Friday, September 29, 2006

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater

Caught this documentary on HBO earlier today—from the trailer, I thought it would be more exciting, but sadly it was actually kind of boring.

Created by his granddaughter, the film follows the political and personal life of famous Arizona senator Barry Goldwater. It's comprehensive and linear, but what it lacks is an intimacy that should be evident when a family member recounts the life of someone close to them.

Senator Goldwater had an interesting life—he was a politician, family man, photographer and special friend to Native American tribes throughout the southwest (in that order). Notable figures such as Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Senator Hillary Rodham-Clinton share personal stories of his climb to the top and provide testimonials as to what a nice man he really was.

And I suppose that's where we have our story.

Not in his wild successes and low failures as a politician, but in his kind and compassionate heart that stayed with him and those around him until his death in 1998.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Friday, September 22, 2006

Hollywoodland

Today I yawned my way through Hollywoodland starring Ben Affleck and Diane Lane.

I can't put my finger on exactly what I disliked about the movie, except to say that there just wasn't much to it.

The acting is strong—Diane Lane as a controlling older mistress (Toni Mannix) and Ben Affleck as the doomed TV star (George Reeves). While they were the main characters in the story, the supporting players were more exciting. Robin Tunney plays a colorful and cunning gold digger (Leonore Lemmon), leaving the viewers to doubt if the late actor's fiancĂ© ever loved him at all. And Adrian Brody's portrayal of investigator Louis Simo is easily the best performance in the film.

That said, for such an interesting real-life story, the Hollywood version falls short.

Sure, there are brawls in the street and innocent people turning up dead and scorned husbands, wives and lovers...but none of it is enough to get the pulse racing.

And at the end of the day, if Reeves really did kill himself, you have to wonder why. He had a successful (if not ideal) TV career and was on a path to directing and producing features. There was no shortage of women in his life and he still had a substantial fan base.

A senseless tragedy, no matter how it happened.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

This Film Is Not Yet Rated

Saw this fun documentary tonight during a free screening.

It's about the secrecy surrounding the MPAA and the ridiculous lengths one has to go to to learn the identities of the members and even the names of the 'non-secret' appeals board.

The director actually hires private detectives to get to the bottom of this and the entire film follows them on their journey.

There's humor, explicit sex (scenes from other movies) and thought provoking questions about how far this organization goes to censor artists. There are clear biases and those are discussed by thoughtful persons of the industry ranging from Maria Bello to John Waters. Kevin Smith was probably my favorite famous face.

If you value free speech and the preservation of art as it was intended, go see it.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Saint of 9/11

Tonight I saw Saint of 9/11, a documentary about FDNY Chaplain Mychal Judge.

I attended a special screening made up of movie club members and guests from our own Seattle PD. I'm convinced it was the best possible way I could've spent the 5th anniversary of the attack on our country. 'Anniversary' is the wrong word, but I'm at a loss for a good synonym on this somber night.

The mood was quiet before the movie began. It might have been my imagination, but I'll swear people were more polite as they were searching for seats and settling in. The SIFF representative welcomed the audience, said a few words (folks clapped for our guests from the PD) and the lights went down. Not one peep of noise was heard for the next 95 minutes.

Father Mychal Judge was an Irish boy that grew up in New York. His father died at a young age and he and his two sisters were raised by his mother. He was always a life-loving, kind, sweet soul.

At a young age, he knew his calling was to serve God, so he began religious studies in the Franciscan order. After he became a priest, he struggled with alcoholism and his sexual orientation.

He remained a closeted homosexual out of respect for the church that he so loved, but trusted his close friends and associates with the truth. Over time, he became more open about his sexuality because he realized it humanized him in the eyes of the people.

Anecodotes and stories about his life were provided by friends, churchgoers, firefighters, politicians, priests, nuns and street people. Gay and straight, black and white. All of them mentioned his kind spirit, his sense of humor and his compassion for the poor.

