Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Dictatorship of Truth|Battle of Algiers Disk Two

Pontecorvo joined the Italian Communist Party in 1941. He traveled to northern Italy to help organize anti-Fascist partisans and going by the pseudonym Barnaba, becoming a leader of the Resistance in Milan from 1943 until 1945. Pontecorvo broke ties with the party in 1956 after the Soviet intervention in Hungary. He didn't, however, renounce his dedication to Marxism and has said, “I am not an out-and-out revolutionary. I am merely a man of the Left, like a lot of Italian Jews.”

"The paratroopers, for instance, why should we make them into monsters, or like the SS? The condemnation of colonialism, which was our objective is better served by putting the blame elsewhere: on the error and intransigence of colonialism."
Just as the Colonel talked about in the film about the struggle between Algerians wanted the French to leave and most Frenchmen wanted the paratroopers to stay. And thus his job was to crush the resistance and not to decide the overlaying problems.

I guess Pontecorvo was not too much of a communist since he filmed a few commercials for money. LOL.

Marxist Poetry...
Pontecorvo succeeded on another political level as well: He convinced middle-class audiences that terrorism — deliberately bombing innocent people in order to pressure political opponents — might be necessary. His case was so emotionally compelling that Pauline Kael described The Battle of Algiers as “the rape of the doubting intelligence.” She dubbed Pontecorvo the most dangerous kind of Marxist, a “Marxist poet” who uses the power of film to persuade his audience that “terrorism is a tragic necessity.”Reel Terrorism: Reconsidering The Battle of Algiers

And another interesting quote from last link:
All of this is now so obvious and undeniable, it seems strange that 30 years ago even the clear-eyed Pauline Kael could not see it. What might be even more astonishing is the suggestion that Pontecorvo created all this without appreciating what he was doing. What is prophetic in The Battle of Algiers is Pontecorvo’s backdrop of Islamic fundamentalism; what proved false was Pontecorvo’s foreground depiction of “the world moving in a certain way.”

The three posts:
RDRutherford Movie Reviews: The Battle of Algiers (3 disc set)

RDRutherford Movie Reviews: The Dictatorship of Truth|Battle of Algiers Disk Two

RDRutherford Movie Reviews: The Battle of Algiers (1966) Disc 3

Gillo Pontecorvo-NYT

Last Battle

A Master of Cinema and Courage

The Battle of Algiers, Gillo Pontecorvo

A Marxist Poet

The Battle of Algiers (3 disc set)

This highly political film about the Algerian struggle for independence from France took "Best Film" honors at the 1966 Venice Film Festival. The bulk of the film is shot in flashback, presented as the memories of Ali (Brahim Haggiag), a leading member of the Algerian Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN), when finally captured by the French in 1957. Three years earlier, Ali was a petty thief who joined the secretive organization in order to help rid the Casbah of vice associated with the colonial government. The film traces the rebels' struggle and the increasingly extreme measures taken by the French government to quell what soon becomes a nationwide revolt. After the flashback, Ali and the last of the FLN leaders are killed, and the film takes on a more general focus, leading to the declaration of Algerian independence in 1962. Director Gillo Pontecorvo's careful re-creation of a complicated guerrilla struggle presents a rather partisan view of some complex social and political issues, which got the film banned in France for many years. That should not come as a surprise, for La Battaglia di Algeri was subsidized by the Algerian government and -- with the exception of Jean Martin and Tommaso Neri as French officers -- the cast was entirely Algerian as well. At least three versions exist, running 135, 125, and 120 minutes.

