soft and feminine body image.  All of the teens think they can become more popular by possessing celebrity’s clothes.
  
It’s easy to moralize about the teen values. The people they rob, some of them, don’t have the world’s best reputations either, “have” a not more things than they do.  Burt it’s really accomplishing something that matters.  If an actor or produce that I rather admire has  a big house (say Ashton Kutcher or Ben Affleck) has done a lot, the home and possessions are incidental.  It’s the accomplishments that matter.  Some younger actors (I know a few of them personally) are not necessarily rich or suitable targets for teen envy.  Thou shalt not covet.
  
As for Kutcher, by the way (“A plus K”) I remember he one time tweeted the location of a party of a friend to his million plus followers.  That was just before I went to California myself in 2012.  I could have gone to the party!  I think my hotel on the 405 was close to that Bel Air house.
  
The film, while sold as a comedy, progresses more like a docudrama.  It’s punctuated by home schooling by one of the new age moms, who seems blinded to what is going on.  The celebrities don’t lock their doors or leave keys under outdoor mats.  But they seem to have camera surveillance.  Eventually, the security companies help police track down the teens.
  
The scenes where the teens get arrested, one by one, are brutal and captivating.  So is the scene where the harsh judge sentences them to up to 4 years in prison.  They are tried as adults.  We finally see them in orange jumpers, chained as they get on Sheriff’s department busses to be taken to prison.
   
The official site is here. This film has a new indie distributor, A24, associated with FilmNation (is that FilmDistrict?)  Is this distributor part of the Coppola setup?


I saw the film at the AMC Courthouse in Arlington VA on a Monday night, a fair crowd.
   

There is controversy in Hollywood today as Jim Carrey has refused to endorse his new movie “K.A. II” because of apparently gratuitous gun violence.  Carrey has conscience problems after Sandy Hook.  Does he still earn income from it?  Has he broken his contract?  

Picture: from the Angelino Hotel on the 405, my trip in 2012 

Monday, June 24, 2013

"Inequality for All": Robert Reich makes a lecture about economic fairness compelling

Inequality for All” is one of the more visible films in the 2013 AFI Docs in the Washington DC area, and last night’s sellout crowd in the small Warner Brothers Auditorium in the Smithsonian Museum of American History provided enthusiastic evidence.  The lines for questions of Clinton ear labor secretary Robert Reich, who narrates the film (directed by Joseph Kornbluth) were the longest I have ever seen  at a QA . The screening of the film was sponsored by The Washington Post
  
Reich makes jokes about his 58-inch height, but is larger than life lecturing a 1000-member class of eager, frankly attractive young adults at Berkeley, whom he says will have the power to change things for future generations. Even though much of the footage of the film consists of his lecture material, there is a lot of interesting and lively animation for mathematical illustration. The style of filmmaking compares to Al Gore's "lecture" film for Paramount Vantage, "An Inconvenient Truth" about global warming, in 2005. 
   
Reich argues that the history of income equality has a “suspension bridge” shape.  It was large before the 1929 crash, dipped to its minimum in the 1960s, and started to creep up and really took off in the mid and late 1970s. 

There seem to be two major forces at work,  One of them was that from World War II until the 1960s (throughout the Eisenhower GOP years of the 50’s), the rich paid very high marginal tax rates.  Those gradually went down starting in the 70s, and really nosedived under Reagan in the 80s. 

The other was compounding effects of technology and globalization.  Companies could generate more real wealth for consumers with fewer employees.  That might be a good thing, but then they could improve productivity with cheaper workers overseas.  As some people got richer, they spent relatively less on consumer goods, compared to middle class and poor people.  They might be much less willing to buy things from salesmen, reducing commission income for some people. 
  
Reich describes a “virtuous cycle” that ensues when the rich pay their fair share, which means that there are enough good jobs, consumers can afford to buy, there are enough local taxes collected, and public education – especially higher education – can be funded.   What we have now is a breakdown in that cycle.  We have a reverse cycle similar to what happens in economic depressions.  (I remember a final exam essay question on the American History final in 11th grade – to explain how a depression cycle works.) 

Near the end of the film, Reich mentions the recent Supreme Court opinion that basically allows the rich to buy public policy with campaign contributions.  (That issue had created controversy for bloggers from the 2002-2005 period, until the FEC ruled on it in a benign fashion.)  In the QA, he suggested that a constitutional amendment be proposed to keep the rich from buying off the politicians.  But there could be indirect consequences for free speech from such an amendment. 

Reich also said that he was a friend of Michael Schwerner, who was murdered in Mississippi in 1964 with two other men when working on voting rights (Wikipedia link), a story I recall well. 


The official site is here. The film does not have a listed distributor yet, but is due for theatrical release in September.   Perhaps Sundance or Tribeca will distribute the film directly (in conjunction with IFC).

The film is based in large part on Robert Reich's 2011 book "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future" (Vintage).

The film was financed in part with Kickstarter.

The theme song from "Nine to Five" (1980, Cilin Higgins, 20th Century Fox) was used in the closing credits, as were a few clips, to illustrate how the workplace has changed and real wages for middle class people have deteriorated.  I recall seeing that comedy in Dallas, TX, in the old Northtown Mall, I think. 
      
