Fort Bliss [2014)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned growing up and living in San Antonio, it’s that I love the men and women of the U.S. military.

And here is a hell of a film.

It shows the sacrifice of deployment.

But more than that.

It digs deeper.

It gets at a very peculiar feeling.

Readjustment.

And redeployment.

Have you ever felt like you are unwanted?

It’s the weird things the brain does.

This film specifically deals with the trouble of deploying and leaving behind a young child.

If you go to Afghanistan (as in this movie), you can’t take your family.

Korea, yes.

Afghanistan, no.

Maggie Swann is gone for 15 months.

Her son is five when she comes back.

He doesn’t remember.

The brain is growing.

Changing rapidly.

It is traumatic.

Too much change.

Go live with mom now.

Not easy for a little kid.

Ah!

But I forgot one salient detail.

Maggie Swann is divorced.

And her ex-husband watches Paul while she’s gone.

But there’s another catch.

Another woman.

Who becomes like a mother.

And this is what tears at Maggie Swann.

While serving her country as an Army medic, 15 precious months disappear.

She has done the right thing for her country.

But her reward is a son who barely knows her.

She doesn’t have much to come back to in El Paso.

At Fort Bliss.

This is some real shit.

Whataburger on the roadside.

Strip club.

Gun store.

Base housing.

And finally…a house.

Temporarily.

Orders.

Claudia Myers did an excellent job here.

Don’t make propaganda.

Just tell the truth.

Well done.

Show what is not usually shown.

But this film equally needed the amazing acting talents of Michelle Monaghan.

Monaghan plays Staff Sergeant Swann.

Makes us think Proust.

Excellent performance.

Tour of duty.

Gut-wrenching.

Takes everything you’ve got.

Way to look at life.

Second tour of duty.

All of the actors do a great job here.

The thing I took away from this film is to have courage.

And also that it is so important to have someone back home to think of.

When in battle, it is so important to have someone to be fighting for.

 

-PD

Lady Bird [2017)

So much has happened since I last wrote.

Since I last really wrote.

The world has changed.

Donald Trump is President.

And the effort to oust him continues.

But I still support him.

Not blindly.

And yet.

A movie.

Here.

Lady Bird.

At first glance, a daft filmic gesture.

Taken again, a poignant slow-boiler.

And finally I watched the whole thing.

On the third try.

It’s like making a hazelnut blonde latte.

You put the hazelnut.

Pump-specific for size.

And you pull your shots of espresso.

And midway through, you realize you are pulling regular shots.

So you start over.

BLONDE espresso.

And you make the drink the second time.

And you hand it off.

And the drink comes back.

It wa sup be ic.

Iced.

All these fucking abbreviations.

Like being a part of the “intelligence community”.

So you make this same pitiful beverage a third time.

And by now you are woefully behind on the assembly line.

Once behind, there is very little chance of catching up.

Oh.

You will catch up.

Or fall over dead.

And probably no one will care either way.

This is Lady Bird.

Sacramento.

San Antonio.

Orlando.

Shitholes masquerading as metropolises.

Oklahoma City.

Provincial nightmares.

Greta Gerwig did a good job.

I ripped her to shreds the first time I saw her mise-en-scène.

Like a fucking JV football coach blocking The Tempest on a chalkboard.

Bad.

But, as we know, each film is its own language.

Each auteur, or metteur en scène (as the case may be), is a Rosetta Stone.

Mashed together.

Bleeding from one translation to another.

Along the gnarled edge pulled from from the Nile.

Trump is hard-pressed on every side.

And what is this #QAnon business?

Is it real?

I hope so.

Yet it’s terrifying.

Life, mainly.

The whole enchilada.

You work your balls off.

For what?

Are you happy?

Yeah, me neither.

And then you get to a place in life where you have no friends.

Yep.

That’s me.

It’s over.

Right now.

No friends.

Family, yes.

Thank God.

But no friends.

And you feel like a failure to have let down your family.

But maybe you came back for them.

You lazy Messiah, you.

You laid it all on the table…the altar.

Hammered to the sacrifice plane.

And also, you were really dumb.

As always.

But it is an idiot-savant dumbness.

Fuck.

I have a Master’s degree.

And a really specialized bachelor’s degree.

And the two together put me in position to do…just about nothing.

I could find that job.

But it wouldn’t be here.

But let’s talk about drugs.

Sickness.

Exercise.

Work.

Exhaustion.

Sacramento.

Mundane life.

I have hung on.

Barely, sometimes.

As today.

Fucking horrible shift.

God damn it.

Don’t get me started at this late hour.

This elderly midnight.

Premature.

“Time to make the donuts.”

I watch a film, and then I write about it.

Except that it hasn’t happened in a long time.

Because my job is a shock to the senses.

It is a brutal concatenation of events which beat upon my body and soul.

And my PSYCHE!

