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Martin Chuzzlewit (1994)
quality acting in a horribly stilted adaptation
Could not believe what was done with the only Dickens novel significantly set in the USA, and encapsulating his astute impressions of our country. The business in America was reduced to a simple land swindle, sans mention of the political corruption, boundless greed, and sanctimonious moralizing that plagues us to this day. A perfect example of corporate media censorship.The acting was first rate, but overemphasized characters that emphasized the completely different novel that was crafted out of Dickens' masterful storytelling. I'm sure they will explain that necessary cuts were made to make the story more cinematic and approachable. A pleasant fiction for the American TV market, who don't like to hear the truth about their beloved oligarchy.
Four Horsemen (2012)
good description of the problems, flawed solutions
This is worth watching more for it's cautionary value than it's message. It does a good job describing what has become of America since the Great Depression, but bases it's viewpoint on the naive idealism of the libertarian - blaming the problem on straying from "classical" economics and advocating a return to the gold standard and demonizing debt as the root of all evil. At least it admits that regulation is a good thing. It does do a good job of pointing out that libertarians and progressives share a fair amount of common ground, and might make a reasonably functional coalition against the establishment neocons and neolibs, who have already started becoming very friendly with each other, as evidenced by the current primary election shenanigans.
An Honest Liar (2014)
a true gem of a documentary
Don't listen to any of the homophobic reviews of this film. It is one of the truly mind-bending films you will ever see. Almost everyone will have some cherished fantasy challenged by this one. Our species is an odd beast, and the sooner we all start accepting that fact, the more likely we are to evolve into something better. No spoilers here, you have to watch this film, first to last, to truly appreciate.
Now, how can anyone write a ten line review without spoilers? It's pretty hard to do. You have to drone on and on until your reader is almost comatose, and then drone on and on again till he's about to slit your throat, then drone on and on until he indeed slits his own throat. But, that is the price of posting a review on IMDb. I hope you appreciate the effort.
The Boxtrolls (2014)
A true gem, though controversial
I am rarely amazed by animated movies. Most of the ones my kids begged me to watch with them I slept through. But this one kept me up well past my bedtime. Imagine every metaphor done to perfection - every cliché exposed, every cultural norm questioned - all in a way that most people won't even be perceptive enough to notice. It's hard to talk about this film without giving spoilers or falling into the traps laid by those who don't want you (or especially your kids!) to watch it. I can only assure you it is that rare combination of great entertainment and great art. I hope a few will believe me before falling victim to the real "trolls". And nothing is subversive - unless you think the truth of being human is subversive.
Best historical drama in a long time
This is one of the most interesting historical dramas in recent memory - with particular relevance to the USA's current predicament - albeit our oppressors are global multinational companies who have no conventional nationalistic affiliations. The histories of men like Simon Bolivar and Che Guevara bear much scrutiny for the citizens of the USA today - because they were both born of a privileged society, but were driven by their consciences to work against the established power of their era. The one lesson to be learned by the two is that one must steer a very narrow path between collaboration and revolution to be successful, lest one become the tool of the current establishment or the tool of the establishment to be.
Watching this tempts me to compare and contrast with another of America's much-loved founding fathers, George Washington. If you look at the details of their achievement, for better or worse - one wonders how much of their legacy derives from the fact that although both were born into power and privilege - one ended up the richest North American of the day and the owner of numerous slaves and slave employing interests, and the other ended up dead under suspicious circumstances after having clearly declared himself a true champion of the average person - of any race.
El Escape de Hitler (2011)
Interesting food for thought, but should be thoroughly verified, as with any documentary
One wonders why this topic never got more than sci-fi treatment in the English language. If half of what it purports is true, it bear some serious inquiry into whether the US and Britain did some seriously bad things in their race to win more power from the victory that was virtually ensured after the Nazi defeat at Stalingrad. And it raises some serious questions about now much the allied goals in WW2 were driven by maneuvering against the perceived "next enemy", Russia, versus defeating Hitler and saving as many doomed souls as possible in Nazi and Stalinist occupied Europe.
If you don't mind reading subtitles for a documentary that is mostly in Spanish or German, this one is highly recommended as food for further thought and investigation.
And God Created Woman (1988)
good flick recently resurrected on Amazon Prime
Despite being from the 80's, this flick is just as pertinent today. While the black people are relegated to cheering on the white protagonist, as was necessary in that era, it presents a lot of women's issues (and consequently men's issues) in a very truthful way. If it gets bad reviews, I suspect it is because it presents a reality that challenges almost every viewer, and most viewers don't like to be challenged. Catch it while Amazon Prime is doing an 80's promo. It won't stay free long. The reality that disturbed me was the image of a Democratic Senator who cared more about photo ops and press coverage than about the real issues in their district, but this too was and is a truthful depiction, and Frank Langella played it perfectly. The only real deficit is that it was impossible in that era to involve corporate interests in the story, which made it much more difficult to portray the position of the Frank Langella character. The trite conflict with his wife pales against what a real politician would have faced from their financial backers.
The Apostle (1997)
interesting, no matter what cultural prism you view it from
Having lived in and adapted to a number of cultures around the world, I found myself amazed at the variety of interpretations that could be applied to this film depending on which flavor of Koolaid you had been drinking most recently. The depiction of fundamentalist Christians was spot on - the good, the bad, and the ugly. If this film has a flaw, it may be that it is too ambiguous. It does not condemn the judgment of a congregation who worships a semi-charlatan nor really justify the actions of a woman who has been used and manipulated by a sweet-talking devil. As such, it perpetuates a lot of the mythology that continues to allow charismatic Christianity to flourish, and does the parts of the country still under thrall to this a disservice. To the extent that it exposes the evil that the hero worship of very human and flawed leaders - who profess direct contact and support from divinity - can do, it is a pretty good flick.
Paths of Glory (1957)
A classic for the ages
This is one of the best movies you've probably never heard of. It's perhaps the best indictment of the faux patriotism of authoritarian regimes - not only countries, but also the military, law enforcement, and large corporations - that I've ever seen. The script is brilliant and directing superb. Most of the performances are first rate, though it does detract that the realism of at least adding French accents was eschewed. A few of the parts were either unbelievably overacted or didn't achieve the effect I'm sure was intended, but all in all, this movie deserves to be among the ones every parent should be sure to watch with their kids as a rite of passage into adulthood.
Night Train to Lisbon (2013)
a must watch for the sensitive soul
This film is almost a paean to the sensitive soul. It touches on the concerns and conflicts of this small minority directly, and without the negative bias of the less sensitive majority. It will be a comforting affirmation to the highly sensitive and an interesting foray into the world of the sensitive mind for those less affected by this personality trait. And it is all done with a great script and top notch performances. Sadly, it won't win the notice of any awards nominations, but it is one of the best films of recent years.
Alas, again my review has not complied with the stringent demands of IMDb for verbosity, but I hope that this apologia suffices.