Monday, September 21, 2009

Bruno - Movie Review

By Jonathan W. Wind

"What's D&G," asks Bruno, "Why Dolce & Gabanna, Hello?"

I have to say I wasn't really expecting to enjoy Bruno, so when we arrived at the movie theater I was already uneasy, I'd seen the trailer - would I be inclined to storm out indignantly, as some people actually did?. My partner and I settled ourselves in, expecting a kind of gay "Borat." "Borat" was Sacha Baron Cohen's first foray into the "reality movie," not a documentary, mind you, more the thinking man's expose, and it was pretty funny. But all I kept hearing about "Bruno" was "it's over the top," and, well, it is, but it's even more than that.

From the opening frame, no credits, Bruno plunges in. Bruno is a flamboyant limp-wristed fashion reporterr from Austria, a screamer with no boundaries. There are suggestively graphic scenes so preposterous I pondered my own sanity, but gradually the message emerges.

Bruno leaves a Milanese fashion show in disarray, confuses Hammas with hummas, insults Palestinian terrorists, American hunters, swingers, evangelists, even presidential candidates, all races, religions, especially his own: Judiasm, all genders and persuasions, even entire audiences to the point where people throw him out, some even throw chairs, no one is spared. I wondered for his safety when scenes ended abruptly with him fleeing some enraged mob.

The scenes change often, and transpire all across the globe - but just listen and maybe you will discern that message as it drifts elusively through the interviews with the stage mom who will do anything, the model and her tough life, perhaps the chat with Paula Abdul, even Harrison Ford - all the vacant, contradictory lip-service, it makes you wonder, do they care if I listen in, as their minds lurch out of gear answering Bruno's questions.

Sacha Baron Cohen has not escaped being himself pegged as over-provocative and manipulative, his shenanigans have earned him many enemies, and often lawsuits. Sometimes cameras are obviously there and sometimes perhaps not, each viewer has to decide for himself. Sacha Baron Cohen is a 37 yo frequent Oscar and Emmy award nominee for his HBO gig Ali G, but has scored only a Golden Globe, making a scene even with his acceptance speech. He's a Cambridge University grad with a quick wit pinpointing the sad state of some lives, the bigotry and hate they display and the ignorance they practice.

Barbara Walters insists Bruno will only make homophobes more homophobic, and that it's actually rated xxx and I say all this may be true, Babs, but I say see it anyway, it's hilarious and thought provoking, just bring your savvy and your intellect, and leave all impossibilities at the door.

© 2009 - Jonathan W. Wind - Air Date: 08/26/09
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Baader-Meinhof Complex - Movie Review

By Moira Sullivan

The Oscar nominated Baader Meinhof Complex (best foreign language film from Germany) was bound to be made, and Uli Edel has done it. Not since Margarethe von Trotta’s The German Sisters (1981) has such a compelling film been made on the political violence of German youth in the late 60s and 70’s. It was a time of rebellion against the police state Germany had become and many decided to strike back with force. The Red Army Faction (RAF) was formed in 1976 and was behind several bombings, kidnapping and assassinations of political leaders. The key members were Andreas Baader, Ulrike Meinhof and Gudrun Ensslin. The film traces the evolution of the group and their demise and secretly arranged execution in prison that was made to look like a suicide.
In the opening scene we learn of the early public attention Ulrike Meinhof (Martina Gedeck) garnished for covering the pompous state visit of the Shah of Iran in 1967, representing a country of vast illiteracy and poverty. She witnessed the protests of young Germans against this visit who were then beaten and shot. Here it is implied that Meinhof is only a step away from acting on her ideals. As a journalist for the left wing magazine , konkret, she is shown in this film to have fallen prey to the ideology of the RAF. But in real life Meinhof had already made Bambule, a film about the ill treatment of young institutionalized women that she believed to be a microcosm of the new fascist post war Germany. So, a consciousness was already there, which made her receptive to the aims of the RAF.
Meinhof is shown in the film to have been the intellectual of the group and to have authored various statements that were issued to the public to explain the intentions of the RAF and also to recruit new members and gain acceptance.
Andreas Baader (Moritz Bleibtreu) was the activist that relied on physical strength and was quick to react. Gudrun Ensslin Johanna Wokalek was equally instinctual. The glamorization of sex and violence in the first half of the film is followed by the cold reality of when the RAF are captured and institutionalized at Stammheim. After being systematically hunted, their destruction became a symbol of the power of German police to restore order. What Germany most feared was that the RAF would inspire German youth to rebel. Because of this they needed to be crushed in any way possible, which the film brilliantly conveys. Bob Dylan's lyrics at the end of the film, "the answer is blowing in the wind" describes how little Germany understood its youth and their rebellion. The Baader Meinhof Complex articulates the mind and muscle behind political violence and it should resonate deeply for those trying to make sense of terrorism today.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan, San Francisco

© 2009 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 09/02/09
Movie Magazine International

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Taking Woodstock - Movie Review

By Moira Sullivan

Taking Woodstock is Ang Lee's latest picture that takes a look at the origins of the Woodstock festival in New York in August of 1969. It is based on the autobiography of Elliot Tiber, the son of two Russian Jewish immigrants who maintain a not very successful farm in upstate New York. James Shamus wrote the screenplay together with Tiber, which is a delightful one. The film gets great support from the outstanding performance of Imelda Staunton as Eliot’s mother Sonia and this is an actress who truly is able to play a wide variety of roles and still remain unique in every one of them.

The story of Woodstock is taken from the point of view of Tiber. In this film he is called Eliot Teichberg, played by newcomer Demitri Martin. This is a great way to look at the Woodstock event for after all must of us have already seen or can see the concert footage. Instead Ang Lee shows us the metamorphosis of the land mass that later was to be home to thousands of middle class young people who came to listen to some great artists perform 40 years ago such as Joe Cocker Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. Though the concert is the impetus, the behind the scenes of the concert is what make this film tick. Lee shows us the periphery of the concert, and we are never taken close to the stage. From the hills of Woodstock, the concert epicenter looks like a shiny jewel with orbits of people in concentric circles as far as one can see. The pulse of the concert is just a boom boom boom for so many of them, and Ang Lee shows us that how much of a happening this actually was.

Not only is Demitri Martin excellent as the enthusiastic and hardworking young Eliot who is on the verge of coming to terms with his sexual orientation, but members of the cast shine such as Liev Schreiber who plays a rugged drag queen named Vilma who helps Eliot to keep order on the farm and drive off the unwanted. It is exciting to watch how Woodstock came to be in humble origins - a gesture on the part of Eliot to give a space to the festival promoters who were tossed out of another community. From there we see how the town gears up for the event and how the preparations begin and take form. Taking Woodstock is about Woodstock, the people who surrounded the event, as any mass event that is about a main attraction that brings everyone together. It is as such an excellent human-interest story that is warm and entertaining. Eliot gets his chance to attend the festival on the last day when Joe Cocker is performing and the rain came and muddied the farmland, but he will always be the man who gave the festival its home.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan San Francisco.

© 2009 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date:08/26/09
Movie Magazine International