My brain.

My health.

Exercise good.

Stress bad.

Laziness gets no exercise.

Work gets exercise.

Work gets stress.

It is a tradeoff.

Decision theory.

And so I humbly pray to God.

That God will send me friends.

That love has not passed me by forever.

That my mind will be healed.

That my body will be strengthened.

That i will find the will to make difficult choices.

Which lead to health and happiness.

It is uphill.

I am not young like Lady Bird.

I’m old.

I’m a failure.

“I been all around the world, boys…”

What does life hold for me?

What does tomorrow hold?

Can I get out of fucking bed?

Will my joints ache as much as they usually do?

What’s the point?

What’s the plan?

Must rest to continue.

Must have hope to continue.

Where’s the hope?

I need hope.

I am a religious man.

And so I ask God, here among witnesses, to grant me hope.

I ask that my method be acceptable.

I believe in God.

And I feel the Spirit with me now.

I am scared.

I don’t know what the next day brings.

I don’t know which way to steer my ship.

And so I ask for Divine intervention.

A nudge.

A signal.

A sign.

That still-small voice.

Lord, help me to know.

Where to go.

Help me in my weakness.

Shore up my deficiencies.

Make your power evident in my poverty.

A film.

Lady Bird.

A country.

Coup and countercoup.

Q is the countercoup.

Assuming it’s real.

And a life.

I am here.

I can watch films.

When my brain allows.

But I know that in order to keep going, I need a miracle.

What will it be?

I have no idea.

I ask, Lord, that you have mercy upon me.

I ask that you comfort me and give me guidance.

I come to your feet humbly.

This is an excellent movie.

Saoirse Ronan is great here.

It is a poignant story by Greta Gerwig.

May we all be richly blessed by the Creator.

I pray this is Jesus’ name.

 

-PD

Beynelmilel [2006)

Wow 🙂

What a beautiful and perfect movie!

The International.

Yes, we are back to Turkey.

But this film is very much about the passions of youthful revolution.

Is Trump a revolutionary?

Of course.

Was George Washington a revolutionary?

Of course.

But the strain of revolutionary verve in this film is that of communism.

I don’t hate communism.

I don’t hate anything.

But I think some things are not so good.

With communism, I mainly criticize it on an economic level.

Have I read Marx?

Not very much.

But I’ve read enough Debord to get the late-60s version of Marxism.

I would argue that Debord, one of my three favorite writers, was at his best when he was NOT talking about Marxism.

When he goes off on Marxist tangents, he loses me.

I find it boring.

And, as I’ve said, I object to it on economic grounds.

I have a college degree in music.

[which will be very important in reviewing this film]

But I have an advanced degree (above and beyond that) in business.

Am I a genius of economics?  No.

But I questioned.  I was skeptical.  I studied Marx.

And I found the capitalist system to be the best system.

It is, by no means, perfect.

And so why, then, do I like Guy Debord?

Perhaps no one in history hated capitalism more than Guy Debord 🙂

I respect Debord because he was a brilliant social critic.

I do not agree with his economic assumptions.

I do not agree with his Marxist assumptions.

But when it comes to a critique of capitalism (which is the underpinning of globalism), no one has found the flaws like Debord.

No one has completely dismantled the matrix in which we live (the “spectacle”) quite like Debord.

And so his book The Society of the Spectacle is essential reading in my opinion.

At least the first few chapters.

As I said, Debord gets a bit bogged down in Marxism and loses his poetic divining power concomitantly.

But let’s discuss this film.

This is, by far, the best Turkish film I’ve ever seen.

Granted, I think this is only the fourth I’ve ever watched 🙂

But this is really a special movie!

Wikipedia says that it is set in a small town near Adana.

For that, I will say hi to the American soldiers at Incirlik Air Base 🙂

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for representing the United States.  Thank you for your service.  We love you and we pray for your safety and happiness!

It is true.

I love our American troops.

Most of my life I did not appreciate these wonderful people.

I took it for granted…

“Somebody will do that job…”

But in my older age, I respect these soldiers very much.

But let us shift back to this film.

First, let us thank the two directors:  Sırrı Süreyya Önder and Muharrem Gülmez.

They have made an almost perfect movie.

Really, this film is so, so good!

But you must be warned, my dear friends:  it is simple.

It you are looking for a complex, confusing film, then you will be disappointed.

Such that, you must be like a child–like a youth to appreciate the naïveté of this masterwork.

So I would say this:  it’s a bit like a Turkish version of Cinema Paradiso.

Do you see what I am getting at?

It is poetic.

The mise-en-scène is a bit like what we might expect from Claude Monet (were he still alive).

It is loving.

Large swaths of color.

And, perhaps most quintessential, it is unassuming.

Down to earth.

There’s no condescension in this film.

Come as you are.

First movie you’ve ever seen?

