Tuesday, July 13, 2004

I'm hearing a lot of right-wing ideologues complain about Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11." Some have said that it makes fun of our country, that Moore manipulates the facts to support his views, and, worst of all, that Moore makes the United States out to be the bad guys at a time when our soldiers stand in harm's way in Iraq. And these are just the complaints of those who haven't seen the movie!

As a movie buff, I hate debating films with those who haven't even seen the movies in question, but since you conservatives refuse to see it, allow me to tell you what you've missed. You've missed one of the best documentaries ever made. You've missed seeing congressmen freely admit that not one of them read the Patriot Act prior to signing it, because there wasn't time to read it before the vote. They knew the Patriot Act would be an assault on our civil liberties, but they did nothing to stop its passage, because they wanted to give the appearance that they were actively doing SOMETHING in response to the 9/11 tragedy.

You've missed seeing the tragic effects of the Patriot Act, as when peace groups comprised of everyday Americans are infiltrated with intelligence officers, or when Democrat Party activists are investigated for no apparent reason.

You've missed the look of absolute void on President Bush's face when he learned of the 9/11 disaster. The camera footage by itself (with no voice-over from Moore) suggests that Dan Quayle may have had more brains.

You've missed learning about how Florida Governor Jeb Bush removed criminals from the voting rolls, in the two most African/American counties in the state, just before the 2000 election -- including those whose names were the same as, or even similar to, those criminal! You'll see actual footage of this "voter cleansing" occurring.

You've also missed learning about the lifelong connections of President Bush and the royal Saudi government. You've missed learning about how it was the Saudis who consistently bailed out Bush from his business failures, supported him in politics, then provided most of the terrorists involved in the 9/11 tragedy. You'll then see how it was your president who provided safe passage OUT of the United States for all members of the royal Saudi family AND for all members of Osama bin Laden's family THE VERY DAY after 9/11 -- a day when all other air traffic in this country was grounded.

And lest you argue that this Bush/Saudi connection hasn't been reported in the national media, remember that the national media are now owned by corporate America, and that Bush's largest campaign contributors have been, and will continue to be, corporate America. The days of good, hard, inquisitive news investigation are over. There won't be another Edward R. Murrow. There won't be another Woodward & Bernstein. The only one asking the hard questions now is Michael Moore, an independent filmmaker.

And, no, Moore is not manipulating facts. He has a staff of researchers, and every claim in his films and books is well documented. In fact, each of his books features a footnotes section which is longer than any single chapter, and his film credits routinely last through several songs due to the large number of footnote credits.

And regarding your argument that Moore depicts America as the "bad guy" in the Iraq war: We ARE the bad guy, people! Wake up and smell the coffee! As Moore states in "Fahrenheit 9/11," after a halfhearted attempt to find Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, the United States "invaded the sovereign nation of Iraq -- a country which had never attacked us; a country which had never even threatened to attack us." Further, Iraq is a country which had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, nor was it hiding or producing any weapons of mass destruction -- a fact which could have been learned without any bloodshed had President Bush simply given the U.N. inspectors time to complete their task.

Had you actually seen "Fahrenheit 9/11," you would've seen images of American soldiers who are missing limbs because of the Iraq war. You would've seen the heartbreak of an American mother who lost a son during this war. You would've seen Iraqi women watch their sons and husbands die right before their eyes. You would've seen innocent Iraqis with no place to live because our military had destroyed their homes. You would've seen how our invasion disrupted the lives of all Iraqi citizens. Is it any wonder they want us to go home? Yes, we are the aggressor in this war. Much as we were the aggressor in Viet Nam. Much as the British were the aggressor in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

Moore makes a strong point towards the end of the movie that our volunteer military, comprised primarily of poor and lower middle class men and women, who have few opportunities to get ahead in our society, proudly serves our nation without so much as a whisper of a complaint. The only thing they ask in return is that the president do his best to keep them out of harm's way. Our president has done exactly the opposite. He has put them IN harm's way by sending them to war against Iraq. But he's diverted attention away from his friends in Saudi Arabia, and he's secured major contracts for Halliburton. I guess that makes it okay.

