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JSL26

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22 reviews in total 
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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
One of the best episodes of a very likable show, 5 February 2016
10/10

The more I watch this show the more I like it. And this episode, "Invasive Species," although unusual in that its focus was not really so much on foreign affairs, but on Henry (husband of the Secretary), was one of the best. It was all about the dynamics in Henry's family home in Pittsburgh after they gathered to grieve his father's death. Considering that these characters were completely new to us viewers, the writers did a marvelous job of quickly introducing us to them and portraying how such a gathering exposed long-buried grievances and alliances. The dialogue was quite realistic, and touching.

Although the foreign crisis episodes--the show's usual fare--sometimes seem a bit too "ripped from the headlines" and too quickly resolved in order to meet the one-hour time frame, this one seemed just right, and it gave Tim Daly, who is one of the most likable actors on TV, a chance to shine. Tea Leoni as Madam Secretary is always likable, wise, and sympathetic and her home and office families are also made up of excellent ensemble actors--particularly the estimable Bebe Neuwirth.

Time capsule of an idyllic corner of the world during the turbulent 60s and 70s, 30 January 2016
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I watched the DVD of this documentary on a friend's recommendation. Since no one has reviewed it I thought I'd do so. It is well worth watching as a time capsule of an idyllic corner of the world during the turbulent 60s and 70s. The story began when 13 loosely affiliated mainlanders—Vietnam vets, people on the lam, and surfers—discovered the unspoiled wonders of Kauai. After being arrested for refusing to stop living on a public beach, rather than leave, they chose to take a sentence of 90 days of hard labor in the Kauai jail. The brother of Elizabeth Taylor, who owned some isolated nearby wooded beach-front property, thought this was wrong, bailed them out, offered to allow them live on his vacant property, and then let them alone. Their temporary tents soon became increasingly elaborate tree houses; word got around, and soon the community swelled to be a communal small village, with a loose self-government. Some raised their kids there. They grew their own vegetables (and pot), caught their own fish, hooked up their own plumbing system, spent a lot of time on the beach, and didn't bother to wear clothes most of the time.

During its 7-8 years of existence a lot of diverse people stayed for a time at Taylor Camp and the filmmakers captured the essence of it through a remarkable set of photographs that survived—many of them intimate—and by finding many of the participants (many of them interesting characters) who were quite happy to talk about their experiences 30-35 years later and to allow these photos of themselves to be shown. Some of the locals were regular friendly visitors to the camp, but the more uptight neighbors gradually began to disapprove of the "filthy and naked hippies" and campaigned to shut the camp down. Some of them were also interviewed for the film and still seemed as uptight as they were then.

As for the film itself, it was interesting and enjoyable. It certainly made me want to go to Kauai. The soundtrack was well-chosen, and added a lot. While not exactly a riveting account, since the film's subtitle gives away that it came to an end in 1977, I was impressed with the quality of the black and white still photography—someone did a great job of documenting the experience.

I suppose there were a fair number of other "communes" during that period that were similarly successful for a short time, but none so scenic nor so well documented. Although some of the campers did relate stories of drug and alcohol abuse, or being beaten up by locals when they ventured to local bars, or even having too much freedom, most of the campers seemed to look back on this time of their lives with great nostalgia and little regret.

A few of the kids that grew up there were interviewed and had more mixed things to say about it, but I would have liked to have heard from more of them. It is also interesting how many of the campers seem to have stayed in the Islands.

All in all, this is a film that manages to give "hippies" a good name.

Overlooked silent epic, 14 February 2015
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Since no one has written a review of this, I will. I saw it at a Georgian film series in Washington. It was accompanied live by Trio Kavkasia joined by members of the Supruli Choir—which added immeasurably to the experience. Even without accompaniment, this film is worth seeking out.

It's an epic film that tells the story of how tsarist Russia in the late 1860s began to appropriate Georgian lands held for centuries by local peasant tribes. The Russian Cossacks were expelling villages on the pretext that they illegally possessed firearms. This story centers on a hilltop village of Chechens, whose elders were smart enough to hide the village's guns, temporarily thwarting the Cossacks. A neighboring emissary from a nearby Georgian tribe that had rented farmlands from the Chechens for years visited the village to seek renewal of the rental agreement, but was suddenly told that the Russians now wanted the lands for themselves. The Georgian (who was also in love with the elder's daughter, although their love crossed ethnicities and religion) decided to go to the Russian general's headquarters to get permission from the general. The Russians, depicted as cruel buffoons, summarily denied permission and the Georgian overhears the general's order to take over the village and deport the Chechens to Turkey. He is determined to force the general to countermand this order, but the general angrily refuses and orders his men to arrest the Georgian. What ensues next is an amazingly staged one-against-20 fight that would have done Liam Neeson proud. It was funny and dramatic at the same time.