Is “inequality” solved by broad-based public policy, especially tax policy?  Or is it also a matter of social capital, the willingness or inclination of people to become more engaged personally in the real problems of others?  That’s the feedback I get personally, but it didn’t come up with the audience when I was there. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

"The Genius of Marian": a painter's family and two generations that deal with Alzheimer's disease

The film, “The Genius of Marian”, aired in the large auditorium at the AFI Silver at AFI Docs, provides a retrospect of the work of the painter Marian White, through the lens of her aging daughter Pam, and grandson Banker White (the director, along with Anna Fitch). 

The film also documents the story of two generations of a family dealing with Alzheimer’s disease.  Marian had died of it in 2001, although she had reached her eighties before stopping work.  Daughter Pam, now in her sixties, has been diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s as her sons (Blanken. and sometimes Luke, a medical resident in New York City) struggle to arrange care.  She lives in a big, beautiful old home in Dedham, MA, with stunning views of the coast, but also exposure to dangerous storms.

The film shows the early diagnostic interviews with the neurologist, where she is given a quiz and asked to name common objects.  She can’t name a bench or a canoe.  The family is told she should not be left alone.  The family gradually brings in hired caregivers, over her objections.  Apparently she is fortunate enough that insurance will pay for some of it.

The warmth within the family is apparent throughout the film.

My own mother developed dementia, with the first signs starting late in 2007, before her death at age 97 at the end of 2010.  The neurologist found some early signs of Alzheimer’s tangles in her cat scans, but I believe that most of her symptoms were related to vascular problems (congestive heart failure and a stroke in May 2009).  After the stroke, I was told by an inspector from one of the caregiving companies that she should never be left alone once she had been put on Aricept, or I could be legally charged with criminal neglect.  I don’t know if this is reliable information, but it was quite disturbing.  I brought in caregivers every time I went out by June 2009, and by late 2009 we had caregivers here most of the time, full time by September.

I even recall getting advice from a friend about putting out clothes for her.  I simply have not dealt with such personal intimacies in my whole adult life. 

In the book "I Am a Strange Loop" author Douglas Hofstadter discusses the idea that the soul and sense of identity gradually leave during severe dementia at end of life (June 1, 2013 in the Books blog).  

The official site is here.  The only distributor listed is Roco Films. 


The trailer is provided by WeIWNTV.  Is that the Oprah network?
  

A good film for comparison is “Pollock” (2000), written and directed by Ed Harris (Sony Pictures Classics). 

Compare also to Maria Shriver's "The Alzheimer's Project", on the TV blog, May 10, 2009.  

Saturday, June 22, 2013

"Best Kept Secret": a look a special education for autistic boys in Newark, NJ, before they "age out"

When I entered the world of substitute teaching in the spring of 2004 in northern Virginia, I had no concept of what special education was.  I didn’t sign up for it, but I got calls for it anyway, almost immediately.  Special education could cover a wind range of students, but a portion of it comprised small classes for the profoundly disabled, who could stay in the system until they aged out at 21.

Best Kept Secret”, directed by Samantha Bucks, at AFI Docs (used to be called "AFI Silverdocs") this weekend, traces a few profoundly autistic students of teacher Janet Mino at JFK High School in Newark, NJ, as they live through their last year, climaxing in “graduation”.  The students face a variety of outcomes.  One attempts a part-time job at Burger King.  Others will go to adult day care.  Some will stay with parents.  The outcomes, according to the film, are not always good.  
   
The film gives a gritty look of the streets of Newark, particularly in winter.  I worked in downtown Newark in the fall of 1972 as a site rep for Univac and Public Service Electric and Gas.  I recall the little-known Newark subway.  Once, I spied on a meeting of Dr. Spock’s “People’s Party of New Jersey” in a drafty rowhouse, similar to some in the film.
  
As for my own experience with the most extreme needs in special education, I worked just two days with the extremely disabled, at two different schools.  In all cases, students had behavioral reminders taped on their desks. Most were boys.  A few had Down Syndrome (not in the film), some were severely austistic.  In one assignment, we took a school bus to a “work therapy” assignment all the way in Gainesville, VA at some local church, but came back “home” when one student peed in his pants.  The teachers were ambiguous in their attitudes.  There were other regular assistants who had to handle some intimate duties.  On a second assignment, the kids were to go swimming. The regular male teacher asked if I could “help out in the locker room” and man the deep end of the pool.  Well, I don’t swim very well. That assignment ended.  I refused all such assignments in the future.

The extreme needs for personal attention by the most severely disabled students from staff is a well-kept secret.  Near the end of the film, there is a scene in a swimming pool, where a male teacher or instructional assistant (for all I know, maybe a sub) his holding one of the teens from behind and helping him float.  That is what I missed out on on May 22, 2004.

The film says that 1 in 49 boys in the Newark, NJ public school system is autistic.  I don't know if that includes Asperger's, which is sometimes almost no disability at all.    
   
I think people like me who have lived separate lives in “urban exile” have no concept of the lives of “families with children” and the risks, of tender mercies, that having children (whether or not in marriage) and raising them can entail.  It can happen to any family.
  
Actually, there was one more such assignment near the end of 2004, before Christmas break.  That one ran three days.  As an assistant, I was assigned to a 17-year old who was totally non-reactive.  I was supposed to “make him” do certain things, whatever that means.  Suddenly, he woke up and started calling me Santa Claus for the remaining time in the three days. 
   
The official site (BKS Film) is here
  
   
The film screened in the largest auditorium at the AFI Silver in Silver Spring, MD and was about two-thirds full, a good turnout.  There was a short Q-A.

