NO MATTER WHERE ONE PLACES THE “BAR” there is always someone or something to cause it to be raised. Just look at the evolution of television. We started out with the Riccardo’s from I Love Lucy; they were not allowed to sleep in the same bed, despite being married to each other on the show and in real life. The censors would not approve them being filmed in the same bed. From that point in time there were a few television shows that had partial nudity if it was in the context of a documentary or historical event. The show that comes to mind is the mini-series Roots. Things took a bigger change in the 1990s when the TV shows “NYPD Blues” and “Once and Again” had episodes that contained nudity. For some viewers this was a big shock. Let me also add while this evolution was taking place there was another one going on that pertained to language. Scripts started showing up with slang and curse words in the dialog. I can still remember my shock hearing a TV character uttering a curse word; it took me by surprise even though I was a user of the word. Little did any of us know the explosion of nudity and swear words would be amplified upon the arrival of cable television. HONESTLY, I HAVE NOT GIVEN IT A lot of thought, but I wonder if there might be a connection between this viewing evolution, which by the way has led to reality shows, to blurring the lines between personal and professional lives. The reason why I am bringing it up is from my observations on how people focus their attention on other people’s personal lives. Look at some of the reality shows where people are being filmed 24 hours a day or the dating and swapping partner shows; I have no interest in such things. Two things I learned growing up; first, curse words were just adjectives. Derogatory words about race, gender, ethnicity and sexuality were the “bad” words. Secondly, if no one is being hurt, held against their will or abused; I do not care what they do in their private life. This fascination with people’s personal lives is weird to me. With the aggressiveness of photographers and reporters, there evidently is a market to sell intimate stories about celebrities and such. People judging and making decisions essentially about strangers is a waste of time and money, in my opinion. The reason I have been pondering this is due to today’s biographical drama. As I was watching it, it occurred to me that the events in this film were the beginning of people’s obsession with other people’s personal lives. APPEARING TO BE RIDING A WAVE OF popularity Senator Gary Hart, played by Hugh Jackman (The Greatest Showman, Eddie the Eagle), had his eyes set on the White House. A simple photograph would cause a detour in his campaign. This film festival winning movie also starred Vera Farmiga (Boundaries, The Commuter) as Lee Hart, J.K. Simmons (I’m Not Here, The Bachelors) as Bill Dixon, Mark O’Brien (Arrival, Bad Times at the El Royale) as Billy Shore and Molly Ephraim (Cricket, Last Man Standing-TV) as Irene Kelly. Set in the 1980s, what I found the most curious was the idea that Gary’s election campaign was the beginning of tabloid journalism. In fact, it was this aspect of the script I found the most interesting. I did not think the script otherwise was well written; it seemed as if events were broken down into cause and effect without much time spent on learning about the characters. I think a political junkie would enjoy this picture more than the average moviegoer. Maybe it is due to my disinterest in a person’s personal life, but I did not find this film very exciting, sordid details and all.