An interesting study in so called resistance fighting and the tactics used by both sides. "Colonel Mathieu" (from the real Colonel Marcel Bigeard) was surprisingly frank in his talks about the resistance but that is expected when:
The Algerian revolution has been called by many the bloodiest revolution in history. Although the revolutionary forces in Algiers were defeated by the French Army, the long war throughout the country led to the French withdrawal from Algeria. As leftists, the theme of showing the inevitable demise of colonialism as an instrument of Western imperialism was central to Pontecorvo and Solinas's treatment of The Battle of Algiers.
The film was inspired by the account of one of the military commanders of the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN), Saadi Yacef, in his memoir Souvenirs de la Bataille d'Alger.[1] The book, written by Yacef while a prisoner of the French, was meant as propaganda to boost morale among FLN militants. After independence, Yacef was released and became a part of the new government. The Algerian government gave its backing to have a film of his memoirs made and Yacef and exiled FLN member Salash Baazi approached the Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo and screenwriter Franco Solinas with the project. However, Solinas's own first draft, entitled Parà, told the story from the perspective of a disenchanted French paratrooper, whom he and Pontecorvo hoped to be played by Paul Newman. Baazi rejected this idea, as it relegated the suffering of the Algerians to a backdrop, and Yacef wrote his own screenplay, which the Italians then rejected as overly biased toward the Algerian side. While sympathetic with the cause of Algerian nationalism, the Italians insisted on dealing with the events from a neutral point of view. The final screenplay has an Algerian protagonist, but attempts to depict the suffering and the cruelty on both the French and Algerian sides.[2] Solinas began the script by jotting down "flashes of ideas" on a blackboard, which became the basis for scenes; this may explain the "episodic" feel of the movie.[citation needed]

Although the film is based on real events, it makes use of composite characters and changes the names of certain figures. For instance, the character "Colonel Mathieu" is a composite of several French soldiers in the Algers counterinsurgency, in particular Jacques Massu.[3] Accused of making the character seem too elegant and noble, Solinas denied that this was his intention: he simply made Matthieu "elegant and cultured, because Western civilization is neither inelegant nor uncultured."The Battle of Algiers

Luckily we get to see what a real resistance is in the mass demonstrations and the voluminous choir of voices. Not the gun shooting of police in the back or bombings of discos and other gathering places. It started out almost as Shari‘a Law when the resistance was carrying out murders and torture of pimps and winos. A side part was an arranged marriage by the FLN. But a brief history showed the leadership of FLN governed moderately.
After more than a century of rule by France, Algerians fought through much of the 1950s to achieve independence in 1962. Algeria's primary political party, the National Liberation Front (FLN), has dominated politics ever since. Many Algerians in the subsequent generation were not satisfied, however, and moved to counter the FLN's centrality in Algerian politics. The surprising first round success of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) in the December 1991 balloting spurred the Algerian army to intervene and postpone the second round of elections to prevent what the secular elite feared would be an extremist-led government from assuming power. The army began a crack down on the FIS that spurred FIS supporters to begin attacking government targets. The government later allowed elections featuring pro-government and moderate religious-based parties, but did not appease the activists who progressively widened their attacks. The fighting escalated into an insurgency, which saw intense fighting between 1992-98 and which resulted in over 100,000 deaths - many attributed to indiscriminate massacres of villagers by extremists. The government gained the upper hand by the late-1990s and FIS's armed wing, the Islamic Salvation Army, disbanded in January 2000. However, small numbers of armed militants persist in confronting government forces and conducting ambushes and occasional attacks on villages. The army placed Abdelaziz BOUTEFLIKA in the presidency in 1999 in a fraudulent election but claimed neutrality in his 2004 landslide reelection victory. Longstanding problems continue to face BOUTEFLIKA in his second term, including the ethnic minority Berbers' ongoing autonomy campaign, large-scale unemployment, a shortage of housing, unreliable electrical and water supplies, government inefficiencies and corruption, and the continuing - although significantly degraded - activities of extremist militants. Algeria must also diversify its petroleum-based economy, which has yielded a large cash reserve but which has not been used to redress Algeria's many social and infrastructure problems.

