Friday, March 26, 2010

Penny Thoughts: Mar. 19-25

Capitalism: A Love Story (2009) ***
Director/Writer: Michael Moore

Michael Moore loves his country. Anyone who doesn’t understand that doesn’t understand freedom, what this country is supposed to be about. Yes, his movies are agenda driven. Yes, he employs tactics that distort the big picture. That makes him guilty of nothing our own government is not guilty of, and calling them out on it is his American right. I fear that apathy is beginning to set its sights on Moore’s ravings however; but it’s hard to deny the horror at learning that some corporations are beginning to purchase life insurance policies on their employees. Something is deeply wrong with a corporate environment that values its workforce more dead than alive.

I Met the Walrus (2007) ****
Director/Writer: Josh Raskin
Starring: Jerry Levitan, John Lennon

This wonderfully imaginative animated interview with John Lennon conducted by a high school kid was nominated for a Best Animated Short Oscar a couple of years back. This five-minute film captures the essence of John Lennon through simple animation that resembles the “Yellow Submarine” animation. Moreover, the animation perfectly captures Lennon’s own philosophies on the world and how it works, making the images a perfect companion to his very words in the interview.

Watch it.

Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) ***
Director: Jonathan Frakes
Writers: Michael Piller, Rick Berman
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Mirina Sirtis, Gates McFadden, F. Murray Abraham, Donna Murphy, Anthony Zerbe, Gregg Henry

While this seems like perhaps the most innocuous of the “Star Trek” films, it perhaps best preserves the spirit of the television series. It plays like an extended television episode, but it also explores all the best aspects of the “Star Trek” science fiction edict. It deals directly with the “prime directive” of the Starfleet Command, which is not to interfere with the alien cultures they find during their space exploration. The story deals with cultural relocation and elimination, issues this very nation has struggled greatly with during its relatively short lifespan. My affection for this episode of the franchise grows every time I view it. It is a quintessentially “Star Trek” story.

The Invention of Lying (2009) ***½
Directors/Writers: Ricky Gervais, Matthew Robinson
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Louis C.K., Jonah Hill, Rob Lowe, Fionnula Flanagan

“The Invention of Lying” is a brilliant fable about an essential human need that we often try to stifle as an ‘evil’. Filmmakers Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson seem to believe that lying is necessary to our humanity, and they make a pretty solid argument for their case here. It is an indelibly charming movie that sees Gervais, in an alternate world to ours, as the first person ever to tell a lie. Gervais and Robinson do an amazing job of depicting just how cruel of world of truths can be and how kind and humane lies can comfort us in times of need. They do this with witty comedy and warmth. Gervais seems to have gathered all the Hollywood stars whom he didn’t have a chance to get on his BBC television show “Extras” to fill out endless cameos, which makes for a fun ‘spot the star’ game as well.

The Red Balloon (1956) ****
Director/Writer: Albert Lamorisse
Starring: Pascal Lamorisse

Not knowing the plot of “The Red Balloon” but rather its reputation as an award winning French film of the mid 50’s, I had in mind a serious movie about the hard but good life of a Parisian boy who finds his joy in the simple object of a red balloon. Imagine my surprise when I realized the balloon is no mere object of joy for the boy but an actual interactive friend. Until the moment when the balloon starts following, obeying, and playing with the boy, I was thinking this was a well-made movie, reflective of the time in which it was filmed. Once the balloon started behaving on its own, I was lost in their story. How heartbreaking when the balloon gets captured by a gang of boys who want only to destroy it, and what a magical ending. I’m all verklempt over a balloon.


Alan Bacchus said...

Now try and still through Hou Hiao-Hsien's 'Flight of the Red Balloon' - I couldn't, despite it's critical acclaim. I haven't the original film, but will try and find it now...

Nice write up of I Met the Walrus - it's Canadian, eh!

Andrew D. Wells said...

You should have any problem sitting through "The Red Balloon", Alan. It's only 34 min. I don't know about checking out "Flight" though. But next week I might stream Albert Lamorisse's "White Mane", "The Red Balloon's" predecessor.

I didn't realize "I Met the Walrus" was Canadian. How aboot that?!