No problem 🙂

It is that sort of loving masterpiece!

It is set in Turkey in 1982.

Cassettes 🙂

80s-style clothing.  The Turkish version 🙂

A junta is in place.  A military government.  Martial law.

And one band of musicians gets rooked into being a “marching band” (of sorts).

But these are folk musicians 🙂

They don’t play brass instruments.  They don’t play the sousaphone.

So it is a very steep learning curve (which sounds a lot like Charles Ives in its beginning stages) 🙂

But let’s get to the most important point.

“I fell in love with the actress/She was playing a part that I could understand”

[Neil Young]

Yes.

Özgü Namal.

Just two years younger than me.

She is the star of this film.

Amazing facility as an actress.

But really just a glow–a vibrance in her every gesture.

Here is someone who is glad to be alive 🙂

And it made me glad to be alive!!!

But let me tell you the other star:  Cezmi Baskın!

This man!

He has no Wikipedia page in English, but he is a wiseman.

A humanist.

A saint of an actor.

A craftsman.

He plays the bandleader.

And his daughter in the film is Özgü Namal.

Umut Kurt does a very good job as the young communist.

And, hence, the title of the film:  The International.

“L’Internationale” 🙂

The most famous of communist anthems.

Yes, dear friends, it is that melody written in 1888 by Pierre De Geyter which is the MacGuffin of this film.

The whole plot hinges on it.

Derrida would call it the brisure (if film were a text).

To deconstruct.

The hinge.

I will say this:  the struggles in this film are very real to this day for the people of Turkey.

I would say our communist character would probably today be a member of the CHP party in Turkey:  Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi.

The Republican People’s Party 🙂

Which is funny because in the U.S., the Republicans (whom I support…more or less) are conservative or “right wing”.

So, yes:  the CHP is “left wing”.

But as I say, this is a very fine film.

It shows very much the love which a father can have for his daughter.

It shows the sacrifices which parents make for their children.

Parents will even die to save their children.

This is a funny movie, but it has this tone of seriousness as well.

Actually, the whole film is like a brilliant joke 🙂

It starts very serious…

But the it becomes festive and ridiculous!

Most of all, there are so many poetic camera shots of Turkish life.

Little things which we don’t see in America.

So an American can learn some of another culture.

But also, we see that people all around the world have similar worries and dreams as us.

Well, I don’t want to tell you too much.

I will just say that this is well-worth watching.

It is a bit long, but I watched it in two installments.

And the subtitles are good 🙂

Anyway, it is on Netflix streaming in the U.S. currently as Beynelmilel.

I am so glad I found this film 🙂

Güle güle

 

-PD

Bound by Flesh [2012)

I never know.

What I’m getting into.

These movies.

In the hopper.

And then spit out by a sort of roulette.

That I forget.

Anything I might have known.

And mostly I don’t want to know.

I just want to “pull the trigger” on these films.

Give it a try.

Try to watch it.

And boy did I find a doozy.  A masterpiece.  A truly special film.

Bound by Flesh is a documentary currently streaming in the U.S. on Netflix.

It was directed by Leslie Zemeckis.

Wife of Robert Zemeckis.

Now.

There are a couple of things which slayed me concerning this film.

First, is San Antonio.

My town.

The boring shithole in which I live.

A place so lifeless, so meaningless…that one must comb through the relics hoping for some shard of redemption.

Yes, Robert Johnson recorded here.

But he also recorded in Dallas.

And that was it.

So we have that half distinction.

And Pola Negri lived here.

We are very honored by that.

And Wings was made here.  The first film to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

But none of these things helps me to get up in the morning (or the middle of the day).

The 15-or-so years I lived in Austin, I had the legend of Sterling Morrison to give me hope.

Guitarist with The Velvet Underground.

Doctorate in medieval literature from UT-Austin.

And the Hole In The Wall was my sort of Mecca…because Sterling had played there.

But San Antonio has been an unmagical destination of return.

These past five (?) years.

But I say with utmost honesty…with absolute sincerity.

The story of Daisy and Violet Hilton has helped me.

These Siamese twins.

So beautiful!

I mean, really:  the two most beautiful girls you’ve ever seen.

And so The Smashing Pumpkins start to make sense.

That time at the Sunken Gardens Theater.

When I was but 17.

And they were touring Siamese Dream.

And my ballet classmate magically pirouetted out on stage.

“How the hell did you get up there?,” we asked her on Monday morning.

It was all magical.

The venue.

The Sunken Gardens.

But now it makes sense.

Siamese Dream.

Daisy and Violet (hereafter to be reversed) lived in San Antonio.

Their (by all accounts) evil manager Myer Myers (what a fucked up name!) built a huge mansion on Vance Jackson (that’s a street here) with the money he skimmed (or ladled) from his cash cows.

The freaks.

Violet and Daisy.

One of the best films I’ve seen in the past years is Violet & Daisy.

