On rare occasion do I see a film that so challenges me, that has so much going on in it, that I come out of the theater thinking, “I must give this movie a second look.” One such film is CLOUD ATLAS, which I saw at the Toronto Film Festival back in September and which I will re-see upon its theatrical release.
TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE, the latest Clint Eastwood movie, is as predictable as, well, any Hollywood movie could be. For one thing, the good guys and bad guys in the film are clear cut and, if you are accustomed to the typical “and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after” Hollywood scenario, you can pretty much figure out where this film is headed.
In all the years I’ve been attending the just-concluded Toronto Film Festival, I have never received so many emails from publicists alerting me to screenings or inviting me to attend media events or parties associated with specific films. There is a special sense of urgency to many of these emails, which feature phrases like “Film Alert,” “The Best Suspense Thriller at the Festival,” “Must-See Documentary,” Invite Reminder,” “Rising Norwegian Film Talent,” and “Exclusive Website premiere” in their subject lines.
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.