The one thing you would NOT have seen in "Fahrenheit 9/11" is Moore making fun of our country. Gone are the joking and "gonzo journalism" of his past films. No, this time Moore doesn't say much, and, save for one hilarious bit where he attempts to recruit the sons and daughters of U.S. congressmen to join the military, he doesn't engage in his usual humorous little bits of theatre. No, this film simply shows the cold, hard, awful, pathetic truth about the direction our country has taken during the past four years.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Wow! I'm glad you saw "Thirteen." That was out so long ago, I forgot about it at Oscar time. Apparently, the academy did, too! I'll have to admit "Thirteen" was my favorite movie of the year, followed by that pesky "The Station Agent," in which nothing happened, but for the life of me, I can't get the damned thing out of my head. But yes, I loved "Thirteen." It reminded me somewhat of that movie, "Kids," which was out a few years ago -- teen actors behaving badly, into sex & drugs, but not much else. It was chilling, but not nearly as focused as "Thirteen." And although I believe Holly Hunter could've walked through her part, she was brilliant.


Sunday, April 04, 2004

New one. Well, new to me, anyway, who never ever sees anything on the big screen.

Recently saw "Thirteen." It's a pretty chilling film about thirteen year old girls in the greater LA area. It had some interesting points, I thought, and the acting was terrific. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that the filmmakers quite got the depth of their message, based on the ridiculous DVD commentary. And yes, I am a big dork. My favorite thing about DVDs? Special features. Good director's commentary can make a film more enjoyable, I think. This one was more silly girly patter. But somehow, in showing a snapshot of the world teenage girls live in, they got the picture pretty clear. But without, I think, any real questioning about whether the messages are valid. I don't think I'm explaining this well. It was heavy.

I also saw Party Monster with Macaulay Culkin, which I really wanted to like, and which really just sucked. Dylan McDermott, though, gave a pretty interesting performance, Seth Green reminded me a lot of some people that probably both you and I know, and Wilson Cruz was beautiful. Macaulay, however, never did step out of an "I'm Acting in a Movie" persona, which was quite distracting.

Also saw The Passion of the Christ, and you may read my review of that here.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Good. I'm glad you liked Magnolia. I liked it better than Boogie Nights, but these are two of my favorite movies of the 1990's, so I really don't like to pick -- both are absolute masterpieces! Punch Drunk Love was a step down for P.T. Anderson, but it was by far the best Adam Sandler movie I've ever seen. I agree about Philip Seymour Hoffman & Julianne Moore, although I think my favorite part was John C. Reilly as the cop who tried to help that poor druggie girl. I know many cops probably go into that line of work thinking they can "change the world." Here was a perfectly nice guy who was getting himself into a relationship which had the very real possibility of taking him down the wrong road in life, but he pursued it anyway in the name of "helping." Fascinating. I could've seen a whole movie on just their relationship.

After seeing Magnolia, Vanilla Sky, & Minority Report, I'm VERY impressed with where Tom Cruise is in his career now. He could have just settled for "Mr. Blockbuster," but he's too smart for that. I hope he finally wins an Oscar someday.

BTW, speaking of Philip Seymour Hoffman, you should rent "Happiness." It was the first movie I saw him in, and his performance just blew me away. It was so real, I never got the impression he was acting. Since then, I've always felt that way about him, but I'll never forget Happiness. It's tough to watch though. It's about a pedophile, so don't let the kids see it -- under any circumstances.

Now, you mentioned the frogs: This has been one of the most talked-about film gimmicks in history. What the hell did they mean or represent? My take is that they were the "tying together" factor. Movies like this (or many of Robert Altman's pictures) need something at the end (or sometimes the beginning) to tie all the characters & stories together. In MASH, it was the football game. In Nashville, it was the outdoor country-music concert. In Short Cuts (the movie Magnolia most resembles, I think), it was the crop-dusters. In Magnolia, something was needed to sort of bring all these characters under one roof, figuratively speaking. Since P.T. Anderson couldn't think of anything else, he simply had it rain frogs.

