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In my work as a professor, I have studied the health-care system and know something about health economics. Although I favor universal (and single-payer) health care for the U.S., I was dreading seeing this film, because I feared that it would be irresponsible and would distort the facts. It did neither, at least not in any major way. Mostly it presented cases of people who got the raw end of the U.S. system, and it compared how these people were treated in the U.S. with how similar people were treated in other countries, such as Canada, the U.K. France, and Cuba. The mere existence of 911 rescue workers from New York, acknowledged to be true heroes, not getting care for the serious health consequences of their heroism, is shocking. Statistics almost don't matter. (That said, I do think that some of the statistics were presented without necessary qualifications, but they just weren't an important part of the movie.) This sort of abuse should just not happen at all. Same for many other cases.
I gave the movie a 10 as a movie. It was impressive how Moore put this all together, including a trip to Cuba. This guy is amazing at getting things done. I can think of a lot of institutions that could use his talents, but they are well used here.
One Bright Shining Moment (2005)
Somehow this disappoints
I participated in Vietnam Summer (1967), campaigned for Gene McCarthy, and was an ardent supporter of McGovern's presidential bid even after the Eagleton fiasco. I hoped that this movie would bring back the excitement and conflict of that era. Instead, it exaggerates McGovern's virtues and everyone else's faults. The narrator makes derogatory comments about everyone else, even those who arguably are not so different from McGovern (smart, well intentioned, often effective, and human). Most of the movie is interviews with participants, including McGovern himself, who still has all the traits that made him attractive 35 years ago, including honesty about his mistakes. But many of those interviewed had peripheral roles at best and have little to say that is insightful or interesting. The big exception is Dick Gregory, who is full of clever analogies and insights.
A devilish bunch of boys
Boys like pranks. The main characters in this movie pull one after the other. All the pranks were funny. Of course, these are men, not boys. But they are allowed to act like boys because they are surgeons who are absolutely necessary for the operation of the hospital. They do their jobs, and that gives them license to tell everyone else where to get off. They ignore rules. They deal with people who get in their way, even when those people are superior officers.
I did not think this was a particularly anti-war movie. Yes, Altman WAS against the Vietnam war when he made it, and he did remove almost all references to Korea (except for the street signs in the town, which were in Korean). But the scenes of wounded soldiers had the effect, for me, of making it clear how important the work was that the surgeons were doing, compared to the trivialities of military life, thus justifying their antics and making them seem like good guys after all.
The Company (2003)
A successful dance movie
I was surprised that no comments (so far) have compared this to Frederick Wiseman's (1995) "Ballet," which was a real documentary about a ballet company. Then I discovered that Ballet has too few votes to even post them. Oh well.
I think the difference is that this one is more like a movie, more selected, with even hints of a plot. But it is basically a polished-up documentary about the Joffrey company, with some actors but mostly dancers. (And at least one actress dancing, Campbell.) The dance sequences, for the most part, were REALLY good, and the photography of them made them even better. Like Wiseman's movie, this one shows some of the things that aren't part of the staging, such as injuries. But Wiseman dwells on these things, while Altman simply acknowledges them. Anyway, I liked both.
boring, talking heads
This could have been interesting. The fact that people still practice psychoanalysis - even in a non-traditional form - could have invited questions about whether, for example, they have explained to their patients that other forms of psychotherapy might be less expensive and equally effective. But the questions asked by the interviewer seemed mostly naive, like, "Do you lie to your patients?" The analysts were not politicians or professors, who have learned to take a dull question and turn it into something they want to answer. For the most part, they simply answered. There were clever features of this movie, but it could not keep me awake. It was mostly talking heads, in a world of abstractions.
Splendor in the Grass (1961)
I've seen this movie probably 10 times. It is, for me, one of the all-time greats. I guess it is especially interesting for psychologists, since it is based on a sophisticated Freudian theme, not caricatured, so that it still makes sense even though Freud is now out of fashion.
But probably what others have not mentioned is the music, by David Amram. It is based on a couple of Copland-esque themes, endlessly varied. The music is beutiful on its own, and fits the movie perfectly. It sticks with me longer than the scenes from the movie itself.
The Dreamers (2003)
No nostalgia for me
Like Roger Ebert, who loved this movie, I was a child of the 60s, and was in Paris briefly at the time. Although I watched a lot of movies, I guess I was not a film buff like these characters. The photography was great, but the references to all the old films left me thinking, "So what?" And the sex scenes seemed like bad porn - if there is such a thing as good porn. They just weren't arousing. (When I think of poignant sex scenes, I always come back to Warren Beattie and Natalie Wood in "Splendor in the grass," which conveyed the pain of NOT going all the way.) So, many people loved this movie, but I hated it. For 60s nostalgia, Woodstock comes closer, but I haven't seen anything really all that close yet.
The Jury (2002)
the characters make this good
Having now seen parts of this twice, I think that what makes this really great, and gripping, is the character development and the acting. I especially liked the recovering alcoholic and Rose, but all the characters were well developed and real (except, perhaps, the judge, the lawyers, and the defendant - but this is about the JURY).
I am as much against political correctness as the next person, but I don't think that was what this was about. That was part of the background, but not the story. The story was about the people.
Hepburn and Grant at their best
Well, actually, all the acting is great. I read that this movie was not a great success because it did not fit the times. Cary Grant plays a young man who wants to take a leave of absence from his successful work in the world of finance to find himself. But the way to think about this movie is not that it was made during the depression, with the War on its way. Rather, it was made around the time of The Philadelphia Story. That is a better context.
The Heiress (1949)
Aaron Copeland's music is only one way in which this is nearly perfect
This movie compares very favorably with Washington Square (1997), which is also based on Henry James's story of that name. A great story, great acting - a well-deserved Oscar for de Haviland. But don't miss the music, most of which was written by Aaron Copeland right around the time he wrote Appalachian Spring. It is similar in style to Appalachian Spring, and perhaps slightly inappropriate, if you think of that rural setting while watching a story about New Yorkers. But it works beautifully and enhances the emotional meaning of the scenes.