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Man in the Chair (2007)
And industry opinion
This is an incredible film. Please let every one know, especially if you're in the industry, what an incredible performer Christopher Plummer is. He provides an Oscar quality performance. M. Emmet Walsh is also outstanding.
Americans in general, and Hollywood in specific have been reluctant to vocalize the challenges of aging in our society. It was wonderful to see this issue handled in such a positive fashion. The supporting cast more than compliments this picture and demonstrates the existing talent in Hollywood's elderly community.
Jimmy Carter Man from Plains (2007)
Too long, too complicated
Jonathan Demme makes a misstep in this documentary with the former president. I believe that Jimmy Carter's advocacy of peace is sincere. But this film in support of the controversial book does nothing to advocate his position nor incite any discussion.
Demme's film leaves us with no legacy or message. We simply aren't provided enough content to understand the former president's position. Over two hours was spent watching Carter enter and exit limousines and hotel rooms. More time is spent watching Cater sign books than explaining the controversial Palestinian policies.
Former Vice President, Al Gore, made complex facts simple and digestible in his film. Unfortunately, President Carter made a complex situation and the associated politics even more distant. Carter and Demme, both articulate men, did not get a message across. Don't waste your time.
Singer-songwriter beyond compare
Bruce Springsteen and the East Street band is the reason this film exists and is wonderful. Even after so many years the songs are fresh and the performances invigorating.
Mr. Springsteen is simply the future of and the present realization of rock 'n roll.The songs speak to the everyday man in a naturally American way. Bruce and the E Streeters are people you would say hey to on the street. They might be icons and giants of the stage, but they are also people. Bruce seems approachable and godlike at the same time. The material stands on its own.
The songs are dealt with an appropriate fashion commensurate with the filmmakers personal style. Bruce and a different band members are seen in performance mode and in some revealing backstage presence. It is definitely a film worth watching. Especially if you are a Bruce fan.
Nacho Libre (2006)
Jack Black at his best
This is yet another unique film from Jared Hess the writer/director of Napoleon Dynamite. There are similar themes of adolescent alienation and the struggle for acceptance. Also similar is that the story takes place in an remote non-glamorous yet exotic location. Where the two films are dissimilar is in the performance of the lead actor. Jack Black shines in this role. This is the most understated performance I can recall of his career. And it works so well. He is hilarious without going overboard. His ability to communicate big humor from subtle body language makes this performance outstanding.
The film contains everything one would expect in the sophomoric humor genre -- farts, boogers, and physical blows to the groin. Yet behind all of these comedic gestures is a meaningful story. Nacho, a young man enslaved to a dirt poor Mexican Catholic orphanage as a cook, changes in his life by using his athletic abilities. His "success" enables him to better the existence of the orphans and provides the children hope that life can be better.
What is most incredible about this film is the positive portrayal of Mexican people. At a time when North Americans are closing their minds because of illegal immigration issues, here is a wonderful little film that celebrates the uniqueness of Mexico. Even though 50% of the dialog is in Spanish, no subtitles are needed for the comedy and story to shine through. The Mexican music adds to the cultural cornucopia. Hopefully the theaters across the United States will be filled with Caucasian adolescent boys who cheer for Nacho the downtrodden spirited Latino. This comedy crosses language and cultural differences while celebrating the similarity of youth.
This may not be a film for everyone, but it is certainly entertaining.