Reviews written by registered user
Shuggy

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44 reviews in total 
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31 out of 55 people found the following review useful:
An elephant?, 1 August 2015
7/10

For some reason I expected more of a documentary, so this docudrama nearly had me out the door, but the authoritative man in the grey lab coat persuaded me to stay.

It clearly, and to my understanding, accurately, lays out the format of the notorious Milgram Experiment, which is necessary for all that follows; the public and academic backlash, our involvement as we question whether we would behave like Milgram's subjects, and his own soul-searching. To be sure, he comes across as quite cold-hearted, and more self-doubt would have made a more interesting story. Instead, all of the doubt is carried by his colleagues and Wynona Ryder as his patient wife.

The original experiment is well-enough represented that the re-creation of a TV series about it (with Kellan Lutz as a young William Shatner playing the Milgram character) has some amusingly obvious elements of parody, and hence self-parody of this film.

The film has some unsettling features over and above the experiments themselves - scenes carried out in colour in front of poorly placed monochrome back-projections, and an elephant, yes, a real, if slightly out of focus elephant behind Peter Sarsgaard as he talks to the camera walking towards us along a university corridor. Why? If it's The Elephant In The Room, what are we not seeing?

As Milgram points out, he and his experiment are treated with opprobrium, but the results are accepted, and serve their purpose. While the Holocaust is repeatedly invoked (including footage of the Eichmann trial), and Milgram twice mentions that his name is Hebrew for pomegranate (in fact it's not but milgrom is the Yiddish), an obvious ethical parallel is not mentioned: the Nazi experiments of killing prisoners with X-rays, which are still shown (usually on an opt-in basis) to medical students.

8 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Belies its title, 16 January 2015
4/10

"Love is Strange" seems intended as a slice-of-life, but it's more frustrating than intriguing, inspiring or uplifting.

While there's nothing to complain of about the mise en scène or the acting, it doesn't add up to anything. Most of the main events happen offstage, so it neither shows nor tells, just implies.

Many loose ends are never tied up. What happens to Vlad? What happens to Elliot and Kate's marriage? The pace is slow enough that the alternative movies running in your head are more interesting that what's on screen. There's sexual tension between George and Ian: what if they had a fling? How would Ben react? What if Joey WAS gay? What if Ben tried to help him come to terms with that but was misunderstood, with catastrophic consequences? What if Vlad was and Joey was just going along with him? Or if they really were doing drugs - and Ben found evidence?

What happens about the letter George is composing or rehearsing while Dovie Currin is playing the "Raindrops" prelude (and much better than he gives her credit for)? Does he send it to the parents of his former pupils? Do they petition the school, or demonstrate? We never know.

But my biggest disappointment was that the film completely belied its title: None of the love in the film is strange in any way. Love often IS strange, and some very good movies have illustrated that.

I'd call this a broken movie. I suggest you watch until they say goodbye outside the Waverley Diner and Ben goes down to the subway. What follows adds nothing.

11 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
A fascinating look at the quirks of US law and politics, 8 June 2014
8/10

As a non-American, I found this a compelling look at one of the quirkier aspects of US law and politics - how states may hold local referenda (at least California seems to do it a lot) that may then be challenged in the Supreme Court.

An intriguing aspect was the employment in support of the case of Ted Olsen, the Republican lawyer who got George W Bush elected by making Florida stop its decisive recount. The LGBT community was initially suspicious of him, but he won them over by his principled stand.

Reviewers who want to re-litigate the case itself seem to have missed the point. The populace and local legislatures may not pass local laws that violate the US Constitution. Proposition 8 was ruled to breach the 14th Amendment, guaranteeing equality to all citizens. Its supporters did not have standing to appeal against the Supreme Court's ruling, because their rights were not harmed by striking down Prop 8.

This was not intended to be "balanced", as its title implies. As a real documentary it followed real people through an unpredictable course of events. It might have all ended in tears. It would have then been useful as a fundraiser to continue the fight.

11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
A boring in-house promo, with a touch of doco, 8 June 2014
2/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

An exposé of the gay porn industry this is not. Keywords n o t needed include: Mafia, organised crime, drugs, Viagra, exploitation, huge endowment, fluffer.

It begins with a short history of gay porn, done entirely in voice-over, with many familiar images from Bob Mizer's Athletics Models Guild, Tom of Finland, etc. all better covered in earlier documentaries, such as Beefcake (1998). The growing role of the Internet is touched on. Then follow a series of soft interviews with some quite ordinary people, illustrated with cutting-room-floor clippings, and a great deal of underwear product-placement. Two of the subjects are of some interest but the others are given far too much time to say too little. All seem to work for the one studio, and the whole film seems little more than an extended promo.

The shooting of some sex scenes is shown, but all from a distance; there are only glimpses of organs, and none of orifices. Most of the film would be PGA-rated.

One fact of interest is touched on, that performers in gay porn are paid more than in het. porn, but just how much we are not told. The figure of $2000 was mentioned but whether for one act or a feature-length film was not stated. This means that men with female partners may work on camera at sex with men ("gay for pay" as they say), and the fluidity of sexuality was touched on. Where the multi-billion-dollar profits go is not answered, because it is not asked.