The three posts:
RDRutherford Movie Reviews: The Battle of Algiers (3 disc set)

RDRutherford Movie Reviews: The Dictatorship of Truth|Battle of Algiers Disk Two

RDRutherford Movie Reviews: The Battle of Algiers (1966) Disc 3

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Lies & Alibis

When a reformed grifter currently running a prosperous alibi service for adulterous husbands inadvertently becomes an accessory to murder, he is forced to execute one last, well-timed con as a means of clearing his name in this lightning fast caper comedy starring Steve Coogan, Rebecca Romijin, Selma Blair, and Sam Elliot. Ray (Coogan) is a smooth operator with a special knack for helping his fellow man dodge the proverbial bullet. When a married man simply can't resist the urge to have a bit of fun on the side, Ray is the man they call to ensure that word of their infidelity never gets back to their unsuspecting wives. When the spoiled son of a high-profile client accidentally kills his clandestine lover on the eve of his wedding, Ray is shocked to discover that he has been implicated in the crime. With a small-town cop targeting him on one side and a mysterious assassin known as "The Mormon" locking him into his sights from the other, desperate Ray must now enlist the aid of his beautiful new recruit Lola (Romijin) in carrying out one last con designed to both clear his name, and save his life. The debut feature from co-directors Matt Checkowski and Kurt Mattilda, Lies and Alibis also features performances by James Brolin, Henry Rollins, James Marsden, Debi Mazar, Jerry O'Connell, and John Leguizamo.

I hate to be technical, but Ray clearly stated in the movie that he helped both sexes in covering up their indiscretions. Rebecca Romijn's part was the best part of the film as his final salvation from his position Ray had placed himself in. And Ray had placed the most trust in her.

Ratings: 3.0

Saturday, February 24, 2007


Marjoe is an 1972 Academy Award winning documentary film produced and directed by Howard Smith and Sarah Kernochan about the life of evangelist Marjoe Gortner. Marjoe was a precocious child preacher with extraordinary talents, who was immensely popular in the American South. His parents earned large sums of money off him up until the point he outgrew his novelty. Marjoe rejoined the ministry as a young adult as a means of earning a living part-time, not as a believer, but as a charlatan. The film Marjoe documents his last revivals before coming out publicly as a phony. At the time of the film's release he generated considerable press, but the movie was never shown in theaters in the Southern United States, based on the fears of the distributor over the outrage it would cause in the Bible Belt.

Although released on VHS, the film had long been out of print and had deteriorated. In 2002 the negative and other elements were found in a vault in New York City. Once the rights were secured, the film was restored with funds provided by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. On November 15, 2005, in New York City, the IFC Center showed Marjoe as the closing film in a series of documentaries called "Stranger Than Fiction". In their program they called it "a lost gem." The restored film has since been released on DVD.

This brings back memories of some of my holy roller experiences. But honestly, my upbringing was in the Baptist and other denominations that believe that spirituality is within the heart and not outward showing of it. They did not feel the Church was meant for entertainment but for teaching the word of God. If you do watch the film you should notice that no one is carrying the Bible. All Churches I attended regularly there was a competition for which person had the best looking Bible and the one that looked the oldest and most worn.

If I ever attended such Churches now, I would just not come back again.

I feel for Marjoe's loss of childhood and his father running off with the families money that Marjoe earned. So it is amazing that he does not have more hatred and resentment toward the whole system and the exploitation of him by his family.

According to my upbringing, the gifts of the spirit are for tangible benefit. For example speaking in tongues was used only when there was a language problem between worshipers. Thus the way it is used now makes no sense since no one knows what the words are and it does not help in conversation but is just gibberish.

We also got to meet and know the missionaries that we donated money to. They would come around about once per year. The Churches were small and it was easy to see where the money was going to.

He wanted to get into acting, which never worked out. I only wished he had tried other denominations (i.e. more fundamentalist).

Rating: 3.5
Fair representation of the preaching. Honest approaches to the issues of religion.
If nothing else it was interesting to see a slice of America in 1972.


