Thursday, September 29, 2005
"If you want to make the invisible visible, take it away."
That's pretty much the premise behind the fascinating and illuminating independent feature film -- A DAY WITHOUT A MEXICAN. Writer/Director Sergio Arau gives us a glimpse of just what would happen if somehow every Hispanic in the state of California would suddenly and miraculously disappear. My God -- who would mow the lawns and blow the leaves and pick up the trash and pour the concrete and paint the houses and work the agricultural fields and tend to any number of other low-paying, unglamorous needs on behalf of the remaining gringos? Who, indeed? More importantly, the devestating economic impact on the state's overall economy shows clearly that one should be careful for what one wishes for.
This unique look at the economic and the quality-of-life aspects provided by the huge population from south of the border is a breath of fresh air from the steady stream of pap and crap being released by the major studios in LA-LA Land. And while Mr. Arau misfires frequently in his narrative and he delivers a film that is a full thirty minutes too long, I salute him for his efforts. And so I lift my glass of Tecate high and I dream -- yes, I dream of what life would be like if we could enjoy A DAY WITHOUT A MORMON. (I'll gladly risk any conceivable negative consequences -- as if there could be any whatsoever).
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
I wonder how many of you have received e-mails regarding Hurricane Katrina which declare, in essence, the following sentiment:
"I don't give a shit about those lazy, no good for nothing, worthless damn niggers in New Orleans. If they were too stupid to get out of town, then they got what they deserve. More importantly, the rebuilding and the relief efforts are costing me money! And for what -- so they can all go back on welfare and get more handouts?"
Sad, but true -- I've received a half dozen of these in the past week or so from a number of different folks all known to me personally. Quite frankly, I'm sickened by this deep-rooted rage and so it is with this in mind that I now turn my comments to a truly remarkable film, one that is perhaps THE BEST Hollywood movie ever about race and about life in another contemporary, ethnically diverse city -- in this case Los Angeles. Rather than going into details, I simply and humbly request that if you haven't seen CRASH, please do so. Superbly directed by Paul Haggis (the screenwriter for MILLION DOLLAR BABY) and comprising a stellar cast, this is a must-see movie.
Friday, September 2, 2005
Biological parents battle adopting parents for the custody
of a disturbed young girl. No, its not the Hatfields vs. the
McCoys...but rather the Cliftons vying with the Netherwoods
(one guess as to who's the bad folks) in this bloody mess of
Seems that John and Leann Netherwood (played
by Keith Carradine and Daryl Hannah) survive by breaking and
entering wealthy homes, Polaroiding their victims and, more
often than not, killing the victims for a few additional photo
opportunities. During one of these house calls L.A.'s finest
arrive just in time to wing John as he and Leann run to safety.
Their quick action, however, leads to the capture of daughter Janie
(effectively portrayed by newcomer Julia Devin) whose been
innocently chasing fireflies in the backyard.
At the station Janie's rag doll is placed into a baggie
(presumably for evidence), and it is then that we first learn
of Janie's deep-rooted psychological problems. She goes
ballistic rescuing the doll from suffocation and it
takes the Rodney King sextet to subdue her.
Enter the second tag team which will contend for Janie's
affections and afflictions. Vincent Spano plays housing
contractor Russell Clifton whose spec trophy home has the
financing pulled halfway through the building process. His
wife, Dana (Moria Kelly), shares John Netherwood's interest
in photography. She's a professional who specializes in
food shots and is now the only source of income for the Clifton
family. While Russell wrestles with Chapter 11 woes Dana woos
him into an adoption agency so they will have yet another
mouth to feed. Not the best of ideas, but certainly par for the
course given the lame story Mr. Auerbach has concocted.
Understandably nervous at this undertaking, John delivers the
most suitable line in the film when he looks at all the darling
little munchkins seeking rescue and he declares: "We have met
the clowns and they are us!" Clowns, indeed.
Dana falls instantly for little Janie and, despite a hair-do
reminiscent of the third runner-up in a Miss Bulgaria beauty
contest, precious Janie falls for Dana. With cuddly affection
that would embarrass both the Cleavers and the Huxtables, little
Janie seems to tolerate her new parents well enough. Her new
doll, the tattered Mr. Flip Flop is, however, her best friend
and she confides in the bunny that John and Leann are surely
on their way because "they own me."
Sure 'nuff. With more bull-headed determination than even
the Bush Administration exhibits in its policy towards war in
Iraq, John and Leann go through a series of victims
to find their daughter. Among those who temporarily get in
the way are the carrot-topped cop who had the temerity to shoot
John in the opening scene and the noble Hispanic welfare worker
whose demise is blatantly telegraphed the moment she first
appears. The bloody and climactic finale takes place in the partially
completed spec home out in the middle of nowhere. No walls,
virtually no roof, and with no police protection requested,
this makes for one of the stupidest refuges in cinema history.
By now the cliché count has reached staggering proportions (the
car that won't start during an escape attempt, the presumed
dead villain who isn't, etc.) so it is pointless to discuss
the ending -- except for one highly disturbing moment -- when
ten-year-old Janie thrusts a dagger into her biological
father's stomach ("You taught me that, Daddy.") with clinical
ease. Forget any concern you might have for "Natural Born Killers"
or "Pulp Fiction" (both of which I personally liked), it is
this irresponsible scene that makes "The Tie That Binds" the
sickest, sleaziest, most disgusting movie on the shelf of your