MOST OF YOU MUST KNOW BY NOW I am a sucker for a good story. Whether it is in print, film or spoken to me; I enjoy almost all of them. But despite my fondness I do know every story has another side. I know that is such a cliché; but it is true, a story can easily be manipulated by the change of a few words or the inflection of one’s voice. As a young boy I had a family member who told the best ghost stories out of the entire family. The way they used their voice for various characters and the different sounds they would utter scared me and my cousins, to our delight. It just occurred to me I believe those ghost stories being told to us is where I grew to love the spoken word. However, as I have grown up I see more and more examples of individuals who twist their words to suit their purposes. I knew a married couple where I was friends with both the wife and husband before they had married each other. After several years they divorced; the husband made it sound like it was all his wife’s fault and she did the same against him. Were they each telling the truth or was one lying? ANOTHER SIDE TO STORIES THAT I believe takes place is the omission of words. I am guilty of this myself and realize it is a form of manipulation. This is one of the reasons why I wonder what I am not being told regarding news stories. What I mean is I think there is more to a story that has not been mentioned or released. So, if there is a news story with negative implications I think it is worse than any of us knows; I guess this would mean I am a pessimist. I believe in being an informed listener, which would entail researching a topic before forming an opinion. For example, let me use a nuclear plant story. When stories are reported about a leak or some form of a mishap at a nuclear plant, I immediately think things there are worse then what the news services are reporting to us. It may easily be explained that the plant’s owner only gave out certain details about the danger as to not to scare the public. I am sure I am no different than anyone else when I say I want to hear the full story, no sugar coating of it. If you feel the same way then you may find yourself surprised by some of the scenes in this latest documentary by Michael Moore (Bowling for Columbine, Sicko). OF THE MOVIES I HAVE SEEN from Michael this one was not my favorite. I am strictly speaking about the entertainment value. Unlike his previous films this one did not stay focused on one single topic. I believe I understood why because the underlying message I received concerned our duty to vote. There were some scenes that stunned me, such as the city of Flint, Michigan’s water crisis, because of the scenes and interviews given. It was a crime for what took place there. With Michael writing, directing and producing this film; he did not hold back his feelings in the way he portrayed the issues. There was a variety of cameo scenes with celebrities such as George Clooney, Roseanne Barr, John Boehner and Donald J. Trump. The news clips, interviews and stunts shown all contributed to painting a bleak picture of our current times. I did not have an issue with what Michael was doing, but I felt some scenes were a hit or miss. Not wishing to have any political dialog here, I will say there is worth in watching this picture.
2 ½ stars
IT IS SAFE TO SAY the majority of us has experienced the feeling of shock. Hopefully it was the type of shock that surprises or dumbfounds you; you know, like seeing a driver do something ignorant and illegal or seeing a parent pouring a soft drink into a baby bottle to feed their child. I used these two examples because I actually was a witness to them. For the driver they were impatient and did not want to continue creeping along until they got to their exit off the highway. So the driver drove off the road, down the gully running alongside then up the steep grassy hill. Their car looked like it was sliding down sideways but they just gunned the engine and eventually made it to the exit. So something like this would definitely be placed in the “shock” category in my book. NOW THERE IS A DIFFERENT FORM of shock; the only way I can describe it, is that it numbs one’s brain. As if your brain becomes paralyzed, all the synapses lose current and stop connecting with each other. For the most part I tend to see this type of shock only on television shows and in movies, which is a good thing. I hope it is the same for you. Only a couple of my friends that I have known for years can tell when I am experiencing something close to this kind of shock. Years ago my friends made a surprise birthday party for me; I was totally unaware of it. When I walked into the place a photo was taken of me so there is proof on my face that I was completely stunned by the surprise. At least the shock was for a good thing because on the flipside getting “bad” news can certainly stop someone dead in their tracks as they say. I do not remember (see I am already preparing you for the shock) if I told you about an incident that happened during my medical scare last year. One evening I received a phone call from a doctor that was unfamiliar to me. I was at the movie theater waiting for a film to start. The doctor began telling me about my recent tests and said there was something else he wanted me to have checked out. If these were the only words he had used I would not have freaked out, but when he said “you need to do it sooner than later” my brain immediately short-circuited. For that reason I could appreciate on some level what was going through the brain of the main character in this historic drama. THE FEAR OF DROWNING COULD have easily been a factor in Ted Kennedy’s, played by Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty, Everest), behavior after the car he was driving plunged off a bridge. That one car accident would alter the course of history. This film festival nominee also starred Ed Helms (Vacation, Love the Coopers) as Joseph Gargan, Jim Gaffigan (Away We Go, Going the Distance) as Markham and Bruce Dern (The Hateful Eight, Nebraska) as Joseph Kennedy. This movie played out like a docudrama; there were times where I believed what I was seeing but then other times I felt the story was being embellished upon to create some excitement. Jason was excellent in the role as was Bruce Dern; as for the rest of the cast they were more background players for me. I would have appreciated if the script delved more into the history of the characters, especially the relationship between Ted and his father, but I understood this film was focused on one major incident. Since I would have no idea if what I witnessed in this movie actually happened, I left the theater with mixed emotions. It certainly was a tragic event, but I did not feel invested in the story.
