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The Siege at Ruby Ridge (1996)
Where the Line Between the Military and Police Began to Blur
To my everlasting embarrassment as an American citizen, the stark injustice of the Ruby Ridge Incident somehow initially slipped by me. For some reason, it took the Waco Massacre to open my eyes and make me realize that our suddenly and scarily militarized police agencies--both federal and local--had but one enemy, and it was us. Although this progression has continued through the tragedy of 9/11, which just happened to give our legislators the perfect excuse to pass laws that shredded our inalienable Constitutional protections, a disappointingly small number of citizens seemed to have grasped what is going on.
That's why although the albeit imperfect "Siege of Ruby Ridge" is far from a great historical drama, it may well be an important one. If it smacks just a handful of still-clueless citizens over the head, it will be worth people's time.
I was actually surprised at how much this film got right. Certainly it was true that Vicki Weaver was the driving force behind the apocalyptic beliefs in the family. Despite his portrayal in the movie, Randy Weaver was far from a dim, subservient religious follower of Vicki, and he would not leave the major decisions regarding his family's fate to his traumatized young daughter. My main complaint would be the over-the-top portrayal of the Weaver family as obnoxious, bible-thumping, jackbooted Neo-NAZI wingnuts. Sharpening their tongues in preparation to lie about the Davidians and David Koresh, the national media did their best to simply repeat all federal agency statements that portrayed the Weavers as just the kind of neighborhood family that needs to be lined up and shot. The Weavers were far from the typical American family, but they were American citizens with the right to be left alone--a fact which the media conveniently chose to ignore.
There is a documentary film about this incident that centers on a grown-up and very appealing Rachael Weaver, along with commentary from the still irascible Randy, called "Legend of Ruby Ridge." Hearing Rachael fondly reminisce about her childhood on that mountain (which she now owns), makes the movie version seem downright ludicrous.
This is Comedy from the Best, not an Historical Thesis on Race
You know Mooney's got it going when folks walk out, and most of the reviews pay scant due respect to the comedy, while arguing about Mooney's historical accuracy. Although I think he was occasionally factually off-target,why does that matter so much? The man is a brilliant comedian, and one of the finest American story-tellers currently working. He should be a national treasure. Just because "Know Your History" happens to be part of the title, doesn't mean Mr. Mooney has become an academic. Thankfully, he never was, and never will be.
I just don't understand why Paul Mooney evokes such responses in people. It's not as if he has continually slagged any particular race. He's always willingly spread his wicked wit among any and all deserving targets. In this show by the 40 minute mark, he had insulted about every ethnic group I could think of--finishing up with Australian Aborigines. Maybe it's his absolute fearlessness, and complete willingness to skewer deserving people that other comics fear to take on.
Relax, lighten up, and enjoy this unique talent while he's still with us.
Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977)
No Redeeming Social Value
I saw "Mr. Goodbar" at a film festival screening, several years after it's initial release. In some ways (none of them good), this movie has haunted me ever since. I can still recall feeling strangely perturbed and confused as the film neared it's final minutes. I guess I expected that the ending would somehow magically bring the preceding grimy and occasionally chaotic events into some sort of focus.
All I got from that ending was a brutal stomach ache similar to the lingering pain induced by a cheap sucker punch to the gut. I will readily admit to having gained no further understanding or insight into this film over the years. I still can't imagine why anyone would make a film like this, or what possible value or entertainment viewers derived from it.
For me, Diane Keaton's performance is the only thing in the movie that keeps it from getting the lowest vote. That she managed to project some warmth and humanity from such a crudely drawn, relentlessly sad, and gratuitously self-destructive character, only made the ending that much more horrific and senseless. It's easily one of the worst experiences I've ever had in a movie theater.