Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

GLORIA (1980)
I suppose it's an inherently corny premise, but I really enjoyed this flick. I'm not usually a fan of John Cassavetes as a filmmaker, I'll be honest, but there's a sort of character-driven tightness to this movie that I really appreciated. It's basically "Little Miss Marker" dressed up as a late-seventies crime movie, and I think that made it work enough for me--that, plus the tightly constructed plot and structure, and well-written characters. I wasn't ever expecting to like this movie, and I did, a great deal, particularly Rowlands' performance. ****

This one was a bit all over the place... it tells the story of the Gospel of Matthew, but in 1973 New York with a bunch of hippies. Actually, they seem less like hippies to me than like the world's most insufferable street theater troupe. A lot of it annoyed me, but every time I would get too annoyed to go on, another one of Stephen Schwartz' great, sincere songs would come up and it would keep me going. See, the thing about the Jesus story is that I have at times found myself deeply moved by it. Not because of the religion or the church or anything like that--I'm still an atheist there. But because it's a philosophical story about love and understanding and caring in an environment of oppression and corruption. That part of it, I'm often moved by, and if it's handled as a story about sacrifice and not a moralistic finger-wag or a snuff film, I'll get wrapped up in it. The focus to this story is love and caring and humanity, and--particularly filtered through Victor Garber's able, genuine performance--that's what came through a lot of the hippie drag and silly voices, and in the end I was moved. ***1/2

Saul Bass' fascinating, partially-animated short film about the creative impulse is hard to describe. It's on YouTube right now, though, so you can see it for yourself if you're in the mood. ****

BULLY (2011)
I don't question the sincerity of this documentary, but I do wonder what its purpose is. It basically just shows us some kids who have been affected horribly by bullying--a couple of them killed themselves--to the point where it has completely changed who they are. But it also treats bullying as something that is unstoppable and insoluble. It spends a lot of time with victims, and they all have sympathetic stories that will break your heart. But, jeez, why not actually talk to some bullies and at least ask them why they do what they do? Where did they learn it from? Hate is taught, not inborn. Ask the people in that Oklahoma town who stopped talking to one family when their daughter came out of the closet why they have no room in their world for that. I don't need to see a kid cry and talk about how he wishes he could hurt people as much as they've hurt him--I'm already too aware what it's like to feel that. Instead, maybe ask people why tolerance is beneath them. **1/2

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