An AIDS activist remembered how sad it was when the virus was still an unknown killer in the early 80s. Victims of it were isolated by friends and family in their final days for fear of spreading or catching it. Father Judge visited all of them, without protective masks or gloves and even kissed them and massaged their feet. He administered the Last Rites to dying homosexuals and spoke at their funerals with tenderness and pride for their accomplishments in life.

He was a loyal member of Alcoholics Anonymous and was 23 years sober when he was laid to rest.

He counseled families for months following the airplane crash of flight 800.

He worshiped with the gay Catholic group 'Dignity.'

He acquired winter coats for the homeless each year by persuading shop owners to give him discounts or not charge him at all, and delivered them in his official FDNY vehicle.

This hero was the first recorded death in New York City on September 11, 2001.

Footage of his September 10, 2001 sermon is played throughout the film and prior readings are told by narrator Ian McKellan.

Father Judge spoke of God's Kingdom of Heaven becoming bright with beautiful souls after devastating tragedies that capture many good lives all at once.

I can think of no one more deserving for the title of Saint than Father Mychal Judge.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Monday, September 04, 2006

Little Peace of Mine

A nice surprise I stumbled upon tonight was the documentary Little Peace of Mine, a story that follows a group of Israeli children in search of peace.

The star of the show is 12 year-old Nadav who spearheads a movement called Peace for the Future, aimed to open the gates of dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian children.

Director Eyal Avneri doesn't show too much of the creation process, but we join Nadav and a few of his friends already in-progress discussing what their goals are for the movement in a very Western-looking fast food restaurant. The talk is candid—Nadav is the eternal optimist that wants the movement to begin small and then replicate into the tens of thousands to result in peace; his buddy is less hopeful and remarks they'll be doing well if they get a handful of participants from the other side. Despite their differences of opinion, they pledge to work together along with a few others.

With the help of what appears to be an established peace organization (run by adults), the kids schedule a meeting with a leader of the opposing party. They act like kids, munching on pastries and chatting on the car en route to the summit, but once they arrive they are all business. They carefully explain what their goals are in a respectful and professional manner: they want to meet with kids their own age from the Palestinian side and convince them to join their movement. The leader is hesitant, but polite and promises to do what he can to help them. Then he sends them on their way. As they're leaving the meeting, they very briefly get stuck in an elevator. The lights go out, Nadav panics and you feel the fear they must live with on a daily basis. Thankfully, it's just a minor electrical blip and they're safely deposited a few seconds later, but it was a great way to convey the tension that exists and the inherent lack of trust the opposing sides have for one another.

Later we see the first meeting between the two sides, which is incredibly awkward. Since English is the only common language between the kids, it's what they use during their time together (which makes it a bit more challenging for both sides to communicate). The Israeli kids seem too eager and the Palestinian kids almost appear frightened. The Israeli kids mention this afterward and the adults tell them that next time they'll get children that are more interested in what they're trying to do.

And they do.

What follows is an inspirational journey through the friendship of two groups of friends from both sides and more specifically two young leaders—Nadav (our star)—and Mai, a 13 yar-old Palestinian girl just as interested in peace as him.

We watch them draw together, enjoy arts and crafts, and engage in lively debates about their religions and governments. It's intelligent, thoughtful and productive—which is more than either of them can say for their current government's methods. The heartbreaking thing is that the kids have a terrible time visiting one another because of the danger at the checkpoints. Little Nadav has a clever idea, mentioning that they should all 'be Arab' going into Palestine and when they come back they should all 'be Israeli.' The answers really are so simple, aren't they?

What's most compelling is a talk that Nadav and Mai have after encountering some less-than-friendly soldiers at the border. They discuss the fact Nadav will have to be a soldier when he grows up or else he will be imprisoned. Mai asks him if he will kill her people if ordered to. He says of course he wouldn't. And that he hopes things will be better by the time he turns 18.

We all do too.