    

Friday, June 21, 2013

"World War Z": Bloated homage to the Zombie horror genre

One week after a big Clark Kent movie, we get a big B movie, with homage to almost every 50s genre, sort of like “Johnny X” (June 17), but big and bloated, with 3-D as an afterthought.  And it even makes fun of history.  This is Marc Forster’s “World War Z”, for Paramount. Skydance and GK.
  
Brad Pitt, as UN investigator, recalled to work Gerry Lane, looks tired and past peak in this one. 
   
The film has a promising start.  Pitt, wife (Mireille Enos) and family are caught in a “Traffic Jam”, but this time in Center City Philadelphia.  There’s no explanation at first. So this could the way an M. Night Shyamalan film would begin. (like “The Happening”, June 14, 2008 on the “cf” blog – and indeed “we lost contact”). 
  
There’s a TV shot of an approaching derecho on a weather map, and mention that an outbreak of rabies has spread to twelve countries (at least it’s not contagious, like SARS.)  A motorcycle cop cruises by and tears off a side view mirror.  (I’ve done that myself.)  Pretty soon there are explosions in the street (unfortunately, prescient of Boston), but then all chaos breaks out.
  
The film only slowly introduces the zombie news, as Pitt’s family escapes to Newark, a section 8 apartment building, and then is rescued by the Navy by chopper, taken to a ship, where his family will stay, as he globe trots and watches the chaos.   
  
Before the escape, Pitt’s daughter asks dad “what’s martial law?” Pitt’s character answers, “it’s house rules for everybody.”
  
There’s a provocative sequence in Jerusalem, where a great Biblical wall has been built.  There is an interesting notion suggested about Israeli intelligence (“Gatekeepers”) that it deliberately encourages some officers to play devil’s advocate.  But there’s also the insulting idea that Israel, in building the real wall in the West Bank, regards Palestinians as the zombies.  It seems politically unfortunate to choose this metaphor for horror film entertainment, given the tension in the area (and the work of activists like George Meek – International Blog May 20.

There is also an earlier sequence in Korea, where the script says that North Korea stopped the epidemic by pulling the teeth of all of its citizens in one day, a kind of "clear choice", a rather tasteless, reference to living conditions for peasants in the super-Communist hermit states. 
   
The end of the film proposes ideas a little more worthy, say, of “28 Days Later”.  You can immunize yourself against the zombie virus by having a deadly disease yourself.  Choose meningitis.  Escape to a safe zone, and then get your antibiotics. 
  
I don’t think there’s much hope left for the world at the end.  But the mass scenes of the “undead” scaling walls are impressive. 
  
  
This is hardly a film about the danger of a pandemic.  The undead just appear too suddenly.  But the website (here) and trailer say, “There will be no warning.”

I saw this opening night in 3D at the Angelika Mosaic in Merrifield, VA, auditorium about 70% full.  But the audience was laughing at the film toward the end, not with it. I don't think this film was going after a "stars count" Maybe it gets one-and-one-half from me.
     
Roger Corman actually made a film called “The Undead” back in 1957, about a witch, that played on Saturday night “Chiller” in the early 60’s.  There is a companion “The Disembodied” by Walter Grauman.  .  

Thursday, June 20, 2013

"Rampart": Police drama that doesn't inspire a rooting interest in the protagonist; Woody can't save it

I suppose the police drama “Rampart” (Millennium Films, directed by Oren Moverman) was inspired  in part by the LAPD beating of Rodney King in 1991.   In the snazzy-looking action, Woody Harrelson plays brutal renegade LAPD copy David Douglas Brown, around 1999 (the “strange days”).  He has a family of two female partners who are sisters, each of whom have born his seed.  
  
The film, on one level, is about his keeping this “family” together, and the internal affairs hearings where he has to answer for his brutality seem a bit contrived.  In the story, he is believed to have executed a serial date rapist himself, but gets brought up on charges again when caught on video beating up another driver who crashes with his police car. 
  
The trouble with this sort of film is that there’s not much reason to identify with the protagonist.  He doesn’t help the reputation of the LAPD.
  
The official site seems to be no longer active, but the film can be rented “legally” on YouTube for $2.99.  The DVD is on Netflix.  Technically, the film (2.35:1) looks quite sharp even without BluRay.  LA seems like a cool, sunny, smog-free place.  
   
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I don’t think that the film compares too well to “End of Watch” (Dec 9, 2012).  It appeared in theaters briefly in early 2012 (after the awards release season  for 2011 – which tells you something). 


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

"Pandora's Promise": Nuclear power might be the least bad choice

Back in 1978, my last full year living in a cozy apartment in New York City, I tried to run a chapter of Dan Fry’s group “Understanding”, and I attracted to the group a woman, Barbara Charles, who was quite determined to recruit everyone to her singular cause, to go around the country in a van and rally up populist support to close down all nuclear power plants.  I wondered, why should we all give up everything else just for “your” issue.
   
The film “Pandora’s Promise”, by Robert Stone, documents a change of heart among some sicentists and pundits against nuclear power.  Coal has become so dreadful, and natural gas requires fracking, and solar and wind seem miniscule (and solar is resource intensive to set up, using tremendous amounts of land and raw materials).  That leaves us with nuclear.  And it turns out that, even given Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and Fukushima, nuclear has a habit of being safe for people.
  