With my favorite working actress (Saoirse Ronan) and the very-fine Alexis Bledel.

So we shall go with that.

Violet and Daisy.

Indeed, all throughout this documentary, a prominent curator from the Witte Museum (our old, yet newly-renovated…reopening repository here in San Antonio) gives her articulate insights into the life of Violet and Daisy.

[that curator, incidentally, is the excellent Amy Fulkerson]

Ok…so the twins lived in San Antonio.

Great.

But what else?

Well, it was their route.

Talk about circuitous.

Born in Brighton, England.

Home of Nick Cave.

Hell, home of Jonny Aitken (hi Jonny!) last time I checked.

Interestingly, the twins next big locale change was to Australia.

Which is to say, their life was like Nick Cave in reverse.

And Cave would certainly gravitate to this sort of story.

Dark.

Freak shows.

Carnival midway.

Vaudeville.

[and the death of minstrelsy…{think Emmett Miller}]

Burlesque.

[and the death of vaudeville]

Drive-ins.

Hell…Violet and Daisy were in Freaks by Tod Browning!

Yeah, the guy who directed Dracula starring Bela Lugosi.

But as with many show business stories, this one turns sad.

And yet…as Ms. Fulkerson makes clear, the Hilton twins never gave up.

They had an indomitable spirit.

It may be cheesy to reference, but it reminds me of one of U2’s finest songs (off the very-fine War album).

“Two Hearts Beat As One”

Sure…Violet and Daisy didn’t stay in San Antonio.

They eventually moved on to New York.

And finally to Charlotte and environs.

But their story is so damned inspiring!

And to think that they graced my town 🙂

That they had their trial in 1931 (?) down at the red brick courthouse.

That Myer Myers got what was coming to him.

Which brings us to a parallel point.

To something I haven’t covered in a LONG time.

Pizzagate.

Or Pedogate.

Most of all, the John Podesta scandal which WikiLeaks unearthed.

First, I’d like to salute all the people who turned out in D.C. on the 25th to advocate for missing children.

We’re talking kidnapped, trafficked, raped, killed children.

And there is a very disturbing “video” of which I was just made aware today thanks to the ever-vigilant reporter David Seaman.

Said video is more sound than image, but it is purported to be a recording of John Podesta beating a child at Comet Ping Pong in Washington, D.C. at a Heaving Breathing show.

Heavy Breathing is one of the bizarre bands (including Sex Stains) which played at this “family” venue run by James Alefantis.

Simply put:  John Podesta’s cryptographically verifiable emails on WikiLeaks seem to point to him being AT BEST a pedophile, and at worst a violent child molester possibly involved in Satanic ritual sacrifice of children.

I’m not making this shit up.

Go read the emails for yourself.

Do some research.

It is the freakiest shit on the planet.

Look at it too long, and you want to vomit (while beating the crap out of Podesta).

That’s level one.

The emails.

Level two is/are the tentacles.

It involves Hillary.

Why was Hillary seemingly covering for Laura Silsby in Haiti?

In other words, why was the Secretary of State (Clinton) interceding for an American woman who had been convicted of child trafficking in Haiti?

You can read the story.

Likewise, certain of these Clinton emails are on WikiLeaks.

There are the “after ‘wheels-up'” statements.

But then we get to James Alefantis.

This motherfucker…

No, actually…if he was fucking mothers that would be somewhat socially acceptable.

Be it appears that his establishment IS INDEED integral to unraveling the pedogate ring.

To sum up, it appears that American “elites” (both Democrat and Republican) have a certain predilection for little boys and girls.

Some of the elites are also heavily immersed in occult practices.

Hillary is one of these.

Larry Nichols confirmed that Bill Clinton told him specifically of Hillary’s monthly jaunts to California to participate in a witches’ coven.

As I’ve mentioned before, Hillary would not have been playing second fiddle at such events.

And if that seems farfetched, we can point to the Bohemian Club (aka Bohemian Grove) [also in California] and their yearly opening ceremony called “the Cremation of Care”…at which they perform a “mock” sacrifice of an infant in the shadows of a giant (40 ft-tall?) statue of Moloch.

This is the meeting that has drawn (and continues to draw) the likes of Kissinger, Ted Turner, Reagan, Nixon…and so many more “elites”.

But let’s back up one level.

James Alefantis is a “bad (or sick)” person.

Ok, I couldn’t help it.

More accurately, he’s a sick, sick person.

His Instagram was archived.

And, as David Seaman correctly points out, it fetishizes the sale and abuse of children.

[this is where Violet and Daisy come back in…because they had no one truly looking out for them]

But let’s move laterally for a moment.

The sickest of the bunch might just be Tony Podesta, John’s brother.

This guy’s art collection is like a pedophile’s dream.

But also a Satanist’s dream.