2 ½ stars
Their voice reverberated off the walls of the tunnel, greeting the passengers passing through to the train station. The song they were singing was familiar and their voice was good enough to be noticed by a record producer, if one happened to be walking by. The setup looked ideal with their scratched up guitar dangling by its strap off their shoulder, the bulky bright colored sweater they wore and their right foot tapping to the beat of the song. I thought it all looked like something I had seen in a movie. As I settled into my seat the train car doors slid shut and we started off to the next station. Sitting across the aisle facing me was a young couple; I just knew they had only recently started dating because of the way they were acting. The 2 of them leaned into each other as they would look up from time to time at each other which caused them to smile in a demure way. Again I felt I was watching a movie unfold since there have been so many times where art imitates life and life imitates art. There have been films I have seen where a few years later a news show is reporting on the exact same type of scenario that I saw in the movie. Sadly there have been individuals who watch a film that then becomes the catalyst for them to do something destructive. On the other hand there have been movies that used an actual event to spin a story to reflect back on society. I have been told timing plays a part in whether a story will have relevance to it; if that is the case then the movie studio that brought out this horror sequel must have a lucky star shining down on it. The timing could not have been any better. WITH the annual Purge close to commencing Senator Charlie Roan, played by Elizabeth Mitchell (Gia, Lost-TV), was convinced her campaign platform for ending the murderous rite would push her to the presidency. First though she would have to survive the Purge. This action film was something I actually was not looking forward to seeing since I was not a fan of the previous installments. Whether it was intentional or not, the fact that this film came out now during the current political landscape was brilliant timing. I found the story part satire, horror with a little drama mixed in. Including the tight direction I found myself getting into the story. Gratefully the script focused more on suspense than the killing of innocent citizens and I did notice the cast was not only diverse but had more of a substantial story for each of them than just relegated to secondary figures. Now I will say the script was somewhat predictable yet I did not mind it as much since the chase scenes kept me interested, besides getting a kick out of the playing off the good guy/bad guy characters. There still was a lot of blood and violence in this film but it did not seem as much as the others. I have to say this story gives a whole new meaning to letting our candidates fight it out.
2 ¼ stars
The word personal is defined as relating or affecting a particular individual without the intervention of another. I may have mentioned this before but there are 2 things I avoid discussing: religion and politics. It is not because I am not interested in say one’s religious customs or beliefs, but I resist getting into a conversation with someone who feels their religion or political viewpoint is the “right” one. For me my political and religious thoughts are personal; I have no desire to foster my opinions onto other people. I would not say I am a well informed voter when it comes to political elections, but I do read the news and pay attention to the media coverage of candidates. That is the extent of my research, though I never realized how much social media sites can play a part in elections. On the downside I find out more than I wish to sometimes about people’s beliefs and opinions on my various web sites. It is such a curious thing when it is a known person who has leanings that are opposite of what I imagined they would be. In fact there are some friends in my circles who I never talk politics with because we ride different trains of thought. The reason I am telling you all of this is to convey to you I have no political ambitions, activism (except for voting in every election) or pastimes; no one would consider me a political news junkie at all. So imagine how stunned I was watching this documentary about a political figure. FORMER New York congressman Anthony Weiner decided to pin his political comeback on the mayor’s race for New York City. This documentary would cover the entire campaign from beginning to end. The first thing that amazed me about this film festival winning movie, co-written by Eli B. Despres (Blackfish, Wilderness Survival for Girls), was what appeared to be the unlimited access the filmmakers were granted by Anthony and his wife Huma Abedin. With the amount of election coverage all of us are exposed to these days, I know I am only seeing only the façade of a campaign. Nearly every word and gesture has probably been planned unless the candidate trips up. I normally do not pay much attention to the marketing paraphernalia from any political candidate; so being able to go behind the scenes of the campaign in this picture was fascinating to me. And I have to tell you getting backroom access to Anthony’s journey during the 2013 mayoral race was mind blowing. On one side there were scenes with Huma that were just heartbreaking; on the other side watching Anthony was part circus, part train wreck and part stubbornness all rolled up into one. I was glued to this documentary; I felt I was watching a live theater production. How ironic, I initially was not too excited to see this film at first; but I was immediately won over. Let me mention I absolutely loved writer Eli B. Despres’ Blackfish documentary, so it now makes sense that I would love this political story.