One could question that with Fukushima, which melted down after the Japan tsunami in March 2011, leaving much of the land uninhabitable.  The film visits the abandoned cities and apartments around Chernobyl, can claims there is actually little personal injury or loss of life from the event, and that some people still choose to live in the area.  One can wonder if the San Onofre plant north of San Diego could have exposure to tsunami (see the Issues blog, May 19, 2012, personal trip).  
  
The film makes the point that a cubic inch or so of uranium could power your entire life (and shows the equivalent volume of coal – no doubt obtained by mountaintop removal) .  But how much ore needs to be mined to get that cubic inch or radioactive metal?
  
The film features several speakers,, including Gwyneth Cravens, and Michael Shellenberger, who is particularly appealing.
   
The official site is here. IMDB lists the film as distributed by CNN, so it will probably air soon as a Sunday night special on CNN, which has entered the documentary film distribution business.  I saw this Monday night in a medium sized auditorium at the Landmark E Street in Washington before a small crowd.   
  
  
To see a review of CNN Filoms’s “Girl Rising”, by Richard Robbins, please see the TV Reviews Blog, June 17, 2013.  It had aired Sunday night on CNN. 


Picture: Indian Point nuclear generating station, on Hudson River, north of NYC, my picture, July 2011/  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"The Ghastly Love of Johnny X": musical comedy to mock the "Man of Steel", the Grindhouse, and all other 50s genres

The Ghastly Love of Johnny X”, by Paul Bunnell, releases as a DVD today from Strand.  I got to the vimeo private screener yesterday.  Indeed, there aren’t many films that mock so many old movie genres as this one. The "love" is singular, so it is hard to spread around.  
  
The film says it is in “Ghastlyscope”, and indeed is in CineamScope, with sharp black-and-white, for a “Hud” effect.  So the first genre to be mocked is the 1950s black and white sci-fi horror, particularly for the Drive-Ins.  Then there is the musical comedy.  The songs in this film, apparently by Ego Plum, carry some of the lilt and substance of similar numbers fro, Broadway’s “The Book of Mormon” (drama blog, Feb. 26), even with a hint of poking fun at the LDS religion.  And the mock comedy tone of the film reminds one of the 2002 makeover by Doug Miles, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Killers from Space: Attack of the Gay Space Invaders”, again in BW.  There’s also some mockery of Quentin Tarantino, with his Grindhouse style – both the “Kill Bill” series (3 films)  and “Pulp Fiction” , particularly in the “over-simplified” diner scenes (the outdoor look, so barren, is interesting in black and white).   
  
The “story” concerns the phantom desert disappearance of rock star Johnny X (NYU pedigree Will Keenan, who has quite a bit of physical charisma for dramatic roles), and his girl friend Bliss (De Anna Joy Brooks) who has deserted him and stolen his secret “Resurrection Suit” which can give him Clark Kent-like powers.  And some juvenile delinquents have been sentences to Earth from another planet (Krypton, before it dies) and seem to get a good deal of their supervised probation, with their song and dance.  Perhaps they all turn 21 on Earth and can drink legally. 

   
The official site is here
  
Is it a coincidence that Strand is releasing this right after “Man of Steel” appeared, to make fun of it?



Monday, June 17, 2013

HBO's "Homeless: The Motel Kids of Orange County" (Alexandra Pelois) re-aired by CNN

Sunday. June 16, CNN re-aired a one-hour HBO film “Homeless: The Motel Kids of Orange County”, by Alexandra Pelosi.
  
The film presented families (mostly headed by single mothers) who had been evicted from or unable to get apartments because their low-wage jobs did not support the requirements for getting apartments, especially with enough bedrooms for several children.  And, outside of New York, Orange County CA (around Anaheim and Disneyland) was presented as having some of the highest rentals in the nation.

The film focuses on interviewing the kids.  In one case, a pre-teen had started burglarizing homes in order to bring money for the family. In another case, a mother had been evicted from a residence motel (I think under Section 8) because her son had vandalized the property.

In one segment the kids describe infestation by bedbugs and body lice.

The film would fit well into the message of Barbara Ehrenreich's books about low wage work ("Nickel and Dimed", etc.)  


The link for the film is here.

The film  also showed Hope School, associated with the Project Hope Alliance, as described here

The cardboard signs along roads increasingly are held by women these days.  In Washington DC, a local church would make sandwiches for the homeless after pot-luck a few years ago, and then the DC Health Department asked them to shut the service down.  
  
In 2010, there were 28,000 homeless children in Orange County.  

Sunday, June 16, 2013

"The Kings of Summer": boys play Tom Sawyer, for fun as much as for rebellion; Snowden incident recalls an important 80's film

The Kings of Summer”, the new comedy about youth  by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, rather stiches together ideas from “Lord of the Files” with “Kids in America”, and maybe even “Moonrise Kingdom”. 

Nick Robinson carries the film with his charisma as Joe, pretty much the ring leader as some boys (Patrick – Gabriel Basso and Biaggio – Moises Arias) move into the central Ohio woods and build their own clapboard home with amazing speed, after Joe runs away from his bossy single dad (Nick Offerman).

They have fun, with their board games and country music (guitars and violins), and live in the woods without electricity just fine.  They could survive an electromagnetic pulse and never know it.  Oh, they do have their cell phones. 

They cheat a  little bit – scavenging for chicken wings from the waste at a nearby restaurant – although the “woods people” in “The East” (June 9) also scavenged.  Nick teaches himself to stone, skin and roast a squirrel. 