The art that Tony Podesta (and his former wife Heather) collected (and presumably still collect) is some sick fucking shit!

So when you start to tie all this stuff together, John Podesta’s coded (not encrypted) messages made public by WikiLeaks start to take on a very ominous tone indeed.

But the video I alluded to can be found with a simple Google search of “John Podesta Skippy video”.

Yes, even the woeful Huffington Post (I refuse to italicize that crap publication) wrote about John Podesta’s bizarre alter ego years ago:  Skippy.

As stated, to my eyes, the video shows very little.

But the sound is of the utmost importance.

Unfortunately, with my highly-trained ear (I advanced a year in ear training classes in one day of university) I am not hearing what other researchers are hearing.

HOWEVER, it seems that someone is fucking with John Podesta.

And I can’t help thinking that is, in general, a good thing.

In other words, someone has “the goods” on Podesta.

The video, incidentally, ostensibly has a child (a horrifying sound…like Lou Reed’s Berlin to the nth degree) begging “John” and (not-quite-alternately) “Skippy” to stop the beating.

I will say this.

I do believe it to be a genuine article.

But in my honesty, I do not hear the words “John” nor “Skippy” at any point.

Yet, I believe it is John Podesta beating a child.

And I believe the general outline of pizzagate/pedogate to be true.

And so, dear friends, we owe it to children to remain vigilant.

Sexual abuse ruins lives.

It is very likely that Podesta (and his brother) himself (themselves) was (were) abused.

It doesn’t excuse their actions.

But it goes a certain distance in explaining them.

However, the occult (which has a direct tie-in to Marina Abramovic…again, verified in WikiLeaks emails) aspect is really hard to fathom.

It’s so bad that I don’t want to fathom it.

But we can’t ignore it.

We can’t be afraid.

We can’t just roll over and die.

I’d rather be wrong about Podesta than for a single child to suffer rape or torture or death at the hands of sadistic monsters.

So there you have it.

That’s how a Pauly Deathwish review goes.

Buy the ticket.  Take the ride.

As Hunter S. Thompson said.

I will tell you when a film sucks.

And I will tell you when a film is great.

And I will also tell you when something in the world is fucked up.

The nightly news and the morning paper won’t say “fucked up”.

And, somehow, that explains why they are truth-neutered.

But I ain’t got nothin’ to lose.

My life sucks.

And my life is beautiful.

But I’m down here at the bottom.

On the killing floor, as Howlin’ Wolf sang.

The abattoir blues, as Nick Cave sang.

I ain’t so deluded as to think that lying will get me a better life.

I’m sick of lies.

I’m too old to care.

Go ahead, kill me.

It doesn’t matter.

I’ve got no career for you to ruin.

And I understand the high bar for libel of public figures.

So go ahead, John Podesta:  keep comparing us to Sandy Hook truthers.

Yes, by the way, Sandy Hook was fake.

But you’re not weaseling out of this one.

You’re caught.

So let that Raskolnikov guilt sink in.

A thousand times worse than death.

You are a sick, sick person.

I hope I’m wrong.

But I don’t fucking think so.

-PD

An American in Madras [2013)

Here we come again to India.

And again to Tamil Nadu.

When last we visited India in our minds, we spoke of For the Love of a Man.

Another Tamil documentary.

About the superstar of South India:  Rajinikanth.

But An American in Madras takes us back.

WAY back!

Indeed, it is the story of a man named Ellis Dungan.

And his 15 years of fame (complete with tuned klaxons) [meme mixing] was 1935-1950.

Ellis Dungan from Barton, Ohio.

Who went to Spain.

And bicycled to France.

Worked a bit in Paris.

Became interested in photography.

And somehow ended up in one of the first cinema cohorts at USC.

Met an Indian student.

Got an invite to Madras (Chennai).

And six months turned into fifteen years.

Isn’t that the way life works?

If you think I’ve spoiled too much of this story, you’re WAY wrong.

There is so much more to this fantastic documentary directed by Karan Bali.

Mr. Bali is in his prime, being just 48 years young.

But he has made a significant contribution to cinema with this picture.

Yes, this story is unique and compelling.

But again, we get a priceless view of India.

I promise we will move from Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu eventually (the only two provinces I have really covered).

But you really must see An American in Madras.

It is currently on Netflix.

And by the screenshot–the thumbnail…you might think it’s about a Jewish director.

That would be wonderful and fine.

But you would be wrong in assuming such.

Indeed, it seems that the six-pointed star on the “film poster” is not the Star of David but perhaps, rather, the Star of Goloka.

Which is to say, an Indian six-pointed star.

And though there are (and certainly were) Jews in India (though not very many…all things considered), An American in Madras is just about a bloke from Ohio who somehow ended up directing some (14) of the classic Tamil-language films.

1935-1950.

He left India at the behest of his wife.

They divorced a short time later.

Okay, ok…I will stop giving spoilers.