Now, this begs the question, why couldn't he have just made it rain plain old rain -- even a hurricane or strong thunderstorm would've accomplished the literary technique he was after. I believe he did it for this reason: P.T. Anderson went WAY out on a limb with this movie. In fact, some critics said he went too far; that Magnolia was the most pompous self-indulging work by any director in all of history. From the opening newsreel segment about unrelated miracles of nature, to the body of the film where many distraught, pathetic characters try to mend the failures of past relationships & start difficult new ones -- some took it to be directoral overkill, if you will. Some thought Anderson was just showing off. The old "Hey, I'm good & I know it" routine. In this way, he's been compared to a young Orson Welles -- pompous, egotistical, & self-indulgent, yet absolutely brilliant. In fact, I read one account which said Anderson is already to the point where he feels like he can throw anything into a movie (whether it makes any sense or not) and some people will declare it a "brilliant" move, even though it's cinematically stupid. Like the piano in "Punch Drunk Love." What did it have to do with the rest of the movie? Did Anderson throw it in because he thought, "I'm the most brilliant young director out there these days; I'll throw in the meaningless piano simply because I can!"

I believe these critics up to a point. Granted, each of his movies contains some aspect of a director showing off. But hell, Quentin Tarantino does that! And so did Alfred Hitchcock, for Chrissakes! So, don't knock the guy because he's good.

I was "with him" the whole way on Magnolia. Yes, I admit it was a big, sweeping, epic -- not like Gone With The Wind was an epic, but like Pulp Fiction was an epic -- a directoral masterpiece that's so good we don't even mind (and actually like & respect him more) when he shows off a little. I guess by the time Anderson got to the "Gee, now I need to somehow tie all these stories together" phase, he figured:

A. I can play it safe & have all the characters get caught up in a big rain storm, or something of this nature, OR

B. I can push this film just a little further over the edge, so that all the Andy Rays out there proclaim, "My God, he HAS created a masterpiece!!! I love him! He's the greatest director in the world." And all the Mr. Skeptics of the world proclaim, "Jesus, now he really HAS gone too far! This is ridiculous. Frogs?!?! You're totally off your fuckin' rocker, Anderson. Go crawl back under the rock you came from!"

Fortunately for me, he picked "B" -- and I love him even more for taking the chance in the first place. It was a risky move for a young director, but God was it worth it! I will never forget this movie -- even more so because he used frogs rather than rain.

And I loved how the characters could've cared less that it was raining frogs. In fact, they didn't even question the oddity of it all. They were so self-absorbed, they just went about their daily routines.

So there. That's my take on the long & short of the frogs. Long explanation, but I could talk about movies like this forever.

My minister preached on Miracle the other week -- teamwork being the point. He loved it too. From the previews, it appears to me that they really nailed the "look" of 1980. In many ways, that era sucked, but that's no reason we can't be nostalgic for it too. "The Pina Collada Song" always does it for me. Not only do Catherine & I consider that to be somewhat of "our song," since we met through the personals of the Indianapolis Monthly, but it always makes me nostalgic for that era.

And I've never been a hockey fan. Basketball was all I ever knew, growing up in Indiana. But I did watch that game that afternoon. For some reason, EVERYBODY watched it. And when we won, EVERYBODY celebrated. People were honking their horns on the suburban streets of Carmel, because of our collective happiness over that game.

I suppose that game was just what the U.S. needed. Inflation & interest rates were as high as they've ever been, Iran had our hostages & we seemed powerless to get them back, and things just basically sucked. We needed that game. It's sort of like the '69 Mets. After the escallation of the Viet Nam War, the race riots, the burning of Detroit & L.A., Woodstock, etc., we needed some "miracle" like the '69 Mets to bring us all together -- if even for a fleeting moment in time.

That's all for now. Sorry to ramble, but we're heading into our "quiet" time of year here at the office, so I'll probably have more time to devote to the blog -- at least until after next Labor Day.


Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Okay. Finally getting it together to start with the blogs again...