With the actions of the Georgian "savior" it looked good for the village, but the Cossacks had some more deceitful tricks up their sleeves, only to get their just desserts in the end.

Given the logistical challenges of filming a cast of thousands in the unforgiving rocky land of the Georgian mountains in 1928, the film is an overlooked tour de force. One can also see the seeds of the Chechens' hatred of the Russians in this film as well as the problems that the Georgians were going to have in reclaiming their country.

Finally, it is interesting to think that this film, to be made and released in 1928 in the Soviet Union, had to have had the blessing of Josef Stalin—a Georgian himself, who must have approved of the heroism of the Georgian against the Tsarists.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A personal and affecting story of the Argentine "disappeared", 22 December 2012
9/10

I highly recommend this documentary, which I saw it as an Independent Lens documentary on PBS. See the excellent review from Variety attached to this page.

Mandelbaum makes us feel we know the victims personally with good use of family stories and photos. The turmoil of the seventies in Argenina's "Dirty War"--see the Wikipedia entry of the same name--is portrayed in an even handed way--but the recounting of the Dictatorship's systematic but secret capture/torture/killing of thousands of opponents of the regime is horrific, no matter how understated the narration is.

From a U.S. standpoint it is jarring to see Henry Kissinger, U.S. Secretary of State at the time, praise the Argentine military dictator as an intelligent man who is doing what he needs to for his country. Videla was later convicted for his crimes. But Kissinger is still a respected commentator on world affairs.

A personal and affecting story of the Argentine "disappeared", 22 December 2012
9/10

I highly recommend this documentary. It has its own IMDb page under its title with an 8.1 rating. I saw it as an Independent Lens documentary re-showing. See the excellent review attached to that other page.

Mandelbaum makes us feel we know the victims personally with good use of family stories and photos. The turmoil of the seventies in Argenina's "Dirty War"--see the Wikipedia entry of the same name--is portrayed in an even handed way--but the recounting of the Dictatorship's systematic but secret capture/torture/killing of thousands of opponents of the regime is horrific, no matter how understated the narration is.

From a U.S. standpoint it is jarring to see Henry Kissinger, U.S. Secretary of State at the time, praise the Argentine military dictator as an intelligent man who is doing what he needs to for his country. Videla was later convicted for his crimes. But Kissinger is still a respected commentator on world affairs.

8 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
An exquisitely balanced film., 10 March 2012
10/10

"A Separation" achieves a perfect balance. A balance between husband and wife (with the daughter as the fulcrum) and two disputing families (with the truth--and the other daughter--as the fulcrums). But there are many more balances; between: staying and going abroad, taking care of the infirm elderly and the budding child, modernity and tradition, devoutness and disregard, frustration and acceptance, stubbornness and compassion, the employed and the unemployed, truth and lies, and the known and the unknown. So well balanced, it is impossible to choose which of the many sides to take.

This film is worth a thousand briefings on Iran and the Iranian people.

4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Memorable film, but I have a plot quibble, 4 March 2009
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I agree with most of the commenters' praise of the cinematography and the art direction. Nuri Bilge Ceylan also makes great use of the weather to express a mood. In his "Distant" the snowstorm was almost the main character and here thunderstorms make several portentous appearances. But the main reason to see this film is the enigmatic performance of the lovely and sexy Hatice Aslan as the lonely wife, Hacer. Her expressive face lingers long after the curtain falls.

But I would quarrel with the turn the plot takes half way through the movie. I can understand Hacer's having a fling with Servet, the feckless politician for whom her husband is taking the rap. She is lonely and was probably under-appreciated by her husband even before he went to jail, thus making her vulnerable to Servet's attentions. Not to mention, she wanted to secure the money to try to revive her slacker son. But to then have her become insanely obsessed with Servet stretches credulity—-especially with her husband's imminent return. It would have been far more believable IMHO for Servet to become obsessed with Hacer. Then the plot could have unfolded in a climactic way when her husband returned. In fact it could have ended almost the same way. But that would have been my movie and not Mr. Ceylan's

Katyn (2007)
24 out of 31 people found the following review useful:
Powerful Story of a Monstrous Cover-Up, 19 February 2008
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The great Andrzej Wajda has produced definitive films about the French Revolution (Danton), the German destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto (Korczak), the Polish Resistance in WWII (Kanal), post-war anti-communist youth (Ashes and Diamonds), and the beginnings of the Solidarity Movement (Man of Iron). Now at the age of 81, he tackles one of the greatest tragedies in Polish history—the 1940 Katyn Forest Massacre—in which the Soviets killed about 25,000 Polish prisoners of war, many of them officers, on Stalin's orders. Wajda's accounting is non-linear with flashbacks and flashforwards, and the portentous music leaves no doubt as to what will happen, but its impact is crushing and unforgettable nonetheless.