But suffice it to say that An American in Madras tackles a very sticky conundrum:

motivation.

For most of my life, my main motivation has been EXPRESSION…

What I’m doing right now.

Showing off my verbiage.

But hopefully adding value to the world.

[there goes my business school dissection…it’s second-nature now!]

And yet, my motivation changed.

For I was presented with a crossroads.

Not like Robert Johnson’s crossroads…

But more like Robert Frost’s crossroads.

Two paths.

God damn it!

I chose the path less-taken.

I chose love.

Not lust.

Not romance.

Just love.

And it doesn’t make me a saint.

But it is what it is.

I gave up music.

I gave up expression as my main motivation.

And I attempted to evolve.

To nudge an inch closer to nirvana.

I chose love.

As my main motivation.

It is not a rockstar path.

Mother Theresa probably had some pretty rough days…

And I ain’t no Mother Theresa.

But I’m trying.

Trying to put other people before myself.

Often failing.

But steadfast.

I am on the path.

And yes, I become wistful.

It seems like 40 years ago.

Maybe I can catch a wisp of song in my memory…a shard…a sherd…some hieroglyph of my past life.

But growing into an adult can entail smiling through the tears.

Singing a snippet, and being glad to be here now.

-PD

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory [2005)

I was very apprehensive.

Because I loved the original so much.

1971.

Trying to remake one of the best films ever.

An unenviable task.

But Tim Burton was bringing it all back home.

1964.  Roald Dahl.

But let’s take a step further back.

Camp X.  Ontario.

“Established” December 6, 1941.

Yes.  You read that right.

The day before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

It was established by the “real” James Bond:  a Canadian by the name of William Stephenson.

His codename?  Intrepid.

He oversaw British intelligence, MI6, for the entire Western hemisphere during WWII.

(!)

Roald Dahl, the author of the children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was one of the men trained at Camp X (today known as Intrepid Park).

So it should go without saying that we are not dealing with just any children’s author.

And herein lies the secret of Tim Burton’s success.

He reimagined.

I fully expected full-on ball-tripping excess in homage to Mel Stuart’s “wondrous boat ride” of 1971, but Burton managed to restrain himself.

Indeed, the psychedelia of this film (and weirdness in general) is evident throughout almost every part of the film…EXCEPT THERE.

And so I must hesitantly call 2005’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory a masterpiece.

Against all odds.

It’s only fitting that the lead child actor who plays Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore) was born on Valentine’s Day.

Yes Virginia, perhaps some things are fated.

Highmore is fantastic in a role created by Peter Ostrum.

And though we miss Diana Sowle and her priceless rendition of “Cheer Up, Charlie”, Helena Bonham Carter is quite magnificent in her limited scenes as the cabbage-cutting Mrs. Bucket.

But Tim Burton updates our story considerably to make it more relatable to the Harry Potter generation (and the service-industry pipe dream known as the “third industrial revolution”…for the “adults” in the crowd).

Yes, we needs must only revisit Eliyahu Goldratt’s “business novel” The Goal to remember the shortsighted “local efficiencies” which factory robots can produce.

By the way:  there’s a father Bucket.  And he runs into a patch of robot trouble.

Updated.

But Tim Burton does not stop there.  Whereas the original film focused tentatively on child  spies (remember the purloined Everlasting Gobstopper?), the film under review seems to situate itself amidst the full-scale industrial espionage (and, in particular, intellectual property theft) which the United States attributes to China.

But let us pay our respects here.

David Kelly was fantastic as Grandpa Joe.  Truly a wonderful performance!  And we are sad to have lost his talents in 2012.

Reading from back to front:

-our Augustus Gloop is somewhat forgettable (save for his Lowera Bowie hair tint)

-AnnaSophia Robb is appropriately snotty as the overachieving brat Violet Beauregarde  [How did Tarantino not hire this girl for his next refried kung-fu film?!?]

-Julia Winter (who strangely has no Wikipedia page) is really special as the mouthy tart Veruca Salt

-and Jordan Fry plays Mike Teevee (though they might as well have gone with “Hacker” Mike Xbox or some such first-person shooter sobriquet).

And that leaves us with the big dog himself:  Johnny Depp.

Stepping into some very big shoes.

Gene Wilder.  Taken from us just months ago.  A truly magical being.

And so Depp and Burton needed a strategy.

And it appears it was something like, “Ok, let’s make him weirder.  Like, lots weirder.  Remember those sunglasses Keith Richards wore on Between the Buttons?  And the hair like Brian Jones.  Prim.  Proper.  Rocker.  Ok, ok…but we want the Salinger recluse thing with some Prince or Michael Jackson oddity.  Purple velvet.  Ok, yes…we’re getting somewhere.”

Most striking, however, is Depp’s accent.  Very Ned Flanders…but possessed by the thoughts of Salvador Dalí.