I saw Magnolia, finally, on your recommendation from eons ago. Did not love it as much as Boogie Nights. Liked it much better than Punch Drunk Love. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Julianne Moore were, as always, perfect. Love the scene where Tom Cruise comes to his father's bedside, and Hoffman, although completely out of focus and in the background, just dominates the scene.

What in the screaming blue hell was up with those frogs, though?

Okay. We also took the kids and went to see Miracle on Sunday. I loved every minute of it, as did the kids and Scott. Kurt Russell was terrific. But what was really phenomenal was the way that they captured the detail and the mood and the suspense and the excitement of the US/USSR hockey game, even though you know going in how it's going to turn out. My stepson said, later, that he really liked the way that you didn't know who any of the individual team members were so much, and how that really brought home the fact that that win was a team effort. I hadn't really noticed that as much, since, as a teenager I had my favorites on that team, and I was looking for them. But I do think he was right about that. Anyway - also did a great job of making me nostalgic for the late 70s/early 80s, while admitting and showing the many ways that that era just sucked. If you haven't, go see it. Now.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Saw "The Cooler" last night. Great movie. Underrated. Not a lot of push from the studio, and it deserves it. It had a lot more to do with the casinos themselves than the cooler guy himself. In fact, it almost plays like a sequel to Scorsece's "Casino," which is a high compliment. Every bit as violent. I'll agree with the talk of a Supporting Actor nomination for Alec Baldwin -- he was outstanding -- totally ruthless character. But the love story between Wm. H. Macy & the girl (forget her name, but a good new actress) was a truly good love story -- not just icing on the cake. I really felt as though they loved each other. And Wm. H. Macy SHOULD be nominated for Best Actor. He should've won in '96 for "Fargo," and the Oscar voters need to AT LEAST nominate him this time around. He's one actor who's not great-looking, but if he's in the movie, chances are very good I'll love it.

Also, I've still only seen it once & it didn't make a great impression on me at the time, but I can't stop thinking about "The Station Agent." I hope to God that garners MANY nominations -- Best Picture, Actor (Peter Dinklage), & Best Supporting Actor (Bobby Canivale) come to mind. It's stuck with me WAY longer than most movies. I can still picture every scene. And it was a truly "happy" movie -- a truly uplifting movie, a movie celebrating life, which is rare.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

I've heard of Max. I remember Roger Ebert saying he had taken some flack from readers for recommending a movie which treats Hitler as a human and not as some raving lunatic monster, but he said he liked it because you could see how some of the groundwork was laid (in Hitler) for what was to come later. Sounded interesting, but didn't see it.

Boogie Nights is my 2nd favorite Julianne Moore movie, but it's close. They're both by Paul Thomas Anderson, and similar in structure, so it's a tough call.

But that's the point. Nicholson WAS out of touch with the rest of the world. Up until he became bored during his retirement, he'd never really thought about poor starving children in Africa. I think he's supposed to represent "us" -- after all, how many of us really have an appreciation for what the kid goes through every day. And I loved the part where he tried to explain to his daughter that he wanted the best for his wife -- hence the upgrades in the RV. i.e. "Your mother wouldn't settle for the plain old run-of-the-mill RV. No sir. I got all the upgrades." When it was really him who wanted the classy RV. Typical guy. Also loved when he took Kathy Bates' expired medication and totally zoned at the wedding rehearsal. I still love Jack Nicholson. We'll just have to agree to disagree on this one.

I liked The Shining, but then I saw it before reading it, which always helps. If you read the book first, you'll always be disappointed. And Nicholson was perfect for the role of a man going crazy. So again, a disagreement. But I'm with you, the book was better. And both Kubrick & Nicholson have done much better.

Ooh. Never saw Deloras Claiborne, but wanted to. Shit, you're expanding my list faster than I can rent stuff.

I agree that Ruth Gordon kicked ass in Harold & Maude, and what evidence do you have that people don't have a passion for living these days. If they really didn't, they'd be committing suicide right & left -- or lining up like lemmings to fall of some cliff.

I agree. Ed Harris was great. Also, in Apollo 13 and The Right Stuff. And Places In The Heart.

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