Saturday, May 31, 2008

Surfwise

Today I saw Surfwise, a documentary about the eccentric Dorian Paskowitz and his large, dysfunctional family.

The film chronicles the lives of Dorian and Juliette, a couple madly in love who married and raised their children as beach gypsies, offering them no education or permanent home.

They usually made their life on the beach—Dorian was a passionate surfer who passed along his love for the sport to all of his children. Aside from this, the children were exposed to music, books and endless travel. They slept "like puppies" according to Dorian, piled in next to one another in the camper, and ate nothing impure (mainly living on a gruel made up of berries, nuts, twigs, etc.). Exercise was important, as was a positive attitude and much rest.

Some may say that Dorian had it right to restrict social norms and create a utopian society for his family, but after seeing this, I can't help but be in the opposing camp.

The adult children, all of whom participate in the film, speak of being cheated out of an education (yet Dad was a Stanford-educated doctor before he married Mom) and forced unnecessarily to live in poverty throughout childhood. Most admit that once they were exposed to creature comforts most of us would take for granted, they begged for a sense of normalcy, which they never got. They also spoke repeatedly about being "scarred" sexually because their parents openly and freely made love in front of them on a nightly basis.

Instead of giving it all up for his children, the interviews with Dorian point to the fact he was doing it all for himself and acted as somewhat of a dictator in the household. There wasn't a lack of structure in their world, it was just one imposed by him rather than outside influences.

If Dorian and Juliette had not produced children, and chosen to live a gypsy lifestyle throughout their adult years, I would say power to them and perhaps even be a bit envious, but to bring children into this lifestyle was nothing short of irresponsible.

Thank goodness their love was enough to produce kind, thoughtful children who grew up to be adults that seem to understand they were "wronged," despite the fact they had some undeniably happy times growing up.

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Friday, May 30, 2008

Sex and the City

Tonight I saw Sex and the City, starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Chris Noth.

It was one of the topics of Cinebanter #53, which is available here.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

An American Crime

Tonight I saw An American Crime, starring Catherine Keener and Ellen Page.

The story tells of the true 1965 torture and murder of Sylvia Likens (Page), a girl who was boarded, along with her sister, at the house of a crazy woman as her parents worked in a traveling carnival.

Keener expertly portrays the mother, Gertrude, who is equal parts righteous and restrained. You get the sense that in her warped head, she is doing the "right" thing by punishing a girl who supposedly talks trash about her daughter.

Of course Sylvia isn't really saying anything bad and the woman's daughter is the real whore of the house, but that doesn't stop Gertrude from beating, burning and humiliating her—and instructing others to play along.

The film is like a car accident: on one hand you can't stand to watch because it's morbid; on the other, you can't take your eyes off of it because it is so horrific.

The performances in this film are award-worthy and I hope both ladies get their due credit when all is said and done.

It can't have been an easy film to make.

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Recount

Tonight I watched Recount, starring Kevin Spacey.

It was exactly as I thought it would be—definitely painting a somewhat silly (if not deserving) picture of the republican party and the lawmakers in the election-challenged state of Florida.

Recalling the crises that was the 2000 presidential election, the film shows how both sides handled, maneuvered, fought, schemed, prayed and cried their way through the count, recount and all of the lawsuits in between.

It showed how our system was (is) clearly flawed and that politics were (are) well...ugly.

In other words, it didn't really tell us anything about the incident or about the country that we didn't already know, it just revived the stomach ache some of us still have from that fateful decision eight years ago (and when I say fateful, I do mean it—how many lives wouldn't have been lost if Bush never made it to office?).

And since we're in an election year now, it only makes those of us who are somewhat involved in the campaign all the more determined to see our part through, as well as reminding us that if we want our votes as Americans to truly count, we should stay out of Florida.

Ask Not

Today I screened the documentary Ask Not.

To read my review, visit Cinebanter.com.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Visitor

Today I saw The Visitor, starring Richard Jenkins and Hiam Abbass.

It was the topic of Cinebanter #52, which is available here.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Promotion

This morning I screened The Promotion, starring Seann William Scott and John C. Reilly.

Ordinary people are always great subjects for films because nine times out of ten there is nothing 'ordinary' about them. Maybe that's why this movie works.

Doug (Scott) is the assistant manager at a chain grocery store hoping to be named the manager of a new store that is opening nearby. He and his wife (the adorable Jenna Fischer) are scrimping and saving to get out of their noisy apartment, and a manager's salary could afford them a house.

Also hoping for a promotion is Richard (Reilly), who recently moved to the states from Canada with his Scottish wife (the versatile Lili Taylor) and daughter. He is a recovering drug addict who frequently relies on self-help tapes to get him through the day. Unfortunately for Doug, he's also a marvelous worker with a positive attitude.

Their both pretty normal people, but their minor quirks make them interesting enough for us to care. The antics begin early on and carry the film to the very end—which is something you'll clearly see coming. The supporting characters you'd expect (worthless manager, devoted wife, stuffy corporate reps) are all present and predictable, but it's okay in this case because the dialogue is so funny.

It's not the smartest film that's ever been made, and no profound lessons will be learned from viewing it, but you sure will have a good time.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Iron Man

This morning I saw Iron Man, starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow.

It was the topic of Cinebanter #51, which is available here.

Thursday, May 01, 2008