Wednesday, October 21, 2009
One of the basic tenets of capitalism is that it takes money to make money. Simply stated, the rich get richer and the poor continue to get the shaft. You may think--as many do--that such a system is inherently unfair...unless you're one of the fat cats. Therein lies the rub, because the fat cats control things, (the top 1% controls more financial wealth than the bottom 95% combined) and as long as they do, things aren't going to fundamentally change. UNLESS health care reform, and other similar efforts to bring a little more fairness to our society, become a reality. Unless the PEOPLE get behind these things and pressure their representatives to get them done . And that, essentially, is Michael Moore's call to arms in his latest documentary, Capitalism: A Love Story.
Moore lets you know up front that he thinks capitalism is an evil system, as he documents the recent financial collapse and subsequent bail out funded by the taxpayer--giving billions to Wall Street while ordinary citizens lose their jobs and their homes. The personal is indicative of the universal, as Moore talks with airline pilots who have to go on food stamps to make ends meet, and a family losing the farm that was in their possession for generations. He even presents church officials who declare that greed and selfishness are unchristian... WHAT A CONCEPT! (These weren't the Sunday morning TV preachers who exhort their followers to send "love offerings" so that they can live high on the hog!)
Michael Moore is nothing if not a showman, and many of the antics he resorts to in Capitalism: A Love Story--like trying to make a citizen's arrest on the board of directors of AIG, or unfurling crime scene tape on Wall Street--are designed for dramatic and humorous effect, though they do aid in casting him in the light of populist hero.
Perhaps the only thing the film can be faulted for is not making some kind of balancing statement that, yeah, Americans need to take SOME responsibility for trying to live beyond their means, thus placing themselves on that slippery slope to financial ruin in the first place.
FDR called for good jobs, education, decent housing, and adequate health care--things the U.S. was instrumental in obtaining for Germany and Japan after WWII. Now, we have a president who is echoing those same principles--and, well...you see the push back from the entrenched forces who benefit from denying such things to the average American. What Michael Moore is calling for at the end of Capitalism: A Love Story is nothing less than a populist revolution. The PEOPLE (who possess the real power--but not unless they get organized) taking their country back. Unfortunately, (I fear) as long as most Americans can still hang onto their SUVs and their giant screen TVs, they're not going to give enough of a damn to take that kind of step.
Nonetheless, the early matinee showing I went to--normally sparsely attended--had a good turnout, and at the end people stood up and applauded.
That's a hopeful sign.
GRADE: B +
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
MY LIFE IN RUINS--PG-13 (now playing at home where a cheap vacation--minus the dysentery-- is a close as your TV screen)
You know I'm partial to a good romantic comedy. But what I like even better is the VACATION romantic comedy! Life and emotions are heightened and intensified when you've stolen away to an exotic locale, and you can become fast friends--or lovers--with someone you've known for only a few days...or hours. (STAND BACK EVERYBODY--THE DUDE SPEAKS FROM EXPERIENCE!)
And so it is with My Life In Ruins--the tale of Georgia, (Nia Vardolos --My Big Fat Greek Wedding) a Greek-American tour guide who gets only "average" marks on her evaluations from clients because she has not yet learned to use her imagination.
But she will.
Georgia gets the "B" tour groups--peppered with quirky folks and malcontents--along with a bushy bear of a bus driver named Poupi Kakas (there's a running gag about his name throughout the film). The tourists are all stock characters: There's the JOKER, Irv, (Richard Dreyfuss); the SLICK LADIES MAN (from the International House of Pancakes); the two HOT YOUNG CHICKS ON THE PROWL, and so on. At first, the stereotypes were off-putting--but as things go along, these folks begin to grow on you.
Romance blooms when Georgia discovers a flower waiting for her whenever she boards the tour bus, but can't immediately determine who's behind it, and begins to look askance at some of the guys in the group. Against the gorgeous backdrop of Athens and environs, we'll discover whether Georgia can lighten up, win over her charges, and make people like her for a change; whether she'll wake up and smell the romance that's brewing right beneath her nose; and whether widower Irv--who pines for his dearly departed wife--will take a little blue pill and suddenly become the stand-up senior citizen stud every guy watching My Life In Ruins will envy.
It's all lightweight fluff and fun, but there's a reason why The Love Boat was such a popular TV series--and it's the same reason why you'll like My Life In Ruins, if you just ease back into your seat and enjoy the ride.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
I told you to watch out for that mad cow disease, DIDN'T I? Well, if I didn't, I thought about it. But you kept stuffing that crappy fast food down your gullet--and NOW, in Zombieland, most of the world's inhabitants have turned into marauding, cannibalistic you-know-whats.
Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) is one of the few "normal" people left. He's a nervous, hypervigilant young dude with a laundry list of common sense rules to help him stay one step ahead of the zombies. Like: Always DOUBLE TAP the suckers to make sure they're out of commission. He teams up with Tallahassee, (Woody Harrelson) who only wants to go by the names of everyone's home towns because he doesn't want to get too familiar. Tallahassee is a swaggering drifter who relishes in the art of smashing and bashing zombies in various creative ways. He's also scouring the country to find the last edible Twinkie. ( You'll never take Twinkies for granted again!) For all they know, the two of them might be the last remnants of humanity--until they meet up with Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock, (Abigail Breslin) two young sisters who con them out of their wheels and take off hell-bent for Naugahyde. Now, the guys not only have to run the gauntlet of zombies coming at them from all sides--they have to find those little double crossing grifters as well.
When I first saw the trailer for Zombieland, I almost dismissed it as total B-movie trash. DON'T MAKE THAT MISTAKE. (I should have known that Woody Harrelson--not only a good actor but a fine, conscientious human being--wouldn't steer me wrong.) This is a funny, clever, inventive piece of film making that shows that just because the drooling, snarling, disgusting un-dead are lurking behind every crapper stall door, (and you thought the scariest thing you'd encountered in there was when the previous occupant forgot to flush) it doesn't mean a zombie flick can't also be poignant and life-affirming as well. Zombieland will blaze new trails for the sub-genre: There'll be the zombie romantic comedy, (starring Sandra Bullock, of course) the zombie doctor drama, (Katherine Heigl) etc.
Harrelson is a natural for the role of Tallahassee, a swashbuckler in the mold of Indiana Jones--a guy you'd definitely want to have on your side. Eisenberg, (Adventureland) who is 26, easily passes as the nerdy kid just out of high school--it has served him well in these roles--but he's in danger of being typecast. Emma Stone's Wichita has the street smarts that only a young girl who's been out there surviving day to day can develop. And 12-year old Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) is a precocious young actress who is going to be the next Jodie Foster, or Drew Barrymore...or, maybe, Gary Coleman.
But what truly puts Zombieland over the top is a cameo by one of the biggest superstars of comedy. I won't give anything away, except to say that it surely is his most inventive, deliciously off-the wall turn to date.
There's little speculation here about how these four might survive the long haul in a world where everyone else out there wants to eat you. They live in the moment--eternally on guard like zebras sharing a water hole with lions--but they've got each other...and I wouldn't bet against them.