But the Burton touch shows through.  That macabre glee.

A little cannibalism joke here.  “Which half of your child would you prefer?”

Oddities.

Though tempered by quick-tongued childlike wonder, Depp is still a rather darker Wonka than Wilder’s fatherly archetype.

Yes, Depp could fit fairly well into Kraftwerk (especially germane had Augustus from Düsseldorf won the grand prize).

Johnny and his purple latex gloves.

Not a touchy-feely Wonka.

Doesn’t even bother to learn the kids names.  [there’s only five]

Totally off his rocker.

Makes Gene Wilder’s Wonka seem like Mister Rogers in comparison.

But this is mostly secondary to the success of this film.

Tim Burton evidently didn’t feel making a true family film was beneath him.

And so, perhaps with a bit of inspiration from Wes Anderson, he made an immensely touching picture here.

Charlie Bucket is the kid we need in the world.

The chosen one.

The needle in the haystack.

And it is Wonka’s quest to find such a unique child.

Charlie almost gives up the ticket (sells it) to help his desperately poor family, but one of his four bedridden grandparents must have read Hunter S. Thompson at some point.  And so Charlie is convinced to “buy the ticket, take the ride” so to speak.

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Enter Deep Roy (Mohinder Purba) as ALL (and I mean all) of the Oompa-Loompas.

It is in the short (!) song sequences where Burton’s debt to David Lynch emerges.

Kind of like Danny Elfman’s debt to Tom Waits.

Comes and goes.

Burton, being the mischievous connoisseur of all things dark, manages to make Veruca’s exit an homage to Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren (albeit with squirrels).

Very inventive!

Sure, there’s some crap CGI in this film (not to be confused with the even more insidious Clinton Global Initiative), but it is generally restrained.

At a few points, it gets off the rails and threatens to damage an otherwise fine film.

But I tell you this…there are plot twists here which for someone who has merely seen the first film (like myself) truly baffle and surprise.

And they are touching.

So it is with no reservations that I call this a family film.

Sure, some of the jokes are a bit obtuse.

But the framing story (the Bucket family’s existence) is indescribably magical.

It is then, only fitting, that Christopher Lee be the one to welcome the prodigal oddball Depp.

Which is to say, this film has a sort of false ending…which is inexplicable…and genius.

It is at that moment where the film finds its soul.

Family.

Love.

Humility.

Sacrifice.

Happily, Burton gives us a fairy tale ending in which the young mind can work with the eccentric master…and the eccentric master can once again know what home is like.

Home.

Wow…

-PD

Corner Store [2010)

I previously reviewed the Palestinian masterpiece خمس كاميرات محطمة‎‎ (Five Broken Cameras).

And we shall return to Palestine with another moving documentary.

Another masterpiece.

For this one we have a very perceptive American director to thank:  Katherine Bruens.

But all of it would be for naught if not for a shining example of humanity:  corner store owner Yousef Elhaj.

The occupation of Palestine can elicit such feelings of anger and disgust (as well it should).

But every once in a while a real kind spirit comes along.

And such kind spirits shame the despicable Israeli settlers and their vulture military even more so than the most vitriolic polemic.

Yousef Elhaj is such a person.

Sweet.  Hardworking.  Kind.  Quiet.  Patient.  Hardworking.

And (big surprise) a Christian.

Here we see a different perspective from 5 Broken Cameras.

I suppose we are used to assuming that all Palestinians are Muslims (and a vast majority are), but it is interesting to see things from a different perspective.

Elhaj’s life in Bethlehem (occupied West Bank) was just as crappy as that of any Muslim living there or in any other part of the criminally unrecognized Palestine.

Another important point…  Being Christian does not make Elhaj any less Arab.

Most importantly…  Peace in the Middle East is possible because of people like Yousef Elhaj.

He is really a jaw-dropping personage.

So much sacrifice for his family.

7:30 a.m.-midnight.

Seven days a week.

A little corner store on Church St. in San Francisco.

And to see life in Bethlehem.

To see the hell of walls and settlements which the Israelis have erected.

The settlements encroach.  The settlements surround.

Bethlehem is completely encircled by concrete structures which are too artless for even Frank Gehry to barf on.

That’s what settlements mean.

Don’t let the euphemism fool you.

“Settlements” are concrete apartment blocks built on stolen land.

That would be bad enough were it not for the ubiquitous (and racist) walls which stockade Palestine.

And yet we don’t see anger from Mr. Elhaj.

He isn’t shown at a protest.

He just wants his family to be alright.

And his main emotion upon seeing the decline of his home town of Bethlehem is sadness.

The Israeli gun towers.  Turrets to protect the settlers.  And to hell with everyone else.

The sadness as a business man is remarkable.

What made him leave in the first place.

Things weren’t just bad.  They were awful.

And so he has been away from his family for ten years.