A California ordinance, Proposition B, requiring porn actors to be tested regularly and to use condoms in sex scenes, was discussed mainly in negative terms (the costs have driven some of the industry out of the state). An overview of the troubling issues around "barebacking" porn would have been welcome.

This will be of little interest either to the friends of porn or to its enemies.

0 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Just a waste of time., 21 May 2014
2/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I fall between the other two reviews (so far). It's neither dangerous nor interesting, but rather, just a waste of time. There's a great deal of documentary footage of dubious relevance, with a fish logo added digitally or actually.

I guess the high point is the interview with Václav Havel, imprisoned by the Soviets and later first president of the Czech Republic, about what motivated him. Basically, he felt bad when he failed to do good, so he did good in order to feel good. And results might not come immediately, but we act in the hope that they will eventually.

The film itself is a bit of a drug: there's always something going on to keep your attention, but when all is said and done, what is the take-home message? Businesses are psychopathic. Avoid chemical "happiness". Be nice to people (it'll affect not only those people but others they interact with). That's just about it. It's a bit like Occupy, some good intentions, feel-good slogans, token activism, and then...?

81 out of 85 people found the following review useful:
Important and frightening, 4 August 2013
8/10

This is an important and frightening film, about how Google, Amzaon, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Linkdin - and IMDb? - harvest our personal information and onsell it to the highest bidder, or to the government. How we don't read that wodge of text in capitals comprising "Terms and conditions" before we click "Accept" - nobody could, it would take a month per year for everything we sign. But even when that text is brief and written in plain English, it gives those corporations unprecedented power over our personal information - including the right to change the rules without telling us, to increase their power without limit and without asking again, and to keep it forever, even after we have "deleted" it.

The film is entertaining, including how a seven year old boy was interrogated about something he had texted; how an Irishman on holiday in the US never got into the country but spent days in confinement instead, because he had used "destroy America" as a figure of speech in a tweet; how people planning a zombie parade during the Royal Wedding were arrested based on the social media planning; and how a TV crime writer was raided based on his Google searches.

I saw this a few days after "We Steal Secrets: the story of Wikileaks". It is the better film, letting the facts speak for themselves more.

And now I'm getting paranoid about what will happen to me for writing this....

6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Brave people, brave story! (Hitchens and Weinberg were right!), 7 August 2012
10/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I had vaguely remembered that a gay activist had been killed in Uganda, but didn't realise until the event in the movie that this man, David Kato, who I had been getting to know and empathising with, was the same one.

But the movie does not dwell on his death, more on his life and struggle and that of those around him. His mother is a beautiful character.

I don't know which was worse, the smug, jokey newspaper editor (it's cheekily called the "Rolling Stone") who took no responsibility for any of the hatred he was stirring up or its consequences, or the smug local church people, or the smug, arrogant American evangelist, bringing American-style bigotry to Uganda.

The Anglican Bishop Christopher Senyonjo is a lovable respite from all this hatred, a Ugandan Desmond Tutu. The scenes at David's funeral, where he rescues the body from a local pastor who wanted to straighten out the LGBTI congregation, are very touching.

And yet, it's the same religion both he and the bigots are in the thrall of, and equally drives them both to do good or evil, almost at random, underlining Christopher Hitchen's catchphrase that religion poisons everything, and Steven Weinberg's, that for good people to do evil, that takes religion.

The courage of the local LGBTI people is amazing. We went through just a tiny fraction of that ordeal 26 years ago, and it seemed bad enough at the time. This movie and the dauntless people in it, packing up and moving on when their lives are endangered, and yet fronting up to courts, hostile crowds, policemen, clergy and thugs (sometimes the same people), will give heart to those who are still struggling.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Could have been worse..., 31 December 2011
3/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I sat grimly through this because it was said to be beautiful to see and I hoped it might get better. I've given it a day to see if it looked better in retrospect. If I could have warned myself, I'd have said, spend those two hours doing anything or nothing rather than watch this film.

Any beautiful scenes were marred by the hand-held camera-work that was just dizzying.

I think it's the most miserable movie I've ever seen. For pity's sake, if you have the slightest tendency to depression, don't see it. Maybe send your friends - or your enemies - so they can know what depression feels like.

There isn't a single character you can empathise with. Justine (Dunst), presumably the most sympathetic character, having kept her wedding guests waiting two hours, keeps them waiting even longer to go and say hello to - a horse! Almost everyone at the wedding behaves appallingly. Justine's brother-in-law John even commits suicide selfishly, eating everyone else's pills. (Though there is little point in suicide: the planet will do it all quickly enough.) The husband, Michael (Alexander Skarsgård) and the little boy are harmless, but ciphers.

They don't live in a world, with media, governments, people. It's all about them.