At a critical point, Biaggio says that he is gay, although there’s not a lot made of it.  Pretty soon, he gets the chance to try to place hero at the film’s denouement, upon seeing the slither of an automated rattlesnake.

CBS Films offers this site


I’m rather reminded by the film of the idea of an “intentional community”, like Twin Oaks, VA (which I covered April 7, 2012 on the Issues Blog) or even Lama. 

The kids do use alcohol (hence the R rating) but don’t have weapons – they’re not exactly Doomsday Preppers, or activists.  They’re having fun. 

I saw this at the Charles Street theater in Baltimore, in a smaller auditorium, before a good crowd, during the lull in the Pride Block Party.  

I have to say that memories of another film, “The Falcon and the Snowman”, by John Schlessinger (Orion) in 1985, came up yesterday in conjunction with media discussions of Edward Snowden.  I recall both the book by Robert Lindsey (about Christopher Boyce [timothy Hutton] and Dalton Lee (Sean Penn)  back from my says in Dallas – I think I saw it at the old Northpark.  That was during a Cold War experience with major differences from what we have now  (although the differences are not as great as we think).  A documentary about Snowden will surely get made,  alongside Assange and Manning.
  
There was  also an off-hand report in the media yesterday about a supposed prediction by Steven Spielberg and others that Hollywood could implode, producing many fewer movies and adopting a “Broadway” model for performances, which we see with Fathom Events already.  How would that prediction affect the festival and smaller films market? 



Saturday, June 15, 2013

"Man of Steel": Well, maybe that's Anderson Cooper. Does a Kal-El really exist?

There is a critical line in the personal showdown, near the end of  "Man of Steel”, between Krypton’s General Zod (Michael Shannon) and a late-20s-something Clark Kent aka Kal-El (Henry Cavill) , when Zod says, “I have no people”.  That’s all that makes Zod tick.  The whole genome of his people was synthetically stored (digitally) somehow into Kal-El’s body after he was born and his dad Kor-El (Russell Crowe) shot him off to Earth on a hyperdrive spaceship. That sounds rather silly, but it makes a point.
   
Kpryton’s crumbling "reich", shown in impressive opening scenes, seemed to be a non-constitutional monrarchy with a feudal court, but all the babies were conceived artificially, with genes deigned to make them fit into the hive.  Ordinary people had become ants, social insects.  In fact, the court is accompanied by “people” who inhabit vertical pods, and show up inside the bulbs as holograms.  “People” had given up on normal marriage and sex, and the end result was the ultimate planning of a master race.  George Gilder (in “Men and Marriage”) had warned about this in 1986 he referred to Aldous Huxley and “Brave New World”.  Or perhaps this reminds us of the movie “Children of Men”.  The setup seems like a perfect paraphrase of Nazism, and Zod was a caricature of Adolf Hitler.
   
The movie tries to pull ten years of “Smallville”  (or two complete "Superman" franchises) together into 140 minutes.  Missing is Lex Luthor, as well as all the forms of kryptonite.. The story is stitched together with a lot of flashbacks to Clark’s adoptive boyhood.  In this movie, hus adoptive dad (Kevin Costner) dies in a Kansas tornado, and Clark has to let it happen to keep his secret.  (The twister is quite well done, and replicates what really happens in a mile-wide F5 tornado, much more so than the 1996 film :”Twister”.)   The scenes where Clark learns of his origins and has to keep his gifts secret are quite touching (after he saves all the kids on a school bus that has crashed into a river). 

The political confrontation happens when Zod comes to Earth from the Phantom Zone and hacks the Earth’s power grid and Internet and displays to everyone “You Are Not Alone”.  This is not your typical EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack, as the normal power and Internet come right back on.  Zod demands that the US turn Clark in to him.  Clark turns himself in and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is allowed to go with him.
Needless to say, Clark and Lois talk themselves out of immediate peril on the space station.  That leads to the ultimate battle back on Earth, at the Kent Farm in Kansas, and then Metropolis.  Now, instead of KCMO, the film uses Chicago as Metropolis, and Hollywood gets a chance to destroy Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, just as it did to San Francisco in Iron Man III. 

In the end, Clark gets to blend in as a typical geek with glasses, and Lois gets him his job at the Daily Planet as a “journalist” where he can jet around the world, become omnipresent, get paid for it, and have a cover.  Isn’t that Anderson Cooper does?

The film takes itself very seriously.  It’s not a lot of “fun”, the way “Now You  See Me” is.  The music score by Hans Zimmer aspires with a theme based on upward-jumping intervals. In the closing credits, Zimmer lets the music die away (after quoting “Inception” once), rather than providing the triumph that would have been appropriate. 
  
Cavill presents a different look than did Christopher Reeve and Tom Welling.  The scene where he (having become a journeyman laborer) rescues workers from a burning oil rig (BP in the Gulf?) befits DC Comics, all right, but it present shim with a big barrel hairy chest, impervious to fire. 
   
The official site is here. The film, though produced by Christopher Nolan (largely speaking) is directed by Zack Snyder. 

  
I've met one of two people (late teen to young adult) who can do things that seem like magic -- or else, evidence of extraterrestrial origin.  Maybe we aren't alone.  


I saw the film in 3-D (but not Imax) at the Angeika Mosaic in Merrifield VA.  Angelika is not sticking to indie films all the time.  Major spectacles get booked.  
   