He could have brought them to the U.S., but our immigration laws are not written to think of people as people.

Rather, our laws reduce people to statistics.

Quotas.

I can only figure that Mr. Elhaj (as bad as things were for him) actually had it better than Muslim Palestinians hoping to start a new life in America.  [Which is to say, Muslims in general are not in an enviable position at this time regarding their leverage in situations of immigration review.]

So let’s think about it…

Bernie Sanders might be a generally disposable candidate, but he’s gotten a couple things right.

When he talks about America’s strength being its diversity?  He’s absolutely right.

It’s trite.  It’s Democrat politics 101…but it is correct.

And Mr. Trump (whom I like)…  Wanna see what walls do?  Go check out Palestine.  Actually get in the open-air jail.  Don’t view it from a safe distance courtesy of the occupiers.

The walls are ugly.

Sad.

Pathetic.

Fearful.

Weak.

Mr. Elhaj has so much to teach us in this documentary.

You can succeed in America.

The opportunity is there.

It may not be pretty.

But when you’re coming from the hell of Bethlehem, it’s a walk in the park.

You do it all for your family.

Seven days a week.

For ten years.

 

-PD

Moartea domnului Lăzărescu [2005)

They say the British have a peculiar sense of humor.  [Or humour, rather.]

I am beginning to wonder whether Romania has its own brand of comedy which has yet to be fully appreciated by non-Romanians.

That to which I refer is a bit of writing on the Tartan Video box which encases this film The Death of Mr. Lazarescu.

The line in question reads, “THE MOST ACCLAIMED COMEDY [sic] OF THE YEAR”.

Think of the saddest film you’ve ever seen.  Dying Young?  Schindler’s List?

Ok.  Now, tack on the above.  [the most acclaimed comedy of the year]

I’m beginning to wonder if someone at Tartan Films has their head screwed on backwards.

But let’s be fair:  Tartan Films released one of the most important films of the century so far (12:08 East of Bucharest).

Whatever the case may be, let me be clear that The Death of Mr. Lazarescu is (in my book) by no means a comedy.

When I first saw this film it struck me as that which I still regard it:  a sad, sad film.

However, I must point out that this mini-masterpiece from director Cristi Puiu has aged extremely well (unlike the lead character).

The reason this picture is so good is really the immense contribution of Ioan Fiscuteanu and Luminița Gheorghiu.

The late Mr. Fiscuteanu (God rest his soul) gives one of the finest performances in the history of cinema as the titular Dante Remus Lazarescu.  The symbolism of the names should be noted.  Rings of hell.  Ineffective medical systems at the state level.  Heartless bureaucracy.  Song of the South.  Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.  Mr. Bluebird on my shoulder.  And finally, Jesus wept.  Or Jesu swept.  Arise, Lazarus.

The smell…  Ugh.  Yeah…

This film packs a punch.  It is realism.  If you had a hard day at the office, don’t watch this.  Hard day at the coal mine?  Not recommended viewing.

But if you want to see the golden nugget at the center of humanity’s inextinguishable heart, then watch as Luminița Gheorghiu goes beyond the call of duty as nurse Mioara.  She is a paramedic with gall bladder problems.  She and the driver of the ambulance which carts around Mr. Lazarescu make “less than nothing” (to quote the subtitles).

Yes.  You will see the saddest shit imaginable.  You will see an acting tour de force by Ioan Fiscuteanu as what?  An ordinary man.  Age 63.  Headache.  Stomach ache.  Something is wrong.

And.  You will see the real eyes of compassion.  Not too much.  Not too little.  Luminița Gheorghiu.  The nurse who respectfully disagrees.  The nurse who takes insults all night long.  Just to save one man.  Lazarus.

She.  Has to go smoke a cigarette in the kitchen.  The paramedic.  In Russia, every part of the plane is the smoking section.  That was the quote from the inimitable Genghis Blues.  And so.  Romania.  We are not given a year.  A left-running TV offhandedly mentions Timișoara.  Is it the revolution?

What is the ambulance delay?  An hour response time.  In Bucharest!  Pre-Revolution or post-Revolution?

We don’t know.  I don’t know.

Maybe it is left vague on purpose.

In closing, this is a very (very) important film.  It’s like a slap of cold water in the face.  It ain’t pleasant.  This isn’t a fun movie.

But it is wholly worth seeing.  Lead actor Fiscuteanu would be dead within two years.  But you know what?  He did it.  He succeeded.  This is a timeless testament.  Line up Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman…all of them together (at this time) are shit compared to Fiscuteanu’s performance in The Death of Mr. Lazarescu.  Only Hoffman has the chops to challenge.  Dustin, it would have to be even better than Rain Man.  Ready thyself if you want to compete with Ioan Fiscuteanu.  It’s gonna take every pitiful cell in your body.  You can do it.  It might do you in.

-PD