SNAPPING: America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change

Marjoe Gortner

Friday, February 23, 2007

Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber (2005)

Jennifer Love Hewitt (Heartbreakers, Party of Five) stars in the comedy drama Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber as Katya Livingston, the young advertising executive of the title. A "cutthroat exec" determined to make good by scaling the corporate ladder and knocking down everyone in her path, Livingston nonetheless reveals her softness of character and sensitivity when she accidentally allows her ambition to thwart the relationship she shares with the great love of her life, Charles Fitz (Colin Ferguson), and ultimately must take a stand against the greed and shallowness of corporate values to try to win Charles back. Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber co-stars Natassia Malthe, Joey Lawrence, and Melissa Rivers as herself.

Rating 3.5
Yes, Jennifer Love Hewitt was great and was an enjoyable character.
But Charles was a shallow character that made little sense why a great looking guy would bother with such a fruit cake as Katya. The romance was contrived and unbelievable especially from the part of Charles.

School for Scoundrels (2006)

Old School director Todd Phillips takes the reins for an updated remake of the 1960 comedy, this time starring Napoleon Dynamite's Jon Heder as Roger, a lovelorn meter reader who enrolls in a confidence-building class in order to win the love of his dream girl, and Billy Bob Thornton as Dr. P, the scheming, egomaniacal teacher who has designs of his own for the attractive young female. The rivalry soon spins out of control, as pranks and insults fly fast and furiously in a battle to determine the ultimate "guy's guy."

The film was funny and I have ordered the original 1960s one.

The one thing I was most disappointed by was not seeing more of Sarah Silverman. I was even hoping Roger would end up with her. One of the best parts of the film was the gag reel that made fun of the movie and the whole cast. Sarah had a big part of the gag which was nice added bonus.

There was plenty of twists and turns in this light comedy. And the alternative ending was an interesting twist also with directors comments.

Ratings: 4.0
Light and easy comedy.

All the King's Men (2006)

The legacy of a populist Southern politician whose lofty ambitions for the future leave him open to corruption and scandal is detailed as author Robert Penn Warren's thinly veiled portrait of Depression-era Louisiana governor Huey Long comes to the screen -- again -- this time courtesy of director and screenwriter Steven Zaillian. Willie Stark (Sean Penn) is a man of the people, and for the people; at least that's what he tells the people. Propelled into a race for governor by opposing forces looking to split the "hick vote," Stark is convinced by a handler -- as well as by young journalist Jack Burden (Jude Law) -- to not kowtow to the powers that be. His rhetoric grows fiery, and he makes his way into office on a not-so-solid foundation of social-service promises. When idealism gives way to the harsh realities of the time, however, the fast-talking politico is quick to discover just how far one can fall when ambition and power lead to a betrayal of one's original motivations. Kate Winslet, Patricia Clarkson, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo, and Anthony Hopkins round out an all-star cast in this second version of Warren's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1947 novel; the first won a parade of Oscars after its release in 1949.

Well it was as boring as this passage makes it out to be. Got so bored that I played video games instead.
All the King's Men (2006 film) was a remake of the All the King's Men (1949). I hope the original was better. There was an interesting portion of the original:
Jack is forced to abandon his belief in the "Great Twitch" when he attempts to blackmail life-long friend and political rival Judge Irwin. Rather than succumbing to the pressure imposed upon him, and also choosing not to tell Jack that he is his biological son, the judge decides to take his own life and shoots himself in the heart. This man who had sinned opted against self preservation and took the moral high road, thus demonstrating that he was not at the mercy of some unnameable, uncontrollable motivator.

The book also is replete with Oedipal imagery and themes, as Jack discovers his father's true identity, causes his death, and discovers who his mother is metaphorically and subsequently shows affection towards her. The idea of Jack's conception of his "father" is also crucial to the story.

Good Bye Lenin!