Friday, June 14, 2013

"Now You See Me": If you don't see me, I'm dematerialized; revisiting "The Illusionist" and "The Prestige"

Now You See Me” truly dazzles, in global magical tricks that sweep across the screen, and make you wonder how reality gets transcended.  And it’s all in the style of comedy, even if about a heist that is more than a “smash and grab job”.
  
I’ve probably “dated” someone who did tricks for tips ad clubs before – that would happen in New York in the 70s.  Four street performers are invited by an unseen figure in a hoodie to a dank, grungy flat (in the far East Village?)  They’re pointed to some kind of reality-changing device out of J J Abrams.
  
A year later, they emerge as the “Four Hoursemen” at a Vegas show.  It reminds me of “Atlantis”, a show I saw at the Luxor in 1997.  The four people are Daniel Atlas (card trickster Jesse Eiesenberg, trim and dapper and still impersonating Mark Zuckerberg with articulate by slightly aspie verbal delivery – very captivating); Jack Wilder (David Franco), who dares customers with money to figure out tricks; Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), a hypnotic eye; and Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher).  Why the 3:1 male-female ratio?
  
Promoter Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) comes up with a scheme to appear to rob a bank overseas and give the audience cash, dropping bills (maybe Monopoly money with the four hosrsemen printed on the bills)..  How this could happen with any magic is simply fantasy – but the consumer is squashed out of existence and rematerializes  (perhaps by digital transmission and 3-D printing) in France to rob the bank. Mark Ruffalo joins the fray as the FBI agent, along with Interpol’s Alma Vargas (Melanie Laurent). 
  
Overseeing all of this is super magician Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), who can explain everything.
    
Now, this movie takes magic to the level of Clive Barker’s 1991 novel “Imajica”, which, amazingly, has not become a film yet (there are rumors that Lionsgate and Summit are looking into it).  I guess the Freeman character is a kind of “Gentle” from the novel, the master forger.  All  you need is the four other dominions and a final showdown with God. 

At one point, on a plane, Caine’s character asays, “just do me”, as if he were right out of Modern Family.
  
This film is a real spectacle, if it doesn’t make literal sense.  There’s a mystery about what secret these guys have.  You want to see more character development.  (I  wanted to yank Jesse Eisenberg right out of the screen.  He’s nerdy even when he announces “Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to rob a bank.”))  There’s also a sense of mass celebrative effects that Kathryn Bigelow had created in her 1995 “Strange Days” which has a vaguely related premise.  3-D would have been effective in this movie, particularly in the scenes where Isla's character floats above the audience in a soap bubble.  

The French director, Louis Leterrier, gives the whole production a New Wave look at times.  The film is in English, but could have worked in French.  The production sponsorship (through Summit Entertainment) seems to be French Canadian (Quebec).  There are on-location shots in Paris, New York, Las Vegas, Louisiana, and maybe Montreal. 
   
The Summit site link is here.


I saw this late evening Thursday (after the storms) at the AMC Courthouse in Arlington VA..  I was surprised that the small auditorium was almost full on a weeknight.
  

The film could be compared to “The Prestige” (in  which Caine appeared) and “The Illusionist”.  

Thursday, June 13, 2013

"After Earth": the concept seems a little bit artificial

While I get the point about courage, I didn’t see a whole lot of point to M. Nigh Shyamalan’s “After Earth”, which is largely a two-person set piece between father (Cypher, played by Will Smith)  and son. Kitai (Jaden Smith), said to be 14.  
  
Now 14 years is old enough to be hero, and Katai does that, finally finding the beacon, in the face of some bizarre monster out of Toilken.  Earlier, he has fended off wild animals of various kinds, programmed to kill humans a thousand years after man was evacuated because of some environmental abuse.  The big cats are not as redeemable as Richard Parker.  But one of the ravens is a character.
  
Cypher sits on his space ship with two broken thighs (demonstrated in computer graphics, as well as the self-surgery), directing his son on how to survive medically.  Yes, there are some interesting flashbacks with other characters. 
  
  
Some earlier scenes show life on Nova Belle or whatever the other planet was—looking like Utah, with space launch pads built into the cliffs. The place looked moderately interesting.  But this film reminds me of “Oblivion” and has similar problems:  an artificial plot in a symbolic world, and we want to know how it got to be this way.
  
The official site (Columbia and Overbrook) is here. I saw it on a large screen (though not Imax) in a Regal complex. 



Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"Dirty Wars": Jeremy Scahill chases down the dark side of undercover US war tactics

I have to tip an imaginary hat to journalists who brave combat zones.  I’m familiar with Sebastian Junger, but now attention focuses on Brooklyn NY native Jeremy Scahill, who narrates, in "Dirty Wars", his investigation of the US Joint Chiefs Covert Operations (JSOC), which ferret out terrorists but often commit a lot of collateral damage along the way, the kind reported already in Wikileaks (which gets mentioned in the picture). 
   
Scahill’s journey takes him from Afghanistan (now “Obama’s War”) to Yemen and Somalia.  The most tragic event is the targeting and assassination of a terrorist’s 16 year old son by the US, because of what he might “become”.  This sounds like our own version of an “eye for an eye” that surfaced in the Boston Marathon bombings, in a particularly gruesome and personally offensive way. 

