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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Waiting for Superman and Other Diversions

32 Short Films About Glenn Gould   1993  93 minutes   It’s really one film that uses 32 vignettes to create a biography of one of the 20th C’s greatest pianist and a really strange person with insights that demonstrate a creativity that goes way beyond music.
The Boxer  1997  108 minutes    Daniel Day Lewis plays Danny Flynn, a boxer who did 14 years in prison for his IRA activities.  When he gets out he tries to revive his boxing career and to use that to help bring the two communities in Belfast toward a settlement.  It’s gritty and violent and well worth seeing.  My favorite scene is in a London boxing club where the ring is surrounded by supper tables and people in evening clothes drinking champagne.  Flynn refuses to finish off an African boxer who is obviously senseless and defenseless but refuses to go down.  The fight should have been called.   Flynn is told he will never box in London again.
Caché  (Hidden)  2005  118 minutes   Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche play a successful Parisian couple who are being stalked and harassed.  Georges (Auteuil) figures out that it is the Algerian boy whom his parents took in when they were both children.  This is a movie about guilt.  There was an unpleasant incident that caused Georges’s parents to send the Algerian boy to an orphanage.  Gradually we realize that Georges did something to precipitate the banishment, but he won’t tell his wife what it was.  It’s  worth having the disk so that you can view the director Michael Haneke’s commentary on the ambiguities that he deliberately left in the film and then to watch the actual filming where he comes off as anything but collegial, even around actors as famous and gifted as Auteuil and Binoche.
Happenstance   2000  96 minutes   The original title in French says everything:  Le Battement D’Aile du Papillon/ the Beating of the Butterfly’s Wings – the beating of wings over the Atlantic could cause a typhoon in the Pacific.  A series of coincidences involving many characters lead Audrey Tautou to the Franco Algerian boy she was fated to meet.  It’s light and amusing.
Last Man Standing   1996  101 minutes   This is a remake of Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, with two gun Bruce Willis in a three piece suit and a felt hat standing in for Toshiro Mifune.  It’s in color but the tone is almost sepia and evokes the black and white of the original film.  Willis annihilates two competing Chicago gangs in a Texas town devoted to bringing bootleg booze in from Mexico.  Willis drives away at the end in his Model A coupe, wounded and as poor as when he got there.
Mrs. Dalloway   1997   I got this movie and the book out from the library, because I have just seen the movie, The Hours, and read the book, and I’m still trying to figure out what it’s all about.  I’m not that deep yet into Mrs. Dalloway the novel yet, but I think I’m going to decide to like the Mrs. Dalloway the movie better.  It’s seems very simple to me and very attractive.  Through a series of flashbacks we see how Clarissa Dalloway (played magnificently by Vanessa Redgrave) had to choose as a young woman between marrying Peter Walsh, a man who promised adventure, and Richard Dalloway, who was safe.  She has a nice life as the spouse of an important MP but still has not decided if she made the right choice.
Waiting for “Superman”   2010   11 minutes    This is an effective documentary about the problems in US schools.  As a guy who joined his first union at age 15, the Newspaper Guild, I start any venture with a union and worker bias.  I’ve read a bit about charter schools and have my doubts, but after seeing this film, it looks to me like the teachers’ unions have some work to do if they are to remain relevant.  I never liked the “up or out” system in the Navy or the Foreign Service or the evaluation process in the Civil Service, but it seems to be a necessary thing.  I think the question for teachers is not whether to do it, but how.

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