A dedicated young German boy pulls off an elaborate scheme to keep his mother in good health in this comedy drama from director Wolfgang Becker. Suffering a heart attack and falling into a coma after seeing her son arrested during a protest, Alex's (Daniel Brühl) socialist mother, Christiane (Katrin Sass), remains comatose through the fall of the Berlin wall and the German Democratic Republic. Knowing that the slightest shock could prove fatal upon his mother's awakening, Alex strives to keep the fall of the GDR a secret for as long as possible. Keeping their apartment firmly rooted in the past, Alex's scheme works for a while, but it's not long before his mother is feeling better and ready to get up and around again.

I plan on watching a lot of foreign films with my Blockbuster.com movie rentals.

Alex also has a hard time finding products that were made before the fall of the GDR. So when he finds old bottles and jars, he cleans them and refills them from current products that came from other countries. The funniest parts was clearly the fake news casts that creates history in the exact opposite way as reality.

Rated: 4/5

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Elizabethtown (2005)

A young man in need of a fresh start gets one under highly unexpected circumstances in this emotionally resonant comedy drama from writer and director Cameron Crowe. Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) is considered the big success story in his family, having moved away from the small Kentucky town where he was born to California, where he works as a designer for Mercury, the nation's biggest athletic shoe company. But success has begun to elude Drew -- his most recent design was a resounding flop that has cost him his job, and his girlfriend, Ellen (Jessica Biel), has given him his walking papers. Drew is contemplating suicide when he gets word that his father has died, and that he's needed back home in Elizabethtown, KY, to help organize the funeral. With his mother, Hollie (Susan Sarandon), deep in denial about her husband's passing, Drew comes home to discover no one knows about his recent poor fortune, and he's greeted like a conquering hero. As Drew reconnects with his family and helps his sister, Heather (Judy Greer), look after Hollie, Drew gets a new lease on life and is reminded about what's really important to him. Helping him learn these valuable lessons is Claire Colburn (Kirsten Dunst), a pretty and optimistic flight attendant Drew meets on his flight home who has her own philosophies about positive thinking and the curative powers of travel. Elizabethtown also stars Alec Baldwin, Paul Schneider, Bruce McGill, Loudon Wainwright III, and Paula Deen. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

I would not personally consider this as a comedy especially when it started off in such a black mood. I guess we are to assume that the suicide attempt is funny-mechanical and all. Although Kirsten Dunst's part as the overzealous stewardess was a delight. At times I wondered if Kirsten was going to be similar to the character Charlotte in Lost in Translation. While she has a great heart we can see that she has her own character flaws (including her use of 'substitute people').

But the best part for me what the road trip at the end.

National Treasure (2004)

It usually is not a good sign when a movie that you thought was serious starts out the movie previews of:
Herbie Fully Loaded
Tarzan II (Cartoon)
the Pacifier

But I was pleasantly surprised at the lively adventure that had a nice romance brewing between Nicholas Cage and Diane Kruger. Unlike other romances that just push two unlike personalities together, this story showed how both characters had the same passions and grew from their mutual desires. The Nerd played by Justin Bartha lacked the normal convincing information library but was adequate for the part. The DVD also had some nice bonus material.

A man sets out to steal a lost fortune in order to save it in this adventure drama from producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage) is an archeologist who is from the eighth generation of a family who has shared an unusual quest. As Gates-family legend has it, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin hid a massive cache of gold during the waning days of the Revolutionary War and left clues as to its whereabouts in the original drafts of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. With no firm proof that it actually exists, Gates sets out to crack the code that will lead him to the fortune, which, as a member of the Gates clan, he is sworn to protect from wrongdoers. National Treasure also features Sean Bean, Harvey Keitel, Justin Bartha, and Jon Voight. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

Rating: 4.0
Yes, pretty good.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

First Post of RDRutherford Movie Reviews

Yes, I am nobody. So why do I think I want to start a movie review blog?
Don't know except to create a diary about some interesting films I expect to watch in the near future and to catalog these adventures.

Hopefully it will not be a place of just pop-culture gone bad.
Maybe some Indy movies and some foreign films.

And now for something completely different...

Links of note:
Film Movement