I once heard a speech by Lech Walesa in which he introduced himself as being from Poland--"a place where the Russians used to meet the Germans quite often." In this "meeting" in 1939, a week after the Hitler-Stalin pact was signed, the Germans and the Soviets both invaded and wreaked havoc on Poland. There is no need to recount the history of the Katyn Forest Massacre here; there is an excellent account in Wikipedia. The key point is that after the dissolution of the pact in 1941, the USSR was able to mount a disinformation campaign that for a long time managed to pin the blame for the massacre on the Germans.

Wajda deftly shows how that happened and how this cover-up persisted in Poland as the USSR took control of Poland after the war. Those who tried to tell the truth (including a young artist very similar to the young Wajda) were dealt with summarily.

What helped make the cover-up believable is that the Nazis were, of course, culpable for other horrible acts. This is depicted when Wajda first shows the Gestapo roughly rounding up and arresting an assembly of unsuspecting distinguished university professors. By comparison the Soviet Army at first seems more honorable as they detain a large group of Polish military officers, who had surrendered and were expecting the usual prisoner-of-war treatment accorded to officers. As one suspicious Polish officer worriedly notes, however, the Soviets had not ratified the Geneva Convention. Stalin and the NKVD evidently felt the need to liquidate the Polish officer corps (along with police officers, etc.) to smooth its eventual takeover of the country. Not till after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990 did Moscow admit to these murders.

A few years before that, in 1986, I took an Intourist tour of the Soviet Union. One of the stops was Minsk (now Belarus). We couldn't figure out why the tour sent us there until we were taken on a short bus trip to a war memorial in a nearby village that had been wiped out by the Nazis. It was a very well-done memorial with a dramatic sculpture of a survivor and an eternal flame for the many nearby towns that had been destroyed. (This particular genocidal technique—forcing townspeople into barns and then setting the barns on fire—was revealed in the equally great 1985 Russian film "Come and See" by Elem Klimov.) It was a very moving visit. But the impact was undercut to some degree by something I read in my guidebook: that this town, named "Khatyn," might have been chosen for this memorial because it had a name similar to the Katyn Forest, 160 miles away in Russia, where the Soviets themselves had been accused of doing the same kind of thing. I had long wondered about that—and now I understand.

Other reviewers mentioned some of the many powerful images in the film, but I'll close by mentioning one that nobody has singled out--the closing scene. A young lieutenant we have gotten to know has been executed while clutching a rosary, and his body, along with many others, has been thrown into a pit while a Soviet checks to make sure they are dead. At the same time a bulldozer begins to covering them with dirt. As the dirt covers the lieutenant's, his arm with the rosary in hand makes a last fleeting movement. The symbolism is unmistakable. One cover-up is complete, and the next one has begun.

12 (2007)
41 out of 62 people found the following review useful:
A Worthy (and very Russian) Homage to the Original, 15 February 2008
8/10

Some of the IMDb commenters are a bit tough on this film for having some characters that verged on caricature. I see their point, but I think it is a bit unfair here. Given that this was an homage to the original (on its 50th anniversary), Mikhalkov had to take its basic plot as his foundation. That necessarily drained much of the drama from the story—-we know which way the countdown is going to proceed. It also forced him to deal with all 12 men.

Thus, what can he do to keep it interesting? He (1) features the ensemble acting—-terrific even to me as a non-Russian speaker, (2) highlighted the characters' weaknesses, including some human and Russian traits that have to be a bit outsized, (3) added a detached but affecting commentary on brutality of the Chechnya war and the tendency for Muscovites to see Chechens as monolithic, and (4) threw in a few plot wrinkles at the end. Given the constraints he faced, I thought it was a fine adaptation—and was thoroughly engrossing. Mikhalkov himself, as the jury foreman, is a commanding screen presence as well.

1 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Memorable, and well worth seeing, 11 November 2007
8/10

This was a memorable film, well-worth seeing. It depicts the last days of the Romanian police state where the grayness, punctuated by midnight visits by the all-knowing security forces, saps the life out of an ordinary family's life. Only the little boys in the town seem to have any spark, and it is mostly in their imagination. When the tyrant is deposed, in a televised fall, it is the welcome "end of that world." Made 16 years later, this film looks back on that era with a mixture of bitter nostalgia for the little snatches of good life that could be grabbed back then, but with a pervading sense of relief that it is finally gone.

The director's fine attention to detail (especially in the schoolroom scenes), the realistic cinematography, the little touches of Fellini-esquire fantasy, the compelling performance by Doroteea Petre (in only her second film, and to me reminiscent of the young Brooke Adams) as the enigmatic and quietly desperate Eva, and Timotei Duma as her adoring little brother, make for an absorbing experience.

Some of the reviewers panned the film as just another film about the communist times. It's much more than that, but we should also remember that those times were not so long ago, and they can happen again. And for what it's worth, Romanians in the audience for the screening I attended, seemed to be unanimous that it was true to their lives.


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