Scahill develops personal contacts in these countries, with impressive people skills, and gives us “on the ground” looks of life in several of these countries, particularly Yemen.  The characterizations of apparently American undercover operatives as being muscular and tattooed is certainly striking.  Sometimes he is shown back home in his apartment in Brooklyn, in a neighborhood that looks familiar to me.

The film is directed by Rick Rowley and written with David Riker.  The movie is based in part on Scahill’s book “Blackwater”.

The Joint Chiefs special group was formed in 1980, according to the film, after President Carter’s failed rescue attempt of the hostages in Iran.
   

I believe that there was a predecessor to the group, however.  In 1968, after completing Basic Training at Fort Jackson, I spent a summer at the Pentagon in “force development” and was mysteriously transferred to Fort Eustis at the end of the summer.  But before the transfer, I heard about a special group in OSD (Office of the Secretary of Defense).  I came back for a visit about a year later (mid 1969) and people were very squeamish that I even knew about it.

The official site is this  The film is distributed by Sundance Selects and IFC, and I saw it in a later afternoon show at Landmark E-Street.



Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"Merton: A Film Biography": when does writing about oneself and one's ideas transcend humility?

I scrubbed plans to go out at the last minute as the sky kept throwing up like a sick child last night.  Fortunately, the little 57-minute lesson, “Merton: A Film Biography”, directed by Paul Wilkes, was handily available (through Netflix) in my storm cellar.  .
   
Merton (1915-1968) became a Trapist monk, living simply in a cottage in the Abbey of our Lady of Gethsemani in Kentucky.  Upon some prodding, be broke the tradition of keeping a low profile and became a prolific writer, telling his own story, and then venturing in to controversial topics, challenging the Catholic Church to take a more activist position against nuclear weapons and even US foreign policy in Vietnam.  

Isn’t it morally inconsistent, he asked, to take moral stands against contraception (let alone abortion) on a specious interpretation of the idea of the sacredness of human life, and then turn the other way to the slaughter of adults – especially conscripted young men – in war?

I wonder, also, about when Catholics believe the soul comes into being.  Does contraception deprive an existing soul a new incarnation?  I doubt that physics supports that idea (see the book review "I Am a Strange Loop" June 1 on the books log for more.

Merton was concerned with the Marxist idea of "from each according to his ability... ", etc., as a spiritual idea.  The "natural family" movement says that this idea belongs in the extended family as a eusocial motive.  
In the days long before the Internet, Merton set aside some of the most controversial writings to be “published privately”, whatever that could mean.  Did he have a real world “Friends list”?

Merton kept writing, when the Catholic Church and Vatican normally suppress any original thinking (and its publication) from lower or mid level clerics.  


Merton died suddenly after speaking at a retreat in Thailand, supposedly by being accidentally electrocuted by a room fan. 
   
The DVD, formally distributed by First Run Features, dates back to 1984. 

The DVD offers an extended "short" (another full hour) film by Father Matthew Kelty  in several chapters, "Remembering Thomas Merton" (2003), by the Thomas Merton Foundation in Louisville, KY. here 





Monday, June 10, 2013

"The East": Brit Marling can follow in order to lead; the indignation of the far Left (not just eco-terrorists)

Everybody knows that Brit Marling is tough and charismatic, and commanding of the souls who fall under her spell.  Brit has joined with director Zat Batmangli to write a thriller about eco-terrorism and left wing indignation, “The East”, which I saw late Sunday at Landmark E Street near DC Pride Fest.

‘The film opens with what looks like home invasions on Long Island energy executives (that’s probably not where they would live – as in ABC’s series “Revenge” – and I have to say that Brit is on a par with Emily Vam Camp).  The group rattles off its rhetoric, that those who get rich at the expense of the labor of others or by destroying the environments of others deserve anything (outside the law) that can be served up.  That may get to be elaborated to include any upper middle class consumer who doesn’t see the sacrifices that it took to produce what he “enjoys” – and perhaps uses to get out of things.  My mother even used to worry about that.  And I’ve mentioned before here how I dabbled around with Dr. Spock’s People’s Party of New Jersey early in my adulthood.  I know the mindset, and it is scary. “We are The East”.  And that doesn’t mean MLB’s American League East.

Brit plays Sarah, who is ‘hired by fibbies (although through a Beltway Bandit-style contractor) to go undercover and infiltrate the group.  She demonstrates her physical skills in dealing with stuff in escaping from a railroad freight car lockup, and winds up in the woods undergoing the rituals of sharing to belong to the group.  (This time Brit obeys, rather than gives orders, as in “Sound of My Voice”.  It’s not too hard to see what can happen – she can fall for a handsome man (Alexander Skarsgard) there.

In time, we see what the group is capable of.  There’s a dinner scene where an activist says, “you know the saying, two wrongs don’t make a right.  Well, that’s only if you’ve never been wronged”.  She then gives a business executive an injection in the thigh (probably bald from suit chafing).  Other executives are threatened with being drowned in their own cesspools.  (On the “two wrongs” thing, I remember a conversation about that very point in Cartersville, GA in 1998, at Advocates for Self-Government.)

I think a good question posed by the film is why private contractors are used for intelligence work. That's going to come up in connection with the Edward Snowden and Booz Allen Hamilton affair, just unfolding (and surely likely to become the subject of a future documentary).   
   
The official site for the film is here  (Fox Searchlight). The film, despite its independent branding for distribution, was made by Scott Free Productions (Ridley Scott).  

