Before I write about The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez, I’d like to take a few minutes to discuss Ernest Borgnine. (In all actuality, it’s not going to be a discussion, but more of a monologue. I’m writing in bed by myself right now.) I adore Ernest Borgnine with a love that is pure and true. I’ve been known to yell at people for talking smack about him, and fervently believe that people who hate Cabbie in Escape From New York are going to burn in hell. I wept when Cabbie died. (Oh yeah, spoiler alert. But you should have already seen that movie at least five times by now.) He was incredibly nasty as Fatso in From Here to Eternity, and unbelievably tender in Marty, a performance for which he won an Academy award. He was always professional, appreciated his fans, and knew he was one lucky SOB. I think my grandpa was more awesome, but Borgnine was a close number 2 in my older-gentlemen-hall-of-fame. When offered the chance to review his last movie, I took it; in fact, I was honored.
I’m not a huge fan of 3D, and I am especially not fond of the current trend to retrofit older movies with it. But when I heard that they were releasing both Top Gun and Jurassic Park in 3D IMAX, I completely bought in to the hype. Large-scale fighter jets and sweaty 3D pilots? Check. “Multidimensional” T-Rex? Double check. My wildest dreams weren’t coming true or anything, but I was pretty darn excited about it. Both films rock my world, so I was predisposed to be happy, but which movie utilized the technology better? Read on to see which film reigned supreme!
Some movies are best seen with as little advance information as possible. Danny Boyle’s new film, Trance, is one of them, and if you take my advice, you will come back and read this after you’ve seen it. You probably won’t do this, which kinds of sucks for me, because all the things I really want to write about the film would spoil the hell out of it. (Are you sure you don’t want to go and see the movie first? I’ll wait. I like it enough to say it is interesting and a lot of fun, and if you are into Danny Boyle and/or what Netflix would probably call a “cerebral thriller,” then you’ll probably have a good time with this. Seriously, you’re still here? Okay, fine.) So what do I feel comfortable saying about this film? Well, here it is:
I’ll admit it. I’ve been known to shed a tear or two during a particularly moving film. I complain a lot about false sentimentality, but that doesn’t stop me from welling up when the occasion warrants it. (Or sometimes when it doesn’t. I HATE it when a slick director or editor can bring me into tears even when I know I am being manipulated. HATE IT.) Did I cry at the end of Starbuck? Yup. Was I embarrassed about it? Kind of. Did I feel as though the tears were justified? Yeah. Starbuck is schmaltzy and sentimental with a gooey center, and as much as I tried not to enjoy it, I did. I saw this at the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival and the promotional materials described it as a “light-hearted, guaranteed crowd-pleaser.” And you know, it was—and not in a bad way.
I’m a middle-aged person, so not only do I know nothing about file sharing, I can usually afford to buy what I want. Turns out, though, I don’t actually pay for tons of stuff; I use the library, subscription services, and YouTube. I like digital media because it’s easy; I can have what I want when I want it, and yeah, that makes me a privileged whiner when I complain about a certain book not being available for my Kindle. So if an old fogey like me can be seduced by the Internets, I can totally understand why younger people demand, and to some extent expect, everything to be easily available and free. But it’s the free part that is kind of a sticking point for a lot of people. To paraphrase Richard Stallman, information should be free like free speech, not like free beer. But it’s the latter use of the word free that is usually meant when talking about file sharing. Sites like The Pirate Bay allow users to share content (copyrighted or not), and the furor from the copyright owners has led to a myriad of lawsuits. TPB AFK: The Pirate Bay Away from Keyboard is a new documentary that follows the founders of The Pirate Bay as they navigate the Swedish court systems after being targeted as copyright violators.
Double Feature Showdown – Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) vs. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Alien invaders replace earthlings with pod people? Hell yes, sign me up to watch that movie; in fact, sign me up to watch two of them. I present to you this episode’s Double Feature Showdown challengers: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) versus Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978). Which one is better? Read on and find out. If you dare.
I remember the first time I saw Divine. (I imagine most people remember their first time with her.) It was in the late 1980s at a midnight screening of Pink Flamingos. The minute she came on screen, my jaw dropped, and I knew I was in for something wonderful. A lot gets made of the dog-poop-eating scene, but let me tell you, the whole damn thing is amazing. Partly because the director, John Waters, is a crazy, sick genius, but also because Divine is just so mind-blowingly-over-the-top-willing-to-do-anything great. This story about “the filthiest person alive” is compulsively watchable while still being truly disgusting. The new documentary, I Am Divine, opening at South by Southwest Film Festival and directed by Jeffrey Schwarz, tells the story of Divine’s life, and shows the evolution of both Divine the character and Divine the person. (Note: I will be using both male and female pronouns in this review as Divine the character was female, but Divine the person was a man, and preferred to do interviews out of character.)
In Alfred Hitchcock’s 1943 thriller Shadow of a Doubt, young Charlie Newton is longing for something to happen and shake up her boring existence. That something turns out to be a visit from her Uncle Charlie—a man we learn is wanted by the police for murdering wealthy widows and absconding with their money. Charlie is enamored of her uncle, and cannot believe he is capable of such crimes. But when given what seems to be incontrovertible evidence, she sees Uncle Charlie for the psychopath he is and has to decide what she’s going to do about it. Up until this point, she has assumed that she and Uncle Charlie have much more in common than just a name; but when she looks into his eyes, she sees nothing of her own moral self.
I’m not going to pretend I know a lot about the Israeli/Palestinian situation, nor am I going to claim that I have a ton of knowledge regarding the history of the Middle East. I usually know who is in charge of Israel at any given time, and if anything big enough happens, I’ll pay attention. But it’s hard for me to spare too much attention to what is going on, because—for my entire life, it seems—the situation has always been more of the same. Palestinians want self rule, Israelis say they want peace, but what that peace will look like isn’t clear. From the outside, it looks as if both parties just commit atrocity after atrocity, and maybe they kind of deserve each other. (I understand that it’s not really that simple, but it often feels like it is. There are complicated issues regarding power, religion, and regional stability, but when you see these actions bereft of context, it appears to be just retaliation after retaliation.) I feel like I understand more now after having seen The Gatekeepers, directed by Dror Moreh, which is a new documentary about the Shin Bet, Israel’s state security and anti-terrorism organization. Through viewing the history of this organization, I also gained insight into the history of Palestinian/Israeli relations.