As this political season and the race for the U.S. presidency in particular barrel toward Election Day, it seems that the real issues facing average, middle and working-class Americans are being obscured by innuendo and accusation. The goal here apparently is winning at all costs and amassing power, rather than practical problem-solving and serving the U.S. citizenry.
The death camps were liberated almost seven decades ago. Auschwitz and Birkenau, Chelmno and Dachau-- the ABCD’s of the Final Solution-- have long been silent memorials to the mass murder of millions. But despite this passage of time, World War II and the Holocaust have remained popular topics for filmmakers.
As this interminably long political season threatens to heat up with the Democratic and Republican Party conventions, and so forth and so on, it is appropriate to cite a new film that lampoons the one-note sniping that has become so much a part of politics, American style. That film, of course, is THE CAMPAIGN, which features Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as candidates who comically butt heads while facing off in a North Carolina congressional race.
If Chicago Cubs third baseman Ron Santo had been conjured up by a Hollywood screenwriter, he would have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame during his lifetime. He would have come to Cooperstown on a bright midsummer day and, perhaps, shed a tear or two during his induction speech.
The Capital Repertory Theatre of Albany’s production of ELLA, in which Tina Fabrique offers a spot-on performance as Ella Fitzgerald and Ron Haynes adds a letter-perfect impersonation of Louis Armstrong, brings to mind the challenges of playing celebrated personalities on stage and screen. Simply put, sometimes it works, as it does in ELLA. And sometimes not. When it does work, the effectiveness of the performance has nothing whatsoever to do with the actor’s physical resemblance to the personality he or she is playing.
A good documentary, like good fiction, can entertain and even enthrall viewers. A good documentary also can spotlight an issue and offer truths and insights regarding that issue. However, unless that documentary deals with a hot-button topic-- such is the case with BULLY, which deservedly has received reams of publicity and a high-profile theatrical release-- most documentaries earn limited theatrical play, if they even make it into movie houses. But thanks to DVD and other non-theatrical venues, documentaries do become available to one-and-all.
Movies spotlighting characters who are fiercely individualistic always have appealed to me. For after all, we live in a culture in which conformity is the norm, in which one is expected to do what one is told without asking questions. Sometimes, cinematically-speaking, those who do ask questions become heroes. Sometimes, they become victims. But their stories are more interesting to me, just so long as those stories are well-told.
These days, Greta Gerwig is all over movie screens. She recently has been seen in LOLA VERSUS, and Whit Stillman’s latest, DAMSELS IN DISTRESS, and Woody Allen’s latest, TO ROME WITH LOVE. (I must add here that, in these parts, any new Woody Allen film-- good, bad, or indifferent-- is well worth a look-see.) Anyway, what is so appealing about Greta Gerwig is her naturalistic screen presence. She is at ease in front of the camera and, once that camera rolls, it does not seem as if she is acting. She is just, well... being her character.
Lately, there have been some very interesting female characters appearing in movies. These characters are young-- they are in their twenties-- and the stories that spotlight them deal with issues involving romance and commitment.
Back in the early 1950s, 3-D was a gimmick employed by Hollywood to lure back into theaters patrons who were abandoning moviegoing in favor of sitting at home in their easy chairs and staring at what then was new and novel: their just-purchased television sets. And these days, in case you haven’t noticed, there has been a resurgence of 3-D in movie theaters.