  

The film makes effective use of Washington DC area locations (especially the canal in Georgetown) as well as the bayous of Louisiana.  

Sunday, June 09, 2013

"Darshan: The Embrace": A female saint in India is generous with the hugs

Darshan: The Embrace” (or “Darshan—l’eteinte”) , directed by Jan Kounen, refers literally to a physical greeting from Mata Amritanandmayi Devi, or Amma, “the hugging saint,” from Kochi, Kerala, India.  She makes it a point to hug as many as 45000 people in a 24-hour period. 
  
He also has a religious theory about how evil resides in people, and how it takes a certain discipline and sense of relinquishment within the heart to rid oneself of it.
  
I’ve always been wary of gratuitous physical contact and affection.  It’s always seemed to me that personal love should be “selective” if it is to be “creative”.  But in a real world, it often derives from adaptive circumstances. 
  
I can recall that very point came up during my period as an “inpatient” at the National Institutes of Health in the later part of 1962.  There was a female patient, not very intact, who would constantly ask, why can’t we “love everybody.”

  
The 2005 film comes from Wellspring Media and IFC Films. The film was sponsored in France, but is mostly in Malayalam with subtitles. 


Saturday, June 08, 2013

"The Internship": two aging salesman have something to show digital script kiddies at boot camp

The Internship” sold out all 151 seats at the remodeled AMC Courthouse in Arlington, as the storms for the day receded.  And  last seat in the house is likely to be very close to the wall with a very acute angular view.

This is the first major studio (Fox and Regency) “comedy” I’ve seen in a while. And it has a couple of important messages.  But unlike an earlier film about the high-tech world (“The Social Network”) it has no pretensions of taking itself seriously.
  
Ross Perlin authored a book “Intern Nation” (reviewed on the books blog June 8, 2011), about the abuse of interns (getting work done for free), basically in the media business.  And don’t forget Bib Weinstein’s 1994 book “I’ll Work for Free”, to get my foot in the door.

In the movie (directed by Shawn Levy), Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn (who shared the screenwriting with Jared Wilson) play two “manufacturer’s representatives”  for wholesaling wristwatches, whose maker goes out of business.  The movie doesn’t  mention the Pebble (missed chance); anyway, you don’t want to give a hairy man a grabby metal-band watch (that doesn’t affect these characters).  The Net is destroying the old fashioned way of doing things.

My own father was a rep for Imperial Glass (Bellaire, Ohio) from about 1934 until 1971, when he was 68 and “they” made him retire for someone younger.  The company had to call him back.  Then ot got bought by Lenox.  Then it tore down the old factory in Ohio, where a 7-11 sits now.  I remember watching him do paper orders on preprinted yellow forms for years.  Mother sometimes helped.  We would go to shows in Williamsburg, Philadelphia, New York City, even Syracuse. 

But today, you have Amazon for everything, right?  Well, in this movie, though, the internship happens at Google.

The end credits say that the film was shot in Georgia, and I don’t know whether the company’s Disney-looking campus (with its iconic trademark) was reconstructed with CGI, or was filmed on location in Mountain View, CA.  It looks like fun.

The two salesmen, after the demise of their first company, try a mattress retailer (how boring) before applying for an internship (by Skype). As older men, they provide “diversity”.

The “Company” divides all its interns into 5-person teams, and only one team will wind up with permanent jobs (for everyone on the team).  It’s a little bit like a variation of Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice”.  (There’s no Troy McClain to get his legs waxed on camera for “the team” though; oh, that’s another movie.)  The teams have to conjure and develop apps.

The “kids”, like Lyle (Josh Brener) , Stuart (Dylan O’Brien) and Graham (Max Minghella)  all appeal.  They have real charisma, of their own -- talk fast, with rich vocabularies, filled with metaphors.  The old veterans salesmen are totally out of their league, except in one regard.  They know how to approach ordinary, common people to get them interested in things – in these days where nobody wants to be solicited. They can actually imagine what people really need.  And that can be their saving grace.

There's a scene early in the internship where the tag team learns that all the food at the"Internet book camp" is free.  So are the bikes.  There's an earlier scene where the two are job hunting in a public library (that's where they have the first interview), that reminds me of the "Redi-ing" videos about free stuff.  It seems as though a clip from Reid Ewing's videos, whatever the copyright-related licensing arrangements to use them, would have made a funny insert.  Which raises the question -- could he have been cast as one of the"kids" -- serving the free stuff?

Toward the end of the film, there is a phone bank customer service exercise.  But my impression is that Google doesn't normally offer this the way paid hosting providers do.

Google actually pays its interns about $5500 a month.

The official site from Fox is here

Google Play (from Google+) presents its own trailer to promote this movie on YouTube



I doubt many middle agers with mortgages can afford to intern.  Oh, one other thing. If you still work in a theater but you're young, named Nolan, and look like ABC Revenge's "Nolan", just remember that ABC's inventor of the NolPad is prime time television's richest youngster, a billionaire outdoing even Mark Zuckerberg (oh, sorry, that's Facebook, isn't it).  

First picture" That's Disney, my own 2012 trip. (I haven't made it to Mountainview yet, although I was close to it in Feb. 2002).  Second picture, Bellaire Ohio (Nov 2012).

One other AMC customer service tip.  I applaud the renovation of the theater.   The soda machine had a slight glitch.  When I pressed Diet Coke, it gave me a Cherry Coke. No big deal for me, but what if the customer were diabetic?