The other story, just the end of the Earth, is hackwork. Trier has sacrificed all astronomical and anthropological sense for empty symbolism. John is an astronomer who works out the orbits of planets on paper with a pen. (There is an internet and Google, but "Melancholia" gets only 3 million hits, many about the condition, not the planet that's going to kill everybody.) They are reduced to looking through a handmade loop of wire to figure out if the planet is coming or going. The proposed "Dance of Death" orbit of Melancholia looks as if it is affected by air-resistance. The electrical discharge from Justine's fingertips and the power poles was caused by what? Or if it was symbolic, symbolic of what? Even the last moments were hackwork. The shockwaves I could buy, but fire? What was burning?

What finally killed it for me was the abuse of Wagner (who is hard to abuse). The prelude to Tristan und Isolde was written for a particular, quite well-known context. Trier has ripped it out and pasted it over a completely different one. I don't know how many times it got played right through, but at least three, and much of it was used on several more occasions.

How could it have been worse? Well, I guess the whole UNIVERSE could have ended.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
The elephant in the room..., 14 May 2011
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The enigmatic title hides a thoughtful talking-heads documentary about the Parker-Hulme murder case in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1954. Roman interviews schoolmates of Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme (who together killed Parker's mother), a son of one of the counsel and others with a close interest in the case.

Others, such as women who have portrayed the girls in two plays, and especially a minister from the Los Angeles Church of Truth (does any church claim to be any other kind?), have less to contribute.

This is enlivened by re-enactments (of dubious value, some Los Angeles folly standing in for Borovnia), the few contemporary newspaper pictures of the girls, diary entries and newspaper footage eked out with special effects, and recent footage of Christchurch, made poignantly historic on February 22, 2011.

The elephant in the room is of course, Peter Jackson's "Heavenly Creatures". At a Q&A, Roman admitted that this was his point of entry to the case, and a hand-held scene near the beginning, running from the murder scene through Victoria Park, echoes that film. It would have been useful to have included some comparison between history and Jackson's embellishments, such as Alison Laurie and Julie Glamuzina provide in the second edition of their book, "Parker & Hulme, a Lesbian View".

Since Jackson's film leads up to the murder, the most interesting material this one adds is about the trial. The law of the day presented a stark dichotomy. Since their guilt was patent and confessed, the only question the jury had to answer was whether they were "bad" or "mad", and the film explores that in detail. It hinges on the nature of their relationship, and how much they were driven by a shared fantasy. This was imposed by the prosecutorial decision to try them together. Much was made of Pauline's diary at the trial (and in "Heavenly Creatures"), but Juliet also kept one, burnt by her mother, and it has become the elephant NOT in the room.

It suits fiction and symmetry that the two girls were equally involved in each other and planned and committed the murder together, but the truth may be more interesting. (Juliet - as Anne Perry - has given at least one interview about the case, but Pauline remains reclusive.) The suggestion arises that, after a lifetime of abuse, Pauline would have killed her mother Juliet or no Juliet, and that Juliet was a (relatively) innocent bystander. Some people are murderers, but some people are murderees.

The film is marred by a dog-wagging tailpiece about whether they were homosexual. For 15-year-old girls with "crushes" on each other, the question is hardly meaningful. That would be better consigned to outtakes, and more use made of some fantastic murals shown briefly near the end, that we are not told was the work of Pauline after her release.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A butterfly in a pitcher-plant, 17 May 2010
5/10

I read the play when I was Tom Lee's age and deeply closetted, and it had a devastating effect: "At last someone understands: just because I'm not like the others doesn't mean I'm - heaven forbid - gay." I thought the play was great - liberating, even.

I saw the film (on TV, with distractions) some 25 years after it was made, myself on the brink of coming out, and noted that it was much less clear that it was about homosexuality than the play had been. Tom's sexual orientation had been blurred down to the question of whether he was "a regular guy" or not. Key speeches like Laura's challenge to Bill's sexuality were missing. And Laura's letter at the end seemed just moralistic, and an obvious sop to the censors.

To see the film today, out and proud, and with the benefit of nearly 50 years of hindsight, I find myself agreeing with many of the comments above, both positive and negative. The film is hard to watch because it is so overwrought. That is easier to understand when you know that all three leads are reprising their stage roles. Even so, there is a desperate tension running right through it. With the possible exception of the faculty wives, not a single person in it is comfortable with their sexuality. The guys are, without exception, over-anxious to prove something, and Laura is frustrated. (Ellie Martin at least knows what she wants - a radio that works - and what she wants to pay to get it.) Overlaid on this, nothing can be explicit, everyone talks all the time in circumlocutions. Of course, that was the rule in films of those days, and possibly real life as well. Therein lies a contradiction that can only be resolved from outside the film and in its future, now. The film was trying to liberate people like me (and heterosexual non-conformists) while staying within the confines of a deeply closetted and homophobic film industry.

Should you see this film? As a piece of gay history, perhaps. As a commentary on a homophobic time, it is instructive, both for what it says and doesn't say. As a worthwhile drama that will involve you in its issues, no. Has it anything worthwhile to say, as someone says above, about the importance of love? If you concentrate on Deborah Kerr's performance and her predicament, perhaps, but it's like watching a beautiful butterfly struggling in a pitcher-plant.


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