Jimmy Carter Man From Plains (Sony Pictures Classics, October 26, 2007-selected cities)
Dir. Jonathan Demme
Let me start right off the bat by saying that Jimmy Carter is a personal hero of mine. He is a deeply soulful, peaceful and intelligent man who manages to exist and flourish in this, the most complex and potentially dangerous of all possible worlds. Not only that, but he leads his life as an exemplar of modern man. How so? He has just tuned 83 years of age and is spending his birthday in the Sudan, trying to help end the crisis in Darfur. That’s what he does when he’s not helping run the not-for-profit Carter Center, leading sermons, writing books (21 and counting), building houses, monitoring elections and oh yeah, being married to one of the strongest, most interesting women of the last hundred years, his wife Rosalynn. He is a religious man whose faith inspires him to continue his good works both within and outside of the political arena. A steadfastly devout born again Christian, he firmly believes in the separation of church and state and in this sense is the very picture of integrity.
Continue reading TIFF 07 Review: Jimmy Carter Man From Plains
Directed by Jason Reitman
Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Allison Janney, JK Simmons, Olivia Thirlby, Rainn Wilson with Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner
While the tendency might be to lump Juno, the sophomore feature from director Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking) and first-time writer Diablo Cody into the group (new genre?) of quirky comedies, a la I *Heart* Huckabees, Napoleon Dynamite and Rushmore, don’t. The thing is, while it contains elements of those oddball-laden films, Juno is its own animal in that it’s smart, funny and above all, real. The film should mark the coming out of several major talents, including writer Cody and Juno herself, Ellen Page. While I won’t shoot myself if Cody doesn’t get an Oscar nomination, I will be gobsmacked. While we’re at it, how about one for Page, too?
Juno MacGuff is 16 and almost too precocious. She’s smart, funny, curious and so adorable that “cute as a button” might have been coined with Page in mind. (At 5′ 1″, according to the IMDb she was apparently given the nickname “The Tiny Canadian” by some American roommates.) Well adjusted and comfortable in her own skin, Juno is the kind of kid every parent would love to have…except that she’s pregnant, the result of a one time romp with her best friend Paulie Bleeker in a living room chair. Bleeker is played perfectly in another example of deadpan wonder by comedy god of the under 30 set, Michael Cera (Superbad) as a charmingly nerdy track star with an addiction to orange tic tacs.
Continue reading TIFF 07: Juno Review
The Ballad of Esequiel Hernandez, 90 mins.
Directed by Kieran Fitzgerald
Produced by Brendan Fitzgerald
On May 4th, 1970 four students were shot dead and nine more wounded at Kent State by poorly trained Ohio National Guard soldiers who clearly over reacted to a relatively small protest against the Nixon administration’s recent bombings in Cambodia. The response to the tragedy took the nation by storm and, one could argue, that event turned the tide of American involvement in Viet Nam.
It would be twenty seven years until another American citizen is shot by the U.S. military, on U.S. soil, May 20, 1997. Only this time, the nation’s reaction was far less severe. Perhaps that’s because hardly anyone heard about it. An explanation for this may be found in the new documentary, The Ballad of Esequiel Hernandez, which I was fortunate enough to catch at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Ballad is the first feature-length film by director Kieran Fitzgerald and his brother, producer Brendan Fitzgerald. Kieran was 17 years old when Esequiel, a young Mexican-American was shot by the team leader of a four-man US Marine unit that was patrolling the border in search of drug traffickers. The 18 year-old Esequiel was herding goats close to his home when he was mistakenly taken for a hostile. The director heard about the incident for the first time in the fall of 2004 from actor & director Tommy Lee Jones who himself was preparing to shoot The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. Jones’s narrative film was inspired by a number of real life border tragedies including the Hernandez shooting and Jones ended up providing the voice-over for the Fitzgeralds’ documentary.
Continue reading Tribeca 07 Review: The Ballad Of Esequiel Hernandez
Last Wednesday I saw V For Vendetta for the second time and I have to say, it’s even better and harder hitting on repeat viewings. Once you’ve seen the film and know how things turn out, on a second trip certain scenes and images are even harder hitting than they were the first time and your appreciation for how the film plays out grows. I’m not giving anything away by saying that the section of the film where Natalie Portman‘s head is shaved is absolutely brutal on a second viewing. I also want to correct something I said in my earlier review of the film.
Continue reading V For Vendetta Redux