3 ½ stars
It seems no sooner do I leave the voting booth that another election campaign revs up its marketing machine. I finally throw away my homework on the candidates (I’m not a political junkie but I do want to know something about the person I am voting for in an election) and I am supposed to startup with a whole new batch? The political landscape has changed so much from what I remember years ago. Facts it seems are no longer important or less important than the amount of money in the candidate’s coffers. If I were ruler for a day I would make election day a national holiday, restrict all advertising to start only 90 days before the election, make all candidates hold at least a dozen town hall meetings across the country and do away with a majority of the super PAC funds that seem to have been set up to sway the candidate to be sympathetic to one particular interest group. What I find most troubling is the use of smear campaigns to discredit an opponent. I can handle it if an opposing campaign discovers something that actually happened in a politician’s past; however, the use of innuendo or implication without having proof appears to be more prevalent today and I find it ugly. Overall I do not like negative campaigns; I feel if a person wants to run for office then they must explain how they would do it without knocking down one of their opponents. If what was shown in this comedic drama is anywhere close to true then I am more naive than I imagine myself to be. DOWN in the polls a Bolivian presidential candidate, played by Joaquim de Almeida (Fast Five, Behind Enemy Lines), hired an American strategist with killer instincts nicknamed Calamity Jane, played by Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side, The Heat). She would quickly discover she was in a race against her arch nemesis Pat Candy, played by Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade, The Man Who Wasn’t There), who was working for the leading candidate. With Ann Dowd (Side Effects, Compliance) as Nell and Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker, Real Steel) as Ben, the cast was well rounded for the story line. However, the script got more dysfunctional as the story progressed in this drama. There were several scenes that seemed so ridiculous that I could not imagine they came anywhere close to actually happening, since this picture was a fictionalized story based on a past event. I was left with bored feelings as if I was watching a live version of the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote cartoons, with each of them taking turns on the receiving end. The dramatic parts that could have been effective were glossed over making them more like an afterthought. On the other hand, maybe this story was closer to reality than I realized which in this case would make me feel more disturbed about the modern election process.
1 3/4 stars
I make it a point to never talk about religion or politics in my classes. Having been a witness to verbal assaults between people of opposing views, I find such behavior silly. In this age of reality television shows, how long before you think we will subject political candidates to a televised obstacle course or quiz show format? In this political year, here are two candidates who certainly would add some spice to any election race. Cam Brady, played by Will Ferrell (The Other Guys, Blades of Glory), was running unopposed for reelection. Two CEOs from a large corporation, looking for someone who would be in favor of legislation beneficial to their company, threw their money behind local tourist guide Marty Huggins, played by Zach Galifianakis (Due Date, The Hangover franchise). With Marty in the race, the campaign quickly heated up into an over the top battle–not so dissimilar from any current reality show competition. I laughed at several scenes during this comedic satire. Though I am not a fan of Will Ferrell, i found his limited acting ability worked to his advantage, in his role as the pandering incumbent. With everything these days being marketed to death, I found some of the looniness in this film not much different from what our political candidates must go through before any photo op or stump speech. The uncomplicated story was well served with the actors’ comedic talents. When the movie ended, I wondered what it would be like if we made every person with political aspirations go on a game show. Besides winning valuable gifts or prize money to fund their campaigns, we would really see what these people were made of. Stay through the first set of credits.
2 3/4 stars